UCLA Grads’ Janus-Like Social Platform Gains Traction

October 12, 2011 by · Comments Off on UCLA Grads’ Janus-Like Social Platform Gains Traction 

Jono Lee and Eric Sue — both recent UCLA grads — have set their newly created social platform, TwoSides, loose on the Internet to help conceptualize duality. In its current setup, users publicly ponder the duality and merits of political, philosophical, and other more mundane stances with the help of well-thought-out displays and argument compartmentalization.

In the manner of social networking, fellow users contribute to an issue’s elucidation by declaring whether they agree or disagree on the matter and submitting evidence to prop up their case or unfasten the foundations of the “other side.” Welcomed evidence, to be posted directly on the site, includes self-authored ranty texts, YouTube clips, scholarly articles, and anything else that’s relevant.

The site fosters social connections through debate and also through the discovery of shared beliefs, values, or ideas. In TwoSides’ terms: “Common beliefs are a much better indicator of whether two people would connect than, say, mutual Facebook friends. Easily see how your viewpoints match up with other people using our awesome data visualizations.”

A good deal of unabashed giddiness filters through the site’s details. Even TwoSides’ 2011 summer intern, Ken Yu, radiated as much: a bodybuilder with a taste for progressive trance who’s studying Engineering at Berkeley.

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Social Media Urges On a New Statistics

October 11, 2011 by · Comments Off on Social Media Urges On a New Statistics 

The world’s twitter and Facebook output — along with its googling and cell phone geo data — is about to be stirred, strewn out on a researcher’s desk, and examined like a sacrificed animal’s entrails during the heyday of ancient Greece.

It seems that social media has done wonders for the acceptance of an old ritual of the occult — divination. Online output, as part of “big data,” is about to be put through a major statistical grinder by scientists claiming a humanistic bent in an attempt to derive “sociological laws of human behavior,” as John Markoff of the New York Times so eloquently put it, to “predict political crises, revolutions and other forms of social and economic instability,” much the same way that natural scientists foretell the weather and try to do likewise with earthquakes.

Next year, a division of the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), is funding a three-year study on “big data” involving 21 countries in Latin America. The tools employed by these scientists will likely resemble those being developed by Revolution Analytics, Norman Nie’s company of new-wave analytical tools for “data sets with trillions of entries.” Perhaps the time for a new Delphic oracle has arrived.

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Are Your Online Manners Polished and Refined?

October 5, 2011 by · Comments Off on Are Your Online Manners Polished and Refined? 

Has life on the digital sphere been making you feel like your manners and etiquette are in need of an updating? It’s likely you’re not alone. Publishers have apparently caught wind of a general clamoring for guidelines for navigating online lives with grace and two books on the subject were recently released: How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age and Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition.

Both are 21-century updates of beloved American classics: Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, which first came out in 1936, and Emily Post’s Etiquette, first released in 1922. No doubt times have changed since then. Unfortunately, if one goes by Dwight Garner’s unfavorable and less unfavorable reviews of the two tomes — published in today’s New York Times’ front page — the books aren’t really up to task.

Garner excoriates the folks responsible for the Dale update, that would be Dale Carnegie and Associates Inc and Brent Cole, and refers to their work as a “retooling” that vitiates the expressive and “homespun” charm of the original. The authors of the Post update, all descendants of the original author, fare only slightly better. Garner says they “mostly repris[e] information to be found in earlier versions” and that the “volume is friendly but largely humorless.” Faint praise, indeed.

But if you’re clueless about proper online socializing, you might still want to take a peek at the two texts.

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User Pictures and Names Come Off of LinkedIn’s Social Ads

August 23, 2011 by · Comments Off on User Pictures and Names Come Off of LinkedIn’s Social Ads 

It’s the last stretch of August and everybody’s out of the office — except yours truly, clearly — trying to cease all the promise of summer in the last few days of vacation. Given the twenty-something diurnal number all the calendars are proclaiming, it seems only to be expected that despite its immaculate primness and consistently great grasp for respectability, LinkedIn is the social network that’s easiest to forget come this time of year. That’s mostly because even the most novice of job hunters knows that it’s important to send out one’s resumes and profiles when the recipients are likely to be in the office.

