7th Annual William G. McGowan Forum on Communications

7th Annual William G. McGowan Forum on Communications


Thora Colot:
It’s like magic, isn’t it? [laughs] Hello, everybody. Welcome to the William G. McGowan
Theater here tonight. I’m Thora Colot. I’m the executive director of the Foundation for
the National Archives, which is in partnership with the National Archives in terms of their
educational outreach, and I must say we’re proud partners. It’s my honor to welcome you
all this evening to the Seventh Annual William G. McGowan Forum on Communications, called
“What’s Next in the Social Media Revolution?” Now, for those of you who are following along
in the program, we do have a couple of small changes. First of all, I get to welcome you
first. And then unfortunately Sue Gin McGowan was not able to join us tonight, but she,
along with the Board of Directors of the McGowan Fund, send their greetings to all of you.
And it will be my pleasure to introduce the wonderful work that our foundation, the McGowan
Fund and the Archives has been able to accomplish together.
So it was many, many years ago, a long time ago — about eight years or so — we described
our plans to work with the National Archives to the William G. McGowan Charitable Fund.
We were working to create a new public face for the National Archives that we were going
to call the National Archives Experience. This would include a new museum space in this
building, along with permanent and traveling exhibitions, and educational programming and
online initiatives. These activities would then be supported by marketing campaigns,
special events, publications and records-related products. All of this with the goal to reintroduce
the vast depth and diversity of the records of the National Archives to the American people
and help explain the importance of the agency to an engaged citizenship. And I hope that
most of you have been able to get up and see some of the great things that we’ve been able
to accomplish, both here and online. So the family of the late Bill McGowan and
especially his wife, Sue Gin McGowan, got very excited about participating in this project
and especially about our ongoing public programs. The supported this beautiful state-of-the-art
theater, and thanks to their generosity, we were able to open the theater in 2004. But
the McGowan Fund had no intentions of stopping there. They have continued to support the
theater’s significant and enlightening programming, including panel discussions on historic topics,
as well as issues of the day, author lectures and film screenings, all of which are presented
free to the public. The McGowan Fund also has worked with our foundation and the National
Archives to create this annual McGowan forum on communications, which is really a fitting
tribute to Bill McGowan’s legacy. We are so proud of this partnership and we want to thank
the fund for its ongoing support. I also want to thank the talented and dedicated
public programming staff at the National Archives under the leadership of the archivist of the
United States, who work hard to provide an incredible calendar of programming in this
beautiful theater. And every year they devote themselves to developing this annual forum,
delving into timely topics in communications and technology. We at the foundation are so
proud to work with the archivist and all of our partners of the National Archives, and
we want to thank you for your support and friendship.
So now another change in the program, I get to introduce the archivist of the United States.
David Ferriero comes to the archives with plenty of experience. In encouraging social
media and other web-based initiatives at large cultural and educational institutions. From
his early days at The Duke University and the MIT libraries, through his most recent
role as director of New York Public Library, David has been a leader in the digital revolution.
At the New York Public Library, David was part of the leadership team responsible for
integrating the four research libraries and 87 branch libraries into one seamless entity
for users. In addition, he was in charge of the library’s digital experience and strategy
tools that he has brought here to the National Archives, leading our digital charge. David
is our first archivist to blog and to tweet. So enjoy his comments. Look for his blog on
www.archives.gov. But in the meantime, we have him here, live in person. Ladies and
gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the tenth archivist of the United States, David
Ferriero. [applause] David Ferriero:
Thank you, Thora, and I want to add my welcomes to all of you. Welcome to my house this evening.
My thanks also to the McGowan Fund for making this possible, and especially, my thanks to
the Foundation for the National Archives for all the work that they do. And if you’re interested
in becoming a member of the Foundation for the National Archives, there are applications
for membership out in the lobby. The foundation supports all of our outreach and exhibition
activities, and provide us much needed support. And if you have not been to our shop recently,
physically or virtually, please do so. We have a wonderful new line of product associated
with our exhibit on What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?
So, I am personally very excited about tonight’s program. As you know, we are the nation’s
record keeper, and we have our eye on the past and on the present, but increasingly
on the future. And as such, we’re responsible for providing guidance on the records implications
of new and emerging technologies to the 275 federal agencies and to the White House.
For the past two years, we have been working furiously to bring ourselves up to speed on
Web 2.0 platforms, become facile on what is currently available, and have developed a
sense of curiosity but, more importantly, a sense of excitement about technologies as
vehicles for connecting our clients, especially the American public, with the records of this
country. And I hope you had a chance to take a peek at some of the exhibits that were outside
— some of the demonstrations, and that gives you a little flavor of some of the things
that we have been able to pull off already. So, our great panel deserves a very special
moderator, and we’re very fortunate to have landed Alexander B. Howard, our government
2.0 correspondent for O’Reilly Media. In addition to O’Reilly’s Radar, you will find Alex on
Huffington Post, Gov Press, Mashable, Read Write Web and Forbes, to name just a few.
Alex is a graduate of Colby College and after of a variety of interesting employment adventures,
made the big move to D.C. in 2009, and in his words, “with his greyhound, fiance, power
tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pots.” But what you really need to know
about Alex is that he has 876 Facebook subscribers, 596 people in his Google Plus circle and 12,839
have him in their circles. But most importantly, he has 102,893 followers on Twitter. Ladies
and gentlemen, please welcome Alex Howard and the panel.
[applause] Alex Howard:
I’m very glad to see all of you here, and it’s really exciting to connect a lot of faces
that I know online, offline. I am privileged to be sharing the stage with the three people
to my right. If you have these programs, you can see their wonderful eminent backgrounds,
but I will point them out, stage left to stage right. We have Pamela Wright, who is the chief
digital access strategist for the National Archives and Records Administration. We have
David Weinberger, who writes about the effect of the internet on ideas. I like to refer
to him as my favorite internet philosopher. And we have Sarah Bernard, who is pinch-hitting
for Macon Phillips. She is the deputy director for the White House Office of Digital Strategy.
Thank you so much for stepping in for him. So, with that, I’m actually going to keep
it short, as is the way these days with social media and move directly to Pamela, who’s going
to talk about some of the work that the National Archives is doing with social media and with
open government. Pamela Wright:
Thank you, Alex. Good evening. Let me make sure I have this right. Okay. So I’m very
pleased to be here tonight to talk with you. The presentation I’m about to give you — I
don’t know if any of you listen to NPR, but they have this “This I Believe” segment, and
when you listen to that, you always think, “Gosh, what would I write?” or what would
I say if it was This I Believe. This presentation is probably as close as I’m going to get to
This I Believe. So, here we go. I’m very pleased to tell you tonight that
one day, all of the records of the National Archives will be available online. With 10
billion pages in our holdings, that is the big, hairy, audacious goal that we’ve set
out, and that introduces our citizen archivist dashboard. This is an example of what’s next
for the National Archives. The dashboard is currently under development. We hope to launch
it in early December, but tonight I have the honor and the privilege to preview it for
you. The principles of open government — transparency, participation and collaboration are imbedded
in the mission of the National Archives and the work that we do every day. We took a good
look at our work and how it relates to open government, and we developed our first open
government plan in 2010. With the introduction of the term, “citizen archivist” by the archivist
of the United States in April of 2010, we began exploring ways to leverage the expertise
and enthusiasm of online volunteers. You know, the National Archives actually has had an
evolving view of social media since we started to dip our toes in the water in 2009. Originally,
we started with pilot projects and gave a lot of staff reassurance that we could pull
the plug at any moment if anything went wrong. Many staffers, skittish about the dangers
that lurked in the wilds of social media. So from the safe and secure island of www.archives.gov
we sailed forth into social media using our pilot projects as little speed boats to go
out there. First, we started with Flickr, and then we
went onto Facebook, and then we went on to Twitter. And there was this huge surprise
that nothing terrible happened. We actually connected with people. So we kept going, and as well learned from
these initial projects, we developed policies and processes to develop programs and continue
our efforts. We count likes, comments, reblogs — all of these being signs of engagement
with the public. But now we’re looking even deeper — for even deeper levels of engagement.
So, let me give a quick example before I demo more of this. We have a Wikipedian residence
on staff, Dominic McGovern Parkson [spelled phonetically]. I think he’s in here somewhere.
