Category Archives: Technology

Weekly #11: The 2012 Online Race

I can’t believe May is almost here. Where did the time go? It seems like just yesterday when I was on the National Mall witnessing the swearing in of the 44th President of the United States. With the fall elections close in sight and the 2012 presidential race around the corner, politicos across America are gearing up to battle it out in an effort to get their candidates elected.

So what steps should political strategists take to ensure they win the 2012 election online? To be effective, they will need to look to past case studies to see what worked and what didn’t. Luckily for them, one of the best case studies of online organizing lies within the political arena. President Barack Obama’s online grassroots organizing effort was without doubt the key ingredient to his victory.

In 2012, candidates will need to use a combination of social media and micro-targeting strategies to effectively engage and empower the electorate. According to Edelman’s The Social Pulpit: Barack Obama’s Social Media Toolkit, best practices learned from the Obama campaign include:

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything else incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

Candidates will need to utilize today’s standard social media platforms, including Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Meetup to engage their supporters as they did in the past, but will also have to look to newer Web 2.0 tools that have only recently come into play.

For example, one of the hot upcoming trends is location-based services as seen at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive. Foursquare and Gowalla are two such companies that are offering information and entertainment services through mobile devices via geographical positioning. With the mobile phone industry expected to climb to $30 billion by 2013, it’s clear candidates should seek to engage voters through similar tools. More innovative technologies will certainly be here by 2012.  Just think – YouTube didn’t even exist during George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

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Response #3: Smarter Phones, Smarter Kids

There has been a lot of discussion lately surrounding smart phones and their potential to be used as valuable teaching devices. This is even happening at the highest levels of government. In March of this year, First Lady Michelle Obama endorsed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Apps for Healthy Kids Challenge as part of her Let’s Move campaign. The competition is calling on game developers to create innovative, fun and engaging games that encourage children and teens to eat healthier and be more active.

That same week, Mashable covered the launch of Fisher Price’s new iPhone app for 2-year-olds. The games are designed to teach kids and keep them distracted. By the time April’s Fast Company arrived in my mailbox, I wasn’t at all surprised to see two young twin girls on the cover both holding smart phones with this text: The Real Smart Phone Revolution: How Tech Is Making Kids Smarter Everywhere.

I attended a forum earlier this year at the Kaiser Family Foundation that featured the chairman of the FCC, media executives and child development experts. The discussion surrounded the release of the organization’s national survey of media usage among children and teens. According to the findings, daily media use among young kids and teens is up dramatically from five years ago. The average American child aged 8 to 18 now spends seven hours and 38 minutes each day plugged in. Nearly 20 percent of media consumption occurs on mobile device, including cell phones, iPods or handheld video game players.

Today’s children are a part of a generation that has never known a world without ubiquitous handheld and networked technology. It will be fascinating to see how different our world will become when they  graduate college and enter the workforce. E-mail viewed as “old school” is only the start of it all.

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Weekly #10: Warfare in the Digital Age

I’m a big fan of The Kalb Report. Now in its 16th season, the program is focusing on the relationship between a free press and a free society. I attended the taping of Play by Play with Bob Costas, What Makes 60 Minutes Tick? and, most recently in March, War Reporting:  The New Rules of Engagement.

Four of America’s top correspondents joined Marvin Kalb to discuss the changing nature of war reporting and warfare in the digital age. They included Rajiv Chandrasekaran of The Washington Post; Cami McCormick of CBS News; Laura King of the Los Angeles Times and Martha Raddatz of ABC News.

It was a wonderful opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at how journalists cover wars, the difficulties they face and the many reasons why they’re drawn to such a dangerous profession. In the discussion, I learned that McCormick was seriously injured in Afghanistan in August 2009 when the vehicle she was riding in was hit by an explosive device. She is still recovering from her injuries, but wants to return to the battlefield as soon as she can.

War reporters have a strong, insatiable desire to tell a story that so often goes untold. That is also the case for many military members who have turned to blogging to share their own experiences. I believe that seeing and reading about war is very good thing. It is important that we know and understand the complexities of war and what our military members do day in a day out to defend our borders and protect our freedoms. Just as we thank our military members for their service, we also must remember to thank the many journalists and military bloggers who have courageously risked their lives in order to share their experiences with us.

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Response #2: Making Connections With Social Media

The volcanic ash over European air space is putting quite a strain on airline travelers this week. An interactive map on the New York Times website tracks cancellations in real-time. Many travelers are turning to technology and social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter for support, taking advantage of their many offerings in order to share information and build communities.

A couple stranded in London had quite a tale and decided to spread their story through a Facebook group titled When Volcanoes Erupt: A Survival Guide for Stranded Travelers. The group enables stranded passengers to share stories and offer advice. It currently has more than 1,600 members. The most popular hashtags among stranded passengers include #ridesharing, #getmehome and #putmeup.

Major airliners including United Airlines and British Airways are also turning to social media channels in order to reach their customers and keep them up-to-date on the latest information. Customers are very helpful in sharing this information by retweeting, enabling news to spread more rapidly.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg traveled to Washington, DC last week for the Nuclear Summit. According to Mashable, he is still stuck in the nation’s capital. Stoltenberg’s press secretary said he is “running the Norwegian government from the U.S. on his new iPad.”

For a couple stuck in Dubai on the day of their London wedding, modern technology enabled them to carry on with their nuptials while their family observed the event from London via webcam.

From the Haiti and Chinese earthquakes to the Iceland volcanic eruption, we are learning just how valuable social media and innovative technology can truly be.

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Weekly #9: Kenya’s Voices

Global Voices is a wonderful community of nearly 200 bloggers that work to translate and share social media commentary from around the world. Its mission is to “aggregate, curate and amplify the global conversation online – shining a light on places and people other media often ignore.” The community abides by a manifesto, which outlines its belief in free speech: the right to speak and the right to listen. The site provides online training, tutorials and open source tools for people around the world to use safely to express their views.

Site visitors can search for content by geographic location (country or region) as well as by topic area. I specifically studied the various blog postings related to Kenya. Two particular stories are featured on the top of the page that have completely different topics. The first discusses a massive flash flood, which hit the northern part of the country and destroyed tourist lodges and wildlife research camps. The second story focused on transparency in technology. Approximately three blog posts related to Kenya are added each month. The community is incredibly  active in commenting and expressing their viewpoints.

The site is a great way for people to stay updated on interesting news from around the globe. Users can sign up to receive weekly summaries of news articles via e-mail. Global Voices also manages a Twitter feed @globalvoices, a Facebook page and a YouTube channel to further engage the community.

According to Quantcast, the site has 58,800 unique monthly visitors. Twenty four percent of which are located within the United States. The site predominantly attracts a male audience that is highly educated and of Asian descent.

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Weekly #6: The World of Gaming

Computer and video games were a big part of my childhood. I have fond memories playing games with my friends and family. I especially enjoyed my original Nintendo game console. I spent countless hours rescuing the princess in Super Mario Brothers, killing game in Duck Hunt and running for gold on my Power Pad. When I wasn’t home, I had the ability to continue playing. I brought my Game Boy and Sega Genesis portable with me everywhere.

Computer games were also one of my favorite pastimes. I tracked Carmen Sandiego’s whereabouts and built the infrastructure of new cities across America thanks to Sim City. We seemed to spend endless hours in middle school playing Oregon Trail. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to the game with 2,245 members appropriately titled I Just Tried to Ford the River and My Fricken Oxen Died.

Looking back at those years, my life as a gamer seemed to end abruptly. I began to think of video games as dorky and a total waste of time. Oddly enough, one of my main clients today is a major player in the entertainment software space. Each and every day I spend countless hours writing about technology and how the industry is playing an increasingly important role in our society. Although I spend much of my day thinking about computer and video games, I never get the opportunity to play them and actually experience how far they have come. That briefly changed for an hour or two before the Christmas holiday. My coworker brought in The Beatles: Rock Band. I won’t deny it – I was super excited about the opportunity to jam with my all-time favorite band. I picked up the guitar and selected “I Am the Walrus” and joined John, Paul, George and Ringo on stage. I was lucky enough to meet Paul face-to-face in 2002. This was almost like the real deal.

I’ve heard quite a bit about Second Life and thought I’d give it a whirl and immerse myself in this new world. I flew around a city, ran into some walls and found myself in a lounge sitting on the bench of a white grand piano. I felt as though I had escaped my own life. I was in a magical land far, far away from reality. I also checked out Persuasive Games and was absolutely amazed by the selection of fun, interactive and educational games available. I gave Killer Flu and Debt Ski a shot. Next on the agenda – Fatworld. Computer and video games have certainly come a long way. I look forward to learning more about the mobile and online video game space in tomorrow’s class.

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Weekly #5: The Google Galaxy

Google currently holds a commanding 65 percent market share. This success has only motivated the company to go above and beyond. Google continues to innovate and bring exciting services to the marketplace. There is no doubt in my mind that it has the overarching goal of one day taking over the World Wide Web. I also believe that if it reaches this goal – it won’t stop there. Google currently controls more network fiber than any other organization. As this writer suggests, the company is attempting to take over the fixed networks in our lives, including the telephone and cable television. And that’s just the start of it.

I think all consumers should be afraid of companies that operate as monopolies. Competition should exist in the marketplace. It’s only natural. Without it, companies can walk all over consumers. Google is certainly heading in a monopolistic direction.

Don’t get me wrong though. I love Google and believe I benefit immensely each and every day from its services. My top most visited site is certainly Google.com. I value the ability to consistently find what it is I am looking for. Perhaps Bono still hasn’t discovered this nifty tool?

I also find Gmail incredibly useful in terms of its unlimited storage space, and Gchat comes in handy as a quick and easy way to keep in touch with friends. My Google Reader allows me to stay on top of the latest news and information. Google Maps consistently delivers spot on directions. YouTube provides endless entertainment. Google Groups saves me time and alleviates stress. Google Voice is saving people loads of money on their phone bill. Google has undoubtedly transformed the Internet. It will certainly be interesting to see how more the company can impact our lives in the years ahead.

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