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Digital Culture Links: November 5th 2009

Links for November 3rd 2009 through November 5th 2009:

  • The ABC of social media use [ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)] – How bizzare: social media use guidelines in a major corporation which actually make sense! “ABC managing director Mark Scott has announced new social media guidelines, which the national broadcaster’s journalists and staff must abide by. […] In an email sent to ABC staff this morning, the new Use of Social Media policy gives four standards which staff and contractors must follow when using both work and personal social media interaction:
    1. Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
    2. Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
    3. Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
    4. Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.”
  • The temporary web [BuzzMachine] – Jeff Jarvis articulates some important concerns about the way Twitter and other social services are contributing to a more temporary, less archivable (or, at least, less searchable in the long term) web: “…search is turning social and our search results are becoming personalized, thus we don’t all share the same search results and it becomes tougher to manage them through SEO. Put these factors together – the social stream – and relationships matter more than pages (but then, they always have). “
  • Internet piracy [Background Briefing – 1 November 2009] – Australia’s Radio National programme Backgroud Briefing takes a look at copyright in the digital age, featuring the big arguments and comments from everyone from AFACT to Lessig and Girl Talk. Segment by Oscar McLaren.
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VegeSmite? Some quick thoughts on #vegefail & #nestlefamily

Twitter hastags are quickly becoming the popular shorthand to express corporate disasters with social media. Two cases in point recently: #vegefail, the dramatic, vitriolic and 100% negative response to Kraft naming a new Vegemite and Cheese product ‘iSnack 2.0’ after opening to public suggestions, and #nestlefamily in which the many, many questionable practices for Nestle regarding infant formula, and other things, resurfaced as the company courted influential ‘mummybloggers’ (a shorthand which, I gather, should really be ‘parent bloggers’ since some dads blog in this fashion, too).

First, Kraft: while having a national competition to name the new Vegemite product actually seemed a great way to harness Aussie love for all things Vegemite, especially when you receive more than 50,000 suggestions, letting Kraft simply pick a winner from all those suggestions was not such a good plan, especially when they picked ‘iSnack 2.0’ (which might be a good name for Steve Jobs’ new toaster, but not for an Australia food icon). Since the announcement last Saturday, there has been complaints, loud, angry, and funny (see one person’s response Downfall meme style! and the satirical iSnack 2.0 Twitter stream) but at the same time, the love for Vegemite was the most thing most central in these responses.  All the complaints may have looked like a massive marketing fail (hence #vegefail) yet Kraft have announced today (a mere 6 days later) that they’re going back to the drawing boards and getting another new name:


In the end, though, I tend to agree that the iSnack 2.0 reaction was far from a PR disaster – whether planned from the beginning, or a clever reaction to overwhelming customer sentiment, in going back to their consumers and letting them vote once again (albeit from six safe and crappy names) Kraft both reminded most Australians how much they care about Vegemite and got more publicity for a new product than you could possibly generate with a traditional advertising campaign. (And despite the cynicism, yes, I’ve voted.)

By contrast, the recent #nestlefamily controversy erupted when Nestle attempted to court influential ‘mummybloggers’ in the US by inviting 20 or so of them to a paid retreat where Nestle could show off their latest products and get authentic mummyblogger feedback.  However, Nestle seemed to give no thought at all to what openly courting social media attention might actually mean. On hearing about the planned event, and noting that some of the attendees were people she respected, PhD in Parenting wrote a long post entitled ‘An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event’ which reminded a lot of people about the many issues with Nestle as a company, including their long history of unethical behaviour, especially in relation to infant products, most notably, of course, being pushing infant formula in Africa.  Needless to say, before the event even started, a massive debate began on Twitter between supporters and detractors of Nestle; the oddest thing, though, was the deafening silence from Nestle.  For most of the debate, they remained silent and let people rage on blogs and Twitter. In leaving others to defend Nestle, some of the most angry defenders have clearly done more harm than good.  I don’t have time to go too far into the details, but I recommend reading the summary by Crunchy Domestic Goddess which gives an even-handed overview of the guts of the debate in terms of the way social media has been used.

Then, in a last ditch effort, Nestle have officially joined Twitter to try and manage the #nestlefamily debates, but they still don’t understand that this is a conversation, not a PR engine.  At the end of the day, this tweet seems to sum up perfectly why Nestle just don’t get social media:


Of course, now that questions are being asked loudly, if Nestle doesn’t answer them, others will.

