Public notebook

Inauguration day in social media…

I wanted to write a round up of all the Obama ’08 campaign and social media analyses, so I did a search for his name in my Google Reader. The search results, a bit like me and a lot of people today around the world, seems unable to get past the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.

Fair enough. I’ll come back to that. For now, here’s a round up of some of the incredible ways that people have been experiencing and talking about this wonderful day on the web…

An Open Source government?

First up the White House website was replaced with a social media-influenced design, including a blog, a commitment to transparency and the whole thing’s under a Creative Commons licence… Wow.

Image: New & improved, social media style White House website
Image: New & improved, social media style White House website

And what’s more, the whole website is licensed under Creative Commons (the “most permissive” version, according the the Creative Commons blog).

NB: VentureBeat has a more critical analysis of the bloggy website’s lack of things like comments…

CNN, FB Connect and Photosynth

CNN’s gone to town with social media for the inauguration. You could watch it live after logging in with Facebook Connect and see a scrolling list of other viewers’ status updates as they reacted to it. One friend of mind said she really enjoyed this…

Image: CNN Facebook live viewer
Image: CNN Facebook live viewer

These won’t be the last, but Mashable‘s published some Facebook stats from this afternoon. Goggle ye at the following:

1. 600,000 status updates posted through the Live Facebook feed

2. Facebook averaged 4,000 status updates per minute during the broadcast

3. 8,500 status updates were posted during the first minute of Obama’s speech

4. “Millions” of people logged into Facebook during the broadcast

This is a worldwide media event playing out as much on the web as on TV…

But even more amazing was the Photosynth CNN set up for the inauguration itself. This you have to see – it’s a great use of the technology. What’s amazing is that already – four or so hours later, the Photosynth panoramas are rich enough to enjoy browsing through. I imagine it will be worth taking a look again in a few days when more of those lucky people who can say they were there upload their pics…

Image: One of CNN and Microsoft's Photosynth montages
Image: One of CNN and Microsoft's Photosynth montages


The main event of the day was of course the speech itself,  co-written by a 27-year-old sitting in Starbucks, renowned for his late night speech “crashing” sessions interspersed with games of Rock Band.

ReadWriteWeb has been one of the first to word cloud the text of the speech on Wordle and offer it up alongside a selection of inauguration speeches from presidents past…

Image: A word cloud of Obama's inauguration speech
Image: A word cloud of Obama's inauguration speech

And Neoformix has created an image of President Obama made out of the words of the speech. You can even download it as a poster if the desire takes you…

Image: Neoformix's speech-as-portrait
Image: Neoformix's speech-as-portrait

And finally…

I watched the Inauguration ceremony in a Big Daddy’s Diner a block or so from iCrossing’s New York office. It was a random choice at the last minute, but it felt like a great place to be for “the moment”. After he was sworn in the whole place applauded and whooped a little before settling in to listen to the speech.


I’ve submitted the pic to the very sweet Flickr group of people’s photos of where they were when “a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath”.

What a day.

: : Bonus link: I’ve written about search and social reactions to the inauguration speech at iCrossing’s Connect blog.

Public notebook

HP’s social media tales

Image: HP's Marketing Impressions blog
Image: HP's Marketing Impressions blog

Online Marketing Blog‘s interview with Tac Anderson, who combines heading up social media at HP with being “entrepreneur in residence” at a VC firm (an interesting job combination, if ever there was one), is well worth a read.

As m’learned colleague Alisa Hansen never tires of reminding the world, social media as a term has a limited shelf life. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that the term is useful right now as we come to terms with the way that the web is evolving. As Alisa says, “the web is social”.

It’s nice to hear that perspective echoed by Tac:

I used to get a lot of people ask me about the difference between Web 2.0 and social media. I explain Web 2.0 as the technologies and tools that enable social media (RSS, JAVA, blogs, wiki’s etc) and social media is the trend in online content/media/whatever that enables people to communicate with each other directly. It’s media that you help shape and influence.

I don’t get the Web 2.0 question much anymore, I think that peaked in early 08 and I’m already seeing a lot fewer questions about social media. We’re really getting to the point, that we all knew we would, where all online content is social in some way. If it’s not now it will be in the next 2 years.

He also has a deft phrase to sum up why blogs are important for a big tech firm like HP – the “two Gs”:

If your customers are CXO’s (CEO, CIO, CFO, CMO) then the reason you have a blog is because the two most influential factors to a CXO’s decision making process are the Two G’s: Google and Gartner. Google is speaking to the importance of all search and Gartner is speaking to the importance that analysts play. Blogs are great for reaching both. There’s no lower bang for your buck tactic to reach the two G’s than having a high quality blog.

Even if Gartner‘s not that important to your business, it’s likely that there are other influential stakeholders it’s sensible to connect to via blogs.

Also worth taking a look at is the HP marketing blog – Marketing Impressions – which Tac mentions, which has accounts of HP’s various engagements and programmes in social media.

Public notebook

Paper overload

I like to go back to the past to get the analogies and models for thinking about today.

Here’s a nice little example. A paperback book about speed-reading from the 70s or 80s that is selling itself as the answer to being deluged by information on paper…

Image: the cover of Read Better, Read Faster
Image: the cover of Read Better, Read Faster

You can still buy yourself a copy second-hand on Amazon if you want…

Reminds me of the phrase “X reads the whole of the paper, cover to cover” as a marker that they are well informed. Right now, you might think “is that all?”

Via Curtis.

Public notebook

Search and social thoughts…

I’ve posted a summary on the iCrossing Connect blog about some things I’ve been thinking about to do with search and social media as being the twin lenses through which you can best *see* the web.

Take a look and let me know what you think over there, if you’re interested… all thoughts are very welcome!

Public notebook

Strategy and innovation: Head for the edge

Image: John Hagel & John Seely Brown's book, The Only Sustainable Edge
Image: John Hagel & John Seely Brown's book "The Only Sustainable Edge"

Business thinkers John Seely Brown and John Hagel are always worth listening to. Their perspectives on innovation and concepts like FAST Strategy have not only resonated as theories for me in recent years but have given practical, effective models for the work we’ve been doing at iCrossing, especially in “edge” areas like social media research, strategy, marketing and measurement.

Like Umair Haque, who also thinks and discusses the economics of the edge, their writing seems even more urgently relevant to businesses, activists and governments in the face of multiple economic, geo-political and environmental disruptions.

If you’re confused slightly by what “edge” means in the context of commerce, politics, society etc., there’s a nice illustration given in an article by Hagel & Brown in a BusinessWeek article about Google and the phone business:

Two decades ago, wireless telephone networks created a vibrant new edge to the wire-line telephony business. Many analysts at the time viewed mobile phones as a fringe event, something that would never take hold in the mainstream telephone business, except perhaps as a status symbol among the very wealthy.

Twenty years later mobile telephones are ubiquitous in the U.S. despite continuing challenges in service coverage, particularly in buildings. In many other parts of the world, these devices have replaced the old wire-line phone as the primary means of communication. What was on the edge has now become the core.

If you’re thinking and planning right now for the year or years ahead – and many people I know are – then the piece is reading, especially for the advice the duo give. The headlines are:

  • Don’t get distracted by your existing competitors (where are the start-ups who will compete with you tomorrow)
  • Look beyond product innovation (to really develop new models and markets changing how the world works may be required)
  • Mobilise others in support of your innovation initiatives (heroic entrepreneur myths oversimplify)
  • Don’t be deceived by theoretical concepts like “emergent” and “self-organising” (leadership required!)
  • Target the edges (find where there’s high value for your customers)
Public notebook

Love in the time of textual harassment

Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)
Image: The Kiss Wall on Brighton seafront (credit: Fast Eddie 42)

I met my wife when my internet access was restricted to a 36 kps modem at one computer in my office, next to the fax machine in the secretaries’ room.

I bought my first mobile phone after we’d been together for about six months. It would be a year or two before text messaging started in the UK.

Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn't show is the credit card sized SIM card or the massive brick-sized battery.
Image: What my first phone looked like - what the image doesn

If we phone one another in the day during that honeymoon period it would be on a land-line. That would happen maybe once a day.

I had email. She didn’t.

So… I have no idea what online dating, or the early stages of a relationship conducted in the modern world is like. I’ve never had a Facebook status other than married and I’ve never had to de-friend an ex and divide up our friends online like so many paperback books.

Have some sympathy, then, for today’s yoot. While it may be easier to meet potential partners, once you have the etiquette is shifting as fast as the technologies and if you happen across someone whose boundaries are different to your own, there might be trouble. Your web shadow, social network presences and always-on personal comms device (mobile) mean that when things you don’t like kick off they kick off fast.

Encouraging, then, to see sites like offering teens a helping hand with dealing with a terrifyingly long list of behaviours that might upset them, including:

  • Cyber-bullying
  • Pestering via email and texts
  • Malicious slander
  • Hacking email and social network accounts
  • Asking for inappropriate photos
  • Posting said photos online

The has advice, spaces to discuss these issues and an amusing/disturbing set of “call-out cards” you can send / post to a harasser’s web page by way of a hint to them to back off (a selection of which are below)…

Image: Call out cards
Image: Call out cards

Via Dirk at Herd

Public notebook

Useful advertising: Atheist bus ads

Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)
Image: An atheist bus advert (credit: Lorissa)

You’ll doubtless have heard the story of the journalist and comedian, Ariane Sherine, who was irritated by a Christian ad campaign on buses declaring that non-believers  “will be condemned to everlasting separation from God and then you spend all eternity in torment in hell … Jesus spoke about this as a lake of fire prepared for the devil”.

Writing a series of articles on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, she suggested that atheists club together to pay for a some ads with a more reassuring atheist messsage (“There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”) the campaign gathered momentum and raised far more money than was needed. It also became a meme that spread around the world.

Sometimes it’s more about the journey than the ad. The ads, or the process of getting them there, became a social object.

The effect of the advertising itself is almost peripheral to the effect of the debate, the bringing together of atheists – a group usually less adept at organising itself than anarchists – with the focus of getting these ads made and the space on the buses bought.

So, some online debate plus a donation website (with a fund that is still growing) and there you have it… a potent piece of activism.

: : Finally, as a riposte to the inevitable complaints to the ASA, Richard Dawkins, a devise proponent of atheism gives a choice quote in this video:  “They have to take offence – it’s the only weapon they’ve got.” Got to remember that one, right?

Public notebook

Edge of a riot: Social media, balance and truth in the news

Image: A police line forms toward the end of yesterday's Gaza protest in London (credit: Rich Lewis)

When I was a student in 1994 I was on the front cover of The Indpendent the morning after a riot outside the Houses of Parliament.

The image was of a grimacing, dreadlocked fellow’s grimacing face lunging over the line of police shields.

(No, that wasn’t me…)

The picture spoke a thousand words. It told the whole story. The whole story of a photographer standing the other side of police barricade.

The image looked as if it was taken in the heat of the disturbance. In fact it was a while before anything had happened, when what would become a riot was still a peaceful protest against the Criminal Justice Bill. The man was drunk and on his own. I saw him have a tussle with the cordon of police and – rightly so – being arrested and taken away.

Far from being part of an angry mob there was no one behind him. Well, I was – a few metres back and hence I was in the shot.

Being *in* the protest was a very different experience to being the safer side of the police lines.

After yesterday’s protests in London about Gaza yesterday turned to violence, much of the news coverage is, understandably, about the riot, with few of the images and little of the copy dwelling on the rest of the day of protest. If it bleeds it leads, as they say…

Image: A policeman in riot gear at yesterday's protest (credit: Tyron Francis)

The non-bleeding, peaceful protests get their own coverage in social media. A search for “London protests” filtered by most recent brings images from today’s pro-Israel protests in London, then hundreds of images of yesterday’s March. There are the beginnings of trouble in there (police changing into riot gear as the mood gets uglier, fireworks going off outside the Israeli embassy) and some of the actual violence.

No doubt that in part reflects the priorities of people caught up in the violence (taking part / trying to get away rather than documenting the moment) but perhaps also gives a more proportional balanced view of how the day unfolded. The creativity and passion of the protesters, the diversity of people taking part, the scale of the event are there in the hundreds of photos people have uploaded.

Image: A family on the protest march (credit: Tyron Francis)

The truth is more prosaic, less dramatic, slower than the news cycle. But at a time when churnalism and misinformation is decaying the media’s usefulness as a truthful recorder of events, sometimes social media is where we need to turn for the facts.

: : I went back to the Flickr search as I finished this article and there were many more images of the violence at the end of the day being posted…

There are of course,

For a protester’s-eye view of being on the the march have a look at this:

Gaza protest in London from maryrosecook on Vimeo.

This one follows the news media’s format a little more closely, with the most of it being of the rioting at the end of the day. In big protests like this one, there are often people who are really there with the hop of provoking and tkaing part in trouble, masking their hooliganism as political activism.

Public notebook

Tony’s Top Twenty Tracks for 2008

I think we’re past the point where you can do reviews of 2008 (look forward, chaps, forward) but for the sake of posterity I’m posting my top 20 most listened to tracks of that year, according to

Image: My top 20 tracks for 2008
Image: My top 20 tracks for 2008

So, basically, a big year (in my head) for M83. Burial, Crystal Castles, Santogold and The National were my big discoveries of the year (the latter two don’t feature in his list, but may have done if the rest of December’s data was in the mix). Portishead’s return was utterly triumphant – lovely…

Actually this chart goes up to December the 6th, which is when my MacBook Air issues became so bad I stopped using it (more or less) and so my iTunes stopped reporting back my listening habits. The MBA’s still with the fellas at the solutions-inc support centre (in fairness they’ve only had the machine since just before Christmas) who are consulting with the dark masters at Apple about what’s plaguing the thing.

: : I’m Blipping out the tracks on my profile if you fancy a listen… Very self-facilitating-media-node, I know…

Public notebook

Video treat: a history of the internet

Love history. Love the web. Love good design. 

This history of the internet from Melih Bilgil is just a pleasure to watch, and you may learn a thing or two.

History of the Internet from PICOL on Vimeo.

Via the excellent News from the Herd blog…