Archives for posts with tag: social media

An internet blackout by some of the internet heavyweights is looking much more likely. Mashable, one of the biggest tech websites out there, published an editorial calling for a campaign to inform the masses about the danger posed by SOPA.

Facebook, Google and Wikipedia. You’re the Big Three in this fight. You’ve already publicly affirmed your opposition to SOPA. Now it’s time to really be a part of the fight.

Everyone in the tech community knows about SOPA, but that isn’t enough – the anti-SOPA movement needs the average Joe to understand and protest against the bill.

A blackout of Facebook, Google and Wikipedia would get the world talking. It would be on the frontpage of newspapers (except possibly the SOPA supporting Murdoch press). People will ask ‘what is it about SOPA that causes these internet behemoths to take such drastic action?’

January 18th is the date set by members of online community Reddit for the blackout. Hacktivist collective Anonymous have tweeted that they will embark on radio silence on that day, and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has stated that he hopes Wikipedia will be ready to get involved:

I’m all in favor of it [a January 18 blackout of Wikipedia], and I think it would be great if we could act quickly to coordinate with Reddit. I’d like to talk to our government affairs advisor to see if they agree on this as useful timing, but assuming that’s a greenlight, I think that matching what Reddit does (but in our own way of course)[…]

Of course, we really need Google to get involved. After all, ‘Don’t be evil’ is their informal corporate motto. They have stepped up to the mark before by removing Google search capabilities from China, now we have to hope they are prepared to step up again.

The SOPA bill is the desperate bite of a wounded and dying entertainment industry. The internet has liberated artists and content providers. We are seeing the emergence of an organic internet marketplace, free from the layers of middlemen that have exploited artists for so long. They have been creaming money of the work of others for so long that they think what they do is natural.

January 18th is set to be an important day for the internet. How important is up to the big three.


Google+ seemed to take up the lions share of my predictions for 2012. It is the most interesting and promising social network out there. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all have their place, but Google+ is still surrounded by a suggestive veil of mystery. However – despite all my interest, I don’t actually use the service that much. So with a new year starting I thought I would dive in and see what pearls I can find.

Starting Over

A point raised by Ezra Klein over on Quora is that Google+ allows you a fresh  start. Furnished with all the skills you have picked up from four years of Facebook and two years of Twitter,  Google+ gives you the opportunity to ensure that people are correctly grouped and avoid any miscalculations you may have previously made.


I used to be a massive fan of social bookmarking and I used to religiously save all the interesting links I found to Delicious. This changed this year for reasons that escape me. I think it was a combination of a forgotten password, a broken plugin or fears that Delicious was to close that stopped me bookmarking everything. However Google+ looks set to bring me back into good bookmarking habits.

The G+ button that you see at the top of webpages and next to search results act as a one click bookmarking function that saves the page you are viewing to your public or private +1 page (here’s mine).

The problems are that you cannot tag links like you could in Delicious and you cannot currently perform searches on your list of +1’s. I imagine this will all be changed soon, and you will be able to search your +1 bookmarks from the Google homepage. After all, Google intends your +1 page to be ‘the place you’ll go to personally manage the ever-expanding record of things you love around the web‘.


Every so often I need to give my Google RSS reader a clean out. I am constantly following new websites and removing others from my feed. On Facebook – I am careful to follow only a few websites and brands in order to ensure my Facebook news feed doesn’t get clogged.

However, when I am subscribing using Google Circles I am instantly encouraged to categorize each subscription. I can have a tech news circle, a recipe circle and film circle. I can have a circle dedicated to particular thinkers and a circle for particular colleagues. And – I can drop people and websites in and out of circles with ease.

You could argue that this is not much different to Twitter lists. Yet things seem easier and more integrated with Google than it does with Twitter.  It is also easier to have longer and sustained conversations around a post than is possible with Twitter’s 140 character limit. The Google+ feed is also more visual and exciting than with other social networks.


