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Category Archives: Social Networks

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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Online Privacy for the rest of us

If you didn’t see the blackout yesterday in protest of the Online Privacy Acts going through the House of Representatives and Senate (known by their acronyms SOPA and PIPA) it’s time to pay attention.

It won’t be trampling on the Wikipedias and the Facebooks of this world alone. Google, Reddit, and Craigslist, WordPress, Mozilla, and O’Reilly also protested the acts.

As Shel Holtz rightly noted in a great insightful piece, SOPA threatens much of the content residing on websites of organizations “as long as it resides on a .com, .org or .net domain. All it takes is for a user to upload a video, a photo or a presentation that violates someone’s copyright—even if it’s someone singing a cover of a song at a party—and under SOPA, Internet service providers could be ordered to block the domain name.”

Even those involved in advertising and SEO work.  Even Higher education! Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies, according the ReadWrite Web.

I just submitted an article for publication on infographics, so this one caught my eye. It summarizes the issue well. But…. does that mean this blog too could come under scrutiny by the SOPA police?

If you care about having your voice heard, you can sign the petition here.

Updated: The House of Representatives statement on the blackout, says that this was a Wikipedia ‘publicity stunt.’ In a press release (responding to the claim that some organizations had dropped their support of SOPA) it stated that ““Contrary to critics’ claims, SOPA does not censor the Internet.”

 

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Dealing with downtime in an always-on world

This is my column in LMD Magazine, published in March.

LMD Magazine - Blog Buzz - Angelo FernandoConsidering all the time we spend online trying to be productive, it maybe a good idea to think about what we might do with our downtime when we are offline – off the grid, so to speak. I come across plenty of discussion on this, where people – especially in HR divisions – wrestle with the concept of that work-life balance.

Some make a case for there not being a work-life balance as such, because work and life have collided and the two aspects of life can’t be easily pried apart. In other words, a work-life imbalance is more the norm!

And if you buy this, you will most likely agree too that there is no difference between online and offline.

You are in a nice quiet restaurant with your family, but pull your Blackberry out every few minutes to check on the incoming stream of emails and texts. Your kid may ask to play with the iPhone… and before you know it, you’re forwarding a YouTube video to a friend.

Or you are relaxing on a towel on the beach, but feel compelled to snap into citizen-journalist mode and take a picture of some dude and upload it on to Facebook. Or if you’re into status updates, you ‘check in’ to a location using Foursquare, even if there’s no apparent benefit.

Faced with this magnetic pull, and the urge to be online while you are offline every moment of the day, where do you find that elusive downtime?

While driving? Forget it! They may have been one of the few insulated spaces in which you could happily be off the grid in the days gone by, but cars are now coming with smart dashboards to help us stay connected.

One company, Hughes Telematics, is working on ‘in-dash applications’ that will keep drivers updated on a slew of communications or travel-related news and issues. These include Twitter integration, iPhone controls for passengers who want to change the music, check the pollution index outside or cite emissions data… and so on!

Another company, Visteon, has the ultimate iPad in-car device. It’s a docking station with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that turns your iPad into a second dashboard to help you interact with the vehicle’s electronic controls. This could include engine information, GPS directions or the ability to pull in external information such as web radio… and even make phone calls!

This so-called ‘embedded connectivity’ could make for smart driving… or make it highly distracting for the man or woman at the wheel, depending on your perspective.

BRAIN POWER.
Few like to venture into this area for fear of being branded as Luddites. But sometimes it’s good to hit that ‘pause’ button, and wonder just where we are going with so much technology in our lives.

A recent study on downtime by the University of California points to how brains function better when they break away from constant activity. “Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” says Loren Frank, Assistant Professor at the university’s Department of Physiology.

Learning, he contends, diminishes as a result of non-stop stimulation. About two decades ago, many spoke of ubiquitous computing as a good thing. Computer devices would become so embedded in human environments that we would not need to enter ‘machine environments’ to engage with them.

CONVERSATIONS
It is very easy to make fun of teenagers who can’t stop texting, even while they are spending time ‘alone’ with a certain someone. But the truth is, adults are getting far more addicted to digital tools, to the point that it’s impossible to get them to pay attention to the real – as opposed to the virtual – situation.

Sometimes, this even distracts us from large physical objects that are in front of us. A hilarious example of this is captured on video, where a girl fell into a fountain at a shopping mall while she was busy texting (if you want to watch this, just Google the words in the previous sentence!).

Texting in church used to be disallowed, since mobile phones were supposed to be turned off anyway. Today, some progressive churches in the US are experimenting with it, asking young people to text a question after the sermon – they’re just trying to be more interactive, I suppose! But whatever happened to asking the congregation to raise their hands?

In our zeal to be interactive, are we going too far by trying to promote conversations and interaction as full-time activities, leaving little room in our lives for offline thinking? At the end of last year, in JWT’s annual list of ‘100 things to watch for in 2011’, the ad agency pointed to digital downtime as being a big trend. This was somewhat related to another trend it called ‘digital interventions’. This refers to friends and family members staging interventions to take a person offline, because they sense it is necessary to help the person log off!

REALITY CHECK
Maybe it’s time for a reality check – even in a column like this, that by definition covers digital communications! I meet with organisations that are looking to find ways to be more digital, and I have to admit that I have advised and coached people on how to be more (and I put this word within quotes for good reason) ‘productive’ by using digital strategies.

But I am acutely aware that there is a downside to all of this, especially if we go headlong into all things digital and ignore the rich analogue, traditional communications opportunities swirling around us. Becoming digital just because we can, and turning everything into a relentless social-media stream is not the answer to our communication problems.

In fact, sometimes the opposite is true. The answer to a particular communications problem might be to get off our digital high horses and tune into the analogue world around us. The customer-service person could assume that there are no complaints this week because no one has emailed a complaint or posted a rant via Twitter.

The truth is that there might be an ugly customer problem out there being passed around word-of-mouth channels in taxi cabs and trains that no one is paying attention to (but you wouldn’t hear it, would you, if you’re in the cab or train with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones?)

Spending a portion of our day offline might be a habit we soon need acquire – or require – our employees to cultivate. Being plugged-in doesn’t mean shutting out the rest of the world. It’s so basic that HR people don’t even think it’s necessary to instruct new recruits to do. But at the rate at which our offline lives are being infiltrated with online tools, digital downtime may be one of the most productive issues today.

 

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Social media driving you to distraction?

The jury is still out whether social media is making us more distracted or not. I’ve met many people who claim that the best way to ‘work’ (and it’s within quotes for a reason) is to turn off the wi-fi and stop mult-tasking.

Like that’s easy!

But forget external communication for a moment. Could socially interactive apps make us more productive when we collaborate? I could give you five reasons why (and a few good books to read on the subject). But for now, here’s a presentation my colleagues at GreenNurture just posted to SlideShare.

I would use it for any ice-breaker, or at the start of a discussion in an organization!

Is Social Media Distracting Your Employees?

 

Quotes for the week ending 24 July, 2010

Resuming my snapshot of the best quotes from around the world on communications, marketing, media and social media.

“An increasingly addictive activity”

SocialMediaAtWork on a recent Experian study that says social networking may be addictive.

“The future of infographics will be about telling stories. Telling them in an interesting and compelling way.”

Charles Apple, on the use of info-graphics

“the journalist isn’t a writer; he is a technician.”

Jolie O’Dell in a gret long post on ‘How to tell a journalist from a blogger.”

“When people feel they have some kind of social relationship with others in the company, there tends to be greater collaboration between them.”

Human Resource Executive, on the potential and perils of social networking in the workplace.

“The $35 iPad lookalike from India”

The rage about the Indian tablet developed by the government of India.

Blurs the Lines Between Online and Offline.”

Guest post by Yael Davidowitz-Neu at Convince and Convert, on the ‘Six degrees of influence’ in C to C programs.

 

Thanks for attending the webinar!

Webinar on social media - US Embassy, Colombo Sri LankaQuick note of thanks to all the attendees at the webinar on blogging, yesterday. (Sunday night here, although it was still the 21st in Sri Lanka.)

Dan Wool Steve England, and I enjoyed being able to share our ideas, and answer your questions.

The application, DimDim, did cause us a hiccup for the audio at the second location, but we know exactly what the problem is and how to fix it in the next sessions.

Since this was a session on blogging 101, I created a basic blog for the attendees, on the fly. I will be using it to update content for the next few sessions on the other key elements on social media.

Here is a link to it.

 

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Passport to ‘Digital Citizenship’ Webinars next week

Really happy to announce a series of Web conferences that I will be starting next week for the U.S Embassy in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Webinar on social media - US Embassy, Colombo Sri LankaThis follows a digital video conference I conducted last year for the U.S.E, in association with the US State Department.

These six workshops –Webinars– are designed to be more interactive; the majority of participants will be at one location in Colombo. They were selected based on their application and response to a survey on the state of social media in Sri Lanka.

We are covering the usual suspects: Blogs, social networking, micro-blogging, video sharing and social search.  The attendees are from diverse backgrounds: advertising, corporate communications, government, web-based businesses, management, universities, media and non-profits.

Presenters: To make these sessions more focused and relevant I have brought on board some top practitioners to co-present with me. They are:

Dan Wool, a corporate communications and PR consultant for APS, a large electric utility in Arizona. Dan co-founded one of the world’s top blogs on public relations, marketing and social media.

Steve England, Chief Technology Office of MobileSoft, an advocate of on-demand digital printing who advises large tech companies and international advertising agencies on interactive marketing.

Gary Campbell, a communications manager at Arizona State University, a former print journalist turned digital, who has led numerous university training sessions in social media.

