Archive - Apr 2009

April 30th

Wimps Begone

Next Monday, voters will go to the polls in Woodbridge, CT to vote for First Selectman and members of several boards. Municipal elections don’t often get the same attention that national elections do, but they should. Decisions about how Federal money gets spent and how rules get implemented often happen at the municipal level. Yet issues at the local level rarely reach the same level of intensity as issues at the national level.

I’ve lived in Woodbridge for just under two years. It is a great town, and I’ve enjoyed becoming involved in the civic life of our community. As I’ve looked at the coming election, I’ve been trying to get a sense of what the real issues are here. For many, it may be a very simple issue, how much are our taxes and how are the tax rates changing?

A wiser question is what is the value of the services received, compared to the taxes paid to receive them. People will argue about whether or not First Selectman Sheehy’s strong leadership has been ‘proactive’ enough.

There is a pseudonymous email going around by a person who identifies himself only as “Wimps Begone”. He believes that Woodbridge should sell the Woodbridge Country Club Property “to David Reis and have him develop the 50 acres into 55+ CCRC, keep 100 acres as open space, maybe a nine hole golf course and start paying Woodbridge $1 million a year in taxes”.

Mr. Begone has a right to his opinion, and I applaud him for expressing it. I also applaud First Selectman Sheehy for his actions in making sure that all the people from Woodbridge, Mr. Begone, myself, and all of us, have an opportunity to have our say at how the property should be dealt with.

For the right decisions to be made in our town, we do need to encourage people to not wimp out on our political process. At the preliminary budget hearing, Dr. Silberberg and Mr. Luther spoke out strongly about a small part of the Woodbridge Board of Education budget and the process by which it was drafted. I believe they are wrong, and I spoke up at the meeting about how I think they are wrong. It is this sort of public dialog, even when it gets a little contentious, that helps make our community stronger. It is the many volunteers serving on the commissions of our town that helps keep our town working well.

Yet what Mr. Begone is doing is a disservice to our community. He is unwilling to publicly stand up and state his case. Instead he sends emails with false information deriding members of our community. It is actions like those of Mr. Begone that need to be gone from our political process.

What is perhaps more concerning is some of the comments Mr. Colabella made during the First Selectman’s debate. Like Dr. Sliberberg and Mr. Luther, Mr. Colabella deserves praise for being willing to stand up for his beliefs. However, repeating false information during the debate, which First Selectman Sheehy quickly corrected him on, does little to improve our town. Even worse, deriding of citizens giving of their time to make our town better is particularly damaging to our town.

To suggest that a commission, like the Economic Development Commission is impotent because they are not doing things the way Mr. Colabella wishes is an insult to everyone who works hard to make our town a better place. No, such volunteers are not impotent, they are important.

So, what is the real issue that we need to face in our town? We need to keep taxes low while keeping services as good as possible to maintain our property values. We do this by encouraging people to become more involved in our town’s civic life. We do this by acknowledging the hard work that volunteers do to make our town better. We do this by getting out and voting for people that work hard to improve the level of discourse and involvement at the local level.

That is why I am getting out and voting for the whole Democratic Slate. I hope you will do the same.

(Cross-posted at the Woodbridge CT Democratic Party Website).

Learning About Twitter

As I walked down Broadway, I typed ‘Heading to the Mojiva party. Hope no one spills a drink on my Blackberry’ on my old Motorola Razr and texted it off to Twitter. I have the Twitter application on Facebook, so my status there was updated as well. A few friends saw it and commented on my status.

Anyone who saw my message on Twitter or Facebook probably knew what I looked like from my picture on Facebook or my avatar on Twitter. To top things off, I was wearing my black shirt proclaiming, “I get my news on Twitter”. So, when I walked into the Mojiva party, several people came up to me and commented about my tweet.

Before I go much further, I need to explain how this was an inside joke for people interested in mobile marketing. At Digday:Mobile last September, Dave Gworzdz, CEO of Mojiva was asked about how Twitter fit into their mobile advertising strategies. He made a comment, comparing it to Facebook statuses, and noted that he had recently seen a status saying, “I just spilled water on my blackberry”. He went on to say that he didn’t think he needed to know that sort of information.

What he did not seem to know was that a large number of the participants of Digiday:Mobile were busy providing a running commentary about the conference in Twitter, and many people commented about his comments being a classic fail. He didn’t know the audience well enough, and his comment about the Blackberry that became a running joke.

That said, placed in context, his comments were not that far off the mark. Getting updates about water being spilled on a Blackberry doesn’t especially fit into a Twitter based marketing strategy, unless, perhaps, you are somehow involved in making, selling or supporting Blackberries.

Dave has gone on to start using Twitter and talked about how he used Twitter to provide a running commentary about a lacrosse game that his kids were in. As we talked at the Mojiva party, I pointed out that his commentary on a lacrosse game illustrates how Twitter really works. Personally, I’m not all that interested in lacrosse, especially the lacrosse game that the kids’ of some marketing CEO that I don’t really know were playing.

Yet the discussion about his kids’ lacrosse game, made Dave seem a little more real, a little more authentic, a little more human. One of the problems with so much advertising today, is that it lacks this authentic human feel, and adding in a little unrelated ‘noise’ can be a great help.

On the other hand, not being in the community when you start a marketing campaign can have some significant negative repercussions. The famous Motrin ad illustrates this. (For more information on this, check out my commentary and parody of the Motrin Ad.)

As Tom Friedman commented at a Personal Democracy Forum, on the Internet, either you do it, or someone else does it to you.

I was pleased to see that Dave is now getting Twitter. However, there were others there that didn’t get it and I had several other great conversations.

One objection is questioning how much information you can put into 140 characters. If you are looking at Tweets as 140 characters, standing alone, sort of like a mini-billboard online, there isn’t much you can do, and I’d just as soon people not look at tweets as mini-billboards.

However, if you look at twitter as a conversation, much like conversations at cocktail parties, then 140 characters works pretty nicely. You say your 140 characters, and you give other people a chance to respond. You pick up parts of one conversation or another and respond to them. If you are good, you manage to weave together several conversations, and everyone feels included, has a good time, perhaps learns something, and your social capital grows. If you are using Twitter the same way, it can be a wonderful conversation.

In addition, as I mentioned with my Tweet that started this blog post off, there is a lot of interesting connectivity. Using the Twitter application on Facebook, my tweets show up there. However, you can push it much further, as I illustrated in this quick mobile post about the Mojiva party.

I took the picture with my cellphone. Sure, in this illustration, it wasn’t a great picture. However, what was interesting to the folks I was speaking with is that I sent it from my cellphone, to Flickr. The Flickr account that I used is set up to automatically cross-posted my picture to my Blog. Using TwitterFeed, my blog posts automatically get highlighted on Twitter and the Twitter application on Facebook grabs the Tweet and adds it to my status. With one email from my cellphone, I got my message on four different platforms. As an aside, there can be some delay for the message to automatically make it to each platform, and in this case, TwitterFeed was running very slowly, so it only made it to Twitter and Facebook much later.

In the discussion, I asked a creative director how he would craft a message that takes advantage of all nearly instantaneous cross linked communications. He found it a fascinating question but didn’t have any ideas to share over the hors d’oeuvres. So, I leave this out for all of you: How are you using Twitter? What are you doing to integrate all of your online social presence? What interesting ideas do you have?

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April 29th

At Mojiva party

At Mojiva party, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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Wordless Wednesday

Campaigning, originally uploaded by Aldon.

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April 28th

Public Access New Media

Last November, I wrote a couple blog posts about The Future of the Newspaper. I suggested that as local papers closed down, at least some local news coverage could be picked up by bloggers. Steve Collins noted that many readers of local papers are older and are less likely to be online. I suggested that perhaps we could get people to take material from the blogs and create public access television shows presenting material from new media on public access media.

Now, several months later, I’m on the Government Access Television commission for my local town and serve as the First Selectman’s designee to the Sound View Community Media board. There is some historical enmity between GAT and SVCM and I am in a difficult position trying to find ways that we can all work together as effectively as possible to use community media to promote civic involvement at the local level.

This evening, GAT will have a meeting and I hope to present a few of my ideas about ways to bring public access media and new media together a little better. The simplest parts are making sure that the GAT schedule is as easy to find online as possible and that we get more GAT programming available online.

However, there are other ideas that go beyond GAT. As an example, ever since I attended my first board meeting of SVCM, I’ve been kicking around the idea of setting up a public access television show talking about how to connect public access media with community access media, and then bringing information from new media into community access media.

As I’ve thought about it, I’ve also thought that a weekly news program highlighting what is on various towns’ GAT channels would be useful. GAT is great in providing raw gavel-to-gavel footage. Yet a lot of people are not especially interested in watching a whole Board of Education meeting. They want to see the highlights, just like how they see highlights of other meetings on local news stations. Can we find people that will highlight important parts of a hearing and help craft a weekly news program that puts the highlights into context?

How would this work with high school students? My understanding is that Amity does some great work with high school students and video. Can we get any of them to participate in a weekly program? Could we expand it to add some educational content or even highlights from local sports teams?

Widening the scope even more, can we draw together people interested in the nexus of community media and new media for an open space style conference, or ‘unconference’? The idea is fairly simple. We need to find a day that we could get as many people interested in the topic to gather at some convenient place. Amity High School might be a good place to have it.

The ‘unconference’ would start by explaining how unconferences work, perhaps using the example of ‘podcamp’ unconferences. Then, the folks gathered would collaborate to establish an agenda and break out into sessions about the topics of most interest. A Public Access New Media conference could also invite people from various groups around the state, and not be just about Woodbridge, or towns in the Amity School district.

If you are interested in helping organize such an ‘unconference’, or helping produce a Public Access New Media television show, please let me know.

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