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July 27 2012

17:34

Best Online Resources for Following the 2012 London Summer #Olympics

olympics digital 2012 small.jpg

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London have largely been anticipated as the first social media Olympics. Athletes, fans, and the media shared their voices online during the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but this time in London, even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to adopt a full-fledged social media strategy. Starting with the Athletes' Hub - fully integrated with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram -- fans can keep track of all their favorite Olympians. The IOC has also created official accounts on Tumblr and Instagram. Meanwhile, NBC continues to announce partnerships with social platforms, which now include Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Storify. All of these social media channels provide countless ways for viewers to fully immerse in the Olympic experience.

We also saw the ugly side of social media this week, as Greek athlete Voula Papachristou was promptly removed from the Games for posting a tweet that was deemed as racist. But hopefully, the vast array of social media options will carry out their intended function in the next two weeks - that is, to allow everyone involved in the London Olympic Games to share more of their stories and thoughts in more engaging ways. And to help you navigate the Games' endless flow of exciting content, the following list compiles the best resources across the Web.

SPECIAL SITES AND PAGES

BBC's London 2012 page

ESPN's Olympics page

Huffington Post's Olympics page

IOC's Olympics site

IOC's Olympic Athletes' Hub

NBCOlympics.com

NY Times' Olympics page

Official London 2012 site

SB NATION's Olympics page

Sports Illustrated's Olympics page

The Guardian's Olympics page

Yahoo! Sports' Olympics page

TWITTER LISTS

AP Olympics Staff list

Automated Results from the Games

International Paralympians

NBCOlympics' Summer Olympics List

NY Times' 2012 Olympians list

NY Times Olympic journalists list

Twitter Verified Olympians

2012 US Olympic Athletes

2012 Great Britain Olympic Athletes

TWITTER FEEDS

BBC News' coverage

Canadian Olympic Team

Great Britain Olympic Team

NBC Olympics

NY Times' coverage

London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics

Swiss Olympic Team

The Telegraph's coverage

UK's Press Association

US Olympic Team

FACEBOOK PAGES

IOC's Olympics page

Official London 2012 page

NBC Olympics

NBC Olympics app

OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA COMMUNITIES

Instagram: @Olympics

@facesofolympians

Google+: IOC's Olympics page

Pinterest: NBC Olympics

TODAY Olympics

2012 Olympic Games

Quora: 2012 Summer Olympic Games

Storify: 2012 Summer Olympic Games by NBCNews

Olympics topic index

Tumblr: IOC's Olympic Moments Tumblr

London 2012's Explore the Ceremonies Tumblr

Youtube: London 2012

NBC Olympics

PHOTOS

The London Olympics 2012. Get yours at bighugelabs.com

Flickr's 2012 London Olympic Games pool (in a slide-show below)

Guardian's live blog

Huffington Post

IOC's photo page

NBCOlympics

Yahoo! Sports

VIDEO

IOC's video page

London 2012's video page

NBCOlympics videos

jordyn weiber routines.jpg

NBCOlympics streaming video

Yahoo! Sports video

MOBILE

London 2012 mobile apps

NBCOlympics mobile apps

BLOGS AND ARTICLES

10 Bold Predictions for the 2012 Summer Olympics

30 must-follow Olympians on Twitter

London itself is something of an Olympic Village

London Olympics: This time, Summer Games are about the athletes

Marketers to spend big in social media during Olympics

Missteps at the 2012 Olympics

Twitter Crashes Day Before Olympics

Twitter Embraces Olympics to Train for the Big Time

US Olympic Committee wants Olympics footage out of campaign ads

If you know an Olympics resource that should be on this list but isn't, please share in the comments, and we'll add them!

Jenny Xie is the PBS MediaShift editorial intern. Jenny is a rising senior at Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying architecture and management. She is a digital-media junkie fascinated by the intersection of media, design, and technology. Jenny can be found blogging for MIT Admissions, tweeting @canonind, and sharing her latest work and interests here.

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February 03 2012

16:30

Pew data: Facebook has room for passives as well as actives

If it’s so much better to give than receive, why are some Facebook users sitting on their hands?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project released a new report today that suggests Facebook users are not a uniformly active bunch. According to the study, the typical Facebook user gets more friend requests than she sends, is tagged in photos more than she tags, and has posts Liked more often than she Likes herself.

But wait — shouldn’t it all even out? After all, every friend request has a requester and a requestee. If a typical user is skews passive on Facebook, where’s all the action coming from?

The answer: a collection of “power users” who, according to the report, are becoming specialists of a sort. You know that friend who only posts tons of photos, or the one who goes on a Liking spree, or the one who seems to rack up an inordinate amount of friends? Yup, they’re doing the work for the rest of us. Even on a flat platform, behavior still moves toward a division of labor:

A proportion of Facebook participants — ranging between 20% and 30% of users depending on the type of activity — were power users who performed these same activities at a much higher rate; daily or more than weekly.

Essentially, in the funny parlance you could only get in a report about Facebook: “People are liked more than they like.” Some data:

Facebook users in our sample on average contributed about four comments for every status update that they made. On average, users make nine status updates per month and contribute 21 comments. Some 33% of Facebook users here updated their status at least once per week. Still, half of our sample made no status updates in the month of our analysis.

Discussion of social media circles around the word “engagement” — but even for many users of social networks, the experience is more about taking-it-all-in than about response and conversation. For a news industry with a long history of one-way communication, that might be a little…comforting? Facebook’s value, at least to media and other companies looking to tap into audiences, is that it’s a super-broad platform built for content and transactional activity. A link is posted; it’s rewarded with a like. A question is asked; it elicits comments. The Pew survey paints a picture where that action is less than reliable:

A third of our sample (33%) used the like button at least once per week during this month, and 37% had content they contributed liked by a friend at least once per week. However, the majority of Facebook users neither liked content, nor was their content liked by others, in our month of observation.

If Facebook activity disproportionately relies on a subset of power users with busy hands, that’s an opening for news outlets or individual journalists to fill that need. The conversation is far more distributed than it was pre-Internet, but it’s still not evenly distributed.

Pew says that Facebook comment-leaving is a bit more reciprocal than some other kinds of Facebook behavior:

More than half our sample (55%) commented on a friend’s content at least once in the month, and 51% received comments from a friend. A large segment of users, a little over 20%, contributed or received a comment every day. The average of 21 comments given on friends’ content was nearly identical to the average of 20 that were received. Again, there are some extreme users as well, about 5% of our sample contributed and received over 100 comments in the month of our observation.

Pew’s data is based on a sample of 269 Facebook users, initially identified through a random phone survey, but who then allowed Pew to track their trails on the site. While its findings may give a (slight) challenge to the idea that Facebook is a heavily engaged network where everyone’s sharing all the time, the report still found big, enticing numbers for any publishing looking to reach a big audience: The median user in their sample is within two degrees of separation (friends of friends) of 31,170 people on Facebook. (For one uber-connected user, that number was 7,821,772.) We already know Facebook is growing as a top referrer to many news sites, so what’s clear from this report is that they need to keep it up. If power users are the straw that stirs the drink on Facebook, then it’s more important than ever journalists and media companies play an active role.

Meh button by Ken Murphy used under a Creative Commons license.

January 12 2012

19:30

What would a Google News Plus Your World look like?

How soon until we get a Google News “Plus Your World?”

With the introduction of the oddly extraterrestrial-sounding Google “Search Plus Your World”, the company proclaimed their latest experiment is “transforming Google into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.” The world of search gets split up and re-filtered through the things Google knows you like and information from the people around you.

Now, since the announcement there’s been much controversy over how “the things Google knows you like” seems to be driven almost entirely by Google+, not larger competitors Facebook and Twitter, which has led to cries for an antitrust inquiry. But let’s set that aside for a moment and think about what the underlying idea of Search Plus Your World could mean for Google News.

Here’s what we know of how Search Plus Your World works:

1. Personal Results, which enable you to find information just for you, such as Google+ photos and posts—both your own and those shared specifically with you, that only you will be able to see on your results page;

2. Profiles in Search, both in autocomplete and results, which enable you to immediately find people you’re close to or might be interested in following; and,

3. People and Pages, which help you find people profiles and Google+ pages related to a specific topic or area of interest, and enable you to follow them with just a few clicks. Because behind most every query is a community.

Let’s say you were interested in Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. Taking the normal route through Google News, you’d most likely try searching for “mitt romney” or click on the newly added Elections header and get links to stories from usual suspects like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and more.

If you dropped a “Search Plus” layer to that, what might you expect? If your Google+ friends are sharing stories about Romney, they might get shoved to the top. That would likely mean they’d be more closely aligned to your friends’ political perspectives; your liberal friends are probably sharing anti-Romney pieces, your conservative ones pro-Romney ones. (Well, unless they’re conservatives who don’t like Romney, but that’s another issue.) You might also see individual Google+ pages from Romney, other G.O.P. candidates — and maybe even the G+ pages of individual reporters who are covering the campaign and writing some of the stories you’re being shown.

That probably sounds a little familiar to what we’ve come accustom to seeing on Twitter and Facebook. But neither of those sites is fueled by the same combination of search and network. Twitter search looks at everybody’s tweets; Facebook’s news feed just flows on by, driven by Facebook’s algorithms rather than your search interests. Google has the search DNA, the news-crawling infrastructure, and at least the start of the network knowledge that could combine to make something new.

Those are pretty powerful assets and remain the reason Google still inspires animosity in some news executives and antitrust lawyers. A Google News Plus Your World (let’s call it “Google News+” for the sake of brevity) could in theory provide users a social news service that (whether they like it or not) knows about their browsing habits and social graph while also filtering “news” product out of the larger mass of the web.

Google News already provides tools for customization, but most (though not all) rely on users’ being interested in fiddling — yes to business, no to entertainment, more Wall Street Journal, less Cat Fancy. The genius of the social news feed is that it bases those decisions off of network data. You just need to build a network.

But let’s stretch the speculation just a bit further: the toggle. One of the more clever aspects of Search Plus is the ability to shift back and forth between normal and personalized search with one little switch. The toggle is a way to dodge the backlash that comes when any product is seemingly irreversibly redesigned (and built on seemingly self-serving decisions of the sort that gets lawyers involved).

For a notional Google News+, that little switch would be a dividing line for readers between the fire hose and a curated feed. It could also be, as Steven Levy points out over at Wired, the pin that pops Eli Pariser’s Filter Bubble. That kind of freedom, to jump back and forth between the personalized feed and the raw stream, is not common on news sites. The toggle is a promise of serendipity, but also the comfort of your favorite, trusted news service, which, if you are someone still mourning the transformation of Google Reader, could harken back to glory days of the RSS service.

One bit of groundwork is already laid for something like Google News+: the integration of journalists Google+ profiles into Google News. Connecting authorship to identity is an ongoing Google interest, beginning with the authorship markup language that spotlighted writers in search results. As Google tries to integrate social into every corner of their business, a fully social-fied Google News would seem like a logical next step.

September 26 2011

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

16:14

A network infrastructure for journalists online

For some years now, I have started every online journalism course I teach with an introduction to three key tools: RSS readers, social networks, and social bookmarking.

These are, I believe, the basis of a network infrastructure which few modern journalists – whatever their platform – can do without.

The word ‘network’ is key here – because I believe one of the fundamental changes that journalists have to adapt to in the 21st century is the move to networked modes of working.

Firstly, because the newsroom itself is becoming more networked with contributors situated outside of it (the increasingly collaborative nature of journalism).

Secondly, because sources are becoming more networked (formal organisations are increasingly complemented by ad hoc ones formed across Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and so on).

And finally, because distribution of news – which has both commercial and editorial implications – is reliant on networks outside of the journalist or their employer’s control.

When I describe the network infrastructure outlined below, I outline two levels: the tools themselves, and how they connect to each other. In an attempt to clarify that, I’ve created a diagram.

The icons in the diagram attempt to show clearly the purpose of each tool:

  • The exclamation mark representing RSS readers indicate that the tool is focused on monitoring what’s new;
  • The question mark representing social bookmarking indicate that that tool largely serves to answer questions, providing context and background
  • The facial expressions representing social networks indicate that this tool help provide access to sources who may have stories to tell (positive; negative) or who are asking important questions (confused).

Here is a further breakdown of each element, and how they connect to each other.

RSS Reader

As outlined above, this part of the structure is all about ‘What’s new?’ and is quite often the first thing a journalist checks at the start of the working day (indeed, it’s ideal for checking on a phone on the way to work). It is the modern equivalent of picking up the day’s newspapers and tuning into the first radio and TV broadcasts of the day.

The RSS Reader gathers news feeds from a range of sources. Here are just a few:

  • Formal news organisations
  • Journalistic blogs
  • Organisational blogs
  • Personal blogs of individuals in your field

In addition, an RSS reader allows you to follow customised feeds reporting any mention of key terms, organisations and individuals across a variety of platforms:

  • Google News
  • The blogosphere as a whole
  • Social bookmarking services such as Delicious
  • Forums
  • Microblogging services such as Twitter
  • Video sharing services such as YouTube
  • Photo sharing services such as Flickr
  • Audio sharing services such as Audioboo
  • Social networks such as Facebook Pages

This is how the RSS reader connects to the two other elements of the infrastructure: most social networks have RSS feeds of some kind, as do social bookmarking services (one of the reasons I prefer Delicious over other platforms is the fact that it has an RSS feed for every user, for every item bookmarked with a particular ‘tag’ (explained below), for tags by particular users and for any combination of tags.

These are explained in a bit more detail in my post on ‘Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering‘.

But if you can follow these feeds in an RSS reader, why use a social network at all?

Social networks

Why use a social network? To follow people, not just content, and because your own contributions to those networks are a key factor in gaining access to sources.

With many social networking platforms (Twitter, for example) you can of course find individual users’ RSS feeds in an RSS reader, or a feed of people you are ‘following’ – either of which you can subscribe to in an RSS reader. But there’s little point, and your RSS reader will soon become flooded with updates. Instead, you should use the RSS reader to follow subjects and add the individuals talking about those subjects to your social networks.

The social network provides an added level of serendipity to your newsgathering: increased opportunities to encounter leads, tips and stories that you would not otherwise encounter.

It is also a three-way medium: a platform for you to ask questions or invite experiences relevant to the story you are pursuing, or to follow the public conversations of others asking questions or sharing experiences.

Because of this focus on social networks as a serendipity engine, I adopt an approach of seeing Twitter as a ‘stream, not a pool’ – not worrying about following too many people but rather about following too few, but having my cake and eating it by using Lists as a filter for those I want to miss least.

The final use for social networks is often the first use that journalists think of: distribution. And it is here that social networking also connects to the other 2 parts of the network infrastructure.

If you read something interesting in your RSS reader and wish to share it across social networks, you can often do so with a single click – with a bit of preparation. Twitterfeed is a tool which will automatically tweet updates on your Twitter account – all you need to know is the RSS feed for the updates you want to share. If you’re using Google Reader, for example, that feed is on your Shared Items page.

To tweet something interesting you’ve seen in your RSS Reader all you have to do then is (in the case of Google Reader) click on the ‘Share’ button below that item.

Social bookmarking

The first two parts of the network infrastructure – an RSS reader and social networks – are about the initial stages of newsgathering; the first things you check at the start of a working day.

Social bookmarking, however, is about what you do with information from your RSS reader and social networks – and information you deal with throughout your day.

Today’s news is tomorrow’s context. And social bookmarking allows you to keep a record of that context to make it quickly accessible when needed.

That’s the bookmarking part. The social part also allows you to publish information at the same time as you store it; to discover what information other people with similar interests are bookmarking; and to discover which people are bookmarking similar things to you).

Because social bookmarking is the least immediate element of this network infrastructure, it is also the aspect which the fewest students get their heads around and actually use.

Yet it is, for me, perhaps the most useful element. It takes an upfront investment of time and the development of a habit which initially doesn’t have any obvious reward.

But when you’re up against a deadline and are able to retrieve a dozen useful reports, documents and people within minutes – then you’ll get it.

Here’s the process:

  1. You come across something of interest. It may be a useful article, blog post or official report in your RSS reader – or a document linked to by someone in your social network. You might encounter the thing of interest while working on a story. You may read it – you may not have time.
  2. You bookmark the specific webpage containing it using a service like Delicious. You add ‘tags’ to help you find it later: these might include:
    • the subjects of the webpage (e.g. ‘environment’, ‘health’),
    • its author or publisher (e.g. ‘paulbradshaw’, ‘OJB’),
    • specific organisations or individuals (‘nhs’, ‘davidcameron’),
    • the type of document (‘report’, ‘research’, ‘video’)
    • or information (‘statistics’, ‘contacts’),
    • and even tags you have made up which refer to a specific story or event (‘croatia11′)
  3. You can if you wish add ‘Notes’. Many people copy a key passage from the webpage here, such as a quote (if a passage is selected on the page it will be automatically entered, depending how you are bookmarking it) to help them remember more about the page and why it was important.
  4. You can also mark your bookmark as ‘private’. This means that no one else can see it – it becomes ‘non-social’.
  5. Once you save it, it becomes available for you to retrieve at a future date: a personal search engine of items you once encountered.

The key thing here is to think about how you might look for this in future, and make sure you use those tags. For example, the publisher might not seem important now, but if in future you need to re-read a certain report and can recall that it appeared in the FT, that will help you access it quickly.

UPDATE: I’ve written a post explaining how this works with a particular case study.

Remember also that tags can be combined, so if I want to narrow down my search to items that I bookmarked with both ‘UGC’ and ‘BBC’, I can find those at delicious.com/paulb/UGC+BBC.

This is one of the reasons why a social bookmarking service is more effective than an RSS reader. You can, for example, search your shared or starred items in Google Reader – and you can tag them also – but as you tend to get more results it is harder to find what you are looking for. The use and combination of tags in Delicious narrows things down very effectively – but equally importantly, it allows you to bookmark pages that do not appear in your RSS reader.

That said, if you cannot find what you are looking for in Delicious, Google Reader is another option. It is also worth using a backup service which provides another way to search your bookmarks.Trunk.ly is one that does just that.

Of course, the bookmark only points to the live webpage – and it may be that in future the page is moved, changed, or deleted. If you are dealing with that type of information it is worth copying it to another webspace (I use the quote option on Tumblr) or using a (generally paid-for) social bookmarking service that saves copies of the pages you bookmark (Diigo and Pinboard are just two)

Social bookmarking: networks and cross-publishing

One of the features of social bookmarking services is that you can follow the bookmarks of other users. In Delicious this is called your network – and it’s where social bookmarking not only connects to RSS readers but also becomes a form of social network. Here’s how you build your network:

  1. Look at your bookmarks. Next to each one will be a number indicating how many users have bookmarked this. If you click on this you will see a list of who bookmarked it, and when. (Alternatively, you could also look at all users using a particular tag – if you’re a health correspondent, for example, you might want to look at people who are tagging items with ‘NHS’). Click on any name to see all their public bookmarks.
  2. If you would like to follow that person’s future bookmarks (because they are bookmarking items which relate to your interests), click on ‘Add to my network’
  3. You will now be able to see their bookmarks – and those of anyone else you have added – on your ‘Network’ page. It is, essentially, a mini RSS reader.

Which is why I use Google Reader to follow my network’s bookmarks instead. Because at the bottom of your Delicious Network page is, of course, a link to an RSS feed. Right-click on this and copy the link, then paste it into your RSS reader and you don’t need to keep checking your Delicious Network separately to all your other RSS feeds.

Of course, if you find someone interesting on Delicious, you might find them interesting on Twitter or a blog. If they’ve edited their Delicious public profile (the one you found in step 1 above) it might include a link. Alternatively, there’s a good chance they’ve used the same username on other social networks – so search for them using that.

This is another example of how social bookmarking can connect to social networking.

Here’s another: you can use a service like Twitterfeed (explained above) to auto-publish every item you bookmark – or just those with a particular tag, or a combination of tags. Because Delicious provides RSS feeds for your bookmarks as a whole, those with a particular tag, and any combination of tags.

For example, anything I tag ‘t’ is automatically tweeted by Twitterfeed on my @paulbradshaw Twitter account. Anything I tag ‘hmitwt’ is tweeted the same way – but to my @helpmeinvestig8 account. Editor Marc Reeves uses the same service to tweet all of his bookmarks with “I’m reading…”.

You can use a Facebook app like RSS Graffiti to do the same thing on a Facebook page.

One process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting blog post on Google Reader
  2. Bookmark using Delicious – use a tag which is automatically tweeted
  3. Link auto-tweeted on Twitter

Conversely, if you want to automatically bookmark links that you share on Twitter, you can do so by signing up to Packrati.us. Tweeted links will be given the tag ‘packrati.us’ as well as any hashtags that you include in the same tweet (So a link tweeted with the hashtag ‘#crime’ will be tagged ‘crime’).

Another process across your network infrastructure then starts to look like this:

  1. Read interesting link tweeted on Twitter
  2. Retweet it, adding relevant hashtags
  3. Link is auto-bookmarked on Delicious

Listen, connect, publish

This has turned out to be a long post – which is why I think the diagram is needed. The initial set up is simple: sign up to social networks and a social bookmarking service, and set up an RSS reader. Subscribe to feeds, and add people to your networks.

But once you’ve done the technical part, you need to develop the habit of listening and continuing to add to those networks: check your RSS feeds and networks every day (but know when to switch off), and look for new sources. Bookmark useful resources – articles, documents, reports, research and profile pages – and tag them effectively.

Finally, contribute to those networks and connect the different parts together so it is as easy as possible to gather, store, publish and distribute useful information.

As you start to understand the possibilities that RSS feeds open up, you also start to see all sorts of possibilities beyond this. A site like If This Then That (IFTTT) not only showcases those possibilities particularly effectively, it also makes them as easy as they’ve ever been

It is a small – and regular – investment of time. But it will keep you in touch with your field, lead you to new sources and new stories, and help you work faster and deeper in reporting what’s happening.

July 31 2011

18:06

Social networks make targeted attacks for criminals easier

eWeek :: The amount of personal and professional information posted on social networks means it's increasingly easier for criminals to create a detailed profile of their victims. Social networks provide spammers with plenty of opportunities to scam users in new and more effective ways, a security expert said.

An overview and analysis - continue to read Fahmida Y. Rashid, www.eweek.com

July 25 2011

05:40

Google+, Facebook, Twitter - Tamagotchi trend in social networks: "feed me or I die"

ZDNet :: Tom Foremski's initial enthusiasm for creating G+ circles was as short lived as his recent idea to organize socks, underwear, and T-shirt drawers. "I now pop people into just one G+ circle. And all I’m doing is recreating my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter networks on Google+" - Why do we need "just another" social network?

Tom Foremski writes, that he's doing it for the same reason as others, "that you have to be in it to understand it, otherwise you might miss the emmergence of something important," and adds to say that Google+ could be the start of something new although it’s too early to tell.

[Tom Foremski:] I never possessed a Tamagotchi, the tiny little electronic toys representing a virtual pet that required regular care and feeding through pressing the right buttons throughout the day, or they would “die.” But my daily chore of keeping my digital presence alive across all my social networks feels like each one of them acts like a modern day, adult-themed Tamagotchi.

Recommended reading, a nice piece: Tom Foremski's "Google+ and the Tamagotchi trend in social networks"

Continue to read his full article here Tom Foremski, www.zdnet.com

July 11 2011

19:36

Mashup your social networks - add a Facebook Stream to Google+ (Plus)

ReadWriteWeb :: Can't get seem to get out of Google Plus long enough to check on the status updates from your Facebook friends? Well, now you don't have to! A new Web browser extension called Google+Facebook inserts Facebook's social network right into your Google+ stream view, accessible through a new "Facebook" button at the top of the page.

YMMV - your mileage may very or in other words, I wouldn't use it. It's probably enough to read or follow up on one stream, if possible at all.

HowTo - Continue to read Sarah Perez, www.readwriteweb.com

05:12

Facebook alternatives - Eight mobile social media networks for emerging markets

memeburn :: The development of MXit, South Africa’s incredibly successful answer to Facebook as been well covered in the past. MXit’s success has largely been down to the fact that its focus was directed at mobile phone users, and it found its niche in providing a cheap alternative to SMS.

So what other interesting mobile social networks are being developed in the emerging markets? memeburn has looked for networks that are experiencing rapid growth or show some innovation that is likely to capture a bigger following in the near future: The Grid, Veepiz, Motribe, LinkedAfrica, Telfree, Mig33, Steetspark, Vshkole - an overview

Continue to read Rowan Puttergill, memeburn.com

June 16 2011

12:00

Are Americans becoming more isolated from each other? Maybe, Pew says, but don’t blame Facebook

The accusations are familiar: The Internet is making us sad. The Internet is making us lazy. The Internet is making us lonely.

Pew has taken all of those ideas head-on with a new study, “Social Networking Sites and Our Lives” — the first national, representative survey of American adults on their use of social networking sites. Pew interviewed 2,255 of those American adults, 1,787 of them Internet users, between late October and late November of 2010; the survey group included 975 users of social networking sites (SNS) like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The survey builds on Pew’s 2009 report on technology and isolation, which found that, while there’s been a correlative decline in the size and diversity of people’s closest relationships since the advent of digital technology, the decline hasn’t (whew!) been caused by the Internet.

And today’s findings corroborate that. Americans’ use of social networks has nearly doubled since 2008, Pew notes, and “there is little validity to concerns that people who use SNS experience smaller social networks, less closeness, or are exposed to less diversity,” its report concludes. Furthermore: “The likelihood of an American experiencing a deficit in social support, having less exposure to diverse others, not being able to consider opposing points of view, being untrusting, or otherwise being disengaged from their community and American society generally is unlikely to be a result of how they use technology, especially in comparison to common predictors.”

While it’s still legitimate, I think, to wonder how the structures of social networks play out on the broader cultural level, it’s increasingly clear that our early dystopian fears of an Internet of Isolation are largely unfounded. We may be bowling alone, yes — but we’re also doing a lot of other things together, as a community, online and off.

Trust

In its 2009 survey, to measure how much trust people have in their fellow citizens, Pew asked its participants: :Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” And only 32 percent, less than a third of Americans, fell on the “can be trusted” side of things. So the 2010 findings bring good news: This time around, a comparatively whopping 41 percent said that most of their fellow citizens can, indeed, be trusted.

And here’s where things get especially interesting: Internet users tend to be much more trusting than non-users. Of online Americans, 46 percent said that “most people can be trusted.” Only 27 percent of non-Internet users said the same.

There are demographic elements to those findings: Education and race can affect people’s levels of trust in each other independent of communications tools. Even controlling for that, however, Pew found, Internet users are more than twice as likely to think that most people can be trusted.

And, among those users, Facebook-ers seem to be the most trusting of all. “When we control for demographic factors and types of technology use,” the report notes, “we find that there is a significant relationship between the use of SNS and trust, but only for those who use Facebook – not other SNS platforms.” (Twitter, just to be clear, is included among those platforms. Which, hmm.)

The study also found, intriguingly, an apparent correlation between time investment and overall trust: Facebook users who use the service multiple times a day are 43 percent more likely than other Internet users — and about three times more likely than non-Internet users — to agree that “most people can be trusted.”

Viewpoint diversity

Another knock on the Internet is that it isolates its users from the broader world in the embrace of familiarity otherwise known as an echo chamber — and that, in the process, our online existences prevent us from the fullest expressions of IRL empathy. To tackle that idea, the report’s authors measured what psychologists call “perspective taking” — the ability to adopt the viewpoint of another person (or, in the context of politics, to consider “both sides of an issue”) — on a scale that ranged from 0 to 100. And what they found is that social network participation, while it doesn’t necessarily encourage empathy, doesn’t seem to harm it, either. “Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter users are no more or less able to consider alternative points,” the report puts it.

The one exception, interestingly, is MySpace. “Controlling for demographic characteristics and other types of technology use, MySpace users tend to have a greater ability to consider multiple sides of an issue in comparison to other people.” Whether that has something to do with the well-documented cultural differences between, say, MySpace and Facebook would make for more fascinating study fodder.

Meantime, though, there seems to be a similar social-networks-don’t-change-human-behavior phenomenon when it comes to the most obvious IRL demonstrations of social capital: belonging to local groups like sports leagues, religious organizations, and volunteer outfits. While 74 percent of Americans now belong to social networks offline — way up from the 65 percent who said the same back in 2008 — that bump has little to do with social networking online, Pew says. MySpace users actually have a negative correlation with voluntary group participation, even controlling for demographics, and “use of all other SNS platforms does not predict belonging to a voluntary group.”

Civic engagement

And what about more explicit political activity? Demographic factors — age, gender, education — have always been, and are still, the most predictive factors of political engagement. But even accounting for that, Pew found that Internet users, and Facebook users in particular, are more likely to be politically involved than their non-Internet-using-but-otherwise-similar counterparts.

“Controlling for demographic characteristics, Internet users are nearly two and a half times more likely to have attended a political rally (2.39x), 78 percent more likely to have attempted to influence someone’s vote, and 53 percent more likely to have reported voting or intending to vote than non-Internet users,” the survey found. And a Facebook user who visits the site multiple times per day is two and a half times more likely than the standard Internet user to have attended a political rally or meeting. That user is also 57 percent more likely to have tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate, and 43 percent more likely to have voted to expressed an intention to vote.

Overall, then, compared with non-Internet users, Facebookers are 5.89 times more likely to have attended a political meeting, 2.79 times more likely to talk to another person about voting, and 2.19 times more likely to report having actually voted.

It’s noteworthy that the engagement metrics here aren’t just about passive participation — clicking a “Like” button on Barack Obama’s Facebook page or otherwise engaging in virtually mindless acts of “hacktivism.” What Pew is measuring are intentional, physical, IRL actions — rallying, voting, arguing — that stew together, physically and palpably, to form a democracy. And Facebook, more than any other major social network, seems to be encouraging those actions. It’s worth wondering why, exactly, that is. And it’s worth considering what news organizations, which share both an economic and civic interest in encouraging public participation, can learn from it.

June 14 2011

04:21

When Facebook and Twitter follow you(r readers) without a click

Wall Street Journal :: Internet users tap Facebook Inc.'s "Like" and Twitter Inc.'s "Tweet" buttons to share content with friends. But these tools also let their makers collect data about the websites people are visiting. These so-called social widgets, which appear atop stories on news sites or alongside products on retail sites, notify Facebook and Twitter that a person visited those sites even when users don't click on the buttons, according to a study done for The Wall Street Journal.

Published May 18, 2011

Continue to read Amir Efrati | Geoffrey A. Fowler, online.wsj.com

May 28 2011

19:44

Mobile user participation in social networks: Wireless Ink wins lawsuit against Google and Facebook

ReadWriteWeb :: Wireless Ink Corp has won the first round of a patent lawsuit against both Google and Facebook. The search and social companies failed to get Wireless Ink's infringement tossed and now Wireless Ink can pursue charges pertaining to user participation in social networks on mobile devices against Google and Facebook. - Given the amount of users that access Facebook through their smartphones, it will likely be Facebook that is affected more by the Winksite claims than Google, considering that Google Buzz adoption remains low.

Continue to read Dan Rowinski, www.readwriteweb.com

May 18 2011

19:00

Video: Civic Media Session, "Civic Disobedience"

(For great detail about the "Civic Disobedience" session, check out moderator Ethan Zuckerman's write-up.)

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Watch the full video...

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May 04 2011

20:08

Video: Civic Media Session, "Design for Vulnerable Populations"

Designers often want to help people that they perceive as being in need -- whether those affected by natural or human-caused disasters, the economically or physically disadvantaged, or those who are on the losing end of a cultural power dynamic. However, naive attempts to "help" through simplistic techno-centric design can be at best ineffective, and at worst counter-productive.

What can designers do to better connect with the communities and individuals they wish to serve? How can design projects avoid patronizing attitudes and economic colonialization? How can a designer be effective in promoting social change while following their conscience?

This panel brings together designers who have worked in the mental health industry, international development, the prison system, and community environmental action to discuss what has worked and what hasn't, and what approaches designers can take to increase their chances of success.

  • Charlie DeTar (Moderator) Co-founder of Between the Bars, a blogging platform for prisoners. Fellow at the Center for Future Civic Media, and PhD student at the MIT Media Lab.
  • Patricia Deegan Creator of the CommonGround web application which supports shared decision making in psychopharmacology consultation. Adjunct Professor at the Dartmouth College School of Medicine and at Boston University, Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.
  • Liz Barry Director of Urban Environment at Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, a collaborative developing inexpensive and community-led means to explore environmental and social issues; Co-founder of TreeKIT, an initiative to collaboratively measure, map, and manage urban forests.
  • Nathan Cooke Born and raised in California, USA, Cooke works at MIT’s D-Lab documenting technologies and working with students on design projects. He has previous experience working for Frog Design in San Francisco and at Autodesk as part of their Sustainability division.

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April 10 2011

12:56

Cd. Juárez, MEX –CRONICAS DE HEROES– OTRA CARA, OTRA HISTORIA…

A partir de los 90’s Cd. Juárez empezó a formar parte constante del vocabulario global, principalmente como resultado del libre comercio y del establecimiento de cientos de maquiladoras en la ciudad. Muchos cambios se han suscitado en las últimas décadas, incremento acelerado de la población, cambios en mano de obra, altos niveles de contaminación, etc. pero también se ha visto un incremento en crimen, ejemplo de ello son los Femicidios y una ola de violencia en los últimos años los cuales han contribuido a la difusión negativa de Cd. Juárez. A través de diferentes Medios de comunicación los foráneos nos enteramos de esa Ciudad Juárez, esa que muestra o da la imagen de una ciudad brutal. Sin embargo este blog no intenta hablar de esa historia la cual forma parte de la noticia diaria, este blog por lo contrario desea hablar de esa OTRA CARA, de esa OTRA HISTORIA que también existe en la ciudad en la cual más de un millón de individuos continúan con su vida cotidiana de una manera pacífica y responsable.

En los últimos cuatro meses el Centro de Medios ha asesorado en Cd. Juárez una campaña de positivismo –CRONICAS DE HEROES– la cual reporta el valor ciudadano actual, como un ejemplo de colaboración positiva de la sociedad civil. El proyecto se enfoca en pequeñas acciones notorias (actos de amabilidad, de respeto, honestidad, etc.) y las hace públicas, ya que estas pasan por desapercibido, pero en realidad también son parte de bienestar ciudadano.

El centro de Medios creo la página web para Crónicas de Héroes como una herramienta en la que individuos puedan hacer públicos estos actos. Al principio se intento hacer contacto con diferentes instituciones en Juárez vía telefónica o por medio del internet, pero no hubo una gran respuesta. Yesica la Representante Diplomática Cultural y Directora del proyecto decidió que sería importante ir personalmente a Juárez y presentar la propuesta. Ella dio varias pláticas en la ciudad a diferentes A.C.s, ONG’s, Instituciones Educativas, hospitales, etc. En esas primeras pláticas se descubrió que la gente tenía deseos de participar, que aceptaban la propuesta y que estaban listos para ser parte de un cambio. Así pues fue interesante descubrir que el contacto personal por lo menos en esta instancia sigue siendo la herramienta principal para establecer relaciones estrechas y duraderas. En su visita a Juárez, Yesica capacitó a Brenda Guerra y a Marco Betancour para dar seguimiento a la propuesta, ellos fueron nombrados como Representante Local-Brenda y Promotor oficial-Marco.

Después de las primeras charlas informativas otras invitaciones hacia el equipo de Crónicas para hablar acerca del proyecto en diferentes foros se suscitaron. Hubo un momento en que los representantes locales dieron hasta tres talleres por semana, lo cual fue muy grato, pues indicaba que proyectos de este tipo son necesarios y que la ciudadanía los acepta. En estos talleres la gente nos contaba sus historias de esos héroes cotidianos de buena voluntad, ellos nos narraban su crónica en tarjetas postales diseñadas especialmente para la campaña. Igualmente para promover CRONICAS DE HEROES se colocaron espectaculares, así mismo se instalaron posters y se repartieron calcomanías en diferentes áreas en Cd. Juárez.

A mediados de Diciembre 2010 se anunció oficialmente esta campaña a los medios de comunicación. Desde ese día este proyecto ha tenido el privilegio de aparecer en varias redes informativas locales e internacionales entre ellas CNN y BBC. Actualmente se colabora con diferentes medios locales; en varias estaciones de radio se leen estas historias positivas, así mismo periódicos en la ciudad publican semanalmente crónicas existentes en nuestra página web la cual en este momento cuenta con 789 historias positivas. Estas historias han sido leídas por individuos que han entrado a nuestra página desde rincones lejanos del mundo como Japón, Brasil, Colombia, Alemania, Argentina, Francia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Reino Unido, Tailandia, etc.

Últimamente hemos tenido un gran interés por individuos en participar en actividades públicas. El grupo de artistas urbanos – UNION– nos contactó para ser parte de nuestra iniciativa, ellos donaron diferentes espacios en la ciudad y su talento para hacer murales inspirados en estos reportes positivos. Hace tres semanas hubo una pinta pública en el Parque Borunda, en esta hubo varios voluntarios que ayudaron a nuestro equipo en la organización del evento. Después de esta pinta hemos sido invitados a participar en otros eventos públicos como la Feria del la Mujer y un festejo a nivel ciudad por el Día del Niño.

Ha sido muy interesante para el equipo de Crónicas ver como este proyecto el cual originalmente fuera solo una página de internet se ha convertido en una mezcla de mecanismos, en el que los contactos sociales y acciones activas se han visto reflejadas tanto en línea como en participación cotidiana. Es genial ver que proyectos de este tipo pueden conducir a un cambio positivamente constructivo.

La evolución efectiva de esta campaña no hubiera sido posible sin la participación de la población y diferentes organizaciones e instituciones las cuales nos han apoyado, la colaboración es esencial para crear un cambio y más importante aun que ese cambio se inicie desde las raíces –los ciudadanos.

Cotidianamente existen héroes entre todos nosotros y estos no se quedan sentados a esperar tiempos mejores; sigamos su ejemplo, crezcamos juntos como sociedad para un mejor presente…esto es Cd. Juárez, su otra CARA, su otra HISTORIA…

March 28 2011

12:06

Civic Tools Video: "Hero Reports / Crónicas de Héroes"

Lorrie LeJeune describes Hero Reports/Crónicas de Héroes, a project currently deployed in Juárez, Mexico, to help residents report and map incidents of heroism, large and small.

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February 22 2011

14:02

Civic Media Session Explores Data in Cities

(Cross-posted at MediaShift Idea Lab)

With a redoubled focus on the community in the civic media community, the Center for Future Civic Media has launched a new speaker series. These relaxed, informal conversations about civic media featured ground-level practitioners, activists, hackers, and local leaders.

The first session, "Bustling with Information: Cities, Code, and Civics," brought good friends Nick Grossman, Nigel Jacob, and Max Ogden to our Cambridge campus. As you can see from the video clips below, these sessions are unique opportunities to talk about the amazing work that goes on in this sphere, intriguingly out of earshot of the debates on the future of journalism.

We think this is a great niche for us: Highlighting the do-it-yourself ethic that's always existed in civic media (not to mention at MIT), separate from concerns about paper vs. iPad, MBA-honed business models, etc. Sessions planned for this spring include discussions of intellectual property collaboration, the implications of check-in/location-sharing technology, how local stories spread worldwide, civic media for vulnerable populations, and civic disobedience.

So stay tuned to Idea Lab and civic.mit.edu for updates and scheduling information.

Meanwhile, check out these clips from last week's civic media session, moderated by Center director Chris Csikszentmihályi, for a taste. And, in the comment section below, let us know what other civic media topics warrant more exploration.


MIT Tech TV
Nick Grossman of OpenPlans, Nigel Jacob of the City of Boston Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, and Max Ogden of Code for America respond to questions about how civic tools do (or need to) vary from city to city.


MIT Tech TV
Max Ogden of Code for America discusses taking "treasure troves" of government data sets to bring citizens and friends together, describing it as "enhanced serendipity."

January 07 2011

14:26

Q&A: The MIT Global Challenge

The Center for Future Civic Media has established some great relationships across groups at MIT with overlapping interests. In fact, those groups are wonderful presences at our regular Thursday meetings, teasing us with well-timed eye-rolls when our researchers' geek out five minutes too long about, say, Django libraries or KML data.

Two of these groups--the Community Innovators Lab and the MIT Global Challenge--have helped put together a "Q&A triangle", featuring Alexa Mills of CoLab and Kate Mytty of the IDEAS Competition and the MIT Global Challenge, to help our blogs' readers understand civic and community work through the perspective of our own groups.

First up is Kate. The IDEAS Competition and MIT Global Challenge are an annual invention and entrepreneurship competition that support and encourage innovation in overcoming barriers to well-being in communities around the world. They are powered by the MIT Public Service Center to spur innovation as public service. Teams work in a variety of areas -- water, sanitation, disaster relief, access to health care, education, energy and much more.

1.) What are you most surprised that works well in the Global Challenge? And what are you most surprised doesn’t work as well as you’d think?

Through the MIT Global Challenge site, what suprises me most are the connections that are possible. We’re just in the beginning and a lot of people are offering their and asking for help. That shows the potential of the community. When any platform is started to connect people around a shared purpose you hope and anticipate people will benefit from that platform. Seeing it in practice -- and I was here for very little of the development process -- is powerful.

We’re still in the learning phase and there’s a lot to be gained in the next year by watching how people use the site to push forward their ideas, connect and discover opportunites. The one space I’m hoping takes off more is a lot of community partners (NGOs, MIT alumni and much more) have spent a lot of time defining the gaps they see in their communities -- problems to be solved . I’d love to see a time come when “problems” and “solvers” will meet with more speed and urgency.

2.) What circumstances are conducive to good competitions?

Ask me again in a year and I’ll be better prepared to answer (I’ve been doing this for six months now). My gut response says, at least for our competition, a shared purpose, a sense of urgency, a community of support and development for the teams entering the competition, enough money to make it worth their while, and probably an ethos of celebration. There are a lot of incredible ideas out there -- in any competition -- and sometimes, by the nature a competition, those ideas are lost and the winners are celebrated. I see it as important to celebrate the work that goes into entering the competition and then join together as a community to support furthering the efforts of ongoing teams and projects.

3.) How would you describe the process of getting sponsorship and the ongoing role of sponsors?

