Posted by: paulfbove | July 7, 2008

On “getting it”.

A couple weeks ago, I had a solid string of classes because we had a couple of speakers. First off, Michael Silberman, National Meetup Director from Howard Dean‘s presidential bid, came to speak to our Digital Campaigns class. Michael had written a chapter, called “The Meetup Story”, in the book Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope by Zephyr Teachout and Thomas Streeter, et al. What struck me first is that Michael is younger than me–probably at least by 8 years. That is weird because I’m used to being talked to by somebody older than me. He even makes a reference to his age in his chapter

“Without fail, the first words out of my new acquaintance’s mouth would be “Oh, I can’t believe how young you are!”

Of course our professor is younger too, but I’ll let that slide. The reality is that it was the people who are Micheal’s age that really got Web 2.0 and new media off the ground. I’m late to the game.

Anyway, it was pretty cool to hear about a particular function of a campaign by somebody who had been there and worked that campaign. The best takeaways that I got were as follows:

  1. Using a tool like Meetup often comes about in a true grassroots function. It seems like many ideas do indeed come from grassroots. Though technology is important, don’t forget the basics.
  2. A major challenge was trying to straddle traditional and online engagement. The Dean folks had to come into a town without actually being there. Goes to show that it is important to align yourself with others that you can trust who can act in your stead.
  3. The Web is mostly effective for the challenger, not the front runner. Challengers have less to lose and are more willing to take chances.
  4. Be cautious of what you put into a campaign. Your heart and soul must be in it or people will know you’re not being sincere. And your campaign will fail.

The other speaker I saw that week was in my Digital Communications Strategies class. Dan Solomon, co-author (along with Brian Reich) of Media Rules! Mastering Today’s Technology, spoke to us about HOW to get our organizations to listen and implement the strategies we create. We’re reading the book in class and it has a zippy tone to it that makes you want to yell at your boss because he or she doesn’t get it. When Dan spoke, you really could understand why the writing moves as it does. He’s got fire!

The takeaways were

  1. Think about the framework of how the new thing should work.
  2. Time horizons are important-don’t wait so long that you become irrelevant.
  3. Learn from extreme examples. What really drives change?
  • Need to be social and connected
  • Meeting of survival needs
  • Irrational fear

(Those last three bullets really should be taken to heart to help get across your ideas to your boss or co-workers.)

4. Content is different over different media, depending on your technique. You need to think about your media before you implement a plan.

5. People need to work together, but often fail. Why? People won’t cooperate and share.

Those major points reinforce what happens when a plan is actually tried. If the Dean campaign folks had been resistant to trying Meetup, they would have lost a huge opportunity to get the word out. Luckily, they were able to take a then-revolutionary idea and make it work. Solomon drove home the point that you can’t know if something will work unless you try it. Unfortunately, many of us have to answer to somebody else and don’t get the chance to try. Web 2.0 is growing, and yet there are numerous organizations that are behind on using it. If these groups do not at least try to implement a new tool, they will never know if it works. That sounds pretty basic and obvious, right? Well then why are there still so many organizations resistant to change? The Dean folks began a revolutionary movement in digital campaigns that is bigger today than they probably ever imagined. And the reason was that people had the vision to use technology and the higher ups allowed them to do so. If we could all be so lucky at our workplaces!

Here’s a little taste of the excitement that we could all use

Posted by: paulfbove | July 7, 2008

Is James Kotecki a Journalist?

So, the class assignment for the week is to discuss whether James Kotecki, aka Emergency Cheese, was a journalist prior to his joining The Politico. Further, we are asked “What’s the difference between what he was doing in his dorm room and what Chris Matthews does on Hardball?” (Aside to Garrett: Please think of a new way to phrase that next time. I prefer not to think about what people are doing in their dorm rooms.)

In his own words, Kotecki states

I’ve gone from being very skeptical about the media to seeing a lot more of it to now being part of it. It’s been a really interesting transition. I have a much more nuanced view of it. The way that the market is structured I realize why they ask the questions they do, why they feel like they have to ask the most obvious questions because most people are hearing these answers for the first time.

Anyway, let’s start with the second part of the question. Frankly, aside from dribs and drabs of it, I’ve never really seen Hardball, so I have no idea if Kotecki is similar to Matthews. I HAVE seen the spoofs of Hardball on Saturday Night Live and those make me laugh, so in that regard, yes, Kotecki is similar to Matthews. Darrell Hammond does a great Chris Matthews. But seriously, I get the premise of Hardball, and yes, Kotecki is doing the same thing. In fact he’s doing what any pundit does–take a topic, an issue, a person, and dissects and discusses. That is the point behind analysis. Kotecki simply happens to do his version from a dorm room while using a computer and video camera. Matthews has a studio and a TV crew. Otherwise, they are both accomplishing the same goal.

Which leads to the other part of the question: Was Kotecki a journalist? I would argue that yes, he was. First, let’s visit our old friend Wikipedia for a definition

A journalist (also called a newspaperman) is a person who practises journalism, the gathering and dissemination of information about current events, trends, issues and people.

Does Kotecki accomplish that? Yes. He views current videos on YouTube, disseminates the information, and then discusses it with his own video response. Sounds like journalism to me. So why is there even a question about it? Well, as mentioned above, Kotecki was making his videos from his dorm room. Traditionalists will argue that that does not constitute real journalism because Kotecki is just a person who likes politics and discusses them from his room, while videotaping himself. They may argue that it is a form of fanaticism, not journalism. But the key idea is that because of the advent of social media, Kotecki is in the vanguard of what would be “new” journalism. He is conducting a conversation using the new mediums that are available to all of us. He took citizen journalism to a professional level by voicing his opinions. Hell, he managed to get Ron Paul to come to his dorm for an interview!! If that’s not journalism, then I don’t know what is. See the video below

And what of social media? It’s a new frontier. Anyone can be a journalist, videographer, photographer, writer, or whatever they want. Social media has changed the rules so that everyone has a chance to get into the game.

As my hero and savior, Hunter S. Thompson, said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Some people still say that social media is weird–well, here’s the perfect opportunity to turn it pro. Kotecki did with his video analysis.

When the going gets weird
Posted by: paulfbove | July 7, 2008

Left vs. Right Blogs Revisited

After weeks and weeks of fighting with Comcast, a compromise was finally reached and I received home Internet. It doesn’t mean that Comcast does not still suck royally, but at least I can now finish my blog entry that I started almost a month ago comparing left vs. blue blogs. To refresh, I picked FireDogLake (FDL) and Redstate for the study. So here, in summary format, is the findings of what made news between July 1 and July 4, 2008.

Day 1

Redstate included a number of slams agains the following: a Democrat congressman, Obama, and Harry Reid. And the Dems were slammed for being bad on oil. Sen Hutchison wrote a post about sanctions against Iran for nuclear violations. Fundraising was discussed fundraising, which is a big issue during the campaign, to be sure. The most interesting post discussed how this election won’t be fun because it will be a “fishbowl” election. There will be a great deal of scrutiny of the comments made by the candidates, and everyone with access to the Internet can join in by viewing videos on YouTube. An interesting note in the post states that YouTube was founded in February 2005,

Which means that Bush/Kerry was the last American Presidential election in history where a politician’s contradictory statements could not be disseminated by his or her opponent across the country instantly, comprehensively, and for free.

There was also an interesting story about Google’s attempt at socialism, which included this quote

Google is the Obama of corporations — it issues small platitudes about “Internet for everyone” and expects the collective Web 2.0 community to faint.

Also, be sure to read this post about comments made by retired General Wes Clark about McCain’s military service. And then take a look at this satirical post referring to the same topic. The FDL version is pretty funny.

Firedoglake had a couple of stories about FISA, some information about nuclear programs, oil, medicare, and Guantanamo detainees. FISA was one of the biggest sticking points on FDL. The issue deals with surveillance and immunity of telephone companies. Another big article deals with And so after one day, it appears that one major difference between FDL and Redstate is that FDL has many more issues-based posts. Things that would be of interest to the average man or woman–health, rights, liberty, etc. We’ll see if this continues to hold true.

Day 2

While reading for Day 2, I decided on a new tact for this assignment–I’ll read the posts, decide if anything is overly “out there”, figure out the differences in reporting between the two and try to figure out the relevance.

Redstate predicted a flip by Obama about his opposition to the war, and they end the quote by stating that not to call him on it because “If you do, you are a dirty racist.” Interesting tact. Even more evident is that Redstate practices pretty strong mudslinging, as well as some strong opinionated comments (i.e., “The man is a compulsive befriender of dirtbags. His campaign excels at having dirtbag surrogates.”). They also decided to write about his mortgage. Also, there is a lot more about retired General Wes Clark’s comments about McCain’s military service. And more accusationsof Obama flip flopping–this time about trade.

FDL had an interesting post about the “Politics of the Prius.” Something about waterboarding. More about FISA. And again, they cover health, mortgages, and civil liberties. Interestingly, one of the regular contributors (Spencer Ackerman) posted about a friend (Brian Beutler) of his who got shot. The comments are even more interesting because people took a post about real-life drama and used it as a sounding board to rally for better health insurance in America.

Day 3

Redstate had a couple of stories about the rescue of the hostages freed by FARC in Columbia. And of course, criticism of Obama. Senator Thompson posted a speech he was going to give. And more criticism of Obama flip flopping on an issue (this time around it was about getting out of Iraq).

FDL reported that adult Websites are seeing an upswing in business since the economic stimulus checks began arriving. They also summarized some of the news that was also on Redstate (FARC, McCain’s staff shake ups, etc.). Added more about FISA. And there was a good article about the loss of jobs that the US will be facing.

Day 4

And so begins the Fourth of July. RDL gets all patriotic on our collective asses and rallies the troops to do something patriotic. They also give us some celebratory FISA. And this tribute to Jesse Helms.

Redstate began with a large post about Obama’s alleged flip flopping. There was also a vastly different bit of coverage of the death of Jesse Helms. There was also some patriotism in the form of a post by a soldier and a mass re-enlistment of soldiers in Iraq.

So what’s it all about? Well, as stated above FDL and Redstate are vastly different. Redstate definitely seems to engage a bit more of the chest thumping and extremism. FDL is only slightly less biased, but seems to be a bit more even handed. Bias is obviously the name of the game if you’re writing about politics. If you’re a Dem, you’re going to be biased towards your party, same goes for GOP. But as stated, Redstate takes it to a different level. FDL likes to focus more on the human-interest type stories, namely the things that most Dems are concerned about (good life, health care, equality, etc.). Regardless of bias, both sites do a good job of presenting the views of their respective parties. Ultimately, that will provide the interest that people are looking for that will make them want to continue reading.

Posted by: paulfbove | June 22, 2008

Online Voter-Generated Content

The progression of online media and social networking has done wonders to increase the amount of voter-generated content that political supporters create. Whereas years ago, the most voter-generated content you would see was likely in the form of bumper stickers, buttons, and t-shirts, the Internet now provides a new avenue that anybody can use to add anything they want for the whole world to see. So let’s explore what is out there.

1) Videos–what better way to show your support of a candidate, or better yet, spoof the candidate than video! Most people have heard of Obama Girl, and now the same folks who brought you that video have introduced The Incredible McCain Girl. This video, a spoof on The Incredible Hulk shows news pundits talking about McCain’s anger issues and then shows The Incredible McCain Girl getting angry, a la Hulk, when people make fun of him. It also has a nice fight scene with Obama Girl. So what’s it mean? The Barely Political folks are fond of picking on both parties, and this one gives it pretty good to the Republicans.

