Election Time!

Normally we finish a semester with the class on politics, but Mike and I figured that we should rearrange the schedule this fall to acknowledge that a campaign is actually unfolding right now. Thus we have a special guest next week for class next week, just before the election, and will devote the class to talking about the election. For the discussion, you are encouraged to wear your best political paraphernalia—t-shirts, buttons, baseball hats, whatever you have politics-wise—to class Wednesday night.

There is, as one might imagine, a tremendous amount of reading one could peruse about online politics. If you have time and/or interest this week, please read some excerpts from my book on the 2008 presidential campaign, “The First Campaign.” Here are PDFs of the Introduction, Part I, the chapter on web campaigning, and the conclusion. The book, of course, reads a bit dated right now in parts (you know, with the whole 2008 election having happened now), so for the retrospective, make sure to also read this Obama campaign piece (PDF) I wrote after the election, as well as Edelman’s Obama write-up (PDF) and Michael Silberman’s Obama write-up. Unfortunately, with all of the campaign tomes that came out on the campaign afterwards, none of them spent much time talking about the campaign. Ari Melber also wrote a first-year report on Organizing for America that’s worth perusing.

For your blog post this week, apply Clay Shirky and your other readings to the Obama campaign and the administration. What was the promise, bargain, tool of the Obama campaign? How, in your opinion, has he done in following through as President on the Cluetrain Manifesto rules? Or, for that matter, on his promise?

To get you started, here’s a little thought experiment for you—I’ve taken the first ten theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto and replaced the words for political purposes:

1) Campaigns are conversations.
2) Campaigns consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3) Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4) Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5) People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6) The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7) Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8) In both internetworked Campaigns and among intranetworked voters, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9) These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10) As a result, campaigns are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked campaign changes people fundamentally.

So what else in Cluetrain is relevant to where Obama is now, going into the midterm election? How does a campaign differ from actually being in elected office in terms of Cluetrain? In terms of Clay Shirky?

Don’t forget to email us BEFORE class on Wednesday, that is BEFORE 7:45 p.m., with your community snapshot. Just like in the real world, there are no extensions.

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Community Snapshot

Your social media reports are due in two weeks. Get thinking about this now and then we can answer questions in class next week. Here’s what we’re going to be looking for:

Pick a topic that interests you—I would encourage you to use your profession, an issue you care about, or a cause you care about—and then research its life online. This is an experiment both in Clay Shirky’s social media movement theory as well as Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail.

For the social media reports, we’re going to be looking for at least 15 social media sites spread across at least three of the four following areas: Blogs/Microblogging, Wikis, Social Networking (including both sites and groups), and Social Media (Vlogs/Podcasts/Citizen Journalism/Audio/Video). If you have picked a subject that doesn’t get you 15 sites in three areas, you need to change your definition or pick a new topic. By next week’s class (October 20th), please email Mike and me with your chosen topic so we can approve it. You’re going to want something that is somewhat specific (“politics” is a bad one) but not so specific that you can’t get to the 15 required sites.

Write up a brief description of each site, classify it, the URL, any traffic details or size numbers you can track down, as well as some analysis of the level of engagement. You can explore some web metric systems like Quantcast to help you with the traffic numbers. Here’s an example entry for a Facebook group that I belong to that would be useful if I was researching “Vermont” as a topic:

  • Site: Vermont State Society Facebook Group
  • URL: http://harvard.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8156815255
  • Type: Social Networking Site
  • Traffic: 83 members in group; Facebook ranks 2nd on the web according to Quantcast, but this specific page is not very active.
  • Description: This semi-active group supports Vermonters in Washington and members post job listings and news stories of interest to it. It is an open group which anyone can join with a single administrator. No one other than the administrator has posted to it. There’s some minor wall activity—about one post a month.

Your paper should be written in Word (or similar program) and then emailed to me and Garrett as a Word document or a PDF before class on October 27th. Please put real thought into the sites that you select. I don’t want you to just list the first 15 sites you find—which ones would be most useful if you were trying to start a conversation with a community? Which ones are active? You shouldn’t expect to get full credit for the assignment if you list 15 inactive blogs and dead Facebook groups. The above Facebook group wouldn’t be a great one for me to choose since there’s not much activity there.

Where is there activity online around your chosen subject? If you were setting out to build a community in your chosen area, where would you turn?

List your 15 resources in descending order of their importance to the community, i.e., in the order in which you would contact them if you were trying to spread something through the community. This will require some judgement onyour part and the ordering will be part of your grade. For the overall most important site (your #1), I want you to spend an extra paragraph laying out the promise/bargain/tool that you see that site providing.

Any questions? To help inspire you as to the plethora of different sites available, consider using the Conversation Prism or use some tricks like this to help you.

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Google Conquers All

Good rainy Thursday to you! A few links from last night’s class: That map of online communities, Barry Schwartz’s Paradox of Choice lecture, this particularly awesome link from the Twitter feed, and this one to keep you up-to-date on your memes (have you seen Bed Intruder?), Chris Wilson’s Digg democracy piece, the Forrester engagement ladder, and, if you want some extra reading, take a look at Chris Anderson’s other “BIG IDEA,” Free.

Also, I meant to mention when we were talking about stats last night that the web’s best resource for stats is the Pew Internet & American Life Project. You can find all the stats necessary to convince your bosses just about anything net-related. The web’s best researcher is danah boyd; spend a few minutes looking at her generational studies. When we talked last night about how different the world now is tech-wise, generation to generation, danah’s done some great research on that.

We’re going to spend all of next week’s class looking at Google, which has become the most powerful media company the world has ever seen. Your assignment for the week’s blog: Should we be afraid of Google?

Google could easily be its own course entirely, but we’ll try to take the pulse of search and Google in just two hours next week. There’s way too much the company is doing to even begin to mention it all—did you see this week’s story about its new robot cars?

As you read Battelle, think about what he means search as a “database of intentions.” What impact does this have for better and worse? In class next week, we’ll watch a video about Googlezon, predicting one possible future.

We’ll spend some time talking about Google and privacy, as well as the amazing algorithms that power the site. Read thisWired piece as some background.

Make sure to also check out this Economist article, this piece by Google about why it remembers searches, some Google tips and tricks, this explanation of page rank, this article about Google hating America, and this funny story of Ted Leonsis and how he seized his own page ranking. (Have you seized yours?) Also this funny story about Vice President Cheney on Google versus VP Biden.

Simply Google puts all of the various parts of Google on a single page—it’s an impressive representation! Could Google end up owning the internet? Could sites like del.icio.us do search better? Yahoo!, the perennial also-ran in search, has been expanding too, although as you probably saw Microsoft may end up owning Google. Will Google kill Wikipedia? How has real-time search changed the way you use Google? Will it own the wireless arena? Google today also encompasses some huge brands, like Blogger we mentioned last night and YouTube, so here’s some YouTube history for you. Here’s a Google cheat sheet.

GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps are incredible products, putting resources that in our lifetimes once belonged only to the wealthiest and most advanced governments in the hands of anyone. Here’s some fun stuff about them. Have you looked for your house in GoogleMaps? I know if you go to my address, you can see my car sitting in the driveway. Google’s Buzz was pretty controversial, which we’ll talk about.

Want some alternatives to Google? Try this resource for 100 other search engines or use Googlonymous. Why do alternatives matter? Because it turns out that what you find depends very much on where you search! And, of course, there’s this new Bing thing, which we discussed last night in the context of its new Facebook deal. What makes Bing different from Google?

So, as you read Battelle, think through these links (like this one), and write your blog, consider this as a your blog post topic: Should we fear Google?

Stay tuned for a separate blog post about your community snapshot.

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I hope you enjoyed our wide-ranging discussion Wednesday night; sorry I’m a bit late getting this up. Next week’s class will be the second one focused on social media; in particular we’ll look at how collaboration happens online and in joint web projects. There’s also a bunch more sites and communities that we’ll explore. I think, out of the deep goodness of our hearts, that we’re going to go easy on you this week and not assign any additional reading, other than Anderson’s “The Long Tail.” Thus:

1) Work on your Twitter links for next week.

2) For your blog post this week, take your favorite hobby/activity and try to find some online communities about it. If there’s one for women who knit pink socks, there’s got to by some online activity (and perhaps even a specific social network) around your hobbies and activities. Blog about what you find as you search online. Are you surprised by what you find? What (and who) exactly do you find? Where are the leading sites on your chosen hobby? Who is the leader of the community? Remember: Be LINKY! Maybe they’ll come and read your post. Is there a community for your hobby on Flickr or even on Amazon? As a starting point, you might want to peruse that huge list we explored in class.

3) Read and think about the Long Tail: Where, in your personal experience, do you see the long tail playing out online? What interests/tastes/hobbies do you explore or use the web for that would have been difficult in the pre-web era? (This is a good way to tie your blog entry into the reading—and show us that you’re connecting the various points of the class.)

3) Catch up on any readings or blog posts you haven’t tackled yet. We’ll talk about the social media project in class next week and you’ll want to be all caught up.

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Be Our Friend

First things, first: Here’s the corporate blogging tips post we covered last night. And here’s the greatest blog by a law firm in the whole wide world.

Next week’s topic is social networking and social media. Just as this week was entirely about organizational and group blogging, we’re going to spend most of this next week looking at a a few of the major social networking and social media sites: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and Twitter. These are sites we’ve passed over earlier this semester briefly and now we’re going to dive into them.

I hope you enjoy Here Comes Everybody—it’s the most recent book you’ll read, since it came out just about a year ago, and I think it puts together lots of the class themes and the world into which we’re moving.

For starters, dig through Garrett’s files on Facebook, and make sure to read the following articles: Jeff Jarvis, Fast Company, Wharton, Mashable, CNN, and check out this tips and tools for Facebook. Here’s some info on how companies are using social networking and who are the demographics. Compare who uses MySpace and Facebook? What’s different? Why? What does friendship mean online? Watch Scoble’s take on Kyte TV (you may have to install Flash) and then ask yourself: Is Robert Scoble media? What does the future for media look more like? Scoble or the Wall Street Journal?

We’ll play with Digg, Flickr and YouTube in class some, so if you’ve never used those sites, make sure to spend some time on them. Here’s some background on Digg. They are some of the leading examples of social media. Del.icio.us is a form of social media too, and here are some other examples. Take a look at how to do effective online advocacy in social networks.

Your blogging question for the week: Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

Have you created an RSS reader account after last week’s class? If you have and you find some great links or feeds, make sure to put them in the Delicious feed or post them on your own blog.

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Blogging 101

I hope you enjoyed last night’s first class on blogging. This is a friendly reminder, since you have a week off of reading right now, that you should make sure that you’re staying on top of the assigned readings: “We the Media,” “Cluetrain,” and “Say Everything.” We throw a lot at you in the first half of the semester, so you don’t want to fall behind.

Have you set up a Google Reader for all your classmates and the class’s assigned blogs on the syllabus. Any of you ever read Seth Godin’s blog? He’s a very provocative marketing thinker, and you should consider loading Seth’s blog into your RSS reader.

Try to load all your fellow classmates blogs into Google Reader too (look to the right of the class blog for the links), as well as the assigned blogs like TechCrunch. Are there any bloggers or Twitter folks you think everyone in class should be following? Feel free, at the end of this week’s blog post, to make some suggestions about who your favorite bloggers and tweeters are.

All of your classmates are now on the Twitter list, so get to reading that list or just follow all your classmates. What’s on your mind this week that would be worthy of #mppr850? If you’re not using a desktop Twitter client like Tweetdeck or a Blackberry app like UberTwitter, you should try it out this week. Generally, most people find them vastly easier than Twitter’s own interface (and you can do more with it too). If, for instance, you’re posting links in those programs, they’ll be automatically shortened to save you valuable characters. As long as you’re experimenting, try out Google Chrome this week too.

For next week’s class, we want you to watch some vlogs (video blogs) and listen to some podcasts. Here are the links to TWiTRocketboom, and Ask a Ninja. Feel free to explore and see some other vlogs and podcasts.

If you have iTunes on your computer, the best place to find podcasts is in the iTunes store. You can download individual podcasts or subscribe. You can get a ton of your favorite NPR shows (This American Life, Day by Day, Diane Rehm, etc.), listen to speeches, and even download the Sunday talk shows, among the many professional podcasts. More fun, though, are the random podcasts. Dawn and Drew anyone?

Please also spend some time perusing the Edelman Trust Barometer. Mike’s going to focus a bunch next week on great corporate blogs and how institutions are using blogs well. The Trust Barometer is an interesting baseline to see some of the complications about how entities need to communication in the Cluetrain era.

Next week in class, we’ll be talking more about what makes a good blog and some of the various formats blogs have taken. Here are some useful blogging tips, as well as some other tips herehere, and here. Let us know how your blogging goes. As I said last night, we generally try to let you get a couple of weeks under your belt before we offer too much comment, but remember the four blog posts I singled out last night as particularly stellar.

Your blogging assignment for the week: Based on those four pages of “Say Everything,” about sincerity and authenticity, as well as the Edelman Trust Barometer and Cluetrain, what would you say to a CEO who wanted to start a blog?

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Twitter Recommendations

Want some ideas about who to follow to help make Twitter useful? Here are some of my favorite Twitter people:

Web 2.0 Brains: Michael Slaby, Katharine Zaleski, Matt Thompson, Lovisa Williams (State Dept.), Scott Rosenberg (recognize this guy?), Danah Boyd, Bob Cohn, Nick O’Neill, Frank Gruber, Andy Carvin, Katie Boehret (a former student), Jay Rosen, Craig Newmark (of Craig’s List), Robert Scoble.

Journalists: Jacob Weisberg, Alyssa Rosenberg,  Jess Vascellero, Ari Shapiro, Jack Shafer, Brian Stelter, John Dickerson, Chris Cillizza, Mary Katharine Ham, Mark Knoller.

News sites: We Love DC, TBD, Washingtonian.

Politicos: Kevin Madden, Sen. Claire McCaskill, Karl Rove, Sen. Chuck GrassleyNewt Gingrich, Joe Trippi.

Cool People: Amanda Little (a grad of this class and com dir on the Hill), Erin Caldwell (works with Mike), Dave Levy (ditto), David Almacy (ditto), Jason Linkins, Farah Pandith, Kashmir Hill, Jake Brewer, John Della Volpe, Henry Copeland, Micah Sifry, Nancy Scola, Michael Bassik, Michael Silberman, Clay Johnson.

Personalities: Jose Andres, Conan O’Brien, The Situation, Snooki.

Just for Fun: God_Damn_Batman, DC Fire and EMS.

Who do you like to follow?

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