Tag Archives: essential rules: social media

Response#11- N is for Namibia

One of the things I am noticing about the African blogosphere through the platform of Global Voices is that group formation is still in its infancy .  If Shirky is correct, and social tools’ strength comes from the informal collaboration of groups around activities that valuable to some but impractical for an institution, than this may be a reason that the type of group action (flash mobs) found in Belarus aren’t taking off in places like Namibia.  I don’t want this post to sound like online activism is not happening in Namibia or elsewhere on the continent, as clearly, they’re groups forming around female circumcision and government criticisms, Going back to the Brabazon criticism I pointed out a few weeks ago, there is a gap between an offline context from posts (here, here, and here) that maintain a journalistic and/or personal blog feel, and the group dynamic of social tools.  This gap could be attributed to issues of access, literacy, and anonmity from the perspective of potential African users,  and most certainly to my Western proclivity of lumping all African countries together.  I while I know that mobile technology is considered the burgeoning medium within developing countries, I think there is a difference between mobile activism which supplements traditional online activism (popular in Western countries) and restricted to mobile activism only (in many developing countries). Christian Kreutz has an interesting presentation on Mobile Activism in Africa that basically says that while the potential for mobile technology and the growth of its usage particularly in Africa are hopeful signs, there are still many obstacles for this type of group action driven by social tools to reach critical mass.  Interesting sidenote: Kreutz cites the group Azur which used both SMS technology and a local radio talkshow to hit both the technologically literate and illiterate regarding the issue of domestic violence.  I am starting to wonder if this type of cross platform (new and old technologies) collaboration may be the catalyst for group formation as it captures people’s curiousity about a particular movement who wouldn’t otherwise participate.  It makes me think about how the Dean campaign appeared huge on the blogosphere because the bulk of his most ardent supporters were on the blogosphere too. Rallies with hundreds of people seemed great for the darkhorse candidate but it was roughly the same narrow niche who were finding out about campaign activities through the internet.  The blog posts from Global Voices in Namibia seemed siloed by individual and the activities relegated to those narrow few who visit the site.


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Response#10-First experience editing Wikipedia

What I learned from my experience editing a Wikipedia entry:

1. The standard form of book entries varied: Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, and Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class; were all outlined a little differently.

2. For as often as the above books are referenced, only Friedman’s had an extensive entry and Florida’s book was just a stub.

3. Neutral Point of View (NPOV) is easier said than done.  Most of the time I spent was getting acquainted with how other collaborators wrote about an author’s view-point.

4. There is a real opportunity within these social and cultural works to start a dialogue that isn’t happening.  Shirky has a few noncontroversial critiques that in my opinion make valid points despite in one case affirming a the restrictions placed on institutional knowledge.

5.  Wikipedia taught me the value of a good link.  I shied away from blog posts despite one of the most cogent arguments coming from a traditional print author turn blogger, Tom Slee.  His argument of the two voices of Here Comes Everybody (Shirky- is the, ‘perceptive and creative interpreter of the ways that digital technology is changing society AND ‘Clay-the ‘is a techno-enthusiast and an inveterate story-teller) articulates my own unformulated issues with the book.  The irony of Wikipedia, is that a user-generated post like that of Slee’s may not be authoritarian enough because it lacks the formal institutional backing that Wikipedia is the antithesis of.

I enjoyed working on the entry mostly because I appreciated the source material, have nothing to gain from it, and would be willing to defend it should it get deleted.  It cost me a little (maybe more than a little) time, I am curious to see if anyone will add to the post, and after a little tinkering, I got the hang of formatting the entry.   The experience was the kind of ‘acceptable bargain,’ Shirky writes about.

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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.


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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Response#8 Crowdsourcing vs. Groupthink OR Looking for 20% OR Why halfbackery.com gets it right

My questions for evaluating crowdsourcing sites:

1. Does it follow Clay Shirky’s Principle of Promise, Tool, Bargain?

2. Who can actually join this ‘crowd’ or How easy is it to join the crowd?

3. Would I want to join this ‘crowd’?

4. Can I be myself and still be a part of the crowd (avoid groupthink)?

Josh Catone has even come up with rules (bottom of post) for successful crowdsourcing  on a ReadWriteWeb post from 2007 that were helpful but for me the key is whether a particular activity meets my personal sustained engagement threshold (me be the baromater for what any yahoo would do).  I poked around the crowdsourcing directory and a few other listings for different types of crowdsourcing sites (both ones clearly with marketing in mind or others that were meant for amusement-hat tip to classmate).  I admit the ones that are still going strong are genuinely neat.  Some were a little creepy like Perverted-Justice, some seem uncomfortably corporate like YourEncore and some were silly like Halfbackery.  What I couldn’t find was a crowd that is something more than momentarily interesting.  I look at something like Threadless and I am certainly impressed with the collective intelligence and it follows Catone’s rules.  I can’t confirm that Threadless follows the 80/20 rule, but I think I’m definitely in the 80.  Where I think sites fall a little short is when the psychological lift of viewing let alone engaging is higher than any red-blooded lurker is willing to go.  Threadless averages 5.6 pageviews a visitor based on Alexa.

If I had to pick one site that I keep coming back to it’s Halfbackery. I enjoy the mix of funny posts like the tumbleweed dispensor and creative like the phobia alarm clock and appreciate that its intent isn’t to be a repository for the next big idea like Cambrian House or bzzagent, but really just a place to share weird ideas.

From What the halfbakery isn’t

The site is also not a resource to help people guide their inventions from conception to completion. This is the place where you post the things you’re not going to be working on – because you can’t be bothered, or you don’t know how to, or because it’s not such a stellar idea after all.

The site is also not a marketplace where owners of patents find interested developers. Such sites exist (some are listed under links), but this isn’t one of them.

And finally, sending me email isn’t a good way of contacting the Dunkin’ Donuts corporation (but clicking on the preceding link is).

Any site that keeps my short-attention span for more than two pages, is about half-way to being a success in my book.  Halfbakery is simple enough a concept and its interface is ridiculously self-explanatory. The titles of the intentions draw you in for at least 3-5 inventions and the comments can be informative and are generally funny but the format is such that people don’t fall into the Borg mentality and stupid or brilliant (favoring stupid) your idea is given a fair shake from the group.   This is a fun group of 20% and I am about 50% sure that if I come up with something off-the wall crazy, I would post it on this site.

Links that I found interesting that I couldn’t fit into this post:

Dumbness of Crowds by Kathy Sierra

Top 100 Digg users control 56% of homepage content -80/20 Rule

Digital MaoismJaron Lanier

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