Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An appropriate discussion

Received a note this morning from a blogger fearful I was going to use his off-color Superman joke in the Sunday Blog Watch article:

John, I'm not sure how you select material from my blog House of Eratosthenes, http://mkfreeberg.webloggin.com. Sometimes your page picks up nominations for "best" that I don't think are all that good. It's very quick about it, and I assume you've attached something automatic to my RSS feed.

Which is fine, but lately you've scooped up some Superman-related humor that I doubt is appropriate for a family newspaper. Thought I should send you a quick note about it.

I suspect others may also be confused by how this site is arranged. As I explained to Mr Freeberg, The content on the front page is not what is considered for publication. That is simply an aggregation of all of the regional blogs that I monitor. (Minus stuff that is much more offensive than the Superman joke.)

Only the stuff at Blog Watch 2.1 is being considered for the article that appears in Sunday's Forum section.

Freeberg's concern actually illustrates what the people at The Bee feel is the problem with my concept of adding live blog watching to sacbee. The Bee managers fear someone will be offended and therefore nothing can be allowed. A too narrow view in my opinion.

Here is Mr. Freeberg's response to my explanation:

For what it's worth, I agree with you. I'm not a newspaper of course, but my sidebar lists hundreds of blogs on a permanent basis every single day. Most of them are politically-leaning and very passionate; I disagree with a good chunk of them. This has minimal effect on whether or not I'll route people there. If they're informative and interesting, the decision is made and in they go.

I would expect there's a lot of similarity between how much I think about this in my "profession," and how much concern you folks have for it in yours: Do you gather information more effectively by staying away from ideas too much "out of the mainstream," be they on the right or on the left, or can you learn more by embracing those extremes, so long as you're balanced in interpreting what they mean? One of the central premises we keep in mind here, is that if an idea or theory is perceived to be "moderate" or to occupy some happy-medium in between two extremes, this by itself does nothing to make the idea more credible. In other words, sometimes one side can be all right, and another side can be all wrong.

I've seen evidence that this doctrine, which we call the Doctrine of Equally Suspect Center, seems to be a source of lingering controversy among those who bring news. I'm sure you call it something else. As a longtime Sacramento resident who for the last fourteen years has been both pleased and disappointed with Bee coverage, I can vouch for the merit of your product being directly attached to the approach you're taking here. Keep the information "dirty," and let the readers make up their minds what is middle-of-the-road. You start filtering it, you destroy your own value.

Everyone doesn't agree with me on that. I see from the Letters section there are a lot of folks from the "right" and the "left" chastising you with a tone of "why did you print such-and-such?" or some variation of that. They apparently see it as part of your job, to keep certain things secret. I honestly don't even know why you bother to print those. I buy your paper to get news, not watered-down pablum.

Keep up the good work.

I replied to Mr. Freeberg, saying what I've said in this blog before: Newspapers in general and The Bee in particular are in danger of becoming irrelevant -- just a point of interest instead of a focus of community involvement. I am privy in a peripheral way to some of the discussions about what needs to change here at The Bee. Unfortunately, The Bee is a very big ship and it could run aground before anyone can manage to change its course. Meanwhile, The Bee celebrates its 150th birthday this week.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Sex and equality and blogs and comments

This morning's blog watching spotted a very interesting post from Phoblographer about the perils of dropping feminine pronouns. I've nominated the post for this week's blog watch and took time to comment on the post as well.

Here's the comment I posted:

I agree with your post that removing feminine pronouns reinforces existing biases that perceive women as generally less than men. But I would argue against the notion that there is a conspiracy that holds back comediennes. Our culture simply lets boys play more and thus develop comedic talents.

In Decemember 2005, I wrote a commentary for The Sacramento Bee that touched on this topic. Here's the relevant part:

Take as an example female editorial cartoonists. In the first 19 days of December, The Bee published 33 editorial cartoons, not counting Rex Babin's work. Just four were drawn by women.

Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News drew three of those cartoons. (Etta Hulme of the Forth Worth Star-Telegram drew the fourth.)

I e-mailed Wilkinson, explained the disparity I found in both letters and cartoonists and asked her why more women don't speak out.

"It seems to me," she e-mailed back, "men like to mouth off in public more than women do. You can see that either positively (they have so many more brilliant insights to share) or negatively (they have so many more needs that can only be satisfied by public displays of whatever). In either case, it seems to me that on average women take things more personally than men so don't like getting random e-mails from strangers that say, 'You idiot.' I get that and a lot worse from e-mail correspondents, mostly men.

"There is a growing number of women in politics and in political commentary, but it takes a bold, brazen article to weather the backdraft from putting strong opinions out in the public."

