Mugging for social media

Uggie
Uggie
SOURCE: http://weinsteinco.com/sites/the-artist/

If you’re gonna make a movie that features a dog and that movie wins Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year, we’re gonna have a thing or two to say about it. I’m talking about The Artist starring Uggie and a few human beings in supporting roles, of course.

We don’t do movie reviews here, though this film is certainly worthy of one. After seeing it a few dozen more times, I may write one. For now, though, here are two observations.

“Silent” media gives a voice to the mute or the flawed.
Social media channels are for the most part, silent media. They do not require anyone to actually be themselves or show themselves in photos or video. You are what your words are in blog posts, in tweets, in Facebook updates and such. You do not need to be a great speaker, be able to carry a tune or dance to perform in the social media space. Social media gave to many nerds and geeks what silent film gave to George Valentin (and Uggie the dog if you want to extend the metaphor.) Sorry, you will have to see the film to the very end to understand this reference. Yeah, I know.. but life has no short-cuts.

Unfortunately for most, video is on the rise in the social media space, giving it a real voice in much the same way talkies did for silent film. Many stars will fall by the wayside, but it will also make way for the young. “People are tired of old actors mugging at camera to be understood. Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young! That’s life!” (Peppy Miller, The Artist)

Hating on the French
Can we just stop that already? As the Oscars went on and The Artist picked up more awards, my twitter stream filled up with anti-French tweets. I think we may be able to learn a little bit from Jean Dujardin who said in his acceptance speech, “I love your country” and proclaimed his delight for cinnamon rolls on the red carpet. If a big star like Dujardin can find delight in the smallest, pedestrian things about America, why can’t we find these same things about the French?

We all have flaws. Some of us are socially awkward; some are camera-shy. Still others have stage-fright and other have a French accent. Most of us are the dogs that run around the feet of others, just trying to get some attention. The tools you learned to use to overcome your flaws may not help you next year.

The survivors in this game are not the young as Peppy Miller suggested, but those who are willing and able to adapt.

People want to eat but they won’t join the hunt

Hunting Dog

Most people wear your web site, twitter feed or facebook page like they wear a jacket or drive their car. When they want to use it, they do. When they don’t, it is out of sight and out of mind.

People who work in the online space are in a very rarefied space. They live and breathe online all day long and delude themselves into thinking this is reality. When they go outside their front door, life dilutes the online world by about 1:10,000,000,000,000 parts per billion.

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Who do you trust?

Dog Cat Trust

When Steve Jobs died, I knew about it a few minutes afterward because I saw a tweet from Chris Brogan asking if it were true. But I didn’t immediately retweet or reply; I went to nytimes.com. And cnn.com. And msnbc.com. And apple.com.

I also turned on my television and tuned to CNN. (They tend to break in with confirmed news fastest, though not always.)

When twitter gets it right, the pundits all point to the powers of social media, how they are scooping traditional journalism and why print and television is dying. When twitter gets it wrong, everyone has a good laugh and points to how silly and lemming-like twitter is.

Thank God we have some smart journalists at the control switch who can pull the handbrake on this runaway ham sandwich, they remark.

We continue to assess truthiness based on hit volume and forget that only one small child actually had the guts to say the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes. According to the Google and Klout (and ABC for print) analytics, only the most viewed and recommended links are trustworthy even if only one small child or one barking dog says otherwise and in the end, turns out to be correct.

It all boils down to: Who do you trust?

We sometimes forget that Twitter and Facebook are commercial products and they have an agenda. This agenda may or may not be aligned with the users’. As Liz Heron of the New York Times remarks, “It’s helpful to have a journalist still.” (30:50 in the clip below)

Even liars have to get you to trust them or the whole game is off.

That is what Rupert Murdoch understood when he shuttered News of the World. Readers didn’t mind being lied to as long as he had their trust. FOX News understands this as well. That is why they spend so much of their time with phrases such as “Fair and Balanced and “No Spin Zone.” Their news day cycle consists of a slow building of “evidence” for their eventual “news” presentation in the evening.

Rush Limbaugh does the same thing by going through a formula of “logical” presentation of the story. He contorts a nuanced story into a blatantly simple ipso facto argument that basically says, “Trust me, I’ve thought all this out, here is the trail of evidence and here is the simple conclusion.”

At the end of the day, however, it boils down to, “do you trust me?” If the answer is “Yes,” then you believe your source.

Below is the opening session of the Journalism Interactive Conference at the University of Maryland, “Social Media: Best Practice in Journalism.” The link is at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18160056 in case the embed does’t work. The folks on the panel are Jim Long, Lynn Sweet and Liz Heron moderated by Adam Ostrow. It is probably the most succinct piece on social media for journalism I’ve seen yet. No grandiosity, no hyperbole, no silver bullet solutions. These folks have thought deeply about the issue and it shows. It is an hour long, but worth the listen.



Video streaming by Ustream

You ain’t no Steve Jobs

One of the things I keep hearing from media and some of my friends is how Steve Jobs thought different, did things differently and failed a lot.

College dropout

Got fired

Unsuccessful businessman

LSD user

“Look, dad! Steve Jobs was a failure and look what he did. I’m dropping out of college and going to change the world.”

*deep sigh*

I’m going to be a contrarian here. It is a bit scary that we have created an entire generation that has been rewarded for every mistake, every failure, every effort as an accomplishment. We gave trophies for just showing up. And the only thing we have produced is a bunch of folks who feel lost without getting an affirmation that their pooping is good.

I am getting very tired of having to acknowledge effort with the same weight as accomplishment. I don’t want to clap at your guitar tuning; I want to save that for your performance. Of course every success is lined with failure, but quit redefining the failures as successes. Yes, I know that makes me an intolerant geezer, but it really is for your own good.

Suck it up, become an adult and move on. Adults know when a failure is a failure or the next step to becoming a success. That is what makes us adults. And adults do not need constant affirmations that they done good by going poop.

Steve Jobs knew the rules of his craft and knew what he needed to break. He took an insane amount of crap for his vision. He probably suffered a lot in silence whereas you blog every angst. He did not camp out in his parents’ basement. He got off his butt and persevered. And nobody — except maybe Woz — ever, ever told him he was on the right track.

You remind me of students who aspire to be writers, justifying their lack of discipline to the craft by saying “e.e. cummings didn’t capitalize things.”

Like I tell these students, “You ain’t no e.e. cummings.”

And you ain’t no Steve Jobs, but you can prove me wrong.

When you do, come by, kick me in the ribs and say “I told you so.”

A monkey with a loaded typewriter

Right margin on the manual typewriter

I read this short post by Nathan Bransford about tinkering with e-books after they have been “published.” At first, I was deeply conflicted. On the one hand, being able to correct typos easily and make updates seems like you would be giving your readers a service they could not get in print books. On the other, my English degree (my old, tattered one) says that once a writer releases the work, it is no longer his; it belongs to his readers, warts and all.

But then my old newspaper background reared its ugly head and reminded me square on that in print, there are no do-overs. If you miss a typos or make some other mistake during the editing process, it will get replicated 200,000+ times and be forever archived AS IS in the Library of Congress, the Newseum and as clippings in scrapbooks for generations. If that kind of pressure does not force you to become very, very good at the craftsmanship of writing, you should perhaps look for another profession.

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What’s next for NASA? Ummmmmm I dunno

Atlantis Space Shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center July 21, 2011

I watched the space shuttle STS135 Atlantis touch down this morning and I felt as if that was the ending of something really big. I think what is happening is something more than simple nostalgia even though I am part of the generation that saw the first man walk on the moon July 20, 1969.

I think something bigger is happening to the human race, something that is not so good as we think it is. I think we are losing our quest for meaning.

Colleges have turned into trade schools where there is very little learning and lots of job training. Professors are demonized and teachers are vilified. Lots of people have hopped onto the bandwagon of questioning whether or not a college degree is worth the money; not based on whether or not you come out thinking more clearly or having received a strong liberal arts education that gives you the tools to ask questions steeped in meaning, but whether or not the degree qualifies you for a job.

We’ve choked off stem cell research even though it holds the biggest promise in curing cancer, paralysis and other diseases. We’re starving education budgets and breaking unions in favor of giving wealthy capitalist barons tax breaks so they can employ a vast army of under-educated workers they will toss away when joints and muscles break down after years of hard work. We publish books by Snooki and Bristol Palin instead of talented writers. We argue about whether or not gay people are worthy of respect as human beings instead of just accepting the differences. We deny the dignity of health care as a basic human right. We throw away people when they get too old to work. We allow superstition, fear and faith to trump empirical facts and science. We are willing to bring down the most powerful government in the world simply because the man at the top is a member of the wrong race.

For what? A few extra short-term dollars? A few more minutes of power? What happened to our collective quest to discover who we are, why we are here and what our place is in the Universe? Did we give up or are we now satisfied that planet Earth is all we will ever have? Are we satisfied that the Universe really exists as one little race alone on a spinning rock in space, guided by a God we should seek out and worship?

Inevitably, the question of “What’s next for NASA?” gets asked in every newscast and with every interview. The answer is always the same; a short pause and then some mumbling about re-definging direction, cost-efficiency, saving tax money, blah, blah, blah that nobody really believes.