But people are still paying attention to other things in the network. It was not quite two weeks ago that LinkedIn blogged an announcement concerning its decision to scrap its then-current iteration of social ads. The major issue was user complaints about the prominent placement given to user portraits and names in advertising for followed products and companies. The new version of these ads will omit user photos and names; instead, the ads will alert users to the persons in their network that following or recommending a certain product or company. Seems loyal users have a reason to sound a fanfare for their favorite space of professional connection:

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U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab Releases CitySandbox, Hopes to Network Real-World Deeds

August 11, 2011 by · Comments Off on U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab Releases CitySandbox, Hopes to Network Real-World Deeds 

These days, Greg Niemeyer, one of the honchos of the U.C. Berkeley Social App Lab, can be caught tinkering with a pet project: CitySandbox. What exactly is that two-word mash-up? It’s Niemeyer’s grab at getting to a finer integration of online and offline sociability, but by his own admission he still has much ground to cover.

CitySandbox is a social medium for people to “ask questions about specific places in [their] city and discuss them” with fellow residents. The goal is to create real-world action from the postings. The site is designed to promote the formation of social clusters focused on specific local issues through the virtual/real communication between its members.

It works by overlaying a Google map of a local area, Berkeley, in this case, with social networking capabilities. Users select a map location and then ask a question about it or propose a real-life event to address a particular issue.

Here goes one example. Concerning the location 1503 Oxford St., Berkeley, CA 94709, USA, CitySandbox user SEstar asked, “Who is the person that spends every night on this bench?” The user explained that the unknown person slept while “sitting upright,” “dressed in a dark long coat with a hoodie,” and kept “his/her legs crossed.”

SEstar’s query, after three weeks, only got one response, from user Shovel, who in some sort of commiseration posted: “Kind of creepy. But you could leave a note for him.” Helpful, indeed.

Niemeyer still has some way to go before hitting upon the online terrain that will truly nurture the creation of collective, real-world action from online discussions, but he feels he’s on the right track.

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Ashton Kutcher Thinks Social Media is “Like a Manifestation of God”

August 10, 2011 by · Comments Off on Ashton Kutcher Thinks Social Media is “Like a Manifestation of God” 

Ashton Kutcher, who, these days, is very much unironically being called a “social-media influencer,” has been gearing up for his return to television since joining the cast of “Two and a Half Men” late last spring. Some finer points about his new role have begun to emerge and media commentators are already remarking on the “meta” aspects of his giving life to an “Internet mogul” christened — a la Hollywood — Walden Schmidt.

In an interview he gave to Details Magazine, Kutcher himself described his new character as being “somewhere between an alien and Jesus Christ,” claiming he couldn’t “be more specific than that.” In another choice description provided by the one-time Michael Kelso, Ashton had this to say about social media: “It’s almost like a manifestation of God… People used to behave morally because they thought God was always watching — in some ways God today is the collective, and the collective is watching.”

By their turn, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Kutcher’s television comeback, with its steadier schedule, will “allow him to focus on tech projects” at Katalyst Media, the production company he co-founded with Jason Goldberg in 2000; the company has had a social media division since 2005.

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Flickr, Twitter, and London Riots

August 9, 2011 by · Comments Off on Flickr, Twitter, and London Riots 

On Flickr, it is now possible to find CCTV cam surveillance images of the London riots that have been taking place since Saturday night. London police uploaded the images themselves in an attempt at gaining assistance from the public in identifying the rioters. On August 5th, Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old with alleged gang affiliations was shot and killed by police in Tottenham, a part of the London borough of Haringey. Reports are suggesting Duggan did not fire at police before being shot.

Racial and class tensions are running high — Duggan was a mixed-race Londoner and the neighborhood where he died by police fire is being described by British dailies as home to the “fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%.” Widespread civic violence first broke out after a peaceful protest against police brutality in Tottenham devolved into the torching of two police patrol cars and a double-decker bus. By Monday the violence had reached London proper and continued to spread on Tuesday to Birmingham, Liverpool, and Bristol. 525 arrests have been made so far on account of vandalism and looting. Police are hoping the Flickr images will help them charge more aggressors.

