AVG: Kids are learning computer skills before life skills

From a recent AVG study:

“While we had a hunch that the skills of today’s 2-5 year olds would be very different to those of kids 20 to 30 years ago, we were surprised to find out just how much the childhood experience has evolved. According to our survey, while most small children can’t yet swim, tie their shoelaces or make breakfast on their own, they do know how to turn on a computer, point and click with a mouse, and play a computer game.

Take a look at some of the findings:

  • More young children know how to play a computer game (58%) than swim (20%) or ride a bike (52%)

  • 28% of young children can make a mobile phone call, but only 20% know to dial 911 in case of an emergency
  • 69% of children aged 2-5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoelaces
  • Perhaps the most important piece of data to come out of this survey: the fact that 69% of children aged 2-5 are using a computer in the first place.

It’s exciting and commendable that so many parents are teaching their children such valuable computer skills so early on—they will need these skills to succeed later in life, and perhaps increasingly, not so later in life.

Future of Journalism Webcast: My Twitter Coverage

On Oct. 28, the 100-year-old Christian Science Monitor sent shockwaves through the news business when it announced that in April 2009 it will switch from daily to weekly print publication, and invest more resources in its online operations. (Poynter coverage by Rick Edmonds.)

This set some pretty interesting context for the Future of Journalism panel discussion that the Monitor hosted last night in Boston. This session was webcast live. (Video will be available later today.) I watched it online and covered it via Twitter.

As I always do, I used my amylive account to provide this live coverage to over 200 people who specifically want it. That’s because my volume of live-coverage posts would tend to overwhelm the nearly 1400 people who follow me at agahran.

Several other Twitter users were also covering or discussing this event, including the Monitor, Jeff Cutler, Wayne Sutton, and Dave Poulson. Many of used the hashtag #CSMFOJ to make all of this easier to find.

Here’s my complete Twitter coverage of this event. I’m posting this as an experiment, to see if this kind of archiving helps me or others. What do you think? Please comment at the end — and bear in mind that posting this compilation is very different from the Twitter experience… Continue reading

Working with Journalists: What’s in It for Geeks?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, and there are some comments over there. I’m reposting this here because, frankly, this site poses fewer hurdles to commenters, and I’d like to get some diverse discussion happening.

Earlier this week I wrote about the internal and external obstacles journalism schools face when trying to achieve collaboration with other academic departments (such as computer science). That spurred a pretty interesting discussion in the comments.

This discussion got me thinking: Right now, it’s becoming obvious to many journalists that our field sorely needs lots of top-notch, creative technologists. Developers for whom software is a medium, and an art form. Developers with a deep passion for information, credibility, fairness, usefulness, and free speech.

However, my impression is that, so far, it’s not nearly so obvious to most “geeks” (and I use that term with the utmost affection and respect, as do many geeks themselves) how they might benefit from collaborating with journalists, j-schools, and news organizations.

So if journalists need geeks, but right now they don’t need (or even necessarily want) us as much, the question becomes: What’s in this for the geeks? Why might they want to work with us? Where’s their incentive?… Continue reading

Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 2: Beyond Government

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

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com 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!

To compensate for our government’s human-unfriendly info systems, some people have developed civic info-filtering backup systems: news organizations, activists, advocacy groups, think tanks, etc.

In my opinion, ordinary Americans have come to rely too heavily on these third parties to function as our “democracy radar.” We’ve largely shifted to their shoulders most responsibility to clue us in when something is brewing in government, tell us how we can exercise influence (if at all), and gauge the results of civic and government action.

Taken together, these backup systems generally have worked well enough — but they also have significant (and occasional dangerous) flaws. They’ve got too many blind spots, too many hidden agendas, insufficient transparency, and too little support for timely, effective citizen participation…

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Breaking Out of the Echo Chamber

OpenDemocracy, via Flickr (CC license)
What might this Malian girl and I have in common, and what might we learn from each other? How could we know if we can’t really connect?

This morning I listened to an excellent Radio Open Source interview. Host Christopher Lydon was talking to Global Voices Online founder Ethan Zuckerman and GVO managing editor Solana Larsen. I’m a huge fan of GVO and read it regularly — mainly since I enjoy hearing from people in parts of the world I generally don’t hear much about (or from) otherwise.

One of the most interesting parts of the discussion concerned how homophily shapes our individual and collective view of the world. Homophily is a fancy word for the human equivalent of “birds of a feather flock together.” That is, our tendency to associate and bond with people we have stuff in common with — language, culture, race, class, work, interests, life circumstances, etc.

Zuckerman made a profound point: Homophily makes you stupid. Which is another way of saying something my dad told me a long, long time ago:

“You’ll never learn anything if you only talk to people who already think just like you.”

