A year in blog-land

7 07 2012

I started blogging approximately a year ago.

I had been intending to blog for some time, and had even started a couple of times on various topics, then abandoned them when I decided that the topics were too self-indulgent and really of no value or interest to anyone other than myself. And even my interest was fleeting.

The decision about topics was problematic for me – I wasn’t intending for it to be a work related blog, it wasn’t to establish my credibility or expertise in a field. But the types of things I was interested in were many and varied and really didn’t hang together very well, except in that they interested me.

Analysis Paralysis.

The answer was: write about what interests you. Once I decided I had permission for this to be about interesting things rather than being constrained by a specific topic, I was off and running – or writing. In the end it doesn’t seem to have mattered that I have several different topics going. Some weeks I blog every day and sometimes have several new posts in a day. Other weeks I can barely get one post up. And occasionally one topic – for instance the leap second – inspires three posts. (Did you sleep well? , Nostradamus and Y2K and Why the moon rules your life)

As well as what I have posted (this is my 301st post), I have about 70 drafts sitting behind the scenes. Some are posts that I started and haven’t finished because the story petered out. Others are where I just made a quick note about a topic for those days we the topics seem hard to come by.

I am loving the stats page, and particularly the maps. I initially thought I was probably writing for my friends (and thank you for visiting, liking and commenting!) But it turns out that people visit from all over the world, even some small islands I didn’t know were separate countries. It’s really quite interesting to ponder what might interest someone in Belize, Venezuela, Jordan, Iceland, or the Russian Republic, and how someone from Trinidad and Tobago, Malta, Qatar, and El Salvador might have ended up reading an Australian blog. Truly international, and always fascinating to see who has been here.

The topics vary quite widely, but I don’t seem to be able to predict what will attract a broad readership. I loved being able to go through my holiday photos and record and relive some of the places we went and the things we saw. I also love pondering news events and recent studies that I have come across, and the occasional joke or cartoon. Social media, psychology, science (particularly weird science or pseudo-science) usually capture my attention and interest long enough for a post to evolve.

Sharing on StumbleUpon has been a surprising and unpredictable event. A posting on Steve Jobs garnered 9,822 viewings, thanks in large part to StumbleUpon. The general page comes second with 7,958, followed distantly by How to Open a Padlocked Suitcase: A lesson in travel safety for us all with 804, and Imagine what you could do if you thought you couldn’t fail at 597 (this posting was on Moira Kelly, the woman who sponsored Krishna and Trishna, conjoined twins from Bangladesh).

I also post links on Facebook (mudmap) and Twitter (mudmapped) and occasionally on Pinterest, although I have not had much success there. But StumbleUpon has driven the occasional peaks in my stats – a top score of 4,837 views on one day that seems almost impossible to beat and quite bizarre to contemplate. I don’t know how it happened and I can’t replicate it, but it is amusing and rewarding to think that something I wrote “touched a chord” and nearly went viral! (This was some considerable time after the death of Steve Jobs so I didn’t really expect a massive reaction.)

In one year Mudmap has had just under 28,500 viewings (and increasing as we speak). This is a lot more than I probably could have expected if I had written a book – unless I wrote the Da Vinci Code or Fifty Shades of Grey. I know that some of you are repeat readers. Some of you are my friends, family and acquaintances, others are people I will never meet. Some are fellow-bloggers who stop by and encourage, chat and exchange ideas. Thanks you, everyone!

As a frustrated writer, it is gratifying to be able to write something that someone else will read. And on a good day, you might click “like”. And sometimes you might comment. I appreciate each and every one of these.

Here’s to the next year! (Please drop me a line….)





Surplus social media

24 03 2012

As an intrepid explorer of social media, I find I am increasingly coming across a number of new social media options. And quite frankly, I’m not sure of their value and I’m not sure if I physically have the time to deal with them. So let me know your opinion.

I’ll start by declaring my social media preferences: I am addicted to Facebook, I love LinkedIn, I am quite active on Twitter (but largely promoting my blogs – true confession). I am somewhat present in Pinterest and Foursquare (although frankly Pinterest’s “ownership” of content makes nervous). I dip into Youtube from time to time but generally I don’t actually have the time to sit through a 3 minute video. True story. And I am obsessed with blogging. If you can count it, it is a competition. Sad but true.

1. Klout. I confess I lost faith in Klout when it nominated me as an expert on London. Why? I have no idea since I have not knowingly written anything about London online (it is too long since I have been there) and only a couple of my English friends live in London. How did Klout decide this was my area of expertise (as opposed to, for instance, the country I live in)?

2. Branchedout. This Facebook app bills itself as the network boasting the most job connections on Facebook. Hmm. Possibly because there isn’t any competition.

