After enjoying JWT‘s roundup of radness from their 2011 predictive trendspotting BIZINT department, I inferred a couple of times that they my have missed some things to watch in the coming year. I struggled with whether or not I was going to do a 2011 predictions post of my own (especially with all of the other great [and TERRIBLE] ones out there). As I intimated in the JWT post though, it’s tough to maintain your street cred as an armchair futurist if you don’t make some play calls – good or bad. It’s not like I can go on TV and just fry motherfuckers with my brain like Jamais Cascio:

Image courtesy of

Here then is the Must. Be. AWESOME!!! 2011 Predictive Tapdance:

The Elephant in the Room: Islam

For all the loveliness that “hope” and “change” brought us in 2009, 2010 saw a whole lot of retrenching when it came to comprehending and engaging Islam. Look for the debate about what constitutes Islam, Islamism, what various groups of modern Muslims want in today’s world, and popular revolutions in the Middle East to ratchet up. Also keep an eye on what the Muslim Brotherhood does in the wake of Mubarak’s resignation: they will telegraph a lot of the conflict about modern Islam.

More Mashups, More Memes

I don’t care what anybody says: mashups and memes will continue to provide ample entertainment to We People of the Internetz. Look for advertisers to begin capitalizing on meme-trending and mashup-producing. Performance indicators: the next acquisition/website startup from the I Can Has Cheezburger collective AND Wieden & Kennedy after hiring the creator of this AWESOME video–

Cloud Seeding

As gaming continues to seep into the popular consciousness through applications like competitive geolocation (i.e. Foursquare and Gowalla) and passive social gaming (i.e. Farmville), look for more creative approaches to “seeding” the cloud with various types of content. Be it for advertising or grassroots mobilization purposes, effective influence and content promotion campaigns of the future will unfold via a variety of platforms. StickyBits and other QR code scanning apps are good indicators of tactical implementations of a cloud seeding strategy.

Hacktivism Triumphant

If WikiLeaks has taught us anything, masses of anonymous hackers can make or break online footprints. With Anonymous’ mobilization against Amazon and other deniers of service against WikiLeaks, it is apparent that all-out online cyberwar can and will occur at a rate of minutes and hours. Government will continue to play catch-up to the independent entities playing havoc with cybersecurity. DDoS attacks will become typical tools of the trade, and countermeasures against such attacks will demonstrate a new “arms race” in evolving security and attack technology. We will also see cyberwars play out in days between entities if not hours and minutes, the extent of which will run the gamut from mere inconvenience to full-on revolution (there’s a reason why Mubarak shut off the Internet, yo). It is possible that a wild 4channer will crack U.S. cyber defenses in 2011 and perhaps provide a 9/11-like impetus for government to begin getting serious with policy and legislation to operate in the digital age.

Nobody Cares About Public Diplomacy

Barack Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech demonstrated that the U.S. government will continue to centralize public diplomacy initiatives in the White House, leaving State Department assets twisting in the wind as hollow emperors in the field. U.S. legislators will increase the depths to which they could give a shit less in 2011 about PD because PD does not create jobs for Americans. Meanwhile, 20th century institutions of public diplomacy like Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty and the Broadcasting Board of Governors will continue to wither and die in the digital age as on-the-minute social reporting and citizen journalism make them further irrelevant. Funding for PD initiatives will continue to stagnate while implementers will find more creative methods of achieving strategic PD goals, mostly via the private sector tech sector and citizen diplomacy organizations. China and some European countries will continue to lead with non-obvious but concerted national efforts in global influence, the effects of which will remain undiscovered by their targets (i.e., US) for years.

