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Archive for the ‘Crowdsourcing’ Category

How Not to do Social Media Case Study – Southern Illinois University Carbondale Facebook Page

November 9, 2011 1 comment

"The Net Interprets Censorship as Damage and Routes Around it" - John Gilmore

Right now, the Southern Illinois University Carbondale is in the middle of a contract negotiation dispute which has resulted in a strike by the tenured faculty.  As one would expect in a situation such as this, the faculty has urged its supporters to be vocal on the union’s behalf and some students took to the SIU Carbondale Facebook Fan Page to urge a resolution to the contract dispute.

Unfortunately, the SIU Carbondale administrators of the page began deleting those messages.  One report noted that they began by deleting only the messages of support for the faculty, but later began deleting all messages related to the dispute – and even went so far as to ban some users. Read more…

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For Andrew – On Public Relations and Community Engagement

September 8, 2011 Leave a comment

This evening I received a comment on a blog post I did about the “My GR Six” contest currently going on in Grand Rapids:

“At least they’re doing something besides taking pot shots from your lazyboy. What an asshole you are. No wonder you don’t have any friends. Lol.”
- Andrew | Submitted on 2011/09/08 at 5:02 pm

Though it perhaps didn’t come through in my blog post – I think the My GR Six crew are a great bunch of people.  I like Beth Dornan and John Gonzales quite a bit and even attended a recent Grand Rapids Social Media meetup to hear about the inception of the project.

While I’d never deny I’m an asshole, I do take exception to some of what Andrew said – chiefly the idea that I’m not doing anything.  For example – after the less flattering entries were frowned upon I thought it would be great if they could find a forum. Read more…

London Looters: Openly Committing Crimes in the Age of Radical Transparency is Stupid

August 10, 2011 3 comments

Looting in the Age of Radical Transparency

Hey kid – would you put down those Foot Locker boxes and have a bit of a chin waggle for a minute?

Martin Luther King once said “a riot is the language of the unheard.”  What’s burning up London right now is an unheard population, and while I can sympathize with the sentiment, the violence isn’t something that can be condoned and it’s utterly and completely daft.  Here’s why:

  1. London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world (just behind Chicago).  There are over 500,000 cameras throughout the city quietly recording with unblinking eyes.
  2. Facial recognition technology has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, and it’s so commonplace we all have access to it in Facebook.  The pool of photos is growing all the time, both on social networking sites and off in private databases.  Even if you’re wearing a mask or covering your face, it doesn’t matter because police will be able to match your clothing from other video footage when your face was uncovered.
  3. You can’t count on your friends because all it takes is an errant tweet or Facebook post to incriminate you.  Police are already watching for incriminating evidence of activities in process and arresting tweeting looters.
  4. Your technology can narc on you.  Given how prevalent mobile phones are in the UK and how flimsy the security is, it should be relatively easy for police to use scanners to identify all mobile devices within range of a certain area where the riots are taking place.  That would help kick-start any investigations or facial recognition searches.  Not only that, but if the companies that produce all the electronics that have been nicked in the past few days have added any sort of security to them, connecting to the Internet could identify a looter (or someone who received stolen property).
  5. London Police can crowdsource the investigation with ease.  [Update: ...and they already are] Back in 1997, a bunch of people in a neighborhood near Michigan State University rioted after MSU lost to Duke in the NCAA finals, burning couches, stealing and destroying property.  Even back then, there were plenty of people shooting video and taking pictures which the local police took and looped on a cable-access TV channel with a message inviting the community to tip them off if they recognized anyone in the photos.  That was 15 years ago – just think of how much easier it will be to crowdsource identification with Facebook ads or mobile apps.
  6. The evidence will stay around “forever.”  That means Law Enforcement can take its time with the investigation – as it does so, the technologies and pattern-recognition algorithms will continue to improve.  I’m also pretty sure England doesn’t have a statute of limitations – so prosecutions could happen even years after these fires have been extinguished.
That’s the new reality whether we want it or not.  The world is much more transparent, and we need to respond accordingly.  My hope is that this new level of disclosure enables important messages to reach their intended audiences without violence like this.

In the meantime, mind the gap! (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

[Update: This just appeared on Mashable and is obviously highly-relevant recommended reading - "NYPD Creates Unit To Track Criminals Via Social Media"]

[Update II: Scotland Yard Confirms It's Using Facial Recognition Tech]

Six Problems With the @MyGR6 Contest

July 5, 2011 7 comments
A word cloud of the "My GR 6" entries thus far...

A word cloud of the "My GR 6" entries thus far...

A group of local corporations partnered with community leaders to create a contest called “My GR 6.”  The contest awards acclaim (in the form of billboard space) and prizes to whomever comes up with the best six words that describe the city of Grand Rapids (according to a panel of judges that aren’t yet disclosed).

While it’s great to see any effort to foster community pride and raise the profile of my home city, I do have some issues with how it’s being accomplished.  Here are a few of my concerns: Read more…

Flexing Your Social Network to Tag-Team Hunger With a Flying Elbow From the Third Turnbuckle

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Giving Hunger a Flying Elbow From the Third Turnbuckle (Ooh yeah)

Here’s an inspiring social media story for you:

For her birthday, my S.O. Adrienne Wallace decided to raise money for Kids Food Basket (a fantastic charity here in Grand Rapids).  She happened on the fundraising platform “Causes” that offers a robust set of features that plug directly into social networking tools like Facebook and set a modest goal of $500 in contributions in lieu of gifts for herself.

Causes accepts a variety of social media-friendly donation methods, offers fun and valuable analytics to engage one’s audience (tracking who was first to give, who gave most recently, who gave the most, and offers a chance for people to become “Sidekicks” by spreading the message beyond Facebook by emailing five other friends).  It also offers anonymity if donors desire that, and it allows the organizer to personally thank each donor. Read more…

Online Reputation Management for Crowd-Sourcing Platforms: Cleaning up After the “Bewildered Herd”

September 3, 2010 2 comments

As the Web 2.0 model has shifted to content being generated by users (often referred to as “crowdsourcing”) as opposed to administrators, it’s presented a somewhat novel problem of proofing the contributions of the masses.

The “Bewildered Herd” is a term attributed to Walter Lippmann who is one of the early scholars of journalism and public relations.  Lippmann’s contention was that the public was essentially too inept to govern itself and needed to have smart people make up its mind for it in order for society to function.  To wit:

“The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”
(Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion, 1922)

Crowdsourcing (originated by Jeff Howe of Wired) is explained by Clay Shirky below:

On the whole, user-generated contributions are amazingly effective and have accomplished a powerful amount of the work in building the Internet.  There are, though, occasionally problems.  Here are some of the sites I try to watch regularly for inaccuracies and misinformation:

Which crowdsourcing sites do you monitor for inaccuracies?

10 Amazing Videos of Lightsabre Duels (A Post Mostly Devoid of Intellectual Merit)

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Memes have long been the coin of the realm online, and now the tools are available for the average geek to act on his/her geeky impulses to mash the detritus of pop culture together to create new art forms.  It looks like this:

Sword fights = Cool.  Lightsabres = Cool.  Sword fights + Lightsabres = Nerdgasm.

In the course of my academic and intellectual pursuits (read: goofing around) I ran across an entire subculture of Youtube mashups where digital video artisans (yes, I mean artisans) photoshopped lightsabres into movie swordfights.  The process probably began with the Star Wars kid, and has gone deliciously viral.  Here are my 10 favorites:

1. Count Roogan vs. Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

2. Cap’m Barbosa vs. Cap’m Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl)

3. The Spartans vs. the Hordes of  Xerxes (300)

4. Arwen vs. the Nazgul (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring)

5. Freddy vs. Jason (Freddy vs. Jason)

6. Deadpool vs. a Room of Thugs (X-Men Origins: Wolverine) – PS – I demand someone photoshop lightsabres over Wolverine’s claws IMMEDIATELY.

7. Indiana Jones vs. Egyptian Thug (Raiders of the Lost Ark)

8. Benjamin Martin vs. British Soldiers (The Patriot) – Incorporates blasters too!  Sweeeeeet.

9. Beatrix Kiddo vs. O-Ren Ishii (Kill Bill)

10. Robin Hood/Little John vs. Prince John’s Thugs (Disney’s Robin Hood)

[Blog Title courtesy the Linkbait Generator]

The Power of Aggregation: Using Flickr Data to Avoid Tourists

June 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Lifehacker just posted a write-up of Flickr’s user of Eric Fischer’s “Locals and Tourists” maps.  Essentially Fischer took what data he could find from images posted on Flickr of particular locations (based on tags, dates, geotagging, etc.) and made some educated guesses about what separated tourists from locals.

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Using that data he plotted the photos on maps of major world cities and, voila, heatmaps of places to avoid.  This mashup is just one of the endless uses of aggregated data.  You can start to get a sense of what else is possible:

  • Imagine a GPS system that makes decisions by drawing on car crash data to route you around dangerous stretches of road.
  • Imagine retailers being able to assign products a rating (either for consumers or for themselves) based on how many recalls or returns they have on a particular item.
  • What if we could mine the collective wisdom of Twitter by using some algorithms to determine whether sentiments expressed a political candidate were positive or negative and used for polling data that instead of phone-based polls (which continue to decline in accuracy as people abandon landlines for mobile phones).
  • Consider how our shopping experience at malls might be improved by tracking when people are at malls and where they walk with security cameras to plot out the best times and fastest routes to get through, say, the Black Friday throngs.
  • Speaking of cool examples of data aggregation – Google Streetview now incorporates user-generated photos (via @mashable).

It’s exiting … or scary … when you think about it.

More PR Trouble for BP: Great Case Study in the Filters of the Web

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment

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I wrote a while earlier about the impact of the new era of transparency on BP’s continuing public relations crisis.  Since then, a couple of other new phenomenon caught my attention:

  • Google Sidewiki: This somewhat-forgotten tool created by Google to accompany webpages and help contextualize them with user contributions has a bit of content that isn’t exactly kind to BP.
  • The Black Oil Firefox Plugin:  Designed by design agency Jess3, this add-on to Firefox makes the pages viewed by your browser look like a redacted document from the CIA as it blacks out references to British Petroleum (the blacked out portions eventually animate and drip ala crude).

These two items may seem like frivolous distractions, but they’re not.  They’re exquisite reminders of how little control we exercise over the web, particularly as the content that populates it and the tools that browse it become more and more sophisticated and oriented toward individual control.

You can spend all the time you want tweaking your website until it’s just the way you want, but what you create may not at all be what ends up being delivered to the end user.

Why the Lost Finale Sucked a Rancid Tub of Expired Dharma Ranch Dressing

May 24, 2010 78 comments

[Update: If you haven't seen this video, you need to check it out (I'm not the only one that feels this way).]

I was really disappointed by the Lost season finale.

From Season 2 of Lost: a Screen Capture of the Hydra Logo on the Tail of a Shark Swimming Past the Camera

From the start, Lost thrived on setting up curious questions and then answering them in a way that only posed more questions. Not only was that the theme for the show – but the entire social media-driven marketing apparatus around the show catered to that aspect:

  • the creators set up fake show-related websites and 800 numbers (grabbed by astute fans who analyzed screen captures from the show that flashed by business cards or papers tacked to walls) with curious pre-recorded messages – all of which were part of two separate alternate reality games (The Lost Experience and Find 815).
  • the network’s website for the show (laden with hidden multimedia content) was filled with seething, writhing fan discussion forums where the excruciating details were analyzed (one thread I followed had days of speculation about what the spectre of Walt was saying – culminating in an audio tech reversing the audio and washing it through professional filters to undo the distortion the show’s creators had added so that it was clear as a bell and said “don’t touch the button, the button is bad.”)

Not only that, but JJ Abrams prides himself on being a fan of puzzles (which is why the show was chock full of them). Wired Magazine even had an issue dedicated to his interest in such things.

Speaking for a lot of Lost fans, I don’t give a rip if Jack gets resolution with his father and everyone ends up in bliss and carefree in the Kingdom of God. Fuck Jack.

I want to know:

  • why a Polar Bear could manifest itself out of Hurley’s comic book
  • how Walt could direct a thrown knife with his thoughts
  • WHAT the light is and why it has to be guarded (and why it’s flimsily-guarded by what appeared to be man-made stonework)
  • why the smoke machine was curiously mechanical in the sounds it made

Most of all, I want to know why the hell was there a shark swimming around in season 2 with a Dharma Initiative Hydra Project logo imprinted on its tail!

It was a fun ride, to be sure – but this was a great case of misreading what has to be the core audience of the show.  Perhaps I’m wrong, and the majority of the viewership is people who love gooey sentimentality and predictable character development – but I tend not to think so.

I do also have to heap praise and credit on the show’s creators for their use of the web, social media, and gaming to build and sustain interest in the massive opus.  There are three areas we can learn valuable lessons from Lost:

  • Marketers and communicators can learn a lot from analyzing the ways they used the new media available to enhance the viewing experience (likely at a very reasonable cost that is attainable by most organizations).
  • Similarly, the traditional media should be furiously scribbling notes about how to update their programming to compete with entertainment outlets like video gaming that are poaching their viewers.
  • Moreover – we ALL can learn from the model Lost presented in how gigantic and complicated tasks can be crowdsourced to the masses and completed with astonishing speed and precision as thousands apply their abilities through the collaborative tools afforded them by the web.
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