Tag Archive | "networks"

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Stop Social Microsharing With Strangers


As online sites like Twitter have garnered more users and gained in general popularity, people have (of course) tried to take advantage of this.  On an open system like Twitter, it’s easy.  So it is not surprising to see news reports about how cybercriminals are gaming Twitter to spam misleading links to sites about porn, drugs, and other enterprises.

But if you clicked on one of these links and feel somehow betrayed, it’s your fault. One hundred percent your fault. Do you know why? Because you are placing false trust in someone you don’t know. I guarantee that none of these links originated with someone you know well. You were following a Twitter account run by someone you don’t know and/or don’t trust, and they jerked you around.

Are you suprised?  This behavior is like trusting random people you meet on the streets of New York to hold your wallet and expecting to get it back 15 minutes later, except worse, because they can hide behind the Internet and you don’t even know where they’re located.

For now, anyway, Twitter doesn’t really verify accounts.  Sure, a few celebrities are “verified” (and some aren’t), but for the most part no one’s checking who owns what account.  This is very different from Facebook and LinkedIn, where people generally have to go through a bit of work to set up an account and generally have to associate with email domains, companies, and formal networks to effectively verify who they are.  Microblogging isn’t like that. It’s more like a chat room on steroids. It’s the wild west of Internet authenticity.

Don’t count on Twitter to help you. It’s in their best interest to gain as many accounts as possible to make it look like their user base is skyrocketing, even if a quarter of the accounts are crap, a quarter are fakes/parodies/duplicates/placeholders/squatters, and another quarter have users who never return (what Nielsen has called “Twitter Quitters”). But don’t hate on Twitter, Inc. for this – building up lists of users who don’t do anything and buying server space for them is just their business model. Find some self-responsibility and don’t interact with the 75% of accounts that are utter shit.

So if you feel plagued by Twitter spam, you need to get some self control. Stop talking with everyone just because they’re there. Stop following 6,829 accounts you’re unfamiliar with. Stop following everyone who follows you in the name of reciprocation and politeness. Stop enabling spam on Twitter. It’s your fault it’s there.

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GovLoop Wins Awards from AFCEA and ACT


For some time now, social network GovLoop – essentially a niche “Facebook” for government employees, contractors, and people interested in the intersection of emerging technology with governance and politics – has been growing strong since its founding in June 2008.  Now, with over 12,500 members connecting, GovLoop has received awards from two influential Washington, DC organizations: the AFCEA (Bethesda Chapter) Social Media Award, and the ACT Intergovernmental Solutions Award.

AFCEA, a national group committed to information exchange on the topics of defense, security, and intelligence, recognized GovLoop’s founder, Streve Ressler, at a luncheon in the Willard Intercontinental Hotel near the White House on May 27.   Recalling the Obama Administration themes of open, transparent, participatory, and collaborative government, upon receiving the award Ressler commented, “I accept this award on behalf of all my fellow GovLoop members.  It’s the participation that makes GovLoop an open government success.”

To win an ACT Intergovernmental Solutions Award, organizations must foster collaborative programs and measureable results, and GovLoop fits that description well.  ACT, a non-profit that promotes government use of efficient information technology for public service, gives 25 of these awards per year to federal, state, local agencies and other groups and individuals.  Martha Dorris, the current President of ACT, noted, “We’re very proud to showcase the best of the best, not only to reinforce government’s role as an innovator, but to provide a platform where these agencies can share their ideas for the ultimate benefit of our citizens.”

I personally have used GovLoop for some time now and have found it useful for a number of reasons.  For one, it serves as a filter for finding tech-savvy people with an interest in government.  Two, it easily enables blogging and commenting behind a firewall, so while it is relatively accessible, the entire world cannot easily find it and people can speak more freely than they might on a private blog or on a service like Twitter.

Finally, it is probably the best tool available at present for connecting federal government employees around the country with each other, across units and agencies, and also connecting feds with state and local government employees and contractors.   For events like the upcoming (September) Government 2.0 Expo Showcase, which invites talks about government-meets-technology from any level of government, these connections, and sometimes collaborations, are becoming increasingly critical to realizing the visions of the president and many other political leaders around the country.



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The A to Z of New Media


Authentic: “corporate speak” will doom you to failure

Be yourself: make sure there’s a real person behind your efforts

Connect: meld the organization with old and new stakeholders

Direct contact: with stakeholders and the public

Evangelists: they spread word to their loyal followers

Frontier: unless you play on the edge you don’t know what’s new

Glocal:  it’s local but still global, and global but still local

Honest: and it’s okay to say no as well

Immediacy: enables real time communication

Jump in: don’t be afraid to try; others are

Keep at it: don’t give up, there’s a learning curve

Listening: hear what your stakeholders say

Mobile: take your Web 2.0 to go

Nimble: no manual – be ready to shift approaches

Old media: traditional routes increasing online presence

Personal: more meaningful one to one relationships

Quickly respond: or the perception is that you don’t care

Reputation: perception of the organization

Systemic: put content on multiple channels

Take risks: and enjoy the larger rewards

Useful: make the information pertinent

Viral: spreading information rapidly

Where have you been?: communities expect your participation

Xchange: stakeholder ideas lead to improvements

Youth: but don’t neglect others; 35+ fastest growing demographic

Zeitgeist: social media

Adapted from a Marriott handout at a Washington, D.C. event called “New & Social Media: Leading the Way”

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Personally and Professionally: Are You Accessible?


One of the most interesting things about social media is that it makes people who previously seemed inaccessible less so. That applies to not only celebrities like Shaq and Ashton Kutcher, but also to people who are celebrities in your field of work; niche celebrities.

I’ve had a number of great experiences in which I’ve made connections with people within the government, in the media, and in other walks of life. It would have taken much more effort to do this in the past – being personally introduced, cornering them at an event I knew they’d attend, and so forth. But the method in which I approached them made the connection no less important – and when a new relationship benefits both parties, everyone is happy. Soon, no one will care if they initially received a letter typed on stationary or a Facebook message.

If you’re really new to social media tools like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, this is a profound shift in relationship- and network-building. But don’t worry – even the veterans are new to it. So read about how others are using new technology to build social networks and dive in.

Now, those who are already in positions of power and influence (let’s imagine Henry Kissinger, for the sake of discussion) may not think that being accessible is in their best interests. I know people who are at the height of their profession who think just like this. And maybe our thought-experiment Kissinger can get away with it.

But at some point, so many people will be commonly accessible through virtual universal ‘phone books’ like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (and their successors) that there may be some backlash against those who aren’t. And who can predict how quickly that might happen? While these senior folks are content with their trusted coterie of friends and colleagues, other opportunities are passing them by.

So no matter what your age or experience, whether you are settled into a career path or changing the road you’re on, make sure you’re accessible. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.

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Social Media Is Not Customer Service


Lots of people enjoy following parts of my life using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. But from time to time, I hear complaints about how I don’t have enough conversations, or I tweet too much, how I prefer my Twitter feed to my Facebook wall, and so forth.

I don’t care what you think. The reason for this is because these social media tools are ways in which I can express myself, for free. You’re not paying me for the Mark Drapeau Advice Service, you are not my clients, no one has an exclusive right to my content or time.

True, I do favor talking to some people more than others – they’re often people I know ‘IRL’ – in real life. And I do use Twitter more than my Facebook wall, which I use more than LinkedIn, which I use more than MySpace, etc. I do what suits me.

Social media isn’t Customer Service 2.0 for people who are interested in me. Not yet, anyway. If I start selling access to my information and advice, and you’re a customer of mine, then you can start asking for a callback, a tweet response, or a shoutout. Until then, while I’m really happy that people are interested in what I have to say, please stop taking social media so seriously.

There are many good reasons to use social media tools – to listen to conversations, to expand your social network, to publicize events or groups you’re involved with, and more. And everyone will do what they want.

When people sometimes ask me why I don’t follow them on Twitter or read their blog, I often say that they’re “not on my radar” – so rather than ask why someone isn’t paying attention to you, why don’t you spend your effort doing something so important that they feel compelled to follow you?

It’s not business, it’s just personal.

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Why I’m Writing for True/Slant


Yesterday, the alpha version of an exciting new journalism site called True/Slant became public. This is something I have been working on behind closed doors since January. True/Slant, a privately held company funded by Forbes Media and Velocity Interactive Group, is based in New York and has recruited about 60 writers, or ‘knowledge experts’ to write columns about things we’re interested in, along the lines of our motto: “News is More Than What Happens”. You can see my column, named Cheeky Geeky, here.

As the Wall Street Journal personal technology columnist Walter Mossberg points out in the premiere review of True/Slant this morning, the site is truly trying a new model of web journalism. When I had some initial discussions with the True/Slant team, particularly the Executive Director Coates Bateman (who will no doubt be challenged with ‘managing’ me), I was very excited to hear how social media tools would be mixed with original long form writing. And they were excited to hear about my knowledge of social networks and new marketing that’s come from experimenting with the tools for some time now.

Another quasi-news site based on blogging and funded by advertising, you say. What’s really different about True/Slant? Actually, a LOT.

For one, each contributor has their own platform under the True/Slant umbrella. That means that you can subscribe to just my articles from True/Slant, and not every author’s articles. That also means that advertisers can place ads about, say, technology on my column, and ads about food on my friend Robin Dorian’s ‘foodie’ column called Weird and Delicious. Hence, writers have a vested interest in exploring their niches and making their pages the best possible, worrying somewhat less about the overall True/Slant site.

True/Slant also wants you to know what it’s columnists are reading. Don’t you sometimes ask yourself where your favorite authors get their food for thought? At True/Slant, we tell you. We rip headlines of stories we’re reading and post links on our pages. And on the homepage, editors curate these headlines so you can see a mix of what everyone’s reading, and perhaps get a peek inside our minds as we work throughout the day.

Another thing that is different about True/Slant is a sense of community. As columnists we are strongly encouraged to follow other writers’ columns and post comments on their blog posts. This is already starting to build cohesion among the writers and throughout the site. Readers will learn more about our personalities and understand us more as people, and not just anonymous writers that put up a column once a week. I think this is not unlike the ‘ambient intimacy‘ that people feel when following someone on Twitter for a while.

Yet another unique feature of True/Slant is the plan for advertisers to have columns. Clearly marked as advertising, and perhaps similar to glossy special advertising sections of magazines, this is another potential revenue source that at the same time does not involve columnists in, say, getting paid to write about their views of brands – a highly controversial topic.

Finally, we want True/Slant to be a social network. The readers get involved too – when you comment on our posts, we can “call you out” for a great comment. Readers that get called out a lot will get recognition, as will readers that comment frequently. So, this is a multidirectional conversation – columnists are readers and commenters, and readers are commenters that join our social network. Even management is commenting on our columns – which is pretty cool if you ask me.

I truly believe that True/Slant is a step forward in combining the best of journalism and opinion writing with the best of social networking. It’s something I haven’t yet seen in sites like the Huffington Post, Slate, The Daily Beast, or Salon. Even great sites like Mashable and TechCrunch that cover the Web 2.0 sphere of news, for all their RSS subscribers and Twitter followers, do not empower their columnists nor engender a sense of community. So I think we are pushing the envelope. As I once heard Pete Cashmore, the CEO of Mashable, say – Return on Engagement is the new Return on Investment. True/Slant is poised to make a large ROE by creating a platform for the community that may evolve into loyal readers, in order to then generate a more traditional ROI.

And this is just the start. Looking towards a beta version in May 2009, in the near future True/Slant will have more WordPress plug-ins, integration with Facebook walls and Twitter posts, and other new features that should make the columnist and reader experiences even better. Remember, what you see now is just the early alpha site!

Every week, I plan to publish exclusive opinion pieces on Tuesdays, satires on Thursdays, and a feature called “The Best, The Worst, and The Weird” on Sundays, the latter of which will highlight the best, worst, and weird thing I read in the past week – so send me your ideas!

As Mossberg says in his review of True/Slant, there’s no guarantee that this will all work. But I think that the management of True/Slant is pushing the envelope with regard to the interface of old and new media, and so at the very least it is very exciting to be a part of a great experiment at its most nacent.

For now, check out my column, and start interacting with some of the other great writers on the site. They also author stories for Rolling Stone, Time, Financial Times, and other great outlets, and write about everything from politics to restaurants to neuroscience. Comment on the columns, and tell me about what you do and do not like about the site! From the CEO and Founder, Lewis Dvorkin on down, they are truly listening to what you have to say – and writing columns themselves!

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What’s Your Bumper Sticker?


Recently in a basement parking garage underneath a hotel, my friend and I came across a vintage light blue Jaguar. Beyond the style and grace indicating an older gentleman owner, what was really interesting about this car were the books on display in the rear window – being shown as if it were a display case, and the car a used bookstore.

The books were clearly intellectual – one was published by the CATO Institute, another was written by Ayn Rand. There were six in total. A curious thing, having books deliberately stood up, clearly on display for an audience in the back of a car. My friend asked me why he might have them there.

I said, they’re his bumper sticker.

Everybody has a bumper sticker. It’s the thing you want to publicly display that tells people something about who you are. Don’t say you don’t – your bumper sticker is the funny saying on your t-shirt, the conference sticker on your laptop, the witty quotation on your website, the avatar on your Twitter account, even the color of the rubber skin protecting your Blackberry or iPhone. These are all signals to other people.

The man with the blue Jaguar displaying the books might seem silly, but he probably strikes up one conversation a week with a valet driver getting his Master’s degree, or the beautiful woman in the Whole Foods parking lot, or the professor attending the same book reading or wine tasting he is. Those conversations might lead to further networking, event invitations, and intellectual dates. This man more than likely uses his interests, skills, and creative nature to use his bumper sticker as a networking tool.

So many people are intimidated by using Twitter to meet new people, or going to a cocktail party or business networking event where they don’t know anybody. But there are even more creative ways to display who you are, and get people to approach you.

What’s your bumper sticker?

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Individual Incentives for Transparent Data


There are many group incentives for having more open, participatory, and collaborative work environments.  In private business, powerful leaders can impose new information-sharing systems, with the primary group incentive being increased revenue.  What’s the individual incentive for an individual in this situation?  If there is one, it’s often some kind of profit-sharing, a chance for more rapid promotion, or similar.

Academic information-sharing needs different incentives, because professors don’t directly profit from research, and there’s generally nothing to be promoted to.  Rapidly sharing raw experimental data with the world offers advantages to the community of medical researchers searching for disease genes.  But there is a counterbalancing advantage to cheating and withholding data to make it proprietary to a certain laboratory and a small cabal of collaborators.  What’s the incentive for an individual professor or laboratory director to share data?  In this case, with genome sequencing and expression data for instance, the community decided that sharing would be a prerequisite for publication (the lifeblood of academia) – so everyone complies.

What about transparent, open sharing of government data?  There are at least three parallel issues here: sharing within government, between government and contractors, and between government and the people.  David Stephenson organized a thought-provoking discussion about group-level incentives for sharing government information at the recent Transparency Camp in Washington, D.C.  But individual-level incentives were hardly discussed.

What’s the incentive for an individual government employee to make the effort to change the status quo, if they’re not currently a “transparent government cheerleader“?  I don’t have an answer to this question.  But finding that answer requires a fresh look at the human resources of the government – How are they recruited, trained, incentivized, compensated, and retained, and how does this influence their day-to-day work? People do not always do what’s best for the group.

Technical problems with open, transparent, and participatory government have recently been highlighted in the mainstream press. But from a holistic standpoint, this is far more than a technology problem.

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