‘Self-Harm’ blogs blocked on Tumblr

A new policy is being released by Tumblr that will prohibit blogs that promote or glorify self-harm such as anorexia, bulimia, self-mutilation and suicide. According to Zoe Fox’s article, this is a change to the platform’s Content Policy that will go live in the next week.

Tumblr strongly opposes self-harm but was having trouble between prohibiting the blogs altogether or redirecting users to support organizations such as the National Eating Disorders Association. In the proposed change, Tumblr stresses that online dialogue about these disorders is incredibly important and the prohibition is geared only for blogs that glorify or actively promote self-harm.

A Tumblr staff blog stated, “We are deeply committed to supporting and defending our users’ freedom of speech, but we do draw some limits. As a company, we’ve decided that some specific kinds of content aren’t welcome on Tumblr.”

Tumblr will also sponsor public service ads that will appear next to search results for terms such as thinspiration, proana, suicide, bulimia and anorexia. Such self-harm support groups online have already been the topic of conversation for The Oprah Winfrey Show and PBS Frontline.

When changing or implementing such a policy, the wording is imperative. Tumblr is trying to draw a line between talking about such issues and actively promoting or glorifying them. By just banning the content, they could have infringed on the right to free speech or eliminated forums for people in recovery. This type of proposed change is a good response to the issue and other social networking sites could benefit from it as well. Some of these interests include pro-ana or ‘thinspiration’ content. While most doesn’t actively promote self-harm or starvation, there is the larger issue of glorifying it. It is likely that once Tumblr starts to police these blogs, users will simply migrate elsewhere. Pinterest, a virtual pin board, has already started to see a dramatic increase in “thinspirational” imagery. The effect these images could have on people recovering from disorders or even impressionable teen users could be damaging. Policies need to be revised and take a stance against promoting such disorders or behaviors.


The Role of a Digital First Mentality

News is becoming more digitally focused. This isn’t a new idea; newspapers have adopted an online version for years and have started to integrate social media into their reporting. What Steve Buttry suggests in his blog is that journalists write for the online version and social media before the actual paper. His company, Digital First, promotes different priorities and processes for journalists.

Buttry explains the first step in the Digital First approach is to work and think first for digital platforms. An example used is a court reporter, where Twitter and a live blog replace her trial notebook. Tweets are sent out highlighting developments of the trial and a summary of the coverage is posted online to the blog, as well as a Facebook post and an item to Google+. The work here is formatted for the digital platforms, meant to give weight to live coverage.

Experimenting and risk taking is the another step. This applies to all aspects of journalism but especially the editors. Turning the focus to live coverage and breaking news, editors will have to guide journalists on their growth in digital journalism. Another step is trying new tools and techniques, which an editor would be best poised to suggest or inform on. Suggesting map integration, new hash tags, different social media websites and crowdsourcing ideas can help the overall flow of the work.

Two more steps Buttry points out are to cover the news live and value community input. By immediately posting updates to Twitter or Facebook, one can get feedback instantaneously. The concern of tipping off competitors shouldn’t be a deciding factor, rather the idea is to stimulate and curate community conversation on issues. This works well for beat reporters, covering local issues. Another source for beat reporters is the aggressive use of databases for interactive answerbases or to visualize data.

Buttry’s vision of Digital First isn’t where society is heading but where society already is. This approach gives live coverage and social media integration where most people are looking for news or updates. By using this method, professional journalists can help define themselves from citizen journalists who have been using the same tools. In a society where technology morphs itself every day, looking into the future is the best option for news organizations to continue to stay relevant. Sharing information first online, contrasts with most newsrooms’ traditional approach. The outdated versions of news coverage need to be reassessed. This doesn’t mean eliminating all paper or broadcast coverage but it does mean understanding a digital first approach and being able to successfully integrate it into the system. The idea that immediacy would take precedence over accuracy shouldn’t be an issue if the journalists are trained correctly.

Summarizing the idea perfectly, Steve Yelvington said that Digital First is about making the future your first priority, with everything that implies.

Users tracked through their iPhones…

Todd Wasserman’s article addresses the problem of Google and other companies overriding the iPhone’s privacy settings and monitoring their web activity. Wall Street Journal released a report that found that Google was using a code to track user’s behavior through Apple’s Safari browser. After the report, Google was prompted to disable its code. 23 of the top 100 websites were found to have installed the Google’s tracking code on Safari.

Google’s senior vice president of communications and public policy, Rachel Whetstone, released a statement in regard to the code. She stressed that no personal information was collected. She said that to enable features such as Google’s “+1” and “like” buttons, third-party cookies were used. This code for third-party cookies then enabled Google’s advertising cookies to be set on the browser.

