Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finding Science Instruction on the Internet

You knew it was just a matter of time until the Internet provided intellectual content at a level an industrious amatuer scientist could fiddle with. In Newsweek, an AP reporter Marcus Wohlsen writes about this endeavor.

The prospects could have major implications for NIH, major pharma, universities, and more. How will the money flow and what will the standards be in years to come?

Read more at Newsweek: "The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself.
Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories."
Thanks to Ingenuity Works for the image.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hawking Continues his Universe Quest

If anyone is looking for a hero, you can start with Stephen Hawking. News today says Stephen Hawking will become the first distinguished research chair at Canada’s leading scientific trust, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. Hawking will make regular visits to the institute, which focuses on quantum theory and gravity, beginning next summer. He will continue to hold his position as a professor of mathematics at Cambridge University.

Besides the fact that Hawking is brilliant, he is an amazing person for his perserverence against his disability from ALS. He says, "I am quite often asked: How do you feel about having ALS? The answer is, not a lot. I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many."

His web site says, "Hawking has worked on the basic laws which govern the universe. With Roger Penrose he showed that Einstein's General Theory of Relativity implied space and time would have a beginning in the Big Bang and an end in black holes. These results indicated it was necessary to unify General Relativity with Quantum Theory, the other great scientific development of the first half of the 20th Century. One consequence of such a unification that he discovered was that black holes should not be completely black, but should emit radiation and eventually evaporate and disappear. Another conjecture is that the universe has no edge or boundary in imaginary time. This would imply that the way the universe began was completely determined by the laws of science.

"His many publications include The Large Scale Structure of Spacetime with G F R Ellis, General Relativity: An Einstein Centenary Survey, with W Israel, and 300 Years of Gravity, with W Israel. Stephen Hawking has three popular books published; and his best seller A Brief History of Time."

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How Does an Iconoclast Think?

I like to cover stories about innovation on my personal blog, The Sky Badge Project, but I think this has interesting scientific merit so I am posting two places.

From an Emory University press release we learn about a new book: Iconoclast: A Neuroscientist Reveals How to Think Differently (Harvard Business Press, 2008) - Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, shows us how the world's most successful innovators think and what we can learn from them.

Berns is distinguished chair of neuroeconomics, professor of economics at Emory University, and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University School of Medicine. He focuses his research on human motivation and decision-making through a blend of neuroscience, economics and psychology.

"Iconoclasts are individuals who do things that others say can't be done," explains Berns. "An iconoclast defies the rules, but given the opportunity, can be an asset to any organization because of the skill to be creative and innovative despite adversity."

The book examines the stories of famous and not-so-famous iconoclasts to learn something about creative decision-making, innovation and creativity and the ability to control fear, and to look at the neuroscience behind those processes. Berns profiles people such as Walt Disney, the iconoclast of animation; Natalie Maines, an accidental iconoclast; and Martin Luther King, who conquered fear.

Berns says that many successful iconoclasts are made not born. For various reasons, they simply see things differently than other people do.

"Certainly there are people who are born this way, but what I have been able to learn about these individuals is that most successful iconoclasts are people who are skilled at handling failure and particularly at handling fear - fear of failure, fear of the unknown," says Berns.
He also discovered a trait that ultimately distinguishes the people who are really successful is social intelligence.

"A person can have the greatest idea in the world - completely different and novel - but if that person can't convince enough other people, it doesn't matter," says Berns.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pluses for HRT in Postmenopausal Women

American women can stay confused about hormone replacement for postmenopausal health with all of the reports talking about its benefits, but then warning of its harm.

Here is the latest news from a Eurekalert press release reporting on a study in the British Medical Journal. The photo comes from JAMD.

One of the world's longest and largest trials of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has found that post-menopausal women on HRT gain significant improvements in quality of life.

The results of the latest study by the WISDOM research team (Women's International Study of long Duration Oestrogen after Menopause) are published today on the British Medical Journal website

The study involved 2130 post-menopausal women in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and assessed the impact of combined oestrogen and progestogen hormone therapy on the women's quality of life. The average age of women in this study was 13 years after menopause and most participants did not have menopausal symptoms.

"Our results show that hot flushes, night sweats, sleeplessness and joint pains were less common in women on HRT in this age group. Sexuality was also improved," says Professor Alastair MacLennan, leader of the Australian arm of WISDOM and head of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

"Overall, quality of life measures improved. Even when women did not have hot flushes and were well past menopause, there was a small but measurable improvement in quality of life and a noted improvement in sleep, sexuality and joint pains. HRT users also had more breast tenderness and discharge compared to those on a placebo," he says.

Dr Beverley Lawton, Head of WISDOM New Zealand, says: "These new data should be added to the risk/benefit equation for HRT. The quality of life benefits of HRT may be greater in women with more severe symptoms near menopause. New research suggests that HRT taken from near menopause avoids the cardiovascular risks seen when HRT is initiated many years after menopause."

Professor MacLennan says studies such as those conducted by WISDOM "enable the risks of HRT to be reduced and its benefits maximized when the treatment is individualized to each woman".

"Early start-up side effects can usually be alleviated by adjusting the treatment," he says. "For most women with significant menopause symptoms the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks. The latest analyses of the main long-term randomized control trial of HRT (The Women's Health Initiative) show that breast cancer is not increased by estrogen-only HRT and is only increased in women using combined oestrogen and progestogen HRT after seven years of use. This increased risk is less than 0.1% per year of use.

"If a woman feels that HRT is needed for quality of life, then doctors can find the safest regimen for her. She can try going off HRT every 4-5 years, and can then make an informed choice about whether she takes and continues HRT."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Gamma-Ray Bursts Give Awesome Afterglow

I have been enjoying the Scientific American web site today, and always take a look at the physics section - written to help a non-physicist get it! I wanted to put the spectacular image in my blog, with credit, but I am not sure if this is allowed. So visit the story to see it! Instead I have used an image I found on Google and credit goes to scubagrl.

Writer JR Minkel says, "A new study casts doubt on a long-standing belief about the power behind gamma-ray bursts, the most energetic explosions in the universe. Researchers have found that short gamma-ray bursts—those that last a couple of seconds or less—have brighter afterglows than the simple, reigning model of afterglow emission predicts. Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are believed to occur when a star that has collapsed into a black hole or a neutron star whips a disk of gas and dust into a pair of powerful jets moving at nearly light speed. Like a lighthouse in fog, these so-called relativistic jets should cause whatever gas and dust that enshrouds the GRB source to glow brightly for hours after the burst's initial flash of energy."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

North Pole's Changes Bring Grim News

The headline in TIME really caught my eye because it was a big surprise even with all the news about ice at the earth's poles: An Ice-Free North Pole?

TIME writer Seth Borenstein says a scientist he talked with notes, "There's a 50-50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history..... Preliminary February and March data from a NASA satellite shows that the circle of ice surrounding the North Pole is "considerably thinner" than scientists have seen during the five years the satellite has been taking pictures.... For the last couple of decades, there has been a steady melt of Arctic sea ice — which covers only the ocean and which thins during summer and refreezes in winter. In recent years, it has gradually become thinner because more of it has been melting as the Earth's temperature rises."

Of course, scientists are looking for solutions, but how could it possibly be in time to reverse these dramatic and fast-moving changes?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fixing the Brain with new Technologies

Now technology has moved well into the neuro business of health care. With money to be made on new advances in technology for problems of the brain and its workings, we will see more companies moving forward scientists' discoveries.

