Exciting things are happening in the realm of making it easy to discover new media in Edmonton. So exciting that I feel compelled to blow the dust off my blog and see what I can do to bring these efforts to your attention.
Mack Male has made a number of improvements to his important ShareEdmonton site, but the thing I am most excited about is the index of Edmonton blogs. I know Mack has been working on this for a long time, as I had the pleasure of seeing some early versions. What he launched this week surpasses my high expectations.
I have long wanted a place to go to see at a glance what was going on in Edmonton’s blogosphere. When I was the editor of edmontonjournal.com, we made a stab at a page like that, which has since been greatly improved — kudos to Barb Wilkinson and Kerry Powell for making that happen. But it’s still pretty deep in the site (though you can find it under the Opinion nav under “Community Blogs”), and it’s not easy to look at on my phone, which is where I do most of my reading.
ShareEdmonton has a responsive design, so it’s just as easy to read on a mobile device as on a desktop. It’s organized so that the most recently updated blogs are at the top, and if you’re only interested in a certain category, like politics or fashion, you can just pull those up. I’ve bookmarked ShareEdmonton’s blog page on my phone, and I expect to return to it daily.
If you have an Edmonton blog that is updated regularly and you’d like to bring to the attention of more people, I encourage you to submit it to both ShareEdmonton and the Journal. The more ways we have to discover each other, the better.
Made In Edmonton
There must be something in the air, because here’s another aggregator of Edmonton blogs that launched this week. Made In Edmonton focuses on startups. As creator Jas Panesar describes it, it “aims to be a complete list of startups from Edmonton that exist in and out of the limelight, complete with a centralized city-wide blog feed of Edmonton’s Startup Blogs and Twitter feeds in one place.”
This grew out of discussions at the Edmonton Lean Startup Circle, which meets every Friday afternoon. I’ve attended a couple of times, and have been impressed with the intelligence and problem-solving power in the room. Bravo to Jas for cultivating such an atmosphere, and for building this site to spread the word.
As someone who is very interested in Edmonton’s startup scene, I’m grateful to have one place I can go to find out what’s going on. Its robustness will depend in part on how often and how well local startups update their blogs and/or Twitter feeds, but I think this has great potential to shine a light on some pretty interesting stories. If you have an Edmonton startup, submit it to Made in Edmonton, and visit often to keep up on what your peers are doing.
The Unknown Studio
The Unknown Studio, whose podcast has introduced me to so many interesting Edmonton people, now has a weekly Edmonton Blog Watch. In it, Adam Rozenhart does what I had been trying to do with the new media roundup, except more succinctly and regularly (and therefore better).
Adam has a good eye for what’s worth reading, and gives you enough information to decide for yourself whether you want to click. It’s a much more curated experience than the blog feeds on ShareEdmonton or Made in Edmonton, but sometimes that’s what you want. If you want to bring a blog to the attention of the Unknown Studio, submit it.
I haven’t updated my own blog in too long, as I’ve been busy with this and that. I think I’m going to pivot a little here. When I notice a pattern worth commenting on, I’ll fire up the new media roundup again. In the meantime, I’m going to use this blog for some other experiments in creative expression.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think about any of this. You can comment, or find me on Twitter or Google+.
(Edmonton aerial courtesy of jasonwoodhead23’s Flickr stream, licensed under Creative Commons.)
Watermelon + strawberries + blueberries + feta + vinegar + oil = yum (Taken with instagram)
One year ago, I left the Edmonton Journal. The overlap between what I was spending my time on and what I wanted to be spending my time on was not big enough, and it was making me crazy. So I quit.
I spent a few weeks thinking, talking, imagining what I could do now that I was free. And then I did it. I started a business. I taught. I spoke. I wrote. I consulted. I spent a lot more time with my husband and children.
I did that thing I always do, which is to make a job for myself that is a little bit too hard, but on the whole, I have been very happy and very busy, with a much bigger overlap of the “want” and “do” circles of the big Venn diagram of my life.
Part of the reason I could do all of that was, well, The Journal.
Barb Wilkinson and Sandra Marocco gave me the opportunity last summer to make something, which turned into the media lab, which turned into a pilot project with City Hall School, which has now turned into a full-fledged Edmonton Journal School. I’m excited to continue to help make that project go with the inimitable Sandy VanRiper.
Now I have another chance to try something new and make a difference. Starting May 7, I’ll be leading a project whose working title is the Edmonton Experiment. We’re setting up a sandbox on the first floor of the Journal building downtown to come up with new ways for The Journal to be useful to its community. Our mission, as stated by our sponsors at Postmedia, is to “transform our city by inspiring everyone to share their expertise.” What that actually looks like in real life is up to me and my team (and a team in Toronto that is trying the same thing there).
Clay Shirky says a newspaper is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist anymore. Our task is to see what problems this news organization can solve, and how. We’ll be trying our best to operate like a startup — problem-solving, testing, learning, and most of all, doing. I’ll be blogging about our efforts as we go.
So I’m back, sort of. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. But seriously, how could I turn down an opportunity like this?
P.S. I have been horribly delinquent with my new-media roundups. This will be rectified soon.
It’s about time I got around to writing about MediaCamp, which brought more than 80 people to the World Trade Centre on Feb. 4 to explore the intersection of journalism and technology. I’m still thinking about that intersection, and the other roads that feed into it.
For a recap of what we did and learned, check out the amazing on-the-fly summaries put together by the MediaCamp newsroom. Huge thanks to my co-chair, Mack Male, and the organizing committee: Jeff Samsonow, Owen Brierley, Brittney Le Blanc and Tamara Stecyk, with assistance from Bruce Winter, Sylvia Schneider, Kerry Powell and Chandra Lye.
What follows are my thoughts alone, as the committee hasn’t had a chance to meet yet to discuss the event and our next steps.
Our mission for MediaCamp was to get storytellers and coders together to see how they could help each other do what they do. Did we succeed? Sort of. Because it was programmed instead of being an unconference, we were able to gear the agenda towards teaching tech skills to journos and story skills to devs. The storytellers greatly outnumbered the coders, however.
Part of this may have been timing. Startup Hackathon and Global Game Jam took place the weekend before. I suspect, however, that a lot of the people we were trying to attract just didn’t see what was in it for them. I wonder if it would be easier to go where the techs are instead of trying to lure them over to hang out with the word-mongers.
Startup Edmonton’s recent announcements may provide such an opportunity. I’m intrigued by the courses and workshops that are starting in April. Most are aimed at those who have built something cool and need help to make a business out of it, but some look applicable to working journalists and communicators of all stripes.
Startup Edmonton has also launched Startup Support Communities, an effort to kickstart “local connections and conversations around creative and startup culture here in Edmonton.” And the new space in the Mercer Warehouse aims to be a place to get designers, developers and entrepreneurs together to see what emerges from the collision of their worlds.
I’d like the journalism world to get in on that collision. I don’t know what that looks like yet, or if Startup Edmonton is interested, but I’m keen on anything we can do to infuse the spirit of entrepreneurial thinking into those who spend their days finding stuff out and telling people about it. As Jeff Jarvis suggests, it’s the only practical way to keep journalism happening as the old business models crumble.
Anyway, I’ll keep thinking about that. Stay tuned for more on what MediaCamp plans to do next.
Not that you’d know it if you’ve been waiting for an update, but I have been consuming as much Edmonton new media as usual lately. I just haven’t sat myself down to write about it. Which is a problem, because then it piles up, and the thought of catching up becomes daunting. So here I am, catching up. Consider this one big ICYMI.
— Jen Banks has been writing up a storm on Tech Mommy. She has just the right mix for me: a eulogy for a dead computer on the tech side, a harrowing tale of childbirth on the mommy side.
— I’m way late on this one, but Linda Hoang’s feature story on Edmonton’s Awesome Foundation is definitely worth a read. When she covers something, she covers the heck out of it. The next pitch party is March 29. By the way, Awesome grant recipient Words with Friends holds its fifth event on Feb. 23 at Bohemia.
— Paul Matwychuk and Heather Noel have replaced DVD Afternoon with a new show call Trash, Art and the Movies. Not only have they changed the format in a way that makes it more accessible to the likes of me, but they’ve also brought in Erin Fraser, who has her hand in all kinds of interesting stuff, including Metro Cinema, Graphic Content and Sequential Tart. The first episode was lots of fun, and I’m looking forward to more.
— Speaking of comic books and podcasts, I’m listening for the first time to Podcast! The Comics, which is part of the Comics! The Blog juggernaut fashioned by Brandon Schatz and James Leask. As I have said before, I’m more an admirer of people who like comics than a reader of comics themselves, but it seems to me this is quite an impressive effort.
