Facebook seems to have survived the storm of protest from members when it exposed their security by enforcing changes that overrode some user privacy choices.  The problem hasn’t gone away however.

New Scientist, 5 June 2010, notes that Facebook chief, Mark Zuckerberg, ignores the human factor at his peril.  The 50 privacy settings with 170 options simply did not consider the human computer interface (HCI).

“It’s a problem for everyone involved in online self-publishing,” Anthony House of Google told an Index on Censorship http://www.indexoncensorship.org/meeting in London, according to New Scientist.  House is European policy manager for Google and admitted, “We need to be more intuitive about human-computer interaction.”  He was referring to the automatic enrolment of Gmail users to the Buzz social network when they failed to opt out as the Buzz introduction appeared on their screen.

When Ann Blandford, an HCI researcher at the University College London investigated, she told New Scientist that she found the meaning of many privacy settings is obscure.  She proposed that we each be able to preview our social sites as if we were a stranger, a nominated friend or a friend-of-a-friend.  “I want to be able to log in as someone else and look at my online profile…” she said (p. 19) – an experience akin to an out-of-body experience!

If that seems slightly weird, how about something really creepy in the same issue of New Scientist?  You can use Lifenaut’s website http://lifenaut.com/  to create a basic visual interface of yourself (your auto-face may speak, wink or blink) which can communicate with your descendents long after you have gone.  You could choose to deploy Image Metrics’ software (at $US500,000 a crack) and create a much more lifelike digital version, which would be less frightening to your grandchildren. http://www.image-metrics.com/project/emily-project 

If you want to see these possibilities in a Scifi story, then watch out for the American TV drama Caprica, which replaces Zoe Graystone with an exact digital copy of her brain implanted into a humanoid robot http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okC5HjMANF4 .

The question is: how private would that digital shadow of yourself be if it is stored in the "Cloud" or would hackers sabotage your loving messages with hurtful fiction?

Submitted by Joseph Peart
With Gary Mersham as the driving force and my AUT colleague Petra Theunissen, I recently authored my third book, Public relations and communication management: an Aotearoa/New Zealand perspective (2009).

My first book was written with Jim Macnamara who has just published his 12th book, The 21st century media (r)evolution (2010).

On paper, both books comment on social media.  In Jim’s case, he writes about changes wrought by electronic media, from “Web 3.0, the semantic web” to wireless-connected location-aware notebooks and GPS-equipped phones/computers.  

Our words are on paper, but our thoughts are on satellites.

Global Positioning Systems (via satellites) mean that people can decide if they want to be found through applications in the Web “cloud”, such as foursquare or Comob Net and Comob.  Foursquare is a location-based social networking website, and Comob offers a collaborative GPS mapping ap. which you can download onto your iPhone or Nokia.  

Comob began as a digital arts project to explore social relationships.  Foursquare is more blatantly commercial.  It allows you to check-in to places, meet up with friends and discover new places, many of which are retail social venues like bars and restaurants, which register on the site.

Does this mean that we will be forced to give up our privacy, or will it remain under our control?

Well, research suggests that it’s not just social life, but work-life that creates concerns about where you are and what you are doing.  For instance, in Fortune Magazine (June 14) Beth Kowitt reports that a study done for Microsoft earlier this year found 7% of employees felt that their co-workers were not supportive (up from 1% in 2008); and 16% of bosses were seen as not supportive (also up from 1% two years earlier): so “Face time ain’t dead yet”.

Maybe we will be more supportive if remote workers carry their GPS devices around like a home-detention bracelet.  That way, bosses and co-workers could be confident they are in their home office and not at the beach or in a café.  (It might even confirm the stat. in the same article that 9% surveyed said they worked in the loo.)

Could location sensitive software could be the new dot.com bubble, ask investors.  Well, Foursquare is just one of the new start-up companies reported same issue of Fortune under the headline “Web 2.0: the party’s over” (p. 14).  In that article, Jessi Hempel notes Facebook’s $US1.4 billion revenue this year makes its IPO (due 2012?) “…one of the most anticipated since Google’s”.

But the same article notes: AOL’s plans to sell or shutdown Bebo and Rupert Murdoch’s rueful comment about his Myspace purchase that “We made some big mistakes”.  Google is still bullish about Youtube, but “analysts predict that significant profits are still years away” (p.14).

So, where is all this heading?

One answer is provided by Nicholas Carr in his book, The shallows: what the internet is doing to our brains.  Carr suggests that web multitasking and “power browsing” are turning our neural pathways into drains full of trivia.  One interesting stat. is that most web pages are viewed for 10 seconds or less; and fewer than one in 10 page views last more than 2 minutes.  

Imagine what that does to our attention spans….

What was that?
How telling that I should be alerted to Joseph's main blog on trust issues from his microblog on twitter! To the question - “Do social media in business breach or build trust?” - Like any communication platform, surely it has the potential to do both.

While the recent Edelman study points to greater credibility given to company websites compared to social networking channels, their research in March http://www.tinyurl.com/c7s5j3 suggests that social media sites are critical agents of checks. Organisations’ websites are only credible when trust is maintained. But how would an organisation know if they have breached faith with their publics? With the complex nature of online communication, can the Public Relations practitioners exercise control over and manage the information received, evaluate the success of their communication and status of their relationships?
Can they afford not to engage and test the boundaries of social media?

In an online survey of over 2,000 small business owners http://www.bit.ly/2rdh16 , 45% registered their presence on facebook or twitter. While the motive is to save on marketing and advertising costs which these companies deem to be ‘a luxury’, 75% report monitoring online reviews of their businesses. This investment of time and manpower by such a large number of small businesses is indicative of the value to be had from establishing an online presence and developing new business relationships.

As for reservations over the damage potential of social media, should we dwell on this at the expense of its benefits? ‘New media’ is some 20 years old and it’s not letting up. If it’s a fad, it has an incredibly long life-span. Even the hardest critic of social media must concede that it’s a growing vehicle for communication today and a driver of social change. It’s been hyped as the biggest shift since the industrial revolution http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIFYPQjYhv8 and if number crunching facts are anything to go by, there are grounds for this.

But like all communication channels, social media is the instrument of messages and we, its participants. The question is not if it breaches or builds trust but if WE do.
Are we venturing where angels fear to tread?
I say …tread gently by tread all the same :)

Posted by Khairiah
How many of you now regard Facebook as a hobby – and alternative to reading and watching TV?  I see students in AUT University's media laboratories logged in to Facebook when I used to think they would be working on assignments.  In the same manner, some of my family members gravitate to our home computer for a quick ‘fix’ of Facebook when they come to visit.  (We have placed the laptop in a corner of the living room to socialise the addicts.)

Some organisations block access to Facebook, Twitter, and even Trade Me at all times or all day except during the lunch hour.  For employers, it is a tough decision.  One hears of staff being fired for spending too much time on social media sites.  It can simply get out of hand.  Other research tells us that the internet has increased productivity, so organisations leave all sites open to staff.

I was interested to read the strategies adopted by more experienced users of social media in an article by Cindy Krischer Goodman in the Miami Heraldcgoodman@miamiherald.com Some of their ideas sounded quite familiar.  For instance, like me, one user would reply promptly to some messages and comments that needed a response, and wait until the end of the day to respond to the others.  In my case ‘the end of the day’ can be 48 hours later.

In the Miami Herald article: Amy Webb, CEO of Webbmedia Group, recommends that we set our own goals for social media so it becomes a tool, not a distraction; Niala Boodhoo of Poked blog suggests a Mozilla Firefox plug-in called Leechblock.  This allows you to set a time limit for a site, or block access for a set period; Alex de Carvalho uses two screens, one for work and one for personal contact and uses his iPhone when he is on the move or waiting for an appointment.  He doesn’t separate his time between business and leisure.

Furthermore, ideas are being promoted every day for using social media as part of a business’s marketing mix.  But they are more than that: They are alternative media to mainstream news and vital tools for building relationships which mingle friendship with custom and service.  Social media also provide forums for reputations to be built and destroyed.
That is why they have been claimed so strongly by public relations practitioners and why they have attracted the attention of researchers including the Public Relations Society of America.  In a recent, highly readable ‘2009 Digital Readiness Report’ http://www.ipressroom.com/readiness  the authors warn that some organizational communi­cators seem somewhat bedazzled by social media.  They appear to see social networking, micro-blogging and blogging as more important than actively managing the content at their own corporate website. 

This may indicate a fundamental gap in judgement with respect to online communication planning – partic­ularly when other research shows that people find company websites more credible than social media channels: For instance,
he ‘2009 Edelman Trust Barometer’ http://www.edelman.com/trust/2009/ notes that, as a source of company information, a company’s own website is seen as more credible than business blogs, personal blogs, social networking sites and advertising. 

And trust is the gold standard of successful public relations.

A reader has pointed out the irony of online popularity which can generate a 'flash-mob' of customers one minute and a vicious back-lash from the 'flash-mob' which doesn't get instant satisfaction.  We refer to the online riot over 2degrees, which was inundated by a flood of subscribers, who were then frustrated by the inability of the company to cope with the demand.

An article published in the Herald Online http://www.nzherald.co.nz/technology/news/article.cfm?c_id=5&objectid=10590762 quotes a customer talking about 'day 8' of the outage.  Others are suggesting that 2degrees fires its website managers or builders.

Among the views expressed in the Herald feedback from readers is one which suggests that we all re-do our maths.  It is not sent by a Vodafone spokesperson, but Vodafone has placed an Ad. right in the middle of readers' views.  Some of those views are supportive of 2degrees and some are extremely critical, so the Ad. seems a well-positioned and transparent way of weighing into the controversy.

Problems with 2degrees are almost, but not yet like, Jetstar's experience of unexpected enthusiasm for what seemed to be the best deal around at the time.  Interestingly, both companies used a Web-based intermix of e-marketing and social media to attract customers and communicate with them about their service.  But it wasn't the internet that failed them, it was their unpreparedness for the demand and their inability to live up to customers expectations.

Mind you, unprecedented demand has happened in marketing long before social media.  Experienced marketers always warn against over-hyping a new product before the early-adopters have entered the marketplace.  They advise contingency planning for the dreamed of, but unexpected, massive demand that a good deal can attract.

A client of mine had to charter a Jumbo aircraft and fill it with supplies, after we launched a new product with simply public relations and no advertising in the introductory stage.  (The client was delighted, and the campaign won an international award, but thank heavens for an available Jumbo Jet.)

It has not been so easy for 2degrees and Jetstar.   The lesson they provide is social media can accelerate demand and provide a forum for widespread criticism that outpaces in a few minutes solutions which take a few hours or, worse still, days or weeks.

Posted by Joseph Peart

It's always the way - you think you know what you are going to say, then your brain does a 360 and leaves the mouth behind.  Below are all the comments I intended to make during our discussions this afternoon, including the ones I left out, which of course, were the most relevant ones!

We only have to look at the events in Iran over the last weeks to understand the impact and implications of social media. Not only were people able to connect and communicate with the wider world, they were able to organise, help, support and in many cases, defend each other, using the connecting tools we take for granted.  

Twitter hashtags acted as a rallying and meeting point, the tweets themselves an alert mechanism. Facebook added Farsi, Google Maps overlayed the position of embassies taking casualties off the streets. Those outside Iran had, in many cases, a way to communicate with their loved ones when other avenues were closed to them.  As servers were blocked and services withdrawn, instant messages and tweets begged for proxy servers - and got them.

As we sit here, this situation continues and the potential application of all these tools is being pushed to the limits. The technology is remarkable, but more remarkable still is the imagination of  people using them and their ability to devise ways in which they can be used far outside the original intent.  Sometimes this is because we are faced with desperate times and must react, or, as is the case for many, because we have the luxury of time to explore how they can be used.

For those who still regard the social media environment with some skepticism - and there are many that do - or deem it to be a waste of time, then taking a look at the actions resulting from the use of social media tools in Iran might act as a prompt towards change.

Our own position means we have the luxury of time to explore how they can be used. A few years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the PRINZ conference. I introduced Second Life and other emergent tools, YouTube was in its infancy and Twitter was just a gleam in the developers’ eye. My belief at that time - and my message to the practitioners at the conference - was ‘don’t get left behind’. Be aware of the social, political and economic disruption and change Web 2.0 technologies will create. Understand the technologies and how they are integrated into our daily lives. Make sure you can, on behalf of your organisations and clients, navigate through the myriad of possibilities that now exist.

Some time later, later my message has changed. Instead of ‘don’t get left behind’, I would urge all practitioners to make sure “you stay well ahead”. The semantic web is not far away; the mobile web is with us; new tools are added daily - Flock brings together all our networks, friends and actions and we take them with us by phone. Google Wave, just previewed, has the potential to shake things up in the same way that Twitter has done. There will be a dozen new platforms launched before we have finished our day and around a million status updates posted around the world.

So how are we, as communicators and practitioners going to navigate through all this for those we serve? What will our role be when mobile web turns into moulded web and we access the semantic web via contact lens or implanted chip? This is not so far away. Intel and Nokia have just signed a deal that will lead to products that transform our intersection with the web and each other.  It is more than ten years since the first chip was implanted into  human - a researcher of course - and the technology that makes us scanable and able to interact with ambient intelligence is functional. And as for the things we will lose - heck, I stopped worrying about newspapers years ago. Newsprint is only a commercial boundary that holds the news itself. As people we still want news and we still require journalists - just the boundaries change.  I am much more interested in what we will do as we gradually lose text based communication and move back to oral and visual communications - which is eclipsing all other forms of online content.

Enormous challenges lie ahead which is why we need some serious thinking to be done now, and why spaces like this that will facilitate serious thinking are extremely important.

Often in the social media environment, we fail to think before we engage, update, post or contribute - which leads to more than a few organisational and personal relationship problems.

And in the same way that social media challenges us to present ourselves transparently, frequently and openly to many different communities, so this centre can challenge the historic gap between academics and practitioners in the public relations field.

The social media environment will drive academics, who will have to get faster and smarter at research, perhaps changing the model of peer review (which was  built to serve older systems in older times) to one more suited to the collaborative nature of social media.

Equally, practitioners must be prepared to ‘donate’ their experiences to the researchers so that a closer look at some of the implications can be taken. In practice, we learn as we go, reflecting on our learning later  - a reverse process to academia.

To start the ball rolling, I have posted an approach to public relations measurement and evaluation in the social media environment  and would invite review, comment and contributions from both practitioners and academics. It is based on theory and practical experience and models of operation that I have developed in my own accelerated learning environment over many years.

I am sure - and hopeful - there will be more thinking and discussion as a result of this alternative approach to the peer review process.

In the meantime, there is much to explore; a long journey ahead before we truly grasp all the implications for society and certainly many challenges - personal and professional - for everyone to deal with. But one thing is certain. The application of these disruptive technologies means that things will never the same again. Even if the electricity goes off, the servers won’t work or you lose your phone, the way we approach our interactions and organisational relationships has shifted.

I’ll finish by returning to Iran. There were two updates this week that have stayed with me. One was Mousavi’s Facebook update :

“Today you are the media, it is your duty to report and keep the hope alive”.

The second, and the more poignant was this tweet, sent last Wednesday:

@IranRiggedElect: There are slogans written on all bank notes. People want their voices to spread in the country since media is not covering #iranelection

I truly believe that when voices need to be heard, people find a way: new channels are born - and it is our job to ensure they know how. Thank you for your time.

Posted by: Catherine Arrow