Category Archives: NMS

“Digital” vs. “real”

Evgeny Morozov started an interesting conversation on the webpages of the Prospect Magazine about the role of “new” media in civic activism under repressive regimes.  He is rather skeptical about the equation “internet=democracy” and provides a plethora of examples where relying on “new” media can stagnate and/or backfire at attempts of civil activism or apprising.

I find particularly compelling his longitudinal view of things as opposed to focusing on a momentary instance (i.e. Twitter/Facebook/OtherTrendyWebsite Revolution).  For example, he refers to the protests in Belarus, which followed their presidential election in 2006 – there were flash mob protests organized using LiveJournal, which attracted a lot of attention from the Western media.  However, looking back, the results of those protests and the online activism are minimal to non-existent.

However, Evgeny does not stop there and suggests that the oppressive regimes are also learning to use the web.  Not only they use the web to to get to the activists (for example see how the Iranian government is using the web to identify the particularly active individuals in the post-election protests in the country), but they are also learning to use the “new” media to fight back and even to predict future unrest.

Evgeny explicitly mentions Clay Shirky as “the man most responsible for the intellectual confusion over the political role of the internet.”  Shiry responds, acknowledging some of Morozov’s criticism, but stating that regardless of that the “new” media should not be disregarded.  Unfortunately, in his argument, Shirky he seems to repeat some of the old claims focused on what might happen based on very limited evidence.  For example he writes: “It is impossible to know how the next few months in Iran will unfold, but the use of social media has already passed several tests: it has enabled citizens to coordinate with one another better than previously, to broadcast events like Basij violence or the killing of Neda Aga Soltan to the rest of the world, and, by forcing the regime to shut down communications apparatus, the protesters have infected Iran with a kind of technological auto-immune disease.”  However I don’t think he provides much evidential support for those predication, at least at this point.  Having said that, I admit that I don’t know much about the idea of “information cascades” and cannot address their debate on that ground (others seem to know much more about that).

I think one of the points Evgeny is making in this article (as well in some of his other commentary), even if he is not stating this explicitly, is about the dichotomy between the online and physical spaces.  The narrative of digital activism as a catalyst of  “real” political change is heavily based in the assumption that the “digital” realm is substantively different from the “real” and it is possible to change the later through affecting the former.  First, the old-fashioned political apparatus is not as savvy in comprehending this “digital” realm, which supposedly allows the activists new forms of engagement, communication, and mobilization.  Second, whatever emerges in the “digital” world has “real” impact on the “real” world (but rarely the other way around).  The result of this last assumption is a hype about Facebook uprisings and Twitter revolutions.

Evgeny’s skepticism, and to a degree Caly’s reply, highlight that the distinction between the “digital” and the “real” does not hold water as the “digital” is inherently rooted the “real.”  Adoption and diffusion of information technology does not happen in vacuum, but under physical and social constraints that constitute the “realities” on the ground.  The technology is not infused into existing societies and immediately starts processes of change, but it is appropriated, reinvented, and reinterpreted subject to the norms, customs, legal, political, and economic systems of the place and more.  That is not to say that adoption of the technology does not have an impact, but if we are to wear an activist hat and look for efficient ways of utilizing technology for civil activism, particularly under oppressive regimes, we should be blinded by the convenience of the artificial separation between the “digital” and “real.”

For me, the takeaway from this debate is that thinking about the role of political uses of “new” media it is important to keep the big picture in mind.  While those can be useful tools for enhancing the flow of information and potentially empower grassroots activism, the “digital” realm in itself does produce “real” change.  Revolutions, dissent, and political change are very “real” and are conducted through very tangible means.  Thus, while it is important to continue the discussion and the study of the political role of “new” media, the digital tools cannot be viewed as detached from the realities on the ground.

These are my thoughts.  What are yours?

