O Canada…

The True North Strong and Free.

Parliament Hill - May 2013

We are in unchartered territory and I don’t really know where to begin. A situation that is still ‘fluid and unfolding’. My beloved Ottawa, my home for four years, in lockdown and under attack. One of the longest days. Watching, listening, following along feeling helpless and horrified. And now, more than twelve hours later, we are still in the dark.

War Memorial - Nov 11 2009

My former journalism student instincts have never really gone away. I love Twitter, and I continually browse headlines during the day to keep an eye on things. It makes me feel like an adult to have a basic understanding of and ability to form a valid opinion on current events. I have taken to reading news on the CBC website, one, because it’s still free, and two, it seems mostly free from partisan bias. Around ten this morning I gave the CBC home page a quick browse, and felt my stomach plummet. Quickly pulling up Twitter, what followed was one of the darkest hours I’ve ever experienced, filled with misinformation, graphic and disturbing photos, and several first-hand accounts from Canadian politicians and journalists on the ground. This whole day has been surreal.

Parliament Hill - Nov 11 2009

I am lucky to follow some truly fascinating people. Their collective commentary during any major event, be it an awards show, the Olympics, any major breaking news, Ferguson in the last few weeks, and now today, is always on point. My carefully curated group of journalists, politicians, key contributors, and news makers, and those who they follow, are always witty and informative. After spending four years in Ottawa, I am following a lot of folks on Parliament Hill, and too many of them were caught up in this fray today. They provided terrifying and viscerally real accounts of what they saw and heard. For me, Twitter is not filler, it is often the most up-to-date and reliable source of breaking news, much more than cable tv or radio news. These people are on the ground and they take their jobs seriously.

Canada Day - 2012

I checked in with my friends who are still in Ottawa and who spent the day in lockdown (thankfully, they were all okay), and admired the quiet authority of Jim Watson, the Mayor of Ottawa, during the RCMP press conference. My news feed was overflowing, and I couldn’t refresh fast enough.

Canada Day - 2012

My Parliament Hill has a stray cat sanctuary, and free yoga on the front lawn, and concerts on Canada Day with accompanying light shows and fireworks. My Ottawa has a free skating rink running through the middle. My Ottawa is clean, beautiful, vibrant, and safe.

Parliament Hill - Gold Medal Celebration 2010

I had hoped that these foreign threats would never touch our shores, and now twice in one week, members of our armed forces have been singled out and murdered. We must watch in fear and feel helpless as our enemies walk through our front door. I feel flashbacks to the first few days of grade eight, when we came in from first recess with whispers of an attack. Where my teacher, Mr. Mele, sat at the only computer in the classroom trying to access CNN’s website. The computer was big, white, and clunky, and the internet was fledgling and slow. We couldn’t get beyond the homepage. We had no access to information and no updates and we were totally in the dark. When I got home from school, I sat in front of the TV in disbelief for hours, simultaneously mesmerized and horrified by the loop footage of the Twin Towers.

Today, I rushed home from work and have been watching television coverage for the past few hours. I am older, but still feel afraid. Unable to take my eyes away from the footage of my beloved Ottawa under attack.

Canada Day - 2011

I am of the generation called the Millennials. I am the post 9/11 generation. Raised on Harry Potter and MSN Messenger. Early adopters of new technology. Living under the looming threat of terrorism. You don’t have to tell us to ‘stay vigilant’. We get it. We’ve already had it for a long time. We’ve been maintaining constant vigilance since Moody warned us about the Death Eaters back in the day.

Doubting myself, wondering if my unfortunate heavy double dose of patriotism and sensationalism was causing me to overreact, I felt isolated and alone today. Nobody in my immediate vicinity seemed to know nor care about the situation unfolding in Ottawa. I feel like I need to divide the people and influencers in my life by our shared values. Today was an exercise in that. My close friends, and some fellow former journalism students on Twitter, shared my concerns and I felt comforted by their shared reactions.

I want nothing more right now than for Peter Mansbridge to fold the nation in his warm embrace and tell us all that we’re going to be okay, and that everything will soon be well.

Canadian Flag

❤ Ottawa ❤ Canada ❤ you too, Toronto

Tomorrow is another day, and we must remain the True North, Strong and Free.

