Goodbye, Blogger

I made the switch today. Jackfruity is now at

I'm off to a world of plugins and shiny, shiny dashboards....


WordCamp NYC 2009

WordCampNYC – Nov 14-15I'm at WordCamp NYC today, hopping from session to session of a superbly colorful schedule. I signed up partly to hang out with Jer, who's presenting twice this afternoon, and partly to learn what WordPress can do for me and for the SIPA academic community.

In that vein, I'm flipping back and forth between the academic and beginning developer tracks. I spent part of this morning at Jeremy Bogg's session on using WordPress in an academic setting, and I find myself itching to set up a site with Commentpress for a paper I'm co-writing on African media coverage of extractive industries.

Right now I'm sitting in the beginning developer room, listening to Allan Cole attempt to talk about creating child themes without accidentally making his presentation X-rated (so far we've covered "choosing a mate" and "child bearing hips"). His talk (and the one before, a general intro to theming by Daisy Olsen) have me reading through The Morningside Post's template files to see if I can make both the code and the design cleaner.

If that fact that I feel guilty and embarassed about publishing this on Blogger means anything, I think WordCamp's doing its job., powered by WordPress, coming soon.

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the cost of climate change

Economists estimate the impact of climate change at 5 to 20 percent of global GDP. Five percent. Doesn't sound too bad, right?

This map, courtesy of FiveThirtyEight via Strange Maps, shows what the world would look like without the countries that make up the bottom 5% of global GDP. For the record, that's sixty-four countries:

  • Afghanistan
  • Bangladesh
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • Comoros
  • Côte d'Ivoire
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Egypt
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • India
  • Kenya
  • Kiribati
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Moldova
  • Mongolia
  • Mozambique
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Nicaragua
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Rwanda
  • São Tomé and Príncipe
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Solomon Islands
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Uganda
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

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gays and gorillas

I finally got a chance to catch up on Google Reader today. Some things you should see:

  • Friend a Gorilla
    For one dollar a year, you can friend a gorilla through the Uganda Wildlife Authority.
    "Anyone can be a friend of a gorilla or follow specific gorillas living the forest on Facebook or Twitter for a minimum donation of $1. You will get updates on your gorilla friend(s), including photos, videos, and GPS coordinates, all of which are gathered by actual trackers that visit the gorillas daily."

  • Ethiopia 2010: Here Comes Africa’s Festival of Electoral Fraud
    An overview of recent elections in Nigeria, Kenya and Zimbabwe, looking forward to Ethiopia.
    "The glimmer of hope shimmering in the Ghanaian experiment proves that multiparty democracy can be successfully instituted in Ethiopia and elsewhere in Africa, without bloodshed. Failure to do so may once again force Africans to prudently heed Victor Hugo’s admonition: 'When dictatorship is fact, revolution becomes a right.' If it gets to that point, it’s going to be a quagmire too difficult to get out of this time."

  • The 10,000 Hour Initiative
    Jon Gos at Appfrica is starting a program to support young programmers, bloggers and new media enthusiasts.
    "Instead of creating institutions from scratch that require enormous resources and high overhead (rent, security, staff etc) the 10,000 Hour Initiative would identify talented individuals and create co-working and co-learning spaces (dubbed 10K Spaces) for them at existing institutions and businesses. The program would allow youth to interact with other peers as well as trained professionals who could tutor and mentor them, helping them to improve their skills, while exposing them to new technologies, ideas and fields they may not have been aware of."

  • GV Uganda: Bloggers discuss anti-gay bill
    A new bill, currently tabled in the Uganda parliament, will increase penalties for homosexuality and add penalties for spreading information about homosexuality. Terrifying and sad. Haute Haiku covers bloggers' reactions for Global Voices.
    "Anengiyefa sees that Uganda has just seen hypocrisy of MPs who have unified and are ready to pass a law victimizing homosexuality in the name of morality: this beats the purpose why the system is so anxious to criminalize consensual sex amongst two adults of the same gender and omitting important issues like ethnic violence, tribalism, AIDS, child rape etc."

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I've been using Blogger for six years. It's seen me through angsty college musings, a public to-do list, the beginnings of a cooking blog, an ill-fated attempt at blogging in Russian, and an even iller-fated attempt at Rebekah auf Deutsch. Oh, and this here web log.

When I started blogging, didn't exist, and everyone I knew who wasn't using Xanga (cringe) or LiveJournal (ditto) was on Blogger. But as I've continued, more and more of my friends have defected, falling head over heels for WP's plugins and beautiful themes and shiny dashboards and seamless post tagging (Blogger was sadly late to the post categorization party) and integrated commenting (remember the days of Haloscan?).

To which my response has always been: bah humbug.

You see, I'm a bit of a Scrooge: I like Blogger. Specifically, I like the control it gives me over my template and the fact that I have this control absolutely free of charge.

But in the meantime I've grown up and moved to the Big City and somehow become editor and technical director of one of the best graduate school blogs on international affairs in the country. And we use WordPress.

And I like it.

A lot.

WordCampNYC – Nov 14-15Which is why I'm spending November 13 and 14 at WordCamp NYC, surrounded by WordPress lovers and their shiny, shiny dashboards.

If things go well (for the shiny dashboard people), I may even swaddle my precious Jackfruity baby in WordPress clothes.

Care to join me?

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(Belated) Blog Action Day: Climate Change

My post for last year's Blog Action Day on poverty focused on my friend Halle's fair trade organization in Uganda, One Mango Tree.

This year's topic is climate change, and I'm equally excited to talk about the work another of my friends is doing. For the last six weeks I've been working with Global Voices on a project with MS Action Aid Denmark called Global Change.

Global Voices has paired its own bloggers — myself included — with students in the Global Change course, who have been studying climate change and climate justice in preparation for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.

I met Sarah through the project: she's a student in Copenhagen, and she's leaving in a few days for Kenya with some other Global Change-ers, where the group will continue their studies and, hopefully, bring back stories of how climate change is affecting people's lives there.

Today Sarah and her colleagues are in front of the Danish Parliament, where they're observing World Food Day by banging pots and pans to, in Sarah's words, "get the politicians to pay attention to the fact that 1 billion people are suffering from hunger right now."

It can be easy to forget that climate change is about more than trees and cuddly animals and fish swimming around in some distant ocean — all of which I care about, don't get me wrong (especially the cuddly animals). But climate change also has real, physical effects on humans: it's altering weather patterns in unpredictable ways, causing crops to fail for lack of rain in some places while floods wash away entire fields in others.

Climate change is one of the driving forces behind the world food crisis, which, as Sarah pointed out, affects a substantial portion of the world's population.

To sum up: Climate change. It's not just koalas.

Kudos to Sarah and the entire Global Change crew for realizing this.

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Australian radio show features citizen journalism in Uganda

After I published an article for the Committee to Protect Journalists on citizen journalism during the Kampala riots, Shevonne Hunt of Australian radio show The Fourth Estate contacted me to talk about the role Twitter and blogs played in the crisis.

Solomon King (the force behind Ugandan blog aggregator Blogspirit and one of the most prolific tweeters during the riots) and I are featured in the show's most recent podcast. You can access it at The Fourth Estate (scroll down to the bottom, click "Show Episodes," and choose the episode from September 25).

As Solomon says, hope I did all of you justice!

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The Internet vs. the printing press: am I wrong?

Blogren, Berkterns and others, I need your advice.

I'm taking a class on the social impact of mass media. Tonight we discussed the printing press, and how print lends — now less than before, but I think it still applies — a legitimacy to thought that ideas that haven't been committed to paper lack.

Someone suggested that all new forms of media give increased levels of authority to the ideas they transmit — not just print, but radio and television as well.

I argued that this rule doesn't hold for the Internet, and I was promptly shot down by a surprisingly large number of people in the class. Their points were:

  • The Internet isn't a grand democratic commons. It's highly elite.

  • People do believe everything they read on the Internet. One example was a newspaper in Bangladesh reprinting a full article from The Onion, not understanding that it was a joke.

I concede the first point. The Internet is definitely not a perfectly democratic commons, though I maintain that, compared to the highly expensive, highly rare (not to mention extremely heavy) printing press, it is far more accessible to the average citizen, whether we're speaking domestically or globally. Though it requires access to a computer, Internet access can often be had cheaply or for free through government programs or at public libraries or Internet cafés.

More importantly, the cost of publication and distribution online is so comparatively small — and the amount of information published and distributed so comparatively great — that I believe it's disingenuous to say that the Internet and the printing press endow ideas with the same authority. Being exceedingly careful to avoid value judgements, I submit that the blog is a very different beast than the Bible.

As for the second point, I would argue that the confusion over what is and is not a legitimate source online stems more from cultural — and here I include generational — differences than from a sense that all things online are true. Expecting accurate cross-cultural interpretations of satire is demanding quite a lot from journalists whose native language is likely not English, as is expecting accurate assessments of spam from someone who still thinks it comes in a can.

So. Am I totally wrong? And if so, why? I was born the same year Apple introduced the Macintosh and got my first e-mail account in sixth grade, so my knowledge of the Internet is primarily first-hand, rather than scholarly. Any articles to which you can refer me would be greatly appreciated, but I'm also looking for personal opinions. When did you first access the Internet? How? Where? Why? What did you think?

The comments are open, folks. Looking forward to your thoughts.

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