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Posts Tagged ‘Online Reputation Management’

What Does the Filter Bubble Mean for Measurement and Search Engine Optimization?

May 27, 2011 6 comments

Dotcom vs Dotorg

In my past post, I talked about the societal ramifications of the “Filter Bubble” as described by Eli Pariser.  Essentially Google and other web platforms (including social networking sites like Facebook) have been quietly manipulating what each of us sees so that everything is personally-tailored to us.  I tend to think that this pushes us further toward an unsettling future where we live in our own insular cocoons, distanced more starkly from those who aren’t like us.

The Filter Bubble also has serious ramifications for measurement and search engine optimization (SEO), practices of dire concern to anyone in public relations, marketing, or advertising.  If Google looks different to every single person searching it, what does that mean for PageRank? Read more…

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Two Great Examples of the Age of Radical Transparency: iPhone 5 Leak and Gary Dell’Abate Smear Email

February 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Stamford Advocate Gary Dell'Abate Articles Compared

Stamford Advocate Gary Dell'Abate Articles Compared

I try to warn people I consult with about public relations and online reputation management to behave and do business as though their conduct could end up on Wikileaks … because it could.

Two great examples highlight how porous the walls of any organization now are as a result of the Internet and social media:

Apple iPhone 5 / iPad 2 Design Leaks

Apparent iPhone 5 Faceplate From iDealsChina

There are so many ways information can find its way through the walls that organizations work hard to keep impenetrable.  This photo of the iPhone 5 faceplate went public after it was published on the website iDealsChina after it was apparently leaked from a manufacturer of the component.

Similar revelations were disclosed by another Chinese source for Apple’s proposed iPad 2.

Elsewhere many other details (including specifications) have gone public, and who can forget Apple having police break the door of Gizmodo employee Jason Chen’s residence to retrieve a prototype of the 4G iPhone after it was inadvertently left at a bar by an employee.

Smear Campaign Against Gary Dell’Abate of the Howard Stern Show

Listeners to the Howard Stern Show are likely aware that Producer Gary “Baba Booey” Dell’Abate is currently embroiled in a conflict over his appointment to a local advisory role for his local Greenwich, Connecticut Board of Parks and Recreation Board.  His employer has become a point of criticism for one of the members of the Appointment Committee, who has resorted to increasingly bizarre tactics (like carrying around a bag of feces ostensibly left on her porch by an apparent Stern Show fan).

Local newspaper the Stamford Advocate received an email from someone calling himself “Michael Obrien” who lobbed a number of libelous accusations at Dell’Abate, including that he hired prostitutes for the show.  In spite of being unable to verify Obrien’s identity, the newspaper printed the accusations.  Now they’ve retracted the original version of the story and republished a new version sanitized of the defamatory content.  The problem for the Stamford Advocate is that Google’s cache has preserved the original version, so you can view it in its libel-filled entirety here.

Even if the article hadn’t been cached by Google, anyone subscribed to the Stamford Advocate’s RSS feed would have an intact copy of the original article saved in their feed reader.

It gets worse for the Greenwich Town Government: according to Dell’Abate, a tech-savvy listener was able to track the email account (which was created 20 minutes before the email was sent) back to its original IP address which originated from the Greenwich Town Government offices.

That means an employee of the Township is behind the smear, and the “Howard 100 News” team is likely going to root out more details that won’t play well for the local government entity.  It should be easy to track the email back to the node on the Township’s network and identify the employee workstation from which it was sent (information that can be obtained via a Freedom of Information Act by the Stern Show’s news team).

Facebook Resources for Parents [Updated]

February 27, 2011 1 comment

[Updated]  A colleague recently asked me for assistance in how parents can deal with children using Facebook (a scarier prospect for some than the idea of one’s children driving).  Not having kids myself, it hadn’t occurred to me that children as young as eight are feeling pressure from their classmates to get on social networks.  Seriously.  Elementary-aged children on social media.

Here are a few ideas I had beyond requiring them to provide you with their password so you can log in periodically and make sure everything is on the up-and-up.

