My Remarks to Congressional Staffers Today

I’ve been invited to speak to two groups of Congressional staffers today. In about 30 mins, I’ll speak to Republican staffers at the Capitol Hill Club. Later today, at 1:30, I’ll be speaking to the Democrats in their Capitol Building office. The topic is Blogging, microblogging and social media and the event is hosted by NextGenWeb and the DCI Group.

These are my planned opening remarks:

First of all, I want to thank NextGenWeb and the DCI Group for inviting me to be with you today. I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your Friday morning to be here as well.
The U.S. Capitol at Night
We have a lot to talk about today because, frankly, the landscape of news, reporting, politics and effective organizing isn’t changing. It already has changed.

comScore, the metrics organization that measures website popularity and user engagement and leads the industry in much the same way that Nielsen has led the more traditional media rating media, reported that sites like Facebook and MySpace are owning over 100M unique visitors every month. Universal McCann, another measurement company, reports that 77% of active internet users read blogs.

Whether you agree or disagree with these numbers, and whether you like the trend or not, it is undeniable that the new media space has emerged. It is difficult to turn on your television without seeing personalities – and I do mean personalities – such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or CNN’s Rick Sanchez engaging their audiences with Twitter.

Up until recently, your own rules here in Congress have prevented you from effectively engaging the citizens on your districts, states and this country. You were hampered by antiquated rules that required separation of content from endorsements in the form of ads. I led the way in helping America see this, through my blog, public radio and conversation on and off the Hill. Though I cannot take full credit for any changes that have occurs, changes have still have occurred. Your House and Senate rules now allow you to utilize Twitter, YouTube and other social media avenues.

The news cycle is there and it’s different than it was before. In another lifetime, you played the game by talking to the press and hoping that they found interest in your cause. Now, you can go directly to the American people.

However, with much power comes much responsibility. Blogs have given us as citizens an expectation for engagement. For conversation. For exchange of information, ideas and transparency. Major media for the most part has not figured this out yet, and that is why more Americans get their news on the internet. There are, of course, exceptions. If you are to use this effectively, you will need to treat the internet, not as a faceless drop box where constituent mail comes from. Not as an anonymous voicemail box. Not as a nameless email inbox that sends an automated reply to the sender.

You must engage. You must converse. More importantly, you must listen.

Today, we’re going to talk about blogs, Twitter and new media. I hope that we can all learn from one another and build a better interaction platform for constituents. Thank you, again.

There and Back Again: Top 10 Blogs to Explore

I was asked by the Editor of blogs.com to join an ongoing project where they poll some of the top bloggers (Marc Canter, Chris Anderson of Wired, Marc Andressen of Ning, etc). Somehow, I got on that list of bloggers.

The point was to provide Top 10 blogs for their readers to read… sometimes on a special topic, other times more generalized. Blogs.com published this Top 10 List yesterday.

For those who have not adopted RSS reading and subscribing yet, consider opening a free Google Reader account and begin subscribing to blogs like these and mine  – you never have to remember to go visit a site then; Reader just automatically shows you new content when they appear.

Without further adieu (and in no particular order):

Read Write Web – a tech news analysis site. They do less reporting of the news and more hard hitting “what’s it mean to me” kind of writing. Also, maybe my chief competitor.

Chris Brogan – Well connected, and all about helping people understand the nature of online relationships and community.

Fred Wilson – an extremely savvy investor (Venture Capital) and principal partner at Union Square Ventures in New York. Success stories include FeedBurner (acquired by Google), Twitter (open portfolio company), del.icio.us (acquired by Yahoo), etc. During hard economic times, Fred has been a sober and encouraging financial voice in the chaos.

Neatorama – is sort of a directory of wonderful things, with all due respect to Boing Boing who has adopted that tagline. It is all kinds of interesting things that the wrtiers have come across on the web or elsewhere.

Lifehacker – Lifehacker does a wonderful job of helping people discover technologies and tools that will make their lives more efficient. From email productivity, to Mac and Windows hacks, Lifehacker covers it all.

Textually – Those who know me, know I’m bullish on mobile. Mobile is the wave of the future and the web services that get this, are the ones that will be positioned to take the web into it’s next iteration when the economy comes back. Textually covers everything text messaging and SMS and does it well.

Digital Photography School
– As an intermediate photographer, I love Darren Rowse’ community approach to crowdsourching and crowdlearning at his DPS blog. I learn all kinds of things about lenses, bodies, aperture, lighting and exposure from lots of people who are also learning the art of photography.

The Schmuck Stops Here – is a local Baltimore sports blog written by Baltimore Sun sports columnist and radio personality, Peter Schmuck. Cue the jokes on his name, Peter is no schmuck and is very insightful on Ravens football (which is why I read him).

Venture Beat – is my token social media technology news blog. I like these guys. They are really objective and not assholes, like their competition.

Tech President – Tech President is a great non-partisan blog that is examining how web technologies are playing into presidential politics, and politics in general. With a web savvy President coming into office, TP is bound to continue to be a great read.

Passion, Relationships and Thought Leadership

Back in the bad old days of blogging, the way to get attention was simple. Flame someone long enough and hard enough and they would take notice and respond in comments, or otherwise. Bloggers realized their power for change and took their platforms seriously, calling into question media accounts in politics, public relations nightmares such as Edelman’s Walmart stunt and other such things.

On this blog, I’ve taken this tack in the past flaming my friend Duncan Riley and earning my place, for a time, in the Google hierarchy as #3 for “How to be a whore”.

Yes, I was ranked #3 for how to be a whore. Classy, as always.

With my platform, I took HP to task for jerking a customer around and turned around a PR disaster into an amazing demonstration of customer service in the social web world.

I took to Twitter and established a “personal brand”, whatever that is, for being a no-bullshit czar and calling people to task when they were presenting stories or thoughts in a way that I felt was disingenuous.

For whatever hard-nosed approaches I took to relationships in the web world, I also encouraged and linked to and cited those who I felt were thought leaders. I shared blog posts in Google Reader and FriendFeed and linked people prolifically on Twitter.

The world still operates in much the same way online as it does in any other area of life. Business, politics, technology, personal relationships – they are all the same. You will never agree with everyone else, nor should you. If everyone looked at the world the same way, we’d live in a very boring world.

When it comes to passion, it is the thing that drives people to be better than what they would otherwise be. It makes them thought leaders and brings about change. Always.

The things is, the change is sometimes good and bad and that’s where passion gets you into trouble. When passion drives you to be unbending and, for lack of a better word, bigoted or dogmatic, then passion runs the risk of getting in the way and interfering.

Truth is, particularly in the blogosphere where everyone has a voice and everyone can potentially affect dramatic change, is that passion often has to be tempered in favor of relationship. Passion may drive you to make sweeping accusations, or lump different groups of people into the same bucket with the premise that “you know what I mean”.

This is harmful. Very, very harmful. This destroys relationships, and relationships are the balance.

Relationships looks at the world and say, “what you and I are together is more important and more powerful than what you and I are apart.”

In the Great Depression (and by the way, I have a bunch of Great Depression stories coming soon), the United States entered what can only be described as a period of long winter. During that winter, people could not rely on their government, their businesses, their ways of life. All they had was each other. Families hunkered down with families. Friends built deeper relationships. All they had was each other, and those relationships formed a core foundation for the generation that would come. To this day, that generation is known as the Greatest Generation.

Passion fuels the fire, drive and ambition and is the catalyst for so many great things in history. Passion is also the catalyst for the greatest failures in history.

Thought leaders are the ones who know how to tap into passion to accelerate their goals, but know when to tap the brake and fall back on relationships to enhance their goals.

Be careful not to sacrifice relationships on the altar of passion.