Identity theft is a huge concern with the increased usage of computers for online banking and buying. It’s been found out that shoppers at the popular online retailer Blippy are at risk of having their credit card information shown live in Google searches.
On Friday I had the tremendous opportunity to attend the PSFK Conference here in New York. While I only made it to the afternoon sessions, I was simply blown away by the creativity, innovation and excitement coming from this year’s presentations. The talks that I most responded to fell within the heading of “Changemaking” and challenged us to think beyond our current definition of progress, to challenge the openness of government, to push for simple solutions, and to re-think the way art and digital collide. A couple of themes from these talks included:
Small is the new big: From No Impact Man’s lessons from taking a year to step off the grid and appreciate the little things (community, togetherness, diaper duty), to John Dimatos sharing simple digital solutions that can significantly expedite disaster relief for Unicef, it is clear that the economy and the environment are both creating a greater need for simplicity in everything we do.
The innovation being driven by that necessity is exciting, and there is a lesson to be learned for brands as well. Often times stripping down products, programs and services to their essentials can lead to better experiences, enhanced offerings and more creative thinking.
DIWO (Do It With Others) is the new DIY: This phrase, coined during Zach Lieberman’s inspiring talk about art and technology, spoke to the recurring theme of collaboration and community (a theme that was reinforced by the collective energy of the PSFK community).
By outlining the changes implemented in just the past year to new York State Senate web site, Andew Hoppin made a strong case for a more direct, more participatory government, enabled and empowered via social media. Taking a page from the White House, the NY Senate is providing a way for Senators to have direct contact with the people they represent, and gives constituents a louder voice through social network integration, commenting, rating and response all within nysenate.gov.
And I’ll leave you with this video – one of my favorites from Zach Lieberman that demonstrates the power that comes with creating amazing, truly extraordinary experiences. His demos had everyone open-mouthed. You can see more at http://openframewords.cc. Enjoy.
Last month, toy manufacturer Mattel made waves with geeks everywhere with the announcement of Barbie’s newest profession. For the popular doll’s 125th occupation, Mattel consulted over half a million fans. Through Facebook and Twitter, the public was encouraged to vote Barbie’s new profession. The public has spoken and Barbie’s newest career will be as a Computer Engineer.
“Coder Barbie,” much like her other high-heeled wearing counterparts, has not avoided the usual controversy that surrounds the release of modern Barbie incarnations. Last year alone, “Burka Barbie” and “Black Barbie” kicked up heated comments all around the blogosphere as critics questioned their political correctness. Many are wondering how a computer programmer who works with binary codes and numbers all day also wears hot pink high-heels with matching glasses and laptop?
Critics have cited current gender inequalities that exist within tech fields. Most feel that a blue-tooth touting blonde with pink accessories will further accentuate these inequalities. Mattel hopes that the release of Computer Engineer Barbie will “inspires a new generation of girls to explore this important high-tech industry, which continues to grow and need future female leaders.”
The release of this Barbie has definitely been a step in the direct of raising awareness of the availability of tech-related careers for all genders. What do you think – is Coder Barbie one small step for gal-geeks everywhere or does it do more for deepening gender inequalities?
On the internet, any media outlet can overcome its single-dimension status offline. Print outlets can excel in video, local TV stations can add text and stills, radio can get visual. When NPR.org relaunches overnight, it will add all kinds of features to enhance and extend its audio, including improved search, embedding and transcripts, and more multimedia. But at a time when others are pushing ahead with video, National Public Radio is standing still.
I’ve felt this way about NPR’s approach to video for quite some time. In April of 2008, I heard a great new band on the now-defunct Bryant Park Project. They were a new indie rock band called Smoosh. A big fan of one of the songs they played, I promptly embedded the video into my personal blog after it was available online. Fast forward to March of this year, when I felt like listening to the song again only to see that the video embed had been disabled. Now, this isn’t uncommon. Content providers do this all the time, in fact. Pageviews are pageviews and revenue is revenue. I don’t blame them.
However, to me, this is antithetical to NPR’s culture and without the focus on video within this new direction – probably a shot in the foot to a very influential media brand. They’ve always been scrappy; embracing new technology to spread the word about their great content and programming. New audiences are using new technologies – embracing that tech helps get content (and subsequently “culture”) in front of new people. In this case, it worked exactly the way it should for me. I don’t often listen to the radio, but I heard this segment and was able to share it with my friends. Quickly and easily. What’s not to love?
Ben McConnell says it straight: Word of mouth is a byproduct of a remarkable culture.
Why, then, make the decision to cut-off an integral vehicle in spreading that culture and, consequently, lose out on word of mouth capital? This is a big issue staring not just media outlets but brands as well, straight in the face. Content can be expensive to produce but how do you create life-long loyal fans and generate tangible social captial without providing something valuable and interesting upfront? Ultimately, it has to come from somehwere and you can’t (NPR included) lose sight of the big picture.
What’s more valuable? Saving money now or building exemplary passion through culture-sharing? Odds are, the choice to put yourself out there will translate better to an invigorated base of supporters whom can carry you though the rough patches for years to come. Walking away from video’s “unproven” value when new, vibrant audiences are certainly reachable through it hopefully won’t prove to be a mistake for NPR in years to come.
As PR practitioners, we’re paying close attention to how the media landscape (digital or otherwise) is evolving. Usually, this is at a very granular level. How a key magazine or newspaper folding might affect clients we do work for on a daily basis. However, as an industry evolves, there is always opportunity to look at how it provides value on a daily basis.
In short, I’ve found this really interesting. Finding out how new tools and technologies are helping change the face of news/journalism/the media and, most importantly, rise above the din. There are two instances that I’ve come across in the past week that have stuck out a bit more than others.
Kudos to NPR for making an automated Twitter account pretty impactful (it almost makes up for the fact that their videos are no longer embeddable but that is an argument I’ll make another day). Via the Neiman Journalism Lab, they’ve created an experimental account that mines NPR’s archives trying it’s best to deliver contextual news. This, usually, isn’t breaking stuff – it’s background. It’s the information that helps us understand why and how current news items are relevant. How it works:
NPRbackstory uses Google’s Hot Trends data to determine what topics people have suddenly started searching for in large numbers. It uses NPR’s API to search the archives, then uses Yahoo Pipes to create an RSS feed that then gets cycled into the NPRbackstory Twitter account.
The process isn’t perfect but this is a step in the right direction.
I use Twitter because no one can edit me. In a media world driven by an edited sound bite, and a Capitol Hill culture that parses, obfuscates, and works hard at saying nothing, we shouldn’t look down our noses at a few short declarative sentences. While this method of direct communication makes my staff nervous – they think it makes me look less “senatorial” — it is me. I’m a Midwesterner, and this short simple way of speaking is my native tongue.
I especially enjoy her close. ”Social media” is about real people, real conversations and our real lives.
Finally, it’s fun. Trust me when I tell you that part of the problem in Washington is that folks there take themselves way too seriously. As I tweet about my college basketball team, global warming, my kids, reverse mortgages, music, and tax policy, or as I Tumblr blog about rules of voting on the budget and my creamed spinach recipe, I’m staying connected, grounded, and I have a smile on my face.