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Winning Online in 2012 – Weekly #11

April 27, 2010

Social Media in the 2012 Election

For our final Georgetown blog post, we were asked to predict what we think will be key to winning the 2012 election online.

I think that winning in online in 2012 will mean incorporating new technologies into the lessons learned from the Obama campaign.

Social media lessons from the Obama campaign (from Edemlan):

• Start early
• Build to scale
• Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
• Make it easy to find, forward and act
• Pick where you want to play
• Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
• Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

It is important to remember with all these factors, part of winning online is giving up some control. Markets are conversations, after all, and you have to let the conversation flourish. As discussed in Barack, Inc. using multimedia is not the same as using multimedia effectively.  A campaign may have many social media outlets, but if it relies on intense top-down control, this leaves no room for local community organizers to speak out and organize within their networks, or to establish a new local network that will affect people where they live, work and vote.

The New Importance of Mobile

One of the big elements for 2012 will be mobilizing supporters through mobile devices. Ninety percent of Americans are within three feet of their cell phones 24 hours a day. Mobile phones are a great way to reach voters, especially the newly active youth vote. As stated in the Edelman report, people still read more than 90 percent of their text messages, while pages of e-mails sit unopened in in-boxes. Text messaging and the mobile Web offers an opportunity to reach supporters directly anywhere they are, any time of the day.

During the Barack Obama campaign, 3 million people signed up for the text messaging program. Each supporter received 5 to 20 messages per month – more than 1 per week.

The social aspect of the texting that candidates must use in 2012 is to make it interactive: not a one way dissemination of information.  Barack Obama’s campaign did this well, making texting a way to interact with the campaign rather than just a way to receive updates. For instance, supporters could text questions about polling places and receive quick responses from the campaign.

The upgrade for 2012 will be incorporating geolocation to the mobile scenario.

Before this year’s SXSW event kicked off, a number of bloggers suggested that this year’s breakout hit might be foursquare, a new location-based social application that incorporates gaming elements.

foursquare’s primary function is to help you figure out where your friends are. Users frequently ‘check-in’ with the app to update their current location, which is then broadcast to their friends. At this point the service primarily operates from its recently released iPhone application,

Aside from a basic ‘friend’ system, foursquare’s social features are pretty limited compared to services like Loopt and Brightkite.

In lieu of a full-fledged social network, foursquare incorporates a gaming element, awarding users with points and merit badges for ‘checking in’ at a variety of locations. These rewards give users an incentive to check-in often.

Badges are awarded for completing specific activities, like venturing outside of the city limits, or visiting a historic site.

Foursqure has the opportunity to create “political” badges that can be obtained by users who “check in” as having participated in a political event, fundraiser, and finally, giving a special nod to those users who vote.


Test Today – Study Guide For All

April 21, 2010

Hello Classmates,

I am not sure if we check each others blogs or not, but if so, here is a simple study guide for today’s test:

  • Published in April 1999, the Cluetrain Manifesto states: Markets are conversations
  • Metcalf’s Law: value of a social network is the square of the number of connections – aka: A network becomes more valuable the more people join it (the more the merrier)
  • Moore’s Law: computing power will double every two years, yet drop in price. Every two years, half the price and twice as powerful.
  • Delicious is an example of  a: folksonony; the US Military structure is an example of a Taxonomy
  • Folksonomies: dynamic, non-expert driven. A folksonomy is a system of classification where users tag things collaboratively;  this practice is also known as collaborative tagging, social classification, social indexing, and social tagging.
  • Taxonomies : expertly defined, fixed classification structures.
  • Folksonomy and Taxonomy are examples of: metadata (data about data)

Problems that crowds typically face:

  • Fatigue
  • Little incentive to play together
  • Timing: short term
  • Inner-personal isolation (no shared interest)

3 Things Crowdsourcing can Produce:

  1. Wisdom
  2. Labor
  3. Wisdom+Labor

Pareto’s Principal: 80/20 rule: 80% of the output is delivered by 20% of the people; in marketing, this correlates to: 80% of sales to going to 20% of most popular items

Anderson’s take from the reading: in absence of technology, Pareto Principal is important. Yet with technology today, the 80/20 principle is obsolete.

3 Forces that Create the Long Tail Effect:

  1. Democratization of Production: The best example of this is the personal computer, which has put everything from the printing press to the film and music studios in the hands of anyone.”
  2. Distribution: cutting the costs of consumption by democratizing distribution” [55]. It’s the part of the story that Chapter 1 focused on – how companies such as Amazon and Netflix can exploit the Internet to more effectively distribute goods. The Internet, he argues “makes everyone a distributor”
  3. Supply and Demand: “connecting supply and demand” [55] – those recommendations, links, and so on that help us to find things we like on the Internet.

