Archive for June, 2006
Interesting social engineering experiment from a conference…
You won’t believe it – TechMeme has been hacked. I figured it was just a matter of time before something like this happened, and the Gnomedexers discovered it before anybody else did. If only Gabe was in the crowd, he might have stopped this from happening in the first place. Let’s just see how many people discover TechMeme (formerly Memeorandum) has been hacked this before Gabe does?
Over the past few weeks I have been in some really deep discussions with Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher about his ideas for a New Media Release (aka Social Media Release) format stemming from his widely read Blog post “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!“ Today I am happy to announce that we are going to be moving forward with a community process to create a standard around this idea that will benefit the entire communications and media industry. When Tom announced his plans for moving forward with the new media release format in early June, I was excited to learn that he had solicited the involvement of some of the leading thinkers from top tier communications agencies such as Shift Communications, Edelman and Eastwick. Now that we are launching Social Media Club as a venue for bringing communications professionals together with citizen journalists, professional journalists and tool makers, I am really excited to announce that Tom has asked me to coordinate this all important discussion and attempt to bring everyone together to produce a community standard Microformat.
In addition to bringing my friends from Fleishman Hillard into the discussion, I am bringing over 11 years of new media thinking to the mix along with lots of insights on what I refer to as The Communications Strategy (aka Knowledge Marketing). I agree with much of Richard Edelman’s beliefs about the future of Communications (though I hope we don’t call it PR 2.0) and am looking forward to more discussions with him and other thought leaders over the coming months. In particular, I believe that Communications Professionals are uniquely qualified to lead corporations into this emerging era of social media because they understand the power of words and the power of conversation.
Tom has also introduced me to Jen McClure, founder of the Society for New Communications Research, who is also going to be involved in this process – particularly when it comes time to do some good old fashioned research into how the New Media Release format will actually be used in the real world. Over the past couple of weeks, I have also been speaking with Tantek Celik from Technorati, who is also one of the leaders of the Microformats community about how to best engage in the process of establishing the New Media Release Microformat (proposed name ‘hRelease’). Todd Defren of Shift Communications has done a great job of putting forth a very well-thought out initial template for the “Social Media Press Release” that we can use as the basis for our discussions.
Before I get ahead of myself though, I wanted to say that pretty much everything, including what we call it, is still up in the air – the only thing that is sure is that we will be driving this effort forward as a community process, with no single entity or agency exercising greater influence on the process than another. We will all be peers striving for what’s best for the entire industry – which is ultimately about making an industry standard communications format that every individual and organization can use for sharing information in the spirit that Tom Foremski and Todd Defren have previously proposed.
I have a lot of ideas on how we can move this discussion forward but am still really in a “discuss and decide” mode on most issues – the most important of which are how do we get broader community involvement and how do we avoid the political wrangling that has killed so many other well-intentioned standards efforts in the past. At this point, we have just established an open Google Group for our discussion about the New Media Release forrmat, Tom has set up a Social Text Wiki thanks to Ross Mayfield and our final work product will end up on the Microformats Wiki.
This is not the death of the press release – but it is an opportunity to rethink the traditional press release and improve it in such a way as to improve the quality of journalism across the entire spectrum of media production.
Join our conversation on the New Media Release today.
While I have been thinking about this and talking with many of you about this personally over the past month, we are now moving forward with our plans for re-organizing our efforts with BrainJams and moving forward with Social Media Club. For the last few months, I have been thinking about this matter constantly – trying to tap into my true heart’s desire about what I wanted to do with my time and what purpose I was going to serve in the world with this work. In fact, to give you a real sense of how long I have been thinking about this, I actually registered the Social Media Club domains back in March.
Now things are pretty clear, we are moving out and we will be announcing more about our plans over the coming days. If you want to know more about why we are making this shift and what it really entails, I have a long post over on BrainJams that provides all the details.
There is so much going on lately, it’s hard to know where to start. For once, I will take the simplest approach possible – here is a list of some of the cool events we have in the BrainJams future:
Sunday July 2 930am-1230pm: The morning after Gnomedex in Seattle, WA I am helping Shannon Clark from MeshForum to organize a MeshWalk focused on three very important post conference questions we often don’t have time to consider: 1) What are your big takeaways from Gnomedex? 2) What are you going to do with it? 3) How can we help each other to make it happen? Meshwalk is a walking conference with some occasional stopping points for engaging with other participants in wider conversations. It is a great chance to exercise your body and your mind (and work off the hangover from the night before!)
Thursday July 19 530pm-830pm: Our rescheduled date for the “Rent An Expert” event. Thanks to Joel Sacks from CNet for really stepping up to the plate to obtain approval for us to host the event at CNet’s offices in downtown San Francisco (in the same room where I am writing this post from Bloggercon right now). I will be writing more about this over the next week, but please help us get the word out. If you are trying to learn how to do something with Blogs, Podcasts, Vlogs, Wikis, Photography or other forms of social media tools, come on over to our event Wiki and post a request. Likewise if you want to share your expertise. As Howard Rheingold says, “What it is -> is up to us!”
Thursday August 3 930am-500pm: Our next Bay Area BrainJams event! I have been waiting to announce this for way too long – I am so excited about this BrainJam. We are organizing this day long unconference to bring together Bay Area Social Media and Web 2.0 enthusiasts with members of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation. This is a great opportunity for our BrainJams folks to talk to real people who are doing really great work for their communities around the world and help them understand what is possible with the new world of easy to use Web tools. This event will be held at the Parc 55 Hotel as a pre-conference workshop for the NCDD Conference. Due to the costs of the hotel and the lunch that will be provided, there is a fee of $50 for this event to cover the costs that the conference organizers are incurring. In deference to our prior free events, the organizers are offering a reduced fee for this BrainJam (other workshops are priced at $75). I also have a few free passes for those who are willing to contribute their expertise and lend a hand with the workshop, so call me or write me an email to discuss.
I remember sitting at my Guru Communications desk in Miami Beach seeing the Washington Post come online back in 1996. We were in the height of our frenzied growth and struggling against the five headed monster that was our management team. We had just finished launching Isle Bombardier a couple of months beforehand and we were all talking about how big Media doesn’t get it. But the Post did, and that was surprising and refreshing to see.
Reading the article Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers about the brief history of the Post, I found a few gems that I wanted to share with you.
In particular, this quote from Warren Buffet is extremely relevant to the modern thinking of many of the Web 2.0 startups I know who don’t really have a business model or plan to revenue other than AdSense. I never really understood that form of business model in the early days (which is why I was not able to make Virtual Community Network a big success – I thought we were supposed to try to make money not light it on fire and burn it). While I disagree with the free spending strategy in principle because of the huge risks, I do see how those risks can be mitigated to ensure some modicum of success.
And Kaiser recalls a conversation with Post board member Warren Buffett in which Buffett told Kaiser to stop worrying about the financial side: “There is no case in history of somebody assembling a huge audience and then failing to make money from it,” Kaiser recalls Buffett saying. Washington Post.com – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers
This was the beginning of the “eyeballs” movement – build an audience, make the site sticky and make it viral to grow the audience. I still find it very interesting that today people expect to get to the same “sticky eyeballs” outcome by being “open” and letting their customers easily migrate to competitors. At least today there are standards of quality and methods of understanding audience expectations that make it more possible to create a product/service that really satisfies the needs of the audience.
What really make sense to me in this debate is that it clearly drives competition and motivates organizations with thriving collaborative cultures to make the best possible product in order to prevent people from leaving. It is sort of like an unsatisfied customer relief valve – when the pressure from customers leaving for a competing service get too high, is the company more likely to shut the valve or respond with greater innovation to reverse the flow?
This is seemingly being played out in the Flickr v. Zooomr discussion – especially now since the Flickr Famous Thomas Hawk is going to work for Zooomr. While he says he will still continue to post to Flickr, that does not make sense – he has switched his life to a new photo sharing platform by joining the company, he should make the full commitment to it. While it may be a stab at a brilliant marketing move (keep talking on Flickr about how much better Zooomr is), I feel that such a move is not in the spirit of authenticity that is so prominent in this era of the Web 2.0 Social Contract.
Which brings me back to the brief history of WashingtonPost.com and some of the more recent strategic shifts. To embrace more of the many to many aspects of the covversational Web instead of the one to many model that has been so prevalent for so many years.
In a recent all-company meeting, Caroline Little, WPNI’s chief executive officer and publisher, spoke of recent online innovations. “We set out, very purposefully, about two years ago, to leverage the medium of the Internet, to create more possibilities of conversation and to drive people to come and stay on the site: With blogs, comments on blogs, Technorati [links], comments on articles, a broader and deeper opinion section,” she said. Washington Post.com – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers
I refer to this shift as moving from being the “Town Crier” to becoming the “Town Hall” – moving from the idea of media as voice to the idea of media as place – a venue where the conversation happens. From trying to control the conversation to facilitating it amongst peers. The Post does understand this better than most big media companies, but not completely. They still think the game is about driving people to the site and keeping them there, which is an ad revenue model rather than being a social one. This was further evidenced by their position looking out at the world from inside the organization.
Washingtonpost.com, they realized, wasn’t a completely separate product; it could also help market the larger Washington Post brand. Audience spikes around big news events sent a strong message: Readers yearned for the authority of The Washington Post’s reporting. Washington Post.com – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers
Internet usage always spikes around big news stories – email volume, IM volume, hits to the big authoritative news sites and now so does the amount of stuff people contribute to the conversation through their Blogs, Podcasts and Vlogs. Yes, people need to have a trusted, authoritative voice to turn to, but this is no longer the Post by default. In all fairness, the strategies that the Post has taken are in the right direction. They are willing to experiment a little, they are embracing conversational methods and they have a really bright team of folks working for them.
But the jury on relevance and authoritative voice is still out and probably won’t render its final judgment for another 10 years. Personally, while a track record and brand loyalty is important, I now judge news sources on the merits of each piece they publish. I am just as likely to stumble on a Washington Post story as I am one from the New York Times. What matters most to me now are the filters like TechMeme, TailRank and Digg. Then it comes down to the people I trust and then the organizations. Until I can build a more personal relationship with Post reporters (neither myself or them have the time to do so), I will only have a limited amount of trust that I can give the organization.
This fundamentally misses the most important point, that Greg Narain paraphrases nicely
Is anyone really dealing with the relationship that’s held and the realities of maintaining that connection and loyalty over an extended period of time? Socialtwister 2.0
That is the problem with social media – and that is the opportunity.
This is a great, common sense plain english analysis of what people are watching most on YouTube. It doesn’t hurt that he has an engaging style, looks like Kevin Smith and comes from down under. He also knows how to use minimalist editing for maximum effect. Check it out for yourself.
Update: For some reason this WordPress configuration does not like embedding objects, so click on over to the video instead.
So I have been spending Rails Day trying to learn Ruby programming so I can interface with my programmers and perhaps develop a bit of the code myself. Forgetting the fact that my skills in this arena don’t even include CSS let alone a good working understanding of MVC, things are pretty bumpy. Still, I am going through all the relevant screencasts, guides and tutorials. Perhaps by 9pm tonight I will be able to actually build the program I sketched out last night. If not, at least I have a good base of knowledge for going forward.
I had promised myself I would stay away from learning programming languages, but I am also frustrated by not being able to get simple things done for myself, so I figured I might as well at least invest a few days in seeing how easy it really is. Here is what I have found so far:
- If you often exchange words for one another and don’t have a clear logical approach to follow off of a key, it becomes very difficult to make everything in the code work together without breaking… al lot!
- Configuring the development environment is a real bitch. None of the Mac OS X tutorials had all of the information I needed to know. I had to poke around in different guides, help files and elsewhere just to get the pieces in place so that I could understand what where to even start. Then the tutorial used different line commands than my environment.
- These guys who know what they are doing go way too fast for any Nuby to follow. Ridiculously fast – perhaps because the presentation they were giving was too time constrained. But seriously, would it have been that hard to record another version at a slightly slower speed? Or is this just another tactic to keep more people from learning how to program?
Well, I was able to get the test Blog app up and running, but eventually broke it somehow, even though I followed the steps exactly and double checked the code for syntax or other errors. So I ended up throwing it out. I guess I can try to recreate the whole thing one more time to make sure I follow everything exactly (i renamed a couple of fields for my own usage). For now though, I am going to take a break…
Blogged with Flock
Chris Messina had an interesting post called “The future of open leadership” which I felt compelled to respond to. I generally get where Chris is coming from and agree with a lot of the core stuff (after all, one of my practice areas with Conversal was ‘transforming the heart of business’) but much of the way it is presented and the pervasive anti-establishment perspective does not sit well with me. It seems that many people of late are advocates for throwing the baby out with the bath water – instead of seeing things as they really are, everything is colored by their personal experience and perspective> People are more apt to associate something they dont like (such as the abuse of power) with something funamental (such as leadership) and thinking we need to re-invent the fundamentals. We don’t – we need to help people reach back to their roots and re-introduce the fundamentals as what they really are. Here is my broad sweeping response to his post which I also included in his comments:
My life as a dScribe has really begun. These are the notes I made at the NCDD Pre-Conference planning meeting for folks from the Bay Area. I will be hosting a BrainJams event with them as one of the pre-conference workshops which should be quite enlightening all the way around. I learned a great deal about so many different Dialogue and Deliberation efforts going on around the Bay Area and around the country. Better still, I met some really incredible folks (unfortunately their name’s may be butchered in the map as noted by the (sp) ‘tag’ next to their names).
I have not yet had a chance to clean this up (busy day) or make it pretty, but wanted to get this out sooner rather than later. If anyone has some time to do so, please go ahead and download it, make it pretty and email it back to me so I can replace the file for others…
OK, so many of those need to be deleted still, so perhaps it is about 400-500, but since I have been trying to clean up and process my photos instead of just posting them all as is, it sure is difficult to keep up. Maybe someone can offer services to do photography post production online – perhaps some mechanical turk like service. Regardless of what the tools say they can do, in many instances the auto correct just does not do the best job of improving a photograph.
Does anyone have some hints on how to get all this extra digital production done while still working and having a life? Does anyone know of a service? Does anyone want to start one?
PS – more to come on dScribes later this week (I hope)