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Facebook is bad for everybody / Changing minds

Published December 13, 2017 by justicewg

I try to keep my commentary on this blog focused on local Grandview issues, but occasionally I read or see something that makes me say, “Yes, this person is absolutely right, we all need to pay attention”. I will get back to the local after a while, but first some thoughts on this TED talk about social media, and Facebook in particular. Later, I discuss a good website on changing minds.

We’re building a dystopia

That is a bit of a clickbait headline, isn’t it? Sure, but this TED talk backs it up with careful reasoning and reference to studies of how behavior changes because of online ads and social media groups.

There has been a few headline news stories that have told us how we are becoming a nation that is sharply divided, not just because of ideological differences, but because of the perception of reality. We want to read stories that reinforce our own world view, and discount those that don’t fit – cognitive dissonance has been studied for many years, we know how the mind can bend perception to fit our view of how “things should be”. Now we have Facebook to reinforce those perceptions, feeding us a computer generated stream of news and commentary that intentionally pushes us into more extreme views on politics and society.

It has gotten so bad that even one of the founders of social media admits that Facebook is tearing the social fabric apart (jump to 21:30). He suggests the best solution is to stop using Facebook, but if that is not possible, at least understand how it works to suck you in and make you angry. Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Watching Grandview stories of 2016

Published December 30, 2016 by justicewg

Although there is some correlation between the number of hits on a story on this blog and the importance to the future of the city, it isn’t always a good match. This year the hits and the importance paralleled. Here are the top stories, followed by some thoughts about “fake news” and how we can fight it here in Grandview.

School board breaks with Harrison Planning Group

board-meeting-10-18-16-special-morningIt wasn’t just the two-faced way that the school board handled the end of the relationship with Harrison Planning Group, tearing him to pieces in a school board meeting, while praising him in later emails to the community. It was the attempt to sneak this scandal past the public with a special morning meeting, while the board had a regular meeting the same day. They knew that the special meetings are not recorded, and rarely attended by anyone, so the board acted like three year olds and tried to hide their mess.

No explanation or apology has been offered since the split with HPG. Although there were two community members who spoke up at the special meeting, critical of the board for attempting to hide the important news with the morning meeting, the only response from the chair of the meeting was a comment from Jessie Truett that he didn’t think criticism of the board is good decorum at the board meetings. The board has never apologized – the board has never made apologies for any mistake they make.

There is no question about what was said at the board meeting, I made a video recording. I had a good number of views of this YouTube video, but I think many of the views might be from HPG’s lawyers in preparation for a lawsuit against the school board. If you have any interest at all in the schools at Grandview Heights, please take the time to watch the video.

The followup post about the replacement for the facility consultant continues this story.

Read the rest of this entry →

City Blog is still worth bookmarking

Published April 8, 2015 by justicewg
Jewell Odell, accused of stealing jewelry on First Ave.

Jewel Odell, accused of stealing jewelry on First Ave.

I first wrote about the City Blog last year, in August it had been in operation for a month. Although the focus of the blog was intended to be city council and administration information, and it has continued with the excellent monthly Community Letter from Mayor Ray DeGraw, the blog has wider focus now.

Very often the city police department has the most frequent posts, informing us about crimes that have occurred, suspects being sought, and nearly live information about street closures at crime scenes.

In December there was a barricade situation near W. Third Ave. and Cambridge Blvd. The city police posted info about the standoff within a couple of hours.

There was a theft suspect arrested Monday who had been accused of taking jewelry from a First Ave. home. In a odd coincidence, the name of the woman was Jewel Odell. You have to wonder, what sort of forces lead a woman named Jewel into becoming an (accused) jewel thief. Did her name lead to a lifelong unhealthy fascination with jewels?

If we searched police records, would we find that people with names similar to things that are stolen have a propensity to steal those items? There are thousands of people with the first name “Cash”, do they become money obsessed? Do people named “Ford” tend to become car thieves who specialize in that brand?

