Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mark Briggs Countdown at the Tribune



Mark Briggs talked today about the changing newspaper industry, hyperlocal information resources, the pro-am journalism concept and what he is up to with his next venture. I will post on that latter point in a day or so, but for now I'll start with the good and the bad news.

The bad news is that Mark's last day at the Tribune is Friday. They will be losing an excellent resource for technology, editing, reporting and training when he is gone. The good news is that the Online Editor position is important enough that they will be hiring someone into the position he is vacating, and Mark is part of the selection process. He assures me that they have excellent candidates and that, I am glad to hear.

What is too bad is that when he leaves, the Online in the South Sound blog will close down, and the new person will blog post directly into the Inside the Newsroom blog. Apparently there will be some consolidation of blogs to account for the fewer number of contributors available to post. I understand that the Online blog had a pretty narrow niche, but it was my niche and I will miss it.

There are almost 30 blogs on the The News Tribune site, and they are the number two trafficked section of the online News Tribune site. That is pretty amazing. Which section is number one and the only higher trafficked area? Why the front page of course. That should speak to the value of blogging in the news process, and I hope that they continue to be prominent on the site, whether or not the same number of reporters are providing content there.

I want to mention two trends he pointed out among the many examples he gave of the changing newsscape. One was the web site www.momseattle.com. This is a community driven, editorially controlled web site targeted toward Seattle Moms and owned and operated by the Seattle PI. My questions are, is it profitable for them? Can it be sustained? Is it helping the newspaper as a whole? If the answer to these questions are all yes, or on there way to yes, I would like to make an introduction.

TacomaMama - New Tribune, NewTribune - TacomaMama

Actually, I know that introduction has been made, but I just thought I would do so again.

Secondly, I was surprised out how newspapers have adopted Twitter for a variety of uses. For examples check out the following resource and select a few of the papers listed. Not just headlines being sent, but an active news source being utilized.

Next up for Mark are speaking engagements in Barcelona and Lisbon. Luckily, he will only be visiting and has no plans to leave the Tacoma area.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blogging Scholarship and an Exit133 Visit



Derek Young of the South Sound blog Exit133 came by the class, and during his presentation he mentioned that he was also an alumnus of the school. He had earned his MBA from the Milgard School of Business here on the University of Washington, Tacoma campus, and now sits on the advisory board of the Urban Studies program.

At one point he mentioned how in caparison to 2005, when there were only a handful of bloggers in the South Sound, there are now more than a hundred that are active in the area (and no doubt more that are not as active or on the radar as yet.)

I know many of them, and quite a few are, or have been, students. Therefore, I would like to point out an opportunity spotted through a link on www.erikemery.com’s side bar.

The web site College Scholarships.org is offering their first Blogging Scholarship from the organization of 10,000 dollars to a student who maintains a web log.

Paraphrasing their site content, College Scholarships was created to serve people who are interested in college funding. Their unique claim is that they list a broad array of funding opportunities without asking for information from you. You do not have to fill out long forms in order to access their resources.

If you maintain and attend college and are interested in applying for $10,000 to help pay for books, tuition, or other living costs then you may want to submit an application. The deadline for submissions is Oct 30th so if you would have to act before the Thursday after next.

Here is what they have listed as their requirements.


• Your blog must contain unique and interesting information about you and/or things you are passionate about. No spam bloggers please!!!
• U.S. citizen or permanent resident
• Currently attending full-time in post-secondary education in the United States
• If you win, you must be willing to allow us to list your name and blog on this page. We want to be able to say we knew you before you became a well educated, rich, and famous blogging legend.

As for Exit133, they have grown and changed over the last several years into a go-to site for events, advice, arts and civic discussion of Tacoma and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Separating blog posts and features on their front page, an archive of over 9,000 articles and columns such as Imagine Tacoma and Ask Sassy have given the site the feel of a targeted publication.

There are also an excellent example of how advertisement supported web sites can allow for ongoing revenue and funding without invading the pages to a point of distraction.

Friday, October 17, 2008

PeekABoo I See You. But You Can't See Me.

I have always found the “vanity search” assignment in my class a fun and enlightening one. Over the last several years there has been a drastic change in the utilization of technology and search, so that it is not a foreign topic and the students have a greater degree of familiarity with the idea of searching for information about your own self online.

Even so, with a larger number of students, there are still a few who don’t believe there is any information about them online. There almost always is. Each year there is charged conversation around the idea of privacy in one form or another and each year another company surfaces that is in the business of collecting and providing information on individuals without their knowledge and through the aggregation of public records.

Intellius was once again a topic of conversation for those who found it a bit disconcerting that along with the name, there was often an association of family members and the listing of age as an identifier.

They are not alone in the people search game by a long shot, with companies like Spock and Wink providing even more information.

Spock collects data from the expanse of the web and focuses on areas such as wikipedia, photo sites, blogs and social networks. Now we are talking about likes, dislikes, affiliates and notes.

However, this year, the biggest shock for the class came from a web company that not only helps you to find a person and information about them, but also allows for you to anonymously follow their online information and activity.

PeekYou, which also lists places you have lived and your age offers a feature that once you find a person you want information on you can select “track me”

As PeekYou explains this feature:

PeekYou now allows you to "track" anyone on the web. Whenever we discover a new link, tag, or information, or if someone posts a new message to Andrew Fry's PeekYou profile, we'll send you an email so you can be the first to know. In order to track Andrew Fry, input your contact information on the left. Once you have finished entering your information, click the "Track Them" button. We will send you an email with a confirmation link.

But check out the tag lines following that.

"Track Me" is 100% anonymous. PeekYou will never display or publicly disclose who you are tracking.

It is those last two sentences that are the creepiest. How many circumstances are there that someone feels a need to simultaneously follow around someone online, yet remain anonymous about it. Sounds like a better name for the feature would be “Stalk Me”.

Mind you it is all drawn from publicly accessible information and in my opinion is a product of technology use as a society we need to discuss further. In particular, the extent to which information about individuals is aggregated and then disseminated.

The students, and myself, find it a little unsettling. No telling what will be available next year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What is Cloud Computing and Should the South Sound Care?


“The cloud represents a major technology shift that creates an entirely new business and technology ecosystem with new players, new models and new market leaders.”

Whoa. Then I guess we better pay attention.

That is at least what they are saying at the Cloud Summit Executive conference today held at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley, California. As Information Week reported, “HP is betting big on cloud computing. Its $12 billion purchase of EDS shows that the company is serious about infrastructure as a service. So too does the HP, Intel, and Yahoo Cloud Computing Test Bed, announced in July, not to mention its recently formed Scalable Computing & Infrastructure Organization.”

But what is it?

BusinessWeek announced in an article about a year ago that “Computing Heads for the Clouds” and that IBM, Yahoo!, and Google were all putting the power of cloud computing to work. They included a primer but still….

What is it?

Of course you can turn to Wikipedia but I think that there description was written for people who already know what it is and understand its importance.

Luckily, I had the pleasure of hearing Aaron Kimball, Founder of Spinnaker Labs, give a talk about Cloud Computing; how it worked, why it was important and who was deploying it, at a WTIA board meeting. Aaron wrote an academic paper with Google on it as well, but primarily I liked the Powerpoint presentation because it was so accessible.

Well, Aaron is going to give a 30 minute presentation on Cloud Computing at the South Sound Technology Conference and then we are going to hear from folks in the area who are using it and where opportunities for innovation will be derived from.

If you are in the area of the South Sound and have a particular story you wish to tell, contact me and I will see if we can work it into the program.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Personally Identifiable Information (PII) Guidlines


WARNING: ACRONYMS AHEAD:

WTIA (Washington Technology Industry Association)
PII (personally identifiable information)
IT (information technology)
SSN (Social Security Numbers)
RFID (Radio-frequency identification)

(You have been warned)

I am a member of the WTIA (Washington Technology Industry Association) task force on privacy. Recently, Lew McMurran, VP, Government and External Affairs and chair of the task force, sent out a set of principles developed to guide WTIA members and the technology industry of Washington state when using personally identifiable information (PII) in the course of business.

As he pointed out in his email, the loss, misuse and stealing of PII is a national problem, and if businesses don't respond to the problem seriously and effectively, then a government body likely will. Already many state legislatures are proposing and passing laws requiring a number of protective measures from encryption to limitations on target marketing.

In the long run, businesses need to take the lead in adopting standards and guidelines to protect individuals and consumers from threats both real and imagined. With that, Lew drafted and sent out for review some guidelines, which I am posting here. Take a look and offer opinion if you are so inclined. This is a draft only, and will be subject to discussion and review. I would like to open that review to you all as well.

PII is information about people. Any misuse, loss or stealing of PII affects the lives of people. This must be kept foremost in the minds of WTIA members and the technology industry.

PII is critical data for business. It must be understood that way from the top of an organization to the bottom. Loss, misuse or stealing of PII should not be tolerated and policies to protect PII must be developed that apply to everyone in an organization.

Access to PII within an organization should be limited to those who have a critical need for it. For those within an organization that need access to PII, personal financial information should be segregated from other PII to lessen the opportunity for misuse or stealing of personal financial information.

Organizations must be transparent to consumers and individuals about what PII they collect, how they use it, with whom it is shared, what protective measures are in place and options consumers have to limit disclosure of PII. Privacy policies can serve this purpose but should be written in plain English, be more prominent and must be developed with the input of legal, marketing, IT and others who will have access to PII.

Consumers may or may not be aware that companies are using behavioral targeting as a means to develop and market products and services. The use of behavioral targeting tools, such as cookies, web bugs, web beacons and others must be disclosed prominently, either within privacy policies or separately.

Organizations must closely monitor third party vendors for access to and use of PII. Access to personal financial information and SSNs should be limited only to those where it is necessary. Third party vendors’ use of PII should be restricted to only what is contracted and be prohibited from transferring PII to anyone else.

New information gathering technologies, such as RFID, must be carefully monitored when deployed. When using new technologies, PII should be collected with a consumer’s or individual’s knowledge with a convenient means to opt out.


This is the start of an important discussion and not an exhaustive list. The WTIA is taking the lead in advocating for the market adoption of these principles, and though the organization lobbies for market based, industry self regulation, they still may support legislative measures that make sense.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An EPIC Prediction about Newspapers?

In an editorial on October 5th, The News Tribune of Tacoma bid farewell to five of their veteran staff. This was part of a buy out offer that was made to 189 of its staffers nearly a month earlier on September 8th as part of a belt tightening move. This was a big enough announcement to get Associated Press notice and distribution, and the story was even picked up by Forbes.

That same day, another McClatchy held paper, the Olympian, cut the newsroom staff and their workers' hours, shifting to a 37.5 hour work week. The Publisher, John Winn Miller, announced the cutbacks in an email to staff, and referenced the cutbacks that the papers had done since June of this year.

Certainly the economy is worsening and we have heard many stories from other economic sectors that echo this, whether it is the Weyerhaeuser layoffs that followed the decoupling from its other companies, or the seemingly ever present succession of financial crises.

And the question that follows is, where will we get the services of that company now, and what quality can we expect from that service? From the financial sector, the availability (or non-availability) of credit is wreaking havoc, freezing up these institutions to a point where a run on a bank is a possibility.

What about our information sources? What does the marked downturn in the fortunes of newspapers, whose revenue from advertising has been hit hard, and whose revenue from subscriptions has been on a long slow decline mean for our news?

There has been a transition to the web for many newspapers, and in that transition they have had to respond to how advertising is done and is paid for. The subscription model is practically nonexistent and the classifieds must compete with the likes of Craigslist.

Newspapers like the Tribune have adjusted in some fashion, employing blogging as an immediate information source and editorial venue and even creating positions such as the Online Editor. The News Tribune has been lucky to have Mark Briggs in that role. Mark, as has been mentioned here before, is one of his industry’s area experts in the use of online tools and applications by journalists, having authored Journalism 2.0 as an example.

But when Devona Wells left the Tribune, her blog, Open House, seemed to stop regularly posting. The blog was still prominent on the home page and one of the recent posts made stayed on as a link from the equivalent of the web site’s front page for more than two weeks. It was like finding a major bug in your software. Every time I went to the web site, it was there. Certainly other content was changing with frequency, but to leave a blog post up front for so long felt wrong. Yes, I know I haven’t posted myself in a few days, but I am not a newspaper. Besides, I am making up for it in length of post.

So where do we turn for real time news and information? Erik B, who has a blog on FeedTacoma, created a discussion on this topic. For a good back and forth on whether the blogosphere can pick up some of the slack, read the comments from that post.

In order to instigate discussion as to where things are headed, take a look at this now old flash based video called EPIC 2015 by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson. Originally created as EPIC 2014, so many of the predictions came true or near true that it was spooky. It also ended as a bit of a downer in its original form, and when the podcasting and blogging phenomenon grew, things looked a little more optimistic. They then revised as the current 2015. It is about the newspaper wars of 2010 and the demise of the printed paper.

As for what is happening in the real world of news, Mark Briggs will be visiting my class on the 29th of October and we can ask about it then.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

South Pacific at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse

We have dress rehearsal for South Pacific tonight at the Tacoma Musical Playhouse.

It is a classic musical with some exceptionally strong leads and voices. If you like "There is Nothing Like a Dame", "Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of My Hair", "Some Enchanted Evening" or any number of the Rodgers & Hammerstein's musical numbers then here is your chance to hear a 24 piece orchestra play the score and these actors sing the songs.

I was just able to squeak this show into my schedule so I was able to take on the role of Captain Bracket.

My dad, who past away a long while back, was in the military for 22 years. When I put on the costume I immediately freaked myself out by how much I looked like what I remember him to have looked like when I was a kid. I snapped a phone photo and sent it out to my sisters who in turn were given a bit of a jolt.

The show opens this Friday and runs four weeks.