Monthly Archives: October 2010


I saw hundreds of signs on the Mall today. One was notable for its clarity.

Math is beautiful.

David Annino expressed the equation another way: “We are stronger together than we are divided.”

Today at the Rally for Sanity in Washington, John Stewart’s closing speech supported that contention:

Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do—often something that they do not want to do—but they do it–impossible things every day that are only made possible by the little reasonable compromises that we all make…

…Because we know instinctively as a people that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light we have to work together. And the truth is, there will always be darkness. And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it anyway, together.

Jeff Jarvis hailed Stewart’s final thoughts as notable tonight in the Huffington Post:

Stewart’s close was pitch-perfect, presenting optimism, perspective, honesty, and humor in exact proportion.

He brilliantly separated himself from media, politics, and government, setting him closer to us, the people. In other circumstances, that might sound like a populist’s positioning: Stewart as Evita (don’t laugh for me, New Jersey). But that’s why the apolitical nature of the event matters: He wasn’t selling an agenda or buying power. He was leading and inspiring. He was recognizing and supporting the best in us.

Stewart was raising a standard for how our alleged leaders should respect us so we could respect them in return. “Because the image of Americans that is reflected back to us by our political and media process is false,” he said. Stewart was doing nothing less than resetting the relationship of the powerful to the public. He was re-empowering us. His speech and his event were profoundly democratic. Not Democratic or Democrat–democratic. 

As a sharp media critic himself, Jarvis recognized the rally as a larger critique of the media. The New York Times review of the rally also espouses that view: the “Rally for Sanity will be remembered, in part, as an engrossing act of media criticism,” tweeted Brian Stelter.

Media criticism aside, the strength of Stewart’s argument lies in his invocation of the shared character that has distinguished the American people throughout the country’s relatively short history.

“You go, then I go.” When we act collectively, we’re greater than when we’re divided. It’s an ancient lesson that flocks of birds, swarms of ants and schools of fish have fluidly demonstrated in nature for millennia, and yet it’s one that humans seemingly must learn and relearn as we grow.

Given the scope of the challenges that lie before the nation in the 21st Century, the need for co-operation is as pressing as ever.


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Rally to Restore Sanity / Fear


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PBS 2.0

Earlier tonight, ReadWriteWeb dropped the news that PBS has rolled out a major new redesign. The news about the rebooted and a new iPad app confirmed a notable aspect of the digital future that PBS vice president of digital strategy, Robert Bole, described at Fedtalks. His talk is embedded below:

As Curt Hopkins points out at ReadWriteWeb:

18 months ago, PBS launched an initiative to make the public broadcasting corporation’s site a player in multimedia. They introduced their media player, made 4,700 hours of broadcast offerings available for free, created mobile apps for kids and rolled out a subscription-based teaching platform. The next several months may add significantly to the organization’s new media juice.

Along with that iPhone app, “PBS 2.0” includes national-local integration of programming. People that follow how convoluted the licensing and syndication of public media can be for local stations know that’s a notable evolution.

New PBS apps for the iPhone and iTouch are also on the way. Note: Android apps are “on the road map” but don’t have a delivery date at the moment. I don’t think PBS is afflicted with “shiny app syndrome,” exactly, but it will be worth watching to see if an Android app is forthcoming, along with HTML5 support and more mobile optimization.

In the meantime, PBS viewers who want to watch full length episodes of programs like Frontline can now do so on demand using a Web browser. They can watch Sesame Street on YouTube. And, of course, viewers can let the folks behind all of it know what they think about it and engage them at @PBS on Twitter or Facebook.

The press release about PBS 2.0 also highlights the premiere of the first full episode of series CIRCUS, a documentary about life at the Big Apple Circus, on the new iPad app. CIRCUS can also be streamed today, in advance of the broadcast premiere.

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Mental Health Break: @GoRemy drops a D.C. Metro Rap on Fedtalks

I’ve only been a resident of the District of Columbia for a year or so but, man, does this rap by Remy hit some funny bones. (Sore ones today, given my broken toe.) He laid this down at this year’s Fedtalks, with a big old shoutout to

And here’s an acoustic version of Remy’s DC Metro rap that blew up on YouTube:

Here’s the original DC Metro rap:

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Columbus Day 2010: Lost River Valley, West Virginia

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“Talk to Me” about Web 2.0, MoMA

“Design is really part of life. In particular, it’s a fundamental ingredient for progress. When technology people and when scientists create revolutions or create something new, designers are the ones who make these revolutions into objects that people can use.”

