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Iraq 5 Years Later: I Am Ashamed (I Beg You. Read, Watch and Act)

cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics I am sad. I am angry. I am weary, and I am ashamed. I hardly know where to begin writing about this five year travesty called the Iraq War, but I do know that it must end. I was one of those people that didn't need to read a top secret National Intelligence Estimate to know that this war was a terrible idea, but knowing that I was right doesn't make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse for I've done not nearly enough to bring an end to the tragedy. None of us has. I'm sure you're busy. We all are. But we owe it to our servicemen and women and to the Iraqi people to pay attention to what's happening. Please, stop what you're doing, and read this. No one in my family, nor any of my close friends are in the military. When I do get a chance to listen to soldiers, I do so with great attention. Three years ago, I ran into a returning U.S. Marine at the Philly airport. Here's a segment of what I wrote:
“Ok, then the opposite question: what’s the most scared you were?” This required no time for Joe to give me a response. “Mortar fire. It’s as loud as an airplane.” I thought that was it, but then he told another story. When he finished, I realized at some point, that I had stopped breathing. “Also, when someone yells ‘gas!’ that means we suspect a chemical weapons attack, and we have to get suited up.” All the troops get suited up in their chemical gear — huge, heavy rubber suits with full face masks. This is in 120 degree desert heat. Then they wait. To me, of the F-U-Philly-Airport crowd, “mortar fire” qualified as most frightening. When he upped it with “gas!” I could see that yes, thinking you might melt from the inside, was more frightening than loud explosions. But, Joe wasn’t finished. “When it’s over, the commanding officer has the youngest, most junior marine take his mask off… to make sure the air is ok. I was the commanding officer, and I had to look into these kids’ eyes and tell them to risk their lives by taking off a mask. The medics were standing by with [instant treatment of some sort] but I’m 22 looking into an 18 year old’s eyes, and he’s scared. It’s hard thing to do.” Damn. Damn. I did not expect that. I’m not sure what I expected, maybe fears of a roadside bomb or some sort of ambush, but not some deep, emotionally scarring event. That’s war. Right there.
A year after meeting Joe, I went to a panel at the progressive Yearly Kos blogger convention (summer 2006). It was a panel of those who had served in Iraq, and more than one story moved me to tears. The panel was sponsored by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Again, here's an excerpt of what I wrote at the time under the title, YearlyKos Day 2: “Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”:
IAVA hosted a panel with veterans from Iraq talking about their experience over there, but most horribly, their experience here in the US, once they returned. The quote in the title was from a female vet who joined the military at age 17. She was describing the heart-breaking, back-stabbing and outright cruel lack of resources available to veterans once they get back, especially psychological help. She told of how she was sexually assaulted by a major when she was 19 (a subject I’ve blogged about before), traumatized by her experience in Iraq, and forced into nearly 9-month delays once she returned. She was officially noted by the military health staff as having suicidal tendencies. If it weren’t for IAVA, she said, she’d be another statistic. “I know people who came back from the war and blew their brains out because they couldn’t take it. Listen to me. They come home from war, and they kill themselves”
And one year later (June 2007), I wrote about the tragedies waiting to happen as trained killers return home in Let's Talk About The Monster's We're Creating It's 2008, and we are still over there, still murdering and maiming and displacing countless Iraqi people. We're still murdering, maiming and psychologically scarring American servicemen and women. Yet, our leaders, for the most part, tell us to be patient. Victory is attainable. They are wrong. We have already lost. Two weeks ago, I watched No End In Sight, an infuriating documentary which chronicles the extreme arrogance and carelessness with which we planned, launched and prosecuted this war. The people behind this misadventure are criminals, in both their conscious behavior and their negligence. But this is not all I've been thinking about this week. I have spent the past several days listening to the testimony of servicemen and women who have returned from Iraq. They've been speaking openly about their experiences in the Winter Soldier testimonies, modeled on events of the same name post-Vietnam. Every American citizen must take the time to listen to at least some of these stories. You owe it to the people we have sent over there to know what is being done with your money and in your name. It's practically the least you can do. I have pulled together four stories in the video player below
  • Mike Prysner talks about the deep-seated racism he witnessed and was a part of
  • Camilo Mejia speaks eloquently and painfully of the loss of humanity that is necessary in dehumanizing the enemy
  • Kevin and Joyce Lucey had to tell their son's story because he is no longer alive to do so. He returned from Iraq but was overcome by the emotional wounds and killed himself as the VA hospital refused to admit him, despite pleas from his family
  • In the most disturbing testimony, Tanya Austin talks about the widespread rape and sexual assault that occurs in the military and how victims are further victimized by the system. Check out Stop Military Rape.
You can move through the clips using the big arrows on the side of the video player.
The clear message I have gotten from listening to returning soldiers is that what hurts them is to come home and see a society that has forgotten them, a society preoccupied with the most trite of interests, a society that by its willful ignorance, devalues their experiences. Don't be that person. I guarantee that whatever you think you must do in the next few hours can wait. We owe it to the people serving in your name. We owe it to the people of Iraq. As for action, please check out the newly-released Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq. End U.S. military action, use diplomatic tools, address humanitarian concerns, restore our constitution, restore our military, restore independence to the media, create a new, U.S.-centered energy policy,
A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq - Click here to add your support