Great question. We have a set of sponsors -- organizations and individuals -- that are passionate about innovation, entpreneuership, and public service. Two of the key sponsors I point out are Monster Worldwide and the Yunus Challenge supported by supported by MIT alumnus Mohammed Abdul Latif Jameel (who also supports J-PAL and IDI ). With their sponsorship, they support innovation in certain areas -- for Monster this year, it’s around information technologies for empowering migrant workers and the Yunus Challenge, it’s innovation in agricultural processes. Giles Phillips, the MIT alum, we work with through Monster is involved every step of the way and is every bit as invested as we are. That’s a key strength and there’s room for other sponsors to come on board and support innovation in other broad areas -- whether mobiles, disaster relief, entrepreneurship or what have you.

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This post is part of a Q&A triangle between three offices at MIT: the IDEAS Competition and MIT Global Challenge, the Center for Future Civic Media (C4FCM), and the Community Innovators Lab (CoLab). Each office asked three questions of the other two offices, generating six blog posts. Check out the other posts, which will be published between January 6th and 11th, if you’re interested:

• CoLab interviews C4FCM • C4FCM interviews IDEAS • IDEAS interviews CoLab
CoLab interviews IDEASIDEAS interviews C4FCM • C4FCM interviews CoLab

December 08 2010

15:00

Nicholas Christakis on the networked nature of Twitter

Earlier this fall, Alyssa Milano — known for being on “Who’s the Boss” and, more recently, for being on Twitter — sent out a somewhat surprising tweet to her nearly 1.2 million followers: a link to the Amazon page of a book called Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks & How They Shape Our Lives.

For a book like Connected, penned by two social scientists and built on longitudinal research and academic inquiry — a book, in other words, that may hope to achieve influence over our thinking, but doesn’t aspire to huge sales numbers — you’d think that a message broadcast from a heavily followed Twitter account would lead to a proportionally large spike in sales. Amplification, after all, comes from size: The more followers a person has, the more people who will see a message and who will, potentially, retweet it — and, thus, the more people who will potentially act on it. We know it intuitively: In general, the greater the numbers, the greater the viral power.

So, then, how many extra books did Connected’s authors, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, sell in the wake of their million-follower tweet?

None. Literally, not a one. In fact — insult, meet injury! — in the days and weeks following Milano’s tweet, the book’s sales actually declined. The actress’ follower numbers, in this case, hadn’t been a force for much of anything. “At least with respect to the influence of behavior,” Christakis noted, “these links — these Twitter links — are weak.”

But, hey, maybe it was just an Alyssa Milano thing: It’s pretty fair to figure that the overlap between her followers and the universe of people who might buy a sciency book by two professors would be, you know, low. So Christakis and Fowler asked Tim O’Reillynearly 1.5 million followers, with, ostensibly, more book-interest overlap — to send the Connected link out to his feed.

The result? “We sold one extra copy of the book.”

Same experiment, with Pew’s Susannah Fox (4,960 followers)? Three extra copies.

If you’re interested in the way information spreads online — and if you’re interested in the future of news, you probably are — then the low volume-to-impact rate the authors found (which, though completely anecdotal, flies in the face of so much conventional wisdom) is fascinating. And it begs a question that appears so often in academic inquiry: What’s up?

In a talk yesterday evening at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center in Cambridge (we wrote about another IBM event, with dataviz guru Jer Thorp, this summer), Christakis, a professor both at Harvard Medical School and its Faculty of Arts and Sciences, dove into that question, discussing the particular (and peculiar) ways that social networks — online and off — work.

The talk focused on the epidemiology of action — how and whether certain behaviors spread through a population. (More on that here.) Though we often talk about social connections in terms of simple binaries — friend vs. not-friend, weak ties versus strong — the ties that bind people together, Christaskis’ research suggests, are nowhere near as simple as we often assume. There’s the obvious — your Facebook friend may not be your friend friend — but also, more murkily but more fascinatingly, the complex of connections that affect our behavior in surprising ways.

For the Lab’s purposes, one especially intriguing element of the discussion focused on Twitter — and the extent to which ideas spread through Twitter’s network actually catch on and have impact. One binary that might actually be relevant in that regard, Christakis suggested: influencer versus influence-ee. “If we’re really going to advance this field, we need to figure out how to identify not just influential people, but also influenceable people,” the professor noted. “We need not just shepherds, but sheep.” And “if we’re going to exploit online ties,” Christakis said — say, by creating communities of interest around news content, and potentially monetizing those communities — then “measures of meaningful interactions will be needed”: We need metrics, in particular, to determine “which online interactions represent real relationships, where an influence might possibly be exerted.”

For that, he continued, “we need to distinguish between influential, or real, ties online, and uninfluential, or weak, ties online.”

The next question: How do you do that? How do you look beyond standard (and, per Christakis’ anecdotal evidence, misleading) metrics like Twitter follower/Facebook friend counts and find more meaningful metrics of influence? One benefit of social networks’ movement online is that their dynamics are (relatively) easily trackable: We’re able as never before to put data behind the interactions that define society as a whole, and, in that, understand them better. (Connected, on the other hand — whose conclusions are based on data sets of social flow that were cultivated, over a period of years, from physical documents — didn’t have that luxury.)

And while Christakis’ talk raised as many questions as it answered — we’re still in early days when it comes to measuring behavioral influences online — one of his core ideas is an insight that several news organizations are already putting to practice: the power of the niche. Much more significant and influential than single celebrities — individual nodes in a network — are the “niches within the network where you have the particular assemblage of influential people and their followers.” When influence is layered — when its fabric is made stronger by tight connections across a smaller network — it’s more predictable, and more powerful.

And that has big implications not only for news organizations, but also for the platforms that are hoping to translate their ubiquity into financial and social gain. If you want your work to have impact, then targeting a bundle of closely connected networks — with news, with links, with messages — may make more sense than going for numbers alone. Spreading a conversation is not the same as affecting it. “I’m not saying that Twitter is useless,” Christakis said, “but I think that the ability of Twitter to disseminate information is different than its ability to influence behavior.”

December 06 2010

02:35

UN Global Pulse Camp 1.0


(Photo credit: Christopher Fabian of UNICEF & Global Pulse)

Just got back from the UN "Pulse Camp 1.0".

Global Pulse is a new and quite ambitious UN initiative "to improve evidence-based decision-making and close the information gap between the onset of a global crisis and the availability of actionable information to protect the vulnerable" (Full overview at http://www.unglobalpulse.org/about).

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