Ferguson and Riots

We need to have a serious talk about Ferguson. But first we need to ignore the media.

For months the conversation about Ferguson, Missouri has been less about Michael Brown and more about the community’s reaction to his death and now the decision to not indict officer Darren Wilson. And even that conversation has focused more on the sensational elements and images of the destruction of property and looting by people who are more interested in creating trouble than actual justice or peace.

The images are stark: burning buildings and vehicles, smashed windows, people running with armloads of shoes or liquor, the police in military gear firing tear gas at crowds to disperse them — at times it looks more like war zone than an American suburb.

Depending on your world view, these images are a statement on the way things are: the militarization of the police, the failure of a culture to corral their children, racism in the police state, race riots incited by profiteers, the beginning of a revolution, a sign that we aren’t a post racial society, and on and on and on. There are conversations that must be had on this range of issues because all are rooted in this nation’s at times troubled history. Even though these are issues that can incite rage and emotions that are hard to keep in check on both sides, these conversations must level, rational, and tempered.

They must also happen within context. Our first fault is beginning any conversation based on the media’s reporting on Ferguson. Too often people are making broad statements merely based on the images coming out of Ferguson and the media’s sensationalized coverage of the events and aftermath. To hear CNN, Fox News or MSNBC say it, the entire town of Ferguson is burning, people are invading their neighbor’s homes, and the entire community is nothing but hoodlums who have no respect for the property and security of others. At least, that’s the impression many get based off of constant images of burning buildings, tear gas, car flippings, and lootings.

This is leading to a good many people making generalized statements about the community or black culture in general. References to “hoodlums,” “animals,” “gangsters,” or simply attacks on not just individuals but entire portions of society dismiss the concerns of those who are trying to organize and protest peacefully – a Constitutionally protected right – and gives more attention to the select few who are taking advantage of a situation for personal gain. Those who want justice and peace aren’t the ones smashing a McDonalds of flipping a police cruiser. They’re the silent majority who are being punished for the actions of a few.

But even those few, they aren’t unique to Ferguson. Nor are they unique to black culture. Nor are they unique to taking advantage of political and criminal justice situations.

Take sporting events for example. A team wins or loses a big game. The result? Often, it ends up looking a lot like Ferguson.

Closer to home, when VCU lost to Butler in the Final Four in 2011, the media covered “riots” in Richmond which saw small fires and windows smashed and involved tear gas and rubber bullets in response. ESPN’s coverage spent half the article highlighting police fighting back a rowdy crowd.

When Connecticut won a week or so later and things were actually set on fire there was a small blip but otherwise nothing. “Minor property damage” ESPN reported of a fire, overturned car, and crowd throwing bottles at police officers.

Of course a southern urban campus would riot. A Connecticut college town? Nah, minor disturbance…

There was no breathless wall-to-wall 24-hour news cycle coverage of these events. Eighteen CNN reporters weren’t embedded around town to talk to each other about the same stuff for hours on end. No one asked why people were so angry. No one asked what was wrong with our children. No one said entire portions of American society were hoodlums or animals or uneducated or violent.

Tough conversations have to be had within communities and between them. There are core problems on all sides that must be addressed. But we must take a step back and consider the source when starting any argument based off of the coverage of an event by the mainstream media.

Don’t start the conversation based off of select images meant to sensationalize and event.

Don’t perpetuate the “if it bleeds, it leads” coverage that further divides us and drives us away from thoughtful communications necessary to bridge the gap.

Don’t allow yourself to cheery pick the facts that best support your predetermine view while ignoring anything that contradicts.

Don’t start the conversation from a place of stereotypes.

Don’t let the actions of a few determine your opinion of the many.

Don’t allow yourself to cherry pick the times when you want to believe the MSM while ignoring the times its bias harms your position.

And don’t let the media tell you how to think.

Facebook Tweaks Change The Way You Can Promote Your Page

The tweaks are subtle but the impact could very well be huge.

The first is a matter of sharing. Sharing is one of the key components of Facebook – it’s a huge part of what makes social media social. If you see a link or a picture you like, sharing it to your page helps spread the word, share the wealth, and introduce your network to the amazing stuff you can find on Facebook. And Facebook has been set up to give credit where it is due, citing at the top of the post where it came from

Sharing a photo on Facebook

Sharing a photo on Facebook

What sharing a link used to look like

What sharing a link used to look like

But times have changed.

If you share a link from a Facebook Page to your own profile today, that “via” text is gone. The link gets shared so you can still promote the outside content a page found, but the page that posted it doesn’t get the credit like it used to.

It’s a small, subtle tweak that has a huge impact on how Pages are promoted on Facebook.

Content is king. It’s what makes a page stand out among the rest. It’s what drives a page’s audience to keep coming back for more. It’s the difference between 100 likes and 10,000 likes. But where a page used to be able to rely on good content and word of mouth alone to build an audience, today it’s very different.

You see, Facebook doesn’t make money off of success driven by viral and good content. They make money on advertisements. With a few bucks, you can make any page and its content look like it’s the best on the web by paying for impressions, clicks, likes, even using services that’ll sell you page fans for pennies a pop.

Where good posts used to show up in feeds all of the time, now pages have to pay to promote their content to make sure the people who have already opted into their messaging can see it – let alone expand to new audiences. Yes, you have to pay to find a new audience then pay again to make sure you keep them.

Sharing content was a way around that – if 100 of your page’s fans shared your content with their networks and that little “via” link was at the top, that’s free advertising to new eyes. But not anymore.

Now if someone shares a link off of your page there’s no citation, no point of reference, no credit given for where they found it and who inspired them to pass it along. It’s taking a huge chunk of the social aspect out of the equation.

But Facebook has to make money somehow. And businesses and entities using pages have been the focus for their income for quite some time.

Another minor tweak is less about the social and more about how people create and share pages either personally or professionally.

I do this digital media stuff for a living. Websites, social profiles, Facebook pages, these things get created all of the time by folks just like me — from agencies to their interns to fans to businesses to personas and more. There was a time you could create a page and then start inviting people to it where they’d get a notification that simply said “Jason Kenney has invited you to like the page Jason Kenney Is Awesome.”

Now, if you create a page and invite people to like it, they’ll get the notification that “Jason Kenney has invited you to like his page Jason Kenney Is Awesome.”

Again, subtle tweak, but the impact could matter.

awesome

Like it because it’s true

Above the board, individuals working for agencies and businesses create pages on behalf of others all of the time. And often they may then be asked to help promote the page among their networks. There is a difference between me inviting you to a page that belongs to a company compared to a page I created for a company. I may have no further relationship with the company (though if I’m still an admin of the page I probably do) but that I created the page for the company is really neither here nor there, at least when it comes to a simple invite. Heck, in some cases an agency may have a non-disclosure agreement with a client, which means this change severely handicaps the ability of an agency or it’s employees of inviting their networks to a client’s page. Sure, this pulls back the curtain and creates a lot more disclosure on pages, but in simple every day use it’s a nuance that isn’t entirely necessary.

Below the board, though, maybe it is. Because Facebook used to not reveal who was behind a Facebook page. People could anonymously create Facebook pages all of the time and then invite everyone saying “look at this amazing page I just found” and laugh to themselves for being amazing keyboard cowboys. Not any more. If I create a page “Jason’s Not Awesome” and invite you to like it, you know I’m behind a page that’s full of filthy lies.

Small tweak that changes how people promote the pages they help create. And not nearly as big a deal as the citation changes – but something that does have an impact.

Social media is all about talking and sharing ideas. Part of sharing ideas, and part of what is at the core of Web 2.0 all the way back to the dawn of blogging, is giving credit where it is due, citing your sources, sharing the love, and expanding the world people see online. Facebook, in an effort to make a bit more money, is stripping a chunk of social out of social media — and it’s going to force a greater investment by content providers to make sure their voice is heard.

Email Fundraising and the Fine Art of Shaming

There are a lot of factors that go into why Democrats seem to be better at email fundraising than Republicans.

Personalities matter – it’s easier to fundraise for a rockstar (Obama) than a perceived run of the mill candidate (Romney).

Audience matters – Republicans just think and give differently than Democrats.

Issues matter – emotionally driven politics that appeal to a lowest common denominator see better success than something you have to think about to really grasp and care about (also why Democrats have cooler bumperstickers).

But the biggest issue is really the same battle that Republicans and Democrats have been fighting in inboxes, on the airwaves, in mailboxes, door to door, and face to face:

Messaging.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deliver any message. “It’s a boy!” is infinitely more positive than “It’s not a girl!” “My mom works as a mortician” is infinitely more positive than “My mom’s in a morgue.”

“Join us” is infinitely more positive than “Don’t abandon us.”

Today we got a great example of this. The RNC sent out an email to a huge list that split tested between a couple headlines:

Jason, did you abandon the RNC?

Have you given up on Republicans?

Out the gate this email creates a visceral reaction that, sure, will get a few people to open it, but already turns off a vast majority of the audience it’s seeking to appeal to.

The other problem is it uses language that’s already something the Republican brand is suffering from. Far too often you hear from Tea Party-ists, libertarians, social conservatives, moderates, and others that “I did’t abandon the Republican Party, the Republican Party abandoned me.” This is language everyone involved in messaging in the Republican Party is familiar with – and to ignore it is a huge mistake. This email invites a negative response before it’s even opened.

The guts don’t get much better. Let’s take it in parts:

Did you abandon the Republican Party?

No matter what the subject line was, they still hit you with the “abandon” rhetoric. You start on a negative, pushing away the reader and asking them “why aren’t you my friend anymore?” Just as it’s inappropriate for you to nag someone for refusing to respond to your texts after a second date, you really shouldn’t do the same when asking for money.

Chairman Priebus has written to you already this year asking you to contribute to the RNC and renew your membership. But we haven’t received your financial support yet this year.

“You’re ignoring us. I mean, the CHAIRMAN wrote you and you still didn’t give.”

The RNC is implying that you got their email, read their email, then tossed it in the trash. Not that you maybe missed it. Or that it went into your spam folder. Or that your kid accidentally deleted it when playing with your iPhone. They’re jilted.

Your past support has shown us that you believe in the Republican Party and the conservative principles we stand for. That’s why we still believe you haven’t given up on the Republican Party yet.

Here’s a big issue with the email: the RNC is implying that if you haven’t given them a dime, then clearly you don’t believe in the Republican Party and conservative principles. Sure, you may volunteer locally, be a dues paying member of your local unit, bleed for a Senate campaign or have maxed out on every Congressional race in your state. But that’s a springtime Republican. You need to be an all-of-the-time Republican by giving RIGHT NOW.

So we are giving you one more chance to renew your membership with the Republican National Committee.

One more chance. And if you miss this chance, don’t worry. They’re going to send you an email time and time again asking for more money because, c’mon, they need your money.

Right now you are handing the advantage over to Democrats. That’s exactly what President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid want you to do. With committed Republicans like you sitting out in 2014, the Democrats are able to continue their liberal rampage on conservative principles.

Again, the RNC are the gatekeepers of all things Republican. You’re lame if you don’t give them your hard-earned money.

Also, it’s an odd appeal to people who believe in individual responsibility. They’re saying it’s your individual responsibility to give, but using a negative means of doing so. If YOU don’t take responsibility, it’s YOUR fault, YOU lost this, YOU suck.

Personally, I always buy my hot dogs from the vendor who insults me the most.

2014 is our last chance to step in, step up, and take back the Senate to regain Republican control in Washington. Don’t turn your back on the Republican Party now.

Two issues: 2014 is not the last election ever. And Republicans still won’t have the White House, so total control is still out of reach.

Renew your membership with the Republican National Committee now and support our fight to defeat liberal Democrats.

Membership. What does membership get you? A cool hat? A new rag to wash your car with t-shirt? A lapel pin?

No. You get to call yourself a Republican. Isn’t that awesome?

Thanks,

Tony Parker
RNC Treasurer

Honestly, when I first saw the “from” field, I wondered why the San Antonio Spurs point guard was insulting my degree of Republican-ness.

Now, the RNC has gotten heat on this and responded by saying, “hey, Democrats do this all the time!”

