In his zeal to advance his attack on the Public Relations Society of America my favorite curmudgeon Jack O’Dwyer has finally discovered Wikipedia.
Unfortunately O’Dwyer doesn’t really understand it, and now he’s attacking the Wikimedia Foundation and Jimmy Wales because of the articles on “public relations” as well as its “history” and the fact that Wikipedia strongly discourages PR pros from contributing directly to the vaunted online encyclopedia.
To this end, Phil Gomes with Edelman started a group on Facebook called “Corporate Representatives for Ethical Wikipedia Engagement” or CREWE. It’s already made some excellent strides toward creating policy and procedure that everyone can follow for contributing to the entries in Wikipedia. As he frequently does (which makes him a fantastic case study in how to be a spokesperson for an organization), Jimmy Wales actually joined the discussion on CREWE and has been active in helping address the concerns that some of the public relations pros have had with Wikipedia.
Unfortunately O’Dwyer’s lack of comprehension has led him to again don his tinfoil cap and allege a conspiracy where none exists. He mistakenly believes Wikipedia is deliberately ignoring or censoring mentions of a disputed account of the Tylenol Case Study (it’s not). He also described many of the standard conventions of Wikipedia entries as significant in the case of the entries on PR and its history (unaware that they’re automatic configurations).
O’Dwyer took it upon himself to edit these entries and when his entries were rejected for publication, he cried foul and demanded action (both publicly and trying to run up the chain of command inside Wikipedia rather than appealing directly to the editors that removed his contributions).
“Jack, I am unsure what you are asking for here. If you want to have a meeting with people to argue that your site is reliable, then I don’t think the NYC chapter is the right organization to do that, since they would have nothing to do with that.
I checked our internal email system to see why you might think your email was ignored. It turns out that it was forwarded to Jay Walsh who has been on vacation. But nevermind, you have my ear now so if you can explain more clearly what you are asking I can try to help.
Your email to us claimed that you had been blocked from Wikipedia, but the volunteer who processed your email pointed out internally that that isn’t true – your account has not been blocked.
What did happen was that an embarrassingly bad edit you made to an article was reverted. The edit was blatantly promotional about a book that, news sources say, you are “supporting”. Is this a client?
In any event, in this case, we have a lovely example of how the system works and how NOT to try to edit Wikipedia and WHY I think paid advocates should not edit articles directly, ever.” – Jimmy Wales, January 10 at 12:15pm
Too right. O’Dwyer’s conspiracy theories aside, here’s what is ACTUALLY happening:
1. People don’t CARE about the definition of Public Relations, or the history of PR. That’s why there is a dearth of content – it’s not a deliberate lack of inclusion from Wikipedia. That’s also why there is a dearth of books on the subject (outside of textbooks or tactical manuals). They care even less about the “Council of PR Firms” – another entity O’Dwyer complains about a lack of content for. That’s one of the downsides of crowdsourcing – it produces content skewed populist (which is why the Wikipedia entries for Tim Tebow and Beyonce have more in-depth content).
2. Content published by public relations pros gets deleted by Wikipedia editors as a direct result of the non-transparent and dishonest way PR people have used Wikipedia in the past. Unfortunately a combination of avarice and ignorance on the part of PR pros created a very hostile relationship with Wikipedians so that they are very mistrustful – I don’t blame them.
Since then, however, a process has emerged for PR people to contribute content to Wikipedia (some excellent detailed suggestions for PR pros are provided by Wikipedian JMabel here):
- Learn about Wikipedia (particularly spend some time observing the discussion forums where the specifics of entries, contributors and contributions are debated).
- Be open and transparent.
- Post your suggestions for contributions to the “Talk” section of a Wikipedia entry and appeal to some of the Wikipedians who have contributed to that entry or similar entries to consider your content for inclusion.
- Freely license any intellectual property (images, video) you’d like included under either a Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL) or a Creative Commons license. If you want something on Wikipedia – you can’t retain a traditional, exclusive license to it – because it will invariably be re-used by others for a variety of purposes (which is a good thing).