-Paola Antonelli at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo in New York City.

It’s a marvelous talk, if you’re into art, technology, design or human creativity.

Antonelli also introduced the Web 2.0 community to an exciting prospect:

The Museum of Modern Art will open a new show called “Talk to Me” on July 24 2011.

Talk to Me is an exhibition on the communication between people and objects that will open at The Museum of Modern Art on July 24th 2011. It will feature a wide range of objects from all over the world, from interfaces and products to diagrams, visualizations, perhaps even vehicles and furniture, by bona-fide designers, students, scientists, all designed in the past few years or currently under development. –Talk to Me blog

Booked: A trip to NYC to visit the MoMa next summer!


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Why don’t more tweets get @replies or retweets?

As Jennifer Van Grove wrote at Mashable yesterday, “research shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction — in replies or retweets — which suggests an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears.”

Sysomos, maker of social media analysis tools, looked at 1.2 billion tweets over a two-month period to analyze what happens after we publish our tweets to Twitter. Its research shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction — in the form of replies or retweets — which suggests that an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears.

Sysomos findings also highlight that retweets are especially hard to come by — only 6% of all tweets produce a retweet (the other 23% solicit replies).

I’ll admit, this doesn’t shock me, based upon my experience over the years.

Many of my tweets are retweeted but then I have above-average reach at @digiphile and engaged followers.

I know I’m an outlier in many respects there, and that the community that I follow and interact with likely is as well.

This research backs that anecdotal observation up: people are consuming information rather than actively interacting with it. But my own experience doesn’t gibe with that greater truth, and that’s why I chimed in, even though I know it may expose me to more of my friend Jack Loftus‘ withering snark. (If you don’t read him at Gizmodo you’re missing out.)

Why Don’t People @Reply more?

So what’s going on? I have a couple of theories. The first is that @replies are much like comments. Most people don’t make either. Even though social networking has shifted many, many more people into a content production role through making status updates to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare (and now perhaps LinkedIn), the 90-9-1 rule or 1% rule still appears to matter most of the social Web. Participation inequality is not a new phenomenon.

That scope of that online history suggests that the behaviors of yesteryear aren’t completely subsumed by the explosion of a more social Web. Twitter and Facebook do appear to have diminished long form blogging activity or comments on posts, as netizens have moved their meta commentary to external social networks. And even there, recent Forrester research suggest that social networking users are creating less content.

In other words, it’s not that Facebook or Twitter sucks, it’s that human behavior is at issue.

It’s not that Twitter or its employees or developers per se are at fault, though you can see where, for example, Quora or Vark are expressly designed to create question and answer threads.

It’s that, for better or worse, the culture of the people using Twitter is expressed in how they use it, including the choice to reply, RT or otherwise engage.

If the service is going to grow into an “information utility” and become a meaningful venue with respect to citizen engagement with government, the evolution of #NewTwitter may need to add better mechanisms to encourage that interaction.

So is Twitter useful?

As Tom Webster pointed out at his blog [Hat tip to @Ed]:

As a researcher, if I were writing this headline, I would have written it thusly: “Nearly 3 in 10 Tweets Provoke A Reaction.”

I follow about 3,000 people on Twitter. If we assume that this lot posts five tweets per week (a conservative figure), that’s 15,000 tweets I could see in a given week, were I to never peel my eyes away from Tweetdeck. The Sysomos data suggests that of those 15,000 tweets, 4,350 were replied to or at least retweeted. See, I think that’s actually a big number.

In other words, 29% of tweets do get a response. That’s better than the direct mail or email marketing, as far as I know. I don’t expect a response from every tweet, though I’ve been guilty of that expectation in past years. That’s why I often ask the same question more than once now, or tweet stories again, or why I’ll syndicate a given post, video or picture into multiple networks.

I continue to find Twitter a useful tool for my profession. While inbound Web traffic from Twitter is negligible when compared to Google, Facebook, StumpleUpon or even Fark, I’ve found it useful for sourcing, sentiment analysis, Q&A, a directory, a direct line to officials and executives, and of course for distributing my writing. Twitter may not be essential in the same sense that a cellphone, camera, notebook and an Internet connection are in my work but I’ve found it to be a valuable complement to those tools. I’ve definitely sourced stories, gathered advice or recommendations through crowdsourcing questions there, with far less effort than more traditional means.


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