2) Facebook–Last week, Obama’s Facebook profile reached 1 million supporters. I did a quick search on Facebook to see what other groups are present–there are hundreds and hundreds of various Obama groups. For all the pages that support Obama, there are also many that are anti-Obama, including this gem. What I found interesting is that the site admin is listed as being in Nicaragua, but the contact lists Washington, DC. And under “news”, I learned these two tidbits: “1) Barack and wife Michelle make in the $500,000s each year. To be true Democrats, they should donate all but 40,000 of it to the poor in order to provide for their living wage, 2) Barack is an admitted cocaine user.” What does it mean? Though it’s great that anybody can use digital media to share their message, anybody can share their message. Including the rabble rousers.

3) Shirts, buttons, and stickers–for those who like to show their political support or disdain the old-fashioned way, there are numerous sites that allow you to design a shirt, sticker, magnet, etc., and get it made, and also sell it to others. Zazzle is a site with millions of options for the consummate political junky. After checking out pages and pages of political merchandise, I kept coming back to this little number. For those too lazy to click the link, the magnet says “WANTED” and shows pictures of Obama, Clinton, and McCain and under them says, “Bros,” “Hoes,” and “GI Joes,” respectively. What does it mean? Many items on the Zazzle site play on the fact that 1) Obama is black, 2) Clinton is a woman, and 3) McCain is old, and was a soldier. This makes for interesting, and sometimes amusing, creations. This site exemplifies Long Tail economics.

4) Radio–Early campaigning progressed via radio. Now radio content can be created by anybody and sent out as Podcasts and other digital files. I scoped out Digital Politics, which was linked from ePolitics. The shows are pretty informative and really cover the whole realm of the convergance between politics and digital media. The Website states

We peel back the layers to reveal how the Internet is changing the way candidates run for office, promote ballot initivatives, and mobilize voters. Join the party at Digital Politics.

This site provides the basics, and the advanced details, of how the politics have really gone digital. At its heart, voter-generated content is hand and hand with the digital convergance of politics. No matter what your affiliation, your likes, your dislikes, there is something out there for you. And if there isn’t, well then, dammit, create your own content!

Posted by: paulfbove | June 17, 2008

Starbucks Gets a Star Today

People are very divided on the Starbucks coffee issue–some love it, some hate it. Frankly, I enjoy it, but it doesn’t make me wet my pants (unless I drink too much). Sometimes I go to Starbucks, sometimes I go elsewhere. Depends what I’m in the mood for. My first preference would be for Tim Hortons, but they don’t have any in D.C. Yet. Actually, I’ll take a fresh drip coffee in Costa Rica any day, but alas, I live in Washington, not Costa Rica (I think). No matter. Today I went to get my fix, a venti drip coffee, and they were out of it and brewing fresh. When that happens, the coffee is usually free. Today was no exception. This has happened to me 5 or 6 times. They’re out of coffee and they give it to me free. I enjoy that. It really puts a smile on my face. All I get is plain coffee. I don’t drink those vanilla bullshits and whatever else they offer. You want a milkshake, go to McDonald’s and get one. You want coffee, go to a coffee shop. My friend once said that he thinks they should have two lines–one for people who are there for coffee, and the other for people who are there for vanilla bullshits. Not a bad idea. (BTW–If you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the clip.)

I admit that I enjoy some of Starbucks dessert treats. I don’t get them often, but every once in a while they have something nice. Last year they had some kind of cold, banana bar. It was quite delicious, but I haven’t seen it this year. And, wait now, tomorrow is Wednesday. And you know what that means???? That’s right boys and girls. Free iced coffee day! But before you go there demanding a free iced coffee, note that if you didn’t a card a few weeks ago, then you’re SOL. They handed out cards in May that are good for a free tall iced coffee every Wednesday until July 23, 2008! My co-worker got a bunch of them and shared the wealth. And don’t think I’m afraid to hit up more than one store in a day. Mmmm. Icy and jittery.