— In other podcast-related news, Jay n’ J have a new feature called Jay vs J, in which the two movie buffs debate the merits of a film and ask you to vote. Very slick. Lots of fun episodes lately, too, whether it’s the “sliders” or the most recent full episode with Aaron Clifford. (Also, Aaron, who was awesome at MediaCamp, is making me want to try Pinterest. Aarrgh, no time! And yet…)
(Addendum: Unbeknownst to me when I wrote this post, James Leask is the guest on the actual most recent Jay n’ J podcast. Spooky. Plus he likes The Princess Bride, which is my favourite movie, so obviously, this is a must listen, even though I will never ever watch Ghost Rider.)
— The Unknown Studio is back on track after illness and busyness got in the way of regular podcasting. In the spirit of ICYMI, do listen to the small but mighty Flu Episode to hear Alex Abboud talk about being the Edmonton Journal’s first blogger-in-residence. In my admittedly biased estimation, Alex has been hitting it out of the park, both on his own blog and at The Journal, where he consults, blogs and observes under the aegis of the media lab that I co-ordinate.
OK, way too long, and still too much to say. I should blog more often — then I wouldn’t get so pent up. Comment, tweet or Google+ at me if you like.
(Thanks to Mack Male for the photo, which comes from his Flickr stream under a Creative Commons licence.)
It seems an awful lot of people are interested in learning how to do new things this year, and a lot of them are journalists and/or bloggers, judging from my Twitter stream.
I don’t think it will turn me into Lisa Williams, and I’m going to have to improve my time management skills to work the lessons into my life, but I’m excited for the opportunity. So is Sheri at This Bird’s Day. So could you be.
Speaking of opportunities to learn new skills, MediaCamp Edmonton is set for Feb. 4 at the World Trade Centre on Jasper Avenue. Tickets will be on sale at yeglive.ca very soon. (Update: Are on sale now!) The idea is to get storytellers and coders together to see how they can help each other.
Among the speakers are SEO/analytics expert Dana DiTomaso, Edmonton Journal publisher John Connolly, developer Aaron Clifford, data journalist Lucas Timmons, designer Tanya Camp, social media strategist Jay Palter, data miner Mack Male, radio/web wunderkind Brittney Le Blanc, Storifyer extraordinaire Tamara Stecyk and Edmonton’s own Dumbledore of code, Owen Brierley. And me. So come!
(Addendum: Todd Babiak of Story Engine will also be joining us, to talk about how developers can get their story out. For more on MediaCamp, see Jeff Samsonow’s post, or listen to his dulcet tones on the latest Unknown Studio podcast.)
MediaCamp is just one of many cool and useful events coming up. To wit:
— Jan. 18: DemoCamp 17: Developers show their stuff at the Telus Centre at the University of Alberta
— Jan. 19: Girl Geek Dinner, Season 2, Episode 5: No speaker this time, just a chance to get together and geek out at Brewsters Oliver Square.
— Jan. 27: Social Media Breakfast: Walter Schwabe of fusedlogic will be speaking at this edition of the monthly event. Ticket details to come, so watch the #smbyeg hashtag for details.
— Jan. 27-29: Startup Hackathon and Global Game Jam: A 54-hour marathon to make apps and games.
— Feb. 2: Pecha Kucha Night 12: A night of short, sharp talks at the Metro Cinema (Garneau Theatre).
— Feb. 8: TEDxEdmonton Salon Series #1: A live speaker event on the theme of “Rethinking Open Source Culture.”
— March 8-10: BlogWest 2012: A conference that aims to get bloggers and brands together, organized by Felicia Dewar.
— May 4-5: iMedia, a social media conference organized by Carol McBee.
And that’s just a bit of what’s going on. Keep an eye on ShareEdmonton’s calendar for more.
Here are a few more things I noticed this month:
— Avenue Edmonton started a petition to get the city to build a monument to SCTV, which was made here in the early 1980s. David Staples and Colby Cosh liked the idea; Mike Otto did not. Much back-and-forthing ensued on Twitter. As many have pointed out, there’s a bit of a generational divide here. If you (like me) grew up with the show, it’s monumental. If you didn’t, chances are you’d rather see the time and energy spent elsewhere.
— While we’re talking about monuments, the prolific Paula Kirman had a nice post earlier this month on the homeless memorial sculpture on 99th Street.
