Category Archives: web2.0

The Social Media Contradiction: Data Mining and Digital Death

I’ve got a new article in the most recent issue of the M/C Journal entitled ‘The Social Media Contradiction: Data Mining and Digital Death’. Here’s the abstract:

Many social media tools and services are free to use. This fact often leads users to the mistaken presumption that the associated data generated whilst utilising these tools and services is without value. Users often focus on the social and presumed ephemeral nature of communication – imagining something that happens but then has no further record or value, akin to a telephone call – while corporations behind these tools tend to focus on the media side, the lasting value of these traces which can be combined, mined and analysed for new insight and revenue generation. This paper seeks to explore this social media contradiction in two ways. Firstly, a cursory examination of Google and Facebook will demonstrate how data mining and analysis are core practices for these corporate giants, central to their functioning, development and expansion. Yet the public rhetoric of these companies is not about the exchange of personal information for services, but rather the more utopian notions of organising the world’s information, or bringing everyone together through sharing.

The second section of this paper examines some of the core ramifications of death in terms of social media, asking what happens when a user suddenly exists only as recorded media fragments, at least in digital terms. Death, at first glance, renders users (or post-users) without agency or, implicitly, value to companies which data-mine ongoing social practices. Yet the emergence of digital legacy management highlights the value of the data generated using social media, a value which persists even after death. The question of a digital estate thus illustrates the cumulative value of social media as media, even on an individual level. The ways Facebook and Google approach digital death are examined, demonstrating policies which enshrine the agency and rights of living users, but become far less coherent posthumously. Finally, along with digital legacy management, I will examine the potential for posthumous digital legacies which may, in some macabre ways, actually reanimate some aspects of a deceased user’s presence, such as the Lives On service which touts the slogan “when your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting”. Cumulatively, mapping digital legacy management by large online corporations, and the affordances of more focussed services dealing with digital death, illustrates the value of data generated by social media users, and the continued importance of the data even beyond the grave.

Read the rest at the M/C Journal (open access).

Incidentally, yes, one of the points in this article is already out of date as last month Google quietly launched their Inactive Account Manager. While far from perfect, this Inactive Account manager gives Google users more control over what happens to their Google stored assets after they pass away (well, actually, after they don’t log in for a specified period of time). It is, however, far from perfect.

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Facebook’s Graph Search, privacy and the social media contradiction

[Last week I wrote the article below for The Conversation. It’s reproduced here mainly for my records …]

 Facebook Jelly Belly

Initial responses to Facebook’s newly announced Graph Search (a name only a software engineer could love) appear to be split into two main camps:

Both responses are entirely valid.

So, what is Graph Search?

If Graph Search works as advertised, then it’s a technical marvel, allowing a huge array of complex searches using real questions, not just keywords.

Type in “Which females in my area, around my age, support the Fremantle Dockers and are single?” and suddenly Facebook becomes a very specific and useful dating service. But this nuanced, “natural language” searching also means that, for many users, it will be even easier to delve into the minute details that are seemingly hidden on your connections’ Timelines.

The discussion around the release of Graph Search highlights something more important – something that could be described as the “social media contradiction”.


 

‘Social’ media?

“Social” implies conversation and other communication which we are accustomed to thinking of as ephemeral – largely disappearing after the interaction is finished. Conversations in the street or telephone calls generally don’t persist once they’re done.

To Facebook and other social media service providers, it’s the media side of social media that matters. Media fills the databases – the most valuable part of Facebook to marketers (the actual customers of Facebook) – and this media has no expiration date.

Once entered, my relationship status, likes, photos, comments on friends’ photos, silly news stories I share and current location are all media elements which are in the Facebook database in perpetuity … unless I go to some pains to remove them.

Social media networks generally aren’t run by governments, and rarely by philanthropists. Most are for-profit corporations. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn and most other online services have shareholders and are out to make a profit.

Different, but increasingly similar

Every time someone has a conversation on Facebook, or does a search on Google, that information gets stored in a database. Google and Facebook make their money by harnessing that enormous database and allowing advertisers to reach people making specific searches or discussing specific topics.

Graph Search makes the experience of Facebook more like the experience of Google. An effusive profile of the Graph Search team in Wired notes that the core software engineers have both defected from Google, including Lars Rasmussen who was one of the original creators of Google Maps (and the ill-fated Google Wave).

