Archive for the ‘MediaGroupings’ Category

“Categorizing is necessary for humans. But it becomes pathological when the category is seen as definitive, preventing people from considering the fuzziness of boundaries, let alone revising these categories.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb

We’ve come to know where we live as much by local food movements as our schools and property values. In the last decade “buy local” has come to mean that we’re creating environmental sustainability, healthier diets, and more close-knit communities by eating the food planted by the farmers who work the same lands that support us and our grassroots economies.

Can the same be said for information, really? If we limit our inputs to what’s nearby aren’t we limiting our perspectives? If we shop locally for our news how can we generalize the broader forest from the specific trees? Our collective self-interests stick close to home. Aren’t we further compromising our own narrow focus by foresaking the interdependencies and complexities that can only form by holding our own hides up to a more inclusive global perspective?

Localizing information sounds like an open invitation to invite in what Taleb calls “the contagion” or the herd mentality that traps independent thinkers into parroting the same parochial mindsets:

“The process of having these people report in lockstep caused the dimensionality of the opinion  — they converged on opinions and used the same items as causes.”

That uniformity of perspective-taking is not about one’s sourcing as it is about reporting; for our purposes this is the 24/7 news cycle. This formula is not set to increase to a 25/8 cycle no matter how dense the news flow, how rich the implications, or how clued in the recipients. Rather Taleb is suggesting a need to defy the pattern by tabling judgments; a need to ignore loops expecting to  be closed in time to declare some daily distortion, fueled by the need for definitive outcomes.  Filling air time is one thing. But we confuse it for filling our mental shopping carts with all the evidence we need to decide …

  • guilt or innocence
  • one party over another
  • winners and losers

None of this defines a local information as a movement — a force for good — or even for food for thought. Localizing the information we’re fed means sourcing our news providers well enough to know their locales and to see through their own self-referential conceits, blinders, and potential conflicts of interest. Until we know where a fact was selected, when an interview was granted, or who took the time to file a FOIA, we will be taking our information sources on the same blind faith that poisons us on factory beef and processed food.

Whether our informants are networks or neighbors we need to know of the company they keep before we can build the same independent perspective we insist of our news providers. The leading bias is self-selection. Nature abhors a vacuum. Talk may be cheap and free speech may prove expensive. Vacuums are pure legend to the media will never acknowledge the existence of one. Still, that doesn’t obviate our need as researchers to cultivate a balanced media diet.

Localizing the intentions of our news providers is one place to start.

What you don’t know may hurt you.

What you don’t need to know WILL distract you.

Content is no longer king. At least that’s what I read in the news paupers.

There is no longer a premium on being the first to know. The future lies in being the first to understand in a way that draws others to that same understanding and their own conclusions. That’s the manifesto for curators.

Content is a stammering, mucus-laden umm among the miscellany of unfiltered search results and anonymously authored web posts. In a world where pocket devices are publishing platforms, scarcity isn’t measured in speed, access, or being connected but in making connections. Enter the sense-making territory of the web curator.

Imagine you’re on the exhibition floor of the social media event of the century: information surplus? Meet knowledge deficit! That introduction is being brokered by a knowledge planner — someone who can reconcile information supply with knowledge demand by anticipating:

  • how news travels
  • in what circles, and
  • where that impacts most

The cultivations of web curators are based on the three pillars of interpretation: context, context, and context. Tell me who said it, who heard it, and where and what they said becomes immaterial. Tell me the way in which an appeal was made and the call to action falls by the wayside. Show me the eye-witness who lived through the event she’s recounting and I get her authenticity implicitly as well as the emotional investments that would lead me to question her disinterested bystander status. An accomplished curator is not simply a message interceptor or retransmitter but a temperature gauger who positions the bursts and slowdowns of message traffic within the frame of reference of the personal radar.

We operate on a need-to-know-basis. If it lands off radar, our attentions don’t shift.

In this tree-falls-in-the-forest scenario a Web curator is the best defense against the maladies of information fog such as A.D.D., insomnia, the blurring of professional and personal affairs, and absent presence — the anxiety of device-enabled availability. That doesn’t mean you farm your calendar out to a personal attention manager. That happens in a decade or two. But it does mean answering to the contextual value of our personal mental space: WIIFM (What’s in it for me)?

The Market for Curators

So how does the curator find their niche? Being all things to all content consumers is about as relevant as trying to bury a subjective point of view. The new transparency isn’t about leveling the playing fields of opinion. It’s about linking to sources.  Unlike the ad-supported models of SEO campaigns a curator is not a human lynchpin for converting click-happy consumers. Idea people are not buying merchandise so much as arguments — the kind that support the rationales for the advice they sell. Perhaps the killer app here is rediscovering the art of disengagement: finding no surprises when we reconnect because the curator has your back at all times:

She tries to communicate a need for balance to employees who report to her, too. “I worry about the speed at which they are going,” she says, adding that she wants them to “shut down” when needed, for the sake of their families and their health.

- Mickey Meese, Who’s the Boss, You or Your Gadget? New York Times, February 5, 2011

Assuming we know what keeps our clients up at night, what kind of radar-building equipment serves the needs of curators?

That’s where a grounding in advanced search commands and even some grasp of tired, ol’ traditional media segments can come in handy. If you use a custom search tool like Google Coop Search to bundle sources you can see highly differentiated takes on your pet peeves, hot stock tips, and celebrated rumors on the news horizon.

Run those queries in the form of event-based trip wires and the daily counts form the aggregated patterns of what blows hot and cold in terms of news coverage. Google Trends runs the media pick-up patterns in tandem with the same terms in Google searches — in effect we have that same handshake from the trade expo: media supply meets (or misses) user demand.

These radar constructs are good for high visibility issues that soar and plummet from year-to-year. But many of our search targets would go undetected on such a public radar. For that we need to scale down to a more street level view through localities, community members, and more niche or locally based organizations. That’s where an RSS reader like Feed Demon shines as a personalized approach to event tracking and the aggregated coverage patterns — the IPhone of Google Trends, if you will.

The Value of Curatorship

Finally curators should sell their quantifiable benefits to a confused and distracted market. That sales pitch starts with single examples:

Abstractions like what the best-known are best known for might be a starting point for idea people. For more grounded folks it boils down to this — one purposeful, unitary artifact that reveals the telling quote, table, framework or footnote — diamonds in the … umm … content rough.

The bigger picture benefits will emerge once these evidentiary building blocks become ingrained in our web-based discovery process. That might be sweet music to sleep-deprived crisis managers. It may be a threat as well to the scientists of external risk assessment who traffic in the language of hysteria; the paranoid leading the parablind down an alley of would-be prowlers and invaders. No one likes to depart from the script. No one makes time for interruptions. They arrive unannounced. Their departure comes in its own time.

The impulse to panic is an age-old temptation not restricted to unsuspecting widows or defenseless victims. Is the concentration level thick with anticipation or diffused through false alarms and unmet expectations? Is it a wave of consensus or a squeaky wheel? A whistle in the dark or a charging stampede? What are the measured responses that address tangible perceptions — not last night’s nightmares but tomorrow’s business realities.

A curator can discern the strength of association and tell you where you are in your crisis – floating near the bottom of a deep-sea or being washed into shore escorted by the storm surge itself.

Sound like answers you’re not getting from today’s Google? If you want a crowd, start a fight. And when you do, hire a curator who can point out who’s in the audience.

A recent article called Next Big Thing in English: Knowing They Know That You Know was the top download on over several post publication news cycles. The piece is framed as a new justification for literature as a scorecard-like tool for sharpening one’s theory of mind — the ability to see competing versions of reality from anothers’ point of view.

The writer, Patricia Cohen, seems more intent on stroking the bruised egos of arts and humanities majors than on any serious exploration of perspective-taking or its many tangible benefits. Maybe that’s to be expected from right brains tired of accommodating a left brain world. But that’s more of an indulgence than a meaningful exercise of right brain power in its contemplative and exacting glory.

Nor does the piece focus on any likely corollaries: does an intellect wired for math and science find it more challenging to process the shades and complexities that perspective-taking poses? Centuries full of socially clueless science majors could argue that case rather well. While I’m no more dismissive of liberal arts than the next New York Times-colored word person, that’s not the lead story that been buried here.

