comScore Panel Nerds: Strange Currency | Mediaite

Panel Nerds: Strange Currency

pnerdsWho: Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai (FourSquare), Richard Lawson (Gawker), Ryan Brown (Fame Game), Caroline McCarthy (CNET News), moderated by Kate Miltner

What: New York Social Media Roundtable: Social Currency & Social Media

Where: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center

When: July 29, 2009

Thumbs: Way Up

What is social currency? How is it being used? What is the future of this trend?” Those were the questions we went in asking and that Kate Miltner, who led the discussion brilliantly, posed. Throughout the back and forth, the panelists spoke directly to each other, politely responded to points, and even asked follow-up questions. Because of such eager participation, Miltner was able to quietly observe rather than be forced to lead. As panels go, this is what you hope for – an intelligent, engaging discussion almost imperceptibly but purposefully guided by a moderator.

They all agreed that social currency was a newfangled term for something we knew intuitively. It is, put simply, the interaction we have with websites within their social groups and parameters — and the reputation we develop online through those actions. That reputation is what gives us heft within – and across – those social groups.

The FourSquare founders were as honestly perplexed about social media as first-time visitors to their site. We found their candor and exuberance to be refreshing as they confessed that they don’t have a handle on why people interact with FourSquare. Crowley and Selvadurai agreed with Richard Lawson who expressed hope that social media would continue to merge with people’s real-world personas and not rely on online alter egos. Ryan Brown tackled this question from a business standpoint. He argued that social media could help companies and event planners to track their analytics much the same way Web sites track these statistics. (This event, for one, drew a surprisingly large crowd considering the thunderstorms outside. Our reward came in the form of free beer, wine and snacks.)

Of all of the panelists, Caroline McCarthy stood out. A virtual virtuoso, McCarthy pontificated about online behavioral patterns, spoke to the importance of Facebook remaining free, and discussed how future political candidates will rise thanks to their pre-existing social followings. McCarthy’s enthusiasm for the power of social networking ushered in the prospect of a future where social networking is unavoidable and pretty much required to get ahead. We were struck by Brown’s site that turns social networking on its head, charting online where people move in real life. Those reluctant to sign up for this social sphere may soon discover that joining is not a choice but inevitability. We attended the panel to learn about social currency, but we suspect we unwittingly earned some as well.

What They Said

“The best part about mayorship is that you have something to point to and say ‘I won this. I have this’”

— Naveen Selvadurai is not just the founder of FourSquare, he’s a client too.

“It’s sort of Orwellian in that a lot of people on the system don’t know they’re on the system”

— Ryan Brown scaring us, and somewhere…sending shivers down Andrew Sullivan’s spine.

“When you were 9, you went to the kids with a pool in their backyard”

— Caroline McCarthy explaining that Club Penguin’s allowance for kids to buy online social status is nothing new.

“It’s like a dog peeing in a building…Why do people care about being the mayor of a Home Depot?”

— Dennis Crowley, who is mystified at the way people interact with FourSquare.

“I think that’s why Facebook has lasted. It’s not cool to have an online presence; it’s cool to be yourself — online.”

— Richard Lawson, who should probably give that lecture at middle schools

What We Thought

  • We’ve been to many panels before, but have never heard the moderator announce the wifi password at the top.
  • McCarthy revealed that marketing and P.R. companies are organizing parties for the sole purpose of having heavily-followed Tweeters show up.
  • We appreciated that the panelists wanted to poll us about our online patterns and preferences. We were comforted to discover from one of these polls that we weren’t the only ones who don’t include our Twitter following ratios on our resumes.
  • The panel highlighted JetBlue and Skittles for having run successful social marketing campaigns. Brown also revealed that he deleted 10 Facebook friends for a free Whopper but said that he offered them small pieces of his burger.


Some audience behavior seems to repeat itself panel after panel. We’ll be updating a running list of “PANEL RULES!” that will help ensure that you are not the dweeb of the Panel Nerds.

Panel Nerds don’t like… Editors

Unless a panel member lied or completely misrepresented something, there is never reason to correct her from your seat. You can approach her afterward if you want to address something she said. Calling out from the back will always be considered rude.

Related:Twitter’s real-time review of last night’s panel via hashtag #NYSMRT.

Panel Nerds Etan Bednarsh and Danny Groner are New York-based writers and avid panel-goers. Want them at your panel? Email them here:

Have a tip we should know?

  1. Mediaite
  2. The Mary Sue
  3. RunwayRiot
  4. Law & Crime
  5. SportsGrid
  6. Gossip Cop