February 28, 2006

Global, CTV Coverage of Byrne Creek Kill

I was interviewed by CTV and Global TV this morning about the fish kill in Byrne Creek. The resulting stories were pretty good, especially the Global item with Mike McCardell. He really got across the image of a creek trying to survive in an ever-encroaching urban environment. He also managed to get me three or four clips of some length, rather than the usual half-hour interview parsed down to a 10-second blurb. Thanks!

CTV used several of my photos, but limited my airtime to that 10-second blurb :-).

There will also be stories appearing in the Burnaby Now and the Burnaby Newsleader over the next day or two.

Thanks to all the media for turning out, streamkeepers really appreciate these chances to educate the public. Remember, storm drains on roads and parking lots lead directly to your local creek!

One issue with the Global coverage was that somehow the crew got the notion that Byrne Creek had been buried downstream of Marine Way by the recent widening of Byrne Road, which is not the case. The creek was re-channeled west of Byrne Road some years ago.

Posted by Paul at 07:58 PM

BC Environment Ministry Collects Dead Fish

A couple of biologists from the BC Environment Ministry patrolled Byrne Creek over the last two days, collecting fish from the major kill due to an unknown substance entering the creek through a storm drain.

They collected several hundred fish, and while they said they probably won't be able to determine what killed them, they will try to make the best of a terrible situation by using them to get a picture of life in an urban creek through species identification, measurements and ages.

Posted by Paul at 04:19 PM

February 27, 2006

Fish Kill Extends Throughout Byrne Creek

Volunteers with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers have tracked dead trout and coho smolts all the way up Byrne Creek Ravine Park to Giffiths' Pond near the Edmonds Skytrain station in Burnaby. The total count of dead fish is now about 300.

One volunteer reported a "diesel smell" and a slick of oil coming out of the storm drain where the creek "daylights" (appears from the storm drain system into which it was channeled and covered), and a different chemical odour at another drain that enters the creek nearby.

Volunteers will try to cover lower portions of the creek today to further assess the damage. Streamkeepers increasingly fear that this kill may be approaching the magnitude of the 1998 tragedy that wiped out life in the creek after a toxin was poured down a storm drain in the upper watershed.

Posted by Paul at 10:33 AM

February 26, 2006

Fish Kill in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I were dismayed to find dead fish throughout Byrne Creek this afternoon. The kill took place sometime between noon yesterday, when we walked the ravine portion of the creek and saw no fish, and this afternoon when we counted over 150 dead trout and salmon.

byrne_kill_20060226_sedpond_ravine_small.jpg
This photo shows trout ranging from 9cm to 33cm in length, along with one coho smolt.

We called the city, and an environmental officer was on the scene in less than half an hour. We also called another streamkeeper, Jane, and we counted 12+ dead between the slide in the ravine and the upstream end of the culvert under Southridge Dr. (Tag 517 to Tag 515). We saw 77+ dead in the Sediment Pond, and 62+ dead in the spawning channel. There were couple on the spillway and one in the overflow pond, for a total of well over 150 fish, most cutthroat trout, with a few coho smolts (young salmon that are born and live in the creek for a year before heading out to sea).

byrne_kill_20060226_sedpond_33cm_cut_small.jpg
A closeup of the 33cm beauty.

We could not see dead fry (salmon babies that began appearing in the creek a few weeks ago in small numbers), however they are so small that it would take a very close examination to find any, and we ran out of time.

byrne_kill_20060226_ravine_t517_small.jpg

I fear that what killed the bigger fish may have wiped out the fry. It's been raining all evening and into the night, so chances of finding more evidence tomorrow are slim.

Later the city environmental officer called and said he found at least 50 more dead fish up the ravine as high as Ron McLean park. While we don't yet know if this kill is of the epic proportions that wiped out all life in Byrne Creek in 1998 after someone poured a toxic chemical down a storm drain, it does not look good.

I hope we find live fish tomorrow if the rain lets up.

Meanwhile, please remember, EVERYTHING that goes down a storm drain IS NOT TREATED and ends up in a creek or a river.

Posted by Paul at 10:13 PM

February 21, 2006

Review: Understanding the Media

Devereux, Eoin. (2003). Understanding the Media. London: Sage Publications.

This short (app. 150 page) introduction to media focuses on how mass media works and how to analyze it. It takes a distinctly social view, with students encouraged to question media hegemony and think about structure vs. agency in how mass media depict the disadvantaged and the disenfranchised.

Devereux touches on most media/communication theories and provides exercises for stimulating thinking about mass media. The recurring thread throughout is political economy, ownership, the concept of "dominant ideology," and media representations "of a divided world," "of social class," "of ethnicity," and "of gender." This focus is evident in the chapter titles: Understanding the Media, Media Globalization, Media Ownership: Concentration and Conglomeration, Media Production and Media Professionals, Media Ideology, Analyzing Media Content: 'Re-presentations in a Divided World,' and Audiences and Reception.

Devereux includes introductory material on content analysis, and a good comparison of quantitative vs. qualitative approaches.

Though the book was published in 2003, it uses Internet statistics mostly from 1996-97 and 1999, so I disagree with the overly negative take on the Internet's potential influence on promoting agency and revitalizing the public sphere.

Posted by Paul at 03:28 PM

February 16, 2006

Doctorow on Blogs, DRM, Privacy

Great interview (part one, and
part two
) with Cory Doctorow in Red Hat Magazine:

"I don't think that... information necessarily wants to be free or doesn't want to be free or whatever. I just think that...if your business model is based on bits not getting copied you are screwed."

"I think that in order to be a technology activist, you have to be an optimist and a pessimist. You have to be an optimist in that you believe that technology can be a tool for genuine liberation ... and positive social change and for democracy.... You have to rather devote your energy to seeing to it that those positive outcomes from technology come to being."

Posted by Paul at 03:47 PM

February 13, 2006

Effects of Blogs on Mass Media

A few fellow learners in the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program at Royal Roads University have asked to see a paper I did on blogging, so I've decided to post it here. (Newsdaily Canada has linked to this paper.)

The Effects of Blogs on Mass Media
From a Media Theory Perspective

by Paul Cipywnyk

Introduction

This paper explores the effects of Web logs, or blogs, on traditional mass media with reference to media theory. It covers the evolving relationship between blogs and mass media since the first blog was set up at the end of 1997 (Lyons, 2005), and how the blogging medium may face the imposition of regulation in the future.

The premise of this paper is that this simple, yet powerful communication medium has already had a significant impact on traditional mass media. While this impact will increase in the future as this technological change challenges traditional social discourse in a post-modern fracturing of the social equilibrium, there are also signs that normative effects may tame this publishing free-for-all to some extent over the next decade, along with the possibility of increased legal constraints and attempts at greater corporate control of the medium.

The Rise of Blogging Technology

Blogs have become an increasingly prominent means of communication on the Internet, and continue to proliferate rapidly. "A hundred thousand new blogs are created every day, more than one new blog per second, says Technorati, a firm in San Fransisco that tracks the content of 20 million active blogs" (Lyons, 2005, p. 131). Many companies, including major Internet players such as Google and Microsoft, offer free blogging services that allow users to easily post text, photos, and audio and video files to a blog simply by using forms through a Web browser, without having to know the underlying markup languages. Blogs typically present a series of chronological posts with the latest at the top of the page, with earlier entries being pushed downward, and eventually archived onto separate pages. Bloggers usually provide links to news or events or products that they write about, and commonly include RSS feeds that enable readers to monitor new posts to blogs they are interested in through automatically updated aggregators on their computers, or through Web sites that offer such aggregation services.

Blogging's Impact on Traditional Mass Media

The free-wheeling, personalized phenomenon of blogging exemplifies a post-modern world driven by technological change. "According to Marx, the capitalist class ? the bourgeoisie ? control the 'production and distribution of ideas' because of their control of the 'means of material production'" (Williams, 2003, p. 37), yet these days, anyone with access to the Internet can have a free or inexpensive printing press. The blogging phenomenon was enabled by technological change, and in turn is forcing mass media to modify long-standing journalistic practices. While Internet access is far from universal, technology has enabled individuals to challenge traditional mass media in ways that were impossible as recently as a decade ago.

The development of blogging has enabled individual reporting on events from a personal point of view, and when masses of bloggers question or directly confront reporting in traditional mass media, their collective power can be persuasive. For example, bloggers focused attention on racist remarks by former U.S. Speaker of the House Trent Lott, elevating a back-page story to a campaign of criticism that forced his removal (Kahn & Kellner, 2004). In another case, bloggers created "a media frenzy over the dishonest reporting that was exposed recently at the New York Times? (and) set upon the newsprint giant, whipping up so much controversy and hostile journalistic opinion that the Times?s executive and managing editors were forced to resign in disgrace" (Kahn & Kellner, 2004, p. 92).

According to post-modern media theory, audiences have the power to passively or actively resist media messages, and they cannot be fooled or manipulated by the mass media (Williams, 2003). Now, with the interactivity and personal publishing of blogging, mass media are facing a "community (that) is far from shy about going after journalists for offenses real and imagined, shocking thin-skinned journalists unused to being scrutinized the way they scrutinize others. Everything? is now subject to public analysis, comparison and fact-checking" (Singer, 2005, p. 180). Williams (2003) writes that the liberal theory of press freedom posits that "the smooth operation of the political system depended on the free expression of public opinion" (p. 39), and that the press acts as the voice of the people, and is accountable to them, as the fourth estate. Blogging is to some extent removing this intermediary function, and is putting the power of the press into individual hands. Blogs go beyond the structures of traditional journalism, drop much of the gatekeeping and filtering done by mass media, do not rely on corporate sponsors, and are even scooping the mainstream press (Wall, 2005).