3. Aboutme. Point? Niche? I just don’t get it.

4. Peerindex. Seems like a copycat Klout.

Fundamentally these all don’t seem to add any value to my life, they take time and they request and collate my personal and online information into yet another source that I need to manage. Maybe I’d be better off being streamlined – sleek and aerodynamic and dump all the excess baggage.

Of course I could just be grumpy.

Thoughts?





The “It must be Friday” Social Media round-up

24 02 2012

A few interesting articles crossing my desk this morning. It must not be a full moon because the loony stories aren’t out there, but here are a few interesting tidbits to whet your appetite….

1. Following on from recent postings about tracking down fugitives via social media, and the impact of social media on the jury-system, comes a new one: the serving of legal papers via social media. Normally papers are served in person, in hard copy or faxed (thereby setting a precedent for electronic forms of transmittal, I presume). The story is that when lawyers had difficulty tracking and confirming a residential address and email address for someone they wanted to serve with a subpoena, UK High Court judge Nigel Teare authorised serving via the individual’s active social media page on Facebook. Apparently while this is a first for Facebook in the UK, it is not a total-first. Previous papers have been served via Twitter in 2009 (UK) and Facebook (Australia and Canada), and via text message to the Occupy London protesters in December 2011. Another reason to keep your social media account privacy settings high? And of course, if you name is John Smith or Jane Smith, there may be issues regarding identification.

2. So moving from one profession to another: do you want your surgeon tweeting during your open heart surgery? Personally I’d prefer s/he concentrate on one thing at a time – this is not the time for multi-tasking! On February 21, 2012, Cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, Dr. Michael P. Macris, performed the first live twittercast of a double-bypass open heart surgery in the United States.

Now I admit, reading the Twitter feed, it does appear that it was not the surgeon who actually did the tweeting, since he is referred to in the third person, and the information, although necessarily brief, is interesting, and is accompanied by a fairly graphic slideshow with embedded video.

So – novelty value or a new effective form of education?

3. Anyone who has any exposure to social media knows that *some* people post pretty inappropriate things. But what if you got sued – and got fined and home detention for it? A Spanish woman has been fined 1000 Euros and had 8 days house arrest for posting a photograph of a novelty t-shirt on her Facebook site. The offending caption? “Mi exmarido es Gilipollas” which roughly translates as “My ex-husband is an asshole”. The ex-husband in question sued for the damage to his reputation, and the Provincial Court found in his favour.

And now the case has had international attention, and we all know what sort of person he is (the sort of person who sues over a t-shirt). And his ex-wife has hopefully learned to keep her privacy settings high, be careful who she “friends” on Facebook, and be careful what she posts. I doubt it has changed her opinion of him! And everyone else who bought this sort of commercially-available t-shirt as a joke…….be careful!

4. OK, this may not really be social media, but its bizarre, so I include it here to entertain and encourage you to keep reading. It would seem that Fox Business News has awoken to the evil cultural cancer that is Dr Suess. With Hollywood set to film the Lorax, Fox News is alerting the “right-thinking” world (wording deliberate) to the evil plot being perpetrated by Dr Suess and the left-wing Hollywood types to destroy your children’s brains! (For those of you who can’t remember the story of the Lorax, he is pro-trees and anti-logging). And while we’re at it, how coincidental is it that The Muppets resurface during the US pre-pre-election campaign, featuring an evil oil baron? Those naughty Hollywood commies.

So for those of you who need a decoding manual to understand the true “horror” of the Dr Suess conspiracy, the following image is presented for your education:

image from George Takei's Facebook page

(As an interesting aside, I have been told that The Lorax was in fact banned in some states of the US at one stage. I’d be keen to heard more information on this, if you have any.)

5. This one is in the category of “public information warning”. Scam artists and other criminals are increasingly using social media as ways of targeting victims – and dating sites are apparently rich pickings because of the personal information people are willing to share and because, by definition, people on the dating sites are open to making relationships with people they have not previously met. The full article is here, but basically it suggests that the owners / proprietors of sites need to be vigilant against scam, spam and other misuse, install security measures, and harness your members to continually monitor and feed back suspicious activity. And remember, the criminals are constantly working at ways to get around any security measure, so security has to be a constant work-in-progress.

6. World of Warcraft may have a new target market. It seems this game can increase your cognitive abilities in a fairly short period of time. A study by Dr. Anne McLaughlin, an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State University used World of Warcraft required participants aged between 60 and 77 to play WoW 14 hours over two weeks. Compared with baseline data and a control group, participants demonstrated improved cognitive abilities in the areas of spatial ability and focus, but not in memory. WoW was chosen as the representative game because it was considered to be “a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations.” The paper will be published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour. No news on whether playing 24/7 has an effect on your cognitive processing – although it certainly can have an effect on your social life, sleep, and potentially hygiene and nutrition.

