VOTE!

Today November 8, 2005 is Election Day in Chapel Hill and many parts of North Carolina. We’re having odd year municipal elections for Mayor, Town Council, and School Board. It’s a non-partisan election with candidates and incumbent politicians who are mostly democrats.

So this morning I voted. Before I met Ruby and moved to Chapel Hill I voted, but I didn’t really believe in it. I didn’t think it made any difference. I just did it because I was taught that’s what you do. Then in the year two thousand I signed a petition to get Ralph Nader on the ballet in Virginia. Amazingly he made it on the ballot and that year I voted for him for president. It was a first big step towards multiparty election system (more than two serious political parties). More than anything it gave me a sense of hope that our electoral system can actually work sometimes.

In a so called Red State like North Carolina having two towns like Chapel Hill and Carrboro that are so politically liberal is an anomaly. [ We’ll except for Asheville 🙂 ] It’s amazing to me because I never imagined living so long in such a conservative state. After the hell that is conservative Virginia I vowed never to go back. No where else I’ve lived has fit me so well. Sure we have the Peoples Republic of Berkley, CA and big cities like NYC where just about anything is tolerated but these small southern towns represent me. Chapel Hill is very southern, intellectual, creative, liberal, radical, peaceful, and warm.

North Carolina is called RED because its people historically vote for Republicans to national offices like Senator and President. Aesthically speaking the fact that conservatives and their arch enemies – Socialist, Communist, and Anarchists – claim the color red is weird. It’s is especially odd to me, a graduate of a fine arts program and a very visually oriented person. What does this mean from a social physiological perspective? I’m getting side tracked…

Sadly elections in Chapel Hill and Carrboro are decided by a very small percentage of the people who live here. Elections are won and lost on tens to hundreds of votes. For a politician it is literally possible to shake the hand of every person who votes for you. This makes the races very much a personality contest. Surprised? The polls are open to everyone and people work hard to get everyone to vote, but still many people stay away. Unfortunately, I can understand this. If you don’t feel like voting helps or means anything you just don’t care to.

Now that I’ve been more exposed to local politics I vote with conviction. Local politicians in Chapel Hill and Carrboro actually represent a large part of my values and work very hard to create positive change. Some how these towns have cultivated an environment where we elect wonderful people. It’s certainly not “balanced” politically. It’s decidedly unbalanced. But that’s ok with me. It’s progressive, liberal, moderate, closet conservative, and left wing radical. It’s our oasis in a sea of neo-conservative politics. It’s a semi-autonomous zone of political freedom. I love living here and will vote to keep it progressive and free.

¡Viva Chavez!

It was a joy to watch Hugo Chavez on C-SPAN the other day. It was hard to believe that my corporate controlled TV could be showing an entire speech by the most popular socialist leader in decades. But at least three other cable news channels were spewing lies to spin Chavez as a dictator. I wonder how accurate the English translation of his speech was?

Chavez spoke after the final march of the Third Peoples Summit in Mar del Plata, Argentina. This event was a counter protest of Summit of the Americas and President Bush’s arrival in Argentina.

Here are people and organizations who’ve covered this event, the issues behind it, and sent me to great links. Stan Goff, Rabble of Anarogeek.com, Read World Radio FM, Democracy Now!, Free Speech Radio News, and Argentina Indymedia (Spanish).

Data Gathering Swarms

Amazon.com has announced the Amazon Mechanical Turk beta. Basically they’ve created a software API (Application Programming Interface) to distribute work requests that people perform better than computers. Marty Kearns describes it as a Network-centric work service. There are lots of things humans do better than computers. Imagine paying the world to help you do heavy data lifting efficiently. Have you heard of the SETI@home project where people donate their computers spare power to find aliens? Imagine that scalling to do lots of different projects accross the entire world!

I’d like to see the AMT used for a audio and video transcription and translation service. In a relatively short amount of time we could have lots of text to search and sort that was beforehand locked away. What could this mean to politics? How about equal information access to the disabled? It could bring about radical transparency in broadcast media!

Paris Riots 2005

Here is some news coverage and thoughts about the riots going on in the suburbs of Paris from sources I trust.

From Free Speech Radio News:
Paris Still Burning
All night rioting in mostly immigrant towns around Paris left at least 300 cars burned. Last night was the worst violence in the past week’s clashed between youth and police, while Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin was involved in talks between police and immigrant group representatives. France’s right-wing government is now facing a major crisis after the week of urban violence. Riots sparked off by the deaths of two teenagers have opened up divisions in the government’s ranks and is reminding the country of decades of neglect of low-income housing projects, which often house families of immigrant origin. FSRN Tony Cross has more from Paris.

(Section about the riots starts 11min 31sec into this mp3.)
FSRN 11/03/2005 MP3

From a friend who is fluent in French:
I read le monde. It’s like the NY Times. So I don’t how much bias I get. French newspapers tend to be more critical of their governments. Apparently Sarkozy the [French] Minister of Interior is just fanning the fire instead of doing something constructive.

This stuff has been brewing for years and the current french economic and political climate is not helping. There’s nothing more volatile as high unemployment and Giuliani-like view of criminal justice/desire to do everything like les Americains. They always present french racism & xenophobia + fear of all things muslim.

Some guy recommended the movie “la haine” to get a sense of youth disaffection in the suburbs. It’s by the french Spike Lee. [Mathieu Kassovitz] The French administration is not very liberal so who knows what may happen next. Those kids just have had enough of police brutality, everyday institutionalized racism, and poverty. They have nothing to lose. I don’t think they are gangs or hoodlums as Sarkozy wants everyone to believe…

Triangle Blogger’s Bash, Durham, November 15

Blogging isn’t just a faceless virtual activity reserved for geeks. All kinds of bloggers actually meet in person the old fashioned way. These get-togethers known as Blogger Meetups can be a safe and fun way to meet the people who live near you. And no it really isn’t a new dating scene. 🙂

Before I went to the Triangle Bloggers Conference last year I only knew a few people in Chapel Hill. But now thanks to Anton Zuiker a.k.a. MisterSugar, the conference organizer, several neighbors meet every other week. These folks have become a very important part of my local community. Their blogs have become an important way for me to stay in touch and learn new things from them. (See blogtogether.com for details.)

On Tuesday, November 15 from 7-9 p.m we’re having a Triangle Blogger’s Bash at Durham’s American Tobacco Historic District. The event will include a walking tour of WUNC’s new studios, a catered reception, talking about podcasting, and drinks at Tyler’s Speakeasy next door. Everyone is invited. Come to learn about blogging, podcasting, and meet your neighbors who have those cool blogs you read all the time.

Seven Days

From Rob Brezsny’s Free Will Astrology:

LIBRA (Sept.23-Oct.22): In one of his books, the Dalai Lama challenges readers to go just 10 minutes without having a negative thought about another person. When I told this to my acquaintance Arthur, he said, “What a simplistic, overrated fraud that Dalai Lama dude is. It;s totally easy to go 10 minutes without dissing someone.” Your assignment, Libra, is to submit to a marathon version of the challenge. See if you can go seven whole days without having a negative thought about anyone. His Holiness implies there’s a good selfish reason for doing so: it helps you cultivate a state of mind in which peaceful contentment is a natural condition. (bold mine)

I read this in the Independant as I walked to work this morning. I had for some unknown chearful reason said hello rather loudly to two different men at this point. I think they appreciated me saying hello.

Last night I was in a rather bad mood. I’d said some rather harsh words to someone I didn’t know. I went to bed worn out. I wonder what I dreamed last night? This morning was different. Thank you for sharing His Holiness advice Mr. Brezsny.

PodcasterCon is an OPEN event

PodcasterCon is OPEN in many ways. Here’s a few examples.

  • It’s FREE as in free beer. It doesn’t cost money to enter.
  • Anyone can attend
  • Anyone can propose a session subject
  • Everyone can talk to each other, if they care too
  • Being there physically is ideal but not required.
  • It’ll be documented for future use by all
  • English may not be the only language used at the event or for documentation.
  • White males aren’t the only people who will attend

Events about social movements like blogging and podcasting should be two way read/write activities. To do otherwise is wrong.

What are some other ways PodcasterCon should be open?

Annotating: Metadata about Media

The tagline of this blog is Metadata about Media Activism. It is my way of saying I want to share with you the information I find about media activism – and other stuff. Information about information a.k.a. metadata. What if it was a lot easier to share and receive this metadata?

With all the audio and video being created and shared it’s hard to sift through it all. I try to navigate this sea of info [text, audio, video] by using chance. I scan other peoples blogs and hope they link to cool stuff I like. If something floats by me then I check it out. If it doesn’t I just wait for another bit of info to make it’s way to me. More times than not if something is important it circles back into my point of view. [Not always] In turn I link to stuff I hope other people will like. My hope is that our loose network of information sharing will better inform us.

Other times I seach for specific keywords that relate to things I want to know. This is where great search engines like Google come in.

When we scan we’re looking for a hook. A bit of information that captures our interest enough to dig deeper. To read a few hundred more words, to listen to a few more minutes of audio, or to watch more video. A good way to create a better hook is to create metadata about your content in a easy to search/scan format. As of this writing the most acurate format for search/scan is text.

Lots of people are working on software that annotates audio and video with text metadata to facilate better scanning and searching. This is also known as comments or “rich media clipping”. One recent example of multimedia annotation software is the BBC Annotatable Audio project. It’s a rather amazing flash application that allows you to listen to audio and create text notes about specific audio sections you select. (Check out the mov demos – editing / annotating a programme Quicktime Mov file (4Mb).) I just wish it was a open source peice of software that the entire world could benefit from. As far as I know this inovation just sits somewhere on a BBC R&D computer. A few other examples of annotating software, aka “rich media clipping”, were mentioned on J. D. Lasica’s blog in his post Annotating rich media. Including one being developed by Our Media.

Don’t blogs already create metadata about audio and video content ? When podcasters share their work they usually create blog posts about it. Often the create detailed show notes in OPML to annotate their audio. I supose people are trying to figure out simple ways to do this for all multimedia content. The solutions that work the best will be ones that help get more people involved. Social software for metadata creation and collection.