Rebecca Blood’s law of Blogging: blogging started when YOU discovered it

What is a Blog?

  1. Posts posted in Reverse chronological order
  2. Written an a semi-personal tone – casual or informal
  3. Has a way to continue or extend the conversation:
    1. Comments from readers
    2. Permalinks: links to a specific entry in the archives
    3. Outgoing links to other data

WarBlogging – Weekly #10

April 21, 2010

Click to Play

Blogging is about saying everything. Just ask Scott Rosenberg, who discusses this topic at length. Rosenberg also introduces readers to Matt Welch, the first “War Blogger,” who, after 9/11 turned to blogging as an outlet for his thoughts and ideas.

Welch felt war blogging was, “a chance to stand up to people I’d walked among for 15 years and yell  ENOUGH!” (Rosenberg, Say Anything pg 138).

In the US, we have the freedom of speech which protects Matt’s right to yell ENOUGH!

We also have the freedom of speech that allows soldiers to share their experiences and for extremists to yell right back.

I believe Justice Louis Brandeis sums up Welsch and Rosenberg’s thoughts with his opinion that the “freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth.”(Whitney v. California , 1927)

And yet,  with all this free-wheeling freedom talk, it is important to remember:

  • Freedom of speech is not absolute.
  • Society and the legal system recognize limits on the freedom of speech.
  • Issues arise in which freedom of speech conflicts with other values.

Freedom of Speech in Times of War

In one of my recent blogs, I linked to a US military video depicting the slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad – including two Reuters news staff.  The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight, shows the shooting of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers.

This footage is important because it reminds us of the true cost of war.

It reminds us of the faces and names:

(Photographer NamirNoor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40).

Saeed Chmagh

Namir Nor-Eldeen

The shocking footage of unarmed people being murdered by soldiers is a difficult subject. It seems that there is a certain cavalier attitude, a disrespect for life, that comes across in these scenes that is disturbing on a visceral level. Perhaps some of that attitude comes from the gaming industry, perhaps some comes from the fact that for many soldiers, the Iraq war is not a clear-cut battlefield – many of them do not know why they are there, or why they are fighting.

Not all accounts of the war are war mongering, some of the best “war blogging” material I came across in my research is soldier Roman Skaskiws’ account of violent images,  war motivation, and moving past the war.

Shifting the Focus: A True Life Alternative

Many studies have shown that increased viewing of violent materials creates a tolerance for violence, and increased violent behavior. Researchers have noted, “We now have conclusive evidence that playing violent video games has harmful effects on children and adolescents.” (see link above).

There is no way to know whether the violent material will inure people or shock them into an anti-war sentiment.

Recently, I visited the Whitney Museum to see the Biennial. This year marks the seventy-fifth edition of the Whitney’s signature exhibition. While Biennials are always affected by the cultural, political, and social moment, this exhibition, simply titled 2010, embodies a cross-section of contemporary art production. One of the most profound works from the exhibition was a collection of photographs by artist Nina Berman. In her series, Marine Wedding, Berman captures the post-war life of Marine Sgt. Ty Ziegel, who was seriously wounded by a car bomb while serving in Iraq. These photographs haunted me long after my visit to New York.

It is my hope that the “war bloggers” who glorify the notions of war and battle, who advocate watching violent movies and playing violent video games might move their focus and attention instead on stories like Ty’s. While it is graphic, Ty’s story does not compel or create a numbness towards violence – and perhaps, it might even be a force for peace.

The Case Against Community – Response #3

April 20, 2010

Get Me Outta Here!

When Community Goes (Terribly) Wrong

In a recent post, aristo-blogger Damien recounts an unpleasant evening spent at a communal dining table. In fine dining, the communal dining experience is nothing short of excruciating. While perfectly acceptable for breakfasts, snacks, and coffees, a fine dining setting is completely unsuitable for unwanted company.

I experienced a dreadful communal dining ordeal several years ago on the Upper East Side at the much-lauded Sfoglia.

It was Spring in New York City, fabulous weather, and we were heady from a day of shopping and absorbing all sorts of cultural goodness at the Frick and the Met.

The scene was ripe for a wonderful evening of food and drink, but alas we were in for one of the worst dining experiences of my life.

