From the category archives:

Global Neighborhoods

I am writing a column for called The Social Beat. Everything I write related to Social media, the web, startups and the tech sector will appear there. It will be the primary venue for my online writing. Please come and visit me there.

Occasionally, I will have something to say on other topics, particularly related to my book and speaking projects. I will use Global Neighbourhoods when that occurs.

Until then, I hope you will come and visit me in my new home.







I’m reading The Filter Bubble, What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser. It is a great and chilling book about the data that virtually every commercial site online is gathering about you. It talks about how answers to search are skewed based on your online actions and it talks about how your most personal purchases are shared so that you can get special offers for similar items.

I recommend that anyone concerned about how this “personalization” as the author calls it, is entrenching personal opinions on politics, economics, movies–just about any topic you may research. Google is saving you from the annoyance of seeing views that you might not agree with.

To me this is a matter for great concern. Yes, I understand, that it makes sense to personalize to the extent that online marketers can put more appealing ads and promotions in front of each of us. But this book is making me realize the unintended consequences are far greater and frightening that I had suspected.

I tweeted a recommendation for the book a short time ago and–as often happens–I got a few cynical responses about how no one cares about our privacy anymore and that I should get over it.

Maybe I speak to all the wrong people, but everyone I know seems to be concerned about this loss of privacy. Fewer folk seem aware that our search results have been skewered toward what data collectors think we want to see. But ,my guess is that most of us want google and Bing and the rest to give us impartial results and let the ad in the sidebar or at the top of the page be damned.

The issue is that we do not know what to do about it.

Almost everyone I know uses Facebook and yet nearly everybody tells me they object to the company’s cavalier handling of out personal data. They just  just don’t feel they have any options.

It’s the same as it was years ago with cars. We knew they were dangerous and polluting, but we have to drive. So we shrugged and did what we had to do to live in a modern world. But the concern led to market opportunities and over time cars got safer and polluted less.

Right now, we have few options but to use Google and Facebook and other sites that seem to know our preferences in just about everything. . But as more and more people become aware of the problems, market opportunities arise and when they come out a few people will try them. If they like their experiences, they’ll draw in more and in that way, at least part of our personal privacy may be restored.

No it isn’t going to happen overnight. But changes may be coming soon. And in my view, we will all be better off when they start.




Unlike many people, I don’t yet hold a definitive position on the recent Wikileaks release of 250,000 government documents to four non-US based newspapers, generally considered credible.

A fifth media player, was the NY Times, who republished content from the Guardian just minutes after the British media company posted. That made them less culpable to any prosecution, but in my view, it added credibility to the reported content.

What I  find disappointing, if not surprising, is how rarely “free press” and “free speech” have come into the conversation. Instead. we are hearing onerous terms like “espionage” and “treason.”

Espionage, by definition is clandestine. It usually involves the work of an enemy agent for a foreign country, or more recently a private company. This case was entirely public and the inormation was delivered to the people of the world.

Treason is a criminal betrayal of one’s own country. The term doesn’t really apply to Julian Assange, an Australian citizen who publishes Wikileaks from Switzerland. You can say many things about him, but he just doesn’t qualify for treason in the United States.

Those who claim to be “the true Americans,” have much to say about Assange, most if it is pretty unpleasant. According to Sarah Palin, Assange “should be treated like an Al Qaeda terrorist.” Publishing confidential material may not be commendable, but surely it is different than exploding bombs to kill people at random.  Her political ally, Tea Party founder Judson Phillips called “killing Assange acceptable” behavior for any true American–as he defines true Americans and is far closer to shouting fire in a crowded theater than anything we’ve read so far in the Wikileaks releases.

This  torch-igniting talk seems to me to be accelerated by government spokespeople who keep saying that lives will be threatened by the release of these documents.

To further complicate the matter, there is very serious question to the integrity of Assange himself.

Two weeks ago, a Swedish court issued an international arrest warrant against the 29-year-old publisher, demanding he return to Sweden to answer accusations of rape. If he is guilty, it certainly reduces any sympathy reasonable people would have for the guy.

But then, my government has a well-documented history of trying to frame people who cause them embarrassment.” Richard Nixon and his gang of henchmen attempt to taint almost all his perceived enemies as either a Communist or a homosexual.

These days, the two terms do not have the impact that Nixon’s masters of smear could muster with either word. Today, rapist is about as nasty as you can get and it has more public outrage connected to it than the other two terms.

Nixon used the terms against political opponents, against Alger Hiss who may or may not have been a spy, against Jack Anderson who leaked government documents revealing Nixon took secret “slush funds from the likes of Howard Hughes and holders of large government contracts. It showed up again as an unfounded rumor about Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times and other publications who had the guts to print them because the public had more right to know than the government had the right to hide.

The list of name-calling, sexual accusations and patriotic allegiances is long.

In every case of government leaks there are such accusations. None has proven true so far. In every case, the government has sternly warned that it is investigating for criminal charges to be brought. Sometimes, such charges have been brought, most were dropped or the courts refused to hear them.

One other thing is constant. In all these cases–then as now–there are stern warning that lives will be lost, the lives of people friendly to the US.  I cannot tell you that it will not happen this time.

But history makes me doubtful. Some have sited that Afghan friends were named among these hundreds of thousands of released pages. I don’t picture the Taliban sitting around and reviewing this material, when our friends get ratted out and killed everyday in the villages of Afghanistan countryside.

What I do not doubt is that the diplomatic applecart is spinning around a hairpin curve. It is entirely embarrassing to our government and its friends. Many of those having unwanted sunlight shined upon them are people of high integrity who are working hard to do the right thing for our country and perhaps the forces of good.

But embarrassment is not treason. And saying someone is a terrorist or should be killed for embarrassing our government is no form of patriotism or public responsibility.

The situation has evolved from another institution who has been shirking responsibility for far too long if you ask me. That is the press.

The traditional media enjoys certain responsibilities, for which it has certain responsibilities. It was never supposed to be their job to simply regurgitate the verbal shovelware of official government or company spokespeople.

It was their job to dig, to challenge, to get the other side of a controversy so that we, the readers, could decide for ourselves. “If your mother says she loves you,” my editor told me when I was a rookie reporter, “then check it out.”

If a government spokesperson tells a reporter that lives could be lost, then it’s the reporter’s job to ask, “who’s life? Which of the 250,000 clips is the one that threatens lives, or national security?”

It is the tradition of the press to find disgruntled employees who will blow whistles on questionable practices of government, enterprise or clergy.

It is their job to ally themselves with a force that has brought down the heads of so many institutions through history. It is called “truth.” Truth is often found in bar rooms and at parties. It is rarely found in its entirety in the public words of official spokespeople.

Wikileaks would never have existed if a vacuum had not been created by a collective media that has long abrogated its job. Neither, for that matter, would the more commendable Publicus.

Is Assange a rapist who has undermined the US and its relationships all over the world. Will innocent people die by the release of more pages than most people will read in a lifetime? Did Iran’s leadership not know that Arab nations didn’t like them. Did the North Koreans not know China was willing to abandon their alliance?

Maybe. Maybe not. I have no clue as to what the answers are to these questions.

I can only think of an observation by TS Elliott: “Only those who will risk going to far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Personally, I prefer too open to too closed and a press that is too free to one that is not free enough.

Sandbox2 It has been a little over three weeks since I finished proofing Twitterville and sent it off to my publisher for the last time before I see the thing in hard cover.

Since then, I have been kicking back more than I usually do, playing in my garden, with my wife, dog, cat and a few friends who I've missed during the reclusive process I require to write a book. It's nice to get out.

It's also scary, when I wrap up a project that took so much time and attention. There is a feeling that I have touched the top of a mountain and have stepped into a vacuum, a bubble where my work and focus have been excluded.

But I have a great number activities coming up. And for a three-week rest period, there has been a lot of planning and thing and doing.