Posted by: paulfbove | June 16, 2008

Farewell to a Fellow Buffalonian

You can’t study politics and try to discuss the journalism of politics without thinking of Tim Russert. Though he died on Friday, I feel that a quick post is necessary. Tim was one of the few people that people mentioned with pride when discussing anything good that came out of Buffalo (we also lay claim to Tom Toles, Ani DiFranco, Rick James, moe., and the Goo Goo Dolls [though now people only mention how they used to be good 15-20 years ago, before they got schmaltzy and sucked]).

Russert probably did more to advance the Buffalo name than anyone else in recent years. And he was “Buffalo” through and through. I’ve met a lot of people in this world and there is a distinctive trait, or nature, that is Buffalo. Sometimes it’s hard to put a finger on, but you know it when you see it. And Russert certainly exuded that trait in everything he did. I didn’t even watch Meet the Press all that much, but I certainly paid attention when Russert was on TV, whether on that show or something else.

So it is a shame that the world has lost one of Buffalo’s finest. A young guy who understood human nature and was a human. Often times in politics people forget the human factor.

I was out on the Chesapeake sailing with some friends this weekend (hence the late post of old news). One of my friends is from Buffalo too–we poured a little beer in the Bay in honor of Tim. If you have a moment, do the same.

Russert as Bobblehead from Buffalo Bisons GameI like this picture–it’s from a Bobblehead promotion the Buffalo Bisons did a couple years ago.

Addendum: There are a lot of famous people from Buffalo, but the few I list above are the contemporary names you’d likely hear in conversation. Go here for more if you’re interested.

Posted by: paulfbove | June 16, 2008

NASA Tweets. Canada Gives Thanks for Blood.

I understand the value of Twitter, but I would like to remain a holdout as long as possible. My reason in general is that I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for more text minutes so that my friends can tell me via Twitter when they take a shit. 

Anyway, I’m glad to see that NASA is embracing microblogging. It’s pretty cool. Hm, NASA can Twitter, but I can’t get permission to finalize a channel on YouTube for my flying organization. Bureaucracy. Yay.

I thought this new social media site is a pretty great idea. Blood recipients in Canada can share their stories about how a donor saved their life. The concept sounds simple, and is, but I think is pretty poignant when you realize the idea behind the site (hint: lifesaving).

Posted by: paulfbove | June 16, 2008

Campaign Music

I love stories about the music that candidates pick to play at their campaign rallies. But I love the stories about the blowback from musicians even more. Musicians often get angry if they find out that a candidate from a party they don’t support is playing their music. Be sure to also read the full article on MSNBC.com.

This article on MSNBC gives a pretty solid rundown of the music choices of some of the candidates from early on in the campaign. I honestly believe that everyone needs a theme song. Obviously, candidates are no different. They often try to find meaning in the lyrics that will somehow relate to their stance on an issue. As an example, the article above states this about Edwards in 2004

During his 2004 campaign, Edwards used John Mellencamp’s “Small Town,” a reminder of the small-town roots of this son of a mill worker.

Often times though, the music gets muddled in some half baked attempt for the candidate to dance to the song. This happens to any type of music, not just an official “campaign” song. Here is Hillary shaking it a bit in Puerto Rico. I’m glad to see she at least has a drink in her hand.

And here’s Barack dancing on the Ellen Degeneres show.

And this is all you get for McCain. I don’t think he dances, so there isn’t footage.

And while we’re at it, here’s a couple songs I think would be funny as campaign music. But that’s simply because I have a twisted mind.