Reading “Delete”

I wanted to post reflections on various readings here before, but never got to it.  This is my first attempt.  I just finished reading “Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age” by Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, who is directing the I+I Centre where I am spending this semester.  The book tackles the phenomenon of digital remembering, its potential social repercussions, and ways to address those.  On the publisher’s website it says that the book:

“…looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well…  In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances. The written word made it possible for humans to remember across generations and time, yet now digital technology and global networks are overriding our natural ability to forget–the past is ever present, ready to be called up at the click of a mouse. Mayer-Schönberger examines the technology that’s facilitating the end of forgetting–digitization, cheap storage and easy retrieval, global access, and increasingly powerful software–and describes the dangers of everlasting digital memory, whether it’s outdated information taken out of context or compromising photos the Web won’t let us forget. He explains why information privacy rights and other fixes can’t help us, and proposes an ingeniously simple solution–expiration dates on information–that may.”

However, I think the book talks more about issues of information control and management, where forgetting is an important mechanism that allows the users to exercise their agency in an environment, which is becoming more and more information-intensive. The first half of the book is dedicated to setting the stage. It is a rather detailed and rich account of the history of the contemporary information environment particularly print, evolution of the memory devices and information storage, and development of information governance institutions (defined in broader terms) such as copyright. While I was aware of some of the stories, many of them were rather new to me. For example, did you know that the subject index, as an alphabetical list of topics covered in a book, was introduced in thirteenth century, but the idea of adding page numbers to the index to ease the actual navigation was added only in the sixteenth century? Quite interesting.

DeleteCoverTelling this history Mayer-Schönberger draws a picture of ever growing body of information about us, as individual members of society, and the way we may interact with it, even if in an indirect way. One of his favorite examples is the story of Stacy Snyder who was denied her teaching certificate because of a picture she had posted on MySpace of her dressed as a drunken pirate. The gist of the argument, if I read it correctly, is that while it becomes easier and cheaper to collect and store information about us and our behavior, we, as individuals, are losing more and more control over that information (once you or somebody else posts your picture online, you no longer have control over where it may appear, who may see it, and in what context). He labels it in terms of remembering and forgetting – if in the past it was difficult and costly to remember and easy and cheap to forget, this balance has reversed.

These days it is so easy and cheap to remember that we start losing our ability to forget. The repercussions of this development are that the accessible, durable, and comprehensive digital record of our past directly impacts the way we conduct and make decisions in the present. For example, I know that once this post will be published, it will become a permanent record of my take on “Delete”. Knowing that, I should probably be very careful with what I say about it, because it may impact my future interaction not just with Viktor (with whom I am currently working), but also with other potential readers of this post. I may choose to self censor myself, to present a biased view, or abstain from publishing it altogether. The point is that my behavior today is guided by the uncertainty about the future uses of this information – on the one hand I know it is there to stay, probably attached to my name, but on the other hand, I have no idea who, when, and under what circumstances will use and interpret this post.

To better understand this idea, I think it is helpful to focus on some aspects of socio-psychological functioning of information, which Mayer-Schönberger discusses in length in the book. One of those aspects is interpretation. The bits and bytes in themselves do not mean much, unless we interpret them (similar to the idea of data in knowledge management). It is through interpretation that the information gains meaning and thus also social functions. This leads to another important aspect, which is context. In different contexts we will interpret the same information differently and this is one of the dangers of digitized memory – information is recorded in a certain time and in a given context, but when it gets retrieved at a different time and in a different context, it will likely have different meaning. Thus we are losing control over the interpretation and meaning of the digital information about us and our behavior. When we, as individuals, are losing control over the information, we are becoming powerless compared to other actors (like the state and the corporate world) who have the capacity to collect, store, and retrieve information about us, thus making them even more powerful (they know more about us than we know about them and they control the interpretation process of information about us). Another aspect of this is the negation of time, which threats our ability to make rational decision in the present. Instead of focusing on the big picture, we are focusing on managing the mundane details of our lives, because those are recorded and stored and will have impact on us in the future.

