Monday, December 31, 2012

Show, Don't Tell

This Lifehacker article about the science of storytelling says it all.

It reminded me of one of my history student's comments about being in class.  It seems like you're just telling us stories each day.  And THAT was the point.

I can tell you all day long about how Northwestern State is a family.  When we show you examples of that, like an 86-year-old graduate, you get it.

If you'd like to read me rattling on, some previous suggestions include The Keys to Engagement, It's All About Voice and how a meme becomes that Whisper to a Scream.

Oh, and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Are You Anti-American?

Listening to Grammar Girl last week, Mignon Fogarty covered hyphen rules.  One of her points was the need for a hyphen for prefixes attaching to proper nouns, and her example was "anti-American."

Not "Anti-American."

Because you can be "anti-intellectual" according to the AP Stylebook, just not "all-American."

Shouldn't it be the same?  Yes, it should, and without going into the depths of this running error within the logic of the AP Stylebook (the provenance of the "All" relates to AP's claim to trademark on the naming of all-American teams in football and men's basketball; and was struck from the guides in the early 1980s leaving behind the misnomer that any all-America team should be All-America).

If you want to delve further, here's the link back to my justification to AP of why they should change the stylebook from 2011.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Unfortunately True

Right on the heels of yesterday's post on internet rumor and meme, I see this link from two friends on my Facebook feed.  OK, I'm skeptical.  Surely this is a PR blowout like the would be $35 Indian tablet for school kids.

No, Facebook really is trying to turn Instagram into the greatest repository of stock artwork.

That was at 3 p.m.

Now by 7 p.m. central time, they are backing down.

I say, for now.

A standing line I present to students or the public in talks about social media is this.

So, what is Facebook?

Get lots of different answers before I flash mine on the screen.

"The largest voluntary data mining and information collection system in the history of mankind."

Think about it.

What If Everything You Read Was Wrong?

Oh.  Isn't that a sweet picture.  And wasn't that something what Morgan Freeman said?  How terrible that they banned Bibles there.

Welcome to the social media, where everything can be, and likely in some part, is wrong.  More times than not recently, maliciously wrong.

They call them "memes", and we talked at length about what they mean and their impact -- good and evil -- on society.  I subscribe to the theory they are mental viruses.  The bad ones spread with an r-naught of frightening scale.

No, Ben Stein didn't write that about Christmas.

Hey smarty-pants, how did you get so smart?  First, when you see those juicy long stories -- particularly the ones that you need to "see more" -- that should be the first indicator.  Second, if it's too good (or to bad) to be true, it probably isn't, and a quick visit to can clear that up.  The website specializes in vetting internet and urban rumors.

In a world where being "true enough" and trading in the fark of the day goes for news, we miss the vetting that came from timely journalism.  Problem there is in the rush to first, the truth is the first casualty.  Report then verify from the twitter world.  Adding more memes, eroding a little more of our confidence in what we read.

Why Craig Silverman made a book and a career out of tracking those infamous Regret the Error statements in print.  Now working at Poynter, he just issued his 2012 best and worsts of media.  You might give it a read to see what story you might still believe is true because you missed the retraction. What, Morgan Freeman is not dead (and others)?

(Total sidebar: my sports industry friends MUST read the Silverman piece and scroll to the bottom to find what might be the most true piece of sports journalism of the year -- many a truth is told in jest).

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The New Normal is Just the Forgotten Past

Who financed the great aeronautical achievements of America?  Private investors literally provided the fuel for the great speed, altitude and endurance records prior to the Cold War.

Why do you think it was called The Spirit of St. Louis?

The reason some find the Red Bull Stratus work with Felix Baumgartner distasteful is generations grew accustomed to both human flight achievement and the promotion of it linked to the government.  The main reason we have not had a private space industry was the limitations, no, more like outright bans, on non-NASA or DOD space work.

Hardly the case in the 1920s and 1930s as individual daredevils sought funding for their literal flights of fancy from the aviation industry, or those who wanted to advertise with the new entertainment vehicle.  More than a few aircraft sported the old Texaco star -- and many of them live today within the Smithsonian.

Anyone remember the Vin Fiz?  Let's call it the Red Bull of the 1910s.  The first airplane to cross the United States carried the advertising under its wings for a new grape soft drink from meatpacker J. Ogden Armour.  There was a support team following on train tracks, flyers, maps of the achievement.

Where can you find the Vin Fiz today?  That would be in the Pioneers of Flight Gallery in the main atrium of the National Air and Space Museum.  Wait, excuse me, that would be the Baron Hilton Pioneers of Flight Gallery.  Near the Bud Light Spirit of Freedom capsule Steve Fossett soloed around the world.  Just around the corner from that civic-sponsored Ryan monoplane that Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic.

"No bucks, no Buck Rogers," was a perfect throwaway line in The Right Stuff, and exciting America about spending taxpayer dollars on human space flight was vital.  Scaled Composites fought to remain independent of government funded corporate aviation, and today Burt Rutan's unique visions continue to inspire -- the Rutan Voyager and the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipOne (and Two). 

Fair to say that Red Bull will get its chance to stand alongside Vin Fiz in the gallery, almost one century later.

If you want, a very nice piece from On The Media talks about this classic case of presentism -- forgetting our past -- and the shock and "dirty" nature of corporate sponsored science.

Literally Shooting the Messenger

Holidays are for catching up, and while this episode from On The Media is now two months old, it speaks to a timeless problem: confusing bad news with bad people.  The first package seems like a really poorly written Sasha Cohen routine.  What to do if the tide of public opinion turns against you because someone actually reported on the bad things you do?  Kill them.

That was the Taliban strategy -- along with intimidation that you'd be next -- after the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, the teen aged girl who dared stand up to their lack of education for young women and other issues.  Actually, that's a two-fer -- they first killed the tribune of the people then the messengers.  It's a tried and true method, just ask the Russians.  Now if you're really No Agenda-ish, you'd add lots of whistle blowers here who got "suicided".

The On The Media piece covers how apparently surprised the Taliban was at the blowback from a quite sensible honor killing.  Well worth the listen. 

Second up from OTM was a package on the fate of scientists who wrote reports on the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout.  It is a more nuanced, because at the end, you must consider that while BP did nasty things and asked for lots of info, it was -- and still is -- trying to defend itself against extinction level legal battles.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

This Blog Reports, Twitter Confirms

So forget the Mayan apocalypse.  The end of the world for Twitter bloviating is Feb. 20, 2013.

Seems like years this space has preached less than 120 characters on tweets, to not mix your Facebook and Twitter together and that in general, less is more when crafting your messages.

Now Twitter requires it -- a new policy limiting the message to 117 or 118 characters when including a link -- is being reported to start in February.  More from Mashable and a link to the technical info from Twitter itself.

Start practicing now.

Here's a primer -- and with inks to other posts on Twitter etiquette.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Is No Answer the Best Answer?

Everyone agrees, open comments are the bane of the internet age.  The recent case of Rhonda Lee, former TV meteorologist here in my neighborhood, brings up two distinct issues.  Should you respond to comments on Facebook?  And, yes, you can get fired for violating company policy on social media.

Like any good internet case, this one has plenty of plot turns.  I'll take it from my P.O.V.

This morning, I see that KTBS has a lengthy Facebook post that begins:

Typically this station does not comment on personnel matters, but due to the publicity and interest about this issue, the station has included the following statement. 

OK, you officially have my interest.  Reading on (from the post):

On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated viola

tion of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.
Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.

Attached was an email that had everyone's name blacked out except for Ms. Lee -- including the sender.  Highlighed in the email was the statement:

"When you see complaints from viewers, it is best not to respond at all."

This was the basis of Lee's firing, according to the station.  I can't say that works, and it sounds like advice from the Age of Cronkite when the mode of communication in the pre-social media days was broadcast -- one to many -- not interactive -- one to one.

Let's accept the premise, however, that the "advice form national experts" is to not reply to comments.  One of the viewers hits the nail on the head in comments on the post: "You should have never allowed that negative comment to stay on YOUR page!"

No one believes there is a right to leave derogatory comments online.  A well curated page will delete them, and have a clearly stated policy to that effect so no one can then say you squelched free speech.  You're free to say what you want on your page, not necessarily on mine.

Here's the bottom line:  if a brand decides that not commenting is policy, what happens when the brand decides to comment?

On the one hand, KTBS honors the free exchange of the social media by bringing out its point of view and it has a right to say its piece.  But is the station now fired for violating it's own policy -- after all, it has now commented.  That was my first thought -- and not lost on the commenting public (and to the tune of 293 likes on that one).

If the goal was to put this to rest, that was a huge miscalculation. I follow the KTBS page and Twitter for news -- I had no clue this was going on until KTBS brought it to my attention.  Nor did national outlets, for that matter, like Poynter.  After 10 hours, the post is at 83 shares, 93 likes, but the real numbers are inside the comments, where 808 people have responded, and isolated comments have picked up north of 350 likes -- and mostly comments negative toward the station.

At this point, KTBS has to weather the storm and let the public have it's say.  To it's credit, it is.  Meanwhile, is a question worth asking -- what is the station's curation policy for its page?  Why did an inflammatory comment linger?

And whoever drafted that email on the policy -- I can see some level of privacy for not revealing the rest of the news staff names (although, kinda silly since all their names were likely on the station's website and it just looks like you're hiding something) -- why did they feel the need to not stand behind it by blacking out their name?  But left their title?  So that took five seconds of Google to figure out who wrote it.  How would any TV station respond to a government agency that did that?