December 19, 2005
Taking vacation time until the first of the year.
Doing a few small repairs.
Back in business Jan. 3.
'Til then, how about:
The Year In Blogs
Bigger than Jesus. Bigger than sex.
If 2004 was the year blogs entered the language (so says Merriam Webster), then 2005 was the year they found their voice. Mainstream media embraced blogs, corporations embraced blogs, spammers embraced blogs.
It was a time of great convergence, with indie blogs joining together to capture audience and advertising, as brand-name media shed their institutional voices to go unfiltered where the readers are.
Nine percent of American adults who surf the Web write blogs, according to Pew’s Internet & American Life Project — that’s 13 million people. And 27 percent of Internet users read them — 39 million Americans. That’s only counting those 18 years old and up. Millions more young people post in places like Xanga, LiveJournal, AOL and MySpace.
Group blogs took off in influence. The lefty Huffington Post got out of the gate first, in May, trailed by the more right-thinking Pajamas Media, which wound up shooting itself in its footies by changing its name to something that another site had already claimed. And then changing back.
Newspapers across the country, including The Inquirer, launched blogs this year. The Washington Post began to include links to blogger reactions next to stories displayed online. MSNBC and other broadcasters began programs celebrating bloggers' work. Topix.net, whose investors include Knight Ridder, The Inquirer’s corporate parent, has started allowing readers to post their own news.
Lee Rainie, director of Pew project, said technological innovations in blogging software accelerated the growth, and changed the way people viewed the world. Video blogs, or vlogs, surfaced a year ago when the tsunami devastated parts of Southeast Asia, and grew in popularity during the Gulf Coast hurricanes. People learned the ease of posting images onto blogs from mobile phones — called mobloggings.
The mainstream media opened its arms to bloggers in crisis moment in all sorts of ways," Rainie says. "We have entered this melding stage of thinking … We’ve been through anger and fighting. Now we are in the wary embrace stage. At some point, it will be wholesale endorsement."
Sometimes crises forced the change. Hurricane Katrina turned the New Orleans Times-Picayune into a blog of information bits, street scenes and urgent calls for help that attracted as many as 30 million readers. Hurricane Rita did the same for the Houston Chronicle.
Corporate America recognized the power of blogs to spread buzz, from MSNBC buying about 800 advertisements on sites that run Blogads to the proliferation of the medium as a marketing tool. Of course, Rocky Balboa has a blog that chronicles the production of Sylvester Stallone’s sixth film about the Philly fighter.
With mainstream success has come some unwelcome attention. Blogpulse, which tracks trends, estimates that as many as 30 percent of new sites are spam blogs, which use key words to get their products listed on search engines.
Corporate America also felt blogs’ sting. When Jeff Jarvis, frustrated over the purchase of a laptop lemon, headlined a post "Dell Sucks," thousands of bloggers joined in the conversation, and the computer maker’s slow response cost it a swarm of unwelcome attention.
Bloggers from the left and right united to appear before the Federal Election Commission to argue to get the same exemption from campaign-finance laws as print and broadcast media. The bloggers, represented by Philadelphia attorney Adam C. Bonin, won the round.
While there was no national election, activism didn’t sit out the year. Political campaigns, like that of Sen. Jon Corzine (D., N.J.), hired Matt Stoller of MyDD to blog. Conservative bloggers magnified the heat on ill-fated Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers. Millions of dollars were raised for victims of Hurricane Katrina. A conservative budget-cutting effort called pork busters identified excessive federal spending.
The subjects that came up the most include the hurricanes, Miers and Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., (then a nominee), intelligent design, Wikipedia, the London bombings, the pope, Valerie Plame, Peter Jennings and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which was an Oregon man’s parody religion to rib the Kansas officials who embraced creationism. Pastafaria!
Blogs continued their explosive growth — with between 30,000 and 70,000 new ones each day, and between 20 and 23 million total worldwide, depending on whether Blogpulse or Technorati is counting. The ’sphere has been doubling in size every five months for three years now. The most growth is found in Chinese-language blogs, writes Technorati founder Dave Sifry.
And people are spending more time reading them. An October survey by Advertising Age found about 35 million workers in the United States visit blogs and spend an average of 40 minutes a day reading them. One out of four blog visits could be considered job-related.
Andy Sernovitz, chief executive of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, told Management Issues online magazine that blogs had become the favored diversion for "office goof-off time."
Blinq reader (and blogger) William Young put the medium’s appeal this way: "Anyone who participates in the blogosphere knows that it’s the divining rod of the nation."
