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What is Social Media still worth for?

I’m pretty pissed by the recent rumours (let’s call it that way) about the social media platform “twitter” introducing an algorithmic timeline (wanna know more about the matter? either follow the #RIPtwitter hashtag or read this (very great and insightful) article by @setlinger to learn about the possible impact)

So why am I annoyed? – Here’s to share a little

personal history:

When having joined twitter and facebook in 2009, things in both networks were pretty straight forward: Your feed filled with updates from your followers, you could watch things you liked more closely and just run over other boring stuff quickly. Step-by-step facebook started to tailor my feed. It sort-of commenced when I noticed that they were constantly changing my feed setting to (don’t remember the exact wording) “trending stuff first” and I had to manually set it back to “chronological” ever and ever again. At some point that setting possibility vanished totally and my feed remained tailored to – well – what, actually?

Did I back out then? No! Because by that time, I had discovered the advertisement possibilities of facebook. Today, I run about 6 different pages (sometimes, I add some, such as the recent “I AM ELEVEN – Austrian Premiere” page, to promote some causes I am committed to; these go offline again some time later). I am co-administrator  of a page that has more than 37.000 followers (CISV International) and it is totally interesting to observe the effects you achieve with one or the other post, comment, engagement, … whatever. Beautiful things happening from time to time. Personally, in my own feed, I mainly share things randomly (you won’t know me, if you just knew my feed); sometimes it just feels like fun to share an update. Honestly, I’ve given up fully to think, that any real engagement is possible through these kind of online encounters – it’s just fun.

Twitter is a bit different: I like getting in touch with people, whom I do not really know. Funny, interesting, insightful exchanges of information happen within 140 characters. And it gives me food for thought job-wise equally as cause-wise (#CISV, #PeaceOneDay, … and more). I came upon the recently introduced “While you were away” section on my mobile, shook heads about it and constantly skipped it not really bothering about were to switch it off (subsequent answer to subsequent twitter-question: “Did you like this?” – always: “NO”).

And then there was the “algorithmic timeline” announcement!

So, why is this utter bullshit?

I’ll give you three simple answers from my facebook experience:

  • Some weeks back – in November, right after the Paris attacks – I was responsible to post an update to our CISV-International facebook followers. Tough thing, to find the right words. Obviously I got it not too wrong as the reported “reach” was around 150k users in the end. Think about that? A page with some 37k followers reaches some 150k with one post. I was happy about the fact, that it was that much, but thinkin’ twice about it: How can I really know about the real impact of that? In truth, that counter does tell me simply nothing.
facebook post on "CISV International" reaching nearly 150k users

facebook post on “CISV International” reaching nearly 150k users

  • Some days ago, I spent a few bucks to push a post from the “I AM ELEVEN – Austria” page. In the end it reported a reach of 1.8k! “Likes” – however – came mostly from users who – according to facebook – don’t even live in Vienna, though I tailored the ad to “Vienna+20km”. One may argue that even the best algorithm cannot control friends-of-friends engagement – and I do value that argument; but what’s the boosting worth then, if I do not get one single person more into the cinema to see the film?
facebook I AM ELEVEN boosted post

facebook I AM ELEVEN boosted post

  • I am recently flooded with constant appearances of “Secret Escape” ads. I’ve never klicked it (and won’t add a link here – I don’t wanna add to their view count); I’m not interested in it; facebook still keeps showing me who of my friends like it and adds the ad to my feed more than once every day. Annoying. And to stop it I’d have to interact with the ad – which I do not want to. However, I don’t have a simple choice of opting out of it …

Thinking of all that – and more – what would I personally gain from an algorithmic timeline on twitter, if facebook hasn’t really helped me in my endeavours anymore, recently? Nothing! I think. I just don’t have the amount of money to feed the tentacles of those guys, having such ideas, so that their ideas would by any means become worthy for my business or causes. Period.

But as those tentacles rarely listen to users like me but rather to potent advertisers (like “Secret Escape” e.g.), the only alternative will probably again be, to opt out:

Twitter: NO to "best tweets"

Twitter: NO to “best tweets”

 

Having recently read “The Circle” that’s a more and more useful alternative, anyway …

 

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3 importances for a self-aware social networker

The social and mobile world is undergoing another change in perception. Back in 2006++ when most of today’s social networks commenced their big leap into our everyday life, they drove the always-on culture, the work-everywhere culture, the instant-communication culture. People where happily adopting all the tremendously great possibilities they were given by the smartphone vendors who in turn where driven to ever-new feature climaxes by the evolving hype. And today – these days, virtually – a shift (maybe: a turn) is notable. The crucial point here: This turn is risking to go utterly and completely into the wrong direction!

