With the news that that the latest disaster in Donald Trump’s Lizard Brain Jamboree will bar Oscar nominee Asghar Farhadi from attending the Academy Awards (and Farhadi’s later decision to skip them whether he is allowed to come or not), the film community has been scrambling to find an effective response.
Chris Sim, founder and CEO of Kadaxis, spoke at Digital Book World about how indie authors and publishers can better use keywords to increase book sales.
After six decades in showbiz—she made her film debut opposite James Dean—Lois Smith is finally getting her due as a grieving widow in the Sundance sci-fi drama ‘Marjorie Prime.’
The Manchester by the Sea actor has been accused of sexual harassment.
Constance Wu Is Disgusted by Casey Affleck’s Oscar Nomination: ‘Art Isn’t About Humanity, Right?’
The Manchester by the Sea actor has been accused of sexual harassment.
As anticipated, Casey Affleck received a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Manchester by the Sea this morning. The news served as evidence to some that multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and a related lawsuit have been successfully swept under the rug, at least in the Academy’s eyes (Affleck has previously denied all allegations against him, and settled the suits out of court for an undisclosed sum). Fresh Off the Boat actress Constance Wu, however, is not about to let the viewing public forget the accusations against Affleck, who is now being celebrated for his talent. “Men who sexually harass women 4 OSCAR! Bc good acting performance matters more than humanity, human integrity! Bc poor kid rly needs the help!,” the actress tweeted sardonically. Continue reading “Constance Wu Slams Casey Affleck’s Oscar Nom | Vulture”
Over 75 alumni, students, and faculty from Johns Hopkins got together on January 12, 2017 for a networking mixer and panel discussion relating to the entertainment and media business. Johns Hopkins alum and emeritus board of trustees member Don Kurz (A&S ’77) graciously hosted the event at his company Omelete in Culver City.
Just prior to the event the current students, primarily seniors and juniors who were visiting Los Angeles as part of an Intersession course within the Film and Media Studies Program, met with alum and cinematography legend Caleb Deschanel (A&S ’66) to hear about his industry experiences and ask questions. Following this there was an hour long drinks/hors d’oeuvres mixer of both students and alumni.
Host Don Kurz then thanked everyone for attending and introduced Film and Media Studies Program Director Linda DeLibero. She gave a quick overview of the program and its growth over the past few years and introduced the group of students who had traveled out from Baltimore for the class.
Following this Don moderated a panel discussion and Q&A featuring alumni Paul Boardman (A&S ’89), Jason Altman (A&S ’99), Devon Chivvis (A&S ’96), and Chris Aldrich (Engr. ’96). Panelists discussed how some of their Hopkins experiences helped to shape their subsequent careers in the entertainment and media sectors.
After the discussion, Linda presented Don with a gift of a framed artistic print of the newly renovated Center Theatre, part of Station North and a hub for the Film and Media Studies Program. She thanked him for all of his work and effort on behalf of the program, saying she knew he’s “always got our back.”
Emily Hogan gave a brief overview of her work at the JHU Career Center and encouraged alumni who had job openings or internship opportunities within their companies or knew of other opportunities for students/alumni to contact her with details and help in filling them.
Following some additional networking, a portion of the crowd retired to nearby pub/restaurant Public School 310 to continue the discussion.
Event Photo Gallery
I’ve been officially participating in the IndieWeb movement for almost two years–though from a philosophical standpoint it’s much closer to twenty. While I can see lots of value in the IndieWeb for even the average person on the internet, I’ve always felt that there’s also a tremendous amount of specific value for journalists and web-based publishers.
I suspect that a lot of the value of the IndieWeb philosophy is that it encompasses how many people inherently wish the internet worked. As a result I’ve seen a growing number of people discovering the concept de novo either on their own or by borrowing bits and pieces from their friends and colleagues who are practicing parts of it as well. This harkens back to the early days of the web when bloggers incrementally improved their websites based on what they saw others doing and sharing ideas more directly and immediately with their audiences.
An(other) unwitting example in the wild
Recently I came across the personal website of journalist Marina Gerner which is one of the few, but growing number, I’ve come across that is unknowingly practicing some of the primary tenets of the IndieWeb movement that I suspect more journalists will eventually come to embrace to better reach and engage with their audiences.
Another brief example I’ll mention having seen recently that almost explicitly rewrote the IndieWeb philosophy verbatim was on the the website redesign launch of PressThink, the blog of Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU. It’s a great read individually as is the majority of what Mr. Rosen writes.
Though I read many of the publications for which Ms. Gerner is writing and might see most of what she’s writing organically, having all of her work in one primary location is a spectacular convenience! I can quickly and easily subscribe to all her work by email or RSS. For a working journalist, this is a boon, because like musicians in the evolving music business a lot of the value that they bring to the table (and to the venues in which they play) is a result of their individual fan bases.
While her personal website probably doesn’t drive even a tiny fraction of exposure for her work as when it appears in The Economist or the Financial Times, for example, it does allow her fans to easily keep up with what she’s writing and thinking about. Ideally in the future, outlets will make links to writer’s bylines direct to the writer’s own website rather than to archive pages within their own publications (or perhaps both if necessary).
