Nineteenth century "new media" social networks: thoughts for Universalist history

I found an article as a link (and example) of the author’s use of plain text to compose complex (in his case, academic) documents. I’m being drawn to this practice as a way to improve my productivity. (I now often use UberWriter, a GUI frontend application to pandoc, but will also use pandoc on the command line directly.)

But that’s not what inspires this post. That example of academic history is about role of personal relationships to build trust in the water cure. There’s something about nineteenth century American fringe movements — like mesmerism, abolitionism and women’s rights — that makes me wonder if there are lessons for Universalist history. And I hadn’t considered personal repute so clearly. (Family ties were, and still are, key in historic Southern Universalist churches.)

A thought.

The long Unitarian and Universalist history of microblogging

I often hear persons over a certain age express confusion about Twitter, a microblogging service. (Identi.ca is another, if more patronized by tech geeks.) Is it really so strange, though? A brief thought — opinion, inspiration or fact — has held long and customary place on church signs. And the Unitarians and Universalists each (before and after consolidation) made a literary form of it through the Community Wayside Pulpit poster program: another lamentable institutional loss.

More about recovering this practice soon.

Two small churches, using social media and tools

Small churches in the Unitarian Universalist Association are a bit off the recognition map; so, too, are the Christian churches. Combine these and, well, good luck. But I’ve noticed two that are using social tools well and deserve recognition.

  • First Universalist Church, Providence, has revamped its website and (here’s the point) has started advertizing on Facebook. (I don’t like Facebook, but it’s probably a wise move.) Friend them on Facebook and visit if you’re in town.
  • All Souls Miami, an emerging congregation (but more of an adapted one) in Florida can email or (here’s the point) text members and attendees worship reminders — helpful since they don’t meet every Sunday. I don’t recall another congregation doing this.

How I'm celebrating Facebook's IPO

I’m “celebrating” by offsetting my Facebook use with greater use of Diaspora, an alternative that let’s you keep strong control over your data. I don’t know many people there, but it’s more lively (about things I care about anyway) than I’ve heard described, and I’ve found some interesting people I wouldn’t have otherwise fonnd.

Sign up here and if you’re a member, seek me by name.

I can’t stand Facebook, but I use it to keep up with a few friends and family members. I don’t like the low regard its management has for privacy, or for the presumption of a inevitable (but invented) good it provides. But it’s easier to do without it if there’s a partial alternative. Partial because there’s no point replace an invented good with another.

Social media, engagement tools to note

Have I boasted about my amazingly talented Sunlight Foundation colleagues lately? No? Then let me point out the tools that “the other Scott” — Scott Stadum, Sunlight’s User Engagement Analyst — has used and pointed out in the pursuit of his work.

He’s written about them in a series called Transparency Tools, though my readers from other fields will find uses for them — particularly when trying to make the most (or make sense) of the new media resources now available. That is, both as a publisher and a consumer. (In my love-hate relationship with Google, Scott helped me find new love for their Currents app.)

He’s been writing these for ages, so it probably makes more sense to review his posts through these omnibus roundups.

Occupy: D.C., New York, Davis or where-have-you

I’d hate for my readers to think that my few comments about the Occupy movement suggests I’m uninterested. Far from it. Indeed, I’m very mad and deeply concerned about yesterday’s pepper-spraying of student demonstrators at University of California Davis. Google for it, if you’ve not seen this now-iconic photograph.

But I comment mostly by Twitter, Identi.ca, Google+ and Facebook.  And if you have the means to support your closest Occupy encampment, I encourage you to do so.

Google+ invitations: the water's warm

Not to sound too evangelistic, but I’ve been using Google+ — a social network to battle Facebook, and perhaps Twitter — for just over a week and it’s changing how I interact with new and old friends and contacts. The key, I’m convinced, is getting enough people in your circles who are past the “gee wizz” phase and actually use it. That took a shockingly fast three or four days.

Now that bunches more people are inside, and Google is able to keep the invitation windows open longer, it shouldn’t be so hard to get an invitations. But that’s easy to say if you have one. (And the rollout for people who have Google Apps — don’t worry if this isn’t immediately familiar to you — is delayed.)

If you don’t have an account and want one, ask me in the comments.

Google+, Google+1

I think I may have been the first Unitarian Universalist minister to have gotten a Google+ account. (I’m one of four Scott Wellses, but easy to identify.) That’s the benefit of working at a tech-centric organization: early access to an invitation. And the lesson learned from thinking Twitter was nonsense and a dead-end when I first heard of it, what, three years ago?

Yes, I like Google+ my reservations about Google — so my ever-loving husband reminds me — notwithstanding. Yes, it’s much like Facebook, with the most obvious missing functionality being groups and pages. Also, there’s no real way for a group or business (read: church) to participate, but the word on the street is that Google will have something out for them in a couple of weeks. And I expect new features will roll out, and that Google won’t give up on this foray into networking and have learned from the Google Buzz and Google Wave feature and rollout mistakes. (I want Google Reader integration.) Indeed, Google has made getting an invitation like Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket and, yes, I’ve been doing my part to pass along invites. (Leave a comment if you want one.)

Two things make it better than Facebook:

  1. You can parse people you know into distinct groups, which means you can target your voice and can exclude your mother from the saucier parts of your life: the Facebook problem. If this carries to participating organizations, it could help shape its programming and marketing.
  2. It has much more fine-tuned privacy and data controls. Facebook has a terrible pattern of privacy over-reach; Google has a better reputation. Google allows you to export your data — like your contact lists; Facebook? forget it.

Facebook is like old Ma Bell. Most everyone depends on it and puts up with its annoyances to keep getting the bit they want. But I know many people who would give it up in a heartbeat if there was a viable alternative, and I hope Google+ is it. Just a few days in — and with most of the people I’m linked in having joined in the last 72 hours — I can feel the switch happening.

Now, I also have heard that Google +1 will be integrated into Google+; this is its “like” feature, so I’ll be adding a +1 button to this blog’s pages. Here’s how and what you get out of it. There’s also emerging plugins for the Chrome browser that allows Facebook integration, which I’ll examine.

Let's call it a social media experiment

This year, I got as birthday greetings

  • 2 cards
  • 2 emails
  • 2 telephone calls
  • 7 tweets on Twitter
  • 83 87 greetings on Facebook, plus 5 direct messages

I also got three automated emails from business that required my birthdate to register.

The people who greeted me on Facebook ranged from close family (including my mother, who also called) to new acquaintances at G.A. There’s a lesson here about what works today.