The Rigged Election Insult

rigged-electionsGenerally speaking, I try to avoid politics as much as possible in this blog – for a bunch of reasons including there are so many other places for that, there is no upside to being political sometimes and generally everyone has an opinion.  However during this election cycle, since my kids are talking about this a lot in school – one recurring theme bothers me; the talk of a rigged election is an insult to everyone.

Rather than getting into the politics of the candidates or their positions – I’d rather look at the sentiment of standing before the American people and telling them (with a mostly straight face) that the electoral process is rigged (one way or another).

It’s insulting to hear someone striving to become the president of the United States say our election process – which thousands have died to protect – is rigged.  It’s self-sustaining hubris to even take that as a position.

I live in a state where there is no “early voting”  In fact, I had never even heard of early voting until Risa and I moved to Texas in 1997 – and while in Texas, the state legislature there in what it said was an attempt to stop voter fraud enacted ID rules at polling places that have since been mimicked around the country.  The goal of these laws was to stop voter fraud – you know, rigging an election.

When I vote, I refuse to sign any additional paper other than the official registry.  That is my commitment to voting – signing the registry and casting my ballot.  One man, one vote.  In a couple of years 16.5 will be able to vote, and I expect her to follow suit.

But how does a candidate think it’s OK to say the election is rigged?  Because the don’t like what is said about them on TV?  That’s not a reason to claim I and everyone else who goes to vote is taking part in a fraud.  In fact, by my reading of election law in New York State would make me a felon – to knowingly cast a vote in a rigged election.  Is that what I am being accused of?

It’s a bad argument.  In fact, talk of the rigged election is an insult to us all.

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Pause for Life, Memories and Perspective

RIP Judy MartinSometimes it’s a bit cliché, but who ever they are say 50 is the new 30.  As I close in on 50, one of the things that still gets to me is when my contemporaries pass.  I got that news (again) today when I found out Judy Martin passed away.  Judy was a friend for more than 20 years and this is a moment that gives pause for life, memories and perspective.

The funny thing about my relationship with Judy over the years (and I think this applies to many who knew Judy), there were moments where our paths crossed and moments where we didn’t see each other – but then when we reconnected it was as if it was just a day ago.

Judy and I first crossed paths at News 12 Long Island – as she was leaving to begin a new chapter in her life and I was just getting there to start a new chapter in mine.  It was four or five  years later before life brought us together again, this time I was at CBS Radio and she was at NPR.  With a hug and a kiss we caught up and went about our work that day.

And that was kind of how Judy was.  Focused on her job, caring about the people she met.  For anyone who was in New  York for 9/11, you know the sense of change your life took.  That moment changed Judy (for the better) and those that she touched.  Judy’s brand was born.

By that time, I was back at News 12 Long Island helping to launch digital platforms and evangelize the conversion of a linear television network to embrace on-demand content.  Judy and I spent hours talking about what the future of news would look like and the future of the business we were in.

Beyond that, Judy was a great friend.  She was a great sounding board as I considered an offer to leave News 12 and begin a new challenge at CBS News.  She was also there in the weeks and months after Risa passed.  Listening and helping me re-focus my life and sharing lessons she had learned in building her brand so I could build my own.

I think anyone who ever met Judy would admit when she came into a room, her smile was infectious.  If you spent any time talking with her, you would understand how her spiritual outlook meshed with her passion of balancing work and life.

In the end, Judy is gone too young, but in the end I can say I am better today for having her as a friend.  So in this moment all of Judy’s friends can  take a pause for life, memories and perspective – and while we lost a good friend we share some great memories.

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Letting No News Speak For Itself

If you were to ask me in May (at least the early part of May) what my summer looked like I had a pretty good concept for a bunch of stuff-from a Tough Mudder, to a triathlon, to a short get away and maybe even hoping to find someone to share time with.

Fast forward to the back-end of July and in this case, three out of four is not so good.  But I have accomplished one of the goals, which is really pretty good.  Perhaps everything really does happen for a reason, I’m not sure still.

However, given that the day-to-day I am doing right now is all about rehab for my knee (by the way courtesy of my friend, my bum knee even tweets) and honestly that has a whiny ring to it when I blog about that over and over…

So, no news is good news.  The knee is getting better.  It’s a long slow process, but one I am sticking with.

Overall, life is not so bad and for now nothing new to report-which is also not so bad.

July 24 update:  So, I thought this was a very positive update and kind of let folks know that despite there have been few updates the last few weeks, all is well.  Health club girl is not so sure, so you be the judge.

Is this s positive post?

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24 Hour News Cycle to Never Ending Cycle

In many circles, cable news, and specifically CNN are credited with creating the 24 hour news cycle.  This is something I am a part of, and understand it.

For discussion sake, lets call the 24 hour news cycle: reporting an event, reporting reaction to an event reporting repercussions of an event, onto the next event.  realistically there is more nuisance to it, but in essence that is the 24 hour news cycle.

With the advent of social media-the time from event to reaction is shorter-there is now instant analysis and instant reaction of events.  Want to track events in Egypt in real-time? Follow the #Jan25 hash tag. Want to go back further, see how the crash of an Air France Jet in Brazil played out in real-time in June 2009. Or think more contemporary, and the fate of Justin Beiber and perhaps the cooling of Beiber Fever?

The point is-for these events (and any others you like Esperanza Spalding, the fallout of the Islanders/Penguins brawl play out for days and months on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s almost quaint to say there is a 24-hour news cycle, when the reality is there is constant reaction and analysis in real-time 24/7 on events days and weeks after they occur.

While it’s still critical to manage the first 24 hours of an event, more and more its being broken down into hour-long cycles.  It will be interesting to watch how this plays out.  2012 will be an interesting campaign cycle–as seen in Egypt, the power of the masses all shouting out at once is tough to manage, and even tougher to silence.

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Identity as the Holy Grail

Despite my early tempestous relationship with Quora, I have found some great insights and moments to think and contribute.

One of them occurred last night as Quora’s designer posed an interesting thread (I am not sure it was in the form of a question but I supposed that’s OK for an insider) about identity-and specifically mobile identity.  You can read Rebekah’s thoughts here or follow her on Twitter here.

Rebekah poses that identity is more than just your email, or your pictures or your Twitter stream for that matter.  Your digital identity is how you manage access to your attention.  Will you read your Twitter or your Facebook wall?  Will you update your Tumblr or your blog?  How you manage external access to that attention is your identity.  The other pieces (email, SMS, Facebook etc) are all components.

Rebekah believes (and I largely concur) the battleground is your mobile device.  This is the access point to your attention, thus the access point to your identity.

Rebekah and I diverge on one point-which is neither huge or insignificant in that I include tablets as part of that access point.

When talking about the consumer experience in digital media and roadmapping over the next five years, the central figures are your cell phone (the assumption being the curve of feature phone to smart phone conversion holds) and I believe the tablet.  The two devices as Apple has shows work together in a lot of ways, and we’ll see that in 2011 from the likes of Samsung and others who merge the Android OS on phone and tablet.

The reality is, chances are if you read this blog you never leave your house without at least one cell phone (the assumption being that readers of this blog probably carry more than one) and more than 90% of the time the tablet it with you as well.  The laptop is easily forgettable, and the desktop is a distant memory.

When thinking about capturing and holding attention-designers need to think about utility and IA.  Content folks need to think about real estate and connection.

I am convinced the way I got my job at CBS Mobile more than 5 years ago was my understanding of the personal nature of the mobile experience–which means that as a product person I need to be able to clearly make the experience sustainable across devices and across OS experiences.

Understanding the way consumers take in data and control their data intake is at the heart of understanding identity.  In context, a news organization can have this generations equivalent of the Pentagon papers.  Unfortunately just having them is less than half the battle–presenting it to a highly connected audience that demands personalization is the key.

Watch as Faebook, Twitter and products that we don’t know yet introduce new ways to access information-that access point will become the key.  It’s a way to sync your self to your data and your phone (and tablet) are at the hub.

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The Front Door to the Information Superhighway

I am willing to admit to being old enough to remember the promise of “the internet” as promoted by AOL

Or even before that Prodigy

Those early “web” services provided access to a vast array of information–some of it cataloged, most of it untapped.  Along came independent browsers and broadband at that pretty much all but killed the relative beauty of the dial-up service provider:

For those who did it–who can forget that pleasure of surfing looking for dial-up ports that would work, the second number and more….

As what one of those companies promised “the information superhighway” evolved–along game our friends first at Yahoo then at Google who were able to bring order to the relative chaos.  (Yes, I am leaving out the likes of AltaVista, Lycos etc)–you know the search engine.

Open up the page, type in some keywords and you have a menu of options to choose from.

But as technology improved, so did the capabilities of the information providers.  No longer was having a lane on the great information superhighway enough–we needed attention.  So came the skill of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). In essence rigging the system–making my content the top of the search returns, after all we all know no one scrolls.

But alas, internet time waits for no one.  The AOL commercial at the top of this post is from 1995.  A mere 15 years later, and that front door to content has once again morphed.

Think about the way you discover things on-line (if you are even still using a computer or laptop).  Yes, search engines still have their place.  And yes you still have that Yahoo email, but how do you find things?

My bet is more than 70% of the time its through your social networks.  An interesting link on your friends Facebook wall like this one?  Maybe something from your Twitter stream that looks like this?

The reality is we are so connected to our networks, that search engines are a secondary source.  Case in point, over the weekend when Fox Networks and Cablevision settled the two-week imbroglio (it’s the NY Post headline writer in me-sorry) about retransmission, it was on Facebook I found out.  My confirmation was from Twitter, before I hit Google to find out the details.

{Couple of interesting asides here:  1-nornally I get this information first from Twitter, but on an early Saturday evening, my Facebook network was right on it.  2-the email from Cablevision came 5 hours later (a comment on email as a point of dissemination)}.

Our social networks are the touch point we use between information and our day-to-day–and its possible that the front door to the vast reaches of the information superhighway have changed again–from 256k dial-up–to 140 characters.

Where we get and share information is an evolving point of contact, and very individualistic–because it has to serve our needs.  I know 90% of my Twitter is mobile, and less than 5% of my computer based Twitter is on twitter.com.

Think about where and how you get information–and see if perhaps its time for a tune up, or realignment.

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From Film at 11 to We are Here Right Now

I don’t consider myself to be old, however, my daughters (the older one especially) likes to remind me that I am creeping up there in years.  So it’s with that backdrop perhaps that I got a little nostalgic as I was watching the live video of the miners being pulled safely from their underground home of more than two months.

I am old enough to remember the tag line “Film at 11.”  Now I don’t remember it in my professional experience–but growing up I can remember Chuck Scarborough on WNBC (Channel 4 in NYC) or the late Bill Beutel on WABC (channel 7 in NYC) saying that line during what I later learned was the :57:30 cut-in.  You know it as a tease for the late news that comes during primetime viewing.

For those without the reference–here is a one time ABC News colleague of mine Christina Lund with the familiar tagline (this one delivered on KABC-Los Angeles in 1976)

And that’s what happened.  If you wanted to see the story you waited for the news to come on.  In talking to some of the long-timers at places I work or have worked, by 1976 the conversion to videotape was well underway-but the myth of film at 11 lived on for years beyond that.

Fast forward to Tuesday night into Wednesday and the miners.  Gone was the quaint notion of video.  Obsolete the idea of waiting 10 minutes, much less until 11.  This (like so many events) played out in real-time in bits and bites transferred in real-time around the world–with instant commentary from Twitter, blogs and news organizations like CBS (where I work) CNN, NBC etc.

And as all of this was going on — generally in that lull when the rescue capsule was being sent back down to the miners and being reloaded and resurfacing — I was able to think about the change I have seen in the news model both as a consumer and a professional.

I did wait for film (or video) at 11.  I can remember when a reporter going live was a big deal.  I’ve sprinted across snow-covered fields in New Hampshire to a feed point to make slot.

I’ve also pulled out an air-card or MiFi and upload a video file, used QIK to send breaking news video back and updated a story via Twitter using my smart phone camera.

I am not sure I know the “tipping” point in all of this-when the idea of waiting became quaint, but its a good thing.  News  is a commodity as is information.

