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Preview: Susan Mernit's Blog

Susan Mernit's Blog

Social media, local news & community, social media for social change, product development, starting an Oakland news & community hub, feminism, product development, permaculture.

Last Build Date: Sat, 01 Apr 2017 00:00:00 PDT

Copyright: Copyright 2012

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Managing anxiety by doing what I avoid

Thu, 23 Aug 2012 17:03:26 -0800

One of the habits I have I dislike the most is that I will fixate on something I don't want to do and just don't do it.  It could be something I should do, and would benefit by doing, but it becomes the little hard nut of neurotic worry that I don't do. And it festers.

But one of the habits I have that I like about myself is when this little hard festering nut of worry gets acute enough, I have a change of heart. I decide the only way to make myself feel better is to attack and finish and resolve this issue that I have been avoiding and make it go away through working on it.

I've just spent 2.5 hours on one of those little hard nuts, one that has been driving me crazy for the past 4 months, much to my shame.  Only--in just 2.5 hours--I fixed it.

I timed it so I could show myself that this chore I've avoided for weeks didn't take any time at all once I decided to do just it.

And that is the lesson I want to remember--not only to jump on things I need to do, but to realize that worry can take much more time than  taking action.

Code for Oakland: "Most diverse hackathon ever"

Thu, 09 Aug 2012 16:40:12 -0800

As one of the founders of Code for Oakland, and a member of the committee that planned the event that just happened on July 21st, seeing posts like this: “Code For Oakland: The Most Diverse Hackathon Ever” | Mitchell Kapor Foundation Weblog  make me happy beyond measure and this one: Code For Oakland: The Most Diverse Hackathon Ever - Forbes
I moved to Oakland in 2008, after a short start-up stint in Boulder and many years in Silicon Valley, and immediately started to wonder where the tech community was, how we could build more tech community and why a city like Oakland with good infrastructure and cheap commercial real estate didn’t have more of a start-up scene. 
Fast forward 4 years and we’ve got alot more traction on all these issues—but we need to keep hammering on diversity and opportunity for everyone—and not re-create the old school view of what an entrepreneur, programmer, coder, or product developer is (and you probably know exactly what I am talking about.)
So we’re looking for ways to keep Code for Oakland going, and expand and build on it and get more partners and supporters. We’re also sharing our process with people from other cities who have made inquiries—if you’d like to do a civic hackathon a la CFO in your city—let us know.
Some photos from the event here:
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That place of my own: approaching a month and some insights

Sun, 05 Aug 2012 22:19:11 -0800

It's been almost a month since I moved, and I am still loving it. Some changes I am noticing
  • Sleeping better--those blackout blinds really help
  • Eating less--fewer big meals
  • Healthier eating--I only buy what I am going to eat and I follow my friend Michele's advice to Buy treats for the week---and go without when they're done.
  • More exercise: My resolve is an hour a day or more, which I did not do today, but which I have Done for the last 6 days and hope to continue the rest of the week.
  • Feeling better: More aware of muscles in my body and feeling pretty energetic.
  • Not lonely., My life and work are so full of people, the silence of living alone is a HUGE pleasure right now.
  • Writing more and responding to work more efficiently.  This was a huge driver in wanting to make a change, and I am seeing the results already--I wrote 2,000 works of the social media and news project, as well as chunks of an e-learning module for another project and lots of planning for a Oakland Local project we're about to kick off.

I'm also moving into a mode, which I love, of going to bed earlier and getting up earlier, a good fit with my personal natural rhythm.  Oh yes, and it's so uncluttered. Love that.


Taking a deep breath..and starting to write

Sat, 04 Aug 2012 15:31:30 -0800

This is my writing weekend. I have an exciting project to work on that also scares me--I want to do a good job. And I am at the moment when I have created the outlines, gathered up the materials, organized some of the information--and now I have to get to work.  And I'm feeling scared.

Can I really dive into this pool once more? How do I get myself to the place where I am inside the work and feeling one with it so that there's a strong, compelling flow? That's my goal for today. 

Like the canoeist pushing off into the river, the diver on the board, this is the moment to engage--with both my intent and my material.

By this time tomorrow, I would like to be a third of the way down the river--but I will only get there by writing, not by talking about my need to write. And so this is the moment I take a deep breath, strive for calm, and turn to the piece I need to write.

