Win a Fifth: How Has Social Empowered You?

Julie Pippert & The Fifth Estate

Interested in winning a copy of Welcome to the Fifth Estate? Then here’s your chance: The five people who best tell how social media has empowered them to make a difference for their business, their community or their family will win a copy of the book.

One of the cores aspects of Welcome to the Fifth Estate is an empowered citizen media that can challenge and circumnavigate traditional media (the Fourth Estate) structures. Businesses and individuals alike can join and develop communities to achieve great things: From social change to blood-loyal user communities. For more discussion on the topic, read Gini Dietrich‘s review of the book.

This is a great chance to get a copy of Welcome to the Fifth Estate. Demand has been outpacing supply to date. To win, simply leave your story in a comment below, and the best stories will be chosen tomorrow morning by the Zoetica team, and based on perceived impact. This is a subjective measure, so leave a great comment!

Copycats: The Oral Tradition of Blogging

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Image by waterloo

Ever notice how bloggers seem to repeat each other? Sometimes the echo chamber sparks veiled rumors of plagiarism, or at other times great discourse ensues, riffing off the same theme, each with their own take. This copycat syndrome seems to repeat itself through the years, a mostly unintentional repetition of the same story and memes. It’s almost as if bloggers have reverted their conversations to the epic oral storytelling era of legends like Beowulf and the Odyssey.

Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy is one of the most fascinating books about the evolution of storytelling, from the epic tradition of repetitive storytelling by bards and nomads to the impact of the written word. Before the written word, repetitive storytelling was necessary to ensure information was captured and maintained by societies. With the written word, memories could be kept in books and in libraries.

In recent times, digital media has created a massive influx of information — for example, the amount of business data is doubling every 1.2 years — much of it user generated. This has occurred in context with a decline in traditional journalism. There’s so much information that it is being processed in shorter sound bites, and increasingly on smaller screens. News and intelligence is often referred these days. People are having a harder time processing the amount of data in their lives as well as discerning quality, relying more and more on their social networks for information they can trust.

In the social ecosphere, we are regressing towards an oral-based retelling of the same story, perhaps simply so we can retain it. Notice that the repetitiveness happens with new wrinkles or different colors over the years. It’s back to the tribe and its bards and nomads for data. The only difference is it happens digitally.

Need evidence of the impact on original stories? Consider Rich Becker’s Fresh Content Project, and examination of the communications content marketplace. Rich found that the most popular content was not quality-based original pieces, rather it was recycled stories retold by the most popular voices. Bloggers producing the most original content were by far not the most popular ones.

Maybe the reasons are simple. In an oral culture, there are only so many stories a culture can retain. Or as Gini Dietrich states, maybe it’s because everyone is taking the easy way out, and as Danny brown intimated bloggers are crafting their work to be injected into the social network referral machine. Maybe the echo chamber really did run out of content, and there is nothing more to say about social media. Whatever reasons we debate, the cause seems ingrained in who we are as a species, and how we process overloads of data, whether oral or digitally recorded.

While it is likely that much of the repetition and echo is not Machiavellian in intent, there are those that game the system. Like all villains, they leave their tell-tale signs of plagiarism — no links, an unwillingness to shine credit on others in their content, and a consistent positioning of self as the oracle of all knowledge. There’s not much to say about that other than to comment on their blog and ask the necessary questions. But more often than not, it’s unintentional, the echo reverberating through the chamber.

What can be scary about this repetition is that the “good referred stories” may not be grounded in reality. And that’s when whole sectors are led by their digital bards off the proverbial cliff. Unlike the oral era, data is still being recorded. Perhaps we will find a new way of retention, verification and access that will empower more forward thinking stories. One can only hope.

What do you think of the echo chamber, and the repetition of the same old same old on the blogosphere?

8 Substantive Blogs to Read

behind the eight ball
Image by Ed Schipul

Getting tired of the same old, same old? Here are eight blogs that seem to deliver great marketing, media and communication content day-in, day-out without getting stuck in the echo chamber’s pedantic chatter. While just a few of the many strong blogs out there, they deliver regular delightful reads.

