January 31, 2007 by Colin
Longform writers feel under tremendous pressure from the free-flowing and often ill-considered commentariat – so says a rather longwinded* but amusing article by Gary Kamiya in Salon. The degradation of the traditional barriers between professional writers and their critics is creating pressures that may affect the development of the form – and the author.
Frank Shaw notes that equally important is effect ill-considered comments have upon the discovery and appreciation of genuinely insightful comments buried in a thread full of crap. “The signal to noise ratio is increasingly becoming an issue, and finding the gold involves sifting through a ton of sand.”
Some selected quotes from the Salon piece:
“…Then Al Gore invented the Internet and everything changed. Pieces that in the olden days would have garnered five or six letters suddenly inspired more commentary than a rerun of “Gilligan’s Island” in a cultural studies class. The floodgates opened, and in charged the masses — some filled with fulsome praise, others waving scimitars and dragging siege machinery into place, others ranting about their ex-wives …”(Salon)
“…This is an age of massive feedback, but it’s hard to deny that the collective American mind, now that its amp is turned up to 11, sounds a lot like Mötley Crüe.”
“…The context of online communication is more like being in your car in a traffic jam than sitting across a table from someone and having a talk — and it’s easy to flip somebody off through a rolled-up window. As a result, the kind of people who are prone to flipping others off, braying obscenities and ranting pointlessly are disproportionately represented in online letters sections and reader blogs.
“…The letters pages of Salon, like every other online magazine that doesn’t filter its posts, is a classic spaghetti western — the good, the bad and a really heavy dose of Eli Wallach.“
*I know what you’re saying – “Colin, by tagging the article as long-winded, aren’t you guilty of the same crimes to literature being discussed?” Sure, sure. But If I see a 1500 word piece on new media that mentions all of the following, I consider it long-winded:
- Lord Byron
- Walt Whitman
- Triumph of the Will
- Neitzche’s Zarathustra
Yes, yes. I like the piece. Every pretentious sentence is finely crafted and pop culture references are often thrown in to balance the pretention.
[tags] Salon, comment threads, authenticity, trust, authority, new media, author [/tags]
January 31, 2007 by Colin
Party Animals, launching tonight on BBC2, is the latest drama to dig into the lives of political assistants and the others in orbit around the seat of government. Drawing on the saucier aspects of the character’s lives, it has also created a blatantly fake online community tied to the programme – and is beginning to link that community out to other social sites.
“….Drawing on a wealth of first-hand research it presents Westminster from the ground up – the young researchers and advisors shouldering huge responsibility in a frantic, high-stakes world. It’s no wonder their personal lives are so messy. …” (BBC Show Site)
villagevermin.co.uk is the associated site, and it links out to existing (and legitimate political blogs) like Guido Fawkes. Also to be found is a fake profile for character Scott Foster on dontdatehimgirl.com.
Career Opportunity for Bloggers?
The entries on villagevermin are quite sparse. Is there a career opportunity for new graduates experienced in blogging and social media here? Maybe a new breed of poorly paid production assistant that ONLY maintains the online profiles and manufactured communities?
January 30, 2007 by Colin
In the evolving world of social media, it’s the wild fliers you have to look for, you know. That solid homerun with the unintended consequences. Like a blogger relations strategy that goes hinky. Or a word of mouth campaign that slowly builds up some substantial and negative street-level karma.
It’s like going to a baseball game with the gang from work and witnessing a homerun derby – then discovering that one of the homeruns went through the windshield of the boss’ Escalade.
What’s the point of selling the management team on a new and innovative strategy if you don’t outline some of the risks that may accompany it? A capable counsellor always tempers their pie-in-the-sky projections with a dose of reality. For example: our blogger relations program could help influence online opinion of our new program – or it could really irritate one particularly influential commentator.
Preparing the groundwork before launching your new communications strategy will insulate it from unintended consequences.
Some ways a social media strategy can go hinky:
- You target bloggers with an unrelated interest or specialty, and they write about it
- Your new campaign comes with eau de toilette: the specialists you hired have screwed up so many campaigns in the past their work is automatically discounted
- Over-hyping your innovative new outreach strategy to the traditional media alienates social media and online outlets
- Hip to be square: trying to look edgy and innovative never sells as well as you’d imagined
- The bloggers you target aren’t transparent about their relationship, but the blame blows back on your company
- That new car smell: the executives get so excited about trying something new that they overlook the poor fit with actual business strategy. They later abandon the project without support
- One of your executives tries to influence the company’s Wikipedia page
- Your street team hires a: felon/female impersonator/ladie’s man
How to prepare for potential risks:
- Make sure the pitch for the business includes a dose of reality
- The social media evangelist should be accompanied by a strategist who can draw the whole media picture. A sober second voice, if you will. Maybe even a planner…
- Follow up on that dose of reality: schedule a discussion of how past social media campaigns have rolled out – including the unmitigated disasters
- The strategy should dentify how to respond to possible complications/crises. This will force everyone involved to work through responsibilities and roles before the crunch comes.
- The customer relations team/call centre HAS to be briefed on the strategy: they’ll be the first to hear of any problems
Any other suggestions?
January 28, 2007 by Colin
Piles upon piles of clothes at Kohls? Paul’s post and pictures prompted a corporate reply – AND a staff blog to pursue the issue. This is a trend that could really take off, and leave no leeway for overworked store staff. Take a look at the 119 comments in reply to the Flickr gallery “Filthy WalMart” – which range from understanding to shocked to, frankly, obviously planted by a corporate spokesperson somewhere.
To be honest, it just looks like the evening staff were having a bad night. Maybe the crew from Career Opportunities were working that shift. (shout out to Jennifer Connelly and Frank Whaley! And Betty Boo!)
Some sample comments:
As a former supermarket employee, I have to say, in all fairness, that Sundays are the hardest day on a store, especially since that’s usually one of the busier days, plus, depending on the circumstances, one’s where staff get some sort of premium pay.
That being said, those holes (lingo) in the Grocery, HABA, Produce, and Frozen are unacceptable, and certainly didn’t appear after one days sales (or one weekend, for that matter). Someone’s getting fired, and by someone, I mean store management.
In other news, I can’t wait until Walmarts DMCA cease and desist for in-store photography threatening their intellectual property hits Flickr, cuz you know it’s coming… (rzklkng)
But did you get greeted on the way in? (A Hunted Joy)
[tags] Wal-Mart, groceries, night staff, sloppy customers [/tags]
January 27, 2007 by Colin
The advertising community is still stunned that Fabio is a continuing draw for online audiences. Nationwide Insurance’s Super Bowl ad, which featured the long haired bohunk poling down the canals of Venice (or the Venetian hotel in Vegas), kept pulling viewers long after its first airing during the 2006 Super Bowl.
In true “B” star fashion, Fabio made sure his sponsors kept up on the info. Nationwide’s VP for advertising and brand management made that point in a New York Times piece about maintaining the buzz built from a Super Bowl placement:
“We got 1.8 million downloads on that one site. Fabio himself keeps me apprised of that.” (NYT)
Fabio’s life would be much easier if there was a widget he could install on that VP’s desktop.
Imagine what other information could be simply and efficiently distributed through widgets, rather than depending upon online media:
- Minutes Since You Last Saw William Shatner In Media
- Last Person to Misinterpret The Cluetrain Manifesto
- Average Episode Run of New Television Dramas Calculator
- Latest Coochie Flashed to Papparazzi
- Number of PPT Decks to Start With a Hugh Macleod Cartoon
- In/Out of Rehab Updater
- Dating/Not Dating/Slutting Around
- Friends/Not Friends with Paris
- Slept with Wilmer
[tags] Super Bowl, Fabio, Nationwide, widget [/tags]
January 27, 2007 by Colin
In case you didn’t know, Gmail has some problems. And that means problems for you, the Gmail user. The service doesn’t recognize “dots” in an email address – unlike every other email application in the world. This means “cmckay” and “c.mckay” and “catherine.mckay” may all be treated the same.
I own the c.mckay email addy. Gmail let me create it, what, two years ago? At the time, there was no mention that following the DOT convention might cause problems.
Well, it has – but not for me.
For Catherine McKay of London, whose confirmation email for a pre-Christmas peformance at the National Theatre landed in my inbox. (Compelete with home address and partial credit card information. I tried to email this person, but Gmail returned the email to my inbox. I deleted the message)
For an undetermined “C.McKay” whose USC Trojan alumni newsletters are misdirected.
