What to Do With the Waste On the Way to Trillions

I found the video below interesting in the way it, and it's creators at MAYA Design, provide a perspective of scale in the 'computer age'.

It touches on many issues including the need to change the way we think and act as we pursue being part of the trillions of 'computers'. While I think it fails to really draw some solid conclusions in favor of ending with the concept of "Too much information!" (Hey, we passed that 'millions' ago.), perhaps there are more videos planned to better explore the concept.

However, I was intrigued with the concept of computing as an ecology and the comparison of the trillions of computers to the trillions of cells in the human body. I can't help but take that comparison to the human body a bit further.

As the video points out, nature has solved the problem of trillions. In the comparison, the body has atoms that make up molecules, that make up cells, that make up organs, and those make up systems, etc. What the video fails to point out is that, while the human body has solved it, the history of computing has failed to address the problem of waste.

The human body, when used up and ceases to function, is relatively easily disposable. The human body eventually decays and degrades into organic material that disappears into the natural world. In fact, the only trace of a the body's previous existence is that which we humans have manufactured to surround it…caskets, crypts, clothes…not to mention all the stuff we have left behind.

The waste of the computer age, and it's physical leftovers, is much more difficult to dispose of. In fact, that waste is more pronounced and there is more of it because we dispose of computer related material simply because it becomes 'obsolete', something we don't do with humans. 

CNN recently cited that, according to the United Nations Environment Program, around 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste are generated worldwide each year…and that's at the current level. In 2008 a Greenpeace study, "Not in Our Backyard", found that in Europe
only 25 percent of the e-waste was recycled safely. In the U.S. it is
only 20 percent and in developing countries it is less than one
percent. They go on to estimate that 80 percent of e-waste generated worldwide is not properly recycled

Much of this waste is shipped to developing countries. While some of that waste can be repaired and re-purposed by local traders, most is dumped. In fact, a cottage industry and an associated organized crime element has sprung up around e-waste trading. Also, don't forget the impact on the human and environmental health of our planet. Much of this waste contains toxic materials.

While there has been progress in dealing with this waste, with companies using fewer toxic materials and establishing programs that oversee responsible disposal, there is still a long way to go to protect our natural 'trillions' from our computer 'trillions'. 

There is a responsibility that falls to all of us who use this technology to further our personal and professional gains to know where our "old" technology is going when we are done with it. While dumping our waste on other countries is nothing new, we interactive professionals, "geeks", continue to champion the building of communities connected by technology. We must all remember, as well as also champion the message, to help keep our world-wide community clean.

Did You Know…

…that 40 million people have been rick-rolled? Or that ABC, NBC and CBS combined (businesses that collectively have been
around for 200 years) receive 10 million viewers per month while Myspace,
Facebook and YouTube (none of which were around six years ago) reach 250 million monthly unique vistors?

No really, it’s true…as noted in the latest “Did you know?” video. This one was developed for the Economist and their upcoming Media Convergence Conference. (The original “Shift Happens” video, also developed by Karl Fisch and modified by Scott McLeod, went viral back in 2007. There have been few iterations since then.)

Road trip! From MXMW to SXSW

I’ll be taking a break from the sunny climes of Minnesota (-4 as of this writing…sheesh!) to head to South By Southwest Interactive.

Through my involvement in radio I’ve known about the SXSW Music Festival for years, but never had the chance to “make the scene.” (Yep, channeling Linc form Mod Squad again.) Before the birth of RemainComm and the founding of Localtone Systems, I had never known there was an interactive festival as well. So the lure of interactive, a huge music scene, and some warmer weather, has inspired me to load up the laptop and head south.

Look for posts, pictures and video from the event throughout the coming week, both here and at Minnov8. I’l pass along some of the highlights and share what I find during my first full on trip into one of the epic events in geekdom (I say that lovingly.) and perhaps some fun along the way!

If you’re headed to SXSW yourself, let me know with a tweet to @philson.

Watching Social Media for the Crashes?

I caught the recent story in the New York Times about Twitter feed, The Media is Dying. This is a feed that is dedicated to charting the employment status of PR industry professionals. According to the story the site was started to monitor “hirings and firings”. Be honest, like watching racing for the crashes, it’s about the firings…and there are plenty of them right now.

I can’t help but think this sort of use of social media is a bad idea. You might say “Phil, lighten up.”, noting that it’s no worse than the many gallows sites out there right now. Sites like stiffs.com, youbettheirlife.com and a host of others. And believe me, as the creator of ComicTwit, I have shared more than a few bits if humor that qualify in this camp.

