John Klossner's Ink Tank

Social media, parasailing donkeys and the news crisis

In the mid 1990s in Boston, a free daily newspaper, the Metro, appeared. Based on a successful European model, this was handed out at public transportation locations and through paper boxes. This model is now used at several cities in this country, and has become another viable media source. At first people were horrified by these "lite" publications. The Boston paper had little in-house-created content, relying instead on wire stories. And the articles were never longer than one paragraph, so Britney had as much front page space as Pakistan (or whatever the 90s version of Pakistan was. Not to mention the 90s version of Britney.)

One day I asked a friend who was a graduate student at the time (and may still be -- you never know with graduate students) why she would waste her time on a publication that didn't provide any depth to their coverage. She told me she used the paper as a guide. When she found a story that actually interested her she could go to one of the larger media outlets to find it in more detail. And since she read the free paper on the subway, she could peruse the day's stories quickly without having to wrestle with a broadsheet newspaper.

I was reminded of this while reading an piece, via GovLoop, about Web 2.0 picking up coverage of major events when the mainstream media leaves the scene. In this case the story the writer was referring to was the Gulf oil spill. When the major news networks stopped coverage, which they all do when they move on to the next "hot" topic, does that mean the story has ended? Of course not, and the piece was pointing out Web 2.0's role in maintaining the public's attention and need for continued information.

(I would point out the irony of a Web 2.0-based piece talking about the importance of Web 2.0 outlets in the media: If I'm reading that piece, I'm already on board, folks. I'm starting to worry about the number of Web 2.0 pieces telling me how important Web 2.0 is.)

(I would also point out that, just because the mainstream media are there, the story might not be in the public's eye. Have you been looking at viewer/reader figures for the players formerly known as the mainstream media? Audience figures for most mainstream media have dropped in recent years. I don't have to tell you about newspaper readership. Network television news viewership? Down. Cable news viewership? Down. The silver lining here is that when the major media players move on from a story, less people lose coverage.)

Are social networks picking up the stories when the mainstream media leaves the scene? The Gulf Spill? Haiti? The ongoing monsoon and upcoming hurricane seasons that are sure to cause flooding and crises around the world? This situation has always existed -- sooner or later, the media leaves the scene. It's just that now there are more voices to fill the gaps. With many people paying attention to alternative information outlets the attentions of the mainstream media have become less and less important. I'm not overly concerned about the media turning their light off of major stories -- I know I can still follow those stories via the web, blogs, chat rooms, etc.

No, I worry about two tangential points. First, finding accurate information. Once again, I have no concerns about people who are taking the time to read an obscure blog by a cartoonist in a niche market publication keeping up on their news. You have already exhibited the motivation to go looking for information, even if I question your judgment. Your - and my - biggest worry is to find consistent and accurate information. (These two factors don't necessarily co-exist. I would vote for consistency: If I know a source is always wrong, I'd rather rely on their consistency than rely on a source that's a mixed bag, accuracy-wise.) Web 2.0 isn't exactly a guaranteed source of hard science, and with the addition of so many alternative information sources, accuracy becomes a concern.

Secondly -- and this is nothing new -- how do we viewers/readers first locate and identify important stories? With so many media and information sources, each of us becomes our own personal editorial board, creating front pages that feature the range between the Wikileaks story to Rupert Murdoch purchasing the parasailing Russian donkey. We each need our guides, like that free Boston weekly, to give us a briefing of the news possibilities.

And what about those for who the donkey story is the hard news? I recently discovered an online Cheez-its newsletter. Are there really people (who don't work for the Sunshine Corporation, that is) who check in for updates in the Cheez-it newsletter? I have no problem with legislation calling for the deportation of anyone who has the Cheez-it newsletter as their home page.

In the meantime, I'll go ride the subway to catch up on the news.

Pelicans on Facebook

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 at 12:19 PM0 comments

Knowledge management for knowing people

My new favorite term is "simulation." Simulation is the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) term for flopping or falling down to make it look as if you were illegally contacted by an opponent during a soccer match. If the referee buys the simulation, either you receive a free kick or your opponent receives a foul or -- even better -- expulsion from the game. I witnessed a lot of simulation in the recently completed 2010 World Cup. I'm far from being an aficionado of football -- the term that most of the world uses for soccer -- but I'm starting to appreciate the fine art of simulation. (I was rooting for one of the landlocked countries to win the cup, but their dry spell -- no pun intended -- will continue for at least another four years.)

I didn't realize that FIFA, international soccer's governing body, was a federal agency. Not that our country has a monopoly on Orwellian phrasing. Plenty of governments -- including those of landlocked countries -- have mastered the art of euphemistic terminology, as has the business world and the technology industry. I have a good friend whose husband is an IT guy, and she says when they are out for dinner, she half expects him to ask for the restaurant's documentation, rather than a menu. The combination of technology- and federal agency-speak is a perfect storm for language vagueness.

I have especially become appreciative of the terminology used in the world of "knowledge management" -- a term that is now being used for what used to be called social networking. (And still is for those, like me, who are woefully behind such linguistic developments. I still call Tampa Bay’s baseball team the Devil Rays, for instance.) It's as if the people in charge of these designations don't think "social networking" sounds serious enough. Knowledge management sounds much more grown up, although couldn’t I also say that’s what I’m doing while working on the Sunday Times crossword puzzle?

The goal of knowledge management -- summed up in a phrase that I found referenced in numerous locations -- is to get the right information to the right person at the right time. After reading numerous pieces on knowledge management, it also seems as if you have to include the word "knowledge" in that information.

A quick perusal of found the following terms in the knowledge management world: knowledge services, knowledge-enabled, knowledge transfer, knowledge repository, knowledge portal, knowledge discovery, knowledge coordinators, knowledge audit, chief knowledge officer, knowledge networks, knowledge management integration, knowledge sharing and -- of course -- knowledge professionals.

Here are a couple thoughts or, in the spirit of the conversation, some "knowledge dissemination from a knowledge amateur":

* I worry about the term "knowledge discovery.” Is there someone out there who says "I work in knowledge discovery?" How about "I used to be in knowledge discovery, but I left it for the private sector?" "I need some time off from my work in knowledge discovery?" Let me put it this way: If I ever stop my work in knowledge discovery, please take my pulse.

* Is "knowledge audit” another term for the SAT exams?

* If there are "knowledge-enabled" workers, does that mean there are "knowledge disabled" workers?

I started thinking about this when I read of a discussion about the differences between "formal" and "informal" knowledge networks, which began with one writer's concerns that agency information should be dispensed through a "formal" knowledge network. If you look further into arguments for "formal" knowledge networks, you get the feeling that hoping to control knowledge sharing via formal knowledge networks is the knowledge management equivalent of shoveling against the tide (or, the oceanic knowledge legacy).

It makes me afraid to read about the intelligence community.


Knowledge networks

Posted on Jul 29, 2010 at 12:19 PM4 comments

How Elmer Fudd can improve your password security

Klossner passwordsPeople are using bad passwords. Actually, there are a lot of terms being bandied about to describe these passwords -- "bad," "simple," "lazy," etc. -- when the most accurate term is "easy-to-figure-out." A recent study found that a large number of people are using "123456," "password," etc.

I will defend the "bad" passwords on one account. Shouldn't this discussion be broken into "sensitive information that needs a password" as opposed to "if someone breaks into this and steals my third grade son's essay on the ankylosaurus, they deserve it" passwords? There are numerous sites, chat rooms and online forums that ask for registration or a password to enter that don't contain sensitive information. For these I personally use a simple password that I will always remember without having to go back to the false-bottomed desk drawer where I keep all my secret information. For the security-sensitive password situations, I do what everyone else -- except those cited in the above study -- does: I resort to my personal password recipe.

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 The challenge here is two way: creating a password that is hard to discover, but yet can still be remembered. I find the real challenge lies in remembering the location where you keep the passwords. You can't keep them in the file labeled "passwords," can you? But then you have to keep a note (labeled "password locations") somewhere secret, requiring you to keep another note ("location of note reminding me where password locations are"), which you keep in a location with a lock, the combination of which you can keep in the same place as the passwords.

Without giving away my own password secrets, here are some unprofessional hints for creating passwords that a) others can't figure out, and b) you can easily remember. (For an interesting read on other peoples' tips, check out the comments section of this article.)

  • Use the square root of pi to 56 digits. For those of you who still aren't comfortable, go to 57. Substitute the Gettysburg Address for every other "7." This won't guarantee preventing hacking, but it will keep the hackers too busy to do any damage to anyone else.
  • Pick one of Ben Affleck's good movies -- nobody can remember those.
  • Choose the maiden name you wish your mother had (unless you wish the square root of pi to 56 digits was your mother's maiden name.)
  • Take the name and home phone number of the person who required you to set up this account. If you're really annoyed, add "call after midnight."
  • Use the name of your favorite landlocked country. For the squeamish, add the capitol. For further security, put the year it became sovereign in between.
  • Use your favorite Shakespeare quote, written as if it were spoken by Elmer Fudd.
  • Use your favorite Arnold Schwartzenegger quote, as if spoken by Elmer Fudd.
  • The square root of pi to 56 digits, as if spoken by Elmer Fudd.
  • Two words: Pig Latin. (Oops, I'm giving away my own secrets.)
  • Write all the information down on hard copy, delete the digital files, and forget having a password to begin with.

 hieroglypic password

Posted by John Klossner on Jul 15, 2010 at 12:19 PM12 comments