The shift of control over information and negation of time are at the heart of Mayer-Schönberger’s concern with digital remembering. The rest the book is dedicated to analysis of potential responses to this concern and finally a proposal of an alternative solution. The book lists six different potential responses, each addresses either the power or the time aspect of digital remembering on one of the three levels: individual, law, and technology. The six solutions are digital abstinence, information privacy rights, digital privacy rights (sort of a DRM for personal information), cognitive adjustment, information ecology, and perfect contextualization. Each one of the approaches has its merits, but each one also has its drawbacks either at the conceptual or practical levels.

Mayer-Schönberger suggests expiration date for information as his solution to the negative effects of digital remembering. On the face of it, this is a rather straight forward idea – we need a piece of meta-data attached to each bit of information, which will determine how long this bit of information should be retained. Of course, his suggestion is much more nuanced and he goes into various scenarios of different ways in which information can be forgotten or partially forgotten, but I hope my one-line explanation carries over the gist of the argument. Mayer-Schönberger acknowledges in his book that expiration date addresses the time-related aspect of digital remembering, but it does little at the “power” front. In fact, the “power” is supposedly influenced indirectly, as by allowing automatic deletion of information the powerful side in the interaction is giving up some of its powers (if my power stems from having information about you and being able to mine it for my purposes, giving up the control over when this information is deleted, is equivalent to giving up part of my power).

I think that the main weakness of the expiration date argument lies not in the fact that it focuses primarily on the “time” aspect of the issue, but in the fact that it puts great hopes into the agency of the user. The idea of expiration dates gives user the power to decide for each and every piece of information how long they want to retain it. However, I am still slightly skeptical whether the user will use that power, because it comes with a cost. This idea assumes that (1) people want to make a decision about each bit of information they process and (2) they are capable of estimating the usable time span of each and every bit. I am not sure that people are that zealous about managing their information and are that thoughtful about the future prospects of its use. Just imagine if you had to decide for each one of the 300 pictures from your last trip, how long you want to retain it… wouldn’t it be easier just to keep them all? … just in case?

However, I think the main task of “Delete” is not offering a practical solution (that may be better done through establishing a startup :), but undertaking a rather ambitious conceptual and educational task – bringing the idea of “finitness of information” (p.171) into the public consciousness.  There may be numerous socio-technical solution to the negative effects of digital remembering, but you need a well stated argument to start thinking in that direction.  I think this is what “Delete” is trying to achieve.

Here is also Viktor’s talk about the book at Berkman, just about a month and a half ago (caution: it is rather long – over an hour):

Learning from students

One of the good things of being a teaching assistant (TA) is that I am getting exposed to a great variety of views and opinions of the students I am working with.  It is somewhat scary to think that many of these students are ten years younger than me, but it is often fascinating to learn how they are using MICT and what they are thinking about technology.

So I decided to share a couple of insights I have learned from (and about) my students.

Insight #1: Last semester I TAed for an intro communication class.  At some point (somewhere in late October) we were talking about the upcoming election and the use of MICT in election campaigns.  Specifically, the students were presented with a way of assessing political websites in terms of interactivity, hypertextuality, and social presence.  At the end of the class the 102 students were polled about what aspect of the website would be most important to them.  Thanks Laura and Sue, who agreed to actually count all the votes, I am able to share them with you:

  • Interactivity – 35.3%
  • Hypertextuality – 34.3%
  • Social presence – 27.5%
  • Combination of a number of aspects – 2.9%

If I recall the discussion in class correctly, this means that (1) the students appreciated an ability to “talk” to the candidates, express their opinions, and get involved in discussion, and (2) they appreciated an option to learn more and in depth about the subjects presented on campaign websites.  Needless to say that this is not by any means a rigorous or comprehensive study and we cannot really learn anything substantive from it, but nevertheless I think it is an interesting indicator.

Insight #2: The class I am TAing for this semester has a blog where the students have to post weekly assignments.  In the last assignment they had to observe their own usage of their mobile phones for a couple of days and then discuss issues that bothered them the most.  I have no numbers to provide this time, but here is what I learned from reading their reflections:

  • They are connected! Not that this needed any proof from me reading the blog posts (PDF), but it is really amazing to read about the central role this device is playing in their social life.
  • They are very responsive. One of the most common complains was about phone calls and text messages interrupting their studies, their sleep or their class sessions.  On the face of it, what can be easier than simply turning your phone off, but it turns out that missing phone calls or taking too long to response to text messages is not very socially acceptable.
  • They want control.  As one of the common solutions, many students offered to have an equivalent of tagging so that they could catalog people in order prioritize phone calls and text messages as they arrive (note that this is different from assigning different ring tone to individual contacts).  Another popular feature they have advocated for was an ability to link their calendars to their mobile phones, so that the phones would ring, vibrate, or turn off according to their schedules.
  • They don’t like uncertainty. Another commonly suggested feature was status notifications.  On the one hand, they want to let people know why they are not responsive or signal to people when it is appropriate to contact them.  On the other hand, they want to know why somebody is not answering their calls or text messages.
  • Mobiles are social. Anther common complain was that the phone rings in inappropriate times (class, library, etc.).  It turns out that people really care about this and it is considered very embarrassing even to the digital natives.

Again, none of those observations is subject to any rigour, but I found reading these blog posts really interesting and insightful.  Hope you will find those interesting too and I wonder if any of the mobile industry players is actually working on developing some of the features the students have advocated for.

Civic and mainstream media dscussion in Boston

It looks like I am on announcement spree.  So, here is another one.  If you happen to be in the Boston area on March 16, you may want to check out this event (via Center for Future Civic Media):

We Report, We Decide: Civic Media’s Impact on Mainstream News

In recent years, civic media projects have increased in numbers around the world. Ordinary people armed with inexpensive production equipment are using the web to share news and information with others in their communities and beyond. What can mainstream media learn from these experiments in community news-gathering?

NeighborMedia, a civic media project at Cambridge Community Television, invites you to attend this special discussion. Veterans in the fields of print, television and Internet journalism will share their views and take questions from a live studio audience, of which we hope you can be a part.

The even will take place on Monday, March 16, 7pm, Cambridge Community Television, 675 Massachusetts Ave. If you want to go, you need to RSVP by Thursday, March 12, by emailing colin@cctvcambridge.org.

More information is available here.

TIGRing

Just a day before the inauguration, the Obama team has published a video about their Technology, Innovation and Government Reform (TIGR) group.  As its name suggest, that is the group that will supposedly lead technological innovation in the Federal Government.  My understanding is that they are the people running change.gov and they were behind their Citizen’s Briefing Book initiative.

This latter idea probably deserves a separate post, but in the meantime, I just wanted to share a couple of observations from visiting change.gov after consuming it primarily via an RSS feed for quite a while now.  What you miss when you consume content via RSS are the comments.   This is where it is getting interesting.  When I checked the aforementioned post, there were only 16 comments and here is what I saw.

First, it is really difficult to maintain an open platform and at the same time maintain your agenda.  Naturally, the TIGRs are using change.gov in order to share information about government activities presented in a positive light.  However, it looks like people are not necessarily interested to talk just about the topic set by the administration.  Thus, for example, there were a number of comments dealing with some controversy surrounding Bishop Robinson.  I’ve been slightly out of the loop recently, so I am not sure what the controversy is about, but people seem to care and seem to feel free expressing their dissatisfaction and critique on the transition team’s website, even when the topic is something absolutely not related.

Second, kind of related to the previous one, if you open your communication channels, there is no way you will be able to downplay criticism.  In this particular post, people have been voicing their criticism also about the technology and innovation aspects of the transition team’s conduct.  Particularly, there were some comments about people’s dissatisfaction with the way their opinions were treated in the Citizen’s Briefing Book project.  Apparently, the visitors of change.gov voted legalization of Marijuana as their top priority, but this topic was apparently neglected from the book.  I am not sure whether this opinion represents the popular opinion of the American society or just that of those who feel comfortable using the web to participate actively.  Anyhow, the TIGRs are probably factoring in additional information and not just the users’ comments.  It looks though that the users of change.gov do view themselves as representing the entire country.

Third, again related to the previous, the issue of digital divide was brought up in this discussion by the users. A user named Mona Marlow wrote:

“While I think this is a vast improvement, one aspect has been overlooked. There is a huge portion of us who live and work in rual America. We cannot view some of this “new” tech, thus miss out on alot. Due to the lack of having access to or affording the high-end internet access required to partisipate and/or view some of this new content. It would be of great help and service to “us” if there was a basic html view as well. There is not much you can do of the video content, but perhaps have a transcript of it for rual America to read.
Thank You”

The bottom line is that after almost 3 months in the air, change.gov is evolving in terms of user participation and it will be interesting to see where the new administration will take it.

In the meantime, on the other side of the Atlantic, things are also changing.  The Russian president Medvedev has also opened his website to comments, but in the meantime only in the Russian version (RU).  I couldn’t spend much time on the site, but from what I saw the comments are more on the topic.  Of course the space is moderated (RU) and on the face of it there are more and clearer restrictions than on change.gov (here).  At the end of the day, however, I don’t think we have many chances to actually know what comments are not getting published on both websites.

So, these were my few observations for the moment.  Now back to work!

P.S. By the time I finished writing this post, there were already 33 comments on that post.  They got traffic!

P.P.S. An update. Actually, on kremlin.ru the discussion is also split. They actually provide a split of the main themes of the comments. So, in the latest post (RU) 785 comments were left on the topic (development of mass/public sport) and 396, the second largest category, were about the management of the comment space.  The admins of the website have even published stats for the period between Jan.12 and Jan. 19 (may be still available here in RU):

  • 7558 – Activated users
  • 961 – People who have not confirmed their email addresses
  • 230 – Blocked users
  • 2354 – Comments published
  • 982  – Blocked comments
  • 396 – Comments being reviewed

According to them, comments that were not published, contained personal complains or specific requests that needed an individual answer (that is not allowed according to their comment policy).  They say however that in all(?) those comments no contact information was provided, so they will not be able to take care of those complains and requests.

The real change in change.gov

Not so long ago, i draw a short comparison between change.gov and kremlin.ru.  I think my main observation was that both websites are more of propaganda machines that allow no feedback mechanisms.  It looks like I was wrong and I am happy to admit that.

As i noticed in the last digest, change.gov is now offering a mechanism for interaction and is trying to build an active community on their website.  First there was a discussion about health care and now there is a discussion about economy.  They keep those discussions limited in time, which is understandable, and it will be interesting to see how these discussions will be implemented in actual policy making.

In a number of face to face conversations I had with people following my post criticizing change.gov for lack of a feedback mechanism, was the trickiness of having an open platform when it comes to an official website.  While it is natural and expected that on an election website there would be heated, and not always politically correct debates, it is not necessarily appropriate for an official government website.  Moreover, while it can be understandable if messages viewed as inappropriate by the campaign are removed from the website, it is again much more complicated when it comes to an official government website.  What does it say about free speech, when the government website starts making decision about appropriate and inappropriate content produced by it users.  Where is the line between censorship, or even more so, appearance of censorship?

Back then, I argued that clear and up-front community rules, may be a solution for this sensitive situation.  Interestingly, this is was the strategy taken by change.gov.  They just published a guide to comments, which is also linked to the comments policy.  They implement a set of community principles and technical tools to foster a community.  For example, while you can comment each time by a different name, they encourage you to register and maintain an online identity as a means for community-building.  They also have a rating system for comments, which seems like a useful tool.  The comment policy is also very simple, yet it leaves an ample room for the website managers to remove content and block users.

All in all, the first steps look very promising and the snippets of discussion that I saw seem rather thoughtful and constructive.  It will be interesting to see how the website managers will deal with removing content and blocking users, something that will have eventually happen.