Yet traditional mass media are not going away, and are not losing their influence. Bloggers often cite, and link to, material provided on Web sites run by huge media conglomerates. Research about war blogs that mushroomed after the invasion of Iraq in spring 2003 shows that nearly half of all links were to "mainly mainstream news outlets, primarily from the USA and the UK. In the USA, this included outlets such as The New York Times, CNN, etc." (Wall, 2005, p. 164). As for blogs run by mass media outlets, of 20 sites examined in one study, only three allowed direct commenting from readers, indicating they were unwilling to give up their gatekeeping role, so "it is still about vertical communication, from journalist to user, rather than horizontal communication that positions the journalist as a participant in a conversation" (Singer, 2005, p. 192).

Wall (2005), however, points out that the popularity of the war blogs arose at least partly because "mainstream media, as is historically its pattern during war, became less critical of the government and military actions and more prone to repeating propaganda?. leading increasing numbers of Americans to turn to the Web" (p. 153).

Are Blogs a New, Post-Modern Journalism?

Is blogging a new form of journalism? Are bloggers changing how mass media report the news? Wall (2005) argues that blogs are post-modern journalism:

This analysis suggests that these blogs represent a new genre of journalism ? offering news that features a narrative style characterized by personalization and an emphasis on non-institutional status; audience participation in content creation; and story forms that are fragmented and interdependent with other websites. Ultimately, these shifts suggest that some forms of online news such as blogs have moved away from traditional journalism?s modernist approach to embody a form of post-modern journalism (pp. 153-154).

Traditional journalism is supposed to be objective, or at least fair, yet the "voice of the typical current events blogger is personalized, opinionated, and often one-sided. Indeed, an opinionated voice is a hallmark of blog writing and those mainstream journalists who fail to reflect this are criticized as not being true bloggers" (Wall, 2005, p. 161). Readers of newspapers and watchers of TV tend to be passive; however, "on blogs, audiences are often invited to contribute information, comments, and sometimes direct financial support. In effect, audiences sometimes co-create content and also serve as patrons" (Wall, 2005, p. 161). While journalists are taught the inverted pyramid of story writing, "with blogs, the story form has changed into a fragment, one that is often incomplete without following a link and, thus, is seemingly never closed" (Wall, 2005, p. 162). All of these hallmarks of blogging make for a very different experience than reading or watching the packaged stories provided by mass media.

Kahn & Kellner (2004) propose:

Bloggers have demonstrated themselves as technoactivists favoring not only democratic self-expression and networking, but also global media critique and journalistic sociopolitical intervention?. blogs make the idea of a dynamic network of ongoing debate, dialogue and commentary central and so emphasize the interpretation and dissemination of alternative information to a heightened degree (p. 91).

While mass media may be retaining their influence and their audience, the post-modern fracturing of the mostly one-way communication of traditional media into the millions of inter-linking blogging voices has created a new openness and the ability for individuals to share their personal interpretations of the world to potentially global audiences. Bloggers are providing alternatives to mass media. "Large political events, such as the World Summit for Sustainable Development, the World Social Forum, and the G8 forums all now have wireless bloggers providing real time alternative coverage" (Kahn & Kellner, 2004, p. 93).

Blogs Surpass Mass Media in Raising Political Consciousness

In addition to offering an alternative to corporate mass media, blogs are raising political consciousness in a manner traditional media have been unable to do. Because blogs are personal, they have an ability to attract readers in a way that traditional media do not. This is shown by the experience of Blog for America, the blog that helped galvanize Howard Dean's campaign in the U.S. primary race starting in March 2003.

Alternately informative, cheesy, silly, self-absorbed, innovative, and brilliantly effective, Blog for America turned tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of people into political activists and united them in collective action that extended beyond cyberspace?. This is something mainstream journalism could never accomplish (Kerbel & Bloom, 2005, pp. 20-21).

Blog for America may be viewed as a revival of the public sphere described by J?rgen Habermas. "Central to the operation of the public sphere is the free flow of information and communication, and media institutions are essential to its effective working" (Williams, 2003, p. 68). Williams (2003) goes on to say that eventually "the public sphere became corrupted by the growth of the power of the state, the emergence of corporate capitalism and transformation of the media into commercial operations" (p. 68). Blog for America became a forum to foster and harness the free flow of information in the public sphere, revitalizing the political process.

However, here too, there are cautionary notes.

