Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Get Tweeting!

Here is part 3 of my series on how movement conservatives are using Twitter today.

In part 1 of my series, I introduced Twitter, a relatively new text messaging service that combines features of many previously-existing Internet messaging technologies into one new way of connecting and communicating.

In part 2 of my series, I went into more detail about Twitter features, and gave some examples of how Twitter is being used by Hugh Hewitt and other activists.

Conservatives on Twitter

So how do you get started on Twitter? There are nearly as many ways to use Twitter as there are Twitter users. That's what makes it so powerful, but it also makes it difficult to explain to Twitter novices.

First, go to www.twitter.com and create a Twitter account. You can use just about anything for a user name. Use your real name, a brand like a web site or blog, or something completely obscure, depending on how easily you want to be found, and how you will be using Twitter. Learn how to use hashtags (like #hhrs) on search.twitter.com.

Second, use Twitter for a week or two to figure out the basic Twitter commands and functions, and to understand how others are using Twitter. Check out this Twitter 101 Guide by David All Group.

One of the mysterious Twitter-related things you should learn about is TinyURL. TinyURL is one of several URL redirection-abbreviator services that shortens URLs so you can more easily include hyperlinks in your 140-character Tweets. To use TinyURL, visit the site, enter a long URL, and almost immediately you get a TinyURL to copy-paste into your Tweet. This technique is also useful for including hyperlinks in e-mails, which sometimes renders long URLs nonfunctional with line breaks.

Last, find the people with Twitter accounts whom you know and care about, and Follow them. Notice who they are Following. Here is a list to get you started:

Before long, you'll "get" Twitter, and gradually tailor your use of the service to inform, connect, and communicate as you like it. Welcome to the Twitterverse.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Putting Twitter to work

Here is part 2 of my series on how movement conservatives are using Twitter today.

Twitter is basically a text messaging service, but with several refinements that make it more powerful for social networking and as a tool for, pardon the expression, change. I'll explain what makes Twitter different from, and similar to, other online communication tools you've used. Then I'll cite some interesting applications that Hugh Hewitt and others are using right now to connect with others and strengthen the conservative movement.

Conservatives on Twitter

First, with Twitter you can send messages in three different modes:

  • Broadcast, to all Twitter users (the least useful for our purposes)
  • Public chat (Reply), again visible to all subscribers, but also sent directly to a user identified by his or her user name in the format "@username"
  • Direct, one-to-one, sent privately to the user in the format "D username;" just like instant messaging (IM) or SMS text messaging

Second, with Twitter you receive messages as you like them:

  • Every Tweet sent by every user (again, the least useful for our purposes)
  • Friends only, so you only see Tweets from users you are Following
  • Search by hashtag (#tag); see examples below
  • Browse on a user's homepage (http://www.twitter.com/username)
  • Direct one-to-one, exchanging D messages (see above)

And last, you can use Twitter on any combination of mobile and PC platforms:

  • The Twitter.com web site
  • Internet browser plug-in
  • Desktop app
  • IM plug-in (AOL, Yahoo, MSN, etc.)
  • Cell phone SMS (text message)
  • iPhone
  • Blackberry

With this unique combination of features, imaginative Twitter users have cooked up some interesting applications:

Hugh Hewitt has defined a hashtag #hhrs for the Hugh Hewitt Radio Show. Tweets that include #hhrs will show up when users search for it at search.twitter.com. This enables listeners to get lists of show guests before each show, communicate with Hewitt and his producers, discuss the show's topics, and read all of the Tweets posted after the show is over.

This can be easily repeated by other talk radio shows, and has been by Hewitt's protégés on AM 1280 The Patriot: David Strom and Margaret Martin (#davidstrom), John Hinderaker, Chad the Elder, and Brian Ward (#narn), and King Banaian and Michael Brodkorb (#narn2). This practice broadens the participation and interaction in these shows way beyond those who get past the call screeners.

Conservative activists across the country are finding (and Following) each other on the new web site Top Conservatives on Twitter. This idea should spawn regional or local lists like True North Conservatives on Twitter (does not exist yet).

Activists on both sides are following the ballot recount in the U.S. Senate race by seaching on #mnrecount. Attendees and onlookers kept up with the recent Republican National Convention by searching on #rnc08.

