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Category Archives: Communications

Now that selfies are in, can we start ignoring them?

If I see one more selfie on a national awards show, I may gag. It’s getting rather tiresome, seeing grown-ups climb aboard a bandwagon that usually has reserved seating for self-obsessed teenagers.

Sure the made-up word entered the OED last year — but so did jorts and fauxhawk in 2012. It also trumped the word ‘schmeat“, the new word for fake meat. In case you needed to click on the above link, you are probably like me, shaking your head in despair.

But to get back to selfies, yesterday on the Country Music Awards, there was a selfie moment, and we wondered whatever happened to human ingenuity. Didn’t Ellen make it clear that she owned that brightly lit space that celebs inhabit?

Just to cement the fact that we are in that moment in time when this awful word is rushing to meet us, there’s that annoying song. Obnoxious, albeit a wonderful parody of selfie culture. It’s title: “Let Me Get a Selfie.”

To add to this there’s the pres of the United States fawning over a selfie, as if it was the best thing that happened to image management –with a touch of product placement. I understand the man is desperately going after all the Likes and re-tweets he can get.

It’s time for people over 21 to calmly put away their phones and start real conversations.

 

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Win a free copy of Chat Republic. Send your question to @IABCPhoenix

Angelo Fernando - Chat Republic

It’s been just 3 months since my book Chat Republic launched in the U.S., and there are some interesting developments that obviously did not get discussed:

  • The raison d’être and privacy issues over dating games such as Tinder
  • The flurry over crypto-currency‘ (BitCoin)
  • The hashtag ‘noise’ emanating from every possible event (such as the Bieber-crazy #Beliebers)

What burning question do you have about where social media is taking us? I’m speaking at an IABC Phoenix event tomorrow

Post your question to @IABCPhoenix and @heyangelo

If your question is picked, you’ll receive a free copy of Chat Republic. 

(You don’t need to be atending the event to win!)

 
 

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Why SoundCloud rocks

Whenever I get tired of reading the news, I switch to SoundCloud.

I’m currently doing a series of lessons with my students on audio, and having them experiment with the power of voice. (I know: It fits nicely into the theme I’ve been plugging in my book, Chat Republic.) Truth is, young people are enamored by video, and instinctively see audio as its poor-relation.

But ever so often, one of them says something in a microphone that makes them realize how simple and real an audio experience could be.

Here’s one that is part of an NPR experiment itself. An experiment to study why audio seldom goes viral.

It’s almost impossible to listen to this and not (a) feel close to the event (b) wonder how someone managed to record this near-death experience.

 

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Giving, the “best form of Communication”

No words are necessary for this.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2014 in Communications

 

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Digital Learning Day, tomorrow: An opportunity to teach and learn

Tomorrow is Digital Learning Day across America. For me it’s an interesting way to focus on the ever-changing landscape of education and knowledge tools; With schools upping the ante on the sciences, and adopting what’s known here in the U.S. as the Common Core Standards, it’s time we experimented with digital learning.

And if you’ve read this blog you’ll know that by Digital Learning I don’t mean thrusting a small screen in front of students and expecting knowledge to automatically be transferred from hyperlinks to neurons.

There’s a lot more about how I’m approaching #DLDay on my school blog. Here’s are three things I will be trying out this week. I bet they could be easily applied to areas outside education.

VOICETHREAD:
https://voicethread.com/share/5326162/

This is an interesting way of allowing a group to collaborate on a topic, using voice or video. The spoken word could be a powerful way to get a team or a class to focus on the content, not the presentation. When I interviewed the CEO of Voicethread last week, Steve Muth used the phrase “No Bling” to describe why Voicethread is powerful.

PADLET

http://padlet.com/wall/m2iy0fn1fy

For some reason the embed code is not working here. Padlet is essentially a way to create a multimedia story on a blank wall, and share that story in a variety of ways. So you could have a small group curate ideas from multiple sources and quickly assemble them in one place. A bit like a wiki, but with a visual look and feel.I like the fact that it also gives you a QR code for each project.

