Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jan 24

A Social Media Milestone: A Crowdsourced State of the Union Address?

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Community, Conspiracy Theories, Current Affairs, Politics & New Media, Politix, Pop Culture Quirkiness.
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The Teleprompter is Us

Tonight’s State of the Union address is being billed as “the most interactive political act ever.”

Well, other than the crowdsourcing that brought people to the guillotine during the French Revolution. Although, if you read through the comments sections on some of the danker political blogs, there’s certainly reason to look back on The Terror as a relatively sane & genteel epoch.

Anyway – it appears that Obama’s web team has spent the past year (or more) preparing to swing into full campaign mode.

From ReadWriteWeb:

In December 2011, I wrote in the ReadWriteWeb Predictions for 2012 that the presidential candidate with the best social media campaign would be the one to win the White House in November 2012. I also said that President Obama would likely be reelected. While social media is not the be all, end all factor in determining the results of elections, pundits will argue that it has greater weight now than it ever has. Candidates pay attention to what their Twitter followers are saying.

(snip)

To a certain extent, tonight’s State Of The Union will be the biggest campaign stump speech that Obama will give all year, except for maybe the Democratic National Convention. Around the State of the Union speech, the President has built a robust social media campaign to give citizens a voice. This is how government should be run. Open. Transparent. Interactive. Go to where the people are as opposed to making them come to you.

 

UPDATE:

Let’s see how that interactive thingy worked, shall we? ue

The YouTube questions were pretty much what you’d expect – a mix of the rude, the longwinded, the unanswerable and the insane.

Tell EMINEM to Put another Album out..(Name is E=Mc2)
Are you going to liglize weed?
What are your plans for a Zombie Apocalypse? Because you know, if you planned for zombies, you planned for everything.
Dear Obama, is the republican primaries as hilarious for you as it is for me?

im scared of this year. Do u think that think year that the world might end (by the simi-end of Dec. 2012) or it’s completely a myth?

mjh186, Santa Monica, CA
What are you going to do with all the police who think they are all that, just because they can do almost anything they want without getting caught doesn’t make them better. Also my friend told me a police was setting a role model of cussing a 5 grdr
Will you tell us why you passed the SOPA? Do you have anything againsy gay people? Can YOU stop making Cigars? What do people have to have in order to become the president? Is the world gonna end in 2012? PLEASE ANSWER ALL THESE IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!!
mr.president wat do u think about the immagrashin are you think about giving paper 2 those in need
123deadmau5, sunvally cal
I would love to know why marijuana not legal. It is really good for you they said on cnn News it don’t do anything to your lungs compared to people who smoke cigarettes. Also it kills Brain cancer cells and blocks heart blockages.
panterafan6969, Richmond, Virginia
Mr. President, Church’s Chicken or KFC?
train2failure, Long Beach
Why you are spending more money to grab genitles at airports, sell children, traffic weapons, drugs, eugincs depopulation…rather than allowing non corrupt technicians associated with The Venus Project to solve every human need including yours?
Mr. President, if you want my vote again this November, please answer this: WHERE IS THE CHANGE!?Minimum wage still doesn’t cover our basic necessities.A human being cannot survive on these wages with children. How are your children doing? Quite well
I’ll keep my guns, money and freedom You can keep the change you communist bastard!
Can you speak to the American people about the Fema camps ? Maybe quell some of the fear that’s spreading thru the country ?
I can has moonbase?
commanderq, Australia

The Quora questions were a helluva lot better.

Some are pretty interesting: What are the estimated costs to taxpayers of the new agencies proposed by President Obama, such as the Trade Enforcement Unit?

Others are clearly partisan: Why did Obama just rag on George W/Republicans? Was it merely because it’s an election year?

Some are just goofy: Did Jon Favreau write the 2012 State of the Union?

 

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Jan 18

Truth Vigilantes and Online Reputation

Posted: under Denial of Reality, Digital Migration, new media, New Media and Politics, New Media Strategery, Webscams.

This was originally a comment to Robert Niles’ excellent piece on the Online Journalism Review, on whether or not the New York Times should be a “Truth Vigilante”. I’m republishing it here, because it looks like the commenting feature on OJR (always a little hinky) is b0rked again, and this issue is one that touches a really raw nerve in me.

First, the background:

On Friday, Arthur Brisbane, the public editor (I guess it’s another way of saying “Ombudsman” or “Sacrificial Flak-Catcher”) of the New York Times published a now-famous piece, asking, Should the Times be a Truth Vigitlante?

I’m looking for reader input on whether and when New York Times news
reporters should challenge “facts” that are asserted by newsmakers they
write about.

(snip)

This message was typical of mail from some readers who, fed up with
the distortions and evasions that are common in public life, look to The
Times to set the record straight. They worry less about reporters
imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true.

Is that
the prevailing view? And if so, how can The Times do this in a way
that is objective and fair? Is it possible to be objective and fair when
the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another? Are there
other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?

The reaction has been pretty heated. MetaFilter pithily said “Duh.”  Jay Rosen wrote a post name-checking his longstanding criticism of the whole “View from Nowhere” approach adopted by the press. And Gawker snarked that the NYT should instead just make stuff up.

