Casual Evangelist

A mission to learn a little about a lot…

Archive for May, 2008

Will the Next Generation of Muslims Reject Violent Extremism?

Posted by Andrew on May 28, 2008

Lately, I’ve been very intrigued with the theories put forth by William Strauss and Neil Howe regarding generational cycles that all societies and cultures experience. In short, the two assert that there are four “archetype” generations (Prophet, Nomad, Hero, and Artist). For example, the Millennial Generation (born starting in 1982) are “Heroes,” Generation X are “Nomads,” Boomers are “Prophets,” and the Silent Generation (think John McCain) are “Artists.” There are also corresponding “turnings,” or phases of society that enable each generation to make its mark. The cycle repeats, and the order is always the same. Each archetype has its own characteristics that distinguish it from the others.

While the focus of their work is on European and American generations starting with the Arthurian (b 1433-1460), the assumption is that this theory can be applied universally. Is it possible to apply these theories to the Muslim world and make forecasts regarding the future strength of violent fundamentalism? Might new generations of Muslims turn away from the extremism of their parents?

Generational marketing consultant Jessie Newburn recently posted on Twitter (I’ll link to her post when Twitter gets their act together) that the Millennial generation is at a turning point, and we should expect to see a general shift of priorities among that group. I thought about that post when yesterday I read Lawrence Wright’s piece in The New Yorker, “The Rebellion Within,” explores the current revisionist movement in radical Islam led by Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (AKA Dr. Fadl). Dr. Fadl has been engaged in a very public debate with Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin‘s right hand man over whether many of Al Qeada’s terror tactics are in line with the Koran. Fadl’s movement to disavow many of the terror tactics of jihadism is gaining acceptance among many in the Muslim world. Might the next generation in much of the Muslim world be undergoing a similar “turning point?”

There may already be another example of Strauss and Howe’s theory in the Muslim world (I’ll link if there’s already information on this). In Iran, it was the young generation in the sixties and seventies that embraced religious fundamentalism, rebelled against the social and political structures of their parents and previous generations, and ousted the Shah and instituted a theocracy. Their children – Iran’s next generation – reject much of this fundamentalism and are in many ways sympathetic to the West and America.

It may be a stretch to connect the theories of Stauss and Howe with the current revisionist movement in Islam, but it sure is interesting to ponder. Notions that violent fundamentalism in Islam will continue to rise unabated are likely incorrect. But it won’t necessarily be because the West has “defeated it,” but that this cycle will run its course and the next generation will chart a new one.


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I’ll Be On Jonny’s Par-Tay Tonight

Posted by Andrew on May 28, 2008

Tune in to Jonny’s Par-Tay this evening at 9pm, where I’ll be on with host Jonny Goldstein as he interviews Sean Shadmand and Isaac Mosquera, the founders of FamilyOven has hundreds of thousands of users trading recipes, including Breakfast Slop, which I will certainly be preparing shortly.

We’ll be exploring how they’ve achieved success in their space (a very crowded space, it should be noted). And I’ll be conducting a taste-test of arguably the most important food and recipe ingredient that exists today: Butter.

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BrightKite on Twitter is *Friendly* Spam

Posted by Andrew on May 9, 2008

The latest “gotta have an invite code” craze on Twitter is for Brightkite, the “location-based social network.” I’m not currently using Brightkite, but I can see the potential value of the service (find out where your friends are and see who’s near you, etc.). However, like other valuable Web-based services, such as Flickr, the Twitter interface is useless and only serves to spam your friends with irrelevant information.

In my opinion, Auto-Tweets from Brightkite users may have dethroned Flickr-generated updates as the king of useless and annoying Twitter spam. While the Twitter application by nature makes professional spamming ineffective by robbing the spammer of an audience, willing or otherwise, Auto-Tweet spam is different. It’s from your friends, and you don’t want to unfollow your friends. So you deal with it or face an unpleasant decision.

A typical Brightkite Auto-Tweet looks like this:

I’m at 123 Elm Street, Springfield KY (Springfield, KY)” and a link to a map.

There’s no context. Nothing about what’s happening, why you’re there, who you’re with, or what you’re doing. Just dry geographical information. What are Twitter followers supposed to do with this information? Hop in their cars and drive to your location? We don’t even know how long you plan on being there, and you may be gone by then. Hell, with gas prices these days, that could really dent the wallet.

There are a few useful Auto-Tweets, such as a new blog post or a WhyGoSolo event posting, both of which provide contextual information in the message as well as a call for interested parties to take action by clicking through for additional information. Looking at a map or viewing a blurry photo of your cat provides no value.

If you’re somewhere and want people to join you, by all means manually tweet it. And if you’ve taken a particularly stunning or interesting photo, provide your followers a link.

Go ahead, un-check that Twitter update box. Your followers will thank you.

UPDATE: Ike Pigott has initiated #darkanvil

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