Thursday, July 5, 2007

Web Video - the next wave

I recently went to a conference (they called it a "summit") about video on the web.
Several things struck me as very significant.
1) In countries that have very high speed web access to the home (100mbs), the average viewing time for web video programs is 40 minutes. People actually watch long-form programs delivered over the internet. The U.S. internet infrastructure is sadly lacking in the "last mile," so we are playing catch up in this game right now.
2) Big money is going into Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) that will enable anyone with a modest budget to have their own television "network." The challenge now is to make the experience of finding and watching programs as easy as cable TV. The buzzword is a "lean back experience" as opposed to the "lean forward" mode of computer interaction.
3) Advanced compression techniques allow CDNs to deliver HD quality. We saw demonstrations of feature films over the web that looked better than the blocky images that you sometimes see with cable or satellite.

The conclusion: We are probably just a few years away from the long-awaited promise of true video on demand -- any program, any time, any where.

Friday, June 1, 2007

"We are the people formerly known as Audience"

Toni wants to hear here we go. Read "Let them eat cake," below. In the olden days, like yesterday, we targeted our communication to specific audiences. That, I learned, is so last-century. Social media means engaging people in conversation, one on one, through all of this new technology. Through blogs, like this. We reach out directly to people, rather than targeting groups of people to give them information, or see them as a class of citizens that may or may not respond through channels or more formal means.

Corporations are using You Tube, FaceBook and My Space to talk directly with people, to find out what they are most interested in and create a personal relationship. It is that personal relationship that reaches people at a deeper level and really engages them.

How can we relate this to the Forest Service? Many people have a passion about our issues. Many people either love us or hate us. That provides a perfect environment for discussion of these issues. It could also provide the perfect environment for poor behavior, especially on the "hate us" side. There is protocol for blogging and for use of wikis, for instance. There are lots of examples of self-policing of wikipedia, for example.

We could use MySpace or Facebook to create personal relationships -- good personal relationships. How about a MySpace profile for Smokey Bear? We could create a virtual forest in Second Life.

There's lots we could do to create positive relationships in this new world, and have a great time doing it, and learning a lot at the same time.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Let them eat cake?

I almost wrote two postings last week. Steve Dunsky asked if I would report back from a conference called subtitled "Deploying Social Media for Business Advantage." I say almost, because I couldn't remember my password and my tries to retrieve the password failed. So I gave up and tried again this morning, while back safely in my cubicle. (This time it worked.)

The conference was fabulously informative and stretched my mind. Speakers were all CEOs or presidents or founders of companies doing cutting edge things in social media. Taking the Los Angeles subway (yes, they have one) was a sharp reminder of the haves and have nots -- a theme I would recall throughout the workshop.

I learned, first, that social media is way more cutting edge than I thought. So maybe I'm not so far behind.
I learned how influential bloggers are.
I learned about Second Life and those who spend hours being an avitar in a virtual world.
I learned that I really should use RSS feeds -- they can greatly simplify my web life.
I l learned that great blogging gets many more comments than postings.
I was reminded to think about objectives first and media second.
I learned that we are the people formerly known as the audience.

And, I was reminded that:
56 percent of Americans don't engage in electronic communication.
The Forest Service is about the Great Outdoors. How can social media simplify our lives, rather than enforce a pasty-faced existence in front of a computer screen?
How can we make sure the technology we use is really simple -- so if I forget my password, or want to add an item to a wiki, that the doing is easy. Otherwise, we'll find folks not engaging.
I have to put blogs and RSS feeds and wikis and podcasts in context -- let them eat cake?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

FSWiki sandbox

As of today, we now have a test Wiki up and running on a Forest Service server. FSWiki uses the free, open source MediaWiki software from the folks at WikiPedia. "Sandbox" is metaphor used in the computer programming world for a place to test new code. This is our sandbox for learning and experimenting with this powerful collaborative tool. It looks a little confusing at first, but you will catch quickly. One helpful tip: you can create a new page by simply putting double brackets around any word or words -- [[like this]]. Come play.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Podcasting at a Glance

Podcasting...well I'm one of those former DJ's from years gone by finding a way to actually use my early experience to produce audiocast for the U.S. Forest Service. No matter what you want to call the our case it's a customized audio file that we produce to provide information to the public. No it's not all about music as teenagers would like to believe.
Here's a link to the Black Hills National Forest Podcast Web site.

In developing a Podcast, I first think about a topic that needs further discussion besides a text only News Release. The Forest tries our best to produce multimedia Press Releases. If you have the time and employees to produce content, then throw a little video, audio and a few high quality pictures in the mix to create a multimedia News Release.