Journalistic Brand & the Sad Case of Leon Wieseltier: The Counter-example
Here I’m reminded of the seemingly sad case of Leon Wieseltier, the long time literary editor of The New Republic, who was ousted by its editor-in-chief and publisher Chris Hughes, a former Facebook executive. Wieseltier’s brand was almost all-too-wrapped up in The New Republic, where he had worked for decades, and when he was pushed out (ostensibly for the puerile desire to get more clicks and eyeballs), his output and influence seemingly disappeared overnight. Suddenly there just wasn’t as much of him to read. While he still has some output, as a fan who enjoyed reading his work, the problematic hurdles of finding his new work were the equivalent of using a cheese grater to file down one’s knee cap. I suspect that if he had his own website or even a semblance of a Twitter presence, he could easily have taken a huge portion of his fans and readership built up over decades along with him almost anywhere.
While there are some major brand names in journalism (examples like James Fallows, Walt Mossberg, or Steven Levy spring to mind), who are either so wrapped up in their outlet’s identities or who can leave major outlets and take massive readerships with them, this isn’t the case for the majority of writers in the game. Slowly building one’s own personal journalistic brand isn’t easy, but having a central repository that also doubles as additional distribution can certainly be beneficial. It can also be an even bigger help when one decides to move from one outlet to another, bridge the gap between outlets, or even strike out entirely on one’s own.
From a work/business perspective, Ms. Gerner’s site naturally acts as a portfolio of her work for perspective editors or outlets who may want to see samples of what she’s written.
Sadly, however, she doesn’t seem to be utilizing the WordPress category or tag functions which she could use to help delineate her work by broad categories or tags to help find specific types of her writing. She appears to have a “featured” category/tag for some of her bigger pieces to appear at the top of her front page, but I can see the benefit of having a “portfolio” or similar tag to give to prospective outlets to encourage them to read her “best of” work. This would also be helpful to new readers and future fans of her work.
Categories/tags could also be beneficial to readers who may want to follow only her book reviews and not her economics related work, or vice-versa. With a bit of massaging, she could easily have an economics-only RSS feed for those who wanted such a thing. I spent a bit of time in December writing about how I customized my own RSS feeds and helping to make them more discoverable.
An IndieWeb mini-case study of Ms. Gerner’s website
Because it might take some a bit of time to delve into and uncover a lot of the spectacular and inherent value in the the massive and growing wiki behind IndieWeb.org, I thought I’d take a minute or two to point out some of the subtle IndieWeb-esque things that Ms. Gerner’s site does well and point out a few places she (or others) could quickly and easily add a lot of additional value.
IndieWeb-forward things that she is doing
She has her own domain name.
If you’re looking for all things Marina Gerner on the web, where better to start than http://www.marinagerner.com?
She owns her own data.
Technically, it looks like her site is hosted on WordPress.com, so they own, backup, and maintain it for her, but there is a very robust export path, so she can easily export it, back it up, or move it if she chooses.
She’s posting her own content on her own site.
I’m not sure if she’s posting on her site first using the concept of Post on your Own Site, Syndicate Elsewhere (POSSE), but even if she’s posting it secondarily (known as PESOS), she’s still managing to capture it on her site and thereby own a full copy of her output. If any of the publications for which she’s published should go out of business or disappear from the internet, she will still own a copy of her work. (See and compare also the commentary at Anywhere but Medium.)
She’s even got a syndication link (or attribution) at the bottom of each article to indicate alternate locations where the content lives on the internet. Since she’s not using Webmentions to back-port the resulting commentary (see below for more), this is highly useful for finding/reading the potential ensuing commentary on her posts or interacting with it in the communities in which it was originally intended.
Missing IndieWeb pieces that could provide additional value
Syndication Links to Social Media
There are no syndication links to where her content may be living on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media spaces to give an idea of the conversations that are taking place around her work. In addition to the value that these conversations add to her work, they also give an idea of the breadth of the reach of her work, which could be useful not only to her, but to future outlets/employers.
Webmention and back-feed from Brid.gy
She’s clearly not using Webmention (now a W3C Recommendation) or services like Brid.gy which would allow her to have the comments and conversation about her articles from other sites or social media silos come back to live with the original articles on her own site. Given the quality of what she’s writing, I’m sure there are some interesting threads of thought stemming from her work which she’s not capturing back on her own site, but certainly could. As it stands, it’s highly unlikely (and perhaps nearly impossible) that I would go trolling around the thousands or hundreds of thousands of links to try to uncover even a fraction of it myself, but it wouldn’t take much for her to be able to capture all that data and make it easy to consume.
Webmention is a simple protocol that allows one website to indicate to another that it has been mentioned elsewhere on the web–it’s akin to Twitter @mentions, but is something that works internet-wide and not just within Twitter. Brid.gy is a service that bootstraps services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and Flickr via API to make them support webmention until they choose to implement it directly themselves.
Given the schedules of many journalists, they may not always have time to pay attention to the commentary on past articles, but if she were aggregating them back to her own site, she could occasionally check back in on them and interact as necessary or appropriate. Even better she could do this herself without necessarily needing to spend the additional time and energy to go to multiple other social websites to do so. I suspect that a lot of the value that journalists get out of Twitter could be better had by aggregating some of it within their own websites instead.
