Alexandra Samuel

Telling the story of social media.

“Time to have us a good old extension cage match. In one corner you have the Hawaiian punch of the…”

“Time to have us a good old extension cage match. In one corner you have the Hawaiian punch of the link sharing world - Mahalo Share. In the other, weighing in with way too many link sharing resources is Shareaholic.”

- Add-on Cage Match, Mahalo Share vs Shareaholic! | Firefox Facts
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“Share, bookmark and e-mail web pages quickly without leaving your browser. Shareaholic makes it easy…”

“Share, bookmark and e-mail web pages quickly without leaving your browser. Shareaholic makes it easy for you to submit the web page you’re on to your favorite sharing or bookmarking service, including: digg,, facebook, friendfeed, google bookmarks, google reader notes, kaboodle, magnolia, mixx, myspace, pownce, reddit, stumbleupon, tumblr, twitter, and ycombinator. You can also e-mail the web page directly to a friend.”

- Shareaholic - The browser add-on extension to share, bookmark and e-mail web pages quickly
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Xoopit: I’m grooving on this plugin for gmail/firefox that lets me browse all my videos, photos and file attachments in a convenient way.
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Roundup: 50 suggestions for how President-elect Obama can use the Internet to govern


It's been one week since the greatest campaign the Internet has ever seen turned into the promise of the first Internet-era government. Both the traditional media and the blogosphere are overflowing with suggestions for how President-elect Barack Obama can translate his campaign's social media briliance into a model of government -- and particularly, a model of public engagement in government -- that is just as transformative.

Many of those suggestions come from friends and colleagues who have been working for at least a decade in the e-democracy trenches, uncovering opportunities to increase public participation and rebuild social capital online. In Barack Obama they (and I!) see a President with the experience, skills and inclination to realize the potential of online engagement with policy, politics and government.

In this post I round up a cross-section of the most intriguing ideas for how the President-elect can evolve his Internet-savvy campaign into Internet-savvy government. This is a mix of recommendations, musings, predictions and praise for the best of what's rolled out already. Most of these suggestions have appeared in the past week, though some anticipated Obama's election and made recommendations or predictions before the fact. Some come from colleagues who are articulating long-held visions; others come from bloggers who are just starting to imagine the possibilities of e-government, now that they've seen the power of e-campaigning. While there are some recurring themes, the range of suggestions reflect the extraordinary variety of ideas and energies that are available for the new President to harness.

As the length of this list suggests, it won't be hard for the President-elect to find opportunities for online innovation in government. The challenge will be to encompass or bridge between some very different ideas about how to innovate, which in turn reflect profoundly different frameworks. The folks who want to metamorphosize into a Congressional lobby have embraced the model of interest-driven pressure politics; those who advocate for neutral online policy consultations want to insulate decision-making from those very pressures. And then there are those who want to set aside the political process altogether, and tackle government as a purely technical challenge of improving efficiency and enabling information flows.

None of these paradigms can fully do justice to Barack Obama's combination of social media savvy, and reported appetite for careful deliberation and contemplation before making a decision. He'll need to pioneer a model that combines the grassroots energy of (online) community organizing with the information-rich deliberation advocated by many public engagement practitioners. In devising that model he can draw inspiration from the many suggestions that are already pouring forth.

Here they are:

    Use blogging and rich media to talk directly to citizens frequently and in real time.

  1. What if President Obama took another visionary step and decided to update this communication technique? The weekly address could be taped and posted on YouTube. It could include prepared remarks by the President or produced infomercial-type stories like we've seen throughout the campaign. President Obama could then use his network on MyBO, Facebook, and other social media outlets to push people to watch these videos—and respond to them. Staffers could review the comments, and the President could address some of them during the next address. -- Raven Brooks, Fireside Chats in the Digital Age -- techPresident
  2. "I wouldn't be surprised if Barack Obama starts doing a weekly YouTube video and also fireside chats for the 21st century by allowing people to filter up questions to him that he might answer." - Andrew Raseij, quoted Obama launches Web site to reach public --
  3. Obama put his election photos on Flickr under Creative Commons license. - David Kamerer, Obama takes change online -- PR Needed Here
  4. A president could blog, speaking in his or own voice. But, have you seen the list of what President Obama has to deal with? If he has time to blog, he’s not paying attention. But maybe the White House could blog. ..It’d take courage … and some grade-A metadata to remind people that bloggers speak more loosely than the press secretary does. But by having, say, a dozen in-house people blogging to start, the administration would have a unique way to keep citizens informed, would continue to build trust and intimacy with the American people, and would be able to try out and improve ideas in the cauldron of public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on. - Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? -- Joho the Blog
  5. All of the Obama supporters who traded their personal information for a ticket to a rally or an e-mail alert about the vice presidential choice, or opted in on Facebook or MyBarackObama can now be mass e-mailed at a cost of close to zero. And instead of the constant polling that has been a motor of presidential governance, an Obama White House can use the Web to measure voter attitudes. - David Carr, The Media Equation - How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power -
  6. (YouTube video of President Obama as Lonelypres_15, doing a video diary)Win congressional support for your agenda by using social networks to mobilize grassroots support and apply pressure on Congress.

  7. By creating an official White House social network that invites all voters in and opens the doors to the governing process, Obama has the opportunity to reinvigorate Edmund Burke's delegate model of representative government. Instead of guessing from Washington what the people want, such a platform can more accurately reveal the public will and make it easier for government to reflect that will. -- Alan Rosenblatt, Emergent Governance: Who Needs Bees When the Grassroots Swarm the White House -- techPresident
  8. Obama can leverage social media to make people much more involved in the process of bills becoming laws, and encourage his supporters to pressure their representatives into supporting his policies. . -- Adam Ostrow, How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? -- Mashable
  9. The White House could "geo-target" ads so they appear online in congressional districts where members remain undecided. Obama could use Internet ads to solicit signatures for petitions, or he could place display and video ads contextually -- so they would appear on the screen next to news coverage of his proposals. -- Shallagh Murray and Matthew Mosk, Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way, Washington Post
  10. "Congress will be put between a rock and a hard place, if millions of citizens sign up to help the president pass his agenda," Trippi said. "If the president says, 'Here are the members of Congress who stand in the way of us passing health care reform,' I would not want to be one of those people. You'll have 10 or 15 million networked Americans barging in on the members of Congress telling them to get in line with the program and pass the health care reform bill. That will be a power that no American president has had before. Congress' power will be taken over by the American people." -- quoted by Mitch Wagner in Obama Election Ushering In First Internet Presidency -- InformationWeek
  11. I thought he might try to use the contacts from , his campaign site, to rally his supporters to call their members of Congress on key legislation or challenge them to funnel the energy that they used in campaigning to volunteer or apply for positions in his administration. definitely looks to be headed in that direction. - Kevin Anderson, is gonna come -- The Guardian
  12. Use to engage grassroots support and service...if you're not limited by election laws.