Passive Social Gaming EXPLODES

Related to my concept of “cloud seeding,” 2011 will see an explosion of social games in the vein of Farmville. Already, 2011 has seen Zynga publish a suster game to its masses-tranquilizing hit called Cityville. Transmedia, alternate reality gaming, and other episodic social gaming entities will experiment further with audience acquisition, retention, and profit conversion this year. Advertisers will cash in on these mechanisms en masse, driving ad-tired audiences from game to game and forcing ad strategists to begin thinking in different ways about social advertising. We will also see a continued harmonization of transmedia and ARGs cross-platform, online and offline, for social gaming experiences that will, for example, weave in and out of Facebook, Twitter, iPad and other mobile apps, and in-person performance art. More and more people will join longer term games socially as new genres are introduced on social networks. Performance indicator: keep your eyes peeled on LinkedIn for a business-based social game that trains executives in a number of administrivial and professional functions.

Location-based Services Get Profitable

Also related to “cloud seeding,” location-based app services such as Foursquare and Gowalla will rapidly get profitable this year. While many detractors continue to ridicule the small audience size these services carry, their growth will continue by orders of magnitude in 2011, so much so that advertisers and marketers for brick-and-mortar businesses will pay oodles of dough to access their users. Look for more unique rewards for users who check in to local places and events as well as the beginning of an actual value system based on fictional goods (i.e. Gowalla’s items).

People Begin To Realize All This Social Stuff Really IS Creating Socialism 2.0

Marx said it would take capitalism to run its course and fall out of favor before true socialism could take hold of the world. Macro-philosophers and economists will slowly begin to see that that is happening on a mass scale in 2011. Group buying services like Groupon and Living Social, crowdfunded charity programs, realtime crowdsourced news reporting, and near-realtime media curation will continue to prove that power really is all about the people. Democratization of content and price will, therefore, produce The New Socialism or Socialism 2.0. This will freak out conservatives and create performance indicators on conservative news networks that decry not only a socialist presidency but a socialist economy beginning to develop. Look for influencers that combat these conservative perceptions as the emerging leaders of the Socialist 2.0 movement (which in and of itself will never be referred to as an organized, network movement with a solid objective… it will just happen). Parallel to this, fortunes will begin to change hands as sales for various product areas crash: for example, the comics industry will continue to lose sales in print as consumers demand more digital, interactive content.

We Need a New Narrative

No more Harry Potter. No more Lord of the Rings. No more Star Wars. What’s the next big franchise? 2011 will see experimental repurposing of old ideas into new franchises. My money is on Thor and Captain America to be the starting point for a huge Avengers movie franchise in 2011 and 2012 (with reams of associated multimedia content) while Green Lantern and Transformers: Dark of the Moon tank.

What Do You Think?

Got some predictions of your own? Think I’m off-base about some of these things to watch? Let me know in the comments.

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Arlington County, Virginia seal

Image via Wikipedia

Next week, March 3-5, Sister Cities International brings its 55th annual conference to Arlington, Virginia. As a member of the board of directors for both SCI and Arlington’s own Sister City Association, I’ve been helping to put together an AWESOME conference experience for everyone. SCI has a great schedule lined up this year, from briefings by the State Department to best practices roundtables. You can get a fuller look at the schedule and register here:

Additionally, the Arlington Sister City Association will be throwing a reception Friday March 4th at 6:30pm to celebrate its sister city relationships around the world. Arlington’s sister cities include Reims, France; Aachen, Germany; San Miguel, El Salvador; Coyoacan, Mexico; and friendship city Cochabamba, Bolivia. We will be celebrating the official signing of a sister city relationship between Arlington and longtime friendship city Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine as well. As part of our reception, attendees will see dancing and music from some of these groups and get to experience ethnic foods from each of these unique cultures. Tickets to the reception are only $40 or free with the purchase of a full conference registration from the SCI website above. We’re also giving away free memberships to ASCA for a year with the purchase of any of these tickets.

If you’re interested in volunteering, SCI and ASCA could use a few AWESOME citizen diplomats. We have open shifts for ushers, greeters, desk managers, and badge checkers all days of the conference. These are all-ages volunteer opportunities; we’ve got something for everybody. You also get free access to some of the conference sessions and some other cool bennies, so give it a think.

