Another Wall Street Journal referral: Playing Catch-Up, the GOP Is All Atwitter About the Internet Christropher Rhoads' article provides an interesting description of how social networking is playing a stronger role in Politics. The 2008 US Presidential election is evidence of the transformational power in these tools and their users. Many credit President Obama’s fund raising success to his understanding of how to work with the Facebook Generation and modern collaboration technologies. (See Amy Schatz' article "BO, U R So Gr8 -- How a young tech entrepreneur translated Barack Obama into the idiom of Facebook.") Chris Hughes, one of Facebook's four founders, left Facebook to work on the Obama campaign. Digital outreach worked. In July of 2008, the Nielsen tracking company reported that the Obama campaign website had 2.3 million unique visitors during the month, compared to McCain's 563,000. But how people come to understand the tools and opportunities is where my interest lies. The following quote from today's WSJ article is what triggered my need to post:
"I do not Twitter," replied Mr. Duncan, who explained that he doesn't like to be distracted by Twitter while talking to people. Many like to use the tool during conferences or other events. "But we have the capability here in the building -- a lot of the guys here do it."
  • How does Twitter distract people while they are talking? Users choose whether or not to turn on automatic notification for either their computer or their phone.
  • Many like to use the tool during conferences... I do too. Lets people outside the conference know what's going on, but (as referred to in the article) conference organizers need to set ground rules about whether the content of the conference is confidential or not - are quotes allowed? How about general summaries? Individual thoughts stemming from the discussion? Explicit discussion around the interaction between the technology and the participants is needed in most settings now. (See my similar point around using laptops in face-to-face meetings.)
  • We have the capability... Anyone with a cell phone or an Internet connection has the capability. This statement implies that Mr. Duncan doesn't fully understand the technology. These are complex times. For organizations to effectively make decisions around the use of technology the basic features need to be clearly understood, and reevaluated over time. I'm working with two MSIS students here at Santa Clara University on a paper with a draft title "Faculty as Accidental Systems Designers." We all have to make complicated decisions everyday about the best way to do our jobs. In education it is a constant challenge to know the options, understand the students' perspective, and make educationally sound choices.
The rest of the world is no different, though politics may be even more complex given the breadth of the issues and span of the stakeholders -- but really, is this any more complex than Robert's Rules of Order? How can we describe this new required form of social and technical literacy? How can we make sure that these issues are part of on-going training in schools and organizations?