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“]
The Missouri Senate recently approved Senate Bill 54 the “Amy Hestir Student Protection Act” a law aimed at preventing schools from moving teachers facing misconduct allegations around from school to school without alerting parents.
Unfortunately, however, it contains some other more draconian provisions and social media takes some shrapnel. Of concern is that it bans teachers from friending students on any social networking site, limiting them to creating fan pages to which all students in a class may have access.
Like so many ham-handed legislative measures, it curbs speech and interferes with education in the name of saving the children.
One of the many stupid facets of this bill is that the victim for which the bill is named was sexually assaulted by a teacher 20 years ago, long before the advent of social networking. Read more…
As the horrible events of July 7, 2011 unfolded in Grand Rapids and a troubled Roderick Dantzler murdered seven people including two children, people around the world skipped the news media altogether and watched/listened live (via live streams of the police scanner – at one point 14,000 people were logged in). It was a tragic example of the amazing technological power the average person wields, which [to paraphrase FDR/Spiderman’s Uncle Ben] “comes with great responsibility.”
What I observed made me think about the role social media will play in the future of society when events like these occur. Here’s how my night went: Read more…
Courtesy of Grand Rapids social media maven Laura Bergells (@maniactive), there’s now a screen capture of the full list of words/phrases banned by the MyGR6 contest entry form. Or, at least, this was the list banned when the contest originally debuted earlier this week. Mark L. Curtis (@Mark_L_Curtis) observes that the site appears to have switched to a paid service for content filtering. Read more…
Recently I was working on a promotional project and proposed some copy for a related webpage that would notify the target audience that there were some unfavorable conditions related to the promotion (hurdles to jump over to make use of it).
The response I got was “but why would we want to tell them those things – won’t that make them less likely to commit?”
Gut check moment – your response to that question may indicate a great deal about your perspective: Read more…
[Update: @HowardStern is enjoying Twitter so much, he talked today about how he plans to experiment with a talk show on Twitter after having fun quizzing @Alyssa_Milano. Pretty impressive tech innovation for a guy who still uses Lotus Notes.]
Last week, Howard Stern (@howardstern) finally broke down and decided to start tweeting at the urging of his colleagues and friends. So far, he’s doing everything right and his success is something anyone can learn from even if they’re not the “King of all Media.”
- Be Authentic: Stern tweets himself. He doesn’t have his publicist or agent or staff tweet for him. In an interview with Piers Morgan today (another celebrity who understands Twitter), he emphatically rejected the idea of having someone else tweet for him. Authenticity is what makes Twitter successful. It’s why people have been flocking (excuse the pun) there since 2007. In an age of glimmering fakery, they’re looking for real contact with people they find compelling. Stern’s first tweets were backstage before an appearance on the David Letterman show where he even posted a photo of himself sitting in the make-up chair flanked by Stern Show fixtures Vinnie Favale and Ralph Cirella.
- Have Something to Say: The traditional paradigm of mass media was that one must constantly publish to stay in front of the audience one has built. That relentless pressure to produce on deadline is often met at the expense of quality. In the era of social media, I fervently believe that you don’t need to force yourself to come up with something to say for the sake of saying something. If you’re scheduling tweets (especially repeats of your previous tweets) you’re likely doing something wrong. Stern tweets when he has time and feels inclined. That’s perfectly fine – unlike a newspaper, magazine, cable TV package, or Sirius radio – it costs nothing to remain a follower of the @howardstern twitter feed when he’s not tweeting (just as it costs nothing to follow the RSS feed of a blog or virtually any other form of publishing online).
- Trust Your Instincts: One of the main factors that kept Stern from trying Twitter was the relentless criticism he’s subject to being a controversial figure of his notoriety. Fortunately he discovered the satisfying feeling that comes with blocking someone from interacting with you. That’s not to say that one should block out all negative comments. You know when a criticism is authentic and constructive – so trust yourself and block out all of the carping that doesn’t add quality insight to your life.
- Engage Your Audience as the Real You: This applies for multinational companies just as it does individuals. It doesn’t matter if you have dozens of Twitter followers or millions – you’re not making the best use of the medium if you’re not connecting on a one-on-one basis with people. That’s not to say that you have to reply to every tweet fired off to you, but at the very least you have the chance to respond to the ones you find interesting. Another way celebrities can provide their millions of followers a simulated personal connection is by letting them see interactions with their friends (which usually include other celebrities that followers are interested in). So @howardstern converses with @johnstamos – and we get a voyeuristic glimpse into the lives of these two personalities. Stern also had fun with a challenge to his audience; offering to post a photo he’d just shot of his model wife Beth Ostrosky Stern with his smartphone if he reached 100,000 followers by “cocktail hour.”
- Use it for Real-Time Group Experiences: Twitter is terrible for communicating complex messages; by design it sacrifices the ability to apply nuance/depth for flexibility/brevity. This allows it to be an ideal vehicle for communicating with many people in real-time about a shared interest. Case in point: the Superbowl. For my money, the tweets about the Superbowl halftime show (most of which mocked the over-the-top Black Eyed Peas performance with references to Tron and Demolition Man) were far more interesting than the actual show itself. Stern launched a few snarky tweets during the Superbowl and by his own admission he had a great time.
- “give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give give THEN ASK! Period!”: To quote sommelier and social media pro Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee), you can’t just promote yourself and ask things of your audience. You have to provide them with value – and not only that, but you have to provide them with comparatively more value than what you’re asking for. As Stern demonstrates – it’s not until his 49th tweet that he finally promotes himself.
Here’s to hoping Stern convinces his parents to start a “@ShitBenSternSays” Twitter account.
The more information accumulates about us online (with or without our consent), the walls between the compartments of our lives become more porous (eventually they’ll likely disappear altogether).
Whether or not you know it, your social network is visible to others online. This is important because it means people can view you how your social network understands you.
Even if you lock down your Facebook profile, odds are you allow viewers to see your friends (which can be a great source of information about you; one can easily use the public information your friends display to gain insight about you – what organizations they’re affiliated with).
Even the organizations and people you’re NOT affiliated with can say volumes about you; I anticipate this will become a huge source of inferential data in the future as data analysis tools continue to become more sophisticated and more data accumulates online. Imagine: an aggregation tool could run an algorithm to find out who you dislike based on an analysis of common connections, interests, and groups and looking for gaps in your circle of connections.
Nothing about this is anything new to police or intelligence agencies – they’ve been gathering this data for years (building cases by interviewing individuals peripheral to a target). The difference is that now it’s a communication channel available to anyone.
This is why I believe privacy will be virtually impossible in the future. This has important ramifications for public policy; take medical records.
- One of the main reasons medical records aren’t largely digitized is privacy concerns – people worry that individuals and organizations outside of the doctor-patient relationship will be able to use that data to the disadvantage of the patient (think insurance companies, banks and prospective employers).
- Even if you are able to keep your medical records from being posted online – the records of your relatives will be posted. Conclusions about your predisposition to health issues can be gleaned from the health of your relatives (and organizations whose profitability depends on calculating risks will actively seek out this information).
- Conclusions about your health can also be drawn based on aggregated data from the region you reside in (the percentage of fast food restaurants, the rates of STD/STI infection, etc.).
Another reality (explained in greater detail in the book “Born Digital” by Urs Gasser and John Palfrey) is that children born today typically don’t have a choice about what information about them ends up online; their parents begin creating digital presences for them while they’re still in utero (by posting sonogram photos/videos, and information on how they intend to rear their children in discussions with friends). A recent study concluded that 92 percent of toddlers have an online presence.
Update: Apropos of this post – a hilarious Venn Diagram from Dave Makes:
"...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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