Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My coverage of the UNESCO Director General Election

As you may know, I regularly run three blogs: this personal blog titled Thoughts About K4D, and two blogs spotlighting UNESCO and American involvement in UNESCO (see links to right). The latter two are run as part of my contribution to Americans for UNESCO (a small NGO). Toward the end of the campaign I started posting my personal views on Thoughts of K4D, and since I was worried about the candidacy of Farouk Hosny, these generated outrage from people in his campaign office. I tried to be very neutral on the UNESCO in the Spotlight blogs since Americans for UNESCO had taken no position on the candidates.

As the election campaign for the new Director General of UNESCO came into its final days, I decided to create a site in which anyone interested in the election of the candidates could easily find a lot of information, organized to facilitate browsing. That resulted in Election of the UNESCO Director General. That site began simply gathering information on the process and on the candidates and organizing it into a form that seemed useful to me. Later I began providing links to articles on the election as I found them. Since a large number of the articles were either opposed to Hosny or recounting the opposition to Hosny, the weight of these bibliographic lists turned out to be strongly anti-Hosny. After the list got well past 150 entries, I marked those that I thought to be most influential. Those also tended to be anti-Hosny, but they were also very widely quoted or referred to. On the day of the last vote I posted a full entry on a serious charge against Hosny that had surfaced over the weekend, summarizing what I had been able to learn about the charge via the Internet, on the basis that it might be of crucial importance as the UNESCO Executive Board debated breaking the tie between the two final candidates before it.

All of these sites are done on a voluntary basis with no financial support.

The usage of all three normal blogs rose during the election. Last month the UNESCO Spotllight blogs were up 44% and 33% to 1900 and 1700 visits respectively. The Thoughts About K4D blog was up 55% to 5,900 visits.

Election of the UNESCO Director General had 13,304 visits over the last month, 7,182 in the last week. There were almost 27,000 page views. The website actually has several postings visible at once from the master site, so the number of posting visits may have been higher. On the average, visitors stayed just over two minutes on the site. Three quarters of the visits were classified by Google Analytics as "New Visits". There was a poll posted on the site for some time, and it has recorded some 6,600 votes.

Surprisingly, more than 6,000 visits were from Lithuania, reflecting the strong support in Cyberspace for the Lithuanian candidate. Other major sources of visits were:
France 1,897
United States 1,200
Egypt 619
Canada 236
Belgium 206
Germany 195
United Kingdom 169
Austria 158
Switzerland 135
Of course, France is the host country of UNESCO headquarters and the local of the Executive Board Meeting, perhaps explaining its high level of interest.

I have recently started using Twitter and using an AmUNESCO account I spent a lot of time retweeting things pertaining to UNESCO and the election. I have not counted the number of messages, but I would bet there were more than 100 per day on peak days. (I use a tweet aggregator to follow traffic on UNESCO, and it is very fast to retweet an item found.) There are now more that 2100 followers of AmUNESCO on Twitter. There is no way that I know of to follow the number of people reached by this information as some followers do not attend, and some who attend do not follow.

I am a manager of a social networking group on LinkedIn called UNESCO's Friends. The group has more than 600 members, including some who work for UNESCO, some diplomats, and a large number of interested citizens. I posted frequent news items that I found reading about the election, and tried to stimulate some discussions on the post of Director General and the characteristics of a good Director General. I suspect that there was a lot of title scanning for these postings, but relatively few articles were actually drawn down and very very few people participated in the discussions.

What was the impact of all this work? I can only guess. Clearly I reached thousands of people with information, perhaps many thousands, although the average amount of information provided per person was very small. I suspect a few people spent a lot of time on the Internet reviewing information in detail. I suppose there were a couple of dozen comments made on the UNESCO postings. I was receiving information from the supporters of three candidates, four or five others started to help me by sending information that they thought I should have.

I found quotes of my material on other websites and many retweets of mine. I had long interviews with two reporters, one of whom thanked me for the help he had obtained from the website. I had a long exchange of emails with another. I was quoted a couple of times, and misquoted once on CNN. The media coverage I informed may have had more educational impact than my work, giving me an indirect audience. I think I detected several other articles that had been influenced by my postings.

Since I am retired, I have a lot of time available for this activity. Since I am an officer of a pro-UNESCO NGO, run pro UNESCO websites, and teach a graduate seminar on UNESCO, I know quite a bit about the organization. I undertook to open the election process to the public, and I think I succeeded to modest degree -- modest but surprising to me. I might even have had a modest effect in influencing the votes on the Executive Board.

The reason I post this is as an example of the influence that any guy can have in Cyberspace by focusing on a single issue at a propitious time. A few famous people, including a Nobel Prize winner, clearly had more influence through major pieces in influential journals, and important organizations clearly had much more influence. However, before the World Wide Web was created it would have been unthinkable for an average citizens to reach the number of people that I have reached during this campaign.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think "thou protestest too much", Mr Daly. Ex post facto self-justification - or feeble attempts at it - will not erase the stain you and your fellow bloggers have left on this campaign or, worse, the fearful damage you have helped to wreak in relations between the Arab world and the West, though clearly the principal culprits in bringing about this outcome are to be found in government. Let them look to their consciences in the days, months and years ahead.