Conde Nast Portfolio has a nice summary - a lengthy piece describing the growth: "It seems far out even for the neurotechnology industry, a rapidly growing cluster of companies—small upstarts as well as pharmaceutical giants—that want to alter your gray matter and make billions of dollars in the process. These firms are trying to adapt groundbreaking research into the basic workings of the brain to new drugs for ailments ranging from insomnia to multiple sclerosis. Some companies are trying to regrow portions of the brain using stem cells. Others have developed implants to insert into a person’s head to control seizures and restore hearing."

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Innovation in Many Places

On the hunt for innovation, I bumped into this article from the Edmonton Journal. I am excerpting a lot of it, but you can read more on the web site. I like the quote below by the Xerox president of its Innovation Group.

Emerging new technology products were shown this week at PARC of Xerox Corp. The centre has long been part of a Xerox corporate strategy of investing in long-range research. PARC incubates ideas that have the potential to become marketable products because they are dreamed up with partners from business, government and schools.

"We strongly believe whatever we think of will work," said Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox chief technology officer and president of Xerox Innovation Group.

Rare cell detector
Tucked away in the farthest PARC basement corner, biomedical research manager Dr. Richard Bruce places a microscope-like slide containing millions of white blood cells on a special scanner. The device shines a modified print laser blue light on cells that have been stained with fluorescent material. An attached scanner reads reflected light. Normal cells are a uniform solid colour. But abnormal cells reflect a different colour. The new, highly sensitive instruments can find a single rogue cancerous cell in a sample of more than 10 million cells in less than 30 minutes. The system potentially enables accelerated diagnosis and treatment of quickly spreading cancer cells. The detector is scheduled for tests at Stanford Hospital later this year.

The detector also has the potential to replace an invasive and sometimes hazardous method of testing body fluids in babies before birth known as amniocenteses. The new technology instead zeros in on embryo blood cells floating around in a mother's blood sample.

Erasable paper
Dr. Paul Smith, laboratory manager for the Xerox Research Centre in Missassauga, Ont., couldn't contain his excitement over results of PARC work that started as a Canadian project. The copying technology wizards are developing printable paper that wipes itself clean in 24 hours, or sooner if you decide to reuse it. The yellow base paper - coloured to distinguish itself from traditional, permanently printed paper - does not use ink. Smith said the specially coated paper produces dark tones when exposed to a certain kind of light the laser printer produces.
The effect fades away in 24 hours. The new variety of copier paper can be used up to 100 times, saving money and reducing office and household trash. Smith said a special hand-writing stylus is also in the works.

Solar concentrator
Developed with partner SolFocus, Inc., this is an array of clear plastic paraboliclike mirrors that miniaturizes solar panels. An array of the new type that is only the size of a large button can concentrate sunlight 500 times. The invention means potentially drastic reductions in the size of conventional solar panels and in the use of expensive silicon. It integrates the optical, thermal, and electrical aspects of solar panels to a single, flat, solid piece of glass. Scott Elrod, manager of the Clean Technology Program, expects this technology to cut the costs of traditional methods of harnessing sun energy in half.

Water purifier
Xerox's experience in handling powder-like toner material for its printers has led to a simple but effective method of separating solid particles from water. Particle-laden water is flushed through a spiral tube. As the material flows, centrifugal force separates solids from water. Elrod said water treatment plants can use this technology to remove solids from water and save time and space.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Getting Credit Where Credit Is Due

I am excerpting briefly from author Michael Domjan in the April 2008 Observer on the Psychological Science web site, but the article about credit for work in science in the age of interdisciplinary work is very interesting!

It says, "These days, the term “credit crisis” invokes thoughts of Wall Street and financial debt. But in the scientific enterprise, structural changes are affecting core issues of intellectual credit and indebtedness as well as taking responsibility when problems arise. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary have almost become buzz words, but they signify much more than just fashionable labels. Their commonplace use reflects the fact that deep understanding of a problem often requires the coordinated efforts of a range of scientists who are expert at different levels of analysis and employ different specialized techniques. When teams apply for grants and research awards, it may be difficult to name the principal investigator (PI). Beginning in February 2007, the National Institutes of Health added a multiple principal investigator option for grant and award applications." Vist the web site to read more!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Tea Catechins Linked to Reduction of Cancers

Increased consumption of teas rich in catechins is associated with reduced risk of stomach, colon, and other gastrointestinal cancers. However, the effects of digestion on the anticancer activity of tea catechins have largely been ignored. A study by nutrition researchers at The Ohio State University and Purdue University found that the digestive process could both alter the structure of the tea catechins and their anticancer activity.

Results were presented April 7 at Experimental Biology 2008 in San Diego.

Using a model simulating gastric and small-intestinal digestion, the researchers treated gastric cancer cells and colon cancer cell lines with digested and undigested (parent) extracts of green, tea, black tea, and a combination of the most active tea catechins (EGCG/EGC).
In colon cells, digestion of both the green tea extracts and the catechin combination significantly reduced anticancer activity compared to undigested parent extracts. Black tea, on the other hand, showed the same anticancer activity for both parent and digested extracts.

Digestion and the type of tea made a difference in terms of anticancer activity. In addition, the anticancer activity of the tea extracts differed between gastric and colon cancer cell lines. In gastric cancer cells, the undigested extracts were 50 percent less effective than in colon cancer cells.

What does the new study show us?

First, says Dr. Bomser, it points out that better understanding the impact of digestion on tea could lead to changes in how we formulate products in order to protect and enhance their anticancer activity. It also could change how we prepare tea now. In a study from Dr. Ferruzzi’s laboratory published last November, for example, he found that adding citrus (such as lemon juice) or ascorbic acid to green tea protected the catechins from digestive degradation. Lemon juice caused 80 percent of tea’s catechins to remain available for the body to absorb.

Second, say the researchers, some of the digestive changes may impact anti-cancer activities. Work in Dr. Ferruzzi’s laboratory has shown that digestion can alter the structure of polyphenols, degrading and destroying some while forming others. His laboratory is currently identifying these new compounds and testing their own anticancer activity.

Third, the findings of digestive impact on tea catechins are likely also true for other bioactive compounds in foods. Dr. Bomser points out that the active compound in broccoli, for example, is not released until chewing and the digestive process begins. How do we formulate food to prevent degradation and perhaps enhance anti-cancer activity?

And fourth, say the researchers, the epidemiological findings of protective impact of teas rich in the unstable, easily degraded catechins may indicate that other compounds in tea are responsible, in part, for this anticancer activity. Further research is necessary to identify these compounds and to understand the impact of digestion on their anticancer activity.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Experimental Biology 2008 - Freshman 15 Update

The “freshman 15” - the rapid weight gain believed to afflict many new college students when they begin school - appears to be a bit of an urban legend: a cautionary tale often told but not well substantiated.

Now a study of 36 freshmen reports an average gain of only 1.9 pounds during the first semester, with women gaining slightly more than men, and an average gain of only 4.8 pounds for the entire freshman year (with males gaining an average of 5.4 pounds and women gaining an average of 3.2 pounds).

Some students lost weight. But even when only those who gained were considered, the average weight gain was 5.8 pounds, a long way from the often-popularized 15.

Dr. Sareen Gropper presented the study at the Experimental Biology 2008 meeting in San Diego.

The 36 freshman (26 females and 10 males) were weighed and their body composition and shape measured when they began college and then again at the end of the fall semester and the end of the spring semester. The urban legend is correct in the sense that a majority of freshmen in the study (71.4 percent) did gain weight, notes Dr. Gropper, but only 21 percent gained five pounds or more.

The largest gainers in the fall semester were a woman who gained nine pounds and a male who gained 10 pounds. For the academic year, the largest weight gains observed were 13 pounds for one male and 12 pounds for one female. No one gained the freshman 15. Dr. Gropper and colleagues have begun a larger study of 240 students who entered Auburn in the fall semester of 2007.

She and her colleagues are following the 240 students throughout their freshman and beginning of their sophomore years, with questionnaires that examine factors that might contribute to the gain, however small, that the majority of college freshman appear to experience. The researchers also are collecting data on weight changes throughout the year, including five, 10, even 15+ pound losses within the first year of school.
Unique to this study is a 3-D whole body scanner to collect information on body size and shape. This technology quickly captures exact body measurements, which can be visually displayed in cross sections of body areas like the bust, waist and hips to show where changes occur in measurements over time. Understanding where weight is deposited on the body helps assess the potential risk of diseases such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Experimental Biology 2008: Ibuprofen Helps Build Muscle Mass

Scientists say taking daily recommended dosages of ibuprofen and acetaminophen caused a substantially greater increase over placebo in the amount of quadriceps muscle mass and muscle strength gained during three months of regular weight lifting.

Dr. Todd Trappe reported study results at Experimental Biology 2008 in San Diego on April 6.

Participants took three months of weight training, 15-20 minute sessions in a Human Performance Laboratory three times per week. The researchers knew from their own and other studies that training at this intensity and for this time period would significantly increase muscle mass and strength. They expected the placebo group to show such increases, as its members did, but they were surprised to find that the groups using either ibuprofen or acetaminophen did even better.

Over three months, says Dr. Trappe, the chronic consumption of ibuprofen or acetaminophen during resistance training appears to have induced intramuscular changes that enhance the metabolic response to resistance exercise, allowing the body to add substantially more new protein to muscle. Read more.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Diseases in our New World Order

I find this facinating, even though risk to others is low. The NYT says on Long Island Nassau County officials issued a health advisory on Saturday to anyone who had recently eaten at an Italian chain restaurant in Hicksville, after a worker there was found to have typhoid fever.

County health officials said a New York City man who is a food handler at Mama Sbarro’s, at 265 North Broadway, contracted typhoid fever, a bacterial infection that can be life-threatening if not treated.

New York City health officials informed the Nassau County Department of Health about the man’s infection on Friday night, a spokeswoman for the county health agency said.

The spokeswoman, Cynthia Brown, said that based on interviews with the man and two unannounced inspections of the restaurant on Friday and Saturday, the health risk to the public was low.
You really do not think about typhoid here in the States.

And this reported in Reuters: Brazil's military will help fight an outbreak of dengue fever in Rio de Janeiro, the defense ministry said at the weekend, after the disease killed 49 people and made more than 30,000 ill this year.

Public hospitals in the northern and western districts of the city were overwhelmed by the number of patients seeking treatment at the weekend. Many complained about long delays.
The defense ministry said Army, Air Force and Navy commanders would propose an action plan to Defense Minister Nelson Jobim as early as Monday on how to combat the disease in the famous beach and port city.

And, watch out for canteloupes on the west coast USA.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

sxsw: 3.11.08 Peas in a Pod: Advertising, Monetization and Social Media

sxsw: 3.11.08 Peas in a Pod: Advertising, Monetization and Social Media

Bottom line words: advertising ROI, social media

Tim Kendall is a Product Manager at Facebook, where he oversees revenue-generating products and leads new monetization initiatives including the company's new advertising solution, Facebook Social Ad system. Prior to Facebook, Tim worked in's digital media group as a Product Manager.

Ellen McGirt is Senior Writer at Fast Company magazine. She covers a range of business topics, but never stops looking for the writer's holy grail: The business ideas - and people - who are changing the world. McGirt joined Fast Company in February 2007 from Fortune, where she was a senior writer.

Kent Nichols is a storyteller, technology geek, and goofball. In 2003 his film "Baggage" won the International 48 Hour Film Project and Scott Billups called him the future of the entertainment industry in his book, "Digital Moviemaking." In 2005 Nichols, along with writing partner Douglas Sarine, created the Internet sensation, which has been viewed over 20 million times. In 2006 Sarine and Nichols created, one of the most viewed and discussed series on the web.

Seth Goldstein is co-founder and chairman of, and strongly advocates for the rights of individuals to their own data. He is creating services for turning passive data into active expression through a group called AttentionLab. I was the founder of one of the first Internet advertising agencies, SiteSpecific, in 1995, and was entrepreneur-in-residence at Flatiron Partners.

As the social web commands increasing user attention across diverse demographics, social media has begun to see a new wave of online advertising. As all kinds of marketers embark on this new media frontier, it's critical that their plans provide value for users while also creating demonstrating positive ROI - either for brand or direct marketers.

Companies push and have opt-in actions but some you have to opt out without really realizing this – so Beacon takes data outside Facebook, so if you buy something at Zappos it can come into Facebook.

Info shared within Facebook is fair game for sharing – it is a social sharing environment. When you move data from Facebook outward it needs more controls.

Social advertising network discussion is underway, but this conversation by this group is very stream of consciousness and not easy to blog.

Going to close my blogging now for this conference and see what I can learn from this one!

sxsw: 3.11.08 Future of Corporate Blogs

sxsw: 3.11.08 Future of Corporate Blogs

Bottom line words: corporate blogging, ROI, measurement, community, influence to change a company

Moderator Mack Collier is a social media consultant, and author of The Viral Garden, a blog focusing on marketing and social media. Known for his 'community-first' approach to blogging and social media, Mack focuses on teaching companies how they can use social media to excite and engage their customers.

Panelist Mario Sundar works for LinkedIn and is Community Evangelist with over 5 years experience in the high-tech industry developing marketing initiatives for Fortune 50 brands including Intel, Hitachi and Sun Microsystems. Currently, defining and implementing the social media and community strategy at LinkedIn.

Panelist Lionel Menchaca from Dell the digital media manager for Dell's corporate blog, Direct2Dell.

Panelist Kami Watson Huyse, APR, principal of My PR Pro, writes the blog, Communication Overtones, on the topic of public relations and social media strategy. Her ideas and work are featured in several books about social media including The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and Now is Gone. She is also a contributor to the PRSA Byline blogs.

The panel is looking at what it takes to be the most relevant and engaging corporate blogs in business. Are corporate blogs relevant is the next question.

Will the future see more corporations enter the blogosphere, or less?

What fears and misconceptions do companies have about blogging and are these fears justified?

The panel is discussing ways a blog can augment a corporation's marketing efforts and improve customer service.
More importantly now, what tool(s), if any, will replace blogging?

The panel discusses tracking and measure their blogging efforts, going beyond just tracking hits and visitors, to developing criteria to measure the true Return on Investment (ROI) for blogging.

Okay – Dell must have had major problems that its blogging somehow turned around because Lionel is he second person from Dell to say this.

LinkedIn’s Mario talks about being the community evangelist – knowing what consumers are thinking and representing them to his company. He works on the LinkedIn social media strategy. When you start a blog – are you ready and is it worth it. Comments allow real conversation and LinkedIn decided to do this. Corporate blogs still mixed on comments. Traffic at LinkedIn is growing and the blogging is sup

Kami says solving a communication problem is your first test. Where is your community you are you trying to reach? Are they reading blogs, are they on Facebook. It is about the community not the company and their interests – so find the way that they intersect. Blog, Facebook or Twitter how can you measure this – the relationships. What would be considered a success. What is competition doing, so benchmarking. What about tonality in the messaging how is that going. Engagement can be measured. Analytic tools are valuable. You can look at comments and number of posts on a blog. You can look at “sales”. What about surveys – the old fashioned measurement.

6 measures for relationship: go to delicious – Kami chat on sxsw to learn more on this.

Ask if you are trending in the right direction, are your relationships working? What about an online focus group? So be creative to see what your community wants.

