2012: The Year in Answers

Today, before we woke up on the West Coast, the New York Times published their “Year in Questions“.

Without providing the answers. (Those will be in tomorrow’s edition.)

As the keeper of one of the leading curation sites about online news and trends, “What People Are Talking About Online“, we were all set to write our “Best of 2012” story today. But then we saw this set of questions and it made us rethink our hook. At first glance of the questions, we knew we already had a lot of the answers. So, with advance apology to the New York Times and quiz creator Ben Schott, we present 2012: The Year in Answers.

1. It was Pope Benedict XVI who sent his first tweet this year. In three grammatically correct sentences weighing in at a perfect 140 characters, sent from an iPad, his holiness made his online debut with this message:

“Dear friends, I am pleased to get in touch with you through Twitter. Thank you for your generous response. I bless all of you from my heart.”

It was promptly retweeted a whopping 5,700 times.

2. The name of the movie that showing when James Eagan Holmes burst into a Colorado movie theater and opened fire was “The Dark Knight Rises.” Holmes killed 12 and wounded 58. This mass shooting led to an introspective review that would only return to haunt America six months later when another massacre occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. Psychopaths that shoot up movie theaters, malls and schools are less likely to have a Facebook account than the rest of us.

3. Joseph Kony is the Ugandan warlord that director Jason Russell exposed on the video that begat the hashtag #Kony2012. This strange enough social media phenomenon took a turn for the weirder, when Russell, citing too much pressure from the attention of #Kony2012, allegedly exposed himself on the streets of San Diego.

4. Clint Eastwood’s “four-legged friend” at the Republican National Convention was none other than your basic conference center chair. Eastwood gave immediate rise to half dozen memes and all kinds of online mocking, including the term called “Eastwooding“. It’s code for senile old actor talking to an empty chair in which he believes sits the President of the United States who might actually give a %^&* what he thinks.

5. Graduate student Sandra Fluke was publicly insulted by conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh, being called a “slut” when she advocated for student health insurance plans to cover birth control. This was only part of the 2012 right-wing war on women which began when the Susan G. Komen Foundation threatened to stop funding Planned Parenthood over the erroneous belief that the organization was simply an “abortion mill”. It continued through a series of state laws that would require women considering an abortion to undergo invasive ultrasound techniques and reached full-fledged alarm when GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin (among others) doubted that rape could cause pregnancy. Fortunately, 2012 ended firmly where it began, in the 21st century. The re-election of Barack Obama reaffirmed that the nation wants to move forward for women and health care; the American Taliban is still running for cover.

6. Linsanity was not caused by troubled actress Lindsay Lohan, although if you’re not a basketball fan you can (and should) be forgiven to think so. Linsanity was the the term attached to New York Knicks’ phenom Jeremy Lin, a benchwarmer who came out of nowhere to ignite a stagnant offense last February. Linsanity was as a major trending Twitter term and may have more of a future in social media circles than on the basketball court. Before the 2011-2012 basketball season was over, Jeremy Lin required knee surgery. He attempted to capitalize on his Internet fame by holding an open Facebook chat for fans from his hospital bed, which abruptly ended when he puked while online. He starts the 2012-2013 basketball season no longer in New York, but playing for the Houston Rockets.

7. Singer Whitney Houston was 48 years old when she died of an drug overdose in a Beverly Hills hotel on the eve of the Grammy Awards. The award-winning, multi-platinum recording artist had flirted with disaster for years, but her untimely death shocked her fans around the world. It was one of those stories that broke on Twitter first. Houston’s name makes one last claim to fame at the end of 2012. Her death, along with Hurricane Sandy, turns out to have been one of the most tweeted stories of the year.

8. The Chick-Fil-A fast food chain riled LGBT people and their supporters with its unbendable stance on “the biblical definition of the family unit.” The online kerfuffle between LGBT activists and the chain led to real-life boycotts and boosterism, including a Chick-Fil-A day that brought thousands of bigots forward to line up outside Chick-Fil-A’s across the land, purchasing sandwiches and waffle fries to show solidarity against gay marriage. One creative online type however, may have gotten the last laugh. Her YouTube video on how to make a Chick-Fil-Gay chicken sandwich at home, without the bigotry and MSG, got over 300,000 views.

9. SOPA stands for “Stop Online Piracy Act”, legislation in Congress that was successfully stopped in its tracks when major Internet sites like Wikipedia went dark for a day back in January. While SOPA was meant to keep people from making and selling illegal copies of Hollywood blockbusters, the fine print could have shut down anybody using content sourced from another site without completing reams of paperwork and being granted written permission. Giving simple credit and a link back would no longer be good enough. SOPA has not been heard from since. Congress may currently have bigger fish to fry, like say that gnarly fiscal cliff we’re about to fall off here at year’s end.

10. You might think the question to our final answer is overloaded, asking which states voted red and which voted blue in the 2012 Presidential election that saw Barack Obama handily defeat rival Mitt Romney in what was far less of a close contest than our media (both print and online) wanted anyone to believe. But what if, going forward, everyone put their trust more in Google than Gallup. In polls conducted online rather than by landline. And gave props to a New York Times pollster named Nate Silver, who called the 2012 election the same way as he called 2008 – exactly right. Silver relies heavily on that newfangled Internet to grab and crunch a bunch of his data. While the Romney campaign hedged their bets on internal polls that counted old school smile-and-dial techniques among its tried and true, the Obama campaign went mobile. Silver did not discard that data. And the answer to who would vote blue and who would vote red was available online two days before the election.

10 Tips for Shooting a Daily Photo Project for 2013

With a new year just around the corner, are you looking for a challenge to improve your photography skills, test your stamina and win new Instagram followers and influence the future of photo documentation as a means to record your life and capture history in the making? If you’re answering yes to one or more of these questions, then a Photo a Day project might be just the vehicle you need to commit to this emerging documentary form and be regularly inspired. I’m just about to complete a Photo a Day project for 2012 (always being the overachiever, I chose a leap year, meaning my 365 Project is actually a 366 Project). For you, it will be easier, one less day and 10 tips from someone who has lived to tell.

1. Examine your daily routine and determine a good time each day to go out and get your photo. You don’t want to end up with 365 photos of your desk, cat, or lunch, which is what will happen if you don’t allow time away from the daily grind.

This is not just any cat. It’s my cat. And this photo was taken with Hipstamatic’s W Mag Wonder Lens
with W40 Film offered as a free promotion in the lead up to Fashion Week. 

VIDEO: Watch “366” – A Photo a Day for 2012 to see the final result of this year-long project. Click here.

2. Walk. That’s easy for someone to say who lives in a great walking city like I do (San Francisco). Some of the best daily photo projects I’ve seen have been shot by those who’ve designated a morning walk to work or evening walk home as the time they will take photos (not to mention they get great light). I’m pretty sure my feet have logged at least a thousand miles this past year on the streets of San Francisco, yet there were plenty of days when I was pressed for time, had appointments to keep and was car-bound. On those occasions, I parked my car a few blocks from my destination, or walked around the block before or after my errand. I got some of my most interesting and unexpected photo opportunities this way.

A walk around the block after the gym not only was a fitness boost, I happened by the Slow Club
on 17th Street in the Mission at twilight.


3. Travel. I’m borrowing this tip from one of the masters of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. Much like walking around your own environs, travel to a new a location will provide a plethora of new material and ideas. Part of the reason I designated this year as a great year to do a daily photo project was that I knew I had some significant travel plans: Australia, New York and Portugal. But I got just as excited when I had the opportunity to cross the Bay Bridge to go to Oakland for a couple of hours. In fact, I took a photo of an elephant while having lunch with friends in a nearby suburb (okay, it was a fake elephant, but still…).

I visited four countries on three continents this year but I only had to drive about 30 miles from
my home in San Francisco to the Elephant Bar in Hayward to get this shot.


4. Fairs and festivals. A great way to get interesting people shots of people you don’t know. In these situations people are typically having a good time, friendly and willing to pose. Of course, the unposed photos will be the best.

The Bay to Breakers, a run across the city of San Francisco, traverses my neighborhood
and brings everyone out to watch.


5. Thrift shops, dollar stores, flea markets. Looking for color and interesting inanimate objects? Hit up your local thrift shops, dollar stores and flea markets. Clown paintings, religious candles and various fun-shaped furniture and oddball knick-knacks will be in abundance, and they’re all just sitting there, not moving, waiting for someone to snap a photo.

Getting up close and personal with just one of the many clown paintings on display at Harrington Galleries
(a former junk shop) in San Francisco’s Mission District.


6. Different apps, lenses, cameras. The fast-paced nature of taking a daily photo and sharing it immediately is well-suited to mobile and the Smartphone. iPhone cameras blazed the trail with their early exclusive link to Instagram and the term “iPhoneography”, but that platform has since opened up. Daily photo projects have been around longer than the iPhone, though, and there is no rule that excludes digital or film. In fact, if I do another daily photo project, I would undertake it as a means to improve my skills with those mediums. For this project, though, I had a new iPhone 4S and had just discovered some of the plastic camera apps like Lomo Quick Pro and Hipstamatic that let me recapture the look of the photos I grew up with. That was my starting point, but as the year went on I tried plenty of other camera apps and filters as I discovered them, mostly by following other photographers on Twitter and Instagram.

When I saw this vintage El Camino parked in front of one of San Francisco’s Victorians I went for 
a way back look using filters from the Camera Awesome app.


7. Take more than one photo a day. Your best days will be when you get home with a selection of photos to choose from. A bad day will be when darkness has fallen and you haven’t taken a photo yet. You will experience both ends of the spectrum. Some of your best shots will end up not making the cut because you shot something better on the same day. Some of your worst will be taken after a couple of drinks, as the clock approaches midnight. You’ll learn to be your own editor, and to salvage late night “happy accidents”.

This photo got 56 likes on Instagram!


8. Mix it up. While you can go with a hard and fast theme from the start of your project (flowers, cars, the color yellow) committing to 365 days of the same subject is only recommended for the most obsessively diligent. Instead, you will probably want to mix things up. A Photo a Day project is a way to document your year (the people you meet, the holidays you celebrate, the trips you take) and improve your skills at the same time. When I found myself relying too heavily on one app, I chose another. When I felt I was taking too many shots in a row of inanimate objects, I pushed myself to go out and get an active street shot.

I took this photo of the ice cream man on Mission Street in San Francisco, 
the little girl dancing in the background was a bonus!


9. Join an online group on Flickr or 365 Project that will give you a place to post and showcase your work. You’re about to take 365 photos that you’re proud (brave, confident, silly) enough to show people. Have a secure place to archive them and get and give feedback.

Getting a great shot like this one, over the shoulder from the passenger seat while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, was a great way to start this project on New Year’s Day 2012.


10. Have fun. Okay, you knew this was coming. But I have to admit, there were only a few days out of the whole year where I had to force myself to go out and take a photo. In January you will be taking baby steps, wondering if the project will actually stick. In February you will begin to find your groove. As April and May roll around the project will be as much a part of your life as brushing your teeth. When summer turns to fall you will start to see an amazing body of work taking shape. At some point you will realize you had to have been a little crazy to have taken this on, but there is no turning back now. And then you should turn the camera on yourself and smile.

Rule 10. Turn the camera on yourself and smile.

Kathy Drasky has been taking photos for many years as a part of her writing and marketing business, KazzaDrask Media. Watch“366” a quick video look at this year in iPhoneography. Visit her 2012 Daily Photo Project at 365Project.org.

Hallelujah: The Pope Is On Twitter

All sacreligiousness aside, Pope Benedict XVI has opened a Twitter account.

He hasn’t issued a tweet yet from his new platform – @pontifex. That social media /slash/ blessed event is slated for Wednesday, December 12, at which time he will answer questions about matters of the faith that he is now accepting via the hashtag #askpontifex, according to the New York Times.

Although he has yet to actually use the social media tool, his Holiness has already racked up over half a million followers at this writing – pretty impressive for an 85-year-old man. Don’t expect a follow back, though. The Vatican’s communications adviser, Greg Burke, a former Fox News correspondent, says the aim of of the account is for the Pope to be followed by the younger generation of the Roman Catholic Church’s estimated 1.2 billion members.

No word yet if he’ll make an exception and follow @Jezus_Christ.

The Pope’s tweets will be issued in Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. More languages may be added later.

The Pope isn’t the first religious leader to use social media. Aside from numerous spoof accounts like the aforementioned Jezus_Christ, verified Twitter accounts exist for the Dalai Lama (more than 5 million followers) and mega-church pastor Rick Warren (800,000 followers). Numerous leaders in the Jewish, Muslim and Hindu faiths also tweet…um…religiously. 

Sources: The New York Times, “Twitter Has a New User: The Pope” and “50 Inspiring Religious Leaders You Should Follow on Twitter.”