Tag Archives: community

yesterday’s newspapers = tomorrow’s geosocial community builders?

It’s no secret the entities once known as newspapers continue to transform into multimedia, multipurpose organizations. But can they also use new tools — especially geosocial media — to lead the process of online community-building? The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle’s score! app raises such intriguing possibilities.

While the company did not return an interview request from this lowly blogger, this interview on WXXI and this Nieman Journalism Lab story provide interesting context — the project started as an alternate-reality partnership with the Rochester Institute of Technology, then had another short civic-engagement run around the midterm elections. It relaunched a few months ago as a full-fledged social gaming site with location-based challenges.

“[T]here’s this huge community in Rochester that we can send people to all these cool places they don’t know about,” project developer Mark Newell told WXXI. “We have reporters and contributors that are trying to get more stuff out there. … We have this amazing cache of knowledge that I think we’re trying to get out in more ways than just writing newspaper articles.”

Sign-up takes less than a minute if you connect via your Facebook ID, and the site is pretty easy to navigate. You can pursue missions, which may include logging onto the score! mobile site for checkins like any geosocial app. Missions point users to both known places and hidden gems, such as New In Town with Driardonna Roland by the D&C’s young professionals beat reporter or Ashish’s Sport and Spice by an intern on local spicy food and sports hangouts.

And score! represents a merging of user with content and, for the D&C, revenue potential. The missions tie in advertisers as destinations, while giving users a chance to discover local flavor (perhaps literally), all the while promoting Rochester as a vibrant community. Quite a brilliant concept, really. User activity seems decent, albeit not overwhelming, and it’s hard to predict a development curve.

The question at the heart of this is: Could colleges or other businesses create a similar homegrown solution? (By which I DON’T mean: Drop a huge chunk of change to an app developer.) The D&C benefits from economies of scale — they already have a large staff of content providers, backend development support for their website and a well-used communication vehicle. Some colleges have those advantages as well.

Colleges establishing their own rich geosocial applications and networks — to better connect students to each other and their institutions — would require not just resources, but a paradigm shift in some traditional roles and expectations. But hey, if print media, (erroneously) considered dinosaurs by some, can jump on this kind of innovation, why shouldn’t other industries consider it too?


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what can we do about #fbgate2016 … and beyond?

What started Thanksgiving Week when Lougan Bishop of Belmont University and I found messages on our official Class of 2015 groups telling members to join different groups, run by private company RoomSurf, became a whirlwind of community action among colleagues, then a media splash in the New York Times. Other stories followed (including one hilariously mistranslated piece). Several higher ed professionals teamed up in a myriad of ways, including blogging and other methods to spread the word, and by the end of Wednesday the RoomSurf groups were putting up disclaimers and their founder disappeared from Facebook.

But will #fbgate2015 mark the end of this kind of activity? I doubt it, and so does Lougan, who wrote a great guest post in Brad J. Ward’s SquaredPeg blog (which outed the original #fbgate2013 fake groups two years ago).

Many bloggers have weighed in with great advice. But even the best suggestions come with caveats. For example:

1) Make your own Class of 201x Facebook Groups/Pages. This has become self-evident. But, as Lougan and I discovered, nefarious intruders can swoop in at any time to try to steal members. We’re not in a part in the admission cycle where students are joining in large numbers yet. Those other groups had more members, research found, because apparently some were converted 2014 groups with existing students. And JD Ross of Hamilton College said, last year, company reps blocked him so he couldn’t see things they posted on a Class of 2014 page he administered. So the playing field, for the ethical, is still a minefield.

2) Make your groups/pages distinctive and better. When I realized we may be in for another battle for members — before colleges rallied together and the New York Times got involved — I decided to create an Official Class of 2015 Community page. And, unlike the 2015 group which I didn’t do nearly enough with, our social media intern and I filled the new page with photos, slideshows, videos, blog entries, news, the works. And asked current students to join and help. Of course, this all takes time — something we never have enough of. But, especially when establishing the groups, it makes them more worth joining. Think about holiday window shopping: You’re more likely to go into stores that look cool and have more to offer.

3) Promote the official group/pages to incoming students. In an often-decentralized campus landscape, not as easy as it sounds. I have no direct communication with prospective students (other than the web or social media) as student affairs offices handle these contacts. This means any success in social media involves coalition building and educating staffers to its benefits as well as the need for resources. On the bright side, something like #fbgate2015 — or anything that could divert our students from getting the help and advice they deserve — provides an example of why different areas of the college need to work together for a well-done, timely, useful social media presence.

