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Archive for April, 2010

Garrett Graff’s 2007 The First Campaign asked this question about the 2008 presidential campaign: Will the two major parties seize the moment and run the first campaign of the new era, or will they run the last campaign all over again?

Clearly, Obama ran the first campaign. His online campaign for change was a grassroots movement on steroids. It took political campaigns to a new era by showing “what Web 2.0 means for Campaigning 3.0 (Graff, p. 267). It even earned him Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year. Businesses are also in “campaigns” with consumers, and corporations like Conde Nast  are already trying to capitalize on Obama’s digital lessons.

I wonder how the Supreme Court’s Citizen United vs. The Federal Election Commission will impact the 2012 campaign. Will corporations invest more heavily in supporting candidate’s online campaigns or launching their own? Will candidates lose control of their messaging, online and offline? Or will the FEC rewrite their rules to stop corporations and unions from working with campaigns they favor in planning their messages.

Michael Turk, who was in charge of Internet strategy for President Bush’s 2004 campaign, has accused the GOP of failing to believe that “people will up and participate if they are invited to do so” (Graff, p.258). After the 2008 loss, Obama’s prospective 2012 Republican rivals Republicans are already changing their tune and investing heavily to build supportive online communities. Will their efforts pay off?

It is difficult to make these predictions when technologies and social media’s influence are evolving so rapidly. Back in 2007, even experts were misjudging when political figures would adopt the internet.  For example, blogging pioneer Henry Copeland forecasted that the team who won the 2008 Presidential election would have run an “old-school fuddy-duddy campaign” (Graff, p.254).

In this article, Michael Silberman explains:

We can expect to see even more impressive integrations of tried and true organizing strategies with new technologies that we can’t even imagine. In 2012, millions more people will have access to broadband, and no one really knows how they will be spending their time online.

New Web 2.0 platforms are certainly creating new options for Campaigning 3.0. For example, foursquare users can easily notify their networks when they are volunteering for campaigns, and campaign offices can provide supporters with increased recognition.

But in spite of these changes, the key to winning the 2012 election online will still be understanding that “the internet isn’t an end to itself but merely a means to an end- a chance to pull people in and get them involved in the political process” (Graff, p. 275-276). Candidates who launch social media campaigns to simply “build community” will fail. Candidates’ success will rely on their ability to establish a focused message that is simple, consistent, and relevant. Unless online community members understand their mission, they will not be able to take advantage of fancy social media tools to accomplish it.

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I had never read a military blog (milblog) before today. I have a hard enough time trying to keep up to date on the happenings of the war (and make sense of them.) When I started poking around the milblogosphere this afternoon, I had no idea that I would become engrossed in this activity for a solid four hours. Only class could pull me away from my computer, and even then I was late!

After my investigation, my perception of the war is already less abstract. While I still haven’t formulated my opinion, I can already tell that spending more time in this blogosphere would help me shape justified attitudes towards the war. Perhaps even more importantly, it would expose me to differing viewpoints and allow me to better understand those perspectives.

To develop and understand war policy, all sides of the story certainly need to be heard. I suggest starting with a daily snapshot of the top milblogs at milblogging.com. Check out milblogging.com’s blog’s profiles to see which ones might interest you from the get-go.  From there, it’s almost impossible not to get lost stumbling from page to page. It seems like everyone (including parents, wives, and children of the enlisted) involved in the war has an interesting story to tell. While many did stop posting to their blogs after the U.S. Army ordered soldiers to follow new rules in April 2007, this blogosphere is still incredibly active. Milblog’s have a wide variety of followers. Hollywood Refugee, for example, was angered when Kaboom was shut down for failure to properly vet a post in accordance with the new rules. There is some evidence that the U.S. military is trying to re-engage soldiers in the blogosphere. Check out the highlights from 5th Annual Milblog Conference in Arlington, VA two weekends ago (I wish I had known about this earlier!) Below is a video of General David Patreous’ opening remarks.

I read Baghdad Burning’s last post about self-identification as a refugee, and it made me want to read the book. Army of Dude’s The Real Deal post was also eye-opening, and I liked the author’s use of pictures to bring his point home. From there, I decided to search for more photo essays and was introduced to the world of Michael Yon. I also liked Wings over Iraq, Afghanistan without a Clue, Stormbringer, and The Sandbox. Does anyone have any other suggestions for me?

Finally, the milblogosphere was abuzz about the leaked video (Collateral Murder) of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that claimed the lives of two Reuters employees. Be sure to watch the entire video. Do you think it’s too biased? Milbloggers certainly had a lot to say about government transparency, war tactics and the risk of on-assignment journalism. The NY Time’s At War blog also did a fantastic job of rounding up different milbloggers’ reactions to the video’s release. This situation reminds me of the conflict over Kevin Site’s video of a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi.  It’s strange how history repeats itself.

After my explorations into the milblogosphere this afternoon, I can already say that I’m a big fan of its transparency. I’ll definitely continue to follow this online community beyond Social Media class.

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Starbucks’ Promoted Tweet

At its first ever Developer Conference last week, Twitter announced the rolling out of its first phase of Promoted Tweets.   This blog post does a good job of breaking down Promoted Tweets as “tweets that are raised in value or importance as an element of a targeted marketing campaign.” Basically, when Twitter users conduct searches that match the keywords paid for by Twitter’s hand-selected advertising partners, those advertisers’ promoted tweets will appear at the top of the users’ search results. These Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as such, so there is no attempt to convince users that it just happens to be the top search result. Click here for more details about the Promoted Tweets platform.

In the later phases of this ad platform, Twitter will algorithmically assign the most effective Promoted Tweets to your stream. This targeting will be based on what you tweet about and who you follow. Only time will tell how well Twitter can read into your real-time Twitter existence and determine which Promoted Tweets will resonate with you the most. For example, if you have been tweeting up a storm about the Fourth of July, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a Promoted Tweet from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts. Twitter also plans to eventually allow third party Twitter clients (TweetDeck, twhirl, TwitterBerry and Tweetie) to integrate Promoted Tweets, with the app developer receiving a cut of the revenue. Ultimately, Twitter could syndicate results to Google or Bing, though no deal is close to making that happen.

As social media angel investor David Pell hypothesizes, the Promoted Tweets that Twitter chooses for us could be a real wake-up call! I already get a kick out of the personalized ads that show alongside Facebook window (usually a strange mix of cat-related links, online psychology grad schools, and sorority gear.) I’m also on David’s side in terms of the intrusiveness (well, the lack thereof) of the Promoted Tweets that will eventually show up in my stream. I already have all the aspects of my life smashed together on Twitter- see my previous post. So who cares if a few highly targeted ads show up? I’d rather get tweets that don’t read like ads than spam emails that clutter my inbox and don’t “disappear” unless I delete them!

I think the Promoted Tweets platform is an incredibly reasonable response to “how can Twitter make money?” and “how can ads be brought into the Twittersphere?” Twitter is being especially patient in introducing this platform because the company’s founders refuse to destroy the experience that its users have grown to appreciate. While 42% of users are concerned that Promoted Tweets will spam their Twitter search results and streams, I think that these worries are completely unjustified. In my opinion, Promoted Tweets will be valuable to both Twitter’s advertising partners as well as its users. Why?  Make sure to check these in-depth reports by Ad Age and NY Times– both of these articles helped me to come to the following conclusions:

–          FOCUS ON MARKETS AS CONVERSATIONS– In planning this ad platform, Twitter has been focused on enhancing “the conversations that companies are already having with their customers on Twitter,” said Twitter COO Dick Costolo. Therefore, twitter hand-picked initial advertising partners, including Starbucks, Bravo, and Virgin America, that were already heavily engaged on Twitter. Starbucks could start a conversation with the Promoted Tweet “Tell us something a barista did to make your day?” Starbucks could buy keywords to keep this question at the top of a search that turns up the Promoted Tweet. Click here to learn more about how why Virgin America was chosen as an advertising partner and how the company is already using its Promoted Tweets- it’s very insightful.

–          QUICK PROFITABILITY IS NOT THE GOAL– In fact, Twitter will roll out the Promoted Tweets platform slowly over the course of a year and gauge users’ responses.  The last thing Twitter wants to do alienate users by forcing a new model on them. That’s why Twitter will test and test and test Promoted Tweets and watch how they perform in search results and then in streams.

–          ONE -AD-PER-SEARCH RULE– While Google, Bing and Yahoo display many search-related ads at a time, Twitter will only ever display one Promoted Tweet at the top of your search results.

–          RESONANCE AS A PERFORMANCE MODEL AND EVENTUALLY A PRICING METRIC– Resonance is impact of the Promoted Tweet based on how much a tweet is passed around, how much a tweet is marked as a favorite or how often a user clicks through a posted link. Ads that perform well will stay in search results and advertisers will pay for the search key words that bring up that ad on a cost-per-thousand basis. Ads that don’t rise above the resonance score of a typical tweet from a marketer will be removed and advertisers will not have to pay for them. Ultimately, Twitter plans to charge advertisers for Promoted Tweets based on their resonance in comparison to a standard marketing tweet.

That being said, can’t we all just give Promoted Tweets a chance?

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While I love the DC area, finding housing here is quite a pain. I check Craigslist almost every hour, but hardly any 3-4 bedroom houses are listed with July start dates. With a move-out date looming ahead of us, searching for a new rental in DC has not been easy. We currently live in Arlington (check out this rap video about the city), but want to move across the key bridge into Glover Park come July. Yes, some might call us “typical”, but I’m excited to move into a neighborhood that is “bustling without compromising its boringness.”  From this blog, it seems like nothing too newsworthy happens in Glover Park, and I’m just fine with that. What I’m really looking forward to is taking advantage of this local farmer’s market (even if it’s just to meet the neighborhood dogs),  looking out my window to see these “exotic” creatures patrolling the lawn, jogging (okay, power walking) around tree-lined streets, cooking out with young (and hopefully male) neighbors, and strolling to the area bars. My roommates will be especially excited to move closer to Gin and Tonic, their favorite Thursday night spot. They can likely be spotted in this video dancing to The Dolla Crew’s performance.  One of these hip-hopsters is actually a W&L ’06 grad. And now I digress…

Pole 5 in Lexington, VA aka Home Sweet Home

Suddenly, I realize how easy I had it living in Lexington, VA while attending W&L.  By the spring of my freshmen year, I was already set to live in the sorority house for sophomore year and at a coveted “Pole House” with five best friends for junior and senior years.  I miss having everything planned out so far in advance.

Pole 5's porch looking out on the Maury

 I also miss actually living in that coveted Pole House, better known as Pole 5. It’s second from the left in this satellite picture. As you can see, there are six of these houses on stilts (hence the name “Pole Houses”) lined up on a massive lawn overlooking the Maury River.  Each has its own huge deck looking out onto the water. Each has six similarly-sized large bedrooms and three identical bathrooms. Each has unlimited parking in the wide gravel communal driveway behind it. That’s right- parking was NEVER a problem. One hundred cars could pack into that driveway during Derby Days, which was always held on the Pole Houses’ lawn during spring term, and everyone would find a way to fit.  Students could even drive their cars onto the lawn so that they could blast their music while cooling off on our rope swing.  Traveler, W&L’s free sober ride bus system, actually had a regular pick-up/drop-off point in front of Pole 5. This place was actually our little slice of heaven.

Now, searching for rental s in DC, we are faced with questionable basement apartments, bedroom sizes that vary greatly, no off-street parking, the hassle of getting DC plates, and lease dates that don’t match up perfectly with our own schedules. We are no longer competing with other girls in our sorority to get the Pole 5 lease from the senior girls who are passing it down. Now, we are actually having to pit our credit scores (or those of our parents) and blind bids against those of other applicants. And in the end, we will undoubtedly wind up paying more than twice as much as our old Pole 5 rent.

Hanging out by the Maury watching Derby Days '09

 But I guess that’s the price of growing up. As Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz would say, we’re not in Lexington anymore. But it’s time for me to get back to browsing Glover Park listings on Craigslist. Wish me luck in our housing search!

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On February 5, 2010, Tunisian Blogger Ghodwa Nahrek wrote:

Ammar (the nickname given to the Tunisian censorship apparatus) said that he doesn’t like Nocturnal Thoughts anymore. He prefers afternoon thoughts. Nocturnal Thoughts, the blog of our friend and brother Tarek Kahlaoui, had been censored after more than three years of continuous blogging about interesting and sensitive subjects. In Tunisia, the scissors of censorship acquired new significance. It is no longer a form of oppression and a limit to freedom of expression as it is a medal for the blogger and a certificate from the censor showing the value of a blog and the importance of the subjects it deals with. Congratulations to our friend Tarek and welcome again in the club of censored blogs.

Tunisian censorship of the internet is the rule rather than the exception. Websites that criticize Tunisia’s human rights, such as Amnesty International , Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, the International Freedom of Expression eXchange, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, are blocked. The Tunisian government is also notorious for blocking websites critical of the Ben Ali regime. Even YouTube and Daily Motion have been banned for hosting of videos documenting prison abuse in Tunisia, and pages that are critical of the regime are blocked on international media sources like the New York Times or the BBC.  According to aggregate scores established by Freedom on the Net (the higher the score, the worst the censorship on a scale of 0 to 100), Tunisia and China are tied for second worst censorship in the world (only behind Cuba.)  

The Tunisian blogosphere did not start until 2006, but by August 2008, at least 22 of about 600 active blogs had already been blocked. Blogging was originally used as a form of free speech, but the government quickly began punishing bloggers who addressed topics beyond the “red lines” observed by traditional media in Tunisia. But some bloggers are resilient and choosing to wear their badges of honor for speaking up (and being censored.) It is unclear whether this anti-censorship blog campaign has been squashed, but in 2008, about fifty bloggers would repost deleted or blocked blog posts on new sites- sometimes starting as many as nine blogs to get their message out there in the face of censorship. Others bloggers have come up with more creative ways to write about politics and human rights without being caught.  The blog NormalLand used to be able to discuss Tunisian politics by using a virtual country with a virtual leader, with various government positions being assigned to other Tunisian bloggers, but it is now shut down.  

To learn more about trends in the Tunisian blogosphere (or any other country, for that matter), definitely follow the conversation on Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world and gives you a bird’s eye view of what conversations are going on in blogospheres around the globe. In November 2009, Tunisian bloggers were posting most often about the trial of Fatma Arabicca, the question of French reparations to Tunisia for its past colonization, and the Egypt-Algeria World Cup Match. Over the past two months, the fight against censorship has continued in the blogosphere, and bloggers have begun speaking in English (as opposed to the more common Arabic and French.)  Cyber-activism for student protesters is another trending topic that continues amongst Tunisian bloggers and social media users.

If you want more of an insight into the blogosphere in the Arab world, check out this episode. You’ll get great insights from an Egyptian blogger and a Lebanese blogger (both of whom have been arrested and detained.) It’s interesting to learn how censorship of traditional media impacts the role blogging plays in these states, and how cenorship of digital media varies from state to state!

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Throughout the semester, my classmates and I have been bookmarking a lot of Foursquare– related content on our delicious links page.  Introduced at South by Southwest Interactive Conference 2009, Foursquare and other location-based services were widely used by 2010 conference goers looking to find fellow social media nerds at unofficial parties and add transparency to the quality of events via check-ins and short message reviews. Unfortunately, as one of the only social media nerds out there WITHOUT a Smartphone (potential 23rd birthday present Mom & Dad?), I’m not yet a Foursquare user. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to check out Foursquare’s homepage to search your favorite area venues, read their reviews, and see if you recognize their mayors!  

But Foursquare is definitely more than just a competitive night life game. The site will distribute a free analytics tool and dashboard to give business owners access to a range of statistics and information on customers who check-in at their venues.  Additionally, a new staff page feature will allow venues to communicate with regular customers who check-in via Foursquare. For example, if a staffer hasn’t seen a “regular” visit in awhile, that staffer can tweet them about a new product to entice him or her back. Tristan Walker, director of business development at Foursquare, expects this feature to help local merchants especially. Here is an interview with Tristan in which he discusses cool ways that brands and businesses have used Foursquare. But even businesses that don’t offer face-to-face social experiences, such as bars and restaurants, can use location-based services to drive traffic and reinforce messaging. Even political campaigns and social causes can benefit from Foursquare- check out Marc Ross’s predictions on how volunteers will now gain recognition for their work.

Now that more venues are offering special deals and rewards to users who check-in, Foursquare is cracking down on cheating. Now, like its competitor Gowalla, Foursquare will use GPS data to verify a user’s actual location. While users will still be able to check-in anywhere (and prior to or after their actual arrival), they will only be rewarded for the check-in if they are at the actual location. And some users take their check-ins VERY seriously- check out this story and find out who was first to check in at the North Pole.  

Foursquare has already partnered with Bravo to turn its reality show celebrities into city curators who recommend venues that users can then check-in at to earn Bravo-themed badges. MTV and VH1 recently announced a similar partnership. They will also be the first media brands to launch Foursquare’s new Celebrity Mode tool, which allows users to friend celebrities and celebrity users to send check-ins to either friends and followers or just their inner-circle friends. It seems that Foursquare is following Twitter’s lead in getting celebrities involved, which could help boost the popularity of the site and help pack the house for future official celebrity appearances. Over the past few days, the Financial Times has finalized a deal with Foursquare to offer mayors of select cafes near London School of Economics, Cass School of Business, Harvard, and Columbia codes for a premium FT.com subscription.  And of course, web apps big and small continue to integrate with Foursquare’s rich local data.

It will certainly be interesting to watch Foursquare’s growth past 500,000 users in the upcoming months. Will location-based services spread beyond early-adopting social media nerds based in prominent cities (similar to how Facebook has spread beyond college students?) Will enough of your inner-ring ever use Foursquare, or will growth beyond your inner-ring make this social media tool too overwhelming (as some say has happened with Twitter)? Perhaps if Foursquare fails to adopt filtering and status-toggles that allow us to limit the notifications we receive, we will turn to Rally Up to meet up and follow our true friends. Only time will tell, and in the meantime, I hope I get a phone that allows me to join in the fun!

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Wikipedia has become the “first draft of history.” Just take a look at how the Wikipedia community handled the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. By the end of the first day of the Wikipedia article’s life, it had been edited more than 360 times, by 70 different editors referring to 28 separate sources from news outlets around the web. Wikipedia’s crowdsourcing mentality combined with its easy-to-use, accessible platform to generate an aggregation of event details from multiple sources (such as NY Times, Reuters, and Times of India) in a number of different languages and locations. Wikipedia is especially effective as a breaking news source because articles can be instantaneously created and rapidly updated by anyone (you don’t have to be a reporter in the newsroom!) In fact, the contributors to breaking news articles often interact online as if they are in a virtual newsroom. Also, the list of links at the bottom of the page points readers to more resources regarding specific aspects of the event or different viewpoints taken.  

Let’s face it. When an event is unfolding, people would rather have information that isn’t 100% reliable rather than no information at all. And if an event is important enough, you can be sure that incorrect information will be fixed by the time you refresh your screen. That’s because a crowd of contributors (some of which might band together as a community) quickly assemble during crisis events. As we talked about in class last week, humans are motivated to DO something during a crisis rather than sit around passively absorbing information from other sources. In case you really don’t trust early contributors, Wikipedia released an optional feature last fall (WikiTrust) that color codes every word of the encyclopedia based on the reliability of its author and the length of time it has lasted in the article.

But are the community’s new policies and aggressive management of the site turning off existing members and making it more and more difficult for new members to join? A recent study found that during the first three months of 2009, the English-language version of Wikipedia lost 49,000 editors, compared with a loss of about 4,900 during the same period in 2008. Jimmy Wales says this is not so. Perhaps this is a case of crowd fatigue- thoughts? I’m a little bit surprised that there is not very much information on the West Virginia mining explosion that happened yesterday. While the accident is now mentioned in here and here, it has not been extensively covered by Wikipedia editors as the events unfold. Could it be that the majority of the Wikipedia community lives in large cities and feel more connected to local breaking news?

Last June, Google News began monitoring Wikipedia articles and using them on their site. This was a pivotal change. Finally, the most powerful media company in the world was recognizing Wikipedia’s increasing popularity as a reliable breaking news source. The Huffington Post also recognizes Wikipedia’s importance- it dedicates an entire page to breaking news about Wikipedia. And did you know that there is now a WikiReader? For $99, this gadget allows users to browse all of Wikipedia offline and on-the-go. Why not carry around breaking news in your pocket? Read a review here!

Finally, below is a video that can help you use Wikipedia as a news source by making use of Wikipedia’s watchlist function. This isn’t the most exciting video, but stick with it. It’s a good tutorial if you don’t already have a lot of experience on the editing side of Wikipedia!

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