I’ve noted the parallels between grassroots internet political activity and fandom on here several times, but if you ever doubted I had a point, check out, a social networking site for supporters of his presidential bid. Launching this just days after making his candidacy official in a speech in which he called for what the bloggers like to call “fatter internet tubes*,” it just goes to show that whatever his political strengths and weaknesses, this guy gets the internet and has good insight into how to get the people who want to identify with you to rally around and start working for you. He’s been called a rock star, and he’s sure working the Net like one. Here’s the touch that really nails it: At the very bottom it reads “Powered by Obama ’08 (and supporters just like you).” Genius. Though I’d get rid of those parentheses.

* Bloggers do a lot of appropriating stupid things politicians say about the internet into their own language. First they started saying “the internets” to mock Bush who used that term in his State of the Union address last year. The “tubes” terminology comes from Sen. Stevens of the ghastly DOPA legislation in a speech where he demonstrated his ignorance of that which he was proposing to ban. Co-opting language is a good form of resistance in many ways, look at “queer” for a good example, but in this case I wonder if it ends up reinforcing the perspectives of the ignorant rather than serving as a form of challenge.

Update: Fred Stutzman has posted a thoughtful analysis of the Obama site here.

Wrapup of week’s online music developments

In case you don’t follow these things as closely as I, there were some interesting developments (or potential ones anyway) in online music delivery this week. First, Steve Jobs published an open letter urging record companies to drop DRM (yet he showed no interest in dropping DRM from any of the independent records sold through iTunes music store), and now EMI is considering selling their whole catalogue as non-DRM mp3s. EMI has often been one of the more forward-thinking majors on this issue, so if anyone’s going to lead, they’re good candidates.

Meanwhile on a different front, and Warner Music Group reached a deal to allow the entire WMG catalogue to be streamed through’s radio, which will dramatically increase the size of their streamable catalogue and ought to get more people listening to more WMG music. Good news so long as the indies don’t get too squeezed out of rotation as a result. also debuted their new upgrade this week, about which most users seem to be saying “and the point is…?” Major usability issues left untouched, radio moved to the center of the screen where no one seems to want it (as they made clear during the beta only to be, once again, ignored). But the exportable radio feature is massively cool, though I still can’t get it to embed in this page (I did get it to embed just fine in my KU site). Those of you yearning to listen to NancyRadio, can however find it here.

I hate to rag on because overall they do a brilliant job and I am, frankly, totally addicted to the site and I so desperately want them to be flawless (fandom, anyone?). They did incorporate one of the pieces of feedback I insisted on in the beta (though the implimentation left something to be desired). Plus my explorations of the alternatives thus far have shown me that they all have problems and I still think that for most purposes, is the best of the alternatives.

But as I have groused about on this blog before, seems to make the same mistake over and over again, which some users have characterized as “adding bells and whistles” while not getting the core problems fixed. And it does trouble me no end that this is now the second beta period in a row where the #1 dominant response from the subscribers doing the beta testing was left unchanged in the upgrade. I think it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of users who cared enough to give feedback, and I think the attention to things like radio placement, which was not broken, paired with seeming inattention to things that are broken also makes users question their priorities. I see in this the classic tension and power struggle between fans and producers, in which producers want input and feedback only if it supports what they already want to do, but to give the fans/users what they want outright is just giving up too much control. I know from running the Association of Internet Researchers that you can never get it right for everyone, for everything you do to please one group, another group will object (for instance, with our conferences, people wanted more diversity and more time to present their papers, but they also wanted fewer concurrent panels). But when feedback is totally consistent, I think you ought to give the people what they want, even if it’s not what you want them to want.

(p.s. I know some staff read this from time to time, please feel free to respond in comments!)

Branding MySelf has a long click list so that you, yes you, can create a little gizmo to put on your profiles and websites so that everyone can see how you brand yourself. Or rather, how you define yourself through brands. Here’s what I’d look like if I went wild:


I know it’s all in fun (kinda) but these things really bug me. For one, they’re not clickable, so that if I see that icon I can’t click it and get to your page, I can’t click the flickr to get to flickr. More than that, though, it’s a weird hodgepodge way to define yourself as the combination of products you don’t get a say in creating.

