Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the category “social networking”

Have you Been to Church? – Tom Rossi

Have you been to church lately? Have you worshiped the almighty Jobs? Have you read The Book of Jobs? Have you attended services to celebrate the resurrection of Jobs?

iphone4

 Steve Jobs was, as far as I know, the first CEO who was enough of an egomaniac to call big press conferences to announce a new device that his company had produced – even if that device was, many times, just the latest version.

Apple-will-probably-hold-press-conference-on-October-4

 Now, press conferences to announce new toys or versions of electronic toys or versions of softwares are de rigueur, and reporters and “enthusiasts” (people whose lives revolve around having the latest iPhone or whatever) flock to them like kids to ice cream trucks on a hot day. We still have press conferences for Apple, but also Samsung, Facebook, and a host of other companies who have CEOs anxious to play the court jester. I think they all want to stick their success in the faces of the jocks who kicked their asses in high school and the girls who made barfing sounds when they asked them out.

apple-iphone-os4_007

 Yes, these press conferences are attended by throngs of reporters because the release of a new device version is what, today, passes for news. In between a few reports of shootings in east Oakland, this weeks big party parade across San Francisco, traffic reports, and horse-race political reporting, there is always “news” of some company releasing an iblender4.3, or something. “Apple announced, at its big event today, that iPhones will now be available in blue.” Very exciting news.

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 What really gets me about these press conferences is that they are purely for the purposes of publicity, and the media are complicit in the scheme. Every tech-head nerd-geek knows better than to take what is said at these release orgies too seriously. Anyone with more sense than dollars waits to hear from the reviewers who take the thing back to the office and work it over like Muhammad Ali beating up on Cleveland Williams. That’s why we hear so quickly about defects with things like map apps.

 But this is our new church. We, or our representatives, sit in the pews, waiting and hoping for a glimpse of our savior – whoever is the latest to promise us safe passage into heaven… or to heavenly FaceSpaceTumbling and Twitstagramming, anyway.

 I have an iPhone. It’s kind of a nice thing to have. I use the map a lot – that’s really what I bought it for. My iPhone is something like two years old. It still works well enough. I also have a hammer and a pair of vice-grips that I like. They’re all pretty useful tools.

 -Tom Rossi

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Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

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Gaza and Facebook Pt. 2

This post follows on from Monday’s post regarding the progression of the Internet in Gaza,  a politically ravaged and poor country which has a huge proportion of its population under the age of thirty.

Dr. Saidam - the Palestinian Mr. IT.

The image that Gaza is a technologically backward country is wrong according to Dr. Sabri Saidam. Gaza has the largest number of Facebook users in the world per capita and (also per capita) the largest number of video conferencing in the world is also in the Palestinian territories. “The legislative council used to meet through video conferencing in the West Bank and Gaza,” says Saidam.

“There were medical exams conducted over the Internet. My mother, who lives in Gaza, has a heart problem. She comes to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for treatment. And in so many cases, she was refused permission to go back to Gaza after treatment. That’s one of the reasons I was trying to promote Internet treatment so people wouldn’t have to travel. People take it for granted because the culture of IT is so embedded in society, but there are economic hardships that prevent people from acquiring technology, even though 94 percent use cell phones.”

Saidam has worked hard to teach about social media and the Internet. He launched an initiative to encourage those who use the Internet to teach their parents, as well as stay-at-home mothers, to use the computer and to surf the Internet. He also hosts a radio program in which he advises listeners about what should not be publicized on Facebook. If they surf in other countries, he tells them, they need to bear in mind that their boss has the ability to surf their page. He also warns that the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, can monitor them as well.

This is no idol scaremongering as Saidam is keenly aware that it is Israeli companies who provide Palestinian telecommunication services. “This is a prime source of intelligence for the Shabak [Shin Bet], Mossad and whatever,” he says. “Everybody here publishes his or her beliefs and opinions and pictures and family news – everything. I tell them: You are the owner of the information. Whatever you are hesitant about – don’t release it.”

Saidam is frustrated that Palestinian politicians seem apprehensive about utilizing the Internet because they have no control over those who surf it. “But then they came to realize that it’s something that is totally out of the censorship scissors, nobody can gag anybody else, it’s a free world.”

The now infamous Third Intifada Facebook page that was closed by Facebook because it was inciting violence, Saidam points out, was created in Lebanon – not in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. However, once the page was closed this served only to excite young Palestinians who opened several more such pages and websites.

Internet communication has led to a number of peace initiatives that are coordinated between activists from all countries in the region. Whether this leads to more peaceful initiatives or a third Intifada remains to be seen.

Whichever way it turns, the potential for information to flow strengthens the hope that people on both sides of the conflict will have the ability to make more informed choices and possibly form low-barrier connections with those on the other side.

The Internet may yet hold the key to peace. But first, we need to ensure that as many people as possible are using it.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Gaza and Facebook Part 1

When you think of Gaza, many images come to mind: poverty, Muslim fundamentalism, frustration, unemployment, Facebook. Facebook? Yes, the Palestinians in Gaza, for all their challenges, are online and connecting.

Dr. Sabri Saidam, a former member of the Palestinian Authority government began getting involved in politics at the not so young age of 34. He was immediately appointed minister of communications and information technology and became known as “Mr. Technology.”

“Coming from the IT field, I can tell you honestly that I’ve always felt as if I were carving in stone – getting computers or talking about e-government in Palestine was mission impossible,” he says in an interview with Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper. “Now all the politicians are meeting bloggers and talking to them. There was no party interested in these people until the events in Tunisia and Egypt. They were considered to be time-wasters, kids.”

Saidam now works in Washington for the Aspen Institute where he continues to promote entrepreneurship among young Palestinians. “All of a sudden, everybody wants to know and have a private session to talk about Facebook and how they can open an account,” he says.

Saidam estimates that half of Palestinian households in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have computers and about 30% are connected to the Internet. As we saw in Egypt and Tunisia, however, this does not include cell phone connectivity.

“When the demonstrations started in Tunisia, there were 600,000 Palestinian Facebook users, and 200,000 of them were posting about politics. Each one of these 200,000 Facebook users is influencing five people around him. We’re talking about over a million Palestinians over the age of 18. In terms of population size, that’s 33 percent. In Egypt, that would be 28 million Egyptians, but there it took only 2,890 bloggers and computer activists to do what was done. The moral of the story is that there is a critical mass of Palestinians waiting to see how things are going to swing.”

Saidam believes that access to a wider discussion group and opinions will broaden the political debate within Gaza and include the younger generation, who make up the majority of the population in Gaza. “But there is no Palestinian Wael Ghonim [the young Google marketing executive who became a symbol of the revolution] . . . It’s the issue of getting bored of the fact that they see leaders who existed for dozens of years. They don’t want any leaders.”

It was the younger generation of Palestinians who marched on March 15 demanding an end to the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. This prompted President Abbas to decide he would go to Gaza and flesh out the subsequent agreement.

“The young people felt they had some influence on the decision,” says Saidam. “And I am telling my peers that they should not only passively listen but allow young blood to flow into the decision making of the parties.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Who’s Connected?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press “is an independent, non-partisan public opinion research organization that studies attitudes toward politics, the press and public policy issues. In this role it serves as a valuable information resource for political leaders, journalists, scholars and citizens.”

They recently issued three reports on which communication tools we are using.  Here is a very brief overview.

Smartphone Adoption and Usage

  • 35% of all US adults have a smartphone.
  • The biggest users — those with income of $75K or more, college degree, under age 45, African-American or Latino.
  • Some 87% of smartphone owners access the internet or email on their handheld; 25% of smartphone owners say that they mostly go online using their phone, rather than with a computer.

It's fast and smells good!

E-reader & Tablet Ownership

  • E-reader ownership has doubled in last six months, to 12% of US adults.
  • Tablet ownership, now at 8%, appears to be leveling off; 17% of those with $75K+ income own one, and 13% of college grads.
  • Confirming the overall trend toward adoption of mobile devices, laptop computers are for the first time as popular as desktop computers among U.S. adults.

Ebooks - the future is now.

Social Networking Sites and Our Lives

  • 47% of US adults use at least one social network site (SNS), close to double the number in 2008.
  • Half these users are now over the age of 35.
  • 92% are using Facebook, 18% LinkedIn, 13% Twitter.

However, here is what really excited me:

“At that time, 10% of Americans reported that they had attended a political rally, 23% reported that they had tried to convince someone to vote for a specific candidate, and 66% reported that they had or intended to vote. Internet users in general were over twice as likely to attend a political meeting, 78% more likely to try and influence someone’s vote, and 53% more likely to have voted or intended to vote.  Compared with other internet users, and users of other SNS platforms, a Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day was an additional two and half times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone on their vote, and an additional 43% more likely to have said they would vote.”

The premise of my novel, The Accidental Activist, written several years prior to this report, was the vision that the Internet and its various platforms would become a catalyst for more political and social advocacy.

It is still the beginning, but a very exciting beginning.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Authors Who Tweet

Yesterday I shared that I am trying to strategize how to best leverage Twitter with getting totally narcissistic. So I looked around to see what other authors are doing.

Nathan Bransford was a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. from 2002 to 2010 and is about to become an author in his own right. JACOB WONDERBAR AND THE COSMIC SPACE KAPOW, a middle grade novel about three kids who blast off into space, break the universe, and have to find their way back home, which will be published by Dial Books for Young Readers in May 2011.

Nathan Bransford

There are two other things I can tell you about Nathan. He lives in San Francisco and he provides a lot of help to authors through his blog. I have read a number of his posts and his blog is saved in my bookmarks in a folder of blogs to visit regularly.

Nathan can be found on twitter and can be found at @NathanBransford, When I saw that he streams his blog through Twitter, I admit I copied the idea. Along with this I see that he has congratulated the achievements of other authors or promoted an interesting article relevant to the writing world.

I like this idea. There is a Jewish saying that the mark of a person is seen through their generosity and good deeds. I guess it is a case of what goes around comes around. Here I am promoting Nathan because he writes such helpful blog posts and because I am impressed by his desire to help others. Oh, and good luck with your book launch, Nathan.


Jody Hedlund is a romance author out of Michigan. Her new novel is The Preacher’s Pride and her blog and twitter also serve as a resource for writers. I love the way her articles are so realistic and that the goals she suggests are attainable.


Do you follow authors who use Twitter for anything other than promoting their blogs, careers and networking with readers? If so, please let me know. If you are an author who tweets, I would also love to connect.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Tweet Tweet

“What! You’re not on Twitter? Why’s that?”

This response is usually elicited from someone who tweets and is either very proud that they are so cutting edge, or need to justify the time they are spending each day on social media. I try and explain that I blog daily, am on Facebook, maintain a website, and try to add an opinion post at least weekly on one of the LinkedIn e-groups where I hang around.

All this while editing one manuscript, writing another and trying to sell the novels I have already published (and I haven’t mentioned family, full-time job, and those annoying staples like sleeping, eating, doing laundry and hitting the gym).

Why are there only 24 hours in a day? But then again, why only 140 characters in a tweet?

Twitter is defined by Tweetnet as “a social networking and microblogging service” in which you can update your friends and followers with up-to-the-minute accounts of what you are doing.

Now I can understand why a celebrity like Charlie Sheen or LeBron James attract attention, but why me? My mother is extremely interested in what I have to eat for lunch, but it probably stops there. My original blog was about Alon Shalev, the author, and it had a very small following. While I am sure that a lot of the people I network with are interested in my imminent rise to fame as a leading social commentator of our time (in other words as someone who is very opinionated), they are not interested in the mundane activities that we all share.

Tweetnet also suggests that Twitter allows for “informal collaboration and quick information sharing that provides relief from rising email and IM fatigue.”

Excuse me, I need to move the laundry over to the dryer (that’s a 56 character tweet). I’m back. Admit it, you were on the edge of your seats wondering if I would remember to remove the wool garments before turning the dryer on. I did. You may resume breathing.


So the question is: How does someone like myself leverage Twitter? Are you on Twitter (I realize these are two questions)? I would appreciate your feedback and I shall stalk a few authors in their Twitter accounts over the next couple of days and let you know what they do.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

 

 

 

Promotional Materials – What Works?

To promote my book, Oilspill dotcom, I have designed business cards, fridge magnets, postcards, a big magnet on the door of my car, and now T-shirts. It is not clear to me what works and what does not, but I’m sure having a lot of fun with them.

I believe I can attribute at least one sale to each of these promotional tools, but my favorite so far happened on Labor Day. A dear couple that lives around the corner has kindly taken it upon themselves to create a neighborhood community. We get together every few months and celebrate living in Berkeley. In a world of intense social networking, of full calendars and work deadlines, it is refreshing to get together with people with whom you share nothing other than geography, and with whom there is no particular agenda.

So come Labor Day, this wonderful couple invites the neighborhood to a potluck in their garden. Armed with a salad of locally grown vegetables, my family and I stroll to our hosts’ house.

I just so happen (well, strategically planned a week beforehand) to wear my Oilspill dotcom T-shirt. One of the guests asks me what I am wearing and I begin to explain. Our host, upon hearing our conversation, promptly returns inside his house and brings out his copy, which he then makes sure everyone sees, while exhorting my novel.

For 10 minutes or so, I am the main attraction: me, Alon Shalev, the author. And best of all, someone walks us back home when we leave, to purchase a copy.

Now I devour marketing books, especially those ‘guerrilla’ or ‘grassroots’ marketing books. But if I learned anything that Labor Day weekend, it is that there is nothing as powerful as word-of-mouth, and no asset like a friend who believes in you.

In these days of detachment, when the mass media and Internet control so much of our social connections, all transpiring through a screen, the question I have is how can we facilitate more face-to-face opportunities to pass on the message we want to share? Or to change the world? Or even to promote something that we believe in…like a struggling author’s work?

Good Writing,
Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

Writing: The Solitary Path?

Picture the author: He (or she) is quiet, brooding, drinks and smokes too much, sits in a dark attic and pounds the keyboard. His hair is wild, uncombed, his razor unused, and his clothes ill-fitting and ill-matched. When forced out of his lair, he is socially awkward and impatient.

We’ve seen it in a dozen movies, read it in a hundred novels. Right?

But it’s wrong! It is a stereotype, possibly based upon someone, but I don’t believe it is the norm. True my social life mostly revolves around family, work, neighborhood, the boy’s school friends, synagogue, but I seem to have married or stumbled into these relationships, dictated by wife, children and geography. Let me stress that I love these people and value their friendship.

But there is something special when writers get together, something different. Whether this occurs at a chance meeting by the park playground, or by semi-chance while at a book signing, an author’s appearance or lecture.

Or whether it is organized – at my Writer’s group, at a California Writers Club meeting, a conference. Perhaps it is not even in person and happens online through a forum on LinkedIn, Facebook, Yahoo Groups or a dozen others

I love it when someone says: “Hey, I’ve just read your book.” I hope that thrill never disappears. But it’s an even greater thrill when a fellow writer tells me approvingly that they’ve read it. To hear someone praise your work when they truly appreciate, not just the plot, but the work that went into creating and finishing, and polishing, and putting it out there, and publishing, and marketing and…and…and…

I assume it is like this for all artists. When I tell a painter that I like her painting, or a musician that I like his music, does it matter that I can’t draw stick people without inflicting upon them unintentional deformity? Or that my tone deaf flat voice has been known to empty rooms before I even reach the chorus? Surely they appreciate the compliment more from a fellow artist or musician?

And then there is the critique, the honest suggestions from fellow writers who are investing some of their time and energy to help you craft a better story. And they are there for support – like when only two people attend a book reading that you painstakingly prepared for (and one of them is your mother).

I could never imagine writing collaboratively: my work is my own. But I could never imagine living as a writer in isolation. I would never survive the setbacks and would feel lonely even in my successes.

So here’s a Labor Day toast: to friends, to the rich literary scene and the Internet that helps bring us together.

Alon
http://www.alonshalev.com/

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