A couple of side thoughts, though…

First, I wonder if what allows such an open policy is the fact that change.gov is not really a government website.  I remember reading that the website is run by an NGO registered to support the transition team (even though I could not find a reference to that on the website now).  So, formally, even though the website carries a .gov domain, it is not a government website, thus there are less strings attached to what can be done there.  I wonder, whether after the inauguration, they will maintain a similar approach.

Second, I think that if this approach of using online tools for an open public discussion will take off, we will probably witness a renewed debate about the digital divide.  The kind of discussion hosted at change.gov is absolutely unprecedented in its scope and it is open to many more people than any other government discussion so far.  However, it clearly leaves out those who do not have the technology, or who are not technologically savvy enough to engage in an online discussion.

The MICT-related innovation of Obama administration is definitely impressive and I feel I am really lucky to being in the US to witness this.

Queen Rania and copyright

Recently I have learned that the Jordanian Queen Rania has a YouTube channel.  You are welcome to check it out,  because it is rather interesting and is well done.

Officially the channel is dedicated to “breaking down stereotypes about the Arab and Muslim worlds and to bridging the East-West divide” and I am really curious how well it works from the queen’s point of view.  On the one hand, the comments on the channel page are not really constructive (to say the least).  On the other hand, I think that the content reflects a rather innovative approach to this sensitive topic and it is yet another example of different model for a leader communicating with her followers.  To a degree, it can be another chapter in my post about Obama not being the first leader to embrace the new media (Rania launched her channel about a year and a half ago).  I don’t mean this as a criticism of Obama.  On the contrary, I simply find this whole line of developments rather exciting.

The point of this post, however, is not just providing another example to the “Obama Effect“.  There was another something curious I’ve noticed while exploring Queen Rania’s channel.  It was actually about copyright…

My attention to the channel was brought by the Youtube channel of the Israeli TV Channel 2 (so many “channel” in one sentence :).  They aired a report about Rania winnig YouTube award for this inititiative and used her spoof of Letterman’s Top 10 while accepting the award at YouTube Live.  As I said, it was really well done and caught my attention, so I went on to check out the original.  I watched the same spoof again on the royal channel, but for some reason, not all the jokes worked for me.

Let’s see if you can spot the differences:

Here is the Channel 2 report (it is in Hebrew, but the actual video from Rania’s channel is English, so I think everybody can understand:

[HTML1]

And here is the current version of the video on the official channel of Queen Rania:

[HTML2]

If I watched it correctly, the scenes from Madonna’s clip and from 24 are now removed from the video.  I think particularly, the Madonna joke does not work without the visual.  My guess is that these scenes were removed due to the copyright rules YouTube are trying to enforce on the website.  I find it really fascinating.  It looks like even roaylties are subject to copyright wars.  I think it is interesting in itself.

Mumbai terror and MICT – an observation

I was really horrified to hear about the ongoing attack in Mumbai this evening.  Currently, there is still not much information about what is actually going on.  I truly hope that the situation will become clearer soon and the loss of human lives will stop.

In an attempt to fill the information vacuum about what is going on, I found myself switching between various website.  Veronica first noticed the report on Ynet (HE), then I checked NY Times, CNN, Washington Post, back to Ynet (HE), Haaretz (HE), BBC.  All the media seem to be rehearsing the same update about the estimated casualties, ongoing battles, hostages, and the fire.  Nevertheless, and this may sound crazy, I couldn’t help myself but noticing a number of media related phenomena.

The comment section on Ynet, included not just the expected emotional reactions, but also practical attempts to establish connection with people in India.  You may know that India is a popular destination for young Israelis who spend there extensive periods of time, usually before they embark on an academic journey.  So, among the comments to various reports about the attack, you could see people asking their friends and relatives to call back home and let them know that everything OK.  This is really interesting not only because the comment section is being reinvented for purposes initially not intended, but also because those who posted those comments, assumed that their friends/relatives in India will refer to the Hebrew online newspaper for information in such a critical time.

