Forget meetups, eat-ups taste better

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My friend Carrington Fox of the Nashville Scene’s food blog, Bites, decided she needed to meet some of the folks who actively comment on that blog so she did what any good foodie blogger should do, she invited lots of them to lunch — pot luck style. While I’d be the last person in the world who you’d label a “foodie” — unless eating gourmet potato chips counts — she asked me to join them for lunch today (Wednesday) as she knows I like to pretend to be a locavore — a proponent (well, a wannabe, in my case) of the local food movement (more on that in a minute).

Carrington and I also share a quest to master the art of urban gardening which, in my case, means 48-square-feet of tomato plants (more on that in a moment).

Anyway, for someone who typically forgets to eat lunch until around 2:30 when the building’s cafe is closing so my only option is a chicken salad sandwich, going to a pot-luck lunch during the middle of the week with a house full of food writers, editors, bloggers and assorted cooking and gardening types was a wonderful experience. I guess I should have taken note of what I was eating so that I could describe how good it was, but like I said, a foodie, I’m not.

I was also too busy eating and talking to take more than that one shot (if you’re reading this on my blog) of one of the three tables of food around the Fox’s kitchen and den (sorry, I couldn’t pass that up).

Now back to the locavore and tomato topics. Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with what is called square foot gardening, an approach created by a colorful character named Mel Bartholomew. It’s a great method for me: I like things I can plan on graph paper and I also like that it’s an “organic” method — however, I’m sure that if push ever came to shove and the produce looked puny, I’d pour on the Miracle Grow.

I’ve discovered that the greatest challenge of growing a small vegetable garden in my particular yard is the Ramboesque squirrels who look forward to raiding my tomato plants each year. Over the years, I’ve tried every folk-cure, trap and expensive gimmick conceived in my war with those bushy-tailed enemy insurgents. For a wide array of reasons — these squirrels mock me, no lie– nothing has worked.

So this year, I’ve let loose my inner Carl Spackler (hint: Bill Murray in Caddyshack). Using some inexpensive lumber strips, chicken wire and some time here-and-there spread across a few weekends, I’ve created the Ft. Knox of tomatoes (although one of my online friends has already dubbed it a the Guantanamo Bay of tomato gardens). My set of photos of this year’s effort has generated lots of comments and email — and some bemused looks. I’ve decided that me posting these photos is equivalent to a college student posting party photos on Facebook: something that seems amusing to the poster, but has others wondering what the heck was going through his or her (or my) mind at the time. Well, when it comes to my tomatoes, we’re talking war. And war makes you do crazy things.

So this year, no squirrel, and I mean no squirrel, is going to come into my tomato square-foot-garden and push me around.

But if they do, well, then next year, I swear I’m getting one of these.

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Sidenote: Joking aside, my square foot garden is a part of a Hammock Inc. “TeamHammock” project that is focusing this summer on lots of different ways anyone can take part in the local foot movement. You can read about it on the TeamHammock blog and check out the “photo food diaries” in this collection on Flickr.

I’m not vain, I’m just forgetful: Why I grabbed facebook.com/rexhammock

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For the same reason Marshall Kirkpatrick and Chris Messina and many others who wrote on the topic don’t need a Facebook vanity URL, neither do I. However, that didn’t stop me from registering facebook.com/rexhammock (facebook.com/rex.hammock also works) when the service opened up the floodgates to the vain on Friday night.

I agree with those who believe online identity should be under the control of a person (it cost $8 to register a personal URL) and not be managed within the “namespace” of some big company’s URL. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there is a post coming sometime soon that will explain what I mean in simple language.)

However, “vanity” is not the only reason to register a name on a web application. For me, “memory” is the reason I try to get my usernames and application-specific URLs as uniform as possible. You’ll find me at “/rexhammock” almost everywhere. There are two exceptions, however: Twitter, where my vanity is displayed in over-the-top fashion with @r.

The other place I don’t have “/rexhammock” in the URL is here on this blog.

Because I started blogging before there were any books on the topic, I had no idea it would become the hub of so much of who I am and what I do. As this blog is not really about anything, I’m okay with it not having a descriptive “brand” like “My Musings” (apologies if that’s the name of your blog) or something.

But it’s rather amusing to be at a conference and someone say, “Oh, you’re Rex Blog.” I always say, “yes,” but I’m thinking, why didn’t I think to use the URL RexHammock way back when I started blogging. Or maybe I should just change my last name.