Notably, while Facebook is becoming more searchable, Google has been trying to gather more social information about its users by merging the privacy policies governing all of its products into one, and linking them all to the company’s social network, Google Plus.

These two online giants might have different origins, but they are looking increasingly alike.

‘Privacy aware’?

Be it Google or Facebook, privacy is a key issue in social media, and one which is at the heart of the social media contradiction. At any given moment, the design of a service like Facebook may make some information feel private, even when it’s technically not.

When Facebook shifted from profiles to Timelines, old conversations that were buried in the past were suddenly easy to find by scrolling back through the years. Graph Search takes that a step further, as anything in your history – any past conversations, any old photos or anything else shared on Facebook – will be searchable by others if your privacy settings allow it.

Limiting the visibility of a photo to “friends of friends” doesn’t just control who will see it initially on their newsfeed. It now controls who is able to search for that photo, in terms of location, caption, people tagged in it, or whatever other data exists about that photograph.

Facebook touts Graph Search as “privacy aware” but all that really means is the service will respect Facebook’s already complicated privacy options.


 

Be aware, act sensibly

As Facebook makes our data accessible in yet another unexpected way, it’s perhaps time to stop reacting to each change with outrage, and become aware of the ongoing social media contradiction.

Every online conversation we have, every photo we upload, every item we share goes into a database. Corporations will try to harness that database to make money. That doesn’t make Google or Facebook malicious, it just makes them a business.

The social media contradiction occurs when we imagine Facebook or Google to be a service, not a business. If we keep in mind anything shared will be stored forever, analysed, and harnessed to make money, then, like Facebook, we’ll be aware that social media is media, not just social.

As users, our business is to try and be aware of the privacy settings available on these services and take our options seriously. Facebook might change how their database is accessed and utilised, but if we’ve only shared something with our Facebook friends, they’re the only ones who can search for it.

Of course, if it’s not on Facebook at all, no-one can use Facebook to find it.

[This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article. ]

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Digital Culture Links: December 17th

Links through to December 17th:

  • The Web We Lost [Anil Dash] – Spot on: “Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest and LinkedIn and the rest are great sites, and they give their users a lot of value. … But they’re based on a few assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The primary fallacy that underpins many of their mistakes is that user flexibility and control necessarily lead to a user experience complexity that hurts growth. And the second, more grave fallacy, is the thinking that exerting extreme control over users is the best way to maximize the profitability and sustainability of their networks. The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that’s about Twitter’s business model or Google’s social features or anything else. We have to know what’s been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.”
  • False Posts on Facebook Undermine Its Credibility [NYTimes.com] – A reminder that Facebook’s battle against fake accounts is all about the authenticity the SELL ADVERTISERS: “For the world’s largest social network, it is an especially acute problem, because it calls into question its basic premise. Facebook has sought to distinguish itself as a place for real identity on the Web. As the company tells its users: “Facebook is a community where people use their real identities.” It goes on to advise: “The name you use should be your real name as it would be listed on your credit card, student ID, etc.” Fraudulent “likes” damage the trust of advertisers, who want clicks from real people they can sell to and whom Facebook now relies on to make money. Fakery also can ruin the credibility of search results for the social search engine that Facebook says it is building. … The research firm Gartner estimates that while less than 4 percent of all social media interactions are false today, that figure could rise to over 10 percent by 2014.”
  • Android overtakes iOS in Australian usage [Ausdroid] – December 2012: “Android has been growing globally at an extremely rapid rate with statistics from November indicating that Android currently enjoys a 75% market share. In Australia this year over 67% of Smart Phone sales were Android handsets and now research analysis firm Telsyte is advising that market penetration of Android devices in Australia has finally overtaken iOS with Android now on 44% of the 10 Million mobile phones currently in use here. iOS still enjoys a 43% market share …”
  • Social Media Report 2012 [Nielsen] – Nielsen’s Social Media Report 2012 provides statistical evidence of the trends for 2012, which shows the internet use, mobile use and social networking time are all up. A third of people engaging in social networking “from the bathroom”!
  • Text messaging turns 20 [Technology | The Observer] – “Long ago, back before Twitter, way before Facebook, in a time when people still lifted a receiver to make a call and telephone boxes graced streets where people didn’t lock their doors, Neil Papworth, a software programmer from Reading, sent an early festive greeting to a mate. “Since mobile phones didn’t yet have keyboards, I typed the message out on a PC. It read ‘Merry Christmas’ and I sent it to Richard Jarvis of Vodafone, who was enjoying his office Christmas party at the time,” said Papworth. On 3 December 1992, he had sent the world’s first text message. Text messaging turns 20 tomorrow. More than 8 trillion were sent last year. Around 15 million leave our mobile screens every minute. There is now text poetry, text adverts and text prayers (dad@hvn, 4giv r sins) and an entire generation that’s SMS savvy. Last week saw the first major act of the text watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office, in fining two men £440,000 over spam texts.”
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Who Do You Think You Are 2.0?