Showtime at the Apollo, featuring Barack Obama. Why Wait?

This post is part of our TV One presidential forum blogging set. The focus: Barack Obama.

the marquee

Last night, I visited the Apollo Theatre for the first time, and I felt like I was a part of history, going there to see Senator Barack Obama speak. I'd had a chance to sit in on a small Q & A session with the Senator at YearlyKos and even got a question in, but this was different. This was Harlem.

young bro husslin tees
The setting was intense. I exited the subway at 125th Street at about 7:15pm for the 7pm event. Incense peddlers, t-shirt entrepreneurs and drummers seemed to emanate from every crack in the sidewalk.

TV camera trucks idled with their bright lights. The cameraphones caught a thousand snapshots a second of the vibrant scene. There were flyers for every thing: fundraisers, after parties and of course myriad activists pitching their causes. I saw everything from "Stop Plan Mexico to" to "boycott all Harlem businesses." (No, I'm not making that up. My friends and I were like "all businesses? Even the incense brothas?"

What really took my breathe away, was the crowd. I walked up to the front of the theatre and picked up my ticket. Then I headed for the back of the line. I walked from mid 125th west to Frederick Douglass. The line continued. Then I walked up to 126th. The line continued. Then I walked east on 126th, and that line continued halfway down the block where it snaked into the parking lot.

All the while I was scanning the faces of the crowd, looking for someone I recognized. What I saw really did amaze me. I saw old black women and young white men. I saw young black professionals and old white couples. And yes, there were Asians and Latinos too. The event held in Harlem, but it played host to all of New York. It was beautiful.

people behind me in line

Toward the end of the line, I finally saw some people I knew. I guess I'm not as VIP as I thought :) As we caught up, joked about the GOP debate and took in the scene, I decided to talk to two older black women about why they were there. Given all the hubbub over black support or reticence around Obama, I had to take this limited sample of two for some firsthand insights.

The women expressed a range of explanations for their Obama support:

"Before I die, I want to see a person of color in the White House."

"I like him for his deeds."

For one woman, Hillary Clinton was her second choice. For the other, it was Edwards. For both, what made Obama stand apart was this simple, yet apparently profound fact.

"When he graduated from Harvard Law, he could have gone anywhere, to any corporation in the country, but he chose to go to Chicago and work in the community."

That's all she wrote.

chris rock!

The Apollo Theatre is mad small once you get inside, and with a capacity of just 2,000 most of the people who showed up never even made it through security.

