Category Archives: politics

Twitter as Mainstream Media for Israeli/Gaza Conflict?

It was 18 months ago that I first wrote about the extension of real, shooting wars to the social media battleground.  This past week saw a return of cyberspace prominence in the Israeli/Gaza blockade.   The first story that flooded Facebook, YouTube and Twitter was the violence that occurred on the Mavi Marmara.  As this story exploded across the traditional press outlets, videos were available on YouTube showing the actual helicopter boarding of the ship and the attack on the soldiers, which was followed by deadly violence. In this case social media added some perspective to a very volatile issue.

What I found particularly interesting was the coverage of the next ship that attempted to land in the Gaza, the “Rachel Corrie”.  The name of the ship is a reference to an American woman who was killed in Gaza in 2003.   This ship was due to meet up with the Israeli navy early Saturday morning.  I was quite interested in what would happen and tried to get information from traditional media websites throughout the evening in New York.  Much of the information I found was old.  Old in this case means at least 12 hours.   Around midnight NYC time ,  Twitter seemed to become the major news source.  This was fascinating.  Tweets were coming in fast and furious.  This is the first time I experienced the “fog of war” in real time social media.  Reports came in about the ship being boarded, stopped, not stopped, trailed by naval ships, proceeding to Gaza, going to Ashdod, being inspected by International representatives, and so on. Rumors followed Rumors.

The Jerusalem Post reported that the ship had been boarded three hours before the actual event.  This report seemed to be in response to an earlier Tweet that seemed credible.  A credible Tweet as a source?  The Jpost eventually retracted their story, but not before their report was Tweeted 1000’s of time as credible.    The problem is what is a credible Tweet?  Twitter is an environment where anyone can broadcast anything.   The need for instantaneous news on any world event has put news organizations in the position of trying to sift through 1000’s of Tweets to determine what may or may not be happening.  Most Tweets about the Rachel Corrie were re-Tweets of other rumors that were then reinforced by their sheer volume of messaging.  As the trending stats of the Rachel Corrie become higher and higher, it attracted the spammers and the truly crazy people.  Yet through all of this,  I was updating the Twitter role of info on the Rachel Corrie.  The information pipe became even more stuffed with offers for good, services, merchandise and other threads about the ship that described  what was or was not happening.

For the record, the ship was eventually boarded and led to the port of Ashdod where the crew and passengers were deported from Israel and the goods inspected, before shipment to Gaza.  The ruling Hamas Party in Gaza has subsequently refused to accept the aid from the Rachel Corrie becuase it was trucked through Israel. This ship made less worldwide headlines because there was no attack on the naval boarding party and the ship sailed peacefully to an Israeli port.  However, this crisis is far from over as Iran now proposes to use its Navy to escort blockade running ships.

Will we continue to rely on Twitter as the front line of information gathering if this situation escalates even further?  The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) maintains a Twitter account to answer journalists questions and give them real time information on fast moving stories.  During the Rachel Corrie event they responded to a false story in the Jpost as follows:

Twitter is a mix of first hand accounts, rumors, government accounts, and just plain  propaganda.

In the case of the Rachel Corrie what would have happened if Twitter had been flooded with purposeful and coordinated false information?  Suppose Tweets circulated that the Israeli navy blew up the ship?  These false Tweets get re-tweeted thousands of times.  Mainstream media picks up the story and then reports the false reports.  Riots occur, real people get killed; Politicians take public stances that are difficult to back down from.  Fantasy become reality.  By the time the truth is known, it is too late and a real war has begun.   Sound fantastic?   This has happened, almost….

It was October of 1939 when Martians invaded the State of New Jersey.  Panic ensued.  Orson Wells and his epic War of the Worlds was of course just radio fantasy.  We could only imagine what might have happened if he had a Twitter account at the time.

Here is Russian Television’s Report on the Rachel Corrie Ship

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Filed under Aljerzera, facebook, Gaza, IDF, Iran, Israel, mobile, New York, politics, Rachel Corrie, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

A Special Thanksgiving Lesson – From Mobile Social Networking

Thanksgiving is a holiday that all Americans, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion and politics seem to rally behind. I decided to put this notion to a test.

