Friday, 13 April 2012

Social Media: Industry is NOT the thought leader. Get over it.

At this point i can almost hear the industry going: "We have millions of pounds of research, focus groups and marketing telling us how to functionalitize this socmed thing!"  And yes, hypothetical suit guys, you do, and that's why you've got no idea how to deal with it.  And also, is 'functionalitize' even a word? 

So, here is an example of what i'm talking about:

The gap between  the story about a religious group and it's plan to advertise its 'gay cure' message on london buses appearing on Twitter, and Transport for London announcing via their official twitter that the ads would be pulled, was less than two hours.  Twitter broke the story (via links to the Guardian website among others), allowed an instant response from the LGBT community, and was the medium which TFL used to announce the situation's resolution.

How's that for consumer feedback engagement?

On the internet, and on Twitter  especially (other social media services are available), you don't need focus groups, you just need to be following the right keywords, #tags, and the right people.  The focus groups create themselves, and they're free to utilise.

Activists use Twitter because it doesn't just democratise their voice, it anarchises it.  They are the thought leaders, and they are the people the industry and governing bodies need to emulate if they're going to engage with social media properly.  The beauty is, they're already there, engaging with each other and anyone else who wants to join the conversation.

I am Not A Proper Journalist and therefore can't speculate on how many newsdesks called Mayor Boris Johnson on thursday afternoon asking for a statement, but that's the point.  I don't need to be, i just watched the story scroll down my screen as it happened on Twitter.  Once i read about it in the newspapers the next morning, it really was yesterday's news.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Sorry dave, but i'm really not that interesting...

So the UK government plan to monitor all email and internet traffic.  And it is, of course, to keep us safe. If we have nothing to hide, we have nothing to fear, right?

Now, as an internet-savvy new media professional type (no really.  I am.  Shut up!), i have two wildly conflicting opinions on this...  First of all, i'm not planning insurrection or terrorism or any of that malarkey, so that puts me into the 'nothing to fear' category, right?  Hell, there's not even critical mass where i live, and if i was i probably wouldn't go, and i don't actually believe that protest does anything, especially if it doesn't get on the news.

So, i don't really care, to be honest. Dave, if he cared to look, could already get masses of data about me already if he wanted.  The government already has access to the records of my birth, the medical stuff i've had through my life, it knows where i went to school and what qualifications i have.  It knows everywhere that i've worked, what i've earned, when i've lived with a partner and when i haven't.

Even my bank knows where i am most of the time, which is why they occasionally switch off my debit card when i buy something somewhere a long way away from where i live.  If Dave and Theresa don't already have access to this stuff, it's an IT fail which they really want to talk to GCHQ about!  I watch NCIS:LA, i've seen those swishy plasma touch screens they've got!  I assume we've got the same stuff, and if we haven't then someone needs to get onto Ebuyer, they're not cheap but i assume they can afford it...

The Man, to be frank, is deluged with information about me.  None of which is particularly of interest.  Track me if you can, i'm really rather boring.  And actually, i'd be impressed if you could, google maps on my phone can only get within a couple of miles unless i'm connected to a wifi hotspot.

But.  Yes, i said there were two wildly conflicting opinions on this one.  We don't live in a fascist police state yet. And it's unlikely really, that we will. Does that mean i want some private security contractor picking me out on CCTV as looking a bit unusual and watching me going shopping? No. It's harmless but it makes me uncomfortable when i catch the camera moving out of the corner of my eye.  Do i want all those emails and texts between me and my significant other going via GCHQ? No, it's none of their business what we say to each other, plus it'll slow the damn network down!

I don't have an answer, is what i'm trying to say here.  Like as near to everybody as makes no difference, i'm not a terrorist.  Like everyone else, i'm just trying to get through the day.  I want to be left alone most of the time, and when i don't, i expect the authorities to do their damn job and come running when i need them.  Doesn't mean if i post a blog about civil liberties or chat to a friend on FB about how useless the government are, that i expect a knock at the door...  Watch out for my safety, don't watch me for my safety.  See the difference?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Digitally Disconnected...

Last weekend, i had a monumental level of disastrous disconnect.  I was removed from the major part of my world, rendered unable to contact friends or family.

I dropped my blackberry in a glass of water.

This traumatic event got me thinking how much we rely now on not only the internet, but a constant connection to it from wherever we are.  I know, as long as i have my trusty phone, that i can call for help, take a photograph, pull up a map to tell me where i am, or most importantly, update my facebook status.

It seems five minutes ago that nobody had a mobile phone except yuppie poseurs, and the idea that you would walk round in the future with an always-on internet connection in your trousers was not even considered. Even in futures with flying cars, sentient androids and memory implants, if you wanted to make a call, you needed to find a phone box...

Now in 2012 we have gadgets on us that make even recent sci-fi tech look clunky, and rather than sentient AIs we have google.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing at all.  I love my smartphone, and the whole day i was without it while it dried out in a bag of rice, i was lost and confused and felt alone...

Twitter, facebook, this whole social media thing is just another way that humans do what we've always done.  Form groups and talk about interesting or cool or funny stuff we've just found.  We've just outsourced it to our technology.  The UK government's likely plan to monitor all that is nothing that new, really.  Conspiracy movies have been telling us that The Man is monitoring everything we do for ages.  We're told, of course, if we have nothing to hide we have nothing to fear, but who has nothing in their life that they don't keep from other people?

Being able to be seen doing everything we do is the price we pay for being constantly connected.  Is it worth it? I don't know.  But i know i hated not being able to use twitter on the train...