NoChannels LogoFor our first Stirring The Pot interview of 2011 I was lucky enough to get Kevin Dugan from Empower Media Marketing on the phone to talk about one of their most interesting new projects: No Channels.

It is about a subject I’ve long been fascinated by, the blurring of lines between media channels and types as it all becomes digital media. During my three years blogging for the NAB I wrote extensively about this effect as pertains to radio’s evolution onto Internet and mobile platforms. Empower’s new project takes it much further looking at all of the media channels are they converge upon the iPad era.

So now for the good part, a quick conversation with Kevin Dugan. Just click the play button below.

As a quick coda take three and a half more minutes and check out their intro video. I promise it won’t hurt.

I think it’s going to be quite interesting to watch this over the next year as I believe the effect he speaks of is going to do nothing but accelerate. What do you think? Leave a comment here, and go check out No Channels while you’re at it. The conversation over there is just getting started!

 is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC

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matirMaitri Erwin (@maitri / LinkedIn) is a geoscientist, blogger and all-around technology geek.  After almost a decade in the oil industry as geologist and geophysicist, Maitri is now technology director at TechniGraphics, where her research focuses on the visualization of 3D geographic and engineering data. Maitri is the author of Maitri’s VatulBlog and also writes for VizWorld, a weblog dedicated to the latest in computer graphics, animation and visualization. Made in Kuwait of Indian parts, Maitri has lived in Illinois, Wisconsin and New Orleans, Louisiana. She now makes her home in Ohio and various world airports.

Loki: So technology is both your livelihood and your recreation. Could you tell us how you got started on that path? Any advice for people, particularly young women, on dealing with any gender/racial bias while taking that course?

Maitri: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a scientist.  Hailing from a family of scientists surely has something to do with it, but while they are primarily biology-focused, my interests run towards the physical sciences, which include geology, physics and engineering.  So, I am a scientist primarily and technology is a natural set of tools with which to discover, analyze and share.  One must never lose this focus because it’s very easy to create and foster technology for its own sake.  How does this process move people and communication forward?  The same question goes for hard science as well as online social media.

You will not believe that I was afraid of mathematics as a child, preferring dental work to it, until one instructor cared enough to teach me mathematics in a way I could understand, not the way the textbook prescribed.  Once mathematics is unlocked, physics and engineering are easy, just application.  Most schools worldwide are extremely rigid in their teaching styles and teachers are not encouraged to cater to the various ways their students’ brains are wired.  Luck also favored me with concerned parents, but they thought I’d end up a doctor, not an earth scientist.  My advice: 1) Math isn’t hard because you’re dumb, you just have a bad teacher, 2) You are dumb only if you give up on yourself or your kids, 3) Young women are particularly suited to the logical framework of mathematics and science, but 4) It requires ignoring authority, hypocrisy and “the way things are.”  If folks say you can’t do something because you’re a girl, brown, poor or too stupid, they don’t want you to succeed.  Stay away from these people.

Loki: Tell me about your work with Project Gutenberg and why you feel it is of such vital urgency. How does this relate to your idea of how the web should operate?

Maitri: Project Gutenberg is the first producer of free electronic books (eBooks).  Free, as in public-domain or creative-commons free; the eBooks are text or HTML files that are yours to download, read, mark up, etc.  Founder and good friend Michael Hart and I share the philosophy that the more the folks around us are enlightened, the better our world becomes to live in.  How better to realize this than getting maximum books to maximum people via disc, internet or telephone?

We live in an age of publishers viewing books as little more than sales units, be they free-standing, dead-tree editions or marked-up eBooks plugged into proprietary readers accessible only by those with the disposable income for such disposable gadgets.  Obviously, most booksellers don’t share our goal of increasing global literacy.  My aim for Project Gutenberg is to keep it in the business of file formats that have as little proprietary markup and DRM as possible, which can be read from the oldest and most ubiquitous computing on the planet, i.e. old computers and cellphones.  This is why Michael and I go on about “plain, vanilla ASCII.”  Ultimately, I want .txt versions of every one of our books, now up to 30,000 in over 20 languages and growing, so an American city dweller, Indian fisherman or African schoolchild can plop it onto a cheapo cellphone and read immediately.  Books are words, ideas that can do without the growing amount of infrastructure and bars placed around them.