At today’s first day of the Perth CCI Symposium I presented the next section of my ongoing Ends of Identity research project as part of the Cultural Science session. I’ve attempted to use the BBC TV series Who Do You Think You Are? to explore how social media both before, during and after our lives shapes, frames and reframes who ‘we’ are in various ways.

As always, comments, questions and criticism are most welcome! Smile

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Facebook, Student Engagement, and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ Group

Here are the final slides and audio from Internet Research 13 in MediaCityUK, Salford. My last paper ‘Facebook, Student Engagement, and the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’ Group’ was presented as part of a panel about Facebook and Higher Education which also featured work by my collegues Mike Kent, Kate Raynes-Golide and Clare Lloyd.

The abstract:

While the curriculum, lecturers and tutors teaching Internet Communications via Open Universities Australia (OUA) have been engaging with students for several years using Twitter (see Leaver, 2012), in the past Facebook had been largely left alone since this was viewed as a more casual space where students might interact with each other, but not with teaching staff. However, in the last two years, more and more students have created groups to use Facebook as a discussion space about their units, often attracting a significant proportion of students from that unit. While these groups are important, of even more interest is the establishment of the group called the ‘Uni Coffee Shop’. Unlike the unit-specific groups, the Coffee Shop group, established by two Internet Communications students but open to anyone studying online via OUA, affords group support, social connectivity and a persistent online space for conversation which does not disappear or grow stagnant when students complete a specific unit.

This paper will outline an investigation into the effectiveness of the Uni Coffee Shop group as a student-created space for engagement and informal learning. Three modes of inquiry were used: a textual analysis of the common topics of discussion in the group over several months; a quantitative survey of members of the Coffee Shop group; and several follow-up qualitative interviews with Coffee Shop group members, including the two students who administer the group.  In addition, the paper includes the perspectives of teaching staff who have been invited to join the group by students and who, at times, answer specific questions and engage with students in a less formal manner. In detailing the results of these mechanisms, this paper will argue that fostering student-run spaces of engagement using Facebook can be a very effective means to create spaces of engagement and informal learning (Krause & Coates, 2008; Greenhow & Robelia, 2009); the support students give each other can persist over the length of an entire degree; and teaching staff engaging with students in their space, often on their terms, can create a better rapport and a stronger sense of connectivity over the length of a student’s entire degree (and potentially beyond). A student-run Facebook group also provide a space where teaching staff and students can interact using the affordances of Facebook without staff having to explicitly ‘friend’ students (something many staff are reluctant to do for a range of reasons).

References
Greenhow, C., & Robelia, B. (2009). Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 119 – 140.

Krause, K., & Coates, H. (2008). Students’ engagement in first‐year university. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 33(5), 493-505. doi:10.1080/02602930701698892

Leaver, T. (2012). Twittering informal learning and student engagement in first-year units. In A. Herrington, J. Schrape, & K. Singh (Eds.), Engaging students with learning technologies (pp. 97–110). Perth, Australia: Curtin University. Retrieved from http://espace.library.curtin.edu.au/R?func=dbin-jump-full&local_base=gen01-era02&object_id=187303

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News and Trolls: Olympic Games Coverage in the Twenty-First Century

I’m at MediaCityUK in Salford for the annual Association of Internet Researchers conference (IR13) and today gave the first of three papers I’m involved with. Today’s was part of a great pre-conference session organised by Holly Kruse. My talk was called “News and Trolls: Olympic Games Coverage in the Twenty-First Century”; it’s very much a work in progress, but the slides are embedded below in case anyone’s interested.

Sadly I didn’t record the audio, so the slides may lack contextualisation.

