As bad as “Not getting” Social Media – getting it WRONG! – All those SM Gurus!

I want to throw up when I hear all these Gurus talking about using SM to be all about ME! I think that most still see it in terms of the old system which is all about who can shout the loudest! Here is a picture of what we have to see to “see” it for real – the new reality that is.

Of course everybody gets 2.0 now don’t they. After all even the Oscars were designed for Social Media. Large organizations are piling in.

But is this true? Certainly everyone is on board with the tools now. God I recall Jevon and I talking to CIBC 6 years ago and they thought we were Martians. Now everyone is on Facebook!

But how many people “get” what is underpinning these tools? Not many and I have little hope for many too.


Because underneath all the hype, most of us see the world the same way as before. We see what we see with our eyes. Just like most people saw the world 500 years ago. Then, if you used your eyes, the world seemed flat. This perception allowed to you to do a lot of useful things. You also saw that the sun came up every morning and circled the Earth. This did not ruin your day and was also a useful observation. That is of course unless you wanted to sail a long distance. Or calculate a trajectory or build a complex building or in fact do almost anything that we take for granted in the modern world. Imagine Watt explaining the steam engine to the Vatican? Imagine trying to build a suspension bridge? Imagine anyone doing chemistry – see where I am going.

But we are not so stupid today are we? We don’t rely only on our eyes to tell us about reality?

kurakinnew view

Well here is your test. Can you see that all these things are in fact a fractal scaling of the same thing?

Can you see that what appears on the surface to your eyes as being unique, different and discrete are in reality the same and that all co-evolve and affect each other? Do you see them therefore as all obeying the same rules, the rules of networks? Can you see how with this perspective everything becomes actually quite simple to understand? All we need to know is how nature governs networks.

Or do you see them all as Objects that are are different – that interact only directly as objects do? That are therefore so complex that we can only know tiny bits of them. So medicine and science are all about the bits and the direct interactions. That we inhabit a Newtonian world where the geometry of nature’s interactions do not apply?

For is this not the prevailing paradigm?

This is why people seek to have masses of followers – this is a Newtonian idea about mass and gravity. It has nothing to do with co-evolution and true influence.

This is why it’s still ALL ABOUT ME! So long as I am OK it’s OK!

This is why medicine makes no sense and each week a new contradictory idea is floated. This is why science is lost in minutiae. This is why our organizations are so toxic. We have designed them to be Newtonian but we are fractal co-evolving networks. This why our mass education system is such a mess. This is why even how we fight our wars means that we have to lose them. This is why we think that there is a conflict between the planet and our economy.

We have been captured by a simple and wrong idea of us all being objects that bounce off each other like tennis balls whereas we are really magnetized iron filings.

No amount of Facebook Strategies will help you if you don’t get this.

The world is not flat and you and I are not an object.

If you want  to know more about this new paradigm of reality – I have the great honor to introduce you to the work of Alexei Kurakin – a genius – a Galileo of our time.

Expand your audience by dumbing down or expanding your platform – NPR

The Holy Grail in Pub Media was to get a younger audience. For most this meant finding a way to alter the content mix – the CBC has done this with the result of losing its traditional audience and not gaining the young – who DON’T watch TV or listen to a radio!!!!! NPR is winning this by expanding the platform to include who the young want to get their media.

One of the Holy Grails of the Public Radio system when I worked there back in 2005/6 was to attract a younger audience. At the time – even though the context of my involvement was the web – the CW on the solution was to add more younger programming – Hence Bryant Park. Of course this failed as what station manager was going to give up the BlockBuster Morning Edition to have an alternative that the mainstream would not like. The CBC has gone full on to find a younger audience by changing the POV of its programs. I wonder how they are doing? They have largely driven me away.

But the guys at NPR are smart and they learn. They went full on into the use of Social Media. New data out shows that their drive into social media – Twitter in particular – has given them what they wanted a new and younger and larger “audience” that have been attracted to NPR’s programming – not because of a content shift but because they made it easier for a younger audience to connect to content on their terms! The secret was in the flexibility of the new connection NOT the content.

In a survey of more than 10,000 respondents, NPR found that its Twitter followers are younger, more connected to the social web, and more likely to access content through digital platforms such as NPR’s website, podcasts, mobile apps and more.

NPR has more than one Twitter account; its survey found that most respondents followed between two and five NPR accounts, including topical account, show-specific accounts and on-air staff accounts.

The data on age is hardly surprising. The median age of an NPR Twitter follower is 35 — around 15 years younger than the average NPR radio listener. This lines up with data we recently found about other traditional news media; the average Facebook user reading and “liking” content on a news website is two decades younger than the average print newspaper subscriber.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the future of news media lies in successful integration of social media to get the attention (and click-throughs) of a younger generation — a generation whose news needs are vastly different than those of the generations that preceded it.(My emphasis)

Of NPR’s Twitter followers, the majority (67%) still do listen to NPR on the radio. But the other ways they access NPR’s content are indicative of a growing trend:

Of survey respondents, 59% said they use, 39% listen to NPR’s podcasts, around half use an NPR mobile app and 28% say they access NPR via Facebook. All told, 77% of NPR’s Twitter followers said they get all or most of their news online.

And Twitter followers are more likely to expect breaking news, too, likely because of the real-time nature of the medium.

At KETC we found the same thing when we ran out project to help people find a safer more trustworthy route to help in the Mortgage Crisis. KETC helped many people who never watch our programming and who never will. They got connected to KETC because they found what they needed on the web. It was how we connected that was the key.

When NPR hosted the New Realities Project back in 2006/6 – the intent was to imagine our value in 2009 and beyond. We did this. Most saw that one of the things we had to do was to do a Burger King and offer our content up “Your Way”

Screen shot 2010-09-30 at 4.39.43 PM

The guys even wrote a song – but while some – mainly at NPR really got this – of course as we know today about adoption – most did not and have not and still hope that all of this will go away.

Want a larger and more committed “audience” – let them find you “Their Way” – Integrate the web into what you do fully.

So what then is the leadership story for making the change from machine to network?

I wrote this with a client in mind – sadly he stayed in the valley and left the new alone – it’s hard! Many cannot leave the old even though they know they have to.

Going 2.0 as Lee Bryant says is not about hanging shiny new objects on your old form. It is in truth that hardest of all things to do – changing who we are. As Euan says – it is the hard work of giving up our institutional form and re-becoming human again. So how do you make these changes to the inside of ourselves and our organizations?

I have been forced to reflect on this as one of my projects comes to the very edge of success. Here is the story I told the CEO today.

You are a chief. Your tribe lives in a valley. Over tall mountains is a much larger valley that has a huge lake – larger than Lake Ontario. It is like a vast sea. But you have never been there. You have never seen a lake. You have never fished in a lake or seen a boat. This new valley is beyond what you have ever experienced and so beyond what you can imagine. For your valley is savannah. It is plain full of herd animals and game of all types. It is lush and there are many plants that you use as well. Your tribe has been there a long time hunting and gathering. You are good at this. The Tribe has organized to do this work well.

But over the last few years, there has been a shift in weather. The savannah is drying out – the drought is getting worse. The game is getting scarce. The plants are dying too. Your success over the last 100 years means that you have many mouths to fill too.

So you have heard stories about the lake on the other side of the mountains from traders who go everywhere. So you send out a small reconnaissance party over the mountain to explore this new land. A new land where the skills to get food and the processes are very different. For remember none of you have ever seen a lake, a boat, a weir, a net. None of you have built houses in such surroundings. You don’t know what a pier is. You have no idea what weather can do on a lake. All you know are stories. Stories that might be fables.

