Anyone with a smartphone can now do reporting: share geolocated photos, video or stream what’s happening. I’m here, you’re not, here’s what I see. Does such “citizen reporting” rise to an “act of journalism” and need to protected under the First Amendment? Increasingly, I tend to think that it does — and that’s going to be a key question in the not-so-distant future, if Congress gets around to re-examining shield laws. Shield laws have been an issue for years, in the context of how the digital media ecosystem has democratized the means of publication, particularly of reporting images and video.
Currently, there is no federal shield law to protect sources and methods. Last year’s ruling in Oregon cemented the reality that 20th century shield laws lag today’s social media realities, even if the blogger in question turns out to have gone far beyond where many of the people initially defending her realized. A subsequent clarification showed that the judge who made the ruling believes bloggers can be journalists.
Honestly, some days I find the gatekeeping and credentialism I still see and hear disquieting. Since my degree is in biology and sociology, not “journalism,” should I get kicked out of the profession? Without getting testy, this attitude is exactly what will allow governments to arrest people livestreaming because they aren’t “members of the media.” (I also think it’s why there are still tables for “print only” in Congressional hearing rooms and 20th century rules for hard press passes for broadcast, radio or print journalists in the Senate and restrictions on the use of computers in some House subcommittees.)
Who gets to decide if someone is a journalist? Is someone who works at the Daily Enquirer who posts pictures of a naked celebrity a journalist — but someone who posts pictures of a cop beating a student is not? What about a columnist who writes about the Greatest Athlete EVER versus a blogger who chronicles how well documented city council hearings are and issues with the document format or codec type from the software vendor? The odds are good that it will be U.S. Senators and judges who make that call: it’s important to think carefully about which side you come down upon and why.
Honestly, I’m starting to think that the term “curators” should have been left in museums, where it was quite clear what they did. How about “editors vs curators?” Fuzzier, right?
Hey, I love it when people link and share my work, personally. I hate it when they plagiarize, don’t link or attribute it. Curate me, please!
Personally, if someone produces work that is fair, accurate, adds necessary context and based on the available evidence, I’m generally happy to call it journalism, regardless of whether the author is on a masthead somewhere or has the right B.S. on a sheepskin.
This post has been updated with links and commentary.
[Editor’s note: these are live, rough notes from my iPad, and should not in any way represent a 100% accurate transcription. I missed far too much. Caveat lector. My comments are in brackets. You can find Dr. @Atul_Gawande‘s bio & writing at the New Yorker. Update: I’ve posted video of Dr. Gawande below.]
GAWANDE: A fascinating part [of the Health Data Palooza]: the idea that we’re putting together people from government, healthcare systems, people from outside who have knowledge about data and tools. This is quite different from the normal models: regulatory or laissez faire.
We have a healthcare system that’s fundamentally broken. The most common complaints from patients seem to be no one you can count on. If you’re paying, you have no sense that there is anyone who can help it costs be under control.
Where to start to fix that? We have recognized that there is enormous variation in cost, depending on whet you go. There is enormous variation in cost, depending on where you go. The two don’t have anything to do with one another. So there’s hope. [Good news.]
Some of the best places to get care are the least expensive. [In healthcare,] positive deviants are the ones that look the most like systems.
Examples from war and lessons within lethality
GAWANDE: Start by looking at performance of doctors in war and their teams. In the war in Iraq/Afghanistan, lethality below 10%. That doesn’t reflect intensity of conflict but improvement in care.
How did we do it? It was the not discovery of new tech that transformed survival but ability to use existing tech far better, in a system that works.
1) Kevlar. Got soldiers to wear it, operationally.
2) Speed to operating table. Improved forward mobile operating theaters.
We achieved the best survival rates in history. How? They changed the way they did surgery. Looked at data, realized needed to stop bleeding, stop contamination, under resource restrictive conditions. No X-rays, needed to learn 19th century techniques for finding fractures by feel.
