“The Social Network” arrives in Australia

It’s been the talk of the internet since the project was announced, and now the “Facebook movie”, a.k.a. “The Social Network” has finally been released in Australian cinemas.

I have to say when I first heard the film was being made I was skeptical. Yeah, like most people I use Facebook. But did I want to watch a movie about its creation? The big question was whether a two-hour film on the topic could be engaging. After all, I use my toothbrush every day but I wouldn’t go to a movie about the early days of Oral B.

The big thing this film has going for it and one of the things that ultimately swayed me was David Fincher in the director’s chair. And while I’ve heard mixed reports from other cinema goers on whether they liked it, I found “The Social Network” to be engaging, hip, thought-provoking and thoroughly satisfying.

“You’re going to go through life believing that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd, and I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that that’s not true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.” – Erica Albright, Mark Zuckerberg’s ex-girlfriend

It is largely a dialogue-driven film, with the dialogue snappy, intense and real. The movie is nicely bookended with two fantastic pieces of linked dialogue. Quick camera work, angles and scene changes add to the urgency of the narrative while the music of Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame) gives the piece a dimension of youth and rebellion.

I was surprised at how much humour the film contained – several lines had the entire cinema erupting with laughter. But there’s also drama aplenty, a healthy serving of intensity, betrayal and longing. Jesse Eisenberg in a fantastic portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg (and while I’m at it, Justin Timberlake is excellent as Napster’s Sean Parker) spends the whole film searching for something, and while he ends up with an empire and a whole pile of money, one gets the sense that he still hasn’t found that something when the credits roll.

“You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just trying really hard to be.” – Marylin Delpy, Law office intern

The real Mark Zuckerberg

As for the amount of truth in the film? It’s hard to know. Several things are fact. Zuckerberg was sued by Eduardo Saverin after reducing his stake in the company. He was also sued by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss who claimed he had stolen the idea for Facebook from them. And according to what I’ve read, Sean Parker did suggest dropping “the” from the site’s name.

As with any biographical piece when the subject isn’t involved in the production, naturally the makers had to take artistic license to fill the gaps around what they knew. Does it paint Zuckerberg in a bad light? Perhaps. He is certainly not portrayed as a hero, but nor in my view is he a classic villain. He is certainly flawed, and while not a protagonist in a classic sense, it is his film.

As with any cinema it is to be enjoyed for what it is, and if it inspires debate among audiences that’s great. No doubt they’ll continue discussing it for a while yet. … On Facebook.

MySpace fights for survival

Before Facebook took over the world, there was this little social media site called MySpace. It was uber-cool, attracting those who were hip, connected and expressive. It was arguably the first large-scale social network.

Trendy bands and celebrities all had a MySpace page, through which Gen Y was able to get that little bit closer to their idols. Above all though, it provided the first real way for people to connect with each other online, launching social media into the connected world’s consciousness.

Then Facebook came along, followed by Twitter and a host of other social networking tools and kick-started MySpace’s decline.

One area where it remained strong however, was in the music and entertainment arena, where it still provided a platform for artists to engage with fans in a dynamic environment. Then in July this year, Mashable reported that even this aspect of MySpace was losing ground.

MySpace’s reaction to this has been a complete rebrand and relaunch. Changes include a new logo, a focus on entertainment only, and the facility to share on Facebook and Twitter, the very sites that caused its decline.

The new site will hit Australian shores next month, with a mobile site and apps to follow for iPhone and Android thereafter. In the meantime, MySpace has released this video as a teaser:

Features of the new MySpace will include content hubs which combine programmed editorial with trending articles that feature news, videos and photos, a personalised content stream based on user preferences and providing recommendations and, seemingly inspired by Foursquare, badges that reward user activity.

Time will tell if these changes will save the once flourishing site. Positioning MySpace as a complement to rather than a competitor of Facebook is certainly a good start, and may well result in former users giving it a second look. However, don’t expect to see MySpace back on top any time soon.

And certainly don’t hold your breath for any movies to be made about its founders.

Two interesting Mashable stories

Today on Mashable there are two stories that anyone interested in journalism should read. I’ve harped on relentlessly in this blog about the implications of technology and the social media revolution on journalism. These two stories cover both bases.

Story 1: Washington Post tells journalists not to engage on Twitter

Maintaining a perception of journalistic objectivity has been one of the key problems for news organisations on Twitter. You may recall this blog discussing Reuters bringing in new rules for its twitterers back in March. Now the Washington Post is the latest company to put its foot down.

In a memo to staff, managing editor Raju Narisetti said:

“Once we enter a debate personally through social media, this would be equivalent to allowing a reader to write a letter to the editor–and then publishing a rebuttal by the reporter. It’s something we don’t do.”

Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik in his analysis rightly argues that the Washington Post doesn’t get social media. In an era where journalism is becoming increasingly about engaging with readers and encouraging a debate, Narisetti has put a clear roadblock between his organisation and the future. Yes, the Post needs to monitor and regulate how Twitter is used, but to put a blanket ban on this kind of interaction is not the solution.

Story 2: Is the iPad really the saviour of the newspaper industry?

The newspaper industry's saviour?

Now here’s an interesting one. Technology is widely credited with causing the decline in the newspaper industry, but here is a suggestion it will also be its saviour.

The article explores the popularity of the iPad and subsequent rise of apps for consuming newspapers. It suggests that the tablet revolution may be helping publishers tap into new digital markets. With this uptake new revenue models are being created that may just make publishing viable again.

It does point out that there is a way to go – newspapers are still not designing apps that take full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities. These comments about the Sydney Morning Herald iPad app seem to bolster this view.

I think it’s great that newspaper publishers may have found a way to stay viable (as it helps my chances of making a living!) but I think there is no doubt that if they expect consumers to pay, publishers will have to produce a product that’s worth the money.

Oh no! Twitter spam!

We’ve all received those emails, be it a poorly-English worded “Hello, my friend. How are you recently. I write tell you of big electrical bargains, reliable company” or the infamous “I write because you have good reputation. I wish to use your bank account to transfer $1,000,000 and you get give $10,000 for assistance”. Let’s face it, email spam is annoying and for the poor souls that fall for it, dangerous.

But what about Twitter spam?

I had never been spammed on Twitter before, so it never even occurred to me that such a thing existed. In hindsight I guess it was too good to be true. For yesterday morning when I logged in to the world’s favourite microblogging service, there it was:

Spam was already becoming an increasing problem on Twitter in mid-2009, according to this article from TechCrunch. Then in June this year reported on a malicious spam attack, involving tweets containing a link to a website that self-installs rogue software on the user’s computer.

This video talks about what constitute Twitter spam:

Twitter itself is well-aware of the spam problem and says it is working hard to fight it. The service has strict rules to try prevent spammers. This graph, sourced from Twitter, shows the amount of spam as a percentage in the 12 months to February 2010 (although with the exponential increase in Twitter users, the actual number of spammers may have increased even if the percentage has decreased):

Computerworld questions whether Twitter is doing enough, and has itself demonstrated that identifying spammers can be done. The problem however is you find and block one spammer, then another takes its place.

The other battleground against spam is through third party clients. TweetDeck, for example has introduced a spam button which deletes the message, blocks the user and reports them to Twitter. Hootsuite also allows a spammer to be reported, but popular mobile client Echofon appears to be yet to follow suit.

Time will tell of the effectiveness of these measures – in the meantime, it looks like this annoyance will be with us for the foreseeable future.

A blog post entirely from my iPhone

Last week I wrote about how the rise of mobile apps is changing the way we access the Internet. But what about how we create content for it? That too is changing, and to demonstrate how, this entire post comes from the WordPress app on my iPhone.

A variety of apps exist for creating web content via mobile platforms. Mobile technology allows us to shoot photos and have them online in seconds. And as I mentioned in my last post, content on the Twittersphere is increasingly being generated from tablets and smartphones.

WordPress has an app. Tumblr has an app. Smartphones have the ability to record video and post directly to YouTube. A number of generic blogging apps are also available which talk to the various platforms.

There are limitations however. The app I’m typing this on doesn’t have a function to add links. The picture I uploaded can only appear at the bottom of the post. I can still however add tags.

Due to the limitations discussed, an interface such as this one won’t become my sole tool for writing to WordPress. But it is very useful if I’m out and about and an idea comes to me which I need to get into words while it’s still fresh. I can always log in via the web later to beautify and add links.

For journalists the ability to get content up instantaneously cannot be underestimated. Media outlets vying to be the first with an exclusive now work in a new wireless battleground. Reporters will need to adapt accordingly.

And if there’s one thing that’s beyond doubt, it’s that with the speed of technological advancement, methods of creating content like this will definitely improve and limitations will be swept away.

Is the World Wide Web dead?

It seems that we had barely begun to declare the print media’s demise, now all of a sudden there are some that say the World Wide Web is treading the same path.