NY Times reported that a lot of information about the casualties and what is actually going on in Mumbai, is coming from blogs, Twitter, and other social media.  They mentioned (but not linked to) Noah Shachtman of Wired, who reported on the issue in their emergency blog (not sure how long this link will remain active).  Just a hint of where the journalists look for the information they later report in the mainstream outlets.  It also looks like the same pictures from the scene are circulating all over the cyberspace.

Finally, I briefly checked Facebook, and just a few hours after the the events began, there are 5 or 6 groups dedicated to the topic and a couple of them already have a few dozens participants.  Also, just a few hours after the attack search for “Mumbai terror” on Youtube returned almost 500 results and at least the entire first page seemed relevant.

I am not jumping on any conclusion, but I felt it is important to document those developments.  It got me thinking about (1) the grassroots use of MICT and (2) about the changing relationships between the grassroots content creators and the mainstream media in emergency situation like this.  The last thought was also fueled by a recent conversation with Grisha about his followup of the reports about a plane crush in Russia a few months ago.

If you have any thoughts on the topic, please share.  In the meantime, I hope the situation will get resolved with minimal further casualties.

Election.co.il? Not yet, but getting there.

A lot has been said about the brilliant use of information technology by Obama campaign and the role it played on the election day.  I am not talking about microtargeting, which became a too common tool in both camps, but about the use of email, social networking, spreadable media, etc.  Obama’s campaign’s received a lot of kudos for its use of technology during this election (also see HE).  During the summer I also had a chance to be at a Google organized conference on the use of “new” media in politics, where the changes in the communication landscape were the focus of the discussion.  It will be virtually impossible to list all the discussion about the (potential) role of technology in the last presidential campaign in the US.  Hearing all that, i decided to take a look at how the Israeli parties and particularly candidates to the Prime Minister (PM) role do.  After all, Israel is a high-tech super power.

Prologue

Following are my not very systematic results.  This is a rather long, but quite clunked post.  I hope you will find it interesting though, because I found the “research” behind it quite intriguing.  All in all I looked at the search results for the main parties (Kadima, Likud, Avoda, Shas, Ysrael Beitenu) and the major candidates (Livni, Netanyahu, Barak), at their website, their presence in social networks, and in spreadable media.  Please let me know what you think.

To ease your reading, here are the links to different parts of this post.  Read just the one that interests you.

Continue reading

Paying to socialize?

Tech.blorge, one of the blogs on my RSS feeds, recently published an entry titled “Would you pay to use Facebook“.  They are echoing some of the ideas raised as a reaction to rumors that Facebook, which raised half a billion dollars less than two years ago, is running out of cash.  One of these ideas is subscription-based Facebook, meaning you will have to pay for accessing the website.

Right now this sounds more like a speculation, but it looks like the Russian social networking websites are actually experimenting with the subscription-based models.  I wrote in the past about the various ways Odnoklassniki.ru is monetizing on the social aspects of online social networks.  Recently, my father pointed out an item (RU) in the one of the Russian-language new websites, which states that Odnoklassniki is now requesting payment from new users asking to register.  According to this article, the registration now will cost between $1-2.  Those who choose not to pay will not be able to view other people’s profiles, contact other users, etc.  In other words the free registration is lacking any of the “social” elements, which is the main reason for people to join.

I looked a little bit around and there are more news items about that move in RuNet.  The official rationale stated by the Odnoklassniki management is that the paid registration is aimed at combatting spammers, who tend to open numerous accounts and use them for promotion of their products.  Some of the critics disagree (RU), suggesting this is just a way for Odnoklassniki to force the spammers to share their profits from the network.

In any case, it will be interesting to see whether or not the paid registration model will turn out to be sustainable.  Probably Facebook crew and others will be watching as they think about their next move. In the meantime, I do wonder if you would pay to socialize online?