"Gentleman:--Someday you are going to move me almost to the point of irritation with your God-damned chuckle headed fashion of turning off your God-damned gas without giving notice to your God-damned parishioners--and you did it again last night..."
That's how Mark Twain began a letter to the Hartford Gas and Electric Company. If he were writing today he might vent his anger on the web. Bob Garfield (the host of NPR's On The Media) has a terrific article in Advertising Age (http://tinyurl.com/2qxbty for the WWU community, not free to the public) about the blog he started, ComCast Must Die! and about other websites that express consumer rage. As a complainer named Jeff Jarvis says: "If you go online and type in your search engine '[any brand] sucks,' you will find the real Consumer Reports." Ben Popkin, who runs The Consumerist, says: "The determinant of who gets heard is not who has the most media dollars but who has the most interesting things to say."
It is a good example of how the Web is changing the way corporations have to do business. Garfield calls it Listenomics, and he is (of course) writing a book on it.
WARNING: As might be expected, some of the complainers use bad language.
Yesterday I was reading an article in American Journalism Review about reporters using information in MySpace and other social networking sites to gather information about people they are writing about. They give examples of successful uses and of reporters falling for hoaxes. John Martin of the St. Petersburg Times said that social network information is not a substitute for an interview: "It's dirty data. You don't know what's factual and what's not. But the fact that it's dirty is no excuse to not use it."
Today's Seattle Times has follow-up articles to the reports about Amanda Knox, the UW student being held on sensational murder charges in Perugia, Italy. One article is about the students who were listed as friends on Knox's MySpace page, and who are now being hounded by the press for interviews. Reporters are also going through Knox's writings and videos for evidence of violence or depravity.
Carlos Diaz, my friend and colleague at Evergreen State College, has an interesting piece at Free Government Information explaining how Start Trek relates to the gov docs world. It also features some bad news about government information disappearing on the web.
By the way, the person in that photo is not Carlos. She is a Space Librarian from a scene that was deleted from STAR TREK: INSURRECTION. ( Click on the photo to read all about the scene.) No wonder the movie bombed. You lose librarians and everything falls apart.
I haven't tried this out but here is a website that tells you how to acquire the unclassified portion of your travel dossier, as kept by the Department of Homeland Security. If you try it let me know whether you get your file (or a knock in the middle of the night asking why you want to know...not that would happen, right?).
Thanks to Barrett at Free Government Information for pointing it out. And thanks to f mandarino for the very cool photo. He's got a bunch of them at Flickr.