New project: Soil remediation, Oakland backyard

Wed, 01 Aug 2012 12:42:47 -0800

It looks like the soil in my yard may be toxic--or just industrial--enough that weeds don't grow. It's so dusty and filled with little rocks and glass.  I'm thinking about experimenting with soil remediation techniques to improve it and make it less toxic before I plan and landscape.
Test the soil
Plant sunflowers, bonset, goldenrod, yarrow for the year and see if they can improve the soil--maybe make a path around them but plan some big beds of them--have no idea what it takes to grow any of these
Talk to this fellow who's in Detroit and doing soil remediation of his yard--Soil Remediation: Detroit Experiments Explore Urban Farming's Next Frontier

Share on Oakland Local?

Snug as a bug and working away

Sun, 22 Jul 2012 17:25:11 -0800

I'm in the new house and loving it. Still more to put away, but it's a terrific space for me and I am thrilled to be here--especially since I have a whole series of writing projects this summer. Among the things I will be working on:
  • Some news ebooks funded by The Fund for Investigative Journalism--their grant will help Oakland Local make the lead to a new format.
  • A series of e-learning modules
  • Hack the Hood, a new economic development and youth training project we're going to pilot in East Oakland via OL
  • Raising money and selling ads for Oakland Local

More to come on all this.


Big congrats! Sree Sreenivasan

Thu, 12 Jul 2012 07:07:35 -0800

Columbia University Names Sree Sreenivasan First Chief Digital Officer - Arik Hesseldahl - News - AllThingsD

Way to go, dude!

6 days to moving

Wed, 11 Jul 2012 08:28:45 -0800

I'm moving six blocks from my current spot, to a house I bought in Oakland, and I am super excited. It's been a long time since I owned a house, and renting felt right for so long for reasons like wanting flexibility, doing start-ups, etc.  But this a part of North Oakland I love, on a street that seems filled with good neighbors...has me so jazzed.  It feels like the room of one's own--that, even with housemates--it will be a great place to write and work, as well as savor life.

Hanging at The Ramp SF

Thu, 05 Jul 2012 21:33:13 -0800

Part of my world view right now is to seize the special moments. So when I finished a meeting in Dogpatch with a terrific Oakland Local client and realized I was hungry, I decided to find someplace to stop for a bite before I crossed the bridge and went to another meeting.  Back in the day, I'd spent a good amount of time at Technorati at 3rd and 22nd St so I thought there might be some good options, but I didn't see anything until I swung past The Ramp, a place I hadn't been since Steve Freund had a big event there many years ago.

Wow, was that fun! There's nothing as nice as taking an hour to relax in a spot you'd usually visit only on a weekend, or after work.  The Ramp's view of the Bay was great, the sky was clear and blue, and the buzz was happy. And I was happy. A hour of The Ramp and 6 more hours of work seemed not so bad.


Pinterest vs Tumblr

Sun, 24 Jun 2012 15:13:09 -0800

I wasn't so hot on Pinterest when it first launched and, in fact, I made fun of it a bit.  Tumblr, on the other hand, I just loved--who wouldn't love a micro-blogging service that both clipped and quoted and allowed original content?Over the course of the past 18 months, I've made and launched multiple Tumblrs, mostly for work (news/community/media/events) and a little for fun.  Pinterest, not so much.But then, this month, I bought a house. A house that was bare of window treatments, furniture, rugs, and pretty much everything else. A house I was going to have to plan and organize. Suddenly, I was all about Pinterest.What started as a series of boards about ideas for my yard repairs (backyard was a wreck), fence and patio turned into more boards about what the living room might look like, home offices, and wall decor, as in hanging photos.  3 weeks in, that's blossomed into additional boards on ceramics (a passion), textiles(another passion) and healthy eating.Meanwhile, my tumblr is sitting kinda idle--and I am thrilled to have had a chance to learn more about the purpose of pinning.So, what gives?Pinterest really is great as a visual collection, mood board or organizer. This is true whether it's an idea board for a visual project or a list of data visualizations or info graphics. The ability to sort and categorize and tag is very powerful on Pinterest and lends itself both to projects and to virtual collections.Tumblr, on the other hand, is much more in the river of news mode. Tumblrs are great accretations of interesting snips, posts, images around a sensibility or a topic, and, unlike Pinterest, they do a great job of offering words as well as images,Both services offer types of community--Pinterest through tagging and commenting functions, and Tumblr through hashtags and comments/questions.So where would I use each?Pinterest has totally captures my interest for riffs on a theme. Whether it's a collection of Oakland cafes, vintage hankies, or photos of a newsmaker, Pinterest has a tremendous ability to catalog that is so appealing.Tumblr, however, excels in presenting a sensibility or a theme in a more random, discovery-oriented fashion--and it's funnier. The hellyeah! and Ryan Goslings series are hysterical on tumblr, not so much on Pinterest. [...]

Tasting happiness

Fri, 22 Jun 2012 13:25:41 -0800

This has been a month of transitions.  I'm moving, for the first time since 2008, and excited about it (still staying in Oakland). Working like a maniac--still--but also making more consistent time for both friends and exercise. And the best news, of all, is that I seem to have become really good friends with my son (and love his friends!)

What's cool here is that we're not only family, we've evolving into preferred people--Z and his lovely GF were the people I drank that amazing bottle of Opus 1 I scored ten years ago with and savored every drop (along with the super meal son the chef made). We share books, music, movie recommendations, ideas, tips, advice--he's become a great friend and someone I love to see and talk with.

It's true that my son's generation, probably impacted by the economy, is the one that says their parents are their best friends, but as someone who came of age at a moment when  wanted to get as far away from my parents as possible, our friendship is both sweet and unexpected. The fact we can spend a day together with no tension whatsoever is something I never had with parents, and something I don't even have with some close friends.

The happiness of seeing Z over the past few days has been keeping me smiling all week, and probably will last into the weekend and way beyond that.


Advance cuts 400 staffers in Alabama: thoughts on the future of news--and the past

Sat, 16 Jun 2012 06:24:38 -0800

"Is it a local paper if you don't have an editorial board to weigh in on matters of local importance, to call out the school board and complain about lousy streets? Is it a local paper if you rely on stringers to cover the big football games and miss the Cinderalla story that a beat reporter would've nailed?"--What the future of news looks like in Alabama after Advance cuts staff by 400 | Poynter. 1995, Jeff Jarvis and Steve Newhouse hired me to create and edit New Jersey Online, the first Newhouse online site, which drew from three local papers.  Here we are in 2012, 17 years later (!), and Newhouse has just laid off 400 people at their three Alabama papers and created a hub structure for managing operations. Steve Myers has a terrific piece about the layoffs at Poynter where he asks questions about how the papers will be able to operate locally with such deep cuts.Meyers also quotes management as saying "The Mobile newsroom, which after vacancies are filled will have about half the current staff, "will be a hyperlocal operation." The staff "will cover the hell out of local news." "He also says: "Advance seems to think a local newspaper is three things: a small group of reporters, advertisers who need your paper whether it's published three days or seven, and some readers."Welcome to the present reality, folks. We're in a value-based economy here on the hyperlocal news front, not one based on brand, distribution or who's friends with the Mayor.  The level playing field is now about big corporate entities trying to scale down to the size of, say The St. Louis Beacon so they can pay their bills, turn some profit, and survive.Here in Oakland, where a small team of us run Oakland Local, a future of news non-profit web site and training organization, we're adding advertisers and audience as the local paper, now managed out of San Jose but with a just opened "community newsroom" downtown, struggles to copy our model (and that of many other hyperlocal sites) and involve citizen reporters (even though they can't appear beside the union folks).  Like the Alabama Newhouse properties, the Bay Area News Group papers are also being run as a hub, and they seem to be surviving, if not thriving--but the word is that more cuts are being planned there, as well.  Certainly, the paper's ability to cover Oakland has diminished as Oakland has become less of a profitable focus for the hub organization, but hunger has driven flexibility, as seasoned general-assignment reporters cover not one, but two to four beats.  Here in the East Bay as  Oakland Local--and our cousins Berkeleyside and The Alamedan-grow, my sense is that we are both picking up readers who no longer turn solely to the local paper and new readers who never cared about the paper in the first place.  In Oakland, OL's audience is notably younger, browner, and more entreprenurial/activist/small business/creative class that the core audience for both the local paper and the local alt.weekly; in Berkeley, Berkleyside is developing a huge following based on an insider voice the local paper never achieved, and in Alameda, the newly revived local non-profit news site is covering stories the paper also doesn't seem to see.The good news: relevancy drives audience.  The bad news: it's economically  brutal. What the papers have that the hyperlocals don't is infrastructure and scale. While Myers is correct that selling locally will be tough without local salespeople, the reality is that alot of the great money is in regional and co-o[...]

Freedom to Connect 2102: Eben Moglen

Tue, 22 May 2012 09:08:25 -0800

In the second day at the provocative and interesting #F2C conference, organized by David Isenberg, and listening to the amazing vocal stylings of Professor Eben Moglen.  This amazing human being not only has superb command of rhetoric, he's got some interesting ideas behind the aphorisms.
WOW.  More to come as I process--and as I get a copy, I hope, of the speech on innovation and austerity he just delivered.

May 17: Speaking at Carlos K. McClatchy Symposium at the Journalism School at Stanford

Sun, 13 May 2012 21:30:47 -0800

I'm honored to say that I've been invited to be part of an annual Stanford John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program this coming week.  The topic of the event is "#Hashtagged: How Social Media are Revolutionizing the News" and the other speakers are from NPR, Google and Yahoo; we're going to be talking about the impact of social media on news, a subhect dear to my heart.The symposium is being help on Thursday, May 17th, on the Stanford Campus; deets here: me, the other speakers are:Krishna Bharat, distinguished scientist and founder of Google News, an automated news service aggregating more than 50,000 sources, with more than 72 editions in more than 30 languages. He is on the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships Board of Visitors.Andy Carvin, senior strategist, NPR Social Media Desk. During the Arab Spring, Carvin developed a large following on Twitter who came to rely on his messages and retweets of news and information developing in the uprisings. Sheigh Crabtree, lead editor and strategist for social, Yahoo! News and Yahoo! Finance. Crabtree has extensive expertise as an interactive strategist, editor and producer.  Before joining Yahoo! she was executive editor of UberMedia and has journalism experience with the Los Angeles Times and the Hollywood Reporter.James Bettinger, director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, will moderate the symposium, which is  open to the public and The symposium, part of a series that began in 1964, is sponsored by the Department of Communication. It will be in the Vidalakis Room of the Schwab Residential Center. The symposium is open to the public and will be followed by a reception.'d like to think that I was invited to speak because of the great job the Oakland Local team has done in using social media both to source the news and community voices and because of our use of social media to cover local issues with national interest, including Occupy Oakland, the trial of Johannes Mehserle and the killing of Oscar Grant, and the recent shooting death of Alan Blueford, a young man shot and killed last week by an Oakland police officer.  The format of the symposium is informal, but I'll be preparing some comments/thoughts to post here to complement the talk.Thank you so much, John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, I am honored. [...]

Love, love, love, love my Oakland community

Sat, 05 May 2012 19:13:07 -0800

Okay, if you know me at all, you probably know I am a workaholic, Work to live, live to work, work work work...the whole deal. No sleeping till 10 am, etc. And today, I didn't do any work. Instead, I rested--along with many others in what I am more and more coming to feel is "my" Oakland community.  Here's how it went:10 am: Digging in the garden with my most fabulous housemates, pouring out chicken manure and planting pole beans while discussing House of Local, Oakland Local and why the East Bay Express and Oaklandish somehow happened to name their new t-shirt line Lokal (like, should we complain or just say no biggie, huh? Maybe we'll just started the Oakland Express line--oh, I forgot, we called something Oakland Express a while ago  and the Express protested.)Anyway, we got the garden all set up, at least for now.Then 12:30 I was in North Oakland, at PLACE on 64th, for a wedding of two friends. Both the leaders of social justice organizations, they had a potluck wedding at a communal space and invited their community to attend.  What can I say about such an amazing gathering? It was so lovely to be with so many people working for change in Oakland, come together through shared purpose and transformed into friends and community. The energy and the love was magnetic, so special, and it was easy to spend several hours there, eating the good food, chatting with friends and dancing to the best 80's funk around.By 4 PM, I was at my friend Susie's new house in North Oakland, sitting outside in her yard with a bowl of strawberries and a bevvy of her friends contemplating coconut water vs. procsecco ( I had both, eventually). One of Susie's friends is a handyman with 3 sons, one of whom plays/played bass, and we had a terrific talk. Another is helping to raise money to transform the 17th street train station, another is an editor...and so on.Sitting there in the yard, talking and feeling the sun, Oakland felt like such a good place to be.And then, by 6:30, I was home, and back outside my my own yard, now alot cleaner and more organized than it was this am, playing catch the ball with my dog. Throw Catch  Throw Catch Throw Catch Throw Catch Throw Catch  The dog doesn't tire of this, probably because he thinks he's doing it to please me.Thinking about checking out Heart and Soul, a Religious Science congregation many of the folks at the wedding go to, tomorrow am, but also resolved to catch up on all the work I didn't  do today (and go out with a friend tomorrow night).Ah, Oakland. Today you really feel like my place. [...]