Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What the F—k is a Wampus Cat?

WampusCatTruthinessSteven Colbert‘s word for “from the gut” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination or facts.   My take on the word: the difference between professional journalists and Italian journalists.

OK, that was a free shot at a PARTICULAR journalist/particular daily from my experiences as a PAO in Italy, but it certainly does not hold for all Italian journalists.

I have seen professional journalists lean towards Wikipedia, but they still follow up with questions to gather facts.  An amateur journalist is often content with one source saying something they want to hear to gather steam for their side of the story, regardless of reliability of the source.  Amateur reporting is often shallow and one-sided.

This is no reason to knock Wikipedia though.  Wikipedia serves a great purpose and IS the most accessible source of information at my fingertips (when my Internet is not out).

The collaborative efforts to produce “Loose Change” was impressive, but was it easy to dismiss?  Yes.  I was intrigued and piqued until a particular part about cruise missiles that I, as a military member, could call B.S. on.  After that point, it became less reputable.

Unfastened Coins“, on the other hand, was VERY convincing and kept me intrigued all the way through — great parody.

Overall, there is concrete evidence that crowdsourcing works and there is continued promise.  The sum of crowdsource-generated content should be the beginning and not an end for information.

Final questions.  How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy?   They could hire experts in certain fields to validate content and identify those entries.  However, the thing that has made Wikipedia successful IS the transparency and the ability for anyone to submit what they know on a subject.  It SHOULD remain open to everyone.

Lastly, as a test, I picked one of the more obscure subjects of my short history in this world: my senior year of high school mascot, The Leesville High School Wampus Cat!

After moving from Berlin, Germany to Leesville, Louisiana, my father was showing my sister and I our new high school.  When I asked, “Dad, what is a Wampus Cat?” he stumbled and tap-danced around before answering, “Son, I have no f—ing idea.”

Too bad for him, he could have used Google, Wikipedia. Monstropedia, WikiFurChaCha, and TheSupernaturalWorld as starters.

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Teamwork

I thought this was a pretty cool video.  I like it because it says something to me about the things I’ve picked up in my Social Media class.  The video portrays several people from around the planet collaborating on the project.  Enjoy!

How an American Soldier is Made

soldier066This is a fantastic series of photographs titled How an American soldier is made.

For 27 months, Ian Fisher, his parents and friends, and the U.S. Army allowed Denver Post reporters and a photographer to watch and chronicle his recruitment, induction, training, deployment, and, finally, his return from combat.

As a combat infantryman with stints in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former basic training company commander, this is a telling view of what it can be like for a young soldier straight into the Infantry.

    The multimedia project, including all the photos, video and special features, can be viewed at www.denverpost.com/americansoldier.

    What Have I Learned?

    Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten on the internet.

    Social media is here.  It is a part of our daily lives.

    In this blog: what have I found most surprising so far this semester in my Social Media class? What have I learned in class that most changed my thinking or my way of working?

    We are in the infancy of the digital age, at the beginning of a transformation that has already changed the way we do business.  Being one of the older “kids” in the class, I have witnessed this transformation.  When I was a senior at Providence College, I was still cranking out papers on a word processor (I bet half of my class does not know what white-out is).  As a 2nd Lt. in the Army, I still had to write awards on typewriters.

    Two things that have opened my eyes since starting this class seven weeks ago:

    1. What the future looks like for the Internet, Social Media, Social Networking.  I am in awe of what can be developed to help us make our lives easier.  However, for the first time, I am scared of what the trade-off is.  By succumbing to sites that feed off of our personal information to make our experiences on those sites better, do I  write “free checks” giving up my personal identity?

    2. The Internet is an open, global community.  It lies in the hands of its millions of users.  As with Blogger, that allowed anyone to become a journalist and publisher, people are now building everything on their ownThe mobile device will be the primary connection tool to the internet for most people in the world in 2020.    With new technologies and social structures, users will continue to work together to find answers, participate in solutions.

    Those are the big picture things.  The smaller things — how I work — has changed with daily doses of Google Reader, Firefox, and the sites and Twitter feeds I follow.

    I’ve learned to embrace the new technologies, but I still hold close that nothing beats a real conversation, nothing beats the great outdoors.  Do not take today’s technology for granted.  “We are the crappiest generation of spoiled idiots.”

    My Life of Gaming: From Pong to Tecmo Bowl to Halo 3

    Halo 3 ODSTOK, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I started my home-gaming experience on an Atari in 1980.  Even the most basic game, Pong, drew a young kid like me (and older kids, my Dad) in.  It doesn’t surprise me that gaming has maintained and has grown in popularity.

    I’m surprised at how the popularity in the gaming industry has exploded.

    What DOESN’T surprise me is how addictive it can be and the rate at which gaming in the U.S. and the world over, is growing.

    As mentioned in our class blog, “they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train new soldiers).” I had a VERY unique job as the Chief of the Virtual Training Program for all Soldiers in Europe from 2000-2001.  These virtual training programs were not your average PS3 or Xbox plug-into-your-TV kind.  They were million-dollar replicates of M-1 Abrams Tanks, M2/M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and the combination of U.S. Army Helicopters.  Even in 2000 they were very sophisticated.

    Why is virtual training important in the military? Several reasons:

    1. Training costs money.  One M-1 Abrams tank gets 0.6 gallons per mile (take that Prius!); or about 300 gallons every eight hours.  Artificial and live rounds (bullets, missiles, etc.) cost a lot as well.
    2. There are training restrictions when conducting live training.  You can’t shoot anywhere you want due to safety guidelines, etc.
    3. Limited number of hours a unit can train, depending on where the training location is located.  For instance, because of noise agreements between the U.S. and Germany, night training is limited to certain hours on certain days.
    4. Safety.  With extremely high safety standards and extensive risk assessments, there are still fatal accidents when conducting live training .  Poor weather and/or road conditions, extreme fatigue and several other variables factor into why.
    5. Gaming is a part of today’s Soldiers’ culture.  Just about every Soldier of mine has some kind of gaming device and favorite game they like to play.  One of my Soldier’s in Italy, on a two-week leave period, left his apartment to get food and toilet paper in between his marathon World of Warcraft sessions.  He was THAT addicted.

    While there are several benefits to gaming, as a new parent, I am hesitant to let my daughter game to her own free will.  I am very thankful my parents kicked my butt out of the house, made me play sports.  Had they not, I am sure, left to my devises, I would still be playing Space Invaders.

    Bling-bling for Army Public Affairs

    brig generalYesterday, they Army promoted one of this year’s 39 Colonels to Brigadier General in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  What’s significant about yesterdays is that it is the first time in a decade a career public affairs officer has pinned on a star.  Brigadier General Lew Boone was the officer promoted.  As much as I would like to say the promotion has everything to do with importance of public affairs in today’s Army with the complex media landscape, it REALLY has everything to do with Lew Boone.  I am not just writing this to be a kiss-ass (only 7 unique people read this blog, none of them military).  I am writing this because it was then-Col. Boone I turned to for help when I first started in the public affairs world.

    • How can I be heard at a table where everyone outranks me?  – Call Col. Boone.
    • How do I deal with 75,000 protesters against base expansion?  – Speed dial, Boone!
    • What do I do when a helicopter crashes and Soldiers are killed?  – Speed dial, Boone!

    Not once was he too busy for this little major.  Not once did he give bad advice.

    My new boss at the time, now Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, is a very intense, intelligent, engaging commander who both understands and knows how to use public affairs.  I, as a newly promoted Major, had just transferred from the Infantry branch to public affairs.  Aside from being photographed in Iraq a couple of times, I did not know a single thing about public affairs. I couldn’t even get “qualified” because of a backlog at the Defense Information School where they teach the Public Affairs Officer Qualification Course.  I replaced a seasoned, career public affairs Colonel (essentially three ranks higher than I).  So, to say the least, Gen. Helmick was getting a raw deal.  Had it not been for Col. Boone, his patience and sage advice, I KNOW I would have been shi*-canned.  How do I know?  Gen. Helmick told me…the first day I met him!

    Congrats to the Boone Family!

    More importantly, thank you Big Army for getting this one right.  Brig. Gen. Boone has undoubtedly mentored hundreds of Soldiers and civilians throughout his career.  Its good to know, he’ll be able to continue to do so for hundreds more.

    Should We Be Afraid Of Google? – Response 5

    If it is too Google to be true…then it probably is.

    I wrote that to be funny.  Pretty good, huh?  But I don’t necessarily agree with my pun.

    My first dance with Google began in 1999.  A friend recommended the search engine to me and the music has never stopped.  I have not come close to using all 150+ Google domains, but I have used many: Gmail, Analytics, Calender, Froogle (now Google Product Search), Maps, Earth, News, Docs, Translate and several more.  I still use other tools on the internet, but when Google comes out with something new, I will always check it out.  Why?  Because usually their products are well thought out, useful, and free.

    Google’s mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    And it is all for “Free”.  Yeah, right!  How can one of the world’s top companies turn a profit when everything they provide to the layman is free?  Easy.  “Google generates the majority of its revenue by offering advertisers measurable, cost-effective and highly relevant advertising” (sounds like corporate speak to me Mr. CEO — what does Cluetrain say?) “so that the ads are useful to the people who see them as well as to the advertisers who run them.”  By knowing and understanding consumer’s clickstreams and purchases, Google understands our behaviors.   Behavioral targeting uses information collected on an individual’s web-browsing behavior to select which advertisements to display to that individual.

    Battelle‘s The Search says “intent drives search.”  I can’t remember a single time when I sat down to a computer, opened a search engine, and didn’t have a reason — an intent — to type in what I was looking for.  Even when I have closed my eyes and mashed the keyboard, it was to see what I would get out of it.  Maybe I would find a super-secret site out of total luck.  I don’t do this often though, I’ve seen War Games.  Search is evolving and continually trying to improve.  Battelle writes, “At the end of the day, the holy grail of all search engines is to decipher your true intent–what you are looking for, and in what context.  I still don’t always get what I look for, but it sure beats sifting through the card catalog at the library with the hope of finding what your looking for is even there.

    Could Google end up owning the internet?  They certainly have a large stake in the Internet, but I don’t think they will OWN it.  I somewhat agree with this statement from DailyFinance: “I would view Google as the barometer for all of the Internet, but not of technology.”  “Google is largely advertising and consumer demand. With search, you need proactive consumers looking and wanting to buy online.”  Plus, the internet has become too much a part of our daily lives in the developed world (and beyond) that it has become a human right in some countries.  An entity who owns the internet could possibly regulate it.  The internet is global; a collection of inter-networked computer systems that spans the globe.  Governments around the world would not let someone own the internet.  I think Larry Page and Sergey Brin respect that, based on principle moreso than their ability to do so, nobody can own the internet.

    Alternative search engines matter because

    (1)  they can specifically focus on niches that cater to certain groups (Blinxx, IMDB, USA.gov, MapMachine, etc) and

    (2) competition is good for the market place; new ideas emerge.  Where would Google be if we had settled on AltaVista, Excite or Yahoo?

    I believe in Google’s motto “Don’t Be Evil.”  I think they are a sincere company who are out to change the world…for good.

    I’m not afraid.

    Soldier Mocked Over Loss of Legs

    A BBC report today reported British youths made fun of a British Soldier who had lost both legs and an arm while conducting operations in Afghanistan.

    Sapper Matthew Weston, 20, from Taunton, England, stepped on a bomb while on patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on 29 June.

    While he was being treated at Selly Oak hospital in Birmingham his mother took him out shopping where they encountered a group of “boisterous” youths.

    The youths were reported to have shouted, “He’s lost something… like his legs”.

    This is one of the times when you just WISH you had been there.  As much as I like to think I am a peaceful kind of guy, I don’t know if I could have contained myself.  The group of obnoxious, disrespectful youths would likely have lost something themselves: their teeth.

    Is Social Networking Bad for Our Kids?

    In a Oct. 13 article written in the Telegraph, the question is posed: Is social media bad for our children?

    There are a lot of questions that have been brought up with the emergence and popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, and MySpace, but this is the first time I have seen this question raised.  It is a good one.  And it is not just for kids.  Do social networking sites make me more social or less?

    For our younger generation, let’s ask it this way:  By allowing children to hole up in their rooms and “play” with their “virtual” friends, do parents do their children a disservice for future interaction?  Say you are a pimply, clumsy teenager.   Is it better for you to avoid the anxiety and abuse that comes with being an average or less than popular student by NOT engaging with peers face-to-face?  I think for most of us, we are defined in large part to how we spent our middle and high school years, for better or for worse.

