Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

Guest Post on Burson-Marsteller’s “Digital Perspective” Blog

July 18, 2008

I have had the wonderful opportunity of getting to know Burson-Marsteller Chief Digital Strategist, Erin Byrne lately and was honored and excited when she asked if I would be interested in writing a guest post for Burson’s digital media blog discussing social media from a grassroots perspective.

If you have a moment – pop on over and give it a quick read. Would love to hear any thoughts you may have!

What do a liberal blogger and a Republican campaign operative have in common?

June 25, 2008

Well…yea…about as much as you would expect ideologically – what’s great though is that the social web is doing everything I had hoped it would to facilitate an honest debate of ideas.

I have always enjoyed spirited exchanges of ideas – 9 different schools from  K – 12th grade, brought on by a move approximately ever 2.5 years growing up tends to blunt one’s willingness to disassociate with someone because they don’t see eye-to-eye with you. Even so, we tend to congregate with like-minded individuals and eye dissenters warily making it difficult for us to meaningfully interact with a truly broad range of opinions.

Enter social media.

To say that the Twitter and FriendFeed landscapes are dominated by those with a left-of-center mindset would be an understatement. As a result I wasn’t the least bit surprised when my attempts to widen the nozzle on my information stream brought with them a slew of interactions with other users who looked at Republicans the same way Jaguar Paw looked at the strange wooden objects coming ashore at the end of Apocalypto. This is to be expected, its human nature – the less we have in common with or understand about another person, the more likely we are to distrust them and jump to hasty conclusions about them.

The power of social media is that it allows us to find and interact with one another based on common interests. The Twitter and FriendFeed communities are largely made up of social media types – some who work in social media and others, like myself, who are drawn to the new avenues of communication it opens up. Either way there is a common bond that allows us to build a relationship based on a mutual understanding.

Want an example of how powerful this is? Tech blogger Robert Scoble posted a message on his FriendFeed account that Republican Congressman John Culberson uses Twitter sparking a flurry of excited reponses, many of which indicated they would now follow the Texas Congressman as well. I can guarantee you that many of them are not predisposed to enthusiasm over anything that has to do with Republicans – especially when they come in the form of Republicans in Congress. Had Scoble posted something about Representative Culberson’s stance on an issue the comments would have very likely been dominated by generalizations disparaging Republicans but since a common interest was shared Representative Culberson just found scores of new friends on Twitter.

This past Sunday I received an IM from HuffPo/BlogHer/MOMocrat blogger, Queen of Spain asking if I was interested in jumping on her web show later that evening to discuss current political topics including the FISA re-authorization. She runs in a different world than I. A few months ago I didn’t even know she existed (and vise versa) but through our interactions on Twitter we were able to prove to one another that, despite completely different ideological approaches, we both wanted the same thing: to make the world a better place.

I joined her that night and had a blast trying to convince the shows participants that my views (or conservative views in general) were not the result of some nefarious desire to wreak havoc on the lives of others – who knows if I succeeded. What I do know is that, like many voters, I have grown tired of a climate that prevents me from expressing my reasoning for holding a certain position or hearing the reasoning of someone who disagrees. I am thrilled to see that social media is doing exactly what I hoped it would: restoring our ability to disagree without being disagreeable (sound familiar?).

Dear Early Adopters Please Pull Your Heads Out of

June 12, 2008

…the dirt. Sorry to do that – you thought I was going to say sand didn’t you?

I don’t currently have the energy to pull together all the blog posts, comments and FriendFeed threads that have lead to this post so I will be brief.

Stop freaking flogging yourselves about the cycle you go through when you hear about new applications that have the potential to do everything we all believe our current level of technology should allow us to do. It is important that you do exactly what you are doing (OK, one link so you can see a description of the cycle I am referencing).

That cycle is extremely valuable as vets these new products, identifying their weaknesses, shaping their interfaces, determining their value, etc. If you, as an uber-user, who appreciates these new products because you readily see their potential value can’t figure out a freaking need for a product WHO WILL? No one.

PS Keep the FriendFeed fire hose on – I’ve learned more in the past month than in the last 6 combined!

Pssst…Microscopes Weren’t Meant For Star Gazing

June 9, 2008

This isn’t quite finished but what actually ever is? I am becoming increasingly frustrated with a growing number of posts definitively stating what is or isn’t right with FriendFeed or Twitter and how we should or shouldn’t be using these tools. On one hand these are simply more ideas thrown into the mixing bowl – ideas that will help all of us work through a very new set of concepts. On the other hand, as the title of this post suggests, I feel like we have discovered a new planet and are trying to understand its importance by analyzing a 1-inch by 1-inch plot of dirt.

I am quite certain that there will be many that believe I am overstating the importance of the communication shift that tools like FriendFeed and Twitter represent. That is understandable since services like these utilize technologies already in place and familiar to us. (Much like mobile phones were conceptually similar to home phones – but you will be hard pressed to convince me that mobile phones have not had a massive impact on our world.)

In a FriendFeed discussion the other day Alexander van Elsas posited that he wasn’t sure “if we are at the start of a new era of interaction” because “Only the scale differs.” To me – scale is everything.

Why Scale Matters

The central goal of the technologies that have shaped and defined the world we live in has always been to facilitate an expansion of our ability to share information. The innovations that have truly altered the way we communicate have, and always will, be those tools that expand our abilities exponentially.

The shift from ink and quill to fountain pen was surely a welcome change but did it massively alter communication? Of course not. What about the printing press? Technically, the printing press was merely a change in scale wasn’t it? And yet, that change – the ability to make a greater number of copies of a document – completely altered the history of the world.

I believe the concepts represented by applications like FriendFeed and Twitter offer an expansion of our ability to share information that is large enough to again change the world we live in. The contrast of life before and after mass adoption of technologies like these may not be as stark as the before and after periods surrounding the development of the printing press but the impact will be similar. Here is why.

The Inevitable Change

If you were able to create a formula that tracked the speed with which information could be shared that also accounted for the number of people that information could be shared with on average I have no doubt that a graph of communications from the beginning of recorded history would show a constant increase.

I state the obvious to illustrate that a constant, unstoppable force expanding the speed and scope of the dissemination of information has always existed. This is why the concepts of FriendFeed and Twitter will, at some point, inevitably become an intricate part of the fabric of our daily lives.

We have already experienced some seismic shifts in the way we communicate and nothing highlights the impact these changes have had better than blogs. It is hard for us to conceptualize the impact blogs have had because we can’t turn back the clock and replay the last few years without them and, like frogs in a pot of slowly boiling water, the changes seem fairly incremental to us. Even so, the accountability and additional sources of information blogs provide have dethroned a media giant (Rather) and forced corporations and political candidates to take greater care with the public statements they make.

These alterations of the status quo occurred because a wider pool of individuals, each with knowledge and insights unique to them, were able to take a piece of information and add to it. The more this happened, the greater the volume of information shaped the story. Rather and his team had a piece of information, they no doubt sought the input of several others while determining whether and how to share the information and based on pre-blog level of thinking they probably felt pretty good about the evidence they had in hand. The newly expanded scale of individuals who could add their information to the story provided a much different conclusion.

The underlying concepts of emerging social media applications will immensely amplify our access to different sources of information, the speed with which that information can be passed along and the scope of its potential recipients. Take my experience with FriendFeed as an example – through existing communication mediums like email and reading and commenting on blog posts I would NEVER have interacted with any of the people I exchange thoughts with now on a daily basis. If you have had a similar experience, think back over the last month and try and remove EVERY new thing you have learned or opinion that has altered your own thoughts in any way as a direct result of a social media application. While impossible to do it at least gives some sort of idea of what kind of impact the concepts that power these applications will have when mass adopted.

The technology exists to give each of us the ability to share any activity we wish, from any location we choose, with anyone we would like – at this point it just needs to be developed and applied. I firmly believe that the application of those technologies to our daily lives will dramatically change the world we live in – whether we realize it or not.

…but don’t get lost in there

June 4, 2008

I wanted to briefly follow up on yesterday’s post because I get the feeling sometimes that the people instigating and taking part in the social media debates that have become ubiquitous on FriendFeed are unaware of exactly what it is they are participating in.

It is a rare thing to be able to watch a large group change, grow and work through a concept in real time. Many times paradigm shifts can occur at such a slow rate that it is only after they have taken hold that you realize what just took place. I believe we are in the midst of such a shift right now.

It is unlikely that the general public has ever heard of any of the key players. It is also unlikely that they realize that one of the central characteristics of the change underway is that anyone can become part of the process anytime they wish, from anywhere.

Unfortunately, it will not always be this way – but that doesn’t matter. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, technically, services like FriendFeed or Twitter don’t matter either. In my eyes it’s not the interface that is going to impact our world in such a dramatic way, it’s the foundational concepts they are built on. (I am going to follow this post up with some thoughts about why those concepts are so revolutionary, what benefits they will bring and what we will lose along the way)

The eventual death of unfiltered, unfettered social media as we know it right now has been predicted clearly through thoughtful posts like this and this. As much as I wish it were untrue they are right, human nature dictates that a service like FriendFeed will never be widely adopted in its current form.

In a few years, with rare exception, very few of the individuals who are currently central players in many of the discussions taking place on FriendFeed or Twitter will have gained any wide notoriety than they have today (Maybe Scoble will have become the web’s official talk show host by then – sorry couldn’t resist). Social media applications will be scaled down, repackaged and users will enjoy the ability to instantly share and communicate with a vastly smaller universe of individuals with similar interests.

In the meantime I plan on enjoying the ability to interact with an unfiltered universe of individuals who, whether they know it or not, share one thing in common: they are all, in some way great or small, helping shape one of the most powerful shifts in communication in all of history.