The Future of Cable Access

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Last Saturday was Beyond Broadcast 2007 and being a part of the The Future of Cable Access Working Group got my rear in gear to edit together some soundbites I shot at last November’s Alliance for Community Media Northeast Regional Conference.

During the working group we got to hear the not-opposing viewpoints from Dan Gillmor and Jason Crowe: Cable Access needs to change. The question wasn’t even really what we want it to change into (the video lays it out pretty well), but how can we bring about that change.

I believe that the important part of Cable Access Television is access. Access to:

  • media production tools
  • media distribution systems
  • training to use them
  • media literacy education to understand them

And all of this should be within the context of the needs of the local community.

Cable Access needs to embrace the internet, but it can’t do so as an end. As gross simplification, Cable Access is television because 30 years ago, television was the dominant media model. Today it is looking like the internet is about to become dominant. But 30 years from now, will the internet (the current architecture/protocols) continue to be?

Cable Access needs flexibility. Cable Access should not become Internet Access, it must become Media Access.

Moving towards that vision is difficult. The current state of Cable Access isn’t much of much of a state at all; it’s a series of thousands of isolated fiefdoms, linked together by nearly lone virtue that they took advantage of the same legislation. A bad analogy: the First Amendment allows freedom of religion; that doesn’t mean that the church in your town talks to the one in mine. Nobody even knows where all of them are, and our attempts find them aren’t yielding spectacular results.

But I also believe that that individualism and independence of stations and communities is a strength for the ideals of access. Communities should be able to choose the tools and technologies that best serve their members: television, internet or beyond.

How can we support the independence and ability of Access to meet the needs of their individual communities, yet move forward technologically, logistically and ideologically? This means moving towards the new technologies the internet (currently) affords, taking advantage of the economies of scale of thousands of media centers, and driving cooperation, communication and the idea that when it comes to media access—in any form and through any funding mechanism—“we’re in this together”.

Boston’s Best Tacos



‘label’ => ‘Tacos El Charro

349 Centre St

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130’,

‘latitude’ =>’42.32269914619183’,

‘longitude’=>’-71.10684156417847’), array(‘markername’=>’number02’,

‘label’ => ‘Tacos Lupita

13 Elm St

Somerville, MA 02143’,

‘latitude’ =>’42.38600050368276’,



‘label’ => ‘Takueria Tapatillo

82 Broadway

Somerville, MA 02145’,

‘latitude’ =>’42.387038609014645’,


$mymap=array(‘id’ => ‘tacomap’,

‘latitude’ => ‘42.36031976410849’,

‘longitude’=>’ -71.0757064819336’,

‘zoom’ => 12,

‘width’ => ‘100%’,

‘height’ => ‘400px’,

‘type’ => ‘Hybrid’,

‘markers’ => $mymarkers);

print gmap_draw_map($mymap);


I miss eating good taqueria food and Boston’s inhibited palette is definitely to blame. I like places that call the tacos by name, Carne Asada, Al Pastor, Lengua–not Beef, Pork , Chicken (Lengua isn’t chicken, but your anglo-taqueria isn’t going to have it, or call it what it is: beef tongue); where the salsa is more than pico de gallo and you get a slice of radish. The map above has the few places I’ve found in Boston that I like.

They are:

#1) Tacos El Charro

349 Centre St

Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Super friendly sit-down restaurant. Also the enchiladas are great. Go downstairs, it’s “authentic”!

#2) Tacos Lupita

13 Elm St

Somerville, MA 02143

Close to Porter Square. The food is delicious and they have imported Coca-Cola made with real sugar, not corn syrup.

#3) Takueria Tapatillo

82 Broadway

Somerville, MA 02145

Actually Chilean but excellent taqueria. They have a good vegetarian taco too. Was taking an unrelated cab and mentioned the place to my friend. The cabdriver overheard and said that he went there all the time. The cabby looks European but is really Brazilian and fluent in Spanish. He said that when he goes into the taqueria, the staff speak to him in English until he starts belting out Spanish. They are so impressd his lunch is free.


A girl was betrothed by her father to a man whom she had never met. Her mind shone with an uncommon light and she was ever seeking out tales of love: chaste and reckless, rich and unrequited.

Into her house she called the most upstanding matrons and the lowest whores, regal queens and barren slaves. To each she said, simply: “Tell me of the men you have loved.”

This intense interest worried her father. Though he had found a most suitable bridegroom for his dearly loved daughter, he feared such tales would influence her against any future husband.

She reassured him: “Father, please do not worry. I trust in you that I will live happily with whomever you have chosen for me. I seek these stories so that I may separate the qualities in him that are exceptional from those that are mundane. Knowing this, I can love him.”

Happy Birthday Rebecca

My friend and coworker Rebecca made an extensive list of things she’d like for her birthday. I really like her rationale:

my list is all about ‘you’ because I’m curious who will answer, what you will come up with, and because it will mean that on my birthday I’ll be thinking about people thinking about me, which is a cozy thing to think about.

So here I am and all the best on your twenty-third…

a picture of your shadow

My shadow

a recording of you reading a poem, singing a song, or saying a sentence

Pint Pot and Billy From Eureka: The songs that made Austrailia compiled by Warrent Fahey. Version as sung by Cyril Duncan of Hawthorne Queensland. Recorded in one-track with Garageband and my MacBook’s built-in mic.

a sentence with a word you like

Seven knights drove up to Flushing.

a description of a tree you know

I know a family of trees on a block along my jogging route in my neighborhood. Jamaica Plain is known to be full of trees, but usually the varieties are pretty well mixed. On this block though, a whole grove of Ginkgo trees grows, or as close to a grove as you can get in urban Boston.

The trees are all about 20 feet tall with rough gray bark. In the spring and summer they are deep green. In the Fall they all turn a self-conscious bright yellow, in contrast to the other trees’ reds and oranges.

One tree in the grove is set back off the street. It has a wound on its sunset side. The tree is also female, the only one, and is neighbor to the grove’s lone outsider: a juvenile Callery Pear that is always losing branches.

an mp3 of a song you like

Greatest Gatsbees(mp3) by (famous band) Houseguest. Goes great with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wolf Parade.

a drawing of your mittens/gloves

My mittens

the html hex or rgb of a color you like

20 212 74 or #14D44A

MeetAmeriCorps is “social networking”!

My pet project, has finally passed that development milestone that marks a “social network”: Buddylists. To be a little more haute, we’ve decided to call them “contact lists”, but the concept is the same: you can demarcate people who you like/know/want-to-be-on-your-contact-list.

[ ![BenSheldon Meet AmeriCorps (20061211).png]( ]( “Photo Sharing”)

Since I haven’t really been advertising it too heavily, Meet AmeriCorps was a directory–now it’s a “social network”–of AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers who are either currently serving or alumni. It’s pretty neat stuff, doesn’t look to shabby and, disclosing I am the lead developer on the project, actually kind’ve useful.

[ ![Home Meet AmeriCorps (20061211).png]( ]( “Photo Sharing”)

We put together to fill what I see as a sorely lacking need. AmeriCorps and VISTA are essentially-governmental, national-service programs that mostly places full-time, stipended volunteers with community organizations. AmeriCorps speaks of itself as a “network” that is creating a “national service movement”. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the capacity to truly achieve this because, in my opinion and experience, AmeriCorps and VISTA members generally do not:

  1. communicate with other members serving with other organizations (even organizations inside a single community)

  2. self-identify as AmeriCorps volunteers

  3. collaborate on developing resources and capacity

AmeriCorps and VISTA currently provide some tools and resources to achieve #3, but I believe that #3 cannot be achieved with volunteers being able to effectively communicate and identify themselves as AmeriCorps both to each other and the outside world.

[ ![Favorite games Meet AmeriCorps (20061211).png]( ]( “Photo Sharing”)

Meet AmeriCorps seeks to provide an easy-to-use tool for AmeriCorps members to meaningfully interact with one another both within service, and outside of it. I hope this will improve the experience of being an AmeriCorps or VISTA volunteer and contribute towards creating a true network and movement.

[ ![Alaska Meet AmeriCorps (20061211).png]( ]( “Photo Sharing”)

These screenshots were made with the OSX app Paparazzi!

Nonprofit Technology Sandwich

Nonprofit Technology Sandwich I don’t know if it’s my empathy for the myriad of people I know stymied in technology quagmires for good causes or a desire to combine my love of good food with my job, but this is the result. Download a printable PDF perfect for tacking to your wall or the wall of whomever makes technology decisions at your organization. Update: The sandwich is on Update: The sandwich is on