Sfoglia, at that time, was the darling of restaurant critic Frank Bruni, and as such, it was difficult to get a reservation. I had booked ours almost a month in advance as a treat for my then fiance, now husband. There were such great reviews of the service and the food – my expectations were high.

However, when we entered the small restaurant on the tips of the Upper East side at Lexington and 92nd St, there was a distinctly shabby feel to the heavy curtains and much worn sofa that was in dire need of replacement.

Worse, we were forced to share this cramped waiting space (not the bar, but a sort of restaurant limbo – a liminality of neither entryway nor reception area) with a loud and rather grumpy middle aged couple who were arguing about something or another. They were dressed in the sort of unobtrusive and decidedly unstylish way that reminds one of LL Bean or Brooks Brothers. The woman cast a disapproving glance at my Chloe dress.

Shrugging it off, we proceeded to the dining room. We were seated in a back room with very low ceilings, at a small table pressed against the wall. This may have passed for “cosy” except for the fact that the only other table in the entire room was a large banquet sized table.

Seated at this large table, was a party of around 12 30-something year old women having a birthday party. Drinks were flowing, they were laughing loudly and exchanging gifts, having a grand time.

This left us, relegated to our table pressed against the corner directly next to them in that small room, feeling distinctly like uninvited guests to a private event.

When the guest of honor stood to give a toast and tapped her glass for silence, we didn’t know whether to be silent to continue the conversation at our own table.

After the first course, and  the awkwardness and not being able to hear each other, we asked the waitress if there was not another, more suitable, table we could move to in the main dining room. She returned and said if we waited for a short while, we could move. We sighed a collective breath of relief and anxiously awaited our move away from the raucous birthday celebration to a real dining room experience.

When we got up to move, we were instructed to take our drinks with us, and I obligingly complied. Drink in hand, I walked into the main dining room only to find it fully occupied. My eyes scanned the room for a free table – none in sight. This was not looking good.

The waitress walked over to a 4-person table where two people were already seated and plunked an oversized fruit bowl down in the middle. “Here we are,” She stated, “You may sit here.” I was aghast. This table was clearly occupied. The fruit bowl was, allegedly, supposed to form some kind of barrier and give some semblance of privacy. But of course that was ridiculous: it was a fruit bowl, not a wall or a completely new fold out table.

The Offending Table in Sfolgia's Main Dining Room

As a took my seat, too shocked to speak, I looked over at my new dining compatriots, to judge their reaction to a clear infringement of dining space. To my horror, I found myself staring into the increasingly red face of the Brooks Brothers woman from the entryway. She was glaring at me, her eyes growing wider and her lips pressing tighter together by the second, with a look of revulsion that left me shuddering. Obviously this feeling for communal dining was mutual.

We ate our entrees in complete silence. I don’t even remember what I ate – and I always remember what I eat. I can tell you what I had for dinner at Bouley 8 years ago. After we paid the (non-discounted) bill, we stumbled out into the New York night, I looked at my husband, “I am so, so sorry.”  He whistled, and after that we walked for blocks without speaking, neither of us able to find the words to say any more about it.

Eestimaa Estonia! – Weekly #9

April 14, 2010

This week, we were tasked with getting out of the US and exploring blogs from across the globe. In my research, I fortuitously stumbled across a wonderful Estonian blog, Itching for Eestimaa, written by editor and ex-pat Giustino Patrone. Giustino is an Irish-Italian American living in Estonia. His wife is Estonian – which begs the question, was he swept off his feet by her Estonian beauty?  They live in Tartu, Estonia and are raising their family of two daughters living a traditional Estonian life. In his witty and well-written posts, Giustino chronicles his life in Estonia and tackles some broad social topics affecting Estonians.

Some of the most interesting points on this blog are the details about what makes Estonian life special – from the food (jams and jellied meats!), to the unique Estonian coffee, to the language itself.

Giustino spends some time unpacking Estonian figures of speech. Often, these expressions shed light into the nature and identity of a culture – a demonstration of the power of discourse (how we use language to talk about things).

For example, the US, people will say, “She passed the test with flying colors.” This expression would not make sense if you looked up every word in a dictionary and just put the definitions together. It is an idiomatic phrase that only makes sense in the context of US culture – and, its military and competitive epistemology  (the “colors” of the flags) speaks to the nature of our culture.

In Estonian, these idiomatic sayings are called kõnekäänud.  Giustino notes that in Estonia, many of these expressions have to do with nature and animals.

