Are you reading this Bill Deedes?

Oh yeah. Saw this comment last week on Guido’s blog.

You know newspapers have problems when even loyal Telegraph readers have the following to say:

"We have been reading The Daily Telegraph for years, (not the same copy of course), and only yesterday received a letter telling us that their subscription rate is going up a few pennies. … Meanwhile, back on Doris’s computer, I can get up early, read the papers online in my pyjamas … But best of all; I get real, down to earth information from the blogs, written by people who don’t bask in self importance. I can also occasionally get a word in myself, which I can’t when I write to The Daily Telegraph, because Bill Deedes never publishes my letters."

Chimes nicely with recent stats out from Hitwise showing that over 55s are close to being the largest demographic group in the UK using the internet. The stats show that the 55+ age-group accounted for 22% of internet visits up to 12 May 2007 compared to 23.5% by 35-44 year-olds.

Technorati tags: Guido+Fawkes; Daily+Telegraph; Silver+Surfers; Hitwise

Edelman: week one

Back home after my first frantic week at Edelman. My feet hardly touched the floor which meant time for blogging was non-existant. However, there are at least three posts I want to write up:

  • a piece about online identities from a really fantastic post by Elizabeth Albrycht;
  • why I think the web 2.0 bubble will lead to a cultural not a financial burst;
  • the shifting online media landscape: individual bloggers; newspaper columnist bloggers and individual columnist bloggers.

I’ll try to post at least one of these next week but in reality they may not appear until the following week! I really want to get these written so I am asking everyone to keep on hassling me via email, twitter, jaiku, IM to get them written!

Technorati tags: Edelman; hard+work; online+identity; web+2.0+bubble; blogging

Online communities and free drinks

I bookmarked a couple of posts at the weekend which I finally got round to reading tonight.

The posts were about an event called Soapboxes in cyberspace: how can the media facilitate debate online? organised by the Innovation Forum which was blogged by Sacred Facts’ Richard Sambrook.

Funnily enough his take on proceedings neatly chimed with a discussion I had today at a new business pitch.

The organisation in question wanted to use the internet and *ahem* “Web 2.0” in particular to build a network of potential clients for which it would provide support, advice and eventually help find investment.

I explained that they couldn’t force people to come to their website and use their services but by identifying where their potential clients hung out online they could tap into these existing networks and communities, introduce themselves and subsequently build awareness for their valuable work.

I think this hit home – or at least I hope it did – along with my suggestion that making people pay to join up-front is not a good idea.

Anyway… If I only I had seen Richard’s comment earlier I could have explained what I was trying to say much more succinctly:

“Instead of insisting people come and have a good time at our place, we need to find out where they are gathering anyway and buy the drinks….”

Amen to that.

Technorati tags: Innovation+Forum; Richard+Sambrook; online+communities

Gordon Brown’s monoblogging is not dialogue

I posted the other day over at my politics/public policy blog eDemocracy Update on Gordon Brown’s leadership campaign site and checked back with the blog today to read former-MP Oona King’s latest entry.

I won’t go into detail about the post except to say it read more like a piece of puffery for Gordon’s campaign and Tony Blair’s legacy.

Having well-crafted blog entries are one thing, but I find Oona’s post a little too well-crafted to draw me in and engage with the points she’s making. Try this for size:

“Naturally I can’t yet detect my toddler’s political preferences, but given his propensity to end up in A&E (this is the third time this month), I’m assuming he wants more money spent on the NHS. Gordon is his man. This year an extra £8 billion is going in, a cash increase of 10%. Last week we spent a night on a spanking new ward. Out of the window my little boy was extremely excited to watch several Bob the Builders building a new hospital from scratch.”

Just on the sound-bite side of authentic for my liking. Although on the one hand at least Gordon is taking steps to interact with party members and the public.

But then you read the comments…

When I first saw GB’s blog on the day he launched his campaign I thought: “Brilliant. I bet the blog is swamped with comments. It’ll be a good ol’ debate.”

But looking at Oona’s second post on A&E services I found 10 comments which read varously like this:

“I think the NHS is brilliant! …Whats more Gordon seems to be saying he is not going to rest on these laurals but give us more – more hospitals, more doctors and more nurses. He is going to give us a NHS for the 21st Century and one worthy for the people of Britain! … Go Gordon!”

There are also some critical comments suggesting funding the NHS by scrapping Trident or ditching PFIs, but even these are broadly supportive. Again, nothing wrong – p[er se – but where is the real dissent? I’m sure there must have been some…. even the odd negative one would make me think that a balance is being struck.

But another thing is odd. No-one has left links through from their own sites. I suppose that’s because they may be non-blogging members of the public or perhaps the blog’s policy doesn’t allow it. But then there’s no clear blog policy… and why no comments yet from high-profile Labour bloggers?

GB – and argubly Labour – needs to build a network of online activists if he/it is to suceed in the longer term.

Technorati tags: Gordon+Brown; Prime+Minister; political+bloggingNHS; Ooona+King

Shift Happens and another good slide show

Richard Sambrook at Sacred Facts and Rohit Bhargava at Influential Interactive Marketing have blogged about a recent SlideShare competition.

Richard has linked to the winning entry, Shift Happens, which a very sound-bitey presentation about the the information revolution and China and India’s massive growth compared to the US. Kind of like The World is Flat meets China Shakes the World (a definite must-read) in 67 slides.

I must admit my favourite snippet from the presentation is this:

“If MySpace were a country it would be the world’s 11th largest”

Which is a nice, useful way to explain to clients that MySpace is more than just a website… it’s an online community somewhere between the size of Mexico and Japan.

Meanwhile Rohit plugs his own presentation, The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging… And When To Use Each One.

I’ve only looked at the first few slides but it looks like a good presentation. Although it didn’t win, it was commended by the judges.

Technorati tags: SlideShare; Shift+Happens; Rohit Bhargava

"Facebook is the dorm; Wikipedia is the library; Craigslist is the mall."

Controversial idea and informed views from Nicholas Carr over at Roughtype. With the growing abundance of social sites on the web and increase in the amount we spend online Carr nicely identifies three three key sites that are argubly the mainstay of our online life – at least to a younger demographic:

“Facebook is the dorm; Wikipedia is the library; and Craigslist is the mall. One’s for socializing; one’s for studying; one’s for trading.”

Controversially, Carr then adds that as Facebook has announced plans to start providing classified ads a la Craigs List, he also like take on the might of wales’ Wikipedia. In fact, Carr is even more direct:

“Suck in Wikipedia’s contents, incorporate a Wikipedia search engine into Facebook (Wikipedia’s own search engine stinks, so it should be easy to build a better one), serve up Wikipedia’s pages in a new, better-designed Facebook format, and, yes, incorporate some advertising. There may also be some social-networking tools that could be added for blending Wikipedia content with Facebook content. … Suddenly, all those Wikipedia page views become Facebook page views – and additional ad revenues.”

With that we could have people’s online lives wrapped up in one neat package.

Technorati tags: Nicholas+Carr; Facebook; Wikipedia; Craigslist

How to use Facebook to build a politically engaged and active network

We are all pretty familiar with using social netwokring sites like Facebook and MySpace to connect with people we know and others we didn’t but are glad we did.

Some brands have even worked out some really good ways to use social networks to drive traffic and increase sales.

But beyond gaining someone’s attention and hoping they’ll visit your site or store and make a purchase, how can social sites really add value to a brand or cause?

Well, firstly social networks are great as aggregators gathering people and supporters to shared issues. As a result online networks are being used to a major extent in the political world.

Out of the three main contenders for the Labour deputy-leadership, all three candidates have Facebook groups. All good, but beyond notching up who has more Facebook supporters what additional value does this bring to their individual cause?

Well, I came across a really interesting but highly siginificant Facebook group last night which I think offers a great demonstration of how to really engage and derive long-term benefit from networks – both off and online.

Admittedly, the group – Young Britons’ Foundation – has the ring of something dreamt up by Sir Oswald Mosley might have come up with, but it states it aims as:

“to help to train the next generation of candidates, for all levels of public office, as well as those interested in working in the media and public life generally. We want to ensure firstly that there will be a next generation of conservatives, and secondly that they are equipped with the skills and the knowledge to be able to articulate a centre-right alternative.”

This to me seems a great idea for both building and using a network – both off and online.

It goes beyond simply gathering useful contacts and instead looks to build a potential network which can be called on to help achieve mutual goals. In return members can access support and asistance from the group’s co-ordinators.

While essentially there is nothing new in terms of what the group aims to achieve, but credit is due in that it is leveragin maximum benefit to a new medium. Furthermore, it is leveraging maximum benefit according to a set of new and different values.

Some may argue it all sounds a bit sinister, but by using an online network the organisation as a whole should end up becoming more transparent. I can see a similar group working just as well for prospective MPs and this is exactly the sort of thing political parties should be investing time and money in to engage with a disaffected, young electorate.

Technorati tags: Facebook; social_networks; social+networking; Young+Briton+Foundation; politics

Andrew Keen, Digg and Radio 4’s BH: a round-up of last week on and off the web

I’ve been meaning to post about a number of events that unfolded last week but am only now getting round to it.

First up was the Observer’s story last Sunday (29 April 2007) about Andrew Keen, the British guy living in Silicon Valley who has published a book about how the internet – and more specifically what some pople refer to as Web 2.0 – is:

“destroying culture, ruining livelihoods and threatening to make consumers of new media regress into ‘digital narcissism’.”

Keen’s argument is proponded in his new book The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture and Assaulting Our Economy and basically runs that in the future, culture will be reduced to either UGC from self-obsessed wannabes or corporate advertising masquerading as UGC.

This story got on my nerves as it’s the kind of prediction that traditional media outlets love – “ooh, a bit of internet-bashing” but more importantly it doesn’t take a deeper look at the evidence showing us how the web is really developing.

Look at the evidence. The Observer writes about Keen’s “dystopian vision”:

“As the internet grows, so do reports of faked identities and stalking on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, deliberately misleading entries on Wikipedia, virtual vandalism in online world Second Life and accusations that YouTube is a forum for either copyright infringement or mind-numbing videos of skateboarding cats.”

What this actually proves is that the internet is becoming socially and culturally more embedded in real life. Fake id, stalking, lying, vandalism and skateboarding cats have been around for as long as mankind – although maybe not skateboarding cats.

Then there’s Keen’s assertion that:

“At the current rate … by 2010 there will be more than 500 million blogs, ‘so dizzyingly infinite that they’ve undermined our sense of what is true and what is false, what is real and what is imaginary’.”

This pretty much overlooks Heather Green from Businessweek‘s discovery  that blog growth is slowing and crystalizing around a core of established blogs. So a future where we can’t tell real from imaginary looks unlikely.

Keen is also worried that new media is threatening to make us regress to digital narcissism. So it’ a good job he’s here to prevent it happening by… er… becoming a cause-celebre that promotes his new book through not one, but three blogs [hat-tip Fiona Blamey].

Then on Tuesday came the Digg Revolution. I won’t add to the reams already written about this except to say that it marks a significant demonstration of the power online communities have acquired. I can only think of one other example like this – albeit with much less significance. But as the wisdom or otherwise of the crowd grows I would advise organisations to start considering how their operations could be affected. As Antony Mayfield eloquently puts it:

“You can’t keep secrets in open networks. Adjust your business and marketing models early to avoid disappointment, please.”

Happily the week ended with a piece about the Andrew Keen story on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme. Although a lot of the sensationalist rot was repeated in the programme, Leeds University’s Professor of Political Communication, Stephen Coleman, came to the rescue with a reasoned and thankfully rational argument for the continued development of society and cultrue through the internet.

The even better news is that the package can be heard again using the BBC’s ‘Listen again’ feature.

The real reason I’ve put these events into a post is that I am convinced they all add up to something greater. I haven’t worked it out yet but hopefully will get a second to think about it all further and come up with a more original post this week. Hopefully…

Technorati tags: Observer; Andrew+Keen; Digg; wisdom+of+the+crowd; BBC; Radio+4; Broadcasting+House

*UPDATED* Facebook launches great Twitter substitute – for all the family

Been away from blogging for a few days but have returned with this great find (even if I say so myself) over at Facebook.

I posted a few weeks ago about Facebook bringing a whole host of social networking tools into its site – including the Twitter-esque ‘Status Updates’.

Well, it seems that as of last week that these status updates became available via RSS, mobile and through a dedicated ‘Friends Updates’ page pictured below.

Reading the Facebook blog it seems that Status Updates were introduced a year ago (does that pre-date Twitter?), although the latest changes have only appeared "recently". According to the blog entry, the specific changes include:

  • "Your friends’ three most recent updates on the home page
  • A brand new page to see all your friends’ updates at once
  • An RSS feed to put your friends’ updates in your reader of choice
  • The ability to subscribe to a friend’s updates via SMS
  • The ability to easily update status from your phone by sending an SMS to Facebook starting with the "@" character"

To be blunt, it is Twitter – well, it is a slightly more involved version of Twitter although argubly not quite a challenge to Jaiku.

All looks great as far as I’m concerned but the big question is: what impact will this have on the likes of Jaiku or Twitter?

From a technical perspective probably not a lot – both tools perform the same basic function but from a community point of view I think Facebook’s new offerings may have an impact on Twitter’s use.

I mean I use Twitter – not a lot, but I do and furthermore I like it. Similarly I use Facebook – more than Twitter – but for different purposes and I love it.

Most of my Twitter contacts (blogger/techy/work contacst) are also on Facebook but very few of my Facebook contacts (purely social/old school/university/work contacts) are on Twitter.

It stands then, that if I wanted a tool that gives me live updates of what all my contacts are up to at any given time then it has to be the Facebook offering – by far and away.

Where Jaiku fits into this I’m not quite sure….

*UPDATED* For the time being this service looks set to the US. Trying to find out when it heads our way.

Technorati tags: Facebook; status+updates; Twitter; Jaiku