As an example, the reader will note that I also have syndication links (by means of icons) at the bottom of this post, but I’ve enabled Webmentions and have most of the replies and commentary from these social silos coming back to this original post to aggregate as much of the conversation back to this original post. In the event that any of these social media sites are acquired or go out of business for any reason, all of this commentary will be archived here on the site. As an experiment, if you’d like, click on the Twitter icon at the bottom of this post and reply to that post on Twitter, your reply will be sent to me via webmention through Brid.gy and I can choose to display it as a comment under this post.
Owning her replies to others
Naturally if she does interact with her pieces via other social channels (Twitter, for example), she could post those replies on her own site and automatically syndicate them to Twitter. This would also allow her to own all of that subsidiary content and conversation as well.
Search and SEO
Once she owns all of her own writing and subsidiary data, her platform of choice (WordPress along with many others) also provides her with some good internal search tools (for both public-facing and private posts), so that her online hub becomes an online commonplace book of sorts for not only searching her past work, but potentially for creating future work. Naturally this search also extends to the broader web as her online presence gives her some reasonable search engine optimization for making it more discoverable to future fans/followers.
And much more…
Naturally the IndieWeb encompasses far more than what I’ve written above, but for journalists, some of these highlighted pieces are likely the most immediately valuable.
I’ll refer those interested in learning more to browse the wiki available at IndieWeb or join the incredibly helpful community of developers who are almost always in the online chatroom which is accessible via multiple methods (online chat, Slack, IRC, etc.) Major portions of the IndieWeb have become easily attainable to the average person, particularly on ubiquitous platforms like WordPress which have simple configurable plugins to add a lot of this simple functionality quickly and easily.
Another IndieWeb Journalism Example
While I was writing this piece, I heard Mathew Ingram, who currently writes for Fortune, say on This Week in Google that he’s been posting his work to his own website for several years and “syndicating” copies to his employers’ sites. This means he’s got a great archive of all of his own work, though I suspect, based on his website, that much of is posted privately, which is also an option, though it doesn’t help me much as a fan.
I’d love to hear thoughts, comments, or questions journalists have about any of the above. Are there other online tools or features journalists would like to see on their own websites for improved workflow?
Please post them below, on your own website along with a permalink back to the original article (see “Ping Me” below), via webmention, or even by responding/replying on/to one of the social media silos listed just below in the syndication links, or natively on the social platform on which you’re currently reading.Syndicated copies to:
I’ve been invited to participate in a panel discussion as part of an Intersession course by the Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies Program. I hope fellow alumni in the entertainment and media sectors will come out and join us in Culver City on Thursday.
Join the Hopkins in Hollywood Affinity Group (AEME LA) as they welcome Linda DeLibero, Director of the JHU Film and Media Studies Program, and current students of the program for a dynamic evening of networking which features an alumni panel of industry experts.
Open to alumni, students, and friends of Hopkins, this event is sponsored by Donald Kurz (A&S ’77), Johns Hopkins University Emeritus Trustee and School of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board Member, and the Hopkins in Hollywood (AEME LA) Affinity Group.
Event Date: Thursday, January 12, 2017
Start Time: 6:30pm
End Time: 8:30pm
Donald Kurz, A&S ’77
Jason Altman, A&S ’99
Jason Altman is an Executive Producer at Activision working on the Skylanders franchise and new development projects. Prior to Activision, he spent the past 5 years at Ubisoft Paris in different leadership roles, most recently as the Executive Producer of Just Dance, the #1 music video game franchise. He is a veteran game producer who loves the industry, and is a proud graduate of the media studies program at Johns Hopkins.
Paul Harris Boardman, A&S ’89
Paul Boardman wrote The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and Devil’s Knot (2014), both of which he also produced, and Deliver Us From Evil (2014), which he also executive produced. In 2008, Paul produced The Day the Earth Stood Still for Fox, and he did production rewrites on Poltergeist, Scream 4, The Messengers, and Dracula 2000, as well as writing and directing the second unit for Hellraiser: Inferno (2000) and writing Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000). Paul has written screenplays for various studios and production companies, including Trimark, TriStar, Phoenix Pictures, Miramax/Dimension, Disney, Bruckheimer Films, IEG, APG, Sony, Lakeshore, Screen Gems, Universal and MGM.
Devon Chivvis, A&S ’96
Devon Chivvis is a showrunner/director/producer of narrative and non-fiction television and film. Inspired by a life-long passion for visual storytelling combined with a love of adventure and the exploration of other cultures, Devon has made travel a priority through her work in film and television. Devon holds a B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in International Relations and French, with a minor in Italian.
Chris Aldrich, Engr ’96
Chris started his career at Hopkins while running several movie groups on campus and was responsible for over $200,000 of renovations in Shriver Hall including installing a new screen, sound system, and 35mm projection while also running the 29th Annual Milton S. Eisenhower Symposium “Framing Society: A Century of Cinema” on the 100th anniversary of the moving picture.
Following Hopkins he joined Creative Artists Agency where he worked in Motion Picture Talent and also did work in music-crossover. He later joined Davis Entertainment with a deal at 20th Century Fox where he worked on the productions of Heartbreakers, Dr. Dolittle 2, Behind Enemy Lines as well as acquisition and development of Alien v. Predator, Paycheck, Flight of the Phoenix, Garfield, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I, Robot and countless others.
