Monday, February 16, 2009

A few late words on SocComm09

Last week I had the opportunity to attend Jeff Pulver's social media summit, SocComm ''s what I took away from it....

Jeff really is, as Chris Brogan said, a true thought leader. And it's not just because of what Jeff's already done, it's how he thinks about things that may happen in the future. He's one of those guys I've wanted to spend some time around for awhile (and one of the reasons I'd like to get back to NYC--just to occasionally hit his Social Media breakfasts.)

And as Chris and I said to each other in the hallway, "why is it that I have to go away from Massachusetts to run into you?" so odd how we live in the same state but rarely at the same functions in state. Life's funny that way sometimes...

High points of the day were, for me:

Jeff Jarvis interacting with the crowd during his presentation. I've seen Jeff a number of times since 2005, and this was the first time I'd seen him have fun with the crowd. He treated the crowd as if we were (and are)peers, skipping over some of his powerpoint slides saying "you probably already know this" and then had a great back and forth with the audience over the question "how would Google run a restaurant?" The energy was so positive and so good that it made me think he must be pretty fun as a professor...

Shelly Palmer was also fantastic! I've been reading Shelly off and on for about 2 years now, in various places, and on his blog and he was refreshingly no B.S. when it came to the idea of "social networking" (and that it's been around forever.) Shelly wrote his own take on Twitter at SocCom here. Shelly's also one of the few people I've allowed to put me on a newsletter mailing list that I haven't kvetched about. Usually, I find the automatic placing on newsletter lists of people whose business cards you get to be a little presumptuous, but with Shelly, since I read him anyway, it really is a decent way of keeping up with him (although I wouldn't advise too many other people to do that with me--you may end up with a snarky email, as I hate spam.)

Brock Meeks from the Center for Democracy and Technology provided vital counterpoints to a discussion on anonymity that was veering into the absurd. I am always shocked how so many people in the United States do not understand the importance of anonymity (or, more appropriately, pseudonumity) in U.S. history--and are so quick to want to throw away pseudonumity/anonymity as some sort of remedy for online incivility. While we may not suffer from political prosecution for our views (not at this time in history anyway) there are many other reasons for using pseudonymns or being anonymous. We have a long way to go with privacy online to dismiss the importance of anonymity or pseudonumity.

The discussion between Sandra Fathi and Rob Key on "Social Media and Multiple Personality Disorder" also brought up many good points about privacy and protecting one's privacy online. Lots of good thoughts about the blurry line between employees and employers, between one's private online life and if the company one works for should be part of that life. It's another area where the law and people's perceptions of their privacy online have not caught up with the realities of the Internet.

And now for the not so great stuff:

I hesitate to write this because, I've noticed recently, that people are far more aggressive to those critical of their work than they were in the past. The old social media advice used to be to just read the criticism and take it into account--don't necessarily respond. Have a thick skin and get on with life. But now, it's not just responding, but in some cases also suing: using the provisions of the DMCA to stifle speech (as in the case of a rodeo group v. an animal rights group) or claiming defamation (as when an SF chiropractor sued a local artist for a negative review on Yelp) I'm really peeved by this, and will just post my thoughts anyway....

The Mommyblogger panel wasn't that interesting. The panel leader didn't need to explain what a mommyblogger is, and most of what the panel said had to do with "the purchasing power of moms"--a party line I'd heard so many times before over the past four years that, when I start to hear it, I go to my "happy space." Later, in comparing notes with other audience members, we were all rather bothered that the mommyblogger panel didn't address issues around their children's use of social networks or the impact of what they do on their children's privacy --two very important issues that mothers *should* be concerned about.

IMO, the emphasis on mommyblogging diminishes the contributions of women overall to the blogosphere and social media. We are not all mommies, and being a mommy may give one perspective, but not the only perspective held by women vis a vis social media.

and I'm sorry, but while some folks may find him funny, I really wasn't impressed by Gary Vaynerchuck (and know he's now following me on Twitter.) Much of what Gary was saying, around the F-bombs and other sundry swears--wasn't anything new and revolutionary to the bulk of us in the crowd (maybe to a few young guns, but not overall.) I've been both attending and speaking at "social media" conferences of one stripe or another since 2005, and so many times I've heard "you can make money being a content producer!" that I just want to throw up. It used to be "you can make money from blogging!" now the old hype is extended out to all other kinds of social media. Please! it's very difficult for the majority of people to make money strictly from their user-generated content: reasons range from lack of "popular appeal" (let's face it: frat boy behavior and young chicks with big boobs will always get more attention than most other folks) to invisibility in Google. One can make money from a variety of resources connected to their online personae, but when it comes to UGC, the eggs-in-one-basket adage holds true.

