I'm clearly in over my head. Last night I dreamed (annoyingly) about strict XHTML declarations, a follow-up to a dream I had Wednesday night about BASIC command lines. Apparently, if I read a technical manual before I fall asleep, I'm going to have geek dreams. The damned things should come with a warning on the label or something.
CAUTION: This blogpost may cause the spontaneous generation of pocket-protectors in your wardrobe...
"Same thing we do every night, Pinkie:" Which brings me to our friend Dave Slusher, proprietor of blog/podcast nexxus The Evil Genius Chronicles. I'd been slow to respond to one of his e-mails, creating much guilt, but after exchanging a couple messages and catching up a bit on my Evil Genius reading/listening, I called him yesterday in Conway and basically said "What is your bidding, master?"
Dave's plan: to hold a series of community meetings in the Carolinas at which he hopes to spread the word about an idea he calls Uplift. It's sorta like a bloggercon, but not, sorta like a DIY/MAKE Meet-up, but not, sorta like a political-social-techno manifesto, but not. I'm hesitant to describe it as anything that sounds exclusive of something else, because it's like Dave: A whole lot of things, interconnected and ambitious and challenging and humble all at once.
Here's the way Dave introduces the idea at his new Uplifter wiki: "Science fiction writer William Gibson has a quote that says 'The future is here, it just isn't widely distributed yet.' The Uplifter movement is dedicated to the proposition of distributing the future more evenly."
The wiki (there's also a blog) has the historical materials that trace his thinking on this back to October. Check it out. Anyway, from here we move on to the first meeting in Conway, SC, on March 11, to be followed by a get-together that Janet and I will set in motion here in Charleston, tentatively scheduled for some time April.
New OPML editor: I've become obsessed with the idea of building an RSS news-reader extension for Firefox that would let me combine multiple blog RSS feeds into themed playlists, and though my boss has agreed to let me play with the concept "on the side," it keeps barging into my thoughts. Long story short, Andy Rhinehart read my babbling and said "That's what Dave Winer has been talking about over at Scripting News, except he calls them "Reading Lists" and they're OPML." So this morning I installed the beta-version of Dave's OPML editor, and I'm trying to figure out how to use this tool. Like I've got nothing better to do...
New Branding for iPodder: Apparently the original podcast-catcher was due for a marketing upgrade. The 2.2 version of iPodder is now available, only now it's called as the "Juice" podcatcher (lemon logo intact), and here's the cool thing: If you've got content that you want people to watch or listen to, the guys at SourceForge will customize their Juice platform to feature your feeds, your logo, your URL. Costs about $100 for your own personal version, which you can then offer to users as a download.
New vlogging tool and service: Well, new to me, anyway. Yesterday's Rocketboom mentioned that the new Fireant was out (I didn't know there was an old Fireant, frankly), so I made a note to research it this morning. As advertised, FireAnt is a bunch of things in one: A vlog directory, a vlog reviewing site, a vlog community, and -- as a downloaded application -- an integrated vlog feed-catcher and multi-platform viewer. It downloaded episodes of Rocketboom and Make easy enough, but that integrated viewer is a doorknob. Won't play, won't respond, won't even tell me why it's unhappy (the developers, by the way, wrote back in a quick hurry to my bug report. Sweet...). My difficulties aside, the concept here at FireAnt is worth monitoring. It's like the old iPodder software/iPodder.org website/iPodder community all rolled into one pumped-up-on-digital-steroids vlogging package. (UPDATE: It's probably something to do with the fact that this computer is a dual-booter and probably doesn't have anything to do with the software).
New Linux operating system: A friend of mine who actually lives a fairly open-source life dropped by this morning and handed me a present: Ubuntu version 5.10 for the PC.
From the back: "Ubuntu is an operating system consisting entirely of free and open source software. With Ubuntu you can surf the web, read e-mail, create documents, spreadsheets and more... Ubuntu is community developed, commercially supported, and offers free security updates for at least 18 months after realse. A new version is released every six months...'Ubuntu' is an ancient African word that means 'humanity to others.' This Linux distribution brings the spirit of Ubuntu to the software world."
