You are currently browsing articles tagged digiactive.

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

I was having a Twitter conversation late last week with Conner McCall about the definition of Twitter.  Is it social networking?  Is it a social network?  I had asked:

“Twitter - Social Network? Still just microblogging? Somewhere in between?”

Conner wrote a follow-up post on the topic, in which he brought up some good points about why defining Twitter just shouldn’t happen.

Under most circumstances, I too shy away from defining and corralling social media tools into categories.  Honestly, what’s the point sometimes?

However, I’m involved in some research through DigiActive concerning the use of digital tools in activism efforts around the world.  When it came time to coding qualitative data on how people use their mobile phones for their advocacy work, I had separated out Twitter from all of the other social networks such as Facebook.

While going over the survey coding with the research team, someone suggested that several of the responses get combined in some way, and one of those ways was to lump Twitter in with the social networks.  In fact, it was more like “Twitter is a social network so let’s put it in there.”

I really needed to push back on this because I see some key differences between the two, at least in terms of this project.  Firstly though, some important similarities:

  • One-to-many communication
  • Everything is public within your “network”
  • Information/data sharing

Aside from those major similarities, there are some differences that are too important to overlook for the purposes of trying to define how people use these tools to disseminate information and communicate with people.

In Conner’s thought process came one of the very reasons I needed to have a definition of Twitter.  He said:

“It’s a free eco-system that allows you to talk about what you want, but by limiting you to 140 characters it keeps conversations clean and neat.  E-mail, instant message, and social networks will all be around for a long time, but you get messages that take minutes to read where Twitter’s messages take seconds.  This enforced brevity let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily basis.  Twitter just takes online communication and adds what events like Ignite add to presentations.”

It’s this quick, one-time communication aspect of Twitter that makes it very different than some of the longer-standing ways in which people interact on places like Facebook.  You can have months-long campaigns on Facebook, where you gather fans and advocates for your cause.  Or you can share photos or videos that can still be top-of-mind (read: in the first two pages of your friends’ Stream) the next day or several days. The interaction with information on a platform like Facebook is much more dynamic than it is on a platform like Twitter.

Twitter, on the other hand, is done-and-done.  Information is disseminated real time, and often forgotten after that.  This comes into play in any sort of activism effort because the length of time that Twitter is really useful is often much shorter than on social networks, and the reason that Twitter is used is usually much different than the reasons that Facebook is used.

Additionally, “this forced brevity [that] let’s you interact with a lot more people on a daily [or hourly] basis” is one of the reasons why people will use Twitter over social networks to mobilize efforts.  Such was (sort of) the case in the Moldovan protests last month (note: the Twitter aspect of these protests was, in my opinion, overblown by much of the media).

The one tough thing about this question is that I’m not necessarily in disagreement with calling Twitter a social network.  It is a network of people that you interact with socially, through social media (whatever that means), which is, at a high-level, what happens on Facebook and other “social networks.”  I have a problem bunching them together when you get into the specifics of how those social networks work at a functional level.

In closing, while I like to also leave thing undefined a lot of the times and agree, for the most part, with Conner when he says that Twitter has no rules, there are times when the distinctions between these tools, like any set of tools, need to be highlighted.  And usually these functional distinctions translate into at least small conceptual distinctions as well.

I would love to know your thoughts on how you might define social networks, or how you would make the distinction between Twitter and what everyone else considers social networks, or what you think about the whole definition thing in general!


I just posted up over at DigiActive about the new Quick ‘n Easy Guide to Online Advocacy that was put together by Tactical Technology Collective.

It offers ways to use social networking and web 2.0 tools to improve advocacy campaigns.  It aims to expose advocates to online services that are quick to use and easy to understand.

The guide provides descriptions of online services including social networking sites, image and video hosting services, and services that enhance an organizations web presence. The guide also offers advice on where and when to use these services.

For more check it out here.


Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I just completed a post at DigiActive about the microblogging initiative that took place earlier this week for Bangladesh’s 9th Parliamentary elections.  You can read the post here.

Bangladesh holds a soft spot in my heart.  I spent a summer doing personal research for the Jebsen Center for Counterterrorism on the madrasa system in Bangladesh.  The task was to determine whether some of the same trends we were seeing in Pakistani madrasas, namely that about 5% were used for developing terrorists and terrorist networks, were occurring in neighboring Bangladesh.

Thankfully the trends were not similar, but what was found in the process was that one of the reasons why Bangaldeshi’s don’t resort to terrorism is because their government just plain doesn’t provide the basic needs for their existence.  They’re displeased so much with internal affairs, that thinking globally about terrorist activities under a government that hardly responds to international pressure would simply be a waste of time.  The amount of corruption occuring in the government was extensive enough to where people worried most about getting food on the table and getting money under an ineffective economical structure.

So when I saw this internal initiative by Somewhere In, I couldn’t help but do a personal shout of joy for a move in the right direction.


SMB11 was a great departure from the regular focus on social media in business (although that’s quite helpful) Organizer Bob Collins wanted to show attendees ways in which people have used many of the tools we use each day to give back to the world.

To start out, we all got to say hello to Bryan Person (left), the original organizer of SMB, who recently moved from Boston to Austin.

We then partook in an effort by the Greater Boston Food Bank and Tyson Foods called Hunger Relief whereby we were challenged to get as many comments up on the page as possible, and with each comment, Tyson would donate food.  Within four hours, we got two truckloads secured for Eastern Massachusetts.  So cool.

The talks started out with Gradon Tripp speaking about his efforts with his organization, Social Media for Social Change.  In October he held a Tweet up Fundraiser that raised $20K for Jane Doe, Inc that raises awareness of domestic violence. SM4SC New York is planned for April, with details on recipient organization to come.

The second speaker was Frank Days, who works for First Giving. He spoke of First Giving’s social media efforts, which have included blogging, twitter, widgets, etc.  The three things that they’ve learned so far after entering the space?

  1. Think about the demographic that you’re trying to reach, and match them to the medium.  Some efforts will attract more people that just plain don’t use social media tools.
  2. For First Giving, social media has <10% adoption rate, and email is still king.  Hopefully this will increase.
  3. They’re still going to test and learn!

The last speaker was Beth Kanter, who, through her own efforts, has raised thousands of dollars for various causes through tools such as her blog, twitter, social networks etc.  She works as a trainer for non-profits on how to use technology effectively in their efforts, coaches “digital immigrants” on how to use technologies for personal use, and basically does awesome work for people who need help.  I’m not going to begin so explain everything, so please visit her blog for more.

Two other efforts that were mentioned were Alicia’s Staley Foundation, which “support[s] cancer patients and their families undergoing treatment at Tufts Medical Center through education, advocacy, and immediate financial assistance,” and my own personal plug for DigiActive, which I talk about here.

A great session, and please be posted for Other Side’s own social media push for the holidays.  I had waited until this week to do it in conjunction with SMB11.  Coming soon!