I’m not alone in this: reflections on social media and digital connection

Social media, digital communication channels, and cell phones often get accused of alienating people, enabling bullies, and breaking down the human ties which are the foundation of society.

Bullshit. Personally, I am far happier on a day-to-day basis thanks to these technological tools. They have added considerable love, meaning, joy, and value to my life. With their help, I’ve been able to offer nurturing and support to far more people I care about than ever would have been possible otherwise.

So I wasn’t surprised when a recent Pew study found that 85% of adult who use social networking sites say that people are mostly kind. Also, 68% reported they’d had a experience on social media that made them feel good about themselves, and 61% had experiences that made them feel closer to another person.

I know I’m not alone in this…

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Mea culpa: I can’t be an off-duty journalist

Is a journalist ever off-duty? I tend to think not — and yesterday I feel like I neglected my duty. It’s bugging me.

It was Memorial Day, I decided to go for a long bike ride to see the beach at Alameda. I needed the exercise, and the weather was perfect. I was enjoying myself greatly — but as I was biking back along Crown Beach in Alameda, I saw police, firefighters, and onlookers gathered. I asked what was happening, and they told me that a man was stranded offshore. A firefighter pointed out into the water, and I could see a head bobbing above the waves, about 150 feet out.

“It’s shallow out there, he’s standing,” said the firefighter. And indeed, the man didn’t seem to be struggling. But he wasn’t waving or shouting for help, either.

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Why unlimited smartphone data plans will probably vanish

In my latest CNN Tech mobile blog post, I riffed on the recent mixed signals Verizon and AT&T have been sending about whether they would offer unlimited data plans for the iPhone. But unlimited data plans may not be around long for any smartphone (or tablet, or mifi device, etc.), simply because of the difficulty of managing a growing proliferation of data-hungry mobile devices on wireless broadband networks.

See: Unlimited data for the iPhone? Don’t bet on it long term

Just after I filed that story, I noticed a relevant Jan. 25 post by Kevin Fitchard on Connected Planet:

Will bill shock be the death of tiered data plans, or the other way around?

Some key exerpts… Continue reading

It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Kara Andrade prepares to head to Guatemala

Last night, I attended the Hasta Luego party for my friend Kara Andrade, who won a Fulbright and so later this week is heading to Guatemala with her partner Brad for about a year. She’ll be starting a new citizen journalism venture there. I’ll be following her progress on her blog and via Twitter. Here she shares what freaks her out the most about this adventure.

Managing tasks, managing emotions: Don’t panic!

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: Top of a brilliant, too-accurate pyramid infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net

Hierarchy of Digital Distractions: Top of a brilliant, too-accurate pyramid infographic by InformationIsBeautiful.net

Productivity and task management seem like strictly practical issues, but in fact they’re deeply emotional. That’s what David Allen describes at in the first chapter of Getting Things Done, when he talks about the sense of calmness instilled by having a mind like water.

It seems to me that tuning into and recognizing your own feelings (especially hope, shame, relief, and fear) is THE crucial first step for figuring out what to do, getting stuff done, and letting stuff go. That’s what I’ve been working on today. Here is a little background, and some thoughts and lessons on this theme…

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Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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Failure as Taboo: My She’s Geeky Tweets Part 2

Back in January I attended — and live-tweeted — the She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA. Very slowly, I’ve been mulling over what I tweeted from there. Especially from Susan Mernit’s Jan. 31 session on that taboo of taboos, especially for women in business and tech: discussing and dealing with failure.

(For more context on failure, see this consummate resource.)

NOTE: This is part of a series based on my live tweets from At last weekend’s She’s Geeky unconference in Mountain View, CA.

Series index

Perhaps more than any other She’s Geeky session, this one resonated with me. Right now, I’m in the process of ending my marriage, relocating from a community I’ve loved and called home for nearly 14 years, entering midlife, and dealing with much emotional backlog that has accumulated while I’ve kept busy busy busy for so many years.

That’s a lot of stuff to handle, on top of work and ordinary life. Frankly, it’s been hard for me to admit to myself — let alone anyone else — that because of all these issues I am not currently operating at the 1000% (not a typo) level I typically expect of myself, and often deliver.

So first, here are my tweets from this session, followed by some results of my mulling on this. Note that I deliberately did NOT identify speakers, except for prompting questions by Susan Mernit. Discussing failure leaves people vulnerable, and the attendees of this session agreed to make it a safe space. Everything appearing in quotes below is from an attendee…

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Zombie signs & how public officials can act human

Run for your lives!  Zombies want to eat your brain!

…Gotta admit, I was tickled to hear on MSNBC and elsewhere about this bit of creative hackery:

TX DOT was not amused... But I was...

TX DOT was not amused... But I was... (Photo courtesy Lucas Cobb)

In Austin, KXAN reported:

“[Austin Public Works spokesperson] Sara Hartley said though it was a locked sign, the padlock for it was cut. Signs such as these have a computer inside that is password-protected. ‘And so they had to break in and hack into the computer to do it, so they were pretty determined.'”

OK, yeah, I know there’s a serious potential public safety issue here. Apparently the Austin police are trying to catch the sign hackers, who may face a class C misdemeanor charge.

But I think Queer Cincinnati nailed the opportunity here for public officials to turn this to their advantage by responding with a sense of humor:

“Does anyone else think, perhaps, the PD should have just taken it as the joke it was, and posted ‘Zombie Threat Eliminated, Road Construction Ahead’? I think that would have shown a great, human side to the government. And we wouldn’t have these silly threats to go after college pranksters.”

Amen! After all, as Queer Cincinnati also noted, instructions on how to hack road signs have been posted on Neatorama and elsewhere. This is definitely going to keep happening. Probably responding with humor — while improving security of road signs — would generate the most public goodwill.

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