At Google's recent "I/O" developer conference in San Francisco, the company unveiled an intriguing new tool called Wave, which Google deems its attempt to "reinvent email for the 21st century." That is, however, an inaccurate and outdated way of thinking about what Wave really is. Wave is a web-based, open-source platform that is designed to seamlessly integrate communication and collaboration. That may sound a little vague, so take a look at it in action:
This is only a preview of the developer version, so it is likely to evolve significantly from where it is right now. But even in this early stage, it shows a huge amount of potential. Sometimes, Google releases things that elicit a brief "oh, cool" reaction but then fade from the radar screen. I think Wave will be different for a number of reasons, but the biggest is that it allows users to take advantage of the internet in a more natural and organic way, a way more in tune with the nature of the internet itself. After seeing the demo, Joe Trippi tweeted "Just posted the Google Wave demo on my blog - definitely check it out if you haven't yet. What do you think? Game changer?" and then later, "More on Google Wave. Did they just reinvent online communication?" The people at ReadWriteWeb, after doing a hands-on trial, write:
What we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg, but we can already envision how this could replace our internal chat room here at RWW, and how it could revolutionize the way employees in a company communicate. Wave definitely takes some getting used to, but once you get into the flow of things, regular email suddenly feels stale and slow.
While Google is busy reinventing how we collaborate together on the web, the White House is busy trying to bring these kinds of innovations into government. As part of the Open Government Initiative, which I blogged about a few weeks ago, the Obama Administration held a "Brainstorm" using IdeaScale. Once again, I like the top entries (athough they will, of course, be ignored), but this time the IdeaScale thing is just one part of a three-phase process which also includes a discussion phase, where users discuss the ideas brought up in the brainstorm, and then a "draft" phase where users will "Collaborate on crafting constructive proposals to address challenges from the Discussion phase." It's an ambitious evolution of the Administration's efforts in this sphere, and we'll be keeping a close eye on it.
Shortly after the presidential election in an interview with MSNBC, Simon predicted that President Obama's weekly addresses and other important remarks would be translated into different languages for a global audience interested in what Barack Hussein Obama has to say:
Rosenberg said it will be common for government agencies to host videos and blogs (as the Transportation Security Administration does already).
"You're going to see competition at the weekly Cabinet meeting between the DHS secretary and the HHS secretary over who had more views on their YouTube video, and who had more comments on their blog," he said.
Global Webcasting of presidential addresses and press briefings - perhaps translated into multiple languages - is likely to become routine. That policy could well filter down to other governmental agencies and even other governments, Rosenberg said.
He pointed to the example of David Cameron, the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, who stars in a series of "Webcameron" videos that touch upon his party's policies as well as his personal life. "You can watch videos of him washing dishes in his sink," Rosenberg said.
Fast forward to today and Obama's historic speech at the University of Cairo in Egypt. According to CNN:
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) — Some of the new media tools that helped propel President Obama to the White House are going to get their first test run on the international stage Thursday, when he delivers a long-awaited speech to the Muslim world.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said administration officials are planning to use text messaging and social networking sites like Facebook to help engage the world, especially young people, during and after the speech in Cairo.
Gibbs said the goal is to "not only draw people in to see the speech but to have them discuss it as well" to keep the conversation going long after the actual speech is delivered.
For example, the U.S. State Department is planning to send text messages about Obama's speech to users worldwide who sign up at www.america.gov. The texts will be sent out in four languages — Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English — and will enable users "to reply and give feedback" in real time, according to Gibbs.
The White House, which usually sends out transcripts of presidential speeches in English, will release the transcript in 13 different languages this time around.
Administration officials estimate that there are 20 million users of Facebook in the Arab countries and are setting up live chats on that site in order to get a conversation going online.
As the CNN article notes, the speech was texted out in four languages spoken in countries with large Muslim populations: Arabic, Persian, Urdu (the literary language of Pakistan and spoken widely in India) and English. The speech transcript was released in 13 languages.