A couple of years ago, I decided to run a small social experiment during the Thanksgiving season. At the time I was CEO of UPOC. I invited members from several diverse groups into a special “What are you thankful for…?” – mobile chat group. The idea was to have everyone give a “shout out” of thanks. The experimental part of this mobile chat group was the source of the member groups that were invited.

These groups included: Christian Fundamentalists, Atheists, Communists, Hassidic Jews, Muslims, Anarchists, Right to Lifers, Republicans, Druids, Democrats, Red Sox Fans, Yankee Fans, Reform Jews, Blacks, Asians, Gays, Lesbians, Hispanics, Satanists, Israeli and Palestinian, Young and Old.

Yes! I even invited Red Sox fans!

I tried to get the most diverse group of individuals I could possibly imagine that had open chat profiles. In the end I invited about 5000 people and got about 500 to join.

In the week leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, I was careful to hide the sources of the groups of the members.

Different Cultures, Religions, Ethnicity, Sexual Preferences, and Sports Affiliations. None of the differences were obvious, just the similarity of giving thanks.

Leading up to the holiday, the expressions of thanks were heart warming. Many gave thanks for Family, Friends and God. Some expressions of thanks were deeply personal including being thankful for a second chance with a loved one, being paroled from jail, having recovered from an illness, having the opportunity to see a loved one for the holiday, etc. The expressions of introspective appreciations knew no boundaries of culture. If you hid the chat handles from the messages you would have had a very difficult time identifying the group that a specific message had originated. It seems that people are really just people.

Everyone has their share of joy and “meshugas”

The second unexpected part of this experiment happened after the long Thanksgiving weekend. The expressions of thankfulness stopped and biases and bigotry emerged.

By the end of the week the word had gotten out to the participants who some of the other members of this group really were. That’s another side of social networking, its tough to keep secrets.

Right and Left Wingers began to spar, Fundamentalists started to try to save the Satanists, Hassidic Jews were condescending of Reform Jews- And the Red Sox and Yankees fans – it was just too ugly to repeat…

Stripped of their diverse background identifiers, people of vastly different cultures have very similar things to be thankful about.

Once the identity veil was lifted I was thankful that everyone in the group was in cyberspace and not really in the same physical room. I removed the group a week after Thanksgiving to avoid potential bloodshed.

Maybe there is something we all can learn from this social experiment in this season of Thanksgiving.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Isarel, lesbian, mobile, politics, sex, Social Media, social networking, Thanksgiving

Twitter-Versy!

Last week it was reported that Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich) Tweeted himself into the news by giving real time updates as he traveled to Iraq. He was in a delegation led by House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, R-Ohio.

His Tweets are chronologically reproduced verbatim from Twitter below:

Just landed in Baghdad. I believe it may be first time I’ve had bb service in Iraq. 11 th trip here.
9:41 PM Feb 5th from TwitterBerry

Moved into green zone by helicopter Iraqi flag now over palace.Headed to new US embassy Appears calmer less chaotic than previous here.
11:56 PM Feb 5th from TwitterBerry

Iraq! Issues! lLong term impact on containing Iran.. Need a coherent detainee strategy. Amb Crocker leaving after very successful tenure.
2:32 PM Feb 6th from TwitterBerry

More travel today!lots of interesting and new information Every trip is so unique. Progress/setbacks evolving strategies.
7:29 PM Feb 7th from TwitterBerry

Love twitter critics.Spelling mistakes. Sorry but riding in poor light, bouncing around,speed not accuracy. Lighten up. Its called twitter
7:30 PM Feb 7th from TwitterBerry

Headed home!Situation in Iraq improves significantly.Afghanistan poses challenges!Lots of stuff to talk about when I get home Monday late pm
3:38 PM Feb 8th from TwitterBerry

Just arrived back at Andrews. Press had access to CODEL thru photo op in mtgs with Iraqi President and a gov in Afghanistan.
2:01 PM Feb 9th from TwitterBerry

The Pentagon was not happy about a dignitary transmitting his location, in real time, to the world as he traveled to, from and within a war zone. If this social networking, faux pas, does not become fodder for a Saturday Nigh Live skit, I will be very disappointed. So, just in case they miss it, I have penned a few “what if Tweets that are linked here.