The ability to view the world through others is a kind of lens crafting that focuses us on details we would overlook in our own petitions, priorities we only notice in the obsessions of others, and most importantly, motivations that would otherwise confuse or surprise us if we couldn’t well piece them together.

Lens crafting is our best defense against blind spots, blindfolds really. It enables us to see differing perceptions and to understand how others we conflict with would process or filter the same circumstances or events we’re interpreting so differently. Talk about your intractable negotiations — how can we even approach that bargaining table without lens crafting?

Other than coercion and intimidation there really is no way to win over adversaries or influence the outcomes more oriented to our own goals and motives. As Joe the Biden says, we’re now in BFD territory that eclipses even the future of English programs in higher education.

Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz
The higher of these two numbers below indicates which side of your brain has dominance in your life. Realising your right brain/left brain tendancy will help you interact with and to understand others.
Left Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain Dominance: 16(16)
Right Brain/ Left Brain Quiz

A new acquaintance recently published a provocative piece addressing the subject of social enterprise in an influential business media outlet. He was curious what kind of post-publication life his article was commanding in terms of press pickup, social bookmarking, reader feedback, and the resulting footprint of organizations and peer-experts linking to it on their own sites.

Most of the territory covered is aimed at the vain anxiety our names and effects will go public but escape our notice. There’s more than a few utilities designed to consolidate our social media profiles: “our interfaces don’t miss a single interaction, blah, blah, blah.”

What I liked about this exercise was that it wasn’t email or password-based. The only detail was the article itself. This is actually plenty if we’re pursuing the power of an idea (as opposed to the browser used by our site visitors).

As far as recipes go the easiest and most literal way to trace an article on the web is to perform a link analysis. To do this you save the URL and then see who’s linked to it.

A second more effective way is to allow for your keywords to appear in the “anchor.” Anchor means the words that the linking party uses to describe the page it’s linking to. As you’ll see this gives a more thorough result — including some cheeky tweets.

Capturing the social media piece is a little more fleeting than garnering page links. As we saw in the Yahoo example we’re limited to the exact URL. URLs are becoming less static over time — especially as they age and publishers pull them offline. This largely limits the amount of conjecture you’ll get. It’s not that Dashboard to end all buzz factors.

Again it helps to be less specific but there is no definitive source. Here’s another example of a selective media universe where first and last name are the only terms in play.

When the promise of comprehensive profiling turns into the scattershot footprints of puny indexes I do what any rationale researcher does. I retreat back to Google. This is a Google query that focuses only on a news aggregation tool called Digg.

… and on Facebook.

Finally, here are two novel visuals for depicting links. The first from Google captures all links into that mention the author’s name.

The second is not a search interface but a multi-dimensional view of recent media generation on the topic called Silo Breaker — not specific to the original article but a big picture view to rival the most panoramic thought piece.

Happy fishing.

Here’s a current use case to track “events on the ground” through Feed Demon. There have been reported instances in the media recently of attempts to confuse or intimidate potential voters, particularly new or youth voters. College age voters are traditionally the most under-represented part of the electorate.

Whether it’s due to cynicism or naivete a third more concrete factor (inexperience) makes this group prone to believing falsehoods and misleading statements aimed at creating doubt about their residential status. Ahem. So participation in their democracy will jeopardize their financial aid or even come back to haunt their parents during next year’s tax season. What could be more American than not voting?

One way to monitor attempts at voter suppression around college campuses is to use a broadly descriptive search statement on Google News:

location:nh college students registration election

You’ll find a piece of syntax snuck in here. It helps us focus exclusively on content sources on Google News originating from the Granite State. New Hampshire is my location of choice as the nearest swing state to me with area colleges signifying the swingiest of voting blocs.

You’ll also note that the semantics of this search statement are not in anyway prejudicial or skewed towards a certain outcome. Any attempt to tune this search at the outset would overly constrain the result set (n=109) as of yesterday’s test run. In other words a more effective content analysis occurs by introducing results-based logic once the feed appears in Feed Demon.

That’s where you can construct “Watches” to pull instances of terms like:

* suppression
* fraud
* misleading
* confusion, etc.

…from the New Hampshire tracking folder where these hits reside.

