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April 20 2012


Democratizing Digital Activism: Tools for Turning Information into Action

Is digital activism truly democratic? While encouraged by great examples of digital activism in action, I remained uneasy with universalizing narratives about an equal, liberating and benevolent digital frontier.

Is the social change potential of digital realizable in the same way for everyone, everywhere? Can local communities, especially ones that have been historically marginalized, use digital tools to solve chronic problems such as poverty, political persecution, and racism, offline? Or do we just leave this important business to the big names in the social change market (i.e. large NGOs and the digital experts hired by those organizations)?

Sure, anybody with a camera-equipped phone can be a citizen journalist and an “information activist” these days. And ostensibly, we have seen the rise of a “digital democracy”, offering opportunities for radical social change, especially via the sharing of information and calls to action on the Internet.

A 2011 study argues that the social Web is in fact, dominated by elite viewpoints rather than being the democracy it is commonly perceived to be. It concludes that the working class, for example, is underrepresented on the Internet and without their voices, their issues are ignored.

Not completely convinced by an academic study, I went looking for more examples, this time of tools which safely and securely make digital activism accessible to anyone and enable everyday people, especially marginalized communities, to effectively use information and technology to create positive social change.

That’s when I came across The Tactical Technology Collective (Tactical Tech). They have a three-pronged approach to enhance activism via information and technology that I really liked:

  • Act - Turning information into action
  • Reveal - Visualizing data and information for advocacy
  • Protect - Securing advocates from the risks of digital activism

Tactical Tech provides a ton of useful toolkits and guides translated in up to 20 languages, and even a robot that helps activists survive the digital age. All are free.

One of their most popular tools is the 10 Tactics for turning information into action:

  1. Mobilise People - bring them to action
  2. Witness and Record - someone is watching
  3. Visualise Your Message - picture it
  4. Amplify Personal Stories - no one is listening
  5. Just Add Humor - provoke a smile
  6. Manage Your Contacts - understand your connections
  7. Use Complex Data - make it simple
  8. Use Collective Intelligence - report it live
  9. Let People Ask Questions - technology that listens
  10. Investigate and Expose - reveal the truth

Centering on a 50-minute video - broken into interactive chapters - the tactics are being used by activists worldwide. You can also see all 10 tactics in videos on YouTube.

How are you using information and technology to drive positive social change? Use #digitalactivism to tell us on Twitter.

Image source: The Tactical Technology Collective
[Quoted Study] Poetics, Volume 39, Issue 2, April 2011, Pages 145-168, DOI: 10.1016/j.poetic.2011.02.003

March 30 2012


This Week in Review: Grappling with ground-up activism, and a new ‘pay-less’ form of paywall

Activism and journalism from the ground up: Now that the story of Trayvon Martin’s killing has moved fully into the U.S.’ national consciousness, a few writers have taken a look back to examine the path it took to get there. The New York Times’ Brian Stelter traced the story’s rise to prominence, highlighting the role of racial diversity in newsrooms in drawing attention to it. Poynter’s Kelly McBride gave a more detailed review of the story’s path through the media, concluding: “This is how stories are told now. They are told by people who care passionately, until we all care.” (This week, there was also bottom-up sourcing of a more dubious nature on the story, as the Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum pointed out.)

The New York Times’ David Carr looked at the Trayvon Martin story and several other web-driven campaigns to assess the value of “hashtag activism,” acknowledging its limitations but concluding that while web activism is no match for its offline counterpart, it still makes the world a better place.

There were several other strains of conversation tying into digital activism and citizen journalism this week: the Lab re-printed a Talking Points Memo story on the unreliability of Twitter buzz as a predictor of election results, and the University of Colorado’s Steve Outing wondered whether social media movements have surpassed the impact of traditional journalism on many issues.

Meanwhile, the report of an embellished photo from a citizen journalist in Syria led some to question the reliability of that information, but GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram countered that citizen journalism isn’t displacing traditional journalism, but helping complement it when used wisely. One of Ingram’s prime examples of that blending of traditional and citizen-powered journalism was NPR tweeter extraordinaire Andy Carvin, who was the subject of a fine Current profile, in which he described Twitter as “the newsroom where I spend my time” and pinpointing news judgment as the key ingredient in his journalistic curation process.

Debating the effectiveness of news paywalls: Google formally unveiled its new paywall alternative in partnership with publishers this week: News sites include surveys that users need to answer in order to read an article. Google pays news sites a nickel per answer, advertisers pay Google for the survey, everybody goes home happy. Just a few publishers have signed up so far, though. (You might remember that the Lab’s Justin Ellis wrote on Google’s testing of this idea last fall.)

Elsewhere in paywalls: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said his paper has not ruled out a paywall plan, though he also clarified that there’s “nothing on the horizon.” His publication is, obviously, far from the only one grappling with the prospect of charging for content online: The New Republic’s new owner dropped the magazine’s paywall for recent articles, and The Washington Post’s ombudsman, Patrick Pexton, explained why he doesn’t see a paywall in that paper’s future.

Pexton said the Post first needs to build up its reader base and make sure the site’s technology runs better, and he cast some doubt on the helpfulness of The New York Times’ pay plan for its bottom line. The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum picked apart Pexton’s analysis of the Times’ numbers, and asserted that a paywall’s purpose isn’t to be enormously profitable, and non-paywall digital revenue plans aren’t, either. “The point [of a paywall] is to stop or slow the bleeding and to help make the transition to an all-digital future five or ten years down the line — one that includes more than one flimsy revenue stream based on volatile and not-very-lucrative digital ads,” he wrote.

GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram suggested a “velvet rope” approach to paid content instead of a paywall, in which users would volunteer to pay in exchange for privileges and perks. The Times’ David Carr was skeptical — on Twitter, he summarized the post as, “Don’t build a paywall, create a velvet rope made out of socmedia pixie dust and see if that pays the bills.”

The Guardian opens up: The Guardian is firmly positioning itself at the forefront of what it calls “open journalism,” as it hosted a festival last weekend called the Guardian Open Weekend, during which more than 5,000 readers visited its London offices. The paper recapped the event, and Polis’ Charlie Beckett urged The Guardian to go further and faster in incorporating readers into its production process, turning them from “readers” to “members.”

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger held a Q&A with readers on open journalism, in which he spoke of the tension between the print and digital products in enacting change: “In order to be effective digital companies newspapers have to free themselves of some of the thinking that goes into the creation or a printed product…But most of the revenue is still in print, so the transition is bound to be a staged one, involving fine judgements about the pace of change.” Rusbridger also tweeted the paper’s 10 principles of open journalism, which were helpfully Storified by Josh Stearns, along with some other open journalism resources.

