Category: Online Communities


Flickr the Platform

April 6th, 2009 — 8:52pm

A few months ago I received a note from Flickr user Schmap, a publisher of online travel guides. Its managing editor, Emma J. Williams, wanted to know if she could publish a photograph I took at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany a few summers ago in Schmap’s online travel guide to Berlin.

I won’t get paid, she forewarned me, but it was free publicity for my photo. The choice, of course, was totally up to me.

How cool is that?

1 comment » | New Media, Online Communities, Web 2.0

Does Facebook’s ‘friend limit’ thwart the ability for mass organization?

January 26th, 2008 — 12:49pm

A friend of mine sent me the following story of a Canadian union organizer banned from Facebook for making too many friends:

CUPE organizer/Labour Start correspondent Derek Blackadder’s foray into labor-related social networking was rudely interrupted by a warning from Facebook saying that he was making too many friends.

Facebook LogoHe then asked me, “Does this thwart the potential for organizing through Facebook?”

No, I said. And here’s why:

Obviously, if you want to get a message out to organize a protest, a prayer service or anything else , you’ll get that message out most QUICKLY by having a lot of friends, say, more than the 5,000 limit. Note I said most QUICKLY. (This is the equivalent of broadcasting a message through a traditional one-to-many medium).

But not necessarily most EFFECTIVELY, nor most SUCCESSFULLY, if the barometer for success is how many people take the desired action you’re hoping for.

Here’s the key

Successfully organizing on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean one person broadcasting a message to 5,000 people. If anything, that message is going to be watered down for broad appeal, less relevant to each specific person, and prompt the least (percentage wise) action.

The KEY is getting 50 people to each tell 50 people to teach tell 50 people, etc., etc., etc. (Or, really, 5 people to tell 5 people, etc., etc., etc.) Each message then becomes a relevant, targeted message, and a message that the recipient of which is most likely to pass on.

And that’s what gives social networking sites, such as Facebook, such a great potential for organization.

So you sort of have two issues: 1) crafting the right message and 2) getting that message to the right people.

Obviously what I’m describing here is simply viral marketing in theory (the practitioners of which will tell you in reality is anything but simple).

5 comments » | Communication, Facebook, New Media, Old Media, Online Communities, Viral Marketing

Catholicism 2.0: Religious blogging, podcasting & online communities

January 24th, 2008 — 8:20pm

Call to Action logoEach year Call to Action, a progressive, reform-minded organization within the Catholic Church, convenes a National Convention. This year the group aims to hold a few sessions on how to utilize new media technologies to inform and galvanize the laity to action. Some suggested sessions include blogging, podcasting and social networking. I had a conversation last night with an organizer, and hope to sit on a panel for the group. The convention is in November and preliminary information can be found here. More to come soon…

Comment » | Blogging, Journalism, Media, New Media, Online Communities, Social Networking

Ravelry, the future of online communities, and what it means for journalism

November 6th, 2007 — 10:16am

Medill logoAs part of an independent study I’m doing on online communities with another Medill student, I moderated three focus groups yesterday looking at why and how students used social media. Once we got beyond Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, one student brought up an interesting site I’d heard of, but must admit I’ve never checked out: Ravelry – a knit and crochet community.Ravelry logo

The student explained that before she discovered Ravelry, she would spend a lot of time trying to find free patterns online. Now, she can log in to Ravelry and trade patterns within the community easily.

The future of online communities…?

Her insights helped highlight some of different motivations people have for joining and contributing to online communities. People overwhelmingly have the same responses for joining Facebook and MySpace: my friends are there, I want to find old friends or it helps me keep in touch. Topically oriented communities offer something entirely different.

TripConnect logoI’m sure other examples of topically oriented, niche sites abound. The only one I’m personally familiar with is TripConnect, to which I contributed reviews.

Magazines and newspapers

At first glance, it seems that Facebook accomplishes what local newspapers once accomplished, although in a more extensive and personalized way, whereas topically oriented online communities are more analogous to magazines.

What’s your take? Are there any vibrant online communities that particularly impress you? Or any old media companies doing anything particularly interesting in this arena?

This is a thread I’ll hopefully develop more fully in the future.

Comment » | Magazines, Medill, Newspapers, Online Communities

The future of journalistic objectivity

November 3rd, 2007 — 12:35pm

Chicago Tribune logoTimothy McNulty at the Chicago Tribune wrote a great article yesterday on journalistic objectivity.

Objectivity is an oft-debated topic amongst journalists. To what extent is it possible? Where are the lines drawn? Has it diminished in the age of cable TV’s talking heads and the numerous opining bloggers? Or, as McNulty says, does objectivity get reduced to neutrality? “On the one hand this” and “on the other hand this,” without any attempt to truly seek the truth?

One thing that interests me is the potential of objectivity on a macro level – especially given the democratizing potential and decentralized nature of the Web.

Continue reading »

1 comment » | Broadcast, Journalism, Media, Medill, New Media, News, Newspapers, Online Communities, Tribune

Dean Lavine addresses Medill graduate students over lunch

November 2nd, 2007 — 1:26pm

Medill logoMedill Dean John Lavine told a group of Medill graduates today, “we are aggressively looking at a set of new clients” for their graduate run Medill News Service.

As we at Medill here have started turning more towards multimedia journalism, the clients who subscribe to our graduate-run wire service haven’t been able to support some of the Flash-based video pieces we’ve produced for our Web site Medill Reports.

The Medill News Service, a wire service run by graduate students at the Medill School of Journalism has provided local coverage on Chicago politics, business, legal affairs, etc. for area publications since 1995. Basically, Medill graduate students report in Chicago, and Chicago-area publications who can’t afford the reporting pay for the stories. (Clients include the Daily Herald, the Daily Southtown, the Northwest Indiana Times, the Chicago Defender, among others.) The Medill News Service also runs a Washington Bureau. Washington clients include the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and the Greeley Tribune in Colorado.
Continue reading »

3 comments » | Brands, Medill, New Media, News, Newspapers, Online Communities

Facebook and “maintained social capital” – a study at Michigan State University

October 28th, 2007 — 1:18pm

Read about an interesting study on Facebook conducted at MSU (thanks to Alec Saunders).

Facebook logoThe group attempted to establish a correlation between different forms of social capital and heavy Facebook usage. To put it simply, social capital is the benefits we gain from being connected. (For an exhaustive study of social capital, read “Bowling Alone” by Putnam). In it Putnam establishes bridging social capital and bonding social capital. Bridging social capital represents the our relationships with acquaintances, whereas bonding social capital describes the close relationships we have with friends and family. The study, however, introduced a new form of social capital: “maintained social capital.”

Maintained Social Capital

Maintained social capital refers to those relationships, and the benefits we derive from them, that we maintain despite having shifted geography, interests or workplaces. In the case of Facebook, they may be the relationships we forged in high school with people who went off to different colleges. The authors of the study write:

Social networks change over time as relationships are formed or abandoned. Particularly significant changes in social networks may affect one’s social capital, as when a person moves from the geographic location in which their network was formed and thus loses access to those social resources.

What makes Facebook, other social networking sites, and the Internet in general so interesting when it comes to social capital, to put it plainly, is its uncanny ability to help people keep in touch. The authors of the study quantified those relationships using survey questions such as, “If I needed to, I could ask a high school acquaintance to do a small favor for me,” or “I’d be able to stay with a high school acquaintance if traveling to a different city.”

Social networking sites solidify our past relationships, and have huge benefits for personal and professional gain. Taken the above example, if you’re traveling to a city where you don’t know anyone, how easy it is to peruse your network of friends on Facebook or MySpace to see if an old friend or acquaintance got a new job there? Perhaps you wouldn’t feel comfortable crashing on their couch, but you might drop them a line to see if they are free for dinner one night.

On the one hand, the Internet is exciting because it’s fast; dynamic. On the other hand, however, it’s also much more stable; permanent.

Interesting stuff…

Comment » | Databases, Facebook, Media, Online Communities, Social Media, Social Networking, Technology

Christian Century opens up site to independent bloggers

October 27th, 2007 — 5:05pm

A big move for an old magazine
An editor over at U.S. Catholic, where I worked this past summer, informed me that the Christian Century, a Christian magazine with more than one hundred years of history opened up its site to independent bloggers. (Founded in 1884, it was renamed the Christian Century in anticipation of the 20th century!)

Christian Century logoFirst off, I wanted to point it out and give kudos to the staff over at Christian Century for making the move.

Secondly, apparently the way it all started was one writer, Real Live Preacher, taking it upon himself to come up with the idea and recruit all bloggers to make it happen. This fact illustrates an important facet of opening up your site, or your platform as a more traditional or mainstream news and information site. The mantra, “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t work.

There needs to be someone, whether it is a writer on staff or a community outreach coordinator or advocate, reaching out to bloggers to convince them to contribute. They can write anywhere. You have to convince them it is better to do so on your site.

Or you may have to do more…
This past spring I worked with a dozen other graduate students in the spring on the Medill Media Management project. In the course of our research into hyperlocal community news sites, we spoke with some editors at the Rocky Mountain News. When they launched YourHub, a community news site reliant heavily on user generated content, they stressed the importance of soliciting content from the community. Actively. One editor told us that if you have to go door to door and explain to people what a blog is and how it works, then that’s what it takes.

Now not all of us have the resources of the Rocky Mountain News, but to be in conversation with the community (or audience, or readership, or viewership, or whatever), you need to truly be in conversation with the community.

Comment » | Brands, Journalism, Media, Medill, News, Newspapers, Online Communities

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