Danny Brown’s Social Media Marketing Blog – A strong read almost every post, Danny always makes you think. He keeps it real, and focuses on real strategy, nor is he one for chasing butterflies… Unless chasing butterflies is your dream. Perhaps that’s why this blog works so well, it’s relentlessly focused but always with personal passion and a can-do dreamer’s attitude.

Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog – An everyday staple, and one of the industry’s long-standing bright minds. Katya’s general focus is nonprofit, but make no bones about it, she is a marketing blogger. Read Katya for insights into branding, simplicity, and tactical execution.

MobileActive – If you are into mobile, this blog shows some of the world’s most incredible case studies of how internet capable phones are being used to change the world. These case studies should inspire ideas and concepts of possible uses.

Copywrite, Ink. – Rich Becker’s always thoughtful blog uses metaphors and case studies to illustrate his points. Another blogger who has low tolerance for a social media pop ethos, Rich takes an educator’s approach to illustrating his points and does so very effectively.

Spin Sucks – Gini Dietrich’s content machine turns out quite a few goodies during the week. Gini isn’t one to tolerate a lot of bubble-esque BS. She also covers the basics pretty well, and features some strong guest bloggers. Spin Sucks is a worthy add to anyone’s reader.

Photofocus – If you enjoy creating visual media with cameras, this blog is for you. A staple of daily posts advises on the latest trends, tips and techniques in the digital era of photography.

Copyblogger -Sometimes formulaic, but always well written, and chock full of good tips on — you guessed it — writing. This top ranked marketing blog stays above the echo chamber fray with its prescient content, new media savoir faire, and focus on business writing.

Problogger – Content marketing was made professional by problogger. OK, maybe not, but this long-running content marketing site offers regular, pragamatic advice on how to make a blog work for your organization. In tandem with Copyblogger, the blogs provide a great one-two punch.

What blogs would you add to the mix?

The Facebook Empire Ends Here

The Colosseum or Roman Coliseum
Image by Northfielder

Perhaps you have seen the latest Facebook news. Three new evolutions were revealed: Commitments to continue selling personal data; a revised Like effort that turns Likes into full content shares; and a revamped comment system for blogs and web sites using Connect that in essence publishes those comments on a unique Facebook page. In summary, the Facebook Empire extended its tentacles further outside of its walls to drive external content in, own that content per its user guidelines, and continue exploiting users’ data.

The Facebook Empire is not welcome here.

As an Internet user and reader of this blog, it’s time to make some commitments to you. These new commenting tools will not be implemented on this blog. Your comments will not appear in Facebook unless you want to post them there. Your privacy and information remains safe, per the site’s privacy guidelines. When you share a post here on Facebook, it is intentional, not because you gave a post a thumbs up.

Privacy remains a primary concern given Facebook’s abusive attitude towards user data. As Gini Dietrich blogged last week, there is a real expectation gap between people providing information with Facebook’s tools, and the social network’s use of that data.

Facebook has an opt-out attitude, meaning they place you in a service, use your data, and assume that if you hate it, you’ll opt out. There is no request for permission. Given that laissez-faire attitude, who knows how comments from this blog and others will be used in aggregate?

Facebook’s shady privacy policies are prompting Federal Trade Commission reports, and suggested legislation. But the government won’t be able to stop Facebook for some time. It’s on us. Many people have pointed out that the ease of use and an existing 600 million user base will be too tempting to overcome. Such is the lure of the Facebook attention monopoly.

The attitude that this and many other blogs should be an extension of Facebook was just disturbing. Facebook wants all of the conversation and activity on the Internet to occur on its social network. If this is what readers want, they should feel welcome to share the link and have the conversation. Yet, owning all commentary on this site takes empire building one step too far.

For this very same reason, creative content generators should not publish on Facebook directly. Thanks to its user guidelines, the social network is automatically granted a license for the content. Content producers should use secondary services such as a blog, a video site or a photo site, and link back in if protecting copyright is an issue. Beyond the legal reasons, strategically, never let Facebook replace your web site.

This is one very small site in the grand scheme of the social web. The Facebook Empire ends here, though. The monopolistic actions have gotten too scary. Past and current behavior only indicates that blog comment data will be used in the worst ways, for commercial purposes and to further lock in as many users as possible onto Facebook. This site is free from such machinations.

What do you think of Facebook’s ever extending reach?