This is why you’re not going to create the next SXSW

[I originally published this on Medium here.]

For years I’ve joined in the pushback against the empty and cliche pledge that some city wants to become the next Silicon Valley. Over the last few years, I’ve watched a similar boast begin to pop up into unnervingly unexpected places:

We’re going to launch the next SXSW.

No. No you are not. Let me tell you why.

Continue reading This is why you’re not going to create the next SXSW

Don’t mix up censorship with civility

A version of this essay was published as part of my twice-monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

Censorship is about content (you can’t say this or that). Civility is about tone (you can’t say this like that).

Attribution bias virtually guarantees that we are sure our tone is appropriate for all circumstances. If we use vulgar language or overly fatalistic language, it’s because we are on the right and just side of a cause. If someone with whom we disagree does this, they are proving just why they something short of civil.

Continue reading Don’t mix up censorship with civility

+1

There’s familiar web slang to show complete agreement: +1.

It comes from Google+ (yes, a success from a Google social platform!), which was informed from other social sharing and commenting platforms and web forums that have literal up/down voting options to show endorsement.

In my work, I hear lots of people using the same literal phrase in meetings — and on emails and in group chat messages. It has a nice humility to it. It’s the opposite of stuffy and political corporate environments in which people feel the need to blabber just to show value. We all hate when we say something and then someone speaks up just to essentially say the same thing.

On a team that trusts each other, the goal is simply to gain consensus. So if a teammate offers an idea or makes a suggestion that I mostly agree with I’ll say just that: “plus one.” Other teammates do the same. You’ll be amazed by how quickly a meeting can move.

Give it a try.

New Sincerity is the answer to snarky post-modern web culture

A version of this essay was published as part of my twice-monthly newsletter several weeks ago. Find other archives and join here to get updates like this first.

I’ve been struggling a lot over the last couple years, and of course particularly in the last six months, with how mean the social web can be. How mean we are to each other. And how naive I sound to others when I think we can be something else.

This has gotten me into reading about the New Sincerity movement of the 1980s that then got a major boost of attention in the 1990s by beloved and troubled writer David Foster Wallace. It’s what I’ve been searching for.

Continue reading New Sincerity is the answer to snarky post-modern web culture

Why the 20th century had such celebrated local journalism

Profit. That’s where the experimentation and funding for long-term projects came from.

As the near monopoly on the distribution of information that powered the advertising business that kept newsrooms well-stocked has faded, so too has the profitability of the companies that back them. And it has coincided with tightened budgets and, therefore, fewer commercially viable journalism products.

Continue reading Why the 20th century had such celebrated local journalism

What I accomplished as a Pen and Pencil Club governor 

I first visited the Pen and Pencil Club in January 2009, as a spunky, 23-year-old. After visiting frequently, I finally became an official member of the country’s oldest surviving open daily press club in early 2012.

Then, in 2013 I ran and was elected to the club’s board of governors, with some encouragement from then club President Chris Brennan, a celebrated politics reporter and columnist who worked hard to grow the kind of members in the club. I was growing a reputation with Technical.ly and an active local organizer of the Online News Association.

I was proud. I learned a lot, and I put a lot of effort into being a board member. Next week, rather than run for a fifth term, I am stepping down. Here I share some of what I accomplished during the last four years.

Continue reading What I accomplished as a Pen and Pencil Club governor