Canada Day

* My apologies for disconnected and incomplete thoughts. Written after a stress-filled, anxiety-ridden, very emotional day, while flipping between CBC, CTV, Global, and TVO for six hours straight, heart aching, head pounding…

Carleton University Flash Mob

Best students. Best campus community. Best school spirit. Best life.

I am an extremely proud Carleton University grad.

On February 15th about 400 Carleton students gathered on the Rideau Canal for a brilliant flash mob.

The flash mob was organized by Graeme Owens as part of the Blackberry Best Life contest. More info here. Donations are being accepted to the Ottawa Mission. To donate click here.

The story has been picked up by CTV news, the Globe and Mail, and even Premier Dalton McGuinty has been tweeting about it.

Good luck to Graeme! And a huge congrats to everyone who participated.

Flash in the Pan

We’re #1! Right above #rolluptherim.

Last Monday, our journalism lecture live-tweeted during a presentation and our hashtag, #j4k (short for our course code, JOUR4000) became the number one trending topic in Canada for a short time. I took a screen shot.

This probably means very little to people who don’t use Twitter. But for the active 12 or so people in our class who do use it, this was pretty cool. I have a feeling that our class, and the creation of a course hashtag, will be used in a case-study somewhere. When journalism students use Twitter during class, something monumental is just bound to happen. We’ll see if there is a repeat tomorrow morning.

Update 03/23/10:
So much press. I love it! We’re kind of famous. Article on J-Source and on Carleton’s website.

A Place for Everything

And everything in its place.

I just wanted to show off my new flavors.me homepage. I’ve been looking for something like this for quite a while. I wanted a splash page that was stylish, user friendly, and easy to navigate. Flavors.me is all of those things.

I like Flavors.me for three reasons:

  1. It looks great.
  2. It was easy to create.
  3. It is efficient.

It will take less than ten minutes to craft and design your Flavors homepage. The customization options are very simple and easy to use. And it collects a bunch of your most important links and puts  them all in one really good looking page.

I changed my homepage url on Twitter from this blog to the splash page. This blog shows off my work and what I’m doing, but not everybody who clicks through from Twitter is interested in that. Maybe they want to see my photos or foursquare. Using the Flavors page let’s the user make the decision, instead of forcing something on them.

It also presents a more varied display of what I do and what I’m intersted in. Right now I have collected my blog, flickr photos, twitter stream, my tumblr and posterous accounts and my foursquare feed in one spot. Mine is pretty basic, but you can look at what some other users have created for inspiration in their design gallery here.

Flavors.me seems to be catching on. I read about Flavors.me while reading Amandalyn Ferri’s blog a while ago, and today I noticed that Lifehacker did a little write up about it here.

I’ve started using a lot of new services in the last month or so: Flavors, Buzz, Foursquare and Posterous. More on those later.

“You Should Follow Me On Twitter Here.”

Marching to the drum of Dustin Curtis.

Last night I came across this post by Dustin Curtis about Twitter and click-through rates. Curtis studied the click-through rates based on different prompts to readers, urging them to follow him on Twitter.

“Follow me on twitter” is the phrase I usually use. Curtis discovered that he got a 7.31 per cent click-through rate with this prompt. “You should follow me on twitter here” raised the click-through rate to 12.81 per cent. This is an impressive increase.

According to professor Wikipedia: click-through rates are calculated by taking the number of times a person clicks on a link or ad and dividing that by the number of times that the link was available for viewing. For example, if my About Me page was viewed one hundred times, and five people clicked the link to my Twitter page, then I could have a click-through rate of 5 per cent.

There are a couple of cool things about this study:

  • Curtis uses a lower-case t in twitter instead of a capital T in Twitter. This is something new to me. I think it works because it slips in the command seamlessly. It doesn’t interrupt the flow of the sentence by having Capital Letters throwing off your GROOVE. Also having a capital Twitter just seems a bit overpowering, while lower-case twitter seems nice and friendly.
  •  The command is a bit stern: You should follow me on twitter here. It just sounds so tough. But, if you think about it, a lot of people may have no idea what Twitter is or what you do on Twitter. If you sound like you have authority in this area, the herds may be more willing to follow you. It’s 10 per cent what you say, and 90 per cent how you type it.

I’m going to follow his lead, and I am already following him on Twitter (@dcurtis). I’ve put that command in my About page and I look forward to seeing if there is any change in my click-through rates. One more thing:

You should follow me on

twitter here.