10 ways you can tap the value of the Delicious community

With the news that Delicious has indeed been acquired, and will thus survive, this blog post really deserved a follow-up hurray!! On a practical note, I also encourage anyone who uses Delicious — or has ever used Delicious, and might want to access those bookmarks again someday — to login and update your account before the end of the month. You need to accept the new user agreement so that your bookmarks are preserved when Delicious transfers to its new owners.

The announcement that Yahoo! is trying to sell Delicious may sound like good news to those of us who panicked when the rumor of a shut-down emerged yesterday. As I write today on the Harvard Business Review site, there is a lot at stake not only for Delicious users, but for all those who contribute to or participate in social web sites.

Look over the past 24 hours online, however, and you’ll see why this late-breaking news does not resolve the question of what’s going to happen to Delicious. Faced with the prospect of the social bookmarking service being shut-down Delicious users have been swirling around Twitter and the blogosphere, exchanging opinions about which bookmarking service to migrate to, and tips about how to export or back up your bookmarks. It all reminds me of the scene at the end of Fiddler on the Roof, when the Jews have been chased out of their village and are comparing notes on their new destinations, knowing all the while that they’ll never again see the friends and family they’ve known all their lives. But Rob points out that this observation takes me dangerously close to Godwin’s law, so I’ll walk it back and focus instead on the real stakes of the delicious (non)decision.

So what’s the big deal about a prospective delicious shut-down? After all, delicious has always had a robust option for exporting your bookmarks (one of the reasons I’ve always recommended it!) and there are at least a half-dozen credible alternatives for storing your favorite links. And social bookmarking isn’t what it once was: as I wrote almost a year ago, Twitter has displaced Delicious as the primary way I share URLs or find new sites to check out.

But Delicious is still a crucial part of my life online, and the ways I use it say a lot about what makes it uniquely valuable, and hard to replace:

  1. Bookmark storage: It’s true that these days, I rarely store a bookmark directly on Delicious. Instead, I use packrati.us and tweecious to automatically Delicious any link I tweet. Using Twitter search to find that link I shared months ago is all but impossible, but I can usually find it by searching through my own Delicious bookmarks.
  2. Research: Want to jailbreak your iPhone so you can install non-Apple-approved apps? Good luck using Google to find the most trustworthy options. Use delicious to search on “iphone jailbreak” and you can quickly see the approaches that have been bookmarked most frequently (though not as quickly as you used to, since it’s no longer possible to see the most popular bookmarks for a tag intersection [jailbreak+iphone]).
  3. Synchronization: As much as I love Delicious, sometimes it’s nice to have my bookmarks accessible from my browser’s own bookmarks menu. Xmarks syncs Delicious bookmarks to Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Explorer, so that you can have the same user experience you would with your browser’s bookmark system — except backed up online and available in all your other browsers, too. And it’s only one of many such options: you can find Delicious synchronization tools for just about any browser.
  4. Private link collection: I know this sounds improbable, but occasionally I do things online that I don’t want to share with the entire world. The Delicious “make private” option makes it useful in ways Twitter can never be. For example, this week I was doing research on a client project, and bookmarked a bunch of academic articles; if I made those links public it would be very obvious what I’m working on, so I create a private collection of bookmarks that I can refer to in my confidential work.
  5. Social media monitoring: My Google Reader account includes subscriptions to a number of Delicious feeds, and my iGoogle homepage — which I refresh throughout the day — prominently displays both the Delicious hotlist (links that lots of people are storing right now) and the latest nptech bookmarks (nonprofit tech resources) as a way of keeping on top of the latest news. When I set up clients and colleagues with RSS readers, I always encourage them to track the key Delicious tags in their field as a way to crowdsource the job of staying up-to-date.
  6. Content aggregation: Over the years I’ve set up a number of sites that use a Delicious RSS feed to add related links of interest; it’s even possible to configure a website to choose relevant links for specific pages by comparing the subject of a blog post with related tags on Delicious. And you can limit those inbound links to just the bookmarks you or your team have stored personally.
  7. Blogging and tweeting: When I first started blogging, I set up a system that let me use Delicious to automatically post short blog posts simply by adding a description to a bookmark and tagging it with a specific tag that got aggregated onto my blog. I later set up a similar system that let me automatically tweet a link by tagging it “tweetthis”, though that was superceded by Delicious integrating a tweeting option directly into their posting interface.
  8. Networking: If you store a lot of bookmarks with a particular tag or two, and keep an eye on the global collection of all bookmarks that use that same tag, you’ll start to notice other Delicious users who consistently use those same tags. Following their bookmarking habits is a great way to keep up with resources in your field, and also a great way to identify experts on a particular topic (yet another way journalists could use Delicious).
  9. Inbox preservation: Nothing clutters up your inbox faster than colleagues who e-mail you individual web links. We’ve long used Delicious to share links instead; all someone has to do to share a link with me is to tag it “for:awsamuel”.
  10. Collaboration: Choosing a tag to use with a group of colleagues is a great way to build up a common resource collection. When I teach a workshop on social media, I often select a unique tag as a way of building a content collection that students can then access, like Web 2 and You. And I have encouraged many companies, organizations and sectors to choose a tag they can all use as a mechanism for lightweight knowledge sharing.

As you can see from the list above, there’s a lot to Delicious beyond simply storing your bookmarks. Yes, I can set up shop on a new social bookmarking platform, but it will be hard for these to match what Delicious offers today.

And yet the same factors that make Delicious hard to replace also mean that the past 24 hours have done possibly irrevocable damage. That’s because so much of the value of Delicious comes from the size of its user base.  Because Delicious has been way bigger than its rivals, it’s become a de facto standard. That means you can usually bet that any colleague who is bookmarking their favorite sites online is doing so with Delicious, and if you’re asking colleagues to start using a bookmarking system so that you can share knowledge, it’s reasonable to suggest Delicious as your common platform. In the absence of a leading option it’s not obvious how you could encourage a group of collaborators to converge around a common tool, let alone search a particular bookmarking site and expect its most popular bookmarks to reflect the leading expertise in any field.

The other reason the large Delicious user base has been so important is because it’s encouraged the growth of a large developer community. It’s the ecosystem of developers who create Delicious plug-ins, apps and extensions that ensure there’s usually a tool — like packrati.us and tweecious — to do whatever I need to keep my Delicious collection working. How many? Well, you can get a sense by looking at any of the collections of Delicious add-ons that made my top 10 list. That large collection of developers is partly the result of a solid API, and partly the result of Delicious starting out with a very developer-friendly culture and aesthetic. But the large user base is certainly the overwhelming driver.

If it still seems like no big deal to replace Delicious with another social bookmarking tool, just imagine what would happen if Twitter or Facebook vanished. Yes, you could still find another social network that would help you keep track of your friends — but how would you know where to look? What would it be like to keep track of your high school pals on one network, your colleagues in your current field on another network, your conference collaborators on a third, and so on? The fragmentation would greatly diminish the value of that networking feature. And the fragmentation of the social bookmarking community will do just as much to diminish the value of sharing bookmarks.

Yes, it’s great news that Delicious will (hopefully) be sold rather than dismantled. But the damage has already been done. By leaving the rumor undisputed for a full day, Yahoo! has precipitated the beginning of an exodus that will see many Delicious users migrate to other sites. As they (we!) test out Pinboard, Diigo and the like — all while wondering whether Delicious is going to stick around — many Delicious users will simply drift away from the platform.

That’s not only bad news for a prospective sale — the value of Delicious is surely much lower than it was 24 hours ago — but bad news for us, the users. Our bookmarking ghetto has already started to break up, and many of our friends, colleagues and neighbors have already moved to a new world.

Originally published December 17, 2010.

25 rules of social media netiquette

You can’t.
You should.
You must.
Never…
Always…These are the kind of declarative statements that Internet users love to make about how to behave online. No surprise, then, that the do’s and don’ts of online conversation got codified early on in what was soon known as “netiquette”. The term netiquette, attributed to Apple’s Chuq von Rosbach, first appeared in 1983. And by then its tenets were already well-established, as documented in Emily Post for Usenet.

The old rules of netiquette

Reviewing that 1983 post, as well as other early and canonical descriptions of  netiquette, it’s striking how much has stayed the same.  Here is the original list of netiquette rules first circulated in 1983, with recent quotes making the same points in social media terms:

1. Put all items in an appropriate group.

Don’t abuse your network – Use your network the right way. Don’t post how your day is going to your network all day long. It’s unprofessional and quite frankly, unnecessary. If you must post something, post something of significance that your network can actually use, like a great social media link you just found or some sort of tip, advice or quote you find significant.

— Nathan Kievman, Social Media Etiquette: 10 Commonly Overlooked Best Practices in Social Media

2. Reply via mail.

[Violation:] Using your Twitter feed as a chat room for conversations that are exclusive in nature and not as a broadcast medium. It’s nice that Twitter empowers you to use the @ symbol to talk directly to individuals, and that’s fine in moderation. As a friend recently said to me, “I’m tired of my Twitter feed being a [private]conversation between person X, person Y, and person Z.” Why don’t the three of you get a room?

— Tamar Weinberg, The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook: The Most Egregious Sins on Social Media Sites, Exposed

3. Exhibit care in preparing items.

poster: Google before you tweet is the new think before you speak

— From i love typography

4. Read followups.

If someone asks you a question don’t ignore them. If they are trying to strike conversation respond back to them because that is how you become a good social media user. If you have been doing this for a while remember that you were there once in those shoes when you were trying to get going.