I know I saw him earlier tonight. He stared with us in May and he’s been working on our
staff to upload digital copies of our records from our online catalog into the Wikimedia
Commons and also then to Wiki Source and ultimately to Wikipedia. Since May, one student — he
hasn’t even been full time, has put in 90,000 records into Wikipedia. So he has also brought
local Wikipedians into our buildings, taking behind-the-scenes tours. These people come
in on Saturday and look at records that we have. We’re talking a dedicated group of people
that are interested in the history of the United States and work with us on scanning
projects to digitize our records. It’s an incredible marriage of collaboration with
the public, and it’s that level of engagement that we’re looking for. We also want to build that level of engagement
with our online tools. And last summer, thanks to the leadership of the National Archives,
we had a tagging feature added to our online public catalog. We have over 1,000 tags in
that are ready, and people can tag up anything they want. We’re trying to have a low barrier
to use. So we have a very light registration, and then you can go in and tag. Those tags
can be included in the search to provide better responses to search inquiries. So we constantly
are trying to improve our products. At NARA we now understand that crowd sourcing activities
using social media tools aren’t fluff, it isn’t gravy, it isn’t the extra stuff that
we do, but rather, it plays a vital role in how citizens participate in and with the government. This is getting at participatory democracy
in new and exciting ways. When we make a call to action, we are demonstrating a government
that is truly of, by and for the people. As a portal for citizen archivist activities
of the National Archives, the citizen archivist dashboard will promote specific crowd sourcing
initiatives designed mainly for the general public. We just want people that are interested.
We don’t want to make it complicated. But also, some specific groups of researchers
and what they might want to do. The citizen archivist dashboard is meant to pull together
and centralize information about all our different crowd sourcing activities that are available
on a variety of sites. And as a portal, the dashboard will help in promotion efforts,
elevate visibility of citizen archivist activities and encourage dialogue around the development
of future activities. In fact, this is kind of our stick in the ground, and it’s just
the beginning of what we’d like to develop. So I just want to take you through the different
pages of the dashboard. We begin with tagging — and I like I said
— the dashboard pulls this together so you can tag on projects that we have currently
in Flickr. We have about 10,000 images in Flickr that you can work with. We already
have tens of thousands of tags in there, but we also want to direct people to that. And
then our online catalog. We’ll have additional tagging missions through this portal page
that we’re developing right now. The transcription page. So tagging is a fairly
low-level activity, easy to do if you’re a little interested in doing a little bit more.
You can help us transcribe some of our records. So as I said, our Wikipedian resident has
already uploaded some to Wiki Source, which is the product of the Wikimedia Foundation,
and which you can do transcription, and they have a very sophisticated set of tools to
be able to do transcription there. But we’ve also decided to try a pilot — a transcription
pilot at the National Archives. This pilot encourages citizens to contribute transcriptions
of the documents that are coming out of our catalog. So one of the neat things about social
media that I see our agency doing is leveraging the work over the last decade that we’ve pulled
together to put description and digital copies online and then repurpose those, reuse those
and put those out where people live. So we selected about 300 documents, with about
1,000 images. And let me show you. This is what the tool looks like. The documents are
organized into three categories based on our impression of how much effort it would take
to actually transcribe the documents. So we got the beginner — is green. And those tend
to be shorter in length, easy to read, some are even a little bit — have some type in
them, and there’s very few complications. So if you just want to try a little bit, you
can try a beginner. The intermediate is longer, of course, and then the advanced are really
long, complicated. I’m telling you, there’s handwriting that’s very difficult to read
in some of these. So you can browse by keyword, by level of difficulty, transcription status
or date. And I’m just going to pick the intermediate one to show you a little bit closer. This
is a close up of a letter. And you can see at the top, we have a zoom section for the
transcription — that’s vital for handwriting. If any of you have looked at handwriting online,
if you can’t zoom and look in, it’s very difficult. And then below, we have the simplest possible
interface. It’s simply a narrative field and we’re asking people very simply, what do you
see and please transcribe the letter above. So it’s a very simple interface. We’re starting
with that. We’re going to do lessons learned as we go. And let me just tell you about this particular
document. It’s one of three pages. You can see up here. This is from record group 94,
records of the agitant general’s office. It was written in 1863. It’s a complied military
service record of Samuel Cabble [spelled phonetically] of the 55th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry
Regiment. So the first page of the letter is to his mom, and he’s telling his mom that
he joined the regiment and that he is now in the military. So he’s breaking it to his
mom that he’s in the military. And then he asks his mom if she could pass along a letter
to his wife, in which he tells his wife that he’s now in the army. [laughter] And he asks how the son is and how things
are going, but, you know, these are some of the gems that we have, you know. Millions
of people see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution every year. These are
the gems that are lying in wait at the National Archives for someone to transcribe, to put
that information back into a search product so that when people search for these, they’re
findable. This is just the last page of that three-page document. So that’s the exciting
part, to me, of our transcription project. We have 300 documents, 1,000 pages. I don’t
know how long they’ll last, if people will come in and do the immediately. I have a feeling
they’re going to go quick, and so we’re already looking at the next set, and what we’re going
to do from there. So, other pages on the dashboard include contributing
articles. This is articles that you contribute to our archives’ wiki, which is one of the
National Archives’ wiki, but you can also contribute to Wikipedia. And then another
page that is really near and dear to my heart. So every night I go home and right before
I go to bed, I look at Facebook and I have several friends that are researchers here
and across the country, actually, at the National Archives. And I also have staff that are friends
on Facebook. At least once a week, there’s somebody who says, “Look what I found at the
National Archives. A gorgeous picture of it. Well documented — what record group it came
from. The contextual information is there. I want to capture that. I’m glad they’re putting
it on Facebook. I love that they’re sharing it. That’s exactly what we should do. But
I also want to capture that and have it as part of our catalog, you know, that there’s
user contributions to our catalog and they’re identifying and finding some of these great
records. So that’s what that’s all about. We already allow that, you know, and have
that up on our Flickr, and I want to see us go further with that. I’d love to have an
app that they could easily upload. I’m trying to lower the barrier to participating with
us. And then the last one is enter a contest.
Last year — this is our participation with www.challenge.gov and it’s an outgrowth, again,
of the open government initiative. And previous contests that we’ve had include History Happens
Here, which was thought of by one of our students. She was a student at the time — Mary is in
the room somewhere. Some of the best ideas come from student staff. She came up with
this idea of — it’s kind of, it’s augmented reality in a way — so what we did is we invited
people to look through our catalog and find a picture that they were interested in and
then go to the place where the picture was taken and take a picture of the current with
the historical picture within it. We had hundreds of people respond and the top ones that were
chosen were put into a postcard book that we sell now at the shop. So it was a great
response. I guess there’s a whole group on Flickr that really loves this kind of thing.
And it was a great way to get people to engage with our records and have fun in our catalog. This year we have a document Your Environment
contest. This is for students ages 13 through college, if you know anyone. It is in collaboration
with the EPA, and what we’re doing is asking people to look at the Documerica pictures
that we digitized, again, 10 years ago. They’re in our catalog. We put them up in Flickr.
Now you can look at them. There’s probably about 15,000 of them, and be inspired by the
pictures. They were taken in the 1970s. The EPA hired freelance photographers to capture
environmental issues and challenges in the U.S. And so now we’ve got this challenge to
take — seek inspiration from those photos and create the next generation of Documerica
records. They’ve expanded it a bit so that you can do poetry or video as well, and there’s
cash prizes. So tell the young ones in your life. So what are our next steps? I’d love to gamefy
this citizens archivist dashboard. I’d like people to see, “Oh, I’ve done so many transcriptions”
and where they are and compare to their friends on transcriptions. We’d love to have them
earn badges. We love scalability and technical innovations for more sophisticated and complex
projects, but this is the stick in the ground to start it. And why are we doing all of this?
It’s for that transparency, participation and collaboration, you know, called for in
the open government directive. So I’m on Twitter. Follow me. I’m Pamela SW. I’ll follow you
back. [laughter] David Ferriero is D Ferreiro on Twitter. I
put it up there, and then if you have comments that you’d like to send in, I’d love to hear.
We’re at [email protected] Thank you. [applause] Male Speaker:
Interesting mix of folks. I have to say this is exciting. You’re all looking up as opposed
to looking down. If you’ve been to a number of conferences recently, you know what I mean,
right? We all look at each other looking down. But we’re all looking down because we’re looking
for ways to hear what’s happening in the back channel. And if you haven’t figured it out
yet, as is almost, I think, necessary to have at an event like this. There is a hash tag.
