Alliance for Community Media Northeast Conference: Other Panels

In addition to facilitating a panel on Makerspaces, I attended several other presentations. I'm new to Community Media, so it was useful to attend.

The first presentation I attended was about getting cable companies to allow PEG stations to use the electronic program guide. This is something I've asked about repeated with respect to Amherst Media, because Comcast has been unwilling to do it here and the program guide only shows "Local 1" or "Educational Programming" -- and TVGuide shows nothing at all. The presenters (one of whom is the current president of the Alliance for Community Media, the national parent organization of ACM-NE) provided a solid background about the resistance of cable companies to allow this and offered many helpful suggestions. As much as 40% of television viewing happens via DVR and, if your content isn't scheduled correctly, people can't easily view your content this way. Cable companies ought to see PEG content as a huge draw for cable television: the viewership is often low, but extremely "sticky" with a very loyal following. But many cable companies resist letting PEG stations schedule their content because it helps them organize and build an audience, which will turn out during the franchising negotiations. Their suggestions were mainly to push hard for access to the program guide, make a persuasive case that it serves their interests to serve their customers well, keep pushing, and document everything.

Martha Fuentes-Bautista

The keynote speech was by Martha Fuentes-Bautista, a faculty member from UMass Amherst who's worked extensively with Amherst Media. Several years ago, she did an indepth study of Amherst Media's relationship to the community, Access360: Building engaged communities in a digital age. In her keynote, she spoke about the community media ecosystem and how to engage with all of the different components and stakeholders.

After lunch, I attended a presentation that I thought was going to be about fundraising and how to seek funding. Instead, it was about a particular campaign that the community foundation of Hartford ran in collaboration with a local PBS station as marketing for their 90th anniversary. It was an interesting story, but was more about marketing and branding than it was about how to look for funding. When people asked how much the campaign had costed, they refused to say, although they agreed the number was possibly more than the entire annual budget of many local public-access stations.

In the last time slot, Jim Lescault and I attended an "ask the lawyers" presentation. People raised a number of interesting questions about franchising, crafting releases for content, the new PEG enterprise fund statute, and other interesting topics. Seeing the kinds of questions people ask was as helpful to me as the answers.

The day wrapped up around 5pm -- just as traffic on the expressways peaks -- so Jim and I went over to a local barbeque place to get a sandwich and then, next door, to the tavern where they were holding the afterparty. We hooked up with a couple of people Jim knew and had a very interesting and wide-ranging conversation. I also got to try a new (to me) IPA: Stony Creek Cranky. Good beer, good friends, and good conversation. A fitting end to a great day.

Alliance for Community Media Northeast Conference: Makerspace Panel

Last year, it was Jim Lescault who spoke about Makerspaces at the ACM-NE Annual Meeting. This year, it was my turn: yesterday, I facilitated a panel with speakers from three Makerspaces: Bryan Patton and Devra Sisitsky from MakerspaceCT, Christ Anderson from AS220, and Christine Olson from our own Makers at Amherst Media. It turned out pretty well.

ACM-NE Makerpace Panel

I provided a brief introduction to the philosophical alignment of public-access television and the Maker movement. I drew heavily from the presentation I did for Science for the People, but turned down the Marxist rhetoric and focused more on community-building. At the same time, I wanted to puncture the hypothesis that a lot of people seem to have that "The Maker Movement Is Going To Save Us" and "The Maker Movement Is The New Economy". I felt a little bad when I realized that the team from MakerspaceCT was going to do this exact presentation right after mine. But I left my comments in because I think it's important.

The three presentations about Makerspaces were all very different from one another. Christine provided a very nuts-and-bolts look at our Makerspace, focusing on our sense that building the community was what was important, as opposed to installing some equipment in a room and calling it a "makerspace". It was a great introduction to what we're doing, what's working, who we're trying to partner with, and what our challenges are. I thought it was a fantastic model if another access station wanted to get started trying to build a Maker community. Neither of the others really had anything to do with access centers, but both were interesting for other reasons.

After the presentation, a woman congratulated me on the panel. I admitted that I thought it was a little incoherent because the different presentations were so uncoordinated and from totally different perspectives. She disagreed saying, "No! That's what made it useful: to see it from all these different points of view." I was very pleased and was glad to be a part.

