A Royall Juggle

In class last week we discussed Wikipedia as a news source and examined the 2005 London Bombings as an example of just how timely the site is when breaking news is unraveling. So while I took some of the tutorials in preparation for our Wikipedia assignment this week, I was somewhat surprised to see “journalism” under the list of what Wikipedia is NOT. Here’s what Wikipedia says about journalism under the “Wikipedia is not a publisher of original thought” header:

“Journalism. Wikipedia should not offer first-hand news reports on breaking stories. Wikipedia is not a primary source. However, our sister projects Wikisource and Wikinews do exactly that, and are intended to be primary sources. Wikipedia does have many encyclopedia articles on topics of historical significance that are currently in the news, and can be updated with recently verified information.”

Wikipedia may not WANT to be a place for breaking stories, but its contributors certainly do “Walk the Line” of journalism. If you examine the lyrics of Johnny Cash’s infamous song from the perspective of the Wikipedia community, it certainly could be a love song to the Wikipedia site. After all, Wikipedia is created, owned and operated by a community of volunteers – many whom are extremely passionate and dedicated to the collaboration project.

“I keep a close watch on this heart of mine. I keep my eyes wide open all the time. I keep the ends out for the tie that binds. Because you’re mine, I walk the line.” – Johnny Cash

Verifiability is another core principle of Wikipedia which in many ways relates to Wikipedia’s “no original research” principle. Wikipedia guidelines request that contributors always cite reliable sources that support material clearly and directly. In the example of the 2005 London Bombings, the original creator of the article posted the first version just 20 minutes after the first bombs exploded. The original article includes one external link a BBC article which must have been published or expanded after the Wikipedia post since it includes quotes from observers. This first version and many of the edits to follow are examples of episodic media – short and quick updates that tell you every development without providing a larger context. Other examples of episodic media include: Twitter, CNN’s homepage and I guess you could consider Facebook status updates episodic “news” as well.

The interesting thing about Wikipedia is that for current news articles, it’s a evolution from episodic to systematic media – longer comprehensive text that paints the big picture such as books and magazines articles. Many Wikipedia articles originate through episodic updates and “end up” as some of the most comprehensive articles about a topic you can find anywhere in the world. Some additional examples of this episodic to systematic evolution include 2010 articles on the cargo plane bomb plot, the BP Oil Spill, and the blizzard we all endured last February. Each of these articles began as a couple of sentences that were proven to be somewhat inaccurate, but developed into a relatively accurate and comprehensive account of a historical event – content that is extremely valuable to someone who is interested in learning more about a topic. You can view the evolution of each article by clicking the “view history” tab and navigating from the earliest to the most recent version. Although I may turn to traditional news media such as CNN for episodic updates on breaking news, I think I’ll check out Wikipedia next time to see which media outlet publishes the news first — I have an inclination that it will be a tight race.

The Wikipedia community definitely walks the line with many of the Wikipedia core policies including journalism, but keep in mind that “Wikipedia does not have firm rules” is also one of the company’s five pillars. I think this evaluation of Wikipedia as a news source validates some points in my previous Wikipedia post about how timeliness and convenience can outweigh the importance of 100% accuracy that published encyclopedias and traditional news media strive to reach.

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After reading one of Ashley’s fun posts about Trader Joe’s coming to Clarendon, I began to notice a trend in Arlington – lots of new restaurants have been posting “opening soon” signs in windows. I’ve lived and worked in Arlington, VA for about four years now and I’ve never seen so many new businesses opening in such a short time frame. I guess it’s a positive sign for our local economy. Within a few blocks of where I live in Ballston, Rustico  and Pizza Autentica just opened, and Buzz Bakery and Sweet Green are coming very soon (I’ve been on the lookout for a while as I could use a change of scenery for my weekend homework outings – I think Panera is tired of me setting up shop there J). And within blocks of where I work in Crystal City, there is a Jimmy John’s and Buffalo Wild Wings aka BDubs opening soon (a great excuse for me to plan another work happy hour!).

Despite all of these exciting new business openings, the one that beats them all… Chick-fil-A coming to Crystal City – now my favorite fried chicken and sweet tea combo (it’s a tight race with Bojangles’ but that’s for another blog post) will now be within a few blocks of where I live AND work! My co-workers are probably tired of hearing me talk about it because the sign first appeared in July, but the wait is almost over – it opens November 18th (picture taken this Monday during my stroll at lunch).

Ashley is great example of a brand advocate for Trader Joe’s – she’s even willing to sacrifice her time circling around for a parking spot in Clarendon to get two buck chuck (although her post says three buck chuck – I guess a price increase was inevitable). And I am without a doubt a brand advocate for Chick-fil-A. I recently became a “Chick-fil-A Insider” and discovered their “First 100” Event – the first 100 people through the door of their grand opening have a chance to win a free Chick-fil-A combo every week for a year (52 free meals!). Given that I reward myself for getting through each work week with Chick-fil-A on Friday or Saturday, winning this event could put lots of money back in my pocket. Unfortunately, you have to spend 24 hours in line at the store to qualify (only bathroom breaks allowed!) and I don’t think my boss will go for “I’m just going to work OUTSIDE the office today so I don’t lose my place in line at Chick-fil-A.” I already tried to save a little on weekly cravings – I buy a Chick-fil-A calendar as a gift for myself at Christmas time and use the coupons throughout the year.

It may seem a little obsessive how much I love good chicken biscuits and sweet tea, but who doesn’t like a little “Chicken Fried?”

My love is not just for the food, it’s also a little piece of home – comfort food if you will. I grew up in Danville, VA, a small southern “city” right on the border of North Carolina and although it may not seem too far from here, it’s a completely different world. I always thought I’d end up further south after graduation – my dream was to live in a house on Lake Norman right outside Charlotte, NC. But I moved to Arlington for a job, met a great guy, and now I’m not sure when or if I’ll leave. It’s taken me quite a while to adjust to city life although I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a “city girl.” I miss a lot about living in the country and I get home sick every now and then, similar to what Kate talks about in her post about New York.  I may not be able to see the stars every night before I go to sleep, play with my favorite pug and eat momma’s casseroles when I wake up in the morning, or even watch the Cowboys play (the better word is “lose” if we’re talking about this season) every Sunday with my dad and sister, but Chick-fil-A is a little piece of home that I can get every day of the week in Arlington (except for Sunday of course). This guy does an excellent job expressing my love for the place in song…

Once I’m out of the DC traffic, I really enjoy driving home, it’s my time to reflect and catch up with old friends on the phone. The Chick-fil-A in Charlottesville, VA is the midway point on my road trips back to Danville. I stop there every time I pass and as soon as I arrive, I magically revert back to a southern state of mind. I leave all the stress from my city life behind and I feel free again.

I’m looking forward to heading to North Carolina for Thanksgiving soon to spend time with family and see my sister in her final weeks of her first pregnancy, but until then I’ll plan to do my grocery shopping on Sundays at Trader Joe’s along with Ashley and will do my best not to eat at Chick-fil-A every other day of the week.

In an effort to determine what’s more trustworthy, Wikipedia or a published Encyclopedia, I took a trip down the street to the library to see what a printed encyclopedia looks like these days. It’s been a while since I’ve opened one – if I had to guess, it would probably be before the Christmas of 1995. That was the year my dad bought us a Gateway 2000, my first home computer. Here is a pretty humorous excerpt from my journal that year:

“Two days ago was Christmas. I got a cd player, the game Catch Phrase, hair bows, 11 cds, a game for our Super Nintendo, a game for my Gameboy, skates, a Duke charm, BUT the best thing I got was a computer. It’s a Gateway 2000. It’s awesome — it’s got a cd roma.”

OK, I’ll spare you anymore of the details. After that Christmas, I used Microsoft Encarta because that was one of the CDs that was included with my super cool first computer, which has since been discontinued. My neighborhood friends and I had a blast exploring my new computer during the blizzard of 1996 and listening to Gangster’s Paradise on repeat.

If you haven’t noticed yet, just about everything I’ve written about so far has an article in Wikipedia which appears on the first page of search results when you Google it. Wikipedia has the long tail of encyclopedia articles covered and the tail is continuing to lengthen as I type.

According to Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, Britannica (the most renowned published encyclopedia) had approximately 80,000 articles in 2005 and Wikipedia had approximately 500,000 (1.3 million if you include other languages). And now, according to the Wikipedia website, there are now more than 3 million articles. So it’s no surprise that Wikipedia wins the numbers game because “instead of one really smart guy, it pulls from thousands of fairly smart people.”

But, the question of the week is “Who should be considered more trustworthy?” I’ll give that honor to published encyclopedias such as Britannica. After all, their standards are higher for whom they accept as contributors to their published work. An accuracy study by Nature confirmed this: after experts reviewed a wide-range of topics, they claimed that Britannica had 2.92 average mistakes compared to Wikipedia’s 3.86. Even though that may not seem too significant, I think Wikipedia should take a stance to improve its reputation for accuracy. As  Aaron Tippin reminded us in the 90’s, “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

Wikipedia stands for two core principles: neutrality and good faith, but I think they should have at least one more: accountability. They should ban anonymous contributors and require that everyone registers with the site before they are allowed to make edits. New registrants should be verified by the Wikipedia administrators, or those higher on the Wikipedia power pyramid, before they are allowed to join the community and actively participate in the Wikipedia project. Given that many trolls and vandals are anonymous editors that are difficult to track down, like the one who damaged John Seigenthaler’s reputation, I don’t think the community would be too sad to see them go.

In my opinion, the more relevant question in today’s society is the one in the title of this post. What’s more important the WIKI (a technology for creating collaborative websites, from the Hawaiian word wiki, meaning “quick”) or the PEDIA (from Greek word “”paideia” meaning “education, rearing of a child”)? In other words, is it more important that the information is available quickly and conveniently or that it is provided and verified by experts in the field?

During my journey to the public library, I looked up the word “encyclopedia” in the Encyclopedia Britannica 2010 and was somewhat surprised at what I saw.

“An encyclopedia is a self-contained reference work with two main aims: to include up-to-date knowledge about a particular discipline or group of disciplines and to make this knowledge conveniently accessible.”

Even the published Encyclopedia Britannica helps validate my point! I’m not trying to demean the importance of education and expertise (I am writing this blog as part of my master’s program) but I think the WIKI wins.

With midterm elections right around the corner, I’m taking a closer look at what makes a successful political campaign in the 21st century. My Social Media professor, Garrett Graff, wrote the book The First Campaign in which he explores the days leading up to what he suggests was the first campaign of the 21st century – the 2008 election and more specifically, President Obama’s famous web 2.0 deployment. As a former communications staffer for the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, Graff had a first-hand experience watching technology transform the old rules of campaigning. Dean used the internet to drive a “people-powered campaign-funding operation” of small-dollar fundraising, blogged, and maximized the social networking site Meetup.com as a way to rally his community of supporters across the nation. So why didn’t Dean win the 2004 nomination?

A big difference between the Dean and Obama campaign: an effective tool. According to Graff’s follow-up article on the Barack Obama campaign in Infonomics magazine, the Dean campaign only ran two websites (the official one and his blog) and the Obama campaign ran 100+ websites including social media sites such as MySpace and Twitter. And possibly equally as important, the Dean campaign had a half a dozen different databases to manage whereas the Obama campaign invested in building the most powerful campaigning database of its time – Obama’s Voter Action Network (VAN). This one database powered all of MyBO.com (the center of all of Obama’s outreach efforts) which housed more than two million robust profiles and integrated social networking sites and mobile numbers. The information was used to micro-target voters based on metrics such as when people opened emails, donation amounts and likeliness to host house parties. And Obama didn’t just target mainstream social networks; he was the first candidate to reach niche social networks such as AsianAve.com, MiGente.com and BlackPlanet.com (influential with the Asian, Hispanic and African-American communities). I can’t even begin to go into detail on lessons learned from Obama’s campaign, so I’ll just direct you to Edelman’s Obama Social Toolkit for more information.

I’ve attempted to consolidate databases at my company by implementing LyrisHQ, an online marketing platform that integrates email marketing, deliverability, web analytics, search marketing, content management and mobile. Unfortunately, I don’t have the staff and resources of the Obama campaign, but I do recognize the power of profile segmentation.

A blog post I read on PR Breakfast Club discusses the simple analogy between social tools and a hammer. If you use them the right way, they can help you multiply the force of impact. But if you miss the target, you’ll just end up with a sore thumb. A quote from Graff’s Obama article expands on this analogy:

“The Obama campaign made the greatest investment in this civic structure,” says organizing guru Marshall Ganz, who worked with the campaign. “It’s very important to distinguish between carpenters and tools. The investment in this campaign of creating skilled carpenters was what enabled them to use the tools as well as they did.” 

And as Alan Jackson says, “There’s nothing wrong with a hard hat and a hammer.”

One  important lesson I was reminded of in my sales training last week at work — the best sales people seek to understand before they are understood. Obama did just that to sell himself to the American people and build an empire of advocates. Two years later, how do you think he has done with retaining them?

I don’t always read Epilogues, but the title of the one in The Search by John Battelle,  intrigued me — “Search and Immortality.” It talks about Battelle “googling” the term “immortality” and coming across the oldest named author in history. Battelle goes on to ask these questions:

“Is that not what every person longs for – to die, but to be known forever?”

“And does not search offer the same immortal imprint: is not existing forever in the indexes of Google and others the modern-day equivalent of carving our stories into stone?”

Before the internet, people were satisfied leaving their mark in life with their loved ones; friends, family and possibly other affiliations such as church and community. We keep personal photo albums in our houses to look through from time to time and remember the “good ole days,” passing those albums and other pieces of our past down to our children to carry on our legacy. The nice thing about physical archives of our past is that we can choose what we want to leave behind and hide or destroy the parts of our lives that aren’t so appealing. My preacher keeps a personal journal and told me that he’ll never write something in it that could potentially damage another person’s reputation. Although that may not be true about my journal entries (I use them to vent sometimes after all), his advice makes me think twice before I start writing now.

Another example of things we might want to destroy — drunken college photos; something that didn’t become a major problem until my generation (Facebook got big when I was a junior in college). Think about it: the worst thing that could happen to our parent’s generation is that their kids could come across an old photo album of them at spring break like what Clay Walker sings about in “Fore She Was Mama” (I think there is a country song for every scenario in life and I’ve decided to use this blog as a way to prove my point).

The bad thing about those physical archives is that they are extremely difficult to share. I remember spending tons of money printing countless amounts of double prints for friends in middle and high school because I was always the one with the camera in the group. In comes Google and other major internet players that saved the day; they work to help us share and find things easier online. But do we really want Google to remember everything about our lives and keep it in the digital archives forever? In our Social Media class last week, we discussed an example of this with the Virginia congressional candidate, Krystal Ball. Her campaign has been distracted because of an old sexy santa picture of her and her husband in college. We also talked about how common these types of photos are becoming and in a decade or so they’ll be so typical that the media won’t even look twice.

OK, so it’s no surprise that kids today will grow up with most of their life documented online. Now consider some of the some of the emerging trends of search Battelle discusses in Chapter 11, “The Perfect Search”:

  • Ubiquity: the integration of more and more information into web indexes
  • Personalized search: the application of your personal web toward a more perfect answer
  • The rise of the semantic web: the tagging of information so as to make it more easily found
  • Domain-specific search: search solutions focused on a particular area of knowledge
  • Web time axis: being able to search constrained by date (e.g. what were the popular results for “Insert your name here” on “October 19, 2010”)

As search becomes more robust and personalized, it will be much easier for the digital files of your youth to live on forever and to be found pretty quickly. So do we fear Google and its competitors and the power of the information in their hands? OR Do we embrace it to leave our mark in life and hopefully make a positive impact on a larger audience we weren’t able to reach before our lives became digitized? Obviously because I am writing this blog and I’m active on social sites like Facebook, I’ve chosen to embrace it.

I’ve been following country music since Achy Breaky Heart premiered on the radio in the early 90’s… Who doesn’t love the famous Billy Ray Cyrus mullet?

In an effort to quickly prove my passion for country music, here are a few somewhat embarrassing stories I’m willing to share:

1)      I wrecked my car because of my love for Kenny Chesney. As Chris Anderson mentions in his book, The Long Tail, there are lots of advantages to turning tangible products (CDs) them into digital versions (MP3s) that you can purchase online (iTunes) including near-zero inventory costs BUT the experience is not always the same. I will not settle for the digital version for certain artists and Kenny is one of them. I always go to the store the day his new CDs are released to purchase them. After quickly deciding to take a Walmart exit to purchase Lucky Old Son right before I headed on a long road trip from SC to DC in 2008, I rear-ended a guy, but I didn’t forget to go into Walmart to buy the CD while I was waiting for the cops to arrive at the scene. Luckily, it was just a fender bender (I don’t encourage reckless driving).

2)     A country concert t-shirt quilt is on my Christmas wish list this year. All my friends who have been to country concerts with me know I am a sucker for buying the t-shirts. I have way too many sitting in my drawers and don’t have the self-control to not buy anymore so my wonderful mother is helping me turn my collection into a collectible this year.

3)     I travel to different cities for country concerts. I decided to start a sisterly-bonding tradition of attending country music festivals in different cities last year. My sister is the only person I know that is willing to spend that much time with me and country music — I love her for it.  So far we’ve crossed the CMA Music Festival in Nashville and the Bayou Country Superfest in Baton Rouge off our lists. Now that she’s expecting her first child in December, I think we may have to take a sabbatical this year.

Even though I consider myself a country music fanatic, I have just begun to make my way down the long tail, where a multitude of songs and artists that aren’t considered “hits” or “stars” yet live. My journey down the long tail is what led me to my new favorite country singer, Eric Church. He only had 1-2 songs out on the radio when I saw him perform live at the CMA Music Fest last year, but after hearing him live, I was craving more. I looked him up on iTunes and discovered that he has many more hidden jewels that are even better than the songs the pre-filters (record label scouts, radio, etc.) decided were the most “marketable.” Case in point: the last single by Eric Church released on the radio “Smoke a Little Smoke” disturbed many conservative country music fans and was my least favorite track on his CD. Before the web, I probably wouldn’t have become an Eric Church fan, because his radio play is insignificant and his songs that make it on the radio don’t grab my attention enough for me to go buy his entire CD (before the web I didn’t buy a CD unless there were at least three songs I knew I would like on the album due to the cost and risk of disappointment).

Since traditional media isn’t always the best way to find exactly what you’re looking for, I delved deeper into the niche of country music online. After looking at some social sites, I discovered that there is a pretty large community of country music fans like me gathering right now, and not just in Nashville. A couple worthy findings:

Country at Heart – A Meetup group of 406 country music fans living in the DC area. They find each other online and then meet up to go to line-dancing at local country bars and tailgate at country concerts. Their acceptable bargain, as defined by Clay Shirky in the book Here Comes Everybody: “In our group, you never have to explain why country music rocks. Everyone is encouraged to be an assistant organizer and be a part of creating and shaping the fun. The only rule is to enjoy ourselves, have fun and leave stress behind.” I’m sold; why didn’t I think of this four years ago when I moved here??

ChesneyWorld.com – I follow this group on Twitter @ChesneyWorld and it’s a classic example of the power of peer production. A fan not affiliated with Kenny Chesney created this site in 2008 and has since integrated many social tools (I just counted about 10 on the homepage) to help connect communities of fans just like him and me. The creator of this website has become a new tastemaker (regular people whose opinions are respected) for Kenny Chesney fans. When I want to most recent Kenny news, I turn to this site, not www.kennychesney.com.

Following long-tail aggregators such as iTunes and niche communities like the ones listed above are what will help me to continue down the long tail of country music so that I can discover more of the Eric Churches of the world.

The closing keynote at my company Forum last month, Dan Clark, gave one of the best speeches, or should I say oratories, that I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing (thanks to Georgetown Professor Mike Long, I now know the difference between the two). To engage the audience, Dan asked everyone to raise their hand if they think they are a good multi-tasker. About 25% of the audience proudly raised their hand (including me) and then the punch line… “You just admitted to being really good at doing a lot of things bad.”

Like most of the points in Dan’s oratory, he wasn’t telling us something we didn’t already know – he was just reminding us of the obvious (which surprisingly, we sometimes forget when to-do lists and stress start to take over).

The juggler story

Dan went on to tell a story about a juggler. When he asked a juggler, “How could you possibly juggle all eight balls in the air at once without letting one fall?”, the juggler replied “Because I’m only holding one ball at a time.” What he meant was that most of us have a lot to juggle in life, but if we don’t give our full attention to what we are doing at the moment, one or more of the balls could drop. We all know we can’t be at more than one place at a time physically, but since many of us live in a fast-paced world, we try to be at more than one place at a time mentally so we can finish that to-do list or fit it all in one day (one could argue the “fast-paced world” is a perception usually based on where you live and who you hang out with which I can relate as I grew up a country girl and have since migrated to the city).

On the topic of sleeping in, my boyfriend’s dad jokingly says “Don’t let them get ahead of you son.” Although he may be joking to some extent, I think competitiveness is what motivates a lot of people to multi-task. Other possible reasons: there are some things that we don’t think are worthy of our full attention and sometimes we have a hard time deciphering what’s truly important and focusing in on that.

Regardless of our motivation to multi-task, the problem with it is that people recognize when you are fully engaged or not, as referenced in Cluetrain Manifesto, Chapter Three: Talk is Cheap. One of my pet peeves is when I’m out with my friends and some of them are looking down at their BlackBerry or iPhone every few minutes. It’s hard enough to get my girlfriends from college all together since our lives are pulled in so many different directions, but when it actually works out, we can’t go a couple of hours without checking to see if we are missing something else! I always call people out for that and remind them of the message it sends (yes, I am guilty sometimes too).

I’m not saying that all types of multi-tasking is bad (I am at my boyfriend’s condo right now watching the Eagles game while I’m writing this post – Eagles football is something I can usually zone out pretty well unless they are playing the Cowboys), but I do think we should take some time to reflect on Dan’s juggler story when we start to feel overwhelmed. Whether it’s missing a meeting at work, losing touch with an old friend, or forgetting a family member’s birthday; we only have so many hours in the day and when we try to focus on too many things at once, something is bound to drop.

A wedding lesson we could all learn from

I just got home from a wedding this weekend in Williamsburg where the preacher gave advice that related to the points Dan made. Before the preacher started the ceremony, he unexpectedly asked the bride and groom to turn around to the audience in the church and look around. He told them to take in one of the most important moments in their life, “Look at all the people in the crowd who have been major influences in your lives and have helped guide you to where you are today. Appreciate them and remember their faces when you go through the best and the worst times in the future.” Then he reminded the bride and groom to always focus on what’s truly important, “This relationship is worth fighting for.” Although the preacher was offering this advice to the couple at the front of the altar, it resonated with me as well.

When we don’t feel like there are enough hours in the day and we are wearing ourselves too thin, maybe that’s the time to take a step back and think about how we are spending our time. Decide what’s truly important, spend more time nurturing those things and begin to zone out unimportant distractions. What’s worth fighting for in your life?

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