Social Action Networks Defined

social action network 4 One of the more significant trends in online politics and public affairs over the last few years has been the rise of Social Action Networks.

A Social Action Network is an online community that allows members to connect and organize around shared political passions.  If visiting a social network like Facebook is like walking into a bar, visiting a Social Action Network is like walking into a campaign headquarters. 

With prominent examples such as My.BarackObama.com and our own Push.Pickensplan.com, Social Action Networks are changing the way political and public affairs work is performed. 

Social Action Networks (SANs):

  • Tend to focus on creating substantial change for an issue, movement or political candidate.
  • Serve as a hub where people can become members of a particular movement for change.
  • Have the potential to globally connect like-minded people around issues that they care about.
  • Encourage members to share their view and thoughts while contributing content and building awareness for a cause.
  • Encourage their members to transform their passion on an issue into action.
  • Provide opportunities for members to participate both within the network and offline.
  • Are transparent and allow for uncensored and open discussions to take place between members.
  • Usually have specific outlined goals

    These are just a few focus points on Social Action Networks. If you are thinking about starting one, be prepared to roll up your sleeves. It can be a lot of work, but it’s a terrific way to build awareness for your organization or movement. 

    In the upcoming weeks we’ll address what you should put on your to do list, talk about what to avoid, discuss ways to build your Social Action Network, and provide examples of successful case studies.

    8 Lessons Journalists Can Learn From Scientists

    The ScienceOnline10 conference starts this Thursday, and about 275 scientists, educators and science writers from around the world will gather near Raleigh, N.C. to discuss many of the same online tools and issues that journalists are examining.

    Sessions will focus on topics like "citizen scientists," crowdsourcing, and the best iPhone apps for gathering and sharing information. The conference is sold out, but plenty of ways exist to attend ScienceOnline10 virtually.

    anildashsmallmediashift.jpg

    For journalists, the biggest name at the conference is Anil Dash, a pioneering blogger and one of the founders of Six Apart. He's the creator of Expert Labs, an organization designed to help connect experts with government, and will talk Saturday afternoon about Government 2.0.

    The conference and its participants have many lessons for journalists, and many participants also have long histories of successful experimentation and community building. The conference has had heavy support from members of ScienceBlogs, a network of 138 science bloggers that recently announced a new partnership with National Geographic. Members of the group began experimenting with reverse publishing to print from blogs way back in 2006 with "The Science Blogging Anthology." The anthology has been published every year since the first edition went from concept to print in about a month to coincide with the inaugural Science Bloggers Conference in early 2007.

    The network of bloggers that launched this conference, in turn, grew out of BlogTogether, a community of N.C. bloggers and online communicators active since at least 2005. These scientists, educators and communicators have been tackling many of the same issues that have become critical for the media industry during the last couple of years. Their experiments and successes are worth examination. Here are eight lessons that journalists can learn from the convention and its supporters.

    1. Civility matters.

    One session at the conference will tackle hard questions about online civility and debate, and why it matters. The session is led by Janet Stemwedel, Sheril Kirshenbaum and "Dr. Isis," a physiologist at a major research university who blogs but fiercely guards her real identity. Discussion and links are available at the conference wiki.

    2. Diversity is worth tackling.

    Sessions at the conference, which is being held just before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, will include diversity in science and technology, reaching out to underrepresented individuals in science, and figuring out a way to reach across generations.

    3. Real relationships sustain online relationships.

    This conference was born as a result of relationships built through BlogTogether.org, an early, active group of bloggers loosely based in North Carolina's Research Triangle area, and in Greensboro, N.C. Conferences created by the group have brought in champions of citizen voices such as Dan Gillmor, and have attracted support from traditional media executives like editor John Robinson of the Greensboro News and Record. An early national conference started by the group, ConvergeSouth, was the brainchild of blogger Sue Polinsky. At this conference, one session, The Importance of Meatspace, will explore the power of real-world connections.

    4. Niches work.

    Science bloggers, by definition, target relatively small audiences. Cognitive Daily, for example, focuses on peer-reviewed developments in cognition psychology, which could be considered a niche of a niche of a niche. The blog's "About" page says, "The research isn't dumbed down, but it's explained in language that everyone can understand, with clear illustrations and references to the original research." The blog, produced by a husband and wife duo, Dave and Greta Munger of Davidson, N.C., does seek levity. There are "Casual Friday" posts that deal with subjects like the use of curse words, annoying online restaurant menus, and emoticons. It has been consistently publishing since at least January 2005.

    5. The discussion of pros vs. amateurs isn't over.

    In science, as with journalism, the role of scientists (or journalists) is still evolving. What exactly is a "citizen scientist"? How do they differ from the pros, and aren't the pros "citizens" as well? How do science or journalism bloggers fit within the information ecosystem and, thanks to the explosion of content, whom do you trust? Where does government fit? One session at the conference will deal with citizen scientists, and longtime blogger and conference organizer Bora Zivkovic also has a roundup of the sessions focused on journalism. For further reading, check out Dan Schultz's Idea Lab post outlining what journalists can learn from citizen scientists.

    6. Can people document while they participate?

    Three people involved with the great Pacific garbage patch research effort and its related media coverage will discuss the melding of real-time science, non-profit advocacy, outreach and journalism in a session, Talking Trash - Online Outreach from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Can someone participate in research and still report that research? Can someone be an advocate and still produce trusted information? How will society fund journalism that covers specific research? And did funding from the innovative Spot.Us project work well as a way to publish a story in the New York Times about the garbage patch? As a related issue, how can information about research reach ordinary people?

    7. Networks and trust are crucial.

    Links, blogrolls, citations of sources, guest blogging, and the older technique of "blogging carnivals" build trust and develop networks that pay off. Trust, reputation and "personal brands" remain crucial components in the search for information, and those elements help readers filter the deluge of data and information. The thriving ScienceBlogs site shows the power of branding and networking. But a flip side exists: How can laypeople learn critical thinking and use skeptical questioning to better evaluate sources and information? Two conference sessions deal specifically with trust: How does a journalist figure out which scientists to trust, and Trust and critical thinking.

    8. Experimentation and transparency pay off.

    You might expect a group of scientists to embrace experimentation. But this group in particular explores new ways of sharing information transparently, opening the process to people in other fields and locations. A concrete example: The reverse publishing of science bloggers' posts required an element of financial risk in order to share information with a wider audience. Organizers are also using the conference wiki and social media tools like Flickr, Second Life, Twitter and Facebook to promote and share the conference in a broad way. Specific sessions deal with Open Notebook Science, and the Open Dinosaur Project, an effort to crowdsource the digitization of data.

    Correction January 14: A photo caption incorrectly referred to Anil Dash as Anill Dash.

    Andria Krewson is a freelance journalist and consultant from Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at newspapers for 27 years, focusing on design and editing of community niche publications. She blogs for her neighborhood at Under Oak and covers changing culture at Crossroads Charlotte. Twitter: underoak

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    How the WSJ Gets Social With its Content from Behind a Paywall

    We're not even a month into 2010 and the Economist has already declared it to be "The year of the paywall."

    "There are plenty of examples of paid content thriving even when free alternatives are available," according to the magazine. "... Punters are happy to pay for multichannel television even though commercial broadcast television is free. Such alternatives thrive because they offer desirable content. One considerable advantage to building a paywall is that it forces newspapers to think hard about what their customers (as opposed to their advertisers) might really want."

    That's a positive spin on paywalls. But a recent Ipsos/PHD survey found that 55 percent of consumers "would be very or extremely unlikely to pay for online newspaper or magazine content."

    The Wall Street Journal is cited as an example of the right way to build and maintain a paywall. Owner Rupert Murdoch, who acquired the paper after it built its wall, has said that people are willing to pay for content in newspapers, and thus people will be willing to pay for content online.


    Murdoch called Google, Microsoft, and Ask.com "people which simply pick up everything and run with it and steal our stories." (Though the paper does allow some Google-referred users to read WSJ article for free.) But the paper still wants to see its content linked and cited via social media. And ti wants to be part of the conversations taking place on Facebook, Twitter and other places. But how can it engage with social media when it locks its journalism behind a paywall?



    Alan-Murray.jpgIn an interview, Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray said the paper doesn't want to rely on one source of traffic, meaning Google. He also noted that three of the major social media platform -- Facebook, Digg, and Twitter -- are among WSJ's top 20 referrers. Thirty percent comes from Yahoo! and Google.



    "We have a strong brand," Murray said. "Half of our traffic comes through the front door."



    Murray said social media is at present a comparatively small source of traffic. But he also spoke of its potential to drive readers who could eventually become paid subscribers.

    Examples of WSJ's Social Media Activities

    Though it can't promote and share the content created and then locked down on its website, the paper has worked to incorporate social media. Last year, Murray interviewed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during what the paper called a "Digg Dialogg". Geithner answered questions submitted and voted on by Digg users.


    Murray also created a Future of News Twitter List, a "list of top tweeters discussing the future of news." Murray said he uses Twitter Lists to recommend the best Twitter sources within a particular niche, and added that some of those sources are Journal staff members. That helps promote the Journal's work because the staffers often talk about and link to their work on Twitter.



    The Wall Street Journal was also one of the first organizations to use the Loomia Facebook App to show users which WSJ stories were read by their friends. (They eventually took it down because of performance issues.) Murray disclosed that the paper is in the process of closing a new partnership with Facebook, though he won't reveal details.



    He also said the WSJ is developing social applications in-house. These will include widgets to highlight related and contextual content, in addition to its iPhone and BlackBerry apps.



    Of course, all this content promoted through social media is meant to get readers to buy an online subscription to WSJ.com. Murray said that the Journal's business model of providing free peripheral content to sell its "core business in financial coverage" is the future of news.

    Newsday's Paywall Goes Up, Traffic Drops

    The WSJ has had years to develop a strategy to promote and share its content from behind the paywall. If this is indeed the "year of the paywall," many other organizations are going to have to learn to do the same.

    After New York's Newsday locked most of its content behind a paywall, its web traffic dropped by 21 percent. On top of that, longtime Newsday columnist, Saul Friedman, resigned over the decision to charge. One of the reasons he cited for his resignation was that a paywall would prevent him from sending his column to people who don't subscribe to Newsday.

    newsdayfacebook.jpgAn editor wasn't made available to comment on Newsday's strategy in an interview, but its website prominently promotes the paper's presence on major social media platforms. Newsday currently runs a Facebook fan page with over 800 fans, and the publication also maintains a Facebook profile for Newsday founder Alicia Patterson, called Alicia P. Newsday. Newsday's Twitter account is followed by over 600 users.

    When asked about its strategy for social media promotion from behind the paywall, a Newsday spokesperson replied by email to note that a "share" button, which allows visitors to submit content to various social sites, is available above each story.

    The question, however, is who'll be clicking on that button now that the content is locked down?

    Neal Rodriguez is a social media consultant who features some of the smartest mashups on the web and interviews some of the brightest minds operating cybersace. Neal writes for the Huffington Post. Neal drives colossal influxes of traffic to some of the biggest web properties on the planet while pulling his son's Hot Wheels off his keyboard in Queens, New York.

    This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

    How WSJ Uses Social Media from Behind a Pay Wall

    We're not even a month into 2010 and The Economist has already declared it to be "The year of the pay wall."

    "There are plenty of examples of paid content thriving even when free alternatives are available," according to the magazine. "Punters are happy to pay for multichannel television even though commercial broadcast television is free. Such alternatives thrive because they offer desirable content. One considerable advantage to building a pay wall is that it forces newspapers to think hard about what their customers (as opposed to their advertisers) might really want."

    That's a positive spin on pay walls. But a recent Ipsos/PHD survey found that 55 percent of consumers "would be very or extremely unlikely to pay for online newspaper or magazine content."

    The Wall Street Journal is cited as an example of the right way to build and maintain a pay wall. Owner Rupert Murdoch, who acquired the paper after it built its wall, has said that people are willing to pay for content in newspapers, and thus people will be willing to pay for content online.



    Murdoch called Google, Microsoft, and Ask.com "people which simply pick up everything and run with it and steal our stories." (Though the paper does allow some Google-referred users to read some WSJ articles for free.) But the paper still wants to see its content linked and cited via social media. And it wants to be part of the conversations taking place on Facebook, Twitter and other places. But how can it engage with social media when it locks its journalism behind a pay wall?



    Alan-Murray.jpg

    In an interview, Journal deputy managing editor Alan Murray said the paper doesn't want to rely on one source of traffic, meaning Google. He also noted that three of the major social media platforms -- Facebook, Digg, and Twitter -- are among WSJ's top 20 referrers. Thirty percent comes from Yahoo and Google.


    "We have a strong brand," Murray said. "Half of our traffic comes through the front door."



    Murray said social media is at present a comparatively small source of traffic. But he also spoke of its potential to drive readers who could eventually become paid subscribers.

    Examples of WSJ's Social Media Activities

    Though it can't promote and share the content created and then locked down on its website, the paper has worked to incorporate social media. Last year, Murray interviewed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner during a "Digg Dialogg." Geithner answered questions submitted and voted on by Digg users.

    Murray also created a Future of News Twitter List, a "list of top tweeters discussing the future of news." Murray said he uses Twitter Lists to recommend the best Twitter sources within a particular niche, and added that some of those sources are Journal staff members. That helps promote the Journal's work because the staffers often talk about and link to their work on Twitter.


    The Wall Street Journal was also one of the first organizations to use the Loomia Facebook App to show users which WSJ stories were read by their friends. (They eventually took it down because of performance issues.) Murray disclosed that the paper is in the process of closing a new partnership with Facebook, though he won't reveal details.



    He also said the WSJ is developing social applications in-house. These will include widgets to highlight related and contextual content, in addition to its iPhone and BlackBerry apps.



    Of course, all this content promoted through social media is meant to get readers to buy an online subscription to WSJ.com. Murray said that the Journal's business model of providing free peripheral content to sell its "core business in financial coverage" is the future of news.

    Newsday's Pay Wall Goes Up, Traffic Drops

    The WSJ has had years to develop a strategy to promote and share its content from behind the pay wall. If this is indeed the "year of the pay wall," many other organizations are going to have to learn to do the same.

    After New York's Newsday locked most of its content behind a paywall, its web traffic dropped by 21 percent. On top of that, longtime Newsday columnist, Saul Friedman, resigned over the decision to charge. One of the reasons he cited for his resignation was that a pay wall would prevent him from sending his column to people who don't subscribe to Newsday.

    newsdayfacebook.jpg

    An editor wasn't made available to comment on Newsday's strategy in an interview, but its website prominently promotes the paper's presence on major social media platforms. Newsday currently runs a Facebook fan page with over 800 fans, and the publication also maintains a Facebook profile for Newsday founder Alicia Patterson, called Alicia P. Newsday. Newsday's Twitter account is followed by over 600 users.

    When asked about its strategy for social media promotion from behind the pay wall, a Newsday spokesperson replied by email to note that a "share" button, which allows visitors to submit content to various social sites, is available above each story.

    The question, however, is who'll be clicking on that button now that the content is locked down?

    Neal Rodriguez is a social media consultant who features some of the smartest mashups on the web and interviews some of the brightest minds operating online. Neal writes for the Huffington Post. Neal helps drive influxes of traffic to some of the biggest web properties on the planet while pulling his son's Hot Wheels off his keyboard in Queens, New York.

    This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

    Mark Zuckerberg Thinks Privacy Is For Old People

    According to the Constitution you have to be 35 years old to be elected President. There is obviously no such regulation for social media moguls — despite the ever increasing power they wield over our daily lives — though judging from some recent comments from Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg maybe there should be.

    Speaking at the Crunchie awards in San Francisco this weekend 25-year-old Zuckerberg told the crowd that privacy should no longer be considered a “social norm.”

    “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people…That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

    Or at least Zuckerberg’s definition of it has, which might also explain why the recent change in privacy settings was implemented with such a heavy, oblivious hand….this is the new norm! Which of course is true in the sense that thanks to Facebook privacy is likely not a social norm for most people under the age of twenty-five. Privacy, however is very much a social norm for most people over the age of 25 and/or who do not live in college dorms. Alas, with the increasing prevalence of Facebook it would seem all of its 350 million users — not just the under-25 ones — are increasingly at the mercy of mindset of a generation who grew up sharing. Like it or not if Zuckerberg has his way, our online social lives may never actually get out of college.