Here’s what Zuckerman actually told Lydon about how homophily makes it hard for people from around the world to relate constructively…
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Web 3.0: Patchwork Quilt of Viral Online Applications, Says Google CEO

OK, excuse me for delving into buzzwords here, but this is actually potentially important. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently spoke at the Seoul Digital Forum. Someone asked him about what his vision of “Web 3.0” might be. Here’s his reply:

The bottom line is that he predicts the software we use will not be something packaged that we buy, but rather something we cobble together from modular components available online that get recommended to us by communities. This could have a lot of implications for flexibility, customization, security, and speed.

Makes me think of how I use the Firefox web browser right now. I couldn’t do my work without my Firefox add-ons. And yes, GTDinbox is quickly proving indispensable to me for managing tasks.

Thanks to Amy Webb for the tip.

Online Political Coverage: Communities Matter More than Elections

View of downtown L.A. from my hotel window. This town looks better at night.

I’m in Los Angeles right now, where on Thursday I’ll be giving a session at a Knight New Media Center seminar on Election ’08: Covering Politics in Cyberspace.

My session is called: "Tools of Engagement:  It’s a Conversation, Stupid." No, I didn’t come up with that title, but I really like it. My audience will be a mix of journalists, online-media pros, geeks, and political experts. I hope they’re ready to talk, because I don’t really do lectures; I start conversations.

I’ll admit, in my journalistic work I’ve generally avoided covering elections — for good reason. Generally, the way most news orgs handle that assignment bugs the hell out of me.  The press conferences, the pundits, the posturing, the race metaphors… in all that, communities, issues, and the real workings of government tend to get pushed into the background. It feels fake and even counterproductive to me. I’m tired of it, and for the most part I tune it out.

That’s not to say I tune out politics. On the contrary, I follow certain aspects of politics very closely: local, state, national, and international. And I do note how elections affect the politics that interest or affect me. However, I don’t believe elections should garner the lion’s share of political coverage.

It seems to me that the best political coverage is ongoing, not cyclical. Ideally, coverage of elections or other political events should support and enhance the public conversation about issues and communities.

To accomplish this with online political coverage, I think we need to get our priorities straight. Here are some thoughts on how we might do that, so we might collectively avoid turning the 2008 election season into a complete three-ring circus…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, and comment if you like, over at my other blog The Right Conversation

Social Media Spam: Ick!

(NOTE: I originally wrote this for Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog. Since it’s also relevant here, I’m cross-posting it.)

What does "Digg bait" look like? These screen grabs from a site that sells dental insurance via an affiliate program show how out-of-place the article "Geek’s Guide to Getting in Shape" is. (Click to enlarge)

Well, I knew it would happen. Spammers have figured out how to game social media news aggregation sites like Digg, Reddit, and Newsvine.

On Nov. 21, blogger Niall Kennedy examined one example of this kind of spamming in detail, explaining how it happened and why it’s a problem.

Here’s his explanation of how this particular instance of social media spam worked:

"Last weekend I noticed a Digg submission about weight loss tips had climbed the site’s front page, earning a covetous position in the top 5 technology stories of the moment. The 13 sure-fire tips were authored by ‘Dental Geek’ and posted to the ‘Discount Dental Plan’ category on his WordPress blog. Scanning the sidebar links and adjacent content it was obvious this content was out of place on a page optimized for dental insurance. The Webmaster of i-dentalresources.com had inserted some Digg bait, seeded a few social bookmarking services, and waited for links and page views to roll in, creating a new node in a spam farm fueled by high-paying affiliate programs and identity collection for resale."

Ick! Now, I’m all for posting valuable content as a way to engage communities and attract audiences. But this really crosses a line, I think…

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Buh-Bye Old Stars, and Good Riddance

Independent music journalist Michael Kirk.

This morning I was having an interesting conversation with my friend, independent music journalist Michael Kirk. We were tossing around observations on how the conventional "star system," at least in the entertainment business, appears to be waning with the rise of the internet — particularly with easy access to social and conversational media.

Anyway, with Michael’s permission, here are some excerpts from our conversation…

(READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE over at my other blog, The Right Conversation. You can comment there, if you like.)

Blogs: Popularity Doesn\’t Equal Influence

Technorati’s latest snapshot of blog influence (click to enlarge). Consider what this data really shows.

(NOTE: I originally posted this item on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits blog. I’m cross-posting it here because I think it’s also relevant to Contentious readers.)

On Nov. 6, Technorati published its latest quarterly state of the blogosphere report. Currently, this search service tracks 57 million feeds, mostly from blogs — with a strong focus on English-language blogs, especially from North America.

One of the most controversial sections of this report discusses a key concern for any media: influence or perceived authority. Personally, I think Technorati’s interpretation is rather awry…

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