Social Network Tips from Carson McCullers

I just finished The Member of the Wedding, a 1946 novel by Carson McCullers. It was a pearl of a book, the story of Frankie Jasmine Addams, a young girl coming of age with the help of Berenice, her wise black caretaker. I was struck by how the following passage captures the mystery of how online reputations develop, and how we early adopters are coming of age, too, learning the ways of a new world with awkward enthusiasm:
"But still it would be a confusion," Berenice insisted. "Suppose we all suddenly changed to entirely different names. Nobody would ever know who anybody was talking about. The whole world would go crazy."
"I don't see--"
"Because things accumulate around your name," said Berenice. "You have a name and one thing after another happens to you, and you behave in various ways and do things, so that soon the name begins to have a meaning. Things have accumulated around the name. If it is bad and you have a bad reputation, then you just can't jump out of your name and escape like that. And if it is good and you have a good reputation, then you should be content and satisfied."
"But what had accumulated around my old name?" F. Jasmine asked. Then, when Berenice did not reply at once, F. Jasmine answered her own question. "Nothing! See? My name just didn't mean anything."
"Well, that's not exactly so," said Berenice. "People think of Frankie Addams and it brings to mind that Frankie is finished with the B section of the seventh grade. And Frankie found the golden egg at the Baptist Easter Hunt. And Frankie lives on Grove Street and -----"
"But those things are nothing," F. Jasmine said. "See? They're not worth while. Nothing ever happened to me."
"But it will," said Berenice. "Things will happen."
"What?" F. Jasmine asked.
Berenice sighed and reached for the Chesterfield package inside her bosom. "You pin me down like that and I can't tell you truthfully. If I could I would be a wizard. I wouldn't be sitting here in this kitchen right now, but making a fine living on Wall Street as a wizard. All I can say is that things will happen. Just what, I don't know."
That's the way it feels to me as I explore Twitter and the rest of the Internet-Socnet-New Media world. Things are happening. Each of our names is beginning to have a meaning.


Sunday, September 30, 2007

Denver Imagines Cultural Center in a Digital Age

Denver's municipal Channel 8 did a great job filming my presentation on September 17th at the University of Denver's Cable Center. If you click here and have the right software, you may be able to play the entire talk. It seems to require QuickTime.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Down East Features RV Videos on How NOT to Find Peak Foliage

Down East Online has done a wonderful job displaying seven of the videos I created a year ago when Darlene and I rented a motorhome for a six-week Fall Foliage Ramble through New England. Lorie Costigan, online content developer for the classic Maine publication founded in 1954, e-mailed me to ask if she could use a video she'd come across. This led to a pleasant exchange of e-mails, and I pointed her to six other videos from the trip. I mentioned in one of my messages that Darlene and I had carried on a Lucy-and-Desi-style rolling dispute about where the peak foliage was. She included this in the accompanying article and added,
Sadly, Len is correct; the videos show the Edgerlys managed to avoid peak foliage, finding instead the crumpled, brown remains of the swamp maples and missing the riot of color that descends from points north south in October. The state's online peak foliage report is a good reference point.
We will definitely link to that foliage report next time! [UPDATE: the link doesn't seem to be live anymore but maybe will be reactivated soon, as the leaves begin to turn again.]

I highly recommend the Down East Online site to you, and not just for its astute selection of user generated content. Down East Online offers big, handsome photos of Maine, sharp writing, and elegant web design--all while maintaining the classic atmosphere of the print publication. It's a great example of graceful porting of old media to new, to the benefit of both.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Mr. Rogers Goes to Washington

This is an amazing video of Fred Rogers testifying before Congress in support of the Public Broadcasting budget on May 1, 1969. He softens a very tough Rhode Island Senator whom I remember from my days in the Ocean State, Sen. John Pastore, who begins, "All right Rogers, you've got the floor."

By the end of the encounter, the good senator is singing a different tune. I heard this today on a new CBC Podcast, Search Engine, which looks like it will be a terrific addition to my impossibly long list of podcasts on my iTunes Directory.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Two New Quilts from Darlene's Studio

Darlene has been busy on the other side of the condo since we returned to Denver from Cambridge. Today she finished two quilts with her trademark bright colors and zest. I love the mess of fabric and quilting paraphernalia in her studio as much as I like the finished products. The one on the left is headed for my sister's place outside Santa Fe, and the one on the right will end up on St. John, US Virgin Islands, with Darlene's sister.

When we're on a working jag like we've been for the past two weeks, we don't see each other much even though we spend all day under the same roof. But the buzz of creation makes the house a happy place. I bang away at my MacBook Pro, preparing my next talk on Technology and the Arts. She putters with thread and fabric. Our Yorkie Claire wanders from one workplace to the other, happy enough to carry her ball around, waiting for someone to take a break and throw it for her.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two Impressive Young Podcasters

I stumbled upon two talented young podcasters this evening. Nicholas Montgomery is 12, and Daniel Brusilovsky is 14. Via Twitter, Nicholas invited me to appear on his live audio podcast tonight, but I arrived too late to have a speaking part. He did mention my use of Twitter yesterday to spread the word about my mother's hunt for pemoline. The guest on his show who did get on the air was Daniel Brusilovsky, who had just visited the Twitter headquarters, where he interviewed CEO Jack Dorsey and other staffers for his podcast. I then caught Robert Scoble's interview with Daniel in a video podcast.

This all leaves me simply stunned at the poise and deep tech knowledge of these two millennium youths. They love what they're doing, and they do not appear overly impressed with the stir they're causing. They act as if it's perfectly natural that a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old these days can have their own podcast shows heard all over the world. You can get a good feel for Nicholas's matter-of-fact approach to the media in this interview by DigitalJournal TV and this television profile by Amber MacArthur.

I was impressed that Jack Dorsey and the Twitter team never made any reference to how young their interviewer was. They took Daniel seriously, and the result is a terrific insight into what's ahead for Twitter. Scoble made the mistake I probably would have made in a similar position, laughing and asking, "How the hell old are you?" Fourteen, going on look-out-world.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Twitter Rx: Social Networks Get Personal

My mother is running out of Cylert, a drug manufactured by Abbott Laboratories until it was removed from the market by the FDA in October, 2005. Cylert, whose generic version is pemoline, was mainly prescribed for kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but for some reason it dramatically helps Mom function in spite of her MS. We have hunted all over the world for pemoline, and she is now trying to get a lab in Japan to make the drug privately for her. Her supply will run out before the end of the year. This is not a precisely life-threatening problem, but Mom's life without Cylert is very tough, and dark. None of the alternatives she has tried have given anywhere near the benefit of Cylert/pemoline. I'm trying to find her some.

I put up a Tweet about this on Twitter four hours ago, and the result has been pretty amazing. I heard from a Twitterer whose mother works in a nursing home and suggested an alternative (Mom's looking into it.) Another called his local pharmacy in NYC to see if by chance they had any of the drug. Podcamp impresario Christopher Penn got hold of an Abbott directory and sent emails to employees, apparently, because I heard from one who e-mailed me a link to a pemoline site we didn't know about. She's also emailing manufacturers and making calls to see if she can help.

I've kept Mom in the loop this morning, calling her in Cambridge with the latest developments. She joked that if Twitter results in finding more of this crucial medication, she will get a tattoo with the Twitter logo on it. Probably on the bottom of her foot, probably temporary. But still.

When I saw the first Tweet that relayed my plea to a broader audience, I got pretty choked up. Justin Kownacki followed up with a blog entry, and CC Chapman chimed in with a Tweet with the link to Justin's entry. And thus it spread, with help from Twitterers WickedGood, Connie Reece, roland tanglao, Joe Cascio, Annie Boccio, Ellen Moore, Eric Skiff, and Steph Stockman, among others.

Social Media is a big idea that I love to talk about and argue for. This is the first time I've had it touch me so personally, and I'm blown away by it.

I'm following every lead, checking the Tweets and emails as if I'm following a breaking news story. It truly is a big story for our family. My mother has battled MS for 40 plus years, with bee stings, grit, humor, fierce will, and every treatment known to the best doctors in Boston. She is unsinkable, an author, an artist, the prime mover in the lives of four generations in our family. When I see how devastated she is at the prospect of running out of this medication, well, I don't even want to go there. I hope the flurry of activity this morning brings more than a warm vibe. I hope it brings her the a new supply of the medication.

Note: the FDA ban had to do with liver problems in children. Mom is 78, and her doctor is not worried about potential liver trouble. If some of the medication is found, it cannot be sold legally, so it will be a matter of a donation of some kind, getting something of no commercial value into the hands of someone who needs it very much.

Just as I'm wrapping this up, I hear from devBear in southern Florida, who Tweets "i have put out feelers for the drugs in Singapore / Malaysia and possible Australia."

I guarantee you that if we find this stuff, I'll have a photo here of Mom's new tattoo (or at least a tasteful pin with the Twitter logo).


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Twitter Still on Operating Table

Last night Twitter warned us it would be "on the operating table" for 2.5 hours starting at midnight. So it should have been in the recovery room five hours ago. Instead, I'm getting the above message. I hope nothing went wrong. Meanwhile, I feel as if half of my mouth has been zipped shut.

I scanned Google Reader when I woke up at 5 a.m and found the Sidney Blumenthal Salon piece which details strong covert evidence presented to President Bush months before the Iraq invasion, stating there were no chemical or biological weapons. This is a big story that will unleash torrents of pixels and ink today. Also, I thought Fred Thompson got off to a good start on The Tonight Show, based on the transcript. Here is some video. But where to share these nuggets? Normally I'd craft and upload a couple of 140-character Tweets. A blog entry feels turgid and slow, like writing a letter by hand and licking an envelope. It just shows how I've come to depend on the Twitter stream both for sending and receiving little bursts of info and perspective. Good morning, Twitterers! I hope we'll be reconnected soon...


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mark Forman Makes Connections from Taiwan

I met Mark Forman in a UStream chat room when I was experimenting with live video in April of this year, and since then we keep running into each other on the Internet, mainly via Twitter and Facebook. He included kind comments on my videos in his latest podcast and blog entry, which really made me happy, I have to say.

It's one thing to yak yak about New Media this and New Media that. But the real fun is when you connect with someone on a different continent in a way that makes the word "personal" take on new meaning. Let's be honest. Mark and I are still basically strangers in the ways of the old world. We've never met in person. We've never had a meal or even a cup of coffee together. But when I open a window on my life through my videos, and when he watches with warmth and insight, then gives me articulate feedback... well, that gets pretty personal. And it definitely makes me want to keep pressing ahead on this strange adventure in electronic connections that simply weren't possible five or 10 years ago.

Mark often calls me "dude" in his messages or Tweets. With my New England preppy background, that's not a term I hear much applied to myself, but damn, I like the sound of it! Back at ya, dude!


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

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