3. Wikipedia is decentralized and lacks a hierarchy – which is the POINT. As he’s accustomed to bullying his way to preferential treatment, O’Dwyer actually attempted to go right up the chain of command at the Wikimedia Foundation and have his way:
“E-mails to NYC WP leaders inviting them to my office have been ignored. E-mails to Wikimedia are ignored and someone told me in a live WP chat that only volunteers handle the media.” – Jack O’Dwyer, January 10 at 11:57am
4. Dexterity is the point of wiki tools; after all, the etymology of the word is Hawaiian for “very quickly” – which is why it was chosen by Ward Cunningham for the first “Wiki” he created back in 1995. This has two very important ramifications for how content will appear on Wikipedia:
- It must be DIGITAL. Any sourcing for Wikipedia must go to either webpages or digital versions of photo, video and documents.
- It must be OPEN. As a crowdsourced innovation, Wikipedia allows for democratic participation by all – and that means that everyone gets to see not only the final product but the sausage-making that took place to get there. That’s why it’s important for ORIGINAL sourcing to be used as opposed to secondary sourcing.
What we Learn
O’Dwyer is failing at interacting with Wikipedia because he tried to link to content in the subscriber-only section of his website, and rather than publish his sources online – he wants to try to coax someone into his office to pore over the mouldering stacks of paper documents and books he has. Not only that, but O’Dwyer doesn’t understand that he can’t simultaneously profit from his paywalled content AND have people actually read it – you have to choose one or the other.
This should be instructive to anyone who wants to be successful in the digital world: in order to spread, content must be freely shared and easily-accessible.
The Internet in many ways rebooted our world to Year Zero; by that I mean the credibility and reputation earned by certain organizations over the past thousands of years of human interaction were rendered less important. The web, instead, bases reputation and credibility on MERIT. That’s why Wikipedia is searched and cited far more than Encyclopedia Britannica. O’Dwyer stridently attempted to cash in on his years of print publications, but the editors of Wikipedia would have none of it:
“WP needs to acknowledge O’Dwyer’s as a “reliable” source since we are the only ones ever to cover PR Seminar, the 65-year-old very important “secret society” of top corporate and agency execs. ” – Jack O’Dwyer, January 10 at 11:57am
A hilarious footnote to this whole situation is that O’Dwyer has continued to use the CREWE group to wage his war against PRSA, and he’s been specifically asked to stop doing this by the moderator of the group and several of its members because it’s irrelevant to the actual discussion at hand (he’s not just posting irrelevant replies, he’s been publishing irrelevant wall posts). Sigh.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
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"]
Recently Apple debuted its own social networking platform built into iTunes, which it’s calling “Ping.” As per every Apple release, its devotees are hailing it as the second coming of sliced bread. Elsewhere, Ben Parr of Mashable is heralding it as the “last nail in the coffin for MySpace“.
I’m not all that excited and here’s why:
Been There: The idea of a community built into a commerce platform has been done before. Amazon.com has long had a social networking component built around the sale of movies, music and books. The lack of novelty means they have to make up for it with functionality and thus far they’re falling far short.
Censorship/Content Limitations: If your favorite band (or TV show, or movie) isn’t on iTunes (or added to Ping) – you’re S.O.L. That means fans of the Beatles, for example, will get to share … nothing (thanks to talentless whackjob and perennial buzzkill, Yoko Ono). What about fans of bands that are no longer active, but still have a library of content (like one of my favs: Audioslave).
At the time when the independent music scene is EXPLODING (and video content is on its way: how, for example would Ping allow fans of “Auto-Tune the News” to engage?), Apple is building a castle on a foundation of sand. This is all to say nothing of Steve Jobs insistence on backwards/Victorian content limitations (ie no porn despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry, and apparently no visual depictions of great Modernist literature either).
Anemic Basis for Community: Granted they’re important to our social interactions, but music, movies, TV shows and books aren’t the end-all, be-all of social interaction. In fact, music and movies have been on the way down for some time, as video games have been on the rise. That’s to say nothing of all the other content types around which people coalesce on social networking sites. Aside from reviews, there seems to be no way to contribute original content(?)
Exclusive vs. Inclusive: Part of Apple’s business model is excluding people and locking down its tech and software with proprietary limitations. In the social networking world, that’s a prescription for failure. People want to connect. Now. Ping is limited to desktop use with iTunes, or mobile use with Apple products. That means anyone with a mobile device other than an iPhone/iPad is excluded (which is the majority of the mobile device market).
#attfail: One can imagine Ping users becoming just as frustrated as Twitter users given the inability of AT&T to keep up with demand caused by iPhones and iPads – now they’re adding even more incentive to use wireless service which will further tax an already troubled network.
I tried it out earlier and here’s a few specific problems with it:
- In your profile, it only lets you choose THREE (3) genres that you like. Seriously. (Jobs is taking this censorship thing to the limit. To which I say “c’mon fhqwhgads”).
- I can’t follow some of my favorite bands. Seriously. ”They Might be Giants” isn’t available. Nor is “Green Day.”
- As I write this – my profile photo is STILL in the process of being approved. I assume this is because they send every single one to Steve Jobs personally so he can make sure they’re not “indecent” or appealing to “prurient interests” or something lame like that.
- Either the search tool sucks, or the number of artists represented is pitiful. Searches for artists I know for a fact have content on iTunes come up empty. I also see no place to create content (in the way of bands to follow if indeed that’s how they’re generated).
Update: To add insult to injury, JobsBook… err Ping is already coming under fire for being full of spam.
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:
- Google Local
- Yahoo Answers
- Google Sidewiki
Which crowdsourcing sites do you monitor for inaccuracies?
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]
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.
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.
Have you taken a look at what Twitter Lists you’re on lately? It’s an interesting study in how we help the web understand itself through our actions and contributions to the great, seething tide of data online.
This is a great example of the evolution toward the idea of the Semantic Web proposed by Tim Berners-Lee (which he explains in his own words in the video below).
The web is resembling more and more a form of artificial intelligence, and we netizens are the amino acids that make up its DNA. Through the information we post, the ways we categorize it, and the connections we make with each other (social media makes the maxim “you are who you know” ever more true) – we’re teaching the web to understand us (an idea beautifully illustrated by Dr. Michael Wesch in this now-classic YouTube vide0).
Just look at what one can glean from how people have categorized me by what I tweet: public relations, social media, Grand Rapids, Michigan, great dane lover, professional, foursquare, education, GRCC, digital, West Michigan, college, advertising, design, video, search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), web, marketing, branding, communication, Lost, ddm, PRSA 2009 conference, etc. There are even value judgments: greatness, elite, superuser, conversationalist, greatness, smart, connected. Even the use of language provides insight into me; I’m described in slang/jargon terms like “tweeple,” “twibes,” ”g-rap,” “journchat,” “pr 2.0,” – indicating that I likely fit into various subcultures.
What can we forecast from this phenomenon? For starters, privacy will continue to change in ways that disrupt our cozy and long-held expectations. I don’t control who lists me or how they list me (though right now I can make the lists I’m on private).
As with other areas of social media or your digital identity, there are really two responses we’re left with;
- Closed: restrict the content about oneself online by zealously guarding personal information and the content one contributes to the web.
- Open: contribute to the content about oneself online to have a hand in shaping one’s online identity.
Increasingly the closed approach is futile.
Even if one were totally abstinent from Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and the blogosphere – content will inevitably be contributed to the digital world without one’s consent. Your friends, co-workers and neighbors will tweet about you, corporations will make the data they aggregate about you more web-accessible (whether it’s the purchases you make, the magazines you subscribe to, the traffic cam video of intersections you drive through – even the lab results of your doctor’s visits – unfortunately I don’t think medical records are immune to this unstoppable trend).
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
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