As a third-tier candidate with few resources, Dean had little to lose by doing things unconventionally, and as we noted, discussion on the Dean blog became more conventional as the candidate started playing for keeps. For blogs like Blog for America to become routine, future campaign managers will have to weigh the obvious benefits of cultivating a loyal, active following against the potential loss of message control inherent in a decentralized campaign structure where anyone can participate. What is clear is that without some degree of decentralization, blog communities cannot thrive. It is the nature of the technology to buck centralized control, and it is the thing that generates feelings of empowerment (Kerbel & Bloom, 2005, p. 24).

Post-Modern Blogging

So while on one hand it appears that blogs are impacting mass media by providing alternative forums for shared self-expression, by confronting and challenging conventional journalism, and by enabling public discourse in a global manner heretofore unheard of in history, on the other hand it is also apparent that at least so far mass media are retaining much of their authority. Yet blogging may just be getting started, and has the potential to further spread its influence in the future as more citizens around the world come online and share their individual, unique perspectives. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, for as with any technology, it cannot simply be assumed that blogging will only lead to greater good. Overall, however, the benefits could outweigh the drawbacks.

Today, blogs embody the contradictions of postmodernity ? they may balkanize interest groups and cater to partisan audiences but they may also encourage the creation of a multitude of virtual communities in which ordinary people feel free to participate and discover their own political voices. That is, blogs may ultimately pull more people into public conversations and perhaps provide opportunities for collective problem-solving. Those who fear the demise of the great society created in part by national media are perhaps overly nostalgic for a media that rarely reflected the entire community or allowed ordinary people much of a voice (Wall, 2005, p. 167).

Conclusion

While blogging's Wild West milieu has already had an impact on traditional mass media, and will continue to require mass media corporations to adjust to the onslaught of individual voices, there are doubts if the medium's free-wheeling nature will last forever. Blogs may undermine societal equilibrium, and to take a page from functionalism, "all components of society including the media are organized and structured and operate to maintain social stability" (Williams, 2003, p. 50). While blogging may fundamentally be of an individualistic, fractured, post-modern nature, in five or ten years some of the regulations that apply to traditional mass media may be extended to cover the Internet, and bloggers.

Indeed, Lyons (2005) describes the anonymous slander of individuals and corporations by packs of bloggers, and cries out for means to control them:

Google and other carriers shut down purveyors of child porn, spam, and viruses, and they help police track down offenders. So why don't they delete material (from blogs) that defames individuals? Why don't they help victims identify their attackers? Because they are protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which frees a neutral carrier of Internet content from any liability for anything said online (p. 136).

Lyons (2005) goes on to cite a victim of a concerted smear campaign who "argues that Yahoo and other carriers should step up: 'They make money selling ads on these message boards, and the controversial material generates the most traffic. So they're benefiting from this garbage. I think they should take responsibility for it'" (p. 138).

While millions more blogs will be created over the next decade, and Web sites run by mass media corporations will gradually offer more interactivity and more opportunities for reader feedback, pressure from corporations and political forces that fear the libertarian blogging environment will likely lead to the imposition of regulatory restraints on the Internet, and by extension the blogging medium. There will be bloggers who will continue to resist any attempts at control, and a technological war will continue for decades between those who attempt to impose restraints, and those who will seek ways to outflank them.

References

Kahn, R., & Kellner, D. (2004). New media and internet activism: From the ?Battle of seattle? to blogging. New Media & Society, 6(1), 87-95. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection database.

Kerbel, M. R., & Bloom, J. D. (2005). Blog for america and civic involvement. The Harvard International Journal Of Press/politics, 10(4), 3-27. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection database.

Lyons, D. (2005, Nov. 14). Attack of the blogs. Forbes. 128-138.

Singer, J. B. (2005). The political j-blogger: ?Normalizing? a new media form to fit old norms and practices. Journalism, 6(2), 173-198. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection database.

Wall, M. (2005). ?Blogs of war?: Weblogs as news. Journalism, 6(2), 153-172. Retrieved November 17, 2005, from Communication Studies: A SAGE Full-Text Collection database.

Williams, K. (2003). Understanding Media Theory. London: Arnold.

Posted by Paul at 09:41 AM

February 11, 2006

Northern Voice Blogging Conference Day 2

Northern Voice 2006 Day 2

Starting With Fire: Why Stories are Essential and How to Blog Effective Tales
Presenter: Julie Leung

Moving presentation on the power of storytelling and its importance to blogging.

Sifry on the Blogosphere
Presenters: Dave Sifry from Technorati and Tim Bray

Why did I build Technorati? I wanted to know what are people saying about ME. It?s a social thing. We tell stories, interact with each other. Even someone who disagrees with me probably has a lot in common with me. Searching the web uses the language of libraries, we talk about pages, indexes, directories.