Monitor the Internet:  Companies, governments and other organizations are constantly watching the Internet for mentions of their names – so why not parents?  Using tools like these below – you can set up a stream of alerts to be delivered to you either by email, or as an RSS feed you can manage in a feed aggregator like Google Reader so you’ll know if your kids’ names are mentioned anywhere (and hopefully intervene to prevent problems):

Check the Privacy Settings: Facebook’s privacy settings are so obtuse, Wired magazine featured the term “Privacy Zuckering” in its “Jargon Watch” recently.  It refers to the fact that the settings are deliberately hard to understand and operate because Facebook wants you to publish more than you intend to (more data about more people online = more traffic to Facebook = more revenue).  Here’s a tool that lets you scan your Facebook privacy settings to see what is exposed:

  • Reclaim Privacy (reclaimprivacy.org) – Keeping up with Facebook is so hard, they recently posted a message that the tool may not be compatible with the latest version.

Monitor Their Devices: This Facebook Setting will let you know if either of the kids logs in to Facebook from a computer or device you’re not familiar with (very handy if you rely on a computer at home to monitor your child’s Internet usage):

Understand the Settings: Here are some articles that help map out the confusing array of Facebook Privacy Settings:

[Update] Understand the Culture: In last month’s issue of Wired Magazine, Clive Thompson wrote an excellent article (“Clive Thompson on Secret Messages in the Digital Age“) that I recommend parents read about how children are adapting to parental oversight of their social media presences.  He describes how young people now communicate via multi-layered messages.  A song lyric might seem innocuous to parents not familiar with the context – but the childs’ friends can get the message.  This means parents need to be fluent in the cultural works their children consume.

Case of Teacher’s Controversial Blog Hits National Media

February 16, 2011 Leave a comment

The national media has grabbed hold of the story of high school English teacher Natalie Munroe, the teacher whose blog (which contained a number of disparaging references to students, co-workers and administrators) was discovered and brought to the attention of school officials.  A couple of days ago, as I was doing research on social media case law, I ran across Munroe’s rebuttal to the current accusations against her.

Munroe appears to have gone on the offensive in other venues than just the blog and is doing media appearances.  The Huffington Post has a story up here with video from ABC News.

The problem for Munroe is that legal precedent does not support her activity.  Since Pickering v. the Board of Education, (in cases like Garcetti v. Ceballos and Richerson v. Beckon) courts haven’t been very friendly to the idea that the First Amendment applies to public employees.

The Future is Littered With Mashup Bombs

February 14, 2011 1 comment

Mashup Bomb

As we hurtle into the future, we’re leaving a larger digital wake behind us.  International Data Corporation estimates humans will produce 1,800,000,000 terabytes of data this year alone.

Simultaneously, the power to sift through these vast stores of information is getting keener.  In 2009, the team BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos won the Netflix prize by crafting an algorithm for recommending movies with ten percent better accuracy than the movie company’s own engine.

“Mashup Bombs” are what await us as these two phenomena converge.  Our ability to compare the increasing amounts of data will improve and previously undetectable patterns will emerge.  Not only that, but the ability to produce revelations won’t be confined to future data – we’ll have the power to look back through all of the petabytes of data already cached on server farms around the world.

  • What if the GPS records of mobile phones were matched with employee payroll records to spot when people are fudging their hours?
  • What if anonymous publishers could be outed through algorithms that compare writing samples?
  • What if aggregate market data and networks of personal connections could be filtered to show when bidders were given preferential treatment for government contracts?

Things are well underway:

  • Wikipedia + IP Address Location Database= in 2007, a CalTech student named Virgil Griffith created a tool called Wikipedia Scanner that tracked the IP addresses of Wikipedia editors back to their sources and outed institutions from Diebold to the CIA as having edited their own Wikipedia entries.
  • Twitter + Maps = The Centers for Disease Control are monitoring Twitter, watching for keywords related to illness in order to spot pandemics before they get going.
  • Sex Offender Databases + Real Estate Listings + Google Maps = As local governments have begun to publish sex offender photos and profiles on their websites, this information has been cached and combined with real estate listings and Google’s open API for its versatile maps tool.  The result is the ability to see if the location of a house you’re interested in looks like it has chicken pox.
  • IRS Records + Google Maps + Facebook =Fundrace is a site that allows users to map out what political campaigns their neighbors are contributing to, as well as compare those same databases to find out who your friends on Facebook are donating to.

