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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

IABC Edmonton’s Social Media Workshop Recap

Friday, March 26th, 2010

Translate online interest into offline action.Yesterday I was able to attend the Edmonton IABC’s half-day social media conference ‘Connecting the Dots’, in part as a participant and in part in a slightly more ‘official’ capacity as a representative from my company Redengine, which sponsored the event. I spent most of the day live-tweeting on Redengine’s Twitter feed using the #IABCyeg hashtag.

First up was a keynote from George Siemens, a high-level definition of social media and how it impacts PR and communications professionals. Trying to define social media is always an interesting challenge for me in my client presentations, but I’m particularly fond of the way George Siemens defined it as “a shift from broadcasting to conversation, from telling to engagement”, and how he spoke about moving from the ‘.’ era to the ‘/’ era (as in ‘company.com’ to ‘twitter.com/company’). This statement is particularly good at calling out how many people (especially in my generation) are now looking for companies and brands to communicate with them on their terms in their own spaces; people want to engage with business on their own terms. George’s slideshow is up on slideshare, and definitely worth a look.

Next up was Mack Male and the City Centre Airport debate social media case study, something I was following during the summer and somewhat familiar with, but it was interesting to hear Mack talk about it, especially given he was one of the driving forces behind the Not My Airport campaign. It was great to hear Mack champion blogging: some of the new social media forms get a lot more coverage right now, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter have great value, but to me nothing beats the kind of great, ‘real-life’ content ordinary people are creating all over the world in blogs. He also gave voice to the idea that you don’t always have to create ‘new’ spaces or tags for discussion: a lot of discussions are already taking place, and it’s usually better to join them rather than start new ones or try and shift the party to a new local. Find the enthusiasts and point to them rather than try to herd them. If a hashtag or group already exists, use it!

Mary Pat Barry presented the Edmonton Stories case study. Edmonton Stories is a fascinating example of user-generated content and crowdsourcing, and while I haven’t had the opportunity yet to browse through the stories they’ve collected it’s something I’m definitely going to do after hearing more about it. It sounds like they tried to get an honest (though over all positive) view of Edmonton, and have tried to include as broad a range of personal experiences as they could. Some people may thing the staff stories ‘skew’ the content, but to me it’s important to seed content and help users understand what you’re looking for when you crowdsource online.

After the break was a panel discussion featuring editor Karen Unland from the Edmonton Journal, Norman Mendoza from Redengine and Seek Your Own Proof, blogger Dave Cournoyer, and Edmonton business owner Chris LaBossiere.

As an interesting twist, behind the panelists was projected the live Twitter #IABCyeg conversation, and as a result most of the discussion was very Twitter-centric. Because of it, the discussion actually kicked off with several questions about the etiquette of tweeting and live-tweeting, whether or not live-tweeters multi-task effectively, and what the value of having the online conversation in tandem with the panel conversation was. There was a lot of commentary both in the room and on the screen (by people in the room and outside it), and it was interesting to see how the rest of the discussion played out on Twitter behind the panelists after; I wonder if any minds in the room were changed?

There was also a lot of discussion about controlling social media (and the fact that you really can’t, and if you try then you’re doing it wrong), and controlling social media use in a work environment. Mack tweeted this, which has always been a strong personal philosophy of mine when it comes to the things I say and post online: if I’m not comfortable with the entire world — including work, clients, and family — knowing and reading something, then it doesn’t get posted online.

Really great event in a great venue, and I met some interesting people. I’m going to try and go to the Social Media conference at Athabasca University in September if I can.

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Dreamwidth’s First Terms of Service Test

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Over the last week, Dreamwidth has come under fire from some organized trolls with ties to hate speech organizations, posing as concerned parent organizations in an attempt to convince Dreamwidth’s merchant processor and upstream provider that they are hosting child pornography. There have also been several phishing attempts (setting up sites that look like Dreamwidth in order to obtain user’s passwords).

PayPal, the merchant processor, has requested Dreamwidth remove the “offending” entries, and Dreamwidth has refuesed to do so. As a result, they’re on the hunt for a new merchant to accept credit cards. For those with accounts expiring in the next week or two, Dreamwidth is happily providing those people with a one-month extension of paid service while they set up with a new payment processing merchant.

I wrote a post some time ago about Dreamwidth, why I was interested in the service, and how I thought their no-ads model might work out better for its fandom users particularly. This is the first major test of those principles, and so far the Dreamwidth team is passing with flying colours. I am extremely pleased and impressed.

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Transphobia on Facebook

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

Last week Facebook banned Calgary transman Dominic Scaia from Facebook for posting a post-op photo of his bare chest. The photo did not break any of Facebook’s Terms of Service that I can tell. It was neither excessively gory nor sexual in any way.

It’s unclear what bothered Facebook about Dominic’s photos. Section 3.7 of its Terms of Service regulates that content not be “hateful, threatening, pornographic” or contain “nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” It’s clear a male chest falls into none of these categories. Scaia says, “They were from two-and-a-half weeks post-op and included my face. I was holding the camera from above, my chest was bare and I was wearing jeans. None of the photos were in the least bit gory.”

Facebook does not moderate photographs individually. They rely on users to report offensive content. The only people who could view Scaia’s pictures were friends that he’d added to his account. He’d had the photos up for a week without a problem. The evening before he was banned, Dominic accepted a friend request from a young, flirtatious girl. He thinks she looked through his photos and discovered that the cute boy she’d added was not born physically male, choosing then to report his account.

It’s there where things become confusing. It’s Facebook’s policy to remove photos that are deemed offensive and to send a warning. It is not the company’s policy to disable accounts over photos. This does not mean that Facebook has a rule of banning transgender people, it means that one staff moderator made the grossly misinformed choice to ban his account.

Over 6,000 people have joined a Facebook group in an attempt to raise awareness about this. Today, Scaia finally received a reply back from Facebook, saying his photos were in violation of the Terms of Service. His account has been reinstated, but all his post-surgery photos have been removed, and he has been sternly told not to upload photos of “that sort” again, saying: “photos containing nudity or other graphic or sexually suggestive content are not allowed”. Local radio show Gaywire has published an open letter to Facebook. Xtra.ca has an article with one of the photos in question here.

Any signal boosting would be appreciated. Facebook is a major social networking site and a major photo-sharing site that many trans people — including Scaia — use for advocacy and sharing personal stories and experiences with other transmen and women, and sharing post-op photos is part of that sharing. This was a transphobic knee-jerk reaction by a company after one transphobic user reported the image. There was no warning; the account was immediately frozen. It took Facebook over a week to respond to questions and un-freeze the account. This is not cool on many levels.

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Journalist “Moderates” Comments, Teacher Loses Job

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Privacy on the internet, folks. Being anonymous online is harder than you think.

To sum up: Kurt Greenbaum, a journalist/editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (and — laughingly — is also the Director of Social Media there, which I’m betting the higher-ups at the St. Louis Post are regretting right about now) posted an article to the Post-Dispach’s blog entitled “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten? And did you like it?“. Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s read comments on the internet before, one reader responded with the obvious: “pussy”. Mr. Greenbaum checked out the IP address, saw it was from a local school, and decided to call the school rather than delete the comment or block users from that IP from commenting. The school worked their IT magic, discovered the comment had come from one of the teachers, and the teacher resigned upon being confronted with the information. The following Monday, Greenbaum posted a boasting warning: post a vulgar comment while you’re at work, lose your job. The internet gets a hold of this and, predictably, responds with WHUT HELL NO (well, I guess predictably if you’re anyone but the Director of Social Media at the Post-Dispatch anyway).

Check out the comments on the Monday post and his follow-up post including several conversation about whether or not Greenbaum violated his own privacy policy. Some clever cogs snatch up kurtgreenbaum.com, and use it to redirect to kurtgreenbaumisapussy.com in order to hit Greenbaum in the SEO gut and provide a full summary of the events so far. Mainstream media has picked it up and things for Mr. Greenbaum are probably about to go down to tubes quickly. I wouldn’t be surprised to see another job loss come out of this, depending on how bad and broad the publicity gets. The general consensus of pretty much everyone seems to be he went way too far (for the record, I completely agree).

This is a pretty good illustration of why my rule of thumb is to only post online things I’m comfortable with the entire world knowing. Anonymity on the internet is not quite a myth, but it is a more complicated thing than a lot of people realize, and that’s not yet something that’s been honestly and openly addressed by society at large or — probably more importantly — the legal systems. This is also a pretty good example of how important it is to have actual social media savvy people on the payroll. Several massive mistakes were made along the way here, from the phone call to the gloating after-post to the overly defensive and self-important tone Greenbaum takes with commenters who take issue with his actions. There is indeed a teachable moment at the core of all this, but it’s definitely not the one Kurt Greenbaum thought it would be.

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Politics Closer To Home

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

This spring the province of Alberta finally got around to including gay rights into Alberta’s human rights law. Which is fine if really late to the party (like, 10 years late WHOA), but they also wrote into it a proviso that parents would be allowed to pull students from classes dealing with “controversial” topics such as evolution, sex, and — you guessed it — homosexuality. (Link here and here for some more commentary.) Where on the surface this appears merely eye-rolly, what this means practically is teachers will have to send out advance notice to all parents when they intend to cover those topics in class to allow parents the opportunity to pull their children, effectively quashing any “teachable moments” that might come up, bottling impromptu discussions about “religiously sensitive topics” that come up organically, and putting teachers’ (and students’) free speech under religious thumbs. All in the name of not ruffling a religious parent’s delicate sensibilities. So gay marriage is legal in Alberta and has been for some time, but Bill 44 would make such things illegal to talk about freely in a school setting without parental approval.

We may be a very conservative province, but there was a very loud UM WHUT that echoed across the internet, the LGBT communities, and the Teacher’s Association. Social media in particular was used to rally the troops and express dismay over the perversion of a bill that was supposed to secure gay rights. And, apparently someone was actually listening. Thank goodness.

Chris LaBossiere believes this is a direct response to the lobbying done by Albertans, including an active student-populated Facebook group boasting over 11,000 members and a Twitter debate with MLAs and the public that went into the wee hours of the morning and exposed the clumsy, fuzzy language of the bill.

It warms my heart that ordinary people can make a difference and maybe have made a difference here. Kids who still can’t vote spoke up, teachers spoke up, Albertans spoke up. It’s not a done deal at all and the bill still might pass as is, but at least we didn’t let it slide by without a fight. Even in Alberta this shit doesn’t fly.

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