Casual Evangelist

A mission to learn a little about a lot…

Archive for the ‘The Social Web’ Category

Grasshopr is Live!

Posted by Andrew on July 8, 2009

Grasshopr is live. A few of us have been working hard to develop this platform, which we hope will transform the way individuals and groups of all stripes and sizes interact with their government… specifically the legislative branch at the federal, state, and local level.

We created Grasshopr because the system (or lack thereof) of how constituents and their elected officials connect and communicate is badly broken. It’s broken because of issues concerning trust, unmanageability, and access. The status quo benefits a few, but for the most part, individuals, organizations, and elected officials lose.

Organizations can use Grasshopr to collaborate with their members and get them engaged in grassroots advocacy campaings. Individuals are matched to their elected officials and can communicate with them on current issues they’re following. And elected officials can connect with real constituents in a sustainable, authentic way.

There’s more on why we created Grasshopr here.

Let me know what you think, and how we can make it better!

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Posted in Politics, The Social Web | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

House Leadership Moves to Silence Twittering Members

Posted by Andrew on July 8, 2008

I’ve been following and interacting with two members of the US House of Representatives, John Culberson, Republican from Texas, and Tim Ryan, Democrat from Ohio. It has been great and refreshing to have this direct line of communication with these two Members of Congress and gain insights into what’s happening on Capitol Hill, often a black hole of mystery unless it’s your full time job to know what’s going on.

Rep. Culberson just sent a series of messages on Twitter indicating that the Democratic House Leadership is requiring that he submit each message for approval prior to posting. This move apparently invokes a little-known broader regulation that all Member communications posted on any public social networking site receive prior approval.

While I’m not even in a position to shed light on the Constitutionality of such a regulation, it surely flies in the face of government openness and transparency? What is the Democratic leadership trying to hide or keep from the public? The beauty of Twitter and similar platforms is that they are open communications for public consumption. I’ll spare any conjecture regarding potential motives behind such a move, political or not.

The Sunlight Foundation should explore this and weigh in to see if this is an attempt to silence public communication from our elected representatives in government.

UPDATE: Rep. Culberson got some clarity. Time to end centralized control and censorship of communications from government and elected officials. Thoughts?

Here’s Rep Capuano’s letter proposing changes. I’m a dolt…I can’t make heads or tails of which way this letter is going.

UPDATE #2: George Donnelly has a great list of articles and posts about this issue. Aaron Brazell has some comprehensive coverage of the issue.

Update #4: A site has been launched: LetOurCongressTweet.org – produced by The Sunlight Foundation. Way to go!

UPDATE #3: Boehner Gets Involved

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 9, 2008

CONTACTS: Michael Steel, Kevin Smith, Steve Forde – (202) 225-4000

Boehner Urges Speaker Pelosi to Shut Down Democrats’ Proposed Censorship
of the Internet

House GOP Leader Warns: New “YouTube” Rule Proposed by
Democratic-Controlled House Administration Committee “Would Amount to
New Government Censorship of the Internet”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) today
wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), urging her to join him in opposing
a new rule proposed by the Democratic leadership of the House
Administration Committee that would require outside websites such as
YouTube to comply with House regulations before Members of Congress
could post videos on them. Under the proposal, the House Administration
Committee would develop a list of “approved” websites, and Members of
Congress would be restricted to only publishing content using these
sites. Calling it “new government censorship of the Internet,” Boehner
asked Speaker Pelosi to join him in opposing the proposed rule.

“The Internet is a powerful tool for promoting openness and transparency
in government,” Boehner wrote. “It has given individual Americans an
unprecedented window into the daily actions and policy debates of their
Congress. The result has increasingly been a better informed electorate
– better equipped with real-time information about what is happening in
their government, and more empowered to hold their leaders accountable.”

Highlighting the Democratic-controlled House Administration Committee’s
attempts to effectively shut down the free flow of information on the
Internet between Members of Congress and the American people, Boehner
assailed the proposed rule.

“If this proposed rule were to be implemented, Americans who currently
use free websites such as YouTube to obtain uncensored daily information
on congressional policy debates would suddenly be forced to visit
websites ‘approved’ by the House Administration Committee in order to
continue getting such information,” explained Boehner. “This would
amount to new government censorship of the Internet, by a panel of
federal officials that is neither neutral nor independent.”

Urging Speaker Pelosi to join him in opposing the Democratic-controlled
House Administration Committee’s planned actions, Boehner concluded,
“Millions of Americans get information about what is happening in their
government through the Internet and free websites like YouTube. I am
writing to seek your assurance that the Democratic majority does not
intend to deprive them of this right, and to request that you join me in
opposing the proposed new rules.”

Boehner’s full letter to Pelosi follows and is available by clicking
here
.

