Good riddance to election noise pollution!

When the party next door becomes too noisy, people sometimes call the cops. But there was very little we could do about the ‘Party’ noise machines we’ve been enduring for the past year or more.

Finally we can reclaim some peace, as the two-party cacophony comes to an end today. (I know what you’re thinking: Yeah right!)

If it was true that Trump’s Twitter account had been wrestled away from him, it won’t be long when he gets back on the air. But at least the media might have other matters to report on. Here’s what I’m dying not to hear about:

  • The word ‘surrogates‘ and any reference to people who echo the party line.
  • Pundits. Those folks to ‘weigh in’ on every gesture or turn of phrase.
  • The phrase ‘social media lit up with…” as a preamble to a political story with no substance.
  • Sloppy, Madison Avenue-like phrases such as ‘Draining the Swamp’ and slogans such as ‘Feeling the Bern.’

Not that vacuous campaign slogans are anything new. In 1944, Thomas Dewey’s slogan was (get ready for this) “Dewey or Die.” And there was the 1980’s slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again” which was recycled (or was it ‘plagiarized’?) this season.

What do we tell our children (about dirty politics)?

Did you feel like you needed to take a shower after watching  the recent debates? Or do you feel like you don’t want to mention the word ‘election’ at the dinner table for fear of dredging up unsavory topics?

‘Adults behaving badly’ might sum up what we have been witnessing these past few months.

I’ve tried to explain to young people who ask, that:

  • This is not how most grown-ups behave – you know, hurling around ugly epithets; using vulgarities, slurs…
  • Political campaigns are unfortunate war games people play, hence ‘battleground’ states, attack strategies.
  • In the 4-year gaps between the these ugly wars, try to not do as they do.
  • The phrase ‘anyone can become president’ is something we are no longer proud of.
  • Though Gallup holds that 75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion (Pew Research says 70.6%) there is nothing very Christian about this process

Aren’t you waiting for this spectacle to be over?

Quotes for the week, ending 15 August 2009

“We’ve just had a demonstration of democracy.”

Senator Arlen Specter, after a person attending a town hall meeting shouted at him. The man was escorted out of the room, at a Harrisburg Community College.

“The Obama administration has delivered … a message of tough love. We are not sugarcoating the problems. We’re not shying away from them.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton, summing up her trip to Africa

“The Internet disrupts any industry whose core product can be reduced to ones and zeros ..it is the biggest virgin forest out there”

Jose Ferreira, founder and CEO of education startup Knewton

“Doing sustainability is fine, but being sustainable is where we want to wind up.”

Michelle Bernhart, author of “The Rules of the Game” in an upcoming edition of IABC’s Communication World magazine, interviewed by Natasha Nicholson.

“FriendFeed, in my mind, is the new RSS reader.”

Robert Quigley in Old Media New Tricks

“Macaca Day, for those of us who make our living from video on the Internet and elsewhere, is a holy day – the day that marks the birth of YouTube politics, and reminds us that citizens with cellphone cameras and a YouTube account – or at least an election.”

Dan Manatt, at Tech President, on the infamous comment by senator George Allen during the election campaign

“Google Voice “is merely symptomatic of that larger question.”

Ben Scott, public policy director of Free Press, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group in Washington, on the investigation on whether the carrier (AT&T) and handset maker (Apple) had anything to do with banning Google’s voice application from the iPhone.

“This is a decision based upon consumer experiences, child protection and our strategic investment to build up MSN Messenger.”

Geoff Sutton, GM of MSN Europe, on the decision to shut down Microsoft chat rooms in 28 countries.

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Will Clinton’s push for ‘smart power’ bring networked diplomacy?

At the heart of diplomacy, says incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (speaking at her visit to the State Department yesterday) is smart power. I trust this is not as something analogous to ‘soft power.’  To me smart power would be all about taking diplomacy into a 3.0 world. We all understand what 2.0 stands for, since this thinking debuted three years ago.

Like web 3.0 thinking (see Google’s Eric Schmidt take a crack at it), the folks looking at how to engage in diplomacy 3.0 would do well to understand how information, ideas, even value systems move virally across networks. They would do well to look at a paper that was written by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, titled ‘Network Diplomacy.” Amazingly, it was written in 2001! It’s about networked intelligence, dialogues, listening, sharing and trust.

Much of what it talked about is more or less accepted now in business and public relations –and only grudgingly in diplomacy. I say this because I asked a friend at a State Dept agency about networking and he said they were disallowed from joining networks for security reasons. That didn”t seem right since I know from closely tracking Dipnote, how engaged and networked some of them were.

Rules against networking existed in the murky 1.0 world. Where we locked down our employees, and monitored what links they clicked on, and then blamed them for not sharing knowledge or having rotten data. Or as they called it in the intelligence 1.0 era, for having ‘faulty intelligence.’

Back to the Carnegie paper, it observes that networks trump hierarchies, and that foreign policy is not just a sum-total of discrete events but an ongoing global engagement. To this end,

“networks are able to bring together much broader communities to flexibly address problems in ways that hierarchies often cannot.”

Let’s hope we see ‘smart power’ grids roll out fast!

How fast should you update history?

OK, so the headline was a bit provocative. Maybe we don’t update history when we update a wiki. But in the case of the newly minted president of the US, changing his profile meant turning the page of history.

Not many people look at Wikipedia the way I sometimes do –at the Discussion pages –but on the night before the inauguration (Jan 19th) I learned some unusual things about how information gets written, edited, and in many cases fought over.

The Wikipedians managing Obama’s profile faced one nagging question –apart from the expected edit wars over how to describe his African-American heritage: At what point should the word ‘elect’ be dropped? At the oath, or at noon?

We saw how in other quarters, particularly on the White House web site (and blog) and the State Department’s blog, Dipnote, how timing was everything. On WhiteHouse.gov on Tuesday, a few seconds after noon, there was a message from Macon Philips the new media person behind the web site. He announced that ‘change has come’ to the official web site.

Back to Wikipedia, the question arose if a ‘bot’ ought to be assigned to do change Obama’s information, saying the official time he would assume presidency was 11.56 am. One said his photo was creepy and needed to be changed. While the debate raged, it was agreed that “If stuff starts to get out of hand requests for page protection” would be made.

Meanwhile, Wikipedians wait, fingers poised over keyboards, for Hillary Clinton to be approved by the Senate. As of this morning there’s the word ‘designate‘ after her Secretary of State title’ waiting to be scrubbed, among other things!

“Gather Conservatives, lend me a hand..”

JibJab has come out with another classic ‘toon to relieve the dark mood about the economy and the sniping that passes for campaignin’.

What’s more interesting than the entertaining usual suspects, is that this time around, being a social media election and all that, you can insert yourself into the video! Then post it to your social networking site, or grab the link.

Watch this.

Should Obama brush off plagiarism, or “turn the page?”

Maybe Barack Obama did “borrow” words from Massachusetts governor. It brings up two interesting questions:

  1. How much of what we use in communication should we attribute?
  2. How fast should we come back and apologize?

He called it “too big of a deal,” but as recent history has shown us, plagiarism has been quite a deal. From Dan Brown (Da Vinci Code) to Kaavya Viswanathan (How Opal Mehtha got kissed…) to journalists who inadvertently use material without attribution.

“Certainly plagiarism can have degrees,” notes Steve Buttry. And in case you’re looking for attribution,it’s a quote from the American Press Institutes‘s web site, in an article “When does sloppy attribution become plagiarism.” He goes on to say, “For the most part, sloppy attribution is to plagiarism as manslaughter is to murder.

As Plagiarism.org suggests, it’s good to attribute:

  • whenever you use quotes
  • whenever you paraphrase
  • whenever you use an idea that someone else has already expressed
  • whenever you make specific reference to the work of another
  • whenever someone else’s work has been critical in developing your own ideas.

That the accusation comes from the Clinton campaign, makes sense. She is running out of brand differentiation, and will turn to the department of dirty tricks –even though she has lifted lines from Obama such as “Yes we will!” that echoes his “Yes we can!“The ‘academic’ rebuttal -explaining the circumstances of the borrowed words– is never good enough. Considering how anything you say in an election campaign can and will be mashed up, Youtubed and turned into a Swiftboat attack, this could be grave stuff.

Just apologize, and let’s “turn the page,” no matter who strung those three words first!

Quotes from the week of 26 January, 2008

“All we did was add more elves.”

Ann Bologna, president of Toy, on the success of the “elf yourself” campaign for Office Max, that drew visitors to visit the site and create 123 million elves, translating in to a reach of 26.4 million people.

“The difference is that we now have to provide a little foreplay before going all the way.”

Len Gutman, at ValleyPRBlog, on the need for symbiotic relationships between hacks and flacks via social media.

“Everyone wants the Tiffany box, but there is no Tiffany box.”

Dave Coffey, director of media services at Sapient, on a survey of 120 professionals about digital marketing budgets, and the inability to measure social networking gains.

“A vast dynamic knowledge ecosystem that is in a constant state of creation, use, reuse and improvement.”

Jimmy Wales and Rich Baraniuk in an Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, on their dream of making textbooks and learning material open to everyone, and the Capetown Declaration.

“There was a basic lack of integrity in the Clinton show last night.”

Larry Lessig on the Democratic debate, and the possible infection of the Clintom campaign with the “Karl Rove virus.”

“Appalling” and “saddening”

Senator Hillary Clinton, responding to Karl Rove’s recent suggestion that the Democrats responded to 9/11 with timidity.

“We’ve changed our whole marketing plan so we can leverage something out of this smokin’ hot spot.”

Bob Parsons, CEO of GoDaddy on getting a Super Bowl ad approved by the Fox network, after submitting 10 other “edgy” commercials that were rejected, as they were for the past few years.

“Journalists are such tools.”

A reader of the Arizona Republic commenting on the fact that this rejection-approval “story” has been repeated for many years.


Nagative campaigning, Mark Antony style

How does one market a presidential candidate?

The “soap” analogy (packaging, promotion and the the rest of the 4 Ps) is no longer relevant. Today’s political marketing strategists employ more subtler techniques. The negative ads have got so sophisticated that they don’t even look like ads.

Take Hillary’s campaign. The pitchman isn’t simply the talking head of some famous person. It’s a talking head of the first pitchman, the former incumbent. The medium isn’t even TV –it’s a much distributed YouTube video that happened to originate on television. The ‘negative’ isn’t even negative, in the Sean Hannity kind of slam. It appears so balanced, you can almost miss it.

Watch how Bill Clinton carefully labels Barack Obama without sounding negative, and having lightening responses to Charlie Rose‘s deeper questions that would have trapped anyone else. There’s block-and-bridge, and like Shakespeare’s classic technique having Mark Antony call Brutus “an honorable man,” he’s all praises for Obama, while stomping all over him.

When probed about whether he thinks they are all fit to be president, Bill prefaces it by saying “not to criticize anybody…” calls Obama somebody who is … “a compelling and credibly attractive, highly intelligent symbol of transformation.” Before that he described him as someone with “enormous talent, staggering political skills.”

The key (negative) word here is “symbol.” Earlier on he made it clear that “symbol is not as important as substance.” He calls Hillary the “agent of change” and Obama a “symbol of change.” Careful repositioning of the competition, without sounding like the old-fashioned negative ad.

Come to think of it, it’s a bit like a soap ad –Doves repositioning of “beauty” not as anti-aging, but “pro-aging.”