The story of how Facebook and Twitter users lobbied the AP Stylebook to change “web site” to “website”

On the day the AP Stylebook announced it would change the requirement that its users refer to online destinations as “web sites” to the more widely-used “websites,” I sent a message to a person named Justin LaBerge requesting a phone interview. He responded quickly saying that he was “about to go meet up with my GF for our Friday night plans (In light of today’s event, we have much to celebrate!)” When I spoke to him a few days later he said he was mostly kidding about the celebration part (he had been planning to go out with his girlfriend already) but that they did raise their glasses to “toast” the news. “You wouldn’t believe how many emails and Facebook messages I got when people saw that,” he told me.

Back in 2008, LaBerge had created a Facebook group called “Dear AP Stylebook: Could You Please Spell ‘Web site’ Like a Normal Person?” Working for a Missouri PR agency, LaBerge said that he had become frustrated after constantly sending copy to clients with the “web site” spelling only to have them send it back edited to include the more widely-used “website.” “I just get sick and tired of having to spell and explain why we spell ‘web site’ this weird way,” he said. “I am the AP Style writer in the office. I really like AP Style, I’m a fan of it, and I use it, and when something you love messes up, it almost hurts you more than when something you don’t care about messes up.”

So LaBerge created the group and he sent invites out to a cadre of other PR people he knew regionally encouraging those who really believed in the issue to then forward it to their friends. In the first month or two it amassed around 200 to 300 people and continued to grow from there. When I checked in last week it had reached 700 fans.

LaBerge had used other methods to lobby the AP Stylebook to no avail, including emailing the book’s top editor and also a magazine journalist who had interviewed him. But he saw his golden opportunity when the Stylebook made an open call for user input into changes it should make, specifically in regard to social media.

“They said we’re going to make some changes to AP Style, specifically social media, and a woman who is a member of our group saw that and forwarded it to me and I forwarded it to the group and said, ‘here’s a website where you can go and they’re actively soliciting these requests, tell them you want them to change ‘web site.””

Though he didn’t remember the name of the woman, it most likely was Tracy Russo, a DC-based Twitter user who had begun her own campaign — in this case on Twitter — to get the AP Stylebook to change its policy. Russo told me via email that after seeing the AP announcement soliciting input she had messaged Justin. But her lobbying didn’t stop there. “I submitted my own comment, but then wanted to rally friends and colleagues as well. So I e-mailed 200 or so friends, most of whom work in online or political communications and asked them to chime in as well.” She also began directing Twitter users to the suggesting form, tweeting things like, “Tell the @APStyleBook “Web site” (2 words, capital W) is lame. It should be “website” (1 word, lowercase w),” and “Have you told @APStylebook it should be “website” instead of “Web site”? ”

Obviously, the demographic that felt passionate about this style usage was relatively small, but the above demonstrates how one can funnel a small but eager audience into a very targeted campaign, one that produces results.

“You can see there doesn’t appear to be that many,” Russo said. “But a clear coordinated message offered up an obvious correction that a lot of people are excited about today.”

And that’s how your AP Stylebook sausage is made.

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2010 Politics Online: Top Ten Known Unknowns

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know.”- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

With the sheer quantity and overall quality of information presented at this weeks 2010 Politics Online Conference, choosing just 10, or even 20 or 30 of the most insightful or unique comments is no easy task. Although Mr. Rumsfeld was obviously not referring to social media, and his comment here was widely criticized, keeping in mind exactly what you know, what you don’t know, and what you might never know are important principles to keep in mind when designing or managing a social media campaign.

For anyone who could not attend or might have missed a few sessions, all of the panels on track D were covered by CSPAN and are available here. Keynote addresses in the main ballroom were broadcast live via Usteam.Tv and are available on the Politics2010 channel.

Top Ten Known Unknowns

10. One panel predicted that, StumbleUpon and Google Buzz will not be here next year. I have written previously about the multitude of location based services such as Foursquare and Gowalla and how I doubt that they all will survive.  Is Social Media a zero-sum game? Will the pie keep expanding as access to broadband expands and new users come online?

9. "It doesn't matter how many people you have as fans on Facebook. You only need the right 5." While it is easy to focus on the sheer number of followers and fans one might have on Facebook or Twitter, as this blog has pointed out before, quality always trumps quantity.  Finding those key fans or linchpins is the key. Broadly speaking, there is a certain intangible benefit to social media that is not always easy to identify. What will the new measures of success be?

8. Nic Adler gave an excellent presentation on his experience using social media to help save his nightclub, the legendary Roxy on Sunset Strip. Rather than ignoring or antagonizing his competition, Nick worked with competing venues like The Viper Room to reinvigorate the music scene, even going so far as to organize Tweet-crawls where he would actually encourage his customers to visit other businesses! Will social media make business and society more equitable? 

