Tag Archives: Shirky

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#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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Tara Brabazon: The Rice-A-Roni Paradox

Can a person use Wikipedia, Google and every other social and digital tool out there and still be critical of it? I guess I am partly one of those born before 1980 whom Clay Shirky writes about (p. 303 of 2008 hardcover edition Here Comes Everybody):

One reason many of the stories in this book seem to be populated with young people is that those of us born before 1980 remember a time before any tools supported group communications well. For us, no matter how deeply we immerse ourselves in a new technology, it will always have a certain provisional quality.  -Shirky

That is closely the vantage point I am at: the doubting user who doesn’t see online status updates as a birthright.

In researching for a future Wikipedia post, I came across a critic of Google and Wikipedia that doesn’t strike the same cord as anti-Wiki or anti-Google crowd, I’ve come across.  Tara Brabazon doesn’t take the kind of evil empire approach that makes mountains out of molehills but she does take a exception to Google and Wikipedia becoming the default position for young scholars in-training and particularly on Clay Shirky’s book regarding accessibility and, ‘his assumption that “we” can learn about technology from technology.’  She is no anti-social media demogogue.  Her credentials include: Professor of Media at the University of Brighton, United Kingdom, Visiting Professor at Edge Hill’s SOLSTICE CETL, Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (RSA), Director of the Popular Culture Collective and Programme Leader of the Master of Arts in Creative Media.

Below is video of Brabazon talking about her recent book: The University of Google

From Product Description

Information is no longer for social good, but for sale.Tara Brabazon argues that this information fetish has been profoundly damaging to our learning institutions and to the ambitions of our students and educators. In “The University of Google”, she projects a defiant and passionate vision of education as a pathway to renewal, where research is based on searching and students are on a journey through knowledge, rather than consumers in the shopping centre of cheap ideas.Angry, humorous and practical in equal measure, “The University of Google” is based on real teaching experience and on years of engaged and sometimes exasperated reflection on it.

So not anti-social media, just against social media technology replacing the role of teachers.  Her critique of Here Comes Everybody is something that I’ve thought about but have never written about here.

They are shielded through the flawed assumption that if more “people” (and as a visitor to Second Life, I use this word advisedly …) are involved in doing “something” then it becomes important. When we were at high school, this was called mob rule. Now it is called social networking.  . . Older citizens, the poor, the illiterate and the socially excluded are invisible in Shirky’s “everybody”. Once more, the US, and occasionally the UK, is “the world” in the world wide web. The hypothesis is clear: the internet/web/Web 2.0 changed “everything”. The question remains: for whom?

I think she makes some valid points, and merely to assume that those indirectly affected by social media are some how a part of it (as a sole commenter of the post does), is in my opinion careless.  If information is power, and access to information is necessary to gain power, inaccess is connected to powerlessness.  The irony of this is that I was ready to buy up one of 10 books by Mrs. Brabazon, but found that they were too expensive for me to purchase.  I understand that a writer has got to eat, but does that mean that the price of admission is more risotto than rice-A-roni?


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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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Response#7 Most Surprising Thing About Social Media Class . . .

It has to be that the sheen of our web 2.0 world is a little faded from in 2007-2008 when I started and withdrew from a similar class. When I first read Shirky in mid-2008, I felt what it must have felt like to read Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999.  His was the kind of theoretical approach to the Brave New World of social media that I was both in awe of and excited to see how the world could change because of this medium that thrived in spite of traditional hinderance of money and resources.  I appreciated the case studies because they were largely around the frame of us, the users of the world, as global underdog that could take down theft safely behind laptops, almost shift the balance of power in entrenched political machines, and take down one of the world’s most powerful religious institutions.  Shirky in explaining the force of the many to many,  pitted us (the aggregate collaborators) versus powerful though narrowly focused institutions.

I wasn’t foolish to think that social media would mean a kind of perpetual digital revolution (Mao by way of Google), or that the kind of global realignment Shirky writes about would happen 15 months after he declared it, but maybe I hoped I was wrong.  The Obama campaign or Graff’s, ‘First Campaign’ may be the culprit in skewing my perception that campaign forced tradition media to wake up and take a gigantic leap forward. Tommaso Sorchiotti’s slideshare presentation aptly and comically depicts this.  The quixotic narrative of 2008 Presidential cycle lifted the resurrection narrative of the power of the web and vice versa.  Both are a bit of mythology of course, I do think that ascendance of the Obama campaign and the side-story of their online strategy made the most compelling argument for the power of social media.  But its 2009 almost 20-10, and I am left with thinking:

What’s Next?

All new media tools herald a new dawn in how we communicate but eventually it falls victim to the tragedy of the commons, right? I guess I thought the villian of this tragedy would be some lone-gunman type and not MSM or the social media tools themselves.   Social media, web 2.0 tools, and their companies are no different. Google, who could do no wrong in my book two years go has become just another company that is doing what it can to bend reality to its own creepy interests.  Twitter just saw its ultimate social potential when it was the go-to medium of reporting Iran elections protests by the US government no less and yet it bothers me that Ashton Kutcher has more followers than NPR.  When AIG has an RSS feed, it makes me want to stock my house with canned goods and wait for the Mayan Prophesy.  I am not saying that social media and web 2.0 tools have jumped the shark, just that we still seem to have made this leap and no one really knows what is next. Web 3.0 and the semantic web is probably years if not a decade away.  We are in this grey area where these tools are being actively adopted by the media institutions like the Washington Post and the New York Times not because it generates revenue, but because it seems the only way to stay above mere relevancy.   Perhaps I thought in a web 2.0 world, Moore’s Law applied to social change as well as computing speed.  And maybe it does, but it doesn’t feel like we’ve culturally reached even a tenth of the journey to critical mass.  Perhaps this still an odd time to look back on the last six to ten years of the web 2.0 social media explosion and study it as you would artifacts.  It’s no longer new, yet we haven’t reached the point in this journey where we are closer to the end than the beginning.  Then again, there is something to Shirky’s notion that technology doesn’t get socially interesting until it becomes technologically boring, and this world of many to many communications isn’t boring yet.

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Response#5 Google Fail or Does the World Need Google?

libberding: It’s funny when something goes down on the intarwebz (like the current google fail) and I turn to Twitter to see if it’s true.-Twitter (9:48PM Oct 20, 2009)

Reading John Battelle’s ‘The Search,’ has done much to demystify me on the world’s largest media organization, Google.  Its one thing to see an article or post here or there, about copyright, privacy issues, or censuring, but it is quite another to create a narrative that depicts the steady devolution of the company of, ‘Don’t Be Evil,’ to corporate giant that will marshall its lawyers to defend its brand against its own fans. I have an easier time believing Battelle because I personally have nothing to gain from not believing unlike other culturally ‘positive’ brands like Apple (whose stock price impacts me).  Despite the reality that a corporation, like any institution, must first ensure its own existence (ala Shirky), and that means doing things that might appear unseemly, I still can’t relegate Google to the likes of News Corps or hayday of the Hearst media empire. This might also be because I use Google products almost hourly.  Telling me Google is evil is like saying pens are evil-sure I would refrain from writing using pens but I’m going to eventually have to sign my name.  If Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Hubert Chang”s master plan was to make Google so ubiquitous that people don’t even give it a second thought, it worked.  That is a step above brand loyalty. But has Google really made the world a better place?
A funny thing happened tonight.  Google failed. Just for 30 minutes, maybe an hour.  And while there were few moments of me going through the five stages of grief because I couldn’t check my Reader or Gmail for the hundredth time today, in the end, I hit up Yahoo and Twitter, and was just fine. Not the first time, a server or something went down at Google but this question popped into my head for the first time: Does the World Need Google? I know it’s so pervasive and diversified a company, many question the need for certain parts but that’s not the same thing as need. I haven’t done an exhaustive search but I did find an article from Geekpreneur that gives an ok assessment of why we need Google (1. ease of use, 2. level playing field for small online business, etc), but it seems more a laundry list of why Google is easy, popular and technologically savvy.  It’s not like it take a tenured professor in Semantics to figure out Yahoo Search.
We are talking about likely the most powerful data aggregator in the world, but doesn’t that make it just an aggregator? Would the world be less if we had to settle for Yahoo? Or Bing or any of the other hundreds of search engines? Probably not.  Google’s greatest achievement might not be any of the innovative tools, its unique path to corporate dominance, or its unimaginable storage of data. In the end, Google’s greatest achievement may be in convincing the world that we need it.  Not being evil is not the same as being good.

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