Posts Tagged ‘social media’


Politics Online

July 28, 2008

Politics and political campaigns will never be the same after this one. The first US presidential campaign is taking place in the era of social media.  Or as Garrett Graff calls it “The First Campaign”, which is “defined by technology” and where for the first time “technology is both the medium and the message“. Yes, we do perceive the candidates by what they say, but we also pay attention to how they say it, by what means.

TechRepublican posted today a short interview with Jeff Jarvis of the BuzzMachine, where he briefly comments on how YouTube has been useful throughout the presidential campaign, because it gives us a lot more than just sound bites and he quotes Barack Obama’s thirty-minute speech that received a lot of attention. Asked about whether the next US President should keep posting videos on YouTube, Jarvis replies positively, because (as he puts it): “It is a new relationship.”

An interesting comment follows the brief interview with Jarvis, pointing to a link to a White House Video Tour, where President Bush takes virtual visitors around the Oval Office. Drew, who posted the link, believes that online videos give us a totally different perspective of someone. However, after seeing the seven-minute clip, my perception of the current President and his “eloquence” did not change much – he is repeating phrases and making several silly comments. Ironically, Drew’s comment claiming that presidents posting videos “is already happening and becoming history” misses the whole point of Web 2.0. YouTube features user-generated content, it is a dialogue, where you can actually see how popular the posted video is, vote, post comments and video responses. I can not even begin to draw the huge difference between a video placed on an Web 1.0 institutional monologue-style website and the dynamic exchange that makes YouTubea social media platform.

Reading this comment provoked me to sum up an up-to-date comparison of the YouTube activity of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama’s campaign is pretty tech savvy and this is no discovery, but ho much ahead of the game is he on YouTube?

Total Number of YouTube videos:

  • Obama – 1,200 videos
  • McCain – 200 videos

Number of subscribers to their YouTube Channel

  • Obama – 65,000 people
  • McCain – 8,400 people

Most watched video

  • Obama – 4,700,000 views (that is the 30-something minute video Jarvis refers to above!)
  • McCain – 400,000 views

It is clear that where McCain is in the hundreds, Obama is in the thousands. Where McCain is in the hundreds of thousands, Obama is in the millions.

Here’s one of the things YouTube does best – work as a repository of TV-produced pieces, prolonging their life and the buzz around them. Like this sophisticated satire of Obama+Messiah=Obamessiah:


Trip to Tunisphere

July 13, 2008

The mere coincidence of the first letter of my name and Tunisia made this small North-African country a relevant pick for my class assignment this week to plunge into and explore the international bloggoshpere via Global Voices Online.

My perception of Tunsia has developed in three stages over the years. Stage number one – wishful thinking. Stage number two – the mediated reality check through the eyes of a friend. Stage number three – the virtual reality check.

During stage one Tunisia has always seemed to me like a very attractive travel destination. I remember seeing an article about some gorgeous Tunisian Mediterranean seaside resorts several years ago in a flight magazine. Then, last year one of my best friends made a trip there and provided an exciting account with plenty of photos, but emphasized that the place looks and feels far from the polished tourist magazine image.

Here I am concerned mainly with stage number three – expriencing Tunsia through its blogosphere or as they call it over there – the Tunisphere. This online trip proved to be the closest to reality from all my previous impressions. In my wanderings throughout Tunisian blogs I arrived at several observations. First, it is a vibrant community of bloggers, many of them rightfully concerned with the issues of political freedom, human rights, social justice and freedom of expression, which apparently are seriously threatened there. Second, Tunisian bloggers fill in a void space that official media do not reflect and the consequesnces of being a blogger and a journalist in Tunsia often include censorship, closing down of your blog or publication, job loss, personal freedom restrictions and even imprisonment. That was the case with Slim Boukhdhir, who remains in detainment since December, 2007, and has gone on numerous hunger strikes to protest the harrassment he experienced in jail by Tunisian authorities.

What is happening to blogger and journalist Slim Boukhdhir is terrible and at the same time not surprising in a country, where YouTube is banned. Yes it is, believe it or not! You can not access the biggest online video sharing service anywhere in Tunsia, because the government is affraid that you might stumble upon footage of police violence on Tunisian workers in the rich Phosphorous mines of Gafsa, Redyef and Oum el Arayess, who went on strike earlier this year to defend their right of employment. Many people were seriously injured. Official media remained silent, as if nothing was happening. This was the first case when Tunisian bloggers joined forces with human rights activitist in getting the story of repression out to the rest of the world. They even posted videos, showing wounded protestants.

The Tunisphere is a land of contrast. Just like Tunsia itself – it has both a serious and a casual face. Aside from the serious human rights and freedom of expression issues, there is obviously a young, hip, fashion and style-conscious generation in the country, which also contributes to the bloggosphere. A good example is one of the winners of the first ever Tunisia Blog Awards. Yosra World received the “Most Trendy Blog” award in 2007. Another top Tunisian blog is Subzero Blue, which is one of the few written in English.