The web, a very democratic medium with the potential for unlimited good, is similarly hampered by those who see huge dollar signs where I see a free flow of ideas, news and technology.  Fighting access control technologies, net neutrality, privacy, surveillance self-defense, etc. are all very crucial steps in maintaining freedom and competition as we become increasingly digital entities.

Loki: I know we went through this together, but I’d love your perspective on the early days after Hurricane Katrina when the NOLA Bloggers were first starting to meet and mobilize. Why is what we did important?

Maitri: Quite honestly, I would have completely fallen apart without us.  I turned VatulBlog over to reporting about Katrina, the Federal Flood and the recovery to stay sane and properly informed in the months after August 29th, 2005.  We then banded together virtually to get information out, to do good with what we were good at, and that made all the difference.

Loki: As a digital native what are your thoughts on the evolution and exploitation of social media that we are watching occur? Any thoughts on grassroots vs. corporate use of these tools?

Maitri: Social media thrills and scares me.  As someone who has lived all over the northern hemisphere and did not get the opportunity to visit Kuwait or close the door on it after the Iraqi invasion of 1990, Facebook, Orkut, etc. helped put me back in touch with folks I haven’t seen or heard from in two decades.  Many survived the invasion and are safe, sound, living their lives all over the world and such a basic thing means so much.  Twitter helps me receive and disseminate emergency, technological and esoteric information and that I am, for example, part of a geospatial community of folks in America, Europe, Australia, India, is unprecedented and fantastic.  It’s the web on steroids.  But, as I said in a recent post on Google’s privacy philosophy, anyone from government to corporation to psycho can find out anything about me, even if I didn’t put it out there, and this frightens me to no end.  The private information we enter in good faith and with trust should not be used against us. Additionally, social media abuse by spammers and companies, like impersonal corporate Twitterbots or folks marketing products directly to users in or LibraryThing based on those users’ tags, is irksome and really dilutes the internet experience.

Loki: What are your favorite new internet / social media tools and how are you using them? I know you’re on Google Wave, what’s your opinion so far?

Maitri: I’m experimenting with Foursquare as a way to increase the visibility of small-town America and its venues, which do not seem to share in this social media explosion to the same extent as large cities.  Almost everyone has email or a Facebook account with which they stay in touch with their existing circle of friends and family.  But, how does a small town – the people, communities and venues within it – break into the larger technological conversation currently dominated by metropolises?  Still, since Foursquare is location-based, privacy is once again a concern and I have a strict policy of friending only people I know in real life when using map-based apps.

Google Wave strikes me as a big marketing whoops.  The cool folks who got the exclusive first round of invites sat there talking to themselves and quickly lost interest.  Now when many more are onboard, we remember to go to the Wave website approximately once a week.  Co-workers, fellow bloggers, academics, proposal writers and I have discussed that it can be a great tool for collaborative writing, but it lacks a certain interface something.  Perhaps if it were integrated into Gmail?

Loki: So now the time has come, please hare one of your favorite recipes with us. Having had Indian food at your place I cannot wait to see what you decide to share!

Maitri: My family is from the south of India, which in my opinion has the world’s best food, but North Indian food is quicker and easier to make.  A fan of garbanzo beans, one of my favorite dishes from the north is chana masala.  I’ve cooked and served it at work potlucks, krewe gatherings and our famous New Orleans geek dinners and it’s always been a big hit.  As a service to those who have requested the recipe as well as for this interview, I posted it (as a set of mind maps) to VatulBlog where you can download it and start cooking away!

 is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC

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One of the first voices I ran across when I started to test drive Twitter was Ari Herzog. He was all over the place it seemed. I had already been familiar with some of his work on Mashable and the Huffington Post, and found his thoughts on transparency to quite interesting.

At that time the Presidential election was looming and every Internet channel imaginable was humming like a Tuvan throat singer. Twitter’s infamous Fail Whale was sighted frequently and links, snark, and political data were inescapable.

As the Obama campaign showed us, the Internet has now had a direct and massive impact on our nation’s political process. Ari has been staying at the forefront of the intersection between social media and government, or Gov 2.0 for some time now. Recently he kindly agreed to share his views and knowledge (and a great cookie recipe) with us in the following interview (conducted via email).