This is different. To me it’s a bit more disconcerting. Aside from our morbid habit of seeking a bit of entertainment out of the suffering of others, no matter how unemployed, old, or dead, this one highlights and consciously or unconsciously, celebrates the struggle of an entire industry.

The media landscape is certainly changing, but I question if it is wise to act as vultures circling the victims of that change? As a radio broadcaster (The talk or radio dying began over half a century ago.) I can tell you that has a lasting impact on the medium and its players.

As one who is grateful to be part of Social Media, an incredibly young industry, I don’t want to be seen as dancing on any industry’s grave. I’d rather look for the opportunity to show what this new media can do to help traditional media and the people that are dealing with its rapidly changing landscape every day.

Know Now…Or Learn Very, Very Soon

I caught a great post from Ed Kohler on his blog Technology Evangelist. He took some time to outline  25 Not-Very-Technical Things Journalists Should Understand in 2008. I noted that he chose not to use 2009…implying, of course, that journalists need to know it now, not for the future.

Even if you have never picked up a reporter’s notebook there are plenty of things on the list that, if you intend to communicate these days, you should know. Businesses need to connect to current and future customers, parents need to connect to their kids, employers need to connect with employees, etc. You will surely need to use the web to connect. If you don’t know now, learn in the near future. So let’s take a look at a modified list. You should know…

  1. The what where and how of a blog.
  2. How to embed photos and videos on a website or blog.
  3. What is, and how to buy, a domain name.
  4. What is, and how to use, an RSS reader.
  5. How to do some advanced searches online.
  6. How Wikipedia (or any wiki) works and changes over time.
  7. How to join conversations on blogs.
  8. How to upload photos and video to the web.
  9. How to record audio.
  10. How to shoot video.
  11. If you are trying to reach specific audience, how to measure a your content’s performance.
  12. How to use Facebook and LinkedIn. (MySpace as well if you anything to do with music.)
  13. How to use Twitter.
  14. How to find experts on the web.
  15. How to secure your laptop.
  16. How secure your browser to limit access to what your kids can see.
  17. How to keep your personal information safe online.
  18. How to back everything up…in more than one place.
  19. How to delete all the stuff you’ll never use or knew existed on your computer.
  20. How to be honest and real online. Not as easy at it may sound.

So I ended up with 20. What did I miss?

Ahead in the Cloud

Whenever I find myself getting caught up in the verbiage of an industry, I feel compelled to look at it from the “average Joe” point of view. Simply put, “Cool word, what does it mean to me?”

Much has been made about “Cloud” computing recently. The term refers to computing done via the internet. Think using software or a service that doesn’t reside on your computer. (Perhaps you use Google Docs) But is this buzzword really the same s#@t in a different shovel?

This little bit of video featuring Frank Gillett from Forrester Research addresses it well.


I readily admit that I still get a bit of the heebie-jeebies whenever I
think about creating a document, modifying an image, or even backing up
my data on a platform that isn’t sitting right next to me in a fan
cooled box. But most of that is based purely on security and
privacy issues. Afterall, it’s not really a cloud, ya know. It’s sitting on a server somewhere…yeah, I’m a bit paranoid.

But the fact is, “cloud” computing
has been around for years and, because we Americans love to be mobile (now think cell phones, laptops, even portable radios and cars) it only
stands to reason there is more interest in the “cloud”. We also need to
chalk it up to marketing. Cloud Computing…I feel hipper just saying

So, all of us will be spending more time working and playing in the “cloud”. If you aren’t, many of those younger than you are. So keep thinking beyond your desktop…at maybe get a faster internet connection.

Let the Games Begin…Please.


Serious(?) journalism comes to the Twin Cities!
(Billboard inbound from the MSP airport courtesy of Greg Swan)

As Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I live, gets set for the pending Republican National Convention it will be fun to see how “the media” will make it’s presence felt.

As expected, all of our “traditional” news outlets (TV, newspaper, and radio) are posturing themselves as the place for the most complete coverage…as they should. The “new” media outlets (Citizen journalists, blogs, etc.) are also gearing up to make an impact.

So far though, there is very little tie-in to the “big event” beyond the news outlets. Okay, the “Minnesota get-together” or State Fair as it is better known, is a big deal each year. So that’s where everybody is spending their time.  However if you want to get noticed on the world stage, this might be the year to downplay the corndogs and bacon on a stick and literally hop on the political bandwagon. Kudos to Comedy Central!

Viral Video Where You’re the Star

I came across this the other day and thought it was one of the better viral videos I’ve seen. It’s timely, it allows you to become part of the video and it’s fun. It also allows it’s originator, Paltalk, to accopmplish many goals.

Not only does it brand PalTalk throughout the piece, it also enables users to forward it to a friend or many friends, embed it in a blog or website further spreading the name. Most importantly it harvests a multitude of names and e-mail addresses and offers users to opt in for info about Paltalk.

It’s good to see a company adopting a relatively new marketing tactic and remembering it’s about the user!

Now, if I can just find a way to be in a commercial with Britney and Paris…

Public Radio Goes to Camp

A unique collaboration to benefit public radio, MPR and maybe all of media for that matter took place at the studios of the Minnesota Public Radio on Saturday July 12th.

The PublicRadioCamp was organized by Dan Grigsby and those behind Minnebar and Minnedemo here in the Twin Cities along with MPR. The “camp” was positioned as “a new community event” and the purpose was to examine “the tons of really interesting content, data, audio, meta-data and feeds.” and to spend the time “collaboratively remixing and mashing up these goodies.”

The designers, bloggers, journalists, internet types, and plenty of MPR representatives (about one for every non-MPR attendee), assembled in the deluxe UBS Forum. The space had been lined with work areas complete with large whiteboards indicating there wouldn’t be much observing and plenty of brainstorming. Within minutes the group divided into what resulted in four groups; Data Access, User Generated Content, News Visualization, and Nuevo Radio. My time was spent in the Nuevo Radio group, a name I gave it as a spicier take on radio. Besides nouveau seems so snooty. The results of it and the other collaborations are briefly reviewed below.

Data Access API-One glance at this group and you knew the developers were hard at work with plenty of tech talk and activity. As described on the Public Radio Camp wiki this group felt it would be really useful for users, developers, media and MPR itself if there were one universally accessible source (API) for searching all MPR content by location, time, keyword and article. It appears they are already hard at work to bring this to fruition.

User-generated Content-This group addressed helping people build news stories and their content, possibly to be used by MPR through the use of a how-to guide that could be posted online. They looked carefully at the process of developing a story and where collaboration could occur. They indentified ways the public could address everything from interviewing to writing, editing and producing. The real potential for such an idea is following up those stories that have a shorter on-air shelf life.

Nuevo Radio-The group sought ways to keep relevant to its listeners. User-generation was a focal point as well. Where the group described above focused on an online play, this group built on the idea of a “civic journalism center” or even coffee shop concept. A location where people that are inclined to be more participatory could gather as well as have access to the necessary tools and resources to build content. The idea of merging this plan with public libraries was also discussed. Other ideas included shuffling the on-air programming schedule on a regular basis to showcase the offering available online to be heard at the listener’s convenience and using HD channels to provide raw interviews and video to accompany on-air content.


(Photo Courtesy of Bob Collins)

News Visualization-This group looked to give visual life to the content of news stories produced and heard. Similar to a category cloud familiar to many who read or produce blogs regularly, the result of running an RSS feed through Wordle was “art” that would highlight the topics and words that dominated within the stories. (Example at left.) Of course this would change throughout the day. As noted by MPR’s Bob Collins, someone commented that this is a new version of the “weather ball.”

Clearly the afternoon will bear fruit for MPR as they continue to enlist the talents of this, as MPR’s Julia Schrenkler noted, “enthusiastic” group. Hopefully it will lead to not only allowing those in this group to derive satisfaction and perhaps compensation for these ideas but that radio broadcasters beyond MPR will act on what is being learned and attempted.

MPR has discovered the power of enlisting “the crowd” to build it’s product. Merging old and new media, technology, and people is a noble effort and has every chance of elevating the quality of journalism as well as the expectations of radio consumers.

We Came, We Saw, We Geeked Out…All in Minneapolis

Every once in awhile you just have to smile and proudly flaunt the things that make the place you live in great. This past weekend showed off one of those things about Minnesota.

The site was the Coffman Memorial union on the campus of the University of Minnesota. The event was Minnebar, a tech “un-conference.” If you thought everything in tech and web was happening in cities and states with coastlines, you’d be missing what’s happening along the thousands of miles of shoreline here in Minnesota.

I was happy to not only attend but proud to present Localtone Radio, part of a start-up I’m involved with, and also to cover it for Minnov8, a blog dedicated to covering the world of tech and web innovation here in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

You can read about and see all of the fun in various places around the web including here at Minnov8. I also encourage you to follow Minnov8 for more of what’s happening in the future as we continue to grow. Need a little nudge then be sure and follow along on Twitter at minnov8. (Not hip to Twitter? …more on that soon.)

Congratulations to Luke Francl and Ben Edwards or a stellar event. I’d also be remiss (and probably for buying a round of drinks) if I didn’t thank my colleagues at Minnov8 who made the scene; Steve Borsch, Graeme Thickins, and Tim Elliot.

Today’s post…blah, blah, blah…

Any question in anyone’s mind that we are all stressed for time? If there is consider the “blah, blah, blah” or, as Seinfeld made famous, the “yada-yada”, or one I hear more and more, the “da-di-da-di-da”.

Blah-Blah is defined by Webster’s as “silly or pretentious chatter or nonsense” and yada-yada, it’s first use tracked to 1948, is defined by the Urban Dictionary as “Conversation glosser-over, similar to blah, blah, blah” These are a “stop me if you’ve heard this” for any discussion, story, or joke.

In the online world there are a ton of sites and applications reducing the blah, blah. Just look what Sony is doing with Minisodes. If you can reduce a 30 minute TV show to 5 minutes, there’s some blah, blah, blah, plenty of yada-yada and a smidgen of da-di-da-di-da.

Of course, you can’t forget about the likes of Twitter or Utterz. Their sole mission is to eliminate yada-yada. Even much of online advertising is getting shorter. Wha-hoo!

I’ve always been a big believer in editing. In fact, when editing I prescribe to the “cut it in half” mentality. Too often we get caught up in hearing ourselves talk or reading what we have written. If you hold true to being merciless, (something allot of Hollywood producers seem to lack these days) you’ll never need the blah, blah, or the yada-yada or worry about somebody doing it when they quote you…or playback your presentation.

The down side is that we could eliminate much of the art, the character development, the storytelling that makes any form of communication richer. Knowing not only what to edit but when to edit is crucial.
Whether you’re strapped for time or catering to technology make sure you are cutting out the real yadda-yadda, the genuine blah-blah. Not the good stuff that makes the content compelling.

(Extra: While looking back at the Seinfeld Yada-Yada episode I came across this great exchange…

Elaine: …Anyway, guess what? Beth Lookner called me.
Jerry: Ooh. Beth Lookner, still waitin’ out that marriage.
Elaine: What are you talking about? That marriage ended six months ago. She’s already  remarried.
I gotta get on that internet. I’m late on everything.

…I had to share. What great writing…and no blah, blah, blah.)

New Mediarati or New Yorkers?

I enjoyed a great article by New Yorker staff writer Joan Acocella in the latest issue of Smithsonian magazine. Her subject was her experience with New Yorkers and why they many believe they are smarter (and per chance more rude) than other Americans. Though I’m sure she didn’t realize it, I think she may very well have also been describing characteristics of those active in the on-line world.

Here are some of those things that Ms. Acocella points out differentiate New Yorkers from the rest of the population that also apply to New Mediarati (Nice made up word, huh?).

New Yorkers are people who left another place to come to New York, “looking for something, which suggests that the population is preselected for higher energy and ambition. Who on the web is not from somewhere else? Okay, maybe a few that have become far too involved in Second Life think they are from the web, but most who are really into this space are very ambitious and entrepreneurial. Just follow a few sites like Mashable and TechCrunch and you’ll see you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a startup. My experience with these folks in-person has proven to me that they are incredibly high energy.

The article points out that New Yorkers are willing to forgo basic comforts, instead willing to share the the amenities. Again, you can’t be more into sharing than the open source movement. Many New Mediarati will choose to live on Raman noodles as long as they have a smokin’ laptop…so they can share online.

According to Ms. Acocella, it’s possible that New Yorkers just appear smarter because they make less separation between private and public life.  Bingo! Is this true of those online geeks we all know or what? Face it, we’re willing to spill our guts out in blogs, a Facebook page, or the odd tweet on Twitter, something we would have never done as little as 5 years ago. All of this to share knowledge with anyone willing to listen or read. Just like New Yorkers, Mediarati like to be experts. And as, Aocella points out, “all people like to be experts.”

Why do these two groups, who share so much, behave this way? Why, as pointed out in this Smithsonian article, do they go against psychological principles, the ones that say being bombarded by so much stimuli causes most to recede into themselves and ignore others? Well, there are some of “those” people in both camps, most however share a sense of common cause. For New Yorkers it manifests it self on the street, for Mediarati it happens online.

To me, the similarities are striking and really emphasizes how the online world really is a community…a big ol’ mother of a community…but one that brings so many different types together in one world.