Friday, January 28, 2011

A Twitter Epiphany? The Power of a Hash Tag (#jan25)

As America - on the East Coast anyway, including in Washington, DC - tucks up in bed, the sun is rising on Egypt. Which seems an appropriate time for @jg21 to briefly explain what I had in mind when resolving for the past 12 hours or so to re-Tweet as many of the comments and links flying around via Twitter as I found meaningful, informative, and (often) inspiring.

"Freedom of expression is a human right," blogged Twitter co-founder Biz Stone Friday, on Day Four of the blockage by the Egyptian government of Twitter and Facebook. And this was not mere opportunism by Stone, because it is the exact same thing that he said four months ago. Here is what he said already in September:

"Twitter isn't a triumph of technology it's a triumph of humanity. A more connected world leads to a more empathic world."

So that is the proposition I set out to test. Does Twitter really have the power to increase the sum total of empathy in this often troubled world? Call it, if you like, an exercise in "empathetic calculus."

One kind and co-hearted soul has already been kind enough to mention - via Twitter of course! - that my "barrage" (his word, but I make no objection!) of re-Tweets had an effect on her, and a good one:

#FF @jg21 for a barrage of #Jan25 & #Egypt Retweets. Reading about the situation in Egypt makes everything else seem... minuscule in scope."

In a follow up exchange, he was even kind enough to say "good work sir. We are in dire times. The horrors of the world cannot be hidden thx to technology. We are ALL of this world." So I feel that I haven't intruded in vain upon people's attention-span, even if my chosen means was a little front-on, I feel certain, for many people.

In a follow-up post over the weekend, I will try and analyze what my Twitter-fest did for me personally, as opposed to my Tweeps - whose forbearance I call out here and for which I shall be eternally grateful.

This much I can tell you in advance: it has been a transformative experience, so far as my view of microblogging is concerned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Facebook, Google, and the Near-Term Future of the USA

On the day when the Dow Jones Industrial Average topped 12,000 for the first time since June 2008, it is impossible not to correlate the eloquence and optimism of President Obama's "State of the Union" speech on Tuesday night with the restoration of a sense of perspective and hope in the USA about the future.

Obama grasped the nettle full-on. "We are poised for progress," he declared, adding:
"Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing."

As one blogger expressed it, though - and he is a former Goldman Sachs trader called Tyler Durden, so he ought to know wheref he speaks:
"There was a massive pink elephant in the room called reality though."

Durden's gripe is with the unreality of Obama's praising Google and Facebook so highly in an America where 26 million people are unemployed or underemployed. It is with his failing to address that while the salaries of U.S. CEOs are up, the average median employee salary on a comparative basis is stuck somewhere in the 1970s.

"This is our generation’s Sputnik moment," Obama said, in the most-quoted sentence of the entire address. America, in other words, needs to enter an Education Race akin to the Space Race that it entered in 1958.

What role will New Media activities play in all of this? Facebook may be many things, but a tool for better education is not one of them. Google stands a better chance in that regard. But Twitter? Can tweeting really help restore America's lost position in the world?

Those who live by new media die by new media. The 44th president of the United States of America needs to be careful when hitching the wagon of his presidency to stock prices and IPOs...can we all really have already forgotten the Dot-com bubble, which peaked in March 2000, when the NASDAQ lost nearly nine percent of its value in just six days and many dot-coms began to run out of capital and were acquired or liquidated?

What do you think? Is the 'Sputnik moment' a metaphor that can help re-boot America? What web-based organizations instil more hope in you, commercial giants like Facebook and Google...or non-commercial minnows like Wikipedia? How can we best preserve a World Wide Web in which there is room for both?