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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Failed citizen journalism experiment?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2007 at 10:46 AM

No, I'm not talking about Assignment Zero or Backfence. I'm referring to iBurlington — "Burlington Vermont's Blog" — a local citizen journalism site, launched in 2005.

Creator Brian Brown had high hopes for the project, which he modeled after the successful CJ community iBrattleboro. In March of 2005, Brown told Seven Days  he expected to sign up more contributors and get more traffic than iBrat, if only because Burlington's a bigger city.

But it didn't happen that way.

Despite spurring bloggers like Haik Bedrosian to start their own sites, iBurlington never really caught on. At some point over the last year, Brown quietly abandoned the site, despite the fact that it still displays his info. For the past several months, iBurlington's only contributor has been marijuana activist Cris Ericson.

If you're a Vermonter, you may remember Ericson from the ballot — she's a perennial candidate, who ran for Governor and Vermont Senator in 2006 as an independent. The headline of her latest post — IS IBM CREATING WEAPONS THAT COULD TARGET JEWS BASED ON THEIR DNA?

Yes, in all caps.

I emailed Brian at his iBurlington address to ask him about the site. He responded saying that, though he had set it up so that all postings would be approved by him, somehow in the last year postings had been getting through without his approval.

"I haven't bothered to read them or pay much attention to them," he writes, adding that he has "no plans" to go further with iBurlington.

Brian hasn't responded to my follow-up email, but as someone pointed out in the comments thread on the last post, Brian is apparently living in Wisconsin, working as a consultant — at least according to his website, which looks like it hasn't been updated in a few months.

I guess it's safe to say that Brian has walked away from iBurlington — which is too bad, I think. I worked with Brian briefly on the Winooski Eagle site, which he's also apparently abandoned. At one point, he had plans to host a whole network of citizen journalism sites. Guess that fell through.

Creating a thriving online citizen journalism site is a huge commitment, requiring a lot of face-to-face human interaction and organizing. You have to let people know the site's out there, you have to teach them to use it, and you have to inspire them to care about it. And you have to be willing to do all of that essentially for free. At least at first, and possibly for a long, long time.

These are things iBrat's founders have said again and again.

Incidentally, two members of the iBrattleboro community traveled all the way to North Beach in Burlington for the Bloggers BBQ last Sunday. Yet another measure of iBrat's success.

Front Porch Forum founder Michael Wood-Lewis was also at the BBQ. FPF is a neighborhood email newsletter, not really a web-based tool, but it's definitely succeeding in some respects where iBurlington failed. That just occurred to me as I was writing this post, and it's definitely something to think about.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Springfield's Simpsons Movie

Posted By on Thu, Jul 12, 2007 at 8:56 AM

In case you haven't seen the actual winning video the folks in Springfield made to woo the Simpsons.

Oh, and a Springfield, Illinois newspaper claims we cheated.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Not quite Labor Ready material

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2007 at 5:10 PM

From the le duo, file under the Ouch! Department...

The le duo guy is looking for work, goes to the Labor Ready office on North Winooski Avenue in Burlington, and takes their personality test.

...the test involved reading simple questions and then entering youranswers on to a key pad that looked like a credit card machine. somesample questions:

in the last month have you done these illegal street drugs- meth, ice, crank, crack, coke, uppers, downers, poppers, mdma, etc?

1. always
2. sometimes
3. rarely
4. never


you feel its appropriate to hit some one who has angered you.

1. always
2. sometimes
3. rarely
4. never

a third of the questions were about drugs, a third fighting at work, and a third stealing from your employer. i answered the questions truthfully. no, i never fight at work. no idont show up to work under the influence of drugs. the test took meabout 8 minutes. after i was finished the lady said 'takes just aminute for the results.' i stood there wondering how awesomely i haddone.

But guess what...


Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2007 at 8:16 AM

I've been asked to contribute to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies blog, web.aan.org. AAN's web director and editor, Laura Fries, set up the site to share web publishing tips and best practices among AAN members.

My first post is about finding and using local content on YouTube.

Monday, July 9, 2007

I heart Clamzilla

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2007 at 4:28 PM

I added a bunch of blogs to my Vermont blogroll recently but haven't had a chance to read through them all. Today I started reading Clamzilla's Fabulous Adventures in the Dark, and I ended up snickering so much that my co-workers asked me "what's so funny over there?"

Clamzilla is an anonymous woman who apparently watches movies at the Essex Outlet Cinemas every other day or so, then reviews them on her blog.

I confess, I rarely read movie reviews. I used to love movies, but I've stopped going ever since Graham was born, and I have a hard time mustering up much interest in reviews of films that I'm probably never going to see. But Clamzilla is funny.

Yes, her writing is less polished perhaps than a professional critic, but she's got a snarky side that I enjoy. Here's an excerpt from her review of the new Robin Williams movie "License to Wed":

When the story begins we are introduced to Ken and Barbie, er, I mean Sadie (Mandy Moore; American Dreamz) and Ben (John Krasinski: “Jim” on the tv hit “The Office”),who are without a doubt the most perfectly perfect white,upper-middle-class, privileged, made-for-each-other couple in theworld. Sadie has her own floral shop and Ben is a school coach, bothhealthy, clean-cut kind of jobs. I was already wondering if she camewith a Barbie Camper set, only full-sized. They look like posterchildren for a Sears ad, and I immediately wanted to adopt them and yetI was repelled by them at the same time. I think my diabetes waskicking in from all that sweetness.

I like how she includes personal anecdotes in her reviews, too. Here's the beginning of her review of "Ratatoille":

Ratatouille gives me diarrhea. Not the movie Ratatouille,I mean the southern French dish itself, a plate of cooked eggplant,zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and stuff cooked into a coma and then piledhigh like a precision-built doggy doo. That’s probably what “ratatouille” actually means in French and they just aren’t telling us because you know how they are.

Fortunately,my family is less interested in fine cuisine than they are in finemovies and so when the new Pixar/Disney release opened this week at theEssex Cinemas even Colonel Sanders took a backseat to this Ratatouille. At first, my hubby was skeptical when he saw the poster and realized that this Ratatouillewas going to actually star a rat. He has a dreaded aversion of allthings rodent ever since he was eleven and his brother put peanutbutter on the back of his neck as they “camped” outside in the backyardone night in their sleeping bags and he was awakened by an opossumlicking him with the enthusiasm of a head cheerleader. I, on the otherhand, have never even seen a rat in real life (unless you countwatching Willardon tv). Cartoon rats, I assured him, were nothing like the actualthing. These rats are bound to be cute, cuddly, and capable of speakingmore cleverly than George Bush on just about any subject. And sureenough, they were.

Not sure I'll see either one of these films, but I've enjoyed reading about them. Who is this woman, and what compels her to share all of this with the world?

My Favorite Out of Office Autoreply

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2007 at 2:06 PM

Each week we get a bunch of these automated Out of Office Autoreplies when we send out our email newsletter. We got a fun one while I was away that I have to share:

I will be out of the office the week of July 2nd...spending my time searching out rare pieces of blue seaglass, collecting jasper rocks tumbled smooth over time by the ocean's tides, and eating marshmallows with my favorite six year old.

Beach trip

Posted By on Mon, Jul 9, 2007 at 11:36 AM

Got back from Garden City Beach, S.C. on Saturday. I meant to post to the blog while I was gone, but they didn't have wi-fi in our beach house. Dang.

I went with my 17-month old son, Graham. Ann-Elise stayed home to work on our house for a week, so Graham and I traveled alone to South Carolina to hang out with 30 or so of my relatives.

Our trip went really, really well — up until Friday, the day we left. I stupidly booked a 2-stop flight because it was more than $100 cheaper, and we ended up getting delayed. We were stranded in NYC Friday night. Luckily I was able to convince the La Guardia gate agent to give us a voucher for a hotel room instead of kicking us out on the street when the terminal closed for the night.

We got home safely on Saturday around 3 p.m. (we left Myrtle Beach airport the day before around noon). Truly it was an unforgettable trip. In fact, here are a few things I will never, ever forget:

  • Don't book a flight with more than one stop unless I'm going overseas.
  • Don't switch carriers if I can avoid it.
  • Don't connect in La Guardia.
  • Whatever I do, don't connect and switch carriers in La Guardia.

I packed my camera in my checked bag, so I don't have photos of Graham and I looking frazzled and dazed, but I do have this photo of the enormous American flag one of my Floridian uncles draped from the balcony of one of our two beach houses on the 4th of July. Enjoy.

And hey, if you like the flag, you might also be interested in purchasing a TruckSpike Tailgating Accesory. This is my uncle's invention. I think he's seeking a patent. His motto? United We Tailgate.

I miss the guy already.

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