I like Twitter. I like Twitter for a number of reasons, the least of which is it has allowed me to cultivate loose relationships with people that I admire. (Danielle Corsetto and Randal Milholland, to name two.) I am not fond of most of the users on Twitter; I think, (and I include myself in this group) it is used as a form of mundane, menial, self-indulgent narcissism. Yes, I understand how stupid that sentence is. No, I won’t apologize for it.
But I like Twitter anyway, for the same reason that I like Reddit. It exposes me to information that I might not otherwise see. Political information right now, and other information too during the off-political season. (Which is pretty much every other year.) Of course, some of the information is incorrect. Some of the information shared by news networks on TV and Newspapers is incorrect. There’s incorrect information all over the place. But there’s more incorrect information in quickly shared Internet news sources that do not vet their information nearly as thoroughly.
About 2 years ago I bought a book about journalism. I haven’t read the whole thing, but it was a part of a long-standing love affair I’ve had with journalism over the past few years. I think there’s something noble about wanting to inform people about the things that are happening in the world around them. Being exposed to new ideas and new sources of information is important.
I occasionally consider a career change from programming to journalism. I think it would be fun to work for a Newspaper’s Digital Division, writing reports on news and possibly even being an investigative journalist. It’s a lofty goal for a guy that can barely write out a blog post without getting lost half-way through it. (I refer, in this case, to the post made about my Grandfather.) So. This is an ambition I will probably never think of in more than a passable, romantic kind of way. Like the girl you remember fondly who you were never quite brave enough to ask out. That’s writing for me, in general. She’s the girl that I was too scared to chase.
So here it is, 3:30 in the morning, (the opening line for a song I have loved since I was maybe 8 years old) and I can’t sleep. So what do I do? I queue up episodes of “The Newsroom”, which I greatly enjoy. I read through Twitter, I look into what it would take to purchase a decent camera, and dream about writing the news professionally for a living. This is how I deal with things like insomnia and snow being on the ground outside. When I lived in Missouri, I would go for a walk, even in the snow. Here, I don’t feel safe. Although I feel safer than I did when I moved here. I still feel like an outsider.
I have sitting in front of me ideas for a website that I want to use to keep myself informed. A few months ago I worked out how to make Twitter’s oAuth work for me; I can now cultivate tweets, store them in a database, and run tagged word queries on them if I so choose. I’ve also got a few APIs that I am looking at that can give me up-to-the-minute information on campaign finance, congressional votes, stories that are released along the wire. I contacted the Associated Press about two years ago and had a conversation with one of their sales people to see what it would cost for me to have access, just for me, to their systems for the purpose of building a news platform that would allow me to quickly and easily find information that I wanted. Given that I wanted to have the app just for me, they said no to the API key – and refused to quote me a price. I was a bit sad about that.
But still, the idea interests me, if for no other reason than staying informed. I’ve taken a few college courses. I probably won’t ever finish a degree. I think it is very important to remain as informed as possible about the world around you. So I may yet build my dream system that I can use to track the news. If I do, I will probably release it as open source, because I do believe that sharing information is important. Even if I’m never a reporter, I think I can do my own bit to share information with the world. Of course, people will need their own API keys and it won’t gain wide appeal, because so few things do.
But maybe helping just one person become more informed is enough. Or just the effort could be.