Category Archives: friends

Reflections on online cruelty and kindness

This morning, I read an interesting reflection on dealing with online cruelty in the New York Times by Stephanie Rosenbloom:

In the virtual world, anonymity and invisibility help us feel uninhibited. Some people are inspired to behave with greater kindness; others unleash their dark side. Trolls, who some researchers think could be mentally unbalanced, say the kinds of things that do not warrant deep introspection; their singular goal is to elicit pain. But then there are those people whose comments, while nasty, present an opportunity to learn something about ourselves.

Easier said than done. Social scientists say we tend to fixate on the negative. However, there are ways to game psychological realities. Doing so requires understanding that you are ultimately in charge. “Nobody makes you feel anything,” said Professor Suler, adding that you are responsible for how you interpret and react to negative comments. The key is managing what psychologists refer to as involuntary attention.

When I checked her reference, I found that Rosenbloom made an error with her citation of research, along with failing to link to it: the 2011 report on teens, kindness and cruelty on social networking sites by the Pew Research’s Internet and Life Project she cited found that a vast majority of young people (88%) had “seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social network site,” not 69%. That percentage refers to a happier statistic: “69% of social media-using teens think that peers are mostly kind to each other on social network sites.

On that count, I’m glad the author chose to end with a reflection on kindness and the psychology involved with focusing on positive comments and compliments, as opposed to the negative ones. Anyone who wants to see how a positive feedback loop works should look at how Justin Levy’s friends & networks are supporting him, or how dozens and dozens of friends, family and strangers supported me when I lost my beloved greyhound this week.

I’m not sure about the New York Times editor’s summary — that the “Web encourages bad behavior,” through anonymity and lack of consequences.

I think that what we see online reflects what humans are, as a mirror, and that what we see on social media (which is really what is discussed here, not the World Wide Web) is 
1) a function of what the platforms allow, with respect to the architecture of participation, and
2) what the community norms established there are.

Compare newspapers’ online comments, YouTube comments and Twitter to what you find in the comments at Ars Technica, BoingBoing or even, dare I say it, in the blogs or public profiles I moderate. As Anil Dash has observed, the people who create and maintain online forums and platforms bear responsibility for what happens there:

It’s a surprisingly delicate balance to allow robust debate and disagreement on politics, current events, technology choices, or even sports (hello, tribalism) while guiding conversations away from cruelty, anger, or even hatred, whether we lead a classroom or an online discussion. The comments we allow to stand offline or online largely determine the culture of the class, town hall or thread they’re made within:

While people bear always responsibility for their own cruel actions or words, it’s incumbent upon those of us who host conversations or share our thoughts publicly online to try to respond with empathy, kindness and understanding where we can, and with polite but resolute moderation when others do not respond to those tactics or attack our friends and communities.

[IMAGE SOURCE: Amanda Lenhart, Pew Research Center]

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Make Washington more awesome through microphilanthropy

My friend Jennifer 8. Lee was on NPR’s Marketplace tonight, talking about microphilanthropy at Awesome Foundation. You can listen to her segment on “giving awesomely” over at Marketplace.org,

Full disclosure: I’m a trustee here in DC. We’ve given a lot of great grants over the past year. Just this past month, $1000 went to support CodeNow, a new “startup nonprofit” that focused on closing the digital divide by teaching disadvantaged kids to code. The White House is impressed withCode Now’s work in this area, too.

You can see other awesome ideas in DC that inspired us at the Awesome Foundation blog.

If you have more ideas that would make the Washington area more awesome and think you can make it happen, please apply. We’re all ears.

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The Web is what we make of it

I saw a Google Chrome commercial twice tonight that struck a chord with me. The extended version, embedded below, has been online since May.

On the one hand, it’s a slick ad for a search engine giant’s Web browser that features a glowing treatment of a megacelebrity and her happy fans.

On the other, it’s a view into a changed world that still feels very much of the moment, months after its debut. It reminded me that the Internet has fundamentally changed how we can directly connect with the people who inspire us and on another.