December 17, 2005
A Day Late
We had a Friday Morning Random Ten. We had a year-end Jib Jab. Found a site where we could all be Edward Scissorshands and make our own snow flakes. And tuned in a Kimmel Center podcast - a first of its kind, presumably.
Then Typepad, my blogging software, went on the fritz, and I wasn't able to update anything yesterday. The faithful who clicked Blinq yesterday were taken back in time one week. At least you got to watch Triumph the Insult Comic Dog again.
All is fixed. (Well, older pictures are a little late returning.) Here goes, starting with the Random 10 songs that were playing as I grew more and more frustrated. Thank God for the Mothers:
Jackson Browne - "Late For the Sky"
Air - "Alone in Kyoto"
Golden Smog - "On The Beach"
Bill Evans - "Detour Ahead"
Anouar Brahem - "Les Ailes du Bourak"
George Russell - "New York, N.Y."
The Faces - "Sweet Lady Mary"
The Mothers of Invention - "Happy Together"
The Allman Brothers - "Whipping Post"
Mindy Smith - "Falling"
Jib Jab wraps up the year in pesky threats with an animated President George singing goodbye to 205.
That is not a typo.
Episode No. 1 includes conversations with classical pianist Andre Watts and jazz saxophone player Ravi Coltrane.
The Kimmel blog describes the program a bit more. It runs a little over 12 minutes, and each musician talks about his work with the center's program director, Tom Warner. Music samples included.
If new to podcasting, the reliable Wikipedia has a primer.
I listened to it using the iTunes software. The latest versions allow users to subscribe to podcasts. The easier way to hear the Kimmelcast is to go to the podcast playlist, click "advanced" and "subscribe" then copy the address (http://blog.kimmelcenter.org/podcast.xml.) into the window.
Wiki Watch II
It’s been one of those best-of-times/worst-of-times stretches for Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia written by the public.
On Nov. 29, Wikipedia’s flaws were laid out for all to see – a veteran newspaper editor and adviser to the Robert F. Kennedy was described as being suspected of involvement of the JFK and RFK assassinations. It was a prank posted for months until caught.
This week Nature magazine wrote how recruited researchers to compare its science entries in with those in Encyclopedia Britannica. They came out about the same.
Nature wrote on Wednesday:
The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.
Considering how Wikipedia articles are written, that result might seem surprising. A solar physicist could, for example, work on the entry on the Sun, but would have the same status as a contributor without an academic background. Disputes about content are usually resolved by discussion among users.
But Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia and president of the encyclopedia's parent organization, the Wikimedia Foundation of St Petersburg, Florida, says the finding shows the potential of Wikipedia. "I'm pleased," he says. "Our goal is to get to Britannica quality, or better."
Wikipedia is a fast-growing phenon, generating 3.7 million articles since starting 2001. Alexa ranks it as the world’s 37th most-visited website. Its articles are in 200 languages. It has attracted its critics.
A former Britannica editor described in a piece for the TCS online magazine a Wikipedia entry on Alexander Hamilton as "what one might be expected of a high-school student." That’s according to the Nature piece.
How could the unpaid questionably schooled masses do the job of professionals?
They could do it pretty well, Nature found out:
Yet Nature's investigation suggests that Britannica's advantage may not be great, at least when it comes to science entries. In the study, entries were chosen from the websites of Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica on a broad range of scientific disciplines and sent to a relevant expert for peer review. Each reviewer examined the entry on a single subject from the two encyclopedias; they were not told which article came from which encyclopedia. A total of 42 usable reviews were returned out of 50 sent out, and were then examined by Nature's news team.
Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.
December 16, 2005
The make-a-snow-flake page.
Patience. People produced lovely work. Until I figured out how to work the scissors, it seemed like I should go back to reporting, and not be spending many minutes cutting shards that magically turn into something easier on the eyes.
December 15, 2005
The Rocky Balboa Blog begins.
It follows production on the sixth film starring Sylvester Stallone as that South Philly fighter with heart.
The fans' comments seem very sincere.
I was born in 1969 and as I grew up I was immersed in the mythos of Rocky Balboa…
I remember times when the days were long and I struggled to achieve my goals inside and out. I always found myself looking back at the story of Rocky and finding some little hidden gem inside that helped me carry on. I have made some serious mistakes in my life, but like the fictional character of Rocky I have done my best to move forward.