Missing the faster pace of representation, he later joined Writers & Artists Agency for several years working in their talent, literary, and book departments. Since that time he’s had his own management company focusing on actors, writers, authors, and directors. Last year he started Boffo Socko Books, an independent publishing company and recently put out the book Amerikan Krazy.
Part of the course:
Students will have the opportunity to spend one week in Los Angeles with Film and Media Studies Director Linda DeLibero. Students will meet and network with JHU alums in the entertainment industry, as well as heads of studios and talent agencies, screenwriters, directors, producers, and various other individuals in film and television. Associated fee with this intersession course is $1400 (financial support is available for those who qualify). Permission of Linda DeLibero is required. Film and Media Studies seniors and juniors will be given preference for the eight available slots, followed by senior minors.Students are expected to arrive in Los Angeles on January 8. The actual course runs January 9-13 with lodging check-in on January 8 and check-out on January 14.
|Course Number: AS.061.377.60
Days: Monday 1/9/2017 – Friday 1/13/2017
Times: M – TBA | Tu- TBA | W- TBA | Th- TBA | F- TBA
Instructor: Linda DeLibero
Many academics are using academic related social platforms (silos) like Mendeley, Academia.edu, Research Gate and many others to collaborate, share data, and publish their work. (And should they really be trusting that data to those outside corporations?)
A few particular examples: I follow physicist John Carlos Baez and mathematician Terry Tao who both have one or more academic blogs for various topics which they POSSE work to several social silos including Google+ and Twitter. While they get some high quality response to posts natively, some of their conversations are forked/fragmented to those other silos. It would be far more useful if they were using webementions (and Brid.gy) so that all of that conversation was being aggregated to their original posts. If they supported webmentions directly, I suspect that some of their collaborators would post their responses on their own sites and send them after publication as comments. (This also helps to protect primacy and the integrity of the original responses as the receiving site could moderate them out of existence, delete them outright, or even modify them!)
While it’s pretty common for researchers to self-publish (sometimes known as academic samizdat) their work on their own site and then cross-publish to a pre-print server (like arXiv.org), prior to publishing in a (preferrably) major journal. There’s really no reason they shouldn’t just use their own personal websites, or online research journals like yours, to publish their work and then use that to collect direct comments, responses, and replies to it. Except possibly where research requires hosting uber-massive data sets which may be bandwidth limiting (or highly expensive) at the moment, there’s no reason why researchers shouldn’t self-host (and thereby own) all of their work.
Instead of publishing to major journals, which are all generally moving to an online subscription/readership model anyway, they might publish to topic specific hubs (akin to pre-print servers or major publishers’ websites). This could be done in much the same way many Indieweb users publish articles/links to IndieWeb News: they publish the piece on their own site and then syndicate it to the hub by webmention using the hub’s endpoint. The hub becomes a central repository of the link to the original as well as making it easier to subscribe to updates via email, RSS, or other means for hundreds or even thousands of researchers in the given area. Additional functionality could be built into these to support popularity measures as well to help filter some of the content on a weekly or monthly basis, which is essentially what many publishers are doing now.
In the end, citation metrics could be measured directly on the author’s original page by the number of incoming webmetions they’ve received on it as others referencing them would be linking to them and therefore sending webmentions. (PLOS|One does something kind of like this by showing related tweets which mention particular papers now: here’s an example.)
Naturally there is some fragility in some of this and protective archive measures should be taken to preserve sites beyond the authors lives, but much of this could be done by institutional repositories like University libraries which do much of this type of work already.
I’ve been meaning to write up a much longer post about how to use some of these types of technologies to completely revamp academic publishing, perhaps I should finish doing that soon? Hopefully the above will give you a little bit of an idea of what could be done.Syndicated copies to:
I’m frustrated right now. I’ve been looking for someone to write about a technology that tons of people have no doubt used and am coming up short. Really, this is my own fault, because I was hoping I’d find someone who wasn’t a white male to address the topic. There’s nothing wrong with a white male addressing the topic, but I’ve been recommending a lot of white males to write about technologies and I was hoping to put my money where my mouth is in terms of my hopes for the diversity of the field in which I work.
I checked a bunch of related repos on GitHub and found that the maintainers were white guys and the committers were white guys and the people filing issues were white guys. So I checked the Following lists of related Twitter accounts and found.. more white guys. The few women I found either didn’t blog or had Tumblrs full of inspirational quotes and cupcake photos and shit. (Which is fine. But not what I happened to be looking for an expert on.)
And so this is how I became frustrated, because I don’t want to hit up people I know over and over again, and I need a way to know people are interested in and knowledgeable about certain topics, and the internet was giving me fuck-all.
Which brings me to the subject of this post, which is that you, developer in an underrepresented group who hopefully received this link somehow through the magical machinations of social media, should be blogging more. I need you to blog more. Little future developers who look or act or dress or think like you need you to blog more. Your slightly confused and defensive developer community needs you to blog more. Please please please please. And if you are like, “I give zero fucks about what those people need, I need to get off work at six and build charming birdhouses or customize my bicycle or something,” the best part is giving zero fucks is totally fine.