In His Words: Ari Herzog is the principal of Ari Herzog & Associates, providing online media strategies for business and government. Leveraging 10 years of experience in information technology, community journalism, and government administration, Ari uses a holistic approach to explain why it is important to embrace the social web, focusing on different, customized approaches for every client. For instance, every company does not need to blog and every PR firm does not need to tweet. By the same token, every company needs to blog and every PR firm needs to tweet. Confused yet? Ari can help you cut through the Web 2.0 clutter.

The author of AriWriter, where he provides strategies and tips on social media and online marketing, Ari is also a guest writer at the Huffington Post and Mashable. He created the Twitter Fan Wiki for U.S. Government in August 2008; and recently started working part-time for Social Media Today responsible for blogger recruitment, front-end programming, and management for the Sustainable Cities Collective and Governing People online communities. You can follow him on Twitter, FriendFeed, GovLoop, and a host of other social networking sites.

Loki: Since Gov 2.0 is your focus would you share your perspective on extreme transparency as applied in a governmental setting? How important is total transparency as a goal? What do you see as the largest obstacles to implementing it?

Ari Herzog: If you rewind time to January 20, 2009, the first White House blog post was written by new media director Macon Phillips, where he expressed President Barack Obama’s commitment to the tenets of communication, transparency, and participation. Macon wrote, “ is just the beginning of the new administration’s efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.” Recalling Obama’s campaign platform, one of the items he planned to initiate was the ability to enable citizens to read, review, and offer feedback on non-emergency legislation. Three months later, that has yet to occur, despite many bills across the Oval Office desk. From my perspective, there are three major obstacles:

  1. outdated infrastructure, e.g. the White House received legal approval to use GMail email addresses in lieu of official dot-gov accounts.
  2. outdated or nonexistent policies, e.g. the Department of Defense has no policy on social technologies, despite military branches and Pentagon agencies using such tools.
  3. lack of streamlining across government agencies, e.g. some departments are blocking access to Twitter while others allow it; or some departments use Google Analytics to track web statistics, while others use WebTrends.

The case study I frequently cite is South Korea, where 11,000 emails are sent annually to the mayor of Seoul and he personally replies to each one. The city also offers free internet training classes to improve citizen participation; and provides online learning through podcasts and video-on-demand. Government meetings are streamlined online and across TV, and citizens can interact in real-time. Should I add that every Seoul citizen can pay taxes online, and their e-taxes are stored on government servers for five years?

How about Singapore, where an internet system called SingPass enables every citizen over age 15 to use one username and one password to access 50 government services?

For a U.S. example, you may enjoy reading an interview with Dave Fletcher, the Chief Technology Officer for the state of Utah. Among the state’s best practices are 800+ online services, a 24×7 chat session, and blogging employees. Last fall, Utah became the first state in the country to close Fridays, due to the online engagement.

Loki: Would you tell our readers a bit about the Twitter Fan Wiki of U.S. Government that you started last August, and any subsequent projects that have grown out of it? What other resources of a similar nature would you advise for those interseted in Gov2.0?

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maddiegrantMaddie Grant (@MaddieGrant on twitter) is a Gen-X blogger, “shiny new toy” addict and 1%er. After more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications and international business, Maddie found her home in the association community–first as the COO of a small professional membership association in Washington, DC and now as the chief social media strategist for SocialFish, LLC. Maddie has written articles for a number of publications and speaks frequently. Her popular blog, SocialFishing…, covers the intersection between social media and association management.  [LinkedIn]

I first ran across her words on twitter, which led in short order to investigation of her blog and her company. Since a lot of my work over the years has been of a socially conscious/ non profit nature it was nice to see another voice on the subject. Maddie was kind enough to help us kick off the Stir The Pot series with this interview, so I’ll quit distracting you and let you read it.

Loki: So what have you found are the particular differences between social media used in an association context as opposed to its other applications? Since a lot of your work is focused on non-profits how do find social media approaches differ from for profit ventures?