  13. MyBo, or some Open Source knockoff, should be opened up to anyone who wants to round up friends and neighbors to make a difference, as well as to anyone who wants to tinker with new features. No software can, of course, convey the "spirit" of grassroots organizing. But well-designed systems can scaffold the basic activities of a competent organizer, enough to give such efforts a fighting chance, especially if coupled with training or mentorship....MyBo had experimented with offering points for taking on different activities; it scaled poorly and was eventually replaced with an activity level system. A game-like interface, scaled down to the local level, could use a scoring rubric to help convey to citizens which activities were most urgently needed, especially if Obama himself is pushing and motivating service at the macro level. -- Gene Koo, From campaigning to governance 1: civic engagement -- techPresident
  14. Twitterers want to know: 10 questions

    1. How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? -- mlh0919
    2. In an Obama administration what kind of job goes to Chris Hughes? The co-founder of Facebook who created -- jayrosen_nyu
    3. So is Obama the first president born after the internet was invented? Looks like it. -- kevindente
    4. Can President- Elect Obama blog? -- kevinokeefe
    5. It's swell that Barack Obama used Web 2.0 to get elected, but doing it with a site known as "MyBO?" -- CJBarker
    6. Will Obama's public engagement via internet carry into his presidency? Do the people stop having a voice after Jan 20? -- dmancan
    7. Does anyone know if David Plouffe (Obama's campaign manager), or anyone else will write a book about their Internet marketing tactics? -- DavidTaboada
    8. Can we admit that barack obama's success was due to the fact that he was an inspiring personality and not just b/c he used the internet? -- scottyiseri
    9. How will President Obama deploy his Internet army? -- AZ_BirdLady
    10. Hey, did you guys here Obama is actually a hologram? -- bloomtoday
  15. [K]eep MyBO alive as a political community outside of government...For Obama, this means he could mobilize millions to write Congress, send letters to editors around the country, comment on blogs, and a host of other grassroots activism activities -- Alan Rosenblatt, Emergent Governance: Who Needs Bees When the Grassroots Swarm the White House -- techPresident
  16. Personally, I expect myBO to get folded into the DNC, most likely by merging it into Partybuilder, the DNC's social network. The same company, Blue State Digital, built both platforms and, in fact, myBO is basically a souped-up Partybuilder. Obama legally can't take myBO with him into the White House, since the Hatch Act precludes using government resources for political operations. -- Micah Sifry, What Next for -- Personal Democracy Forum
  17. And the site isn't going anywhere. The online tools in My.BarackObama will live on. Barack Obama supporters will continue to use the tools to collaborate and interact. Our victory on Tuesday night has opened the door to change, but it's up to all of us to seize this opportunity to bring it about. In the coming days and weeks, there will be a great deal more information about where this community will head. -- Chris Hughes, Moving Forward on My.BarackObama --
  18. Be prepared for citizens -- especially young ones -- to use your own organizing toolkit as a platform for holding you accountable.

  19. (one schoolgirl to another) Congress cut the education budget. But I reverted it in the wiki.It's not really Obama's responsibility to keep us involved. It really is ours. We should not be asking what Obama can do for us. We should be asking what we can do for him and the country. .... 5. Blog and comment online. Many of us blogged about Obama during the past few years, and it was fun and enlightening to read comments and make comments of our own. I myself started blogging for the first time because of Obama. I complained about the media's shallow interviewing of Palin; and I tried to point out the radical nature of McCain's health plan proposal. In addition, I registered on various state-level blogs and wrote diaries and blogs there whenever I could. There will continue to be a need for ordinary people to blog about their experiences during the campaign and their opinion about what Obama does once he is President. Linda Bergthold Ask Not What Obama Can Do for You -- Ask What You Can do for Obama -- Huffington Post
  20. He texted. He Twittered. He had custom social media designed to connect supporters to his message, to donate spare cash and spare time, to meet up. The pundits are already asking, “Will he govern this way?” Perhaps. We’ll see. For me the real question is whether we will govern this way. He will disappoint, as I’ve already pointed out....To give President Obama the chance to become another FDR, we’ll have to take a lesson from candidate Obama — and organize him into being. -- Marc Bousquet, Boots on the Ground, Eyeballs on the Screen -- How The University Works
  21. And they won't settle for politics as usual. Having grown up digital, they will want to be involved in the act of governing -- by contributing ideas before decisions are made. What's more, they'll insist on integrity from politicians; if politicians say one thing and do another, young Americans will use their digital tools to find out, and spread the news. -- Don Tapscott, Obama's Ace in the Hole -- Huffington Post
  22. Inspire a new era in community service by using the web to match volunteeers and community needs.