Update: I posted again about the rest of the conference.

Getting Blocked

When Max Gladstone and Theodora Goss both tweeted links about Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker not allowing Syrian refugees, I thought I would retweet both. But I was surprised to discover, when I tried to retweet the second tweet, that Theodora had blocked me.

I can't say that I know Theodora well — I first heard of her through Philip, who I believe was a Clarion classmate. I met her at Reader Con a year ago and introduced myself briefly. And I had followed her on Twitter for a couple of years. Being a teacher of writing, interested in poetry, and sharing a connection through Phil, I thought I could have the temerity to occasionally comment on things she wrote. When she posted a picture of a beautiful sunset in Budapest, I commented that there were beautiful sunsets in many places that people rarely took time to appreciate. When she posted a picture of a teacup with a sakura painting, I offered a haiku about the longing for spring that the picture inspired in me.

Since you don't receive any notification when someone blocks you, I don't know exactly when it happened -- or, indeed, how many times it's happened. But I know of one other instance where I was blocked (in Twitter) and twice when I was unfriended (in Facebook). The two instances in Facebook were due to political differences: people found my left-leaning political positions unsupportable -- in one case telling me I should leave the country if I didn't support their red-state agenda.

The other case in twitter, was due directly to something I said. A trans person retweeted a link by (what was seemingly) a young woman who was mocking her boyfriend for saying she wore too much makeup. I replied to to the tweet, perhaps offensively

This is a pet peeve of mine: I have frequently heard women claim that men require them to wear makeup (or pantyhose or whatever), when it appears to me that women actually police each other regarding clothing and appearance much more than men ever do. And I've always thought that wearing make-up makes you look like a clown. But usually, I have enough sense to keep my opinion to myself.

I should have recognized that there are a lot of reasons why people wear make-up. An elderly male colleague who has psoriasis wears foundation because people otherwise would stare at the livid rash across his face. They still stare because of the makeup but, evidently, he finds that better than the alternative.

Phil suggested that Theodora probably blocks a lot of people who post creepy things to her on Twitter. I can certainly believe that: I've seen some of those. He offered to contact her and ask, but I demurred. I certainly don't want to force myself on anyone. Still, I was surprised and a bit hurt to find myself lumped in with creepy people. The internet is a weird place.

Amherst Media Annual Meeting

Last night, I opened the Amherst Media annual meeting.

Here are my remarks:

Thank you all for attending the Amherst Media Annual meeting. It's wonderful to see both new and familiar faces.

As you probably know, it's been my first year as president and a tough year for Amherst Media with challenges on every front.

Tonight, however, I want to focus on the positives: With the help of Diana Stiles we launched our first annual fundraising campaign.

At the recent Cable Ascertainment hearings, it was wonderful to hear person after person come forward to testify about the key role that Amherst Media plays in our town by providing access to Public, Educational, and Government news and information.

People depend on Amherst Media to help them understand what's happening in town: with our schools, with town meeting, with many of the important boards and commities. Whether live, on rebroadcast, or streaming, many people stay connected through Amherst Media.

Our members also create an incredible amount of great video content about our community. Going Deeper, Neighbor-to-Neighbor, the Bruce Show, and on and on.

We also help capture interesting events happening in town: Ron Story's talk at the Amherst Historical Society, many talks at NERDSummit, Ron Fortunato's talk to Makers at Amherst Media.

But we're more than our content: we're also a community of people. We have outstanding staff Ari, Kayla, and Nick who work with an army of interns and the public to produce, direct, and film our shows. Our Board of Directors: Josh, Ed, Matt, Mat, Rick, Leo, Lynn, Demetria, Irv, Joe, and Adrienne. Our many members whether producing and creating videos or working in our various youth projects. And finally, our director Jim, who somehow keeps us all working together.

We have a packed agenda for the evening with several questions to bring to the membership and many opportunities for member to get more involved with our organization. But before we move on, I wanted to thank you -- all of you -- for your trust and support in allowing me to serve as president this year.

After my opening remarks, Jim introduce a reel of highlights showing some of this year's productions and introduced Judy Brooks to speak about the Jean Haggerty and Matt Heron Duranti to introduce this year's honoree, Jerry Gates.

Jerry spoke movingly about his experience working to organize a shelter for the homeless in Amherst, his community of helpers, and plans for the future.

Subsequently, we conducted the business of Amherst Media. We adopted some revisions to the bylaws, provided a moment for each of our standing committees to report on their activities, and reviewed the Treasurer's report.

After we adjourned the membership meeting, we conducted a board meeting to select officers for the coming year. There was consensus on the board about all of the officer positions: a single nomination was put forward for each & was seconded, the candidate accepted, nominations closed, and, without objection, declared elected by acclimation. I will serve again as President. Demetria Shabazz will be vice-president. And Ed Severance and Matt Heron-Duranti will reprise their roles as Treasurer and (with the revision of the bylaws) Secretary.

It's been a tough and complicated year for Amherst Media, but I feel like the board is really coming together and I have high hopes that next year will see the organization really move forward.

Open Letter to Stan Rosenberg

I'm writing to express my hope that the Senate, which has traditionally been an ally of UMass Amherst and public higher education, will stop blocking the $10.9 million that the University needs to fully fund last year's collective bargaining agreements. The University took a substantial budget cut this year which the Chancellor did not pass through to academic units. But it's disrupted plans for faculty hiring and renovations needed for new faculty.

I've been particularly concerned to see the collective bargaining agreements held up against student fee increases, as if they were the only reason. Increasing labor costs, which as you know are largely just cost-of-living increases, are only one of several drivers of increasing costs at the University.

One crucial driver has been the need to replace our aging buildings, which the University has undertaken in the absence of adequate capital funding. The chronic under-funding of the campus by the state left the University, at one point, with nearly two billion dollars of deferred maintenance. Judicious use of new construction has enabled the campus to decommission old, failing buildings and side-step the bills for their deferred maintenance. But Massachusetts is one of the only states that expects future student's tuition and fees to pay off the academic buildings.

Another driver has been the need to increase student financial aid: federal and state aid used to cover a significant part of the total, but have stayed almost flat and are now just a fraction of the need. UMass is paying more than 70% of the needs-based financial aid -- mostly out of other students' tuition.

I've wanted to tell you about the great sense of common purpose that exists currently on the UMass Amherst campus. We have a great chancellor and I've never seen the faculty so united. (Well, except perhaps, when Jack Wilson tried to foist his 'one university' plan on the campus.) OK. So, I've never seen the campus so united *behind the administration*.

I'm also encouraged by the change of leadership in the system office. I know you've expressed concerns to me in the past about a lack of transparency in the UMass system. But I think this is a moment when a new UMass president has an opportunity to make changes and take things in a new direction. But not while trying to clean up the mess left behind by his predecessor.

I hope you can find a way to resolve this problem and remove the cloud hanging over the University. It's a real obstacle to getting on with our work.

Thanks much for your service and continued support of UMass Amherst.

Google's App Specific Passwords in Calendar.app

At some point, the only way to use Google Calendar with Apple's Calendar.app was to set up two-factor authentication and then create an "app-specific password" to use in the application. On my laptop, running Mavericks, this quit working a couple of days ago. Trying to create and enter a new password didn't work either. Eventually, I used this as an excuse to install El Capitan where the Internet Accounts System Preferences now directs you to authenticate directly via Shibboleth to configure a Google Account. But I suspect this means that Mavericks (and previous) systems will find it hard to work with Google anything going forward and will need to be updated to Yosemite (or El Capitan).

Ni verkis tankaojn

Dum la pasintaj dek jaroj, mi ofte ofertas programeron ĉe kongresoj por proponi ke ni kune verku poezion. Kiam en In the Land of Invented Languages Arika Okrent parolas pri "Esperanto haiku", ŝi partoprenis mian programeron ĉe la usona Landa Kongreso en 2004. Plej ofte, mi proponas hajkojn, sed almenaŭ unufoje mi faris rengaon. Kaj ĉijare mi proponis tankaon.

Mi ne havis kialon por proponi tankaon krom tio ke mi volis fari ion novan. Kiam antaŭ kelkaj semajnoj mi ektrafis la ideon verki tankaojn, mi esploris kio estas tankao.

