Category Archives: My fellow Classmates

My fellow Students: Glorymar Brings the Weird

A side-effect of us Social Media students all pulling from the same well, is that everyone student appears to have one outstanding ‘response to blogger blog‘ or discussing the the 2012 Presidential.   I worked on the Obama campaign (will likely work for the campaign in 2012), work in politics now, and have an interest in social media as it relates to civic engagement, so I will hold off on posting about the 2012 cycle until tomorrow.  I also feel weird posting a response blog to another response blog.  Thankfully Glorymar saved me on the Will it Blend post that is hilarious and weird.

A few weeks ago in my grassroots class we were discussing a “weird” case of marketing and how the scarcity factor help them. Of course we were talking about Will it blend? A product that has no traditional advertising. Will it blend?, has a website and many videos on Youtube. The sales of this product are based on pure word of mouth.

But Glorymar missed the most relevent video in the Will it Blend channel that is relevent to our Social media class:

Seth Godin is the self-proclaimed ‘agent of change,’ is a social media thinker who is credited for such memes as: ‘Permission marketing,’ ‘Purple Cow,’ and referring social networks as, ‘Tribes.’   His blog is also on our reading list.  He is like the Ron Popeil of social media to Shirky’s Asimov, in a good way (Comparing Shirky to Asimov may get me in trouble but I can’t think of a more respected futurist, comment if you can).  To have Godin actually participate in the Will it Blend viral marketing campaign is like Wright Brothers punking people in hand-gliders.  I am admittedly late to the weird addictive and must see things on the web, so thank you Glorymar for bringing me up to speed in the things that distract us.


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Response#9 Wikipedia . . .

Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy? Should it be open to everyone or just verified “experts”?

I think the potential benefits of the long tail, the limitless space by which to accumulate information, and the organic nature of Wikipedia make it formidable resource for storing and gathering information.  But should we trust Wikipedia over an expert-led encyclopedia like the standard-bearer, Britannica? Should students be allowed to use Wikipedia as a primary source for their papers? Is the potential of the tragedy of the commons too big a cross to bear for the sake of disseminating information?   Is anonymous posting on Wikipedia a gateway to misrepresentation? Finally, is there reason to believe that there may be an inadvertent bias toward white, European-descendent males? Probably, no, no, not quite, and not sure.

On the issue of trust, I favor timeliness over institutions.  I will admit that like newspapers and some books, Wikipedia can be prone to errors, but as  Nature magazine found, so could Encyclopedia Britannica. I would venture to guess that particularly for more popular articles at least, Wikipedia has not only the ability to correct them, but have anyone come in and make the correction themselves.  The group monitoring that each category undergoes ensures that there isn’t a kind of stop the presses moment or worse an acceptance of the error after its too late to recall them (something that may occur with a print reference).  So why can’t students use Wikipedia as an original source?

My belief is that information is most constructive when it is static.  Wikipedia is a great resource for general timely overviews, but when formulating an idea, static information provides the sturdiest foundation for critical thinking. This can be particularly important when it comes to the descent by a minority view.  Even if this minority viewpoint is not accepted as correct, having the ‘mistakes,’ ‘visible,’ means that other can learn from it.  Using Wikipedia as the primary or sole source would be akin to believing that the first item that comes up from every term you type in a search engine will be exactly the item you need.  The act of rejecting a premise is as important as accepting one.

The story of John Seigenthaler is that often cited cautionary tale of the limits of Wikipedia and additional stories of the possible M15 mole SlimVirgin, EssJay, and Vandalism on Wikipedia Watch, if true, represents a disturbing vulnerability to Wikipedia’s open approach.  That said, the Britannica makes mistakes a 12-year old can find, textbooks can tell half truths or outright lies, ‘journalists‘ can make up stories out of thin air.  Wikipedia has demonstrated a willingness to refine their process to mitigate the possibility of the tragedy of the commons just as Britannica, modern textbooks, and MSM eventually corrected their own vulnerabilities.  The advent of WikiScanner, also goes a long way toward mitigating ‘foul play’ on the playground of the ‘people’s encyclopedia,’ while many textbooks have articles without attribution and newspapers are still allowed to print articles with, ‘sources close to . . .’

The last question was first brought to my attention at Antonella Weyler’s post last week about the relative homogeneity of Wikipedia authors.

If so, does the fact that the 83% of contributors are men, mostly white, put Wikipedia’s “representativeness” in check? Who is expressing the knowledge and experiences of the ones who have no access to internet: 93% of the population in African, 80% in Asia, 75% in the Middle East, and 70% in Latin and Caribbean American? Is Wikipedia articles biased by a limited perspective?

This might simply be an access issue but again, the over-representation of white mostly male techno-class isn’t unusual to the web generally but the same argument can be true for the gender inequity of collage professors or racial equity in media.

When it comes down to it, many of the issues with Wikipedia seem to be issues of scale and access.  If it were possible for Britannica to have over 32,000 (as one report has it for Wikipedia) contributors to their English language version, would people be criticizing them too? If Britannica could manufacture and distribute its volumes for free, would people criticize that Britannica is too accessible?

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Upcoming post AND Thought on what makes a good blog Rule 1.

I am working on a post regarding the fall of good wrting since the dawn of digtial media and web 2.0.  Right now, the post for my inspiration: Death of Writing on Loose Wire Blog, which I came across when I typed in Google: ‘death of writing.’  The post will be about how now that everything I type is digital, it seems (or is) weak in comparison to writing longhand or with typewriter.  I know typing on a typewriter is an anachronism, but I am having trouble reconciling what is better: the power of scarcity/permanance of errors in the typewriter world and the power of the many of the digital age of web 2.0.

Scarcity creates a level of urgency that when it hits, it soars. The particular challenge of typing words on a manual typewriter and their place on the physical page means that one poor choice effects the rest of the page.  This creates a strong filter for mediocre work (both leaving the X’d in mark of the mistake or even whiteout don’t erase the mistakes only covers them like mistakes in our own lives).   Our mistakes offline usually leave a permanent mark somewhere, even when well-hidden, and while holding on to them is not good, forgeting and/or never learning from them is how we evolve.  In the world of crowdsourcing, your mistakes are often pointed out by someone else, but often become little digital cautionary tales for others, leading to potentially a strong work in aggregate. My question is, does it make the individual writer better when the pressure is off on making mistakes.   If anyone comes across anything along these lines, let me know.  Thanks.  I hope to pull something together in the next few days.

AND

I don’t know if I am following protocol here but I wanted to post on some other classmates blog post from each week’s assignments (this week crowdsourcing)  to make my list of what I am looking for in a blog and what makes me want to linger on a site (visual, content)? I am trying to practice the below approach but don’t always hit the mark.

1. Lead with clever or new: I have a short attention span and get bored easily. This week’s posts by Angie and Antonella’s brought something to the table that I hadn’t thought about: Angie’s recent post on Girliegirl1965 brought the new technology (crowdsourcing) to the traditional activity of practicing faith.  I don’t know if it was her intent but it got me thinking about how the church has long been a place of belief, relationships and sometimes gossip, and how crowdsourcing is very similar. Antonella fed my quiet distrust of homogeny with In Wikipedia we trust. Should we? My biggest beaf (and likely misstep) with the rise of social media is that the demographics of the techonocratic class skews largely white and male (or at least it feels that way).  This doesn’t necessarily mean that wikipedia and the like are biased.  But I think race or identifying with a particular race does determine context and perspective.  I don’t think it can be avoided but I also don’t think it should be taken for granted.

What I learned from Angie and Antonella: DON’T BURY THE LEAD.  One of the ways good blogs are like good writing is that though writing blogs is often more free form,  the best part of the blog can often come at the end of the post.  If it takes reworking the beginning and putting the juiciest links (with the cleverest anchor text) at the top, do it.

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