7. During the Bush administration, a single blog post by an independent blogger was ultimately responsible for pushing the administration to redesign the White House’s website. Another panelist remarked that compared to corporate customer service, the level of customer service people expect from government organizations is unattainable. While technology is certainly streamlining many interactions citizens have with government agencies, how willing should we be to outsource government functions?

6. Given the already explosive growth of the mobile internet, what does the future have in store for augmented reality applications? If you had an application for your phone that showed exactly what your local government has done or not done- potholes fixed, how much that bridge cost would you use it?  How about an application that pointed out a problem? In Washington DC you can report potholes via email or Twitter.

5. “Email is the hub around which Facebook, Twitter and other social media revolve.” – Colin Delaney. Email is still king. Businesses and organizations should focus on having a strong email program before branching out into social media. When and if this will change is still a matter of some debate.

4. “Social Media is nothing less than the reinvigoration of American democracy." -Rod Martin, Founder of Paypal. What exactly this reinvigorated democracy will look like, and whether or not it will improve government services and perceptions of government is tough to say. Considering that a small minority of Twitter users are responsible for a majority of the content, many have noted that the internet and social media tend to amply the loudest and most extreme viewpoints.

3. Microsoft’s Campaign Ready Suite. Despite a rocky demo that was plagued by an overtaxed WIFI system, Microsoft’s TownHall is something to watch. As a veteran of several campaigns, I can attest to the reluctance of some candidates and consultants to embrace new tools. One aspect of their program that was largely overlooked was the fact that it is open source. Does this represent a shift in Microsoft’s approach to designing software?

2. “Very likely to see independent Presidential candidate in 2012 that will make Ross Perot look like a joke.” – Joe Trippi. As we get closer to the midterm elections in November, many candidates are facing primary challenges from candidates whose campaigns would not have been possible without the internet. Will social media lead to a multi-party system?

1. The biggest threat to the future of the internet is filtering or censoring by governments, otherwise known as 'vulcanization'. Although pretty much everyone agrees that actions taken by China and Iran to censor content and limit access are egregious afford to freedom of speech, there was a surprising amount of disagreement among panelists about the potential fallout from the FCC’s recent attempt to force Comcast to stop managing its customers bandwidth on the per-per service Bit Torrent. Are regulations preventing ISPs from prioritizing internet traffic an unnecessary intrusion or necessary reform?

Facebook Takes Its “Like” Button Across The Web

Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook is making it even easier for users to take their Facebook identity with them as they navigate the web. At its developers conference this morning, the company announced a set of “social plugins” that, among other capabilities, let visitors to third-party websites indicate to their Facebook contacts that they “Like” a specific piece of content, without having to log-in to the third-party site (The user does, of course, have to be logged in to Facebook). To add the plugin, websites only have to add one line of code.

The “Like” button is just the start. Once a site has added that plugin, it can also add others so that visitors can see what their Facebook friends have “Liked” and also get content suggestions.

One way to think about it is that it’s essentially a big upgrade to Facebook Connect—which lets users log-in to third party sites with their Facebook IDs so that they can easily share content. And, indeed, Facebook says it will no longer be using the Connect branding.

During his keynote, CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed how a first-time visitor to could now immediately see what his or her Facebook friends were suggesting to read (i.e. had marked as “Like”)—and could also “Like” content themselves via a prominent module on the upper right-hand corner of the site. “I haven’t connected to CNN. I haven’t logged in. CNN has used our social plugins and Facebook serves the content to me,” he said.

Another related example: A first-time visitor to Pandora, who is also logged in to Facebook, would hear songs from bands they have “Liked” around the web without having to enter any preferences themselves. Zuckerberg said he expects one billion pieces of content to be “Liked” during the first 24 hours after the plugin goes live later today.

One other highlight from the keynote: Zuckerberg said that Facebook now has 400 million users—up from 350 million in December—who were sharing a staggering 25 billion “things” a month before the “Like” button’s roll-out.

The conference is ongoing; watch it here.

GEICO Announcer Fired For Calling Tea Partiers ‘Retarded,’ Potential Murderers

You’d think people learned that if Rahm Emanuel can’t get away with it, it’s probably best not to use the word. Lance Baxter, AKA “D.C. Douglas,” the voice actor most notable for his work in GEICO commercials, has been dismissed from his job for using his highly recognizable voice to leave a voicemail in the mailbox of Tea Party group Freedomworks asking how many of its members were “mentally retarded” and what the response would be when a member inevitably killed someone.