I will also bring in a few ‘surprise’ guests who will pop-in with some real-world examples of how they are using a particular strategy in their communication!

 

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How ‘passive’ networks will make use hyper-active citizens

The explosion of sharing networks and apps are being primed for the mobile experience, anticipating a time when many of us will slip in and out of our roles as employees, Friends (yes, upper-case kind!) and corporate citizens.

These ‘social mapping’ services may seem more like games in their early iterations, rewarding users for certain tasks. But just as how Twitter looked like a status update service in its early days, these mobile-based services will soon let us do more than vainly record our location.

GoWalla, a location mapping app for the Android, iPhone and Blackberry, lets us check-in’ to locations, as does FourSquare., awarding badges and mayor-ships etc.

A term I have come across in some of these networks is that they “are only acting as a passive conduit for online distribution and publication” of user content. In other words, the intent of the application is to tether people and content.

We may be transitioning to that time soon. But we are still toggling between active, in-your-face social networks such as Facebook, and the passive ones. Someday these could be rich social spaces, albeit passive and invisible. Also reward-based.

Like to see where all this is going? Check out these four services:

GoWalla.com ZoomAtlas.com

FourSquare Plazes.com

 

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Google’s Caffeine rocks, but don’t shut your eyes to offline information

I’ve been waiting for Caffeine for a long time, since I heard it being mentioned at SMAZ last year. So this week we get a taste of what a caffeinated search looks like.

It’s Caffeine, and it’s finally a way to see real-time information (not archived results).

If you’re concerned about page ranking, keywords, meta-tags and most importantly rich content, it’s worth trying to understand how the complex Google search algorithm works. Not that even the so-called experts know, because there is the secret-sauce factor that Google will not disclose.

However, this video from Google is as far as they will go. serving as a refresher course in search:

But is it that all?

Now while I find Caffeine a terrific improvement, I don’t only rely on (or recommend) Google to deep dive for all information. It’s easy assume that ‘everything’ is out there online, having been spidered and indexed online, when the fact is there are stacks of information you may never see or know exists.

Unless you make a trip to a library!  Or visit bookstores, read journal abstracts –the ones that have not gone digital yet — or scale the walled gardens of subscription-only sites.

So I have two questions to the search experts:

  1. Do real-time search results change how archived content shows up? All those white papers, videos, sample book chapters, podcasts etc. Do they get buried and pushed down away from the main results page?
  2. Is Caffeine –the real-time engine — trying to be Bing –the relevance engine? Or is it the other way around?

I took a screen shot of similar searches for the keywords “Gulf of Mexico” on Google and Bing today. Big differences!

Google Caffeine - search for "Gulf of Mexico" 9 June 2010

Bing search results - "Gulf of Mexico" - 9 June 2010

Take this one from the Associated Press. A story about a reporter who dived into the oily waters in the Gulf. It’s up there on Bing, but not on Google.

The story is probably a good metaphor of how murky it is when you dive into search as well. “I open my eyes and realize my mask is already smeared,” the unnamed reporter says.

 

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Is your company ready for a private social network?

Mixed signals. That’s what’s out there when it comes to social networks.

A few weeks back some UK companies approved of banning social networks in the workplace. A few years back organizations such as the CIA embraced such collaborative spaces. They created their own private network called A-Space, and another information sharing hub, Intellipedia.

But did you know that despite the rush for ‘corporatized’ LinkedIn or Facebook groups, many institutions have adopted private social networks?

Sometimes called ‘walled gardens’ these networks are created using free of paid platforms where smaller communities can share their ideas and –to use that overused word again -engage.

Two examples of this trend:

ResearchGate. This social engagement hub for scientists built by scientists may not be as well known as other networks, but it’s quite a hangout. Population 400,000! While groups on Facebook plan boycotts of oil companies or befriend brands, these specialized networks discuss topics such as the Human adenovirus A-31 genomic sequence, or neural networks and artificial intelligence. Groups range from American Society of Plant Biologists to a one discussing Zebrafish husbandry.

Pluck is one of the popular platforms used by media, insurance and marketing companies. It offers more than the bare template, lending editorial support – for what it calls a “curated, professionally produced content library.” I find it interesting that Pluck is not standing around building fortifications around its clients’ private social network, but making it easy for them to provide pass-through integration with Facebook, for instance.

You know your organization is ready for a private social network when you see the following signs:

  • You mention a document posted to the web site and you get 80 percent blank stares. You mention a statistic about your competition, and 95 people already know about it –via Facebook.
  • People complain that they can’t find anything on the company Intranet. They whine that “the search engine is so nineteen-ninetees.”
  • You overhear that there are unauthorized LinkedIn groups within the company because they hate having to share ideas via email
  • Someone in HR complains that someone has created a FriendFeed room in which designers are chatting; the guys in Marketing are equally ticked off.
 
 
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