Monday, September 28, 2009

Bi-weekly Interview: Professor Joseph Reagle, Wikipedia Expert

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Professor Joseph Reagle is an adjunct professor in Steinhardt’s department of Media, Culture and Communication. Professor Reagle is an expert on Wikipedia and collaborative communities. He has been quoted multiple times in The New York Times as an expert in this field and has a book coming out on the topic by MIT Press next year. Comm Club VP Natan Edelsburg sat down with Professor Reagle and discussed Wikipedia in the news, how collaborative communities have evolved, and how important collaboration tools and Wikipedia are for education. (This interview has been edited and condensed).

For this week's interview we have included a (poorly edited) clip from the time we spent with Professor Reagle. Enjoy!

Natan Edelsburg: We saw you in The New York Times this summer and were very curious about collaborative communities. How did you start studying them?

Professor Joseph Reagle: I started out as a computer science student at the beginning of the 90s. Then I got interested in technology policy so I went to MIT’s Technology Policy program. I got interested in blogs, wikis and RSS, so I came to NYU [in 2003] and studied the way people were collaborating to produce content on Wikipedia.

NE: Why were you turned off by blogs?

JR: I ended up thinking the blogosphere was a bit too narcissistic; people were only concerned with A-list bloggers. On Wikipedia, people still argue, but they argue about a greater good and things that are bigger than their own ego.

NE: How have wikis changed since you started studying them in 2003?

JR: They certainly have more capabilities. People are into micro-blogging now. But the genre hasn’t changed. Wikipedia was only 2 years old when I began in 2003. Now the English Wikipedia has 3 million articles. They have actually reached a threshold with creative growth, article creation and active users. These things are stabilizing and even dropping now.

NE: What did your dissertation focus on specifically?

JR: The title was, “In Good Faith, Wikipedia, Collaboration and the Pursuit of the Universal Encyclopedia.” To unpack that a bit, I was interested in Wikipedia collaborations and the cultural norms that facilitate collaboration. I wanted to frame it in an historical context. I argued that trying to come up with a thing like Wikipedia has been a long pursued vision for 100 years.

NE: Where was this idea 100 years ago?

JR: H.G. Wells had a vision for a world encyclopedia. He was quite concerned with the changes that were happening around the world, the potential for global war. He thought that with the advanced technology of his time (microfilm, loose-leaf binders and index cards) somehow society would be able to create an encyclopedia. Not only would it be for every student with microfilm, it would help bring world peace. He thought that if we just knew each other better we would like each other. My work looks into why it took so long to achieve something like Wikipedia.

NE: Have you ever thought about teaching a class on Wikipedia and collaborative communities?

JR: I think it would be a fun class and of great interest to students. Clay Shirky at ITP (Tisch’s Interactive Telecommunications Program) has taught a similar class looking more broadly at crowd sourcing and social media that includes a good section on Wikipedia. He wrote a book with these themes titled, “Here Comes Everybody.”

NE: Do you use ‘collaborative communities’ mechanisms in your classes?

JR: Typically not. It’s certainly ironic. I like the face-to-face interactions that I have with students. I use some old fashioned email technology. They go through a filter and go on a web page when I ask questions.

I too have been frustrated with some of the IT capabilities they have here. NYU did experiment with a wiki platform. They did it for around 6 classes in 2007. We’re often forced to use Blackboard. I loathe Blackboard. I don’t know about the Google system, which brings up the issue of giving out your educational intellect to a private company. But there are certainly other platforms too.

NE: You are often quoted in The New York Times as a Wikipedia expert. Can you speak about the topics that were newsworthy?

JR: A lot of the interest in Wikipedia has been asking to what extent it is really open. It is the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” People want to know, “is that really true?” Wikipedia has certain benefits and demerits. Benefits are that anyone can edit them. Demerits are that anyone can be disruptive and be boneheads.

Is Wikipedia open? That has been one of the subjects of my research and interest. One example is the Afghan story. It was believed by The New York Times that journalists had been kidnapped. They thought that reporting on this could cause the journalists more danger and asked publications not to publish anything about it. The New York Times even asked Al Jazeera not to cover the story. They also asked Wikipedia to not put that info on there. However, someone was trying to add it. This person wasn’t identifiable, so they couldn’t ask him to keep this on the DL. They were, however, able to delete his contribution because he didn’t have a good enough source (which is a Wikipedia policy). Then they locked the page.

Because of this people said, “Oh my god, Wikipedia isn’t really open.” But, Wikipedia decided it was the right thing to do morally in this particular case.

NE: Would you ever let a student of yours use Wikipedia as a source?

The former president of the America Library Association, Michael Gorman, said “professors who use or allow students to use Wikipedia is like feeding them a diet of Big Macs.” Nonetheless, sometimes in my bibliography or resources I’ll have dated versions of Wikipedia articles that I knew were appropriate. We all use Wikipedia; there is no way of denying it. You can cite Wikipedia but it’s not authoritative. I counsel students to cite Wikipedia but then cite one of the sources from the page as well. This happens with other scholarship as well. You can read a footnote, but sometimes that’s not what the source actually ends up saying. That said, Wikipedia becomes a teaching moment in itself.

It’s a teaching moment particularly for a department like ours which is about media and media literacy. This allows us to understand the socially constructed character of knowledge and gives us an opportunity to engage with what we’re skeptical about in the media. The professors who don’t follow the policy that I do might have very good reasons for it. They might have seen plagiarism in their class or maybe they just don’t understand it. Hopefully with my work and the other good work out there they will understand the appropriate and inappropriate ways to use it.

NE: What’s your advice to students who want to pursue research like you did? Research track versus professional?

JR: Go to graduate school, which is what I had to do – twice. First to get my masters and then my PhD. I have had students in Steinhardt talk to me about their theses. It’s a great opportunity to work with a professor to engage in a precise issue and write something specific about it.

(Edited by: Sara Saldi)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Societal Social - Comm Club Attends Social Media Society Launch!

Hey guys! Abi here. Natan and I just got back from Societal Social, an evening celebrating the launch of the Social Media Society (@soosocial). This is the first society of its kind, focusing primarily on social media. We all know about blogging, tweeting, facebooking, and myspacing (yes, these are all terms accepted by but have you ever thought about how big of a communications industry these sites are?

For this reason Comm club wants to get involved. By meeting professionals in this field we can plan for guest speakers and learn about internship opportunities. Natan and I were the only students at the event and people were very excited to talk to us. We met the founder of Social Media Society and are looking forward to collaborating with them by becoming a student chapter.

Social media is a huge up and coming industry and we’re really excited to get involved! For those of you interested in digital marketing, PR, media, ad sales, or anything that has to do with social media stay tuned for updates on the situation!

Update: Comm Club covered in MediaPost's Just An Online Minute blog!

Update: Here's a very poorly edited clip we put together from the night. Hope you enjoy it.


-Abi Bock Director of Social Media Society Outreach

Monday, September 21, 2009

Comm Club Attends “Google: Experiments in Digital Creativity” Panel at Advertising Week

Natan here again. The other panel at Advertising Week today that is worth noting and sharing with everyone was Google’s “Experiments in Digital Creativity”. I could go on forever “geeking out” to the cool things their creative people showed us, but instead I would like to just share with you the presentation itself which can be found at

Here were some of my favorite Google inventions from the presentation:

1. Example of clickable videos - booneoakley – redirects you to their YouTube page, which is a clickable video. My words wouldn't give it justice, so I recommend you just check it out and see the possibilities of centralizing a brand or a company through YouTube. The possibilities are limitless. A university could present the brands of their school in a whole new light through a medium that our demographic loves going to.

2. Zappos - what shoes are being bought everywhere -

3. Monopoly, Google Maps style -

4. Make history - 9/11 memorial, sponsored by Google -

5. Stweet – Tweet with a picture of exactly where you are standing based on Google’s coordinates -

6. – Create beautiful word clouds. -

7. Augmented Reality - Postal Service’s feature that lets you see how big a box will be for your package -

8. Google Wave – Google’s whole new approach to thinking about different Google Apps -

9. Google Trends – “In aggregate, what people are thinking about and why” -

We would love to hear your thoughts on the presentation, especially ways that NYU could benefit/use some of Google’s Apps or APIs.

-Natan Edelsburg, Vice President

Comm Club Attends BusinessWeek’s Best Global Brands 2009 featuring Microsoft, Audi America, KFC and Cisco

I had the pleasure of attending BusinessWeek’s Best Global Brands panel today as a “Delegate" of New York University (according to my badge). As I had expected and hoped, the conversation that Burt Helm, BusinessWeek’s Marketing Editor, moderated ended up focusing on Social Media. Each executive (from Microsoft, Audi America, KFC and Cisco) had his or her own perspective on how it can and should be used as a marketing tool.

Here are the live notes (condensed and edited to the best of my ability) from this panel. Please pay attention to the bolded inserts which are my attempt to comment on the statements they made from the perspective of an NYU student and Comm Club Vice President. Also stay tuned for embedded video from, once they put up the content.

Apologies for the poor image quality.

Monday, September 21, 2009 2pm-2:45pm


Javier Benito – (JB) Chief Marketing Officer, KFC

Scott Keogh – (SK) Chief Marketing Officer, Audi of America

Marilyn Mersereau (MM) – Senior Vice President, Cisco

David Webster (DW) – GM. Brand and Marketing Strategy, Microsoft


Burt Helm, Marketing Editor, BusinessWeek

Jez Frampton, CEO of Interbrand, gave the introduction.