To say nothing of all the things that aren’t there at all. In music, for instance, I can brand myself as a fan of the Libertines or U2, but that’s about it on my genre, and neither of them are in my top 50. I can mark myself as having a Fujifilm camera, but not an Olympus even though that’s a nicer camera. I can choose Johnny Depp as a favorite actor, but I don’t get any actresses to choose from at all. I get Pepsi, but no Diet Pepsi. Baileys but no Glenfiddich.

But the fact that the site’s there at all, with its long strange lists of almost-random (and obvious Deutsch-o-centric) choices for which icons you want to associate yourself with, and the fact that these things are popping up all over the net, shows once again how people are more and more eager and willing to identify themselves in terms of taste and brands.

What bothers me most of all is that it shows that it’s not enough to merely USE the products now, we need to advertise for them as well. Ok, need is overstated, but I just don’t get the hunger to mark myself as a Mac using, Toyota driving, apple and orange juice drinking, chocolate and licorice eating, Solitaire playing Pisces where e’re my internet travels take me. But then, I identified with William Gibson’s Cayce in Pattern Recognition who never wore anything with logos and obsessively sanded the buttons of her jeans until the brand name was gone. I loved the scene where she hyperventilated in the Tommy Hilfiger section of the department store.  I’m not so clinical, but I figure if I’ve paid for a product already, they ought to pay ME to advertise it for them. Coming Soon

Not content with a mere Super Bowl victory, those Indianapolis Colts are now out to conquer the world of social networking! They are planning to launch “” (hmmm, wonder what inspired that name?) which they describe as:

a free, on-line community built by Colts fans, for Colts fans. The system will be free for registered users. Members will be able to create personal profiles, arrange their own pages, and connect with other fans anywhere, anytime, inside the Colts Fan Network.

Although they say this, they also say that the site is owned by the Colts and there’s a humongo AT&T logo on the page with this announcement so one does wonder what will happen should those fans start getting more critical than the club is comfortable with. What happens if, oh, say Baltimore decides to woo them to their city and the fans all turn?

Along with the presumably massive amounts of sports talk, and the social network site-standards of blogging, email, and groups, they also say the site will have reviews: allows you to read reviews on many products created by fellow Colts Fans like you! Browse through automobile reviews, fashion reviews, food reviews, entertainment reviews, and more. Want to review a product? The tools are all there for you to express your opinions on goods and services.

Now that promise strikes me as odd. With so many review sites out there already, what is the special expertise or shared world view that a Colts fan has that your average epinions or cnet reader doesn’t?

They also discuss that they already have a fan forum and the hoped-for implications of this network on that forum:

Our fan forum (at is already a vibrant, ongoing conversation among avid Colts fans. When the fan network launches, the forum will expand to include more topics, more people, and more interaction than ever before.

Usually you get social networks where there weren’t forums, or the forums arise out of and within the social networks, so I’m curious to see what really happens to the forums once a network launches and how the two spaces will be integrated. How do you get a bunch of people to invest in building a social network AND bring more people topics and interaction to the old space? (win the Super Bowl?)

What a good fangirl am I

Didn’t want to let this one fall between the tracks — the wonderful Joel Orff, whose praises I have sung here before — has done another comic strip illustrating one of my tales of fandom. Actually, it’s not just any of my tales of fandom, it’s the big one. The one that consumed and defined me for years. It’s odd now to have moved past that phase enough that I can share the story in a format like this. At the time I hardly ever told anyone, lest it seem too much like boasting, or like exploiting celebrity for my own gain (someone who was my friend at the time told me it took him a long time to realize I didn’t talk about so as not to seem egotistical about it, he thought I didn’t talk about it because I was too conceited to share it with others). But now that it’s ancient history, I’ll claim that piece of me out loud.