New Media Trainee

April 7, 2007

Play Money is Real

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 9:04 pm

        I recently signed up for Second Life and spent a couple of hours flying around, transporting, and reading tons of information on how to acquire wealth and power in the game. Apparently, you buy houses or something and earn Second Life currency. I have to say, it sounded like a colossal waste of time given that I have a full time job, am in grad school, and have 5 dogs to occupy my attention. But, after reading the first half of “Play Money” by Julian Dibbell, at least I now understand the value of these games. It’s amazing to know that online gaming generates more Gross Domestic Product than freaking

            This is not about playing a game. Okay, for some it is still about killing dragons or making friends (community)…but that’s the surface explanation. It’s about money (economics), supply and demand, about those people willing to pay real world money for virtual commodities. The story about BlackSnow having Mexicans in Tijuana performing repetitive tasks to provide commodities for BlackSnow to sell is amazing, regardless of whether it’s true or not. Just knowing that people are using bots to perform menial virtual tasks is innovative. Is it cheating? Using technology to get ahead in this regard is smart. It might be unfair to a guy like Dibbell who is working his ass off, but it’s not cheating.

            So, the ability to make money in virtual worlds is obviously a big time business, and I was surprised to find out that it’s as complex and diverse as the real world economy. The value of gold pieces goes up and down in Ultima Online and Dibbell, who works as a supplier for Bob, has to understand the virtual market to track his earnings. Who knew it was this complicated? Still, I can understand why people do it.

            Virtual worlds provide you with new opportunites to redefine yourself. It’s enriching your life through fantasy and a lot of us do it without investing money. It’s hard to do this in real life. But, in online games, you can try new things and create your own digital life. In fact, in the digital world, you can live multiple lives simultaneously at little risk of consequence in real life. That is, of course, unless you are spending money to build your virtual life. At this point, it can become a job and some people absolutely do this for a living. They sell virtual loot on eBay and if you’re good at it, then you can make enough to quit your day job. It seems having a big mansion online is just as important as having big mansion in real life to some people.

            Chris Anderson would say that the virtual economies on Ultima Online and Second Life or Everquest are part of the long tail. The virtual world has it’s own economy and it is just as complex and fascinating as the real world’s. I can’t wait to read the rest to see how Dibbell does.


April 2, 2007

The Infinite Aisle…

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 8:39 pm

The Infinite Aisle-the last half of The Long Tail by Chris Anderson


I’ve heard it a lot from older people, “The internet is just full of crap.” Hell, even I’ve thought of it in that regard before google search came along. Is there crap in the Long Tail? Duh. Yes, there’s crap in the long tail, but I like how Anderson frames it, “one person’s noise is another’s signal.” The internet, and especially search, has allowed us to filter what’s in the long tail to pull those gems from the garbage dump that is the World Wide Web.

The long tail has given us abundance, choice. I no longer have to pray that the local blockbuster has that movie my punk rock friend (By the way, punk rock in the late 70’s spawned its own long tail in my opinion) recommended is sitting on a shelf. I can order it, or better yet, download it from the web. That’s liberating because we all have niche needs or hobbies or interests we can pursue.

In The Long Tail, Anderson quotes an essay published in the New Atlantis by Christine Rosen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center basically says that all this choice is a bad thing. She states “…these technologies risk making us incapable of ever being surprised.” Anderson disagrees stating that filters and recommendations create the opposite effect. Another great example of this is the jam experiment. Basically, it you’re given a bunch of choices, you’re going to be unsatisfied, but if you’re given those same choices in a meaningful way to select them, then bam, you’re going to be happier with your lemon curd.

I do have to agree with Rosen that we’re not surprised anymore. In fact, I think she says that culture is becoming fragmented (Scary, since I say the same in my previous post only having read the first 6 chapters at that point). But, really, I’m only surprised when I can’t find something on the web. The experience of consuming that niche find, I would argue, is even more enjoyable because it’s what I was in the mood for at the time and I didn’t have to pass the time watching something I didn’t really want to. That’s where I see the advantages of the long tail economy. It’s optimization of our time, rather than a fragmentation.

The  Long Tail is a concept that every other book author on this blog would agree with, at least, in principle. I’m sure there are fine points to argue, but the long tail is applicable in so many ways: Media, Butter, or thumb tacks….there are lots of choices just waiting for our consumption.