Before I get ahead of myself, let's talk more about the production side of a Podcast. Now that you have chosen a topic, coordinate with subject matter experts to join around a small table to chat. The Black Hills National Forest calls our audio & videocast content ForestNet.

I have a standard introduction that identifies the show, the topic and our guest. Once that's over, we move into the questions. Hey...don't worry about messing up. Remember it's not a live show...start over at the point you tripped up. At the end, Close out the show with thanking your guest for joining you and remind folks who your guest was and the topic of the show. The Host says goodbye and then export the audio file to audio editing software.

I use Sound Forge audio editing software. It was $69.00 at Best Buy. Apple Quick Time Pro is approved by the U.S. Forest Service for downloading and is only $29.00. I have ordered the software and look forward to using it to produce future Podcast.

Once your in the editing mode, clip out all the mistakes you may have encountered. Take :10 sec of music and place it in the front and fade into your intro. At the end, fade out with music and your closing. Save your audio file to a server and export it as an Mp3 file and upload to a Blog.
Yep a Blog. I have created a Blog similar to Social Media. Take a look how I use it to deliver my content to the public. At the site, you see a brief description or News Release, video and audio files as well. Posting your content to a Blog can help push your content out to the world. In my case, all the content is in the Public Domain and I'm just sharing the content the Forest produces. Google picks up the topic and it becomes searchable. Unfortunately, my Government website isn't very attractive to Google.
The Forest outsources our streaming content with an outside vendor called Streamhoster. The Forest Service gave us permission to link to the external site. I'm sure it want be long the FS will be able to stream content from its own servers. The bandwidth that audio and video files take up when delivering can be a pain if the system isn't designed for that type of service. Streamhoster allows us to keep up with the number of hits on our content and actually provides you with an URL once your file is uploaded. You don't have to chat with anyone. It's that fast!

Once the Blog is established and your file is on a server, visit Feedburner to develope an RSS Feed for your Blog. Once it's working well, iTunes will soon be scanning your Blog with the help of Feedburner to alert the world you have new mulitmedia content on your site. Wow...that was fun explaining.
You can also see U.S. Forest Service content from the Black Hills of South Dakota in iTunes under keyword: black hills.
Better go for now. In closing, I have a great passion for this type of work and would be more than happy to share my work with anyone wanting to explore this emerging technology.
Everyday is research and development...isn't this fun.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Short Notes from 4/10-12 Social Media Summit

Attended Social Media Summit held by American Learning Institute a couple of weeks ago with 50-70 others from all walks of industry and agencies. Great primer on philosophy of social media as well as some great tips and ideas passed along from presenters from social media industries.

Here are some short takes and lessons learned from the summit:

Think big; start small; scale up

The dialogue about our organization is out there happening- we can choose to be a part of it or we can stick our head in the sand.

If the USFS doesn’t participate it will not stay relevant in today’s or tomorrow’s discussions.

Candor is expected & respected

Blogs should contain insight not found in other locations- don’t just regurgitate info.

Don’t wait for crisis to start participating- build credibility (earn your way in).

It’s all about people to people communications- blogs build relationships

Don’t be dissuaded by the current content of blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other social media. Look through that to what the tools can accomplish if used in a business sense.

Leadership must become comfortable with multi-directional cross influencing. Past information flow was usually top down or bottom up- today’s information is crossing all lines as well as flowing up and down. Makes most traditional leaders uncomfortable- apparent loss of control of messaging. Orgs must cede levels of control in order to credibly participate in the conversation.

In persuading leadership:

Focus on benefits, not technology or risks- most won’t understand technology and
will be risk averse.
Don’t position this as something completely new- fear of the radical change.
We’ve moved through e-mail, Blackberries, etc.- this is just the next step.

Use betas and move quickly- deploy beta and let it loose on the users. They’ll let
you know whether or not it’s any good & what needs changing.

Don’t get hung up on measurement- these tools are inexpensive and easy to
change; if it takes off, the users will make the business case.

Create blog policy before beginning internal or external blogging

Sun Microsystems policy: (1) Be interesting
(2) Don’t be stupid
(3) We will not back you in a lawsuit
Politeness rules: No sex, religion, politics or profanity
Leadership writes their own blogs- no ghost writing! If they don’t have the time or
capability- don’t blog!!

Blog on a regular schedule & be up front, casual & conversational.

Gain a champion within the FS- Kimbell ??

Monitor your own blogs, not just the blogs talking about you. Thank bloggers when they get info right about your organization.

Use blogs to drive readers to value-rich content.

Gotchas: Legal
Corporate culture
Review processes (legal, PAO, line officers)
Recognizing where this technology doesn’t fit

Control the employee bloggers, not the posts!!