Now check out the new Web site -- america.gov. It's truly fascinating and I believe it could go a long way in improving America's global standing after eight years of arrogance and confrontation. You can visit an Arab-language version of america.gov, a Spanish-language version, a French version, Persian, Mandarin and more. Although I couldn't read all of the languages, I could discern that each version of america.gov has some different content targeted toward viewers in each country. For example, the Spanish-language Web site had pictures from Sectretary of State Hillary Clinton's delegation to the inauguration of El Salvador's new president.
Clinton has tapped Alec Ross, who has written a paper with Simon and appeared at NDN several times, to implement the Department of State's digital diplomacy. Not surprisingly, Clinton recently recorded a YouTube address about the new tools and media that State is using to reach out to the rest of the world (scroll back up to what Simon said in his interview about Cabinet members recording YouuTube videos).
Two days after the presidential election, Simon posted a vlog with his prediction about how Obama would no doubt use his campaign's new tools arsenal and apply it to governing. There have been some hiccups along the way, but using social networking, texting, Web video -- all tools that we at NDN have strongly advocated for years in our New Tools Series -- is no doubt improving America's relationship with the rest of the world.
Watch Simon's vlog on how Obama will reivent the presidency here:
Some of the world's most popular networking services have gone dark in China, apparent victims of government censors in the days leading to a notorious anniversary.
Online users in China said Twitter, Yahoo's Flickr photo site, Microsoft's new Bing search engine and Hotmail, and other services were inaccessible on Tuesday.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square. Social media experts such as Laura Fitton suspect Chinese authorities may be blocking sites to tamp down discussions of the protest.
This is an issue I touched on recently when the Iranian government shut down Facebook ahead of its June 12 elections as reform candidates appeared to be gaining political ground through spreading word of campaign rallies and getting out messages through the social networking site Facebook.
Mobile technology and new tools to improve health outcomes, drive economic growth and foster democracy are issues that NDN is deeply involved in. As Obama Administration official Tom Kalil wrote for NDN affiliate, the New Policy Institute, in an October 2008 paper, Harnessing the Mobile Revolution:
With a few exceptions, the U.S. government is largely oblivious to the ways in which the rapid diffusion of mobile services (and other new technologies) could be used to improve the human condition. I believe that the next Administration should launch a major new initiative to harness the confluence of new technologies and innovative business models as a key component of its global development agenda. This initiative would be designed to serve as a catalyst for policy reforms in developing countries, promote an increased capacity for innovation by developing country entrepreneurs to meet local needs, and stimulate additional investments by philanthropists, foundations and companies. Such an initiative could reduce poverty, strengthen democratic institutions, and improve global health outcomes. It could also help restore some of the damage to America’s international reputation, boost America’s “soft power,” and position American businesses and workers to benefit from the growth of emerging markets in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This initiative would not be limited to mobile services, and might also include decentralized approaches to providing safe drinking water, new vaccines, therapies, point-of-care diagnostics, clean energy, and improved crops that are more productive, nutritious, and drought-resistant.
Kalil has joined the Obama Administration to do exactly what he advocated in his cutting-edge paper. Check back with NDN for more work on mobile technology, improved health outcomes, economic opportunities and new tools used to foster democracy.
In the meantime, read the entire Harnessing the Mobile Revolutionhere.
there will be 700 million broadband subscribers worldwide, an increase of 76%
there will be over 2 billion new mobile subscriptions, an increase of 60%
wired phone line subscriptions will actually decline slightly worldwide
Furthermore, much of this growth is coming from the developing world. NDN and our affiliate the New Policy Institute recently released a paper, Harnessing the Mobile Revolution, which explores just how big of an impact this explosion of mobile infrastructure can have in poor countries in improving healthcare outcomes, combating poverty, and promoting democracy. So we're very encouraged by these projections.