We at ASCA are also still searching for 2011 sponsors. Sponsorships help us not only conduct cultural celebrations like this reception, but also specific trips for students, artists, and musicians between Arlington and its sister cities. We welcome corporate and individual sponsorships with a variety of different benefits including logo and brand placement amongst our community, access to speakers at the SCI conference, and free tickets to conference events (dependent on sponsorship level).

If you would like to contribute, learn more, volunteer, or just buy a reception ticket, shoot me a note at du4 at mustbeawesome dot com.

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Strained my eyeballs reading stuff this week. Let’s dig in:

6 Reasons Why Social Games Are the Next Advertising Frontier

Image via Mashable

One of my clients develops episodic social games, and their data confirms how effective engaging, in-game ads can be. A lot of people pooh-pooh advertising in the social age on general principle, but given a certain degree of innovation, I think there’s still a place for them.

5 Predictions for 2011 From IDC

None of these are particularly eye-opening, but IDC’s expectation of 25 billion mobile apps sold via various app stores is something to think about. We’re moving to an app ecosystem where simple web tools that enhance users’ lifestyles are becoming a ubiquitous part of life. Imagine where that could take us in 20 years where we’ll be downloading apps directly to implants attached to our five senses. I’m not seeing much in app futures right now, but the premise is sound.

When Futures Thinking Meets Design Thinking

So one of my favorite reads is Venessa Miemis‘s blog emergent by design. Venessa is the first futurist-in-training I’ve met who sought a formal education in futurism. I got to meet her at Stowe Boyd‘s Social Business Edge earlier this year in New York, and I was blown away by her innate creativity and motivation to discover what’s next. It’s people like Venessa that we should be listening to as they punch through the bubble of the present mundanity and shape positive visions of the future. In this post, Venessa describes Jamais Cascio‘s (another AWESOME futurist you should be paying attention to) process for Futures Thinking. It’s a process I’m going to put to work on some of my client projects. For more, Venessa posted a follow-up called 3 Tools for Futures Thinking and Foresight Development that examines some things that can help you put Futures Thinking into practical application.

Always Be Thinking About These Things

Some excellent advice for creatives, independents and misifts from Chris Guillebeau at The Art of Non-Conformity. AONC is actually one of the coolest looking blogs I’ve seen in a while, and I’m having fun navigating Chris’s community and discovering old works of his. His commentary is soul food for creatives and wanderers.

Friday Five: Leading Digital Ethnographers

Every time I get ready to delete my content feed for Edelman Digital, they put out something like this. This post is a really great roundup of researchers conducting studies into the emerging field of digital anthropology. Each one has taken a slightly different approach to the task of segmenting internet users for study, and there are some fascinating links to their stories and work contained within. As an aside, last year I worked with a social networking research team at a company called Detica. My teammates were young, talented analysts with digital research aptitudes, culturally relevant skills in other languages, and a whole lot of code-monkeying savvy. Our work was very similar to what Edelman describes as digital anthropology but my teammates – ever the AWESOME crowd – coined the term “netnography” for the type of work we were doing. One of these days, I’m gonna get that to stick somewhere…

Why Wikileaks Is Good for America

4channers Go After PayPal, Swiss Bank in Defense of Wikileaks

I could go on and on with links to commentary about Wikileaks’ recent diplomatic cable dump and the subsequent storm of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against it and in defense of it. This issue is probably one of the most fascinating communications events I have ever experiences. I’ve been on both sides of this debate. Having worked in the Pentagon and understanding the necessities of operational security, I’m on one hand appalled by Wikileaks’ behavior. (Moreso, I’m appalled by the inflammatory anti-American statements Julian Assange has made, but that’s a separate issue.) On the other hand, I’m loving the debate this is creating about what government transparency really is and can be. In this world where some podunk, know-nothing ass-clown NCO can lift the entire SIPRNET via CD-ROM and get it published to the Internet, can the federal government truly afford to continue adhering to default security classification just because they don’t want to deal with information getting out to the public? I’ve certainly been in situations where documents were classified for political reasons and not actual security, so the motivation to break down barriers to transparency is understandable. I just don’t think the way to do it is the Wikileaks way.

