Tag Archives: Dipnote

Speaking Out Of Turn – from Citizen Journalists to Whistleblowers

Some notes and pictures from the Chat Republic event at the American Center, on 13 June.

Organizations are going beyond the ‘blabbing’ phase of using social media, to craft more thoughtful, business-focused strategies for customer / audience engagement.

Dipnote – the State Department – and Dell are good examples of using ‘media’ to different ends. In the book, I feature Dipnote, as one of the pioneering government blogs that dared to use a format and a platform that was not exactly popular in tight-lipped institutions.

Dell, uses a Social Media Listening Command Post to be closer to its customers. It runs a virtual war room, with full-time employees who listen to the chatter.

Many people question social media as if it is some sort of object that comes in a box –and ought to also include a set of instructions. If you like to give it a tangible quality, think of it not as an amplifier, but an antenna. en, Even then, no box will contain it.

I then opened up the topic of podcasting, and how it was different from its old media cousin, broadcasting.

As this was a seminar-style discussion, there were good examples of how print media is using print and digital to create ‘breadcrumbs’ back to the readers. Also in the audience was a member from a grassroots organization I had featured in the book (in one of the Bonus Chapters at the end of the book, and he updated us on the programs involving teaching English and blogging.

And finally, we addressed Citizen Journalism. From Abraham Zapruder, one of the most remember ‘accidental’ or citizen journalists – he caught on tape the Kennedy Assassination. To the brave amateurs who risk their lives to tell a story no one else is privy to.

Oddly enough, even as we were speaking, a larger story was unfolding of someone who has dared speak out of  turn – the Edward Snowden affair. I can see this topic come up in the next two weeks, even though phone tapping is not a social media problem per se. It is, after all, related to the ancillary, hairy issues social media skeptics bring up: too much transparency, and how vulnerable it might make any institution. But that’s not what my book is about. But, hey, I’d be happy to discuss in another forum.


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Two years of ‘broad public access’ at State Dept blog

Last week Dipnote, the blog by the State Department, turned two.

So much has happened in two years. It was the year that the iPhone debuted, and Microsoft bought a stake in Facebook. A few months before that TIME named all those people creating content and connecting through social media as the ‘Person of the Year’ – the famous “YOU” issue.

Luke Forgerson, Managing Editor of Dipnote

Luke Forgerson, Managing Editor of Dipnote

Dipnote took to this new way of communicating with amazing flair. If there is one example of I’ve been using repeatedly to illustrate how any organization could stop firing press releases and start a conversation, it’s been them.

Think about it. Foreign policy to many is as sexy as watching paint dry. But given the right angles –heck, the right to loosen up– and the interest in listening as much as speaking, it turns out to be a different animal.

I have talked to many organizations who are terrified at the thought of saying something that could come back to bite them. Blogs, and videos, and photos pulled from a diverse group of individuals seem like total anarchy to them. It might damage the brand, they fear. The question I get asked a lot is ‘What if someone says something nasty?” –followed by “should we publish that too?”

I won’t go into the responses I give, but you’d think a group of people who represent the brand image of a country must have thought about this a lot. There must be bookshelves of white papers and journals on this subject in their offices. There must be legal advisers shaking their heads in disbelief.

And yet…

If you look at the social media initiatives the State Dept has rolled out over the past few years, these ‘government employees’ seem to take to new media in a way you’d expect of a marketing organization. Maybe they understand that good marketing is all about good communication. It’s more than the ingredients of ‘technology and talent‘ that Sec. Clinton spoke about.

It’s about using social media as an antenna not a bullhorn.


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Text-Hillary needs to switch to Tweet-Hillary

Having followed and reported on the State Department for years, I was glad to see Hillary dive into interactive mode on her recent trips to Asia and the Middle East.

Particularly on the openness to respond to text messages from anyone. These were her responses that have just been published online.

However I have two problems and a suggestion:

  • The questions may be legitimate, but there’s just no way of knowing who’s sending them, and when. In this transparency era that the administration is rightly talking up, we the people like to see who’s txt-ing.
  • Clinton’s responses are way too long. One ran into 200+ words. No, I am not suggesting 140 characters or nothing. I love long form answers, but it seems out of sync to respond to a 24-word question with a minor speech.  I know, I know, you didn’t text back those replies. By the way, who in their right  minds uses words like “to end the Gaza blockade and allow humanitarian aid to enter (based on UN Security Council Resolution 1860).” in a text message, with proper spelling, to boot?
  • My suggestion to the Secretary: It’s about time you started responding to people via Twitter as well. @ClintonNews account would be fine to start with. Don’t give up accepting SMS, because we all know that’s what most of the world still uses. But also remember, 60 percent of Twitter traffic comes from international users. Convinced?

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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 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!

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Posted by on January 21, 2009 in Social Media


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YouTube as your briefing room – State Department shows how

Hey, whoever said the government was slow to adopt and risk averse? Take a look at what the State Department is doing, as an extension of what has been going on at DipNote for the past year.

They asked people for video questions and responded to it via video, in a briefing room at YouTube.

Sean McCormack takes your questions!

McCormack makes some excellent points in his post last Friday, saying this Briefing 2.0 strategy was not done for the expected reasons –to bypass the mainstream media:

“insisting on a 20th century world behind the walls of the State Department while the watching a 21st century world develop outside the walls is not a sustainable posture…”

I’ve never, in all my years of travel, considered connecting with diplomats and state department officials except from the other side of a piece of glass two inches thick. Who knows, it might be possible to ‘friend’ them one of these days on a social network.

In many of our organizations, we may think ourselves more user friendly and accessible than a government office, but we have our two-inch thick firewalls. It’s called standard business practice. The officers on the frontlines of our online press rooms do not take questions. They are there to tell us things, not respond.  When they put things down in print, to give us a bit of insight, it comes in the form of a boilerplate, at the bottom of a press release. Certainly not a blog post. Dipnote shames the business world into becoming more accessible.


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Happy Birthday, DipNote

The blog of the US State Department, DipNote, turned one this week, on Thursday.

It’s one of those blogs in my RSS reader precisely because it is not “the media” and because it captures the voices of ordinary people –the hoi polloi — in far flung places.

Sure it’s the official voice of the State Department, but not in the legally-scrubbed sort of way. It’s diplomacy in action via social media. I have had issues with the scope and speed of its coverage, but like any toddler in the social media sense, DipNote will soon get out of its diapers.

The editors point out that readers have shaped the blog, too:

“While we provide the posts, the back and forth debate gives each post a far more interesting and informative context. I firmly believe a blog’s greatest service is in getting disparate voices from varied geographical regions together in a way that would have been impossible prior to the advent of blogs.”

Congratulations, Luke and the team!

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Posted by on September 27, 2008 in Communications, Social Media



US diplomacy via blogosphere could respond faster

Amid the doom and gloom on Wall Street, another tragedy was somewhat overshadowed –the bombing of the US embassy in Yemen. I turned to at Dipnote, the official blog of the US dept of State (that I have covered here before) but there was just a passing mention, by James Glassman, the undersecretary for public diplomacy.

These are the moments for social media to provide context and value. If you’re tapping into the nodes and feedback of social media, you know that speed has a bearing on influence. It’s not always about the pictures, and good PR. An outfit like this could probably leverage enough citizen journalists when needed –to cover other stories too as they break.

It’s not that they don’t get it the engagement thing. Glassman’s conference call talks of how the US is finding its footing in the untested middle ground of diplomacy. (Do we begin to call this social media diplomacy? ) He speaks of a digital outreach team that engaged, via blog posts, the media adviser to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

But what about the rest of the world through the lens of Dipnote? Coverage of India, and China are very slim. What’s its view of civil rights in Myanmar or Sri Lanka, for instance? Not one entry there. I’m curious to see how these new tools of diplomacy will better connect us to the big picture — the developments outside the usual (media-led) discussions of conflict, terrorism and oil.

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Posted by on September 19, 2008 in Communications, Social Media