This isn’t the first time Google user’s privacy has been under the microscope. They settled with the FTC over a privacy probe that required the company to submit a bi-annual review from a third-party oversight board for the next 20 years.

This seems to be another abuse of privacy. Google’s statement explained how it happened and that it was an oversight that advertising cookies were being set. The main issue is that would the code have been disabled if the study hadn’t been performed? This appears to be more of an instance that the perpetrator isn’t sorry, but sorry they got caught. It is refreshing that journalists and establishments, such as the Wall Street Journal, are investigating and bring such issue to the light. One solution to this would be for congress to set privacy policies which are more concrete. Either way, people should be aware of the information being shared with multiple companies over the internet.

Storifying the Budget Plan

The nation’s budget is always a topic of debate and criticism. President Obama’s new proposal attracted a lot of praise but also some scathing opposition. By using Storify, I tried to pull together stories and opinions from social networks to frame the overall opinion of the budget. With so many angles to cover, this gave me the opportunity to pull video and links to other stories to help round out the story.

Starting with the actual budget itself, the story segued from supporters to opposition and ended with points in the budget that weren’t as publicized. Using storify.com gave me the ability to encompass the entire issue by using social networks. On both sides of the issue, there are passionate tweets and posts that help give perspective to the issue. By littering the story with these personal opinions, it helps give a real feel.

Storify is another tool that can help create stories in an entirely new format. It could eliminate the need to search for sources or even story ideas. The way technology and the media are heading, this or anything similar, will be the future of journalism. It shouldn’t eliminate a journalist’s obligation to check sources and accuracy of information. It should be used more as a tool to add to a story.


[View the story “Obama’s Budget Plan” on Storify]

There’s nowhere to hide…

Crowd sourcing is not a new idea, but is being reinvented to keep up with changing technology. Banjo is a relatively new application that connects people across social networks in real time or “a social discovery service”. This combines social networks and geo-tagging by collecting posts and updates and integrating them on a map. One doesn’t need to post or check in to see what other people are doing.

For journalists, Banjo is another tool to use is obtaining tips, information and new angles. In Elana Zak’s article, she uses Andy Stettler as an example of merging Banjo with a news event. Banjo allowed him to see people checked into the King of Prussia Mall in Philadelphia where there were reports of a possible ‘bomb device’. By tweeting questions to the people, he was able to figure out that part of the mall was not yet evacuated. By integrating the social sites and a location, it gives reporters the ability to discern what is going on and where. Media outlets are competitive as it is and this is another method to stay on top of breaking news or acquire new leads. By integrating such devices into a daily routine can help journalists stay a step ahead of the competition.

This does present a question if new media is blurring the line between public and private.

There is still a strange cross section of generations between those who never had a cell phone or the internet growing up but are now immersed in texting, social networks and web surfing. Those traditional outlooks still have a tendency of lingering. With banjo, a person can know the exact location at the exact time. People chose to put themselves in this position, but it is a little unsettling that someone could potentially know where a person is at all times. This contrasts severely with the pre I-generation thinking.

Is this the beginning of the end of privacy? Are we becoming a morphed society that doesn’t consider things real or of value unless they are posted online? People take pictures with the pure intent of posting, go places to check in to and craft thoughts about daily activities. We now consciously make the decision that we want people to follow us, we want to let people know what we’re doing, whether it is genuinely to inform or in our own self-interest. Banjo wasn’t the first of these sites and will not be the last. It can be a great professional tool for journalism but one has to decide how much to share and how to deal with the outcomes of those decisions in their personal lives.

Andrew Keen vs. the New Media

Andrew Keen has made his strong polemic on ‘the destructive impact of the digital revolution on our culture, economy and values’ well known. His arguments against the ‘Web 2.0’ are detailed in his book ‘The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing and Assaulting our Economy’. Written in 2007, the book outlines many of the growing trends and fears associated with the new emergence of citizen journalists, social media and the decline of traditional media. The theme revolves around a world where media institutions are “being overtaken by an avalanche of amateur, user-generated, free content”.

Keen is himself subscribed to Twitter, Facebook, has a podcast and a blog. Quite a bit of involvement for someone preaching the end of civilization is stemming from this new form of internet. In an interview with FUTURIST senior editor Patrick Tucker, Keen says while he is unsure of these social networks and methods, “as a speaker and a social critic, I have an economic incentive in finding an audience.”

The new Web 2.0 offers new methods for merging information in a user friendly manner. Wikipedia and YouTube are just two sites that Keen expresses concern and dismay in. Keen says these can be tools for corporate propaganda or contain inaccurate information. He doesn’t address that traditional media can be just as guilty. The ‘amateurs’ are also helping to keep media in check with providing reliable and accurate information. The 24/7 news cycle may provide an overload of information but also the opportunity to respond and comment on stories.

Time Magazine said that the Web 2.0 ‘will not only change the world but also change the way the world changes.” This is exactly what is happening. The fear that Keen expresses is justifiable, just as it was justifiable for the Luddites to fear the Industrial revolution. Change can be frightening, especially when the future of a change is unknown. However, change is a barreling force that can’t be stopped. In his review of Keen’s book, Atara Frenkel-Faran states that even ‘not knowing how this brave new world will economically reward creators should not stop us, just as (thankfully) it did not stop the print revolution.

Keen chooses to critique and point out what could happen and what is being taken away, he can’t stop it. He seems to have realized this, adapting to the new modes of communication such as blogs or social media. This can seem either highly hypocritical or that he just decided to join the expansion to help change it. To critique anything one needs to be competent on the subject. Keen has immersed himself in the new methods and growing trends becoming familiar with what he is protesting. This is no different than when opposing candidates inform themselves on each other’s points to craft rebuttals.

Differentiating an expert on an issue from an amateur may have been a concern in 2007, but Keen didn’t account for the common sense of most people. For example, just because someone isn’t an expert on the internet doesn’t mean they can’t use common deducing skills to filter through inaccurate information. Books with outlandish opinions have been published for generations. Keen refers to citizen journalists as only having the duty to, “spread gossip, sensationalize political scandal, display embarrassing photos of public figures, and link stories on imaginative topics such as UFO sightings and 9/11 conspiracy theories”. People have the capacity to read and make their own opinion regarding the issue and not just take what is printed as the blind truth. Keen needs to address a person’s ability to competently discern between an amateur and an expert.

Keen surmises the lines between a traditional author and audience are being blurred and ‘old media is facing extinction’. This revolution of new methods to communicate doesn’t mean extinction but evolution. The printing presses were introduced in 1439 and people opposed them but it continued on. Radio came about and revolutionized obtaining information. With television and now the internet it is only a logical step. Things change, not always for the better but it is the natural progression on the world. We constantly strive for something new, especially when it comes to technology.

Privacy has been a long standing issue with the constantly changing internet and is an issue to examine closer. Keen envisions the possibility that our culture is headed to a place where there will be no concept of privacy, no distinction between public and private. He claims the internet is dismantling the idea that there won’t even be a distinction. This is the issue that might sway the largest audience to his opinions. Society is currently split into those who remember life without the internet and those who can’t imagine doing anything without it. The gap is rapidly closing as the I-generation expands. What Keen doesn’t address is that it is up to the individual to decide how much they are willing to share. People can decide how much they want their personal lives broadcasted or not to participate at all. Just because these entities exist does not mean people will or have to use them.

Keen warns of the impending doom for professional journalists. What he doesn’t realize is that everyone is adapting to the new form. Whether we agree that privacy is being rapidly diminished or revel in the newfound sharing system, journalists realize that it is necessary for survival. He agrees himself that it is in his ‘economic incentive’ to become engaged.

Keen has found his niche as a self-proclaimed ‘social critic’. He makes valid arguments concerning the Web 2.0 and presents an almost extinct view himself. It is important for people to be wary of changes and not just accept them on face value, and Keen emphasizes this in his thorough analysis.

Context in Digital Marketing

Technology is constantly reinventing itself. There is an onslaught of new devices, information, channels and platforms that overwhelm people each day. Everyday people navigate through the hordes of data thrown at them and make decisions regarding restaurant decisions, travel plans, birthday presents or even what type soda to buy. To stay relevant as a marketer, Jonathan Gardner sees context as being the future of digital marketing.

Using behavioral targeting to see what a customer has browsed, read, liked or bought helps in strategy but is only the past behavior. People can be a number of things from mother, wife, yoga enthusiast and reality show junkie. By understanding these multiple contexts will help predict a consumer’s likely future behavior.

Marketing Outsources created a new model explaining the new approach to marketing.


Why Marketing Outsources

By using the SoLoMo (Social, Local, Mobile) approach, marketers use context to understand where their message is being placed, how the people see it and when they see it. By utilizing SoLoMo and grasping the context of consumers, Gardner says marketers can deliver “personalized brand engagement”. This is the job of a marketing professional, understand the consumers and formulate a message that speaks to them. The only way for marketers to stay relevant is to adopt these new outlooks and evolve.

With everyone using the web, social networks and being mobile, it gives marketers a plethora of information at their disposal. People complain that media is taking over but we are letting them. By liking something on Facebook, we are showing others what our interests are. Why wouldn’t a company take that information we willingly shared and use it to suggest other similar items we might like? In the future of marketing, context is almost certain to trump content.