A few lifetimes ago I was a marketing and communications specialist for nonprofits, most notably for Bay Area Action and its later incarnation as Acterra.
For a few years I wrote and/or edited weekly email newsletters and action alerts. I started doing this for the Headwaters Forest Project at BAA, then created a weekly EcoCalendar of events all around the Bay Area, and later founded Acterra's first general email newsletter.
During that span of about eight years, I also performed a lot of other communications functions, especially surrounding the Headwaters issue. For a few years my website and email list were the best sources for news on the controversies emanating from the North Coast, and I fielded inquiries from small and big sources alike, everyone from elementary school students to the big media outlets such as Time and CNN.
I spoke at events (the Green Party's state convention comes to mind) and universities (I presented to a Stanford law class once, which was a bit unnerving, but then I reminded myself they were just students), I did radio interviews, I fielded calls and emails and faxes from reporters all over the world, and my email list contained addresses from places as far-flung as Japan and Australia and people from the press, government, and even Hollywood.
Copy this, please
This all happened in a time when the migration of such information to the Internet was much, much less frequent, and a lot harder to do. Nevertheless, lots of people copied my emails and forwarded them along to others. Which is what we wanted. Unlike commercial material, for which one might have copy-protection concerns, we wanted this information spread far and wide. Granted, we didn't want people to re-edit the information, so I simply attached a footer to my email template that stated that permission was thereby granted to forward the email in its entirety, for non-commercial purposes.
And people did it. In droves. They forwarded it on to their friends and family, co-workers, whomever. Some maintained their own large lists of concerned citizens interested in environmental issues, and they sent my emails along to them. Others posted my newsletters and action alerts on their AOL and Geocitieshomepages, on university listservs, and lots of other places.
Here are a few examples, still archived in various niches of the 'net:
Later, as search engines became more adept at crawling and indexing the content of the web (this had all occurred before Google existed), I'd be doing Headwaters research on AltaVista or Yahoo! or Dmoz, and come I'd across some of my old emails and articles scattered across the web.
In more recent years I've noticed that Google's algorithm seems to be devaluing these old (nearly ancient in Internet time) posts, probably for fairly legitimate reasons (the HTML of those old web pages would not withstand semantic rigors of modern search technology), so they rarely show up in results, or if they do, they're buried many, many, many results pages deep. It's probably that a lot of those pages are simply gone now too, as people fold their old accounts or Geocities pages get closed down, or whatever.
When I first started noticing this, I must admit that it was a little sad, as it seemed almost as if my contributions were disappearing from the universe. I know this is not strictly true, but in a world where we seem to rely increasingly on Google to provide us with what we want to know (I'm certainly guilty of this reliance), it's disappointing that the content of those older articles is devalued in large part because the method used for archiving them did not use the modern HTML standards.
It's a little like devaluing the best encyclopedia in the (physical) library because its publishers have not yet made it available online. Perhaps the actual content contained in that encyclopedia is of better quality than anything published on the web, but most people would never know it because they'd never see it.
I'm conflicted about this on many levels. Partly because I believe passionately that people should have access to the best quality information (so I want people to go the library, or wherever they need to go for that single best source), but I also want that high-quality information to be much more widely accessible than that. Let's face it, the researcher in Prague seeking information on West Coast salmonids can't easily get the 700-page document off the dusty shelf of the tiny library of the Northcoast Environmental Center in California, can he? But what if it's the single best source, and it's not available online at all?
Technology will catch up
I believe (nearly) all of these documents will be available online someday. It may be a decade or more away, but it will happen.
And I will do my part. I have archived all my data from the Headwaters Forest years, and all my BAA articles and photos, and while they're not really in any usable order right now, I am confident that technology will continue to advance in ways that make the data easier to sort and publish. It's already been happening, with sites like Flickr making it easier to share photos, and tools like blogs and wikis making it easier to publish and collaborate.
Not all my contributions have faded away
Interestingly, search technology has more recently broadened to include the content of printed books too. Google Book Search began scanning the collections of several leading universities in 2004. While Google's tool is still in beta and it comprises mostly academic works, I was mildly surprised to see my name turn up with a few results. I was cited in Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash, by Brian Tokar, and Writing for Real: A Handbook for Writers in Community Service , by Carolyn Ross, Joseph M. Williams, and Ardel Thomas. I'd forgotten that I was also thanked in Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society, by my friend Randy Schutt.
GiantBomb relaunched Monday, blossoming from a simple video game blog into a full-featured wiki-style site with user-powered content already adding loads of content to the underlying relational database. Alongside the member content are videos, reviews, and podcasts from the small team of mostly ex-Gamespot and -CNETers (you may have heard about Jeff Gerstmann's unceremonious firing from Gamespot last year).
I spent a few hours perusing the site today, mostly watching the videos. They've come a long way since the March soft launch, and the new site boasts magnitudes more features; it's going to be exciting to watch how it progresses, and I'm not even a gamer.
