I have to admit that scouring through the Obama campaign articles was painful for me…  salt in the wounds, I guess.  I had to take a deep breath and keep saying to myself:  “read it so you can learn how to take advantage of it; learn, learn, learn…”

In all honesty, there were some pretty fascinating things even for this old conservative war horse.  The one that jumped out the most was the way BO set up his fieldwork.  Robert Putnam (Social Capital) would have been proud at how they had the patience to build their organization correctly—by building relationships first.  I found the “The New Organizers:  What’s Really Behind Obama’s Ground Game” to be the most inspiring and enlightening.    Based on my own experience of grassroots and neighborhood organizing, the Obama Camp’s motto of:  “Respect.  Empower.  Include.” was spot on.  The Neighborhood Team structure and volunteer training and management were a model that deserves wide attention.

In several of the articles, I noted the regular “tip of the hat” to the 2004 Howard Dean Campaign and its organizers.  It was clear that the Dean campaign had laid the groundwork for what happened in the 2008 campaign.  The tools had been conceived and developed and the Obama folks took them to new heights.  BO and his team deserve praise.  I thought this quote was particularly instructive:

“But the Obama campaign is the first in the Internet era to realize the dream of a disciplined, volunteer-drive, bottom-up-AND-top-down, distributed and massively scalable organizing campaign.   For anyone who knows how many times this has failed to happen, this is practically an apocryphal event.  Marshal Gantz, who is an advisor to the national field campaign, and one of the main architects of the team model, said he’s been waiting 40 years for it.” 

In the Obama Raised Half a Million On-Line” article, the comment was made “the technology now has made it a lot easier for everyday people to participate.  It’s made it easier for campaigns too.  The technology allows us to build a platform and see if people come.  And come they did.”

This campaign did an incredible job of putting the political process in regular people’s hands.  Clearly Obama and his camp struck a chord, the organizational structure was there, and the people flocked.

Now I’ll try to avoid being too partisan by pointing out the difference in the amount of funds raised (Obama $745 million vs. McCain $368 million) and the role of Obama not sticking to his decision to use the public finance system.  Certainly Obama did incredibly well with his internet fundraising operation, but as the quote from How the Internet Put Barak Obama in the White Housepoints out, things might have turned out very differently.

“In other words, Obama’s decision to opt out of the public campaign financing system was THE decisive moment of the campaign, and his immense treasury the atomic bomb of his political war.  Without his vast array of small donors and the resources they provided, he’d have been trapped fighting in the same handful of states as the doomed John Kerry.”

I particularly enjoyed the explanation of the “tools” in the article:  How to Tell your VoteBuilders From Your MyBOs, Your Catalists From Your Vans.  It was a great synopsis of all the Internet campaign technologies I had just read about.  I’ll finish with a quote from that article:

“The BIG advance for Democrats this cycle is NOT so much the data—it’s how the data was used and who used it.”

What I learned from the readings is that the Internet tools had been developed before the 2008 campaign.  There were some exceptional and committed people who used the tools more effectively than they have ever been used before.  Kudos.

 

 

 

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I was intrigued by Nicco Mele’s  comments  in class last Wednesday (March 18, 2009) when he put up his “favorite slide” of the internet (the multi-colored, spider-web looking one of the internet).   Nicco then stated:  “The challenge is to look at this slide and try to figure it out.  You can’t dominate it.  It is not mass media; it is more one-to-one moving into many-to-many.  You need to think of it more of as a bunch of little towns that you have to go visit.” 

A bunch of little town that I need to go visit…    That struck a chord as I read through the rest of the book Groundswell.   You have to figure out how to go “visit” people where they live and engage them in conversation and through that conversation provide ways to meet their various needs.  No more “shouting at them” which has been the case with traditional media, marketing, and even political organizing.   This is going to take some serious re-training of thought for most companies and organizations…and for me.

The good news for everyone is that it is such a better way to operate.  Just imagine being able to more fully harness the intelligence, creativity and altruistic impulses of the masses—all those little towns.   The one-way conversation is truly over and I think that is why there is such a palatable panic among all entities to try to figure it out.

“People expect you to engage them, listen to them, and respond to them,” seemed to be the theme throughout the remaining chapters of Groundswell.   There was good information on how to go about it, even though it was more oriented to large companies.  Being in Robert Putnam’s Social Capital class, I enjoyed reading about company “wikis” and networks and how they are being used to create company social capital.  Some great examples were Intel’s “Intelpedia” and Best Buy’s “Blue Shirt Nation.”   There’s got to be some insights and lessons in there about how to put this to work in building effective grassroots and political structures.  Because the groundswell thing as a whole requires such novel thinking, I’m left wondering if only the young minds who live and breathe the internet and social networking are going to be able to sort it all out.  It all kind of hurts my brain.

The last chapter of the book “The Future of the Groundswell” was quite fun to read.  I think the authors were probably a little ahead of themselves by placing the year 2012 for their futuristic scenario.   I’m curious what Nicco’s predictions for that year might look like.  It appears part of the future will require technologies that can help you manage the tsunami of information that will be coming at you—finding ways to manage and control it so it useful rather than just overwhelming.    

I appreciated the book’s final comments about the people who are “successful groundswell thinkers and innovators” who are also very humble about their success.  “They seem to reflect a down-to-earth quality because they know they are in touch with some bigger than they are.”  Indeed.  This is bigger than all of us.

I have “groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.”  It’s nice to have it diagnosed—the first step to recovery they say…  Here’s one of the symptoms noted in the book Groundswell :  “Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out.”  I became particularly agitated and anxious when they go on to report that “The groundswell trend is unstoppable and your customers are there.”   Okay, okay, now you’re getting to me—we’ve got money on the line. 

 It’s a good thing Groundswell gives a prescription for my problem/syndrome.  They even have it broken down into a great little acronym:  POST (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology).   I did find the next steps under “Objectives” a little easier to get my arms around:  listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.  That’s probably because they can be directly linked to other familiar business functions—you just do them differently.  A good example being a traditional business task of “research” is correlated with the groundswell notion of “listening.”  Only in the groundswell approach you “listen” to conversations your customers have with each other as well as having a potential for more direct one-on-one dialogue with a customer.    Sales (the old way) vs. “energizing”  (Groundswell alternative) is about “making it possible for customer to help sell each other.”  The chart (“Existing business functions and their groundswell alternatives”) was very helpful.

A recent article in Forbes magazine, “Yes, CEOs should Twitter and Facebook” mirrors chapters 3-6 in the Groundswell—complete with a discussion of Blendtech.  In fact, I wondered if the author of the on-line article was just providing a synopsis of the book.  The article goes on to elaborate about the problem CEOs face in adopting groundswell strategy that is so antithetical to a corporate culture of control.  I was interested in the prospect of new forms of leadership evolving out of application of groundswell principles.  Not only can a CEO lead the way on use of this medium; it gives a leader more opportunity to interact with employees (or constituents in the case of politics) in ways never possible before.  Both sources give cautionary tales about the pitfalls of releasing bad information, company employees saying stupid things, the groundswell taking the discussion where you may not want it to go and the problems that can arise when you’re inconsistent with your communication—or even attempting to stop the communication process all together once it is going.  Both book and article agree, however, that companies ignore the groundswell and web 2.0 at their peril. 

These chapters were heavy on “big corporation tactics” and I’m hoping that the book will get down to dealing with smaller organizations and businesses.  With each sentence I’m comparing the possibilities for use by the non-profit I work with, for my children who are starting an on-line business, and for my spouse who has an older well-established business.  It’s a really good exercise and I am excited to sift through all the possibilities and learn such important and all applicable information.

 

 

Okay, the readings O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 and “The Bazaar and the Cathedral” were a tad bit over my head.  I did glean some of the key points even though a lot of it was lost on me. 

