2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 12,000 times in 2010. That’s about 29 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 56 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 165 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 55mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was July 12th with 322 views. The most popular post that day was Dressing the undressable: fashion tips for the hopeless.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, torontosunfamily.blogspot.com, sarahcrosbie.com, and cisblog.ca.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for fergie, fergie bikini, fergie pics, fergie photos, and black bikini.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Dressing the undressable: fashion tips for the hopeless July 2010

2

Fergie on a boat (also, a bikini photo) June 2010
1 comment

3

Life after journalism, Part 92: ‘I chose love over career… and got screwed up the wazoo’ July 2010
12 comments

4

About the project May 2010
4 comments

5

A miraculous victory over a deadly cancer July 2010
9 comments

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An unfortunate defriending

I worked with Wendy at the Ottawa Business Journal, a small weekly that turned into a huge weekly that has recently gotten kind of small again but will surely expand once again. We didn’t really know each other that well – I was editor of the paper and she worked on the Internet side of things.

So, although we were Facebook friends it’s not like we were ever super-close pals. In one of my random acts of defriending, I knocked her off. I admit it – my criteria was to cut down anyone who I wasn’t likely to have a drink with inside of the next year.

Long story short, a mutual friend scolded me and I added her back. And, the ensuing conversation made us pretty good friends. So, really, it all worked out for the best and she should thank me.

She’s since stopped working in the news industry, taking time off to move to Florida and have twins. So, I asked her about that. But, she also invented her own question about the defriending. I’m sure there’s room for both.

When did you find out you’d be having twins?
I found out in September 2008. We did in vitro fertilisation (IVF) after trying to get pregnant for two and a half years. After I had a positive blood test, they gave me an ultrasound a few weeks later and I found out that I was carrying twins during that ultrasound. I think I was six and a half weeks pregnant at the time. Even though we knew there was a chance we could have multiples with IVF, I was still shocked. In a great way.

You live in Montreal now, but when you gave birth you were in Florida right? Did you have any family support?
Yes, the twins were born in Boca Raton, Florida. We didn’t have support as in family living near us. But we have a lot of friends in South Florida and both my parents and Pierre’s parents came out to help us after the twins were born. It was a crazy time. The twins were born in March 2009 and my husband was unexpectedly fired in May. Not great timing. He was a goalie coach for the Florida Panthers at the time. After he was fired, he would leave me home with the twins while he travelled for interviews with different teams. In the end, we chose to go to Montreal. After he was hired by the Canadiens, he left again to go to the team’s development camp and then to go on previously scheduled trip to Russia to teach at a hockey school there. So, I was left in Florida to care for the twins, make moving arrangements and figure out what to do with our house (rent or sell). We left South Florida in August 2009 and have been in Montreal since then. It is great to be closer to our families. The twins are Americans but we are going to get their Canadian citizenship as well.

Has it been easier or harder than you expected?
I think it has been both. When I was pregnant, the idea of my husband being gone (he travels a lot with his job) and me being home with the boys seemed daunting. In the early days, when they were not sleeping their nights, it was really tough – tougher than I expected. I would get up multiple times a night with each baby and then get up in the morning and start my day all over again with no one to provide any extra support. But those early days seemed to fly by and now we are in such a great routine that it seems easier than I expected to be taking care of twins, by myself for the most part.

You are staying home full time for now. In a blog post you talked about how hard it can be to keep it all together – what are some of the challenges of being at home with two two year olds?
They are not quite two yet. They are almost 21 months old. I was having a terrible day when I wrote that blog post. It was one of those days where everything seemed difficult. One son was teething and trying to bite the other one. They both seemed to have caught a new cold, even though they had just gotten over a cold a few days before, and there was an abundance of snot in the house. It was being wiped on me by both minis and I just felt like I was losing my mind and my patience that day. I feel like Moms often talk about how great it is to be a Mom and what a wonderful experience it is. I do feel that way most days, but I definitely have difficult days too. Days where you manage to take a two minute shower and an hour later you catch your reflection in the mirror and see that you look worse than you did before you showered. Those days happen more than I care to admit. People don’t seem to talk about those types of days.

