A behaviour linked to the rapid growth of social media is the direct sharing of copyright material, especially music and movies.

Some people think “peer-to-peer” is intellectual jargon for copyright theft.  Certainly Time magazine (December 6, 2010) suggests this is its view by its headline, “The men who stole the World”. 

TheTime article began its historic notes with the year 1997, when Justin Frankel wrote the free MP3 player Winamp.  The story continued in1999 with Napster, written by Shawn Fanning, plus a programme, written by Jon Johansen and two others, that decrypts commercial DVDs for copying.  All three men were in their late teens.

File sharing on the Internet was boosted further by Bram Cohen in 2001 when he released his file sharing application BitTorrent, which facilitates the distribution of large files.  BitTorrent is still favoured today for large packages of data.

Napster has been superseded by iTunes, but it still exists, while WinAmp was bought by AOL.  We all know that now the very-simple-to-use iTunes is currently winning the popularity contest with MP3 users, and Time magazine deduces from this that the best way to compete with being free is by being easy. 

Most intriguing is the determination of those youthful Internet pioneers to remain outside the big companies.  Johansen, for instance is in his own company doubleTwist, producing software which can interpret and organise files from hundreds of files and combine them on a single interface.  Time reports that, in June 2010, doubleTwist introduced an Android app and around half a million people have downloaded it.

It is interesting that Fortune is equally fascinated by Internet entrepreneurs, but in its December 6, 2010 issue this was more about the success of Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, whom it named number one business person of the year.

It did so because, during 2010, Hastings cannibalised his own $2 billion-in-sales DVD-by-mail business and streamed television and movies to customers over the Internet.  This was so successful that the company’s shares have risen 200%.

It was also easy, as in the United States video can be delivered within 30 seconds over a high-speed connection.  It is not stored on a subscriber’s hard drive, but viewed immediately on a range of devices, including video game screens.

Again, Hastings’ answer to what the music industry and Hollywood call piracy, is to make it so easy for people to pay and view movies that they don’t flout copyright.  And, while iTunes has provided a similar solution for music, other positive results of file-sharing have been that musicians are staging more live performances to make money, and independent musicians are able to compete with “pop music factories”.  Indeed, some say peer-to-peer sharing no different from lending a friend a book and that it has helped support better music.

Finally, despite its headline and use of terms such as “piracy”, the Time article concludes: “The pirates never wanted music and movies and all the rest of it to be free – at least, not in the financial sense.  They wanted it to be free as in freedom”.

Posted by Joseph Peart

Generals and chief executives should read Adbusters and watch Juice TV (MTV).  They will find that there is a deep vein of discontent throughout global communities which expresses itself in the dissident glossy magazine Adbusters (which challenges our consumer society) and ‘gangsta rap’ (which reflects the violent life of back street USA)… but then you knew that, didn’t you?

For me, those were Social Media well before Web 3.0 or the interactive web.

Of course, it is Social Media, web-driven, that this blog is concerned with, and I now regret spiking the news item that announced at the end of May 2010, that the American Army had arrested Bradley Manning for the leaking the video of an Apache helicopter killing unarmed civilians in Iraq.

I feel cheated because I saw the significance, but thought it would keep. Now it has hit the mass media (seven weeks after appearing in the Economist, June 12th 2010) and I am denied my scoop.

Manning is reported to have lifted 260,000 diplomatic cables and other sensitive intelligence onto a disk labelled “Lady Gaga”, while he lip-synched the words of her songs to pretend he was listening to the cd.  He released these items to Wikileaks, run by Australian former hacker, Julian Assange, who was home educated by a mother who felt that school would suppress his individuality.  President Obama has shrugged off the seriousness of this incident, but the FBI and others may still try to prosecute Assange.