The small party does quite well and returns home to tell you what happened. Now the lake and all that is needed to live by a lake is more real to you. At least people that you trust – your own tribesmen have seen it. But you are not going to up sticks and take all your people there just on the evidence of one trip. The risk is too big. You don’t know if enough of your people could adapt. And anyway, maybe the drought will end soon.

The drought gets worse. Now you send a larger party for a longer time. You tell them to really test this new life. Their mission to to see if a move to the new place is feasible. They set up a base camp in the new valley and build some boats and make nets. After much trial and error, they start to learn how to do well in the very new place. They spend a whole year there. They make a of of mistakes. Some die. But they can now see what has to be done. They are not good at any of it but they know the basics. They return home. Everyone is both fascinated and fearful. For if it is possible to live in this new valley, then it will be possible to leave our ancestral home. Everyone hopes that they don’t have to do that. Who wants to give up all they know? Maybe the drought will end.

But the drought gets worse. It is clear that this is a trend. It is clear that if the Tribe does not leave the valley, that in 5 years all will die. So now you send a lead party back over the pass into the new valley. Their job is to set up a new home for the tribe. They are not coming home. They are the beach head.

But as the new team settle in the new valley, they go home all the time in their minds. For the only home they really know is the old valley. Even though the new is feeding them. Even though they are gradually getting the new skills. They long for what they know. They are torn. They are in the new valley but they still are organized as if they were back in the old.

Still part of the tribe is left in the old valley. This left behind part of the tribe feel bad too. They know that they have been left behind. They know that the future is in the next valley. Both sides feel separated. One from the old, the other from the new. But this separation had to stand until the Chief knew that his people could make it in the new.

You could not wait however until he was completely sure because you could feel that the disconnect between the two groups was starting to threaten the whole tribe. So you moved the rest of the tribe over the pass into the new place as well. Because they were in a new place that needed new skills and new ways of working, you also had to realign who did what and for whom. You had to ensure that the tribe was organized to live in the new way. Fortunately because of the tension of the separation, most were relieved to have their doubts settled and quickly settled down to the new. Also because they all knew that they could not go back, that longing for “home” faded. After a while the new home became “Home” for all.

As I told this story, I started to see what had in fact happened. I had missed it all even myself. What we had done only became clear today.

The institutional world is dying. But it is the only world we know. Our place in it is home. We cannot just jump to the new. We have to explore it.  This exploration needs to be organized as history tells us successful explorations are conducted – using larger and longer staying expeditions. At some point some people have to stay in the new world.

Even then history tells us that we at first long for the old. We even organize based on the old even when we live in the new. This tension is debilitating.

This is the story of America itself. Many expeditions lead in the end to the early colonies. The War of Independence is the re-org. This then opens up the west and the new culture and millions cross the sea for the dream.

Yes the tools are important, but it is the change in world view that is the key.

Soon I will have the data to prove this.

What do you think? Where are you on this journey?

NPR at the Tipping Point

With the launch this weekend of the new NPR Mobile App, I can look back over the last 4 years and see a pattern emerge that tells me that NPR is poised to be the first major new organization to break through into the new Media Reality.

That’s a bold statement so let me try and back it up.

First of all, NPR and the public radio system have got something that no other media has in America – Growth in audience.


Why? I suspect that a large part of the answer is to be found in one word – “Trust”. As our world becomes more uncertain, it is also clear that much of the media was either complicit in hiding the truth about what was going on or that they just missed it. The non profit aspect of NPR and its system, I suspect helps keep it more trusted. The second point is just good journalism. As all other sources of media have retrenched on their staff, NPR and its stations have continued to invest in great staff.

But there is more going on here than the core journalism – NPR – like no other organizations except the BBC – is there a pattern here too? – Has made a decisive push to make the web work for it, for the stations and for the audience.

Here is the “Story” as revealed in a “Power Curve”.

NPR Growth story.002

This suggests that NPR is at the Tipping Point. Why? Because we can see both the acceleration and also the growth of the supporting system that will facilitate the growth.

We see a long gestation period from 2005 – 2007. Podcasting began then – greatly facilitated by iTunes.

