Shannon’s Corner

My Conversation on Social Media

In the City — Is the Fare Fair?

Washington DC taxi cabs seem to be charging increased fares not so much based on the new meter but rather personal discretion. 

A few months ago, taxis went from zones to metered fares.  I ride the same route a minimum of four times each week.  I followed the meter vs. zones debate and like others, expected good things.  Of the many expected positive outcomes, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish wrote that he expected to “rarely have trouble finding a cab” and I agree that is an accurate assessment.  I don’t have trouble finding a cab…I have trouble finding a good one.

For the record, I absolutely don’t mind squaring things up for taxi drivers.  If they should earn a larger fare for a particular route then by all means, I will and should pay the increase.  However, what I have noticed instead is that a taxi ride pre-meter used to be simple exchange of goods and service.  By that I mean that I would sit, they drive, and I pay (of which I knew the cost before I got in the car). Now, times are different.  I must remain vigilant, alert and engage not only with the driver but also the traffic around us.  Many taxis (not all) have suddenly “misunderstood” my address which, if you’re not paying attention, translates to several additional blocks worth of driving that you have to pay for.  I’ve also had drivers during rush hour take routes that in the days of pre-meter, they would have never dreamed of taking.  I’ve had taxis drive well under the speed limit on both local streets and the Rock Creek Parkway who suddenly don’t know their way or have a map handy. I’ve even had drivers that claim not have $5 to give back to me when I pay with a $20 bill.  To me that seems about as far-fetched as you coming to my office, asking for a memo and having me tell you that I have no computer. Isn’t there something off here?

Now since I have had at least two or three drivers do a stellar job of navigating the city streets, I know the real cost of my ride. (to those of you who are curious, it is about $2 more than the “old” days pre-meter)  They have been excellent in their responsibilities.  So here’s my problem…the really good taxis drive the appropriate route and therefore make less than the other taxis out there clearly making decisions that alter the fare.  Maybe things will change and level off but how do we make things fair for me and the good taxis out there?  Any thoughts? What’s fair?


July 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

E85 411

Ethanol 3D

Ethanol 3D




For my Wikiscanner report, I decided to examine E-85, otherwise known as Ethanol — an alcohol fuel manufactured by fermenting and distilling crops with a high starch or sugar content such as grains, sugarcane or corn. In the energy sector, ethanol can be used for space and water, heating, to generate electricity, and as an alternative fuel. It makes up 25-35% of sales in the states of Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky and Nebraska.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 set a national goal of 30 percent penetration of alternative fuels in light-duty vehicles by 2010.  In 1998, the Transportation Efficiency Act of the 21st Century extended the ethanol tax incentive through 2007.

With current rising gasoline and food prices, I expect to read extensive debate on Ethanol’s usefulness and cost-effectiveness.


1. Who and How Often

On a search retrieved from Wikiscanner on July 5, 2008 there are 628 edits for page “E85.”  The top ten edits were created by:


1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – 286 edits

2. Quest Communications Corporation (Denver, CO) – 26 edits

3. AT&T Global Network Services (Yonkers, NY) – 24 edits

4. Nebraska Public Power District (Auburn, NE) – 14 edits

5. Road Runner Holdco LLC (Shawnee Mission, KS) – 13 edits

6. Generalitat De Valencia (Valencia) – 8 edits

7. University of Illinois (Champaign, IL) – 7 edits

8. Amsterdam-Customer Cable (Haarlem, Holland) – 6 edits

9. Charter Communications (Madison, WI) – 6 edits

10. Verizon Internet Services (New York, NY) – 6 edits


The balance of the remaining various entries range from universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, Babson College and Carnegie Mellon to the State of Wisconsin Department of Administration and the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO).


2. What 

Some of the heated debate revolves around cost and of course, exploring alternatives to ethanol where there would be no risk to land use, food competition or concerns over tax incentives.  The discussion continues over the impact of E85 on greenhouse gas emissions.  A UC Berkeley professor, Alexander Farrell states “today’s U.S. made ethanol contains 25% more energy than is used to make it.” A response is made by Jimberg98 saying “These numbers are close enough to consider it a wash on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced per mile if not more favorable than gasoline…If ethanol takes less energy to produce than petroleum based fuels, wouldn’t it make sense to use ethanol to produce ethanol?”


Other Issues

With this topic, a NPV is hard to maintain.  Some wikipedians want to argue about greenhouse gas emissions, some health safety and others want to review other alternative fuels and debate the usefulness of ethanol overall.

For example, IP addres makes the comment that “…a site that claims ethanol might actually cause more pollution than gasoline.  I checked wikipedia to see if there was more merit to this, but the page seems to be lacking.”

In response, IP replies “true…results show that harmful NOx emissions are higher in the E85 vehicle as opposed to the Gasoline only version…” [i]


3. When

Surprisingly, all the Wikipedia edits range from 2005 to 2007.  As gasoline prices continue to rise in the U.S., conversations about alternative fuels and reducing fuel consumption are an almost daily topic in U.S. news.  I expected more current debate about ethanol and can only assume the reason why this isn’t reflected in Wikipedia is that they are not a news outlet but rather an encyclopedia of information.