VOKI

http://www.voki.com/

When I first heard that Voki was about creating avatars, I didn’t want to take it seriously. It reminded me of the avatar fetish we once had when Second Life was all the rage. But on second look, Voki is a neat way to get students to engage in digital storytelling, by getting them interested in creating content. The ‘voice’ of the avatar could be created in many ways: by uploading text, uploading a pre-recorded voice recording, or by recording it live. Once again, your avatar generates an embed code.

How will students take to these new ways of engaging? No predictions. But I could tell you that just this week I tested out voice recordings with first graders, and they were beginning to record mini stories in less than 30 minutes of showing them how to use Audacity.

 
 

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Communicating without words – Goldieblox smashes Princess stereotype

Last week someone sent me a link to a video for GoldieBlox, a toy company, that features toys for kids (and parents) jaded by the Princess theme that has taken over the toy industry in this country for that past few years.

I had never heard of the company before, and it was a serendipitous discovery, because of what I have been working on with my students –a Rube Goldberg idea. More about this in a moment.

While most girl’s toys have been Disney-fied, Goldieblox’s products are engineering-inspired. One of their blog posts (titled “An Apology To My Future Daughter”) gives you the reason d’être:

“I apologize that I’m going to have to lie to you. I’m afraid there is a 99.99% chance you won’t grow up to be a princess. I’m afraid I would rather you become an engineer…”

So back to the video, an advertisement, nonetheless, which communicates sans words why science and engineering could be fun for kids, Levers, pulleys, wheels, ramps..all made from everyday objects to create something fantastic. The storyline is about kids who are bored with Princess-saturated television, and go on to create a contraption that uses everyday objects in the home to… turn off the boring fare on TV! If Disney’s princess-fantasy machine has numbed parents’ toy choices, Goldieblox’s ‘Princess Machines’ tries to reverse the trend.

No voice-overs required.

However, another communication issue flared up. Not about toys or machines, but about copyright. In November Beastie Boy’s filed a lawsuit against the use of its song (parodied), “Girls.” That’s a whole other communication issue worth unpacking since it is involves ‘fair use’.

My guess is that the band would drop the charge, once it realizes the bigger picture –beyond a viral ad -of empowering girls.

It won’t help, once the rest of the media begin to see story angles such as “Why Beastie Boys Isn’t pro Girls.”

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Communications

 

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How do you prevent employees from reading a story? Use some nice gobbledygook

You can’t make up stories like this.

The Department of Homeland Security has sent a memo to employees that they may be violating their non-disclosure agreement if they click on a link to a Washington Post article.

It’s obviously a tricky legal thing. Employees are being asked not to use their work computers (referred to as “unclassified government workstations”) since doing so will “raise the level of your unclassified workstation to the classification of the slide…” Doing so, they warn, will cause “data spillage.” It’s also sensitive, being connected to the Edward Snowden affair.

That classified slide, featured in the Post, is about the program known as PRISM, that secretly collected downstream data about people from companies such as  Facebook, Skype, Google, Apple, Microsoft etc.

But the question remains: If DHS really fears such “spillage” why did it not block access to the site from work computers, rather than send out that lame memo? It’s as useful as telling 12-year old students “do not turn to page 296 of your reader; by doing so you will be in violation of the school’s policy.”

I find this very topical for another reason. I just interviewed a company called Safetica, about a product it  markets as ‘productivity’ solution – to monitor employees’ online behavior. It will not snoop into people’s content, it says, but collect data about the paces people visit and how much time they spend there. It gets more interesting: this data, can be viewed by both supervisors and employees!

Maybe Safetica ought to send DHS one month free trail of its data leak prevention software!

 
 

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Always on, always live

We use the word ‘always-on’ so flippantly these days, we often have no idea what it means.

We use it to suggest being tethered (“my phone is always with me”), or that we are contactable through many devices and points of contact (“find me at these various places…”).

Being Always-On means other things to organizations. They are on people’s radar, will be talked about, tweeted, linked to, photographed etc. Every interaction is an ‘on’ switch that’s permanently green.

To that point about photography, you may have come across the silly move by United to offload a passenger travelling from Newark to Istanbul, for taking photos of the digital panel on the seat in front of him. Read the story here.

Indeed, United had a passenger policy about cameras. (Just the mention of United and ‘policy’ immediately brought to my mind another kerfuffle involving guitars!). But how they exercised that policy and communicated it was just unfortunate.

I’ve travelled with a camera and taken numerous pictures inflight, as I am sure you have. Some of those pictures have been used on this blog. As a writer I use photos to record an idea or an object that I would refer to later, even if I don’t publish it. With so many billions of camera-equipped phones in circulation, it’s lame to even have a no-photograph policy –except in security-related situations.

The whole point is, we inhabit this always-on space on the ground, in the air, under the ocean and even in our work environments. (Heck, I have two installed cameras in my room, plus an SLR that I whip out ever so often; my students know that they may be on camera anytime!)

With that in mind, you may want to listen to one of my favorite podcasters, CC Chapman and his take on the United fiasco: The Always On Society.

Note: CC Chapman is one of the podcasters I interviewed for my upcoming book, Chat Republic. The book will be out in May 2013.

 

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Update on my book: “Chat Republic”

It’s official, and I’m now ready to announce the title of my book, which is in its final stages.

It’s called Chat Republic.

Angelo Fernando, Chat RepublicI’ve been covering the intersection of technology and business; technology and culture for more than 18 years. More recently, I’ve focused on digital media and our social media-centric lives, and I wanted to put my ideas into perspective.

Chat Republic is more than a fictional country. It’s about the spaces you inhabit.  Those online and offline communities you move in and out of: conference rooms, Google Circles, IM lists, Facebook, online forums. I think of it as a ‘country’ whose fluid borders take the shape of a giant, invisible speech bubble.

The conversations and opinions pouring in and out of our republic, in real-time, are what make our communities more civil, more vibrant. Our chats are certainly not friction-free! But absent these conversations we would be one dimensional citizens, won’t we?

As of today, I am planning to launch the book in two time zones, in June.

Some specs:

  • 25 Chapters – Divided into 3 sections
  • Case Studies from the U.S. and Asia
  • Interviews with non-profits, tech companies, activists, chief execs, editors, citizen journalists, PR consultants, podcasters, government officials

More information here at ChatRepublic.net

 

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Being Obscure, clearly. Why ‘Romnesia’ and ‘Obummer’ distort elections

They are funny, memorable, and provide plenty of water-cooler conversations.

The campaigns know it. They must have gag writers on staff to supplement their communications and marketing people. The unfortunate thing is that they work.

Not the lines, but the distraction. They provide a sidebar to the main event that eventually drowns the real issue.

When Obama, fresh from his speech in New York this week (the annual Alfred E. Smith Memorial dinner, where both Obama and Romney delivered great one-liners, a tradition of that white tie event) fired up a crowd using a coined word ‘Romnesia‘ it supposedly lit up social media. Sure, it gave the president a stick to poke at his challenger, who has been gaining ground.

But in the last few weeks to the election, it is a huge distraction from what Obama and Romney should be doing: telling voters, especially those uneasy about both candidates, what they stand for. It may have pricked the bubble about the self-created entrepreneur, but it also treats an important election as a referendum on who citizens don’t like, as opposed to what they really want. Bumper stickers are all about this. Bumper-sticker campaigning just feeds this mentality that we don’t really need to know  (or read) the candidate’s policies, so long as we keep up with the tweets, and let the one-liner define our choice.

Locally, in Phoenix, we have one of the most intellectually embarrassing senate races, by Jeff Flake and Richard Carmona. Going by their ads, I personally don’t want any of them representing me.

Like both major parties, they spend millions on tarring each other’s reputation instead of telling us why we should pay their salary. Worse, they hide behind shady organizations that pretend to represent us, who pay for these spiteful spats.

Take a guess: who might ‘Americans For Responsible Leadership’ and the ‘Committee for Justice and Fairness’ represent? They are quite opaque –by design. These political action committees (PACs) poison the waters of democracy. Why?

  • They are still stuck in the mass media mindset, imagining that he who shouts the loudest will win our vote.
  • These nattering nabobs of negativism account for 75% of negative advertisements (a tar bucket that’s worth $507,240,744.99 according to the Sunlight Foundation)
  • Their ‘message’ –a mess of pottage, really– is clear. Don’t think, just vote! Their goal is simple, as in E.B. White’s words: “be obscure, clearly”!

To think we as a country spend billions trying to introduce democracy to other parts of the world!

 

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