Isn’t it Ironic

If you’ve read this blog from the beginning, you know that I came kicking and screaming into the world of social media. But even if you’re new to this site, you can tell by my ‘Antibloggergirldc’ nom de plume that I’m not the first choice to appear on the poster advocating blogging, Facebook, Twitter and the like.

So it is with a tip of the hat to my Georgetown instructors, Garrett Graff and Kathy Baird for a job well done. At least according to my friends, who now describe me as a “fanatic” when it comes to all things social media. On a recent visit to my Southern California hometown, I spent a relaxing evening with six long-time friends. Each of these women is successful in her career: an emergency room nurse, a technology entrepreneur, a neurologist, an elementary school teacher, an advertising executive and a banker. Only one of them had an active Facebook page. Three of them had briefly flirted with Facebook, but none of them had a blog or posted on Twitter. A few had profiles on Linkedin.

Sounding like I was born-again or had drunk the social media Kool-Aid, I regaled them with the wonders and benefits of keeping your friends informed through tweets and status updates. I must have been convincing. Three of the six are now twittering, all but one is actively on Facebook, a couple more have filled out Linkedin profiles and one even started a MySpace page.

Who says social media is just for the 20-somethings?

August 27, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Travels with Facebook

Who needs Conde Nast’s Traveller magazine or even Travel + Leisure when you have friends on Facebook?

Traditionally, August is the last chance for a summer vacation, and many of my pals and colleagues have left behind their day jobs but not their internet connections. Even those who rarely update their Facebook status are now sending missives from airports, beaches, ballparks and museums.  Kicking back and relaxing now includes letting your closest circle of friends–and their friends–know just how you like to kick back and relax and where you are doing it.

Instead of peeking at the latest issues of travel magazines for hip destinations, I can log onto Facebook and read about the beautiful Mexican sky, the glorious weather on Florida’s beaches and the delicious local delicacies in Cabo San Lucas. I can read about kayaking trips, which beer gets the highest ratings, who has discovered a new singer and the stadiums with the best concessions. Sometimes there are pictures that accompany the posts.

With the high cost of gasoline and the long security lines at airports, maybe Facebook travelogues will become the new armchair travel destination.

August 19, 2008. Tags: , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Twitter is Addicting

I have a new obsession. Forget checking email, voicemail or Facebook status updates. I want to know what is happening on Twitter.

I’m not continually checking tweets to see who you had lunch with, or where you’re going on vacation. I’m only mildly curious if you had an unusual street encounter, but not terribly interested in what your boss said at the meeting that lasted way too long. And I don’t care what you bought at the grocery store.

Instead, I’m hooked on the endless updates from traditional news outlets such as CNN and The New York Times. I’m fascinated by their embrace of social media. I can’t get enough: Google World News, WSJ, and The Today Show‘s tweets from Beijing. For a former reporter, it’s a new, wonderful way to stay abreast of local, national and world news. And with a simple click, I can just as easily choose not to follow ‘what are you doing?’

I also get a kick out of the politicians who are tweeting. At first I just followed Obama,  intrigued to see how his groundbreaking campaign would use  this particular digital strategy. But then I became curious and wanted to see what the Clintons — both Hillary and Bill — were tweeting about. And, after Friday, I decided it could be interesting to follow John Edwards.
I am now a constant source of useful — or useless — information.  I know what is happening in Georgia and I know what is happening on Capitol Hill.  I even know what you ordered for lunch at that new restaurant everyone’s been dying to try. Sometimes it is too much information. Sometimes, not enough. Twitterers have to be very resourceful with the 140-character limit.

You know what I like best? Following tweets is easier than clicking through online versions of each newspaper or website. As for the hard copies I still have delivered to my front door? The day may soon come when I choose Twitter over newsprint-stained hands.

August 12, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Will Twitter Move Markets?

Is Twitter the next wire service, those news agencies long associated with breaking news pre-Internet?

A February post on ReadWriteWeb tells about Twitter breaking news of a UK earthquake long before traditional media outlets were reporting. Robert Scoble did the same for the China earthquake earlier this year, and most recently, the July 29th earthquake in California was the subject of tweets while the Golden State was still shaking.
Early in my reporting career I worked for United Press International. When I would telephone an editor back in the bureau to dictate my story (in prehistoric 1978), the first question always asked: “Was AP (my chief competitor, the Associated Press) there?” Years later, working in the Washington, D.C. bureau of a financial wire service in the pre-cellphone days, my competitors and I would race for one of the few pay telephones stationed in the House or Senate office buildings when the chairman of the Federal Reserve answered a question during testimony that had the ability to move the financial markets.

When reporters started carrying cellphones and cameras were allowed into hearings and briefings, every comment, every answer, every statement had the ability to make news. Citizen journalists, bloggers and live television feeds have changed the landscape yet again.

And now Twitter is posed to change the speed that information is shared, or how news is broken or made. Just this past Friday, two congressmen spread the word about the GOP energy protest through their Twitter micro-blogs.

When stock, bond and commodity traders start tweeting, financial reporters may run to their Twitter accounts rather than a cellphone or a laptop to break the news.

August 5, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Embracing Social Media…the Last Post?

Writing about the first presidential election in the Web 2.0 age (Taylor Hicks for President) was the last post for my Social Media class. You’d think I’d be happy.

When I started this class, you’ll remember if you’ve been following my journey, I likened blogging to a walk on the dark side. I wondered then who really cared about mine — or anyone else’s — random musings. And then I was introduced to blog stats. I don’t expect to reach Technorati’s Top 100 list anytime soon, but it was slightly addicting to see how many people were visiting my site, what posts they were reading and which links they were clicking on. I also got a kick out of seeing what sites led people to my blog (sorry all you Taylor Hicks fans).

And in the days since class ended, I’ve been surprised to find out that I actually have missed sharing my thoughts (though I haven’t missed the readings the class mostly responded to). Then there were the articles I was reading criticizing John McCain’s lack of knowledge about the Internet and Social Media tools. I dismissed the claims that it was generational. But, the article that expressed surprise at McCain’s lack of intellectual curiosity hit home. If I didn’t embrace social media, did I too lack intellectual curiosity?

That’s not a description a graduate student aspires to. Especially a former reporter who plans to work in public relations. So, today, I’m embracing social media and continuing my blog. Will I remain the Antibloggergirldc? Stay tuned, I’m still mulling the options.

But for now here is my confession: I also signed up for a Twitter account!

July 31, 2008. Tags: , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Taylor Hicks for President

Even in a Web 2.0 world, it all comes down to who votes.

There is hardly a person around who doesn’t know the historic significance of the 2008 presidential race. And I’m not referring to either of the mainstream party candidates. Technology, particularly the Internet and Social Media, is playing a key role like never before. From fundraising, to candidate’s Facebook pages, to blogs, voters with an internet connection are having a conversation with the candidates.

Use of Web 2.0 has also helped revitalize the youth vote — college students energized like the country hasn’t seen since the late 1960s — which will be another important factor.

It is probably safe to say that the youth vote was a key factor in Barack Obama‘s securing the Democratic nomination. Obama, one of the youngest candidates to run for president, understands (and uses) the Internet and Social Networking tools. To paraphrase Joe Trippi, “he gets it.” His opponent, Republican John McCain is slow to embrace the way people communicate in 2008.

And that could be the deciding factor in this election. In the introduction to his book, The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House, Garrett Graff notes that the winner of the fifth season of American Idol, Taylor Hicks received more votes than any presidential candidate in any U.S. election.

Wow! And in Idol‘s subsequent two seasons, even more people have voted. Maybe David Cook should be on the short list for vice president. The Idol season seven winner received about 85.5 million votes of the 97.5 million votes cast!

The First Campaign also emphasizes the new power that ordinary voters have through their cell phones, online video postings, blogs and social networks. “Add in the power of grassroots small-donor fund-raising…and the 2008 election will be conducted on a playing field where the party establishment will have the least control of any election in American history,” Graff predicts. It may also turn out to be an election with the greatest turnout in voter history, if participation in the primaries is any indication.

But even with all the people who donate online and offline, turn out for speeches and rallies, wear campaign buttons and debate the candidates and issues with their friends and families, what truly will determine who our next president is, is the people who actually go to the polls on election day (or vote by absentee ballot). Maybe, if we could vote for president with our cell phones — just text YES to O-B-A-M-A or YES to M-C-C-A-I-N, we’d see the kind of participation that electing the leader of the free world deserves.

