Category Archives: Social Media


smiley-face-against-the-badIt is easy to observe, notice, and complain about a problem. It is much much harder to find solutions.

Yet, if a solution is well researched and historically validated, only a fool would not work to solve it. Right? Hence my repost of a quote from a brilliant writer, a problem solver, a man who I also consider a friend.

In this complex clash of civilizations, evolutionary biology offers a multi-million-year-old lesson on how to stop death by social media: fecundity. The good guys must simply and decisively overwhelm the bad guys with good information. The good information must be programmed better than the bad information, and it must be propagated in overwhelming amounts. We can select the social media world we want to live in and social-engineer our way back to safety.

WARNING: A warning to the two or three people who read this blog –  the quote above is a positive quote. An excerpt. But the link to Shelly’s blog on death by social media is a link to a brutally frank post. I am quoting the solution Shelly is telling us because I agree with him. He is correct. Just be aware if you click over to his post it does contain some rather disturbing observations.

What is Mr. Palmer’s point?  Briefly, that you and I are doing it wrong, And we have the power fix it..

We must overwhelm the world with positivity. Forget the world of “if it bleeds it leads” which is so prevalent. Those media channels advertising shows won’t change, but we can and should overwhelm them with the positive.

Thus, even though it is disturbing post on the brutal reality of social media and it’s sometimes deadly outcomes, hopefully you will click over. Because we need to do this. Because it is real. Because the current reality must stop. Because the positive must prevail.

fantasy valuations – if you can’t sell at a profit…

You can’t sell at a profit and make it up in volume. This is just business-common-sense. And this matters because as employees of realistic corporations that are required by reality to sustain themselves, we get frustrated keeping up with the Kardashians. Even the Joneses aren’t keeping up with the Joneses. It’s a scam dude. 37 Signals says it well:

“Now this was all fun and games until somebody promised the Newark schools $100 million in stock based on the fantasy valuation of his under-profiting company. But now it’s real. They’re selling the skin before they shot the bear or peeing their pants to get to the hut or whatever you want to call it. It’s just not good, alright?”

No outrageous profits after seven years and half a billion users

On the flip side, as they say in the trailer “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Maybe they are worth 33B. Lord knows as small as our business is, there is no shortage of people hating. I used to take it personally. Not so much these days. It just goes with the territory. It just is.

audience notes on social media presentation

Notes taken by Rachel at a recent social media presentation I gave. She stated that she wrote down the things the audience responded to and expressed an interest in. I read that as “what they care about.” So here is the list:

  1. Linkedin—get on it if you are in business
  2. Have a homebase—blog or SME on subject blog
  3. Use wordpress for blogging
  4. Make a FB page—the owner has to do it. Ownership is permanent
  5. Dual monitors are important
  6. Read The FB Marketing Bible $50 PDF
  7. Google Alerts
    1. Community + Competitors
  8. Technorati
  9. Search blogs, SME’s
  10. Feed Reader
    1. Google Reader
  11. $30/month unlimited video training
  12. Logo—


  1. Where do you get the time?
  2. How to manage PR for oil spill?
  3. Advertizing vs. Social networking to build a brand?

To tackle those questions with candor:

  1. Where do you get the time?
    1. Cut out TV. Done.
  2. How to manage PR for oil spill?
    1. Look to Dawn detergent as an example.
    2. Make Communications a more authoritative position in your company. Don’t lie is rule 1.
    3. And I’ll let the millions of people writing case studies on the oil spill take the rest.
  3. Advertising vs Social networking to build a brand?
    1. I’d rephrase that as “Advertising or PR to build a brand?” and my answer is what Ries said “You build a brand with PR, and defend it with advertising.” So a younger brand should focus on PR and use Social Media as part of the tactics within an overall PR strategy.

Notes on Social Objects

If you haven’t read the story of the Microsoft Blue Monster, and Hugh’s thoughts on social objects, I highly recommend it. The full blue monster story is here on Hugh’s blog. I was just rereading it for an upcoming talk that discusses Social Objects.

And of course I would be remiss if I did not embed the video of Jyri Engstrom talking about social objects from 2006.

From Jyri’s talk on strategy when you are building a web site around a social object:

  1. Define your object
  2. Define your verbs
  3. Make those objects shareable
  4. Turn invitations to gifts
  5. Charge the publishers not the spectators

Rephrased as a question checklist (from 22:21 in the video)

  1. What is your object?
  2. What are your verbs?
  3. How can people share the object?
  4. What is the gift in the invitation?
  5. Are you charging the publishers or the spectators?

Great notes from the video are posted here.

Along a similar line of research I was reminded of Activity Theory as it relates to Social Objects. From slide 12:

  1. Actors have Agency
    1. Power over objects
    2. Attraction to objects
  2. Objects have a lifecycle
    1. Construction
    2. Instantiation
    3. Linking

One of those posts that are mostly for me. But if you read this blog, you already know that. #peace

Ford Fiesta Movement Mission 4 film from Team Houston

From the description on youtube:

zenfilm — June 09, 2010 — The Ford Fiesta Movement Mission 4 film from Team Houston “Pause” presents an unusual twist on romance with sci-fi/fantasy overtones. Pause was filmed in one day by the Zenfilm creative team and features the sights and sounds of America’s 4th largest city set to the music of Houston artists Southern Backtones and Tyagaraja. To vote for this film in the competition simply text “Zenfilm” to 44144 . There will be no spam… we promise. Thanks for your support.

faulty redundant asynchronous communication is efficient

I found myself with 60 relevant business emails in my inbox last Wednesday, the morning before I flew out on a business trip, and I jumped over to twitter to find out if anything important was going on. Baroo? Why did my brain tell me to do that?

Four things about twitter communication of note:

  1. Human editors. You follow people who by nature editorialize. You know a human is posting something that they find interesting.
  2. Redundant. Lots of people retweet the same content. So if you miss the message from one person odds are you will see someone else post it if the message is important enough.
  3. Asynchronous. You have a minute to think about it before you hit send. This time delay is key to avoiding mistakes common in real-time communication.
  4. Faulty. There is no guarantee that someone saw your last tweet. And we LIKE this fact. The imperfect delivery is a good thing. We get annoyed when someone asks “did you see my tweet?” as if it were email!

I had an old boss in the early 1990s who used to not watch TV or read the newspaper. When asked how he would know if something big happened he always replied “if it’s that important, the news will come to me.” And I think he was right.

When looking at the four elements above, if you change “human editor” to “biological” you have a very accurate description of evolution. Biological, redundant, asynchronous and faulty are all attributes of all living things and result in an intelligent and evolved communication method.

When these attributes (biological, redundant, asynchronous, faulty) are applied to Neural Networks, these researchers show

Biological systems have a large degree of redundancy, a fact that is usually thought to have little effect beyond providing reliable function despite the death of individual neurons. We have discovered, however, that redundancy can qualitatively change the computations carried out by a network. We prove that for both feedforward and feedback networks the simple duplication of nodes and connections results in more accurate, faster, and more stable computation.

It turns out that “No, I did not see your tweet” creates a more accurate network. A neural network of humans processing whatever it is they are processing on a given day. And somehow that means the news comes to us.

And oh ya, you should follow me on twitter here.

SchipulCon in two days – Oct 45, 16, 2009 at the Houston Zoo

What started in 2007 as the Tendenci User Conference, was canceled in 2008 due to a very unwelcome hurricane, has now morphed into SchipulCon 2009. Planned by @MagsMac, the conference has a great lineup of speakers including Deirdre Breakenridge, the author of PR 2.0.

The full SchipulCon 2009 Agenda is posted on the site. And registration is here.

And of course a HUGE thanks to our sponsors without which this would not be happening!

Southwest Airlines Porch Swing Desserts YouData
Bright Sky Press Coffeegroundz St. Arnold's Brewery
Mashable OneShot Tequila Web Entertainment Guide
Israeli Wine Kolache Factory 1560 The Game

Technology and Crisis Communication Panel at SXSW. Vote?


Please vote for my panel at SXSW DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis


A little more than four years ago I wrote my first blog post. It was about the need for a form of Emergency RSS. We can share celebrity gossip headlines through feed readers faster than we could use technology to respond to a crisis. And this was an important point as I started blogging in 2005 right after and in response to a need to share after Hurricane Katrina. Katrina Lower 9th Ward PhotoCrisis response and crisis communication has always been a passion of mine, and seeing our government’s mostly failed response in New Orleans compelled me to start blogging and contributing where I could.

Running the company I chose to stay in town during the Hurricane Rita evacuation. While Rita did not hit Houston, instead crushing the gulf coast near Beaumont with little news coverage in the wake of Katrina, we did learn from the Rita evacuation. We used a wiki page on Tendenci (our software) to track down all employees. Employees on the road, which for some of them was 10 to 20 hours during the evacuation, would text their manager’s who then updated the wiki to account for everyone. We quickly knew everyone was OK.

Then last year we prepared for Hurricane Ike which went over our town. When the storm hit the ONLY thing that worked was SMS messaging. No power, no water, no data, no TV. Just radio and text messaging. Hurricane Ike hits at nightLuckily we had set up a product called Yammer, which is like Twitter for your company (and they have a business model) and we were able to keep in touch. Data services, which is what your cell phone depends on to get to web pages, went down. Voice went down. The only thing that allowed us to keep in touch with all of our employees and their families was text messaging sent directly and through Yammer.

We learned a lot about the role of tech in a crisis combined with human behavior. Example – an employee’s cell phone would die. They would use someone else’s cell to text a message to their manager saying “we are OK and staying near College Station”. Except that is ALL they would say. We didn’t recognize the number and had no idea WHO sent it! The solution was to train all of our people to put their NAMES at the end of each text message. Seems like a small thing. It is. But it makes it possible to do a head count!

Since 2005 our firm now does the web site for the Houston Red Cross and Reliant Park, both of which are key for Houston Emergency Response planning. We have the privilege of working with Firestorm Crisis Communications and Preparedness and long time clients like crisis communicator Dan Keeney. I have attended Netsquared Houston meetings when David Geilhufe taught us about People Finder Information Format. And I work with people like Jonti and Katie who have helped all of us set up our ICE cards for our families.

Now I need your help. I’d like to continue the dialog on Social Media and Emergency Response. What IS the role of twitter beyond updates? What are the alternatives for Yammer? Is there a cost effective solution for businesses and families? We have come a long way, so let’s talk about it.

PLEASE VOTE AND COMMENT on this SXSW Panel I hope to moderate. Without your vote and your comments the panel might not make. And I believe in this topic too much to see that happen. Spare a minute? Please VOTE!

DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis

Are you and the people you care about prepared? Our panelists will share their crisis stories and tell you how to be ready, both online and offline. PFIF, Yammer, Facebook and iPhones – the technology and strategy is there and getting better, so let’s take it to the next level.

  1. How does emergency response and communication relate to the Web? Do developers and small business owners really need to care about Crisis Communication?
  2. How can our emergency teams (fire, ambulance, police, etc.) benefit from standardized data sharing? What can I do about it?
  3. What does the rise of Mobile Web mean for the next natural disaster or other catastrophe?
  4. What tools (Web, mobile and otherwise) are out there right now that my family, friends and company should be using now?
  5. As a geek, what are 5 things you should do TODAY to keep your family safe and your business running when disaster strikes?
  6. If practice makes perfect, what kind of drills and regular training should your business be doing right now that won’t break the bank or kill your billable hours?
  7. What are some of the technical lessons we learned from Hurricane Katrina?
  8. Tech and communication stories and lessons from Virginia Tech, Hurricane Ike and beyond…
  9. What is a crisis to you and how do you strategically and technologically deal with it internally and for the rest of the world to see?
  10. How can you best identify your strongest and most reliable communicators and rock stars during times of crisis? How do you deal with employees that book it and vendors that disappear?

Why am I doing this?

Well, it isn’t for business as I have no financial ties to yammer or twitter or any other messaging services. Tendenci is a content management system that powers associations and sites like the Houston Red Cross, but they are already customers. And ANY emergency response technology must be open source for maximum adoption long term. I just believe passionately in our need to share information and I think technology can help with crisis communication. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter bring a lot to the table. If you, like me, are passionate about this, please vote for the panel “DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis” and I hope to see you in Austin next March!

Uninstall Facebook Applications Internationally Day (UFAID) September 1 2009

I am a fan of Facebook. I enjoy using it and it has brought me closer to a lot of awesome people. We are even approaching 1000 people on our Facebook Fan Page!

stopBut I can’t handle Facebook’s lack of respect for our privacy. The fact that it shows me “dating website” advertisements (I’m married and they KNOW this!?) even after I mark them “thumbs down” and “irrelevant” or sometimes even “offensive.” Yet they return.

In response to previous privacy concerns, Facebook launched a charm offensive for better Facebook Governance. As someone who studies PR, this was a smart thing to do. Start by listening and their blog in fact did request feedback. Great job! But wait! There’s more!

A few months go by and this poor chap finds a dating advertisement on his Facebook profile featuring a photo of HIS WIFE! Not cool. At all. Facebook’s response on the unauthorized use of the photos is:

In the past couple of days, a rumor has begun spreading that claims we have changed our policies for third-party advertisers and the use of your photos. These rumors are false, and we have made no such change in our advertising policies.

If you see a Wall post or receive a message with the following language or something similar, it is this false rumor:

FACEBOOK has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures WITHOUT your permission.

The advertisements that started these rumors were not from Facebook but placed within applications by third parties. Those ads violated our policies by misusing profile photos, and we already required the removal of those deceptive ads from third-party applications before this rumor began spreading.

I feel for them. But the answer seems weak – it wasn’t us. It was a third party. And we stopped the practice AFTER y’all complained about it. The weak link in the chain here is the facebook application provider. I’d like to see two things change to improve security and privacy on facebook.

  1. Facebook needs to be explicit about the “reputation” of a particular application provider or advertiser. Make this transparent. I LOVE the “report this” next to the advertisements, but as I mentioned above, for me they are ignoring my feedback. And why can’t I see EVERYONE’S feedback on an application or an advertisement? Would this type of transparency be a bad thing?
  2. We, the Facebook customers, need to uninstall as many applications as possible. We need to uninstall these unnecessary Facebook applications for our own safety until we can see more transparency. Just remove them. Only add back the necessary ones. So many people remove the box from their profile and THINK they have removed the application. They have not!

We propose September 1st 2009 as Uninstall Facebook Applications Internationally Day (UFAID).

Not all applications mind you, just the ones you don’t trust or recognize.

To uninstall your Facebook Applications follow these steps:

  1. Login to Facebook
  2. Click on your “Profile” link at the top of the page.
  3. Scroll down to the “Applications” link on the lower left. Click it.
  4. Click “Edit Apps” link which should take you to a page like this:
  5. IMPORTANT Change “Show” from “Recently Used” to “Authorized”!
  6. Click the “X” next to the applications you want to remove.
  7. Confirm.
  8. Repeat until all cruft and untrustworthy applications are removed.

Find any applications you did not realize were installed? Yup, thought you would. Put them in the comments below so we can see the sneaky ones?