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So, what do we remember about 2009? Or more importantly, how did we "vote with our fingers" about what pop culture elements we'll remember about 2009?
According to the Facebook Memology (yes, it's a scientific study now, performed by the Facebook data research division) top 15 status trends of 2009, we think Farmville (and other Facebook applications) is more status-worthy than celebrity deaths, religion, family or even ourselves ("I" ranked at #15).
And on Twitter, a tool that I'm still explaining to most of the people I meet, they did Trending Topics top ten lists in seven categories, including People, News Stories, Sports, Technology, Movies, TV Shows and Hashtags. To sum up the year using the top two of each top ten list, 2009 looks approximately like this:
Iran Election, Swine Flu, Michael Jackson, Susan Boyle, Google Wave, Snow Leopard, SuperBowl, Lakers, Harry Potter, New Moon, American Idol, Glee, #musicmonday and, to round out the list, #iranelection.
If you add the #3 position on all those charts, you get:
Gaza, Adam Lambert, District 9, Teen Choice Awards, Tweetdeck, Wimbledon, and #sxsw.
What do you think? Does this list reveal more about what actually happened or more about our fears and anxieties? Should there be a 3-day waiting period for parents applying for videocamera ownership? And will 2010 be more of the same?
Two kids' t-shirts (one of them on the model at left) and a onesie from Rabbi's Daughters. Occasionally, review copies of books, some of which I actually end up reviewing. A comped dinner at a now-closed Beverly Hills eatery that turned out to not have been a comp at all. A basket of Hanukkah goodies last year from OhNuts, which I unfortunately never got to review, even though it included chocolate-covered pretzels that were damned good. (How's that for a review?) One trip to Israel with Nefesh B'Nefesh, on a chartered plane carrying new immigrants to Israel. (They had the entire plane anyway, so "paying for my seat" isn't exactly right.) Oh yeah, and occasionally movie screenings for the press. But they don't give us popcorn, so I don't have to declare that here.
Also, those ads in the sidebar represent paying advertisers, some of which have programs that I talk about on the blog if I feel like it. I've had the good fortune of working as a paid consultant with organizations like ROI, JewishTVNetwork.com and the Berman Jewish Policy Archive on things I'm hired for, but which I think are sufficiently impressive to discuss in my non-work (or overtime) contexts as well. And I usually try for full disclosure in those posts.
Why am I telling you all this again now? Because I have to.
This week, the Federal Trade Commission passed some revisions to its Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising which affect bloggers. That's right. The FTC's onto the game of swag-for-posts, and they're not going to take it anymore.
The FTC's new guide features the addition of: new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed."
These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.
So here I am, penitent and prostrate before you. I will declare, as the Boston Globe put it, "We're bloggers: we get free stuff." But I will add that when you're not a fashion blogger or a mommy blogger, the stuff you get isn't usually something so expensive as to inspire a bias in an otherwise unbiased person. When it's a review copy of a book or a movie screener, usually a writer can look past that item's freeness and assess it for what it is, unfettered by bias - even if she is a blogger.
Here in Los Angeles, I'm involved with a community called IKAR - more than a synagogue, it's a community of people who are passionate, diverse and committed to social justice and activism. Although the majority of IKARites (and the community itself) falls denominationally under "Conservative," the commitment to activism crosses denominational lines. (And yes, they're on Twitter: follow them at @IKAR_LA.)
Some of those community members are now in Israel, and discovered that as excited as they were to be in Israel, it would be better to have IKAR with them. They founded B'nei IKAR, for members of LA's IKAR community living in Israel.
Switch over to the Jerusalem Open House - where members of Jerusalem's gay and lesbian Jewish community have found a home and safe space to be Jewish. Rabbinic interns at Jerusalem Open House have been working to create the first-ever interdenominational gay-straight rabbinical student alliance. It will bring together students from JTS, Ziegler (Conservative rabbinical school in Los Angeles), HUC (Israeli and overseas), Machon Schechter, Hebrew College, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah and RRC. The programs will likely include such things as panel discussions/debates, professional development sessions for creating open and welcoming communities in our respective denominations.
Do you remember the world before Facebook? Before music lived on a computer, or was transmitted through your white earbuds from your iPod? In the last ten years, there's been death and destruction, human and natural, worldwide. There were cultural advancements and economic depressions. Go back even further. Remember Y2K? Elian Gonzalez? Hanging chads? And then, of course, there was 9/11. And everything else.
We know all of this, of course, because we lived it.
Newsweek recently redesigned the content and format of its print magazine to focus less on news and more on analysis, an act of submission to the changing world of journalism. This liaison with Facebook also seems to evoke a white flag raised to the reality of how today's citizens get and process their news. It seems that Newsweek hopes that the interest online will translate to an interest in the publication, however it evolves in the years to come. Meanwhile, I'm letting my subscription to print-edition Newsweek expire, but joined the Fan Page; while this is more convenient for me, how does it pay a publication's staff?
It's a smart strategy to involve social media. But it also emanates the sadness of the industry's great unknowns.
Hug it out, kids. In case you were wondering, "is that guy just thinking real hard, or is he actually nonverbally requesting a hug?" now you can read people's body language and determine if the person in question wants a hug.
Who's the Hug Instructor? (You know that's a real title somewhere...) Yoni Stadlin, from Eden Village Camp.
It's one of three scenes, so I should probably watch the whole thing before I criticize it, but when it comes to rhymed musical parody, I've got really high standards, and unfortunately, this doesn't meet them. (Although I know Yale would say the same about me, so touche.)
The other issue I have might fall under the heading of "too soon." Hearing all of Bernie's sins laid out in the familiar song gave me a bit of indigestion - I know too many people and organizations affected by Madoff's years of scheming to be able to laugh it all away with a song like this one.
Don't throw tomatoes at me for being overly critical: when it comes to creative (and admittedly, somewhat weird) Madoff-skewering, no one beats Woody Allen. Plus, I've just watched another outstanding episode of "Glee," and I still can't forget "HP: The Musical." I think I'd just like Jewish a cappella - even good Jewish a cappella - to somehow be less nerdy than it is. And maybe that's unfair. But that's how I feel.
[Ducks, as the crowd begins to pelt her with rotten fruit.]
Today, members of PLP's Talent Network received a letter from founding executive director Rhoda Weisman, noting that PLP would be phasing out "formal operations" at the end of this month.
This undoubtedly came as a great surprise to many in PLP's nationwide network of young Jewish leaders, who had participated in many networking and professional development programs ranging from SkillsSummits to Torah study to the flagship programs, LiveNetworks and ThinkTank, which were supposed to launch a new cohort at the ThinkTank4 in October:
Unfortunately, due to the economic climate, PLP will phase out its formal operations effective August 31, 2009. While we hope to resume it in the future with the support of the community and our active group of philanthropists, PLP will continue to live on through its professional and volunteer Talent in new and established organizations.
The letter closed with a promise that Rhoda would continue to be available to PLP Talent network members, who were urged to "watch for a continued presence on PLP's website, Facebook and Twitter."
There's still a lot that can be done via social media, but the in-person events were also really helpful toward cementing friendships and professional relationships. I attended the 2007 ThinkTank and made many valuable contacts; most of them have played pivotal roles in my acclimation to Los Angeles after I moved here last October. Not only did Rhoda connect me with people for networking, but she has also encouraged me personally and generously - offering me at various points her car, a spare bike, and the opportunity to do some social media consulting.
I hope that this will be an opportunity to take a fresh look at this talent network and figure out how to best serve Talent - and the larger Jewish community - in these indisputably challenging times.
PLP was funded by co-founders William M. Davidson (z"l), Michael Steinhardt/The Steinhardt Foundation for Jewish Life, Eugene & Marcia Applebaum, Charles & Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation and Robert P. Aronson.
Yes, that's right, people...just because the news of Michael Jackson's and Farrah Fawcett's deaths broke on Twitter doesn't mean that you can believe every celebrity death mentioned on the micro-blogging service. For instance, singer Rick Astley and actors Natalie Portman and George Clooney were also "reported" to have died in the last week, and are still very much alive in spite of those reports.
Look, people, social media is important, and I do enjoy some nice Twittering in the morning (afternoon, evening and late night), but just because Twitter reports it doesn't make it true.
Or does it? "The Colbert Report" delves into these and other issues, in mourning the "death" of Jeff Goldblum.
When you think about three years, you might think of it as something that just flew by ("ohmigawd, I can't believe that three years ago we were freshmen!") or a serious chunk of time ("ohmigawd, I can't believe you guys have been together three years and still aren't engaged!").
However you think of three years, whether it's slow or fast, it's likely a drop in the bucket compared to how it must feel to spend three years in captivity, away from your family, in enemy territory, unsure if each new sunrise brings new beginnings or the same old feeling that it's all over, that that day will be your last.
Gilad Shalit has been gone for three years. He was kidnapped first, before Ehud Goldvasser and Eldad Regev - both of them were returned in boxes (I was here in Israel for that last year, and it was gut-wrenching to watch it on television).
I've been meaning to post about this for days, ever since I started seeing that tent every day. If you live or work in Jerusalem, right near that major intersection of Keren Hayesod, Agron, Azza, and King George Street, you know the tent I mean - with a few volunteers staffing it at all times, ready to hand you information about Gilad. I pass it every day on my way to work at the CLI office, where I've been working on ROI Summit for the last several weeks. There are days that I look at the people in the tent and say "boker tov," but beyond that, I don't engage - what are they going to tell me? I'm already on their side. There are mornings when I think about hopping over to a coffee shop and bringing them coffee or some other beverages. But usually, I walk by, think about the captive soldier, and get to work.
Of course, there are also online commemorations of sorts underway: change your Facebook status to "Free Gilad Now!"; change your Twitter profile picture to a picture of Gilad Shalit, retweet this story about redeeming captives, etc. Which of the six "Free Gilad" groups will you join on FB? Do you have to join all of them? After a certain amount of time, can you leave those groups, or does that constitute the abandonment of the issue?
I understand where the motivation comes from - why they sit there, devoted despite the lack of progress; why people think it's meaningful to join a group or change a profile picture in protest, because it's a way to express their indignation at the situation. But to whom are they expressing themselves? Is Hamas monitoring our Facebook FriendFeed, trying to see if enough people are troubled by Shalit's kidnapping?
I've found such gestures, sitting-in or logging in for activism, to be just that - kind of like carpooling to social activism...going with the flow, because other people are, because it's easy and convenient, not because it makes a difference.
Does this online activism make a difference? To whom? And how can we engage in vocalizing our distress in a way that makes an impact and treats Gilad, his family and supporters with respect? What could we do that would be more meaningful?
On a third anniversary, in the country that cares most about Gilad's health and well-being, I ask myself these questions, and search for a meaningful way to effect change. Your ideas and opinions, as always, are welcome.