How do you overcome those challenges?
The days that are hardest are when I have been up several times the night before and I am on little sleep and I know my husband won’t be home for a few days. It is hard to pull myself out of that funk sometimes but I just find a way to make it through the day. It usually involves a quick call to a friend – sometimes just knowing that someone else is having some of the same difficulties helps. No matter how challenging my day seems to be going, my girlfriend Selena can always make me laugh. The boys are at a really cool stage and they are so much more mobile and independent than they were six months ago. That makes things much easier for me. Both boys also make me laugh all the time. I find it is hard to stay in a bad mood when you can find the humour in things. I also talk to my husband a lot when he is on the road. He is really supportive and constantly telling me I am doing a good job. We Skype a lot – the boys are getting pretty good at it and are excited to “talk” to their Daddy on the computer. And my Mom totally helps me. Not only by making the nine hour drive to come hang out with me and twins several times a year, but also by always being just a phone call away and giving me awesome advice.

Do you plan on returning to journalism?
I am not sure. At least not like what I did before. When I worked with you at the Ottawa Business Journal I was so scared that someone was going to figure out that I knew nothing about business! Ha! Although I feel like I did a decent job, I didn’t really like it. Nor did I like working for the weekly newspapers. I left to go into government communications. Before I moved to Florida, I freelanced a few articles and I enjoyed those because they were different ideas that I pitched and it doesn’t feel like work when I write about things I want to write about. I just wrote a story for the Montreal Gazette’s Life section and am waiting to hear from my editor. It has been a while (six years) since I sold an article so I feel like a kid in journalism school waiting for feedback. It is a good first step for me to get back into writing. I am working on a novel whenever I am in the right frame of mind (and can find the time) to write. I am in a unique position where I get to stay home with my boys right now and try to take some time to figure out what I want to do.

Bonus question invented by Wendy: How did you feel when I (Steve Ladurantaye) defriended you on Facebook?
I am not totally sure why it bothered me so much when I realized you defriended me. Was that more than a year ago? Actually, I think I know what it was. I was (and am) always amused by your posts. I dig your status updates – I appreciate funny updates as opposed to other friends whose updates are more like “Blank Blank is at work.” Yawn. And I generally find the links you post interesting. And because you, at least at the time of the defriending, were a pretty active Facebooker, I realized quickly that you defriended me when you stopped showing up in my News Feed.  And what sucked the most was to find out that the amusement that I have for your updates and posts was not mutual. Ha! Anyway…because we have mutual friends, I guess you heard I was put out by the defriending. I am still surprised that I accepted your pity refriending request.

Life after journalism Part 23: “So I get severance, right?”

Jordan

When I worked in Kingston, Jordan was a fresh-faced new reporter determined to get to the bottom of every story and find the scandal (whether it existed or not). He was the exact type of employee a small paper needs – enthusiastic, smart, energetic, accurate and personable. So naturally, he was laid off. But, it wasn’t a sad thing for him – he was relieved. Here’s why.

Did you always want to be a newspaper reporter?
When I first arrived at j-school, I had my mind set on becoming a TV sports reporter. That changed during my second year when I got a taste of print. At that point, I was ready to be a newspaper reporter — an ink-stained wretch as someone once called it — although I had my sights set on some place like The Star, the Globe or the New York Times. After landing at the Whig, I started to like community news and being at a community newspaper. Newspapers just felt like home after a while and they still feel like home.

So, you were a young hotshot journalist doing awesome stuff at The Whig when the cuts started coming. Did you decide to leave on your own?
Yes and no. I had already made the decision to go back to school months before I formally asked for time off. There was only one or two people in the newsroom who knew I was returning to life as a student, so when I asked for a two-year leave of absence, I think I caught management by surprise. I put the request in just before I left for three weeks off in May 2009. I came back from hiking in Nepal and before my first shift back, I get a call from my editor saying, “We can do this over the phone or you can come in.” When he told me I was being laid off, I was a little shocked. I knew layoffs were likely coming, but I didn’t know when. At the same time, I was shocked at my luck. The last person to ask for a leave didn’t get one and decided to resign to pursue a teaching career. The first words out of my mouth were, “So I get severance, right?” I was ready to leave, but the paper just made life easier for me.

Get him while you can, ladies.

How long had you been formulating an escape plan?
I guess my escape plan began taking shape after certain people (the person who hired me, a diminuitive editor who tormented me) started leaving the paper. I had been thinking about going back to school to do a master’s degree — you know, open up options for future employment — for about a year and figured the time was right to make a bolt back to the classroom. It wasn’t like I wanted to leave, but there were enough signs that pointed to the exit door. With a little bit of prompting from close friends and family, I applied. Luckily enough, I got accepted to Queen’s and now I’m on the verge of finishing my degree.

