Techie Stereotypes

I have been working on a campaign here in DC for about 2 months now, and boy do i feel the woes of an Internet Director. It is tough enough trying to get people to understand the importance of technology in organizing, but even tougher trying to get people to make a vested interest in it.

Here are a list of stereotypes I have heard, or have been placed upon me over the past couple of months:

1) “You know those techies. They get all sensitive when you want to change something they create. You got to stroke their ego so they feel appreciated.”

2) The internet is just a cool thing that people use.

3) The internet is worth making an investment in…when it doesn't interfere with any other more important work.

What are some of the stereotypes you have come across?

Facebook is over…what next?

In my opinion Facebook is the IT of social networking right now. They have provided much better tools for people to connect and communicate with their friends that Myspace has. Granted Myspace allows users to customize their profile pages very easily, it has become extremely commercialized, overrun by porn peddlers and Match.com ads.

But, for many, Facebook has also reached its time. In my opinion, I have not heard good reason as to why, but operating under the assumption that it is…what is next?

There are presently hundreds of social networking sites out there. I have created one myself: www.urbonics.org (I know, shameless plug). It is easy, anyone with the time and patience can launch a social networking site. Emerging sites such as Ning.com allow you to create your own social networking site within 5 minutes. It is just overwhelming.

I have yet to see a social networking site that has come along and will be able to knock out any of the giants (Myspace, Facebook, Youtube, etc.). There has just not been enough innovation in the way of these sites. You have some sites such as Ning.com and HelloWorld.com which come extremely close…but i just don't see it happening right now. Facebook is proving to be the 800 lb. guerilla in this war and doesn't seem to be budging.

VLogging, Local Politics, and the Technological Divide

I just returned from the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Meeting for ANC 2-C, and boy was it a mess. Commissioners Padro, Chapple, Brooks, Curtis and Thorpe were all at each others throats, and the constituents in the room were at their throats…it was a train wreck. Anyway, on to technology…

Prior to attending the meeting, I read an article on www.shawdc.com about two previous meetings (for the months of March and April) being canceled because Chairwoman Brooks did not want the meetings to be filmed. Whether that was the only reason is still to be determined, but, if true, it is interesting to see the lack of transparency that this commission had in not allowing their antics to be videotaped. Note: it is perfectly legal to videotape these hearings as long as the videographer has permission from the owner of the property.

As I walked into the conference room of the Africare House at 440 R St. NW, first thing I noticed were two men at the end of the table closest to the door settling up video cameras to their Mac Books…vLoggers! A local blogger over at www.offseventh.org was there ready to capture the hearing on tape. I felt the kindred spirits reading to rip the democratic process open to show the world what was really going on in our little dot on the map called Shaw.

So as the hearing carried on, and as tempers started to flair, the division in the room became evident: black divided from white, middle class divided from lower-income residents, and even old school residents from the new school residents. The undertones in peoples remarks were pretty evident, and the atmosphere became really uncomfortable. Out of all the comments made, two stuck out to me: an older woman stated “I am tired of reading all these negative blogs talking about the people of this community”; and another woman stating “we didn't all inherit mommy and daddy's money, some of us work…not all of us can afford computers.”

These comments followed comments made by Commissioner Thorpe to Brent Kruse of Shaw Main Streets, in which he, as well as others in the room, bashed the organization for being closed and not doing outreach to the community. People were frustrated that this organization has control over the businesses that go up on the 7th and 9th St. corridors, but they never invite people to their meetings. His repeated response was, “if you go to our website…”

My first inclination was to join in the Shaw Main Streets bashing, supporting the argument that not all residents have computers. But, i quickly became distracted by the two bloggers as well as some others in the back with cameras (all of which were the ones being called new comers), were yelling back places where people can get free Wi-Fi access or can use a computer with internet access. Again, there was that class divide.

I think as techies, we get trapped in a bubble. We are in this fantastic world where people are all about community and innovation, promoting things like open source, open API's, open ID, etc. We have vlogs, social networking sites, and Second Life. WE get so amazed by our world that we fail to realize that for the majority of America, this stuff doesn't exist.

Transparency in politics and society in general can truly be ichanged by technology. We have so many resources at our fingertips to hold people accountable and to fight for our rights as human beings. But, if we fail to respect other human beings in the conditions they are in and realize our world is not the only world, we fail to really use technology to change the world for the better.

A Lesson From the Right

I received this email from the Mitt Romney campaign today. I think this is the first i have gotten since i signed up on his list (which was a week ago). I usually get an email from campaigns every few days, but nothing from him for a week. That is impressive in the day in age where people feel you need an email every other day to get a message out.
I am not taken back by the format, but like the newsletter effect. It is good to see an email that doesn't ask me for money, to host a party or to take action in some way. The buttons are there, but that doesn't seem to be the main reason for this email. It's more of a “hey, here's what's happening' kind of thing.
This is something to learn from I think. While sitting in the NTC session on Effective E-Newsletters yesterday, I sat back and heard all these organizations talk about how their lists are shrinking or response rates are decreasing. The common sense answer that came out of the discussion is stop asking people for stuff all the time. Take the time to test your emails, survey your constituents to see what their interests are, and send content that they will be interested in and have people looking forward to the next email.
Oh, and please, please, stop sending out emails so much. 🙂

Viral Marketing=Social Networking???

I spent the past 90 minutes in a session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference about viral marketing in 2007. So i have discovered that Convio, Oxfam America, and some guy from a “social mapping” company (what is social mapping anyway?) don't really understand what viral marketing is. According to them, creating a Myspace page or campaign in conjunction with Myspace, send out an email or creating a cool map that shows you where your friend's live is viral marketing…WRONG!

Viral marketing is a method by which media coverage is obtained through the use of peer –to-peer marketing through pre-existing social networks, often times stemming beyond the initial network of people. The potential for growth is massive, replication can increase from dozens to millions with days. This is a very low cost and potentially high impact form of advertising that, if nothing else, with increase name recognition and game your organization points for creativity.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>1) Viral Email (Forward to a Friend)<!–[endif]–>

Viral email is a very popular form of viral marketing. An email can be forwarded to as many people your constituent wants with a click of the mouse. These emails cannot easily be tracked, and many services do not offer tracking at all.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>2) Viral Advertising<!–[endif]–>

Viral advertising refers to the spreading of advertisements through an uncontrolled means, such as forwarding emails, website content, etc. An example of this is the advertisements free email providers place at the bottom of your email when you send them out.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>3) Viral Fundraising<!–[endif]–>

Having constituents fundraise for your organization is another great way to raise money. Some organizations have allowed site users to create fundraising pages, and others have created matching donor programs. This can also be seen as another opportunity to push your organization’s message.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>4) Amateur/ Spoof Sites<!–[endif]–>

These are seemingly amateur websites that are created as a spoof on a mainstream company, product or service, which drives a message related to your organization. The URL is almost always something creative and easy to remember so people are more likely to come back to it.

<!–[if !supportLists]–>5) Astro Turfing<!–[endif]–>

Astro Turfing refers to a campaign with uses posts on social networking sites such as blogs and forums to spread the word of a product or service. This is great form of peer-to-peer advertising, but must be done with caution. If the posting is being done by mostly staff it can backfire and turn into negative publicity (ex. Edelman campaign in support of Wal-Mart).

<!–[if !supportLists]–>6) Multimedia <!–[endif]–>

These are videos, songs, games, etc. that people forward because they find them entertaining. These tend to have low response rates as far as converting the viewer into a email subscriber or donor.