July 9, 2008

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

The Internet is a powerful tool for promoting openness and transparency
in government. It has given individual Americans an unprecedented
window into the daily actions and policy debates of their Congress. The
result has increasingly been a better informed electorate – better
equipped with real-time information about what is happening in their
government, and more empowered to hold their leaders accountable.

It has come to my attention that the Democratic-controlled Committee on
House Administration, at the recommendation of the Democratic chairman
of the Commission on Mailing Standards (Franking Commission), is
considering the adoption of new congressional rules that would
effectively shut down what has emerged as a free and helpfully
uncensored pipeline of real-time information between the American people
and their elected leaders. Specifically, the Committee is considering
the adoption of new rules that would require outside websites such as
YouTube to comply with House regulations before Members of Congress
could post videos on them. Under the proposal, the House Administration
Committee would develop a list of “approved” websites, and Members of
Congress would be restricted to only publishing content using these
sites.

If this proposed rule were to be implemented, Americans who currently
use free websites such as YouTube to obtain uncensored daily information
on congressional policy debates would suddenly be forced to visit
websites “approved” by the House Administration Committee in order to
continue getting such information. This would amount to new government
censorship of the Internet, by a panel of federal officials that is
neither neutral nor independent.

I believe Members of Congress should have the ability to choose
whichever service they believe will best assist in communicating with
their constituents, and not be limited to only services “approved” by
the House Administration Committee or any other government entity. We
must encourage, not restrict, the free and open flow of uncensored
information between the American people and their elected leaders over
the Internet.

Members should be allowed to use technologies, websites, and services
(paid or unpaid) to communicate with their constituents via text, video,
or audio, so long as the content posted by the Member complies with
House rules and Franking content regulations. Members should be allowed
to use free communications and networking services so long as those
services are available on the same terms and conditions available to
others. This view has been expressed formally to the Democratic
Chairman of the Committee on House Administration, Rep. Robert Brady, by
the Committee’s senior Republican member, Rep. Vern Ehlers (R-MI), and
by Reps. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Tom Price (R-GA).

Millions of Americans get information about what is happening in their
government through the Internet and free websites like YouTube. I am
writing to seek your assurance that the Democratic majority does not
intend to deprive them of this right, and to request that you join me in
opposing the proposed new rules.

Sincerely,

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)
House Republican Leader

#####

Posted in Politics, The Social Web | Tagged: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Get a Customized Twitterwhore T-Shirt!

Posted by Andrew on June 24, 2008

Scott Stead has started offering Twitterwhore T-Shirts, customized with your Twitter handle and “Follow me” on the back. Very cool. Coming from someone who always puts their Twitter name on their name tag at conferences to easily link up with and meet people I converse with on Twitter, I imagine this shirt will become a mainstay of Social Media and Tech events in the near future. Mine’s on the way!

Order your Twitterwhore T-Shirt Here!

I’ll post a pic when this WordPress bug is fixed.

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

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

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , , , , | 10 Comments »

Twitter: “Go Human” or Go Home

Posted by Andrew on April 17, 2008

There’s been a lot of discussion on Twitter, the online social conversation tool (my current description of the system), about how marketers are beginning to flood the platform. In recent weeks I’ve been “followed” by dozens of company and marketing Tweeters, such as “myhomebusiness” and “simplecheapwedd.”

Like many of my Twitter friends, I check the account of each new follower, and all too often it’s filled with nothing but push marketing and links. And they’re taking the time to follow thousands of people, with only a small handful following back.

“Twitter is being taken over by spammers” is a common complaint, but, aside from the inconvenience of getting “new follower” email notices, I don’t see much of a problem. If I choose not to follow them back, that’s the last I hear of them. And, as demonstrated by their lack of followers, I’m not the only one not following back.

Traditional “push-style” online marketing techniques don’t work on Twitter, and it shouldn’t be long before this concept gets through to them. Many marketers haven’t taken the time to understand the medium and have jumped in without testing the waters first. The result is that no one is hearing their messages.

Twitter requires balance. People like interacting with real people. Linking to your content or letting others know about what you do is fine, but if it is the dominant message you’re sending to your followers, they’ll start un-following you pretty quick. The only exception is news feeds, such as @breakingnewson.

There are some companies that are using Twitter properly, and I support and encourage this. A fine example is JetBlue (@jetblue). I don’t follow @jetblue because I don’t often fly with them and don’t have much of an interest, but there’s a real person operating the account and they’re actively engaged in conversations in the community. At the time of writing this, @jetblue follows 1,440 people, and 1,378 follow back. That’s a very impressive ratio for a “company” Twitterer.

Marketers, you can only get out of Twitter what you put into it. Go human or go home.

(NOTE: I would like a better application to manage the new follower review process to avoid email notices.)

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Hasbro’s Blowin’ It!

Posted by Andrew on January 16, 2008

Question: What would you do as the head of a company who’s decades-old product has suddenly seen a significant revival in interest amongst a whole new generation of users? How would you respond if over a half a million people were became actively engaged in playing an online version of your game? How would you capitalize on this sudden, exciting trend and convert this unexpected spike in interest into new sales and branding opportunities? C’mon, your dusty old game is hip again!

Here’s the wrong answer: You’d fight to shut it down and piss off a half million potential customers. It looks like Hasbro’s following through with their demand that Facebook take down Scrabulous, one of the only things keeping me coming back to Facebook. This is incrediblly short-sighted. Since when does the desire to protect intellectual property trump all business opportunities? Protect the brand and maintain sales status-quo, or embrace the new online paradigms and exploit the opportunities they present?

Has Hasbro decided to maintain their position as Has-beens.

UPDATE: Technomarketer has some great advice for how Hasbro should have proceeded (and still can). I couldn’t agree more with his statement that they need to get the lawyers out of the marketing department. Lawyers and marketers rarely mix well. Thanks to Shel Israel for the head’s up. Shel’s been all over this issue…he likes Scrabulous as much, or more, than I do.

UPDATE #2: Mashable! has a poll up asking what Hasbro should do.

Posted in Decision-Making, The Social Web | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Utterz needs “Utterz Radio”

Posted by Andrew on January 14, 2008

I haven’t started recording on Utterz yet, but I’ve registered, secured my handle, and listened to some friend’s recordings. I really like the concept, but the issue I see is that without something to look at, they eyes want to wander to other sites (sights?) while listening. But these messages are rather short and require you to click on the next one. It can get old fast, and this is a problem that Utterz should address…soon. The good news is there’s tons of possibilities for utterz.

My idea is that users can create their personal utterz channel that includes all of their friends and others they’re interested in. Go to utterz and press play on your channel, and get all of the utterz recorded since you last logged in – back-to-back. This way, you can listen to what your people have been up to while doing other things-reading, surfing, doing dishes.

Companies can also set up private utterz channels where leadership (or all employees) can record updates on what’s going on, and the rest of the company can hear a stream of messages and keep more attuned with their organization. This is also a nice way to monetize the site via premium customers.

The same probably applies to seesmic.

[If I’ve missed something and this currently exists, oops]

UPDATE: Jimmy Gardner previously posted this regarding business and disaster uses for Utterz…and I commented on it! It stemmed from a chatroom discussion during Jonny Goldstein’s ParTay. I need a nap.

Bessie

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Twitter Use Goes Mainstream?

Posted by Andrew on January 13, 2008

The other night at the tweetup I met Jeff Royce a real estage agent in Fairfax, VA who uses twitter to connect with other agents and thought-leaders in the industry. Most of those I converse with on Twitter are in the tech and web industries, and I had mistakenly assumed that the service hadn’t spread too far from such circles. Turns out, I was wrong, and happy to discover it.

Twitter early adopters are essentially bloggers and their readers (covering all industry or specialty areas). It will be interesting to see if it goes mainstream beyond early adopters, like Facebook …and MySpace before that. Where’s the tipping point?

UPDATE: In reply to Wayne Sutton’s question about why kids don’t use twitter: They don’t need to. They’re already social as hell. Twitter helps undo the social fracturing of adulthood.

[I’ll stop blogging about twitter soon…I swear.]

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Could Allegheny Power have a Social Media Problem on their Hands?

Posted by Andrew on January 12, 2008

Jimmy Gardner from East Coast Blogging posted an item this morning regarding what many would dismiss as a nice, welcome gesture by one of their utilities. UPS delivered to Jimmy four energy-saving light bulbs without informing him ahead of time or letting him know that he will be charged nearly $50 for the bulbs – hidden in his bill. Mail fraud? (does mail fraud occur on UPS? I guess this isn’t “interstate” fraud…)

Jimmy’s post is barely 45 minutes old, and the story is moving across Twitter and has 8 diggs (and counting) Add your digg. It will be interesting to see if this online community outrage rises to the level to get the attention of Allegheny brass and to see how they respond. Stay tuned…

UPDATE: The Baltimore Sun is on this story

UPDATE #2: Allegheny backs off and admits wrong. Jimmy’s got the story here.

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Echo Chambers

Posted by Andrew on January 12, 2008

The polling-driven commentary leading up to the New Hampshire primary on cable news.

The conservative nature of talk radio.

Social media, scoble and facebook, data portability on Twitter.

Conversations, exploration and discovery, or echo chambers and self-validation?

New Hampshire voters stuck it to the echo chamber. The grassroots choosing candidates other than those favored by radio hosts. People are still throwing sheep at each other on facebook.

UPDATE: I had a few before writing this!

Posted in The Social Web | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »