Obama Web Exec Watch: ICANN Board Member Joins FCC Transition Team

In case there is any doubt about Obama’s committment to forward thinking web technologies and tapping some of the minds behind it, we will continue to document members of the web community who are entering the Obama administration or transition team.

Last week, I mentioned that Obama had named Google.org’s Sonal Shah and Launchbox Digital cofounder Julius Chenakowski to his transition team. Within two days, Google CEO Eric Schmidt joined Obama’s Economic Advisory Board.

Today, the count goes to 4 with the announcement that Susan Crawford, a former board member of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, has joined the FCC transition committee. ICANN is responsible for the allocation of IP addresses on the internet and has oversight over domain registrars.

Crawford is also a University of Michigan Law Professor with a focus on internet law.

This will be a critically important nomination, if the assignment carries over from the transition team to the administration, because Net Neutrality is coming back with a vengeance.

Journalistic Recklessness

It’s been no secret that John McCain running mate, Sarah Palin, has been less than popular. Uttering many gaffes during the last two months of the campaign, she was an obvious choice to attribute the failure of the campaign. People simply wanted to believe that she could say some of the stupidest things on the face of the earth because, after all, that’s what stupid people do.

After the election, Republicans were looking for some kind of reason to understand their loss. Democrats? Well they were happy to pile on anyone around and gloat about it. The media willingly became accomplices to any story that made sense. Bloggers? Reckless.

Such was evidenced by the appearance of Fox News political analyst Carl Cameron on The O’Reilly Factor where, of note, Bill O’Reilly appeared to be the pundit showing some restraint while Cameron nearly jumped through the television exclaiming amazing “facts” about Sarah Palin and “Senior McCain Advisers” throwing her under the bus. Some of these “facts” that came out, according to unnamed and uncorroborated McCain sources, included the juicy bit about Palin not actually knowing that “Africa was a continent” and the report that “South Africa was just the southern part of the country of Africa”.

The New York Times explains that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax taken in and spread by traditional media and exacerbated by bloggers who didn’t fact check or question the claims.

Let me break away from the reporting of facts here to explain a few significant truths.

  1. Believable lies have Truthiness.
  2. People tend to believe that which reinforces their expectations.
  3. Modern Day journalism is about being first, not being right.
  4. Bloggers are journalists too. Some of them suck though, just as some journalists suck.
  5. Trust yet verify.

Believable lies have Truthiness.

Reading the story from the Times, it is obvious to me that the hoax was easily playable because there was some cause to believe that Palin may have caused some significant problems internally for the McCain campaign. In fact, the hoax may be even more playable because there may be very verifiable claims in there (I don’t know, I’m just saying).

In essence, if the premise of argument is not verifiable truth, then it is supposed truth (or truthiness, in the words of Stephen Colbert) and supposed truth is shaky ground (e.g. if 1 multiplied by 0 equals 0, and 2 multiplied by 0 equals 0, then 1 must equal 2). Believable lies are built entirely on truthiness.

People tend to believe that which reinforces their expectations

The only explanation for a two-party system in America, from the perspective of non-Washington party elites, is to provide Americans a set of beliefs where they can buy in unequivocally to one party or another. Never was that seen more clearly than in this election where the political machine painted both candidates in certain ways and supporters, in some cases, nearly were sent into a frenzy over those expectations.

Ideas that Obama had terrorist ties were planted, stirred and we saw it at McCain rallies. Ideas that McCain was misogynistic were often bandied around by feminists and accented by stories about names that he would call his wife.

See, people tend to latch onto the evidence that supports their worldview. Palin was so vilified as being stupid that a Carl Cameron report, without verifiable evidence, implicating Palin as geographically awkward fit the expectations of the woman, and so was passed on as fact.

Modern Day journalism is about being first, not being right

In an era of 24 hour news cycles, news organizations (and news bloggers too) have taken the tact that it’s better to be first than right. Usually, that works out to some degree. However, there are notable instances where the information passed along as fact was incorrect,

Examples of this was the infamous “Rathergate” story, where President George Bush was implicated in a National Guard service scandal that was quickly refuted with real investigative journalism. CBS admitted they were wrong 12 days later and retracted the story.

Recently, we saw this same effect in the tech and business space when rumors were circulated that Apple CEO Steve Jobs had a heart attack and Apple stock slid as a result. The rumor was later debunked and CNN, who reported the story first in the major news circuits, pulled the story back.

