News aggregators for Public Diplomacy / Strategic Communication

Several resources that comb news sites and blogs for what they believe is relevant information for those in public diplomacy, strategic communication, or related issues. With one exception, I did not include aggregators that broadcast individual articles via Twitter or blog posts.

  • RFE/RL’s The Rundown – An essential read broadly on communication and today and tomorrow’s hotspots. I get it emailed but I didn’t see a way to subscribe through email.
  • NightWatch – is an “executive intelligence recap” edited and annotated by John McCreary.
  • John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review – a broad (sometimes too broad) coverage of media, academic, and “plain” blog posts on public diplomacy and related matters. Too often the cited headline is the only part of an article that refers to public diplomacy. John is, however, the major aggregator of public diplomacy-related content.
  • Public Diplomacy in the News – result set is focused and includes more non-US examples.
  • Kim Andrew Elliott – required if you’re monitoring global communication.
  • COMOPS Monitor – is an automated aggregator for the “latest links from the blogosphere on Strategic Communication, Terrorism, & Public Diplomacy.”
  • Layalina Review – a bi-weekly update of public diplomacy news as it primarily relates to the Middle East.

Feel free to add to this list.

Public Relations firm hosts Q&A with Price Floyd

Of possible interest:

Oglivy Exchange’s National Security Strategy Lecture Series presents:

Price Floyd
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Defense for Public Affairs
Speaking on enhancing communications within the Department of Defense and between the U.S. military and Americans via social media, the new website and other channels.
(Q & A session will follow)

Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009   11:30 AM – 1 PM.
Lunch will be served

Mr. Floyd will discuss using social media to expand communication within the 18 year old to 25 year old demographic, an important audience for recruiting purposes; building a platform to increase feedback from troops and their families; developing a forum for enhanced communication with American citizens; and ensuring operational security of military actions in the age of Twitter and Facebook.

RSVP: Contact Ellen Birek at or at (202) 729-4231
DATE: Thursday, Nov.5, 2009
TIME: 11:30 AM – 1 PM, Lunch will be served
Ogilvy’s Washington Headquarters
1111 19th St. NW, 10th Floor
Washington, D.C., 20036

Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter

image From the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership and The SecDev Group comes “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF). The report is based on a three-day workshop that took place at Carlisle Barracks in January 2008, one of the best events I have attended. It is required reading for anyone (e.g. more then than the Defense community) involved in the modern information environment.

This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks. It will be required reading for my upcoming class as well as a class I’ll likely be teaching in the spring (details to be announced).

This report deserves a better write up, but for now, download and read it yourself and comment below. More information can be found here:

An Introduction to Using Network Maps in Public Diplomacy and Strategic Communication

By Ali Fisher

We live in a networked world. Whether known as family, kinship, tribe, village, neighbourhood, community, work place colleagues, or online social network, they are all networks in the sense of being a series of relationships between different individuals.

Social network analysis (SNA) explores the relationship between actors within a network by identifying the points that people “huddle around”. Network maps allow a researcher to visualise and analyse data on complex interactions or relationships between large numbers of actors. In these maps the dots (nodes) are actors within the network and the lines (ties, edges or arcs) identify a relationship between the nodes which the tie connects.

Through the maps, groups (or cliques) can be seen more rapidly than a through a text based list. Groups that have high levels of interaction with each other form clusters of dots in different areas of the network map.

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News resources


Google Fast Flip

One problem with reading news online today is that browsing can be really slow. A media-rich page loads dozens of files and can take as much as 10 seconds to load over broadband, which can be frustrating. What we need instead is a way to flip through articles really fast without unnatural delays, just as we can in print. The flow should feel seamless and let you rapidly flip forward to the content you like, without the constant wait for things to load. Imagine taking 10 seconds to turn the page of a print magazine!

Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

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How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media?

Recommended reading in the age of now media: How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media? at FASTforward. This is a lesson fully applicable to public diplomacy, strategic communication, global engagement, or whatever your tribe uses to describe the struggle for perceptions, relevance, and support. Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in new media doesn’t stay in new media.

Continue reading “How will you respond to a customer complaint in the age of Social Media?

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: Do they think differently?

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently? (141kb PDF) by Marc Prensky, 2001:

Digital Natives accustomed to the twitch-speed, multitasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and Internet are bored by most of today’s education, well meaning as it may be. But worse, the many skills that new technologies have actually enhanced (e.g., parallel processing, graphics awareness, and random access)—which have profound implications for their learning—are almost totally ignored by educators.

The cognitive differences of the Digital Natives cry out for new approaches to education with a better “fit”. And, interestingly enough, it turns out that one of the few structures capable of meeting the Digital Natives’ changing learning needs and requirements is the very video and computer games they so enjoy. This is why “Digital Game-Based Learning” is beginning to emerge and thrive. …

Again and again it’s the same simple story. Practice—time spent on learning—works. Kid’s don’t like to practice. Games capture their attention and make it happen. And of course they must be practicing the right things, so design is important.

The US military, which has a quarter of a million 18-year-olds to educate every year, is a big believer in learning games as a way to reach their Digital Natives. They know their volunteers expect this: “If we don’t do things that way, they’re not going to want to be in our environment”

Interesting reading on neuroplasticity.

(h/t @ramblemuse)

Failure can be achieved with one action, success happens over time

Short and to the point observation by Galrahn at Information Dissemination that winning a battle does not mean winning a war.

The Navy deploys hospital ships to other countries, but then turns around and takes a poll to measure success. In other words, the Navy is measuring success based on an opinion of an action.

But opinions also measure perception, and hospital ship deployments do not have an associated strategic communication strategy targeting the population of the country it is servicing, rather only has a blog telling stories in English to the American people of events as they unfold.

He follows with a suggestion of true multiple media engagement (person and radio).

I don’t care how ugly it is, someone should stick a giant radio tower on top of the hospital ships and broadcast the coolest damn DJ you can find that speaks the language of the places the hospital ships go to. If Al Qaeda has a radio station in the Middle of Pakistani Mtns to broadcast their propaganda of hate, why can’t we put a radio station on a ship and send out a message of friendship?

What providing wi-fi or wi-max or even temporary cellular connectivity, all for free? Such broadcasts might be in conflict with the host nation’s telecommunications monopoly, but there are diplomatic ways around that.


Noteworthy Links: Information and Communication edition

New edition of AP Stylebook adds entries and helpful features: AP writers can now use the phrase "to Twitter" in place of the wordier "to post a Twitter update." Both are far better (and technologically adept) than The New York Times use of “on their Twitter page.”

If you provide services to poor people, should you make a profit? Interesting question that goes to the increasing connectivity in Africa. (h/t @ICT4D)

Feeds for Information Graphics. Compiled by the Art Director for the Associated Press Interactive Design & Graphics Department in New York.

IT Dashboard. Track information technology spending by the US Government. For example, see that the State Department is doing pretty well managing its IT projects and that there are apparently problems with USAID’s Infrastructure and Modernization Program.

Après un an de tests, les policiers ont choisi ce modèle, léger et long de 5 cm.Combat camera for cops. French cops are getting ear-borne mini-cams to combat “to establish the context of our interventions.”

World Bank Report: Information and Communications for Development 2009

Some of the World Bank report Information and Communications for Development 2009: Extending Reach and Increasing Impact is now available online. This report

takes an in-depth look at how ICT, and particularly broadband and mobile, are impacting economic growth in developing countries. The data section includes at-a-glance tables for 150 economies of the latest available data on ICT sector performance. Performance measures for access, affordability and applications in government and business are also introduced.

I’ve only reviewed the introduction – to get the whole report you have to buy it (!!) – but it appears this report provides valuable justification for expanded information and communication technology investment for public diplomacy and strategic communication. However, the report all but ignores the impact broadband and mobile phones have on media and corruption or access to radio via mobile phones. Still, as mobile phones “now represent the world’s largest distribution platform”, it is worthwhile to read about their impact on economic growth.

See also:

View the Democracy Video Challenge winners

Last year the State Department embarked on an ambitious mission of encouraging others to describe what democracy meant to them. This was a smart and creative use of social media to amplify and empower trusted and authentic voices to speak about subjects that matter to them. Let’s hope State continues the concept…

Six winners were selected from the 900 people from nearly 100 countries submitted videos in the Democracy Video Challenge. View all of the winning videos here. All of the winners are superb, but my favorite is below.

Continue reading “View the Democracy Video Challenge winners

Broadband hits Africa

From Foreign Policy, a map showing increased connectivity and the importance of investing in Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Africa.

As interconnectivity between African countries increases, economic benefits are expected, especially in Kenya, which has a fast developing IT sector. Other potential impacts include education and access to media.

Increased interconnectivity also means increased importance of online media.

See also this 2007 global map by Alcatel-Lucent (5.6mb PDF).

World Map of Social Networks

Interesting data crunching from Italy on social network use around the globe. See the map at right and the data below.

