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Craig's Blog

Protecting the Internet via the upcoming FCC vote

Okay, long story short, this is about saving the Net for regular people, versus providing privileges for companies that spend lots of money lobbying in Washington and misinforming the American public.

The deal is that on February 26th, the FCC will vote on rules that promote strong Net Neutrality, which is about a level playing field so that regular people can compete with companies that prefer privilege over competition.

John Oliver makes it simple:

We’re talking about about what they call reclassifying Internet service provides as “Title II telecommunications services.” Specifically, the FCC is applying “light touch” Title II, with no rate regulation, no tariffs, no painful administrative filings, and no last-mile unbundling.

It’s not about Internet regulation, it’s about the best balance between government and market forces.

That’s required to protect American consumers from bad behavior, a big deal considering the following kind of thing:

verizon admits

photo2My deal is that that this Title II stuff regarding Net Neutrality is about basic fairness, about treating people like you’d like to be treated.

Let’s keep the Internet the best level playing field we can.

Salvation Through Comedy

Okay, I realize that I'm not as funny as I think I am, which Mrs. Newmark will remind me about now and then.

However, sometimes I want to confront people with an unpleasant truth, and confrontation often makes thing worse. (By "truth", I mean what I think is the truth; please adjust for that.)

In the mid-eighties at IBM Detroit, I had a really good manager, John S., who told me that my confrontational habit had polarized my coworkers. They either hated what I told 'em or loved it. He pointed out that my sense of humor might be my only saving grace.

It took little time for me to realize he was right, and that in practice, it frequently didn't matter if I was right. Aaron Sorkin got it right in the movie A Few Good Men:

Tom Cruise, in character, demands "I want the truth!" and Jack Nicholson responds: "You can't handle the truth!"

Maybe 20 years after watching the movie, I realized that comedy is what allows humans to understand an unpleasant truth.

Sometimes it doesn't matter if I'm not really all that funny, or have any more good material. As Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David reminded George Costanza, it's okay leaving them wanting more:

Okay, I really do realize I ain't all that funny, but it works.

I'm never going to do standup comedy, but in that spirit, please remember to tip the waiters!

In the meantime, check this out…

Toward Trustworthy News: “Lies, Damn Lies, and Viral Content”

We’re talking about an authoritative report regarding “how news websites spread (and debunk) online rumors, unverified claims, and misinformation.” That’s not, in itself, news, but it’s real valuable in that this report brings together and surfaces a lot of untrustworthy and very common practices.

My perspective, as usual, is that I’m a news consumer, never told anyone how to fix the news, I just want news I can trust. I’m not a news professional, haven’t “been there,” I’m an outsider, and continue to respect the boundaries. That’s why I rely on professional work like this.

I just don’t do the report or its methodology justice, so please check it out.

News websites dedicate far more time and resources to propagating questionable and often false claims than they do working to verify and/or debunk viral content and online rumors. Rather than acting as a source of accurate information, online media frequently promote misinformation in an attempt to drive traffic and social engagement.

Here’re the highlights:

• Many news sites apply little or no basic verification to the claims they pass on. Instead, they rely on linking-out to other media reports, which themselves often only cite other media reports as well. The story’s point of origin, once traced back through the chain of links, is often something posted on social media or a thinly sourced claim from a person or entity.

• Among other problems, this lack of verification makes journalists easy marks for hoaxsters and others who seek to gain credibility and traffic by getting the press to cite their claims and content.

• News organizations are inconsistent at best at following up on the rumors and claims they offer initial coverage. This is likely connected to the fact that they pass them on without adding reporting or value. With such little effort put into the initial rewrite of a rumor, there is little thought or incentive to follow up. The potential for traffic is also greatest when a claim or rumor is new. So journalists jump fast, and frequently, to capture traffic. Then they move on.

• News organizations reporting rumors and unverified claims often do so in ways that bias the reader toward thinking the claim is true. The data collected using the Emergent database revealed that many news organizations pair an article about a rumor or unverified claim with a headline that declares it to be true. This is a fundamentally dishonest practice.