Find great bloggers that have: (1) personality
(2) motivation
(3) skills
and I’ll add: TIME

Builds Word of Mouth: (1) Give people and interesting topic
(2) Use Social Media tools

No matter what you think the FS is, it is what our users see/get/experience.

Blogs/social media are a permanent record.

If you want to view some of the presentations from the summit:

My Fire Space

Some in the fire organization are using a public internet site called My Fire Community to exchange information and share personal experiences. How can we make it easier for our folks to get where they need and want to go?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Emergence, Transparency, Sharing in Web 2.0

Here is a link to a five minute video that helps us better understand moving from guarding and hoarding behavior toward sharing and contributing. Remember that information is diffusive: It tends to leak when not guarded and hoarded. The more it leaks the more there is. A virtual breeder reactor for knowledge and wisdom is at our fingertips when be realize the power of simple tools that enhance creative, joint problem solving, design, and development of systems.
Executives discuss how the modern Web is impacting IT
At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, ZDNet Editor in Chief Dan Farber talks to Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText; Matthew Glotzbach, product management director of Google Enterprise; and Satish Dharmaraj, CEO of Zimbra, about why CIOs are starting to implement Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise.
5 minutes 4 seconds Apr 18, 2007 3:55:00 PM

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Manifesting the Manifesto

According to Wikipedia, "a manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions. Manifestos are often political in nature."

This might coincide with an existing new agency initiative known as Foundational Principles. Though, it's difficult to know for sure because I'm not in the loop, nor do I know anyone who is in the loop. This brings me to my larger question, if engaging in generative dialog will allow groups to co-create things such as a Pinecone Manifesto, then how do we locate the 'uniquley prepared individuals' who hold a piece to the emerging puzzle? How do willing co-creators find one another when they want to self-organize around a particular topic, inspiration, etc.?

Friday, April 13, 2007

The Pine Cone Manifesto

I've been asked to write a manifesto on using social media in the Forest Service. Having never written one, the prospect is a bit daunting. Nonetheless, it is a wonderful idea. We already have an ample supply of strategic plans, mission statements, goals and objectives. A manifesto implies an urgency, perhaps even an insurgency. Frankly, we need to light some fires to revive the spirit of this organization.

When Aldo Leopold became deputy supervisor on the Carson in 1911, he founded and edited a forest newsletter called The Pine Cone. In the first issue, Leopold stated his objective was to promote esprit de corps. He also asked his rangers to contribute articles so that their collective knowledge would help the Forest Service better serve the public. We need to do the same today.

Pine cones are a great metaphor. They contain within themselves the seeds of their own regeneration. If the Forest Service is to continue as a model of what government can be, and should be, change and growth must come from the inside. We need to tap the intelligence and skills of a very talented workforce. I believe that social media can help to do that. But, like pine cones, it often takes a fire to open.

Note: By starting this thread, I am asking you to help write The Pine Cone Manifesto as a collective document. We expect that it will soon be part of an editable wiki that you can all edit. For now, I would love to have your comments.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Citizendium: A New and Better Wikipedia?

Wikipedia proves to be too wild for its founder Larry Sanger. So he recently unveiled The Next Big Thing: Citizendium to improve on his earlier Big Thing.

Citizendium about is a good read and links to "fundamentals" that detail some advantages relative to Wikipedia.

Essentially, Citizendium (sit-ih-ZEN-dee-um) will adhere to the following principles:

Content to be:
  • accurate
  • based on common experience, published, credible research, and expert opinion
  • neutral in this sense
  • legal and responsible
  • family-friendly (i.e.content "that we wouldn't be ashamed to have our kids read.")
System to be developed and improved via:
  • Collaboration
  • Volunteerism
  • Moderation (i.e. maintain well-defined, credible editorial committees)
  • Simplicity
  • Adaptivity
  • Commercial-free atmosphere
  • Open access contributions, improvements (but subject to review to help avoid vandalism, bias, etc.)
  • Transparency (contributors, editors, etc. have to use their real names)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Blog Rollups, Aggregators, and Such

Anyone who have been dabbling in the blogsphere even as long as I have realizes how very soon one is overwhelmed by information, chat, twitter, and so on.

Some help is obtained by using blog (or other "feed") readers that allow you to read quickly read and share what you find helpful. These readers help you see what has recently emerged since your last visit. Each user creates a personalized reader list (easily) that allows you to share "gems" either on your blog or via email. I use Google's Blog Reader, but there are several others and I don't have any idea which are the best, easiest, etc.

Other help includes what I call "blog rollups", that automatically rollup the latest from a someone else's defined list..

Here, for example, is what Bill Parke (University of N. Carolina) rolls up from 100+ Economics blogs, titled Economics Roundtable.

Note that on the left sidebar of Economics Roundtable one can click on any of the listed commentators (each a blog) and see a recent history of all the posts at any particular blog (among those aggregated).