    The Telegraph article revolves around a discussion group among parents and technology and sociology experts  One of the parents was Stanley Kirk Burrell, more popularly known as MC Hammer, who has six children.  In my opinion, he hits the nail on the head:  “Social media is the rock ‘n’ roll of the early 21st century.”  That is pretty insightful.  (Almost as much as his 1988 hit U Can’t Touch This).  For those old enough, let’s rewind to 1984 and ask our parents if they thought Madonna‘s Like a Virgin or Twisted Sister‘s We’re Not Gonna Take It were bad for us.  Those hits, among other classic 80’s songs, probably got enough parents questioning the tastes of their children and the direction they were headed.

    As Chris Anderson discusses in the  The Long Tail, the music industry is not producing the hits anymore.  He gives several reasons for this, but another one of those reasons could be more directly related to Burrell’s charge: kids just aren’t that interested in music as they were before.  What they are interested in is instant messaging, texting, playing video games, and producing machinima.

    This brings up my final question regarding the topic:  Is America’s child obesity problem directly related to the amount of time they spend online?  When we got our Atari in 1980, it was hard to keep me away from smashing record scores in Space Invaders, Pong, and Pitfall.  I was addicted.  But I knew when my Dad came home from work that I had to ditch the indoor games and get outside or I’d get in trouble.  (I think the REAL reason he didn’t want me to spend all the time on the Atari was less for  my health than to keep me from embarrassing him when we played one another – didn’t work.)  Since Atari and home video games, the obesity rates for children have tripled.  At least with Atari, if you had to play against someone, you had to do it next to one another.  “In your face, Jimbo!”  “Pass the chips.”

    Regardless of whether or not you think social networking is good or bad for kids, it is something to think about.  My daughter of three months is not quite at the Storm Peaks level in World of Warcraft, but I’ll already be thinking about this as she grows up.  How much is too much?

    Response #4: “Life is not a dress rehearsal!”

    Hiking, rappelling, sliding, swimming, jumping, sometimes freezing, but always smiling: this is canyoning.

    Canyoning, also known as kloofing in South Africa, and more commonly known as canyoneering in the U.S., is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling, and/or swimming.

    My first canyoning adventure took place over a Fourth of July weekend, 2000, in the adventure town of Interlaken, Switzerland (my favorite place in the world).  Friends descended on Interlaken from all over Europe and Australia for an ultimate “dude” weekend.  The goal for the weekend was to release as much adrenaline as humanly possible without killing ourselves.  Bungee jumping, paragliding, mountain biking, white-water rafting, and canyoning were on the menu: Mission Accomplished!

    For me, the best part of the weekend’s adventures was canyoning.  Here are a couple clips to give you a taste of what it is all about.  The second clip is the same group I went with in Interlaken (Outdoor Interlaken), sorry no sound:

    It’s not just the adventure of canyoning, but meeting similar people who enjoy these activities that make it so much fun.  The crew of 15-20 of us who were in the same canyoning group hung out for the rest of the weekend; people from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Spain and the U.S.  When you finish chuting down canyons, slamming into rocks at break-neck speeds, you want to go drink beers and talk about it.

    That’s where the quote came from.  One of the Aussies was on a one-year walkabout (no he is not Aborigine, but term used by Australians for extended 6 month+ vacation).  He was a SWAT team police officer from Adelaide, Australia, who was traveling around the world after being shot during his duties.  His quote,  “Life is not a dress rehearsal!” summed up the weekend.

    Following the Interlaken adventure, I enjoyed the canyoning rush a few more times in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia.

    While canyoning is more popular in Europe, canyoneering in the U.S. is starting to catch on.  Popular destinations are Arizona, Colorado, California, and Utah.

    The authority in the U.S. is the American Canyoneering Association.  Based in Cedar City, Utah, founded in 1999, their primary focus is training.  The ACA is the only non-profit organization in America offering technical canyoneering courses. Through their courses, workshops, rendezvous and informative online forums, the ACA has introduced more people to canyoneering than any other organization in America.

    If the opportunity presents itself and you have the cajones, DO IT!  Give canyoning a go.

    Life is not a dress rehearsal!

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