Friday, December 23, 2011

Join us in improving our Connecticut towns next year with SeeClickFix

This week, Journal Register Connecticut newsrooms created custom SeeClickFix widgets that ask citizens from across Connecticut to propose New Year's resolutions for their town next year. The goal is to harness suggestions from citizens, and spark discussion, on how to improve their community in 2012.

What makes this process different from regular use of SeeClickFix is the pledge the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen are making with this project. In January, we will review the issues reported through these widgets in the towns we cover and select some of the most popular issues with the most 'fix this' votes and track their progress throughout 2012. In towns that do not have partnerships or much engagement with SeeClickFix, that means we will serve as a watchdog for the SeeClickFix users and report regularly on what needs to yet be done to get these proposed issues resolved.

But we can't cover all the resolutions for the towns in Connecticut. So here's my invitation to all the other news outlets, newspapers, TV stations, bloggers and active community members who cover and care about any community in Connecticut -- JOIN US! The more who help, the more we can resolve.

Heck, why stop there? You hear me, America? #OccupyTownResolutions

You can very easily create your own custom SeeClickFix widget for your town to participate and embed it on your site. To steal a line from the quotable Ivan Lajara, "It's so easy, even an editor can do it."

Read on for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make your own widget for our Town Resolutions project.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

How to make a New Year's resolution for your town with SeeClickFix

The New Haven Register, Middletown Press, and Register Citizen are teaming up with SeeClickFix to make some New Year's resolutions for your town come true in 2012.

We've worked with SeeClickFix to create custom widgets for our websites that display Town Resolution proposals from the entire state of Connecticut. We'll be reviewing these submissions for the next two weeks, and after Jan. 8, we'll select some of the most popular resolutions that garnered the most 'fix it' votes on SeeClickFix, and track their progress throughout the year with regular news reporting by staff from New Haven Register, Middletown Press and Register Citizen.

Here's the submission form for the New Haven area:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How digitally engaged are our elected politicians?

There are 187 elected members in the Connecticut General Assembly. 151 in the House of Representatives, and 36 in the Senate.

Each one of them has a government-supplied email address. But how many of them actually respond to the emails they receive? Better yet, how many of them even check their inbox? Assistants don't count.

If a recent experiment of mine is to be taken seriously, the answer is not many. About 24.

We know they are busy. But we elect them to represent us, and with all the technology and social media tools we have here at the dawn of 2012, there hasn't been an easier time in the history of politics to connect with and communicate with the people you represent on a large scale.

According to Facebook, the social networking site is home to more than 800 million active users. I'm curious how many of those are elected officials that use it as a tool to reach and engage the communities they are responsible for.

After New Haven Mayor John DeStefano announced his proposal last week to allow non-citizens to vote in the city's municipal elections, I composed a short poll for the New Haven Register and emailed it to every single member of the Connecticut General Assembly. Since they will be voting on DeStefano's proposal next year, we wanted to report to our readers the state legislation's stance on this controversial issue.

I embedded a Google Spreadsheet fed automatically with their individual responses on the Register website so readers could see responses as they were sent back to us.

So, how many responded? Only 6 the first day. We have 24 at the time of this posting, with a handful of new ones each day that passes.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Christmas Mix-acle 2011

Christmas and music are among my favorite human spectacles. So it's only natural that I make Christmas mixes instead of cards or cookies to share with my friends and family every year. Which is handy, since my music collection is far more impressive than my scratchy handwriting or my apartment's unpredictable oven. So without further adieu, here is this year's Christmas Mix-acle. (And for those new to this, you can check out Mixacles from Christmases past too.) Merry Christmas.

If you have any requests for next year, say so in the comments.

All files are .zip files with mp3s. Read on for tracklistings.

The Christmas Mixacle 2011

The Christmas Mixacle 2010

The Christmas Mixacle 2009

The Christmas Mixacle 2008

The Christmas Mixacle 2007

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Comment Violation Test: How to handle comments about a black murder victim

The topic for yesterday's Comment Violation Test was Joshua Komisarjevsky - and it revealed that the New Haven Register needs to consider defining in greater detail how we handle comments that celebrate or promote the death of another person and how we treat convicted criminals, particularly ones with a jury-approved death sentence.

Today, I want to take a look at one of the Register's most heated comment topics.

Dallas Boomer became the 32nd person murdered in New Haven last week. He was black, and a lot of the comments about his murder focused on that. Some were blocked, some were allowed and some were very difficult to call.

Review these comments and tell us what you would do if you were the moderator. If you find that they violate the New Haven Register Comment Policy, block it. If not, allow it.

Please note, some of these comments were deemed very offensive.

Comment Violation Test Results: We don't agree on Komisarjevsky comments

The jury for Joshua Komisarjevsky agreed last week that the death penalty was the most appropriate punishment for his crimes against the Petit family. But when it comes to handling online comments on this topic, it seems we are a hung jury.

As of the time of this writing, my comment violation test from yesterday has received 22 responses. If you haven't taken the test, but still want to -- SPOILER ALERT -- I'd recommend not reading this post until you've done so.

Let's take a look at how your votes compared with our moderators.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Comment Violation Test: Would you block or allow these comments?

To delete, or not to delete. That is the question.

The New Haven Register recently changed its comment policy in November so that every comment would be held for review by the newsroom before being posted to its website.

The comments our editors have been blocking from the website are ones they find violate the following rules of our newly established guidelines:

The Register does not permit:
  • Hate speech
  • Personal attacks
  • Profanities
  • Irrelevant sexual references
  • Libel
  • Spam
Going into this new process, we knew there would be challenging comments that aren't an easy "okay" or "foul." Especially, when the comment is on a heated topic or sensitive story, like the Joshua Komisarjevsky trial.

And that means we can't ever close the book on our comments policy. Like the United States Constitution, we need to continue exploring, evolving and addressing these guidelines with our readers in a democratic way, amending it as necessary.

So, lets take what we already started a bit further now.

What do you think about the following comments from this recent story about Komisarjevsky's jury recommending him for the death penalty?

The comments appear exactly as they were submitted to us, and some were kept from posting - but I won't tell you which ones. I'm not interested in whether you agree or disagree with what each comment says, but am curious on what you would allow as a comment moderator of this story.

There isn't anything spelled out in our guidelines which forbids the celebration of the death of another person. Should there be? Should it be different for people convicted of murder in court, such as Komisarjevsky? Your responses in this survey can help us determine how our moderators should approach these tough-to-call comments. You can also view how others responded after you complete the survey.

My new blog

Well, it's official. I've been named Assistant Managing Editor for Disruption of Journal Register Company's Connecticut newsrooms.

How can I possibly outlive a title like that? For starters, I figured I needed a more professional blog than the one where I complain about trivial things (that I stopped updating) and the one where I upload downloadable mp3s of awesome bands to rave about trivial things (that I stopped updating).

I have a great fascination and respect for how digital media has affected disrupted the business of traditional media -- particularly the news biz and music biz. Here, I will be writing, reporting, testing and theorizing about all that noise, and what instruments we need or can use to make lasting music of it.

And certainly, I plan to write and open up about the disruptions and innovations we're working on in Journal Register Connecticut. Hope you follow along, and join in the conversations I plan on having here.