Tweeting the execution

My Small History of Learfield and the Internet is nearing completion. Every drawer I open has some interesting new tidbit. Missourinet News Director Bob Priddy (now retired) share’s this gruesome bit of history:

“One of the highlights of our coverage of executions was when I became ( I think) the first reporter in the world who tweeted an execution. Dennis Skillicorn was executed in May, 2009. I could not take anything into the witness room except my notebook and a pen, and the book I had been reading in the waiting room, but I kept a careful chronology and as soon as we came out, I posted tweets on a minute-by-minute basis describing the events.

I stopped using Twitter in November of 2016 because it had become toxic with politics. Might return someday, might not. But searching for these Tweets reminds me of it’s historical importance.

ObitsOnline

I’m in the middle of another Small Histories” project. “Learfield and the Internet” is the working title. I’ll share it here when it’s as done as I can do it. But here’s a sample of the kinds of stuff we slung against the wall. ObitsOnline.

I knew from my small market radio days that people loved obituaries. Every morning the local funeral homes would call in details of funerals and visitations and we’d read them on the air. We tried to kill the feature once but people went ape shit.

The great thing about the early days of the Internet was nobody knew what might work so you could try anything. Why not let funeral homes throughout the state (Missouri) log in to an online database and post funeral announcements. The public could search by name, date, city, etc etc. We pitched the funeral home associations in Missouri and Iowa (maybe some other states, I don’t recall). Here are some screenshots:

The idea never got off the ground because in 2000 most funeral homes were still trying to figure out their fax machines and were convinced the people in their communities were not using computers and were unlikely to do so any time soon. I have no idea what the business model for this might have been. In those days we were thinking more about what would be cool or interesting.

Mastodon

I’ve been hanging out in a new social media neighborhood for the last week or so. It’s called Mastodon and it’s sort of like Twitter that you made in your garage with a glue gun and some Gorilla tape. This article will explain it better than I can. Or this one.

I created my Twitter account on February 21, 2007 (account #786,471). When I stopped using Twitter last November I was following 176 people and 118 were following me (but I never saw any evidence of that). In those ten years I tweeted 11,565 times. Twitter was where I got most of my news.

But in 2016, nearly every single tweet, from every single user I followed, was politics. A solid fucking year of politics. And while I haven’t been back to my account, I assume that has not changed and will not for the foreseeable future. So I moved on. No idea if I’ll ever go back.

This Mastodon thing is fun and interesting but I’m not sure I can explain why. Where there’s one Twitter, owned and operated by a big corporation… there a thousand (?) Mastodon ‘instances.’ Maybe like 1,000 Twitters that can talk to each other?

I liked Twitter’s 140 character limit but Mastodon’s 500 character posts are growing on me. I’ve always leaned more toward writing something than throwing up one of the annoying goddamned animated GIFs (you an do that on Mastodon, too). There’s a bit of a Wild West feel for now but I suppose that will change.

I’m meeting new people and that’s a breath of fresh air. I’m reading the businesses don’t like it and that is a BIG plus for me. I do not like being “monetized.”

Mastodon is just confusing enough to keep your grandmother from showing up, another plus.

RadioIowa.com

My next “small histories” project will be an Internet timeline showing when and how the company I worked for viewed and used this new technology. We registered our first domain (Learfield.com) on August 30, 1995 but didn’t do much with that (corporate) site. In July of 1996 we created a site for one of our news networks (Radio Iowa) but I don’t recall what kinds of content we were posting in those early days.

By November of 1999 we had gotten the hang of things and were putting up a lot of news (text and audio). The Iowa Caucuses pulls lots of attention to the state every four years and our network created a feature called Campaign Countdown. Our website made it possible to extend the life of the stories we fed via the radio network and reporter O. Kay Henderson cranked out a LOT of stories and interviews, all of which went online.

As we moved and updated servers and software, much of this content was lost. Or so I thought. While poking around on the Internet Archive WayBack Machine this weekend I found the Campaign Countdown reports.

The design of the website is nothing to write home about (that’s on me) but he history is real and — thanks to the Internet Archive — preserved. (I made a donation and hope you will, too). From this screenshot (partial) of our Affiliates page and you can see that about half of the stations had websites in 1999.

In my experience, radio stations were slow to embrace the Internet. There were a lot of reasons for this. Some good and logical, some not. Most of the programming on small market stations was music and licensing and technical issues made it impractical to “stream.” I’m not sure we had that word in 1999. And why, many station managers asked, should I go to the expense and effort of creating a website when everyone we care about (advertisers and listeners) can hear our programing on the radio? Duh. And nobody was going to listen to music on a computer. (iTunes, the iPod, and XM Radio came along in 2001. Podcasting in 2004)

When the web was young and ugly

During the mid-90s I made a little career pivot that allowed me to work on our company’s Internet strategy although ‘strategy’ is too grand a term for what I/we were doing. I found and hired a couple of college kids who knew some html and created our first websites. The screenshots below (from the Wayback Machine) are from 1996-97.

A lot of websites looked like these in those days. Compared to many (most?) businesses, we were early to the game and registered domains for our networks in ’95 and ’96. I’m not sure having a one-word domain is a big deal these days. Or any domain for that matter.

Dan Shelley named RTDNA/F Executive Director

“The Radio Television Digital News Association and Foundation (RTDNA/F) today announced that longtime Association member, former Chairman of the Board and current Foundation Secretary/Treasurer Dan Shelley has been named Incoming Executive Director of the two organizations. Shelley begins work immediately and will assume the role of Executive Director in September.”

I met Dan in 1984 when he was news director at KTTS in Springfield, Missouri, and I was doing affiliate relations for The Missourinet (Dan’s the guy in the red tie). From Springfield Dan moved up to Milwaukee where he was news director of WTMJ for a few years before moving to New York to take over digital media for WCBS-TV. Then on to Radio One and, in 2015, iHeartMedia.

I interviewed Dan in 2005 when he was elected chairman of what was then RTNDA (Radio Television News Directors Association). They changed the name in 2009 because this digital thing just wasn’t going away. During that interview we talked about blogging, podcasting, satellite radio. For a little context, XM (satellite) Radio did it’s first broadcast in 2001; Facebook launched in 2004; podcasting became a thing that same year; YouTube started 2005; Twitter in 2006; and in January of 2007, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone. Whew.

Media, journalism and Life As We Know It has undergone some big changes in the last dozen years. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll“Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately and fairly’ has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.” 

I don’t see how he can possibly find the time but Dan says we’ll talk again. Boy, am I looking forward to that.

This post was updated on April 6, 2017 at 6:50 p.m.

My first BBS

I joined my first BBS (bulletin board system) on November 18, 1994. It was called Fun City and was operated by Kevin Diehl.

(Wikipedia) A bulletin board system, or BBS, is a computer server running software that allows users to connect to the system using a terminal program. Once logged in, the user can perform functions such as uploading and downloading software and data, reading news and bulletins, and exchanging messages with other users through email, public message boards, and sometimes via direct chatting. Many BBSes also offer on-line games, in which users can compete with each other, and BBSes with multiple phone lines often provide chat rooms, allowing users to interact with each other. Bulletin board systems were in many ways a precursor to the modern form of the World Wide Web, social networks and other aspects of the Internet. Low-cost, high-performance modems drove the use of online services and BBSes through the early 1990s. Infoworld estimated there were 60,000 BBSes serving 17 million users in the United States alone in 1994, a collective market much larger than major online services like CompuServe.

A Blockchain for Facts

The most interesting idea associated with blockchain have nothing to do with money. It’s ideas like this that really grab me. I fiddled with Klout when it first came out but quickly decided I didn’t care much about my ‘influence’ score. But it would be cool to have a high Rep score.

Here’s how it works: After one group of people joins a prediction market and bets on an outcome, Augur pays others to identify that outcome—to verify what happened. But it doesn’t just pay them a flat fee. On its blockchain, Augur houses its own cryptocurrency, a digital token that encourages people to get things right. “If you’re not telling the truth, you stand to lose a bunch of money,” Krug says.

Augur calls its digital token the Rep. This cryptocurrency doesn’t let you buy and sell stuff. It tracks your reputation—that is, how often you tell the truth. People bet their Rep tokens that they are indeed telling the truth—reporting the facts as they actually are. If most others agree, the system returns their tokens and pays them in cash.

Before Wikipedia and YouTube

I’ve been sharing old photos from the early days of radio station KBOA. I worked there in the 70s and my dad before me. I’ve been updating content on the website I created about the early days (1947-1957) of the station. KBOA830.com was my first shot at a website, back in 1997 and didn’t get much attention after the initial setup because it focused on that ten year period.

While updating this week, I kept find relevant stuff on Wikipedia and YouTube and couldn’t figure out how I’d missed this stuff when creating the site. Then I realized Wikipedia didn’t come online until 2001 and YouTube in 2005. And I found other sites with great material about performers and on-air talent at KBOA.