NNP and NNM Book Review

28 04 2012

Alas, the semester is coming to a close, and my brain can finally take a sigh of relief. This class has covered a lot of material in a short semester’s time, but I have indeed learned a lot through reading, conversing, and immersing. Anyways, enough with the word-count filler – I’ll dive right into the book review of “New New Media” (NM) and “The Networked NonProfit” (NNP). Hopefully you can keep those acronyms straight.

Before I go in depth into what I took away from each book and what my overall ideas are about them, I feel the need to choose a favorite. While I definitely preferred the writing style, readability, and practicality of NNP, I learned more from NM overall. I personally am not a fan of Levinson’s writing style – I often found myself having to skim over sections because I was just getting plain bored. That didn’t really ever happen with NNP. However, Levinson does know his stuff, and he has great insight to the various new new media out there. Had I read NNP and NM outside of the context of the class, I would have probably chosen NNP. But in the first half of the semester, we had so much material and so many activities going on to supplement NM that I feel like I learned the most from that book. So, by the hair on his chinny chin chin, Levinson takes the cake.

I’m going to follow the same format for each book review: pros, cons, and what I learned/took away from the readings. So! Let’s dive in…

Levinson’s New New Media Review

Here is what I liked about Levinson’s NM:

  • Extensive content – He went more in depth with each media tool than I ever anticipated. Levinson went beyond the basic layout and purpose. I like how he talks about different causes and effects each tool has on other media or events. For example, Levinson touches on the “video killed the radio star” topic (video actually helped radio business boom) with YouTube and MTV. YouTube “has made the music video even more of a major player than it was on MTV in the 1980s – an example of a new new medium supplanting a new-ish old medium.” In the next paragraph he talks about YouTube’s potentially killing effect on iTunes. Levinson goes in-depth with these new new media and shows how they are in/coherently existing with other media.
  • Personal stories – you have to admit, for his age, this guy definitely has new new media on lock down. Levinson has had Facebook since shortly after its birth in 2004 (now has 2,000 friends) and MySpace since 2006 (now 6,000 friends). He has gotten his hands dirty with all of them, and his own stories serve as a great testimony.  For example, Levinson discusses Facebook friends as a knowledge-base resource. He posted a status pondering Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann’s absence from MSNBC, and one of his “friends” (a former student of his) promptly replied with an answer. Because of Levinson’s ability to share personal experiences in his book, I was able to open my mind to his stories, which made the entire learning experience that much more beneficial.

Now here’s what I didn’t particularly care for with NM:

  • Drags on occasionally – like I said earlier, sometimes I just grew tired of reading a chapter. A lot of the content is great in NM, but there’s definitely deadwood (well, it’s deadwood to me). Should Levinson change that? Eh…not necessarily. Even though I was not interested, it may be riveting information to someone else. I enjoy his stories, but they could be more concise.

 

  • Too much politics – okay okay before you chew my head off, I will say that ever since the Republican primaries started picking up, I have grown more aware (and fond) of politics. I actually frequently watch MSNBC and read USA Today. HOWEVER, at the time of reading NM, I was extremely indifferent to politics. If I went through and re-read the book now, I probably would enjoy the political stories in NM, but I felt it was still important to talk about – other readers may have felt the same way.

 

  • Touch more on music – I am partially biased on this one, but I feel like I have a valid point. Look at how much attention the music industry gets in the social media world, and vice versa. Twitter is dominated by musicians; Justin Beiber and Lady Gaga have more followers than President Obama. While there is more to new new media than music, I would have liked to see Levinson talk about it more (another reason why my additional chapter was written on this).

What I learned:

  • I’m not going to lie, I never had a blog prior to this class, I never took an interest in them, and I didn’t understand them much. Levinson’s 2nd chapter gave me a good crash course on blogging. I learned about comment moderation (using CAPTCHA), how comments can be beneficial (an extra set of eyes and a brain can help catch your errors), group blogging, and the most interesting to me – monetizing your blog. Being in Public Relations/Advertising, the last one interested me the most. Tools such as Google AdSense, Amazon Associates, PayPerPost, PayPal donation widgets, and good ol’ fashioned “pamphlets.” Levinson brings about a good question whether or not advertising (“pamphlets”) is ethical on blogs.

 

  • Levinson answered the question “Is Facebook or Myspace better?” well: “whatever their objective differences and advantages, their ultimate value is the good they do for each individual user’s needs.” He also made an excellent point about “first love syndrome,” something I never thought about. I started on Facebook before joining MySpace, and as Levinson would have predicted, I never grew fond of MySpace like I did so quickly with Facebook.

 

  • The culture of Wikipedia editing is more dramatic and complex than an outsider would imagine. Levinson talks about the two types of editors: inclusionists and exclusionists. Inclusionists want to keep and expand entries while exclusionists want to limit them. Even within those two groups are other groups such as deletionists and mergists. Additionally, there are Wikipedia administators and “super” administrators. It’s a structure that closely resembles that of American politics. While there is a constant back-and-forth battle, it creates a healthy balance necessary to keep everyone involved in check.

