Photos must tell a story

Poland broke away from the communist block in 1989. Two years before that, Stanfield – a National Geographic photographer, took a very important picture of Zbigniew Religa. Stanfield commented: “In this day and age you need more than a pretty photograph, you need information.”

National Geographic long realised that a pretty photograph is not enough. They got to the crux of the saying that a picture is a thousand words – it’s not how many words that matters, but the substance. And the substance is captured by the right moment: “I never let him out of my sight, never turned my back on him,” Stanfield said. “This was the payoff.”

Dr. Zbigniew Religa

The anxious eyes of Religa monitor an instrument with data about the patient next to him. The patient has just gone a heart transplant. Outdated equipment drapes the patient. A staff member who has assisted Religa through the 24 hour marathon, is sprawled in the corner, gaining some rest. “Each of these elements,” says Stanfield, “gives dimension and drama to the photograph, while helping tell a story.” Each of these elements, Roland Barthes would say, contribute to the multi-dimensional space of the story, left to be disentangled only by the person viewing the photo. Stanfield’s perspective does not die (as in ‘Death of the Author’) after the photo is published, but it becomes one of the interpretations. Maybe, a story of the sadness of the desolate state of that operating theatre.

Everything about photos has changed since 1987. Good story-telling photos are everywhere now, and if you’re taking them, iStockphoto.com is helping you sell them. And even if that doesn’t make every person who buys an SLR a Stanfield, Facebook is open for anybody who wants to tell a story. Instagram’s homepage boasts the slogan “Capture and Share the World’s Moments”, pretty ambitious for a website, but then that’s why Facebook acquired it for a billion dollars!

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 WordPress.com 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 WordPress.com 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

Inside Facebook Insights

Previous posts on How to build a succesful Social Network and Social Media Campaign Fundamentals both stress the importance of understanding how to measure the effectiveness of the network and campaign used to build it. Facebook Insights is one of the tools provided specifically for the purpose.

But Insights are not easy to interpret and I am glad that the Product Guide for Facebook Page Owners is an excellent document for anybody who wants to make sense of the numbers.

For example, one would ask: how well am I doing with the increase in people who “like” my page? Where are they coming from? You can tell how many people liked your page after they found it linked on another person’s profile (who already “likes”your page). You can tell how many people arrived directly to your page, and so understand how effective the link in your email signature, or on your blog, actually is. There are other monitored sources such as stories displayed in people’s news stream, ads, suggestions people make to their friends and recommendations made by FB.

But “likes” are hardly the only important thing! What is the conversion rate to page views and active interactions? How do you know if activity is happening on your page or outside and does it matter for you? Do you want to bring followers and fans closer to you – directly to your page? Then maybe you should be considering ways of growing your Facebook page following.

Good luck! Post this post to your Facebook and encourage people to comment!

How to build a succesful Social Network

In my post Social Media Campaign Fundamentals I spoke about how to start the journey and how to monitor the success of that journey. Enhancing the chances of success of that journey is the purpose of this blog post. A journey in social media is as succesful as one’s “social” capabilities – the art of living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups[1].

Let’s figure that you start a Facebook page and start posting interesting content. Naturally, you will speak about with your friends and they will come and visit. They will like your page. And they will return every now and again to monitor what you’re saying, because your activity alerts others when you post. This is presumably not the only thing you want because as we go along in time only the friends who are really interested in your area of activity will come and visit.

What you want is social networking and thus, to put together the largest possible following from the extended community around you. This is where your friends, and then their friends, bring others and your online community extends beyond those people that know you directly. Use your activity in the community to indirectly bring in members of that community to you by linking to your page and building your own succesful social network:

  1. Do not spam or harass people as this is counterproductive.
  2. If you are active in the online community already, it’s easier. But if you aren’t, you will easily integrate especially if you are already known offline. Join the online communities that matter – ask yourself and your friends which are the relevant existing pages or groups on Facebook; people you should link with on LinkedIn and Twitter; blogs that already discuss the subject.
  3. Become active by commenting positively on other people’s activity, contributing useful content you find on the web, and posting links to your blog (if you set one up). You may be recognised as an expert in your physical community and this gives you an edge on a newcomer to the area because you will know how to tackle an argument and building a followup. It will be a challenge to extend or replicate this on the Internet, just like building a community of followers on any open broadcast medium like TV. Be selective and sensitive to the nature of a blog when deciding what to say in your contribution to it because you are doing this to attract (not push away) people to your own page or blog.

Good luck building your social network!


[1] Definition thanks to Princeton WorldNet – a lexical database for English

Election monitoring using facebook

Just over a week ago I read this brief note on facebook that explains how a simple screen was used on election day to remind people to vote and asking them to click on a button if they had already voted.

Of course I couldn’t not reflect on this and how facebook is becoming a platform that promulgates openness at all levels of society. People who went out to vote just had to say they did, and others who hadn’t, saw it and were teased about their responsibility towards the nation.

What is certainly interesting is that the facebook tool combined these people’s interactions with age and political views stated on their profile. The numbers showed that a 65 year old was almost three times as likely to vote as an 18 year old, and this matched CNN’s traditional exit polls based on over 17,500 respondents coming from the voting booths. This is the thing which struck me most, and which we could certainly learn from again – almost exactly two years after Obama engaged social media and social networks to win the United States presidency.

Information, obtained through open/public data does not lie. It’s reliable. Does it follow logically that, thus, the medium which is the Internet is worth working in one’s favour all along?

 

Finally – a word before I close this post. This time of year is that time when Wikipedia reminds us that we all use it, and so few of us ever donate anything to keep it free. Please donate $20, $35, $50 or more by following this link. Thank you.

 

Google Instant.. another breakthrough for users to experience “common intelligence”.

 Google Instant was launched in the US on Wednesday.

Marissa Mayer VP for Search Products and User Experience says.. “It provides the user with an easier way to enter a query, with a lot of feedback and awsomely makes search very very efficient.”

Google co-founder Sergey Brin says “I think it’s a little bit of a new dawn in computing”.

One more intelligent step in the direction of user experience by Google! On the 30 August I wrote about the future of a child of Google and facebook. Google is the strongest search engine by far, taking 92% of  the market in te UK and 83% in the US. Facebook has over 500 million users and over 1 million websites have integrated with its platform. Yet, we have seen many a social network come and go without even a gravestone left in its memory. However encouraging these numbers may be, the future lies not with them but with whoever is innovating, making his offerings obsolete before the competiotion will. Users need products that evolve and adapt to their individual specific requirements.  The personalised experience that we as users really need is to know enough when we need to, and without having to ask for it. I call this “common intelligence”. We do not want to log in to five websites to get all the information together: we want them to talk to each other and present the information without as much as an extra click.

This is why Google Instant is another important step. It gets the search results out to you as you type. It is not just a drop-down box under the search box… the results page changes as you type so that San Francisco Museum comes up as the first result after the user has typed only sfm and has not yet pressed enter.

google instant

But we need yet to see more networking between Google users and the providers of Web content. Will Google (or indeed search) ever become everywhere on my Internet space? Will it be integrated with with my computer, my email and my Facebook so that, when I am writing a short message to my friends, it brings up in my Compose screen all that I need to know? As I type… “Will be in San Francisco and would love to see if there are any works by Picasso at the museum of modern art…” … will it bring up San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in a little box, a link to its website and its position on Google Maps (just in case I need attach them). I would then love it to also bring up some relevant information such as the fact that Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger (’55) is exhibited there.

Common intelligence… isn’t it?

Learn more about Google Instant

People always need to know more… is Facebook always going to be enough?

People in general need to know just about enough about anything that surrounds them. Some of this is called is gossip, some known as current affairs and some as networking. It makes knowledgeable people interesting. It makes it easy for this lot of interesting people to have a thousand friends on Facebook – connecting with everybody, sharing photos, making events popular by attending them and YouTube videos a success because they post them on their walls.

Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)
Facebook Creator ZUCKERBERG (Photo by Andrew Feinberg - Everystockphoto.com)

A decade ago, the Internet was nicknamed the Information Superhighway. The world talked about building an Information Society. Companies talked about how many Knowledge Workers they employed. In the world we live in, you don’t ask somebody who comes in for an interview if they have Internet at home. You don’t ask if they use email, if they’re familiar with how to write a document on a computer, or if they are on Facebook. People don’t send in typewritten CVs through the mail. They apply online, or send a PDF through email.

At the same rate that people have become more connected to the Internet, computing resources have also become ever so more accessible. Using computing power to extract intelligence has become infintely more possible. We now need not think how much such power we need: we can hook to a grid that gives us much as we need, when we need it. Virtualised computing resources, available on demand, are sometimes referred to as cloud computing. The information superhighway has become a reality not because you can Google up just about anything, but because all this data is now connected. There is also so much computing resource that we can crunch it into the useful information we need, when we need it.

So, begs the question: When will this infinite computing resource be used to connect data and people intelligently? When will this be done so that it matters not where the data is stored, what email account you used to upload it, whether you tagged that person as a friend on Facebook or whether it’s on the Googlemail contacts?

Today: You meet somebody at a party. A month or so later, you need a graphic designer and you remember that the person you met at the party was a freelance designer with her experience at one of the big publishing houses in Milan. You remember just the first name: Inga. So you go to Facebook, look up the friend who organised the party. You look up his friends, and in it you find Inga. Then you add her as a friend. When she accepts the friendship request, you can send her a message asking to meet and discuss the project.

Tomorrow: You meet Inga at the party. A month later you need a graphic designer – quick – and you think she might be interested. So you start composing a new email… “Hi Inga, we met at Mike’s housewarming party…”. Email will match which Mike in all your contacts had an event called “housewarming” to which both you and an ‘Inga’ were invited. Privacy settings permitting, email will immediately connect you with Inga and offer to add her to your contacts. Inga has shared some photos of the party which are intelligently matched with your profile picture: you are prompted to validate them and if you confirm that it’s you in the photo they will also be published to your wall.

In February’s post about Usability I wrote about digital natives who need product usability to evolve and adapt to their expectations. Facebook has stopped being innovative and, at this rate, even if it now prides 500,000-plus users, it will be replaced by any future social engine that will make it possible for information to be truly ubiquitous. The next big thing will be the Facebook that is also a Google of what I call common intelligence.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Juan Pablo for the inspiration.

Vaseline Facebook App Lightens Skin

Over 17% of the world’s population live in India: no wonder Vaseline’s skin lightening Facebook app hit the news when it was launched through Bolywood actor Shahid Kapoor. Another company’s attempt at social media usage.

Vaseline Men Be Prepared launched by Shahid Kapoor

The 29-year old Shahid wears the well-groomed look of the superstar of Bolywood and I wonder if that’s Vaseline’s doing. But Vaseline promises Indian men that just 1 minute a day wearing the new Vaseline Men will result in a fairer spotless face. Not only just spotless, but also lighter skinned. And if ma and baba can’t afford that cream for you there’s a Facebook app to help show how you’d look if they did! The app from Vaseline promises to do this to remove the spots and the lighten the skin on your Facebook photos!

The wall of the app has the oldest post dating to 1st April and, if that’s ehn it was launched, it’s hardly a good day to launch a promise like that!

In 2009, Shaadi.com – the online matrimonial service – ran a poll for 12,000 people revealing that skin colour was the most important criteria when choosing husband or wife in 3 of the northern Indian states. You wouldn’t blame Vaseline to think that it was a good idea to help boost the Rahuls, Amits and Farouks hopes of finding a wife to take home to mama. But the Indian men didn’t share Vaseline’s view… not on Facebook’s wall at least. 7/35 reviewers think it’s amazing, but most of the others think it’s  “racist”. This hasn’t stopped the Facebook app getting close to eight thousand monthly active users.