There were a number of opening acts including the Harlem Gospel Choir, a few local officials and activists, a young sister playing the funk out of her violin. In the audience I ran into friends from Yearly Kos and am pretty sure I spotted Maureen Dowd. Just as the audience was getting its most restless, around 9pm, State Senator Bill Perkins brought up Professor Cornel West. I was unprepared for the reaction. I know Professor West. He was one of the reasons I was so excited to enter Harvard College back in 1995. He is a long-winded brotha.

West got the most enthusiastic standing ovation I'd seen in a long while. You could feel the crowd enveloping him with a mixture of awe, love and respect. Without planning to, I found myself on my feat, arms raised toward the sky, full of excitement. The preacher / public intellectual did not disappoint.

With his trademark uneven afro, thin black scarf, black three piece suit and verbal dexterity, West brought historical context to the evening, reminding us of the long history of black activists and artists whose words and deeds found a home at the Apollo. He spoke of Obama glowingly:

"It's not because he's intelligent and articulate. I expect black folk from Harvard to be articulate. But Barack is also eloquent..."

Most valuable to me was West's warning not to see in Barack something he is not, a reincarnation of some great black hope from days gone by.

"We don't expect Alicia Keys to be Sarah Vaughn, and we should not expect Barack Obama to be Frederick Douglass. He is his momma's son and his daddy's son..." and, West continued, he is who we need in this country today.

Much to my surprise, and joy, West wrapped it up in record time and started talking about the role of comedians and satirists in society (music to my ears). Then he stunned the crowd by introducing CHRIS ROCK. If the crowd showed Cornel mad love with his ovation, I can't even describe the outpouring of affection for Chris Rock. You would have thought it was James Brown back for one last show. Incredible.

Rock tossed out some great lines about Bush and his speedy reaction to the California fires. "White people on fire? Bush is there the next day. He was helping put out the California fires with Katrina water." In his hilarious and truthful way, Rock explained to the audience that he wanted to support Obama before he became president, saying we'd be embarrassed if Barack won but we had decided to support "the white lady." So true.

Finally, Chris Rock brought ou Obama.


I was listening and watching Obama as closely as the crowd. I wanted to feel what he could do to a room and what the room would give him. Last night, I'd say both sides delivered. I won't recap all of what he said, but I will focus on the moment in his speech where I became an active supporter. He was talking about health care.

Obama reminded the audience that his own mother died of cancer at age 53 and, in addition to suffering from the disease, she suffered from the dehumanizing struggle forced on her by a broken health care system which had her stressing over her coverage status and employment status and pre-existing conditions and a time when her full energy needed to be devoted to the healing process. It was a short story. It's one I've read about before. But hearing him tell it, I relived my own mother's passing at age 65 due to colon cancer.

I replayed thoughts of doubt about whether or not she had gotten the best preventive care and checkups that she should have, about how doctors might have missed important signs, about her own distrust of the medical establishment due to its long history of disrespect for black patients in general and older black women in particular.

Obama connected his story to my own in a way which made clear to me that he is very much connected to his own humanity. And, we both missed our mothers in that moment, I cried, and I listened and I was so proud of this man who could reach inside of himself and inside of me and connect our hearts for that moment.

His speech contained several rousing moments such as his proclamation that he would support an annual increase in the living wage "because there should be no such thing as the working poor a country this wealthy." He reminded us of the differences between himself and Hillary Clinton. One of them asked tough questions before the war started. One of them is running a more grassroots campaign. One of them will not bring a return of the 90s to White House politics. He spoke of the need to defeat the prison industrial complex.

But aside from the moment of our mothers, what resonated most with me was this, and I'll paraphrase his words:

People often say to me, "Why now? Why not in four more years?" I say to them, "Why wait?" I don't want to look back four years later, when it's too late, when the damage we've done to our planet is irreversible, when we could have started solving America's problems much sooner. We can't afford to wait another moment. There is too much at stake. We need to answer the tough questions now. If we are serious about winning this election, we can't be afraid to risk losing it.

