Archive for the ‘Response Posts’ Category

Mobile Technology will Be Key In The Next Race To The White House

Barely six months into the new presidency and political strategists are already planning ahead for the 2012 elections. The 2008 elections saw technology and the Internet catapult a fairly unknown senator into the limelight  — and into the Oval Office.

“The game-changer in the Obama campaign…was that technology was not an add-on: It represented a carefully considered element of almost every critical campaign function,” says EchoDitto’s Michael Silberman.

According to an article on politicsmagazine.com, new technologies by 2012 will only serve to level the playing field, regardless of the candidate’s resources.

“The availability of low-cost video devices, video websites with social networking features and even mobile devices with one-button upload capabilities will allow voters more engagement. Campaigns will have the capacity to act or react, respond, pinpoint and address the questions that specific voters care most about.”

While sophisticated technology and innovative social media tools will be pivotal to the next elections, advanced mobile technology will probably have the most significant impact on the race to the White House.

The tech-savvy Obama team used mobile technology extensively during the 2008 elections — from iPhone applications to geo-targeted text messages — to connect with voters. However, technological advancements in mobile technology will completely revolutionize political campaigning in the future. Smart phones will get cheaper and more sophisticated. Like Moore’s law suggests: Computation gets twice as fast and half as cheap every two years. Mobile networks and platforms, too, will be more robust and cost-effective.

phoneMobile giving —  donations through cellphones, now restricted mainly to charitable organizations — may become an integral fundraising tool  for the next elections. Mobile phone owners may even be able to use their handsets to cast votes within the next few years.  Recruiting volunteers, organizing rallies and monitoring elections through mobile services will not be uncommon, too.

Digital content, social networks in particular, will increasingly be accessed — and distributed — through mobile devices. eMarketer forecasts that over 800 million people worldwide will be participating in a social network via their mobile phones by 2012, up from 82 million in 2007 — allowing users to actively engage with digital content.

Accessibility, speed and cost-effective mobile technology will equip the common man with tools to influence opinion — and drive change in the 2012 presidential race.

As Jonathan Spalter, Chairman of Mobile Future, puts it:

“Anyone involved in political organizing should look at the growth of mobile communication as the next Holy Grail of American and grassroots advocacy.”

Amen.

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The Changing Face of War

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If the ongoing conflict in Gaza is anything to go by, it’s clear that the definition of war has changed.

The battle grounds have shifted — and moved online. This time with new frontiers and shinier weapons.

Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are increasingly being used to express political views and rally support, while Second Life is the new gathering ground to protest attacks.

Israeli human rights group Gisha chose animation to raise consciousness about the difficulties facing Gazans who remain confined to the territory.

Last year, the Israeli military started its own YouTube channel to distribute footage of precision air strikes, while the Israeli consulate in New York hosted a press conference on Twitter to respond to questions from the public about Gaza.

But tweeting, according to a blog post on Wired, is passé.

“The latest social media advance combines tools like Twitter, text messaging, and online mapping to gather up first-hand reports, straight from Gaza. The effort, from Al Jazeera Labs, just got started; the reporting is still spotty, and the technology is very much in the testing phase. But the idea is for residents of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank to send quick updates about the conflict from their computers or mobile phones, through SMS or Twitter. The results are then verified, and posted to a Microsoft Virtual Earth map.”

Technology and the Internet have completely changed the face of this rapidly evolving “war of words.”

David Saranga, the head of media relations for the Israeli consulate, in New York says:

“Since the definition of war has changed, the definition of public diplomacy has to change as well.”

Public diplomacy or propaganda? You decide.


Surfing Singapore

As a sailor’s daughter, I had often heard colorful stories about Singapore — it has one of the world’s busiest ports. It is also a major international financial hub of the Far East. A lucrative business and tourist destination, the country — slightly more than 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC — has beckoned to me on more than one occasion.

I decided to track the pulse of the country — from 9,664 miles away — and there was no better place to find it than explore its blogosphere. I used  Global Voices Online, an international blog aggregation community, as my map to this foreign world.

Reading the blogs featured on Global Voices Online, it quickly became evident that the overarching topic was the downward spiraling economy and rising unemployment numbers. Bloggers offered opinions on everything from the social impact of the financial crisis to survival tips to cope with the global downturn.

One blogger writes:

“The recession contradicts Singapore’s reputation as a “safe haven” for global investors. In recent weeks, Singapore’s economic fundamentals have been exposed to be less than solid: inflation has worsened and income gap is rising. Job losses will affect Singapore’s migrant workers.”

Another blogger talks about unemployed foreign investment bankers flocking to Singapore — and driving their salaries down.

It was evident. The economy had not spared Singapore either. In fact, it was one of the first Asian countries to be hit. Exploring the international blogosphere does serve as an effective eye opener.

Take a look at some of the most talked-about topics on Singapore’s blogosphere. The size of the words indicate the frequency with which they are mentioned.

picture-111While most of the featured blogs discussed the recession, the Singapore blogosphere also revealed some very interesting — and varied — posts. One post discusses concerns about media owners using the Copyright Act to selectively strangle and silence the Singapore blogosphere. Another blogger shares her views on how the Merlion, Singapore’s national icon, has been desecrated over the years. One particularly irked blogger writes about why Singapore cannot succeed in the Arts just yet.

Surfing the country’s internet waves was not only fascinating but extremely informative as well. I learned that Singapore was ranked the 10th most expensive city in the world and it was also credited with being the most the most wired country in the world.

There is a treasure trove of information out there and thanks to the bridge bloggers I found on my sojourn, I will definitely be tapping into the international blogosphere more often.

As for migrating to Singapore? I think I’ll wait the recession out.

Wandering Wikipedia

Well, I’ll admit it. Editing a Wikipedia entry is not my favorite job. Figuring out how to edit a Wikipedia entry was relatively easy. Making the edits was difficult. Acutely aware of not trying to offend any Wikipedia-obsessed editors who were ‘watching’ the page I was editing, I made the changes I thought were required. I was careful to provide sufficient references, cite credible sources and ensure that I was adding useful information.editcut

Satisfied with my changes, I hit save and waited for the bloodbath to begin. As a first-time Wikipedia editor, I had been warned: the seasoned Wiki editors were ruthless.  To be fair, Wikipedia does warn you:

“If you don’t want your writing to be edited mercilessly or redistributed for profit by others, do not submit it.”

Five minutes later. Intact. Maybe the ‘wiki warriors’ were busy.

A few hours later. Untouched.

The next day. Miracle. It’s all still there.

Maybe they still hadn’t found my page.  Or maybe, I had managed to please the Wikipedia Gods.

Calling The Oval Office

A direct line to the Oval Office? Apparently, it’s possible.

Keeping his promise of running an open and more responsive White House, President Obama on Tuesday invited the public to use a new feature on WhiteHouse.gov called ‘Open for Questions’ to ask him economy-related questions and vote on other submitted questions.

“We’re going to take advantage of the Internet to to bring all of you to the White House to talk about the economy,” says President Obama in a video, now available on You Tube. On March 26, in a special “community-moderated online town hall,” the president will answer “some of the most popular questions.” The event will also be streamed live on on WhiteHouse.gov.

It will be interesting to watch the President and his new media team attempt to follow through on their promises of a more wired White House.

Jose Antonio Vargas of the Washington Post says: “Expect a herd of organized (and unorganized) Web users to stampede WhiteHouse.gov and make it a highly trafficked political hub over the next 48 hours.”

At the time of writing this post, 8,664 people had submitted 9,387 questions and cast 322,284 votes. The most popular question so far?

“As a student, who like so many others works full time and attends school full time, only to break even at the end of the month. What is the government doing to make higher education more affordable for lower and middle class families?
— James, Bloomington, Indiana

According to Techcrunch, the White House will use Google Moderator to determine which questions President Obama should answer on Thursday.

While the “experiment” is definitely a welcome move towards transparency and accountability, it does raise concerns about how questions will finally be selected and the possibility that this kind of voting system may allow the weakest questions to  rise to the top.

There’s no doubt, however, if used effectively, this is a great way to engage the online community.  This is an opportunity for us to ask some tough and relevant questions.

Let’s hope we get more than just old boilerplate in return.

