Extreme times – a news digest

Epitome of Englishness, a lovely apple tree. Rioting, surveillance and restricting freedom of speech, the UK? Surely some mistake?

Echoes of the dot.com boom are in the air. Gamification is reaching the peak of hype. Facebook and Google jostle to outdo each other. Concerns surface about privacy and security. Social media is blamed for civil unrest and is monitored by authorities. People are imprisoned on the basis of online comments.

Just an ordinary summer month in the UK…

I thought I’d do a round up of social media related news for August, as I’ve not had a chance to blog recently. 

Impact of social media on society

London riots with deprivation overlay. Image by James Cridland

In the UK the authorities are considering restricting social media use – David Cameron has mooted possibly ‘switching off’ social networks in times of crisis. In the aftermath of the rioting that lead Cameron to make such a controversial suggestion, it also transpires that the Police, MI5 and GCHQ have all been using social media to spy on the social networks in the UK. That surveillance evidence has lead to some questionable sentencing, not least the two men jailed in Chester for inciting on Facebook a riot that never happened

Meanwhile in Missouri, US, a story developed throughout August that started with a new law apparently preventing teachers from talking to students on Facebook. Clarification was given – that only hidden conversations were outlawed. But by the end of the month the Missouri teachers were preparing to take the State to court.

Industry news

IPO frenzy: August is all about the money, with foursquare talking about monetisation and commentators fretting about a social media bubble. Could they be right? Buddy Media has just raised $54m and Jive Software is filing for a $100m IPO

Google+ seems to be working with the fastest ever sign up rate for a social network – although privacy concerns continue to be raised about its naming policy.

Facebook has not wasted any time in responding to this challenge. Ahead of the launch of Google+ for business, Facebook has launched a guide to help companies market themselves. It has changed privacy rules to allow users to approve image tagging and, significantly, has scrapped Places, instead putting options to add location on all content.

All these changes continue to fuel the debate around what google+ means for facebook and social networking in general.

Not to be outdone on the headlines stakes, LinkedIn’s CEO plans to integrate enterprise social networking to strengthen its appeal to its business community. Integration is also key for those enterprise players – Yammer has taken advantage of the open API and integrated Salesforce’s Chatter into its stream.

The jostling between brands is not just limited to Google and Facebook then.

Talking of debates, we’re back to the thorny issue of social CRM. Gartner has produced a magic quadrant that would appear to validate a market even though they say few companies have a social CRM strategy. Leading CRM thinker Esteban Kolsky counters that there is no market. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

Interesting case studies:

Shopify's Unicorn platform

Two case studies caught my attention this month – the first shows how social media can be used internally to foster better communication and collaboration. Shopify built its own Twitter-like application called Unicorn which is transforming how employees work.

The second is about gamification in education. Two universities, two different approaches; one copying the format of multiplayer online games, the other awarding badges like a Foursquare application. Both have seen success.

New launches

Gamification meets nudge theory: Commonwealth Bank in Australia launched ‘Investorville’ an educational online simulation game, based on real costs, that lets investors model potential investments. Gamification has made it into Gartner’s latest hype cycle chart – so Commonwealth Bank is certainly on trend.

TV synching gets closer: The technologist behind the BBC iPlayer is launching Zeebox, a new app to enable social TV viewing – taking advantage of the second screen trend for simultaneous TV and social media engagement.

Here come the trolls: Meanwhile a faintly dubious anonymous watercooler chat online forum Office Leaks has been launched – urging employees to vent their frustrations apparently in order to help companies improve their working environment.

And finally…

It’s the height of the silly season, when PR driven stories hit headlines they might not achieve in other more news filled months. So we discover that not only does social media foment civil unrest, but it is also causing bad behaviour in the workplace and costing business dear. Up to US$65K for an average sized business with 52 employees in apparent fact.

I’ll finish on a more hopeful and positive note with this call for a social contract from an enthusiastic participant in IBM’s social business transformation. Perhaps there is room for optimism after all.


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