In addition to helping police identify the rioters, through Flickr, the newly opened Twitter account @riotcleanup — already with more than 85 thousand followers — is ready to help people organize clean-ups around the town once it’s possible.

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Social Media Intelligence Offers Employers A Way to Side-Step Discrimination Suits

July 21, 2011 by · Comments Off on Social Media Intelligence Offers Employers A Way to Side-Step Discrimination Suits 

Social Intelligence has only been in business for one year but already it’s set to make a big impact on the ways that employers screen prospective hires through the use of social media. Googling a job applicant can upend an employer’s best intentions to perform a thorough and fair job screening because online searches can easily reveal details that are legally prohibited from being asked during an interview — facts about an applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, race, age, gender, or disability. Conducting online research that discloses sensitive information can leave employers vulnerable to discrimination suits.

On the other hand, not conducting an online search leaves undesirable and, quite importantly, legally knowable characteristics about an applicant undiscovered until it’s too late. In its website, Social Intelligence says that its company tracks down pertinent information on job candidates, like public postings on social media sites of “racist remarks or activities, sexually explicit photos or videos, and illegal activity such as drug use,” in addition to those of “charitable or volunteer efforts, participation in industry blogs, and external recognition.” The company’s gambit is to conduct meticulous online investigations on job applicants but only pass on to client-employers information that is legally safe for them to have. According to Social Intelligence, this is an all-around win-win situation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s outreach manager, Joe Bontke, spoke with the New York Times and told the paper that violating antidiscrimination laws was a real risk for employers. He also gave the folks there two figures: 75 percent of American recruiters conduct mandatory online investigations on applicants and 70 percent of them report having snubbed applicants because of the information gathered through those investigations.

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Quepasa Pays Myyearbook $100 Million in Merger Agreement

July 20, 2011 by · Comments Off on Quepasa Pays Myyearbook $100 Million in Merger Agreement 

Quepasa, the social network with its sights firmly set on a Latino audience has just paid the sibling trio from New Jersey, Geoff, Catherine, and David Cook, $100 million for their fraternal creation, Myyearbook.com. The payoff is considered part of a merger agreement between the two companies.

Accordingly, Quepasa is putting up $82 million in stock and $18 million en efectivo (cash, guys). The siblings’ social network is geared at teens and has a strong focus on games. Calling it like it sees it, comScore ranks the New Jersey group’s site as the most heavily visited online place for teenagers. For its part, Quepasa calls West Palm Beach, Florida home and was founded in 1997 by Jeffery Peterson; its current CEO is John Abbott.

AllthingsD is reporting that last year the combined revenue of the merging companies came to a grand total of $33.6 million. As part of the deal underway, Geoff Cook, Myyearbook’s CEO, will now be Quepasa’s COO. In a release, John Abbot had the following to say about the new partners’ contribution: “By emphasizing social discovery, focusing on the people users want to know rather than the people they already know, the service has built a large and growing user base, especially in the teen and young adult demographic.”

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Social Media Inside the Courtroom

July 14, 2011 by · Comments Off on Social Media Inside the Courtroom 

Last week, what Time Magazine has called “the first major murder trial of the social-media age” came to a close with a not-guilty verdict for Casey Anthony, a woman accused of murdering her own two-year-old daughter, Caylee Marie, in 2008. Besides the intensity with which the case was followed online, the case’s very beginnings are found in the social media world. As it was pointed out in Time, the first person to give notice of Caylee Marie’s disappearance was her grandmother, Cindy Anthony, and she did so by way of a MySpace posting that dates to July 3, 2008. In the post Cindy Anthony wrote that her daughter Casey was not allowing her to see Caylee. It would be three more days before Cindy contacted the police about the unknown whereabouts of her granddaughter.

But that’s not where the case’s connection to social media ends. Walter Pacheco, who writes for the Orlando Sentinel, just wrote a piece concerning the Casey Anthony defense team’s innovative use of Twitter, Facebook, and blog postings: use the postings to create a public opinion analysis and refine trial strategy with the findings. Certainly, the analysis was not the only factor to deliver the defense team’s unexpected victory, but the method is now tied to a winning trial.

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