 

  • Although he doesn’t explicitly say “here’s how you can be successful with this tool,” Levinson shows what has worked and what hasn’t. Much better way to learn how to go about finding one’s “niche” with the tool. For example, with Podcasting, he talks about Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl podcast. No one would ever think that grammar could lead to such success, but because English semantics were presented in a witty manner with a medium that was “cool” and “fun,” she quickly earned 7 million listens and downloads.

 

  • Cyberbullying sucks way more than I ever thought. He doesn’t talk too extensively about it, but it prompted a lot of discussion with our class – mind blown. Prior to reading NM, I hadn’t paid much attention to the dangerous power that lies within the ability to take on a false identity. Hiding behind a computer opens up endless possibilities to bully. I was appalled to read about the Lori Drew case – who would have thought a 49-year-old mother could possess such bullying capabilities.

 

  • What Digg is. I actually had no idea what Digg was prior to reading NM. Levinson explains how diggs, buries, shouting, and becoming “popular” works. I don’t think Digg is really all that great, but I’m glad he talked about it. As a new media major, I need to understand all the tools – not just the ones I like.

Kanter/Fine’s The Networked Nonprofit

What I liked about NNP:

  • Writing style – It was much easier for me to read than NM, which was incredibly helpful considering the short amount of time we had to read it.

 

  • More legalistic – Things you’ll find in NNP that are not in NM are boldface key terms and bulleted lists or descriptions. Kanter and Fine give a more straightforward approach on each topic. They provide definitions and list categories, tactics, components, etc. NNP’s legalistic style is probably what made it easier for me to read. I’m not a fan of deadwood and stylish writing – I like concise, and NNP did that very well.

 

  • Good examples – I am quite out of the loop when it comes to nonprofits and new new media. I think NNP would have had a hard time convincing me how important new media is to the nonprofit world (sounds silly, I know – but humans are close-minded by nature) without the examples.

What I didn’t like about NNP:

  • Not much – I like the book a lot. I would have definitely taken a different (and not as good) approach to our project with OFA-ND had I not read this book. Every nonprofit organization needs to read this book. I guess the only real bummer was how quickly we had to fly through the book. I would like to be able to go back through it and really take the time to highlight things, write down thoughts, and take away even more from the book.

What I learned:

  • Understanding social networks – I never really took time to look at the actual structure of social networks, but NNP broke it down into nodes, ties, clusters, and (very importantly) hubs. Hubs answer the question of “how do you get something to go viral?” Also, the idea of drawing out the organization’s social network is very smart. It could be surprising who an organization’s hubs actually are.

 

  • Creating a social culture – Cultures are hard to create. They happen quite organically, but taking a look from an outside view can help an organization change or create a social culture in a way that works well with them. I like how NNP also addresses how hard change is and what our fears can be.

 

  • The importance of transparency – There are three categories of transparency: fortress, transactionals, and transparents . NNP showed me not only how important it is to be transparent, but how to be transparents. The book explicitly states five great components to a transparent organization.

 

  • Simplicity – I am still struggling to understand what NNP is talking about how complexity is a barrier to becoming a networked nonprofit and how to simplify your organization. But I still wanted to list it as a learning point because it has sparked my attention. Am I right in saying it’s mostly about time management?

 

  • Learn to let go – Our nonprofits are near and dear to our hearts. They’re our babies. We want to control what’s going on and what people are saying in the social media world about our organization. However, people can sense ingenuity. They can sense when organizations have too tight of a grip on the culture and flow in the media. An organization’s connection and communication with their public thrives best when the organization let’s go. Let things happen organically and keep an open eye and ear out.

Overall Thoughts

In a nutshell, these are excellent books. They are great for this class, and I would recommend using them again. NM is great for students looking to learn how to immerse themselves in the new new media world. Read on its own…I’m not sure if it would have as great of an impact. What I mean by that is our class has a lot to supplement the readings: discussions, additional reading material, Dr. Brook’s lectures, tool use requirements, etc. The book definitely works best in the context provided with this class.

For NNP, that book should be read again and again by nonprofits. It’s an excellent handbook and testimony to using social media as a nonprofit organization. The concepts in this book are not limited to just nonprofit use – there are many things I learned that I will apply to other social media uses. NNP’s writing style and content is easier for readers who may not have the best idea how to work with social media tools.

Phew! That was a lot of reviewing. I did put a lot of thought into these two books and how I felt about each of them. Hopefully this is A-worthy material I provided. Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments if you desire. I’m open to discussion.

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28 04 2012
1500 Words Actually Goes Fast « Electronic Communication @ NDSU

[…] whaaa??? Anyways, you can read my 1,567-word review on New New Media and The Networked Nonprofit on my blog. Rate this: Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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