Shannon’s Corner

My Conversation on Social Media

The “People Powered Politics” Train Has Left the Station

The thing that struck me most when reading Garrett Graff’s The First Campaign was how he put together the pieces of the technological landscape beginning with Dave Hughes in 1965, through his experiences with Howard Dean and up to today.  He makes a powerful argument for all Americans – not just politicians – that the world as we know it has changed because of the internet and the sooner we understand and embrace it, the better. 

Some of the consequences we have seen have been internalized mostly as pieces of this new tech landscape.  But when we look at all the pieces collected together by Graff, we see the full scope and power of online conversations. Graff demonstrates that the internet allowed The Drudge Report in 1998 to break the Monica Lewinsky scandal, bloggers to report on then senate majority leader Trent Lott’s 2002 comment at Senator Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, and the 2006 video of Senator George Allen’s racist remark to a University of Virginia student posted on YouTube for thousands of viewers.

Graff also points out Governor Dean, or rather, Dr. Dean’s rise in 2003 to demonstrate another side of the power of the internet. Utilizing the internet for grassroots fundraising as never done before, Dean raised a record $7.6 million in contributions from 73 thousand people with an average contribution of $112 in just one quarter.  In July 2006 progressive bloggers teamed up with Ned Lamont to launch a fierce campaign against Connecticut’s Senator Joe Lieberman and his increasingly conservative views.  The result? Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic primary and was forced to run as an independent to maintain his senate seat.  This situation was a far cry from just six years prior when he ran on the Vice Presidential ticket with Al Gore!

News online used to mean either a mainstream news organization’s website or gossip. Now, Graff writes “ordinary people were stepping into the space” and thanks to the internet, politics is again “people powered.”  He further writes that “nine out of ten Americans believe that if we fail to innovate, our economy and our children will be left behind in the twenty-first century.” Graff highlights this statistic to drive home his message that we are at a critical time in history when life and times are moving at such a rapid rate that if we don’t keep up, there will be painful consequences.

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July 25, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Nuts About Southwest Blog

This blog won the 2007 PR News Platinum PR Award for their ability to allow customers a glimpse of the company, the employees and their corporate culture. Southwest Airlines (SWA) Blogger Brian Lusk says they call it their “blog 2.0 site.” 

I have been a fan of Southwest Airlines since 2002.  I fly them often and almost always enjoy speedy service, on time departures, friendly customer service agents and flight attendants who sometimes sing or at the very least tell a joke or two.  (Remember the one that goes something like this – in the event of a loss cabin pressure, oxygen masks will be released overhead.  If you’re traveling with a child or someone who is acting like a child, please secure your mask first and then assist them. LOL – that’s good stuff – see…it sticks with you!)

Anyway, it’s a great blog because employees and customers interact in much the same way as they do on their planes.  Thinking back to those first few flights ever taken on SWA, their whole style of interaction took me by surprise.  I was used to boarding at the appropriate time, taking my assigned seat and then sitting back without another word unless it was time to select a beverage.  SWA changed all that.  There was dialogue at the boarding process, lining up, jokes on the plane, free drink coupons and a card for your birthday.  That’s similar to the conversation you’ll find on their blog.  It’s filled with information about the blog itself, latest news, interviews, videos, podcasts, photos, services and special offers.  They even have a poll each week where customers can vote on a particular topic and see the results the following week.  Last but not least, they of course link you back to be able to book a flight to your desired destination.

SWA’s “Nuts About Southwest” blog is just what you’d want to find – it’s fun, interactive and filled with useful information.

July 24, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My First Wikipedia Success

Last month’s Wikipedia assignment was a challenge to say the least.  I didn’t expect to have a successful entry but I did commit to following the rules and doing my best to share an important piece of information.  As our class draws to an end, I wanted to share that Wikipedia’s U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) page was detailed and of course, accurate, but missed one important piece — the official role spouses play within the USMC. The Key Volunteer Network  provides a valuable service to our Marines and they are now recognized by Wikipedia.  Check it out!

July 23, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Voicemail or Email?

themachineisus raises a great point about the speed of our society today with his blog post “the voicemail is dead.”  themacineisus references Michael Arrington’s post on TechCruch arguing that voicemail is outside our workflow and then offers his own personal insight sharing names of services that are trying to make voicemail more efficient.

Sometimes, I think that you just do need to leave a message — a REAL message.  However, I generally agree with themachineisus and Arrington.  Do we really need or have the time to play back a message that just says “call me”? Obviously someone knows you want to talk when they see the caller ID. Isn’t that a sign that someone wants to speak with you?  And if I have a quick question and busy at work, yes, I usually leave my email address.  It’s faster and I don’t have the write down the information on a piece of paper.  It’s already on the email message that I can print, save or forward on to someone else.  All of this is much faster than a phone call or worse, playing phone-tag.  In fact, now that I think about it, I spend more time emailing my family than I actually do on the phone. Oh and speaking about family, you can forget about phone calls in general with your teenage nieces and nephews – it’s strictly text only.

Perhaps I’ll look into services such as GrandCentral mentioned by themachineisus and help him get this movement along.  Don’t worry, we will not be exchanging voicemails.  We already know what we’re talking about so I’ll check out his Facebook page and we’ll email instead.

July 21, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Doctors Online

Recently I read ateedub’s blog posting on “Healthcare Delivery in the Internet Age” and found the discussions fascinating and inspiring.  Let me just say right now that I completely agree with ateedub.  I too am waiting for a change in healthcare.  Not only do I believe all Americans should have access to healthcare but I also praise Dr. Ben Brewer’s efforts to establish an online doctors office.  It’s disappointing that his site, the Forest Family Practice, will go dark at the end of the month because it was not embraced by patients in his rural Illinois community.

Just think of how this could change all our lives.  If your child is sick in the middle of the night and you can simply go online, email Dr. Brewer your child’s symptoms, receive instant feedback and a prescription that is already being called in to your local pharmacy – wouldn’t you pay $30?  What if you could save yourself a phone call to make an appointment, the gas and parking to get to the appointment, the lobby wait and time off from work?  What if you’re home and the last thing you want to do is get out of bed but have the option to choose communicating with your doctor online via skype?  It is worth the $30 to me!

Ateedub is right in that we need to know more about this story. Maybe the testing location of Forrest, IL wasn’t the best choice but I don’t see how patients weren’t interested. This is definitely revolutionary and I commend ateedub for bringing this into our class conversation.  The opportunities for a virtual doctor office seem limitless and beneficial to everyone involved – doctors, patients and the insurance companies.  Doesn’t the saying go – time is money?

July 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

The Cookie Monster?

While reviewing the potential dangers to internet safety, it naturally led me to consider our individual internet security. 

 

Earlier this month, Facebook and Google testified before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee regarding Privacy Implications for Online Advertising.  The hearing discussed whether or not internet users’ privacy rights are compromised when “cookies” are collected.  Cookies or online tags are placed by advertisers on a computer’s hard drive and then it tracks and records the searches of the user.  The debate involves whether or not Congress, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should enact rules on how this information is gathered and used.

 

On the one hand, Google argues that now online ads are targeted to specific users already identified as interested and therefore more helpful to both advertisers and the user.   On the other hand, users need to understand that their personal search data is being collected and stored – often without their consent. To those who think the search data is harmless, the FTC’s Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, Lydia Parnes, raised a dramatic example at the hearing. In 2006 an employee of AOL made public the search records of some 658,000 internet users and the New York Times was able to identify a vast majority of those people based on the search information released.

 

Is this information collecting simply part of searching the internet and do we, as participants in the online community, understand and accept this?  Or, are online advertisers internet “peeping toms” and should users have the ability to turn this data collection on or off as we see appropriate?

 

It seems to me that while we want to continue e-commerce growth and maintain a free and democratic internet, users need to be made aware of the complete picture involving online advertising.  Without the consumers full consent, we lose control of how our own personal information is used in the future.  While we may be targeted with user specific ads today, where does this information go tomorrow?  Is it sold to the highest bidder for something else?  How will we know without some kind of user guidelines?  Shouldn’t we know or do we already accept some loss of privacy when we log on to the internet and join the online community?  Before it’s too late, I think we need more on and off-line discussions about this issue.

July 19, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Our Internet Safety Responsibility

The opportunities for social media and the internet have grown so much and so fast that in the process, we may be overlooking some serious dangers.  

 

Early concerns with the internet involved violence and pornography, online chat rooms and then it extended to social media websites for both teens on MySpace and tweens on Webkinz.  Abuse has been brought to light with tragic suicides such as those of 13-year-old Ryan Patrick Halligan, 12-year-old Brandon Myers and 13-year-old Megan Meier.  All were victims of online bullying. 

 

Further concerns for many parents involve their children and MMORPG addictions.  It often begins with a few hours after school and missing dinner but can lead to more serious problems of failing grades and dropping out of school. 

 

In a recent May issue of U.S. News & World Report, Jennifer Seter Wagner wrote about the growing occurrence of on-line gaming addictions.  The Entertainment Software Association reports that “software sales jumped 28% last year to $9.5 billion … 9 games were sold every second of the year and 92% of children under the age of 18 play regularly.” While the growth of the internet connects children and adults alike to vast amounts of information never before available, these statistics also hint at what can happen when you have most anything that develops at an extremely rapid rate and you fail to keep up – abuse, neglect or addiction. 

 

Currently the American Psychological Association doesn’t recognize game addiction and therefore, there are no national guidelines for therapy.  Until this is reviewed in 2012, pathological video and computer play will be viewed as a “behavioral addiction” much like compulsive shopping.

 

The Center for Internet Addiction Recovery gave U.S. News & World Report some warning signs such as:

         fantasizing or talking about game characters of missions when offline

         lying about hiding how much time is spent playing or disobeying parental limits

         losing interest in sports and hobbies

         continuing to play despite failing grades

Organizations such as On-line Gamers Anonymous, Center for Internet Addiction Recovery, Aspen Education Group and Smith & Jones Center have emerged to help deal with this growing problem in our society today.

    

The internet has been revolutionary and filled our lives with vast amounts of information and access.  There is no doubt that the internet is something that will only continue to expand but with this growth, however, we also have to accept that it is our collective responsibility to help users deal with potential abuse and harmful personal addictions.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 2 Comments

“Transparent, Vulnerable and Empathetic”

These three words are the credo of veteran television correspondent turned multimedia reporter Kevin Sites.  Regardless of what you may like or dislike about the content of his work, I think his credo provides insight into the new world of media we find ourselves.  He says we should be “Transparent, in that we tell people what we do and how we will do it. Vulnerable, in that we are human and we know we will make mistakes. And empathetic, in that whether we agree with our sources or not, we will treat them with respect.”

Mr. Sites’ philosophy sounds right. Although I imagine there are times, especially with much of the world at war or in conflict, where abiding by these three words can be a challenge for both those reporting and those receiving that news.

On the one hand, new media allows us an in-depth look at what it means to be “on the ground.”  We have come to expect transparency in the real time footage of war with both its struggles and successes. The use of new media and the formation of milblogging has never been done before and while we are eager for information, we may also want to box it up and put it away for later.  The realities of war are hard to deal with and it is also hard to admit we are all vulnerable.  

In WWII, you got a telegram once every few months and maybe you had a general idea of where your service member was and what they were doing.  Now, we see it, hear it and feel it both from the news and directly from them … in real time phone calls, video phone calls, emails, blogs, social networking sites or video.

 

Day-to-day I wonder, do Americans see too much of it now and so don’t care to be reminded every day?  Do we still have the empathy within us to see yet another story on the war and feel connected to family, friends, loved ones and our fellow Americans far from home?  Or do we have so much empathy that at some point we can’t take in any more “on the ground news” from the world of new media?

July 16, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

New Uses (to me) of Technology in Kenya

This week our Social Media class assignment challenged us to review a country on Global Voices and listen to what the blogging community had to say. I started looking at Kenya and found myself excited with the various conversations taking place and in particular, those surrounding technology uses in their county.

 

Overall, Global Voice Kenya discussions fell into three categories: social, political and technology and marketplace.  Socially, bloggers introduced conversations on women, marriage and relationships.  Politically, the landscape included discussions on their new cabinet, the results of their recent presidential elections and the power sharing deal Kofi Anan helped to broker. Of course, Barack Obama running for president in the U.S. also has the attention of Kenyans with the bloggers calling him “Kenya’s most favorite son”.

 

But what I found really creative in the blog world was Kenya’s technology use and activism. For example, digital technology in Kenya is being used to help laborers find jobs by texting mobile subscribers daily updates of specific locations and work available.  This saves workers time and money that they would have otherwise spent traveling distances from place to place in search of work.  Mobile phones are also being used to advocate for their environment.  In Kenya, local communities and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) are often at odds because of elephants that leave the forest and wreak havoc on farmlands now found close to their habitats. Previously, with no system in place to warn other farmers of an elephant stampede, farmers would scream and beat metal tins.  To elephants, however, this sounded like gunshots and only led to further chaos. Now, farmers can communicate using technology that combines the services of a mobile phone and walkie-talkie to alert each other and KWS. Kenyans have also developed ways to strengthen e-commerce by creating their Digital Villages Project that facilitates access to government and business services.  Digital villages are revolutionizing rural communications by helping entrepreneurs start up or manage their businesses from wherever they are.  It even assists victims of crime by eliminating the need to travel to Nairobi and often times, deal with corrupt government officials who will solicit a bribe from the victim before any transaction. 

With these new approaches to technology, it is clear that Kenyans are given new power to effect change and improve their lives.  Kenyans are empowered and furthermore, technology events throughout Africa are being held to broaden their scope and effectiveness throughout various countries.

July 12, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the City — Is the Fare Fair?

Washington DC taxi cabs seem to be charging increased fares not so much based on the new meter but rather personal discretion. 

A few months ago, taxis went from zones to metered fares.  I ride the same route a minimum of four times each week.  I followed the meter vs. zones debate and like others, expected good things.  Of the many expected positive outcomes, Andrew Sullivan’s The Daily Dish wrote that he expected to “rarely have trouble finding a cab” and I agree that is an accurate assessment.  I don’t have trouble finding a cab…I have trouble finding a good one.

For the record, I absolutely don’t mind squaring things up for taxi drivers.  If they should earn a larger fare for a particular route then by all means, I will and should pay the increase.  However, what I have noticed instead is that a taxi ride pre-meter used to be simple exchange of goods and service.  By that I mean that I would sit, they drive, and I pay (of which I knew the cost before I got in the car). Now, times are different.  I must remain vigilant, alert and engage not only with the driver but also the traffic around us.  Many taxis (not all) have suddenly “misunderstood” my address which, if you’re not paying attention, translates to several additional blocks worth of driving that you have to pay for.  I’ve also had drivers during rush hour take routes that in the days of pre-meter, they would have never dreamed of taking.  I’ve had taxis drive well under the speed limit on both local streets and the Rock Creek Parkway who suddenly don’t know their way or have a map handy. I’ve even had drivers that claim not have $5 to give back to me when I pay with a $20 bill.  To me that seems about as far-fetched as you coming to my office, asking for a memo and having me tell you that I have no computer. Isn’t there something off here?

Now since I have had at least two or three drivers do a stellar job of navigating the city streets, I know the real cost of my ride. (to those of you who are curious, it is about $2 more than the “old” days pre-meter)  They have been excellent in their responsibilities.  So here’s my problem…the really good taxis drive the appropriate route and therefore make less than the other taxis out there clearly making decisions that alter the fare.  Maybe things will change and level off but how do we make things fair for me and the good taxis out there?  Any thoughts? What’s fair?

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments