Category Archives: Social Media and Tech

Technology, Economic Growth and Open Government

One of the great things about living in Washington DC is that you often get the chance to hear or meet important people of our time. Tuesday November 18, 2008, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO talked at an event at the New America Foundation about what’s ahead on technology, economic growth and open government.

 

It was a pleasure for me to see the CEO of one of the icons of the tech industry. Eric Schmidt was passionate and knowledgeable, although he was not always structured in his way of presenting his points. However, I am still fascinated by the open source approach to technology and information which has been the driving force behind Google’s (and others’) success. And I share his fascination of the fact that lots of people have access to most of the information that is out there. And new technology (such as cell phones) will give even more people access to information – and more information will also be accessible in the coming years. What an opportunity for America –and for the rest of the world.

 

You can watch Eric Schmidt’s speech here.

 

 

Here’s a few of my notes and reflections from the meeting:

 

  • Communication in every ones hand is powerful. But we do not get it yet.
  • Openness: Anyone can play and that can drive the modern economy
  • That does not only apply to the tech industry, why not do the same with the energy sector?
  • Doesn’t matter how big you are, it is the service you offer that matter (remember the cartoon Nobody knows you are a dog)
  • Google products:
    • Flu Track (Check it, it is fascinating)
    • Book search
    • Future: a Google search can answer questions such as: what should I do this weekend?
  • Google’s Smart Energy Plan
    • Great initiative – for a company that praises innovation might come up with a new perspective.
    • I missed a point on who’s going to make the investment? And is the government the right decision-maker in this case? However, I am not sure the free market is either. Schmidt said we need balance between the market and the government. But how do we move on from here?
    • Not all the ideas are revolutionary such as adopting technologies and practices promoting energy efficiency for buildings, equipment, vehicles etc. But as long as it is not standard it does not matter. Just do it and give the citizens the incentives to invest in better solutions. (The Danish experience is that it works).
  • More public funding to education and research
  • Few political scandals this year
    • Because of “the policing of the internet” where everyone is tracking the truth
  • Better to have people with you than shot them out
  • Governments have not embraced the tools the citizens have such as blogs and YouTube.
  • Amazing that people are spending their free time when they get the chance to be involved.

 

From @Downing Street to @alaa

Some of the most prominent Web 2.0 platforms in foreign politics are embraced by politicians in UK like @Downing Street on Twitter and Show Us a Better Way. But as our class revealed last Monday, digital campaigns overseas have not taken off as in U.S.

 The Prime Minister’s Office in UK has almost 4,000 followers on Twitter. During Obama’s visit in Downing Street 10, the office updated the profile feverishly and facilitated a conversation:

 

@plasmaegg No problem. Thanks to everyone who’s followed us today. Here’s the last image: http://is.gd/14EW 12:45 PM July 26, 2008 from web in reply to plasmaegg

 

Not Much about Elections Overseas

Searching our class’ del.icio.us feed, I did not find any links to digital campaigns tagged as overseas. I did find two posts tagged international but they were not relevant in this case. UK and U.S. are the only countries in the tagcloud. One post was tagged UK, linking to the UK Parliament’s YouTube Channel. It is a pilot project. This feed is informational and tend to be conversational by interviewing typical constituents. But the conversation has not really started yet:

 

 

 

I am looking forward to see where the UK Parliament will take it. Will it feed one-way press briefings or engage in a two-way-conversation?

 

From my own little world, I experience huge interest of the American experience on digital campaigns. I know of 3 different groups coming from Copenhagen in the fall to learn more about microtargeting, fundraising, and political blogging.

 

Who Reports Gets to Write History

Garrett Graff mentioned again in his lecture China’s firewall, Al Qaeda’s extensive use of YouTube, and Alaa’s twittering to stay alive as examples of Web 2.0 platforms overseas. It reminds me again that free speech is not given all over the world, and who reports gets to write history. Social media can be a tool for expression in countries with no or limited free speech. It can also be a tool to broaden the political conversation and collaboration in democracies for local, regional, and national governments (more is coming on this point).

 

The Global Power of Social Media

 

 

 

This picture shows that the world is not flat – as Charline & Bernof state in Groundswell (p.49). It is the same desire to connect, create, and stay in touch – but it is not the same platforms that people use around the world.  Facebook and MySpace are popular SNS in America, Orkut in Brazil and India, and hi5 in Austria, Mongolia, and Portugal. Furthermore, participation differs as well. In Groundswell, participation is divided into six categories: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Sepctators, or Inactives.