First, I am going to do everything I can, and go everywhere that time and budget allows me to promote Twitterville. I feel good about the book. I think the stories I've told about the incredible people I've met in Twitterville are stories worth telling and sharing.

I'm planning a big party sometime in August. I have begun to invite people who are my close friends and people who are in the book. My friend Tatyana Kanzaveli has agreed to produce it for me and we are currently raising sponsorship, which we of course need before we can open the floodgates to the public. So far, Network Solutions and Intuit have kicked in, so we are well on our way. I'll tell you more about that when I have more to tell and I hope that will be soon.

Next, I am thrilled, THRILLED to announce that BurrellesLuce, the media planning, monitoring and measurement service for social media, online and print has signed up to sponsor this blogsite starting July 15, and I have agreed to pst at least once weekly–thus the title of this post.

This bog has served me as a sandbox, I play in it, try things out and watch how they develop.  I allow myself to stray and wander to cover whatever interests me.

Since 2005, the core focus for me in this sandbox has been social media and how it is changing the lives of people and the structures of institutions. Essentially, what I do is I talk to people about how social media changes their work, play and cultures.

Over these past few years I have interviewed more than 400 people in 38 countries about how they use social media. A majority of these interviews have been in the section called the Social Media Global Report. Projects that start there have resulted in two hardcover books, Naked Conversations, Twitterville; The Conversational Conversations, a Dow Jones, eBook and contributions to, as well as FastCompany.TV.

For a while, I'm going to play in the sandbox, interviewing people about social media. I am looking for interesting and useful stories. I am happy to hear any that you think are useful and interesting.  am particularly interested in hearing those that are unique; that stretch the boundaries of social media. I am more interested in the human element, but I remain primarily a business writer. Please email me or leave a comment hear if you know someone or something you think I should cover.

I'm a sucker for a good story, so please tell me one.

At some point, a subject will come along that may lead to my next book. I certainly hope so and I am always searching for my next book. I will pursue a subject for a while and see if it fits for that topic, then either leap into it or move away.

For the past several months I have been talking to my friend Tom Stitt about a subject that has his passion and which invokes great interest on my part–the role of social media in healthcare. It's a great subject, and there are more than enough stories about cool people in healthcare who are changing the medical practice, respecting patient choices. There are also people like ePatientDave and Drew Olanoff who are using social media to share ideas and information and support.

But ultimately, I realized that a book we were going to call Conversational Healthcare, was not one I should help write. This subject greatly interests me, and I will write about healthcare and social media many times in the coming months. But it does not grab my passion as does another subject. Tom is continuing with the project and I have agreed to write the forward to his book which nw has a new working title.

What did grab my attention and my passion over the past few weeks is the role that Twitter has played in shedding light on the dark awfulness that has followed the Iran Election and I have little doubt that the hours I have spent following that story will be part of  my next book.

If it had not been for Twitter, Flickr and YouTube the world would not know and probably not care about what as happened there. Social media let people everywhere hear and see what has been happening to a people who were fooled into thinking they were part of a democracy when they were not. People bypassed governments and traditional media to inform each other. Truth in Iran keeps bypassing those who would suppress it via handheld devices and it is a fundamental change in how people connect.

This story has my passion. Iran itself may not be my next book, but it is likely to be a component. It seems a direct descendant of stories I covered in Twitterville including Mumbai, Israeli-Gaza, Janis Krums and US Air 1549 on the Hudson.

At this point, the likely focus of my new book will be an extension of what I call "Braided Journalism," the title of my favorite Twitterville Chapter. It is the idea that news requires both the efforts of traditional news-gathering organizations as well as the feet on the streets of the world being covered by people with connected devices in their hands.

I am in no great hurry to start the next book. There is still a great deal of time and effort needed in support of Twitterville. But for a while, much of my focus will be directed at the points where traditional and citizen journalism converge and intertwine to make something entirely new and perhaps, better.

It's nice to be playing in the sandbox again.

I’m hosting a star-studded panel on social computing at the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco this Thursday.  In my opening comments, I will have a mere five minutes to address the SAP Global Survey, which has taken a good portion of my attention over the past two months. Here are my preliminary talking points, but I may need to do some speed-speaking to get it all in.

  • In June, SAP asked me to do some traditional research on social media to help them be a thought leader on the subject. I suggested that because social media involves adhering to cult of generosity, I should conduct interviews, like I did for Naked conversations—transparently on my blog.  Less than a week later, SAP VP Mike Prosceno sent me the following email: “It’s a go.”
  • In two months, I’ve interviewed over 40 people in more than 15 countries. I’ve posted more than 40,000 words on subject. Spoke with world famous bloggers, high school kids, Cambodian NGO workers, and Ukranian Citizen Journalists.
  • Survey took on a life of its own illustrating the community powers of social media. In the beginning I was structured. I sent email questions that people were supposed to send back. Instead, they posted the answers on their own blogs. People I did not interview, rolled their own questions and posted or sent them back. Joe Thornley sent a video clip. Others started asking my questions on my behalf on Facebook and sending me answers. Some folk thought I asked stupid questions and changed them, then answered. It has become an open source survey in every way.
  • Too early for conclusions.  But here are some early findings.
  • Social media is active and growing on all continents and most major islands of the world.
  • As innovators start looking past blogs, blogs are taking off in the enterprise.
  • All social media tools get adopted first by non-corporate users, then seem to catch on in the enterprise two years later. Video is hot now among consumers. Watch for massive corporate adoption in 2009-10.
  • Social media tends to start with kids. Think of what that means to your enterprise moving forward.
  • The universal tool worldwide is the social network. It is being adopted by consumers and businesses everywhere in both localized and global forms.

That brings us to today’s panel. Introduce:

I have a great many reasons to be grateful for what blogging has done for me. Not the least of them is that my circle of friends has geographically expanded and sometimes this allows me to get together with people I’ve met either through blogging or because of it.

Marco Palombi

[Marco Palombi.  Photos by Shel]

Yesterday, I took some time off and walked on the beach with Marco Palombi, founder of Splinder and one of Italy’s most successful entrepreneurs. He is planning to move to Silicon Valley and study artificial intelligence and the Semantic Web issues. We talked about the difference in Italian and California cultures and he reminded me of how valuable the tech culture is where I live.

A couple of weeks ago I had dinner with Loic LeMeur and his lovely wife Geraldine. They too are moving to this area. The leMeurs have bought a house in San Francisco and Loic plans to start a technology Joost Channel of online TV. Loic and I healed an old personal wound and remembered how much we enjoy each other. I’m glad he’s coming and that we now share a passion for the coming video dominated web.

Ignacio Escribano, La Nacion, Argentina

[Ignacio Escribano, Argentine Citizen Journalist]

Also two weeks ago, I enjoyed a fabulous four-hour lunch with Ignacio Escribano and Eduardo Lomanto, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, both of La Nacion, the national newspaper. They were here to learn more about social media because Ignacio has started a Citizen Journalism site for the paper. It was a first meeting but the relationship is ongoing. I plan to interview Ignacio for the SAP Global Survey. He’s a true Renaissance Man, a Boston-educated doctor, former traditional journalist, recorded vocalist who has lived in five countries.

Then there was Allan Martinson, an Estonian VC, who was my host-guide to Estonia last October.  It was Allan who introduced me to the Estonian President, the former prime minister, some social networking entrepreneurs and the top guy at Skype headquarters.  Allan and I had lunch in July and discussed business in Russia the Baltics and the US, where he pointed out there are far greater opportunities than everywhere else.

Pat Phelan

[Pat Phelan, roaming freely]

Next month, my good friend Pat Phelan, founder of Roam4Free who will be over here from Cork, Ire. I coached Pat on blogging when he first started and I am excited about the possibilities of his Roam4Free startup which should make it easy and extremely cheap to talk by phone without the carriers sucking money out of our pockets by the minute.

I just love all this. As Marco and I discussed while walking on the beach yesterday.  I am from a small industrial city in Massachusetts.  I knew the world was bigger than where I lived and I was restless by age 10 to go beyond it.

It is a great pleasure to meet and talk with so many people from so many places who share my passion for technology and bring so many cultural perspectives to my awareness.

I’m sitting at  Chicago’s O’Hare with a couple of hours to spare. It is the first time in a while I’ve had to reflect on some big issues, at least ones that are big to me.

It been a few months since I announced the postponement Global Neighbourhoods, what I hope will e my next book. The primary reason, as I stated, was that I make more money consulting than I do writing books and speaking about them. I had strayed to far to the fame side of the fame/fortune continuum.

But there were other reasons for tabling Global.  One was I could describe a situation that every business thinker needs to consider, but I could not get far enough ahead of the relentless changes in the world of social media far enough to write a book thjat could remain relevant for at least a couple of years. There I was thinking about what a flat world meant for non-American startups, when YouTube became part of Google, when young people stared slipping out of the vast walled city of MySpace; when people started Twittering and then Powncing as they realized their First Life was better than the second.

You just can’t write a hard cover book on a constantly changing situation.

Things, I had written became generic and common knowledge.  My core concept was that the social media sites were not the key relevance, but the way people self organized along topical rather than geographic lines was. That we and no more than 200 online friends would bop from one site to another finding each other time after time after time.

I was among the first to note that the importance of social media to business rested not in ourselves but in our children who would soon replace us at the prime movers in the workplace and in the market.

I got lots of encouragement for these and a few other ideas. But I couldn’t quite figure out where it was going, and what part of this thinking would endure for a couple of years, rather than become blatantly obvious.

I was never quite satisfied with our Naked Conversations ending.  We declared the beginning of a new Conversational Era, replace the Broadcast Era.By the time you read the book, that was quite obvious, I would wager. For Global Neighborhoods, I wanted to paint a bigger picture with broader strokes, and I couldn’t quite see where all this was going.

Then Facebook opened it’s APIs. Two months later, there are 2000 approved 3rd-party applications and 10,000 or so, waiting to be approved. Students continue to do what they have always done on Facebook, not noticing that millions of business users are stampeding into Facebook, that most social media organizations are enjoying bursts of popuarity by using Facebook as a distribution platform. 

People are self organizing on Facebook.  The are building their own small groups of friends who share common interests. They are bopping around from one group to another, sharing thoughts, watching video clips, watching pictures, organizing face-to-face events, meeting new people based on mutual friends or interests.

Facebook comes closer to being the Global Neighborhood than I had imagined something could.

Maybe I should just write a book on Facebook. Maybe I should write it, notion my blog but on Facebook.

What do you think?

It’s not the numbers it’s the geography.  If the truth be told, my range is pretty constant.  If I blog a lot, I have about 25,000 visitors a month.  If I’m sparser in posting, I drop to about 17,000.  At the peak of Naked Conversations, we were hitting 30,000 a month and when Robert and I got into a virtual barroom brawl with Amazon’s CTO, we had our only 50,000 visitor month ever. I don’t really need to look to know what’s going on there. The signals I get from Technorati, Typepad and Analytics all reinforce the accuracy of each other.  They come closer all the time.

What fascinates me, and the reason I spend time every day on Google Analytics  is the map overlay of where people are sitting when they visit this blog. If you look at it by continent, country and city many stories get told. I am more popular by far in cities where I’ve made public appearances than not. About 40 percent of my readership comes from outside the US. Per total population, I am more widely read in Canada than in the US.

I am more popular in Dublin than anywhere else on Earth. I assume Analytics includes in includes Cork, where I have visited twice and enjoy a few ongoing friendships and conversations with people there.  Toronto and London are usually in my top five or six cities and they are also places where I maintain friendships and have spoken. I’m bigger in Tallinn, Estonia than in Moscow and that is no surprise.  When I wrote about Russia being a cyberbully to their little neighbor, my Tallinn readership swelled by over 500%. Actually, it was the first time I saw noticeable readership in Moscow as well and it is nice to know that even when I’m shouting, someone seems to be listening.

Mentions help. When my friend KD Paine spoke in Dubai, she mentioned me. My readership there shot from 2 to about 90.  Now a month later, I have an average of 35 visits a day from Dubai, and that residual impact is greatly appreciated.

The diversity is amazing. I have been visited in the past month by people on all continents, residing in 2,234 communities. I had a regular reader in Rwanda, but he seems to have disappeared.Overall, I have nearly 300 African visitors daily.  I have 11 readers in the Palestinian territories and as many readers in Arab states as I have in Israel. Someone in a place called Petah Tiqua seems to read me daily. More than 500 people read me in the happy isles of Oceana.

To my knowledge, there has never been a day when my readership from any city on Earth has exceeded four percent of my total. This pleases me because it indicates that this blog is sort of a global neighborhood onto itself. Speaking of which, Global Neighborhoods is not spiked as a couple of fictitious blog characters have written.  It is postponed.  I needed to get my consultng business going again and it is coming along nicely. But there will be a book and my return to serious work on it is not all that far away.

I have often quipped that I have a master’s degree in blog typos. It seems this carried over to my filling out the form to register my domain with several months ago.

I registered Global, not Global Neighborhoods.  The GoDaddy folk then redirected Global Neighborhoods to my core blog url of Are you with me so far?

Then nearly a year goes by until today.  When somebody–actually a new business prospect–tells me that when she types in my url she gets directed to a link farm. Crisply, I tell her she forgot the "u" and send her back.  She goes back and then tells me there was no typo.
Quickly I post the previous warning. The I dial up GoDaddy, preparing to use my most assertive voice in the key of shriek. As happens whenever I call GoDaddy, I reach a real human in support in a very short time, perhaps two minutes. As usual, he’s brief and sharp in confirming that I am me. I relate the problem. He asks me to hold and comes back to tell me that I had typoed my domain name.

The way Link Farms work is simple and nasty. They use computers to find available URLs and they register them. Then they use the redirected traffic to sell advertising and to sell URLs to people who want to use them for legitimate business. When I tried to buy Global at the beginning of this journey, they asking price was $10,000.  I countered with a$1 offer and the deal was never consummated.

"Don’t feel badly," my GoDaddy guy tells me. "This mistake has been made by thousands of people,"he tells me. Yeah, but hw many people does GoDaddy register?

"Quite a few million," he tells me, which puts me in that one percentile club that I didn’t want to join.

So, I register and put a forward on it, which should kick in sometime in the next 24 hours. As residual winner here is Hugh Macleod
because now I have to buy a few thousand new Street cards from him with the .net replacing .com.

We now return to our regularly scheduled day.

I had a great time last night at the blog dinner honoring the illustrative Hugh MacLeod, except people kept asking me how the new book is coming and the short answer is that for right now it isn’t.

I want very much to immerse myself. I love the concept and I love nothing more than writing particularly, books.  I think the concept of Global Neighborhoods and of what the world looks like when our kids replace us in the marketplace are interesting and important to a great many people. I have amassed great stories from people all over the Western world.

But I need to face up to bread and butter issues.  Being an author is not as lucrative as many people might think. Nor are the speaking engagements. In fact, on the fame-and-fortune continuum, I have been way over on the fame side and need to move closer to the fortune side, at least to the mortgage-covering side.

I don’t think I’ll have much trouble increasing my consulting practice, but just so you know, I have immediate openings for new clients.  To learn more, email me here.

Long before Naked Conversations was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye, I had an idea for a global local newspaper.  I got passionate about it, event putting together a small business plan. My issue was that it was not a small concept.

The essential concept was that every event of interest to anyone could e locally covered. My "global, local blog newspaper," as I called it, would cover the local Little League sports teams, would let citizens file stories on pot holes in their town’s rats in slumlord buildings.  They would write and take pictures and maybe someday, video record events everywhere. Their may be regional editors who reviewed these stories, but more important, the blogosphere would be the fact checker the way ysers were becoming the fact checker on a new phenomenon called Wikipedia.

