What still amazes me though, is how many people don't care about Twitter. Denver - where I live - is not New York or parts of California, where I assume the ratio of Twitter-user per capita must be more substantial. And the same is probably true for the tech industry in general, at tech conferences, meetups, barcamps etc. But when I'm around friends, many tech-savvy thirty-somethings, none of them care about Twitter. It's not something they use as part of their job or for networking purposes and they use Facebook to keep up with friends - so why bother updating another social media site? And they are just one example of many groups that are generally not on Twitter, and most likely will not be in the (short term?) future.
This has a serious impact on the effectiveness of using Twitter as a channel for feedback or dialogue. The hashtag sign is probably one of the most straight-forward, immediate discussion boards on the web and mobile - a wonderful back-channel at conferences or venue for chatter during TV shows. But it's limited to the Twitter audience while leaving everyone else wondering about the strange # sign. I've been to a few non-tech conferences that embraced a Twitter hashtag for conference communication and the Twitter conversation barely included a handful of people.
As someone working in the realm of civic engagement, I love the opportunities Twitter offers for public participation. For example to have a message board at events to collect instant feedback or ideas. Or to host a mobile dialogue, using a hashtag to discuss elements of a proposed masterplan right on-site in the neighborhood. Technically, Twitter allows us to do that. But using Twitter would leave the majority of voices out of the conversation, without even talking about the fact that plenty of Twitter users don't tweet from their phones.
With Twitter not only being a great communication tool, but also a wonderful exchange format with an open API, the question is: Can we use other channels of communication to broaden the user base while taking advantage of Twitter's unique ease-of-use and interactivity?
Text messaging has reached widespread adoption, with 65% of users 50 years or younger texting, up to 85% of those in the group between 18 - 29 years old. Twitter is not anywhere close to that. (I have experienced the unexperienced-ness of the 89% of those 65 years and older who don't text, but let's ignore that for now...).
Would adding a mobile option that is integrated into Twitter make those #hashtag conversations more inclusive?
That's what we would like to explore further. We built a prototype of such a platform at http://GuerrillaTweets.com. It allows users to mobilize Twitter accounts and hashtags, while participants can text in responses without the need of a Twitter subscription or smartphone. It's a second step towards inclusive, mobile dialogues (with Twitter's hashtags being the first one), but far from the last. And we'd love to hear your feedback and ideas.
Gartner Inc. recently released their 2009 Hype Cycle Report. The report is a comparative tool for risk judgment which and looks at over 1,500 technologies and nearly 80 tech sectors. Among the data points mapped on the cycle are public virtual worlds, an area which Gartner thinks is nearing an inflection point as a technology: virtual worlds, says Gartner, are close to owning the basement of the hype cycle, bottoming out in the dire-sounding Trough of Disillusionment. But, "looking at real benefit, rather than the hyped expectations, we see a number of potentially transformational technologies that will hit the mainstream in less than five years, including Web 2.0, cloud computing, Internet TV, virtual worlds and service-oriented architecture".
RezLibris has a great report about our Stakeholder Engagement conference in Second Life last month:
...Most of the conference was held on Squirrel Island, Learning Times' sim. After a brief introduction by Corwin Howlett, the conference facilitator,Wiglaf Kukulcan (Chris Haller in real life; Public Agenda) led five avatars in a demonstration of an e-deliberation on global warming. "A deliberation differs from a debate in that it keeps people's minds open to different options rather than trying to persuade or pointing out pros and cons of a viewpoint," explained Kukulcan. During the virtual deliberation some SL tools such as group IM, personal IM and local chat were used to facilitate polling and discussions. At the end of the deliberation each of the five participants were asked how a virtual deliberation compared to a real life deliberation. Buffy Beale said, "it doesn't feel different... not quite as nervewracking not seeing eveyone in person. It feels very involved and engaged but maybe not as nervous. SL is fantastic and a really good tool for communications." The other participants echoed Buffy's feelings that it was more relaxed but otherwise similar to real life deliberation...
Agencies can now engage with citizens through popular media technologies such as video-sharing service YouTube, using pre-negotiated service agreements that comply with federal terms and conditions.
After nine months of negotiations, the General Services Administration signed agreements with four video-sharing and social networking sites: Flickr, Vimeo, blip.tv and YouTube. GSA also is negotiating with the social networking sites Facebook and MySpace.[...]
Most agencies will appoint directors of new media to determine how they can use social networking tools to meet mission goals and comply with President Obama's open government directive, said Sheila Campbell, team leader of Web best practices for the government portal USA.gov and co-chair of the Federal Web Managers Council.
At Public Agenda we are currently brainstorming the idea to create online social networks with a focus on civic life for communities, hosted by a sponsoring coalition of local entities (city agencies, non-governmental institutions, ...), that keep engaged citizens in the loop, allow them to network and enable the sponsors to easily host civic engagement activities.
Please let us know your thoughts and get in touch with us, challer [at] publicagenda [dot] org
Clickz just posted a quick roundup on how to build online communities. The insights are not necessarily new, but I found the planning rules section to be a great summary of three central concepts of online communities:
Especially the last one appears to be the central problem of pretty much 90% of the efforts of online community building out there.
- 90-9-1 rule. Of your audience, 1 percent will actively answer questions and post, 9 percent will comment and ask questions, and 90 percent will passively read the content on your community.
- 30-10-10 rule. In general, during any 30-day period, about 10 percent of the traffic that sees your community promotion will visit your community area. Of this 10 percent, about 10 percent will register and participate in your forum. (Note: Most sites only require registration to post. Adding registration requirements will lower your participation rate.) It's critical to note that this indicator will vary based on several factors, such as the type and placement of your promotion. Also, the percentages tend to be lower for highly trafficked sites, such as major media destinations. Business-to-business communities by their nature attract smaller, more targeted audiences.
- 5-to-10-posts-per-day-per-forum rule. To reach critical mass, visitors must feel that a community is vibrant enough to merit return visits. You need roughly 5 to 10 posts per day per forum to achieve this goal. In the early stages, either a core of fans or company employees may be needed to help get the community going. For a healthy community, there should be about 10 percent to 20 percent growth per month in the number of posts during the community's first year. Over time, this trend tends to flatten out.
aMap is short for 'argument map'. The idea's very simple - to get more people arguing by mapping out complex debates in a simple visual format.
Techcrunch's first impression: "UK-startup Team Rubber has come out with a nifty embeddable widget called aMap that lets you make a diagram of any argument with supporting logic in an interactive mindmap. The widget lets you flit from one point to another.
For instance, in the aMap below an argument is made that Apple will flourish without Steve Jobs (because he “turned his personality traits into business processes” and Pixar does fine without him). You can argue anything. Blog or Twitter? Cat or Dog? (see below).
You can also reply to make a counterargument (”Apple Will Be Set Adrift Without A Strong Leader”). But here is where aMap breaks down. Instead of incorporating the reply into the original mindmap, it creates a new one at a new URL, with a link below the original one in the list of replies. That will just encourage forking arguments. It would also be better if you could vote the best aMaps up.Right now, aMap only lets users map out their own arguments rather than see the relationships between arguments, although that is a direction the company may go in the future. It is also planning to add geo-data to map out arguments around the world."