Google are search – so it makes sense that searching for people on Google+ should be perfect. There is already a directory that has indexed over 31 million users called FindPeopleonPlus which allows you to restrict a search by the profile information logged by Google. This kind of people search is something lacking in Twitter.

The Google+ profile is also something that will become increasingly important. Unlike Twitter which restricts you to 140 characters – Google lets you create a full profile that will act as your shop window to all of your Google activity.

In conclusion

Google+ is going to be the most public of your social network profiles. It will be fully indexed and come up early on Google search. It is also going to serve as an infrastructure behind all of Google’s applications. It is also going to radically redefine what it means to search the internet – as my next post on the world of social search will explore

In my last post I described some of the main metrics used in social network analysis graphs. In this post I am going to look at some of the important considerations regarding the look and design of a network diagram.

A social network can be very vast, and a network diagram can quickly become very cluttered and unreadable. Netviz Nirvana has been developed to combat this. It is a set of principles that can guide you in your graphing projects. Your diagram should come as close as possible to matching these requirements:

  • Node Visibility – Each node should stand apart and clear from all others – no node should occlude another node.
  • Edge Visibility – You should be able to count the amount of edges coming off from every node
  • Edge Crossing – The less crossings – the better. The more often an edge crosses over another, the more visually complex the image becomes, and the harder it is to follow paths.
  • Edge Tunnels – These are when a node lies on an edge that is not its own. The problem could lie with either the position of the node or the position of the edge.
  • Text Readibility – All text should be clear enough for a reader to read.
  • Text Distinction – All text should be appropriately truncated (use a key if necessary).
  • Clusters and outliers should be clearly visible and distinct.

These are all good points to keep in mind when producing a graph. I would add that you should be careful that all colours used are distinctive from each other, and that they shouldn’t clash (you want your diagram to look good don’t you?)

For a video that goes a bit further into Netviz Nirvana – click here

I came across a worrying call for research proposals (dated July 14th) by the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). DARPA are the division of the US military that are at the forefront of advanced warfare techniques – whether it is robotics, nano-technology or (as this latest solicitation suggests) social media.

Social media must be the thorn in the side of any military. As the epitome of hierarchical structures, military force is threatened by the rise of networked forms of organisation. Both terrorists and activists alike are able to capitalise on the borderless benefits of social media by interacting and communicating under the radar, creating and disseminating their own images of global conflict and recruiting new members.

It is not surprising that the US military would begin building a social media based approach to warfare and  try to gain control over the anarchic web, especially if they want to influence and recruit the new digitally native generation.

The DARPA announcement is offering $42 million as part of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program to any project that can help the US face the ‘profound’ changes of the communication revolution and help leverage the power of social media. The four program goals are:

1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.

2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities.

3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.

4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.

The document explains that current approaches to social media rely on chance and manual methods to ‘detect, classify, measure, track and influence events in social media’. This needs to be replaced by automated processes that can deal with the millions of person to person interactions that occur online every day. The main technological areas to be focused on are:

1. Linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, narrative structure analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining;

2. Meme tracking across communities, graph analytics/probabilistic reasoning, pattern detection, cultural narratives;

3. Inducing identities, modeling emergent communities, trust analytics, network dynamics modeling;

4. Automated content generation, bots in social media, crowd sourcing.

It seems to me that DARPA intend to build programmes that will use natural language processing and meme tracking to find relevant conversations, intervene when any conversation reaches a dangerous level and use bots to communicate with all parties involved (probably a bot pretending to be human).

Most of the technology for the above already exists. For example, market researchers have been processing and automatically understanding vast amounts of text for some time now, and the Turing test is getting closer every year to convincing a panel of judges that a computer is a person.

It seems to me that the social media landscape and tools that have been so liberating these past few years will eventually fall into the hands of governmental authorities and become instruments of state violence and surveillance. The only question now is how quickly can those that resist the state create powerful social media tools of their own.

This infographic demonstrates how understanding the scale of involvement in social media can help distinguish and categorise different social networking systems.

Mashable is the largest independent tech site on the web and boasts 12 million unique visitors every month. It publishes around 30 articles a day – an almost chaotic amount of news for tech fans to keep on top of.

So in an attempt to order some of the chaos, they are implementing a new community based layer that will help personalise your Mashable experience – called “Follow”.

It intends to battle both the information overload and the fragmentation of the internet experience by centralizing the news experience and integrating it with the social elements.

The key features are:

  • A profile page which you can sync with your other social networks and use to connect with other community members.
  • A customised feed of stories based on stories where you click the “follow” button.
  • A one button sharing tool to publish Mashable stories to all your social networks simultaneously.
  • A game like reward system that awards people badges and other incentives to share and contribute to discussions.

As Pete Cashmore, Mashable’s founder and CEO, states : “Beyond personalization, we believe that curation is the next great wave in news, and empowering our community to choose the news of the day is the ultimate aim of the Follow project.”

At one end of the spectrum we have the traditional long-form blog, and at the other end we have the microblogging service Twitter. But 2011 will see the advent of an innovative and creative space between the two.

Tumblr is one of a few platforms (along with Posterous) that allows people and companies to play with this creative space. The target user is usually someone that doesn’t feel they can commit to a full blog, but wants the opportunity to do more than the format of Twitter allows.

Part of the power of Tumblr is its ease of use – something that the company takes very seriously. Sign up is easy, and users can post text, images, videos, links, quotes and audio – either via email, through the simple dashboard or by using a wide range of browser and mobile app’s. The format allows short, regular updates but can also be used to publish lengthier articles.

Tumblr has a scrapbook feel – you cut and stick things you find around the web without much hassle. It is this scrapbook feel that makes the site great for content curation and has led to its adoption by news media companies. The Atlantic, NewsWeek, The New Yorker and The Economist are among the many organisations using Tumblr to publish links to content, highlight important quotations, display infographics and curate some of the most important and beautiful content from around the web. The ‘feel’ of Tumblr is much less serious than the traditional websites of these companies, and it is this informality that is allowing these media companies to build a friendly social face.

Nowhere is this better demonstrated than by the Al-Jazeera English Tumblr. The news organisation has impressed the world by using the site to publish images, videos and more from the ground during the Egyptian protests. They are using the platform to publish important tweets with contextual information, provide links to important YouTube videos and AudioBoo recordings, and provide short accounts of the most important developments. It is an inspirational and powerful example of how this platform can be used to improve journalistic efforts.

The fashion industry is also getting involved with Tumblr: according to Tumblr CEO David Karp, 180 of the top 1000 Tumblrs are fashion blogs, and these blogs are reblogged more frequently than normal Tumblr posts. As evidence of its commitment to work closer with the fashion community on Tumblr, the company will be sponsoring 20 bloggers to attend New York fashion week.

Fashion brands are increasingly using Tumblr as a way to directly engage with their current and potential customers. Luxurious fashion brands, like Oscar de la Renta, are using Tumblr to become “present and persistent in [the] minds” of the customers who cannot yet afford their products, but could someday soon. Mid-range brands are using Tumblr to create a natural and uncontrived “holistic story” about their brand.

Fashion company Kate Spade has just started its Tumblr account. Digital Marketing Manager Cecilia Liu says:

“People are using and sharing beautiful visuals on Tumblr, posting things they think are inspirational,” she observes. “In that vein, it seems like a really great platform for us to get our voice out there, not just as tweets and text, but through images and color, which is the DNA of the brand”

So, with two important industries capitalising on the benefits of this new digital space, I expect other industries will begin to take notice. I also expect many people who have been put off blogging through the fear of a steep learning curve will embrace the growth of Tumblr, bringing a new crowd into the social media world.