Promises, Promises…

Have you broken your New Year’s resolution yet?

This is me trying to live up to mine.  Just trying to put my best foot forward and resume writing whenever possible – or when a topic really sparks curiosity or outrage.

Still, what may happen is this someone will be singing the chorus of this to me shortly…

How about you? Did you make resolutions? Will you keep them?

 

 

 

Please Let’s Have No More Unfriendly Comments About FriendFeed

While it may not have carved out the giant slice of the social media pie that Twitter has, FriendFeed  has something truly exceptional: The individuals who make up the FF community. It is a community that is largely comprised of  good-hearted, wicked-witted and fierce-brained souls who are deeply loyal to each other.

That FriendFeed is special is something I firmly believe — even as a former member of that particular community. (A status revealed in the interest of full disclosure. Similarly, it should be noted that my reasons for leaving had nothing to do with the service or the other folks using it. If you have a year where two people to whom your family is close die in rapid succession, you too might consider spending much more time connecting with those important to you face-to-face as opposed to screen-to-screen.)

But that community is also one that has been feeling more than a little worried ever since Facebook bought up FriendFeed, a feeling perhaps best summarized at the time it happened in this witty yet wise post by Louis Gray.

Thus, it is completely understandable that the community took some offense to Robert Scoble’s comment on the current state of FriendFeed the other day. If someone hurts your friends, you get angry. You defend your friends. Simple as that. And that’s just what people did – some eloquently and some in a more brusque manner. But the reactions to Scoble’s comment that can be glimpsed below the initial post demonstrate what is best about FriendFeed – it is an excellent forum for rapid interchange and discourse rather than just a way to broadcast your own “look at me, look at me!” message. (I’m looking at you Twitter.)

It seems unlikely that Scoble realized quite how disrespectful the tone of his comment seemed or how massive the impact of one of FF’s foremost cheerleaders seemingly turning on it would be — though he almost certainly has an inkling of it now.

Consider the impassioned and articulate response to Scoble crafted by FFer Lindsay Donaghe:

<plea>
Please, Robert, I know that you’re disappointed in what has happened to FriendFeed and you feel like you need to take out your frustrations on something, but it’s time to take your own advice and leave quietly if you’re going to leave. FriendFeed may not serve your particular needs anymore but your needs seem to be very specific, decidedly not mainstream, and difficult to comply to. That doesn’t mean that FriendFeed is not a valuable service to others with different needs. You don’t have to leave, but there’s no point in making things harder for the rest of us who support the service by trying to hammer the nails in the coffin while we are still pushing up the the lid for air.

You are actively fulfilling your own prophecy by chasing people away from FriendFeed and inciting people there to unsub and block you so that your feed is less and less interesting. And then you are insulting the rest of us by declaring that all the geeks have left when it’s your own efforts in sabotage (or lack of in pruning your feeds) that are making your experience worse, while claiming that you’re trying to spur someone into action to be FriendFeed’s new hero. But we don’t have that knight in shining armor to champion for FriendFeed and return it to its former glory. If anything, you were the most likely candidate. Now we just want to be left alone to use FriendFeed the way we are comfortable to using it. It’s time to stop the abuse.
</plea>”

How many other online communities would inspire commentary with that much depth of feeling and intelligence behind it?



Hiatus

It’s summer and I have a small child to chase hither and thither.

As such, there will be no new posts before Autumn.

But please do come back and check in when the calendar turns to September.

Be well & happy.

Social Media And Its Role In The Panic-demic

As former member of the fourth estate, I feel quite elegiac about the sound of the presses slowing towards an inevitable stop. Ever since I saw His Girl Friday as a very small child, I wanted to be a reporter. [And who wouldn't - Roz Russell was gorgeous, bantered beautifully with even more beautiful Cary Grant and got to do good through the power of the word!]

Today, however, I find myself in the surprising  and uncomfortable position of being more than a little miffed at my paper- and broadcast-based journalistic brethren. Their eagerness to point the finger at social media as panic-mongers of DOOM as the Swine Flu crisis develops.

REACTIONARY REACTIONS?

An example of the digi-pointing can be found in a blog by Milo Yiannopolous of the UK’s Telegraph who notes:

Twitterers are saturating the Twitterverse with scaremongering and nonsense about swine flu via the #swineflu hashtag. Let us be clear: swine flu aint some hot internet meme. It’s not a lolcat or a great flash game. It is a serious disease.