— Nick Stamoulis, Social Media Communication Etiquette Tips

5. Don’t be rude or abusive.

Don’t be a Keyboard Gangsta: Probably the worst thing about the Internet is the keyboard gangstas. You’ve surely run across at least one of these in your lifetime. They sit at their keyboard talking trash to everyone they encounter. They say things online that they would never have the nerve to say to a real person’s face. Don’t try to ruin everyone else’s online experience because you don’t have any friends in real life.

The 11 rules of social media etiquette on Digital Labz

6. Avoid sarcasm and facetious remarks.

Treat others how you want to be treated. Reciprocal good manners ensure that Facebook doesn’t become another MySpace.

Facebook Netiquette: How to use this social media tool

7. Use descriptive titles.

Fill out the Subject line properly. People want to know immediately what your E-mail is about. Help them out by filling out the subject line with the proper text. Not only does this make it easier for people to refer to or go through your messages; it also reassures them that you’re not a spammer selling potency pills or a bank representative in South Africa out to deceive unsuspecting recipients. You can even use this field to your advantage and write irresistible subject lines that will definitely boost your E-mail campaign.

Email Etiquette in the Time of Social Media

8. Cite references.

Don’t make claims that cannot be guaranteed. Social media is a place to be honest and truthful. “The fact is, rumors and sensational posts may send readers flocking to you at first, but dishonesty and irresponsible behavior will ultimately come back to haunt you.” Libert recommends waiting an hour (or even a day) before you send that sensational message into the public domain.

—  Social Media Netiquette: Online Manners Worth Remembering

9. Summarize the original item in followups.

Personalized comments show authors that you’re genuinely interested in what they have to say, and that you actually took the time to read what they wrote. This doesn’t mean you need to write a long comment, just be sure to articulate why you felt compelled to say something in the first place. Did you learn something new? Did you have a similar experience? Do you want to voice a different perspective? Quote the author directly if you need to clarify what specific sentences you’re responding to.

Are you well-versed in comment etiquette?

10. In posting summaries of replies, summarize.

Twitter has a built-in RT function that gives the original poster credit, but it is more insightful to rewrite the tweet and include a short comment on the content.

— Social Media Etiquette Series, part II: Twitter

11. Be as brief as possible.

Don’t cram too much into your updates. Remember the old advertising maxim – sell the sizzle, not the sausage. You want to share a tip or an idea, not flip your reader’s mind open and fill it full of every last detail you know on your subject. Give your readers a reason to come back tomorrow for more – keep it simple and light. If someone wants highly specialised information, they will know how to contact you for private consultation – and that’s the aim of the whole excercise.

10 Vital Netiquette Writing Tips for Social Media

12. Don’t submit items berating violators of these rules.

Ignore the idiots: This is key. When you participate in social media, you will get spammed, criticized, and even bullied or abused. Learn to ignore trolls…or at minimum, develop a bit of a thicker skin.

Etiquette in Social Media

13. Don’t make people read the same thing more than once.

Social Media should not be updated more times then the amount of glasses of water you drank today. Some people are going to need to up their water intake! – Social Media Etiquette at Go 4 Pro Photos

The new rules of netiquette

Even surprising is how muchhas changed: the basics of netiquette, as consolidated by the end of the last century, really don’t address the full range of social challenges that we face in the era of social media. So here are some of the new rules of netiquette that pop up in post after post:

14. Put your best foot forward.

Make sure that you project the image that you want to present to people at all times. – The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Social Media Etiquette

15. Be authentic.

Do be a real person-you have a life other than your company- share it.

Are you using social media etiquette?

16. Be generous.

Contribute something. We’ve all seen those forum posters who just agree mindlessly with everyone to get their signature line with its flashing links out there. Don’t be that person. Instead, take the time to really offer some value and make yourself useful to others. They will come back for more.

7 rules of social media netiquette

17. Don’t ask people to shill for you.

I will tweet your stuff, on occasion. Stuck for some comments and you know (and I mean KNOW) me, then feel free to DM me about it but can we just stop with expecting me to just retweet your promotional stuff or giveaway?

Blogging Etiquette: 7 ways to annoy friends in social media

18. Don’t mass-message people.

“When someone sends a Facebook message to you and 30 other people and you’re constantly getting replies from a ton of people you probably don’t know … I feel all popular, like I’m getting all these personal messages, but that’s not the case at all!”

— Christina Schroeter, Family of the Year, quoted in 10 social media pet peeves from SXSW musicians

19. Link to sources.

If you quote someone, you need to link. If you’re only quoting a small section from another blogger’s post, you don’t need their permission to do so. However, you should link back to their original post. Not only is this proper blog etiquette, but it can also be used to your advantage.

The 5 Rules of Blog Etiquette

20. Invite with care.

Don’t send friends invitations without a proper introduction – they don’t know who you are in most cases and they shouldn’t guess.

Social media net etiquette: good behavior applies here too

21. Friends are optional.

You’re not obligated to follow/friend anyone. No matter what. Not even your mother.

Chris Brogan, an Insider’s Guide to Social Media Etiquette

22. Don’t creep.

Please don’t follow people around on the social Web like a lost puppy. It really is rather creepy. Unless you’re best buds, no one wants to see you not only on Facebook and Twitter but also on all of their niche social sites ranging from crocheting to auto body repair.

Social Media Etiquette: 20 Dos and Don’ts to Avoid Looking Like An Ass

23. Don’t tag your friends’ (bad) photos.

Not everybody can look attractive from every angle but that doesn’t mean you should take this opportunity to highlight the angle that doesn’t work. Even worse is that you continue to tag everybody else that’s in the unattractive photo so that it can be circulated among all our friends. If you want to quickly damage your relationship, go find the most unattractive photo of your friend and tag them in it. Don’t be surprised when you end up unfriended for doing it!

How to violate Facebook etiquette and piss off your friends

24. Don’t be an egomaniac.

If you have a business, a blog,  or something you are selling, promote OTHERS more than you promote yourself. The rule of thumb is 10:1. For every one thing you say to promote yourself you should say 10 things NOT about yourself.

Social Media Etiquette/Netiquette on Fauxology

25. Don’t confuse strategy with netiquette.

Interestingly, many of the recent blog posts I read on social media “netiquette” are more accurately described as guidance on social media strategy. Strategy is about achieving a communications, business or organizational goal (like getting people to like or talk about your brand). Netiquette is about being considerate of other people in a way that supports a healthy ecosystem of conversation. When we confuse strategy with netiquette we lose sight of our interest in being respectful to people as a consideration that ought to outweigh any other commercial or operational goal.

Emergent

Some netiquette rules are still written in pencil. Some of the  netiquette “rules” I discovered in my travels are recommendations I either disagree with, or see violated regularly. For example:

Use a different profile or account for your personal connections. Business and pleasure do not mix in this medium.

Top 12 Rules of Social Media Etiquette

The Off-limits Rule. Opinions on politics, religion, personal attacks, and controversial subjects that could cause embarrassment to others should not be put on the public Internet. When in doubt, don’t. You will lose friends and followers quickly.

Top 10 Rules of Netiquette for Social Media

Your mobile phone isn’t an accessory. While on a date or in a business meeting,  it’s not polite nor smart to place it on the table. Save your tweets and texts for later.

Rules of Netiquette

Rules like these offer a useful reminder that netiquette, and especially social media netiquette, is far from written in stone. This is a new world, and we’re inventing the rules together. Let’s try not to get so outraged when we discover some people are playing by a different rulebook.

10 ways you can help to build the Internet

On November 22, 1977 a van drove onto Interstate 280 and into history. Most histories of the Internet begin with the ARPANET, the US Defense department network that gave birth to today’s Internet. But the true Internet began when that van used TCP to bridge between three networks: ARPANET, a satellite network and a packet radio network. It’s this networking of networks — or internetworking — that first demonstrated the future Internet.

It was only in 1996 that this moment was recognized for its historical significance, and in 2007 it was celebrated with a special event at the Computer History Museum. Reflecting on those early days of the Internet, Vint Cerf — part of the original van crew, and by 2007 the chief Internet evangelist for Google, was quoted in a news story as saying: “A lot of people think the Internet just happened. But it was a lot of hard work.”
Cerf may have been speaking in the past tense, but the work isn’t done: new technologies and standards are developed all the time. And these are still early days: of the 2 billion people online today, only half were online in 2006. You can reckon that we’ve still got lots of growth ahead, not just in how many of us are online but in what we do there and how we do it.