  23. Why not allow users of MyBarackObama to utilize the platform to organize community service projects? Use Twitter and SMS to alert people to opportunities to give back in their own communities or when national tragedy strikes. Utilize Facebook to get the word out about charitable events. The tools and the users are already in place. -- Adam Ostrow How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? -- Mashable
  24. Gore envisions a sense of purpose and promise in what he called “World 2.0:” Web 2.0 used for social betterment. “Just as Barack Obama’s election would’ve been impossible without the new dialogue and new ways of interacting, the only way climate change is going to be solved is by addressing the democracy crisis, and the country hit a great blow for victory this week, but we have to take this issue and raise it in the awareness of everyone,” Gore said. Gore continued later during his interview with conference organizers Tim O’Reilly and John Batelle, “I think that it is very much in its infancy, barely beginning, and I think that we are not many years away from television sort of sinking into the digital world and becoming a part of it.” His continued “purpose” is to advance the democratization of media, where people are in control of not only what they consume, but are also empowered to create, distribute, and influence through media. -- Brian Solis, Al Gore on World 2.0 at Web 2.0 Summit --
  25. (father to daughter, who is using a computer) Come on, honey. It's a lovely day, and I want you to play outside. You can help the President with his tax policy later.I envisioned something similar to what our grandparents did 75 years ago to get through the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history — but in the Digital Age. Gradon Tripp And so I gave it a name: the Digital New Deal. Think about it: what if — like FDR controlling road and bridge construction projects from the White House — President Obama could guide a volunteer work force. An army of helping hands. Using the connections that he’s already established, (I honestly get more text messages from him than I do from some of my friends) he could mobilize a disaster-recovery team, a clean-up-the-parks team, a let’s-make-this-a-better-country team… all as quickly as he can send a text or an email or a tweet. Gradon Tripp, Digital New Deal: Now the Real Work Begins --
  26. I propose creating an online platform that can generate ways for anyone to serve their local and national community. In your plan for creating new ways for us, the citizens of this nation to serve, I feel that you must take advantage of the internet. By simply providing a directory of tasks and ways for people to serve we can make it possible for anyone to contribute to their local and national community. The important element is letting each person sort through the tasks and opportunities based on the time they have, their skills, interests, and location. Even if you have just thirty minutes to give, they can provide change. -- Ethan Bodnar, Letter to the President-Elect on Technology -- Ethan Bodnar / The Blog
  27. Solicit citizen input into policy using online hearings, peer-moderated content and an effective online community manager.

  28. Set up a series of citizen councils, organized around key policy themes, and equip users with an Ideastorm. At first these communities might look and feel a lot like, the popular technology news aggregator. Users post policy suggestions and the community votes so that the most popular ideas rise to the top. Ideas are harvested from a broader spectrum of the population and the user-driven idea filtering process eases the burden on staff resources by harnessing “the crowd” to sift through mountains of feedback. - Anthony Williams, Obama’s web 2.0 strategy: from campaigning to governing, part 1 -- Wikinomics
  29. As in-person public meetings begin to incorporate live online features, envision more deliberate online exchanges to improve the outcomes of the decision-making process. If your government agency hosts three public hearings across the country or your state, host the fourth hearing online over a week or two and improve the format in the process. In 10 years, the legislatures, commissions and city councils not holding hearings online will be in the minority. - Steve Clift, Ten Online Ideas for Obama in Government -- O riginally published as "Ten practical online steps for government support of democracy", in the GSA Intergovernmental Solutions newsletter, Fall 2007 (PDF) There's lots more great material for the new administration to draw on in this article and the newsletter.
  30. Widespread collaborative interaction with new tools and resources for information and deliberation can spread throughout both the public and private sectors, as people's expectations expand for what they can accomplish both for themselves and their fellow citizens. A new culture of democratic action holds forth the prospect of not only engaging people in activities with concrete, tangible payoffs for personal success and community empowerment, but also proliferating values of tolerance, respect, and mutual engagement that have been the themes not only of the Obama campaign, but of Barack Obama's entire public life. -- Peter M. Shane, The Obama Vision of Open Government and Public Engagement -- Huffington Post
  31. I call on president-elect Obama to create a community of committed Americans to discuss the solutions to the problems that face us. I call on him to designate a US Community Manager, with a small staff, to moderate and harvest those discussions to solve the country's problems. -- Josh Bernoff, Can Obama harvest better ideas from the people, online? - The Boston Globe
  32. (President Obama, reading a laptop screen over a staffer's shoulder) So if I'm reading this correctly, Digg has determined that our nation's top priority is LOLcats.Another question worth asking is whether Obama will embrace technology to give citizens a larger voice in important decisions. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for him to do so. If he is smart, he will establish nationwide user names and passwords which link to driver's license or social security numbers, allowing citizens to voice their opinions on anything, everything. He can then communicate with us as needed to answer our concerns and make us feel like we are part of the process. - Rich Tehrani, President Obama And The Coming Tech Revolution -- Communicatins and Technology Blog
  33. Imagine that what the president’s staff sends isn’t spam but thoughtful explanations of policy initiatives. Imagine that there are real online processes for citizens to upload ideas and feedback. That could be a real change in the connection between the governed and governors. -- Richard Koman, The Connected President --
  34. Law is code and so one would hope that social tools will help accelerate the iteration process - just like with great software. What will keep this audience engaged? Meaningful social nets that aren't echo chambers but organizational catalysts to real change - I would hope that savvy entrepreneurs are helping to build platforms that help mesh social problems with willing participants in the process who are willing to construct change. -- Jennifer Fader of eMedia at Rogers & Cowan, quoted by Ellen McGirt, Government 2.0: Can President-Elect Obama Take What He's Learned On The Road to The Beltway? -- Fast Company
  35. Immediately invite public input on -- and make that invitation as transparent as possible.

  36. features a blog, a form where visitors can share their stories about the election, video, a full listing of Obama’s staff, as well as links to other government sites with details about the transition...the launch of this site proves that Obama already had a plan in place to think about how his digital outreach would transition once he won the election, showing that his team was thinking ahead. More than just having a plan in place, his plan has a purpose. Obama is trying to mobilize the citizens of America with a call to action which Boston-based social media, technology and design blogger Gradon Tripp calls the Digital New Deal. -- Rob Longert, Obama’s Community of Millions -- PepperDigital
  37. President-Elect Barack Obama has launched a web site at The purpose of the site is to make the transition operation more transparent to the public, and to solicit opinions and ideas from the American people. Under "American Moment" you can either "Share your Vision" or "Share your Story." I asked him for unequivocal clarification about homeschooling. I asked him for transparency in government. I asked him for involvement, for a team effort, for more to do. I stopped short of asking for a pony. What will you ask for? -- Lydia M. Netzer, aka lostcheerio, Open Source Government -- Little Blue School
  38. The president-elect's transition Web site features a blog and a suggestion form, signaling the kinds of direct and instantaneous interaction that the Obama administration will encourage, perhaps with an eye toward turning its following into the biggest special-interest group in Washington. -- Shallagh Murray and Matthew Mosk, Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way -- Washington Post
  39. The problem, in my view, is not that the content of the site is still somewhat in flux. That can be expected (keep in mind it's been only a few days since Obama won the election). Nor is the problem that a site like should never change (on the contrary, I'd argue for constant change to make corrections where needed, evolve the concepts, document progress etc.). What's missing is the transparent, wiki-like exposure of recent changes: which web edits were made, when, by whom and -- by way of short change summaries -- why. I'm sure that's an RSS feed many would happily subscribe to. Tim Bonnemann, commenting on Pulls Its Agenda -- techPresident
  40. Place an effective CTO in charge of implementing the technology changes that are crucial to your vision for transparency and accountability in government.

  41. The CTO could lead the drive to create a “Google for government” that would allow new levels of transparency and access to government agencies - something Obama stressed repeatedly. -- Jaime L. Hartman, Campaign promises, political reality: Will CTO be one he delivers on? -- OhMyGov
  42. The CTO job is a political job, a bureaucratic job. The person who succeeds in that job will be someone who can bring an entrepreneurial spirit into a government setting. They will have to familiar with the CTO positions at the whole range of federal agencies; they will have to know their way around Washington to some extent; they will know how to work with large, combative constituencies; and they will expect to be held accountable. -- Richard Koman, Who will be the nation’s CTO? --
  43. So, while it would be good to have someone who at least understood the politics, I'd like to see the person selected have a solid knowledge of technology and a history of solving the kinds of problems that the country is likely to face on technology. I ended up with four potential candidates: Al Gore, Lawrence Lessig, Vin Cerf, and Shane Robison. The one you like the best depends on the job that needs to be done. - Rob Enderle, Anticipating the First US CTO - Mashget
  44. Generally take a businesslike approach to government IT. Obama's focus on making government "transparent" and searchable would be just one byproduct of that effort. -- Curt Monash, 7 (non-network-centric) IT priorities for the Obama Administration -- Community
  45. Expect to see large pushes for automation of backend IT processes. Although federal IT budgets will be under significant downward pressure, good ideas regarding virtualization, automation and other high payoff disruptive technologies will be welcome and there will still be IT modernization efforts underway throughout the government. -- Bob Gourley, The Technology Implications of the Obama Win -- ExecutiveBiz Blog
  46. Support open source tools -- after all, they are intimately connected to your bottom-up philosophy.

  47. But the open-source movement in computer engineering is people get together from all over the world and build computer software bottom-up. Is Barack Obama going to be the old top-down industrial-age cathedral leader, or is he going to be the fellow we heard tonight, this new generation of leadership that is very bottom-up for the communications age? - Alex Castellanos on CNN, quoted by Matt Asay, Republican pundit pushes Obama as open source -- CNET News
  48. Expect to see much much more use of open source software and hardware in the federal enterprise, which will continue to drive more adoption by open source software in commercial sectors. Expect to see a more widespread adoption of Open Office, Linux, Solaris, ZFS, and MySQL. This will be done for agility, flexibility, security and expense. -- Bob Gourley, The Technology Implications of the Obama Win -- ExecutiveBiz Blog
  49. Post all disclosures online to maximize transparency and accountability.

  50. The Obama administration should direct the Office of Government Ethics to post all the financial disclosure forms filed by its appointees online. - Bill Allison, Open Letter to the Obama Administration on How to Shine Sunlight -- Sunlight Foundation
  51. President-elect Barack Obama is signaling that he's likely to follow through with his proposal to appoint a chief technology officer to the White House. The person in this new position--and possibly a new White House technology office staff--could be given the directive to create new levels of transparency and access to government agencies, or to guide policies that spur innovation and growth. -- Stephanie Condon, Obama's search for a CTO | Latest News in Politics and Law - CNET News
  52. We should have online disclosure, about who is lobbying whom for what at whose behest, as well as who is seeking to buy influence with their contributions to campaigns and related charities. -- Mike Klein, Open Letter to the Obama Administration on How to Shine Sunlight -- Sunlight Foundation
  53. Keep showing the rest of us how to use social media for public engagement -- and why engagement matters.

  54. Getting the message out. Keeping the message fresh. Sticking to the story. Tracking and staying in touch with the interested visitor. Developing a worthwhile engaging relationship with those who can support you and your concerns. These are just a few of the (many) lessons illustrated with this successful campaign. To all those that have taken the time to visit and comment as we moved with this case study - Thank You. We have learned much from this experience. -- David Bullock, Successful Social CRM and Superior Marketing in Practice -- Barack 2.0
  55. It's clear that over the past year, Obama's campaign has developed a profound understanding of how its community finds and consumes information across a number of platforms. And Obama has embraced them all, and adapted his message to fit the way people use those platforms. That's an important lesson that every newsroom should learn. -- Chris O'Brien, What newsrooms can learn from Obama campaign -- IdeaLab
  56. World Wide Creative uses Barack Obama’s internet strategy as a case study in almost all our presentations, so it would have been pretty crappy if the non-internet-savvy old white guy had won! - Fred Roed, The Obama Internet Show rolls on -- The Heavy Chef Project /World Wide Creative
  57. One issue we spend a lot of time working on when building online communities at FreshNetworks is how to ensure and encourage participation. How do you design and build a community site which will make your target audience want to take part and then take the step to actually take part, contributing something or adding to the community in some way. The best and simplest solution is just to make it really easy for the community members to do things and to make it very clear to them what the benefits are. Obama’s site is a textbook example of how to do this and, I believe, this good online strategy and design has led to the impressive online community and support that is being spoken of. -- Matt Rhodes, Things we learn from Obama: calls to action reap rewards in online communities -- FreshNetworks Blog
  58. Remember that your ability to use the Internet effectively has reshaped how people see their own political effectiveness.

  59. I registered at earlier this year to help. I made several donations online starting sometime in February when they had the “Match a donation”...I began documenting and researching information I found on the internet -- Adria Richards, How I Helped Elect Barack Obama Using the Internet -- But You're A
  60. Talk about democracy in action! The Obama Administration is actively seeking input directly from concerned citizens: no Senatorial filters or Congressional messengers. And it’s seeking it in a way that is most likely to appeal to the change-agents of the future: our students. In 8 years, students who are currently in Grade 6 will be given the right to vote. But they no longer have to wait for their voices to be heard. Long before they are granted the power of the ballot, our students have been given the power of the Internet. Of course, it remains to be seen how this information will be acted upon. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to participate. - Clint Hamada, The Internet President -- Pockets of Change
  61. Hope is infectious and I’m glad. I’ll carry that hope into my own personal action and support for my country’s’ leaders and citizens of the world to make the world better. I feel that infection rolling across my networks. I’m also aware that my networks are more politically homogeneous than the world, and that there are others today who may feel a loss of hope. They deserve hope too, so I appreciated Obama’s inclusiveness and seriousness about that in his acceptance speech. -- Nancy White, “I don’t normally write about…" -- F ull Circle Associates
  62. Can you integrate all this advice into a model of government? Yes, you can.

