David Weinberger on Obama’s Singular Focus

David Weinberger explains why he woke up weeping with joy — and articulates for me why I teared up, again, this morning listening again to the last three minutes of Obama’s victory speech:

To live up to the ideal we just embraced, we have to do intentionally what Obama does by nature. He listens to those with whom he disagrees, but he responds only to the goodness expressed in even the most fear-driven of statements. Ignore the small, the petty, the self-involved, the defensive, and respond to the moments of goodness in all of us.

This is a practical program. I’ve seen it adopted on purpose and I’ve seen it work. Avoiding getting dragged into negative shoutfests is basic troll management. Learning to hear and respond to what is good and shared in an expression we find detestable is harder. The best teachers do this routinely. We can all learn to do it. We can. Yes, we can.

It is a big part of how Obama brings out the better nature in us. It is a big reason the unrelenting and unreasoned negative campaign aimed at him failed.

It’s been really heartening to read all the reports of reaction around the world to news that Americans have elected this black man, who I really believe — in his temperament, intelligence, humility, and uncanny ability to make people feel included — can be the truly Great Man we need for our times.

Obama Is the Twitterverse’s Nominee

compare @barackobama with 6,661 followers & following 6,793 to @hillaryclinton with 535 followers & following 0

Twitter / laughingsquid

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Campaigning in Social Media: Be Transparent, and Bet the Farm on Empowering Your Constituents

I really wish I’d been at the PDF conference this year — energy is just rolling off the blogs of people who were there.

Fred Stutzman in TechPresident, for example, put up a post entitled Authenticity in Social Media the other day; lots of memorable points made in the post and comments that follow. Some choice bits:

As fas as I can see it, candidates have two options for meaningfully engaging audiences in the social media context. The first strategy, one that is currently employed by most candidates, involves the creation of profiles on various services that are managed by staffers. The staffer represents the candidate virtually as the candidate, creating a less-than-authentic identity for supporter interaction.

The second strategy is for candidates to embrace the reality that they can’t actually manage their online identities, and for staffers to transparently represent the candidate online. Presidential campaigns are a huge collective effort, and as social media’s role in the campaign expands, why not embrace the reality and be open, honest and transparent with supporters about the candidate’s online identity.

And a few paragraphs later,

ultimately, presidential campaigns are always going to be ego driven. I’m always going to look for the Facebook profile of Hillary Clinton, not her campaign manager. However, these profiles should act as contact brokers – places where individuals can get in touch with (and receive messages from) staffers who are transparent about their identity and role in representing the candidate virtually. Don’t worry – we get that the candidate doesn’t have enough time to update his or her profiles. At the same time, let’s not let that reality cloud its usefulness as a social media contact point.

Micah Sifry drops this into the Comments section:

I remember Nicco Mele, Dean’s webmaster, telling me that if 10% of the people on their 600K supporter list hit reply in response to an email, the campaign would be overwhelmed for days, so they actually made it harder for people to find the campaign’s email address on the web. I then asked David Weinberger, who was advising the campaign, who any candidate could possibly communicate in a meaningful way online with such a huge list. His answer was brilliant: You can’t scale a conversation from one person up top to many, but lateral conversations among supporters can scale almost infinitely.

So, rather than imagine that campaigns are going to collectively "represent" a candidate in online social networks, maybe we should pay more attention to tools that help large communities have effective lateral conversations and filter the best ideas/actions to the attention of all.

And finally Stutzman, in a comment:

When I get a message from a candidate, that message is usually couched in the one-to-one. The candidate is making an appeal to me, and through personalization technology, the email often has my name or reflects my interests. However, there’s generally false pretense here – the candidate doesn’t know me, the candidate doesn’t want me to respond to him or her. So instead of this one-to-one communication, what if the candidate was simply a proxy for enabling many-to-many conversation. This would involve acknowledging the role of the supporter (a grunt in a vast army), and maybe I wouldn’t feel so much like a unique snowflake, but isn’t that reality?

I guess my main notion is that when we are communicating with social media, the pretense is less than useful. Rather than trying to trick me to think that I’m the candidate’s friend, why not actually leverage the affordances of the media and get me connecting, working, and establishing the many-to-many conversations that are truly influential and useful.

In other words: Work hard, very hard, to put power in the hands of your constituents. And show them that they have it (by featuring the accomplishments of their peers). Tags: , , , , ,

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Twitter: Tribal “Presence”

Back from SXSW and while it’s fresh in my head I’ll just shamelessly add to the deafening babble about Twitter, the many-to-many messaging service that asks users to answer the question "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less.

Twitter is a nearly perfect virtual watercooler around which you can gather with friends, family, or even famous people. Initially it will remind you of chat rooms, but it gives you a lot more power over when, how, and who with you participate. You can use twitter in a web browser (where it has many features of an online social network), in an instant messaging program, or on your phone via SMS. Twitter’s mechanics vanish behind the curtain very quickly; it’s a supremely usable and well-designed application (it’s so easy to use in all three of its channels; it allows seamless shift from a sit-down web-browsing experience to a mobile experience; it neatly resolves the conflict between user control of privacy and user desire to be able to find others.)

People are using twitter in all sorts of ways — to find each other while they’re on the go; to network; as a moleskine for notes on experience; to instantly share news/urls; and of course for inane drivel. Chris Brogan has written several thoughtful posts about Twitter’s possible uses, and Beth Kanter sums up a bunch of conversation and asks some good questions to consider about Twitter’s utility for nonprofits.

Two of the posts she links to resonate loudly for me:

… one of the aspects of Twitter that I find most fascinating [is] exploring clusters of loosely related people by looking at the updates from their friends. There are stories told in between updates. Who’s at a conference, and do they know each other? Who’s on the road, and who’s at home. Narratives that wind around and between the updates and the people, that show connections. Updates that echo each other, or even directly respond to another Twitter post.

To all that these worthies have to say about Twitter, I have only this to add: Before we all get lost in tactical thinking about how/whether this tool could help teams of people achieve a goal, we might linger a little on the visceral experience of using this thing. I think it slakes some primitive thirst for tribal identity. The technology gets out of the way in a flash, and then you are into an experience of real-time group presence. And we like that, we humans; we like to feel part of a community. Each individual member of a twitter tribe — which could be family, fellow SXSW geeks, a political campaign, a hivelike community around a nonprofit brand, or high-school seniors keeping up with each other — can go about their business and feel as continuously plugged in as he/she wants to be. And I’ll testify that for me at least, it was a kick-ass experience to feel so plugged in at SXSW.

I’m waiting until Twitter introduces a serious groups function before I start telling clients to jump on this bus. (Right now, you can fake your way into what more or less behaves like a group, but it’s not adequate for non-tinkerers who just want a fairly straightforward, turnkey opportunity to put up a branded group and try to nurture it to life.) Once that happens (and I’d be surprised if it didn’t), a branded Twitter group could be tremendously powerful for advocacy groups or political campaigns, giving constituents an opportunity to feel plugged in to both headquarters and to each other.

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A presidential candidate … on Twitter?

Tooling around twitter.com this evening — an extreme danger to productivity, this twittering — and after a series of lateral moves from one tech star’s page to another, I discover that one of them is friends with “johnedwards.”

Yes, that’s right, Senator Edwards is twittering. Seems to be just picking up speed this past week. Not particularly personal or revealing, so far at least, but it’s a good idea. Twitter takes a few seconds here and there, and it does conjure a sense of real-time connection. Gotta read up and see if anyone knows more about the Edwards campaign’s plans for this.

UPDATE: I think I actually blogged this at around the same time as Steve Rubel — that’s some sort of landmark for me.

A number of posts in last day or so about this — turns out that Obama’s got a spot reserved as well (looks like someone, whether volunteer or campaign staff who know, grabbed the account name; no notes posted yet). And there’s at least one issue-advocacy group on the service. Hell, you can even follow the everyday concerns of Condi Rice. (ahem.)

Twitter’s just one of those exploding memes — I’ve been hearing occasional chatter about it for at least six months, but suddenly it seems to be the darling of the entire 2.0 scene.

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