Analysis of Top Themes at PDF 2009

PdF09 Twitters From the White House to White Flight: Whatever

A great analysis of the trends and topics that got the most buzz at the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum.  The data behind the analysis was pulled from our tool, Twitterslurp.

Search for Children

As I have worked at The Bivings Group, I have focused on helping design websites and applications for specific audiences – professionals and adult aged individuals.  Many of the clients I have worked with don't need to focus on children, and young web surfers have unique needs.

Recently, I was introduced to the International Children's Digital Library (ICDL) website.  While the site has a rather conservative and standard design – in my opinion – I am really intrigued by its book search feature geared towards children.


On this page, children are presented with a search interface that is different from an interface geared towards adults.  Adults are asked about keywords, authors, and titles, but children may not know such information.  Further, children are probably more prone to browse when searching for a book instead of having a specific author or book title in mind.  That is why IDCL provides children with different search options.  For instance, a child can search for a book that has orange on its cover.  Or instead of searching for historical fiction, children can search for “Make Believe Books” or ones that have “Imaginary Creature Characters.”  Further, they can search for books based upon age groups and type – picture or chapter books.


Another interesting feature is that the search options are presented as graphical buttons that children can easily suss out the meaning of.  The search results are also presented by showing the book covers, and children can also flip through the entire books on the computer.

I think that this is an interesting search feature.  Imagine if Google or Yahoo! was set up like this…

New York City Courts Emerging Tech Development with New Incentives

Hoping to compete with emerging foreign markets and prevent another major industry collapse, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday the city’s launch of eight initiatives aimed and drawing and keeping new media technologies in the Big Apple.

“New York City is the media capital of the world, but, with the industry undergoing profound changes, it’s incumbent on us to take steps now to capitalize on growth opportunities and ensure we remain an industry leader,” Bloomberg said in a press conference, according to the New York Times.

Among the eight programs is the establishment of a media lab modeled after those at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.
The lab will “issue a request for proposals from universities and other organizations interested in providing space for lectures, workshops and other events that would being together media professionals,” The Times reported.

Other initiatives include recruiting entrepreneurs from around outside of the city, seeking rising starts from emerging markets in Asia, the Middle East, Silicon Valley and the Boston area, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In his press conference, Mayor Bloomberg estimated the city’s media industry makes up about 10 percent of its private sector, adding up to around 300,000 jobs. The new initiatives aim to create 8,000 new jobs over the next 10 years and will cost the city about $1.5 million.

A spokesman for the organization behind the initiatives, The New York City Economic Development Corporation, said a focus on new media companies will help curb the slow-down of traditional media development and the plan is based on past lessons learned.

“We know that 10 years ago, when you look at some of the media giants, many were not even incorporated yet, and is they were, many were just tiny entities,” NYCEDC Vice President of Public Affairs David Lombino told PRWeek.

The project follows a similar push in January to keep financial employees in the city, and after tacking media, NYCEDC will focus on curtailing slowing retail business.

Commenting on a Conference? Blog it? No, YouTube it.

I spent some time today going through a random selection of the videos of presentations, tweets and blog commentary about the Personal Democracy Forum conference held last week in New York City.  Sort of goes from the insightful to the inane to the downright snarky.  Kind of expected.  But then I happen upon a little nugget, something different.

Here’s Natali, a conference attendee (and senior editor at, who after the first day, and before dinner I presume, wants to provide a little of her own commentary on the conference.  What’s unusual is that she admits to forgoing a blog post, saying that it’ll take too much time, and she won’t need to “obsess about content, wit, structure, grammar and all that stuff.” (Emphasis added.)  And instead she does a video post “to throw it all out there.”

It’s engaging.  Natali’s camera-friendly and thoughtful.  The video post is part commentary, part confessional.  Natali does another video post about the second day.  In it, she admits to playing hookey, attending only the first half of the day, and going for an afternoon jog in Central Park.  (BTW, it rained cats and dogs later in the afternoon.)

Is this the beginning  of a new trend?  Speaking is obviously easier than writing, especially after attending an event, when you just want to do a “brain dump” with friends.  And with making a video post on YouTube so easy now, I’m wondering if we’re going to see more of this.

Michael Wesch on the Anthropology of YouTube

Michael Wesch, a cultural anthropology professor at Kansas State University, gave an extremely well received talk at the recent Personal Democracy Forum.  High quality video of his PDF 2009 talk is not yet available, but below is a longer talk he gave to the Library of Congress entitled “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.”  While a bit long at an hour, it is worth blocking out the time to watch.

I loved this Lev Grossman quote that was included in presentation:

“Some of the comments on YouTube make you weep for the future of humanity just for the spelling alone, never mind the obscenity and the naked hatred.”

Start watching the video and I bet you’ll make it through the whole thing.

Beyond Panel Discussion at Personal Democracy Forum 09


While attending the Personal Democracy Forum, I listened to a panel discussion that included Todd Zeigler of The Bivings Group, Heather Lauer of the Pickens Plan, Roz Lemieux of Fission Strategy, and moderator/Washington Post, Jose Antonio Vargas.

The focus of the panel was how social networks and the social web are changing politics.

During initial introductions Lauer shared that the Pickens Plan concept came together last minute. There was an initial meeting last June, and in a few days a campaign was launched. She stressed that when it came to the Pickens Plan social network, a lot of control was given up. Providing this openness for its members has resulted in great success.

“Members of the Pickens Plan are the ambassadors and leaders who will go for war for you,” added Zeigler. He also shared that turning the online activity to offline action is the Holy Grail for the online community. It was interesting to learn that email is still considered the killer app.

Roz Lemieux stated that for many organizations, social networks are still an uphill battle. And for those invested, they would be wise to see the social web as a gift economy. Give more than you take and you will see great results.

Jose Vargus asked the panel to expand on the risks of social networks.

Zeigler stated that organizations continue to have an ongoing fear of being painted unfavorable based on comments made on the various socnets they manage. “I hope we are beyond that point. If you are going to launch a network, you’ve got to have a plan.”

Lemieux felt that a legitimate fear is that an organization may not have the staff to manage or respond at the level that is demanded by the social web.

“The benefits far outweigh the fear. By opening up the community, members are more invested and self moderate,” shared Lauer.

An audience member asked an interesting question on the importance of mobile outreach and its effectiveness.

Roz Lemieux shared that her experience with text messaging may have been too early too soon. On a previous outreach attempt, her audience wasn’t quite ready for mobile organization. She did add this was before mobile technology matured to where it is at now.

Jose Vargus did state for Obama, text messaging was successful, however, it’s still a medium that hasn’t been looked at as well as it should.

“Texting is a more viable solution. Getting people to make a phone call via email is less than 1% success rate. Very difficult to do,” added Lemieux.

Vargus made and important point that developing economies that do not have broadband or computers, will do everything to keep their cell phones charged or communicate via text.

You can catch video highlights of the panel discussion here and here.