Mi jam sciis iomete pri tankao: mi sciis ke ili estas la praa japana poezia formo. La elitoj verkis tankaojn en la kortumo de la japanaj imperiestroj. De tankao, devenis rengao, kaj de rengao devenis hajko. La formo havas silaban nombron 5-7-5-7-7.

Hajko estas tre strikta pri temo (devis temi naturon kaj indiki sezonon ktp, ktp) sed tankao estas pli libera. La unua parto (5-7-5) "kreas la scenejon" — ĝi priskribas ion — kaj la dua parto (7-7) priskribas la emocian — ofte fortan — reagon.

Mi decidis ke mi devas provi verki tankaon por certigi ĉu mi ja povas. Mi cerbumis iun fortan emocion kiun mi povus priskribi kaj ekhavis ideon. Post duonhora laboro mi havis mian unuan tankaon:

Intertempe, mi verkis kelkajn tankaojn por praktiki kaj ĉimatene ofertis la programeron. Ĝi okazis tuj post la matenmanĝo en bela dometo je la fora flanko de Arĝenta Golfo. Ĝi estas iom alta super la lago kaj havas grandajn fenestrojn per kiu eblas vidi la pejzaĝon.

Mi neniam scias kiom da homoj partoprenos. Kutime venas nur manpleno. Ĉimatene, tamen, venis proksimume dudek! Mi stulte forgesis alporti paperon kaj plumojn por tiuj kiuj ne havis, sed aliaj partoprenantoj estis kunportintaj sufiĉe por dividi.

Mi klarigis tion kio estas tankao kaj legis kelkajn el la miaj. Kaj tiam ni ĉiuj simple verkis dum duono da horo. Poste mi legis unu el miaj:

Tiam la aliaj legis siajn tankaojn. Ili estis belegaj! Multaj estis trafaj kaj ĉiuj esprimis grandan plezuron pri siaj tankaoj kaj la sperto.

Mi klarigis ke mi verkas poezion malpli por montri al aliaj homoj ol por la sperto profundiĝi en la momento — kaj en mi mem. Verki poezion donas al mi grandan plezuron kaj mi esperis ke ili sentu same.

Esperantujo

Mi vojaĝis ĉimatene trans la Berkshiraj Montoj, turnis dekstren, kaj veturis ĝis la Adirondakaj Montoj por pasigi semajnfinon en Esperantujo. Okazas ĉisemajnfine ĉiujare ekde kiam mi translokiĝis al Novanglujo la Aŭtuna Renkontiĝo de Esperanto.

Estis Normando kaj Zdravka Fleury kiuj unue organizis la semajnfinon, kiu komence nomiĝis Internacia Semajnfino Esperantista. Oni elektis la novan nomon por ke la vorto "Esperanto" estu en ĝi.

Mi portis nigran ĉemizon kun blankaj vortoj kiuj diras "Se vi povas legi tion ĉi VI ESTAS EN ESPERANTUJO". Mi faris la ĉemizon per Cafepress kaj mendis du ekzemplerojn: unu por mi kaj unu por Phil. Aliaj povas mendi ĝin, sed ŝajnas ke neniu alia iam faris.

Mi ne iris ĉiujare, sed mi partoprenis la plejmulton. En fruaj jaroj, Lucy venis kun mi. Foje la infanoj. Unufoje eĉ la edzinjon. Sed dum la lastaj jaroj, mi venas sole.

La semajnfino okazas je kriza punkto de la aŭtuna semestro. Mi ĉiam estas ege okupita ekde la fino de la somero ĝis la frua aŭtuno, sed je certa punkto ĉio estas starigita kaj marŝas kaj mi ekhavas momenton denove. Por mi tiu ĉiam estas kriza, ĉar estas la longa listo de problemaj aferoj kiujn mi prokrastis dum mi estis plene okupita kiun mi nun devas alfronti. Mi profitas la eblecon eskapi dum kelkaj tagoj por forlasi ĉion kaj fari ion alian.