Listening, analyzing, and then taking action are the three that Lionel uses. Monitoring the blogosphere is important. He uses Ideastorm to determine reaction to ideas at Dell. The core team looks at user ideas and they are vetted through the business channels at Dell. Dell also uses the blog to say it is working on the customer’s behalf – no buffer to tell customers directly what you are doing. The relationship grows with this new one-on-one – and you send up with loyalty from these customers.
So, all this discussion points the need for a social media team if you are going to invite this kind of relationship. The momentum gets going and changes the skeptics that think a negative comment cannot change things for the better.
Transparency – this is the future.

One small step by Emory Healthcare is to start a Care Pages [powered by Steve Case’s Revolution Heallth] relationship for its customers, but this does not engage our organization with our customers directly, it puts them closer together with family and friends and finding each other via a web page.

Now with easy ways to develop communications with a group like Twitter, how soon will this type of technology replace web site-based communications. For now, this is what the majority of healthcare seekers can understand and use, but as technology changes and younger users embrace its many advantages, an organization needs to be ready for this.

From Kami’s blog Communications Overtones

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Blogs
Effectively communicating ideas and building relationships takes some discipline. I have always liked Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The principles make sense and are applicable both in your personal and professional life.

A blog is a highly personal refection of the people and/or companies writing it. These principles can be perfectly applied to blogging and other two-way communications.

1. Develop content based on principles and values. While a blog cannot deliver “key messages” in a canned and contrite manner (this isn’t a soundbite medium), it can be written from the values and principles of its writer or company. Knowing these values for yourself is the key to developing a “voice” for your communication. For example, I value honesty, building meaningful relationships, learning new things, and fun.

2. Have a vision or purpose statement. Part of my personal mission statement includes these action items that I developed in under four minutes at the Covey Website:
0. I will always seek to improve the depth and quality of my relationships in my personal and professional life
0. I will never be afraid to stand up for what I believe is right
0. I will be committed to lifelong learning and self improvement
0. I will seek to treat others as I would wish to be treated
0. I will not take myself too seriously and will have a life filled with laughter and fun
You can see how the values I have in #1 expand to become my action items. My mission statement, which could be lived out through my action items is to: “Explore how public relations can find an authentic voice in today's social media.”

3. Prioritize. Be sure to put first-things-first and don’t be driven by the agenda of forces around you. I notice that when I apply this principle regularly across-the-board I don’t have as much trouble with balance. My goal is to get one post out each weekday to “feed” my blog and extend the relationship with my readers. If I get that done, I don’t feel bad about turning my back on the blog for a few hours to get work done, spend time with my family, etc.

4. Think win-win. Blogs and other social media are meant to be a two-way conversation and that conversation often includes vehement disagreement. However, thinking win-win requires that we disagree with ideas and not the people that generated them. This helps to facilitate the discussion about the idea and possible come up with a solution that is better than the ideas of one person alone (see habit 6). This is the “magic” of social media.

5. Seek first to understand…then to be understood. This principle is best lived out in the comments section. Many blogs have the best discussions in the comments section include a back and forth between blog author and visitors that refines understanding of the idea. This is likely because the blog author seeks to understand the comments about his or her idea and incorporate them in the final.

6. Synergize. By building a community of respect, problems can be solved in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The refining of an idea by many can lead to the “magic” of social communication where 1+1=3.

7. Renew yourself. You don’t have much to offer if all you do is sit in front of a computer. We all need to renew in the areas of physical health, social networks, spiritual renewal and mental improvement. When you do this you have something new and interesting to bring to the conversation.

sxsw: 3.10.08 Transforming Hospital Systems: The Digital Future of Healthcare

sxsw: 3.10.08 Transforming Hospital Systems: The Digital Future of Healthcare

I was interested to see what I could learn from this session on the digital future of healthcare - but it went over some fairly traditional concepts and I pretty much knew about it!

The moderator Grace Lanni is the director of Healthcare Partner Solutions at Motion Computing where she focuses on strategic software co-development partnerships. The intro says: Why can we move money anywhere quickly and easily, look up bank balances online and spit out cash at an ATM, but we can't access our own medical records? Worse, doctors can't access our records when it's critical to be sure that meds or procedures they prescribe won't kill us. That's changing -- learn how advanced digital technologies are transforming healthcare.

From the panel I was most interested in Michael Kennedy from Microsoft on HealthVault and would have liked for him to go into more detail about the concept and its development. He talked about products for health information – and discusses HealthVault by Microsoft. The search in HealthVault is very targeted and from authoritative sources he says. A platform for innovation and for connectivity says the tagline. HealthVault will take records from your hospital and your doctor. Your personal information is not datamined and privacy is key he says. Some organizations he works with includes CapMed – a PHR [personal health record] and you can have this portable and mobile or desktop.

A physician from Austin Dr. Lucksinger covered his experiences with beta-testing a new tablet for EMR. Dr. Grohol presented on health information. He said there are so many tools available for online assessments, for ratings and reviewing doctors, carepages, social networking sites, and phr/emr and the connections between the two.

Monday, March 10, 2008

sxsw: 3.10.08 Keynote by postsecret’s Frank Warren

sxsw: 3.10.08 Keynote by postsecret’s Frank Warren

Bottom line words: authenticity, a very powerful presentation about expression

Frank Warren bio:
Called "the most trusted stranger in America," Frank Warren is the sole founder and curator of the PostSecret Project: A collection of nearly 200,000 highly personal and artfully decorated postcards mailed anonymously from around the world, displaying the soulful secrets we never voice, and the creator of the New York Times best-selling books: "PostSecret, The Secret Lives of Men and Women," "My Secret," and "A Lifetime of Secrets." Warren has appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, 20/20, CNN, MSNBC, CBC, NPR and Fox News. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in the Social Sciences and moved to the Washington D.C. area to start a business. Fifteen years later, Instant Information Systems, his small business, takes up less of his time as he devotes more time and energy on the project that thrust him into the public eye. Warren receives between 100 and 200 postcards everyday.

I am getting ready to hear Frank talk about his experiences and am clicking on which goes to . It says:

PostSecret is an ongoing community art project where people mail
in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard. This is a very creative multimedia art project as well as social experiment. If you want to bookmark the page and share it you can go to - it is amazing how the sharing world is growing – some you have known a while and many new ones:

Favorites Google Bookmarks
Digg MySpace Facebook Furl Yahoo MyWeb
StumbleUpon Reddit Newsvine Live Bookmarks
Technorati Twitter Yahoo Bookmarks myAOL Ask
Fark Slashdot Propeller (Netscape) Mixx
Multiply Simpy Blogmarks Diigo
Faves (Blue Dot) Spurl LinkaGoGo
Mister Wong Feed Me Links Backflip
Magnolia Segnalo Netvouz Tailrank BlinkList

Sorry, I got sidetracked looking these over – now on to Frank and the secret to his secrets. You can also visit .

Frank starts off by saying everyone in the audience knows more about blogging and technology than he does. He says he has some secrets to read he has brought and ones that people put in the box in the back of the room. He talks about the emotion of the secrets.

Wedding announcements, Polaroid photos, report cards, Starbucks cups.
I am here for work but looking for a job – I am from a big company but I am here to steal startup secrets – I have a wife but I have a crush at sxsw.

Out of 200,000 secrets he got an email from Texas – a woman visited the web site and she wrote down her secret, but he felt terrible about the secret but he tore it up because he did not want to remember it. A secret can actually undermine us in ways that we do to realize. We all have the potential to change our lives after a secret is over.

How did it get started? What are some of the secrets he has? What does he know he can share?

Three years ago in Washington DC and put out 3,000 cards and asked people to send it in – strangers were asked to write something down. The cards kept coming in and then he posted them in an art exhibit. After four weeks he had 90 postcards. However, the secrets kept coming in via virually from the real world, all over the world. He started a blog so he could share this with everyone. He notes the art and humor in our everyday lives.

Some are searching for grace, for authenticity; some to express a sexual taboo. He reads many cards and they are very poignant and very funny and very sad.

He says his project has shown to him the courage people have – those who are artists and those who are not. His father visited an exhibit that Frank had with 2,000 cards in DC – and his father watched people come in and look at the postcards and finally understood. Then his father gave an important secret to him on the way to the airport and it changed the relationship they had for the better.

An audience member says people are becoming more authentic and sharing intimacies. Communications now available to everyone – this is outside of commerce now and the tools allows us to express ourselves.

sxsw: 3.10.08 Links to Coverage and Web Awards

You can find a lot more here with podcasts and video coveage. Check out the web awards web page to see some amazing we work!

sxsw: 3.10.08 Session on Going Social Now

sxsw: 3.10.08 Session on Going Social Now

Bottom line words: business use of social media, social networking, word of mouth, new metrics

Shiv Singh, sponsored session by Avenue A | Razorfish

Shiv Singh has been with Avenue A | Razorfish since 1999 and has worked in its Boston, New York, San Francisco and London offices. He helps clients leverage digital technologies to develop meaningful and value driven customer and employee relationships. As Director, Global Strategic Initiatives, Shiv is tasked with building Avenue A | Razorfish's Social Media capabilities. He recently returned to Avenue A | Razorfish full time after having completed graduate work at the London School of Economics & Political Science where he researched social networks. Prior to that, he founded and led the Global Enterprise Solutions practice at Avenue A | Razorfish.

A very interesting web site can be found at for trends, commentary and news affecting the social media landscape.

If you think social media is all about clever corporate marketing on Facebook or quirky videos on YouTube, you're missing an opportunity to change your company's entire culture and operations, says Shiv. In fact, social media can affect how companies innovate, test ideas, recruit talent, measure performance and interact with all their stakeholders.

Shiv explains how the enterprise can use social media to improve business practices. He talks about the rise of social media has created a new form of marketing altogether, referred to as social influence marketing.

Social influence marketing is about employing social media as part of the entire lifecycle of a marketing campaign, even beyond a campaign.

He says many people want to shop collaboratively now – so how can you create an environment so that a group can plan together. So at Emory we could apply this to shopping for healthcare services or looking for a university.

Compliance: an individual agrees with a point of view.

So the new marketing dimension looks at brand marketing [flooding mailboxes], then direct response, now social influence marketing. Social media is a means to an end.

How can we participate in this? He measures trust in advertising in an elaborate chart that cannot be easily repeated here – but essentially he says social influence is becoming more important than traditional advertising.

So, how does a company launch into this? What about the changes behind the scenes now moving to the next steps? You cannot drag users to a corporate web site any more. People are using web sites that aggregate choices and people discuss them. A corporate web site is just a quick stop in the decision-making process and not that important.

In the traditional world you left this to marketing but you cannot any longer. All departments in an organization have links with the customer – strategy, research, operators, marketing, HR, and corporate communications. It is not about a consistent voice, it is about multiple voices speaking to audiences.

If you are a company, says Shiv, building a blog needs to have a focus – once you know a real purpose for it, then you can move forward.

Today you need to let the customer shape the experiences. Many channels now in addition to your corporate web site.

Do this, says Shiv:
Become your consumer
aggregate information for your consumer
articulate product benefits better
amplify the favorite business stories
participate where your consumer are
don’t do it all at once
Social media has been around a while, so experiment and see what works.

Now to transition and theoretical:

How are online communities changing over time? Social networks matter because there is too much information and it helps to go to your network for filters to find what you want.

The “strength of weak ties” is more powerful than strong ties. Information diffused through weak ties; strong ties are insular; strong ties-weak ties- absent ties [the name is know but that is it] and they are useless.

Now Shiv talks about “centrality” is trying to determine the most influential people – so many people connecting through one person. Also, a person may not need to talk to any one person to gain information. When you talk about social influence, you need to understand who is influential. Now he discusses Singletons, Giant Components and Middle Regions. So how do networks grow over time? There is a large middle group.

Key points: people join networks if they have friends there; behavior is influenced by others; growth occurs in the centrality; people will disseminate information from social networks; trust is essential for information sharing; and user based evaluations are important to collaboration.

Okay, now back to the tactical tips:

Sheraton hotel brand allows user reviews on its web site because people are influenced by others and personal connection.
CNN has re-launched the web site after feedback about it and published all of the feedback on the design for a conversation with consumers ongoing.

Garnier Fructese created a viral campaign using a fake story and had a lot of fun with some ads as entertainment. Humor was important and a series of clips spead across the blogosphere and gained huge attention. Then the NYT covered it. The audience realized that the company had hair products based on this.

What about project runway? Shiv created a online site so users could create their own clothing. It was successful because consumers talked to each other and social influence affected the success.

Shiv gives more examples, but the blog is getting long to read, if you actually made it this far!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

sxsw: 3.9.08 Keynote with Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg

sxsw: 3.9.08 Keynote with Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg

Bottom line words: social network, privacy and trust, control, application platform development,

Does Mark Zuckerberg really need an introduction? Facebook’s founder and CEO, Zuckerberg is hosted today at sxsw by Sarah Lacy, author [shameless plug for book coming out on Zuckerberg], BusinessWeek columist and co-host of Yahoo Finance’s "TeckTicker." Zuckerberg is the 23-year-old who has emerged as one of the brightest young minds in the social media industry. With his direction, Facebook has grown from a college-networking tool to a global phenomenon. The site is now used by people of all ages with over 50 percent of users returning daily. Facebook continues to launch new innovations and expand functionality with Facebook Platform, and the number of users on the site is now more than 60 million at last count.

This session feels like a rock concert – music playing loudly awaiting the grand wizard of innovation and wise moves. We all want to be as smart as Zuckerberg, and of course, as rich as this new billionaire. Now the countdown, people cheering – there he is!

Why is the site so successful and the role it is playing – asks Lacy. Zuckerberg says at Facebook he is helping people communicate more efficiently. He has jumped into the use in Columbia and the way people are using Facebook to revolt against the government. Lacy asks why Facebook instead of many other ways the Internet could be used to bring revolutionaries together.

He is keeping it simple in some ways, the word efficient is very big. He also wants people to communicate in a more trusting way. Now he has mentioned Lebanon – and talking about a lack of empathy and understanding is related to terrorism, and growing up in poverty. Now, with Facebook there is a greater way to connect all people to better understand each other. Now Facebook is letting people stay connected with friends with the outside world and better understand outside of our own culture.

He is young!! He is kind of learning on the job about the grown-up world and how to talk to 1,000 people who consider him a genius buy do not get me wrong, he is very, very smart. Okay, brilliant now that I am looking at this paragraph after listening to him for 45 minutes.

He talks about people having a voice without having a large organization doing this for them, and to go from the bottom up to reach out in the world to others via social media infrastructure. This is empowering people to do more.

Facebook has now launched in Spanish and German, and tonight launches in French. Why is Facebook navigating this so well, asks Lacy.

Z says this is fundamental, everyone needs relationships – it is very universal.

Now Lacy asks about how will Facebook make money. Z says valuation of Facebook is about a system that builds connection. Building a business is the way one must go about this – so a relationship with Microsoft is about sharing information. People expressing identify… monetization is about helping people share the information they want so it will overlap with income. Lacy asks about immediate revenue, but what about sustaining income for this in a few years? Z says the relationship with M is robust.

Facebook and advertising is about people endorsing products. We want to build a system that allows people who share their interests and this will endorse certain things.

Beacon is part of the platform group at Facebook, but the ecosystem will allow others to build platforms at Facebook and then outside on the web. Okay, this is where I am trying to keep up on this and the relationship with the ad system. Time for some homework on this. Z says this will help build social services. So the greater Facebook vision does it conflict with privacy? Z says that each person should control the information they share – but people have very granular control and personal information can be controlled. Facebook will achieve its goals by keeping this possible.

Lacy asks what tweaks will come to Facebook – as far as incentives. Z believes people are fundamentally good, thus giving a lot of services but once people get spammy they get controlled. The system is about trust – if you are sending a request to someone and they accept. So aligning the system will allow those who publish the most get most privileges. Lacy asks if Facebook is now creating too many rules, but he says no.

Asked about music vertical – he says he has not gone after this in the past, but once Facebook opened the platform for I like and other music venues. Lacy pursues this more, but he does not want to give specifics so he is dancing around this question.

When asked about being the youngest billionaire, he says his company is not focused on wealth – they just want flexibility in the ecosystem. He wants his company to change things and he is not working on ROI to make tons of money.

sxsw: 3.9.08 Social Strategies for Revolutionaries

Sxsw: 3.9.08 Session on Social Strategies

Bottom line words: groundswell, revolution, business use of social media, social networking, culture change

Charlene Li
Charlene is Vice President, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. Charlene primarily contributes to Forrester's offerings for the Interactive Marketing professional. She is one of the driving forces behind Forrester's Social Computing and Web 2.0 research, and examines how companies can use technologies like blogs, social networking, RSS, tagging, and widgets for marketing purposes. During her eight years at Forrester, Charlene has also led the marketing and media research team, and ran the San Francisco office.

Li will publish a book next month with Harvard Press called Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies.

She says that businesses are having trouble with the social networking concept because it can affect the bottom line – such as digg posting the code to break DVD codes. Jericho was put back on the air after an online talk show host wanted it back on the air.

With the groundswell – a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

We know that it's essential for a company to be involved in social technologies -- but executives are too afraid to start. It is important to develop the strategic frameworks that will appeal to the logical, analytical side of executives, while tapping into the revolutionary spirit needed to create a groundswell of support for strategy.

Based on Li’s book, the role of the revolutionary --the key person inside an organization who leads the transformation – is key. She is interested in the employee’s ability to channel the tradition of radicalism into a force that can transform a company. She thinks these companies want to embrace this concept but just needs help.

Process – is called POST process. P is for people – the people you are trying to reach, the customer. O is for objectives where you decide what you want to accomplish. S is for strategy for how relationships with customers will change. T is for technology – select this last.

Social activities – what do we think of? The ladder of participation includes those who read blogs; then those who join social networks like bookmarking; then the critics who comment and are actively engaged. What is a spectator vs a creator? 48 percent of adults are spectators and about 25 percent are creators. You can go to to find more stats on this. Age is a major driver of spectators – they may begin to try their hand and participate.

Objectives – with a groundswell you listen differently than focus groups. Traditional marketing is like shouting and it will change with groundwell.

Research is listening; marketing is talking; sales is energizing; support is supporting; and development is embracing.
Talking objective being led by companies’ revolutionaries use blendtree where it talks with viral videos [more research needed to understand this!].

Dan Block of Ernest and Young is head of recruitment uses Facebook to reach college audience in a different way – he writes back to students about what they need to know about his company. More about a relationship than marketing your brand.
Best Buy Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt – reaches employees and created a support system and a voice. Enable customers to even support customers.

Josh Bancroft at intel said I could start an internal Wikipedia for intel. He asked the CEO and got back to him and said do it – he said I already am and showed him what it was.

The platform at led by Steve Fisher – got a new tool to take user comments, the groundswell, and everyone did not like it. So what could he do to make it better – they made changes to improve the site.

Lionell Menchaca at Dell he was in charge of products at first. So how did he become a revolutionary there? He knew everyone after a very long time at the company – he started a customer service team to change the attitude and began a blog in 2006 and people thought it was terrible. Michael Dell said keep at this and keep talking and this eventually changed the blog and the conversation changed. A notebook caught on fire and the direct2dell blog covered this, and many inside were fearful for business. Actually this was a turning point for Dell. Person by person the company was transformed. Dell created ideastorm and got ideas for starting new products. The investor relations team even has a blog now called dellshares.

How can companies find and support their revolutionaries? Find the people most passionate about developing relationships. You need to educate your executives even if it is Facebook and how they meet real business objectives; put someone important in charge; define the box with policies and process; and make it safe[r] to fail.

Final words:
Making revolution stick will require framework and process
start small but think big
make social strategy the responsibility of every single employee
be patient – cultural change takes time
She says this is about relationships and it is never perfect, never comfortable – so feeling a tad queasy about your social networking is normal.

Sxsw: 3.9.08 Session on Social Design Strategies

Sxsw: 3.9.08 Session on Social Design Strategies

Bottom line words: social web site, transparency, symbiosis, causation, gardeners, private vs public

I am excited about learning more on social design strategies! I have included bios for speakers so you can see the kind of talent sxsw brings to this meeting.

Daniel Burke of Digg/Pownce
Daniel is the creative director at Digg, a co-founder of Pownce, and a co-founder of the Canadian web firm silverorange. As Digg's creative director, he has helped the site grow from a niche technology news site into one of the leading media services on the web with a massive and passionate community. This past year, Daniel helped found Pownce, a social network that lets you share files, events, messages, and links with your friends. Daniel works on feature development and the user interface of Pownce.

Joshua Porter of Bokardo Design
Joshua is the founder of Bokardo Design, a web design consultancy focused exclusively on social web applications. He has worked with clients such as MTV and Adobe on next generation social software. He is a passionate user advocate who fights for humane software and social design best practices. Josh also writes the popular blog, where he follows the latest trends and topics in social design.

Also, last minute speaker adds – Chris Messina of Citizen Agency for social media strategies. He is interaction design. Daniel Burka of Digg and Pownce is here, too.

Here we go.

Now that social networks are pervasive and quickly becoming a regular feature set, designers need to understand the dynamics of creating experiences that encourage social behavior and public expression, while giving individuals a sense of privacy, personal gain and ownership.

The principles and practices of social design: How do you create a symbiotic relationship between people and data that maximizes discovery, game-play, connections, and communication? Counterintuitive and hard to predict are the ways users interact with your web site.

Presentations start first. Designing social web sites and how to encourage good behavior – not ethics – but how do you encourage the behavior to repeat. So tie the behavior to identity. So if not tied together the user is not accountable. Amazon asks for real name for user comments by customers. The real identity on eBay – core social challenge for people who never meet each other but must trust. A sophisticated design lets people make an assessment of the seller, for example scores. The depth of each transaction connected to the identity of authority and is tied to previous behavior in the system. eBay does not really show the real identity in the real world but the system identity so what ever they do there is measured. Good behavior is recognized.

Burka says Digg was concerned about a small group trying to get to the top of the list – so the list was taken down. Adapting as you grow is important.

Threadlist is a site for design t-shirts and then designers get recognition with voting but then is tapers off and they enter a new contest.

Netflix shows causation – everyone knows how it works because it tells you on every screen how it works. Rating movies is related to getting better recommendations, the more ratings the better they are. They are showing you how well it works. Pandora [music radio web site] plays more songs that people ask for.

Reciprocity leveraging is core to success so it will give you something to use a site. A strong link exists between causation and reciprocity. The reviews are public and then favor is returned. A threshold is reached after encouraging behaviors, but it can change. Usability for individual and then the group usability.

Privacy in community: when Burka signed up for Facebook and found all his friends. They started to write on his wall and he deleted it and it was antisocial because he used it like an email in box and finally learned it was a community build on trust.

Digg and Pownce and examples of truthiness ☺ - from private to public – either or with this. A customer service site is very public called Satisfaction. Digg is very public. Pownce is more private. Facebook is in the middle. On either end of the spectrum there is clarity. But in the middle is could be blurry. On privacy you need to respect the user and online identity. Digg does not require first name and last name, but Pownce is on first name and last initial if you want to be private. Digg has a shout feature.

An issue of tracking people’s activity on Digg is controversial, more than having your friend see your activity. The interaction from site to site without you really knowing it is growing it. For example buying tickets for a movie then shows up on Facebook.

Personal act turns into a public act without your knowledge – if you know it is your intentional act that is fine. But when you think it is private and it is not, you will drive away users.

Transparency is important. On Pownce recipients are listed – only these people are shown your comments. But you can see if you are making a public reply. If your are building a site make it clear and be aware of what is shared.

Ma.gnolia adventures in spam control presented called weeding out worms. Spam is a problem - such as 80 percent of new accounts are spam. Tools for good are also used by spammers for bad. Methods for spam include use of bookmarks that point to specific sites. Ideas discussed include:

One site, many accounts
Too legit to quit; few legit links
Joe seo – getting rich quick
You can’t fool me: profile-aware
Had enough yet: importing volume links

Ma.gnolia - worked around this. Concerns about social bookmarking disuse was a concern. Ma.gnolia says with social bookmarking thousands of people keep their bookmark collections on a website instead of on just one computer. Doing so brings several big advantages. And users can see what other people have found and share bookmarks with friends. Bookmarks can be kept private, but most are public and available for everyone to see. In social bookmarking, you only find the bookmarks that other people think are worth keeping. Ma.gnolia ratings and tags instantly give you an idea of what people think of a bookmark, making web searches more informed.

About gardeners: enabled trusted members to move accounts on and off a whitelist; not a job, contest or vendetta, and gardeners will make new gardeners using the network for good.

For more information on tagging for bookmark go to

sxsw Interactive Web Conference Coverage

sxsw: Austin opens its doors

I left Atlanta and the wind was blustery and blowing snow sideways, but the descent into Austin was sunny and smooth. I was suprised to find that my seatmate was an associate editor, online for Scientific American, coming in from NYC for the interactive web meeting. Turns out he went to Emory and his undergrad degree was neurosciences.

I am getting started and about to listen to the sxsw Interactive Web conference keynote speakers and the crowd grows with seekers. The energy here is always palpable because the 500, maybe 800, souls in this room are explorers and innovators! Remember that sxsw uses conversations and QA to drive its sessions - democracy and shared learning! Let’s go!

sxsw: Keynote Henry Jenkins and Steven Johnson

Session bottom line words: new generation experiences, measuring knowledge, the language of "we", neighborhoods of people and ideas

Let’s start with the speaker bios since the keynotes each day at 2 pm are well-known in interactive. Also, the format of this session is a conversation between the two.

Co-Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, Henry Jenkins authored books including "Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide" and "Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture."

Steven Johnson is the author of "Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software," “Everything Bad Is Good for You”, "Interface Culture," “Mind Wide Open," and numerous other popular books about emerging technology. He recently started the web company, which he describes as "an attempt to collectively build the geographic Web, neighborhood by neighborhood." 

Session bottom line words: new generation experiences, measuring knowledge, the language of "we", neighborhoods of people and ideas

Steve asks Henry about backlash against the wave of young persons use of interactive web, and the affect of digital media on the generation. Young people are early adopters of new media and fascinated with the use of new media and how are older generations seeing this wave. IQ and school based worries by parents, but learning is coming in many new ways. They discuss standardized testing to measure the kinds of learning that is taking place with new media.

Steve asks Henry if he sees any new technology he thinks is stupid. He says it may look interesting but then crossing the comfort zone to learn this new media to better understand.

What about popular focus on TV shows. Looking at Lost, there is immense attention via multimedia and engaging with TV. Fan creation of social interaction represents creativity but unfortunately there is so little opportunity in the workplace – so little change to use their intellectual capacity to stretch them in new directions. How can we create a better society with play and apply it to serious undertakings. How can we live in a knowledge culture and social apparatus to trust each other, how can we transform the culture of America.

Harry Potter is an example of generating interest in reading and writing in young people. Wizard Rock is music based on Harry Potter and circulates outside the commercial sphere. Now young people are becoming political – global network. Harry Potter Alliance is focused on the world’s issues and young people are inspired. Illustrative of play and what we will do with this world – kids now play with information. They are adept at navigating and will change the world.

18-24-year-olds – what about them? Entrepreneurial, political, and more engaged. People are articulating their world and turn their attention to Obama. Yes We Can – what does this mean? What about the language of “we” – he uses this like young people on line. Social networks and collective intelligence has been captured by Obama with Yes We Can. So modeling society is changing – borrowing and pooling ideas and using others’ comments, it is about time to collect information from diverse communities to transform society – it is a Movement. Obama brings a democratic collective. The campaign and the political process is changing – we have been learning to get skills to deploy to reach people. Our institutions cannot keep up with this – they scratch their heads and cannot figure out what is going on.

What about civic engagement? Breakdown and decline of old society could be about leadership learned through gaming and other new media. The Knight is trying to interpret this and figure out how we feel as a community – not the Internet – but now our friendship networks are carried on our backs like a turtle everywhere we go and those we have a common interest with are always with us. What does this mean to our towns and information systems?

Steve says is about the digital revolution, a city is a device whereby many neighborhood communities where people care. This new service helps see this world with geotagging – everything in your zip code. Online Radar – working with Yahoo to launch – lets you see what conversations are taking place by zooming into a neighborhood, your actual hood or one you want to have a conversation in around the world. The geographic web is challenging – the pothole is interesting on your street but not anywhere else. The geographic web can build filters.

Henry says kids are using LiveJournal while schools are closing down programs – can young people be freed up to cover important things without censorship. They are trying to express their ideas.

Sxsw: 3.8.08 Managing the Media Blur

Session bottom line words: human conciousness, knowledge acquisition, finding

Douglas Merrill joined Google late in 2003 as Senior Director of Information Systems. In this capacity he led multiple strategic efforts including Google's 2004 IPO and its related regulatory activities. He holds direct line accountability for all internal engineering and support worldwide. Previously, Douglas was senior vice president at Charles Schwab and was responsible for such functions as information security, common infrastructure, and human resources strategy and operations. Prior to his tenure there, Douglas worked at Price Waterhouse as a senior manager, ultimately becoming a leader in security implementation practices. Before that, he was an information scientist at the RAND Corporation, where he studied topics such as computer simulation in education, team dynamics and organizational effectiveness. Douglas holds a BA from the University of Tulsa in Social and Political Organization, and an MA and Ph.D. in Psychology from Princeton University.

Quentin Hardy is the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief of Forbes Magazine. He joined the magazine in March 1999, and has written cover stories on Yahoo, Google, Hewlett Packard, telecommunications, and philanthropy, among others. He is a regular on "Forbes on Fox," a weekly show on the Fox Cable News Network. Prior to joining Forbes, Mr. Hardy spent eight years at The Wall Street Journal, covering the Japanese financial meltdown in Tokyo and the late-nineties boom in the Silicon Valley. Mr. Hardy also teaches at the Information School of the University of California, Berkeley, and has lectured at Stanford University's schools of Journalism and Computer Science.

Hardy starts with human consciousness and he says it is changing. He goes through a series of examples of how ideas and fact were changing. He covered some of what Journalism 101 might cover, so I am in a hurry for him to get to the profound ideas of the 21st century. Okay language and power – he is moving along with ideas about social change – but too much background with conversation about photography’s influence. Radio then gave voice to issues. Then TV covered relationships like families – but with TV in many rooms, even the family did not have to group for a show and interaction. I am getting very impatient….

Okay, now to connectivity with the Internet. Web 1.0 mimics publications and old media. Web 2.0 does its own thing. Now neighborhoods of trust, important part of who we are and we are trying to figure out where we are in the new blur.

Merrill starts off with people – he trained as a psychologist. Action on information is what is important – but information overload in nothing new. We have had it since the Gutenburg press started. We talk about this a lot now – about attention and whether we are aware of our surroundings. Working memory and coding and then recall. What is recall? We can recognize but not recall that easily. You elaborate what you might have been doing to figure out your memories.

By encoding your goals you are more likely to find it later – an intention to try to do something… elaboration is simpler and encoding is simpler. Get people to mark what they are doing.

Tools that we have built are now working. Knowledge acquisition should be active not passive. Raised journalists and consumers to be passive – an expert talks but can you really use that information? Telling a story and democratization of information. We should build tools across languages and to find it by what you are doing. This does not sync with the media market right now where someone talks and you listen.

The conversation that is somewhat off track for the media blur conversation …

A question comes about “authority” and emergent authority from groups is the answer. So does this mean that these speakers as well as the keynotes early are all saying the masses will speak and no authority will eventually rule what we know. Maybe this is a concept we find with the Wikipedia where anyone can provide facts and many can adjust this information. This is based on a communal effort. questioner asks about connections around interests – one way to cut back on the blur he says – can have a tagging element. Rather than making clutter, the autotagging feature will allow you to come in with your interests and it bubbles up your interests. Twine vs Google is more specific, speaker says.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Clouds and the Life of Microbes

The New York Times has a very interesting story about clouds! Read lots more from Olivia Judson.

"But clouds present an extra difficulty. Most of the environments that we consider extreme — the icy, the acidic, the salty, the boiling, and so on — are fairly easy for microbes to adapt to, because the conditions remain relatively constant for long periods. The greater challenge comes when the environment contains extreme swings in conditions, as in a tide pool. Creatures that live here must be able to endure changes from wet to dry, cold to hot, as well as rapid fluctuations in how salty it is."


"Mostly, the cloudy residents are bacteria of various kinds. Samples of clouds taken from a meteorological station at the summit of Puy de Dôme, a mountain in central France with an elevation of more than 1,400 meters (almost 5,000 feet), turned up more than 71 strains of bacteria, as well as a variety of fungi; owing to the way the sampling was done, this is a massive underestimate of who’s up there. Of the bacteria detected, many appear to have come from the oceans. More than half have shown themselves capable of growing in cold temperatures, and some are even officially psychrophiles — lovers of cold. Which is to say, they grow when it’s cold, and not when it’s a bit warmer — unlike the bacteria on your food, which slow down when you put them in the fridge. One of the bacteria most often detected was Pseudomonas syringae; intriguingly, this critter has the ability to make ice crystals form around it at relatively warm (-2C, or 28.4F) temperatures.

As to their metabolism — the question of what such microbes “eat” — clouds are, apparently, more nutritious than they look. More nutritious, even, than some freshwater lakes. Cloud water contains a slew of compounds, from different types of organic acids and alcohols, to elements such as nitrogen and sulfur. Laboratory experiments have shown that for a growing bacterium or fungus, cloud water contains plenty of potential food."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Only 5,000 Light-Years Away

I love to learn what scientists are saying about what they find in the universe - today, reported in Scientific American: Astronomers have discovered a pair of planets around a star 5,000 light-years away that resemble smaller versions of Jupiter and Saturn, hinting that solar systems like ours may be unexpectedly common. As in our own solar system, the closer of the two planets to their star is the larger one, 70 percent as massive as Jupiter; the more distant planet has 90 percent the mass of Saturn.

Let's face it, in universe terms this is very close. Now I am wondering for real if other intelligent beings are out there!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Looking at the way we think about others

I am interested in this study presented in Scientific American, but particularly in this part of the study mentioned below. Also, I could not resist using this image to illustrate the study, so I may as well be stereotyping groups just as the participants in this study.

"The experimenters used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan the brains of Harvard and other Boston-area students while showing them pictures of other college-age people whom the researchers randomly described as either liberal northeastern students or conservative Midwest fundamentalist Christian students.

The categories were a ruse. The pictures were actually downloaded from an online dating website and randomly assigned to the two groups (which were an invention of the researchers), with each group holding similar racial and gender mixes.

The experimental participants, however, thought each person pictured really was from one group or the other because the experimenters contrived demographic information about each photo; this information was randomly reassigned to different pictures with each new experimental subject. The participants, then, were confronted with pictures of people who had randomly generated but coherent cultural and political identities already attached to them."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's Next in Physics - The Wait for the New Collider is Over

I like to read Scientific American for its coverage of physics - it does it better for a non-physicist like me than any other publication... visit the web site for a special issue and some excellent graphics.

They call it the tera­scale. It is the realm of physics that comes into view when two elementary particles smash together with a combined energy of around a trillion electron volts, or one tera-electron-volt. The machine that will take us to the terascale—the ring-shaped Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN—is now nearing completion.

To ascend through the energy scales from electron volts to the tera­scale is to travel from the familiar world through a series of distinct landscapes: from the domains of chemistry and solid-state electronics (electron volts) to nuclear reactions (millions of electron volts) to the territory that particle physicists have been investigating for the past half a century (billions of electron volts).

What lies in wait for us at the tera­scale? No one knows.

But radically new phenomena of one kind or another are just about guaranteed to occur. Scientists hope to detect long-sought particles that could help complete our understanding of the nature of matter. More bizarre discoveries, such as signs of additional dimensions, may unfold as well.

Physicists are also drawing up plans for a machine intended to succeed and complement the LHC more than a decade hence, adding precision to the rough maps that will be deciphered from the LHC’s data.

At the end of this “journey” to the tera­scale and beyond, we will for the first time know what we are made of and how the place where we briefly live operates at bottom. Like the completed LHC itself, we will have come full circle.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Judah Folkman's Contribution to Medicine

Today's news says that Judah Folkman dies at 74. His story is important in many ways, including how a scientist can be caught up in cancer politics. He remained steady and respected through it all.

Read more at The New York Times: says Folkman was a path-breaking cancer researcher who faced years of skepticism before his ideas led to successful treatments. Dr. Folkman, a professor at Harvard and director of the vascular biology program at Children’s Hospital Boston, is considered the father of the idea that tumors can be kept in check by choking off the supply of blood they need to grow. The approach is now embodied in several successful cancer drugs, most notably Avastin, by Genentech.

“His vision and ideas literally changed the course of modern medicine,” said Dr. William Li, a former student of Dr. Folkman’s, who is president of the Angiogenesis Foundation, an organization that promotes the promise of Dr. Folkman’s approach. Angiogenesis refers to the formation of new blood vessels.

Dr. Folkman’s work created a frenzy in 1998 when a front-page article in The New York Times reported how two drugs he had developed had eradicated tumors in mice. The article quoted Dr. James Watson, a Nobel laureate for discovery of the structure of DNA, as saying, “Judah is going to cure cancer in two years.”

But some other scientists had trouble replicating Dr. Folkman’s results, and the biotechnology company with rights to the drugs gave up on them to save money after the drugs did not seem to work as well in people as in mice.