Twitterville – as the name suggests

November 15, 2011

There’s something very cool and satisfying about Twitter. I actually think that as a tool for journalists it has the potential to be very valuable and I know that my colleagues (shoutout to @julieposetti) are doing some interesting work to integrate it into both newsrooms and the journalism curriculum.

But, I also know that the sound and fury of an unmoderated twitterfeed can be overwhelming and that the signal-to-noise ratio is very low.

I have written about this at some length in News 2.0: Can journalism survive the Interet? I use the example of the 2009 Iran uprising because the book was published before the Arab Spring.

I know that social media is a valuable tool for political organising, but it can be over-hyped. Revolutions are made on the street with real sweat and real blood; not in the cool vacuum of cyberspace.

I also know that, on the other side, dear old Laura Norder would like nothing better than to corral young people into a panopticon of digital surveillance and stop them from organising riots using their Blackberry and other mobile devices.

So, we have a long way to go before these issues are finally resolved. I call this the techno-legal time-gap: the dissonance between applications and regulation.

And no, I’m not calling for more regulation or laws to stop us using social media.

However, as the name suggests: there are some twits in the twitterverse.

I came across one today. And he/she confirms, for me anyway, my argument that sometimes people think that freedom of speech and expression is just the freedom to be insulting, rude or offensive.

May I introduce one of Twitterville’s many village idiots: @PropheticKleenx

Now this could be a really clever kid with a wicked sense of irony and humour: “Location: Roman controlled Australia”

But I don’t think so.

Anyway @PropheticKleenx sent me a series of unsolicited tweets today using my @ethicalmartini handle. Obviously, I’ve done something to upset this person.

You’d never guess what that might be!

I must admit I didn’t know that ‘history’ had proved Joe McCarthy was right about anything except that pink lipstick with a canary slip is so not right.

I am gob-smacked to hear that Crikey is a Jesuit publication; I thought it was home to fun-loving Trotsky-in-the-closet raggamuffins.

Nor was I across the news that ‘catholicism created communism'; I thought the term “Godless Communist” meant something entirely different.

But I get the drift: @PropheticKleenx doesn’t like me.

I get that. I’m no saint, but I’m not the ‘nadia comanice of casuistry’ either; and I’m not always proud of what I’ve done.

I did actually ‘tweet while tipsy’ a couple of weeks ago.

I am sorry @Joe_Hildebrand, but I did enjoy the ensuing verbal tennis.

But what can you do when someone wants to exercise their freedom of speech by bombarding you with almost unintelligible tweets?

Thankfully they’re only 140 characters.

And, as  I’m sure Kerry Packer used to say when people criticised the crap showing on his television station.

“If you don’t fucking like it, just turn the fucking thing off.”

He did that once to his own network in the middle of a program he didn’t like.

You can do the same with Twitterville; there’s a very useful ‘off’ switch that can stop serial pests from pestering you.

To take advantage of this very social social media function, simply go to the person’s Twitter profile and click on the’block’ button. You find it under the dropdown menu that looks like a head with an arrow down.

I just used it on @PropheticKleenx and it seems that I am not the only one s/he’s been harrassing.

Coincidentally, my mate @julieposetti had to do the same thing last week.

This really is a coincidence. I did not know about this when I started this post. I saw the block tweet from Julie only after I had completed the last step (blocking @PropheticKleenx myself)

I also recommend the same tactic for the witches of Facebook.


Academic, Media & Religious Freedom ~ Not ~ in Fiji

August 28, 2011

by Dr Mark Hayes

Update, September 4, 2011 ~ This Post started out as something else, but, over the last week of August, 2011, it morphed into a major, running, UpDate on developments in Fiji, several currents of which seemed to coalesce with very worrying speed and intensity. Most of it was written over August 27 – 31, with some tweaking and a few extra links added, until September 4.

I also know this Post has been read in Fiji, as well as more widely.

I won’t update this Post again, but will link to it as relevant in any future Posts on the general topic of Fiji, of which there will be more when events there suggest it and I decide I have something useful to contribute.

Of course, the Comments section remains active and I welcome any comments, which will not be censored (aside from normal, journalistic, editing as to clarity, legals, and taste).

Original Post continues -

I started to compile a more comprehensive wrap on recent developments in Fiji – more attacks on unions, the media, the Methodist Church – but then things started moving so fast on several fronts that I gave up, and will get to the bits and pieces, with much more context, in due course.

Scroll down for material on More Fantasy and Nastiness in Fiji, traversing the latest round on the Fiji regime throttling the Methodist Church, more on how media freedom is also throttled in Fiji, how the University of the South Pacific throttles academic freedom, continuing raids on the Fiji National Provident Fund, and insights into Fiji’s justice system under the military dictatorship.

Why Civil Resistance Works

A long anticipated and exceptionally valuable study, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, by American scholars, Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, has landed on my desk. This is formidable and very thorough scholarship of the very first order which assembles and analyses a vast amount of historical and contemporary data to show, about as conclusively as this kind of research can do, that nonviolent direct action is much more effective at removing dictators, supporting democracies, and challenging domination than armed resistance or terrorism. That’s a huge claim, to be sure, and their work deserves a very close read, which I’m doing now.

You can get a feel for the book from this article, published in Foreign Affairs by Erica Chenoweth on August 24, 2011, and this earlier article, by Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan, “Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.” International Security 33, no. 1 (Summer 2008): 7-44 (172 k PDF).

As well, I’ve been watching an excellent documentary on the impacts of global warming on Kiribati, The Hungry Tide, which has added to my collection of material on this crucial issue, has been doing the rounds of Australia’s film festivals recently, and brought back acute memories of my trips to Tuvalu where I’ve seen, and reported upon, the same kinds of effects.

More recently, Australia Network Television’s Pacific correspondent, Sean Dorney, has been to Kiribati to report on frustrations experienced from global warming’s front lines as they try to access mitigation funding and assistance pledged after the Copenhagen conference. His reports, including one on Radio National’s Correspondent’s Report for August 20, 2011, have been outstanding.

Sean Dorney’s Australia Network Television News Kiribati story ~ August 8, 2011

But, Memo to the always terrifying ABC Standing Committee on Spoken English (SCOSE) – Please come for Correspondent’s Report presenter, Elizabeth Jackson, for two broadcasting sins. Firstly, she mispronounced the name of the place ~ Kiri-bas ~ and not Kiri-bati. Secondly, she did so twice, in the introduction to the story, and again in the backannounce, clearly demonstrating she didn’t listen to the story she was presenting, in which the reporter pronounced the name correctly. Back in my days at the ABC, we’d be flogged in the car park for such gross violations of SCOSE directives!

Read the rest of this entry »


British judges are Laura Norder’s sock puppets

August 20, 2011

How utterly absurdist, outrageous and unreasonable to jail two young men for ‘inciting’ a riot through Facebook.

Jordan Blackshaw, 20, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, were given stiff jail terms in northwestern England on Tuesday for using social networking sites to “organize and orchestrate” disorder during the recent UK unrest.  [More in The Guardian]

The judges have meted swift ‘justice’ to these unfortunate saps; supposedly this is in line with British public opinion. It certainly reflects the tub-thumping Colonel Blimp rhetoric of David Cameron and his Tory rump.

It’s doubtful that John Cleese and the Monty Python crew could produce a more biting satire than this real life episode. Well, they probably could, remember “Upper Class Twit of the Year”?

Read the rest of this entry »


All a twitter over #superinjunction tweets. Advice to celebs “STFU”

May 21, 2011

So, the gloss is wearing off social media; the excitement is waning and the holy-roller experts are starting to sound like hollowed-out snakeoil sellers after a beating in the Dry Gulch town square.

We have been taken for a ride once too often. The world of celebrity tweets as a viral marketing tool may (hopefully) be over now that the super injunction scandal is hitting harder at so many British Nobs and Toffs.

But this stupid, Luddite old judge in the UK has got his judicial robes in a twist over the very obvious techno-legal time gap that has the Twitterverse all a-gush over trying to guess who’s got a super injunction in place preventing publication of details about their personal lives.

Attempts to identify a famous footballer hiding behind a privacy injunction have spiralled into an online battle over freedom of speech, as internet users responded to high court action by repeatedly naming him on Twitter.

The high court granted a search order against the US-based microblogging site on Friday as the lord chief justice, Lord Judge, warned that “modern technology was totally out of control” and called for those who “peddle lies” on the internet to be fined. (Guardian.co.uk)

It highlights once again the ever-widening void between rich and poor that super injunctions (whose very presence was itself suppressed until a few weeks ago) are available to those who can pay a high-priced whore-of-QC to front the Lords of the Court behind closed doors and tightly-drawn velvet curtains and get unsavoury details and incidents suppressed.

BTW: the footballer is apparently Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs, but that’s just a rumour I picked up on Twitter. I’m willing to repeat it because I don’t really care. I think Ryan Giggs is a great player, but the whole idea of banning coverage in the media via an all-inclusive and secret gagging order is disgusting. On balance, naming the celebrities and public figures caught up in this is the least of sins.

Giggs apparently spent 50,000 pounds on the injunction reportedly to keep his name out of a sex scandal involving a woman called Imogen Thomas who seems to be famous for taking her clothes off in lad mags like Zoo and Loaded.

Ms Thomas working hard for the money

Giggs probably didn’t want his family to know about his affair with her.

Now Giggs has outed himself by suing Twitter, Ms Thomas and several Twitter users who named him in tweets. According to the Guardian, it is possible a tabloid news organisation first leaked his link with Thomas and the superinjunctions.

A PREMIERSHIP footballer is suing Twitter and several of its users after information that was supposed to be covered by a super-injunction was published on the micro-blogging site. (The Scotsman)

Giggs was named by Spanish media ahead of the Man U v Barca UEFA Champions’ League final next weekend. Perhaps a little pride and niggle in that?

All I can say to that is “Idiot”. Did Giggs really think that suing Twitter was going to shut this matter down.

It seems that Ms Thomas was a former Big Brother contestant and she is upset that Giggs was able to keep his name out of the papers while she is the centre of allegations she tried to blackmail the Premier League player.

‘Yet again my name and my reputation are being trashed while the man I had a relationship with is able to hide.

‘What’s more, I can’t even defend myself because I have been gagged. Where’s the fairness in that? What about my reputation?

‘If this is the way privacy injunctions are supposed to work then there’s something seriously wrong with the law.’ (Daily Mail)

But, wait it gets worse. Now grubby politicians are getting into the act of breaking suppression orders and super injunctions. A Liberal Democrat in the UK has used parliamentary privilege to attack a merchant bwanker for an alleged sexual dalliance.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge criticised MPs and peers for “flouting a court order just because they disagree with a court order or for that matter because they disagree with the law of privacy which Parliament has created”.

Yesterday Lib Dem peer Lord Stoneham used the protection of parliamentary privilege to reveal allegations that former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin had taken out a super injunction to conceal an affair with a colleague at the bank. (epolitix)

Why are these people so ashamed of what they’re doing? The fuckers (and they are at it like rabbits) should either stop shagging with people they’re not supposed to or learn to live with the consequences of their actions.

Are we over it yet?

The most sensible #superinjunction tweet

Some numbers that don’t add up

My colleague Joseph Peart put together some numbers for me regarding the use of Twitter and they are interesting.

Stats from Fortune magazine, May 2, 2011 (pp42 – 45). “Trouble @ Twitter” by Daniel Roberts

• 47% of those who have Twitter accounts are no longer active on the service.

• The time spent per month has dropped from 14min 6sec in 2010 to 12min 37sec in 2011. (Joseph Peart estimates that if usage continues to drop at 1 ½ minutes a year; by 2020, there will be no Twitter users.)

• 40% of Tweets come from a mobile device.

• 70% of Twitter accounts are based outside the U.S.

• 50% of active users access Twitter on more than one platform.

• Not all Twitter users are tweeters: less than 25% of users generate more than 90% of worldwide tweets.

• Ashton Kutcher and Britney Spears have more Twitter followers that the entire populations of Sweden or Israel.

Then, from the book “Socialnomics” by Erik Qualman.

• We no longer search for the news the news finds us via social media.

• 96% of Millenials have joined a social network.

• Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.

• If Facebook were a country it would be the World’s 3rd largest.

• 60 million status updates happen on Facebook daily.

• 50% of mobile internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook

• It seems that Gen Y considers email passé, so some Unis have stopped distributing email addresses and are distributing eReaders, iPads and/or Tablets

• YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world

• There are more than 200 million Blogs worldwide.


On Twitter size doesn’t count (so much)

May 26, 2010

No doubt you’re into Twitter, but what do you do with your tweets?

Here at EM I use Twitter as a channel to promote the content on my blog and I also own up to the very occasional frivolous tweet. But if y0u ever get a tweet from me that says something like: “Enjoying a mochaccino latte frappe at the delightful hole in the wall cafe Moko in Porirua. Baby Bruce was just sick in Skye’s lap. Yuk!”, for f*ckzake shoot me.

Now there’s some academic evidence that being the biggest twit on the block doesn’t necessarily make you the most influential. That’s good news for those of us who wonder why the hell anyone would want to follow Ashton Kutcher or some anorexic stick insect of a supermodel (who may or may not be real), or even Lady GaGa.

According to a paper written by researchers from the Max Plank Institute, those with the largest Twitter following may not be most influential when measured by the number retweets of posts from certain users.

Believe it or not (it is hard to believe) one of the most influential using the retweet scale is a librarian whose messages are regularly retweeted by her followers.

The dataset for this research is impressive.

  • 54,981,152 user accounts
    These accounts were in-use in August 2009. We obtained the list of user IDs by repeatedly checking all possible IDs from 0 to 80 million. We scanned the list twice at a two week time gap. We did not look beyond 80 million, because no single user in the collected data had a link to a user whose ID was greater than that value.
  • 1,963,263,821 social (follow) links
    The 54 million users were connected to each other by 1.9 billion follow links. This is based on the snapshot of the Twitter network topology in August 2009. The follow link data does not contain information about when each link was formed.
  • 1,755,925,520 tweets
    For each of the 54 million users, we gathered information about all tweets ever posted by the user since the launch of the Twitter service. The tweet data contains information about the time of tweet posting.

You can also download a copy of the paper from the researcher’s website.

I’ve just picked out one table from the paper to highlight some of the huge traffic that Twitter generates around news events. This is from last year and it probably qualifies the death of Michael Jackson as news event of the year.

What we talk about on Twitter

The Iran election and uprising is a close second. But I can tell you that from my own work on that event that the noise to signal ratio was very high. I’d guess the same is true too for swine flu and Michael Jackson. They may well be events that grab people’s attention and create the virtual equivalent of water cooler conversation, but what most people have to say doesn’t warrant retweeting.

It’s official: Size doesn’t matter.


Wikileaks – an enemy of the State, just like Little Brother

April 7, 2010

The semi-underground Wikileaks site has become a news story in the last 48 hours thanks to the disturbing video of two Reuters staffers being gunned down in Baghdad in 2007.

Last year the site was named as the Amnesty International new media site of the year.

The April 2010 video released by Wikileaks [available at EM here] shows a group of Iraqis walking in a neighbourhood where the American military was staging a large “counter-insurgency” operation.