New accusations against News Corp.: A new branch grew out of News Corp.’s ever-growing tree of scandals this week, when two news orgs in Britain and Australia almost simultaneously broke stories about alleged hacking by NDS Group, a British satellite TV company of which News Corp. owns 49 percent. According to the BBC and the Australian Financial Review, NDS hired hackers to break into its competitors’ systems and get codes for satellite TV cards to illegally leak them to the public, giving them pay-TV services for free. The New York Times knitted the two allegations together well.

The Australian Federal Police is now looking into the case, and Reuters reported on the growing pressure for new investigations against News Corp. in Britain and Australia. Meanwhile, Frontline aired a documentary on the scandal, and The Guardian reported on Rupert Murdoch’s attacks on the accusations on Twitter.

Mike Daisey, journalism, and advocacy: Interest in last week’s blowup over This American Life’s retraction of Mike Daisey’s fabricated story about abuses of Chinese factory workers turned out to be more intense than expected: As the Lab’s Andrew Phelps reported, the retraction was the most downloaded episode in TAL history, surpassing the previous record set by the original story. Daisey himself gave a much more thorough, less defensive apology this week, and Gawker’s Adrian Chen said he wished Daisey would have been so contrite in the first place.

In Current, Alicia Shepard examined the story from the perspective of Marketplace, the public radio program that exposed Daisey’s falsehoods. In a long, thoughtful post, Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Center compared Daisey’s story to the Kony 2012 viral video, using them to pose some good questions about the space between journalism and advocacy.

Reading roundup: A few other interesting pieces that surfaced this week:

— A couple of pieces succinctly laying out some of the growing challenges for those trying to control online content and discourse: First, a piece in The Guardian by Michael Wolff on the trouble that the rise of mobile media poses for news business models, and second, a post by JP Rangaswami positing Africa as the next site of resistance against online media control.

— In a similar vein, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram wrote about the ways in which the giants of tech are all moving in on the same territory of user data and control, arguing that the real challenge is getting users to care about whether we end up with an open or closed web.

— NYU j-prof Jay Rosen wrote an insightful piece on how journalists claim the authority to be listened to by the public: “I’m there, you’re not, let me tell you about it.”

— Finally, at Poynter, Matt Thompson put together an interesting typology of journalists: Storyteller, newshound, systems analyst, and provocateur. He’s got some great initial tips on how to work with each type, and play to each one’s strengths within a newsroom environment.


February 03 2012


Video Volunteers Makes an Impact in India with Incentives for Media Makers

As part of a 4-part series, Video Volunteers is sharing what we've done over the last year, our experiences, and what we've learned. Part 1, which you can read here, was a basic introduction to IndiaUnheard, our flagship rural feature service.

Part 2 outlines new ideas we implemented into our training programs in 2011. For instance, we set incentives for our community correspondents in India. This triggered a series of valuable positive changes for the communities concerned.


Incentives work

In October, we held an advanced training session for our strongest community correspondents which focused on activism and getting "impact." (To us, "impact" means that the community correspondent is able to resolve the problem the video addresses.) We told them we had decided to incentivize impact.

They would be paid 5,000 rupees (approximately $100) -- more than twice the regular stipend -- for an "impact video," which means they would make a video; show it locally to get the issue solved; and make another documenting that process and proving the impact actually took place -- and for that second video, they would get the 5,000 rupees.

Some amazing impacts happened this year: In Orissa, illegal timber smugglers were stopped by local villagers. In Mumbai, a factory was forced to clean its pollution. In Assam, politicians released desperately needed water to villagers. Rather than be turned away, Dalit children got help in village child centers. Expectant mothers received folic acid which had previously been withheld. And, in one area, some 600 women for the first time were paid minimum wage.

These are just some of our stories. You can watch our impact videos here.

Recruitment is challenging

Our goal is to have 645 community correspondents, or one in every district of India. We had to think hard about how we could quickly scale up if we needed to.

Our first two rounds of recruitment for IndiaUnheard was through our existing network. We sent emails asking people to nominate someone from the villages they work in and then to help them fill out the online application. We got a few hundred applications that way and thought we could keep doing it like that. But when we tried for the third round, the number of eligible applications was low (though the overall applications were higher than previous years). Maybe we had tapped out our existing network.

So how could we quickly scale up? Possibly through big non-profit institutions (like microfinance). We are reaching out to them now.

Choose the right geographies

For our first two rounds, our goal was to get one or two people in every state. Now that we've almost done that, we're going to focus on key regions we feel are "unheard."

Last month, we took about 20 new community correspondents from Jharkhand. We chose Jharkhand because it is part of the so-called Red Corridor where there is a Maoist insurgency taking place. In the future, we'll look at the North East where other separatist movements are taking place, and Kashmir. (Those two areas were out of our budget this year.)

My colleagues Kamini Menon and Stalin K. spent two weeks traveling around this area meeting the activists and doing the recruitment; this live recruitment is making recruitment easier and will also make retention higher because the 13 new correspondents, each representing one district in the same state, can support each other.

Partnerships are challenging

Two years ago, when our Community Video Units were our primary focus, we felt that we could scale this network through investments from NGOs (non-governmental organizations). We've realized that co-ownership is very difficult and can at times be a hindrance to innovation.

We now feel that we can scale better through partnerships with the mainstream media, rather than NGOs, and so for that reason, a huge focus this year has been on ensuring the content can work for both a local community and outside audience.

From our Community Video Units, we've learned a few other things: One is that a model where people are paid only when they perform is better than the Community Video Units model, in which the six or seven people who work together on a film are given a monthly wage.

Women produce more

Two observations we are thrilled to see: Women produce more, and retention is higher with the underprivileged. It suggests that journalism really is an appropriate livelihood for the poor. We started to see that with online recruitment, we had selected certain people whose incomes were clearly higher than they had told us on the phone. Live recruitment in extremely remote areas of Jharkhand will help get the correct balance.

The amount they can produce is low

We ask correspondents to produce two videos a month. They produce on average one or less. One reason is that being a journalist is difficult; it takes a lot of personal courage to confront officials and ask people private questions. They can spend a whole day on a bus getting to an official who then won't see them. They have to take care of their families, too.