Don’t forget to sample several of the more questionable hits. They will acquaint you with terms you hadn’t considered or steer you away from outcomes that are clearly off-the-mark from your search objectives.

The second stage of tweaking your RSS reader as news radar is to harvest the feeds sprouting from the sources included in your search results. Gathering up the list is easier than confirming each source’s deployment or policy regarding RSS. The range is huge! Some papers package their outputs by sections of the paper. Some don’t. Some dispense with RSS altogether, figuring that it will only cannibalize their beleaguered media empires.

There are a couple of alternatives to site hopping in search of the bright, orange RSS icon. One work-around is to include the inurl: syntax in the regular Google web search:

inurl:rss OR inurl:xml [insert semantics from Google News search] intitle:new intitle:hampshire

This workaround should get you a pre-confirmed list of feeds although it doesn’t guarantee that they originate from ground zero live-free-or-eat-granite country.

Another way is to work from the colleges themselves as news sources. The very first hit I pulled yesterday yielded this list of Students for McCain backers by their academic institutions:

State Co-Chairs

Greg Boguslavsky — Dartmouth College
Shaun Doherty — Rivier College

University Chairs

Lianna French — New England College
Joe Doiron — New England College
Brendan Bickford — New Hampshire Technical Institute
Trevor Chandler — Plymouth State University
Brittany Puleo — Rivier College

Julie Kraus — Southern New Hampshire University
Regina Federico — St. Anselm College
Allison Krause — University of New Hampshire
Brandon Mancuso — Franklin Pierce College
Dasha Bushmakin — Keene State College
Ryan Dorris — Daniel Webster College

In closing the follow-up would be to Google each college with the inurl syntax, filtering the pages that can be used to build your tracking folder in Feed Demon.

To blog or just to have dinner conversation?

Chatting up one’s own crowded company of ardent opinions and and defensible positions is the stage personality — the celebrity of blog. But that’s pretty bland. It’s passive recessive. It’s almost like a media reporter who leads with the wink/nod that the Blogosphere is what blogs are known for.

Do you blog for the sake of touting your blogging credentials? Do you wave your blog pass to get into sites and discussions otherwise off limits? Didn’t think so.

Blogs are vessels. They hold our peeves and praises in an editorial without editors. It’s a one-sided debate from all sides of the aisle. But the most hermetic blog is porous with links and collaborations inspired elsewhere. Blogs live on an island where the word “my” is implicit. Any other pronoun will not do.

As a communications medium blogs fall much closer to closed circuits than printing presses — confessionals, not tabloids. The cover charge for entry is a medium ego or larger: Yes, that’s your personality on my screen. Where “the media” revolves around third-party celebrities and consumed by third-person audiences, blogs are decidedly first-person, singular. The moment a second party is involved a blog loses its “come-as-I-am” authenticity. When you’re dressing your blogger in bedclothes or tuxedos, you know the jig is up. Keeping up an appearance is no more heroic than leaving your journal out to be read.

It’s not a pretense to long for that same third-party bonding shared by media creations and their legions. What could be more flattering than the attentions of a stranger? But it’s less than sincere to pose as a broker, referee or huckster whose credentials rest on their own blogging rites. Blogs are devoid of credibility just as an individual cannot confer credibility onto themselves no matter how big their name, persuasive their fight, or widely held their blogging postures.

* Tagging productive reference sites
* Endorsing content and then commenting on its impact
* Using a blog roll to reflect on your own aspirations
* News feeds that synthesize the thinking of otherwise disconnected worlds

That’s where blogs become bigger than the bloggers who blog them and the self-referential nature of first person communications.

The following CSE (“custom search engine”) has been grouped into common media affiliations such as newspapers, magazine, and trade sources. The key difference between a CSE and say a paid subscription service such as NEXIS or FACTIVA is that the search results are generated by the websites for each of these media outlets — not the traditional print or broadcast channels.

The other key distinction is that each grouping has been calibrated so that common word-strings used in each of these domains help to select and shape the results and rankings of each media grouping. For instance a search on MANAGEMENT JOURNALS will produce aspects of the search topic related to leadership, benchmarks, researchers, and relevant studies. The same topic will be treated quite differently in NEWS MAGAZINES that focus more on the lifestyle, cultural, and personal / career growth considerations.

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