Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Facing up to Facebook

Having predicted doom and gloom for aid agencies who are turning to social networks (sort of), I was inundated with emails defending Facebook's relevance in 2008 and now comes a report from the Centre for Policy Studies (see disclosure below) that analyses how it will force politicians to be more open. Robert Colvile's theory (headline grabbing stat: the BNP's website has the same market share as all of the other major political parties combined) is that so far politicians in this country have failed to take advantage of the web, which will prove just as revolutionary to politics as TV and radio did in the 20th century.

His argument is that technology transformed politicians from masters of rhetoric (Gladstone, Pitt commanding the Houses of Parliament) to communicators able to project an intimate image on television (Wilson, Thatcher, Blair).

Web 2.0 and its successors means this will change again: politicians won't worry so much about facing down Paxo as being more responsive, more interactive - and more open, due to Google's ability to keep on record previous remarks/policies that may come back to haunt them (although the Sunday Times reports there are already companies working on cleaning up your internet profile; useful for those who may fear Facebook indiscretions could stymie them).

Aid agencies could certainly consider these lessons. How to target appeals in future; will the old style DEC still work? Probably for the tsunami style natural disasters, but not so much for the long term chronic ones.....how they will be put under pressure even more quickly if they fail to deliver (those guerilla aid workers were keen on blogging). And whether they, like politicians, will be put under pressure from activists - Facebook already has groups criticising Amnesty's abortion policy.

*Disclosure: I sit opposite Robert when I work in the Telegraph and he has been known to buy me cups of tea and vice versa.

Lent update: These are the things I now really want to buy currently and can't: a stopwatch that means I can change tracks on my iPod while running (I didn't even know such a thing existed until a week ago, but now am convinced it will change my life); the DVDs of Cold Feet after reading a James Nesbitt interview in the Observer; tracksuit bottoms with a mobile phone pocket in them (so I can call my brothers to jeer at the end of the Liverpool half marathon in two weeks); a copy of Fateful Choices, by Ten Decisions that Changed the World by Ian Kershaw. I feel this attempt to combat consumerist thoughts isnt really working.

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