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

And today’s bizarre social media news……

9 02 2012

I haven’t done a social media news round-up for a while, but today seems to have thrown up a couple of bizarre stories.  Stories worth commenting on for their improbability…..

1.  Salem Witch-Hunt comes to a high-school courtesy of YouTube.   This might be a stretch for you, but when I read about the bizarre illness allegedly being spread amongst teenage girls at an American high School – an illness that has symptoms such as tics and spasms – I thought of Tituba and her nice Puritan girls throwing fits in the Salem Courtroom and accusing the gentlefolk of witchcraft.  Ergo (some may say), the internet is of the devil.

OK, a stretch too far perhaps.  But here is the actual story:  LeRoy High School in New York has had an epidemic of teenage girls coming down with strange Tourette’s-like symptoms – twitching, tics and uncontrolled verbal outbursts.  Being teenage girls and particularly now that the media is interested, they have been posting videos of their symptoms online.  Extensive environmental testing has demonstrated no neuro-active toxins in the environment that might be causing such symptoms, so experts have diagnosed conversion disorder – the modern term for mass hysteria. And now there is potential for an epidemic as the symptomology spreads via social networking. Yes, that’s right – a real life computer virus. (You knew that pun was coming, didn’t you?)

Read more in Huffington Post. There’s even a video / slide show section at the bottom where you can test your psychological resilience and/or come down with the plague yourself. You have been warned and no liability is accepted by this blogger for the link!

(For more info on this story see Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”.)

2. Putting censorship to the test. Twitter’s recent announcement that it would with-hold content in some countries in compliance with local laws is to be put to the test by Brazil. Thank-you, contestant Number One. Brazil is using the relatively minor issue of speed-cameras and roadblocks as its test case, suing Twitter for users publicising locations of these devices to alert other road users. (Gee, cos then they might slow down and not get booked for speeding – wait, isn’t the point of it to stop people speeding? Hasn’t the Twitter message just achieved that? And if it is only for a short while and on that road – it is arguable that the speed traps have a similar effect as well, except for lightening your wallet at the same time).

Anyway, the relevance of this article comes back to the Middle East uprisings in Spring of 2011. If Twitter decides it will comply with local laws, then it is arguable that the dictators of an oppressed country will simply make a law saying that social media cannot carry information against the government – and hey presto, the end of any uprising. This comes back to my previous posting Shades of Grey for Social Media. Whether you are a “good guy” is a matter of perspective, and while you may be in favour of people slowing down on the roads (and I am) and support police enforcement of such road rules (and I am), censorship is a slippery slope.

Twitter has now said it will comply only if it believes the requests are “valid and applicable” – both a very powerful and vulnerable position to put themselves in, and one that Brazil apparently wants to challenge. Twitter’s postings on this subject are here: Tweets must flow

3. News to Sheldon Cooper: Mathematics does not hold all the answers. A study into the algorithms used by online dating services has found (shock, horror) that you are as likely to find love in a bar as you are through their websites. While the websites do at least provide you with links to people who have declared themselves available and interested, and geographically appropriate, the comparing of various interests and similarities cannot determine if the sparks will fly and true love will strike. So the Big Bang Theory’s example where they linked Sheldon up with the delectable and bizarrely appropriate Amy, is a fluke – or as Sheldon would say, “what people who don’t understand random numbers would call a coincidence.” Indeed.

Of course that is assuming that it is true love that you are seeking on these websites. (It was true love you were looking for, wasn’t it???) But then if you just want a hook-up maybe the bar is as good for that as well. Probably quicker, anyway. The article is here and will be published in an upcoming edition of Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

There are a few others in today’s bumper crop:

– something about a social network called Path(who?) accidentally uploading people’s entire address books without consent thereby ensuring that I won’t be using them anytime soon. They have fixed it, by the way. (Can anyone tell me if I am missing anything at Path? Other than privacy invasions?)

– And another one about BBC News, CNN and SkyNews grappling with how to deal with Twitter coming out of their newsrooms. They want it to go first on their website for their audiences, then onto Twitter for the rest of the unwashed masses. Oh wait – perhaps “their audience” and “Twitter followers” (aka UWM) are the same people? A watching brief, I suspect.

And finally, an article about Pinterest adding tracking codes to certain pins so they can report back to interested users (aka commercial interests) on activity and earn….money. While it perhaps would have been nice for Pinterest to disclose it was doing such a thing, I think those who have had a look at Pinterest will have spotted that amongst the very many “community” pins, there are certainly some linking back to commercial sites. So the idea that Pinterest might want to (let’s use that horrible made-up word) MONETIZE their site really shouldn’t be a shocker. As the site remains free to use, the bills have to be paid somewhere. I for one am not really bothered.

And I am very disappointed that WordPress did not pick up the word “Monetize” in spellcheck.

Social Media news

3 11 2011

A few grabs from today’s social media news:

1. Can Social Media improve your health? Adelaide University researchers are working with Lyell McEwin Hospital to see if social media can be used to improve the health of expectant mothers and their babies.

2. Social Media, Identity Theft and the law. A New Jersey woman is facing court over allegedly creating a fake Facebook account in the name of her ex-boyfriend, a cop, and then writing disparaging and humiliating remarks about him as he had written them about himself. Lesson of the day” crime is crime whether it is committed online or offline. But online is often easier to track.

3. A post-mortem on the use of Social Media in the spring uprisings in the Middle East. An interesting case study from a Yemeni activist says that in fact Yemenis used radio ad SMS to organise more than social media, but she also comments on the effect international support via Youtube had on critics.

4. Protect your online reputation. Not really news, but a great reminder to protect and monitor your online reputation on a regular basis.

5. And to finish with some humour…. How to find out if it is raining using Twitter. University of Bristol’s Intelligent Systems Lab (I kid you now) have used analysis of Twitter to work out if it is raining outside, thus proving that people do really talk about the weather on WWW (and no doubt other trivia highly irrelevant to the rest of the world). In case you didn’t already know that. Your tax-payer dollar (pound) at work, people!


No whales were harmed in the making of this posting.

If you are interested in Social Media, you might also like…
Social Media in Emergency Situations
Shades of Grey for Social Media
Stalker-net Part II
Gen Z, Millennials and Privacy
Developing your Company’s Social Media Policies

Gen Z, Millennials and privacy

23 10 2011

photo credit Dan Taylor

I must be getting old.

Or paranoid.

Or both.

While “researching” (aka killing time) on Facebook the other day, I happened to notice that a friend’s child was posting on their wall. Out of curiosity I clicked on the child’s Facebook page and found that I could read their entire site.

There were a couple of other names in the friends list that I recognised, and I clicked on those – again, I could get into their sites and read everything. And each of these children had between 200 and 300 Facebook “friends”. Excuse my skepticism – but do they really KNOW all these people?

These are not the children of neglectful or thoughtless parents. In fact I wouldn’t mind betting that for those parents who also have Facebook accounts, they have their own privacy settings set up very high. And they probably only have people they actually know as their Facebook friends. So how is the message not getting to their children?

We still teach our children stranger-danger, and we have all heard the dreadful stories of children who were contacted and groomed by predators online…. yet none of these children seem to have any privacy settings on their Facebook pages.

Now there is nothing of any particular concern on any of their walls, although the occasional older friend seems to post language and concepts that would be best left out entirely, if not just off-line. But they do post general information like their home town, what teams they barrack for, what teams they play for, what school they go to – all identifying features if you were so inclined.

So how do we teach Generation Z and the Millennials about privacy? About keeping safe? About protecting themselves? Or do we have to keep checking up on them?

This is a generation that grew up with social media. When they were born their parents emailed photos to friends, and for some of them, their births were announced on Facebook. (Some may even have birth videos on Youtube, but let’s not go there.) Their childhood was documented with photographs of every achievement posted online, accompanied by comments from their parents about whether they had been good or naughty, exhausting or joyful. And then their parents’ friends got to “like” or comment. Childhood by popularity contest.

So if the parents have over-shared their child’s life, is this what the child thinks is normal?

And the next question is, what happens when these children get to adult age and start looking for a job. How much of what they, their friends and their family are posting on-line, will still be there? Will the in-jokes amongst friends play any better if you allow for the fact the child was 13 at the time they posted it, or “liked” the rather off-colour page? Will recruiters need to take all of this into account when recruiting in ten years time? Or is there going to be a booming business in “cleaning up” Gen Z’s online reputation? (Get in now – I take only 20% commission for the idea.)

But if prevention is better than cure, how do we teach our children to stay safe in the online environment?

Stalker-net part II

8 10 2011

In this strange world of both increased and almost paranoid privacy, and the open sharing of all manner of things online, the concept of stalker-net is one I have visited in the past. The context then was the check-in feature of Facebook which fulfills the following three useful functions:

1. Alerts potential robbers to when you are not home

UPDATE 5/11/11: See here for a great infographic about burglers using social media to identify when people aren’t home.

