5 Thoughts About Podcasts from PodCamp Toronto 2014

The podcast has come along way in the years between my first PodCamp in 2009 and this weekend’s PodCamp Toronto. Aside from them mostly being played on iPods, podcasts in 2009 also tended to exist simply as another channel for radio programs or a personal hobby.

In the years that have followed, many podcasts have started and ended. And a select few have served as a creative outlet for new producers that have taken the form to new creative levels. I’ve seen many comedians, professionals, enthusiasts, and journalists take the podcast form to new levels.

Of course, PodCamp Toronto’s scope has also widened to many interesting areas of technology and media such as open government, the internet of things, and online marketing.

PodCamp Toronto 2014 was a great event to attend, and I was very happy to be able to meet some very friendly and interesting people. In this post, I’ll try to relate some of the interesting things from PodCamp Toronto 2014 that relate to podcasts. Continue reading

The New Era of Music Journalism Requires Discovery

The idea that conventional journalism is more endangered now than in previous generations. Good journalism has never been conventional, and in all eras it has been shaped by new technologies and the demographics of the media we use to get our messages across.

It’s a given that we need to stay relevant to those new channels and those audiences. As writers and editors, we have to stay keen to what people want or need to know, and how we can deliver that to them.

But it sometimes becomes hard to balance this job with the higher principles of our profession that make it more than a good to be consumed but rather a public good.  Continue reading

A Novel Resolution for 2014: Make Your Own Criteria for Success

With 2013 coming to a close, many of us can’t help but think about making some big changes for the new year. But is the way we go about setting goals actually what makes us feel unsuccessful in meeting them?

A video from Marie Forleo showed up on my YouTube feed today in which she interviews Danielle LaPorte, who’s essentially a self-help guru for business-oriented folk. This isn’t something I’d usually be interested in – and I did find some of it grating – but LaPorte did bring up some very compelling ideas.

LaPorte says that it’s important to figure out how we want to feel rather than looking for outside validation when making goals. Instead of a goal like getting a promotion or making your first million, she says you might be more content working towards feeling good. 

Before you start draping yourself in velvet from head to toe

What she means is that it’s not about the goal. It’s about how you’re going to feel when you get there.

Sure, these external validations help us cope with creeping anxiety and insecurity, and some of these feeling help us get out of bed and do the things we need to do to live. But this frantic pursuit for outside validation often leaves one without the feeling of accomplishment because they’re not helping us feel what we were hoping to feel. 

LaPorte brings up a conversation she had with a Buddhist about the need to balance acceptance of how the world is, and striving to change what we can. Realizing we’re not entirely in control of our own destinies is an important thing for people to realize, but also that we ought to reign in other peoples’ control over our destinies. For instance, don’t tell me when I’ve had enough – I know when I’ve had enough.

You can’t always choose what happens in your life, but we you can choose how you feel and react to it.

I’m actually a big believer in New Year’s resolutions. I think self-reflection is important and if the new year spurs people to think how things can be better, then so be it. (And you could probably use some improvement yourself. Just sayin’.)

But it’s also important that people believe that they’re entitled to what they’re personally after – to feel good about themselves, not just have the outward symbols of success. The feelings could be security, happiness, connection, importance, and love. And it’s up to us to figure out how much these feelings mean to us.

Perhaps the best resolution we can make is allow ourselves to feel worthy to make the changes we need to make, and base them on our own criteria.

“Our way of working meant that the hugely talented writers we partnered with were only in a position to contribute content—not concept. They wrote copy, but we missed the opportunity to tap into the thinking behind it…Writers and designers are better together.”

- “What Does a Writer Know About Design?” by Ben Steele

Great writers don’t just put someone else’s vision into words, but help shape and refine that vision through language. -DH

With great power comes great…need for governance: Why the web hosting industry needs solid direction

 

Companies that provide web hosting services play a huge role in how free and open the Internet is. For how much a web host does to provide a platform for websites and media, it could also be providing your customer information to government bodies without you knowing…and without them being able to tell you. This is just one of the reasons web hosts need to have their concerns to be heard.

Read more about why and how to give voice to web hosts and their diverse issues and concerns in my latest article for the WHIR:  http://www.thewhir.com/web-hosting-news/giving-the-web-hosting-industry-a-voice

On Being Raw and Vulnerable Online

 

Many people I follow on blogs and on Twitter consistently produce witty and clever posts that fit into what’s acceptable of the form. They’re quick hits of delightful smartness that I can absorb, then move onto something else. This is the norm.

But not everything I find online is as clear-cut and pleasant as this, nor should it be.

In a recent Thought Catalog piece, writer Ryan O’Connell talks about the tendency and the danger of a nullifying uniformity among our online communications. Many of us are afraid of putting ourselves out there online and becoming a target for trolls. We’re rather fit into someone else’s notion of how we should behave and think rather than be raw and vulnerable.

O’Connell writes: “People hide behind their phones, they carefully curate their communication with other people, which makes honest moments few and far between.”

A fleeting tweet that satisfied our expectations reaffirms our sense of the world. It lets us move on. But it’s really these honest moments, the ones whose meaning isn’t obvious, that generally stick with us.

As I see it, writing about our lives and our world is basically an exercise in observation in which one draws attention to connections between people, places, ideas, and so on. We observe something, analyze it, then produce a report on our findings.

Comedy writer Hallie Cantor wrote a beautiful blog post on experiencing things without having to make them a joke

It’s easier to agree that something is funny than to agree that December feels like being in a concrete building that’s the highest point in a tiny state and daydreaming about some boy and listening to Charlie Parker. But when I can convince myself to remember that other people’s stories are interesting, I wish it didn’t have to be funny. I wish it were enough to just look.

Going “off-script” is not as easy for people to process as a neat, self-contained joke.

Many would assume that digital media is making our generation too narcissistic and/or soporific to make an eloquent and irreverent statement like Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Ginsberg wasn’t afraid to go to dark places, and be real in a time of great conformity.

Perhaps, though, our battles are more specific and nuanced to the point where no single voice can speak for a generation. Our blog posts and tweets might seemingly be “a dumping ground for every non-thought that crawls through their brain” and often falling short of a rally cry. But do we really need to compel action from people? It seems to me that it’s often enough just to be honest about what we’re thinking about and to show others our experiences and how we live our lives – even if that means posts about your mundane and unfulfilled life.

Rather than “build our brands,” we can be part of an internet that moves beyond what’s deemed acceptable or rational or appropriate. We need to fight our need to come across as calm, cool and collected (or simply put: normal). Otherwise, we’ll have an online world that conforms to what is expected, and never delivers what is needed.

Blog Like a Journalist (presentation slides from WordCamp Montreal)

When we step back and think about it, we live in an era where so many different stories and experiences are made available through the Internet. And blogs are been a venue for expressing more voices than ever before. But while we’re oftne more likely to find our news on blogs than on our evening TV news or morning paper, the principles of journalism still apply to the new media.

It’s in this landscape that I frame my presentation from Montreal WordCamp 2013, “Blog Like a Journalist”.

Contrary to many naysayers, I think opening up media production via blogs bodes well for journalism, but we need to maintain the good journalistic practices that have served the public well for so many years.

Journalism isn’t about the medium, it can be thought of as a combination of practices, ethics, and philosophy. It’s about conveying information in a rigorous, responsible and accountable manner, paying attention to detail, accuracy, and high standards, and striving for balance and objectivity.

This all makes what you write more truthful to what you’re presenting and readers will find it more trustworthy.

In this presentation, I explain how a writer can maintain a high commitment to journalism, while also employing storytelling styles which are more compatible with blogs and their audiences.

Learning to Reframe Failure

It’s been my experience that a lot of people who did well in high school and university end up faltering later in life because they’re afraid to fail. I found, during high school especially, that doing what was expected – getting good grades and not acting out – was a way of avoiding confrontation. And while this education is something that has served me well over the years and I’m grateful that a great deal of my learning in school was driven by positive reinforcement, there is something missed if you’re not learning through failure.

In a recent podcast, Good Life Project host Jonathan Fields talks about how it’s important to let go of the fear of failure in order to do the things most important to us. It’s not that we should attempt things that have no chance to succeed, but that we shouldn’t think of failure as such as terrifying prospect that we don’t even start.

Fields notes that it’s important to reframe what it means to fail: “Instead of saying, ‘I’ll be judged and ostracized’ the different frame on that is, ‘If I fail, what an extraordinary opportunity for me to understand why I failed, understand how to do it better and then apply this new knowledge to the next iteration of my path.’”

While “Failure is not an option” was a snappy quote around the Apollo 13 mission, apparently the real quote was more along the lines of: “…when bad things happened, we just calmly laid out all the options, and failure was not one of them.” Contrary to the sort of thinking that cripples us, this reaction to bad situations is productive.

It’s not that be fail but how we fail that comes to define us.

Yarn Bomber Magda Sayeg Recontextualizes Knitting

Coming from a family of great women crafters and often hearing craft disparaged in comparison to “real art”, I really like the sentiment behind “yarn bomber” Magda Sayeg’s rationale for her extreme knitting.

This craft, which is strongly associated with women has, in the past, been delegated to a domestic existence where it has been undervalued and under-appreciated. I love that, in some way, I have contributed to showing the strength of this craft—knitting and crocheting doesn’t have to be functional, it can be subversive, renegade—even illegal in certain cases. It’s bad ass! And it makes me proud, as a woman, to be a part of something that is so powerful.

While knitting is often considered less of an art because it tends to quite literally follow a set pattern. And yet here’s someone who’s standing up for knitting as a legitimate form of creativity and expression by adding new meaning and context.

Check out Magda Sayeg’s her interview with Design Milk for more on her work.