The speed with which idle chatter about swine flu is propagating, at the hands of those (it seems almost wilfully) ignorant of the facts, is terrifying and may cost lives. It has now become impossible to separate hysteria from vital news. For perhaps the first time, Twitter has become a hindrance and not a help to newsgathering and to the public seeking information.

And closer to home, the usually level-headed and excellent news source NPR has also chimed in, with  Evgeny Morozov noting that

despite all the recent Twitter-enthusiasm about this platform’s unique power to alert millions of people in decentralized and previously unavailable ways, there are quite a few reasons to be concerned about Twitter’s role in facilitating an unnecessary global panic about swine flu.

You’ll forgive me if I state that this sounds a bit like sour grapes. True, one of the justifiable concerns about social media is that there is a dearth of fact-checking. And yes, there are idiots out there who will play the Web 2.0 version of the game of telephone, terror edition.  But has there never been a panic caused by a broadcast network or a newspaper? Truly? Rumours never have flown because of a hyperbolic headline or an over-emphatic piece on a 24 hour news network?

ANOTHER LOOK AT SOCIAL MEDIA IN RELATION TO SWINE FLU

No one is downplaying the fact that this is a potentially deadly illness and that people have been tested positive for it on several continents. The threat is real and frightening.

However, it is also true that almost nobody has looked at the positive ways social media has been used in the course of this porcine pandemic.

Just to offer a few examples:

The Centre for Disease Control has been offering updates on Twitter such as

“20 confirmed cases of swine flu in U.S. 1 hospitalized. All have fully recovered. http://bit.ly/uycgL #swineflu”

And over on FriendFeed, one of its users has created a Swine Flu room which aggregates “various real-time information streams on swine flu from across the web,” making it a reliable and timely source of information.

The CDC has also used YouTube to present a video by Dr. Joe Bresee of its Influenza Division dealing with the signs, symptoms, transmission and treatment of Swine Flu.

So, in fact, social media has been a means for calming the public and providing it with a stream of accurate and useful information – which is not a story you are likely to see in your local paper, if in fact you still have one.





Deep Down, Are We Pretty Shallow? Lessons Learned from the Susan Boyle phenomenon — or not…

BACKGROUND

Susan Boyle might put me out of a job – and I couldn’t be more delighted.

In case you were in a coma, Susan Boyle is an unprepossessing Scottish woman with a voice so beautiful it will literally make you weep — and she’s become the biggest thing since sliced bread via YouTube over the past five days. Her glorious performance of  the tremendously challenging ballad “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables on an episode of  Britain’s Got Talent has amassed nearly 13 million hits.

Back the 21st Century P.T. (that’s Pre-Twitter), it would have been the job of a professional communicator, likely of the publicist variety, to hype this woman — to remake her as a more suitable brand by spiffing up her image and promoting her to any and all media outlets.

Instead, one of the things remarkably talented woman has demonstrated — again– the power of social media and how effective the public itself can be in terms of calling attention to something or someone in whom they are interested. Instead via YouTube as well as discussion on Facebook, Twittter and FriendFeed, the woman has – via viral marketing that she herself did not set into motion – become a superstar.

Heck, she’s even generating press for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher because they tweeted about HER performance.

WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

What it is about her that appeals is that she is (or at least seems) genuine. In this era of people who are Photoshopped and Botoxed to the point of near waxworkdom, this woman looks like an honest-to-goodness 47 -year-old lady. So strong is the expectation that our female talents now must be young, size two lovelies that one wonders if Janis Joplin– an off-kilter beauty with a killer voice — would be able to have a career today.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Perhaps the scariest thing of all is that she has revealed the ugliness in our society’s current attitudes about beauty and talent. Screen goddess Ava Gardner once joked “Deep down, I’m pretty shallow” – what a pity that this may have been revealed as the current dominant mindset for humanity.

Watching the audience’s initial mocking reaction to her demonstrates that. And it makes her victory all the more powerful in this era of narcissistic twit(terer)s.

And it makes me particularly worried about the world my daughter will inherit -  if the response of MTV’s bloggers can be taken as typical- that they could react to her talent in the following callow manner:

It wasn’t until this morning that I got wind of the Susan Boyle craze. Along with the rest of you cynics out there, I have to admit that I was too quick to judge and giggle before she opened her mouth. Not to follow the crowd, but she seriously gave me goose bumps and watery eyes. (I discovered that closing your eyes to her bushy brows and just allowing yourself to hear her voice is the trick.)Her talent is undeniable, regardless of her cat collection and homely frock.

Perhaps there is a future in public relations: Teaching narrow-minded narcissists how to relate as people. Perhaps?

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