Like so many of us I get pulled into that click bait garbage in my new feeds and waste my time watching or reading fake or trivial stories online.
June 30 – Something You Want To Share
aka. Post 30 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
I’ve been building to this all month because I’ve been working on and thinking about and scratching away at it all month with the intention of posting about it on the last day of the month. So, without further adieu…
My daughter, age not-quite-nine, is interested in current events.
If you’ve been reading along you may have noticed a theme in my posts: I’ve been writing about the news itself, wondering aloud why we even bother with following the news, thinking about kids and how they read or listen to the news, pondering ideas for dealing with complex stories and young minds, and considering unique ways of engaging a young, distractable audience.
So this is my project: thinkdrop.ca …and it’s just barely getting started.
I have a laundry list of ideas of where I want to take this thing, and I’m just starting to check off the first few items.
Thinkdrop (though Claire suggested I call it “KidzNewz” specifically spelled with multiple Zs) is a news “explainer.” At least that’s how I’ve described it on the site. It’s not “for kids” or any specific age group or target group: I’m simply writing it so that Claire could understand the stories and learn more about current events.
Simple language (though that is easier to say than to actually write) and short “drops” of information.
So far, I’ve created this all from scratch: I’m building my own content management software in PHP & SQL with a web application approach. I’ve built a content model. I’ve designed a brand with logos and a style approach. I’ve written about a half dozen articles. I’ve created a secondary support/supplementary content model. I’ve recruited a willing and able live-in beta-tester (who works for room & board.) And I’ve started (lightly) promoting it on social media… to the twitter equivalent of a few interested glances and words of encouragement.
I’m not an expert, but I’ve got about four or five years of “simplifying” it for my kid experience.
I have some lofty add-on goals, too. I’m hoping to publish at least 3 articles per week (for now). I have a development plan with version updates & enhancements (and some important deficiency filling) mapped out for at least another two sub-version updates. And I’m working on a submission/editorial model (probably for around version 0.5) for if this thing starts to grow wings and (big, BIG IF) I can find someone(s) else who might be interested in playing along.
Then, as I alluded to above, this is just the core of a much bigger idea that, as much as I’d like to share it with you it’s… y’know… well, we’ll call that bit proprietary IP at the moment. Company secrets. A plan yet to be unveiled… because I don’t want some random reader to pinch it and wander off to build it themselves.
With that, I conclude this crazy month of blogging and step into something probably crazier. From one idea to the next…
June 16 – Something You Are Thinking About
aka. Post 16 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
Claire has been extremely interested in current events these days… at least as far as a kid can be considered to be extremely interested in anything.
We listen to the news each morning as we eat breakfast together and more than just me explaining “what does that mean, dad?” when something that catches her attention doesn’t make perfect sense to her 8 year old brain, she’s also been bringing up topics for further discussion when we’re walking the dog, or driving home from school, or just sitting around.
This has me thinking a lot about how kids might consume news. If they should consume news. What would motivate them to want to consume news.
After all, is it the subject matter that inspires kids to care about what we call news? Are kids only interested in things happening immediately around them, the schoolyard rag, or are they also curious about the broader world, current events, or world affairs? How do you explain politics to a kid? Should you explain politics to a kid? What do you tell them that makes them want to care when their older without boring them silly when they are younger?
Partly this strikes me as a fatherly task: to seek out new ways of introducing Claire to a weekly dose of news and current events. Partly this inspires me as one of those uh-oh-ideas where I get started on something and kinda feel like I need to do something about it: like some more blog posts.
June 9 – Something You Have Heard
aka. Post 9 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
I do a lot of ranting about the modern media on this blog. Well… ok, if not a lot then some… and if not particularly about the media itself then ranting about how people here in the early twenty-first century tend to react to the media.
And then I was driving home, listening to a podcast (of course) and something one of the hosts said neatly aligned with my need to write this post this evening: it was simply, what’s the deal with the news? Y’know.. news. The News. The important stories of the day, broadcast, read by deep voiced reporters making everything sound important. Why the heck are we so fascinated with news? Or, why do I listen to the radio news, then read the newspaper, then scan the internet for more news, then turn on the television and watch even more news? I mean, what compels me to do that? What’s the point?
It’s the news, you say. It’s important. It’s current events. Listening and paying attention is being an informed citizen.
I guess… sure, maybe… but is it?
