Our Last Class But It’s The First Campaign!

Posted April 17, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

We’re down to one last class—hard to believe, huh? For class, read the assigned chapters of my book and dig around on TechPresident.com, TechRepublican.com, Obama’s tech plan, a Washington Post op-ed I did last fall, and Patrick Ruffini’s thoughts on the subject.

I also wanted to take a minute to explain what I’m looking for in your critiques: Basically, the critique of your classmate’s paper is a second chance for you to prove your knowledge of Web 2.0. Put yourself in the shoes of the person receiving this possible project plan for approval. Would you accept it? Has your classmate proved his or her case for a Web 2.0 undertaking?

How thoroughly did your classmate think through the various avenues open to his or her project? Were the most appropriate technologies incorporated into it? Do you have suggestions for other websites, ideas, or technologies that you would use?

How thoroughly did your classmate consider the competitive field? Are there obvious problems with the plan?

As I said last night, while there’s no set page length, I’d be surprised if you were able to accomplish this all in under a page or a page and a half.

On Wednesday please bring a paper hard copy of the final project you critiqued with your critique attached to it. Your critiques are for my eyes only. The subject of your critique will not see your critique unless you wish to give him or her a copy.

Make sure to also read the entry below on What You Owe Me.

What You Owe Me

Posted April 17, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

There’s been some confusion over what’s due for the blogs, so I wanted to take this chance to clear that all up. Next Wednesday, when class begins, you owe me 19 entries—13 “response” blogs and six additional blog entries of your choosing. Three of these six additional entries must reference and be in response to a classmate’s blog or a thread you find on another blog (i.e. they must build upon a conversation taking place elsewhere on the web.). Three entries may be on any subject you choose under the sun.

Thus, all told, you must have an entry that matches each of the following criteria:

1) Response Blog: Intro/We the Media
2) Response Blog: Naked Conversations
3) Response Blog: Long Tail
4) Response Blog: Google
5) Response Blog: Social Media I
6) Response Blog: Social Media II
7) Response Blog: Topic of your choosing (Spring Break week)
8) Response Blog: Wikipedia/Loose Change
9) Response Blog: Gaming
10) Response Blog: Global Voices
11) Response Blog: Iraq
12) Response Blog: Politics Online/Dean Campaign
13) Response Blog: The First Campaign
14) Other blog response #1
15) Other blog response #2
16) Other blog response #3
17) Misc. entry #1
18) Misc. entry #2
19) Misc. entry #3

To be clear: No late blog entries will be accepted. Your blog as of 7:30 p.m. next Wednesday will be what you are graded on. This is a major part of your grade and so please please do it. Skipping an entry here or there makes the points add up pretty quickly.

In addition to the blog, you need to have posted at least 20 links on Del.icio.us, turned in a social media report, and on Wednesday you’re expected to turn in both a copy of your project critique as well as a copy of the project you critiqued (i.e. the printout you got from a delightful classmate last night).

If you have any questions on what you owe, email me as soon as possible. Unless I speak with you before Wednesday’s class, I will not accept late assignments or projects.

Also, if you missed class on a night when a quiz took place, your grade will not reflect that quiz (i.e. your grade will be based on a maximum of 95 points instead of 100), making all of your other assignments that much more important.

Politics I

Posted April 10, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

I hope you’re hard at work on your final projects, which are due on Wednesday.

You will need to bring a printed copy of your half of the final project to class on Wednesday night. If, for whatever reason, your project will be late, you MUST email me by 3 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon so that we can figure out when you will be finished, make alternative arraignments, and be able to hand it off to your designated classmate for a critique. Any excused late paper will be penalized three points.

Because your classmates are counting on you finishing on time in order for them to be able to do their critique and the second half of the project, unexcused late projects (i.e. if you don’t email me before class) will not be accepted.

On to class: This week we’re going to look at the Dean campaign in 2003 and 2004 and talk about its impact on online campaigning. Here are some articles to get you started:

Also check out this nifty archive of the Dean bats. If you really get into this, there’s a new Dean internet book out too.

Also: As I said, I want to offer a second “Omniclass” opportunity on Wednesday, so if there are topics you’d like me to cover, please let me know! This is your last chance to ask all of the random internet-related questions you have kicking around in your head.

War on the Web

Posted April 4, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

Good morning! I promised you a good James Fallows article on China’s Great Firewall, so here it is, as well as an interview on the same subject. If you want to page through some of the sites we covered, check out the class feed.

Our subject this week is going to be the war in Iraq and the unique stories that have come out of it—the first war fought since Web 2.0.

Feeling the traditional media wasn’t covering Iraq went and using VOIP technology, Swarthmore college students started putting together a regular news show interviewing Iraqis. Here’s an NPR story on it and then go listen to some of the podcasts.

The newest aspects of Web 2.0 in the war is how it allows us on the home front to hear from soldiers and civilians in the war zone in real time. Salem Pax was one of the first Iraqi bloggers in Baghdad, and the Baghdad Burning blog actually ended up being turned into a book. Its author, Riverbend, is still unknown.

Here’s a roundup of the best military blogs (or milblogs) right now and a site that rounds up milblogging. Army of Dude is one of the biggest. The military isn’t sure exactly how to deal with the bloggers (but then again, it seems to be like John Kerry: Both for and against the same things). Colby Buzzell‘s blog ended up launching a successful book (it won the Lulu Blooker Prize, for best blog to become a book) and he’s continuing to write for GQ. I recommend picking up the book if you want a good soldier’s memoir.

One of the biggest controversies to break out online is over Kevin Sites, who was an independent journalist in Iraq and videotaped what appeared to be a soldier shooting an unarmed wounded Iraqi. He now has a book/documentary out about his career. You can also see his Flickr feed. Here’s an interview that discusses his offbeat path.

Of course Sites isn’t the only one in Iraq with a video camera—the troops have them too and seem to spend a lot of time mixing patriotic videos (WARNING: some of this is graphic war footage). Dig around on YouTube and see what good videos you find. Controversial videos have also surfaced of private contractors shooting at civilian cars. This week, Del.icio.us at least one YouTube video of the war.

The web is also being used to rally veterans to oppose the war. But is that a good thing?

This week, dig around, read a few blogs, and write about what surprises you. Is seeing and reading about war a good thing or a bad thing? Should we have this much access to the front lines?

Your Final Project

Posted March 28, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

For your final project, as we discussed in class, my hope is that you will be able to apply the lessons learned in class to your own professional lives and careers. You will prepare a project plan to incorporate social media/Web 2.0 techniques into your current workplace or towards a cause on which you work or care about. My recommendation would be to use the same topic/cause/project that you started on with your social media report two weeks ago. The final project must include no fewer than five different “Web 2.0” platforms, including but not limited to social networking, blogging, gaming, Google ad campaigns, podcasts, vlogs, online viral videos, wikis, Wikipedia, and anything else you’ve stumbled across that interests you.

The ideas need not be budget-constrained (i.e. even though games or Facebook widgets can be incredibly expensive to build, you may include them). For each idea, you must outline and include the following characteristics: (1) the tool’s purpose; (2) the intended audience; (3) the social component; and (4) how it fits into your larger strategy. For instance, if you’re building a game, who would you want to play the game, what would the game play be like, and what’s the game’s intended message? If you’re building a Facebook widget, what would it do, what’s the social component that would make people put it onto their Facebook pages, and how does it advance the your workplace or cause, and/or educate people as to your position? If you’re building a Google Adwords campaign, who would you hope to draw into your website, what search terms would the campaign be built around, and what’s the hook/language you’d use to get people to click on your ad?

You must also include a survey of the existing Web 2.0 landscape for your project: Who are your online competitors? Your online friends/allies/potential partners? What are the leading authorities on your topic online? If you choose a cause, what are opponents doing? What’s going on around the world on your topic/cause? What lessons can you draw into your own projects from the successes or failures of allies/competitors? This is where your social media report should prove quite useful.

Your plan should be written in the form of a memo to your boss (in this case, me), outlining each tool and its potential applications. While there is no set page length, I would be very surprised if you could accomplish all of the above in fewer than five pages with normal spacing and font sizes.

Your final project plan must be ready for class on Week 13 (April 16th). That week, you’ll exchange your plan with another student in the class and for the last week in class you’ll prepare a critique of that person’s project plan, including any additional suggestions, challenges, and overlooked potential partners/allies/opponents. Again, there’s no set page length for this, except that I’d again be surprised if you could accomplish this in under two pages. On the final class, Week 14 (April 23), you’ll turn in both your own project paper and your critique of a classmate’s plan.

As the syllabus says, your final project is worth twenty points, i.e. twenty percent of your final grade. The grading will be divided into the following: Fifteen points will be based on your own project and five points will be based on your critique of your classmate’s project. You will be graded on how realistically your plan is outlined, how fully you demonstrate comprehension of the Web 2.0 landscape and its various tools, and how clearly you establish your goals and objectives. I want to specifically emphasize the first and third criteria, because those can get lost in the rush of fun tools.

Any project plans not turned in on April 16th will be docked three points. Full plans and critiques not turned in on April 23rd will also be docked three points, meaning that if you turn in both halves of the project late, you will lose six points off the top. I will deal on a case-by-case basis with those assigned to critique another’s late project.

Please email me if you have questions. We will also discuss this more in class next week. Make sure to put some good thought into how you approach this. Your social media report should be a good start.

Online and Overseas

Posted March 26, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

For next week’s class, I want you all to go to Global Voices Online, which rounds out the bloggers around the world, and pick a country that begins with the same letter as your name (to get the country listing click on countries in the upper right-hand corner). Explore that country’s blogosphere and write your blog post of the week about your findings.

Stay tuned as well for a post on Friday about your final project. Looking ahead to the schedule of the last month, I want to make sure I give you plenty of time to get the project done.


Posted March 22, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

First, sorry this post is later than normal. The good news, though, is that there’s no reading for this next week. just make sure to finish your Wikipedia project,  blog about something interesting you find on the web, and do your del.icio.us links. We’re going to spend Wednesday in class talking about a couple of random subjects: Digital rights management, search engine optimization, a little bit more about Second Life, and maybe two or three other subjects like Creative Commons licensing. Please e-mail me if there are any subjects you would like to learn more about on Wednesday. This is a really good opportunity to fill in any gaps that you feel like you’ve missed so far in this class.


Posted March 14, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

Online gaming (and related consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360) is quickly graduating from a teenage past-time to a massive industry, partly because the generation raised on Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers is aging and still playing games. Adult gaming is huge today. Movies today can gross more from the associated games than from the movies themselves. XBox’s Halo 3, which released in September and allows people to play joint missions from multiple locations connected online, had the biggest release in entertainment history—grossing some $170 million in its first 24 hours.

Massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are a huge business today—they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train).

Second Life is probably the best known of the various games and it has spawned a massive economic industry within it (although the benefits are questionable). Before class on Wednesday, please sign up for a Second Life account (basic membership is fine) and download the application before class so we can get started in class. If you’re using the school’s computers, just create your account. Read the Wikipedia page carefully so you understand the game (tech subjects like this are where you can trust Wikipedia better than just about any other source). BusinessWeek also had a good cover story on this phenomenon last year (make sure to note and listen to the podcast). If you love this and are interested in journalism, then go ahead and join the reporting staff of the Second Life Herald, the game’s virtual newspaper, or become one of the game’s embedded reporters. Also check out the Second Life Showcase to see some cool things going on in the game and listen to a podcast or two. Confused? Don’t be. Very few people understand how this world works and what its impact could be; that’s especially true of groups with an agenda.

Beyond Second Life, World of Warcraft is probably the second-best known, with a huge passionate following. How huge and how passionate, you ask skeptically? Try roughly 2 million North American players, 1.5 million European players, and 3.5 million Chinese. That’s some seven million PAYING users.

Companies are beginning to realize how big gaming is and how influential games can be in helping people make decisions, as well influencing decisions and policies. The North Carolina firm Persuasive Games is probably the leader in online game development. Go ahead and play a couple of them. Blog about your experiences. Are the games effective in getting their point/message across? What surprised you about this week’s readings?

Social Media Report

Posted February 29, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

As I explained Wednesday night in class, your social media reports are due the first class after spring break, as are all of your first half reading blog entries. Entries completed after Wednesday March 12th will not be accepted. You do NOT have to have done any of your optional blog posts yet.

For the social media reports, I’m going to be looking for at least 15 social media sites spread across at least three of the four following areas: Blogs/Microblogging, Wikis, Social Networking (including both sites and groups), and Social Media (Vlogs/Podcasts/Citizen Journalism/Audio/Video). If you have picked a subject that doesn’t get you 15 sites in three areas, you need to change your definition or pick a new topic.

Write up a brief description of each site, classify it, the URL, any traffic details or size numbers you can track down, as well as some analysis of the level of engagement. Don’t forget some of the resources we’ve used like TruthLaidBear and Quantcast. Here’s an example entry for a Facebook group that I belong to:

Site: Vermont State Society Facebook Group
URL: http://harvard.facebook.com/group.php?gid=8156815255
Type: Social Networking Site
Traffic:  22 members in group; Facebook ranks 15th on the web according to Quantcast
Description: This largely inactive group supports Vermonters in Washington and members post job listings and news stories of interest to it. It is an open group which anyone can join with a single administrator. No one other than the administrator has posted to it.

IMPORTANT PROGRAMMING NOTE: For the next two weeks of class, I’m going to flip the subjects. We’ll do Wikipedia first and THEN MMOGs so we can build off the last two weeks of class without interruption. With the Wikipedia class, we’re going to delve into the world of what Stephen Colbert calls “Truthiness.”

As your first journey into Truthiness and the challenges of the web, take a look at the documentary “Loose Change,” which was put together online to highlight the U.S. government’s role in the 9/11 attacks. On YouTube, hundreds of thousands of people have been able to view “Loose Change”—and, if you take the time to watch it, it makes a pretty convincing case that we don’t know the full truth about the 9/11 attacks. All told, across its various postings and versions, more than ten million people have watched the video. The challenge, of course, is that at best the documentary aspires to “truthiness,” that is it’s hard for a lay viewer to judge its actual level of factual interaction. Places like Popular Mechanics have tried to debunk the theories. One student last semested pointed out to me in class a parody of “Loose Change” called “Unfastened Coins.”

It’s easy to dismiss endeavors like “Loose Change” (or is it?), but the journey into Wikipedia is much more complicated. Here’s some background reading and viewing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest encyclopedia. Its founder, Jimmy “Jimbo” Wales, has turned into one of the web’s big celebs. He’s a big proponent of collaboration and “crowd-sourcing.” The project, though, despite becoming the default research tool for most college students and lazy journalists/researchers is very controversial for its “truthiness.” It’s very hard to know what exactly you can and can’t trust on Wikipedia. Newsman John Seigenthaler got very burned by a libelous write-up, and not surprisingly Encyclopedia Britannica thinks the project is the devil incarnate. On the other hand, a Nature study found that the two are about equal in accuracy. Of course, the beauty/challenge of Wikipedia is that anyone can edit it, as Colbert likes to demonstrate by raising the subject of “Wikiality” on subjects like elephants.

If you want a few other examples of wikis and how they’re used, check out the DisInfopedia and these useful resources on what wikis are and how to use them to collaborate. The articles also include some useful tips on how you might apply wikis to the work that you’re doing.

This is the week that I want you to be most wary of what we’re learning. Ask hard questions about wikis and Wikipedia—we’re going to talk in class about your mini-project, which will include contributing to a Wikipedia entry and preparing a research report on using a program that allows you to track who’s been editing a particular entry. Your blog entry should focus on the following two questions: Should we trust Wikipedia or an expert-led encyclopedia more? How could Wikipedia be better set-up to better provide accuracy? Should it be open to everyone or just verified “experts”?

In class, I’ll walk you through some Wikipedia pages, help you set up accounts, and explain WikiScanner.


Posted February 21, 2008 by Garrett Graff
Categories: Spring 2008

So has your head stopped spinning from last night’s class? There’s so much of the internet to cover! I’m worried that we won’t get through all the internets this semester.

Anyway I posted the class links from last night at del.icio.us and I’d encourage you rather than do any new reading to make sure that you’re caught up with del.icio.us, your blogging, and your reading for next week. We’ll spend the week talking about Wikinomics and collaboration online, including Overeager Gregg’s PBWiki. Spend some time perusing the sites/information I threw at you last night and blog about what you find interesting/surprising.

If you are hungry for more, I would, as the syllabus suggests, read “The Wisdom of Crowds” for next week. It’s a great book and there may be an extra credit opportunity at some point if you’ve read it.

By the way, I wonder when the first vocab quiz of the semester will happen?