What are you studying?
I’m doing my master’s of education and in the midst of thesis writing. My thesis is looking at what journalists think students need to know to become news literate. I know what you’re thinking — what the heck is “news literacy?” Think media literacy, but focused entirely on news, no advertising, no movies, no television sitcoms/dramas/soaps. The point of being news literate, or digital/information literate, is to help people sort good information from junk so they can come to their own conclusions. It wasn’t what I originally intended to research, but it’s been a great field to look. News literacy courses are springing up at universities and high schools in the U.S., but it isn’t done much in Canada. By the end of my thesis, which is currently eating up a lot of my free time, I hope to have a template for a Canadian version of the course.

What do you plan on doing with it when you graduate? Can you see yourself back in the media?
So, are you asking me this question because you’re offering me a job, or know someone who is? If so, I’ll ship over my resume pronto. I definitely see myself trying to land a job in the media after graduation, but I also could see myself teaching at a college. I have the course syllabus almost done, I have the slides for lectures and discussions, so all I really need is a classroom to teach in. Another option could be working with school boards to develop news literacy programs and act as the connection point that brings practising or retired journalists into the classroom to help with lessons. There are a lot of options, but the teaching route coupled with some freelancing on the side would be great. I can see that happening in Kingston, but I’m prepared to get up and move for work. I’ve done it before and as much as I would hate to leave a place I’ve come to call home, I would be willing to move again.

What do you most miss about daily newspapers? Least miss?
Well, I definitely don’t miss working weekends and late at night. Nor do I miss the internal politics that comes with an unhealthy work environment. What I miss are the the things I think anyone would miss: the camaraderie in the newsroom, the rush of the daily deadline, being the first person to find out a piece of information, running around a scene or the city trying to get every detail of a story and then crafting it for your readers, and the general noise of the newsroom — the chatter, the scanners, the television (when you have one) and the cries of torment from reporters and editors.I don’t get any of that in an academic environment. My deadlines are usually months in advance, most information I need is either available in papers online or in the library, which is not nearly as loud as a newsroom even when the undergrads invade it to do work. I still freelance and do my blog so I try to force myself to remember what it was like to be in a newsroom. I do miss it, but I like what I’m doing now. If I can combine the best of both worlds, then I’ll be one happy Press.

When rock dreams die, temporarily

In retrospect, this photo (and my hair and shirt) was a bad idea.

So this entry is a little odd. I asked Christine some questions, cause about 13 years ago we were in a band called Chickpea together. It was your typically small-time Canadian band, there are hundreds of them forming and folding each year – making enough money to get by, but never breaking through.

There was a CD that was recorded in a real studio and we did laps around the country in a Chevy Cavalier. All of our equipment – drums and all – were pulled behind the car in an uncovered utility trailer.

Anyway, as I read her answers it kind of reminded me of doing interviews for college papers, which were pretty much the only papers that ever interviewed us. And since we don’t really talk much about what happened back then to each other, I decided it would be interesting to answer the questions too.

My early rock days.

When did you first want to be in a rock band?
Christine: I was born to rock.
Steve:  I had some drums and a guitar when I was five or six. I formed a little band with neighbourhood kids, and when we needed a name I was digging cats and thought panthers were pretty cool. So, I decided on Black Panthers. My dad made stickers at his work, and nobody mentioned that it was not a very good name for a bunch of white kids in the suburbs.

Chickpea was  our big shot – there was a CD, we toured nationally. At what point did you know it wasn’t going to work out?
Christine: When you left the band, it was hard to keep up the momentum. Didn’t have the same flavour. Missed you too much, asshole.
Steve: The biggest show we played, maybe, was at Barrymore’s one night. It was an AIDS benefit, and I remember thinking that if we could even take home a couple hundred bucks it would have helped a lot. The ridiculousness of playing for free when nobody had held a job for at least a year was overwhelming. There’s a line in a Hold Steady song about how every show can’t be a benefit, I think of that show every time I hear that.

Christine now.

What was the high point?
Christine: Opening up for Frank Black, Lunachicks, Swingin`Utters.
Steve: We played a show in Woodstock, New Brunswick. The band that had been through town the week before bullshitted all the kids and convinced them we were a really huge deal. They went crazy for us. There was a girl there, and she asked if I’d drive her to the store to buy cigarettes or something, and she spent the whole time explaining how she was going to make it out of the small town someday and be a successful something or other. It was such a strange, strange, fabulous weekend.