Just because an indiscretion has gone unnoticed is no guarantee that it will go unnoticed in the future.  As a PR pro, I don’t look forward to responding to the indiscretions of predecessors, but that may be something we have to prepare for.

Social Media Crisis Comm Case Study: HS English Teacher Natalie Munroe

February 13, 2011 2 comments
English Teacher Natalie Munroe Responds to Social Media Controversy With her own Blog Post

English Teacher Natalie Munroe Responds to Social Media Controversy With her own Blog Post

[Update: I was able to find a link someone posted to the Google Cache of the original blog: http://tin­yurl.com/4­tubjsv]

As part of a webinar I’m presenting this week on Social Media Policy (“Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol” – February 17, 2011 from 2-3:30 p.m. EST), I’ve been tracking some very recent case studies to discuss with the audience.

One of them was the story of Natalie Munroe, a High School English Teacher who was just suspended from Central Bucks East High School last week Wednesday after a current student happened across her blog (http://natalieshandbasket.blogspot.com/) which contained disparaging comments (including calling one student a “rude, beligerent [sic], argumentative f*ck”) about students, parents and co-workers.  The student forwarded the link to past students of Munroe’s.  Eventually some parents found out about it and notified school officials.

What’s become particularly fascinating about the case is that yesterday, Munroe used her blog to respond with her side of the story (as I write this, the local news media in Bucks County appears not to have picked this up yet).

For what it’s worth – responding via one’s blog is a rather bold and inspired strategy.  In the research I’ve done on cases like these (and in crisis public relations situations generally) people typically regret remaining silent at the advice of counsel and wish they would have weighed in to help influence public opinion on their own behalf.

From a PR perspective, I might suggest to Natalie that she undelete/republish all of the content from her blog.  Here’s why:

  1. hiding it tends to imply that one is admitting that the content is shameful (whereas being transparent tends to be a quality that inspires respect/deference)
  2. it removes the context that the benign portions of the blog provide and allows people to focus on the sensational excerpts posted in the news
  3. as Natalie herself noted, there are already cached copies in circulation anyway

Our society is going to be engaged in a difficult debate about the limits of free speech for the next few years as more people begin to publish information about themselves via social media.

Until we’ve crystallized opinion and established a legal/societal framework around how open we allow people to be depending on their role – it’s best to avoid becoming a case study at all costs.  The nascent legal framework in place and the fact that many judges/prosecutors/jurors/board members are largely ignorant of the intricacies of social media means you can’t be guaranteed a fair trial.

Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol (Feb. 17, 2011 Webinar)

January 25, 2011 2 comments

Organizations With a Formal Social Media Policy Chart: 29% Have, 71% Do Not Have Source: Manpower, “Social Networks vs. Management? Harness the Power of Social Media,” January 26, 2010

[File under “shameless self-promotion”] If you’re working on a social media policy for your organization, I’m hosting a webinar for Paperclip Communications: “Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol.” The program is aimed specifically aimed at higher education institutions and will cover legal issues, employer/employee issues, student/faculty/staff “boundary” issues, online reputation management, campus PR issues, and generally provide advice and tips to help keep a school’s use of social media positive and lawsuit-free.

Social Media – Campus Policies & Protocol – February 17, 2011 Webinar
Date/Time: Thursday, February 17, 2011 from 2:00-3:30 PM ET
Length: Approx. 90 minutes
Price: $259
Register here: http://bit.ly/SMPolicyWebinarFeb17

It should be a lot of fun; there have been no shortage of fascinating case studies regarding employees and social media policy in the news and this is a topic that I love discussing.  If you’re interested in reading some of my other posts on social media policy and online reputation management, here are a few: