Doing my part to undermine Rick Santorum. You can too!

When you Google for "Santorum," this is the top search result. (Click to enlarge - but only if you're not too squeamish.) You can help keep this brilliant effort working.

It’s time to use my power for good.

Yesterday NPR reported on how the batshit crazy social conservative former US senator Rick Santorum is pulling ahead in Republican polls for the presidential race.

Santorum has always annoyed and amused me. But with this, he’s officially scaring me.

Today, Marketplace Tech Report reminded me about Rick Santorum’s Google problem — so I decided to take action.

So here I am linking to SpreadingSantorum.com, a Google bombing page that writer Dan Savage set up in 2003.

Furthermore I encourage everyone else to do likewise.  Especially if you’ve had your own web site or blog under its own domain name for several years. But even if your only online presence is via a third-party service like Facebook, WordPress.com, or Tumblr (where you don’t have your own domain), I still encourage you to post a link to SpreadingSantorum.com.

Talk about a long-term investment in search visibility that is REALLY paying off! Here’s how it works…

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I can haz Android root! And it was easy!

This morning I finally rooted my Droid Incredible! One-handed, even! (Dislocated finger hidden by massive splint.)

This morning, before I even had my tea, I finally jumped off a cliff I’d been avoiding: I rooted my Android phone (Droid Incredible).

I’ve had this phone for a year. Generally I like it, but the things I don’t like about it mostly seemed to be fixable if I rooted my phone.

Rooting means undoing the controls that the carrier and manufacturer place on how my phone operates…

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I don’t feel so bad about my e-mail inbox now (Or: tips for using e-mail well)

One of my favorite podcasts is Get It Done Guy, by Stever Robbins.

He just did a blog post that addresses one of the banes of my existence: e-mail overload. I hate e-mail for the purpose of sharing links, collaboration, coordination, or keeping up with tasks and project. But I can’t seem to wean from e-mail the people I need to connect with on that stuff. Everyone uses different tools and services to manage their own processes, and too often the lowest common denominator is e-mail.

In Inbox Zero and the Critical Mistake That Saps Productivity, Stever writes:

“I believe that an empty inbox just means you’ve ceded control of your thinking and priorities to everyone who emails you. They control the volume, order, and substance of your attention for the time you’re processing your email. It *feels good* to have an empty inbox, but it also feels good to gorge on Oreo ice cream cake. That doesn’t mean that Oreo ice cream cake is good for you, only that it feels good. Inbox Zero has the extra sugary bonus that since *some* email is an essential part of our job, it’s easy to believe (with no evidence at all) that therefore it’s useful to spend some time on *all* email.

“Rather than striving for inbox zero, I advocate learning to identify the truly relevant emails very, very quickly, with an absolute minimum of cognitive load or context switching.

Whew! I don’t feel so bad now about the nearly 1000 items in my Gmail inbox…

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What to do when your home wifi stops working and your broadband provider can’t fix it

People tend to take their home wifi for granted, like their electricity supply: it’s just supposed to be on. But unlike your power, if your wifi stops working, too often it’s up to YOU to diagnose and fix it.

I work at home and depend on broadband internet to make my living. This week I lost about two full working days because my broadband went out. My internet service provider (ISP), Comcast, was unable to get it working or even steer me in a useful direction, despite keeping me on the phone for hours and running lots of tests of the connection between their equipment and my equipment.

Were I not lucky enough to know a programmer with lots of networking experience who could spend time helping me investigate other possible points of failure, I’d be out of luck for home wifi right now — which would severely hinder my business and life.

Here’s what happened with my home wifi, and how I fixed it. Also here’s why ISPs need to do a much better job of helping residential customers diagnose possible network problems that lie beyond the narrow scope of the wires and modems they sell…

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Making links work for news: Mobile

As part of my research on mobile strategies for news, I subscribe to text alerts from several news organizations around the country. I do this from a cheap little Samsung Freeform candybar-style feature phone, so I can get a feel for what this experience is like for the vast majority of mobile users.

In general, this has been a pretty mixed experience…

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Yet another reason to make your site mobile-friendly: disability access

I just wrote this post for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC:

Got accessibility? Mobile-friendly sites also help disabled users

It was sparked by a new Pew report on problems that people with disabilities have with accessing the net. I found a couple of interesting twists.

1st: US DOJ has proposed new ADA regs for web sites, including “public accommodations” (hm, could include news sites?)

2nd: Making a site mobile-friendly goes a long way toward making it more accessible.

This subject is near and dear to my heart since one of my best friends, who is mostly blind, has faced significant struggles in getting access to services, information, education, and opportunities online and elsewhere. That has definitely hurt not only his quality of life, but his health. And he’s fairly tech-savvy! This is a problem that needs to be solved, and going mobile-friendly is one main way to start.

Media mending the vocabulary gap: Polyamory and the Boston Globe

Last weekend, the cover of the Boston Globe Sunday magazine featured a good story about a topic I know well: polyamory. In Love’s New Frontier, Globe writer Sandra Miller did a far better job explaining this approach to relationships than most mainstream publications do. No wide-eyed, mock-shock sensationalism.

As a polyamorous person, I was rather tickled that this topic got such prominent play. I figured: Cool! There goes a chunk of the vocabulary gap!

If you haven’t heard the term, polyamory means being open to having more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

Yes, I realize any new term sounds awkward until you get used to it. So: Get used to it. Because here’s what the vocabulary gap looks like to a poly person…

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Google Wave: I want it because I hate e-mail

I have come to loathe e-mail. Well, at least for coordination (like setting meetings) or collaboration (like working together on projects) or tasks (like answering people’s questions) or ongoing conversations (like discussion groups). I quickly get overwhelmed by all those separate messages, each of which requires a surprising amount of thought to place it in context and figure out what I’m supposed to DO with it.

It makes my brain hurt.

This video from EpipheoStudios.com nails exactly why I hate e-mail, and how Google Wave is trying to solve the problems of e-mail.

YouTube – What is Google Wave?.

I don’t know whether Google Wave will actually solve these problems. But dammit, at least they’re trying to tackle the problem. And they have the development power and user base to stand a chance of pulling it off.

A friend has sent me an invite. I haven’t received it yet. But when I do, I’ll give it a try. UPDATE: I just got my Google Wave invitation today! I’ll get a chance to play with it over the weekend. I expect it to be rough. (OK, everyone who’s whining about it: rough is what “alpha testing” is all about!) And hopefully I’ll start to glimpse an end to the e-mail madness.

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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Everyblock’s New Geocoding Fixes

Tech Cocktail Conference - 08.jpg
Adrian Holovaty. (Image by Additive Theory via Flickr)

Recently I wrote about how a Los Angeles Police Dept. geocoding data glitch yielded inaccurate crime maps at LAPDcrimemaps.org and the database-powered network of hyperlocal sites, Everyblock.

On Apr. 8, Everyblock founder Adrian Holovaty blogged about the two ways his company is addressing the problem of inaccurate geodata.

  1. Latitude/longitude crosschecking. “From now on, rather than relying blindly on our data sources’ longitude/latitude points, we cross-check those points with our own geocoding of the address provided. If the LAPD’s geocoding for a particular crime is significantly off from our own geocoder’s results, then we won’t geocode that crime at all, and we publish a note on the crime page that explains why a map isn’t available. (If you’re curious, we’re using 375 meters as our threshold. That is, if our own geocoder comes up with a point more than 375 meters away from the point that LAPD provides, then we won’t place the crime on a map, or on block/neighborhood pages.)
  2. Surfacing ungeocoded data. “Starting today, wherever we have aggregate charts by neighborhood, ZIP or other boundary, we include the number, and percentage, of records that couldn’t be geocoded. Each location chart has a new “Unknown” row that provides these figures. Note that technically this figure includes more than nongeocodable records — it also includes any records that were successfully geocoded but don’t lie in any neighborhood. For example, in our Philadelphia crime section, you can see that one percent of crime reports in the last 30 days are in an ‘unknown’ neighborhood; this means those 35 records either couldn’t be geocoded or lie outside any of the Philadelphia neighborhood boundaries that we’ve compiled.”

These strategies could — and probably should — be employed by any organization publishing online maps that rely on government or third-party geodata.

Holovaty’s post also includes a great plain-language explanation of what geodata really is and how it works in practical terms. This is the kind of information that constitutes journalism 101 in the online age.

(NOTE: I originally published this post in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

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