Monthly Archives: January 2011

5 ways government social media matters to citizens

An important role of any technology journalist’s role in the 21st century is to explain how the broader trends that are changing technology, government and civic society relate to average citizens. Some peope call this broader trend towards smarter, more agile government that leverage technology “Gov 2.0.” If you follow Mashable, you might have read about the ways that social media promotes good health or how government works better with social media. The folllowing stories have little to with technology buzzwords and everything to do with impact. Following are five stories about government 2.0 that matter to citizens, with issues that literally come home to everyone.

1) The Consumer Product Safety Commission has launched a public complaints database at SaferProducts.gov. You could think of it as a Yelp for government, or simply as a place where consumers could go to see what was safe. Add that to the mobile recalls application that people can already use to see whether a product has been recalled.

2) New traceability rules for food safety, resulting from a new law that the President signed earlier this month. These rules will give consumers new insight into where food is from and whether it’s been recalled. And yes, there’s an app for that: a California-based company is making stickers that consumers can use their smartphones to scan for more information.

3) The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will use technology to listen to citizens online to detect fraud. If you haven’t heard, DC has a new startup agency. That hasn’t happened in a long time. Your could think of it as Mint.gov mashed up with HealthCare.gov. The CFPB plans to use technology in a number of unprecedented ways for fraud detection, including crowdsourcing consumer complaints and trends analysis. Given how much financial fraud has affected citizens in recent years,and how much of the anger that the public holds for the bailouts of banks remains, whether this agency leveraging technology well will matter to many citizens.

4) Social data and geospatial mapping join the crisis response toolset. Historic floods in Australia caused serious damage and deaths. Government workers used next-generation technology that pulled in social media in Australia and mapped the instances using geospatial tools so that first responders could help citizens faster, more efficiently and more effectively. It’s an excellent example of how an enterprise software provider (ESRI) partnered with an open source platform (Ushahidi) to help government workers use social media to help people.

5) New geolocation app connects first responders to heart attack victims.The average citizen will never need to know what Web 2.0 or Gov 2.0 means. Tens of thousands, however, will have heart attacks every year. With a new geolocation mobile application that connects citizen first responders to heart attack victims, connected citizens trained in CPR now have a new tool to help them save lives.

Better access to information about food safety, product recalls and financial fraud will help citizens around the country. Improvements to the ability of government workers to direct help in a disastrous flood or for citizens to receive immediate help from a trained first responder in an emergency are important developments. As 2011 takes shape, the need for governmet to use social media well has become more important than ever.

 

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State of the Net Tech Policy Expo

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Vigil for Representative Giffords and victims of the tragedy in Tucson

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Video from the vigil:

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Flash Wedding [VIDEO]

Some days, a joyous video can bring a tear to your eye. (That happens even more easily to when you’re planning your own wedding.) This “flash wedding” in Prudential Center last December in Boston did just that, riffing on the idea of a “flash mob.”

Unlike many flash mobs, however, this one had a point. Mazel tov, folks.

[Hat tip: Steve Garfield]

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Blogging isn’t dead, influence contests should be, and hyperlinks rock.

My belated wishes for the media in the New Year:

Please stop making generalized statements that “bloggers” are ____.

Blogs, whether they’re written by members of the media, business people or “average” citizens matter in 2011. A blog is a platform. All kinds of people use them. Some are more popular than others. Some are written by subject matter experts. Given the adoption of blogging software at the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and New York Times, the term “blogger” is is more a term of derision that an accurate classification.

The distinction of “blog” versus mainstream publication online has increasingly blurred to become nearly unrecognizable. Go back and read Nick Denton’s post on why Gawker is moving beyond the blog and consider his plan for new media in 2011.

Please stop writing headlines that “[X] is dead” or about “wars” between companies.

Exception: foreign correspondents and war journalists, both of whom exist in decreasing numbers these days. If you’re not covering an actual war, stop using the metaphor. Seriously.

For instance, blogs aren’t dead, though some of the activity and conversation that existed there in 2006 has moved in Facebook or Twitter in 2011. If you go with such a headline, steel yourself for a critical response.

Please link to the outlet and the journalist that broke a story, whether it’s “old media” or a blog.

Hyperlinks are the dendrites of the Internet. Hyperlinks are like a retweet on Twitter: they’re both social currency. Linking up the source for news story or fact with a link is like footnoting a research paper, except that it both helps the reader learn more and provides credit and authority to the site linked. Neither mainstream media nor blogs should be lifting stories without linking in 2011. So stop.

Please stop disparaging the influence of “bloggers.” Or talking about their pajamas.

It really doesn’t matter what I’m wearing when I file, though these days it’s a suit more often than shorts or pajamas.

The argument that one irate customer taking the Internet won’t matter is passe in 2011, as many publicly traded companies have found during online backlashes. A powerful short video and a post can and will go viral online, particularly if it’s a customer service or product issue that resonates widely.

That’s even more true so for blogs and writers at the top of an industry vertical, although Consumer Reports still has plenty of clout. When experts share their views online, they gain algorithmic authority online, which over time leads to influence over a given community. If Louis Gray or Robert Scoble or Mike Arrington cover a startup, it can put them on the map.

There’s no need to ask media critics like Brian Stelter, Felix Salmon, Ken Doctor, David Carr, David Folkenflik or Jay Rosen if they read blogs: they do. So do more “mainstream media influencers” like Katie Couric or the Sunday talk show hosts, along do the top editors of every publication I’ve talked to last year. The Pulitzer Prize now includes online organizations.

Please stop hosting influence contests. Lift up new voices.

Sure, an influence project might have sounded like a good idea in 2010. Many people disagreed. Strongly. Despite the backlash, new social media contests are still coming online for people to game. Predictably, strong critiques emerged, including those that focus on a different kind of digital divide. There is an emerging industry of analytics services that crunch big data and social recommendations to determine online influence or grade social media accounts, although they all have a long journey yet to evolve.

Instead of encouraging a community to engage in a popularity contest, considering using the power of an established media platform to empower new voices, highlighting what’s unique about an area and connect neighbors who might not know one another.

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