I agree. Why wait.

[NP] NYC Move, Me & Obama, NPR Next Week (plus MoJos)

Folks, this is a super massive NewsPhlash with awesome updates. I'm not sure what the biggest news actually is, so read it all. First off, I have a bangin new website. You know my motto. Get hits or die tryin. So definitely, definitely check out the newness. There are still some places to round out with more info, but things should be much more accessible now. Me & Obama The Yearly Kos convention was a blast. I got to perform, opening up for Howard Dean. I also met and challenged Barack Obama on his support for coal, and was quoted in the Sunday New York Times. Seriously. Check it out in my latest Dig column. Excerpt here:
After the debate, each candidate held a Q&A session in a small room. I chose Obama. People ran to his room to get a seat. Ran. After witnessing firsthand the misplaced devotion of thousands who camped out for the iPhone, I was genuinely proud of my fellow Americans for caring enough to exert themselves in the name of democracy.
Afterward, Obama said to me, "Apparently, you're somebody I need to know." Not bad for the press kit. August 22, I'll be on NPR and performing in NYC I'm on National Public Radio next week. August 22nd. The show is News & Notes, hosted by Farai Chideya, and I'll be part of a black blogger roundtable discussing news and views of the day. It is broadcast live at 1pm ET. It's a really great show, so tune in. Same day, I'm performing standup at Laughing Liberally Lab The Tank in Tribeca 279 Church St b/w Franklin & White (all Canal Street stops are close) Oh yeah: I now live in New York City. I'll still be spending a lot of time in Boston though, so cry not my Beaners (actually, that's Carlos Mencia's show), Beantowners. I've started a New York Life category on my blog to chronicle the experience. Very excited. I'm here to hustle. Goal is for me to blow up before the city does. Ouchie doo doo. Too real? Possibly. Next! Video Interviews from Yearly Kos While at Yearly Kos, I had a chance to interview some cool folks:
  • I already shared my interview with activist Mike Stark. Here is the video he promised
  • James Rucker, from is now up discussing the situation in Jena, LA
  • Bruce Dixon of Black Agenda Report has been posted in a three-part series on diversity, immigration and more
Other coolnesses
  • Someone put me in Wikipedia
  • A friend has designed some Baratunde for President shirts. His idea. Not mine, but support em if you like em. I think they're cool
  • I taped a small part in a sketch to be aired on a new Comedy Central show called The Watchlist made by homeys Dean Obeidallah and Negin Farsad
  • Friend and comic Myq Kaplan won the wildcard Internet voting round in the Comedy Central Open Mic Fights. Thanks for voting him in
Momentary Jokes
  • Chinese manufacturers have shipped nearly 19 million lead-tainted toys to America's children. Thus begins the invasion.
  • An NYPD study on homegrown terrorism concluded that "average citizens who band together and adopt radical ways pose a growing threat to American security." Forget al Qaeda. It's the Amish we gotta watch.
  • A US soldier paid $500 for someone to shoot him in the leg so he would not have to return to Iraq. Too bad the Iraqi people don't have that option.
  • According to USA Today, many American seniors are retiring to Mexico due to its improved climate and lower cost of living. Seems like a fair trade to me. America gets the young laborers and Mexico gets our tired, our poor and our huddled masses. Nice.
  • Rudy Giuliani's daughter supports Obama for president. What they didn't tell you is that she also supports Obama for "Dad."

Evenin', Guvna Dean! (Weekly Dig)

Originally published in Baratunde’s bi-weekly GOODCRIMETHINK column in the August 15, 2007 edition of Boston’s Weekly Dig Baratunde & Obama "So, Baratunde, what did you do last weekend?" "Oh, you know, the usual: got quoted in the New York Times, challenged Barack Obama on his support for coal and booed Hillary Clinton along with 1,500 new friends." It was another conference, another show for your weathered, state-hopping, joke-telling, peak-oiling sometimes-bouncer and Dig columnist. This time, I was in Chicago with comedians from Laughing Liberally to liven up the YearlyKos "Netroots" conference -- a gathering of liberal bloggers and activists. I performed on the first night, opening for Governor Howard Dean, the man who shook the world in 2004 when he said "I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." He might as well have tossed up an "L" with his hands and screamed, "Left side represent, son!" Backstage, I chose to greet him by affecting a horrible British accent, saluting and yelling, "Evenin', guvna!" I'm so stupid sometimes. The next few days were full of memorable moments like: -Meeting S.R. Siddarth, aka "Macaca," which translates to "I might have been president, but my racist bullying, Confederate flag and noose got in the way." -Answering questions from Fox News and covering the logo on their microphone to avoid embarrassing my family. -Finding out that Rudy Giuliani's daughter supports Obama for president, and thinking she probably also supports Obama for "dad." -Discovering irony in the scheduling of the "Rebuilding New Orleans" panel opposite the "Global Warming" panel. I chose global warming, hoping that it would reduce the need for a "Rebuilding <insert city name here>" panel in the future. -Watching Hillary Clinton dis-endear herself to the debate audience by trying to defend Washington lobbyists. A friend described Clinton's penchant for detailed answers well: "She likes to get into the sausage-making." Unfortunately, most of us just want to eat them. After the debate, each candidate held a Q&A session in a small room. I chose Obama. People ran to his room to get a seat. Ran. After witnessing firsthand the misplaced devotion of thousands who camped out for the iPhone, I was genuinely proud of my fellow Americans for caring enough to exert themselves in the name of democracy. In the session, Obama took a question from me. I stood and introduced myself, receiving a big round of applause from people who saw me perform earlier. I was brief, expressing support for some of his energy-related positions but confusion over his support for environmentally destructive, petroleum-intense, worker-abusing coal. For about a minute, he locked eyes with me (if it were Cheney, I'd be dead by now) and answered in a comprehensive, thoughtful, but disappointing way, excusing his support with references to America's vast coal reserves, entrenched infrastructure and the need to develop and sell hypothetical "clean coal" to China and India. I had gotten his attention. During the handshaking period at the end, Obama said to me, "Apparently, you're somebody I need to know." True. Now clean up your energy plan. BARATUNDE THURSTON IS A COMEDIAN AND AUTHOR LIVING IN SOMERVILLE. HIS COLUMN RUNS BIWEEKLY IN THE DIG. DROP BY BARATUNDE.COM SOME EVENIN', IF YA PLEASE?

(Part 2/3) YearlyKos - Bruce Dixon - "Hatin on Mexicans"

(cross-posted to Jack & Jill Politics under "Jack Turner") This is part two of three of our video interview with Bruce Dixon (of Black Agenda Report) at Yearly Kos in Chicago. Bruce talks about the sometimes-hyped tension between black americans and latinos over illegal/immigration and economic opportunity, getting into US trade policy via NAFTA and more. Our own rikyrah has written passionately on the impacts of illegal immigration for the black community. I tried to get Bruce's take on the issue as well.

My beef with Facebook: so much untapped possibility

I started using Facebook years ago, back when I was a regular person. I was in early. Everyone was launching a college-friends-based social network. Friendster was becoming unusably slow. Others like entered to fill a void as well. I got a desperate plea from a schoolmate. Something like "Hey please try out this Facebook thing my friend made." Back then it was just for Harvard cats, and it was I remembered the paper facebook we got every year for our dorms and this unauthorized electronic version was obviously a good idea. Years later, Facebook is a whole nother beast. Now I'm not just a person but a growing presence (I hope!) through my comedy, writing and political activities. I have almost 900 Facebook friends attached to my profile. All the web traffic I used to get from MySpace has moved over. My personal use of Facebook has become professional. They wanted this. They wanted to beat MySpace, and from my perspective, they have in many ways. Most notably, their site does not crash my computer. That is high on my list of must-haves from a social network or a website or a friend. But, like all things worth using, there are some big problems. Here they are, my beefs with Facebook. (note, several others have blogged about Facebook-ness including Robert Scoble, Anne Zelenka, and too many others to count). Regular People vs. Public Figures - The Problem For students, Facebook is still great. For most other regular people, it probably gets the job done, but for those of us using Facebook to create or augment our presence, Facebook is lacking. If you are a singer, writer, comedian, politician or other such public figure, you are forced to navigate some choppy waters. That's because Facebook defaults to a "personal" use. Where MySpace still wins is in designating an account type. MySpace has "comedian" and "musician" accounts which provide tools and an interface specific to those types of people. MySpace does not treat everyone like a college student. Facebook needs to take a lesson here and consider special account types for more public people. What I'd like to see
  • Fix the distinction between what's available to profiles and groups. I've created a group on Facebook for fans. I post select photos and videos, news updates and gigs there, but I cannot install apps to my group.
  • I'd love to put a SplashCast player in my group or a channel of my podcasts.
  • My profile has the wall, but so does my fan group along with a bulletin board. So messages are spread all over my Facebook experience
Contact-- I'm Sorry, FRIEND Management - The Problem Facebook has the right idea in letting you categorize "how you know" your friends, but it does a poor job of making this flexible and usable. Vanessa Fox talks about this in some ways. For example, instead of relegating everything to the "Other" category, I'd like to set a category of friends as "SXSW" for people I met at South by Southwest. Now, I have to select "Other" and type it in each time. More importantly, Facebook needs to unlock this metadata I'm putting in and let me make use of it. My rule: I have done you the favor of categorizing my friends with valuable metadata. You use this info to target ads. Please do me the courtesy of allowing me to act on that same information What I'd like to see
  • allow me to create custom groups and give me the choice of these groups when I add a friend. For me, I'd choose groups based on conferences/events and real world friends vs fans. Example groups: high school friends, track team, SXSW black bloggers, comedians, BookExpo crew, Iowa State gig, people denied habeas corpus by the Bush administration, etc.
  • allow me to use the information about my friends. Most important is for me to message them all at once whether based on their user info (like geography) or my user tagging mentioned above. For example, I'd like to send a note to all SXSW friends in advance of the festival next year to see who is returning.
  • Highly relevant to me, I'd like to send out performance announcements to people in a particular city. Right now, there is no group messaging capability short of creating a Facebook group for every subsegment. When I announce a show using my fan group (the only way to send bulk messages) I have to send it to everyone. A show in New York reaches people in Hong Kong. It's a waste. You know what I do today? I open two Facebook windows: one to write the message and another where I search for friends in the city of interest. Then I manually type in addresses up to the 20-recipient limit, and I do this until I'm finished. This is so weak. This may have something to do with preventing SPAM, but I would pay for a workaround.
  • I would also like to do interesting mashups and cross-tabs on my contacts. I'm a data analysis junkie. It's what years of consulting has done to me. What apps are popular among my SXSW friends? What books are my high school friends reading? You have the data, Facebook. Let me at it!
Messaging - The Problem MySpace set a new low bar for messaging, undoing basic features inherent in email with their supposedly more advanced social networking tools. I challenge anyone reading this to send a message to a MySpace friend who is not in your Top Friends and who is not in your message inbox or sent mail. You cannot do it, and do you know why? Because MySpace user search has been broken for years. While MySpace cut fancy shmancy content deals with TV networks, they overlooked one of the major requirements of a social networking tool: social networking, that is communication. I have searched for MySpace friends who are in my Top 8, and MySpace says they are not found. The only reliable way to find people on MySpace is to know their email address. If I had that, trust me, I would not be sending them a message through MySpace. MySpace has been a necessary evil which, thankfully, is becoming less necessary. Ok, so that's a big MySpace rant, but it's relevant to Facebook. Facebook has solved a lot of the super dumb MySpace failings. I can start a message to a friend, and Facebook auto-completes. I can search for friends by name and, get this, actually find them. What I'd like to see
  • save messages into folders
  • search my messages
  • send messages groups of people, defined by "how do I know this person" or geography or whatever
  • flag messages for followup
  • block receipt of messages by certain people
  • basically, facebook needs a gmail-like email client built in, not this cheap "messaging" crap. That's great for Red Bull-infused college kids with no real responsibilities, but in the real world, I need to keep track of my messages and actually follow up with people
Applications - The Problem The Facebook apps explosion has been talked about in many places. The apps have definitely made Facebook a more interesting place, but app notification is becoming spam-like. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the notification "8 of your friends have added the Deez Nutz application" only to be followed 24 hours later by "200 of your friends have removed the Deez Nutz application." A day later, I get another notice, "John Smith would like you to Suck on Deez Nutz. Click here to install the Deez Nutz application." What I'd like to see
  • a an apps dashboard which ranks apps by the total number of users and the total number of my friends using it
  • a way to view apps by type. There are several apps that do exactly the same thing. Bundle them so I can compare more easily
  • app ratings should be built right into the platform
  • I want to screen app notifications based on ratings and the app type. I could tell Facebook not to notify me of any game apps with a rating less than 3 of 4 stars. This would cut back on a lot of the crap out there. MS Windows is a platform that I use on a regular basis, but I don't get notified every time a developer launches a new windows application or every time my friends install a new version of Word.
  • There should be a category for "Stupid" apps as well so I can block those. If I get another Zombie "bite" I'm going to have to dig up a dead person, inject them with the Rage virus, and set them loose on the developers of Facebook.
Networks - The Problem In this era of mobile workers, unreasonably cheap airfare and globalization, Facebook is stuck with the quaint notion that people want to identify with one geographic network. How 1991 of them. I spend significant amounts of time in several cities, especially New York and Boston. Don't make me choose. What I'd like to see
  • allow me to join multiple geographic networks.
  • consider a "primary" network with multiple secondary networks
Stats - The Problem There are none. Again, when you assume that your users are regular people, citizens, it's safe to say they probably care a little bit less how many times their video was played, but I'm in the content distribution business. I want to know if YouTube or Facebook are more effective at spreading video love. What I'd like to see
  • total photo views, video play counts and profile views
  • especially for video, a way to see where the viewers came from: my profile page, a pass-along, a friend's profile page
  • just give me something like "Facebook Analytics" and call it a day
Conclusion This is a much longer post than I ever wanted. I write because I care. These social networks are an attempt to mechanize and digitize what we do on a day to day basis, interact with other people. For someone in my position, using these tools is also an extension of how I produce and share my work. For something like Facebook to be effective, it needs not only to open up to third party developers (as it has), but open up to its users as well. Ultimately, I'm asking them to unlock the capabilities they already offer to advertisers and developers. Share those with users like me, and I'll push it through to my 900 friends and make Facebook even more important in my life. I should also make clear, that I don't expect all of this for free. I'm a fan of paying for quality services, and if Facebook offered a "Facebook Pro" version, which did a lot of what I'm asking, I'd be the first to sign up. I would love to hear how you'd like to see Facebook improved or if you've found found ways to solve the problems I identified above. I have a habit of running into the right people and asking them good questions, and I might just bump into someone who can get some of this done. Update (15 August 2007). Here's a perfect example of Facebook's misplaced priorities with respect to applications. I installed an application developed by called "My Questions." It's a decent idea, allowing you to post questions to your friends and solicit responses. The problem is that when you add the application, it sends ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS one of its default questions. In my case, it asked 900 of my friends "Would you rather party in Las Vegas or South Beach (Miami)?" Like I give a flying abstinence education seminar! This is just what I was talking about above. Facebook has given this developer the ability to message ALL of my friends, yet I cannot. I am using the My Questions app one last time to tell my friends to remove it and not support such crappyness I just wrote the following to Jeremiah Robison, listed as the developer of the My Questions app. Feel free to reuse it.
Jeremiah, I have over 900 facebook friends, and I'm telling them to avoid your application and all apps due to the massively irresponsible way in which you built the program. My Questions spammed my friends with a question about "Las Vegas vs. South Beach." I was not asked if I wanted to send this question. I only knew because I started getting responses back. If you do provide an opt-out, it is horribly unclear. In addition, your program emails me on my personal email account anytime someone asks or answers a question. I can find no way to change this setting. I am severely disappointed in your implementation of this app and will do all in my power to prevent my friends from using it. I am looking for three things from your company. 1) an apology for the irresponsible manner in which you built the app and the valuable time you have wasted in people's lives 2) a revision of your app to prevent such massive spamming, and yes, it is spamming since I did not authorize it in a clear way 3) better controls on how the application notifies users, specifically a CLEAR way to opt out of emails.

WaPo Article on YearlyKos and Inclusion

(cross-posted at Jack & Jill Politics under "Jack Turner") Jose Antonio Vargas at the Washington Post filed a story about "diversity" at the YearlyKos convention titled "A Diversity of Opinion, if Not Opinionators." I wish there were more time for the story to get into some of the deeper stuff, but it's a good start. Jose met with several of us at the convention, and we got into a wide-ranging discussion about how uncomfortable the subject of YearlyKos's "whiteness" is to many of its white attendees, the mob popularity inherent in linking (top of the long tail, if you will) which prioritizes more "mainstream" issues over those of concern to people of color and the ways in which the "blackroots" may not have been widely represented at the conference but has grown tremendously in the past year online. Vargas writes:
Everyone agrees it's a problem, yet no one is sure how to address it. Historically, the progressive movement has included a myriad of special-interest and single-issue groups, and the challenge has always been to find common ground. The same is true on the Internet, but with an added twist. The Internet, after all, is not a "push" medium like television, where information flows out, but a "pull" medium, where people are drawn in.
This is not quite true. "Everyone" didn't agree it was a problem. Jane Hamsher, who was among those of us interviewed, pointedly remarked that she didn't see a large problem. I'd characterize her position as "if you write it, they will come." Her point seemed to be that all will be included in the discussion if they write, write, write. In fact, her interview in a recent Mother Jones article makes her viewpoint quite clear:
MJ: Do you think that women are adequately represented in the blogosphere? JH: On the whole, it is men who read blogs. But I think it's a meritocracy. My blog has a much higher percentage of women readers than any other major blog, and I've never found this to be a problem for myself. If your writing is good, they will come. You have to put in the time to figure out how the blogosphere works. If you're willing to do that, I don't think being female is any barrier. In fact, I think it's an advantage at this point. The A-list bloggers are hungry and looking to give exposure to women who write really well. Most of those criticisms of male A-list bloggers shutting out women-I really don't have any other word to call it except just "bullshit."
The most interesting quote in Vargas's article to me is the last one, by Matt Stoller, about the pioneering role folks of color have played in alternative media. "It's important to remember that African American and Latinos already had their alternative media before white progressive bloggers like me organized on the Web," says Stoller late Saturday morning. "It's also important to remember that this movement is still young. It's still not that advanced, it's still building coalitions, it's still maturing." Black and brown folks may not play by exactly the same rules as those established by the mainstream netroots. Liza Sabater, for example, continually raises the point that we access the web differently (primarily via mobile phones). Stoller's point is on point as well. Publications like The Afro-American, Ebony, Essence, Jet, etc. were revolutionary, and it seems to me that we're building in the same spirit online from our Afro-Netizens to our Crunk and Disorderlies. Definitely check out the rest of the story, and comment back!