A good report on the media’s reaction to this Twitter-versy was written by Mitch Wagner of InformationWeek.

twitterimage

Here is a link to the actual Twitter Blog of Rep. Hoekstra

Rep Hoekstra did respond on his website to the out cry caused bt his personal real time positioning of the Congressional delegation. He turned the whole issue into politics, as usual. He claimed it was the Democrats causing the problem and when they travel to Iraq it is covered by the news, so what’s the difference? The difference is that their exact location was not being blogcasted to the word in real-time. For someone who seems to enjoy Twittering and Web2.0, he really does not get it.

I explored the  political divide in the use of Web2.0 technologies in a previous article.

According to Time Magazine, there are now 65 members of Congress Twittering, or at least their staffs are Twittering on their behalf. There are reports of Congressmen sending Tweets from closed, confidential meetings. The ability to broadcast information from your mobile device is a real security concern for governmental agencies. Crackberry addiction is no longer a lonely affliction that just impacts you and your email address book. It impacts the world, and potentially, if you are not careful, world events.

This microblog broadcasting is not just an issue for Twitter. The famous status update on Facebook is really the same as a Tweet. The only difference between the two is that you are more likely to be followed by complete strangers on Twitter, as opposed to Facebook.

I had previously written about the Web2.0 gap between the Democrats and the Republicans. I , therefore should not be too critical of a Republican reaching out and trying to learn how to use Web2.0 social networking. Perhaps hey can do it in a way that does not endanger their lives?

With social networked instant updates causing national security issues, I decided to do a little hand analysis of Facebook by searching for members of various governmental agencies that have secret access to vital information. Here is what I found.

Agency                                             Members on Facebook                 
CIA                                                  >500 Including Felix Leiter

   
FBI                                                  >500 Including Fox Mulder and 2 Dana Scully’s

   
DOD                                               >500  

  
State Dept.                                    >500 Including 9 Hillary Clintons

   
Secret Service                                 145 

  
Home Land Security                   >500

   
Drug Enforcement Agency           290 

  
National Security Agency          >500

British MI6                                   >500 with 3 James Bonds’

Israeli Mossad                                 0

   
French DGSE                                   0

It is obvious that not all members who claim to be in the employ of our national security apparatus. However, there are real, some people, in this rather easy search, who do work for the CIA, FBI, NSA or Secret Service. The question is can you figure out who is legitimate and who is just trying to impress a potential date by claiming to be a spy.

I found it disturbingly easy to spot whom are the likely government employees. It was so disturbing that I will not publish my algorithm for managing this little feat. If I can figure this out, I am sure the “bad guys” would have no trouble.

In the case of Congressmen such as Pete Hoekstra the task is even easier. Just become his follower.

I would like to offer the Congressmen the same advice I give my “Tween” daughter, “You don’t have to post every little thought that comes into your head, maybe you should think a little before your post. It can save you from much embarrassment” My 13 year old daughter has learned how to be responsible with her social network; we can only hope that the Members of Congress and other government agencies learn the same lessons.

Note: Special Thanks to Sam Gronner, A Great PR guy and a Real  Mench for suggesting this topic to me this week!


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Filed under blackberry, facebook, Iraq, location based services, mobile, politics, social networking, Twitter, Web2.0

America 2.0

In a historic sense, we have officially begun the era of America 2.0. Many political pundits and Presidential historians will make a living for the next generation with analysis of what the Presidency of Barack Hussein Obama will mean for our collective futures.

obamaMy angle is simple and parallels the major technological force that is reshaping our society, Web2.0.

In Presidential terms, there have been a few major inflection points in our history. If you doubt this just ask a grade school student.

There was Washington and the creation of our nation, Lincoln and emancipation and the Civil War, Franklin Roosevelt for the New Deal, World War II, and the Great (first?) Depression, Lyndon Johnson for civil rights, and Reagan for the the fall of the Soviet Union.

