wrappingmyheadAs I begin to blog here at edSocialMedia, I’m going to show how I began to start to wrap my head around Social Media.


I’m the Director of Technology at a K-12 Independent School.  Part of my job is to keep up with current trends in technology and apply them to education.  Pre-2005, most of the time I did this through magazines, books, listservs, and our local NYC Technology Educators (NYCIST).


Then I saw Will Richardson speak at our yearly New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS) Technology Educators Conference.  I had published a static web site since 1998 for professional and personal use, but this was the first time I realized that there were a lot of other people out there who were doing the same through blogs, and I could learn from them.


cluetrain-ook-midIn 2005, I started reading Will’s blog, and adding blogs to my bloglines account.  I found Stephen Downes’ OL Daily through Will and found a link to this presentation: On Being Radical.  In Downes’ presentation, he described the web site and then book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.  I immediately surfed over to Amazon.com and bought it.


I remember to this day reading the first chapter of The Cluetrain Manifesto, Internet Apocalypso.  I got off the subway at 79th street and kept reading as I walked the few blocks to school — I could not put it down. I felt as though the lens from which I viewed the world was shifting.  Here are a few paragraphs at the end from that first chapter that I read that day:

In fact, the news gets better from here on out. And the first bit of news is that this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.


Inside companies, outside companies, there are only people. All of us work for organizations of some sort, or we’re peddling something. All of us pay the mortgage or the rent. We all buy shoes and books and food and time online, plus the occasional Beanie Baby for the kid. More important, all of us are finding our voices once again. Learning how to talk to one another. Slowly recovering from a near-fatal brush with zombification after watching Night of the Living Sponsor reruns all our lives.


Inside, outside, there’s a conversation going on today that wasn’t happening at all five years ago and hasn’t been very much in evidence since the Industrial Revolution began. Now, spanning the planet via Internet and World Wide Web, this conversation is so vast, so multifaceted, that trying to figure what it’s about is futile. It’s about a billion years of pent-up hopes and fears and dreams coded in serpentine double helixes, the collective flashback déjà vu of our strange perplexing species. Something ancient, elemental, sacred, something very very funny that’s broken loose in the pipes and wires of the twenty-first century.

Every time I read that again I sit back and think, wow,  I wish I could communicate ideas like that.  The role of the Internet as the medium providing human to human communications again.  Communication that is two way.  The age of mass media control is over.


If you have never read it, I highly recommend taking a look at The Cluetrain Manifesto.  It predicted the social media revolution in 1999.


What was the first time you really saw social media changing the world around you?


* Photo from Momentary Glimpse on Flickr

Alex Ragone

Director of Middle and Upper School at City and Country School


  • Pingback: Wrapping My Head Around Social Media - Part 1 : Learning Blog()

  • Steve Ritchie

    Thanks for sharing this, Alex. Very cool to have such a vivid memory of when something this big clicked. Looking forward to part 2.

    And welcome to edSocMe!

  • It seems like the lens is shifting again in some ways. For me, the “click” happened in April of 2008. After no real interest or desire to be on MySpace, I finally caved in and set up a profile on Facebook. It wasn’t soon after that a Twitter account and delicious account followed. It dawned on me that part of the reason for that shift was that I was keenly tuned into President Obama’s campaign in a way that I had not been in previous elections. Embracing social media as a vital communication tool requires taking the first leap of faith that using this powerful medium can and will shape your work and your creative thinking. Great to have you here Alex!

  • Steve and Antonio — Thanks for your warm welcomes.

    Antonio — Yes, I think that Obama’s campaign has popularized social media in an amazing way. His campaign web site and now whitehouse.gov, http://usaservice.org/ and the many other sites they have created are amazing.

    All of this plus the fact that he’s keeping his BlackBerry and will be the first president ever to have a laptop on his desk is just inspiring.

    So when the leader of the free world goes that way, it’s time for everyone to move, right?

    Happy Friday!

  • It is time for everyone to move. No question!

  • Pingback: edSocialMedia » Social Media - Part II - The Long Tail()

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  • The main problem for the social media is Anonymous blogs and commenters are the biggest problem. It gets in the way of being open, honest, and authentic. It is also an indicator of how poorly and rudely we treat each other… civility and politeness have been lost. As an online society, we are timid… we say and write things to each other online that we would never say or write in person.