The intersection of science and science fiction: Future Tense podcast

The Australian Broadcasting Corp. produces an excellent weekly science podcast, called Future Tense.

I just listened to today’s episode, Future Sci-Fi, which is about the intersection of science and science fiction — how they’ve influenced each other. I’ve heard most of these anecdotes before, but nice to have them pulled together into a well-crafted narrative.

Worth a listen.

Covering police accountability at Oakland Local

Over at Oakland Local (a community news and views site I cofounded), I’m working with reporter Eric K. Arnold to cover police accountability — an important and touch topic in this town.

We’re approaching this from the perspective of empowering Oaklanders to be able to wield influence on how police operate in their neighborhoods. There’s been a lot of friction and violence, and community members have often felt powerless on this front.

So here’s what I’ve written so far on this topic:

Also, today Eric Arnold published an excellent overview of what Oakland’s Citizens Police Review Board is and how it works:

Much more to come on this front. Stay tuned!

Expect to see more of this: How energy production affects water supply

Expect to see more of this trend, especially in arid states: Renewable energy being positioned as a water conservation issue. It’s a pretty important angle:

New report puts a price on water used to generate electricity in Colorado | Colorado Independent.

On a related note, a blog post this month on Harvard Business Review explores: Is Water the Next Carbon?

Definitely one to watch.

Exploding some common myths about the role of feature phones in the mobile media market

Yesterday I noted that on, Damon Kiesow picked up on my call for news organizations to pay more attention to feature phones in their mobile strategies.

See: News publishers need to reach the 74% of Americans on feature phones

But some of comments from journalists who read that story indicate some pretty common misunderstandings that people in the media business often have concerning feature phones.

I’m not faulting my colleagues for these misunderstandings. It’s understandable — they’re as drenched in smartphone/tablet hype as anyone who gets tech news. So I hope no one takes this post as disrespect.

However, since news orgs ostensibly have a mission to serve their entire communities (not just the people who can afford high-end mobile devices), and since advertising and similar revenue models generally work better when you reach more people., I thought I’d point out and clear up some of these feature phone fallacies…

Continue reading

Regional news startup MinnPost turns first-ever profit

Over at the Knight Digital Media Center at USC site today, I wrote about how MinnPost reports first surplus, diverse revenue sources are key.

I thought it was especially interesting to read into their annual report. It’s a good example of how news startups, especially those with a geographic focus, need to explore several possible revenue streams. The good thing about the nonprofit model is, I think, it gives you more options to take in revenue.

Good job, MinnPost!

Mobile innovation must embrace low and high end of mobile technology

In my latest CNN Tech mobile blog post, New Facebook app shows why feature phones still matter, I wrote about how smart a business strategy it is to provide compelling mobile offerings that play nice with feature phones.

Granted, the new Facebook app is aimed at markets in the developing world. But way before it launched this app, Facebook offered a pretty decent lean mobile site, This is a company that knows how to go where the people are — and most of its potential mobile users are on feature phones, in the US and around the world.

At the end of this post, I note:

In the big picture, turning a blind eye toward the technology choices of the majority of mobile users is unlikely to spur the most useful and constructive innovation. That’s why the current myopic hyperfocus on smartphones and tablets is starting to feel a bit like steering from the side-view mirrors.

I suspect that in the coming decade, the most innovative and influential mobile developments will embrace devices all across the mobile technology spectrum. Also, ventures that continue to focus solely on the highest-end devices may start losing ground.

There will always be a low end of mobile tech, and it will always matter. Facebook and Twitter — as well as Nokia, LG, Samsung, and many other players


The unwieldy iPad: It just doesn’t fit in my life, either

Earlier this week on GigaOm, Kevin C. Tofel voiced a conclusion I reached last year, after I tried out an iPad for a month: Tablets are definitely not one-size-fits-all. I, too, expect my mobile devices to be truly mobile by being easily portable — and the size and weight of the iPad doesn’t work for me.


The Tab is roughly the same size as, but thicker than Amazon’s Kindle, which ironically I sold when I got my iPad. Prior to iPad ownership, my Kindle would go everywhere with me because of its small size, light weight, stellar battery life and integrated connectivity. And I do mean everywhere: the device would fit in my jacket pocket or could be thrown — figuratively, not literally — in the car or in a gear bag. The Galaxy Tab offers me that same level of portability, while the iPad doesn’t.

Read: Why I Just Dumped the iPad (Hint: Size Matters)

…What’s intriguing for me, since I blog for CNN Tech, is the overall civility and engagement expressed in the comments here. Yes, there are a few fanboys and flamers, but generally it’s pretty civil — and Tofel is participating constructively.

Meanwhile, on CNN, I’m sure that a post which critiqued such a popular product would have generated an immediate torrent of vicious personal slurs — toward the author, and toward other commenters. And if the author was female, the sexual innuendo and sexist comments would be out in force.

I’m not knocking CNN Tech. I’m just saying it’s interesting to see the cultural difference from one venue to another.

Hat tip to Steve Yelvington for pointing to the GigaOm article.

Why everything is “technology”

A couple of podcasts I listened to recently reminded me that, in a sense, everything is technology. Including your house. Including your eyes.

Give these a listen and you’ll see what I mean:

links for 2011-01-24

  • "In general, I think David hit it on the head when he said that at many schools, the journalism that students produce is “museum work.” It is work that is produced in a vacuum, only to be read and seen by the professors, students and sources.In the last 5 years, journalism schools have taken a step in showcasing student work on their websites, and in some cases, like my experience at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, producing entire websites or in-depth web projects. Students are progressively able to learn to produce for the web and the web, learning multimedia and social media skills. At Columbia, almost every class had a dedicated website that either covered a neighborhood or specific topic. The problem is few people actually visited these websites because of a lack of outreach or as soon as they gained momentum they were killed off at the end of class."
  • By helping to free our local data, by re-inventing themselves as local data hubs, and by working with local businesses and local voluntary organizations, city newspapers could be part of the new conversation. They could then face the future a little more optimistically. 
    Let’s be honest. They don’t have much left to lose. 
  • "A medium has a niche. A sitcom works better on TV than in a newspaper, but a 10,000 word investigative piece about a civic issue works better in a newspaper.
    When it arrived the web seemed to fill all of those niches at once. The web was surprisingly good at emulating a TV, a newspaper, a book, or a radio. Which meant that people expected it to answer the questions of each medium, and with the promise of advertising revenue as incentive, web developers set out to provide those answers. As a result, people in the newspaper industry saw the web as a newspaper. People in TV saw the web as TV, and people in book publishing saw it as a weird kind of potential book. But the web is not just some kind of magic all-absorbing meta-medium. It's its own thing. And like other media it has a question that it answers better than any other. That question is:
    Why wasn't I consulted?"
  • Every day, I run into stories that might as well include these promotional bullet points:Please go to Google to find the web site of the company I mentioned in this article.Please go to Google to that report cited in this article.


  • "This phenomenon of private equity and bank owners asserting their controlling stakes in news companies has been little discussed publicly. In part, that’s because the new owners have been largely silent; one journalist expressed dismay today when he went to the Alden site, and found a single page. To get into the site, you need a client log-on.

    Several years into their new ownership, we’re seeing increasing impatience among the new owners with the old leadership. A growing conventional wisdom among them: too many newspaper CEOs just aren’t moving faster enough to grasp the mostly digital, multi-platform future. In fact, some of the new owners are meeting directly, without company leadership, with technology players who are offering shortcuts to the digital future. That’s one sign of the impatience.Another is the replacement of leadership, today Singleton and Lodovic, with new talent.

  • fascinating podcast on the evolution of a new way for people to transfer money where they don't have good access to banking.
  • Computer code is not yet art, but it could be.  At RailsConf 2010, Neal Ford discusses aesthetics, constraints, creativity, and why the Ruby on Rails community is closer to art than other programming communities.
    Code differs from art in that art is ambiguous, while code can't be.  Painting became more artistic when photography eliminated the need for realistic painting. Code must always compile and execute to be worthwhile.  Some of his characteristics for art are that it demonstrate expertise, that it's for enjoyment's sake, that it has a recognizable style, and that it has a special focus outside of ordinary life.  People in the Rails community have creative drive, recognition of excellence, and a distinct style, which makes them closest to realizing this idea of code as art.
  • "A  friend of mine has a favorite one-liner he likes to tell: "What is the perfect day for Mubarak? A day when nothing happens." Egypt's status-quo-oriented president doesn't like change, but his Groundhog Day fantasy weighs heavily on Egyptians. Mubarak has survived assassination attempts and complicated surgery. After he spent most of the spring of 2010 convalescing, everyone in Cairo from taxi drivers to politicians to foreign spies was convinced it was a matter of weeks. And yet he recovered, apparently with every intention of running for a sixth term in September. Egypt's prolific jesters, with their long tradition of poking fun at the powerful, might be running out of material."
  • "Many of Twitter’s trending topics have been fueled by black tweets. Coley has been responsible for several (hash)youcantbeuglyand and (hash)dumbthingspeoplesay also sprang from his iPhone. He has a desktop computer at home, which he used to apply for his supermarket job. But he uses his phone for 80 percent of his online activity, which is usually watching hip-hop and comedy videos or looking for sneakers on eBay.
    This trend is alarming to Anjuan Simmons, a black engineer and technology consultant who blogs, tweets and uses Facebook “more than my wife would like.” He hopes that blacks and Latinos will use their increased Web access to create content, not just consume it.:"
  • I'm glad to hear this, since SoundCloud is the closest thing we have for YouTube for audio.
  • "Mac Tonnies’s digital afterlife stands as a kind of best-case scenario for preserving something of an online life, but even his case hasn’t worked out perfectly. His “Pro” account on the photo-sharing service Flickr allowed him to upload many — possibly thousands — of images. But since that account has lapsed, the vast majority can no longer be viewed. Some were likely gathered in Plattner’s backup of Tonnies’s blog; others may exist somewhere on his laptop, though Dana Tonnies still isn’t sure where to look for them. All could be restored if Tonnies’s “Pro” account were renewed. But there’s no way to do that — or to delete the account, for that matter: no one has the password Tonnies used with Flickr, which is owned by Yahoo."
  • "GroupMe's biggest advantage is the so-called "normal factor." While companies like Foursquare have to sell users on the benefits of sharing their location, and Twitter took years to convince the world that tweeting is useful for things beyond broadcasting your breakfast choices, group text messaging isn't such foreign concept. Users don't even need smartphones to do it.

    "For some people who don't really understand Twitter or the concept of a status update, they do understand conversing with their friends or conversing with the families," Martocci says.

  • Great to see African bands getting high-profile US MSM exposure 🙂
    (tags: africa music)
  • Poynter listed me as one of the 35 top social media influencers. Cool!