Maddie Grant: It ‘s an interesting paradox where associations are, by definition, groups of people with common interests – in other words they have built-in communities, so communicating with their members through social media is an obvious and natural fit – however, there’s still a very strong fear of relinquishing control, and a historical lag behind for-profit companies which have been thrust into the conversational social media space, originally, because of market forces and the voice of the consumer.  With associations, we’re helping them build community online which translates into building community offline – new members, more people at their events, etc.   It’s more about community than it is about brand awareness or word-of-mouth marketing, though of course that plays into it.

Loki: One of the big conversations centering around social media lately is the marketing angle. What sort of metrics do you use to measure success in a campaign and how do you address potential client inquiries about ROI?

Maddie Grant:Everyone’s concerned with ROI, and in the association industry it’s often complicated by the fact that on the one hand, there’s not yet a body of knowledge about what exactly to measure (which can be different for different kinds of associations and nonprofits), and on the other hand, there’s not a lot of budget money to go round so there’s a fear of trying anything new.  I always say that the specific metrics you will want to track will come out of whatever strategic goals you are trying to achieve – if it’s energizing buzz around your annual conference, you can measure blog mentions, other mentions in social spaces, plus registrations, book sales, vendor exhibit sales, all kinds of things.  But if you’re trying to recruit young members, then the things you will measure will be totally different.

In every case, you should start with a benchmark of where you are on day one, so you can track your progress and make adjustments as necessary.  Which also brings up the point that social media strategy is really not about “campaign thinking” – it’s much more long term and you’ll be able to set lower expectations at the beginning and show greater success over the long term if you help people understand that it’s not a quick marketing campaign with an “end point”.

Loki: How long have you been using social media and what got you started? What’s your favorite social media to play with?

Maddie Grant: I’m a classic Gen-X  early adopter and 1%er who has been using social media for over ten years.  In a different life I was part of a PR/communications team in charge of an international financial services company’s intranet, put in place to help employees through a difficult merger/acquisition process.  I used all kinds of online forums for years before I joined the usual Facebook, LinkedIn etc.  I started a blog in 2007 and I will say that while I really truly love Twitter, it will always be an extension of my blog, “Socialfishing…” which is where my heart is.

Loki: What are your thoughts on the new wave of progressive social media types entering the space, the ones who place a high priority on their work having a socially conscious slant? What advice would you give them?

Maddie Grant: I really don’t need to give them advice, actually, I think we can learn a lot from people who really care about things and who enable others to share in collective action.  Social media is all about word of mouth, and word of mouth is part of what builds community – so as long as their work is valuable and worth talking about, they won’t have any problems spreading the word about the issues they care about.

Loki: How much importance do you place on physically meeting people you have interacted with over social platforms? What was the most amusing meeting of this type that you have experienced?

Maddie Grant: I always say “technology enables community” – and that means making friends online means making friends offline.  The face-to-face relationships that are enabled by social media are crucially important and a lot of people (or organizations) forget that!  So while I may not meet every single person IRL that I have met online, I would say it’s a huge part of what makes social media so powerful.  And I’ll be honest – this exact thing has changed my life, since I met my business partner Lindy Dreyer online through our blogs and we became friends long before we ever met in person.  I have lots of funny stories, which I don’t have room to tell here, but I will say it’s weird (and awesome!) to be greeted by “It’s the famous Maddie!” when I have never met the person I’m talking to but they seem to know all about me…

Loki: And, as always here on SocialGumbo, would you close by sharing a favorite recipe with us? Preferably something you like to cook when having friends over (i.e. a social setting)?

Maddie Grant: Here’s my recipe.  I’m half Thai and eat a lot of Thai food.  It’s super easy, you just have to be willing to not measure stuff, just throw everything in to taste (more or less spicy)!

Shrimp with Chili and Basil
Ingredients: fresh shrimp, some fresh basil leaves, 1 large fresh green chili finely sliced, 1 large fresh red chili finely sliced, some cloves chopped garlic, some chopped coriander stems, chopped spring onion, decent amount of oystersauce, sprinkle of fish sauce, 1 tsp sugar, some soy bean oil

Peel and devein the shrimp, leave tails on. Heat the oil in a wok (high heat), saute everything except the coriander for maybe a minute or two.  As soon as the shrimp turn pink they are cooked, do not overcook. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with steamed rice.  Eazy-peezy-yummy!

 is the owner of SocialGumbo, LLC

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