Tag Archives: social networking

Embracing Change

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THE world is changing pretty fast – exponentially in many cases, particularly in the technology and online industries. It’s natural for anyone, regardless of age or creed, to feel overwhelmed by the library­ of choice. Laptops, iPads, notebooks, Kindles, iPhones, netbooks, iPods and gaming consoles are all on offer under different brands and with varying specifications. This is failing to mention the infinite range of smartphones.

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The lives of people on the Internet

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THE INTERNET: Feel free to be a jerk

Guest post by Tharuna Devchand

SO a little while ago the Mail & Guardian suspended a journalist intern for an anti-Semitic comment on Facebook that amounted to hate speech and was therefore in conflict with the South African Constitution. Without a warning, the kid’s career was ruined because of a social networking site where groups like “My name is Khan” (a group that disrespects Hinduism) and “F*** Islam” exist with thousands of followers who spread the hatred.

I’m not justifying what Ngoako Matsha said, nor am I implying that M&G was wrong in suspending him, but consider the medium in which he said it — cyberspace.

In cyberspace, every person should be seen as a figment of their own imagination­. Nothing is real. Nothing we say is a true reflection of who we are. On the Internet, we are all Tyler Durdens. There are no boundaries, no policies and rules to keep us neatly between the lines, no reputations to uphold or cultural conventions to keep us in place.

The Internet is like a global Fight Club. It’s where we can guiltlessly des­troy something beautiful and return to our lives feeling better about ourselves. It’s cathartic and, since we all can’t be Jackson Pollocks, it may sometimes be our only outlet.

I constantly hear people complaining about how perfect their Facebook friends’ lives are or what interesting lives other people on Twitter have. It’s not true. It’s just what people choose to show you on the website that makes it all seem perfect.

Social networking sites house a giant­ community of people all suffering from small-penis syndrome. There is a constant war to keep up with the cyber Joneses. Saying that people exaggerate on the Internet about their lives, their feelings, their opinions and how great their lovers are is an understatement. If peer pressure in real life can drive one to do things one normally wouldn’t do, the pressure to be infamous on the Inter­net can land one in a mental institution. Gosh knows what Anthony Weiner was thinking when he tweeted a photo of his, um … weiner­.

While it is never easy to work out the true nature of a person in real life, it is 1 000x harder in cyberspace. On the Net, you can be anything and anyone you want to be.

Those who aren’t that popular or who lack friends may upload albums of them being cool with photos of them sloshed with their heads in a toilet just to show that they can party with the best of them. People who are going through tough times may exaggerate all the positive things in their lives and leave out the hardships. And people who are quite restricted or oppressed in their real lives, may go cyber crazy, voicing outrageous opinions and desires on the Net — probably under a pseudonym. It’s a safe outlet that we believe has no consequences — until we lose our jobs for letting loose.

The problem is that there is no line that determines how far is too far until we cross it. We constantly push the boundaries of what is right and wrong just to see how far we can go, whether it’s driving at 129 km/h in a 120 km/h zone or voicing mad love for Adolf Hitler and his beliefs.

Contemporary society has become mostly unaffected by things that are shocking or at least used to be shocking a decade ago, and to deal with this, people try to raise the bar. Cartoonists, comedians and teachers are continually trying to shock people into thinking about things on a different level. Look at how far advertisements have gone to prevent people from drinking and smoking excessively, and to encourage people to abstain from sex, and you’ll see just how just how numb our society is.

Is it okay for me to call my black friend a k***** on her Facebook wall knowing that she won’t be offended? Is it okay to tweet angrily about how upset I am about something the DA said and in turn label it as racist, not because I think that they are racist, but because I just feel the need to put the party down? No, but it feels good.

The South African Constitution currently doesn’t apply to the Internet. Maybe it should, but I doubt that will stop people from saying things, uploading videos and creating images that are shocking. Every day there are more stories of people being judged by their online images. Employers hire people based on their tweets, courts implicate people because of Facebook profile photos, people are fired because of some YouTube video that shows them spray painting expletives on a wall. But it’s those things that make us cool on the Net, that get us hits, that make us believe that this could one day make us famous.

Fuseware Social Media Report

SOCIAL MEDIA: And how it is transforming business in South Africa

Fuseware is a Cape Town based social media research company that is currently creating a free social media research survey about the business case for social media in South Africa. They are asking the top influencers in the media and marketing industry for their views regarding this and aggregating all the information into a 100% free Fuseware report.

I was asked to participate in the Fuseware survey but wanted to open it to everyone to participate and offer further suggestions. The six most poignant questions follow with my own responses, but please feel free to contribute and get your chance to be heard! I will pass all comments on to the researcher that contacted me.

