The Daily (or whenever) Eruption


Archive

Evolution As a Team Sport: Thursday 4/5/18

Chances are you are a cultural, political or economic malcontent if your eyeballs have come to rest right here. You probably worry about what it might take to set society on a sustainable path, so here’s a suggestion.

Teacher, author, media critic and activist Douglas Rushkoff has been tracking the digital revolution for decades and knows what has made it go so terribly wrong. He’s said so in books like Present Shock and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and at innumerable meetings and interviews. The nub of most of our problems, he asserts, are bugs in how public corporations are programmed, causing them to strip-mine value from society, stupefying, surveilling, and stiffing the public. He’s a tireless advocate for generative social and economic arrangements that create value for local and online communities rather than extracting it to faraway investors.

For several years, he has been working to build a community of the like-minded online. Team Human has a couple of hundred members who pony up $5 to Patreon to network with Douglas and one another. It’s quite an interesting group, reminiscent of The WELL, an Internet community gathered by Whole Earth Catalog refugees like Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold (in conversation here), John Perry Barlow, and it’s still going strong after 35 years. (WELL stands for Whole Earth ‘Lectric Link.)

Every week or so, Team Human issues a podcast. Douglas riffs on some topic for ten minutes and then interviews some interesting folks from technology, the arts, or some innovative community. He’s just finished writing a book on that project that will come out next year.

It may seem like all this is to Rushkoff’s greater glory, and perhaps it is. I don’t have a problem with his success because I support what he stands for; Team Human is simply its latest efflorescence. On its Slack site (members only) I’ve encountered some curious good-hearted characters, along with their ideas and endeavors. Completely civil conversations snake around communitarian topics to which Rushkoff often adds his two cents. As one team member said, “If even 2ppl connect on TH and make something happen, that, imo, is a win.”

If you’re feeling lonely online, consider alternatives to the toots, tweets, and trolls of solipsistic social media, whether down the block or out on the Net. Involve yourself in something bigger and get a piece of the action.

Continue reading “The Daily (or whenever) Eruption”

What Would Henry Do?

[Dug out this 2006 essay from my archives because it seems to apply as much now as a decade ago. Only the technology has moved on, not the human species.]

Dedicated to Peter Balen

If life has you feeling more overwhelmed and less able to cope all the time, it might not just be encroaching senility, the accumulation of bad chemicals in your body, or even 9-11. Consider what might connect such random areas of interest as

  • Prescription drug programs
  • Retirement planning
  • Airline deregulation
  • The blogosphere
  • School vouchers
  • Globalization

Continue reading “What Would Henry Do?”

Talking Back to my Radio

Have you ever reacted badly to a newscast on radio or TV and shouted at your set things like “Why not admit our wars in the Middle East caused all this chaos!” or “Ask him how much he was paid to mouth that b.s!” or “I’m sick and tired of hearing those stupid stump speeches!” whenever they fail to get to the bottom of things. Happens to me a lot.

Right now, one of my local NPR radio stations (WBUR, from Boston University) is surveying listeners to find out how we think they’re doing. I normally skip such polls, but given that I listen to it most days and occasionally answer phones for them I decided to pitch in and ended up at SurveyMonkey. As I had hoped, beyond the usual demographic data and how/when/where/why I listen or browse their site, they actually wanted reactions to their programming, so I belted some out. Continue reading “Talking Back to my Radio”

Punching Back

As they say around the Texas Legislature, if you can’t drink their whiskey, screw their women, take their money, and vote against ’em anyway, you don’t belong in office.

~ Molly Ivins

When I’m outraged by events, which seems to happen more and more often lately, I sometimes vent my spleen at the venerable and irritable  CounterPunch, the home of many diatribes. Here’s a sampling of mine. The rest are available at here.

 


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WordPress: DIY or die

Getting into WordPress publishing is like cooking a Thanksgiving dinner when you subsist on fast food and frozen entree. There’s a cookbook with a table of contents an index, and a bunch of descriptions of cooking techniques, but all the recipes are blank.

For example, I wanted to create a page that duplicates an existing on, change it slightly, and post it. After 20 minutes of mousing around the dashboard I gave up and went to WordPress Forums (e.g., this one), only to lean that this isn’t a built-in feature; you need to get a plug-in for that.

But other things I need to do are built in, but how to know how and when to use them? They’re all nicely documented in the WordPress Codex, but there aren’t very many how-to’s except for the code examples (that don’t necessarily tell you where you must put them to make them work.)

When something doesn’t seem to be working, is it a bug, misconfiguration, or my ignorance of how it works? So many mysteries, like why the Categories widget doesn’t show my categories when placed under a post, but does on the sidebar. I just know if I asked a forum (but which one?) about this, some kind soul would give me code to patch it, not telling me where it should go.

The second week things got better after I concluded that plugins are my friend. Of course, no matter what you want one to do, you first need to come up with terms to describe it and then pick from umpteen search results. So you need to consider: Does its author describe the gizmo cogently? Does it do what you want the way you want it? How many users does it have? Is it compatible with the current version of WP? Is it loaded with features you’ll never need? Does it tease you with features only to tell you oh BTW, they’re only in the premium version?

So far I’ve only encountered one plugin that didn’t work. I junked it and got another I’m happy with. But now I worry I’ll  plug in one too many times and my install will run out of memory. Actually, that happened almost as soon as I unboxed WP. Eventually found a nice forum user who had posted fixing up wp-admin/includes/media.php to allocate more memory to solve this problem (obviously), which worked but then I had to up it again.

So I have a site now that more or less does what I want. All I need now are visitors to give me feedback telling me what sucks.