Interbrand is the firm that provides the statistics each year for BusinessWeek’s Best Global Brands.


JB (KFC): Our biggest challenges….are all related to disposable income, how do we make sure consumers are spending money on our brand and making it their brand of choice.

SK (Audi): In my role it’s incumbent to keep optimism in the system because if it turns the other way there are a whole bunch of problems.

MM (Cisco): – We watch the Cisco ranking by Interbrand very closely… My job is to teach people at Cisco what branding means, to teach our inside executives what the brand means….Our second biggest challenge – we grow through acquisitions…130 companies…We acquired Pure Digital who thinks there Flip is a great brand too. “ARE WE A HOUSE OF BRANDS OR A BRANDED HOUSE? THIS IS ONE OF THE CHALLENGES WE DEAL WITH.”

I capitalize this quote not because she was yelling, but because it really stood out to me as something important to consider when dealing with such a big brand. This is of course something NYU probably deals with on a daily basis. There is Steinhardt, Stern, Gallatin, Tisch, but there is also this one larger NYU brand that appeals to many of the thousands of students who apply.



BH: David Webster: Asked about the launch of "Bing", a new online search engine

DW: Is it Bing, or Bing by Microsoft? These are key questions. People needed to know that it was from somebody they had heard of. In order to even have the credibility….by in large around the world consumers have an enormous trust in Microsoft.

BH: How do you silence bloggers and press versus perception of actual customers, how do you go about thinking about that.

MM: When I do something outbound, when we talk about a new product, our server business, we launched on blogs, where technologists were talking about it first. Then, later on, more traditional media. Most marketers tend to focus on outbound stuff…” She finished off her statement basically saying how often marketers tend to try to find new customers instead of trying to find already existent fans of their product. As the best social media practitioners in advertising have already been teaching, the uniqueness and importance in social media is the ability to let the fans of your brand come and find you. It is very important to be out there in different social spaces so they can find you when they start looking.

SK: We have all sorts of mechanisms to track things. We get back to people. Enthusiasts make sense, we’re an enthusiast brand.

BM: How does Microsoft play in social media?

DW: If you looked at “echo chamber.” Critical thing is when people are actually influential and how to engage them. We have been very active. We have 10,000 bloggers at the company, Twitter accounts for every sub-brand.We crowd-sourced the creative we ran on TV –took user-created videos and put them back on TV. We used it because it allows you to have a conversation. But, don’t get distracted by 5 people, if you overreact to negative statements it will feed into their empowerment.

BM: Last Social Media question for Scott: Is Social media the best marketing medium for building trust, is it useful period?

SK: I’m asked by many people at Audi, why don’t we make this a social media cause, or uploadable. The odds to make it become a viral success is small. Often we just need to focus on selling cars and investing in the future. Social Media from our point of view would be more for customer service, customer relations environment. Not just a pure marketing tool.

The rest of the panel was extremely interesting and due to Advertising Week’s policy on recording I was not able to capture it. I did however ask the first question when the panel was opened up to questions:

My Question: “This is a question for David from Microsoft. I am a student from New York University and every year I notice that most students are purchasing Macs. What is Microsoft doing to compete in this market and to make their computers as sexy as Apple’s products seem to students?”

DW: We have an entire team dedicated to this. For operating with bookstores, the fact that our products are much cheaper compared to Apple’s products, especially during the economic downturn. We are heavily invested in .edu engagement. Also, we have other brands with a “high degree of relevance and engagement.” If you have a Xbox, with a PC you can connect them and get high-def movies, etc.”

The second question from the audience was: What social media spaces do you engage in?

DW – I tweet, I Facebook, personal blog, post videos occasionally on YouTube, I dabble in pretty much everything. I blog through Facebook to over 150 of my team.

SK: Twitter, Facebook

MM: Social Media as a broadcast, “I see a lot of guys from high school that remember me”

-Natan Edelsburg, Vice President, Communications Club

Thursday, September 17, 2009

First meeting Great Success!

First off, thank you to everyone who came to tonight’s meeting. We had a truly awesome turnout, and we really appreciate your interest! Stay tuned for an amazing video from the meeting!
: Here is the video! We hope you enjoy it!

This is going to be a great year for Comm Club. We already have some wonderful events in the works, and we loved hearing your input. Studio tours and internship panels both had a great reception. Helping out with Steinhardt’s Undergraduate Conference and a potential partnership with the Women in Communications Club were also discussed.

We were really happy to have people approaching us after the meeting with more event ideas of their own. Remember that we are here for you guys, and we want to help you do what it is that YOU want to do. Please email us at with any ideas that you have for events

Also remember that we would love for you to write for our blog. Anything at all related to media, culture, and communication applies. It can be something as serious as a description of an advertising seminar you attended or as silly as a weekly report on Gossip Girl product placement. Remember, having something that you’ve written appear in an NYU blog can really help when you need writing samples to supplement your resume!

Since today’s time seemed to work for everyone, we are going to keep our monthly meetings on Wednesday nights in the middle of the month. Our next meeting will be Wednesday, October 14th at the same place and time (7:30pm on the third floor of Pless Hall). We look forward to seeing you all there!

We also really want to thank James and Kaplan for supporting our first meeting. Without their help it would not have been possible!

On Sunday October 4th @ 12 at NYU (Room TBA), NYU Comm Club, in conjunction with Kaplan Test Prep & Admissions, will be sponsoring a campus-wide opportunity for students to take a practice GRE, LSAT & MCAT administered under simulated testing conditions. This Practice Test is a terrific opportunity for you to assess your test-taking skills while learning valuable strategies to help you ace the real test. Since the admissions process has grown increasingly competitive in recent years, a high score on your entrance exam can give you a significant edge!

If you are interested in attending this free event, simply email us ( with your name, email, phone # and the exam that you would like to take. Every person who registers for the Practice Test will earn the NYU Comm Club $1. So, if 50 people register for any of the tests, the club will earn $50. Not only does it benefit you but the club also!

Please share this information with anyone you know and have them email us if they are interested in attending!

Lastly, Look out for emails from us about upcoming events. Thanks again.

The Executive Board

(Edited by Sara Saldi)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Comm Club's First Meeting!

Just a reminder that today, Wednesday September 16th, is our first meeting of the year!

Please join us for FREE PIZZA at 7:30pm in the THIRD FLOOR lounge of PLESS HALL (82 Washington Square East - across from the Silver Building).

We will be discussing potential events and asking everyone about their ideas for the upcoming semester. Some things we have planned for the year include a new and improved Comm Club Blog, free movies, studio tours, TV show tapings, and more.

Please email us at or tweet us at @nyucommclub if you have any questions. Otherwise, see you tonight!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bi-Weekly Interview: Michaela Kron, WSN University Editor

Comm Club has decided to begin a bi-weekly interview column featuring influential and interesting people that are connected to Media, Culture, and Communications. For our first interview, we sat down with Michaela Kron on September 10, 2009. Michaela is a sophomore MCC major and the University Editor at the Washington Square News.

How did you get involved with the paper?

Michaela Kron: I was the editor of my high school newspaper at North Springs High School in Atlanta, Georgia. Also, the summer after my senior year I interned with the publisher of three local newspapers in Atlanta: The Sandy Springs Reporter, The Buckhead Reporter and Brookhaven. It was a natural progression for me to work for WSN.

What did you cover?

MK: The summer after my senior year they gave me lighter stuff, more feature-y fun stories. This past summer I covered more in-depth, serious stuff.

How are those newspapers doing this year?

MK: Really well, actually. Local newspapers are thriving because people want more local news.

So you already have an amazing portfolio to show your work; that’s wonderful. How did you first get involved with journalism what made you want to write?

MK: I’ve always liked writing. It’s interesting because English wasn’t my first language, Russian was my first. My family is from there and they decided to teach me Russian when I was young. I started learning English in Kindergarten and got better by second grade. I was determined to be good at it so naturally it happened for me. I was never a good math or science person, anyway.

Why didn’t you apply to NYU’s Journalism school?

MK: I didn’t necessarily want to go into journalism; I wanted to look into the broader scope of communications. When I saw the program Media, Culture, and Communications those three words were so interesting and all those things are something I am so interested in. NYU was my first choice and I applied early decision.

When you started covering for WSN what did you first write about?

MK: I was a contributing writer. My first couple of stories were for the city/state section then I gravitated more towards university issues. My first story never actually ran. I worked on it with a partner. At the time, there was a study done saying that there was a higher probability of earthquakes occurring in Manhattan. We spoke to some professors and students, but it never ran. Then I wrote about a program at Columbia requiring students to do community service, and that one did run.

What were you doing during the “Take Back NYU” event last year?

MK: Our desk editor had emailed everyone. The second day I was out there at 6am. It was very cold and my legs were very numb. They never came out to the balcony like we had hoped but we waited there for a very long time.

What do you have planned as an editor this year?

MK: We have a bunch of new freshman writers and writers in general. I’m really focused on working on WSN conventions with them in terms of writing and making sure they understand what it takes. I’m mostly just focused on finding a lot of good stories and searching in places where you wouldn’t think to look.

What are your plans after NYU?

MK: It’s kind of tough because I am considering a bunch of different paths now. I might consider media law and going to law school after this.

What advice do you have for Media, Culture and Communications students?

MK: Get involved in WSN or outside internships. There are so many opportunities. Put yourself out there. Journalism isn’t very easy and it definitely takes some work and dedication. Always be willing to learn!

Make sure to check out WSN’s new website:

(Edited by Sara Saldi)