Low point?
Christine: Being vegetarian on the road, not having many opportunities to eat good food.I remember asking why some cream cheese tasted weird. Bassist: Maybe they made it with breast milk. I almost took his fucking head off. In my mind at least.
Steve: Driving through Saskatchewan, and it was just three guys in the car cause you jumped into another one. We hadn’t showered in days, I had to throw my socks out the window because they smelled so bad. But that was shortsighted, I didn’t have any others. Again, moments like that really illustrate why the economics of low-level rock stardom just don’t make sense.

Me, now.

What was it like once the band folded?
Christine:  It was really painful to be out of the music scene. You really find out who your friends are. Some people seem to just drift away when you don’t have any cool factor. On the up side, I went back to school, became a college professor and found out I am kinda smart.
Steve: I didn’t pick up a guitar for almost 10 years. It was like a bad breakup – if I wasn’t in that band I didn’t want to play music, period. It felt like I took my shot, and to start over again would be too much work. I was never interested in playing guitar in my bedroom, I learned to play so I could be in bands, period.

What’s it like to be playing again in a different band, all this time later?
Christine: Playing music again is like manna from heaven, if it exists. I play because I want to. Not because I think I am going to make it. What is REALLY cool is rarely do I have to take lorazepam before a show. The Secret Loves fellas have been so fucking amazing at being my support system. That support has made my life in The Johnnies so much better. I am able to be a calming influence to some of my other new bandmates.
Steve: My bandmates are jerks, so I take extra drugs before we play. The difference now is that I can afford decent equipment, and there’s no pressure to succeed. And, we can afford to record without a label, which is pretty revolutionary compared to 10 years ago. There’s also no pressure to be talented anymore – if I make a mistake at a show, I’m not going to spend the drive home worried about it.

What advice would you offer a 20-year-old rock-star wannabe?
Christine: Hot Crow on a hot tin roof. My advice is to LISTEN to all constructive criticism, know your worth but keep your ego in check.
Steve: Go on tour. And bring extra socks.

Hey look, a Chickpea song.

Human Facebook, featuring me

This is a lazy way to get the project back on track. My friend Alayne sent me some questions when I asked for suggestions on who to profile.

So, I decided to answer them and update things a little bit. I haven’t done many posts for a while, because real life has been busy and a free blog is the easiest thing to toss over the side. But, I’m hoping to get back on track.

You launched the Human Facebook Project on May 26th, 2010. How many interviews have you done?
I’m not entirely sure, a couple of dozen for sure. I have picked them all pretty randomly, although I did poach a few people who I knew had compelling stories to tell. Almost everyone I’ve approached has been open to the idea. Three people have said no, and all three of them have been journalists. I don’t know what that means, but I suspect it’s interesting.

So you have interviewed about 30 people, but yet you have 376 friends on your Facebook page. Do you have plans to include all your Facebook friends?
Yes. Although there’s the inevitability of some really awkward exchanges. When I first thought of the project, the idea was to cold call a Facebook contact and just strike up a conversation. I did that twice, and it was just too jarring for both of us.  So now I contact them via e-mail usually, and then do the interview over e-mail as well. Conversations are fine, and I make a point of contacting them either through the process or after, but there’s something a little more civilized about letting people think about their answers and take their time. I’m not trying to catch anyone out, I just want to say hey.

What is your decision-making process when deciding which of your friends to profile?
Usually I just go by who is active on the newsfeed. But now, I’ve blocked about 75 per cent of my feed for a bunch of stupid reasons. I’m really fickle with Facebook, I close the account a few times every couple of months. Usually it’s because someone I barely know says something on their page that annoys me, and then I realize I’m having a real-world response to some stupid online nonsense. So that’s when I back away slowly. I’m thinking the best way now is just to open my contact list and pick the first name that catches my eye. But in reality, I’ll probably stick to the people I know will be interesting, at least for now. That said, a few of the best interviews I’ve posted started with very low expectations.

Have friends approached you to be included in your project, either by direct request or hinting around? How does this make you feel?
Not really. I’ve put out a few broad requests on Facebook to see who wants to be involved, and there hasn’t been much response. But, people often suggest other people. The site is a fair bit of work, I estimate each posting takes about three hours from start to end. So I’ve been kicking around the idea of allowing people to interview their Facebook friends, and then have me post it on the site.

