Itchy fingers, clumsy tweets

Donald Trump’s (ab)use of his Twitter account will one day be looked at by historians in about the same way archeologists scrutinize cave paintings.

Back in April, when I was working on my June column for LMD, I had this sense that Trump’s clumsy (but some would say strategic) tweets would be worth focusing on.  Besides the political and international furor swiring about them, there are lessons in them tweets for anyone using social media.

And that was even before he bestowed upon us covfefe.

 

Shouldn’t we ignore the tweets of the second social media president?

You may have forgotten this. In April 2013, a hacker broke into the Twitter account of the  Associated Press and sent out a tweet about “explosions at the White House.”

Reuters noted then that the Twitter ‘report’ caused the S&P 500 index to fall, wiping out  $136.5 billion of its value.

We didn’t call it fake news then – just a bad prank. It demonstrated the power of ‘news’ that the world was beginning to consume in 140 characters or fewer.

Today, the ‘hacks’ and pranks seem to come from both outside (fake news perpetrators) and within establishments. They’re still using short-form journalism, which is easily spread by headline-hungry readers.

Trump tweets (a busy search term, for sure) have become worthy of analysis at the highest levels, and not just in the media. As Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum notes, these tweets “…are not for you. They are not for the press. They are not for Congress. They are for his fans.”

Meaning, I suppose, ignore them.

One group not ignoring them, and busily documenting them, must be journalism students. They must be relishing the fact that somewhere in this is ‘Twitter torture’ is a real-time study leading to a Masters dissertation. There have been similar dissertations on the rhetorical analysis of campaign tweets. But what began on 20th January is a treasure chest.

Your ‘rights’ aren’t much under Twitter’s Terms of Service

I’m amused at what Twitter packs under ‘Your Rights;’ in its Terms of Service.

“By submitting, posting or displaying Content on or through the Services, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free license (with the right to sublicense) to use, copy, reproduce, process, adapt, modify, publish, transmit, display and distribute such Content in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).”

In other words, it says, soon after it says “You retain your rights to any Content you submit, post or display…” etc, it lets you know that you have no control over what it does with any content you tweeted, whether it be pictures, ideas of comments.

But hey, when one uses a free communication platform, one doesn’t get it for free. As we remind young people, you pay for the ‘free’ service in one way or another.

Let’s just rename Terms of Service, ”Cost of Service.”

Media Illiteracy prevails, and the adults aren’t off the hook

As our modes of communication grow smarter, we seem to be doing a shoddy job of using them. This is not just about the misuse of Twitter, of which dumb tweets are legion. Such as a Time correspondent firing off a tweet wishing for a drone strike on Julian Assange in 2013. This is about young people who have too powerful publishing tools at their disposal. If you like to know more, you will love this compilation!

This week, six High School students in Arizona got themselves and their school into serious trouble, using SnapChat. They got a picture of themselves taken wearing shirts that spelled out a racial slur. They learned, too late, that an app’s ability to ‘communicate’ should not define the message. (If none of them had data-enabled mobile devices would anyone have even bothered setting up the shot?).

An editorial in the Arizona Republic asked how students who have gone through a curriculum that probably included close reading and discussion of the civil war era, could have been so crass.

It’s hard to imagine these girls got this far in school without reading the ugly chapters in American history about the enslavement and oppression of Black people. Did they fail to pay attention? Did they fail to connect the dots to real people?

Let’s not get parents off the hook. How much time are we spending with young people to inform them about media use? It’s easy to be tool literate and media stupid.

Here are some thoughts for parents who may be considering giving a teenager (actually pre-teens, now) a mobile device:

  1. You pay for the phone and the data plan. You own the device; you set the rules. A phone is not like a pair of shoes, it doesn’t have to belong to the end-user.
  2. You better decide on the apps that get on the phone. Don’t complain later when a kid is spending too much time on Insta-brag or Brat-chat. I mean Instagram and Snapchat.
  3. Like your car keys, devices not owned by a child should be stored outside of bedrooms at night.
  4. It’s possible for homework assignments to be completed without digital devices. Really!
  5. Make sure your child makes every effort to not be in a video taken by a fellow insta-bragger.
  6. Finally, make sure your child’s school has a policy that has been updated to match the ubiquity and speed of shared media. It’s no longer valid to call it a ‘social media policy’. It’s a device use policy.