My first thought was that this feels like techno-Esperanto, but in light of all this stuff arriving more or less at once... uh ... Spirit, are you trying to tell me something?
New Firefly Season 2 scheme: Saw this yesterday on Slashdot -- a group of Firefly fans is trying to put together a business plan that would launch everyone's favorite underdog sci-fi series into a second series without a "network" for standard broadcast or cable channel distribution. Options include Pay-Per-View (think DirecTV); DVD-by-Mail (think Netflix) or Internet download (think iTunes). To get in on this, fill out their survey. My response: This is brilliant thinking, but don't stop at innovative distribution models. Think about how to connect the fan base to the storytelling, to the direction and production of the series. Don't just make stories about a revolution, BE THE REVOLUTION.
On the one hand, the odds against any of this coming to fruition are long. On the other, before Joss Whedon (and his fans) got Serenity produced, how many canceled-after-one-season TV series ever got made into feature-length Hollywood films? Firefly fans are an amazing , organized, adaptive community. I wouldn't put anything beyond their grasp.
What makes this particularly interesting to me is that Slashdot picked up on this survey/petition at the same time that the traditional media was covering the first signs of discomfort over Steven Soderberg's new movie "Bubble," which is being released to theaters and DVD on the same day. The times, they are a-changing...
New threat to the independent Internet: Via MediaChannel, this petition drive from Media for Democracy and FreePress.net -- a pre-emptive strike on the corporate digital-pipeline-biggies and their alleged attempt to choke down available bandwidth and speed for anything that doesn't come with their revenue stamp on it.
Look, true, not true, plausibly deniable, whatever -- on this stuff, I really don't think it matters. I'll sign these things because I want to keep repeating the same message, over and over, to Congress: WE ARE PAYING ATTENTION, AND IF WE EVEN HEAR ABOUT SOMETHING THAT SOUNDS LIKE A THREAT TO INTERNET/WEB COMMUNICATION FREEDOM, WE'RE GOING TO PESTER THE SHIT OUT OF YOU. If Congress detects the scent of apathy in any community, it will bulldoze that community's interests on behalf of anything its big donors request. The secret is to be so vocal, so prickly, that our representatives raise their bribery price to something that will make lobbyists think twice.
New thought about the "local-local-local" metro newspaper trend: I've been bitching for months, years even, about the myopic stupidity of the "readers want local news" gospel that practically every metro paper now espouses. Of course readers want local news ... but that doesn't mean they stop caring about everything else.
The battleground in this fight has been the front page. When regional newspaper executives start viewing their front pages as marketing vehicles for their local articles, the result is less space for other stories and a net devaluation of significant information.
Example: Wednesday's front page had a story on proposed education funding bills, an update on a beach renourishment project, a reward offered in the unintended shooting death of a local 11-year-old-boy, and one wire story setting up the Palestinian vote. Not included in that lineup, or even promoted off the front, were these stories:
- "Senators: Katrina inquiry impeded," which told about the White House's efforts to deny information to Capitol Hill investigators (page 7A)
- "War putting strain on Army, study says" (page 10A), which described a report -- commissioned by the Pentagon -- that concludes that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments long enough to break the back of the insurgency in Iraq.
When stories like these -- which once upon a time would have been prime 1A material -- are relegated to small headlines in the middle of the A-section, readers receive the message that these subjects are somehow less significant. Fewer people will see them. People who don't like their message will find them easier to ignore.
The unintended consequency of our industry's current local-news-as-fetish fixation with the front page? The trivialization of subjects that should be front-and-center in our national discussion. Whether we mean to our not, putting trivial local subjects on 1A serves the interests of the current dissent-squishing cabal that now runs Washington.
Meanwhile: Don't miss the Boom...