Tag Archives: online communities

Crowdsourcing: The Past, Present and Future of Online Behavior and Business

6 Apr

What is a crowd?  Dictionary.com offers 14 variations on the definition of crowd (both nouns and verbs).  My favorite – and most relevant to Jeff Howe’s Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business – is #7:

“noun. Sociology. a temporary gathering of people responding to common stimuli and engaged in any of various forms of collective behavior.”

Why is it important to discuss crowds in relation to business, the Internet and online communities?  How do crowds act online, why should we pay attention, and how can businesses effectively capitalize on crowd behavior to promote participation and loyalty among consumers?  And what is “crowdsourcing”?

Originally defined by Howe in a June 2006 Wired article , crowdsourcing is a revolution that involves “cheap production costs, a surplus of underemployed talent and creativity, and the rise of online communities composed of like-minded enthusiasts” (5-6).  Or, as Howe defines it on his blog, crowdsourcing is “the application of Open Source principles to fields outside of software.”  In the book, Howe does an excellent job of explaining both the history of and theories behind crowdsourcing.  Using examples of how certain companies (Threadless, InnoCentive, Etsy, Wikipedia, iStockphoto) became successful while employing business models that engaged the online consumer, Howe notes crowdsourcing is the “antithesis of Fordism” (14).  Online communities, where collaboration and commitment are their own rewards to users, are at the center of crowdsourcing.  “Crowdsourcing accelerates the globalization of labor and economic dislocation we see in outsourcing.  Like the Internet, crowdsourcing has no boundaries” (17).

Section I, How We Got Here,” is dedicated to describing the evolution of crowdsourcing.  Howe argues that four fundamental developments made “crowdsourcing not only possible, but inevitable” (18):

1. Renaissance of amateurism: The gap in knowledge between the experts and the rest of the populace is shrinking.  The Internet makes it more difficult to restrict information, so amateurs and professionals alike have access to the same information.  Where once professionals reigned, “the self-organizing community of amateurs shoulders a significant degree of the labor” (32) in various industries (ie, iStockphoto for photography).

2. Open Source software movement: Howe strongly argues that the Open Source software movement provided the blueprint for crowdsourcing.  There are three components to the open source model of production (62-63):

  • an enourmous task is distributed across a network,
  • there is no limit on the number of potential contributors,
  • the work is broken down into small, discrete tasks (aka “modules”).

Howe notes that open source works efficiently because “a large and diverse labor pool will consistently come up with better solutions than the most talented, specialized work force” (54).  He discusses the evolution of Wikipedia as the perfect example of crowdsourcing based on Open Source software principles.

3. Increasing availability of tools of production: The widespread availability and decreased price of means of production empower crowds to take part in a process long dominated by companies and industries (71).  Such tools allow amateurs the opportunity to be both a producer and consumer.  Corporations such as Google (YouTube) and News Corp. (MySpace) capitalize on user-generated content to make money off ad sales.  Electronic word-of-mouth, such as bands on MySpace, becomes a marketing strategy that doubles as a distribution strategy.  This is the democratization of media in action.

4. Rise of vibrant online communities organized around people’s interests: Howe defines the crowd as “the Billion” of people worldwide who have Internet access.  This is the size of the potential crowd who can contribute to crowdsourcing projects.  Howe emphasizes that community is the asset to crowdsourcing, and geography and common interests are potent forces in creating online communities.

Section II, Where We Are,” discusses how crowdsourcing currently manifests online and in business (or, at least in the moment the book was published in 2008.  Howe added a forward, published in the 2009 edition, which fully acknowledges that several of these current examples are already outdated).  The most relevant ideas from this section include:

1. Diversity trumps ability: Studies that show a large, diverse group of people will have an equal if not better ability to solve a problem than a small, homogeneous group of high ability.  Why?  Individuals each have knowledge or talents that, when shared with a community, create unparalleled collective intelligence.  A diverse array of approaches to solving a problem will allow the problem to be solved more quickly than people who all have the same knowledge and ability.

2. Collective Intelligence in action: Howe discusses “idea jams” and crowdcasting, which are efforts at customer collaboration to create solutions to problems that don’t exist yet (159).  Dell IdeaStorm, the Netflix algorithm challenge, and InnoCentive are examples of crowdcasting networks and prediction markets that utilize collective intelligence.

3. What the Crowd Creates: Here, Howe explains the role of the top 1% of contributors, or “creators,” in an online community, and how they are fundamentally changing how work gets done.  The crowd’s heaviest users need to have meaningful incentives for contributing – it’s not about the money (although it can be a welcome byproduct).  Creators need to have a sense of ownership over a site in a company’s transition from professional to community production.

4. Filtering the crowd: The 1:10:89 rule says that for every 100 people on a given site, 1 will create something, 10 will vote on it, and 89 will consume it.  (Think American Idol).  Communities don’t need to have a 100% active user base in order to be thriving and vibrant.  It’s the 10% who filter the 1% creators, ultimately determining what is valuable (and not paying attention to the crap) and thereby making the community and its information meaningful.  (Think Digg).

5. Crowdfunding: Also known as “social banking,” crowdfunding taps the collective pocketbook so people can finance projects they believe in on their own terms, on their own timetable.  The concept directly connects people with money to people who need money.  Kiva.org, the person-to-person microlending site endorsed by Bill Clinton, is a perfect example of crowdfunding.

In Section III, “Where We’re Going,” Howe posits ideas on the future of crowdsourcing and offers ten rules for effectively maximizing on crowdsourcing behavior.  Several of these rules reiterate the principles he discusses throughout the book and are useful “quick tips” for individuals and businesses looking to implement crowdsourcing effectively.  Here is a chart that shows crowdsourcing in eight steps:

However, Howe spends little time – except in the forward – discussing the potential downfalls and criticisms of crowdsourcing.  Clearly, the ethical and economic issues raised by crowdsourcing are debatable.  Certain businesses — Howe mentions the uproar over crowdSPRING and 99designs in the design community — denounce crowdsourcing because too many artists are providing free spec labor and not being compensated appropriately.  Since there are no written contracts in crowdsourcing, critics believe that contributors can be exploited, and it may be difficult to manage large-scale crowdsourced projects.  As Howe mentions, any successful crowdsourcing community needs to have a guide to organize the crowd — without two-way communication from the source to the crowd, users will leave or not contribute meaningfully.  While I believe that crowdsourcing is fundamental and crucial to today’s — and the future’s — online marketplace, there is no question that a company needs to provide a framework for the crowd to work successfully.

Here are some current examples of crowdsourcing. Crowd: what do you think?

Google Product Ideas


The Late Age of Print Open Source Audiobook

Crowdsourcing Cover Challenge

Open Innovators

Ever Use a Crowd to Learn Something?

10 Things I Like About the Internet: April 4th, 2010 “iPad” Edition

4 Apr

Here is the second weekly installment of my soon-to-be viral hit list of 10 cool things I found on the Internet this week. Bold? Ambitious? Why not! Bring it on, Internet! And bring it on, iPad!

1. This Week’s Viral Video: IT’S A TIE, with a theme. Boys Will Be Girls and He’s Not a Single Lady.

LMAO. The Ivy League comedy sketch troupe Harvard Sailing Team shows how Boys Will Be Girls. They had more than 600 new YouTube subscribers within a day after posting this video. The girl’s response is worth watching, though not as funny in my opinion.

And here, a boy cries because he’s not a single lady. Oh, if he only knew the tears of real single ladies.

2. Location, Location, Location: SimpleGeo

As the explosion of location-based apps continues, one of the coolest new startups that launched out of private beta this week is SimpleGeo. The service offers a suite of geo-data products for purchase and is positioning itself as the single access point of geo-data for app developers. Robert Scoble reported on SimpleGeo’s buzz from the Where 2.0 conference (the fact that such a conference exists for developers says plenty). According to articles on TechCrunch and Mashable, SimpleGeo will offer two products – the SimpleGeo Storage Engine and a Marketplace – for companies and developers who are looking to capitalize on the geo-data trend. SimpleGeo offers different pricing models depending on the API call usage. SimpleGeo’s founder Matt Galligan mentions in an interview that the products will also work with non-profit and business sectors. I’m looking forward to seeing the proliferation and different uses of geo-data across industries. Should be interesting.

3. There’s An App for…lots of things…on the iPad

There’s an overwhelming amount of news about yesterday’s iPad release. Gizmodo had a great app review marathon liveblog and also has a list of essential iPad apps. I was lucky enough to play with an iPad yesterday, and I must say that Plants v. Zombies and Marvel Comics looked AMAZING. The graphics are unbelievably beautiful. The only apps not readily available for the iPad? Microsoft Office. Surprise surprise. See #6 and #9 for more on the iPad.

4. Exploring Online Communities: GOOD and GlobalGiving

I recently signed up for a subscription to GOOD Magazine. I’m in love with GOOD’s mission: “a collaboration of individuals, businesses and nonprofits pushing the world forward.” The website is an incredible collection of articles and message boards where people can post and comment on ways to make “good” in the world, whether through government, business, art, design, education, green initiatives, etc. As an experiment, GOOD is offering people to “pick their price” of their subscription. Granted, they only offer two choices – $20 or $5o. Both offer one year subscription to GOOD magazine, full access to Good.is website (which can also be accessed for free), and a GlobalGiving credit in the total amount of your subscription. (With $50 you also get a t-shirt and your name mentioned in the magazine). Why donate 100% of the subscription fees to GlobalGiving? GOOD offers two reasons: “1) it’s smart business and 2) we believe in this.” GOOD acknowledges that most magazines don’t make money off subscriptions or newsstand sales. The subscription model reflects GOOD putting their “money where our mouth is and empowering people who are driving change in the world.” GOOD reflecting Good business practices in a 360-degree fashion.

What is GlobalGiving? It’s an organization that connects donors with community-based projects that need support. GlobalGiving has pre-screened over 700 grassroots charity projects and gives donors the ability to connect with these projects in a positive, transparent way. You can filter causes by issue (women, education, technology, etc) or location, and GlobalGiving ensures that your tax-deductible donation will be available to the project within 60 days, and donors have the option of covering the 15% administrative fee, after which the entire donation goes to the charity. GlobalGiving is a great site to list grassroots projects and have donors find you, and a great example of crowdfunding.

5. A Stumble from StumbleUpon: We Are Hunted

A very cool site that tracks the 99 most popular emerging songs in the world. You can create your own chart of favorite songs and the links allow you to play full versions of the songs (as well as purchase them). There is also a filter showing the 99 most popular songs mentioned on Twitter and 99 most popular remixed songs in the world. You can also filter by genre and date (popularity today, this week, this month). A great new way to find music!

6. Apple News: Get Your iPads! Hot of the Presses! And at Best Buy!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and/or without the Internet, the news, live blogging, discussion, discourse and overwhelming excitement over Apple’s iPad release on April 3rd was, well, overwhelming. Here are some articles I found informative and interesting.

New York Times Live Blogging iPad’s Release and a summary of the blogging

iPad By the Numbers: statistics on prices, percentages, and estimates for iPad sales

How Green Is My iPad? Op-Ed Chart in the New York Times. Let’s just say books are still in play.

Is the iPad Magical?

iPad Gets Half-Hour Product Placement on “Modern Family”. The show is really funny and worth watching, by the way.

Mega A-to-Z list of iPad Reviews

My favorite business idea for the iPad:

7. My Geek Factor: Things for Twitter

Now that I’ve figured out Twitter, it’s like a new toy. Here are some blogs, apps and info I’m exploring to help with my Twitter usage:

TwiTip: A blog to getting more out of Twitter

Top 10 Twitter Trends This Week from Mashable

5 Big Twitter Trends to Follow Right Now: how Twitter is shaping journalism, television, and business

MonkeyFly extension for Google Chrome: A client interface built-in to the Twitter homepage. Add columns to show @mentions, DMs, RTs, etc. MonkeyFly has customizable capabilities like TweetDeck or HootSuite, but you don’t have to leave the Twitter site.

Helpful people to follow on Twitter: @Twitter_Tips, @SocialNetDaily, @CleverAccounts, @kikolani, @jeffjarvis

8. Online Legal News: Google Earth to the Rescue!

So this isn’t real online legal news as much as an example of how online technology and social media are helping the legal system. Mashable reported how Google Earth helped a Deputy in Florida arrest a man charged with dumping his one-ton boat. The Deputy found an archived satellite image of the boat in question parked near the suspect’s house. Mashable also has a list of ways law enforcement uses social media to fight crime. While I’m pleased about the positive use of these applications, how “Big Brother” are we going to get? Where do we cross the line between safety and invasion of privacy with surveillance?

9. Getting Excited For…Subsequent Generation iPads

I was lucky enough to play with a friend’s iPad yesterday. It’s cool and beautiful, and certainly, the upcoming emergence of tablets will forever change personal computing. Personally, as much as I love Apple, I will never buy their first generation products. We all know that, within the next 6-12 months, a much better, faster, functional, cheaper version will be on the market. I understand the hype and excitement of being “the first” to have a new toy (though I wouldn’t wait outside starting at 3 AM to buy ANYTHING), but why not be patient and spend money on a better piece of a equipment with better software in a few months? Everyone who got the first generation iPod and iPhones were miserable in the long run (slow, short battery life, expensive, etc). The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of a different result. There’s no difference with the iPad. I will want one eventually, but I’m waiting it out. Cory Doctorow lists several reasons why he isn’t even interested in buying an iPad. Sure, it may be gadget of the zeitgeist, but it’s still cool.

10. Just for Fun: GroupÖupon Exclusive

With the plethora of online April Fool’s jokes, my favorite by far was from GroupOn, or should I say GroupÖupon, “an invitation-only, private sales site offering designer apparel and accessories to the consumer elite.” There is a place to “Assert your exclusivity” and the list of titles is just hilarious. Prospective members must supply documentation proving their net worth, along with other proofs of status, including sex tapes or domestic organizational charts. I’m not sure what a Dowager Marchioness is, but that would be a fun title to have. Good luck getting approved!

10 Things I Like About The Internet: March 28th, 2010 Edition

28 Mar

I’m going to try something new this week. People love reading lists online, and with the overwhelming amount of news relevant for online communities, technology and business, I decided to aggregate what struck me as Useful, Cool and Funny (to borrow Yelp’s categories) from these areas this week into a single blog post. While categories may change from week-to-week, I intend to write about topics and issues that I believe will have staying power both for upcoming class discussions as well as in the broader Internet world. (“Staying power” is a relative phrase in this space). Clearly, it’s impossible to touch on everything, and that is not my goal here. Since the list will make the post long, I’ll keep each topic short.

1. This Week’s Viral Video: Merton, the Chatroulette Viral Improv Piano Player

Chatroulette is dominating the news: from Andrey Ternovskiy’s interview in the New York Times to the development of My Chance Romance, a new dating site founded on Chatroulette’s technology, the randomized video chat site has exploded into a major discussion point for businesses and social psychologists alike. We previously discussed in class what makes a video (or marketing campaign) go viral, and Merton, the Chatroulette Improv Piano Player, is an excellent example. He tapped into the online zeitgeist in a fun, accessible way. Way to go for self-branding and self-publicizing!

2. Location, Location, Location:

SXSW demonstrated the continued explosion of location-based and check-in apps and features, which are also coming to Facebook (see #8 below). Robert Scoble wrote an excellent blog post about what’s to come with the “location war,” including the pros and cons of “mini mobs,” malleable social graphs, and how Facebook may soon dominate the current check-in leaders (Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, etc). Check out the mini-mob video from SXSW that shows check-ins by apps over time:

3. There’s an App for That: Location to the next level, literally: Earth to Mars!

Tech news sites were abuzz this week about how participants at EclipseCon2010 created a new iPhone app allows users to control the Mars rover from their iPhone. How cool is that. Here’s a video demonstration:

4. Exploring Online Communities: Self-Organization as Art on WeFeelFine and PostSecret

These aren’t new sites or communities — I’ve heard and looked at both of them previously — though I explored them more deeply this week after a classmate brought them to my attention.

WeFeelFine is “an exploration of human emotion on a global scale.” First published as a book, the authors began collecting data on feelings and emotions from blogs and social networking sites beginning in 2005. The book — and now a live website — allows users to slice emotional data into demographics (location, gender, age, etc). The authors label their experiment as “a self-organizing particle system…an artwork authored by everyone.”

PostSecret is “an ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard.” There is also a message board where people can anonymously post, discuss and comment on “secret” topics.

Although these sites are rooted in the the “early” use of the Internet as a way to connect and communicate, they are still relevant in terms of how people turn online communities to both hide and be seen. Plus, I love the visual representations of dynamic data.

5. A Stumble from StumbleUpon: Box of Crayons

StumbleUpon is my recent procrastination tool of choice. My favorite site that I stumbled upon this week was Box of Crayons, which has two beautifully made videos — The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun and The 5.75 Questions You’ve Been Avoiding — that highlight the company’s mission of working with organizations worldwide to “do less Good Work and more Great Work.” Sure, the site may get a bit preachy about management coaching, but it has a great message and I truly enjoyed the videos.

6. Apple News: Designing dynamic magazine covers for the iPad

With the iPad selling out through pre-orders and the excitement over a leaked image that Best Buy will sell iPads on launch day, print magazines and newspapers are gearing up to present their digital versions. Here is a link to a video for Sunset Magazine’s iPad mockup, and below is VIVMag’s iPad  demo interactive feature spread. Introduced in the New York Times and discussed at length in ReadWriteWeb, VIVMag will feature interactive content and video in every issue, and will continue to exist as an all-digital magazine. There is much debate over the cost of creating such elaborate features, however, and whether publishing for the iPad and tablets will be too expensive for “micro-publishers.” Regardless, the future, here we come!

7. My Geek Factor: Factual: visualizing Big Data

I’m a geek for statistics, especially visualizations about statistics (see #4 and my blog post about film and tv time travel). TechCrunch recently reported that Factual, an open-wiki platform that allows anyone to share and mash data, has added visualizations to organize and structure “big data.” Looking for restaurants? Here’s a map view. They also have visualizations for Hiking Trials and Video Games. Although it’s still in beta, I’m hoping that developers will take advantage of Factual’s API to integrate such visualizations into future applications.

8. Online Legal News: Facebook Privacy Issues (aka Facebook shit storm), continued

Facebook is making headlines once again with upcoming changes to its privacy policies. Here are the proposed changes and why people are already up in arms:

  • Facebook will allow third-party sites to automatically sign you into Facebook Connect based on your browser cookies. Although Facebook states you can “opt-out” of these sites, by default, you’re in entirely. While convenient for those who use Facebook Connect, this is a huge potential privacy breach. Why would Facebook assume to provide such information without explicit consent on a case-by-case basis? TechCrunch provides a good discussion of the pros and cons of this feature.
  • New location features. Facebook is getting into the location game. Just as Twitter has adopted geolocation functionality, Facebook will allow users to tag location with status updates, photos, etc. Do I want people to know where I am on Facebook? Not really. Though I’m sure it will take off.
  • Syncing Facebook contacts with those on your mobile phone. My Android already gives me the option of doing this. I certainly don’t call everyone in my Facebook circle, nor would I want to have their contact information overloading my phone. When it comes to my contacts, less is more. But I’m sure for others (business, people who like showing off numbers of friends, etc) this will be a welcomed feature.

9. Getting Excited for…Spotify

I love music. I love streaming music. I am excited about Spotify, a music-streaming service from the UK that will soon be launched stateside. Already used by more than 7 million people across the pond, Spotify lets you choose from millions of tracks in the (all legal) database and created web-based playlists that are stored under your username. No more searching ad nauseum for random songs. According to this fan on Gizmodo, after downloading Spotify, which will also have iPhone and Android capabilities, she hasn’t touched her iTunes in a year. I’m looking forward to this as a user, and it will be interesting to see how it impacts the music downloading market.

10. Just for Fun: Japanese version of “We Are the World”

So this isn’t exactly new, but I had to share a video posted on BuzzFeed this week. The Japanese have done it again with another amazing, inspirational video that channels the spirit of the original “We Are the World.” Enjoy Tina Turner’s brilliance all over again.

Megasites vs Niche Communities. Rap vs Comedy. And mobile food trucks.

31 Jan

We had an excellent second class meeting on Monday, January 25 with four outstanding speakers:

Curtis Jewell of mycypher.com: a site dedicated to bringing together the global hiphop community. Artists have the ability to use an online recording tool (on mobile device or computer mic) and upload their beats, thereby democratizing the recording process. The site is still in beta testing but you can request an invite to join.

Josh Spector, SVP of Content and Marketing for comedy.com: a guide to what’s funny right now on the web, hosting the best of web and TV comedy videos. The site has 3 million unique monthly visitors.

Ben Gigli and Sean Stevens, APOC alumni, and creators of awesome niche sites including 5secondfilms, hotgirlsandexplosions and wheresmytaco.

We covered a lot of ground discussing the nature of communities, options for building and monetizing a site, and how to best utilize existing social media to establish brand awareness. Here are some key takeaways:

  • Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., are third party tools that allow people to create communities, but are not necessarily communities in and of themselves. It’s imperative to know and understand these different tools and the people they attract in order to build the broadest consumer base. These existing networks help to establish and leverage partnerships.
  • What’s in a domain name? These days the domain is usually overrated, and frankly it’s probably more beneficial to have a specific domain (5secondfilms) versus a broader name (comedy.com) as it’s tough to build a brand on a broad concept. The more niche the site and the domain, it may be easier to self-promote across third party tools, as consumers can perform a more directed search.
  • It’s difficult to build on technological and business platforms that you can’t control. For example, Facebook began to block generic fan pages (ie, “Laughing” or “Sleeping in late”), which prompted businesses to lose built-in audiences because they could no longer control status updates that lead back to their brand. Changes in Facebook privacy and technological policies can therefore directly affect web traffic, and niche sites in particular can become a victim of third party platform changes.
  • Obviously, there are different approaches to revenue models depending on the type of site. The general consensus is that advertising is a good ancillary (as opposed to primary) revenue stream, and venture capital money tends to stretch the farthest when you know what you want and what works best for your site (which will likely happen through trial and error).

Overall, there was a lot of information to sink our teeth into. I’m personally looking forward to understanding how to monetize and create a business platform for various revenue streams. Because making money would be a good thing.

And Curtis’ multi-language rap was pretty awesome.

And a Community is…?

25 Jan

So what is a “community” exactly? What is a good definition of “community”? Who are its members, where does it exist, and what are its primary characteristics? Why is it important to understand the nature of community in the online world?

In “A New Perspective on ‘Community’ and its Implications for Computer-Mediated Communication Systems,” Amy Bruckman contends that “community can be viewed as a prototype-based category.” Beyond simple inclusion/exclusion rules, she approaches the idea of community based on whether its prototypical members exhibit a greater or lesser degree of similarity. Bruckman suggests that community is a “category,” in which membership is determined by how closely related a member is to the “focal members.” For example, she cites a study in which subjects responded that a robin is a bird more quickly than a penguin is a bird, indicating that a robin is a better focal prototype for the bird category than a penguin. While Bruckman notes that different cultures may perceive different focal members of a category, she says that empirical investigation is needed to understand variations within a culture.

Bruckman’s prototype-based definition may be a functional way to understand online communities, though not necessarily the most useful. First, I am operating under my own belief that online communities are effective, dynamic and viable, corresponding to legitimate global understandings of “community”. Most online communities transcend inclusion/exclusion rules, as mostly anyone can “join” an online community, even if the individual does not relate directly to it’s prototypical members. For example, even though iVillage is designated as a “women’s community,” it does not exclude men from joining or participating. Similarly, Facebook transitioned from exclusivity to inclusivity, starting initially for college students and now boasting more than 300 million members. Thus online communities can be considered “categories.” However, because of the general lack of exclusivity online, how useful is Bruckman’s prototype theory? I’m sure that Facebook can determine a “prototypical” user through market research and web usage patterns, but how useful or practical is understanding that community user within a massive population?

While exclusivity and membership rules help narrow the definition and characteristics of a community, as the world continues to move online, a prototypical online community member will likely be on the periphery of several communities (because of the relative ease in joining communities) in addition to those s/he regularly use. The rate of change among Internet usage will require a continually updated “census” (like USC’s Digital Future reports) to evaluate the characteristics of prototypical online community members, which I believe will remain dynamic – so can there be such a thing as a prototypical member? I’ll leave it up to the research scientists, but I’ll be watching.

Looking at You, Looking at Me

17 Jan

Outside the Chinese Theater on Hollywood Blvd before the MR. BROOKS premiere in 2007. The paparazzi thought I was Minnie Driver. I just ran with it. (Click on the image to see the full screen version. It’s cool).

I love this image, including the MR. BROOKS poster, as it relates to perspective and how we view one another. When it comes to the online world, how do we really know who’s on the other end of our broadband? Who are these image and information creators? How do we find them, and how do they find us? Why should we pay attention (or should we)? Can we trust the everyday blogger as a primary news source? What are the implications for offline communities as we rely more heavily on individualized, customized media outlets to communicate with each other?

Although we have access to more information than ever before, we can easily hide behind or live vicariously through technology, relinquishing (or substituting) the pleasure and fundamental human importance of face-to-face interactions. One of my goals in this program is to develop innovative online media networks for people to share interests on a local level. How can people represent themselves securely and authentically online, and how can we translate such authenticity into real community building? What are the most effective business practices in creating, managing and growing a meaningful – yet profitable – online community that will facilitate REAL personal communication outside of the technological world? I believe in the power of online media to help forge true connections, and I want to understand how to leverage emerging technologies to effectively maximize them as social tools.

Here’s to looking at each other, online world/nation/community!