But the real question is: “What’s next for the human race?”

That is what we are really struggling with when the question gets asked.

*The we I am referring to is the human collective, not any one group. Whether or not you is one doing one of the above, you will most assuredly be swept along as the current gathers speed. It is already a raging torrent.

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Three things I learned at #140conf NYC

To say that I learned three new things at the #140conf (June 15-16, 2011 in NYC) might be stretching things a bit. Perhaps I mean to say that three of my observations and assumptions about human behavior have been affirmed.

Before I start at the 140conf, I need to back up a little to a few days before I left. I had hoped to travel with just my MacBook Air, but had not yet found the time to synch up my user account, preferences, email — everything that makes the Mac a useful road machine. I started the Migration Assistant and figured it would take a couple hours to synch up from a Time Machine backup only to discover after an hour of “prep” time, it would take over twelve hours over WiFi. So, I stuck in a USB drive and found out I would only save an hour or so.

What?!!??!! Grrr….. I have collected far too much stuff. Too bad the MacBook Air did not have a FW800 port. *sigh* So, I travelled to the conference with two laptops; my huge MacBook Pro 17″ and the really light MacBook Air. Let’s stow that experience for a while; it will be relevant later on.

We arrived at the 92Y early, registered, did some light networking and found seats, tweeted, check into Foursquare — all those things that one does at a social media conference. The sessions began and about 11:00, I started to regret my decision to not grab a cup of coffee before hopping the train from the Roger Smith to the 92Y (I know, I know it would have ended badly but maybe if I kept the lid on.) So, we popped out quickly and grabbed a coffee and scone from Juliano’s across the street. And maybe we stayed a little bit. Maybe. The coffee was good and the view out the window was spectacular.

We made our way back to the 140conf and found the house crowded, with standing room only. Why? As we squeezed into the gallery, we heard Ann Curry speaking. Ah, ok. After a few minutes, she ended her speech to thunderous applause and then a mass exodus of attendees.

Cool! Great seats for us!

Affirmation #1: Most people hanging in the social media space are only doing it to be seen and heard in the space of the A-listers or celebrities.

We found some seats and were treated to a short presentation by Krupali Tejura, MD (@krupali) a Radiation Oncologist. Her story was soft spoken but touched a spot in my soul, leaving me to tweet:

You can extend a life with length or depth. I wonder how many of us would choose depth? @krupali #140conf #randomtakeaway

Nobody calculates the ROI of anything worth doing.

Life is fantastic. It is the business of making a living that is tedious.

My next thought was how sad it was that the hundreds of people who rushed past me not moments ago — smug in the feeling they ate the main course of the conference — missed the most important human connection of the entire conference. Krupali was a nobody. She was even pre-empted by Curry who arrived too early. Yet for me, she provided the value for the conference. I only hope that if I ever need an oncologist, she still has the passion for humanity that brought me close to tears.

Affirmation #2: Most people will rush through life and never notice the small flowers life places at their feet. Most even deliberately trample them flat.

When I returned home, I wanted to share Krupali’s story with a lot of people. I knew that Jeff Pulver was life-videotaping the conference and was confident I could point to the video segment at UStream. After over an hour of trying to find the clip, I just gave up. I am sure Krupali’s story is somewhere in the stream; I don’t have the time or desire to sift through two days worth of stuff to find it.

And this is where we started out. While the 140conf would argue they are “curating,” I would argue that they are just hoarding digital stuff. There are no timecodes, no keyframes, no markers to point to any of the workshops. To be useful, the video should link back to the schedule with time codes and clip titles. The titles are even inconsistent with the schedule (Act I, Scene 1? When is that? Wed morning? I think so, but not sure….)

Affirmation #3: Few of us are truly curating all this digital stuff. What we are doing is probably more accurately labeled as hoarding.

Those are my take-aways from the 2011 #140conf in New York. What were yours?

Postscript:
Dr. Krupali found the clip and here it is below. Thank you.

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Confessions of the creative wannabe

I remember buying a tape recorder at Radio Shack when I was twelve or thirteen years old. It was one of those old ones that you loaded the cassette tape into the top and plugged in a wired microphone. I remember how excited I was that this piece of gear would allow me to record sounds that had never been recorded before, including my own voice. When you’re young, you think the sound of your own voice is pretty cool. As you get older, you discover not so much.

I got bored pretty quickly with the recorder as I thought a 16mm video camera would be even cooler. I never did get one, but only because VHS video cameras came out before I had enough money to buy one. I hear nobody makes 16mm movie camera anymore.

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