Welcome to eModeration’s round-up of all that is intriguing, alarming
or odd in the world of social media, compiled by Kate Williams. For
more social media snippets, follow @emodkate – or for general twittery,
This week (a little bleary-eyed): The Social Election; Facebook’s fork
in the road; and Apple redux.
THE HEADLINES …
After the most closely-fought (and poorly-predicted) election since
1992, we Brits awoke today to a New Dawn. No, strike that – a Dawn of
Chaos, Confusion and Disarray.
In the course of the country’s
media election, The
Worm took its place beside the fabled Swingometer in political
lore, and social media was monitored to within an
inch of its life for clues to the nation’s intentions. There was rolling
sentiment analysis, streaming debate, and of course, obsessive
tweeting – as well as that rather awkward moment of electile
dysfunction when Labour’s Twitter Tsar Kerry McCarthy peaked
too early, and revealed the results of postal voting before she
Two of the three main parties launched last-minute social efforts,
hoping to sway the many voters who dithered till the bitter end. The
Conservative Party booked a well-padded
takeover of YouTube’s homepage, where users were treated to the
party’s final election broadcast, ‘A Contract between the Conservative
Party and you’, for the duration of the Big Day.
Labour, meanwhile, targeted its core supporters with a Facebook
viral – a smart rebuttal of Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ idea – in
which an exhausted mother of the future revealed what life might be like
if individuals became providers of vital public services. In the final
frames, the mother berates a friend on the phone, for causing the chaos
by not voting Labour – and the friend’s name appears, through some
cunning Facebook trickery, to be that of the viewer themselves. Clever
– but not clever enough, it appears, to swing it for Labour.
And what of Mumsnet – the parenting website whose users were so eagerly
courted by the three party leaders that this became known as the Mumsnet
Election? Well, until Monday, when Gordon Brown stopped by for a
quick chockie-bickie and a last-minute
webchat, the site had been firmly Cleggist; a poll conducted
immediately after the final Leader’s Debate gave the LibDems an enormous
42.5% of their vote. Meantime, Facebook had predicted remarkably
similarly: a poll of 463,000 users gave Nick Clegg a mammoth, but –
as it turns out – wildly
unrepresentative 42% of the vote.
On Election night, Twitter’s function as the new
town square was firmly established, as socialites of
every hue settled in for a night of outraged tweeting and the
neurotic analysis of exit-polls – activities which continued through the
early hours and into the new day.
Now, of course, it is over; Britain has, for now, a hung parliament.
Whether this is a moment for peals of gay hilarity, hiccups of
bewildered apprehension, or tears of bitter recrimination and regret
will depend on the particular cut of your political jib. Either way, it
has been a night to remember.
If you are still awake, and inexplicably keen to review the month’s
electoral events in even greater detail, BrandRepublic anatomises the
iconography of #GE2010, here.
ON FACEBOOK …
It’s quite possible that Facebook’s PR dept are reduced to biting each
other’s nails, their own being already gnawed to the quick, and beyond.
This week the site was forced to suspend
Facebook Chat for several hours, after it became clear that,
with a bit of not-particularly-sophisticated manipulation, users could
see the pending friend-requests of each of their connections, as well as
– gulp – their private
chat messages. Once again, the social behemoth’s privacy policies
were brought into painfully sharp focus, and once again, CEO Mark
Zuckerberg’s breezy assertion that privacy is no
longer a social norm hung awkwardly in the air.
In case you’ve been very determinedly Not Paying Attention, Facebook’s
latest raft of changes mean that users’ digital identities now follow
them around the web, like a floating
tail of bathroom tissue accidentally caught in their trousers. When
a user clicks the new ‘like’ button on a third-party web page, that
third party can access the user’s list of Facebook friends, favourite
activities and other content which the user has previously shared.
Meanwhile, data about each individual’s home town, education and hobbies
is linked to community pages on those topics.
