Shades of Grey for social media

29 09 2011

Scenario: digruntled, disenchanted and disenfranchised population rises up against dominant parts of society, law and order and government.

One small event triggers an uprising which spreads through society. Using social media, sections of the populace spread the word and contact like-minded people.

Twitter and Facebook are used to organise similar events in other cities until the whole country is seemingly embroiled.

The Government fights back but are taken by surprise, by the size and contagion of the actions occurring around the country.

Your question: Is this use of social media Good or Bad? Make your decision.


Now…..I’ll give you two contexts.

1. Egypt – overthrow of Mubarak

2. UK – London riots

So answer again – Good or Bad?

And a third context: following the London riots, social media was used by the population to self-organise the clean-up.

Now, Good or Bad?

Ah, if only life were that simple.

For some really interesting infographics on the use of Social Media in the Egyptian uprisings take a look at the below diagram (from Hootsuite University on Facebook)

UPDATE 9/11/11: A recent survey by security company Unisys has found 48% of Britons surveyed support the shut-down of social media sites during times of uprising.

A further questions revealed “46% of respondents said the authorities should have open access to data about social network users to prevent organized criminal activity….42% believe social network providers should get more information on people using their services before allowing use, while 49% think the authorities need more resources to monitor our online behaviour”. (quoted from the above Forbes article)

This leads to some interesting privacy discussions. If we don’t allow phone-tapping without authority, why do we want to allow it to occur on social media? (If you privacy settings are lax, its your own look-out.)

While, in the interests of fairness. I have to say that I have not seen the original survey so I don’t know if the questions were asked in a fair and unbiased manner, nor do I know the timing in relation to the London riots, but it is interesting that people seem to have black or white answers to very complex contextual questions.

Do you believe social media sites should be shut down in times of civil unrest?
Do you believe authorities should have the ability to monitor online communications without having to justify it or seek a warrant first?

Ethical Leadership

27 09 2011

I have had the pleasure of working for some really inspirational leaders, leaders from whom I learned a lot. These are some of the lessons I have learned from some of the best leaders I have worked for and observed.

1. Stand by your decisions. If you are making hard decisions that affect people’s lives, you put your face out there. There’s no hiding. If you make the decision, then you stand beside it, even when the going gets tough. (This doesn’t mean you can’t rethink.)

2. Be accountable. No excuses, if you make the decision then you own up to it.

3. Be fair. Find out the information from both (or more) sides of the story and hear both sides out fairly before making a decision. Particularly important in staff disputes and performance management situations.

4. Be available. People want to understand. They want to connect.

5. To err is human. We all make mistakes – you, me, everyone. It’s part of the human experience. Own up to your own mistakes and be clear that if you are changing your decision, you know you are changing your decision – you are not pretending that this was the decision all the way along (and why didn;t everyone esle understand that?). Likewise, recognise that the most perfect, hardworking and motivated employee will make mistakes from time to time.

6. Don’t make people wrong. So you are looking to lead your organisation in a new direction. Don’t start with a scorched earth policy – belittling and destroying everything that has gone before. What happened then happened for a reason and might have been the right thing at the time. Now times are different. You don’t need to make the past wrong in order to have a burning platform for change now and in the future. You also lose goodwill from staff if you denigate what they have done in the past.

7. Criticising the previous incumbent in your position is a cheap shot. And most of us recognise it for what it is. It doesn’t make your performance good, even in comparison. If you are good at your job, demonstrate it by being good, not by making everyone else bad.

8. Part of being a leader – a really big part of it – is dealing with your own emotional luggage. This is the EQ that makes someone a good leader because they aren’t wrapped up in their own emotions, triggers, reactions etc. You need to be able to be objective, you need to be focussed on the task at hand and how it is going. You need to not inflict your psychological hang-ups on others.

9. Being objective doesn’t mean you have no compassion. A Level 6 leader is a true human being who can bring their human compassion and understanding to the job – and still get the job done. It is possible to performance manage or discipline someone with compassion. It’s hard, and the person may not appreciate it at the time, but it’s ethical.

10. Bring people on the journey with you. Particularly if you are new to the organisation, you may have a different idea or understanding of what needs to be done, the direction you need to head in. But respect the people around you enough to explain it to them and bring them on the journey. They aren’t in the same “idea” space as you because their journey has been different. This means you need to lead.

11. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are truly inspired by the tasks ahead of you, it is easier to inspire others. And inspiration works – it can set a workforce alight with ideas, energy and motivation. Be passionate.

12. You don’t have to pretend everything is great all the time – but be careful what you say. Casual throw-away comments by the leader can be taken very seriously by staff.

13. Set the example. People watch the leader to see what they are doing, what is the expected standard. Work hard and be seen to work hard. Be respectful of others. Model good morale and good relationships. Be ethical. All of these things set the tone for people around you and help establish a positive culture.

14. Don’t be fake. You’ll get caught out and you’ll lose all credibility. And being fake about caring about others, being ethical or being an expert in a field is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

15. Assume the best motivations in people. Assume that most people want to come to work to do a good job. Usually you will be right. This doesn’t mean being naive or not recognising when something is wrong, but it gives people the opportunity to prove you right.

16. Be professional in all things.

That’s what comes to my mind as I think about some of the inspirational people I have known. The behaviours I have described, while modelled for me by leaders, are not only for leaders but also for people who want to be leaders, and those who want to work in a positive ethical workplace.

What else have I missed?

Update: Social Media in Emergency Situations

24 09 2011

A little while ago I blogged about some of the benefits of social media in emergency management.

Since then, a few more have been pointed out to me….

1. Timetable and responsiveness. Newspapers usually come out once a day, TV has news broadcasts about three times a day (with the occasional update), radio has news broadcasts every half hour. In an emergency situation they may increase frequency, but social media is more immediate, and its users already expect to find news instantly – and look to it as their first option.

2. The IT literate generations (and remember over 10,000 people in Australia are on Facebook, so if we exclude the under 13s and the over 70s, that is most – but not all – of the population) are used to having news instantly at their fingertips, and to having to search for exactly the infromation they want through google, facebook, twitter feeds etc. The seek information in the social media sphere.

3. “Old media” relies on the audience having access to a radio or television set and a power supply. Hand-held smart phones and the like are usually on the person, and have long battery life.

4. “New media” can also be uploaded and broadcast from any hand-held device. So if your TV studio is underwater, the power supply is cut and your generator has run out of fuel….your iphone is probably still working and can upload videos and photos as well.

5. Crowd-sourcing of information allows for a much more in-depth, broader and personalised news broadcast. Old media only has so many camera crews and journalists, and even with the addition of helicopters and information sources, there are only a certain number of places where in-depth coverage is going to occur. Crowd-sourcing enables people from all over the affected area to record and upload information. This can be useful for emergency services to know, but also for other members of the community to have information about their immediate area and surroundings, where their friends and relatives might be, and any route they may be planning to travel on.

I am guessing that now I have published this, a few more will be pointed out to me….so stay tuned for the update. And please keep the ideas coming!

Emergency Tequila

24 09 2011

Photo licensed under Creative Commons by Annie Mole

If you liked this post, you might like Social Media for Emergency Management and Update on Social Media in Emergency Situations.

12,000 steps

24 09 2011

This is not me! Licensed under Creative Commons from Adria Richards

Acording to health and exercise gurus, I should be doing something between 10,000 and 12,000 steps a day. No, that is not a typo. Ten thousand to twelve thousand steps a day.

My average sits somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000. Unless I am particularly busy at work, in which case it can drop to as little as 2,000.

I have a fairly sedentary job. I spend my days sitting in my car driving, sitting at a computer, sitting at my desk reading, sitting in meetings.

My children on the other hand, can run up 12,000 steps in a couple of hours. They run, jump, hop, play sports, climb, skip, chase, etc.

So how can I get my steps up?

One work colleague suggested walking before work (clearly he doesn’t have to get children ready for school in the morning. Or put on a load of washing, empty and reload the dishwasher, make beds, iron a shirt or two, prepare lunches and defrost tonight’s dinner).

I could get up early – but I am already sleep deprived. (I do however acknowledge the argument that if I were fitter I might not have the sleep issues and my energy levels might be better managed).

Another colleague suggested a quick walk at lunchtime. I spend most of my lunchtimes doing emails. I have a long commute to and from work and would prefer to spend all my time at work productively. And yes that probably does say something about my priorities and how, as a working woman, I should be prioritising myself…..

A third suggestion was a walking group after work. I need to be at the other side of the city before childcare closes.

And when I get home I have dinner to prepare, homework to supervise, fights to break up, a house to keep in some semblance of tidiness.

On the weekend I can get a little exercise in. In between study homework, shopping, running the children to sporting and social committments. And writing this blog. But this little bit of weekend exercise does not make up for the daily deficit.

Clearly I need to do something. More exercise would increase my energy levels, reduce BP and stress levels, increase brain function, etc etc (see Reasons I should be exercising.) What I can do at the moment is try to build extra steps into my day. I walk to local work sites when I can. I do try to build in an errand or two at lunch time to enable me to take a five minute walk (post office, supermarket, newsagent).

But if exercise is like a bank, I am definitely living on my credit cards.

Thanks for listening to me whinge!

sleep, wonderful sleep…

24 09 2011

licensed under creative commons from peasap

In my twenties, I worked shift work for the best part of a decade. I started most nights at 10pm and worked overnight until 8am. My body clock entirely adjusted to being nocturnal – except for those times when I also did part time work in the daytime, or I studied full-time at the same time. I was young, energetic, fit and determined. Sleep deprivation was something to be overcome. And I got paid very well for my inconvenience.

This really wasn’t so tough because prior to starting my night-shift job I had been known to stay out all night clubbing and still manage to go to work the next morning. Ah, the energy! The committment! The insanity!

In my early thirties I had children. Not for me the logical “have them one at a time” plan. I had mine all at once. I do not remember their babyhood, I was so tired. I do remember falling asleep standing up in our hallway. I woke up when I toppled sideways into the wall. Yes, I literally hit the wall.

The children are older now, and go to bed at a reasonable time (complaining all the way “but I’m not tired!” before immediately lapsing into slumber as soon as the lights are out).

But sleep for me has become the elusive dream. Not for nothing is sleep deprivation considered a form of torture. While I could happily nod off in the early evening, when the lights go out, I am awake. I must sleep at some time during the night, but I am awake by 4.30. Awake but not refreshed. Awake, but desperate to be asleep for another two hours before I need to get up.

Sleep, oh sleep, whereforeart thou?

The various psych and health facebook pages I subscribe to keep sending me information on the latest studies linking lack of sleep with weight gain, high blood pressure, memory loss, ageing, etc. Add to that the physical pain of a body that has not relaxed and remained horizntal for long enough. So I went and did a sleep study to see why I wasn’t sleeping.

It was possibly the worst night’s sleep I have ever had. First they cover your scalp in various electrodes sticky-taped or glued to your head (the glue does seem to peel out of hair quite easily in the morning.) Then then stick an airflow monitor around your head so the tubes sit just outside your nostrils. Irritating.

Then there are other monitors stuck onto your chest and velcroed on with a strap. As you turn over during the night, the velcro strap will rip open (cue velcro ripping noise in your imagination) and you will have to semi-wake up in order to reafix the strap.

Add to this that you are trying to sleep in a strange environment, and the usual noises of a hospital as people, trolleys and (it would seem) herds of elephants clatter up and down the hall all night, and I am surprised they got any readings from my sleep at all.

However, they did, and they said everything was normal. I guess they have a different standard for “normal” based on people tossing and turning in hospital beds with wires and straps all over them.

So I am back to my own devices. And of course complaining to anyone who will listen.

Thanks for listening!

If you liked this post you might also like Reasons I Should be Exercising (which might also help with sleep) and This germ-ridden life.


23 09 2011

licensed under creative commons by gadl

I am a voracious reader. Always have been.

As a child when I was sent to my room to get ready to go to school, guaranteed I would pick up a book and half an hour later I would still be in my pyjamas.

I can still remember the first reader I had at school. It was called Big and Little, and had a picture of a large and a small child on a seesaw. By the time I had finished Prep (as it was called then) I had read all the readers up to Year 3, and hence I was allowed to read library books for the rest of Infant School. As it was called then.

I still have some of my favourite books from childhood, but as all my children are boys, they aren’t into the same books. Even though I don’t re-read the books now, just looking at the covers can bring back fond memories.

And yes, I am a hoarder. I hoard books. We have six very large bookshelves in our house, jam packed with books. And several baskets, and a large pile next to my bed. I am incapable of walking out of a bookshop without buying a book, and I like to keep the books I have read for future rereading. Occasionally I can be persuaded to loan books to friends, but it has to be a pretty awful book for me to throw it out.

I go through phases with book subjects. For a while there it was fiction – I went through a strong Mary Wesley stage, adore F Scott Fitzgerald, and some of the Waugh brothers (but not all). And of course the incomparable Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe and Dirk Gently fame.

Then there was my biographical phase – mostly women writers (plus several on Douglas Adams), but it also intersected with my 1920s phase (biographies of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, the Waughs and the Mitfords featured strongly here).

More recently there has been a pseudo-science phase with Freakonomics, Super-Freakonomics, The Psychopath Test (all of which I loved) and the book from the Blog Dear Raed. Then there was the midlife crisis phase, where I picked books about people who completely changed their lives – One Red Paperclip, Eat Pray Love, Emergency Sex.

Now I am in a French phase. I am working my way through a pile of books about Australians who have moved to France to live for work, love or long-held passion, and the culture shock they have experienced. I suspect this is an extension of my mid-life crisis phase.

I am thrilled to find that my children seem to have inherited my love of reading. One is now found most often with a book in his hand when he should be getting ready for school. Child after my own heart!

Reading is one of the great loves and skills I wanted to hand on to my children. If you can read and don’t find it onerous, then you always have access to information. More important than knowing information, if you can read and you want to learn something, you can. It opens up horizons and opportunities.

I don’t really mind if we are running late for school.

What type of books do you read? Who is your current favourite author?

If you liked this post, you might like Food for Thought: Mindfire.

To debrief, or not to debrief

23 09 2011

licenced under creative commons from umami typepad

I’m chatty.

Yes, I know that will surprise you. But I am.

While my Myers Briggs personality type puts me as quite evenly balanced between Extrovert and Introvert, most people who meet me would say I was definitely an “E”. (I like to say I am evenly balanced and can move across both aspects. However, I digress.)

So when it comes to the question of whether debriefing is beneficial or not, for me it sits firmly in the yes column. I both gain energy from interaction with others, and defray anxiety in the same way. (My mother tells a story of me changing schools. As she drove me to school I chattered away nervously and by the time we got there I was fine and she was a bundle of nerves. Very effective from my point of view!) While I realise this is a trivial example, the same applies in some of the traumatic workplace incidents I have experienced – including suicides and the murder of a colleague.

So for me debriefing – talking out stressful and traumatic situations – works. However the research demonstrates that debriefing is not for everyone.

The aim of debriefing in instances of trauma is to allow the person to acknowledge and work through the events and their emotions and thoughts about the events. It aims to prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is about bringing into the open, acknowledging and processing how you have reacted, responded and recorded the events and its impact upon you.

Does talking about it work for everyone? The literature is divided. Some studies however go as far as saying it can be damaging. A Cochrane review also recommends that the practice cease. (This study was based on single session interventions however.)

In the absence of a single agreed position in the literature, I introduce opinion and speculation….

I suspect that whether debriefing works for you depends on a number of things, including the type of personality you are. And I mean that in a much more in-depth manner than the personality profiles proposed by Myers Briggs.

If you are an extrovert in the true sense of the word (as opposed to the pop-psych sense), and respond to stressful situations by becoming more extrovert, then interaction with others is how you work through your thoughts. Debriefing may work for you.

If you are an introvert (or respond to stressful situations by becoming introverted) and you prefer to work things through in your head without the distractions and inputs of others, then it may make it worse.

On top of that, it requires a skilled debriefer – and possibly the right person for the right job. I have had debriefings following traumatic workplace incidents where I did not connect with the counsellor at all. It was a waste of time and instead I debriefed with colleagues (and they with me) who had a much better understanding of what was going on and who were going through the same thing. It worked well for us because we were a tight team, all had a fairly well developed sense of EQ and felt the same way about what had occurred.

But there came a point in the debriefing process when I needed to stop talking about it. It was time to move on. I couldn’t stay in the horror and pain. Part of the debriefing process for me was realising that life did go on, and getting on with my life.

Letting go was important, when the time was right. Perhaps for some people that was where they started. Sublimation, denial and suppression are genuine survival techniques, and they work. Sometimes it is just better not to think about it.

Does talking about it help for you? Or would you prefer to retreat to quietness and work it through yourself?

If this post interested you, you might also like Where are they now? and Life and Death on the Office.

Please change back, Facebook!

22 09 2011

I can’t claim credit for this one, but it is kinda cute, for we Dr Suess fans!

I do not like this Sam I Am …..
I do not like this Facebook scam …
I do not like the new news feed …
I do not like it, no indeed ….
I do not like your top news trends,
instead of recent news from friends ….
It was just fine, but now it’s weird,
so let me make myself quite clear ….
I don’t like this new page attack ….
So Facebook admin …



Perhaps Facebook Admins did hear me…but instead of listening, they decided to respond in kind. This was sent to me….