Friday, October 24, 2008

The power of Diigo

I've been using Diigo, the online bookmarking tool that's available here as a Firefox extension, for a while now. I've mostly used it to bookmark interesting articles, blog posts and such that I find on the web.

What I like is that Diggo not only lets you easily save items, it lets you highlight the "good parts" so that when you go back to the article you can easily find them. That turned out to be a real asset when I was working on my part of the JACC Norcal keynote a couple weeks ago.

It's been a real pressure cooker of a semester, so I had very little time to put my JACC presentation together. However, I'd been bookmarking, highlighting and saving relevant blog posts and articles into my JACC list on Diigo (yes, you can categorize what you save) for weeks. So when I finally sat down to create a presentation, I had everything I needed at my fingertips. I was able to put it all together in a day. (By the way, you can view that presentation, Journalism in the Starbucks Era, on SlideShare, another great online tool.)

But after downloading a Diigo update this morning, I realized I'm just scratching the surface of what you can do with Diigo. For example, my previous blog post on Greenspan's sudden epiphany...well, I posted it direct from Diigo while reading and bookmarking the article. Pretty cool, huh?

When I ran through Diigo's "how-to" overview this morning, I found several other things I didn't know. In addition to using the one-click "Send to Blog" feature, you can also use Diigo's "send" feature to:
  • send annotated and highlighted pages by email
  • post to other websites such as twitter, facebook, delicious, etc.
Cool! I'm using it for a tweet next.

But what really caught my attention was the idea of using Diigo as a hub for group research projects. You can set up a group Diigo account to share bookmarks, and make it public, private or semi-private. This has real potential for students working on group projects, especially since Diigo's "sticky note" feature also lets you add comments to the material you save, in addition to highlighting key passages.

OK, I'm sold! I'm going to start demo-ing Diigo for my students.

Greenspan shocked at failure of free markets

Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, has finally stopped believing in the fiction of a self-correcting free market. In other words, he's realized that Ayn Rand is not only dead, but that she was a novelist.
  • Greenspan shocked at failure of free markets

    • It was a remarkable moment: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, a lifelong champion of free markets, publicly questioning the philosophy that guided him throughout his years as the world's most powerful economic policymaker.

    • Greenspan said that, in light of a crisis he characterized as "a once-in-a-century financial tsunami," he was wrong to think financial markets could police themselves. He incorrectly had expected the discipline of the market would prevent financial institutions from taking life-threatening risks.

    • Greenspan replied that indeed he had found a flaw in his ideology, one that left him very distressed. "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology was not right?" asked Rep. Henry Waxman (chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform).

    • For his whole adult life, the former Fed chairman has been a devotee of the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who celebrated free-market capitalism as the world's most moral economic order and advocated a strict laissez-faire approach to government regulation of the marketplace.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Starbucks-era journalism

You know you've got their attention when you get heckled during your presentation. At least that's my theory.

It happened at last Saturday's JACC NorCal conference (that's the Journalism Association of Community Colleges of Northern California), held at SJSU. My colleague Steve Sloan and I were the keynoters, addressing an audience of about 250 community college J-students and faculty on "Journalism in the Starbucks Era."

During our talk, we discussed some of the trends and online tools that are shaping journalism, including blogging, YouTube, Twitter and other forms of social media. I am a self-proclaimed blogging evangelist and a fan of Twitter, so my perspective on these tools is largely positive. I see them as tools, not as implements of destruction.

However, one CC faculty member, tucked in the last row, apparently disagreed. He took issue with the idea that bloggers could also be journalists. He interrupted us. Twice.

So here's what I told him: Blogging and journalism are not mutually exclusive. Journalism is what you do, not who you work for. Some journalists are also bloggers, and some bloggers do commit acts of journalism. After all, blogs are just another distribution channel, not the infidel.

Today, for example, some bloggers are doing something that looks a lot like journalism to me. They're digging through public records for background information on "Joe the (soon to be infamous) plumber," who was cited by Sen. John McCain in last night's presidential debate. Turns out that a number of the things McCain said about "Joe" last night are not true: Joe is registered as a Republican, not as an independent; he's a plumber's helper, not a plumbing business owner; and he doesn't make over $250,000 a year. Yes, it appears that Joe was a "plant."

Bloggers helped ferret some of that information out. Instead of looking at them as impediments, perhaps journalists should look at bloggers as potential people who could be helpful in these times of news organization cutbacks.

As the old saying goes, "Many hands make light work."

P.S. If you'd like to view my segment of our JACC presentation, you can see it on SlideShare at Links to all my resources are included on the final slide. And if you didn't "Hack the Debate," be sure to check out that link.

Daily laugh

Three things that made me laugh today:

"I thought it was just some creepy guy, like a very advanced Internet predator, who had worked really hard on his backstory."
~ Bo Burnham, YouTube phenom, on his first call from an agent (I read it in my morning SF Chron; you can read it online here)

"McCain finally shows his true zombie form."
~ Kitsune Noir, photo link via Twitter.

"The GOP likes to say it's a big tent. Looks more like a yurt to me."
~ Christopher Buckley, National Review writer and son of the mag's founder, conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., after his recent Obama endorsement sent NR readers and editors off the deep end. Buckley has resigned.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

A Little Persuasion

I should have been grading papers, but at the last minute I decided to play hooky for a few hours to see one of my favorites musicians, Richard Thompson, who was "playing real good for free" this afternoon at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Fest in Golden Gate Park.

Traffic was thick and the parking garage I'd found on Google Maps turned out not to exist, but I finally found a tiny parking space on the edge of the park just a few blocks from the stage. I squeezed my little VW Golf into it and hot-footed it into the park.

As I approached the open-air stage, I could hear Richard Thompson striking the opening chords of Bathsheba Smiles. A couple walking in the same direction asked, "Oh, is that Nick Lowe?"

"No," I replied, "that's Richard Thompson."

"Teddy Thompson's dad?"

"Yes, that's him."

On stage, it was just Thompson and his acoustic guitar, putting out enough sound to blow back your hair. He picks so fast and furious it always sounds like there must be two of him.

I found a open spot not too far back and sat cross-legged on the ground. Next up was one of my all-time Thompson favorites, Persuasion. As he sang, a pair of red-tailed hawks circled overhead. All around me, people tapped their feet and nodded their heads in time to the music. Some, like me, sang along on the chorus.

Also on the playlist: Crawl Back, 1952 Vincent Black Lightening, Sunset Song, a lovely ballad, and Dad's Gonna Kill Me, a song about Iraq ("Dad" is soldier slang for Baghdad, he said), and probably one or two others I forgot. He reprised with Valerie.

If you're not familar with Thompson, you can check him out on at Here's a YouTube video of Thompson singing Persuasion with his son, Teddy, who performed in town last month (sorry I missed that).

Tags: Richard Thompson, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Friday, October 03, 2008

In sheep's clothing

When I scanned this article in this morning, I found the answer to a question that had been puzzling me since Monday. That's when I read this OpEd piece in the San Jose Mercury News. It purported to explain the author's support for Prop 8, which would eliminate the right of marriage for same-sex couples, despite his being a "liberal Democrat."

Great story. Too bad it turns out not to be true. As noted in the article, the author appears to be a paid right-wing shill. However, MN readers weren't told that. Here's what they were told:
David Blankenhorn is president of the New York-based Institute for American Values and the author of "The Future of Marriage." He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.
Nothing about his conservative connections. Nothing about him not really being a liberal. That kind of misrepresentation makes me mad, so I wrote this letter to the editor:
The Mercury News needs to do a better job of fact-checking its OpEds. If you had, you would have found that self-professed "liberal Democrat" David Blankenhorn, who wrote the Monday's oped "Protecting Marriage to Protect Children," is not who he says he is.

In fact, Blankenhorn appears to be a paid shill for several right-wing advocacy groups. His "think tank," the Institute for American Values (of which he is president), has raked in millions of dollars from ultra-conservative Republican foundations, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Scaife Family Foundation, and the Randolph Foundation.

As noted in an article in today's, the Institute for American Values is just one of a "network of right-wing Republican think tanks that promote a variety of causes," including the elimination of gay marriage, abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research, and the inclusion of prayer and creationism in public schools.

Clearly, this guy is no liberal, and I kinda doubt he's a Democrat. I'd say you got played.

I hope you will issue a correction on your OpEd pages to clarify Mr. Blankenhorn's allegiances, so those who took his assertions at face value can be aware of his hidden agenda.
I kinda doubt the Mercury News will run a correction, but I figure it can't hurt to ask.

Full Disclosure: I have volunteered for the No on Prop8 campaign. We're holding No on Prop 8 phone bank sessions at my church. I even have a No on 8 yard sign. (And if David Blankenhorn had disclosed his biases, I wouldn't have felt the need to write this post.)

P.S. So maybe you're wondering, "Why should I care?" Maybe, like me, you're straight and married. If you're asking yourself that question, please read this letter, written by a member of my church to her family and friends.

Tags: No on Prop 8, prop8, California