It’s McGowan2011. So if you’re tweeted in the back channel you can aggregate your tweets
around that, and if you have questions for later on, we’re going to open it up later
in the program. Please ask them there and I will ask them. If you want to ask them in
person we have microphones later. So I’m actually really glad that the archivist
of the United States talked about the importance of the past for informing the present and
future, because that’s what I was thinking about when I kind of put together a presentation
to frame our conversation here, since it seemed like that would be a good idea. So, I’m going
to try to bring you through the past, present, future of social media in 10 minutes. I’m
going to go as quickly as I can because I want to get to talking with them, because
they’re, well, quite brilliant and interesting folks. So, here we go. So what is social media? Well,
you can probably find as many definitions out there as there are people. It’s certainly
these days, when people think about it, defined almost by the platforms themselves that these
things exist on, so, you think people say all social media is Facebook or it’s Twitter
or it’s blogs or it’s wikis or it’s all these different things. Well, let’s go back a bit. [laughter] I’m going to go back this far because I don’t
want to have to put cuneiform tablets on screen. So we’re going to start with postal service.
Here’s the Roman postal service. We can go all the way back there. People sending things
back and forth across those great roads. Skip forward, well, a couple millennia. Telegraph.
This is [unintelligible]. You can send messages over vast spaces. Pneumatic mail. Kind of
cool. They used to be vast tubes. You’ve probably heard the internet is made of tubes. Well,
there used to be actual tubes where the bits were piped. So, good times. Telephone. Here’s
the first one. Looks a little different than the one you carry around, but certainly as
a way of connecting people over vast distances. Radio. Here’s Mister — I always mess up — Mr.
Tesla’s tower as opposed to Mr. Marconi’s tower, but Tesla should get a lot of credit
for radio. And then of course, moving on, we get to email. We skipped ahead a little
bit here. But the first emails were sent much longer ago than people realize — on that
computer. And then there’s this ARPENET thing, right? The progenitor of the internet we are
on today, 40 plus years ago now. People were sending messages back and forth using something
called telnet. Certainly reciprocal messaging. We could call that kind of social media, right?
Commercial online services. Actually, this stuff’s pretty old. People have been sending
messages online a long time before, well, I was born. And of course, people had some
fun with trying to explain that to, “what would you do online?” This started to get democratized a little
bit more in the late ’70s. A bulletin board service was the first thing I dialed into.
It made that awful dial-up sound. You can go on and find things there. Usenet was one
of the first places you started to see communities grow up around topics. Chat rooms came out
not long after, and then we had fun things that started to come out of other parts of
the world. Internet relay chat, which then spawned all kinds of IM not long after. And
then this fellow, which is Tim Berners-Lee. He created the World Wide Web on a NeXTbox.
One of the things that the world was reminded of recently when Steve Jobs passed is that
his company made the computer the web was born on, which is a pretty neat piece of trivia. First blog — most people say it’s this fellow
Justin in 1994 at Swarthmore College. Lots of people followed there after. For a long
time we had to cobble that sort of thing together with HTML on a server, but more followed.
Wikis also came along that year, inspired by Apple’s hypercard, but there’s certainly
lots of other people thinking about how to link lots of documents together. Tim Berners-Lee
took that concept forward. And then AOL. Boy, we got a lot of mail. And a lot of CDs on
our floor, our doorsteps. [laughter] Social networks. Well, the first ones. Six
Degrees back in 1997, long before there was a Facebook. File sharing — that kind of got
to be a big deal with Napster and Shawn Fanning and those folks. Then you get to when blogging
got really big because people made it easier to do. Ev Williams gets to say he changed
the world twice. Once a blogger, now Twitter. Of course, he’s going off to do other things
now, and he’s my age, so who knows what he’s going to do next. But these platforms made
it easy for people to write online. You know longer had to know HTML and be able to stick
files onto a file server, know what FTP was and all this other geeky stuff. You could
just go to these pages, sign up and publish things. That started to change things. Then
Wikipedia. We heard more about Wikipedia. This has obviously since grown a whole lot
since then. It’s one of the top 10 websites in the whole wide world. RSS — really simple
syndication. That is one of the ways that people can subscribe to stuff online. It’s
one of the basic pipes. Friendster. I don’t know if you all remember Friendster. I do.
I was on there. Technically, I had a profile but it’s pretty cleaned out now. It’s still
popular overseas, mostly a gaming thing now. MySpace. Oh, boy, was that a big deal. Still
kind of is, right? Millions of people are there, but other networks have come along.
Second life. I don’t know if you remember Second Life. I don’t know if you remember
the big virtual world that was built almost a decade ago — people were excited about.
And then 2004. Boy, 2004 was the year the web kind of flipped over a bit. People started
thinking about it differently. I work at O-Reilly Media. That happens to be the place where
the term Web 2.0 was coined, right? So, this was the idea something different was happening.
We’re no longer in a static web as one we could read and write to. It was one that was
more interactive. It was one that had this new Ajax thing, this asynchronous JavaScript.
So you would go to a web page and stuff would change on the web page while you were still
there. You could interact with it. That changed a lot. And of course, these new start-ups
came along. The Facebook started up over at Harvard. Digg came along. Flickr, which our
archivist talked about, and LinkedIn, which, of course, has since gone public. 2005, YouTube came along. Can you believe
it’s only six years ago YouTube was founded. Now think about how big YouTube is. Here’s
the president and Steve Grove looking at YouTube, actually within the last year when they — was
quite involved in the political process. And Twitter. Twitter came around in 2006. It became
much bigger in 2007. It’s grown and grown since then. And interesting things happen
there, like when the White House has [unintelligible] the Kremlin. Livestreaming also came along
in 2006. Now we can all be our own TV stations if we have the right device and we can [unintelligible]
connectivity and we have enough battery and all these things go right — but if all that
goes right, now I can stick my phone up and now I can be TV station and anyone else can
tune in. If you’ve been seeing what’s happening in the Occupy Wall Street protests with people
livestreaming from those events, you can see how that changes things. They don’t need CNN
anymore. Okay, first YouTube presidential debate — kind
of the fun moment. Tumblr came along, the National Archives is on Tumblr. Tumblr has
exploded since then and is now one of the top social networks in the world. All kinds
of interesting stuff happening there. www.mybarackobama.com — have to talk about that because it became
kind of a big factor in the last election. And of course that other election that happened
in 2009. I think this when a lot of people realized these things weren’t just places
that you went to talk about your lunch. Not that they ever were, but that’s what the media
timeline was, right? This is just where banal stuff was happening, and then all — whoa,
whoa, wait a second. This was the point where I think a lot of people woke up and realized
that YouTube and Twitter and all these different networks were letting people see things they
couldn’t see any other way and letting people’s voices be lifted up in ways they had not been
before, and let us connect to what was happening. Connect with each other on what was happening.
And that’s an unanticipated effect. It wasn’t just people tracking what they were doing,
what they were seeing, as looking at that together. Foursquare, speaking of tracking what your
friends are up to, you can now connect the location of your phone to the location of
where you are in the world and map it out online. Poststrist [spelled phonetically],
kind of an interesting mash-up of email and blogging with pictures. People don’t talk
about this very much, I think. In this town it comes up. Around the country not as much,
but the fact is, is when that the United States military said social media was okay for its
service members to use it, it was a big deal. Of course, now we’re seeing them use it in
all kinds of other ways, including listening to people around the world. Big news this year, Google decided to get
into the social media game. As David mentioned, I am on there. I don’t think it’s going away.
The thing to realize about Google becoming involved in this space is not just about a
social network. It is about a social layer for the web. Let me say that again. It’s about
a social layer for the web. It’s not just about going to one place. It’s about having
social services be tied into everything that Google does. They saw Facebook becoming the
place people go online and spend and average of half an hour everyday, an hour everyday
for some people, dipping in and out of it during the day. It’s grown around the rest
of the world. It is the stickiest place online. And that activity is all happening within
Facebook. Google responded and now the two of them are trying to become social destinations
and social glue for us online. So, here’s an amazing infographic that Just
Three [spelled phonetically], which is a local design firm and Brian Solis came up with.
You can Google it. It’s called the conversation prism. It ties together all of these services
and groups them and makes them do wonderful, interesting things. It’s very pretty. If you
want to get a feel for what’s out there, go to that. So here’s the fun part, right. Here’s where
we get to frame the conversation a bit. We’ve gone back all the way, and now we’re going
into the future. First up. Other countries are making their own stuff. This is really
important to think about. They’re making it so they can monitor and control it in ways
they couldn’t necessarily do with our stuff. There’s reasons they’re doing that. You could
call it civilizing the internet, you could call it harmonizing the internet, you can
call it all kinds of things. It’s not the way we thought of doing it traditionally,
but given the disruption that connected citizens reposed to lots of places, they are creating
their own versions of them. Russia has vcontacta [spelled phonetically]
as well, and we’re going to see new [unintelligible] stuff. Saw the augmented reality picture before,
now it’s going to be new social networks springing up that connect where you are with connecting
people around you. You hold up your phone, you hold up the device, you can see what’s
happening. There’s that virtual layer wherever you are. There’s going to be some problems
here. Right? If you’re locatable online, as you walk around, you can vent [spelled phonetically]
the marketers. Soon advertisers are going to want to find you. So that’s going to be
a challenge. We’ve talked a bit about the open government
side here. It’s very important to think about how this is going to tie together. Here’s
an iPod dashboard — an iPad dashboard for the New York senate. Social media will be
increasingly integrated into how our legislatures work, as they listen to people because they
listen to each other. So they’re going to integrate that into their process. We’ll be
able to do increasingly interesting things as we work together to see what government
is doing. Right? To hold up an iPhone app and to see — this is a great mockup from
the Sunlight Foundation — a local open government stalwart. Mapping out recovery projects. And we’ll get to some whacky things, too,
that might be a little difficult for us. We’re going to be faced with some really difficult
questions when people die. There’s starting to be a lot more folks who’ll put their Facebook
password into their will. Because if they don’t, what happens? They have to negotiate
with Facebook to try to get the page memorialized. The people won’t know what happened. There
are all new questions that have now been raised, and when you think about how we’re increasingly
connected online to offline, they’re going to become much more pointed. And in the explosion of all this data, all
this content, we’re going to need better filters for it. We’re going to need better browsers,
we’re going to need to think about how we connect with our friends, how we really surf
through all that. This is a neat mock-up, I think, of Aurora, which is a concept browser
from Firefox. And we have to talk about this, too, right? Google decided not to turn the
face of recognition because the CEO Eric Schmidt thought there might be some real problems
around that. Looks like Facebook is going to seriously consider doing this. This happens
to be me on a New York City street with a fun, interactive exhibit, where I think it’s
one of the new shows, “Person of Interest.” I believe that’s the name of it. The bottom
line is, though, it was acting like it was tracking me. And at this point we worry so
much about Big Brother because people read Orwell in 1984. We thought about the surveillance
tape. The reality is we’re all sharing ourselves online when we go to these places. It’s open
source. The AP came out with a story today that they have an open source intelligence
center that’s tracking people’s updates and tweets. If they weren’t, they probably weren’t
doing it right, but it is a reminder that we are exposing ourselves and increasingly
we’re exposing each other. Everyone who’s toting a smart phone can take pictures. So
maybe it’s not Big Brother, it’s Little Brother. It’s all of us. And then we’re now living and going toward
this stream. And I’ll leave it here as we go forward and talk to the conversation. This
is a picture of Al Jezeera stream. It’s a combination of social media, livestreaming
and in-person interviews that really matches what’s been happening in the Middle East region.
Perfectly, I think, as a new kind of show that integrates the viewers with people talking
on screen with the live back channel. I think this is starting to get towards the future
of interactive media, where you integrate all these things together, all at one moment,
and we try to connect with each other, connect with what used to be known as the audience.
And with that, move on to these folks. [applause] So, hope I didn’t talk too long there. I thought
— [simultaneous speaking] I think I want to start with you, David. I’m
sure everyone saw — what [unintelligible] everything as miscellaneous and it got around
this idea that increasingly the audience itself is defining where the channels are. Is that
a good way of describing it? You talk about what was going on there and what you’re seeing
involve since then? David Weinberger:
First of all, that was a great 10 minutes, and what you’re doing is fantastic. So, and
that’s one pass through. Everything is miscellaneous. It’s, you know, especially given the theme
that everything is miscellaneous. There better be lots and lots of different ways of tweeting
it — you know, giving the tweet version of it. Actually, I want to say — so one way
of approaching this is the following. So it’s a different and very brief sort of contextualization,
which is to say what everybody knows, which is — the internet started out as an address
base — open address base. Anything could have an address and you could point at it,
and that’s it. You know, and the web came along and the web — internet knows nothing
about pages. Web knows all about pages and how to link them. Web pages — the web knows
nothing about people, social networks. Social media come along — knows all about people.
We’re getting an internet of things, we’re getting internet of data, thanks to the semantic
web and link to open data that maybe we’ll talk a little about tonight as well. And I
personally hope that the digital public library of America, which was announced here a couple
of weeks ago and Mr. Ferriero’s important support. There’s a hope that that will create
a network of cultural objects — the sorts of things that libraries deal with. All of
this is wonderful. The social network is especially important
because it sets the agenda for everything else because that’s, you know, it’s not the
technology in charge. It’s, well, except to — a little bit — it’s us. And so social
media, social networks are hugely, hugely important. And they’re important because social
media, in particular, it’s — I think it’s important to not think of the network as a
medium in the old sense. That is, medium is that through which a message passes. And there
is — obviously there is important senses in which the internet is a series of tubes
with these canisters and data going through them. That’s, you know, that’s one level of
it. But at the level that humans care about, the net is a medium because we are literally
the medium of the net. When we pass ideas around or the cat photos or whatever it is
we’re moving through the net, it is, quite literally, going through us, and every time
a message moves — that we move a message from one person to our network, we’re putting
a little of ourselves in that message. It’s not just information; it’s us recommending
that piece of information or saying whatever we’re saying about it. Here’s something you’ll
love, you’ll hate, will make you angry, you’ll laugh, whatever. That’s us putting ourselves
on the line a little bit. We are quite literally the medium of the internet. We are that through
which these things pass and without us it doesn’t matter. Which is why the fact that
of the various sorts of networks that are being built on top of the network — you know,
the web that knows about pages and the internet of things and all the rest of it. The social
network is not only uniquely important because that is the medium through which everything
else passes, just about. It’s uniquely important also because of all those networks, it’s the
one that we do not own. Somebody else owns it. It’s Facebook, it’s Google Plus, it’s
all the different country versions of implementations that Alex talked about. The rest of the internet, the rest of the
networks that matter so much to us, that have made the internet into what it is, they’re
not owned by anybody. Tim Berners-Lee did not take out a patent. He didn’t copyright
it. He gave it to us. It was a gift, and that gift has made the world what it is now. All
of those networks are unowned except the social one, and that is a hugely important problem
and risk and danger to all that we have built. But just one more thing I want to say, which
is the sense of ownership that I’m talking about here is quite literal, you know. Who
owns this stuff? But it’s also less literal, or in some sense, maybe more literal. It’s
least a deeper sense of ownership that one of the reasons that we love the things that
we have built with a passion. We never loved an encyclopedia the way that we love Wikipedia.
And it’s not just because Wikipedia kicks other encylopedias’ asses, it’s because
we built it. It’s ours. It’s ours in that sense that we built it. And so when I see
the National Archive engaging in the sort of social media experiments and programs you’re
doing, and tagging and transcribing — all this wonderful stuff — a brilliant solution
to the problem of scale. The only conceivable solution to the problem of scale. There’s
too much stuff. You have to open it up. But it’s not just that we’re going to get a whole
bunch of moving letters transcribed, it’s the National Archive telling us directly,
this is ours. This is ours. The things in here, the artifacts, the things that we created,
that we are saving and preserving together as a nation. It’s ours, and that’s what opening
us up to social media tells us directly and frankly and bluntly, and it’s far more wonderful
and moving even than the fact that you are trusting us to transcribe well and to tag
well. So, thank you, and thank you. Alex Howard:
Thank you. And now you all know why [unintelligible]. [laughter] David Weinberger:
How can I tear up about what we’re building — Alex Howard:
So, when I talk to people from around the country and people from other countries about
what’s happening in social media and government, which is sort of my beat, the White House
comes up, because you all had [unintelligible] a lot of social networks now. The president’s
campaign accounts — one of the most followed in the world. The White House itself is over
two million who are followers. You’ve got legions of Facebook fans. I think you’re on
seven or eight different social media platforms. What’s next for you all as you look towards
what the next thing will be for the White House? You’ve got your website and all this
social media stuff. What are you working on? Sarah Bernard:
You know, for us, we will — we are very agnostic about how we’re reaching people, how people
are communicating to us. The nice thing about — I came from the private sector, so I don’t
have worry about people coming to our own media properties and selling them ads. I’m
happy to have a conversation with citizens wherever they are. So, if we ever find a community
online that we can have an interesting interaction with, and a touchpoint where we’re not already
speaking to them, we will go after that. So whenever there’s something new, if we have
the resources and we think that we can dig in and keep doing it, then we’ll be there. I think, for a little bit of context for folks
who don’t know, to put it in historical — a little history here. So, the White House new
media team is the first administration to have a White House new media group. And we
represent the White House’s presence online, which is separate, actually, from Barack Obama,
the politician and campaigner. So your taxpayer dollars are paying for what we’re doing for
you as an administration. Our goals, which leads to what you’ll see
us do in the future — you know, we are trying to — we concentrate on amplification, so
part of our role is communications. Amplifying and delivering the president’s message in
new ways as technology changes. So social media is a perfect way to do that. But by
the way, we’re not afraid of email too. We’ve got almost a dozen email products out there.
I’d send a fax if it was sufficient. So we — anything that’s changing in communications,
we’re hopefully on the leading edge there. Second piece that we are touching is — that
we care about is just openness, so everything that we can do to keep to open up the administration
so that you know what’s going on. And it may be as simple as our ethics guidelines are
public. Anyone who visits the White House, that’s public. You name it. What isn’t public,
we’re working to get public. Third piece is participation, which is a thing
for everyone. So, how do we get citizens closer to administration officials? So I think — when
I think about what’s next not just in terms of where we’ll be in social media presences.
I’d say the two areas that are really changing for us in terms of social media is straightforward
communication. You know, our press shop in the communications group is not only breaking
news through Washington correspondents anymore. You know, we’ve got our communications director
on Twitter occasionally breaking news. As a former Huffington Post person, I’d love
to see us break news on our own media every single day, but I haven’t gotten there yet.
So communications, it’s changing everything. So, interviews aren’t only George Stephanopoulis
asking questions to the president, but, by the way, it’s Steve Grove at YouTube sourcing
questions from citizens that we put to the president. And we’ve got 20 different flavors
of that. So communications is one. I think we’ll try
to advance in that area, and you’ll see more there. And the second is getting people closer
to policymaking, and it’s actually really — it’s sort of touching to actually talk
about this here at the Archives. Our most recent launch, just three weeks ago, a platform
to petition the government online. So, actually, after having toured the Archives and seen
so many paper petitions, it was really nice to see that we could bring that forward a
little bit online. So now as of a few weeks ago, anyone can petition www.whitehouse.gov.
It’s called “We the People.” And if you get 25,000 signatures in 30 days, we will respond
to you, no matter what it’s about. So, pretty great stuff. We’ve already had over a million
petitions signed, averaging about 21 petitions — or signatures — a minute. So it feels
like we’ve got an impact. So, more, more, more. Alex Howard:
Yep. And for people interested in such things, it’s www.whitehouse.gov/wethepeople or @wethepeople
on Twitter. There is a Twitter account that goes with it, since you all are on top of
that sort of thing. Sarah Bernard:
Where we talk about our technical difficulties. [laughs] No, we will alert you to what we’ve
responded to, so if you’re interested in something we’ll let you know. Alex Howard:
[unintelligible] the White House web hash tag where you give feedback on your — how
you’re doing there. So, I’ll follow up with a question. I was going to ask directly to
Macon. He said to ask you anything that — Sarah Bernard:
Oh, good. Alex Howard:
You know, that I would have asked him. Sarah Bernard:
[inaudible] Macon. So what do you got? Alex Howard:
You all started doing something which was pretty daring, and I don’t see a lot of other
governments doing — I don’t see a lot of other politicians doing. I don’t even see
a lot of other journalists doing. You’re doing something called “natively retweeting people.”
And for those people who aren’t aware of the convention on Twitter, when you retweet someone,
you reshare their tweet. So Twitter users actually came up with this. Didn’t exist in
the platform before. It’s one of the neat things about Twitter. Hashtags are something
that people brought from Irish sea land onto Twitter themselves, and then Twitter adopted
them. The retweet is their [email protected], right? It’s a share [unintelligible] and Twitter
said, okay, you all are doing this. We’re going to do it too, so they built it into
the platform. So the same [unintelligible] you, we share a post on Tumblr where you reshare
a content on Google Plus or you reshare a content on Facebook, you retweet something
and it shows — it copies the person’s tweet and puts it into everyone else’s timeline
that’s following you. Earlier this year, the White House started
doing that on its White House account. And that’s actually notable, and so the question
is, what was behind that decision and what response have you gotten from taking it that
step further with actually raising up people’s voices even those who actually who are disagreeing
with what you are saying? Sarah Bernard:
It was not as deliberate and [inaudible] decision — [laughter] Sarah Bernard:
And there you have it, everybody. [laughter] You know, it’s a little bit of an extension
of what we’re doing online. We do believe in aggregating voices and aggregating points
of view, and that’s a service in and of itself, and above what we may have to say on a topic,
so just as we may point to interesting points of view online on our blogs, it’s a natural
extension to do it on Twitter, and that’s sort of in the native format. How can you
do it best? So, not really a complicated decision for us. Alex Howard:
Okay. Straightforward answer to what was a convoluted question. Sarah Bernard:
[laughs] Alex Howard:
So a question to you, then. As you look towards what’s next, you mentioned open social networks
and we’re in an interesting place now, as you talked about. We’re — our public square
— the internet in the 21st century. Particularly social media is owned by private companies.
All the networks I just mentioned are private. And the U.S. government did not come up with
these networks where they’re not hosting the conversation. It might make people even uncomfortable
if they did, eventually. What are some of the loose strands that lead you to think there
might be potential for open social networks? Is that something we should expect to see
or is the status quo the way it’s going to be for the next 10 years? David Weinberger:
I have no idea what’s going to happen. Alex Howard:
Okay. David Weinberger:
About anything. [laughter] David Weinberger:
Seriously. You know, if you’d asked me in 2001, you told me that this Wikipedia idea
— I’d say it’s ridiculous. It’s never going to work. So, yeah, I have no ability to tell
what’s going to happen. Currently there seems to be almost no interest in open networks,
that we are all — I’m not even going to ask for a show of hands because one way or another,
probably all of us are involved in some social network in some of us in multiple ones — me
too. We are perfectly willing to trade — to take the benefits that these proprietary networks
provide, which are substantial. That’s why people are spending so much time on Facebook
and, you know, some on Google Plus. We’re very happy to take those benefits. And sort
of not pay attention or hope or not care that this data is locked into a proprietary format.
