Screenplay Updates

It’s been a busy summer and I’ve continued to write and enter screenplays in contests.

Accept All Changes
This somewhat saccharine short script is about a romance between a bike courier and a bored technical writer. I was inspired to write this after being a judge for the DC Shorts Short Screenplay Contest. After judging other people’s work, I wanted to see if I could write a cute short script. Accept All Changes is a Quarterfinalist in the American Gem Literary Festival.

Mount Pleasant
Despite winning the Film DC Screenplay Competition a couple years ago with this feature-length script, I’ve continued to enter it into well-known screenplay competitions to get the word out about this urban drama. I learned recently that Mount Pleasant is a Quarterfinalist in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. 

Both of these scripts are set in DC, where I live.  Write what you know!

Friday's Links

Here’s what interested me this week:

Ghost Bike in Honor of Alice Swanson
This was an awful tragedy in an area I know well. A young woman on a bike was killed by a garbage truck near Dupont Circle.

Metro Station Prostitution Ring
They won’t give you change. They can’t get the trains to run on time.  But, they’ll find you a prostitute.

Let Our Congress Tweet!
In another story that makes you go, “duh”, Congress wants to ban itself from using the tools everyone else in the world uses. 


Should Government Employees Blog?

This is 2008.  Everyone these days has a blog.  Yet, within some sectors of government, there is resistance to using this not-so-new communications tool.  Why?  What are the “perceived risks”?

We don’t trust our employees.  This comes across in two ways.  

First, some federal agencies block all social networking sites (YouTube, MySpace) and this includes any blog with a or address.  While there are acceptable use policies on using government computers which spell out, basically, don’t screw around at work, some IT managers take things a step further and ban all social networking sites.  

This prevents inflows and outflows of communication. How does this effect government employees charged with communicating with the public?  Let’s say you’re a climatologist within a government agency. You need to write a report on the Arctic but you can’t get information on a recent mission there because it’s on a Blogger site.  Conversely, you can’t communicate to an audience who would be interested in your work because they’re a Facebook group.

Second, some unenlightened communications departments don’t trust ordinary employees with communications.  Talking to the public requires highly skilled professionals, in their view.  When they learn that non-communicators are communicating without permission, their first instinct is to shut things down. After all, these people may be off-message and may describe their work without the appropriate context.

Yet, these fears are really just “perceived risks” – they’re not actually risks.  Fear of Facebook is unwarranted.  An appropriate use policy and occasional monitoring will prevent the abuse of social media privileges.

And communicators in government must learn this is the Age of Authenticity.  Readers want unmediated information.  Gatekeepers and middlemen from every industry have given way to the masses, like it or not. Everyone is a communicator now. Communications departments should be training employees, not trying to censor them.

Blogging is just another communication tool, analogous to publishing a paper, giving a presentation, writing an email to a group or publishing a web page. It’s just another way to share knowledge with the tax-paying public.

Efforts within government to ban blogging and block social media do the public a disservice, because they prevent communication with the people who pay the bills.

Me, Schmap and the iPhone

Schmap publishes a series of local city guides.  They found some of my pictures of DC and elsewhere on Flickr and used them (with my permission) in their local guides.  They just released Schmap Guides for the iPhone, basically iPhone optimized versions of their guides.

What was slick and considerate of them was that they emailed me about their new guides.  And, even better, they included a link so that I could see what my pics looked like in the iPhone versions.  They didn’t have to do that – they already have my permission to use my pictures – but I think it’s pretty smart to do so.  Being an iPhone user myself, I was impressed that they had converted their guides and my pics over to the iPhone.  It sounds cheesy but seeing my pics on a mocked-up iPhone on a web page really made me feel special.  I’m sure it’s done with a big database but this little bit of personalization broke through my cynicism.  It was a well-executed bit of one-to-one marketing.





Friday's Links

Here’s what interested me this week:

How to Shoot Events
I was an event photographer last night for Art-O-Sound at Artomatic.  (Pictures coming soon.)  This post had some good advice about taking photos without being a jerk.

Just a Govy
Getting government to adopt the social media tools that the rest of the world uses is really painful and difficult.  Allies from other agencies are needed.  Hence, I was thrilled to add Just a Govy to my blogroll.

.Gov Sites Should Focus on RSS, XML
The controversial ArsTechnica article that states that government web sites should ditch design and context and just serve up raw data in open formats. 

The Butterfly Pavillion
Go see this if you’re in DC!  Beautifully delicate butterflies fly all around, landing on shoulders, heads, everywhere.  You’re even checked on the way out to see if any errant butterflies are clinging to your clothes. 

Does the Novel Really Need Improvement?

Interesting story on ReadWriteWeb on an online novel in a new publishing format called “Quillr.”  The book is a supernatural thriller called Here Ends the Beginning.  The book is basically a mashup of text, video, photos and music.  How is this different than HTML? Do we need another format on the web to tell a story?

I think a blog, which is mostly just text, would make a much better novel. Blogs are also written in the first-person and are often very personal. You could read post by post as if they were chapters. I’m sure someone has done this before.

I’m a writer and a web person.  I love words, whether they’re on a printed page or a glowing screen. However, reading a novel is really an intimate experience that you create yourself, one that requires focused attention to enjoy. A web site with all sorts of bells and whistles detracts from that experience. I’m all in favor of the web but there’s a reason why novels have been with us for hundreds of years – it’s a format that works.

Friday's Links

Here’s what interested me this week:

Apartment Therapy
I wish I knew how to decorate.  Maybe this site will help. 

Tweet Scan
Find out what people are talking about in Twitter.  Apparently, it’s Eurovision. 

Best Places to Work in the Federal Government
More than just a list of best agencies to work for, this report offers ratings from employee surveys on employee engagement, training, pay and benefits and work/life balance. 

Worst Album Covers Ever
A slideshow that you will see in your nightmares.

Crowdsourced Film Festivals

Maybe because I’ve been reading Wikinomics, but the idea of a crowdsourced film festival really seems like a good one.

I’ve been a judge for the DC Shorts Film Festival.  Am I more of an expert than you are on short film? Possibly.  Am I more knowledgeable and astute than a vast crowd of film buffs?  No, of course not. When it comes to judging short films, festivals are limited by the number of judges that can be recruited who will actually show up to watch and review films on cold weeknights when you’d much rather stay at home and watch American Idol than sit through some 17-minute long experimental work on the depressing urban landscapes of Flint, Michigan.

So, I say, the more the merrier. I think people who will bother to go to a site, watch the films and then judge them will be pretty fair. They’ll also be motivated to go to the festival. After all, they helped program it! This is a great way of getting more attendees by making people feel a sense of ownership for their local festival.

How I Learned to Love Twitter

I was at SXSW last year when Twitter launched.  They had monitors outside conference rooms showing “tweets” from users, little random bits of text unfurling on a screen.  I thought it was interesting, like a bad stream of consciousness novel, but didn’t see the point.  Why would I want to let the world know about the trivia of my life?

Twitter won a SXSW Web Award, in the blog category.  The founders gave a clever acceptance speech – in less than 140 characters.

Still, I was unconvinced until a few weeks ago when my buddy Neil suggested that I try it. He and his hard-working IT colleagues use it to keep track of one another across a busy college campus.

That seemed useful so I tried it out.  I found that several other of my friends and colleagues were already on Twitter and it’s been really interesting to discover the projects that they’re working on.  It’s helped me make connections and get good ideas.  For example, I found out that:

Despite the fact that Twitter is not 100% reliable (a real danger, one that doomed Friendster), its simplicity and utility make it a very attractive tool for web workers.  
Note: this post was inspired by the excellent 101 Uses for Twitter.


Seniors Spend More Time Online Than Anyone Else

This seems counterintuitive but seniors (age 55+) spend more time online than any other age group, according to a recent Jupiter Research report.

How times have changed since my days at AARP in the late 90s, when seniors were underrepresented online.  More than once, I heard the argument that seniors would never use the web, that “old dogs don’t learn new tricks.”  They would never give up newspapers and figure out how to use computers – how wrong and silly those ideas seem now.