Another example, dealing more with finance than economics is David Jackson's Seeking Alpha (a commercial site with advertising). Note that Bill Parke also has a Finance Roundtable that includes the Seeking Alpha materials (all or some, I don't know). Parke also as a law rollup and a politics rollup

Then there is the whole field of News Aggregators. I know little of any of this, other than what I dabble with in Google News' personalized search.

Happy Surfing

Brain Dump

There are countless ways in which the Forest Service can use social media to better fulfill its mission. Here a some ideas. What would you add to this list?

Leadership blogs - From the Chief on down, leaders can communicate more directly with employees, partners, visitors, issues stakeholders and the public at large.

Employee social networks - increase esprit de corps with personal spaces for any employee that wants one.

Wiki knowledge bases - capture organizational expertise and institutional memory as we undergo transformational changes and face massive retirements.

Online agoras - create a market for excess property, details, and housing opportunities using a "craigslist" or "ebay" approach.

Podcast significant conferences or speeches.

Team blogs - are used to exchange ideas among a particular community of interest or community of practice (see Dave Iverson's blogs)

Wikis and/or forums - are used to supplement public meetings and comments for planning and other purposes.

Newsletters can be reinvigorated as daily blog journals with contributions from the readers.

Wikis can replace static and outmoded user guides, keeping specialists up-t0-date with best practices. Employees can post questions to a FAQ center, to which anyone with an answer can respond.

Mashups of Google Maps are a powerful tool for any kind of land-based project or delivering recreation information. Allow users to generate most of the information.

Use Tags to let users supply much of the metadata for online records such as Forest Service photographs.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Beautiful Mash

Several people have asked me about mashups. In a recent presentation, I showed as an example, but there are many, many more. Google Maps seems to be in the middle of this trend. I have not attempted it myself, but the APIs are very available and reportedly pretty easy to use. Check out Google Maps API Official Blog or the many unofficial sites. It has occurred to many of us that mashups would be ideal for the Forest Service (maps + data + images + public input + ....). What's not to like? Tell us when you've tried one. We'd love to share it with our readers.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Old Folks (like me) and Social Media

I am part of that explosion of interest in social media that Steve D. mentioned. I am finding that this is a whole new world -- one that could quickly pass me by. And I'm really not that old. So I am choosing to engage and learn. And discuss. I had a discussion the other day with an old school friend who was appalled that federal agencies were getting into the social media act. How can we keep integrity? How can we maintain control and make sure that what is posted and offered as agency gospel is authentic? How can we stay in the good graces of the Department, Congress, OMB and others in our use of this new media?

And yet, how can we afford not to keep up with the new world of communication? My take is to learn it, use it, share it, decide on protocols that make us comfortable, current and most of all relevant.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Shift Happens

Another good UTube video: Did You Know? About the technological/societal/cultural earthquake we are living through.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Here is a wonderful short video exploring the changes in technology and society caused by the shift to Web 2.0.  Unfortunately, the USDA system administrators block access to YouTube, so you will have to watch it while you are off the Forest Service network.

Tag, You're It!

Tagging is an essential part of the new participatory web. Users add tags to
online items they want to save and find again. These items can be anything from bookmarks (de.lic.ious) to images (flickr) to personal goals (43 Things).

The result of this collective process is an enormous bottom-up classification system; one which poses a challenge to the traditional category-based taxonomies and controlled vocabularies used by librarians and archivists. Ellyssa Kroski offers an excellent overview of the benefits and pitfalls
of this new "folksonomy."

Another compelling aspect of the tagging phenomenon is described by Shel Holtz. By placing a tag on something in my own web site, I can let a broadcaster, advertiser, or other content provider know that my item is available for sale or public release. Rather than everyone submitting information
to a central site, these "edge" companies reach out, organize and distribute the tagged items.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


A book called Wikinomics explores the ways in which social media tools are being used in business and other enterprises. You can watch a podcast of co-author Dan Tapscott interviewed by SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese. Some of his ideas from the book are summarized in a Web 2.o white paper.  

Friday, March 16, 2007

Social Media Explosion

In recent weeks (and even days) the interest in social media has exploded. Clearly we have reached a tipping point.   Here are some interesting links that Bill Williams, and others, have pointed out.

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, there is a front page story about the collision of new and old media at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival.  

The current edition of Business Week features a series of special reports about using Wikis in the corporate world.