“We are always searching for the most effective digital techniques to engage our grassroots and ensure we have the funds necessary to win the midterm elections,” said RNC spokesperson Kirsten Kukowski. “The Democrats have used this tactic regularly – the DCCC did a 48 hour thing like this a couple weeks ago.”

Sure, the DCCC and others have done something “like this” frequently. Shaming people into contributing works – you want to make them feel like they’re missing the boat and don’t want to be the odd man out when all the cool kids contribute.

But it’s HOW they said it that matters. For example:

Subject: FINAL NOTICE

We don’t mean to nag, but President Obama, Vice President Biden and Nancy Pelosi have all asked for your help and we are still lagging dangerously behind.

This is the final notice of your member status before the fundraising deadline.

Name: Jason “The Awesome” Kenney
Supporter record: 8675309
Suggested Support: $5.00

We need a HUGE day today to respond to the unprecedented attacks we’re facing from the Kochs. And since we can only count donations that come in before midnight towards the goal, now is the time to act. Jason, this could make or break us right here.

We need 12,371 more donations by tonight’s midnight fundraising deadline to close the gap. Will you chip in whatever you can now?

MIDNIGHT DEADLINE: All Gifts Triple-Matched!

If you’ve saved your payment information with ActBlue Express, your donation will go through immediately:

EXPRESS DONATE: $5 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $35 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $50 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $100 >>

EXPRESS DONATE: $250 >>

Or click here to donate another amount.

Thanks,

DCCC Membership

First, it’s short and sweet.

Second, it really talks up the membership aspect, complete with a fake number and a specific ask in order to be a member.

Third, it doesn’t way “THE WORLD WILL END” if you don’t give nor do they question your commitment to the cause. They simply say that it’ll be harder to win. And you want to win, right?

Fourth, they give you a goal you feel that can be achieved. It’s a numbers game. People like numbers and they like games. You can be part of the exclusive national audience of 12,371 who help get them over their goal by midnight tonight.

And this is where we see why Democrats are better than Republicans at email fundraising: The RNC email is a caricature of the DCCC email. Someone at the RNC read the DCCC email and walked away with the impression that it was berating, threatening, and demeaning, so they wrote exactly that and sent it out because, hey, it worked for them!

But what worked for the Democrats wasn’t done over night. It was built, it was tested, it was monitored, it was tweaked, it was softened, it failed, it succeeded, and it worked. Democrats have figured out the art of shaming with a gentle touch while the RNC is trying to do it with a club.

The broad brush concepts behind what the Democrats do well are straight forward:

1) Keep it brief – Short and sweet, get to the point.

2) Make people feel like part of something – We need you to join a number of people just like you!

3) Keep it cheap – Easier to get someone to part with their daily Starbucks than a credit card payment.

Consider the following:

I know you’ve been getting a lot of these but I wanted to make sure you knew that now’s your last chance to help us before tonight’s deadline. We’re so close to our goal but we could still use your help.

$5 will go a long way to fight back against the attacks that are coming every day.

We need 1,253 more donors to meet our goal by midnight tonight. Won’t you help tonight?

Some links to click to specific amounts because people like that stuff.

This stuff works. It’s how Democrats do it. It’s how E.W. Jackson was able to show more individual contributions than any other non-incumbent Lieutenant Governor candidate in Virginia’s history (end self horn tooting).

It’s just a start. I could write a book about list segmentation, data mining, targeting messaging based on interests, past open rates, donor history, etc (If the RNC sent this to existing donors, heaven help them…)

But if we can’t get the messaging right, the data’s going to be worthless.

Thankfully, these kind of emails out of the RNC and other Republicans are rare. The core Republican message can resonate and is something that can be packaged to new voters. But we don’t need to berate the choir to get them to sing in key.

“Collectible” Digital Fiction

Hi, blog. Long time no speak.

Every once in a while there’s something that comes on my radar meaning one thing but gets the brain-meats working in another direction. Some are simple issues of punctuation (or, rather, my missing the punctuation), which leads to something like Herman Dune’s “You Could Be A Model, Goodbye” reading more like “You Could Be A Model Goodbye” which has an entirely different meaning and could be the great basis for a short story or a song.


NSFW – A bad word or two.

