Why I Love Pledge Drives

It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors, there is a bite in the air, and public radio stations around the country are holding their year-end pledge drives. Local and national public radio personalities implore us to cut checks to support the programming and help balance the budget. They dangle coffee mugs, tote bags, and Ira Glass CDs in front of us.

Sometimes I grow impatient and change the channel. Sometimes I find myself wishing there was a secret code those of us who pledge could punch in to our radios and access a pledge-drive-free stream. Sometimes I grow weary of the same talking points and pre-recorded clips playing over and over again.

Let’s admit it. The pledge drive is easy to hate. But nonetheless I kind of love it. Here’s why: Continue reading


The New Curators: Weaving Stories from the Social Web

Back in March Robert Scoble verbalized something I have been feeling for a long time: that we need better tools to weave together the diverse and distinct bits and pieces of information on the web. These days news and information is being distributed and discussed on a range of platforms – places like Twitter, Facebook, RSS readers, YouTube, blogs and websites. However, the stories and issues at the heart of those various bits of content are much bigger than the sum of its parts. How, then can we bring these various parts of the web in conversation with each other, add context and tell a fuller story?

Scoble’s post was called “The Seven Needs of Real Time Curators” and he described it as “a guide for how we can build ‘info molecules’ that have a lot more value than the atomic world we live in now.”

“First, what are info atoms? A tweet is an atom. A photo on Flickr is an atom. A conversation item on Google Buzz is an atom. A Facebook status message is an atom. A YouTube video is an atom. Thousands of these atoms flow across our screens in tools like Seesmic, Google Reader, Tweetdeck, Tweetie, Simply Tweet, Twitroid, etc.

A curator is an information chemist. He or she mixes atoms together in a way to build an info-molecule. Then adds value to that molecule.”

I’m not going to go through his seven points. You should go read the whole post. Instead, I want to take a look at three interesting projects that get us part way to what Scoble was describing: Slices of Boulder, Storify and Swift River. Continue reading

Remnants of a Blog Post on Parenting

I’ve had an idea for a blog post rattling around in my head for awhile. As I have been thinking it over, I have been collecting little pieces – scraps of ideas and slowly been trying to weave them together. But after a few attempts to string these individual snapshots into a narrative, I haven’t been able to nail it. So, instead, I’m just going to list the different elements here and let you see what you will see. Perhaps the juxtaposition of these ideas will spark something in you the way it sparked something in me. And if it does, I hope you’ll add your thoughts in the comment section.

Part 1 – Go Long

In college I played ultimate frisbee. When we wanted to move the disc as far down the field as possible we’d yell “Go long!” sending our teammates sprinting out ahead of us. Their sprint was in part an act of faith. They knew roughly who had a good arm and who didn’t. They knew which way the wind was blowing. They could see how heavily guarded the thrower was. But in the end they were guessing where the frisbee would land.

I realized recently that parenting is a lot like going long. Sprinting out across the field, looking over my shoulder, adjusting as I go. I don’t know quite where I’m headed, but am giving everything I got to get there. Continue reading

Journalism and Public Service

Josh Benton over at the Nieman Journalism Lab wrote a post today about Marco Arment (one of the founders of Tumblr) and his experiment with a subscription model for his excellent long-form reading app, Instapaper.

Instapaper has fundamentally changed the way I read, on and offline, for the better. It is in fact one of my primary ways of consuming journalism now. However, I hadn’t heard about this new subscription idea until Benton’s post. Basically, Arment, who has left Tumblr to work full time on Instapaper, is inviting people to become subscribers for a dollar a month. However, Arment himself is unsure what that dollar will buy you.

“Right now? Almost nothing, except knowing that you are supporting the Instapaper service’s operation and future feature development… Some future features may be Subscriber-only, but please don’t buy a Subscription solely because you expect these exclusive features to be mind-blowing. They might be, depending on how easily your mind is blown, but I’d feel better if you bought the Subscription because you wanted to support Instapaper.”

The response has been hugely positive and Benton’s post explores why a “soft sell” like this works for Arment and what it might suggest about charging for news online. His three points are:

  • The economic value of your work is determined by the market, not wishes and hopes.
  • Requiring payment isn’t always more fruitful than encouraging it.
  • Love and affection drives money.

I think his analysis here is spot on and encourage you to go read the full post where he dives much deeper into each of those three points. However, the one point I think is missing is the notion of “service.” Continue reading

Ongoing Efforts to Map Our Information Needs

At the Free Press Summit: Ideas to Action this past April, nearly 100 participants attended a breakout session to talk about mapping local media ecosystems and meeting the information needs of communities. The session built on the ideas presented in the Knight Commission report, “Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” and produced a vibrant discussion that made clear there is a lot of exciting but disparate work happening in this area, and a lot of enthusiasm for making connections between media makers, researchers and communities. You can read a write up of the session here.

As a follow up to that discussion, and as part of the ongoing national conversation about how we map and meet the information needs of communities, I wanted to highlight a few recent projects that are moving the ball forward in local communities and providing very different models for how we can assess and understand a community’s media ecosystem. Continue reading