Friday, February 26, 2010

Look out Twitter -- Here comes Bill James!

As prolific as Mecklenburg County commissioner Bill James is with the mass e-mails, you knew it was just a matter of time before he turned to the Twitterverse to spread his many, many, many musings about county politics. (Did I mention there were a lot?).

So this evening the captain of all things conservative sent out an e-mail letting everyone know that that he'd be turning to the Twitter to spread his message of fiscal frugality.

"OK, so I am 53 and I have to admit, 'tweeting' is not something that I considered," he wrote. "The idea of basically providing random thoughts (sort of a stream of consciousness sort of thing) doesn't seem real useful.

"Problem is, in politics it is change or die and everyone is twittering and is twitterpated (and no I am not talking about Bambi and Thumper) with the idea of 'tweeting.'"

And indeed they are. City Council members Warren Cooksey and Andy Dulin are dedicated Twitterers. And my colleague, sage political writer Jim Morrill, recently told me that U.S. Sen Richard Burr's people are saying they'll go as heavy into social networking as traditional advertising to get their message out in the upcoming elections.

So, tweet on, Brother Bill. (He'd only sent two when I checked). If you want to follow him, you can find him at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The perils of progress

Geo-location: it's the next big thing in social networking. Not only do you chat with your friends over the internet, location-aware services like Foursquare and Gowalla also let them know where you are, where you've been, and turns bopping around to your favorite bars and restaurants into a kind of social networking game.

But some locals have been noticing a drawback to broadcasting your location over the internet: it's...broadcasting your location over the internet. People have been tweeting about, a site that makes just this point by aggregating Foursquare and Twitter status updates, then broadcasting real-time alerts about which homeowners aren't home. In the name of highlighting online privacy perils, they've scared everybody half to death. (One tip I've heard to get around it: don't let your Foursquare status updates automatically go into your Twitter stream).

Anybody out there hear of any situations locally where strangers have used someone's Foursquare status update to try and take advantage of them? Direct message me on Twitter or Facebook (these are private channels), or just shoot me an e-mail.

And if you know of good tips to keep everybody safe, share away!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Charlotte Twitterers diss Tiger's apology

A Twitter search here just minutes after Tiger Wood's big televised apology speech shows Charlotte-area folks aren't tweeting much love the beleaguered golfer's way. (And perhaps, in keeping with the snarky tone of most posts, I might note that he's apparently been getting quite enough of that already, thank you).

Check out some of what folks are saying:

"Tiger should end the press conference by walking out to Ludacris' song "Area Codes" (I Got Hoes)."

"Tiger! Tiger! Would you care to address the issue of you just being some golfer and so what?!

"How can someone be so lame"

"This just in: Dalai Lama releases statement "It's in the hole!!"

#Tiger Woods didn't use a TelePrompTer. Possible GOP Response: Tiger 1, Obama 0.

"That Tiger speech was such a waste"

But Tiger did get some support:

"Tiger's speech was strong, sincere, Buddhist. But I pray he finds redemption and atonement, not just self-will and renunciation of desire."

"I thought Tiger's statement was good and appropriate. I think the media needs to report the news and stop making it."

My (carefully worded) thought: Say what you will about Twitter, but it sure does give you real-time, unvarnished, voice-of-the-people feedback!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Local charity making a run for social networking money

Want to use your social networks to help out a good cause?

Go to and check out the Community Foundation of Gaston County's Run for the Money 8 project. Using their own Web site, social networks and just old fashioned shoe leather, they've somehow put themselves in the thick of one of the biggest stories out there right now when it comes to social media and charitable causes.

They're in the hunt for $250,000 in grant money through the "Pepsi Refresh Project," a giant social media campaign in which the soft drink maker is giving away millions each week to charities that gain the most votes for their good causes.

When I went to the Pepsi site this morning, the Gaston foundation's project, which gives matching grants to participating charities, was ranked No. 10 in the race for the current $250,000 pot of grant money. The top two vote-getters, to be announced March 1, will each get $250,000. "This could REALLY be big for 123 non-profits in Gaston County," project director LeeAnn Harris told me in an e-mail.

But they've got to make up ground fast, and they've got bigger groups like the American Legion, Teach for America, and even a charity headed by "Law & Order" TV star Mariska Hargitay blocking their way. Let's get behind our local folks! Go to the Pepsi site and vote, then spread the word in your Twitter feed and Facebook network.

And a quick correction: In my last blog post, I referred to Topics Education, a local strategic communications firm, as Topix Education. Serious brain cramp there. Apologies to the letter S, to my elementary school teachers, and to Winn Maddrey and the crew over at Topics.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Non-profits gather social networking tips

If you work with a Charlotte-area nonprofit group and weren't at Mez restaurant uptown this morning for breakfast, you missed out. Social Media Charlotte, a networking group frequented by many of the most knowledgeable local users of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks, held a breakfast discussion about social networking and non-profits.