7. A new study shows that parents rarely know the extent of cyber-bullying because it often happens in private chat rooms, on messaging and via mobile phone. Even if you are your child’s Facebook friend, you won’t necessarily see any of it. And children don’t tell their parents, and parents often don’t know to ask. Unless you have your child’s passwords and can log in and check the messaging, you are unlikely to know what is really going on. Scary.

8. Continuing the phishing pun (and I do love a pun), there is now another more targeted and dangerous threat to be concerned about – spear phishing. This is similar to the phishing emails that try to get you to click on links or provide confidential information such as banking details or computer passwords, but these are targeted at companies. And they are tailored to be more likely to hook someone – any employee – in. Large companies such as Google and RSA have reportedly lost intellectual property in the last year due to effective spear phishing campaigns that started with one employee falling for it. And it only takes one.

9. Tumblr has changed its content policies to address the growing issue of “thinspiration”, self-harm and mutilation blogs on its site. The company has put out the following guidelines in its policy:

Don’t post content that actively promotes or glorifies self-injury or self-harm. This includes content that urges or encourages readers to cut or mutilate themselves; embrace anorexia, bulimia, or other eating disorders; or commit suicide rather than, e.g., seek counseling or treatment for depression or other disorders. Online dialogue about these acts and conditions is incredibly important; this prohibition is intended to reach only those blogs that cross the line into active promotion or glorification. For example, joking that you need to starve yourself after Thanksgiving or that you wanted to kill yourself after a humiliating date is fine, but recommending techniques for self-starvation or self-mutilation is not.

Of course,the devil is in the detail, and it is not clear how they will be able to police this, but this does at least give them a framework for removal of any offending content, should they come to its attention. Tumblr states that it will give the blog owner a grace period to remove offending content, then shut down the blog if it is not removed. It will also display public health announcements next to any search terms referring to these types of activities.

Hurrah for Tumblr!

Like more bizarre Social Media tidbits?
And today’s bizarre social media news……
and more from the bizarre worlds of marketing and espionage…
And live, from the sequestered jury…..





And live, from the sequestered jury…..

19 02 2012

The Scales of Justice above The Old Bailey, London photo credit Colin Smith

You may have seen a recent article about a jury member, Jacob Jock, who sent a friend request to a defendant on an auto negligence trial he was enpanelled on. He claimed that he accidentally hit the “friend request” instead of the “mutual friends” button when doing a search on the defendant in response to the request for a declaration of whether the jurors knew anyone associated with the trial. OK, maybe plausible – stupid but maybe. He then failed to bring the “accident” to the attention of the court (later saying he hoped the defendant would forget about it) and instead waited until the defendant brought it to the attention of her lawyer.

Initially he was just dismissed from the jury – until he then posted :

“Score … I got dismissed!! apparently they frown upon sending a friend request to the defendant … haha.”

Hmmm. Clearly not the sharpest tool in the toolbox.

But there are others. IN the UK, a juror, Joanne Fraill, was jailed for 8 months for chatting about the trial on Facebook with the defendant in a drugs trial. (The defendant also got 2 months for contempt.) In her own trial Fraill claimed she contacted the defendant because she empathised with his life – however her message

…pleeeeeese don’t say anything cause jamie they could all miss trial and I will get 4cked to0” (sic)

seems to indicate that she knew she was doing the wrong thing and was jeopardising the entire trial. The defendants’ co-defendant Gary Knox is apparently now appealing his guilty verdict on the same grounds (juror misconduct).

Not only is it illegal to contact defendants and other participants in a trial before or during a trial, it is also illegal to conduct your own research. A difficult task in these days of the ubiquitous Google. However, University lecturer Theodora Dallas discovered this to her detriment. She is now spending 6 months in prison for contempt of court for not only conducting her own online research, but also sharing it with other jurors. She claimed that because it was on the internet it was “public knowledge”. Of course a university lecturer in particular should know that what is on the internet is not necessarily (shock, horror) unbiased fact. Present blog excepted of course. And also that jurors shouldn’t be conducting their own research.

In Detroit,. a 20-year-old woman, Hadley Jons, posted her guilty verdict prior to the jury entering deliberations “Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty.” Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20015175-71.html#ixzz1mmayXNKC . Prior to the prosecution completing their presentation of the case, in fact. An interesting definition of the word “fun” is in operation here. Now she is waiting to find out if she will be found guilt of contempt of court. In this case the defense lawyer’s son happened upon the message when he was – yes, you guessed it – online researching the jurors. (And as an aside, if she had set her Facebook settings higher she might have got away with it.)

And although I can’t find the original information on this one, it is so amazing, I include it here with a link to the article. In 2008 in the UK a juror in a sexual misconduct trial was unsure of what her decision was so she held a FACEBOOK POLL. Unbelievable!

Technology is increasingly impacting on legal trials, and it would seem, the jurors are often the weakest link. You may be familiar with the impact that crime shows have had upon the legal system (the so-called CSI effect) – criminals have learned how to hide the evidence, and jurors expect water-tight cases to be put before them, complete with DNA. Now it is social media’s turn.

In November 2011 the US Federal Judicial System published a report into the use of social media by jurors during trials and deliberations. Thirty judges answered a questionnaire about their experiences, with 9 of them responding that they had had issues with jurors using social media during trials. Unfortunately, no juicy or bizarre stories included in this report, but some interesting tables:

And keep in mind this was a small sample size and related only to those that the judges had become aware of. An anonymous questionnaire for jurors may have rendered different results.  (It would also be nice to know what was in “other”.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if it is illegal off-line, then it’s illegal online. Lawyers who discover juror social media misconduct are bound to report it, and it would seem from earlier cases that defendants and other jurors have also reported breaches. And the lawyers are probably online researching potential jurors for jury selection. Posted any comments on recent newsworthy events? “Liked” any groups lately? Reposted any dubious jokes or sayings? All this information may indicate to the lawyers what sort of person you are, what your prejudices or opinions are and how receptive you may be to the defendant. And if you have made comments on the case, that will probably come to light as well.

A 2010 article by Reuters Legal stated that 90 trial verdicts had been challenged in the US due to social media influence since 1999. Not a massive number, but then Facebook only existed since 2004 and Twitter came into being in 2006. So you will be unsurprised to know that the rate of juror social media transgression is escalating exponentially: more than half of the cases found by Reuters occurred between 2008 and 2010. It’s a growing trend – or perhaps just trending. In 28 cases the challenges resulted in new trials or overturned verdicts. And of course the untold millions of dollars in additional court costs.

The (US) Committee on Court Administration and Case Management has distributed model instructions for judges to use in instructing the jury on the use of social media. The instructions from the trial judge in the Conrad Murray case for the death of Michael Jackson are here. However short of sequestering jurors for the entire trial, removing or jamming all of their electronic devices, it would seem that this is a problem that is here to stay. Apparently common sense, respect for the legal process, and a sense of ethics cannot be relied upon.

At least someone has taken a novel approach to solving that problem: “Have to turn off phone before going into courtroom,” said a tweet…from @BennyAce [Lee Aronsohn, the co-creator and executive producer of Two and a Half Men]. “Apparently it can interfere with the judge’s navigation instruments.”

*************************************************************************************

A short list of cases is at the bottom of this article (including the woman who said the judge had told her not to tweet but hadn’t mentioned blogging….so presumably she thought that was OK), or try googling “juror, social media, mistrial” and see the hits come up! Or conduct your own research on Twitter searching for ” jury”.

Interested in Social Media? here are a few more links:
And today’s bizarre social media news……
when-sources-become-journalists
Net-detectives





Net-detectives

15 02 2012

photo credit: Mike Quinn

If Sherlock Holmes were alive today, would he be surfing the net? Would Hercule Poirot be using his “little grey cells” to analyse Facebook timelines seeking incriminating evidence and little “coincidences”? Would Miss Jane Marple be exercising her lateral thinking skills on coming up with obscure hashtags to search? And what would Barnaby do, if he couldn’t drive around the lush green landscapes of Midsomer, having near-misses on narrow forest tracks?

Well, the detective-fiction genre would be dead and buried given how easy some criminals seem to be making it for law-enforcement. No suspense, no clues, no high-speed chases.

What is it about social media that makes us behave in ways we would never behave normally? Why do we leave our brain next to the keyboard when we start typing? Maybe it is the sense of slightly-disconnected anonymity that we feel when we are online. Perhaps it is the sense of really large numbers – with X billion photographs uploaded on Facebook today, will they really find my photo? Or perhaps that false sense of “we’re all in it together” that comes from interacting with a keyboard instead of real human beings. But if there was a Darwinian award for criminals, these people would be up for awards.

Category One: Crimes committed online.
As well as the untold numbers of incidents of cyber-bullying (and in no way belittling the sometimes terrible effects of cyber-bullying), the infamous Nigerian scams which somehow still seem to lure in the unwitting, and various other scams, phishing sites etc, identity theft as revenge seems to be a growing pastime / crime.

Like the woman who impersonated her ex-boyfriend (a police officer) online and set up fake accounts in his name. She then posted allegedly altered photographs and disparaging comments such as “I’m a sick piece of scum with a gun” and “I’m an undercover narcotics detective that gets high every day,” on the site, purporting to be from him.  What was she thinking?

And the Rhode Island prison guard who set up a fake Facebook profile in his boss’ name.  A career-limiting move, one would have thought.

