Aug 17

What we did this weekend

Last spring The Yankee qualified for, and this weekend participated in the USAT Olympic Distance Triathlon National Championship. She’s awesome. Here are a few clips from the big race:

She almost hit a PR, and finished with a smile, despite some serious sun and legitimate heat. It was a great race!

Aug 17

Operation Splinter

Best part of my day:

I also wrapped up the first stage of The Project. It needs a better name, but I’m not yet ready to name it, or even discuss it at length. What if it doesn’t work? What if I have to scrap the entire thing? What if it is just terrible? Do I really want to talk publicly about my time machine without knowing how it turns out?

I’ve said too much.

Anyway. The first stage is done. I suppose the true first step was material acquisition. This took place on Friday and Saturday. And then the first stage took place on Saturday and Sunday, and was more taxing than I’d imagined, even as I knew it would be time consuming. By Monday, though, I’d figured out how to to make the process move more quickly, and it did. Only to be slowed down, yesterday, by an equipment failure brought on by user error. So I fixed that issue today and completed the first stage.

Then I performed Operation Clean Up. The first stage took up a half of the garage, and so that ultimately led to reorganizing much of the shelf space in the garage and in bits and pieces these last few days and so even if the time machine it doesn’t work, the effort has been fruitful.

The first part of the second stage of The Project will likely take place the weekend after next. I anticipate there being three parts to the second stage, followed by a quick third stage and then tedious efforts to complete the fourth and fifth stages. When those are done, I will ready to unveil the project.

Of course I plan on documenting the entire effort. But not the garage cleaning part. No need to make you jealous. I’ve already showed you a video from Allie earlier tonight, after all. Do be sure you watch that. And then maybe watch it again. I could use the hits.

Also, stop by and say hello on Twitter and Instagram, too.

Aug 17

The Agars, Buzzfeed and our garage

John Agar Sr., wanted to do something with his son, John Jr. John the younger has cerebral palsy and, while they were looking for a thing to do, they found the 5K. Dad would push son 3.1 miles through the course. They got lapped by a power walker. So they resolved to train harder. And these guys are something special. I could tell you, but John’s sister Annie is about to show you:

They race all over these days, the Agars inspire and delight and even challenge Michael Phelps to races. Phelps, who was last seen in a simulated race against a shark, hasn’t taken them on yet.

This is an interesting idea. Buzzfeed is going to do a Twitter broadcast. I’m trying to work this out in my mind. Poynter tells us about it:

BuzzFeed News is launching a morning show on Twitter later this year, and it’s hiring a team to get it off the ground.

The next broadcast from the company that brought you exploding watermelons and a live goat ambush is a weekday newscast aimed at “an audience that wakes up hungry for the latest in ‘fire Tweets,'” according to a May 1 press release from Twitter (which also announced streaming shows with The Verge and Cheddar).

The winner here is Twitter. I’m not sure it is the right idea for Buzzfeed — curating the ideas of the many seems like a return to an older distribution model in a different envelope — but maybe at a place like Buzzfeed it doesn’t have to be the right idea just now. Maybe you just have to have the idea, because that’s going to lead to The Idea. I don’t know what The Idea there is going to be, but they have plenty of sharp people on board and it’ll develop over time, or strike as an epiphany.

Wouldn’t you like to have The Idea first? It isn’t hub-and-spoke. It isn’t TMZ and it won’t be a gatekeeper style. It won’t be the old Buzzfeed kitten and listicle model, either. And again, you can’t curate everything coming out of the firehose. A small portion of the success of the social media monsters can be attributed to the implications there. Even if you tried, it would be a Kardashian tweet here, a sports blooper there and today’s best pet or kid video. And then you’ve got a host basically reading tweets to us as a show. And the hashtags. (Don’t read hashtags allowed.) Or, slightly better, you get a panel laughing and reacting or maybe even contextualizing the content. A super smart version of that might be viable. You might create the Twitter broadcast version of some of the better network or cable shows — but cooler, for a social media program. But then there’s gravitas, name recognition, the boring logistics of “Can you get that person on?” And then, if they are good, can you get them regularly? Are they in demand for network appearances? And which show would you choose if both sets of producers called?

All of these traditional — or newly traditional routines, if you will — will present the same issues here. But I think, for them, it has to drive you back to Buzzfeed. Why would a site who made their name as a part of the evolutionary media disruption go exclusively to social media, another ripple from their point of view? There’s something to be said for presence and branding, of course, but that’s not the big goal out of this. Maybe it is an offshoot of a new growth pattern, a new revenue stream for the company that seemingly fell well short of their projections last year. Maybe they’re starting their own gif-driven social media platform.

Or what if this is successful? What if the website, which grew on those lists and rewrites and became an earnest newsroom and, to some, an influential juggernaut, ultimately spins off their video programs.

I have a notebook sitting in a closet where I doodled out the mass media fragmentation models. It basically went from four big blobs to a bunch of lines and dots. And it seemed, back in 2006 or so when I was writing in that book, that all of those dots and smaller blobs and indistinct triangles and other shapes would naturally one day coalesce again. I thought of it as a natural reaction to funnels at the time. Maybe it is a corporate response to market forces and the silo-ification that is bound to happen. It has happened before.

This I wondered about while straightening up in the garage this evening. But the boxes in the garage didn’t give me the answers. I’m down to watch and see. I did not have The Idea.

Today, that is.

Update: My friend and Knight Fellow Andre Natta chimes in, because he’s smart and I asked him too. He made three keen points. One of them I wanted to include:

Because, is there really a better use than managing accuracy during a breaking news event (or managing the hot take hose)?

That would be a great feature. Who do we trust for that? We don’t trust traditional media for it 98 percent of the time. We should trust them more. Is Buzzfeed going to bring me the Ryan Seacrest-Cronkite of this generation to tell me the Kansas City Star is on the ground and has bonafides and is offering legitimate Twitter coverage the next time there’s a big problem in the ‘burbs?

If that’s the case maybe who is really missing out here are the news networks. Buzzfeed won’t build this out for breaking news. That’s an important model, but it isn’t sustainable for them. What’s more, CNN and the like struggle with a variety of on-air management issues in slower news periods.

As for Andre’s thought on the “hot take hose” … Here’s something that may very well be impacted by such a Buzzfeed move. Watch the “trending topics” and “who to follow” boxes. Already, if you click a trending topic that “who to follow” box updates with relevant or topical accounts. Now throw in a video box on the right side, with some slick production under the Buzzfeed brand and the topics amplify. It is a traditional media idea, agenda setting theory. Walter Lippman’s original idea, that the media are what connects events to audience, and all of the scholarship that followed, which basically says “Media can tell you what to think about” works here. If Twitter is a water cooler. There’s about to be a new, very dynamic co-worker hanging out there.

Aug 17

There’s a lot of odd stuff in this post, so, the usual

Do you know the significance of this building? It has some important history.

You’ll learn about this building on the most recent addition to the historic markers site. If you just can’t get enough of the historical markers you can see them all right here.

Today I helped put stickers on cameras for a few minutes. All of that Sunday school training paid off. Except for on the few stickers that were a millimeter or two off-center here or there. (But don’t tell.) Four stickers per camera. One on the body, one on the lens, another on the power adaptor — it does a slow focus pull in video mode — and another on the external microphone.

This is the funniest cruel thing — is it the funniest, cruel thing or the cruelest, funny thing? — that I’ll watch. The premise is the expert explains the topic over hot peppers. Some people get through it just fine, this lady tells an interesting story and she’s really hurting. And I’m sympathetic to her plight. But I learned some neat things:

We watched this last night. Just an incredible hour of television, which took place in 2005 and I just discovered. It is amazing, in a way, that this made it to network television. And it was the fourth highest rated episode of the last season of West Wing. And of course, this would never happen in real life, ever. But it is a fun watch:

The West Wing S 7 Ep 07 – The Debate

Or maybe you just have to be a certain kind of viewer to appreciate that. But I enjoyed that, didn’t want it to end. I dreaded it ending, and how often do you say that about a single episode of television? I realized why Alan Alda is there and put away, for an hour, my Unifying Theory of Alda, because this was more important, than that. Which is saying something for a fictitious debate in a non-existent presidential campaign in a world that we don’t live in — with issues similar to ours.

But, then, I spent a lot of my master’s degree working on debates and writing and researching campaign material, so maybe you have to be an especially specific kind of viewer. I’m going to have to stop it during the opening credits right now, or I’ll end up watching the thing again …

Jul 17

Your Monday status report

It was a successful race on Saturday. Everyone got finisher medals. Everyone set new personal records. Seventy point three is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve done it once. (Once.)

Afterward we sat in the shade and had burgers and told stories. Here are some of the visuals:

And then the long drive home. It was a sunny day, much improved from my drive up the day before. But I was tired and had a headache and passed actual Waffle Houses. So I stopped at one. And while weaving my way into the parking lot I saw this thing:

Now, their website says they have blacklight mini golf, laser tag, pizza, a game rame, playground, arcades and, coming soon, bumper cars. That all sounds fun. I’m sure that it appeals to children of all ages. But that guy on the roof is kind of terrifying. And the car doesn’t really scream “Demand mom and dad take me there.” But that’s just me.

Saw a bit of graffiti on the walk into the office this morning:

The lane is closed because the world needs more condominiums, and this construction has meant work crews and heavy equipment and Jersey barriers and cones and signage. And, apparently, a contribution from the commentariat. The only problem is we don’t know if this message was added for this job or some previous lane closure. Such is the problem of the application of permanent marker on temporary, and moveable, signage.

And now I’m hanging out with Allie. She’s in her box:

We’ve taken to interpreting this as “Time to play, hooman.” She attacked a ribbon toy for the better part of an hour, until I finally had to hide the thing while she was distracted. Then she sat on me so I couldn’t eat dinner. So pretty much a perfect evening for her.