4. Where

The majority of editors came from NASA with a following (far behind) of various American universities.  At first I did not understand why NASA would have been the predominate editor of E85. However, after reviewing the history of ethanol, I discovered that ethanol was used in rocketry dating back to 1934 first by the Germans and later the Soviets. In 1946, the first V2 rocket was launched in the United States getting the U.S. space program under way with its ethanol.[ii] Therefore, it is logical now that NASA would have the most edits to Wikipedia given they would have significant knowledge of ethanol and therefore add to the credibility and verifiability of this entry.

 Overall, I learned two valuable lessons from this assignment.  First, Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a news outlet or social forum.  I knew that in advance of course but still some part of me expected “news.”  Second, Wikiscanner demonstrates that things are not always as they seem.  I discovered it first by getting a glimpse of the edit discussions, then with who is behind the editing discussions and finally, the reasons why they were behind the discussions.  All in all, it was a remarkable learning experience using new tools to look at information in a whole new way.


July 5, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Games and the City

I have never liked video games or enjoyed computer games.   Sorry, they just aren’t for everyone.  However, this assignment has been a different experience for me.  I can sincerely say that I have a new appreciation for the gaming industry and marvel at their technological accomplishments and revolutionary ideas for connecting with consumers.

I think people are drawn to this similarly to when the movie Sex and the City opened — women flocked to theaters wearing their most fashionable attire complete with shoes clearly not meant for popcorn on the floor.  Martini glasses filled and refilled throughout the movie.  Women really got into the whole experience.  They joined the Sex and the City conversation just like gamers can join in the Second Life (SL) experience.

I am fascinated and eager to follow its evolution over the next few years.  SL is a virtual alternative world for users where you can make up who you are, where you live and what you do.  So why wouldn’t companies and advertisers jump at the chance to put themselves in the game and into a larger conversation?  Nothing prevents you from attending the new art exhibit in London’s Mayfair district or in the heart of Brooklyn, New York. Want to visit The Tech Museum of Innovation and join The Tech Virtual Summit: Digital Democracy in Exhibit Design but just can’t be in California?  It’s no problem because the exhibit opens in real life and on SL.   The opportunities for individuals, companies and organizations are unlimited.  Do you want to plan a company conference but this year’s budget can’t accommodate a two day resort conference?  It’s no problem on SL.  Companies are creating employee-only islands and saving thousands in airfare and hotel bills.

OLG seems to hold many opportunities that are not just for “playing games.” It’s another world – literally — so who wouldn’t enjoy this new conversation? Surprisingly, I do.

June 29, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Everyonelovesavegangirl & Melissasmusings Are On To Something

As I’ve remarked to everyonelovesavegangirl, I think her idea that one day there could be a “Wikipedia article about every person, place and thing in the world” isn’t so far off the mark.   Wikipedia is like the local community block watch where the individuals that live in the community know each other, meet regularly, police their own streets and work hard to provide a safe environment for their families.  So if Wikipedia endeavors to know everyone and everything, and they monitor their “home neighborhood” to prevent foul play, I think it’s a great idea and modeled off a system that we know provides a valuable service to many communities.  The information is already out there and it isn’t going to stop.  Just as you would watch your neighbor’s house or car while they were out of town, Wikipedia is simply extending this block watch philosophy to its entire online community.

Along the same topic, Melissasmusings also highlights the structured system of checks and balances Wikipedia employs and quotes Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, “if enough people care enough about an article to read it, then enough people will care enough to improve it, and over time this will lead to a large enough body of good enough work to begin to take both availability and quality of articles for granted, and to integrate Wikipedia into daily use by millions.”   Melissasmusings’ great observation prompted me to compare the structure found within Wikipedia to that in the Neighborhood Watch program.  To demonstrate that I think Wikipedia is on to something, I looked at the statistics posted from the 2007 National Night Out initiative.  They estimate that “over 34 million people from families, communities, civic organizations, businesses and law enforcement agencies” participate with the mission to “enhance, support, and promote significant crime-and-drug control strategies in more than 10,000 communities.” In this program, average citizens are encouraged to volunteer in some capacity and just like with Wikipedia, everyone has something to contribute.  With Wikipedia creating and expanding its usefulness to consumers, the opportunity for increased participation and further growth seems to be unlimited.

June 28, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Trust but verify

If you used a calculator for a math exam, would it guarantee that you get every answer correct?  If a history final was open book, would that guarantee an A? Do you believe everything you hear rumored in the office? If you trained in a particular sport for years on end would it get you to the Olympics?  If you spent millions of dollars on a presidential campaign and won the popular vote, would that make you president? 

What I am trying to say is that there is no absolute formula for success regardless of subject or situation.  We can trust, but always verify.  This philosophy even extends to the content created on Wikipedia by lay people or industry experts.  All we can do is make the best decision using the information we have available to us at the time.  In a day or in another week, new information can be discovered and utilized.  If Wikipedia is “quick information” and our success and failures are posted online for all to see, isn’t Wikipedia doing its job?  Waiting for an industry expert to create Wikipedia entries would take not only a significant amount of time but once done, it would have to go through so many revisions to remain current that it may never be posted.  Entries are done on a level of accuracy that is constantly challenged informally which is why it is so useful.

In my opinion, Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody has this analogy right – “students usually wear useful paths thru grass before the university lays any walkways.”  In this case, it’s Wikipedia that is wearing down the path.

June 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

Who’s in charge – Google or me?

Search and Google have definitely expanded our world but I wonder, does it increase or diminish our personal relationships with people? 

If Google Desktop Serch (DGS) and my clickstream can identify personal purchasing intents and why (i.e. Battelle’s What to Expect When Your Expecting story from his book Search) and 1-800 Flowers already reminds me when its my sister’s birthday, what exactly am I doing other than inserting my credit card information (which is also likely information already stored online) into the computer?  So if I pay my bills, buy clothes, groceries, birthday presents and books all online, I don’t ever have to think of the next purchase because it has likely already been identified for me. 

What about when the GPS in my car identifies that I drove to Dr. Dentist, feeds that information to my computer back home and then reminds me in four months to get my next cleaning? Or when the computer recognizes Dr. Dentist just announced her retirement, sends me an email and suggests three alternatives within a one mile radius already approved by my healthcare plan? Let’s also say my GPS notes the amount of time spent in and out of my vehicle.  Monday thru Friday I drove to work at 6:30am and drive home at 11:30pm.  Would it recognize a long week at work, feed that information to my computer to produce an email on Saturday suggesting I take a bike ride or a trip to the spa? Then based on my previous purchases at X Spa (that my computer already knows), I would have services and availability all waiting for me with the click of a button?  Don’t forget Google’s intent-based marking would probably have already identified a number of alternative spas for me to choose from and then suggest that I bring my mother because it is her birthday.   

Am I having a relationship with Google or with people at this point? Maybe that’s what I’m afraid of.

June 15, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Podcasts & My Appendix

Yesterday I spent six hours in the GW emergency room with what doctors thought was appendicitis.  I tell you that not for sympathy (though a little pat on the back is nice – I was in pain after all!) but to say that I was then motivated to listen to a variety of podcasts from the Medical University of South Carolina  library (over 700 on variety of topics and over 500 by specific doctors) to vlogs and blogs on and  Yes, I was multi-tasking by doing both my homework and personal research but I think this is valuable for all of us with limited time.  Podcasts allow us to get the information we missed on the Sunday talk shows or catch up on current events.  For fun I listened to Twit’s Roz who is rowing her way across the Pacific Ocean while I caught up with work on my blackberry.  Talk about technology and multi-tasking!

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

The Long Tail & Dating

The Long Tail offers an insightful look into how our economy is shifting from mass markets to millions of niches and how the internet has made it easier for consumers to find and buy those niche products they are looking for.  People have stopped going into the traditional record store to find that CD and opted instead to buy it off of iTunes from their thousands of selection of titles.  iTunes has something for everyone. 

This then got me thinking about the new way of dating – online.  In a world where many people have increasing demands on them with work and family, the traditional “brick and mortar” dating has been replaced with the and eHarmony alternatives.  If individuals are the “goods that aren’t selling so well in mainstream distribution”, these online aggregators have also been able to successfully connect its consumer to the “product” they are looking for.  This then gets me to ask, is the old way of meeting someone at a party or through friends eventually being replaced with this new “distribution of goods”? If, as the Long Tail theory predicts, the demand for even the most unique people are to be found online, then maybe this should be the way to go.  According to the Long Tail, there’s something for everyone. So how can we go wrong and why would we want to ever meet someone on “mainstream retail’s shelf” again?

June 13, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Thoughts on We The Media

We the Media is a great book that really gave me perspective on the world of New Media today and the possibilities of tomorrow (generally speaking since today is already gone and tomorrow’s media is already growing and changing even as we type, read and discuss it).   

To me, the book significantly highlights three key components to understanding New Media —

First, the Internet brings together all kinds of people, from all around the world and for all different reasons for a conversation that generates powerful impact.  Berners-Lee gave the world an open foundation on which new ground and innovation was to be explored.

Second, for over one hundred years, Big Media limited us with one-to-many communication but now we have the tools for many-to-many and few-to-few.  This New Media brings a dialogue to the table empowering openness, transparency, and the opportunity for every person to be heard. 

And lastly, the wide range of impact with this New Media extends across journalism, grassroots movements, the marketplace, politics, government, and even the military and law enforcement agencies (just to name a few) which all contribute to a local, national and globally engaged citizenry.

Ultimately, New Media’s scope for harnessing our collective energy and talents is important to us all because it connects the limitless opportunities to the conversations we join and the change we can effect in our new role of “the media”.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Welcome to Shannon’s Corner!

Thanks for visiting my blog which has been created for my Social Media class at Georgetown University.  I look forward to diving into the world of social media and look forward to our future conversations.

June 7, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment