Archive for February 2009

MMOGs and Social Media Report

February 26, 2009

As I explained Wednesday night in class, your social media reports are due the first class after spring break, yet all of your first half reading blog entries are due by class next week. Entries completed after Wednesday, March 4th, will not be accepted. You do NOT have to have done any of your optional blog posts yet, although frankly you should have an entry or two done just to pace yourself over the course of the semester.

From last night’s class, here’s the graphic that Mollie asked for me to post. Let me know if there are any other links from class you ever want posted or emailed to you.

For the social media reports, I’m going to be looking for at least 15 social media sites spread across at least three of the four following areas: Blogs/Microblogging, Wikis, Social Networking (including both sites and groups), and Social Media (Vlogs/Podcasts/Citizen Journalism/Audio/Video). If you have picked a subject that doesn’t get you 15 sites in three areas, you need to change your definition or pick a new topic.

Write up a brief description of each site, classify it, the URL, any traffic details or size numbers you can track down, as well as some analysis of the level of engagement. Don’t forget some of the resources we’ve used like TruthLaidBear and Quantcast. Here’s an example entry for a Facebook group that I belong to that would be useful if I was researching Vermont:

Site: Vermont State Society Facebook Group
Type: Social Networking Site
Traffic: 83 members in group; Facebook ranks 15th on the web according to Quantcast
Description: This semi-active group supports Vermonters in Washington and members post job listings and news stories of interest to it. It is an open group which anyone can join with a single administrator. No one other than the administrator has posted to it. There’s some minor wall activity—about one post a month.

I want your paper to be written on dead wood (paper) and handed in during class on March 18th. Since you’re getting extra time on this assignment, I’m going to have particularly high expectations for you. Please put real thought into the sites that you select. I don’t want you to just list the first 15 sites you find—which ones would be most useful? Which ones are active? You shouldn’t expect to get full credit for the assignment if you list 15 inactive blogs and Facebook groups. Where is there activity online around your chosen subject? If you were setting out to build a community in your chosen area, where would you turn?

As for class, we’re going to be looking at gaming. Online gaming (and related consoles like the Wii and Xbox 360) is quickly graduating from a teenage past-time to a massive industry, partly because the generation raised on Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers is aging and still playing games. Adult gaming is huge today. Movies today can gross more from the associated games than from the movies themselves. XBox’s Halo 3, which released in September and allows people to play joint missions from multiple locations connected online, had the biggest release in entertainment history—grossing some $170 million in its first 24 hours.

Massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are a huge business today—they’re even being used by the U.S. Army to recruit (as well as train new soldiers). They are also complicated stories, almost mini-novels.

Second Life is probably the best known of the various games and it has spawned a massive economic industry within it (although the benefits are questionable). Before class on Wednesday, please sign up for a Second Life account (basic membership is fine), download the application, and email me with your chosen account name. Spend a total of 45 minutes playing in Second Life, so you can at least master the basics of walking, talking, and flying (!). Read the Wikipedia page carefully so you understand the game (tech subjects like this are where you can trust Wikipedia better than just about any other source). BusinessWeek also had a good cover story on this phenomenon last year (make sure to note and listen to the podcast). If you love this and are interested in journalism, then go ahead and join the reporting staff of the Second Life Herald, the game’s virtual newspaper, or become one of the game’s embedded reporters. Also check out the Second Life Showcase to see some cool things going on in the game and listen to a podcast or two. Confused? Don’t be. Very few people understand how this world works and what its impact could be; that’s especially true of groups with an agenda.

Beyond Second Life, World of Warcraft is probably the second-best known, with a huge passionate following. How huge and how passionate, you ask skeptically? Try roughly 2 million North American players, 1.5 million European players, and 3.5 million Chinese. That’s some seven million PAYING users.

Companies are beginning to realize how big gaming is and how influential games can be in helping people make decisions, as well influencing decisions and policies. The North Carolina firm Persuasive Games is probably the leader in online game development. Go ahead and play a couple of them. Blog about your experiences. Are the games effective in getting their point/message across? What surprised you about this week’s readings?

As for next week, a reminder that you need to be all caught up on your blogging. It’s the eighth week of class, which means that you must have six (6) blog entries. One each on the following:

1) For your first blog entry, write about whatever aspect of Dan Gillmor’s book you found most interesting. For this and all future “response blogs,” please start your blog title with “RESPONSE #1:” and then the title of your post. In future weeks, use “RESPONSE #2:” and so on, through #13. This is to delineate for me which blogs are in response to questions and which ones are free-form blogs. If your entries are not properly labeled, please do so by Wednesday. I will not give full credit for entries not properly labeled.

2) Talk some exploring podcasts and Vlogs and what you chose to listen to. Do you regularly  listen to any podcasts?

3) Should we be afraid of Google?

4) Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

5) Where, in your personal experience, do you see the long tail playing out online? What interests/tastes/hobbies do you explore or use the web for that would have been difficult in the pre-web era?

6) For next week’s class, write about your experience playing Second Life. If you know how, illustrate your post with a screenshot of your character in Second Life. What do you make of this new world? What do you make of MMOGs in general? Second Life in particular?

