links for 2008-09-16

Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 1: Human Nature

NOTE: This is part 1 of a multipart series. More to come over the next few days. See Part 2.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

If you want to strengthen communities, it helps to ask: What defines a community, really? Is it mostly a matter of “where” (geography)?

Last week I got into an interesting discussion with some folks at the Knight Foundation and elsewhere about whether “local” is the only (or most important) defining characteristic of a community. This was sparked by an event held last week by the new Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy — an effort to recommend both public and private measures that would help US communities better meet their information needs.

From the time I first heard of this project, I thought it was an excellent idea. It bothers me deeply that many (perhaps most) Americans routinely “tune out” to issues of law, regulation, and government that not only affect them, but also that they can influence — at least to some extent. (I say this fully aware that I often fall into the “democratically tuned out” category on several fronts.)

The problem then becomes, of course, that when citizens don’t participate, their interests are easy to ignore or trample.

Why do so many Americans abdicate their power as citizens in a democracy? It seems to me that many are too quick to “blame the victim,” pointing to widespread apathy, ignorance, or a prevailing sense of helplessness as common democracy cop-outs.

I think there’s a different answer: The way our democracy attempts to engage citizens actively opposes human nature. That is, it just doesn’t mesh well with how human beings function cognitively or emotionally.

Fighting human nature is almost always a losing battle — especially if you want people to participate and cooperate….

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links for 2008-09-14

links for 2008-09-13

  • "My observations at metropolitan daily newspapers lead me to believe that we are poised right at the cusp of developing a more productive relationship between business and editorial departments, but workplace routines and traditions – especially those that are well-intentioned and rooted in core values, even if they don’t ultimately serve those core values very well — are hard to break down."
  • "I guess researchers and/or some of the press have not figured out that if you want to report on science that uses a map, you need to have a map! The news is a report, "The Geography Of Personality; A Theory of the Emergence, Persistence and Expression of Geographic Variation in Basic Traits" currently running in Perspectives On Psychological Science. You can read the abstract free but the article requires a fee. Thus, I don't know if the article provides a map or not. But wait, McCLatchy Newspapers did the work. That organization provides an interactive Flash-based map built on the findings."
  • A competitor to Swype — writing on touchscreen by dragging finger across keyboard, rather than touchng letters. I have the earlier version of this app on my iPhone. "ShapeWriter WritingPad is temporarily unavailable in the App Store/iTunes. However an improved version 1.0.4 has been submitted and is currently
    in review status so it should become available shortly in the App Store."
    We appreciate your patience.
  • Another way to type on a touchscreen. Interesting.

Local: Just One Set of Ripples on the Lake of News and Information

Clearly Ambiguous, via Flickr (CC license)
Local is just one set of ripples on the lake of news and information.

UPDATE SEPT. 15: I’ve launched a new series fleshing out this discussion. See Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 1: Human Nature

When it comes to information that helps people function better as citizens in a democracy, how important is local, really?

Geographically defined local communities are the focus of the new Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. Earlier this week, I posted this comment (and this one) on the Commission’s blog questioning the Commission’s assumption that community = local.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that Knight is trying to determine what kinds of information people really need to function as citizens today. I agree that’s a crucial line of inquiry these days. However, I’m concerned that by assuming those needs are inherently tied to “local,” the commission could miss a very important (perhaps the most important) part of what “community” really means to people today.

I was honored to see this very thoughtful response to my comment from Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. He made several good points, including this excerpt…
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links for 2008-09-12

  • "People who are actively building (or thinking about building) the news sites and journalistic organizations of the future might want to think their way around these concepts. You'll notice that not everything described here is purely journalistic. As reporters and editors across America are being reminded in 2008, journalism doesn't take place in a vacuum. Many of these coordinates are focused on the context in which journalism will occur, as well as how to sustain it.

    "So here's the drill: We're posting the draft here this evening for your feedback tonight and Tuesday, leading up to publication of a more formal draft at PressThink, where we'll be seeking more comment and continual improvement (Coordinate 07.01). And so on."

  • "Ask500People is introducing demographic polling: poll for results by gender, age, location, team, education. That is huge, and definitely something you can’t do with a casual poll on Twitter. Knowing this level of details for an answer to your question is valuable information, and seeing it visually represented is even better."
  • Google "allied with John Malone’s Liberty Global and banking giant HSBC to form O3b Networks, a reference to the “other 3 billion” people to which it hopes to provide Internet access. Together, the three companies are investing $750 million in 16 low-earth orbit satellites that collectively will provide Internet back-haul capacity to areas that lack it. This additional capacity will make it substantially easier and less expensive for others to deliver high-speed Web access to underserved locations."
  • "O3b Networks Ltd. today announced it will begin deployment of a new global communications infrastructure to provide high-speed, low-cost Internet connectivity to emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.

    "Backed with financial and operational support from Google Inc., Liberty Global, Inc. and HSBC Principal Investments, the new system will reduce bandwidth costs for telecommunications operators (telcos) and Internet service providers (ISPs), enabling cost-effective voice and broadband services at speeds equivalent to those enjoyed in the developed world."

  • Exec Summary: "Serious gaming, or the use of games and gaming dynamics for non-entertainment purposes, is poised to take off thanks to the rise of Technology Populism, the greening of IT, and the emergence of the Millennials. Opportunity comes from many sectors, but competition comes from a hodgepodge of companies, including IBM and Microsoft. To achieve widespread adoption, the industry must deal with five issues: 1) what games should be called; 2) how slick the presentation should be; 3) how users should interface with the games; 4) how to determine ROI; and 5) determining if the technology has any limitations. Clearing these hurdles will open the door for revolutionary uses of games, but getting from here to there will require patience and guidance on the part of serious games vendors."
  • "Since unveiling the makeover seven weeks ago, Facebook had left it up to users to decide whether they wanted to switch over. If they didn't like what they saw, the converts could just click on a link to switch back to the old format.

    "But that option will be taken away from all users by the end of the week, a shift that Zuckerberg already knows will alienate some of Facebook's audience and raise the risk of driving more traffic to rival social networks like MySpace and Bebo.

  • "The Forrester report argues that serious games are “poised to take off” in the next seven years. Why?

    "Forrester cites the “green revolution,” which is pushing major corporations like IBM and SAP to experiment with virtual world technology as a way of saving on energy and operational costs, as well as the pervasive popularity of technology, especially among the Net-savvy Generation Y: “This comfort with virtualized workspaces has opened the door for the use of video games to help reduce long-term expenses in other cost centers, like training, learning, and team building,” the report reads. (Forrester’s authors distinguish persistent virtual worlds like Second Life from serious games, which are developed for specific goals in a limited time frame.)

  • "Google has also insisted that it will move ahead with the Yahoo deal–which was struck as a parry to Microsoft’s attempt to buy Yahoo and is set to begin next month–no matter what. I actually believe Google execs when they say this because they have shown a strong streak of stubbornness on controversial issues–witness the company not backing down from the Viacom lawsuit–about which they believe they are in the right."
  • "Go big or go small. That's the question facing lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice investigating Google. Sources who have provided testimony to the government say a departmental debate revolves around whether antitrust regulators should challenge Google's proposed revenue-sharing deal with Yahoo, or go for the whole enchilada–and haul Google into court on broader charges related to its dominance in search advertising."
  • "Marco Boerries, executive vice president of Yahoo's Connected Life division, said its oneConnect service, a social address service that marries a cell phone contacts list with social networks, is premiering on the iPhone and iPod Touch. The service, which is available now in the Apple App Store, allows users to pull their friends and contacts together into one application, enabling them to communicate via instant messaging, e-mail, text messaging or phone. The application also lets users get updates and check in on their friends across a variety of social-networking sites, from Facebook and MySpace to Bebo and Twitter.

    "Yahoo also is expanding a new development language to help developers build applications easily for mobile phones. Using a language called Blueprint, which Yahoo took five years to build, developers can create applications and Web sites at once that will run on a variety of operating systems and devices.

  • This NRDC magazine now has a citizen journalism section

links for 2008-09-11

links for 2008-09-04

iPhone Copy & Paste Tease…

The more I use my iPhone, the more I just want to cry or scream at the lack of copy & paste functionality.

Last night I was on my way to the home of a new acquaintance for a Labor Day BBQ. I’d put his address in my calendar entry for the party, but hadn’t yet made an address book contact for him. Once on the road, I wanted to bring up his location on Google Maps on my iPhone. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I found that, unlike in the contacts database, you cannot click on the address in the location field of an iCal entry to map the location. ARGH!

So I had to open the calendar entry, quickly memorize the address in the “location” field, switch to the Maps application, and enter the address before I forgot it.

Dumb. Yes, I want calendar entry locations to click over to maps. But even more generally, I want iPhone cut and paste!

Then the universe began to tease me, cruel fiend that she is…

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