Thursday, September 28, 2006

Time to enlist??

As I was signing off last night, after putting up my post about the Mozilla guy, open-source marketing and the pop-up stopping Firefox browser (which I almost always use), I found a surprise under my window: an Army recruiting pop-up!

I almost never see a pop-up, unless I happen to click on the wrong button by mistake. So my first thought was, "How did that get here?" And I took a screenshot (left).

Then I wondered, "What site did I cruise tonight that might have harbored an Army pop-up?" Maybe it was when I read Sidney Blumenthal's "At War, In Denial" on You think?

I mean, I know the Army is getting desperate for recruits, but if they're now targeting 50-plus, out-of-shape female academics who sometimes need a cane to walk...well, they're more desperate than I thought. Especially since I think the war in Iraq is a lost cause, and our commander in chief has gone off the deep end.

Think I should reqest an Army Info Pack?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Make like Mozilla...with viral marketing

If you want make like Mozilla, it helps to have a compelling product that's a good value and solves an annoying problem. It also helps if you trust your users, and arm them with the tools they need to spread the word.

That's what Asa Dotzler says, and he should know. As community coordinator of the Spread Firefox project for Mozilla, he's been one of the innovators of open source marketing.

Dotzler, who spoke Sept. 21 in Palo Alto, Calif., at the Third Thursday meet-up, first got involved with Mozilla as a volunteer beta tester. His avocation turned into a career.

Compelling? Well, Firefox offered something the dominant browser, Internet Explorer, didn't -- a solution to those annoying pop-ups.

A good value? Well, free is a pretty good.

The result? A lot of people tried it, liked it, and told their friends. (Hey, that's how I heard about it. Thank you, Steve Greene!)

The next step, Dotzler said, is to help your users spread the word.

For example, when positive comments started appearing in blogs about Firefox, Dotzler asked one well-known blogger who'd said he liked the new browser to put a "get Firefox" button on his blog. The blogger agreed. So he asked more bloggers -- about 100 of them -- and within 24 hours, 85 of them had put up a button.

It was working, but it took a lot of time and effort to identify and contact all those bloggers.So they asked Firefox users to help automate the process. Several volunteered and worked together to make it happen.

"You need to put it in their hands," he said. "Let them be that engine."

It was also a Firefox user who suggested asking fellow users to raise money for an ad to celebrate shipping Firefox 1.0. They gave themselves a month to raise the needed funds, but they got twice as much as they needed in just two weeks. So they decided on a two-page ad in the New York Times, with one page listing the names of everyone who'd helped to get Firefox off the ground, and one offering user testimonials about what makes Firefox special.

Dotzler said the ad initially created just a small uptick in Firefox users...but, as the ad itself became news, those numbers kept growing.

Recently, when Mozilla put out a call to Firefox users to create some 30-second ads, it got 280 submissions...about five or six times as many as they'd expected. Of those, Dotzler said, about 60 were broadcast quality and five were truly "top-notch." He hopes Mozilla will be the first open-source company to run a user-made ad.

The best way to go into a volunteer project like this is without any preconceptions, Dotzler said. Otherwise, you tend to end up with token attempts at user the recent Chevy "make your own ad" web promotion. Those kinds of efforts can backfire, he said, like the Chevy promotion did when some folks found ways to create negative Chevy ads out of the promo clips Chevy provided.

A better example, Dotzler said, is CurrentTV, which requires advertisers to let viewers to participate in creating advertisements. The result, he said, has been ads that offer an authenticity missing in most commercials today.

It's really hard to fake authenticity, he added, so why not let your users take the lead?

P.S. For college students looking for internships, Dotzler noted, "You don't have to ask Mozilla for an can just come in and do it, and get credit for what you've done." Dotzler said he writes lots of letters of recommendation for college students who've worked on Firefox.

Couric confessions

I have a confession to make. I haven't watched Katie Couric yet in her new gig on the CBS Evening News.

I'm feminist enough to think it's a milestone, but jaded enough to think that winning the top seat in a dying medium isn't much of a prize.

Of course, I've got plenty of excuses for not watching. I isten to the news on NPR while I'm driving...I usually check the news online when I check my email...I get the NYT delivered to my email box...and I have afternoon classes this semester, so I'm not usually home when the evening news comes on (whenever that's been so long since I actually watched a national newscast that I'm not sure).

But the truth is that I just find it hard to get too worked up over Couric being on the CBS Evening News. Wish I could, but it's just not there. Maybe I'm just not a big fan of happy talk.

Now if she'd decided to leave the networks behind and move over to the web instead...well, that would be another story.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Registered to vote?

If you're eliglible to vote but haven't yet registered, you still have time...October 23 is the deadline to register for the Nov. 7 election. But please don't wait until the last minute -- register now!

To get you started, here are links to the League of Women Voters' Smart Voter web pages for Santa Clara County and San Mateo County, as well as the Secretary of State's voter registration web page. The LWV's Smart Voter pages include county-by-county information on the fall electoral contests.
If you'd like to get your hands on a voter registration form, just ask me -- I'll be bringing voter registration forms to campus over the next two weeks, as part of a voter registration effort sponsored by my church.
Pondering those propositions?

If you're becoming bewildered by the burgeoning barrage of political ads -- all of which seem to be trashing one state proposition or another -- you'll appreciate the LWV's helpful directory of the 14 state propositions that will appear on the November ballot.

The LWV's short nonpartisan proposition summaries are a good way to get past the hype and name-calling and find out what those propositions are really about...and make up your own mind on how to vote. Links to the full text of each proposition are included.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scoble answers JMC students' questions

Questions? Yes, we had plenty of questions for Blogger Robert Scoble, of Scobelizer fame, when he spoke at JMC Tuesday evening. Scoble came to the SJSU campus to speak to Journalism 163 students. Here's a sampling:

Are news outlets mainly going to be aggregators in the future, or are they still going to create content?

Some of both, Scoble said, pointing out that Newsweek broke the HP story, not a blogger. It's also hard for a blogger to cover Iraq, he added. Big city newspapers and news brands will survive.

However, that doesn't mean he thinks newsprint will survive.

News brands will stick around, but you're not likely to read it on paper, Scoble said. Newprint is expensive, and so is home delivery, so he thinks the paper side of the news business is going away.

"I do not read paper," Scoble said. "I don't subscribe to it, I don't read it. Because I can get tomorrow's news today (online)."

"I doubt that any one in this class is going to get hired to work on a newspaper," he added, though they may get hired by a newspaper's online side to work for the newspaper brand.

Is MS Office dead? (A loaded question for the former Microsoft evangelist!)

"I don't use Word anymore," Scoble said. "For me, Word is dead. I moved my usage pattern from Word onto Wordpress."

Does he worry about privacy, now that he's become so well known?

"Privacy? I take the Madonna approach," Scoble said. "I'm going to exploit my privacy before anyone else does...everything's out there."

However, he said privacy is going to be a problem, particularly with the MySpace crowd as they come of age to enter the job market.

"Something in society is tilting," Scoble said, adding that in his last four interviews, his interviewers had printed out some of his blog posts and had questions about why he'd said what he said. One of them had about 20 pages of his blog printed out and highlighted.

What that means, Scoble said, is that bloggers and the MySpace generation have got to start thinking in terms of "what's this going to look like in 20 years." On the other hand, he noted, for a lot of media employers, if they can't find you in Google, they're not interested in hiring you.

"Instructors here used to work with students to get lots of clips," Scoble said. "Now, it's blogs."

Is a blog as important as a clip?

Sixty thousand times more important, he said, noting one link from Digg can bring 60 to 80 thousand people to your blog. For example, that's what happened when word got out that he was leaving Microsoft. In addition, if a blog gets linked to, it shows up [on Google and in Technorati]. And, he added, if it's a good blog, others will link to it.

What makes a good blog?

A good blog is passionate and authoritative, said Scoble. It uses links to background information and source information to help establish its credibility and authority.

How is online writing different?

It's a little bit different kind of journalism, Scoble said, not always inverted pyramid style. When you're wriitng for print, you don't have links and you usually don't have photos. Online, there's no length limit. You can put a podcast up with your story, and include photos...and that will get you more links than just repurposing print copy online. It makes it interactive. If you're online, it's almost a necessity to get more, a video clip, make it more of a package.

Still hungering for more? Check out JMC student Andrew Venegas' blog post on Scoble's visit (a different take, a better headline), as well as links to his podcast and video of Scoble's presentation to the class. Or download Steve Sloan's podcast of our pre-class conversation with Scoble over burgers and beer.

Pretexting: A lie is a lie

A man after my own heart...that's Scott Herhold, a Mercury News columnist who calls a spade a spade in today's column.

Writing about the Hewlett Packard scandal, he points out that "pretexting" is a gentle euphemism for a less than gentile activity: LYING. That's what the HP scandal is really about. Lying and deceit.

Lying to get access to someone else's private records. Spying on your own colleagues. Caring more about corporate secrecy than honor. And lying to the public about not realizing that your lies and deceits are wrong. (At least I assume that last one is a lie...but maybe HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn simply has no moral, wait a minute, that's another euphemism, isn't it? Maybe she's just a liar.)

In the future, Herhold suggests simply substituting the word "lying" whenever you see the word "pretexting" in a news article or commentary. Go ahead and give it a try. Works like a charm.

Monday, September 11, 2006

1, 2, 3...OK, GO

Reporting "live" from Ithaca, NY, Prof. Steve Greene sent me this link to a "music exercise" video, which I pass on for your edification and enjoyment: OK GO on treadmills.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New media experiments

NPR's On The Media looks at several aspects of new media this week, including:
  • an experiment with citizen journalism called from NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen
  • a blogger who's experimenting with video blogging by doing a two-minute daily webcast called The Show
A link from The Show took me to eyespot, a new online video editing/mixing site (it's in beta) that's free and looks pretty interesting. It's got a variety of video clips (including vintage TV commercials) and music available for mixing with your own stuff. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Time for fundamental change?

When I roam the blogosphere, I often find a couple new posts or blogs that are worth remembering and passing on. Here's the latest:
If you want to start thinking differently about how newspapers can leverage the power of the web, try reading Adrian Holovaty's "A Fundamental Way Newspaper Sites Need to Change."

Holovaty, an internet developer with a journalism background who is editor of editorial innovations at, suggests journalists should stop being so "story-centric" and start focusing on structuring information so that it can be repurposed. Yes, we're talking databases.