While I truly do not think “back in the day” that information was being hoarded and doled out–there was a certain eloquence to it.  I also would not have been subjected to Ali Velshi on CNN cramming himself into a model of the rescue capsule.

And that’s not to pick on Mr. Velshi (whom I do not know). It’s the rest of the story.  Because we demand to see these things unfold in real-time and unedited, the ability to package and present may be a victim.

Flashback to January of 2010 and the Miracle on the Hudson.  Gripping pictures, a story with a happy ending–and miles of instant analysis.

Even when the news is bleakest–9/11 is the moment that leaps to mind the need to “fill the void” was evident.  I can even think back to the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island–and the long night I spent on a boat listening to coverage that did not equate with what I was seeing (my Nextel died so I was on my own until the boat came in)–but it’s not all bad, it really is not.

Because all of those sources, all of that information–gives us the power to be the packager.  Yes, news organizations need to be the gatekeeper.  But I can be my own editor and decide what makes sense.

So turn to Twitter, see what your social network is sharing via Facebook–check the blogs watch the video–its part of the human experience and its the job of my colleagues and me to make sure its there for you with context.

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Would You Believe?

It was one of those days when through varied implied and implicit connections I managed to have conversations I had a seven in the morning ring true by four in the afternoon–without having any knowledge that one would lead to the other.  It’s a true Maxwell Smart, “Would you believe?” moment.

In the morning I was talking to a commuting buddy of mine about how blogs and social network can drive the news cycle.  The example we were discussing was the issue reported in the iPhone 4 device.  Here’s a good write through on that if you need the background.

The upshot of the discussion though was how a few bloggers can grab hold of something–and drive via Twitter, Facebook and comments a story until the “main stream” media picks up on it.

So today–what would happen if the BP capping of the well spewing oil in the Gulf was staged.

Step away for a moment.  How easy would it be for them to design a set similar to the one we’ve seen for more than 80 days from the bottom of the Gulf of oil spewing.  But this time–with no oil and this cap in place?  Switch the video source–and what do you know, it’s a capped well, right?

A few conspiracy theorists blog about this.  Spread it via Twitter.  A few Facebook shares–and you have a rumor ready to rumble along.

The final connection to all of this was an email today that CBS News was going to support the News Literacy Project.  One of the goals of this project is to help primarily students differentiate fact and fiction in this connected world.

Play it out–in Dallas in November of 1963.  Imagine a wired world, with instant mobile images and video.  Twitter to share the news far and wide and the second gunman theory? What would that look like today?

Would you believe we have the power to make things happen–to make people listen.  I guess it’s equally important to have something to say.

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Wired For Action. Now What?

For whatever set of reasons this year, the NHL and NBA kicked off free agency on the same today-today.  Now while most of the sports minded NYC folks are focused on where’s LeBron James is going-will it be Knicks, Nets or much to everyone in NYC’s dismay elsewhere-I’ve been focused on NHL free agency.  Are the Islanders really only a big defenseman and back-up goalie away from NHL relevancy?

So I muddle through my morning commute with all the LeBron talk–and now I am in the office and raring to go.  My Twitter bud BD Gallof has his excellent site Hockey Independent primed for action.  And over there is another Twitter (and I met him a long time ago when I worked for News 12) bud Chris Botta who once worked for the Islanders and now is a writer covering the NHL for Fanhouse and keeps a really good all things Islanders Blog up and running on my computer at work along with my Tweetdeck.

Now all I need is word that Eric Nystrom is coming home.  Aaron Asham or Andy Sutton will get a return engagement in Uniondale.  Garth Snow spent some of Charles Wang’s money to bring in Jordan Leopold (of all the moves this is the one I was hoping for, but was least likely to happen).

So I am all set, raring to go–and what happens?  Well the hated cross town Rangers sign an enforcer to a four-year contract.  The Devils make some nice pick ups.  The Sabers signs Leopold.  Any my beloved NY Islanders?  Nothing.

Now, I am very sure Garth Snow (Isles GM for those uninitiated) is working the phones and “sticking to the plan.”  But still–just once for all that prep it would have been nice to see some good Islanders news go by.

