Georgia Sapounas on Canada’s Digital Olympics Strategy

Georgia Sapounas, the Canadian Olympic Committee‘s (COC) Digital Media Director, came to Third Tuesday Toronto last night to talk about the COC’s social media program for the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. And like the participants at Third Tuesday Ottawa the previous night, the Toronto attendees posted their observations and thoughts on Twitter. Here are the highlights of the Twitter stream that was posted to the Third Tuesday Toronto #3tYYZ hashtag.

Continue reading…

Inside PR is covering Mesh Marketing

Mesh

Mesh Marketing, Nov. 7

Since 2006, the Mesh and Mesh Marketing conferences have brought together Toronto’s digital and marketing communities. This year’s edition of Mesh Marketing has been scheduled for November 7 in Toronto. And I’m really pleased that the Inside PR podcast has partnered with Mesh Marketing this year. That will give Martin Waxman and me a chance to cover the conference. (Gini Dietrich couldn’t make it to Toronto from Chicago. So Martin and I will do this as a two hander.)  We hope to interview speakers and attendees, providing coverage both before and after the conference.

We’re starting out with an interview with closing keynote speaker Jay Baer. You can listen to the full interview on Inside PR episode 349.

Once again, Mark Evans and his Mesh Marketing team have assembled a line up of speakers, including keynoters Jay Baer and Peep Laja, and Randy FrischApril Dunford, Karen SchulmanDupuis, Danny Brown, and Sam Fiorella. Check out the details on the speakers and schedule and then register online to attend.

And if you see me there, please say hi.

Mathew Ingram is coming to Third Tuesday

The world of journalism and news media is dramatically different than it was five years ago. Today, digital media and traditional media simultaneously compete and feed one another as a new hybrid news ecosystem emerges. What is each best at? What are the strengths and weaknesses of traditional and digital media? What mistakes are being made? What lessons learned? And what are the factors we should be paying attention to as we try to understand what is driving news and business decisions today?

Mathew IngramMathew Ingram is the embodiment of the revolution that is transforming journalism. He has experienced it first hand as he moved from traditional media as a technology writer and communities editor for Canada’s leading daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail, to become a senior writer with GigaOm, an early pioneering digital media outlet.  And he is one of the co-founders of Mesh, the seminal digital conference that inspired Third Tuesday. Today, Mathew is a must-read for people who follow and care about the evolution of online media. And he does this from Toronto. Go Canada!

What can people who come to see Mathew at Third Tuesday expect?

A few snippets to set the table:

On the use of crowd sourced content by news outlets

“By now, it should be obvious to just about anyone that “citizen journalism” or “user-generated content” is a crucial part of what the news has become, whether it’s a photo of a plane landing on the Hudson or a video of a bomb exploding in Boston. Unfortunately, the ways that media entities handle such content is all over the map — some give credit, while others take whatever they want without so much as a link. Do we need a formal structure to deal with this new reality?”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/05/24/crowdsourcing-the-news-do-we-need-a-public-license-for-citizen-journalism/

On the shifting economics of newspapers

“While prominent brands like the New York Times or those with targeted markets like the FT might be able to make the shift to subscriptions, many smaller newspapers simply won’t be able to make that transition, because they won’t have enough subscribers. So what happens to them? … there is a very real risk — not just for the NYT or Financial Times, but even more so for smaller newspapers — that relying on subscription revenue will result in a much smaller number of readers and also a much smaller business overall. What will that mean for the journalism that such newspapers produce? What happens to the public impact and social benefits that newspapers have always argued they bring to the table? Do newspapers just become a new variation on the controlled-circulation newsletter?”

http://gigaom.com/2012/08/03/crossing-the-newspaper-chasm-is-it-better-to-be-funded-by-readers

On one newspaper’s decision to shut down their paywall

“…research the newspaper did with print subscribers showed that what readers were willing to pay for wasn’t the actual content itself, but the method of delivery — that is, the printed newspaper. When offered the exact same content online for a price that was 90-percent less than the average print subscription rate, only five percent of readers said they were interested.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/30/another-wall-tumbles-the-dallas-morning-news-dismantles-its-paywall-focuses-on-premium-content/

We pay for online entertainment. Why not news?

“…plenty of people are willing to pay for movies, TV shows and music, but a dramatically smaller number of them are willing to pay for news. Why? In part, because those other forms of content are, well… entertaining. News, in most cases, is not. Many consumers are more than happy to watch or listen to the same TV show, movie or song multiple times — something that almost never happens with a news story.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/26/yes-some-people-will-pay-you-for-your-news-a-really-really-small-number-of-people/

Innovation: The upside of the deteriorating traditional business model for news

“Since no one really knows what the future of digital media looks like, it’s worth experimenting with as many new things as possible — in part because the next new thing always starts out looking like a toy.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/23/theres-one-good-thing-about-the-newspaper-industry-decline-more-innovation-is-happening/

Social news distribution vs. RSS

“I still think RSS is a crucial part of the plumbing that underlies the web — and I hope the death of Google Reader isn’t the beginning of an attack on RSS, as some suspect — but for me it lacks a certain something, and that something is the element of social interaction. … social news distributed via Twitter and other networks is just that — social. It has a human element that automated RSS feeds simply can’t duplicate … it’s not just that Twitter is good at delivering real-time news — where it is, in my experience, as good or better than an RSS reader. It is also particularly good at attaching meaning to that news, by the combination of people who tweet or re-tweet a link or a piece of information. That does as much to help me appreciate the significance of a story as a single post or scoop, and likely more.”

http://gigaom.com/2013/03/15/why-the-death-of-google-reader-doesnt-bother-me-that-much-social-news-has-won/

On the value of Blog comments

“A blog without comments is a soap-box, plain and simple. Not having comments says you are only interested in passing on your wisdom, without testing it against any external source (at least not where others can watch you do so) or leaving open the opportunity to actually learn something from those who don’t have their own blogs, or aren’t on Twitter or Google+.”

http://gigaom.com/2012/01/04/yes-blog-comments-are-still-worth-the-effort/

On top of this, Mathew also authors a Twitter stream chock full of links to thought-provoking posts by others and his own reflections on them. It’s well worth following.

Now you can spend an evening with Mathew – at Third Tuesday

Registration for Third Tuesday with Mathew Ingram is open now. Register online to attend Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ or Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW.

Thank you to our sponsors

Third Tuesday is supported by great sponsors – Cision Canada and Rogers Communications – who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers not just to Toronto but to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver as well. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

We want students to be able to attend

Third Tuesday is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in social media and to network with business and thought leaders. And we don’t want students to miss out on this opportunity. So, if you are a student and would like to attend, don’t let the admission fee stop you. Simply present your student ID card at the time you sign into Third Tuesday and we’ll refund your admission fee, courtesy of Thornley Fallis.

 

 

SXSW Interactive's Special Sauce: Community

With the opening of the SXSW Panel Picker to new presentation proposals, preparations are actively underway for the 2014 edition of SXSW Interactive.

SXSW is the little conference that grew and grew to be a giant festival of all that is geeky good. Why has it grown far beyond other conferences of its sort?

DSC00018One explanation may be found in the sense of community that has propelled SXSW Interactive from its earliest days. In my view, SXSWi is a conference of, by, and for the attendees.

Hugh Forrest, the Director of SXSW Interactive, can be seen as the embodiment of this ethos. In fact, he actively eschews his actual title of Director, saying that he prefers to think of himself as SXSWi’s Community Manager.  In a recent interview for the Inside PR podcast, Forrest told Martin Waxman, “Community Manager is what most of my work is, managing this community, or trying to understand this community, trying to communicate with this community, trying to absorb all they great ideas they have. That community manager concept applies to so much I do.”

And Forrest gives full credit for the success of SXSWi to the community of participants. “I have been completely amazed at how much Interactive has grown in the past ten years and, particularly, in the past five years. When we first started this thing, it was a struggle to get people in the door. It was a struggle to figure out what we were doing and what our market was and I could never imagine that it would grow as much as it has grown. … I would love to say that it  was my vision that propelled that growth. But, it’s really this community that’s pulled us forward as opposed to us trying to push them in one direction. The better we’ve become at listening to this community, engaging with this community, understanding what this community wants, polling the best ideas of the community, the more the event has grown. The more we have been able to let them pull us forward,  the better this event has become.”

Forrest has a well thought-through approach to the SXSWi community, to which he attaches the PEACE acronym:

P: “Patience over profits.” Things take a  while. Be prepared for it.

E: “Early buzz is good buzz.” The panel picker and community voting on presentations in July and August build anticipation of the event nine months ahead of the actual March festival dates.

