Tag Archives: social media

Social News

Pew Internet publishes its latest findings on news consumption.

One of the main findings is that, like everything else in internet-enabled nations, news is now social. Pew’s research found that Americans are increasingly active participants in online news creation and dissemination, as well as keen consumers of mobile news content. For example:

  • 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  • more than 8 in 10 online news consumers get or share links in emails.
  • a third of cellphone users access news on their phones.

Pew’s analysis of this situation is that:

People’s experience of news, especially on the internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in emails, post news stories on their social networking site feeds, highlight news stories in their Tweets, and haggle over the meaning of events in discussion threads.

Locked down, pay-walled content is more or less shut out of this conversation — after all, how many ‘subscription required’ links have you forwarded to your mates or colleagues lately or posted to Facebook? Worse still, the research further reveals that only 17% of Americans read news in a national newspaper on a typical day. So, as physical newspaper reading wanes, many newspaper companies are actively shutting themselves out of the online ecosystem by pursuing a pay-per-view or subscription model. Smart.

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Amazon’s ‘vanishment’ of LGBT literature from sales ranks spurs a realtime revolt via social media.

Amazon is in deep trouble with the online LGBT commmunity this Easter. The retailer has re-classified as ‘adult’, and removed sales rankings from, a range of books which includes Henry Miller, Anais Nïn, contemporary same-sex romances and young readers’ books which feature same-sex parenting. Cue uproar on social media, with hashtag #amazonfail top trending last night across the whole of Twitter.

Google ‘amazonfail’ for the developing story, or check this nice summary post from the National Post for background. Fittingly, we first heard of Amazon’s actions via author Hari Kunzru, on FaceBook (thanks for the tip!)

Amazon’s first statement claimed that the de-ranking was the result of a ‘policy decision’. However, as we go ‘to press’ (as making a fresh pot of coffee and curling back up in bed with the laptop is referred to, in blogging circles), the bookseller appears to have changed that position. Its updated statement is so tepid and vague (“There was a glitch with our sales rank feature that is in the process of being fixed…”), that we’re guessing the PR agency has taken Easter off, leaving Amazon to crisis-manage for itself. Ouch. Would love to eavesdrop on that conference call tomorrow morning….

Although this story has been picked up by the US-based culture blogs and mainstream press, we’ve seen no mention of it ‘above ground’ in the UK. Maybe UK media journalists are also having a long lie in today, rather than doing their jobs?

Regardless of Amazon’s final response (which needs to be significantly more credible than its efforts so far), plenty damage has been done to the brand, amongst communities which know how to organise, and that understand the strength of collective action. A glimpse of that strength came last night, when, within a few short hours, a word-of-mouth googlebombing campaign successfully dislodged Amazon’s own definition of its precious sales ranking system on Google. An Amazon-critical alternative definition of Amazon Rank now tops search rankings in the US and UK.

Online, the ‘hacklash’ continues: there’s an open call out for an amazonfail logo, to replace Amazon widgets and links removed by site-owners in solidarity with the ongoing protests. Expect more creative activism in the same vein, over the coming hours and weeks. Until, in fact, Amazon actually comes clean, credibly and openly, about what, exactly, just happened. The longer that communication is delayed, the more damage will be done to the brand. Through social media, communities organise and engage in real-time. Brand-owners must respond likewise.

Whoever it was, a few years back, who said we should stop belittling people’s power by calling them ‘consumers’ and start respecting them as ‘amplifiers’, got it so right. We’re going to hunt his book down. But not on Amazon.

[UPDATE 13 April, 15:15. As of this writing, this post is top-ranked on Google UK search for 'amazonfail'. If Amazon and its PR agency do care about social media engagement, we're easy for them to find, and would love to hear from them.]

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BBC Twitters Parliament

A bit more political transparency in the UK

We’re huge fans of the work TheyWorkForYou put into archiving and making accessible the process of British Government. And we encourage you to help them out with a bit of crowdsourced video-tweaking if you can.

Meanwhile, we notice that the august Beeb has started twittering from Parliament. Last time we looked they had under 80 followers (including us!), but give ‘em a chance. A nice simple way to maintain some peripheral awareness of What Goes On in politics.

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Web 3.0 Starts Today

No, really.

People get ready. Both Google and FaceBook have this week announced APIs (Google Friend Connect and FaceBook Connect, respectively) which enable ‘any site’ to be aware of identities and social networks — turning the web inside out and focussing (finally!) on people and their interactions rather than content and its location. We’ve been banging on about this since 1994, and think it’s about bloody time, frankly.

Big news (and probably a harbinger of the demise of bespoke social media aggregators like our recent fave FriendFeed). Read the press releases and phone your favourite VC. Now.

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Way to Go, Hasbro

Toy giants crack down on Scrabulous, one of Facebook’s most popular applications

Lawyers for Hasbro and Mattel have asked Facebook to pull the game, saying that Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game. The game was built for the site by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, two software developers based in Kolkata, and has 594,924 daily active users – about a quarter of the total that have so far signed up to play it. Interestingly, the brothers say they hit upon the idea of launching a free online Scrabble game when a site where they used to play decided to charge its users in 2004 (how very Web 1.0).

“Next year, we decided to launch our own free scrabble site. It was to help the gaming community,” says Jayant. Rajat and Jayant claim that they contacted Hasbro about collaborating on the game but received no response. It it worth noting that it has taken the toy giants rather a long time to react to the game, despite its high profile and obvious similarity (it’s exactly the same) to Scrabble.

Brands dream of getting this kind of traction online — and Scrabulous has arguably caused a generation to fall in love with Scrabble all over again. If Hasbro and Mattel succeed in having the game removed — rather than entering into talks with the developers — they will have scored a spectacular own goal. A Save Scrabulous group is already ablaze with Facebookers commenting on their shortsightedness – it currently has 6,000 members and counting. Of course Mattel and Hasbro are going to create their own version. But why not just piggy-back on what’s already there, and reap the benefits? Hasbro and Mattel have an opportunity here to engage properly with social media and look like good guys. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

Source: BBC.

UPDATE: following widespread reporting in the press, the Save Scrabulous group had ballooned overnight to 28,000+ ….

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CSI Twitters

Zeitgeisty as ever, CSI explains the lure of social media

We are BIG fans of CSI: its noirish plots, zeitgeist-grabbing storylines (remember the Furries episode?) and general ridiculousness. This season, it has got the geeks gossiping about the use of Twitter in a scene and the attendant neat explanation of what drives people to live their lives online:

“Some people just don’t value privacy.”
“They don’t expect privacy, they value openness.”

Nice bit of transmedia advertising/storytelling too. Via Plasticbag.org.

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Wikis and Possums

Thoughts on social media and subjectivity

possum.jpgRecently we were discussing Wikipedia‘s anti-business bias: Wikipedians tend to find businesses ‘not notable’ and often dismiss entries about them as them as ‘advertising’. Whilst it is admirable to root out the many articles on Wikipedia which are barely-disguised pat pieces, just because Wikipedians don’t find business interesting doesn’t mean it isn’t. It’s as if the resurgence of the long tail has become its own kind of snobbery — a land where the entry for Anna Nicole Smith can stretch to several pages but where entries about famous businesses get deleted.

A similar debate has been going on on Cute Overload. Put simply: do possums make the cut? A Wiki ‘delete war’ can stretch out for weeks and hundreds of empassioned postings. Cute Overload — understanding the nature of social media, and therefore its community, opened and closed the debate within the space of two posts:

People, it’s tough at Cute O headquarters. We can never decide if possums are cute, or just horribly evil. (There is a fine line, and otters LOVE to jump back and forth across that line, taunting! always taunting!)

But I digest. Check out this dewd with this anerable paws. Don’t look at his schnozzle or ears tho. OK, you can look at his schnozzle.

Rebecca M. claims:

  • They RULE in the Moist Nosicle category.
  • They have a thumb without a nail on their back feet.
  • They have elaborate whiskers.
  • Their ears are pink when they’re babies and turn black as they grow up.
  • And let’s not forget they carry their babies in a pouch — North America’s only marsupial.

Wikipedants, take note. There should be a joke here about possums and long tails, but frankly we’ve got better things to be getting on with.

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BST gets down and dirty with mobile news beta

Context: the stunning Opera Mini, iGoogle and the GMail mobile client give us pretty much everything we need on the road: Search, WordPress, FaceBook and email. And Opera Mini does a fair job of managing our RSS life as well. So when Refresh Mobile invited us to come and check out their new mobile midware thingie, touted as ‘a window to the mobile internet’, we were interested to see what more we could be convinced we need. Due to London transport, we didn’t make it to the demo, but we’ve spent the evening messin’ with their product instead. Here are our first thoughts.

Mippin (dreadful name, kids, and the default colour scheme sucks: change it, purleeze!) is a WAP 2.0 social RSS aggregator and news reader for mobiles, with aspirations to greater things, from the people who brought us Mobizines (yes indeed).

On the couple of native phone browsers we tried, as well as an online WAP emulator, and Opera Mini, it all worked as expected: type in the URL of an RSS-enabled site, and off you go. No RSS? Too bad: at this point Mippin only works with feeds. Oops. And the press release is relentless is calling potential subscribers consumers. Get with the program, kids: we aren’t consumers, we’re multipliers, damn it — flatter our egos and we’ll give you a bit more slack on the features and functionality!

Anyway. Sign up, and you get a Mippin profile preloaded with a bunch of the usual-suspect blogs, in categories including Men and LifeStyle (LifeStyle, interestingly, seems to be mostly ‘girl stuff’ — don’t Men also have LifeStyles? Not online, it seems). There’s no indication as to whether those categories are static, or dynamically-generated based on Mippin users’ usage patterns and interactions. After experiencing the subtle magic of FaceBook’s filtering systems (‘A friend of a friend who you often email has posted an event in a category of events invitations which you usually accept, so I’ll tell you about it’), we’re kind of hoping that Mippin has some collaborative filtering magic behind the curtain as well. If so, the press release is keeping schtum on that whole area. Mippin does, however, make it easy to text, twitter (do people really use twitter — real people I mean?) or email stories to friends, and encourages readers to vote sites up or down in popularity. All a bit 1.0, but better than nothing, we guess. And Mippin is still in beta.

But, we’re left feeling a bit whatever. Mippin is a decent WAP-based RSS aggregator, with a bit of a social media flavour thrown in for the kids. And it adapts well to the capabilities of the different handsets we tried it on, without the need for any installs. If you’ve got a WAP-only phone and need a news fix, Mippin might be a must-have as-is. For the rest of us, I guess it’s wait-and-see on what emerges as the beta progresses. To us, it all currently feels akin to an open source project a few months prior to it being Slashdot-worthy. Refresh promises to listen to community feedback: we say try it out, and let them know your thoughts. If they’re serious about that, your feedback might be just what Mippin needs to shine.

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Negativity Contagious – Study

What a downer…

A recent study conducted at Indiana University, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, shows that the negative opinions expressed by others cause the greatest attitude shifts, not just from good to bad, but also from bad to worse.

As reported on Eurekalert:

Consumers were presented with information about a new product and allowed to independently form their evaluations. As would be normally expected with many products, some of these evaluations were positive and others negative. The researchers then revealed to participants whether their peers evaluated the product negatively or positively. They found that the opinions of others exert especially strong influence on individual attitudes when these opinions are negative. Additionally, consumers that privately held positive attitudes toward the product were more susceptible to influence from group opinion than those who initially held negative opinions.

Furthermore, the researchers also found that those with negative opinions of the product were likely to become even more negative if asked to participate in a group discussion: “When consumers expect to interact with other consumers through these forums, learning the views of these other consumers may reinforce and even polarize their opinions, making them more negative,” the researchers reveal.

“This research has several interesting implications. First, given the strong influence of negative information, marketers may need to expend extra resources to counter-act the effects of negative word of mouth in online chatrooms, blogs and in offline media. Conversely, companies could damage the reputations of competitors by disseminating negative information online,” the researchers explain. “Consumers should be aware that these social influence biases exist and are capable of significantly impacting their perceptions.”

The JCR doesn’t appear to be available freely online. If you want to hunt this article down, the full citation is:

Adam Duhachek, Shuoyang Zhang, and Shanker Krishnan, Anticipated Group Interaction: Coping with Valence Asymmetries in Attitude Shift. Journal of Consumer Research: October 2007.

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Please Fence Me in

A positive spin on closed online communities

With its establishment of a members-only website (as we reported last week), London’s Hospital club exemplifies a trend towards invitation-only digital communities.

Whilst information may indeed want to be free, it seems increasingly clear to us that social networks often require boundaries for them to function effectively. Hardly surprising, really: offline, cliques, clubs and communities frequently entail nomination, rites-of-passage and other signs of commitment and shared values. Those gate-keeping processes have evolved for many reasons, and not all of them are about money and snobbery. Many of us, in many social settings, just need to get on with it, and not have to spend half of every meeting explaining the rules of order, dress code or music policy to the newbies.

In fact, at the risk of sounding tweedy in the extreme, we see the trend for online walled communities as a sign of a Very Good Thing: that people are starting to forget that they are interacting digitally, and simply getting on with interacting per se, in the ways that make sense to them — that are fit for their purpose — rather than feeling obliged to do things differently simply because ‘oh it’s on the internet so it has to be open to all comers’.

On reflection, it seems strange that this even feels controversial, and yet it does. We’ve spent ten years experiencing the revolution (and it is a revolution) that digital social media has brought to collaboration and innovation. We are there, people, we are with that worldview. But there’s a lot more to social activity, innovation and creation than access and open facilitation. Some things are still best done by small groups and kept that way until they’re ready for wider engagement or involvement.

It would, however, sadden us if the innovation and creativity engendered in those walled communities became trapped there. We think the outcome for which to push is not universal access to every online community, but openness as to their goals, and for the exploitation of their digital nature to — as and when appropriate — gift their insight, creativity and creations back to the digital commons. Hmm. We’ll see you the other side of the velvet rope.

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