Friday, August 31, 2012

Not Even the Nastiest

Taking a little history break today after working through the fun of Hurricane Isaac (and more on that over the weekend).

Enjoyed reviewing for my American History 2020 before the hurricane break just how nasty Presidential politics have been and that no matter how bad you think it is now -- this is neither unprecedented or unusual.

Dick Polman of the Philadelphia Inquirer did us the service of reviewing the original Presidential campaign -- the election of 1800.  Remember, George Washington didn't find himself in too terribly deep in partisanship, but with the Father of the Nation off the scene and Thomas Jefferson ready to rev things up against John Adams, well, it went nasty fast.

These are great reminders that no matter how noble we recall our past leaders, they were competitive politicians.

I used some of the back-biting comments in Polman's column for a We're History episode about a year ago.

So until one side calls the other "a hideous hermaphroditical character" or a "son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father", let's just say today's politics are just par for the course.

Friday, August 24, 2012

One Man, One Million Dollars, Nine Days

Want to know how to succeed on-line?  Look at The Oatmeal, the website of bizarre posters and satire.  Matthew Inman was a programmer in the Seattle area who wanted to find a way to express his point of view, and by the start of the '10s his creation was clocking over four million uniques a day.

How to describe The Oatmeal?  Maybe Mental Floss run by Gary Larsen.

He recently used the power of his following to generate a million dollars to seed a Tesla museum at the legendary scientist's old labs in New York.

He did it in nine days.  You can read his take on the success on his blog.

This isn't his first foray into fund-raising.  When a website was infringing on his copyright -- and Inman called it out -- the website had the balls to sue Inman for defamation.  In true digital century style, Inman fought right back, creating the "Operation BearLove Good. Cancer Bad" cartoons and campaign.  The illustrations featured the website's owner's mother seducing a Kodiak bear (you might now get a sense of the humor displayed at The Oatmeal, made famous by cartoon concepts like Five Reasons to Punch a Dolphin).

The battle was not fair.  The Oatmeal asked for donations to cover the $20K in damages called for in the suit.  He raised $220K, with proceeds split between American Cancer Society and National Wildlife Federation.  The website then filed a federal suit against The Oatmeal, ACS, NWF and IndieGoGo, leading to another round of blowback.  Eventually, the site backed down dropping its suits.

What can we learn from The Oatmeal?

Born Digital:  The Oatmeal is the poster child (hmm, quite literally) for an enterprise that would never exist absent the networked media.

Single-minded focus: The Oatmeal is one man's vision of the world, and relentless in promoting and defending it.  His previous big moment was shouting down some detractors.  Living proof that we have to come up with some different way of expressing "don't get in a pissing battle with people who buy ink by the barrel" that fits the digital age.

Genuine: What you see is what you get, and not unlike George Takei on Facebook, The Oatmeal is legend for saying what he thinks in a sincere and endearing way.

Unique: This is Gary Larson 2.0.  If you haven't read much of The Oatmeal and you are of the generation that misses that warped yet spot on take of the world, you need to take some time to read the back catalog.

Learn more The Oatmeal background from WikiPedia and from Inman.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You Mean They Like to Blog the TV Games Too?

It is good the research is in to support the reality that the second screen is for interaction with TV.

I had running discussions -- hesitate to say battle, but they were skeptical -- with administrators back in the beginning of interactive blogs at Arkansas thinking it wasn't necessary to do any game on TV.  Some thought that "infringed" on the TV rights; others naively believed "who would follow that" when they could watch.

For the community.  And while we did get a different crowd -- the ones who had no other way to follow the event previously (no TV coverage) -- were less and the need for volumes of play by play was reduced, a much different dynamic began as the fans could discuss among themselves what they saw.

In the report, I'll call out two obvious problems.  First, this looked at 16-to-24.  My experience is this is NOT a youth movement.  We had as many fans over 30 as under on sports blogs at Arkansas.

The second one was this quote from the report:

The challenge for second screen content today is that it is likely to be relatively expensive as we are still in an experimental, bespoke phase.

Relatively expensive?  Compared to the total production cost of the event -- are you kidding?  A CoverItLive or similar interface account is a modest expense without advertising and finding a staff member to interact.  That's it.  We never had marketing or the rights holder on board sufficiently (read: they didn't care because they didn't see it as a revenue stream worthy of their time), but there was no doubt in my mind that a little effort could have washed the minimal costs through a sponsorship agreement.

Like so many things in social -- they aren't free, people's time is money, but it is about believing in the end result -- building community and affinity -- and deciding that it is going to get done.

As master Yoda said:  Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

It Is All On The Record

Another reminder that once it is in digital, it becomes easy to find.  Toss politics aside and focus on the error of trying to cover tracks but at the same time communicate in writing.  Investigators have unearthed this advice to subordinates in Washington:

"Don’t ever send an email on doe email with a personal email addresses,” Silver wrote Aug. 21, 2011, from his personal account to a program official’s private Gmail account. “That makes them subpoenable.”

You can read the whole story at the Washington Post.

It reminds me of the attempts by athletic administrators to similarly avoid FOIA by taking their discussions to Gmail or Hotmail rather than good old .EDU.  This also reinforces the answer to that question I still occasionally get - you mean they can get my private email?

Jonathan Silver tells you exactly how -- at least in discovery of your email account name.  I still caution that even if you follow Silver's advice, if the perception arises that official business was taking place outside of the official channels - whether you are state or fed - subpoena power can compell a network admin to show activity records.  Guess what now? Better hope you never logged into that other account at

Monday, August 13, 2012

PRSA Weighs in on Penn State

Earlier this summer, the Counselors to Higher Education group within PRSA noted that in the Freeh Report that it appeared the internal PR staff at Penn State was a non-factor -- neither consulted and in the one reference in the report, ineffective.

The PRSay column by Gerard Corbett about where PR should be in a crisis of this magnitude is required reading -- for "C"-level executives.

The five-points given are spot on, but one in particular brings it all into sharp focus:

At Penn State, senior officials don’t appear to have consulted with the public relations professionals who could have helped the university avert the crisis it is now facing.

Can't help if you're not asked, but I also know, you can't be a part of the solution if you are seen as "being negative" for pointing out the problems.

By the way, if you don't believe it could happen at your institution, read through this checklist from Poynter.  Jill Geisler is brutal -- BRUTAL -- about the eight ways you could be at risk, starting with:

Your organization uses words like “integrity” and “values” in promotional literature, but leaders rarely utter them in the course of daily decisions, much less the toughest ones.

That's just number one.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Have You Posted a Photo Today?

Forget #FollowFriday or whatever small meme you track -- ask yourself this key question:

What have I done to create interest or engagement today? 

Not one day a week, every day of the week.

And to that end, what better way than posting great, interesting photos.

Don't believe?  Here's another fact-packed note from WOMMA about images and how they dominate social.

If you want to go in depth, click back to the Facebook Five, particularly talking formula when it comes to Visual.

(In order: the Doctor BS Facebook Five: Immediate | Sentiment | Visual | Mobility | Brevity)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A Fab Four of Facebook for Students

Just finished talking to the instructors of our University Studies 1000 course -- which is an orientation and study skills class required of all freshman at Northwestern State -- and encouraged them to get their kids to link themselves to the social fabric of the campus by engaging with the Fab Four Facebook pages:

#1 -- The university main page (which for us is /NorthwesternState)

#2 -- The athletic department main page (which again is /ForkEmDemons)

But the next two may be the most important for their retention at college and their integration into the social life of campus.

#3 -- Their academic area of interest

#4 -- Their social area of interest

We as a university spent a lot of meeting time this summer discussing retention and how to improve engagement with students.  The consensus -- the more students relate to each other, find connections, find older peer leaders -- the better chance for success.

Thus, what better way to get students to meet more peers and find new interests than actively encouraging them to get involved with the sub areas.  Follow the university and athletics -- great -- helps my overall numbers.  Knowing when the next literary event, recital, lecturer in their area is and commenting back and forth among friends -- that is priceless.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Another Arkansas Trooper, Football Event

In case anyone thinks football troubles are unique to the University of Arkansas, Arkansas State completed its own crisis involving state troopers, high profile people and its head football coach.  Michael Dyer was dismissed from the ASU team, and head coach Gus Malzahn initially resisted discussing the matter.  The problem was the public record via Arkansas State Police due to the dismissal of an arresting officer who pulled Dyer over in March.

The timelines here intertwine with those of Bobby Petrino's motorcycle accident.  Dyer was stopped in March, an internal ASP investigation into began in May.  Petrino, of course, was April 1 through the month.

The Searcy Daily Citizen got the ball rolling with the first Freedom of Information Act request which brought out the details of the investigation and the trooper's video.  I'd like to give you some samplings of what is there, but the paper has a hard firewall.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette had a accounting of the dismissal of the trooper, Royce Denney, who among other things turned off his in-car camera to lecture "Dyer about his future and how these items can mess up his football career".  Before the video was stopped, Denney told Dyer on tape that he was being a "total dumbass" for driving 96 mph in a 70 zone, possessing marijuana and a firearm and that he -- Denney -- was going to leave what to do about the weed and gun to "Coach", implying that he was going to give the Auburn transfer and former Little Rock high school superstar a break.

"You've got a career ahead of you. . . . What I should do is bend you over here and whup your butt."

Unlike Arkansas where the connection between Troop L commander Lance King as the head of the sideline protection delegation with Razorback head coach Bobby Petrino (and others before him) was quite clear, whether or not Malzahn really knew Denney isn't clear -- and that Denney in his mind was trying to help a young man get straight by giving him just a speeding ticket and turning the rest of the details over to the ASU head coach.

What we do know is that as soon as Malzahn had the full story -- the claim was Dyer had told him about the traffic stop, but not about the weed and gun -- he dismissed Dyer from the team.  And after putting off trying to talk about the event in detail, Malzahn used the start of a press conference a couple of days after the story and the dismissal broke to talk at length about it.

The initial problems were using the "I'm here to talk about something else" politician's move when first challenged, something he corrected soon after, for the football coach and the "I'm taking the law into my hands and giving you a break because you are a talented young athlete" by the trooper.

Turns out, trooper had other issues and while the focus will now be on his most recent mistake, he's fired.  This detailed out in the Friday ADG.

As yourself, would any of this have been hotly pursued by media prior to Sandusky?  Or locally to these folks in Arkansas, Petrino.

Do we have a larger systemic problem as it relates to law enforcement and college football, regardless to the size of community?  The DA in PA went public the week after Joe Paterno reached his record-setting win, but two games before the close of the season.  That was timing that to me appears odd.  The ASU events show that at some level, it wasn't just UA.  Don't overlook that a part of what is transpiring in Montana with investigations into the football team relates in part to the local police department or campus police and reporting Cleary Act crimes.

You get the sense that Denney in his mind was trying to the right thing in getting a talented young person to stop acting like a fool (and on the tape, the female passenger was joining in to berate Dyer).  We also get another careful what you do in public like the Chick-fil-A protestor (especially when you are a public servant) because video is out there and it will get to YouTube.  Here's a link to the dash-cam video, which was picked up via Freedom of Information Request.

But at some point, trying to guide young people and give them second chances to learn from mistakes as they mature in college -- something we all are suppose to be doing in higher ed whether it is athletic or academic side of campus -- crosses the line into enabling.

For Michael Dyer, who now has found himself gone from a second major college program, those second chances look like they are fading fast.

For the wider us of higher education and governance, it gives everyone pause and consider -- and remember that while we in theory have been in a transparent world as public servants that today's tools -- social media (where first rumors of all these events with the football programs at all levels started) and digital media (for the tapes and other records) are now fully enabling FOIA.

In other words, get your procedures in line (ASP issued new ones now to deal with football related duties -- since all of this brought up that they didn't have one) and make sure you are fulfilling that first crisis plan rule -- trust in God, verify everyone else.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Revolution Will Be YouTubed

Adam Smith was one of the Founding Fathers' ideological gurus, and the high priest of free market economics.

And this weekend, he also just got the harshest possible lesson in his namesake's hidden hand.  CNET has one of the best front to back recaps of the events.

The 21st century Adam Smith decided to express his opinion about the Chick-fil-A.  Fine.

He decided to take out his frustration on an employee. Not cool, but his right.

He felt the need to tape it.  Then share it on YouTube.

At the risk of drawing the same kind of wrath, might I suggest that the Adam Smith got a heapin' helpin' of hubris with his waffle fries.

It is bad enough to worry whether or friends or enemies will be taping your antics and posting them for laughs or hates on YouTube.  Or, to document violence - foreign (like Syria now, Arab Spring earlier) or domestic (the police clash with residents in Anaheim, complete with Bull Connor-like dog action).

This is social self-immolation, pure and simple.

He is now sorry. He has lost his job, and he's all over the Internet trying to apologize and delete the original posting.

Unfortunately for Adam Smith, he runs smack dab into one of Bill Smith's iron rules of the Internet: digital assets are extremely portable and easily copied PLUS once posted, always available somewhere.

So the linked version of his drive thru is locked by someone else.  It is clocking 750,000 views at this posting time with 353 likes and 3600 dislikes (that's a for real order of magnitude).

Be careful out there kids.  Keep your head on a swivel, and most important, stay frosty - don't let your passion get the best of you posting.

So once again, think before you post, kids.  Stay frosty out there. Keep your head on a swivel.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Balancing Students and Faculty on Facebook

Listening to faculty the past few weeks, I hear a consistent worry: students don't know boundaries.  As one professor with a strong reputation of mentoring and caring for students said, "Teaching isn't a 24 hour job - they shouldn't expect me to answer them at nine o'clock at night."

While many cite legal or ethical concerns, I find more and more that this is one of the top reasons why academics don't want to engage through social media with students.  Not only is the crossing of a boundary between teaching and private life a worry, the expectation of always on connection to students is a major issue.

The problem is this generation isn't like us.  They were born digital, and they are programmed to share.

And overshare.

From The Chronicle this week, a column about the excessive nature of sharing to a professor by his students illustrates the problem.  These stories weren't from social media - they were in class or in other public settings.

Yes, boundaries need to be established - but sometimes they will be inside our perimeters, not theirs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Future Arrives In Oceana

Let me say at the outset I've been on the sidelines with life to become involved in the social media dust-up from the Olympics, and I'll just remind everyone again that Dan Gillmor told us all so in 2006 at CoSIDA San Diego.  He only missed the cycle, thinking that technology would be ready in 2008.  The worst nightmare of those who wish to license air is upon them in 2012.

Here's a recap on the latest round of Olympic Social Media Policy vs. The World via PC Mag.

Aside from the muzzling of athletes and officials, the attack at the backlash is a bit frightening.  Now that Twitter itself appears somewhat co-opted, how exactly will the world view the platform that once was seen as the tool of Arab Spring and other political uprisings.

As Sascha Seagan of PC Mag points out, while Guy Adams' account appears to have been reinstated, you can't overlook this:

By blocking his account, Twitter sets a terrifying precedent. In the run-up to the Olympics, we've watched big businesses ride roughshod over small businesses, with multinationals stomping on small food vendors, florists, and shoe stores. Now the Olympic sponsors can silence voices of criticism as well.

Or, as one of the few notables from the recent literary past of Great Britain who was NOT included in the opening ceremonies once wrote:

The citizen of Oceania is not allowed to know anything

At this point, The Revolution Will Neither Be Televised Nor Tweeted.

BTW -- name the author and the book which also carries the lines:

And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed-if all records told the same tale-then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.'

Thinking of India

Courtesy of Chris Syme, a prompt to think about what do you do to insure you can get the message out during a catastrophic emergency.  Here was my answer back to her for the project she was assembling:

Planning for catastrophic failure is a necessary part of communications.  A checklist of alternative methods of distributing information is the starting point.  Knowing where located and how maintained on your current networked infrastructure is the starting point.  During Katrina then Rita, universities on the Gulf Coast discovered that while their primary webservers went underwater in the campus data centers, the companies used by their athletic departments were in other parts of the country and could take over critical communication roles.  As recently as the Joplin, Mo., tornado, the local school district temporarily declared it's Facebook account as the official communications tool as the school system lost its IT department.

Do you travel with an emergency USB key?  On this key should be a copy of every policy and procedure related to an emergency used by your organization, lists of vital phone numbers and email addresses, important data needed to access remote computer resources, and portable versions of the browser and email client used by your organization.  The key may become your computer at any moment, anywhere in the world.

This week, however, the difficulties in India reveal that entire power grids are vulnerable.  At these times, it is important to have procedures in place on how alternatives like partnering with local public safety or public communications volunteers like amateur radio to continue to maintain the ability to reach others with vital information.  Both the Department of Homeland Security through FEMA training courses and the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) with "When All Else Fails" programs provide guidelines for how to continue to operate as a public safety communicator in times of crisis.

Proficiency in using alternate methods and the ability to maintain them comes from practice.  In the event of a serious crisis, the assumption should be the local cell phone network will become overloaded, at least temporarily.  Begin your process of hardening your ability to disseminate messages by unplugging the desktop and turning off your phone -- what is your next step?  Where is the campus/city/county emergency operations center?  Who on your campus has access to satellite phones, and equally important, who is authorized to use them?  Where is the nearest hard-line telephone -- one not dependent on the computer or network based digital phone system?  In extended events, having back-up power, manual equipment, analog radios and the personnel trained to use them is vital to your success.

The most important piece of information is the last one: reach out to the people within your organization or community who have access to these catastrophic event resources.  The last place to exchange business cards with the head of IT, the director of security or public safety, and the regional 911 or emergency operations center director is in a shelter during or immediately after the onset.