Today's Mighty Oak

I’m not a huge fan of Twitter.  I never have been.  I think partly it has to do with its dependency and prevalence through text messaging, which I’m very slow at, as well as find very costly (I don’t have a texting plan, so I pay per message).  I also think that Twitter is a fad.

At least, I used to.


Currently, I’m writing this from the middle of the woods.  Work takes me to a camp for the summer, with limited internet access, so I have not been following the Iranian election as closely as I would like.

However, the little bit that I am reading, typically comes back to the fact that when students and other young people are demonstrating, or organizing rallies, they use text messaging and Twitter to quickly get the word out.  Details are flying and people are organized and mobilized faster than ever before.

But the real stories, the real pieces being run with by citizen journalists are what happens at and after the protests, rallies, marches, forced evacuations and so many other things happening.  Once again, the power of ordinary citizens have taken root, and the mantra of the day seems to have taken hold:

One Person = One Broadcaster

To that note, Twitter has postponed scheduled critical maintenance until tomorrow, so that updates can still keep the world informed about what is happening.  Not only does that prove a fine example of sensitivity and community involvement, it also speaks to how important citizen journalism is, especially in this particular situation.

And as much as it may pain me to say it, because for whatever reason I still resist, I think this may be one of those pivotal events that propels Twitter past being a potential fad, and transforms it into a medium we all look to for on-the-ground citizen journalism.

The mainpage of

The mainpage of

What once was a blank page featuring a box that said “coming soon,” now is the beginnings of what could potentially be a very useful reference not only for people who love data, but also citizen journalists looking for more in-depth information.  I’ve actually been waiting and wondering when this would open, and I’ll be jumping in when I get some free time and poking around with some of the data (already my favorite title is “World Copper Smelters”)

The purpose of is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.

When I worked on my college newspaper, I worked on a piece that examined the tax records of my school (I’ll post about that later, but suffice to say, we made a lot more money from pay phones that I ever expected, considering we only had one on campus).  A lot of what looks to be accessible seems to be in the same vein: confusing at first, but offering a lot of information if you’re willing to keep digging.

Currently, there are 47 data catalogs and 27 tools available with the promise that more are on their way.  The search function seems to work fairly well, although with such a small amount of data sets at the moment, most of the searches result in a majority of the data catalogs coming back as hits.  There is metadata with each catalogue and users can rate the data’s usefulness, utility and ease of access.

Hopefully this will continue to grow quickly and we’ll have access to more information sooner rather than later.  Check it out at

I’m not sure if this will work or not (playing with embed code features typically gives me grief), but hopefully the awesome editorial cartoon from Slate V will show up below.  If not, check it out here.

Update: Ok, I’m going to slowly back away from the Metblogs before I blow it up more than I probably already have… Check out the link above to see Slate’s Newspapers v. the Internet, it’s well worth it. And I’m going to go find the fire extinguisher…

Somehow, without me even realizing I fell into this category, I’ve become “the guy who is always taking all the pictures wherever we go.”  And I generally fine with this.  Typically I can amuse myself by taking pictures of random signs and things that are funny out of context.  However, I’m not a photographer.  And more importantly, I’m not a good photographer.

However, a couple items were passed my way that I felt I should pass on.  Citizen journalism includes not only researching and writing, but can be greatly enhanced by decent photography.  This article by PC Magazine goes over a lot of basic information, and it’s goal is to get you to a place where you don’t rely on the auto settings.  Get ready to read and understand words like ISO, aperture, shutter speed and f-stops.

I discovered this article while reading JOHO, and this entry has more information to share with you, including use of flashes and diffusers.

Tech Crunch is reporting on a video from 1981, discussing daily newspapers foray onto the Internet as a distribution method.

It’s a common misconception that newspapers are simply late to the Internet game. As this video shows, some of them (including some of the major ones now failing) have been thinking about this stuff for 28 years.

Over and over again we repeat that newspapers are dying, and that citizen journalists are stepping up to fill in the void of local news.  The article talks about the new Kindle coming out and the deal they have with daily newspapers The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal (and rumored deals with The Boston Globe and The Washington Post).  Is the Kindle the electronic medium that will save the newspapers?

