A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Tim Ryan Launches First House Social Network for Constituents?


Congressmen Tim Ryan (D-OH) launched his own custom social network yesterday, using the Ning platform.  In and of itself, this isn’t particularly notable.  Lots of politicians have launched their own Ning networks.  However, in every case I know of the focus of the socnet has been on winning elections, and the networks have been launched under the banner of a campaign web program. 

Ryan has done something entirely different here.  His network was built as an extension of his official House web presence, and is a tool for him to communicate openly with his constituents.  Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I believe Ryan is the first House or Senate member to launch their own social network for the purpose of connecting with their constituents.

Rules for web communications in the House and Senate are notoriously archaic, so the fact that Ryan was able to launch this strikes me as a significant step.  It will be interesting to see how the network does, and if others follow Ryan’s lead. 

Medical Openness in Social Media

As social networking sites and technologies have flourished over the last few years, there has been much discussion about privacy today.  It is not that uncommon for people to provide updates about their personal lives on their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds.  They talk about if they are sick, have a crush on somebody, are out partying, etc.

While this information sharing is innocuous at times while concerning at others, there are some social networks that are pushing the limits.  For instance, while at the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit last week, I learned about the site PatientsLikeMe.  This is a fascinating site in which people with medical conditions come to connect with other people suffering from the same condition.  However, there is so much more than providing moral support and answering questions, people are expected to build detailed profiles about their bodies and health histories.  When they undergo treatment, they are encourage to share their experiences to it.  Does it give them gas?  Do they get headaches?  Is their sex life affected?  Of course, does the treatment actually work?

Now, it is one thing for me to announce on Facebook that I’m going to have Papa John’s Pizza for dinner tonight, but it is another to share personal side effects of a medication that I’m currently taking.  PatientsLikeMe does acknowledge privacy, but expounds upon the importance of openness on the site by stating: “You see, we believe sharing your healthcare experiences and outcomes is good…for a greater purpose: speeding up the pace of research and fixing a broken healthcare system.”  By sharing detailed health information about yourself, you help others understand how medical conditions and the procedures used to treat them work.

So, do you think that openly sharing your health information on the Internet is worth the potential it can to help others with their health?

Federal Government and Social Media

It is day two of the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit, and I had an interesting conversation at lunch with a person who works in a well known US federal agency.  I’m not going to share this person’s name or agency since I don’t want this person to get unwanted attention.

This person follows the the following maxim when it comes to new experiments: “It is sometimes easier to ask for forgiveness than for permission.”  This is in reference to how this person set up a Facebook page for their particular department.  Further, he/she also follows retweets about how members of the public react to interacting with the agency.  If they find someone who has a question, the agency provides an answer via twitter.

I was surprised that this person seems to enjoy a degree of freedom that I did not expect one could have in the bureaucratic federal government.  This person mentioned that while he/she and his/her boss are “uncomfortable” for a week or two after starting something like a department Facebook page without permission, they have been vindicated.  Of course, that’s if what they do succeeds; they would be in trouble if something they do fails.

I applaud this person’s initiative and willingness to trail blaze.  Of course, I understand that there is judgment required when trying new strategies out.  It is one thing to send someone to a useful webpage via twitter than it is to divulge sensitive information over a non-government network.  Further, I understand the comfort and protection of waiting to get permission before experimenting, but nonetheless I wish this person success.  Hopefully, he/she will help inspire federal agencies to use social media more to serve the public better.

The Content Bubble


So you’ve set up your Facebook Fan Page or Twitter profile and now you’re stuck wondering what to post.

They say content is king, and this holds true. You would be doing yourself a disservice by simply posting content without taking some time to think about the community you want to build.  With the wealth of information available on just about every niche, you can create a valuable social network that people will want to follow.

This is something I like to call the content bubble.

This idea probably isn’t revolutionary, but it has helped when explaining to clients how to fully utilize content on their social networks. Basically, you start thinking about content outside of your immediate subject.

For example, lets say you have a Facebook Page for your Italian restaurant (one of my favorite foods btw).

Now your first impulse may be to use the page as a bulletin board. But, before you send a flurry of links about the menu specials, consider your subject. Italian food = Italy, and there is much more to Italy than just your restaurant.

So lets start building your content bubble:

  • Italian food has a rich and incredible history. Share this in your feed.
  • What region of Italy does your restaurant represent? Are there stories and facts which you can talk about?
  • Highlight specialty dishes.
  • Share some links about all the different grades of olive oil.
  • Who doesn’t want to know more about Italian desserts?
  • Go on YouTube and find some relative videos to post.
  • Talk about how certain ingredients became known. How is ricotta cheese made?
  • What about Italian songs or music?
  • Spotlight some famous Italian chefs.
  • Explain how all the different types of pasta come about.

Getting the idea how your content bubble can grow?

In this example, the Facebook page doesn’t focus on only the restaurant. It covers Italian history and culture. Now you are providing value while also broadening your readership. This can help with word of mouth which may lead to more potential customers.

Build yourself up as a resource and you’ll start seeing the benefits of an effective content bubble.

So what do you think? What suggestions would you make?

Cloudy Day: Review of Jolicloud Alpha 2b "Robby" Release

A few days ago (on a cloudy day, when I began writing this post), I received my Jolicloud private alpha 2b developer version invite. After creating a Jolicloud account and downloading a 600MB .img file, I copied it over as a bootable USB thumb drive and was off to the races. Loading it was hassle-free — Jolicloud is based off of Ubuntu; the install process is nearly identical.

On my Asus Eee PC 901, I have a fast 4GB solid state drive, and a slower 8 GB solid state drive. I decided to manually partition my drives, mounting root (/) on the 4GB and my home directory (/home) on the 8GB. Since I have 2 GB of RAM, and all storage in the 901 is solid state, I decided that a swap partition wasn't necessary or ideal in my scenario.

On my 901, it takes 31.6 seconds to boot from power button to log-in prompt. Fairly impressive for the underpowered hardware, but I was honestly expecting it to be quicker. It appears to boot slightly faster than my previous install of Gentoo (and is certainly less hassle to configure), but I neglected to time this before installing Jolicloud. We'll just have to resort to my concept of time and space on this one. Keep reading after the break to see my first impressions on this much-hyped OS.