Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Social Graph: Your New Reason to Not Sleep at Night

Putting the finishing touches on a media training/social media training for Northwestern State spring sport athletes tomorrow night, and I've added in courtesy of Tom Scott something new and frightening for everyone.

Facebook Graph Search.  Yea!

Actually, not so much.  If you haven't heard, Facebook is now going to provide everyone the keys to the digital kingdom, the ability to search anything within Facebook that was public, ESPECIALLY all those random "likes" you've made over the year.

All of them.

Just like the advertisers, you can use Big Data to find all kinds of specialty search groups and then stalk -- I mean read about -- them.

British comedian Tom Scott was one of the early betas on Graph Search, and he made a Tumblr blog of some of the accidentally funny (Italian mothers who like Durex condoms) and the dangerous (men who like men who live in Tehran, Iran).

I highly encourage taking a few minutes to read the whole thing, and consider where Tom makes fun with absurd things like married men who like prostitutes, what if the search was potential interns who like weed.  Or prescription drugs.

Or we added a little creepy geolocation like single women near by who like to get drunk.

As Tom said in his blog:

If it’d be awkward if it was put on a screen in Times Square, don’t put it on Facebook. Oh, and check your privacy settings again.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Postman's Take on Facebook

Neil Postman believed that through television, our society would become consumed and destroyed through pleasure.  In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Postman wrote in the early 1980s that of the futures presented by 1984 and Brave New World that we would not allow the intrusive Big Brother of Orwell.

We would be Soma'ed into allowing the kind control that Orwell couldn't imagine. Aldus Huxley presented a world as numb, or worse, from the intoxicants presented and voluntarily consumed in Brave New World.  Postman wrote:

In the Huxleyan prophecy, Big Brother does not watch us, by his choice. We watch him, by ours. 

If he were alive today, Postman surely would see social media circa 2013 as the total fulfillment of his dystopian vision.  Two recent developments regarding our Facebook lives bring this into focus.

The warnings are out there now that Facebook's app will soon begin tracking you 24/7/365, whether you use the app or not.  In some ways, no ground breaking here since Apple had to admit it has been doing the same.

For years I warn students in social media training they are signing up for the world's largest data mining operation when they join Facebook.  So we shouldn't be too shocked that geolocation is now added.

And if having a tracker in your pocket -- no need to ask for your papers please -- is enough to finally send you running away from Facebook, your lack of participation may be viewed as dangerous as well.

Would future employers, potential suitors or Homeland Security personnel understand your concern about the invasions of your privacy by Facebook?  No, they will see you as having something to hide, someone to be concerned about.  Even so far as to label you a sociopath.  Not sharing your live and location with the world becomes the new abnormal.

He writes of TV, but a longer passage from Postman to think about:

When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Shocking: Brands Foster Content

Another presentism newsflash: "Journalists take refuge in the world of branded content."

News rooms are laying off staff.  The old journalism model is collapsing. Death.  Destruction.  The end of days is upon us.

Gosh.  We've never been here before.

Video has never killed the Radio Star.

And radio never crushed the immediacy of the evening news and the extra edition.

Both modes of communication got their footholds with what today we euphemistically call "branded journalism" because we don't want to face straight up the reality.

Sponsors pay for content creation.

Whether you are Michelangelo or Michael Moore, you need people to pay for your work.  Medieval lords bankrolled art.  The filthy lucre that paid for newspapers?  Yeah, advertisers.

Anyone remember Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom?  The Texaco Star Theater

Eventually, media forms mature and they begin to capture multiple sponsors and become less beholden to a single supporter.  Until then, we will move through this time.

Does it mean the content is less "honest"?  Maybe, certainly CBS didn't help this with their CNET debacle over the CES Award for Dish Network's Hopper.

So should we trust CBS, who's naked suppression of an editorial choice was on display, or a brand that clearly states it is sponsoring content that we can either believe or not?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Avoid a Personal Ground Hog Day

A story of local interest provides a reminder to all in higher education that those tools and toys we work with each day really do belong to the institution, and for those public universities, the state.  As one former football coach discovered, yes they can get your texts.  Now we can add a former university president and yes, they can get your browsing history.

A sordid detail emerges from the much larger investigation into former University of Central Arkansas President Allen Meadors.  Meadors pled guilty to evasion of the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act after his resignation from the school.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette poured over the now released investigation file to discover that UCA officials discovered Meadors was viewing porn on his work computer as well as his university provided iPad.

It was discovered when the campus IT department wondered how Meadors was managing to blow through caps on hundreds of dollars of data plan purchased when he traveled abroad.

Computer folks understand it -- Meadors didn't have the sense to clear his cache and browser history.  He also was undone by the data left behind by Google searches.  The ADG is behind a pay wall, but here is one key quote in the story.

Dur­ing the in­ter­views, state po­lice also learned about the pornog­ra­phy and gath­ered ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing pic­tures of nude women and sex­ual en­coun­ters in­volv­ing men and women.

“We are go­ing to use this ev­i­dence you might re­cover” from Meadors’ elec­tronic items as “lever­age to get the sus­pect ... to take a guilty plea,” Rick New­ton, a se­nior spe­cial agent with the state po­lice, wrote to the agency’s com­puter foren­sic lab­o­ra­tory in a Jan. 11, 2012, mem­o­ran­dum.

You can read more about that, and other follies of FOIA, from the open Arkansas Times.  Be warned -- some of this is NSFW.  Maybe you can explain to IT that you were just doing research on another university's investigation.

Bottom line remains -- digital assets are extremely portable, easy to copy and distribute and as this case proves, can last forever.

People, Not Programs

Jay Bilas spoke at the National Sports Journalism Center, and this tweet resulted:

"I chose a coach, I didn't choose a school" @JayBilas on decision to play at Duke @iujournalism #JayBilasatIU

There is some pure truth.  Many athletes, especially the elite, are looking at who will direct their development, not how big the locker room is.

The proof to this pudding:  John McDonnell at Arkansas.  He won the vast majority of his national championships with a less than standard indoor training space and an average outdoor track.  Other programs in the 80s and 90s had super facilities and hosted the national meets.

The same applies to the average college student.  With the assistance of one of our business instructors who is a Spanish native, I interviewed six new exchange students to Northwestern State from Colombia.  We did the interviews in English and in Spanish.  These were somewhat elite musicians for their region of Colombia, and the reason they decided to fly to Natchitoches, La., population 18,000, was very clear in their answers.

The people.

Specifically, the head of the music program and the head of part of our international studies and recruiting.

Here is the point.  You want more students at your school?  Get the faculty out front.  Engage with students on personal levels, and that includes finding ways to break through the barrier that so many want to create between students and teachers via social media.

The why is very simple.  Students aren't picking Northwestern State for nursing just because we are one of the oldest programs with a great reputation; that we are one of the largest programs in the region.

They pick it because they get to know the teachers.  They know those teachers are going to make them better nurses.  And combined with that reputation of NSU nursing, they want to come here.

We had a record-setting year of recruiting students to the Louisiana Scholars' College for three reasons.  First, we have marketed that program like never before to gain exposure.  Our foundation gathered new scholarships for private gifts to help give our recruiters an edge.  But the third, and most important part, the director and the faculty in that area make connection with prospects a high priority.  Sure, they have a nice building, but if they were in the oldest building on our campus, I bet the results -- if the morale of the faculty and staff stayed high -- would be the same.

I've always known this to be true from days in athletics.  Building tens of millions of dollars in facilities, which unfortunately is escalating to hundreds of millions of dollars, will not make up for the lack of proven coaches and reputations of programs in attracting top students.

Build it and they will come only works on a Field of Dreams.  Even Fantasyland had Disney.

Connect with them as a coach, or teacher -- that's reality.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Monitoring is Bad, but Catfishing is OK?

Fresh from the Twitter headlines, Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is receiving acclaim for attempting to prevent the next Manti Te'o event by "catfishing" his own student-athletes.  Let us give a certain amount of praise for both transparency -- telling a group about the scheme -- and innovation to provide a good social media lesson -- I'm sure this was an eye-opening exercise.

But in light of a growing wave of pushback from privacy and First Amendment advocates toward university's monitoring certain populations of students -- both student-athletes and student group leaders -- does Brandon do a disservice by his public exercise?

Let's remember, it violates almost anyone's terms of service to create fake accounts, or use Facebook's term "inauthentic accounts".  According to online media reports, someone in the Michigan staff directed individuals to make fake profiles and engage in let's say, provocative, conversations.

According to CBS Sports, that assertion is wrong.  Instead, Brandon used a consulting company. The Toledo Blade includes more details, including speculation of which company may have done the work.  Perhaps this will save Brandon and others from losing their internet privleges.

The damage control is in full force as reports now surface that Michigan says it didn't "catfish."

Were Brandon the chief of Michigan's police, we would call this a sting operation.

Or to use the Cold War espionage term, a honey pot.

I highly encourage educating all -- not just student-athletes (or students only) -- on the need to be careful online.

The lesson here is trust no one.  And that is a bad way to prepare young adults for the future business world.

For Brandon, did he similarly think speaking to a group in Toledo, Ohio, about the plan wouldn't result in major news?  As of this post, @DaveBrandonAD has not made any posts regarding those made by @KyleRowland of the event.

There's some back and forth among UM athletic administrators, and some comparison of stories and quotes.  Here's an important bottom line:  If you were misunderstood, if you never used the word "catfish" in the presentation, it will mean much more if the person who gave the speak explained that.

Perhaps there is another lesson as well.  University administrators, no matter where they speak and no matter what the forum, are in public.  Maybe Brandon spoke off the cuff.  Could have thought he was just speaking among friends.

Isn't that the heart of lessons we want to impart to our students?  Be aware of yourself while in the public eye.