Monthly Archives: February 2012

Think Ignorance is Bliss? Think Again

I recently came across David McMillan’s blog post  How to Ruin Your Life in 14 Minutes: Or Why We Need a Serious Conversation About the Ethics of Social Media on the Huffington Post and he addressed an issue I’ve been pondering for some time. In my previous blog post, I wrote about the consequences of social media for journalists and pr professionals. However, I didn’t talk about the consequences that uses of social media pose for individuals who don’t work in an media related field.

McMillan specifically addresses one of our previous discussions in class, teen use of social media. The general consensus in class was that teens were better equipped to use social media, however I would have to disagree. I think teens, as well as many young adults, aren’t aware of the long-term consequences that social media poses for individuals. Now, no one was given a guide about how to use social media when it first came out, and privacy policies and viewing preferences are ever changing in the social media world, but rarely is one given a pass for not being knowledgable of such things.

There has been a lot of conversation about what media literacy education should and shouldn’t consist of, as well as if it’s even relevant. I think media literacy is very relevant and that any media literacy  curriculum should focus extensively on social media and online identities.

Although some think ignorance is bliss, the repercussions of ignorance most certainly are not.

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The truth about dogs

I have never been a dog lover.  In fact, up until about six months ago I downright loathed them.  Before you write me off as un-American, you should know that I was the unfortunate witness to the mauling of my pet duck, Daffy, at the hands of a german shepherd as a kid.  (It turns out that Daffy lived, but he had to “go away.”  We never saw him again.)

It took many years for me to break my prejudice against all canines, mostly through repeated exposure to my best friend’s 180 lb. great dane.  It also happens that the vast majority of humans seem to love dogs, so I really had no choice but to grudgingly accept them as a necessary, albeit unfortunate, part of my existence.

Two years ago I met Sophie, my friend’s miniature schnauzer.  She does not like anyone, yet somehow she decided I was worthy of her affections.  I am not really an animal person in general, and it seems to me that animals can sense this in humans, and it makes them want to swarm those humans they perceive not to be fans.  For example, me.

So what on earth does any of this have to do with social media?  I am undertaking the task of dog-sitting Sophie for several months, and the whole thing is a learning experience.  Thankfully, one can consult Youtube when one has no idea of how to give a dog a bath.

 

While Andrew Keen may think that, “the convicts [are] running the asylum,” also quoted by Andrea in another post, the content created by amateurs and posted to social networking sites can be invaluable for a vast and varied audience.  The challenge for users is in sifting through the useless or irrelevant content to find the information needed.  Although ever-shifting privacy policies by the likes of Google and others do pose challenges, metrics that affect searches for topics relevant to the individual will be helpful in many ways.

Because this targeted searching may, and very likely will, limit the variety of information received by an individual, the impetus is then placed on that individual to recognize when they are receiving one-sided information.  To achieve this end, media literacy must be increased in the individual user.  The questions is, how do we do this?

It wasn't as bad as I expected

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Bad Boys, Bad Boys, Whatcha you gonna do when the Cops friend you on FaceBook? (I swear, I thought I had a better line)

On Thursday, I sat down at my desk with a Miller High Life and read District Attorney Edward Marsico’s article about using Social Media to catch criminals. I was struck by the effectiveness to which Police use sites such as Twitter and Facebook to catch various criminals, notably gang violence and pedophiles.

As Marsico noted, whenever there is a jump in technology, criminals are the first to utilize it for despicable means. Many law enforcement officials knew that one way to combat activity were to beat the criminal at their own game. 

My question, where do we draw the line between finding justice and violating someone’s right of privacy?

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Facebook and privacy

The New York Times has a thought-provoking article on how Facebook uses our collective data, including not just “Weblining,” but also how Facebook data could be used to make decisions that affect you, even if you aren’t a user!

Do you agree with Lori Andrews’ conclusion that “We need a do-not-track law, similar to the do-not-call one”?

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An Alternative Meaning for Love

As a graduate student and former UGA tennis player, I wanted to investigate an alternative definition for the word love. Valentine’s Day, a red rose, chocolates and romance. These are all things that are associated with the word love. Love comes from the Latin words lubet, meaning ‘it is pleasing’, and lubido, meaning desire. Webster’s dictionary defines love “as a strong affection for another arising out of kinship, personal ties, admiration, or attraction based on sexual desire.” Seeing as how Valentine’s Day just passed, you would think I would be inspired to talk about love, but on the contrary I am a little bitter. To many people love is everything, but to me love is nothing.

That’s right I decided to research the meaning of the word love in tennis. Love in tennis means nothing, nada, zilch, zero, YOU ARE LOSING. Scoring in tennis for a single game goes love, 15, 30, 40, game. There is nothing worse than the feeling of the umpire yelling love-40 when you are about to serve. The use of the word in tennis is actually of much debate. There are three main arguments about how love came to signify zero in the game of tennis.