And on Feb 28th, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted at WikiFair which featured several interesting sessions about using Wikis in several government agencies.  A lengthy videocast of the speakers is online, along with speaker notes and Powerpoint

Thursday, March 15, 2007


"There is no wrong way to use a Wiki..."
Check out WikiZen

FSWeb 1.5

A new version of the FSWeb will begin rolling out on April 2nd.  
It is based on portal technology, much like My Yahoo  or customized Google home page.  The idea is to provide information that is specific to the user, and to allow the user to customize the information that they receive.   The new approach should be a big improvement for the existing FSWeb -- mainly because it will bring a lot of applications together in one place under one eauthentication password.   So, for example, we will have access to paycheck, FSToday, employee notices, RSS feeds, weather, Google searches, etc...

This is all good news but it is only a good first step.  Portals are Web 1.0 stuff from the late 1990s.
The real leap forward will be allowing employees to create and share information themselves.  
Fortunately, the folks are that working on this new version of the FSWeb are also talking about how we can start to social software and social media.  It won't be available on the April 2nd release, but I think we are headed in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Open source audio and video tools

Here's a tip from Christine Romero, Region 1 AV specialist -Audacity is an open source audio recording and mixing program.  Might be a good tool for creating Podcasts -- we'll let you know.

Also check out Democracy, an open source tool for creating and managing your own web based video channels.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


We had a wonderful phone conversation with Gary Nebeker at the Forest Service Geospatial Service and Technology Center (GSTC) in Salt Lake City.   Gary is using open source tools (primarily Xoops, a free. PHP-based web content management package) to run a wonderfully interactive website called Geoportal.  He is running it on a local PC, using open source server (Apache) and open source database (MySQL) software.
Even with my limited knowledge, it seems like a remarkably flexible and intuitive system.
Check out the conference management site that he has implemented for an upcoming event.


Blog stuff

Reghan Cloudman, public affairs specialist on the Arapaho-Roosevelt NFs, pointed me toward the 
web site and webinars of Shel Holtz.  He is doing a lot of work at the intersection of communications and the new
web tools.  I've provided a link to his blog.

I listened to Shel's most recent podcast  in which he talks about new phenomenon called Twitter, which is a combination of blogging and text messaging.

Also, the New Communications Forum, hosted by Ragan Communications, was held in Las Vegas last week.  This is a major venue for discussing
and learning about social media for public relations.

Finally, check out a new blogging site/tool called Vox, it adds a lot of multimedia features and the ability to control who can subscribe to your blog.

Region 7 - Basic Principles

Welcome to Region 7 - the Forest Service employee intranet

Here are some principles to consider:

1) Region 7 is neither a bottom up nor a top down effort.  Everyone participates equally, but the results will differ.  Better leaders will have more followers.  Better authors will have more readers. Better producers will reach a bigger audience.

2) Norms and etiquette are enforced  by the online community.  
Disrepectful or destructive people will be asked to leave.

3) Costs are low (i.e. open source tools and volunteer labor) but accountability
is high (i.e. participants are expected to make positive contributions to the Forest Service mission and community.)

4) Experimentation, innovation and creative play are encouraged.  Humor is appreciated.

5) The best ideas have not yet been conceived.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Let It Be

Our conversation on Tuesday sparked an idea.  An idea, that in retrospect, seems so obvious and simple that there is no doubt about it.  It is an idea whose time has come.  An idea that makes one put palm to forehead in the universal gesture of "duh."

The idea is:  Employees must take over the Forest Service intranet.

No, we're not talking about a web site or a discussion forum.  We're hijacking the whole blue-corn enchilada, i.e. the sites formerly known as FSWeb.
Why not?Nobody is using it now anyway.   
The thing is just an ugly green filing cabinet stuffed with musty forms and directives.  Let's just put in a corner somewhere and get moving with a dynamic, user-generated network that is useful, powerful and effective.   Let this be a platform for all employees.

Let it be sandbox where we can play and learn.
Let it be laboratory where we can experiment and innovate.
Let it be a market where we can exchange ideas, services and goods.
Let it be whistle where we can blow off steam.
Let it be a soapbox where everyone's voice is heard.
Let it be...

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Using Social Media -R2/R3 PAO Conference -Santa Fe, NM

Introduction - "Joining the conversation."

Over the past five years, the World Wide Web has gone through a subtle but enormous change.

Since the Dot Com bust in 2000, when a dozen web sites went broke trying to sell pet food online, the Internet has returned to its roots.  Now, the most popular sites are those that allow the visitor to participate as a member of a networked community.

In its infancy, the Internet was a place where people gathered in chat rooms and discussion groups.  These applications took a back seat as the huge commercial potential of the Web was first being mined in the 1990s.  But the online killer apps have always been tools such as email and instant messaging that help people to connect with each other, however these tools were not designed for large groups.

Recent developments in software technology have led to an explosion in the participatory capacity of the Web. Virtual worlds now exist where people interact on an unprecedented scale.  They work together, share their creative products, play games, innovate new technologies, solve scientific and social problems, and engage in the democratic political process.

