Tag Archives: social network

What this election lacks

This is one of my favourite scenes from one of the ten top films of all time.

Fantastic story, brilliant script and a cast that grits and grumbles through a film that will leave you drained. There’s no high-speed fight scenes, no time/space/body-shifting heroes, no fantasy land; but since 1976, Network feels as modern a story as it did then. It informs us deeply about the world we live in, the machinations of the powerful and the television that dominates our lives now. Crammed with intelligently written scenes, full of a richness of meaning and purpose. Not to mention a very embryonic form of  social media.

The full scene, below, is brilliant if you have the time, but the clip above gives you the meat of the argument.

Apologies for the  French subtitles as everyone else only shows the truncated scene. Only the French understand mise-en-scéne and the second clip above captures the drama and operatic scope of the scene, from Howard’s lonely, determined, rain-soaked march to the thunder and passion of the entire city screaming into the night.

If only the current Australian election were able to elicit passion on this scale.

Social Media, what does it mean to you?

A Social Media Consultant, a PR consultant, two agency specialists and a client walk into a bar…..

Sounds like an 50’s style joke doesn’t it?

At Social Media Club Sydney two a few weeks ago (I know, I am soooo slack! I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while now) the talk was “Do you need an agency to run effective social media campaigns?” and the point that interested me the most was that everyone had a definition for what Social media was but they varied wildly, sometimes based on what that person wanted from it instead of what SM was about intrinsically.

I later asked around the audience, and also got a wild array of possible definitions, some from Social Media users and others from “experts”, many of whom could remember who’s definition on the panel they liked or aligned themselves with but, ultimately, couldn’t remember the actual definition.

I remember the response from a student, uninterested in marketing or advertising, defining Twitter as a “marketing channel”, which really shocked me, although I wasn’t surprised in hindsight, considering the celebrities using it to keep them in the public eye and “sell” themselves.

Thankfully a few cool heads, both on the panel as well as in the audience, continued to press for the simpler and more engaging descriptions, which did not focus on sales, marketing or advertising but the more intrinsic communication, connection, engagement and sharing descriptions I prefer to lean towards.

I guess this is where I put my stake in the sand and tell you my definition. Fair enough! I think Social Media is something that is detached from platform, API, protocol and application, as well as detached from marketing message or advertising reach, although it can perform with those very easily. At heart, SM is a public conversation, generally around a topic, recorded. Ultimately it is about people, conversing and interacting.

Feel free to challenge me on this, and you can do so at the next SMCSYD, How Do You Measure Social Media Engagement, on July 20.

The train-chasing shuffle

We’re not individuals all of the time; we’re occasionally herd animals, sometimes like flotsam sometimes like wheat, and yes, occasionally the lone wolf.

I’ve been noticing how people behave when a train’s approaching. Ok, it is usually during rush hour, with that 8am grogginess or 6pm urgency that I notice this, but it’s a valid enough time to observe collective behavior.

It brings to mind the interesting point that when it comes to observing our online behavior, we are simultaneously individual and collective in our patterns. We act on our own but are affected by the ebb and flow of other users in our motions and choices.

Take for example the train chasing shuffle. This is the condition where, as the train slows into the station, people feel the need to slowly shuffle towards the door that has just passed them. Even when the next door along is going to stop right in front of them, or will be much closer than the door they are chasing, they’ll follow the train along the platform.

At first I thought it was some sort of magnetic or gravitational force, the train pulling us along with it’s substantial mass or metallic might, but that doesn’t hold up.

A force far greater than either seems to be pulling us along.

So the question is: are we being pulled, are we influencing each other, is it the actions of one of us pulling the others along?

Perhaps it is a combination of all of these answers and more, a subtlety we cannot clarify easily. As someone who likes to understand engagement, attention, usability and user flow, these are the questions I have.

Standardistas Unite!

Carrying on from my theme about using the online world to support rather than supplant the physical world, I thought I’d tell you about these monthly meetings I have been holding since late 2007, in London.

Called the Web Standards Meetup London, they aim to allow practitioners to discuss problems and successes with implementing web standards. There are a few other groups in London that do this but none as casually as this one, in a loose, network style.

What’s the big deal, then with web standards, anyway?

Quite a bit actually, and it has to do with how people and computers “read” websites, what we want from websites, both as users and creators/commissioners, and how to create structure around meaningful content so everyone wins. I’ll be discussing aspects of web standards over the next few months in here and on other sites on occasion but in the short-term, the elevator-pitch, as it were, is simply:

Semantically structured, standards-compliant, gracefully accessible web content, created with all visitors in mind, makes a website better for everyone and everything that visits it, from web-crawling search-spiders to web-savvy cyber-surfers.

The big problem has always been that people think it costs extra to code in this way or that the site will be less functional or attractive than it could be, but the opposite is true, actually. Once you set compliance, usability and findability as your target, the rest of the issues fall into place and it becomes easier to build, if you know how to.

So several of us (the group numbers 90 at present, but about 10 – 15 of us meet monthly) gather round and discuss what we can do to progress these practices into the wider web community. We would never have been able to organise something like this so easily without a site like Meetup or Upcoming to help one manage people and meeting dates.

So even though you may spend a few hours a week catching up with friends and colleagues on the internet, don’t forget to meet them in the flesh, in “meat-space” to make sure you can really connect! There4 really is no point to social networking sites unless you use them to occasionally meet and network physically.

If you are interesetd in the topic by the way, join up and I may even buy you a beer! *

*first few actual meat-space attendees and to be taken with a grain of salt!

An expedition into the unknown

I remember the first time I ventured out into the void called the internet, back in 1994.

I had just spent more money than was sensible on a blisteringly fast 28.8k modem for my powerful PowerPC 7100AV (70MHz, 16MB RAM, 250MB HD!), and wandered out into the unknown. I know, I currently have a mobile phone with more power than that now, certainly more storage and definitely more speed, RAM and connectivity; but this isn’t one of those “my how technology has come a long way” blogs. The wondrous thing was the sense of immediate connection with the world. I felt like a new world explorer.

I was a photographer, keen on finding like-minded smudgers out there who wanted to talk lighting and printing techniques. Within a week of painfully configuring the modem with a manual connection string (some of you may remember that slice of arcane coding alchemy!) I discovered the site for Aperture, a photography magazine I highly respected, and ZoneZero, a photography site, early on the scene and still out there. By the end of the next week I managed to have a discussion with the Aperture editor by email, and before the end of the month I was swapping techniques for distressing prints and keeping models comfortable in awkward poses with Joel Peter-Witkin. … Yes, THE Joel Peter-Witkin!

Four letter expletives cannot do justice to the wondrous feeling of being in the middle of everything, connected to my heroes, effectively swapping recipes with the gods. I cannot express enough the amazement I had at finding immediate, friendly and wondrously easy communion with the entire world, for that is how it felt, from my garret studio in London in the mid 90’s. That pretty much made me drop my aspiration to be a highly regarded Commercial Photographer and embark on the road to web expert. ZoneZero was a social network for photographers back in the mid 90’s, and web 2.0 is really what Web 1.0 was supposed to be.

So the question is; do we take this interconnectivity for granted? Is it better to forget that fantastic tingle and stay in the present, glib in the comfort of familiarity, of being an expert? We hear heroin users say the first time they used was the best, and the rest of the addiction is trying to get that initial rush back just one more time. Do I want to be chasing that buzz from the past or be comfortable in my current expertise?

The answer to me is, in true Libran style, both!

I cannot forget what I know (my clients and colleagues would be pretty pissed off for one thing!) but I can try to look at each new site without my cynicism and critical faculties in overdrive. The commercial aspects of photography nearly killed my creative explorations (just how sexy can you really make a box of strepsils and do I really give a f***!) but the practical aspects of website creation continue to make me excited at what can be achieved. The challenges presented to the switched on, “get it” kind of agency I work at keep my veins tingling with the possibilities before me.

As excited as day one, my first hit is refreshed while my progress bar signals the collection of yet another page about to hit my screen with potential. I am still, and will probably continue to be, a fascinated New World explorer.