If you are all caught up, I’d strongly encourage to work ahead on an extra blog post or two. You can’t do them all at the end of the semester. If you don’t have all RESPONSE blog entries done by next week, you won’t be able to make them up.

Phew. That’s all for now. Go forth and conquer!



February 19, 2009

Next week’s class will be the second one focused on social media; in particular we’ll look at how collaboration happens online and in joint web projects. I think, out of the deep goodness of my heart, that I’m going to go easy on you this week and not assign any online reading. Thus:

1) Work on your linking for next week. Remember, no new terms! If there are more than the current 335 terms next week, there’ll be hell to pay.

2) Blog on the Long Tail: Where, in your personal experience, do you see the long tail playing out online? What interests/tastes/hobbies do you explore or use the web for that would have been difficult in the pre-web era?

3) Catch up. We’ll talk about the social media project in class next week and I might even push back the due date a week if that helps people.

4) Go forth and conquer.

Be My Friend!

February 12, 2009

Good morning! I hope your heads have stopped spinning from Google last night—I know I threw a ton at you. We’ve just got so much to cover and so little time! We do have the Omniclass later on this semester to double-back to any topics you feel like we passed over too quickly, so be thinking of topics/questions/subjects you want addressed during that period. We can even carve out two Omniclasses if there’s demand.

This week’s topic is social networking and social media. Just as last night was entirely about Google, we’re going to spend most of this week looking at a a few of the major social networking and social media sites: MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, and These are sites we’ve passed over earlier this semester briefly and now we’re going to dive into them.

I hope you enjoy Here Comes Everybody—it’s the most recent book you’ll read, since it came out just about a year ago, and I think it puts together lots of the class themes and the world into which we’re moving.

For starters, dig through my files on Facebook, and make sure to read the following articles: Jeff Jarvis, Fast Company, Wharton, Mashable, CNN, and check out this tips and tools for Facebook. Does it seem like we’re coming closer to the “Google Grid”? Here’s some info on how companies are using social networking and who are the demographics. Compare who uses MySpace and Facebook? What’s different? Why? What does friendship mean online? Watch Scoble’s take on Kyte TV (you may have to install Flash) and then ask yourself: Is Robert Scoble media? What does the future for media look more like? Scoble or the Wall Street Journal?

We’ll play with Digg, Flickr and YouTube in class some, so if you’ve never used those sites, make sure to spend some time on them. Here’s some background on Digg. They are some of the leading examples of social media. is a form of social media too, and here are some other examples. You asked in class for some more concrete examples, so take a look at this report on social media and public radio. And take a look at how to do effective online advocacy in social networks.

Your blogging question for the week: Do we need a Bill of Rights for the social web?

Have you created an RSS reader account after last night? If you have and you find some great links or feeds, send them to me.

Google: Veni, Vedi, Vici

February 5, 2009

Hope you’re all Twittering up a storm at your desks this morning. I sent you an email this morning with my favorite Twitterers, so look for that.

We’re going to spend all of next week’s class looking at Google, which has become the most powerful media company the world has ever seen. It’s so huge that the presidential candidates are beating a path to its door (as are desperate authors like myself). Your assignment for the week’s blog: Should we be afraid of Google?

As you read Battelle, think about what he means search as a database of intentions. What impact does this have for better and worse? In class next week, we’ll watch a video about Googlezon, predicting one possible future.

Make sure to also check out this Economist article, this piece by Google about why it remembers searches, some Google tips and tricks, this explanation of page rank, this article about Google hating America, and this funny story of Ted Leonsis and how he seized his own page ranking. Also this funny story from recent weeks about Vice President Cheney on Google versus VP Biden.

Simply Google puts all of the various parts of Google on a single page—it’s an impressive representation—and Scoble, whom we discussed last night and the author of NC, says there’s DOG afoot! Could Google end up owning the internet? Could sites like do search better? Yahoo!, the perennial also-ran in search, has been expanding too, although as you probably saw Microsoft may end up owning Google. Will Google kill Wikipedia? Will it own the wireless arena? Google today encompasses some huge brands, like Blogger we mentioned last night and YouTube, so here’s some YouTube history for you. Here’s a Google cheat sheet.

GoogleEarth and GoogleMaps are incredible products, putting resources that in our lifetimes once belonged only to the wealthiest and most advanced governments in the hands of anyone. Here’s some fun stuff about them. Have you looked for your house in GoogleMap? I know if you go to my address, you can see my car sitting in the driveway.

Want some alternatives to Google? Try this resource for 100 other search engines or use Googlonymous. Why do alternatives matter? Because it turns out that what you find depends very much on where you search!

Also, try to send me an email this week about how class is going for you. I’ve thrown a lot at you in the last three weeks—do you feel like you understand the material? Are we covering too much in class? Too little? Am I talking too much? What do you need from me to be able to do better and learn more? I want to make sure that you all are equipped at the end of the class to navigate the digital world and so if we need to spend another week on blogging, online communication and PR tips, etc., we certainly can do that.