Some visible patterns to highlight:

Facebook has almost colonized Europe and it’s extending its domination with more than 200 millions users
QQ, leader in China, is the largest social network of the world (300 millions active accounts)
MySpace lost its leadership everywhere (except in Guam)
V Kontakte is the most popular in Russian territories
Orkut is strong in India and Brazil
Hi5 is still leading in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and other scattered countries such as Portugal, Mongolia, Romania
Odnoklassniki is strong in some former territories of the Soviet Union
Maktoob is the most important Arab community/portal

Other country specific social networks:

Iwiw in Hungary
Nasza-klasa in Poland
Cyworld in South Korea
Friendster in Philippines
Hives in Netherlands
Lidé in Czech Republic
Mixi in Japan
One in Latvia and Lithuania
Wretch in Taiwan
Zing in Vietnam

Are you monitoring the Now Media environment?

Ah, the days when your public affairs or public relations department could sit back and watch the wire for potentially adverse headlines that you could formulate a response after several meetings over the next day. The world isn’t so simple or, more to the point, so slow.

Simply put, you can’t ignore new media just like you can’t ignore old media as both intermingle in each other’s world amplifying “news” (quotes intentional), creating reach as information shoots around the world through radio (even on the back of motorcycle), television, in print, SMS, let alone Twitter. That same information is persistent, hanging around and available on YouTube and through Google.

Continue reading “Are you monitoring the Now Media environment?

DOD issues instructions in support of ICT

Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) describes a general effort to overcome disconnectedness and to build up socio-economic capacity at the local level. It has tremendous potential for creating stable areas. Several years ago when I first started writing about the potential of ICT4D to deny sanctuary to extremism, a few pushed back suggested that keeping people in the dark and disconnected from any information was better lest the bad guys co-opt channels of communication to spread their hate, lies, and distortions.

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Can Social Media organically transform government?

Social media is an appropriate title for much of what is generally called “new media”. Social media creates connection through information dissemination systems that facilitate and encourage dialogue, enhancing the original message to subsequent readers and repeaters.

Technologies like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, blogs and other systems are interesting in their own right, but searching for and mashing up of data is a more interesting and more valuable. The potential for mining knowledge from heaps of noise and clutter that result from dynamic networks that last for only a split-second or for years.

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Posts and articles worth your attention.

Smith-Mundt and Domestic Dissemination by Darren Krape (3 March 2009)

This post grew out of the recent Smith-Mundt Symposium… First my general read-out of the event is that the issue remains quite contentious and with little overall agreement. Many argue the law should be kept, or even strengthened (and its remit expanded to the entire U.S. government) while others argue it should be completely repealed. A third group feel the argument is pointless since the law is out-dated and should be ignored, which can be done since, in the end, there are no “Smith-Mundt police” to arrest anyone for violating the law.

State’s Wrong Turn on the Information Highway by Scott Rauland (560kb PDF) (Sept 2008)

Many of us who have been involved in the State Department’s information outreach efforts since the very first days that the Internet became available as a tool for U.S. missions overseas are concerned that the department is falling steadily behind the
technology curve and that our ability to reach foreign audiences is actually shrinking.

Social Networks Now More Popular than Email; Facebook Surpasses MySpace by Brian Solis (9 March 2009)

Two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visit social networking or blogging sites, accounting for almost 10% of all internet time.

Time spent on social network sites is also expanding: Across the globe in 2008 activity in ‘Member Communities’ accounted for one in every 15 online minutes – now it accounts for one in every 11.

[Important Note: “Global” for the Nielsen Online report Brian Solis quotes from is really only Australia, Switzerland, Denmark, Spain, France, Italy, UK, and US.]

Why Social Media is Scary by Steve Radick (11 January 2009) and Part 3 Social Media is Scary – How to Address Middle Managers by Steve Radick (2 March 2009)

Businesses and our government are structured in a very hierarchical way – everyone is part of an org chart, everyone has a boss, and everyone is working to get to the next level.  Why?  Because inevitably, the next level brings more pay, more power, more respect, and more influence.  In the current organizational structure, everyone’s role is nicely identified on the org chart and with that, there is a structured way to act.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or have been told something like, “you can’t contact him directly – get in touch with your manager first,” or “draft an email for me to send to him,” or even better, “talk to “Public Affairs and Legal to get that approved before sending it out.”

The problem with this structure is that social media renders these traditional roles and responsibilities obsolete.  It introduces unpredictability and opportunity, unauthorized emails and tremendous insights, inappropriate language and humor.  Social media gives everyone a voice, whether they want it or not.

Can The US Air Force Save Darfur? by Chris Albon (9 March 2009)

Last week, the Washington Post published an op-ed by General Merill A. McPeak and Kurt Bassuener arguing that President Obama should establish a no-fly zone over Darfur. The idea has been proposed before, but was repeatedly shot down (pardon the pun) by humanitarian groups who (rightly) feared reprisals from the Sudanese government. However, the objections will be less vocal now that Bashir has booted 13 aid groups from Sudan after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant against him. Bashir also reportedly launched more air attacks.