The Web has been transformed from a channel for delivering information to a platform for participation and collaboration.

Collectively, this new world has been called Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 tools are sometimes called social software and the applications are sometimes referred as social media.  These include a strange new vocabulary of  terms and acronyms such as blog, wiki, podcast, SaaS, AJAX, Mashup, RSS, XML, and SEO  We'll define and examine some of these in a few minutes.

This phenomenon that has not gone unnoticed as indicated by Time Magazine's choice for Person of the Year in 2006 -- You.

Why are social media important for those of us in the Forest Service public affairs community?

  • They offer powerful communication tools such as news feeds and narrow casting.
  • The traditional methods of doing public relations are being challenged (see PR 2.0).
  • Web 2.0 facilitates collaboration across organizational boundaries and from many locations, allowing us to work with partners, and to get more done at lower cost.
  • It allows us to read and analyze what others are saying about us (e.g. web forums like ).
  • A Net Generation is emerging that does not rely on information from traditional news media, advertising or the government.  They trust peer-to-peer relationships and they are always online.
So, as we go through some definitions and examples of these platforms, please write down your thoughts on the following:
  • How might we use these tools in  Forest Service public affairs work?
  • How might we use these tools in other aspects of Forest Service work?
  • What are the barriers to using these tools and how can we overcome them?
We'll save some time at the end of this talk to discuss your ideas and post them to this blog.


What are the characteristics of Social Media?  They are like the web itself - nobody owns them, everybody uses them, anybody can modify or add to them.

1) Sharing - "information wants to be free - bits are made to be copied."
2) Mass Collaboration  - "the network is the computer"
Commons-based peer production  e.g. Human Genome Project
Global research, development & manufacture  e.g.  Innocentive
Parallel processing e.g. SETI@home

3) User Generated - "we are the media"
Citizen journalism  e.g.
Social networking  e.g.
Content communities  e.g. YouTube.comflickr

How do people interact with all this information?

RSS allows the user to subscribe to information sources that they want. Examples of RSS feed readers include Google ReaderBloglinesNewsgator
Web browsers, blogs (like this one) and web portals can have RSS feeds built into them.
Thy are very simple to implement and easy to use.

Social bookmarking site allows visitors to collect and share useful web sites with others.  Users create descriptions about these sites called tags.   Collectively, these tags create a folksonomy  or tag cloud of terms around that subject.  Tagging is a low cost, flexible and creative way to generate metadata that can be
used by search engines or for
search engine optimization (SEO).

Sites such as Technorati and digg  are aggregators  that compile blog posts and news articles based upon their
popularity. Members comment on, blog, rate and forward these stories.  The more popular the story, the more it is featured.

Individuals are using open APIs and their own hacks on sites like Google Maps and craigslist to create mashups that combine the data and functions of both to make a new platform such as

Another example of a mashup is OpenCongress which combines government data, news stories and blog posts with the goal of increasing the transparency of the legislative process.

Yet one more example is the Creative Archive which is a collaboration among the BBC, Channel 4, Open University and others in the UK.  They are opening their vaults and giving a free license to anyone who wants to create a new work with their vast collection of moving images, audio and stills.

Three Examples of Social Media - Wikis, Blogs and Podcasts
1) Wiki
is a web site that allows visitors to add and edit content.  It comes from the Hawaiian word for "fast."

The most popular example is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.  It currently has over 1.6 million articles written and edited by thousands of volunteers. 
  • It has no limitations on the size or number of entries.
  • The entries are continuously updated and corrected -- the error rate is roughly the same as the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
  • It has articles in 250 languages.
  • The stated goal of Wikipedia is to give every person in the world free access to the sum
    of all human knowledge
And of course there many other examples with less ambitious goals:


Wikis are emerging everywhere,  from travel guides to text books.  Sites like Wetpaint are wiki farms that allow anyone to create their own wiki on any subject.  Companies like SocialText provide wiki software for business.

How can wikis be useful to organizations?

Everyone is an expert in something - usually having to do with their job. Organizations need to capture that knowledge.  This is the difference between information management and knowledge management.  

Studies have shown that many business process reengineering efforts fail because they look only at data about process not at how the process actually works within the organizational culture.
Technology should exist to serve the culture not the other way around.  Most knowledge workers do not manage process, they manage exceptions to process.  Wikis are a way for people to track these exceptions, share solutions, and create a knowledge-base for the organization.  Think Albuquerque.

2) Blog -
is a user-generated website where entries are made in a journal style.  The term is a contraction of Web Log.  It is essentially a way for anyone to self-publish on the web.

There are literally millions of blogs.  Everyone, it seems, has a blog. Collectively they make up the blogosphere.  While there many individual blogs with large followings, (e.g. daily kos,
boingboing, and TechCrunch) many of which cover political or technology issues, the pulse
of the collective bloggers is captured by sites like Technorati.  This information is of huge benefit for anyone interested in politics, marketing, popular culture, fashion and other trends.

How can blogs be useful for organizations?

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz has blogged for many years, and he encourages others at Sun to do the same.  He finds that is the best way to share his ideas and engage his
employees, partners, shareholders and customers.  His blog provides an up-to-date perspective on his vision, and how current events are affecting the company.  It can provide both a personal connection and greater corporate transparency, if done correctly.  Blogs can also be delivered in audio or in video formats.

3) Podcast -
is a media file that is distributed on the Web for playback on portable media players and personal computers.  The term is derived from Apple's iPod. Listeners and viewers can subscribe to podcasts via RSS.  They are most commonly audio, but can also be video, stills or text or any combination of these.

Podcasts started out with radio programs, but were soon used for language lessons, audio tours, and public safety messages.  There are thousands, if not millions, of podcasts on the Web.  Apple's iTunes was the first, and still one of the major aggregators of podcasts;
others include and Yahoo! Podcasts

How can podcasts be useful for an organization?

A podcast can be used for internal or external marketing, capturing information from a 
conference, delivering executive speeches, sharing success (or failure) stories, explaining complex processes, corporate training, etc.   A small collection of podcasts
produced by the federal government is online at  

 PR2.0, or The Death and Re-birth of the Press Release

On February 27th, Tom Foremski posted an article in his Silicon Valley Watcher blog.  The title was "Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!"
His comments elicited a lot of reactions from the blogosphere, but the general thrust of his article is that public relations has to change with these new forms of social media.

Some have taken up this challenge to design a new type of press release that incorporates the elements of Web 2.0.  Todd Defren of Shift Communications jumped into the fray first with a social media press release form (version 1.0) and then with a Social Media Newsroom template.

A short time later, PRXBuilder appeared online with a new tool for creating your own social media press release.

And so goes the conversation....


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

News at 11 - viewers as reporters

Tonight at 11, news by neighbors
Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming

Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, February 11, 2007

Steve Spendlove realizes that after last month's layoffs of most of the news-gathering staff at tiny KFTY-TV in Santa Rosa there will be less local coverage. The Clear Channel executive overseeing the station knows there won't be reporters to investigate local scandals, let alone do those fluffy woman-turns-100 features that make TV anchors cock their heads and smile at the end of a newscast.
But Spendlove said that the station's "business model" hadn't been working for years, and that "covering one-eighth of the Bay Area" is neither a moneymaker nor even an operation large enough to be measured by Nielsen ratings.
So the next step in Channel 50's evolution will be a nationally watched experiment in local television coverage. Over the next few months, the station's management plans to ask people in the community -- its independent filmmakers, its college students and professors, its civic leaders and others -- to provide programming for the station.
Will they be paid? That's being worked out. Who will cover the harder-edged stories? Some will be culled from local newspaper and TV online sites, Spendlove said, and "other sources" that are still being discussed.
"There will be a loss in local coverage, I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "But there are a lot of other places to get most of that information."
Spendlove is loath to dub what's coming next to Channel 50 as "citizen journalism," the industry buzz term that is journalism's equivalent of user-generated content online. Broadly defined, citizen journalism means tapping into the wisdom and creativity of the audience and enabling nonprofessionals to become part of the news-gathering process. Media analysts believe there may be 700 citizen journalism outfits reporting on geographic nooks of the country and countless other bloggers doing various versions of the local news.
Many of them are self-funded "fusions of news and schmooze" sites "that don't produce finished stories like you'd see at traditional journalism outlets," said Jan Schaffer, who heads J-Lab, a citizen journalism think tank at the University of Maryland.
In a J-Lab survey released this month, many citizen journalists felt they were "a success" not because they had tons of readers, but because they had called attention to local problems overlooked by larger media outlets.
Some citizen video journalists, particularly outside the United States, have had a larger impact.
When last year's coup in Thailand shut down traditional local media outlets, images downloaded from citizen journalists to CNN's "I-Report'' were the cable giant's only window into the action. And much has been told about how the first images of the July 2005 London terrorist bombings were recorded by cell phone cameras. The genre's runaway success story is OhmyNews in South Korea, which not only has tens of thousands of citizen contributors but is profitable.
"Traditional journalists, even the very best ones, can only tell a story from the outside looking in," said Mitch Gelman,'s executive producer. "What you get from citizen journalists is a view from the inside looking out. It is a complement to our coverage."
Trust is an issue
As the media landscape shifts, traditional television executives are figuring out how comfortable they are in letting the audience express themselves. The potential army of cheap news gatherers poses a dilemma: While editors love the idea of receiving images from a coup in Thailand hours before their news crew arrives at the scene, many editors don't totally trust the public, especially when it comes to reporting hard news stories.
"People come to CBS News because it's a trusted source of information that they know has been vetted," said Mike Sims, director of news and operations at "That's why we've been slower to move into citizen journalism."
Still, Sims said CBS will in the next few months unveil more ways to involve viewers. TV news operations and their online partners can't ignore the YouTube-driven interest in user-generated content -- or how those efforts can help build a loyal audience.
So with names like "I-Report" (CNN), "You Witness News" (Yahoo-Reuters partnership) and "Moving Pictures" (a feature begun this month at Bay Area NBC affiliate KNTV), TV news is slowly exploring ways to involve the audience in its productions.
"Everybody is trying to catch lightning in a bottle trying to figure out a way to interact with citizens," said Spendlove, a senior vice president for the Western region of Clear Channel Television who works in Fresno. "We're hoping to find a new way to compete in an area where the big boys couldn't afford to do it."
"I have my own silly little term," Spendlove said. "Local content harvesting."
If that sounds a bit too agricultural for Fourth Estate purists, you should hear Spendlove talk about "renewable content" programming -- a steady stream of offerings from a single source. Although he expects some cost savings from Channel 50's changeover, he anticipated that the station may have to employ more editors to thresh all the harvested content.
Memoirs of a journalist
That's the one universal among citizen journalism efforts: Nobody quite knows what type of user-generated content will work best on a traditional news site -- except that it won't be the Mentos-in-a-Diet Coke bottle fodder that made YouTube worth $1.6 billion to Google. That's too random for a news site.
Yet personal essays are what viewers submit most often. Viewers flooded CNN's "I-Report'' with remembrances and images after Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin died.
"This is the beginning of something, so I'd be very suspicious of anyone who said they had figured it out yet," said Deputy Editor Tom Brew, who will begin training next week on a rebranded citizen journalism site.
The technology is there -- anybody with a camera-equipped cell phone who happens to be in the right place at the right time can become a citizen video journalist. But not everyone is poised for action. For example, there's no shortage of weather photos -- snow shots are especially popular -- but Brew said, "I don't think we're to the point where somebody in Florida just survives a storm and says, 'I'm going to upload some video to' "
That will change as viewers in their teens and 20s come of age, said Scott Moore, head of news and information for Yahoo Media Group, which has been beta-testing a citizen-journalism effort with Reuters for two months. "This next generation is much quicker about flipping open their cell phone if they see a bus crash happen in front of them and uploading the video," Moore said.
A passer-by shot still cell phone images of a fiery car crash in San Francisco's Castro neighborhood in April and sent it to CBS 5-TV. And the Bay Area's KTVU broadcast citizen cell phone video shot last month of a plane crash in Concord and of an armored car fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But those submissions have been rare, station officials said.
"If there's breaking news, we want to hear from people," said CBS 5-TV News Director Dan Rosenheim. "But beyond that, we want to rely on our own people. It's a quality control issue."
A hybrid model
At KNTV, editors are trying a hybrid model as a way to test user-generated coverage. Last month, they gave digital still cameras to a dozen viewers, including an injured Iraqi war veteran and a gravedigger. Editors and reporters at the station reviewed the photos, then returned to interview the subjects and tell a "Moving Pictures" story based on the still images.
At first blush, some photos seemed odd -- like the picture of a footbridge sent by a Richmond teen.
"But when we went back to interview her, she said, 'This is the only place I can feel safe from the violence around here,' " said KNTV Assistant News Director Mark Neerman, who conceived of the "Moving Pictures" idea. "Now that's something that we probably wouldn't get in a traditional news story."
What's next for citizen-shot video? CNN's Gelman sees citizen journalists attending a house party in Iowa with a presidential candidate. Yahoo's Moore sees more high school sports coverage.
But what about bias? What if the citizen correspondent conveniently overlooks that the quarterback -- who happens to be her son -- threw five interceptions that cost his team the game?
Moore foresees such stories evolving wiki-style -- referring to the technology used by the publicly created encyclopedia -- edited by a community of writers who would pounce on such gross bias.
That said, Moore said, "I don't expect to see ordinary citizens reporting from the White House briefing room in my lifetime."
Two views
"Traditional journalists, even the very best ones, can only tell a story from the outside looking in. What you get from citizen journalists is a view from the inside looking out. It is a complement to our coverage."
-- Mitch Gelman, executive producer
"If there's breaking news, we want to hear from people. But beyond that, we want to rely on our own people. It's a quality control issue."
-- Dan Rosenheim, CBS 5-TV news director
E-mail Joe Garofoli at
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle