Bloomsburg Flood Destroys More than 1,000 Homes

I am still waiting to see this news somewhere other than Facebook or behind the paywall at the Press Enterprise. Since I haven’t, I think it is important to help get some of the facts being reported to the open web. The American Red Cross is now reporting that the flood destroyed more than 1,000 homes and did damage to another 2,300 in Columbia County alone. According to Peter Kendron, Press Enterprise writer, in an article published on September 16, 2001, “If those numbers hold up, it means more than 10 percent of the county’s 29,500 households saw some sort of flooding last week.”

What is crazy to me is that if this happened in a larger area and 10 percent of the homes were flooded, in say Philadelphia, don’t you think it would be making news? Remember, percentages are percentages. In my mind part of the reason for this lack of broad awareness lies on what D’Arcy Norman called a “cone of silence” in a post he made this week. My friend and colleague, Ellysa Cahoy, built on that concept when she wrote an excellent post yesterday bringing to light the complexities associated with access to local newspapers. The cone of silence doesn’t seem real to people at the local level because they are both living in the midst of the disaster and there is near pervasive access to the local paper via the little blue boxes selling the physical paper on every corner.

This poses two immediate problems. The first is that news doesn’t move across the open web in a way that stories can be picked up and shared in ways that builds awareness to the intensity of the damage — remember that 10 percent of the homes were flooded. When local news doesn’t get picked up and shared it doesn’t provide strong returns via google and other search engines so non-local news agencies can’t report on the tragedy as widely as they should. When that happens everyone loses — relief organizations are slower to respond, national media is under represented, and philanthropic organizations never get involved. The other issue is one that Ellysa identifies in her post — access to long-term historical information is lost. That means the history of our town is limited to first hand reports and memories by citizens. The problem dramatically impacts historians, scholars, and future generations … according to Ellysa who is a Library Research faculty member at The Pennsylvania State Unviersity,

What this tells me is that a researcher studying the recent Bloomsburg flood (and wanting access to local news coverage) would have to travel to Bloomsburg to access the articles. It’s a similar story for any other news events occurring in Bloomsburg, including the 1972 flood. We can’t depend on local news institutions to look any farther than their print subscription proceeds … They’ve already proven that they are myopic and doomed to eventual obsolescence. It’s just a matter of time for that.

Let me remind everyone that we aren’t talking about free access to today’s news. Reporting news costs money and if local papers want to sell that news on a daily basis, they should. We are talking about searchable, open, linkable archives of yesterday and back that are openly accessible online. For the sake of broad awareness and access to historical archives this should be happening. I pulled some more facts from the Press Enterprise article that I’d like to share from the Red Cross reporting. I certainly hope the Press allows me to share this more broadly:

  • 976 single-family homes destroyed, along with 190 apartments
  • 801 homes, including 676 single-family homes, 10 mobile homes and 115 apartments had major damage, which means they will not be habitable until they are repaired
  • About 301 single-family homes had minor damage. Those homes are habitable, but need repair. They might have minor roof or structural damage, broken windows, some roofing or siding missing and up to 3 feet of water in the home.
  • 1,012 single-family homes and 20 apartments were affected. Such homes have nuisance damage but are habitable without repair. Examples of damage to affected homes include shingles or siding missing, debris around the home, 6 inches to 1 foot of water in the home, and mobile home skirting damaged or missing.

West Main Street

I am a subscriber to the Online Edition of the Press Enterprise, and you can become one for $2.50 a week. If you would like to view or republish an archive of photos showing the damage from the flood, you can access my growing set of associated photos at Flickr.

They’ve Had Enough

I know my friends in Bloomsburg, PA aren’t going to give up. What I really hope is that the town finds ways to come together to fix what the root cause of the problem is — there just may not be a way to do that. In a lot of ways even this video can’t tell the story of what is happening in Bloomsburg, but at the moment it is one of the few I have seen.

