Category Archives: Roundup

Money for startups; tips for those who try

Taking a few days off for a working vacation ( helping my mon-in-law fix up the South Lake Tahoe vacation house so we can enjoy ski and swim outings later!) and sneaking off to a wi-fi hotspot to check on the realworldosphere . . . .

The Canadian startup NowPublic, gets $10.6 million in venture funding to expand a citizen journalism site that, according to an Associated Press story has already attracted more than 100,000 uploads of text, video or photos. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned nor been aware of this outfit. Thanks to DerCuz for sending me the alert on this. Meanwhile, Cuz-o-mine, are your remembering that it’s been 30 years since we did the Tahoe trip. Ideas????

Here is what Paid Content had to say about the NowPublic deal, and is it just me or do I catch a whiff of being miffed for being so out of the loop on an outfit that appears to be so extensive and so below the radar. I just want to know: what is NowPublic’s technology? Are they selling it or keeping to for their own?

Americans jump the pond for attitude? Here’s a snippet from Paid Content that suggests Americans are clicking on news from British publication . . .  why? Maybe because their anal-retentive, boring-as-a-sermon U.S. newspapers aren’t giving them the ‘tude that makes the news worth reading.

Matchbook universities share writing tips: There is an aura of the less-than-reputable about online and correspondence univerisites that offer what I have heard called “matchbook degrees.” But I am not so sure such snootiness is any longer justified and I suspect that in my children’s lifetimes online education may give brick-and-mortar schools a run for our tuition money. In any event that preamble introduces a note from a gentleman at OEDb.com (Online Education Database) a website that appears to be a co-marketing entity for a group of distance-learning outfits. I am not sure whether these institutions are accredited or not, if that matters to you (it usually matters to employers).

That note, from OEDb founder Jimmy Atkinson, said:

“I’m just writing to let you know that we’ve recently published a feature article, “150 Resources to Help You Write Better, Faster and More Persuasively.” I thought you and your readers . . .  might find it helpful. Let me know what you think.”

I think Jimmy has done a great service by pulling together a concise directory of style guides, training resources and vertical search engines that would be a great assist to anyone interested in bettering their writing (and thinking) skills. Thanks!

Better get back to the home repairs as a son-in-law’s work is never done!

Conference, shaped bandwidth, ad aggregation

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Wharton School Professor Kevin Werbach is holding his Supernova conference in San Francsico this week and kicking off Tuesday with an open workshop that anyone can join. In scanning the speaker’s list I noticed an entry for Peter Merholz, who I’ve run into a time or two at dinners in San Francisco, and visited his blog, peterme.com, to get a flavor of his written work. There I read Peter’s blog entry on a documentary about the typeface Helvetica (which I understand is turning 50. Happy birthday modern look in graphic design!) What a curious interest and, as a former typographer, one I happen to share. Anyhow if you have a chance to check out Supernova, you now have the means even if you are not in San Francisco (I’m on vacation north of the city, in the redwoods; but I brought my laptop.)

Bandwidth shaping? Here’s a term that’s new to me. It’s from a BBC article that talks about whether the crush of video files flowing through the web will crash the network. In the course of pointing out the possibility that traffic demands could grow faster than fiber carrying-capacity and routing expertise, the article talks about ISPs already taking steps to limit the download demands of their biggest consumer users:

 

“The real issue that people are going to face, and are already noticing at home, is that ISPs are starting to cut back on the bandwidth that is available to people in their homes,” said (a net expert). “They call it bandwidth shaping. They do this because they have a limited capacity to deliver to 100 or 200 homes, and if everybody’s using the internet at the same time then the whole thing starts to get congested. Before that happens they cut back on the heavy users.”

Advertising collective? Direct Marketing News reports that suburban newspapers have formed one-stop shop for national advertisers trying to buy into them. Susan Karol, executive director of the Suburban Newspapers of America Foundation explained the new advertising network:

 

“Right now, our segment of the newspaper industry is somewhat fragmented and complicated to buy. The network will remove that barrier and open up a new option for national advertisers looking for an alternative to metro newspapers.”

Random images of instant information …..

Tight & Bright: Radio reporters make copy sing. CBS Radio guy Peter King offers great insights into telling the story in the fewest possible words in this Poynter Institute tutorial. King tells interviewer Al Tompkins how he distilled a 250-page report about the Columbia space shuttle accident into this 15 second broadcast:

“Investigators say the root cause of the accident was a piece of foam that fell off of the fuel tank and punched a hole in the shuttle’s left wing after launch. That hole allowed hot plasma gas to seep into the wing during re-entry, and destroy the orbiter. The report says management problems were a contributing cause.”

Will Apple get us to Television 2.0? Eagle-eyed contributor Deep Cuz came across this Macworld piece in which Alan Barnhart says critics of the $299 Apple TV miss the point — the device is built to funnel Web content onto the big living room screen. Here’s a snippet:

“New video content, whether streamed or stored, (must be) as easy to access as the video content on cable, DVDs, and DVRs. YouTube videos are fun to watch if you’re killing time at work. But when I go home I want to be able to turn on my 55-inch big screen and watch British documentaries and my hometown minor league baseball team and Al Jazeera English and lots of other great content that, for various boring reasons, I can’t get now . . . The Apple TV is the first device I’ve seen designed to do that . . . This is about giving me TV choices so compelling that I don’t want to waste another moment of my life on Seinfeld.”

Advertising slowdown? A report on advertising spending in Q1 2007 by TNS Media Intelligence shows big declines in national, old-media buys (network TV down 7.2 percent, national newspapers off 5.3 percent) but big increases in Internet media (up 16.7 percent) and Spanish language magazines (up 14.3 percent). Among advertising types, auto, travel and telecom were all down. The only bullish ad buy was direct response. The total ad spend was essentially flat, Q107vQ106 at $35 billion. I was pointed to the TMS report by Paid Content — which celebrated its fifth anniversary Tuesday. Congratulations to Rafat Ali and the gang.

Lights, camera . . .

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In May I wrote about author Jonathan Lethem and his unusual approach to selling the film rights to his novel, “You Don’t Love me Yet.” He invited submissions from all comers and said he would pick the proposal that struck him as being best big-screen adaptation of his prose.

 

I followed up today and learned that Lethem has awarded the project to Los Angeles film maker Greg Marcks whose credits include “11:14″ a dark comedy about five suburbanites whose lives become entwined by an accident.

 

This idea of staging a conceptual shootout for the film right is part of what Lethem calls The Promiscuous Materials Project. I don’t have any other details and, meaning no disrespect to either artist, what I find most interesting about the project is its methodology. Dramatic fiction is a tough sell in print or on screen. I’ll try to track this particular bit of promiscuity from time to time to see whether this is a tactic to help niche creators find their audiences.

 

Calling all authors: Continuing on this theme of new ways to get one’s creative works produced, MediaPost reports that Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone imprint will publish the first and second-placed winners in a book-writing contest that drew 2,676 manuscripts. According to MediaPost’s Emily Burg:

 

“Winner Terry Shaw’s novel, The Way Life Should Be, and runner-up Geoffrey Edwards’ novel, Fire Bell in the Night, will both be published in September.

The contest was sponsored by Gather.com. An article by Boston Globe reporter Robert Weisman describes this Massachusetts startup as:

 

“a kind of eBay for online writers and their readers — a gathering spot for musings and discussions on everything from wine and computers to fitness and spirituality”

Is it too late to add a postscript to yesterday’s “Bloggers are furious” entry in which I suggested that the hierarchy of talent in writing is not one’s position but one’s prose. I had wanted to add a thought that I picked up from Tina (Parental Wisdom) Nocera who wrote a blog entry titled “Do you want your child to be a plumber or a philosopher.” It contains this quotation from author John Gardner:

“An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society, which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor theories will hold water.”

To extend this to the blogger vs reporter debate, the society that disdains the possibility of philosophy arising from the exception plumber could miss a fresh voice. That, I think, is the genius of the new media in allowing the unexpected voice to be heard.

On the flip side, however, I understand the annoyance of paid writers with what I consider to be the fawning expectation of crowdsourcing afficionados that aggregating a sufficient number of plumbers will give rise to philosophy.

What happens in Vegas . . .

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What happens in Vegas is supposed to stay there, or so the advertising slogan goes. But on a PBS documentary tonight called Spying on the Home Front, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Hedrick Smith will look into the changed rules of domestic surveillance, including:

“a massive FBI data sweep in December 2003. On a tip that Al Qaeda “might have an interest in Las Vegas” around New Year’s 2004, the FBI demanded records from all hotels, airlines, rental car agencies, casinos and other businesses on every person who visited Las Vegas in the run-up to the holiday. Stephen Sprouse and Kristin Douglas of Kansas City, Missouri, object to being caught in the FBI dragnet in Las Vegas just because they happened to get married there at the wrong moment.”

I’m sure there’s people who say, if you didn’t do anything wrong, hen why worry; anything to catch Osama bin What’s-his-name. But if you’re the kind of person who worriesd about archaic concepts like the Bill of Rights (they’re not really part of the Constitution, you now; they were an afterthought) check for show times, tonight May 15 (use this link for local listings).A mini-plug. This is the first close-to-graceful chance I’ve had to note that one of my blog posts appears on the home page of the PBS Frontline series, News War, that aired earlier this year. I believe what happened is that in writing a posting called, “Daily Journalism: That dog won’t hunt,” I referenced the Frontline series and that got the piece picked up — including a typo that I made in my original. Oh, well, it was the thought that mattered.

 

Remember it’s whistle blowers week: It takes a lot of courage for government workers to blow the whistle on fraudulent or illegal behavior. This week some of these courageous folk (click for mini profiles) hope to persuade the Senate to enact a bill that has already passed the House. The proposal would restore some legal protection for those who risk career and sometimes more to do the right thing — when that’s different from what they’re told. I blogged with more detail about this recently. Here’s the agenda for the whistle blower’s lobbying event. Do what you can.

You know how to whistle, don’t know?

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The best way to improve the federal government is to encourage people inside the bowels of the bureaucracy to step forward and reveal fraudulent, wasteful or illegal activities. But government whistleblowers more often than not earn “15 minutes of fame and 40 years of misery” as one Pentagon insider told Mother Jones magazine in an article titled, “Don’t whistle while you work.”

 

In March a bill authorizing strong protections for federal whistleblowers passed the House of Representative with a veto-proof margin.

Starting Monday (May 14) the lobbying effort moves to the Senate when a coalition of 45 groups will coalesce on Capitol Hill for Washington Whistleblower Week.

The most powerful advocates for better protections are the whistleblowers themselves. Read 10 short snippets about current whistleblowes who stepped forward to reveal things like fraudulent clinical trials and coverups involving drug smuggling — and got fired for their honesty.

 

This is not a partisan issue. Since 9/11 the tone and tenor of government has changed toward less openness and greater executive power. Just the other day a Boston Globe article reported that “The Pentagon has placed unprecedented restrictions on who can testify before Congress.”

At this rate Congress is going to need whistleblowers just to get a straight answer out of this and future administrations.

We must help Congress restore the checks and balances that lawmakers of both parties foolishly ceded to the Executive after the World Trade Center attacks.

Lets remind that Senate that it is supposed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — not its most pompous rubber stamp.

 

That’s what I’m talking about

I spend a lot of time web surfing. A few years ago I ran into an old college buddy, now a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, who spends his off time wave surfing and had the slim physique to prove it. Apparently all that ocean-loving fun paid a rich professional dividend. Yesterday when the Pulitzer Prizes for 2007 were announced, I learned that Kenneth R. Weiss had led the team of LA Times reporters who the prize for explanatory reporting for a series titled, Altered Oceans.

 

In the lead article titled, “A Primeval Tide of Toxins,” Weiss writes:

 

“In many places — the atolls of the Pacific, the shrimp beds of the Eastern Seaboard, the fiords of Norway — some of the most advanced forms of ocean life are struggling to survive while the most primitive are thriving and spreading. Fish, corals and marine mammals are dying while algae, bacteria and jellyfish are growing unchecked. Where this pattern is most pronounced, scientists evoke a scenario of evolution running in reverse, returning to the primeval seas of hundreds of millions of years ago.”

It’s a beautiful and thoughtful piece of work and my favorite form of journalism — the sort that helps explain and reveal the world of our making.

 

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