Category Archives: The Digital Slant

Human Habits

Habits are hard to break and even harder to build. Well, wait let me rephrase: they are exceptionally easy to build if they’re algorithmically driven. But us mere humans struggle to do it the old fashioned way.

This morning, in the New York Times, was a great article about an Italian restaurant in New York City’s east village. Customers were distracted. They spent entire meals on phones. What could be done? The owner considered a few options: offering to “check” their phones at the hostess table? (Nah) How about having the waitress offer to take them? (Even worse) What about buying vintage tins from Etsy, placing them on the table, and allowing patrons to discover them, and their use, at their own pace? Bingo.

I have to admit, I’m so happy to see this trend.

Last week I got a new phone and all of the notifications were set to default: in other words, ALARMINGLY obnoxious. I posted an Instagram photo and every single time I got a like, I was notified. That’s over 100 notifications! Throughout the week I started to feel laggard. I was checking my phone even more than usual. My battery was drained (on a new phone)!

Last night, when a stranger “liked” my photo. I had had enough. I went into settings and silenced them all.

I work in technology, but I hate the way technology demands to own my attention and the cadence of my life.

So on I go trying to fight the algorithmic habits with good old fashioned discipline: Settings > Notifications > Mute All.  

Privacy Is Lost And That’s OK

My version of family dinner happens anytime after 9pm – on a weeknight, with food or without food, at my quiet NYC apartment. Sitting in front of my roommate’s flat screen TV. Matching silver laptops in front of us and on the coffee table – a pair of iPhones. Eyes dodging back-and-forth between browsers and broadcast. Browser and broadcast. Browser and phone.

Tonight I decided to type BrianSolis.com into my browser. I guess I wanted to know what was happening in his world. I like Brian because he is smart and savvy and really dedicated to sharing new ideas and information. I would say that’s why Brian is one of my digital educators. A person who bends my mind to think about what changes in technology mean to our society, our lives, our industries. And tonight I got just that when I read this line.

“In this episode (of BrianSolis TV), Michael Fertik, founder and CEO of Reputation Defender, joins the program to discuss privacy and the reasons why you and everyone who matters to you, will be unfairly, but forever judged by what’s online.”

The statement, in that very instant, made me think about and question to what extent people might unfairly judge me.

Continue reading

The New York Times and the 20-Somethings

Robin Marantz Henig’s piece in the New York Times today, ‘What Is It About 20-Somethings?‘ left me with an abundance of thoughts.

The article starts out by describing what the ‘milestones’ of adulthood are: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. And since numbers show my generation hasn’t hit those yet, or is approaching them in a different order, she suggest this means we “slouch towards adulthood.”

While I appreciate the amount of research and thoughtfulness that went into this, I feel compelled to offer the other side.  While some of my peers may appear to be ‘slouching’ towards adulthood, some of them have accelerated towards it, building new milestones that might set the next generation’s bar. Milestones like being your own boss, traveling the world, paying for your own health care. Milestones that positively help our generation to worry less about how we stack up against the past, and more about how we can contribute to the new, emerging American future.

20-somethings, as noted by Henig, also have something else going for them – a sense of possibility. One that has been considered ‘romantic’ and fades in time. Yet from my perspective, that sense is one of the qualities driving innovation, new models of business, opportunities for growth. Far from romantic, it’s a new reality.

Now that deserves to be a milestone.

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References

What Is It About 20-Somethings? – The New York Times, 08/20/2010

Why Can’t Twenty-Somethings Grow Up? -The Atlantic, 08/20/2010


Sitcom TV and the Cognitive Surplus

Thanks to Nick @ Nite, I spent the 1990’s watching classic American sitcoms. From I Love Lucy to Bewitched, I loved meeting my family after a sun-filled summer day around that television. But as the years went on, it was the lure of a new screen in the room – the computer – that pulled me away from the connectivity of those nights and into the future.

Clay Shirky reminded me of those memories when I watched his 2008 Web 2.0 Expo talk about the “cognitive surplus.

Here is the back-story.

In 2008, Shirky credited the television sitcom (summary here: Gin, Television and Social Surplus) as the most critical technology of the last few decades. He says, and I paraphrase – that as the country came into the five-day workweek around the start of the second World War, society experienced something new: free time. Problem was, people, like my grandparents, didn’t know how to handle it. So they “panicked” – and flocked to TV that acted as the “social lubricant” to our patchwork society. For decades, it linked us all together. It was present media. And with the onset of the Internet, web 2.0 and the long tail of choice, the sitcom and well, TV, has been challenged by choice.

If you follow Shirky’s perspective, he goes on to say that society is just now waking up from a collective bender, a bender that has exposed a cognitive surplus. Massive amounts of time that people choose to spend in different ways – from updating Wikipedia page to creating video content to building a personal brand.