There are more, but the most amazing thing about these two particular instances is their proximity to law enforcement / corrections. Didn’t that give them any pause for thought? Both of these examples seemed to think that creating a fake online identity for someone else was not identity theft. I’m guessing that neither of these people had a criminal record previously. Think before you post – if it’s criminal in real life, it’s criminal online as well.

Category Two: Crimes announced and promoted online.
This bank robber announced his intention to rob a bank in advance online, posted photographs of himself online with the loot, and DURING the robbery he changed his Facebook name to Willie Sutton Jnr, referencing a 1930s bank robber. Well, at least he was a little creative and knew his history….

Houston police arrested three men and a woman after they bragged on facebook about their $62,000 heist. Such classy postings as: “WOKE UP DIS MORNING! BUST DOWN A SWISHA!!! LOOK IN THE MIRROR LIKE I’M ONE RICH … WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDREDS WIPE MY *** WITH DIS 50s :$:$:$:$:$:$.” and “IM RICH *****” on their own and each others’ pages. I won’t even pretend to understand some of that – but I do understand the $$$ bits!  They also announced their intention to “get $$$” a few days before the heist.

And the FBI arrested Anthony Wilson when he posted photographs of himself online wearing the same distinctive clothes he wore in a bank robbery.  He thoughtfully matched his CCTV photos.

And then there are the many examples of illegal drag racing filmed by the participants and uploaded….and the case of fugitive Chris Crego who skipped interstate but helpfully posted his whereabouts online at Facebook AND MySpace – right down to his place and hours of employment.

Category Three: I am so addicted to social media that I need to update my profile WHILE I am committing the crime.
In addition to the example of the Willie Sutton Jnr robber above, Johnathon G Parker attained notoriety (and arrest) by leaving his Facebook page open on his victim’s computer during a house break-and-enter. Now anyone who watches NCIS knows that you can trace back what sites a computer has been on – but leaving it on your Facebook account is REALLY helpful.

The list goes on but I won’t bore you, it is more of the same. I suspect Sherlock Holmes would be doing a face-palm right now.  I know I am.

So surprise, surprise, law-enforcement are using social media as part of their investigative tools, not only to identify the perpetrators, but also to gather evidence. As well as profiling suspects and putting out bulletins of wanted fugitives, traffic hazards and the like, they are increasingly scanning social media for potential crimes and hazards. Police officers are engaged in cyber-undercover operations luring out paedophiles.

And really, we just hope the crims keep making it this easy.





When sources become journalists…..

13 02 2012

photo credit: I don't know, maybe

If the saying used to be “everyone’s a comedian”, now it should be “everyone’s a journalist”. Social media is changing the way we source news, the way news sources information, and the ease with which information is publicised.

A March 2010 survey on where people got at least some of their news information from revealed that 61% got it from social media. 61%! And it’s probably more now.

Now the statistics sceptic in me thinks – sure, but they probably promoted the survey online and hence got a biased sample. And that may be the case, but the fact that people are looking to social media for news items is interesting in itself.

The stats from the survey read:

  • social media – 61%
  • radio – 54%
  • newspapers – 50%
  • (no stats on TV news here though.)

Almost 92% said they got their information from more than one source. Not really surprising when I think of my own Twitter and Facebook habits, where a large number of sites or feeds I am following are in fact news media, magazines, journalists and publicists. And the occasional friend!

The roles and dominance of “old media” and “new media” seemed to have been changing quite significantly over the past couple of years. I first noticed this in 2010 when the South Australian Government announced they were going to close The Parks Community Centre. A lobby group was rapidly set up on Facebook and gathered thousands of members (eventually topping out at over 6,800). The interesting thing about this – other than the whole facilitation of social organising, which will probably form the basis of another posting later on – was that the traditional media sources seemed to be subscribing to the Facebook group and gaining their information from the Facebook site. New media was driving and providing content for new media. Eventually a couple of local newspapers got involved in organising rallies, thereby, one could say “creating” the news, but the Facebook group very much led the way, and, at the same time, made a minor local celebrity of the unsuspecting mum who had set up the group in the first place.

So then we have the recent article about BBC News, CNN and Sky News having difficulty setting guidelines for journalists about where to send information first – to subscribers or on Twitter. One presumes they may have a financial interest in getting it to subscribers first, but also, many news tweets are actually pointers back to a website, so the link needs to be set up before it can be tweeted. For non-linked tweets though, those that just provide information…..well, they need to remember they have competition out there and time is of the essence. Not only can you be scooped by a rival broadcaster, you can be scooped by the punters as well! The only difference is, journalists need to stop and make sure it is correct information. We punters are allowed (it seems) to be amateurs at the fact-checking function.