Panelists Bo Hussey of Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont (Twitter: @GoodwillSP, @bohussey), Jameka Whitten of JSW Media Group (@jswmediagroup) and Winn Maddrey of Topix Education (@wmaddrey) all gave some good insights about how nonprofits can use social networks to help extend their reach in the community.

One good thought: social media isn't free. Even though you don't pay a fee to Facebook or Twitter to get your message out, getting it out effectively requires a significant investment of time and brainpower.

Want to know what else was said? Follow tweets sent during the meeting by using the hashtag #smbclt.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wanted: Your story ideas on social networking and digital developments

On the drive in to work this morning I was thinking about what most people think of on the drive to work: what I'd be doing at work. And for some reason the words "Linux" and "open source" popped into my head.

Maybe that's because I've been hearing so much recently about the need for newspapers to develop more two-way conversations with readers, especially since New Media companies like Google are eating our lunch (literally, if you ask Rupert Murdoch). So, like the Linux guys and their collaborative software, I'm open-sourcing my week. Call it Open Source Monday here at @Charlotte.

A couple of story threads I'm thinking of following: Local politicians and how well or badly they're using Facebook and Twitter; The growing use of Foursquare and other geolocation networks in Charlotte; and how schools are controlling the use of social networks on school computers. (Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, for instance, recently put out a new policy that keeps FB strictly verboten on their computers, but YouTube's allowed).

So, what do you guys think about those topics? Know of something else cool or new or important on the local social networking scene that I should look into? Caveat #1: I can't promise I'll do a story on every idea, but all will be considered. Caveat #2: Charlotte-centric ideas are sexiest.

Send 'em my way now via Twitter, on Facebook, or e-mail!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Facebook redesign getting bad reviews

When my Facebook page went to the new design yesterday, my first thought was: I like it, visually at least. Somehow a cleaner, more organized look, I felt. But the longer I fool around with it, the less appealing I'm finding it.

The status updates, which used to be clearly visible on the left, are now collapsed under the "Friends" tab. I liked it just fine where it was before. Also collapsed under this new "friends" tab: my friend groups, which I'd set up to keep my family members and closest buddies from getting lost in the status update/news feed wash. The different groups showed up on the left hand side of the page, in clear view. Now, you have to click on the "friends" tab -- which I forgot the last time I went to check on my siblings. Made me a little grumpy.

I'm not the only one. When I typed "Facebook" into the search function, I turned up similar grousing from others in my network. "Stop changing Facebook," wrote one. "I'm old and I can't keep up." Amen, sister. Another friend included a link to a "Change Facebook Back to Normal!!" Facebook page that had more than 1.8 million members.

Hope you're listening, Facebook. The cybernatives are restless!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What men and women really want in a date

I guess this must really be Valentine's week, because here's my second post on the subject of online romance in two days. Just spoke with Dan Ariely, a behavioral economics professor at Duke University who also happens to study the habits of online daters. A forthcoming study of his tracked the preferences and actions of more than 22,000 online daters and found that, essentially, men prefer skinny women, and women prefer tall, rich men. (I can see people of both sexes rolling their eyes and thinking, 'He needed a research study to come up with that??').

Women, what do you think? Do short, checkbook-challenged guys have no chance at catching your eye on Facebook or one of the dating sites? And guys, do a few extra pounds automatically disqualify a woman in your book?

If it's a race to the bottom to see who can be the most shallow, which sex is winning here? Shoot me your thoughts via e-mail, Twitter or Facebook, or comment below.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Do social networks help or hurt romance?

With Valentine's Day around the corner, I'm wondering what's new out there in social networks when it comes to finding love.

Unless you've hibernated through the past decade, you know tons of people are using social networks to find dates and mates. According to a recent story, the biggest dating site,, has more than 15 million members. Online dating's even growing on mobile phones, with global revenues from that market expected to grow to nearly $1.4 billion by 2013.

What do you think? How are social networks and dating sites changing the way people handle dating and romance? Is it all for the better or the worse?

E-mail me your thoughts, or just reply to this post in the comments section. Maybe your thought or idea will give me a new twist on the traditional Valentine's Day story.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Super Bowl advertisers tackling social networks

Welcome to @Charlotte! Hopefully you'll come back for news and insights about the world of social networking, and life online in general. Here's something interesting -- and timely, given the Big Game's coming up Sunday.

Super Bowl advertisers are taking more and more of their campaigns to social networks, with Pepsi this year bypassing TV advertising during the game and instead launching a $20 million social media campaign.

Facebook and Twitter are already abuzz locally with chatter about Super Bowl ads that will appear during the game. This Doritos ad, "The Slap," was cracking people up:

I'm doing a story about the Super Bowl, social media and advertising. Have your Facebook friends or Twitter followers sent you links to any good Super Bowl ads? Have you participated in any social network chatter about the ads? I'd like to hear about it. E-mail me at with your thoughts!