When my son entered kindergarten in 1996, I helped out in the classroom. The thing that amazed me then was what happened at playtime. Nearly all of the boys would go racing out into the playground, climbing on the equipment and generally running around. Meanwhile, most of the girls would gather at tables as though holding high tea. Where does this come from? It certainly didn't come from the teachers or the parent observers. I would argue that it is something so deeply engrained in humanity as to be instinctive.

The place between instinct bred over thousands of generations and the world of desired equality seems vast.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hot topics and Google Reader Trends

For those of you who have been away, the blog sharing portion of the site boasts some changes. It is now easier for me to create new "Hot Topics." I am particularly proud of the State of the Union topic, which I was able to start last night shortly after the speech. Separating a hot topic or two should add some interest for those who haven't the time to wade through the volume of posts here.

Speaking of volume, I've decided to dedicate a page for Google Reader Trends, rather than create a new story each time I update the images. These are the statistics generated as I process the original blog feeds using's Google's Reader.

Here is the most recent summary:

On the front page you notice that the "Disclaimer" link has been joined with a "Blog Trends" link. The trends link will take you to a standing page showing the most recent screenshots from Google Reader. Unfortunately, I can't just "share" the statistics. I'm limited to making screen captures and posting those.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An example of some real nice technology

In the right column of this site you will see an icon that either says "Click for Live Help" and "How may I help you" (when I'm watching the site) or "Leave a message" (when I'm away). This is a free open source program that I've installed. I installed it not so much so that I could engage in live chats with visitors -- no one has done that since I installed it -- but for the program's ability to display live info on who is visiting the site, what they are looking at and what brought them to the site.

Washington Post blog watching icon OK. That's example No. 1 of some real nice technology. However, what really prompted this post was the latest demonstration of the Washington Post's nifty trick of including "Who's Blogging" about particular articles.

As you can see by clicking on the image from the Washington Post site, ipsoSacto was one of the top four sites listed. In the space of a couple of hours this generated 15 unique visitors to the site. Unfortuntely, the story they were looking for was no longer on the front page, but those who bothered to click on the Iraq war topic found the post at the top of the column.

The ability to incorporate live content into a static newspaper article is simply the neatest trick of Web 2.0 technology I've seen recently.

Friday, January 19, 2007

TGIF and whatever

Checked the blogs at home at 9:23a.m.: 88 arrived in the last 10 hours, 51 of which were the gifts of the Capital Press Agriculture News. Maybe these aren't blog posts. But they do make my job sound more important. "Cleared 88 blogs just now. Whew!" as opposed to "Just 37 posts were added in last 10 hours."

Meanwhile, Internet access at work is the pits. I keep getting this error message:

error 403
This would be really infuriating, but while struggling to process the blogs through the molasses of our Internet connection I came across this:

Give a dame
(Hat tip to SheGeek )

That makes this all a little easier to take.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The joy of blog watching

It is clear that the grand ideas that prompted the creation of this site have evaporated under the sunlight of reality. Just ain't gonna happen. But all is not lost. I still have the Sunday Forum Blog Watch column and after this week's candidates (Click Here ), I'm really inspired to continue. At least that's how it feels now. In February, when the staff cutbacks hit, my enthusiasm may go the way of my grand ideas.

Today, it's onward. Cleared the blog queue by 11:30 a.m.

Afternoon backlog: 59 posts but the day job got in the way of clearing things out. By the end of the shift there are 60 blog posts in the queue at 6:15 p.m.

Sometimes I share what I find with the big guys, the ones who are required to sweat over the future of newspapers. I sent this note tonight:

In all of the dispute over the role of MSM vs. outside sources it's always important to keep things in perspective, which is best done with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

While puzzling over that, read this.

Now it's time to call it a day. Signing off at 6:56p.m.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Midweek or the end?

Cleared the blogs by 11:06 a.m. Didn't bother to count. What happens in February will be the topic of a meeting today. Those left after two staff departures will decide how the daily work gets divvied up. I was going to propose that the Blog Watch be the first thing to jettison, but then this morning two people took enough time to log in and vote. So if someone else is actually interested, maybe I could keep this going.

The problem is that I'm not going to be able to clear the blogs as often, which means that the stuff here is going to be that much farther removed from real time. The Blog Watch can maintain some value in that environment, but the concept of sampling the regional blogosphere really suffers.

Beyond the parochial...

While this site focuses exclusively on inland Northern California blogs, that's not the limit of my personal interest. I encourage people to visit the blog maintained by Iraqis in Baghdad who work for McClatchy Newspapers. Inside Iraq offers an unedited and very personal view of what life is like there.

In other catastrophes, there's always life in Portland when it snows:

Hat tip to Trout Underground

After the afternoon walk, during which a Postal Service van tried to make a left turn over my body in the crosswalk at N and Alhambra, I find 43 blog posts waiting in line. Cleared by 4:31 p.m.