Also, enough with "Old media's dead!" stuff. Man! We've been hearing that one for years as well and it's really not quite dead yet (to quote the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) It was esp. weird coming from a guy who, the day after the conference, I saw being very civil on the Today Show. A note to Gary: if you are leveraging old media, as it appears, to bolster new media, then say so. Nothing wrong with that--everybody does it to one degree or another. Don't commit "sins of omission"--just be transparent! (although props again to Shelly Palmer for pointing out that GV makes money from his wine concern as well...)

Maybe it was meant to be comedic relief...but, well, I felt the same way when, at the PDF a couple of years ago, I heard Tom Friedman tell an anecdote I'd heard innumerable times on TV. It was, well, kind of boring....

Another disappointment was the lack of women presenters. Yes, there was one--who seemed a little naive about what she was doing, and that was a little disappointing too. There are many other highly qualified women working in social media--like Sandra Fathi--that it would have been nice to hear one of them address larger issues of social media pertaining to marketing, media, and communications.

Or are women just not there yet in the numbers that men are--and, therefore, give the impression of being "invisible"?

I don't know, but, Jeff Pulver, if you're reading this, let's chat (not that I'm the most qualified, but I might have some really good connections--after all, "I know everybody" ;-) )

So, that's my take on SocComm. Whether you like it or not. It just is--transparent and truthful.

Update Jeff Pulver has a full list of related SocComm blog posts

Monday, February 09, 2009

On the Twitter Team for SocComm09

I'm in New York again (my favorite city in the whole world)and this time to be part of the "Twitter Team" for Jeff Pulver's SocComm09.

Along with finally getting to meet Jeff (another one of those guys I've known off and on for a couple of years and through other folks and a myriad of conversations) I'm very interested in hearing Fred Wilson, as well as Shelley Palmer. Can't wait to catch up with Howard Greenstein
--who I've also known for a few years, off and on, both f2f and thru online and *should* have a chat with as it's been awhile-- and to say hi to Jeff Jarvis (if he's going to have a chance to say "hi" to any of the Twitter Team, or if he'll be bombarded by admirers....seen that happen a time or two...)

There's only one session that I have no interest in. I won't make any scathing notes about it though. As I discovered, there are some issues where I'm just better off saving my breath.

But I might also not stick around for Gary Vaynerchuck. Sure, lots of people like what he does--and I do indeed love a good wine and appreciate recommendations--but Gary's hyper-testosterone-induced delivery isn't fun for me. Perhaps I'm just not his audience...

I wonder, though, who's on the rest of the Twitter team. I have a few ideas, and it's a pretty good guess that I already know some of them. While I'm not NY-based, I'm around in lots of different circles (you'd be surprised the places I go and the people I know :) ) so there's a very good chance of previous acquaintance.

Well, I'll know for sure tomorrow...

If you're interested, you can follow me on twitter: @tishgrier and the hastag is #soccomm09

See you there!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Five Steps for Keeping Your Twitter Stream Spam Free

It was bad enough that some of us have noticed a rise in "Twitter zombies"--now, thanks to a new commercial tool ( you may have to block more than you follow. Dancho Danchev in ZDNet describes this pesky pollution device as having the potential to "empower(ing) phishers, spammers, malware authors and everyone in between with the ability to generate bogus Twitter accounts and spread their campaigns across the micro-blogging service."

How does TweetTornado do its dirty deeds? Danchev says that it "allows users to create unlimited Twitter accounts, add unlimited number of followers, which combined with its ability to automatically update all of bogus accounts through proxy servers with an identical message make it the perfect Twitter spam tool." It essentially exploits a flaw in Twitter's new registration system that doesn't require valid email addresses for new subscribers. (see Danchev's post for more tech-oriented details.)

Oh, thanks a lot Twitter. How hard can it be to send out an automated message to validate new subscribers--and keep the rest of us safe?

Now, there may be a ton of aggressive marketers (as well as nefarious spammers, phishers, etc.) that will think TweetTornado is a cool tool for helping them get their messages into *your* unsuspecting Twitter stream. That's where the best defense is a good offense. Here are a five short steps for keeping your Twitter stream spam-free:

  • 1. Never automatically follow anyone!

  • 2. Read the tweets. What's the content? are they saying anything cool? Linking to anything good? (but be careful of the links! they could take you somewhere you don't want to go.)

  • 3. Check how many followers they have. If they are following tons of people, but few are following back, something's not cool.

  • 4. Read profiles. What does the profile tell you about the follower?

  • 5. Feel free to block! Twitter isn't a contest. It doesn't help you to have as many people follow you as you can get. Esp. if those followers are doing nothing for your stream--and might even be polluting it with spam and phishing schemes.

  • And if you inadvertently end up following a spammer, or even if somebody you think is ok begins to overly-self promote (or some other weirdness starts to occur), there's nothing wrong with un-following and even blocking. I will un-follow someone if I get a "gut feeling" about them, and I will definitely block a spammer. Whether it's a porn spammer, a phisher, or an overly aggressive marketer, spam is spam. Do away with it a.s.a.p.!

    The key is to use your good judgment. And eventually, TweetTornado will end up in the deadpool.

    Further: TechCrunch IT mentions "twitter squatting" The Twitter equivalent of domain squatting. And it was bound to happen.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Scoopt shuts down, Pajamas Media quits blogs

    Two upheavals in the citizen-generated media world: Scoopt, which sold "amateur" pics to news agencies is shutting down and right-wing blog network Pajamas Media is shuttering its blogging arm in favor of Pajamas TV (a talking-head video franchise)

    Scoopt was the first agency to sell citizen generated photo-journalism. Scoopt gave owners of sold photos 40% of what they made and held a 12-month exclusivity on photos. Founder Kyle MacRae says Scoopt was the first agency to "monetise citizen journalism"--not sure of that claim when it comes to print, but they may indeed have been the first to pay for citizen-generate news photos (London bombing photos being the first.) Scoopt was purchased by Getty Images, so it makes me wonder if Getty Images is planning to accept "citizen" photo-journalism directly from citizens. If Getty moves in this direction, will they pay for the photos, and what sort of terms will they have on exclusivity?

    Meanwhile, Pajamas Media really is stabbing right-wing bloggers where they live--sadly--and putting its efforts into Pajamas TV. I saw the Pajamas TV people pitching pretty heavily in the exhibitors' hall at BlogWorld Expo, but had no idea they'd be shutting down their blogs in favor of the video end of things. Pam Gellar at Atlas Shrugs, an original PJM blogger registers deep frustration:
    I was one of the original pajama bloggers. I thought PJM was going to rival AP, UPI, Reuters. Finally, a news portal of citizen bloggers and journalists that would counter the Pali stringers and left wing biased journalists of the news gathering agencies. But PJM went off the rails. Simon decided to chase big names for big money, but to what end? Who needed another NRO or WSJ Best of the Web? And unlike the left, where Soros, Hollywood libtards and Google-type asshats embarrassingly fund the leftwing sites vis a vis et al, the right has none of that. None. We live on fumes. G-d bless our small advertisers and our readers who contribute.

    And Ann Althouse raises some important points about video:must say, I can barely stand to watch any political talking heads TV shows, even on network TV and cable TV. I just have no patience waiting for people to say something that I could read in 1/10 the time. . ." True! very true! Ann then notes Instapundit's remarks re Pajamas TV, and wonders "But do you want to watch him on web TV?

    For me, Instapundit was always a quick read--and most interesting for the links he gave to lesser-known bloggers. How does linking translate into video? It doesn't!

    Linking aside, IMO, moving to an all-video platform this is a *really* stupid move, as not everyone wants to be doing video. Not everyone has the face for video. The old saying used to be "you have a face for radio." Well, in new media, you could have a "face for blogs" without having to go into the video space.

    And not everyone has the time to sit and listen to a talking head--let alone find a way to reference a talking head to comment on said talking head's prattle.

    So, while there were never enough catastrophes to help keep Scoopt afloat, the collapse of Pajamas seems to be predicated on mismanagement. I hate to see anything shut down, but we are indeed in a time of experimentation, and we are learning as we go along. As Scoopt's MacRae wrote in a piece for the Press-Gazette in 2006: "The trouble with any start-up, especially a dotcom start-up in a brand new media space, is that you don't know any of the answers before you have to sell your house to find out."

    There are lessons to be learned from both Scoopt and Pajamas' closings--but the lesson isn't that "citizen journalism doesn't work," as I'm sure old media would like to say. It's more that we are in a transition, and that we haven't found the right business model yet for new media any more than we have for old media like newspapers and TV (which is also having its problems with a failing business model.)

    It would be nice if someone would do a post-mortem on Scoopt and Pajamas. Would be interesting to hear the lessons learned from folks in the know....

    Just a thought...

    (hat tip to @gmarkham for the Scoopt scoop)