Monday, April 27, 2009

Must Read!

Thought I'd share a great article from a fellow's a teaser:

"It's the end of civilized human interaction as we know it and I just can't support that?" "Because...let's face it: we all have better things we could do with our time?"

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Ashton Kutcher is a Twit

Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you've heard about the Twitter battle royale between CNN and Ashton Kutcher to see who would be the first to have 1 million followers. Disappointingly, Kutcher was crowned King Twit as he reached the million mark on April 17 at 2:13 a.m. EST. CNN reached the milestone just thirty minutes later.

This ridiculous challenge began when Kutcher threw down the gauntlet and challenged CNN and its founder, Ted Turner, to the race. If he won, Kutcher promised to "ding-dong-ditch" (ring doorbell, run away) Turner's Atlanta mansion.

So why exactly should we care about this odd coupling? Is Kutcher even worthy of competing with the likes of CNN? Kutcher commented via YouTube post:

"[It will make] a huge statement about social media. For one person to actually have the ability to broadcast to as many people as a major media network. I think sort of signifies the turning of the tide from traditional news outlets to social media outlets."

Who knew Kelso was so smart?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Low Turnout for Facebook Vote

Facebook users were up in arms a few months back when Facebook sneakily changed its Terms of Use (TOS) to allow for ownership of all uploaded content, even from members who had closed their accounts. In response, Facebook opened up the rewritten TOS to a vote. Disappointingly, not many people showed up to to the virtual polls. Just over 650,000 people voted, with 74 percent choosing the new terms over the old ones. This is just 3% of Facebook's 200-million plus community. Facebook seemed disappointed as well and said so on its blog:

We'd hoped to have a bigger turnout for this inaugural vote, but it is important to keep in mind that this vote was a first for users just like it was a first for Facebook. We are hopeful that there will be greater participation in future votes.

This low turnout just doesn't make sense given the initial outrage Facebook experienced. The debate was quite public and forced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to almost immediately retract the TOS. So why the low voter turnout? Is it possible that these 650,000 voters were responsible for all the ruckus? Or did people simply lose interest once Facebook did the right thing and opened the decision up to the voters?

I'm not quite sure of the answer but I think this phenomenon of lack of youth engagement is an interesting one. Obama mobilized a nation and was able to lure swarms of young people out from their Playstation, Mountain Dew-fueled dens and into the voting booths. But now that they've cast their vote, what's next? This engagement level seems to have gone from 100 to zero overnight.

So if Facebook's initial wrongdoing was able to mobilize this youthful community, why weren't they able to carry this energy over into the voting process? That's the question Facebook execs are now being faced with (pun intended) and one they even attempted to address on their blog:

We made significant efforts to make voting easy and to give everyone the opportunity to vote — including by translating the documents and voting application into several of the most popular languages on the site, showing a message about the vote on users' home pages, and running advertisements and videos across Facebook promoting the vote.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Dysfunction

According to a recent CNN article, therapists say they're seeing more and more people suffering from Facebook addiction. These people are ignoring their children, their jobs, their "real" life, in favor of the social networking site. Therapists say that the site is not the problem, the diconnection from real life is the true culprit. These "addicts" note how wonderful this virtual world can be and how people tend to put their best face forward. "Facebook is a fun, pleasant, happy, beautiful world. People only present the crème de la crème of their lives on Facebook. And these people want to be your friends! It's very seductive" notes one addict.

CNN provide a checklist of symptoms that may indicate whether YOU are a Facebook addict:

1. You lose sleep over Facebook

2. You spend more than an hour a day on Facebook

3. You become obsessed with old loves

4. You ignore work in favor of Facebook

5. The thought of getting off Facebook leaves you in a cold sweat

I can honestly say no to all of the above. However, I'm worried that I may have a slight addiction to "Social Network Reject." Why do you ask? Here are five signs that you may be an anti-facebook addict:

1. You stick your finger down your throat and pretend to vomit everytime someone mentions Facebook

2. You have a secret Facebook account in order to spy and make fun of all your frenemies

3. You make fun of all your friends who are Facebook addicts and call them losers repeatedly

4. Your mom has a Facebook account and you don't

5. You write a blog dedicated to propogating anti-facebook sentiment

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Google Sells Out

Google went public this week with their year-old application Google Profiles- an online tool that seems to combine the social networking capability of Facebook with the professional networking of LinkedIn and the simplicity of Twitter. So what is it exactly? Well according to Google it's "simply how you present yourself on Google products to other Google users. It allows you to control how you appear on Google and tell others a bit more about who you are. With a Google profile, you can easily share your web content on one central location."

Design-wise it looks a lot like a virtual business card and I think that's the point. I have to admit though, I'm still a little unclear on the advantages of this application. Nonetheless I of course had to set up my own profile. Along with the standard "personality" questions such as interests, they also asked things like "something I can't find using google"and "my super power." Slightly random non sequiturs. So now if you Google me, here's what you'll see at the very bottom of the page. I'm not the only Anna Miller? How disappointing....

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Facebook Code of Honor

As a follow-up to my last post, I discovered a post about Facebook Ethics on Urban Dictionary. It reads:

Facebook Ethics is a major branch of philosophy, encompassing right conduct and good life over the electronic medium Facebook. The guiding principle of Facebook ethics is that of exercising sound judgement and morality when establishing relationships, networking, or simply keeping in touch with old friends.

Examples of breaching Facebook ethics include:
  • Posting inappropriate pictures of either yourself or friends engaged in raucous behavior, binge drinking, or doing illegal drugs.
  • Posting nasty comments about ex boyfriends new girlfriends at an attempt to invoke jealousy, cause pain, insult the other party
  • Incessantly posting on people's walls thereby shielding other people's comments and creating a monopoly on said person's wall
  • Discussing insensitive topics that could be read by other people- examples include religion, politics, and racism/sexism
  • Tagging friends in pictures that are less than flattering.

This is in fact a layman's reiteration of Facebook's code of conduct:

While we believe users should be able to express themselves and their point of view, certain kinds of speech simply do not belong in a community like Facebook. Therefore, you may not post or share Content that:
  • is obscene, pornographic or sexually explicit
  • depicts graphic or gratuitous violence
  • makes threats of any kind or that intimidates, harasses, or bullies anyone
  • is derogatory, demeaning, malicious, defamatory, abusive, offensive or hateful
Although most teens don't seem to be abiding by these common sensical rules, it makes this old fart feel better to know that a code of conduct does in fact exist. I'm concerned about how it's being enforced though. I'm sure there are a lot more pictures of underage drinking than Facebook employees are able to police.

And while I don't necessarily have a problem with underage drinking, I do have a problem with a lack of discretion. Growing up watching nothing but reality television has encouraged a generation of exhibitionists. Part of the fun of behaving badly is the that it's secretive and private. By exposing this behavior, you're in a sense opening yourself up to scrutiny that could have repercussions into adulthood (i.e. college admissions, job placement, etc.). This is especially true if Facebook has its way under its proposed Terms of Service and is able to own your content even after you close your account. A word of advice to all the kids out there- Keep your shit private!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Old Fart

Yup that's me.

A few years ago I tattled on my little cousin for posting drinking pictures to her Facebook page. At the time she was just 14 years old and I was shocked to see pictures of her completely wasted for all the world to see with comments from her friends referencing other activities they had participated in that evening (use your imagination). I mean, maybe I'm just an old fart. but back in my day you tried and hide that type of incriminating evidence.

Nowadays, kids are so haphazard. It's like they have no filter. I understand that she thought she was just sharing the photos with her friends, but didn't it occur to her that I was also her "friend" and would see them and would perhaps tell my mother who would perhaps tell her mother and ban her from Facebook? I know, I'm an evil evil cousin.

The situation I'm describing is all too common for the ME generation of kids who have grown up with social media as a part of their daily diet. The level of comfort they experience online allows them to say and post things they might otherwise do in real life.

My suggestion to deal with this issue is a new service called "Two-Facedbook" (patent pending).

What if kids had the option of being able to manage two profiles- one for family and other adult authority figures and another version strictly for friends. On the "clean" version they could post pictures of themselves helping the homeless, feeding squirrels, making their beds. On the other version they could freely post pictures of themselves shooting heroin, having random sex, and other fun yet explicit activities. I'd like to think I'm original but I have a feeling a service like this may already exist.

One other option would be to give kids lessons is digital privacy. That may be more effective in the long term but what do I know, I'm just an old fart.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Return on Investment? It's About Time!

According to today's article in Ad Age, marketers have achieved the impossible. They have finally managed to measure the return on investment of social networking and have therefore validated it as an effective form of advertising.

The debate around this issue is one I've been following with some interest. While there's no doubt that social networking leads to conversation the question is whether this conversation ever leads to sales. But according to research performed jointly by ComScore, MySpace and Dunnhumby, a 28% ROI was able to be measured for an unnamed package-goods brand's $1 million social media campaign.

Marketers were able to accomplish this astonishing feet by combining an internet usage database with customer loyalty panels. According to Ad Age, this single-source database allowed for a "definitive look at how internet ads affect offline purchases." I'm not quite sure I buy it but as advertisers feel more comfortable spending online, this may be just the financial boost Facebook has been hunting for.

Dear Abby...

As part of its "Gadgetwise" blog, the New York Times online now has a new advice columnist by the name of Paul Boutin (Is it just me or does this guy look like a jewish Bono?) A graduate of MIT, Boutin is now spewing advice on all matters related to social networking:

Got a question about social networking? E-mail me at, or contact me via Facebook or Twitter. I’ll answer technical questions ("Can I use Twitter on my Nokia?”) and social issues (”How do I deal with a divorce on Facebook?”) The thornier, the better. All names and other personal details will be kept confidential.

Despite my anti-Facebook sentiment this guy seems to be giving some pretty good advice. The first question he received asked how to "silence" noisy Facebook friends so you don't have to bear witness to their incessant updates on daily tedium. In a very clear and step-by-step fashion, Boutin suggested several options for "quieting" these people without having to unfriend them.

In an age where tech advice columnists are replacing the likes of etiquette (Ann Landers) and sex (Dan Savage) advice columnists, I'm sure we'll soon begin to see more questions like this appear in the local paper and I'm glad there is someone equipped to answer.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter! Tweet! Tweet!

Send out the hypocrite police cause I'm about to make a confession...


Yes, I must admit, after listening to Howard Stern's Twitter travails on Thursday's show, I decided to explore the most recent trend in social networking for myself. I had created an account months ago but never took the time to look around. Well on Thursday afternoon I logged in and haven't been able to tear myself away since. I love it. And in an attempt to justify this hypocrisy to myself and my fellow SNRs, here's my list of reasons why Twitter is better than Facebook:

1) Twitter is more honest. For the most part, is a one way dialogue. People can follow you and you can follow others and although commenting is allowed, interaction is not an essential ingredient of this social network. Therefore in some ways it's easier for you to be yourself and share your thoughts without worrying about what others will say. As opposed to Facebook, which is more about connecting with old friends and trying to prove how successful you are, Twitter seems inherently more real.

2) Brevity (see previous post). There's nothing I hate more than verbosity. There are too many people out there who use an abundance of unnecessary words. Simplicity is key in communications. Twitter gives you 140 characters to say what you need to say. If you're clever, you can manage to say a lot in that small space.

3) Related to #1, voyeurism is a key component of Twitter. At Kim's suggestion, I tried following a few celebrities. I'm especially fond of posts from comedians Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter. This comedic duo love to torment each other via hilarious Twitter posts often accompanied by equally hilarious pics. As a self-admitted voyeur, it's fun to get an inside glimpse into the lives of celebrities whose work I've admired for years. But at the same time, you can see this "realness" getting commercialized by celebrities like Ryan Seacrest who obviously have teams of publicists tweeting on their behalf. I began following Seacrest but had to delete him after the endless amount of self-promotion I received.

4) Twitter is easy. There's no profile to set-up, no annoying questions to answer. You post a pic, and a short bio and're Tweeting. I don't have to spend hours I don't have agonizing over my profile or my list of friends. If I want to give an update, I can do it right through my cell phone. It's a perfect social networking application for someone with a life.

So those are the reasons I've thought of so far to ease my Twitter-loving guilt. Maybe social networking isn't all bad, especially as we figure out new uses for it (i.e. Moldova Prostests).

See, I can admit when I'm wrong.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

LinkedIn: Social Network or Other?

So someone recently asked me how I (as a Social Network Reject) felt about LinkedIn. And even though I am a member, I'm not quite sure why or what to feel about it. The idea of it occupies a void in my mind. I mean what is it really? Is it a social network or a professional network or both? According to Wikipedia, it is a business-oriented social network. Is it just me or are those two things contradictory? That's like saying you're a rural urbanite. It doesn't make sense. Business is one thing and social is quite another.

I had no problem joining the site when I was under the impression that it was strictly for professional networking. Makes sense as a potential resource for career opportunities. Good idea. Again according to Wikipedia, the purpose of the site is to allow users to maintain a list of contact details of people they know and trust in business. But if that's the case, then why did I start getting requests from friends who were neither business colleagues nor in my field? I accepted so as not to be rude but in truth I didn't understand why they were requesting I add them as connections. I mean, isn't that what Facebook is for?

I guess some could argue that any type of networking, be it social or professional, is good for your career which is why LinkedIn is able to ride that fine line. But as a Social Network Reject, I still find myself torn on the issue. And while I do have a LinkedIn account, I neither use it nor maintain it. It just sort of exists in cyberspace in case someone should ever want to offer me a job with a $1 million starting salary.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Love it...

Cover story of this week's New York Magazine. Click here to read full article.

Monday, April 6, 2009

I Heart Zac Efron

New SNR crush of the week alert....Zac Efron!

At a press junket for his latest film, Seventeen Again, High School Musical hottie Zac Efron proclaimed his social network reject status:

I don't have a Twitter, a MySpace or a Facebook or anything like that. I kind of value in people not knowing where I am or what I'm doing.

Efron even went on to demonstrate how ridic some "tweets" can be:

I’m on the toilet. Still on the toilet. Guys, dot-dot-dot, out of TP. Still on the toilet.

It's nice to see this guy has a sense of humor. You don't know what to expect with someone as pretty as him. But he just got a new fan from his public display of distaste for social networking.

Friday, April 3, 2009

'Getting to Work' on Facebook

I've decided to take a (small) break from my anti-social media rhetoric and tout some of the more positive aspects of social networking. In this tough economy, a new Facebook group has come together to provide some much needed shelter from the financial storm. Getting to Work is uniting the collective expertise of freelance, independent contractors, underemployed and unemployed New Yorkers. Through pro bono projects with non-profits, Getting to Work members are attempting to give back to their community while also building professional experience that will hopefully lead to full time employment.

Just goes to show that social networks can be more than an utter waste of time. They can also sometimes (albeit rarely) be a great tool to help empower people to make a difference in their community as well as in their professional lives. The group, which was founded by fellow Strat Commer, Cheryl Metzger, is currently working with several non-profits including a new organization using classical music to promote international dialogue.

If you have an organization that is in need of some pro-bono communications consultancy from Columbia students or if you are interested in participating, sign up today. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Facebook Slackers

At work today I had to post a job opening online. In the description I was tempted to write "Candidate must be motivated, able to work independently and not be on Facebook all day!" I didn't write this but nowadays I think it's neccessary to mention to all new employees. In my experience it seems like most people, particularly those under that age of 25, find it acceptable to be slacking on the job as long as they're using this time to update their Facebook status. The last three interns we had were literally on Facebook every time I passed by their computer.

Could this unacceptable work attitude be the result of reinforced behavior by schools and universities?

According to the BBC, Bournemouth University students are complaining they cannot get enough work done because fellow students are hogging computers to use Facebook and Twitter. But get this, according to the article, university officials say social networking sites are also sometimes used for legitimate academic reasons and they are therefore unable to block the sites.

"I come into university at 0900 to work on my dissertation thinking I've beaten the crowd to the computers, and I still can't get on them because people are on Facebook," said Miguel Dias.

In my opinion, sites like Facebook and Twitter, should be blocked on all school and work computers. But unfortunately, the reality is that Facebook is often used as a means of sharing course-related material. I've actually been forced to use it on occassion for work-related assigments.

And don't get me wrong. I do my fair share of internet cruising while at work. A new study by the University of Melbourne even confirmed people who use the Internet for personal reasons at work are about 9 percent more productive that those who do not. All I'm saying is that people should show some discretion and self-control while on the job, at school or in a public area where demand for computers is high. Be respectful!

PhD in Facebook

I have to come clean. This blog is actually an assignment for my digital communications class and I need 42 posts before the end of the semester in order to earn an A. Although I find posting three times a week a bit tedious, I do see the value in being able to navigate and contribute to the blogosphere. Plus I get a real kick out of coming up first on a "social network reject" Google search (not like anyone is actually searching for that).

But this class is one of many that I need in order to earn a well-rounded Master's degree in Strategic Communications. And although I'm enjoying the class very much, I think one semester is more than enough time to navigate the world of social and online media. But those at Birmingham City University seem to disagree. They have begun an entire Master's program in social media.

According to College News, the British university’s one-year program will teach students how to set up blogs, publish podcasts and build up their social network using Facebook, Twitter and Bebo. All of which are so basic, they could be self-taught.

Jon Hickman is the genius who created this program and the man trying to milk students for a year's worth of tuition. And not surprisingly he's gotten some negative feedback: “We’ve had one below for more info on this idiotic program.

For some reason this reminds me a lot of the Lil Kim course taught at Syracuse University. Sounded like a lot of fun but if you're paying $2000/credit do you really want to waste it analyzing the lyrics to Queen Bitch? Or in this case, learning the best techniques on how to fill out a "25 Random Things You Didn't Know About Me" list?

Jon Hickman: MA in Social Media from Kasper Sorensen on Vimeo.