Why do so many people care what Robert Scoble does?

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Robert Scoble is leaving FastCompany.TV , he writes.

While I don’t view many of Robert’s video posts (there are only so many hours in a day), I’m one of the bazillion people who feel as if we’re in a never-ending conversation with him.

I know there are some people from my off-line life (a place I fondly call, the real world) who may not know who Robert is. So, for them, let me quickly explain why so many people with geekish tendencies (including me) care what Robert does.

For my off-line friends, you know how you think I’m “that guy” who was the first person you knew who was using “fill-in-the-blank-web-thing “? Robert Scoble is “that guy” for me.

Robert Scoble is the guy who shows up three times on the results page when you Google the word “Robert .”

Robert Scoble comes closer than anyone I know to being the fictional character novelists and screenwriters attempt to dream up: Truman Burbank or Ed Pekurny or Howard Beale. But Robert is real and less tragic, confused and dramatic than those fictional characters who live out their lives publicly and in realtime.

While he often stirs up controversy and debate and ridicule, his boundless curiosity and optimism keeps his real-time narrative from sinking into the dark hole that fiction writers imagine for those who live their lives in such a public way.

Robert is a blogging celebrity, no doubt.

And just as with other types of celebrities, he’s extremely popular with many who identify with him for his authenticity and his nuanced understanding of what “real” means in the world of always-flowing conversation. On the other hand, as with other types of celebrities, he is a lightening rod for those who despise him primarily for being so damn popular despite what they might enviously view as dilettantism. (Of course, as one of his fans, I admire his ability to ignore his detractors. And as such, I’ll admit that I ignore any legitimate complaints they may have.)

No doubt, some will spin the news that Robert is leaving FastCompany — and its loss of his long-time sponsor Seagate — as a rebuke of Robert. As a “firing.”

I view it as a “cancellation” of one “show” or gig, however.

Robert and a growing number of individuals who have gained a following via the vast array of “media of personal expression” some call “social media” should be thought of (in a positive way, for purposes of analogy) as “talent,” in the way “talent” are those individuals who move from movie-to-movie and show-to-show and publisher-to-publisher and appearance-to-appearance.

They have, at the end of the day, one talent that is more valuable than anything else in whatever niche they are found: the ability to connect with an audience in a unique and inexplicable way that causes those people to reward them in the most precious currency there is today: Time. In this attention-competitive culture in which we work and live, the ability to get people to “spend” some of their time engaged in listening, watching or reading what someone says, is what separates success from failure.

Those of us who aren’t such “talent” can list all the reasons why those who are may *not* be worthy of people’s time, but as long as someone keeps pulling attention, community and conversation towards any direction they head, they will find success.

I can’t wait to hear where Robert is taking us next.

New media lesson of the day: A picture is worth 5,000 calories

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Sometimes, when I see something like This is Why You’re Fat: Where Dreams Become Heart Attacks (warning: not safe for the queazy), I think about how hard it would be to get such an elegantly simple, yet deep-fat fried idea past all the committees and lawyers and boards of a business or organization devoted to preventing heart disease.

The medium is the extra large.

(Sidenote: The site is being run on Tumblr.com , the same platform that some folks at Hammock used for some participatory , but less graphic, story-telling .)

Still time to register for the ONA workshop in Nashville this Friday

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On Friday, I’ll be participating on a panel at an all-day workshop the Online News Association is hosting in Nashville at Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt. Registration for the all-day program ends today ($35 if you’re not a member of ONA).

Janet Coats, executive editor of the Tampa Tribune is the keynote speaker. (Which shows dedication — If I had that gig, I’d be in Tampa using my clout to crash Superbowl parties.)

The panel I’m on (at 3:45) has the auspicious title: “Bloggers & Journalism: A panel of traditional newsroom and independent bloggers talk about what journalists do right and wrong in blogging. Learn how to be a better blogger.”

On the panel with me are Christian Grantham, head stalker at WKRN’s Nashville I Stalking.com (oh, wait, that’s Nashville is Talking.com, nevermind); Michael Silence, of Knoxville News Sentinel’s No Silence Here blog; and Tammi Marcoullier, editorial director of Publish2.

The day-long workshop is open to all journalists — or people like me who are not really journalists, but who sometime sleep at a Holiday Inn Express.