Will you buy an Apple Watch to save time or eliminate ‘gaps’?

I’m not being a Luddite here when I say that the Apple Watch could be the killer app in social – as in being the thing that kills our ability to be social beings.

I’ve followed the developments of the smart watch for more than a year now, and have even talked to students and many others about it. I come at these ‘smart’ devices from this angle: Like all things in technology, whether or not we need the product of service, whether or not we approve of the trend, it’s important to stay tuned to what dimension is opens up. Technology seldom turns out to be what it started off as.

  • Facebook is less and less about making friends. It is now all about gathering and sharing data, and you are its accomplice.
  • Twitter did the classic pivot, from being a neat way to bypass the clunky Internet and stay in touch with a few, to turn into a one-to-many engine.
  • Quora (I’m not sure how many of you you still use it) began as a great community, but is also a search engine.
  • Instagram was once a terrific creative space until the selfie-obsessed discovered it

As for the Apple Watch, it opens up a new solution to the ‘stop staring at your phone’ problem. But just because it reduces the number of times someone will take a phone out of his/her pocket, it could start a whole new trend. Siri users, for instance will find it irresistible.

My comments to the story on TechCrunnch was that there’s a boon and a dark side. We hear that the best ideas are formed when we are offline.

To which I came this comment: “A big benefit of wearables is the sensors, don’t have to use it for notifications. Not that it will stop people engaging in info overload if it’s readily available.” The point is well taken, Michael Mahemoff. But I am glad you mentioned information overload.

Mind the ‘gaps’ – This is the perfect time to introduce Michael Powers (“Hamlet’s Blackberry“) who wrote extensively on this. He makes a great observation of “the gap” we need between utilitarian devices and the best uses we put them to. If you pile on screen experiences, says Powers, “there are no gaps in your connectedness (and) you never get to that place where the most valuable benefits are.”

I love the look and the convenience of a smart watch, but I don’t welcome it. I don’t think you need to be pro something and therefore against its disruptor.I adapted to an ebook reader, yet will always read and buy books made of atoms.

But just like Google Glass this is one wearable I will skip because if only because it eliminates the ‘gaps’ I am not willing to give up.

Take the poll, and let me know. Or leave a comment.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

Ah, that is the question, isn’t it? Especially for many people still wondering if there is any value in jamming conversations into 140 characters of less. I tend to tell people that just as sending post cards, or having non-stop IM chats with six different people throughout the day have different value for different people, so too Twitter.

But — huge BUT here — it’s time to consider Twitter as less of a marketing device, and more as a listening tube.

In the second of a 6-part webinar series I am conducting (check previous one) this one will be appropriately called To Tweet Or Not To Tweet.

Here is my co-presenter, Gary Campbell on the subject.


Quotes for the week ending 17 April, 2010

“I write essentially 7,000 words every week for the blog and for the paper and all that stuff.”

AdAge on the New York Times Reporter, writing fro DealBook, who resigned for ‘accidental plagiarism’

“If you get the chance, grab a video camera (or a smartphone) and head to your nearest Tea Party. Who knows, your footage could dispel some false accusations; citizen-journalists are turning in the most reliable kinds.”

Lachlan Markay,  of Dialog New Media, on the Tea Party infiltrators.

“To all the Twitter lovers out there: this is NOT the first sign of the apocalypse….People will not desert Twitter for this. It’s inevitable — technology services need revenue.”

Josh Bernoff, on Twitter’s business model that might involve advertising

“Her brand is Teflon, ubiquitous and so strong that a book like this is not even going to dent it….The media is not going to give this story a second life.”

Michael Kelley, in Advertising Age, on Kitty Kelly’s latest unauthorized biography on Oprah

“Wait, Who Says My Tweets Belong to Google or the Library of Congress?”

Slate’s Heidi Moore, on the news that Twitter content from as far back as 2006 is being archived in the Library of Congress

“Weave in your personality. Sure it’s business, but you don’t want to be a social media sleeping pill. Avoid dry and boring messages, posts and links.”

Susan Young, at Ragan.com on the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Successful Social Media Communicators’

“Open exchange” on Twitter gets boost, but will we tweet not talk?