I learned this year about the concept of "businesses in a box" and franchises, such as rural women selling solar lamps or soap sachets, and I discovered that we should make the process as simple and step-by-step as possible.

But journalism is simply harder than selling soap. We also ask them to produce tough stories that they have to research and which take time, unlike stringers, who are told to "go film this event and send us the footage." This means that our "cost per story" is higher than we would like. But we also aren't taking huge steps to increase their productivity right now, because we don't yet have enough buyers to support a huge level of production.

Choose the right people to train

The fact that we put such effort in selecting interesting people to train is a huge asset for us. Our new batch of correspondents includes people whose personal stories are, in some ways, the story. We have two boys from Kashmir who have seen the insurgency; a young man whose sister was the first dowry death in his state; women who have experienced sexual violence and have the courage to speak about it; and a good representation from the North East, including one young man who got the first footage of a particular insurgent camp because he's from that area.

In our training, we teach them that their power as a community correspondent will come through using their personal experiences and connections to the issues. This is what they have that no professional, no outsider, can ever replicate. They learn that they themselves must speak out, and speak personally, if they want their communities to do so, too.

Good training is not necessarily scalable. (That's another thing that we learned in 2011 -- that the training aspects of our work will always be expensive because education doesn't have a lot of economies of scale.) But it is the most valuable investment.

You can watch a video from our trainings here:

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, which will focus on our modes of online and offline distribution and our experience with earning income from partners and the mainstream media.

January 20 2012


Poll: What Do You Think About the Anti-SOPA Protests?

Can online protests make a difference? In the past, they've had mixed success but with enough people pushing against the twin anti-piracy bills, SOPA and PIPA, the U.S. Congress was forced to pay heed. They have now put off bringing the bills to a vote, while contemplating rewrites and changes to the bills. Google alone collected more than 7 million signatures online for a petition against the bills. So what was your experience on Wednesday during the day of protest? Were you moved or unmoved? Did you take action or did life go on as normal? Share your experience in the comments below, and vote in our poll.

What do you think about the anti-SOPA protests?

For more on the protests, check out these recent stories on MediaShift:

> Mediatwits #34: SOPA Protests Make a Difference; Yang Out at Yahoo

> Your Guide to the Anti-SOPA Protests

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

January 19 2012


For immediate release: Beautiful Trouble: A "how-to-think" manual for 21st century activism

This is likely to turn out to be one of the most important projects I worked on in 2011 and that I will continue work on in 2012. It’s hard to believe that this project is now a reality, or that it all started as quite a casual conversation with Andrew back in September 2010. Seeing my name in a list of contributors that includes people like George Mombiot and Starhawk is also kinda’ mind-blowing. The work that Andrew and Dave — and more than sixty other amazing contributors — have put into this project is nothing less than awe inspiring.

The release is below. Please circulate widely!

There is 20% off pre-orders for the physical book, e-book, or both until January 30, 2012.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Publishing April 1, 2012


A Toolbox for Revolution


A “how-to-think” manual for 21st century activism Prank websites. Militant carnivals. Flash Mobs. Virtual sit-ins. Guerrilla musicals.

From Cairo to cyberspace, from Main Street to Wall Street, today’s social movements have a creative new edge. Social activism in the digital age is melding prank and PR; blurring the boundaries between artist and activist, direct action protest and pop art. These principles that make for successful creative action are more common today than we realize—yesterday’s Wikipedia blackout in protest of #SOPA is one of many prominent examples—but their foundations rarely get hashed out or written down.

Until now. In the irreverent, activist tradition of Steal This Book and The Anarchist Cookbook comes Beautiful Trouble, out April 1, 2012 from OR Books.

In Beautiful Trouble, seasoned pranktivist Andrew Boyd assembles the accumulated wisdom of decades of creative protest in order to place it in the hands of the next generation of change-makers. Part manifesto and part reference guide, Beautiful Trouble is the anti-textbook—a dynamic, 21st century how-to that brings together ten grassroots groups and dozens of seasoned artists and activists from around the world. Among the groups included are Agit-Pop/The Other 98%, The Yes Men/Yes Labs, Code Pink, SmartMeme, The Ruckus Society, Beyond the Choir, The Center for Artistic Activism, Waging Nonviolence, Alliance of Community Trainers and Nonviolence International.

Beautiful Trouble is not another how-to manual; it’s a how-to-think manual. In the shadow of austerity and ecological crisis, the urgency of this political moment demands resources that will transform outrage into effective action. Click here for a look inside.

Andrew Boyd is an author, humorist and twenty-five-year veteran of creative campaigns for social change. He led the decade-long satirical media campaign “Billionaires for Bush.” He co-founded Agit-Pop Communications, an award-winning “subvertising” agency, and the netroots movement The Other 98%. He’s the author of three books: Daily Afflictions, Life’s Little Deconstruction Book and the creative action manual The Activist Cookbook. You can find him at andrewboyd.com.

Dave Oswald Mitchell is a writer, editor and researcher. He edited the Canadian activist publication Briarpatch Magazine from 2005 to 2010, and his writing has been published in Rabble, Reality Sandwich, Rolling Thunder and Upping the Anti.

Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution, Assembled by Andrew Boyd Publication date: April 1, 2012 Paperback, $25, 978-1-935928-57-7 E-book, $10, 978-1-935928-58-4 400 pages Visit www.beautifultrouble.org

For more information, or an interview with the author, contact Fern Diaz at fernanda.diaz@orbooks.com or (212) 514-6485.

June 13 2011


A beautiful book sprint for Beautiful Trouble: Tips on collaboratively writing a book.

I’m just heading back to Toronto after what I would consider to be an incredibly successful “book sprint” for the Beautiful Trouble project.

What’s a book sprint?

Basically, we brought together a group of fourteen (incredibly talented and generous) contributors — both physically in NYC and remotely — for a weekend of focused writing. People came from far-and-wide: from as close as Brooklyn, Cleveland and Pennsylvania, and as far as Berlin, Denmark, and Paris.

At the end of the weekend, the group had started work on more than 70 articles and written more than 30,000 words. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say: we crushed it.

If you’re working on a book or documentation project with many contributors who are working on discrete pieces of content, here are a few tips on how to run your own book sprint.

First, from the venerable Allen “Gunner” Gunn channeling the venerable Adam Hyde:

  • Focus: The key to the overall success of the book sprint is focus. Staying focused on the tangible outcomes, and the steps that need to be facilitated to get there, helps to ensure that actual work gets done.

