Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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Micah Sifry on Tech, Politics, and Old & New Media at POLC 09

May 11, 2009

A couple weeks ago, I attended the Politics Online conference, hosted by the Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet.

One of the most well-known people in the world of tech politics is Micah Sifry, editor of PersonalDemocracy.com, TechPresident.com. At Politics Online, I had the chance to ask Micah some questions about how he started Personal Democracy Forum and Tech President, and what he thinks about the future of politics, technology, and the media, including the discussion over whether we should get rid of the White House Press Corps altogether. Check out the video interview below. A few snippets:

“Karen Tumulty [of TIME magazine]  had it right when she said… The White House briefing room…is where reporters go to perform for other reporters,” he said. “It’s theater. And it’s high school theater.”

“Marci Wheeler, a blogger, broke the story that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times. That’s investigative reporting too. So we need to be careful when folks from the old media claim that there’s special thing called investigative reporting that only they can do.”

Micah Sifry at Politics Online 2009 from Nisha Chittal on Vimeo.

Also, Micah had a great article in Politico last week about the rise of Gov 2.0, and what it all really means, co-written with Andrew Rasiej, the other co-founder of PersonalDemocracy.com. I’d highly recommend checking it out for a great backgrounder on how the government is using new media, and why it matters to all of us.

“There’s a big wave of federal Internet innovation now under way,” they wrote.  “These changes may lead to a bigger reinvention of government — and of the relationship of citizens to their government — than anyone currently imagines.”

And that, I think, is the most exciting thing about gov 2.0.

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Why would you privatize your Twitter?

March 25, 2009

nisha-twitterI’ve noticed some of my friends lately protect / privatize their Twitter accounts. I suppose when you hear stories like “Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 characters or less” it’s the natural Gen Y / college student reaction to think “Oh shoot, I should privatize everything I post online so no one can read the silly things I say and get me in trouble!”

There are so many flaws in this logic. I’ll point out just a couple.

1. Nothing on the internet is private. Nothing. Ever. It can always be found, no matter how many privacy settings you try to use. Online privacy is DEAD.

2. If you think the things you post online could potentially get you in trouble, why post them online in the first place? And another question, if said things you are posting online are really troublesome, are you sure you’re making smart decisions in your personal life?

3. If you privatize your Twitter, you are essentially saying: “I am shutting myself off completely from making new connections. I do not want to make any new connections or network.” Twitter is not like Facebook. In a conversation with Ryan Healy the other day I heard the best description of the difference between FB and Twitter: Facebook was about taking your offline community and bringing it online. Twitter is about building community online and taking it offline. So if you’re not willing to meet new people, what’s the point?

My thoughts are this: this isn’t 2004, where you could privatize your Facebook and make your blog anonymous, and still post whatever crap you wanted online and have no one find it.

So instead of posting something with potentially disastrous consequences for your job or reputation and making a futile effort to keep it private, go the other route: embrace the fact that anyone can find you online with a simple search, and post things that you are proud of rather than ashamed. Use your inner common sense meter and don’t post things that would get you in trouble in the first place.

You can’t hide anything once it’s online, so don’t try. Just post things you would be proud of online instead.

Do you think privatizing Twitter is a dumb idea? Do you think online privacy is dead?

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eGov: Naperville gets it

December 9, 2008

I am so proud. Not so much of my state

But my hometown of Naperville, IL, has a Twitter account. And I think it’s a sign that local government is starting to get it.

Naperville isn’t known for being cutting-edge. They’re known more for being a happy, family-friendly, booming suburb with great schools and lots of awards racked up for being the “best place to raise your children” or whatever.

I am excited for two reasons:

One, I think it is long overdue that government — local, state, and federal– start using social media to better their communities. The tools are out there. They’ve just been slow to move, as government usually is. But many towns, cities, and states are starting to embrace social media as a new form of communication, and even the White House, House, and Senate have Twitter accounts.

Two, politicians have clearly embraced social media as a strategy to get elected, but it can’t end on election day. Creating engaged and informed communities lasts well beyond election day, and so using new media can’t just be a political strategy, but should be a part of government strategy. Joe Trippi gets it when he talks about the idea of “MyWhiteHouse.Gov” — an interactive way for government officials, rather than just political candidates, to interact with the constituents they serve, and for the population to get involved in government affairs. There is so much potential to use these tools to increase civic engagement. Obama gets it when he emailed his 3 million supporters on election night promising that “the work has just begun.” This guy definitely gets it too. Instead of using blogs, Twitter, and social media purely for the sake of getting people to pay attention to an election long enough to vote for you and then dropping it, government officials can continue to use it once in office, having already created a connection with their supporters — and now, hopefully, their constituents will choose to be more aware and more involved.

Last week Chris Brogan wrote about what twitter might look like once it’s no longer dominated by tech geeks and others start to use social media in large numbers. I think we’re reaching that point. Twitter has the ability to bend to the will of its users — so it will be interesting to see how local governments can use Twitter and other social media to enhance and engage their communities in the future.

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Why I Love Blogging

December 2, 2008

There. I said it. I love blogging. I know to many people that will invoke images of pajama-clad anonymous online journallers in cyberspace, posting their innermost thoughts, or oversharing to the max a la Julia Allison. I know some people won’t like it. And guess what? I don’t care. Because blogging is awesome.

Since I started blogging, and like actually blogging, I’ve gotten to know some of the most interesting people — authors, writers, entrepreneurs, and above all, leaders. All in their 20s, too, and yet they’ve accomplished so much. Imagine where all these people will be in 10 or 20 years: they’ll be the most successful people of our generation.

Anyways, it’s because I love blogging that I don’t feel guilty at all about the two hours I spent tonight moving my blog from Blogger (hosted on nomadlife.org) to WordPress. If anything I feel like making the big switch to WordPress somehow makes me a more legitimate blogger.

There are many reasons I am blogging. One, I obviously like to write, a lot. Two, everyone from Loren Feldman to Penelope Trunk to Mitch Joel — tons of successful people at the top of their industries — are heralding the benefits of blogging. It’ll enhance your career, your personal brand, your reputation, your goals, your network, blah blah, all the experts are saying it. Yet the vast majority of us are still too scared to actually give in and do it, despite all the proven and much-talked about benefits of blogging. People are still scared to really express themselves and say what they mean.

And that’s a shame, because social technology really has the power to enhance your life, if you let it. But most of this stuff, even blogging, is far from mainstream yet. Particularly among college students, which is unfortunate and is something I gripe about every once in a while. But blogging can open up a wealth of resources if you can put in the work and patience it demands. The rewards are certainly worth it, though.

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Does anyone read print newspapers anymore?

November 24, 2008

Do you? I don’t. As avid of a news reader as I am, I can confess to not reading a single thing in print. I get everything online now, like everyone else. The big media companies are definitely feeling it — and the impending recession is making the situation even worse.

For my dad’s generation, print newspapers were an important part of everyday life. My dad still reads the Wall Street Journal every morning on the train to work and treasures it, but I think he’s of a dying breed. Yesterday he was showing me some stock quotes in the WSJ and I was struck by how long it had been since I had read a print copy of anything to get the news. Especially for something as rapidly changing as stock quotes, it seemed futile to me to look at a print newspaper published only once a day, when those stocks would fluctuate constantly throughout the day and the most up-to-the-minute updates could only be found online.

Last week the New York Times, still my favorite for news, announced that it sharply reduced its dividend — which will save the New York Times Co. about $97.8 million a year. This is after years of increasing its dividend. Some think that page by page, section by section, the NYT’s influence is fading away.

PC Magazine is shutting down its print edition and going completely digital.

And did you know over half the Washington Post company’s revenue comes not from WaPo or Newsweek…but from its Kaplan test prep division?

On the other hand, in July, Gawker Media got twice as many pageviews as the LA Times website. And Huffington Post has supposedly raised $15 million in capital.

AdAge questions whether print can even survive another five years — a little pessimistic if you ask me. But then there’s been so many media layoffs lately, that the blogging giants are trying to seize an opportunity by offering free blog accounts to laid-off journalists. So who knows.

One thing I do know is that mass media is changing. No one wants a one-way message from the media anymore; they want a two-way conversation that they can participate in. They want to be able to comment on news stories, they want to be able to discuss the news as it happens, they want rapid updates every minute, and they want to be environmentally friendly and save paper. I’m taking a mass media course right now, and I’m surprised by how little we have even touched upon the topic of the internet — we’ve studied nearly every kind of old media, but barely even touched upon the effects of the internet on the media establishment.

What I’m interested to see next is: which big media company will actually keep up? Or will they die out and be completely replaced by internet media?

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Wow

November 24, 2008

I just found this on a blog somewhere, and I love it:

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Guess who’s not getting a job in the Obama administration?

November 13, 2008

(Just FYI, this got cross-posted at Brazen Careerist, if any of you want to read it here)

Let’s talk for a second. The application for jobs in the Obama administration is, without a doubt, the most complex piece of work I have ever seen. I wanted to use other words to more accurately describe it, but I can’t. Because, if I ever intend to work in politics, I could kill my career before it has even started. Witness:

“If you have ever sent an electronic communication, including but not limited to an email, text message or instant message, that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-elect if it were made public, please describe.”

“Please provide the URL address of any websites that feature you in either a personal or professional capacity (e.g. Facebook, My Space, etc.)”

“If you keep or have ever kept a diary that contains anything that could suggest a conflict of interest or be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family, or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.”

And my favorite:

“Please list, and, if readily available, provide a copy of each book, article, column, or publication (including but not limited to any posts or comments on blogs or other websites) you have authored, individually or with others. Please list all aliases or ‘handles’ you have used to communicate on the internet.”

As Web 2.0-savvy as Obama’s campaign was, his new transition team is not. Maybe the balding middle-aged executives they’re hiring into senior positions in the administration have never “used an electronic communication,” but for anyone under the age of 35 this application is going to be a virtual minefield. What packrat can track down every blog post and blog comment they’ve ever written? People our age have had blogs since they were old enough to say “internet,” for Chrissake. What happens when our generation enters the realm of career public servants and becomes serious candidates for these jobs in two decades?

In 30 years are we going to dredge up Facebook photos, blog comments, text messages, and old emails of the Secretary of State? We will have an electronic paper trail following us everywhere we go, something today’s politicians haven’t had to contend with. Who has even thought about how to deal with this? Seriously, imagine: the 50th President of the United States is probably some random, backward-baseball-cap-wearing, class-ditching, hard-partying frat guy right now, posting drunk pictures of himself on Facebook and writing on his friends’ walls about tomorrow’s barcrawl, oblivious to the fact that modern technology means that this will all resurface when he runs for office. What are you going to do about that, White House?

This vetting process might work for 2008, but it’s not going to work in 2020 when everyone will have an internet footprint that stretches back into cyberspace for years and years. That is, unless the federal government’s HR wants to drive themselves insane. Are you worried about employers googling you while applying for XYZ corporate job?….this is that job application on steroids! There’s no way to win this. Good luck to anyone crazy enough to apply!

Congratulations, President Obama: you’re going to have America’s most boring people in your administration!

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What made the 2008 election exceptional: Gen Y

November 2, 2008

So for the many political junkies like myself, we’ve been following the 2008 election since November 5, 2004. And more often than not, we care more about the horserace than the outcome. The race has been littered with firsts and shattered all kinds of previously unsurmounted barriers. But no matter who wins, one thing is for sure: this election was exceptional in no small part because of our generation.

The amount of interest I’ve seen from my fellow college students in this election has been phenomenal. People –particularly young people –are paying attention more than they ever have before. Maybe it’s the disappointments of the last few years and the abysmally low approval ratings of both the Republican White House and the Democrat-controlled Congress; maybe it’s the flagging economy and the realization that we can’t pretend it doesn’t affect us, with our student loans and credit card debt and jobhunting and an economy in the toilet. Finally, everyone is paying attention. Finally, people are contributing, volunteering, and hopefully voting more than ever! Though the last eight years haven’t given us much, perhaps they have given us one thing: a sense of responsibility to contribute and participate in the system.