To give you an idea of how powerful the platform is, and how well the user experience has been thought out, watch this how-to video from their Help section.
I'm not a huge Ringo fan, but I like the Beatles a lot, and I was interested to see the show for two reasons: 1) I grew up a couple miles from the Mountain Winery but I've never been to a concert there in all these years, and 2) I was interested to see who was in Ringo's All-Starr Band (not to mention that it would be my first time seeing a Beatle).
The beauty and uniqueness of Ringo's touring band is in the stars he gets. You wouldn't ordinarily see these guys together on stage unless it was at a rare one-off benefit concert or something. But the real brilliance is that they don't just play Beatles songs and Ringo solo material. Each member of the band gets one or two chances at center stage, to trot out a couple of their hits from the 1970s or '80s, with these other exceptional musicians backing him up.
And they are definitely hits. You'd probably know each one from the decades of radio play they've gotten, even if you didn't recognize the song titles, or the names of the guys responsible for them.
At first I didn't recognize Hamish Stuart, Colin Hay, or Gary Wright on sight or by name, but when each took center stage and began the songs they're famous for, it was obvious.
I was particularly psyched to see Edgar Winter and Billy Squier, who both completely rocked. I can't believe Edgar Winter's still rollicking through his über-hit "Frankenstein" after all these years, and still playing four or five different instruments during the song! That guy's gotta be about 104 by now.
Ringo is smart enough to know his roadshow has more appeal with the addition of these other marquee-name musicians. I mean, Ringo was a Beatle, yeah, but he's not the greatest singer of all time. As Velma put it, "I couldn't really listen to a whole show of Ringo singing."
But we both enjoyed the show a great deal. Even most of Ringo's stuff was enjoyable. And when we got bored we'd just scan the crowd to try to find anyone younger than us who wasn't there with their parents.
Where the hell is Matt? 2008 Matt has simply the best job in the world. It's hard not to be overcome with a general love of the entire planet while watching this video. Yes, even an old curmudgeon like me. And wait for the scene from Gurgaon, India, at 2:33 — it's simply the best.
Christian the lion Two guys raised a lion cub but then had to release him into the wild when he got too big to keep. After a year they travel to Africa to have a little kitty visit. Er...big kitty visit. More about the interesting reunion is available on Snopes. www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVNTdWbVBgc
In 1969, then-14-year-old Jerry Levitan, armed with a reel-to-reel tape deck, snuck into John Lennon's hotel room and convinced the Beatle to do an interview about peace. Thirty-eight years later, Jerry and director Josh Raskin have produced an animated short film using the recording as its soundtrack, and featuring the pen work and digital illustration of artists James Braithwaite and Alex Kurina.
The science fiction and fantasy publisher has been teasing people for months with free desktops and even full-length book downloads, in anticipation of the relaunch of their website. It went live today, and they've linked to all the previous free downloads for one final week. Hop on over if you like John Scalzi, Charles Wilson, Harry Turtledove, Peter David, et al.
Tom Kirsch's hobbies include playing drums in a metal band, rock climbing, and taking lots and lots of pictures of abandoned buildings. His site, Opacity.us, concentrates mostly on prisons and mental institutions around New England, many of which have stood empty and decaying for decades.
"Once a building no longer serves its purpose, and all of its functionality ceases to exist," he writes, "it becomes truly fascinating. Each room is transforming into something new at its own rate, yielding to the forces of nature as it reclaims man's creation."
If you've seen much of my own photoblog, you probably know I have a bit of interest in urban decay too. On our recent New England trip, I spied a falling-down old brick building while we were driving through Rochester, New York, and I detoured back to take a bunch of photos of the exterior. If Velma hadn't been waiting patiently in the car for me, I would've gone in and spent an hour poking around and taking pictures in the half-demolished old structure.
Cool Radiohead video Made by Robert Hodgin using the open source tool Processing. You can read about how he made it on his blog.
Robert Silverberg At 73 years old, he has written nearly 300 novels and 600 works of short fiction, along with 100 nonfiction books. He has edited 100 anthologies and published in 100 magazines. And he’s only slowing down a little bit. www.sacbee.com
TrekPassions Oh, the shame.... Do we really need a personals and social networking community for complete and utter dorks? Here is an actual personal from the site: “Wanted: SciFi ‘partner in crime.’ Are you interested in Midnight performances of ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’? Prowling bookstores for the newest arrivals. Do you find yourself debating ‘Kirk vs Picard’ or ‘Star Wars vs Star Trek’. Are endlessly watching reruns of: Alien Nation, Babylon5, Stargate SG-1, Firefly or Farscape? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above the drop me a e-mail and lets get...” www.trekpassions.com
What penis size is preferred by women? In case you were wondering. And you know you were. www.buzzfeed.com
Uh oh: Actual distribution of male penis sizes Looks like men aren't living up to women’s expectations in this realm any more than we do in others. www.buzzfeed.com