“The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails

“Smack My Bitch Up” by the Prodigy

“Legalize It” by Peter Tosh (candidate would have a strong chance of winning on this campaign)

It’s Raining Men” by the Weather Girls (I just learned that this song was written by Paul Shaffer! Who knew.)

See, these would be funny. And they would make politics more interesting.

Posted by: paulfbove | June 13, 2008

Left vs. Right Blogs

So the assignment for the week was to spend a few days reading a left-leaning blog and a red-leaning blog. Left = democrat, right = republican (trust me, I looked it up on the Wikipedia and they never lie). So what have I found? Well, not much because I’ve had limited time to do anything online, BECAUSE IT’S PRETTY DAMN IMPOSSIBLE TO TAKE DIGITAL CLASSES WHEN YOU HAVE NO INTERNET AT HOME! See, after recently moving, I tried to get Comcast service hooked up. Hell, they even came out the day after the move! Unprecedented. But that was way back on May 24. Now it is June 13 and still no Comcast. And what really burns me up is that I haven’t even been able to blog about how pissed I am at Comcast because I don’t have the ability to do it at home. My time at work is limited because, hey, even I have to work occasionally. Radical concept.

So thus far, here is my comparison of the quick scans I’ve done this week (I used FireDogLake and Redstate for the study).

Firedoglake looks friendlier and more fun.

Redstate looks bitchier.

And what really pisses me off, I’m currently on the phone with Verizon, who is giving me trouble, and ads for Verizon Fios just popped up on Redstate. So now I don’t like that site.

The fight isn’t over Redstate. Not by a longshot. You will be revisited. Oh, you will be. Because I still have to do my assignment.

Posted by: paulfbove | June 9, 2008

Changes in Campaigns Since the 1948 and 1972 Elections

Reading The Last Campaign and The Boys on the Bus during a campaign year really makes the books all the more interesting. Even more telling, though, is the span of years that has passed between the books and present day. The Last Campaign covers the 1948 race between Truman and Dewey. The Boys on the Bus covers the Nixon and McGovern race of 1972. Now we are in 2008 and the Obama/McCain race. Never before has technology played such a big part in a campaign.

Yet, we have to remember that television was brand new technology accessible only to some in 1948. And since it’s infancy at that point of campaigning, television, and then the Internet created a huge impact on how people view a campaign, and how a campaign is run—both by the press and the candidates.

In terms of the differences between the press in 1948 and 1972, one of the biggest changes in how the press approached a campaign was the introduction of “pack journalism”. When you have a whole group of reporters relying on one another for the lead, everybody is going to be saying the same thing. The public will only hear some of what is going on. The story will be the same from everyone.

In 1948, the press (reporters and radio commentators, mostly: as opposed to today’s network talking heads), would make forecasts regarding the campaign and give individual opinions about the campaign. The idea, too, that a newspaper could print the wrong election result is kind of mind boggling when you think about it today.

I feel that it is also important to think about the shifting mentality of manners that occurred between 1948 and 1972. The press in 1972 was more of a hardcore, boozing, gambling bunch. Picture Hunter S. on the campaign trail. There were a lot of folks similar to him and that impacted what got done as well.

As far as the candidates’ handling of a campaign, Truman and Dewey were still bringing their campaigns to the voters, on the whistle-stop train tours. Truman especially was quite adept at speaking to the issues to the people who came out to support him on his train tours. Fast forward to 1972 and all of a sudden, TV was bringing campaigns to the voters. So now, suddenly, the candidates had an image to present. Or better put, their staffs had an image to present, and more importantly, control. Every word could be captured and transmitted so much more easily and quickly with technical advances. A good handler was necessary to ensure that the candidates said it the right way, and looked right.

So those changes brings us to the present. Nobody rides a train anymore. The press pool flies along on airplanes with the candidates, and a video can be uploaded to the Internet within seconds. What will the press do next to cover campaigns? Will the candidates have more and more “handling” to do? I suspect yes. It’s already happened and will continue to happen.

 

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