Monthly Archives: April 2010

Sting and the Roots rock the Mall for Earth Day [Video]

The National Mall in Washington, D.C. has had pavilions, windmills and solar panels atop the new grass since the official celebration of Earth Day earlier this week.

One dome even contained an electric motorcyle from Siemens, the beautiful “smart chopper.”

Tonight, the Mall also featured some of the world’s best musicians bouncing rock, rhythm and soul off of the walls of the Smithsonian.

While I didn’t record the cover of “Crazy” that Joss Stone belted out, backed by the Roots and Booker T, or any of John Legend or Bob Weir’s performances, I did manage to capture video of Sting’s performance.

He and the Roots put on a tight four song set. Sorry for the shaky camera work; a man’s gotta dance.

Sting and the Roots: “Fragile”

Sting and the Roots: “Driven to Tears”

Sting and the Roots: “One World

Sting and the Roots: “Message in a Bottle”

For more sights from around today’s Earth Rally on the National Mall, check out my gallery on Posterous.

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#EarthRally on the National Mall for Earth Day: Green tech, music & activism

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Serendipity at play: On the media roundtable at #140conf

Unlike last year, I haven’t had time to properly write up this year’s 140 Conference in New York City. My takeaways from 2010 were much the same, however: the real-time Web has disrupted the media. This year’s 140conf didn’t have a volcanic panel on #CNNFail or the full attention of the Internet’s digerati, given Facebook’s concurrent f8 developer’s conference, but those in attendance were treated to case studies in how educators, artists, musicians, developers, marketers, fashionistas and journalists were using Twitter.

Given my profession and involvement in the digital response to the earthquake in Haiti, I was particularly interested in the terrific panels on real-time news gathering (watch it) and the evolution of emergency communications in the era of the real-time Internet (watch the panel.) And given my new role for O’Reilly Media and status as a digital resident of Washington, D.C., I was glad to see Peter Corbett speak eloquently about open government and the upcoming Digital Capitol Week (Watch him).

I expected to learn about innovative uses of Twitter, gauge the maturation of the platform and meet many people I’d know virtually for year in the flesh. What I didn’t expect was that I’d be asked to ascend the stage participate in one of the panels! Due to the disruption to air travel caused by the volcano in Iceland, the editors from the Economist that were slated to be on in the couldn’t make it. Jeff Pulver asked me if I’d like to come up.

So I did.

I was honored to join Benjamen Walker (@benjamenwalker), Senior Culture Producer, WNYC, Fred Fishkin (@ffishkin), host of Bootcamp Report and Nick Bilton (@nickbilton), lead technology writer at the New York Times Bits blog, to talk about how Twitter is changing the ways that journalists report, write and share news.

You can watch the media roundtable on-demand. Given that I didn’t prepare at all, I’m happy with the outcome. Social media can allow journalists to pick up on trends, find sources, find audiences and, over time, develop more trust with readers.

I was also happy to learn that NPR’s “On The Media” also stopped by to ask attendees what’s the point of Twitter?. Good question, great answers, particularly from the New York Times David Carr (@carr2n.

I look forward to participating in the upcoming 140conf in DC.

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Using social media for better journalism: @Sreenet at #ONADC

“I used to say “justify every pixel,” said Sree Sreenivasan. “Now I say earn every reader.”

Sreenivasan, a dean of student affairs and professor at the Columbia Journalism School, went beyond “what Jeff Jarvis calls the blog boy dance,” offering up more than an hour of cogent advice, perspective and tips on social media to a packed classroom populated by members of the DC Online News Association at Georgetown’s campus in Virginia.

Where once he used to go around newsrooms to talk about email, then Google and blogs, now he’s moved to new tools of digital journalism grounded in a reciprocal relationship between the audience and the reporter. After all, Sreenivasan had to tailor his talk to the audience, a collection of writers, editors and producers already steeped in the tools of digital journalism, moving quickly beyond listing Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to the tools and services that that enable journalists to use those social media platforms improve their reporting, editing and careers.

“The best people find the things that work for them and skip the rest,” said Sreenivasan. Services need to be useful, relevant and extend the journalist’s work. Quoting a student, now at the Wall Street Journal, Sreenivasan observed that you “can have greatest content in world but will die on the vine if we don’t have a way for our readers to find it.” He classified the utility of social media for journalists into four broad categories:

  • tracking trends on a given beat
  • connecting with the audience, where ever it is online
  • putting that audience to work, aka crowdsourcing
  • building and curating the journalists personal brand

“Tools should fit into workflow and life flow,” he said. “All journalists should be early testers and late adopters.” In that context, he shared three other social media tools he’s tried but does not use: Google Wave, Google Buzz and Foursquare. Sreenivaan also offered Second Life as as an example, quipped that “I have twins; I have no time for first life!”

The new Listener-in-Chief

One group that undoubtedly needs to keep up with new tools and platforms is the burgeoning class of social media editors. Sreenivasan watches the newly-minted “listeners-in-chief” closely, maintaining a list of social media editors on Twitter and analyzing how they’re using the social Web to advance the editorial mission of their mastheads.

He showed the ONA audience a tool new to many in the room, TagHive.com, that showed which tags were trending for a group. What’s trending for social media editors? This morning, it was “news, love, work, today, great, people, awesome and thanks.” A good-natured group, at least as evidenced by language.

Sreenivasan also answered a question I posed that is of great personal interest: Is it ethical to friend sources on social networking platforms?

