Missing the Point of Aaron Sorkin’s ‘The Social Network’

The Social Network

The Social Network

Great insight from New Republic writer Lawrence Lessig on how “The Social Network” writer Aaron Sorkin completely misses the point of the story of Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Lessig concludes that the audience will miss the point, too.

The real deal here is innovation, and how the Internet is the most powerful platform for it in our history. Because of it, Lessig writes, “Zuckerberg’s genius could be embraced by half-a-billion people within six years of its first being launched, without (and here is the critical bit) asking permission of anyone” [emphasis mine].

Zuckerberg put his code, his idea, on the Web for all to access for less than $1,000. Used to be, the question of distribution was a tough one for some innovators. Not so for Zuckerberg. Not so for anyone with a Web-ready idea today.

But people who see “The Social Network” this weekend likely won’t get that, Lessig writes:

Practically everyone walking out will think they understand genius on the Internet. But almost none will have seen the real genius here. And that is tragedy because just at the moment when we celebrate the product of these two wonders—Zuckerberg and the Internet—working together, policymakers are conspiring ferociously with old world powers to remove the conditions for this success. As “network neutrality” gets bargained away—to add insult to injury, by an administration that was elected with the promise to defend it—the opportunities for the Zuckerbergs of tomorrow will shrink. And as they do, we will return more to the world where success depends upon permission. And privilege. And insiders. And where fewer turn their souls to inventing the next great idea.

Full article: Sorkin vs. Zuckerberg, The New Republic

Facebook Places: Taking Check-ins Global

So I’ve long thought that services like Gowalla and Foursquare (which allow you to “check-in” when you visit certain locations, see which of your friends me be there or see what special deals or services that location is offering) has a big hurdle in terms of widespread adoption. In short, there aren’t enough people using these esoteric little services yet to matter much.

But all that might be about to change with Facebook Places, which took the idea from Gowalla and Foursquare and made it automatically available to its hundreds of millions of users on Wednesday.

More thoughts, after the jump.

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Campaigns Jump on the Mobile App Bandwagon

Dan Rutherford iPhone app

Dan Rutherford, Illinois Republican candidate for state treasurer, will point at you via his iPhone app.

Mobile apps! Everybody’s got one, most likely including your local politico seeking higher office.

The Associated Press drops this feature today on “iCampaigning,” where already incessantly social candidates — not content with Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Flickr, YouTube and more — are creating their own iPhone and Android applications to pester you with even more talking points, news releases and other propaganda. This makes them look “cool” and “with it”!

Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who’s running to be the Democratic nominee for governor, has an app that lets people follow her calendar, read news releases, familiarize themselves with her background and make campaign contributions.

“It shows that our campaign is a modern campaign,” said Kelliher spokesman Matt Swenson. “We’re connecting with people where they are right now through the phones in the palms of their hands.”

These apps are a good idea, particularly if you like spending lots of money! Our recent Arkansas Business cover story on app development here in Arkansas suggests that, while you could spend thousands of dollars developing apps for multiple platforms, you could also design one mobile-friendly Web site that everyone can easily access, no matter what device they use:

“For us, the determining factor is will this application help [a user] have easier access to discounts of a particular product or service? Is it location-based?” said Bryan Jones, the director of interactive services at Little Rock creative firm Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods. “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do something.”

Many apps are free; marketers reason that building a tool that you’ll download is a way to keep a brand at the top of your mind and the front of your phone. But marketing and tech agencies are pushing many clients to invest in making their websites mobile-friendly before rushing to invest in apps.

“There’s a lot of technology out there that’s called an app when it’s really just a mobile interface,” said Marla Johnson Norris, the CEO of Artistotle Inc., an interactive marketing company in Little Rock. “The more things your mobile application is going to do, the more it costs.”


AP’s story on campaign apps, here.

Arkansas Business’ app cover story, here.

Also available to politicos: YouTube, which has set up a campaign toolkit for candidates.

Before the Keynote: Last-minute News, Rumors; Also: How Will Twitter Hold Up Under the iPad Juggernaut?

Today’s highly anticipated Apple event has been buzzed about for months, and today’s the big day. The event gets underway at noon local time and is sure to be the most discussed, blogged, live-blogged and tweeted event since probably Election Night 2008. We’ve already been writing about it. And many wonder: Whose speech will everyone be talking about tomorrow? Barack Obama’s or Steve Jobs?

Looking to keep with the tablet news? You can check Gizmodo’s liveblog here, probably the best place for live updates and photos as the event unfolds. Engadget’s liveblog, also sure to be very good, will be available here. Both will start before the official event.

Apple January Event

Noon today

Gizmodo notes that it will also be providing updates to Facebook here and via Twitter here. Engadget will do the same.

Last minute rumors, reports? We got ’em:

Textbook maker McGraw-Hill confirms on CNBC that tablet is coming (video) – Engadget

Wall Street Journal reports Apple pricing for books on the tablet platform, $12.99 or $14.99 for hardcovers – Engadget

Apple tablet in the wild? Engadget thinks these images might be legit – Engadget

New iPhone OS could be coming Wednesday, according to edited Apple terms for app developers – Gizmodo

Will connect via Wifi and 3G, 10-inch screen – New York Times

Verizon and AT&T might carry the tablet – Fox News

Will the tablet be the newest item in Jack Bauer’s gadget bag? – Gizmodo

New version of iLife? iPhone 4? – Techtorial

Many more rumors – Gizmodo

You got predictions? Things you’d like to see in the new device? Let us know in comments.

Thar She Blows!

Meanwhile, we wonder, how will the Internets hold up during all this madness? Specifically, how long before Twitter goes all Fail Whale on us during the keynote?

We’ll take your bets below:

Talking Social Media and Business at Commerce Arkansas Nov. 3

About 900 folks came out to Commerce Arkansas last year, a business expo at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock put on by Arkansas Business and the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. This year, we’re doing it again on Nov. 3, and we’ve got a great lineup of speakers and seminars free to anyone who pre-registers.

Among the seminars, a panel I’ll be moderating on social media and business. “Using Social Media for Business, Nonprofit and Search Engine Marketing” will provide an overview of how businesses and nonprofits can use social media – including Twitter and Facebook – in aid of e-commerce, marketing and charitable campaigns. You’ll learn what tools are available, how to staff social media efforts, how to set expectations and measure success.

So who’s on the panel? Scheduled to appear are:

Ed Nicholson of Tyson Foods, who was kind enough earlier this year to provide some guest posts on social media for this blog

Natalie Ghidotti of Ghidotti Communications, who’s advised companies like I.O. Metro on using social media to connect with customers

Megan Knight of FLEX360, the Web development firm’s interactive marketing director on search engine marketing expert

They’ll each talk about different aspects of using social media for your business, marketing and charitable needs. We’ll share more details leading up to the seminar. Meanwhile, register now to attend this seminar and others for free.


Last year, Commerce Arkansas attracted some great speakers. This year, we’ve done it again. Among those on the roster:

Jeffrey Gardner, CEO of Windstream Corp. of Little Rock

Jon Harrison, general manager of Caterpillar’s North American Motor Grader Operations in North Little Rock

Kathy Deck, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the Sam Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville

Linda Nelson of the Arkansas Small Business Technology and Development Center

Greg Henderson of Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions

Molding Young Minds at UALR High School Journalism Day

Much thanks to the Sonny Rhodes and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for inviting me to speak during two sessions of UALR’s annual Journalism Day event, which took place Thursday.

Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press gave the event’s keynote address on “Why Journalism Matters,” and other session leaders included Frank Fellone of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Kelly Kissel of the AP and Malcolm Glover of KUAR-FM, 89. 1, the Little Rock NPR affiliate.

I spoke in two sessions, the first on “Why Your High School Newspaper Needs to Be Online,” and the second on ” … So You’re Online, Now What?” The students were great and asked some solid questions.

I also took the opportunity to ask some questions about teen media habits. And needless to say, everything you’ve heard about how teens engage (or don’t engage) with media is probably pretty close to true.

  • Most of them don’t read newspapers — less than half of the 20 in my first session said they read the local daily on a weekly basis, and none of them read it daily.
  • Many of them said they spend at least 4 hours a day online. One student said he’ll often spend half a Saturday online.
  • They text message one another like crazy. When I told them about a study that showed the average teen sends 2,000 texts a month, many told of numbers double that. And because they’re heavy texters, their parents are, too. One student said his Mom sent 5,000 messages one month.
  • Facebook is the hotness, but MySpace is dunzo.
  • They watch TV, but usually while surfing the Web.
  • Many of them say they read magazines.
  • Oh — and none of them Twitter.

None of their high school papers were online, but a couple of schools seemed poised to invest in the Web soon. One of the big concerns for students and their advisers was finding a way to fairly moderate reader comments.

In all, it was an enjoyable session. Despite the turmoil that traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio) find themselves in, I still believe it’s an exciting time to be a journalism student. The possibilities the Web offers young reporters and editors are boundless. No longer are students defined by the medium for which they work. On the Web, the lines have blurred, and they can each be involved in writing, video, photography, audio production, Web programming and more. And given the current state of media, with all the economic and organizational challenges that exist, they have a chance to help reshape the profession as it asserts itself on mobile and online platforms.

It’s a thrilling time for those kids, and 14 years out of high school, I’m a little envious.

Pew Study Shows Emerging Trends in Political, Civic Engagement Online

On KARN radio on Monday, political bloggers Blake Rutherford and David Kinkade commented on how new media has finally arrived in Arkansas, and how blogs and social networks will play an even bigger role in the 2010 election cycle (one that’s already sure to be exciting given a certain U.S. Senate race) as more Arkansans become politically engaged, bloggers break news alongside traditional media and candidates rally supporters in online spaces.

This week, a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project outlines emerging trends in political and civic engagement, and it will be interesting to see if some of these findings play out in Arkansas, so often the final destination for new social and technological movements. Below, some of the Pew study’s key findings and some brief comments:

Whether they take place on the internet or off, traditional political activities remain the domain of those with high levels of income and education.

There’s obviously been some hope that the Internet might be the great equalizer in terms of political engagement by the haves and the have-nots. But the Pew study finds that this simply hasn’t happened yet. Pew notes, of course, that much of this is tied to broadband availability. In Arkansas, of example, you’re much more likely to have high-speed Internet access if you are more affluent and live in a larger city.


At the same time, because younger Americans are more likely than their elders to be internet users, the participation gap between relatively unengaged young and much more engaged middle-aged adults that ordinarily typifies offline political activity is less pronounced when it comes to political participation online.

So youth might be a leveler, in terms of political activities by folks in vastly different economic classes. And, Pew says, so could blogs and social media, because the bigger group of people who use those Internet media are aged 18-29:

There are hints that forms of civic engagement anchored in blogs and social networking sites could alter long-standing patterns that are based on socio-economic status.

Pew says “hints,” because we don’t yet know whether we’ll see a generational change in civic involvement, or merely a “life-cycle phenomenon that will change as these younger users age.”

(After the jump, more findings by the Pew study.)

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