This morning, while I was in an active online debate with folks about the need for open access to Bloomsburg Flood news at the Press Enterprise, I got an email from a producer at AccuWeather asking if she could use some of the Creative Commons marked photos I had posted from last weekend. These are the same photos that have gotten over 75,000 views in the last few days. While the Press has decided to close access, AccuWeather decided that they would seek assets from wherever they could on the open web — and all they had to do was ask and give attribution.

Up until today I hadn’t seen a professionally produced piece focusing on the stories of the people in Bloomsburg. And this one is built on the back of open content. This is why we need to find a way to make the news of this event open — so others with a much wider audience than any of ours individually can share them. Sure, I love they used my pictures … but what I am most happy about is that they are using them to expose what has happened and have now built an open resource for someone else to use in the future to learn about these events. That is why open needs to win and this is why I’ve had enough of closed news ecosystems.

On Being Open: An Open Letter to Bloomsburg, PA’s Press Enterprise

To the Editor of the Press Enterprise,

I was going to post this to your Facebook wall as I am a fan, but the character limits of that environment forced me to do it in my own space. I am hopeful you will see my letter in the spirit it is offered — as a concerned and compassionate plea for action.

First, I want to thank and commend you for opening the online edition of the Press Enterprise in the days after the flood. It was incredibly important to so many people coast to coast. We all have friends and family who have been impacted by this disaster in so many ways.

With that said, I want to understand your decision to close access to the online edition during the days following the disaster that is unfolding in our communities. I believe you should be providing free and open access to your online edition for as long as it takes for people outside the area to know what is happening — there is an obvious lack of national attention to this tragedy. I would also urge you to maintain open access to the archives of the digital issues so other news agencies can cite and point to your reporting. Maintaining an open and searchable archive of the paper in an accessible format will be critical for other news agencies, scholars, and historians in the near to long term.

I have been gathering and posting photos online at Flickr to share with people who want to be connected to Bloomsburg and the surrounding areas. For the last two days alone, I have had over 65,000 views of these photos. I’ve never had more than a 100 views in any given day — ever. My photos are open, licensed as Creative Commons, and will continue to be available as a set on Flickr.

I have talked to friends in other parts of the country who haven’t heard about what has happened and are completely unaware. Who else is going to report this other than our local news? The national news has ignored this event. The Press Enterprise represents our local news and because of that you represent our communities. Please do the right thing and open access to the paper for others to see what has happened and what continues to go on. I seriously doubt it will limit your paid subscriptions in the long haul and sincerely hope your decision can transcend financial issues.

I say this as a Bloomsburg native and as a friend to the Press. Please let me know if I can help or if you’d like to talk about a strategy over the short term. We want you to know that we will support you going forward. Please do the right thing.

I sincerely appreciate your consideration in this matter. Please know that I am posting this widely in hopes that you will consider the imperative.

Cole W. Camplese

Trying to Map Stories of the Bloomsburg Flood

The Facebook group went from 0 to about 1,000 in less than 12 hours today. I’ll keep updating this as I have moments. For now, follow @ccvoodr and the hashtag #Bloomsburg … for updates. If you are from Bloomsburg, PA and you want me to add your story to this map for us to see, just leave a comment with your street address and story as a comment.

View Bloomsburg Flood Descriptions September 2011 in a larger map

A short story I recorded on the 13th of September. Flood Stories 09_13_2011


I met him once in the lobby at Apple headquarters as he spoke to Ive. Really the only person I have thought of as famous that I worked really hard to understand. Other than Michael Jordan he was the only famous person I cared about. But I cared about how he did things more than anything else. I hope Steve is OK and he can enjoy years of happiness going forward. I want to believe he is just stepping aside … still it is a difficult story to read. I’ve bee an Apple guy for as long as I can remember, getting my first Mac in 1984 as a birthday present — still the greatest material gift I ever received. With it came a free subscription to MacWorld … the first cover?

Serious cool. To so many Apple is about product, to me it has always been about philosophy. The philosophy is what Jobs was always about. He wrote his own rules and has lived by them. I can honestly say that his approach to innovation is what continues to drive me. I know that sounds a little corny, but it is true. Seriously, here’s to the crazy ones.

