This transcript is from a PodTech.net podcast at:
http://www.podtech.net/home/technology/1367/girl-geeks-hanging-out-with-elizabeth-edwards

Guest: Elizabeth Edwards
Host: Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show

Well hi, my name is Maryam Scoble, and you're watching the Scoble Show. Today, we are at the ConvergeSouth Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, and this morning we watched Ms. Elizabeth Edwards give a passionate and informed speech about building communities online. We were all worried that this would be a politically inspired debate, but she was great on stage. I felt like I learned a lot, and so I'm going to let you guys all learn from her as well. I'm really honored to have her as my second interview on The Scoble Show. I can't believe we got her, but she has been graceful enough to address me and you guys. So, here we go.

Elizabeth Edwards
I can't believe you asked me, I was actually pleased -- really pleased that you did. Of course it was an unconference so I learned as much from the audience, as they had any chance of learning from me, which I though was great. Took a little while, didn't it, for the audience to get involved, but then at some point they completely hijacked the discussion which is what we'd hoped for.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
That was great. You talked about your early -- the early times that you got on the internet, that was way back, and what -- and when America Online started?

Elizabeth Edwards
Right.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
You got through that because of your son.

Elizabeth Edwards
I did. I guess I'm like every person of my age, my child introduced me to the internet, but fairly early, and I love it. I have been really using it -- they know where to find me, my family knows where to find me, I'll be at the computer, and have been for years. And so I've seen obviously a lot of changes. And for a while, I could keep up with the changes, but now there is age, or whether it's the speed at which things are changing, it's hard, it's hard what we're doing right now, you wouldn't have done a year and a half ago.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Exactly. You talked about building communities online. As you know, my husband and I are very much involved with Geek community. I would like to know some tips that you could share with us about, how to build communities online, how do you interact with your supporters, and also people who don't support you, how does that work, being online?

Elizabeth Edwards
Well, we have a sort of a natural base of support, in terms of political support and stuff.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
You do have a blog?

Elizabeth Edwards
The One America Committee has a blog. I post on it, not as much as I wish I did, but I post, my husband posts, both regular blog entries, and video blogs, and we do podcasts. So there is lots of different kinds of ways to speak to people.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Do you use Macs or PCs?

Elizabeth Edwards
Well honestly, we had both Macs and PCs in our house and…

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
She's a politician.

Elizabeth Edwards
No, no. But I need to tell you something. But we moved, and all of our computers got boxed up, and only one was stolen.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
And that was the?

Elizabeth Edwards
That was the Mac. So, right now we do not have a Mac in our house, because the Mac didn't manage to make the…

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
It was the popular item.

Elizabeth Edwards
Apparently the most popular thing that we owned was the Mac.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Great. So, you also talked about your daughter having a blog. I was interested about that, because I found that she had some interesting stuff to talk about, right?

Elizabeth Edwards
I was actually -- that's why I want to answer the question about whether the next generation of politicians will be blogging, and I think certainly they will, because that's where they go to get information. And so, they're going to use it in a lot more effective way, and a lot more natural way. And that's what our daughter did looking for information, found there was a gaping hole, and what was out there in the Internet, and she decided to fill it by -- getting information yourself is the base of the blog. She and a group of friends, and then the blog feeds itself, as this is young women who are -- who find places online where other young women might want to go to do business. She didn't own very much money when she worked in New York. And so, she needed to find cheap places where she could do things. She knew in her home town, as do a lot of people. But one of the things in that blog, or any blog, you're asking how it is you build your community? And I heard you all say, admit mistakes. The most important thing you can do is earn the trust of your audience, and then don't do anything to lose it. Once you have lost it, unless you're willing to turn around immediately and say, I made a mistake. Once you've lost that trust, you're not going to get it back, and people are going to go some place else for information on which they know they can rely.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
So if we had to get three tips from you on how to build communities online, if you wanted to share with our audience, what have you learnt?

Elizabeth Edwards
The first is that you have to earn trust, and then do everything you can to keep it. The second is, you have to be open and honest. When we talk, for example, in our podcast, if there's a big sound in the background, you will say, the dishwasher just turned on or whatever. You'll just be as real as you possibly can. People don't want to see -- they don't go to the Internet for theatre, in my view. And so you need to be real in what you do. And you need to be a good listener, you need to pay attention to what the people who're participating in your community. You build it, it doesn't -- no longer belongs to you once you've built it. It belongs to the people who participate, and you need to follow the cues from them about where they want it to go.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Now, I watched your husband speak at Nomdex (ph). I'm a great supporter of Senator Edwards, I'm biased here, I have to disclose that to be transparent. But he talked about the way that -- he sometimes -- because he is a politician he sometimes forgot that he had to be real. And that he said that, it was great that you were in his life, and that you reminded him about that. Can you give us an example or anything that comes to mind about the way you interact with your husband about being online?

Elizabeth Edwards
Well honestly, it is just a matter of introducing him in a sense, because he was used to doing things the way most politicians do them, through the media people, or whoever is hired to do Internet or commercials, whatever the way your communicating is. And he learned -- he stepped into a world, sort of came out of the real world, and then into this world, and did things pretty much the way they said, people said it was done. I didn't. And so I -- they would have a way for blog post to get up, and I would just go ahead and post, I mean anybody could post, so I could post too. And it wouldn't go through anybody who was moderating it. The fact that I got good response to what I've said, because it was this unfiltered communication, allowed him to think that was something he wanted to do too, and so it was just by watching and saying, sort of admiring from a distance. You know you see somebody else old enough to -- see somebody else wearing pants to class, you think, I want to wear pants too, that looks a lot more comfortable. And I think he feels a lot more comfortable out of that prepackage theatre, or whatever, however you want to call it. And it allows him, I think, has the capacity to build a much stronger base. Is it more people? I don't know. Is it more people who are committed and willing to take the steps off of the computer that you ask them to take? I think that it probably is more committed, because they feel a deeper connection with you, because they think they're getting the real thing, and they are.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
So we're all excited about that Edwards campaign, and we want to support our politicians. We also want to know how our politicians would be using blogs, video blogs, podcasting to communicate with their constituencies, as well as how do you feel, I guess, let me phrase the question, how do you feel the Internet blogging, video casting, and podcasting would affect the election in 2008?

Elizabeth Edwards
I think that every year we have a larger and larger percentage of the population using the Internet to get their information. I think that there is some sort of mainstream media exhaustion, that they -- you can read a story in The New York Times, and then read the same story in the Des Moines Register, and then read the same story in the Ottumwa newspaper, because there is a lot of echo chamber that goes on in the mainstream media. And then on the cable channels, on television things, you get people who push things to the side, push to the extremes in order to develop audiences. And so I think that a lot of people are looking for other places to get information. So you have a great capacity as Sandy Carmany, the Greensboro City Council women who spoke here today said, to discuss things more in depth, you're not limited by television sound bytes, you're not limited by the filter byte from a newspaper editor, or a reporter, and you're able to have a real communication with people. So, you have to make it interesting, you can't just put your position papers online, and assume people are going to read them. You have to be willing to find ways to make that interesting content, if you expect people to go to the site. So it's a big challenge for people to accomplish it, but it has an enormous capacity to inform people about it. The truth is, I think that a lot of people who even think they're well informed, might not know details about issues. If you ask people, even who thought that they knew all the issues, ask them the difference between John Kerry's and George Bush's health care plan, for example, they'd be hard pressed to answer the question, and partly it was, that it was so difficult to get the information. So, maybe one of the ways that we know we need to use this better is if we -- if there are differences, to find a clearer way and more engaging way to communicate those differences then you can from the stump, or through the television, or through the newspaper filter.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Is that what you're trying to do with OneAmerica.org

Elizabeth Edwards
The One America, we really are One America Committee. We're trying to create a community of people who are ready to act in a sense. They communicate with one another, they -- honestly I was talking to somebody here today who participates in the blog, and they said, little do I know, they actually meet in our absence, they don't need us to do it. So they've formed a cohesive community that sometimes will act online, if they see something they will tell one another, even if it's on the One America Committee site, or if it's on another site. They might go and mass to -- if they have a position, which may or may not have to do with John Edwards. It could have to do with poverty, or it could have to do with the war, it could have to do with any number of issues, but they'll communicate, and then be active online. We're hoping also that they'll be active, and so far so good, that they'll be active in their communities, and so that we have a community activism component of the online community called One Core.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
My main attraction to your talk today was about communities. Now I know you have a book out that…

Elizabeth Edwards
I do.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
…that is just about that. Can you explain a little about your book?

Elizabeth Edwards
Well, one of the reasons I wrote it is, that people think that they -- people they see in the public eye somehow have some special strength that they don't have. And so when they say, well look, she's going through campaigning, and I heard she lost a child, I wouldn't have the strength to do that. So I don't think we have vulnerable models, people who are in public life don't want to show that they are vulnerable, that they can fall apart too, and so this was partly to expose that. And then to say, I got notched down by my son's death, or by breast cancer, or by other things that I had to face and here is how I stood up. People handed me clutches, and I learned to walk that way, and then they helped me get -- take the clutches away, so I could walk on my own, and that's why I seem strong. And in those communities they're people you'd expect them to be, your neighbors, people from your church, if you go to church, people from your PTA, if you have children, whatever your activities are, that's your first support group. But I wanted to also give a huge thank you to the incredible online communities that have helped me. I encourage other people to use them as well, because those online communities were actually -- maybe the book “Saving Graces”, they were my saving graces. People I don't actually know, but who helped me, and I hope, because this is a symbiotic relationship, I hope I help them to get through the roughest times of their lives.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Excellent. Well, thank you for taking the time and talking to us. Is there anything else you want to talk about, any messages to the Geeks out there, anything?

Elizabeth Edwards
That's all, that's it.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Can you show us your PodTech tee shirt?

Elizabeth Edwards
Absolutely, here is my new tee shirt, unless my daughter steals it from me.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
And what's your daughter's site, because I'm going to check it out, she has fashion tips and I want to…

Elizabeth Edwards
Urbanista. It's called www.urbanistaonline she came up with it -- the 'Urban Girl's Rolodex'.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
And you can find out everything about, where to find cheap, good…

Elizabeth Edwards
Where to find good things.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
All right.

Elizabeth Edwards
And actually they've been -- they started it as something that they though they needed for themselves, and actually they've already gotten an investor. So they apparently -- they've found the niche that you needed to find, but it was a little different, and served a purpose.

Maryam Scoble - Scoble Show
Well, thank you so much.

Elizabeth Edwards
Thanks.

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