Daring to be truthful?

August 9, 2012

A new report from Dare London entitled ‘Digital Britain: the truth about how we live today through technology’ (PDF, 175 pages, 7 Mb) is available from ThisisDare.com. The report analyzes usage data from a number of sources to present a view, in very pithy terms, of how the UK public is using digital media. Amongst the results they note that whilst there are less female users, those women who do use it, use it more. There are analyses of the type of things done online and the amount and time spent doing them by gender and age group, there is then the effect of e-advertsing and how it is having to change to accommodate changes in practice.

There is a similar analysis of mobile usage with a comparison of Android and Apple behaviours, along with a detailed examination of the app economy. The report also views tablet computing and the market there. Included is a lengthy study of the differing online behaviours including use of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn along with opportunities for marketing people. The analysis includes buying patterns involving the various coupon offerings and even how television and other viewing, listening as well as reading is being affected by the new media in reality.

Even bloggers get a look in with a breakdown of who does what and their demographics, along with an intense look at games. The report potentially blows out of the water a number of the myths around new technology but concludes with the paragraph that:

“The internet is becoming flatter, deeper and quicker. It’s reaching more people, on more occasions, on more devices, more speedily. Brands need to prepare for that future. Specifically, they need to ready themselves for an internet that no longer lives on a desk and that is no longer run by institutions. Prepare for people and places.”

A lengthy read at 175 pages but far from dense with lots of colour graphs and charts. Yes, technology is changing things but not necessarily in the ways that were forecast or are being touted currently. Thanks for this Dare – it’s not often that everything is brought together for a panoptical view and it makes a difference!

Social media and customers

August 1, 2012

First of all I picked up from a Tweet by Jerry van Leeuwen that there was a new item on the Harvard Business Review blog network by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. Nothing particularly new there, for as they say “social media improves service by making the market for peer-to-peer opinion more efficient”. They break this up into three components – ‘service recovery’, service improvement’ and ‘customer training’.  Then a post on the Econsultancy blog on 24 July 2012 by Patricio Robles entitled “Is Twitter creating a VIP customer service channel?” repeats a similar argument with examples concluding that “social media is a supplement to existing customer service programs, not a replacement”.

This was then reinforced by the weekly news email from Gerry McGovern who stated that “many customers go to social media sites to complain”. Gerry states that “Organizations have abused words such as community and loyalty for a long time. There s a need to get real.” This is combined with an attack on the ‘sticky’ websites of old. He states that there research indicates the need to help customers:

  • trust the information they receive
  • receive clear messages at each decision stage
  • weigh the options confidently

This is equally appropriate to government and the failure to do so is why citizens continue to use multiple channels. The advise from Frei & Morriss, along with Patricio Robles, might help regain that trust. Whilst I remain less skeptical on social media for government I do think any approach needs to be done on a strategic basis and follow some of the best practice already identified.

Less skeptical on social media

July 26, 2012

John Kamensky at GoverningPeople has pointed me to a recent report from the Feis Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania entitled “The Rise of Social Government“. At 110 pages the 3Mb PDF download is not a light read but is a thorough study and endorsement of the use of social media across US government large and small. As an example of the numbers involved in using social media in the USA NASA has more followers than the population of Denver, Colorado, whilst The US State Department has more followers than that of Salt Lake City.

The uses highlighted include information distribution but also drawing feedback about graffiti and repairs needed, along with encouraging participation in producing policy. The report considers different ways of managing social media, either central or distributed, along with a variety of ways of getting content approved before publication. There are obviously going to be uses for social media in government, including local government, but before driving potential followers away by tedious or untargetted messages it is probably best to examine a serious report about how it has been successfully used and then considering whether that would work in your own locality.

Streaming the meme

July 24, 2012

Matt Labash in The Weekly Standard of 4 June 2012 reported upon an event at MIT in a piece entitled The Meme Generation. The event was the third biennial ROFl conference that brings together memes and those that study them. What has this to do with e-government? It’s just that it gave me food for thought – one of those involved, Bear Vasquez aka Double Rainbow Guy, had moved on from filming rainbows to filming the crowd filming him (in duplicate). This made me think that if this is the way forward for memes, what might be the direction for all the social media wonks in government – “mirror, mirror on the wall…”.

Social voting

July 21, 2012

Two different stories bring together how Facebook is becoming used more in public life. The first is from the MIT Technology Review dated 12 July 2012 by David Zax and is entitled “Facebook, CNN, and the Rise of Social Voting“, the second appears on The Register of 18 July 2012 and is written by Neil McAllister and headed “Washington State to allow voter registration via Facebook“. The first piece with its subtitle of “Can technology disrupt democracy” is possibly the scariest, although it mainly concerns the development of a Facebook app by CNN that permits endorsement of candidates and issues, along with a commitment to vote, by Facebook users. The piece also names a few related applications: ElectNext, Votizen and PopVox. What is perhaps concerning in the first case is that due to the ‘now’ factor involved in social media voting might be reflecting journalistic leads from CNN.

The second piece is a much simpler use of Facebook with Washington State (not DC!) harvesting names and dates-of-birth from Facebook into their voter registration system. This will obviously require the originating user to be real and the data to be accurate. I recall attempts in the UK to register Mickey Mouse and the pet hamster on more than one occasion!

In general it does indicate a general look to social media to increase democratic input. However, if someone can’t fill out a registration form occasionally and turn up at a polling station every so often, representative democracy is dead and we need to be looking at a new way of delivering it – as Marshall Ganz has said “the chance for people to become actors and not just spectators in the drama of life”. [New Statesman, 16 July 2012, p.54].

Youth and social media

July 6, 2012

As has been commented on here recently young people do use social media but not in the manner those trying to engage with them necessarily think. Steven Clift kindly pointed his network to an American study of young people there and their social media usage. The report ‘Participatory politics – New Media and Youth Political Action‘ (PDF, 1.45Mb, 56 pages) authored by Cathy J. Cohen (University of Chicago), Joseph Kahne, Benjamin Bowyer, Ellen Middaugh (Mills College) and Jon Rogowski (University of Chicago) presents some interesting conclusions.

The paper appears to envisage participatory politics as a parallel track to conventional or representative politics, where one voices one opinions which, may or not reach the ears of politicians, but are heard by friends and family. It bases the need for it upon the existing use in recent campaigns, along with the finding that unlike voting participatory activities are more equitably distributed – something that might cynically be assigned to the old adage, sometimes attributed to Emma Goldman, that if voting could change anything they’d make it illegal. Importantly the paper does acknowledge on page 37 that “one should not assume that the new digital media or the alternative paradigm of participatory politics will organically expand youth political engagement”, but quotes Henry Milner on page 38 that “generations that turn their backs on politics in favor of individual expression will continue to find their priorities at the top of society’s wish list – and at the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list.”

Further it states on page 38, as was stated in an earlier post – Digital entitlement – “youth must learn how to judge the credibility of online information and how to find divergent views on varied issues” and interventions may be required to assist young people in learning these skills – what a better scheme to pep up ICT classes, or many others, in schools and colleges?

Social media mischief

July 3, 2012

As has been reported on this blog before social media can be used for good and bad. The latest example of the mischief making variety to appear on my horizon is from the MIT Technology Review where they report on how a spamming war has been taking place in the Mexican presidential elections. The piece ‘Twitter Mischief Plagues Mexico’s Election’ by Mike Orcutt describes how ‘bots’ were being used by candidates to denigrate their opposition.

Given the human inclination to employ any tool developed for good purposes for an alternative, less ethically sound one, this is should probably come as no surprise. However, as with the development of software viruses, spam and the other potential deterrents such misuse is only likely to deter those fence-sitting potential users of new technology or the younger, potentially apathetic voters, both of whom will disengage physically or mentally from that type of social media to avoid issues.