• News organizations utilize a range of hedging language and attribution formulations (“reportedly,” “claims,” etc.) to convey that information they are passing on is unverified. They frequently use headlines that express the unverified claim as a question (“Did a woman have a third breast added?”). However, research shows these subtleties result in misinformed audiences. These approaches lack consistency and journalists rarely use terms and disclosures that clearly convey which elements are unverified and why they are choosing to cover them.

The report supports all this real solidly.

The Trust Project suggests we focus on the signals of trustworthy reporting. I’d suggest a few such signals, wherein an article would assert the following affirmatively or otherwise.

1. Are all claims/facts in the article verified by independent sources?

2. Are article headlines clickbait in the sense that they are sensationalized and inaccurate reflections of the stories?

3. Does the news org publish first, then relies on crowdsourced fact checking? (I formerly believed in that, then realized that considerable harm might be done prior to a correction.)

4. Does an article cite a party that hadn’t responded to requests for comment, if sufficient time is provided for comment. (I’ve seen cases where reporters requested comment very close to deadline, or very early morning, etc)

The news business is hard and getting harder, even if the intent isn’t trustworthy. I don’t want to be a hard case, just want news I can trust, and the Silverman reports helps point the way.

Why Crowdfunding’s a Good Idea

Folks, lots of people have been doing crowdfunding campaigns lately, myself included, and they're pretty effective. In 2013 alone, crowdfunding raised about $5.1 billion worldwide – something we showed in the infographic, Cracking the Crowdfunding Code.


Here's why crowdfunding's a good idea:

  1. Lots of people have good ideas, and I believe that the internet should be used to help people out (give real power to the powerless and a real voice to the voiceless). Crowdfunding really allows people to reach their goals, and also lets folks contribute to causes they believe in.
  2. Public teachers are a great case, doing mission critical work for little recognition and less pay. Once in a while they find students they prize, who show real promise, and that can be rewarding. Otherwise, it can be a tough life, worse when you feel the need to pay out-of-pocket for needed supplies, like pens and paper, with low pay. If you want to help, check out – it's an online charity that makes it easy for anyone to help students in need. Public school teachers from all over America post classroom project requests on the site, and you can give any amount to the project that most inspires you.
  3. Not only does crowdfunding impact the person who started the campaign, it generally impacts all the people who are participating. For example, I support the Veterans Charity Campaign and the Holiday Challenge each year, and they really help out vets, milfams, and nonprofits raising money for good causes. Another example is the crowdfunding campaign that Humans of New York started for the kids in Brooklyn – they've raised more than $1.1 million, in less than 3 weeks. It's the real deal.


Have you tried crowdfunding? What's been your experience? My whole philosophy's to really create change for the better, and I think this is a good start.

4 Useful Social Platforms Right Now

Hey, I'm pretty social online; something that might seem counter-intuitive considering I'm a hardcore nerd, but actually we nerds tend to be very comfortable online, that is often our primary social milieu. The informal email list/newsletter which evolved into craigslist was a great example of the kinda social I’m good at.

(Yes, otherwise, I'm fairly unsocial, having a limited social appetite.)

I like to keep in touch with what orgs are doing, and help 'em out when I can. For some time, I've been asked how nonprofits can share their stuff with me so that I can re-share it, and here's a guide on how to do that.


In the meantime, here are the social platforms that I think are really useful right now:

1. Medium has quickly become a serious platform for influencers to connect with other influencers and beyond.

The White House even released the State of the Union transcript on Medium before the speech started – something they've never done before. For the very first time, the entirety of the SOTU was available for public consumption in advance. (This made birding and SOTUing much more compatible…)

2. Twitter is the way I connect with people in a more casual way, it's a great way for people to have a voice and build their personal reputations and brands.

3. Facebook is a more challenging platform for people to connect, socially, or to get the word out. That challenge comes from increasing changes to the algorithm which controls what's shared with readers incoming streams.

4. LinkedIn is how people network, often preparing the way for future jobs, or sometimes to promote their companies. It's also, in part, a media platform for business networkers.

I tend to write a coupla times a month over on LI, mostly giving my opinion. Things like advice for your first 90 days at a new job, how to restore trust to the news, and knowing when to keep your mouth shut

What social platforms are the most useful for you? And what do you think'll be the best upcoming platforms in 2015?