Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Andrew Keen Hates My Blog.

I don't take it personally, though, he hates most every blog, video, photo and tweet on the Internet. It's just his way.

Meet Andrew Keen, author of "The Cult of the Amateur". He's really upset that I have an opinion and that I'm "stealing" this video clip to share with you. His claim, in effect, is that the Internet is destroying our culture because now too many people are able to share and express thoughts, ideas, and creative expression rather than leaving it to the "experts". He feels that those who are truly deserving (artists, journalists, etc.) are no longer able to earn a living because the Internet devalues them and allows their work to be stolen or mimicked.

Personally, I believe in an even playing field where anyone with exceptional talent has the opportunity to share that with those who appreciate it--be that 2 people or 2 billion people. I also believe that people who try to make others feel inferior by just firing questions at them to try to make them stumble come off looking quite foolish. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Censorship on the House Floor: Why Rep. John Culberson Is Banned From Using Twitter

Having fixed the economy and stopped the war, Congress is now turning its attention to censoring itself on Twitter and other social media websites. Yet another item to add to the "Aren't There More Pressing Matters to Deal With?" File.

For several months, I've followed the inside viewpoint of Texas Congressman John Culberson (R) via Twitter as he offered a unique insight into the world of Washington politics. Using a variety of social media outlets, but most notably through Twitter and the occasional live video stream via Qik, he has opened the doors to the House of Representatives in a very new and authentic way, at times even streaming live from the House floor, answering questions from constituents, and explaining the process like a modern-day Jefferson Smith.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, Massachusetts Representative Michael Capuano (D), who is Chairman of the "Congressional Commission on Mailing Standards" introduced a letter to attempt to shut down the use of any third party social media outlets by Congressmen without first gaining Committee approval each time. His claim is that any usage that is outside of the domain needs to belong to an official "channel" within that site and thus, make it a unified "official" voice from the House each time video is posted.

Rep. Capuano states, "I believe that these conditions will help ensure that the House presence on such external sites conforms with acceptable standards that reflect favorably on the dignity, propriety, and decorum of the House."

That means, before every time Rep. Culberson could answer a question or voice an opinion, he would be forced to take it to a House Sub-Committee to make sure it was the acceptable response.

This is exactly the sort of governmental control that is blatantly disastrous to a legitimate democracy, and should be seen as a complete act of censorship, regardless of your political affinity (if anyone has one anymore). If there is ANYWHERE in the world that we, as American citizens, have the right to see inside the doors and gather the information we choose to make our own decisions, it is inside of OUR House and Senate.

As our government reconsiders the accessibility of our representatives, please visit Let Our Congress Tweet or follow the updates on Twitter.

A Qik interview with Rep. Culberson. Qik utilizes mobile phone cameras, so the quality isn't exactly HD.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Social Media Creating Social Change: Mara Triangle

In January of 2001, local leaders in southwestern Kenya created The Mara Conservancy, an agency dedicated to the protection of The Mara Triangle, a 510 sq km (197 sq miles) National Reserve that is home to the Masai people and game such as lions, elephants, cheetahs, hippopotami, black rhinos, and of course the zebras and wildebeest that comprise the Great Migration each year. In the years that followed, the rangers dedicated to Mara virtually ended poaching in the area, built more than 150km of roads, and saw the lion population swell by more than 50 percent. Their successes served as a boon to the region, which became a hot spot for travelers on safari.

However, post-election violence in Kenya erupted late in 2007 and created a catastrophic collapse of the tourism industry (90% drop since January 2008). Without this vital source of revenue crucial park operations, including anti-poaching and de-snaring patrols, are severely hindered in the Mara. Without a new source of funding, these services will soon cease.

No Tourists = No Funding = No Protection for Mara Wildlife

Thankfully, Joseph Kimojino, head of tourism and anti-animal harassment for the Mara Conservancy, has refused to bow to pressures. Using a variety of social media applications, he is brilliantly connecting with his audience and engaging them in the stories and challenges of the rangers in the Mara Triangle.

On a daily basis, they are posting updates and stories to a WordPress blog about the activity of the wildlife and the increasing numbers of poachers their weakened patrols have captured. A comprehensive photo gallery lives on Flickr while Vimeo is home to an impressive video channel. With each update, Twitter followers and Facebook friends are notified and kept abreast of the latest.

It doesn't take a lot of money to build an audience and to make an impact. It takes passion, authenticity, and solid strategy. I'm extremely impressed by Joseph and The Mara Triangle on each. I sent my donation today. I hope you do the same. Support The Mara Triangle.

Wildebeest Crossing the Mara River into Mara Triangle from Joseph Kimojino on Vimeo.

Blowing Up the Environment to Save It

I've recently had the opportunity to spend a good deal of time working with the Indiana state offices of The Nature Conservancy, which means that I've had the good fortune to learn more and more about the many ways in which their organization is truly saving the world. Their vast efforts to develop sustainable practices and a conservation ethic are changing mindsets while preserving millions of acres across the nation.

During a recent visit to their offices, I was looking at the many photos on the walls while waiting for a meeting to start. I was studying one particularly ominous-looking one of what appeared to be the aftermath of a forest fire. Trees were charred and felled, and aside from a few young, bright green leaves, it was a pretty bleak scene.

With all of their efforts aimed towards the support of protecting nature, it caught me a bit off guard when one of the state officers walked in, smiled, saying, "Yeah, we really like to burn things around here."

It wasn't a forest fire, but rather, a controlled burn. Among other things, these highly-targeted events help to restrict the growth of invasive species of plants that were crowding out and threatening the native species of the area and encourage the best (and most natural) balance.

When your focus is on developing the best long-term strategic outcome, sometimes short-term sacrifice becomes a necessity.

Check out this video from a Nature Conservancy effort to restore the wetlands in southern Oregon's Williamston River Delta Preserve through the use of more than 100 tons of explosives. Within one hour, more than 2,500 acres were flooded.