Wednesday, January 28, 2009

French Media create Portrait of Person from Info Gathered from Social Networking Sites

Just in time for our discussion on personal branding and online privacy issues, I stumbled upon this intriguing story: Earlier this month, a French magazine called Le Tigre, published an intimate portrait of a randomly chosen Internet user laced with private information the reporter garnered from social networking sites around the web. The idea was to pick a complete stranger and to tell his life story based on the digital footprint that person either voluntarily or involuntarily left behind on the Internet. The magazine thereby tried to call attention to the fact that most people don't think about the bits of private information they share online, but that these pieces of information, once aggregated, draw a cohesive and troublingly intimate picture of our lives.

The point here: when you share information online, you've left the private sphere and shouldn't expect to keep that info protected. A good lesson for us all to learn!

Since publishing the Google portrait of Marc L. (the person featured in this article), the magazine had to change all references to cities, places, etc. The original article only rendered the names of the characters anonymous.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What a day: A new President and a new White House website

Within seconds of the swearing-in of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States came another big change today: the take-over of the White House website by the new administration. Social media enthusiasts will be excited to learn that the new site resembles the much praised site the Obama team had put up to communicate with the public during the presidential transition phase. The new White House website contains a blog and the first post by Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the White House, clearly describes the priorities of the Obama administration's new media efforts (emphasis added by me):
1. Communication -- Americans are eager for information about the state of the economy, national security and a host of other issues. This site will feature timely and in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

2. Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government. You can also learn about some of the senior leadership in the new administration and about the President’s policy priorities.

3. Participation -- President Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the Administration, and the internet will play an important role in that. One significant addition to reflects a campaign promise from the President: we will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the President signs it.
Update: Wow, I must say Obama's new media team is on the ball! I published this post at 1:52 p.m. and received a Twitter notification exactly 32 minutes later to inform me that Government Tweets (dotgov) is now following me on Twitter. And I thought they were all busy celebrating...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Spring Semester 09: Out with the old, in with the new!

The new semester is here and with it a number of changes to this class. First off, we have added a new textbook to the reading list: Deirdre Breakenridge's PR 2.0: New Media, New Tools, New Audiences. I'm hoping that this book will give students an idea of the tremendous impact social media has had (and will continue to have) on the PR profession and that it will encourage them to think of new ways to conceptualize PR practice.

Based on student feedback and my own experience teaching this class for the last 3 semesters, I've decided to add more emphasis to a number of issues, including:
  • Search engine optimization
  • The semantic web
  • Cloud computing
  • Microblogging
  • Social networking sites as a PR tool
  • Personal branding
  • Social media for crisis communication
This semester we'll also have an increased number of hands-on, in-class activities designed to demonstrate the various uses of a number of social media technologies such as:
  • Using social bookmarking sites as search tools
  • Doing a social media audit
  • Setting up Google alerts and similar monitoring tools
  • Creating a community of learners who share class content via social media tools such as social bookmarks (this semester social bookmarking will be an integral part of class participation)
Although the class projects remain mostly unchanged, the web video project will be completed entirely in the cloud using free web-based video editing tools. I experimented with this last semester and decided to adopt it for good because it worked so well (some students got hooked and started using these apps to make movies for their other classes). Besides, it looks like cloud computing might just be the future (see the rumors about Apple planning to move its video editing application iMovie online).

One of the major lessons I've learned while teaching this class is that students often approach new technologies with unrealistic expectations regarding their performance and ease of use. As a result, frustration levels tend to rise rather quickly when new technologies decide not to cooperate- especially when deadlines are looming. This is why I will be adding a session on dealing with new technologies and frustration levels when things don't work the way they should. This session will focus on how to problem shoot online and resolve technology problems on your own. An important skill to have IMHO!