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Really not necessary. Really.
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..characterized by good society.

..waking up and knowing you’re on the road to where you want to go, even if you don’t know where it will take you.

..a warm bum.

..an idea worth pursuing.

..hearing the laughter of children.

Thanks to Adam, Charles, Lloyd and Paul for sharing. You can tell me social media is pointless, useless or somethingelse-less. But the truth is, it rocks.

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An interesting but not really mind-blowing take on how Facebook users are apparently likely to be more educated than MySpace users. It’s not a shock given that Facebook started life as a college based networking site (up until some months ago you had to have your university on the facebook list and have access to email from that institution to join).

And to think it took a six month research project to come to this conclusion. Oh dear.

Read the article here.

Brandrepublic Forum discussion thread here.

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Last week I was at Chinwag’s latest event, The Darkside of Social Media. It was definitely thought provoking. However/but/etc I was quite disappointed/but not really shocked to see the vast majority of traditional agencies not present on the guest list. But that’s not something Chinwag had control of.

The panel (as listed by Chinwag) consisted of Luke Razzell, Tim Ireland, Mike Barrett, James Cherkoff, Cristiano Ventura and chair Mike Butcher. Be sure to check out Amelia’s and Peter’s blogs as they were there and will no doubt have more eloquent and thoughtful insights.

I found it a little ironic that MySpace and Facebook kindly refused to attend, thinking that they would have various cans of whoop ass opened up on them at the event. Why ironic? In my mind it alludes to a total lack of confidence in the product they’re pushing. As a guestimate, MySpace has 8 million subscribers and Facebook 2 million. If that many people have signed up, and have by and large behaved themselves, would you not at least have the temerity to show your face at an event where by its nature (i.e. it being a communications centric crowd) the audience would be sympathetic to what you’re trying to achieve? I would have thought so. But MySpace and Facebook obviously didn’t. Regardless, it was great to see MSN Spaces represented on the panel.

While all in attendance got the requisite horror stories (and I’m not trying to sweep them under the carpet, just that you usually hear about the same sorts of cases when talk turns to social networking), I think that generally the outlook for social networks that I got from all I talked to was one of cautious optimism. The truth really is that social media is not going to change the way people are, because intrinsically we as a collective body (the human race) are pretty much the same as we were 50 years ago in terms of the good, the bad and the ugly. You still have criminals, whether you’re in 1883 or 1956 or 2007, you still have crackpot stalkers, and you will always always always have freeloading teenagers who will jump on any bandwagon that is a free party and the opportunity to trash someone’s house.

It’s just that now we are experiencing changes in the way our collective antics, good and bad are a) communicated to the general public – hello sensationalist media (funny how when a huge paedophilia ring was busted because of MySpace it was buried in the broadsheets, but the MySpace party house that was trashed was screamed about from the rooftops – more irony) and b) communicated to our friends and their friends and their friends (you get the picture). Because obviously social networks/email/IM/text allow events/news to spread much quicker than say 15 years ago. But people are still people and will always be people. And I feel that solutions weren’t that forthcoming from the majority of the panel, which was probably due to the time-constraint (and no – ‘don’t use the internet’ is not a solution).

I really like James Cherkoff’s statement that ‘The Internet is the real world’ because I’m positive that some people (Hello Daily Mail) like to put the view out that the Internet is a haven for child abusers, terrorists and (as I’ve heard some people put it) generally bad eggs. But it’s not. Yes it makes it easier for such people to communicate but then it does that for all people. The internet is not discriminatory, if you will. But the fact that it isn’t puts a little more onus on the good among us to indulge in what the panel referred to as social self policing. If someone is being a jerk let them know. And be loud about it. It seems like generally, we’re more likely to put up with bad behaviour these days, when you have a punk kid blasting beats from the phone around his neck, people don’t really feel like they can say anything to him, yet all are royally annoyed. Why? Tell the kid to turn it off. He/she usually will, or will go off on an angst-ridden expletive-laced tirade that will showcase his/her intellect and give everyone on the bus/tube/train a good chuckle and a story to tell when they get home. It’s not socialist to give a damn (at this point I realize I may have gone off on a tangent – but there you go).

There are some things though that social media is throwing up that we aren’t used to dealing with and will therefore need to get to grips with pretty sharp-ish. The issue of cyber-bullying is one. Kids (and I know this because I still am one) can be really really evil. And the net gives them an opportunity to hunt in large(r) packs and prey on those who are a little different. So schools (and parents) really need to come up with ways to minimize this. I’m afraid at this stage of the night I can’t offer many suggestions, only comments. Astroturfing and general fake forum-based flashmobbing is another issue that was raised, particularly in the arena of politics – one that is gradually coming to grips with the web and its communicative power, a power that can be abused. Now this idea of creating numerous avatars and indulging in flaming is not new (I’ve frequented videogame forums for many years and the fanboy culture breeds this), but when politicians and members of society who we should hold to a higher moral standard (and who inevitably fail to reach any kind of standard – especially where money and power are involved) start to act like teenagers talking about how ‘Sony ROCKS, Nintendo = trash’, we need to begin to consider how to avoid this.

The issue of child abuse is a delicate one, yes the internet makes it easier and yes children are generally more aware of this kind of thing and aren’t very likely to give out detailed details about themselves online, but it does happen (as was pointed out by an attendee who worked for the NSPCC). And I think a large part of it (and again this may just be my warped opinion) comes down to parenting – or parents showing an interest in their kids’ lives. I started getting online in the mid-late 90s (so I am old school), when the chat rooms on ICQ and later Yahoo were the places we’d do the bulk of our communicating. And I distinctly remember my Mom and Dad taking an interest in how this internet thing worked, and asking me if I had talked to any cool people. It wasn’t invasive, it was inquisitive. And because of this interest, I felt the door was always open to let them know if I was weirded out by anything. If you see the internet as a way to get the kids to shut up and leave us alone, they will a) be insecure about themselves – they’ll think ‘is something wrong with me’ and b) they’ll look for attention from anyone online. And it’s when kids are feeling psychologically vulnerable that bad things can happen.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, there were those in the audience (like me) that thought the rise of social media is an amazing thing. My reasons? Pretty simple I think, it means I can keep in touch with friends from way back who are all over the world, it means I realize how close to truth the whole six degrees of separation is, it definitely keeps you honest (the whole world can see you now) and the mere fact that anyone is reading this sentence is a testament to the power of social media. Your voice can be heard on a greater stage now. And for me that really is it. The internet amplifies us all, every part of us (and by us I mean humans collectively). So the good is louder, the bad is darker and the uglier is sadly more twisted and ugly. But it really is still just us. And if you think that it’s all doom and gloom, well the internet really isn’t the root of your problem. And yes there are problems that this amplification throws up. But maybe we all have to take the initiative and police our own corner of cyberspace a little. And keep plugging the amazingly cool things that social media kicks up, like for me all the friends I’ve made online, I mean Anton and I wouldn’t write this damn blog had it not been for forums. And things like Interesting2007, and Chinwag, and the ability to meet people who I really have no business meeting like George and Charles and Amelia and Peter and Piers and and the list goes on (and you’re all on it..). And something that wasn’t touched upon is the empowerment this gives you. It makes me feel good. Like really good. And the good will always outweigh the bad, so let’s try and tip the scales a little more.

The stage is yours…

(A big thank you to Chinwag and Emily in particular for hooking me up with a ticket for this event. Make sure you register for the Chinwag Summer Party – it’s gonna be biblical!)

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GVoyeur?

Google Maps and Google Earth are really cool tools. The ability to zoom to almost street level anywhere in the world is gimmicky for sure, but still something that definitely sparks oohs and aahs when put on show to find an old home. Or anything for that matter. And if / when you see your car in the drive of your house, it’s not creepy, just a wonder of technology, and after all Google Maps / Earth isn’t updating the image of your street regularly enough for it to show your movements.

But what about Streetview? Streetview is the newest addition to Google Maps and gives 360 degree street level views of you guessed it, streets. Currently available for New York, Miami, Denver Las Vegas and Los Angeles (with plans to expand this quickly no doubt), Google sends employees around cities in Google Vans armed with cameras to take these pictures of streets. And anyone and anything that happens to be on those streets when said picture are being taken.

It’s adding new functionality to Google Maps for sure (and the public has been quick to set up sites dedicated to the best pictures from the service – check some out here and here), but some issues related to the P-word (privacy, that is) are cropping up. People are being photographed doing things they may not necessarily want the world to know about, like taking a quick break from work, walking out of a gentleman’s club, or grabbing parts of themselves that are better grabbed in the privacy of your own home. All this leads to the question that has been floating around for the last couple of weeks, and that is, if this was the FBI / MI5 / or any government organization snapping away on our streets in such a conspicuous manner, would we still be relatively docile about it?

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of the dot com boom (and then by definition maybe a burst?) seems to be underway. But this time it’s all about social networking and making connections, I think. Last.FM got picked up by American media giant CBS (story here and reaction here) a few days back and it seems there’s a feeling in large corporate media land that social media, in all it’s forms is where the cash cow is grazing.

Please please please don’t go overboard and brand it to hell. And don’t try to funnel users down a specific path because it will make you a little bit more money. That will wreck it for us. That would not be cool.

(In what I hope is not a blind coincidence, BigShinyThing have written a piece about this in much greater detail and quality here – I hope it’s not a coincidence because I’d like think that I’m clever just like them).

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This is my picture, use it and I will come after you

Today has been a day of catching up on the ‘I should blog about that’ list. So I’ll press on. This post is broadly about how the internet is making it harder to hide yourself. By that I mean your whole self. Convergence and social networking and web 2.0 have all unwittingly contrived to make it that you’re on display all day, everyday. To everyone.

Reading Faris’, Will’s, Amelia’s and Graeme’s posts that are broadly (won’t use that word again, promise) related has helped to arrange some thoughts in my head. So shoutouts to them.

See, here’s the thing, I used to have these boxes where I could put myself into, I’d talk to my old friends who live overseas (that’s where I come from see) by email / instant messenger, I’d phone / text my island based peeps, I’d sit on the Brand Republic forums as an anonymous screen name, flaming without fear of judgement and work type colleagues had another email address that wasn’t quite as embarrassing as the one all my old friends knew. It was easy and I knew when I used each respective medium which Sam I was about to become. Simple.

To be honest the whole MySpace bandwagon passed me by a little, the music kept me going back but I didn’t feel as if I had to check it at certain intervals, I wasn’t going to miss anything if I didn’t. And frankly not enough of my friends were on it in the first place.

Facebook was the first proverbial shot to the head, it’s addictive, easy, well thought out and free of the clutter that turns some people off MySpace. And all of my friends were on it, be they in England or around the world. So quickly it became a place where everyone could reach me. Be they friend, university person, colleague or potential employer. All of a sudden you go from being able to control your projection to having to gauge your reflection in different light. And it is strange because everyone is different in different social situations, but on Facebook you can’t be, because you’re there all the time, your profile is there for everyone all day. And it’s not like Hi5 because it’s not only a vaguely homogenous group of people that are on there. Now almost everyone is on there, or getting on. So your old friends, new friends, everyone, they all see the same thing. And all of a sudden explaining that SJ = Sammy J = ..embarrassing afternoon 7 years ago… isn’t quite as appropriate with someone who’s interviewing you next week as it might be with your homeboys from back in the day. And that’s just the start, del.icio.us is now a window into your browsing habits for all to see and share in, this blog is mine and Anton’s thoughts, Twitter, Jaiku CoComment, LinkedIn…the list goes on.

And you feel compelled to dive into every single one because you want to be known to everyone (especially for someone like me, trying to get to grips with the ad industry), but you don’t want everyone to know you, all at the same time. A conundrum, if you will.

So you hide yourself in layers of social networking because it’s great to have your storefront on the web 24/7 no matter what form it takes but at the same time there’s something about all of us that’s individual and not only can you not express that in words and pictures but you shouldn’t even try to, because you lose some of that (for want of a better word) soul that makes every person that specific person. What I’m trying to get at (partly) is that judging someone from all these things is increasingly easy, but meeting the person is still meeting the person which is still the only real way of knowing the person (way too much person in that sentence).

But Facebook is rocking. And I think (and hope because I don’t want to have to re-pimp my dust-gathered Beebo / Hi5 profiles up again) it’s the real deal and therefore here to stay.

And that’s a wrap, and a great way to finish the day.

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