There’s something both deeply joyful and poignant seeing Lady Gaga’s fans dance and sing along with her to that particular song.

On a night where I also saw so much pain, anger, fear, cruelty and misunderstanding flow over the same global electronic network of networks, it felt good to be reminded of how much more connected we can be. If we choose, we can reach out and connect to hundreds of other millions of humans, who are both different and fundamentally the same, looking at a growing mobile Web of billions of screens, small, medium and large.

We can see, share and celebrate the best of human nature in real-time or mourn, censor and condemn that which is worst in us. We go online and find ourselves, for good or ill, and leave a Web that is what we make of it.

Every time we log on, we have an opportunity to change how we think or connect with someone else around this pale blue dot.

Thank you for sharing that journey and teaching me something new, every day.

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Awesome Foundation DC Launch Party warmly welcomed in District

Over the past year, the Awesome Foundation has been growing globally, providing micro-grants for creative genius in multiple continents. Last night, hundreds of people bought “Tickets to Awesome” and joined the DC chapter of the Awesome Foundation at a launch party in One Lounge in Dupont Circle.

Party goers mixed and mingled with the DC chapter’s microtrustees, including this correspondent, and checked out exhibits and demonstrations from the first four recipients of awesome grants. DC FabLab, Ward 8, Petworth and Counterpoint were in attendance for awards ceremony. Bonnie Shaw (@Bon_Zai), DC’s “Dean of Awesome,” gave a brief speech at the launch party ceremony:

Curious folks also checked out exhibits from My Dream of Jeanne, ExAparatus and ScrapAction, donating to the projects they liked the most using the awesome tokens that came with their tickets. Counterpoint even performed upstairs in front of a packed lounge.

You can follow the Awesome Foundation DC on Twitter for updates on new grants, performances, installations and other awesome events at @AFdnDC.

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Smarter social networking at SMCDC

Tonight, I’ll be moderating a discussion at Porter Novelli DC about what “smarter social networking” means.

Fortunately, posing questions to this particular set of panelists will be much more easier than trying to herd LOLcats.

Some time shortly after 7 PM EST, I’ll start asking Frank Gruber (@FrankGruber), CEO & co-founder of TechCocktail, Shana Glickfield (@dcconcierge), partner at Beekeeper Group, and Shonali Burke (@shonali), principal at Shonali Burke Consulting, what “smarter social networking” means in 2011. We’ll be talking about forming relationships and acting professionally in the context of the Internet. I might even ask about what good “netiquette” means.

I expect to see Federal News Radio Chris anchor Chris Dorobek (@cdorobek) to be there in person to heckle me online, along with the rest of one of the more connected group of people in the District of Columbia. The DC Social Media Club, after all, comes heavily loaded with BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPads and Android devices. Some will even have two of those devices – one official, one not, and will be wired into Facebook, Twitter, email and txt messaging.

This is clearly a group of people that has thought a lot about how to practice “smarter social networking.” As prepared for the discussion last night, I was reminded that the actions that humans take online increasingly are aligned what they do offline.

That’s because the idea of a separate “cyberspace” is on life support. That’s was one conclusion that Clay Shirky brought to a discussion of the recent report by the Pew Internet and Life Project on the social side of the Internet at the State of the Net Conference.

In wired communities, people are increasingly integrating their online lives with their offline actions. As that trend grows with more of humanity coming online, the role of the Internet as a platform for collective action increases. The world has seen some of that power at work in Tunisia and Egypt this winter.

Those connections are not always strongly made, due to the anonymity sections of the Web of 2011 provide. You only have to look at the quality of civil discourse between commentary on YouTube or newspaper comment threads without moderation to see how anonymity can enable the id of humanity to wash over a page. Teachers, freedom fighters, activists, law enforcement, aid workers, insurgents, journalists or criminals can and will use the Internet for different ends. When any tool is put to ugly or evil use, naturally it provokes outrage, concern, regulation or outright bans.

As Stowe Boyd wrote this weekend in his essay on cognition and the Web, however, “throwing away the web because you don’t like what you see is like breaking a mirror because you don’t like your own reflection. It is us we are staring at in that mirror, on the web: and it is us looking out, too.”It is us we are staring at in that mirror, on the web: and it is us looking out, too.”

In this age of radical transparency, it’s becoming harder and harder to hide to hide demonstrated bad character over time. That’s even more true of people who choose to live their lives more publicly on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and where ever else there digital nomadism leads them next.

This isn’t an entirely happy development, as the number of citations of social networking in divorce filings suggest. By the end of the next decade, more people may well be paying money to assure their privacy than to gain more publicity.

In that context, “smarter social networking” in an age of digital transparency may well rely more on good character, better business ethics and placing value in building trusted relationships than faster wireless broadband, the newest smartphone or millions of followers or fans.

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Flash Wedding [VIDEO]

Some days, a joyous video can bring a tear to your eye. (That happens even more easily to when you’re planning your own wedding.) This “flash wedding” in Prudential Center last December in Boston did just that, riffing on the idea of a “flash mob.”

Unlike many flash mobs, however, this one had a point. Mazel tov, folks.

[Hat tip: Steve Garfield]

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28 Tweets about #Newsfoo: Data Journalism, Wikileaks and the Long Form

Last weekend, I was proud to join a fascinating group of people in the first News Foo out in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m still thinking through what it all meant to me. Covering events in Washington has kept me extremely busy from the moment I returned.

Almost by definition, you can’t go to everything at an unconference. And by definition, an unconference is what you make of it, meaning that if you to a session to happen, you need to propose it. If you don’t like the one you’re in, vote with your feet. The open structure means that everyone will have a different experience, a reality that was reflected in the tweets, blogposts and feedback that have emerged in the days since the first News Foo concluded in Phoenix.

Newsfoo is a variant of Tim O’Reilly’s famed Foo camps, which have a wiki unconference format. People create the sessions as they go, and they camp out together. The social + intellectual experience is a bonding opportunity. There is also, for example, a Sci Foo camp which is consponsored by O’Reilly, Nature mag and Google. Now there is a push to do a Newsfoo, which would bring technologists and journalists together in a high-level discussion, that looks forward rather than back. It would tackle cool problems, both content side and business side.

To expand on that concept, posted before the event, News Foo was a collaboration between O’Reilly Media, Google and the Knight Foundation. Each hour or so, four or five sessions frequently competed for attention, along with freewheeling conversations in hallways, tables and in the open spaces of Arizona State University’s beautiful journalism center. As with every unconference, the attendees created the program and decided which sessions to attend, aggregating or disaggregating themselves.

If you’re interested in other reactions to News Foo, several excellent posts have made their way online since Sunday. I’ll be posting more thoughts on Newsfoo soon, along with book recommendations from the science fiction session.

For those who were not present, a post by Steve Buttry is particularly worth reading, along with the lively dialogue in the comments: “News Foo Camp: Not fully open, but certainly secret.” Buttry reached out to Sarah Winge, who provided a lengthy, informative comment about what Foos are about and how “Friend D.A.” works. If you’re not familiar with either, go check out Steve’s excellent post.

As he notes there, heavy tweeting was discouraged by the organizers, a request supported by the thinking that being “fully present,” freed of the necessary attention that documenting an event accurately requires of a writer, will result in a richer in-person experience for all involved.

Over the course of the weekend, I certainly tweeted much less than I would at the average conference or unconference. But then foo isn’t either.

I did take a few moments to share resources or stories I heard about at newsfoo with my distributed audience online. Following are 28 tweets, slightly edited (I took out the #Newsfoo hashtag and replies in a few) that did just that, rather like I’d microblogged it. If you’re confused about the “twitterese” below, consult my explainer on the top 50 Twitter acronyms and abbreviations and my thinking on how #hashtags on Twitter are like channels on cable TV. For many more tweets from other attendees, check out “Newsfoo at a Distance,” a Storify curation.

1. #Newsfoo is an unconference in Phoenix, AZ this weekend. Technologists & journalists talking about “what’s next.”

2. Foo Camp is about “making new synapses in the global brain,” says @TimOReilly. And being present. Here.  http://twitpic.com/3cnxcl

3. ASU Cronkite School of Journalism. Beautiful. http://instagr.am/p/dLie/

4. Loving session on context with @mthomps @adamdangelo & @tristanharris. Some context: http://futureofcontext.com #meta

On the long form

5. In #longform discussion. Love this topic: http://longform.org | http://longreads.com | @NiemanLab: http://j.mp/9X9Php

6. More on #longform at @Guardian: http://j.mp/d5lhF5 @longreads @TheAwl @somethingtoread @longformorg @thelonggoodread

7. “Final Salute” http://j.mp/px3Vk Pulitzer Prize-winning story by @jimsheeler. @TheRocky closed last October.

8. Readability changed how I read #longform journalism online: http://readability.com @Pogue: http://nyti.ms/3Yu9KD

9. Learned about @audiopress from @wroush. Roll your own podcast playlists. @Xconomy: http://bit.ly/cuBm1G #longform

Data Journalism

10. Good ooVoo test with @kmcurry. Virtual session with @jeanneholm& @davidherzog on data journalism at 1:45 MST http://bit.ly/etWw7R

11. Data tools at http://opendataday.org being used at #rhok & #odhd hackathons: http://oreil.ly/g4ibiF #opengov #gov20

12. There’s someone from http://scraperwiki.com at #newsfoo.

Wikileaks

13. Moved to #Wikileaks session. Wonderfully deep. Useful take on #cablegate at @TheEconomist: http://econ.st/hyD7kM

14. “Former #WikiLeaks activists to launch new whistleblowing site”-Der Spiegel http://bit.ly/f4iP6Q #cablegate

15. Talking about #COICA: http://act.ly/S3804 http://eff.org/coica #ACTA & DNS issues. Important: http://nyti.ms/evvl6u

Trust and the media

16. Thinking about trust in institutions & the media. See: http://reportanerror.org & @ChangeTracker: http://j.mp/dEzAQw

17. RT @acarvin Same at NPR RT @drcarp Journalist participation in comments leads to reduced moderation and improved tone http://bit.ly/ex9FUx

Newsfoo Ignite

18. Inspired again by @acarvin at Ignite. http://crisiscommons.org http://twitpic.com/3d15em http://twitpic.com/3d15q2

19. You can watch @acarvin do an Ignite on the same topic/preso here now: http://oreil.ly/9ZIEMs

20. Great Ignite on Twitter metrics by @zseward. Bad: http://twitpic.com/3d1qtz Better: http://twitpic.com/3d1qzz

21. Interesting Ignite from the CEO of @peoplebrowsr. Another tool to try: http://research.ly http://twitpic.com/3d1w93

22. “Curiousity is the cartography that allows you to see more finely grained maps of the world”-@tristanharris

Sunday sessions

23. Good morning! Talking how media biz models might work in with FTC #DNTrack. Context: http://oreil.ly/igZJso

24. Reminded of how ugly black hat SEO spammers & fraudsters act online after disasters. http://usat.ly/88pYMk

25. Absolutely geeking out in this #scifi news session. @GreatDismal & Douglas Adams would dig. Geektastic: http://looxcie.com

26. Wonderful moment: “Let me plug a book: “The Victorian Internet'”-@sbma44 “I wrote it”-@tomstandage http://j.mp/QX4tS

27. Yes. @NiemanLab: http://bit.ly/9xFLft RT @tomstandage: Anyone else at #newsfoo interested in the Gutenberg Parenthesis?

28. Bit hard to leave the warm sun of Phoenix & brilliance of the #newsfoo community for DC. Good to debrief with @jsb @rbole @Hari & @pergam.

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