Of all the interviews you have done, was there one that stands out as being your favourite (and why)?
I’m not sure there’s a right answer. I really liked the one I did with my friend Marc, which was about things he liked to barbecue. But, you can’t really compare that with a story about someone who lost her husband while pregnant with twins. And then there’s a few like the one I did with my Facebook friend and colleague Lisan, who I didn’t really know that well ahead of time but feel like I know better now.

Which interview has received the most attention (either by site visits or comments)? Why do you think this is?
By visits, it’s my friend Bill who staked out the Kawarthas looking for Fergie – the duchess, not the Black Eyed Pea. And, sorry Bill, it has nothing to do with his story and everything to do with the bikini shot of the singing Fergie that I linked to in the post. If you ignore that one, it was Sarah – a Kingston colleague who got hosed from the Whig and found a new career in radio. I think it was popular because it was brutally honest, she found a new job but didn’t just turn the page. She’s still pissed, and you get that honesty in the interview. Also, there may have been a picture or two of her – the posts featuring women tend to outdraw almost three-to-one. Again, don’t know what it means. I suspect it has something to do with perverts. Overall, most new posts garner about 500 page views in the first couple of days and then pick up hits here and there afterward.

Did you set out to accomplish something with this project and if so, what was it and have you accomplished that yet?
I think the point was to force myself to interact with the people on my Facebook list, rather than just creep them once in a while in a passive manner. From that standpoint, it’s been a success. I’ve even met a few people in real life, and I’d never have done that if not for the Human Facebook profiles we did. But, there are hundreds of people left on that list. Frankly, I’m not sure I want to talk to a lot of them. Which really puts Facebook in perspective, I think.

Is your employer aware of the Human Facebook Project and if so, what do they think of it all?
I told them about it to make sure it was OK, but I’ve never heard anything from them about it… I assume it’s cool.

What is your favourite part of doing the Human Facebook Project? What is your least favourite part?
It’s been fun to interact with people, and it’s an opportunity to ask questions that probably wouldn’t come up otherwise. When it’s honest and pure, it works great. A few times it has come across as boring and contrived, and that feels like a failure. Which sucks, because that’s a waste of everyone’s time. The least favourite part is easy – pestering people to answer their questions. So if you’re reading this and have questions in your inbox, for God sake, go answer them.

Recession survival guide: Quit job, go on a 4,500-km walk

Tamsin

  I’ve never actually worked with Tamsin, but I feel like I have because I accidentally followed her to Peterborough and Kingston, just missing her each time. When everybody else in journalism was worried about their jobs (or at least when the worry peaked in 2008), Tamsin said the hell with it. She flew to California, and walked all the way to British Columbia on the Pacific Crest Trail. Here’s why.  

So when the economy had a heart attack, you took a buyout and went for a long walk. Walk me through your reasoning?
I didn’t actually take a buyout – although I applied for one. Didn’t get it, so I just left on my own.  

But I’d been thinking about this hike for awhile – years actually. It was one of those things I’d always wanted to do. It was one of those: “I’ll do it one day” things that everyone always says but few people rarely follow through on. It was at the top of the list of things I was going to do when I won the lottery.  

Then, as you said, the economy had a heart attack and newspapers were taking a bit of a nosedive. There were buyouts and then layoffs at my workplace and I was pretty low on the seniority list there. I figured that I didn’t actually need to win the lottery to do this hike. I did the math and it’s pretty cheap to live in the woods these days. So I figured I could spend a year fighting for my job, worried about getting laid off and worried about my future, or I could just take the plunge and go. It was like well, why isn’t today that “One Day”?  

How many kilometres was it, and where exactly does it run?
It’s about 4,500 kilometres, a little more than that. It starts at the U.S./Mexico border near Campo, California, about an hour from San Diego. It goes through all of California, Oregon and Washington and then 12km into B.C. in the interior near Hope, B.C. It follows the mountains inland, not the coast.  

What kind of training was involved?   

Hiking

There was no training whatsoever. I gained a bunch of weight beforehand, actually. I was pretty lazy. I figured I’d just walk it off and I did. The training was the first two weeks of hiking. I woke up every day stiff, sore, with my feet swollen and blistered. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck everyday. But that went away after a few weeks on the trail.  

Once you got going, did you ever just want to quit?
There was never a time when I wanted to quit. A lot of people do quit, but I really started out with the goal of finishing it. I never straye from that. I had some bad days, but nothing that ever made me want to go home.  

Best memory?
There are too many good memories to put my finger on. Soaking in a secluded natural hot spring pool on a star-covered night. Summiting Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48, even when others turned back because of the amount of snow. Listening to the elk bugeling in the dark during a snow storm. Hiking the spectacular Goat Rocks wilderness in Northern Washington in the fall. Finishing the trail and knowing I had hiked every step of it, even after people said it was too late in the year to keep hiking, that I couldn’t make it. Hiking into Yosemite National Park on July 4th. Having ABC World News come film me hiking on the trail for a story. Crossing the Canadian border and realizing I’d started six months before by pressing my hand up against the fence at the Mexican border. I could go on. I met a guy. We’re still together. So I guess that counts as a highlight. 

Worst memory?

A long walk.

Even my worst memories are still fond ones. We hit some extremely cold weather in the last two weeks – snow, freezing temperatures, icy wind. I remember going through a very tough section in the Glacier Peak Wilderness of northern Washington. The trail was actually closed because it had been wiped out from a huge mudslide some years before. But apparently the detour was so overgrown that everyone just took the original trail. There were tons of huge trees that had fallen down – overturned trees with roots as tall as a building. You had to climb over each one. At one point, there was a bridge across a creek that had been washed out from the mudslides. Some crews had built a new bridge about a mile off-trail, but we just couldn’t find it. After bushwhacking and trying to scramble up the steep hill on the other side of the bridge, it got dark and we finally gave up. We camped on the bridge. It seemed like a good idea at a time, but bridges are particularly cold since there’s nothing but air rushing beneath them. It was a pretty bitter night. Everything was wet and cold. I spent the entire night exhausted and freezing. And we still had to find the trail in the morning. There was about a week of conditions like this and it was truly gruelling. Did you ever think you’d work in journalism again (she works in New Brunswick at a paper now)?
I did. The hike was never meant to be a goodbye to journalism. It was just sort of a reset I guess, a reevaluation, or just perhaps fodder for a book one day. Journalism is in my blood, so no matter where I am or what I end up doing with my life, I think it will never be too far removed from journalism.
 

A completely random ‘friend’

Roch

So, we’re back after a month off. It’s been busy. I’ll save the how-I-spent-my-summer-vacation bit, because mostly I didn’t have a summer vacation.

Anyway, this time around we’re going to meet Roch Parisien. He’s a uniquely Facebookian friend. I’ve never met him, and he only added me as a friend because he’s doing something vageuly similar on his Facebook page. He interviews people using the Facebook wall, and leaves the results up for all to see.

I asked him a bunch of stuff. It’s interesting, because anythingI know about him I know from Facebook. There will be plenty of updates in the next litle bit, so check back once in a while OK?

So you have more than 1,000 Facebook friends. How do you decide who to add, and what percentage of them have you met?

It’s actually more like 2,000 since I have both my personal profile and my Rocon Communications music chat page. I started on Facebook last December as somewhat of a social media experiment to see what the possibilities were for engaging in music journalism on a site like Facebook.

I originally figured that my personal profile would be just a tight circle of family and “real world” friends, and that all the music chat and broader circle of Facebook friends with an interest in music would evolve at “Roch Parisien’s Rocon Communications.”

The community had other plans. First of all, you can’t “invite” people from or to a page, unless they are first friends on your personal profile. Secondly, many people simply prefer to link with a person than with a page entity. It was more uncomfortable before when you had to become a “fan” of a page; somewhat better now that you only have to “like” a page.

But it’s still an interesting challenge to suggest to people that they cross to street from my personal profile to the Rocon Communications page, even though their connection with me is purely or primarily music related, and that’s where most of the music action takes place, including “The Facebook Interviews” – a series of live/interactive text chat sessions on the Rocon page with interesting musicians and music journalists who are active on Facebook.

The interview sessions developed organically, first from spontaneous exchanges with artists and writers on the Rocon page. Then, inviting artists who joined the page to chat and letting people know afterwards there was an exchange to read. Finally, turning the sessions into pre-organized Facebook events and inviting friends and fans to sit in and either lurk or participate with their own questions. The interview sessions remain active on the page for several days, and then I “archive” them to the “Notes” tab of the page.