  63. If you're going to transform the Internet's potential for government the way you transformed its role in campaigning, you need to create a vision that can be replicated, extended and innovated -- both inside government and beyond. Mandate a culture of pervasive online engagement; then empower governments and grassroots, public servants and community organizers to find their own mechanisms for cultivating participation in agenda-setting, deliberation and decision-making. As this blog post shows, there is a wealth of knowledge and ideas available online to the new administration: simply listening to what is already being said can provide an abundance of inspiration on just about any policy issue.

    One man -- even the President -- can't create a conversational government. But he can mobilize a conversational culture with the potential to transform how decisions are made and resources are dedicated, whether it's inside government or beyond. Most importantly, he can help us rediscover the value of conversation in building knowledge, relationships and understanding -- whether those conversations happen over a white picket fence or inside the White House.
(President-elect Obama at a news conference) A week ago, I described mixed-breed dogs as 'mutts'. Apparently the more respectful term is 'mash-ups'.

My Obama mama


Last night I finally got around to making my Obama donation. They invited stories as part of the donation process, and here’s what I posted:

My mom turns 70 on November 16th and insists there’s nothing she wants for her birthday other than photos of her grandchildren. I know the one thing that would thrill her even more: being present at Barack Obama’s inauguration. She’s a lifelong Democrat — my parents met when my Dad ran for a congressional nomination 45 years ago — and while she’s lived in Canada for 40 years, she’s never stopped feeling like an American (or dressing like one, on July 4th in particular!)

Her American-ness is particularly heartfelt when it comes to her political attentions. Over the past year, she’s spent hours every day watching CNN. For the first half of that year, we had the typical generational divide: I was pulling for Obama, and she felt it was time for a woman — for Hillary in particular. But she has been completely won over by watching speech after speech; I think that for the first time, she’s realizing that the United States is no longer the country she left in 1968, for better and for worse. On the one hand the Bush years have been far more brutal than she’d ever have imagined; on the other hand, the US she lived in was profoundly divided — particularly the segregated world of her Tennessee grandparents.

I know that the prospect of President Obama has made her feel like an American again — not just in a red-white-and-blue, Fourth-of-July outfit sort of a way, but in a return to the idea of America as a political beacon for the world. I’d love her to see it shining brightly, first hand, at the inauguration.

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Reframe it offers collaboration in context


Our friends at ReframeIt are enjoying a couple of weeks' worth of well-deserved glowing coverage, most recently in the form of a great review on ZDnet. I met ReframeIt CEO Bobby Fishkin at this year's NetSquared, where we had an awesome conversation about how well-designed social web tools can support meaningful conversation, knowledge building and social trust, as opposed to the usual yak yak yak.

Bobby and team have brought the vision of meaningful conversation to life with ReframeIt's very pragmatic approach to in-context annotation. Install their Firefox extension and you can annotate any web page, share your annotations with the audience(s) of your choice, and read what other people are saying about that page. It's a great way to share resources with colleagues, keep your own notes about favourite web sites, or bring openness and accountability to those web sites who've yet to embrace the social web.

We've long used Technorati searches to show organizations that even if they're not hosting online conversations, people are already talking about them...and opening your doors to engagement is the best way to have a voice in the conversation. I suspect it won't be long until we start making that point by using ReframeIt to show clients what people are saying about them -- in the margins of their very own web sites.

Status update: Twittering your way to effective (and expressive) communication


Today I took a giant leap forward in my update-ability. (If date-ability refers to your in-person hotness, update-ability speaks to your hotness in the social media pressure cooker of Twitter, Facebook, Jaiku etc.)  If I'm going to be entirely honest, my virtual hotness has been severely limited by my relatively infrequent Twitterings. Not only do I eat, change my musical selection and go to the bathroom without posting the minute-by-minute update, but I even sometimes have actually vaguely interesting thoughts that pass through my head without being captured in my conversation stream. 

No more. If I'm going to hear about your gardening weather, the number of bookmarks you now have on delicious, and what your preferences panel looks like in the new Mac OS, then you're going to hear about the cute way my kid just scratched her nose, how that Mexican is food is sitting, and where you won't believe I just found my car keys.

The key to this earth-shaking transformation in my update-ability is a little doodad called MoodBlast. It lets me simultaneously update my status on Skype, iChat, Twitter, Tumblr, Pownce and Skype. (And thanks to the Twitter app on Facebook, it'll update Facebook too.) "Now I'm inhaling." "Now I'm exhaling." "Now I'm trying to decide how deeply to inhale." (Hey, this is Friday night in Vancouver. We think about these things.)

As much as I like MoodBlast's hegemonic approach to status updating, I'm pausing briefly to think about whether increasing my update-ability is, in fact, a good thing. (Now I'm pausing briefly. Here I am, pausing. Moving on...)  Are all these updates for my benefit, or the benefit of my "followers"? (Kudos to Twitter for calling it like it is.)

Most people use status updates as what I think of as "expressive communication". Like many forms of online conversation, status updates make it easy to confuse the expressive value of communication with the effective value of communicaiton. I'm concerned about the expressive value of communication when I'm "getting something off my chest", "speaking my truth", or engaging in some form of creative expression. I'm concerned about the effective value of communication when I'm trying to get you to hear me, listen to me, or understand me.

In face-to-face conversation we're able to sit comfortably and move fluidly between effective and expressive communication. I sit down with my boss, Pamela, and get something off my chest ("I'm really having a hard time working with Jim") and I can immediately tune into the effective value of what I've said: its impact on the person I'm speaking with, and how it's being received. If Pamela's eyes glaze over and her smile freezes I know that I've got to tread carefully or I risk damaging our working relationship or my professional status. If Pamela leans forward and nods, I get the idea that she's interested in helping me solve this problem. 

When we're engaging in any form of online conversation other than video chat (and even video chat has its limitations), we lose the nonverbal cues about the effective impact of what we're saying. We experience our speech (our blogging, our video posts, our podcasts) wholly subjectively, as a form of expression. That can be incredibly liberating: the web is now full of the creative self-expression of people who might never feel brave enough to post a poem, a drawing or a song if they were really conscious of the audience to which they would then be exposed.

But liberating cuts both ways. By experiencing communication entirely as expression, we lose track of its impact. We lose much of its effective value; we lose the ability to shape, if not control, how we are received.  

When we think about the person or people who read our blog post and tweets, we reconnect to the effective value of communication -- without losing its expressive power. We can make a conscious decision about how much to indulge our expressive needs, and we can be intentional about what we want our effect -- our impact on others -- to be.

It's not a tough thing to do. In fact, Twitter gives us a little help, by showing photos of our followers: really look at those faces, and picture them as they people you're about to enlighten with, or inflict upon, your update. MoodBlast, with its deliciously minimal interface, does the reverse: it totally dissociates what I'm saying from what (someone? anyone?) is hearing.

In adopting the practice of visualizing your audience, there's more at stake than whether your status updates make you look like a self-absorbed narcissist or a thoughtful sharer. Audience awareness is a muscle: when you think about audience, about the effective value of your speech, you strengthen your connection to the people you want to reach. You sharpen the focus of your language, your message, your very reason for speaking. You can still tap into the power of expressive value of communications, but now you are realizing its effective value, too.

If you're a communications professional -- in fact, if you're anyone whose work involves communicating -- your work demands that you continually strengthen your capacity for effective speech. Picture the audience -- for your ten-second tweet, your ten-minute blog post, or your ten-months-in-the-making site relaunch -- and you ensure that the satisfactions of expressive communication are matched by the impact of effective communication.

Comments vs spam


Just realized that the incessant deluge of comment spam had masked a number of comments unrelated to Viagra, porn and serial number cracks. I’ve approved a bunch of actual genuine comments tonight, some going back to 2007 ….thanks for your patience, faithful reader/commenters!

posted under General | 1 Comment »

The beauty of tech maintenance


As a longtime (now mostly recovered) reader of women's magazines, I have struggled with the ever-mounting list of feminine maintenance tasks. Leg shaving, nail filing, face cleansing, check. Hair deep conditioning, sunscreening, foot pumicing, ok. Lash tinting, brow shaping, lip conditioning (hey, I'm not naming it if I haven't done it)....well, it gets to be quite a bit of work. And then you get older and the list just gets longer: hair colouring, skin de-tagging, botoxing...where do we ladies find the time?

After a dozen years and many more magazine pages, I finally concluded that the only rational solution was to keep a set number of beautification slots. If Glamour tells me to add botox, I'm giving up deep conditioning. If Elle tells me it's time for eyebrow shaping, I'll have to jettison leg shaving. There is just only so much time I have available for physical perfection and I've got to put the minutes where they count.

I've now been a computer owner for almost as long as I've been a magazine reader, and I'm afraid the challenges of tech maintenance are even more relentless than the challenges of beauty maintenance. Back in the day (you know, when we used to walk a mile to school in our bare feet) I had all my files -- and I mean ALL my files -- on a single 5.25 inch floppy disk. These days, I not only have 84 gigs of data to keep (dis)organized, I have several dozen applications I need to keep updated and debugged. I have a blog to upgrade and tweak, and a personal web site to maintain (Or not. Why yes, those are straight HTML pages you see on I need to keep my iPhone working and synced. I need to make sure our BitTorrents are downloaded on time, converted to MPEG 4 and in the right directory for our Tivo to find them.

I realize that I may be stretching the definition of "need" here, but whether your technological frontline involves BitTorrent and Tivo or typewriters and telephones, every technology you take on carries an associated workload. We commit to a the latest version of our favourite word processor, or the contact management system our friend recommended, or the totally hot little smart phone, because they promise to make us more effective and more efficient. And along with the time saved, we get a whole new to-do list: Learn the software. Configure the software. Upgrade the software. Debug the software.

For a geek like me, that isn't all bad. Yeah, I spend more time checking MacFixit for tech tips, but better database reconstruction than data entry. I'll happily take on new tool after new tool....not just despite the maintenance footprint, but in some sense because of it. It's actually fun to get my Bittorrent search engine set up in a browser that's configured to open the torrent in a client that saves it to a place where it can drop into the mpeg converter and automatically appear in the episodes listed on my Tivo.

And so my list of tools to manage grows longer and longer, until managing my tech is a full-time job. In fact, that's my fantasy solution: find somebody to pay me to manage my own personal technology, full time. I figure if I had 40 hours a week I could probably keep my software up-to-date, my hard drive organized, my data backed up and uncorrupted, and my eighteen tech devices synced. Attention, reality TV producers: just let me know when you want to start taping Geek Family Robinson and I'll dedicate myself to the job of keeping our home technology fully and perpetually optimized.

But until the producer calls, I've got to fit the tech management effort into the margins of the work the technology is designed to support. And I'm forced to acknowledge that not everybody would regard my ideal solution of full-time tech optimization as a dream job. I am told there are thousands of people -- millions, even -- who would be delighted to spend exactly no time on their technology setup whatsoever.

For these folks, unlike geeks like me, the calculation of time saved versus effort expended is much more straightforward. Trading data entry for tech troubleshooting isn't any kind of bargain for them: a minute is a minute. For them -- and probably for me too -- the best solution is akin to my Iron Law of Beauty: define the envelope of time you're willing to spend on maintenance, and if you add one new technology to your repertoire, drop another.

Easier said than done. If you're a beauty queen, you'll do what the magazines prescribe, even if you have to wake up earlier to do it. If you're a techno-compulsive, you'll sign up for that latest web app, install the newest version of the design suite, automate every last task you can find a tool to automate. Adopt and adopt until the trade-offs you make are by default -- which glitchy bit of software is bugging you the most? which stray hairs are the most unwanted? -- rather than by design.

And if you're both a primper and a geek, your choices are more brutal still. When my friend and colleague Jason Mogus recently overheard me confessing that I keep tweezers in my purse, car and desk drawer -- so I never have to endure an egregiously misplaced eyebrow hair -- he laughingly observed that the time I'm spending on my brows, he's spending on his Blackberry. I may have a better arch, but he'll respond to your e-mail quicker. I laughed along with him, then started practicing tweezing with one hand and typing with the other.

So no, I don't entirely practice what I preach. When I read about the nifty new iPhone app, I install it...without deleting any of the three dozen I already have installed. And yes, when Elle told me that eyebrow shaping was de rigeur, I picked up some tweezers.

But am I still shaving my legs? You'll have to wait until spring to find out.

Take note of Evernote (especially if you’re an iPhone user)


Since upgrading to a 3G iPhone, I've gone on periodic app binges in which I download every app that looks remotely interesting and take it for a whirl. So far, the best discover I've made is a free app called Evernote -- and it's changed my computer use even more dramatically than it's affected the way I use my iPhone.

Evernote is a notetaking application that lets you take notes on your computer (Mac or Windows) and keep those notes synced with your iPhone and the Evernote web site. Any note that you take on your iPhone gets synced back to Evernote, too. You can keep multiple notebooks (e.g. one for draft blog posts, one for grocery lists, and one for each client project) and choose to keep some or all of these notebooks local (just on your computer) or online (synced by Evernote). While you can keep as many notes and notebooks as you want on your local computer, the free version of Evernote limits data uploads (i.e. syncing) to 40 MB a month. But it only costs $5 per month to get an account entitling you to 500 MB of data uploads, which Evernote says is enough to hold thousands of typed notes, five thousand snapshots, or 450 audio notes.

The Evernote interfaceEvernote interface

That's right: audio notes and snapshots. Use Evernote to capture audio notes on your iPhone and they'll automatically sync to Evernote on the web and on your computer -- no waiting for your next iPhone sync. Use Evernote to hold your iPhone snapshots and they're synced, too.

And since Evernote features optical character recognition (OCR), any text you snap with your phone (or another camera whose contents you drop into Evernote) becomes searchable. For those of us who are whiteboard-dependent, that means you can now capture your whiteboard notes and they'll be searchable! Ditto for business cards, flip charts, signs -- whatever you care to shoot. (OCR only works on notes that have been uploaded to the web, so if you want your images to be text-searchable, you'll need to put them in a notebook you keep synced online.)

The Evernote interface makes it very easy switch between notebooks, and to move notes back and forth among them. You can tag any note with as many keywords as you want, so that provides a further layer of categorization.  In other words, it's a terrifically easy, flexible and powerful way to take notes on your computer or iPhone, and keep them in sync. (NB that you can't edit pre-existing notes on your iPhone, however, including those you created on your phone; and it would be MUCH easier to take notes on the iPhone if Evernote let you rotate the phone to use the wider version of the iPhone keyboard.)

If you install the Firefox clipper extension (or the "clip to Evernote" bookmarklet in any browser), you can use Evernote to store and tag your favourite web clippings, too. Unlike this lets you stash the actual web page (or highlights) rather than just the URL and description. Unlike there's no sharing feature, however, so it's not a substitute if you like the social in social bookmarking. (I'm hoping some clever person will hack together a tool for saving a web clipping to Evernote and simultaneously, or keeping web clippings synchronized between the two.) 

One social thing you CAN do with Evernote is to share a notebook, and optionally publish it as a widget on your blog or webpage. I've created a little notebook of web clippings about how to use Evernote, and set it up as a shared notebook, which you can see here. Once you make a notebook public you can add it to a Facebook page, or to your blog, as a widget that looks like this (click on any box to open that note; you'll need pop-ups enabled):

Evernote's interface, syncing and clipping features make it a very tempting choice as a primary notetaking application. For the past three years I've been a devoted user of Voodoopad, and it's painful to think about giving it up -- not just because the migration process will be a bit arduous (see below) but because of how much I've loved VDP. It's hard to think of an application that's had a more profound impact on my work habits: where my notes used to be scattered across an assortment of paper notebooks (remember those?), Word docs, text files and scraps of paper, just about every thought, phone message, meeting record and blog post I've written in the past three years is captured in one of a dozen Voodoopad notebook. (I use one for each major client or project, plus a catch-all file.) Vooodoopad makes it a snap to keep and retrieve notes, and its creator, Gus Mueller, is the most responsive developer I've ever encountered.

But the iPhone syncing and the Evernote interface are significant advantages. Since I routinely use about a dozen different Voodoopad notebooks, I end up with a lot of open windows. In Evernote it's much easier to switch between notebooks. Also I really like being able to sort a notebook's contents by date -- something that I still can't do in Voodoopad.

On the other hand Voodoopad has one MAJOR advantage over Evernote: data import and export. Right now there's no easy way for a Mac user to get data in or out of Evernote.  The Windows client offers an option to import databases, export a note or notebook to HTML. (Both Mac and Windows users can send notes by e-mail.)  While Evernote suggests that export might become available to Mac users in the future, for now the only exit path is via Windows. That makes switching TO Evernote a big pain (I'll have to export my Voodoopads, then run Evernote on Windows in Parallels to get the data in....and why does that sound like a nightmare?) and switching to a future app just as annoying.

The wishlist item that would make Evernote REALLY rock out -- or convince me to stick with Voodoopad -- is if either program offered Google Doc- or SubEthaEdit-like collaboration. (SubEthaEdit is a 100% real-time collaborative editing program that's great for writing documents, code or note-taking with your colleagues.)

 I'd love to have collaborative notebooks on Evernote, in which I invite a designated set of colleagues to access and/or contribute to a notebook. In an ideal world this would include complex permissions options so that I could designate any synced notebook as "publish only" (make all notes in this notebook visible to the people I'm inviting), "publish or contribute" (my invitees can add their own pages to the notebook as well as viewing mine), or "publish, contribute and edit" (invitees can view pages, add pages, or edit existing pages). In my super fantasy scenario you could also turn on live collaboration for any note you're currently editing, so that you can do live collaborative notetaking the way you can with SubEthaEdit.

I'm not sure whether collaboration is in the cards for Evernote, but I'm hopeful. It's clearly a feature-rich program with lots of bells and whistles I've only begun to explore. For example, it was only in researching this post that I discovered Evernote will sort notes I create on my iPhone according to where I was when I created them. If I create a notebook of restaurant notes I'll be able to find all restaurants I've visited within 1 mi of my current location.

I'd love to hear from other folks about their experiences with Evernote, and particularly about any neat features I may not have discovered. And if you've tried both Evernote and Voodoopad, which one have you landed on?


Turned off by bad news? Try our special Olympic-friendly Internet!


I'm delighted to be writing this post as a OneWebDay ambassador. OneWebDay, which takes place on September 22, is a global day to celebrate the Internet, and the values that make the Internet such an essential part of our society. This year OneWebDay is paying particular tribute to the Internet's role in supporting democratic participation -- a role that is made possible by the Internet's character as an open, global and participatory medium.

I'm a participant in that global conversation, but I'm also part of a local online community in the city of Vancouver, where I've been part of many lively conversations in local WiFi cafes and local community sites.  Like the rest of Vancouver, wired Vancouverites look forward to showing our city off to the world when we host the winter Olympics in 2010. Of course, as with any global event, the Olympics also raises concerns about what the world might see when it turns its spotlight to beautiful BC.

I'm pleased to put that concern to rest. While I was reading today's news coverage of Internet censorship at the Beijing Olympics, I stumbled onto the IOC's intranet, where I came across the following draft memo:

February 12, 2010

Dear citizen-journalist,

We are sorry to report that owing to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, and certainly not due to any action on the part of your Internet Service Provider or the IOC, your computer may be unable to resolve certain domains. Our technicians are examining the issue, and we expect this outage to last until roughly 11:59 p.m. on February 28th.

To assist our friends in the journalism community, we have prepared this list of alternative sources:

Instead of... can visit... for the very best alternative news from the pages of CTVCanWestglobemedia, a proud division of AOLTimeWarnerNewsCorporation., the site that celebrates Vancouver's charming condos, shopping malls and car dealerships. They're perfect just the way they are., which takes a balanced look at advertising's essential role in helping us buy more stuff., a celebration of BC's favourite form of plant life. (Note: please do not smoke the trees.), where you'll learn how Vancouver has become the most sustainable city ever. Vancouver has become the most sustainable city ever. Vancouver has become the most sustainable city ever. Now say it with me...., because really - do you want a computer that some hippy's been pawing over?

In addition, as per recent directives from the Government of Canada, you may have difficulty reaching any URL containing the numerals 2010, the number 10, the word ten, a combination of 1s and 0s, any reference to human or numerary digits, the word winter, winter-y time images or music, or images of abaci. May we show you something in a 2012?

* * *

It's easy to scoff at the idea of Internet censorship bedeviling the Vancouver Olympics the way it's now causing an uproar in Beijing. But Vancouver is in fact the home of one of the few recorded violations of net neutrality: during a 2005 labour dispute, local ISP Telus blocked its subscribers from accessing a website created by its employees' union.

Whether it's Vancouver or Beijing, daily life or Olympic bustle, unfettered access to the Internet is democracy's best friend. OneWebDay is a chance to celebrate the Internet's role in supporting effective democracy -- and a reminder of those who do not yet enjoy its full benefits.

posted under , Social Signal | No Comments »

Halfway to hex: Anniversary gifts for geeks


Today marks the eighth anniversary of our other founding partnership: our marriage. July 29th, 2000 was the Big Day not only for the two of us, but also for Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Alex and Rob with MacBooksWe know that popular opinion lays the blame for the Brad-Jen breakup at the feet of a certain Ms. Jolie, but we recognize a completely different kind of relationship pressure. With all the press coverage of their marriage, did you ever see them pictured with matching his 'n hers PowerBooks?

We don't want our own marriage to fall victim to the specter of insufficient technology. And yet the traditional roster of anniversary gifts is still geared towards the analog lifestyle.

To celebrate our half-hex anniversary, we're proud to present a new, geek-friendly set of recommended anniversary gifts. Do note that the recommended 8th anniversary gift is a nice, fresh web link...hint, hint.

1PaperManuals, documentationElectronic documentation is just as appropriate as paper manuals.
2CottonTech conference and tech culture T-shirts100% cotton and size-appropriate, please, if you want to create passionate users.
3LeatherProtective cases, luggageBefore you buy that leather laptop case, make sure your geek isn't a vegan.
4Fruit, Flowers, Linen, SilkApple productTo a true geek, there is no fruit besides Apple.
5WoodFonts, input devicesEarly typewriters were made from wood.
6Sugar, IronRed Bull, energy snacksSugar, in its geek-preferred form.
7Wool, CopperCircuit boards, hardware upgradesCircuit boards use copper circuits.
8Bronze, PotteryWeb linksBronze is used for bells, i.e. a way of drawing people's attention.
9Pottery, WillowData storageFor holding things -- the modern equivalent to willow baskets.
10Tin, aluminumEnclosures, CPUsCPU enclosures are often made from aluminum.
11SteelRAM, memoryRAM chips are typically held in a computer by steel clips. Think of this as the digital equivalent of a wedding photo album.
12Silk, LinenSecurity devices and softwareSilk is made by worms. Security software protects against computer worms.
13LacePortable electronics devicesMicrochips, like lace, used to rely on women with good eyesight to do the manufacturing (both have since automated). Assembly of small products still relies on fine motor work by women.
14IvoryElectronic instruments, speakersPiano keys were originally made from ivory.
15CrystalLCDsLiquid CRYSTAL displays. Get it?
20ChinaGPSCeramics are part of the miniature antennas used in GPS devices.
25SilverDigital photography equipment, image captureSilver used in early photo processing.
30PearlSmart phonesLike the Blackberry Pearl.
35Coral, JadeLinux boxesThe Linux OS, like coral, is made up of thousands of individual contributions that are nonetheless "commonly perceived to be a single organism".
40 RubyWeb applications Preferably applications written in Ruby on Rails.
45 SapphireLaptop computers Laptop screens use LEDs; some LEDs use a sapphire-like crystal as part of the manufacturing process.
50 GoldMP3 players Gold is used in semiconductors; radios were one of the earlier applications of semiconductors.
55 EmeraldCode, custom software As created on the Emerald Isle.
60 DiamondPre-release alpha technologies Synthetic diamonds are projected as a future material for superconductors, capable of withstanding great heat.
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