It is in 2008 that we see progress begin to accelerate. In 2009, NPR is positively rocking.

How did this happen when so many other media organizations are merely hiding behind the castle walls?

I think the answer is in the New Realities Process that NPR undertook at the end of 2005 – May 2006. Over 800 people were involved in “Exploring” what the web might mean to NPR and the system of stations.

This was the basic problem presented to all.

NPR Growth storyquestion.003

Please let me explain. Remember this was done in early 2006. The core assumption was that by 2009, the web would be ubiquitous. NPR’s relative position versus the web at the time was that tiny black line.

The question was this – How did we get to scale on the web in time AND still not piss off the audience AND the Stations?

Looking back, the time line we posed was correct and it seems that we have solved the key question.

So how did this process of mutual exploration help NPR and the stations do this? My answer is this – It gave everyone a real voice. ALL the issues were on the table. A real common view emerged.

NPR Growth story.003

In every meeting, groups came up with the same big idea. That we had to be able to offer the audience what we did “Their Way”. This appears to have been an underlying idea that has been realized by the Mobile App – many groups even envisaged a device like the iPhone that would enable this.

Surely this is no small thing? Most media organizations still insist controlling everything.

NPR Growth story.005

The underlying constraint was what would be the role of NPR and of each station? At the time, many believed that NPR had a “secret plan” to go it alone. In truth many at NPR also did not know what to do. They talked about working with the stations but were uncertain.

A major result of the process is that the senior NPR folks realized that they HAD to work with the stations. It has taken years for much of the fear that NPR would go it alone to dissipate but it is. NPR have proved by their actions that they are in this together.

NPR Growth story.004

For another common theme that kept coming up again and again was this. That the end game would look like this – a REAL NETWORK based on Natural Systems. This was the systems’ great hidden strength.

This idea of a large natural system is now even bigger than anyone envisaged in 2006. For the CPB has been making major investments in creating a Public Radio AND TV system. The Facing the Mortgage Crisis project is one of these investments where radio and Tv stations in 32 markets are working together. NPR and the NewsHour are working together to offer the best news service in the nation. Key local stations are creating local news hubs.

All this is going to come together in late 2009 early 2010.

2010 will be I think THE year. The product will be unparalleled. The Web approach will be ideal. The resources will be all that such a network can supply.

With the audience, with the engagement and with the web fully supporting the air all that is left is this..

NPR Growth story.006

I think that with the underlying audience, engagement and a network – it should be possible to make the money and the system work – don’t you?

So in closing I return to the question of our time. How do large organizations make the changes that they have to? How do they do this when the New is often the opposite of what they are and what they do today?

I think that the answer for NPR and Public radio is that they overcame the huge natural resistance by investing in a shared and deep exploration of what confronted them. What they have done since has come from the genuine emergence of ideas and of a language that they created for themselves.

It has not been easy. I admit to being in despair in 2007 when I could see no visible progress. But in retrospect I was naive. The laws of nature demand a period of gestation. 2007 was that time.

What is remarkable now is that NPR and the system has fully met the challenge set out in the starting question of the process. They have kept their audience, kept the system together AND become a leader in the web.

Now they have to turn this into revenue. I think that they are up to this.

Mumbai – Confirmation of Social Media as the way to cover breaking news

Twitter, Blogging and Wikpedia have offered the world the best – fastest updating, most human and most comprehensive account of how the Mumbai events unfolded.

If there was ever proof that this combination has taken its place in the forefront of breaking news – this is it.

Here is a link to JP’s excellent post on this topic – that shows you graphically what I mean.

Here is Dina’s summary of many of the online resources.

Now networks such as CNN go to people like Dina for insight

As Newspapers and the Networks slowly die, their replacement gets stronger.

Here is the Daily Telegraph’s acknowledgement of this.