Douglas responded to his removal with a blog post that is now offline but partially reproduced on

“I called as a private citizen to make a complaint,” explains Mr. Douglas. “Racism and homophobia are my Achilles heal, but unfortunately my message included inappropriate words and I am sorry for that. However, telling their members to harass my employer to get me fired is an egregiously disproportionate response to my actions.”

He also says on his Facebook page that he is going to “take tea bags and make lemonade” and thanks fans for being “NICE” and “REASONABLE.”

It’s worth noting that GEICO is not exactly in the Tea Party movement’s pocket, either, as it was one of many companies to boycott Tea Party darling The Glenn Beck Program when its host claimed Barack Obama had a “deep-seeded hatred of white people, or the white culture.”

Megyn Kelly’s report on the story below:

This Exists: The House Of Representatives GOP New Media Challenge!

In an attempt to get in on all that social networking has to offer, House Republicans are staging their first Congressional New Media Challenge, a competition modeled after NCAA March Madness in which representatives vie for the largest number of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube followers. Round one, on Twitter, begins today. Time to fire up the Congressional Blackberries!

The competition is in anticipation of the fall midterm elections, forcing representatives to become more active online and engage more directly with constituents. The brainchild of Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), vice chair of the group, the idea is to get representatives preemptively campaigning by making an effort to engage with new media, and while they’re at it get voters excited about their representatives through interacting online. Unfortunately, not all House Republicans are participating– noticeably absent is web-friendly Texas Congressman Ron Paul– but here’s the list of competitors on Twitter, and our top five picks to take the title (and an as-yet-determined prize):

  • Rep. Aaron Schock (IL): TMZ pin-up boy and HuffPo’s “Hottest Freshman Congressman” has only been in the House a year, but has already evoked the anger of Rachel Maddow on his opposition to the stimulus bill and still has another year to stand out in his party.
  • Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL): Cuban-American Congresswoman whose claim to fame is hanging up on both Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obamatwice– because she mistook them for Enrique Santos and Joe Ferrero, the morning zoo DJs that prank-called Fidel Castro.
  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN): She’s loud, passionate, and much more popular beyond her district than many of her competitors. Only downside is that she may have peaked in Twitter followers long ago, since she’s been a national figure for so long.
  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (TX): Much like Rep. Joe Wilson (who, sadly, is not playing), Neugebauer made a name for himself after shouting “baby killer!” at Bart Stupak when he finally gave in and voted for the health care bill. Other than this type of newsmaking behavior, though, Neugebauer has a clean slate with the public.
  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT): Chaffetz is another young competitor (it seems most of those playing the game are younger), but possibly the most conservative of the bunch. Chaffetz was one of the few Congressmen to oppose Washington, DC’s passing of gay marriage rights. He also recently came out against representation for DC, as he considered it unconstitutional.

The competition is anyone’s game, but depending on what voters are counting as the most important factor, each of these five has as good as chance as any. If being the most far-right counts, Chaffetz and Neugebauer have the advantage. If it’s who can garner the most attention nationwide, Bachmann wins in a landslide. But because this is the internet and sex sells, we’re betting on Reps. Ros-Lehtinen (which you can watch, via The Colbert Report, perform a striptease here) and Schock, for his TMZ portfolio, to take the prize. After Friday, though, competitors will be in brackets, so predicting the winners will be at least in part determined by the proximity to difficult competition.

Where to Watch Facebook’s f8 Live Online

Are you a Facebook developer but can’t make it out to tomorrow’s sold-out f8 developers conference in person? Never fear — the social networking site is teaming up with Livestream to allow viewers to watch and even participate in the conference from afar. Beginning Wednesday, April 21 with Mark Zuckerberg’s keynote at 10 a.m. PDT/1 p.m. EDT, Facebook will launch f8 Live, which will stream all sessions from the conference live on the Interwebz, along with a number of interactive features that are designed to let those who can’t attend feel like they are a part of the action.

Facebook will have multiple channels available to online viewers, enabling them to watch the keynote and other sessions, as well as “behind the scenes” live interviews with Facebook executives, f8 launch partners, notable developers and other attendees through the Inside f8 Channel. That channel will be moderated by Randi Zuckerberg, and will allow remote viewers to ask questions and interact with the featured attendees.

In addition to streaming video from the event, f8 Live will have employees live blogging the event, and will allow viewers to watch video of one session live while following the blogging or discussion around a different session. Since Facebook developers are global, chat and discussions will support eight different languages. Finally, f8 Live will have a scrolling ticker to alert viewers when new sessions or interviews are about to begin.

The f8 Live embeddable widget is available here, or you can watch the embedded stream below. A complete schedule of planned events can be found on the Facebook f8 site.

Image courtesy of Flickr user David Berkowitz.

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