“I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know,” Jobs said in a statement. “Unfortunately, that day has come.”

I’ll continue to watch and learn from Steve and hopefully a whole host of new talent that he has inspired. To Steve, I say thank you for giving me a career path and for inspiring so many through your work.

Yeah, Twitter is Dumb

Remember when everyone thought that twitter was dumb? I still contend it is one of the most important spaces on the Internet. The last two years I’ve personally observed the massive rise in use by our students at PSU. Either way, it is *the* way many of us know what is either happening or about to happen.


Serendipity Day: Beyond 20%

A couple of years ago I outlined an idea for the staff at Education Technology Services that would allow for mini sabbaticals. The idea was met with lots of nodding and lots of questions — it was fairly simple … you share an idea and how much time you need to work on it and I figure out a way to turn you lose with it. The only caveats were that it couldn’t be more than a week and you had to come back with a product to share. Lots of people threatened to actually take me up on the offer, but in the end exactly zero people did.

I always wondered why. I still don’t know. Maybe it is time to dust off the idea?  I was reminded about it after reading, NPR tries something new: A day to let managers step away and developers play.  I really wonder what would happen if we twisted it so it wasn’t about some sort of structured approach and instead something more like what NPR is doing?

NPR is experimenting with something called “Serendipity Day,” wherein everyone on the technology side abandons their day jobs to work on…whatever they want. Bugs that need squashing, scratches that need itching — the ideas that never get to the top of a to-do list. The managers step back, available only if the workers need anything. (I need a designer, I need a room, I need a bagel.) The only rule: In the end, you have to share your work.

“It turns out that that one day of pure, undiluted autonomy has led to a whole array of fixes for existing software, a whole array of ideas for new products, that otherwise had never emerged,” Pink says in the talk. He argues that motivation derives from autonomy, mastery, and purpose: the desire to control one’s own destiny, to get better at something, and to serve a greater good.

(Via NPR tries something new: A day to let managers step away and developers play » Nieman Journalism Lab.)

Clearly we’d have to do some planning, just as NPR has done, but I wonder what kind of participation I would see in my own organization. Seriously, it is a great idea and I wonder if I’d have any takers?

This post also appears at my PSU Blog. Sorry for any multiple linking.

Organizational Frameworks

I have been in my role as senior director of Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State since November 15, 2010 and in those nine months I have been working to better understand the organization both in terms of its external requirements and the overall internal dynamics. I feel very lucky across several dimensions in that I have a great leadership team in place that has rolled up its sleeves with me to help explain the various functions inside their own units and who have also embraced this idea that we have a real opportunity to rethink how we work together.  Another critical factor at play here is that I still have access to the person who built this organization and was a huge driving factor in the creation of such a robust teaching and learning with technology ecosystem here at the University.  What that affords me is an opportunity to grow into my role and have people to lean on in all directions — it has been critical as I work each day to better understand the overall depth and breadth of TLT and its overall role here at the University.

As part of this process I challenged my leadership team to come together and help me rethink the way we work together and present ourselves to both the on and above campus audiences we serve. I’ve pressed them into the idea that we can no longer do what we need to while being a handful of individual organizations — we need to think, talk, and act as one TLT. This idea, that we are better together than as separate and vertical organizations is something I believe very strongly in. My push is that we need to see ourselves as a horizontally integrated organization — an organization where our teams leverage the talents across the lines of the individual groups. I say this because I truly believe TLT has been constructed in a very intelligent and thoughtful way .. we are an organization that has each piece of the puzzle as it relates to envisioning, implementing, and supporting large and small scale technologies that influence teaching and learning.  What I mean is that we have a value chain of sorts in place that allows us to actively investigate new and emerging technologies and practices with an incredible amount of agility in Education Technology Services, we have the ability to install, manage, shape, and support all that activity in both physical and virtual ways through the Classroom and Lab Computing team, have the ability to drive adoption and appropriate use of technology through Training Services, and can work to communicate much of it on the web through standards-based accessible web presences powered by WebLion.  These organizations need to compliment one another as we work to deliver the kinds of services our audiences need and want.  They need to act as One TLT.