For another C McKay who apparently filed their income tax return electronically today. I know they did, because the Santa Barbara Bank and Trust sent me confirmation that their refund would be deposited in their account (login addy and confirmation number provided) by February 9.
I know that last one isn’t spam, because I also received the confirmation from Intuit’s Turbo Tax confirming that the income tax return had been accepted.
I guess I’m joining the chorus asking if Google actually plans to take any of their products out of beta – or is that a strategy to avoid dealing with the repurcussions of their mistakes?
[tags] Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, National Theatre, Gmail, Google [/tags]
January 26, 2007 by Colin
“Aren’t you there to make sure the English language isn’t pissed on by your sub-editors? … Is it sinking into your thick skull, you high school dropout?” (SF Chronicle)
The San Francisco Chronicle has begun to make selected voice mails from readers available as a podcast. The series is called Correct Me If I’m Wrong. (h/t to Romenesko)
This is quite original. The Chronicle is now reinterpreting materials produced as part of its everyday relationship with Chronicle readers, drawing upon now-conventional podcasting methods to generate additional media for Chron properties.
I wonder if callers are warned their recorded voice could be distributed online (I tried to check, but couldn’t find the “letters to the editor” phone number. Maybe it’s the Chron’s general exchange number.)
I’d argue, though, that most podcasters exercise some discretion when picking which comment or voice mail to replay – often dropping the rude, unintelligible or pedantic.
The Chron, on the other hand, tagged this first podcast under “Correct Me If I’m Wrong …” and “Comedy.”
I like it.
[tags] Correct Me If I’m Wrong, SFGate, San Francisco Chronicle, letters to the editor [/tags]
January 26, 2007 by Colin
“There’s always going to be two sides to every story. Mine’s going to be `No comment’.”
That’s Malcolm Lee, the head of a bus company in Northern England. Upon losing a labour tribunal ruling, he was ordered to pay 2,300 pounds to a former employee. He paid up in full – a one thousand pound cheque, and a huge and heavy box of small denomination coins to make up the other 1,300 pounds.
January 24, 2007 by Colin
Enjoying a sweet dessert sensation from McDonald’s this afternoon, I noticed some highly unusual packaging. Here’s a hint:
She’s my cherry pie
Cool drink of water
Such a sweet surprise
Tastes so good make a grown man cry
Sweet cherry pie
This item on the value menu seemed to be communicating a subliminal message to me. It’s almost like Warrant wrote the copy on the box.
Let’s break it down, shall we?
- Cherry Pie. ‘Enuf said.
- Check out the guy with the wraparound shades.*
- Check out the smirk on the guy with the wraparound shades, aimed right at you.
- That smirk’s lecherous intent is further exaggerated by the tag line: “i’m lovin’ it”
- What’s with the girlfriend, in a clearly submissive pose? A $1.49 pie causes this kind of reaction? Maybe if you’re stoned … or baked, as the kids might say.
- Her reaction is clearly reminiscent of 80s hair metal videos. She might as well be posing across a Jaguar.
- “CAUTION: FILLING IS HOT!” Might as well finish that consumer safety warning off with an imperative: “GIRLFRIEND! HOT I SAID!”
For the younger crowd, Warrant’s Cherry Pie might not be familiar as a hair metal song, but as part of the audition sequence in the cheerleading flick “Bring it on!”. (Youtube, skip to 6:33)
*Or are those Vuarnet sunglasses?
[tags] hair metal, cherry pie, warrant, Mcdonalds, value menu [/tags]
January 24, 2007 by Colin
Stick figures in peril, the Flickr group. Looks like kids have particular concerns: being struck down by the evil cloud of electricity, and concussions from daddies in a rush.
This sign from Italy warns young lovers that it’s especially risky to try to recreate the “train scene” from Risky Business: not only could you fall out the door at the next stop, but your foot could get stuck between the train and the platform. I call it “booty fall.”
January 23, 2007 by Colin
I’ll tell you what disappoints me about the future. ‘Cause you want to know. You really do. You know what disappoints me? The haphazard application of perspective.
I remember how the future was supposed to turn out. Handheld computers with touch screens? Check. Phones that plug into your ear? Check. Overbearing governments with exaggerated sense of certainty? Check. Wierd little cars that seem underpowered and designed solely for French pensioners? Check. Cradle to grave monitoring by the security establishment? Check.
The boundless power of information management was in every vision of the future sold to us by fanciful movies like Brazil, Farenheit 451 and 1984. But it was a shoddy bill of goods. Why? Because all those smart writers and directors assumed that some things would remain constant – like standards of quality and presentation in photography.
The personnel files continually flashed on screen always had traditional mug shot poses. Like your school pictures – stand up straight, look forward, and don’t smile too much. The surveillance film always looked like it was shot by a professional cinematographer with a three camera unit … completely realistic …
Well, the future is nothing like that. Thanks to camphones, the perspective has shifted. It’s obvious those photo booths at the mall are sitting unused. The lady down at the drycleaners is having a hard time selling passport photos. The schmuck at Sears is putting a hell of a lot more oversized pencils and velvet curtains as props in his work.
Take Paul’s picture over here. Looks normal, right? NOPE. Look at the drooping right shoulder. Clear sign that he home skooled his portrait. The only reason it doesn’t look worse is because I cropped it. Take a look at the original. Or take a look at Jeremy’s picture – the gangsta original.
This is a blogger epidemic. On countless blogs and MySpace pages, writers look like they’re midway through trying to cop a feel. HONK!
The motion is familiar to most guys. It’s the traditional reach-around, but this time the Canon SureShot’s the one looking sweet and approachable.
To be fair, there are other photo crimes being perpetrated by bloggers – like the unrealistic perspective shot. Here’s a shot of Sean – it may have been an ambitious reach-around, or maybe the picture was taken by a twelve inch Steve Austin action figure with the bionic eye standing on the coffee table.
Sure. You’ve seen worse on Craigslist. Who hasn’t? There’s a disease of self-love, people. Kids today are getting used to seeing pictures with a distorted perspective, an asymmetrical view of the subject and a distorted view of the tableau being framed.
Trouble is, it doesn’t take Pablo Picasso to pick up a camphone, retreat to his room and send a completely inappropriate drunk dial pic to his entire contact list.
[tags] camera phone, cam phone, blogger profile, blogger pic, about me, pic included [/tags]
January 20, 2007 by Colin
Once again, a fake letter from Craig Newmark.
UPDATE NOTE: Obviously, this is not a real letter. It has not circulated anywhere. It’s meant as wry commentary on the fickle nature of the media and their eagerness to find a simple answer to complex questions. Craig is too nice a person to write something like this.
[tags] Craigslist, YouTube, Chad Hurley [/tags]
January 19, 2007 by Colin
“Say Blogosphere Again” – from Coolestshop.com
January 18, 2007 by Colin
From Steve Rubel’s post about his cheque from the Blogburst network:
“Clearly the way journalists and bloggers are being compensated is changing. However, everyone really should disclose the mechanics of how they are rewarded. Why should there be a double standard for the level of disclosure for journalists vs. bloggers when it comes to new models of compensation? We’re all part of the media fabric now. This should especially be revealed when anyone is being compensated based on traffic.
…But the point I want to make here is that no blogger – full-time pro or part-time paid – is exempt from disclosing how (not necessarily how much) they are paid and who is paying them.”
So – let’s say you’re the evangelist for a social media practice at a largish public relations agency. Your pay is directly related to your ability to demonstrate thought leadership in the subject, and your workload is divided between blogging, client service, client pitches, and conference presentations.
What proportion of your salary should you disclose, Steve?
This is an important question for bloggers and social media consultants as the world of blogging makes the transition from idealism to practical (read monetized) application.
The idea of disclosing all side interests, compensation deals or product placements that support a blog is a goal. As more and more bloggers develop viable careers from their work, can this be put into place with any level of accuracy?
[tags] Steve Rubel, blogger compensation, pay per post, blogger ethics[/tags]
January 17, 2007 by Colin
Today, I came across an animated gif used to illustrate a retail solution for an unnamed supplier. Even at first glance, there are some strange things going on in that shopping cart:
- Bread and eggs. Two different damn corners of the supermarket.
- Two big bottles of white wine. Are your friends coming over?
- Right beside the red peppers – is that a jar of Marshmallow Fluff?
- Two six-packs of Heineken. Are the significant others retreating to the home theatre?
- She has extremely stumpy legs, but
- A stylish A-line skirt and fitted t-shirt.
- And we finish with Karl Pilkington‘s head.