Robin Sloan has a post over on Snarkmarket that has led to another brainstorm, only this is more delivery than content based – the booster pack:

Most fiction is recombinatory. That’s not a bad thing! I mean, my novel is recombinatory. You can have a lot of fun with recombination. You deal yourself a hand from the deck of culture and try to make sense of the juxtapositions. I think I just described the process behind all comic books ever. The results can be rich and compelling—all the more so because they’re supported by ideas and images with deep roots.

But! We can’t only recombine. It can’t just be remakes and reboots and remixes forever. Every so often, we need new stuff, too.

Have you ever played one of those collectible card games? Bought a pack of cards, ripped it open, added them to your deck? Annihilation is a foil-wrapped booster pack for weird fiction, loaded with truly original images. Truly original entities.

Which sounds like an awesome book and something I’ll have to pick up.

But, brainstorm – what if one could purchase a “booster pack” that delivered random stories in an ebook format?

Nerd.

Nerd.

Create a library of, say, a hundred stories of 3,000-5,000 words each. For a price of around $2.99, seven of those stories are randomly selected and dropped into either a zip of files or a single ebook file. Like those seven? Buy another pack. Sure, you might get some duplicates, but then you can feel better about sharing them with friends (because they’ll be DRM free, of course). And at $2.99 you’re still getting a handful of new stories.

Or you can just buy individual stories at $0.99 a piece, but, hey, why not get more bang for your buck?

Some stories could be designated as “rare” or only available in the packs, so if you want that great super rare Stephen King story (because he’d totally participate in something like this, right, Mr. King?), you’ll have to keep getting collections until you get so damn frustrated with it that you’re broke, I’m rich, and maybe Mr. King and I take pity on you and give you the story anyway.

The complication, aside from building a library of a hundred or more stories, is developing a system of delivery that can create the booster packs at random and provide them in assorted formats. Then there’s the whole royalty thing for authors.

But as an idea, I’m curious if anyone else thinks it has merit. Let me know your thoughts.

Using Blogsy for the first time

So my wife was awesome enough to get me an iPad Mini for my birthday today and one of the first things I wanted to use it for was blogging. J's Notes has just been looking so lonely lately and with the re-launch of The Jeffersoniad I really needed to dust off the ol' blogging chops and do more writing.

So to help with that I researched a few apps and decided to make the investment in Blogsy. At first blush e interface is nice. It looks like it'll work well with WordPress, especially the bells and whistles The Jeffersoniad has built in. Some limitations when it comes to custom fields, but maybe I'm asking too much from an iPad in that regard.

So please bear with me as I get back into the swing of things and take a moment to check out the newly redesigned The Jeffersoniad for some great content from some of Virginia's best bloggers.

 

The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website

The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website
Site to curate leading right-of-center political thought from Virginia bloggers

Richmond, Va – March 4, 2013 - The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance is pleased to announce the launch of its new website, The Jeffersoniad. The new website, launching Monday, March 4, 2013, will serve as a hub for The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance and curate the leading political thought and posts of its member sites.

Starting in 2007 as a small group of like-minded bloggers, The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance has grown to include nearly forty members from twenty-one websites across Virginia. The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance members serve to drive conversations among the grassroots and represent the voice of Virginia right-of-center activists.

“Our new website will highlight the best and the brightest that the Virginia blogosphere has to offer,” said Jason Kenney, a founding member of The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance. “By showcasing thought leadership from Alliance members, The Jeffersoniad will help raise the level of discourse among political activists in the Commonwealth.”

###

The Jeffersoniad Blog Alliance Launces New Website by TheJeffersoniad

Facebook Users In Richmond (2012 Edition)

I’m a numbers nerd (shocking revelation, I know). Every now and then it’s interesting to look into the numbers of something like Facebook to see how it’s growing locally, especially when considering it’s place as a social platform for campaigns and non-profits and as an area to invest time and dollars.

So how does Facebook look this year compared to last?

Honestly, about the same.

In April, 2012, Virginia Facebookers stood at 3,899,660 strong. This year they’re at 3,971,440, a growth of only 71,780 or 1.8%. Now, nearly 72k more faces is nothing to sneeze at, but Facebook plateauing is to be expected, especially since nearly half of Virginia’s population of 8,185,000 are now on the platform.

