Archive for March, 2008

Last night I did something I haven’t done in awhile; I watched the CBS Evening News. From as early of an age as I can remember, I’ve always liked the news, regardless of whether it was print or broadcast media. Basically, I’m a news junkie.

The news stories presented last night included timely topics. One talked about a potential troop surge in Afghanistan. Another was about a hay shortage in horse country due to the drought. The story went on to tell how hay prices have nearly doubled and how some horse owners were abandoning their horses because they can no longer afford to feed them.

Another story talked about the rise in diesel fuel prices and how that is effecting the prices of consumer goods. There was also a story on falling home prices, foreclosures and falling stock prices as well as a story about eroding coastlines along eastern England. I watched each one as they progressed from bad to worse.

A sense of doom had set in by the time the broadcast ended. As I thought about the millions of people who had watched this same broadcast, I realized that in less than thirty minutes, broadcast news had just hurled millions of Americans into further feelings of fear and despair. I thought about how our collective mindset was being pulled down and how force-fed depression would impact the lives of the people around me. After all, a bad attitude is contagious.

While perhaps important to know, the story about the fuel prices could have been a segue to the benefits of planting a vegetable garden. The hay shortage caused by the drought could have been followed by a story about water conservation, but traditional media appears to have no interest in offering solutions.

The more I thought about this the more I realized that by spending my time with people who remain optimistic and who focus on solutions rather than fear and despair, I myself have few misgivings about the world in which I live. I don’t live with my head in the sand by any means. I do however, prefer to spend my days with feelings of success rather than defeat.

Under such circumstances, the need for two-way or conversational media becomes more vital than ever. The Columbus Social Media Cafe is aiming to do just that. By brining together like minded folks who are involved in their communities and who have a propensity for uncovering solutions, residents of Central Ohio now have the chance to interact with media. This project is not the only two-way media available in Central Ohio, but it is the first to be sponsored, in part, by a media source that uses television and radio. Public radio and television have always been the “alternative source” and this project continues that momentum.

We’re a rich and vibrant community in the most prosperous part of Ohio. Here, we grow ideas, experiment with the arts, enjoy our parks and expand our minds. These are the very things that propel us into a better world and creating a more robust dialogue helps all of us find the solutions that are important in an ever-changing world.

More has been posted about WOSU’s social media project at the Columbus Social Media Cafe site, which includes information for the next event, as well as a rough draft of the elements that build this new local venue for two-way and conversational media. Please join us.

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Here’s the first of five video clips from the most recent meeting of the Columbus Social Media Cafe. Visit the Media Cafe site to view the remaining clips or subscribe to all of WOSU’s video clips with your YouTube log in.

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A friend once convinced me that beliefs are less productive to a culture than values. While beliefs may be the proclamation, values are what drive them and without a strong value system, beliefs can quickly become useless words.

Here’s a great example: If the cultural value is “natural resources” then the beliefs, the actions that support the value, would include recycling, conservation and preservation. These actions are congruent. If the belief is that carbon emissions need to be reduced and we do nothing personally to change that, then our actions demonstrate a weak or non-existent value system. The lack of the value system creates inaction, and thus the belief is essentially false.

As the Columbus Social Media Cafe moves towards better defining itself and its goals, it becomes more important to define its collective values than it is to create a mission statement. A mission statement can certainly define the group activities, but a value statement offers the group a way to live and breathe the mission, which will develop naturally as a result.

There appears to be a common value in those that attend this WOSU/COSI sponsored event. The driving value seems to be “strong community”. That value would support the belief that Columbus is a great place to live, work and create. Our individual and collective contribution to our community becomes the action.

While the Columbus Social Media Cafe has yet to fully define itself, it appears as if the values are moving the group forward. We’re planning our next meeting in one of Columbus’ communities in an attempt to bring together individuals who may not otherwise attend. We’re working on a creating a Social Media toolbox which will teach individuals how to interact with new technologies in order to help create stronger communities. Our goal at the next gathering is to have a thirty-minute hands-on workshop for those in attendance.

We know that our readers and participants value strong communities and those of us involved in this project value your continued participation so please consider joining us even if it’s just to listen.

Our next meeting will take place on Tuesday April 29th at the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) in Dublin, Ohio. Directions and information are available at the Columbus Social Media Cafe online site.

A full recap of our most recent meeting is available at Andrew Miller’s site, Elephants on Bicycles.

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Ongoing discussions about what Social Media looks like and feels like continue as we prepare for Tuesday’s (3/18/08) Columbus Social Media Cafe hosted by WOSU and COSI.

One goal is to create hyper-local media that’s unique and compelling and have WOSU be the megaphone that spreads the word. Another goal is to create a dialogue that inspires conversation and interaction among the residents of Columbus. And we agree that there’s a need to add more voices to this dialogue. There is a goal to educate people on the use of Social Media so that we hear more of the voice of Columbus.

While many of these goals are yet to be fully defined in operational context, there are two sites that appear to have similar approaches to Social Media and both are associated with Public Radio.

The first is Vocalo which is associated with Chicago Public Radio, WBEZ. Vocalo offers a variety of media options to cultivate ideas. People can create and share stories simply by calling a telephone number and leaving a message. People can also submit text, photos and videos.

There is also a “how to Vocalo” page which becomes a sort of toolbox to help get people started, and the site offers an entire tag-cloud page as well as a keyword search option.

Another is a project by NPR known as Get My Vote. Here users can contribute video, audio and text as a method of sharing ideas surrounding the November election. This site also has a page of tips for creating good commentary.

Have a look at both of these sites and share your ideas with us. The Columbus Social Media Cafe will meet at 6:30pm Tuesday March 18th at COSI in downtown Columbus. Your participation makes a difference and we look forward to seeing and hearing from you.

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Suzanne, who writes for the blog “Zanne”, is embarking upon her own COTA Challenge. Read how she plans to take advantage of the life-style changes offered by using public transportation.

Okay, Urban In-Fill has been an inspiration to me with his bus-riding commitment. I was already thinking about taking the bus to and from work for economic and environmental reasons. But, I really didn’t have any motion behind that thought. (pun intended) However, Jeff’s incredible savings plus current astronomical gas prices have really inspired me!

Today, I mapped out my route. I am very unfamiliar with bus routes and even how to ride a bus, so I did some research at COTA.com . That wasn’t really helpful, so I had to call the nice lady at COTA, who told me that I don’t have a bus that runs on the road where I live, at all. I wonder how many of the people who work in the office buildings all around my apartment, plus those who live in my complex, would commute by bus if they had access to one? Anyway…

Read the entire post here.

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School Funding

I’m intrigued by why tax levies for schools continue to fail. Yesterdays voting showed signs that this remains to be a trend and I look at these results from two opposing perspectives. From either side it’s easy to conclude that residents are not keen on increasing taxes to fund schools.

It may be logical in that perhaps the current resources are being used poorly and a vote against increasing taxes would require better fiscal responsibility. Throwing money at a problem isn’t always the best way to solve it. Creativity and flexibility can be better choices.

On the other side, one has to wonder how our region of the country is going to remain competitive if voters continually choose to avoid paying for education. Investing in education is far more cost effective than paying for programs that attempt to clean up in the aftermath of poorly educated citizens.

These problems were keenly visible while I was living in Orlando. School systems were poorly funded and the result over time was a lack of corporate investment due to an under-educated workforce. Low paying jobs were the norm and for those who did seek a proper education most often had to leave Orlando to find quality jobs. As a secondary result the city suffered from the ability to provide adequate services because of a loss of corporate tax revenue.

While there is no income tax in Florida the state and cities depend upon property taxes and when fewer residents can afford to buy a home there is less revenue to be collected. Less revenue leads to lessening funds for schools and so begins the downward cycle.

When we look for creative and flexible solutions to providing quality education for the the general population the landscape appears to be barren. Teachers are caught between unions and federal mandates, neither of which seem to be focused on the students. They’re stuck between having to be wardens and mentors, enforcers of test results and inspirations to a child’s self discovery.

It’s common to hear the theme of how important our children are to the future of the nation and to the future of our economy during election years. The challenge is that the words are just that. Hollow words that make for great sound bites but with no tangible meaning or creative solution to back them. We appear more willing to build prisons to house our adult children and pay for police to apprehend them than we are to build schools where their adult lives can be groomed for enrichment and fulfillment

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