They adopted “damage control surgery”: Do what you could during 2 hours. Ship and add a note: here’s what I’d did, what’s needed. That helped stimulate development of simple EHR. Average time from wounded on the battlefield, to getting care in the field, Baghdad, in Germany, in us, is less than 3 days. Less than 36 hours for some.
Soldiers can find better care for some conditions in Iraq than in a US city, with fewer resources. How? Alignment of finances, incentives. They weren’t “fee for service soldiers.” Everyone is on the same team: focused on saving life, maintaining health.
Within 48 hours of the wounding or death of soldier, posted on the DoD website. [DCAS: Defense Casualty Analysis System] The public accesses that data, but doctors & nurses access it the most.
One more example: soldiers not wearing protective eyewear. They called them ‘Granny goggles.’ The DoD contracted with a designer, made cool ones. Now wearing. Needed data and research to understand. [Stories matter.]
Affordable Care Organizations (ACOs) have done financial alignment. They’re committing to doing more project at a time. They’re committed to better health within an environment.
To get there, folks in war needed data useful to frontline decision makers. [The same is true at home.]
It was not brilliant of them to put together this week’s smudged sterling example of linkbait, which stands to damage their credibility with new readers who are not friends of those selected.
Look: I’ve met 80% of the people on this list of the “DC’s Top 10 Social Media Influencers” and follow many of them. I have much respect for their smarts, digital savvy and professionalism.
But if this is the” top 10,” what, exactly, does being an DC “influencer in social media” mean here? Online influence is not just about having a lot of Twitter followers.
For instance, I’m ahead of @LukeRussert by more than 33,000+ and have a higher Klout score, due in part to a large following on Google+ and Facebook. Does that mean that I’m more influential? Maybe on social media and certainly with respect to technology, but certainly not on broadcast news, which still retains enormous influence in our country. It also wasn’t hard to think of another person in DC who’s more influential with respect to social media than either one of us:
What about more “influential in the startup and DC tech scene, which “In the Capital” says it covers? Are all ten of these people more influential than Peter Corbett, Frank Gruber or Jen Consalvo, the co-founders or DC Week and organizers of the huge DC Tech Meetup? I’d don’t think so. And neither does Russert:
Mark Drapeau, director of innovative engagement in Microsoft’s office of civic engagement — and a member of the list — offered a dissenting perspective:
all these lists are kinda different or the same based on peoples’ biases and what they hope to accomplish and the audience they hope to reach. The Washington Post turns it into a ridiculous game. In the Capital picked… people they think are cool. Politico made the same exact list [of top DC Twitterers] and it’s all – gasp – politicos! The LA Times made the same list [DC twitterers], and they simply ranked people by followers – lazy! I made the same list based on how people interact with their communities – lots of people I know from… my community! All the lists are right, all the lists are wrong, there is nothing to debate, complain about, or mock.
In DC social media, there’s lots of actual social data to crunch to enable some measure influence and connected, not just from PeerIndex or Klout but from Google back links or Twitter/Facebook engagement numbers. Or they could have run their own data on how much engagement or amplification people get on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google+, etc. That’s just not what happened today.
This feels straightforward, at least from where I sit tonight: If editors make lists, they need to be able to back them up with criteria and methodology. That’s why people read Consumer Reports, for instance, when they buy things. Lists and ratings from credible publications influence the buying and hiring decisions of consumers. That’s why there’s a market for them and why people and brands get excited about being selected.
If “In The Capital” really wanted to measure “influence” and do a Top 10 List, “In the Capital” could have cited Klout or PeerIndex, flawed as those services may yet be. Gadi-Ben Yehuda, social media strategist for IBM’s Center on the Business of Government, made this comment:
The easiest way to have voided any controversy would have been not to use the title “DC’s Top Ten Influencers in Social Media,” which is confusing in any case. Honestly, when I saw who was on the list (the majority was women), I thought “OK, this must be people who do primarily social media activities, i.e. they don’t publish substantive articles on important government events (like Alex), they don’t run tech/innovation companies (like Peter Corbett), they don’t work in the innovation office of cabinet-level agencies (like @AlecJRoss). These are people who’s skill is in the medium that others of us use as a tool to accomplish other things.”
That seemed to answer the question of what the article was about, but only if one focused on the words “in social media.” But what about this words “top” and “influencer” what do those words even mean? Klout defines influence as the ability to spur others to take action. If that’s what an influencer is, then I don’t think there can be a top ten list without Obama, or at least Macon Phillips. Again, Peter Corbett (he got more than 10K people here for DCWeek, after all). Alan Rosenblatt should also likely be on that list.
Based upon Byrne’s comments and some background gathered at last night’s DC Social Media Happy Hour, the list was originally pitched to be about 10 awesome women who consult and teach others in the DC community about how to use social media. Shireen Michell, for instance, is influential with segments of the District’s community who are not in the government or media space.
Then In The Capital appears to have dropped two of them, added Russert and Drapeau, and changed the title and premise, which was not and is not supportable based upon qualititative or quantitative grounds. When asked about the substance behind the list, the author of the post offered this response:
@digiphile all lists are derived from the personal opinon and conversations of our staff As we grow we hope to make these more comprehensive
Lisa Byrne, a social strategist at the Pappas Group who was put on the list, offered some insight into what seems to have happened:
“I actually gave a lot of input (originally it was all female so I never spoke of any guys who should be noted),” she commented. “I was not advised it would be titled Influencers. I listed people who were community leaders in the social space – online and specifically offline.”
Social Media Week DC is going to be a busy conference for me this year. If you haven’t heard about it yet, the week-long festival starts 12 days from now. The week will feature speakers, panels, workshops, events, and parties all across the District celebrating tech and social media in the Nation’s Capital, including a special edition of the DC Tech Meetup. I’m going to be moderating four panels and participating on a fifth. I’m excited about all five and I hope that readers, friends, colleagues and the DC community comes to one or more of them.
If the panels that I’m involved in aren’t your cup of tea, you might find something more to your taste in the full SMW DC schedule.
Following is the breakdown of the five panels that I’ll be participating in this year:
Creating & Managing High Quality Online Conversations Location: Science Club Date: Monday, February 13 at 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM | Add to Google Calendar | Add to iCal Description: Discussions in online comment sections and social media can be tricky to manage. Some sites are bogged down full of low quality comments, spam, and more. How do we create high quality online discussions? How do we filter out the noise – the spam, the solicitation, harassment, and hateful speech that often becomes part of any online discussion? We will discuss examples of those that have done it well, and some that haven’t. We will also speak to individuals who have dealt with harassment and negativity online and learn how they fought back and still used social media tools for constructive discussion and engagement.
Public Diplomacy in the Age of Social Media Location: New America Foundation Date: Thursday, February 16 at 9:30 AM – 11:00 AM | Add to Google Calendar| Add to iCal
Description: How does social media change how statecraft is practiced in the 21st century? Who’s participating and why? What have been some lessons learned from the pioneers who have logged on to listen and engage? Three representatives from the U.S. Department of State will share case studies and professional experiences gleaned directly from the virtual trenches.
Social Media, Government and 21st Century eDemocracy Location: The U.S. National Archives Date: Friday, February 17 at 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM | Add to Calendar | Add to iCal Description: While Sean Parker may predict that social media will determine the outcome of the 2012 election, governance is another story entirely. Meaningful use of social media by Congress remains challenged by a number of factors, not least an online identity ecosystem that has not provided Congress with ideal means to identify constituents online. The reality remains that when it comes to which channels influence Congress, in-person visits and individual emails or phone calls are far more influential with congressional staffers.“People think it’s always an argument in Washington,” said Matt Lira, Director of Digital for the House Majority Leader. “Social media can change that. We’re seeing a decentralization of audiences that is built around their interests rather than the interests of editors. Imagine when you start streaming every hearing and making information more digestible. All of a sudden, you get these niche audiences. They’re not enough to sustain a network, but you’ll get enough of an audience to sustain the topic. I believe we will have a more engaged citizenry as a result.”
This conversation with Lira (and other special guests, as scheduling allows) will explore more than how social media is changing politics in Washington. We’ll look at its potential to can help elected officials and other public servants make better policy decisions.
If you’re not in DC, check to see if there is a Social Media Week event near you: in 2012, the conference now include New York, San Francisco, Miami, Toronto, London, Paris, Rome, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and Sao Paulo.
Earlier in the afternoon, I joined Google’s Daniel Sieberg on our own Google+ Hangout to talk about the potential impact that online video, hangouts, and live broadcasts between citizens and their elected officials could have on the political landscape.
The moderator, Google’s Steve Grove, gave the participants (2 men, 2 women and one classroom of young people) the opportunity to follow up on their questions to the president. There will be much more analysis of the questions asked and the president’s answers tonight, as there should be.
Here’s a quick recap, distilled from my notes: The forum began with a video question to the president about promoting a living wage for students working their way through college. The second question came from the Hangout, on why the White House doesn’t expand expanded H1B visas for foreign workers at the expense of skilled labor with the U.S. President Obama told the wife of a semiconductor engineer (who asked the latter question and, critically, got to follow up in the Hangout) if she sent him her husband’s resume, he’d be happy to find what’s happening.
One could dismiss it as pandering — or celebrate it as a citizen cutting through the morass of bureaucracy to tell the nation’s chief executive that the system wasn’t working as he said it should. Such followups in the Hangout are what made this different than the past YouTube and White House interviewed. Politico talked to Jennifer Wedel, of Forth Worth, Texas, who asked the question during the presidential Hangout:
“I’ll have to take you up on that,” Wedel said of the president’s offer to help her husband, Darin, who lost his job at Texas Instruments three years ago.
Later, Wedel told POLITICO that she and the president had a “pretty crazy interaction” that she hadn’t expected when she asked about the federal government granting H-1B visas to skilled foreign workers while U.S. citizens such as her husband are out of work.
“I don’t think he was trying to be condescending or anything,” said Wedel, who never completed college and was a stay-at-home mom before her husband was laid off, but now has a full-time job at State Farm to help make ends meet. “I just think I stumped him a little and he wanted me to hush about it.”
“I think he knows pretty well that the H-1B is an issue because — it’s kind of like the Occupy movement — big corporations are putting up the money to get the visas” and choosing lower-paid foreign workers over domestic ones, Wedel said. “I don’t think what he was telling me was true, and I think he knew it, and that’s why he offered to take my husband’s resume,” she said, adding that her husband has kept it updated.
Another question from YouTube featured a video taken from an #Occupy protester in Portland. A question taken from within the White House Hangout asked about the president’s plans to help small business and to restructure government, which the Washington Post covered this month.
Another question posed within the Hangout about a lack of dialogue with children about the financial crisis offered the president a human moment, where he said that he tries to explain what’s happened with economy to his daughters over the dinner table.
There were incontrovertibly tough questions asked tonight, including one from a homeless veteran who asked why the U.S. is sending money to Pakistan and places that are known to give money to terrorism. In answer, the president said that the U.S. only spends 1% of its budget on foreign aid, and that it pays off in a lot of ways as part of the country’s national security strategy. What we don’t want is countries to collapse, have to send in our guys at huge potential risk and cost to taxpayers, he said.
The President was asked a video question from YouTube that cited a New York Times story on the use of drones in Iraq, which the president called “overwritten. The drones have not caused an unusual number of civilian casualties, he said, stating that it was a targeted focused effort aimed at Al Queda, not for other purposes.
I was personally glad to see that Grove asked a question on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), noting that both were hot within the YouTube community. Needless to say, that part of the transcript will be carefully analyzed by the people whose collective online action changed Washington.
We need to use tools we have, he said, noting recent takedown action by the Justice Department. At the same time, when SOPA came up on the hill, said the President, “we expressed some concerns about the way the legislation had been written.” Now, he said, the content and server sides need to come together for strong IP protections that preserve basic architecture of the Internet.
While the top-rated question was asked, concerning the extradition of a British national, there were no questions posted about legalizing marijuana, which once again rose to the top of CitizenTube (perhaps Grove and his colleagues at YouTube felt it had been asked enough?) nor any question was asked about the National Defense Reauthorization Act, which many other users on YouTube wanted to see addressed.
UPDATE: When I followed up with Grove on Google+ about the process behind the questions, he made the following comment:
We chose the questions from among the top-voted questions on YouTube… it’s always a fun challenge to ensure you get a broad range of issues and perspectives into these discussions from amongst the top-voted questions, but I hope people feel that we did a good job of listening to community votes. We asked several of the top-voted questions, including the #1 voted question on YouTube. Some people asked why we didn’t ask about marijuana legalization… as an FYI, we asked the President about it last year (see here: Drug Policy – President Obama’s YouTube Interview 2011).
As far as the hangout participants, we also selected them based off of the questions they had submitted to YouTube — again looking for a range of Americans… that part had to happen a little earlier during the submission process, so we could prepare for the Hangout today.
President Barack Obama participates in an interview with YouTube and Google+ to discuss his State of the Union Address, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Jan. 30, 2012. The interview was held through a Google+ Hangout, making it the first completely virtual interview from the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Overall, I can honestly say that we saw something new in the intersection of government, technology and society. From where I sat, plugged in within the Sunlight Foundation, it felt like a good thing, not just for the White House or the president’s campaign or Google (although all certainly benefitted) but for the promise of the Internet to more directly connect public officials to those that they serve, with all of their real problems, concerns, doubts and fears.
At the end of the event, there was a moment of unexpected human connection, when one of the women on the hangout invited her three children to come meet the president.
They stared and smiled, left a bit wide eyed by the President of the United States smiling out of the computer screen and bidding them to obey their mother and do their homework. We could do with more wonder in the world, where such unexpected encounters occur online.
Viewership estimate via Google’s Steve Grove, who said at the end of the netcast that a quarter of a million people were watching on YouTube. Given the White House’s own livestream, the number could be higher.
This morning, Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, said in a statement today that he will postpone next week’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). Update: Rep. Lamar Smith followed with a statement that he would also halt consideration of SOPA. This is a historic victory for the Internet community. Collectively, millions of people rose up and told Washington that these bills shall not pass.
An unprecedented day of online protests over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives and the PIPA in the U.S. Senate and the resulting coverage on cable and broadcast news networks had an effect.
“Senator Reid made the right decision in postponing next week’s vote on PIPA,” said Center for Democracy and Technology president Leslie Harris. “It’s time for a hard reset on this issue. We need a thoughtful and substantive process that includes all Internet stakeholders. We need to take a hard look at the facts and find solutions that honor the Internet’s openness and its unique capacity for innovation and free expression. We are thankful for the efforts of Senator Ron Wyden who from the beginning stood against this bill; his early opposition and leadership gave voice to the important concerns of the Internet community.”
Wikipedia, Google, BoingBoing, Reddit, O’Reilly Media and thousands of other blogs asked their communities to take a stand and contact Washington.
“The amazing thing is that the power of these networks delivered,” wrote David Binetti in TechCrunch. “By the end of the day, 25 Senators — including at least 5 former co-sponsors of the bill — had announced their opposition to SOPA. Think about that for just a second: A well-organized, well-funded, well-connected, well-experienced lobbying effort on Capitol Hill was outflanked by an ad-hoc group of rank amateurs, most of whom were operating independent of one another and on their spare time. Regardless where you stand on the issue — and effective copyright protection is an important issue — this is very good news for the future of civic engagement.”
As shown by ProPublica’s excellent SOPA Tracker, SOPA and PIPA now have 122 opponents in the House and Senate, four times as many as on Monday.
These bills are not “dead,” no matter what headlines you read today, although I can now say with some confidence that they will not pass in their current form. There are ongoing negotiations to redraft them, cutting DNS filtering provisions or search engine blocks in an effort to make them acceptable to technology companies like Google.
While the Internet mattered this week, it’s important to recognize that but for the efforts of Senator Ron Wyden, Rep. Darrell Issa, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Rep. Jared Polis and Rep. Zoe Logren, I believe SOPA and PIPA would likely have passed. Senator Wyden put a critical hold on the PROTECT IP Act after it sailed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Those representatives proposed dozens of amendments to SOPA in a marathon, days-long markup session that effectively filibustered the bill, delayed it until the House came back into session in January. That delay enabled hundreds of organizations and individuals, including newspaper editors, human rights advocates, academics, engineers and public interest groups, to rally to save the Internet as we know it.
“Supporters of the Internet deserve credit for pressing advocates of SOPA and PIPA to back away from an effort to ram through controversial legislation,” Issa said in an emailed statement. “Over the last two months, the intense popular effort to stop SOPA and PIPA has defeated an effort that once looked unstoppable but lacked a fundamental understanding of how Internet technologies work.
“Postponing the Senate vote on PIPA removes the imminent threat to the Internet, but it’s not over yet. Copyright infringement remains a serious problem and any solution must be targeted, effective, and consistent with how the Internet works. After inviting all stakeholders to help improve American intellectual property protections, I have introduced the bipartisan OPEN Act with Senator Rob Wyden which can be read and commented on at KeepTheWebOPEN.com. It is clear that Congress needs to have more discussion and education about the workings of the Internet before it moves forward on sweeping legislation to address intellectual property theft on the Internet. I look forward to working with my colleagues and stakeholders to achieve a needed consensus about the way forward.”
In the meantime, everyone who participated in this week’s unprecedented day of online action should know that what they did this week mattered. If you’d asked me about the prospects for the passage of these bills back in December — and many people did, after I wrote a feature at Radar in November that highlighted the threat these anti-piracy bills presented to the Internet, security and freedom of expression online — I estimated that it was quite likely. So did Chris Dodd, the head of the MPAA, who told the New York Times that these passage of these bills was “considered by many to be a ‘slam dunk.'”
We’re now in unexplored territory. I’ve been writing about how the Internet affects government and government affects the Internet for years now. This week was clearly a tipping point in that space. The voices of the people, expressed in calls, letters, tweets, petitions and protests, were heard in Washington. There are incredibly difficult challenges that face us as a country and as a global community, from jobs to healthcare to the environment to civil liberties to smoldering wars around the world. What happened this week, however, will reinvigorate the notion that participating in the civic process matters. Here’s to working on stuff that matters, together.
2010 was full of amazing stories and experiences, both personal and professional. I’m grateful for the many opportunities I had speak to brilliant, fascinating people about technology, government, media and civil society. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my interviews this year, many of which were captured on video. Some were filmed with my iPhone 4, others with a Canon 110si, others by O’Reilly Media’s professional video team after I joined the company as its new Gov 2.0 Washington Correspondent.
Regardless of the quality of light, image or sound, each interview taught me something new, and I’m proud they’re all available on the Web to the public. The list below isn’t exhaustive, either. There are easily a dozen other excellent interviews on my channel on YouTube, O’Reilly Media’s YouTube channel, uStream and Livestream. Thank you to each and every person who took time to talk to me this past year.
20. Professor Fred Cate on electronic privacy protections and email
19. Google Open Advocate Chris Messina on Internet freedom
18. Foursquare Creator Dennis Crowley on the NASA Tweetup and #IVoted
17. Co-Chairman of the Future of Privacy Forum Jules Polonetsky
16. NASA CTO Chris Kemp on cloud computing and open source
15. Portland Mayor Sam Adams on open data
14. Former Xerox Chief Scientist and PARC Director John Seely Brown on education
13. NPR’s Andy Carvin on CrisisWiki
12. ISE Founder Claire Lockhart on government accountability
11. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior on the evolution of smarter cities
10. Ushahidi Co-Founder Ory Okolloh on crowdsourcing
9. Senator Kate Lundy on Gov 2.0 in Australia
8. Intellipedia: Moving from a culture of “need to know” to “need to share” using wikis
7. ESRI Co-Founder Jack Dangermond on mapping
6. Sunlight Foundation Co-Founder Ellen Miller on Open Government
5. HHS CTO Todd Park on Open Health Data
4. FCC Tech Cast with Expert Lab’s Gina Trapani
3. Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak on the Open Internet
2. United States CTO Aneesh Chopra on Open Government
Last weekend, I was proud to join a fascinating group of people in the first News Foo out in Phoenix, Arizona. I’m still thinking through what it all meant to me. Covering events in Washington has kept me extremely busy from the moment I returned.
Almost by definition, you can’t go to everything at an unconference. And by definition, an unconference is what you make of it, meaning that if you to a session to happen, you need to propose it. If you don’t like the one you’re in, vote with your feet. The open structure means that everyone will have a different experience, a reality that was reflected in the tweets, blogposts and feedback that have emerged in the days since the first News Foo concluded in Phoenix.
Newsfoo is a variant of Tim O’Reilly’s famed Foo camps, which have a wiki unconference format. People create the sessions as they go, and they camp out together. The social + intellectual experience is a bonding opportunity. There is also, for example, a Sci Foo camp which is consponsored by O’Reilly, Nature mag and Google. Now there is a push to do a Newsfoo, which would bring technologists and journalists together in a high-level discussion, that looks forward rather than back. It would tackle cool problems, both content side and business side.
To expand on that concept, posted before the event, News Foo was a collaboration between O’Reilly Media, Google and the Knight Foundation. Each hour or so, four or five sessions frequently competed for attention, along with freewheeling conversations in hallways, tables and in the open spaces of Arizona State University’s beautiful journalism center. As with every unconference, the attendees created the program and decided which sessions to attend, aggregating or disaggregating themselves.
If you’re interested in other reactions to News Foo, several excellent posts have made their way online since Sunday. I’ll be posting more thoughts on Newsfoo soon, along with book recommendations from the science fiction session.
For those who were not present, a post by Steve Buttry is particularly worth reading, along with the lively dialogue in the comments: “News Foo Camp: Not fully open, but certainly secret.” Buttry reached out to Sarah Winge, who provided a lengthy, informative comment about what Foos are about and how “Friend D.A.” works. If you’re not familiar with either, go check out Steve’s excellent post.
As he notes there, heavy tweeting was discouraged by the organizers, a request supported by the thinking that being “fully present,” freed of the necessary attention that documenting an event accurately requires of a writer, will result in a richer in-person experience for all involved.
Over the course of the weekend, I certainly tweeted much less than I would at the average conference or unconference. But then foo isn’t either.
Sysomos, maker of social media analysis tools, looked at 1.2 billion tweets over a two-month period to analyze what happens after we publish our tweets to Twitter. Its research shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction — in the form of replies or retweets — which suggests that an overwhelming majority of our tweets fall on deaf ears.
Sysomos findings also highlight that retweets are especially hard to come by — only 6% of all tweets produce a retweet (the other 23% solicit replies).
I’ll admit, this doesn’t shock me, based upon my experience over the years.
Many of my tweets are retweeted but then I have above-average reach at @digiphile and engaged followers.
I know I’m an outlier in many respects there, and that the community that I follow and interact with likely is as well.
This research backs that anecdotal observation up: people are consuming information rather than actively interacting with it. But my own experience doesn’t gibe with that greater truth, and that’s why I chimed in, even though I know it may expose me to more of my friend Jack Loftus‘ withering snark. (If you don’t read him at Gizmodo you’re missing out.)
Why Don’t People @Reply more?
So what’s going on? I have a couple of theories. The first is that @replies are much like comments. Most people don’t make either. Even though social networking has shifted many, many more people into a content production role through making status updates to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare (and now perhaps LinkedIn), the 90-9-1 rule or 1% rule still appears to matter most of the social Web. Participation inequality is not a new phenomenon.
That scope of that online history suggests that the behaviors of yesteryear aren’t completely subsumed by the explosion of a more social Web. Twitter and Facebook do appear to have diminished long form blogging activity or comments on posts, as netizens have moved their meta commentary to external social networks. And even there, recent Forrester research suggest that social networking users are creating less content.
As a researcher, if I were writing this headline, I would have written it thusly: “Nearly 3 in 10 Tweets Provoke A Reaction.”
I follow about 3,000 people on Twitter. If we assume that this lot posts five tweets per week (a conservative figure), that’s 15,000 tweets I could see in a given week, were I to never peel my eyes away from Tweetdeck. The Sysomos data suggests that of those 15,000 tweets, 4,350 were replied to or at least retweeted. See, I think that’s actually a big number.
In other words, 29% of tweets do get a response. That’s better than the direct mail or email marketing, as far as I know. I don’t expect a response from every tweet, though I’ve been guilty of that expectation in past years. That’s why I often ask the same question more than once now, or tweet stories again, or why I’ll syndicate a given post, video or picture into multiple networks.
I continue to find Twitter a useful tool for my profession. While inbound Web traffic from Twitter is negligible when compared to Google, Facebook, StumpleUpon or even Fark, I’ve found it useful for sourcing, sentiment analysis, Q&A, a directory, a direct line to officials and executives, and of course for distributing my writing. Twitter may not be essential in the same sense that a cellphone, camera, notebook and an Internet connection are in my work but I’ve found it to be a valuable complement to those tools. I’ve definitely sourced stories, gathered advice or recommendations through crowdsourcing questions there, with far less effort than more traditional means.
As I’ve previously observed in writing about language, government 2.0, jargon and technology, I believe the term should be defined primarily by its utility to helping citizens or agencies solve problems, either for individuals or the commons. Defining it in gauzy paeans evangelizing world-shaking paradigm shifts from the embrace of social media by politicians isn’t helpful on that level. That’s particularly when they’re broadcasting, not having conversations that result in more agile government.
Earlier this morning, I was reminded again of the history of the movement in the United States when, through serendipity, I ended up watching the first few minutes of Tim O’Reilly’s webcast, “What is Gov 2.0?” I participated in the webcast when it premiered this spring but was struck again by a particular vignette:
“The first person who really put Gov 2.0 on my radar was Carl Malamud. Carl is really the father of this movement in so many ways. Back in 1993, that’s pretty darn early in the history of the World Wide Web, he put the SEC online.
He got a small planning grant from the National Science Foundation, which he used to actually license the data, which at that point the SEC was licensing to big companies.
He got some servers from Eric Schmidt, who was the chief technology at Sun. And he basically put all this data he’d gotten from the SEC online, and he operated that for something like two years, and then he donated it to the federal government.
Carl’s idea was that it really mattered for the public to have access to SEC data.”
Here’s what the SEC wrote about the effort in 1996.
The Commission would like to extend its appreciation to Carl Malamud and Brad Burdick of Internet Multicasting Service. We would also like to express our thanks to Ajit Kambil and Mark Ginsburg of New York University, Stern School (http://edgar.stern.nyu.edu). Operating under a grant from the National Science Foundation for the past two years, IMS/NYU have been providing the EDGAR database to the public via the Internet as a pilot program. It has been an unquestioned success and has provided a significant public service. After the grant came to an end on October 1, 1995, the SEC decided to continue making the vast EDGAR database available to the public from an SEC facility. In addition to the EDGAR data, the Commission has also made available numerous investor guides, Commission reports, and other securities-related information. Much more will evolve from this initial service in the coming months.
Today, I found it notable to be reminded that Malamud was supported by the future CEO of Google in getting the SEC online. That’s the sort of public-private partnership that has substance beyond a buzzword, like his FedFlix effort to digitize films and videos produced by the government,
If you’re interested in Gov 2.0 and open government, the entire webcast with Tim is about 51 minutes long but well worth the time.
If you have some time, I highly recommend it for perspective on the history of Gov 2.0 and insight into what could be possible in the future.
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