Governments going social. Mind the gap.

“Why do you want to take up social media?” asked the wise man to the politician. “Because everyone’s doing it…” was the scathe reply. Politicians in government and those aspiring to be, worldwide, have jumped on the social media bandwagon. Those forcing their public service organisations to do likewise, without thinking, are in for a surprise. This is not about a facebook page with many followers and a moderation policy.

Governments have legacy and countries have a future; and the distinguishing feature we look out for in democracies is openness. It’s not the means but the end which matters. Social media is the demonstration of openness of this decade – it will be superseded by other more faithful representations sometime (soon).

So what’s at the root of a successful social media strategy if it is to be truly exemplary of a positive transformation? Of openness that lasts beyond the medium itself? Two key points:

1. Instilling a culture of collaborative interaction between public service and the customer (the citizen). The official will listen and act with service improvements and policy formation that is worthy of a rolling democratic process.

2. Bringing together true citizen activism. The age of representative democracies with ‘elders’ or politicians who decide everything for everyone is clearly over because it’s not allowed by the voter anymore. Voter turn-out is going down. The age of blind trust in the civil servant is also clearly not the case. People are informed and have become knowledgeable customers who demand explanations. But, do people care to make it better for everyone? Do they feel that they are empowered to do this? The answer on a general global landscape is “no”. And this can be reversed if and when public servants become demonstrably interested in the public’s point of view – and act on it. Then people will speak up, will become active in change, and will become more appreciative.

This is when we start harnessing social capital.

Everyone will agree that there is a great deal of ‘known’ that’s untapped. All of this ‘known’ is in the heads of our customers, prospective customers, employees and even in the heads of those who currently don’t care. Tapping it means involving people. That’s only possible when the institutions reformat to become collaborative from the top > down. That’s to say that change must first happen internally by opening up to the cross-section of the population that’s the employees.

Employees are the organisation’s main asset in the drawing and execution of a social media strategy. Those of them digital natives have the added benefit of having an affinity for the medium. All of them collectively have an understanding of the service offered and of the customer expectations which is unmatched by anyone else. Employees will understand that the organisation’s reputation can flourish through social media activity. When they are encouraged and trained to be active, online discourse can be distinctly of much much higher quality. Goes without saying, that this will attract other customers and will breed organic growth which is priceless.

We’d like to see employees, seasoned customers and others interact with little formal intervention, harnessing social capital, and thriving on a culture of ‘self-help’ within the community. Self-help is in fact what I figure can be the evolution of a truly transformed public service which tangibly draws on the strengths of openness. A collaborative workspace without citizen activism would otherwise become unmanageable. In contrast, with activism in place, front-offices can focus on handling the truly off-shoot or more sophisticated cases.

We may indeed mature to a point where self-help works so well that people are better educated (and have less issues) and where 99% of issues can be resolved voluntarily within the community. The closer we get to that point, the more governments can focus on governance rather than execution. Dream maybe, but certainly a goal if we need to truly do more with less!


Madonna’s first on twitter

Madonna entered the show. She’s finally on Twitter. And what a show it has been since her live debut  on twitter  as #MadonnaMDNAday!! The account’s got over 88,000 followers and she held a live discussion with fans with over 240 tweets in the little time she spent online on 5th April. That’s to celebrate a week from her release of the new MDNA album.

Madonna  "From tonight's Twitter live chat." 05 April 2012
Madonna tweeting on 05 April 2012. Source: Madonna's Facebook Page: "From tonight's Twitter live chat."

Click here to like the above image on Madonna’s Facebook Page.

I’d have said Lady Gaga followed the queen of pop in almost everything… but this time round, Madonna is the later comer to the scene. I’ve written about Gaga on YouTube and Twitter in the past, and also compared her to Obama’s performance online. Madonna’s personalised tweet to Barack Obama is “#Obama2012: Are you coming to my show in Washington, D.C.? Make a girl from Detroit happy.” Twitter dev has put together a list of her other more famous tweets. In case you almost forgot about the exchange of pleasantries during that MTV Awards night in 2003, Madonna also asked Britney to go on stage and do it again… “please come on stage and kiss me again. I miss you!!”