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Digital Culture Links: March 14th

Links for March 11th through March 14th:

  • A Sign of the Times: Encyclopaedia Britannica to End Its Print Run [The Atlantic] – “After nearly two-and-a-half centuries in print, the publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica are expected to announce tomorrow that they are stopping their presses … As Wikipedia emerged over the past decade, the question has always been, but how does it compare to the Encyclopaedia Britannica? (Answer: mostly favorably, with bonus points for breadth and accessibility.) … Recent years have seen a sharp decline: The 1990 edition sold 120,000 editions in the United States — the most ever — but the 2010 edition sold just 8,000. Four thousand copies are still in a warehouse, waiting for owners. Today, the printed encyclopedia accounts for less than one percent of the company’s revenues. Britannica, as a whole, is not moribund, though: a half a million people pay $70 each year for complete access online.”
  • Apple Reveals New “All-Time Top Apps” Following 25 Billion Downloads [Mac Stories] – Following the downloading of the 25 billionth app from the App Store, Apple have release top-downloads of all time charts for iPhone and iPad, breaking them down into free and paid lists. Angry Birds features prominently on all lists!
  • The Story of Keep Calm and Carry On [YouTube] – Well-made little video which tells the history of the now iconic and meme-ready ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ poster which was originally designed and produced in England during the Second World War.
  • A Show with Ze Frank by Ze Frank [Kickstarter] – Ze Frank (of ‘The Show with Ze Frank’) uses Kickstarter to ask fans to contribute to a new version of The Show, aiming to raise $50,000 to do The Show for a year. Instead, he raised $146,752, with over 3,900 backers (with one parting with $4000 … that’s a LOT of love for The Show)!
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Digital Culture Links: December 15th

Links, catching up through to December 15th:

  • What Louis CK knows that most media companies don’t — Tech News and Analysis – Good round up of Louis CK’s online non-DRMed release of “Live at the Beacon Theater”. While a direct plea to fans didn’t prevent pirate versions altogether, CK’s fantastic online sales and healthy profit within 4 days show that this is a huge success (and arguably the torrent versions may still be helping with publicity).
  • Facebook riot page: Danny Cook jailed for 30 months [BBC News] – “A man has been jailed for 30 months for creating a Facebook group page called “Letz start a riot”. Danny Cook, 22, of Marlpool Place, Kidderminster, admitted intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of theft or criminal damage. Worcester Crown Court heard he made the Facebook page during the August riots. The judge, Mr Justice Butterfield, said: “I would be failing in my public duty if I did not impose a substantial custodial sentence.”"
  • Louis CK – Live at the Beacon Theater Statement – Comedian Louis CK released his new standup video “Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theater” online for $5 via PayPal, available anywhere in the world, which in his words has “No DRM, no regional restrictions, no crap. You can download this file, play it as much as you like, burn it to a DVD, whatever.” A bold experiment in doing away with any sort of rights restrictions or DRM, Louis CK has released a statement thanking his fans and showing that this experiment has been a huge success. After just 4 days of sales: “As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58).”
  • Google buys licensing firm RightsFlow‎ [guardian.co.uk] – “Google is getting serious about paying artists royalties for songs that are used as soundtracks or videos on YouTube. The company said on Friday that it has acquired RightsFlow, a New York-based company that will help it identify the owners of music that people use in videos they post. “YouTube has had a long-standing commitment to solving the really tough challenges around online copyright – how to manage content rights in a quickly evolving technology world,” said David King, YouTube’s product manager, in a blog post. “We’ve already invested tens of millions of dollars in content management technology such as Content ID. We want to keep pushing things forward.” The deal should help YouTube, part of Google, manage the complex relationship it has with content owners, who are rarely consulted when their work is put online for free.”
  • No Copyright Intended [Waxy.org] – Great post from Andy Baio on the immense confusion around copyright and remix: “These “no copyright infringement intended” messages are everywhere on YouTube, and about as effective as a drug dealer asking if you’re a cop. It’s like a little voodoo charm that people post on their videos to ward off evil spirits. How pervasive is it? There are about 489,000 YouTube videos that say “no copyright intended” or some variation, and about 664,000 videos have a “copyright disclaimer” citing the fair use provision in Section 107 of the Copyright Act. [...] On YouTube’s support forums, there’s rampant confusion over what copyright is. People genuinely confused that their videos were blocked even with a disclosure, confused that audio was removed even though there was no “intentional copyright infringement.” Some ask for the best wording of a disclaimer, not knowing that virtually all video is blocked without human intervention using ContentID.”
  • (New) Twitter: Yours to discover – Twitter’s official announcement of the new interface. It’s a bit busier, with more of a nod towards larger social networking sites, shifting away from the focus on the trademark tweet brevity. Mashable has some useful notes on the new version.
  • Judge Hits Blogger with $2.5 Million Charge for Not Being a Journalist – In a case that’s sending a frightening message to the blogger community, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that a blogger must pay $2.5 million to an investment firm she wrote about — because she isn’t a real journalist. As reported by, Judge Marco A. Hernandez said Crystal Cox, who runs several blogs, wasn’t entitled to the protections afforded to journalists — specifically, Oregon’s media shield law for sources — because she wasn’t “affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system.” The Obsidian Finance Group sued Cox in January for $10 million for writing several blog posts critical of the company and its co-founder, Kevin Padrick. Obsidian argued that the writing was defamatory. Cox represented herself in court.”
  • H&M;’s New Lingerie Models Are Computer-Generated [The Cut - NY Mag] – “The models fronting H&M;’s new holiday lingerie campaign are unreal, literally. Jezebel translated an article from Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in which H&M; press officer Håcan Andersson confirms that their new lingerie-clad bodies are “completely virtual.” For H&M;’s website or catalogues, much of the store’s clothing is now shot on mannequins, which are then humanized via photo-editing software — which explains the eerily uniform pose now increasingly commonplace online.H&M; also shot real models for the campaign, but only to superimpose their heads on the standard body form. Aptly, H&M; calls them “facial models,” who are apparently aware of their abridged role in the finished catalogue shots.”
  • PS3: Delete Browser Cookies and Cache [Technipages] – Useful if iView is buggy on PS3 in Australia.
  • Swiss Govt: Downloading Movies and Music Will Stay Legal [TorrentFreak] - “One in three people in Switzerland download unauthorized music, movies and games from the Internet and since last year the government has been wondering what to do about it. This week their response was published and it was crystal clear. Not only will downloading for personal use stay completely legal, but the copyright holders won’t suffer because of it, since people eventually spend the money saved on entertainment products. In Switzerland, just as in dozens of other countries, the entertainment industries have been complaining about dramatic losses in revenue due to online piracy. In a response, the Swiss government has been conducting a study into the impact downloading has on society, and this week their findings were presented. [...] The report states that around a third of Swiss citizens over 15 years old download pirated music, movies and games from the Internet. However, these people don’t spend less money as a result …”
  • Many Online Book Buyers First Shop Around in Stores [NYTimes.com] - “Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival, Amazon.com. Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers as showrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations. According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first. Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.”
  • Zynga Sets Offering Price at $8.50 to $10 a Share [NYTimes.com] - “Zynga set the price range for its initial public offering at $8.50 to $10 a share, a highly anticipated debut that could value the company at $7 billion. At the top end of that range, the company, a four-year-old online game maker, is on track to raise $1 billion, which would make it the largest United States-based Internet offering since Google in 2004. [...] Zynga, unlike many of its peers, is churning out a profit, a crucial selling point as it starts its road show on Monday. It recorded earnings of $30.7 million for the first nine months of this year, on revenue of $828.9 million. The company, which makes the bulk of its money from the sale of virtual goods, is the top game maker on Facebook, with some 227 million monthly active users. Its latest franchise, Castleville, which started about two weeks ago, has already attracted about 20 million users on Facebook, according to AppData, a site that tracks online games.”
  • 9 In 10 Moms Are Facebook Friends With Their Kids [All Facebook] - “While 90 percent of mothers are friends with their children on Facebook, 46 percent of them restrict their kids’ access to their profiles, according to a study by the publisher of Parenting and Babytalk magazines. This percentage is significantly higher than what we’ve seen in a Kaplan survey of teens, about 65 percent of whom said they are Facebook friends with their parents. We wonder whether the moms have a more idealized view of things, but it’s possible that some of these mothers might have separate, made-up aliases for befriending their kids on Facebook. Meanwhile, other findings from the email survey of 1,146 mothers by The Parenting Group are: 33 percent of mothers allowed their children to create Facebook pages by age 12, despite the age limit of 13 set by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act and the social network’s own rules. 73 percent of moms who aren’t Facebook friends with their kids monitor their Facebook usage by accessing their pages as someone else.”
  • Facebook Extends Maximum Status Update 12-Fold [All Facebook] - “Facebook has extended the maximum length of status updates to 60,000 characters, 12 times what it used to be. Perhaps this move intends to offset the site’s recently announced plan to end support of RSS in the Notes application.The change might offer longer thoughts better visibility in the news feed than the old Notes had.  However, longer statuses don’t jibe with the ticker, which tends to clip posts after a period mark.”
  • PS3: Delete Browser Cookies and Cache [Technipages] - Useful if iView is buggy on PS3 in Australia.
  • Fail! Qantas red-faced after Twitter campaign backfires [Perth Now] - Social media #fail: “It probably seemed like a great idea in the marketing meeting. But a social media campaign in the midst of a bitter industrial battle spilling over to thousands of angry passengers has backfired for Qantas. The airline posted a seemingly innocent tweet this morning using the hashtag #qantasluxury asking for entries to a competition with suggestions for a dream in-flight experience: @QantasAirwaysTo enter tell us ‘What is your dream luxury inflight experience? (Be creative!) Answer must include #QantasLuxury. Little did they know just how “creative” – and angry – the responses would be as Twitter users seized the opportunity to have their say in their hundreds. While many of the tweets were sarcastic, most were from passengers unhappy with the state of the airline or who had experienced the disruption first-hand.  timwattsau#qantasluxury was being abandoned at Heathrow for 4 days in the snow with no customer support while trying to get home to 8mo pregnant wife!”
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Old Spice Guy … versus Fabio?!?

Mustafa_Fabio

It has been just over a year since Isaiah Mustafa’s Old Spice Man character moved from traditional advertising spaces and conquered the internet with the fantastic rolling campaign of YouTube ‘reply’ videos. I am a huge fan of that 2010 campaign and think it’s still one of the best examples of a dusty brand embracing participatory culture completely and reaping the rewards. This week, the next iteration in that social media campaign has kicked off, with cultural manhood cliché Fabio attempting to wrestle away Mustafa’s Old Spice man crown. Mustafa accepted the challenge and now a ‘battle’ rages ‘Live at Internet Stadium’ with the two both replying to challenges and comments from participants online.

Commentators have already jumped on this as an example of advertising embracing transmedia storytelling in what seems a quite meaningful way. For example, Hypervocal comments:

We don’t know how this will all play out today, but the Old Spice Guy campaign has now transcended mere advertising into the realm of long form digital storytelling. It’s fairly incredible what Old Spice and W+K have established. We’re seeing a full-on social media duel unfold across Twitter and YouTube that doubles as a quasi-advertising campaign (except that nobody cares about the Old Spice connection, they care about the characters and story) — people are being called out directly on both platforms, dates and times for the duel were announced, and tweets and videos will surely be published in a real-time, but coordinated, environment later today.

I agree that this has transcended traditional advertising, but in doing so it asks to be judged in terms of storytelling, not just advertising. Now perhaps I’m not the right person to ‘get’ this duel; I’ve never found Fabio a convincing character and just don’t find him funny. (Nor it seems does the internet; his challenge has more ‘dislikes’ than likes, but Mustafa’s reply is almost entirely ‘liked’.) However, for me, as a narrative experience, the Old Spice campaign has jumped the shark. The ‘duel’ doesn’t appear to be over yet, and perhaps I’ll be won over, but for now both the manly men vying for the Old Spice crown seem burdened by their roles, not excited by it. Fabio is a weary icon at best, and Mustafa’s lines just aren’t as funny as last year.

Live_at_Internet_Stadium

Mano_A_Mano_in_El_Bano

Update: Surprising no one, the Old Spice guy (Mustafa) won the ‘duel’, but the pathway there, through numerous odd videos, was a bizarre one, even by internet standards. Just watch the final showdown video to see odd things really got:

OldSpice_Fabio_Winner

Update 2: YouTube have run the numbers, and the Old Spice Guy versus Fabio videos (over 100 of them) clocked up 22 million views in a week, with the viewing peaking with just over 5 million views in a single day.

OldSpice_Graph

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Google+

Yes Google+ is the Googleplex’s latest foray into social networking, trying to explicitly tackle the same territory Facebook’s Social Graph, but sadly I don’t have time right now to write about it (I’ll wait until I actually have access, rather than the screenshots floating around). In the meantime, XKCD have a great summary:

googleplus

You could also read Google’s official announcement and commentary in the New York Times, the Guardian or from Steven Levy in Wired (and quite a few other places, too).

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