Archive for the ‘technology’ Tag

Yahoo wins round in Oregon nude photo court battle

According to the Associated Press and the Mercury News:

PORTLAND, Ore. — Yahoo has won a legal battle over removing nude photos that an Oregon woman claimed her boyfriend posted on its Web site without her knowledge or permission.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirms that Internet service providers such as Yahoo are generally protected from liability for materials published or posted on their sites by outside parties.

Cecilia Barnes had filed a lawsuit in 2005 in Portland, Ore., claiming her boyfriend not only posted nude photos, but also created a fraudulent profile and posed as her in an online chat room to solicit sex.

Although the court says Sunnyvale-based Yahoo isn’t liable for those actions, it left open the possibility that Barnes could sue Yahoo over whether it had promised to remove the photos and the profile.

While I’m happy that Yahoo! won its appeal after stating that the loss “‘threatens significant mischief’ to other Web companies” the final line in the AP release is what has me worried.

it left open the possibility that Barnes could sue Yahoo over whether it had promised to remove the photos and the profile.

Barnes next suit– win or lose– will likely influence and change the way that users interact with companies on a daily basis as one “bad apple” (or in this case, rogue agent) ruined the bushel. Rather than allowing their agents to provide more of a customized experience for each user, it’s possible that agents will be forced to adhere to an even more robotic, contrived speech that compels them to respond only to black and white situations– creating more frustration for users who approach companies with “grey” issues.

Looking for the full story on the Yahoo/Barnes case in Oregon? Find it after the jump.

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Lucky at Your Service

Personally I’m a big fan of the iPhone and shopping. So, when Lucky Magazine (which I also happen to be a fan of) found a way to combine shopping and the iPhone, I was intrigued.

Early last week, Lucky released an app called “Lucky at Your Service” which essentially acts as a virtual personal shopper, and checks the inventories of your local stores. The catch? The only merchandise currently available within the app are shoes featured within the March edition of Lucky Magazine. Perfect if you love shoes, not so perfect if you were looking to snag a handbag or a myriad of other items featured within the pages of Lucky.

At this time, the app is free to download and according to the New York Times:

Lucky […] has even hired a call center, staffed with 20 to 200 representatives, who will confirm that the shoe is available and set it aside, text-messaging a shopper that, say, Jessie in the second-floor salon shoe department at the downtown Nordstrom has set it aside.

In their article, NYT also addresses a valid point: in an economy where few people are shopping, is an iPhone app that targets shoppers, really a formula for success? My answer: if they incorporate some sort of “sale alert” mechanism, then yes.

Lucky At Your Service

Lucky At Your Service

Lucky is one of the few publications that can successfully pull off a mobile application like this, in an economy like this, and that’s due in large part, to their core demographic: shoppers.

Lucky is, and always has been, a magazine targeted towards people who love to shop.

The entire magazine reads like a giant advertisement, and positions itself as the ultimate shopping guide. People who subscribe to Lucky are people who like to shop– they’re not just in it for the fashion, like people who subscribe to other fashion or style magazines. When you couple this with the fact that readers of Lucky actually enjoy shopping, and statistically have more money to “burn” than their average Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Elle, and Glamour counterparts, it makes sense. Releasing a social application like Lucky At Your Service targets this specific demographic in an incredibly unique way, and caters to a niche audience while providing a useful service that no other magazine has done. In addition to this, Lucky has found a way to keep their magazine relevant: by tying in the application to the magazine itself, as opposed to the website, they are promoting consumption of their “bread and butter” as opposed to a free resource, like the website.

And to that, I say kudos– and happy shopping. Now, if they’d only expand it to at least include handbags and other critical “accessory” items, I’d be happy.

Social Media: Conversation for the greater good

A friend of mine used to work for the Los Angeles County Department of Health and would often tell me about their proposed initiatives and how they were working on new ways to spread the message about health issues using social media.

Like many companies, they followed the typical route:  creating a MySpace page and/or a YouTube channel, and would regularly publish content. However, unlike most companies, any Health company or Department has the added luxury of having to sell a “product” that is often incredibly “unsexy,” which often results in lower CTRs and a harder sell. They also bear the burden of marketing a product that people are often unable to interact with or, in some cases, are ashamed to interact with.

Think back. How often do you scan the internet, looking for the latest public service announcements? Probably never. And, if you’re like most people, if you do see one on TV, online, or anywhere else, you probably don’t talk about it with your friends or family because it just doesn’t have the same “appeal” as talking about the latest movie trailer or tv show you watched, right? For the few of you who said that you DO actually talk about the PSAs you see on TV with someone you know, 9/10 chance that the PSA you watched had to do with drugs or alcohol. And the person you talked to? Your child/parent/dependent, right?

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Forbes Publishes Top Twitter Celebs: Omits Women

forbes-logo-largeToday, Forbes published an article on the “Top Twitter Celebrities”– featuring the names of both online and offline stars. The lists, which are broken down into two categories: Celebrities (10 on this list) and the Most Influential Twitterers (10 on this list).  The two lists feature a total of two women: Britney Spears and Tina Fey– both in the celebrity category. The parent Twitter article also features a link to The Web Celeb 25, a list which features only one woman– Heather Armstrong.

Let’s take a quick look at Forbes’ selections for females: in one corner, we have a pop-princess (who doesn’t actually tweet herself– her “people” do it for her– we know because they sign the tweets) and a comedian, who tweets sporadic, but funny messages. As a whole, these women neither define the product nor the “active”demographic that Forbes was going for.

According to a Time article, back in August 2008, Twitter’s userbase was rougly 63% male, and 25.9% of the site’s users are between the age of 35-44. (Be sure to read Time’s article for great demographic information on the types of people who use Twitter– it’s not who you’d think).

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Review: Sysomos

sysomosLast week I spoke with Steve Dodd and Nick Koudas of Sysomos, a social media tracking/monitoring service. They walked me through their product, features and showed me how it could be successfully implemented in a business or even by someone with a successful personal brand. Below is my review. Please note that this review is based on a presentation given to me by the Sysomos team, and I have not had an opportunity to actually try the Sysomos product or implement it firsthand.

Structure of this review: I’ve broken down the core elements of the product into categories and have reviewed them based on their merit. I’ve also included a brief review of additional features that are “added bonuses” or things you’d expect to see in a service like this towards the end of the review.

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Hiring trend: Social media– contractor?

With the economy in dire straits, it seems as though many companies are turning to hiring on social media strategists as consultants instead of full-time,  full-salary (and benefits) roles. Though this is a bitter-sweet turn of events for the social media field, it’s also a great opportunity for true pros to prove their worth, all while having the flexibility of bouncing from company to company.

Why this is good for social media: By continuing to offer positions (though they’re contract positions) it proves that companies are still willing to spend some of their limited budget on social efforts, and understand their value. By offering the position as a contract role, the company is able to save on their end by not having to pay for pesky things like benefits and contributing to your 401k.

Why this isn’t good for social media: By failing to completely integrate a team member into a brand or company, that team member (or in this case, social media strategist) isn’t given the opportunity to truly embrace the brand in a way a “full time” employee might. They’re also (potentially) seen as a much more expendable line-item in the company’s budget. Continue reading

It’s all about the STRATEGY

True “experts” like Robert Scoble and Chris Brogan have argued that the term “social media expert” is, for most people, a moot title– a point I agree with. In an industry that’s constantly changing, it’s impossible to be an expert in a field that has no predefined boundaries. (Perhaps the only exceptions are Scoble and Brogan, who have proven themselves champions in multiple battles, though the war has hardly been fought). 

With that being said, it comes as no surprise that an article published on cnet today discusses just that: the title, and role, of the social media “expert.” The article, which covers the high ticket price many social media-ites demand(ed) points out many of the flaws many companies are seeing in their current social media “strategy.”

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The Emerging Role: Community Manager

I previously worked for a start-up called, Passenger, where I was as a Community Manager for brands like Nike, JcPenney, and ABC. While at Passenger  I posted to the company blog about the role of a Community Manager. Though the post remains mostly relevant, it does read much like an advertisement (ironic since at the time I clearly remember trying to ensure that it didn’t feel like an ad, but instead embraced the voice of the company, just as any Community Manager would do.) 

I’ve included my post below, and have amended it slightly to reflect my current views, noted in purple

Please note, that this was written while working for Passenger, not Yahoo!, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the company at this time. 

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You have died of Dysentery

dysenteryThe Oregon Trail was right. If I lived back in the days of the “Wild West” (or, pre-internet, for this argument) I definitely would have died of Dysentery. I use the internet for EVERYTHING– including, determining the shelf life of my food.

Case in point? Tonight, I was trying to decide if this package of chicken-apple sausage I had in my fridge was still good, and didn’t know how long sausage “kept for” in the fridge. Rather than calling my mom and bugging her with the mundane question, I hopped online and entered my exact question in Google. (Yes, there was a date printed on the side, but the package was frozen at one point and I wanted to know how long I had from when it was thawed and opened… you get the point. I’m a germaphob, and totally wouldn’t have made it out in “the wild”).

The results were fantastic. First result? A sausage making site. Second result? USDA. Third result? Wiki Answers (look! someone had the EXACT SAME question!) For most online users, performing mundane online searches is something that we do day in and day out. For, me, I “Google” things so frequently, I honestly couldn’t begin to quantify the number of searches I do in one day. I have to know everything. But what impressed me was how advanced and socially oriented search tools are becoming. Continue reading

Obama: change online

Back in November I posted about the Obama campaign hiring a Community Manager to drive their online strategy post-presidential campaign. Since then, the Obama team has launched Change.gov, which the Washington Post describes as:

a transition Web site launched two days after Obama won, a constant stream of information is doled out. You can watch YouTube videos of transition staffers. You can track meetings between the transition team and outside groups, which provide searchable documents online (and allow visitors to leave comments for the team). You can post questions in the “Open for Questions” feature, where submitted questions are voted to the top by other users. In its first week, the feature got 978,868 votes on 10,302 questions from 20,468 people.

The site does a great job of tapping into the hype and political interest surrounding Obama, and makes it easy for users to get information. Americans can sign up for targeted email updates by entering their email address and zip code, can submit questions, search for information, and of course, share their own personal testimonial.

obamaquestionsHowever, the site runs into a potential problem when it comes to tone: unlike the Obama campaign itself, the Change.gov site remains incredibly formal in its tone. The Washington Post notes that one of the responses found on the site, written by Obama’s team is stiff: “President-elect Obama is a strong supporter of Federal funding for responsible stem cell research and he has pledged to reverse President Bush’s restrictions.”

The site also lacks the ability for users to connect directly to one another– a grassroots initiative that could prove to be incredibly lucrative for both the economy and for the Obama camp. Developing meaningful bonds through shared interests enables people to connect on a different level, and also provides a stronger, deeper connection with the connectee– in this case, the Obama camp.

All in all, I’m so pleased to see that Obama has taken his online popularity seriously, and is finding new and unique ways of embracing policy and politics. I only hope that as the year progresses we’ll see even more ways of communicating with the new President (his Twitter stream has been quiet since his victory) and new ways of shaping policy.

Alexander Hamilton once said “the masses are asses”– and for a long time, I agreed. But right now, I’m optimistic that with the right tools, we can all learn and create a brighter future and prove one of our founding father’s wrong.