A curious news that circulated in the Tunishere very recently is about Dahsha – the new online Arabic encyclopedia. Tunisian bloggers introduce and discuss how it is similar and different from Wikipedia. The principle of volunteer contributors is the same, but Dahsha publishes also video materials, studies and books, which are not supported by Wikipedia as types of content. It currently holds over 32,000 articles and is aiming to “enrich Arab content on the Internet”, according to blogger Mohammed Marwan Meddah. I wonder what are the chances of Dahsha joining Wikipedia one day? And I ask myslef – does it really have to? No doubt it is a different voice in the virtual conversation of knowledge and perhaps it is better for us to be able to draw on a multitude of authentic voices and viewpoints instead of trying to merge the sources.


Whole Foods Wikified: The Scanner Report

July 7, 2008

What do Bill Clinton, cannabis, right-wing politics and robber barrons have in common? Well, their Wikipedia pages have been subject to some interesting interventions by Whole Foods Market Inc. For this assignment I decided to apply my graduate-student curiosity to my own employer. I chose to report on the WikiScanner data for Whole Foods, provided that I have never been involved in any Wkipedia activity from within the company, and I discovered over 400 changes introduced to various Wikipedia pages from IP addresses associated with Whole Foods’ global headquarters in Austin, Texas.


It is not surprising that the most numerous changes made by the company on a single Wikipedia page are on the Whole Foods Market page . Those are total of 22 changes introduced from March 2005 to August 2007, when WikiScanner was last updated. It is reasonable for every organization to keep tack of the information describing it in the world’s largest free online encyclopedia and intervene with updates and/or corrections of factual errors when necessary. Let’s take a closer look at the online edits made by Whole Foods, which in some cases are  self-explanatory and in other leave us food for thought about the implications of the changes…

Labor Issues

In relation to common criticim received by Whole Foods about its lack of labor union structures, it is intersting to observe how one sentence was changed several times on the company’s Wikipedia page in October 2005. It started out as: “2004 Madison, Wisconsin Whole Foods Market elects to rid themselves of the union” and was finally left at: “2004: Whole Foods Market Madison no longer union after NLRB (National Labor Relations Boardruling.” The sentence is absent from the current page whatsoever.

The FTC & SEC Case

Another major page edit is in relation to the latest controversy surrounding the company in the summer of 2007 – the Federal Trade Commision‘s investigation challenging the aquisition of Wild Oats by Whole Foods Market. The edit of July 7, 2007, says: “… CEO John Mackey has taken the unusual step of initiating a blog on the subject to explain his opposition to the FTC’s stance.” In reallity the opposite happened – the CEO’s existing blog was suspended a week later, due to an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission about the online annonymous postings of John Mackey in financial forums. The blog was relaunched in May 2008 after the end of the investigation.

Product Quality

Two more types of information were tweeked by Whole Foods in the company’s Wikipedia page. One of the changes shows how a quote by the Organic Consumers Association about the company’s product quality was shortened by removing the second sentence claiming that: “Supposedly, Whole Foods’ food is grown traditionally and sometimes genetically altered. ” Another correction under the Product Quality section made one statement about toxic substances sound more general – not necessarily associated with Whole Foods’ products, but with just products by and large.


The last of the curious self-edits on the page is a change in the order of listing between a 2003 PETA protest against Whole Foods’s purchasig duck from farms with animal-cruelty practices and the fact that in 2005 the company established its Animal Compassion Foundation to help producers raise farm animals humanely. The chronological order of the two facts is reversed to the advantage of the 2005 event.


Bill Clinton


John D. Rockefeller

John D. Rockefeller

So, what about Bill Clinton, cannabis, right-wing politics and robber barrons? Someone at Whole Foods likes Bill Clinton very much. To the point that they went into his Wikipedia page in March 2006 and declared that “… (Clinton) went on to become one of our nations greatest and most fair minded presidents in our nations history.” Another person at Whole Foods  must have decided that the ancient history of the drug cannabisand the way it was used in rituals by traditional cultures for centuries might be unnecessary or irrelevant to Wikpedia readers and with one stroke of the Del key ereased a huge chunk of comprehensive, referenced information. The same day Clinton’s page was edited, someone else from the same company set an alarm in the Right-wing politics page: “… the conservative mastermindes are plotting to overthrow us and send our great country into a whirlwind of economic depression…” Meant as joke or not, but the name of Whole Foods’ CEO John Mackay appeared at one point in June 2007 in the list of robber barrons in Wikpedia and… the entry was made from his own company’s IP address.


Some of the findings of this report are surprising, others – not. Has Whole Foods displayed the common kinds of disinformation bahavior listed by WikiScanner creator Virgil Griffith? Can we call the above examples “wholesale removal” of text paragraphs or “white-washing”? The answer to this is up to the reader.  After all, one of the reasons why Virgil gave WikiScaner to the world is for us “To see what “interesting organizations” are up to.” He has indeed succeeded to create a “fireworks display” of public relations bloopers and no single company is safe from them.


The Blog Bug

June 10, 2008

Sooner or later it gets you – as an assignment or not. I thought I was immune and resisted it for a couple of years – ever since I became aware of the existence of the bloggosphere. Now, thanks to my Social Media class at Georgetown, which makes me aware of the importance of the THE Conversation, here is my first post. Better sooner than later.

A short introduction of myself: Bulgarian by birth, U.S. resident by choice, purposeful communicator by career, graduate student by curiosity (+ a small grain of ambition) and a virtual toddler in the blogosphere.

Thus, bear with me…