What is interesting is that of those 71,780 new faces, most are actually in the Richmond area (well, Facebook’s definition of the Richmond area).

In April, 2012, 350,900 Facebookers called Richmond home. Today that number stands at 389,740, a nearly 11% jump for the area and almost 39,000 new members. Looking at the demographic breakdown, most of these new members, nearly 25,000, are in the 35+ age range, so Facebook is still growing with the older audiences, just at a much slower clip.

So here’s a breakdown:

2/2009 4/2012 2/2013
Total Facebook Users In Virginia: 1,794,480 3,899,660 3,971,440
Facebook Users In Richmond: 193,240 350,900 389,740
Age
13-17 - 18,620 21,940 18,980
18-25 - 76,820 97,080 102,420
26-35 - 50,580 91,580 103,100
36+ - 43,320 140,260 165,260
Sex
Male - 77,690 156,640 173,820
Female - 108,520 190,480 212,060
Education
In High School - 18,780 8,300 6,840
In College - 31,960 19,940 20,860
  • VCU -
17,300 8,220 (11,360) 8,540 (11,520)
  • University of Richmond -
2,640 1,480 (2,420) 1,560 (2,300)
  • Virginia Union -
80 620 (1,140) 560 (1,040)
  • Virginia State -
360 320 (3,640) 400 (3,500)
College Grad - 22,800 134,520 159,940
Relationship Status
Single - 50,800 77,220 86,620
In A Relationship - 33,500 45,060 47,380
Engaged - 6,140 10,000 10,400
Married - 52,300 97,840 110,720

College numbers in brackets are total numbers for US residents who are marked “In College” at those schools but may not necessarily have Richmond listed as home.

All of these numbers were pulled using Facebook’s ad manager so feel free to jump in and fiddle with the stats yourself to see what data you can pull out.

Social Media Spending in the Presidential Election

One graphic really says it all:

10-1. Barack Obama didn’t just lap Mitt Romney in online spending, he clobbered him.

$47 million compared to $4.7 million.

But, hey, that’s gotta be an improvement over 2008, right? It sure is!

In 2008 Barack Obama spent $16 million on online advertising.

John McCain: $3.6 million.

So, hey, Mitt Romney increased the GOP nominee’s spending by almost 30%! Yay! Compared to Obama’s jump of nearly 300%.

Now, when PBS Newshour throws around the 2012 numbers they may or may not be just talking about online advertising (I wonder about their numbers because they cite the Obama’s $16 million in 2008 number that is really only representative of his online ads). So who knows how much the failed Project ORCA cost.

But even if we’re just talking about advertising and not actual network building to create a means to spread your narrative and define your candidate instead of letting them spend all Summer calling you a corporate bully, we’re still talking about a very valuable tool in terms of messaging on a platform where more and more voters are seeking information.

A new Pew study shows that the Internet has finally passed Newspapers as a voter’s news source with 47% citing the Internet in 2012 compared to 31% in 2008 and a mere 21% in 2004. This trend is not going to plateau any time soon as more and more people older voters acclimate themselves to social media and younger voters come of age and seek engagement.

26% of voters had their political opinions influenced by social media. 1-in-4 voters were educated and influenced by a tweet or status update or infographic or video or whatever they engaged with on their platforms of choice.

You have got to be where your audience is. And as more and more of your audience moves online you have got to be there to meet and greet them.

PBS Newshour’s Daily Download’s segment on Presidential Social Media usage is a good broad brush analysis of this year’s campaigns and well worth 6 minutes of your time.

Watch Obama Spent 10 Times as Much on Social Media as Romney on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

 

SMCRVA: What’s up with blogs?

July’s SMCRVA featured a discussion on how brands can leverage local influencers and also included a taping about what’s up with blogs featuring Ross Catrow of RVANews, Alex Iwashyna of Late Enough, Kate Hall of Richmond Mom, Jennifer Lemons of JenniferLemons.com and yours truly. It’s a great clip showing the variety of voices in blogging and thoughts on where it’s been and where it’s going.

It’s also a great way to celebrate J’s Notes 11th Birthday a day late.