See, if you were an ambitious type, you wouldn’t need me to prevail upon you to blog more. You would be doing that and speaking at conferences and merrily on your way to becoming the next Marissa Mayer and that would be just fine for everyone. But there are a lot more not-Marissa-Mayers in the world than there are Marissa Mayers and those people need representation, lest we get it into our obsessive little developer heads that if you are not constantly being the very best at everything you should just go home. We need blog posts that aren’t about big fluffy TED topics like programmer diversity and are instead about that fucking stubborn and reprehensible bug you spent five hours on today because you couldn’t find a goddamned thing on StackOverflow.
So here are some simple guidelines for blogging about code while giving barely any fucks at all from someone who used to do exactly that and still has a job and outside interests too and it’s fine:
no quality control
Fuck quality control. If you wanted a code review, you’d put it on GitHub, amirite? It’s an idea, or a solution, or just a list of links. If you start thinking for even one second that isn’t valuable, try to picture you yourself finding such a thing when you started your day this morning and all the agony and yak-shaving it would have saved you. The internet is full of horrible crap! If your horrible crap is at least well-intentioned, it’s probably a step up from the other horrible crap. You don’t have to be perfect, or convert your glorious tabs to spaces, or even spell-check the damned thing. Just hit Post. The worst that will happen is nothing. Which brings us to..
assume no one will ever see it
People don’t click every link they see in a Twitter bio or a GitHub repo. I don’t even normally do that, which probably half explains why I can’t find you right now when I need you to write about this really important thing. This is great! It means there’s nothing for you to be embarrassed about. It means no haters will leave you nasty comments about how you should indent with spaces. It means your blogging is a nice record for you of all the problems you struggled with and overcame that, believe me, you will completely forget ever happened if you don’t write them down. If you don’t want it to, it never has to be anything more than that.
write like yourself
Writing is not fun if you have to stress over it, but if you can entertain yourself with it, it can be. So, I apologize for the excessive-even-for-me sweariness of this particular blog post, but I will also tell you that it is getting written a shitload faster than things I try to write in a professional and grammatically correct voice. If you want to “write” a whole blog post that is nothing but code examples and reaction gifs, that is valid as heck. Write it without capitalization or apostrophes. Who cares. They say you should write drunk and edit sober, and the thrill of getting something written down really quickly and in a way that amuses you is not unlike drunkenness. But also..
Or if that’s not your vice, eat ice cream. Have America’s Next Top Model playing on the TV in the background. Reflecting on your work shouldn’t have to feel like being at work. Take your pants off. Get comfortable.
actually write about code
I don’t know why, but I think it makes you feel like a better coder. It’s good to be able to explain things, or at least lay them out in snippets so it’s clear how they work together. It’s fun. And if it’s something you already coded, it means that shit is already mostly finished.
If you are currently averaging 0 comments per blog post, it might seem validating to accept each and every potential future comment immediately so at least someone is responding, but don’t. Statistically, the internet is 97% trolls, and you would think that trolls would not bother with a blog where there are normally 0 comments but that would be incorrect. Speaking from experience here, the thrill of seeing a new comment appear only to find out it’s baseless and nasty is far, far less than the thrill of seeing a four-page screed about Bitches Need To Stay In The Kitchen; And Also Impeach Obama in your moderation queue, considering all the time that went into writing it, and hitting Delete. Remember, this is your blog, and no one asked Hacker News for its feedback.
don’t hit post immediately
If you want to not worry about what might happen if other people someday see your blog, do yourself a solid and never post anything in the heat of the moment. Save it as a draft and come back and reread it in the morning. And if you like it in the morning, it’s good! Moreover, if you like it in the morning, you are good at blogging. If you can amuse yourself when you just woke up and you heard all the jokes about the text selection API last night, you have done a good job. And if you can’t, fuck it, leave it in the drafts and don’t worry about rewriting it. Do you want to know how many drafts I have saved on this blog? It is a lot. But not rewriting it is also very important. If you thought it was kind of a piece of shit the first time and you sit down to write it again thinking, “Don’t write a piece of shit. Don’t write a piece of shit,” you will write an even worse piece of shit. Write it later, when a new angle or really clever hack suddenly inspires you. Or not at all. Some blog posts make really good first drafts.
promote it. or don’t.
You might like having a little secret blog where you quietly explain all the things that are wrong with contenteditable that you never ever intend on filing a bug for. Or you might eventually begin to desire some recognition. Both are fine. I mean, please link to the damned thing somewhere, but you are not obligated to tweet once per timezone to alert the internet that You Have Written a Thing. However, if you write a thing and you feel pretty certain it’s brilliant or hilarious or just really elegantly executed clickbait, you don’t have to feel weird about sharing it. The internet is huge. There’s probably at least one other person out there who will feel the same way.
just please please please do it
The same goes for putting your stuff on GitHub, and speaking at your local meetups, and going to your local meetups in the first place, but those can be a lot more intimidating. All joking aside, our communities need to hear from people who aren’t the maintainers and conference speakers and web celebrities. We need to hear from people who give zero fucks, who never worry about their Klout scores or how many people starred their repo. The big names create an echo chamber where ideas are safe and popular and failure and being wrong are covered up so no one else can learn from them. We don’t really badly need any more of that crap. We need you.
E.B. White’s backstory
Elwyn Brooks “E. B.” White (July 11, 1899 – October 1, 1985) was an acclaimed American writer who contributed to The New Yorker magazine and co-authored the quintessential English language style guide The Elements of Style, which is commonly known as “Strunk & White” ostensibly making him the writer’s writer.
While re-reading Charlotte’s Web and then watching the movie version of Charlotte’s Web (Paramount, 2006) while thinking about the struggling writer in White (and all of us really), I’ve found a completely different theme in the piece as an adult that I certainly didn’t consider as a child when I viewed it simply as a maudlin, coming-of-age, commentary on the cycle of life.
An Alternate Theme
One can think of the characters Charlotte, the heroine spider, and Templeton, the despicable rat, as the two polar opposite personalities of almost any (good) writer. Charlotte represents the fastidious, creative, thinking, and erudite writer that writers aspire to be–which White espouses in The Elements of Style.
Templeton is a grubbing, greedy, and not-so-discerning writer who takes almost any word to get the story written so he can feast on his next meal of left-over slop.
Wilbur, the runt Spring pig desperately wanting to live to see the first snow, represents the nascent story. It too starts out stunted and scrawny, and it’s not really quite clear that it will live long enough to get published.
And so the struggle begins between the “Templeton” in the writer, and the “Charlotte” that the writer wants to become.
Charlotte represents care, devotion, creation, and even life (she not only desperately tries to creatively save Wilbur’s life, but dies to give birth to hundreds), while Templeton is a scavenger, doing the least he can to get by and generally taking advantage of others. Charlotte is crafting art while Templeton represents the writer churning out dreck in hopes of making a buck.
Alas, once the written work emerges to finally see its first “Spring”, one finds that Charlotte has died the death we knew was coming, while Templeton remains–as selfish and dreadful as before–ready to gorge himself once more.
There’s also the bleak and looming fact that Charlotte is now gone and only the vague hope that one of her few progeny will survive to live up to even a fraction of her good name. (Will my next book be as good as the first??)
The Writer takes on the Editor
The other two voices a writer often hears in her head are those represented by the characters of Fern, the doe-eyed youngster, and John Arable, the pragmatic farmer whose sir name is literally defined as “suitable for farming”, but not too coincidentally similar to parable, but without the ‘p.’ The sensible farmer (editor) says kill the runt pig (read: story) before you fall in love with it, while Fern (the creative writer) advocates to let it live a while longer–naively perhaps–wanting to know what results.
Who will you be?
So as you work on your own writing process, who will you be? Templeton, Charlotte, Fern, or John Arable? Whichever you choose for the moment, remember that all of them are ultimately necessary for the best story seeing the proverbial Spring.
Though your story may not win the “blue ribbon at the fair”, the fact that it has a life that extends the winter is a special prize all on its own to the team that created it.
On Why E.B. White Actually Wrote Charlotte’s Web
Now that I’ve sketched out the argument, I suspect that most writers will now know, as I do, why E.B. White wrote Charlotte’s Web.
–Achoo!Syndicated copies to:
I hadn’t noticed until now because of a head cold that’s taken me out of commission this weekend, but because of the passing of Leonard Cohen at the end of last week and possibly the cold open of Saturday Night Live, a growing number of people are following/using a Spotify Playlist I had made earlier this year in January.
If you need almost five hours of all the extant Hallelujah covers on Spotify to soothe your soul (for any reason), please feel free to save yourself the time of building it and enjoy my playlist. If you’re aware of any missing covers (that exist on Spotify), please let me know and I’m happy to add them to the collection.
Keep your chin up!
Syndicated copies to:
Not a day goes by that I don’t run across a fantastic blog built or hosted on WordPress that looks gorgeous–they do an excellent job of making this pretty easy to accomplish.
Invariably the blog’s author has a generic avatar (blech!) instead of a nice, warm and humanizing photo of their lovely face.
Or, perhaps, as a user, you’ve always wondered how some people qualified to have their photo included with their comment while you were left as an anonymous looking “mystery person” or a randomized identicon, monster, or even an 8-bit pixelated blob? The secret the others know will be revealed momentarily.
Which would you prefer?
Somehow, knowing how to replace that dreadful randomized block with an actual photo is too hard or too complicated. Why? In part, it’s because WordPress separated out this functionality as a decentralized service called Gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar. In some sense this is an awesome idea because then people everywhere (and not just on WordPress) can use the Gravatar service to change their photo across thousands of websites at once. Unfortunately it’s not always clear that one needs to add their name, email address, and photo to Gravatar in order for the avatars to be populated properly on WordPress related sites.
(Suggestion for WordPress: Maybe the UI within the user account section could include a line about Gravatars?)
So instead of trying to write out the details for the third time this week, I thought I’d write it once here with a bit more detail and then point people to it for the future.
Another quick example
Can you guess which user is the blog’s author in the screencapture?
The correct answer is Anand Sarwate, the second commenter in the list. While Anand’s avatar seems almost custom made for a blog on randomness and information theory, it would be more inviting if he used a photo instead.
How to fix the default avatar problem
What is Gravatar?
Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?
Need some additional motivation? Watch this short video:
Step 1: Get a Gravatar Account
If you’ve already got a WordPress.com account, this step is easy. Because the same corporate parent built both WordPress and Gravatar, if you have an account on one, you automattically have an account on the other which uses the same login information. You just need to log into Gravatar.com with your WordPress username and password.