Another important thing to note is that by 2013, smartphones will be much more ubiquitous and even more capable than they are at present. There's a ton of hype around the immenent release of the Palm Pre and the 3rd generation iPhone, which is likely to remain the class leader, but Google also just announced that there will be between 18 and 20 new phones running their mobile OS, Android, by the end of the year (two are pictured here).
Android is a powerful and highly customizable OS which continues to develop impressively, but until now it has been hindered by its hardware matches. Android also features an application store similar to Apple's, and although Apple still pretty much owns the app space (which it created), Android's app store does have the appeal of being completely open and uncensored (on some phones, depending on the carrier), unlike Apple's regulated App Store, which sometimes intentionally limits the iPhone's functionality.
The proliferation of these phones is in some ways more exciting than the spread of cheap netbooks - mobile phones today are more powerful and can do more things than most computers just a few years ago. Look for more from NDN in the coming weeks on this critical issue, which is huge not just for American politics but for global society. It will be very interesting to see what happens as much of the world comes online.
How often do you check your Facebook page? What if you tried to log on and Facebook was blocked?
If you live in Iran, that's exactly what has happened: the government has banned Facebook ahead of the June 12 election there. Why? Because opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, taking a page from Barack Obama's campaign playbook, has used the social networking site as well as blogs and other new media and tools to appeal to Iran's Millennial Generation.
Last October, UC Berkeley's Tom Kalil, now Associate Director for Policy of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, wrote a truly compelling paper for NDN affilate, the New Policy Institute. The paper, entitled "Harnessing the Mobile Revolution," focused on how mobile devices and technology are improving health outcomes, enabling economic growth and fostering democracy in some of the world's most underdevloped countries. In his paper, Kalil wrote that the explosive growth of mobile usage, their increased performance and functionality and the role the Internet has played in allowing greater openess on mobile devices are all factors that have led to the trends mentioned above.
The section of Kalil's paper about how mobile devices can foster democracy is fascinating and illustrates exactly why Iran's repressive government has banned Facebook. From's Kalil's paper:
There are a growing number of examples of mobile communications being used to topple governments, improve election monitoring, report on human rights abuses,strengthen civil society, and democratize the flow of information. A few of the more prominent examples are described below. Of course, the spread of the Internet and mobile technology does not automatically result in democratization and the free flow of information. As documented by the OpenNet Initiative, more than three dozen states around the world “use various mechanisms of Internet filtering, targeting a broad range of websites addressing political and social topics as well as many Internet tools and technologies.” Authoritarian governments such as China’s are able to enlist global multinationals to help them. Leading Internet search companies engage in self-censorship to block politically sensitive information, and other leading IT companies have helped built China’s “Golden Shield Project” for Internet filtering and surveillance.
Second People Power Revolution
In January 2001, Philippine President Joseph Estrada was driven from office by hundreds of thousands of angry citizens mobilized by millions of text messages and e-petitions. After 11 pro-Estrada senators voted to block evidence of the corruption in an impeachment trial of the President (Estrada was taking money from an illegal numbers racket), citizens began to circulate messages like "The 11 senators are pigs! S&@t, Estrada is acquitted! Let's do People Power! Pls. pass.” Text messaging and cell phones become powerful tools for the people organizing demonstrations in the main thoroughfare of Manila, and one carrier reported that the daily volume of text messages increased from 45 million to 70 million. Estrada called it a “coup de text.”
In October 2004, the Ukrainian state used fraud and intimidation to move 2.8 million votes in the direction of Victor Yanukovych, the presidential candidate favored by his authoritarian predecessor Leonid Kuchma. This resulted in civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes, with hundreds of thousands of orange-clad protestors gathering in the center of Kiev. Ukraine’s Supreme Court ordered a revote, and the opposition candidate Victor Yushchenko won the election. Analysts believe that the Internet and mobile phones played two important roles in the Orange Revolution. First, the Internet allowed an alternative media to flourish that was not subject to self-censorship or overt control by Kuchma and his allies. Second, prodemocracy activists were able to use mobile phones and the Internet to coordinate election monitoring and mass protests. Prior to the election, pro-democracy movements such as Pora (It’s Time) had created political networks throughout the country, including 150 groups responsible for spreading information and coordinating election monitoring, 72 regional centers, and 30,000 registered participants. This allowed Pora to mobilize protestors after widespread reports of electoral fraud.
NDN is doing more exciting work on the mobile technology front, so check back often. In the meantime, read Kalil's entire paper here, and if you're on Facebook, join NDN's Facebook page!
A New Generation Shapes a New Era, Politico, 4/6/09 ...outside the Beltway, America’s demography is steadily and quietly changing in a way that will fundamentally reshape the country for decades to come. A new generation, the millennial generation (born between 1982 and 2003), is coming of age to make over or realign U.S. politics.
The Republican Party ignores young 'millennials' at own peril, Los Angeles Times, 5/10/09 If the Republican Party thinks it has problems now, just wait. The party's incredibly poor performance among young voters in the 2008 election raises questions about the long-term competitiveness of the GOP. The "millennials" -- the generation of Americans born between 1982 and 2003 -- now identify as Democrats by a ratio of 2 to 1. They are the first in four generations to contain more self-perceived liberals than conservatives.
Do you get the Millennial Generation?Christian Science Monitor, 5/15/09 MTV premièred in August 1981, seven months after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as America's 40th president. It revolutionized TV and the music industry as much as Reagan changed the country's politics. And now, just as the election of Barack Obama to the presidency signaled the end of that political era and the beginning of another, MTV is belatedly shifting gears as well.
Simon has also been featured very prominently in the Huffington Post:
The Economic Conversation Enters a New Phase: Putting Consumers Front and Center Now, Huffington Post, 5/14/09 This is a welcome turn in the national economic conversation from the plight of big institutions and the financial system to what is perhaps the most important part of the story of the Great Recession still not adequately understood - the weakened state of the American consumer prior to the recent recession and financial collapse.
NDN Vice President for Hispanic Programs Andres Ramirez had an important op-ed in a special section of Roll Call on the 2010 Census and the growing power of Hispanic voters:
Ramirez: Hispanics Poised to Flex Muscle in Politics, Policy, Roll Call, 5/18/09 In particular, Hispanics stand to gain substantially from the census as the U.S. Hispanic population continues its rapid rise. And it is projected that Hispanics will represent at least 16 percent of the American work force by 2014.
NDN has an important new addition to our team, Nelson Cunningham, Chair of our Latin America Policy Initiative. Cunningham kicked off his chairmanship with a strong essay in the Chicago Tribune:
Hearing 'friend' in Trinidad, Chicago Tribune, 4/22/09 as Hugo Chavez...“friended” President Barack Obama at the 34-nation Summit of the Americas last weekend in Trinidad, he handed him a book about 500 years of neo-colonialist exploitation of Latin America by Europe and the United States. But the gesture was clear, as was the broad grin on Chavez’s face as he shook Obama’s hand on the summit’s first day. So was Chavez’s announcement that he would send a new ambassador to Washington, seven months after pulling out his last envoy in the waning days of the Bush administration.
And last, but by no means least, NDN Green Project Director Michael Moynihan weighed on on grist.org about one of the hottest debates in Congress:
Cap and Market This Year, grist.org, 5/14/09 The question is what does the compromise on auctioning credits mean? In my view, it is secondary to the greater goal of moving a bill forward. Accordingly, the deal reached by Chairman Henry Waxman and Congressman Ed Markey with other Members should be hailed as a victory by everyone who cares about the climate.
We are in the midst of an explosion of new technologies and new media, which are in various stages of development and exploitation. In 2006, the New Politics Institute launched a campaign to encourage progressives across the country to immediately adopt four key new tools that are particularly important and ready for political prime time right now.
With the success of our first tools campaign, NDN and NPI have launched the second part of our campaign, unveiling four new tools. They can make a difference in ensuring that our voice is heard loudly and clearly at a time when decisions critical to the future of our nation are being made.
Nine in 10 mobile phones are now Internet enabled, allowing candidates to send rich data directly to cell phone users. More importanly, 30% of users only have a cell phone, making traditional telemarketing techniques increasingly obsolete.
One innocent YouTube video single handidly sunk the political campaign of George Allen--and it wasn't even created by an opposition campaign. With the proliferation and decentralization of influential video, the 30 second ad spot needs to be reimagined.
The Republican political machine rose to power by identifying and targeting segments of an audience. In order to compete, Democrats also need to better understand potential voting niches and target them directly.
Independent of the Obama campaign, a FaceBook user created a a group that attracted 250,000 users in less than a month. This new type of online political self-organization can be harnessed to great effect--as long as politicos find a way to leverage social networks without damaging their autonomy.
As much money was spent on Google search ads last year as was spent on ads on any television network, magazine publisher, or newspaper chain. Search is an effective new form of advertising that allows your message to get in front of people who are actively looking for it. And, search only charges fees when people actually click on your ad.
Since 2001 more people watch cable television than broadcast during primetime. Advertising on cable offers more eyeballs and more precise demographic and geographic targeting at a lower price. Republicans began to take advantage of cable in 2004 and, by shifting significant advertising to cable, progressives can beat them at their own game.
The Blogosphere and Netroots are a powerful asset for progressives. Dedicate someone in your organization to blog or consistently get your message out to the blogs, which act as conduits to many active constituencies, including the huge generation of young people.
Spanish is the preferred language for nearly half of all Hispanic voters. Learning how to bring progressive values and ideas to this fast-growing group—using Spanish—is essential to reach an audience open to hearing from us.
In its continuing effort to bring our government into the 21st century along with the rest of us (excepting Republicans, who really put the OLD in G.O.P. these days), the Obama administration today launched a transparency and open government initiative. Check out this video of Valerie Jarrett introducing the initiative today:
As one of the first "featured innovations" of this initiative, the Obama administration also launched a new Web site, data.gov. According to the introductory blurb on this new site,
The purpose of Data.gov is to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Although the initial launch of Data.gov provides a limited portion of the rich variety of Federal datasets presently available, we invite you to actively participate in shaping the future of Data.gov by suggesting additional datasets and site enhancements to provide seamless access and use of your Federal data. Visit today with us, but come back often. With your help, Data.gov will continue to grow and change in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
Strictly speaking, there isn't really any *new* information here, but even though it is somewhat limited in scope at this point, data.gov is already a very powerful set of tools that makes it much easier to mine the vast depths of data generated by the government. They have already aggregated and indexed a staggering amount of information, and made it easily and instantly searchable.
Unless you've been desperately searching for all of the most current statistics on marriage and divorce rates in the U.S., you may have trouble getting too excited about this. But here's why it matters:
But Obama has also done a lot to open up government, from his bottom-up campaign style to his virtual press conferences and citizens' briefing book. And while data.gov doesn't tell us anything new per se, it is a very powerful rejoinder to the myth that government need always be an inefficient, bureaucratic nightmare (one of the chief conservative rationales for privatizing everything). The government of the 21st century can be very different from that of the 20th, and with tools like data.gov, Obama is showing us how.
Please join us this Friday, May 29, at 12:15pm for a presentation of "Dawn of a New Politics" by Simon Rosenberg.
Simon Rosenberg has delivered his presentation "Dawn of a New Politics" all across the country over the past several years: At the DNC in Denver, twice for the House Democratic Caucus, on the Google campus, and recently before members and staff of the DSCC and DAGA, among many other gatherings.