In a report entitled “The Web is Dead. Long live the Internet“, authors Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff argue that the uptake of mobile apps means that fewer people are using their web browsers. Increasingly, they are checking their emails, getting their news, using social media and being entertained entirely through specialised applications. In short, they are using the internet but not the web.

But does this spell doom? No one can doubt that the smartphone/tablet revolution hasn’t had an effect. But is it a bit premature to declare the web dead? After all, corporate workers spend their days in front of computer screens where the web is a click away. Travellers continue to frequent internet cafes. And there’s still plenty of people out there who can’t use web apps from their old-school mobile handsets.

To try and answer this question, I decided to go out and ask a few people how they access the internet. Here’s what they said:

People are one half of the equation. Organisations who rely on their web presence aren’t going to give up without a fight either. Twitter has recently overhauled its web portal to combat the growing use of third-party clients. As Peter Cashmore wrote for CNN, the intent of the redesign was “to make a compelling Web destination”. Meanwhile, Facebook’s constant redesigning of its web portal suggests Zuckerberg and Co still place much importance on it.

All this leads me to think that it’s a little premature to be reading the World Wide Web its last rites. After all, chances are you’re reading this right now on a web browser.

Then again – having said that, as I sit in front of my computer writing this – I did just check my email on my mobile.

A news experiment:

Theoretically, could someone shun all other media and rely solely on Twitter for news? To find out I’ve decided to tell the story of Australia’s 2010 Federal Election in under 20 tweets.

To make it more fun, I’ve introduced three rules:

  1. I must include tweets from people - not just news sites
  2. I must include tweets from the politicians who are on Twitter where possible
  3. I cannot use the same tweeter twice.

Here goes:

Election set for Sat Aug 21 12:05 PM Jul 17th

This election is about giving a great people a better government. The Coalition will end the waste, stop the taxes and stop the boats. 6:35 PM Jul 17th

According to Wayne Swan, Labor can’t stop the leaks. If you can’t govern yourself, how can you govern the country? 10:49 AM Jul 29th

So PM says she’s going to cut the PR and be the “real Julia”. Let me guess, a PR hack advised her to say that? 10:25 AM Aug 2nd

Switched on the NBN in Tasmania today. It will deliver faster internet to Australians & create jobs but @TonyAbbottMHR wants to axe it. JG 12:21 PM Aug 12th

A new opinion poll gives Labor an election-winning lead – but it’s close 5:57 AM Aug 18th

GetUp members and vollies are EVERYWHERE today as #ausvotes! 10:22 AM Aug 21st

Poms split their vote across 3 parties to get hung parlt. Ha! we can do it with 2 parties and a few indies! 12:17 AM Aug 22nd

ALP, Libs to negotiate with Independents to win office after Saturday’s election 8:37 AM Aug 23rd

Together with Bob Brown & Christine Milne, just signed agt with the PM to support a Gillard govt. Real movement on climate. More to come. 11:50 AM Sep 1st

3 independents don’t agree with each other but have put forward a “7 point wishlist” how will this be stable? 7:40 PM Aug 25th

Both Katter and Windsor have now criticised Abbott for refusing to put Coalition policies in to Treasury for costing. 10:41 PM Aug 25th

A confidential Treasury analysis has revealed an $800 million hole in the Coalition budget costings 12:11 AM Aug 10th

IND Wilkie reflects his constituency & backs Labor. 3 Amigos should reflect theirs & support LNP! 8:04 PM Aug 28th

Bob Katter throws his support behind the Coalition, but indicates it’s not unconditional support 2:10 PM Sep 7th

Tony Windsor chose to support Labor because of the issues of broadband and climate change. Onya Tony!! 3:09 PM Sep 7th

Do we have to wait another 17 days for Oakeshott to finish talking? 3:29 PM Sep 7th

OFFICIAL: Oakeshott and Windsor back Gillard. Labor survives election 76-74. Coalition defeated. 3:31 PM Sep 7th

Done – in 18 tweets!

You know you’re addicted to Foursquare when…

Time for a bit of humour! For those who use location-based social networking service Foursquare (or if you know someone who does), there’s a few sure signs that a 12-step program might be in your or that person’s future.

Without further ado, you know you’re addicted to Foursquare when:

  1. You make extra stops on the way home just to check in
  2. You check in to your house when you get home at night AND when you get up the next day
  3. Every one of your friend’s houses is on Foursquare… even though not all your friends are
  4. You check Foursquare to see where your friends are instead of just calling them
  5. You get excited when you meet someone new who’s on Foursquare. Genuinely.
  6. You check in at every train station on the way home for the points
  7. You check Foursquare for restaurant suggestions before you check the SMH Good Food Guide/Zagat
  8. You go through locations reading tips when you’re bored.
  9. You go through locations adding tips when you’re bored.
  10. You start collecting badges that you’d rather not be awarded (e.g. a MALE friend of mine who scored the “Housewife” badge!)
  11. You turn on international data roaming and pay a fortune so you can check in on vacation
  12. You time your check ins so that you don’t do more than three in 15 minutes
  13. When you read that you knew what it meant
  14. You get upset when there’s no 3G reception and you can’t check in
  15. You get upset when Foursquare says you’re too far and withholds points
  16. You get really excited when you become mayor of a venue
  17. You do a victory dance when you become mayor of a venue
  18. You get upset when you’re ousted as mayor of a venue
  19. You make it a point to win back that mayorship
  20. You start Twitter stalking the guy who stole that mayorship

Getting into the swing of Twitter

Love it or hate it, Twitter has irreversibly changed the way we communicate online, as Facebook did before it. From humble beginnings to a worldwide phenomenon, Twitter is huge and still growing.

Celebrities use it. Politicians use it. Sportspeople use it. Organisations use it. And most important of all, everyday people like you and me use it.

In an Australian first, a “Twitter debate” was held prior to the by-election for the state seat of Penrith. And now with a federal election imminent, Prime Minister Julia Gillard has finally risen above the laggards and joined the microblogging service herself.

This will be the first Australian election where social media will be such an important key battleground. It has simply become too big a forum to ignore.

But you probably know all of this already. You know how big Twitter is and chances are if you’re interested in this blog post then you’re into it.

But do you remember what life was like before there was Twitter?

I remember life before mobile phones. We made do, but all of us thought at some point or another how useful it would be to have a phone we could take with us. There was a need there.

But Twitter was not invented to fill an obvious void. For something that we’ve come to rely on with such vigour, it’s not something that any of us, once upon a time, would have thought we needed.

I joined Twitter in January 2009. At the time I did so because I thought it might be interesting to explore how I could leverage it in my then-career as a Marketing Manager.

My first experiences were how unnatural using Twitter was. As it had not been something I’d needed I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. I recall one time sitting at my computer for twenty minutes, staring at the screen, wondering what the hell I should type.

In those early days my tweets were few and far between. It simply wasn’t something that slotted into my day-to-day life. It never occurred to me to just let go and update random thoughts, start conversations with strangers or tweet my views on a particular issue. So apart from the occasional spruik for my sports blog, my Twitter account remained largely unloved.

Even at the start of this year as I jumped onto the next big thing, Foursquare, I still wasn’t tweeting very much. I remember selecting the option to feed my Foursquare to my Twitter account just so my followers wouldn’t think I’d died.

I can’t say when it happened. But the other day I looked at my day’s tweets and was struck by how many I’d sent. I just hadn’t realised, that during the normal course of my day I’d had so many things to share. The luxury of having a smartphone had allowed me to casually tweet as things occurred to me, and I’d barely noticed I was doing it.

Something I hadn’t needed was now entrenched into my life.

When did you first realise Twitter was entrenched in your day-to-day life? Please comment.

Social Media Day! (#smday)

@Euan addresses the crowd

A throng of tweeters, facebookers and bloggers gathered in Sydney last Wednesday to celebrate the first international “Social Media Day”.

The brainchild of online social media bible Mashable, over 600 meetings were held worldwide with Sydney’s time zone making the gathering at the Ivy Ballroom one of the first.

Participants sipped bubbly as they mingled and exchanged ideas and contact details.

Internationally acclaimed blogger and public speaker Euan Semple (Twitter: @Euan) was the keynote speaker.

Euan was one of the first to introduce social media tools into a large organisation when he worked for the BBC ten years ago and has since worked with Nokia, the World Bank and NATO.

He told the gathering the biggest challenge was trying to “demystify” social media.

“What we’re talking about is globally distributed near-instant person-to-person conversations,” he said.

“[It’s] nothing geeky, nothing about business, [it’s] just about people being able to connect.”

Giving an example of the power of social media, Euan described how his presence as speaker had come about from a Twitter conversation with Sydney event organiser Laurel Papworth.

Prior to the event I spoke to Laurel (Twitter: @SilkCharm), who was last year heralded by Marketing Magazine as being the “Head of Industry” for social media for Australia.

She told me the event represented the birth of a new industry.

“From shaky legs a few years ago [social media] is clearly making its mark on the world in a way that very few people foresaw,” she said.

“We’re heading towards the top of a curve at the moment where in about 10 years … it will be so much a part of our life.”

Laurel said the purpose of the event was to bring people together.

“With social networking online there’s an interest in meeting offline,” she said.

“There was a study done a few years ago by the World Internet Project … they showed that 20.3 per cent of people who meet online want to meet offline.

“So I’m looking forward to it because it means there’ll be a bunch of people that I only know from their Twitter handles and their Facebook avatars and now there’s a chance for me to meet them in person.”

In the spirit of social media’s participatory nature, anyone in attendance was welcome to brave the podium and address the gathering following the keynote speech.

Yours truly took up the opportunity, commenting on the implications the rise of social media is having on traditional journalism channels.

Photos by Kurt Neurauter (Twitter: @kneu_photo)

Yours truly and @SilkCharm

Reuters introduces ‘rules’ for Twitter

You will have read in this blog last July about the implications that social media tool Twitter has on traditional news mediums. Now, one of the world’s largest news wire services, Reuters, is taking those implications very seriously:

Reuters are attempting to answer a lot of questions about how social media and Twitter in particular affect news coverage. Included in their new rules is a requirement that their journalists do not break news over Twitter before doing so over the wire, as well as several rules aimed at counteracting perceptions of individual bias.

Requiring their journalists to break news over the wire first is a business decision, and a fair one. For a journalist to break a story by other means and not for who they work for would be akin to an Apple employee selling a palate of iPads before the product’s release date.

Of more interest is the requirement that Reuters employees do not post anything that may indicate personal bias on Facebook, as well as the requirement that they maintain separate business and personal Twitter accounts.

This is because social media has allowed us to know so much more about the people who provide services to us, the public. In days gone by, a byline was merely a name in news reporting (Opinion was obviously another story). Now, with access to journalists via social media we can find out their likes and dislikes, partner’s names, see pictures of their pets, you get the idea…

Clearly then, Reuters is right not to want their journalists’ views broadcast across the social mediasphere. Reporting is meant to be subjective and impartial – and whether it conforms to this regularly or not – clearly knowing a journalist’s personal stance on an issue will affect how we see their reporting of it.

One thing that does puzzle me though is Reuters frowning upon their journalists following certain sources on Twitter. As a journalist, I find Twitter an extremely useful source for story ideas. The key however is to follow sources with a wide variety of opinions, which is why (to give an example) politically I follow Liberal, Labor, Greens and Independents.

It will be interesting to see if the other major wire services including Associated Press and Agence France-Presse, or AAP in Australia take heed and look at instituting similar rules.

Facebook as a tool of democracy

Social media giant Facebook has done a mammoth job in infiltrating many aspects of our lives. Like anything there are some people who love it and some who hate it. However, a recent example has shown that for individuals wanting their voice heard by government, Facebook is a very useful tool indeed.

Prior to Web 2.0 and Facebook most people let governments know their approval or disapproval at the ballot box. There have always been those who are more active in their communities in regard to speaking out about issues that concern them. However these people faced a far harder task in getting others on board, be it trying to get people along to protests or getting signatures on a petition.

Enter Facebook. The viral power of social media has now changed the way communities talk to government.

The example: Recently Waverley Municipal Council has proposed the construction of a depot on the site of Hugh Bamford Reserve in North Bondi. The project would involve the temporary excavation of much of the park to allow for the depot to be built. Once operational the site would be a hub for trucks, leading to noise and traffic congestion.

The community in North Bondi and its surrounds don’t want the depot and they’ve voted with their keyboards. This group has been created on Facebook specifically to protest against Council’s proposal:

In a short time the group has gained over 2,000 members. They are actively debating the issue and making their thoughts on the project known. Waverley Mayor Sally Betts clearly understands the impact this Facebook group is having. She has joined it herself and posts regularly in its forums to update people on the council’s position. Through the group, residents are replying to her posts and the conversation continues still.

While there is also an official petition to save the park, the Facebook group acts as a petition of its own. And over 2,000 people by joining the group have effectively signed it. Clearly, Waverley Council is taking it very seriously for the Mayor to placing the importance on it that she has.

What this all means is that Facebook has moved on from being merely a tool for friends to socialise online. It is now a genuine forum for political debate, and a very effective tool for communities to come together quickly, engage and speak about issues that affect them.

In days gone by the media was necessary to inform the people of what the government was doing, so that democracy could function. Now social media has entered the mix – to inform governments about what the citizens think – so that democracy can function even more effectively.

This is, indeed, a brave new world.


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