I was on the phone with my sister-in-law, a teacher in Sri Lanka, who complained that many young people are losing their ability to hold conversations, just while I was reading something at BBC, where the co-founder of Twitter, Evan Williams states that Twitter intends it to facilitate an “open exchange of information.” I take it he means more dialog, better communication.

She: These people have way too much information in their heads and on their phones that they don’t communicate.

He: “Our goal at Twitter is to be a force for good”

She: “They don’t know how to write anymore, ..all this texting.”

He: “I think it will be how you get personal, customised information from every entity you care about, from your local café to your government, from your politician to your friends and family.”

I know we all see different parts of the anatomy of this elephant in the room. I promote micro-blogging as a way to connect the dots, and integrate with other forms of communication. But not at the expense of analog or ‘old media’ tools. Sometimes, the best way to chat is to pick up the phone, or walk over to the person in the next room or cubicle.

My eternal challenge to communicators is: When was the last time you wrote a letter?

Writing fires up different circuits in the brain. I subscribe to the idea that ‘writing is decision-making‘ with a specific person or narrow audience in mind. Not just sending off random thoughts in 140 characters. I love what Mr. Williams’ company has opened up. I just hope it makes people better communicators, not  message generators.

Quotes for the week ending 23 Jan, 2010

“We’ve got the Internet here at Signal, and it’s been a miracle that we’ve been able to stay on air … “Don’t ask me how we’ve managed to do that.”

Mario Viau, station director at SignalFM, in Port-au-Prince, which has been on the air and online since the earthquake struck..

“Because this is just a dirge. I’m ready to shut it off. And I’m sure there’s plenty other about to do the same.

Anonymous commenter on the Rolling Stone blog that live blogged the Hope For Haiti Now telethon. He went on to say that Live Aid “existed to raise money for a terrible epidemic. But the performances were more like a giant party. People were interested, and it was a huge success. This sad telethon will be immediately forgotten. And that’s a shame. Wasted opportunity.”

“Good attitude Mr. Anonymous. With a mindset like that nothing will ever happen.”

Someone going by the name of Jeff, responding to the above poster.

“We are experiencing an outage due to an extremely high number of whales.”

Message on the Twitter web site, supposedly after Haiti suffered aftershocks on Wednesday.

“It puts into the public domain every bit of information collected by public bodies that is not personal or sensitive, from alcohol-attributable mortality to years of life lost through TB. Happily, not all the data sets deal with death.”

Editorial in the Guardian, on the launch of new website, data.gov.uk, which Tim Berners Lee ( and professor Nigel Shadbolt) served as advisors, on the request of Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

“News Corp. needs Google more than Google needs News Corp.”

Greg Patterson, attorney at Espresso Pundit, in Mike Sunnucks’s story on the battle eating up over the Fair Use Doctrine

“Yet, honest Abe and HAL9000, both had one thing in common. They conveniently applied a Heuristic theory as they were, in fact, the only one calling the shots.”

Steven Lowell, PR Manager, Voice 123, on why failure, and the ‘Heuristic Algorithm’ is a bad long-term solution.

Be careful about whom you (don’t) follow!

Lame move on my part!

I admit I don’t follow everyone who follows me on Twitter, because it’s just not possible to pay attention to so much chatter.

But today, I realized I had been following the wrong tweet on my mobile. In a real-world event this could have had major repercussions, especially if that person or group was part of a coordinated team.

The event I am talking about was a terrorist attack on a football stadium. OK, it was a mock  terrorist attack! The event was an emergency planning exercise at Arizona State University.

I was tweeting, taking photos, and recording audio for a podcast while my communication colleagues were tweeting. But ASU has so many people on Twitter now, it’s possible to not follow the right person! I feel more stupid since it was only last week that two others and I presented to a group about the value of Twitter, where I specifically mentioned how easy it was to send an on or off command via your mobile device to follow or turn off someone!

So the lessons learned:

  • Be careful whom you don’t follow – deliberately or accidentally
  • Think of Twitter as two parts listening post, one part micro-blog
  • Keep a short list of those you really need to follow –in a notebook!
  • Regularly check your account settings –esp ‘Device Updates’