Even more fascinating in this situation has been 4chan and the Anonymous community of hacktivists basically declaring war against the internet outposts of Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Amazon, and any other online service provider that cut off its services to Wikileaks. This constitutes a citizen-galvanized retaliatory strike against perceived injustice, and most of the U.S. govvies I know who are monitoring this issue are literally left scratching their heads. I’m also astounded that the U.S. military, its component commands, and even its contractors have virtually stuck their heads in the sand to avoid dealing with the implications of Wikileaks: some defense outfits I know of are scared to death of mentioning Wikileaks in public conversations because they think they’re going to get hacked and lose their security clearances.

All this begs for more thought, so I may develop a separate post about in the near future. I definitely think Wikileaks is forcing us to redefine what we consider “free press,” “mainstream media,” and notions of transparency. It’s just going to be a long, ugly debate getting to any kind of common ground.

Anonymous's OPERATION PAYBACK call to arms (Image via Gawker)

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Some interesting things I’ve read this week that bear mentioning:

These Screens Will Send You Back To The Future

Screenshot from new Back to the Future game courtesy of IGN/Kotaku

Telltale Games is developing a new internet browser-based video game adaptation of Back to the Future. I’m even more excited by the fact that this will be an episodic game with new weekly content AND an iPad version! Here’s an early screenshot on the left, and more higher-quality scans can be found at the link above.

The Anatomy of a Movement

David Armano talks about harnessing the power of movements for ad campaigns. Armano makes AWESOME graphics to help explain his points, and I find his style of visual thinking is among the most cogent on the web.

WikiLeaks Reveals Iran’s Secret, Worldwide Arms Hunt

The big news in DC this week was “Cablegate,” an unleashing of several diplomatic documents obtained illegally by WikiLeaks. These documents confirmed something I’ve known for quite a while because of my irregular warfare work: strategically, there is a Cold War-like balance of power between Iran and Arab nations like Saudi Arabia that hinges on nuclear capability and how the United States chooses to engage in the region. There is a lot more to this than anybody truly understands, I think. I believe the Persian/Arab divide is much more of a globally chilling problem than our own existential struggle with Islam.

Activate Wave-Motion Gun! New documentary takes you inside the live-action Star Blazers

Star Blazers was the first cartoon I remember seeing as a child that changed my perspective on animated storytelling from the pedestrian to the epic. Despite its somewhat cheesy American adaptation, Space Battleship Yamato (its original Japanese name) established a cool standard for serialized, mature storytelling in American cartoon programming. I’m super excited to see it being adapted into a live-action film that many are comparing to the AWESOMEness of Battlestar Galactica. It premiered in Japan this week, and it looks AMAZING. Here’s a clip:

I’m experimenting with PulseMeme, an app on my iPad that creates a much smoother way of reading RSS content. Through it, I’ve set up a share feed on Posterous where I’ll share various stories from time to time. You can find that feed at this link if you want to subscribe. I’ve pulled all the links in this post from that feed, as I’ll do on a weekly basis from now on.

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A sign near City Hall points to the sister cit...
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t like the term “nonprofit.” It describes organizations with a negative instead of a positive. Sure, they’re not in it for profit. But what ARE they in it for? “Nonprofit” is a shorter way of saying “cause-based organization.” Since causes are often emotionally based, there is a huge well of contributory power found in many of these groups not immediately evident in for-profit endeavors. One such cause-based organization that I’ve become a rabid fan of is Sister Cities.

The DC beltway community likes to throw around policy and cocktail convos about concepts like “citizen diplomacy” and “cultural diplomacy,” but in truth, the true implementers of great person-to-person exchange are organizations like Sister Cities. For those who don’t know, Sister Cities is a concept that President Eisenhower introduced back in the 1950s: American cities reach out to foreign cities – be it through their mayors, business leaders, teachers, or other interested citizens – and establish a personal city-to-city rapport. (There’s a lot more that’s interesting about how Eisenhower saw collective citizen diplomacy as a bulwark against the Soviet Union as part of his Overseas Internal Defense Program, but that’s fodder for another post.)

