October 19, 2009

Takeaways from Blogworld Expo

Anthony Edwards

Anthony Edwards of “ER” fame did his first tweet — to raise funds for the first children’s pediatric training hospital in Africa.

Bloggers, journalism, celebrities and what the future holds

JD LasicaThere was a little bit of a SXSW vibe at the just-ended Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas — a communal feeling where the goings-on in the sessions (on the whole, consistently engaging) were overshadowed by the face time and first-time encounters between longtime Twitter friends. To be sure, BlogWorld is a smaller affair than SouthBy — one official told me 1,500 people turned out for the Causes/Activism track on Thursday, 5,000 for the next two days — but from my vantage point, it seems that the social media phenomenon has rejuvenated ones of the world’s oldest and largest new media gatherings.

Twitter was front and center throughout the affair, both on screen — where rolling tweets of each session’s hashtags were displayed (though not consistently) — and as a way for conference-goers to figure out evening social plans. And cameras and recorders were everwhere — here’s my Flickr set of BlogWorld.

Below is a recap of the highlights in my field of vision (see after the jump). In addition, I just posted 8 tips for raising funds online — a recap of the Tools for Nonprofits panel that I moderated at Blogworld — over at our sister site, Socialbrite.org.

Journalists vs. bloggers: Can we please move on?

As regular readers know, I’ve been blogging about journalism, blogging, and the need for journalists and bloggers to love each other and use the best elements of both worlds since 2001, when I started this blog (then called New Media Musings). See, for example, Blogs and Journalism Need Each Other in Harvard’s Nieman Reports in Fall 2003.

So it’s now irritating, and not merely tiresome, to attend a new media conference where too many of the sessions veered into hostility toward traditional news organizations. The audience questions to and reaction to CNN weekend anchor Don Lemon (below), was a case in point.

Don Lemon

Why should bloggers want to work with CNN? Lemon should have more artfully worded his reply — “The plain truth is that my platform is bigger than your platform” — but, with the exception of a few outliers like iJustine or cross-over Twitter celebrities, that’s still true. It’s not about CNN, it’s about reach and bringing value to more people.

The notion that crowdsourced amateur journalism can supplant professional journalism, and actually do a better job — which many in the audience truly believe — is not only ludicrous but potentially dangerous to our democratic institutions. Journalism that ferrets out corruption, that takes the pulse of a community, that sheds a light on international events is hard work, something that the crowd tends to avoid. Just ask anyone toiling in overworked, understaffed independent journalism publications like Spot.us, AliveinBaghdad, Pro Publica, or the just-launched Oakland Local.

Similarly, I’ve finally found a fundamental disagreement with my friend, colleague and fellow Traveling Geek Robert Scoble. I tweeted my dismay at the bottom-line premise of his panel, How Social Media Is Changing the Definition of News: that news sites should pass along rumors and second-hand reports without fact-checking them. “The old world was i fact-checked before I published, in this new world i can correct it after the fact,” Scoble said.

Immediately after the panel, he cited TMZ’s early report on the death of Michael Jackson and the fact that no one remembers who reported it second. “It’s over. It’s over,” he told me, referring to journalism’s authentication function. Continue reading

October 2, 2009

Newspaper social media policies: Out of touch

newspapers - (cc) photo by Zarko Drincic on Flickr
Photo by Zarko Drincic on Flickr

JD LasicaThis year we’ve seen the steady succession of social media policies issued by major news organizations. The common theme that runs through these edicts is that they were written by top managers, with the input of lawyers, who seem to have little understanding of how social media can benefit journalism and news organizations by building community.

It’s as if the top editors in the country got together and decided to roll back the clock to 1995, with no appreciation of the enormous forces that have reshaped media in the year 2009.

First, here are the social media policies from major news organizations that I’ve managed to track down:

• Washington Post’s social media policy (leaked this week)

• New York Times’ social media policy

• Associated Press’s social media policy

• Wall Street Journal’s social media policy

For posterity’s sake and for comparative purposes, I’ve republished all of these on Socialmedia.biz at the links above.

I’ve brought attention to the problems with these policies before, including in this Aug. 3 interview with Mashable. Now, some more specific analysis and deconstruction:

A missed opportunity

twitterFirst, what’s striking about these policies is how they are framed: as a “do not” list instead of a “do well” list. This, unfortunaely, has been the way of the world at the vast majority of newspapers since I entered journalism more than two decades ago.

But what’s even more striking is how social networks are perceived in the executive suites of news organizations: as a threat, a knotty problem, filled with challenges to the traditional way of doing business, rather than as a way for news outlets to reengage with their readers and communities.

None of these policies could have been written by someone who deeply understands social media and what it can offer to traditional news organizations.

Standards of objectivity wobble on their pedestal

The winds of change in the mediasphere have shifted so abruptly over the past three years that newspapers — never agile organizations — have not kept pace with the corresponding shifts in our culture.

The notion that journalists don’t have personal lives or opinions, that they shouldn’t reveal political preferences or engage in civic causes regardless of their beat, that they should be shielded from direct interaction with the public for fear of disclosing a compromising point of view — this is sheer lunacy.

If newspapers die, it will be because they splayed themselves on the altar of objectivity rather than moving to a new kind of relationship that the public is clearly craving for. Continue reading

August 29, 2009

‘Twitter for Dummies’: Twitter for everyone

http://www.doeswhat.com/images/twitterfordummies.jpgChris AbrahamOK, Twitter For Dummies should be called Twitter for Everyone. I may be considered a pretty heavy Twitter user and was #herebeforeoprah but even I really enjoyed getting into the heads of Laura @pistachio Fitton, Michael @gruen Gruen, and Leslie @geechee_girl Poston.

If I were to boil Twitter for Dummies down, I would say that you can’t dumb down Laura, Michael or Leslie — they’re leaders in Twitterville and you really cannot be disappointed if you grab the book.

For me, the entire book only took me the length of a Hollywood movie to read; however, they threw in kitchen sink in this book, extending into rarely used features such as the Public Timeline and really geeky command-line access to Twitter such as “d chrisabraham” or “follow chrisabraham,” etc.

Continue reading

August 29, 2009

‘All a Twitter’ is Twitter for smarties

http://images.ientrymail.com/webpronews/article_pics/all-a-twitter.jpgChris AbrahamIf you’re smart and savvy but have not yet been wooed to the world of Twitter, All a Twitter is for you: All a Twitter: A Personal and Professional Guide to Social Networking with Twitter.

Author Tee Morris writes this book more to the folks who are not quite wooed by Twitter yet but who are twi-curious. The first half of the book is boring but addresses all of the questions of the what, when, where, and how of Twitter.

The second half of the book is not only interesting but has Tee written all over it and offers up the who and the why with quite a dose of subjective opinion, which I find very attractive since too many of these Twitter books don’t come from a place of the personal testimonial.

While the first half may be boring, it is super-useful, taking you by the hand and showing you through all of the steps required to wade into Twitter fully outfitted, including help with my Android G1 phone (something sorely lacking in Twitter for Dummies).

Continue reading

August 25, 2009

5 questions for the author of ‘Twitterville’


Shel Israel discusses the impact of the real-time Web on society & business

twitterville-150iJD LasicaShel Israel’s new book, Twitterville, is due to hit hit bookstores next week. (See Twitterville site, the Global Neighbourhoods blog or Amazon page.) A day after his book release party at the Hiller Aviation Museum, San Carlos, Calif., Shel took time out to answer five questions from Socialmedia.biz.

1In the early stages of your book research you were focusing on the conversational Web. Why did you zero in on Twitter?

Shel Israel: When you and I talked about the conversational web, I was still exploring new book possibilities. I wanted a story that was an obvious evolutionary step from Naked Conversations.

My focus narrowed and locked in April 2008, when James Buck tweeted the word “arrested” on his Blackberry as he was being taken off to possibly rot in an Egyptian jail. A day later, when he posted a second word, “freed,” I realized that something was happening on Twitter that exceeded what I originally thought was there. In another couple of weeks I started seeing a very broad story that also went quite deep. I felt passionate about it and became convinced that Twitter was about to have a very significant impact on the Conversational Web.

2At the 140 Character conference, some speakers suggested that the real-time Web was as momentous as the birth of the original Web. Do you agree? How do you see Twitter’s potential impact on culture and society?

Shel Israel: I’m not very good at “most momentous” type judgments until I can look back at an event with some historical perspective. I regard the birth of the real time web as a more recent point on a continuum that started back when our ancestors were grunting and gesturing around the cave fires telling stories about the hunt; using blood and berries to tell stories on cave walls. The birth of the web is a really big dot in that continuum. It is the moment when our communications transcended tangible spaces and allowed email and other interactive activities. How big a dot is the real time web? I think it’s huge, but we are still in nascent times. I may be optimistic, but we need to be able to look back further to see how it impacts human interactivity.

3Can you cite some best practices about how companies are using Twitter?

Shel Israel: The term “best practices” traditionally historically refers to refined, redundant, measurable activities that can become the stadard of business protocols. I think we are still in an early phase where nothing is yet a best practice, but merely a really good idea.

There’s a general consensus that social media has been a communications game changer. Most people think it is a good idea to be transparent and not deceptive; to listen at least as much as you speak; to show a human face rather than a brand image; to build reputation by being generous to a community rather than making noise and to generally tell more than you sell. Continue reading