Wifi in the parks

I didn’t give this post from last year the attention it deserves. The Grandview Heights Public Library is offering free WiFi at Grandview parks, according to a post in the city blog. All of the city parks and the city pool (with Buck park soon) are covered with a free wifi signal. Now parents who are watching their kids play baseball at the parks can spend more time looking down at their iphones and watching funny videos of kids making bloopers on the baseball diamonds on YouTube.

Late April community letter from Mayor

I just finished telling everyone how good the community letter from Mayor DeGraw is to read on the city website, and he has to show up with a April letter posted on May 19th. Maybe he needs to call it “Words from the Past” (the date on the post has been changed and it now says it is the May letter, not sure what is going on but I assume it was mislabeled before).

The new soldier memorial will be dedicated at the Memorial Service at Memorial Park on Northwest Boulevard on Thursday May 21st at 7:30 p.m. The Memorial Day Parade steps off at 10:00 a.m. May 23, 2015 and moves down First Ave. to Pierce Field .

I only post my comments on this blog

Published November 9, 2014 by justicewg

I was reading a post by tech journalist Steven Levy in which he tells the story of how his name has been erroneously added to a widely shared email about the so called “war on Christmas”. He had nothing to do with the email, but every year he gets comments from people who think it was his words in that rant.

I had a new experience in the days around the last election – people were sending emails out that pretended to be from me, or with my support. The election is over, hopefully things will calm down and the over-caffeinated people who try to send all kinds of rants on the internet will go back to normal. I hope that I will not have to deal with this during every election, but like Levy and many others who find themselves attributed with saying things that they never said on the internet, I have no way to stop it from happening.

I have had this blog (and the previous blog Grandview Watch) for more than 10 years. In all that time, I have used this blog to post my opinions, not emails. I don’t post on Facebook, I don’t use the comment sections of local newspapers. Other than a few letters to the editor in the Tri-Village News, this is where you will read anything that I post.

Any email you have read that pretends to be from Watching Grandview, or justicewg, or John Wagner, is fake. I am not famous enough to get a page on Snopes to debunk fake emails, but you can use this website as a substitute. If I don’t say it here, you are reading a false email.

I can’t say why someone would do this. Maybe somebody with a beef with a school board member is using my name to throw attention away from themselves. Maybe this is a false-flag operation. There are lots of reasons someone could try this. None of them very good, most of them pretty useless at attaining whatever goal they have.

I’m guessing things will go back to normal after the election, but I’ll again say this – you might think you are good at covering your tracks on the internet. Unless you are a hacker with some deep knowledge of the net, you are not as anonymous as you think.

How bad can it get?

If you are interested in learning how bad the trolling can get for someone who posts controversial material on the internet, try reading this story. Author and former Jezebel columnist Lindy West had a troll who made a fake twitter profile using the name and photo of her deceased father, and used it to send trolling comments. That’s how bad it can be.

The surprising part of the story is that after West found the true identity of the troll and confronted him, it turned out he was just mildly annoyed and though the trolling was a joke. When he read how hurtful the posts from her dead father were to West, he realized that it was way over the line, and had some regret (although who knows if that regret was made up because he got caught). A lot of internet trolling is not from anger, but boredom and envy.

The city has a new blog on its website

Published August 31, 2014 by justicewg
Grandview City blog

Grandview City blog

Late in July, with little fanfare, the city of Grandview Heights started posting a new blog on its website. The name of it is not going to win any awards for creativity, it is called the City of Grandview Heights Blog.

I’ve been following it for the past couple of months, my general impression is “what took them so long?” Blogs are now the main venues for public relations of any business or city, along with the combination of Facebook, Twitter, and other online hangouts that are grouped into the “social media” label. With the fast pace of change the Grandview Yard development has been throwing at the city residents, it was long overdue for this blog to be born.

The Yard rules all

As anyone would expect, the blog is dominated by Grandview Yard news, a Faq, and announcements of public hearings on Yard developments. Since the announcement of the Nationwide Insurance campus back at the end of June, the city has tried to use newspaper stories to lay out the changes and strategy that the city will be following, but there is limited space a newspaper will allocate for what is essentially free public relations. This blog hopefully will keep the flow of information open with the taxpayers.

I have to admit, there was a story here in Grandview about the changes to the Stevenson parking, and the removal of trees for a re-designed intersection of First Avenue and Northwest Boulevard, that I missed. I was on vacation! Former city council president Steve Reynolds lead a group of residents in a protest about the cutting of trees for this project, even placing blue ribbons around the trees (which the city removed the next day). I still plan to try to get some comment from Reynolds about his protest – was it about the trees, or was it more about the process that the city used to fast track this plan, with little resident comment allowed?

It did seem to prod the city into holding more meetings. There have been a series of meetings to take suggestions for Northwest Boulevard Infrastructure Improvement Project ( the next meeting will be September 2nd). The Aug. 29th blog post details some modifications that the city will now use, saving a few of the trees.

Panzera being Panzera

Council President Anthony Panzera had a post with a long series of question and answers about the Yard, and how the development will affect the city in coming years. It’s a competent bit of writing, and probably hits all the points that people have been asking about the changes the city is likely to go through. He included a large photo of himself, in case you forgot what he looks like.

When he gets to the end and starts going into a long story about all the old familiar places that he used to shop at when he was young, that are long gone, I could almost hear the harps twanging as we took the soft focus drift back in time. Yea, that was as subtle as a hammer. Some people think Panzera is just too overt in his playing the political game. Others find it at least predictable, you don’t need to wonder when Panzera is trying to game you, the answer is, “always”.

BF story

B.F. story

Blogging has rules

The online world is filled with people linking to other blogs, quoting each other, showing images of content, and sometimes outright stealing content. The fact that it is all free to read gets confused with the idea that a physical object you are given is yours to reuse as you see fit. There are rules on the internet, and although you can go a long time with flaunting them, you will eventually run into someone who will slap you down.

Linking to somebody else’s work is fine. Taking short quotes from that work to illustrate a point in a review is fair use. However, taking a scan of a newspaper story – the whole story, not just a section – and posting it on the city blog is not cool. The story in Business First about Mayor DeGraw was a fine bit of bragging about the Yard, and it included a funny photo that made it stand out. You can’t scan the newspaper stories that you want to save and post them online like it was a scrapbook, the reporters at B.F. have this thing about being paid for the use of whole stories. I’m sure they explained this to the person at the city who removed the post from the city blog.

Here is another rule – blogging requires allowing comments from your readers. You don’t have to leave the welcome mat out for every crank with a malfunctioning caps lock key, holding comments for approval is common (that’s how I do it on this blog). If you don’t allow comments, it isn’t a blog, its just a PR release that happens to be placed on the web. I’m hoping the city realizes that it isn’t a real communication channel unless it is two way.

Social media is not going away

Published July 11, 2013 by justicewg

aullum_chaffin_web

I had a short talk with a local politician who lamented the effect social media was having on the willingness to run for office in Grandview. Conversations with residents about the possibility of running for the school board or for city council often ended with the person expressing fear of social media. In the past, a candidate just had to undergo scrutiny by the local traditional news media, which is generally cursory and relies heavily on self-reported information. The new media has complicated the decision to run.

Social media have none of the restraints of the traditional media. When someone is running for a public office, they have opened themselves to public comment. There is some defense possible from outright lying, facts still matter. But when you express “my opinion about this guy running for office” you can say just about anything that comes into your mind. Think he is a creep, a liar and a cheater? Post away, there is nothing stopping you. And there should not be any laws that restrict the ability to post opinions in public, this is what makes a free society.

The quantity of those opinions has exploded with the rise in social media. People have Facebook accounts, twitter, blogs, mailing lists, if you are willing to see the depths people can sink to, there are comment sections on newspapers. It’s all out there, and can be retrieved with the right queries of the search engines, today and long into the future.

You can live in fear of the social media, and try to limit all mention of your name by shunning the online world. Or you can be proactive and create your own media profile.

We have two new principals for our schools who have demonstrated the best way to deal with social media.

Angela Ullum is a unique name

The super has announced that Angela Ullum will be recommended for elementary school principal, filling in for soon to depart Brian Bowser. Ullum currently serves as assistant principal at Barrington Elementary School in Upper Arlington.

Tracking her online profile is simplified by the fact she has a very unique name. The “Bob Smiths” of the world can hide in the avalanche of returns that name produces, and almost any other name has multiple users in a metro area the size of Columbus. There doesn’t appear to be any other Angela Ullum, anywhere at all.

Mrs. Ullum has a cursory facebook page with very little publicly accessible information, just a few family pictures. Her Pinterist page, however, is absolutely jam-packed full of “Pins”, links to other information on the web she has organized into 18 boards. There is nothing unusual here, just the standard home organizing, shopping, and fashion links. There are lots of links to educational material, all of it seems to be mainstream professional links. There are no political pins or hints that identify her political beliefs. Possibly she is has no interest in politics, but I’m guessing that she has intentionally done that.

Kenny C sings country

The school board has approved Ken Chaffin as Grandview HS new principal. He most recently worked as an assistant principal at Worthington McCord Middle School.

After you filter out the results for the poet and fiction author with the same name, you find he has a twitter account, used to tweet about Worthington McCord school info and link to professional educational material. While reading a wordpress blog put up by an asst. super at the school I found a post about Chaffin’s performance at a school function, singing a country song about bullying. I know the school board was looking for someone who would take bullying at the school in a serious way. I’m not sure if singing about it will help, but it indicates he is willing to go outside of the normal channels to deal with bullying.

This is more about Trent Bowers, the asst. super at Worthington who has the extensive wordpress blog, but I am very impressed with the blogging going on in that school system (there is a small WP blog by Chaffin). Can you imagine a superintendent at Grandview who had a blog and updated it regularly?

(Later) Chaffin has sent an email out in which he introduces himself to the community, and says that he intends to blog regularly on that same wordpress blog. His first post as Grandview principal is here.

After reading his post (and some of his older stuff) I’m not so sure he understands what he is getting into here in this community. He is on this kick where he talks about “First Class” (something he got from listening to an Urban Meyer speech), which I kind of get because it is a “do your best” sort of football coach rah-rah tag line. An he did coach for a while. But Grandview is not a big sports school. If he thinks that running a school is like being a high school coach, I see bad things ahead.

Blog or be blogged

The social media world is not going away. Your relationship with it is mandatory, the only question is, will you engage with it and create your own online persona, or will you be a passive participant and allow other to define you?

What makes a good blog comment?

Published December 1, 2011 by justicewg

My list of the hierarchy of blog comments.

A. Comments by individuals who are the subject of the blog post. If a post was about a council move to bring the chickens back up for consideration, the best comments would come from the council members who are pushing the issue in council. Comments from other council members who will be deciding the issue are almost up there in the A level, call them A- comments. These sort of comments are sadly very rare. I occasional was able to get some Grandview board and council members to respond to my emailed questions on my old blog, but they were not very revealing. The nature of a politician is to be careful and non-controversial, unfortunately that sort of commentary reveals little of the emotion that can be driving members in their votes.

B. Comments by folks who use source material from the people who are the topic of the post. If the post is about a board motion to cut teachers, the best comments quote board members in past board meetings, votes they have made, things they said to reporters, personal conversations they have had with the public. Links to this material, where possible, helps. Producing this sort of research requires work, something I find too rarely in comment sections of blogs.

C. Comments which use links to authoritative material on the web. If the discussion is about the effect of 2011 property reappraisal by the auditor, a link to the reappraisal FAQ on the county website would be appropriate. Links to highly partisan political websites or sketchy conspiracy sites are “D” level and can only be given a half-grade increase if the bias in these links is noted by the commenter.

D. Your opinion, unsupported by links or reasoning. Comments that can be summarized to “this sucks” lose a half point.

F. Trolling, name calling, thread flooding, unfunny snark. See me after class, you have a attitude problem.

Much of the commenting posted on the web is in the D level of comments. It doesn’t add to the discussion when you jump up with a “this is cool!” or “sucks”. Maybe if you were an authoritative voice in the subject under discussion I would care when you give a quick thumbs up, but I would also expect a person who is familiar with the subject to give an insightful reason for the “cool post” comment.

A number of website have the ability to click a button that gives a “+1”, or to “Like” a post (including this wordpress blog). Please use that button. And when you do post, bring it up above the “D” noise level.

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