If you don’t have a WordPress.com account or even a blog, but just want your photo to show up when you comment on WordPress and other Gravatar enabled blogs, then just sign up for an account at Gravatar.com. When you comment on a blog, it’ll ask for your email address and it will use that to pull in the photo to which it’s linked.
Step 2: Add an email address
Log into your Gravatar account. Choose an email address you want to modify: you’ll have at least the default you signed up with or you can add additional email addresses.
Step 3: Add a photo to go with that email address
Upload as many photos as you’d like into the account. Then for each of the email addresses you’ve got, associate each one with at least one of your photos.
Example: In the commenters’ avatars shown above, Anand was almost there. He already had a Gravatar account, he just hadn’t added any photos.
Step 4: Fill out the rest of your social profile
Optionally you can additional social details like a short bio, your other social media presences, and even one or more websites or blogs that you own.
Step 5: Repeat
You can add as many emails and photos as you’d like. By linking different photos to different email addresses, you’ll be able to change your photo identity based on the email “key” you plug into sites later.
If you get tired of one photo, just upload another and make it the default photo for the email addresses you want it to change for. All sites using Gravatar will update your avatar for use in the future.
Step 6: Use your email address on your WordPress account
Now, go back to the user profile section on your blog, which is usually located at http://www.YOURSITE.com/wp-admin/users.php.
In the field for the email, input (one of) the email(s) you used in Gravatar that’s linked to a photo.
Don’t worry, the system won’t show your email and it will remain private–WordPress and Gravatar simply use it as a common “key” to serve up the right photo and metadata from Gravatar to the WordPress site.
Once you’ve clicked save, your new avatar should show up in the list of users. More importantly it’ll now show up in all of the WordPress elements (like most author bio blocks and in comments) that appear on your site.
WordPress themes need to be Gravatar enabled to be able to use this functionality, but in practice, most of them do, particularly for comments sections. If yours isn’t, then you can usually add it with some simple code.
In the WordPress admin interface one can go to
Settings>>Discussion and enable
View people's profiles when you mouse over their Gravatars under the heading “Gravatar Hovercards” to enable people to see more information about you and the commenters on your blog (presuming the comment section of your theme is Gravatar enabled.)
Some WordPress users often have several user accounts that they use to administer their site. One might have a secure administrator account they only use for updates and upgrades, another personal account (author/editor admin level account which uses their name) for authoring posts, and another (author/editor admin level) account for making admin notice posts or commenting as a generic moderator. In these cases, you need to make sure that each of these accounts has an email address with an an associated Gravatar account with the same email and the desired photo linked to it. (One Gravatar account with multiple emails/photos will usually suffice, though they could be different.)
Example: In Nate’s case above, we showed that his photo didn’t show in the author bio box, and it doesn’t show up in some comments, but it does show up in other comments on his blog. This is because he uses at least two different user accounts: one for authoring posts and another for commenting. The user account he uses for some commenting has a linked Gravatar account with email and photo and the other does not.
Want more information on how you can better own and manage your online identity? Visit IndieWeb.org: “
A people-focused alternative to the ‘corporate web’.”
To help beautify your web presence a bit, if you notice that your photo doesn’t show up in the author block or comments in your theme, you can (create and) use your WordPress.com username/password in an account on their sister site Gravatar.com. Uploading your preferred photo on Gravatar and linking it to an email will help to automatically populate your photo in both your site and other WordPress sites (in comments) across the web. To make it work on your site, just go to your user profile in your WordPress install and use the same email address in your user profile as your Gravatar account and the decentralized system will port your picture across automatically. If necessary, you can use multiple photos and multiple linked email addresses in your Gravatar account to vary your photos.Syndicated copies to:
Live Tweeting and Twitter Lists
While attending the upcoming conference Dodging the Memory Hole 2016: Saving Online News later this week, I’ll make an attempt to live Tweet as much as possible. (If you’re following me on Twitter on Thursday and Friday and find me too noisy, try using QuietTime.xyz to mute me on Twitter temporarily.) I’ll be using Kevin Marks‘ excellent Noter Live web app to both send out the tweets as well as to store and archive them here on this site thereafter (kind of like my own version of Storify.)
In getting ramped up to live Tweet it, it helps significantly to have a pre-existing list of attendees (and remote participants) talking about #DtMH2016 on Twitter, so I started creating a Twitter list by hand. I realized that it would be nice to have a little bot to catch others as the week progresses. Ever lazy, I turned to IFTTT.com to see if something already existed, and sure enough there’s a Twitter search with a trigger that will allow one to add people who mention a particular hashtag to a Twitter list automatically.
Here’s the resultant list, which should grow as the event unfolds throughout the week:
🔖 People on Twitter talking about #DtMH2016
Feel free to follow or subscribe to the list as necessary. Hopefully this will make attending the conference more fruitful for those there live as well as remote.
Not on the list? Just tweet a (non-private) message with the conference hashtag: #DTMH2016 and you should be added to the list shortly.
IFTTT Recipe for Creating Twitter Lists of Conference Attendees
For those interested in creating their own Twitter lists for future conferences (and honestly the hosts of all conferences should do this as they set up their conference hashtag and announce the conference), below is a link to the ifttt.com recipe I created for this, but which can be modified for use by others.
Naturally, it would also be nice if, as people registered for conferences, they were asked for their Twitter handles and websites so that the information could be used to create such online lists to help create longer lasting relationships both during the event and afterwards as well. (Naturally providing these details should be optional so that people who wish to maintain their privacy could do so.)Syndicated copies to:
Directed by Joseph Sargent. With Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo. In New York, armed men hijack a subway car and demand a ransom for the passengers. Even if it's paid, how could they get away?
A great classic film starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, and Jerry Stiller. The plot and story (as well as some great 70’s cinematography) holds up incredibly well and far better than most of its contemporaries. The score of the film does have the definite tone of the 70’s, but isn’t so overbearingly stereotypical as movies which came later in the decade.
While headed by Walter Matthau, this film is far more serious in tone and there are few, if any, bits of humor stemming from his Lt. Garber character (or they just don’t play as well now). The final freeze frame of Matthau’s which closes the film (in an early American studio feature nod to the French New Wave) does have a fantastic feel of sardonic comedy though. Matthau’s function in the film reminded me more of his turn in Charade (1963) than his extensive body of comedic work.
The film does fit well into the crime/drama/thriller progression of the modern blockbuster which includes its classic predecessors: Bonnie and Clyde (Warner Bros., 1967), Bullitt (Warner Bros., 1968), The Italian Job (Paramount, 1969), The French Connection (20th Century Fox, 1971), Shaft (MGM, 1971), Dirty Harry (Warner Bros., 1971), and Magnum Force (Warner Bros., 1973).
The movie is set in a time period after the prison riot at Attica which is mentioned in passing by the mayor’s staff, but before the film Dog Day Afternoon (Warner Bros., 1975). It’s also obviously set in a time period when people expect airplane hijacks, but think it’s laughable that anyone would consider a subway hijack. (This likely played into the high-concept idea of the studio consider making it originally). However, none of the train passengers takes the hijacking very seriously or seems very scared by the four rough looking characters carrying high powered and automatic weapons. This may be because the terrorism of the late 70’s, early 80’s, or even early 2000s had not yet happened; it was also set prior to John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday (Paramount, 1979). I find it interesting that the hijackers in the piece actually verbally explain the capacity and killing power of their weapons as if none of the everyday people on the train would understand their automatic capabilities. (This assuredly wouldn’t happen in a modern-day version.) I have to imagine that more modern actor portrayals would have been much more fearful early on. Here no one seems very upset until Mr. Blue shoots the subway car driver in the back. Until then they just seem like they’re a bit “put out”. As an aside, the perpetrators’ going by the names Blue, Green, Grey, and Brown was most assuredly the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s use of similar names for the characters in Resevoir Dogs (Miramax, 1992) which also included the quote “let’s do it by the books”.
The film includes a fantastic (though possibly stereotypical) portrayal of 70’s culture through the characters of multiple ethnicities and cultural types. These are borne out in the credit sequence with character “names” which actually include: The Maid, The Mother, The Homosexual, The Secretary, The Delivery Boy, The Salesman, The Hooker, The Old Man, The Older Son, The Spanish Woman, The Alcoholic, The Pimp, Coed #1, The Younger Son, Coed #2, The Hippie, and The W.A.S.P. One of my favorite stereotypes (which the film may have first immortalized) was the hippie woman calmly chanting “Om” and then later “Om stop” on the runaway subway hoping it wouldn’t crash.
As an indicator of racial change, there’s an odd exchange (that may have been funny at the time), but to a more modern viewer is now just awkward:
Lt. Garber: [looking for the inspector] Inspector Daniels?
Inspector Daniels: [identifying himself] Daniels.
Lt. Garber: [realizing DCI Daniels is African-American] Oh, I, uh, thought you were, uh, like a shorter guy or – I don’t know what I thought.
There’s also a nice indicator of the growth of stature in women in society as the lead character posits (several times) that a plain clothes police officer might in fact be a woman, a fact that one of Garber’s colleagues failed to contemplate. This is offset by a zany statement by an old, gruff (and somewhat marginalized) subway supervisor (following a prior litany of profanity, by almost everyone in the room):
I’ll have to go back and rewatch the remake again to further compare the portrayal of the two time periods. I will note that the mayor’s deputy comes in at one point in this incarnation and says to him, “Pull your pants up Al, we’re going downtown.” I can’t help but sadly imagine that in a remake, the mayor wouldn’t be laying sick in bed getting a shot in the ass, but would more likely be sitting behind his desk with a woman in a compromising position to get the cheap laugh.
The film also includes some great, but short character actor turns by Tony Roberts as the Mayor’s assistant, Doris Roberts (almost unrecognizable to modern day Everybody Loves Raymond fans) as the mayor’s wife, Kenneth McMillan, and a middle-aged Joe Seneca.
I also noticed an obscure, early production office coordinator credit for Barbara DaFina, better known as Barbara De Fina, much later a well-known and prolific producer and production manager, known for Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995) and Hugo (2011). She was married to Martin Scorsese from 1985 – 1991, though she had a nice body of work even prior to that.
Another quote that I can’t help but mention not only for its sheer joy but because it’s also one of the first lines of spoken dialogue of the film:
In the pantheon of first lines of poetry, this captures the tone of its time incredibly well.Syndicated copies to: