The PROJECT [r]evolution Conference will take place at AUT University on August 30 and 31 this year. 

The conference will examine how digital social media bring change (revolution) through massive upheaval (the Arab Spring, Occupy etc) and development (evolution) through innovation and survival of the fittest (Facebook versus Google etc).

World-renowned speakers include: Alec Ross (who was president Obama's social media election strategist and now works for Hillary Clinton), Emily Banks (associate editor for Mashable) and Google’s California-based global ambassador, Michael T. Jones.

Business, government and academic speakers include Prof Jim Macnamara (University of Sydney, former company founder/director), Prof Graham Murdock (Loughborough University, renowned media analyst), Christopher Barger, from Voce (formerly with GM and IBM) and Dan Neely (Wellington Emergency Management Office).

Conference partners, AUT University, the US Embassy, Wellington, and Social Media NZ have launched the website  where delegates can register for a restricted number of places.

The PROJECT [r]evolution is  “a collision of thought on social media and digital communication” .  This Centre within the University, has been a catalyst for the increased use of social media into our classrooms, both as a learning tool and a topic for research and analysis.  It makes sense that we bring this critical view into a conference setting, and bring together the very different views of innovators, marketers, media analysts and those with a political perspective.

The event is underwritten and sponsored by AUT University with sponsoring partner, the US Embassy in NZ, and includes a third partner/advisor, John Lai of Social Media NZ

Some of the other speakers are:
“The Future of the Social web” – Thomas Scovell, Clemenger
“Revolution in Government” – Anthony Deos
“Copyright protection in our connected world” – Rick Shera, Lowndes Jordan  (What SOPA/PIPA mean)
“When disaster strikes: Digital in times of darkness” – Dan Neely
“Digital dilemmas: why we need an ethical [r]evolution” – Assoc Prof Martin Hirst 
“The Emotion – how digital shifts minds for market brands” – Julian Smith, BRR Ltd 
“The rise of mobile” – Paul Brislen, TUANZ
“The Revolution of Data - The Science of Data in Digital” – Hayden Raw, Common Room
“The tomorrow is now and it belongs to interactivity” – Richard McManus  and several more.

Topics and speaking panels are still evolving.  Visit the website
for the up to date programme and to register for this event.

Submitted by Joseph Peart, June 18, 2012

Governments worry that the same world-wide-web that allows global social communication is also being used for spying and cyber-attacks. 

Although earlier experimental cyber-attacks have been attributed to Russia, attention has lately shifted to China.  Australia and the United States don’t want anything to do with the Chinese telco, Huawei, which has already supplied technology to New Zealand and is ready to provide more.

You could say that other countries have more to lose, or you could say New Zealand is acting more like a grown-up.  It begs some questions:

1. Will excluding a company from doing business prevent malicious use of the internet by its home country? 

2. Why should we worry about business interactions with the legitimate government of the World’s largest nation, even if we don’t agree with its politics?

3. Is this any worse than signing away our democratic rights to the world’s fourth most populous empire, ruled by the benign dictator, Mark Zuckerberg?

If you consider the World’s fourth largest population (Facebook), add to that consideration that Facebook is even more powerful, bloated by a massive injection of equity.  Former chief executive of General Electric, Jack Welch, warns that this wealth could make senior managers complacent, like the rulers of Rome before its decline.

But it’s not so much the rise or fall of Facebook financially that should cause concern, but the rise of its algorithms.  Why me worry?

Most of us who use Amazon are aware that its algorithms are so designed as to recommend items that are bound to be of interest to each of us personally.  Also, apparently, around 60 percent of movies hired through Netflix are as result of recommendations via the site’s algorithms.  That seems harmless enough.

Similarly, in New Scientist (14 April, 2012) Helen Knight notes that more than a third of American shoppers in physical stores use the Internet via their smartphones to help them make a purchase decision.  That didn’t seem scary until, two weeks later, New Scientist informed me that my attitudes, beliefs and personality type (as well as a very good guess about where I live) can all be worked out by online algorithms.  In that issue, Jim Giles assured New Scientist readers that, even if all of your privacy settings are at their maximum, purchases and searches, cellphone records and email traffic provide plenty of data to match us with friends, ‘like-minds’ and products that we could find attractive, if not irresistible.

Lars Backstrom, a researcher at Facebook, showed in 2010 that he could locate two-thirds of the site’s users within 40 kilometres, by identifying where their friends live. (Proc. 19th Int. Conf. on World Wide Web, p.61).  A similar algorithm for guessing sexual orientation also boasted 80 per cent accuracy (First Monday, vol. 14, No. 10).

It’s all about a balance between how much we voluntarily share with our social media providers and product suppliers (to help find the things and friends we want) and how much their algorithms deduce without our permission.

Seth Godin, the Internet entrepreneur and author is not worried.  He says the power that consumers wield now is all about a rapidly expanding period of consumer choice.  "If you can make it clear to consumers that you have a better offer," says Godin, who has long studied how the Web affects marketing, "it's infinitely easier to acquire a million consumers than ever before."

At the same time, our consumption of ideas and culture, as much as economic products and services, moulds our thinking and exposes us to algorithmic selection or ranking.

Remember George Gerbner’s “mean world syndrome” which he identified in the 1970s to describe how violent television consumption can lead us to think the world is nastier than it actually is?

Well, Dean Eckles of Stanford University suggest that the filtering of content, such as giving “likes” on Facebook a priority, could fool us into thinking that everyone else is having more fun than we are.

It could be that Facebook, newsfeeds and algorithms select our Internet content with so much bias that we suffer from what Eckles calls “friendly world syndrome”.   To properly understand the implications of that state of mind, I recommend you read Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, paying particular attention to his references to “Soma”.

Joseph Peart

Posted by Joseph Peart 3 Dec '11

Hidden among the stats of a new analysis of a new analysis of how journalists use Twitter was a change that surprised me.  Launched in July 2006, Twitter was reported to have 200 million users by 2011.  But Fortune magazine recently noted research showing only about half those with Twitter addresses were using them.  I was therefore surprised to read the Pew Research Centre’s data, which showed online Americans using Twitter actually increased from 8% to 13% between November 2010 and June 2011.

  However, the real purpose of the Pew researchers was to examine the way in which mass media journalism is merging with what we still call social media.  They looked at 13 news outlets, from major newspapers to websites and cable channels.  Leading the way on Twitter in the week measured (Feb 14-20, 2011) were Washington Post (664 tweets) and Huffington Post (415 tweets).

Nearly all of the outlets used tweets to drive visitors to their home sites; three big newspapers devoted 98% of their Twitter stream to this purpose.  And the news agenda promoted on Twitter closely resembled that on their legacy platforms.  It was the news agenda that interested my colleague, AUT PhD student, Merja Myllylahti , who is looking at how ownership might influence the news agenda  Perhaps most intriguing was that Fox News was the only news organisation in the sample that used Twitter to actively encourage interactions.

A colleague, Helen Sissons, who is studying this behaviour tells of kiwi radio sports journalists who tweet each other during events, partly for their own amusement and what are currently small numbers of followers.  She also discusses media outlets imposing protocols to ensure that their journalists don’t report on Twitter what should be on the website or broadcast first.

All this implies that Twitter has currency beyond its social use in ways that maybe eluding Facebook and Google.

Yes, the big two in social media are still slugging it out after several false starts by Google, and despite some arrogant blunders by Facebook.

It seems that, after the embarrassments of Orkut, Wave and Buzz, Google has finally come up with a viable social network in the form of Google+.

It is such a well-designed offering that Facebook went into lockdown to try to find a counter punch, partly because Google+ had a strong range of better features.  Some similar options soon appeared in Facebook.

In social media, Facebook’s 800 million members dwarfs the 10 million on Google+, but the Google parent has a 2011 revenue of $US38 billion, compared with Facebook’s $US4.3 billion.  That means Google can invest a lot into this fight as it sees advertising migrating from search engine activity into social media.

Mind you, we humans can be digitally social without Facebook.  The Independent newspaper has been looking at text flirts and notes that more people are trying to be sexy by cellphone: But not all are successful.  One expert regarded text messages as too bland for romance, while another suggested texts are ideal for manipulation, as they are seen as intimate communication.  That also means texts can create disproportionate anxiety, as well as misunderstandings.

Most of us find that even emails can cause accidental meaning and misunderstanding, because they are so sparse in both content and context.  It seems to me that texts are even less suitable for the nuances of relationship building.  What do you think?

Posted by Joseph Peart 26 Oct 2011

Recently the sense of smell has been defined as one of the strongest emotive senses as it is so evocative of flower gardens, hayfields and summer beaches.  As yet it cannot be sent over the internet, so we settle for sound, images and text.  Among these, music often arouses memories and emotions in a grand and inspiring way: “Do you hear the people sing … [they] … will not be slaves again”, from Les Miserables is one such musical setting .

It fits Victor Hugo’s story, and it also fits the determination of groups, such as the Internet Governance Forum.  It reminds us of the political vulnerability of the wired world, discussed recently at the UN-organised conference of 2000 Forum delegates from 100 countries who met in Nairobi. 

This latest round of talks highlighted the differences between governments want to have more say on the running of the internet and the OECD countries which support of the ‘multi-stakeholder’ model.  This model of internet governance, is based on an eclectic mix of participants (operators, academics and ‘netheads’, as well as government representatives) all of whom have an equal say in decisions that are reached by ‘rough consensus’.

The ‘multi-stakeholder’ model is a concept which gives one both a visceral and spiritual surge of pride in humanity, not unlike the emotion of Les Miserables.  But it also brings an intellectual satisfaction that common sense and logic can survive political ideology and expediency.

However the model is under threat, according to the Economist (Oct 1 2011), because it the same approach which is used by the manager of internet domain names – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).   ICANN is also a target for governments who want a greater say over generic top level names, such as .com.  They point unhappily to new domain names like .xxx and .jesus as justification for a strengthening of their existing right to object.

Whether it will be governments or the might foursome – Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft – who rule the web remains to be seen, but we can all continue to support the open-access and random creativity of social media while others strive to monetise web content.

In that regard, the Kindle is consolidating Amazon’s rout of top bookstores and is being reinforced by the Kindle Fire, which has Wi-Fi connectivity and gives access to e-books, films and music.  Like Apple’s iPad, the Kindle Fire allows users to store content in the cloud, but it costs $US199 compared with the cheapest iPad, at $US499.  (Shoppers in America and Auckland tell me the cheaper Kindle e-reader is priced at $US79 or $NZ99.) 

Amazon’s warrior strength is even more apparent in a survey by Wiliam Blair (an investment bank) which notes that Amazon’s prices for hundreds of general items range down to one-third cheaper than retail stores and other websites. 

What’s more you may not need Wi-Fi to reach Amazon in urban areas if current development of visible light communication (VLC) progresses beyond the laboratory.

According to New Scientist (July 23 2011) researchers at Heinrich Hertz Institute in Berlin have reached data rates of 500 megabytes per second, by using white-light LED to send binary pulses via line-of-sight (another of our primary senses). While many are cautious about the possibilities for VLC to provide an alternative to fibre, it is seen by others as a way to solve the bandwidth crisis.  Also, because it does not need radio-frequency signals, it can be used safely in aircraft, hospitals and even under water, where Wi-Fi cannot go.

If wireless and visible light provide alternative transmission channels to cable, they may also allow activists to bypass roadblocks set up by governments to suppress dissidents.  Many of the governments who want more say in the governance of the internet are those same governments who would like to disconnect their own citizens when they see the internet being used to organise revolution.

When Egypt’s former regime shut down their country’s main internet services, the P2P Foundation (a group which monitors how data is shared online) began work on a project called ‘Chokepoint’.  It’s an app which allows users to identify the exact location of a network outage on a map, enabling people to reroute through open paths, or use services located abroad, such as Telecomix, which converts messages sent to fax machines into emails.

It brings to mind another musical cue, this time from ‘Evita’, in which the following phrase has an ironic twist.  But I can’t help thinking when it comes to the internet’s governance and its infrastructure for social media: “The voice of the people cannot be denied” .

