Social media & networking

Network effects

Late last week I was flicking through ABC’s iView service and stumbled across the documentary (under the ABC Docs section) entitled ”
How Kevin Bacon Cured Cancer“.

I figured it would have something to do with the 6 degrees of separation concept and decided to set aside any misgivings I had based on the title and watch a bit of it to see if it had anything of interest.

It turned out to be a great program, focusing in part on Duncan Watts’ academic work on social networks. I’d thoroughly recommend checking it out if you’re interested in social networking.

As an aside, I’m with iinet for my home broadband, and iView is “free” (i.e. bandwidth consumed watching iView is not counted in my monthly download allowance).

Social media & networking

The challenges of social media

A friend of mine recently launched Open Australia, which is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in politics, and more specifically the actions and activities of their federal MP.

The effort is volunteer run, and I think provides immense value to Australian citizens. One of the volunteers, Matthew Landauer, posted a very interesting note on Twitter the other day, mentioning a talkback page in relation to the work he was doing to add links to Wikipedia, pointing people to the relevant Open Australia page on various politicians’ pages in Wikipedia.

To my mind, what Matt was doing makes perfect sense, and I think greatly benefits Wikipedia readers – the Hansard is quite opaque and difficult to access, especially online, and Open Australia makes it much more accessible and useful. However, some members of the Wikipedia community felt that perhaps this was spam. A very interesting discussion ensued.

It is worth a read by anyone considering engaging in Wikipedia for their organisation. I’ve heard some PR/comms folks say “let’s just put up a page on Wikipedia”. This doesn’t work, and the dialogue on that talk page is immensely illuminating (in a positive way).

I truly admire the Wikipedians and the open-ness and transparency of this process (at least in this case – I’m aware of other cases where there may be issues, but I digress).

My summary of some of the discussion points:

  • The links were being added by someone related to the project (I’m not sure if full disclosure was an issue here – I suspect even if disclosed it would have been considered an issue). It seems that the activity would be fine if it was someone unrelated to the project doing the linking.
  • Questions about whether the links be considered an implicit endorsement by Wikipedia of the site
  • It doesn’t matter if your effort is volunteer run, non-profit or otherwise – such activity may still be considered spam.
  • Is the site political? The question arose due to the commentary on the site (as Open Australia itself is clearly non-partisan).
  • A core question is “does this provide value to readers?” References made to IMDB and other sites where, even though commercial, the value is significant.
  • Members of the community even created templates to support the linking, once the value proposition was confirmed.

With regards to value, I immediately thought of a recent post by Seth Godin: The web doesn’t care:

When I first started talking about Permission Marketing ten years ago, marketers asked, “sure, but how does this help us?”

A decade later, marketers look at Wikipedia or social media or the long tail or whatever trend is finally hitting them in the face and ask the same question.

… The question to ask is, “how are people (the people I need to reach, interact with and tell stories to) going to use this new power and how can I help them achieve their goals?”

The upshot? You can’t just wade into a social media space and plaster your “message” around, you must provide value to the community, and do it in accordance with the social norms and etiquette established in that community.

It seems, at least for now, that the Wikipedians have agreed that, on balance, the links to Open Australia provide enough value to leave them in. This is good news, IMO, because as I mentioned I believe Open Australia is of great benefit to the community. I do hope it stays that way :)

NGOs & Nonprofits, Social media & networking

Three tips for non-profits

Beth Kanter interviews David Neff:

Good advice. I think the “experiment” tip is essential. Clay Shirky, in his Web 2.0 talk, mentions “failing informatively” – I think experimenting with the sites and spaces, before you put your brand into them, is a great way to “fail informatively” with minimal brand risk.

That may mean setting up a dummy profile to play around with the technology, or it may mean setting up a personal profile and connecting with friends and colleagues – getting a sense of the space and learning the ropes while you’re there.

Links links (05-Feb-2008)

  • Twitter is an Event Aggregator – Interesting use of Twitter – posting news related to the “Super Tuesday” primary voting in the U.S.
  • Companies must listen to the Web 2.0 world – I don’t like the “avoid risk” case for social media strategy; I prefer to focus on opportunities. This article provides an overview of the potential risks. I’ve found that blogs can be a bell-weather for broader constituent sentiment, so worth watching.
  • Internet fundraising trends 2008 – A collection of predictions for fundraising and donating in 2008, incl. a spot from Priscilla @ Solidariti and Seth Godin.

(These links were posted to my feed on 05-Feb-2008.)

Social media & networking

Big moves in social media tech

There’s been two big announcements in the world of the social media technology in the past few days.

Google Social Graph API

First came the announcement from Google of the Social Graph API. Ajaxian have a quick code example of what can be done from a technology perspective, and Joshua Porter has two posts looking at the benefits and potential dangers of the API, incl. reference to an excellent (though slightly alarmist, I feel) post from Danah Boyd on the risks, esp. to young people.

I’m on the fence with regards to the dangers. On the one hand I agree with the notion that this information is already public, so shouldn’t be an issue.

But where this argument falls down is that it’s not always obvious when data will be made public – in the past I’ve inadvertently exposed both my mobile number and home address publicly online without realising it – a tool like this may make it easier for unscrupulous individuals to mess with us.

MySpace developer platform

Right on cue, MySpace release the details of their developer API – covered well by Ajaxian.

As the article notes, what’s especially interesting about the API is that they are using the OpenSocial API (which has also just been updated), supported by Google, Ning, Bebo, Plaxo and Six Apart.

I’ve yet to dig into the details of either system, but both announcements are likely to change the social media landscape significantly in the coming months…