Petaluma Patch … New Media Coming to Petaluma!

No, it is not another Petaluma pumpkin patch. “Petaluma Patch” is a new “hyperlocal” Internet news site that is part of a larger national organization setting up local online news sites around the country. 

According to the national Patch web site: “The Patch.org Foundation was formed in March, 2010 to improve the quality of life in underserved communities across the globe through access to trusted local news and information. The Patch.org Foundation plans to partner with community foundations and other organizations to fund the operation of Patch news and information sites in communities that need them most: inner-city neighborhoods and underserved towns around the world.” For more information, Click Here.

It appears that Patch has spread rapidly across the country and you can see the scope of their growth by Clicking HERE.

It is quite likely that the Petaluma Patch site will be operational by the end of the month.  Karina Ioffee is the Patch editor for the Petaluma site. One of the unique features of Patch is that they apparently pay their content providers. The full nature and extent of that compensation is not yet known to me.

As of the time of this posting, the Petaluma page is available for viewing and provides more information about their plans for Petaluma. See http://petaluma.patch.com/

UPDATE INFORMATION 11/9/2010

FIRST…

  • The editor for the Petaluma Patch news site (Karina Ioffee) does live in Petaluma. 
  • Patch is in the process of lining up content providers for the Petaluma site—and no, I have not been contacted.
  • I have NO official information regarding people recruited as reporters or columnists.  Even if I did, I would not report it.
  • I have NO idea as to their editorial policy.

SECOND…

Gina Cuclis of North Bay New Media has just published an excellent article containing a considerable amount of information about Patch and the Patch Petaluma site.  I strongly urge you to read it and to consider the very pertinent and inciteful questions she poses at the end of her article. To read it, click on>>> AOL’s Hyperlocal News Project Patch Coming to Sonoma County

Claques For Bloggers…Blogging For Claques

FOREWORD

In previous posts, I attempted to discuss how the Web and communications technology have become pervasive in our lives and of the need to set human boundaries for their use. See The Web Is Too Much With Us? and Petaluma’s Brave New Google World?

A recent experience taught me that while the Web may be relatively new, it is also a medium for one of the oldest scams in the world…fans for hire–Claques.

First, A Little “Techno” Background…

WordPress has an extremely effective (not to mention well-regarded) spam program to protect bloggers from having to deal with rogue or spam comments. In my case, an average of 775 spam comments/month.

The Akismet program does sort out a few for review by the blogger to determine whether they are valid comments.

When I opened up my WordPress a few days ago, I noticed that Akismet set aside three comments for my consideration. I also noted they were all from a site offering a prepaid computer generated comment service… 

“We gather 1000 blog posts and submit 1000 general comments to all of them. Usually the acceptance ratio is 20-30% so a total of 200-300 backlinks.”
 
“This is an automated process and we can therefore not guarantee a certain amount of blog comments but our experience tells us that app. 20%-30% goes through.

This will give you a boost in traffic and rankings. We use more than 100 premade comments that are all very general and will fit into all blog posts.

We also run our software through proxies. This is a perfect booster for a new started website or a great way to gain lots of links to your established sites quick and cheap.

Please make sure you are not banned by the Akismet wordpress spam filter otherwise very few comments will go through.”

SAMPLE COMPUTER GENERATED COMMENT–“omg a number of the feedback most people make are such stoner remarks, now and again i question whether they honestly read the content pieces and reports before posting or if perhaps they basically skim the titles and publish the first thing that comes to mind. anyway, it’s pleasant to read through clever commentary now and then compared to the exact same, outdated post vomit which i usually notice on the internet.”

Claques For Bloggers…Blogging For Claques…

Hiring favorable audiences or claques is an ancient tradition.  It is a well known practice in many opera houses to this day. In fact, claques may be hired to boo as well as to applaud a particular performer.  Not unlike current American politics, now that I think about it.

I suppose somewhere out there in Cyberspace, there is a program that also writes generic blogs to be matched up with computer generated page hits and comments. In theory, a blogger could sign up for both services, solicit advertisers and voila!–an instant money machine without any human involvement.  (Warning! Don’t give up your day job!)

Sigh…

A Tweet from Ogden Nash…

I asked Mr. Wordsworth to provide a few lines of poetry to close this epistle, given his donated wisdom to my earlier posts. Unfortunately, his computer was on the fritz and his mobile device had lost its charge.

I close instead with a 21 Century Tweet from Ogden Nash…

When surfing the Web, don’t you be Bait

When surfing the Web, Discriminate

Be aware of the Claques

Beware the Quacks

When Elephants

Dance with Sycophants

ALTERNATE TWEET

Don’t let the Cons

Put you On

 

Petaluma’s Brave New Google World?

The story about Petaluma’s efforts to become a test city for Google’s new super high-speed Internet service was breaking about the time I was absorbing the reactions and comments to The Web Is Too Much With Us?

A few quotes from the March 4, 2010,  Argus article by Philip Riley illustrate the potential scope and size of the Google effort:

“Google says that its new ultra-high-speed network could revolutionize what is possible on the Internet, so when the company announced that it would test that network in one or more communities across the country, Petaluma jumped at the opportunity.”

“It’s almost unimaginable what types of benefits it would have,” said Tim Williamsen, the city’s information technology manager. The technology would create Internet speeds 100 times faster than the average connection, with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. Besides blazing download speeds, if the network comes to Petaluma it could bring high-tech companies, jobs and tax revenues with it, Williamsen said.”

  

If Petaluma is successful with its Google application, it will be a powerful and significant event for the City and for individual citizens. 

As an aside, I can now envision the jockeying for position by neighborhoods and businesses to be the first to be connected. It does not take too much imagination to conjure up several future stormy Council Meetings coping with this process. 

After all, let us not forget we are talking about Petaluma…

Whether or not Petaluma’s application is accepted, the Internet speeds contemplated by Google will eventually arrive here and elsewhere–sooner rather than later…quicker than a kitten on the keys…

  • When ultra high-speed service becomes generally available, will we have the collective and individual wisdom to use it to enhance rather than control our lives?
  • If Petaluma is selected as a Google test city, will the way we adapt and adopt it serve as a model for others?

On one level, these are more difficult questions to answer than the “hows” of the engineering,  technical, and construction work required to install it.

Remember the cautions offered in the comments to The Web Is Too Much With Us?

  • “… I have learned that in today’s world it is almost impossible to have “private” and “special” moments…”
  • “…there is more to life than virtual reality and trivia overload, that there is strength and grace and understanding in reflective solitude.”
  • “…It is imperative that everyone multitask at all times. The thought of “quiet time” is actually frightening to many. The idea of having to come to grips with their inner self by spending time reflecting is not on the radar of activities.”
  • “…(We have to know when to) Turn it off. Disconnect from the web of chatter and noise and indulge your soul in the absolute bliss of silence. You can always plug in again later.”
  • “…I need a regular dose of good, old-fashioned interpersonal communication and eye to eye contact to keep me on track and in touch.”
  • “…Technology is a tool, not a lifestyle.”

Playing off the last comment, I turn now to another cautionary 21st Century tweet from William Wordsworth…

If needs must

The Web is too much with us

If  tools

 make the rules…

The Web Is Too Much With Us?

Foreword  

This article is the product of my efforts to elevate my understanding of the impact of communications technology to a higher level of confusion.  

For convenience, I use the term “Web” to encompass all forms of communications and entertainment technology and software–the Internet, social media, cable, satellite, new media, e-mail, mobile devices, laptops, desktops, notebooks, cell phones, mobile networks, ipods, etc.

  

__________________

 NEWS ON THE WEB

Clearly one of the largest impacts of the Web has been on how we get our news. 

With a few clicks of a mouse or a search from a mobile device, we can access news sources from around the world. Moreover, it is a bilateral exchange if readers post comments to what they read, making traditional letters to the editor somewhat archaic. Add the proliferation of online equivalents of classified ads (e.g. eBay or craigslist) and you have a print newspaper industry struggling to survive and traditional radio and TV scrambling for multiple outlets on the Internet and mobile services.  

I’ll leave the future of the print industry and electronic news media to others to explore, except to note that the forces of the Web are affecting not only how we get our news, but from whom. 

Blogs and community bloggers (paid and unpaid) have been a growing source of news at all levels.  

In recognition of this trend at the community level, the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California, Berkeley is conducting a workshop in March “… for journalists and others who are…becoming independent publishers of specialty blogs and hyperlocal community news sites that play a central role in the emerging news and information landscape.” (See Changing times in journalism and media!‏)

Petaluma’s Frances Rivetti  (Sonoma Country Life) will be one of the participants in the UC workshop.*

 COPING WITH THE WEB  

The Web has extended the reach of our human experience… 

  • If you have a question, you GOOGLE it. 
  • If you need to research a service provider or contractor, you check with ANGIE.
  • If you want to sell or buy something, you go to the AMAZON or check with CRAIG.
  • If you have a few moments to reflect, you can read your FACEBOOK.
  • If your tooth turns blue, you see a dentist. If your BLUETOOTH malfunctions, you go to RadioShack.
  • If you go out to eat, you may TEXT your friends or send TWEETS on your TWITTER between courses.
  • When you get home, you may YELP about your experience–if you did not already do so during desert.
  • Even better, if you go to a SPEED DATING session, you may do all the above in ten minutes or less!
  • If you get lost coming home from your speed date, you can GPS.
  • After arriving home, you may turn on your 50-inch LED flat screen and watch four shows simultaneously on one screen courtesy of ATT&T U-verse TV .

I wonder, however, if ordinary mortals don’t need a workshop on how to cope with the avalanche of information and communication. By my observation, it has become an all-consuming task for many, if not a lifestyle.  

Many, if not most, coffee shops I frequent have free Web access and are often filled with people communing with their laptops or mobile devices. Few are conversing with each other.

The “need” to communicate and to be constantly connected to the Web has almost become pathological based on examples from my experience… 

  • Cell phone calls from stalls in public restrooms
  • Calls to the office from a trail in Arches National Park while complaining about the lousy signal
  • Two men on a trail in the Muir Woods (cyborg phones in their ears), texting away and muttering, “I can’t get a signal!”
  • Teenagers in any size group walking down the street with their eyes fixed on their mobile screens

Our job as “consumers” of media is to sort through it all–or to ignore it if we so elect. It would be helpful to have some guidelines to assist in this sorting process–with perhaps a touch of instruction on the use of  practical critical thinking in judging what we see and hear.

This is all well and good for those of us who know, or should know, when to turn it off and return to the “real” world.  However, what about those whose life experiences and reference points are only Web based?  Endless streams of information and data do not produce understanding, much less wisdom. 

Many years ago, Marshall McCluhan commented on the societal impact of television with his famous–The medium is the message. However, what I fear now is a Web medium that is fracturing into an infinite number of voices–infinite until each and every soul on this planet has a Facebook page.

  • Could it be that we are headed for a society where relationships with avatars are more important than relationships with humans?
  • Is virtual reality the coming reality? 

A TWEET FROM WORDSWORTH?

If  William Wordsworth were alive today instead of the 19th century, perhaps he would have expressed his famous lament about materialism in a tweet such as this… 

The Web is too much with us, late and soon   

Our hearts now gone for a downloaded tune!  

Texting & Tweeting, we lay waste our perceptual

For little we see that is not simply virtual

When we have gone too far and virtual is actual!

****

(Alternate Tweet)

The Web is too much with us…

When Avatars

Drive Our Cars

To the Bars

_______________ 

*Update 3:48 p.m. March 1. 2010. Frances Rivetti posted Revelations of an Ever Evolving Web News Frontier, which addresses many of the issues raised in this article. 

Related Links

Changing times in journalism and media!‏

Photo Journalist Nina Zhito recently put me on to some of the activities and programs of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley regarding what I call the new journalism.

Below is an e-mail from Lanita Pace-Hinton of the school announcing an upcoming free workshop for community bloggers.

Whether or not you are interested, you should read the material as perhaps the best evidence of how things are changing in the “news” and “communications” world.
 
They’re blowing right by the traditional news outlets.

____________

Subject: Free Digital Tools Workshop for Independent Journalists
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 2010 17:54:26 -0800

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to let you know about a new workshop we’ve developed for journalists who’ve begun or have a serious interest in launching their own community news or niche news site. This workshop was developed specifically for our colleagues who’ve determined to go it on their own.

The workshop will provide training on setting up and optimizing a WordPress blog, creating multimedia content, branding, SEO, Google Analytics and more. (See detailed description of workshop below.)

I’d like your help in spreading the word about this workshop to your networks. We are particularly interested in applicants from the greater San Francisco Bay Area/Northern California, but will also be accepting individuals from other locales. This is a great opportunity for journalists and others interested in learning some proven techniques for establishing themselves in the rapidly evolving world of digital news and information.
 
The workshop is scheduled for March 21-26, 2010. Fellowships for the training include lodging (for participants who live farther than 15 miles from the UC Berkeley campus), meals and use of equipment. The application deadline is February 17, 2010.

If you have any questions, feel free to be in contact with me.

Best regards,
Lanita

*******

Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism 

 Web Publishing for Independent Journalists Workshop 

March 21-26, 2010

The career path for many of today’s journalists is merging with entrepreneurship. Journalists and other citizens are becoming independent publishers of specialty blogs and hyperlocal community news sites that play a central role in the emerging news and information landscape.

Powerful and easy to use Web publishing tools make creating quality online news sites easy and affordable.

The Knight Digital Media Center at the University of California Berkeley is offering an innovative new training workshop for journalists and others who are venturing into online community or specialty news publishing. The  Web Publishing for Independent Journalists Workshop will provide the hands-on training and tools to get started with or build an online publishing enterprise.

Participants in the Web Publishing for Independent Journalists Workshop will receive training on:

·      Setting up and maintaining a WordPress blog

·      Establishing a brand

·      Shooting good video and video editing

·      Using Photoshop to prepare images for publication

·      How to effectively sell advertising

·      Data visualization at the community level

·      Basic Mapping and Data-driven Maps

·      Using social media to create and engage with audiences

·      Search Engine Optimization and Google Analytics

WHO SHOULD APPLY: Journalists and others who have begun or are in the process of launching an online news venture.

HOW TO APPLY:  An online application form and instructions are available at: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/training/*

THE APPLICATION DEADLINE IS FEBRUARY 17, 2010.

 *To fill out the application, you’ll need to register at the site. By registering, you’ll be able to save your application and return later to edit, update or complete it. The application includes a statement about how you’ll put the workshop training to use, a letter of recommendation from a colleague who knows your work, and a resume summary of your reporting or other experience.

If you have any questions, please contact Alisha Diego Klatt, KDMC program specialist, at aklatt@berkeley.edu or (510) 642-3892.

*******************************************************************************
Lanita Pace-Hinton
Director of Multimedia and Technology Training
Knight Digital Media Center
Graduate School of Journalism
University of California, Berkeley
120 North Gate Hall, Suite B-42
Berkeley, CA 94720-5860
Tel: (510) 643-7429/ Fax: (510) 643-7425