                                                                                                               Posted by Joseph Peart

There’s an interesting global dimension to the war over internet territory, which is now focusing on social media.
Diverse sources comment frequently on the extent to which mobile technology socialises our experience shopping and travelling.  And one of the fastest changing experiences will be that of regular travellers carrying their ubiquitous smart phones. 

Unlike occasional tourists, frequent flyers will be networked via NFC (near field communication) and RFID (radio-frequency identification) from the moment they enter the terminal (if not before). 

According to the journal Business Traveller (July/August 2011), their phone will say things like: “Your gate is five minutes away.  Walk straight ahead and turn to your right”.  After security, it will add: “You are cleared to board” and will act as your boarding pass as you enter the plane.

Your mobile receiver will also give you foreign language translation at the swipe of a screen.  The temptation is to place ourselves in greater dependency on one of those social media pretenders who would be our king.

For example social media platforms, Facebook, MSN, Twitter and Yahoo will give you a free translation service through Ortsbo ( from a person who speaks the language.  Outlook has an add-on which translates emails, while Penpower Technology’s Worldictionary is available from iTunes for your iPhone.  There’s also Google Translate and Android apps free from Holfeld.  Possibly the biggest such service is Amazon’s Travel Toolkit (US$11.95), available for Kindle e-readers.

All this is but another skirmish in the giant social media war between the combined forces of Facebook, Microsoft, Nokia and Skype, versus Google, in alliance with Apple and Twitter.

An Australian Associated Press-sourced article on the NZ Herald website (Thursday September 8, 2011) quotes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as saying during his announcement of the Skype deal that Facebook had passed 750 million users.  That puts Facebook in a seemingly unassailable position on the battleground of the social internet.  But search engine dominator, Google, is massing its cavalry around its high ground position in the form of Google plus (Google+).

This is not like an old-fashioned war on a clear ground, well away from the towns and villages: civilians are involved, and there could be what modern generals call ‘collateral damage’.  For instance, after a recent uprising by Facebook users, we were given a new suite of privacy settings, not before some casualties.   But we are now adding more and more pictures, videos and private information about our daily lives to Facbook, while Google tells us that if they supply more information, we will get better search results.

Like most wars, the social media conflict is about sovereignty, and the protagonists depend on our social media profiles as their foot soldiers. That means our choices will get more hazardous as mobile technology seeks to rule us by making our lives easier.

September 2011

Hack attack



Hack attack


                                                                                                     Posted by Joseph Peart

“On Sunday evening Salander opened Asphyxis 1.3 and went into the mirrored hard drive of MikBlom/laptop.  He was not online...”

Fans of Stieg Larsson will recognise the characters and possibly the storyline from The girl who played with fire.

Instead of sending emails, the character Lisbeth Salander simply hacked into her friend's computer, so she could leave messages without them passing through an ISP.

Such benign hacking can occur but is very unlikely; much more likely is a malicious intrusion.  According to Time magazine, roughly a billion US dollars were stolen last year, using the Zeus malware program.

One of the scariest news items lately has been about a botnet, called Stegobot, which was created by computer scientists at the University of Illinois to show how easy it might be for criminals to enter your computer through a swapped Facebook picture.  The bot makes use of steganography, which allows it to hide data in picture files, so it can enter your computer undetected.  It can then mine your passwords and account numbers, or jump into a Facebook friend’s computer within the picture (New Scientist, 23 July,2011).

Closer to home, AUT University issued a warning to staff about spear ‘phishing’ – a hacker entering an internal network via a single member who has lots of contacts within that network – exposing a weakness in internal social applications.

That’s what is fascinating about the direction that hacking seems to have taken more recently.  It’s going social.  Phishing used to be that query from a site that pretends to be your secure supplier (retail or bank) which asks for your account number and password.  Spear phishing looks more innocent, as it simply wants to access your email database.  However, once inside, the hacker can wreak wide damage because of the social nature of that database.

Social media applications and social behaviour on the web have increased the likelihood of a viral spread of a malicious code, in the same way as a flu epidemic.  It’s more pervasive as social media becomes more pervasive.

The most prominent attack so far was the ‘robin hood’ break into Sony’s Playstation Network.  It was thought to be the work of ‘hacktivists’ called ‘Anonymous’, but they denied responsibility for the shut-down that cost Sony $US173 million.

Once Sony was operational again, the more benign hacker group LulzSec found holes in its web security using SQL (structured language query) injection and tweeted triumphantly: ‘We accessed EVERYTHING…’ They weren’t there to vandalise so much as to tease Sony about its poorly designed query language interpreters. 

SQL also has a social aspect in that it manipulates a database, including users and passwords, without having administrative access. 

This emergence of hacker groups into the social media community is now amplified by a network of human participants – not simply a captive network of computers as in a botnet.  Time quotes Dave Jennings, chairman of web security company Iron-Key, ‘They have a social element to bring people together to create more sophisticated attacks than we’ve ever seen.’

This points to the wisdom of using all your privacy settings on Facebook as well as your usual caution of ignoring all messages that ask you for your account numbers or passwords.   As for the password you choose…  Well, Time magazine publishes the familiar tips to make your own password harder to hack, including: Use a mix of upper and lower case; use numbers and special characters, and the longer the password the better. 

It’s all worth thinking about.

The latest deal by Facebook, incorporating Skype into its services got me thinking about how many times Facebook can reinvent itself to continue its pre-eminence among social media.  But right now Facebook’s greatest death threat appears to come from coupons.

It seems to me that the future of social media is repeatedly being obscured by the dogged pursuit of profit – not that I’m opposed to entrepreneurship. 

Virtually every social space (sports field or concert hall) has been colonised to some extent by promotional activity (did you see the film festival’s “Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold” by Morgan Spurlock?  It dramatises the ambient marketing techniques which ensure product and service propositions appear in places where we least expect them.

But any threat to Facebook can be tested against what has already happened to Twitter.  Stats from Fortune magazine note that:
·        47% of those who have Twitter accounts are no longer active on the service.
·        The time spent per month has dropped from 14min 6sec in 2010 to 12min 37sec in 2011.  (Fortune magazine, May 2, 2011 (pp42 – 45).  “Trouble @ Twitter” by Daniel Roberts)

I estimate that if usage continues to drop at 1½ minutes a year; by 2020, there will be no Twitter users.

Whereas coupon mania has spread just about everywhere else, even onto Facebook.  Could it eventually swamp Facebook?

According to, you can design your own coupons for your Facebook fan page to offer special deals. You can even schedule your coupon promotions ahead of time so the offer on your fan page will update automatically.  Furthermore, PCWorld reported in March 2011, that Facebook was expanding its own ‘Deals local business discount’ service to compete directly with so-called ‘social buying’ coupon sites such as Groupon and Living Social.

The social coupon business model has really taken off.  As soon as other companies recognized that in Groupon’s business the money is delivered up front, they couldn’t wait.  Now we have Couponmeup, GrabOne, Yazoom,  Spreets, Treatme, Vouchermate, Onedaydeals, Ezycoupons, Yellow Vouchers etc.

It’s not only social media that are joining the feeding frenzy.  GrabOne advertises in its 50% shareholder NZ Herald to support its online promotions.  MediaWorks runs its own coupon venture, Cudo, in partnership with ACP Media, Microsoft's MSN and Cudo Australia. offers deals through its website or via its iPhone app.

NBR (April 26, 2011) reported a Nielsen Online Retail survey had shown two thirds of online New Zealanders received email alerts from daily deal websites, and a further 40 percent said they had made a purchase from such sites in the previous three months.  Kiwis are not alone.  My quick internet survey of the latest entrants world-wide came up with names and places as diverse as:, Compras Peru,,,,,,,,,,,, and

This whole schmozzle points to a grim possibility that nobody in their right mind would suggest – the demise of Facebook.  But, if Facebook allows itself to be taken over by commercial forces, such as coupon offers, the only real social medium to survive past 2020, might be the one I predicted would be the first to disappear – Twitter.  Its failure to commercialise may save it.

Posted by Joseph Peart