Olympic fever

4 08 2012

named-dropping – my friend and former boss, Chris McRae, and her son James McRae, with his bronze medal for the men’s quad rowing.

I don’t watch sport. I am known for this. I fall asleep if the football is on. I read the newspaper from the front and stop reading after the business section. I am unable to name any players of any team (unless they have made the front page for some scandal – and even then I may not know what sport they play).

Turns out however, there is an exception.

The Olympics. Every four years, for two weeks at a time, I will watch pretty much anything Olympics-related.

Diving? I love it. Swimming? It’s the national sport. Pole vault? Several hours of focussed viewing. Rowing? I name-drop the son of a work colleague from a decade earlier who is now in the team. Hockey? This becomes a family obsession. Soccer? Discussed at length around the water-cooler at work. Cycling? I might even drag out my bike for a ride. And how did I ever live without gymnastics and equestrian broadcasts?

So what is it about the Olympics that makes it such compelling viewing (despite the abysmal local television coverage)?

I think it is a combination of things….

1. It is a short-term committment. My attention span can last two weeks, but not much longer.

2. Pardon the pun, but I am starting on an even playing field. My knowledge of these sports is approximately the same as everyone else’s so I can hold my own in conversations. Unlike football, tennis or cricket where almost everyone else in the world knows more than me.

3. The variety of sport is sufficient to stave off boredom. Pole vault or sprint might not hold my attention for long, but a couple of hours….fascinating!

4. It feels like I am participating with the rest of the world. It is interesting to see people from all over the world competing, their team uniforms, the spectators, the flags and banners. It is a world event, and in a very small way, I am part of it sitting in the comfort of my living room, watching the flickering light of the TV. And part of team Australia. Without the hassle of doing any actual exercise.

So for a couple of weeks I become a sports fanatic, completely out of character.

But don’t be fooled. In a weeks time, I will be back to my normal level of disinterest.

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

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.

Homer Simpson Model of Parenting

6 10 2011

photo credit Dan Diemer http://www.flickr.com/ photos/diemer/2212688238/

When I was growing up, television parents were idealised. They were patient, wise, understanding and gently humourous. They always knew the right thing to say, were always perfectly groomed, and slept in separate beds (until Mike and Carol Brady – quelle horreur!) Very wholesome, but did we really think other people lived like that?

Then came The Simpsons. Now its fair to say they weren’t the first parents who used their children for humour and expressed the exhaustion and frustration of family life – think Roseanne Barr – but even now, most family shows have children who are either nauseatingly precocious or little more than props to demonstrate that they are based on a nuclear family. (Two and a Half Men is probably an exception here – the child is allowed to be humourous.)

Perhaps by virtue of being a cartoon, The Simpsons are considerably rougher on the children, ranging from verbal and physical neglect to outright abuse. I can’t imagine any non-cartoon allowing a small child to be strangled by his father every week!

So in honour of what Homer Simpsons teaches us about parenting, here are some of his classics. I don’t necessarily recommend that you adopt any of these in your family life or parenting.

1. Anything hard isn’t worth doing

2. Facts are meaningless. You could use facts to prove anything that’s even remotely true!

3. Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand

4. If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.

5. Well, it’s 1 a.m. Better go home and spend some quality time with the kids.

6. Don’t discourage the boy! Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals! Except the weasel.

7. If you don’t like your job you don’t strike. You just go in every day and do it really half-assed. That’s the American way.

8. The answer to life’s problems aren’t at the bottom of a bottle, they’re on TV!

9. When you participate in sporting events, it’s not whether you win or lose: it’s how drunk you get.

10. What do we need a psychiatrist for? We know our kid is nuts.

11. Marriage is like a coffin and each kid is another nail.

12. Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.

13. I wonder where Bart is, his dinner’s getting all cold …… and eaten.

14. Kids, kids. As far as Daddy’s concerned, you’re both potential murderers.

15. Oh no! What have I done? I smashed open my little boy’s piggy bank, and for what? A few measly cents, not even enough to buy one beer. Wait a minute, lemme count and make sure … not even close.

16. OK, son. Just remember to have fun out there today, and if you lose, I’LL KILL YOU!

Do you have any Simpsons parenting classic quotes? Send them in.

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!

Spongebob, sponge-brain

17 09 2011

I’ll start by declaring my inbuilt bias up-front. I have never been a fan of SpongeBob Squarepants. To me it seem like the height of laziness to have a cartoon character who was essentially a cube. I am much more of a Warner Brothers person, if I have to pick a cartoon genre.

So the latest news that SpongeBob was bad for kids’ brains fell on a receptive mind.

So to give you the background, a study published in Pediatrics, have found that watching SpongeBob Squarepants turns preschoolers’ brains to mush. Their attention span drops, as compared to say, children watching another type of cartoon.

The study randomly divided a fairly narrowly selected group of 4 year old children into three groups who then were shown either 90 minutes of SpongeBob, 90 minutes of a more realistic cartoon about a child, or told to draw pictures.

Afterwards their ability to “stay on task” was measured. Those who had been drawing or watching the realistic cartoon scored about the same. Those who watched SpongeBob scored significantly worse.

Nickelodeon’s response is that the cartoon is designed of 6 to 9 year olds, not 4 year olds. Kinda misses the mark I think, as we all know the little kids want to do what the older kids do, and all children are attracted to shiny objects, fast action visuals and noises.

The study concludes that it is not just how much TV children watch, but also what they watch that can be detrimental. Yes, yes, but just turn the d@#n thing off.

The next step is to see how long the effects last for.

For more information see here.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Impact of Marshmallows on the DS generation.

Rules for Life

14 08 2011

I am a great fan of NCIS, and particularly the inimitable and somewhat inscrutable Gibbs.

In honour of Gibb’s rules, I present here my own version, born of bitter experience and occasional inspiration.

1. When someone says “no disrespect intended”, they are about to disrespect you. Likewise for “no offense, but…”

2. Desperate people do desperate things. The trick is to try not to make them desperate.

3. Pick your battles. There is no point “dying in a ditch” over something that fundamentally doesn’t matter to you, or that you aren’t ever going to win.

4. Everyone thinks their point of view is rational and well reasoned. People who holding opposing points of view both think their view is well-reasoned. It’s just the way it is.

5. If you are in a bad place at work, at home or in a relationship, get out. You could of course spend a great deal of emotional energy over a long period of your life trying to work through it, trying to change others or the situation. However you know that the longer you are there the more damage is being done to your psyche. You are being changed by the experience. You don’t have to put up with it. Get out.

6. Being bored is good for you. It makes you be creative to entertain yourself. Don’t fill the boredom with mindless television (and other forms of electronic white noise).

7. Some things are not your problem. Some things are other people’s problems. Be clear about what is and is not your problem.

8. There is a difference between “want” and “need”. Or as I say to my children when they say they need something – “define need”. Oh yeah, they love it!

9. Get over it. Its your life, you choose what it is going to be about. If it is going to be about some injustice done to you in your childhood, then it won’t be about all the great things that could be happening now. Yes you were hard done by, now get over it.

10. Optimists call themselves optimists. Pessimists call themselves realists. Its a perception thing.

11. You already know what you need to do. In western society, information is freely available. If you need to lose weight – you know what you have to do. If you want to earn money or get a better job – you know what you have to do.

12. To misquote Marx, Television is the opiate of the masses. It keeps us sedate, passive and inactive. It fills up time that could be productive. Luckily, it does have an off button.

13. Alcohol and all forms electronic communication do not mix. Not with telephone, Facebook, sms, ebay, email – etc. You know its the truth!


It is fair to say this is a work in progress. I am happy (keen!) to consider additions – send them through!