So who will be the game changers that create the new sitcom – the new social lubricant? Will there be one or many? And who will find the avenues to construct the new model of business, news and entertainment around it?

I can’t wait to dig into Shirky’s new book – fittingly named The Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

Posted via email from EricaAmerica’s posterous

My Afternoon with the Newspaper

Saturday I took a step back – from my laptop – to catch up with the newspaper. I chose the New York Times and forked over $2.12, a small price to pay for what turned out to be three hours of reading, writing and ideating. Each time I wanted to pull out my iPhone, I dug deeper into Sections A and B, determined to have an uninterrupted afternoon with what Devin Coldewey, a CrunchGear blogger, called “delayed media,” aka the ink newspaper.

Delayed media is 1/3 of the concept that is part of the “present media triumvirate” theory coined by Coldewey. Helen Thomas once told me that the benefit of the print newspaper is that you end up reading much more than you would have if you were searching for something online. I found that to hold true during my experiment. I read about how labor shortages in China will make their exports more expensive and I learned that Citigroup is about to launch a PR campaign aimed at revamping their image with Wall Street and Washington. Neither of which I got from my Twitter feeds and the cable news loop that I typically keep on during the days.

While I love the newspaper (I starting delivering them in fifth grade), they haven’t kept up with the pace of the web and so they haven’t kept up with me. Even though I have worked to keep them in my life, I know that the average newsreader hasn’t. And I don’t blame them. But I am trying to figure out a way to apply the best of traditional media (epitomized by the delayed media) and combine it with the best tactics and tools of the new. Continue reading

The Snow Storm Is Over…

Here are two videos to document two very different parts of it the record breaking snow fall that hit Washington, D.C. starting on Friday, February 5th and coming to a standstill on Thursday, February 11th.

The first video is from Nathan Golon and Jordan Gantz and is an uplifting reminder that the snow brings out the kid in (almost) all of us. I found it at Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang blog.

Washington, DC Snow Storm from Es Video! on Vimeo.

The second video is from me – and I captured it tonight,  right after I uploaded a mobile photo to Facebook of a snow plow I came across in Northwest D.C.

My caption read: “Finally. Thanks, D.C.” I meant it with sincerity.

Naturally, I thought it would be interesting if I were to find out who was inside of the elusive snow plow we had all been waiting so long to see.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7jByrimK4e4[/youtube]

Big Ideas Big Action: Capital Ideation

Thanks to Peter Corbett of iStartegy Labs, Goldy Kamali of FedScoop, and the other hosts, sponsors and participants at Big Ideas Big Action (BIBA). The conference was filled with people from the private and public sectors, non profits, academic institutions — and entrepreneurs who spanned across each. They key to the program was coming up with the next BIG ideas – ones that can provide social, economic or cultural good.

The political, technological and economic shifts in the last two years have made Washington, D.C. a hub of idea generation and industry change. Look no further than Nigel Ballard, Director of Federal Marketing at Intel, who made the trip from Portland, Oregon, to talk at the BIBA conference.

Big Ideas Big Action Conference D.C. from Erica America on Vimeo.

The Social Media Tug of War: SOTU Style

The State of the Union streamed faster online than any of the networks could achieve on Television.  In the world of Twitter, conversation around the hash tag #SOTU soared, accounting for thousands upon thousands of updates on the aggregating machine. On sites like the New York Times and The Washington Times, live bloggers updated, updated, and updated. People gravitated to the pixels on computer screens and smart phones like citizen zombies, edging in a commenta critiquea joke, to see if anyone was listening.

But was anyone listening to the President?

Social media consultant, Jen Nedeau, was part of an effort with New York media consultant, Dan Gerstein, to organize a group of live bloggers and spur a substantive online discussion around the State of the Union. Her answer to the question above – was anyone actually listening? Most likely, would be a resounding yes.

“Social media allows the conversation that used to happen in the family living room, over the dinner table or within the knitting circle expand into a global dialogue. As the President gives his speech tonight, we will all be tuned in – not only to what he is saying – but to what those around us are saying.”

Nedeau, who earned her social media chops as a digital strategist in Washington, D.C. and New York City, went on to say that the online conversation in-stream with the President’s speech, “creates the unique ability for political thought to expand and explode beyond the television broadcast.”

Could she be right? In the last decade, technology has soared to new heights – at the turn of the century, words like Kindle, Android, Tablet and Geotargeting were hardly in our language. But in a short period of time, boundaries have disappeared and with it, unspeakable progress has occurred. But have all the channels for talk brought about setbacks, too?

Gerstein, founder of Gotham Ghostwriters and a columnist at Forbes, takes the question above and colors in a different point of view. With Gotham’s live blogging effort, he says, average political junkies are given an alternative to the talking heads found on network TV.

