Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Reflecting on Last Nights New Media Ethics Forum

After a decent night’s sleep, here’s my thoughts on last night’s MPR talk. It was originally an email, so some things might read a little weird.

First off, I’d like to thank MPR (et al) for bringing all of us together. I alway enjoy our time together. I think very highly of Dan Gillmor (and his brother Steve). Dan’s book ‘We the Media’ is one of the best books on the subject of bottom-up political journalism and fantastic recount of the meltdown of the Dean campaign. I’m also happy to listen to Dan talk for 2 hours, if that’s what I had expected I would have stayed home and turned on the stream.

Secondly, last night was the 3rd time I attended an event @ MPR (in that same room) with the expectations of a conversation and left without having one. I found it quiet telling when the guy watching the survey results said people wanted Bob to ask the audience more questions and he replied, “I thought I did.” Ummm.

I agree w/ Graeme – I don’t know why this is an ‘us v them’ (blog-less vs. blog-ful) thing. To say one media form is somehow less credible simply because the barriers to publish are lower than some other media form is simply specist. Especially when traditional media is investing in blogs more.

Somehow last night, even after starting the conversation about the recent failings of NY Times there seemed to be an underlying assumption that everything published (blog or otherwise) was to be interpreted as important, award-winning journalism. Sometimes it’s just writing. Sometimes for a pay check on a deadline to fill a newshole, or create controversy for the sake of ad dollars. I’ve been told that McCartney and Lennon would frequently sit down, “to write a couch.” As I mentioned in a recent post [1] and mentioned on mic last night – the greater the pressure to publish the greater the chances something isn’t journalism (or important, or relevant, or worth reading). What we didn’t do last night was dig into those pressures and their ethical ramifications.

As I mentioned to Dan Haugen of TCDailyPlanet afterwards, I assume everyone has a blog (if not many). That assumption frames my perspective of projects like MinnPost, TCDailyPlanet, MPR, etc. Leading me to 2 questions; if I can read about an issue on a friend/colleague’s blog what do those other publications offer me?, if the people closest to me aren’t writing about an issue and those publications are – is it relevant to me?

If we were to go off topic last night, that’s the direction I would have preferred.

Lastly, I think we would have had a better chance of getting the conversation we expected if we had sat in the reception room on the chairs, couches, and floor, than inside the hierarchy-reinforcing forum.

More great comments in the following places:
Minneapolis Metblogs
Chuck’s Blogumentary
and if that’s not enough Bob Collins for you:
Bob Collins’ News Cuts

UPDATE 29 March 2008
I think Chris Pirillo’s account of Gnomedex 2007 applies here as well:

“the expectations of the crowd did not match what was happening on stage. The first person (name?) to say something that resonated with a good portion of the crowd wasn’t to blame for what a portion of the crowd was thinking. Positive or negative, Twitter fuels groupthink….Expectations were off…” – Chris Pirillo

Monday, 25 February 2008

Notes from the MPR Ethics in Online Journalism

I’m at the MPR, MNSPJ event on ethics in online journalism1 with the esteemed Dan Gillmor.

Greg and Erica are live-blogging.

“Most are not…and a few are.” – Dan Gillmor

“It’s not about ‘or’, it’s about ‘and.” – Dan Gillmor

Again, it’s hard for newspapers to correct themselves. Apologies aren’t news.

Who do you trust? As I mentioned in an earlier post, I trust those more that publish less.

Can transparency replace ‘fairness and accuracy’?

Are all the people that publish everyday in traditional media practicing ‘traditional journalism’?

I’m paraphrasing Gillmor here: “It doesn’t necessarily mean anything if something is published.”

Kudos to Erica and Greg for fantastic coverage. Also thanks to everyone on Twitter for proving (once again) the interesting things are in the audience.

1. Can’t find a link to the event detail right now.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Optimization Tips: Ruby on Rails and MySQL


I’ve uncovered these tips after (at least) the 3rd refactoring effort of some fairly simple, straight-forward Rails code. Rails is great for getting ideas prototyped super fast. These tips will slow down development and make apps less portable. Continue reading only if you’re running a live app in production and not happy with how resource-intensive it is.

My approach to this round of optimization was watch the Load calculations in the development log and optimize transactions with a Load greater than 0.0009.

  • First, a rule of thumb: Development boxes are faster than production boxes. If it’s acceptably fast locally, then it’ll probably be a turtle in production.
  • Use Model.find_by_sql or Model.count_by_sql whenever possible.
    Slow: Person.find_by_name('JoeyJoeJoe')
    Fast: Person.find_by_sql("SELECT person.* WHERE person.name = 'JoeyJoeJoe'")
  • Don’t put keys, IDs, or other numbers within quotes in your Finds
    Slow: WHERE id = "1234"
    Fast: WHERE id = 1234
  • Only request the specific database column/model attribute you want
    Slow: Person.find_by_name('JoeyJoeJoe').height
    Fast: Person.find_by_sql("SELECT person.height WHERE person.name = 'JoeyJoeJoe'"). Put indexes on all these columns/attributes.
  • Use connection.insert, connection.update, connection.delete for database transactions performed on an array of models or transactions that don’t need the overhead of a model.
  • Slow: ...WHERE table_1.id = table_2.table1_id...
    Fast: ...table_1 JOIN table_2 ON table1.id = table_2.table1_id....
  • Many tiny database transactions are faster than 1 big one
    Slow: stuff = Stuff.find_by_sql("SELECT everything.* FROM everything JOIN (box_1, box_2) ON (everything.id = box_1.everything_id box_2.box1_id = box_1.id")
    Fast: boxes = Boxes.find_by_sql("SELECT box_1.everything_id FROM box_1 JOIN box_2 ON box_2.box1_id = box_1.id")
    followed by
    boxes.each do |box_1|
    stuff = Stuff.find_by_sql("SELECT everything.* FROM everything WHERE id = #{box_1.everything_id}
  • If you’re running the InnoDB datastore (vs MyISAM) try cranking up your innodb_buffer_pool_size. I say start by doubling it. Seriously.
  • Again, if you’re running InnoDB and doing a anything more involved than the simplest ORDER BY, try cranking up your sort_buffer_size and read_rnd_buffer_size to something in the double-digit M range.
  • Also, if you’re comparing datastore engines, MyISAM has full text search, InnoDB doesn’t. So you’ll need a clever work around. There are a number of them.

Friday, 22 February 2008

TwitterCooler v0.2 – Make Twitter More Like Office Chatter

(formerly TweetSpeak, changed as to eliminate confusion with TweetSpeak.com)

While I’m fond of the Twitter-as-water-cooler metaphor, there was something missing.

Namely Twitter is quiet, and offices are filled with loud, distracting chatter.

If you’re on a Mac you can now remedy this issue with TwitterCooler.app.

TwitterCooler downloads your friends tweets and reads them to you using the Mac’s built-in voices (selected at random).

Hey it’s Friday, you weren’t planning to get anything done anyway. 🙂

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Correction. Nothing Happened. Thank you.

I’m on the local police department’s email announcement list.

Earlier today, a ‘suspicious activity’ alert went out possible attempted burglary.

Just now, I received the clarifying email:

“…we have determined that the attempted burglary was, in fact, an individual who went to the wrong address.”

This message says so many good things about the police department, the neighborhood, and the accuracy of GPSs.

On the Trust-iness of the Media

In last night’s talk with MN ISPI on wikis, blogs, etc – the issue of citing Wikipedia as a source came up.

Like citing the 1911 version of Brittanica is the same as citing the current version.

A strawman argument.

One based on false assumptions. Assumptions that established organizations don’t have biases, aren’t infallible, and that knowledge doesn’t change.

As you know, all three are false.

Should a publishing organization be a trusted source simply because they’ve published for a century? The National Enquirer is almost there.

I’ve written before about my issues with newspaper organizations before, and it comes down to trust.

I don’t trust newspaper organizations to regularly publish information relevant to me, while there are great number of websites I do trust.

Part of this comes down to frequency of publication. There are blogs1 that publish when there’s nothing (or nothing more) to say and I have the same issue with them.

The other part is find-ability, share-ability. Both of which are tough in online or hardcopy versions of papers (also in a number of blogs as well).

All of this factors into trusti-ness of a source, not just age.

Perhaps this is me growing weary of ‘journalism‘ framed as Something Special People Do rather than something we all do (or at least can do).

Frankly, in a world of instant publishing, I trust a mass of crazy people working for free much more than organization with a well designed masthead.


“I can now get through the paper in about 5 minutes–that is how little usable content there is in it.” – Sheldon Mains

Sheldon’s entire list is spot on.

1. Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, TechDirt immediately come to mind.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Maps of Parallel Americas: Republik van Nieuw Nederland

If you’ve ever wondered what New York would be like if it remained a Dutch colony until the late 1700s?

I’m thankful we finally have an answer.

“New Netherland achieved independence in 1798, after the ‘old’ Netherlands were overrun by the French. Philip Schuyler, the last Director-General of the colony, became the first Prime Minister of the independent Republic. Influential successors were PMs Maarten van Buren (1820-1856)…”

via strangemaps

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Cullect.com for Curation

As I’ve mentioned before, our lives are multi-faceted. Each facet has its own community of trusted experts. Some are friends, other are colleagues, or simply authoritative in their field.

If you’ve been following my development of Cullect, then you know early on, I switched from the label ‘Editors’ to ‘Curators’ to describe the people behind a reading list.

Curation better describes the what I see as a core function of Cullect – making an easily shareable list of relevant items on a very specific theme. Culling the bad. Collecting the good.

Earlier this week, I talked with a consultancy about how Cullect’s theme-specific (practice area, industry, etc) reading lists could augment their internal knowledge sharing and client relationships. Curated knowledge from your trusted experts.

Last night, via Twitter, Mike Keliher points me to this:

“[Curators are] identifiable subject matter experts who dive through mountains of digital information and distill it down to its most relevant, essential parts.” – Steve Rubel, Micropersuasion.com

Monday, 4 February 2008

Twitter Updates for 2008-02-04

  • @CraigPratchett – my review of Born Rich from June ’06 http://tinyurl.com/2r3ugt #
  • just got pulled into http://www.naymz.com/ – yah, even w/ it’s downtime, Twitter is my favorite and my best #
  • is @ Kopplins for my first day back doing client work….well for the next 39 minutes of battery life. #
  • @geniodiabolico, just wanted to share the frustration with making Mail.app usable. Like iTunes, I want a far more flexible alternative. #

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Twitter Updates for 2008-02-01

  • potty training stats: hours to pants ratio; 3:5 #
  • "treat your users as owners"…another principle behind @cullect – cullect/1: http://culld.us/687441 #
  • "The slicker you make your show, the more it looks like a Pepsi commercial. It also gets less interesting to me " http://culld.us/687256#
  • IL2: MPR’s rebroadcast of last night’s debates. Definitely not agreeing w/ HC’s economics (healthcare & mortgage). #

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