2. Alerts potential stalkers to your current location (and who you are with)

3. For check-ins at home (in bed, eating breakfast etc – we’ve all seen them), alerts potential stalkers to your home address, when you are actually there, and helpfully, provides a little map.

OK – so maybe my paranoia is slightly higher than most, since a really large number of my friends seem to use this function and to my knowledge (and I guess to their knowledge) none of them has been broken into or is being stalked.

I can’t say the new Facebook “subscribe” option made me feel any better about controlling what information I have out there – but then I can’t seem to get LinkedIn to let me block certain people from viewing my account either. Not that there is anything on there that is incorrect or in any way damaging, I just find it creepy that I have a couple of lurkers who refuse to make contact but check out my profile regularly. Yes, paranoia again.

So thanks to Saucy Social Media for the following graphic, which combines three of my major interests – social media, psychology and humour.

And you know what they say – the best jokes contain that grain of truth. I do not however suggest you use this as a diagnostic tool.

If you liked this post you might also like When PR gets it wrong – or click on the “sign me up” button to get emailed updates.

What’s your personal social media policy?

24 08 2011

Working through a social media policy for work is a good reminder of the issues social media can have for the individual.

We have all heard the horror stories – career-limiting photographs and postings that last forever. Employees facing disciplinary action, losing jobs or being screened out in interviews because of social media information. People being sued for defamation. Workplace bullying following employees home.

Here are some thoughts on defensive social media management.

1. Be clear about who each social media forum is for. For instance for me, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for current and former work colleagues and Twitter is for anyone. I am very clear about this to avoid giving offense. I do not have work-related people on my Facebook site. It is too easy for an innocent comment to be misconstrued to relate to a specific work-related activity. On the other hand, I know people who do have work colleagues on their Facebook site. That’s fine too, but once you have made the decision you need to post appropriately. Remember who is there.

2. Make sure your privacy settings are high. This is basic common sense, but it never ceases to amaze the number of people who have low or no privacy settings. It’s a big world out there people, not everyone has good intentions!

3. Be aware that no matter what your privacy settings, information gets out. A friend does a screen grab of a funny picture or posting you have put up, shares a comment you have posted, you comment on a friend’s site only to find that some of their friends know you as well.

4. Be careful which Facebook groups you join – despite your privacy settings your comments on someone else’s, or a group’s, page might show up on a google search. Just “liking” a page sometimes shows up.

5. Alcohol and social media do not mix if you want a career!

6. Be careful about what you find humourous, including the postings you repost. Just because it wasn’t your writing or your opinion, having it against your name for reposting may look bad.

7. Google yourself from time to time and see what pops up. Mine generally covers work related activities (quotes in media, reports presented, documents authored and conference presentations, etc) and some recreational activities including notice boards I have left comments on. I did once find an obituary in my name – I have an unusual double barrelled surname so this was slightly alarming. Turns out to be an 82 year old woman who died in Texas. I believe in coincidence!

8. Do you have a common (ie: popular) name? Is there some way you can differentiate yourself from others with similar names – particularly if they are in unsavoury businesses or making ill-advised comments you do not want associated with yourself. You need to be either clearly identified as to which comments are you (if your strategy is to make your profile stand out online), or be anonymous in the crowd of people with the same name.

9. If you find defamatory comments about yourself, request that the user remove them. If that doesn’t work, request that the site owner removes them. And remember, libel is libel, even if it happens in cyber-space.

If you like this posting, you might also like Career Networking Sites
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Who owns you?

20 08 2011

Two items of social media news have caught my attention this week.

1. Who owns you? A legal case where journalist, Laura Kuenssberg, amassed an enormous Twitter following, tweeting as part of her job. Her account even included her employer – @BBCLauraK. All sweet.

Until she changed jobs to ITV. Who owns the Twitter account?

Laura K's new Twitter feed - @ITVLauraK

Of course this instance is particularly complicated for the following reasons:

1. the account includes the identity of both the journo and her employer. Both have reputations at stake. Did people follow Laura, or were they following a BBC journalist? Or both – surely her credibility and newsworthiness related to her employment. Apparently some of the tweets were processed by BBC producers, and the twitter-feed was promoted on air.

2. The employer had asked her to tweet during work time and about work related matters. Therefore is it part of the product she produced for her employer in her paid time?

3. I am guessing here, but she probably tweeted in her own time as well. This complicates thngs a little.

4. She is a journalist, so she retains the copyright to her product under copyright law. However the product is not the same as the medium (Twitter).

Seems to me the only option is for the account to be abandoned after messages directing followers to both an alternate BBC feed and an alternate Laura K feed. That way everyone loses equally, and users get to chose which one – or both – they want to follow.

And that does appear to have happened. If you have a look at Laura’s new Twitter feed – @ITVLauraK- she is both thanking people for following her to the new feed, and referring them on to other BBC journalist Twitter accounts. Very graceful.

5/11/11 UPDATE : A court case in the UK has awarded an employee’s Linked-In contacts to the employer. Apparently this relates to the majority of the contacts being related to the employees’ work for the company (as they would be – given that LinkedIn is a professional networking site). See here for more details


2. Not Liked!
The data protection authority in Schleswig-Holstein, a state in Germany, has apparently outlawed the Facebook “like” button. I kid you not. (And no, it is not April 1 – I checked.)

This relates to the Facebook company collecting data such as our IP addresses when we click “Like” on the sites we visit. This information is then passed on to company servers in the US and saved for 90 days. It is this collection and retention of data that the data protection commissioner alleges contravenes German and European law.

Website owners in Schleswig-Holstein were ordered to immediately disable the *Like* buttons on their sites, and threatened with legal action if they failed to comply.

German Facebook Stats from http://www.socialbakers.com

Users were urged not to set up Facebook sites and to avoid clicking *Like* buttons in order to prevent themselves being profiled.

Something about King Canute springs to mind, but this is not Germany’s first foray into the battle with internet giants over privacy laws. And they have won in the past.

Google has allowed German citizens to blur their houses in Streetview. Facebook has also put controls over its Friend Finder, which mines email address books to identify contacts.

So will Germany join China in banning Facebook entirely? It seems unlikely in a democratic country, whose citizens are currently heavy users of Facbeook and other social media. Over 20million germans have Facebook accounts, approximately 25% of the population.

Will the law-makers of Germany win over the corporates at Facebook? And on whose side are the private citizens of Germany?

And finally, the burning question for the day: is the term private citizen an oxymoron in this day and age?


18 07 2011

When I started on Social Media, I was very careful about personal information. I didn’t add my hometown to my Facebook page or to TripAdvisor. I carefully avoided anything geographically identifying, or particularly, identifying of my children. When I left the house or went on holidays I carefully refrained from posting comments or photos until I returned home – in case I was advertising that my house was empty.

I worried about identity theft and carefully googled myself to see what information was out there. (Sidebar – I was somewhat alarmed to find an obituary for myself – then realised it was an 82 year old woman in the US with the same triple barrelled name.)

I marvelled at the difference between my Gen X friends – all as paranoid as me – and my Gen Y friends who put it all out there. My Gen X friends, like me, know everyone on their Facebook Friends list, even if some of them were school friends from 25 years ago. Some of my Gen Y friends have over 2000 friends. How is that even possible?

And then came the “check-in” app. Or as I like to call it, Stalker-App. In case I ever need to know where someone is – they check in. They check in when they are in bed (and then their address is clearly visible on the map, helpfully GPS positioned by Facebook). They check in when they are out – and where. Sometimes they also check in their friends. And yes, it has become a competition to see who can check in from the most exotic places and who has the best social life.

Where privacy is concerned, this seems to have become the great leveller. And the thin edge of the wedge. Suddenly everyone is checking in somewhere. (Perhaps we should be enjoying ourselves wherever we are instead of busily tapping it into our iphone or ipad.) And once you’ve started posting personal information and the world doesn’t end (or at least no-one has stolen your identity or targeted you in some other way), why stop? You get so much more feedback.

Suddenly, my entire career path is up on LinkedIn. Is this a good idea? Who knows?! I was told the other day at a social media conference that people get jobs through LinkedIn. No-one I know, I have to say. I know many people who were checked out by recruiters, looking up information on LinkedIn and Facebook. But I don’t know anyone who actually got head-hunted as a result of their LinkedIn profile. I wonder if this is an across-the-board trend, or is it just for people working in social media?

If I google myself now I can find all sorts of personal information about myself, most of it posted by me. Much of it is from chatting to people I feel like I know. But it is all out there forever.

In an age where we mistrust others, lock ourselves away behind bolted doors and gates, lecture our children on stranger danger – is social media the reaction to the isolation we feel?

How do you feel about the amount of personal information about yourself available on the net? Have you had a job offer from LinkedIn? Tell me about it!