Tlt view

This perspective, when implemented, allows for our project teams to organize around successful implementations in ways we may not have considered in the past.  As a recent example, when we set out to replace our student response system, we didn’t just turn to one of the organizations to make a technology decision, we assembled a team that included not only purely technical people who focused on the integration issues, but also an instructional designer to investigate and document teaching practice, a trainer to construct training opportunities from the start, and communication people to share progress openly as we drove towards selection and implementation. Sounds simple — and it is conceptually, but the act of actually making that the new framework in how we do work is the complicated thing.  We can’t live in a world where any one of the organizations within TLT does its own thing from end to end — end to end requires the skills only available when you look across TLT from a horizontal perspective.

This is also true in the way we need to begin to represent ourselves as well. One of the things we have done every year I have been a part of this organization is write an annual report. Typically the responsibility to construct the report would fall directly on the shoulders of the director in each of the primary groups. What this meant was that the report read more like four or five different reports under one cover page. This lead to some strange reporting — CLC and ETS would both report on projects they were involved in (like the Media Commons) and often times the data shared might be slightly contradictory and tell two different stories. What we set out to do this year was much different — we wanted the report to represent our thinking as it related to TLT. It honestly took quite a bit longer than I expected to work through the thinking, but in the end I am left very proud of what we developed and I believe it will be the blueprint that much of our work will follow over the next couple of years. Last year’s report was nearly 140 pages, this year’s report is 23 in total. (What follows is mostly for me, so I can capture the process of creating it while it is still relatively fresh in my head.)

Several months ago I started the conversation about the annual report with the TLT leadership team and we all agreed we wanted something that could more effectively speak to who we were as a collective.  Our first step was to take the 140 page report and break each headline into a blog post. Each post included the title of the section and a short description of the initiative.  The blog gave us a multipage digital representation of a static document.  We fully intended to use that as a platform to allow all of TLT to vote on the most important initiatives to form the basis of the report.

Annual report blog sm

Bu once the blog was in place and we looked at it, something different ended up happening. I walked into my colleague, Derek Gittler’s office and he had taken every headline and placed them on sticky notes. He even color coded them based on what I’ll call the organizational owner.  We looked at it and were at once shocked at the overlap and the emergence of themes. I was able to easily construct a handful of themes that highlighted what our largest and most impactful initiatives are. Within the hour we had taken the blog built around what should be a hidden org structure from our report and turned it into a thematic representation of TLT.

White board sm

Once the themes emerged, I was able to assemble a Keynote presentation for the leadership team so we could drive towards consensus as a team. The presentation outlined the themes and how our projects and initiatives come together to tell an amazing story of the organization. A story that allowed us to share short details about how TLT focuses intense energy around:

  • Teaching, Learning, and Collaborative Spaces
  • Collaborative Platforms for Teaching and Learning
  • ANGEL and the Future of the Course Management System
  • Enriching the Community
  • Engaging the Community
  • TLT Events
  • TLT Research and Assessment
  • The Future of the Web
  • Conservation in TLT

The themes turned into a series of wiki pages that the leadership team constructed from the outline from the whiteboard. From there the leadership team took a couple of days to gather the appropriate data from each item and write it up in the wiki. I was able to leverage the wiki and write the final report, with narrative in less than 24 hours. Once the communication team did the editing the report came together remarkably fast — after the months of preparation and discourse.

I know it seems almost silly, but for the first time I can look at TLT and see how we work together to provide services and opportunities that truly supports our mission to guide the University in the appropriate use of technology to enrich teaching and learning. When you read through the TLT Annual Report for 2010 I hope you can see that what we are attempting to do is provide not only a new way to communicate our accomplishments, but a new willingness to address our own organizational framework to better serve those who depend on us the most. Maybe taking a few months to craft an annual report seems extreme, but in this case I honestly feel the work that we did here will provide the foundation for how we work together going forward. It is something I am very proud of.

This post also appears at my PSU Blog. Sorry for any multiple linking.