The simple answer is yes, in his opinion, but with many a caveat and tweaks to privacy settings. Sreenivasan described the experiences of people in NGOs, activists and other sources whose work has been impaired by associations on social media. To protect yourself and sources, he recommended that Facebook users untag themselves, practicing “security by obscurity,” and use lists. As an example of what can go wrong, he pointed to WhatTheFacebook.com.

Where should journalists turn next for information? Follow @sreenet on Twitter and browse through the resources in his social media guide, which he referenced in the four videos I’ve embedded in this post. He’s a constant source of relevant news, great writing and good tips.

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Dogrun through the National Mall on Earth Day 2010

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Why including women matters for the future of technology and society

The Women of ENIAC

The "Women of ENIAC." For their history, read "Programming the ENIAC."

Some issues trigger a deeper response than others within communities. In the technology world, the education, opportunities and inclusion of women holds unusual resonance.

In the U.S., as Nick Kristof wrote, “schoolgirls are leaving boys behind in the dust.” After graduation, the narrative evolves further. As Claire Cain Miller wrote in the New York Times on Friday, “women now outnumber men at elite colleges, law schools, medical schools and in the overall work force. Yet a stark imbalance of the sexes persists in the high-tech world, where change typically happens at breakneck speed.”

Why the disparity in the world of Silicon Valley startups, venture capital and high technology? Why are so few women in Silicon Valley?

At least some of the issue runs deep, far back into the educational system. As Miller writes:

That attitude is prevalent among young women. Girls begin to turn away from math and science in elementary school, because of discouragement from parents, underresourced teachers and their own lack of interest and exposure, according to a recent report by theAnita Borg Institute for Women and Technology and the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Just 1 percent of girls taking the SAT in 2009 said they wanted to major in computer or information sciences, compared with 5 percent of boys, according to the College Board.

Only 18 percent of college students graduating with computer science degrees in 2008 were women, down from 37 percent in 1985, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

So what can be done? How could including women in FOO Camp or making a list of women in tech or unconferences matter?

As computer scientist Hillary Mason tweeted tonight, “We don’t need affirmative action. We need meaningful culture change and support.”

Based upon the research a colleague gathered tonight, some actions could make an important difference in three ways:

(1) It’s good for men. Inclusion of women and minorities reduce stereotypes, and promotes second-order reflection on latent stereotypes, by providing real, first-hand experience. (Mahzarin R. Banaji and Curtis D. Hardin, Automatic Stereotyping, 7(3) Psychol. Sci. 136-41 (May 1996).)

This leads to better, more accurate evaluation of people’s work – because when people unconsciously use stereotypes, they mis-evaluate work. For example women’s presence in high-level orchestras basically doubled once auditions started to be done gender-blind, focusing only on the music.
(Claudia Goldin and Cecilia Rouse, Orchestrating Impartiality: The Impact of “Blind” Auditions on Female Musicians, 90(4) American Econ. Rev. 715-41 (2000).)

(2) It’s good for women. The absence of women (or very low numbers of women) signals to women that they aren’t welcome or don’t belong, which can in turn cause them to leave the field or choose not to enter it in the first place. (William T. Bielby, Minimizing Workplace Gender and Racial Bias, 29(1) Contemporary Soc. 120-29 (2000))

Research also suggests that when women are invited to the table, they have more energy free to do good work, instead of using half their energy just breaking down the door. Reducing cognitive load on subjects who have to work to overcome stereotypes is not a minor factor.

(3) It’s good for business & technology. Whatever the vertical, the entire industry benefits when the best work is being created and presented. As Miller writes:

Analysts say it makes a difference when women are in the garages where tech start-ups are founded or the boardrooms where they are funded. Studies have found that teams with both women and men are more profitable and innovative. Mixed-gender teams have produced information technology patents that are cited 26 percent to 42 percent more often than the norm, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in I.T. companies that have directors who are women.

The number of senior women doing major research and running labs in traditionally male-dominated fields like physics also offers insight into how efforts to include women can lead to merit-based selection across the broadest set of the best candidates. For instance, consider Lisa Randall, one of the most cited theoretical physicists of the last half-decade. Or Marissa Mayer, a senior Google exec who, as Miller wrote, many women she interviewed cited as “someone who gives them hope.”

Where to learn more

I don’t believe that most people are consciously biased, nor that they intend to be biased. Research into implicit bias suggests, however, that the most pervasive forms of bias are unconscious. Those biases can have tremendous effects on how we evaluate others, mostly to our own detriment – but also to our communities and industries.

Does the issue of women in tech matter to the bottom line? Miller’s reporting suggests that’s so:

Studies have found that teams with both women and men are more profitable and innovative. Mixed-gender teams have produced information technology patents that are cited 26 percent to 42 percent more often than the norm, according to the National Center for Women and Information Technology.

In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in I.T. companies that have directors who are women.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of conferences, groups and networks that celebrate and honor women in technology, including:

O’Reilly Community also features an excellent series of essays on women in tech. For the fascinating story of how women were involved in “hacking” the world’s first programmable computer, pictured at the top of this post), read ENIACprogrammers.org. And the recent Ada Lovelace Day listed dozens of inspirational women who are innovators, inventors and educators.

Finally, Nick Kristof has done the world a mitzvah by writing eloquently about womens’ rights in his most recent book, “Half the Sky.” Learn more at HalfTheSkyMovement.org.

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Privacy Camp DC 2010: 3 words [#privacy2010]

Today I’m at the 2010 Privacy Camp unconference in Washington, D.C.

As with every unconference, it kicked off with each participant introducing him or herself with three words that offer insight into their work, identity, passion or wit. Combining them all created the “word cloud” above.

You can follow DC Privacy Camp 2010 in real-time on Twazzup on Twitter.

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