Archive for March, 2007

Following Pet Food Recalls With Twitter

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Earlier today I heard the disturbing news that Hill’s Science Diet MD prescription cat food has been added to the list of pet foods recalled due to contamination. Both of our cats used to eat MD for a very long time due to Winnie’s weight problem, though fortunately we switched to Purina OM prescription food before moving back to DC last September. I still don’t know how far back the contamination goes back, but hopefully we’re in the clear.
Either way, the last couple of weeks have been terrible for pet owners struggling to keep up on which foods have been recalled. I visited the FDA recall website today and discovered they publish an RSS feed for their recalls, which makes a lot of sense. So I’ve set up a Twitter account called FDA Food Recalls, so it’s possible to receive the announcements via instant messaging or SMS. If you have a Twitter account, simply add FDA Food Recalls as your friend so you can follow the announcements. Let’s just hope no more pet foods get added, though I have a bad feeling that won’t be the case. -andy

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Who do you see in this picture?


illusion

Chances are you’ll see Albert Einstein. Try this – back away from your computer by at least several feet and look at the picture again. The further away you get from the screen, the better. Who do you see now?
Pretty cool, isn’t it? From an article in New Scientist magazine. -andy

Talking Cyberbullying On The Brian Lehrer Show This Monday

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Just wanted to pass along a head’s up that I will be a guest on The Brian Lehrer Show on Monday, April 2. It airs on WNYC in New York City, and can be heard online if you click the previous link. I’ll be talking about cyberbullying. The segment is expected to air around 11:40am eastern, 8:40am Pacific. -andy

How to Participate in Stop Cyberbullying Day

Friday, March 30th, 2007

I just wanted to post a reminder that today is Stop Cyberbullying Day, and we’re mobilizing a global conversation about the various forms of online harassment and what we can do to combat them. Hundreds of bloggers have posted on the subject already, and I expect there will be many more over the course of the day.
How can you participate? Here are a few suggestions.
Post something online. Whether you want to blog, vlog or podcast about it, we encourage you to contribute something to the discussion today. It can be a personal story about cyberbullying, a collection of resources, advice you want to share – whatever you want. Then be sure to tag it stopcyberbullying so we can aggregate it.
Have an offline conversation with someone about it. Talk with your families, your colleagues, your students, your neighbors – we could all benefit from a frank discussion about online harassment.
Participate in the Stop Cyberbullying social network Since there’s no way we can do justice to the issue in one day, we’ve set up this online community where people can share resources and talk. There’s a growing number of videos and other resources related to cyberbullying, along with a feed of everything that’s been tagged stopcyberbullying.
Learn more about the issue. You can learn more by participating in the social network, or you can visit resources like www.cyberbullying.org, www.stopcyberbullying.org, www.ncsriu.org and bullying.org, just to name a few.
Follow the feed. As more people contribute their own content and tag it, the number of resources will grow. You can subscribe to the rss feed or follow it on Twitter.
So please join me and countless other members of the online community as we join together and find ways to combat online harassment in all of its forms. -andy

Using Twitter to Fight Cyberbullies

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Those of you who have been following my blog for the last month know that I’ve been experimenting a lot with the group messaging service Twitter. It’s been a great way to keep in touch with colleagues, though it borders on the addictive. Lots of folks have been playing around with ways to enhance the value of Twitter, coming up with various tools that interface with it. I’ve started using one of these tools, TwitterFeed, to create a Twitter account that sends out messages for news and resources related to Stop Cyberbullying Day, which begins in less than two hours. (Actually, if you’re in Europe or further east, it already is Stop Cyberbullying Day, so I might as well start contributing now, right?)
TwitterFeed is a fairly simple idea – it lets you take any RSS feed and send its contents out over a Twitter account. So let’s say you have an RSS feed for your blog. If you wanted to, you could send out bits of each blog post to your Twitter friends, who in turn would receive it via text messaging, instant messaging or over the Web, depending on their preference. So I decided to set up a Stop Cyberbullying Twitter account for the express purpose of sending out all the content bloggers and other Internet users are tagging as related to activities surrounding the campaign. First, I took a bunch of RSS feeds from sites like Technorati, del.icio.us, Google News and YouTube, all tailored to include content about cyberbullying. I then mixed them together into a single feed using the tool FeedDigest, then took that feed and supplied it to TwitterFeed.
In theory, TwitterFeed will post all new content from those feeds about once an hour, but it doesn’t seem to be working that way so far, possibly because FeedDigest takes a while to update as well. Still, the process is beginning to work, with a number of cyberbullying resources going out through the Twitter account I created. If I could only get FeedDigest and TwitterFeed to update more than once an hour each, this could be an interesting way for anyone to get specially tailored information collected through RSS feeds out to a large audience, whether they prefer to receive the information via the Web, text messaging or instant messaging. Pretty cool, huh? -andy

On Air with the BBC Today

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

Looks like I’m going to be on the BBC this afternoon as part of their World Have Your Say program, talking about cyberbullying. I believe Beth Kanter will be on air as well. It’ll air live at 1800 GMT – that’s 1pm ET, 10am Pacific here in the US. I think I’ll be popping into the conversation somewhere around 40 minutes into the show. Wish me luck! -andy

Beware of Baking This Passover, Warns Israeli Pro-Pot Party

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

The week-long Jewish holiday of Passover begins this coming Monday evening, and it’s likely that Israeli pot smokers are going to be grumpier than usual. That’s because Israel’s Green Leaf political party, which advocates the legalization of marijuana, has put out a statement warning their fellow tokers that lighting up is un-kosher during Passover.
Thinking back to every Passover Seder I’ve attended, I don’t recall any of the Four Questions addressing why on that night we abstain from smoking pot, while on other nights we can embrace our inner Bob Marley. (Maybe I was too toasted from all of those wine blessings.) That’s because the Passover ban on marijuana is a recent development. Back in the day – way back – Jews avoided only leavened bread products, to help remember the hastiness of the Exodus out of Egypt. (You can’t wait for bread to leaven if you’re trying to get the hell out of Dodge, er, Egypt, with Pharaoh’s posse on your tail.) With the passage of time, European rabbis interpreted the Passover kosher rules so that they extended to other foods, including beans and corn. And at some point, hemp seeds also got lumped into the list of All Things Not Cool for Passover. Why, I’m not sure, but that’s what happened. So if you can’t eat hemp seeds during the holiday, you certainly can’t smoke them, apparently.
Anyway, that’s the position the Green Leaf party is taking, despite the urges of every fiber of their being. “You shouldn’t smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house you should get rid of it,” explained party spokeswoman Michelle Levine.
Interestingly, though, there is a loophole – but if your ancestors came from a European shtetl, you’re out of luck. Because the broader interpretation of Passover kosher rules was made by European rabbis, the rules only extend to Jews who practice European, or Ashkenazic, Jewish traditions. Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, on the other hand, aren’t subject to those rules, because they hail from the Mediterranean basin, where rabbis must have had other pressing concerns on their minds. So while Jews of Ashkenazic descent will be sitting on their hands, watching the calendar tick forward eight days, the Jewish communities of Morocco, Tunisia and elsewhere will be able to enjoy a wake ‘n bake of matzah brei and mary-jane. As the poet once said, “They do not eat the bread / they only smoke / sensimilla.”
Hat tip: Ha’aretz -andy

Lithuanian Parliament: Bloggers Aren’t Journalists

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

The Lithuanian parliament has denied a Lithuanian blogger’s request for accreditation. The reason? Bloggers aren’t journalists, as far as they’re concerned. The blogger, Liutauras Ulevicius, had applied for accreditation so he could cover the parliament more effectively. They rejected his request. “The Media Law describes a journalist as a person who collects, disseminates and provides information to the media, based on a contract with the media, or who is a member of a journalists’ union,” stated the parliamentary committee handling his request. Ulevicius vows to appeal.
More about the story on Yahoo News. -adny

Participate in Stop Cyberbullying Day this Friday

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

In response to what’s happened this week to Kathy Sierra, and the undoubted thousands of Internet users who have been subjected to online threats and cyberbullying, I’ve decided to declare this Friday Stop Cyberbullying Day. It’s the lead story on my PBS blog. Here’s the idea:

I think we should all set aside some time that day to address cyberbullying. Write a blog post pointing to online resources about cyberbullying. Post a podcast about personal experiences. Create your own public service announcement about the dangers of cyberbullying and post it on YouTube. Then tag it with the phrase stopcyberbullying. If you’re uploading it somewhere that lets you type in your own tags, be sure to include it. If you’re blogging and don’t have tagging built into your blog, you can embed it with the HTML code shown here so it will be picked up by search tools like Technorati. The more people we can get blogging about it, the better, because that will catch the attention of search tools and social media websites, spreading awareness further. It will also allow us to aggregate everyone’s posts so we can see who’s participating.
And if you don’t have a blog or don’t want to post anything online, you can still get involved. You can use some of the educational resources on sites like cyberbully.org or Nancy Willard’s website in your classroom that day, or with your kids at home. You could hunt down other resources and share them at your school, your church, your community group. You could even write a letter to the editor or to your political representatives and tell them what you think.
Of course, one day isn’t enough to change everything. And there are other days of the year where other people are fighting to raise awareness, like Safe Internet Day. But it’s a start. And perhaps we can use some of our energies that day to discuss what we can do to make online safety a topic that we deal with on a regular basis. So I’ve created an online social network called Stop Cyberbullying using a free tool called Ning. Anyone who joins can post resources and share ideas, including text and video. I’ll also use the site to aggregate a stream of what people are doing in support of Stop Cyberbullying Day, assuming people accept my challenge to take action on Friday.
So without further ado, I declare this Friday Stop Bullying Day. If we don’t take a stand, who will? -andy
Tag:

I hope you join me that day and onwards to stand up against cyberbullying. -andy

Disgusted

Monday, March 26th, 2007

I’m really angry right now. Angry that blogger Kathy Sierra has been forced to cancel speaking engagements and exile herself at home because she’s started receiving death threats on her blog and others. Please read her post, because she explains the situation better than I can.
Bloggers have tolerated meanness in the community for far too long. What starts as tasteless name-calling and mocking all too easily escalates into vicious ad hominem attacks, humiliations and now threats against someone’s well-being. It isn’t the first time this has happened on a blog, and it’s probably not the last, but it’s first time I’ve seen it happen to someone I respect and cause them them almost paralytic fear.
What’s the cause of this behavior? Who knows what hatred lurks in the hearts of the people behind the attacks against Kathy. More generally, though, the signs are all around us. From bad behavior by shock jocks to the endless threads of insults you can find every day on Digg, Fark and Slashdot, it seems our culture embraces those who engage in a pissing contest of increasingly caustic rhetoric. Do we have no disdain for such behavior? Do we not feel the need to stand up and shame people for acting this way? This behavior can’t be tolerated, and God knows it shouldn’t ever be rewarded.
Thankfully, many bloggers are standing up in support of Kathy. Robert Scoble is even taking the week off from blogging in solidarity with Kathy. I think he might be on to something.
Stay strong, Kathy. Don’t let the bastards win. -andy