More blog WMD: PollHost.com

One last check at work: 26 blog posts in the queue at 6:37 p.m. Cleared by 6:47p.m.

And still more blog treats: Online to-do list at www.rememberthemilk.com.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More Tuesday is Monday confusion

10:51a.m.: 67 blogs in the queue
11:41a.m.: Done. This is taking too long.

If your blog reading doesn't provide enough WMD (Weapons of Mass Distraction), there's always these quizzes.

2:03p.m.: 27 blog posts waiting.
2:26p.m.: Done

My New Year's resolution was to walk daily and I've managed to do that every day so far. You see a lot at ground level at walking speed. What, for instance, does it say about the landlord of storefront property when the shop space is "FOR RNET"?

At 6 p.m. I cleared the queue. Didn't count or time. Getting tired.

But for a bit of inspiration try this video:

And cleared the queue at 9:30p.m.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The lost Sunday

More than 18 hours between updates. If I were really working on something that actually mattered, if the blog watch project was watched by more than one individual, I might have someone to worry about, someone who wondered why 18 hours had gone by without an update. Instead, I just fret alone. I'm another step closer to abandoning this concept and settling for something I do just because I've found it fun.

At 6:13p.m., Google Reader reports 85 blog posts piled up in the queue.
7:09p.m. done

Part of this lost Sunday was spent in Midtown, first waiting for a table at Fox and Goose and then instead waiting at the Cornerstone Cafe. I've eaten before at Fox and Goose, but not at Cornerstone. I enjoyed the old school diner atmosphere.

What was the most interesting about the morning were the crowds. The streets were busy with traffic everywhere and at each restaurant we saw people waiting to get in. In 1989 I lived downtown in an apartment across from the Crocker Museum. Weekends were a surreal experience. It was like living two days a week in an abandoned city. Of course, that is what downtown Sacramento was then. Today, the city of Sacramento is a much livelier venue.


Blog Net News and such

The creators of Blog Net News contacted me about my efforts to monitor the regional blogosphere. While their content hardly represents a real view of Sacramento blogs, it is encouraging to see different efforts to monitor the blogs.

You can find out more about the idea behind BlogNetNews here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday again but which Thursday?

11:09a.m.: 78 blogs waiting in the queue.
11:44a.m.: Cleared.

Well, I guess it's going to be a less than stellar blog article this week. I suppose if I were to market this -- even just a little -- I might be able to tip it into self-sufficiency. But as long as I'm the only one working on this, the whole concept flops. And that's perhaps best as February and changes at work approach.

Anyone who has followed my notes to myself in this blog will understand why I found this blog post so funny.

When I first opened this site it was associated with the domain www.sbedletter.com. Soon after, however, it was suggested I use www.ipsosacto.com and that has stuck. I've noticed that people still arrive at www.ipsosacto.com using www.sbedletter.com. I suspect this was part of the problem I had a few weeks ago with cookies . People would come in under sbedletter and the site would lay down an ipsosacto cookie. That doesn't work. Anyway, I've turned off the virtual host directive the moved sbedletter traffic to ipsosacto. Now, www.sbedletter.com defaults to my root server page. Doesn't make any difference here at www.ipsosacto.com.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Thursday blog watching

10:46 a.m.: More than 100 blogs in the queue. Of those, 48 are political.
11:28 a.m.: Finally clear.

Google Reader now offers some interesting stats on the blogs I watch. As far as I have been able to learn, I can't automatically share this info. Until I figure out how to share, I will periodically include screen captures of the charts that Google Reader produces. See this story.

3:10 p.m.: 52 more blog posts in the queue.
3:32 p.m.: cleared.

As if my self-esteem as my employer's principal blog-watcher isn't low enough already, I get to edit and publish this opinion from a co-worker:

The initial source of Boxer's concern was the blogosphere, that sometimes subterranean sewer of suspect journalism, where reputation-besmirching rumor runs rampant.

Thank you very much.

On a lighter note, the Washington Post includes dynamic content with its articles, including a listing of who is blogging about an article. ipsoSacto was credited and linked to in this article. Since this is "dynamic" content, I suspect ipsoSacto's 15 seconds of fame will have expired by the time anyone follows that link back.

This evening I added a "Last updated..." line for the main blog sharing. Eventually I'll automate this time clock I'm keeping.

10:50 p.m.: 51 blog posts in the queue.
11:13 p.m.: queue empty.

Stupid Lakers. Stupid Kings. Stupid NBA basketball.

My wife was at the Kings game vs. the Lakers. I watched just the last two minutes and the overtime. I missed the Kings come-from-behind race to take the lead and instead got to watch the team self-destruct. It must be very frustrating to be a Kings fan. I'll stick to English football.