There are internet idealogs [spelled phonetically] who think that’s a bad idea. And there’s some
practical reasons to think that it’s a bad idea. We don’t know what’s going to happen
to Facebook. We don’t know what’s going to happen to Google. No matter how good they
are now, we don’t know what they’re going to be in five or ten years. And so there’s
some very serious practical reasons to be concerned about this, but we get so much benefit
from them. It seems to be a reasonable trade. So there is just about — unless somebody
wants to contradict me — I see zero market demand for open social networks. Or close
to zero actual demand for that. So the cost of it is not simply that in five years, you
know, who knows what will happen to Facebook or Google Plus. It’s the cost of innovation
is one that we bear right now, although it’s invisible. It’s all the stuff that isn’t being
invented because the protocols for engaging with people socially and having the core sets
of services you need to be able to do that, to know who the person is, a sense of stability,
make a little bit hard to game, and like, since we don’t have those things as open protocols,
the range of innovation that we’re used to on the net doesn’t happen. The innovations
come from at the pace of Facebook and at the pace of Google, two very smart companies but
they’re not as smart as all of us put together. And so we have lost possibility of innovation
— the rapid pace when we’ve signed up for the very valuable, useful, wonderful things
that the proprietary social networks do for us. It’s a hidden cost. Alex Howard:
Okay. So you mentioned you log onto Facebook here and there. Pamela Wright:
Yes. Alex Howard:
And as an archivist, I can’t help but think you might wonder about whether your stuff
might be saved as it goes up there. When we look at what the nation has collectively posting
to these networks, it’s mind boggling. I didn’t throw up a stat slide because it’s there to
see. You can see the volume of tweets flowing online. You can see the volume of pictures
flowing into Facebook, of videos flowing to YouTube. As the National Archives looks at
all that, how do we know what to save and how do we save them? Pamela Wright:
So that’s an issue that National Archives has been grappling with all along, and the
records management part of this — you know, we issued guidance on social media records
management, specifically in October of 2010, that provided guidance to agencies on how
to think about archiving these records and their holdings. You know, essentially, you
need — it’s about the content. So there’s so many platforms, there’s so many technologies,
you know, there’s a million things happening every day — new ones coming up all the time
that it’s not so much about the technology that people need to think about but the content
and whether or not it’s a permanent holding and — there I see in our audience — he is
on our records management team and he gives presentations on this all the time. So, bear
with me, all right? So it’s really about the content and one of
the ideas that our records managers tell us within our own agency and talk to agencies
across the government is to consider the records management implications before you dive into
any project, any social media project. So we try to set the example. All of the projects
that we work on, all the 66 internal wikis, and all of the external blogs — everything
that we do. We talk with our records managers about what this content is, how do we save
it, what are the things that we need to do. In 2010, with our open government plan, the
chief records officer, Paul Wester, along with the archivist, got a group together that
— two groups together that had never really talked before: the federal records manager
council and the CIO council. So we’re talking the technology and the records management,
which are the two that need to come together to solve these issues. So that’s a — that
was a start that we did last year, and we continue to provide guidance. Alex Howard:
Sounds like you were definitely on it. Pamela Wright:
Yeah. Lot of people are on it, yeah. Alex Howard:
Okay. We are just about to the point where we get to do that fun, very social thing and
start taking questions. If you got questions, please pose them on Twitter or feel free to
make your way down here. I’m going to pose one more myself while I still have the opportunity.
With wethepeople at — again, it’s a Macon question since this is his baby in some ways. Pamela Wright:
One team, one team. Alex Howard:
One team, one voice. One of the constitutionally protected things we have is to petition government,
right? It’s actually in the constitution. It’s now became e-petition government. By
saying you respond, you actually go beyond the document itself. There’s nothing in there
that I, that I at least, as I read it, that says we have to say something back, but you
decided to do that if you get to a certain point. But there isn’t anything in there that
says you have to change policy. Right? It just says that, you know, we can ask you to
do something and if we collectively ask by the number of politicians that support us,
that we voted for, that helps the number of updates — I don’t know. There’ve been a lot
of backlashes over the last five years now online. You can go back to the case studies
of Motrin moms, you know, or different places where a company in the private sector has
screwed up, either with an ad or with a customer service situation gone wrong or employee that
freaked out. Something bad happened and they didn’t really understand that the internet
would make it worse, right? So the video went up online, somebody said something callous.
We see politicians either getting tripped up, like George Allen, or tripping themselves
up, like Congressman Weiner. [laughter] The question in this context is at what point
do you think social media, in whatever form it revolves, is actually going to be tied
to policy, either in legislation or in the executive. We’ll ignore the Supreme Court
because they don’t tweet. [laughter] Sarah Bernard:
Yeah. It’s interesting. I recognize that this is a baby step, though I would like to recognize,
in my opinion, you have to start somewhere, so, to respond to people’s inquiries is a
first step. I think the challenge — there’s two challenges in my opinion — of how do
you really integrate citizen input into policymaking? And one is about timing. How do you actually
get people involved at the right moment of that policymaking cycle? And we’re not there
yet. And the second piece — I’m sure there’s more pieces — is sort of that information
asymmetry. You know, how do you ensure that the collective input and the policymakers
are all sharing the same level set of information. So not all input essentially can be created
equal, if you will, if, you know, people only know half the story when you’re having the
conversation. So I don’t have the answer, of course, right now of how do you find that
information symmetry, but I think at least you’d have to think about those pieces. I
think the timing piece is a lot easier, and we can do a lot to do that quickly and fairly
easily. The latter, I don’t pretend to have an answer to today. Alex Howard:
Thank you. All right. Now we get social. So, come on over. Introduce yourself, please. James Neal:
Good evening. My name is James Neal. I am currently an MLS student at the University
of Maryland, studying to become an academic librarian. I am frequently talking about the
future of the internet and a big active user of social media. One of the things that I
find that we often don’t talk about, as we talk about the future of the internet and
social media, is how many people are not online. How do we talk about the future of the internet
and the future of social media when you want to discuss people who may not have laptops,
people who may not have broadband, people who may not have access to wifi. What role
can social media play and what is the future of making more people connected? Alex Howard:
Great question. I think the pew internet tells us stats. Currently, 79 percent of this country
is online. That’s a lot of people who aren’t yet. Would anyone like to field that one? [laughter] Sarah Bernard:
One thing that I could say is that we’ve had years and years of reaching out to people
not online and not through social media. And we’re actually really good at that. We’ve
had a lot of, you know, years to work on it. So we have great outreach that isn’t online,
and what’s new to us is the social media and that’s why we’re putting emphasis on it. Now
it’s learning that, catching up and excelling at that in the same ways that we do offline. Alex Howard:
Anyone else? David Weinberger:
I’ll just throw this out. Congress is about to outlaw net neutrality and we could use
some help in regulating the providers of the tubes through which our internet flows to
encourage them to fulfill their responsibility to — responsibility once they took their
money from the government — to actually extend the internet to all corners of this country.
But, you know, that’s what I think. So. Alex Howard:
Question on digital [unintelligible] view? Sarah Bernard:
I think our policy folks would clobber me if I misrepresented. [laughs] Alex Howard:
I’ll take that one a little bit then. Pew internet is a great source of statistics.
I think they’re working on cataloging the digital age as it evolves, and one of the
things that their researcher shared with me is that the participation rates of some of
the parts of our population which have been traditionally disempowered are higher on social
media than other demographics, and that that is true — equal levels of participation across
socioeconomic levels on these networks. And if you want evidence of that, I would suggest
you go look at trending topics on Twitter. Okay, they are not being defined by CNN or
by the New Yorker or by any other kind of broadcast or elite media. They are being defined
by conversation which is going on constantly in the cities and in parts of the population
which traditionally don’t get a say. They’re not being connected to conversations about
government. That’s a challenge for people who are doing citizen engagement, is to actually
connect that particular back channel, but there is an interesting opportunity right
now where you have people using social media who are participating in and who have access
to the internet only through their phones throughout the world. And there is something
very important happening around smart phones. A third of the country has them now. At a
replacement rate of 20 percent a year, we can figure that half of the country will have
them by the end of next year, then you can extrapolates what happens from there. There’s now increasingly inexpensive Android
phones around the world, so people can get internet access on them. I suggest you look
at what’s happening in Kenya, for instance, where people are getting internet through
their phones and through no other way, and they’re talking — 98 percent of the country
that has internet gets it through their device there. I mean, mind boggling. That means that
social media actually provides different opportunities to get to disadvantaged populations and empower
the disempowered that previous networks did. And for anyone who’s making government policy
or thinking about urban planning, that’s probably a pretty important demographic to reach to. Next question? Joann Newhouse:
Thank you. My name is Joann Newhouse, and this is just slightly off topic, but since
I have the experts there, they can probably help me out. I know that Facebook was filtering
things and so does Google, and it really bothers me because I just don’t want to get what I
have, because I know what I have already. I want to get what I don’t have. How do you
reach these people? You know how to reach them because you’re experts and they depend
on you, but I, as an ordinary citizen who does like to play Sherlock Holmes every now
and then with my work — solving problems — that’s what I do for a living. I can’t
find them. So how do ordinary citizens reach the people to tell them, “Hey, stop filtering
your answers when I Google something. I want to know something. I don’t want to know what
I know about cooking or art or something or theater or urban planning or architecture
— things that I’m familiar with, I want to find out that other half. But maybe I have
to go to page 100 first, but I’d like to find it out up front or in some order other than
what they’re giving it to me.” So how do you reach the folks who are doing the social networking?
How does an ordinary person reach them? Alex Howard:
Do you mean reach the people who are [simultaneous talking] Joann Newhouse:
Like send them an email? Send them an email? Like, say, “Hey, you’re doing something that
is not great and, please, if you want to do it for someone else, that’s fine, but don’t
do it for me.” I mean, in other words, as an ordinary citizen, I can’t reach the people
who are operating Google. You can, because they’re trying to reach you. So, one of the
things that I see as a problem is that these companies are not — they don’t provide access
to the ordinary population, to the regular population who are using them. Alex Howard:
Okay. So to rearticulate, how do you hold the people who are creating these platforms
accountable for how they do search? Is that a good way of rearticulating that? David Weinberger:
Can I try dividing this into two questions and giving brief answers to both of them? Alex Howard:
Go for it. David Weinberger:
Okay, so, first question is how does an ordinary citizen reach these companies, and they’ve
given up on customer support, so those channels simply don’t work. There is no good answer
to this question. It’s a huge problem and it’s part of the problem that our social networks
are owned by proprietary, commercial entities that actually don’t care that much, and so,
you know, that is the problem. The ways that people have on occasion to reach them is by
using their own tools to gather a set of people who make an uproar and so Facebook finally
says, “Oh,” but that rarely works. It works on occasion. It rarely works. It’s very hard
to do. The second point that you raise is about the
actual issue of social filtering. I want to say something really briefly about that, which
is from the point of view of a Facebook, there’s something very compelling about the idea of
using your — they know who your friends are, of course, right? So use those people as a
filter to decide what news will be filtered through to you because of people who are like
you, their same interests, and so you’ll get that stream. And there’s total sense in doing
that, but they run into exactly the problem that you’re pointing at, which is if you do
that you are using — we humans tend to cluster around people who are like us. And this is
just the way we are but it’s also a terrible problem. This is the homophily — the love
of the same, that restricts our imagination and our compassion. When you are filtered
through the people who are like you, that’s an extremely effective filter, which is exactly
the problem, so I would, in my ideological hopes, which I have no ability to impress
upon Facebook or Google, I would much rather see Facebook decide to filter news to me based
upon what my friends like and what a whole set of people I don’t like are reading. [laughter] But they don’t see a commercial interest in
that because by including this [unintelligible] opinion, they increase the possibility that
they will send me something that is upsetting to me, is disturbing to me, but that’s exact
— which is bad for their business but would be really great for our democracy. If I could
make them do it, I would, but, you know — [applause] Alex Howard:
You could also use tools that more anonymas you when you [unintelligible]. Something a
number of browsers give you secret mode or incognito mode as they call it on Chrome.
So you are browsing without being personalized in the same way. Right. If you look for incognito
mode and load up Chrome, you’ll be able to browse the internet without being personalized
to in the same way. There are also a number of other tools that allow you to connect to
the internet anonymously that have become quite important to people in other countries
if they’re uploading, say, video of violent revolutions in places where doing so would
mean you would get killed, such as the Tor project, that allow you to connect anonymously
and not have the same level of personalization. So there are options, too, for you, in that
note. Going to take a question off internet, since
I said I would do that. It’s a question from DJ Green, Daniel Green, who Cornell food psychology
student, who asks, “What do you see Apple Siri disrupting next? Siri says answer my
question. [laughter] David Weingerber:
I just want to know what a food psychologist is. Sarah Bernard:
Yeah, what is that? [laughter] Alex Howard:
Daniel, do you want to answer the — Male Speaker:
[inaudible] Alex Howard:
Thank you for the question — the answer. David Weinberger:
And shortcutting people who are standing in the aisle. [laughter] Alex Howard:
If I said I’m going to take questions, I got to do it. And he asked before they got there,
so — Do we want to take a question on Apple and social media? Apple’s not very social Sarah Bernard:
I mean, what’s been written about the first easiest change [unintelligible] probably disrupt
little bit of text messaging. You know, walking and texting, driving and texting. That’s probably
the first one, but that’s an easy one. You guys have better ones? [laughs] Alex Howard:
I got one. Apple’s building — it’s build to message with each other. Right? That’s
going to disrupt some of it. This idea that they’re going to use the geo location features
of the phone itself so that you can know where your family and friends are, potential. As
soon as that happened, founders of Goala [spelled phonetically] and Foursquare and the rest
of those networks went, “oop,” because that means it’s baked into the hardware itself.
So that — Apple could theoretically with its, you know, over 100 million IOS devices,
20 million iPads, however many iPhones will be sold by the next of year. They could bake
what we think of as social into the hardware itself, with — and with all the ways that
Apple tends to work, it’ll probably be beautifully designed, be wonderfully interoperable and
not let you talk to any other service. [laughter] Katie Filbert:
I’m Katie Filbert. I’m with Wikimedia D.C., the local chapter here. And my question is
for Pamela and just want to say like how delighted I am that you’re engaging with students on
www.challenge.gov and, just, I can vouch for how wonderful, like, a resource the EPA photos
are from the 1970s, and as they’re in the public domain, many of them used on Wikipedia,
so now that, you’re, like you’re having like students upload photographs or like — I don’t
know if there’ll be videos or what. Like, do you know what like the copyright of these
will be, like, will they be public domain, creative commons, or what, so like people
can use them or not or what? Pamela Wright:
And that’s a great question. And I think they’re all public domain. I need to verify with the
people that are putting on that challenge, but, you know, everything we do, when we’re
putting it up online, is all public domain, so. Female Speaker:
My question is for Ms. Bernard. I used to work — hi. I used to work at the Ohio Secretary
of State’s office with communications and new media, and now I work here with NOAA,
and my question would primarily be, we spend all of our time, all of our professional day
thinking of new ways to engage every John, Jane Doe out there. But what is it when we
have so — we have such an overhaul of messages coming into us. What is it that you find engaging?
I mean, you wrack your brain, thinking how are we going to connect to everyone. How does
the public connect to you and to your team with the White House? Sarah Bernard:
We do it — we don’t have a perfect solution for that. So we — Female Speaker:
What do you find interesting? What’s the ah-ha moment that comes into you when you spend
all of your time trying to make the public have an ah-ha moment? What’s different and
engaging that inspires you, from the public, I guess? Sarah Bernard:
Sometimes it’s volume, sheer volume of response. Sometimes it is genuinely new ideas that we
hadn’t thought of. We put a call out today. We have a program called Advise the Advisor.
I don’t know if you’ve been following — the president’s been at — talking a lot about
executive actions that he can do to help create jobs without congressional help. And we put
out a public call for ideas for executive actions and just — I’m mostly seeing quality
of ideas come in. When sometimes — I was surprised that many citizens could distill
and understand what an executive action kind of idea might be. And sometimes I get really
excited when we are touching a group or a group has found us that we have not spoken
with before or thought about before, and when we’re a little daring. You know, I got excited
— we did just a simple program with www.monster.com, for example, to talk about the economy and
jobs. I mean, the — you know — and went straight to people looking for jobs to talk
about jobs, so when we can find connections from people who aren’t in Washington, it’s
pretty great. Did that answer it? [laughs] David Weinberger:
Can I ask a quick question? So [unintelligible] first 600 petitions that you got were legalize
marijuana? [laughter] David Weinberger:
[inaudible] find depressing about the interaction that you get? Sarah Bernard:
I don’t think it’s depressing. I actually love that petitions are a great way for very
niche, you know, interest groups to organize and get to us. You know, when I’m spending
11 hours of my 20 hour workday, thinking about jobs and the economy, it’s nice — it’s kind
of great to get a petition reminding you that people care about UFOs and marijuana — [laughter] Sarah Bernard:
— and whatever it may be. So, we’ve seen a lot of everything. But, believe it or not,
you know, you still get the big picture. So roughly a third of the petitions that have
come in are still around jobs and the economy issues. Alex Howard:
To follow up with the — there’s a quick question that’s post to you on contest and works being
put in the public domain. The analog to that would be if submissions to contests were applications,
they would be open source, which is to say that they would be available for the public
to reuse for a certain amount of time, and they’re seeing a number of different application
contest around the country that that’s the direction that they’re taking, which is to
say that if you do something in that realm, that you contributed, and other people can
reuse the code. So just a important principle to point out there. Marcie Harris. Marcie Harris:
Hello. I’m a recovering congressional staffer and now working — [laughter] — on a company called Popbox. It’s actually
a platform to help people weigh in on issues before Congress, and one of the things that
we’re noticing — you know, when we started working on the project, it was my experience
as a congressional staffer being on the receiving end and thinking, wouldn’t it be great if
all these stories were public, and they weren’t just going into the black box of the congressional
office, but others could see the stories, could share the stories, could understand
the points of view of others, and that’s definitely catching on. But we’re also seeing that people
are not just weighing in on one issue that they might have written a letter to Congress
about years ago. Now they want recommendations of the next thing they should weigh in on,
and other issues that are taking place, and they want to know what’s on the floor next
week, and they want to know, you know, who — now they want to follow people and see
who, you know, they respect their comments — what they’re having to say. And so we’re
seeing enormous demand to allow citizens to be constantly engaged on what’s happening
in Congress, and really provide a place for that to happen. I was on the Hill today and
I have a lot of sympathy talking about — and we try to make sure that the messages that
we’re sending to Congress go into systems, you know, as easily as possible. They’re tagged
with bills, numbers, and support oppose, and other tagging ways to get them automatically
into the congressional system. But the increase in input last year to Congress was 500 percent,
the year before that it was 800 percent, the year before that, I think it was similar,
and it’s going to exponentially grow, and I don’t think we’re going to see any diminished
amount of people wanting to be involved in government. I think that’s only going to increase.