Search engines don?t understand the concept of time. Google news and Yahoo news are the periodicals section of the library. Library is enormously powerful metaphor

Documents are created by people at certain times. So build something that goes beyond keywords and hyperlinks as votes of attention. Page rank still uses library concept.

Blogs can be thought about in a new way. They are the remnants of a person?s attention stream over time. When you write you are spending the most important thing that you have ? your time. So you can understand who a blogger is. So rather than look at pages look at people. Who is linking to whom. I built it because I wanted to know who was talking about me. And many other people and companies wanted to know who was talking about them.

Look at the Web as a living thing. Doc Searls calls it the World Live Web.

What are the blogging stats today?
? Technorati is tracking 27 million blogs
? 75,000 new blogs created every day
? How many people are still actively blogging after three months: just over 50%
? 11% blog once a week or more
? Just under a million blog at least once a day
? About 50,000 posts/hour
? The news cycle cannot be measured in hours any more
? How do I make sense out of all of this?
? Blogging is incredibly many to many.
? Top bloggers become one to many, turn off comments etc. or else they are overwhelmed.
? There are about 115,000 blogs in the magic middle: they have between 30 to 1,000 people linking to them. Authorities in niche areas.
? Such bloggers become local authorities yet remain very two-way because the traffic is manageable enough to carry on a conversation.

What if we look at two important things. Do you really write about what you say you write about. And do others who write about what you write about link to you? Open this up to the world. People started tagging themselves. 870,000 have tagged themselves. Over 2,500 interesting tags on which bloggers are writing.

Tagging is a sloppy thing. Clay Shirky writes about this. As long as you make it really easy to tag and make people accountable, an emergent system starts to occur. Greater than the sum of its parts. As long as there are people who can tag in multiple languages, relationships start to form. The system itself become more intelligent.

Bray: what are you worried about, what could go wrong?

Sifry: This can?t go on if you extrapolate the rate of growth. It has to top out at some point. We are still very much at the beginning of all this. Spam is a problem. Comment, trackback spam. Splogs. Cory Doctorow: all healthy ecosystems have parasites. The cool thing about blogging is that it always resolves back to a web page somewhere, and that leads to some accountability. What I write becomes part of my permanent record. I can temper what I know about you by all the things you?ve said over time.

Concept of network neutrality. Potentially most dangerous threat to the ?Net. Collapsing of number of backbone providers. Now these companies are saying we deserve to be able to do preferential pricing. You?re going off our network so we?re going to charge you 6 cents a minute. If you want to do video streaming, you?ll have to pay extra. Preferred providers. This is enormously bad for innovation. Protects the winners. These guys are going in front of Congress and saying of course this is the way we have to go. Only we can prevent this. They won?t hit consumers, they?ll go to companies behind the scenes. But that will hurt the small guys in the garage startups.

Bray: I have no idea who?s reading my stuff through RSS feeds.

Sifry: RSS is not really push. Your RSS feeder is constantly downloading stuff, but are you reading it? Feedburner uses graphics to ping back to show that someone actually read something. But still don?t really know. The way Bloglines understands things are read is different from NewsGator understands things are read. People are waking up to this issue. Hope to start resolving these issues cross-company soon.

Crowd question: What about federated blogging?

Sifry: Poor pay. Some coops are developing to split income more equitably. Natural outcome of shift in publishing economics. But a lot of people don?t have the skills to do marketing, advertising etc. Guild system developing. Can you write with quality? Can you make enough money? Right now people are spending 70 of leisure time online, but only 4% of advertising is online. This should start to equalize, so there are enormous opportunities here.

Snow White and the Seven Competencies of Online Interaction
Presenter: Nancy White
See her slides at link above -- a lot of great stuff I have no space for here.

What are competencies we need to interact online?

Blogs are developing faster than any other tool. When we go online we lose f-t-f cues. We are global. We may no longer have a shared cultural context. Bridging language, belief systems. A world of small annoyances. In f-t-f life our presence as a human being is still there. We need to bring that into online interactions. Bring heart and soul and spirit into online life.

Sometimes we go online and choke and die. We move too fast online. I wrote it so you must have understood it. The new medium goes laterally rather than top down. This freaks out organizations. Networks can totally disrupt organizations. Open source learning.

Competencies are emerging: Scan, See patterns, Write, Image-inate, Vocalize, Intuit

When do you stop scanning and go deep? If you can?t write you?re screwed. Think about multiple modalities that help people have an experience.

Approach online life with an open hand and let people take your stuff.

We glorify expertise, but by being unknowing we learn so much.

Online you don?t have to participate. How do you create an invitation that people will respond to? Online we are in a fundamentally open space.

I have to speak from a space from which people can hear me. I cannot always speak from my default culture. Go live in the world. Learn other languages.

Shouting that I?m right and that my issue is right, is not working.

A lot of us come from a single domain. Engineer, Economist, Artist? We have to be able to switch our inner context.

Outsiderness is a gift. We?re all outsiders, and if we embrace this we can use it in a positive way. The magic of the periphery.

The most importance competency is self-awareness

We all bring both bright and dark things to the world. Self-aware vs self-absorbed.

See: openspaceworld.org

The Changing Face of Journalism
Presenters: Mark Schneider, UBC School of Journalism;
Robert Ouimet, At Large Media;
Michael Tippett, NowPublic.

The news is dead long live the news

Tippett:

Tectonic shifts in the marketplace
Fundamental economic shifts in how news is produced and consumed
Audience is now becoming a supplier
News orgs have to change relations with readers
Readers can make their own news.

Does it make sense to have readers contribute news. Why are people participating? Hyper-local, know their neighborhoods. We have numerical superiority.

Shift from network to cable news. Same thing is happening with people. If you happen to be ?there? and have a camera, you can report the news.

Shift is happening faster than big media expected. Tsunami, Katrina. Latent army of citizen journalists everywhere waiting for something to happen.

Ownership of news has passed into the hands of the public.

Ouimet:

Internet driving big companies crazy. Look for landmark moments in the way in which people consume content. I?ve never been in a room with so many people using so many computers taking notes, and I used to be a professional journalist.

Profound changes in which content is consumed. In old days big media owned all the parts. People are gathering and transmitting stuff like crazy in this room.

Media fragmentation. Pie is becoming increasingly fragmented. Big media have smaller and smaller market shares.

Schneider:

The news is really sick. It makes us sick. There is a toxic quality to what we are consuming. Noxious vapour. Crazy human instinct to want to be frightened.

News should help responsible citizens be citizens. There is a huge appetite for change.

So what can be done? How can we rehabilitate news? Blogging and journalism best practices. There are still valuable skills that journalists have. If you make mistakes, you?re instantly under the spotlight. Have to have an open mind. Can?t go in with mind made up. That does not produce quality journalism. Practice of corroborating evidence, sources. Journalists have an incredible urge to get the story, even putting themselves in danger. Yet journalism is tired. It needs waking up and perhaps you are the ones to do it.

Very rare to hear of journalist on the take, still a miraculously clean profession. Almost a dichotomy with stats on public distrust of the mainstream press.

Things we can do together:
? Create news wikis and other ways to collaborate
? Insist on more transparent media
? Support news certification (see definition below)
? Share skills and support one another

News certification: what went into the story, and what was left out. What couldn?t we answer, and invite public to fill those holes. We?re at a very primitive stage in this yet.

News ml: news markup language. Helps the good stuff rise to the top.

We?ve always been attracted to intelligence and creativity. We feel deeply compelled to tell our truths. Create tools to find the brilliant in blogs.

Audience comment: when you tailor newsfeeds you can totally miss what others are talking about.

Ouimet: We have this notion about this open mass media but it?s crap. You never know what was NOT printed. Editorial focus is about rejecting.

I want to be surprised I want to be challenged. People are smarter than we give them credit for.

Mainstream media can be brilliant because it has the resources to actually throw in a trained, skilled observer?. To ask questions that the neighbors never even thought to ask.

Posted by Paul at 09:42 PM

February 10, 2006

Northern Voice Blogging Conference Day 1

Northern Voice 2006 Blogging Conference Vancouver

General Comments:

A stimulating event that brought together big blogging names and tech gurus along with interested members of the general public. The first day was a series of relatively informal, self-organized sessions, followed by a more structured conference on the second day. Participants included XML developer Tim Bray, Microsoft blogging guru Robert Scoble, Technorati founder Dave Sifry, etc.

I?d say over half the 250 odd people present were banging away on laptops, blogging the conference in real time and uploading photos to Flickr. (Enter the tag ?Northern Voice? to see thousands of photos of the conference.)

Due to time pressures, this report has a minimum of structure and formatting, and will tend to be a collection of rambling notes. Follow the URLs for more info, presenters? blogs, etc.

Moose Camp, Friday, February 10, 2006
(Relatively informal small-group sessions)

Personal Media Outlets ? We Are the Media
Presenter: John Anthony Hartman multimediame.net

We now have the ability to make and distribute media. We can create our own personal media outlets. We are redefining how we make and distribute media. Content on demand.

This shift is sending shivers down the spines of media executives. Afraid of material being stolen. But people don?t need to steal what is free.

Shift from major media monopolies. Major media outlets need to get onboard now. They no longer have a grip on media. People are looking to more sources.

The web is evolving into rich media. It is empowering individuals. The power of the web and individuals is unstoppable.

Time-shifted media is now available. Want to shift media because of premiums on time. Mass media caught in proprietary codecs.

Individuals now have power of editors. $100 MIT laptop project to give poor people everywhere hand-crank powered laptops with mesh networking built in.

Blogs are more than just the written word. Mashed up culture. Take stuff and repurpose it. Creative Commons copyright licensing means I tell you how you can share my stuff, not how I prevent you from using it.

Look up video blogs by Josh Leo, Jay Smooth.

Ourmedia.org puts up your content for free. ?The Global Home for Grassroots Media?

Real Time Reporting
Presenter: Michael Tippet of NowPublic
?The News is Now Public?

Anyone can be editor, photographer etc. Stories ordered by popularity. Collaborate in building news together. Share news you?re reading, writing, etc. News as conversation. Can add your own photos and videos. Can send stuff in from camera phone. Had 2,000 people reporting on Katrina. Can comment on items that others have submitted. Or get permission to use other people?s material.

Relationship to ?professional? journalists.
Dan Gilmour, Howard Reihngold are NowPublic advisors.

Traditional journalism is less important. This is reporting from a first-person perspective. Gilmour trying to elevate blogging into better journalism. Or educate readers. Is it really true? Learn to question the news. Take everything with a grain of salt.

Are there any copyright issues? Don?t cut and paste entire stories, simply point to them. Just take a snippet of a story and add your own value-added commentary. People are happy to get traffic.

Can post comments to stories and make suggestions for corrections. Are thinking about making stories Wiki-able.

We?re All Journalists Now
Presenter: Mark Hamilton, journalism instructor

Everybody is walking around journalizing their lives. I felt naked when I discovered I?d left my house without my camera on the way to the conference this morning. The whole world is being recorded.

We have this combination of professional and amateur coming together to create a new media world. Lone reporters can do text, audio and video. Walls are breaking down between print, TV journalism. Newspapers, TV stations do both on their websites.

Now individuals can do broadcast quality video.

No longer reliant on traditional media structure to talk back. But what does this all mean? What does it mean for journalism? What does it mean for how we are finding out about the world? Breakdown of one to many media to many to many media.

Every year it?s getting harder to filter and edit.

Professional journalist have lied all the time, we just never had the power to correct them.

Yet there is an education level and an access level to blogging that many don?t have.

Extensive coverage of niche topics now that were never covered before.

In terms of mass media we have never been as involved as we are now. Mass media still has a lot of flaws, but it?s not as bad as many people make it out to be. Some really good community journalism being produced. Going out and talking to people. Collectively people are smarter than any one journalist. The human voice is coming back into media.

Dave Weinberger (RSS/blogging guru) on tagging. Speaking a few years ago he said tagging was very messy. Mass media right now is messy. Newspapers are freaking because circulation is dropping. TV viewing is dropping. Movie attendance is dropping. It?s changing the metrics of the system. It?s messy. Dave said maybe it?s going to be messy forever. But is that so scary?

Non-Profits Taking Advantage of Bogging
Presenter: Nancy White

?A Place to Capture and Share Ideas and Links about Online Interaction, Community, Distance Learning??

Online community is just another channel for face-to-face communities. Some are pure online communities.

Communities of like-minded people. Very powerful sharing. Levels of engagement change over time. Context is everything. See: shareyourstory.org.

Activists. Different rhythms of engagement. Activism is campaign driven. You have to have a core group. People self-select themselves. Get them involved in your project. All you need to do is support them. People are catalysts. Events are catalysts. Evoke a need to do something. What?s going to change my behaviour.

Katrina, tsunami, Pakistan, were responses by individuals. How can I be a catalyst for a network of individuals to respond?

We need to develop a new set of competencies to live in the online world. We?ve been perfecting face-to-face for millennia. It?ll take time to figure out this online stuff. It helps to have blogging buddies. Practice writing all the time. Read all the time. Just do it.

Getting away from a model of control over messaging. Online you can get your message out in diffuse ways. Your PR person may not be comfortable with giving up control over your message. Have to learn to let go. You might lose some control of your message but you?ll gain so much energy.

The official message isn?t an effective blog. Yet there are times when a top-down message is very useful. You can?t confine yourself to any one approach. Combine approaches. You need the dry research combined with human stories.

Organizations that use blogs have to be thick-skinned. You?ll get feedback that you have never gotten before. We can only see so much, feel so much, experience so much. You can hold much more sand in an open hand than in a fist. Be humble. Willing to be wrong. Don?t take yourself too seriously.

Get organizations more open to the craziness of the online world. Most non-profits are still in very early stages of becoming comfortable with online world.

What happens when you get too much negativity? Need to have it part of your communications strategy. What if people slag your donors? Need to have guidelines in place. You can?t argue. The world is a much more open place than it?s ever been, yet you need to monitor what other people are saying about you.

Tools for monitoring blogs:
technorati.com
pubsub.com
icerocket.com
feedster.com

Tools that help us to visualize conversations. You might have a constituency out there that you don?t know about.

