#Digicitz 9: Politics & Digital Activism in the Social Age

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Tomorrow night I’ll be hosting a panel for Digital Citizens on Politics and Digital Activism in the Social Age. The panel has a fascinating and diverse group of people:

  • Penny Sharpe – Labor Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Roads
  • John Bergin – Director of Digital News for Sky News
  • Steve Hopkins – from Ai-Media
  • Thomas Tudehope – Director of Engagement and Strategy for SR7

These panel members are all active in social media and each is a practitioner at the coalface of digital activism. They have some remarkable stories and experiences to share about the changes that the digital revolution has brought to the political and activist worlds. And each panel member brings a unique perspective of politics and digital activism.

YOU CAN REGISTER HERE
The venue for this event is the Shelbourne Hotel, 200 Sussex Street, Sydney, doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start. Tickets are $10 with 50% going to charity Sydney Cats and Dogs Home – who shelter over 4,000 lost and unwanted animals each year.

If you can’t make it tomorrow night then please consider donating to the Sydney Cats and Dogs Home Parched March fundraiser.

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Twitter turns 5: will it rule? via @stilgherrian

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I had a chat with Stilgherrian (@stilgherrian) on ZDNet’s Patch Monday along with Open-source software advocate and developer Jeff Waugh (@jdub) and James Purser (@purserj) from Collaborynth, a consultancy that develops collaboration tools for business, government and not-for-profits.

You can listen to our discussion on this nifty embedded player:

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LeWeb 2010 Wrap up

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I rather suspect that some of the locals regard LeWeb as a kind of blowsy aunt who arrives in whirl, talks too loudly, drinks a bit too much, pinches their cheeks, and flies away again.

main room - Le Web 2010 Paris (by K Carruthers)That said, I think Le Web is now a great conference.  It’s got some faults. But there are few conferences in Europe where such variety and quality of speakers is available together with such diversity of attendees from around the world.

In many ways it is still very much Loic and friends having a chat on stage.  And that is part of its charm.  Why not get friends like Michael Arrington to chit-chat with various web folks on stage in Paris if you can make it happen?

This year Le Web was at Les Docks venue again.  This enabled three separate halls to be running simultaneously, with the networking hall getting a good workout.

Unfortunately the snow made walking between the various halls somewhat of a challenge.  As did the unwillingness of Parisian cab drivers to deliver or collect delegates out in the boondocks of St Denis in aforesaid snow.  This meant that for those unfortunate enough to miss the coach shuttles to the nearest metro station it was a trudge through the snow.

The food, drink and heating were good this year.  Some American friends found some of the food tastes alien to their palate (which was amusing to watch) but I found the food tasty and plentiful.

Again the parties were fun and a great chance for networking and vodka and there were a number of late arrivals on day two after the partying.

This year my favourite thing was the Ignite style talks which included gems such as:

  • a passionate plea from a Ricardo Sousa (on Twitter @ricardojrsousa), a teen entrepreneur, seeking for mentors for himself and his peers so that they can change the world;
  • and a superb talk on twitter diplomacy from Matthias Lüfkens (on Twitter @luefkens) about the democratization of political access .

The Ignite model is a great way to bring diversity of voices to LeWeb and I hope that they continue it next year.

On the first day many of the keynotes and fireside chats were brand and product discussions with company representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, France Telecom-Orange, etc.  There was nothing earth shattering in any of these if you already follow the industy. Marissa Mayer proved herself, yet again, as one of the most polished players in this game.

There was also a startup competition – which seemed a tad disorganised compared to others I’ve seen – yet which provided a valuable opportunity to showcase some local talents.

On day two the stand out sessions for me were Jeremiah Owyang‘s overview of Social Media And Big Business: Trends for 2011 and Gary Vaynerchuck‘s session where he refused to answer Twitter questions so as to be present with the audience in the room.

One of the problems with having two plenary rooms that were physically separated by a snowy road is that I (and probably many others) did not get over to the Eiffel Plenary room on day 2. This is where Thomas Crampton (who’s apparently now gone over to the ‘dark side’ from journalism – aka PR) was hosting a series of sessions that looked quite interesting.

Thus I have no personal insight into those sessions (which did sound interesting):

  • “Lean Analytics for Startups: what every founder (and VC) needs to watch”
  • “Asia: Digital Life, Real Billions”
  • How Social is Changing the Gaming Industry
  • How to Grow Your Business through Platforms and APIs
  • How to leverage social networking in your business
  • How to build your own platform
  • Hackathon Award Ceremony by Alcatel Lucent
  • The Social OS and the Human API
  • Photography: From Analog Artists to Digital Mainstream

I do think it would have been better to be able to merely walk from hall to hall within the one building given that LeWeb is held in a Parisian winter.

All in all for me the visit to Paris from Australia was worth it.  LeWeb is a good conference that enables me to see what is happening in another part of the world by bringing together a diversity of practitioners from across the world. Some interesting new ideas came up in conversation, the networking was amazing, the parties and dinners were fun, and it was in Paris (after all).

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Why the revolution might not be tweeted; or why Gladwell was right but for different reasons

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Malcolm Gladwell obtained the ire of many social media folks when he argued Why the revolution will not be tweeted back in October 2010.
I thought he was wrong then, and I still think he’s wrong in his analysis. However, in the light of two recent events I think he might actually be right in his conclusion, but for entirely different reasons. The two events are:

  1. The editor-in-chief of The Australian accused a journalism academic of defaming him by her live tweets reporting what a third party said – this is being tracked on Twitter under the hashtag #twitdef.
  2. The release by Wikileaks of a large quantity of US diplomatic cables (their domain used to be http://wikileaks.org but this is unlikely to work any longer) – this is being tracked on Twitter under the hashtags #wikileaks and #cablegate.

Gladwell attributed the non-tweeting of the revolution to his notion that real revolutions only happen offline and that new recruits to activism are brought in solely by people they know in real life. He seems that believe that only offline interactions can build “strong tie” commitment required for “high risk activism”. Gladwell seems unaware that loose tie interactions, like those afforded by Twitter, can give rise to extremely strong ties offline. In my experience Twitter has led to the development of many “strong tie” relationships that commenced with the loose ties typical of social networks.

Why I now think he’s right in his conclusions, but for entirely different reasons, has to do with the two examples mentioned above.

For a few years now the world of web 2.0, social media and social networking have been a ferment of new ideas, new ways of connecting and new systems of almost utopian belief in a good and great future enabled by the web. But that was before the internet of web 2.0 (what I refer to as the ‘social web’) was big enough to matter. Now, with the Wikileaks cable release going global and the ongoing anti-Twitter activism of some mainstream news media organisations, we can see that the social web matters.

It matters enough now that state actors are likely behind the moves to cut Wikileaks off from web hosting, DNS, money, and thus removing from them the ability to communicate further information.

We have seen the organisations that power much of the social web (like Amazon or PayPal) suddenly reviewing their Terms of Service and deciding that Wikileaks is in breach thus requiring them to withdraw access to their services. For example:

PayPal statement regarding WikiLeaks
DECEMBER 3, 2010
PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”

The other matter that grabbed my attention recently was the defamation claims by Chris Mitchell against Julie Posetti (Crikey is curating a list of references to #twitdef).

Here we see a traditional news media organisation fighting a rearguard action against new kinds of media, like Twitter. But we see many mainstream media organisations simultaneously arguing that Twitter is not publishing, nor is reporting of news possible by means of Twitter, yet they use Twitter for that very purpose. We are still evolving our ideas as a society as to what media like Twitter are; and Stilgherrian has summarised some of the tensions nicely on Crikey.

Another salient fact in my ruminations is a discovery today that trending topics on Twitter are not a simple first past the post system. Apparently they are managed by an algorithm that rivals Google’s in complexity. According to Angus Johnston, who asked the question Why Isn’t #Wikileaks Trending on Twitter, and Should We Care?:

“It turns out it’s tougher than you’d think to put together a trending topics list that really means anything. If you just go by the raw frequency with which words appear, you’re going to wind up with stuff like “the,” “and,” and “RT” at the top of the charts forever. And even if you exclude words like those, you’re still going to wind up with “lunch” trending every lunchtime and Glee trending every Tuesday. “

It all starts to come together for me. The social web is going mainstream, that means that incumbent media players are finding that their power base is shifting (along with their revenue base); and that they’re not happy about this.

In most businesses and startups distribution is one of the key challenges to be overcome. And for the social web distribution remains the challenge. The social web is dependent upon cloud providers for hosting, DNS, payments etc. Thus producers of content do not really own the means of production AND distribution in the same way that people could in the past (e.g. where they could purchase and setup their own printing press – it’s worth noting that this model tended to have distribution constraints). Modern content producers are reliant on third-parties who, based on the Wikileaks experience, might not always be there to distribute their content.

Further, the enormous quantity of data flying around the social web means that, even with the best will in the world, we might not be able to find out about something significant. Thus the case of Twitter trending topics and #wikileaks and #cablegate it appears that, without any particular malice, the algorithm does not find these hashtags interesting enough to include as trends.

It seems to me that the convergence of these trends might mean that it is quite possible that the revolution will not be tweeted.

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#c3t An Agreeable Swarm: Twitter, the Democratization of Media & Non-localized Proximity

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My co-author, Brian Ballsun-Stanton, presented this at the 5th ICCIT: 2010 International Conference on Computer Sciences and Convergence Information Technology in Seoul earlier today:

You can view a full text pdf version of this paper here
#c3t #ICCIT_10

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The starship, Enterprise: social business – opportunity and risk

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Navigating the tangled web of Enterprise 2.0 enabled platforms is indeed an opportunity “to explore strange new worlds” in business…

Enterprise 2.0 has been defined as “the application of Web 2.0 technologies to workers using network software within an organisation or business” (Dion Hinchliffe, 2006). There has been much discussion over recent years about Enterprise 2.0 and how it is revolutionising business. Yet, much of the promise remains unfulfilled, especially for large and complex organisations.

The general approach to Enterprise 2.0 has been much like the approach for earlier knowledge management and collaboration initiatives. It has been largely a mechanistic approach. Simply install the tools, train the people, do a bit of change management and leave them to it.

The challenge for organisations
A big challenge for larger organisations remains getting teams to work more effectively across team and organisational boundaries.

Recent discussions with people in Australian banks indicate it is clear that there is no lack of Enterprise 2.0 enabled technology. Rather, there is a great deal of it already in place. For example, one contact in a ‘Big Four’ Bank reported that his organisation has 11 “quite different intranets”. The complexity of navigating these is so high that they have implemented “a fully-federated search that spans them all” that provides “Google-like search with page ranking/indexing and the equivalent of sponsored/suggested links to help staff find critical information faster based on an identified keyword”.

Thus, the implementation of Enterprise 2.0 enabled platforms has resulted in issues of findability, usability and relevance of the information. The answer to these problems is not simply to acquire additional technology, instead it is important to take a step back from the technology and consider the business design. Using social business design approaches are important to enable effective use of collaboration technologies.

The social business solution
Since business is an inherently social process, it is worth exploring how we can redesign business operations and processes to leverage social tools more effectively. All too often, collaboration tools are implemented as yet another piece of technology without the support of social business design to ensure that return on the investment is achieved.

We have already seen the effectiveness of consumer oriented social tools, such as Facebook and Twitter, in breaking down barriers between people. And now social networking and social media is reaching into and across organisational boundaries. Businesses are under increasing pressure to incorporate these external social networks into internal collaboration systems (for example, through the application of social CRM tools). Social business design principles enable this same capability to assist people in working across organisational boundaries and engage each other more effectively for business purposes.

With social tools we have the opportunity to reshape our business architecture so that it better creates value between the participants. No longer do our people need to conform to the way the software needs them to act or behave. Instead, we can more easily tailor the Enterprise 2.0 systems to meet the needs of the people – staff and customers – that they are meant to serve.

Social tools like Facebook are re-educating our workforce and customers in the ways of online collaboration. Further, the success of online collaboration and socially calibrated activities can readily be monitored and evaluated. Social business design enables an evolutionary approach to business practices. It is not a set-and-forget approach like old style knowledge management; rather it is a plan-do-check-act cycle.

Risk of missed opportunities
Another key challenge for businesses in effective implementation of Enterprise 2.0 using the social business design approach is filtering the firehose of information coming into the organisation via so many sources. No longer do companies receive hard copies of media results, now they receive vast amounts of information from diverse sources. That information is about their operations, competitors, customers and industry trends. The opportunity for businesses is to create real-time listening posts that filter and categorise information.

If companies do not find a way to filter and analyse this firehose of information, then they risk missing opportunities. The answer is no longer to create expensive and complex data marts to manage this largely ephemeral information and to turn it into useful information. Enterprise 2.0 technology enables the creation of listening posts that filter and sift this firehose of information and can turn it into actionable insights.

It is possible to leverage the Enterprise 2.0 platforms that already exist within many large organisations. However, key to effectiveness is adopting a social business approach to re-imagining the business architecture. And the use of real-time social listening posts creates opportunities for businesses to reassess and recalibrate their activities based on real-time feedback.

Note: This piece was originally published in Online Banking Review on 21 October 2010

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The future of shopping is social

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These are some thoughts that I presented at the AMP Social Media Cafe in Sydney on 11 November 2010, the slides and references follow below.

The future of shopping is social. But that is nothing new – shopping has always been social. The difference is that now we are seeing social interaction on a hyperconnected scale and the emergence of new competitors. It is still shopping, but social shopping is on steroids.

Firstly I want to give you a sense of the broader shopping landscape in the digital age.

There is a growing body of empirical research on retail effectiveness and the statistics are quite scary. As Sorenson notes “The shopper comes to the store to buy things. The retailer creates stores to sell things. Manufacturers create products to sell. Yet most of the shopper’s time in the store is spent not buying.”  And he notes further that “a single item in a store might attract only 300 seconds [of attention] from all shoppers in an entire week, about five minutes [in total]”.

This means that not only are shopping centres fighting to get and maintain traffic, but also that the traffic is not necessarily being well used by the retailers to sell products effectively. And this leaves each of them vulnerable to competition.

Yet the work we have been doing in the shopping business over the years can summarised quite nicely by this diagram by Robert Kozimets. And the model works equally well for retailers or for shopping malls. We have been building spaces for brands that cluster around either the transactional (think supermarkets) or the iconic (think of one of the new high fashion shopping centres).

But all of this is happening in a broader context. The economy is changing around us. We are moving into what I have come to call the engagement economy. But there are so many competitors how for a share of that attention ( as well as for a share of wallet) that it is important to be able to grab attention and then to drive ongoing engagement.

We’ve had social shopping for a long time – since commerce began. But the nature of competitors is changing. Before it was the other mall or the retailer down the road that we had to worry about. Now competitors include farmers’ markets in grocery and fresh food; virtual goods like digital video and music from iTunes; large online aggregators like Amazon (who perform many of the functions of a department store and are often cheaper); and new entrants such as online shopping clubs (of which more later).

This competitive landscape has evolved very fast – just look at this timeline from Sean Carton to see how fast. Two and a half thousand years ago we were writing on clay tablets and in the last decade the digital revolution has changed our lives. Many of us cannot imagine a world without the internet anymore.

Also media has been changed by this digital revolution too. Marketing and advertising are being reborn in this new digital world; while many newspapers around the globe cling tenuously to existence. This diagram by David Armano illustrates this phenomenon very well.  He nicely illustrates the fact that we are moving from lower engagement traditional media to higher engagement online social media.  After all not many people check their newspaper first thing in the morning, but some recent research indicated that many people check Facebook (or Twitter) before they go to the loo or brush their teeth in the morning.

And the tools of the digital revolution – web 2.0, social media, social networking and mobile devices – have changed the way people interact with each other and with brands.

Facebook is probably the best example of this change (although there are other similar services such as Twitter that are gaining ground). Facebook is important because it is changing what real people are doing with real time and attention every day all around the world.

But now hold that thought for a little while as we consider some other trends.

Let’s have a brief look at the evolution of shopping in the digital age.

There are a number of trends here:

  • Rise of mobile devices
  • Word of mouth via social networks
  • Social shopping
  • Collaborative shopping
  • Geo-social services (location based)
  • Putting geo-social into perspective

Social and collaborative shopping is reshaping the power relations between consumers and sellers.  New intermediaries are arising, ones who aggregate consumer demand via shopping clubs.  The fight for better value by consumers is shifting onto new territory.  And this shift will begin to manifest as changes in share of wallet for traditional retail channels.

The growing role of mobile devices also means that the shopping dynamic is changing.  Consumers can share realtime information and collaborate while they are on the move.  In the past we had to connect online via fixed PCs,but now the devices are always on and in our pockets and handbags.

Sites like Facebook are picking up on this trend with their adoption of Places – a geo-social application that enables users to share their physical location with friends (there are other contenders in the geo-social space too). And now the interesting thing is that we are seeing the merging of online and offline social activities with shopping and the integration of micropayments.  For example Facebook’s relatively recent addition of Buxter to enable peer to peer payments between friends.

It is very early days yet. We do not know where these trends are heading in particular. However, it is clear that geo-social applications have the potential to close the loop between online social networks and real world activity, especially when these are connected by online micropayment capabilities.

What we do know is that consumers are:

  • Going mobile
  • Sharing information via social networks
  • Collaborating via social networks
  • Shopping for virtual goods
  • Starting to use augmented reality

References
Sorensen, Herb, Inside the mind of the shopper: the science of retailing,  Safari Tech Books (ISBN: 0131366130), 2009
Lowrey, Tina, Brick & Mortar Shopping in the 21st Century (ISBN: 9781410618252), Psychology Press, 2007
Report: Consumer Shopping Experiences, Preferences, and Behaviors, Oct 2010, Art Technology Group, Inc. , http://www.atg.com/resource-library/white-papers/atg-online-shopping-study.pdf

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