Have you ever listened to the news in the morning, sometimes in a half-asleep state before you’ve even crawled out of bed, and thought, wondered, contemplated why there is always something worth reporting? We talk about “slow news days” as a kind of joke about some particular story that somehow doesn’t seem deserving of the airtime or ink it got, but yet every day there still seems to be stories to tell. Eight minutes worth. Every day there seems to be things going on that I should care about, according to the little voice coming out of the little black box beside my bed, telling me that there are important people doing important things, or average people overcoming obstacles, or terrible people being punished for breaking our rules. Every day. Never do I wake up and the reporter says, hey, sorry folks… nothing really happened yesterday so we’re just going to play some music. It’s never happened.
For some reason there is always the news. As if we can’t go a day without the official gossip of our society spewing from the speaker. As if, like our morning coffee or that piece of toast and jam, the day can’t properly start unless something, somewhere has happened and filtered through whatever agent is filtering it and then projecting it out into our homes, into our lives, for us to think about, aspire to, shout about, and rage against.
Maybe there is just so much news that all we get is eight minutes worth. That’s all that they have time for. There is just so much worth telling that they cram as much as they can into that narrow little window and… and…
Should I care? I mean it usually just makes me angry at the world. Stupid people doing stupid things. Corrupt people doing corrupt things. People screwed over, killed, cheated, avenged, defied, reviled, caught, and ruined. We aspire to be on the news or to avoid ever being news. No one wants to be bad news. And no news is not necessarily good news. Yet making some people are always making the news whether they seek to make it or not.
We cling to dramatic news. We gush at empathetic news. We roil at news that exposes truths we never even knew we might care about. And then some people get so angry at some news that they go an make the news by being the types of people who turn bad thoughts into more bad news.
As a collective it is almost like a weird symptom of some societal illness. As a group, we are introspective and simultaneously narcissistic. And we’re all guilty, I guess.
I’ve heard the news. I’ll keep hearing the news. I guess I just never really stopped to wonder why I listen, or why I should keep on.
June 7 – Something You Have Failed
aka. Post 7 of Those 30 Posts in June Blog-Every-Day Posts
I’m not interested in being famous, that’s not the point of this. But it happened again tonight. I was listening to the national news on the radio and someone with whom I once crossed paths in my youth, a peer, a one-time-friend, was suddenly there in my living room, her voice, there being interviewed in the middle of a story with some weight and some gravitas and some particular and wide-reaching interest. She’s doing important things, helping people in meaningful ways that other people want to know about, other people care about, that are interesting and worthy of a national news story, and…
And I turn off the radio, finish cooking my dinner, and then go outside to mow the grass and sit in the yard with my dog.
It happens with a weird sort of frequency. I find that I know people whose lives feel more weighty and influential than I even think I might want to be, that I know people from long distant memories of my youth, twenty, thirty years past, people I’ve sat with, danced with, drank with, learned with, paced beside before they raced ahead and there they are, being important, influencing, changing, impacting, making the news, telling the news, changing the world, doing instead the opposite of whatever it is I’m doing to not stand out.
I’m not looking for fame. Maybe validation. Maybe acknowledgement. I don’t even really know. I can’t even really articulate it.
Sometimes I’ll see someone I used to know on TV and I’ll send them a note and just say, hi there, I saw you on TV and hey, that was pretty cool what you’re up to, remember me. I’m just here… being pretty much someone you won’t likely see on TV, y’know what I mean? Carry on. I’ll be over here listening to the news stories about those interesting things you are doing.
There’s always a bigger fish. Always bigger ponds. Always bigger ideas and bigger things happening. I guess you don’t always realize who those bigger fish are until a few more years go by. I guess I didn’t realize I was swimming with so many bigger fish at one point. Maybe I still am.
I don’t want to stand out, not necessarily. I just sometimes get a little jolt that reminds me that I’m not so much trying to, either, that I’ve failed at that game, or that maybe I was never even playing it.
Don’t let the door hit ya’ll on the way out. In my continuing and passive-aggressively brooding battle to not-so-quietly ignore all the trolls of the digital universe, a new chapter unfolded yesterday.
CBC announced that they will soon be stopping all anonymous commenting on their news websites. Huzzah!
If you haven’t witnessed this (now soon to be thankfully extinguished) flame of our broken culture, check it out (a) before it’s gone forever and (b) knowing in your soon-to-be-bruised heart & soul that this failed forum is scheduled to be doused with a big old bucket of cold, fresh, common sense. Finally.
Of course, the comments on the “we’re changing the comments” story were just amazing. Virtual temper tantrums, claims of censorship with tax dollars, and weak little banners being lifted claiming rights violations and the end of free speech. All of this from a troupe of folks who (1) are the first in line to electronically shout, yell, scream, pounce, and derail anyone or anything that conflicts with their own narrow viewpoints and (2) have really only been asked to put their names on their vitriolic trolling.
The free ride for trolls is coming to an end. No more climbing out from under the publicly-funded CBC bridge to yell at passer-bys.
And guys, it’s not that I’m against you having the right to say what you want to say. I’ll set my own efforts out as a model: Go build your own bridge. Go make your own website, blog, channel, or feed, then write, record, say whatever you want. When all of our collective “precious tax dollars” are no longer being used, luring & railroading us, we who are crossing the good-faith bridge of a public website, we the average, unsuspecting readers treading along with the hope of reading real news, written and edited by trained reporters, but rather tricked, corralled into reading your oft-hateful and agenda-driven drivel tacked unfiltered at the end of those otherwise-useful articles, when that no longer happens… then we’ll see something very interesting. We’ll see just how many people actually care to actively seek out and read what you have to say.
After all, there’s no charter right to fame or an audience.
Now here’s the rub. I write all this but I also get that there is fundamental need for some form of anonymity online… somewhere. There is always an argument to be made, and I will be the among first in line to defend that notion, that the ability for persecuted or risky opinions to see the light, that this is fundamental to our efforts to maintain a free and open society. We need a place for minority opinions to be published anonymously, to protect people who can’t publish those ideas without overt prosecution or censorship — the wrath of other people, governments, corporations, or whoever — and we should support that. Freedom for anyone to publish their ideas is what the internet has provided us with as humans, and virtually everyone who wants to find out the method how, has the means and power.
What we do with that power, bent for good or evil is a whole other problem, but I digress…
I would argue the point, however, that (a) the comments section of a public news website is not the ideal location for this anonymous and gaping hole, and in fact if anything has proven counter-productive to that purpose, and (b) more importantly, very few of the trolls arguing the particular point of open, uncensored discourse are actually arguing that point by their own example. My own experience of reading (and receiving) such discourse –on CBC.ca and on this very site of mine– has been one that almost always is more on the side of laser-focused censorship by bored & righteous individuals –trolling– than the defense of a so-called safe space for unpopular opinions …as so many seem to claim. Trolls, and there are always trolls, climb out from under any bridge built in good faith and demand a toll and our fealty to their disjointed ideas.
Thus, anonymity in the comments sections of online publications is a failed experiment, it kindles a dank, dark corner for trolls to hide, and it’s time to find a better way to have these conversations. Safely. Secretly if need be. But not that way.
In the end, I suppose, we’ll see how many people are willing to share such angry and destructive ideas when their name needs to be stamped on them. It’s control, yes, but I don’t think that it is censorship; It’s reclaiming a public a space for civil conversation. We need that, too. In 2016, we need that more.
And the trolls? There will always be trolls. We all know that. But they’ll just need to work a little harder, and go find other bridges to hide under.
It’s October. A month of moving into the slow, huddled chill of the impending winter months. A month of big meals and trick-or-treats. A month of big excuses, hiding out indoors, and watching the impending season of sloth creep back. In retaliation, I present Hacktoberfest, where the duty of all struggling fit-o-philes falls to pushing back the autumn slump and hacking their mind, bodies, and souls into better beings. Hack on, my dear readers. And read along each day as I do the same.
I like reading the news. In fact, I would say if one thing my life is definitely not lacking it is access to thoughtful and insightful news from a wide variety of sources. Some of it is curated from lists that I maintain. Other bits come from news sites or aggregators the I frequent. Other times I’ll visit links posted on social media. And I have a list of friends who will often send me emails or messages with links to articles they have found.
The Problem: Feeling a little bit overwhelmed by new media.
The Hack: Changing the way I consume news once per week by cutting out the internet and replacing it with a paper newspaper.
The Hypothesis: Reading a newspaper will be a more meditative and mindful act than dealing with the digital fire-hose of online journalism.
Hack Duration: Rest of 2015.
I read a lot.
And I don’t mean to vilify the internet or the web as a delivery tool for information.
But in a desperate attempt to keep the news relevant to a generation that demands to have a voice in everything –EVERYTHING!– most news outlets & aggregators (social channels get this for free) have opted to activate a feature in the delivery of news that has a dark side: commenting.
I usually read news and then, without even thinking about it, like I’m reacting to a loud noise in a quiet room, my eyes go right to the comments. And almost always, without fail, they are vile, hateful, trolling fountains of ignorant babble. People with narrowly focused agendas and far too much time on their hands have usurped the social layer of our news. If there was a balance to be found from the ninety-nine percent of readers who are likely more rational but less vocal, then perhaps news comments wouldn’t be so broken. But they are. And it makes my blood warm a few degrees. On a bad day, that can set it to boiling.
I’ll probably read news on the internet for the rest of my life, but to be honest I am feeling a little bit overwhelmed by this new media sometimes. Me overwhelmed equates to me stressed. And me stressed equates to my willpower when it comes to positive food choices, healthy activities, and proper sleeping… well, failing.
Thus, hack number two of this hacktoberfest season: Lisez le Journal Hackable, wherein once per week I will replace my online news consumption with an actual, physical newspaper. Read, preferably, with a cup of coffee in a comfortable chair. I may even do the crossword.
To facilitate this –and on a side note– I’ve been attempting to do an online signup for weekend delivery of The Globe and Mail. Key word: attempting…. and failing. If newspapers ever hope to compete with online journalism, they’d better fix the process of subscribing from a web interface: broken servers, cryptic errors, and flat-out weirdness. And I’m not calling: this is now my quixotic quest… and I don’t like high pressure up-sells over the phone.
Even if I need to drive to the local convenience store, I’ll read some papers and I’ll report back soon. Ideally, I’ll have a nice relaxing newspaper read… and I won’t need to deal with the trolls for at least one day.
June continues! And onward we push through those thirty posts that I’ve been writing every year this month. For the fifth year in a row I’m back to a month of daily blogging: each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be about something that I am:
Craving… Social Media Trolls
Sometimes I get the urge to write an angry post ranting on the many frustrations of the modern state of internet comments. But in the end, mostly, I don’t bother because (a) if you’re online (which you are because you’re reading this) you already know and (b) it’s never wise to feed the trolls.
Mostly I bring it up now due to the problem that faces me whenever I read the news online: it’s election season. We just finished a provincial election that proved to be somewhat of an upset (uh… understatement) and now it seems we’re creeping into a summer-long federal campaign though the writ has yet to be dropped.
Don’t even get me started on the blur of stupid south of the border.
The sad thing is that I can almost handle the political rhetoric these days. I’ve honed my personal filters to the point where os much of it gibbers through my head and I’m able to ignore the bulk of the crazy.
But, oh the trolls… the trolls, trolls, trolls…. TROLLS!
We get it: you’ve got an axe to grind and you not only see nothing wrong with having literally tens of thousands of angry comments associated with your pseudo-anonymous identity on the local news website… in fact you deride others who lack your level of so-called participation. Really? As if having nothing better to do than writing an angry comment into a news website every five minutes for eight hours a day makes you well informed about anything. *sigh*
Haters be hating, I know… but I’m seriously thinking about hiding under a bridge until the trolls decide to reclaim them. It might be a while.
a mash-up of marriage & media
“Doomed? You mean doomed? Doomed? He means, that they’re doomed, right?”
Not exactly. So, why?
First, subscription styles are changing.
Or, in other words, not slumping. Despite popular perception, and the sky-is-falling reporting that seems to accompany both topics, the numbers are showing that it’s not a matter of less participation, but a changing style of participation.
Less of that utterly helpless feeling of impending world-ending doom that I get from reading the news these days.
#100happydays #dailyhappy (48/100) …reading the article on our employee news this AM about one of our past instructors who was being recognized for placing very well in the Boston Marathon last month.
Our breakfast cereal is narrated by the morning news while the Girl is dripping honey down the front of her pajamas. But then such a mess is nothing compared to usual coverage of overseas protests, international economics, and local traffic reports that have been following a late-night snow on the already icy streets.
It’s only a bit of honey after all, but: “Daddy.” She bleats. “Oh! *gasp* No!” And an exasperated and futile attempt to wipe the spill with fingers even stickier than the mess itself ensues.
“It’s just your pajamas. Wait.” I sigh, pulling a damp cloth from the nearby sink and — smudging-more-than-cleaning — dab the honey from the cartoon visage of some Disney princess emblazoned in fleece fabric. “Wait. Stop touching it.”