— If you’re looking for a primer on FourSquare, its uses and abuses, Jerry Aulenbach has you covered.
— Lowetide has migrated his widely read Oilers blog to a new site.
— Alex Abboud is in the middle of a thoughtful series of blog posts on Jasper Avenue. Here’s the preamble and here’s a rumination on what’s good about 104th Street. (Mack has a post on 104th, too.)
— In Roundup 26, I admitted my dearth of knowledge when it comes to food blogs. Luckily, Sharon Yeo publishes regular Food Notes as part of her encyclopedic Only Here for the Food.
— In other food news, Jennifer Cockrall-King gave a great talk at The ARTery on Jan. 12 about her new book, Food and the City, which comes out next month.
— She spoke a TripLit, a fun and well-attended literary event put on by three authors: Jocelyn Brown, the new writer-in-residence at the Edmonton Public Library; Lynn Coady, co-founder of Eighteen Bridges magazine; and Marina Endicott, founder along with Coady of the Literary Saloon. I learned a lot that night.
By the way, I’m giving a workshop called Social Media for Writers through MacEwan Writing Works on Feb. 11. I have started compiling a Twitter list of authors who use Twitter effectively. Many are local but there are a few others sprinkled in there. I’d love to hear your suggestions for worthy additions. Comment, tweet or Google+ at me.
As I reflect on 2011 in Edmonton’s new media space, a figure haunts me: 3,400.
That’s how how many blogs Mack Male counted in this city, for a talk he gave at WordCamp in November.
Man, I thought. Here I figured I was reasonably on top of the Edmonton blogosphere. I had read so many posts in 2011, thanks to the recommendation machine that is Twitter. I had selected dozens for the Edmonton Journal’s first try at aggregating local blogs. And I was writing a sort-of-but-not-quite-weekly roundup that presumed to bring attention to the cream of the crop.
I’ve been doing this, that and the other thing, so this time around I’m heading straight into cool stuff I’ve come across in the past little while:
— It was nice to see the edmontonian’s YouTube channel come to life again with A Close Shave, a trailer for Marty Chan’s latest children’s book. I have it on good authority that that thing above Miles Cruz’s lip is not Jeff Samsonow’s real Movember moustache, although he did sprout hair for prostate cancer research, along with seemingly half of the Edmonton twitterverse.
— The Charrette, the urban planning and design blog kept by Scott Lilwall, Mike Otto and a cast of perspicacious contributors, just celebrated its first birthday. I can’t overstate how much I admire this blog. It’s such a perceptive conversation about what our city looks like, or should look like, and it’s a sandbox for playing around with new storytelling techniques, such as the Austerity Bot or the masterful live-tweeting and Storifying of city council’s budget hearings. I wish you many more birthdays, fellas.
— A few blog posts emanating from the intersection of parenthood and technology caught my eye. Jen Banks has two: One offers a cautionary tale about hard lessons learned while switching web hosting for Mom Nation; the other is a provocative prediction on Tech Mommy positing that Facebook will go the way of MySpace in five years. Both are worth a read.
On the dad side of things, Francois Bourdeau launched a new blog called überdad with a post on why he wants his kids to learn to code, which in turn prompted Jay Palter to take it further on his home made dad blog. I don’t know if their kids are too old for this book, but maybe it’s a start.
— I love both opera and trains, so I was sorry to miss Mercury Opera’s performance in the Bay LRT station on Nov. 25. Luckily, Mack Male’s blog post offers the next best thing, with a lovely writeup, pictures and video. Speaking of Mack, he’s conducting a survey on the meaning of #yeg that you should fill out when you have a minute.
— While we’re handing out homework, why don’t you head on over to Mashable’s awards page and vote for Edmonton’s own Empire Avenue as best up-and-coming social media service? And have you considered applying for the Edmonton Journal’s blogger-in-residence program? And do you want to enter a contest cooked up by my students at MacEwan? And are you planning to come to MediaCamp?
— One more question: Are you following Colby Cosh on Twitter? Back in our university days, Colby and I were so far apart on the political spectrum, we could barely see each other. Now that he represents Edmonton and Alberta to the rest of Canada via Maclean’s, I still disagree with him a fair bit, but I do find him entertaining and intelligent. As this piece on the Raymond Comets shows, he writes like a dream.
— I got behind on my podcast listening, but thanks to having to clean up my house for Christmas and company, I’m all caught up. The Unknown Studio’s live interview with Joe Wos of the Toonseum, recorded at the Pure Speculation festival, is delightful listening. If you can’t get enough of The Muppets, among other movie matters, tune in to both Jay n’ J and DVD Afternoon (in which Paul Matwychuk takes a swing at The Rainbow Connection. I still like him, despite that.)
As well, Jay n’ J squeezed in a slider episode with Trent Wilkie on Metro Shorts, a series of short films at the Metro Cinema presented by Trent’s Mostly Water Theatre. He also has a cameo in A Close Shave that really did make me laugh out loud.
Well, we seem to have come full circle, so that will do for now. You’ll find more media stuff in Mastermaq’s Media Monday. Comments are welcome here, on Twitter and on Google+.
(That’s a screen capture from A Close Shave up top. Nice shooting, Sally Poulsen.)
I was fortunate to be asked to speak at WordCamp Edmonton, which meant I got to soak up a whole bunch of great stuff from this terrific conference on all things WordPress.
As I admitted in my presentation (which won’t make a lot of sense out of context, but the links are worth looking at), I am a WordPress n00b of the highest order, so a lot of the talks from the developers and designers sailed straight over my head. No matter. It’s useful to me to know what I don’t know; Step 2 is to get around to knowing it.
The conference gave me a chance to announce The Journal’s call for applications to be the paper’s first blogger-in-residence. It’s a little experiment that Barb Wilkinson and I are trying in the media lab. Deadline is Dec. 19, so check out what we’re looking for and fill out the form if you’ve got what it takes.
Slides and video of the WordCamp presentations are to be posted in the fullness of time. In the meantime, check out Tamara Stecyk’s summaries of Day 1 and Day 2 on Storify. Also, I would dearly love to steal Taylor Reese’s notebook — that shot up top is of his notes from Jeff Archibald’s talk on typography. I love people who think the way that looks.
I’m on Tumblr because it’s easy, but my New Year’s resolution will be to move my main blog to the WordPress site that Sally Poulsen built for me. WordCamp was a good baby step in the right direction.
My favourite session was Dana DiTomaso’s talk on search engine optimization for WordPress. She delivered tons of practical tips and links to resources in a mile-a-minute but highly entertaining talk. I’m looking forward to hearing her again at the Social Media Breakfast on Nov. 25.
Another takeaway came from Mack Male’s talk on lessons from the Edmonton blogosphere. He highlighted a number of excellent blogs, and distilled their success down to four qualities: passionate, interesting, engaging and consistent. Judging from the reaction I’ve been getting (thank you, commenters and retweeters!), I’m doing OK on the first three, but I know I’m falling down on consistency. Working on it.
And now, rounding up:
— “I’m No Superman: The Comic Book Collection of Gilbert Bouchard” opened at the University of Alberta’s Bruce Peel Special Collections Library on Nov. 18. Not only did Andy Grabia do an amazing job curating the collection, but he also curated the night’s tweets and snapshots on Storify. You can see the show for free, but do yourself a favour and buy the catalogue: only $5 for a beautiful tribute to a man who cared a great deal about the arts in Edmonton. (Addendum: The catalogue, which is not available online, includes Andy’s perceptive essay on Gilbert and the story his collection tells, in addition to many wonderful images from the comics. It’s a keepsake.)
— Another Girl Geek Dinner happened this past week. I missed it, but I followed along on Twitter as Ruth Kelly, president of Venture Publishing, addressed the gang at D’Lish. Tamara storified this one, too. (Have I mentioned how much I love Storify? Yeah. It’s pretty awesome. Great for bringing meaning to the stream and keeping it around. Also an increasingly powerful tool for serious journalism.)
— Dave Cournoyer is performing a great service keeping on top of who’s been nominated where and for whom as we head into a provincial election in the spring.
— I finally got a chance to listen to the Unknown Studio’s latest podcast, featuring Jay Bardyla of Happy Harbor Comics. Recommended listening, not only for comic-book fans but for anyone interested in candid, well-informed, earned-the-hard-way advice on running a small business.
— Bardyla was also one of the organizers of Pure Speculation, the geek festival that happened on the weekend and sounded like a very fun time. I missed both PureSpec and Refinery, the big party at the Art Gallery of Alberta featuring Fish Griwkowsky’s “Explorers of the North and the Monsters Who Killed Them,” which also looked like a blast. Had I gone to either, I might have seen my old friend Jason Kapalka, a fellow Gateway alum who is the reason I almost never see my iPad, as everyone else in my house steals it to play Plants vs Zombies.
OK, ça suffit. Catch up on more Edmonton goings-on in Mack’s weekly Edmonton notes, and find out about other media happenings in his Media Monday. Tell me what I missed or messed up in the comments, on Twitter or on Google+.
The past little while has been heavily IRL for me — I spent a lot of time at events, talking to people in real life, as opposed to reading or listening to their stuff online. But every one of those opportunities had its seeds in connections made on Twitter, so there’s the new media angle (or what will have to suffice as one).
— EdCamp Edmonton, an unconference organized by teachers and held at Lillian Osborne Senior High on Nov. 5, was all I had hoped it would be. I attended to learn more about teaching, as I find myself doing that a fair bit now, both at MacEwan University and at the Edmonton Journal media lab. I was not disappointed. We learned too much to convey here, but you can get a sense of it from this Google doc compiled by the participants. I used Storify to curate the day’s Twitter chatter. If you want the whole stream, check out #edcampyeg.
- The Advertising Club of Edmonton brought Leslie Ehm in for the second installment of its Cultivate speaker series at the Art Gallery of Alberta on Nov. 3, and I was lucky enough to be her warmup act. She gave a funny, perceptive talk exploding several myths around the idea of creativity. To sum up: Creativity is not magic, or a gift you’re born with; it’s a process, and you can participate fully in that process if you free your mind from judgmental, safe thinking that holds you back. You’ll find the highlights on the Twitter stream at #cultivate.
- Ehm’s talk was especially enjoyable because of all of the serendipitous connections to other discussions I had participated in that week. Douglas Merrill, the former CIO of Google, spoke about what it takes to innovate and win in the Nov. 2 keynote at ICE, the tech conference organized by CIPS. Just like Ehm said, it involves getting messy. Merrill’s advocacy of embracing failure gave Owen Brierley and me a nice lead-in to our little session on “Fail often, fail fast” later that afternoon.
- I also had the pleasure of participating in a salon organized by Andy Grabia on Oct. 29, a lovely evening of conversation among a small group of clever and interesting Edmontonians, many of whom connected or at least reconnected via Twitter. Andy’s salons are conducted under Chatham House rules — what’s said in the room stays in the room. But he did release this snapshot of the evening, created by Fish Griwkowsky. In other Andy news, the display he curated of Gilbert Bouchard’s comic-book collection, which I wrote about earlier this year, opens Nov. 18.
- Next up on my agenda is WordCamp Edmonton, to be held Nov. 18 and 19 at the Shaw Conference Centre. At $40, it’s a very reasonably priced opportunity for professional development and networking among those who use WordPress (or want to, for that matter). Read co-organizer Mack Male’s post if you need more convincing. I’ll be giving a session on the Saturday called “Beyond Bloggers vs Journalists,” a discussion of what mainstream journos can learn from bloggers, some examples of collaboration, and some experiments we’re working on at the Journal media lab.
Wow, new record for shameless self-promotion. Enough. Here’s what some other people are doing:
— Tamara Stecyk has been blogging again, which is a good thing. She did her first Storify this week to go with a post on the surprising reaction she got to a tweet about man caves.
— I neglected to hail Felicia Dewar for her gargantuan and ultimately successful effort to win $100,000 towards the development of Brintnell Park. Anyone who follows Felicia knows how hard she worked to win the Schneiders Picnic Anywhere contest, and it’s nice to have a happy ending to the story.
— Urban planning student Paul Giang has a thought-provoking guest post on the Royal Alberta Museum debacle on The Charrette. He argues that it would be best to leave the RAM where it is, thus solving the funding squeeze.
— I know way too many people participating in Movember this year. Anyone got a good way to decide who to give to? You can keep track of some local Movember goings-on here.
— November is also National Novel Writing Month, and Marty Chan is conducting his marathon-writing project in public. What an amazing writer-in-residence he has been for the Edmonton Public Library. He will be a very hard act to follow.
— KikkiPlanet.com, Kathleen Smith’s online magazine, has a new issue, featuring two Twitter power couples: Kari Skelton and Ryan Jespersen, and Rene and Kari Mayer.
You can always find more new (and old) media news on Mack’s Media Monday, and his weekly Edmonton notes are a good way to catch up, too. You can talk to me on Twitter or Google+, or in the comments below.
To block or not to block? That is the question I’ve been thinking about this week, because of a tiff on Twitter between David Staples and Dave Cournoyer during the coverage of city council’s decision on the downtown arena.
As near as I can tell, here’s what happened. Cournoyer asked Staples for a source on some figures he had cited. Staples responded dismissively, then Cournoyer noticed Staples had blocked him, and assumed his question was the cause. As a mini-furore ensued, Staples said he had actually blocked Cournoyer “long before,” and explained why he blocks people. This added fuel to the fire.
I don’t want to suggest this was a big deal; it’s a tiny, inside-baseball blip on a much bigger story. But these are both Daves I know, so I’m interested. And I think it offers an opportunity to explore how legacy media and new media interact, and to look at what community engagement — which is a big part of what I’m doing now — really means.
My own policy is to block no one but spammers. This is a relatively easy policy for me to have. Hardly anyone attacks me or even criticizes me, and those who do are easy to ignore if I feel they are trolls rather than genuine critics. I stopped being a reporter before social media came along, even before stories were published online with comments. So I don’t really know what it’s like to be slammed repeatedly in public. Maybe someday. Maybe today.
Based on my observations, people tend to react in two ways. One is to become so thick-skinned that such criticism does not bother them, or at least never appears to bother them. The other is to become increasingly thin-skinned, to the point that they no longer differentiate between intelligent dissent and trollish invective. That’s completely understandable, and were I in Staples’s shoes, I might react that way.
But blocking is a bad idea. Here’s why:
1. Twitter is for listening. Journalists have never had a better tool for tuning in to the conversation about their work. Deliberately tuning out part of that conversation diminishes the value of the tool.
2. Noblesse oblige. Journalists get paid to do journalism every day. The price of that privilege (and that’s how I see it — to me, it’s the best job in the world) is to absorb some flak. That’s probably not what most journos thought they signed up for, but the web didn’t even exist when most of us signed up. I would argue it’s part of the deal now.
3. Blocking is bad PR, which mainstream media can’t afford. I’m not sure it’s ever a good idea to tell your audience you don’t care what it thinks, but it’s particularly ill-advised when your industry’s economic underpinnings are crumbling away. Every reader is precious. It’s not good business to aggressively ignore anyone.
I think highly of Cournoyer, but he probably could have phrased some of his tweets in a less snarky way, if his intention was not simply to poke Staples with a sharp stick. In a 140-character medium that allows for little nuance, it’s better to be nice. That said, Cournoyer appears to have extended an olive branch; I don’t know if Staples will take it, but I wish he would.
OK, that’s enough lecturing from me. Roundup time:
— I liked Kiri Wysynski’s post arguing for trick-or-treating in the neighbourhood instead of the mall. We intend to do the same (although half the people in my house are sick right now, so we’ll see). As you can see from Linda Hoang’s latest feature story, my neighbourhood is a great place for Halloweening.
— Tom Sedens turned insomnia into a funny post on the discomforts of sharing a bed, complete with illustrations.
— Because I took a week off here, I didn’t get a chance to acknowledge the fifth anniversary of Sharon Yeo’s Only Here for the Food. It’s a beautiful blog, a great chronicle of Edmonton’s food scene, and an excellent example of the value of following your passion. Congratulations, Sharon!
— The Halloween edition of the Unknown Studio podcast is definitely worth a listen, even if you don’t get to it until after Oct. 31. It features Stephanie Sparks, who writes about vampires.
— I had a great time giving a workshop on citizen journalism for Get Publishing on Oct. 29. Here are some pictures taken by Marilyn Jones of mediamag.ca. I’ll also be speaking at ICE: The Tech Conference on Nov. 2 with Owen Brierley of Guru Digital Arts College. Our talk is called “Fail often and fail fast.” It looks like I’ll be talking at the Advertising Club of Edmonton’s Cultivate event on Nov. 3, and at WordCamp Edmonton on Nov. 19, too.
That’s enough out of me. The comments are open, or you can find me on Twitter or Google+.
(Instead of blocking, why not buy that nice T-shirt you see at the top of this post? It comes from Flickr courtesy Carly Franklin, and is licensed under Creative Commons.)