The difference between Nestle and Kraft is simple: at the end of the day, Kraft listened and that was their salvation.  Nestle could learn from their corporate cousin.

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Digital Culture Links: September 9th 2009

Links for September 9th 2009:

  • Food marketing, blogging, and how not to respond to reviews [unwakeable] – Lisa Dempster explains how the over-the-top response of the owners of Melbourne restaurant Lord of the Fries to a fairly harmless review in her blog illustrates how business, restaurants and anyone else should spend a little more time understanding how their customers use and converse using social media. Short version: don’t Twitter angry and then delete critical comments on your own Facebook fan pages!
  • When’s the Best Time to Tweet? [Flickr – Photo Sharing!] – Nice infographic showing the average uses of Twitter (if there were only 100 Twitter users). Useful for lecture slides.
  • The Hierarchy Of Digital Distractions [Information Is Beautiful] – Visualisation of distraction in the digital age. All far too true!
  • Warcraft and Twilight Fans Make Wikia Profitable [RW Web] – “According to this year’s Comscore stats, consumer publishing platform Wikia has surpassed DIY social network competitor Ning for monthly unique visitors. Since July 2008 the company’s traffic has more than doubled from 2.8 million to 6.5 million unique US visitors per month. Despite abandoning Wikia search in early March, it seems Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has built another great company. As of this evening, Wikia’s CEO Gil Penchina is announcing the company’s profitability due to its custom sponsorships program. … Best known for its “enthusiast” wikis, Wikia hosts more than 50,000 fan sites including the Star Wars Wookieepedia, Harry Potter Wiki, Twilight Saga Wiki and World of Warcraft WoWWiki.”
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The Future of Journalism

800px-Dead_sea_newspaper On Friday evening I attended and spoke at the ‘Future of Journalism’, an event organised by the Media Alliance & Walkley Foundation which was styled as a “Blueprint for progress”, featuring healthy discussion and debate about the future of paid journalism and, amongst other topical issues, whether news consumers would actually start paying for content they’ve already been enjoying for free.

I was part of the final panel for the night, joining Ralph Nicholson (formerly with Reuters, now the publisher and editor of The Beach Times, a free newspaper in Costa Rica), Jo McManus (who has 30 years experience as a journalist and now lectures the next generation at ECU/WAAPA), and Australian political blogger William Bowe (the Poll Bludger) for a very spirited conversation chaired by Jonathan Este, the Media Alliance’s director of communication.  We were briefed that the discussion would be pretty informal, which held true, but it was very wide-ranging, discussing everything from possible business models for online news through to the role of social media and blogging both by, and in opposition to, traditional journalists.

From the outset, I should by saying I have no idea what the best business model for journalism is in the online age, but I am quite certain it is not putting all content back behind a paywall.  That way, I’d suggest, lies disaster, one the reasons for which I outline a little below. 

There isn’t time to touch on everything that was discussed, but I wanted to re-visit three points that were raised during our panel (or earlier, and to which our panel then responded):

[1] The relationship between bloggers and paid journalists.  For whatever reason, the ‘bloggers’ (or ‘amateur bloggers’ now, since so many journos write blogs) still attract the ire of professional journalists because the bloggers are seen as a vast, untrained, amateur army of low-quality content creators who aren’t bound by a code of ethics but do get read by people who should be reading proper journalism.  To be fair, many of the people who spoke didn’t share this view, but at least a few did, and there were plenty of barbed asides to be heard.  Let me reiterate what I said on the night: there are certainly some bloggers who write as well as journalists, are just as ethically-driven as good journalists and who can research and investigate as well as paid and trained journalists. However, the vast majority of bloggers do not consider themselves journalists, do not seek to compete with journalists and still value (and enjoy) quality journalism done by paid professionals.  Despite what Rupert Murdoch might now believe, bloggers are not the enemy and those who do engage in debate with, or commentary on, professional journalism are usually amongst the strongest supporters of good journalism as a profession.  Indeed, a  blog post written by blogger and journalist Steven Johnson back in 2006 called ‘Five Things All Sane People Agree On About Blogs And Mainstream Journalism (So Can We Stop Talking About Them Now?)’ did a far more elegant job of making this point. Perhaps a few more people should read it.