Bloggers are journalists too. Some of them suck though, just as some journalists suck

The ongoing debate over journalism in the blogosphere is a little tired. It’s my opinion that, regardless of credibility, research, J-school training, etc, anyone who reports “news” is a journalist. Journalists don’t get credibility from their George Washington University journalism degree, but by being right, thorough and objective. Not being right, not being thorough or being biased does not eliminate the status of “journalist” but it does affect the credibility of the journalist.

With that premise, bloggers can be journalists. In the Palin story, it seems that bloggers can be pretty shoddy journalists at that. In a marked contrast to Rathergate, where bloggers researched, fact-checked and eventually debunked the Dan Rather story as bogus, bloggers latched on to Carl Cameron’s claims of Palin stupidity. In keeping with the idea that believable lies have some elements of truth, they may have taken the report in good faith without research or simply verified some aspects of his claims and claimed truthiness on the rest of the story.

To me, reporting and disseminating reports that are partially true is as bad as reporting and disseminating blatant hoaxes. Bloggers on the right and left side of the political spectrum were guilty. Very few questioned the story on it’s merit, and those who did (like me) didn’t write our thoughts out in such a way to challenge the premises. Shame on us as well.

Trust yet verify

Reagan, whether you liked him as a President or not, had tremendous wise and insightful things to say about a wide variety of issues. One of his more famous quotes was, “Trust, yet Verify”.

I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. There are tremendous pieces of grassroots journalism happening in the blogosphere. Stories are being broken. Questions are being raised surrounding ethics, corporate governance, technology startups, etc.

Likewise, mainstream media continues to do a “good” job in bringing the news to people (Although, for fans of The Wire, producer David Simon challenged the media because, in his opinion, the real stories are being left unreported while the less important stories get too much airtime).

For bloggers, imagine the position you would have been in if you would have stepped up to the plate and pushed back on this story. You may have gotten hateful comments from readers who want to believe that Palin is just that stupid, but at the end of the day you would have been vindicated and seen as objective, hard hitting and thoughtful.

For news producers, imagine if you would not have run with the story. You would have maintained credibility, saved yourself the embarrassment of having to print or issue a correction, and you wouldn’t have looked stupidly petty.

For readers and consumer of information, imagine if you would have stepped back and simply not believed everything that was fed to you. Imagine if you could have looked at your television or computer screens, scratched your heads and said, “Something is fishy about this story”.

The lesson here is that everyone needs to do a better job. This is not simply a free press issue. Do what you want. It is a credibility and authority issue. Fox News, already perceived as being a propaganda piece of the Republican party, decided to either be perceived as not-that mouthpiece, or played a cooperative game with a fringe of the GOP looking to protect themselves for the next election cycle and in doing so, looked even more foolish. Bloggers look like idiots and amateurs for not knowing better. Readers willingly let their feelings and opinions be used as a pawn in a much larger political game.

All I can say is be careful next time. Your credibility – all of you – is on the line.

Web 2.0 Representation in the Obama Administration

We are not 4 full days into the Obama transition period and already three web executives have made theoir way into the mix in some kind of advisory role. Yesterday, we covered the naming of Julius Genachowski of Launchbox Digital and Sonal Shah of Google.org to the transition team. Today, the New York Times points out that Google CEO Eric Schmidt has been named to his economic advisory board.

This got me thinking about what a Web 2.0 Administration would look like. In considering roles within the new administration, I’m suggesting possibilities based on their personal reputation within the web space with a favoring for people that own or run their own companies.

Chris Brogan is the ultimate diplomat and community guy, so he should be considered for Secretary of State. Louis Gray is my candidate for Ambassador to the United Nations. Oh and Tom from MySpace needs to be an Ambassador or something because he’s everyones friend.

Jason Calacanis is a master businessman, having been the CEO or an executive in companies such as Weblogs Inc., AOL and now Mahalo. As such, I am naming him as Secretary of Commerce.

Mike Arrington is not a practicing attorney, but it is his background. He is a no-bullshit kind of guy not hesitating to name companies to the dead pool if he thinks they have no chance and propping up companies who he believes does have a chance. Because of the nature of the FBI, and the Department of Justice, Mike seems like a good fit as the Attorney General.

Gary Vaynerchuk, as the ultimate communicator, is qualified and should be President Obama’s Press Secretary.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs seems to be the only CEO of a publicly traded company (AAPL) who seems to be doing okay in the economic downturn. Sure, he might want to redistribute iPods, and ensure the Star Spangled Banner is the top pick in the iTunes Music Store for 4 years, but he should be the Secretary of the Treasury.

Lightning rod video and puppet blogger, Loren Feldman, has no issue going after “enemies of America” (or anyone else) and as such, he gets my designation for Secretary of Defense.

Knowledge blogger, Dave Taylor, has built up a wealth of intelligence regarding a variety of topics. I nominate him as the Director of Central Intelligence.

Graham Hill of Treehugger is the notable nominee for Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as Administrator of NASA.

Julia Allison should definitely be a White House intern.

What do you think? Who else should be in the cabinet?

Added: Melanie Notkin has been nominated, and I concur, in comments below as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Her site is using Web 2.0 to enlighten and inform aunts, families and the general population.

Obama Names Googler and Launchbox Digital Cofounder to Transition Team

In a move that demonstrates a commitment to web technology, President-elect Barack Obama has named a Google executive and a Launchbox Digital cofounder to his transition team.

julius-genachowskiJulius Genachowski, from Launchbox Digital a DC-based web incubator investment company in the order of YCombinator and Techstars, IAC and Rock Creek Ventures comes to the team with a tremendous amount of value and knowledge. And he’s one of our own.

Sonal Shah comes from the Google.org Philanthropy branch of the internet search giant and is also a former executive for Goldman Sachs.

sonal-shahI guess the takeaway here is that grassroots is power (Launchbox Digital) and that an Obama administration believes in “Don’t be Evil.”

One of our key cornerstones for an Obama endorsement was his commitment to advancing the technology and science sectors here in the United States. This is a great start in the right direction.

[Source: CNET]

What McCain-Feingold Did For Social Media in the Election

Now that the election is over and we have an understanding of the numbers that were put up by both campaigns, I think we can safely say that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill both killed the McCain campaign and reinforced social media at the helm of communications for the future.

Let me explain. There were over 120 million votes cast (a conservative number at that!) in yesterdays election. That is almost all of the eligible voting population, or approximately an 85% turnout rate. Obama raised nearly $900M for his campaign and spent nearly $860M of that.

What happened over the past 2 years has been simply extraordinary. McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act was passed in 2002 to much fanfare by placing strict regulations on “hard” and “soft” money. Hard money was money contributed directly to a candidate while soft money was defined as money contributed to a party for discretionary allocation. Usually, soft money was tied up in “issue based” advertising that benefitted a candidate indirectly.

McCain-Feingold imposed limits on how much money could be contributed to a campaign by special interests. This placed the “money support” mandate in the hands of individuals. Obama capitalized on this by extensive use of grassroots campaigning. Jay Voorhees calls it an Open Source Presidency.

Through the use of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and text messaging, he locked in the Gen X and Millenial votes and raised more money with grassroots efforts (“Donate $5, please”) than any other campaign in history.

Social media friends here in DC went to Florida, Virginia and Colorado to ensure that the vote was turned out for Obama.

Special interest had little role in this election. Passionate people rallied and inspired, contributing frequently in small amounts, powered this victory.

Meanwhile, the McCain campaign tried to run a traditional campaign subject to the rules that the candidate himself authored in 2002.

Victory will always go to the individual who is able to adapt to changes in the landscape and Obama clearly did that better than McCain.

EXCLUSIVE: Tropicana Covers Election Day Twittering

There are a couple of election related Twitter projects going on including Twitter Vote Report, which we covered the other day.

Not on our radar at the time, however, was an interesting project from Tropicana that will take the expected high velocity Twitter coverage of the election all day and present it in a unique way. The experiment seeks to monitor hot buzz word frequencies and graph them in relation to one of the candidates in a series of “half rings”. The rings grow as the phrases and words are used in association with one of the candidates.



The hot words being planned are fixed at the moment, but will be added to as hot topics emerge throughout the day. Current words on the radar are Iraq, terrorism, freedom, economy and poll.

Twitter is expecting a record setting volume for Election Day with Twitter co-founder Biz Stone sending out an email to users today stating:

We anticipate record-breaking activity on Twitter all day tomorrow. We’ll be staying late at work watching Current TV’s Twitter-powered election night programming.

The Tropicana technical project lead is New Media Strategies and while we do not have a URL for the project yet (we were only given screenshots), this post will be updated when that information becomes available.

You can, of course, follow me on Twitter during the election or any other time at @technosailor.

Update: The URL for the project is anorangeamerica.com.

Blueprint for Change: Technology

If I have not made it clear enough so far, this is why I have voted for Barack Obama. The internet industry is certainly affected by the economy, but it is one of the last sectors that still shows signs of growth and stability. During a down economy, it is important to capitalize in the sectors that have the ability to drive the rest of the economy out of the recession.

If America recommits itself to science and innovation, then we can lead the world to a new future of productivity and prosperity… it’s about constantly raising the bar so that we are more competitive.

Though individual writers of this site may have their own political views, it is the position of this publication to join the rest of the tech sector in recognizing that Obama has the stronger leadership in this area and will serve the most good for the industry. Technosailor.com has already endorsed Mr. Obama and re-emphasizes that endorsement today. Go vote tomorrow for the better option for this industry.

What Would the United States Do for Mexico?

There was a massive earthquake in western Mexico and 200,000 people unfortunately, and tragically, died. In the wake of the tragedy, the nations of the world banded together to provide relief.

China sent a ship with containers of goods such as tee-shirts, watches and electronic devices to help with cleanup and provide humanitarian relief.

Great Britain sent 500 palettes of drinking water and other humanitarian aid.

Beliza and Costa Rica sent hundreds of first responders and medical aid.

The United States sent 200,000 Mexicans to replace the ones that were lost.

In all seriousness, this election is important in so many ways. One of the major issues on the table that might not be getting as much attention is illegal immigration. John McCain doesn’t want to talk about it much because it was an issue made big by George W. Bush and he’s trying to keep Sarah Palin front and center. Barack Obama isn’t talking much about it because he’s fighting a guerilla war based more on propaganda and media spin, than he is on these core issues.

But, at the end of the day, both candidates have taken some kind of position on immigration. It’s not that we, as conservatives, don’t care about the plight of illegals, but that there is a process to being legal.

Obama is best suited, based on his platform, to push this issue. We need to find a way to help illegals become legal without destroying families and lives in the process. We do need to secure the borders, but what does that mean? Certainly, the immigrants that are here now are “doing the jobs Americans won’t”, but that’s not an excuse to allow a persistent state of illegality. Instead, how do we help these people become legal and at the same time, stem the wave of illegals that are coming into the country and tapping our finite resources without paying a dime into the system.

Obama is best suited to do this.

Palin a Homerun Among GOP

Sarah Palin, for better or worse, has been the focus of most of the GOP convention. Since her designation as the VP choice last Friday, she has been criticized by many, including myself, on her experience (or lack thereof). Others have opted to focus on the pregnancy of her 17 year old daughter, Bristol.

Let me be clear at the outset. It’s not that I don’t like Sarah Palin. How can I not like what I don’t know. Blog posts, op-ed pieces and rip-roaring by fringe internet communities does not make allegations fact. I don’t know Palin enough to not like her.

However, Palin is new. 60ish days before the election, the electorate is tossed the name of someone most of us have never heard of. Many on the right would point to the lack of experience of Barack Obama. And it’s true, he is inexperienced. The difference is that we have had a year and a half with Obama to get comfortable with him. We’ve had a year and a half to hear him speak with candor and and an eloquence that is disarming. We’ve had a year and a half to see him debate and hear his ideas. We’ve seen him on television and heard him on the radio.

No, Obama doesn’t have a wealth of experience but at least we have more than 60 days to get comfortable with the idea of this great man as the next President of the United States.

Palin? We are expected to buy into what the GOP says about her. That she is a great woman with family values. That she has executive experience enough to make her Vice Presidency a viable thing. We’re expected to buy into her tenacity and her ability to take on Washington in the same way she took on Alaska’s establishment.

Forgive me for being cynical, but I don’t make hasty decisions. It took me over a year to endorse Obama. I can’t just buy into Palin now. Not at this time. Not this late in the game.

But, I want to be fair. The Vice Presidential nomination acceptance speech tonight was a homerun. She started out very poorly, in my opinion, by talking way too much about herself, her family and her time as a PTA mom. It took too long to get to policy. Way too long for a VP nominee who is asking the country to make an uneducated, to be honest, gamble on her.

On pure technical merits alone, she did her job. She excited the GOP audience. She delivered some great one-liners and showed a nice command of important issues such as energy, both traditional and green. At points during the speech, she seemed coached on foreign policy issues, a fact that is slightly scary considering she could be a heartbeat away from the presidency. With John McCain’s cancer history and age, this is a very real concern and not just a piece of hyped propaganda.

Let’s be very clear. Palin is a marketing gimmick and she delivered beautifully. She is a woman with a great stage presence, and that was entirely exploited tonight. She did her job. At least the job the campaign set out for her. It’s very, very unclear if she can do the real job though and that cannot be ascertained in one speech to a willing audience.

Let’s see how she squares off with Joe Biden.