This week on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s podcast, “Tech Talk,” they discuss that idea.  And while they don’t think the Kindle will be the savior to the newspaper industry, the feeling is that it could hold them over until they get a grasp on a business model that will be profitable.

But in the meantime, we have citizen journalists.  And while newspapers have large staffs and are able to cover all the news, the beauty of citizen journalism is that each person may cover one or two specific topics, but in those topics, find the passion that they need to dig deep, sometimes deeper than professional journalists have the luxury to.  Citizen journalists may not have distribution deals with the Kindle, but with the growing popularity of netbooks and Internet-enabled phones, and entire cities now being blanketed with wireless Internet, there certainly is room for both to work with one another, complimenting each other’s strengths and filling in each other’s weaknesses.

Make sure to head over to Tech Crunch to read the article and watch the video, and count your blessings we now have 21st century technology.

Update: Maybe I’m jumping into this story at just the right moment, but two more stories on this subject grabbed my attention this morning.  First, yesterday’s “Culture Gabfest” from Slate and secondly the Financial Times reports on the story as well.  Also a correction above adding The Washington Post.

(h/t to PR Junkie)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Welcome to a can of worms.  And to be quite honest, there will be many, many posts that come back to the words above.  But for now, I’d like to draw your attention to a story coming out of Phoenix.

Jeff Pataky’s website, Bad Phoenix Cops, undoubtedly caught the attention of the local authorities.  Any organization or company with an ear to the Internet and social media would have been aware of a similar site directed towards them.

But what happened next is what sets this story apart.

Pataky’s house was raided and his girlfriend was handcuffed for three hours (he was out of town).  Files and computers were seized under warrant.

Terry Heaton says it best:

But here’s what really bothers me. In justifying the raid, Phoenix Assistant Chief Andy Anderson called Pataky’s site “an unaccredited grassroots Web site.”

As opposed to an accredited grassroots web site?  The Internet is (at least, we take it for granted to be) such a free medium, or minimally, with an understanding that in the U.S. it is fairly free, it allows citizen journalism to blossom.  But that growth is only allowed to continue with the understanding that it is a medium to express thoughts, to investigate and to connect, as long as none of the above damage or harm another person.

So what does this case mean?  Is it setting a president that without an accredited press badge, citizen journalists don’t necessarily have their first amendment rights?  Will we see a rise in amateur press badges (photoshop can be a wonderful thing)?  Do we even need press badges?

And I do have to do some more research into this case, but what does it say about the professional press as well?  Are they coming to Pataky’s aid?  Or in the death throws of the newspaper industry (to be just a bit overly dramatic), can this be seen as a victory for the traditional press?

One of my very good friends, Teri, takes a look at a recent article by The Big Money and ties in Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody” with the idea that everyone is a media outlet.

Teri writes,

I think this shift from specifically-defined goals [in the publishing industry] to allowing ourselves some breathing room is not only acceptable, but welcomed.

Is citizen journalism the silver lining to the newspaper industry’s slow demise?  I would agrue yes.  Maybe not the only silver lining, but certainly a welcomed addition to the various mediums we already have at our disposal.  I do think it has been a natural progression, the ability for people to quickly share their thoughts, report on what they’re seeing and doing, would have come about even without this downturn in the newspaper business.  Maybe the loss of newsprint just helped it along a little bit.

This Week in the Northeast takes a look at what’s going on in the Metblogs network in the northeast U.S. and Canada (while possibly taking some liberties with geography).

Frank takes a look at a hidden treasure of Montreal, the Redpath Museum:

When I reached the second floor, I was completely blown away.  It was like finding a hidden treasure.  A full natural history museum complete with a dinosaur skeleton.

Dhaval checks out a production of Exit the King in New York City:

Susan Sarandon’s fan club must have been in the audience because despite a lousy and monotonous delivery, she received the greatest praise. . . which leads me to believe that the matinee going public in NYC is hungrier for the stars than the actual content of what they go see.

And in Washington, D.C., Patrick discusses the many diseases currently floating about: measles and the swine flu:

Last week measles has been spreading around the area and the city has been working hard to keep it under control. So far it appears the best we could do is to direct it towards another state. I’m not a big fan of Missouri anyways.

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