Clay Shirky really has something here. Because I have to say, I just plain love this book. I am a fan! In addition, this book ended up tying with Groundswell for being my favorite of the six books that we were assigned to read in my first Quinnipiac University social media class, Social Media Platforms (ICM 522).
At the time, I started classes thinking I would only get a certification and nothing more. However, I ended up staying long enough to get my Master’s of Science in Communications in Interactive Media (social media). And a part of that decision can be traced directly back to reading this particular work.
Philosophy To Go
Furthermore, I really liked the philosophical and sociological aspects of his work. Essentially, what he ended up saying was – society is changing. It’s not just the Internet; it is happening to humans ourselves. We are in the process of becoming new, and different. Hence there is a seismic shift going on, in our society.
Of course, that is likely to just be the wealthiest slice of society. Because heartbreakingly poor people in Third World countries simply aren’t going to be adding to online or offline content any time soon. Or, if they are, it is far more likely to consist of content that is survival-based. Hence this would be items for sale, rather than the products of truly creative pursuits.
Amateurs vs. Professionals
In addition, I really love what he had to say about amateur participation. Because in Chapter 5, on page 154, Shirky persuasively writes:
“As more people come to expect that amateur participation is always an option, those expectations can change the culture.”
So here’s to amateur participation. Because it is here to stay and I suspect it will never, truly go away.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott
The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott was a fascinating book that I had as required reading for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Platforms course (ICM522).
First of all, the premise is, like a lot of other books about the Internet and social media marketing, that marketing has become less of a one-size-fits-all/push system. Instead, it has instead evolved into a far more balanced bilateral conversation.
And perhaps the most interesting part of the book consists of the rules themselves, which are in Chapter 2, on page 31 and are as follows –
The Future of Lonely Writer and Adventures in Career Changing
The future? Well, more specifically, I mean the future of the Lonely Writer website.
So as some readers may recall, I started that website as my capstone project at Quinnipiac University. I needed the project in order to graduate with a Master’s in Science in Communications (social media). Well, graduation happened in August of 2016. However, I had paid for the domain until the end of March of 2017. It seemed silly to try to cancel early.
But now it’s March of 2017.
Hence I want to change things up. My life has gotten considerably more busy since I graduated. I currently hold down four part-time work from home jobs, all centered around various tasks having to do with blogging. I also podcast every month and I blog for that podcast and for its parent podcast. Furthermore, I still blog about social media and even about fan fiction.
In addition, I still write and still work. I always try to get more of my work published. As a result, I just plain don’t have the time for yet another domain. Most noteworthy, I’d also like to save a few bucks. This project does … okay. Yet Adventures in Career Changing does better.
Therefore, I realized: I should combine the two.
What Will Happen?
The Lonely Writer YouTube channel and Facebook groups will both live on. And the Twitter stream won’t be going away, either. They do not require as much work as a separate blog. Plus, they are also free of charge. I am only talking about the other domain and those particular blog posts.
So, where are they going? Why, they are coming here!As a result, the blog URLs will change, and the blog posts themselves will be removed for later re-posting. I will change them up, too, so they will be more up to date. That’s all. So don’t worry, okay? That advice and that work will not go away. It’ll all just move here, down the street. I am excited about the move. I think it will help to freshen up Adventures without losing the focus, which is altering my career and also embracing social media. And the writing-related posts, of course, will give that more of a writing bent. That’s all.
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.
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.
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.
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.
” 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.
1. An executive earning $30,000 a year has been padding his expense account by about $1,500 (or 5%) a year. Is that
Acceptable if other executives in the same company do it
Unacceptable regardless of circumstances
Acceptable if the executive’s superior knows about it and says nothing
I selected #2, under a deontology ethical theory (e. g. ethical behaviors come from duty). #1 is a kind of “everybody else is doing it, so why shouldn’t I get away with it?” type of argument. That’s a tempting argument, but it ends up being a kind of hedonistic one. Personally, I enjoy hanging around and doing nothing on snow days, but it’s far better if I shovel. Part of the reason I shovel is to be kind to my neighbors. Another reason is to keep them from slipping on my property and suing me. But it’s also the case that others might do less than I do. Certainly, as the wind rattles my windows, I would prefer to sip cocoa and stay inside. That’s answer #1.
As for answer #3, that could potentially go to company culture. After all, unless I’m the boss, who am I to question and dictate company culture? But padding an expense account is no way of going about protesting a low salary or attempting to address a financial injustice. It’s a better move for the superior to meet the salary issue head on and, assuming the executive deserves a higher pay rate, then give the executive a raise. If the executive doesn’t, then this backdoor raise isn’t doing anyone any favors – and it might even speak to ethical issues with the superior. It’s been my experience that salaries come from one company financial bucket, whereas expenses come from another. By looking the other way, the superior is providing a raise via allowing the executive to dip into someone else’s till.
2. Imagine you’re president of a company in a highly competitive industry. You learn that a competitor has made an important scientific breakthrough that will substantially reduce, if not eliminate, your company’s profit for about a year. If one of the competitor’s employees who knew the details were available to hire, would you?
I felt this one was a tossup. I think that there has to be the assumption that virtually anyone is “available to hire”. Furthermore, there is nothing in the fact pattern about this possible future employee being bound by a nondisclosure agreement. If this person is bound by an NDA, and they honor it, then my hiring them – or not – makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, unless they are the main architect of the scientific breakthrough. And even if they are, the breakthrough has already been made. I just feel like it wouldn’t matter much either way. As for the ethics of hiring one person away from a competitor, that is how people are hired all the time. Top talent always has experience, and that experience is inevitably with a competitor. I just fail to see the damage here, I suppose. Under a consequentialism ethical theory, there just doesn’t seem, to me, to be much that matters in terms of consequences and results of going either way.
3. The minister of a foreign nation where bribes are common asks for a $200,000 consulting fee in return for special assistance in obtaining a $100 million contract that would generate at least $5 million in profits. Would you
Pay the fee, feeling it was ethical, given the moral climate of the nation
Pay the fee, feeling it was unethical but necessary to ensure the sale
Refuse to pay, even if you lose the sale
This time, I chose #3. Yes, it’s nice to make a profit, etc., but the circumstances are distasteful. I question the requirement of paying this bribe. Perhaps something else could be arranged? This might be less ethical squeamishness on my part, and more like a question of social justice. In some ways (I’m a cynical person), I’m wondering if that same $200,000 could be spent on a ‘consulting fee’ for someone who could use the money a lot more than a presumably wealthy minister. I recognize that this is often a ‘cost of doing business’. I’d just rather not further line the pockets of someone who’s already in beer and skittles. My approach is somewhat utilitarian (per A Framework for Thinking Ethically), as my intention is to attempt to make the sale – after all, my fellow employees may be counting on me – while at least trying to quite literally redistribute the wealth a bit more fairly.
4. On becoming a new member of the board of High Fly Insurance Co. (HFI) you learn that it’s the officially approved insurer of the Private Pilots Benevolent Association, whose 20,000 members are automatically enrolled in a HFI accident policy when they pay dues. HFI pays a fee to PPBA for this privilege and gets access to the PPBA mailing list, which it uses to sell aircraft liability policies (its major source of revenue). PPBA’s president sits on the HFI board, and the two companies are located in the same building. Would you:
Raise the issue in a private meeting with HFI’s chairman
Express opposition to this at a director’s meeting but accept whatever position the board takes in response
Express vigorous opposition and resign if corrective action were not taken
This is an incestuous business relationship. I feel that the answer is a two-parter. I would start with #2. Some of this is a matter of finesse, as board members are high up in any company. You don’t get to that kind of a position without being somewhat discreet. There is nothing in the fact pattern about what happens during that private meeting, and I intend to tell the chairman that this is akin to the kind of logrolling that goes on in cartels. I just can’t see the Federal Trade Commissionnot being interested in such an all-too convenient arrangement.
If #2 failed, I would probably go to the nuclear option, which is #4. And if there’s any price-fixing going on (not in the fact pattern, but a very real possibility in such an arrangement), I don’t want to be on the receiving end of an investigation. I like staying out of Federal prison.
My decisions are more likely to be made with respect to consequences. After all, I don’t relish the idea of going to a Federal penitentiary. But it’s also in the sense of virtue and duty. Dereliction of duty and a failure of virtue also create consequences. Can I sleep at night? That’s often my motivation and my litmus test.
For the Spring Semester of 2015, I decided to double my course load and try to graduate a bit more rapidly. This entailed taking two classes. Little was I to know, when I signed up for these courses, that I would also get a job and my book, Untrustworthy, would be published. Hence my workload began to feel a bit out of control. Continue reading “Writing, Ethics, and Quinnipiac”→
For my final project for Quinnipiac University’s Social Media Analytics class, I created a short presentation about journalism and data. This video is available on YouTube.
My essential question was whether data and story popularity should be drivers for journalistic choices. Those choices are everything from what to put on a ‘front page’ to what to bold or italicize, to where to send scarce (and expensive) reporter resources, to what to cover at all.
Popularity Breeds Contempt
For news organizations looking to save some money, it can be mighty appealing to only cover the most popular story lines. News can very quickly turn into all-Kardashian, all the time, if an organization is not careful. For a news corporation searching for an easier path to profitability, hitching their metaphoric wagon to the popularity star might feel right. After all, and to borrow from last semester’s Social Media Platforms class, they have buyer personae to satisfy. If all of their readers or viewers or listeners want is to know the latest about Justin Bieber or Queen Elizabeth II, then why shouldn’t a news organization satisfy that demand?
But there is a corollary to all of this.
News organizations often have dissimilar foci. If I am reading, say, the Jewish Daily Forward, I am looking for news, most likely, about either the Jewish people or Israel, or at least for stories which are relevant to either of these two not-identical (albeit somewhat similar) entities. Hence a story about the Kardashians, for example, is not going to fly unless it can be related somehow.
Dovetailing into all of this is journalistic ethics. Shouldn’t journalists be telling the stories of the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the forgotten? I well recall the coverage of Watergate as it was happening (even though I was a tween at the time). I’m not so sure that many people today appreciate the sort of courage that that really took.
What is the future of journalism? I feel it has got to be both. There must be a combination. News organizations need to show profits just as much as all other businesses. But that should not come at the expense of their responsibilities.
This was a great class, and I learned a lot. My next semester starts on August 25th.
My professor is Eleanor Hong, who was also my professor for Social Media Platforms. I had really loved that class, so I made sure to take this one with her as well.
Our first assignment was to create a video. I was very pleased to see some names that I knew who are taking the course with me and I had originally met in Social Media Platforms. My final project partner from that course, though (Kim Scroggins), is graduating later this year and is instead just taking a Master’s Degree capstone project credit course. I have to admit that I do miss my final project partner a bit!
It already looks like it will be an interesting course. This video is about quantitative and qualitative analytics that I use in my daily life.
Module Four was about the Ad Astra Star Trek fan fiction writing community. Module Nine was about the Facebook page that my partner, Kim Scroggins, and I created for our ‘client’, the as-yet undiscovered Rhode Island rock band, J-Krak. Module Ten was about the creation and growth of the Twitter stream that we made for J-Krak. And Module Eleven was all about our less than successful experiments in spreading the gospel of J-Krak to MySpace and Google+ (the former was a particularly abysmal showing. At least our client’s presence on Google+ assured better placement in overall search results).
The class was great fun, and I could not get enough of studying for it. I have never, ever had a course like this before, where I was so into it that I could not wait to study, and I did all of the extra credit because I wanted to, and not because I necessarily needed to. That has never, ever been my experience with a class before this one. This overwhelmingly positive experience has given me the incentive to not only finish my Social Media Certification training, but I am also rather seriously considering going on and getting my Masters’ Degree in Communications, with a concentration in Social Media.