Publishers are understandably
delighted. Within a week of its launch, 50,000 websites had
clutched the ‘like’ button to their collective bosom, and
Zuckerberg’s plucky prediction that he’d serve a
billion of them within the first 24 hours was quickly realised.
But the modifications have brought the site under the increasingly beady
scrutiny of privacy campaigners.
And, as ReadWriteWeb
points out, the tactics which the ‘Book have used to encourage
users to opt-in have verged upon the thumb-crushing: as well as making
it the whole process predictably serpentine – thus discouraging
individuals from getting to grips with their settings – users who
refuse to allow their info to be linked to Community pages find that
their profile page is suddenly, and alarmingly, blank.
Last week Four US senators wrote
personally to Zuckerberg, and they were rather grumpy, to put
it mildly, about recent developments. Yesterday, a gaggle of 15
consumer groups filed
a complaint against Facebook with the Federal Trade
Commission, alleging that the recent changes “violate user expectations,
diminish user privacy, and contradict Facebook’s own representations.”
particular complaints come to much, it seems incontrovertible that
Facebook – and by default, the rest of us – have hit a fork in the road;
and that an increasingly bright spotlight on privacy can be expected
from both users and regulators.
mind that Facebook has mis-stepped on privacy before (Beacon
anyone?) with memorably disastrous results for
all concerned; and while another error of that magnitude is
unlikely, anxious brands might appreciate the strategic
bullet points offered by Augie Ray on Forrester’s blog, here.
Meanwhile, if you’re anxious to know which slippery snippets of your
personal info Facebook is enthusiastically scattering across the web,
simple tool may prove enlightening.
THE LOWDOWN …
The amount of digital data in the world is currently equivalent to that
which would be generated if everyone in the world tweeted constantly for
a century – indeed is expanding so rapidly that a new unit of data
measurement has had to be invented. A warm welcome, then, to the Zettabyte:
you are worth a staggering 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 individual
bytes, and though your name most closely resembles that of a
mid-range fast-food chain, I don’t doubt you will become a familiar
friend in the coming decade – during which the digital universe is
predicted to expand by a factor of 44.
Cupidtino is a dating
site for Apple fans, whom, the
site says, frequently share personality traits, professions,
aesthetics and love of technology – more than “enough reasons for two
people to meet and fall in love”. At first glance, this all seems rather
touching. Then comes the dawning realisation that the resulting progeny
will share a double genetic payload of pickiness, and that indefinable
air of smugness. Best hope it doesn’t catch on.
It need hardly be said that in the matter of child-rearing, Discipline
and Drudgery are my watchwords. No sentimentalist, I – though I confess I
swallowed hard at Boeing’s
response to the plane-obsessed 8 year-old who sent them a
design for a fantastical fire-fighting plane: “We do not accept
unsolicited ideas. Experience showed that most ideas had already been
considered by our engineers and that there can be unintended
consequences to simply accepting these ideas. The time, cost and risk
involved in processing them, therefore, were not justified by the
benefits gained.” Harsh, chaps, harsh.
Do you shy away from bluntness? Too busy avoiding offence to fully grasp
the rungs of the ladder of success? Don’t despair – those innovators at
GeekCulture have launched the Steve
Jobs Email Generator, guaranteed to have you firing off curt
responses like the Master – or your money back.
According to the
Telegraph, women are blaming smartphones and other ‘modern’
gadgets for their husbands’ apathy towards conjugal relations. With
uncharacteristic candour, that most respectable organ reports that
‘hand-held devices [are] particularly to blame.”
Meanwhile, another poll reveals that the under-25s are keen
multi-taskers in the boudoir – 10% of them think it’s quite the
thing to text during, erm, intimacy. As Mashable so
aptly puts it, there’s never been a better time to worry about the
future of civilization.
‘Controversial’ Venezuelan presidente Hugo
Chavez has joined Twitter, to muffled sniggers from the
international press, where he is widely held to be the most verbose of
global leaders. So far, @chavezcandanga is managing the 140 character
restriction – although his tweet-per-day rate is accelerating at a
rather ominous pace: this is, after all, the man whose weekly improvised
TV broadcast regularly exceeds seven hours.
