Egyptian revolution shows power of social media

Wael Ghonim, a Google executive, used Facebook and Twitter to help lead a revolution in Egypt that led to the resignation of Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. In an interview on NPR's Fresh Air, Ghonim said he was inspired by the uprising in Tunisia. He was further enraged by police forces' treatment of Khaled Said, a man beaten to death (WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE) for criticism of government corruption, his family and friends said.

Ghonim started a Facebook page in response titled "We Are All Khaled Said." He encouraged followers to make signs with the slogan as a way of getting people engaged in the movement.

Ghonim was eventually kidnapped and detained by Egyptian authorities for 11 days, but thanks to activism on Facebook and Twitter the movement was able to continue in his absence.

He resists taking too much credit for the campaign because in his eyes all he did was open lines of communication. In an interview with Harry Smith of "60 Minutes," Ghonim said:

Our revolution is like Wikipedia, okay? Everyone is contributing content, [but] you don't know the names of the people contributing the content. This is exactly what happened. Revolution 2.0 in Egypt was exactly the same. Everyone contributing small pieces, bits and pieces. We drew this whole picture of a revolution. And no one is the hero in that picture.

While certainly not on the scale of the Arab spring, I can personally attest to the communicative power of social media, particularly Twitter.

One seemingly innocuous tweet turned into a pretty big scoop for then Oakland Post Managing Content Editor Nichole Seguin and I.

So the @oaklandu residence hall showrooms have been converted into actual rooms. Clearly, this is a sign that we need more residence halls.

This person requested that they be left out of any eventual story because of their position as an RA in the housing department.  I've chosen to leave the name undisclosed here as well.

After following up, that tweet eventually became this Oakland Post cover story.

It wasn't the Egyptian revolution, but it did prove the power of social media as an important communication platform.

The path from "Blogs to Riches"

Clive Thompson's 2006 piece for New York Magazine, "Blogs to Riches," takes a look at what separates those few moneymakers in the blogosphere from the mountain of blogs struggling to get by or not making any money at all. Part of the answer is blood, sweat and tears. The key lies in posting as often as you can and beating the competition. Something else is necessary too though.

Good journalism.

Elizabeth Spiers, a former gossip blogger, now thinks the future of the medium lies somewhere between the individualism of writers found in the blogging community and a more traditional journalistic approach. She says:

Blogging is increasingly becoming a survival of the fittest—and that all boils down to who has the best content. The blogs that are going to stand out are the ones who break news and have credibility.

Six years later, Spiers appears to have hit on something.

Most of the blogs within Technorati's top 25 would probably be best categorized as either news or news aggregation blogs. Some of the blogs are even operated by more traditional legacy media outlets.

Going further still, this Pro Publica piece links to an AP report, giving the reader further information on the subject.

Respected sites linking to each other add credibility to posts and create an environment where journalists link to the best information from other journalists.

Blogging is no doubt a modern day example of the "marketplace of ideas" theory. Everyone has a voice. However, eventually the best work rises to the top. Readers develop a trust in certain sources.

Put simply, people always want the best. If they had no hometown affiliation, I'm sure a basketball fan would much rather see the 30-8 Bulls than the 12-26 Pistons.

Journalism, and its cousin the blog, are no exception to the rule. Credibility leads to trust and readership. Readership leads to advertising dollars.

That's the path from blogs to riches.

Five tweet tips for good photos and slideshows

Here's my list of a few basics. 1. Take shots from wide, medium and close perspectives.

Variety keeps things interesting, and photography is no different.  No one is going to look at photos that are taken from the same distance and angle.  It's boring.  I'm no great photographer, but I do vary distances and angles in this slideshow.

2. Make sure the pictures match the audio.

This seems obvious, but it is nevertheless something that needs to be looked out for.  In audio slideshows, make sure you get pictures of the things your subject is talking about.

3. A picture should be on the screen no more than five seconds.

Zac Efron

Just because some of you J school girls think this is the dreamiest picture of Zac Efron doesn't mean everyone that comes to your site to view an informational slideshow about him wants to stare at that picture for 30 seconds.  Make sure you have enough photos.  That's my friendly tip, because we're all in this together.

4. When all else fails with a camera, read the manual. This will help you take full advantage of the functionality.

If you're prone to losing such things, you can usually find your manual online.

5. Make sure to always brace yourself so the camera is steady and immobile in your hands.

When shooting your niece's birthday party, you don't want the photos to look like an earthquake disaster flick.

Facebook IPO Filing

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg would like you to confirm his friend request.  Okay, not really.  What he does want is your money. Facebook recently announced its intention to go public.  This should have no effect on users of the site.  There is no reason Facebook wouldn't continue to innovate at the frenetic pace it always has, infuriating some by changing its user interface every other second.

Investors however, should be and are watching closely.

Facebook is just a new player in a growing world of public tech startups. Groupon, a startup that offers users discounts on things like restaurants and show tickets, has yet to turn a profit.  Facebook is turning a profit, but I wonder how long that can continue.

I know companies like Facebook and Google make their revenue off of ads.  Yet, this almost doesn't pass the sniff test.

Sure, Facebook's ads are highly targeted by virtue of how much users share on the service.  At the same time however, the ads are so small on the right side of the page that it's hard to believe companies are paying that much for them.

Perhaps the best thing to do is wait and see.  Things have worked out okay for Google so far.

The Long Tail and Its Relevance in the Digital Age

Chris Anderson's article on the "Long Tail" holds more relevance today than it did when he wrote it six years ago.  The basic premise of the article is that with the rise of services offering digital publishing of content that could previously only be found in physical media, it has become easier for an independent publisher to get their contents seen. Perhaps the easiest way to explain the phenomenon is to look at what's going on in digital music sales.  With the emergence of iTunes and Amazon over the last decade as major players in the music retail space, consumers have been given more choices than ever before.  Both iTunes and Amazon will offer recommendations based upon your purchasing habits.  If you buy one of those recommended tracks, the process continues.  Within three clicks, you could go from the hot new Jason Mraz single to a catchy track from an independent piano pop band from Windsor, Canada  just getting its start.  (I recommend “Eighty Eight Keys.”)  This trend should continue as digital music sales just surpassed those of their physical counterparts for the first time ever.

The theory doesn't just hold true for music.  Various services have popped up all over the Internet to publish books for practically nothing.  Apple recently jumped into the fray in a big way by offering its iBooks Author program for free to anyone with a Mac.

Free blogs like this one are leading to more independent journalism.

Slate: Impressions of an Independent Journalism Site

Slate is an independent online news site.  For the purposes of comparison, I've chosen to look at how the same topic was covered on Slate and on the New York Times, a legacy news operation.  President Obama gave a speech at the University of Michigan today on his plan to stem the tide of rising college tuition costs. The New York Times article is very thoroughly sourced and highly technical in terms of how the plan would affect students and taxpayers.  The reporter included quotes from Obama's speech and talked to various officials within his administration.  Also included were a couple of higher education experts.

The Slate article is probably more digestible for Web audiences because it's much shorter.  It's a quick synopsis.  They reference a Washington Post article, something that would probably not normally happen at traditional media outlets.

Also, from a usability standpoint, the Slate interface is much more web friendly.  Articles are teased slideshow style and everything on the front page has a photo.  The New York Times appears to have tried to copy and paste the newspaper format onto the website.  While retaining a somewhat traditional look, it has the effect of making things jumbled on the front page.  There are very few pictures to draw your eye in.