Thursday, February 26, 2009

I Want My Twitter TV!!!

I have been an occasional user of Twitter for a couple years now. I have enjoyed reading the conversations. I have enjoyed the links, pics, and other media shared among the 100 + people I follow. But I am not yet satisfied. I am aware of the whole hashtag thing, but come on, is that the easiest solution out there?

I have eclectic tastes. I love politics. I am a news junkie. I am in to this whole social media thing. And I'm a new dad. But, I am not in to each of these things at the same time all the time. I want channels through which I can view the respective tweets of those I follow in each of these groups.

Better yet, don't make me build my own list of who to follow - I'm lazy. There are organizations associated with each of the topics of interest to me that I already trust. Given the openness of the Twitter API, why don't organizations start creating their own channels? Washington Post, CNN, etc - one of you should own the political Twitter channel, providing a widget of the more prominent political tweeters. A VC, TechCrunch, where's my VC / startup channel?

At the least, blog aggregation sites like HuffPo and Gawker should provide Twitter streams of their authors...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Social Media and US Diplomacy

Foreign policy is, “a set of goals outlining how the country will interact with other countries economically, politically, socially and militarily, and to a lesser extent, how the country will interact with non-state actors.”
Emerging new media channels are proliferating rapidly throughout the world. The catalyst of conversation is evolving, as the people are interacting in new and innovative ways given this emergence. Anyone can be a journalist by posting on a blog. Anyone can be a photojournalist by posting on Flickr, or other photo-sharing site. And user-generated video delivers breaking news. Even the microblogging site Twitter has had an impact in world affairs, with its coverage of the recent Mumbai attacks. The power of new media channels in shaping the grassroots conversation continues to grow with each instance of its effectiveness.

The image established of a particular policy initiative has always been determined in large part by the interactions that take place among the people. Historically, government officials have enjoyed the bully pulpit from which to drive these conversations. Television, and news agencies in particular, have had a strangle hold on driving these conversations, providing a relatively secure channel through which government officials can communicate their message. Few other resources for information or perspective were available outside this channel.

This is no longer the case. Even in more controlled nations, new media continues to penetrate and burrow holes in whatever veil of control the respective government seeks to establish. Thus, new media is an emerging channel that drives the conversation among the people.

Given this paradigm shift in the manner in which the conversation is shaped, a new opportunity has emerged through which diplomacy and foreign policy initiatives can be supported. New media is now a pivotal channel through which foreign policy is executed, whether or not a particular government shapes it. It is time the United States invested in leveraging this new channel to deliver upon its foreign policy.

I am not alone in this thinking - Victoria Esser's article on social media in the Politico provides additional support behind the idea of enlisting social media in US diplomatic efforts.
(T)he U.S. cannot afford to wait while these channels are perfected in order to direct them in service of President Barack Obama’s priority of renewing America’s global leadership. Indeed, Mr. Obama can use the themes and technologies that helped him generate huge grass-roots support in his presidential campaign to build support for America on the world stage.
As Clinton discovered and Obama exploited, social media is far more than just a new channel to communicate to your target audience. The interactive conversation that can be fostered allows for listening as well as talking, providing a wealth of opportunity with the right message and mix of tools to develop and move a community.

Control of the message is still paramount, but the control cannot come from restricting the tools or even the speakers. The control comes from having a solid, heartfelt message that lives and breaths in every dimension. Bill Clinton emulated his adoration for doing good by the American people despite his personal transgressions by drinking every opportunity he could to interact with and connect to everyday voters, carrying his image over those rough patches. Obama emulates his drive towards objectivity and constructive debate in everything he does, from not only allowing but enabling the conversation to continue far beyond his control. This is providing the cover necessary to thrive despite a few missteps in recent weeks.

Given Obama's positioning as being transparent and open, a strong social media strategy supporting these basic tenants could go along way in reparing the damange done in recent years to the US image abroad...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Tech to Disney to Obama: Theory on Leveraging the Organization

I am fascinated by the evolving interplay of entities, and how this interplay is enabling more productivity (often mirroring natural patterns). In this vein, I see parallels between the emerging methods of improving effectiveness of web-based software, Bob Iger's strategy that is driving recent successes at Disney, and Obama's "West Wing on steroids". Each is leveraging organizational structure in new and different ways in order to improve overall productivity.

Today web-based software must employ resources for others to build upon, enhance, tweak, and/or embed to allow the collective intelligence to grow the idea beyond what one person or one compay can do. I have written about this idea before.

In a story in the most recent Fortune (not yet online), Bob Iger's strategy at Disney to invest in brands that span across Disney's many businesses is chronicled. Take movies - family films under the Disney banner have a strong likelyhood of transferring from film to tv to merchandising and so on. However, even the larger hits fromDisney's Miramax and Touchstone production houses rarely grow revenue outside the division. Thus, he focuses on opportunities that can be amplified throughout the business. He is driving execution across the organization, greatly enhancing the profitability of single ideas / brands.

Obama seeks to enable strong leaders to manage issues that span across the various agencies of the Executive branch. "(P)roblems like global warming sprawl across several agencies, often requiring a sort of uber-Cabinet member – a czar – to confront them." Similar to Iger, he expects to tackle issues by attacking them head-on and across various agencies, holistically, instead of piece-by-piece.

Time will tell if Obama's efforts will be successful. But, given natural references, recent tech trends and Iger's success at Disney, the model has legs...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bureaucracy Kills Innovation: WH Friends, Fight the Process!

Anne Kornblut's article on what the Obama staff is encountering as they arrive to work is a little too kitchy, and misses a critical fundamental problem with our government bureaucracy - it is not designed to keep up with technological innovation.

David Almacy, former Internet Director under Bush laments:
"The White House itself is an institution that transitions regardless of who the president is," he said. "The White House is not starting from scratch. Processes are already in place."
With all due respect to David, it is precisely these processes that must be killed. This type of bureaucracy is in direct conflict with the continued expedience of technological innovation. As the speed with which innovations arise increases, more pressure is placed upon this conflict. Either the innovation will be stifled, or the bureaucracy must fall.

White House staff members must be able to use Facebook, as 80 million constiuents are there. They must be able to use their personal email accounts, as the personal continues to intertwine with the professional. And they must remain mobile and not be tied to desktop PCs.

Allowing this institutional b.s. to bar White House staff from the tools that have become the mainstay of the young urban professional will undoubtedly stifle the innovation and enthusiasm the campaign generated, and reduce the Executive Office of the President to little more than a democratic version of the Bush administration - surely not what the country needs right now...