Alas–thanks for a pretty interesting season Marty Biron-we’ll see you on Broadway.  Jeff Tambellini–best of luck in Vancouver.

For those left waiting for the Uniondale crew to make a move–its nine days until the mini-camp game at the Coliseum and then a little more than two months until the puck drops.

OK-back to baseball.  Lets go Mets.

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Your Social Media Influence

Something I spend time thinking about is how to gauge influence on social networks and how to gauge the impact social networks have in propagating ideas, content and ultimately in the commercial sense–clicks.

In full disclosure, I think about this from two perspectives-1) as a professional working at CBS News and charged with helping to grow audience in no small part by leveraging social networks and 2) as a straight up user of social media who would love for people to be active on this blog, view my You Tube channel (maybe not that so much) etc.

So, I can go into my Twitter and be pleasantly surprised that I have 1200+ followers. I can go onto Facebook and see that I have 700+ friends.  I can go onto Plurk and realize I have 150+ fans and friends.  I can hit up Friend Feed and see 350+ friends.  But what does it all mean, outside of the fact that I am not the only one with too much free time? (As an aside, one day I would love to figure out how much overlap there is).

So, the question then is I am able to reach 2500+ people on any one of several social networks, but what do they think of my message?  and how do I measure the value of my contributions? And then how does the way I influence my network mimic the way CBS News Twitter influences the 1.5 million followers it has, or the 73,000+ that Katie Couric has on her follower list (after all this is my bread and butter, right?)

For that answer, fortunately the smart folks at the Harvard Business Review have some thoughts, and its more than just a straight up numbers game.  HBR did a follow-up on some great thoughts and research by Adi Avint from August 2009.  His “Million Followers Fallacy” post opines that just the number of followers a user has is not a true indication of their reach.  Yes, a million people may read your thoughts 140 characters at a time–but given the nature of Twitter, probably not.

Instead, HBR suggests looking more at @ mentions and re-tweets as a better gauge of influence.  Meeyoung Cha opines that follower count as a stand-alone metric is a popularity contest, and not a true measure of influence.

follower count is not sufficient to capture the influence of a user (i.e., the ability of an user to sway the opinions of her followers). It only shows how popular the user is (i.e., the size of her audience). But, as we showed in our paper, retweets and mentions, which measure the audience responsiveness to a user’s tweets, do not correlate strongly with number of followers.

I have long argued that Twitter is more about conversation-and being responsive to what the people I follow post and more importantly be able to control the information flow that I consumer and tap into a stream of personal interest.  That can be Mets updates from a variety of sources, or the latest on the Islanders–the value of Twitter to me is the connection to information I am searching for, in real-time and in a passive state (all I have to do is open up a Twitter client on my laptop or mobile device).

Now I work for a major mass media news organization–and there is little doubt of the influence that CBS News will have on today’s news and ongoing stories throughout the news cycle.  But for me, Twitter (and the others listed) are more about niche topics and that is where the true value of Twitter comes from.

Cha says early research shows smaller publishers and smaller business-not just collecting followers have a competitive advantage:

But when it comes to non-popular or even niche topics, small businesses and opinion leaders were far more effective in engaging audience than mass media.

But the true measure of influence is still a work in progress.  Twitter is an easy study because of the open nature of the platform–but is simply counting RT’s and @’s enough to say “A” is more influential than “C”?  Because it’s a matter of what the interaction is.

The interesting Twitter data though comes from a different (June 2009) HBR study–the 10% most prolific Twitter users are responsible for 90% of the Tweets.

Which can lead to an easy conclusion that Twitter is a great content filter, able to sort through a cacophony of data.  Yes, some of it is gossipy, and yes there are still those who want (or need) the validation of the million follower club…

But the goal has to be engagement–both personally and professionally.  Imagine the folks at NASCAR if they read my Tweet taking a swipe at NASCAR:

Kind of a NASCAR in suburbia feel, no? http://mypict.me/6E8p73:11 PM May 2nd via UberTwitter

Knowing their social media strategy is to fan me up–and follow me?

It’s not the follower count, but the message.  As Mel Karmazin once said (in my presence at a meeting), “Content is King,” it’s up to us to maximize its value–and engage our audience.

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