“Before these tools were available, people had to listen to talking heads yak at them.  Now they can directly engage political pros and experts in a two-way conversation, ask them questions, and quite possibly enlighten them.”

Gerstein makes a point – and with it, speaks to perhaps the biggest success the President didn’t address in the State of the Union: WhiteHouse.Gov. A web site that has made press briefings available live, visitor records downloadable, daily photos accessible, and Q&A’s with Administration officials a mouse click away. Tonight WhiteHouse.gov live streamed the address (yes, faster than the networks could), held a live video Q&A afterward, and uploaded the official remarks and two blog posts (onetwo) after.

My point – which is not to ignore the fact that I, like Nedeau and Gerstein, use social media to engage others and to tap into a larger conversation – is that we are all in this pixilated society together. But what does it mean for moving a President’s political agenda forward – any President for that matter, post-social media? Can either side build up enough strength, enough collaboration, enough bipartisanship, to tug the social media rope hard enough and bring over to the other side?

To see a Flickr feed of the social media story from the State of the Union, click here.

The Social Media Swing State: MA's Special Election

2008 was a year for Democrats. Led by President Obama, Obama for America utilized social networks, text messages and online organization to get a record number of people out to vote. But today, it looks like the Republicans are about the pull out the social media win. The real question is: will the Senate seat come with it too? Contestants in today’s special election race for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s seat, Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Martha Coakley, are about to find out.

CNN’s Audience Interaction Producer, Eric Kuhn, wrote a post Monday morning “GOP Candidate Dominates Social Networking in Massachusetts,” and pulled numbers of Brown’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to make the GOP case. Kuhn was right, and today Brown’s numbers continued to grow. (Below are the most up to-date stats).

At this moment, more than 110,078 people on Facebook have taken sides and more than 15,338 people on Twitter are tuned in. Brown leads Facebook with 92,964 fans compared to Coakley’s 17,114. He also has a clear lead on Twitter with over 7,000 more followers and listed nearly 600 times. Brown’s approach to social media is also more effective, especially in his use of Facebook. His campaign staff uses the page to funnels news, information, and behind-the-scenes campaign photos. Coakley’s Facebook Page reads more like a resume.

I left a comparison of YouTube out, but I should make one quick point. Brown is burying Coakley. Search for “Martha Coakley,” and you are likely to find, top fold, clips that Brown’s campaign have uploaded about her. Fatal flaw for Coakley’s campaign – to not play offense on one of the most searched web sites in the world.

The gamble is just as dire for the Democrats, who have 60 votes and health care reform at stake with today’s election.

Side-By-Side (As of 2:10AM Tuesday)

Scott Brown (Republican)
Facebook: 92,964 Fans
Twitter: 11,472 Followers

Martha Coakley (Democrat)
Facebook: 17,114 Fans
Twitter: 3,866 Followers
ActBlue (Fundraising): Raised $1,276,289 from 14,668 supporters

20-year-Old Uses Facebook and Micro Donations to Run For Mayor

Glenn Stegall isn’t your average University of Georgia senior. On November 15, 2009, the 20-year-old political science major announced his candidacy for Mayor of Athens-Clarke County. The election is on November 2nd, and while Stegall is not the first ambitious undergrad to go after the college town Mayorship, he has a new advantage: a Barack Obama fund raising model, Facebook, and a life that began in poverty and transcended into the middle class – an advantage that he thinks, sets him apart.

“I believe being able to live in both poverty and the middle class allowed me to see two different worlds,” Stegall told me via e-mail. “I hope this unique experience will give me the insight and understanding a public servant needs to serve a diverse group of citizens.”

Athens-Clarke County is a city of about 100,000 people. As Stegall pointed out in our GChat video interview (see clip below), Athens is one of the poorest city in the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is also one of the most unequal cities in terms of income. Could a 20-year-old possibly have the life experiences to address such a dreary reality?

“My life has also prepared me for this journey. I grew up in a small south Georgia town. The socioeconomic status of just about everyone was poor. Most people I came in contact with on a daily bases had little education…The difference I can make by simply talking about the issues, and raising awareness is worth my effort alone. If we wait for the perfect time to help people, the problems they face may not persist anymore. Our ability to help may not be the same. So I say why not, why wait, and why not step up to the plate now.”

But perhaps what is most intriguing about Stegall’s run is his ability to stay in the race financially. The top contender who has yet to announce his candidacy, Spencer Frye, has raised over $11,000, according to the Athens-Clarke Board of Elections. Stegall has a little over $3,000 on hand, a surprising amount for a candidate who has only been on the trail for two months.

Frye’s contributions have come from less than a dozen individuals. Stegall – over a hundred.