The first theory argues that tennis is a gentlemen’s sport and by using the word love, instead of zero or nothing, makes your opponent feel better.

The second theory claims that love came to be used from the phrase “to play for the love of the game” or in other words “to play for nothing”. It was thought tennis should be a cordial and fun game that did not deal with winnings, but only played for enjoyment.

Lastly, and my personal favorite, is the French egg theory. Many scholars claim this is the true origin of the use of the word love in tennis. Society at large thinks of tennis being played by English kings and queens and the historic event of Wimbledon, but tennis actually dates back further in French history. The value of nothing is symbolized by the number zero, which resembles the shape of an egg. French tennis players used the word for egg, which is “l’oeuf” in French, to announce “no score”. When tennis crossed over to the English, the word l’oeuf was changed to the English word love by British players because of the similar pronunciation and spelling.

As you can see, the word love can have several different meanings that are completely opposite of each other.  Hopefully one day I will understand a different kind of love, but just remember the next time you use the word love, especially when talking to a tennis player, it is not always a good thing.

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Navigating Social Media: New Guidelines For Journalists

I was recently reviewing the SPJ Code of Ethics and in light of recent incidents such as Roland Martin’s suspension from CNN for tweets made during the super bowl, I think clearer social media guidelines should be established for journalists. The SPJ Code of Ethics doesn’t mention social media, as it was last updated in 1997 (prior to the social media boom of the 2000’s. However, I found a very interesting blog post from Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement & Social Media, Digital First Media, that speaks to this very topic.

If I were updating the SPJ Code of Ethics I would address the following:

Professional vs. Private

How should journalists handle their online identity? I think this is extremely important. Several journalists or commentators have been fired due to comments made via a personal social media platform. While some may argue that journalists shouldn’t make certain comments online, I think that’s extremely unfair. I don’t think journalists should have to live their lives as censored mute beans 24 hours a day/365 days of the year.

Objectivity

The current SPJ Code of Ethics doesn’t include a policy addressing objectivity and think that’s because objectivity is all but impossible in newsrooms. Don’t get me wrong I think journalists should follow guidelines and that reporting should be rooted truth. I think journalists should seek out facts and report it. With the use of social media for sources, fact checking has become even more important, but this idea of objectivity doesn’t serve us well.

Consistency

I think what troubles me the most is that news organizations don’t seem to have a consistent policy for handling how journalists should use social media and what constitutes appropriate usage versus inappropriate usage. I think organizations need to have a clear and concise policies that outlines whether social media identities should be extensions of professional identities or whether journalists can express ideas and opinions of their own.

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Institutional Man

I think that there is a reason that I joined the class blog. When you start a blog, the first question you must answer is what do you want your blog to be about. Food? TV? Music? Hobbies? News Events? Your ridiculous elderly neighbor who has a collection of lawn gnomes and dispenses advice that sounds strikingly similar to a lot of 80’s song lyrics? Now while I could wax poetic about how love is in fact a battlefield, I just don’t think I could do it consistently enough. One or two entries sure, but as a central theme? Maybe I’m not passionate enough about anything or I don’t have the attention span or I’m simply creatively spent as a writer (which if that’s the case, they need to create a more serious sad-face emoticon I can put in here). But in all honesty the why doesn’t matter. All you need to know is that from here on out I’m just going to use this themeless class blog as in outlet for my unfocused brain.

So get ready for a post that has nothing to do with the class material!

I had dinner with a friend of mine recently, and though I hadn’t seen him in years, his attitude was strikingly similar to what I remembered.

He was the bartender at the bar I used to work at and had been bartending for close to a decade. As his thirtieth birthday neared, he had what I call a “service industry crisis.” He saw into his future as a 60 year-old bartender and did a mental freak out. So he quit his job and got what all people in the service industry dream of.

A 9 to 5.

A job with set hours, set salary,…. benefits. I think I’m salivating over it right now as I type. The dream that needs no field or passion or description, simply security.

To this day, three years later, I don’t know what he does. All I know is that he has to wear a suit and he hates everything about his job.

Our dinner consisted of us reminiscing about the old days of slinging drinks and going home at 6AM.

“The good old days,” he called it. I was shocked. All this time he spent getting out of an industry he couldn’t stand, and all he could talk about was how much he missed it. How he wishes he could go back. How things were “simpler,” “easier.” How he wants to be good at something again, like he was back then.

Honestly I don’t blame him. He had gone from the ultimate position of power in downtown Athens to a clog in a corporate machine that I couldn’t even identify. But still, was my friend experiencing second thoughts about his job, or had he actually wanted to return to the bar where he was so unhappy for so long?

The answer, I think, is that my friend had become an institutional man.

An institutional man is a phrase that the Shawshank Redemption made famous. According to the awesome Morgan Freeman, an institutional man was one that had been in prison for so long that eventually he became convinced that he couldn’t exist outside of the prison walls. He was institutionalized. Now if we completely ignore the fact that Morgan Freeman is obviously always right, we can still observe this phenomenon at work. I am 25, I have been a waitress since I was 14, and there are times when I wonder if I can make it on the outside. Even if I get that 9 to 5, I feel that I would be a fraud. Like I’d be wearing a mask, waiting for the time when my employer figures out that who he has actually hired is only a waitress pretending to be corporate employee.

The thoughts are absurd of course, but the self doubt will always be there. I’m institutionalized. And if you think that idea is crazy, hopefully you’re not one of the members of my class whose only job experience comes from the inside of a classroom. Without theoretical framework and AP/APA/MLA style, can you make it on the outside? Practical jobs, for the most part, are not built on the ability to churn out academic papers and presentations. However, after so many consecutive years of schooling, can the average student transition to the real world? Or will we all find ourselves yearning for days of stressing over papers and classes and projects?

In ending this post, I refer to the great and powerful Morgan Freeman, who is obviously always right:

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metrics [ME-triks] -noun

metrics [ME-triks] -noun

  • the application of statistics and mathematical analysis to a field of study.
  • a combining form with the meaning “the science of measuring,” that specified by the initial element: biometricseconometrics.

It sounds like a science, but it is really an art.

Often times, when we are discussing metrics (or web analytics) we are talking about more than just numbers, raw measurement or statistics. Metrics involve the interpretation of of data.

Look at google analytics and you will see the type of data that most people think of when you say [web] “metrics:” Visits, Unique Visitors, Pageviews, Pages/Visit, Avg. Time on Site, Bounce Rate, New Visits, Location, Language, Network, Traffic Sources, Site Speed, Searches, Sales, etc.

This type of information can be helpful on its own, but it is largely one-dimensional. Raw statistics loose significance without context. Good metrics are defined in terms of strategy. What is our goal and what kind of specific statistics indicate success? A statistic like unique visits may be less important than net sales for a business like CustomInk.com that is a totally online operation. The opposite may be true if you are Coca-Cola and your website is more for branding purposes, not sales.

To add dimension to the numbers, metrics can also be constructed in the form of an equation or an aggregation of data. These analytics express valuable but subjective concepts such as loyalty, engagement, and virality. Take Facebook Insights relatively recent introduction of two new metrics: Weekly Total Reach and People Talking About This Total reach refers to the number of unique individuals who saw any content related to your page. People Talking About This combines all likes, posts, check-ins, mentions, etc.

These simplified metrics reflect data that Facebook considers important. However, it is always important to dig deeper in order avoid “measurement inversion.” This is when metrics seem to emphasize what organizations find immediately measurable — even if those are low value — and tend to ignore high value measurements simply because they seem harder to measure (whether they are or not). For example, while Facebook is more interested in measuing the overall “conversation” surrounding a given page, an individual business may be more interested in investigating a particular element, such as check-ins, if that metrics relates to an ongoing promotion.

Metrics are evolving quickly. Batch metrics (collected daily, hourly, etc.) were once the standard. Now, many companies demand real-time metrics, especially when it comes to social media. Advertising metrics that drive much of the value online are constantly being tweaked in an attempt to more accurately reflect the true worth of a given ad. Code metrics that calculate how efficient a program or script is running can get very complicated but are essential for optimizing web performance.

Today, there is a lot of talk about social media metrics. You can think of it as metrics 2.0 [or, even 3.0] . The key distinction between basic web analytics and metics in the social graph are relationships. How are things (both “individuals” and “objects”) related to one another ? These types of interrelationships can be conceptualized by sociograms and emphasize choices and preferences.

Social network analysis software (SNA software) facilitates both quantitative and qualitative analysis of social networks by describing features of a network, either through numerical or visual representation. We now have much more data than we know what to do with. Creatively identifying how to interpret the information is the tricky part. This is why we often see larger, more established internet companies buying up analytics start-ups who have an interesting twist on interpreting different types of data.

Here are a few services that measure the impact of social media metrics worth checking out:

There is no standard or perfect set of metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of social media, especially since the nature and functionality of these diverse mediums are constantly in flux. Though there will probably never be a one-size-fits-all approach to measuring social media, the selection of tools out there are improving everyday. For now, it still takes a human touch to choose which tools to use and how to interpret them.

Just remember, if you don’t measure it, you cannot optimize it.

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Faux pas or ethics challenged?

The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media occasionally highlights a “Friday Faux Pas,” in which someone has done something spectacularly stupid on a social media platform.

The stories on the site range from a “rogue tweet” by a Red Cross employee who apparently didn’t know how to use Hootsuite, and a nurse who posted pictures of patients… in the operating room.

Idiots!

But are these really just “faux pas,” or do they represent a larger ethical issue? Namely, the separation/lack of separation between personal and professional in the age of social media. Is it possible to keep your personal and professional lives separate? Is it possible to separate them in real life, much less online? Should we even try?

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