Thoughts on Each We Media Game Changer

For the We Media conference, I wrote up essays on each of the Game Changer award winners (Here’s a roundup essay on trends we saw: Crowd-Forging, social good combined with profit. I had conversations with each winner, and they were often wide-ranging probes into the idea of what “we media” is, what it means to be at the forefront of media technology innovation today. Here are thoughts I wrote, almost to myself, on each one:

Ze Frank:
I lamented writing this essay, not because I didn’t want to, but because text in a limited space cannot convey the depths of consideration, the tonalities and range that Ze displayed in two wide-ranging conversations. It was clear from his inability to give pre-formulated answers that he was grappling with the issues he identifies — that even he doesn’t always know what it is he’s doing. It’s wonderful to see such nuance and shades of gray when we’re so often confronted with boilerplate pablum.

Knight Foundation:
Speaking to foundation president  and CEO Alberto Ibarguen for me was an epiphany. Rarely has a person at his level been so frank and open-minded as to, when challenged, change his mind on the spot to accommodate a new idea. Will Knight under his leadership see to the survival of news in our local communities? That’s unsure. But I can say that innovation in news will bloom due to its efforts.

I’m not really sure why Freewheelin works. Then again, maybe I am: It’s a great idea. Not original and not unique (it’s been done in Europe), but how cool is it to, instead of blathering about what can or should be done, to just go ahead and do it? The public relations executive from Humana I spoke to openly acknowledged not only the benefits to society but also to the corporation. I love how his company can handle both ideas at once.

I was skeptical of Twitter, didn’t see the utility of telling people what I’d had for lunch and certainly didn’t care what others were doing at any given moment. Then I saw how the platform tapped the zeitgeist, what a phenomenal picture it gave by creating an information cloud around happenings and ideas. Almost by magic, dozens, then thousands of applications fed the cloud, and businesses were built around it. I am a skeptic no more. Twitter may not survive, but the concept of what it is will have to.

It’s amazing to me how, while so many in the advertising world are talking about customer “engagement” and “monetizing” social media, SocialVibe is figuring out both –not through clever technology but by gleaning what users want most. They don’t force people to use any one social network, and they offer a wealth of sponsorship options. They’re  forgoing profits for now, letting SocialVibe evolve on its own.

David Plouffe:
Despite David Plouffe’s successes for President Obama, I wonder whether he can mobilize the faithful to do something that’s a lot more complex, nuanced and multi-directional than getting them to vote for a candidate. It’s not clear what supporters should do now, nor how much they can get their voices heard by the administration. I hope they can. With Plouffe leading the charge, they have a much better chance.

So what, I asked Ushahidi’s co-founder, if people from within a crisis zone can send and receive text messages aggregated in one place? What good does that do? I felt incredibly crass when the answer came back, that the messages may have helped save lives, and have documented the losses of lives that could otherwise have gone unnoticed. I’m now a believer.

They’re finding a cure for ALS and a vaccine for AIDS. ‘Nuf said. I’m guessing they’ll make a profit, too. (They wouldn’t say when I asked). After all, what are their costs, beyond an inexpensive infrastructure that lets seekers and solvers connect across the Internet? The main capital Innocentive leverages is in people’s brains.

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