 

According to Groundswell (research by Forrester Research), Asians have in general adopted social media much more than Americans or Europeans. For illustrating, I have gathered the numbers that they mention in the book in the following table which is important for planning marketing, advocacy or political campaigns in different countries. (You can more numbers here).

 

Social Technographic Profiles Around the World

Profile

U.S

Europe

Asia

Creators

Blog, upload self made videos, music etc.

18 %

10%

38 % (South Korea)

Critics

Post ratings/reviews, comment on other’s blogs, contribute to online forums, contribute to wikis

25%

20%

36% (Japan)

Collectors

Use RSS, add tags to web pages or photos

10%

10%

18% China

14% South Korea

6% (Japan)

Joiners

Maintain a profile on a SNS, visit SNS

25%

12,5%

40% (South Korea)

Spectators

Read blogs, watch video from other users, listen to podcasts, read online forums, read customer ratings/reviews

48%

37%

33% (Japan and China)

Inactives

Do not participate in these activities

41%

53%

37% (South Korea)

(Charlene & Bernof, 2008, p. 43-45). Data from Forrester Research Technographics® surveys, 2007. For further details on the Social Technographics profile, see groundswell.forrester.com.

NOTE: the percentage is of the online adult population!

Hardball on EmergencyCheese

 

As BloggingItIn, I checked the definition of journalism on Wikipedia:

Journalism is a style of writing or communicating, formally employed by publications and broadcasters, for the benefit of a particular community of people. The writer or journalist is expected to take the help of facts in describing events, ideas, or issues that are relevant to the public. Journalists…. gather information, and broadcast it so we remain informed about local, state, national, and international events…..”

Interestingly, the last debate on the discussion page about the relationship between new media and journalism dates back to 2004 and is not reflected on the page in general. Does it need to? Is there a difference between, for instance, what James Kotecki on the YouTube channel EmergencyCheese does and what Chris Matthews does on Hardball?

They are both gathering and publishing information to inform me as a viewer about important events, but Matthews has an old media company behind him who pays him an awful lot of money. Kotecki is just himself using his Macbook to report from a modest dorm room on the Georgetown University campus. Hence, Kotecki was not formally employed by a publication or broadcaster. Does it make him less of a journalist?

 Yes, according to the Wikipedia definition. No, according to Dan Gillmor, author of We The Media, YouTube and blogs are among the tools that “allows anyone to become a journalist at little cost and, in theory, with global reach” (Gillmor, 2006, intro).

What we see is that journalism is moving from being a lecture to a conversation or from one-to-many to many-to-many. Both Kotecki and Matthews are offering news commentary and analysis. I also think shows like Hardball and Countdown with Keith Olbermann are aired in primetime because viewers want to watch parts of the conversation and not just what the Boys on the Bus present to them. According to an article in the New Yorker about Keith Olbermann, the show’s ratings grew nearly 70 percent when Olbermann started his Special Comments, and the show did not make money until this point. (The problem is of course, as we have concluded earlier in this semester, that we tend to participate in the concentric circles of our own political ideology.)

Kotecki is a journalist just like Matthews because he employs the core value of journalism: accuracy and fairness, Kotecki is participating in the larger conversation about the elections and he provides context. It does not matter whether he or any reporter belongs to a formal publisher or broadcaster. But as Jay Posen stressed out at PdF 2008, there are professional and amateur journalists. Both of them belong to the press, and they connect online. “It still works vertically: press to public. It also works horizontally: peer-to-peer. Part of it is a closed system – and closed systems are good at enforcing editorials controls – the other part is an open system,” Posen noted. And there is the main difference between Kotecki on EmergencyCheese and Matthews on Hardball; Kotecki is his own editor, Matthews is referring to an editor. Posen argues that the two systems do not work the same way, but that does not mean they are enemies. The future of journalism is a merger between professional and amateurs and openness with some control.

You can argue that old media like MSNBC has done some critical thinking and background test since they allow Matthews to broadcast his views. On the other hand, I would never have watched EmergencyCheese if the wisdom of the crowd had not let the channel be featured on YouTube. Call to action: Someone should revise the Wikipedia page including the nuances of journalism in the 21st century.

McCain is Aware of the Internet

Last week at the Personal Democracy Forum 2008 (PdF 2008), Mark Soohoo, Deputy eCampaign Director for John McCain 2008, said in an exchange with Tracy Russo, former blogger for John Edwards: “McCain is Aware of the Internet”. The debate has also been fuelled in the blogosphere and tech milieu because McCain has tagged himself as computer illiterate. However, the debate raises the question; how much knowledge of technology and experience with social media does the incoming president need?

TechPresident posted on Monday June 30, 2008 a poll asking its users Does a Connected World Need a Connected POTUS? As of today 118 have voted in this way: 

·  Yes, a POTUS needs to have first-hand experience with the Internet in order to lead. 61%

·  No, not as long as a POTUS has a firm understanding of the Internet’s impact. 33%

·  No, a POTUS more important things to worry about than going online. 4%

 

I am debating with my self whether to vote YES or NO not as long as POTUS has a firm understanding of the Internet’s impact. For me, it has been necessary to have first-hand experience with the Internet in order to get a better understanding of its impact. On the other hand, I guess I could be twittering, networking on Facebook, and blogging and still not understand the impact of technology on society. It is helpful and intellectual stimulating to participate in discussions with professors, fellow students, and friends or reading books like Wikinomics, The Long Tail, the First Campaign, and the Revolution Will Not Be Televised in order to get a better understanding of the Internet’s impact. Therefore, it is positive to see that 94 percent of the votes have voted yes or no POTUS with firm understanding and not NO, a POTUS have more important things to worry about. (It would be interesting if the poll was representative for the whole population and not just readers of TechPresident).

 

In general, I have no problem that McCain is not using a PC or a MAC, cannot use a BlackBerry or Twitter. According to Garrett Graff´s lecture last semster and Joe Trippi in the Revolution Cannot be Televised, Howard Dean did not get the Internet. But I do care, if he does not understand that the world is much more connected today than it was just 30 years ago. The Long Tail illustrated how business is changing, personal relations is changing thanks to Facebook and MySpace. Even national security is changing because of the impact of the Internet.    

Policies on Technology
Obama has proposed to create a Chief technology officer at cabinet level to work on issues like infrastructure, transparency, and crisis communication. On his website, Obama demonstrates that he has an insight and a willingness to work on tech issues like:  

* Better filtering systems for parents
* Safeguard rights for privacy
* Open up government for citizens
* Online town meetings
* Employ blogs, wikis, and social networking to modernize agencies to modernize governmental decision making

 

McCain has not developed a separate tech policy as part of his presidential campaign. Maybe he has intregrated tech into each issue, I have to admit, I have not read all his issues descriptions in details – so it might be hidden somewhere down there! But I did find this, and, for instance, McCain has supported the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act. To overcome the digital divide, McCain suggests:

“there’s lots of ways that you can encourage corporations who, in their own self-interest, would want to provide — would receive tax benefits, would receive credit, and many other ways for being involved in the schools and upgrading the quality of the equipment that they have, the quality of the students, and thereby providing a much-needed, well-trained work force.”


 
McCain is aware of the Internet, but asking corporate America in invest in tech infrastructure isn’t that the same as asking them to invest in highways?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Friday Round Up

 

Vanity Fair’s Blogopticon of Huffington Post/Off the Bus (OTB) and Instapundit matches very well my impression of the blogs. (Vanity Fair ranks Huffington Post and not OTB). The blogs are not scurrilous or earnest, but something in between. Neither of them are pure neither news nor opinion. I am not sure what criteria Vanity Fair has used, but I might have ranked Instapundit a bit more opinionated than Vanity Fair does. No doubt, OTB is very opinionated. However, it has been a blessing reading two so different blogs. It took forever to dig into the long, op-ed-style entries on OTB, and it was quick but fun reading Glenn Reynolds comments on the daily news (check also his photo section).

 

Progressives or Democrats read OTB and Republicans read Instapundit because “we” tend to get the news that fits our political view. I guess, progressives enjoy reading the “slandering” or critique of Republicans and McCain on OTB, and Republican enjoy reading Reynolds’ ironical comments on Obama. But do the two groups engage in a unified debate?

 

Garrett Graff mentioned in class on Monday that the public discourse – as we know it from, for instance, Habermas, is suffering from the divided blogosphere. Graff mentioned a study from Maryland University showing a tendency that Republicans, watching Fox News, saw it as fact that there were weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, and Democrats, listening to National Public Radio (NPR), saw it as a fact that there were no WMD. It is essential to democracies having public discourses. Social media is not the only force segmenting public discourse into several arenas. Habermas has analyzed this and pointed to the decline of a public discourse since the 1840s.  

 

In public relations, I have worked with the assumption that “public opinion is more than the collected views held by a particular category of individuals at one point in time. Public opinion is not adequately defined as simply state of individual cognition. Instead, it reflects a dynamic process in which ideas are expressed, adjusted, and compromised en route to collective determination of a course of action” (Effective Public Relations by Cutlip, Center, and Broom, 2006, p.207). This means that like-minded people constitutes one public discourse and might act together. One thing is to handle this in marketing, another is to engage different public discourses in democracies or engaging voters in the same discourse.

 

Social media is part of the problem, but it is also part of the solution. Howard Dean’s campaign in 2003 and 2004 showed that “ordinary people were hungry to get involved in party politics again” (Graff, 2007, p.70). The mid-term election in November 2006 showed that it is easier today to hold politicians accountable for their actions, messages, and words. For instance, Senator George Allen, VA seemed to be unbeatable until his “Macaca-quote“ surfed YouTube, the blogosphere, and mainstream media in September 2006.

 

Furthermore, social media leads to a new way of campaigning: two-way campaigning. Social media is a tool for (re-)establishing the dialogue between elected officials and voters. “This means….where the views and opinions of the American people have an impact on the leadership, so leaders are with the people instead of seeking to lead folks that aren’t interested in being led by them” (Graff, 2007, p.283). However, the challenge is not only for Republicans or Democrats respectively to engage each party’s voter base. The challenge is to connect the two (or different) views debating the future of this great country especially when the election is over and the politicians (including the new President) roll up their sleeves and get the job done.

 

Red versus Blue Blogging: Thursday

Thursday June 12, 2008

It might be that New York Times are agenda setting in the mainstream media. But the story “Obama Aide Quits Under Fire for Business Ties” was old news in the blogosphere yesterday. Furthermore, it was a slower blogging day on the political front on Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds linked to seven political stories and it became clear to me that he is not really that “excited” about John McCain see these comments posted by Reynolds June 12, 2008 on Instapundit:

 

Indeed. Plus this: “At present, it is charitable to call Mr. McCain’s energy ideas incoherent, and it may cost him the election.” (Reynolds also mentioned this issue on Wednesday)

DON SURBER: Republican Sen. John McCain needs a better speechwriter. Working on his delivery wouldn’t hurt, either.

Reynolds also has the daily doses of “slandering” Obama. A reader of the blog has emailed a photo of a garbage can in front of a wall with a sign saying “Voting for Obama.”

 

Off The Bus (OTB) has also a daily dose of criticizing McCain. News Trust published preliminary results of the project ranking news (print, radio, TV, and blogging) about McCain. (Interesting reading by the way). The blog also raises Obama’s bi-racial question and comments on Obama emailing with the celebrity Scarlett Johansson.

Red versus Blue Blogging: Wednesday

Here’re my notes on the red and blue blogging on Wednesday June 11, 2008.

 

Issues/stories

One of the headlines on the front-page of New York Times was related to the election, and it focused on the economic policies of the two candidates as it did Tuesday. But presumptive presidential candidate, John McCain (R) was on NBC’s Today Show where the host Matt Lauer asked McCain whether he could estimate on when the troops could be home from Iraq. McCain answered (see also):

 

“No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine.”

 

The Obama-campaign picked up this sound-bite and criticized it on a conference call later in the morning and later, the McCain campaign responded. Both conference-calls (here and here) were published on Off The Bus (OTB), and M.S. Bellows Jr. blogged about the debate that ended up being more about partisan attacks than about the candidates different stand on foreign affairs.

 

Instapundit mentioned Obama’s economic policy and the controversy of Jim Johnson, leader of Obama’s vicepresidential search efforts. Five out of 15 links and comments were related to Obama. For instance:

 

OUCH: “If the Obama campaign was really committed to debating substantive issues of war and peace in good faith and in a civil tone, they’d repudiate the comments being pushed by their surrogates. And if Obama thinks that McCain is indifferent to the sacrifices being made by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, let him say it himself. (After all, just a few months ago the Obama campaign showed such a deep appreciation for context and the danger of exploiting soundbytes for political hits.)””(Glenn Reynolds, June 11, 2008 on Instapundit)

 

Authors, Style, and Arguments

The authors of the entries on OTB are like yesterday writing for a living – either as reporters, novel writers, or bloggers. Compared to yesterday, the entries tend to be more opinionated and less structured, and less fair. Glenn Reynold’s comments to the news had also more edge on Wednesday compared to the day before.