Wikipedia: Trust But Verify?

I admit. Wikipedia is usually my first stop when I’m looking for information. The fact that its entries are often also the first result in a Google search may also have something to do with it. But let me add that it never serves as my main or only source of information. Wikipedia is an incredibly large repository of information and can help as a roadmap for any research.

wikipedia5I use Wikipedia more for background research and basic information than as a source or to verify facts. What I like about Wikipedia is that it sometimes leads me to a wealth of new information — and more reliable and authoritative sources.

There is definitely value in the collective knowledge, power and wisdom of the community. However, the fact that the Wikipedia entries can be edited by anyone – and is often misused by vandals and trolls – does warrant some caution. Tools like WikiTrust and Wikidashboard help in increasing transparency and evaluating the trustworthiness of entries on Wikipedia.

While the information on encyclopedias like Britannica – vetted and reviewed by industry experts – may seem more credible, Wikipedia’s strengths include timeliness and a much more comprehensive coverage.

Interestingly, in a move towards increased transparency, openness — and web traffic, Britannica, primarily a paid service, is now tapping the power of the community by letting users contribute and edit content. Wikipedia, on the other hand, is tightening the reins on its user-generated content and may introduce ‘flagged revisions‘ to ensure greater accuracy for its users. It will be interesting to watch how these changes play out in the battle between Wikipedia and Britannica.

While it is not without faults, Wikipedia enjoys immense popularity because it successfully harnesses collective intelligence.

Like James Surowiecki says in the Wisdom of Crowds:

“The idea of the wisdom of the crowds is not that a group will always give you the right answer but that on average it will consistently come up with a better answer than any individual will provide.”

First Impressions Of A Second Life

I was going to do it. I was ready to take the plunge. Hell, I could use a break from my first life.

So I did.

Meet Desdemona Breen. My virtual counterpart who timidly ventured into the ever-evolving world of Second Life, unsure of what — or who — to expect.

My first feeling in Second Life was that of complete disorientation. After crashing into random billboards, walking through other avatars, (creepy!) and running into pretty much everything that came my way, I decided to, ahem, fly.

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That was fun until I got lost over the ocean. That’s when Princess Zena-lookalike  came to my rescue and offered to ‘teleport’ me. I gleefully accepted her invitation only to find myself in what I can only describe as the seedy alleys of Second Life.

Several panic attacks and three teleportations later, I was relieved to find myself on the mainland again – thanks to a very helpful Olivier (who also threw in a lesson on how to teleport myself!). I decided I was not taking any chances of getting teleported by ‘helpful’ strangers and began looking for my own destinations.

Call me a geek, but I typed in ‘Apple’ in the nifty search bar and teleported myself to the unofficial Apple Store. It was eerily similar to the real thing. I looked around at the rainbow-colored nanos, sat at the genius bar and even browsed through the mac books! It was unreal. I can see why companies might want to invest in building a presence on Second Life. It’s a cool way of letting customers browse through your products just like they might do in the real world.

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Realizing — much like in my first life — that I could not afford any of the Apple products, I began exploring some of the other islands on Second Life. I searched for CNN‘s island.

Just as CNN asks its real-life audience to submit I-Reports, its Second Life counterpart encourages residents to share their own “SL I-Reports about events occurring within the virtual world.”

CNN’s in-world I-Report hub includes a news desk where CNN producers hold weekly editorial discussions, and an amphitheater for larger in-world events, such as training sessions and appearances by CNN anchors and correspondents.

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It was fun to look around, sit at the the news desk, browse the kiosks and fly around the island looking for other SL I-reporters. It was all very fascinating but I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I suddenly missed those annoying online customer reps that pop up to ask if you need help. In Second Life, you’re at the mercy of strangers.

I decided I had enough of navigating the shadowy corners of the virtual world for a day. I graciously excused myself from the island and typed a polite goodbye in my ‘local chat’ window.

I doubt anyone noticed. My first life was beginning to seem a lot more appealing.

While my first experience in Second Life swung from being creepy to boring to completely overwhelming, I won’t write it off just yet.

Perhaps when I’m feeling brave enough, I might venture out again.

This time, can someone please teleport me to freebie land?

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