Journal # 7 – Photo365 Challenge is…Challenging

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Photo365 Challenge is…Challenging

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  • “In your journal blog, discuss what are you learning from the photo-a-day process so far.”

The Photo365 Challenge has been well…challenging.  I don’t think that most people would find my particular challenges to be their challenges during a Photo365 Challenge.  It’s not that i forget to take pictures – I take plenty.  It’s not that I don’t know how to take proper pictures – I’m actually not half bad at the art of photography.  I suppose I should thank my father the photographer for that particular skillset.  I usually find myself thanking my mother for the skillsets that she gave me such as being determined to do anything and everything possible or being able to push myself to figure out most anything, able to change a tire or hook up any electronics system or sit in a board room filled with men and the ability to hold your own.  The lists goes on and on and on but I sometimes forget that many of my skillsets come from my father, as well.  He is quieter than I am and not as assertive as my mother and I (he would call it aggressive but I maintain that it’s assertive), so sometimes I forget.  But I digress..  What were we talking about again?  Oh yeah…why I find the Photo365 Challenge…um…challenging.

So, I take a lot of pictures and I know how to take proper pictures.  Check.  I am quite useful with the photo editing software so that’s not the problem.  My problem lies is two areas…time and perfectionism.  Gah – ain’t that the story of my life these days?!!

Anyway, let’s talk about issues:

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 8.10.46 PM1.  TIME:  It  seems that I never leave the house these days.  Grad school has turned me into a recluse.  I am either stuck in my office on this computer or in actual class after spending the day, working on this computer.  My dog is adorable but how many pictures of a cute lab/chow mix can one take before they appear to be the crazy dog lady?  I think I have already exceeded that number and the postman didn’t find it as hilarious as my boyfriend did, when I chased after him, camera in hand.  The next door neighbors got a little creeped out by the zoom function on my stellar HTC One camera phone and grass grows very slowly in the winter.  I proclivity for taking selfies at an unprecedented rate until I was utterly satisfied with picture began to look narcissistic and to be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of time these days to even blow dry my hair or apply some concealer.  Ain’t nobody gonna wanna see the everyday grad school selfie!

I decided to use my old pal Bonono, a stuffed monkey given to me by a very important friend many years ago, as the subject of this Photo365 Challenge.  The problem there – he isn’t easy to transport.  People look at you funny when you haul a stuffed monkey out of your purse and begin to hold a photoshoot in Kroger, First Tennessee, or Walgreens. Yes – those may be the only places I go on a weekly basis.  Yeah…no, I don’t even go there!  So, Bonono and I have taken many a photoshoot in the privacy of our home.  Even then, how many times can a monkey swing from a tree, pretend to ride a motorcycle, read a school book, ride the dog, check out the week’s calendar, beat himself with a statistics book, be horrified at the article on NSA spying in Rolling Stone, play dress-up, cook dinner, or try to use the birdbath as a hot tub before people are utterly sick of the monkey?  Well, i’m sure many are sick of the monkey pictures but that is what we have at this time.  Learn to love the monkey people.  Either that or brace yourself for a montage entitled “As Grass Grows,” in which you get a picture of the front yard at the same angle every day, in order to watch the seasons change from winter to spring to summer.  Anyone interested?

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 8.19.32 PM2.  EXCELLENCE:  Some call this trait of mine perfectionism, and that word is one that I am so darn tired of hearing this semester.  I believe that I strive for excellence.  Yes, I like things to be as perfect as possible.  I admit it.  I like things clean and pretty and well-executed.  I feel that if one is going to take the time to do something, they should do it right and to the very best of their ability.  So – I spend extra time writing essays and if i’m not confident that the subject can be thoroughly explained in the minimum number of pages – a increasingly small number that so many students seem to forget is the minimum work required– then I write more pages and make sure to add something extra.   The minimum means not going above and beyond, not pushing yourself, and doing just enough to get by – something I frankly don’t understand.  Why would anyone enter grad school and not push themselves?  Not go above and beyond?  Not try to add something extra to make their work stand out?  What’s the point them people?  Seriously.  Again, I digress.

PIctures.  So yeah, once I’ve taken my grass growing, monkey swinging, postman chasing, neighbor spying, dog running, or horrendous-looking selfie picture, I feel the need to take a few moments and edit it to the best of my ability.  Some pictures look better when cropped.  Some look better in black and white or sepia or antiqued or with the brightness increased, the contrast lowered, or a filter applied.  Why not make your work look the best it can?  Again – it’s about taking pride in your work and putting your best face in front of the public.  Why would you do anything less?  BUT, this takes time people.  And as I established in problem number 1 – time is of the essence here and I don’t have a lot of it.  I don’t sleep as much as I would like to and I forgo television shows that I love, just to make sure that the product I give my public is the best possible.

So, the Photo365 Challenge has been challenging because I want to take nicely shot pictures of an interesting or at least a funny subject matter and have them properly edited before placing them out in the ethers of the internet for all to see – or potentially see.  The drive I have to do good work and place the best face forward has made it more challenging. However, I don’t understand why anyone would do any less.

On a positive note, it is nice to have a collection of photos that represent my year in grad school and in one place.  Each one means something special to me and I  like being able to have a collection.

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Journal #6 – Facing the Feedback

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Facing the Feedback

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  • “Show your blog (essentially a prototype at this point) and explain your topic of focus to at least one potential member of your blog’s community/audience. Ask them for early feedback on your idea. What kinds of content or features would they be looking for in a blog like yours? What kinds of things do they NEED or WANT to know? Do they have any problems or needs within your topic area you could solve for them? For example, perhaps a potential reader of your niche food blog has a specific allergy and could use some information on how to avoid that ingredient, or similar. Write up what you learned from this person. This could be posted on either one of your blogs, depending on what you think is best. Ideally, talk to more than one person about this. NOTE: THIS IS A COMBO OF MINI-CROWDSOURCING/ALSO CUSTOMER DISCOVERY/DESIGN THINKING”


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After spending hours upon hours designing my topic blog, it was time to gather some feedback. I, of course, was a little worried.  After all, I had spent hundreds of hours making this blog beautiful – in my mind – and carefully crafting what I considered to be just what the Tennessee Liberty Movement needed – a centralized location for all news liberty in Tennessee.  Then, I realized that I am my harshest critic and I really had nothing to lose.  Well, people could snicker and decide I wasn’t worth the keyboard I typed on and the trackpad I design with but that has yet to happen to this day.  34 years and no one has ever told me (to my face or that I know of) that my completed project was utter garbage and I was void of talent.  So, I figured it wasn’t going to happen now.  Still shaking from fear and afraid of negative feedback, I decided to put myself out there and seek the opinion of the people that mattered most – those involved in the Liberty Movement in Tennessee.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 5.27.09 PMI braced myself for the feedback, dead set that I would soon be hearing what I feared the most – a resounding “that’s terrible” or “why would you do that?” or “it could be better” and so on and so forth.  I poured myself a glass of wine and waited.

The facebook messenger began to buzz and fully expecting  to hear people’s shout of horror, I slowly clicked on each one.  I was ready to Face the Feedback.

To my surprise, I had nothing to worry about.  The problems with my topic blog were the problems I already knew existed.  Each person had great things to say about the design of the blog and the purpose for its existence.

  • They agreed that Tennessee lacked a centralized location for liberty news and information.
  • They agreed that the design and theme fit the topic quite nicely and it was one of the more professional looking blogs or websites out there.
  • They liked the fact that it wasn’t cluttered with unnecessary information on the front page and that the topic categories were sorted well – making searching for each particular “need” simple and quick.
  • They all agreed that I had enough categories to be the “go-to” site for resources, event information, and news.
  • And many mentioned that they liked the addition of the student liberty in Tennessee because due to the fact that because students are in charge of creating and maintaining their own sites and facebook pages – they aren’t always easy to locate.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 5.23.34 PMAfter hearing such positive feedback, I began to feel better about asking for people’s thoughts on the existing content.

  • Everyone liked the design of the blog posts
  • They loved the fact that there were posts about upcoming bills that not only explained the bill itself but gave contact information for the state representatives or state senators responsible for it.
  • They felt the event information sorted by county was a great addition and would help people more easily find ways to get involved in their area.  They also like the fact that anyone could see it so that people from all over the state would be aware of each county’s events and could gather event ideas for their county.
  • They also really liked the “weekly” forum discussion category but noted that there was only been one.
  • Some wondered why the site was called tn liberty but the web address was “liberty tn” and others noted that I really should purchase the domain name tn liberty.

The name tn liberty was already taken when the dot wordpress was after it in the web address and “liberty tn” was as close as i could get.  Also, purchasing the domain name is already something I had planned to do – once I could afford it and it would be a worthwhile purchase.

  • They reminded me that I had not completed the State Representative and State Senator pages.

I know, I know.  I’ve been a bit busy.  I also nicely reminded them that this was still a work in progress but I appreciated the reminder.  These pages will contain the contact information for each State Representative and Senator as well as how many terms they have held their position and during election time if they are running unopposed, opposed in their own party, or opposed in other parties.  I will also be adding information about liberty candidates and if they are endorsed by any organizations such as FreedomWorks or Young Americans for Liberty.

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 6.34.31 PMFinally, I was able to ask if they had any ideas for new categories or if there was anything that could be done better.  This question was the only resounding negative comment that I received.  Great. However, to my surprise, it was exactly the problem that I existed:

  • There was not enough content and the posts were frequent enough.  All feedback givers mentioned that there was enough liberty news to make 10 to 20 posts a day on average plus the county event posts and student event posts.

I was afraid I was right.  I simply do not have the time at this point in my life to run a blog of this caliber and make it one that I can be proud to host.  To make tn liberty be all that it can be – excuse the army quote – I would need a significant amount of time each day to devote to finding, creating, and posting stories.  That, or I would have to acquire a staff to help me.  Running this page would be a full-time job for one person and unfortunately, I don’t have the time while in grad school or the resources to do it for free.  Even though I have a donation widget installed on the blog – not a penny has been donated and nor should it have been – there isn’t anything to donate to at this point. Something will have to change before tn liberty can take off.  Maybe I will be able to think of something this summer.

Overall, Facing the Feedback was not a terrible ordeal.



Weekly Reading Ramblings – Week 5

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Robin Rambling on Week 5 Readings

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This week’s readings were about solving social dilemmas, new tools to create social capital, how to shoot decent photos, and journalistic uses for Pinterest.  You can even leave a comment at the bottom there.  Yes – see, right there at the bottom where it says to “leave a reply” – feel free to share your insights with me!


Chapters 8 & 9 of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody

clayshirkyIn Chapter 8, Shirky begins by explaining the Prisoner’s Dilemma in order to show the complicated process of solving social dilemmas and how social tools only amplify this process.  If you haven’t heard of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, it can be explained most simply like this:

Together, you and I commit a crime.  We get arrested.  We, now have 4 options:

  • You and I both keep our mouths shut, spend a night in jail, and go free the next day
  • You spill all when offered a reward to turn on me and I face charges and go to jail for a long time
  • I spill all when offered a reward to turn on you and you face charges and go to jail for a long time
  • We both spill all when offered a reward to turn on each other and we both face charges and go to jail for a long time.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 5.00.08 AMPersonally, I only see one feasible option – You and I BOTH keep our mouths shut, spend one night in jail, face no charges, and walk free the next day!  Apparently, it isn’t always that easy.  When  two people who may not know each other very well or haven’t developed a level of trust are in this situation, the dilemma gets more complicated.  To me, it shouldn’t – assuming we committed this crime together.  However, not everyone has my values or moral code.  I’m a firm believer in two things.  1.  Always hedge your bets – if they are trying to offer you a reward, then chances are they do not have enough evidence to make their case.  2.  When you “team up” with someone, whether it be to serve food to the poor or to commit a crime, you always have your partner’s back – no matter what!  As time has gone by, I have realized that I may be one of the only people who still hold these values so dearly.  It seems that in today’s world, there is truly no honor among thieves.

Next, Shirky adds what Robert Axelrod, a University of Michigan sociologist who has conducted significant studies on the Prisoner’s Dilemma, calls “the shadow of the future.”  Shirky explains this theory by stating “we all face the Prisoner’s Dilemma when we interact with people who could take advantage of us, yet we actually manage to trust one another often enough to accomplish things in groups.  The shadow of the future makes it possible for me to act on your behalf today, even at some risk or cost to me, on the expectation that you will remember and reciprocate tomorrow.”

To learn more about the Prisoner’s Dilemma or Axelrod’s shadow of the future,  watch the following video or check out the sites below:

Later in Chapter 8, Shirky uses one of my favorite examples to explain how Robert Putnam’s belief that social capital is declining in America, as stated in his article Bowling Alone, is not entirely true. Scott Heiferman, the founder of a successful NYC web business, read Bowling Alone and set out to reinvigorate America’s social capital.  He assumed that people knew what they were missing when it came to their social capital and communal interaction and that if it were easy to increase in today’s world of suburban houses, carpools, two-worker families, and the devaluation of the dollar, people would certainly take steps to do so.  Heiferman also recognized one other key factor that would make his forthcoming business a success – that no longer should the internet be treated as some sort of “other world” or “cyberspace,” when in fact it was simply an extension of the real world.  Shirky explains that Heiferman “realized that if enough people are online, you don’t have to group them solely by affinity  (pug lovers, White Stripes fans, libertarians, whatever).  Instead, you can group them by affinity and proximity (pug lovers in Poughkeepsie, White Stripes fans in Walla Walls).”  Thus, Meetup was born.

Now, let me just take a minute to jump for joy and squeal like a little girl because for the first time a Journalist and author mentioned libertarians in a non-negative light!  If i’m going to be 100% correct, this is the second time it has happened, as Shirky positively mentioned libertarians in Chapter 3, when discussing the infamous Trent Lott birthday wish to Strom Thurmond.  You can read about it here.   Okay, back to Meetup.

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 4.52.04 AMWhat Heiferman was able to recognize and Meetup was able to show through the popularity of groups for virtual contacts was that “even online communication that emulates face-to-face interaction still leaves people wanting human contact.”  Meetup’s success also showed that people weren’t simply recreating the “old model of community, because it provided a different set of capabilities” and the groups that first took advantage of these new tools were groups of people who had a great desire in finding like-minded persons but due to factors such as geography, topical specificity, or social approval the previous costs of locating and coordinating were too high.  Meetup was able to solve the “locating” problem and by doing so created outlets for hundreds of new groups to form – many of which had never been able to gather before, which had left their members yearning for bonding connectivity.

Finally, I found Shirky’s explanation for why the early assumption that communication tools were (or would be) a good substitute for travel was dead wrong, to be enlightening.  I knew based on personal experiences and those of the people around me that these assumptions were incorrect but I didn’t have any sort of evidence to back up that claim.  Shirky did, as usual.  He noted that in 1978, President Carter deregulated the airlines, significantly lowering travel prices, but telecommunications stocks didn’t fail.  Instead, they rose.  In 1984 Judge Harold Greene broke up AT&T leading to rapidly decreasing long-distance phone call costs.  That year, airlines customers increased.  I know it isn’t scientific evidence but it’s good enough for those of us who find credibility in what some would call a coincidence.  Two separate incidences and 6 years apart – same outcome.   I never thought that online communication could replace travel – it’s absurd, but interesting tidbits of information such as this, is still rather interesting.  Shirky states “communication and travel are complements, not substitutes,” and I couldn’t agree more!

To hear Meetup CEO Scott Heiferman speak about Startups, another interest of mine, check out this article.

Now, for your viewing pleasure:

Scott Heifferman speaking to Startup Grind* on what constitutes a good Meetup Community:

Scott Heifferman On Meetup and Dumb Ideas:

*The Startup Grind is an event series and website designed to help educate, inspire, and connect local entrepreneurs. Each month they welcome an amazing speaker who shares their story with our community and tells about what worked, what didn’t, and what they’ll do differently next time. The Startup Grins says ‘”It’s an amazing opportunity to learn from the best, network with other members of the startup community, and improve your chances of entrepreneurial success.”


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In Chapter 9 Shirky begins by explaining the difference in large and small groups and how these groups are connected using the Small World network pattern.

Small World networks have two main characteristics which allows messages to move through groups effectively when they are balanced properly.

The first characteristic of Small World networks is that small groups are densely connected and formed with the everyone knows everyone communication pattern.  The second characteristic is that large groups are loosely connected and with a larger collection of members, each would have many more potential connections.  By adopting both strategies – dense and loose connections, at different scales – each tight group is connected by “connector” members in each groups.  These “connectors” “function like ambassadors, creating links between disparate populations in larger networks.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 5.11.11 AMOkay at this point if you are at all like me, you are about to re-read this paragraph to see if it makes any more sense.  I know, when people begin speaking or writing in this manner, my brain automatically begins playing Charlie Brown’s teacher on repeat.  However, in this case, if you think about the social networking tool, Klout, this will make much more sense.  In Klout, those people who have the higher scores are the “connectors.”  They have more social influence because they have a large number of friends who are spread across many groups.   Those people with moderate to low scores are simply members of small groups.  Within these small groups, you are bound to find one or two high score members, or “connector members” who are likely a “connector” in another small group or good friends with a “connector member” in other small groups.

You can also think back to when you were a child.  Chances are you had your neighborhood friends, your church friends, and your school friends.  Each set of friends serves as a densely connected small group.  When your parent’s threw you a birthday party, it is likely that each group of friends were invited.  At the party, you served as the “connector member” of each group, hopefully making the groups feel more like one large network of friends.  This never actually worked for me.  I am a high score Klout member but as a child, mixing sets of friends never seemed to work out well. A good friend from one or two groups would get their feelings hurt because in a typical situation, where they were the only group present,  they didn’t have to compete for my attention.  In this situation, I had to play the role of host and ambassador causing me to spread my attention across all groups and ultimately, I was a child who was not adept at such complicated dilemmas.  But, hopefully my examples caused the Small Work network to make a bit more sense.

Shirky spent most of this chapter explaining the networks and how information was shared among members and across groups.  He also spent some time explaining bridging and bonding and how that pertains to social capital.  Due to the fact that my next point deals with the difference between bridging and bonding, I will take a minute to give those of you who might have never heard of these theories a little background.

Social Capital:  

  • “the store of behaviors and norms in any large group that lets its members support one another”
  • The term is evocative because it connotes an increase in power, similar to financial capital.
  • “In economic terms, capital is a store of wealth and assets.”

Bonding Capital:

  • “an increase in the depth of connections and trust within a relatively homogenous group”

Bridging Capital: 

  • “an increase in connections among relatively heterogenous groups”

Now that we defined the terms, Shirky explains the public illustration of the difference in bridging and bonding capital in the form of 2004 Howard Dean Presidential Campaign.  I am not a Howard Dean fan by any means but the similarities in the 2004 Howard Dean Campaign and the 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul Campaigns are striking.  No, Ron Paul was never nationally recognized as “in the lead” but but both campaigns were able to draw huge crowds of youth and utilize online social tools better than any other Presidential campaigns in history.  Shirky states that the “Dean Campaign was unequaled in creating bonding capital among its most ardent supporters,” which is also true of the 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul Presidential Campaigns.  The next paragraph written by Shirky is so true of my experiences and those of other Ron Paul supporters and staff that it could’ve been written about the Ron Paul Campaign and not the Howard Dean Campaign.  Shirky writes:

“They gained a sense of value just from participating; and in the end the participation came to matter more than the goal (a pretty serious weakness for a vote-getting operation).  The pleasure in working on the Dean campaign was in knowing that you were on the right side of history; the campaign’s brilliant use of social tools to gather the like-minded further fed that feeling.  It is natural for a campaign attracting so many eager young people to oversell them on the effect they’ll have, when the truth is so rough; you’ll work eighty-hour weeks while sleeping on someone’s sofa, and in the end your heroic contribution will be a drop in the bucket of what’s needed.”

Wow!  That is a very true statement.

IMAG0402The only difference is that the Ron Paul campaign had learned from the mistakes of the past and we never took our eyes off the prize, making sure to stay focused on the vote gathering activities of the campaign.  However, the liberty movement is a tight-knit group who are more passionate about Ron Paul and the movement than almost any other group I have ever seen.  Unfortunately the last sentence is true as well…our heroic contributions were not enough and they were barely recognized if you’re only counting the votes.  I, am not just counting the votes.  The contributions of those who served on the right side of history are significant because words such as “liberty” and “the constitution” are no longer pushed under the rug or blatantly ignored by ALL politicians and MOST citizens.  We were able to stir the pot and bring issues to the forefront through our work for Ron Paul.  We didn’t accomplish our ultimate goal, just as the Howard Dean campaign did not accomplish theirs.  However, we can move forward with our heads held high because we may have been able to achieve much more than an election.  Only time will tell.


How Journalists and Newsrooms Can Use Pinterest by Steve Buttry

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Confession:  I’m addicted to Pinterest.  Some people have found themselves addicted to Twitter and are owed thousands upon thousands of dollars from Twitter for their time.  Twitter would only owe me $$1,696.67 @ $50 per hour.  You can calculate yours here.  No one has created a “How Much Does Pinterest Owe Me” app yet and I’m glad.  I have logged significant hours pinning recipes, cleaning tips, and DIY outdoor, painting, and art projects, as well as event ideas, quotes, clothing, graphic design inspirations, and the like.  In fact, last summer I began refinishing ALL the furniture in my house and creating my own decor after realizing that I didn’t have to pay the outrageous prices charged by Pier One, Hayneedle, Artsy, Crate and Barrell, and others for stuff that I could easily create.  I also started painting the inside of my house and revisioning my living space – a project that has only just begun.  The Grad School start date snuck up on me and has been a continuous whirlwind, so there is still painter’s tape lining my living room windows.  Don’t judge, just pray that it comes off!

That being said, I was interested to find out how Steve Buttry thought Pinterest  could be used by Journalists and businesses.  I was surprised to find that Buttry had compiled a list full of magnificent ideas!   Many of them seemed obvious once I read them but honestly, I never would have thought of some of these ideas without help from Buttry’s article.  Since most of the week’s readings involved sharing information among groups and communities, I am going to focus on the ways Pinterest can be used to increase community involvement and garner good PR from the community.

Steve Buttry writes (formatting altered):

“…community Pinboards should be fun, not just informative.  If I were still at the Omaha World-Herald, we’d do boards on funky Nebraska attractions such as the Kearney ArchCarhenge and Ole’s (I checked; they don’t have such a board yet).”

“At the Iowa news organizations where I used to work, I’d suggest separate boards for the covered bridges of Madison County and the Field of Dreams. (Again, not yet, but the Register’s Unique Iowa board is along those lines.)”

“I’ve noted before that news organizations need to develop multimedia directories of community businesses and organizations, a place for the community to come for information and a place for businesses and organizations to advertise (paying to add their own content to the directory and news-archive content you provide on every business). You could do a separate community-directory Pinterest account, with boards for various business categories (restaurants, auto repair, landscaping, etc.). You would pin logos, building photos, product photos, etc….”

“You could have a board for each of your major community attractions and perhaps types of attractions (if I were still at TBD, covering Washington D.C., we might be doing a Pinboard of Washington statues).”

  • “The Daily Freeman has an extensive Hudson Valley Pinboard featuring attractions, activities and news of the region.”
  • “The Berkshire Eagle has one for the Berkshires.”
  • “The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, features local wineries. “
  • “Diane Hoffman of The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa., launched a Mother’s Day board well in advance of the holiday, featuring photos of mothers, children’s art work for Mom and gift ideas.”
  • “Pets are another area of great potential for Pinterest. The Mercury (611 followers) and the San Jose Mercury News (236 followers) have made popular boards of pet photos.”
  • “St. Paul Pioneer Press Social Media Editor Jen Westpfahl created a Pinboard for a series on kid-friendly dining.”
  • “One of the best opportunities Pinterest might present is to highlight archival content. You could have Pinboards of historic front pages, photos from annual community events and big events in your community’s history.”
  • “The Salt Lake Tribune, which runs weekly photo galleries of community history, has a popular Pinboard of historic photos (below) with 899 followers.”
  • “You can and should use Pinboards to tell people about your newsroom.  I like the Daily Freeman’s staff board, which includes email links and phone numbers (you might add links to Twitter, Facebook or other social accounts or a staff member’s blog).  Buffy Andrews has a board for her colleagues on the York Daily Record’s features staff.”

Aren’t those some fabulous ideas?  It’s amazing how people figure out the various ways to use a social medium to their advantage.

In the comments section following Buttry’s blog post, I found a comment that seemed extremely helpful.  Jen Westpfahl offered some advice as to the best time to Pin and a new Pinterest Metrics site:

Jen WestpfahlTwinCities.com and the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

You’ll get the most traction from things pinned in the evening because that’s when most people use pinterest. It’s not at the check-at-my-desk level of Facebook yet. It’s something people do while watching TV at night or after the kids are in bed.

I’ve posted lots of really good baseball photos and the one with the most response so far was one I posted around 9 p.m. It’s a great photo but no better than the others I’ve pinned (in my opinion) so I really think the timing is the difference.

If you haven’t signed up for pinerly.com yet, do that. It’s in its infancy but I think it’s going to offer great metrics (and later scheduling for those of you who don’t work during prime pinning time). It’s in beta so you have to put in your email address and wait for an invitation. And it’s only one account per email so I’m still waiting for my work one.

I never thought Pinterest would be very useful for businesses but after reading this article, I realized that I had already used some of Buttry’s ideas.  As the Co-General Manager and Director of Special Events, PR and Marketing for Equestria Restaurant and Lounge in Germantown, TN (it closed in November of 2011), I began posting Pins of each night’s dinner specials, event pictures, and general staff camaraderie.  Since the restaurant closed, I have since deleted the board so I cannot embed the pictures.  However, I will post a couple of them below.  Who knew I was ahead of my time?

Last summer, during the height of my Pinterest addiction, I also started a board for Liberty and pinned images that pertained to the subject such as Ron Paul pins, quotes, knick knacks, DIY decor, etc.

I suppose I should probably beginning pinning more items to the R3VOLUTION Board, especially anything to do with Liberty in Tennessee, such as pictures from the Libertarian Party of Tennessee State Convention that ended today, to use in conjunction with my tn liberty blog.  Thanks Steve Buttry and Carrie Brown for being enablers!

Why hello Pinterest, my old friend, how i’ve missed you!!!!

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RGMP7:  Learn How to Shoot Decent Photos by Mindy McAdams

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 5.36.15 AMMindy McAdams 7th post in a series titled “Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency” shares ways to improve your photojournalism skills.

She begins the article by squashing the number one excuse for not being able to take decent photos – the lack of expensive camera equipment.  McAdams explains that “it’s the person who gets a great shot – not the device.”  Every journalist should be able to capture a decent photo in breaking news situations and every blogger should be able to capture great photos in order to enhance their blog’s esthetics. McAdams’ advice on camera settings, the rule of thirds, lines, balance, framing, and avoiding mergers will help any beginner, novice, or intermediate level photographer improve their techniques and subsequently their shots.  Even I, the daughter of a photographer who has been taking pictures her whole life, learned a few things as digital cameras have changed quite a few things.  Give it a read – you will walk away more informed and that is always a good thing!


Weekly Reading Ramblings – Week 4 (Part I)

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Robin Rambling on Week 4 Readings (Part I)

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This week’s readings were about community engagement, collective action, and participating in Twitter Chats – a form of community engagement, in my opinion.  If you don’t know what I mean by that, you’ll have to read through my ramblings.  And, even if you feel me – hopefully, you’ll keep reading as well.  You can even leave a comment at the bottom there.  Yes – see, right there at the bottom where it says to “leave a reply” – feel free to share your insights with me!


Chapters 6 & 7 of Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody

clayshirkyIn Chapter 6, Shirky focuses on collective action and institutional challenges using the  1992 and 2002 priest/molestation scandals involving the Catholic Church to show how social tools have helped shape the power of groups when acting together.  The difference in the two time periods is obviously the spread of internet usage and the creation of social tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like.  In 1992, the Catholic Church was able to keep the scandal and actions of Reverend Porter relatively under wraps because parishioners couldn’t easily share information about the scandal with one another or readily coordinate an group action.  On the other hand, in 2002, these obstacles of geography and shared information were no longer obstacles.  The Boston Globe series detailing the history of Father Geoghan, the priest who worked at various parishes in the Boston archdiocese since the 1960s and during that time had molested over a hundred boys, was able to be shared with ease through social networks and e-mail.

Shirky noted that “the impulse to share important information is a basic one, it’s manifestations have often been clunky,” and he is right.  I immediately remembered the newspaper clippings haphazardly Screenshot 2014-03-15 21.04.37held by magnet to my grandmother’s refrigerator.  She would clip any article that she thought my mother needed to read and each week a large portion of the time that my mother spent with her was taken over by the forced “share of information.”  My mother would have rather read these clippings later in the evening when she had arrived home and spent the few hours that she had to spend with my grandmother, having a conversation.  I think the part that my mother missed was that my grandmother wanted her to read the articles right then because she was not only interested in sharing this “important” information but then having an intellectual discourse about that topic.  To be fair, I think another reason was that she didn’t trust my mother to actually read the clipping from Ann Landers that she found so important.  Shirky’s point was that the exchange of information prior to the social tools of today was time consuming and the seemingly minor difficulties of clipping and saving or clipping and mailing a newspaper article were significant enough to limit the frequency.  I don’t think everyone was determined as my grandmother and I will discuss those determined people and their impact more when we get to Chapter 7 and later in Chapter 10.

Going back to the Catholic Church scandal, it wasn’t just the fact that “easier and wider dissemination of information changes group awareness,” but that in order to have a large effect, there would need to be a change in collective action as well.  Shirky uses the group Voice of the Faithful (VOTF), started in 2002 by Boston physician James Muller–only a few weeks after the Boston Globe series appeared–to show how the use of social tools not only made it easier to share information across geographical boundaries but to grow an organization’s membership exponentially in a previously unheard of period of time.  Thirty people showed up in the basement of a church in January of 2002 for the first VOTF meeting. By March, more than 500 people overflowed their small meeting room and by the summer of 2002, VOTF hosted their first convention boasting over 25K members.  The rate of growth was almost a thousandfold increase and until social tools came into play, this was inconceivable.  In many ways, it still is. I have helped increase membership for many organizations and although, I’m good, I have never increased membership by that many, especially in that amount of time–nor have I seen it done.  Nonetheless, one of the differences between pre-social tools and 2002 was the ease in group discovery and joining.  With social networks, email, and websites it is much easier to locate groups that hold the same interests or passions that you do and once you locate them, it is easier to get information about their mission and goals. Plus, when you are ready to actually join the group, a simple online registration form and PayPal widget for dues saves each person a ton of time. Social tools then save the organization or group money because printed materials and mailing costs are no longer a factor.  The growth of VOTF, along with the growth of several other groups with similar missions, helped effect change in the Catholic Church due to the power of collective action.  Shirky notes that before social tools, the Catholic Church was not “inimical to improvised global organization of its parishioners because it simply wasn’t an option.”

Finally, in the last two paragraphs of Chapter 6 Shirky explains that “social tools don’t create collective action–they merely remove the obstacles to it.”  A point that I believe is often forgotten or overlooked by many.  People have protested organizations and governments forever – anyone remember the Conflict in Vietnam?  Imagine what could have been different if the protesters of the 1960s to early 1970s had been able to use the social tools of today?  I will end this discussion the way that Shirky ended Chapter 6–with a quote that spoke volumes to me:

“Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies–it happens when society adopts new behaviors.”

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Screenshot 2014-03-15 20.26.23In Chapter 7 Shirky explains the difference between the power of individual action and collective action using the 1989 protests of the German Democratic Republic in Leipzig in comparison to the use of Flash Mobs and other socially coordinated tools of today as an example of how collective action can bring social change.  I found the history of Flash Mobs quite interesting as I have a weird fascination with them– I always wanted to be a part of one or randomly be surrounded by one.  Ironically enough, Flash Mobs began as a way to mock hipster culture (and you just have to love that) but over time they have become a useful tool of government protesters in places such as St. Petersburg, Russia and Belarus.

Never seen a Flash Mob?  Check out this video:

And here is one for political action:


Being who I am and believing in liberty and freedom, I found this chapter especially interesting due to its political content.  I actually LOLed when Shirky explained one particular Flash Mob protest of the Lukashenko government in Belarus.  People were instructed to show up in Oktyabrskaya Square to eat ice cream and were subsequently arrested by the tyrannical socialist regime.  The catch?  As police were hauling away the ice cream eaters, bystanders were snapping digital photographs and video to upload to Flickr and Livejournal to show the world the Lukashenko oppression.  Shirky states “Nothing says ‘police state’ like detaining kids for eating ice cream.”

Wow!  Doesn’t that just sum it all up?  Before social tools, governments were able to get away with a lot more.  Shirky explains that “political action has changed when a group of  previously uncoordinated actors can create a public protest that the government can neither interdict in advance nor supress without triggering public documentation.”  Today, tyrannical governments get away with far too much in my opinion but when they are really naughty–they have to be better at hiding their secrets because the internet seems to tell all, just like it did with the NSA.

Remember when I mentioned those “determined” people in the discussion of Chapter 6?  Shirky brings up an incredibly important point about the motivation of groups and the determined people behind them.  Many people believe that a group of hundreds is run by hundreds when in actuality it is the determination and driving force of a handful that keeps the group running.  He states “many people care a little about the treatment they get from airlines or banks, but not many care enough to do anything about it on their own, both because that kind of effort is hard and because individual actions have so little effect on big corporations.”  This also applies to political change and is something that a person in my line of work deals with every day.  For example, during the 2012 Ron Paul Campaign in Shelby County (I was the Chair for the Official Ron Paul Campaign), each of my team members couldn’t wait to participate when it was something they perceived as “fun,” such as a protest or a sign wave.  However, when it came to the actual “work” of the campaign such as the door-to-door activities, phone banking, Get Out the Vote, and poll standing –the activities that actually WIN election–they weren’t as interested.  In fact, some wouldn’t even participate.  It was left to the handful of highly determined and motivated team members to carry the weight of the group.

Shirky reminds us that the “old model for coordinating group action required convincing people who care a little to care more, so that they would be roused to act” but now “the highly motivated people can create a context more easily in which the barely motivated people can be effective without having to become activists themselves.”  This may be true for some groups and somewhat so for political action, but isn’t the case when it comes to political campaigns.  Yes, the Facebook groups and meme sharing are needed and those who aren’t as motivated can certainly help with certain tasks–the spreading of the message, the education of others, and the sign waving.  However, when it comes to the actual actions that WIN the election the motivated “people who were on fire” still wonder “why the general population didn’t care more, and the general population” still wonders “why those obsessed people didn’t just shut up!”

Click Here for Part II – Twitter Chats


Weekly Reading Ramblings – Week 4 (Part II)

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Robin Rambling on Week 4 Readings (Part II)

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Screenshot 2014-03-15 21.10.4410 Tips for Participating in Dizzying Twitter Chats                                                  by Kenna Griffin                                                           

Journalist and media veteran, Kenna Griffin supplies Twitter Chat n00bs with some helpful hints to overcome the first time jitters.

Griffin explains that feeling overwhelmed during one’s first handful of Twitter Chats is extremely normal and that the fast pace of the posts can cause a dizzying effect in most people.  However, she believes that the information and connections that one gains from the experience is worth taking a deep breath and not giving up.

Griffin spells out some simple reminders and guidelines for the Tweet Chat beginner, ranging from the importance of the Chat subject matter to understanding the chat’s rules.  She also gives the basic instructions for tweeting a formal introduction and reminds readers that it’s okay to miss things during the chat – not all tweets are meant for everyone.

Personally, I found her 10 Tips to be quite helpful as I am just now learning the ins and outs of the Tweet Chat.  For example, I wasn’t aware that each chat had specific rules and those rules were typically given out approximately one hour to 30 minutes before the scheduled start time.  I was also relieved to know that it was in fact correct to use the TweetChat hashtag EVERY time you posted, even when speaking to a person from the chat through a direct message and that following people with whom you spoke during the TweetChat was appropriate and encouraged.

If you are new to Twitter or just new to Tweet Chats (or Twitter Chats, depending on who you are talking to), I highly suggest you check out Kenna Griffin’s 10 Tips for Participating in Dizzying Twitter Chats and some of the other articles located at the bottom of this post.


Other Articles of Interest for this Week:


Need More Information about Twitter Chats?

Check out these articles which provide helpful hints, tips, and tricks:

(VIDEO) How To Twitter Chat

(VIDEO) How to Participate in a Live Twitter Chat

Find Your Perfect Twitter Chat Match:

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Journal # 5 – A Perfectionist Print Designer and the World Wide Web

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A Perfectionist Print Designer 

and the World Wide Web 

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  • “Set up new WordPress blog for your topic of focus/beat. This is SEPARATE from your journal blog. I know, two blogs, crazy! Choose a name for it carefully, and a theme. If you’ve already done this, bully for you. Send me the URL and I’ll create a new blogroll.”
  • “Create about page for this topic blog”
  • “Set up blogroll on your topic blog with at least five sites related to your topic. Here’s how to do it.”
  • “Sign up for at least one email newsletter and/or an RSS feed reader related to your beat (you might want to sign up for some related to our profession more generally, too). There are many possible feed readers out there – do some research to see which one you think best suits you. For example, here are some possibilities, including Feedly.”
  • “If you are already a blogging whiz, or have a topic blog set up already, are there any new features or widgets you could add? If your blog is pre-existing, be sure you do at least one new thing to spruce it up. Describe what you did in your journal blog”

Setting up the Topic Blog – tn liberty

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.06.26 PMIf you’re reading this, you can see that I am quite capable of setting up a blog.  WordPress makes it fairly easy.  Pick a theme.  Check.  Name your blog.  Check.  Add a tagline. Check.  Decide if you want your home page to be static or a revolving door that showcases your most recent posts and then, mark it as such.  Check Check.   Begin adding pages to your new blog.  Check Check Check.  Add some categories.  Check times ten.  And here is where the beginner user may have begun to get a little confused.  No big deal. WordPress is there to help you with an assortment of support pages, located here.  And if you can’t find the answer you need there, check out the forum for support categorized by simple topics, located here.  “So what’s the big deal,” you ask?  “Obviously, you know enough to make a decently visually appealing and functioning blog.”  Yes, I can make it pretty-ish and functional but you forget, I’m a print designer and….drum roll….a perfectionist.

The print designer with a perfectionist personality disorder is used to being in control of how text appears, the spacing in-between each line and each character, the color of the boxes around words and widgets, and so on, and so forth.  Sure.  I created a blog and matched the color of the fonts to the header that I uploaded – one that I created in Photoshop and InDesign for my Facebook page, Tennessee and Mississippi Leadership.  BUT, now there are appearance problems with my site.

7702900836_0106e4e49a_cFor some reason, I cannot get the Site Title to change colors in order to become visible against my dark header.  I’m not a complete n00b, so I knew a few tricks to try and i refused to be pwned by WordPress.  I knew that I wanted the color to be #ffffff (that’s white, for those of you who don’t know).  I knew that the text size needed to be at least 50px.  I knew that there needed to be extra padding (what spacing is called in HTML) between the Site Title and the Site Description.  I tried everything I could think of but no luck.  My brain started to become mush and I was heading for an all out war with WordPress.  I knew that I had to learn the thing I had been dreading for years…HTML and CSS coding.  

Great.  Just great.

For those of you who do not know what CSS and HTML coding look like – check out the development tools option available in your browser.  If you’re using Chrome, it’s located under View—>>Developer—>>Developer Tools.  You can also right click on any element on a web page and choose “Inspect Element.”  A box will show up on your screen and you can look “behind the scenes” at any webpage.  This will give you an idea of the code necessary to create text, images, boxes, headings, spacing, and everything else on a webpage.  Here is what this one looks like right now.  Check out the white box highlighted at the bottom of this screen shot.  That’s what I was about to “mess with.”

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tagImageDiagramAfter realizing that I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing, I checked out some helpful tips and tricks on several blogs.  These sites gave me the basic code that I needed to change simple text.  I could now make sentences or words bold by adding <strong>PUT WORDS HERE< /strong>, italicized by adding <em>PUT WORDS HERE< /em>, or even bold and italicized by adding <strong><em>PUT WORDS HERE< /em>< /strong>.  I was making headway.

css-tnNext, I investigated the coding needed to change colors, fonts, and sizes in sentences, paragraphs, and words.  I figured out that you can use other coding to make colored background boxes, change the text color, and change the appearance of entire groups of text.  Not just individual posts or pages but you can change how the “default” text appears for different headings 1, 2, 3, and so on.

 I was super excited and throughout the next two days, I filled my mind with every piece of needed code that I could absorb.


tn liberty Blogroll

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Now, that I had spent hours learning advanced brain-frying code, it was time to actually complete the assignments that were required of me for this week.

I gathered the URLs for important website and blogs to add to the sidebar of my tn liberty blog in order to guide people to other sources of information about liberty and liberty in TN.

I put the sites into several categories such as Liberty Folk to Follow, Liberty Organizations, Liberty in Tennessee, Liberty Resources, and TN Student Liberty.  Under each category, I added links to some of the most popular sites.

 


Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 7.50.15 PMMention & Google Alerts

Next, I decided to go ahead and set up an alert system for my blog topic of liberty in Tennessee. I have used several different “alert” systems in the past and decided to set up Mention, first.

I created several alerts such as “Tennessee” AND “Liberty,”  “Tennessee” and “Politics,” “Memphis” AND “Council” OR “Commission” OR “laws” OR “government,” and “Knoxville” AND “politics“.  I added an alert for each major area of Tennessee and used several different search options in order to get a more comprehensive collection of news stories.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 7.57.37 PMI did the same thing for Google Alerts.  It is a much less visually appealing system, as you can see on the left. It also doesn’t provide you the option to sort and set tasks for your “alerts.”  For example, Mention allows several users to work with the same “alerts” and share them with each other – assigning tasks such as “post this to the blog” or “verify this information.”  Google Alerts are sent to your email address either daily or once a week, depending on your settings.

 I also set up Google Alerts and Mention to inform me if anyone in the interwebs happens to mention either one of my blogs specifically.  As I learned in PR Management last semester – there are numerous tools available in order to know what your audience is saying about you and how they are responding to you.  You have to stay engaged – so I want to know if people are talking about me.  True – it probably has less to do with monitoring my “brand” and more to do with the human nature psychosis of “OMG SOMEONE IS TALKING ABOUT ME?!?!?  WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?!?!”


Feedly & the RSS Reader

So, there is this thing called a RSS feed.  It sounds more complicated than it actually is.  Subscribing to a website RSS removes the need for you to manually check the website for new content.  Instead, their browser constantly monitors the site and informs you of any updates. You can also command the browser to automatically download the new data.

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 3.03.36 AMI first set up the Google Chrome Browser desktop app for Feedly from the Chrome Web Store.  It works quite well, plus it has a visually appealing interface. If you can’t tell by now, I like ALL the things to look pretty, as well as neat and clean.  I used Feedly’s search box to enter terms that were relevant to Tennessee and liberty and politics.  Plus, I also added a few blogs and sites manually.  For the most partFeedly was helpful for major news sites and major blogs.  I also added more journalism influencers, startup kings, and media sites to Feedly, because it seems to be the best bet for actually aggregating my everyday news.

I then found another extension located in the Chrome Browser Web Store.  Yep, that sure sounds a lot like an Apple product but hey, whatever works.  I downloaded the extension for a Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.11.05 PMsimple RSS Feed Reader and it loaded itself into my browser bar for easy access.  I really like it a lot for its simple integration directly into my browser space.  I don’t need a desktop app and it doesn’t take up a lot of space or waste space on pretty pictures. I like pretty pictures and when i’m interested in reading a collection of news stories, I’ll probably use Feedly, because it displays a photo and headline in an aggregated news format like most apps would.  This RSS Feed Reader reminds me of something very old school that would run on the very basic operating systems.  

However, it gets a 5 star rating and the other readers barely get 3 stars.  It’s simple and to the point.  I add websites and blogs, put them into folders based on my category creation, and when they get new information, a number appears next to it signifying how many new stories are ready for me to read.  I can easily click the X, if it is not pertinent or click the Check mark once i’ve read it or just to mark it as read and move on.  I’d check it out if you are looking for ways to add content to your Topic blog quickly and simply.  


successUsing Code to Spruce it Up

Using a text widget, I first wanted to add a donation button to my page.  After reading an article about how to do so, I decided to give it a whirl.  Then, I had a thought.  I wonder if I would be able to add a colored box around it so that it stood out and matched by overall design?  I opened the text widget box and began messing with the code.  After moving it piece by piece and saving each time so I didn’t lose anything, I was able to get it close to what I wanted.  I’m sure this won’t be my final result.  Why?  Because as I said earlier, I’m a perfectionist.

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UPDATE:  And I was right.  After writing this draft, going to eat dinner, and watching The Following, I came back and messed with the code until I was happy. Check it out on my site!!

Next, I wanted to use the text widget and code to create a Title and Tagline that would be located on top of the above donation widget.  I realized that the donation widget used a <div/> code (a type of coding for paragraphs and divisions, if you will) and inside that code the button itself was actually a link URL image code that starts with <irc.  I figured why not use the same type of coding to create the Title and Tagline “widget” that I wanted.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.15.37 PMAfter creating, editing, and saving for approximately 30 minutes, I created something close to perfect.  I’m very happy with it actually but will probably edit it again to make the tagline a little smaller.  However, it is growing on me, as is.

Overall, my site is coming along nicely.  I am still trying to figure out how to edit the CSS on the theme stylesheet in order to make my actual site title the correct color and increase the font size but I have some posts on the CSS Customization Forum and am sure that someone will help me out any day now.

Until then – i’m good.

UPDATE:  An extremely nice guy responded to me on the WordPress CSS Customization forum with some tips on how to go about changing my title and site description to better fit my wants and needs.  He supplied me with a bit of basic CSS code and pointed me in the right direction.  I messed around with it and added some information about margin spacing – had NO idea how to go about it or if it was THE way to nudge the text to the left of the page but what was the worst that could happen?  It didn’t work?!  So, I tried and it worked!  I had noticed that in the sample text a line of code about margins ( margin-bottom:  20px; ).  I wondered if I were to write code on the next line for margin-left if that would move my text closer to the left side of the page.  Low and behold – it worked!  I played around with the spacing and the margins and anything else I could think of and came out with an awesome site title for my tn liberty blog.

Although now, I’m wondering how to move the Site Title and the description to the right side of the header…a perfectionist’s work is never done but that’s okay…i’ll figure it out because I know I can!

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Weekly Reading Ramblings – Week 3

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Robin Rambling on Week 3 Readings

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This week the readings, an article and several chapters of a book, written by two of the most well-known journalism and social media influencers in the county, Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky.

Before we begin, I want to take a few moments to introduce these influencers.

jay rosenJay Rosen has been on the journalism faculty at New York University since 1986 and served as chair of the Department from 1999 to 2005.  He has been one of the earliest advocates and supporters of citizen journalism, encouraging the press to take a more active interest in citizenship, improving public debate, and enhancing life. His book about the subject, What Are Journalists For? was published in 1999. Rosen is often described in the media as an intellectual leader of the movement of public journalism.

what are journalists forRosen writes frequently about issues in journalism and developments in the media. Media criticism and other articles by Rosen have appeared in The New York TimesThe Los Angeles TimesSalon.comHarper’s Magazine, and The Nation.  He is also a semi-regular contributor to The Huffington Post.

He runs his own weblog called PressThink, which concentrates on what’s happening to journalism in the age of the internet and his writing for the weblog won the Reporters Without Borders Freedom Blog award in 2005.

ClayShirky (1)Clay Shirky, a writer, consultant and teacher on the social and economic effects of Internet technologies, has a joint appointment at New York University as a Distinguished Writer in Residence at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and Assistant Arts Professor in the New Media focused graduate Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP).  His courses address, among other things, the interrelated effects of the topology of social networks and technological networks, how our networks shape culture and vice-versa.

He has written and been interviewed about the Internet since 1996, with columns and writings that have appeared in Business 2.0, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Harvard Business Review and Wired.

His consulting practice is focused on the rise of decentralized technologies such as peer-to-peerweb services, and wireless networks that provide alternatives to the wired client–server infrastructure that characterizes the World Wide Web. He is also a member of the Wikimedia Foundation’s Advisory Board.

shirky-here-comes-everybodyIn his book Here Comes Everybody, Shirky explains his favoring cognitive surplusof crowdsourcing and collaborative efforts online and uses the phrase “the Internet runs on love” to describe the nature of such collaborations.

In 2010 Shirky published Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age which expands on themes introduced in Here Comes Everybody.  The book follows concepts he introduced in a Web 2. 0 conference presentation April 23, 2008 called “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.”

Shirky introduces Cognitive Surplus as a continuation of his work in Here Comes Everybody.  “This book picks up where that one left off, starting with the observation that the wiring of humanity lets us treat free time as a shared global resource, and lets us design new kinds of participation and sharing that take advantage of that resource.”

Most recently, Shirky was featured in Journalism Degrees and Program’s article Best in #Journalism: 151 Twitters Worth a Follow  by .  Beginning the section entitled “Professors,” at number 111, Shirky is considered to be one of the 18 Journalism Professors Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 5.27.09 AMworth following.

As an aside, my social media and entrepreneurial journalism professor Carrie Brown-Smith is featured at number 117,  hanging in among the top heavy hitters in this new “business” of journalism.  Check our her blog, The Changing Newsroom, to learn about cutting edge and entrepreneurial journalism.


here-comesFirst, we will revisit the writings of Clay Shirky, this time commenting of Chapters 3-5 of Here Comes Everybody.

Shirky discusses the birthday speech given to Strom Thurmond in 2002 by long-time Mississippi Senator and former Senate Majority Leader, Trent Lott.  In this section, he explains yet another example of how the internet has affected journalism. No longer do the journalists of major networks and newspapers single handedly decide what makes news, news.  Today, due to the millions of bloggers and social media enthusiasts, any topic that a group of people find important enough, to discuss for long enough, can become mainstream news.

In the case of Trent Lott’s infamous speech, the majority of mainstream media failed to cover the speech because it was filed away under “not breaking news” due to the event being a simple birthday party.  However, after the speech promoted Strom Thurmond’s 1948 overtly segregationist Presidential campaign and insulted the citizens of Mississippi by lumping them into the category of Strom supporters, bloggers took to their blogs, facebookers to their news feeds, and twitterers to their tweets in order to speak out against Lott’s actions and to, hopefully, distance themselves from such discriminatory implications.

For days, the “story” broke on the internet and the mainstream media took notice.  I’m sure a bunch of “shoulda woulda couldas” were roaming the halls of every major newspaper and television station in the country, especially in the beltway.  Unfortunately, at this point these traditional news outlets would’ve had to swallow their pride and make apologies for dismissing Lott’s speech and the birthday party when it happened, if they wanted to speak out against his chosen message.

Luckily, for the mainstream media, no one knows how to beat a dead horse like my fellow libertarians and libertarian republicans. My politically like-minded brethren are like dogs with bones when it comes to letting go of subjects they feel should be publicized.  Trent Lott‘s speech happened to be one of these “bones” and according to Shirky, “because the weblogs kept the story alive, especially among libertarian Republicans, Lott eventually decided to react.”

Now, five days after the speech, the mainstream media wouldn’t have to swallow any pride or make amends.  They could simply cover Lott‘s “halfhearted apology” for his statement and run footage of the original speech right next to it.  This would open the subject up as “breaking news,” and allow for reporters and journalists to editorialize.  No longer was defining “the news” as simple as Shirky said, “events that are newsworthy, and events that are covered by the press.”

Trent Lott’s Statement and Public Apology

Many have grumbled about this definition for years, complaining that some stories covered by the mainstream media are not newsworthy and that some newsworthy stories are not covered enough.  Libertarians, and any other third party or even obscure issue groups, have been complaining about this “practice” for years.  Why did so many serious topics go uncovered and so much “fluff” make it onto the front page?  As Shirky pointed out, using the example of Trent Lott, this “link is now broken.”  Shirky states, “From now on news cans break into public consciousness without the traditional  press weighing in.  Indeed, the news media can end up covering the story because something has broken into public consciousness via other means.”

As a blogger and social media user, with a journalism degree and a background in public relations, I am excited about this new frontier on which we are walking.  However, as a political activist and holder of libertarian ideals, I have mixed emotions.  Don’t get me wrong, the ability for the masses of people to publish information that the mainstream media either overlooks, dismisses, or hides is incredibly exciting and beneficial.  The problem lies with the audience.  Typical Americans of voting age, still receive most of their information from the mainstream media.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 1.35.47 AMAccording to Pew Research Center for People & the Press‘ 2012 report, In Changing News Landscape, Even Television is Vulnerable:  Trends in News Consumption: 1991-2012, despite a declining trend, “55% [of Americans] say they watched the news or a news program on television yesterday,” showing little change from recent years.  This report also shows that “the overall share of Americans saying they regularly watch local television news has slipped from 54% in 2006 to 48% today – and in that regard it remains one of the news sources with the broadest reach.”  Finally, Pew points out that 51% of those 65 and older say they regularly watch cable news and seven in ten (71%) say they watched television news, read a print newspaper or listened to radio news yesterday.

I find this highly disturbing. There are so many more sources of valuable information just sitting on the internet waiting for consumption.  As an activist who volunteered in 2008 and worked for the 2012 Ron Paul campaign, I know that an idea planted, can sprout and grow just like a seed.  In 2007, the word libertarian, much less the ideals of libertarianism, were not common knowledge.  As the liberty movement grew, much in part to the efforts of Ron Paul, the political ideals became more common.  This spread of ideals is owed in great part to the efforts on online bloggers and political activists.  Shirky stated, “the same idea published in dozens or hundreds of places, can have an amplifying effect that outweighs the verdict from the smaller number of professional outlets.”

The liberty movement couldn’t be a better example of this idea.  I noticed in early January of 2012, at the beginning of the Republican Presidential Primary, that the only candidate mentioning the issue of state’s rights, was none other than Ron Paul.  This issue was verbally echoed by millions of his supporters and blogged by thousands in the coming weeks.  By late February, on my 32nd birthday and during one of the Primary debates, every single candidate on stage mentioned the issue of state’s right in one form or another.  It was blatantly obvious.  Each candidate’s team had witnessed the growing support for state’s rights and in order to level the playing field, recommended that the candidate begin to show his support.  I have witnessed the noise, firsthand, and resulting difference that a thousand blogging voices can make.  However, it isn’t quick and it isn’t always eventually acknowledged.

With data showing a rise digital news consumption and a decline in traditional news consumption, the numbers of citizens who report blogs as their news source has maintained Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 1.36.42 AMa relatively low response rate.  According to the same Pew study mentioned earlier, “slightly more than one-in-ten (12%) of all Americans regularly read blogs about politics or current events and another 21% say they read them sometimes.  Just less than half (45%) never read blogs or do not use the internet. The numbers of those who read blogs regularly are little changed since 2008.”

The report also shows that “among age groups, regular blog reading is lowest among those 18 to 24 (6%), . . . highest among those 40 to 49 (17%),” and little difference among the age groups in between.  When readers are categorized by education level, “15% of college graduates and those who have had some college regularly read blogs, a number that falls to 7% for those with high school or less.”

I can’t help but wonder why so few people regularly receive news from blogs when so many citizens report that they trust all new sources similarly.  One answer could be the sheer amount of information lurking on the world wide web and that people are simply overwhelmed by the options.

In 7 Things About The Mainstream Media That They Do Not Want You To Know, an article on Alex Jones‘ Infowars, Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse states:  “We live at a time when it is absolutely imperative to think for ourselves, but most Americans are being absolutely overwhelmed with information and seem more than content to let others do their thinking for them.  Sadly, this is greatly contributing to the downfall of our society.”

Shirky’s theory of mass amateurization, the “result of the radical spread of expressive capabilities,” and the “comparisons between the neatness of traditional media and the Quotation-Clay-Shirky-communication-media-profession-internet-Meetville-Quotes-183557messiness of social media” is directly relevant to how Americans have become overwhelmed and symptomatically, uninterested.  Shirky also noted that when comparing traditional media and social media in terms of neatness versus messiness, the system of filtering is often overlooked.  In the process of traditional media publishing, there is a gatekeeper – an editor, or one who decides what should be printed and what stories to forgo.  In social media and blogging, the user is the writer, the creator, the editor, and the publisher.  No longer does the published word mean that someone else thought it was worth reading.  When searching for news on the internet, today’s citizens must be filtering gurus because as Shirky stated, “mass amateurization of publishing, makes mass amateurization of filtering a forced move.”  Filter-then-publish is a thing of the past.  We live in a publish-then-filter society.

He uses the notion of picking up a bookstore and shaking it onto a football field to describe the contents of information on the web.  Of course, you will see classics by such writers as Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Chaucer, Hemingway, Tolstoy, and Plato.  You will also see outstanding works of fiction by authors such as John Grisham, Stephen King, Robert Ludlum, James Patterson, J.R.R. Tolkien, and J.K. Rowling, and works of insightful nonfiction by Winston Churchill, Ron Paul, Jeff Jarvis, Woodward and Bernstein, and Clarence Thomas. However, books with titles such as Cooking With Pooh (I assure you, it’s not about the lovable bear, Winnie), The Dork of Cork,Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality,” orBander Snatch as listed on Huffington Post’s article “Twelve of the Worst Book Titles Ever,” by .  My point is this:  filter, filter, filter!

Everywhere you go today, you must filter.  At the grocery store, you must decide which of the 25 brands of peanut butter is truly all-natural and which is jam-packed with additives.  When shopping for clothes, you must choose which dress is made with lasting, quality materials worth the $200 and which one will simply fall apart after a few wears.  The internet is no different.

Hopefully, Americans will stop throwing their hands up at the overwhelming amount of information and learn to filter the good from the garbage when it comes to internet news consumption.  Social media and blogging are part of this incredible new digital frontier Quotation-Clay-Shirky-media-future-internet-Meetville-Quotes-173600where everyone’s voice can be heard and all ideas can be expressed.  These platforms give rise to information overlooked or dismissed by the traditional mainstream media and can alert citizens to wrongdoings such as Edward Snowden‘s exposure of the NSA spying Julian Assange‘s leak of the Iraq War Logs.  Social media and blogging can spread ideas that may otherwise not be heard such as the case with the Liberty movement and the Ron Paul Revolution. But they can also spread false information, reinforce bigoted and ignorant ideas, give guidance on bomb building, or how to best be bulimic.  The good is mixed with the garbage and we must learn to decipher between the two, ultimately tossing the garbage. We can not, however, toss the platforms in with the trash, nor dismiss the writers.

Check out Jon Stewart’s take on Trent Lott’s Birthday Wishes to Strom Thurmond by clicking the link below:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – Racists Have Birthdays Too! (December 11, 2002)


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As soon as I finished reading Jay Rosen’s, “The Twisted Psychology of Bloggers vs. Journalists:  My Talk at South by Southwest,” I immediately began to think of only one thing. I couldn’t get it out of my mind.  It played over and over like a song on repeat.

 

 

Bloggers are Journalists, Journalists are Bloggers.

Bloggers are Journalists, Journalists are Bloggers.

 

Say it with me, just one time.  You’ll instantly feel better.

Bloggers are Journalists, Journalists are Bloggers.

 

Now that we have gotten that out of the way,  I will discuss the finer points in Rosen’s talk on this neverending barrage of insults exchanged between bloggers and journalists, and the potential reasons for it.

He begins by reiterating that the “distinction is eroding” and “the war is absurd” and that everyone should just get over it – points Rosen made in 2005 in his essay “Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over.”  I happen to agree with these statements.  However, I do realize that it is easier said than done because there are some existing finite distinctions which are still applicable.

Screen Shot 2014-02-14 at 7.04.50 PMThen, he makes an excellent point by stating that “bloggers and journalists are each other’s ideal ‘other.'”  If you aren’t quite sure what he means by this, let me enlighten you:

Journalists are:
  • trained
  • reputable in the eyes of many
  • paid (although not always well)
  • allowed certain advantages by wielding their “easy to get” press pass and employer name dropping
  • given certain leeways in some situations.

 

Bloggers are:
  • mostly untrained (or at least traditionally – that is one of the areas changing in this new frontier)
  • often not considered as reputable as a “real journalist”
  • have a harder time getting a press pass to large public events
  • not given leeways in as many situations, such as with shield laws.

 

Now, on the other hand:

Journalists:
  • spend years going to a traditional (or even untraditional) J-school
  • are usually employed by some version of “the man”
  • underpaid and overworked (especially in today’s industry)
  • must remain “in the open” and are held accountable for their work, if by nothing else, their byline
  • worked for years or decades as an underling in order to earn their “column inches”
  • must abide by certain rules of the trade such as keeping their political views quiet or not cheering in the press box at the big game
  • must cover stories they find uninteresting
  • have work hours regulated, by not only the story but by their editor and editor’s editor
  • spend hours looking for an original story and then they must spend more time researching, getting interviews,  and editing and re-editing
  • held to high standard in regards to original content and wording
  • have to answer to a “higher being” (and no, I don’t mean God or Buddha or whomever).  By working for a reputable for profit company they must answer to their boss but also, their boss must answer to his boss, and on up the chain.  Then, it is more likely that a company will have to answer officially to the US Government if they publish information “not liked.”
Bloggers:
  • do not have to get training, attend school, or earn a degree in journalism (but some do)
  • are usually self-employed or blog in their leisure time (sometimes this is a considerable amount of time but still it is their time)
  • mostly unpaid
  • can choose to remain anonymous (although many don’t)
  • didn’t have to “earn” their place before receiving “column inches”
  • do NOT have abide by any rules of the trade such as keeping their political views quiet or not cheering in the press box at the big game
  • can choose to only cover stories they find interesting
  • work hours are unregulated in general
  • can choose to aggregate stories from other “sources” and mediums or to simply “re-post” a story on their blog or on various social media although some do spend hours writing original stories but do NOT have to answer to an editor before publishing
  • not held to the same standards in regards to plagiarism
  • do not have to answer to anyone and the US Government seems to pay them less attention

 

Each, has their own pros and cons that the other covets.  The Journalist is envy of the immediate publishing rights of the blogger and the lack of training.  The Blogger is envious of the respect received by the Journalist, and so on and so forth.

Journalists chose to say things disparaging bloggers, such as in an Editor’s Column in an Australian newspaper did when he said: “Bloggers…represent nothing.  They whinge, carp, and whine about our role in society, and yet they contribute nothing to it, other than satisfying their juvenile egos.”

Who’s being the child now, mister Editor?  Say what you mean – you’re jealous of some of the advantages that bloggers receive and some of the respect that they are receiving as well.

facts prop truth bloggers v journalistsBloggers choose to talk about the “lamestream media” but many of them re-post stories from these same outlets.  Bloggers, say what you mean – you’re upset at how they chose to write the article, you think they are playing lapdog to the government, and you’re also jealous at the recognition they receive for doing it.

If everyone would just say what they mean – then they all have valid points.  It’s when the blame game starts and the finger pointing turns to mud-slinging that society is losing.  Both mediums and both “professions” are valid and needed in our society.

It has come to the point where some journalists aren’t being objective (neither are the bloggers, but they aren’t typically supposed to and the ones that choose to, bully for them), aren’t acting as the watchdog for the government, have sold out or are refusing to open their eyes and study a situation from all angles.  So now, the bloggers are the watchdog of the journalists.  The journalists, with as much weight as their words carry and as far as their pens reach, should be held accountable by the people.  Bloggers are there to do that.

Don’t get me wrong – not all bloggers are worth the laptops they write on.  Their bogs are filled with grammatically incorrect, uninsightful, regurgitated, or ignorant garbage.  But as I said earlier in this post, when talking about Shirky’s theory of mass amateurization and thus, forced filtering – we must filter the good from the bad!  Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!  Some journalists aren’t worth their press badges, either.  So let’s all stop pointing fingers and mud-slinging and get back to the issue at hand.

journalist-are-not-bloggers-400x244Blogging is not going to REPLACE the press!  Rosen said it differently by saying “blogging cannot replace the watchdog journalism that keeps a government accountable to its people,” but I don’t exactly agree with that statement – at this time.  I feel that all of the press isn’t doing the best job in that department these days.  A majority is blatantly ignoring candidates running for office and singing praises of government officials when no praise should be sung – among other things.  However, I believe that true journalism will last and it should last.  It should live on to overcome the disruption caused by the internet, social media, and blogging to its livelihood and perform the duties it was created to perform.

Journalists ARE trained and may know a few things bloggers don’t.  Lucky for me, I’m both a trained journalist and a blogger.  I choose to work as a blogger with the values and knowledge, of a journalist.

Rosen stated that “bloggers look more like the ancestors of today’s journalists,” and in many ways, I agree.  Thomas Jefferson was a huge proponent of the free press as hopefully, most of you know.  In his time, the newspapers were filled with biased viewpoints and writers, reporters, editors, and journalists who felt the need to answer to a “higher being” – usually the person, who paid the person, who paid the writer.

His idea of the First Amendment in bill-of-rights-7471-20111112-51our Bill of Rights, which keeps the government from taking away our inherent right to free speech and press, was one of complete and total freedom.  He felt that no longer should citizens remain quiet when they saw injustice.  He urged them to pick up the pen and publish their thoughts – and that, they did.  Today’s bloggers feel the need to pick up their pen and publish their thoughts just as our forefathers did.  The profession of Journalism remained intact then, although changed by the pressures of the people.  So as Journalists today, instead of playing the blame game and complaining about what bloggers are doing or the respect that they are receiving, ask yourselves this – Why do they feel so compelled to write and speak out?  Why are they receiving respect for what they do?  How could you learn from them or from what they are saying?  How could you be better?

 

I leave you with a few words of wisdom from Thomas Jefferson:

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

Thomas Jefferson to Dr. James Currie, January 28, 1786

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.  Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle.”

Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, June 11, 1807

“Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights.”

Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, January 8, 1789

“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government, 1787

“Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe”

Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government, 1816

“Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues of truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is freedom of the press. It is therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions”

Thomas Jefferson 1984, 1147

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