July 28, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Social Media and the Real World

I heard disturbing news the other night. A hometown friend’s son was one of 10 fraternity members arrested in New Orleans in May on charges related to a hazing incident at Tulane University. I Googled his name and was shocked to read the details: boiling water, pledge initiation, second- and third-degree burns.

The Smoking Gun had an explicit article about the alleged April 25th “Hell Night” activities at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house, and links to the arrest warrants and police mug shots of the frat members charged in the incident. The Google search also revealed several news

articles about the incident published in traditional news outlets in New Orleans and across the country in the boys’ hometown newspapers. And, since this is the era of Web 2.0, there were several blog posts devoted to the subject, including this “off topic” posting on PocketFives, a website devoted to poker. And, yes, there were comments. LOTS of comments. On the PocketFives site and on other sites, the hazing incident had definitely sparked a conversation. Or maybe it would be more accurate to refer to it as a shouting match, with some posters calling the fraternity members names that were nearly as awful as the incident that triggered the debate.

It struck me that regrettable behavior, whether associated with a college fraternity initiation or at any time in our personal or professional life, lives on long after resolution, in part, thanks to the Internet. And, perhaps unwittingly, the fraternity member’s friends may be contributors to the endless trail and the consequences. A Facebook page they posted, Free J—– B—–, has no privacy restrictions. There, for anyone to see, is his unflattering police mug shot along with news and wall postings that may be funny to his college pals, but probably wouldn’t be amusing to a potential future employer.

And none of us should think that current and future employers aren’t looking at — and judging — our online presence. In its June 2007 issue, the Harvard Business Review published an interactive case study, We Googled You. The article poses a dilemma for an employer who thinks he’s found a dream candidate for a job until an online revelation proves that nothing from our past — even details found on page nine of a Google search — is ever erased.

July 25, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

The Human Face of War…Not Just the Soldiers

In her July 20 blog post on Melissa’s Musings, my classmate so deftly noted that the milblogs we had been assigned to read “capture the human face of war in a way that the mainstream media often fails to do.” She’s right. A reporter asking questions of military officials during a press briefing cannot convey to his or her readers the same story; the same emotion; the same experience that a soldier in the middle of combat shares with the readers of his or her blog.

Colby Buzzell was a skateboarder who drifted between jobs before enlisting in the Army when he was 26. In Iraq, his habit of recording daily events, thoughts and other trivia in a journal became a popular blog. That blog morphed into a book, My War. Buzzell writes like he talks, which makes his view of history blunt and refreshing.

It is also another very human look at war. Buzzell writes: “A platoon mate of mine was explaining to me one day that you had a better chance of getting killed driving on the freeways back home in the States than you had getting killed in combat in Iraq.

“Well, at first that sounded plausible, and I agreed with him, but then I started thinking. Back home in the States, I’d never had somebody try to fire an RPG or rocket at me on the freeway, and I’d never had somebody point his AK-47 at me and drop a mag of 7.62 on me while I was driving home from work. Both of which had happened to me in Mosul. In Iraq, it was not a matter of if you’d get hit, it was a matter of when.”

But it is not just soldiers who face danger in a war zone. Relief workers, contractors and reporters also are exposed to threats that most of us civilians cannot even imagine. Jackie Spinner, a business reporter for The Washington Post started covering the Iraq war by writing about the reconstruction contracts awarded to U.S. construction firms by the Department of Defense and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Spinner reported those stories from Washington, attending briefings and interviewing officials at the Pentagon, USAID and elsewhere. I was a reporter on the same beat, and Spinner soon became a familiar competitor. Myself and the other regulars on the reconstruction beat were probably a little jealous when Spinner went to Iraq for several days with an official delegation to tour the reconstruction projects. I remember excitedly reading her stories, curious to learn what she was observing first hand as she reported the reality of bringing long-neglected infrastructure back to Iraq.

After that brief trip, Spinner would return to Iraq, becoming a member of the Post’s Baghdad bureau. Her stories encompassed more than rebuilding. She was now a war correspondent and she wrote about war: bombs, battles, insurgents, kidnappings, attacks, killings and death. Occasionally, there was a lighter story describing her efforts to cook vegetarian meals in a land where fresh produce was rarely available. Spinner would remain in Iraq for more than a year. From this experience came a book, Tell Them I Didn’t Cry.

Spinner’s story casts a very human light on war as seen through the eyes of a witness. She describes the people she meets, the Iraqis who serve as translators and drivers for the Post, the everyday people trying to go about their daily lives, the soldiers she accompanies into battle, and the enemies who attempt to kidnap her. The book is filled with the sights, the sounds, the passion, the hope and the fear that is war in Iraq.

Jackie Spinner
Jackie Spinner

But there is one passage in her book that I will never forget. After Spinner returns home, she recounts waking in the night to go to the bathroom but it is only in the light of day the next morning that she realizes she crouched in the corner to relieve herself as if she was out in the desert on a combat mission in Iraq.

War has a chilling effect on soldiers and journalists alike. Spinner was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder at the Life Healing Center in Santa Fe, N.M from October 2006 through February 2007.

July 23, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Keeping the Blogosphere (and Everyone Else) Healthy

Cruising through the blogosphere I stumbled upon (pun intended) Diva Marketing Blog and her July 16 post on “Where Are The ‘Social Media’ Healthcare Organizations?” As I learn to love Social Media, and discover which companies have and have not embraced Web 2.0, I ponder the same question that the Diva raises: “Should healthcare organizations go ‘social’?”

We’re not talking about physicians here. The Diva claims that “thousands of physicians are active in social media.” I’m not sure if she means these docs have a Facebook or MySpace page to keep up with their friends or if they engage in online conversations with their patients.

The Diva is referring to healthcare organizations–hospitals, drug companies and corporations–which she writes treat social media as “more of a revolutionary strategy than an evolutionary way to reach customers.” I think she’s on to something. Shouldn’t healthcare practitioners go where their customers are?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could log on to the website of your local hospital and have a conversation with a nurse, department head, physician or some other representative to answer your specific questions about an upcoming procedure and your hospital stay rather than scrolling through the FAQ and not finding the information you are seeking. Reading the blogs of a hospital’s administrator or one of its doctors might give you a better sense of that organization’s philosophy or bedside manner.

Several of the hospitals that serve the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area where I live mail monthly or quarterly newsletters to local residents. These printed marketing tools provide updates on technology, treatments, personnel changes and public programs. Perhaps these institutions should save postage and help the environment by shelving the paper and going digital.

The Diva notes that those hospitals and drug companies that do have blogs have reaped the benefits. One Web 2.0 convert, Nick Jacobs, president and CEO of Windber Medical Center, credits his blog posts for speaking engagement invites around the country.

Nick Jacobs

Nick Jacobs

Because of these presentations, Jacobs says he “was exposed to the magnitude of not only blog power, but also You Tube, Facebook, Twitter…” Jacobs tells the Diva that his blogging led him to write two books and four newspaper columns “that have increased our business by double-digit figures.”

Johnson and Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline are two corporations that use blogs to communicate with the public. The J&J site notes that “everyone else is talking about our company, so why can’t we?” Recent posts have focused on nutrition, first aid and the company’s health channel on YouTube. The GSK site is built around its alli weight-loss product.

How many people have logged onto WebMD at one time or another? Quantcast, the media measurement service, ranks the medical information site in the top 50, with more than 15 million people in the U.S. visiting each month. With so many consumers in the marketplace for health and medical information, doesn’t it just make sense for these organizations to join the Antibloggergirldc and step into the 21st century?

July 20, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 2 comments.

Watching a War

I’ve been watching YouTube postings about the war in Iraq. I am struck by how some of the videos look like video games and how some war footage is raw and how some is set to music. It is almost like it isn’t real. And yet, at the same time, it is very real.

During the first Gulf War, CNN changed the way those of us “back home” saw the war. For the first time, cameras recorded the fighting, scud attacks and blood shed which often appeared on our television screen without the filter of an editor. The frightened voices of journalists sometimes accompanied that raw footage.

Now, the current Iraq conflict is brought into our living rooms — or where ever our computer is set up — through video clips captured by camcorders or cell phones and posted on YouTube. No editor or journalistic filter is required.

I found myself wondering–just who was filming and posting these videos? Were these soldiers entering combat with a camera and a weapon? Was the film from journalists or bystanders? Who edited and added music and graphics to some of the postings? And why did some of the YouTube videos have 300+ views and others thousands. Or, as the one I just watched, “US Marines In Iraq Real Footage Warning Graphic” had more than 3 million hits. 3,642,405 to be exact. Is this the new citizen journalism? See for yourself:

July 18, 2008. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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