There was a monetization concept and it was tied to local advertising.  The local girl’s soccer team coverage might be sponsored by local merchants, national events by major brands.  All payment would be based on a buck-a-click charge to advertisers. My global-local-blog-newspaper would then split the ad revenues with its global legions of citizen journalists.

I actually peddled the idea.  i thought I found my partners who had money and were interested in the ad model. except a closer look at them revealed they were direct marketing wolves in social media clothing.  I then pitched the idea to a couple of "online media" folk at Knight Ridder, who used that kindly pedantic attitude that essentially said they did not believe for a minute this idea would every work.

It was too big and too complicated for me to start up on my own, so I put it aside as something I would get back to someday.  As the song goes, someday never came.

So when I started reading some of the enthusiasm for the new, improved Topix among bloggers, I respect, I decided to take a long hard look. I had met Topix CEO Rich Skrenta at a conference a few months back and like what he had to say about community focus.  I also found it amazing that as we sat on a panel in Miami, I discovered that we both lived less than a mile apart in San Carlos, CA. In his talk he had been hinting along the lines of my old dusty project, and we talked about getting together once we were back in the hood. We never did.

I spent a couple of hours kicking around the new Topix this morning and I cannot say that it has fulfilled the vision I had back in 2003.  But I do think it has built out the essential framework and has the potential to build out the entire concept of the Global-local-blog newspaper.

I hope so. I’ll keep watching.

Years ago, when my blog was still ItSeemstoMe, I wrote a piece cause-based ice cream brands. It was a fairly light essay, but it invoked a vitriolic, anti-Semetic comment from someone who demonstrated he or she knew where I lived, knew my wife’s name and owned a gun. It scared me and for a long while I stopped mentioning Paula’s name and that I live in San Carlos, CA. As it turned out, I never wrote about gun control again and I cannot tell you whether it is coincidence or not.

Kathy Sierra has suffered a great deal more than that, and apparently a good number of women have also suffered disturbing and outrageous offenses. I feel for her and I am saddened that what has occurred has done so.  The fact that it occurred on the blogosphere is not a key point to this story.  It just makes it more personal for me because the Blogosphere is one of my global neighborhoods.

It is the same as learning that something violent or criminal or ugly happened in my physical neighborhood, or that some women I knew in college was sexually assaulted. Maybe it shouldn’t be this way.  Maybe we should all focus on the more massive ugliness that takes place every day in places like Darfur.

But we don’t. We ignite when something bad happens close to home, or to someone we know or knew.

I say all in response to the lead story in today’s  San Francisco Chronicle by Dan Forst entitled “Bad behavior in the blogosphere.”

Forst, conducted some decent journalistic legwork, getting good quotes and providing a very clear chronology of the events leading up to this controversy. But what bothered me is that the useful and informative stuff was buried, after the story jumped inside the paper. The Page One sections seems to me dominated by Tabloid type inferences that exaggerate a serious and complicated issue.For example:

“The incident and its aftermath have drawn back the curtain on a computer
culture in which the more outrageous the comment, the more attention it gets.
It’s a world that many women in particular see as still dominated by men and
where personal attacks often are defended on grounds of free speech.

In addition, many of the newest tools of the Internet are coming into
play. Blogs and online communities were supposed to herald an era in which “the
wisdom of crowds” guided online behavior to a higher plane. Instead, instances
of mob rule appear to be leading the discussion into the sewer.”

The Blogosphere is a pretty transparent place with very few curtains except maybe in Amanda Chapel’s cross-dressing room. The more “outrageous comments” are regularly taken down by most bloggers and therefore they get no attention.  Women have legitimate complaints about their treatment by some men in general.  This is not unique to the blogosphere. Personal attacks are defended by free speech in general.  it’s a Constitutional thing.  Personal threats is another story.  They are illegal online or off and should be.

I wish people would actually read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki, which i considered a brilliant book. But a few comments on a blog, or a few hundred comments on Digg doth not a wise crowd make.What Surrowiecki is talking about is that a largecrowd–an electorate, or visitors to a county fair, very often comes out with a more accurate answer than does a panel of so-called experts.

My point is this: What has happened to Kathy Sierra is a bad thing.  It is not a BAD BLOGOSPHERE thing.  It shows that their is ugliness in our neighborhood. If Dan forst wants to see a high incident of neighborhood, violence, threats, female abuse and ugliness, he only needs to walk out the doors of the San Francisco Chronicle building in San Francisco and walk one block in any direction.

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According to Reuters, Google is working on a whole news approach to translating from one language into another.  To me this is extremely important because the largest single barrier I see to my vision of Global Neighborhoods is language.

As it stands now, computer translations, such as you get from Babblefish and Google translate are rarely close to accurate and often a bit goofy. The new approach, called “statistical machine translations” may still be a bit awkward and will still contain a few literal errors, but comes a whole lot closer to providing computer translations that come a whole lot closer to what human translators would give you.

Right now, I have conversations quite often with people all over the world, I like to say.  But in fact, they are only people who speak English, the only language in which I have any proficiency. With the right translation technology  could speak every day with people whose primary language was Chinese or Japanese, Russian, Farsi or whatever.

So could everybody.

If you think about it, the implications are really huge. People could everwhere could speak to people everywhere else.  We would not have the filtering of third-party organizations deciding on what gets translated and how that translation will be nuanced.

[NOTE: I tweaked this after posting it and have just changed the text from the original throughout the post.]

The following are my draft talking points for my talk Thursday in Chicago at the Bulldog reporter PR University. I am not entirely satisfied with the closing poiints and would welcome some more additions.  If I use your comments I will credit them to you in my talk.

1. I am a “recovering publicist.” One day, early in  2001, I scrawled “Stop me before I pitch again” across a mirror. …been going to “Pitch-enders” ever since.

2. Was in PR more than 25 years. Worked with tech startups. Loved it. Loved the creativity and integrity of most PR people I knew.

3. I left for many reasons. A few I recall:

  • Tech bubble popped. Left no clients, no payroll and a bunch of bubble goo all over my nice Italian suit.
  • Role changed. PR went from relationship-building to buzz-generating. Buzz is the last sound you hear before you get stung. PR moise level had become Deafening.  Trying to tell a client’s story was like“hollering in a hurricane.”
  • At the same time the audiences we were struggling to reach were exhausted from the pitches they had already heard.
  • Result: PR image deteriorated. Nasty jokes. Lawyers/PR guys. Screw you in PR talk: trust me. Edelman says:  Less credible than lawyers.

4. Environmental changes

  • Traditional media went into atrophy. Will be fatal for many. NY Times forecast.
  • Relentless rise of blogging, wikis, internet audio video and online communities.
  • ‘Kid’s Stuff.’  New generation emerging with Teflon resistance to ads, PR & trad marketing. Don’t read newspapers. More time on YouTube than TV. Listen to more iTunes than radio. Ignore authority.
  • Online, people started to ignore marketing. They went back to the way the market worked from the time people were cave dwellers until the 1940s in the US. They influenced each other on what to buy, where to go, listen to, watch and even maybe who to vote for.
  • Only one small significant change had occurred. Instead of exercising this influence in cafes and over the backyard fence, we started doing it online.

5. The generation now emerging, the one who will inherit my desktop and my generation in the workplace is now 25 or younger. They are the Online Generation –“Onliners” for short.

6. The overriding question that you need to ask yourselves is what happens when the Onliners come of age, replacing we 60s kids and boomers as we drive off to Jurassic Park to join the other fossils who could not adapt to change? What tools to reach the Online Generation?

  • Forget the press release. That won’t reach the Onliners, even if somehow tangible newspapers still exist down the line.
  • Forget your sacred list of influential contacts. Those influencers can’t even get their kids to put down their cellphones and come to dinner.
  • If this is kid’s stuff, there seems to be a whole lot of kids.  Look at the numbers. Over 60 m bloggers, but that’s chickenfeed.  YouTube has 100m daily downloads. MySpace 200 million registered users by year end. Facebook more than 1 b photos. 3 m elementary school kids forming global friendships at Club Penguin.
  • Onliners are today’s early adopters. Early adopters as most of you know, influence everyone else. You can’t reach them by smiling and dialing, although text chatting would help.
  • If you always do what you’ve always done, you will get less response next time than you did last time.
  • Political candidates figuring this out. Mayor of DC, governor counsel of Canada, John Edwards, Barack Obama. David Cameron, Three Italian cabinet members. President of Iran blogs as does disgraced congressman Tom Delay. The California Republican Party blogs.  So do members of El Quaida.
  • Why? Because that’s where the young voters are going and will be found for years to come. These voters won’t stay young.  They will stay online and they will be voting for the next 50 years.

6. So once again:  How does PR adapt? What is the practitioner’s role moving forward? Does PR even have a role? Is this change a threat or an opportunity?

7. I’ll answer that last question first.  It’s the easiest and the most ambiguous: Social media is both threat and opportunity for PR. … a threat because there is a fundamental change in the way people are influenced on what they buy, watch, read and listen to. Change is disruptive.  When there is disruption some companies rise and others fall. Rarely do they ever rise again.

Social Media is simultaneously an opportunity because PR people are generally great conversationalists and we are entering the Conversational Era. In it, we are transitioning from monologue into dialog. Through conversations you can find out what customers want simply by asking them. You can deliver more popular products just by doing what they tell you to do.

PR also has an opportunity also because advertising is more broken than PR and will take longer to fix. Companies will be turning to PR sooner for more immediate answers. It will be a wise agency who is ready with answers.

8. This Conversational Era has just now begun. PR in 5, 10 & 20 years will have a far more value than it does today—not just for your clients, but for the communities those clients wish to be part of. What’s also relevant about the next 20 years is a fundamental shift in the habits of the people leaving the marketplace and those who are preschoolers and young adults today.

9.  Two cautions:

  • Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. Not yet. These are transitional times. Moving from Broadcast Era into Conversational Era. The day the physical newspapers die has not arrived. And only a fool would disdain the influence of prominent coverage in say Page One of the Wall street Journal.
  • The bigger your agency, the faster you need to move. You move like supertankers  at full throttle. You need time and distance to turn around. If you don’t start soon, you just might wind up on the rocks.

10. As you take a look at social media consider this phenomenon: Power is moving from the large organization into communities. People who are most generous in these communities are the most influential.

11. Consider also: The online community is nt confined to any single URL. You won’t succeed by marketing to MySpace and more than you would by sending the same messages to the ruling class and shantytowns of Sao Paolo and MySpace is many times larger.

12. Here’s what’s actually happening. People with shared interests from all over the world are bopping from one place to another.  The same people are meeting up with the same people at blogs and photo sites.  They are downloading the same music and videos. In these virtual spaces, real and lasting trusted social networks are forming. Often people meet online first, then encounter each other face-to-face later.  It’s like meeting old friends for the first time.

13. I call these groups who are defined by neither geography nor URL Global neighborhoods. They are smaller and more intimate than the huge online communities. They are comprised of people who share diverse passions,  on almost any subject: hummingbirds or Hummers, Global warming or urban terrorism,  Religious fundamentalism or fundamental paganism. I’m writing a book called Global Neighborhoods, which is about just their relevance to business. The challenge is to be brief.

14. Global neighborhoods work very much like the tangible ones where you live in. You get to know some of your neighbors. The more time you spend there the more familiar you become. Trust builds on neighborhood issues. You know to ask about recommend movies or where to get your car fixed. You know how to avoid commuter snarls and where it’s safe to walk alone or not.

Over time, each neighborhood resident earns a personal brand.

Transition:Now, Bulldog folk don’t let you up onto the dais without specific tactical advice. That’s hard for me because I’m more concerned with where you are going than how you are going to get there. But I’ll try to give you a few tips. I blogged about this and got a few tips from people in my own Global neighborhood, which includes a good number of PR bloggers.

  • Use your eyes and ears more than your mouth. Start reading the PR bloggers. I read Phil Gomes and PR measurement maven Katie Paine, who spoke earlier today. I also read Mike Manuel, David Parmet, Brian Oberkirch, Joe Thornley, Kami Huyse and Scott Baradel to name a few. They, in turn point me other bloggers and online places that are either interesting or useful to me. I rarely see these people face to face, but I consider them my friends. It starts with just reading, but overtime it evolves. You leave a comment. You start your own blog and link back. You become another node in the global neighborhood. You meet face to face and it keeps getting broader and deeper and richer.
  • Learn generosity. I think this goes to the nature of many PR people. But instead of giving fame to clients, news to editors and special promotional offers, this new technology gives you the tools to give insight, information to your global neighborhood. Do not just give information that is useful to your clients. Contribute to the community interest and needs. They will give back and much of that will be valuable to your clients. More important, you will be more valuable to your clients.
  • Be a node. Metcalfe’s Law proves that the power of the network is enhanced by each additional node. It sed to be the node was the computer. You are now the node. If you have news, the social media allows you to distribute it without disintermediation. In short, as newspapers and traditional media get smaller and less influential you become the direct distributor of news. You are each part of the newspaper of the future.  But remember, the most influential members of the Broadcast Era now closing were the most credible. This is even more true in the Conversational Era.
  • Be an intelligent agent. Use the simple search tools that let you find what is written online on topics that matter to your clients. Join those communities, not to pitch, but to hear and see and learn.  Look for the most favorable and negative comments impacting your clients.
  • Treat the brand as a community. This came from a comment on my blog by Chuck Tanowitz of says : “Start thinking about your brand as a community, with the customers, partners, advisers, etc. as members of that community. Once you do that, the tools of PR become about building the community, not simply making announcements. You start conversations rather than shouting from mountain tops.” This seems to me to be great advice.
  • “Share, learn and connect,” says Joe Thornley, of Pro PR who reinforces the Cult of Generosity. He adds “You’ll get back more than you give. If you listen to what is given back, you’ll learn, learn. And if you blend online exchanges with participation in real world events, you’ll find you make friendships with people from all over North America (and the world) who share you passion.”

My closing thought: those of you in this room, are part of a profession filled with brilliant conversationalists, people with knowledge and passion.  You are more generous than your current image would have people believe. We are entering  ‘’The Conversational Era.’

This is your time. Join the conversation. Enjoy.

First, off thank for all the astoundingly valuable comments, once I shouted and pouted a bit. I am taking a couple of weeks to think through what I’ve heard and will do a version 5 of the Overview at that time.

But what has been interesting to me is that several people complained that the five sections of the overview was too much to read.  "People are too busy now, to read all those words, " I was told. "It may have been fine the first time around, but these days you need to keep it shorter.

This is interesting.  The five parts I posted came out to 3750 words.  The book will be about 80,000 words.  If I follow the pattern of posting interview notes and updates on all sorts of things, as Scoble and I did for Naked Conversations, it means that I will post about 250,000 words on Global Neighborhoods.  Some chapters will contain 10,000 words or more.

This was all pretty popular when we did it back in 2005.  But perhaps, as one person commented, "The Novelty has worn off."

Maybe. David Weinberger used his blog to some degree on his last book, "Small Pieces Loosely Joined." He didn’t to that this time for "All Things Miscellaneous." Taking the blog out of it makes it easier and faster to write a book. Your mistakes get caught by an editor, rather than the general public.

There’s just one catch.  The blogosphere helped Naked Conversations to write a better book.  We could not have done it that well without the collaboration of hundreds of bloggers. This weekend I received the quantity and quality of comments that have already significantly improved Global Neighbourhoods.

This may cost me some points in Technorati ranking.  My goal however is to write a book much more than it is to bask in the glory of Technorati measurement. In the Big Media Era of paper publishing, now coming to a close, tabloids usually outsold more esteemed publications. I won’t call me esteemed, but I think many of you visitors are.

I think some of you will stay with me. I value you and I hope I provide some useful and interesting material, although I will have little choice but to go long on this book project. For those of you who want it, I will offer either a downloadable version or I’ll email a Word version to whoever requests it.

It will be interesting to see how it works now that the novelty has gone.

Last week, I posted the first half of my new Global Neighborhoods overview.  I broke it into five parts, because last time around, folk told me it was too long to read as a blog post. This time, I received even fewer comments than I did on the previous free overviews.

Here are the links to Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5. Please go there and take a quick read.  Then either post about it, leave a comment or email meHelp me write a better book.

I cannot understand why almost no one has commented.  If you think the book concept and how I’m handling it needs great improvement, let me know.  If you think that it sounds like a candidate for the Nobel Literature Prize let me know as well. That’s what collaboration is supposed to be about.

The deal is this: I work my ass of to write this book and you folks tell me how I can improve it.  You tell me when I ring true and when I don’t. You tell me when my facts are a bit off. You give me leads and tell me what parts are boring.

Before I continue along the track I’m on I need to know if this is the right track. I’m kicking back on this topic for a while. I’ll be sitting here alone in the dark waiting to hear from you.

Part 5. The Marketer’s Dilemma

People are a mixture sameness and change. Human nature for the most part has remained the same mixture of kindness and savagery since we were cave dwellers.  What keeps changing  are our tools.  For the past six or seven decades the tools of conversation were disrupted by the tools of broadcasting. As we evolve from generation to generation those tools have, among other things, allowed us to communicate and travel more easily with more people in more places.

But for a period of several decades, something went awry in the marketplace. As the benchmark Cluetrain Manifesto so eloquently pointed out, markets are conversations. But for about 60 years, the communications tools made marketing communications, a one directional.  Traditional marketing’s arsenal of advertising, promoting, researching and targeting customers worked well for a great many years. From the enterprise perspective, this has worked well for a long time, but all that seems to be coming to a rapid halt.

As almost any branding, advertising, marketing or PR professional will tell you, traditional broadcast marketing  programs have become excessively expensive almost at the same rate as they have become less effective. Part of the problem is that the messengers are dying. Newspapers and traditional broadcast media are atrophying. The head of the New York Times online division has predicted that the paper edition of the venerable publication will cease to exist in five years. In the US, TV network news has one third the viewers as it did 30 years ago and the average viewer’s age is 60.

That is the state of traditional marketing as that industry has practiced it.  Few would argue that it is broken, many would say irreparably. All this has occurred simultaneous to the explosion of blogging blogging, wikis, digital audio and video programs. Just as the communications industry has tried to get its arms around those innovations comes the remarkable explosion of new online social media tools that all everyday people to create, inform, record and store whatever they want without so much as a marketing jingle or focus group to study their behavior.

When a serious business strategist examines sites like MySpace, it is a scary proposition. Is this really where a company will have to go to build awareness, sales and loyalty with the next generation? Should a communications officer really advise a CEO to don a virtual costume and go barter for an intangible currency on Second Life?

With a few exceptions, these could be career shortening tactics.

The problem is that’s where the customers are.  That’s where conversations that will shape the future of your company are.  These tools are shaping the culture of an entire generation.  Even the politicians in most western democracies are flocking to Online Communities because that’s where the voters are and will be.

This is the marketer’s dilemma.  They are at a crossroads.  One route is safe and familiar, but it may lead to Jurassic park where the other fossils who could not adapt to change reside. The other choice is to start to understand the strange and mysterious world of Onliners, to use your ears and eyes to see how it works to join other people’s conversations before even trying to start your own about your company, goods and services.

Joining Onliners where they spend their time creates a classic good news/bad news situation. The good news is that by using the efficient and powerful new tools you will save your company a bundle.  You can use the money to improve products and support and still have some left over to increase investor returns.

The bad news is that you are going to have to do things differently, very, very differently and in the traditional enterprise change comes slowly and painfully. Even worse, while an established company contemplates change, a bunch of Onliners can start a company free of legacy baggage and built to exist mostly online where they can compete against you with amazing agility.

Global Neighborhoods does not advise companies to abandon the programs they have been using.  But it urges them to understand that the end to a great  many of them is coming and coming sooner than they may think. While harvesting those programs, the book urges companies to begin to understand the massive shift in direction coming over the next few years.
A few companies companies have been wise to start in this direction. None of them are considered radical disruptors to the status quo. A few examples:

•     Hitachi Data Systems who started a wiki, not about themselves, but addressing the issues of data storage.  Not only are customers and prospects invited to join in, but so are competitors. Companies can say what they want, but inside the wiki, the customer is the decision maker.  How does Hitachi win?  It started the wiki, thus creating an online water cooler for anyone who cares about data storage. Every sale that somehow connects to the wiki will not go to Hitachi, but, as first mover, it has earned the respect and is generally perceived as the topical thought leader.

•    Wells Fargo Bank, wishing to show it cares about home owners and property, has started a blog on disaster preparedness. When a disaster—a flood, fire or other act of natural violence occurs, Wells Fargo becomes the news center for information updates and advice on resources for victims. The goal is to have the bank’s brand perceived as the most caring in the category.  To achieve it, they need to write about matters far removed from how wonderful the local branch serves small businesses.

With an eye toward building life long relationships with young people, the bank also started a student loan and debt management advisory blog that educates rather than sells.

•    CNET, born online, CNET is best known for news and product reviews. But in the last few years, it has lost some steam, not to mention ad revenues to rival online media companies. A few years back, it started a communities division whose look and feel is very different from the remainder of the company. CNET communities attempts to amplify the voice of people who do not already have powerful voices online through blogs or other means. For example, if you dine at a restauraunt you love or hate, you could write a letter to your local newspaper editor.  You could review it on a personal blog or you could post as a member of Chowhound, one of CNET’s four, youthful communities. As such the people most passionate about dining where you live would find your comments and thus CNET amplifies your influence. In short, explained Martin Green, general manager, “we amplify the voices of people who feel like they are hollering in a hurricane.” All four communities receive heavy advertising support and are experiencing growth.

But, the book points out, all this has really just begun. Other companies and individuals with formidable track records are moving to adapt the creative and collaborative tools of social media to the enterprise.

Cisco, the leader in infrastructure for the last internet website generation, has moved decisively toward helping corporations modernize into the social media era. They  acquired Five Across, a social media platform as well as Tribe.Net, a once-popular social networking site.

Also of significance, is Ning, a company co-founded by Marc Andreessen, Netscape’s father of the web interface promises its online tools will let any person r company to build their own online social network. Who does what with it remains to be seen.

This is a brief portion of the Overview, but it will be among the longest portions of the first half of the book, which tries to cover what is happening. keeps those cards and letters coming in. If you prefer, email your comments to me as several people have.

4. A Social Media tour

Media stats are both dynamic and astounding. Five times more people visit YouTube
every day than reside in the world’s largest cities. MySpace is on track to
have 200 million registered users by the end of 2007, making it more populous
than all but five of Earth’s countries. Facebook stores over one billion photos for 30 million users, more
photos than were processed by Kodak in the


between 1990 and 1999. The
number of minutes spent messaging on cell phones in any given week might exceed
the number of minutes there are in a century.

this is all in it’s initial phases. Residents of more than 150 countries participate
in social media. There are localized and
globalize social media sites. An
Estonian social network company has over 95 percent of the countries people
between the ages of 14 and 25.

Neighborhoods will takes the business reader on a tour of these sites, large and
small, global and local to show what’s happening and why it matters so much.

talk to executives and founders. We also
interview kids about what they do online and how much of their lives it has

If you just got here, this is Part 3 of God only knows how many parts to the new overview for Global Neighborhoods.Please read the preceding two parts before you get here. I am looking for feedback. I want you to help me write a better book.

3. Culture Blending & World Peace

There’s another way that Onliners are likely to change the world. They are culture blenders. They meet somewhere online and discuss a local pop group in East London, or about Global warming. They sit in their own rooms or cafes or occasionally huts and they bring themselves transparently into the conversation. Because it is on the Internet it is available for others to see and will remain available for a very long time.

This process grinds slowly and steadily at certain historic barriers between cultures. People discover online how much alike they are when they meet to discuss a topic online. Clothing or race or sex may have prevented the conversation from even starting in the real world.  Some cultural barriers remain formidable, language for example.  Yet Onliners manage to side step them at east a little bit through universal languages of music and pictures.
The world of the Onliner is often described as small and getting smaller.  It is simultaneously getting bigger.

A case in point is Annie, a Scottish honors student whose parents rarely travel outside Scotland.  She was accepted into an accelerated languages program when she was 16. As her term project, she created a video podcast version of “The Dating Game,” using classmates as contestants.  Except for one little hitch.  The entire program was conducted in Japanese and was digitally produced on the Internet. There, the Japanese media picked it up and started emailing her for interviews.  She has become quite popular there and has been invited o speak there.  She has also had to turn down a couple of marriage proposals from older Japanese gentlemen.

Culture blending is making something else noticeable, something that has probably been going on all along.  But now, the tools are making it more obvious.

One example: Two Saudi teens are observed sitting at opposite ends of a table in a tent.  They are both children of a wealthy family. Between them, a stern chaperone stays vigilantly. Her job is to make certain that these two are never alone, that they do nothing improper.  Above all they must never touch, at least not until the wedding night that their two families decided on before they ever met. So their they sit at opposite ends, each seemingly ignoring the other, appearing slightly bored, each fidgeting with a cell phones, Beneath the unknowing eyes of their stern-faced chaperone, they are using these phones to send each other text messages. In fact, they are vigorously flirting.

On another peninsula, on another continent, a teenaged boy and girl sit back-to-back in a South Korean shopping center, their fingers dancing on cellular keypads. Even though they are touching each other in a very public venue, they are using phone messaging to send intimate notes to each other. This same behavior is also observed in Finland and among U.S. teens. Part of this story is as old as the human species.  Young people have always flirted with each othe.  But the tools they use have evolved.  They can now be miles apart while passing notes through this new channel. Text chat has other anticipated applications.  In Cupertino California, teacher have caught kids during exams, text messaging with friends outside the school, looking up the right answers in textbooks.

Yet, all this online culture blending cannot offset a universal truth.  Nothing quite beats a face to face meeting. Hopefully, nothing ever will. Most people hope this fact never changes.  But as the Onliners come of age, other low cost networks are making direct communications easier and much less expensive. While everyone knows the power of Skype, which now carries ten percent of the telephone traffic between the US and Europe, but there is a whole new generation of telephony services that will cost users a fraction of what Skype charges and will not require being tethered to your computer.
Even more important, low cost airline services have sprouted up in Europe, North America and Asia. They are providing a safe, bare bones means for people who could never travel before to  visit almost anywhere. This includes people who meet online, who are already starting to meet at international gatherings of people who found out Online that others shared their subjects of passion.

In many ways, the Online Generation is fulfilling the dreams of the Boomers. Like most generations, the Boomers ended up a pragmatic and productive generation.  But they started out an idealistic lot.  They talked of power to the people.  They talked of world peace.

The challenge for business is that the power is now rapidly moving to the people and they will decide more about their futures that enterprises and institutions. The challenge of many of the world’s governments is that their citizens may be more dedicated to peace and tolerance than they are.

There is little doubt that the social media are moving power into the hands of people.  Simple conversations online are already disrupting even the best financed branding campaigns. There is even some scant, but hopeful evidence that not only will  Onliners make business more efficient and transparent, they also accomplish more than the Boomers did in that touchy area of world peace.

Take a look at Ine Dehandschutter, now a professional Belgian photographer. At 19, she received a scholarship to study photography in Jerusalem. While there, she developed two strong friendships, one with a Palestinian and the other with an Israeli.  The two young men were equally shocked and disturbed that Ine would be friendly with someone on the other side of the barrier that separates Arab East Jerusalem from the Israeli sector. They continuously used Ine as a conduit to send messages to each other. At first the messages were acerbic, but over time, Ine’s diplomatic skills coupled with her personal passion for peace reduced the tone on both sides to a gentle chiding. After a while, Ine grew tired of serving as their mutual relay station. So she emailed them both and told them to pick up to chat directly and leave her out of it.
This resulted in several days of silence followed by light pings from one to the other then back again. The conversation grew more regular.  The arguments remained impassioned but they became less hostile. The online relationship normalized as the two discovered how much common ground they shared. Eventually they did the natural thing. They met for coffee, face to face and as Ine had predicted, they discovered that they really liked each other. They stopped being an Arab and a Jew and became two friends talking over coffee.

Well, Ine wondered, if it could work between two people, why not between two groups? So she found a teacher’s group already dedicated to fomenting world peace in the classroom and suggested they use social media for a new experiment.  They built a private online community and recruited to high school classes, one Palestinian and one Israeli.
The kids began by discussing simple matters. How do they help their parents prepare for holidays? What do the wear to school? How do they get along with siblings? The two groups share many photos and discover they all look a lot alike. The folk music of the two cultures has certain similarities as do their two languages. Eventually, they too got to meet, share food and play soccer together.  Ine’s biggest hope is that if teens can meet on a soccer field, maybe a few years later, they won’t meet on a battlefield. Buoyed by this success, the educators progressively expand the program to include other teenagers in Europe and Africa continuing to use social media to bring together groups of significant cultural diversity.

Here’s the second installment. You should only read this if you have already read the previous installment about the boomer generation.  Again I m looking fr feedback on these.  if you find these to be tedious or boneheaded, let me kn.  If you find them to be inspirational educational or Pulitzer quality writing, I would not mind hear that either. More to come.

2.The Online Generation

Rather than living next door, your child’s best friend may live in another country. Instead of hanging out with other friends in a mall or on a street corner, these pals are increasingly likely to be meeting up on a social media site such as MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, YouTube, Flickr  or SecondLife where hundreds of millions of young people are going every minute of every day. They share words, pictures, sound or maybe video.
These new communities exist only on the Internet. They may be called “virtual,” but the relationships forming there are real. The information exchanged there is frequent, current, valuable and abundant. When it is particularly interesting or valuable, it can spread at lightening speed.

People who contribute the most on any given topic often become extremely influential to others who share their interests.  There are mechanisms set up to allow you to even vote on what commentary or pictures are your favorites.

No category of technology has ever been so rapidly embraced by so many people in so short a period of time. There are hundreds of millions of people participating in the social media including, not just these online communities, but blogs, wikis, audio and video podcasts.

Some business strategists dismiss the social media, particularly the communities “kid’s stuff.”  They have a point.  The demographic shows most users are under 25 and many of them are still pre-adolescent. But for a business o dismiss them could be a lethal mistake. The fact that they are kid’s stuff is the reason they are so important.
Social media is a defining characteristic of the emerging generation, the one that is about to take the jobs and occupy the homes and the physical communities of the outgoing Boomers. They are the Online Generation, “Onliners” for short.

If you want to hire the best and the brightest of them, sell them your products and services you are going to need to adjust course. Your current marketing strategies just may not work with Onliners.

They don’t read newspapers, or watch much television. They prefer MP3 to broadcast radio. Onliners have a Teflon ® resistance to traditional advertising and marketing.  They don’t much trust authority and celebrity endorsements rarely move them.
Instead, they influence each other.  The social media is influencing what Onliners buy, wear, watch, listen to or visit.  The greatest influencers in the social media are people who are the most generous in sharing valuable or interesting information through online conversations.

These influencers are developing their own personal brands and they will shape corporate brands to a huge degree in the coming years.

Onliners are moving the power from the company into the community.
The bigger your company the sooner you need to start. Global enterprises are very much like supertankers moving at full throttle.  It takes a long time to turn them around and not maneuvering fast enough may land you on the rocks.

1.    The legacy of Boomers
For 35 years the Boomers were the watershed generation.  They dominated what happened in business and in the world. They came of age just as man walked on the moon. Disco came in and gratefully died during their tenure. The Soviets and Americans came to détente, only to see a new threats to a peaceful world arise. Television evolved from snowy, colorless things into sleek, elegant digital devices. Anvil-heavy phones were compacted into handy multi-tasking pocket-sized devices.
The workplace was changed dramatically during the Boomer’s tenure. The tools of their fathers–typewriters, adding machines, Mimeographs and Addressographs were all pushed off the desktop and into the Goodwill box.  Even the great information exchanging oasis of yore, the water cooler was replaced in most places by plastic botels of the fluid.
In the marketplace, the change was equally pervasive. Big companies got bigger as small ones disappeared. Brands became ubiquitous all over the world. Marketing campaigns, backed by enormous budgets boomed.  They had to, in order to be heard above all the other marketing campaigns.
But time passes. Paunch happens.  Hair thins. The Boomers aren’t kids anymore. These days, a great many of them are focused more on retirement condominiums than on the revolution many of them talked about in their youth.
    There were disappointments. World Peace was not attained during their tenure.   The Chicago Cubs never won the World Series. In the end, like so many generations before them, much of what they will be remembered for is in the tools they brought into everyday use. Much, but not all.
    As they start to pack up their boxes and yield their desks to a next generation, there are three valuable legacies the Boomers leave that will shape the next watershed generation as it comes of age.
1.The personal computer.  At first, they were outlaw objects. Boomers smuggled them into work to bypass the keepers of the mainframe in the basement.  Over time, the PC would devour up all the other office machines. But it wouldn’t stop there. These machines started talking to the other machines in the office and then to other machines all over the world.
2.The Internet.  Between all these PCs, a new, vast shapeless space formed.  This was a place where nothing was tangible, but people came to meet there, came to share, shop, inform, learn shout and be amused.  The Internet would emerge because of the personal computer, but it would become even more significant to the way people of the world connect to each other.
2.    Daughters and sons. More than the PCs and the Internet, the children of Boomers are now coming of age.  They are as different from their Boomer parents as their parents were from the generation they replaced. For one thing they grew up in the company of computers and immersed in the Internet. They will improve these tools further and they will change the world more than even the Boomers who gave you Star Trek can imagine.
What happens when one watershed generation replaces another in the work and marketplace?  This next generation is about to become your employee, your customer or maybe even your new competitor.  How do you adapt to the change which is coming in the next 5, 10 and 30 years. Where do you look for answers?
You might start by looking in your own kid’s room. The recreational habits of young people age 12-24 today are the social habits that businesses will need to adjust to in the very close future.

MeetUp, the "click and mortar" company that let’s you find where people who share your interests actually meet up in the real world has been around for a while.  I subscribe to the Palo Alto version, where on an average week there are some 425 meetups within 25 miles of the city.

What is amazing to me is the diversity. Here’s a thin slice sampling of what’s happening this week in the area.:

The Antioch Military Families
and Friends Meetup Group

Developing The
Spiritual Path With Sivan Garr

Rudy Giuliani for
President – Bay Area

Married Men’s
Actualization Meetup Group

The San Jose Warcraft
& World of Warcraft Meetup Group

Video Game Contest

The Los Gatos Art
Modeling Meetup Group

South Bay Ruby on

Spread The Fire Bible

Bay Area Single-Again

To me the diversity is something amazing. If you go to the site and read a local list you can see how a significant slice of your area’s population is self-organizing along the lines of shared interests and it is very cool.

I always hope that no one misreads a line and goes to the meeting above or below the one they want on the list. This is to me what the localized version of what Global Neighborhoods is all about.

There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting and hopefully there never will be. But now, through the Internet and social media we can meet people all over the world who share our interests. We may not be able to meet them all face to face, but there is something very heartening to know there are others out there who share a part of what we are about. 

It is remarkable how diverse each of us is in other ways and yet we can now come together online. damn, I gotta get this book going.  It keeps getting bigger in my mind but the pages are not being fruitful, nor are they multplying.

I must admit that for someone writing–or at least trying to write– a book on social media, I’ve been slow to immerse myself in Facebook. But my sense is that it is growing in popularity because ofits ease of use and because it is designed to let users subdivide into what I call Global Neighborhoods.

I poked around a bit over the weekend, in part, because two young members of Infopresse that I met last week in Montreal had absolutely gushed about it. What I found over the week end really impressed me but that is probably old news to almost anyone this side of Methuselah.

But what really took my breath away were the stats revealed by Carolyn Abram on the Facebook Blog. Users have grown by nearly 300 percent to 18.5 million since last July.  Half those users log in every day–making Facebook about eight times better read than the New York Times. There are more than one billion [no typo] photos on the Facebook site.

Boy am I ever going to have to write about Facebook in Global Neighbourhoods. If you are a marketing professional and you continue to ignore stats like these, my urgent advice is pay attention.  A whole generation os absorbed in the social media and if you overlook them, you may have a future career in the restaurant service industry.

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The BBC just announced
that a 22-year-old  blogger,Abdel Kareem Soliman will spend four years
in prison for using his blog to "insult"al-Azhar university and
presdidential strongman Hosni Mubarak.  His trial lasted five minutes.

This is not a case of link love. But two people have mentioned things I’ve said in recent posts, and to respond I need to link these two citations together.

Jack Krupansky, up in Seattle,  cites my argument that  geography is becoming irrelevant and contrasts that with  J. Pascal  Gregory in the New York Times saying geography is destiny.

Josh HallettSimultaneously, Hyku’s Josh Hallett, my good friend quotes me as saying "my friends aren’t virtual."

These two dots may not seem to be connected but they are. You’ll note that I called Josh "my good friend." In fact, our meeting up last week in Miami is only the second time we have laid eyes on each other. We have become good friends because we often blog on similar topics, because we run onto each other’s work on Flickr,because we are both passionate about social media. We read each other and see each other’s photos and somehow we are both feel a friendship.  n the rare occasions when we lay eyes on each other, it feels like we are old friends.

Now, this J. Pascal Zachary character from the times, happens to be an old friend.  I can tell you that all his friends call him "Greg," that he has a love for traditional jazz, that he collects old vinyl records because he loves the authentic scratchy sound and that even when he was reported for the Wall Street Journal, he harbored decidedly Socialist beliefs. I have not spoken with Greg in a decade and some of these facts may or may not have changed. 

I do not think Greg will be upset that I shared this stuff. If Greg blogged, and you chose to read him, you would probably know all this.  Some of you would feel a kinship.  If you ran into Greg at a conference you might feel like he’s an old friend, even if you were meeting him for the first time.

There is still nothing like a face-to-face meeting. But the Internet has allowed us o get closer, to share more, to know people better and more intimately, even without the physical meeting. That’s part of what happened with Josh and me.

My comments to Josh were in part a response to what I heard at the WeMedia conference, where many representatives of big media seem to believe it is Their media, not ours. They kept talking about virtual communities vs. the real world. To me they miss a real and fundamental point. Virtual communities may not be tangible but hey are most certainly are real. We may never meet each other in the real world, but the relationships formed online are most certainly and indisputably real.

Now, Greg’s "Geography is destiny" declaration seems to me to be a bit overstated. But what is clear is that their are certain neighborhoods online and off that is better for certain activities than others. For example it is better to start a tech company in Silicon Valley than it is in Ceylon. It is better to discuss geeky stuff on Robert Scoble’s blog than at Suicide Girls. In the real world physical boundaries define many people’s destiny.  Online shared interests define neighborhoods and destinies.

Geography has become a lot less relevant over a very short period.  It is going to continue in the direction of irrelevance, from my perspective.  But online or off, where you are will still contribute to your destiny, or so it seems to me.

Oh, one other thing: If you see Greg, tell him I said Hello.