Live blogroll gizmo

My buddy David turned me on to a really nice little web app called Feevy that lets you embed an RSS feedreader on your site. Over on the right there you’ll notice a new link under contents called “Blogroll Feed” where I’ve collated all the blogs in the ‘eyes on net pop culture’ blogs in the blogroll, making this your handy dandy one stop shop for that sort of blog action. Hope you find it handy and if there are blogs you think should be included that aren’t, let me know in the comments!

NASCAR gets a Social Network Site

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is spearheading the launch of Infield Parking, a social networking site for NASCAR fans. The cool thing about this one seems to be that they’ve got several drivers lined up to participate in advance of its launch:

Infield Parking is launching in concert with the start of the racing season. Nine drivers will be launching Infield Parking web pages this weekend in addition to Earnhardt Jr. They are Bobby Labonte, Dale Jarrett, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Elliott Sadler, Jamie McMurray, Denny Hamlin and Shane Huffman. Many other NASCAR drivers will be launching pages of their own in the coming weeks.

They’re calling personal profiles “parking spaces” which I have to admit is kind of cute. Says Earndhardt:

“Infield Parking offers fans a cool new way to interact with drivers and the opportunity to connect with other fans around the world,” said Earnhardt Jr., president of Infield Parking. “During the season fans get to watch us race and see us at the track, but Infield Parking will give them a more personal level of access to the drivers and other fans through photos, blogs and video clips. “We came up with the idea for Infield Parking last year and it’s pretty cool to see everything come together as we launch it nationally. With today’s launch, I can’t wait to see the fan response.”

Plus the site’s got a nice looking front page and right there Dale asks for “your help” in providing feedback to make the site the best it can be.

They built a NASCAR track not too far from where I live a few years ago and man, if you ever want to see fandom at its most passionate, check out that scene. For one, what was rural farmland is now a shopping mecca and it is not overstating to say that this track (and the Cabelas and Nebraska Furniture Mart that followed) have transformed the wealth of Wyandotte County, Kansas. For two — and this is the part that gets me all wowwed even though it’s not my scene — drive by on any race weekend and there’s an instant town that’s gone up of RVs belonging to fans who seem to be doing a Grateful Dead like instant community construction project wherever NASCAR may go. It’s clearly a lifestyle as much as a hobby for an awful lot of people, so I suspect this site is going to work out well for them.

MOG, the music social networking site, also makes a point of foregrounding the pages of the musicians who are on there. MySpace has, of course, been working this angle since its inception. If the celebs are really in there nteracting and making things available that fans can’t get elsewhere, then being there becomes a must for the die-hard fan. Add on to that the kind of passionate fan community where fans have already built deep networks of personal connections over the phenomenon, and unless someone blows it, it oughta be gold.

FanBoy Culture

Mark Cuban has a fun post up about “FanBoy Culture.” He’s not talking about the sports fans, he talking about the product fans:

I’m a child of an era when teenagers distrusted anything from government or business and I still harbor some of the same viewpoints from then. So imagine my surprise when in writing about Google, Youtube, Apple and other corporate entities or their products, I got flooded by emails and comments disparaging me for my positions. [...] I got typical teenage feedback “You Suck, Google Rocks”. “Youtube is the new Internet, you are old school Internet”, “BitTorrent is amazing and you are not a geek” and things a lot more personal. Such was my introduction to today’s fanboy.

Whatever happened to Counterculture being a positive attribute ? In today’s fanboy culture, kids are obsessively supporting products. They aren’t “fighting the man”, they “are the man”.

The marketing implications of all of this are fascinating. [...] All marketers dream of having a fanboy base for their products. What is more textbook wonderful than passionate customers ? But like trying to create a video that takes off and becomes viral via Word of Mouth, fanboys happen in spite of marketers, not because of them. The challenge for marketers everywhere is to determine the depth of any fanboy following, how to support it and what the implications are if you don’t match their expectations. Gaming companies have Fanboy advisory groups, I don’t know of any companies outside the gaming world, and certainly not outside the technology world that do.

He goes on to talk about the necessity for all corporations of knowing their fanboys. Obviously, I couldn’t agree more with that assertion. And I love the line “they aren’t fighting the man, they are the man.” Although, if they are the man, what’s up with the turning on them when they don’t match expectations?

The comments on the post are well worth reading and show people really trying to make sense of the fanboy phenomenon — are they just bullies? big brothers teasing little brothers? Or is this the new substitute for religion in a secular society? Is there really a significant difference between being a jerk about your favorite operating system and being a jerk about your favorite basketball team?

One person points out fangirls (what? there are girls on the internet?).

The whole “fanboy” phenomenon throws another twist into online fandom that I don’t think most cultural observers have really picked up on yet. We’re not talking here about creative user-generated content, we’re not talking about building communities, we’re not talking about nuanced engagement with a pop culture product — all things that scholars and critics have been looking at for a while now. We’re talking about knee-jerk promotional activity. What are the motivations here? What are the implications? And what are the dangers of collapsing the ‘fanboy’ activity of spamming blog comments with “You Suck, Google Rocks” with the kind of fan activity that gets into lengthy intelligent debates about the details of whatever google’s done this time. And what are the dangers for corporations of building advisory groups that don’t make that distinction?

It’s not just about knowing your fans and knowing what they say about you, it’s about understanding the different kinds of fans you’ve got, their different ways of engaging what you do, their different needs, their different spheres and levels of influence, and where to concentrate your own energies in making the most of what these very different people do.

Political Bloggers on

So if you’ve been living under a rock, aren’t American, or just don’t care about politics, you might have missed the news that Barack Obama made his official website into a social networking site. The launch was pretty slick but not without problems. Within 24 hours there was trouble stemming from a user-created new group with a racist homophobic title that automatically appeared as the example of what you could do on the site and the secret service found a death threat to Hilary on someone’s blog on there.

My initial reaction to the social network site, thinking like a promoter or a fan, but not like a politician, was “genius.” What I loved about the idea was the power it puts in the hands of his adoring throngs. But, of course, one difference between politics and entertainment (yes, a few do remain) is that those who oppose politicians have more at stake than those who hate the tv show others love so.

So when I went to the political blogger panel I wrote about here, I asked them for their take on the site. The consensus seemed to be that he’s going for the youth vote, and doing it in a powerful way by validating the means of communication that they claim as their own. But the inability to police the site and lack of built in self-moderating technology means he’s opening himself to a lot of dirty tricks he may not be able to contain.

I am fascinated by the willingness to give up control of the message that doing this entails. It is not unlike taking your official corporate site and turning it into a fan site. Goodbye official Lost site, hello I think most of us would agree that there’s a necessary place for both the official site where the message is controlled and the fan sites where we get to make it all our own. Giving up the one for the other is a risky move, but man oh man do I admire him for it.

And p.s. I don’t have a favorite candidate yet myself.

Tired and expired?

I may feel tired, if not expired, but it seems I’m Wired. Thanks Annalee and a Big Welcome to everyone clicking that link on over here to visit! Have a look around, stay a while, get comfy, leave a comment. And, as always, if you know of interesting things I should be writing about, drop me a line.