If the object is to keep as much sand in your hand as possible, you keep it open, but you might need to shelter it from the wind a bit. There are negative people out there who will try to take you down.

Netsquared.org
?Remixing the Web for Social Change?

Knowledgegreen.com
"The idea is to share knowledge that we can use to support our work for social change and achieve greater work/life balance.?

Blogging and the Future of Media
Presenter: Kurt Cagle, Mercurial Communications

Things are changing dramatically, authority etc. Foundation of an entirely new way of dealing with social infrastructures.

Rebellious people at this conference. Undermining the infrastructure of authority. Changing the nature of media. Mass media are very scared. We are shifting the rules of the game. M. McLuhan ? when he was writing there were few channels of communication. The way information is presented has a huge fundamental impact. The mechanism of passing symbols. That was 50 years ago.

Channel characteristics c. 1960s. In 1960 dominant media was still print. Minimally interactive. Expensive presses and distribution costs. Radio and records. Minimally interactive. Expensive? TV and Movies, minimally interactive, studios, distribution. All previous are 1 to many. Telephone 1 to 1, moderately interactive.

This resulted in the formation of privileged gateways. High entry costs. Ease of collusion. Centralized control. The gateway companies were able to create large, structured media.

Fast forward 50 years to the Internet. Is not just another medium. Complete and total change to old media rules. Ability to link, to persist, to establish relationships. Every single channel that was out there has migrated to the Internet. The old media still exist, but the rules are changing.

Gateways are disintegrating. Low barriers to entry. Evolution of open standards. Elimination of distribution costs. Production costs drop to labour costs. Networks reroute around obstacles.

Authorities are getting scared. When it gets down to lawsuits you know they?re running scared. The problem is basically one of copyright. We have to rethink what we mean by ownership. We are trying to use rules that apply to an old situation. Many new competitors. Markets are fundamentally different, kids are aware they are being marketed to and don?t want to be pigeonholed.

Blogging and Building Communities
Presenter: Nancy White

What does community mean to you? What is the language of blogs and communities? Community is linking.

Love the extended community. Know few people locally, feel closer to people who are geographically distant. It takes somebody to instigate to keep things going. The process of invitation. RSS is a sort of invitation. Community means you?re actually trying to understand the other people. Ephemeral micro-communities that come and go.

Corporations are turned off of blogging because of the community aspects. Too personal. That view is starting to change. With that mindset they are bound to fail. The tipping point came in 2005, when companies started understanding how to use blogs.

I will give you credit for being human even if I disagree with what you write about.

Posted by Paul at 09:08 PM

February 07, 2006

Blog Sees More Visitors

This blog received 336 unique visitors on Jan. 26, a new record. I know that's not much, but I still wonder who they are :-). I usually get about 110-180 unique visitors per day, so that was a significant blip. The post that day was a couple of photos of a mayfly.... Hm...

Posted by Paul at 07:46 PM

February 06, 2006

Storm Dumps Tree on Byrne Creek Footbridge

A recent storm knocked a tree over, damaging the footbridge over Byrne Creek in the ravine. This morning I ran into a city crew inspecting the damage and assessing how they would repair it.

After I said I was a streamkeeper they assured me they were aware of the sensitive environment and that they would be careful working around the creek. We chatted about spawner returns, and how the fry from last autumn's chum and coho spawners should be appearing soon. They even asked me about the woody debris, and I said that I'd heard that the city's policy was to leave it in place as long as it wasn't creating a hazard, and they concurred.

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Posted by Paul at 05:13 PM

February 01, 2006

Flat Ben Golfs Near White Rock

Flat Ben, my nephew's mailable representative from Los Angeles, spent his last day in the Lower Mainland of BC visiting his grandmother and her golf guru hubby in White Rock.

It was another miserable day with a whipping wind and slicing rain, however Flat Ben bravely decided to go to the White Rock pier, which he remembered as being very nice in the summer.

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"Let's go down to the white rock," said Flat Ben, with his grandmother and Uncle Paul in tow.

"See if you can get the Peace Arch on the border of Canada and the U.S. in the background," said Flat Ben.

"OK," replied Uncle Paul, "however I think it's only going to look like a tiny white dot in the upper left of the picture."

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Ben was becoming quite the director: "Let's get a shot of me with one of the neat trash cans painted by local students in White Rock!"

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"Let's get back to Hazelmere and get some shots on the golf course before it really pours," said Sonia, pulling her hood tighter around her ears.

"Yeah!" said Flat Ben, "Let's go to the driving range AND the putting green."

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And with that, Flat Ben will be moving on to a new set of adventures. We'll send him on his way as soon as we fill in his travel diary. Bye Flat Ben!

Posted by Paul at 09:54 PM