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Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

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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Oh Look, My Social Networking Hat

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

Any other social networking/social media affectionados out there? Y’all should read this very interesting post by Cody Brown that talks about the difference between how Twitter, MySpace and Facebook scaled, the identity crisis of the former two, and what all that likely means for the business. And then, if you really want to geek out, read this article from TechCrunch that walks through some leaked confidential documents from a Twitter insider. (Way far down in that article, if you get that far, they talk about the Twitter employee “Happiness Committee” which made me LOL.)

The Coles Notes gist is that, while Facebook started small and with a particular focus (ie: connecting real life identities online as a way to keep in touch with collage friends), Twitter and MySpace created a basic tool and tried to grab as many users as it could as soon as possible. Where Facebook’s slow growth allowed it to closely watch how its users were using the site and begin tailoring and tweaking the features to make it easier to do those things, MySpace and Twitter both grew so quickly that they couldn’t keep up with the different ways their tool was being used in any meaningful way. The ReTweet and hashtag phenomenons are not and never were something created by the company, but rather something created and distributed across Tweetdom by the users as a simple way to credit other people for the content of a Tweet or tag Tweets for easy searchability on a platform that offered no formal tagging system. Similarly, MySpace never envisioned itself to be a home for blossoming indy musicians, but that group of people started twisting their profiles for that use and now MySpace has a rather large swath of users it’s not entirely sure what to do with and a profile system that’s been hacked almost beyond recognition.

Having never used MySpace myself, I have only a vague, academic understanding of how the service is used. I do know, however, that Twitter was designed initially as a mass SMS texting service and, yes, it does still do that sometimes, but has morphed through exponential, frantically-paced growth to be something far, far different. In the past six months Twitter has almost single-handedly reversed the way news online (and offline) is distributed, putting the public in the know (for a given, rumour-like value of “in the know”) before mainstream media’s had a chance to put its boots on. Trending topics on Twitter house meme and news items alike, and it’s often difficult to tell which is really which (see exhibit Michael Jackson). Users are linked in directly to a mass public consciousness that shifts and splits and reforms around news and ideas, and memes replicate themselves at a faster rate than ever before. (For a really interesting talk about memes, check out Susan Blackmore’s TedTalk on the subject. Very relevant to Twitter and more than a little prophetic given the February 2008 date of this talk.)

Reading through the company’s meeting notes, it’s plain as day to see the business is trying to figure out how to lead the masses it’s hosting, how to deal with the celebrity presence that it largely owes it’s massive user adoption to but sees as a “distraction”, how to deal with the threats of Google real-time search and Facebook’s aggressive campaign to adopt those features that make it’s service more like Twitter, and is still floundering trying to sort out a way to make money off the whole thing. (Sidenote: I get why Twitter’s all freaked out about Google search, but I’m not sure why they’re bothering trying to compete there. If I was them I’d be way more concerned about Google Wave than search, but that’s just me.) My guess is Twitter will flounder on for a while yet, and may ultimately have to break down into two or three separate services, but only time will tell. Twitter has spun so far out of its own control now that there’s no telling whether it will fall to earth, find a stable orbit, or fling itself completely out of the atmosphere.

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Twitter and the Iran Election

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

People who think Twitter is nothing but complete uselessness should consider the way it’s being used in and outside of Iran with regards to the recent Iran election. Where mass media can barely get a finger hold, real people are communicating directly with each other and spreading news incredibly fast. Mass protests have been organized, in part, through Twitter. The Iran government is trying to suppress the stream by turning off SMS, destroying computers, and shutting down or blocking IPs, but so far hasn’t been very successful. People from around the world are creating new IPs and APIs as fast as they can be blocked and sharing them with protesters in Iran.

Yes, Twitter can be a tool of extreme banality, but it can also allow real people to be heard and helped where mainstream media has been blocked.

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Some Thoughts On Amazonfail & Some Final Stats

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Day One | Day Two | Day Three (Final Stats)

A recap for those following along at home:

This may not be my final post on the topic, but with so many news articles and blog posts circulating, it’s essentially impossible to keep track of them all. I may post a final recap — mostly for my own benefit as someone looking to write up a comprehensive case-study on the topic for professional reasons — later in the week, but unless something new develops, this is probably my final comment.

