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Bits and Bytes

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Fish puns, ask Jelly and you shall receive, social news with the NYTimes and this week’s bits and bytes

Fishy goodness: If it’s one thing I’ve learnt during my time in the UK, it’s that Brits love a pun.

Yesterday, @TeaAndCopy tweeted @SainsburysI tried to buy some battered fish from @sainsburys but it didn’t have a bar cod!

David Smith from our social Careline team was quick to respond with this triple whammy: @TeaAndCopy Were there no other packs in the plaice, or was that the sole one on the shelf? Floundering for an explanation! David.

The resulting ‘punversation‘ is a joy to behold and quickly spread via Twitter and onto the HuffPo.

Also, it reminded me of this wonderful ‘Little Story‘ about Sainsbury’s sustainably sourced prawns.

Have a question? Take a photo: If you have a question, somebody out there likely has an answer. Combine that with the fact that most of us have an Internet connected camera in our pocket and you’ve got the premise of the new visual question and answer app Jelly. Jelly allows you to ask and respond to image based questions.

Here’s co-founder and CEO of Jelly, Biz Stone (yup, same dude that helped give us Twitter) who explains it far better than I could. If that’s not enough, there’s more info on Jelly’s blog.

Quick thoughts:

  • The app (at least for iPhone) is still a bit wonky. For example, the only way to switch between Twitter handles at the moment seems to be to delete and re-install the app. Also, it murders your battery life – I suspect this might have to do with the high number of push notifications from the app alerting me to friends in need of answers
  • Jelly works by tapping into your existing connections on Twitter and Facebook – and your connections’ connections – but it keeps all interactions contained within its walls. While they’re likely to open this up in future, it plays to the trend of a) mobile first and worry about the desktop experience later and b) it’s not about getting mass reach or fame, but to help each other out in small-scale yet meaningful interactions
  • Swiping through questions is fun and simple and the wide variety of different questions is astonishing but also confusing. There isn’t a search or sort function and once you’ve dismissed a question, you can’t go back to it
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to block other Jelly users from asking or responding to questions, nor does the app respect Twitter blocks. Interesting to see how they deal with the inevitable abuse cases and ‘less welcome’ content

Finally, can those social comms bods, please agree to not go for the obvious ‘Would you prefer product a, b or c?’ questions?

Social media news: The team that runs the New York Times’ Twitter feed analysed some of their most successful tweets in 2013 (in terms of click-throughs and retweets), and looked at how they used Twitter to encourage a variety of types of reader engagement with their journalism. @michaelroston, staff editor for social media, sums up their findings and I strongly suggest you give the results your full attention.

For those of the TL;DR mindset (I doubt you’ll have gotten this far, but hey), here’s my take:

  • Managing breaking news is about sharing approved and verified sources. To ensure accuracy, @nytimes will retweet journalists who are directly involvement in events instead of relying un unverified, third party sources
  • They let their journalists break ‘news situations’ – even without links to the NYT: Letting our trusted reporters deliver some news first helps them connect directly with an interested audience, and delivers news in a timely manner without sacrificing our commitment to accuracy 
  • Using social for call-outs for sources
  • Automated tweets are OK (automated in the sense that a new article that’s published to the site is tweeted automatically), but Tweets send via @nytimes performed better when they were written by editors: Twitter is a platform that helps extend The Times’s journalism to an audience that is not always the same as the one that visits our website directly. When we fit our storytelling to the medium, we do the best possible job of connecting with that audience
  • Clearly stated tweets describing the gist of the stories work better than clever headlines

Minimal goodness: A lovely collection of minimal ads that make your brain work just that little bit more to get the point and provide that brief Eureka moment when you get the point. Sent to me by @stangreenan remarking that his favourite was the one for Haribo. I’d have to agree:

Bits and bytes

  • On Vine? Make sure you have your web profile sorted as the six second video app makes the leap from mobile to desktop
  • Don’t know where to go on your next holiday? You could use Sightsmap, a nifty heat map of popular places around the world
  • Why is no-one is outraged about the New York Times redesign (despite the horribly intrusive related story pop-up functionality)? A playful post, but one that will leave anyone who’s ever worked on redesigning a website smiling. Also, you’ll learn what a hamburger is in terms of web design speak (HT @alexcole71)
  • The San Francisco Chronicle will put all its reporters through social media boot camp in an attempt to to arrest circulation decline and remain relevant in the digital age. The two month (!) programme is all about introducing digital metrics and measurement tools. Let’s hope they’re also addressing the required mental shift from print to digital
  • The reason why Netflix walked away from personalisation? The novelty factor: the new and unexpected is what delights customers, not a similar version of what they watched yesterday
  • XKCD provides a brilliant comeback to the question: “Why can’t you just enjoy the view rather than always take photos”

    Source: XKCD

Videos of the week: A case study from Kirby Ferguson, on the back of his excellent 4-part series Everything is a Remix about how creativity resembles remixing. He looks at how when it was launched, the iPhone borrowed from conventions and ideas outside of the smart phone realm to when the recent update of iOS6 was released, it borrowed from ideas within the smart phone realm.

It’s worth taking a look back at the entire series, the first and second films make the point that not only is everything today a remix, creation actually requires influence and that it doesn’t take any expensive tools or even skills to do so (anymore). The third film looks at how innovations truly happen and the fourth finishes on how our system of law doesn’t acknowledge the derivative nature of creativity.

If you fancy a quicker summary of all that goodness, I’d recommend Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk that brings this all together – without the excellent films and animations mind you.

And finally: Movie Code, images of the computer code appearing in TV and films and what they really are.

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Breaking news vs social media, sexy data and this week’s bits and bytes

Traditional vs. social news: There’s been a lot of discussion about how traditional media and new media failed in their coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing. I agree to a degree. CNN – and other news organisations – had a shocker and spent hours spinning a story about the bombers being identified before their identities were released by the authorities – a point that Jon Stewart (who isn’t the biggest fan of the network anyway) proceeded to make fun of on ‘The Daily Show’.

There’s also been much talk about how social media – mainly Twitter and, of all sites, Reddit – got the news wrong, as if they have some sort of obligation to get it right. That’s like accusing the patrons of your local pub of reporting the story in an inaccurate way. Social media, much like banter down the pub, isn’t subject to journalistic principles. It is bizarre to me that at times such as this people point the finger at social media and blame it for purposefully spreading misinformation. As much as technology like Twitter helps breaking news, facts, rumours and misinformation spread like wildfire, it isn’t the cause of that misinformation. The power to spread misinformation – or topple governments like during the Arab Spring – is with people, not technology.

Twitter doubles account security: While we’re on the topic of misinformation spreading on social media, this week saw yet another high profile Twitter account getting hacked. The Associated Press appeared to tweet that explosions had hit the White House and President Barack Obama had been injured. The account was immediately suspended and the tweets removed, but not before the Dow dropped about 200 points. No wonder then, that people are relieved that Twitter is finally ready to roll out two-factor authentication, a second layer of security that requires a code to either be sent to an authorised mobile device or generated via some sort of app or key-fob.

Crisis management: An interesting take on crisis management – as seen from the perspective of @jameslyne, one of the top IT security bods at Sophos. Great to see that after IT colleagues, the next team he has on the list is PR.

Interactive infographics: The aptly named ThingLink allows you to post images with extra layers of information in them such as videos and links to other supporting stories to Facebook, Twitter and many other platforms (except for WordPress it seems… grrr). Youtube videos and audio clips play in the image, text links provide a short preview and open in a new window – making for a decent user experience (at least on a desktop!). Doctors Without Borders have tried the new technology to provide an interactive guide on how they respond to crisis around the world; Cnet use it to provide a review of the new Galaxy S4; and you can check out many more ways brands and people are using ThingLink on their site. So what? you cry? Well, ThinkLink generates ‘more than five times as much engagement’ on Twitter (HT @BrionyIvy).

Data porn: Wolfram Alpha’s Facebook plugin has been live for a while and this week, the computational search engine published a fascinating dissection of Facebook data. The data provides insight into how Facebook users’ circle of friends change over time (especially in age), how their interests change as they grow older, and when their relationship status shifts from single to in a relationship to engaged to married. Now, before you go off and say, pffff, that’s just Facebook. Nobody tells the truth on Facebook – Wolfram concludes that (at least for the US) the data corresponds closely to official census data.

Source: Wolfram Alpha

Environmentally friendly suicide: “Right. Guys. We’ve got this new car. 100% water emissions. Environmentally friendly. How do we get that message across in our next ad?” Here’s how Hyundai answered this challenge (I tried to embed the video, but copies are being taken down like crazy by Hyundai). The mind boggles. Twitter wasn’t impressed. Holly Brockwell, who publishes the Copybot blog, posted a withering response to the ad, talking about how her father had committed suicide as depicted by the ad. It was quickly pulled from Hyundai’s Youtube channel but of course by then, many copies had already been made and the news spread (HT @a_little_wine).

Before you die, make sure you sort your direct debit: Your father in law passes away and you receive a bill from your cable provider telling you that as the direct debit didn’t go through – after all, the payer was deceased – you’re faced with a late payment fee of £10. What do you do? Post it to Facebook and watch it be shared over 90,000 times! All ends well though, Virgin Media apologised, the late payment charge was removed and the customer wrote a poem to celebrate (HT @KristianWard29).

Feed the troll until it bursts: The general consensus on social is to not feed the trolls. They’re bored, looking for a fight, to get a rise out of you, to see if they can get you to breaking point. Well, whoever manages the @Cineworld Twitter feed is the exception that proves the rule. Seriously, worth reading the entire exchange – if you have a bit of spare time! @Lakey from econsultancy takes a closer look at the exchange and why not more companies handle customers this way.

Location based recommendation: Foursquare continues its shift from check-in to a search an discovery space. Turns out that over 50 million people have visited its homepage in the last two months.

Videos of the week: the dancing babies are back

New LG screens are just too darned realistic

And some buttery goodness from Lurpak.

And finally: After Bayern and Dortmund demolished their hapless opposition in the Champions League semifinals, Paddy Power posted this wonderful photo to their Facebook page. And yes. That is The Hoff.

#Twitter4brands, breaking news and this week’s bits & bytes

#Twitter4Brands: Twitter’s annual update on what’s what with brands and advertising took place yesterday. Some thoughts about it below, although it is by no means an exhaustive summary. Here’s another view from Matt Chapman on Brand Republic.

The fact that Twitter is the second screen shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it should influence how brands use Twitter to talk to their followers. 80% of Twitter activity in the UK is from mobile phones and people are tweeting about what’s happening in the real world.

I’ve talked before about this trend, so I won’t go into much more except to say that the Twitter TV book has been updated with new data.

The big news was about keyword targeting in timelines. And this one is going to be HUGE. Imagine you’re in a foreign country, your flight has been cancelled, you’re stuck and you need a place to crash. You don’t know anyone. You take to Twitter and voice your anger and frustration. You might tweet something along the lines of ‘Flight cancelled. Stuck with nowhere to go and no place to sleep. I need a hotel’. Perhaps throw in a bit of colourful language to round it off. What if there’s a hotel just down the road from you that has bought a keyword targeted tweet (say to the words ‘need’ and ‘hotel’ and that their message will pop up in anybody’s Twitter stream, provided they are within 5km of their hotel and they’ve used those two words in a public message).

Serendipity as Head of Twitter UK @TonyW called it.

Tone of voice was the big topic for the second half of the conference. The key point being that people expect brands to speak in normal language on Twitter, not in some sort of stilted, formal tone. There were many excellent examples, culminating in O2 winning the first ever Flock award for the most outstanding use of Twitter – interestingly, not for how O2 used the various promotional mechanics that Twitter showcased in the first half of the day, but for how they enter into real conversations with their followers. The most famous example of which was how they dealt with enraged customers during a network outage last year. Other excellent examples came from @The_Dolphin_Pub and @Mangal2.

Still not convinced? It’s not just Twitter who are saying that brands should be human on social media.

Finally, Gary Lineker showed up and talked about England going out to Germany at Italia90 on penalties (which I enjoyed very much) as well as the infamous Poogate (which I may actually have enjoyed more)…

… but he was mainly there to talk about how he uses Twitter to promote brand Lineker, Match of the Day as well as how he deals with trolls (Piers Morgan and Joey Barton received a special mention here).

I’ll leave it to @TonyW’s to sum up #Twitter4Brands – in just 5 tweets.

Screen Shot 2013-04-18 at 19.54.55

Breaking news: There was a lot of it this week. From the Lion Air flight that skidded off the runway in Bali into the sea, to the Boston Marathon bombing, to the exploding fertiliser factory in Texas. The Boston bombing in particular horrified many. Much has been said about how news travels on social media – and that is how I found out about all of the above: from Facebook and Twitter. Interestingly though, in all three occasions my immediate reaction was to turn on the TV. An almost knee-jerk reaction to confirm these things had actually happened. The fact that the 24 hour news channels in each instance were already on the story was weirdly reassuring, yet the longer I watched them, the more facts were replaced by wild speculation and leading questions about all of our safety. It’s nothing new really, just in a week with some much bad stuff happening, I felt very increasingly angry at the media’s fear mongering.

Interesting then to read that news actually bad for you. Rolf Dobelli argues that news causes disruption, anxiety, shallow thinking – basically that it’s a waste of time. And as I’d like to join his movement of not consuming news, that would make my job pretty darn difficult to do. Dobelli doesn’t think that all journalism is useless: he does concede a special place for investigative journalism, reporting that goes deep and uncovers truth.

Now given my chosen profession, it’ll be difficult for me to just abstain from the news, but it should act as a reminder to turn off the incessant news stream every once in a while before we all lose our minds.

Or – you could immerse yourself entirely and join Guardian Witness. Similar to CNN’s iReport, The Guardian is inviting its readers to register, pick their assignment and provide images, video and copy to cover news events. As I write this, The Guardian is calling for stories about Syrian refugees, photos of sleeping pets and how budget cuts have affected you. A simple – and free – way for the paper to augment its eyes and ears and tap into a willing network of eager freelancers.

The news lifecycle: An interesting look at how mobile has not only influenced how people consume the news, but when they consume it. FT data shows quite clearly how people get up in the morning and read the FT on their phone or tablet first thing and on their commute in to work. As soon as they get to the office, desktop readers of the FT website spike and then slowly drop off during the day. Finally, mobile devices spike for a second time as people start their commute home again. On the weekends, desktop use is low, with spikes coming early in the day from mobile devices.

Why do you see the things you see in your Facebook newsfeed? It’s not as easy as just following somebody or a brand. It depends on four factors: previous engagement, the type of content your interacting with, how popular it is within your network and increasingly, how much negative feedback its received. Here’s a clever little infographic that explains what Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm is and how it works.

Facebook Home: It launched, they made an ad, then another one with Zuck in it (bad idea), and now most people are giving it a 1 out of 5 star rating. Ouch.

Geekgasm: HMV have come out of administration and are under new ownership. To celebrate, they’ve hidden Nipper in the source code of their revamped website. Kudos to HMV for this extremely nerdy Easter egg, although I cannot for the life of me understand why you’d check out the source code of a website (HT @TomParker81)?

Videos of the week: Check out this brilliant ad from K-Mart to advertise their new direct shipping service. Ship the bed!

The dove real beauty campaign continues with real sketches

and with an even better parody.

There is much Lego awesomeness in the world and this folding Buddhist temple blew my mind (HT @gin_lane).

Bringing Instagram and CSR together: FoodShareFilter is an Instagram-esque photo filter with a purpose. Download it, and the proceeds go to an agricultural program in El Salvador run by Manos Unidas, a major charity. What better way for Hipsters to Instagram the food they eat and make it worth their while?

Viral cake: If you’ve not seen the best viral cake resignation letter ever, you’ve clearly been living under some sort of rock.

And finally: Every Facebook birthday wall, ever.

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