These days, I spend most of my time in public service and philanthropy, which is my way to continue the unspoken purpose of the site I started some 20 years ago. (This is on a purely volunteer basis. I receive no compensation in any form for it, and pay all my own expenses. Here's why…)
That's what I seriously consider my "industry" and its state is hopeful, if people can work together via Internet-based tools.
Ultimately, I feel that, as Theodore Parker said, "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice" and that the Internet offers the means by which we all can help. Specifically, we can help by helping people who make that happen.
There are a lot of ways to do this, like providing connectivity where it's hard to get, or investigating bad actors who interfere with people who actually get stuff done. (The latter is seriously problematic. There are a lot of fake nonprofits out there fundraising using fake surveys, etc… how accountable and transparent is your favorite charity? A few years ago, CIR posted America's 50 worst charities…)
This broadly involves giving a voice to those who are effectively voiceless, where there's little hope, and acting on their behalf.
Since I tend to stick with what I know, here's a little something regarding two groups who don't get no respect, and could use a hand: news consumers and Federal workers.
As a news consumer, I just want news I can trust. I'm happy to pay for that. I'd like news orgs to commit to reasonable guidelines of trustworthiness, that is, a code of ethics with accountability. As an outsider, I'm supporting the effort which has some chance of achieving this (the Trust Project and here, including the suggestions made by Jeff Jarvis).
In simplest terms, my thinking is that a news outlet can commit to a good code of ethics and hold itself accountable to that. You can find a good start with the Society of Professional Journalists or the Online News Association.
The reward could be that articles from committed news orgs could possibly be ranked higher in news aggregation like that from Google News or in news feeds like provided by Facebook. That is, the algorithms used would consider trustworthiness when listing articles or making them more visible in feeds.
The hard part? Figuring out how to deal with untrustworthy news outlets that falsely claim adherence to a code of ethics. I'm not talking about an occasional lapse, but perhaps with how such lapses are treated.
There are other tough problems in journalism, like what Jon Stewart referred to as "CNN leaves it there." The essence of this problem involves accountability where a news org knowingly promotes a lie.
Yes, it won't be easy, but this is the best and only hope I'm aware of.
Another group of people who could use a hand are government workers, and Feds in particular. They're convenient targets for bad actors in politics and in news media.
For example, regular workers at the IRS and Department of Veterans Affairs have been the subject of blame for problems that lie either elsewhere (Congress) or with a few people making decisions years ago.
Here I'd like to note some irony; I'm a libertarian of a centrist nature, having abandoned ideological dogma some decades ago. I've noted that bureaucracy is required to make a society work. The opposite of bureaucracy is like Somalia or any "failed state."
I feel strongly that Feds and other government workers need to stand up for themselves, using social media.
When they have a good program going, post it to reach out to the people they're trying to help.
When attacked unfairly, respond with the facts, and do so relentlessly.
I've had no luck at all making this happen, but I'll give it maybe 20 years, relentlessly posting related news, adding the following:
After all, a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do…