Map shows connections made by SRI packet van experiment

Network map for packet van demonstration

When Cerf and his collaborators took to the Interstate, the hard work of creating the Internet was best left to the programmers. Today, thanks largely to social media, user-generated content and the emergence of the programmable web, you can help to create the Internet without writing a single line of code. You can help create the online world in which you and your children are going to live. You can take on some of that hard work. Here’s how:

 

  1. Tithe your time online. The Internet is not a religion (usually) but it is a community. The same way that members of a religious community might contribute 10% of their income to the church, members of the Internet community can contribute 10% of their time online to the health of the network itself. If the average American now spends 13 hours a week online, that means dedicating about 80 minutes to the kinds of active contributions described in this list.
  2. Be a good colonist. I wanted to tell you that you’re the Columbus of the Internet, but let’s face it, the Columbus thing didn’t work out too well for a whole lot of people. So do Columbus one better: as you help to discover this new world of the Internet, do it without the evangelizing, land-stealing and disease-spreading. Get to know and appreciate what already exists online and think about how to add to it. Try not to bulldoze anything (or anyone) who is already there.
  3. Make a node. The Internet is not a series of tubes. It’s a series of nodes and connections. You can make one of those nodes by creating your own blog or web site. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be useful or interesting to at least one other person.
  4. Aim for 49%. That’s the maximum amount of your online energy that should go into promoting the Brand of You. (If you think you can keep it to 48%, or maybe even want to be a human being instead of a brand, so much the better.) The other 51% can go to talking about other people and ideas and maybe even to just listening. This is the hard work of building an Internet that is not simply a monument to narcissism.
  5. Make a connection. Remember how the Internet is both nodes and connections? That’s not just a description of the Internet’s underlying architecture: it’s also a description of the way it connects information and people. You can make a connection between two pieces of information by posting a hyperlink: that is the most basic level at which the Internet connects something over here to something over there. Or you can make a connection between two people by introducing them via e-mail, tweet or blog post.
  6. Tell us how you did it. If you’ve ever been delighted to find a tech solution, recipe or business tip online, you know that a big part of the Internet’s value is the help it provides on just about any topic. You can help make our global repository of how-to information as complete as possible, by sharing the step-by-step version of how you’ve done something. It could be how to got your kid to sleep through the night, how to set up an RSS to email newsletter, or how to perform an emergency tracheotomy. Write (or photograph, or video) how you did it, and put it online.
  7. Report a problem. People often say that one of the Internet’s strengths is that it is self-healing. For example, if someone writes something incorrect on a Wikipedia page, somebody else will correct it. But as that example suggests, the Internet isn’t self-healing: it’s healed by the active participation of people who take the time to correct a mistake or solve a problem. And the first step to solving a problem is knowing it’s there. Whether it’s taking a moment to report a Twitter spammer, capturing a screenshot of an error message and sending it to the site in question, or letting someone know that you got a 404 on their blog, reporting a problem can help keep the Internet shipshape. If they don’t know it’s broke, they can’t fix it.
  8. Answer a question. How long to wait before sending a follow-up email when submitting a résumé? How do the Chinese concept of the self differ from the Western view of the self? How can I install Plex on my AppleTV? If the Internet now has 2 billion users, you can figure it’s got at least that many questions. Answer one every week.
  9. Add an issue to your basket. Political scientists like to talk about the “basket of preferences”: the assortment of positions on a range of issues that determine how a given person votes or engages in other kinds of political action. If your basket of preferences currently includes (let’s say) lower taxes, the legalization of gay marriage and stronger controls on carbon emissions, consider adding an Internet-related issue to your basket. It might be online privacy or net neutrality or Internet freedoms in China. Pick an issue and help to shape the policy environment for the Internet by voting or volunteering for politicians who champion that issue, by supporting lobbying efforts, or by engaging in direct action.
  10. Make something. I know, I know: you’re not a programmer. Neither am I. But you can actually help develop some part of the Internet’s technical assets, whether that’s by creating a customized widget or documenting a web application or making (and sharing) a pipe. Try it out and you will feel like a super stud. And you will feel just a little bit more part of the team that is making the Internet.

If you’re the kind of person who has always dreamed about moving into fully finished, fully furnished home, with everything supplied down to the last washcloth and spoon, then by all means sit this one out and let the rest of us do the hard work. But if you’re the kind of person who’s always dreamed about designing and building your own home, then roll up your sleeves: you’re going to be living a big chunk of your life online, and you get to help decide what that living space will look like.

And if you’re the kind of person who has always dreamed of living in a van…well, the Computer History Museum has just the place.

Coming to terms with groupness, on- and offline

I crave community. Not just in the online community, social media, Facebook group kinda way, but in the old-fashioned, meatspace, city-and-neighborhood way. When I go to a party and run into two different friends who turn out to know each other in some unrelated way, I get a rush from feeling the world circling tighter around me. When I go to a meetup or a conference and get to hang out with a bunch of colleague/friends (we really need a new word for that hybrid) and talk about the work we all do and love, I feel recharged by a sense that I’m part of a larger group of people who are working on something together. And when I have a great day at the office, it’s not because I wrote something great or learned something fascinating or got something done; it’s because I spent time with someone who made me feel like I’m part of a community at work, too.

Yet for all that I love community, I am deeply ambivalent about belonging to one. When I’m around Americans I cling to my Canadian passport; when I’m around Canadians I like to mention that I’m also American. When I’m in a mommies’ group I talk about my work and when I’m at a work event I talk about my kids. It’s no coincidence that I’m a women’s studies major who has landed in a field that ensures I spend most of my time around men; I’m a political scientist who is working in an art school; I’m a TV junkie but I surround myself with friends who eschew cable. I love community groups; what makes me uneasy is groupness.

I got to thinking about groupness while attending a recent conference at a relatively intimate retreat centre. The conference was a gathering of progressives, and one of the core themes of our conversation was the deleterious impact of groupness in our society. Groupness is how we solidify our individual identities; social psychology tells us that people who have multiple overlapping identities (i.e. all of us) typically identify with the group that provides them with a positive, socially valued group identity. In other words, as a white woman in nonprofit tech, I’ll identify as white rather than as female, and as a techie rather than a nonprofit person, because our society rewards being white and techie more than being female and in nonprofit work.

The problem, as that example suggests, is that we use our groupness to reinforce our identity by implicitly or explicitly separating ourselves from the people who aren’t part of the group. A great deal of progressive thought focuses on analyzing and addressing the dynamics and impact of the ways we separate ourselves from others: by race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, et cetera. And the progressive gathering I attended took up that conversation, talking about the impact of groupness, and in particular other-ing, on a variety of contemporary social issues.

What happened, as that conversation unfolded, is something I’ve observed at lots of progressive and alternative gatherings over the years. Day 1: we establish some explicit rules and rituals around how to converse and engage (moments of silence, shoes off, phones off). Day 2: the group spawns some spontaneous practices and norms (de facto expectations for particular issue positions, finger-snapping instead of clapping, group jokes about recurring phrases). Day 3: the spontaneous practices of day 2 have solidified into informal rules with near-universal adoption, and defection occurs only silently rather than as an explicit challenge or critique (i.e. you don’t have to snap, but it feels weird to clap).

Day 3 is the day that somebody like me gets itchy. Day 3 is when I realize that I’m now enveloped by a group, and I’ve got to decide whether to belong or squeeze my way outside. Usually I squeeze. It’s not an intellectual decision…it’s more like a tempermental leaning, a deep aversion to orthodoxy that triggers a flight reaction whenever I find myself on the verge of absorption into some kind of formal, informal or even purely temporarily collective.

This time, when I got the itchies, I found myself wondering how the groupness and the urge to squeeze out had emerged so quickly. After all, we were all talking about groupness, problematizing the social phenomenon that separates self from other, and generally talking all the talk that would make you think orthodoxy would never set in. And yet it took less than 48 hours for us to land on the usual leftie grab-bag of finger-snapping, silence-making, feeling-talking and a whole host of other behaviours that would be hugely alienating to many newcomers to progressive culture.

There are a few ways you could look at the contrast between our talk about groupness “out there” in the real world, and our practice of creating groupness “in here” at the retreat centre. One is to tsk tsk and observe that as progressives, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, and break this terrible habit of groupness and other-ing that got us into the whole modern pickle in the first place: the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. Another perspective might defend the emergence of groupness among a collection of people who were actually remarkable heterogenous, and argue that the development of group rituals and boundaries is actually essential to the creation of solidaristic ties, and argue that groupness is fundamentally different and therefore acceptable in this particular context.

As ever, I land somewhere in between — you won’t catch me committing to one camp or the other. I do think that groupness among a bunch of finger-snapping lefties is fundamentally different from groupness among a bunch of gay-bashing righties. I do think that lefties still need to be a bit more self-aware about their groupness, and be conscious that in embracing collective rituals under the banner of solidarity and community-building, we can be othering people in our midst….including people like me, who get itchy once groupness emerges, but also including people whose reaction may have more to do with lack of familiarity or comfort with the various social practices of progressive culture.

But most of all, I think we need to be gentler with ourselves and our fellow citizens in criticizing groupness as it exists out there, in the big bad world. If the tendency toward groupness is so ubiquitous, and so urgent, that it emerges within 48 hours of sequestering a group of progressives, then maybe it’s just fundamental to human nature. Recognizing that human urge to clump could help us understand, relate to and even converse with the clumps that seem most mystifying (Tea Party members, right-to-lifers, Twilight fans) instead of jumping straight to our critique of whatever banded them together. Once we stop rejecting the need for groupness as intrinsically bad, we can begin to explore the constructive ways that the need for groupness can be satisfied.

And it seems that satisfying the need for groupness is one of the things the Internet does incredibly well. One of my favourite, strangely touching moments online was when I got into a chat with a guy in Second Life who had met his true love there. The guy I was talking to was dressed up as a wolf…which it turns out is something he also enjoys offline. The guy he fell in love with was a fellow computer nerd and um, mascot aficionado (what the kidz call “furries”). I for one LOVE the fact that lonely, nerdy, furry gay guys can now find each other online, because the Internet can actually offer groups and meeting places specifically for lonely, nerdy, furry gay guys. To me, the happiness of these guys represents a major triumph for the human race.

Because each of us has some way in which we’re the lonely, nerdy, furry gay guy: you know, the extreme outlier who feels like he’s just got to be the Only Person Like This In The Entire World….until he finds a whole Facebook group, Twitter list, Second Life gathering or e-mail list full of soul-mates. In the offline world, we’d be the Only Person forever, because while the offline world does a not-bad job of making groupness available on the basis of whichever identities are most common (or most dominant) in the location where you presently reside, in practice, that means that positive ascriptive identity (groupness that makes you feel good about who you are because you’re part of a socially valued dominant group) is available only to a limited number of people.

The online world, in comparison, makes groupness available on the basis of just about any identity or interest you can think of. If you’re skeptical, then I challenge you to think of whatever identity you can possibly imagine, and then Google it: I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll find a blog or a Facebook group or a something dedicated to that group identity. (If you prove me wrong, I’ll offer you membership in the coveted group of People Who Have Proven Me Wrong. I’m afraid it’s not that small a group.)

It might seem ironic that I’m championing the Internet as an outlet for groupness when I began by admitting my unease with groupness of all sorts. I mean, if I hate groups so much, why do I spend so much damn time in a medium that is all about grouping, clumping, and re-grouping?

The answer lies in my point about how the Internet can accommodate just about any group you can imagine — including identities like mine, as an avowed non-grouper. Unlike face-to-face groups, which enforce their boundaries with varying degrees of aggression (ranging from social discomfort with noncomformity, to outright violence) online groups have very elastic membership. You can join a Facebook group and trade updates with your friends every hour, or you can “belong” to the community of a blog that you read voraciously but comment on only occasionally.

And your experience of groupness will be almost perfectly proportional to your investment in and engagement with the group. If you want a strong sense of membership in a particular collective identity that you find online, you can participate a lot and solidify your membership in both your own eyes and others’. If you get itchy when you feel too grouped-in, you can contribute occasionally but still have access to (mostly) the same people and conversations that are accessible to the most engaged group members.

Of all the ways we divide and subdivide ourselves and our fellow human beings, that need for groupness may be one of the most profound. You just have to watch the way people respond to, engage with and talk about social media to see it: from passionate commitment to cautious delight or outright skepticism, people are playing out their feelings about groupness and their definitions of what a group is and is not (“it’s not a real community if it’s online”; “it’s a group if people feel like it’s a group”; “it’s not a real group if anyone can join”). I’m thankful that the Internet can accommodate that incredible range of needs and preferences, and in particular, for re-engaging us in a critical conversation about groupness and community itself.

The risks of risk management

What do you risk when you express yourself online?

That’s the question I found myself asking after reading Jason Sanford’s brilliant and thoughtful post about opinions, risk and social change. Here’s a taste:

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets, we are constantly surrounded by people venting their opinions. If we agree with said opinions, we post our glowing support. If we disagree, we post an angry rebuttal. The result is the internets constantly getting riled up over some idea or injustice and the resulting emotional response spreading through comments and posts and tweets…And in the end, what has changed? Most of the time, the answer is nothing. Because inaction thrives in an instant-response world where we don’t risk anything by stating our opinions…

But when a friend or family member stands before you and says they disagree with one of your core beliefs, your emotional response differs. Because of the relationship and bond between the two of you–and the fact that your friend or family member is risking your relationship by expressing a difference of opinion–you consider their words differently than those of an online stranger…To express a difference of opinion in person always carries risk. To act on an opinion carries even more risk. And how people accept and deal with those risks creates the only true change in our world.

Do take the time to read the entire post, which offers a much more nuanced take on the risks that people do take online, and how those compare with the risks of face-to-face disagreement. But the argument that I found most fascinating is contained in the paragraphs above: the idea that the weight of an opinion exists in relation to the costs of expressing it.

People ask me constantly about online risk management, whether they’re thinking about managing online risks to their organization’s reputation, or managing risks like identity fraud or data theft. But Jason’s post points out that risk has its own reward: the reward of forcing us to think carefully, to consider the impact of our words, and in particular, to think about the impact of what we say on the relationships we care about.

Seen from that perspective, risk may not be something you always want to limit online. In fact, you could make an argument that by raising the stakes of your online participation — by posting under your own name, by giving your blog’s URL to your colleagues, by being more candid and authentic in what you say online — you increase the value of your online engagement. It’s the risks of communication that give it value and power, that force us to think about what is worth saying, and that discipline us to communicate with care. When we deceive ourselves into thinking that nobody is reading what we’re writing, and that nothing is at stake — that’s when our online communications fail the reality test.

How to use your RSS reader to enhance community

Does the Internet make our conversations richer or poorer? This is the question that has driven my research and consulting for the past fourteen years — for most of that time, focusing on how to make the Internet’s impact as constructive as possible, whatever its underlying tendencies.

Cass Sunstein’s Republic.com has has a major impact on that work. The book was published in 2002, before the widespread use of RSS, but it anticipated RSS in its concern that online media consumption was pushing us towards a world in which people knew more and more about less and less (to steal that longstanding description of academia!) and eliminating the common areas of knowledge that drive water cooler conversation. Instead of people talking about the headlines we all see in the morning’s paper, we’ll each get such customized news that we’ll have little to discuss in common.

For a long time I felt sympathetic to that argument, particularly as the dawn of RSS saw me fill up a newsreader with the feeds of niche blogs — displacing my interest in mainstream news, albeit briefly.  It didn’t take long before the volume of unread news items in my reader became daunting, and I re-embraced the morning paper simply because it seemed like a manageable volume of information. And I felt the return to paper was justifiable on Sunstein’s terms: wasn’t it better for me to know the news that other people were going to talk about?

But I’ve recently returned to the RSS fold, and this time I’m not so sure that Sunstein got it right. Much depends on what you think matters: people, or information.

If you think that a wide range of information is key to civic discourse, than the RSS-fed world is troubling. We choose which topics to aggregate and consume, and we may end up knowing a lot more about iPad hacking or knitting or credit card fraud than we know about the major stories of the day — the stories that we can talk about at the water cooler.

But what if the variety of information isn’t what matters to civic life? What if that common conversational pool matters more for who it connects us to, than what we are talking about?

There’s good reason to think the connections among diverse people are what’s crucial to civic life.  Social capital researchers like Robert Putnam distinguish between two kinds of social capital — the personal ties that build trust and hold communities together: it’s “the distinction between ‘bonding’ social capital (ties to people who are like you in some important way) and ‘bridging’ social capital (ties to people who are unlike you in some important way).”  Both kinds of social capital play a role in community and personal health, economic performance, and other outcomes, but bridging social capital can be harder to come by.

So what does that mean for your RSS reader? The bottom line is that it can be a conduit for building either kind of social capital.

  • If you use your RSS to subscribe to individual blogs and sites…..you risk falling into the trap described by Sunstein. Unless you’ve conscious to select from a diverse range of sources and perspectives, you’re likely to end up listening to people who have the same interests and perspectives as you do. If these are the people you engage in your own comments and blog posts, you’re “bonding” with people a lot like you.
  • If you use your RSS to subscribe to searches….you are likely to hear from a much more diverse range of voices, particularly if you choose search terms that aren’t ideologically loaded. A Google blog search on a term like health policy is going to yield posts from people all over the spectrum. So yes, your news consumption may be narrow in terms of its topical focus, but eclectic in terms of the people you engage with. That could turn out to be great news for bridging capital.

This is ultimately an empirical question that might be addressed by large-scale studies that correlate social trust with what’s in a person’s newsreader. But that’s a bit wonky, even for me.

How to extend Canada’s “digital advantage” beyond the digital economy

Intelligent adoption of digital technologies will play a key role in addressing some current economic, social and environmental challenges. For example, ICT industry studies have estimated that the application of ICTs to create smart electricity grids, buildings, logistics and production processes could result in a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

These are the two most crucial sentences in the federal government’s digital economy consultation paper, Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity. I participated in a 2009 industry conference that was part of the consultation process, and documented some initial recommendations at that time. Now the government has put forward a paper that maps the landscape and raises questions around five aspects of government policy on the digital economy:

  1. Digitally-enabled business innovation
  2. Building digital infrastructure
  3. Supporting the information and communications infrastructure
  4. Digital content and culture
  5. Skills development for the digital economy

It’s a useful document, and even a bit surprising: the section on business innovation actually dares to ask whether lack of innovation is a peculiarly Canadian problem:

On average, Canadian firms consistently invest less in ICT than their competitors in the United States and other advanced economies…..Recent work done by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) suggests that Canada lacks a culture of innovation with respect to ICT adoption….The aforementioned reports and others also suggest that Canada’s underinvestment in digital technologies is part of a broader problem in innovation performance, which is largely due to a lack of business and managerial skills.

Despite asking that provocative question, it’s a report that mostly plays it safe, framing the problem of Canada’s digital economy as an exercise in GDP growth, and hedging as to whether the digital economy is primarily about the ICT sector or a description of the economy as a whole — an economy that is now defined by digital media.

The good news is that this is (at least in theory) the jumping-off point for discussion, and not the final result. Since the document talks a lot about how government should model tech innovation for the private sector, I’d have loved to see that discussion leverage social media by inviting contributions through blogs, social networks and other transparent, many-to-many channels. Instead it’s the usual government approach of “send us your views in our preferred form”, albeit with a nod to Ideastorm: you can submit ideas and vote them up or down. But I’m going to go ahead and share my thoughts via blog post, and hope others will do the same so that the consultation turns into an online conversation about the future of the Canadian economy.

Which brings me back to those two intriguing sentences: sentences that raise the question of how the transition to a digital economy can also be the transition to a sustainable, equitable and resilient economy. These are questions that the report doesn’t explore beyond the quotation above. It manages to avoid much mention of the biggest challenges that our economy faces in the coming decades: climate change, peak oil, a widening gap between rich and poor both nationally and globally, increasing market volatility, international conflict…..I could keep going but we’ll all get too depressed to think constructively about bandwidth and skills development.

But here’s the good news: we’re also facing a complete restructuring of our economy thanks to the digital revolution. I know that might sound like scary news rather than good news, but it’s the usual intersection of crisis and opportunity. The Digital Advantage paper speaks to that opportunity in economic terms — hey! we could get some more jobs! — but largely ignores the much larger stakes.
What’s at stake goes far beyond our GDP or unemployment rate, and goes to the heart of Canadians’ survival and our country’s role in the world. We have a very short window to untangle the social, environmental and market problems we now face. And since those problems are mostly intertwined with the industrial economy (just think about the environmental and social impact of factories, let alone all the related social and economic changes), the transition out of the industrial economy is our best shot at plotting a new course.

Plotting a new course is not about finding new mediocre jobs (data processing, call centers) to replace the old mediocre jobs (assembly lines, resource extraction), or even new industries to replace the old. It’s about rethinking the structure of a mass production, mass consumption, global economy — and seeing if we can regenerate in a way that is better for us and better for the planet.

I recognize that this government, and Industry Canada in particular, are less interested in the environmental and social stakes than in the implications for Canadian businesses. In fact, I share that passion for promoting the growth of our country’s digitally-enabled businesses, both in my role at the SIM Centre and as the owner of my own social media agency. But I believe in aligning the needs of business owners with the requirements for transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy. There’s no shortage of ideas about how to support the growth of a digital economy; all we have to do is pick those ideas that boost business and point our economy and society in the right direction.

Here are some examples:

  1. Reward Open: PhoneGap is a free, open source development platform for mobile phones that for-profit company Nitobi created out of the goodness of their hearts — and because it indirectly supports their business. But open source platforms like PhoneGap create spinoff benefits for both the for-profit and social economies; I spent last weekend at a mobile development camp in the US where PhoneGap was used to build a public journalism tool. Developing R&D incentives that encourage open source development can help us succeed in the fast-growing open source software sector, while creating valuable tools that can be economically used by the non-profit (as well as for-profit) sectors.
  2. Etsy-ize: Etsy is a US-based site that houses an enormous range of sole proprietor shops, each selling only handmade or vintage products. The small-scale production that these stores represent provides meaningful livelihoods (or income supplements) for producers all around the world, with a turnkey simplicity that makes the red tape of setting up a real-world storefront look like a bad joke. Online sales have given artisanal production a new lease on life; let’s support it with programs that give micro-producers some of the resources that are now targeted to larger companies.
  3. #CanCon: The question of how to foster Canadian content in a global media culture is one of the central preoccupations of this paper, and of many creative companies. That challenge is even tougher online, where sites catering to niche markets (and make no mistake, a country of 30 million people is a niche market) have a hard time competing for search visibility with sites that have global reach. Supporting Canadian content online means supporting it on sites that are beyond our borders as well as within it. Let’s see Canadian culture defined as a tag space (#CanCon, anyone?) that can be supported to go global but identify itself proudly to those who want to find a Canadian lens on the world of online video, text, music and image.
  4. Meaningful Mondays: OK, we could have Truthful Tuesdays. But whatever day we pick, let’s take a page from Google’s book and help companies allocate 20% of their employees’ time to projects that interest them, but aren’t in their job description. It’s a great way for companies to foster innovation (Gmail, Google News and Adsense all started as independent projects) and it’s also a way to foster continuous re-skilling, since people learn more readily when they are pursuing projects they are passionate about.
  5. NPTech Sector: No input into a government policy consultation would be complete without the paragraph saying, “give all the money to people just like me!” Self-interest aside, there is a great case to make for supporting the nonprofit tech (nptech) sector in Canada. My friends and colleagues at companies like Communicopia, Agentic and Wild Apricot are all proof that tech companies can achieve global recognition and financial rewards by focusing on work that has a social or environmental benefit. Investing in Canada’s NTAPS (nonprofit technology assistance providers) is a way of simultaneously building both our private and nonprofit sectors.

These are just a few examples of policy approaches that could benefit Canadian businesses and workers this year, while laying the groundwork for a different kind of economy in years to come. The “digital economy” shouldn’t be defined as an economy that’s been digitized, any more than it should be defined as the part of the economy that makes digital products and services. The dawn of the digital economy should be endowed with the same breadth of social, environmental and economic significance that we associate with the advent of the industrial economy. Only this time, let’s make it turn out better.

Why online conversation matters

Conversation is a little miraculous. Through conversation we learn about the world around us, about each other, and about ourselves. We discover what we have in common and how we look at things differently. We arrive at common solutions and build lasting agreement about how to do a better job, together.

You can find evidence of the transformative power of conversation in just about any field. When you read stories about people who are trapped in life-endangering situations (like a building collapse), they often say that what let them survive was another person engaging them in extended conversation. <!–break–> Atul Gawande’s Better, which looks at innovation in medicine, recounts how the one really proven technique for getting healthcare workers to wash their hands (the single most powerful healthcare innovation!!) is to get those workers into a focused conversation about handwashing. Our entire political system is built around conversation: the belief that even in a society of diverse and competing interests, there are opportunities for reconciliation and agreement if you can get a representative group of people talking.

The wonder of the Internet is in its ability to extend that miracle of conversation into all aspects of our lives, from the fun of choosing a restaurant for dinner to the work of planning your next company meeting. Our real-world conversations are limited by geography and time: we converse with the people who cross our paths, and we have access only to as much experience, knowledge and insight as those people carry with them. Go online and you can find a conversation about literally any topic, in almost any language, with just about any kind of person you can imagine.

Those online conversations can take many forms. It might be a structured exchange of knowledge on a company intranet or wiki. It could be a wide open free-for-all on a public blog or forum.  It could be a review site, with comments and ratings. It can be a conglomeration of related videos on YouTube. It can be as simple as a one-to-one private e-mail exchange.

While social media commentators describe more and more of the web as conversational, Internet users experience very little of their time online as conversation per se. When you look up a restaurant review or add your agenda items to the virtual meeting room, on your company Intranet,  do you think of that as conversation? Probably not. That’s because technology tends to disguise two important kinds of conversation cues: time and faces.

We’re used to thinking of conversation as the back-and-forth that happens when two or more people sit down face-to-face.  And that kind of conversation is important! In fact it’s the backbone of what we are able to do online: people who are good at face-to-face conversation can bring their skills and sensitivity into the Internet with them, strengthening pre-existing relationships and forging new ones.

All too often we leave our knowledge about real-world conversations behind once we get online, however. Unlike offline conversation, which is synchronous – people talking together in real time – online conversation is often asynchronous: I say something, and you respond to it hours, days or even months later. Even more challenging, online conversation is often faceless: I read your e-mail or blog post  but I’m seeing the words on the screen, not the person behind them.

For online conversation to have the power of real conversation, we have to create our own face-time continuum. As an Internet user, that means picturing the person who you are hearing from (or talking to) as if they were sitting across from you at this very moment. As a community animator, that means imagining the members of your online community as a group of friends gathered around your dinner table, right now. As a person or organization looking to launch a new conversation, that means visualizing not your would-be site, but your would-be visitors: live human beings who will or won’t choose to stop by your desk in the course of their busy day, or drop by your party in the course of a lively night.

After all, It’s the person at the other end of the machine that differentiates the power of the Internet — the power of connection – from the raw computing power that sits in your laptop or desktop. And it’s in enabling interaction with that other person – the capacity to engage in conversation – that social media realizes the potential of online connection.

For the past dozen years, and especially the past three, Rob and I have been digging into that potential.  Through online campaigning and online research (respectively), we tried to understand what motivates people to reach out and connect online, and what can happen when they do. And through our work as Social Signal, we’ve seized on the latest generation of social web tools to make that connection easier, more fun, and more fruitful for our clients.

While we’ve spent the past few years deep in the trenches of planning and launching online conversations, we’ve never stopped thinking about the larger implications of these latest conversational technologies. We’ve built our understanding of what it takes to get people engaged in an online conversation, and we’ve longed to connect those on-the-ground tactics with an aerial view of how people, organizations and societies make strategic change. We’ve been exhilarated by the turn towards a conversational Internet, and desperate to relate that online conversation to what we know about conversation as an engine of change.

And we’ve never seen a greater need for powerful conversation – the kind of conversation from which change can emerge. Our economy faces unprecedented volatility: businesses need to find better ways to work, new sources of innovation, ways of tapping the fullest potential of their employees and customers. Our society embodies vast disparities of wealth and opportunity that call more and more of us to the service of our struggling communities. Our planet is in the deepest possible distress, and we are the greatest obstacle to – and prospect for — its recovery.

On- and offline, conversations unfold that address these profound challenges. People who separately hold pieces of each solution come together to share knowledge, build coalitions, and create change. The conversations are intense, and difficult, and transformative. The moments when we can talk together are precious. And there are so few of them, and so much to do: it takes the Internet to cast the wide net, provide the broad platform, to enable the breadth and depth of conversations we need.

We’re not the only ones to see that need. Management gurus and social theorists, policymakers and citizen activists: so many people point to the Internet as the crucial channel for birthing organizational innovation or large-scale social change.  The Internet is the medium for achieving the transformations we need: the only question is how.

Like any big question, it can’t be answered by one person (or even two). It can only be answered in conversation. We invite you to join us in that conversation, today.

Roundup: 50 suggestions for how President-elect Obama can use the Internet to govern

It’s been one week since the greatest campaign the Internet has ever seen turned into the promise of the first Internet-era government. Both the traditional media and the blogosphere are overflowing with suggestions for how President-elect Barack Obama can translate his campaign’s social media briliance into a model of government — and particularly, a model of public engagement in government — that is just as transformative.


Many of those suggestions come from friends and colleagues who have been working for at least a decade in the e-democracy trenches, uncovering opportunities to increase public participation and rebuild social capital online. In Barack Obama they (and I!) see a President with the experience, skills and inclination to realize the potential of online engagement with policy, politics and government.

In this post I round up a cross-section of the most intriguing ideas for how the President-elect can evolve his Internet-savvy campaign into Internet-savvy government. This is a mix of recommendations, musings, predictions and praise for the best of what’s rolled out already. Most of these suggestions have appeared in the past week, though some anticipated Obama’s election and made recommendations or predictions before the fact. Some come from colleagues who are articulating long-held visions; others come from bloggers who are just starting to imagine the possibilities of e-government, now that they’ve seen the power of e-campaigning. While there are some recurring themes, the range of suggestions reflect the extraordinary variety of ideas and energies that are available for the new President to harness.

As the length of this list suggests, it won’t be hard for the President-elect to find opportunities for online innovation in government. The challenge will be to encompass or bridge between some very different ideas about how to innovate, which in turn reflect profoundly different frameworks. The folks who want My.BarackObama.com to metamorphosize into a Congressional lobby have embraced the model of interest-driven pressure politics; those who advocate for neutral online policy consultations want to insulate decision-making from those very pressures. And then there are those who want to set aside the political process altogether, and tackle government as a purely technical challenge of improving efficiency and enabling information flows.

None of these paradigms can fully do justice to Barack Obama’s combination of social media savvy, and reported appetite for careful deliberation and contemplation before making a decision. He’ll need to pioneer a model that combines the grassroots energy of (online) community organizing with the information-rich deliberation advocated by many public engagement practitioners. In devising that model he can draw inspiration from the many suggestions that are already pouring forth.

Here they are:

    Use blogging and rich media to talk directly to citizens frequently and in real time.

  1. What if President Obama took another visionary step and decided to update this communication technique? The weekly address could be taped and posted on YouTube. It could include prepared remarks by the President or produced infomercial-type stories like we’ve seen throughout the campaign. President Obama could then use his network on MyBO, Facebook, and other social media outlets to push people to watch these videos—and respond to them. Staffers could review the comments, and the President could address some of them during the next address. — Raven Brooks, Fireside Chats in the Digital Age — techPresident
  2. “I wouldn’t be surprised if Barack Obama starts doing a weekly YouTube video and also fireside chats for the 21st century by allowing people to filter up questions to him that he might answer.” – Andrew Raseij, quoted Obama launches Web site to reach public — CNN.com
  3. Obama put his election photos on Flickr under Creative Commons license. – David Kamerer, Obama takes change online — PR Needed Here
  4. A president could blog, speaking in his or own voice. But, have you seen the list of what President Obama has to deal with? If he has time to blog, he’s not paying attention. But maybe the White House could blog. ..It’d take courage … and some grade-A metadata to remind people that bloggers speak more loosely than the press secretary does. But by having, say, a dozen in-house people blogging to start, the administration would have a unique way to keep citizens informed, would continue to build trust and intimacy with the American people, and would be able to try out and improve ideas in the cauldron of public conversation…for comments would definitely have to be turned on. – Dave Weinberger, Can the White House blog ? — Joho the Blog
  5. All of the Obama supporters who traded their personal information for a ticket to a rally or an e-mail alert about the vice presidential choice, or opted in on Facebook or MyBarackObama can now be mass e-mailed at a cost of close to zero. And instead of the constant polling that has been a motor of presidential governance, an Obama White House can use the Web to measure voter attitudes. – David Carr, The Media Equation – How Obama Tapped Into Social Networks’ Power – NYTimes.com
  6. (YouTube video of President Obama as Lonelypres_15, doing a video diary)Win congressional support for your agenda by using social networks to mobilize grassroots support and apply pressure on Congress.

  7. By creating an official White House social network that invites all voters in and opens the doors to the governing process, Obama has the opportunity to reinvigorate Edmund Burke’s delegate model of representative government. Instead of guessing from Washington what the people want, such a platform can more accurately reveal the public will and make it easier for government to reflect that will. — Alan Rosenblatt, Emergent Governance: Who Needs Bees When the Grassroots Swarm the White House — techPresident
  8. Obama can leverage social media to make people much more involved in the process of bills becoming laws, and encourage his supporters to pressure their representatives into supporting his policies. . — Adam Ostrow, How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? — Mashable
  9. The White House could “geo-target” ads so they appear online in congressional districts where members remain undecided. Obama could use Internet ads to solicit signatures for petitions, or he could place display and video ads contextually — so they would appear on the screen next to news coverage of his proposals. — Shallagh Murray and Matthew Mosk, Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way, Washington Post
  10. “Congress will be put between a rock and a hard place, if millions of citizens sign up to help the president pass his agenda,” Trippi said. “If the president says, ‘Here are the members of Congress who stand in the way of us passing health care reform,’ I would not want to be one of those people. You’ll have 10 or 15 million networked Americans barging in on the members of Congress telling them to get in line with the program and pass the health care reform bill. That will be a power that no American president has had before. Congress’ power will be taken over by the American people.” — quoted by Mitch Wagner in Obama Election Ushering In First Internet Presidency — InformationWeek
  11. I thought he might try to use the contacts from my.barackobama.com , his campaign site, to rally his supporters to call their members of Congress on key legislation or challenge them to funnel the energy that they used in campaigning to volunteer or apply for positions in his administration. Change.gov definitely looks to be headed in that direction. – Kevin Anderson, Change.gov is gonna come — The Guardian
  12. Use My.BarackObama.com to engage grassroots support and service…if you’re not limited by election laws.

  13. MyBo, or some Open Source knockoff, should be opened up to anyone who wants to round up friends and neighbors to make a difference, as well as to anyone who wants to tinker with new features. No software can, of course, convey the “spirit” of grassroots organizing. But well-designed systems can scaffold the basic activities of a competent organizer, enough to give such efforts a fighting chance, especially if coupled with training or mentorship….MyBo had experimented with offering points for taking on different activities; it scaled poorly and was eventually replaced with an activity level system. A game-like interface, scaled down to the local level, could use a scoring rubric to help convey to citizens which activities were most urgently needed, especially if Obama himself is pushing and motivating service at the macro level. — Gene Koo, From campaigning to governance 1: civic engagement — techPresident
  14. Twitterers want to know: 10 questions

    1. How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? — mlh0919
    2. In an Obama administration what kind of job goes to Chris Hughes? The co-founder of Facebook who created mybarackobama.com — jayrosen_nyu
    3. So is Obama the first president born after the internet was invented? Looks like it. — kevindente
    4. Can President- Elect Obama blog? — kevinokeefe
    5. It’s swell that Barack Obama used Web 2.0 to get elected, but doing it with a site known as “MyBO?” — CJBarker
    6. Will Obama’s public engagement via internet carry into his presidency? Do the people stop having a voice after Jan 20? — dmancan
    7. Does anyone know if David Plouffe (Obama’s campaign manager), or anyone else will write a book about their Internet marketing tactics? — DavidTaboada
    8. Can we admit that barack obama’s success was due to the fact that he was an inspiring personality and not just b/c he used the internet? — scottyiseri
    9. How will President Obama deploy his Internet army? — AZ_BirdLady
    10. Hey, did you guys here Obama is actually a hologram? — bloomtoday
  15. [K]eep MyBO alive as a political community outside of government…For Obama, this means he could mobilize millions to write Congress, send letters to editors around the country, comment on blogs, and a host of other grassroots activism activities — Alan Rosenblatt, Emergent Governance: Who Needs Bees When the Grassroots Swarm the White House — techPresident
  16. Personally, I expect myBO to get folded into the DNC, most likely by merging it into Partybuilder, the DNC’s social network. The same company, Blue State Digital, built both platforms and, in fact, myBO is basically a souped-up Partybuilder. Obama legally can’t take myBO with him into the White House, since the Hatch Act precludes using government resources for political operations. — Micah Sifry, What Next for My.BarackObama.com? — Personal Democracy Forum
  17. And the site isn’t going anywhere. The online tools in My.BarackObama will live on. Barack Obama supporters will continue to use the tools to collaborate and interact. Our victory on Tuesday night has opened the door to change, but it’s up to all of us to seize this opportunity to bring it about. In the coming days and weeks, there will be a great deal more information about where this community will head. — Chris Hughes, Moving Forward on My.BarackObama — My.BarackObama.com
  18. Be prepared for citizens — especially young ones — to use your own organizing toolkit as a platform for holding you accountable.

  19. (one schoolgirl to another) Congress cut the education budget. But I reverted it in the wiki.It’s not really Obama’s responsibility to keep us involved. It really is ours. We should not be asking what Obama can do for us. We should be asking what we can do for him and the country. …. 5. Blog and comment online. Many of us blogged about Obama during the past few years, and it was fun and enlightening to read comments and make comments of our own. I myself started blogging for the first time because of Obama. I complained about the media’s shallow interviewing of Palin; and I tried to point out the radical nature of McCain’s health plan proposal. In addition, I registered on various state-level blogs and wrote diaries and blogs there whenever I could. There will continue to be a need for ordinary people to blog about their experiences during the campaign and their opinion about what Obama does once he is President. Linda Bergthold Ask Not What Obama Can Do for You — Ask What You Can do for Obama — Huffington Post
  20. He texted. He Twittered. He had custom social media designed to connect supporters to his message, to donate spare cash and spare time, to meet up. The pundits are already asking, “Will he govern this way?” Perhaps. We’ll see. For me the real question is whether we will govern this way. He will disappoint, as I’ve already pointed out….To give President Obama the chance to become another FDR, we’ll have to take a lesson from candidate Obama — and organize him into being. — Marc Bousquet, Boots on the Ground, Eyeballs on the Screen — How The University Works
  21. And they won’t settle for politics as usual. Having grown up digital, they will want to be involved in the act of governing — by contributing ideas before decisions are made. What’s more, they’ll insist on integrity from politicians; if politicians say one thing and do another, young Americans will use their digital tools to find out, and spread the news. — Don Tapscott, Obama’s Ace in the Hole — Huffington Post
  22. Inspire a new era in community service by using the web to match volunteeers and community needs.

  23. Why not allow users of MyBarackObama to utilize the platform to organize community service projects? Use Twitter and SMS to alert people to opportunities to give back in their own communities or when national tragedy strikes. Utilize Facebook to get the word out about charitable events. The tools and the users are already in place. — Adam Ostrow How Will President Obama Use His Massive Social Media Influence? — Mashable
  24. Gore envisions a sense of purpose and promise in what he called “World 2.0:” Web 2.0 used for social betterment. “Just as Barack Obama’s election would’ve been impossible without the new dialogue and new ways of interacting, the only way climate change is going to be solved is by addressing the democracy crisis, and the country hit a great blow for victory this week, but we have to take this issue and raise it in the awareness of everyone,” Gore said. Gore continued later during his interview with conference organizers Tim O’Reilly and John Batelle, “I think that it is very much in its infancy, barely beginning, and I think that we are not many years away from television sort of sinking into the digital world and becoming a part of it.” His continued “purpose” is to advance the democratization of media, where people are in control of not only what they consume, but are also empowered to create, distribute, and influence through media. — Brian Solis, Al Gore on World 2.0 at Web 2.0 Summit — bub.blicio.us
  25. (father to daughter, who is using a computer) Come on, honey. It's a lovely day, and I want you to play outside. You can help the President with his tax policy later.I envisioned something similar to what our grandparents did 75 years ago to get through the worst economic crisis in the nation’s history — but in the Digital Age. Gradon Tripp And so I gave it a name: the Digital New Deal. Think about it: what if — like FDR controlling road and bridge construction projects from the White House — President Obama could guide a volunteer work force. An army of helping hands. Using the connections that he’s already established, (I honestly get more text messages from him than I do from some of my friends) he could mobilize a disaster-recovery team, a clean-up-the-parks team, a let’s-make-this-a-better-country team… all as quickly as he can send a text or an email or a tweet. Gradon Tripp, Digital New Deal: Now the Real Work Begins — GradonTripp.com
  26. I propose creating an online platform that can generate ways for anyone to serve their local and national community. In your plan for creating new ways for us, the citizens of this nation to serve, I feel that you must take advantage of the internet. By simply providing a directory of tasks and ways for people to serve we can make it possible for anyone to contribute to their local and national community. The important element is letting each person sort through the tasks and opportunities based on the time they have, their skills, interests, and location. Even if you have just thirty minutes to give, they can provide change. — Ethan Bodnar, Letter to the President-Elect on Technology — Ethan Bodnar / The Blog
  27. Solicit citizen input into policy using online hearings, peer-moderated content and an effective online community manager.

  28. Set up a series of citizen councils, organized around key policy themes, and equip users with an Ideastorm. At first these communities might look and feel a lot like Digg.com, the popular technology news aggregator. Users post policy suggestions and the community votes so that the most popular ideas rise to the top. Ideas are harvested from a broader spectrum of the population and the user-driven idea filtering process eases the burden on staff resources by harnessing “the crowd” to sift through mountains of feedback. – Anthony Williams, Obama’s web 2.0 strategy: from campaigning to governing, part 1 — Wikinomics
  29. As in-person public meetings begin to incorporate live online features, envision more deliberate online exchanges to improve the outcomes of the decision-making process. If your government agency hosts three public hearings across the country or your state, host the fourth hearing online over a week or two and improve the format in the process. In 10 years, the legislatures, commissions and city councils not holding hearings online will be in the minority. – Steve Clift, Ten Online Ideas for Obama in Government — MyBarackObama.com O riginally published as “Ten practical online steps for government support of democracy”, in the GSA Intergovernmental Solutions newsletter, Fall 2007 (PDF) There’s lots more great material for the new administration to draw on in this article and the newsletter.
  30. Widespread collaborative interaction with new tools and resources for information and deliberation can spread throughout both the public and private sectors, as people’s expectations expand for what they can accomplish both for themselves and their fellow citizens. A new culture of democratic action holds forth the prospect of not only engaging people in activities with concrete, tangible payoffs for personal success and community empowerment, but also proliferating values of tolerance, respect, and mutual engagement that have been the themes not only of the Obama campaign, but of Barack Obama’s entire public life. — Peter M. Shane, The Obama Vision of Open Government and Public Engagement — Huffington Post
  31. I call on president-elect Obama to create a community of committed Americans to discuss the solutions to the problems that face us. I call on him to designate a US Community Manager, with a small staff, to moderate and harvest those discussions to solve the country’s problems. — Josh Bernoff, Can Obama harvest better ideas from the people, online? – The Boston Globe
  32. (President Obama, reading a laptop screen over a staffer's shoulder) So if I'm reading this correctly, Digg has determined that our nation's top priority is LOLcats.Another question worth asking is whether Obama will embrace technology to give citizens a larger voice in important decisions. I think there is a tremendous opportunity for him to do so. If he is smart, he will establish nationwide user names and passwords which link to driver’s license or social security numbers, allowing citizens to voice their opinions on anything, everything. He can then communicate with us as needed to answer our concerns and make us feel like we are part of the process. – Rich Tehrani, President Obama And The Coming Tech Revolution — Communicatins and Technology Blog
  33. Imagine that what the president’s staff sends isn’t spam but thoughtful explanations of policy initiatives. Imagine that there are real online processes for citizens to upload ideas and feedback. That could be a real change in the connection between the governed and governors. — Richard Koman, The Connected President — ZDNet.com
  34. Law is code and so one would hope that social tools will help accelerate the iteration process – just like with great software. What will keep this audience engaged? Meaningful social nets that aren’t echo chambers but organizational catalysts to real change – I would hope that savvy entrepreneurs are helping to build platforms that help mesh social problems with willing participants in the process who are willing to construct change. — Jennifer Fader of eMedia at Rogers & Cowan, quoted by Ellen McGirt, Government 2.0: Can President-Elect Obama Take What He’s Learned On The Road to The Beltway? — Fast Company
  35. Immediately invite public input on Change.gov — and make that invitation as transparent as possible.

  36. Change.gov features a blog, a form where visitors can share their stories about the election, video, a full listing of Obama’s staff, as well as links to other government sites with details about the transition…the launch of this site proves that Obama already had a plan in place to think about how his digital outreach would transition once he won the election, showing that his team was thinking ahead. More than just having a plan in place, his plan has a purpose. Obama is trying to mobilize the citizens of America with a call to action which Boston-based social media, technology and design blogger Gradon Tripp calls the Digital New Deal. — Rob Longert, Obama’s Community of Millions — PepperDigital
  37. President-Elect Barack Obama has launched a web site at change.gov. The purpose of the site is to make the transition operation more transparent to the public, and to solicit opinions and ideas from the American people. Under “American Moment” you can either “Share your Vision” or “Share your Story.” I asked him for unequivocal clarification about homeschooling. I asked him for transparency in government. I asked him for involvement, for a team effort, for more to do. I stopped short of asking for a pony. What will you ask for? — Lydia M. Netzer, aka lostcheerio, Open Source Government — Little Blue School
  38. The president-elect’s http://www.change.gov transition Web site features a blog and a suggestion form, signaling the kinds of direct and instantaneous interaction that the Obama administration will encourage, perhaps with an eye toward turning its following into the biggest special-interest group in Washington. — Shallagh Murray and Matthew Mosk, Under Obama, Web Would Be the Way — Washington Post
  39. The problem, in my view, is not that the content of the site is still somewhat in flux. That can be expected (keep in mind it’s been only a few days since Obama won the election). Nor is the problem that a site like change.gov should never change (on the contrary, I’d argue for constant change to make corrections where needed, evolve the concepts, document progress etc.). What’s missing is the transparent, wiki-like exposure of recent changes: which web edits were made, when, by whom and — by way of short change summaries — why. I’m sure that’s an RSS feed many would happily subscribe to. Tim Bonnemann, commenting on Change.gov Pulls Its Agenda — techPresident
  40. Place an effective CTO in charge of implementing the technology changes that are crucial to your vision for transparency and accountability in government.

  41. The CTO could lead the drive to create a “Google for government” that would allow new levels of transparency and access to government agencies – something Obama stressed repeatedly. — Jaime L. Hartman, Campaign promises, political reality: Will CTO be one he delivers on? — OhMyGov
  42. The CTO job is a political job, a bureaucratic job. The person who succeeds in that job will be someone who can bring an entrepreneurial spirit into a government setting. They will have to familiar with the CTO positions at the whole range of federal agencies; they will have to know their way around Washington to some extent; they will know how to work with large, combative constituencies; and they will expect to be held accountable. — Richard Koman, Who will be the nation’s CTO? — ZDNet.com
  43. So, while it would be good to have someone who at least understood the politics, I’d like to see the person selected have a solid knowledge of technology and a history of solving the kinds of problems that the country is likely to face on technology. I ended up with four potential candidates: Al Gore, Lawrence Lessig, Vin Cerf, and Shane Robison. The one you like the best depends on the job that needs to be done. – Rob Enderle, Anticipating the First US CTO – Mashget
  44. Generally take a businesslike approach to government IT. Obama’s focus on making government “transparent” and searchable would be just one byproduct of that effort. — Curt Monash, 7 (non-network-centric) IT priorities for the Obama Administration — NetworkWorld.com Community
  45. Expect to see large pushes for automation of backend IT processes. Although federal IT budgets will be under significant downward pressure, good ideas regarding virtualization, automation and other high payoff disruptive technologies will be welcome and there will still be IT modernization efforts underway throughout the government. — Bob Gourley, The Technology Implications of the Obama Win ExecutiveBiz Blog
  46. Support open source tools — after all, they are intimately connected to your bottom-up philosophy.

  47. But the open-source movement in computer engineering is people get together from all over the world and build computer software bottom-up. Is Barack Obama going to be the old top-down industrial-age cathedral leader, or is he going to be the fellow we heard tonight, this new generation of leadership that is very bottom-up for the communications age? – Alex Castellanos on CNN, quoted by Matt Asay, Republican pundit pushes Obama as open source — CNET News
  48. Expect to see much much more use of open source software and hardware in the federal enterprise, which will continue to drive more adoption by open source software in commercial sectors. Expect to see a more widespread adoption of Open Office, Linux, Solaris, ZFS, and MySQL. This will be done for agility, flexibility, security and expense. — Bob Gourley, The Technology Implications of the Obama Win ExecutiveBiz Blog
  49. Post all disclosures online to maximize transparency and accountability.

  50. The Obama administration should direct the Office of Government Ethics to post all the financial disclosure forms filed by its appointees online. – Bill Allison, Open Letter to the Obama Administration on How to Shine Sunlight Sunlight Foundation
  51. President-elect Barack Obama is signaling that he’s likely to follow through with his proposal to appoint a chief technology officer to the White House. The person in this new position–and possibly a new White House technology office staff–could be given the directive to create new levels of transparency and access to government agencies, or to guide policies that spur innovation and growth. — Stephanie Condon, Obama’s search for a CTO | Latest News in Politics and Law – CNET News
  52. We should have online disclosure, about who is lobbying whom for what at whose behest, as well as who is seeking to buy influence with their contributions to campaigns and related charities. — Mike Klein, Open Letter to the Obama Administration on How to Shine Sunlight Sunlight Foundation
  53. Keep showing the rest of us how to use social media for public engagement — and why engagement matters.

  54. Getting the message out. Keeping the message fresh. Sticking to the story. Tracking and staying in touch with the interested visitor. Developing a worthwhile engaging relationship with those who can support you and your concerns. These are just a few of the (many) lessons illustrated with this successful campaign. To all those that have taken the time to visit and comment as we moved with this case study – Thank You. We have learned much from this experience. — David Bullock, Successful Social CRM and Superior Marketing in Practice — Barack 2.0
  55. It’s clear that over the past year, Obama’s campaign has developed a profound understanding of how its community finds and consumes information across a number of platforms. And Obama has embraced them all, and adapted his message to fit the way people use those platforms. That’s an important lesson that every newsroom should learn. — Chris O’Brien, What newsrooms can learn from Obama campaign — IdeaLab
  56. World Wide Creative uses Barack Obama’s internet strategy as a case study in almost all our presentations, so it would have been pretty crappy if the non-internet-savvy old white guy had won! – Fred Roed, The Obama Internet Show rolls on The Heavy Chef Project /World Wide Creative
  57. One issue we spend a lot of time working on when building online communities at FreshNetworks is how to ensure and encourage participation. How do you design and build a community site which will make your target audience want to take part and then take the step to actually take part, contributing something or adding to the community in some way. The best and simplest solution is just to make it really easy for the community members to do things and to make it very clear to them what the benefits are. Obama’s site is a textbook example of how to do this and, I believe, this good online strategy and design has led to the impressive online community and support that is being spoken of. — Matt Rhodes, Things we learn from Obama: calls to action reap rewards in online communities — FreshNetworks Blog
  58. Remember that your ability to use the Internet effectively has reshaped how people see their own political effectiveness.

  59. I registered at http://my.barackobama.com earlier this year to help. I made several donations online starting sometime in February when they had the “Match a donation”…I began documenting and researching information I found on the internet — Adria Richards, How I Helped Elect Barack Obama Using the Internet — But You’re A Girl.com
  60. Talk about democracy in action! The Obama Administration is actively seeking input directly from concerned citizens: no Senatorial filters or Congressional messengers. And it’s seeking it in a way that is most likely to appeal to the change-agents of the future: our students. In 8 years, students who are currently in Grade 6 will be given the right to vote. But they no longer have to wait for their voices to be heard. Long before they are granted the power of the ballot, our students have been given the power of the Internet. Of course, it remains to be seen how this information will be acted upon. I, for one, am grateful for the opportunity to participate. – Clint Hamada, The Internet President — Pockets of Change
  61. Hope is infectious and I’m glad. I’ll carry that hope into my own personal action and support for my country’s’ leaders and citizens of the world to make the world better. I feel that infection rolling across my networks. I’m also aware that my networks are more politically homogeneous than the world, and that there are others today who may feel a loss of hope. They deserve hope too, so I appreciated Obama’s inclusiveness and seriousness about that in his acceptance speech. — Nancy White, “I don’t normally write about…” — F ull Circle Associates
  62. Can you integrate all this advice into a model of government? Yes, you can.

  63. If you’re going to transform the Internet’s potential for government the way you transformed its role in campaigning, you need to create a vision that can be replicated, extended and innovated — both inside government and beyond. Mandate a culture of pervasive online engagement; then empower governments and grassroots, public servants and community organizers to find their own mechanisms for cultivating participation in agenda-setting, deliberation and decision-making. As this blog post shows, there is a wealth of knowledge and ideas available online to the new administration: simply listening to what is already being said can provide an abundance of inspiration on just about any policy issue.

    One man — even the President — can’t create a conversational government. But he can mobilize a conversational culture with the potential to transform how decisions are made and resources are dedicated, whether it’s inside government or beyond. Most importantly, he can help us rediscover the value of conversation in building knowledge, relationships and understanding — whether those conversations happen over a white picket fence or inside the White House.

(President-elect Obama at a news conference) A week ago, I described mixed-breed dogs as 'mutts'. Apparently the more respectful term is 'mash-ups'.

Tagging for world domination

Today we’re at BarCamp Vancouver, where I’m facilitating a session on “Tagging for World Domination.” The news that Wink is rolling out version 2.0 of their service is a nice reminder that there are more and more options for using tags as useful blogging fodder: Wink itself would offer a great variant on my tagging trick #1, below.

I’m hoping that lots of other folks will share their tips and tricks on how tagging can help to add value to online content, drive traffic to blogs, or generally build stronger online communities.

Here are some of my basic tips for tagging success:

  • Choose a unique tag for your work and/or organization and use it consistently. This tag should be one word, or two words smooshed together, so you can use it on any tag-friendly site.
  • Invite other people to tag content with “your” tag so that they’re contributing to your site, too — like we do with Flickr photos on Change Everything.
  • Aggregate your tag back onto your site from as many sources as possible (del.icio.us, technorati, furl, flickr, 43things etc).
  • If you subscribe to a lot of RSS feeds in your primary newsreader/aggregator, track your crucial tags (your own organization’s unique tag, your del.icio.us “for:” tag) on your personalized Google homepage, and make that your browser’s default home page so you see it often.
  • Tags aren’t limited to explicitly taggy services and apps. You can use your tag as a search term in PubSub, for example, or “tag” your iPhoto pix by putting tags into your comments fields.
  • Create a “secret” tag for people in your organization to use for stuff you just want to share internally. Tell everyone to track that in whatever aggregator they visit most often.
  • Identify a set of tags that together encompass the topics you blog about, and track them in your primary aggregator as a source of blogging inspiration.

Trick 1: Boosting traffic with tags

One of the tricks I’ve been meaning to document is how tracking a tag can help you insinuate your way into a large-scale conversation. Let’s take the tag “tagging” as an example.

Imagine I want people to start visiting — and talking about — this web page. I figure the people who will be interested in this page are people who are interested in tagging.

I go to Technorati and search on the tag “tagging”, which brings me to a page of posts tagged “tagging”. Then I look for a recent post with a lot of inbound links, because I figure it’s getting a lot of traffic.

And the world of tagging freaks being small, the overwhelming winner here is a post by Marshall Kirkpatrick over at TechCrunch. Just inserting that URL into this post is enough to make this show up as a comment since TechCrunch uses TrackBack, but it would be really obnoxious to do that because this blog post isn’t really about Marshall’s story. So I wrote a paragraph that creates a conceptual bridge between his story and this blog post, which is why this blog post begins with a discussion of Wink.

Tada! Marshall’s thousands of readers are now going to come across an intriguing link to a blog post that should interest them, since they’re interested in tagging.

And for all those TechCrunch readers who slogged through this post and are now feeling annoyed, let me point out that this tip is a great way to use the new and improved Wink, too: search on a given tag (like “tagging”) within Wink and you’ll find blog posts that readers are tagging there. Comment on one of those blog posts and you’re linking into a conversation that you know people are reading.

Note that if I were writing about a narrower or less-blogged topic — like hacktivism — I could just search Technorati for blog posts containing the term “hacktivism”, and find a post there that I could use as a conversation hook. But one of the virtues of tags is that they let you accomplish the same thing even with a very commonly used term (like tagging) by letting you zoom in on the blog posts that are really about that thing.

Trick 2: Organizing content with tags

Another nice trick is using inbound automatic categorization of tagged content. Both of the platforms I use to blog have options for tagging inbound content according to its original tags. For WordPress, the FeedWordPress plugin offers the option of tagging inbound content with its original tags (and you can set the additional option of creating any new tags, or limiting tags just to those categories/tags that already exist on your site.) In Drupal, the combo of Aggregator2 and autotaxonomy let you parse incoming content for tags, and apply those tags to the content as it’s republished on your site.

What that means is that you can use your unique tag in conjunction with other tags to organize your content collection into subcategories. For example, we can aggregate content tagged SocialSignal onto our web site, and it will be tagged with whatever additional tags we used on the original site.

Additional resources

Tag your way to del.icio.us domination

Powerblogher questions: on tagging, bookmarking and wikis