The World Mourns, what we leave behind

Your memory plays tricks on you. It can be so selective. What one remembers, another experiencing the same event, might recall entirely different. For me, well it seems I’ve already forgotten so much of my past.

But the morning of 9/11, and the following two weeks remain so crystal clear. For me, for my wife, for anyone who I’ve talked to. The horror, the anger, the realization that life can change in an instant, no matter how many layers of denial we attempt to hide behind.

How many of us swore to change our lives in those following weeks? Resolve to be better citizens? Better family members? Better friends? I did. I know you did.

For many, that day prompted reaching out. Connecting. Making contact. It would emerge as the moment that gave birth to blogging. In the seemingly spontaneous outpouring of grief, anger, support and viewpoint, thousands poured their hearts and souls into this social space of spaces.

That 15th I went to confession. Not knowing that later that day my nephew would pass from S.I.D.S.. I had asked my priest, what should I do? How should I help? I was ready to get in a car and drive to New York City. He told me to stop and think. Be a good husband. Be a good brother. Be a good uncle. Be present and be there for them. The absolute tear in our hearts that would happen that afternoon made clear to me that I needed to withdraw from the web. Shutter Philly Future. Hunter was just three months old when he left us. I didn’t get a chance to know him. And that was my fault.

Besides, the web was *already* an integral part of my life. I had put so much of myself into my work, into this, I felt I had to take five steps back to find my footing.

In some ways, the change was for naught. Some moved away. Others disappeared into online gaming. A mailing list of close friends imploaded under personal attacks brought about by political differences that couldn’t be bridged. And here I am, back on the web, participating even more then I did prior to 9/11. I guess it’s part of who I am. And I guess that’s life, it goes on. But I’m still left every day with the question – is this making a difference?

What will Emma, my daughter, think of it all one day?

I’m mirroring The World Mourns here at paradox1x, since its 30 or so pages remind me so vividly of the spirit that rose in the horror of 9/11. A spirit that united the world, in interconnectedness, that lasted until the lead up to the Iraq war.

To me, if anything, it is what needs to be reminded of that day, and of the following days. In the face of so much evil, humanity has the potential to find common ground, to rise above differences, in goals, in minds, in deeds, and in hearts.

Our leadership has failed to bring to justice those that attacked us on 9/11. Instead of encouraging discourse and conversation, optimism and vision, it has encouraged fear and silence.
And we’re playing our parts. All too well. Forgotten is that opportunity. That hope.

Our children are watching our example. What are we are teaching? What are we are leaving behind?

Nancy Gibbs: “we have not merely returned to the messy family arguments of Sept. 10” What We’ve Learned — Sep. 11, 2006:

An American businessman, traveling in India when the planes struck the towers, made his way back to the U.S. the following week as quickly as he could. That meant hopscotching across the Middle East, stopping in Athens overnight to change planes. He spent the evening having supper in a local taverna. No one else in the restaurant spoke English, but when the owner realized he had an American in the house just two nights after 9/11, he asked his guest to stand up, face the other diners and listen to a toast.

And indeed, the entire room stood up, raised their glasses and said, as one, “Shoulder to shoulder, until justice is done.”

Five years later, after an invasion of Afghanistan and an occupation of Iraq, and amid talk of war with Iran, it is fair to ask:

Would they say it again tonight?

Would we say it to one another?

This has become the loss with no grave, no chance for mourning, because we still live it every day–the loss of that transcendent unity, global goodwill, common purpose born of righteous anger that wrapped us like a bandage those first months after the attacks: a President with a 90% approval rating, a Congress working as one, expressions of sympathy and offers of help from every corner of the planet. WE ARE ALL AMERICANS, said Le Monde.

That unity was never going to last.

…In the weeks after 9/11, out of the pain and the fear there arose also grace and gratitude, eruptions of intense kindness that occurred everywhere, a sharp resolve to just be better, bigger, to shed the nonsense, rise to the occasion. And yet five years later, more than two-thirds of Americans say they are unhappy with how things are going–exactly the opposite of the weeks after the attacks, when people were crushed, but hopeful. We saw back then what we were capable of at our best, and now find ourselves just moving on, willing to listen to our leaders but not necessarily believe them, supporting the troops but disputing their mission, waiting, more resigned than resolved, for the next twist in the plot.

Norgs stories of the week

* has launched a blog and is looking for potential stories to cover. Mark Glaser has been surveying folks at MediaShift and it looks like they want to see the U.S. Government as the focus of any investigative reporting. I’ve been asked to help advise Finding models to pay for acts of investigative journalism is crucial. If, in any way I can help, I am happy to do so.

* The Big Fish: The story of, it’s rise and eventual fall, is chock full of early web publishing lessons. Suck (and Feed) are two efforts that don’t get mentioned very often in these conversations, since they no longer exist, but maybe should.

* Mark Glaser: News21 Produces Investigative Reports, But Can Universities Think Different?: Last year the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation joined with five journalism schools in pledging $6 million dollars to create the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Education – News21. It’s already producing results and lessons.

* Tom Mohr, formerly of Knight Ridder Digital, has a solution for the newspaper industry’s woes: and it sounds suspiciously like recreating the Market Leader CMS platform and Knight Ridder Digital.

* Adrian Holovaty of the Washington Post, describes a fundamental way newspaper sites need to change. It costs money, but the end result is an investment that will help papers be far more flexible in their reporting.

Hey – what’s a Norg? And there was an unconference you say? Uhuh. And an ongoing conversation. We need to get our site rolling.

Adrian Holovaty: “Newspapers need to stop the story-centric worldview”

Adrian Holovaty: A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change:

This is a subtle problem, and therein lies the rub. In my experience, when I’ve tried to explain the error of storing everything as a news article, journalists don’t immediately understand why it is bad. To them, a publishing system is just a means to an end: getting information out to the public. They want it to be as fast and streamlined as possible to take information batch X and put it on Web site Y. The goal isn’t to have clean data — it’s to publish data quickly, with bonus points for a nice user interface.

But the goal for me, a data person focused more on the long term, is to store information in the most valuable format possible. The problem is particularly frustrating to explain because it’s not necessarily obvious; if you store everything on your Web site as a news article, the Web site is not necessarily hard to use. Rather, it’s a problem of lost opportunity. If all of your information is stored in the same “news article” bucket, you can’t easily pull out just the crimes and plot them on a map of the city. You can’t easily grab the events to create an event calendar. You end up settling on the least common denominator: a Web site that knows how to display one type of content, a big blob of text. That Web site cannot do the cool things that readers are beginning to expect.

I left a comment responding to a poster saying this sounded like the Semantic Web, I’ve been meaning to write Adrian for a while now as well:

Hello Adrian,

I’ve been meaning to say hello to you for a number of different reasons over the past few years.

I’m an old Knight Ridder Digital developer. One of the folks that helped develop the Cofax CMS that was later replaced by KRD with… something else.

Cofax was a framework as well as a CMS, and in some very positive ways (well *I* think so :)), Django reminds me of it. Cofax was open sourced, but when KRD replaced it, well, work pretty much kept me from going back, refactoring, and taking it where it could still go. It’s still in use in many places. Well enough of that…

I definitively agree with you that newspapers are terrific places to work if you are a software engineer. The pace is quick, the work challenging, and you get the rare opportunity to not only practice your profession, but do so building tools and services that connect, inform and empower people.

It’s hard to beat.

anonymous – yes, I think Adrian is talking Semantic Web here. But like Adrian’s call for newspaper organizations to take a hard look at how they manage information in their publishing systems, Tim Berners-Lee has made the same call to the web developer community. The hard sell has been that that the Semantic Web likewise solves a series of problems of lost opportunity. It requires an investment in time and effort by the developer community to see its potential archived. Adrian, please correct me if that’s an incorrect understanding on my part.

Great piece.

Related reading material: Aaron Swartz: “The Semantic Web In Breadth” and Shelley Powers: “The Bottoms Up RDF Tutorial”. Then there’s “Practical RDF” also by Shelley Powers (which I ummm need to get around to reading, but have always heard good things about).

More at Techdirt.

You just know it’s bad when they censor little old me

The folks at ABC are screening comments and mine looks to not appear on their “Path to 9/11” blog. I assure you I posted nothing offensive. It was a pointed question. I guess too pointed. Later I might be able to dig up the comment and post it here.

The more I’ve read about this “docudrama” the more concern I’ve felt. While it looks like the findings of the 9/11 Commission need to get out further, as the movie’s producers claim this to do, they also admit it is a work of fiction. A work of fiction that lays blame, scorn, and according to those who have written the commision report and were actors in the events, falsehoods, on the Clinton Administration.

There is a good thread on Metafilter. Editor & Publisher has a summary of the film here. And the Washington Post reports here. And lastly, a petition over at Think Progress.

When so many die each day, why pause to comment on Steve Irwin?

Some folks I know are scratching their heads at the coverage Steve Irwin’s death has wrought this week. I’m not. It’s because so rarely do we meet someone, and yes, we’ve met Steve Irwin, who in public life displays so much passion, heart, and faith, and who radiated so much love.

He was real. In a public figure, that’s a rarity.

Like Liz Spikol, I found John McManamy’s tribute, at a must read.

Now if we could look to those that die everyday in our streets, who we haven’t met just yet, maybe the world could be a better place.

Long whispered, now in the open?

Ever wonder why we haven’t captured Bin Laden yet? Well according to ABCNews Pakistan has given Bin Laden a free pass. As Will Bunch notes, our policy with Pakistan has long seemed to be one of looking the other way.

I’ve long thought that this was the case and talked of it in conversation with friends and family. Wouldn’t dare post it online because it comes close to conspiracy talk and I don’t fancy myself as some kind of expert or pundit. But now it looks like this is seeing daylight.

Democrats should increase the call for answers as to why Bin Laden hasn’t been captured or killed yet. Or why those that *currently* harbor his organization have not been touched.

Watch close over the next few days folks. Either this blows up into a political storm, and Bin Laden is finally – finally – taken out. Or the reality of it will get twisted and turned in the news, and it will get downed out, in the ceaseless din of our media-rich days.

Kinda like so many other forgotten stories.