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Posts Tagged ‘Clay Shirky’

The people over at Tribune Media just debuted chicagonow.com:  a new blog network launched two weeks ago after three months in beta as chicagosbestblogs.com.  Aggregating seventy+ blogs that loosely share a Chicago-centric theme, this site aims to attract young, digitally-savvy readers uninterested in their daily paper and fill the widening hole in the Tribune’s demographic mix.

All News (and opinion and jokes and gossip) Is Local

All News (and opinion and jokes and gossip) Is Local

I wish them well, though I’m clearly not in their demographic.  I subscribe to the Trib and until someone comes up with an elegantly-interactive digital crossword, I’ll stay analog.  Moreover, I like the illusion that my news at least postures as objective; the injection of obvious left or right bias in every item both exhausts and depresses me.

ChicagoNow appeals to its nascent audience with a pretty wide variety of News and Opinion, Life and Style, Arts and Entertainment, and Sports blogs–category headings seemingly taken right off their print mastheads.  A quick skim of their content reveals a largely newspaper-like tone, albeit with the amped up personality and opinions of the individual bloggers.  For me, the reading experience was not unlike an evening of Chicago Improv: a few remarkable moments separated by a lot of meandering development.  Then again, the analog version contains a lot of material I skim or ignore as well.

The word ‘community’ appears repeatedly throughout the site’s background pages; something that will prove simultaneously crucial as they pitch potential advertisers and challenging as their biggest potential stumbling block.  The best online communities build organically (for perspective, check out this month’s Wired magazine’s article on Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist).  As Clay Shirky writes, Web 2.0 means we no longer need organizations to organize.  Moreover, the user experience needs to come first and foremost and on that count, ChicagoNow seems to be doing it right.  You don’t need to register to access the content, but it does unlock other features like comments.  The ill-fated, arrived too early, saddled-by-regulatory redtape Bud.tv ultimately collapsed due to those onerous restraints as the hassles to the user outweighed the benefits of the content.

Will ChicagoNow take off and ultimately fill the expanding gap in the Tribune’s audience with new, revenue-generating readers?  It’s too early to say, but as a fan of newspapers, I hope it does.  And if nothing else, good on them for trying.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A Portion of Scott Weaver's Huge Kinetic Toothpick Sculpture of San Francisco

A Portion of Scott Weaver's Huge Kinetic Toothpick Sculpture of San Francisco

A skillful artist can make amazing things out of toothpicks and glue.  Self-taught Wayne Kusy builds ships like the Titanic and Lusitania.  His twenty-five feet long model of the Queen Mary required 814,000 toothpicks and nineteen gallons of wood glue.  Patrick Acton’s representational work with matchsticks earned his sculpture gallery the title of “Iowa Tourism’s Attraction of the Year” in 2007 (check out his timely “Hogwarts” piece).  And UK artist David Mach uses the business end of matchsticks to create a uniquely colorful take on this art form.

Each of these artists pulls together small scraps to make a much larger united whole.  And apparently, that’s what San Francisco novelist Matt Stewart is doing as he publishes what he claims to be the first novel released 140 characters at a time through Twitter.

“The French Revolution” will require upwards of 3,700 tweets to get the entire book out, an effort that has earned him invaluable press for a writer struggling to get his work noticed.  But only the novelty of the action merits coverage; in the end, 3,700 tweets do not aggregate into one piece in the same powerful way that 814,000 toothpicks aggregate into a twenty-five foot sculpture.  There is no final product, nothing to hold, nothing to skim, nothing to quickly re-read to refresh your take on a character, at least, not without a great deal of cutting and pasting.

So the story here is not that publishers have discovered a new manner to distribute their work.  Instead, it is yet another example of Clay Shirky’s theme of amateur empowerment through reducing the traditional cost of distribution, with the web usurping the role of the printing press for little to no transactional cost to Mr. Stewart.

Remarkable?  Yes, rather.  Sustainable?  Not really.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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As sophisticated marketers, we rarely give enough shrift to the notion of delight, perhaps because its such a dowager aunt of a word.  But people have a deeply-ingrained appetite for delight.  And as much as technology has progressed the art of communication (and perhaps more negatively, social distraction), it has powerfully advanced the widespread possibilities of delight.

To that end, here are three videos that have been spreading all over the internet of late, each one delivering a different take on delight.  

 

#1: Sour's Music Video

#1: Sour's Music Video

The first is a charming music video from Japanese group Sour called  ‘Hibi no Neiro’ (Tone of Everyday) from their first mini album ‘Water Flavor EP’.  Artistically, its a technologically-powered tour de force with an overlay of innovative fan engagement.  To make this, the globally-disparate members of the band engaged members of their worldwide fan base, bringing everyone together to perform in their video by using webcams on their Mac laptops to create a fiendishly clever update on the old ‘stadium crowd flashcards.’

#2: July 4th Candy Fireworks

#2: July 4th Candy Fireworks

 

The second is an example of simple stop-motion animation that uses pieces of candy to create a fireworks show.  Executionally, it’s nothing new but because it’s done so well with the added overlay of timeliness, the effect is magic.  

 

Finally a cautionary tale for corporations in this era of desktop creativity and social media.  Perfectly demonstrating Clay Shirky’s principle of organizing without organizations, the band Sons of Maxwell witnessed United Airlines baggage teams manhandling their guitar cases at O’Hare.  

#2: Sons of Maxwell Video

#3: Sons of Maxwell Video

By the time Dave Carroll collected his beautiful Taylor, it’s neck was broken, requiring $1100 in repairs.  After spending a futile year chasing compensation, the band produced a video for a simple A-E-G country ditty title “United Breaks Guitars.”  After a huge burst of internet response, United settled the grievance and the band earned the biggest hit of their careers.

 

Opinion has a mass channel.  Thankfully, so does delight.  Happy Friday.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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We seem to have hit a rough patch for celebrity deaths this past week: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and just yesterday, pitchman Billy Mays.  The demise of Michael Jackson in particular captured worldwide interest and led to all sorts of tributes and memorials, from BET to the cover of every major newspaper.

As is now the case with any breaking story with such magnitude of human interest, online usage spiked as people sought to learn what happened as it happened: for a short while, Twitter actually shut down and Google returned error messages for searches related to “Michael Jackson,” assuming that the volume of inquiries indicated some sort of automated attack on its servers.  For one hour last Thursday night, over one of every five tweets referenced Michael Jackson.

The interval between when TMZ announced his death and when more reputable outlets followed suit will provide fodder for journalists to debate for years; what caught my attention–courtesy of our ever aware planner Lance Hill–was the corresponding rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died.  Oddly, Mr. Goldblum seems to be a more modern version of Abe Vigoda: rumors of his death first popped up ten years ago.  Picture 3If you check the chart at left, courtesy of the Twitter trend monitoring service  Twist, both Goldblum and Harrison Ford shared temporary obituaries late last week.  The ever-useful rumor-quashing site Snopes reports that these rumors originate via an automated prank; some ‘comedy’ websites encourage you to enter a celebrity’s name into a ‘fake news generator’ and then spread the story–similar rumors spreada few years ago about both Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks.  And apparently these fake story generators favor Hollywood deaths that involve the ‘victim’ falling off a mountain during a location shoot in New Zealand.  Go figure…

Social Media provide untold value–not only to enable us to connect more frequently in our time-starved culture, but also to provide a first person outlet for critical news as it breaks.  The recent coverage of the massive post-election protests on the streets of Iran would have been far less-comprehensive without the first-person details passed along via Twitter.  But as author and social media commentator Clay Shirky points out, having this vast distribution network accessible to everyone makes it all but impossible to define what constitutes a ‘journalist’ anymore.  Further, without being bound to the principles–and legal ramifications–of traditional journalism, false stories spread much further, much faster.  On the upside, ‘wiki’ principles hold true in these case as well; the majority of social media users want to know the truth and will quickly rise up to correct erroneous stories as they find them.

It takes a village indeed.  And online, that village is very, very large.  And loud.  And occasionally wrong.  But inevitably corrected.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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'His Holiness' Would Make an Epic Twitter Handle

'His Holiness' Would Make an Epic Twitter Handle

 

As reported in various news channels before the recent Holiday weekend, the Vatican launched www.pope2you.net last Thursday to celebrate World Communications Day, or Inter Mirifica: an outcome of the Second Vatican Council.  This year, the Pope’s message directly addresses ‘the digital generation’ through a website, e-mail outreach, and yes, a Facebook app.  No, you won’t be able to poke the pontiff or learn what his Smurf name might be, but this action represents a conscious, if occasionally unwieldy, move by this ancient organization into social media. 

The Pope’s message invites young people to become instruments for peace and promote a culture of respect built on ‘great synergies of friendship.’  Beyond the dismaying fact that the Pope himself resorted to saying ‘synergies,’ this move by the Pontifical Council for Social Communications drills home just how quickly our media environment has evolved over the past five years.  Obviously, technology has changed, but that’s not nearly as remarkable as how human behavior has changed.  The Vatican’s decision to turn to the internet as a means of spreading church gospel shows a practical awareness of where their congregation lives, plays and exchanges ideas.  With this new site, Catholics can now interact in this rich dialogue environment with a limitless supply of e-cards and banners from the Pope.  They can also follow and forward news and updates on YouTube or through a new iPhone app.  

What marketers refer to as viral messaging is merely a 21st century update of missionary work: a central organization creates a strong message, then sends out true believers with an imprimatur to take that message and spread it to people in far off lands.  The big difference is that today, you can do that simply by pressing ‘send.’ 

As Clay Shirky explains in his engaging, imminently readable book “Here Comes Everybody” (You still haven’t read it?  C’mon…), we live in a time where communications technology makes it incredibly easy to organize without organizations.  Because of this, organizations need to think beyond their own walls and self interests to consider outside communities that might share their thinking, values or interests.  These communities are not officially sanctioned extensions of the organization, because they exist solely on the strength of their members’ passion; call them ‘intramural organizations.’

Every large organization with a message to market must become aware of their own ‘intramural organizations’ and find ways to foster and encourage them.  When done deftly, large organizations can extend their marketing almost exponentially because these intramural groups excel at driving recommendation and word of mouth. 

The best way to spread any message—religious or secular—is to define your brand’s mission, and spread that.  The Pope’s doing it, why aren’t you?

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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A Reuters news story that’s simultaneously fascinating and pathetic discusses the phenomenon of hate groups turning to social networks to spread their extremist messages.  The Simon Wiesenthal Center reports that the same sites where we send birthday wishes and take daily quizzes to determine “Which lump of coal do you most resemble?” (I got Bituminous!) are increasingly being exploited to spread propaganda and recruit members.  The Center cites a 25% increase in ‘problematic’ internet social networking groups.

Don't Expect Many Ballads From These Excitable Boys

Don't Expect Many Ballads From These Excitable Knuckleheads

This makes perfectly logical sense.  The only cost of setting up such a group is time: one racist who posts on YouTube even brags about how he’s on his sixty-fourth site; everytime administrators take him down, he creates a new persona and sets up shop a few bits of code down the block. This is a fascinating phenomenon Clay Shirky analyses at length in his book Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.  With such low cost of entry and such a wide net of users to recruit from, social networks provide the ideal vehicle to assemble coalitions out of far flung fringe types.

Comedian Jake Johannsen used to do a bit on gun control where he’d cop the rhetoric of advocates, saying “Guns don’t kill people…”   After a long, wide-eyed pause, he’d add “It’s those little tiny bullets…  The guns just make them go really, really, fast.”

Racism, homophobia, and religious intolerance remain deeply-seated issues within humanity.  So while it’s true that social networks provide them with a new forum to organize and spread, the appropriate response is not to curtail freedom online so much as to redouble our efforts to expose intolerant idiocy offline.

And maybe invite extremists to lighten up by taking a “Which character on Gilligan’s Island are you?” quiz on Facebook.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I come from a military family.  My Dad graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis and my older brother was ROTC at Penn State, eventually retiring as a Commander of a P-3 Squadron.  I am deeply grateful that America supports a strong military, given a world infested with Somali Pirates, insane tinhorn dictators, and fragile democracies. Still, the old question of “guns or butter?” always stuck in my mind, fostering my personal military industrial complex. How could reasonable people ever aggressively wage peace in a violent, selfish world?

Imagine...

Imagine...

Finally, we might have some real tools. Ammunition and weapons never provided a lasting answer, but perhaps technology can. Maybe the keys to more universal justice will prove to be literacy, laptops and broadband. Think about it: a literate populace can not be isolated from an ever-tighter global community.  A laptop allows anyone to express and share their unique thoughts, sounds and images. And broadband allows the one to instantly connect with the many all over the world. With literacy, laptops and broadband, the traditional barriers to communication fall away; genocide in Darfur can be brought to our desktops, starvation in North Korea can be felt in our homes, the world’s huddled masses can no longer be bottled up by the dictatorial few.  

“Mass amateurization” as the sociologically-insightful Clay Shirky calls it, threatens many aspects of our marketing business with devaluation and commoditization.  But if it also helps the oppressed, the abused or the marginalized gain their voices and have them magnified by the amplifying effect of a global social network, well, that mitigates my professional uncertainty somewhat.  I can live with that.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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