Recent piece by Sanford and Brown

(I work for Google, but this is my personal opinion.)

Last week I was on vacation down in Florida and I had a chance to tour Thomas Edison’s winter vacation home. The tour guide told us that Edison wired his house and switched on electrical lighting in 1887. Then the tour guide leaned in and quietly mentioned that it took 11 years to install lights in the rest of the town. Why so long? Because the townspeople were worried that cows would stop giving milk.

For some reason, I was reminded of that anecdote as I read a recent piece in the Washington Post. Rarely do I pause in the middle of reading an article and think to myself, “Wow, I disagree with almost everything that person is saying,” but that’s what I found myself doing. Luckily you don’t need me to marshal counterpoints. Instead, I suggest that you read what Jeff Jarvis wrote, or what Mike Masnick wrote, or what the Markos Moulitsas wrote, or what Danny Sullivan wrote. Or read Timothy Karr’s post about the authors’ undisclosed potential conflicts of interest.

I believe good journalism is critically important to a well-functioning society. I love newspapers, magazines, and the journalists that they support. But I disagree with Bruce Sanford and Bruce Brown, and reading their piece reminded me of those townspeople sitting in the dark, afraid to switch on their electric lights.

How Not To Launch A Twitter Account

Recently someone registered a Twitter account name “mattcuttsmapxl,” which is very similar to my Twitter account name. The account was following many of the same people I follow, which is pretty annoying because people had to check whether it was me or not (it wasn’t). The account got suspended, but someone made a new account to claim that the “mattcuttsmapxl” wasn’t spam:

I am not a spammer!

Here’s the thing: if you have to explain to everyone why you’re not a spammer, you’re doing it wrong. It’s this sort of thing that can give a field a bad name. If everyone is mad at you because you’re abusing the trust within a community, that’s uncool. And if you’re in it for the long-term, it’s better to earn a reputation on your own. That seems easier.

Living in the cloud

I used Wakoopa to track which applications I run on my home Windows machine. Here’s what it says:

Browsing the cloud!

When 96% of your computer time is spent in a browser, that’s living in the cloud. :)

My RSS Reader Stats

I noticed that The Guardian drew up a list of top 100 sites for 2009. There’s a lot of great sites on their list, from to to xkcd.

One snag for me is that The Guardian only recommended two sites for blogging: Bloglines and WordPress. WordPress is great and just came out with a new version. But I haven’t seen as many changes happening in Bloglines compared to Google Reader. So I thought I’d hit FeedBurner to check on my recent RSS reader stats. Here’s are my stats:

Feedburner stats for December 2008

My readership data is going to be way-skewed, but I do think Google Reader is more popular than Bloglines these days. What do your FeedBurner or RSS reader stats look like?

P.S. If you haven’t see Lee Odden’s post about it, Lee collected the subscriber numbers for a bunch of search-related blogs a while ago.

Charity donation recommendations?

It’s the end of 2008, which means that it’s time for one of my favorite posts of the year: what charities would you recommend donating to?

As I said a couple years ago:

If you’re not aware of them, GuideStar and Charity Navigator are two good places to start. … Does anyone want to mention specific charities? Or mention other things that might not strictly be charities, but might be “good deeds” that readers would be interested in?

I’ll get the ball rolling with a few suggestions. I believe the Electronic Frontier Foundation does important work. They tackle many fights that need to be fought. I’ve also been impressed with the projects that the Sunlight Foundation has worked on, including Earmark Watch.

On a related note, I’ve been getting interested in how bloggers can be more like journalists in terms of shield law protections, or learning more about defamation, privacy, and copyright. It’s frustrating to me that MIT, Berkeley, Yale and Stanford offer dozens of courses online, but it’s much easier to find Electrical Engineering courses than “Journalism 101″ courses. I’d be interesting in groups that are creating or digitizing such information. Frankly, I’d like to see even a single free online university course in journalism. I’ve looked and haven’t found one.

Internationally, I like what Kiva does with microloans. Several people last year recommended Heifer International. The Child’s Play charity provides games for sick children in hospitals in several countries.

On open-source related items, this page lists a bunch of open-source organizations that may accept an online donation. The Alameda County Computer Resource Center in the California Bay Area will recycle computers or anything that plugs into a power outlet; they also accept charity donations and volunteer work. Personally, I’m a fan of donating to open-source projects that I use and enjoy, from Ubuntu or Synergy or Paint.NET to WordPress or PuTTY.

That’s a few charities and organizations that I’m thinking about. Now it’s your turn — what are the best charities in your opinion?