Public notebook

iCrossing Connect blog: Brands need to understand users’ privacy concerns

I’ve been ruminating about brands and user privacy in social networks over at the iCrossing UK Connect blog. It’s an interesting area, and perhaps next to feel the clammy hand of regulation ‘pon it if marketers aren’t paying close attention to the interests of their customers….

A recent study in the US found that more than half of social network users are worried about their privacy.

In the main, privacy concerns seem to focus on the complexity of managing your public profile on Facebook and other services. However, with a growing awareness of broader privacy issues by  mainstream web users is beginning to invite more attention to the ways brands respect and support their customers needs in this area.

Even activities as apparently benign as listening to social media conversations about your brand are being questioned by some in the media(see the recent Daily Mail story about web monitoring. Now MPs are portraying companies “trawling Facebook for negative comments” as being “something worthy of the secret police”, understandable in a totalitarian state but unacceptable in ours (perhaps we should ask how many UK Government departments are monitoring social media for mentions of their policy areas).

Whatever our opinions on these stories, its clear that brands need to bear in mind privacy issues in how they develop their online campaigns and especially those where user participation or individuals’ data is involved.

Here are some thoughts to bear in mind:

  • Understand user perspective on the issue: We tend to see privacy from a legal point of view, but much more important is how people feel about the issues involved. Clear explanations of how data will be used is required to avoid the perception that a brand wants to pry into a user’s personal information.
  • Privacy is a social network as well as a personal issue: Friends and family’s  be affected by breaches of an individual’s privacy and they will affect the user’s thinking about privacy in turn.
  • Involve legal expertise early and often in your planning: In the past marketers have tended to think of legal as a clearing house for content, a rubber stamp or brand risk management mechanism quite separate from the digital team. At iCrossing, we have often had to challenge this view, bringing legal expertise into the heart of the planning process for blogs, community platforms and broader social media marketing efforts. With this approach we can balance the users’ needs with a given organisation’s need to responsibly manage risk.
  • Legal is part of the customer experience: Think about the way that Facebook apps have been criticised by campaigners for handing over too much access / power to the platform and the brand when you agree to install one on your profile. I recall hearing the brilliant Struan Robertson, a lawyer who runs the Out-Lawblog talking at Social Media Influence a couple of years ago about adding in your own terms and conditions to that sign-up processto make it clear what information you will and won’t need access to from a user’s profile and why. This kind of approach goes beyond what’s required, but can help to distance your brand from the clumsy, sweeping disclaimers and small print that most people don’t read, but if paid close attention to can make your intentions to wards personal data see, as it were, less than benign.
  • Be aware of shifting attitudes: Understanding of and attitudes to privacy issues online can differ greatly between individuals. There is one universal trend, however: people’s web literacy, their knowledge and experience of how the web works, is increasing all of the time and their attitudes towards issues like privacy will change. For campaigns planned a year in advance, this can be an issue as views and technology use can change quickly.

I’m sure there will be and is more to say on this topic, and it is one we will be watching closely.

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Public notebook

Unbounded journalism: Ushahidi as news platform

Ushahidi is a platform for sharing and curating live information on a map. Since I wrote about it last year I’ve been fascinated by it for lots of reasons (not least the “swift river” approach to finding useful information amid a stream of irrelevant noise and echoes).

In this article and video from Nieman Lab, Patrick Meier, Ushahidi’s director of crisis mapping and strategic partnerships, discusses the platform’s potential uses for journalism. It’s worth a read in full, especially his ideas about a citizen volunteer app for smartphones, but it was this account of the use of Ushahidiby Al-Jazeera news network during the Gaza conflict that stood out for me:

What was also really interesting is that they did both bounded and unbounded crowdsourcing — which is sort of my own terms, so maybe I should explain. “Unbounded crowdsourcing” is what we are familiar with: the idea of opening up a platform to the world, and letting the world contribute. “Bounded crowdsourcing” is when you have a specific network of individuals who are doing the reporting. So it’s a known, trusted network of individuals.

So what they did is they had their own journalists on the ground, who were texting and tweeting live to the map, but they also opened it up to other residents — people in Gaza — to also submit information. And that combination, I thought, was really, really interesting. Because what you can then start doing is, even though you don’t necessarily know whether the crowd is trustworthy, or individuals in the crowd are trustworthy — if some of these individuals start also reporting the same event that the journalists are reporting, then you know they might actually be more trustworthy. And so it creates this kind of digital trace, or like a shadow of history, if you want, that allows you to start identifying which individuals in the crowd may actually be trustworthy. And you can sort of assign them a higher credibility score. So I’d love to see that happen again.

Read the rest of the post at

Patrick Meier on media use of Ushahidi from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

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Public notebook

Stealth social magazine: Flipboard

One thing that struck me of the first wave of publishers’ iPad apps was that while they were very pretty, the NewsRack RSS reader I downloaded trumped all of them for usefulness. The posts came with embedded videos and images, looked great and I could choose to share them to Delicious, email, Instapaper, Twitter and Facebook among others.

Pulse soon followed as an interesting play, presenting stories from different sources as a beautiful stream of images (and caught flak from the New York Times, which accused it of misusing its content).

Now we’re presented with Flipboard, a ‘”stealth” social magazine’ according to the Wall Street Journal’s Kara Swisher.

Essentially, Flipboard pulls information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook data streams and then reassembles it in an easy-to-navigate, personalized format in a mobile tablet touchscreen environment.

In this social magazine, there are pull quotes, photos, videos, status updates and even the first paragraphs of content linked out to. There is also the ability to comment and share, as if one were on Twitter or Facebook.

I’ll certainly be downloading it to try out (it’s free on iTunes). With backers like Jack Dorsey and Kleiner Perkins it looks like a serious contender as a new format for tablet computers….

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Public notebook

Top Secret America

WaPo’s survey of US intelligence services was a big undertaking and they are making the most of it on this website. Check out the video, and useful map / data visulation to illustrate the story.

As @techpresident points out, they even bought their own domain name.

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Public notebook

Growing up with web shadows: How young people are adapting to the new privacy | #webshadows

There are some interesting parallels between the rules at the start of Me and My Web Shadow – advice like “get a thicker skin” and “you’re always on the record” – and the three headline changes Emily Nussbaum calls out in her recent New York magazine feature on how young people are adapting to lives lived in the the age of the open web, Say Everything.

  1. Change 1: They think of themselves as having an audience.
  2. Change 2: They have archived their adolescence.
  3. Change 3: Their skin is thicker than yours.

The rest of the article is well worth a read for anyone interested in this topic. It opens with a couple of horror stories, of young women whose ex-partners post sexual images and video of them online and how they have dealt with it.

Read more of this post at

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Case study: managing personal and professional profiles online (financial services manager) | #webshadows

How does a senior manager in a high street financial services provider manage his web shadow?

One of the best ways to get to?a greater understanding of the opportunities and the possible pitfalls of getting stuck-in online is to talk to other people about their experiences. “Rowteight” is the Head of Workspace Transformation at a major high street financial services provider. (He’s a real person – take a look at his Flickr page to find out more about him.) Me And My Web Shadow asked him some questions about his interaction online. Here’s his take on managing his web shadow.

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Polluting the streams, pruning the networks…

Image: There's a really good illustration for this post behind this door...

* * UPDATED: corrected from draft which was published. Facts/links/opinions unaltered. * *

Alan Patrick’s pure class in my book. His blog is prickly, argumentative and pushy in the very best kinds of ways. I reckon it’s blogs like Broadstuff and DotBen that help me keep questioning things. Without them the idealistic eejit in me decides to dance off into a digital daze chanting lines from Clay Shirky and waiting for the Singularity to arrive in the style of an evangelical rapture and sweep us up to the all-too-virtual promised land.

So, Alan’s post about filtering the Twitterstream gets me thinking. He talks about the Tweets around the Guardian’s Activate conference:

What was interesting to me was the massive degradation in the User Generated Twitterstream. Last year, and early this year, you could tune in to such Twitterstreams and get a fairly decent “user generated media” view of what was going on. The “User Generated” Activate Twitterstream yesterday was….well, “unhelpful” would put it mildly.

Public notebook

Ridley Scott’s Life in a Day project

In case you haven’t heard, Ridley Scott is making a movie and crowdsourcing the content. It’s going to be a documentary about a day in the life of our species.

That day will be July 24th and everyone on Earth is invited to send in their own footage…

Public notebook

New media meets old: Riepl up and start again?

Image: iPad: channel media's new face or Grim Riepl'er (sorry)

Talking about TV yesterday, I should have mentioned Riepl’s law, which the providence of the serendipity engine had delivered unto me via Boing Boing and Beyond the Beyond:

Public notebook

TV vs. social media

Image: Augmenting some TVs

Which is best: TV or social media?

Effectively that was the question put to me ?morning by someone writing a paper on how social is changing the media lanscape. They were being usefully provocative rather than asking a silly question, putting me on the spot, and I rather enjoyed it.

Thing is, there’s not an either / or, is there? As The Economist put it in its recent report on TV, social media doesn’t necessarily stop people watching TV:

Even the technological futurists found it hard to imagine the explosion of websites, social networking and mobile phones that was to come. Yet these things have not displaced television. Rather, they have squeezed around it

Look at Japan, a country that leads many technological trends. Last year Tokyo residents spent an average of 60 minutes a day at home consuming media on the internet or a mobile phone, up from just six minutes in 2000. But they also spent more time in front of the television: an average of 216 minutes, up from 206 minutes. Among young women, the group that advertisers most want to reach, television-watching went up more steeply. Admittedly their attention was not always fixed on the box. Many teenage girls send text messages on their mobile phones while watching television. ?In Japan we like to do two things at the same time,? explains Ritsuya Oku of Dentsu, an advertising agency.

Social media makes a lot of TV better to watch, as you can watch it with friends and interesting strangers. Take the leaders’ debates in the UK election, any major reality show or the World Cup. All of these things have been live TV experiences I have enjoyed more, turned up for more or less because I knew there would be interesting conversation,?cathartic release with that genre known in my house as “shouty telly” (Apprentice: “What are they doing? Idiots!”, X-Factor: “What are they doing? Have they no shame! Leaders debates in the election: “What are they saying/doing? Idiots!/Have they no shame!).

Social media, our web, settles over our lives like a layer. It augments, adds to our experiences rather pushing them out of the way.

The questions in the interview yesterday, and the trajectory of debates in the media industry generally are about displacement, replacement, of broadcast or channel formats. Social media is more about the super-charging of how we have conversations with one another than a new kind of mass media. It’s coming from a different direction altogether.

Remember what Kevin Kelly said about the web: it disrupts and then it absorbs what it touches. It becomes the medium, the industry, assimilating it rather than doing away with it.

* * Sometimes we even create in the gaps. At half-time in the first England match in the World Cup, moments after Robert Green had mishandled the ball and let in a USA goal, my son and his godfather were re-enacting the dreadful moment in the garden. It was hilarious. I asked them to do it again, took a video and emailed it?to my Posterous. Posterous published it immediately and posted it to my YouTube, Twitter and Facebook and it entered the conversation stream around the game, eventually notching up more than 25,000 views, 500 Likes on Facebook and hundreds of Tweets. If you missed it the first time, here it is…