Here’s a link to all 21 Facebook Interviews to date:
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Roch-Parisiens-Rocon-Communications/208757673971?ref=ts

In terms of adding friends, either on my profile or the Rocon page…everyone is welcome unless it’s an obvious spam or imposter request. With the several hundreds of musicians and music industry people I’ve connected with, it’s perhaps 50/50 where I’ve asked for adds or they have asked me. As for general music fans from around the world who just want to follow what is going on with The Facebook Interviews, The Galaxie FolkRoots Channel, any of my other projects, or simply exchange in general about a broad range of music, as I said…anyone with an interest is welcome.

Do you get to know many of them? Do you have a favourite example of a stranger you added who ended up being really interesting?

I’ve been working actively in some form or another of music journalism, broadcasting and/or consulting since 1978… radio, print, TV, online… so I’ve crossed paths before with many of the musicians and music industry colleagues I now count as Facebook friends. Many others I’m meeting or interacting with for the first time via Facebook. Of course it’s impossible to intimately get to know and closely follow the activities of several thousand people, but many who have connected from around the world for music chat or to follow The Facebook Interviews series have become “regulars” who I enjoy interacting with as “real” friends. I’ve had invitations to visit and stay with FB friends from many parts of the world in my future travels, which is pretty amazing.

In fact, the web of both personal and professional connections and relationships that I’ve weaved in just eight months on Facebook has been endlessly fascinating. It sometimes feels like an ongoing string of outlandish coincidences that you simply can’t put down to coincidence. Eerie at times.

You just brought a band from England to Canada to do a reunion tour. Who are they, and what’s their deal?

I have no idea if this is the right band or not.

Babe Ruth is UK band that released several albums between 1972 and 1975 that is difficult to describe to those who don’t know them. I half-tongue-in-cheekly refer to them as a Classic-Hard-Prog-Jazz-Blues-Funk Rock band with a fascination for Spaghetti Western soundtracks and a Janis Joplin-like lead vocalist. Thanks to progressive FM radio play at the time, they were more popular in Canada than anywhere else in the world – their 1972 debut album “First Base” went gold here and they enjoyed a hit single with their signature song from it, “The Mexican.”

The group was an early, pivotal influence for me in my mid-teens, and just on intuition I decided to look them up on Facebook. I found profiles for guitarist Alan Shacklock and vocalist Janita Haan and connected with them just to pay my respects. One chat led to another, and they eventually confided that although they had recently released a reunion album (“Que Pasa”) and had always wanted to return to play again in Canada, they’ve never been able to get the logistics in place to bring it about. To make a long story short, I worked my contacts to the point of a firm expression of interest, at which point I turned the negotiations over to an agent friend of mine who firmed up contracts for a Canadian reunion tour that included some large festivals. I continued on through the process as a consultant, confidant, and facilitator of logistics and PR. It was amazing to see them tour again for the first time in 35 years, pull it off so amazingly, and bring much happiness to several thousand fans. It looks like they intend to continue building on this momentum, so we’ve come full circle and my debt to them, as a shy gawky teen, has been repaid so to speak. And it all began with a basic Facebook connection.

People can see plenty of pix, vids and reviews of Babe Ruth’s Canadian adventures on the band’s Facebook page here.

You produce music for the FolkRoots Channel for the Galaxie Network. I always assumed a robot did that – how does it work? How do you decide what to play?

Galaxie is a package of continuous-play digital music channels that Canadian subscribers receive as part of their digital cable services. I’ve been programming the FolkRoots Channel for Galaxie since the service launched in 1998. The 24/7 programming is software assisted, but based on rules and relationships between songs, categories, classifications, sound textures, energy levels, themes – literally over 100 factors – that I customized for the channel. There are currently over close to 9,000 songs in rotation on FolkRoots, so the playlist is very deep. I choose a group of new releases to add in high rotation every month, and try to kick a chart out (when I have the time!) so artists and industry folks can track what’s been added.

You’re also listed as a music consultant – what does that mean?

It’s somewhat of a grab-bag title that encompasses all my various music-related projects…music journalism, Facebook Interviews, my programming work with Galaxie…I’ve also worked as a consultant with Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization to help develop their collections of popular music artefacts and served as an evaluator for many of their pop acquisitions…serving on music industry juries and conference panels. In a parallel dimension, I’m also a partner in Consult Ink Limited, a firm that provides corporate communications consulting and editorial services.