Blog It! – Blogging and Journalism

Are bloggers journalists? Some are. Not every blogger is a journalist, and not every journalist is a blogger. I’m here, blogging, and I’m nowhere near being a journalist. But, some are. Bloggers have been responsible for breaking and carrying news stories that have resulted in senators losing their jobs and possibly changing the course of a presidential election. Good or bad. In my opinion, good. I don’t think that you need the distinction of a fancy corporation backing you and a fancy paycheck to want to find and report the news. If your only medium to do so is a blog, so be it. I think that if you are a serious citizen journalist, blogging, you should have the same rights and protections as a regular journalist. You’re doing the same job, with more dangers sometimes.

Scenario One: A reporter for a major newspaper reports, using anonymous sources, on a falsified government document. When the government agency attempts to force him to reveal his source, he refuses, and is protected by a “shield law” that he does not have to reveal those sources. A blogger breaks the exact same story at the exact same time. Should he receive the same protection? I believe that he should. Just because he doesn’t have the backing of a major media outlet doesn’t make him any different in this case. I don’t think that my answer would change if it was revealed that the blogger had been running a news and politics blog for years. Also I don’t think that the situation would change if they’d never posted a news story before but had stumbled onto this one. The end result is the same. They broke the story, with an anonymous source, and deserve to be protected.

Scenario Two: A blogger applies to receive press credentials so he can get into a political event. He is denied, because he’s not a “journalist,” even though many reporters are allowed in who have fewer readers than the blogger. Is that fair? In my opinion, no. If the blogger reports legitimately on news topics, regardless of the fact it is on a blog, and not backed by a newspaper, they should be allowed to apply for press credentials. Now, if they write a cooking blog, no. Would it matter if, instead of news bloggers and newspaper reporters the same situation arose at a fashion show with a writer for a fashion magazine and a fashion blogger? Nope. I still think that if the blogger can prove that they consistently write a fashion blog, they should be able to apply to get in. They are reporting the same information, sometimes faster than that fashion magazine writer, and sometimes to a wider and more diverse audience.

I don’t think that every blogger in the world is a legitimate journalist, and they shouldn’t all get the rights of genuine “journalists”, but in some cases, they are doing the same job, and don’t even have the benefit of pay. They are, in the truest sense of the word, amateurs. Reporting for the love of reporting.

Cognitive Surplus – Chapter 2

Means

 

FaceBook is taking over our lives.

No really. Everyone has it. I haven’t met anyone in ages where the question “Do you have a FaceBook?” was met with a negative response. We log on and read it multiple times a day. We’re more involved in other people’s business than our own. Shirky puts forth the idea that the separation between “cyberspace” and the “real world” is becoming increasingly irrelevant. And you know what? He’s right. I know more about people from high school I haven’t seen in 19 years than I do about my brother. They’re right there. Every day. Telling me how their day went. About their new cat. About the car wreck they were in, and a reason for every day in November that they’re thankful to be alive, and what they’re thankful for. I’m pretty sure my brother still works at Trademark, but I can’t be 100% sure. I’m sure I’ll find out at Christmas.

According to Shirky, we are in the midst of another printing revolution. Where the first printing revolution came about with movable type, enabling quick and easy printing on a massive scale, this new printing revolution is more about “the shock of the inclusion of amateurs as producers”. In other words, the explosion of self publishing that has come about in the past few years. Media has become not just something we consume, but something we contribute to, we help produce it. Shirky says we live in a culture of “abundance” rather than “scarcity”. Growing up we had 4 channels. 2, 4, 9, and 11. And for our intents and purposes, channel 4 didn’t exist. Most of the time, we watched channel 9. PBS. Now you can get basic cable, and instantly have 100+ channels. Never mind getting something beyond basic. I personally have 600+ channels, and a DVR. And I don’t watch TV except for the occasional movie or DVR’ed show. 4 channels vs 600+. It’s staggering to think about. Books are much the same way. Musical CDs are released at an exponential rate. I remember walking to Peaches with my dad to look at vinyl, and them having 3 rows of albums. 3 rows. Now you can walk into a large music store like Virgin, and see thousands upon thousands of different CDs. On one level. Then go upstairs. There is so much more out there now that it’s almost impossible to see or hear it all.

Today has become a culture of more, more, more, now, now, now. Citizen reporters  and journalists have help feed that need for more, right now. The London subway bombings are one example. The riots in Egypt are another. While I appreciate news from a fresh perspective, when I want to find out the news, I will still typically check something like CNN.com. While they have iReport, and citizen reporting, I find that those reports tend to have a definite slant to their point of view rather than just reporting the news. Sometimes they’re a good thing, especially when they have footage that hasn’t hit the wire yet, but I still tend to prefer a professionally written story that has done their fact checking. But if I hear through the grapevine about something, I’m going to start peeking at that iReport section. Or even just use Google and see who’s blogged about it.

Blog it! Feed Readers

I’ve known the purpose of feed readers for quite some time but had never signed up for one in particular. I use an app on my iPad that acts as a newsreader called FlipBook. I think I almost prefer it over the Google Reader, and I like the Google Reader quite a bit.

It was interesting visiting some of my favorite web pages and seeing which ones offer RSS feed options, and which have blogs and don’t. It was kind of surprising, honestly. One site I visit with great regularity, and which pulls together feeds from several pages does NOT offer the option to RSS feed off of them.

I also found it interesting that I created the Google Reader account, and then did the upgrade to Google+ and didn’t link to any of my friends and family, and one found me anyway. Silly Elliott…

Cognitive Surplus – Chapter 1

Gin, Television, and Cognitive Surplus

Are the LOLcats the savior of our collective consciousness? Maybe not, but they’re close…

I wasn’t sure what to think when I started this book, other than the fact that I hoped it was good, seeing as how Barnes & Noble took so long to get it to me. What I’ve found so far is that I really like how insightful Clay Shirky is.

This chapter begins by discussing how we as a species tend to over-consume as a by-product to times of stress. In the early 1800’s, the population explosion in London was so pronounced, and the overall stress of the time was so high, that gin became the release of the masses. From the hard working blue collar on the corner up to high society. Being in such a gross population boom, society didn’t know what to do with itself and compensated with an over-indulgence in cheap, easy to acquire, gin. Fast forward 150 years, and we reach another milestone. A television in every home. Unlike radio where you could continue on with what you were doing while listening, the TV requires your undivided attention to consume it. You have to watch or you’ll miss something. For 50+ years we’ve been glued to the boob tube, avidly consuming, because “the man” has managed to convince us that we need to. We have to. “Must-see-TV”. Prime Time. Entire corporations built around how many viewers you’ve got. The sheer amount of time that we, as a species, spends glued to the TV set is astounding. This “free” time, is being consumed, and has begun to cost us. What Shirky proposes is that we take back some of that time, to the tune of billions of hours collectively, and use it. That time, a cognitive surplus, would be to change media, to make us creators instead of just consumers.

How are we to do that? We already are, according to Shirky. The bottom of the creative barrel? Lolcats. The friendly, wonderful, fuzzy, opinionated hairballs at http://www.icanhascheezburger.com. Because of how we participate with LOLcats, creating instead of just consuming, rather than the LOLcats being the ugly stepsister of the Cartoon Network, the Cartoon Network becomes the ugly stepsister of the LOLcats. How did these vacuous felines become better than broadcast television, drawn by talented cartoonists, voice acted by fantastic actors? Because we as a people are creating, sharing, and building it ourselves. LOLcats, Shirky says, instill a feeling of “I can do that too”. So now we don’t just have to sit and watch what someone else has created. We get to go and make our own. In the space of about 2 minutes, you too can go and choose a picture, insert a pithy phrase, misspelled or not, save it, and POOF, you’ve become a part of the creative flow of the internet. Now go to your FaceBook and share it to all your friends. POOF, now you’ve become a part of Web 2.0, where your friends can share it, and their friends, and their friends, and somewhere down the line, you’re going to see your picture come back, shared by someone you’ve never heard of, with thousands of “likes”. Wow.

Personally, I stopped watching TV years ago. It was kind of a gradual thing over a period of years. It became something more permanent when I read a poll that said that most Americans cared more about voting on American Idol than they did for who they wanted to be President. Then I just walked away. If I were to break it down into a timeline it would probably look something like this:

1995: Didn’t have cable, and local television sucked. Watched movies on tape.

1996: Moved to Germany. Only had access to German MTV. Watched rented movies sometimes.

1997: Moved back to the US. Didn’t have a TV to call my own. Didn’t really miss it.

1998: Got a TV again. Really only watched movie channels if I watched at all.

1999: Got a WebTV. Vacillated between watching tapes or surfing the limited internet.

2000: Moved back to Germany. Had a TV, but only Germany MTV. Watched tapes and DVD rarely.

2001: Still in Germany. Cable is shut off by landlord. DVDs sometimes.

2002: Got a computer. Watched a DVD once in a blue moon.

2003: Still on the computer. DVDs on a portable player near the computer. Sometimes.

2004: Moved back to the states. No TV in my room. Sister is an avid TV watcher. I find that commercials leave a very bitter taste in my mouth and start avoiding broadcast TV. 2004 election and the massive amount of mudslinging in the campaigns cements the dislike. I stop watching broadcast TV entirely.

Fast-forward to now. I watch 3 shows. All of which are DVR’ed. All of which I fast-forward through commercials. Most of the time, I forget to watch them until weeks later, and then have to play catch up. I watch a DVD once in a blue moon, and I play on my computer, or read, or do homework, or attempt to sleep. I don’t miss TV. I haven’t for a very long time. Honestly, I have better things to do with my time. I occasionally will post in an online forum for World of Warcraft (also known as WoW), but generally, I spend most of my time online for school. When I don’t have school, I will either play WoW, spend time with my girlfriend, or do something else constructive. I used to think I didn’t have time for hobbies. Now I find that I can make things in the space of a few days, and I feel better for it. I may post a picture on FaceBook occasionally about it.

Maybe you’ll see it someday.

And like it.

And share it.

And maybe one day I’ll see it in my news stream.

grumpy-cat-says-no

No LOLcats were harmed in the creation of this image.

Blog It! Flickr & Diigo

So… tags.

Tags, tags, tags, tags, tags.

Flickr and Diigo share one very crucial thing. Tags. The ability to create tags and sort things by tags instead of folders is actually kind of ingenious. It makes it so much easier to look for things rather than trying to remember where in the 7 levels of Hell you put something. Drilling down through folder after folder, only to realize you’re in the wrong place. But tags….

Wow.

I had forgotten, but several years ago, Yahoo changed their blogging platform and photosharing platform and integrated them into a couple of other things. Time marches on, I have other things to think about, I forget about this. I had a Flickr. I HAVE a Flickr.

I found pictures I haven’t seen of my cat in 6 years.

I found pictures I haven’t seen of my former dog in 6 years.

I’m sitting here mostly speechless (Good thing I’m typing, eh?). I thought those pictures were gone. The fact that I just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Flickr is a good thing is kind of ironic. Will I keep using Flickr? Probably not on a very frequent basis, but you can bet I’ll be on there occasionally. Looking at pictures of my Keyser. Looking at pictures of my Sasha when she was tiny and vicious.

Diigo on the other hand… I’ve installed the Diigo bar.. and I can already see how useful it is. I’m not sure how often I’ll remember to use it, but already just having Facebook and UAF and Blackboard marked on there has been a boon.

 

Social Revolution?

Rioters in Egypt

So, for this assignment we were to read 3 articles.

1. Malcolm Gladwell: “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”

2. Clay Shirky: “The Political Power of Social Media”

3. Clay Shirky and Malcolm Gladwell: “From Innovation to Revolution: Do Social Media Make Protests Possible?”

Interesting stuff. I think they both have a point. I think that Gladwell is right that the lunch counter sit-ins would not have been as effectively wrought in our modern age with FaceBook and Twitter. I mean, when you have an option to go and you vote “Yes”, “No”, or “Maybe” and there is no way to check up on whether or not you actually did what you voted, you’re going to have less efficacy than word of mouth, or face to face interactions with people you KNOW.

At the same time, I honestly believe that the uprising in Egypt and the protests in the Philippines wouldn’t have been as effective or as far reaching without social media. The difference is that those 2 “socially driven revolutions” still had a basis in face to face interactions. Both places were physically affected by a bad situation, so there was more personal investment than your typical “Come to ___ and do ____” that you might find on FaceBook or Twitter.

Case in point: the personal investments in the 2001 Philippines protests…. or Boobquake on FaceBook. Yeah, you got a bunch of women to wear cleavage enhancing or revealing shirts for a day, but what is the social impact? Did the religious leader’s brain explode at the sheer level of scantily clad ta-tas? Did the earth in fact shake and tremble at our might? Did he recant anything he said and improve situations for women? Nope. And unfortunately that is probably one of the more popular and participated-in FaceBook random events. Most times, there is not as much personal investment in issues, and the participation is spotty.

So yeah, social media is useful, but you have to pick your battles.

Tunisia? Social media was useful.

Egypt? Definitely useful.

Boobquake? Not so much.

I think we need to be sure to pick the battles that social media will play a significant part in. Think of it like the boy that cried wolf. If we try to motivate every cause through FaceBook or Twitter, eventually people will stop paying attention, and that form of connectivity will be useless.

Blog It! Finding Blogs

So after a bit of searching, I found some blogs I enjoy. Some of them I actually read before this assignment! Whoa!

 

http://www.joystiq.com/

Gaming news! I usually go to this blog around the holiday event times on World of Warcraft. They have really awesome guides.

 

http://musicyouneed.net/

Music! Electronic Music! This blog looks awesome! It reviews new music and posts about new and awesome music. Me likey!

 

http://scifimafia.com/

The very latest in sci-fi entertainment news? Yes, please.