Beating the Algorithm

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Image by MUMA Monash

In the old days of “influencer relations” (you know way back when in 2009), PR professionals targeted the magic middle and top tier bloggers, which triggered larger blog coverage, and then more often than not traditional news media.

Since then digital media companies straddled the space occupied by both traditional journals and the top tier of bloggers. They use algorithms to detect hot news stories before they trend in the blogosphere, then break the news before traditional players and bloggers alike.

Specifically, Mashable, the Huffington Post, Forbes, Google and the others use algorithms listen to chatter on the social web. When hot trends bubble up they source the content provider, assign a reporter, or in the worst cases use narrative science — computer-based news writing — to break the story first.

This effectively takes power away from PR executives to affect the news cycle through traditional influencer outreach, and in turn, empowers the crowd to determine stories.

Some news outlets use the crowd to validate top stories, too. Validation is embodied by shares on social networks and comments.

For example, USA Today features stories on its web properties based on the posts that get shared the most. The old assignment editor loses weight in these scenarios.
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400K Photo Views and Counting

At some point today, I will pass 400,000 views on my photography blog. Not bad for an amateur hack who has never been formally trained as a photographer!

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to celebrate by sharing my 10 favorite pictures from the past five years. Given it’s a Friday wrapping up a long holiday week, I figured, “Why not?” Here we go!

1) The Eiffel Tower

I took this beauty in late November of 2009. It was drizzling, and I had to take a slow capture to get the light to glow like this. Fortunately the rain didn’t mess up lens too badly, and the shot turned out quite nicely! Taken with a Nikon D-90.

The Eiffel Tower

2) The First Presidential Tweet

I had the honor of attending the first presidential town hall, which was moderated by Twitter Co-Founder Jack Dorsey. Somehow, I ended up in the first row on the side, and took this shot of Obama typing out the first presidential tweet. Taken with my Nikon, this shot has Jack reflected in the computer screen. It still gets used frequently in Obama blog posts across the web!
The First Presidential Tweet

3) The Devil’s Horns

The centerpiece of the W Trail in Chilean Patagonia, the Devil’s Horns are viewed here from across Lake Pehoe at sunrise. This trail kicked my ass and is legendary for trying experienced hikers who attempt its courses in three or five days. Taken with the Nikon. The Devil's Horns Across Lago Pehoe

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Don’t Believe the BP Hype!

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Let’s be frank, lots of people are helping with #citizengulf and it’s awesome. There are so many people spreading the word, I can’t even begin to thank them. But this is not Haiti, in large part because of BP’s responsibility for causing the oil spill, and its moral and legal obligation to clean up the mess.

Many people express this to me, “Why should I help? It’s BP’s fault!”

But as we have seen over and over again, BP continues to promise fully responsible actions, only to have its actions completely contradict its PR and messaging. Consider the most recent lies that have been exposed this week:

1) The oil is not gone from the Gulf waters. In fact, University of Georgia scientists have done a study showing that 70-79% of the oil remains in the water. Now we see the role dispersants have played in this Dantean nightmare.

2) Phytoplankton, the base element of the fishing food chain, have been poisoned by this oil. This means the entire Gulf food supply has been affected and will have crude oil poisoning to contend with.

This continued public lying (and the co-signing of this behavior by the Obama Administration) should tell all of us one thing: BP will abandon its responsibility to clean up the Gulf at the first opportunity. The Gulf cannot count on BP or the federal government to resolve this situation.

Any of us would be furious if our homes and livelihoods were treated in such a fashion. In fact, many of us who do not live in the Gulf are angered by the public hucksterism we are being offered by BP and the Obama Administration. But what can we do about it? Plenty, and as my trip to the Gulf convinced me, this hurricane ravaged region definitely needs our help.

The citizengulf program was designed to provide easy, mindful actions to affect change, specifically, by using education to provide fishing families new opportunities for a brighter, more sustainable future. I hope you’ll join us on August 25 as we take a day of action together by attending an event, donating or voting.

Beyond the citizengulf program, there are more mindful actions: Write your elected officials and tell them to stand up to big oil and large corporations ruining our country, live a better sustainable life, and restore ethics to the communications profession. Want more? The AARP offers six ways you can make a difference for the Gulf.

No , it’s not Haiti. But it’s happening in our own back yard at the hands of corrupt oil company with the federal government cosigning it. Whatever you do, friends, I encourage you not to sit this one out. In my mind, it’s a civic duty. Take mindful action and say no to BP.

Gulf Photo Essays – Oil Angels & Signs of Grand Isle

Here are my first two CNN iReport photo essays from the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission to help Gulf Fishermen. The first is Oil Angels, featuring the faces of the fishing families and nonprofits trying to serve them…

The second photo essay is Signs of Grand Isle, featuring protest signs showing the damage the oil spill has caused, including protests from local citizens.

Enjoy! And keep following us at the Citizen Effect Gulf Mission program page.

The Plight of the Louisiana Fishing Family

Dream Is Gone

The Citizen Effect Gulf Mission team sat down yesterday with Natalie A. Jayroe, president and CEO of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans (serving 23 south Louisiana parishes). Our ongoing goal remains finding an actionable way for Americans to take positive mindful ways to act in the wake of the Deep Horizon disaster.

Jayroe told us her view of how the fishing families of Louisiana have been affected by the oil spill. The following post is based from that conversation.

An area the size of Great Britain was devastated with Katrina. The entire region had to rebuild, and nonprofits and community realigned themselves to rethink New Orleans. Five years after Katrina they are seeing another devastating disaster, and, it’s been very tough on many fishing families. in once case, a fisher committed suicide.

There is nothing finite right now on how to handle the post oil spill economy. One step forward has yet to be determined. There are 49,000 Louisianans that have fishing licenses, and in all 150,000 people are affected immediately. The oil drilling moratorium has put another 40,000 people out of work.

The secondary and tertiary circles of job loss have yet to be felt in the Gulf. The ripple effect could be huge. The local economy is tourism and oil, so both of the big economic drivers of the state have been challenged.

Fishing is an up and down business. The fishing families of Louisiana are traditional and self sufficient, and do not gladly take government benefits. Fishing families take advantage of federal benefits at a rate 10-20% lower than the rest of the state. They don’t accept help readily. They don’t like case work. They just want to go back to work.

How The Hell Are We Supposed Feed Our Kids Now

Five or six generations of fishing families live by the tides. When this is taken away from them, there is little chance to take on a new career.

Their next job opportunity is often oil rigs. So they are less likely to take swipes at BP, it’s a huge part of their economy.

The fishing families think about how they are going to get through this today and tomorrow. Most of them are still trying to keep the oil off the shores. They liken it to fighting a war, and hope they will be able to shrimp next year. If there’s a way to survive they will do it. They are about subsistence and survival, and they will what they have to live with the land.

To create that next generation of sustenance income would require the community to take on a lot of education work. You would need to do a lot of front line activity with the community to evolve. They would need to band together. Given the fiercely independent culture of the fishing families here, it’s a dubious outcome…

The environmental impact from the oil spill will likely be felt for decades, stifling the marine life and fishing industry. The BP Deep Horizon oil spill may have permanently devastated this fishing culture.

Long Term Impact for Second Harvest

Second Harvest knows this issue will continue a long time after the oil spill is capped. It could take years. The organization estimates that more than 47,500 fishing homes may eventually require food assistance as a result of the Gulf oil spill.

Because it’s not a national disaster declared by the President, federal food commodities (via disaster SNAP) can’t be given out.Fact Check: Louisiana Department of Social Services. If Obama declares the oil spill a National Disaster, BP would no longer be liable. The bailout fund is not necessarily going to benefit the Gulf directly. That means disaster resources are not making it to the Louisiana parishes today.

The organization has already provided 200,000 meals through disaster relief sites in the impacted areas since May 1. The demand is making a direct impact on Second Harvest’s stores before hurricane season, stretching their resources. BP has paid the organization $350,000 to replace these recources.

Second Harvest Food bank became the largest foodbank in history following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The foodbank distributed 8 million pounds of food in September 2005 alone.

Geoff Livingston is a regular contributor to the Live Earth blog.

What to Expect on Our Gulf Mission

What have they done to the earth? What have they done to our fair sister? – Jim Morrison, When the Music Is Over

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Images by Kris Krug from his TedX OilSpill Expedition set.

The time is almost upon us for our well-discussed Gulf Mission. Thank you all for your support. Together, I will work with Citizen Effect’s Dan Morrison and May Yu to find an actionable, tangible way for people across the country to help those suffering as a result of the ongoing Deep Horizon oil spill.

We have a clear goal: Work with local charities and people to find a way to help Gulf fishermen who have likely lost their careers, their tradition. How will be determined on the trip. We already have meetings set with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board; the Greater New Orleans Foundation; Catholic Charities, including site visits to constituents of America’s Second Harvest, the Archdiocese, fishermen; and with Sloane Berrent, who is organizing a nationwide Gulf Coast Benefit concert event on July 1.

Along the way we have committed to a full citizen journalist effort. What does that mean? We will be blogging, tweeting, photographing, sending mini live podcast reports, etc. throughout our days from the Gulf. We already have several commitments to distribute that content beyond our blogs and social media properties.

You can tell which boats are returning from the Gulf

But it’s more than just on the scene reporting, it’s an attitude: We will ask hard questions. When it comes to our government and BP, we will not assume they are doing the right thing. In fact, evidence shows that they continue to stumble, with atrocities like burning endangered turtles to death rather than rescuing them.

We will tell real people’s stories. We will show their faces, and we will listen to them and show their viewpoint. And we will highlight those special angels on the frontlines fighting to protect the Gulf and the people most afflicted by this tragedy.

It’s with an attitude of service that we fly to New Orleans on Sunday. I hope you’ll join us for this journey.

You Killed Our Gulf... Our Way of Life