On 25 random things

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

1. …

It’s not easy to pick 25 random things about yourself to share on Facebook.

A new chain letter of sorts is making its way around Facebook: the 25 random things letter. Recipients are asked to jot down 25 random facts or anecdotes about themselves and pass the note on to 25 other friends. Some of the entries are serious, some are smart and some reveal facts about people that you might never have otherwise found out.

One of my Facebook friends admitted in her profile that she recently had a brain tumor removed. Another recounted her habit of picking at a scar on her lip. A guy I have friended likes eating sardines right from the can. Another friend admits that she can drive a tractor and vaccinate a cow, though most of her students think her a city girl.

Some of these letters are the kind of randomness that comes from sitting down at your computer trying to generate randomness. You can tell these ones by the way the facts run into each other, as if thought up as a stream of consciousness. Others letters are itemized studies in brevity and wit. You can tell these by their longer entries, each with their own point and vaguely hidden message.

As I sit deciding whether to write a list of my own 25 random facts, I also wonder whether this sort of sharing is healthy. On one side, there is the everyday “be safe on the Interwebs” argument, the one that reminds us that sharing too much information online can have awkward, unhealthy, immoral or even dangerous consequences.

A second point to consider is whether I want to jump onto another Internet meme. I stopped responding to e-mail chain letters last century, and I don’t do things like join Facebook fan groups or play little games online. I don’t read “I Can Haz Cheezburger,” and I consider most of the things people laugh about online to be old news. I’m a dastardly Web elitist in that way, so joining a popular meme like this at a time when it’s actually popular makes me squirm a little.

But I have to think that the another side of this is the psychological side — it might be good for us to take a good, hard look at 25 points about ourselves. Sharing those things, things we might not be comfortable admitting, could be a catharsis. It could actually make us feel better about ourselves.

Frankly, I don’t think anything, even slightly embarrassing things or even too-personal things, you post to a 25-things list is going to have that much of an effect on your friends. It might help them understand you better, and no one’s going to laugh at you behind your back because, inwardly, they all want to write a list of their own and are just waiting for the invitation to do so.

The perfect epilogue to this little post would be for me to have an answer to the quandary that inspired the post. I don’t. At least, not a complete answer. I’m almost certain to write a list of 25 things, but I’m sure that when the time comes, my mouse pointer will hesitate over the “post” button as I wrestle with these same issues over and over again in my mind. To share or not to share…

Inspired* new blog design

Okay, so my blog design mirrors another, probably better-coded site, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? And if that other blog has a problem with my appropriation of certain elements of its design, some from there should contact me, and I’ll go back to the ho-hum white and gray old version of this site. Until then, I’m going to enjoy working with and tweaking this new design.

Call this “Hypercrit 6.0.” (Wow, I can’t believe I’ve redesigned this site six times — that I’ve counted.)

Montana newspapers announce layoffs

Some news from my own backyard this morning. The Missoulian and Montana Standard, in Missoula and Butte respectively, announced layoffs this week.

The Missoulian laid off four employees and said that two other employees will lose their jobs in February. The Standard laid off two full-time and four part-time employees this week. Both papers are owned by Lee Enterprises.

In addition, the Missoulian, Montana Standard, Helena Independent Record, Billings Gazette and Casper, Wyo., Star Tribune will merge their customer service call centers at a single location in Billings to save costs. 

Bad, bad copy

I was browsing some media coverage of a story that I wrote about for our university’s magazine when I came across this article. It is posted to the Web site of the ABC affiliate near Kennewick, Wash., KVEW-42.

I don’t know if reporter Matt Haugen wrote this himself as Web text or whether it’s some sort of transcript of his video coverage (not linked to the online text), but when a professional newsman will publish anything this poorly written, I start to wonder why we worry about the unprofessionalism of bloggers and citizen journalists. I know he’s not a print journalist and writing isn’t his primary trade, but come on! The last paragraph is made up a fragment for crying out loud.

I quote the story in its entirety. The original is here.

WALLULA — Drilling has began on a carbon dioxide experiment at the Boise paper mill near Wallula.

The drilling is part of a Battelle proposal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by storing it under ground.

What makes the Wallula area a good location is all the basalt rock in the region.

In lab tests, basalt has shown to hold CO2 molecules.

"This project represents one of the technologies in our tool kit in terms of capturing CO2 and permanently and safely storing it in deep geologic formations" said Pete McGrail.

Once drilling is completed, Battelle and Boise will analyze data.

The goal is to test dump CO2 into the ground to determine if the rock will hold the molecules.

That work could happen by summer 2009.

If permits are issued by the department of ecology.

No news is bad news

I just read James Warren’s article in The Atlantic, “When No News is Bad News,” and I’m a little inspired and depressed at the same time. Why should that be? Warren’s article hasn’t presented me with any information I didn’t know already. Newspapers are in trouble and can’t find a business model to save themselves, yet the work journalists do is vital to public safety and key to keeping our governments honest.

Continue reading

Langeveld: Newspaper downturn caused by shift in American interests, not by Web

Martin Langeveld at the Nieman Journalism Lab writes that the real cause of the woes facing the newspaper industry is not the Web. Rather, it is the shifting and expanding American attention span.

Langeveld writes that the heyday of newspapers coincided with periods of the 20th century in which Americans were united in their passions and interests — the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam. But the decades after have seen a boom in the number of luxuries and options available to Americans. Instead of every citizen focusing on the same issues, our range of interests has exploded.

It’s no wonder, then, that we can’t get more people to read the newspaper these days; there’s just not enough column inches to appeal to everyone.

The Web, Langeveld says, only accelerated this death spiral for the industry. It did not cause the spiral in the first place.

His advice to the news industry:

To have even a chance of survival, the mindset of the industry needs to become: We are in the business of publishing information content continuously on our web sites; every 24 hours (for now, and this may ultimately change to once or twice weekly) we gather some of that information into a printed product and distribute it, but our business is focused on and driven by our online operations.

Slow weekend

Blogging has been put more or less on hold this weekend, as I have actually been opening a printed monograph or two instead of huddling over my laptop’s keyboard. Don’t worry. I’m sure this is just a phase. I’ll be back with vigor on Monday.

Until then, you can always enjoy all the bookmarks and links I save to either http://www.delicious.com/superjaberwocky or http://www.diigo.com/user/superjaberwocky. I have manage to maintain those a bit this weekend.