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 media”

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.

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 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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Twitter: A Tool for Writers to Create Community

After a week of twitter articles and how they can be used or prevented from using for social change, I thought I would offer a more author-directed post for the weekend. Today’s authors and aspiring authors (a few hundred A-listers notwithstanding) rely heavily on creating a social media platform, a ‘presence in the Force,’ to quote Darth Vader, who was known for his sociability across the galaxy (kind of puts world-wide web into proportion, no?).

A year ago, I wrote a coupe of posts, one of which began: “I am still struggling with how to use Twitter.” I had actually splurged $1 for a pocket-size Twitter for Dummies book at Office Depot (didn’t even write it off as a tax deduction) but never really started until December. 150 days later and I have over 10,000 followers for @alonshalevsf (and over 8,000 for @elfwriter which feed my epic fantasy blog at www.elfwriter.com).

Now I admit, I have not sat down for coffee with each of these people personally. This is only in part because i am already worried about my caffeine addicti0n. But I am having some great conversations, in a format that allows us to keep it short and tight.

Twitter is, she says, not about selling books, but provides  an excellent way to build your networks and reputation. We all know that we  sell books when people meet us, whether face-to-face or online. Here are a few of the tips that Ms. Smith recommends. To read all ten, click here.

  1. Help others by sharing information, while you gain a reputation as an expert. You can post links to helpful articles, recommend resources, offer tips and discuss other books that you enjoy.
  2. Stay on top of news and trends in your field or genre, and get ideas for your articles and blog by reading the tweets of the people you follow.
  3. Ask for help and get instant responses – things like feedback on your book title, cover design or website. It’s amazing how helpful folks are.
  4. Spread goodwill by helping your peers. Introduce people to one another, recommend other related books, or re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow.

What I like about Ms. Smith’s article is the principle: we make friends online by asking for help and helping others. This seems to be something very cozy and intimate in what is otherwise often a virtual and detached world.

I still believe in meeting over a cup of coffee to help someone who asks for your advice. But time and geographical restraints means we can reach and be reached more efficiently in the age of the Internet. We can still, however, leverage this medium to create a supportive community.

Dana Lynn Smith, by the way, is a nationally recognized book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketing Guide.

In the spirit of this article: please share your best Twitter practices in the comments below. Have a great weekend.

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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).

Tweeting Freedom of Speech Pt. 2

On Monday we delved into the potential of Twitter as an effective tool for social change and the legal measures that some regimes have taken to curb twitter in their country. Twitter complies with any legal demand that is not restricted to unrest but covers in this country copyright infringement and child pornography.

Twitter does seek to maintain an open trail. It shares all requests for removal though a website called Chilling Effects. This website was created to advocate for freedom on the Internet and, in fact, members of Twitter’s staff are active on the website. In fact, Alexander Macgillivray, a former Google lawyer, and now Twitter’s general counsel, helped create the chillingeffects.org website while at Harvard, as well as crafting Twitter’s censorship policies.

 Twitter stated in a recent post: “One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice. We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can’t.”

Twitter has received praise from a number of free-speech activists who suggest that Twitter’s attempts at transparency have helped them. One such activist, Zeynep Tufekci, who is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, was surprised to find herself praising, not condemning, the policies of an Internet company.

“Twitter is setting the bar as high as it can,” Tufekci said. “It does not deserve the reaction it’s getting.”

Jillian York, who is director for international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agrees with Tufekci. “Once people see how Twitter is implementing this, they will calm down.”

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland credited Twitter with being transparent about its approach to censorship but said it was too early to tell if policy would harm users.

However, many remain angry with Twitter for what they clearly define as censorship and are demanding that the new policy is dropped.

Twitter’s executive chairman received a letter from Reporters Without Borders who summed up the sentiment on the street: “Twitter is depriving cyber dissidents in repressive countries of a crucial tool for information and organization.”

And this is why Twitter’s actions, which curtail instant self-expression and communication, have led to political protests throughout the world.

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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).

Tweeting Freedom of Speech Pt 1

I have been getting into Twitter over the past month, thanks to a workshop at a local brewery (always the best kind) by fellow Left Coast Voices blogger, Roger Ingalls. In a few months, I have steadily attracted more than 10,000 twitter followers and stream this blog to them (@alonshalevsf). In addition, I have gathered more than 8,000 followers for my @elfwriter twitter and blog.

I had originally dismissed Twitter as a platform claiming that it lacked depth. How can you have a conversation with 140 characters? I really began to reevaluate Twitter while watching its role and impact  in the Arab Spring. Suddenly this tool, as a focus for freedom of speech,  became particularly inspiring.

Twitter are well aware of this. Chief Executive Officer, Dick Costolo, refers to it as “the free speech wing of the free speech party,” and Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, even named one of their conference rooms “Tahrir Square” as a point of pride at the role that Twitter played in the Egyptian uprising.

So I became somewhat disillusioned to read that Twitter are considering curbing our freedom. In what many view as an about-face, Twitter now says it has the power to block tweets in a specific country if the government legally requires it to do so, triggering outrage around the world, especially in Arab countries.

Dissidents and activists fear the new policy will stifle free speech and thousands of users are threatening to boycott Twitter.

“Is it safe to say that Twitter is selling us out?” asked Egyptian activist Mahmoud Salem.

Twitter isn’t alone in its struggle to find a way of maintaining its economic goals while considering itself the free speech platform. Facebook, Google and Yahoo all tentatively try and work around complex laws and state-imposed restrictions used to suppress dissident voices and spread the party line.

All these companies have taken down material posted through their sites because a regime felt threatened by the content or deemed it illegal.

However, Twitter insists that it remains fully committed to free speech. When Twitter removes a tweet, it no longer vanishes from the Web, like it used to. In other words, when a tweet violates the law in one country, it will  still be on the Internet in other countries.

The company will only remove tweets when there is sound legal standing in the specific country and claim this will happen only after an internal review. They will also post a censorship notice whenever a tweet is removed.

This creates an interesting dilemma. Tweets have a very short lifetime. They are soon buried under an avalanche of other tweets, whether from the same person or others in their following. This can often happen in under a minute and I am guessing that in a situation such as we saw unfold in Tahrir Square, it is a matter of seconds. How effective and timely can an internal review be?

More on Internet censorship on Wednesday.

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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).

Tips for Authors to Leverage Twitter

I am still struggling with how to use Twitter. I feed my blog into it and have tweeted a few reminders for reading and workshops. Yesterday I splurged to the tune of $1 for a pocket-size Twitter for Dummies book at Office Depot. I haven’t opened it yet, but it sits so handy in my bag.


But last week I saw an article by Dana Lynn Smith – Ten Great Ways Twitter Can Help You Promote Your Book on Book1Blog. Incidentally this a blog that I keep meaning to unsubscribe from in an effort to declutter my inbox, but they keep feeding me with excellent resources such as this one.

Twitter is, she says, not about selling books, but provides  an excellent way to build your networks and reputation. We all know that we  sell books when people meet us, whether face-to-face or online. Here are a few of the tips that Ms. Smith recommends. To read all ten, click here.

  1. Help others by sharing information, while you gain a reputation as an expert. You can post links to helpful articles, recommend resources, offer tips and discuss other books that you enjoy.
  2. Stay on top of news and trends in your field or genre, and get ideas for your articles and blog by reading the tweets of the people you follow.
  3. Ask for help and get instant responses – things like feedback on your book title, cover design or website. It’s amazing how helpful folks are.
  4. Spread goodwill by helping your peers. Introduce people to one another, recommend other related books, or re-tweet interesting posts from people you follow.

What I like about Ms. Smith and others who seem to be recognizing this trend: we make friends online by asking for help and helping others. There is something very cozy and intimate in this otherwise virtual and detached world. I still believe in meeting over a cup of coffee to help someone who asks for your advice. But time and geographical restraints means we can reach and be reached more efficiently in the age of the Internet. We can still, however, leverage this medium to create a supportive community.

Dana Lynn Smith, by the way, is a nationally recognized book marketing coach and author of The Savvy Book Marketing Guide.

In the spirit of this article: please share your best Twitter practices in the comments below.

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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).

Twitter to Change the World

There are many who grumble about the advances of social media in our lives, particularly those who enter reluctantly because otherwise their promotion or platform would become irrelevant for anyone under the age of 100.

We have already seen how Facebook has been used for grassroots activism. Actually as a non-profit who works with students, the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center relies heavily on Facebook. While we still table on the campus, leaflet and send out weekly list serves, it is Facebook that keeps students connected  to our events.

I have begun exploring Twitter as a new social platform for promoting my novels and am still trying to find my way. But I was delighted to discover this short YouTube video explaining how to leverage Twitter for social advocacy.

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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).

The Advantages of Twitter

I realize that so far in this series of threads, I have not actually cited Twitter’s advantages over other the other popular social media tools that are widely used today.

Tom Raftery used Twitter to search for a job. He also used Facebook and compared the two. His conclusion was that Twitter brought the quickest and most consistent responses and felt his Twitter network to be more engaged and responsive.

Jeff Glasson, writing for Social Media Today, suggested that this is because there are many things to do on Facebook beyond communicating with another person or persons. Helping a friend quickly and efficiently find employment just might get buried under a new game, revealing photos and avoiding vampire bites.

Twitter does one thing and it does it well. It is straight forward communication without bells or whistles. What seems to be the most important factor is the people you chose to follow. If they are players, connected, and motivated, you have a serious team to back you up.

Charlene Li points out that Facebook, whatever it subsequently became, began as a student platform. Business professionals claim to make up only about 34% of Facebook, but make up the vast majority of Twitter users.

I think there is a danger that we might generalize too much. Facebook has some serious, artistic and philanthropic uses, and Twitter is utilized for which commercial you prefer in the Superbowl.

What I have learned from this is to seriously consider who I follow on Twitter and with whom I spend time. Right now, it is still a mass of ### hash@@. I want something different from Twitter than what I already have on my blog, website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, authorsden page, and Amazon Author’s page. Otherwise it becomes just another social media site to maintain, another chore, another distraction from writing.


Any ideas?

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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).

 

 

 

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