In each case history can be starkly categorized in a before and after view.

In communication technological terms we had similar points of demarcation such as the invention of language, use of written alphabets, scrolls and books, the printing press, mail service, libraries, telegraph, radio, television, telephone, wireless communications, computers, the Internet and now Web2.0.

President Obama came to power in the midst of, and partly because of, the changing societal norms in the way we all communicate.

Franklin Roosevelt with his fireside chats,  mastered radio as a communications vehicle. John Kennedy mastered the medium of television and Ronald Reagan combined television with a mastery of the pulpit at Evangelical Churches to communicate his message. President Obama is the first Web2.0 President.

The real message here is that we have now passed the tipping point for Web2.0. This is no longer an election story, but one that will be commonplace in how we move forward as a society.
Web2.0 will be part of all future marketing campaigns as well as political movements. The 10’s of millions of “friends” in the various Obama social networking groups do not cease to exist on January 21, 2009. Social Networks live on. These lists will grow, will influence, will be influenced, and will become the number one asset in the inevitable re-election campaign of 2012.

With a new found appreciation for the power of Web2.0, marketing organizations, brands and other organizations are jumping into this medium.

Here are my Web2.0 examples from the inauguration:

CNN.com

facebook/obama

How compelling was it to watch the inauguration on CNN’s web page with all of your Facebook friends scrolling their comments, compared to “Katie Couric 1.0” on one-way, non-interactive broadcast television?

Facebook Postings:

During the Inauguration I got recommendations from a relative in Israel, in real time, to befriend someone who was posting their reactions and photos, live from the Washington Mall by way of Facebook.

Falcons 1976:

My high school class recently started a virtual reunion on Facebook. This class was very much shaped by the titanic forces of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam war. We had an integrated school district with busing in a community that was largely segregated. To share the joy and amazement of what we witnessed this week with some long lost schoolmates was fantastic.

Other:

Twitter, MySpace and Youtube were all a buzz with a constant flow of words, photos and videos.

We are all connected in a way that has tipped the political landscape.

During his speech, President Obama stated that the old rules no longer apply. There are many ways to interpret this statement. One way is that we are so connected with Web2.0 that the old rules of controlling mass public opinion are just that, old.

Social networks, whether formed for political purposes, commercial marketing or high school reunion’s organically exist, grow and feed amongst themselves. They are the new medium for mass communication.

The important lessons from history are that this change, this inflection point, is not inherently good or evil, it just is. Its power is in how it influences our real lives. In the case of President Obama, it has affected all of our lives and perhaps the future history of the world for the next generation.

It is up to us to determine the uses.

Will it continue to empower self expression and sharing of ideas or become an even more powerful mechanism for controlling public option?

We are now sitting at a point in history that will be written about for the next 100 years.

The choice is how we use this new communication medium is ours.

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Filed under America 2.0, facebook, inauguration, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, new media, politics, President Obama, Presidental History, Social Media, social networking, Twitter, You Tube

Does President Obama Need to Bail Out Twitter?

obama tweets

During this historic week there will be many pressing issues for the new administration: The Economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and Hamas, Global Warming, Energy, Education, Social Security, Health, and lastly Twittgm logoer.

Billions are being given to GM to build more car&trucks that the public really no longer wants. For a fraction of that investment we could save Twitter and the worlds premier micro-blogging network.

To Twitters credit they have finally hired a business development person. A good step in figuring out the revenue side of their equation. However, here is my New Year’s gift to Twitter.

Twitter has a large following and seems to have no way to make money, or does it?

One of my colleagues seems to have broken the revenue code for Twitter. Since she asked that I protect her identity I will call her “Mickey”. Mickey has been blogging with Twitter for a couple of years. Her Tweets have a modest number of followers: perhaps a couple of co-workers, friends, relatives and a few random lurkers. What was valuable about Mickey’s Twitter existence was her Twitter name. It seems that a company that wanted to broadcast their product messages on Twitter desired Mickey’s Twitter name. Similar to those who made money by domain sitting on website names, there is actually a real economy in Twitter names!

Mickey and this company negotiated a settlement with real cash exchanging hands.

band

A recent article in Venture Beat revealed that 93 of the top 100 brands do not own their own Twitter brand names. Naturally this “opportunity” is not unique to Twitter. Clearly the same economy exists at Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

All of these social networks have become large transmission networks for targeted content and thus have an obvious commercial value.

A big difference between Internet domain names and the private namespaces of social networks is that they are privately owned and reserved by the owners of the SN. The Internet has the Uniform Dispute Resolution Mechanism, while there is no such mechanism for Social Networks. These networks operate within the normal commercial guidelines of any business and are thus subject to trademark and copyright laws within the jurisdictions of their business. Namespaces for Social Networks are in a big gray area right now.

In the Twitter terms and conditions they state:

“We reserve the right to reclaim usernames on behalf of businesses or individuals that hold legal claim or trademark on those usernames.”

Now back to Mickey.

Why should Twitter allow their subscribers to barter usernames and not profit from the network that they own?

Here are my two suggestions for Twitters Commercial Business Model.

obamaFirst, Twitter should recover all trade names for companies that are owned by individuals who are speculators and not official company officials. (At least Mickey got her payment!) This move would signal that Twitter is serious about the business use of their network. Any company that wants to do business on Twitter and capitalize from their valuable network should have to pay a direct fixed monthly fee to Twitter. In addition, a variable monthly fee can be gained based on number of Tweets and followers. These businesses would pay for access to millions of subscribers, just like advertisers pay for television ads.

Second, Twitter should build a business-matching engine. This feature would suggest that users follow certain commercial channels based on their Tweets, interests and other fans and followers.

These suggestions are not going to garner 100’s of millions for Twitter, but they are the prerequisite to larger advertising and subscription models.

If they follow some of these ideas, Prsident Obama can spend more money for the bailouts of CitiGroup, Ford and GM.

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Filed under advertising, E-Commerce, economy, mobile, mobile advertising, mobile commerce, obama, politics, social networking, Twitter

Yes Virginia, Santa does TXT!

santa-text1

When I was leading Upoc we would create “Themed” social networking groups around different holidays.  We had particularly interesting groups, and results around Thanksgiving, Valentines Day, New Year’s, Hanukah, Kwanza, MLK’s Birthday and Halloween.  The most interesting, and memorable group was the Christmas group of 2007.

Each social network had a particular question that the members were asked to answer and comment upon.  For Thanksgiving the question was simply, “What are you giving thanks for this year?”  For Christmas it was, “What do you want from Santa this year?”

These social networks were created from the existing Upoc community.  We used our in-house tools to invite members to join.  When a network reached a critical mass of between 500-1000 members, we had a vibrant group.  Since I enjoyed the social networking, group psychology, and the pure fun of these networks, I was often the group moderator and owner.   The majority of the messaging within the group was done via SMS text messaging.  It was not unusual for one of these group to generate millions of messages during its life.

So you probably guessed by now.  I was “Santa”.  I would watch the group discuss their  various needs and wants, and then once or twice a day, as “Santa”, I would interject some pithy (hopefully) comment.  My username was “Santa”.  As Santa I would also boot from the group anyone who wanted nothing more than carnal contact with Santa!

This pattern continued for about a week, when a particularly classic desire bubbled up from a member.  She was a single Mom, with another baby on the way.  She lived in a very rural section of a Southern State.  To protect her identity I will call her “Virginia”.   Either Virginia thought she was text messaging with the real Santa, or she was really good at role-playing.

She texted Santa and said she “really believed in Santa”.  We had several text conversations about her living situation and she would ask about the reindeer.

After communicating with Virginia for two days I decided it was time for Santa to practice some real  holiday spirit . I messaged her that if she really believed ielf_poster1n Santa, then she would get a call from one of Santa’s helpers, “Charlie the Elf”.

In terms of full disclosure,  “Charlie” worked in our customer service department and was eager to play the role of an Elf.  Charlie called Virginia and got her address.  She was a little curious why Santa did not already have her address since he visits every house on Christmas Eve, but we and she let that one slide.

Once we had her address, I went to the web page of the real Santa helpers – Toy’s R Us.  I purchased various items to brighten her holiday- some toys, books, and baby clothing.  These items were shipped directly to her home.

After I made the order I checked out her home on Google Maps.  Using the Satellite view I discovered that the address was in fact a trailer on a secondary dirt road, connecting to the main dirt road, that connected with what may have been a paved road about 5 miles away.

toysrus-logo-high2Santa sent a message to Virginia to tell her that her package was on the way and that it would come from Toys R Us.  She messaged back asking why Santa needed to use Toys R Us.  I thought about sending an explanation about outsourcing and the global flat economy, but instead just told her that Santa needs a little help in reaching the most rural areas.ups-logo

As Santa, I used another of Santa’s helpers – UPS- to track the package.  When the UPS service send me a message that the package had been delivered, I texted Virginia to ask her about her gifts.   She got back to me and messaged that there was no package by her door.   I went back to the UPS web page and it informed me that the package had been left behind the carport.  Santa then messaged Virginia to look behind the carport.  She messaged back in a couple of minutes, totally amazed that I was able to tell her exactly where to look.

If she did not believe in Santa as a magical figure before that, with the help of text messaging, Charlie the Elf, Google, Toys R Us and UPS, she was clearly a believer now!

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Filed under advertising, blackberry, CEO, Christmas, Google, hockey, location based services, mobile, new media, politics, Santa Claus, social networking, wireless

The Technological Political Battlefield of 2012

 

hp-logo-washpostcom1

As I read Jose Antonio Vargas‘ report in the Washington Post   titled “Republicans Seek to Fix Short-Sightedness” on my Blackberry, I realized that this story is an excellent bookend to my previous blog about the Obama Internet machine.

In his well thought out piece he links the Republican election disaster to their lack of technological savvy.  My favorite quote in his article is:

“The Republicans are the party of talk radio, the Democrats are the party of the Internet”

A great observation was that the with the 1990’s technology of talk radio you can broadcast your message and influence the masses. With the Internet you can also influence the masses, with the significant benefit of developing mailing lists and raising money, directly.

This technological campaigning and fund raising changes in 2008 are as significant as Kennedy’s grasp of the use of Television in the 1960 campaign.

Before we once again get consumed with the 2012 Presidential election,we should ask , what will be the technological strategies and tactics of the next cycle?

Here are some of my top three predictions for the technological battlefield for 2012.

(as dangerous as it is to make predictions 4 years in advance!)

Social Networking will be big in the next election cycle
This election saw the beginnings of using social networks such as facebook®, MySpace® and Linkedin® as linkedin4organizing and fundraising tools.   Volunteer recruitment will be a social networking exercise, by 2012 these networks, and probably new ones, will be mature and even more mainstream.  The party that masters social networking will have an advantage.  A key aspect of mastering social networking will be the durability of the networks.  We already can see how the Democrats are continuing to use their social networks post election.  Starting the next election cycle with social networks measured in the 10’s of millions will be a significant asset.

Mobile equals Internet

The advances in mobile devices will largely erase the difference between Internet and mobile campaign efforts.  Direct fundraising via the mobile device will be commonplace.  The mobile will be more prominent in real time organization.  In 2004, the product of my former company (Upoc) was used by protesters in New York to direct real-time rallies during the Republican Convention.  The party that is mobile savvy will have a real-time advantage in 2012.

Management of Viral Videos matters
youtube_logoDuring this last cycle both parties were injured by popular viral videos. Examples of these videos include Obama’s Pastor – Reverend Wright, the Palin/Couric Interview and the more watched Tina Fey parodies.  The news cycle for politics is 24/7, with every moment forever archived on sites such as YouTube.  This election cycle witnessed the first “made for YouTube” videos by the Obama campaign.  The next election cycle will use YouTube as a major battleground.

Please share with me your views of important technology trends for future elections.  It will be interesting to bring this post out of the archives in 2012 and determine how well we did with the predictions.

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Filed under Election, location based services, mobile, obama, politics, social networking, wireless