Hero or monster it all comes down to choices

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This is a very thought provoking TED talk from Philip Zimbardo. He’s famous for the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment.

Think about how you would react in certain situations (e.g. Abu Ghraib) – how easy it is to act in ways you might regret later? Hero or villain it all comes down to choices.

The other interesting thing to consider is how the growth in communications devices and information sharing technologies makes hiding evil acts so much harder nowadays. The revelations from Abu Ghraib are an excellent example.

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Excellent execution: the platform for success

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I went for a cheese & wine dinner at Bells at Killcare on Friday night with @frombecca and @JohannaBD.

The food – by Stefano Manfredi (a.k.a. @manfredistefano) – was wonderful as usual. The wines selected by Michael Trembath were lovely, the cheeses selected by Will Studd were a delight, the venue charming, and our hosts Brian & Karina Barry welcoming.Bells at Killcare

But, while each of these was admirable, the thing that pulled it all together was the amazing professionalism and teamwork by the staff at Bells.

The staff were the people who executed and brought together all the elements into a seamless and wonderful evening.

This is the kind of thing that you see with great companies.  They have similar kinds of raw materials to their competitors but understand how to execute with excellence.  And execution always come down to the staff.

The smooth teamwork and gracious service at Bells is what made the evening.  The same fundamental elements without the service would not have been so great.

It got me thinking about how true this is for business, even for social media – it is the quality of the execution that makes all the difference.

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Changing spaces in media

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The Media 140 Conference in Sydney has offered a vast amount of food for thought my brain is buzzing with ideas, issues and concerns.

The first thing that struck me was the level of fear and fear-mongering by some of the print journalists on day one. For example in the session titled How Social Media is Changing Political Reporting Caroline Overington and Chris Uhlmann both seemed close to arguing that the end of the free world as we know it is nigh should one of the major east coast newspapers in Australia fail.

There seemed to be little idea amongst these panelists that changing media platforms might reinvigorate media and create new revenue or career opportunities.

This notion that unless “proper journalism”, that is journalism as we have known it since the mid-late nineteenth century as practised by employees of the great media barons, exists then no valuable news will exist seems odd.

When one considers why news came to be produced in that particular way in that particular time it seems clear that technology and cost constraints prohibited new entrants to the news creation and sharing market.

However today those barriers to entry are rapidly disappearing and ordinary people are creating their own news. But, while the need for professional production facilities is diminishing, there seems to be ample space for journalists and news organisations to explore business models based on aggregation, curation and clarification of issues and perspectives.

Caroline Overington also discussed the News Ltd plan to charge for content. It will be interesting to see their plan and how it unfolds. My experience indicates that online micropayments are not as easy to use and intuitive as they need to be for mass adoption. Also the nature of the content must be compelling enough on a continual basis for people to subscribe.

Amusingly at the same time as Ms Overington was delivering her apologia for News Ltd they announced a revenue slump of 4.1%.

#media140

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Customer service and student support – QUT gets it

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As both an educator and tertiary student I’ve been able to see both sides of the fence. A recent experience with Queensland University of Technology stands out as exemplary in both student support and customer service.

A change in personal circumstances recently meant that I needed to make a decision and act very quickly regarding my studies. And I required speedy access to some information about my options as a student in the QUT Law School.

I tried phoning the Law School and was unable to get through to anyone. Immediately I sent an email outlining my issues to Kaylene Matheson, the Administrative Officer (Student Support) in the Law School.

Kaylene responded within minutes, phoning to give me a run down of the options available. She then emailed me contact details for Student Services, who could fill in the last bit of information so as to finalise my decision within the necessary timeframe.

The next morning I called Student Services and spoke to a really helpful chap, who patiently talked through my options explaining the consequences of each. We had a constructive discussion and I was able to decide on a course of action. He then explained exactly how to finalise my decision & noted what records I should keep for future reference.

Both Kaylene & my unknown helper at Student Services provided support and great customer service. They were patient and helpful, taking the time to help me to understand what I needed to do. They are a credit to QUT & are great brand ambassadors!

The funny thing is that this makes sense; as everyone that I’ve dealt with at QUT has been helpful and supportive. Clearly this is part of their organisational culture. What this all means is that when you put the good customer service together with good academics and good student support systems (like Blackboard and website) it makes a good place to study.

Following are some of my off the cuff responses on Twitter:

“the student services people at QUT.edu.au totally rock – they are super professional & really helpful!!! = EPIC WIN!!!”
10:02 AM Sep 17th

“some other unis should learn from QUT!”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

“if you are looking for a uni for distance education I cannot recommend QUT more highly – a very professional & positive experience”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

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Media140 and the future of journalism in the Social Media Age

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twitterMedia140 Sydney is asking “What is the future of journalism in the Social Media Age?”

It’s an important question to be asking in these times of newspaper companies in trouble and growth of new media channels.

The venue is the ABC’s Eugene Goossens’ Hall, Sydney on November 5th and 6th. It’s apparently the first time that the ABC has hosted a Twitter conference!

Media140 Sydney plans to explore the

“… disruptive nature of ‘real-time’ social media looking at tools such as Twitter, live-blogging, Facebook and other social networking tools as they rapidly transform the media in real-time.”

There’s a bunch of the Sydney Twitterati attending & speaking on panels – sounds like fun. I’m hoping to get along there too.

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Twitter and talking at once

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The other night I caught up with some folks who (except for @dbendall) also happen to use Twitter (@fibendall, @iggypintado, @kerrypintado) at a local pub for some grub, a drink, lively conversation & exchange of ideas.

Now this is a smart and entertaining bunch of people. But some of the characteristics of our real life interaction helped me to perceive why Twitter might work so well for some folks.

The hashtag for the evening turned out to be #ihavethetalkingfork. This is because the ideas and discussion around the table were flowing so fast that we were falling over each other to get our words out. In a vain attempt to impose some order, and notion of taking turns, at one stage the convention of the ‘talking fork’ was adopted, only to fail a few minutes later as there were a number of forks on the table.

This phenomenon of simultaneous outbound and inbound communication is something that Twitter enables quite well. You can get your idea out at the same time as I can. Then we can each respond to the other’s idea. This means that, unlike in real life, on Twitter we can almost multiplex our communications.

Some people might just see this problem as one of rudeness. But it is what happens when you put a bunch of people with ideas who, while talking to each other, generate new ideas and made new connections. I learned a lot from being part of the conversation at that table. Some of the things @iggypintado has planned sound amazing.

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We take our freedom of speech for granted!

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This news item from Techcrunch – hat tip to @jowyang for the link – makes me conscious of how precious are our freedoms of speech and association. People fought hard in the past to achieve those freedoms for us and we need to protect them.

Some bloggers in other countries are risking their lives to do what we take for granted – post opinions and news on a blog.

Check out the full story here.

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The Poetry of D.H. Rumsfeld – Recent works by the secretary of defense. – A fabulous collection taken straight from the DOD website

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On the Slate website Hart Seely has collected some of the truly classic poems of our time – they are taken from briefings listed on the Dept of Defense website.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Glass Box
You know, it’s the old glass box at the—
At the gas station,
Where you’re using those little things
Trying to pick up the prize,
And you can’t find it.
It’s—

And it’s all these arms are going down in there,
And so you keep dropping it
And picking it up again and moving it,
But—

Some of you are probably too young to remember those—
Those glass boxes,
But—

But they used to have them
At all the gas stations
When I was a kid.

—Dec. 6, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession
Once in a while,
I’m standing here, doing something.
And I think,
“What in the world am I doing here?”
It’s a big surprise.

—May 16, 2001, interview with the New York Times

Happenings
You’re going to be told lots of things.
You get told things every day that don’t happen.

It doesn’t seem to bother people, they don’t—
It’s printed in the press.
The world thinks all these things happen.
They never happened.

Everyone’s so eager to get the story
Before in fact the story’s there
That the world is constantly being fed
Things that haven’t happened.

All I can tell you is,
It hasn’t happened.
It’s going to happen.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

The Digital Revolution
Oh my goodness gracious,
What you can buy off the Internet
In terms of overhead photography!

A trained ape can know an awful lot
Of what is going on in this world,
Just by punching on his mouse
For a relatively modest cost!

—June 9, 2001, following European trip

The Situation
Things will not be necessarily continuous.
The fact that they are something other than perfectly continuous
Ought not to be characterized as a pause.
There will be some things that people will see.
There will be some things that people won’t see.
And life goes on.

—Oct. 12, 2001, Department of Defense news briefing

Clarity
I think what you’ll find,
I think what you’ll find is,
Whatever it is we do substantively,
There will be near-perfect clarity
As to what it is.

And it will be known,
And it will be known to the Congress,
And it will be known to you,
Probably before we decide it,
But it will be known.

—Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing
Source: http://slate.msn.com/id/2081042/

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Blogtalk Downunder

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Just back from the Blogtalk Downunder conference that was held here in Sydney over the past few days. The conference was organised by the education department from the University of Technology Sydney, and the attendees were largely academics and teachers. There were a few industry people there, notably Trevor Cook from Corporate Engagement. Senator Andrew Bartlett from the Democrats was also there – he did admit his ignorance about blogging but continued on to make some comments.

The conference was interesting for me on several levels – firstly as a blogger, secondly as a practicing technologist, and thirdly as a student of communication. There was a lot of information presented and I’m still digesting it all.

One issue that came out very clearly is that a lot of people – especially academics who write or theorise about blogging – are not necessarily bloggers. Instead they read about blogging in the media rather than reading & writing blogs. Also the level of comfort with technology varied, from uber geek to technophobe.

There was very little to be heard from practitioners of blogging.  Perhaps that is because there are not many in Australia?  In any case it was a little disappointing.

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