As you may have noticed, in the last few weeks I have made some changes to my blog. I have introduced new features that I will describe later in this blog post. But first I want to discuss two Internet technologies that are powerful tools for activism, information sharing and organizing. They are hash tags (#) and URL shortening. Don’t worry, they sound much more complicated than they are. But they are tools that will help you organize and hold government accountable.

The first is the hash tag better known as the # sign.

As you may have noticed, I have begun to label some of my posts on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter with the following #elpasonews. The hash tag is nothing more than a group of words, or one word that is preceded by the # symbol. There is no space between the # symbol and the word, or words, or between the words. Technically it is a metadata tag. But what is important for you to know is that a hash tag, such as #elpasonews groups similar topics together organizing them in a place that is easy for you to see what everyone else has to say about that topic. For example, using the #elpasonews hash tag, that I am officially introducing today, groups all of my posts together in one place where you can easily review them.

You can try it out by clicking on the #elpasonews on this post on Facebook or Twitter.

But more importantly, the #elpasonews hash tag allows you to group together all of the items that interest you and would surely interest all other activists working to hold the El Paso government accountable. It doesn’t matter where the source of the news you are commenting on comes from, whether my blog, the El Paso Times, CNN or any other source, if you get into the habit of adding the #elpasonews hash tag to the item you share on Facebook or Twitter it will create a page where that item would be readily available to all those interested in holding El Paso government accountable.

Therefore I ask you to consider adding the #elpasonews hash tag to all you share on Facebook, or Twitter that is relevant to El Paso government affairs or El Paso news in general. By doing so, you will be creating a rich and relevant source of data for all those that wish to inform themselves about El Paso politics and allow them to share their perspective with everyone else.

The URL shortening is just a quick way to get to a website. For example, rather than typing in a long convoluted website address you can use a short URL to direct people to an article on the Internet that may interest them. URL shortening was introduced because Twitter limited the length of posts to 140 characters and most URLs took up too much space. Therefore URL shortening was introduced to keep Twitter tweets within the allotted space.

Unfortunately when you see a URL such as it is hard to determine whether it is a legitimate website address you care to visit or nothing more than SPAM or worse, a hacking attempt. Therefore to ensure that links that I provide you are legitimate links to legitimate websites, today I am introducing my official shortened URL:, as in Martin but without the “a” or “r”.

When you see the URL you can rest assured that it is not a hijacked attempt to redirect you to a compromised website. For example, rather than typing in the El Paso News website address at Facebook as:, you can instead use the shortened version of instead.

I’ll be using more of my shortened URLs on my posts on Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter to refer you to the appropriate posts.

And finally, I’d like to introduce you to three new features on my blog.

The first one is the polls section where I periodically post questions about community issues. You find the polls under the “polls” tab on the menu bar. You can vote anonymously or under your social media tag. The choice is entirely your own.

I have also added the News Bytes tab on the menu. In this tab you can get the latest headlines from the El Paso Times and the Associated Press without having to go through the El Paso Times’ cumbersome website unless you want to read a specific news article. I will periodically add other news outlets as I come across them. Please feel free to suggest your favorites through the contact me form under the “About” tab.

And finally I’d like to introduce you to the “Trending” box on the right side of the website. This box shows you at a glance what readers find the most interesting. As an article is read the box dynamically updates to show you the most popular articles as determined by you, the readers.

If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter I encourage you to do so now by clicking here. Facebook and other social media might keep you informed today but you are at the mercy of what they allow you to see. Not only would I let you know when I post something new but I will periodically use the newsletter to let you know what I’m working on before anyone else gets to see it. In fact, those that received my newsletter today know what two open records requests I have recently filed and what interesting thing a reader shared with me about the trolley. Sign up today to know what I’m researching for future posts.

Most importantly I appreciate every one of you that takes the time to read my posts. The El Paso News is a place for me to vent and it is very gratifying for me to see that individuals, such as you, take the time to read my rants. I especially appreciate the time that some of you take to send me leads, question my positions or simply send me a nice note. To those that have sent me donations, there are not enough words to express my gratitude for your donation to keep my little project going.

Unfortunately there is much corruption in El Paso and many reasons the corruptors want to keep it hidden. There is much injustice and political shenanigans across the globe and my little website is nothing more than a minuscule attempt to put a stop to it. Therefore I honor and never forget those that fight in the trenches to right the wrongs in their communities. It is easy to pontificate on a website it is much more difficult to fight the battles directly before the corruptors who want to silence dissention. I am very mindful of that fact and hope that the activists remember, that, I and many more appreciate their activism for shining the lights on those that corrupt our communities.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...