Tag Archives: Washington Post

Don’t incite violence; Build urban cycling infrastructure and culture

alex-on-a-boat-bike (1)

I read a column on cycling and cyclists in DC in today’s Washington Post Metro that left me more than a little angry. Although I allowed myself time to cool off, I still sent off a series of tweets a few minutes earlier than I should. Here’s the edited version.

Dear Mr. Milloy & the WashingtonPost editors who signed off on his column: yes, DC cyclists should obey traffic laws. Yes, resources for bicycle paths and other infrastructure should be distributed in all wards. That said, op-eds supporting neighbors hurting us will never, ever be OK. 6 years ago today, a 22 year-old woman was killed cycling in DC. She was in or near a bike lane. Was she at fault?

In Milloy’s column, he calls DC cyclists “bike terrorists” and writes that “some drivers” may think it’s worth paying $500 to hit them. (AKA me and my neighbors.) Hopefully, that doesn’t include moms & kids riding in lanes, although dads like me better take care. In the column, Milloy wrote that DC cyclists that ride on sidewalks are “lucky that someone hasn’t put a broomstick through the spokes of their wheels.” (I’ve had sticks go in there by accident; I was lucky to escape with only abrasions.)

As a cyclist in DC & Boston, I’ve been “doored,” hit by cars, run off the road by trucks, told to “get off my road” and had stones and bottles thrown at me. I wonder if Mr. Molloy believes that was all justified, simply because I dared to share the road with him and others who dislike cyclists so much. I sure hope not, but the tone and content of his column gives me little to think otherwise.

Adding bikes to roads that weren’t expressly designed with multiple uses in mind is a real challenge for urban policy makers. DC has seen a huge influx of people since July 2012 — more than 90,000, according to the U.S. Census — a larger proportion of whom want to cycle than the existing population. That’s going to cause some conflicts, including the racial and class contrasts Milloy calls out.

Fear, biases and anger around urban cycling can and do threaten lives and lead to life-changing injuries. If he and others want safer roads in DC, however, I suggest motorists and cyclists respect one another and the traffic laws, work to improve infrastructure and culture, and don’t spread hatred and implicit validations of violence.

[I illustrated this post with a picture of me on a bike-boat a couple of years ago, a vehicle that would be more at home on the Potomac than Pennsylvania Avenue]

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In defense of Twitter’s role as a social media watchdog

Mike Rosenwald is concerned that overzealous critics will make Twitter boring.

twitter is ruining

Rosenwald, who has distinguished himself in articles and excellent enterprise reporting at the Washington Post, appears to have strayed into a well-trodden cul de sac of social media criticism.

Writing in the Post, he quotes from series of sources and highlights a couple of Twitter users to arrive at a grand thesis: online mobs taking tweets out of context could chill speech. Rosenwald’s point was amplified by Politico chief economic correspondent Ben White, whose tweet is embedded below:

When I went to grab the embed code for the tweet above, however, I found something curious: I couldn’t generate it. Why? After I strongly but politely challenged White’s point twice on Twitter, he’d blocked me.

Here’s what I said: I am disappointed that the democratization of publishing and speech continues to be resented by the press. Celebrities, media and politicians will be criticized online by the public for inaccuracy and bias. It’s not 1950 anymore. And for that, a journalist blocked me.

Irony aside, I wish White hadn’t taken the nuclear option. I’m no absolutist: when George Packer slammed Twitter 3 years ago, I suggested that he take another look at what was happening there:

Twitter, like so many other things, is what you make of it. Some might go to a cocktail party and talk about fashion, who kissed whom, where the next hot bar is or any number of other superficial topics. Others might hone in on politics, news, technology, media, art, philosophy or any of the other subjects that the New Yorker covers. If you search and listen, it’s not hard to find others sharing news and opinion that’s relevant to your own interests.

Using intelligent filters for information, it’s quite easy to subscribe and digest them at leisure. And it’s as easy as unfollowing someone to winnow out “babble” or a steady stream of mundanity. The impression that one is forced to listen to pabulum, as if obligated to sit through a dreary dinner party or interminable plane ride next to a boring boor, is far from the reality of the actual experience of Twitter or elsewhere.

Packer clearly read my post but didn’t link or reply to it.

Given his public persona, I suspect Rosenwald will be much more open to criticism than Packer or White have proven to be, although I see he hasn’t waded into the vitriolic comments on his story at the Washington Post, which slam Twitter or the article — or both. Here’s what I’ve seen other journalists and Twitter users tweet about the piece:

For my part, I tend to lean towards more speech, not less. Twitter has given millions of people a voice around the world, including the capacity to scrutinize the tweets of members of the media for inaccuracy, bias or ignorance.

That’s not to say that a networked public can’t turn to an online mob and engage in online vigilantism, but the causality that Politico chief White House correspondent Mike Allen trumpeted regarding Twitter use in yesterday’s Playbook was painful to read on Saturday morning.

Twitter makes people online vigilantes? Come on. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ and other social media platforms have taken nearly all of the friction out of commenting on public affairs but it’s up to people to decide what to do with them.

As we’ve seen during natural disasters and revolutions across the Middle East and North Africa, including protests in Turkey this weekend, an increasingly networked public is now acting as reporters and sensors wherever and whenever they are connected, creating an ad hoc system of accountability for governments and filling the gaps where mainstream media outlets are censored or fear to tread.

That emergence still strikes me as positive, on balance, and while I acknowledge the point that White and the sources that Rosenwald quotes make about the potential for self-censorship, I vastly prefer the communications systems of today to the one-to-many broadcasts from last century. If you feel differently, comments — and Twitter — are open.

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MSM using social media tools at the National Press Club

I went to the Washington, D.C. Social Media Club‘s fall kickoff meeting tonight, which featured a terrific panel on Mainstream Media Using Social Media Tools. The moderator,  Jeff Mascott of Adfero, facilitated an excellent discussion with three journalists from traditional print publications:

I livestreamed the event through the digiphile channel at livestream.com. I couldn’t get the video from livestream to embed below correctly, so you’ll need to watch the session on demand at livestream.com. I wish I’d had a better mic and found a seat in the middle for a closer view. That said, the Social Media Club recorded a high quality version of the panel that will be available soon, so you won’t have to rely on my artifacted stream and low sound levels. Nota Bene: forward ahead to 6:30 or so, when the panel actually begins!

My insights for the night?

Challenges for the @Washingtonian include retaining a traditional editorial “voice” online and yet adding some  irreverance and snark on social media platforms. Apparently, the editors want stories to be published in print first and then the  Web second. That may be a  tough balance to strike.

Social media “enables me to compete with NFL and ESPN,” said @Cindyboren of the @WashingtonPost. Twitter levels the playing field for her.

The toughest challenge for  for @RickDunham? Time management, given the need to keep up with updating the Houston Chronicle’ digital outposts and the conversations . Community moderation is unending and necessary.

Rick also made a fascinating point about #journalism ethics and #socialmedia: keeping ideological balance with subscriptions to fan pages for politicians on Facebook is important in the digital age to maintain balance. Reporters need to follow everyone on their beat.

I asked a question about sourcing, as you’ll see if you watch the video. The panel provided good answers. Both @cindyboren and @rickdunham apply classic standards of #journalism to confirm the truth of statements, usually by calling people or  “@’ing the source.” Pick up that phone!

Rick also made a fascinating observation: the Chronicle is  realizing real adverstising revenue by livestreaming confirmation hearings and Congressional town halls to interested readers. Er, viewers.  By carrying such news events on their websites, newspapers have become in effect independent Internet TV stations. Hello, convergence.

As an aside, I learned Helen Thomas is @frontrowhelen on Twitter. @IkePigott made her an account.

Great event. Many new faces, with others now becoming more familiar as I get to know the local DC new media community.

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First scoop: “ICE Act would restructure cybersecurity rule, create White House post”

cyberattack
Image by Boyce Duprey via Flickr

After I caught wind of a bill that was going to be introduced by Senator Karper this week during RSA, I followed up on the information I saw presented there by Erik Hopkins and Alan Paller. I reported on its introduction Monday night, posting “ICE Act would restructure cybersecurity rule, create White House post” before any other news organization had covered the story.

In short order, Jolie O’Dell blogged about it at ReadWriteWeb (Proposed Act Would Create National Cyber Security Office).

Half an hour after that, Brian Krebs picked it up at the Washington Post (Proposal Would Shore Up Govt. Cyber Defenses).

He wrote a great story — but I had it first, which in of itself is a first.

It’s good to get a scoop. Terrific day.

IT Business Edge picked up the story from RWW (Legislation Proposes National Cyber Security Office) and quoted me.

Dennis Fisher blogged about it at Threatpost: (New ICE bill would overhaul federal cybersecurity).

As he noted, there was a hearing today morning on the bill in the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. You can watch the archived webcast here.

This draft of the Ice Bill (PDF) is now available for download and review from Govexec.com.

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