Some readers may find this next report disturbing: new app In 20
Years reveals how you will look in – um – twenty years.
Please: Think Before You Click.
APPLE JUICE …
Gawd, these Apple scandals do drag on a bit, don’t they? This week, we
will attempt to buck the tide by presenting you with a handy redux of the
week’s developments in Apple’s lost-iPhone saga, consisting almost
entirely of links which will lead you, if you care to follow them, to
reams of additional info.
Enforcement Allied Computer Team raided the
home of Jason Chen, the Gizmodo editor who
apparently bought the ‘lost’ iPhone. Gizmodo owners Gawker Media threatened a
law suit, claiming that the
raid was illegal under laws
which shield journalists from revealing their sources; Time
magazine poo-pooed the claim, arguing that the public
interest had not been served by the theft – and Chen covered
his bases by hiring a criminal defence lawyer. Meanwhile, Wired
announced that they had tracked
down the culprit, who turned out to be a nice
college boy who did volunteer
work in his spare time, and was really
very sorry for all the trouble he’d caused.
I believe that about covers it.
In other Apple news, there has this week been much back, and not a
little forth, between Steve
Jobs and Adobe CEO Shantanu
Narayen, who have been tussling over whose fault it is that Adobe
crashes Apple’s OS. Now – following a complaint by Adobe – it
looks possible that the Federal Trade Commission will be weighing in,
with a formal
investigation into whether Apple’s Adobe ban for app developers
The iPad’s sales stats are, if not quite vertical, then listing only
1m iPads have been sold since its launch on 3 April - easily outpacing
the iPhone, which took what now feels like a tortoise-like 74 days
to reach that number. Now, all eyes are on the iPad 3G, an
estimated 300,000 of which flew
out during last weekend’s launch.
If you are not only unconvinced by the iPad. but actively ill-disposed
towards it, you will enjoy the following experiments, in which various
individuals – who perhaps define the thematically-linked expressions “more money than
sense”, and “too much time on their hands” – put their idle musings
on the robustness of Apple’s wundertablet to the test.
35% of British children – that’s over 4 million – still don’t
have easy access to the internet, meaning that they’re unable
to complete some of their homework, or access the social world of their
peers, a new report by Point Topic has found.
US Senators have urged Congress to review whether America’s privacy
law is sufficiently
robust to protect children from unscrupulous online marketers. The
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) currently requires that
sites get parental approval before they gather info on under-13s – but some
senators are demanding that the age limit be raised to 18, and that
its remit be immediately extended to include geo-location data.
Meanwhile, the head teacher of a
New Jersey secondary school has called for parents to enforce
a ban on social networks, which he says are nothing more than a
platform for cyber-bullying. The school’s guidance counsellor claims
that 75% of her work now involves dealing with social network-related
of parents add their children as friends on Facebook – news
which, with luck, will be just the spur youngsters need to get to grips
with the social network’s byzantine privacy settings. Those same parents
might want to check if their offspring are signed up with Formspring.me,
the wildly popular new site where
users invite friends and strangers to ask them a question – any
question. Plenty of opportunities to stalk their offspring there.
A gruff Rupert Murdoch admitted that ‘big
mistakes’ had been made with MySpace, in an earnings call which
revealed yet another consecutive quarter of escalating losses. And
it’s time to gen up on Murdoch’s much-vaunted plan to gather other
media companies behind
a group paywall – we’ve been told to expect an announcement in
‘three to four weeks’.
YouTube has announced plans for a self-service
rental platform, through which moviemakers will be able to
upload and rent out their own streaming content, according to MediaPost.
But will anyone watch? asks VentureBeat,
nodding to YouTube’s dismal rental stats.
Google is breathing down Amazon’s neck, announcing
plans to turn Google Editions into a vendor of digital books.
It’s also invested $38.8m in two North
Dakota windfarms: always good to have a plan B, in case this
internet thingy doesn’t quite pan out.
That’s all folks!