[2] Digital media tools are not names to be feared, but rather processes than can be readily understood.  There were a lot of comments from old hands in the industry about the difficulty keeping up with the latest new technology – the main mentions were MySpace to Facebook, and now to Twitter.  MySpace, Facebook and Twitter all share many commonalities: they’re all about making sharing ideas, conversations, links and media (broadly defined).  Rather than asking how Facebook is different from MySpace, or Twitter different from the first two, what might be more fruitful is to ask what the latest technology does that’s similar to something you are familiar with.  Rather than treating Twitter as something new, and thus something alien, if it’s examined as primarily replicating the conversational style of Facebook, but without anything else from that platform (including those annoying applications) then you start to come to terms with what it is.  Sure, it takes a little while to become familiar with a new tool, but starting to use these tools, rather than spending copious time fearing them and lamenting all these new-fangled technologies, is surely a better use of peoples’ time. Many journalists have embraced Twitter, for example, and it’s paying real dividends.  It is, of course, important to verify any ‘facts’ gathered via Twitter, but that’s true of each and every source. During our panel I suggested that people interested in journalism can become part of the media conversation long before they become active professionals or even before any formal training using social media tools – tomorrow’s journalists can sharpen the skills they’ll need via Facebook, Twitter or whatever comes next, and that should, in my opinion, be seen as an asset.

[3] The relationship between social media and news. Many more entrenched journalists seem to think that social media tools, like blogging or Twitter, might be valuable since they let journalists talk to their audience, but they still seem to see the gap between themselves and the audience as a chasm; their audience, by contrast, is increasingly thinking of themselves as participating in a conversation, and often a conversation amongst equals.  That doesn’t mean everyone thinks they’re a journalist, but the era when journalists were set apart by their training and ethics has by and large ended thanks to a lot of very bad journalism in the world and a lot of very smart people in that audience. Indeed, the word audience might just need to be rethought altogether. As Dan Gillmor, amongst others, have eloquently described the change: “Journalism is evolving from a lecture to a conversation, and the first rule of good conversation is to listen.” This, incidentally, is the main reason I think putting news behind a paywall will fail: stopping people from participating in the conversation about the news you report or create will reduce the impact and spread of that news.

A different way of thinking about this is that many people engage with news not by visiting a newspaper’s website, but by coming across a link via Google or, increasingly, a link that a friend or contact has posted using a social media tool.  These are conversational contexts, and any media links posted in these contexts are seen as things to be discussed. In the coming months, this will be even more pronounced thanks to Google’s newest invention, Google Wave.  As I understand it, Google Wave is about taking all of the disparate bits of conversation that can happen using online communication tools and making it possible to retain and continue the conversations, regardless of where it starts (be that email, a blog, or wherever else).  Thus, for Google Wave, conversation is content.  While we’ll need to see how Google Wave works once it’s officially launched, we know today that newspapers are already put in a lot of effort into trying to gain solid Google rankings. In the coming months, that may very well involve being more conscious of news as a conversation rather than a lecture.  I can understand how that might sound daunting to journalists and the industry, but figuring out how to be part of more conversations may very well be part of successful business models for the quality journalists of tomorrow.

Those points aside, I must admit I enjoyed that Future of Journalism event; the very fact that the night was organised shows that news journalists in Australia are trying to figure out new, sustainable ways of plying their trade in the digital age.  Moreover, while there were definitely a few dinosaurs in the room, some of the newer faces of journalism, including Tim Burrowes from mUmBrella (his response to the event here), and Stephen Brook from the Guardian, showed that many journalists are definitely already in tune with the tides of the digital world in which they operate.

[Photo: ‘Dead sea newspaper’; CC BY SA]

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Digital Culture Links: August 20th 2009

Links for August 15th 2009 through August 20th 2009:

  • iiNet uses Telecommunications Act to boost copyright case [Australian IT] – "iiNet has put two new lines of legal defence before the Federal Court in its bid to stop a group of entertainment companies suing it for copyright infringement. … barrister Richard Cobden today ventured a new defence in which he revealed the ISPs intent to argue that bowing to AFACT's demands to disconnect the customers for "unproven allegations of copyright breaches" would itself be in breach of privacy provisions of the Telecommunications Act. Mr Cobden also told the court that the ISP intended to argue that any steps AFACT required it to take could not be considered reasonable unless its rivals in the telecommunications sector were also asked to pursue them. … iiNet said: "There are very good public policy reasons why ISPs cannot use their customers' information in the manner AFACT has demanded. "The existing law currently provides a process for investigating copyright theft or any other illegal activity using the internet, requiring court orders, warrants and due process."
  • Liskula Cohen Forces Google To Reveal Anonymous 'Skank' Blogger's Identity [SMH] – "A former Vogue Australia cover girl has won a landmark court battle to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who called her a "skank" and an "old hag". Model Liskula Cohen sued Google in January in the hope of forcing the company to reveal the person responsible for allegedly defamatory comments on a blog called Skanks in NYC, which was hosted by Google's Blogger service." (While I don't believe anyone is really anonymous online, I'm not sure that I'm comfortable with the precedent this sets with Google being forced to release user details.)
  • Video gamers 'older than thought' [BBC NEWS | Technology] – "The average age of an adult video game player is 35 – higher than previously thought, a US study suggests."
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Annotated Digital Culture Links: February 20th 2009

Links for February 17th 2009 through February 20th 2009:

  • 4chan /b/ goes after cat abusers, wins [Inquisitr] – “A video of two men abusing a cat surfaced on YouTube late last week, and members of /b/ took it upon themselves to bring the sickos to justice. The video was quickly narrowed down to prime suspects, primarily through the help of /b/, and local authorities arrested the men. Many have been quick to criticize /b/ in the past, but today at least you can’t doubt one thing: they love cats.” (While this doesn’t suddenly make /b/ a haven of good will and public mindedness, it does show that with the proper motivation 4chan can be a powerful force!)
  • Macroanonymous Is The New Microfamous [Fimoculous.com] – “…I interviewed the founder of 4chan for a magazine story that never ended up running. He chatted about everything from the techincal complexities of keeping 4chan alive to the anxieties of operating the most controversial site on the internet. By the end of the interview, I was thinking “This kid has seen stuff that would make my eyes burn, but he seems so smart and sweet about it all.” (He started the site when he was 15; he just turned 21.) It seemed like insightful stuff that should run somewhere, so here it is….”
  • Whisper campaigns exposed: pay per lie on YouTube [The Age] – “One of Australia’s most popular YouTube users has admitted being paid to spruik Ten’s new show Lie To Me surreptitiously in the latest example of marketers invading the popular video sharing site. Amateur video maker Hugh Thomas, 26, from Bondi, said he was asked by a mystery third party to create a video blog on Lie To Me and publish it on his popular YouTube channel, in return for payment from 20th Century Fox. He would not give more details of the whisper campaign, saying he was bound by a non-disclosure agreement.”
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Annotated Digital Culture Links: December 16th 2008

Links for December 16th 2008:

  • The writer’s guide to making a digital living [Australia Council for the Arts] – “The writer’s guide was developed through the Australia Council’s Story of the Future project to explore the craft and business of writing in the digital era. It includes case studies from Australia’s rising generation of poets, novelists, screenwriters, games writers and producers who are embracing new media and contains audio and video content from seminars and workshops, as well as extensive references to resouces in Australia and beyond.” (The online presentation is great, but you can also download the full guide as a PDF and watch the hilarious introductory video.)
  • YouTube Videos Pull In Real Money [NYTimes.com] – Making videos for YouTube — for three years a pastime for millions of Web surfers — is now a way to make a living. Michael Buckley quit his day job in September. He says his online show is “silly,” but it helped pay off credit-card debt. One year after YouTube, the online video powerhouse, invited members to become “partners” and added advertising to their videos, the most successful users are earning six-figure incomes from the Web site. For some, like Michael Buckley, the self-taught host of a celebrity chatter show, filming funny videos is now a full-time job.”
  • A “Run” of William Gibson’s “Agrippa” Poem from a Copy of Original 1992 Agrippa Diskette [The Agrippa Files] – A video capture of William Gibson’s infamous self-destroying poem Agrippa – to read it, you had to erase it! Amazing stuff.
  • Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of 2008 [TorrentFreak] – Surprising no one, The Dark Knight is the most pirated movie of 2008, but how did The Bank Job end up at #3 given it took less than $US 65 million at the box office? The match between downloads and box office figures seems vague, at best!
  • News About the News Business, in 140 Characters [NYTimes.com] – “With staff changes and reductions across the media industry, even a blog post can be too time-consuming a way to announce who is in and out of a job. That is why a public relations employee turned to the instant-blogging platform Twitter to create The Media Is Dying, a Twitter feed that documents media hirings and firings in one-sentence bursts of text. “These sorts of layoffs are unheard-of,” said the stream’s founder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve his sources in the industry. “It’s gotten insane to keep up with who was moving around and changing beats.” Initially, The Media Is Dying was accessible only to select Twitter members, as the feed was intended to help those in the P.R. industry stay on top of the revolving entries in their address books. But requests to be included flooded the founder, who decided to go public three weeks ago.”
  • Iran’s bloggers thrive despite blocks [BBC NEWS | World | Middle East] – “With much of the official media controlled by the government or hardline conservatives, the internet has become the favoured way of communicating for Iran’s well-educated and inquisitive younger generation. Go online in Iran and you will find blogs or websites covering every topic under the sun. Politics, of course, but also the arts, Hollywood cinema, women’s issues, women’s sport, pop music. Whisper it quietly, there is even an online dating scene in the Islamic Republic. Day-by-day there is an intriguing cyber-war, as the government wrestles for control of the internet, and Iran’s bloggers wrestle it back. Iran hosts around 65,000 bloggers, and has around 22 million internet users. Not bad for a country in which some remote areas do not yet have mains electricity.”
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A Very CC Year …

As the Creative Commons movement celebrates a birthday this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on my year in CC terms, as well as showing off some very impressive CC-licensed work by my honours students.  It has already been a pretty big year in Creative Commons terms for me and the students I teach; in the first semester my Digital Media class experimented with Creative Commons licenses on a lot of their output, including many of their Student News reports and almost all of their outstanding Digital Media Projects; I’ve also enjoyed being part of an education panel at the Building an Australasian Commons conference in July, as well as presenting on my talk ‘Building Open Education Resources from the Bottom Up’ at the Open Education Resources Free Seminar in Brisbane in September.

As the year’s drawing to a close, I’m delighted to highlight one last effort, this time from the honours students in my iGeneration: Digital Communication and Participatory Culture course.  The course, as in past years, has been a collaborative effort between the students and myself; I’ve provided the framing narrative and opening and closing weeks, while the students, in consultation, have written the central seminars in the course.  Moreover, all course content from the seminars to the curriculum, from the students’ audio podcasts to their amazing remix videos, has been released under a Creative Commons license as both an exemplar of their fine work and an Open Educational Resource which, hopefully, will be something other teachers, students and creative citizens can draw upon for their own purposes. Moreover, given that I first ran iGeneration in 2005, this year’s students already built upon the work of that first cohort, learning from their peers and, hopefully, sharing so future peers can build on this work, too.

I also thought I’d take this opportunity to showcase some of the specific media projects created this year.  The first is a really impressive podcast by Kiri Falls which looked at the Babelswarm art installation in Second Life


[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]
Kiri’s final project for the unit, this time a remix video, takes quite literally the idea that creativity builds upon the past, with this enjoyable video which mashes together a plenitude of videos and photographs …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

The second remix project I wanted to showcase is by Alex Pond; Alex has created a short but very poignant  video which takes issue with the monolith that is copyright law, but celebrates the freedoms which are shared via the Creative Commons …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

The final remix I wanted to highlight is a bit different.  This one, by Chris Ardley, includes art and music from creators who’ve explicitly given Chris permission to re-use their work and share it under a CC license.  This animation, created in Flash, explores remix more metaphorically, and tells a tale of worldly creation …

[Full Sources & Exegesis] [CC BY NC SA]

I think all of these projects are quite impressive, and I was delighted at how seriously this year’s students took the idea of remix and how many of them embraced everything that the Creative Commons has to offer, as well as giving back something of their own.  I’ve also finally written iGeneration up as an educational example in the CC Case Studies Wiki, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while!

So, Happy 6th Birthday to the Creative Commons! In the next six years, I hope you’ll consider sharing work under a CC license if you haven’t already; a shared culture can help us all be a lot more creative.  I know my students have benefitted from the generosity of the Creative Commons, and have, in turn, added a few quite impressive ideas and artefacts back into the creative stream.

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The Wired Everyday: Blogging (Lecture Slides and Notes)

Hello to anyone visiting from the Self.Net: Identity in the Digital Age course. The slides from my guest lecture are embedded here:

If you click the link and follow back to Slideshare, you’re welcome to download the slides for your own uses if that would be helpful.

Some of the links discussed today that you might want to explore:
* Rebecca’s Pocket (Rebecca Blood)
* Dear Raed (Salam Pax)
* http://jilltxt.net/ (Jill Walker Rettberg)
* Larvartus Prodeo (Mark Bahnisch et al)
* The Daily Kos

Comments or questions are welcome!

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