Archive for January, 2012
January 25th, 2012
It’s been an interesting week for a couple of major brands that have found themselves in a rather sticky social media situation.
Late last week, McDonalds felt the full force of a misfiring campaign when its idea to use a promoted tweet campaign, supported by hashtags, to highlight real life stories from farmers that grow its food backfired in a big way. Oddly the process started well, when McDonalds used the hashtag #MeetThe Farmers, which was a great choice as it focused on the issue rather than promoting the brand.
Unfortunately, or perhaps as a result of an overzealous brand marketer, the hashtag was changed to #McDStories and within an hour it had been hijacked to talk about unpleasant stories from McDonald’s customers, and instead of charming stories from hard working farmers, McDonalds received a stream of less than desirable comments.
You can see some of the tweets in this story from the Daily Mail.
Then, this week, after a rather moving letter in the â€˜consumer champions‘ section of the Guardian (which you can see in full below),Â LA Fitness was forced to back down on a contract dispute with a customer. But it didn’t make it easy on itself.
In a nutshell, the story goes like this: LA Fitness had previous refused to allow a pregnant woman and her husband out of a 24 month contract after he recently lost his job, and they had moved away from the gym. She writes a letter to the Guardian’s consumer champions section, they contact LA Fitness with no favourable outcome, the story goes online, and The Twitter nation does the rest.
We all know that customer contract rules can be ridiculous, but a little bit of common sense from LA Fitness would have gone a long way to averting the communications disaster that it now finds itself in. It’s not as though it didn’t have a warning or two, and even if the customer’s tale of difficulty didn’t stir a social conscience, the contact from a broadsheet newspaper certainly should have rung alarm bells. However it was a relentless torrent of Twitter abuse that dealt the killer blow, and although LA Fitness has now refunded the couple’s money, the damage is done, and the story is accessible online for all to see.
You can read the full overview on the Wall Blog, and the original letter to the Guardian below.
Although the McDonald’s case didn’t relate to a customer issue, both cases show a real lack of understanding of how social communications work, and what it means to be a brand online. In McDonalds’ case if they had stuck to the heart of the matter, and focused on sharing stories of farmers the campaign would have probably worked. In LA Fitness’ case, if we look beyond their lack of human empathy, the knowledge that this CRM failing had gone to a national paper should have resulted in an immediate crisis communications response, without letting it go that far.
That letter as featured in the Guardian â€˜consumer champions‘ section:
“My husband and I have been loyal customers of gym chain LA Fitness for six years. I am seven months pregnant, we are moving 12 miles away from the gym and don’t drive. My husband has lost his job and we are now on benefits. We can barely feed our children right now and can’t afford the two-year contract.
“Despite us sending LA Fitness a letter proving my husband has been let go from his job, his employer didn’t use the word “redundant” in the letter, so LA Fitness will not accept it as a valid reason to terminate the contract. I have been told that being pregnant entitles me only to temporarily freeze my membership. Moving away does not apply, as we need to be 20 miles from the nearest gym to cancel. We just cannot pay.“
January 25th, 2012
I have been a Lovefilm subscriber for years now and have been happily receiving DVDs through my post box. It’s fair to say i have always found the service to be quick and reliable.
Over the last few weeks I have been following the Netflix Vs Lovefilm story with interest. It recently dawned on me that within my existing subscription package, I was allowed to consume as much online content as I liked.
I hooked up my PS3 with ease, and within a few minutes I was checking out the online content. The navigation was simple enough, with all the content easily categorised by genre, most popular and highest rated. The picture quality was good and I had no problems whatsoever with the streaming, although Lovefilm does not yet offer HD streaming.
Lovefilm offers around 2,400 TV shows and over 5,000 movies available to view free with your package. The TV series selection was a little disappointing as most options were none US series, most of which I have already seen on UK screens. Unfortunately Lovefilm seems to be lacking in this department.
However, the movie selection was better. I found enough content to keep me going for the foreseeable future, although there seemed to be a lack of new blockbusters.
If you’re interested in the service, Lovefilm offers a number of packages and its unlimited streaming package starts at Â£4.99. If you want to be able to stream unlimited content and make use of Lovefilm’s postal service, then packages start at Â£7.99 per month, with one disc allowed at home at a time.
So, overall the Lovefilm online experience was good. The best thing was the simplicity of just picking a movie and watching it, without all the hassle of trailers and menu selections. The only downside would be that there was a lot of repetition through the genre categories, and you have to dig deep to find what you are looking for.
January 24th, 2012
The feeling of turning the page of a book is a great sensation for all avid book readers. To date the iPad has found it hard to replicate this bond.
UntilÂ nowÂ that is, if the team at the KAIST Institute of Information Technology Convergence can get their patented Smart E-Book Interface Prototype out of the lab and into the market place.
I’m not going to tell you howÂ similarÂ theÂ experienceÂ is to reading a book, just watch the video and judge for yourself. You will noticeÂ page flipping that lets you scan 20 or 30 pages at a time, multiple page flips controlled by finger swipe, and a way to hold your thumb on one page and flip through the book with your fingers. Cool!
January 17th, 2012
If you haven’t seen this before a Google a day is a great way to stimulate your brain first thing in the morning! It is basically a puzzle you have to solve via Google search, and there is a new puzzle every day to answer.
To make sure you cannot cheat, Google uses Deja Google â€“ “A wormhole inspired time machine that enables you to solve today’s puzzle spoiler free by searching the Internet as it existed before A Google a Day launched“.
Today’s question is:
Who was the first American president known to have sworn his oath of office on a book other than the Bible?
To help you enhance your search understanding, use Google Inside Search, which is a Google site with the latest search features, tips and tricks.
If you’re really into a Google a day, there is a Chrome app available here, or I would also suggest you try out pokki, which is a desktop platform allowing you to installÂ variousÂ apps to it, including one for ‘a Google a day’.
January 17th, 2012
Wikipedia has announced that it will be holding a 24 hour blackout for its English language site from 05.00 UTC on Wednesday, January 18. You can read the statement from the Wikimedia foundation here and press release here.
The statement confirms: “In an unprecedented decision, the Wikipedia community has chosen to blackout the English version of Wikipedia for 24 hours, in protest against proposed legislation in the United States – the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the U.S. House of Representatives, and PROTECTIP (PIPA) in the U.S. Senate. If passed, this legislation will harm the free and open Internet and bring about new tools for censorship of international websites inside the United States.”
This means that on Wednesday any visitors to Wikipedia (There are believed to be around 100 million English-speaking Wikipedia users) will only have access to an open letter encouraging them to contact the U.S. Congress (or local authority outside of the U.S.) in protest.
Some have said that the blackout is unnecessary because a major target of the protest, SOPA (the Stop Online Piracy Act), has already been halted by opposition from the White House, but Jimmy Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, said the blackout would go ahead anyway, by tweeting: “PIPA is still extremely dangerous,”
PIPA (or the Protect Intellectual Property Act), is still under consideration by the Senate, and has stirred many of the Web’s vocal commentators into action. Jimmy Wales also tweeted.
“This is going to be wow. I hope Wikipedia will melt phone systems in Washington on Wednesday. Tell everyone you know!”
“My goal is to melt switchboards!,”
“We have no indication that SOPA is fully off the table. We need to send Washington a BIG message.”
The user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing have also said they will take part in the blackout.
So why such a response to the acts? Well, SOPA and PIPA plan to impose responsibilities on websites such as Wikipedia to check that no material they host infringes copyright. Under current laws if websites remove pirated content when they are notified by the copyright holder they are not liable for damages.
The proposed laws also make it easier for American copyright holders to cut off access to foreign websites hosting unlicensed copies of films, music and television programs, which has recently been evidenced by the case of an English student, Richard O’ Dwyer, who is accused of creating a website that provided links where people could illegally access film and documentary material.
He now faces 10 years in jail for operating a website that U.S. authorities say hosts links to copyrighted material after a judge ruled that the 23 year old can be extradited to the US.
He is arguing that under the so-called dual criminality rule, since he has not been charged for an offence in the UK, the US has no right to extradite him.
The U.S. SOPA and PIPA legislation has been backed by major media owners, including Rupert Murdoch, and opposed by the giants of Silicon Valley, including Google and Facebook.
On Friday the White House said it would not approve key parts of the SOPA bill, which means it will need to be re-written and proposed. A statement from the Whitehouse said the provisions for blocking foreign websites “pose a real risk to cyber security“. And later confirmed : “Any effort to combat online piracy must guard against the risk of online censorship of lawful activity and must not inhibit innovation by our dynamic businesses large and small,”
This brought a reaction from Rupert Murdoch over the weekend, who called Google a â€˜piracy leader‘ and suggested ‘Barack Obama had thrown his lot in with Silicon Valley Paymasters’, to which Google replied:
“This is just nonsense. Last year we took down 5 million infringing web pages from our search results and invested more than $60 million in the fight against bad ads.
“Like many other tech companies, we believe that there are smart, targeted ways to shut down foreign rogue websites without asking US companies to censor the Internet.”
Further information on the Wall Blog.
Jimmy Wales has urged us to take action: “Today Wikipedians from around the world have spoken about their opposition to this destructive legislation.
“This is an extraordinary action for our community to take – and while we regret having to prevent the world from having access to Wikipedia for even a second, we simply cannot ignore the fact that SOPA and PIPA endanger free speech both in the United States and abroad, and set a frightening precedent of Internet censorship for the world.
“We urge Wikipedia readers to make your voices heard. If you live in the United States, find your elected representative in Washington (https://www.eff.org/sopacall). If you live outside the United States, contact your State Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar branch of government. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and want the internet to remain open and free.”
There is an argument to say Wikipedia should remain impartial, but this is very difficult when its core focus will be so badly affected by the proposed legislation, and I support its stand to raise awareness of the issues.
To get further detail, pleased read the Telegraph’s overview of the story:Â
Or the BBC has a good round-up.
Mashable also offers a good run down of the U.S. Government’s position.
January 12th, 2012
Earlier this week Google announced a number of changes, which apply to the U.S. only at this stage, and are designed to accelerate personal search, and move towards social search.
The three changes fall under the following categories:
First: Personal results, aimed at helping you to find more relevant to…well…you.
Second: Profiles in search, meaning you can more easily identify people you’re close to or want to follow.
Third: People and pages, which focuses on helping you to find profiles and Google+ pages related to memes or topics of interest.
The additions offer more meaningful ways to connect with people around you, straight from the search results.
This all sounds well and good, and personalising and or customising results to be more relevant can only be more positive, can’t it?
Many commentators such as the Guardian and BBC have picked up on the other side effect of these changes which is to make Google+ much more relevant. For example, when you search for information, particularly about individuals, results from the social network will be prominently displayed on the first page of results, assuming you are a member.
That makes Google+ a much more attractive social network, as users will see fewer results from outside it when they search for information.
As you might expect, Twitter has offered its opinion on the issue, as it has perhaps the most to lose. Twitter’s lead lawyer, Alex Macgillivray, called it a “bad day for the internet“, and suggested – as a former Google employee – that there would have been dissent internally “at search being warped this way“.
Twitter later made a formal statement: “For years, people have relied on Google to deliver the most relevant results any time they wanted to find something on the internet.
“As we’ve seen time and time again, news breaks first on Twitter, as a result, Twitter accounts and tweets are often the most relevant results. We’re concerned that as a result of Google’s changes, finding this information will be much harder for everyone. We think that’s bad for people, publishers, news organisations and Twitter users.”
Others have also criticised the change, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land commented: “Search engines are supposed to send you away to the best information, even if they don’t have their own in stock. Google has previously been excellent at providing links to the most suitable information.
“Today’s change is one of the few times where I’m thinking ‘What the hell are you doing, Google?’”
Getting to the heart of the matter, Google was always going to find a way to move its social network, which is so far behind the game, to the front. Its best strategy to achieve this is to link its social network more closely to its search engine, which is after all the most popular in the U.S and Europe. But is that fair?
Google’s decision to favour Google+ posts which would not rank highly by its normal criteria (defined by the number of “authoritative” pages on the web linking to it) could suggest that it is favouring its own product in order to grow it more quickly. That in turn could breach antitrust (or competition) laws.
Twitter and Facebook content does not generally appear in Google search results because neither site provides Google with unlimited access to their content.
Twitter formerly had an agreement in which Google paid for access to index its database directly, but Twitter chose not to renew the agreement, according to a statement placed on Google+ by an official Google account, which said it was “a bit surprised by Twitter’s comments” because “they chose not to renew their agreement with us last summer“.
Although these changes are likely to head to Europe eventually, the Guardian piece suggests Google may have to think twice about introducing the changes over here because it has a greater share of search in European countries, meaning a ruling on it affecting the market is more likely, and also if the changes extend to results on Android phones, then it may face more urgent calls for an antitrust investigation.
This wouldn’t be the first time that there has been a call for Google to be investigated on such grounds, but if these changes do come to Europe as expected, we could be on the verge of a few interesting legal actions.
January 11th, 2012
Forget all the talk of integrated TVs at CES and check out the new device from Polaroid.
Polaroid has just announced an Android-powered camera device called the Polaroid SC1630. It looks just like your everyday smart phone, that is apart from the fact you cannot make calls on it!
Because it has the Android operating system, Polaroid SC1630 users can download apps from the Android Market until that perfect shot appears!
The Full specifications:
A 16Mp CCD sensor and 3x optical zoom.
3.2in touchscreen display, used to access apps, as well as a host of production functions, various scene modes and editing tools.
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and 3G connection too.
January 10th, 2012
Have you ever thought about which subjects attract the most tweets per second or TPS?
TheÂ newestÂ sports TPS record holder isÂ @TimTebow theÂ quarterbackÂ who led the @Denver_Broncos (Amercian Football team) to a recent win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. His record stands at 9,420 tweets per second,Â recordedÂ shortly after his team won the football match.
The all time leader currently stands at anÂ incredibleÂ 25,088 tweets in one second. This is heldÂ by a Japanese show about sky-bound pirates, called Castle in the Sky, theÂ Dec 9thÂ screeningÂ of the new show holds the record for now!
Other notable tweets perÂ secondÂ includeÂ Beyonceâ€™s baby announcement at the MTV Video Music Awards, which earned her 8,868 tweets per second.
The best of the rest include:
- 2010 Japanese New Year celebration which topped out at 6,939 TPS
- The death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs brought 6,049 TPS.
- The death of Osama Bin Laden achieved 5,106 TPS.
- The 2011 earthquake that hit Japan in March achieved 5,530 TPS.
January 5th, 2012
Recently the issue of social profile ownership has come to the fore with the very public case
of Noah Kravitz, a blogger based in California who is being sued by his former employer, PhoneDog,Â which is seeking damages because he failed to relinquish his Twitter account when he left the company to work for a rival.
This probably sounds ridiculous, but we have already experienced a similar case in the UK as far back as 2008, when a recruitment consultant working for Hays,Â Mark Ions, was ordered to give the rights to his LinkedIn account to his former employer. The court ruled that information of a confidential nature was collected during his work and that the company deserved to have full access to his account. Conversely, last year the BBC’s chief political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg moved from the BBC to ITV and took her Twitter account, which had 58,000 followers with her. The BBC did not seek legal ownership of her account, although there was discussion of the issue elsewhere.
You may think this is a crazy conversation considering the social profiles were in the individual’s name, but the employers have a good argument if the profiles were used solely, or at least for the majority of time, for work purposes, contain work-based contacts and in effect represent the individual’s record of work-based conversations.
That’s not to say I agree with the ruling, far from it, but we need to be aware of the slow moving legal response to fast moving technologies. In other words, the law doesn’t move as quickly as social media, so expect rulings to be based on the most sensible work-based comparison, which generally would have remained the property of the employer after the employee left, e.g. customer files and or contact books. That being said, one would hope that in most cases our social profiles represent a mixture of personal and work-based discussion, so we should not see ownership battles ongoing between employers and employees, and of course this issue could have been avoided if relevant social media guidelines were in place.
It would be interesting to see the outcome of a similar case in a PR, digital or social agency, and how that might affect future norms between employers and employees across the sector. However, so far it seems common sense has prevailed, or perhaps policy has won the day.
In the current PhoneDog case, the company has said that it is taking the action because it had invested in growing the number of followers that Mr Kravitz had on Twitter and the account was its property, alleging that those followers are, in effect, a customer list and PhoneDog’s property. The company wants Kravitz to pay $340,000: $2.50 per follower per month for 18 months.
PhoneDog was quoted in the New York Times saying: “We intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”
Jon Rettinger, President, TechnoBuffalo (Noah’s current employer) responded with the following statement: “I have remained silent on the issue, privately supporting Noah, hoping that this issue would be resolved. However, further reflection and consultation has made me realize the time for silence is over. TechnoBuffalo is a news outlet, and this situation quite clearly has become news. We stand firmly behind Noah, disagree with the frivolous suit PhoneDog has filed, and hope swift justice will be served. This equates to school yard bullying, and should be met with disgust by the world. We stand behind our employees as we would family. Noah has the full support of the Herd. I urge you all to speak up!”
A hearing in the case, PhoneDog LLC v. Kravitz, is scheduled for January 26 in San Francisco and I expect some interesting responses from organisations across the world, in terms of tightening up policies, whatever the outcome.
January 4th, 2012
Comet, the UK retailer, is in hot water. Microsoft has accused Comet of sellingÂ 94,000 counterfeit copies of Windows software, as reported in Engadet. The announcement below details Microsoft’s complaint, which is based on Comet allegedlyÂ producing copies of Windows at a factory in Hampshire and bundling these with PCs sold at its stores.
The Microsoft press release in full:
READING, England, and REDMOND, Wash. – Jan. 4, 2012 – Microsoft Corp. today issued proceedings against Comet Group PLC for allegedly creating and selling more than 94,000 sets of counterfeit Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs. The alleged counterfeits were sold to customers who had purchased Windows-loaded PCs and laptops.
“As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom,” said David Finn, associate general counsel, Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft. “Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products – and our customers deserve better, too.”
The suit charges Comet with producing the counterfeits in a factory in Hampshire and then selling the media to customers from its retail outlets across the U.K.
Comet is currently owned by French retail company Kesa Electricals PLC, although it is reportedly being purchased by private equity firm OpCapita LLP later this year.
With an emphasis on education, engineering and enforcement, Microsoft seeks to protect its customers from counterfeiting and piracy – and ensure people get what they pay for. If customers ever question the legitimacy of their software, be it a shrink-wrapped product or recovery media, they are advised to visit http://www.howtotell.com to learn more and, if they have any doubt, report the suspicious software to Microsoft.
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential.
If think this storyÂ mightÂ rumble on for a while, although some of the details are quite thin on the ground, and there are some interestingÂ thoughts in the comments section of the story on PC Pro