Odds and Ends: A very brave woman, YouTube as a game, and snowstorm web traffic

December 1, 2006

This post is more like an old fashioned weblog–a few interesting things I came across in the last 24 hours.

First, an incredibly brave Arab-American from LA who is engaging the Islamic community in very lively debate on Al-Jazeera. First, hats off to Al-Jazeera to allow this woman to speak (that very comment belies my bias–shared by most Westerners I suspect–that the Islamic world has little tolerance for free speech). I encourage you to view this via newsvine because I believe this is the kind of debate that is needed within the Arab and Islamic world if we are to move beyond the status quo. But, I would much prefer she or some other would come at this from a Muslim perspective. It is easy to see in the question: Are you a heretic? how easily her viewpoint will be dismissed by those most needing to consider her words.

The second item is from blogger Max Kalehoff, VP at Neilsen BuzzMetrics, who makes the point that YouTube’s growing popularity may be because it fits the criteria of a game.

Finally, a little closer to home, we’ve had a big snowstorm here in the usually rainy Pacific Northwest and one of our users of PIER is a school district in the region. They used PIER (an online communications management program) to push info out to parents and others interested about school closures. PIER makes it very easy to create messages and “push” them via email, fax, or text to voice telephone messages. The website run by PIER simultaneously publishes the information as well. We were wondering why their hit count went over 500,000 on their website–it’s a moderate size school district of less than 20,000 students. But the answer was that there was a bit of delay in the normal flow of pushed information out to the parents as the district leaders were trying to decide whether to open or not. So the parents were hitting the website over and over wondering if they needed to arrange for child care and the like.

Several critical points here: these are people who would normally rely on local radio for school closure info and wait (often in frustration) while the station got around to announcing the relevant news to them. Second, when their thirst for current info wasn’t filled by email when they wanted it, they went to the well (the website). And when they found that dry of info as well, they went back and back and back until their thirst was quenched.

A message for communicators–when faced with thirsty audiences, give them something–even if it is to tell them when you expect to have the important information they need.

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