1. Fuseware: How is social media changing the business landscape, specifically for South Africa?

In the media industry, social media is the next phase of journalism. Media industries that do not adopt and embrace social media and networking into their production cycles will surely wither and die in the future. Situations where news rooms fight social media to get “the scoop” will never win by virtual of the speed and spread that is offered by services such as Twitter, Blogs and even Facebook. Media organisations need to learn how to use social media themselves in unique ways if they wish to remain a viable source of information.

2. Fuseware: What is the most difficult challenge of social media use in business in South Africa?

I would argue that the biggest challenge for businesses in SA is finding unique ways to make effective use of social media without harassing and bomb-barding social networkers with corporate spam. Simply posting links to any business website on every social media platform, for example, is not effective use of social media and will only irritate people and possibly taint the name of that business or brand.

3. Fuseware: What is your ultimate example of business success in social media?

News websites that have developed social media extensions for their product are proving to be very successful in SA. News24, The Dispatch and The Times are three examples of businesses that have made effective use of social media by offering something of interest and value that was not possible with their print products. Interactivity, commenting platforms, reader feedback, creating web-presence and the use of multimedia are all effective forms of optimising such a business.

4. Fuseware: Which companies in South Africa do you think are doing social media the right way?

The three news corps. mentioned: News24, The Times and The Dispatch. Also gaming and IT websites are showing huge growth in SA – e.g. Take2, and of course the blogging community and more specifically blog aggregators – i.e. Afrigator and MyScoop are making great and effective use of social media in SA. These will continue to grow for a good while yet.

5. Fuseware: How can businesses in SA measure the effectiveness of their social media campaigns?

It depends on the campaign really. Following trends would be a good start, but most social media campaigns can be measured by number of followers / subscribers and the growth of these. Keeping track of website statistics and engaging with their audience(s) is also of utmost importance.

6. Fuseware: How do you envision the usage of social media in SA in 2-3 years?

The internet today is defined as “web 2.0” – i.e. the “social web”. The proliferation of social media websites and services will continue to grow in the next few years and more businesses are likely to adopt social networking into their business models. It’s almost becoming a case of “do-or-die” meaning that if businesses do not create a web-presence within the next 2-3 years while their competitors do, they will risk losing a huge number of customers / clients / readers.

  • If you would like any of your own input sent to the Fuseware team before they put together their social media report, please add it as a comment below.

MeetYourFriends: Anti-social networking

MEETYOURFRIENDS: The real deal or complete scam?

IT can be forcefully argued that Facebook has set the benchmark for new and emerging social networking sites. In fact, morsels of the Facebook phenomenon can be seen in several non- social networking websites too – usually ones that allow users to provide status updates, add ‘friends’, comment willy-nilly and “like” certain things by giving them a digital thumbs up.

It almost seems that the online giant that Facebook has become could never be rivaled or surpassed by any other social networking site – no matter how enticing they appear; but there are still some that try.

MeetYourFriends dot com is one of the latest social networking websites to reach our screens and feels confident that it will “bury their rivals within days.” With a healthy initial investment and the aim of tapping into an apparent emerging market of 30 and 40-somethings, time will only tell if MeetYourFriends will succeed or fail.

MeetYourFriends

"MeetYourFriends.com is a back-to-basics social network that brings together new friends from across the globe. With simple sign-up and fast search, the website offers instant friendship using Direct Messages and Live Chat. Based on secure and powerful web technology, the social community brings the world to your front door for chat, fun, and friendship" - http://www.meetyourfriends.com

For those who wish to raise virtual cattle and throw sheep at their peers, MeetYourFriends will not satisfy. According to a popular MeetYourFriends press release published on Techcrunch, the site is a back-to-basics social networking site that will appeal to fans of The Beatles and sliced bread.

MeetYourFriends developer, Neil Bryant, explains that the service aims to target users who simply want to engage in casual chat. “We wanted to bring some fresh new ideas into the social networking sphere, and with a unique combination of email and live chat we think we may have just achieved that,” says Neil.

There have already been over a hundred comments from Internet users regarding MeetYourFriends – most of which were not favourable of the endeavour. There is a general feeling of “do we really need yet another social networking website that does the same things as Facebook?” as well as shared feelings that the entire venture is a scam.

One intrigued commenter tested the waters by signing up on MeetYourFriends only to find that he had to pay in order to chat to existing, high-profiled users. It was discovered that the ‘social networking’ service had a dating component to it whereby users had to pay if they wished to converse with the more exotic-looking users already on MeetYourFriends. He also found that many of the “models” on MeetYourFriends were Ukrainian and that he was unable to unsubscribe from the service.

A word of warning

Firstly, anything new in the social networking world needs to be different; different and easy to use. If legit, MeetYourFriends may win favour on the simplicity front, but I do not imagine it will become anything to write home or Facebook about.