Open-source is based on sharing information.  The metaphor of a bazaar vs. a cathedral was pretty enlightening.   I like the idea of community creating things—somewhat messy, but colorful and productive.  There is something very satisfying about letting people engage on their own terms, with their own needs driving their participation, and yet producing something of value to the entire community.  And then the added bonus of it, for the most part, producing a product that is better than one developed under controlled management, strict timeframe, and a paid salary.  Very interesting and amazing!   I wondered how or if this concept is being applied to things other than computer/internet world.   Now I have a new frame to look at things that are going on. 

I opened my HKS emails this morning and ran across an announcement of a gathering to discuss creating Government 2.0.  It read:  Dear Colleagues, Interested in the role of technology and innovation in government?  Want to join the Goverati by starting a Gov2.0 movement at HKS?  Follow any politicians on twitter?  If so, join us at a planning meeting for a (potential) HKS Gov2.0 PIC!”  As is often the case, I’m late to the party and the “revolution” is already spreading.  I’ve seen the “2.0 this, and the 2.0 that” around but didn’t really get it.  Thanks to the two readings, I now do.

 

I couldn’t help but think that some of the points and concepts espoused in this approach are just basic principles for life and good human relations.  Here are a few that stood out with my “basic principles of life” interpretation:

 

·         “Release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity.”  BE WILLING TO SHARE TIME, INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATE REGULARLY.

·         “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.”  THE OLD SAW: NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION.

·         Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.”  WHEN MANY PEOPLE WORK TOGETHER COOPERATIVELY, THEY CAN SOLVE JUST ABOUT ANY PROBLEM.

·         “To often software developers spend their days grinding away for pay at programs they neither need nor love. But not in the Linux world—which may explain why the average quality of software originated in the Linux community is so high.”  LOVE WHAT YOU DO.

·         “If you treat your beta-testers as if they’re your most valuable resource, they will respond by becoming your most valuable resource.”  SHOW GRATITUDE EARLY AND OFTEN.

·         “The next best thing to having good ideas is recognizing good ideas from your users.  Sometimes the latter is better.  Interestingly enough, you will quickly find that if you are completely and self-deprecatingly truthful about how much you owe other people, the world at large will treat you as though you did every bit of the invention yourself and are just being becoming modest about your innate genius.”  BE LIBERAL WITH YOUR PRAISE OF OTHERS.

·         “Often, the most striking and innovative solutions come from realizing that your concept of the problem was wrong.”  ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS.

·         “Perfection (in design) is achieved not where there is nothing more to add, but rather when there is nothing more to take away.  LESS IS MORE.

·          

One last comment comes from this quote:

 

“The “utility function” Linux hackers are maximizing is not classically economic, but is the intangible of their own ego satisfaction and reputation among other hackers.  (One may call their motivation “altruistic,” but this ignores the fact that altruism is itself a form of ego satisfaction for the altruist).  Voluntary cultures that work this way are not actually uncommon… “egoboo” (ego-boosting, or the enhancement of one’s reputation among other fans) as the basic drive behind volunteer activity.”

 

There is a HUGE lesson in this quote for anyone who runs an organization with lots of volunteers.  Thanks for the reminder.

AdWord Assignment

March 8, 2009

I composed my AdWord and paid the $5.  It turns out that was just a “set up” fee and they want me to pay at least another $10 to start the ad.  The class instructions were to set up the ad and pay $5.  When they wanted me to pay at least another $10, I stopped.  I asked a couple of other people in the class and they had the same problem.  I’m on hold.  Below is the message Google sent me.  I feel like I now understand the process and if I were willing to pay Google more money, I’d be good to go.

 

Welcome to Google AdWords!
 