One phrase that I found particularly interesting, and that perhaps we need a homologue for here in the States, is Nokk kinni, saba lahti. This translates literally to “Beak to tail off.” But what does this mean?  “Imagine you are a bird,” says a native Estonian. “You are pecking away with your beak, your nokk, but if you peck too hard, then, your beak gets stuck and your tail, your saba, is lahti, exposed.” But it doesn’t end there. “Then the bird struggles to get free,” she leans in to demonstrate, “and it pulls and pulls and pulls, and then, bang!,” she tosses her head back, “the bird loses its balance – It’s like you try to fix one problem, and you just wind up with another problem.” Does this idea of making problems from trying to solve other problems sound familiar? (Here’s looking at you Timothy Geithner).

Estonian Men… And their American Brethren

In his latest entry, välismaa mees, which translates to “foreign men,” Giustino discusses the issues around foreign men marrying Estonian women, and the view of men in Estonian culture at large. This piece is particularly interesting as it challenges Estonian men with many of the same issues facing American men: a stripping away of their masculinity, being compared to “pigs,” problems with substance abuse – particularly alcohol.

In the blog, Giustino writes of how many Estonians compare themselves to foreigners, and are driven to improve by measuring themselves against a yardstick of European or American values that emphasize a healthy diet and smoking cessation.

These incentives got me thinking about the state of the American male: where does he go for such inspiration? It does not seem common here for American men to compare themselves longingly to foreign counterparts. Yet, many American and European males struggle with things like diet, or feelings of inadequacy do to height. In his post, Giustino recommends that Estonian women seek outside their borders to find men suitable for marriage, and that Estonian men look to the rest of the world for inspiration  to improve. In a lively discussion typical of this blog’s community, many commentators have agreed with this advice.

Estonia is a small country, and there are many easily accessible “foreign” countries close by, as seen on the map above. Moreover, taking the lower smoking rates of Americans and the better eating habits of Europeans as inspiration seems like the best of both worlds. But where does all this leave the single beauties of the good old U.S. of A? America is not such a small place, and for many women, especially those not living on the coasts, American men are the only fish in the sea. Additionally, those men don’t seem to have the mindset of seeking out international role models for improvement. I can’t help but to think of the plight of the single ladies stateside and hope American males will be as willing and open to improvement.

Racism Isn’t Always Black and White – Response #2

April 7, 2010

While reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, I came across this post by Amina about the perceptions and misconceptions she encounters as a Brazilian woman living in America. This thought-provoking article got me thinking about the complicated state of bias and racism in America today.

In this country, many people are subject to bias because of their gender, or ethnicity.

The multicultural society we live in has made bias a question of not only black and white, but of much more complex issues involving many races of all colors.

One interesting phenomenon is bias against people who are white, but not from this country. A good friend of mine is from Ukraine. He speaks English with a slight accent, but his first languages are Russian and Ukrainian. He tells a story similar to Amina’s, with people making assumptions about him based on nationality. “First, people assume I am Russian, even if I tell them I am Ukrainian – I would say, I am from Ukraine, and they would respond, What part of Russia is that?”

“They say, Oh, so you love vodka right or some other comment about drinking or the mafia.”   He notes that some Americans are not very knowledgeable of happenings outside of their borders. He has been asked questions such as, “Did they have cars or TVs in Ukraine?

And at one job, an elderly employee continually referred to him as “Comrade.”

He notes that Americans can be insensitive, either because they are uneducated or because they do not have an understanding of what occurred under communism.  He noted, “I think the reason people think it is funny is that people have never experienced it. They have no reference point.

Racism Against African-Americans

Racism against blacks still exists and is a huge problem, especially here in DC. One of my friends, Adrian, is a 3rd year at George Washington University Law School. Adrian is a studious looking black man, tall and bespectacled. He is from the south, and as such, he has that “Southern gentleman” way about him that makes me think he would always open a door or help a lady out of cab. Adrian has said that before coming to Law School, he never experienced racism first hand. However, since his move to DC, things changed. He is frequently stopped on the campus of his own school by police and asked what he is doing there and to show them his school ID as proof that he is really a student.

On more than one occasion, he was interrupted from his work in the George Washington Library and asked what he was doing there, and on one occasion, he was just asked to leave with no explanation given.

I have had to use my Georgetown ID to gain access to a GW library. No one asked me what I was doing or for my ID – but I am also white. Adrian, on the other hand, is black, and even though he actually IS a law student, he is made to feel like an interloper on his own campus.

