Henry Jenkins: “Obama is Like a Stub in Wikipedia” and Other Thoughts About Social Media

As I mentioned in my last blog post, the conversation between Steven Johnson and Henry Jenkins yesterday afternoon at SXSW08 was brilliant and insightful. Here are some interesting snippets (all paraphrased, hope I captured the intent):

On Harry Potter:

  • We hear a lot about the fact that Harry Potter helped children take up reading but it’s more than that. They also took up writing (fan fiction), learned how to use social networks, learned how to be political, via online communities.

On Barack Obama:

  • The “Yes We Can” slogan uses the language of social networks and collective intelligence. Young people online use “we”, politicians use “I”, very egocentric. Some political pundits say his platform is weak. It’s not weak, it’s like a stub in Wikipedia. We’ll do this together.

On social tissue:

  • World of Warcraft (videogames) is the new social glue, like bowling was in the 1950’s.
  • The Internet is actually helping repair the social tissue that was broken by increased population mobility. We now carry our relationships on our back, like turtles.
  • The main challenge is drilling down to the local level. Traditional media has not been doing a good job at covering the hyperlocal news. It’s a hard problem to solve. It’s the “pothole” issue. If you’ve been obsessing about that pothole in front of your house, and it gets filled by the city, it’s big news for you. But it’s not for residents of the next street.

On harnessing the community:

  • Maybe we can use high school kids? They have time, skills, idealism and want to serve their community. How can we free them to talk about local?

More about this conversation here and here. A “graphic” recording of the conversation is here.

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Robert Scoble is Media

I’ve been thinking about Robert Scoble’s post on Facebook since I blogged about it yesterday. In it, he invites people to become “friend” with him on Facebook (and he does it again in his last post yesterday night). Intuitively, I knew he was unto something and I asked the Praized blog readers to do the same thing (you can do it by clicking here).

Now, I’ve been “friends” with Robert ever since I met him at Google Zeitgeist 2005. We were sitting at the same dinner table and had the occasion to exchange a few words (he’s a great guy BTW!). For those who don’t know him, Robert was one of Microsoft’s technical evangelists. He was part of the Channel 9 MSDN Video team, walking around the Microsoft campus and shooting very informal new product videos. He became extremely popular by having a more balanced view about his employer (more balanced than traditional PR people), sometimes congratulating and sometimes criticizing Microsoft. More info can be found on his Wikipedia profile

Since meeting Robert, he’s been part of my LinkedIn network, and recently I added him in my Pownce network. I obviously added Robert to my Facebook network yesterday afternoon after reading his post (and he accepted it quickly).

Now, if you look in his Pownce public feed, you’ll see that Robert has been micro-blogging about stuff he’s doing. He currently has 1253 “friends”, all early adopters as Pownce is still in beta. In Facebook, he now has 2702 “friends”. Yesterday night, I got a message in my Facebook news feed section. Robert had uploaded a video and
I got an alert about it because he’s in my friends list.

It made me wonder: why would Robert Scoble accept “friends” invitation from people he does not know? Why do you want to be connected to people you don’t know and alert them to stuff you’re doing? And then it hit me! Robert Scoble is media. He’s building his own broadcast network. He understands that media is completely fragmented and, by participating in all these new social communication vehicles (blogging, Twitter, Pownce, Facebook), he’s aggregating readers and viewers,
thereby increasing his penetration and his worth as a media. I’m convinced Robert reaches close to 100% of all early adopters in Silicon Valley (and a good chunk in North America). He now has tremendous influence on “influencers”.

Now, I finally understood why I invited people yesterday to connect to me in Facebook. I am media as well. By writing the Praized blog every day since October 2006, I have become media. And if you are media, you want to build up your “circulation” to increase your influence and by extension, your value. But be aware: you have to accept the reciprocal conversations though. Robert Scoble receives updates from 1253 Pownce friends and 2702 Facebook friends. The noise level is very high. This conversation is not unidirectional.

I have seen the future of media and it’s Robert Scoble.

What is Social Media?

In my daily work, I often use the expression “social media”. I’ve been asked to define it before but I always end up talking about user-generated content and reciprocal, two-way conversation between the user and the media. Wikipedia has a good definition but Joe Marchese from the Mediapost’s Online Spin adds more meat:

Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. These sites typically use technologies such as blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs to allow users to interact. A few prominent examples of social media applications are Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Gather.com (social networking),YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and Miniclip (game sharing).” (source: Wikipedia)

Marchese begins: “first I think one of the biggest myths regarding social media is that it equals user-generated content. (…) Second, there is nothing about social media that demands user creation. The “media” part of social media can be anything from professional content to home videos. Just because “America’s Funniest Home Videos” consisted of user-generated content certainly didn’t make it social media. Conversely, just because “Heroes” is professionally produced doesn’t mean that it can’t be social media.”

He continues: “the real difference between broadcast media and social media is not the media itself, but the system of discovery, distribution, consumption and conversation surrounding the media. (…) What many of us are defining as social media today are actually just technologies specifically architected to facilitate people’s natural tendencies to seek out, share and discuss media content. Think about it. How is MySpace social medium? I would certainly say that MySpace is the largest and most influential social media platform of our time, but it doesn’t create media (at least not for most of it). The media one finds on MySpace is a mix of professional, semi-professional and (I hate using the term) “user- generated” content, and that media is made social by the context of its distribution and its ability to create dialogue between people. ANY TYPE OF MEDIA CAN BE SOCIAL MEDIA — and eventually all media will be social media in the most literal definition. This will have serious implications for media companies and advertisers alike, so it is important that we are not dismissing social media as the user-generated portion of the Internet.”

What it means: so my quasi, minimalistic definition wasn’t too far off. I agree that social media is all about the conversation but I think that, as part of that conversation, there will be some “user-generated content” happening. I agree that all media can be social media. I would even say that all media will have to become social media. Consumers are getting used to contributing to the conversation and that’s not going away. BTW, I like his thoughts regarding America’s Funniest Home Videos.

User-Generated Content: Recap of 2006 and What to Expect in 2007

This article by Bambi Francisco in MarketWatch recaps 2006 and sets the stage for 2007 in terms of the impact of user-generated content:

“Given our obsession with users, and ourselves, I’ve highlighted what will be in demand or wanted in 2007 as the audience is increasingly relied upon as the voice, the experts, the supporting actors and/or virtual stars of tomorrow. These bottoms-up celebrities combined with traditional top-down stars will increasingly dominate the new media landscape of 2007.

Wanted: Your contribution

The concept of a wiki — a site that essentially enables egalitarian editing and collaboration of everyone from experts to novices — has been around for many years. The best-known example is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Today, Wikipedia has 725 million page views per month, up more than 400% from last year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. And, the beauty of Wikipedia is that it has about 6 employees. This year, the wiki model exploded to the point that now a book is being written in wiki style. Barry Libert is spearheading the first book project to be written in such a manner. (…)

Wanted: Your expertise

“Everyone is an expert [in something],” according to Richard Rosenblatt, who was the former chairman of MySpace and who sold the social network to News Corp last year for $580 million. Today, Rosenblatt is heading up Demand Media, which he calls a new media site. Demand Media is looking for professional, expert content on any topic since the core of its strategy is to start with trusted, professional content and then provide the tools to let people contribute related content or opinions. Some of Demand Media’s sites that use expert commentary include eHow, trails.com, gardenguides.com and golflink.com.

Yahoo Answers is probably the most popular of services that rely on volunteer experts to give people answers to their questions. (…) Yahoo Answers, which now has 60 million users and 160 million answers, marked its one-year anniversary in early December. Those answers helped drive Yahoo Answers traffic from practically zero in November 2005 to 14.5 million this November, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. In a survey conducted by Yahoo Answers and Harris Interactive, a third of online adults have used a Q&A site. (…)

Wanted: Your opinions and comments

About 30% of online news site Topix.net comes from user-generated or reader comments. That’s expected to jump to about 50% next year, Topix.net’s CEO Rich Skrenta tells me. Take a look across the blogosphere and you’ll note that comments make up a large part of the content.

Wanted: Your history

User-generated content can come in the form of a users’ history. As long as people can know your history, it can help form recommendations that drive sales of products, movie rentals, or news articles. In the past, roughly 5% of Amazon‘s book sales came from recommendations, as estimated by analysts. According to Netflix members select approximately 60 percent of their movies based on movie recommendations tailored to their individual tastes.

Wanted: Your reviews, ratings

It all started with ePinions back in the late ’90s. It was a site that thrived on users giving their opinions about sundry topics. Now, reviews and ratings are not only everywhere, they’re essential in influencing what we buy, where we eat, and what we read. They’ve become a great filtering process. They’re the reason sellers are trusted on eBay. They’re the reason local restaurants which are reviewed by users on Yelp.com get new clients. They’re the reason we read certain articles from across the Web, thanks to Digg.com, which relies on users to vote for articles they like by submitting it.

Wanted: Your profiles and journals

We live in an age where what we do, and who we are, is the news. That became clearer to me after Facebook decided to make any update on a users’ profile become a news feed. While the service wasn’t very popular when announced, I think the millennial generation will get used to it. Profiles of every day people make up the social network sites — the fastest-growing sites — on the Web. News Corp’s MySpace, with 115 million members creating the content with their own profiles, saw page views and unique visitors more than double in November. Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces, which has 70 million members creating profiles, also saw its unique visitors and page views more than double last month.

Wanted: Your video creations

NBC is integrating user-submitted videos, such as favorite pets and wedding woes. They’ll be videos that are family-oriented, said Mark Moore, founder and CEO of One True Media, the technology company hosting the user-submitted videos. Mixing user-submitted video and traditional content will become a bigger deal in 2007.

What it means: this is a great summary of the major pillars of user-generated content. Still looking for a good New Year’s resolution? Make sure you open the conversation with your users. They want to tell you something!

Meta-Praized: YouTube, VirtualCity, Wikipedia, Peter Jackson, Fake User Profiles, Google Answers, Santa Monica Parking, Yahoo

Meta-Praized is a collection of links & stories we’ve dugg on Digg.com in the last 7 days. Feel free to add us as a friend: PraizedDotCom .

  • “Seeking Executive to Tame the Digital Future” in the New York Times
  • “What does ‘Web 2.0’ mean to the world of Public Relations?” in CMSWire.com
  • “Do Google and YouTube have ethical responsibility for their video services?” in ArsTechnica
  • “VirtualCity delivers the real thing” in the Globe & Mail
  • “Experts rate Wikipedia’s accuracy higher than non-experts” via Ars Technica
  • “To Web Fans, Peter Jackson Is the One True Director” in the New York Times
  • “Sex and Social Networking Sells: Fake User Profiles in Marketing Campaigns” in Read/WriteWeb
  • Google shuts down the Google Answers service via the Google blog
  • “Report: Pentagon investigates YouTube video of U.S. troops” via News.com
  • CBS attributes ratings boost to YouTube” via the Chicago Tribune
  • “A New Twist: Voting for News You Trust” in NewAssignment.net
  • “Real-Time map showing available parking spaces in Santa Monica” via the actual site
  • Yahoo! TV gets a redesign via TechCrunch