In order to activate your account and start showing ads, please sign in
to your AdWords account at
https://adwords.google.com, and submit your
billing information. Your account will be activated as soon as you have
entered your payment details. Your ads will show immediately if you
decide to pay for clicks via credit or debit card. If you decide to pay
by direct debit, we may need to receive your signed debit authorization
before your ads start running, depending on your location. If you
choose bank transfer, your ads will show as soon as we receive your
first payment. (Payment options vary by location.)
 
Thank you for choosing AdWords. We look forward to providing you with
the most effective advertising available.
 
Sincerely,
 
The Google AdWords Team

“Don’t Be Evil”

March 1, 2009

Chapters six through nine of the book “The Search” seemed to be a synopsis of Google’s efforts to “not be evil.”  From the impact on the little-guy merchant, to privacy vs. public good questions, to Google’s entry into China, the dichotomy of participating and effectively competing in the cut-throat business world  while upholding  standards of “ corporate righteousness” was on display.

“Search has become the new interface of commerce,” states John Battelle.   I was struck by Google’s ability to control what amounts to people’s business destiny and the obligation that comes with that power.  The example of Neil Moncrief’s shoe business made me wonder if anyone could feel secure building a web business when Google can simply alter their algorithms and wipe you out.  I recognize all businesses—web or not—are subject to whims of the market, but, dang… building a business reliant on someone else’s search parameters seems particularly risky.  The most dangerous thing in business is uncertainty in the rules of the game.  My businessman husband is fond of saying that even “bad rules” can be worked around in business—it’s the changing of the rules that causes the heartburn.  I don’t know what to make of Google’s (or any search organization) power in that regard.

Regarding the privacy issues and Google’s ability to cooperate or not cooperate in delivering information into questionable hands, I was interested in the exchanges regarding the millennial generation.  Early last week, I was part of a conversation about the fact that Millennials, in general, don’t seem to be all that concerned about privacy issues.  They have few qualms about plastering even intimate details of their lives (and their faces) all over the internet while we old folks tend to be fairly squeamish about it.  One” 20 something “guy in our class referred me to an article entitled “Social Streaking” in Kennedy School’s newspaper “The Citizen.”  Sam Sanders writes: 

Let’s face it.  We’re a generation stuck on ourselves.  We take pictures of everything we do, throw them online and wait for others to comment.  We write our opinions on blogs as if we were experts and expect everyone to read it.  We post our inside jokes between friends for the world to see….  I’d like to think you all are just like me.  Trapped in your own social bubble by the very technology that was meant to unite us with the entire world.  It’s a little sad, isn’t it?  The internet was supposed to open the universe to us.  And while it has, a lot of what we’ve doing is socially streaking of front of the e-world…”

The old fogey in me wants to say: “Ya know what kids…streaking (virtual or otherwise) is probably going to come back to haunt you.”  That becomes even more real to me when I realize that there is a virtual “database in the sky” for most people on the planet—definitely for those of us in the industrialized world.  Maybe my concern, then, is misplaced….it’s already too late.  I hope Google can find their way through all the shades of gray involved in the cyberspace privacy debate.  I don’t think I’ve been “streaking,” but I do wonder to what degree I’m “exposed.”

As for how Google responded to their moral challenge in entering China, I have to admit I wasn’t all that aware of the details on the issue at the time.  I do, however, remember my husband angry and sputtering about how Google had “sold out.”  He felt that Google had the power and a huge opportunity to make a difference in China—they threw it away to the detriment of all Chinese citizens.   Personally, I’m not prepared to make a moral judgment here–Just telling you how it “played out in Topeka.”

Lastly, the “IPO of the Ages” pages made me laugh.  Got to give credit to Google…I’m not sure that anyone has ever successfully “thumbed their nose” at Wallstreet in the way that Google did.  Tip of the hat.

Nerds Really Do Rule

February 23, 2009

For some participants in the course, Media, Politics, and Power, the readings are simply reviews or perhaps even outdated.  But for someone like me, each page is a new insight and new understanding.  Back in the year 2000, I was dragged kicking and screaming from my trusty selectric-typewriter into word processing.   Shortly thereafter I became email literate.  Then over the next couple of years, I began to realize the wealth of knowledge available to me via the “search world.”   Nothing remarkable there except  the realization—through reading  the first chapters of book:  “The Search”—that those user-friendly search tools were actually quite new and evolving to a significant degree about the same time my on-line/internet learning curve was evolving.    In other words:  I had absolutely no idea that these search capabilities were quite new to the general internet user.  I just assumed they’d been around for years and years.

Learning the history of search is obviously necessary to understanding what the future might hold.  The basics of search:  1) “they must crawl 2) “they must index” 3) “they must serve results”  seem quite straight forward and pretty cool.  But the ability to scale to the size and continued growth of the Web seems absolutely overwhelming to me.  I can get my brain around mountains of books in a library and a way to catalog and index them for general use (Dewey Decimal system, etc.).  But the ability to send out little “info robots” to gather up information in literally every corner of the world and “catalog” it and THEN put it in a format that allows me, through keyboarding a few words or a phrase, to bring it onto my computer screen—Wow, that is astounding.  I don’t know what to think of Chapter one’s inference that artificial intelligence could realistically evolve out of this technology.  The possibility of search becoming “self-aware” and capable of “watching you as you interact with it” seems too sci-fi to me.  But what do I know…I just threw away my typewriter a few years ago!

 In addition, the term “database of intentions” does conjure up all sorts of uses of this information—both for good and ill.  One that immediately comes to mind in the “ill” category is the ability of a search engine and its handlers to censor material that they disapprove of.  It appears that it would be quite easy for a Google or a Yahoo to control the dialogue on any given topic.  You don’t like a particular political persuasion or ideology; you just make sure that material doesn’t see the light of day through the programming of rankings, etc.  Clearly I don’t have more than about a 2-year old’s grasp on this technology, but my guess is that censorship could be accomplished.  Then when I consider that market tendency is toward narrowing of the field in any type of business endeavor, having just one entity controlling “search” makes my concern on censorship seem even more valid.

I apologize for not having any new insights or connections that show a deep understanding of the on-line world.  I’m just in the stage of learning about all of this and being incredibly impressed by the brainpower of the developers of these technologies.    Nerds really do rule.

What Do I Have to Fear?

February 14, 2009

Pirating is bad; I get it.  At the time of the Napster dust up, like most everyone else, I was downloading some songs and sharing them with friends by using my brand new CD burner.  I even justified it for awhile with the weak rationale:  Hey, libraries loan copyrighted material to their “friends.”   What’s the difference?  I’m not selling CDs.  My conscience (and fear of being caught) got the better of me and I quit.

 

After reading through Chapters 10-12 of Dan Gillmore’s “We the Media,” my knees found a new reason to shake.  “You mean I could be SUED for something I write and publish on a blog?”  I thought the only people who paid any attention to words like slander and libel were wayward politicians, Hollywood celebrities, and $500-an-hour attorneys. I haven’t a clue what legally constitutes libel or slander.  Here’s a definition for all of the other naïve and uninformed people in the world:

 

Defamation is the issuance of a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm. Slander involves the making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation. Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper.” 

When asked:  Can I Be Sued for Something I Put on the Internet?” the Media, Law and Research Center is quick to point out: 

“Yes.  The laws regarding defamation apply to Internet as they do to more traditional media.  However, federal law protects Internet service providers (ISPs) and other interactive computer services from many lawsuits.” 

I haven’t had time to digest all of the implications of this and evaluate my internet behavior accordingly, but it appears that our mothers were right:   we really do have to watch our mouths.  I plan to do some more homework on this to identify where First Amendment rights and laws regarding slander, libel and defamation intersect.      

 

Since it is paranoia day, here’s another topic that caught my eye.  The issue of the spectrum being “limitless” and the FCC being an unnecessary regulatory agency who appears to be focused on the wrong thing.  It brought to my mind the “Fairness Doctrine” and I wondered what that meant in terms of the internet.  Home work time.

 

There is a “fairness doctrine” mindset buried within the term “net neutrality.”  There have been a few voices raising the warning:

 

Former FCC Commissioner, Robert McDowell, had this to say last summer: 

The Fairness Doctrine has not been raised at the FCC, but the importance of this election is in part – has something to do with that…  So you know, this election, if it goes one way, we could see a re-imposition of the Fairness Doctrine. There is a discussion of it in Congress. I think it won’t be called the Fairness Doctrine by folks who are promoting it. I think it will be called something else and I think it’ll be intertwined into the net neutrality debate.”

 

Although I might savor the prospect of moveon.org being required to post an equal amount of conservative material on their website and blog, but I’m smart enough to know that the flip side is that townhall.com would have to post liberal material on their sites as well. 

 

Although both sides relish the prospect of their opposition being forced to put forth contrary ideas on their sites (or on the radio, or on the TV), it would come down to the party (or ideology) in control of the government making the determination as to what is “fair” or “neutral.”   I’m dismayed that seemingly intelligent people would actually believe that there could be a way to accomplish the goal of “fairness” or “net neutrality.”  By the way, who is going to police this thing?  Only someone currently in power, spurred by an agenda, would propose such a policy.  Want to talk about the death of Free Speech.  My knees are shaking again.

 

 

Crash Course in New Media

February 9, 2009

Yikes!  Reading this material was truly like “trying to drink from a fire hose” (sorry for the miserable Harvard cliché’).  For someone as uneducated and uninitiated in New Media and the digital world as I am, these chapters have given me a lot to think about.

Gillmor speaks of the myriad of ways that the former “audience” is being brought into the loop and what their contribution is going to mean.  I marvel at the chance to draw on the collective intellectual resources of the world, to transform political systems (or at the very least, the way politics are done), to transform journalism and traditional media, to transform civic involvement and provide ways for citizens to more effectively augment and aid government—for example, helping during times of crisis and maybe even helping to avoid crisis.   

As a promoter of citizen activism this quote provides some of the most encouraging thoughts:   “An audience that participates in the journalistic process is more demanding than passive consumers of news. But they may also feel empowered to make a difference. As a result, they feel as though they have a shared stake in the end result.”   As society has become more diffused, more cynical, and more disengaged, the digital world gives the opportunity to possibly reconnect and reverse the cycle.  Exciting stuff!

I note the urgency and the almost race-like quality of the efforts on the part of business, government, politics, journalists, etc.  all trying to stay ahead and utilize the tools that are evolving.  I might also mention my own personal sort of “panic” as I realize I’m so far behind in understanding what the tools are and how to use them.  There can never be a return to the traditional ways of doing business, politics, journalism, or even social networking.  I realize that is not a new thought for Nicco Mele, but the rest of us have been slow to get it. 

Gillmor also mentions the voyeuristic nature of social networking and blogging.   “It’s not a new world. We all have been able to create our own websites for years. This is just a content management system, verticalized for diary entries. That diary-like format has caught the attention of the voyeur in all of us.”   Hmmmm…  Is it voyeurism or a return to the conversations across the backyard fence?   Is it born of a desire to connect, understand and have some kind of meaningful interaction with others?  Or is it a desire to search for something scintillating or useful for self-serving purposes?    I do laugh when I read some people’s blogs; they often remind me of a perpetual family Christmas card newsletter—sometimes spiced up with political opinion.

Finally, Gillmor gives lots of examples of good weblogs.  He mentions Sheila Lennon’s Subterranean Homepage with lots of media-related topics and Earth911 for the greenie in all of us.  Not without mention is the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page blog which Gillmor calls a “classic.”  He goes on to say:  I don’t agree with much of the conservative doctrine he highlights, but he does it with great style.”   I have them all bookmarked. 

So here’s to voyeurism and blogging with great style!

Hello world!

February 4, 2009

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