A: “Acknowledge your mistakes and failures.” If you are doing something innovative, you will make mistakes. When you acknowledge mistakes, the community can be very forgiving.

C: “Customer service leads to customer advocates.” Word of mouth endorsements are still the best kind of publicity there is. The line between love and hate is a thin one. Acknowledge, respond to and help the critics. They may change their minds and become supporters.

E: “Encourage massive creativity.”  Forrester does not see SXSWi as a technology event. “We are an event about creativity.” And he tries to be open to the ideas of the community that push the programming forward.

Listen to Hugh Forrest explain his perspective on the success of SXSWi using the player below. And stick around for the second half of the podcast to hear Martin Waxman, Gini Dietrich’s and my take on Forrest’s approach and building community.

You can't judge a presentation by its title

June was a month of wall to wall conferences. And those conferences brought Gini DietrichMartin Waxman and me together in two cities – Austin and Ottawa – and pulled us to opposite ends of the continent.

Tod Maffin speaks at PABSo, you spend all that money and time to attend a conference. And now you’re sitting in a presentation and you’re deciding whether you made the right decision. What makes it worthwhile?

Gini applies the Chile Con Queso Test. She loves chile con quesos. And she judges a restaurant by their quality. If they’re great, she’ll keep going back for more. Gini’s Chile Con Queso Test for conference presentations? Does the presenter provide her with at least one idea for a blog post? “If I can go into your session and come away with a blog post idea, I’m going to think you’re the best speaker on earth,” says Gini. On the other hand, “If I can’t get at least one idea to create content around, I’m not going to think you’re a great speaker.”

If you’re a speaker, how can you deliver the goods for your audience? I saw Lee LeFever talk about this at the recent Fireworks Factory organized by Darren Barefoot and Julie Szabo. Lee, who is best known for the explainer videos he has produced through his company, Common Craft, says that you must start from a position of empathy for the audience. Focus on what we care about, not what you want to present. Frame your topic in terms to which we relate. Suggest a commonly experienced problem to which we all relate. You’ll know you’ve done this is you see our heads nodding. Once you’ve established the shared space, focus on “why.” Why does this matter? Why will you approach it in this way. And then, and only then, move on to the “how.” How do I do this. Think about the presentations you’ve seen recently. How many of them failed because the presenter plunged directly into the “how” section, providing minute detail of what they did, while you were still stuck at, “Why do I care about this?”

Martin calls this the importance of appealing to the audience’s emotional senses. He points out that this often can be achieved through story telling, in which a motive is established and listeners are drawn into identifying with the subjects and storyline. Gini agrees with the power of this approach, pointing to a 52N (five minutes to engage, a variant on Ignite) presentation delivered by Abbie Fink at the recent PRSA Counselors Academy Conference in Austin. Abbie’s presentation consisted of reading a letter to her recently deceased family dog. At the end, she left many in the room in tears and everyone considering the nature of relationships. A story that appealed to our emotions. That appealed to the pet lover in all of us. That didn’t explain the why, but relied throughout on it. (Pity the poor presenter who followed Abbie – Martin Waxman!)

I attended a presentation recently by a speaker who gave me not just one good takeaway, but nine. Nine takeaways in an hour long presentation. And that speaker was … Gini Dietrich! Perhaps because Gini listened for takeaways in other speakers, she deliberately packages takeaways in her presentations. “When I write presentations, I write them long form. But as I do it, I write sound bites that I know people can tweet. You have to think about the key takeaways. Is someone going to get enough to pass the Chile Con Queso Test? And are they going to be able to tweet about it?” If you achieve these three objectives, people will come away with something to think about over the long term as well as content that will prompt immediate tweets and conversation.

Finally, there’s one huge no-no for conference presenters. What makes the audience groan and flee the room in droves? Martin calls it the “You can’t judge a presentation by its cover” problem.” You  decide to attend a presentation on the basis of the description in the program only to hear the speaker lead off with the statement, “I’m going to talk about something different from the advertised topic…” Sadly, that’s not uncommon at conferences. Not just the small regional conferences, but even larger conferences. The kindest interpretation I can put on this it that because of the long lead time between the time that the conference topics were set and the actual presentation, the speaker decided that the topic was outdated and decided to offer more up to date thinking. The unkind interpretation is that the speaker just said yes to the organizers’ invitation and then realized that he didn’t really have anything worthwhile to say about the topic. Either way, it can be a real let down if you showed up keen to learn and discuss the advertised topic.

Gini sums it up: “We’re all busy. We all want to find value in the things that we are attending. We’re spending money to attend these things. And if we can’t get something out of it to bring back to our careers or organizations, then it’s not worth the time.”

This post was originally published on the Inside PR podcast blog.

Why attending the IABC World Conference was the right decision

Mark Schumann

I’m in New York attending the International Association of Business Communicators’ 2013 World Conference (#IABCwc13). It’s a big commitment of time. And an expensive trip. And proving to be well worth it.

Why?

The chance to see thought provoking presentations by Mark Schumann, Shel Holtz, Katie Paine, and Richard Edeleman. And that’s only in the first day and a half of the conference. Still two days to go – and many other promising presentations ahead.

Shel Holtz

The opportunity to renew relationships with old friends and meet people in real life whom I’ve come to know online. IABC draws people from around the globe to its conferences. This international focus makes its World Conference a truly global affair. It seems like the whole world comes together here.

Yes, I’m happy I came to the IABC World Conference. And if you didn’t but are thinking about attending next year, remember this post. I promise you, it’s worth the effort. A great conference. A great learning experience. A great networking opportunity. And this year, the chance to be in New York. A great city that never gives up.

Lessons from a successful conference organizer

socap_badgeThe third edition of the Social Capital Conference will be kicking off next weekend. Like last year, this year’s event will be sold out, with every available spot filled. And participants this year will attend a conference that has expanded to offer a day of practical workshops alongside a more ambitious speakers lineup.

Organizing a community-focused conference is no small feat. And I think there’s much we can learn from the organizers of successful conferences that we can apply to our own projects.

So I was delighted to have a chance to interview Karen Wilson, one of the co-founders of the Social Capital Conference, for the Inside PR podcast. You can listen to that recording as part of the Inside PR 3.33. I also recorded a video of our interview, which you can see here.

Among the things that Karen shared:

Make the conference planning a two way conversation.

Interact with your participants before and after the conference. Every year, the organizers of Social Capital survey participants and potential participants to find out what they want in a conference. “We’ve been listening to the participants since day one,” Karen asserts. We incorporate what they tell us with the lessons we’ve learned ourselves to make the conference better each year.

Get over the tools. We’ve got issues

In three years, Social Capital has evolved beyond sessions focusing on social media tools to instead offer tracks that focus on topics relating to issues people must deal with when they are active in social media: content creation, law and ethics, strategy and then a series of case studies. This meant that the organizers abandoned some of the content streams they had first planned for this year’s conference when they realized that the topics being proposed by speakers were quite different from what they expected. “We looked at the topics that were being submitted and realized that the topics we had picked weren’t the things people are interested in,” says Karen. “We redesigned the conference to fit [people's interests.]”

Change is essential. But expectations must be respected.

Mistakes that we can learn from? “Be careful about making too many changes at once,” says Karen. “There are expectations set every year and when you make too many changes at once… We moved the date of our conference, raised prices and added a second day, and it’s been harder to sell. It’s challenging when people are used to everything being a certain way and then it starts to shift.” So, balance established expectations with innovations.

The conference experience is about the attendees as much as the speakers

Karen also shared her advice from the perspective of a conference organizer to attendees on how they can have the best possible experience at the conference. “You get what you put into it,” she offers. “If you sit at the side of the room without interacting with people … you won’t get the full learning process. Even if you’re shy, go up to people and talk to them.” It’s not just about listening to the speakers. It’s about meeting the people in the room who share your interests and forming bonds with them.

Thank you to Karen and her co-organizers for all the work you put into organizing Social Capital. I’m definitely looking forward to attending and learning from both the speakers and fellow attendees.

What do you think? If you’ve organized a conference, what advice would you offer. As a conference attendee, what advice would you offer to conference organizers?

 

Tonight's Third Tuesday Toronto is all about online community

Tonight’s Third Tuesday Toronto #3tYYZ is all about community – the kind that grows and thrives online.

Colleen YoungTonight’s speaker, Colleen Young, founded and sustains the #hcsmca  Health Care Social Media Canada weekly twitter chat. And she knows how to develop a successful online community of interest. I first became aware of the #hcsmca Twitter chats a couple years ago when doing a social media audit for a health care client. As I looked around at the various discussions, I discovered that media professionals, policy makers, at least one provincial Minister of Health along with health care communicators were all gravitating to #hcsmca to exchange their views on issues relating to the provision of health care in Canada.

So, I’m very much looking forward to tonight’s session.

N.B. When I checked this morning, there were still eleven open spots for this evening’s Third Tuesday. So, if you’d like to participate, click over to the Third Tuesday meetup site and register to attend tonight’s event. I’ll be hopping on a mid day plane to Toronto so that I can be there in time. And if you see me there, I hope you’ll say hello.

Thank you to our sponsors

I can’t close this post without thanking Third Tuesday’s sponsors – Cision Canada andRogers Communications – who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers not just to Toronto but to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver as well. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

We want students to be able to attend

One more thing: Third Tuesday is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in social media and to network with business and thought leaders. And we don’t want students to miss out on this opportunity. So, if you are a student and would like to attend, don’t let the admission fee stop you. Simply present your student ID card at the time you sign into Third Tuesday and we’ll refund your admission fee, courtesy of Thornley Fallis.

Julien Smith brings The Impact Equation to Third Tuesday

When social media was shiny and new, we talked about it constantly. Every new tool, every new publishing platform, every new social network fascinated by enabling us to reach out, to be heard, to connect with others in a new way, in a way that we couldn’t previously.

Social media gave the people formerly known as the audience a voice. Social media gave us all a means to publish what we thought. Social media gave us all a means to connect 24 hours a day seven days a week, regardless of where we were, with our friends, our family, others who held our interest.

But a few short years later, social media is no longer the new thing. It is a fixture in our lives.

That doesn’t mean that social media has lost its relevance. It’s just that our attention has moved away from the shiny new objects, the new tools, to what they can help us do and how that affects the way that we relate to others and to society.

Julien Smith and Chris Brogan are two smart guys who’ve spent a lot of time considering the interplay of social media and people, communities and organizations. And as they’ve done that they’ve gained insight into how people connect and form meaningful online relationships. They’ve tested their theories through podcasting, blogging, speaking, real-world events, by trying out virtually every means of connecting with others and then examining the effect that they had. Through them, we see that each and every one of us can be heard, can find community, can form relationships, can have impact.

In addition to their online efforts, Julien and Chris shared their insights through their book,  Trust Agents, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller. In Trust Agents, they examined the interplay of trust, reputation and influence in social media. And Julien travelled to  Third Tuesdays across Canada to meet and talk to the community of communicators, marketers, public servants, business people and students who wanted to know more about how to build online community.

Now Julien and Chris are back with a new book, The Impact Equation, their follow-up to Trust Agents. And once again, Julien is coming to Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ and Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW to share his insights.

A lot has happened in two years. No longer is social media a shiny new thing for techies. Now, it’s mainstream. We’re all creating, sharing and connecting on it. But are we making being as effective as we’d like to be? Are we having the impact we want to have?

Julien and Chris believe that we can have the impact we want to have. And they’ve charted out a formula – the Impact Equation – to guide us in this.

“We’re not writing about Twitter and Facebook and Google plus and interest and path, because who cares? Those things are temporary and they aren’t the things that matter. The people are what matters,” Julien and Chris write. The real focus of The Impact Equation is “about getting a larger audience to see and act upon your ideas and learning how to build a community around that experience to take it all to an even higher level.”

The Impact Equation is something that everyone who participates in social networks or creates and shares content can use. And Julien Smith has tested what he writes about and personally demonstrated that we can have an impact on the world around us.

If you’d like to participate in Third Tuesday with Julien Smith, you can register online to attend either Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ or Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW.

The Impact Equation could make a real difference in how you approach online community and publishing.

BONUS: Every attendee will receive a copy of The Impact Equation when you check in at the event. So, you not only can hear and meet Julien, you can get your copy of the book personally signed by the author.

Thank you to our sponsors

Third Tuesday is supported by great sponsors – Cision Canada and Rogers Communications – who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers not just to Toronto but to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver as well. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

 

We must be data activists, says Nora Young

Nora Young is an astute observer of the impact of technology on our lives and relationships. This year, she turned her attention to our penchant to record our actions, feelings and thoughts through social media and connected devices. The result is The Virtual Self, her report on self reporting and its implications.

Nora Young came to Third Tuesday Toronto to share her insights with the community. And we captured her presentation on video.

There was much in Nora’s presentation that caught my attention.

A Watershed moment

“We’re at a watershed moment – a moment when data and information are no longer scarce and created top down, but is becoming ubiquitous and generated bottom up,” she posited. “Our new tools for gathering and sharing data are changing how we see ourselves and the world around us.”
We’re headed to a future where we track more and more about ourelves. Where we are. What we’re doing. How we spend out time. “The statistical minutiae of everyday life.” Nora Young labels this habit “self tracking.” Others term it “self monitoring,” “personal metrics,” “quantified self,” or “personal infomatics.” By whatever name, the trend is exploding as we consciously record data about our actions and state and as other data is captured simply because we are using connected digital devices. The information can be “in the everyday, the banal, the ordinary.” But increasingly, more and more of us are leaving more and more digital tracks that reveal something about ourselves.

Consider, she suggests, that most of us “online are on Facebook. A short few years ago, people talked about this as odd. Why would you want to share the minutiae of your everyday lives, like what you had for lunch. And now, this is normal behaviour for most people who are on the Internet. Not because they are obsessives. Not because they are narcissistic, but because there is a social utility in gathering that information and sharing it.”
And because we are increasingly using digital devices that are “always on, always connected” to the Internet, we do not need to expend much effort or energy to capture this information. It may even be automatically captured without any overt gesture on our part.

Four trends create a digital doppelganger of our world

Nora sees the convergence and interaction of four trends to create a unique moment:

  • Self-tracking, the data about our actions, preferences, feelings, etc. that we deliberately or passively record
  • The ability to aggregate the data through applications and search
  • The introduction of sensors in the environment, the Internet of things; and
  • Continual access to data via mobile devices.

Together, these trends create a digital doppelganger of the real world around us.

“The digital data that we are generating about our every day lives can and will be used to change the real flesh and blood, bricks and mortar world around us,” she suggests. “This is both good – thrilling even. But it’s also potentially scary, with some worrisome aspects to it as well.”

“What we are seeing now in embryonic form in our use of apps and social networking is really just the beginning of a bottom up data revolution that will change the next twenty years.”

“Be a data activist.”

“In order for us to get the future that we want, people like us – citizens – need to get involved. We need to claim our power to use our data for good, for positive ends. We need to be ‘data activitists,’ much in the way that we would talk about people being political activists or environmental activists. We need to be activists with respect to this new world of booming data.”

“What we as a society decide are the rules of the game for handling the data that we create will shape the future in profound ways.  It will shape whether and how we can use the data in our own lives, how we can use the information that we create to benefit not just ourselves but also our communities.”

Why now? Because huge changes are occurring. And, according to Nora, “it’s precisely when a new communications technology is created that the culture and the social norms of that technology are open to being shaped. It’s at that beginning period that we can our consciousness and our skill to how we consider new technologies and improve what they are used for. Because down the road, there will be a point where it will seem inevitable, where what’s up for grabs now gets shot down.  Now is the point at which we need to start talking about these things.”

At the first level, the information can be useful when we capture and share information with people who share our interests. Whether it’s a pointer to the latest book we’ve selected to read or the restaurant we frequent most often, this information can be used as a guide by the people who know and follow us.

At a higher level, however, the data that we create can be aggregated and mined for insight into the total community of which we are part. And at this level, the data can be used to reshape communities. We see an early example of this in the use of real time traffic data by commuters to navigate around congested areas. This tool shapes decisions in real time, decisions that are then immediately recorded and displayed in real time in the resulting changes in traffic flow. It creates a dynamic feedback loop. Imagine this across a complete range of activities and think about the potential for the construction of a digital layer of data on top of our real life activities that enables others to incorporate aggregate patterns, likes, dislikes, behaviour, etc. in reshaping our environment and experience in real time. That’s an awesome vision. And it’s not some far distant science fiction future. It’s something that is being explored right now.

But we need to be digital activists to ensure that the data is used for good and in the way we intend. As digital activists, we must understand and speak out about the privacy implications of these developments. We must insist that the data is used for something beyond corporate ends, for public good (Think Ushahidi.) Are we choosing the tools that reflect our values? (Think Twitter’s assymetrical following vs. Facebook’s forced mutual friending.) And if we’re creating the tools, are we creating something that offers some real value to people and enables people to create meaning in their lives?

Where do you stand?

There is potential for us to shape how the data gathering tools are created and how the data is used. But to do this, we must become data activists.

Think about it. Do you simply go with the flow? Click yes to share your location data? Consciously check your privacy settings on Facebook? Turn off automatic checkins? Are you a data activist?