My talk in Calgary as part of Walrus Talks

In case anyone is interested, Walrus magazine has posted the video of a talk I gave recently in Calgary as part of their “Walrus Talks” series, which involves seven people from different walks of life giving seven talks of seven minutes each. We had an interesting group, including country music star Paul Brandt, who I enjoyed talking with in the green room before the show (the other talks are here).

The theme for this series was disruption, so (of course) I talked about disruption in the media — but I didn’t talk about Facebook and Twitter and Russian trolls or Trump, at least not directly. That would have taken too long! Instead, I talked about the evolution of my thinking about the disruptive effects of the internet on media and journalism in the form of a story — a story about what happened after the Globe and Mail launched the ability for readers to add comments on news stories in about 2005 or so (we were one of the first major newspapers in North America to do this).

Basically, my point was that like many people, I started out being very optimistic about what the Internet would do for media and journalism, and quite quickly also saw the dark side of it (ask me about moderating reader comments on stories about gay marriage or the Middle East sometime). But despite all that has happened, with Trump and Russia and neo-Nazis on Twitter etc., I still believe that the Internet and the social web are a net positive — although sometimes it is hard to convince myself of that.

Note: I got the timing of the two comments I mention wrong in my talk, which I will have to fix the next time I do it. The one about Simon Wiesenthal came first and the one about the bridge collapse in Quebec came much later. Also, I described the first comment incorrectly — it wasn’t about adding salt to the concrete mix to keep it from freezing (it actually lowers the freezing point), it was about not taking enough steps to prevent de-icing road salt from getting into the bridge and rusting out the rebar supports. Anyway, apart from that it went pretty well.

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