Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels

Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels

In 2006, Wal-Mart got into major trouble when the company published a fake blog without divulging its origins or backing. Wal-Mart’s PR company, Edelman, apparently was behind the creation of an entity called Working Families for Wal-Mart (WFWM). In turn, WFWM put together the promo.  Continue reading Quinnipiac Assignment 07 – ICM 552 – Wal-Mart and the PR Disaster on Wheels

Supporting Indie Authors

Supporting Indie Authors

I have recently been published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, is how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family who are far from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to provide a boost to their loved ones.

For the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.

The #1 Way You Can Support An Independent Author

This one’s easy. Buy their book! Which version? Any version!

Authors might get better percentages of the take if a book is in a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale is better than no sale), if we have our druthers and there really is a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.

The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors

Supporting Indie Authors
Untrustworthy by JR Gershen-Siegel

Once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way to help out even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book. Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review. What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group that the work is aimed at, then that’s perfectly fine. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, are really helpful. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.

What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (that is an unethical request, by the way). If the book is truly awful (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:

  1. Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
  2. Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. Be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
  3. Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book was an utter snoozefest, the term ‘interesting’ can be appropriate. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you are damning with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.
  4. Post a negative review. Be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). But if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.

Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.

The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author

Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, Tumblr rebloggings, clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content is delivered to more people. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.

The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors

Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies who have larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.

You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). You can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends, but if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?

If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.

The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author

Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling? You can also act as a beta reader. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? The protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). This is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.

As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.

Final Thoughts on How to Support Independent Authors

The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. You get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.

Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.

Quinnipiac Assignment 06 – ICM 552 – Brian Williams and the Gaffe Heard ‘Round the World

Brian Williams and the Gaffe Heard ‘Round the World

On February 4, 2015, Brian Williams went on NBC Nightly News in order to apologize for falsely claiming that he was in a helicopter in Iraq in 2004 which took RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) fire.

Williams’s apology focused on not just the gaffe, but also on his motivations. He claimed that he was telling the story (incorrectly) in order to somehow honor a veteran. I hear a lot of flag-waving and appeals to patriotism. Williams says he misremembered an event from twelve years previously. While it may be difficult to recall events from more than a decade ago, the important and frightening ones tend to stand out. I would think that an incident of nearly being shot down, almost a near-death experience would be one of them. And so it is – except it never happened.

The very idea behind a news anchor is trustworthiness. The news, particularly here in America, is all about telling the truth to the public and the public’s right to know. The freedom of the press is of supreme importance. In the Society of Professional Journalists, Code of Ethics, it says, “Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair. Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.”

Further, in the Poynter Institute, The New Ethics of Journalism, it states, “Truth remains our most important goal.” To my mind, the ethical arguments being made are of the categorical imperative. Immanuel Kant says that duty is to be observed in all situations and circumstances. Williams had an obligation to tell the truth every time he was on the air either delivering the news or talking about events related to delivering the news.

Brian Williams and the Gaffe Heard ‘Round the World
English: Brian Williams at the Vanity Fair celebration for the 9th annual Tribeca Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Instead, he lied. And instead of initially apologizing, correcting the record, and perhaps checking his ego and his mouth before speaking about the matter again, he compounded the issue. The lie was repeated, almost taking on a ‘fish story’ quality. Or it was like how a story is repeated at a local bar, where the stakes get higher and the storyline slants ever more favorably for the storyteller. I feel his career is irreparably tarnished. I can’t see him recovering from this.

Social Media background check being used for jury selection

Social Media background check being used for jury selection

In 2010, the ABA Journal reported that lawyers admitted to using the Internet to ferret out information about potential jurors.

Social Media background check being used for jury selection
First woman jury, Los Angeles (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

Essentially what happens is, in some instances, while the names of the members of a jury pool are being read off, those people are being Googled. Sometimes the names are released the night before (at least, in Los Angeles County they can be), but it can also happen where lawyers only learn who would potentially be on a jury on the day of selection.

While state courts allow lawyers to bring laptops into court rooms, Googling the jury panel isn’t what they have in mind, says Paula Hannaford-Agor, who directs the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts.

However, preventing counsel from checking potential jurors’ backgrounds online might pose a Constitutional question and may very well violate the First Amendment. The law is still fluid in this area; nothing has yet been decided or tested.

All of the above having been said, I’m not so sure where I fall on the spectrum. Preventing Googling doesn’t just seem to be a First Amendment issue – it also seems to be more of a common sense one. When the telephone was invented, and it suddenly made it possible to learn more about jurors (and far more quickly than sending letters or asking a messenger to run somewhere or another), was that ever questioned? Did it bother the jurors? Or did they perhaps not know about it? Or, maybe even if they did know, were they still so dazzled and flattered by the use of the brand-new technology that they didn’t care, or see any implications?

Then there’s the other end of things. Do I really want to be Googled if I’m in a jury pool? Welllll, lawyers are looking for every other possible advantage and nugget of information, so what would lead me to believe that they wouldn’t be looking there as well? If I am a somewhat sophisticated potential juror (and I am – I’ve practiced law fer cryin’ out loud), I know that, in particular in an expensive or high stakes (read: death row) case, both sides are looking for every possible angle. My bumper stickers are being scrutinized. My dress. My hair. Whether I’m wearing nail polish. My voter registration records. My work product, if available. Anything and everything.

Plus, as an avid Facebook and Twitter (and LinkedIn, and SparkPeople) user, I am well aware of the openness of my online life. And, for me, particularly after losing a boatload of weight, I feel it’s important to be open about a lot of things. Perhaps I overshare. No, wait, I definitely overshare. I know my life is open and there are all sorts of cracks in the armor.

Yet at the same time I, like many other people, feel there’s still a place where I can put on the brakes. Somewhere in there, there are vestiges of privacy. But are they still available to me if I end up in a jury pool?

Since I’m not in a jury pool under my own volition, I’m inclined to think that, even as I share yet another “before” photo or mention that I’m turning a particular age or whatever, that I can throw up a wall.

Can’t I? Even a little bit?

I’m curious as to what others think. Is this a squishy, I-want-to-be-left-alone area, or should we all just get over it? Is it the crest of a slippery slope that would erode privacy even more, or am I getting all hot and bothered over nothing?

Gentle reader, what do you think?

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Quinnipiac Assignment 05 – ICM 552 – Who Owns Spiderman?

Who Owns Spiderman?

In 1998, Stan Lee, the creator of Spiderman and other iconic comic book characters, contracted with his own company, Stan Lee Entertainment, Inc. (the predecessor company to Stan Lee Media, Inc., also known as SLMI). Lee assigned to the company the rights to all of the characters he had worked on while working for Marvel. In 2001, Lee pulled back his intellectual property rights, alleging material breach against SLMI. This was while Marvel was making movies from Lee’s characters, including the X-Men and Iron Man. In 2007, SLMI began asserting ownership rights. A series of lawsuits followed, with the fundamental question: Who Owns Spiderman?

And Iron Man, and the X-Men, etc.

According to the January 2015 IP Update, SLMI filed numerous lawsuits. In 2009, when Disney acquired Marvel, Disney became the object of these cases.

Who Owns Spiderman?
English: Stan Lee at the 2010 Comic Con in San Diego (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Image by Gage Skidmore. CC Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 license

Finally, in 2014, the Tenth Circuit ruled that SLMI had never asserted ownership and had never produced anything containing the characters at issue, whereas Marvel did. In Stan Lee Media, Inc. vs. The Walt Disney Corporation, USCA, Tenth Circuit, December 23, 2014, the court dismissed SLMI’s case, and said that SLMI had not owned a valid copyright and, therefore, the case was dismissed.

On its face, the case looks a bit like a contract/employment dispute. Who was Stan Lee working for? It seems as if Lee created a company but did not really work for it, at least not in the beginning. Instead, he was working for Marvel. I doubt that SLMI was turning a profit at the time.

By 2001, Lee disassociated himself from a company named after him. But it wasn’t until six years later that SLMI got on the stick and started asserting rights in the characters and trying for a share of the profits.

The issue of ownership is the crucial one. That includes the assertion (or not) of copyright. While the corporate relationships are a little hard to follow, one thing is clear. SLMI had a chance to assert copyright any time it witnessed Marvel, and then successor corporation Disney, prepare and sell any sort of media with the disputed characters. Yet they didn’t do so until six years had elapsed.

The court applied what was essentially a utilitarian theory. The maximization of benefits was to allow the original content creator, Stan Lee, to sell his intellectual property as he saw fit. And, when he pulled back his rights, while SLMI had had ample opportunity to object then, the company did not. Furthering the utilitarian maximization of benefits theory is the fact that SLMI never created or sold anything with the characters in dispute. Copyright doesn’t exist to just bring suit; it exists to protect an intellectual property owner who is sharing with and presenting to the public.

As VegasInc.Com said when talking about Righthaven,

the theory [is] that copyrights have a special place in the law and are to be used for informational and entertainment purposes, not just for lawsuits.”

It would seem that the only way that SLMI wanted to utilize Spiderman and the other copyrights was as a lawsuit battering ram against Lee and Marvel (and, later, Disney). That’s hardly in line with the maximized benefit theory of utilitarianism.

Presumably, the matter is now resolved, but SLMI has gone jurisdiction shopping before. It’s possible that this lawsuit, or its near-twin, will show up in another circuit soon. But if that happens, I predict another dismissal, based on both precedent and utilitarianism. The webslinger will finally catch a break.

Community Management – Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

I have been managing Able2know for over twelve years.

It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about handling yourself online during this time.

  1. There are few emergencies online. Take your time. I have found, if I am in a hot hurry to respond, itching to answer, it usually means I am getting obsessive.
  2. When it’s really nutty, step away from the keyboard. I suppose this is a corollary to the first one. I pull back when it gets too crazy-making, or try to figure out what else may be bothering me, e. g. I haven’t worked out yet, something at home is annoying me, etc. Being online, and being annoyed, does not equal that something online is causing the annoyance.
  3. All we have are words (emoticons do nearly nothing).
    Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen
    what are word for? (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

    I like to make my words count, and actually mean exactly, 100%, what I write, but not everyone hits that degree of precision in their communications. I’ve learned to cut about a 10% degree of slack.

  4. Not everyone gets you. You might be hysterically funny in person, but bomb online. You might feel you’re a gifted writer, but you’re writing to the wrong audience. You may be hip for your crowd, but hopelessly out of it in another. This is not, really, a personal thing. You can either waste your time trying to get everyone to love you or you can recognize that you didn’t convert one person and move on from there. Choose the latter; it’ll save your sanity every time.
  5. Be Zen. E. g. I’ve found the old, “oh, you go first” kind of thing smooths the way a lot. I am not saying to not have your say and let everyone else win all the time. It’s just, ya kinda pick the hill you wanna die on, e. g. what’s really important. Stick to those guns. The others, not so much. E. g. getting into a shouting match and being kicked off a site due to your hatred of the Designated Hitter Rule – even on a sports or baseball site – is in the category of you’re probably overreacting and being really, really silly. I doubt that that is a hill most people would try want to die on. But defending your beliefs, fighting prejudice, etc.? Those are probably better hills.
  6. And the corollary to #5: controversial topics are controversial for a reason. They get under people’s skin and make them squirm. And it’s not nice to do that all the time. So try to engage people in other ways. There are plenty of people on Able2know who argue a lot about politics. I am not a fan of arguing politics. But we also get together and play Fantasy Baseball (talk about your Designated Hitter Rule). Or we swap recipes, or pet stories, or the like. And then, when a forum member is sick or becomes bereaved, people who were just arguing till they were blue in the face virtually hug and offer tributes, prayers (or positive, healing thoughts) and words of comfort. This user multidimensionality is wonderful to see. Over the years, people have gotten better at it. If someone’s really bothering you, it’s possible that, in other contexts, you’d get along. You might want to see if you can find some common ground, and other contexts.
  7. Know when to stop, or even let others have the last word. When I am really angry, I usually just withdraw. This isn’t a surrender. It’s just, I’m tired and life’s too short. You are not a smaller, or less worthwhile person, and you haven’t lost (whatever that really means, particularly on the Internet, ferchrissakes) if you walk away and wash your hands of things. You are entitled to call it quits on an argument or discussion.

I hope you learn from my insanity and my mistakes. Life’s too short to let it get to you too much!

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Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 552 – LinkedIn and Its Premium Service

LinkedIn and Its Premium Service

Quinnipiac Assignment 04 – ICM 552 – LinkedIn and Its Premium Service
Nederlands: Linked In icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like many people, I am a member of LinkedIn. I use the service even when I am employed. It is a decent means of building and maintaining a connection. However, much like Facebook, it can turn into a bit of a popularity contest. You can also end up connected to people you don’t really know. That is not necessarily a huge problem, however. After all, when you build a network offline, you are encouraged to meet friends of friends and expand your circle. Job seekers in all sorts of fields are urged to mention their searches to anyone who will listen (and, perhaps, to those who couldn’t care less). You’re told to tell your hairdresser, even if you don’t work in that field. And on and on.

And LinkedIn’s got a premium service. For $29.99/month, you can get your resume tossed onto the top of the pile. You get a sweet little badge on your profile page, telling all and sundry that you’ve gone premium.

Of course everyone else who goes premium gets identical treatment. If you are vying for a position where there are 100 applicants, and five of them are premium, then all five of you are at the top of the heap. Furthermore, there are no gradations of quality. LinkedIn neither knows (nor cares) whether you or any of the other premium members are better qualified than the other 95 applicants. You’re still up at the top of the stack, although of course the impact of being premium is diminished when others are, as well.

We were asked to answer a few ethical questions about this practice.

  • Does the premium service pass ethical muster? Why or why not?

Using the SAD (Situation, Analysis, Decision) method, the situation is, I feel, somewhat exploitative. The job seeker (often an increasingly desperate individual) is tempted to spend their limited capital on the service. The moral agent, I feel, is LinkedIn itself. While the job seeker might be the one deciding on whether to go ahead and go premium or not, it is LinkedIn itself that has decided on pricing and on providing the service in the first place.

The service is a dubious one at best, I feel. The job seeker is pushed to get his or her resume to the top of the stack, but the reason for promoting the candidate is a financial one and is not based upon merit at all. Such a practice preys upon a job seeker’s insecurities and desire to get something, anything to pay the bills.

  • Does the employer have an ethical responsibility to prioritize LinkedIn’s premium service subscribers above other candidates? Why or why not?

The employer has no ethical responsibility to prioritize premium service subscribers over other candidates. For the employer, if he or she knows how candidates pay for placement, then the intelligent thing to do would be to ignore stack placement in favor of other criteria, such as whether a candidate has experience in an area, or is a veteran or a disabled person that the company is looking to court (such a practice may or may not be legal or ethical, either).

Practically speaking, though, piles of candidate resumes, much like slush piles at publishing houses, are glanced at unless the employee is really looking for something or for a certain type of someone. The fact that certain candidates are at the top might mean that they are the only candidates seen by a rushed Hiring Manager. LinkedIn is counting on this behavior by Hiring Managers, as are job seekers who avail themselves of the service.

  • What ethical arguments could job seekers use against this LinkedIn’s practice?

Beyond the question of whether it works at all (e. g. charging for a service that does not seem as if it would work at all), a job seeker can also present an argument about exploitation. Job seekers are on fixed and unreliable incomes at best. To push for nearly $30/month for a service of dubious efficacy means that a job seeker might go without any number of necessities. It may not seem like much, but that’s grocery money. $360/year is the cost of a decent new suit and accessories.

Does this situation fall under contractarian ethical theory (based upon mutual agreement)? Not exactly. The mutual agreement is skewed heavily in favor of LinkedIn, which created the ‘service’ in the first place and does not allow for negotiations on price or features. LinkedIn isn’t acting from an altruistic standpoint, either. For LinkedIn, the situation seems to fall under utilitarianism. E. g. for them, it is a maximizing of benefits and a minimizing of downsides.

For the job seeker, it seems like just another way to prey on their circumstances without providing much of a benefit at all. Under a deontology theory in particular (act morally under all circumstances), the LinkedIn premium feature fails particularly miserably.

… And Facebook for All — Company Pages

… And Facebook for All — Company Pages

Company pages are spots where you’ve put together on Facebook to support a business (this is not the same as a fan page). Here is the company page for Neuron Robotics, my former employer.

... And Facebook for All -- Company Pages
Neuron Robotics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like everything else on Facebook, these pages and their settings do evolve, and they’ve gotten simpler these days. Currently, the following features are available:

  • Change Background Image/Avatar
  • Edit Page
  • Promote with an Ad
  • Add to my Page’s Favorites
  • Suggest to Friends
  • Information
  • Insights
  • Friends Who Like the Page
  • People Who Like the Page
  • Favorite Pages
  • Photos
  • Links
  • Events
  • Wall
  • Info
  • Photos
  • This Week
  • Notes
  • Videos
  • Post Scheduling
  • Various Apps

Change Background Image/Avatar

This one is rather self-explanatory. A good, bright background image is good, as it shows up when you share the page.

Edit Page

Manage permissions, add an address or business hours, etc. here.

Promote with an Ad

This is fairly self-explanatory. Note that Buffer has said that Facebook ads are a mixed bag.

Add to my Page’s Favorites

Here’s where another company you can link your page to your event pages.

Suggest to Friends

Fairly self-explanatory.

Information

This is basic information such as the company’s location.

Insights

This basic click information, including the number of Likes and Views. You can also see information on age and gender demographics and, most importantly, when people are online.

Friends Who Like the Page

Fairly self-explanatory.

People Who Like the Page

Fairly self-explanatory, except this includes people you are not, personally, friends with.

Favorite Pages

This goes back to adding a page as a favorite, and shows which company pages your company has favorited.

Photos

Fairly self-explanatory.

Links

Fairly self-explanatory.

Events

I’ve found adding events to be hit or miss. Not everyone RSVPs, and not everyone shows up even if they’ve said yes. However, it is more exposure and it will bring your page up to people as the event date rolls around. Even people who are clicking “No” are still looking, at least a little bit. Use with discretion and don’t overdo this. Not every activity is an event, and not everyone should be invited to everything. That’s just plain annoying.

Wall

Fairly self-explanatory. You can control who can add to your wall. Keep in mind that if you are free and easy with this, you’ll get more posts but you might also get spam. If you shut this down, you end up with Posts to Page. It’s easy to miss these!

Info

Here’s more detailed information, including the company’s address and its business hours.

Photos

Fairly self-explanatory. Posts with images nearly always do better than those without, so upload an image if the link you’re sharing doesn’t have one. Make sure you have permission to use the image!

This Week

For administrators, you can see what’s going on at a glance.

Notes

Fairly self-explanatory. Add notes like you would on your own personal page. E. g. these are almost discussions, but the responses are relegated to subordinate comments versus the kind of back and forth that comes from the wall or the discussions page. This is, admittedly, a nitpicky distinction without much of a real difference. I would, though, suggest that you not use the Notes section for blogging. Get a blog through WordPress (yay!) or the like and do it that way. The Notes section is a rather poor substitute for that.

Videos

Fairly self-explanatory. If you’ve got videos uploaded, they can show up here. This is not the same as linking to a video that is hosted online elsewhere.

Post Scheduling

Fairly self-explanatory. Just post to your wall but pull down on the post button and select Schedule Post. If you’ve been looking at your Insights, you should know when people are online. Of course you want to try to post when people will see your posts.

Various Apps

Go to Edit Profile and there is an option for Applications. These days, the only ones are Notes and Events.

Next: Offsite Sharing

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Quinnipiac Assignment 02 – ICM 552 – Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

Charlie Hebdo and Ethics

For the benefit of those who have been living under rocks, it’s time to talk about Charlie Hebdo and Ethics.

Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical magazine. It is a place where controversial cartoons and commentary are unleashed. The magazine prides itself on being irresponsible.

History

In 2006, a lawsuit was brought against Charlie Hebdo for its works. At the time, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sent a letter to the court, championing France‘s tradition of satire.

But then in 2011, the offices of the magazine were fire bombed, and their servers were hacked.

And now, in January of 2015, a dozen people were shot to death.

Tragedy and Free Speech

Wrapped up in this obvious tragedy are considerations of free speech. People around the world were outraged, and they took to the streets to protest, yelling, Je Suis Charlie! Or they would hold up signs that said the same. The three-word sentence simply says, “I am Charlie.”

Free speech means that all speech is free, and that includes satiric and uncomfortable speech. Racist screeds are protected, as are cartoons showing world or religious leaders doing God only knows what. And Charlie Hebdo and its cartooning staff certainly seemed to take pride in that as well, at showing the famous and the powerful and the well-known and the worshiped at their worst.

Preparations

I have to say, though, that the magazine’s actions were more than a little irresponsible. They had seen a history of escalation, and things had already gotten violent. Four years ago. Hence I have to wonder, what were the preparations? And where were the precautions?

Abortion doctors who have seen their colleagues shot sometimes stop performing abortions. Or they will also take sensible precautions and wear bullet-proof vests when they go to work in the morning. While living in fear is unpleasant (there’s an understatement), the precaution is an intelligent one. I am not saying that unprotected abortion doctors are shouting out to the world, “Come on and take your best shot!” But a smart precaution isn’t caving. If anything, it’s just being practical. And it is respecting one’s family, too. Yet I don’t see the dozen victims as having done that. Why not? It sure as hell would have made some sense.

This is not me blaming the victims. This is more like – couldn’t something have been done? Hindsight is, of course, 20/20. These people cannot be retroactively saved. But maybe others can.

On Balance

The thing that gets to me is that Charlie Hebdo isn’t Mad Magazine. Hell, it isn’t even Cracked. It feels a lot more like adolescents drawing crude figures and taunting each other. It does not feel clever enough to be satire. Yet people will go out and buy it now, anyway. It’s chic to do so, as seven million copies of the latest issue are sold, for a magazine that normally has a circulation of some 60,000.

Free speech? Hell yeah. Condemn the killer or killers? Of course. Try to ignore the fact that the reactive cartoons in solidarity were considerably more clever than anything Charlie Hebdo ever published.

The video is my class presentation on the subject.

… And Facebook for All — All the Rest of It

… And Facebook for All — All the Rest of It

There are really only two areas that I haven’t delved into: Groups and Notes.

Groups

Groups are a lot more self-explanatory than might be expected.

Trekkies at Florida Supercon
Trekkies at Florida Supercon (Photo credit: daspader)

They are, of course, a means for people to gather themselves together. Facebook is enormous and so, instead of looking through several million people to try to find someone who likes, say, Trek United, you can go to the Trek United group, join it and, voila! Instant collection of people with an interest similar to your own.

Being in a group affords few obligations. Get invited to a group event? Well, it’s nice to RSVP, but it’s not necessary. New discussion in the group? Well, it’s nice to participate, but you don’t need to. Add photos? Again, lovely, but no one’s holding a gun to your head.

Managing a group is a tad different because it’s good to keep it lively. I’ve already talked a bit about groups before in this series, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said. However, the main things are to keep discussions going (if any) and interest up. Gathering an enormous number of fans (yes, I know they are called Likes now, but what’s the human term? Likers? That just sounds weird, Facebook) is a pretty good thing as it’s a somewhat objective means of showing interest in your group or cause or company, but since there’s a proliferation of dual accounts, that’s not necessarily much of an achievement. Plus, since it’s so easy to toss a share or Like button on any site, and Liking is so easy, having a lot of fans often just means you got your group in front of a bunch of people who are fine with clicking on a Like button, and nothing more. A group with 1,000 fans is not necessarily going to be easier to monetize than a group with only 100.

Notes

Notes are yet another means of getting across information. The main difference between them and discussions is that the replies seem to be more subordinate-appearing comments versus discussion replies.

Huh?

Yeah, it’s a difference without much of a real distinction.

The main usage I’ve seen for Notes is old-fashioned “getting to know you” kinds of notes. You know, the kind where you’re asked your favorite ice cream flavor or the name of your childhood pet. I’ve been on the Internet for over a decade and a half and, frankly, I think I’ve seen all of these by now.

The last bit about Facebook is its very ubiquity. One of the reasons why it is so successful is because it’s, well, so successful. That is, a long time ago, it hit a tipping point and started to become famous for the sake of being famous, and got bigger pretty much just because it was already huge.

It is well-known to be a world-wide phenomenon. Mentioning it is so obvious, so simple and so well-known that it practically isn’t product placement to talk about it any more, much like mentioning a telephone in a movie isn’t really product placement to give a profit to Alexander Graham Bell’s descendants.

See you online. And, yes, I will friend you if you like.

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My leap into a Social Media career

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