Ĉiujare estas plimalpli same: oni renkontas novajn kaj malnovajn amikojn. Oni kunvenas por paroli, aŭskulti, spekti, kaj partopreni je diversaj programeroj. Oni tro multe manĝas en la manĝejo. Oni havas sufiĉan tempon por simple sidi kaj rigardi la foliojn, la lagon, kaj la ĉielon. Kaj post du tagoj, oni forveturas hejmen.

Ĉu indas la vojaĝo? Ĉu indas la tempo? Nu, jes. Nur por la ebleco foriri de la ĉiutaga mondo kaj estis aliie, indas veni. Sed ankaŭ la komunumo de nia eta aro: Ili meritas la vojaĝon kaj tempon. Mi ĝojas ke mi venis.

Testimony for Cable Ascertainment

Below is my testimony to the Amherst Select Board during the cable ascertainment hearing.

Madame Selectboard Chair, I come before you as a resident of Amherst, a cable subscriber, and a parent -- but also as the President of the Board of Amherst Media, our local public-access television station.

I moved to Amherst in '98 and I chose to live here at least in part because, unlike a number of the surrounding communities, cable service was available here. And, although internet service was not yet available, Amherst was on the list to receive it soon.

I subscribed to the cable service upon arriving and since then, I've interacted with the provider only a handful of times. Most recently, we were required by Comcast to replace our cable modem and, in order to return the old router, I visited the Comcast office in Amherst where a customer-service representative helped me promptly and efficiently.

Where he was unable to help me, however, was trying to navigate the differences between the various Xfinity packages. It's very unhelpful for the services to be bundled in complex packages and almost all of the public materials about the packages are what I might charitably term "sales brochures". They seem designed to obfuscate whether less expensive options would actually provide what you want.

Those issues speak to my experiences as a Comcast customer. But I would also like take a moment to speak as the President of Amherst Media.

Amherst Media was founded 40 years ago — one of the very first public-access television stations. Public-access was established by Congress to make communications technologies accessible to the public — so that cable television was not just outside entities reaching down into communities, but instead enabled members of the community to leverage these tools to reach their neighbors, to organize, and to take action. Although the legislation has changed several times, it still empowers communities to set up cable channels for Public, Educational, and Government access to serve local needs. Amherst has chosen to implement all three and we have many community members who take advantage of our resources.

In addition, we have an outstanding staff led by a visionary Executive Director who enable community members to leverage our resources most effectively. They help add polish and professionalism so that even amateurs can create projects that have high production values.

My older son was one of a group of high school students who created a television series called "Student News". They started after one of them wrote an article that their school newspaper refused to publish. Amherst Media provided a conduit for the free expression of their ideas. They also did a sketch comedy series and several short movies using Amherst Media equipment. For their work, they were awarded the Jean Haggerty Community Service Award.

My younger son is currently volunteering as one of the many members and interns active at Amherst Media. Many of the students who intern are studying film, journalism, or communications at one of the Five Colleges. Others simply are interested in learning video production for their own projects.

Community groups also take advantage of Amherst Media: the Rotary for their fundraising telethon; the Chamber to build video shorts about local businesses; the Youth Action Coalition to engage young people in digital story-telling projects; And our new Maker community, Makers at Amherst Media, is a town-gown community group that aims to help young people learn how they can use new technology in innovative ways — and to share their experiences. The list goes on and on…

As President, though, I didn't really "feel the love" for Amherst Media until I attended a luncheon for the League of Women Voters. Many people, especially the elderly, participate in town government primarily by watching meetings, either live or recorded, via Amherst Media.

Amherst Media has a long list of improvements that the community has requested. We would love for our programming to visible in the channel guide and available via Video on Demand. We would love to carry live HD broadcasts from more locations in town. I know that our Executive Director will speak to these issues in more detail and is eager for the completion of the next franchise agreement to enable Amherst Media to meet some of these pent-up needs.

Amherst Media is also facing a number of challenges: we are being pushed to vacate our current location and the move will require rebuilding our studios, offices, and technical infrastructure. The network that enables us to broadcast live video is failing and needs to be replaced. Again, the list goes on and on…

I joined the board and agreed to serve as President in large measure to give back for the wonderful experiences my children have had at Amherst Media. I'm proud to represent Amherst Media and look forward to working with Comcast to meet our community's needs.

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