4) Be vigilant. Sad but true, we can’t take for granted that all 500 million members of Facebook are ethical, logical beings. You have to constantly see if someone is portraying themselves as your college or brand … which is complicated by all the community pages (mostly ghost ships) Facebook decided to clutter the waters. And if you’re a group administrator, have many sets of eyes watching the page, knowing spammers can block you.

Because Facebook fraud will continue to appear, despite our best efforts, all we can do is keep our eyes open, have a plan and provide the best Facebook experiences possible.

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instagram: a picture-perfect social media tool?

The women's hockey team prepping for a big game, as told via Instagram filter.

Many folks — including me — have developed a new social media obsession with Instagram, an app based on photos and connectivity. The free app captures the appeals of people looking to tell stories via taking, editing and posting pictures … while commenting on and connecting with others doing the same.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

I could share how close I was sitting to the stage for our student honors production.

At the most basic level, Instagram is photographing and filtering software. When taking iPhone pics via Instagram, I appear to gain greater iris control and focusing flexibility. When you take the photo, you can apply one of a number of filtering tools — which make it look like anything from an old Polaroid to washed-out contact sheet to monochrome. The filters may not quite as cool as paid app Hipstamatic, but quite a few add more flair and visual appeal to photos. It could be better integrated — clicking on a photo posted to Facebook whisks you to the nothing-special Instagram site — but I wouldn’t be surprised if more improvements appear on the horizon.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

I like the washed-out old-photo filter a lot.

But the really neat part is the ability to share it within — and outside of — the Instagram community. After you take a photo and apply (or don’t) a filter, you can post it Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, Tumblr and/or Foursquare in one fell swoop. It even offers its own location-based option. And by default, pictures are shared with the Instagarm community. Looking through my Instagram feed on a recent night, I felt like part of a greater narrative of what people were doing. Even though my Instagram community is small for now, members were out watching two college hockey games, enjoying a romantic night in, reveling through a night out, spending quality time with the kids and exploring artistic endeavors. As a body of work, it’s a compelling snapshot (sorry) of a few hours of 21st century life.

Looking through the lens (sorry again) of the 5+1 Keys to Social Media Platform Adoption, Instagram posts some high scores:

  • Usefulness: Allows you to take, edit and share photos in a novel way; lets you enjoy pics from others.
  • Usability: Very simple. Its basic menu is five buttons: Feed, Popular, Share (where you take photos), News and Profile — pretty intuitive.
  • User Interactivity: You can comment on or like photos friends post. Not sure if other friends are using it? You can easily look through your Facebook and Twitter contacts. Want to make new friends? Browse the popular pics and follow those whose styles or activities you enjoy.
  • Sharability: Great sharing options to five popular platforms as well as within the Instagram community.
  • Sustainability: As long as you have things you want to document and/or you are interested in your friends’ photos, this can sustain your interest.
  • +1: Critical Mass: OK, Instagram isn’t there yet. But the ball is rolling, and I seem to pick up at least a follower a day among my friends adopting it. And I think it’s such a great app that I expect the social sharing and positive word of mouth to keep building the community.


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a video i love and why: what we learned from responses.

About a week and a half ago, I posted a blog challenge called A Video I Love and Why — choosing the Vancouver 2010 With Glowing Hearts video — and asked others to also post web video they enjoyed and why they did. The results were awesome — and, I think, showed some trends on what we like in video on the web.

  • Andrew Careaga stepped up almost immediately with Battle of the Album Covers. It’s a very creative, if a tad gory, animated story of various classic album covers creating mayhem — and a treat for music lovers.
  • Georgy Cohen suggested The Fully Sick Rapper, part of Christiaan Van Vuuren’s series on his months in tuberculosis quarantine. To try to maintain his sanity, he created videos of himself rapping — and improved his editing skills in the process.
  • Denise Graveline offered a classic Will It Blend? entry from Blendtec’s series of putting various objects through its blender. I found the joyfully cheesy video sufficiently interesting to use it in my media copywriting class.
  • The inimitable Todd Sanders served up Bill Genereux’s YouTube in Classrooms, a plea for educators to use YouTube in their lessons instead of banning access and creativity.
  • Michael Klein volunteered this TEDx video by Derek Sivers using the classic Guy Starts Dance Party YouTube video to make a point about leadership and movements.
  • Lori Packer shared the Red River College’s The Holiday Card, a mix of The Office type satire and screwball comedy, featuring an endearingly self-effacing performance by its president, Jeff Zabudsky.
  • JD Ross checked in with The Machine Is Us/ing Us, a powerful look at how Web 2.0 is not a concept or technology, but the sum total of ourselves.
  • Joe Bonner supplied A Life on Facebook, a current sensation imagining how our lives unfold publicly that is also a classic boy-meets-girl tale.

A wide variety of videos emerged, but some commonalities prevailed.

Substance over style. Most videos people chose were made on fairly low or no budgets. They tended to be simple stories where the appeal was the storyline itself, not anything glitzy or glossy. The same theme came up over and over in responses that you don’t need a lot of money to make a great video. But one thing you do need is …

Talk about the passion. Passion emerged as a common driving factor. Zabudsky is passionate enough about his college leadership, he’s willing to look a bit silly to promote it. Van Vuuren developed a new passion in quarantine and decided to share it. I’m sure the guys at Blendtec want these videos to sell blenders (and they have), but I love their infectious glee over seeing what kinds of crazy things their blender can pulverize. If you do a video — or anything — with passion, it is going to shine through.

Web video is an art form unto itself. If you see a traditional promotional video on YouTube, doesn’t it look out of place? Web video demands good pacing and evocative storytelling. For the highly overrated That’s Why I Chose Yale video, what didn’t work for me (and many others) was that the setup was a couple minutes long, which is longer than most web videos, period. YouTube in Classrooms may be run 10 minutes, but it hooked me right away, and its pacing and content kept me riveted. And Sivers’ TEDx talk is a YouTube video within a video, showing the form itself as something to study.

If you still want to post a response, you’re welcome to do so. Many thanks to those who responded to build this meme. It was fun, sure, but I think we also gained more insight into what goes into great video!


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social media is a complement, not a replacement.

While I enjoyed the whole experience of the first-ever Post-Secondary Canadian Web Conference, I’d say my favo[u]rite moment was completely unplanned and again showed the connective power of social media.

At #pseweb, like many web conferences, I find myself “meeting” lots of interesting folks via the Twitter streams — whether engaging in @ conversations or retweeting keen comments — but not always meeting them in person. So as the last sessions ticked away, I lamented on Twitter that I hadn’t yet met many of my new tweeps face to face. The solution came quickly, as several other folks called for a tweetup and arranged a time and place (2:45, outside lecture room 203) within minutes.

The impromptu tweetup between sessions found around 12 to 15 (should have counted) folks introducing themselves and chatting amicably. Some even admitted it seemed easier to communicate via Twitter than face-to-face, with an outside context driving the discussion, but everyone seemed quite pleased to meet those they had been tweeting with the previous couple of days.

And this is what those who quickly dismiss Twitter miss: The community it builds is the platform’s greatest feature. Twitter has become the hub of activity at most conferences, with folks starting discussions and posting helpful links even during sessions, but also a true connector on a personal level. Its inclusive nature is not limited to just those there physically, as the positive feedback of those unable to make #pseweb and enjoying our live-tweeting of sessions demonstrates. As for social media changing conferences, I only gave out one business card, yet gained 35 new Twitter connections and even several LinkedIn invites.

But, as the impromptu tweetup showed, social media is not a replacement for regular interaction — it is a complement, and often a catalyst. When incoming students interact in our Class of 2014 group, it isn’t for the sake of using Facebook; they mainly want to get to know future classmates. And meeting someone I’ve interacted with via Twitter is always a treat, confirming an earlier electronic connection. One should never view social media as a kingdom unto itself but instead a doorway that can lead anywhere.


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with activism, social media is not a waiting game.

Recently, New York State announced a mind-boggling move to close a number of state parks and historic sites, including Oswego’s Fort Ontario. Fort Ontario played a role in the French & Indian War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812; housed nearly 1,000 refugees, mostly Jewish, from World War II Europe (the only haven of its kind); and serves as a key community resource for folks of all ages and interests. That activists would want to use every tool available — including Facebook — to try to save the fort came as no surprise.

The first to jump was a high school student, who created a group that is a truly grassroots campaign. A local official contacted the person saying she also was working on something but was waiting for approval. The student accepted her request to become an administrator, and she later contacted everyone when she had the more official page set up. Where, to her credit, she did plug the other effort.

My reaction, however, was: Waiting for approval? To set up a Facebook page? I understand wanting to gather official partners and settle other organizational details, but with a cause where people are ready to act, [s]he who hesitates is lost. If there’s a hot topic and a ready audience, they aren’t going to wait for committee meetings, mission statements and the trappings of how we used to do business.

The results? As of early Tuesday, the student-created group is community-driven, with a wide variety of people constantly posting emotional comments, links and photos. Number of members? 4,314. The organization-created page is almost completely administrator-driven. Community comments and interaction are less frequent. Number of fans? 2,050. A journalist friend of mine astutely observed that, in the Web 2.0 world, an unofficial presence, for whatever reason, sometimes has the opportunity to become more trusted and engaging than an official effort.

It sets up a fascinating study in communication dynamics, but I also wonder if it will dilute efforts, no matter how friendly the two are. There’s a reason, after all, why you don’t see two chess clubs, two weekly student newspapers, two Jewish Student Associations on most campuses. While one would hope the efforts complement each other, in the go-go 21st century, busy people may prefer one place to visit, one entity through which to focus efforts.

Don’t get me wrong: If you’re a college, company or other permanent presence, you should indeed take the lead of online branding. You have every right to make sure you know what you’re doing before you go all-out on a social-media campaign. But if a cause comes up and you sit on the sidelines while someone else sounds the horn, you’ll see that social media is not a waiting game.

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top 2009 lesson: twitter is other people.

I’ll consider 2009 the year of Twitter. Not everyone would understand. Blame it on the input box originally saying What are you doing? Or blame Oprah. Or Ashton. Whatever the reason, the biggest misconception is that Twitter is all about *me*.

In reality, Twitter is all about other people. It’s about what they’re doing, not what I’m doing.

The first time you really use Twitter is not when you tell people what you’re doing (or having for lunch) — it’s when you ask someone about something they’re doing (or, if you prefer, having for lunch). Twitter is not a megaphone; it’s a telephone, a party line with hundreds of people listening and talking. It’s where people can share advice or help solve problems. It’s people turning others onto new music, new developments and, yes, new places to eat.

This year, I learned about the true community-building power of Twitter. Let me count the ways … or five ways, at least.

1. #pancaketweetup. What started as #wittybanter between @lanejoplin and I evolved into a monthly activity where dozens of people share a virtual breakfast. Our #pancaketweetup Facebook group boasts 72 members from across the world, and it now seems like every Web communications conference (most recently Stamats SIMTech) sprouts a real-life #pancaketweetup.

2. #lanesintown. Lane took front in center in this Twitter-related adventure, coming to Ithaca in an episode related to @mhaithaca sending her a Jimmy John’s sub after a tweet about how she missed the distinctive sandwich. Did I mention this weekend included a real-life #pancaketweetup too?

3. The Higher Ed Music Critics Top 100 of the 2000s. Mastermind @andrewcareaga tapped a half-dozen music-minded tweeps (this one included) to count down the Top 100 albums of the decade. Andy and some other participants had previously introduced me to some of the albums I put on the list, most notably The Avett Brothers’ I And Love And You (my album of the year). Twitter probably drove my music purchases more than anything in 2009.

4. The Higher Ed Social Media Showdown. @sethodell brought together a baker’s dozen of Web collaborators (this one included) to help host an interactive trivia game that showed the power of YouTube annotations and quizzes to engage audiences. Downright clever, and educational … and another example of the Twitter community happily playing along.

5. Twitter and conferences. I wouldn’t have even known about the regional HighEdWeb conference in Cornell if not for Twitter, and likely wouldn’t have attended Stamats SIMTech if not for Twitter. I found most of my speakers for the annual SUNYCUAD Conference via Twitter. A Twitter connection with @karinejoly, and a @rachelreuben recommendation, led to presenting my first-ever Webinar. And while HEWeb09 may have included the Great Keynote Meltdown of 2009, it also saw attendees band together to raise funds via a Twitter call when a colleague had her laptop stolen, allowing her to buy a new one.

I could go on, well over 140 characters, on the many ways Twitter changed and shaped my life this year. But mostly it introduced me — virtually, and eventually in person — to some outstanding folks. It is those other people, who epitomize the essence of Twitter, that made 2009 so special.


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