The Reuters men were there to cover the story on the ground. Unfortunately two trigger-happy Apache pilots mistook a telephoto lens for an AK47 and opened fire. Twelve people were killed, two children were wounded.

Wikileaks used a crowd source of hackers to decode the encryption on the Apache “gun camera” footage that was leaked to them by whistleblowers.

Now the US military and its Washington think-tank apologists are trying to hose down the story and imply that the Apache pilots were only doing their jobs.

No surprises there; but I didn’t know that in 2008 the American military machine has also listed Wikileaks as an enemy of the State.

This document is a classified (SECRET/NOFORN) 32 page U.S. counterintelligence investigation into WikiLeaks. “The possibility that current employees or moles within DoD or elsewhere in the U.S. government are providing sensitive or classified information to WikiLeaks.org cannot be ruled out”. It concocts a plan to fatally marginalize the organization. Since WikiLeaks uses “trust as a center of gravity by protecting the anonymity and identity of the insiders, leakers or whistleblowers”, the report recommends “The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org Web site”. [the document is no longer available at Wikileaks]

This is bizarre and shows just how twisted the whole concept of “homeland security” is. It reminds me of the plot in a great Cory Doctorow novel I’m reading at the moment: Little Brother.

In this book, the hero Marcus Yarrow faces down the Department of Homeland Security after a terrorist bomb destroys the Oakland Bay bridge in San Francisco. The DHS locks down the city and ups the surveillance in school classrooms, on the street and via electronic devices so that everyone is under their gaze 24/7 (almost).

Yarrow is a 17 year-old school kid who’s into online gaming and computer coding. After his illegal detention by DHS agents, Marcus and his friends organise a jamming campaign using darknet software that plays on the Xbox.

In an interesting twist, Marcus and his family seek the help of a dead trees “investigative journalist” to expose the DHS clampdown on civil liberties.

I find this interesting because it possibly shows the limits of social media in terms of making a really big story public and driving public opinion.

It’s probably also a comment on the age gap. Yarrow’s father is old school so doesn’t understand the jamming culture of his kid.

I haven’t quite finished Little Brother yet; but I can’t wait to get home and read the last 80 pages.

You should get hold of a copy; it’s an interesting book and an important statement about how Homeland Security has become a war against the American people. You can also check out a fan page for the book on Facebook.

Writer, blogger and cool geek Cory Doctorow

Doctorow is behind the technology and culture blog Boing Boing and I like him even more now that he’s just published an anti iPad manifesto.

In particular there’s this biting swipe at the dead tree media:

I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who’ll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff.

The parallels between the military’s attitude to Wikileaks and the DHS crackdown on civil liberties is eirie.


Am I paranoid?

March 22, 2010

The last time I visited those great United States, in September 2008, I flew all the way from LA to NYC with a couple of stops on the way and didn’t really have too much trouble. The time before that in 2007 the locks on my bags were broken open by the Transport Safety Authority and Moac & I had to de-shoe in St Louis one time.

But on my way out of the US in the first week of October 2008 – British Airways to London – I was told that my name had appeared on a US Government “watch list”.

Nothing came of it really. I was allowed to travel and the woman who told me really played it down.

But today I got a notification that the United States Embassy in Wellington is following my blog via Twitter.

USA out of my Tweets

I  sent a polite message asking why the embassy wants to follow me and also seeking to know who the embassy staffer is who’s charged with keeping tabs on my blog.

I will block them tomorrow  if they don’t reply.

Am I paranoid?

I really am egotistical enough to think my words are pearls**, but unless there’s some closet radical working in the Embassy mailroom, I don’t think my brand of commentary would be to the Ambassador’s tastes.

This unwelcome attention comes on the first business day after I published my post supporting the Waihopai three.

We should all be self-aware enough to know that our electronic lives are not secure or private, but I do find this a little weird and sinister.

**Dribblejaws alert: That’s a joke, calm down


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