  • Deliverables: Be clear about what you’re asking people to write. To accomplish this, we wrote example content and created templates (with word counts, etc.) for each type of content. We asked participants to work from those templates and examples. We used Google Docs for all of this: the templates, examples, and assignments.

  • Output: Put the attention of the gathering on output — generating the raw number of words necessary to gather some momentum. Not everything is going to be great, but that is what editors are for.

  • Distractions Probably the best advice that Gunner gave us is “make sure the work sprint doesn’t turn into a brainstorm sprint.” We really took this to heart and had people focused on writing for about 70-80% of the weekend. The brainstorming we did do was not about the book’s content.

Logistically, we made sure to:

  • Have one person that is facilitating, not writing: This was Andrew and his role was to coach people, spot edit, and to put wind in our sails. Basically, he said “if you’re blocked, come talk to me.” He and Duncan also used a bullhorn to berate us with calls to work harder (or to take group yoga breaks).

  • Make remote participants visible (and vice-versa): To bring the energy of the in-person sprint to our remote participants, I used Ustream.tv to broadcast a continuous window into what was happening in the room in NYC. To bring remote participants into the conversation, I used Skype (with somewhat limited success) and the live stream chat tool. For the next sprint, I’ll probably use an audio conferencing system instead of Skype for our larger group check-ins to ensure that both the people in the room, and the remote participants, can talk to each other.

  • Make editors available: Our tireless editor Dave Oswald Mitchell did a fantastic job working through articles from Paris, but — ultimately — just having two editors for the weekend was a bottleneck. Ideally, we would have had more editors available at the in-person event to work with contributors. Having contributors read each other’s work was helpful, but needs to be facilitated to ensure that peer-based work is useful and not counter-productive.

  • Make progress visible: Allen had suggested that we announce when finished pieces where coming off the pipeline as a way to keep spirits up, especially for the remote participants. However, I took that a step further and created a regularly updated “Book Sprint Leader Board” (screenshot at the top of this post) to add a little fun competitive energy into the mix. Next time, I’ll probably take that a bit further and have it list the number of pieces in progress and completed by author, along with their total word count and something like ‘velocity.’ I’m probably getting carried away — but hey!

Format-wise: We started with a really long day on Saturday — started early and finished late —and limited the post-event socializing to ensure that contributors had lots of energy on day two.

On day two, we started early and finished early. We did a large group brainstorm that day on where we wanted to take the Web compendium of the Beautiful Trouble book — perfect timing, as the folks in the room had be immersed in the content all weekend. Then we encouraged people to not start anything new, and — instead — to focus on finishing up any articles that they had already started.

At the end of day Sunday, we went out for celebratory drinks, food, and — for the exceptionally brave — a screening of Super 8.

There’s our recipe for a successful book sprint. Your mileage may vary.

May 18 2011


Video: Civic Media Session, "Civic Disobedience"

(For great detail about the "Civic Disobedience" session, check out moderator Ethan Zuckerman's write-up.)


Watch the full video...

read more

May 04 2011


Video: Civic Media Session, "Design for Vulnerable Populations"

Designers often want to help people that they perceive as being in need -- whether those affected by natural or human-caused disasters, the economically or physically disadvantaged, or those who are on the losing end of a cultural power dynamic. However, naive attempts to "help" through simplistic techno-centric design can be at best ineffective, and at worst counter-productive.

What can designers do to better connect with the communities and individuals they wish to serve? How can design projects avoid patronizing attitudes and economic colonialization? How can a designer be effective in promoting social change while following their conscience?

This panel brings together designers who have worked in the mental health industry, international development, the prison system, and community environmental action to discuss what has worked and what hasn't, and what approaches designers can take to increase their chances of success.

  • Charlie DeTar (Moderator) Co-founder of Between the Bars, a blogging platform for prisoners. Fellow at the Center for Future Civic Media, and PhD student at the MIT Media Lab.
  • Patricia Deegan Creator of the CommonGround web application which supports shared decision making in psychopharmacology consultation. Adjunct Professor at the Dartmouth College School of Medicine and at Boston University, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • Liz Barry Director of Urban Environment at Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a collaborative developing inexpensive and community-led means to explore environmental and social issues; Co-founder of TreeKIT, an initiative to collaboratively measure, map, and manage urban forests.
  • Nathan Cooke Born and raised in California, USA, Cooke works at MIT’s D-Lab documenting technologies and working with students on design projects. He has previous experience working for Frog Design in San Francisco and at Autodesk as part of their Sustainability division.


read more

April 25 2011


Video: "Steve Kurtz: Cultural Resistance"

A Civic Media Session about models and techniques for public interventions and soft subversions aimed at undermining authoritarian tendencies in a time of neo-liberal domination.

Known for his work in Electronic Civil Disobedience and BioArt, Steve Kurtz is a founding member of the Critical Art Ensemble, a collective of five tactical media practitioners of various specializations including computer graphics and web design, film/video, photography, text art, book art, and performance.

Formed in 1987, Critical Art Ensemble’s focus has been on the exploration of the intersections between art, critical theory, technology, and political activism.

Download! (.mp4)

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April 10 2011



A partir de los 90’s Cd. Juárez empezó a formar parte constante del vocabulario global, principalmente como resultado del libre comercio y del establecimiento de cientos de maquiladoras en la ciudad. Muchos cambios se han suscitado en las últimas décadas, incremento acelerado de la población, cambios en mano de obra, altos niveles de contaminación, etc. pero también se ha visto un incremento en crimen, ejemplo de ello son los Femicidios y una ola de violencia en los últimos años los cuales han contribuido a la difusión negativa de Cd. Juárez. A través de diferentes Medios de comunicación los foráneos nos enteramos de esa Ciudad Juárez, esa que muestra o da la imagen de una ciudad brutal. Sin embargo este blog no intenta hablar de esa historia la cual forma parte de la noticia diaria, este blog por lo contrario desea hablar de esa OTRA CARA, de esa OTRA HISTORIA que también existe en la ciudad en la cual más de un millón de individuos continúan con su vida cotidiana de una manera pacífica y responsable.

En los últimos cuatro meses el Centro de Medios ha asesorado en Cd. Juárez una campaña de positivismo –CRONICAS DE HEROES– la cual reporta el valor ciudadano actual, como un ejemplo de colaboración positiva de la sociedad civil. El proyecto se enfoca en pequeñas acciones notorias (actos de amabilidad, de respeto, honestidad, etc.) y las hace públicas, ya que estas pasan por desapercibido, pero en realidad también son parte de bienestar ciudadano.

El centro de Medios creo la página web para Crónicas de Héroes como una herramienta en la que individuos puedan hacer públicos estos actos. Al principio se intento hacer contacto con diferentes instituciones en Juárez vía telefónica o por medio del internet, pero no hubo una gran respuesta. Yesica la Representante Diplomática Cultural y Directora del proyecto decidió que sería importante ir personalmente a Juárez y presentar la propuesta. Ella dio varias pláticas en la ciudad a diferentes A.C.s, ONG’s, Instituciones Educativas, hospitales, etc. En esas primeras pláticas se descubrió que la gente tenía deseos de participar, que aceptaban la propuesta y que estaban listos para ser parte de un cambio. Así pues fue interesante descubrir que el contacto personal por lo menos en esta instancia sigue siendo la herramienta principal para establecer relaciones estrechas y duraderas. En su visita a Juárez, Yesica capacitó a Brenda Guerra y a Marco Betancour para dar seguimiento a la propuesta, ellos fueron nombrados como Representante Local-Brenda y Promotor oficial-Marco.

Después de las primeras charlas informativas otras invitaciones hacia el equipo de Crónicas para hablar acerca del proyecto en diferentes foros se suscitaron. Hubo un momento en que los representantes locales dieron hasta tres talleres por semana, lo cual fue muy grato, pues indicaba que proyectos de este tipo son necesarios y que la ciudadanía los acepta. En estos talleres la gente nos contaba sus historias de esos héroes cotidianos de buena voluntad, ellos nos narraban su crónica en tarjetas postales diseñadas especialmente para la campaña. Igualmente para promover CRONICAS DE HEROES se colocaron espectaculares, así mismo se instalaron posters y se repartieron calcomanías en diferentes áreas en Cd. Juárez.

A mediados de Diciembre 2010 se anunció oficialmente esta campaña a los medios de comunicación. Desde ese día este proyecto ha tenido el privilegio de aparecer en varias redes informativas locales e internacionales entre ellas CNN y BBC. Actualmente se colabora con diferentes medios locales; en varias estaciones de radio se leen estas historias positivas, así mismo periódicos en la ciudad publican semanalmente crónicas existentes en nuestra página web la cual en este momento cuenta con 789 historias positivas. Estas historias han sido leídas por individuos que han entrado a nuestra página desde rincones lejanos del mundo como Japón, Brasil, Colombia, Alemania, Argentina, Francia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Reino Unido, Tailandia, etc.

Últimamente hemos tenido un gran interés por individuos en participar en actividades públicas. El grupo de artistas urbanos – UNION– nos contactó para ser parte de nuestra iniciativa, ellos donaron diferentes espacios en la ciudad y su talento para hacer murales inspirados en estos reportes positivos. Hace tres semanas hubo una pinta pública en el Parque Borunda, en esta hubo varios voluntarios que ayudaron a nuestro equipo en la organización del evento. Después de esta pinta hemos sido invitados a participar en otros eventos públicos como la Feria del la Mujer y un festejo a nivel ciudad por el Día del Niño.

Ha sido muy interesante para el equipo de Crónicas ver como este proyecto el cual originalmente fuera solo una página de internet se ha convertido en una mezcla de mecanismos, en el que los contactos sociales y acciones activas se han visto reflejadas tanto en línea como en participación cotidiana. Es genial ver que proyectos de este tipo pueden conducir a un cambio positivamente constructivo.

La evolución efectiva de esta campaña no hubiera sido posible sin la participación de la población y diferentes organizaciones e instituciones las cuales nos han apoyado, la colaboración es esencial para crear un cambio y más importante aun que ese cambio se inicie desde las raíces –los ciudadanos.

Cotidianamente existen héroes entre todos nosotros y estos no se quedan sentados a esperar tiempos mejores; sigamos su ejemplo, crezcamos juntos como sociedad para un mejor presente…esto es Cd. Juárez, su otra CARA, su otra HISTORIA…

March 29 2011


Reflections on fostering civic pride in Juarez

Crónicas de Héroes, the Juárez Mexico deployment of Hero Reports, rolled out late last year with incredible success at the local level. Since November more than 700 accounts of generosity, kindness, and empathy have been reported by the Juarenes. Today cronicas are being read over the airwaves by local radio stations and printed in local newspapers. Media from Juárez’s sister city of El Paso and Mexico City have covered the campaign. And the site has attracted visitors from Japan, Brazil, Argentina, France, Venezuela, Thailand, Portugal, Jamaica, and Ecuador. Recently, Alyssa Wright, founder of Hero Reports, and Yesica Guerra, Manager of Crónicas de Héroes Juárez, were invited to speak about the project at TED.

The success of the campaign has been measured by the fact that with these contributions, residents have reclaimed and reauthored the narrative coming out of Juárez. While the news media will continue to print stories about violence, chaos and fear, Cronicas has shown that those incidences are not the whole story. Juárez remains a place where businesses thrive, families raise new generations, and where neighbors take care of one another.

Hoping to bottle some of the success of Juárez, we’ve spent time trying to tease out what worked and to understand how those strategies could be refined and redeployed in Monterrey and Tijuana.

Passion and Personal Connections – Much of the success of Crónicas de Héroes Juárez is attributable to Yesica and her counterparts on the ground in Juárez, local representatives Brenda Guerra and Marco Betancourt. Their shared enthusiasm and dedication to the project coupled with their intimate knowledge of the community and savvy outreach approach undoubtedly opened doors. Early on Yesica realized that her efforts to push an MIT research project via email and phone calls would only get her so far. Using a tag team approach, Yesica would have Brenda and Marco follow-up with her contacts in person to further pitch the campaign, arrange interviews, and deliver postcards in order to maintain momentum, solidify relationships, and reinforce the grassroots legitimacy of the campaign. Yesica and her team also scheduled pre-launch workshops in a variety of businesses, schools, and civic institutions. With Brenda and Marco’s help, Yesica had the manpower she needed to outreach to big tent of users – from school children and college students to nurses and doctors to elderly members of the community. Every workshop attendant filled out a postcard with a report of a kind and generous act, which was then uploaded on the site.

Hyper-local branding – Before Crónicas de Héroes officially launched, we covered the City of Juárez in billboards, posters, and postcards with images reminiscent of iconic pop-culture figures El Santo and Tin Tan. El Santo, the masked wrestler, is a legend and a symbol of justice for the common man with heroic abilities to fight and defend the vulnerable. With a career than spanned nearly five decades, El Santo resonates with multiple generations. Yesica’s poster design includes a masked wrestler from the golden age of wrestling, when fighters were folk heroes, inspired by the image of El Santo. Tin Tan was actor, singer and comedian that began his career in Juárez; the local hero starred in more than 50 movies during his 30-year career. Images of these compelling cultural superheroes asking for stories about positive and kind neighborly acts spoke to the emotions and imagination of a wide array of Juarenes who responded with reports about every day instances of heroism.

Anonymity – Like any good superhero, the campaign was intentionally cloaked in mystery. Crónicas de Héroes Juárez tried to minimize and downplay its true identity as a research project from MIT. Because the focus of the project centered on the general Juarenes community and did not align or closely associate itself with anyone particular group, the campaign could belong to the entire City. The Center felt strongly that this strategy was necessary for the long-term sustainability and viability of the campaign.

Going forward our community outreach efforts are dedicated to sustaining a culture of reporting through community activities that keep the spirit of Crónicas de Héroes alive, foster pride and enthusiasm, and transcend cynicism. Recently the Juarez team was approached by UNION a local group of street artists interested in painting murals to promote and celebrate Crónicas. They wrote, “"To paint these murals inspired on Cronicas proves that there are good things happening in this city, guns and death is not the only things that occur in Juarez." Using donated materials including some paint and brushes, UNION and more than 20 citizens came together for a mural painting in Park Borunda last weekend. At this event, Brenda along with five volunteers collected more than 75 Cronicas from participants and passersby. Two more murals are planned and this summer Yesica, Marco and Brenda will be promoting the site through a public art competition and at festivals and celebrations. We hope that these activities will cultivate a loyalty and commitment to Cronicas that will inspire new reports and keep the site vibrant and relevant.

March 28 2011


Civic Tools Video: "Hero Reports / Crónicas de Héroes"

Lorrie LeJeune describes Hero Reports/Crónicas de Héroes, a project currently deployed in Juárez, Mexico, to help residents report and map incidents of heroism, large and small.


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March 25 2011


Civic Tools Video: "Tool for Consensus-Based Decision Making"

Charlie DeTar walks us through prototype software to aid medium-to-large groups in consensus-based decision making.


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March 15 2011


Social media: cutting both ways since the 1990s

Originally posted at my own blog.

Social media -- those avenues to send instant, short, widely-distributed messages and images -- cuts both ways:

  • It can be used to organize protesters, but it can also be used to identify protesters and arrest them.
  • It can be used to spread information, but it can also be used to spread MISinformation.
  • You can use it to promote your organization and cause, and others can use it to tear down your organization.

And it's been used to organize protests since the 1990s - so can we stop now with how "new" it all is?

Back in 2001, while working for UNDP/UNV, I researched how handheld computer technologies were being used, or could be used, in community service / volunteering / advocacy. It wasn't called "social media" or "micro volunteering" back then, but even without the snazzy jargon, I knew something very exciting was going on, something that was changing the way communities are engaged and mobilized. Among the discoveries in my research was that grassroots advocates had used handheld computer or phone devices to help organize and direct protesters during the 1999 Seattle demonstrations against the World Trade Organization, and that in 2001, protesters in the Philippines used cell-phone text messaging to mobilize demonstrators to help oust President Joseph Estrada. In addition, in China, also in 2001, tens of thousands of followers of the spiritual group Falun Gong continued to exist-despite a harsh crackdown-in a vibrant community fed by the Web and encrypted text messaging. I created a web page just on the subject of using text messaging for advocacy - but I was not the first to do so, as you will see on the page.

I also noted in that page that hand held technology can lead to widespread misinformation as well: "Musician and U.S.A. Green Party activist Jello Biafra noted in an article on Zdnet.Uk: 'Be careful of the information gossip you get on the Internet, too. For example, late in 1997 I discovered out on the Internet that I was dead.'"

We're not hearing enough about how effective Web 2.0 tools are in promoting misinformation and negative speech. For instance, micro-blogs, tweets, texts and other technology spread misinformation about and within Haiti, as well as other disaster zones (it will be interesting to see what misinformation gets spread in Japan). During the swine flu panic in the USA a while back, we saw Twitter's power to misinform, and rumors still affect polio eradication campaigns. So-called "new" media has helped spread misinformation to derail government health initiatives here in the USA rapidly and efficiently.

It's not just the misinformation that's a problem in trying to use social media to mobilize community activists and educate the public: in an interview with Radio Free Europe, Evgeny Morozov, author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, noted that internal security agencies welcome the use of new- and social-media tools. “The reason why the KGB wants you to join Facebook is because it allows them to learn more about you from afar,” he said. “It allows them to identify certain social graphs and social connections between activists. Many of these relationships are now self-disclosed by activists by joining various groups.” Al Jazeera profiled cases in Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Moroccans where the government or those opposed to any change in government were, indeed, using Facebook accounts to anticipate protests and easily monitor and arrest protesters.

And then there's social media, like YouTube and blogs, being used by GOTCHA media advocates, as I blogged about yesterday: there could be just one person in your community with a video camera and a dream of humiliating your organization right out of existence, and social media makes that easier than ever to do.

Don't roll out the comments saying I'm anti-social media. Don't start pulling your hair and gnashing your teeth, chanting, "Jayne hates Web 2.0!" I love the Interwebs. But it's long-overdue for a reality check on all these "Twitter revolutions." Yes, there are lessons to be learned - but we're not focusing on the right lessons. Back in 2001, the Ruckus Society featured Longwire's Communications Manual for Activists on its web site, and included tips for using various hand held devices and avenues-two-way radios, CB radios, cell phones, pagers, satellite communications and more in community organizing. Those lessons from a decade ago could teach current activists a lot about using social media tools effectively.

March 04 2011


Voip Drupal

C4 has done a variety of breakthrough civic systems with phones, from Leo Burd's What's Up platform to the Call4Action class and its cool student projects.

We love these projects, but working with phones has always been a bear. A lot of custom programming is necessary, and in many cases people start with the phone and end up building custom systems that begin to represent a CMS. Projects like Ushahidi or our earlier txtMob are really just simple CMSs with a few custom features for texting inputs. So Leo Burd has been working on making Drupal more friendly for the billions of people around the world who only have access to basic telephony rather than smart phones and the web.

Leo is launching the first release of the VoIP Drupal platform at DrupalCon next week.

VoIP Drupal is an innovative framework that brings the power of voice and Internet-telephony to Drupal sites. It can be used to build hybrid applications combining regular touchtone phones, web, SMS, Twitter, IM and other communication tools in a variety of ways, including:

* Voice- and SMS-based Get Out The Vote campaigns
* 2-1-1 and 3-1-1 lines (information hotlines)
* Phone-based community surveys
* PTA or any meeting reminder calls
* Story recording / playback
* Group voicemail
* Geo-based call-blasts aimed at specific streets or locations
* And much more!

As Leo writes:

Technically speaking, the goal of VoIP Drupal is to provide a common API and scripting system that interoperate with popular Internet-telephony servers (Asterisk, FreeSwitch, Tropo, Twilio, etc) dramatically reducing the learning and development costs associated with the construction of communication systems that combine voice and text technologies together.

The following VoIP servers are currently supported:

* Tropo, through the voiptropo.module (available soon)
* Twilio, through the voiptwilio.module

This project is under continuous development. If you would like to get involved in the project, or ask questions discussion is taking place on the VoIP Drupal Group. You can find more information in the VoIP Drupal Handbook.

The VoIP Drupal platform has originally been conceived and implemented by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media, with major contributions from Civic Actions.

February 23 2011


“We’re smarter together than separate”

This is cross-posted from my blog, Beckyblab:

The best part about the TechSoup Global Contributor’s Summit was seeing in real time the power of networks. A lot can be said for nonverbal communication and the effectiveness of meeting each other face to face!

Although at first I was intimidated, it was heartening to hear how many others found the task of networking at events daunting–many admitted to being shy but forcing themselves to get over it. I was soon won over by the welcoming atmosphere that was set from the first evening.

Microsoft’s Akhtar Badshah posed a critical question at the beginning: How do we become the innovators to drive change? He also spoke about harnessing disruption and moving from the transactional to the transformational.

Daniel Ben-Horin, Co-CEO and founder of TechSoup Global, reminded us that “geeks and activists” share core values and have a natural affinity–I’m not sure which side of that equation I’m on, but certainly I do agree that technologies are disrupting the status quo. The quote in the blog post title is also from him: “We’re smarter together than separate.”

However, I couldn’t help but feel “it isn’t enough”–in the sense that even though technologies are supposedly making our lives easier or better, they haven’t fundamentally made us any happier and often only make our lives more complicated. Hence, the premise behind Inner Engineering–technologies for well-being…

That said, I did gain a tremendous amount from hearing about the participants’ experiences with technology and sharing my own. I most enjoyed the last day when the Netsquared participants came together to discuss the issues particular to us, many of whom were based in or from the developing world. It was great hearing about all their inspiring projects and getting to know them in a more informal setting.

That’s my overall take! For more insights, see Beth Kanter’s post on “Inspiration Overload.”


February 22 2011


Civic Media Session Explores Data in Cities

(Cross-posted at MediaShift Idea Lab)

With a redoubled focus on the community in the civic media community, the Center for Future Civic Media has launched a new speaker series. These relaxed, informal conversations about civic media featured ground-level practitioners, activists, hackers, and local leaders.

The first session, "Bustling with Information: Cities, Code, and Civics," brought good friends Nick Grossman, Nigel Jacob, and Max Ogden to our Cambridge campus. As you can see from the video clips below, these sessions are unique opportunities to talk about the amazing work that goes on in this sphere, intriguingly out of earshot of the debates on the future of journalism.

We think this is a great niche for us: Highlighting the do-it-yourself ethic that's always existed in civic media (not to mention at MIT), separate from concerns about paper vs. iPad, MBA-honed business models, etc. Sessions planned for this spring include discussions of intellectual property collaboration, the implications of check-in/location-sharing technology, how local stories spread worldwide, civic media for vulnerable populations, and civic disobedience.

So stay tuned to Idea Lab and civic.mit.edu for updates and scheduling information.

Meanwhile, check out these clips from last week's civic media session, moderated by Center director Chris Csikszentmihályi, for a taste. And, in the comment section below, let us know what other civic media topics warrant more exploration.

Nick Grossman of OpenPlans, Nigel Jacob of the City of Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, and Max Ogden of Code for America respond to questions about how civic tools do (or need to) vary from city to city.

Max Ogden of Code for America discusses taking "treasure troves" of government data sets to bring citizens and friends together, describing it as "enhanced serendipity."

February 18 2011


This Week in Review: Paying up with Apple and Google, Twitter and activism, free labor for HuffPo

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Apple lays down its terms: Publishers have been quite anxiously awaiting word from Apple about the particulars of its subscription plan for mobile devices, including the iPad; they got it this week, but it wasn’t what a lot of them were hoping for. The New York Times summarized publishers’ initial reaction with a few of the basic details — Apple gets a 30-percent cut, owns subscriber data (whether to send data to publishers is up to the subscriber), and publishers’ options for subscription services outside Apple are limited.

The Lab’s Josh Benton aptly laid out some of the primary implications for news organizations: Apple is setting itself up as toll-taker on the new news highway and putting a heavy incentive on converting print readers to tablet readers, but not putting restrictions on browser access within its devices. Media analyst Ken Doctor offered two astute takes on what Apple’s proposal will entail; we’ll call them glass-half-full and glass-half-empty.

Most of the reaction to Apple’s deal, however, was overwhelmingly negative. Media consultant Alan Mutter pointed out a couple of gotchas for publishers; Dan Gillmor called Apple’s policy stunningly arrogant, and the publishers that sign up for it “insane, or desperate”; ITworld’s Ryan Faas accused it of “gouging content producers”; Gizmodo’s Matt Buchanan dubbed it “evil”; developer Ryan Carson urged users to fight Apple’s  ”extortion”; and the Wall Street Journal raised possible antitrust issues.

The beef that most of these critics have with Apple is not so much the 30-percent cut (though that’s part of it) as it is Apple’s restrictions on publishers’ alternative subscription methods. Apple is requiring that publishers that want to have a non-App Store subscription method can’t charge less than their Apple-sanctioned route, and can’t show app users how to access it, either. This means that, as Buchanan states, “Effectively, all easy roads to getting content on the iPad now run through Apple.” (Plus, as TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld noted, those terms could easily become even worse once Apple has publishers and readers hooked.)

Of course, the system looks a bit different from the consumer’s perspective — it may be the most user-friendly subscription system ever, argued MG Siegler of TechCrunch. (Publishers, of course, disagreed about that.) As GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram pointed out, this may come down to how much publishers think it’s worth to have Apple handle their mobile sales for them.

We got some mixed early signs about how publishers might answer that question. PaidContent reported on publishers who felt Apple’s terms could have been much worse, and Poynter’s Damon Kiesow talked to publishers who plan to offer multiple options. Popular Science became the first magazine to jump on board and Wired is following suit ASAP, but Time Inc. pre-emptively struck deals with Apple’s competitors, and another publishers’ group threatened to take its business elsewhere.

One Pass to rule them all?: As if to underscore that point, Google announced its own One Pass digital paid-content system the next day. Unlike Apple, Google will keep about 10 percent of publishers’ revenue and allow publishers to own their subscribers’ data, according to Advertising Age. Much of the commentary about Google’s plan positioned it in opposition to Apple’s proposal: The Wall Street Journal described it as a fired salvo at Apple; search guru John Battelle summed it up as “Hey Apple, we’ve got a better way;” Alan Mutter detailed the ways Google’s plan “trumps” Apple’s; and others from The Next Web, mocoNews, and Fast Company compared the two proposals.

But several others — particularly the Lab’s Josh Benton and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds — explained that while it might seem natural to compare Google’s system to Apple’s given the timing of their announcements, Google One Pass is focused far more on web access than app access, making the paid-content company Journalism Online a more direct competitor than Apple. Journalism Online’s Gordon Crovitz made the case to paidContent for his company over Google, highlighting its flexibility, and paidContent also noted that newspaper chain MediaGeneral is trying out both systems at different papers.

A couple of other notes on Google’s plan: TechCrunch’s MG Siegler argued that Google’s agreement to allow publishers ownership of subscribers’ data is at least as big of a deal to publishers as the revenue split, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram ripped One Pass, saying that as long as its clients’ content is on the open web without the exceptional user experience of the best apps, it’s just “a warmed-over content paywall.”

Parsing out the “social media and revolutions” debate: Despite having been declared “over” early this week by The Daily’s editor-in-chief, the protests in Egypt continued to dominate conversation, including in future-of-news circles. Via The New York Times, we got a glimpse into how Egyptian officials were able to shut down their country’s Internet and how Facebook is wrestling with its role in the protests. NPR’s Andy Carvin continued to earn plaudits (from The New York Times and PR exec Katie Delahaye), and the Lab’s Megan Garber looked at the way Carvin spontaneously launched a personalized Twitter pledge drive.

But the bulk of the discussion revolved around the same discussion that’s been on slow burn for the past few weeks: What role does social media play in social activism? Washington grad student Deen Freelon has once again produced a fantastic synopsis of what we know and what we have yet to learn in this arena, so consider this a supplement to his post.

The parade of articles arguing that Twitter doesn’t cause revolutions continued at a steady pace this week, prompting NYU j-prof Jay Rosen to profile the Twitter-debunking article as a genre, concluding that the argument  — along with the glib social media triumphalism it’s refuting — is a cheap detour around thoughtfully considering the complex issues involved in social change. Several others built on Rosen’s point: Aaron Bady delved deeper into the social media-debunking article’s function; CUNY j-profs Jeff Jarvis and C.W. Anderson focused on protecting those technological tools and opined on the difference between academic and popular discourse on cause-and-effect, respectively.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t substantive things to say about social media’s role in recent protests, of course. POLIS’ Charlie Beckett noted that newly adopted technologies (such as mobile phones) have helped create a more “networkable” power structure in the Middle East, and NDN’s Sam duPont looked at social media’s role as an organizing tool, news source, and public sphere in Egypt.

To pay or not to pay: With a few exceptions (Frederic Filloux’s short, fierce takedown of The Huffington Post as a “digital sand castle” is well worth a read), the second week of commentary on AOL’s purchase of The Huffington Post centered on the question of whether HuffPo’s thousands of unpaid contributors should start getting paychecks for their work.

At The New York Times’ FiveThirtyEight blog, Nate Silver attempted to calculate the worth of a typical HuffPo post, concluding that they follow a classic power law relationship and that most of them aren’t worth much. The New York Observer’s Ben Popper said Silver is undervaluing HuffPo’s contributors, and Gannett’s Ryan Sholin made the point that having those posts within a single platform is worth more than the posts themselves.

Most of the grist for this week’s conversation, though, came from Silver’s Times colleague, David Carr, who used HuffPo as an entree into some observations about creating online content for others for free through platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Quora. Paul Gillin of Newspaper Death Watch built on Carr and Silver’s analyses to make the case that in the face of devalued online content, demand for higher-quality material might bring us out of the basement of online pay.

Several others countered Carr with similar points: Web thinker Stowe Boyd, British j-prof Paul Bradshaw and HuffPo’s own Nico Pitney said that HuffPo bloggers have eminently legitimate non-monetary reasons for writing there; GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram pointed out that The Times’ op-ed system isn’t much different from HuffPo’s; and Jeff Jarvis said news folks should be thinking more about value than content.

Reading roundup: Some interesting bits and pieces to round out the week:

— Google unveiled the latest tool in its effort to fight content farms this week — an extension to its browser, Chrome, that allows users to block any site they choose from Google search results. TechCrunch called it “crowdsourcing” Google’s content farm detection, and Gizmodo said that it allows for the arresting possibility of “an Internet that never disagrees with you.”

— A few miscellaneous items regarding The Daily: Slate’s chairman, Jacob Weisberg, ripped it (“It’s just a bad version of a newspaper in electronic form with a very condescending view of the audience”); Scott Rosenberg wondered what’ll happen to its archives; and the publication updated its glitch-ridden app.

— A couple of great data journalism resources: Poynter’s Steve Myers broke down the difficulties in integrating data journalism into the newsroom, and ProPublica’s Dan Nguyen wrote a wonderful post encouraging journalists to get started with data analysis.

— The second blogging Carnival of Journalism, focusing on increasing the number of news sources within communities, began going up over the past day or so, so keep an eye out for those posts. I’ll have a roundup here next week.

— If you want a 30,000-foot summary of what’s happening on the leading edge of news right now, you really can’t do much better than Josh Benton’s speech to the Canadian Journalism Foundation posted here at the Lab. It’s a fantastic primer, no matter how initiated you already are.

February 17 2011


Video: From Cities, Code, and Civics: "Enhanced serendipity"

Max Ogden of Code for America discusses taking "treasure troves" of government datasets to bring citizens and friends together.

From "Cities, Code, and Civics", a Civic Media Session of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media.


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