So while it is the interactive web that excites advertisers and the uniformed services, the anarchy that the web provides was evident long before Google or youtube www.youtube.com

Even popular music (not Lady Gaga, but gangsta rap) has been shown to promote lawlessness, according to Sid Kirchheimer, who researched the connection between video viewing and risky behaviours (Kirchheimer, WebMD Health News, March 3, 2003)

Kirchheimer asked: Does rap put teens at risk? And surveyed 522 black girls between the ages of 14 and 18 from non-urban, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods and found that those who watched lots of gangsta videos were:
ú       Three times more likely to hit a teacher
ú       Over 2.5 times more likely to get arrested  
(Retrieved by J Peart 29 July 2010 from http://www.webmd.com/)

Perhaps Adbusters is more responsible.  Its editorial statement reads: “We are a global network of culture jammers and creatives working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society”(https://www.adbusters.org/ ).

Also on the website, there’s a rather sweet misspelling which promotes the print version of Adbusters, and reads: “The Revoltion Issue #91 SEPT/OCT 2010”

WikiLeaks itself saw this moment coming in a leak on 18 March 2008.

The item with that date begins with the portentous introduction: “This document is a classified (SECRET/NOFORN) 32 page U.S. counterintelligence investigation into WikiLeaks.  (retrieved by J Peart on 29 July 2010 from http://wikileaks.org/).

It then goes on to say: “The possibility that current employees or moles within DoD (Department of Defence) or elsewhere in the U.S. government are providing sensitive or classified information to WikiLeaks.org cannot be ruled out.

According to WikiLeaks, the report recommends “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org Web site”( retrieved 29 July from WikiLeaks).

So if you watch Juice TV, read Adbusters or visit WikiLeaks regularly, youi will have a better idea of the true meaning of Social Media.

posted by Joseph Peart
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
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.


Harmonic Date


Blog 09 09 09           
I had to write something today: Not because the date is auspicious for marriage, but because the dreaded, unreal technological 'millennium bug' was associated with an unusual date.

That thought brings to mind our still uneasy relationship with the technology which carries this comment to you so instantly.

A short while ago, I read in the Economist about the ‘cloud’.  This term describes the great mass of stored information and open-source software that is being added daily to the internet. 

Storage capacity will be the new bottle-neck.  Providers are building huge ‘server farms’ near hydro-electricity sources and in colder climates.  We will be able to buy capacity (or rent it) as we need it and do away with having our own larger and larger servers.  (The reason for the locations of choice for these facilities is that apparently one of their greatest costs will be keeping them cool.) 

The articles on the ‘cloud’ of computer capacity and information storage made the point that it is not the hardware, but the applications that will determine the role of software and hardware suppliers.  Soon software as a service will be challenged by the growing host of free applications that we can download (or use without downloading).   

I heard it again from an Apple marketing director who was offering free software and I-phones on loan to AUT students who were willing to think up new applications that would make the product more attractive to users.  This I recognised as an effort to activate marketplace ‘pull’, rather than product sales ‘push’. 

I remembered that I had heard all this much earlier.  Was it ‘the knowledge wave’?  No, it was the ‘imagination economy’:  And it was not Helen Clark, but Geoff Colvin in Fortune magazine, who wrote that ‘the very basis of value creation is shifting from the disciplines of logic and linear thinking to the intuitive processes of creativity and imagination.  Tech advances will cease to confer much competitive advantage…’(Fortune, July 10, 2006 p.33) 

I kept the clipping from Fortune to support my own bromide that ideas, not words, are the ultimate software.  Technology may provide the chisel for carving our creativity and the stone on which it can be writ, but the imagination is what guides the hand.

Posted by Joseph Peart
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


Google Wave is on the way and, from the previews, looks set to change social networks in the same way that Twitter and other microblogging platforms changed blog posting.
For the full introduction, take a look at the preview given at Google O/I - lengthy at an hour and twenty minutes, but you'll soon get the idea.
Also makes me wonder what is in store for webinar providers like WebEx and others and Wave has the potential to change their business model as radically as mainstream news media were changed by the online environment. A watching brief.

Posted by: Catherine Arrow