March 27, 2007

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Filed under: Long Tail — tenftpole @ 1:02 am

I think it was around 2001 when I thought of buying a couple music CDs I wanted that I previously had on cassette tape. I remember looking at several stores such as Borders and Best Buy, and even going to a used CD shop that specialized in rare finds. Unfortunately, it was a waste of time. The next day I decided to check out Amazon online and sure enough, I found used copies of the CDs I was looking for and had them by post in the next few days. It was gratifying to find exactly what I wanted and to be able to do it from my couch. It has pretty much been that way ever since. It’s easy now to find what was considered rare in my twenties.


The transactions I describe above are exactly the type of commerce that is made possible by digital technologies which have created The Long tail described by Chris Anderson in the book of the same name. eCommerce, made possible by the internet and the evolution of Web 2.0, has brought back ‘niche’ cultures. Niche cultures existed in the 19th century because of geography (every small town had its own culture). Then, in the 20th century, technologies from radio to TV to films brought us the blockbuster hit. Now, the internet has presented us with the ‘niche’ again. However, it’s different this time, because it’s about consumer choices and interests, not geography. We also still have access to the hits if we want them.


What makes it possible is how the internet combined with search and aggregators like Amazon and eBay have made distribution fairly cost free. The service they provide is connecting supply and demand through their services. In other words, it’s easier to connect a potential buyer to a product. Furthermore, because there’s no inventory (this is typically handled by third parties), aggregators can list a product that might only sell 1 or 2 copies a year because it doesn’t cost them to list it.  This is the 98% rule. Anderson discovered when researching digital jukeboxes. 98 percent of the songs sold at least once a quarter and the total profit from all those rare songs were equal to what money the major hits brought in.


Products are part of the long tail, but there is a ton of other cool stuff that’s actually created by users from films to Web 2.0 applications (blogs, freeware, wikis, and peer to peer networking). Take YouTube as an example. It’s now pretty easy to create your own film/video, put it on the web, and let it spread through viral marketing or recommendation based rankings. YouTube even has its own awards now. As technologies improve, I believe that the best of YouTube actually has the possibility of moving into the “hit” portion of the graph associated with the long tail.


Speaking of Web 2.0, Amazon and eBay are deserving of the term web 2.0 as defined by Tim O’Reilly. Web 2.0 uses the web as a platform, and the users add value through production or recommendations. Because of web 2.0, it is no longer the application that everyone wants, but the data. For instance, comparing Google Maps to MapQuest…they both have the same data, but Google Maps allows the user to add points of interest with comments that anyone can see.


I have to admit that when I purchased my CD’s online that I didn’t contemplate any of the above and what it all meant. I just thought it was really cool. It’s hard to think of why digital technologies and Web 2.0 are changing cultures or the way we communicate. But, it’s easy to understand the cool factor.

Anderson really provides a very good general explanation as to why The Long Tail matters. I’m just glad that I don’t have to rely on Casey Kasem to tell me what music is cool anymore or what movies I have to suffer through at the local theatre.

The Long Tail phenomenon made possible by digital technologies has given us all endless consumption based on individual interests whether it’s a movie, song, newspaper, or a particular type of grass seed we can’t get at the local store. Even if it’s crap in someone’s eyes, it’s still there for the one or two people who think it’s gold.


Having recently read Rheingold’s Smart Mobs, I can see a number of parallels between these two books. Primarily, I can see Reed’s law at work. All of this is possible because of the exponential increase of networks which is made possible by technology. Certainly the Long Tail has also resulted as a result of cooperation and reputation, both well covered topics in Smart Mobs.


I learn a great deal from books like these, but the question at the forefront of my mind is how and why will it change our society and culture as it pertains to interpersonal relationships? The ‘good’ thing about so many of us watching the big movie hits is that we can all talk about it and feel we are keeping up with what is going on. Fragmentation is occurring with digital technologies. Our interests are many and we spend more and more time looking at completely different things than our friends and family. I don’t consider this a bad thing. Perhaps it could even make people more interesting. I actually think that the really good stuff in the long tail will make it’s way to be witnessed by significant audience numbers. In the end, the best of the long tail will continue to give everyone something to have in common with a large group of people. To me, it’s the best of both worlds.


March 20, 2007

Smart Mobs, the second half of the book

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 1:35 am

Rheingold begins the second half of Smart Mobs discussing virtual reality, smart rooms, wearable computers which would be location aware. These wearable computers would put electronic overlays on something like a tree and the user could gather information about that specific tree. Kooky…and hopefully far off in the future, because I don’t want to walk around in a world of people with helmets on. As location awareness gets more accurate though, I can imagine that things (landmarks, plants, buildings) will be labeled digitally similar to how they are on google earth.

I’m more intrigued by the idea of smart rooms which react to you. It would be cool to move around a building and be able to access your desktop on whatever monitor you wanted to. I could imagine being in a kitchen and putting a product on the counter…a computer would recognize the ingredient by barcode or RFID and suggest recipes.


Regardless of where this technology takes us, Rheingold makes a convincing argument that reputation is still going to be a major factor in the future of technology as it applies to things like commerce. Rheingold says “reputation marks the spot where technology and cooperation converge (p.114). He uses eBay as the present example of how reputation works. People who sell on eBay get buyer feedback and if the feedback is good, they can become power sellers. If you haven’t used eBay before, this is often a major consideration before buying an item. You want to make sure you’re going to get what you pay for from the seller. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t get ripped off, but if a person has a low rating, you may think twice before dealing with them. When the consumer has input into a merchant’s reputation status, it’s a good thing for other consumers. I think this would be great for mechanics or plumbers…people who sometimes rip us off.


Of course, a lot of this won’t happen unless we can achieve a public commons wireless network available to everyone. Unfortunately, the
US has sold so much of the spectrum bands to telecommunication companies and others who have invested millions of dollar its future. There is an argument that Rheingold illuminates which argues that there should be an open spectrum, but regulated devices similar to the internet. I can see why companies who have invested millions in the development and infrastructure would not want to cease control of these spectrums.


But, I can also see the potential of smart mobs to do even greater things in the future with an open spectrum and “wireless blanket” throughout a city. Rheingold uses the examples of the World Bank Protest and the overthrow of Estrada in the Phillipines. These were primarily successful because of mobile phones. Imagine the future with a 3G, mobile web mobile. Imagine working for an advocacy campaign, developing a web 2.0 application that allows people on your listserv to receive a letter to their congressman that they could sign and send from their mobile to advocate an issue. It’s a boring example, but one in which I could envision smart mobs improving democracy.


Speaking of democracy, how are we going to insure that we maintain our privacy. Are we trading or privacy for the convenience or entertainment technology gives to us? Personally, I don’t think we are, but it’s a risk that many of us take each day. Some people argue that because of current technologies, that we no longer have privacy. I think that’s an ignorant argument. It’s one thing if you give away your right to privacy, but quite another if it’s taken from you without your knowledge. Policy advocates are going to need to inform legislation to protect the privacy of individuals. That’s one of the major solutions.


Overall, I like this book and the cool factor of all the upcoming technologies. My primary concern though is how we communicate with each other. What will these technologies do to our interpersonal relationships? We already stare into our Blackberries or mobiles at church or in meetings at work. Rheingold brings up a great point about how these types of behaviors effect eye contact. Eye contact is important in our culture. Good eye contact communicates trust. As a society, we’re already beginning to forgive people who talk on their mobile in the middle of a busy restaurant. We’re becoming desensitized to it to a degree and perhaps that’s how we’ll continue to evolve, but I think that would be a shame.



March 13, 2007

Smart Mobs….

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 1:51 am

My head hurts after reading the first three chapters of Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs. It’s pretty much like taking a sip out of a fire hose. However, it’s exactly the type of terminology and theories I need to know to understand why social networking and the resulting smart mobs that result from it are reshaping our societies on a global level.


If I can use my mobile in the future to look for restaurants in an unfamiliar neighborhood or buy a soda from a vending machine without putting in money, then that’s changing life as I know it. I’m not sure I can even contemplate all the implications. If you take into account Moore’s law, then anything in the future is possible (brain chips, insanely small cameras that big brother could use to spy on us, or AI holograms that appear on your car dashboard for directions and much more. It seriously reminds me of the movie “Demolition Man” that starred Sylvester Stallone. Everything was automated and sterile. I’m not sure that we’re not heading down that road and I can’t say it’s bad, just different. I can only imagine that in the next century, neo-Luddite groups will begin to grow because of these powerful technologies . 



The important thing Rheingold points out is that it’s not about building the tools, but what people use those tools to do. He really delves deeply into this concept in Chap 2 where he presents the idea of collective action, illustrating how cooperation is evident: from social networks to our own genetic material. Sure, there will always be free riders, but Rheingold also presents a lot of evidence, especially in Chap 3, that there are just as many contributers.


He also presents a number of theories, including game theories, that will help researchers to understand group behaviors (reciprocity, cooperation, reputation) which may emerge from smart mob technologies. This is important because we should really try to understand the ethical, legal, and social implications of any technology before it is full blown so that we can make the proper policy decisions and take better advantage of the benefits these technologies offer. I believe the Human Genome Project is a good model for this concept.


One example is the privacy dilemma presented by the mobile internet which would rely on GPS in 3G mobile phones as well as the trail being left on the mobile network. I think John Batelle, who wrote The Search, could see a number of parallels with privacy arguments as they pertain to google. I think the mobile internet presents even more scary privacy scenarios due to the fact that it would be used more like a remote control and a person would use it to make many personal revealing decisions. Where they eat, where they’ve been….Google has nothing on privacy compared to the mobile internet.

Another issue Rheingold writes about in Smart Mobs is peer to peer and distributed computing. This is where he tries to show how cooperation is occurring through social networking and the internet. You can donate your computer’s idle time to contribute it’s power to finding extraterrestrial intelligence or to crunch life science data to identify new drugs. There are a dozen other instances he mentions. That’s a powerful idea, because a person can do something fairly simple, but through social networking, it has a major impact in contributing the computer power needed to crunch some of the world’s biggest problems. Of course, Rheingold also talks about the fall of Napster by those who control the internet and can decide what you can or can’t use it for. The internet was created to benefit everyone, but corporations saw the value in it. It’s analogous to what Music Television did to music in the 80’s. They ruined it to some degree by exploiting it. Thank God for freeware and web 2.0. I think that will help give the internet back to the people on some level.

I can’t help but be a bit more optimistic about the future after reading Smart Mobs, and I really understand how it all started after reading The Cathedral and Bazaar by Eric Raymond. It is the story of Linux. Batelle talked about it in his book. It’s really the idea of using people who are computer literate as a talent pool to improve things on the internet. In the early days, it was email programs, but now you can see it in thing like Wikipedia. It’s collaboration on a large level. With Unix, it was a few programmers working to get things perfect, while Linux was all about releasing early and often even if the program contained a few bugs. At least you knew someone out there was smarter than you and could hack on the problem. The story of Linux explains everything we use and do on the internet. It also is responsible for the virtues of open source.  Linus Torvald deserves a Nobel prize, though I’m sure a lot of people despise him for giving so much away for the public good.

March 6, 2007

Google Taking Over the World…

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 4:23 pm

Chap 7. begins with a sad story about a gentleman named Neil Moncrief who sold large shoes via an e-commerce business that depends heavily on search. Unfortunately, Google made a tweak to its algorithm in 2003 and Moncrief’s listing fell to the fiftieth page. He lost most of his business for months until he was basically forced to buy adWords from Google. Bummer for him, but that’s what happens when you throw all your cards in one pile. What this story does tell me is how important search’s impact is on global commerce.

Battelle also describes a hypothetical scenario of TV and search linking to bring a person custom advertising based on the history of their search and TV habits. I believe that this is realistic scenario. It’s already happening with Ad/Words Sense by Google. I click on ads a lot more than I have in years past to find products I’m searching for and it generally works for me. Local search is another natural extension for Google to generate even more revenue based on customers intents. Battelle also suggests that the future for google is to sell music, television episodes, movies, etc. They’ve already launched a free software suite (cheaply priced for businesses) to compete against Microsoft’s office package, and they are even taking on You Tube with google video. I can only imagine that iTunes is next.

After all, now that Google is an IPO, there’s even more reasons for Page and Brin to generate more revenue….in comes
China. Google’ search is now available to a billion more people, but has limited its search engine per the Chinese government. It was smart if you ask me. This insures that they have a future in
China, along with Yahoo and Microsoft which have also made the jump. It’s  a major sellout for the company, but Chinese people need google too even if it’s government regulated.

I love Google. I love their products. I can’t say enough good things about them. But, here’s the thing: They’re HUGE and they’re RICH. They are yielding a ton of power with all that information and money. What happens if they meet the goal of IBM’s WebFountain to improve our pursuit towards the perfect search? Holy google bots, Batman!! Battelle says Google continues to fail at failing but it’s going to happen sooner or later. I can only imagine that it’s going to happen as a result of goverments getting together in some way to force them to give access to their databases of intent. That scares the bejesus out of me.

Thank God they didn’t give into the DOJ subpoena in 2005. It would be  Mcarthyism all over again.

Perhaps I’m a bit paranoid, but history has funny way of repeating itself. For now, I believe that Google is still not evil and that the good they do outweighs the bad. Thanks to John Battelle for taking what could have been a horrifically boring topic and turning it into an enjoyable and educational read.

February 27, 2007

Naked Conversations, part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 5:23 pm

In the first half of Naked Conversations, Scoble and
Israel sing the praises of blogs.
There are obviously a number of good reasons for businesses to blog. However, in the second half of the book, Scoble and Israel also argue that some businesses and their employees should not blog. These include companies that are restrictive in their cultures or handle sensitive information that should not be in the blogosphere. They also address the time it takes to blog and respond to comments as the ‘dark’ side of blogs.

Scoble and Israel admit that reasons not to blog are pretty self-evident. Thankfully, they also give practical advice for those who want to blog. Most importantly, they recommend that blogs should be authentic, and not be written as if you’re an advertising executive or marketer. Of course, there are some blogs like Captain Morgan, that are written as a character which people know isn’t real that have seen some success.

They also give a number of tips. They discuss how to name a blog so that it is opitmized and can be identified on search engines. Posts should be simple and focused while demonstrating passion and authority. Since blogging is considered a conversation, bloggers should allow comments and be accessible to their audiences. It can’t be one-sided or readers may lose interest. Ultimately, a blogger has to tell a story. If it’s boring, then it will show. The guidelines presented in Scoble’s Weblog Manifesto are good advice for beginner bloggers like me.


Lastly, Scoble and Israel discuss new media technologies that are changing how consumers receive information. RSS and videocasts, among others, allow us to receive hundreds of updates on the topics we subscribe to, rather than searching individual web pages. It certainly is a time saver.


I thought the advice Scoble and Israel gave in the last half of their book was good and I think there are many bloggers out there who need to read this book. There are a lot of useless blogs out there which claim to be an authority on a topic. I’m unsure whether or not many bloggers realize that it is the conversation that is more important than the post. Ultimately, that’s what this book is about, open and honest conversations that are revolutionizing the future of business. Businesses, if they want to remain successful, will have to do a good job of communicating and listening to their customers.

February 20, 2007

Don’t Be Evil….

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 8:24 pm

The Search by Jon Battelle

I often take my Google search box for granted, but reading the first six chapters of “The Search” by Jon Battelle reminded me how much I depend on this powerful tool in my daily life at work and at home. I remember in 2002 discovering GoogleNews. It made by pr job 10 times easier. While Yahoo! and others may have a search function, it just hasn’t been as good to me as Google’s. Batelle’s premise that Google is jacked into our culture absolutely resonated with me. It’s an historical archive of humanity, as we pour our hopes, fears, and intentions into Google, and he’s right.


When Larry Page started the “Backrub” project along with Sergey Brin, as graduate students at Stanford U., not even they could have predicted that a search tool based on citation and annotation, rather than crawling for text on a web page, could change how we connect to knowledge on the internet. Of course, this method rubbed a few people the wrong way. Battelle writes of one Web master who ran an award winning civil war site being upset because his Web site didn’t rank high as a result of a search on Google. Perhaps it would have on AltaVista or other early search engines. Ironically, soon after, most Web sites were obsessed with gaining the Google juice to rank high enough on Google.


Of course, Google didn’t change the world all by itself. Batelle does a good job of filling in the history of the search function and some of the lesser known people involved who helped in the evolution of the function. Bill Gross, known for his brain children and IdeaLab, may not have been as successful as Google, but certainly his strategy of arbitrage to sell “click” ads online was revolutionary. Page and Brin have tweaked Gross’s business plan to make Google a $3 billion a year business. There have been a lot of good attempts to do what Google has accomplished, but in the end, Google is successful because it works. As Batelle says in Chap 1, Google is the closest thing we have to answering the question, “What do people want?”

Google is also successful because it has incorporated things like blogger, google maps, picaso, Google scholar, Google Earth, and other web 2.0 applications that are cool and work well. I can’t imagine, in the next 5 to 10 years, that any company is going to improve much on what Google has accomplished. Even though Page and Brin are micromanagers, Google is definitely working. As the CEO of Yahoo!, Mr. Srinivasan saidI don’t find it surprising that there are people in
Silicon Valley who don’t appreciate Google or how they operate. I attribute it to jealousy. Batelle sums up Page and Brin’s legacy best. Google’s founders have “fundamentally changed the relationship between humanity and knowledge (p.66).”

Loose thoughts…

So, if blogging is changing the business world by creating conversations between consumers and businesses, as suggested by Scoble and
Israel in Naked Conversations, then Google has provided us with the ultimate tool to track those conversations. Oh, and they acquired Blogger which must help to some degree. Is Google the next Microsoft? Not in my eyes, because their products are FREE and they actually work. I was so impressed by The Search, that I even trolled around Google and eventually customized my own Google home page. They have even more cool widgets than I knew about.

–Geoff Spencer, Google maniac.

February 13, 2007

Naked Conversations and a glass of google juice, please.

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 7:19 pm

Naked Converstions by Scoble and Israel shows how blogging is changing the world of business. There are insightful interviews with business people, from CEOs to a t-shirt maker in France which illustrate how blogs are changing interactions with the media, customers, as well as how PR is practiced . For a long time, businesses have used one-way communications (ads, press releases, etc.), to connect with the public, but in the era of consumer choice, it’s becoming more difficult to reach target audiences using these traditional means. Scoble and Israel suggest that the answer is blogging because they facilitate conversations with customers. These conversations not only build trust and improve reputations of companies, but have very practical uses, such as taking advantage of your customer’s collective knowledge to improve products.


One of the most interesting examples of how blogs have improved reputation is the case of Microsoft, known as the “evil empire.” Joshua Allen was the first Microsoft employee to start a blog in 2000. Microsoft at the time had a horrible reputation and was getting horrible publicity. Allen remembers, “I wanted to say that I am a Microsoft person and you can talk with me (p. 11).” Now, there are 1,500 employees blogging and Microsoft’s reputation has improved because of it, in addition to Gate’s philanthropic generosity. Blogs have allowed Microsoft to show its humanity through conversations with customers. It shows just how powerful blogs can be. Their Channel 9 video blog which has unedited interviews with employees is another cool way of communicating with their customers. Another great example of how blogs can improve a small business and improve sales is that of Mahon, a Savil suit tailor. He started a blog about tailoring and his writing exuded his passion for suit making. His business skyrocketed, because he connected with those customers who appreciated his passion, and his technical detail to his craft. What better way to market your product than to write about it, and it’s free. No marketing required!!!!


Scoble and Israel suggest CEOs of companies would be wise to join in the revolution. They claim it’s the best way to address criticisms of your company and to thank people for their praise. Take the media for example. A lot of CEOs have been frustrated with the media because of inaccurate stories or bias. A CEO with a blog can tell their side of the story in their own voice and with instant feedback from the community. General Motor’s Bob Lutz says “blogs can be…an equalizing force when dealing with media criticism.” A profound thought.


As a pr dude, I think this book should be a wake up call for any of us in pr who are still practicing “command and control” public relations. Scoble and Israel’s messages about the value of blogs can be utilized by many fields, but I think pr is especially relevant here. PR is all about messages and reputations. We’re losing control of the message because consumers have more choices and there always seems to be an alternative product. I’m not saying that blogs are the only answer for the future of pr, but they should be considered as a tactic, a valuable tool, to include in any strategic communications plan.


We can no longer shoot out press releases and expect to reach a majority of the target audience. We must use blogs or approach bloggers to post our information in order start conversations with our potential customers or constituents. It’s important though, that we don’t look at a blogger the same as a journalist. We can’t pitch them news releases and think they’re going to post them. We have to be open and honest. It’s a paradigm shift, no doubt. We are opening ourselves to criticism and releasing control of the message in some respects. But, in the end, the future of business is going to be about relationships and transparency. My advice, don’t be the middle man, be the facilitator of these conversations. Yes, it takes a lot of time to blog, but I think it’s worth it. You’ll gain a lot more than you lose.


Dan Gillmor, author of We The Media, would appreciate this book. It repeats a lot of what he says, but it is applied outside the world of journalism. He may even agree that blogs are currently having an even more powerful impact on businesses. Gilmore’s book really showed the potential uses of blogs and gave some initial examples of how they were being used in 2004, and Naked Conversations, published 2 years later, provides us with even more examples of the power of blogs. I think all three authors would agree that everyone should blog and blog often. We are all thirsty for “google juice.”


February 6, 2007

Dan Gillmor’s “We The Media”

Filed under: Uncategorized — tenftpole @ 1:39 am

This is a great read for those who have read blogs and maybe even subscribed to podcasts or real simple syndication, but have yet to think about how these tools have empowered the consumer or are changing the future of news as we know it. Technologies such as the ones above, suggests Gillmor, as well as SMS, mail lists and forums, chat rooms, Wikis, and even camera phones, are changing the way audiences, journalists, newsmakers, and governments communicate and share knowledge, from one to many, to many to many.

For instance, these tools have allowed the audience to now become participants and given consumers the power of personal choice. We no longer have to rely on just Big Media for the news, but can supplement it with these tools. We can read a paper and blogs online, while listening to a radio feed. Gillmore uses the example of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The media covered the story well, but people also learned other information through emails, chat rooms, and blogs. The audience can now play the role of the journalist or editor, writing about the news, or sorting and book marking the news of the day. Of course, I agree with Gillmore that these tools should not be confused as substitutions for the accuracy and thoroughness of journalism.

Others can also benefit: journalists and media organizations can use their own blogs to receive feedback on their stories allowing the audience to become contributors of new facts and context, while businesses can even track consumer reactions to improve upon their strategies and development of products. Gillmor uses the example of Jane’s Intelligence Review posting an article on Slashdot and allowing members of that online community, who knew the topic, to react to it. The article was then rewritten based on the edits and comments.

Governments can take advantage of the tools as well, by creating a feedback loop to allow their constituents to participate like never before. Even better, citizens can use these tools to put those who govern them in check. In Chapter 5, Gillmor uses the example of a million citizens in the Philippines using text messaging to arrange a meeting place for overthrowing a corrupt government. It’s just one example of how powerful these tools are.

Gillmor also discusses a potential dark side of the available technologies. Governments in countries such as China, want to limit the flow of or censor information and the entertainment industry wants to protect their bottom line and copyrights by preventing peer to peer file sharing. These are issues that, as consumers of the web, we should all pay attention to in order to protect our first amendment rights. Gillmor also discusses the potential for anarchy and unreliable information being spread on the web. Gillmor argues that the web is self-correcting. There is no better example of this than what occurred on the National Institue of Drug Abuse’s Wikipedia entry. Apparently, someone with an IP address originating at NIDA edited and erased a large part of the NIDA wiki entry and replaced it with a press release. However, Wikipedia determined it to be vandalism and changed the entry back to the original. See, I’m sure NIDA had the best intentions, but it also supports Gillmor’s argument that the web community can act as a truth squad and this is a beautiful thing in my opinion. Thankfully, I was reading the book at the same time I saw this story and it put a lot of this into perspective for me. Dan Gillmor should be awarded for tackling a complex and timely subject, but for also making his book available for free online.

The only thing I disagree with Gillmor on is that he states more than once that press releases are obsolete and that pr people are manipulative. Yes, journalists receive a million of them each year, but with a mountain of information to sift through, I believe that a release from a trusted source is still valuable to a journalist. Perhaps the key is that it has to be from a trusted source. I’m obviously a pr person and I agree that pr has a bad rap, but my own experiences, both through education and mentoring, have led me to practice pr in an open and truthful way. I hope Gillmor can learn to appreciate the role of the pr professional in the news process too.

Geoff Spencer

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