News outlets (foxnewspolitics) and web sites (looktruenorth) are publishing their RSS feeds in Twitter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

MPR to LRT: not in our front yard

MPR reports that a fascinating showdown is brewing between the Central Corridor light rail transit (LRT) line, the Met Council, and the City of Saint Paul on one side, versus a group of longtime downtown Saint Paul residents on Cedar Street: two churches and Minnesota Public Radio.

MPR is understandably concerned about the location of the proposed light rail line: twelve feet away from the front door of its broadcast center, where the rolling boondoggle would generate considerable noise and vibration, electromagnetic interference (EMI), and access issues. Central Presbyterian Church and the Church of St. Louis, as well as several concert venues, would also feel the effects of the light rail tracks and its unsightly accoutrements. As MPR reported, lines in the sand are being drawn:
Metropolitan Council Chairman Peter Bell said a study to look at a different route is, in his words, a "Herculean task," that could delay the project by two years. He says MPR's memo to the project office last week has already raised red flags with the Federal Transit Administration.

[Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said:] "Quite frankly, they're threatening the future of downtown St. Paul and the entire city."

In a position statement, MPR says, "MPR continues to support the Central Corridor LRT project." It is asking that an alternate route just one block to the east be considered. This story is developing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Twitter matters to us now

Twitter is a multi-platform, Internet-based social networking/microblogging service that combines features of instant messaging, chat, blogs, and RSS.

The preceding sentence was provided as a public service to web-savvy individuals unfamiliar with Twitter, who were waiting impatiently for a technically concise definition of this trendy new technology. For the rest of you wanting to know why conservatives are all atwitter, read on.
Conservatives on Twitter

The conservative Twitter train is leaving the station, and Hugh Hewitt is driving it. The self-described "center right" radio talk show host introduced many to the political applications of blogs. He is the godfather of the local Northern Alliance of Blogs, helping to make national media figures out of James Lileks, Power Line, "Captain" Ed Morrissey, and a Saturday radio/Internet stream lineup with other Northern Alliance bloggers on AM 1280 The Patriot and UStream.tv.

Shortly after Election Day, Hewitt joined numerous conservative activists within and outside the Republican party in a postmortem analysis that quickly turned technological. Since then, Hewitt created a Facebook account and began experimenting with various applications of Twitter, while documenting his findings and interviewing new media consultants almost daily on his radio show (tune in today, and catch up with Hugh's podcasts on TownHall.com).

Especially since Thanksgiving, conservatives have started to flock to Twitter, led by Hewitt and web sites like Top Conservatives on Twitter and Rebuild the Party. Conservative commentator and blogger Michelle Malkin reactivated her largely dormant Twitter account, now "Tweeting" (posting in Twitter parlance) several times daily. Some of us (myself included) created our Twitter accounts because Hewitt told us to, and proceeded to experiment and learn right along with him.

Why does Twitter matter to political activists, on a desktop or smart phone already crowded with web sites, blogs, RSS feeds, e-mail accounts, IMs and text messages? The answer is in the unique applications made possible by Twitter's deceptively simple format, open architecture, and the creative minds of its users.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Neighbors help neighbors in trouble with Sleep-Out

On a day like today, when the high temperature in the Twin Cities of Minne-so-cold won't climb above 0 degrees F, I am grateful to be blessed with a warm house, a warm car, and a warm office. I also cannot help but think about those who lack one or more of the these.

According to federal government sources, most of the "poor" in the United States have a higher standard of living than the middle class did just a few generations ago, and than much of the rest of the world today. Yet times are indeed tough. Many are truly struggling with finding housing, child care, transportation, or employment, even in the affluent Twin Cities west metro area.

Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners (ICOP) helps 1500 families and individuals every year to move from tough times to better days. They turn away many others. Their clients aren't looking for a "bailout:" according to IOCP, 58% of the families to which they provide housing services need help for only one or two months to stabilize their situation.

For the thirteenth year in a row, folks in the west metro from churches, Boy Scout troops, and other groups (and employees from companies like General Mills and Wells Fargo) have been sleeping outside in subfreezing temperatures in November and December and beyond to raise money for and awareness about the homeless. This year their goal is $2 million, which would prevent 939 families from becoming homeless (and participating in an involuntary Sleep-Out). If you live in the west metro, please join me in supporting this year's Sleep-Out.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A kinder, gentler House Republican caucus?

HometownSource.com has reported that the Minnesota House Republican Caucus may be practicing a kinder, gentler brand of caucus discipline for the session that will be called to order on January 6. ("House Republicans talk about proposal-driven comeback," by T.W. Budig, December 3, 2008):
"I made it very clear when I was re-elected leader that the marginalization of members based on how they voted on an override or anything else was over." —Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall), newly re-elected House Minority Leader
"We now have proven beyond any reasonable doubt that if you marginalize the moderates, there’s not of a whole heck of a lot of legislative seats you can win. On the other hand if you ignore the conservative base you’re going to lose a lot of seats like we did in 2006. The key is for both the very conservative and moderate wings of our party to work together." —Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington)
"I don’t even like the term ‘conservative.’ You’re either a Republican or you’re not." —Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano), unsuccessful (conservative) candidate for House Minority Leader
"For our party to prevail we have to ally with people which whom we agree with on five things out of ten — constituents and fellow [caucus] members." —Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) one of two returning "Override Six" members

We in the blogosphere and in our partisan and ideological circles can afford to be pure in our beliefs. But House members have also explained to me over the years that, whether you're casting a vote from your desk in the Capitol, or meeting with two diametrically opposed constituent groups from your desk in the State Office Building, as a legislator you are still expected by the voters to solve all kinds of fiscal and policy problems of the state of Minnesota. I just hope that the Republican caucuses in both the House and Senate, along with Governor Pawlenty, can agree on, and advance, a core set of center-right Republican principles during the 2009-2010 biennium.

Monday, December 01, 2008

There's a reason their baseball team is called the "Brewers"

Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee (photo: North Star Liberty)
"Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!"
—from the opening credits to Laverne & Shirley

On Saturday, the menfolk in our family took advantage of a little free time during a visit to the in-laws in Milwaukee to experience one of the reasons why the locals named their baseball team the Milwaukee Brewers.

We arrived early to reserve a spot in the tour at Lakefront Brewery. It was a good thing we did, because by the time the tour started, the line was out the door waiting for the next tour.

There are a number of reasons why this tour is so popular. One reason may be that the product sampling begins during the wait for the tour to begin (amazing how drinking beer seems to make the time go by faster). Or maybe it's that they refill your sample glass halfway through the tour. Or maybe it's because the sassy tour guide is also sampling their products during the tour!

The $6 price of admission includes four 6 ounce Lakefront Brewery pours of your choice and a real, branded, souvenir pint glass. There are also a few unique sights along the way, including three tanks named Larry, Moe, and Curly, and the chalet and Fiberglas beer mug formerly located in Milwaukee County Stadium.

Lakefront has won dozens of beer festival awards for its unique recipes, including the first beer brewed without malted barley or gluten-containing products, an ale called New Grist; and a 100% certified organic British-style extra special bitter called Organic E.S.B.

On previous visits to Milwaukee, we took in the tour at Sprecher Brewery, Milwaukee's original microbrewery, located in a residential neighborhood of Glendale. This time we just stopped by the gift shop and enjoyed Sprecher's unique mini-museum of local beer memorabilia.

A totally different experience can be had at the Miller Brewery and gift shop, which unfortunately was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. Miller's marketing budget provides a more packaged experience (with a lot more walking across the sprawling facility), complete with multimedia presentation and mammoth gift shop, but the tour of the old caves and stories of Miller's Milwaukee roots should be required for any beer lover's trip to the home of Laverne and Shirley. Even at a corporate "macrobrewery" like Miller, it all boils down to the water, barley, hops, and yeast (gluten-free beers notwithstanding).

Reservations recommended for all tours.

Lakefront Brewery, Inc.
1872 N. Commerce St.
Milwaukee, WI 53212
Tel: 414-372-8800

Sprecher Brewing Co. Inc.
701 W. Glendale Ave.
Glendale, WI 53209
Tel: 414-964-2739

Miller Brewery Tour and Girl-In-The-Moon Gift Shop
4251 West State Street
Milwaukee, WI 53208
Tel: 414-931-BEER

UPDATE: More reviews of the Lakefront Brewery tour can be found on BeerAdvocate.com.