Here was my reaction, republished here:

It’s interesting to see this issue break out into the open like this. In retrospect, the only thing that’s surprising is that it’s taken this long. Consider: internet sites like Snopes & PolitiFact owe their very existence to the breakdown of trust in our existing news institutions on the part of the audience. We read stuff (often sent via e-mail from the semi-mythical disgruntled conspiracy theorist uncle). Checking our newspaper/TV/radio/whatever, there’s a he-said/she-said story. So we go elsewhere to figure out if what we were originally sent is true or not.

Steve Yelvington long ago identified this as the most crucial (but neglected) part of the media in a societal ecosystem: being the “Town Expert.” (The other two roles are of “Town Crier” and “Town Square” – which media orgs more or less have a handle on.)

Can’t tell you the number of proposed startups that came through the Knight News Challenge in the last two years aimed at resolving this basic issue – how can we trust what we read? Many of them are seeking to assign some kind of a numeric “reliability score” to the source of the information. Which is interesting in theory – a published climate scientist getting a 99 score, for example, while a Big Oil-funded hack gets a 12.

But in practice, systems like this would probably fall prey to the same phenomenon that plagues Digg or other sites that rely on crowdsourcing to determine importance/credibility — the efforts of a committed radical few to rig the results in their favor. Still, it would be interesting to see a major media outlet start to offer little links in superscript next to attribution, that lead back to a page describing where that quote came from, who the person is, and what their history/agenda is.

We’re all struggling with the effects of the disintermediation taking place because of web technology – that much is evident to just about anybody working in media, advertising or marketing. The problem is that this is taking place at the end of a long, slow movement toward the utter blandification of content. The reasons for that are complex – some of them have to do with the influence of “risk management” thinking at media organizations, where the litigiousness of modern American society has driven deep-pocketed news organizations to water down stories out of fear, in order to evade expensive libel suits. The rest do have to do with the drumbeat these past 40 years of accusations of “liberal bias” in the press, and the attempts to defuse such accusations by applying the aforementioned “he-said/she-said” construction to stories, so that we can say, “Well, at least we gave them a chance to reply.”

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Jan 11

Panorama Experiments

Posted: under Multimedia, Travel.

Just playing around with some of the photos I’ve shot over the years – this one is a panorama of the city of Tbilisi, Georgia. It’s an amazing town – ancient and modern, and at the time this photo was taken, baking at about 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

a panoramic view of the city of Tbilisi, Georgia

The statue barely visible in the distance is the goddess of Tbilisi; she greets you with a cup of wine, if you are a friend. The sword, if you are not. (click to embiggen)

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Jan 08

Wearable Media: T-Shirts, Hats & Wristbands

Posted: under Amusing Nonsense, Digital Migration, Video, Viral Fame, visual storytelling.
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Video Everywhere Comes to Our Clothing

I guess it was inevitable.

Back in the 80s, hip designers realized that consumers were willing to become walking billboards for their product logos, all for the sweet, sweet tradeoff of being able to flaunt our ability to buy outrageously overpriced clothing. Slap a big ol’ logo or even just the name onto a t-shirt, mark it up 3000%, and the nouveau riche (but inwardly crippled by insecurity & self-loathing) will fork over fat wads of cash to be able to demonstrate their affluence. And so Guess, Armani, Jordache (remember them?), Dolce & Gabbana and Nike all slapped their logos on otherwise ordinary mass-produced items, and watched their profits soar.

First, from T-Post, an interesting little take on spreading the news, via clothing. These funky designs have actual stories that you can read on the back.

tshirts that double as magazines

These t-shirts will at least keep the person waiting behind you in line at Starbucks well-informed.

I can see a real use for this kind of thing in places like Egypt, Syria, Russia, China — places where the government not only has censored the TV/radio stations, padlocked the printing plants, but DDoS’d the internet and shut down the cellphone grid. In places like that, just having a few people walk through the crowd as passive human billboards, with the latest information on their bodies, is a helluva tool to spread information.

Upside: It radically boosts your revolutionary chic.

Downside: It makes you a target for camel-riding truncheon-wielders.

Next up is a nifty little device that plays a programmable video loop, and that can be fashioned into clothing or attached to microphones to play sponsor’s messages during interviews before, during, or after big events.

It’s called VideoNameTag, and I took a demo unit with me to Kiev, when I taught a group of journalists and professors at the University of Mohyla’s Institute for the Digital Future of Journalism. You can see them puzzling over how to fit it onto their wrists – although they were certainly interested in the prospect of being able to broadcast the latest news via wireless connection to a couple of people walking through crowds.

 

They’re gearing up for an especially contentious election season in Ukraine this year; one where the pro-Putin crew is already pulling out all the stops to keep a lid on dissent. Not sure how much something like this could help – but then again, having a person walking through the crowd and playing a loop, such as the famous sequence showing the death of Iranian protestor Neda Soltan – could provide a form of information dissemination that would transcend the attempts at censorship.

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