Ever since I wrote that first term paper on voter turnout in high school, studying voter turnout levels has always made me kind of cynical about young people’s involvement in politics. And I’ve certainly been guilty of getting frustrated with my friends for not caring about elections and politics when it affects their everyday lives so much. It’s always been that vicious cycle — young people don’t vote because politicians don’t listen, and politicians don’t listen because young people don’t vote.

But this year, I think the cycle has broken. Or at least, it’s been cracked. Young people are starting to take ownership over the system and politicians are starting to care, and it’s a really cool phenomenon to see. 316,534 Facebook users are currently signed up for the Facebook Election Rally and are changing their Facebook statuses to remind their friends to vote. There’s been a surge in under-30 voter registrations. Remember the CNN/YouTube debates, where everyone and their best friend was submitting video questions and actually got to ask their questions to the candidates? And Students For Barack Obama got started as a Facebook group and grew so tremendously that the Obama campaign did the unthinkable and LISTENED, and offered to let SFBO become the official student branch of the Obama campaign.

Youth voter turnout alreay tripled in the Iowa Democratic caucuses. Rock the Vote estimates 87% of young people plan to vote — an unprecedented number. Some are calling it a “youthquake.”

In 2004, I worked on a voter turnout campaign that focused on youth voter turnout, and my friends and I would always talk about how if only young people could actually all get out and vote, they could easily swing the election (voters under 30 are 25% of the registered electorate). It didn’t quite happen that year, but we were on to something, maybe just four years too early. This year, the youth vote is definitely going to swing the election; it is already visible how much more college and even high school kids are suddenly paying attention to politics.

To me, that’s the most exciting thing; more than having my candidate win on Tuesday, I’ll be satisfied if the Wednesday headlines are screaming about the record youth turnout, and the old political establishments are astonished at how the youth came out to vote in unprecedented numbers and changed the face of the electorate.

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Too Much News?

October 22, 2008

When I saw the NYT headline last week, “Too Much News?” I knew I was going to feel instantly at home when I clicked on the link and read the all-too-familiar stories of the people profiled in the piece…”They find themselves taking breaks at work every 15 minutes to check the latest updates, and at the end of the day, taking laptops to bed. Then they pad through darkened homes in the predawn to check on the Asian markets.”

Jeez. True down to every last word, including the Asian markets part.

We certainly live in an information age. The accessibility of news in every format is incredible. I don’t even have TV anymore, but I’m constantly getting news through websites, blogs, papers, text messages, Twitter, whatever. Not having information all the time is almost impossible to fathom, especially, I think, for my generation, that can’t even remember life before the internet. Seriously. I was on the internet by age 6 and haven’t really looked back since. This past weekend I was without internet and email for over 48 hours (not by choice!) and someone asked…”Doesn’t it feel good?” It kind of felt good, but I really just wanted to check my email and see what was going on in the world.

There’s even a kid mentioned in the article, who’s maybe 7 years old, and he is so accustomed to his mother watching so much news that he walks around his house saying “I’m John McCain, and I approve this message.”

I thought that was hilarious…until I remembered my parents telling me stories of me doing the exact same thing when I was a kid (except in my time it was Ross Perot that I was mimicking. No joke). Well, at least I’m not the only one…the New York Times has unearthed a whole collection of news junkies just lurking out there. Ha ha, and I’m sure every single one of them read and loved that article, too.

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shoutout

July 10, 2008

I have been hearing all the fuss about the Twitter “phenomenon” forever now in tech blogs and business blogs and even the New York Times. I think it’s funny because it seems like Twitter is a huge hit but hasn’t yet really infiltrated the college crowd yet, from what I can tell. Aren’t we supposed to be the ones addicted to Facebook, MySpace, RSS feeds, and IMs? Yet why is Twitter hot shit for 25-35 year olds but not really noticed by college kids, when we’re the ones who grew up permanently attached to our PCs?

Anyways, I got bored today and I need to figure out why Twitter is so popular. So I jumped the bandwagon. If anyone else is on Twitter let me know… and “follow” me!

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