And I think it’s a wonderful thing and I think it goes to your data question of people becoming
involved. And also the timing question of how that’s incorporated into policy. But to
get to the question — and I apologize for the long [inaudible] [laughter] The question is do you think that if people
are weighing in more, and there’s much more of an impact on policy from the district,
from members of Congress, from the greater country, that you will also see those that
we think of as influencers in Washington, whether it’s lobbyists or advocates or associations
or organizations, et cetera, spending more of their time educating the population about
their issues as opposed to focusing in on Washington? Alex Howard:
Whew. [laughter] Sarah Bernard:
Oh, that was for me? [laughter] Alex Howard:
Yeah, that’s for you. [laughter] Alex Howard:
I’m not taking it. Sarah Bernard:
It’s a good question. It’s anyone’s guess, right? I’m mean, that’s a terrible answer,
but — I supposed it would depend — I’m just trying to think. If I was running one of these
organizations, I would answer that question based on how well I was already penetrated
in Washington and what is my clout in Washington already, and if I’d sort of made as many inroads
as I could there and felt that I had the power base, then you build the concentric circle
out. And I’m not sure it’s an either or — wouldn’t you want to do. You’d want to hit everything
you can. Right? Alex Howard:
So you’re saying the [unintelligible] would be concerned about his clout score? Sarah Bernard:
I think he would. I think he would. Alex Howard:
Yeah? Sarah Bernard:
[laughs] Alex Howard:
Okay. Question. Please let us know who you are. Katherine Mennis [spelled phonetically]:
Hi. My name’s Katherine Mennis and I’m writing my thesis on this. So thank you [unintelligible]. [laughter] Female Speaker:
It’s off the record. [laughter] Alex Howard:
Too late. Katherine Mennis:
Also I don’t have service. I would have tweeted it in. How do you get citizens to cross that
line between basic participation, a like on Facebook, a retweet, to get actual mobilization
to motivate citizens to act, whether it be getting someone to like President Obama on
Facebook, to get them to campaign for him or like an interest group getting them to
like nature versus getting them to get out there and start and even, start a meeting
or something about the pipeline. You know what I mean? How do you get them to cross
that line? Sarah Bernard:
I’ll start to answer it but then I actually think, Pam, you’re going to be a better person
to answer this. And I was really surprised, personally, when I came to work at the White
House. You know, from the White House perch, we do less in the citizens services area.
You know, we are heavy on communications and heavy on policy, but we start to get into
legal areas about we are not out organizing folks the same way a campaign would. And when
you’re trying to help folks with citizen services and answer the issues, you start to get into
agency world. So we spend less time urging people to take action, a specific action.
It’s really more about, tell us what you think, get you closer to administration officials.
So I think you’re probably better at this one. Pamela Wright:
Well, so I think the question that you ask — the way you said it was how do you get
people to act? And I think maybe that’s not — it’s the framing of that question. What
I’m seeing anyway is how do you get your agency to realize that they’re people that are dying
to work with you and help you and be involved. We have people coming in on Saturdays scanning
for two hours, and you know, we have some doughnuts or something for them, but you know,
these are people that are really interested. I know we have not tapped into everybody who’s
very interested. There are groups in the area. The German American Societies, there’s people
that are interested in Civil War reenactors. There’s all kinds of topics that folks are
interested in and they’re just trying to find a way. They don’t even know. Are you interested
in working with us? And you start talking to them. When we got Wikipedia involved, just
the enormous enthusiasm last year. And one of our first events, 120 people showed up.
I was stunned, and they’re all, like, “tell us how we can help.” So I don’t think it’s
getting people. At least at our agency it hasn’t been that. It’s been us realizing,
hey, we should start working with these people and how do we do that? David Weinberger:
I hate to be an old timer about this but I can’t help it. It’s the way it is. I think
there’s lessons still from previous election campaigns, including even the Howard Dean
campaign, where people were moved to go from the social networking to out into the streets,
actually do work in the real world through engagement with other people. That’s why,
again to be old time, old Meetup is still a very active and very wonderful organization.
Meetup at the time came to prominence because people realized — the Dean campaign realized
that, oh, actually getting people in a room together is a really important step in getting
them out of that room and into the street. People to people is, you know, pretty powerful. Alex Howard:
Last question. Jane Arsteward [spelled phonetically]:
Hi, my name is Jane Arsteward and I live in the Bethesda area. I was just interested in
asking you, Sarah, about kind of how you guys are paying attention to some of this alternative
media and stuff that’s generated from people, because my friends, for example, get really
frustrated with the mainstream media and how it seems to really miss the boat on what we
think, believe, and feel, and some would even say that the Herman Cain campaign was a response
to that. They’re like people are kind of giving him poll numbers in a way to sort of say to
the media, you’re not representing us, and yet the issues that are put out there by the
media are always what gets heard. One of the things I found frustrating when Obama apologized
for, you know, not getting enough response on his job bill as if somehow that was his
fault, so it’s like, I’m wondering how are you guys measuring what people really feel
and are these social media avenues giving you a means to do that? Sarah Bernard:
It’s a great ques — when you say “alternative media,” are you just saying online as alternative? Jane Arsteward:
Alternative to Fox, CNN, ABC… Sarah Bernard:
Non-news. You know…it’s an interesting question because we start to enter the church and state
of what’s appropriate for the campaign to do versus what would be appropriate for the
administration to do, so, you know, if we were Coca-Cola, we would probably buy a social
media monitoring service and we would be out looking at sentiment analysis of what, you
know, what everyone on Twitter is saying before a speech, after a speech, during a speech,
et cetera, et cetera. You now, you’re probably not that comfortable with the White House
doing that, despite the fact that that’s public information. So, we aren’t on that edge of
social media monitoring. It’s just not the right time for us to get into that. Feels
a little too Big Brother to the Big Brother allusion earlier. So we are doing it the good
old 2001 old-fashioned way. We are doing online news clubs. We are looking at volume of comments,
plusses and negatives, and likes and that sort of thing. And literally a small team
of us rolling up our sleeves, saying, hey, hey, you know, this is what’s happening on
the internet. You know, and we have a voice in the building, and it works. Alex Howard:
Okay. I think I’m getting a little voice in my ear hear. I feel like I’m [unintelligible].
It says [unintelligible] 8:31, which means we’ve come to the end of our forum. I feel
like we could keep asking questions here for a long time. I’m really grateful to everyone
who asked one tonight, and of course, all of you in the back channel, who have been
busily documenting what people had been saying all along. I think it’s a great example of
social media in action. You can certainly find me if you have follow-up questions at
[email protected] He is dweinberger, you are pamelasw. You are not on Twitter yet. Sarah Bernard:
No. I gave up my social media life when I joined the White House. [laughter] It was the only downside for me. Alex Howard:
Maybe if people have a question of you, they can — Sarah Bernard:
My email is [email protected] Alex Howard:
I was going to say do a petition, but that’s even better. Female Speaker:
It will be archived. That’s part of the Presidential Records Act. Alex Howard:
Okay. So thanks again. Thank you for the invitation, thank you for everything else. Have a good
night. [applause] [end of transcript]

Danny Hutson

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