And here’s why!

Why dictate instead of educate?

These days an article crossed my desk saying, that the German government has introduced a policy that employees must not be called or contacted anymore outside working hours. “The guidelines state that ministry staff should not be penalised for switching off their mobiles or failing to pick up messages out of hours”, says the article in The Telegraph. Digging further, one can find the Daimler “Mail on Holiday” program which allows employees to invoke an automatic process delegating and deleting eMails form their inboxes when on vacation or a Volkswagen initiative (admittedly already from 2011) where the company switched off eMail synchronization during out-of-work hours.

When reading this, the very simple thing I am really asking myself is: Where is the awareness education for people confronted with such kind of policies? How do employers or governmental organizations ensure that their core value – their employees – actually understand how mobile technology and social interaction influences their behaviour and – even more important – how they can find an approach of wellbeing to all the thrilling possibilities of technology for themselves?

Why allow speeding in messaging?

The second thing that hit me really hard was the article of a 17yo girl in an Austrian newspaper, contemplating the behaviour of herself and her friends in WhatsApp. What she essentially says is that FOMO (“fear of missing out”) is actually FOMF (“fear of missing friends”). Young people everywhere seem to have floated into a symbiosis with their phone for the sole purpose of instantly – literally within a second – answering any incoming message. Otherwise they would risk losing friends and social contacts because when their friends and schoolmates having seen them online sometime during the day wouldn’t receive an answer within “due course”, they’d assume not to be liked anymore and quit friendship.

The shocking detail here is two-folded: On the one hand, instant messaging conversations in 90% of all cases completely lack content anyway (they run along a thread something like “hey :)” – “hey :)” – “how r u” – “ok. and u” – ok, too” – what r u doin” – “nothing”) and on the other hand, not being answered can so frighteningly quickly evolve from frustration into anger and into ignorance within instances.

And I am asking myself: Is friendship worth anything these days? And who teaches our children how to keep it up? Who educates them for responsibility humans deserve and for responsibility and self-awareness and caution with the technological possibilities they are so happy to be given.

Why allow loneliness when everyone is always around?

The third thing that stroke me was another awesome TED talk (TED talks tend to be awesome whatever topic they touch) by Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and cultural analyst, talking about being connected and still remaining alone (here’s the link to it). What she is stating – undermined with respective research – is that we have grown more alone then in former times when getting in touch with each other was so much harder due to the lack of communication facilities. The truth of what she says is undeniable: When we wanted to arrange to meet our friends in the 8oies or even 90ies, we had to pick a landline, hope the other one was where his landline was and plan around other duties (like school, sports, music education, homework, shopping, etc.) as a long as to find a free timeslot for meeting for a coffee or coke. And by that, we were closer to each other than we are now. We always and ever knew our friends plans. We literally felt them without having to talk to them. Today, we don’t talk. We chat, message, eMail or tag’em in a post – and know nothing about how they feel. They remain as alone as we are in fact – with all those 100s of social network “friends” around.

And I am simply asking myself why nobody really notices?

The answer

The items above kept me thinking … thinking of a solution … Here’s what I think, we can do – as a parental guide, a school teacher, an employer or just a human friend. The solution to the huge challenge our society is facing with the equally huge technological possibilities does not lie with rules, regulations, policies and prohibitions. It will not help at all to tell our kids, our employees or our friends what they can do, shall do or must not do.

The true answer is within ourselves and the only thing helping it to surface is helping to create self-awareness about how we treat technology around us. So here’s 3 simple things to try:

  1. Do not ban eMail, switch off sync or forbid mobile phones. Instead, offer freedom to employees. Start with educating management to not expect availability from their people at weird times, teach them to accept individuality in how employees use the technology around them. And coach the employees in acquiring and living up to what they need for wellbeing at work. If one wants to switch off when leaving the building: Fine. If one wants to check eMails during vacation: Fine, too. I trust more than anything, that productivity increases when one can use social interaction and mobility the way they want it.
  2. Do make children understand the amount of pressure they put themselves and others into when expecting behaviour without explicitly explaining it. In terms of communications, I think, it is no bad thing to chat and message a response instantly upon message arrival. It’s getting tremendously dangerous when a response is expected without even taking into account what hurdles might hinder the other to respond. They might have forgotten their phone, be on holiday without parental phone admittance, be in a verbose conversation with someone. And their lack of responsiveness may have nothing at all to do with a lack of appreciation. Understanding the difference may make them truly self-aware and sensitive users of that great mobile and social revolution, we’re facing.
  3. And finally: Get a feeling on how much in touch you really are. How much you really know about someone who is posting on facebook or twitter, is joking with 20-something groups on whatsapp … and at the same time is feeling tremendously alone because of a complete lack of real life relationships. And maybe that one is you …

I think, the technology surrounding us – and the path, twists and turns this technology keeps taking – bares so many great advantages for our day to day lifes, if we only learn how to integrate them without letting it role over us destructively. So let us not let it do so!

 

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Internet behavioural education

Facebook: 1.26 billion users; Twitter: 500 million

Gmail: 425 million users (but Google+ only 343 – interesting, actually) and Outlook.com 400 million

WhatsApp: 300 million

LinkedIn: 238 million

Skydrive: 250 million

Shazam: 350, Spotify: 24, eBay: 120, Instagram: 150, Flickr: 87, Netflix: 38 million

Even Paypal (the payment platform: note – it’s about money!) has 132 million users

 

And then there’s this guy – a German “Spiegel” journalist – doing a self experiment by asking a group of hackers to inject malicious software into his devices (the full – German – article is here); and within 5 days his privacy is revealed and shared with millions, he’s outed gay on facebook, has a status posted that he’d resigned from his job, … …

… proving – by that experiment – that millions of billions of Internet users are actually idiots.

 

How can millions of billions still dare to use those services when it’s so ludicrously simple that their privacy is disclosed? Obviously the vast majority of those users still move safely around the net without fear. Why?

Maybe because they don’t reuse nor share their passwords, keep their pins secret, make use of elevated security measures (like security questions, alternate email, privacy settings). Maybe they also don’t click suspicious links in suspicious emails.

 

Folks – here’s a secret: Malicious software has to find its way into your devices first in order to successfully unfold its maliciousness!

I’m rather asking: How can an obviously small number of un-educated Internet users raise fear within the majority and thereby help such articles gain attention?

Maybe, we could push Internet behavioural education in our schools? I reckon, this might help more than slightly unrealistic self experiments …

 

(Figures above sourced from http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/resource-how-many-people-use-the-top-social-media/)

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5 reasons for me being only 1

Just recently I heard that quote again: “No, I don’t connect with my colleagues on facebook. facebook is for my private endeavours.”

Vice versa is heard as well sometimes, when people complain about my fb-feed being mingled with boring IT posts from twitter (“I don’t understand that, I just scroll over it.”).

Appreciated and respected, folks.

Why then am I still convinced that maintaining just 1 single profile is the better way of making myself seen online. I could well split up the fully automated fb-twitter connect. I could make dedicated use of the #fb tag in twitter to specifically decide what to push over to fb. I’m online enough to even post completely seperatly in the various medias (and the apps supporting it are convenient enough to do so).

So, here’s my 5 reasons why I don’t:

  1. My employer/customer may (should) get the full picture. Be it whilst looking for a new job or within an existing employment, I am convinced that it is beneficial for the company’s culture if people offer their complete “self”, if they do offer any such information on the net. If you intend to create a true colleagueship culture in your enterprise you’re doing better in encouraging your people to just show what they are (baring in mind that showing off in the net means of course always to consider carefully what you show anyway). But hiding certain aspects from your fellow colleagues that you show  – well – the NSA (in a way) just doesn’t make sense to me. The same – BTW – applies for your customers in case you’re running the company: why shouldn’t your customers know whom they’re engaging with?
  2. I wanna know what my friends do for a living.
    Consider going out with your friends: Is talking about what you do for a living a tabu? Wouldn’t you chat about your latest achievements, your most beautiful line of code, your latest plenary presentation received with awe by the audience. Why shouldn’t my friends know that I like what I do?
  3. Splitting posts causes too much time.
    I’m a lazy guy. Tasks I can avoid, I will avoid. Considering whether some nice piece that I wanna share may go to one or the other account (to the private or to the open, to the technical or to the musical, e.g., …) is just too cumbersome and effort consuming to do it. As simple as that.
  4. I disbelieve that literally everything within or coming from a person’s employing company is great (even if it’s my own).
    I got in touch with companies which put up a social media policy employees have to adher to. These policies normally prohibit employees from posting other than company praises to their online profiles (well, I might exagerate a bit here). However, reading about the big awesomeness of a product, company, service, etc. is something I may expect from a company’s marketing account but not from a human being capable of using her/his grey cells. Hence, don’t expect it from me!
  5. I am 1 person.
    Not 2, 3 or more. What you find about me in the net, will always show you the whole “me”. No hidden agenda, no false illusions about me seeming a technical nerd or not at all interested in my job. It’s just WYSIWYG.

Of course, living virtually according these 5 reasons involves a little bit of care about what people do with your profile with regards to tagging, linking, mentioning, etc. … but being online with just a single profile allows you doing that on the go anyway – more or less …

Lawnmowerman

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