2009’s New Year Resolutions

Typically I don’t do resolutions.  And I think I say that every year before stating my resolutions.  Some of these have short timelines as they also appear on my “Things To Do Before I’m 30” list which means I have about eight weeks to finish that list.  But for this year, I resolve:

  • Write another book
  • Stop eating McDonalds
  • Stop drinking sodas
  • Start exercising more
  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Continue to try and be the best person I can

Now, writing a book and reconnecting with old friends both are on that 30 list, so clock’s tickin’ (though reconnecting is an ongoing thing). Exercising more was something I wanted to do this year and had started before things cropped up to cut my ability to go to a gym.  But I’m going to give it another go.

McDonalds and I have a love/hate thing going on and if they didn’t infuse their food with crack this wouldn’t be a problem.  But I’m done with it. Cold turkey. I did it once before, I can do it again.

Soda’s going to be a hard one and I’ll have to ween myself off of that.  But it’s doable.

Heck, all of these are doable if I put my mind and effort to it.

Here goes.  Let’s see if I can do this in 2009.

Where Are The Gatekeepers?

Eric Fehrnstrom gives an account of what Republican candidates faced from netroots activists in 2008 and in closing asks:

Where are the online gatekeepers? Gatekeeping is the most important function for the offline media. Editors decide which stories get published. They make sure rumors aren’t printed. Sensitive information is double- and sometimes triple-sourced. Gatekeeping serves an important purpose in establishing the ethics of journalism. Sadly, it doesn’t exist on the Web.

What can be done? Citizen-journalists and bloggers need to provide links to websites that contain factual data backing up their assertions. These connections add credibility. And while Internet libel suits can be difficult to win, they should be pursued more often.
Moreover, it would help if TV and newspapers resisted the temptation to get edgier in their own reporting. If you can’t be “first” with the rumors, be first with the most comprehensive and factual account. In the current Wild West state of political reporting, you will be rewarded with loyal readership in search of honest and objective coverage.

He’s not entirely wrong, though I think it’s naive to believe that many bloggers and other citizen-journalists will put forth that extra effort to confirm the facts of what they’re writing before the jump.  And that no one expects it from the other side means they won’t raise themselves up to provide it on their side.  Fire with fire.  But we have got to break from that mold.

As the internet comes of age in how its used during campaigns, more and more people are going to be asking the same question though: where are the gatekeepers?  What has gotten blogging and online activism this far is the lack of a gatekeeper – thousands of voices shouting so many things that once in a while one sticks.  Or a bunch of people starting to talk about the same thing, creating a story where there wouldn’t be one normally.

The media has proven to be gullible to these tactics.  But they’re starting to get burned, and a lot of blogging talking heads who try to sound and act professional but end up putting their foot in their mouth are going to find themselves locked out.

Since blogging’s not about to go away, gatekeepers will emerge as people realize who make up the cream of the crop and those people are promoted.  These individuals will be the self-policiers who put function before form and seek out the facts before fame.

This may take time, though.  Blogging is still new in terms of impact on media and elections.  Everyone is still getting a feel for how it works and what place citizen-journalists hold in the conversation.

It’s up to the citizen-journalist to help properly define their role, not by words but by acts.

The Millions: Haruki Murakami

The Millions has a great wrapup of Haruki Murakami in Berkley, CA.  Murakami is the author of such great works as Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and seems to give fascinating discussions.  One thing he said that stands out to me:

On his next novel: He finished it last week. Apparently, it’s going to be a doorstop. “I hope you’re not a commuter… The new novel is in the third person, from beginning to end. I need that room, because the story is getting more complicated. I need many perspectives.”

“I hope you’re not a commuter…”

A brilliant line, one that doesn’t mean commuting in the sense of the soul sucking waste of time spent between home and work and back day in and day out (not that I’m bitter about commuting) but a reader commuting into the mind of the narrator, putting himself into Murakami’s characters and world, something he typically achieves by using the first person in his work.  But there are limitations to the first person, bound to the thoughts and experiences of the narrator (if done correctly) and while that can create an attachment between reader and author the author can’t really tell other aspects of the tale or flesh out the world beyond the small view of the narrator.

Just the idea of “commuting” as a reader and author, that’s fantastic.

16 Random Truths

Having been tagged by multiple people, I figure I should do this.

Once you’ve been tagged, you have to write a note with 16 random truths (shortcomings, facts, habits or goals) about you. At the end choose some 16 folk, and tag them.

Try to include the person that tagged you so they can come back and see your answers.

1. I can’t snap my fingers with my right hand.

2. I have never officially broken a bone in my body.

3. I get grumpy when I’m tired.

4. I have a great fear of death.

5. I can fly an airplane.

6. Being a packrat, I collect just about everything.

7. I have a princess cat named Pantera.

8. My likes and sense of humor can sometimes be pretty childish. I like to think that this is endearing.

9. Ten years ago I expected so much more of myself by now.

10. When I was six I wanted to be a mailman when I grew up.

11. Italian food makes me happy. Chinese food makes me happy. Food makes me happy.

12. As much as technology fascinates me I sometimes feel the need to turn it off for a day and get away. Inevitably those days are the ones when people really need to find me via technology or hammer me for being away.