While we cannot change these past experiences, we can move forward treating people with respect and without preconceptions based on their race or culture – regardless of their skin color. This makes me think of the inspirational words of Nelson Mandela:

We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy. The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.

Wiki Truthiness Part 2 – Weekly #8

April 6, 2010

In our last post, we discussed the merits of Wikipedia vs. traditional encyclopedias. In pitting Wikipedia against a paper encyclopedia, it is important to note that Wikipedia is not trying to be a paper encyclopedia. This distinction is clear nomenclaturally: it is not called Online Encyclopedia;  it is called Wikipedia: a combination of encyclopedia and the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick.”

This second part of the definition, the “Wiki” aspect, has to do with the speed with which information can be aggregated and updated. Paper encyclopedias are not “quick” in the Wikipedia way, but what outlets are speedy in their population and dissemination of data? What is the fastest way to get information that most people think of? I would argue that today, the “quick” informers are our traditional news outlets.

This gives rise to a new face off: Wikipedia vs. Traditional News Outlets.

Comparing Wikipedia’s credibility to traditional news outlets, particularly around breaking news, is an interesting endeavor.

Wikipedia takes part in both episodic journalism and systemic journalism. This is, perhaps, unique to Wikipedia, and one of the things that makes it a truly valuable source for breaking news stories.

  • Episodic journalism gives readers blasts of up to the minute headlines without placing them in a larger framework. These soundbites are very detailed, yet lack contextualization.
  • Systemic journalism, while perhaps leaving out every detail of what Gwyneth Paltrow is eating  for lunch or Obama’s  views on the Final Four, seeks to put information in context and give it a framework and delineate possible impacts.

Wikipedia is able to participate in both of these media because contributors fill out breaking news wikis in a very episodic way – blasting headlines as soon as they arrive. However, because Wikipedia is a highly organized environment, the data soon becomes subject to systemic organization and contextualization as people fill out the details of what an event means and how it links to other events. The internal links in Wiki pages also provide excellent context: if I am reading up on a news story and come across a term or noun (person, place, thing) I am not familiar with, chances are this will be a linked term to a separate Wiki page where I can read up on that subject before proceeding with my initial reading. In this way, I can better understand the article and better understand what is happening in the situation.

However, with traditional news outlets, many times there is no such contextualization or cross-referencing possible. For example, the current health care debate has a lot of jargon and many episodic headlines, as seen here in the Washington Post’s coverage. I could spend an hour on that page and still not really have a good idea understanding of health care reform in this country – I would know random details about people in Colorado, and what date Obama signed something, but I wouldn’t really get a sense of what health care reform is all about and how it works.

On the other hand, if I were to spend that hour on the Wikipedia page about health care reform, I might come away with a more structured, deeper knowledge that would make all those Washington Post headlines all of a sudden make a lot more sense.

While Wikipedia beats episodic journalism, Wikipedia is not the only source of systemic news. One of my favorite news publications is The Economist, which is not daily, but a weekly publication that not only relays news but analysis it in a way that is meaningful to the reader. NPR also seeks to perform this type of contextualization.

You will rarely find me reading a newspaper (The New York Times Sunday Edition gets an exception, but then again, it is so much more than news!), because I find that I learn more from systemic journalism. Also, daily pubs, because of a rush to print, are often poorly written.

Your reading time is valuable. I know I don’t want to spend time reading something riddled with errors or that does not give me the biggest intellectual bang for my buck experience. We get to choose our news sources. And I choose to read from a publication that is both well written and will deliver an excellent analysis of the material: namely, those that practice systemic journalism.

As a news source, Wikipedia is a great resource, especially to gain a deeper understanding of a complex topic. However, we must remember that while Wikipedia organizes the information, they do not procure it. Wikipedia is not a source of original research, reporting or analysis. Because of this, it is best to remember those publications who are doing original reporting and spending time analysing the findings.

Another component of this is the fact that in today’s world, reporting is a dangerous mission. Men and women risk their lives as photographers, video journalists, and print journalists to bring us the news that gets compiled in sources like Wikipedia. The recent release of the unbelievably tragic video documenting the slaying of two Reuter’s reporters reminds us of this too high cost of journalism. While Wikipedia is a great source of organized information, it cannot replace the traditional outlets who are brining that data to be organized. We must continue to support traditional news outlets with our readership and our financial contributions. This is the only way we will be able to continue to receive news from around the world  – or else we fall into the darkness of not knowing, and there is no such thing as blissful ignorance.