As the whole of Britain relaxes to watch Andy Murray take on Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, it seems that a hacker has managed to infiltrate Twitter, causing a wave of spam tweets featuring the words "unemployed single mom" and a random series of cash amounts you can earn working from home.
Hacking groups such as Anonymous and the recently disbanded Lulz Security have caused chaos on the Internet in recent weeks, but this latest hack appears to be just spam, rather than anything more politically motivated
Facebook has suffered a number of similar problems recently with the 'dad walks in on daughter' link being a similar example of spam wall posts. The danger for Twitter is that with an open and simple API, if spam merchants start flooding the site with their wares, will we need spam control for tweets in the same way it has become essential for email?
I have an HTC Desire phone. It's a great phone, but the battery life is not so good when doing a lot of work online and the internal memory is woefully poor - I'm always bumping up against the limit of what I can store and having to juggle apps between the phone and SDHC card.
I don't claim to understand all the tips and tricks of the various gadgets I own, but that's one of the wonders of the Internet - all the collective knowledge of the world is out there and Google has indexed it all. Except that sometimes the collective knowledge of everyone can be a bit much to wade through when you have a specific problem - like how do I get more internal memory on an HTC Desire?
The other day, I start googling some of these questions. I found a really useful site, Phone Tips and Tricks, and it answered a lot of what I needed - and all free.
Then after I mentioned it online, a personal friend of mine pasted on my Facebook, "I see you've found my site then!'
It turns out that a friend of mine had started the site and I had found it without him even recommending it personally!
This is of course a mention of his site, and therefore something of a soft sell, but it intrigued me to find that I discovered a useful site, managed by a friend, without being aware that he was running it... perhaps he had been too quiet about it on Facebook earlier on?
None the less, he just started a blog that aims to explore some of the more geek-inspired problems of phone use. You can check it out here.
In most cities it's a time of joy when the local mayor or council extends the public metro system. It becomes easier for residents to travel within their own city and it can change and positively improve neighbourhoods.
Just look at the development of Brixton or Stratford in London, arguably no-go zones prior to being hooked up to the London Underground, for proof.
But what about the rich areas of a city that don't need to be hauled into the middle-class - they would rather keep the middle-class (and poor) out?
This is the problem facing São Paulo in Brazil today and an incredible social protest has been sparked on Facebook because of it.
An entirely new Metro line has been planned for some time and details can even be seen in English on Wikipedia here. But it passes through Higienópolis - a very smart area of the city and this is what has caused outrage amongst local residents.
The locals have protested that "a different type of people" will visit their part of the city if public transport is improved. Even worse, there might be snack vendors in the street serving food to hungry commuters.
It sounds bizarre, yet their reverse-class-war protest has resulted in the planned station being scrapped. The thousands of students who study at nearby MacKenzie university will not be pleased to hear that they need to continue using the more unreliable bus service.
And just as the news about the station filtered out into the social networks today, a local journalist, Danilo Saraiva, created a Facebook event and invited his friends, who then invited their friends. The event is a BBQ on Saturday outside the main shopping centre in Higienópolis - the kind of shopping centre where even the pet dogs wear Prada.
Guests are advised to bring a boom box so they can play loud music in the street - presumably no Mozart is allowed - and plenty of pets and meat for the BBQ.
It's all good fun. A social protest against the vague and opaque decisions of town planners who have spiked a much-needed station entirely because of local NIMBYs.
But when I started writing this article, there were nearly 2,000 people attending the BBQ. As I write this line there are 5,000 attending. And this article is not very long...
This BBQ has the potential to explode and go viral... perhaps showing the residents of Higienópolis that there are a lot more of us than there are of them.
Perhaps the governor of São Paulo should listen to Canadian media expert Don Tapscott - author of Macrowikinomics - because Don's book lucidly describes how governments will interact with the people in future though more open and transparent communication channels. The same people who elect them.
All over the world, politics has gone social. Now which neighbourhood does the governor himself live in?
Everyone I know struggles to measure the value of social media. Is it all about the number of followers you have on Twitter? Or the number of retweets, or fans who LIKE you on Facebook?
I personally tell people to ignore all of this. If you are talking about the corporate use of social media then social media has to give you a corporate outcome. Did you get mentioned in an analyst write-up because of your tweeting? Did the FT feature you as a case study because of a retweet? Did you get lunch with Gartner because they liked the discussion on your Facebook page?
If you aren't getting business outcomes from your social media activity then it's a waste of time.
So I was really disappointed to see my friends at Nasscom in India launching a social media summit - which takes place this week in Delhi - where the delegates are promised a hip and funky experience.
Nasscom themselves have been using social media for a few years now at their major conferences so I would have expected the blurb on the conference website to read more like an experiential case study, rather than an excited teenager talking about video games.
And what is even more disappointing to read is that a company as well known and global as Cisco is supporting this event by running a competition to win a camera. The rules of the competition are simply, whoever tweets the most this week using the hashtag #cscougc wins the camera.
First, I could employ a couple of students to tweet endless random messages featuring this hashtag and presumably I would win the camera.
Second, the guys at Nasscom know a lot about social media. I know that. I've spoken to them about their experiences running big events and making them social. Why did they allow Cisco to run such a mindless competition that does not demonstrate any effective measurement of social media value?
If anyone is going to the conference and expecting some thought leadership and ideas for how to use the social media environment for their business then given this example from Cisco, I think they might be sorely disappointed.
In the midst of the recent Egyptian revolution, I told a story on this blog of an IT company called Arkdev in Cairo that went to every possible length to keep working with their American clients - even to the point of using dial-up modems connected via international calls, just to ensure they kept delivering.
Today, Arkdev released a short - and very colourful - book documenting their experience. It's available free and I really recommend that you go and take a look because it's a great read and really gives some insight into how it felt to be just trying to get your IT job done as the entire city collapsed into chaos. They even mentioned this blog as being a part of the story.
At the time of the revolution, it looked like things were over for IT firms in Egypt. How on earth could they sell services to overseas customers when the government was even pulling stunts such as switching off the Internet for the entire nation? Even once the revolution was complete, it seemed that companies doing IT business in Egypt were ready to leave in droves, just to escape the uncertainty.
But Arkdev's story is one of resilience and it is to their credit that they have not lost any clients because of the uncertainty. The change in government - and sudden lurch to democracy - is now being presented as a step change for Egypt that will catapult their IT industry into the mainstream.
In 2009, I visited Cairo along with a group of industry analysts from firms such as Gartner and Forrester. Our brief was to explore the industry and to report on our findings without interference from the government. There were many favourable reports that came from that trip, but one question kept on recurring in the non-alcoholic bar discussions. When will Mubarak go and will any transition cause a long period of uncertainty for this industry?
Nobody expected it to happen so quickly or so violently, but it happened. And the Egyptian's are back in business, for IT as well as tourism. Arkdev's story shows that Egyptian IT firms can tear up service level agreements and still make deliveries happen in the most trying of circumstances - surely it's teams like this that anyone would want as a partner?
Egypt is now back in business as a democracy so let's see what the IT industry there can really do as confidence returns.
Sometimes you hear about acts of guerilla marketing that are almost too good to be true, but they happen when someone in marketing has the guts to exploit a situation that favours them and their brand.
Take the example of this wetsuit advertised on eBay.
The advertiser wrote a pretty amusing monologue explaining why you might want to buy a used wetsuit from him - read the product description on the eBay page to understand.
This led to a lot of people sharing the link saying, "hey take a look at this crazy eBay item."
As the numbers increased, the seller posted a note saying he would donate 90% of any cash he makes from the sale to the Red Cross to help the people of Japan affected by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Now XCel, the manufacturer of the wetsuit, have contacted the seller and said that whoever wins the auction will also get a brand new wetsuit in addition to the used one - donated by them.
The seller gets a better price than he ever would have done, the Red Cross gets a nice donation because this auction is going through the roof for a used wetsuit, and Xcel get a bunch of publicity all for the cost of one donated wetsuit.
Everyone wins - it doesn't happen very often does it?
In David Kirkpatrick's book The Facebook Effect, Mark Zuckerberg mentions several times that he believes it is now only possible to have one identity. By identity he means the impression others get of you - it used to be easy to have a work identity, a college identity, and a friends and family identity.
With social networks those different social groups all get blurred.
Zuckerberg's comments were widely criticized. Privacy campaigners declared that the evil Mr Facebook was just extending his empire and we should all really switch off our connections to the online matrix.
Forget the privacy implications for a moment. Wasn't Zuckerberg right about the blurring boundaries?
Many people now try to employ a crude boundary of sorts to their online interactions. Facebook is for friends and family. LinkedIn is for business and networking. Twitter is for online chatter and news sharing.
But even those boundaries can blur. People talk about their new job on Facebook or chatter about music on Twitter and allow it to be fed automatically to their LinkedIn profile. It's hard to maintain multiple identities that never bleed into each other.
We now live in an environment where our personal lives blend and mix with our business life and those environments cross over and merge in many ways.
So I was interested today when I saw the online LinkedIn status of New Media advisor Ed Stivala, the founder of n3w media.
"It constantly amazes me how many people feed their Tweets directly into the their LinkedIn / Facebook status updates. Many of them should know better too!! It is such a basic schoolboy error."
Is it really a schoolboy error to think that your information on one social network might be of interest to those reading another?
I noticed that Angelica Mari from Computer Weekly had already started a dialogue about this status update. Her first comment focused on the pretty obvious fact that if you are writing anything of interest on Twitter then it would be interesting for it to be streamed to your LinkedIn profile.
Nothing too controversial there.
Then Ed comments that linking different social feeds is a basic error, he even says "I have all these accounts and I really don't understand the difference between them or why I have them."
A guru and advisor on social media all confused because there is just too much darn information around these days?
I added my own comment to the debate:
"Ed, I can't quite see what you are talking about. You seem to be talking about different channels to market, different communication strategies, and different tools as if there is a "twitter me", a "facebook me", a "linked in me"... Basically I am me and it doesn't matter if I am communicating on Linked In or Twitter. My Twitter feeds directly to my Linked In because my (mostly) business viewers on LinkedIn then get the latest info on what I am doing at present. If that means that Linked In viewers see my opinions on what is happening in Wisconsin, or Tesco, then that gives them a better understanding of who I am... I don't believe at all in this idea of a business OR personal channel."
This debate rattled on with some others offering comment, but then something interesting happened. Angelica added a comment saying that the only difference between social networking and business networking is your perception of the platforms used - even an update about where someone is eating lunch could be of interest. It all depends on the situation and the person.
Ed deleted the comment.
Then, I went back to have a look at the debate again and I found that Ed had also deleted MY comment.
Angelica noticed that her earlier comment was deleted and she had written a further comment asking how on earth deleting debate contributions on LinkedIn helps us to talk about the topic in question.
Ed deleted that comment too.
Clearly Ed from n3w media (note the substituted numeric and lower case) believes that it's fine to carry on a debate on LinkedIn provided everyone agrees with him.
Or perhaps he was embarrassed to see dissenting voices criticizing him on his own LinkedIn profile because his clients might see it and ask him how a 'supposed' new media advisor would sanction the deleting of other people's comments on LinkedIn.
I can understand that Ed has his views and opinions. I'm happy to respect those. I pitched in to an open debate with my own comments and I'd be glad to openly debate why he thinks I am wrong.
But I never expected Ed to just delete my comment. I never expected Ed to not even acknowledge that I took the time and trouble to offer my views. I never expected Ed to just erase my views from history in an extremely good impression of Orwell's Winston Smith.
Perhaps Ed learned his new media advisory skills from a long illustrious career working in public relations in China? I'd be delighted to hear from Ed to explain his actions, but I would be even more interested to hear from a client of n3w media.
Is this really the kind of advice you pay for?
What do you do if you are running an IT firm in Cairo, Egypt and suddenly the government collapses, the Internet is switched off, and the mobile phones don't work?
It was obvious to Arkdev CEO, Amgad Kaldas, find a dial-up modem and make calls to ISPs outside of the country so foreign clients can get their code as expected. And that's what he and his team did. Ensuring that their clients were kept informed even in the middle of the recent blackout period.
Then, after normal Internet service is resumed and the political administration has been swept aside, what next?
How about putting together a video with scenes from the public demonstrations and coding it in such as a way that visitors to this website (Arabic only) can enter who they are and what they pledge to do differently since the revolution.
Students have vowed to study harder so they can get good jobs, teachers have vowed to teach better, dentists have pledged that they will work for better health, law professors have pledged to start pushing their private ideas about law up to the government, and even bus drivers have pledged to respect the traffic laws. Anyone who has visited Cairo will know that this final pledge is probably the most difficult one of all!
Once the user enters their details and the pledge, the system mixes a new video together featuring the personal details of the person pledging what they will do for Egypt - they are then free to post the new video on Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks.
The Arkdev team put this video together in a couple of days, but it has already been used to develop thousands of videos. A great example of video personalisation being used in a productive way to help ordinary Egyptians show their new leaders how much freedom really means to them.
Since early in 2009 I have been hosting the semi-regular Ealing tweetups. I started this because I lived in Ealing (west London for the non-Londoners) and I noticed quite a few Twitter messages mentioning the local area, so one day I tried arranging a pub meeting for locals who use Twitter.
We filled out a good-sized table, had a good chat, found that even though we were from all walks of life there was a good connection because many of us had already been talking about the local area online. Meeting to talk over a pint was merely the next step.
As time went on, I found that the Tweetup crowd was getting bigger so I thought of getting some sponsorship from local firms. 1e were the first company to support it, and coincidentally they also supported the one that took place last week.
The Tweetup remains informal. I have never been the manager of the event, more like the person who started it off and then just started marshalling people into line to make it even better, but I do think that it has grown into one of the best social media events in London - though I guess I would say that... Last week we had a pub with a free bar, the London-Irish supergroup Biblecode Sundays playing live, and a great mix of Twitter users from across west London - the networking was superb, but also a lot of fun. For a more independent view on the Ealing Tweetup, take a look at what Neville Hobson wrote about the one we hosted last October.
Take a look at this video to hear Ronan MacManus from the band explain why they felt it was important to play live to the Tweetup crowd...
Now I have moved on to Brazil, so I'm no longer a west London local, but I think there might just be hope, as it looks like someone is going to keep on trying to pull the event together. I hope you can go and follow him so you can offer support when he does announce the next event...
As I mentioned in my last blog, I was at the NASSCOM India Leadership Forum in Mumbai recently. For the past few years, NASSCOM has asked me to be one of their official bloggers at the event - something that has proved to be very useful because the bloggers get preferential seating in the lectures, front row with a power supply!
Avinash Raghava was really the driving force behind the blogging initiative for NASSCOM so I cornered him in a Chinese restaurant and asked him what a big trade organisation like NASSCOM hopes to achieve from encouraging more blogging at conferences.
I know I've been quiet in the blog recently, but I've been travelling from Brazil to India via Germany and back to Brazil via the UK and when on the road so much, it's hard to keep contributing something sensible - so sometimes it's better to take a break.
I was in India for the biggest technology conference out there - NASSCOM. I met Alex Blues from PA Consulting and he was blogging the entire conference. Not something you might expect from a firm like PA, so I asked him what he was doing and what his company expects to get from it.
[Full disclosure on the PA reference, Alex had asked me to join him in India to help with the video production, but I was still interested in asking what made PA take the decision to video a business conference...]
At business school, professors teach eager MBA students that true innovation only ever happens in a time of crisis. Sure, companies can set up research labs all over the world and hire a bunch of smart people to sit around thinking of blue skies, but the really interesting stuff happens when a company is in trouble and needs to bet on a new direction, or go down a new avenue just to survive.
And though the crisis in Egypt has nothing to do with the survival of a company, there has been a remarkable innovation over the past weekend. Google, together with a company they recently acquired called SayNow, and Twitter, have worked together to offer a voice-to-twitter service that allows citizens in Egypt to circumvent the national ban on Internet connections.
People in Egypt can call an international phone number, speak their message down the phone line to a voicemail system, which is then automatically broadcast on Twitter with the hashtag #egypt added to the message.
Technologically it's all quite simple. People like SpinVox have offered voice to text services for years now - though with plenty of controversy around whether it's a computer or a low-paid contact centre worker doing the transcription.
Now the technology has moved on. And this is not only a great cause, but it's an incredible way to stick a flame under the SayNow service, to see how it performs when used by ordinary people on not-so-good phone lines, as opposed to American celebrities calling from a Green room.
If Google makes this work then they will have just demonstrated to every despotic government on the planet that even shutting down all Internet connections and mobile phone lines is not enough. Every single possible phone connection would need to be broken to prevent citizens publishing live reports. Other world leaders should take note.
I was a bit surprised to see a tweet today from Gartner analyst Merv Adrian where he mentioned that he is at the Gartner BI conference in London and a delegate in the audience had asked him to stop typing.
He was using a "noisy" Lenovo before switching to the quieter iPhone.
What surprised me is that whenever I attend conferences, there are people all over the place using laptops, phones, iPads, and other devices to capture information as the speakers do their thing. It might be that they are taking notes, tweeting important soundbites, or sending comments on the talk to colleagues - whatever they are doing it is interacting with the speaker.
I can understand why Merv switched devices, he represents Gartner after all so he is a host at the event. But what should the rest of us do when taking notes at a big conference and asked by a fellow delegate to 'stop typing' because they find it a bit of a distraction? Agree with them that conferences should be all about an expert talking on stage for half an hour, or suggest to the person that we have moved on and are living in a more interactive age?
Perhaps you can type your responses on a postcard?
In 'Common Sense' his (anonymously published) pamphlet on the creation of government and society, Thomas Paine described how a ramshackle group of people might form a government:
"Some convenient tree will afford them a State-House, under the branches of which, the whole colony may assemble to deliberate on public matters. It is more than probable that their first laws will have the title only of Regulations, and be enforced by no other penalty than public disesteem. In this first parliament every man, by natural right will have a seat."
Paine published this in 1776, in the midst of the American revolution. It aimed to remind the American people of the kind of government they should be creating - representative and democratic - with every voice heard. An organisation that remembers it is representative of the people, and not that the people are subjagated by it.
Governments today are often not like this. Politicians are power-hungry and fly around the world in private jets, enjoy limousines to ferry them from one meeting to the next, and far from representing the people of their country, they often become an untouchable elite answerable only to themselves.
Not every politician is like this. It still pleases me to see political representatives in 'normal' situations, such as on the bus or underground. I met (until recently shadow chancellor) Alan Johnson on the tube once and he explained to me that it is the best way to get around London. This is the kind of pragmatic 'normal' behaviour that keeps elected officials closer to the people they are supposed to represent.
But away from England and America, there are far more despotic regimes where leaders suck wealth from their people and enjoy a life most can only dream of. Often the people on the streets don't even get a real chance to elect or choose those leaders, and if they do get an election, it's rigged anyway.
Revolution has been the historic answer, sweeping away a corrupt regime and introducing a fairer society. However revolution is hard to control and even harder to create - it doesn't just happen because people are fed up. But look at what is now happening in north Africa. The people of Tunisia rose up and removed their corrupt government.
It's overstating the power of the Internet to suggest that this was a social media revolution, but the fact is that 1 in 5 Tunisians is on Facebook - and this was a major contributory factor in spreading the news of the initial suicide that sparked the protests. The Tunisian leaders failed to block the Internet in time.
Egypt has seen protests all week now and the protestors have used the Internet (#j25) to promote the idea of a mass protest by the entire nation today after prayers. The police chiefs have already warned the government that if the protesting crowds swell to anything greater than 70,000 people then the police will be overwhelmed and can offer the government no protection.
Naturally, the government has banned access to the Internet.
Whatever happens today in Egypt, revolution or not, it will be reported on and spread throughout the world. A light will spark in the mind of every person dissatisfied with the way their leaders fail to represent the people - especially those leaders who sit in power for decades, only to hand the riches of office to their own children. Since when could a government leader believe that they own the right to hand power to their child?
It's surprising just how many leaders still behave this way. Not for much longer.
Julian Assange may have been vilified by the USA for his Wikileaks website, but what he showed the world is that any government - even one that proclaims to be democratic - needs to answer to the people who elected them. And the Internet is now handing power, and freedom, back to the people.
This blog was originally published on my personal blog. Once I published there, I thought it would be suitable for cross-posting given the social media comment and relevance of the story - apologies if you had already seen it on my other blog.
BBC Technology Editor, Rory Cellan-Jones, is launching his new series on Radio 4 today. Titled 'The Secret History of Social Networking' it is a three-part documentary exploring the origins of social networking, going back to the 1970s.
The programme starts with my wedding to Computer Weekly Associate Editor, Angelica Mari, and here is a film preview featuring the wedding...
If you have not noticed, it's been raining a lot recently - in a lot of places. I live in Brazil now, so I've seen the wave of rain sweeping across the South of Brazil and causing chaos in São Paulo and the loss of over 800 lives in the region around Rio de Janeiro.
Queensland in Australia has seen enormous floods, with an area similar to France and Germany combined underwater, and other countries have been suffering too, notably Sri Lanka.
When these natural tragedies occur, it's only natural to want to try to help. It can be difficult to know who needs money, for what purpose, and where the need is most urgent though. When I was sitting in São Paulo watching people in Rio struggling just to survive, my wife said to me that we must offer something to help them. I replied that I would love to, but I just don't know who is coordinating the response and where the need is greatest.
In the UK, the Disasters Emergency Committee does a good job of coordinating several major charities when there is a big international crisis. In Brazil, I have no idea if such an organisation exists.
And so I was interested when Symantec got in touch to ask if I had seen the website setup to solicit donations to help the victims of the Brazil floods. It's a scam. Some villains have used the loss of nearly 1,000 lives and the misery of thousands of people, who have lost all of their possessions, to solicit cash from people who want to help. Take a look here for details of the scam as published by Symantec. Not only would the scam solicit donation money, it allows the thieves to capture card details and then suck each account dry. Just because that person was kind enough to want to help.
It would be a tragedy if people are put off from donating to help after major disasters because they fear for the security of their card details. Individuals need to be more vigilant about where they are entering their details to prevent phishing attacks - even when your defences are down because it is a charitable donation. In addition, the genuine charities appealing for funds need to get more coordinated so donors know who can help and how to donate safely.
There is growing a body of academic evidence suggesting that social networks lead to more isolation, rather than communication and connections.
It's true that when you walk into a bar or cafe and see people all around the place on their own and interacting with digital devices, rather than the people around them, there appears to be an issue. It would seem that communication behaviours have changed. But is that really the whole story?
Most people I know use social networks to augment their personal networks, not replace them. A social network provides an easy way to keep in touch with people and to share information, but sitting in front of a PC or phone posting links to funny YouTube videos or retweeting a great joke does not replace real social interaction - getting out there and meeting friends and family.
Perhaps the academics claiming we are all about to disappear into an online communications vacuum are just publishing hyperbole in the hope that they draw attention to their research, getting themselves one step further towards a nice comfortable tenured chair?
In my own experience with using Twitter to bring neighbours together in London, social networks have been proven to connect people who would never have met in other circumstances. And there is one more Tweetup coming soon in London where I will be passing through London, between India and Brazil, so if you can make it then it would be great to see you there...
Once again, Twitter proves its worth as an unbeatable source of real-time information. Forget indexed search engines, or search engines that try integrating tweets into results, just take a look at what happened today.
Before any public announcement about the British Shadow Cabinet reshuffle had been formally made the rumours already started to swirl. In particular about Shadow Chancellor Alan Johnson stepping down for "personal reasons".
A full 10-15 minutes before any of the authorised news agencies started reporting the story, the Twitter debate had already gathered enough threads of information together to report Johnson's mysterious resignation, but all the posts associated with the shuffle were all being reported.
Those who challenge the wisdom of crowds should watch a rolling news story breaking online and see how good information bubbles up while false rumours die through lack of support.
I saw a Computer Weekly story about CIOs who tweet flash by on my news feed and clicked through to it, only to find that my online friend had recommended a story from ten months ago. Well, it's still interesting, but with almost a year passing a lot must have changed - not least John Suffolk heading off to a warmer climate for the winter.
The debate still rages on about whether or not senior management should be tweeting or using similar open communication tools. It's like that favourite cliche of business schools - the paradigm shift. The old school of management considered that keeping knowledge close to your chest was vital for survival, owning information creates power.
Those of us already familiar with a more open flow of information will be happy to consign these ideas to the history of IT management - or any business management for that matter.
There is immense power in being able to tap into the knowledge of a trusted crowd. Transparency and dialogue are the new tools that will create a power base for those managing information systems - this is already happening today - so how come I still hear from so many senior managers who consider Twitter to be a waste of their time?
If anyone has a more recent list of senior IT managers who tweet then I would appreciate a pointer to it - I'd love to follow up this issue and find out what the leaders are really using Twitter for...