13. I can draw a mean stickman.

14. I have written a novel. It is not published.

15. I was a History major, specifically focused on Chinese history.

16. I need to keep in better touch with my friends.

Bloggers Win A Lot Of Lawsuits

In an article concerning insurance and blogging, Christopher Boggs tosses out an interesting bit of information concerning lawsuits against bloggers:

Nearly 77 percent of ALL civil cases were found in favor of the blogger or saw the charges dropped by the plaintiff. And 92 percent of blog-related suits making it to trial end in blogger triumph (additional information availble at Media Law Resource Center). Odds at trial are overwhelmingly in the blogger’s favor, but there is no guarantee that this propensity towards blogger victory will continue.

As Boggs notes, nearly all of these victories have been on the grounds of the First Amendment. But that will only hold up as long as the bloggers themselves are responsible:

First Amendment protection requires, among other standards, bloggers, like journalists, to practice and prove due diligence in the gathering and reporting of “factual” information. Bloggers must also prove that no actual malice was intended by statements or information ultimately found to be incorrect or untrue. Opinions, stated as opinion and not fact, published by bloggers are also potentially immune from charges of libel under the First Amendment since there is no such thing as a false opinion.

The article specifically looks at a SLAPP, a lawsuit that is meant not necessarily to win but to scare others out of the conversation.  A “don’t talk or we’ll sue you, too,” type thing.  There are anti-SLAPP statutes in 27 states.  Virginia is not one of them.

UPDATE: Things To Do Before I’m 30

Back on my birthday I posted a list of things I’d like to do before I’m 30:

  • Write another novel.
  • Record an album.
  • Go to the beach.
  • Catch a major league baseball game.
  • Visit Yankee Stadium (I’d have to do that this year anyway)
  • Graduate.
  • Get back in touch with old friends.
  • Learn to dance.

Two and a half down (half is the “old friends”, I’ve gotten back in touch with some but need to do so with more), many more to go.  I’m trying to think of other things to add but at this point I’m having enough trouble with this list, why should I add more?  Suggestions are certainly welcome, tho.

Twittered Out

One night everyone and their grandmother heard about this thing called Twitter and started joining it. Twitter was pretty nifty, a nice little tool where you could shoot a short message from your computer or phone and let folks know what you were up to.

But Twitter’s open API invites third party applications that have made it not only easier to tweet but allow you to tweet just about anything: blog posts, currently listening to, whether or not you washed your hands after you flushed the toilet, and on and on.

And this is where Twitter lost me.

Twitter is a nice tool to supplement an online presence. These days, most everyone has a blog or Facebook profile, and Twitter provides a simple extension to the content you might put on those pages. It was a way to add filler to your virtual content, thoughts between the conversations and rants.

But now it’s more than that. It’s a social network summary itself, an aggregate of every piece of Web 2.0 that someone might be a part of and that’s where it gets overwhelming, not just for me but maybe for Twitter’s servers as well since it’s been down more often than not this last week.

Twitter doesn’t strike me as serving well as a funnel of information about people. There are other applications more suited for that, something like Friendfeed, but even then, there are times when too much information just turns me off to a service or even a friend.

There have been a couple instances of my no longer following someone on Twitter because of some plug in that tweet what they were listening to. Every three to four minutes a new tweet would pop up with the new song they were listening to. And, like a stereo turned way too loud at a party, it drowned out everyone else.

I’m almost at that point with some people who use TwitterFeed, a service I myself use that updates your Twitter feed every time you add a blog post. This is OK, except sometimes people blog a lot. And the same people I follow on Twitter I more than likely am following through my own RSS reader or on an aggregator somewhere. So instead of informing me of things, again I’m overwhelmed.

Twitter struck me as an odd application at first and then I started to get it as a way to fill in the gaps

But now it’s so much more. Too much more.  And at a certain point it’s going to turn people off.

People want more out of Twitter and they have third party applications which can provide it, but maybe Twitter really can’t handle such things.  So sites like Plurk, which looks like a souped up Twitter that does everything a blog might do, are going to become appealing alternatives. But maybe this is people trying to turn Twitter into something it was created to be the alternative of: a blog.

OneWord: Century

Bored, I rediscovered the greatness that is OneWord.

You get one word and one minute to write about it.

Century

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought this one would be the last.

She wouldn’t have understood that, too above it all, too aloof to care. Her hair blew in the wind as I watched her dance along the edge of the ocean and I couldn’t help but smile.

All of this wasn’t supposed to be here. Not now. Not so long after the fact.

Her dark hair, her bright smile, her warm embrace.

Her.

It’s not so bad afterall.