Obviously the first half of this story — that GLTB, feminist, and disabled sexuality books, many of them not containing any erotic content, were flagged as "adult" and stripped of their sales rank, affecting their searchability on Amazon — is well-reported and what caused the internet to rise up and strike at Amazon. And while I share that outrage, many people have spoken about why this matters very eloquently elsewhere, so forgive me if I switch to more professional gears for a moment.

The second half of this story is that news of this broke in social media, primarily Twitter, and Amazon was already attempting to fix the problem long before mainstream media news outlets even got a hold of the story. Also puzzling is why Amazon’s PR department allowed this upsurge of bad PR to rise unchecked for so long, and why they are still continuing to allow bad opinion to circulate largely unchecked after their short and altogether unsatisfying statement about the issue without getting into the game. For a company that uses social data to great effect on their site and is considered one of the great Web 2.0 pioneers, their blasé attitude toward the negative up swell is at the very least shocking, and at the most dangerously ill-advised. I suppose we’ll have to wait to see how their pre-canned comment strategy works out for them as things die down (or perhaps don’t die down) over the next couple of days.

Was it a glitch? I think that’s mostly spin. (And so does most of the rest of the internet.) At the very least I think this was probably and badly thought out attempt to "protect the children" without fully understanding their own complicated and increasingly irregular tagging and category structure. As an e-commerce professional specializing in usability, I can say in my professional opinion that it’s a good thing most (if not all) people use Amazon’s search tools to find what they’re looking for, because their catalogue hierarchy is nightmarishly inconsistent, with different editions of the same book having different tags (some examples of which have been highlighted in this excellent post on Amazon’s meta data).

This also may go to show how middle-management of a large corporation can be a flimsy creature indeed, and how someone in the middle-to-upper echelon of a large company can perhaps push through changes without considering their full implications or spending the time to do a thing properly. Was it a knee-jerk response to a right-wing trolling effort, similar to the infamous Livejournal strikethru incident? Was it a hacker? Was it a policy shift that got executed too quickly and very badly? Was it a translation user-error made by a French employee? As long as Amazon continues to be tight-lipped on the topic, we can’t know for sure. Certainly anything that comes as an official statement from them will be painted up and spun round.

I tend to think it was another one of those unintentional things that reflects underlying social privilege and inclination to misunderstand and misrepresent those things that are different from so-called mainstream. Having said that, it was uplifting to see so many ordinary people rise up so quickly and say: no, this is not acceptable, and this is why. Rest assured that Amazon felt that slap, and hopefully other big corporations (and even governments) will think twice before implementing similar changes without a significant amount of research, thought, and openness.

Good job, internets. Sometimes you use you’re flaily powers for wank and eye-roll worthy silliness, but this time you have used your powers for good. Well done.

ETA: I’m going to link some "fallout" articles here, mostly for easy finding.

ETA: I’m going to link some "fallout" articles here, mostly for easy finding.

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Amazonfail: Day Two

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Day One | Day Two | Day Three (Final Stats)

Amazon still insisting it was a glitch but hasn’t released any sort of detailed statement, just “we’re working on it”. Not exactly what the internets want to hear right now. The amazonfail hashtag search is just as hopping as it was last night. As of this post, wthashtag is showing almost 130,000 twitters tagged with amazonfail (over 30,000 already this morning), the petition goal post has been moved again and lists over 13,000 names, and more of the media has picked up the story including CBC, The Guardian, Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, boingboing, The New York Times, The Advocate, and The Huffington Post.

Gawker wants you to know why they don’t buy the glitch line, and neither does most of the internet. Queerty is not impressed by excuses. Change.org has started a petition-like letter-writing campaign over on their site as well.

For people who don’t get why the internet exploded. After Ellen has a even better article about why this matters, the over-sexing of GLTB people, and what the larger problem is that everyone should read.

There’s a good round-up by right here on Livejournal. Also one from . And has an excellent, well-written summary. Some thoughtful thoughts from . And another summary from .

Dear Author looked at the metadata of each book and discovered the probable data links are exactly what the internet thought:

I looked up over 40 books that had been deranked and filtered out of search engines.  It appears that all the content that was filtered out had either “gay”,  ”lesbian”,  ”transgender”, “erotic”  or “sex” metadata categories.  Playboy Centerfold books were categorized as “nude” and “erotic photography”, both categories that apparently weren’t included in the filter.  According to one source, the category metadata is filled in part by the publisher and in part by Amazon.

Top Google news result for search term “amazon” gives you amazonfail topics by major news outlets. Unsurprisingly, searching for “amazonfail” gets even more hits, though last night both search terms only elicited a handful of top results on the issue. The Amazon Rank Googlebomb is now the top search result for term other than the news about amazonfail. A blog search shows over 6,000 results for the term amazonfail.

Over 1,000 affected books have been tagged on Amazon with amazonfail (at least it will be easy for Amazon to find the affected books).

The merchandise has landed. So has the lolcat.

Social media experts are starting to take note and document the amazonfail case study.

And if you think this is a quick fix and are wondering why everything’s still de-ranked, explains why it isn’t.

ETA: Salon article. And, from their excellent followup article:

At the very least, the “glitch” line suggests that this wasn’t supposed to happen, and Amazon recognizes it’s a highly undesirable situation for the company. Whether that means, “We had no intention of discriminating against anyone” or “We had no intention of so many people figuring this out at once and dragging our brand name through the mud” is an open question.

Also, ITWorld wants to know, and rightly so:

Getting back to my point, it’s dumbfounding that Amazon would let this controversy grow unchecked for a whole weekend. For such a giant in the online space, they certainly seem to be behaving like a brick and mortar company from two decades ago. The fact that this past weekend was a holiday for many people doesn’t stop the flow of information on the internet. Someone at Amazon HQ is going to have a very bad Monday, and deservedly so.

ETA2: Affected author Heather Corinna blogs about amazonfail on her Amazon blog. Meanwhile, wonders about the pre-canned nature of customer service responses that may be complicating the way Amazon responds.

ETA3: This guy says he’s responsible. After some clever detective work, people think not so much and call troll.

ETA4: Apparently people will try to make money off of anything.

And Reunifygally wants to remind us it’s not just GLTB books that are affected, but also books about sexuality and disabilities. I recently saw a performance of the Vagina Monologues that added a section on the disabled and how they are “protected” by their guardians and caretakers from their sexuality. It profoundly disturbed me.

ETA5: Neil Gaiman posts on his blog about amazonfail.

ETA6: Getting reports that amazonfail is breaking on Channel 4 TV news. I don’t have TV, but it’s all over twitter. (ETA: Report has been posted online here. Fast-forward to the 8 minute mark to see the amazonfail report.) It’s also starting to gain momentum on digg. There is an amazonfail tag on social bookmarking site delicious. And from Amazon’s own twitter feed? Business as usual.

ETA7: Affected author Jessica Valenti calls her editor who contacts her Amazon rep, who notes that this is no glitch.

ETA8: GLTB books seem to be re-appearing in the bestseller listings as of around 1:15pm MST today. And more conversation about the PR disaster side of the story.

ETA9: Reports of an anonymous Amazon coder insisting it was a “real person” who mass-changed the tags of over 58,000 books, though anon. qualifies that they can’t verify if it was intentional or accidental. Other reports indicate it may have been some sort of wacky translation error or an employee user error.

ETA10: Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdener admits error that affected over 57,000 titles in several categories:

This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection.

It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles – in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica. This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon’s main product search.

Many books have now been fixed and we’re in the process of fixing the remainder as quickly as possible, and we intend to implement new measures to make this kind of accident less likely to occur in the future.

Also, someone screencapped this on the Twitter homepage. LOL. And new definition for Amazon Rank has made it into the Urban Dictionary.

More thoughts from The LA Times here. Amazon Spokesperson Drew Herdener’s quote has also been picked up by The Seattle Times and The LA Times.

ETA11: Richard Eoin Nash on the social contract Amazon violated during amazonfail.

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