Madonna could probably bash every twitter record! But this may also be the end of her appearance there. After all, the tweet that announced the live session said “Madonna joins Twitter for one day only to answer fan questions and celebrate the release of her MDNA album. Got a question? #AskMadonna”. The account used for the lives session (#MadonnaMDNAday) has not sent any tweets since.

What’s next?

The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf

The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf is one of the oldest tales in England, carried parent to daughter and son for generations. Every kid agreed that the big bad wolf who broke into the first and second of the little pigs’ houses deserved the ugly ending of being boiled alive, when he tried to sneak down the chimney of the third little pig’s house.

Gruesome you’d say! Surely not what we’d teach our kids today. And The Guardian has taken this a bit further – the victims are no longer the pigs but the wolf. They’re arrested by the police and brought to justice…

The Guardian’s amazing video looks at how a story like that, maybe if it had to happen in an English suburb, would be covered by the media and how people would react on social media. People break onto the streets. Does this remind you of the London riots in August last year somehow?

(Thanks for the inspiration A.M.)

Monti, and the root of the crisis in Italy

Sunday’s (08/01/2012) ‘Che Tempo Che fa’ featured Italy’s technocrat Prime Minister Mario Monti. The popular talk show on Rai 3, hosted by Fabio Fazio has been running since 2003. Fazio is extremely polite with his guests and this was surely no exception.

I will not go into the  detail of Monti’s explanation of how he’s sure the Euro zone is not in an unrecoverable crisis and how Italy’s economy can be on the growth path soon. Fabio Fazio seemed convinced, and one hopes that Angela Merkel will be equally happy with Monti’s explanations when he meets her today.

So, however much I enjoyed listening to Monti, the interview mostly left me thinking about the root of the political crisis that led to Italy needing this unusual form of government to bring back economic stability. Here’s how the interview starts:

Fazio: “La sua manovra ha messo in sicurezza l’Italia? Cio’e` siamo tranquilli o prevedibilmente ce ne sarà un’altra, secondo lei?”

Monti: “Spero che siamo tranquilli. La tranquillita` nelle cose l’abbiamo raggiunta. La operazione di consolidamento dei conti dello stato Italiano che il Governo ha proposto, il parlamento ha approvato e gl’Italiani hanno molto responsabilmente accettato  e` una operazione molto grossa anche in base agli standards Europei, e mette certamente in sicurezza i conti pubblici Italiani.”

Continue watching Part 2,  Part 3

In essence, Monti is sure that his government’s intervention has saved Italy’s public finances. If we go by his word, it’s certainly an achievement for having been two months in Government. And yet, here are some considerations based on the interview. For Italian speakers, genuine excerpts are provided at the end of this post.

1. Speaking about liberalisation of the economic forces and drawing a parallel with what had happened recently in Italian politics, Monti says that “we have seen in the last months of political life that the balanced disarmament of political forces, which in the past experienced harsh disagreements between them, allowed decisions to be taken calmly and in a mutually acceptable way“. So was it all school-playground-style pique prohibiting any sort of agreement being reached before?

2. Monti also calls his, “un governo strano” (an unusual government) and explains that this is because it has no alliances with any of the unions or professional bodies that would normally be able to exchange their support for politicians into protectionist actions (or inactions) from same.

3. Speaking about the economic developments along the years, Monti explained how governments in Italy since the 60s basically followed what happened across the globe. Whilst during the 60s to the 80s the market economy wasn’t popular, this was then completely reversed in the Reagan/Thatcherite period where the market was “deified”. Monti argued that the nationalisation efforts (protectionist strategies) of the 60s, 70s and 80s caused a great deal of harm and these still have significant bearing on Italy’s public debt. Later, the deification of the market economy  was even more detrimental in the sense that the financial world was allowed too much liberty leading to the current  financial crisis.

4. Monti explained that the public has too bad an opinion of the political class, and that they in general deserve more respect. Significantly however, he said that this transitionary period should be used by all citizens to ask “We that are always ready to blame politicians; I as a single citizen; we as a group of citizens, are we doing our duty for Italy to grow as we would like it to?”


Point 1

Monti: “nella vita politica, negli ultimi mesi abbiamo visto che un certo disarmo bilanciato tra forze politiche che in passato si confrontavano molto aspramente ha deciso di prendere decisioni in modo pacato e condiviso”

Point 2

Monti: “…mentre tradizionalmente una parte politica si prende cura di proteggere una certa categoria, un’altra parte politica di protegge un’altra categoria, un governo strano, come quello che ho l’onore di presidiere, non fa parte di nessuno di queste geometrie politiche e quindi puo` permettersi di presentare un disegno all’paese, sperando di essere compreso, e di chiamare un po’ tutti di disarmare privilegi…”

Point 3

Monti: “ci sono dei cicli: abbiamo avuto un epoca, e bisogna ricordare i diversi cicli perche` se no, si fanno delle analisi un puo` limitate e si danno delle colpe un po’ ingiustamente distribuite. Abbiamo avuto un’periodo durante gl’anni ’60, ’70, ’80 in cui l’economia di mercato veniva vista negativamente, gli stati aumentavono la loro presa sull’economia, c’erano molti nazzionalizzazioni, e i mercati venivano pochi lasciati giochare (dare il loro contributo allo sviluppo economico). L’Italia in quei anni sotto una cultura molto dirigista ha commesso una grande quantita` di errori che pesano ancora oggi sul nostro debito pubblico. Puoi e venuta una fase nell’mondo e forse anche in Italia, con un puo` di ritardo, che ha reagito in eccesso e il pendolo si e` spostato forse anche un puo` troppo nell’altra direzzione. E` la fase cosi` detto di Reagan, di Thatcher, che` ha visto il mercato quasi come una divinita`.  Nelle cose economiche non si puo` essere manichei, non c’e` il bene assoluto, il male assoluto, e` una questione di equilibri. Allora nella fase Reagan/Tatcher, soprattutto verso la sua fase finale, la finanza e` diventata quasi un’entita` a se stante, soprattutto negli Stati Uniti, molto meno in Europa, chi gestiva la finanza e` stato talmente riverito, anche dal potere politico, che non si e` pensato a regole abbastanza stringenti sulla finanza, e quando queste regole c’erano non venivano fatte rispettare. Ecco, e` soprattutto in quella fase, che si e` prolungata fino al 2007 infondo, che e` nata la grande crisi finanziaria scoppiata negli Stati Uniti.”

Point 4

Monti: “io sento un po’ di pena per i politici che sono così trattati male dall’opinione pubblica. Si e` creato un tale divario tra opinione pubblica e classe politica, che la mia ambizione, in questo breve periodo, e` duplice: certamente tirare fuori l’Italia da un’emergenza pericolosissima dal punto di vista economico, ma anche favorire con questo periodo intercapedine una riconciliazione tra la classe politica e l’opinione pubblica, e noi opinione pubblica, perche` io mi metto dalla parte del cittadino non avendo mai fatto politica, dobbiamo anche noi in questo periodo riflettere e dire dentro di noi “ma siamo sempre pronti a dare la colpa ai politici, ma io singolo cittadino, noi gruppi di cittadini stiamo facendo il nostro dovere per fare crescere l’Italia come vorremmo?”

The two deaths that got everyone talking in 2011… and what can kill the Internet as we know it

According to Storify, their users selected two major events to build stories from tweets this year. Both are deaths – that of Osama Bin Laden and that of Steve Jobs. If one had to draw a similarity between the two persons, apart from both having worn a beard, it is surely that they have both been disruptive (challenging) of the status quo. By its very nature, disruption causes people to talk, and they did.

On 1st May 2011, somebody else was disrupted – this time, from his attempt to take a break. Sohaib Athar had left the city of Lahore to live in quieter Abottabad and had no idea he shared ground with Osama Bin Laden who lived just a few kilometres away.

The Storify team looked deep at the data of the 3 million times that Storify users searched for a tweet, found it and pulled it into a story – this year.

The 2nd ranked is the tweet of Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual). His tweets of 1st May are indeed a live coverage of the event. His story is all over the internet and you can read that part of history somewhere else. So what’s the news?

@ReallyVirtual: Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

Recently, Sohaib Athar tweeted to @Storify saying that their site had been blocked by his ISP. This apparently followed Storify’s mention of the tweet that made history. Both events happened on the 15 December 2011.

Outrageous… you’d say. These things would not happen in America!

BUT that is not necessarily going to remain true for ever. Sohaib Athar, as the copyright holder of that tweet, may soon stop anybody from reproducing it on another webpage! Legislators in America are discussing the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, explained that Reddit would not exist says if SOPA was around in 2005.

If someone submits links to a piece of copyrighted material on Reddit or Facebook, our whole site could be shut down.
(Alexis Ohanian)

The Attorney General can issue restraining orders against infringing websites. If Sohaib Athar made claims against the reproduction of his tweet (above), search engines like Google would stop showing links to the whole of even if only one post, from the millions it hosts, allegedly breaks copyright! And Paypal would stop processing their payments!

If you’re wondering how many times bloggers embed tweets, YouTube videos, google maps and Flickr images, this too collectively runs into millions (official stats here). It’s interesting that each one is potentially a copyright breach. And people do it because it’s the nature of the Internet to link and embed. And because social media is all about that.

Comic on SOPA Bill

More Information

1. Petition for the President Obama administration to veto the SOPA Bill. (“This will kill the free flow of information and conversation on the internet.”)

2. Storify is blogging for everyone. Anybody with a Facebook or Twitter account can write a story and link it to all the gossip from the social sites… also YouTube, Flickr, Google+ etc.. The Storify beta website went live eight months ago in April 2011. Analysis of which tweets were used to build stories revealed that the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th talk about the death of Steve Jobs. The 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th talked about the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Vodafone Christmas.. together to make the world a happier place

Vodafone values putting a smile on somebody’s face, making the journey from TV viewer to life-long Vodafone customer start on the right foot. Kids love to wake up to a white Christmas day.. and nothing beats the joy of experiencing their happiness. Vodafone organises the impossible, a white Christmas for the Italian bimbo (child) who goes to sleep hoping to wake up to a snowed up front garden.

The whole neighborhood puts in a helping hand. From Granny scraping ice from the freezer. To mummy busy crushing ice. And people cycling bucket-loads of ice – enough to cover the green lawn with a white Christmas for the boy. There’s even somebody dressed up as a snowman as he wakes up to a drop jaw snow-covered front-garden. Sono le piccole cose che ti fanno godere il Natale… Christmas spirit is all about enjoying little things.

Vodafone’s power to you, enjoying little things together, and bringing great smiles and expectation to TV viewers is working out well. And not just on TV, do people build enjoyment together. In Italy, ‘Bicciclettamente Smart’ invited people to the Arena di Milano to cycle 510 stationary bikes, generating enough electricity to power a large Christmas tree. I looked up news about this, but there’s yet no mention of whether Vodofone reached the objective of lighting up the world’s largest human energy powered Christmas tree.

Anybody who was there… please leave comments below, in your own language, and tell us all about it. Are you one of the fans that won one of the 100 smartphones?

Facebook Bicciclettamente Smart event page

Kia “I Like It” – is integration with Siri next?

I thought that “I like” was a facebook fans thing. But it, along with the FB thumbs-up icon, are now being used by Kia in a global marketing campaign to attract more followers.

At no point does the ad ask you to go and “like” Kia’s facebook page. I found the ad on YouTube in Italian and German after having seen it on TV. The respective facebook pages each have about 35,000 likes.

The real success is in the global page with 1.1 million + followers. The “I like Kia” section is consistent on country pages. And this resonates well with what Doug Schumacher from Zuum, reveals about Kia’s extraordinary 17% increase in facebook fans in 2 weeks (Full report here).

Kia comes with a 7 year warranty. Reliable.

Kia adopts the term closest to facebook, “Like” as part of its brand. Social.

A reliable car manufacturer that is fast becoming part of the social fabric. The next thing we know, it will be tethering an internet connection with your iPhone, taking commands on Siri and giving you personalised updates as you drive. I like it.

KIA “I Like” Brand website

A Strategic Plan for United States Federal Cybersecurity R&D

It was back in April when I first read Obama’s plans for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, and as this had happened in the wake of Sony’s cybersecurity problems, I’d also blogged about it.

A couple of days ago the Whitehouse announced it’s new strategic plan for Federal Security R&D. It’s a roadmap and it takes the approach of prioritising research on all areas including policy and technology: understanding the deficiencies, developing solid scientific foundations, maximising the impact and accelerating adoption.

A post by the CTO and Cybersecurity Coordinator on the Whitehouse OSTP blog states:

“Given the magnitude and pervasiveness of cyberspace threats to our economy and national security, it is imperative that we fundamentally alter the dynamics in cybersecurity through the development of novel solutions and technologies.”

And that’s exactly the point. Cybersecurity is no longer just a concern for techies and hackers – it’s of economic and national security relevance for every country in the world. And the open invitation to researchers and innovators in the industry to come forward and participate in the acceleration of the transition to a more secure cyberspace is surely received very well.

Nokia Lumia lights up London

Nokia Lumia 800 was launched with a bang, lighting up a London night to deadmau5 beats. It’s Monday 28 Nov, and it’s a truly spectacular grand entrance of the latest smartphone into Europe’s metropolis. Oh sorry, or is that Paris or Berlin… no we’ll just leave these struggling with the euro.

You could see and hear the 4D projection across the capital as it was fired onto the 118 metre high Millbank Tower on the Thames river bank.

Nokia Lumia 800 4D Projection on the Millbank Tower London

London is a lovely place to build the sort of hype Nokia needs to compete with other smartphones. In preparation to the 2012 Olympics the Major of London is even partner in LoveCleanLondon – an app to engage people to keep London clean.

But the Nokia Lumia 800 is still not a strong competition to the experience offered by Apple’s iPhone. Not just because it runs Windows, a generic operating system rather than iOS which is built specific to the iPhone. Lumia’s display resolution is lower on a screen which is slightly larger than that of the iPhone. I believe there’s something like 40,000 apps for the Windows phones when compared to 500,000 for the iPhone. Also, if you own an iPhone today and your friends don’t, you’ve heard them tell you that your photos look really good. That is not only because of the 8mp camera, but also because they look great on the phone’s display – and you’ll hardly match that with a Lumia.

Oh! and the Lumia weighs 2g more than an iPhone 4s.

More information

iPhone site

Nokia Lumia 800 site

A less biased smartphone comparison than mine

Missing Personal Hotspot on iPhone? How to enable Internet tethering if your carrier disabled it.


Here is the solution to get Internet tethering (sharing) back if you are suddenly missing Personal Hotspot with iPhone’s iOS 4.3.5 upgrade.

My post about tethering the iPhone Internet connection with the iPad was one of the most popular until Personal Hotspot was introduced in iOS 4.3. I thought it was the end of the problem with tethering. Very short-lived though as iPhone allows the carrier to disable Personal Hotspot. A friend of mine who is on Go Mobile Malta lost his Personal Hotspot function when he upgraded to iOS 4.3.5.

No problem.. this is how we sorted it out! The following works and gets Personal Hotspot and re-enables Internet tethering if your carrier stops it.

1. Take note of your cellular data settings before you proceed. If you don’t complete this step, stop here. The configurations are available at Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network.

2. We will now reset these to original factory settingsSettings > General > Reset. Here choose Reset Network Settings. iPhone will ask you to enter your personal code if your passcode lock activated. The phone will reboot to reset. Keep your fingers crossed :)

3. Return to the APN settings screen we talked about in step 1 (Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network) and complete all the settings details copied before. You will find that in addition to this there is an Internet Tethering section at the very bottom. Use the same APN key as for the Cellular Data section which you will find at the very top of this screen.

Cellular Data Internet Tethering for Personal Hotspot on iPhone
Cellular Data Internet Tethering for Personal Hotspot on iPhone

4. Once you have the APN settings complete you need to return to the “Network” screen. Click on the Network back arrow shown below to do this.

Network Back Arrow

5. From the Network screen switch Off the Mobile Data and then switch it On again. You may not need this step but sometimes it helps to kind of reset the data connection with your carrier.

After you have completed the above you will find that there is a Personal Hotspot option in the Settings screen.

And Hey Presto! Enjoy using your mobile Internet connection with other devices like iPad, Macbook or your other laptop while you’re on the go. You can even share your iPhone’s Internet with friends over WiFi or Bluetooth.

Will your Kia be tethering iPhone’s internet connection and taking commands through Siri?


If this solution has worked for you please share it with others.  One more click to tweet this solution or post it on your facebook.