These rapports vary from city to city. In some cases, Sister City relationships can be as simple as parents who organize exchange programs with families in other countries. In others, American businesses organize massive conferences aimed at empowering minorities in oppressed societies with the tools they need to create their own businesses.

Today, individual Sister Cities programs conduct their own programs and raise money in their own fashion. Some are extensions of local city governments. Others are 501c(3) nonprofits in their own right. There is also a global coordinative body, Sister Cities International, that lobbies on behalf of local programs, seeks grants for citizen diplomacy programs that Sister Cities can implement, and provide training and other support for individual city programs. I guarantee if you Googled your city, you’d find a Sister City program.

The distances to each of Louisville's sister c...

Image via Wikipedia

I bring Sister Cities up because through the course of my work, the only sustained and effective influence America has delivered overseas has come from Sister Cities programs. Insurgencies rarely happen in societies that look forward to sending their kids to an American city for a semester of school or in foreign regions that regularly welcome delegations of plain old PEOPLE to their home. From youth to women to city government, this concept promotes global harmony and equilibrium more than any other community-building initiative I’ve seen. And I think that’s damn AWESOME.

My own personal experience with Sister Cities began when my mom, Mae Ferguson, became the Executive Director and now President of Fort Worth Sister Cities International. Mom started traveling all over the world to Fort Worth’s Sister Cities, and she brought back amazing stories that changed her life. Through her, I learned about how cultural exchanges really work and the barriers we need to break through to make them successful. Mom eventually ran for and was elected Chairperson of Sister Cities International’s board of directors where she ROCKED OUT the organization. I also have met some incredible people through Fort Worth Sister Cities, people who should be receiving medals from the White House for the AWESOME things they have done for Americans and their friends in their Sister Cities. I am really proud to now volunteer for this organization, and I have my Moms to thank for that. :)

If you would like to learn more about Sister Cities or contribute, I have a couple suggestions for you:

Since this is a cause I believe in, I have joined the board of Sister Cities International and my local Sister Cities association in Arlington, VA. I’m heading up the conference planning for March’s annual conference and helping out where I can. I would really, REALLY like to talk to anybody who may be interested in helping me out. We need everything from volunteers to large corporate donations with which we’ll underwrite our conference. So give me a shout. I promise you it will be the most rewarding community-building experience of your life.

The Sister Cities of Fort Worth, TX

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I’m struggling to get back into the blog saddle after several weeks of travel and madness. I’m cooking up a couple special posts soon, but I wanted to take a moment and welcome all the newcomers who are happening upon Must. Be. AWESOME!!! for the first time.


I just returned from four days in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I attended the Sister Cities International (SCI) Annual Conference. I am a raging fan of Sister Cities, as you will see from some future blog posts, and I’m very proud to announce that I’ve been elected to SCI’s Board of Directors. This is a big deal to me as I’m following in the footsteps of my AWESOME mother, Mae Ferguson, who not only served on the board but acted as its president for two AWESOME years. I had an amazing time in ABQ where I met hundreds of new friends and colleagues from all over the world.

If you’re one of those new sisters or brothers, and you’re coming to the blog for the first time, I hope you enjoy it. I’m always open to feedback, so feel free to holler at me in the comments section of any post or via the contact form. I can’t wait to talk to you more!

This is Must. Be. AWESOME!!! Dot com.

Outgoing SCI Chairman (and personal friend & mentor to me), Mike Hyatt, from Albuquerque.

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And now, the final video from my MountainRunner Institute talk at the “Now Media Seminar.” Let me know what you thought!

You can also find the slides from this preso by following this link.

Here’s Part 4 of my MountainRunner Institute talk from the “Now Media Seminar.” HOWF!

Also, you can follow this link to see the actual slides from the event.

Here’s the third part of my MountainRunner Institute talk from our “Now Media Seminar” on July 6th. Hope you dig!

Here’s the second part of my MountainRunner Institute talk from July 6th’s “Now Media Seminar.” Enjoy!

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