I have the utmost respect for Sylvester Stallone and his courage to reach deep inside and share this story once again with the world. I know that MANY people will criticize him and his production staff for making this movie. I just wish they would look deeper and see the underlying themes. Courage, challenging yourself to be the best you can, over coming your demons to be a COMPLETE human…
I will be bookmarking this page and coming back FREQUENTLY!! Congratulations Mr. Stallone, I look forward to following the progress of your movie and seeing it come to life,
There are lots of comments like "wow!" and "Rocky is number one!"
And then this one from Sweet Lou:
The postings I've read thus far are a bit "over the top", no Stallone pun intended. The Rocky movies are a part of my formidable years, yet I'm not sure if I should be excited. Watching and evaluating the last 2 installments are watchable given the historical context, however, they lack the quality to stand on their own merits. I'm hoping that by making this final Rocky movie, Stallone will do justice to the integrity of the early movies, dark, imperfect, inspirational. Either way, I'll be there opening night with my buddy Darren hoping "Rocky Balboa" doesn't take a dive.
That guy's from here.
Ford Tough II
Ford has found the reverse gear after last week's decision to not advertise Jaguars and Land Rovers in gay publications.
The company had attributed its decision a need to control to marketing costs. In May the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group, had announced a boycott of Ford vehicles and criticized the car maker for making contributions to gay rights groups, offering benefits to same-sex partners and recruiting gay employees.
Ford had said its decision to the pull the ads was not related to the pressure.
Wednesday, the company changed direction. The AP reports:
On Wednesday, Ford wrote the gay rights groups that the luxury brands "made a business decision about their media plans and it would be inconsistent with the way we manage our business to direct them to do otherwise."
Ford pledged to run corporate ads in the publications that will include the entire Ford lineup.
"It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue to rest," wrote Joe Laymon, Ford's group vice president for corporate human resources.
At the All Spin Zone, SpinDentist seemed concerned about the conservative group's leader, Donald Wildmon:
I imagine he's obsessing about gay and lesbian citizens in some other way. The man really does have a problem. I'm told that the next step the American Family Association will make is to ban itself for lack of Christian values. Better do it soon before Jesus does it for them.
AmericaBlog, which championed the cause, has the most coverage.
An under-the radar Pentagon operation known as the Counterintelligence Field Activity was watching a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., last year as activists planned to protest military recruiting at local high schools, NBC reports.
A secret DOD document lists the meeting at Quaker Meeting as one of more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the nation during a recent 10-month period, NBC reported. On the DOD list were nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests - one was a demonstration against the Iraq war at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles, where protesters burned President Bush in effigy.
A DOD spokesman told the network that all domestic intelligence information is properly collected and involves "protection of Defense Department installations, interests and personnel. The network quoted critics who questioned whether the collection of domestic intelligence went beyond legitimate concerns of terrorism or force protection.
An online version of the NBC report links DOD regulations, adopted in Dec. 1982, that govern what information can be gathered on U.S. citizens.
Members of The Truth Project, which gathered at the Florida Quaker's building of worship expressed dismay when contacted by NBC.
“It's absolute paranoia — at the highest levels of our government,” says Rich Hersh, an officer of the organization.
"I mean, we're based here at the Quaker Meeting House," says Marie Zwicker, "and several of us are Quakers."
Said member Evy Grachow, "This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible."
The Defense Department refused to comment to NBC on how it obtained information on the Lake Worth meeting or why it considers a dozen or so anti-war activists a "threat."
A Sept 23 article in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports how the Truth Project was working with the Palm Beach County school district to give another point of view to students approached by military recruiters. The organization was allowed to council juniors and seniors how to opt out of the 2002 law that discloses their names, phone numbers and addresses to military recruiters.
On the blog named Demogogue, Frederick of Maryland seems to be sleeping easier after learning about the intelligence gathering:
I don't know about you, but I sure feel safer knowing that our Pentagon is keeping its eye on those terrorist-laden Quakers.
A commenter named Leo on that site offered a little historical perspective:
You do know that if they had collected enough information about the quakers, Richard Nixon might have been prevented?
The mellifluously named Morons.org makes this point:
If you don't know anything about the Quakers or their history, one of their most important beliefs is pacifism - to the extent that they were hated for refusing the take up arms during the revolutionary war. In 1987 they received the Nobel Peace Prize! To think that a small group of Quakers is a threat to the government is laughable.
Actually, it was 1947.
(Disclosure: Blinq's children go to a Quaker school. The biggest threat we've seen so far is to one's wallet. That rigorous simplicity doesn't come cheaply.)