Indeed, many mainstream media outlets, including CNN, used video footage and photos sent in from people on the ground in Mumbai to illustrate their reports, and many television stations, radio stations and newspapers were also keeping a close eye on Twitter and the blogosphere in the hope of finding out more information.

Despite the obvious value and immediacy of these eyewitness accounts, there are signs that the blogosphere is struggling to know what to do for the best when these sort of incidents occur.

While Twitter is a powerful social medium for spreading news and information, some government agencies fear it could also be used by terrorists as a tool for communication. Last month, the US military warned that terrorist groups could use free, internet-based services, such as Twitter, as a means of communicating covertly across a medium that is difficult for authorities to trace and track.

In fact, it is alleged that at the height of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Indian government tried to shut down the Twitter stream people were using to spread news and information, amid fears that it could be used by the terrorists to help them evade capture.

While Twitter and other social media are not yet in a position to replace the mainstream media, there can be no doubt that they provide a powerful communication platform. Last night, the social web came of age.

Here is the New York Times adding their support to this idea of Twitter & Social Media coming of age:

From his terrace on Colaba Causeway in south Mumbai, Arun Shanbhag saw the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower Hotel burn. He saw ambulances leave the Nariman House. And he recorded every move on the Internet.

Mr. Shanbhag, who lives in Boston but happened to be in Mumbai when the attacks began on Wednesday, described the gunfire on his Twitter feed — the “thud, thud, thud” of shotguns and the short bursts of automatic weapons — and uploaded photos to his personal blog.

Mr. Shanbhag, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, said he had not heard the term citizen journalism until Thursday, but now he knows that is exactly what he was doing. “I felt I had a responsibility to share my view with the outside world,” Mr. Shanbhag said in an e-mail message on Saturday morning.

The attacks in India served as another case study in how technology is transforming people into potential reporters, adding a new dimension to the news media.

At the peak of the violence, more than one message per second with the word “Mumbai” in it was being posted onto Twitter, a short-message service that has evolved from an oddity to a full-fledged news platform in just two years.

Those descriptions and others on Web sites and photo-sharing sites served as a chaotic but critically important link among people across the world — whether they be Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn tracking the fate of a rabbi held hostage at the Nariman House or students in Britain with loved ones back in India or people hanging on every twist and turn in the standoff while visiting relatives for Thanksgiving dinner.

Convening Community to solve bog complex problems – Future of Pub Media?

Social Media for what? As the shadows lengthen, I am seeing that the new role for public media is not simply to bring you Jane Austen on Sundays – though that is worthy – but to use the trust evoked in a generation public TV and radio to help us as citizens help each other face terrible times.

The mortgage crisis is now clearly not just about a few people who should have known better, as many like to see it, but is a crisis so deep and wide that it has the power to doom not only individuals but cities. As houses fall, so do streets, the blocks then neighborhoods and then entire cities. Loss of taxes will shutter schools, loss of taxes will neuter governments, loss of mobility and loss of value will shut down people. So the financial cancer spreads until maybe America comes to a halt.

So what to do? This is where social media will I think play it’s most important role – that of empowering people to come together and to help each other. This is I think where the history books will tell the story – not that Facebook or My Space were cool, not that business finally got it. No I think the story will be that Social Media enabled the rise of Community Power and that it was Community Power that helped America through these times. That it was Community Power that replaced machine Democracy and restored the Republic.

Big claim! So here are some early signs – you can see this great power stir before your eyes


KETC, a client of mine, the Public TV Channel in St Louis, has been chosen by CPB to test how well a public TV station can be in Convening the wider community of its city to come together and help each other cope with a giant crisis. Here is a link to the background.

I am writing today to offer up an early report. This week we held the first on air/web town hall meeting.

For the first time St Louisans could see that they were not alone. The room was full of all sorts of people. St Louisans could see the enormous amount of help that was there for them. They could hear stories of all the things that could happen for bad or good. They could feel hope.

The show (links part 1 – part 2 – part 3 – part 4) was masterful. First of all it set the context – it gave the whole story. Then the full range of risks and remedies were explored.

As I watched this show, I felt as I had after Robin’s cancer diagnosis when we met the wonderful team of people who saved her life. I felt that while the situation was dire, that I might lose not my home but my wife, that we had the benefit of a great team and of the best that medicine could offer – we knew what we were up against. We knew that we had a chance. We had hope whereas before we had only fear.

I thought that I knew it all before the show. But I didn’t. In an hour, Ruth had covered the full story. No sound bites here. The full story!

The last segment was for me the most gripping. Here the show is opened up to the audience, to callers and those on the web. Here the voice of the community spoke. The dignity of the people and the panel was something to behold. The barriers between the helpers and the helped were eliminated. Something important happened.

The full impact was also revealed.

This is much more than a person losing their home. This is about the ripple effect that kills blocks, kills communities and in the end can doom the city. The ripple effect affects us all.

Next week we have a second show. This time we will focus on the the ripple effect – how can St Louisans work together to protect their communities? How can the people save their city?

Of course what you see on TV is merely the surface. If you look at the video, you will see The Swan – You will see the show but behind the scenes the feet are paddling hard under the surface.

The guys at KETC are paddling like fury all over the city and the state connecting people to help and more important connecting the help to the help. Have a look at the credits at the end of part 4.

This is the hard graft – many organizations, I call them Nodes of Trust, are meeting each other for the first time and seeing how much they can do to help each other do a better job.

Many are also seeing that the mortgage crisis itself is only part of a much more dangerous threat, the Ripple, that has the power to take the entire city down.

This is why I make the claim I do. I can think of only one way to dig our way out of this mess – to connect the people so that they can take charge themselves. Social Media and stations like KETC are the way to make these connections.

Many are starting to see that many who got caught were not foolish but unfortunate or worse exploited.

St Louisan are starting to feel that they might have a chance of beating this – a chance not because of false hope or exhortation but hope drawn from meeting other good men and women and seeing that together they can make an impact. Seeing that they are not helpless.

I think that KETC is on its way to prove out the hopes of CPB – that Public Media can be seen as a powerful force for good in their community. For who else can do this work? Who else can act as the convenor in these tough times?

Hybrids Don’t Work in Media – you have to go all they way

It was announced this weekend that NPR will have to cancel their new News program The Bryant Park Project for cost reasons. The NYT story is here. The BPP site with comments on the closing of the show is here. You can see that I was not the only fan nor am I the only one who is upset!

Laura called me this morning for an interview on how I felt. Obviously I am very sad. But she also asked me for what I thought might be some reasons. It is only day 1 – but I do have some ideas. They are only mine and they are my immediate reactions. As I have promoted the show and its apporach to the web so much, I think that I owe you some reasons as well.

I think a couple of things are becoming more clear to me. The show was seen as a Radio show with a strong social web element. This is I think the key error that drove the costs and the expectations. If you want to do the new today – you have to break away from the costs of the machine – if a paper, no press and no paper! I would have launched BPP as a web show with a bit of radio. No small distinction.

So much of what BPP did on the web – the use of Twitter to build community – the use of Facebook to give us a weekly review. The use of video on the blog. All this broke down the barriers of power/distance and time. Many of us felt part of the show. Our ideas were heard and acted upon. We even went on the show now and then.

A lot of what pulled us in was the personal. We learned about the food obsessions, the drilling, we chatted 24/7 with the staff and with each other. We met and made new friends.

The NYT mentioned that in April and May they had a million unique visitors on the web. This is brilliant.

As a web based show you can build the audience until you have enough momentum to add more radio. I would also have made it easy for “members” to donate to BPP. What about the stations? I would have had a split. Try the new economics for real all the way.

So what went wrong? The show was conceived as Radio!

In St Louis, many of the best staff of the Dispatch left the paper and started a new one. The one thing they did not consider was using paper!

This is a picture of the pride of the RN in 1860. Called HMS Inflexible, she looks modern. She has a “website”. She is made of steel. She is driven by steam. She has big guns in turrets. But she was not modern. Because, she was set up to fight as Nelson’s wooden ships were. The culture was to engage closely. The culture was that those dirty engineers had to stay away from command roles.

HMS Inflexible was a hybrid. Looked new but was in reality based on the rules and the culture of 1805.

This is HMS Dreadnought.

Launched in 1906, she was the complete vision of the new in its reality. She was designed to fight at 10 miles. She was designed to be led by people who understood engineering. She had the power to sink the entire German Fleet at the time. In launching her, Admiral Fisher knew that he had made all the RN’s fleet of Hybrids obsolete overnight. But he could not afford not to go to the new. His concern was that Germany or America would beat him to it.

I think that this where we are in media on this sad July morning.

It’s all the way or not at all. Just as the presses and the paper is a cost that is killing the Newspapers, so the transmitters are killing TV and Radio.

All that can remain for a while are the established shows such as ME and ATC.

But if you want some thing new that will scale and make you money – it’s the web all the way. Look back at what BPP did so well there and know that they paved the way for you.

Can Public Media use Social Software to help with complex problems such as the Mortgage Crisis?

How would you feel today, if you stood to lose your house and all around you the media were labeling you as stupid and deserving of being put on the street?

How would you feel if you were struggling to save your house, but all around you those  who said that they were there to help you, were really just jackals waiting to prey on your carcass?

How would you feel if you have lots of what you thought was equity in your house, if 20% of the houses in your community were being sold at auction for a few thousand dollars?

What kind of city or place will you live in if say 20% of the people there have learned that they have been fooled, betrayed and abandoned by their society?

This is a graph of how the SARS epidemic spread. This is how all social epidemics spread. This is the risk before us!

I think that if lots of people feel this way that there is going to be hell to pay. For I think that the real threat of the subprime crisis is social.

The science behind the Tipping Point tells us that if there is momentum and and if the “Chasm” of about 15% is crossed the system Tips. If 15-20% of the people in your city feel that they have no support or hope, then there is a good chance that your city will Tip.I am saying that if you think that you are OK while large swathes of your city become ghost towns – watch out for the Zombies and watch out for your tax base, your own equity, crime and your way of life.

I am not saying that the “Cure” is to save every person’s house. I am saying that if people affected cannot get Trusted help and in the end trusted support, they will not only lose their house but get very angry. This is when the pitchforks and torches come into town.

So why am I posting this in a blog where the focus is Social Media? Because at its core the subprime mortgage problem is no longer merely financial nor is it confined to a few people. It is now becoming a social problem – it is largely now about isolation, abandonment and and soon it will be about betrayal.

People who are affected directly find it exceptionally difficult to find help that they can trust. People who are directly affected are often in shock too and hence are shut down and will not trust official help – after all it was the system that told them that borrowing was going to be OK. People who are directly affected feel shame and feel shamed. Many must feel like many returning vets from Vietnam. The are being told that the subprime crisis is all their fault. The commercial media are telling them that we do not care about them.

Many others are smug. I am OK. This is not about about me. My nice middle class or upper class area is safe. But of course it’s not and nor will it be as the ripple spreads

Others see the business opportunity. Facebook and the web are full of people now lining up to exploit the crisis. Houses can be bought at auction for hundreds of dollars. The same forces that put millions in jeopardy are now fighting over the scraps.

Here is the overview by region.

Here is an overview by house price change.

All our research tells us is that this is not the end but the beginning.

As I see it, the issue is larger than a person losing their home. The real risk is that too many people in a city will give up on being a citizen. They will give up not simply because they lost their home but because they think that they have been betrayed. They went for the Dream and they were taken for a ride.

So what can we do? Can we save every home? Should we save every home? Can we save every home?

I think the answer is no to all of those questions. But I think we can do this:

  • If we can find real help that can be trusted – we can help those that can be helped to save their house
  • If we can connect people in trouble to each other, they can maybe help others save their homes and ALSO get the emotional support that they need
  • If we can show to the larger community that we are all involved, then we can end the blame and the shame and we can mobilize the entire community – as we are seeing in the Iowa Floods – for this is a collective disaster.
  • If we can show that people are no longer helpless then hope will return
  • At worst, if we can show that you can lose your home and still be OK, then we will really achieved something for what we will have done is shown that there is a community and that it does care about you. That the Dream is not dead.

A public TV station that has no ax to grind may have the essential trust to take up this work. A Public TV station that does its best to learn how to use Social Media might have a chance.

KETC, Channel 9, in St Louis has been chosen by CPB to develop a template and a set of tools for Public TV that will have a real shot at ensuring that that we might be able to do this. We have until the end of August to make a difference.

We are going to need your help.

I will do my best to tell you what we are doing – as we try stuff. Please let me know what you think.

As a start I need to find some well connected bloggers in St Louis. If you are one or know one please let me know in the comments.

Seeing how social media would cover breaking news in 2007!

In this post I tell the story of how KPBS and people in California coped with a huge fire back in 2007. Now it is commonplace to use social media to cover a breaking story and to mobilize help. This was the first really big effort to do this.

I follow on with a post dated October 31 2007 when we heard of the big Quake in China – when the first news came on Twitter!

f you live where I do 3,000 miles away from the fires, maybe pictures of the fires and interviews with people who have lost their homes might be interesting. BUT what if you live where the fires are? Surely then I would want to know in real time EXACTLY what was going on.

KPBS – a public TV Station is providing this service using Google Maps, Twitter & Flickr. They are also broadcasting on air and on the web! They have all the bases covered. I have suggested to some PBS/NPR stations that they should create an Emergency Plan – they have pushed back saying that they don’t do “News”. Here is a joint license showing that covering emergency well is surely one of the key “Public” tasks of such a station – showing also how by using social media – they can do this really well by accessing their community

Here is the Google Map – all the key detail is there – what is going on and where and when (875,000 views and counting this morning)

Here is the Twitter feed – note that the feed is operating on a minute by minute basis (Sorry all the images have been lost)

Here is the link to Flickr

They are using the Comments Section on a blog as a tool to allow people to make local reports – see how it works here

They have got the full suite all cleverly applied

Update – In this kind of emergency – Mobile Phones are now the main link – here is agreat post by Debi Jones on how this is playing out:

The disastrous fires burning in San Diego have initiated a service used by the city and county government to inform and update residents. Mandatory evacuation orders have been communicated via reverse 911 on both landline phones and mobile phones. The messages are prerecorded and as I’ve said, three messages have been received on my phone. The first was an evacuation order. The next message was a notice that San Diego schools are closed until further notice along with the instruction to keep children inside and restrict their activity levels (smoke and ash is so thick in the air that keeping it out of your house is impossible during large fires). The third message was information on evacuation centers that were still open as several are already full.

Regulation in the US for Enhanced 911 or emergency service which incorporates location data has resulted in a number of emergency related services that are unique to the US market when compared to other geographical regions like Western Europe or Asia. The reverse 911 system isn’t specifically a mobile service, but that it does include mobile phones is impressive and to see this system work in the case of a disaster saving time and lives is an important development. To this point, 262,000 households have received reverse 911 calls.

It is likely in a very bad situation that cell phone networks will get jammed – what we are learning though is that SMS tends to get through – so Twitter as a feed may be the core of a good plan

Advisories have been announced on CNN and local San Diego TV stations asking people to limit their mobile phone use as the networks are saturated. This is a common problem during emergencies as we’ve seen over and over. The one component that continued to provide communication during the London bombings, post Katrina flooding in New Orleans and now in San Diego is text messaging. Twice today my mobile calls have been rejected with the network reporting, “all circuits are busy”. And yet, I’ve continued to be able to send out SMS.

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