Yes indeed, it is not only journalists that are tweeting news, we punters are joining in. I recently posted about American Airlines and Weber Shandwick’s case study of how they managed social media and old media during a hijacking hoax at New York’s JFK Airport. The major sources of information were a couple of passengers tweeting from inside the plane in its ‘hijack quarantine”. Journalists then started contacting these tweeting passengers and asking for information beyond what the company was providing (presumably on the advice of police and security). So you could follow the journalists, or you could follow the passengers themselves – or both.

And so we come to today’s sad news about the death of Whitney Houston. And again it turns out that news of her death was tweeted 42 minutes prior to the official confirmation by Aja Dior M., who claimed that her aunt Tiffany worked for Whitney and had “just found [her] dead in the tub” – only 20 minutes after the official time of death (3.55pm). The news was again tweeted 27 minutes prior to the official spokesperson by “Big Chorizo” who claimed unnamed “sources” had informed him. (Of course no-one is actually reading ALL Twitter feeds so unless you were subscribed to either of these, you probably still didn’t know unless you happened to be looking up Whitney on Twitter at the right time…)

Was this how Whitney would have wanted news of her death handled? Was Aunt Tiffany employed to release information about Whitney? Or does the contract become null and void upon the death of the celebrity? We have no way of knowing if there were confidentiality clauses in the contract between Whitney and Tiffany (although I suspect this may become the subject of a future court case). While the phone-hacking and bribing scandals currently hitting various UK newspapers are (hopefully) bringing journalists and management to account for the ethics of how they gather information (and such activities are illegal for us all), are we going to hold citizen journalists to the same standards? How?

If everyone has become a journalist of sorts, sourcing and releasing information, and we are all moving to accessing our information online….there are a whole lot of ethical questions to be sorted out. And maybe a new understanding of confidentiality and privacy.

Other recent postings on the worlds of social media, marketing….and espionage!
And today’s bizarre social media news……
more from the bizarre worlds of marketing and espionage





Are you missing messages on Facebook?

10 12 2011

I have just read a fascinating article about where Facebook hides messages from people other than friends.

What – you didn’t know about this? No, neither did I, nor it would seem the article’s author and many of her friends. I am a prolific and I thought, relatively adept Facebook user and had no idea I was missing so many messages.

The trick is, on the left hand side of your Facebook screen, click on the word “Messages”. A folder should open up underneath it called “Other”. Click on this and see how many messages come up.

I had 59 messages waiting for me (plus a link to find “older messages”. Some of these were spam (a few offers of meetings of people who liked the look of me – amusing since my profile photo is a picture of the Eiffel Tower). Some were from people I play online scrabble with (they probably thought me very rude for not answering). But there were also a large number from pages that I subscribe to. Some of these were special offers, one told me I had won a tray of cheese (luckily I did know about that and got the cheese! Hello and thanks to Udder Delights!) And a number were training courses with due dates now long since passed. Note that none of these messages in the Other folder came up as a number against Messages to tell me there was something waiting for me. I was lucky – there was nothing really important that I missed, unlike the author in the linked article.

So now I have to remember to….

1. Check the Wall feed is set to “recent stories first” not “highlighted stories first”

2. Keep an eye on the ticker as a lot of these do not seem to come up on my wall

3. Check the Other folder in Messages as well as any messages from friends that have come up in the Messages folder.

Convenience, Facebook, convenience is what we want. Having to find out these sorts of things through word of (electronic) mouth, and check multiple areas to make sure nothing important is being missed is not user-friendly. I understand that their aim was to separate possible SPAM and unwanted messages from messages from friends…..which is fine if they let us know about it and it was obvious on the screen that there was another place we needed to look for messages.

Now I just have to work out how to access the Other folder from the mobile app…..

Feel free to share this around – I suspect many people don’t know about this folder.





It’s a SPAM world

9 12 2011

photo credit: Dave Parker

I am sure I spend way too much time on social media sites, but I do find social media as a phenomenon fascinating. And the ways that organisations use and abuse them, doubly fascinating. As a true tool of the people, social media sites are often difficult to understand and navigate for an organisation more used to controlling its content and how it is viewed and used. But common sense should prevail. Let the sermon / rant begin now!

On of my more recent annoyances is competitions that require you to send on to your friends in order to get an entry. Often these are through Facebook, but sometimes via email as well. Do my friends and acquaintances want me to be filling their inboxes and walls with advertising purporting to be personalised by me? I think not.

Often this is enough for me to exit the site and not enter the competition. If it was just asking to post to my wall, that would be fine, but not asking for the names of friends to send their message to. In many ways this is the latter-day version of Multi-Level Marketing or the party plan, where you turn all your friends into potential sales.

One recent exception to this annoyance was the David Jones version where the message you sent was a personalised Christmas card with the photo of your friend inserted into the photo. Note to retailers – an inexpensive giveaway such as this is much more effective than a straight sales message. The link is here.

My other pet SPAM hate is (again on Facebook), companies that send out messages saying “if you *Like* our page” or if you are the 1000th person to *Like* our page”…. Now surely they realise that the list of people they are sending this to are, in fact, people who have already *Liked* the page. So by definition, you are sending me a message that is not for me (unless you want me to *unlike* and *like* again? That hardly seems to meet the needs of the marketer).

Think people, think. Before you send a message, think about who you are sending it to. What do you want them to do? What is in it for them? Why should they do what you want?

If you are going to do marketing, please make it clever and relevant, not parasitic and annoying.

Sermon rant ends.





“News” and news…

7 12 2011

I was in France this year during the month of May. My French language skills are poor (I can shop and order in restaurants, I can ask questions but am unlikely to know the answers), but one of my great joys when travelling is to watch local news broadcast. (And yes, for the cynics amongst you, I could watch those same overseas newscasts in Australia on SBS – and in fact I do watch Al Jazeera news when I can – but it isn’t the same as being in a different country surrounded by the locals and watching what they are watching.)

Anyway, I digress.

During the month of May, French news was obsessed by two topics. Firstly, The Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, where the head of the International Monetary Fund was accused of attempted rape of a hotel maid in New York. My understanding French news was greatly aided by its complete obsession with this topic – repetition being an aid to learning. Strauss-Kahn and his proposed and eventual successor, Christine Lagarde, are both French. (There is a whole topic to be explored here about why Europeans dominate the upper echelons of the IMF, as opposed to, say Asians or Africans. Particularly since the Euro-zone is looking so wobbly. This is not that story however.)

This story dominated French news for most of the month until Osama Bin Laden was killed, and then the broadcast was shared between the two topics.

In the midst of this I emailed a friend in Australia to ask “Is Australian media as obsessed with the Strauss-Kahn affair as French media is?”

Her answer? “No – Australian media is covering planking.”

Now as I had been out of the country I didn’t even know what planking was, but it turns out to be photographing yourself in inappropriate and unlikely places lying face-down and rigid across….well anything really. Preferably on the job, but the picture above is an example. More photos can be found here. Apparently it started in the media when someone died planking in the workplace.

So imagine my amusement when I got sent the top ten list of Australian Facebook topics for 2011 and found planking as number one (death of Osama bin laden is number four). Compare to the world-widetopics.

So here is the direct comparison.

Australia
1. Planking
2. Cyclone Yasi
3. Census (subject of a campaign)
4. Death of Osama bin Laden
5. Skillex
6. Victorian Floods
7. Daniel Morcombe (abducted and murdered teenager)
8. Charlie Sheen
9. Death of Amy Winehouse
10. Cadel Evans (Australian, won the Tour de France)

Worldwide
1. Death of Osama bin Laden
2. Greenbay Packers win Superbowl
3. Casey Anthony found not guilty
4. Charlie Sheen
5. Death of Steve Jobs
6. The Royal Wedding
7. Death of Amy Winehouse
8. Call of duty: Modern Warfare 3
9. Military operations begin in Libya
10. Hurricane Irene

A few interesting things. The Royal Wedding did not make the top ten in Australia. Perhaps it is time we became a republic? Steve Jobs didn’t make it in Australia. The death of Osama bin Laden only made it to number four on the Australian list – beaten out by the campaign to get Australians to complete the census online. Surely one of the most successful campaigns.

Skillex was a training apprenticeship event held in all states, so presumably that was another successful corporate campaign.

And of course, planking did not rate a mention in the worldwide rankings. Are we surprised? Seriously Australia – planking?





The saga of #qantasluxury

23 11 2011

photo credit Simon sees

I am always fascinated by how new media (Facebook, Twitter etc) is driving old media (newspapers, television and radio news) these days. And none has been as entertaining as the saga of the Qantas Luxury hashtag. This has been a massive PR fail for Qantas. And I love a good PR Fail. No-one does a PR fail on the same scale as Qantas.

A quick recap for those who may have been living under a rock over the past few months.

Qantas is in dispute with a number of unions over wage and job security negotiations. Basically the Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says that for Qantas to be competitive in the international marketplace they need to take jobs off-shore and they need wage rates that are more like those in other countries (specifically Asian countries) rather than the Australian wage rates currently enjoyed by staff. He may be right, but awarding himself a 71% pay rise (no that is not a typo) to a package of around $5million whilst crying poor for the airline was not a great PR move.

A quote from Twitter:
Captain PIREP: #qantasluxury @QantasAirways – the 5 Million Dollar Man is the luxury QANTAS can not afford. http://www.pirep.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=13033&start=45

However, a few days after receiving the pay rise he then unexpectedly grounded the entire airline citing “safety reasons”. National bad press aimed at the annoyance caused by staff and unions became instead worldwide condemnation in international media aimed at Qantas. Hard to see a win here. Rumours circulated that Qantas’ cheaper sister airline, Jetstar, had received a memo three days earlier informing them that this was going to happen. This did not improve the press.

As a result of the shut-down, the Australian Government decided to step in and refer the industrial dispute to the Industrial Relations Commission for resolution, demanding that Qantas get its planes back in the air. After seeking clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority (which wanted assurances that the airline which formerly cited safety concerns, was now miraculously OK to fly), they were back in business – CEO Alan Joyce blamed the unions for the inconvenience, an excuse which seemed like avoiding an apology. The Industrial Relations Commission gave the parties 21 days to find a resolution and outlawed any further strikes and industrial action by the staff and unions. Presumably that was the outcome Alan Joyce had been seeking in his high-price game of brinkmanship. (Meanwhile in the US, a Harvard University student called Alan Joyce was inundated by tweets from irate Qantas passengers, and dealt with them with humour and patience. Qantas could learn something here.)

My previous posting on this saga is here.

So now for the update. Unsurprisingly, they did not manage to come to an agreement within 21 days, and the dispute is back in front of the Industrial Relations Commission who will make a decision. Potentially not a win for either party.

However, Qantas, realising it has created its own massively negative PR campaign, has taken steps to improve its image in Twitter-land. It launched a competition using the hashtag “Qantasluxury””

QantasAirways: To enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury. TCs http://www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/twitter-a-touch-of-qantas-luxury-terms/au/en

Prizes were Qantas PJs and a toothbrush. (Note to Qantas – Singapore Airlines give away toothbrushes and bedsocks with every flight) This less than a month after they inconvenienced passengers all over the world.

Hmmmm…..well, tweeters didn’t really need to be encouraged to be creative! This is now the number one trending hashtag in Australia, and not in the way Qantas had hoped. Tweeters have used their creativity and come up with a remarkably wide range of mocking tweets, videos, articles and other ephemera, as well as airing every gripe, complaint and annoyance they may have ever had about Qantas.

John Dean : I want some tips from the social media coordinator of Qantas because that #QantasLuxury tag is booming.

Tommy__MTommy :RT @prebenvision: #QantasLuxury using a platform they have absolutely no knowledge of for promotional purposes and have it blow up in…

One of the most amusing (and popular) is this one:

And of course, the massive FAIL of the #Qantasluxury campaign has reached mainstream media. Part of the issue (apart from the pathetic prizes, lack of acknowledgement about recent issues and the impact they have had on their customers) is the timing. Again, this was pulled out within days of the Qantas pay dispute being referred back to the Industrial Relations tribunal, just over three weeks after they decided to ground the airline worldwide without giving passengers any notice. Someone at Qantas has a seriously poor sense of timing.

Danae Sinclair :#qantasluxury doesn’t look like a hash tag #fail to me – too much amusement & discussion to be considered anything but a #win – for us.

71% payrise for CEO = entire airline grounded worldwide inconveniencing millions of passengers
failure to reach agreement with unions and referred back to Industrial Relations Tribunal = competition talking about the “luxury” of Qantas with (trivial) PJs as a prize.

Is there any way to pull this one back from the brink? Is there some way for Qantas to fix this? The hashtag is out there now and can’t be retrieved. It has a life of its own, being shared among Tweeters who are keeping it going. Would having a decent prize help? Would some sort of apology help? Would the resolution of the pay dispute (without screwing the Australian workers) help?

Maybe something like Air New Zealand’s flashmob safety demonstration could help:

Note to Qantas – Air New Zealand were CREATIVE, AMUSING, SELF-MOCKING……and they gave away FLIGHTS! There are a whole series of these videos on their Youtube channel.

So, back to Qantas. Maybe only time will help. But they need some better PR advice.

Newsflash: maybe this is the solution Qantas are looking for – a new scandal not involving them:
klixplus (Adam McKinnon) : Did Allan Joyce pay Kyle Sandilands to take some twitter heat off #QantasLuxury ? If he did it maybe his first smart move for Qantas!

UPDATE: 23/11/11 1751: Police have suspended investigations into alleged death threats against Qantas Management. Alan Joyce and other senior Qantas management claimed that they had death threats made against them in May this year, and again in October. Mr Joyce alleged this was related to the wage dispute, saying, “Those who are in the business of using threats, violence and intimidation to obtain their industrial ends should know this: these tactics are cowardly and deplorable. They will not work. Anyone who is caught will face the full consequences.”

Transport Workers Union national secretary Tony Sheldon said the union had believed the decision was a stunt from the beginning and claimed the police decision confirmed this. “It is a disgraceful diversion of police resources,” he said. “The truth is now out. The next issue is for the truth to come out on the dodgy claim that Alan Joyce only decided to shut down the aviation industry on October 29. That’s where the real investigation is needed.”

For the full story, click here.