Destination: Canada

01 October 2008

In the words of my hosts, I’ve “finally realized where the action is” and will be taking the Enterprise 2.0 roadshow to Canada next week.

In what promises to be a whirlwind tour I’ll be speaking to Hill & Knowlton clients and staff in Toronto on Tuesday 7th, followed by beers at Third Tuesday that same evening. On Wednesday I fly to Ottawa and do the same thing all over again, with Third Tuesday in Ottawa on a Wednesday (these Canucks are crazy guys, aren’t they).

It’s a while since I was last in Canada, but seeing that both the literature review and foreword authors for Enterprise 2.0 are both based there, it seems like a fitting place to begin the tour.

The rest of the year currently sees the roadshow moving on to Paris and Finland in November, and Sweden in December.

Promises to be a busy end to 2008.

Take back the truth!

10 September 2008

That’s the rather audacious (trademarked) call to arms from the new website and software tool, SpinSpotter:

Spin doesn’t belong in the news. It’s like putting motor oil in the mojito. We have tremendous respect for journalists, but who would argue that the media circus isn’t out of control? A full 66% of Americans think the press is one-sided. Now there’s a website and software tool that exposes news spin and bias, misuse of sources, and suspect factual support. At SpinSpotter, you’ll experience the news in a profound new way. Yes, the truth is back in town.

After installing the free “Spinoculars”, SpinSpotters can see, share and edit suspected spin on any website. After visiting a few of my regular news haunts, I haven’t yet seem any “markers” to indicate spin. I’m sure that’s more to do with the lack of users than the lack of spin, though. In fact, the only markers I have seen are on the company’s own home page.

I like the fact that it’s not just a free-for-all commenting tool. SpinSpotters have to categorise dubious claims using one of the service’s “Rules of Spin”:

  • Lack of Balance
  • Reporter’s Voice
  • Passive Voice
  • Biased Source
  • Disregarded Context
  • Selective Disclosure
  • Almost all of these would allow a level of subjectivity, which seems an odd way of trying to make things more objective. For that reason, it’s hard for me to see how this service can be relied on, but I suppose its mere presence might just hold journalists and those who feed them news to account and increase the quality and quantity of unbiased reporting.

    That said, I think the company needs to add more (or even some!) international members to its Journalism Advisory Board in order to ensure that a US-centric view of media objectivity does not get imposed on the rest of the world.

    Take it for a spin (ahem), and see what you think.

    Verifiability, not truth

    19 August 2008

    I got into a discussion over lunch today about the over-reliance of Wikipedia as a factual source of information. I pointed to the fact that verifiability is one of the online encyclopedia’s core content policies, but how “verifiable” are some of the sources used on Wikipedia?

    To answer this question, you first need to agree on the definition of verifiable. Having looked at both British and American dictionaries, the key element seems to be something that is capable of being tested by experimentation or observation. But is this the same as the truth?

    Well according to most thesauruses (or should that be thesauri) the antonym of verifiable is falsifiable, so my conclusion is that it is. This is further confirmed by the definition of the stem word, verify, which is widely agreed to mean to prove, determine or test the truth.

    Back then to Wikipedia’s verifiability content policy. Lo and behold, right at the top of the page we see:

    The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth—that is, whether readers are able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source, not whether we think it is true.

    So the Wikipedia definition of verifiable does not include any test of truth.

    But wait. There’s something else in that extract from Wikipedia’s verifiability policy. According to them, the test of whether something is verifiable or not is whether readers are able to check that material added has already been published by a “reliable source”, a term that Wikipedia further defines as “reliable, third-party published sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy”. In a footnote to this the word “source” has three related meanings to Wikipedia:
    the piece of work itself, the creator of the work, and the publisher of
    the work. It goes on to state that “all three affect reliability.”

    On the basis of this information, I have no option but to
    concede to my lunch companion that Wikipedia is indeed over-used as a
    source of fact.

    Do you agree?

    Is your company’s real home page?

    15 July 2008

    Forrester Research analyst Jeremiah Owyang thinks so.

    I’m not convinced though – his hypothesis only holds water when people use Google to look for a company. So if 50-60% of the web traffic to your company’s site comes via Google (as ours does) then it’s a fair point – but only for that proportion. You can pretty much guarantee that the first page of search results for your brand name on Google will shape someone’s perception about your company – the job of your web site is then to either reinforce or attempt to change that perception.

    I have been banging on for some time now about the need for companies to invest as much attention – and budget – on the 99.999999% of the Internet that they don’t control as the remaining 0.000001% that they do (i.e. their website).

    The examples in Jeremiah’s post simply serve to reinforce that view.

    Google’s reputation opportunity in the Viacom case

    04 July 2008

    Google receives its fair share of criticism over how it exploits the personal data of the users of its search and other services, so what a refreshing change to see it defending privacy rights in its tussle with Viacom.

    The entertainment company has won a legal battle that will see Google disclosing the usage data for its video-sharing service YouTube, as Viacom tries to prove “the attractiveness of allegedly infringing video with that of non-infringing video” on the site.

    Regardless of the legal rights and wrongs – or why Viacom needs user logins and IP addresses when they only want to compare the popularity of original videos with those that feature copyright material
    – Google has an opportunity here to prove to its critics that it really respects its users’ private information. By publicly standing up for privacy in the face of Viacom’s demands it could change perceptions about its motives for good.

    For the benefit of internet freedom, I really hope it will.

    Enterprise 2.0 – It’s Here!

    03 July 2008

    UPDATED 6 July 2008 – If you are in any doubt as to whether the book is relevant to you, I invite you to download the intro and first chapter (820Kb PDF) and decide for yourself.

    I arrived back from a very relaxing vacation to a small package from
    my publisher containing nothing less than 6 presentation copies of Enterprise 2.0, hot off the press.

    The official publication date has been confirmed as 21 July, but
    I’ve already heard from someone who pre-ordered that theirs arrived

    I’m now in the process of making sure the key people involved get
    either a hard copy or the eBook version to thank them for their

    If you want to purchase your own copy, you can do so at the publisher’s site or Amazon (UK or US). Alternatively, if you’re interested in a bulk order to give to your
    clients, staff, senior executives, conference delegates or otherwise, drop me a line and I’ll organise a discount for you.

    PR Spam and Enterprise 2.0

    04 June 2008

    So far I’ve resisted the temptation to get involved in the debate around “PR spam” as I don’t think journalists and agencies will ever see eye to eye on the issue. That said, my interest in the topic was reignited today as I listened to a panel discussion at the Social Media Influence conference in London, entitled Putting the ‘Public’ back into Public Relations.

    Let me make a few observations:

    • Spam is spam. It doesn’t matter where it originates from (or appears to originate from – this is important). It could be from a PR agency, a journalist, or someone offering you a 2008 Swiss Rolex, a medical doctor list from America or a no test, no class Bacheelor/MasteerMBA/Doctoraate dip1oma, VALID in all countries. Calling it “PR Spam” is like accusing all watch sellers of being spammers because you get one message from Rolex Watches with a reply address someone in the Ukraine.
    • I do not agree with the response of some journalists with blogs of publishing the email addresses or domains of those they consider to have “spammed” them. In fact, the latter is worse in my book as it unfairly tarnishes the reputation of everyone in an organisation as a result of the actions of one individual.
    • That said, they – like everyone else – should be able to ignore, delete or block emails from people they consider to have abused their inboxes.
    • PR agencies have a responsibility to educate their employees on the basic principles of email etiquette. They also have the power to trap mass mailings that pass through their email servers.
    • Clients also have a responsibility to listen to their agencies when they advise against sending mass emails to journalists or bloggers. Even if the list is properly targeted, it is still going to demonstrate a contempt of the influencers being communicated with.
    • The media list brokers like Cision and Vocus also have a responsibility. They need to ensure that each individual in their databases has a) opted in, b) been verified and ideally also c) the ability to manage their own data and preferences.
    • Finally, journalists and bloggers also have a responsibility to tell people how they want to be communicated with – and if they don’t. I personally accept that putting my opinions online means I am inviting comment and contact. If I don’t tell people not to contact me, I don’t see why I should be annoyed when they do.

    The reason I was there was to moderate a panel discussion on social media In the Workplace & Behind the Firewall (and promote my book, of course – if you want a great pre-publication discount drop me a line). Struan Robertson (, Lee Bryant (Headshift), Richard Dennison (BT) and Ruth Ward (Allen & Overy) debated such topics as how to get started with social software in the enterprise and whether or not companies should block Facebook. The summary of the session goes something like this:

    • Just do it!
    • Don’t spend lots of money doing it
    • Experiment, don’t pilot
    • Don’t do it on your own
    • Hire intelligent people
    • Measure outcomes not output

    Thanks to the guys at Custom Communication for putting on such a good show.

    A brighter shade of green

    30 May 2008

    The green movement is a little off-colour, according to research from pollster Ipsos Mori. In the UK at least, environmental concerns reached a peak in January 2007. A year on they have dropped by more than half, replaced by increasing concern over the economy.

    Along a similar vein, the International Herald Tribune reports that the market for clean, green technology is showing signs of overheating, too. It must be the greenhouse effect.

    At a time when I am actively doing more than I ever have before, this comes as quite a surprise to me. Maybe people are less concerned because they are now starting to do something about it?

    >Whatever it is, I think the whole “green” space is now hotting up rather than overheating. It’s certainly in no danger of meltdown. And I think it’s down to the increasing influence of “bright” greens, the latest shade of green being used to categorise different types of “greens”.

    Dark greens believe that environmental problems are part of industrialised capitalism that can only be solved by political action.

    Light greens see protecting the environment as a personal responsibility, a lifestyle choice. (They are not to be confused with “lite green”, used to describe companies engaged in greenwashing – misleading consumers about the environmental practices of the company.)

    But now we have the bright greens, who believe that better designs, technologies and social innovations are the means to make the required changes in society.

    I’d like to think I’m sitting between the latter (and lighter) two at the moment. I don’t know what that’s called on the colour chart, but it sure is a good time to be green right now. And it’s a damn sight more interesting than worrying about an economy you can’t fix.

    Is this really the press release of the future?

    01 May 2008

    Harvard Business Online’s Scott Berinato reckons he’s found the press release of the future, in the form of the website announcing the proposed merger between Delta and Northwest Airlines.

    I think I get his point, but for those of us interested in finding new ways to carve up news into manageable, meaningful chunks, I’d have to disagree with his conclusion. What he has actually identified is that companies have to find new ways of communicating their ambitions, opinions and positions in a complex media landscape. The one-dimensional press release just doesn’t have a place in the current attention flow.

    What Delta/Northwest have done is simply the kind of smart thinking that is required of any organisation that needs to communicate quickly with a wide range of people. The future of the press release it is not.

    Take a look at the site and let me know if you agree.

    How your lawyers can damage your brand

    16 April 2008

    By sending cease and desist letters to companies who have an ex-litigation laywer as president:

    Blue Jeans Cable Strikes Back

    My favourite line:

    It looks like when you sent this letter, you were operating on the premise that I am not smart enough to see through your deceptions or sophisticated enough to intelligently evaluate your claims; shame on you.  You are required, as a matter of legal ethics, to display good faith and professional candor in your dealings with adverse parties, and you have fallen miserably short of your ethical responsibilities.


    (via Jeff Nolan)