Sunlight: The Promises and Perils of Open Government

Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” as the saying goes, meaning that transparency, or openness is always preferred over the alternative. Whether in business, government, or science. It is often assumed that open information is always better, or as the hacker ethic states “information wants to be free.”

But is open by default really the best approach? Particularly in the area of government? Can we not conceive of information that really should not be freed? Whether for national security purposes, or personal privacy, or even efficiency’s sake?

Light Up The Open

“Light Up The Open”by cogdogblog is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sunlight: The Promises and Perils of Open Government

Language matters: The carbon tax edition

Today is the day the carbon tax takes effect in Canada, and I can’t help but notice it’s also April Fool’s day.

But the carbon tax is not a joke. Instead it’s an attempt, backed by solid economics research (article paywall), to cut greenhouse gas emissions by putting a price on the burning of fossil fuels.

Shell Gas Station
“Shell Gas Station” by Mike Mozart is licensed under CC by 2.0

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Language matters: The carbon tax edition

Information Design is Needed Now More Than Ever

an image of a footpath warn through grass, beside a sidewalk. A sign says "please use sidewalk" but it is clear people are not obeying the sign.
Design vs. experience: by Dale Calkins on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dalecalkins/status/774998979054415872

Information alone is not enough to change behavior. As the image above shows, if people have good reason to behave a certain way (in this case to cut the corner across a grassy lawn rather than taking a purpose built path on the sidewalk), they will keep behaving in that way, even if told otherwise (please use sidewalk).

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Information Design is Needed Now More Than Ever

What can sustainability communicators learn from social media marketers?

Recently, Ann Dale, Jamie Clifton-Ross and I wrote an article for the Journal of Digital and Social Media Marketing. In it, we detailed a case study about Canada Research Connections (@CRCResearch) and how we applied social media marketing concepts, specifically content curation strategies, to more broadly engage a broad audience with academic research on sustainability.

An image showing arrows between two word bubbles and the phrase social media marketing
“Social Media Marketing” by Jerry Nihen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over two years, we took a deliberate approach grounded in best practices in social media strategy. We attempted to build a network of interested followers friends, we engaged in reciprocity, sharing the posts produced by others, and we deliberately used engaging visuals, narratives, and accessible language in our posting. Furthermore, we ensured that we were posting to social media platforms on a regular schedule, and posting according to the times that were most appropriate for each platform. Finally, we tailored our content to suit different platforms. Longer posts and videos for facebook, short bite-sized content and retweets with images on Twitter, Strong images and short videos on Instagram, and longer videos with animations on YouTube. Every approach we followed was well known in the social media marketing world, but interestingly was not broadly used in science or sustainability communication. Instead, these communication domains tend to rely primarily on a more just the facts style communication with an academic presentation and tone.

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What can sustainability communicators learn from social media marketers?

On Social Media, A Whisper is Louder than a Megaphone

What good is 300,000 facebook friends, or a viral video viewed by 3 billion people if only a fraction of those people are actually interested in what you have to share with them or sell to them? The answer is, not much. Rather than aiming for a large broadcast audience, rather than taking a broadcast approach to participatory media, those of us without the money or other resources to spread our message far and wide need to be more strategic than that. Those brands that have grown a movement have tapped into just these principles. For this reason, smaller organizations, artists, or individuals probably don’t gain much by focusing on dramatically increasin follower counts over a short amount of time. This type of activity takes too much time, energy and money that could be  better spent on actually growing a small business. Instead, for most of us, it’s better to have 3000 of the right followers- people who are most likely to convert.

an image of a megaphone with the words "speak up"
Speak up, make your voice heard by Howard Lake. Available from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/9rAjnQ
License CC-BY-SA 2.0

 

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On Social Media, A Whisper is Louder than a Megaphone

Chasing Meaningful Interaction: Facebook’s Declining Value

Have we reached peak Facebook?

 

A facebook error message
Facebook error by Beth Kanter on Flickr (CC by 2.0). Available from https://flic.kr/p/5iEcGp

A recent article in the Guardian reports that while people over 55 are still flocking to the social network in droves, a key demographic: teens and young adults, are leaving Facebook or even failing to join in the first place. Teens and young adults, according to the Guardian, are “defecting to snapchat”, and while Facebook initially managed to hang on to this group by buying up Instagram, it hasn’t been able to buy snapchat, and copying the popular features of snapchat on Instagram and the Facebook platform have not served to engage younger users.

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Chasing Meaningful Interaction: Facebook’s Declining Value

Online Influencers: An Old Idea in a New Medium

This post is some thoughts pulled from a talk that I gave this week at Ryerson’s Start Up School. For more great resources for entrepreneurs, and to see the slide presentation that I gave, check out ryersonstartupschool.com

Since the dawn of PR, influencers have been an important tool for those people and organizations who want to reach others with their message. This is not an exaggeration. The practice of public relations was basically invented when Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, hired women to march in the 1929 Easter Sunday Parade smoking cigarettes that they called their “torches of freedom“. Why did Bernays do this? Before this moment, smoking for women was considered taboo, dirty. Bernays effectively linked the act of smoking with the women’s equality movement, and changed public perception for decades to come.

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Online Influencers: An Old Idea in a New Medium

Why I Don’t Use Facebook Part 1

I am a social media researcher, lecturer, and consultant. Invariably whenever I speak with someone about social media, the conversation turns from the theoretical and abstract (best practices for getting your posts noticed; or the effect of social media on democratic participation in society) to the mundane and personal. When this happens, we usually start talking about what social media accounts we use ourselves, or, innocently enough, someone will ask me to connect with them on their social media accounts – first among them, of course, being the eponymous Facebook. When this conversation occurs, I attempt to casually mention that I no longer have a Facebook account, and it is there that my friends, colleagues, students, peers in the industry look at me as if I have suddenly grown a second head.

“Whaaaaaaat? You’re a social media expert (their words, not mine) and you are not on Facebook?”

or

“How can you not be on Facebook? You STUDY social media”

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Why I Don’t Use Facebook Part 1

Tribes

Quick, what do Donald Trump, Crossfit, and FanExpo have in common?

A man lifting a very heavy barbell loaded with weight
345, Grinnin’ by Travis Isaacs, available from Flikr:https://flic.kr/p/batZUR

No, it’s not a rugged devotion to protein, cool outfits, weird hair or comic book villains – although any of these would have been a good guess.

Actually, it’s that all of these have benefited, in a digital age, from the rise of tribes.

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Tribes

Never Gonna Give You Up: Creating a Musical Experience in a Digital Age

The music industry has been feeling the curse of digital communication technologies as a result of music streaming services such as Spotify (or even YouTube, which is a popular way of accessing music, with or without video). Streaming services pay very little – fractions of pennies, in fact, back to the musician when songs are played. And this year, the closure of HMV has shown us that there is no longer a market for physical recorded music. In fact, even the purchase of individual songs on iTunes has become less relevant as a result of streaming. In my private sector consulting work, I often coach independent musicians about how they might survive, and even thrive in a world where they cannot make money from their original product, and I think we can draw inspiration from this in the most unlikely of places: Tough Mudder – a fitness brand that is optimized for the digital age.

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Never Gonna Give You Up: Creating a Musical Experience in a Digital Age