This engaging, highly-produced presentation makes a big argument on how politics is changing in America today, and offers ideas and strategies for how progressives can replicate our 20th century success in this new and dynamic century.
Simon has recently updated the presentations with new arguments and slides, including new analysis of the forces behind the 2008 election. Even if you've seen the presentation before, this new version will be fresh and engaging!
We cordially invite you to join us-- either here in our event space, or via Web cast-- to be among the first to watch and engage with this revamped presentation.
The event will begin at 12:15, and the Web cast will start at 12:45p.m.Follow this link to watch the Web cast.
Please RSVP for the event (if you'll be coming to the offices... no need to RSVP for the Web cast).
Today's brief Google outage notwithstanding, it's pretty good these days for people who like finding things on the internet.
In its ongoing quest to index the universe, Google has just announced several advanced new search features. The most immediately obvious for Google users is the new “Show Options” feature, which allows you to refine your search results in real-time, instead of doing a separate advanced search. It also includes several ways to view your search and related searches, including the “magic wheel,” pictured here, and "timeline" views. They are also working on some experimental features, including “Google Squared,” which returns your results in tables, the most important information coupled with each result.
Google isn't the only one making it easier to quickly find what you're searching for. Twitter's search feature has undergone some improvements over the last few months, making it much easier to pick the social network's collective brain. And cool new tools like Twitscoop allow a virtual real-time cross-section of what people on the world's third-largest social network are thinking and talking about.
Instant access to so much information, and along with it the ability to have one's own voice heard by others around the world, have already altered politics forever, making it easier both to be informed and to participate, which is one of the biggest arguments that NDN and the New Politics Institute have been making for years.
Reading on the web is almost certainly affecting the way we process information, but it’s not making us stupid. Instead, it’s changing the way we’re smart. Rather than storehouses of in-depth information, the web is turning our brains into indexes. These days, it’s not what you know — it’s what you know you can access, and cross reference.
The comments at the bottom are are pretty great. Some of my favorites:
"I could barely get to the end of this article before Tweeting and sending some emails. True Story and great read."
"This reminds me of a Richard Feynman anecdote. I don’t recall all the details (though I could look them up!) but basically he was auditing a graduate-level biology class and did a presentation on some topic of anatomy. He got a lukewarm response because it turns out he was just presenting a bunch of info that the “real” bio students had already had to memorize. His reaction was basically that it seemed like a waste of brain cells to memorize stuff that’s just as easily looked up."
Kevin Drum from Mother Jones is less optimistic, saying that he likes this argument, but,
...unfortunately, I can't think of any evidence at all to suggest it's true. Understanding "broader categories" — the context into which individual pieces of knowledge fit — requires you to read books. Full stop. Maybe someday it won't, but it does now...I'd love to be wrong about this. But I'm not. If you want to understand the world, not just collect endless factlets, you still need to read books. If you do, the internet makes you smarter. If you don't, it makes you dumber.
I think both sides of this argument have some merit. I definitely agree that constantly searching for indexed information can make it harder to focus on single topics for sustained periods, but I also think the benefits probably outweigh the costs. Furthermore, there isn't really anything about the physical, bound-paper book that possesses magical intelligence-imbuing properties; Devices like Amazon's new, larger Kindle, which will be used to display textbooks as well as newspapers and blogs, may be a sign of where learning is headed in the digital age.
One thing is for sure. There is no use railing against this trend; rather, we need to work to better understand it and how it is changing our minds, our societies, and our politics. I'll close with a quote from the most recent New Yorker about the rise of "neuroenhancing" study drugs:
...But it’s not the mind-expanding sixties anymore. Every era, it seems, has its own defining drug. Neuroenhancers are perfectly suited for the anxiety of white-collar competition in a floundering economy. And they have a synergistic relationship with our multiplying digital technologies: the more gadgets we own, the more distracted we become, and the more we need help in order to focus.