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Hip or Hype?

This is where we distinguish between the truly important and the simply shiny, the technology efforts that matter and the ones that are just fluff, the bold claims vs the reality. From social media to fundraising to community engagement, there's plenty of hype. We need to become digitally literate enough to distinguish what is smoke and what is real. What follows is an eclectic selection of posts that try to put the discussion on solid ground.

The Game: How Campaigns' New Obsession With Social Media is Hurting America

BY Nick Judd | Monday, January 9 2012

The thing about attaching numbers to people's names is that it usually makes them want to make the number go up. Call it gamification if you want. The truth is that it's human nature, and as more people pay attention to social media, it is creating a sort of downward behavioral spiral. Candidates wanting more points on the social media scoreboard are urging supporters to tweet and post to Facebook on their behalf — spreading borderline spam on social networks and doing nothing to make the campaign season less of a horse race when that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Read More

BuzzKill, or Why We Don't Believe The Social Media Hype

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, January 5 2012

Illustration by David Colarusso

Micah Sifry writes: Just because you can count something and put it into a chart, doesn't mean that you've gleaned its meaning. Caveat emptier. Read More

Not Brain Candy: A Review of The Information Diet by Clay Johnson

BY David Eaves | Friday, December 16 2011

Open government activist David Eaves reviews Clay Johnson's new book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, published by O'Reilly Books, which is available now for pre-order.

Eaves writes: "At its most basic, it's a self-help book that provides some solid frameworks and tools for keeping these skills sharp in a world where the opportunities for distraction and confirmation bias remain real and the noise-to-signal ratio can be hard to navigate. To be clear, none of this advice is overly refined, but Johnson doesn't pretend it is. You can’t download critical thinking skills – no matter what Fox News’s slogan implies. In this regard, the book is more than helpful – it’s empowering. Johnson, correctly I believe, argues that much like the fast food industry – which seeks to exploit our body’s love of salty, fatty food – many media companies are simply indulging our desire for affirming news and opinion."

Read More

If You're Measuring Buzz Online, Measure the Buzzworthy, Not the 'Top Tier'

BY Nick Judd | Friday, August 19 2011

The Washington Post has started tracking the online buzz generated by the presidential candidates on Twitter: Over the past four days, Perry has gone from a whopping 51,578 mentions on Twitter (these mentions could be ... Read More

Grassroots vs Grassrootsy: How to Parse Technology's Role in Politics

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, July 18 2011

For a whole bunch of reasons, we should be on guard against claims that money given online, as well as tallies of small donations versus large donors, or other newer metrics of public participation like Twitter retweets ... Read More

"Ask U.S.": State Department 2.0 on Sudan, Darfur and Public Engagement

BY Micah L. Sifry | Monday, November 9 2009

Tomorrow afternoon at 3:00pm EST, Special Envoy Scott Gration and Samantha Power, NSC Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs, are going to sit down at the White House with the leaders of the largest, most vocal ... Read More

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