Cafe Witness

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why the Democrats Fear Kucinich

Given today's news that Dennis Kucinich has been barred from this week's Iowa presidential debate, you might be asking yourself: what could someone do to get barred from a debate?

The answer: not being a "serious" candidate.

... which, according to the Des Moines Register, is proven because Kucinich doesn't rent office space in Iowa. Instead, his campaign organizers there work out of a home office.

Evidently, NOT wasting money on needless office space and transportation costs makes a person a false presidential candidate. Really? Sounds like good fiscal and environmental judgment to me...

The larger problem is that Kucinich receives no mainstream media support, precisely because his entire progressive platform goes against the regressive / centrist politics of the existing Democratic party. Kucinich must realize he can't actually win the party's nomination, but he DOES realize his true value is to ask the hard questions of his fellow candidates, forcing them to explain their questionable choices.

Funny thing: he can't do that if he's not on the same stage they are.

Say what you will about choosing between "the lesser of two evils" in the "two-party system" next November, but America's best chance for political and environmental progress is getting shut out of the race by those whose interests would be disrupted if he were granted a louder voice.

Democracy in action?

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ShowClix: A Pittsburgh Social Media Startup That Gets It Right?

Yesterday, I met with Lynsie Camuso, one half of the dynamic duo behind recent Pittsburgh-based social media startup ShowClix. But, as I quickly realized (and as Lynsie herself was quick to point out), ShowClix isn't a social media company -- it's a service-based business that uses social media tools. (Or, in other words, they actually have a business plan.)

ShowClix, in a nutshell, is the friendly independent alternative to Ticketmaster. Considering Ticketmaster is one of the most-reviled companies on the planet, ShowClix has an easy story to tell. But just being the "good guy" isn't enough to win an uphill race, so Lynsie and her team are looking for ways to include the community-driven power of social media to help her startup gain an advantage against Ye Olde Behemoth.

For example, ShowClix has created strategic alliances with influential bloggers like Perez Hilton, which help them gain brand name traction among a key demographic: pop culture obsessives who actually *go* to live events.

They also host their own ShowClix blog, "The Shlog", which is part concert announcement board, part entertainment gossip and part personal opinion. (Do I sense a Perez influence in recent posts needling Angelina Jolie and Harrison Ford? Perhaps -- but it's nice to know a blog is written by a human, rather than a press kit, no?)

ShowClix has a relationship with Innovation Works, an investment firm dedicated to revitalizing the "tech economy" in Southwest Pennsylvania by supporting "independent business ideas" (aka concepts not hatched in a CMU think tank). This is an arrangement that's good for both IW and ShowClix, which seems to be wisely plotting their path to credibility AND profitability.

Let's hope this is just the beginning of profitable Pittsburgh web startups. Lord knows we have room for a few more along that ever-expanding "Technology Corridor"...

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Social Media Fears Among Parents

During lunch yesterday, I overheard an exchange between a man and woman working together.

He: "Did you see the new ___ video yet?" (I forget the video name; it's irrelevant here.)

She: "No. Is it on YouTube?"

He: "Yeah."

She: "OH!" *Hand goes up in protest* "No YouTube in this house."

As she went on to explain, she has a ten year-old at home, and she wouldn't dream of exposing him / her to the evils of social media.

She: "Did you hear about that girl who hung herself because she was talking to a boy on MySpace?"

Me: "That wasn't actually a boy --"

She: "I KNOW, it was the PARENTS!"

So, yes, because of some truly asinine and despicable actions by a small group of people, at least one family (and probably thousands more) have decided to bar all forms of social media from entering their house.

Never mind that this selfsame ten year-old is probably, even now, surfing YouTube at school / a friend's house. (Kids won't be stopped from sniffing out taboos.) What's more interesting is that, instead of taking this opportunity to educate their child on the proper way to navigate a dicey situation -- meeting people online -- these parents have instead decided to write off a whole wide swath of the internet as evil.

I'm not a parent yet, so I'm probably out of bounds in commenting upon parenting techniques. But I am a child OF parents, so I have half the equation settled, and that means I CAN say this:

I would appreciate my parents much more for helping me understand the pros and cons, the dos and don'ts, of social media interaction (or anything else) than I would being told that "X group of people" are simply off-limits. (I might not realize the nuances of this difference until 10 years later, but it would happen.)

Sticking your head in the sand when something untoward happens may be a good short-term solution if you need to catch your breath, but it's a lousy long-term strategy for creative problem solving. And, unless I'm wrong, parenting seems like 100% creative problem solving.

Side note: Why do I suspect this same family, which bars their child from using YouTube, still allows him / her to watch traditional TV? (Notice she didn't say, "No *internet* in this house.) As though mainstream media is somehow "valid" content because it's produced by people with real jobs?

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Five Ways You Know You're NOT a Social Media Expert

Following up on my previous post about what constitutes expert-dom, let me add a further thought:

YOU are not an expert.

Lately, I have been inundated with Twitter requests from people claiming to be "social media experts" or "marketing experts" or "business experts."

Let me tell you something: if I've never heard of you, you are not an expert.

I can name the people I consider "experts" in most fields on one hand. Thus, if 200 of you are claiming to be "social media experts," at least 195 of you are lying.

While we're at it, here are...

Five More Ways You Know You're NOT a "Social Media Expert"

1. You don't have a blog.

2. The only people you interface with are "fellow A-Listers."

3. You spend more than 10 minutes a day on MySpace. (This includes MySpace employees.)

4. You can't explain what you actually DO in under 25 words.

5. You still need a day job.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

What Makes a Social Media "Expert"?

Chris Brogan has just announced he's devoting his next 100 posts to providing social media tips for the rest of us. Chris usually has good ideas and common sense insights, so he should be able to provide a useful lantern for those people still crawling around in the darkness.

Announcements like this do lead me to wonder, though:

What Really Defines Someone as an "Expert" in Social Media?

Consider that social media is a hodge-podge of:

* Content creation across multiple media (text, audio, images)

* Managing interpersonal communication across multiple platforms, and

* Engaging one's audience in meaningful ways...

... it could therefore be argued that "social media" is really just "(the new) basic communication."

Why be Spoon-Fed Common Sense?

There's nothing involved in social media that isn't already obvious to the average person. There's nothing awe-inspiring about aggregating followers, spreading a message or spurring individuals to action. We like to think there is but, truth be told, humans have been doing that since the Stone Age.

And, in that sense: what makes one of us more of an "expert" at communicating than others?

Is it the amount of MONEY a person makes from communicating?

Is it the size of one's LEGION of followers?

Is it the POWER one wields as a by-product of communicating?

A Disclaimer

By the way: this isn't an attack on Chris or anyone else. For example, I consider Chris Brogan to know more about communication than most people. In my estimation, he is a communication expert -- but what numbers validate that claim in black and white?

What are the metrics for being an "expert" at communicating?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

iProng Magazine Launch (featuring Moi)

Bill Palmer's iProng Magazine celebrates its launch party today in LA. The mag, which is PDF only, focuses on all aspects of the social media culture, from tech and trends to content and community.

You can download a PDF version of the magazine here -- which includes my previous blog article on the similarities between punk rock and social media. Evidently, I'm a back-page columnist. Woot.

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