It is also always important to consider the motives behind new social networking websites – especially ones that have invested so much into their creation. According the aforementioned press release, MeetYourFriends will not change its privacy policy or allow advertising once it’s settled on its laurels.

“We think Facebook is nervous, adds Neil. Global domination awaits.” Most will find that very hard to believe. As always, be cautious when handing over any personal information online; and if you dare enter, beware of being spammed by adware and spyware and the occasional Thai bride.

Some social networking humour: I leave you with the advert for Friend Face from that timeless episode of The IT crowd:

Related: The Future of Social Networking

The Buzz around Google Wave

GOOGLE WAVE: An analysis of its untimely downfall + Google Buzz

GOOGLE announced the closure of Google Wave on their blog after much hype from loyal Google followers. There has been much buzz as to why Google Wave was a failed project, but the pivotal reasons appear to be three-fold. Excessive hype and expectations, too many features for a single web application, and at the same time, not enough unique features to differentiate Google Wave from existing services (Facebook, Twitter), all ultimately lead to its untimely downfall.

The hype involved a handful of people being invited to test Google Wave and lead to several bloggers discussing it amongst themselves. After almost a year of testing and a plethora of blog entries, a lot was obviously expected of Google’s latest brainchild. However, there were still only a handful of people that actually knew how to make use of Google Wave and in an era of short attention spans and click-happy web-users, the buzz had just about fizzled entirely upon its release.

Google Wave logoThe problem was that for the average web-user to get to grips with Google Wave required setting aside a good period of time to learn how to use it, and for many, watching a video tutorial was essential. Google’s software developers even admitted that the service “takes a little getting used to” and that even they were still learning how to use it themselves.

Once Google Wave invitees got the hang of Wave they needed more people to be using it besides themselves in order to get a proper wave going. This proved to be difficult enough in itself, but perhaps the problem was not a lack of users, but rather a lack of appeal.

What exactly is Google Wave?
“Wave’s primary feature was to let users collaborate in real time, using an in-box-like interface that resembled a mix of Google’s Gmail Web mail service, and its Docs and Spreadsheets product. Each strand of messages, which could include text, links, and photos, was called a wave. Google launched the product with an API for developers to build extra functionality in the form of extensions that users could turn on and off” – Cnet News

I would argue that Google Wave had two other inherent problems. The first being that it did not offer enough unique features – i.e. things that web-users couldn’t already perform using existing Google and other services, and secondly that it tried to achieve too much at once. There also seemed to be a lack of focus with regards to what the product would primarily be used for.

To rope people into any new web service takes time and requires baby steps if you want to get enough people on board in order for the services to be worthwhile and developed further. The web-user trend is to stick with what’s foremost familiar and secondly to make use of the tried and tested. Although Google Wave offered several easy ways to perform familiar tasks online in real-time, the popularity of services such as Facebook and Twitter far outweighed its demand as a new web service.

Google has brought many great apps to the table that are worthy of praise and the Internet would not be the same without them; sadly Google Wave was not one of them. Until a viable market demand is found, the focus should be on improving existing Google services before unleashing something new to the online public.

A bit on Google Buzz

Google had another chance with Google Buzz – a web app released just prior to Google Wave. For those who are unfamiliar with Google Buzz, the service is an extension of one’s Gmail account – appearing below one’s inbox. It can be rightfully argued that Google Buzz is essentially a Twitter clone as it allows friends to provide status updates, embed photos and links, and to follow or be followed by other Buzz users. It now has a few Facebooky features too – these being the options of liking or commenting on other users’ posts and embedding photos and video.

Google Buzz logoThe idea was to discuss “the buzz”, but from many users’ experience the service seems to be primarily used as a promotional tool for embedding links and directing peoples’ attention to them. Facebook remains the popular choice for status updating and the sharing of photos and videos and Twitter is still the first choice for posting something of real value.

I do not imagine that Google Buzz will ever become as popular (or perhaps more importantly – more popular) than Twitter or Facebook – least not until it offers something different to what exists already. Buzz needs to be able to stand on it’s own, which isn’t currently happening with the ability to Buzz on Facebook or Buzz on Twitter.

Perhaps bloggers and Google Wave testers are largely to blame for the excessive hype and ultimate disappointment of Google Wave. Perhaps it was the product itself that asked too much of web users by way of time and practical use. Or perhaps Google Wave simply did not fill a need in the World Wide Web by offering something entirely unique and different.

Google can surely be forgiven for the failure of Google Wave and hopefully learn from their mistakes. With a history of so many other great services and the downfall of only a few, support for future developments should by no means be tainted by their recent faults. Keep the services coming Google; you ultimately never know what will work on the web until you try.

Sources:

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