It’s May 4th — This Is What Really Matters

May the 4th be… Wait! F that! Every news show today is covering the Star Wars meme based upon today’s date, but none mentioned the 50th anniversary of the first occurrence in U.S. history when soldiers fired upon, and killed, college students on campus. May 4, 1970, Kent State in Ohio.

The body of Kent State student Jeffrey Miller lays dead as Mary Ann Vecchio screams in anguish May 4, 1970 (John Filo/AP )

I was a freshman at Archbishop Molloy High School in New York city at the time, and was raised in a conservative household, but the events of this day opened my eyes and changed the way I looked at the world from forever.

The Viet Nam war was a divisive conflict that led to many demonstrations protesting the U.S. involvement. When then President Richard Nixon revealed in 1970 that the U.S. had secretly been bombing sites in neutral Cambodia, protests flared up on college campuses across the country.

o/~… Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming…o/~

Kent State in Ohio was one of those protest sites, and on Friday, May 1, against the war escalation led to the mayor to declare a state of emergency and asking the governor for national guard assistance to disperse the crowd. Saturday, May 2 demonstrators occupied an Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) barracks on campus, eventually burning it down. The Guard dispersed them by firing tear gas canisters into the crowd. Sunday, May 3 was quieter as meetings between school, city and state officials produced conflicting information and sightseers added to the assembled crowd, adding to the confusion. Crowds were again dispersed by the National Guard using tear gas.

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Obama, Romney, an Orca, Zombies and Socal Media

obama-romney cloudThe company I now work for has a relationship with a market research firm that analyzed the effectiveness of social media in the Obama vs. Romney election for CBS.  As part of their findings they created a word cloud of the terms people on social media associated with each candidate. And that got me thinking about how quickly social media has evolved.

Back when I was at AOL during its grand ascent to being the largest social network in the world at that time, we realized that time progressed online at an accelerated rate and so we needed to a release new version of AOL about every six months or so to stay up-to-date with the competition. Part of that acceleration relates to Moore’s Law which stated (in 1965, mind you) that (paraphrased) computer capacity doubles every two years. That trend continues and with it the viral spread of social media. After all, Twitter is only 6 ½ years old, Facebook 8+ and LinkedIn a bit over 9 years old – and all of them (following the hockey stick graph of online social network growth) have really only come into their own in the last 5 years or so.

When viewed through the snapshot lens of a cyclical event that growth, and therefore impact, is magnified. Take, for example, the 2008 Olympics in Beijing which had some social media component, mainly relating to reporting outcomes before they were available on US television broadcasts, but four years later organizers of the London games, recognizing that the growth of social media influence was so relentless official policies for athletes were created and instituted for fear of affecting the performances of the athletes and the reputation of the games, became known as the “Social Media Games”.

And so it is with General Elections. Four years ago, Obama was the first to organize grassroots efforts in the social media environment and did so at a pace that dwarfed (both in size and effectiveness) anything the McCain camp had to offer. Four years later, social media is such a driver of political support that it was instrumental in re-electing the president and will be a requisite in all political campaigns going forward.

Two things some may find of interest: Read more of this post

For Dis-CERN-ing Eyes: The First Photo On the Web

Who are Angela Higney, Michele de Gennaro, Colette Marx-Neilsen and Lynn Veronneau (below, from left to right)? Chances are, you don’t know, but tyou can thank them, in part, every time you view a photo published on the Web.

The First Picture Uploaded to the Web

It seems that those wacky kids at the CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) Laboratory near Geneva, you know, Tim Berners-Lee and those wacky kids who actually did invent the World Wide web, had an annual talent show called The Hadronic Music Festival.  A popular “girl-group” there, made up of admins and significant others of scientists, was called “Les Horribles Cernettes‘ (LHC). On July 18, 1992 — 20 years ago today — their manager snapped this photo (title added and edited) for use on a soon-to-be-released album cover.

So when Tim Berners-Lee, a LHC fan, needed an image to load on to the latest version of the Web, one that would support photos, he turned to a nearby Mac that had the scanned in  .gif file of the LHC and used that one.

This was significant for two reasons: first, it showed that the Web (up until then used solely for science) could be used for fun; second, it became the precursor to what people like best on the Web today – graphics and visuals. Typically, hardware advances fuel software developments which in turn push the envelope spurring further hardware advances.  Like them or not, but online gaming and, yes, porn pushed hardware and operating system producers to make faster computers with more capacity for graphics and images.

So the next time you view a photo on Flickr, Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest  or on a blog or any on any other page published across the WWW — think about the not-so-horrible Les Horribles Cernettes.

As for LHC? They’re still singing songs and breaking physicists’ hearts.

Oh, and if you think that it’s a coincidence that the worlds largest particle collider, the Large Hadron Collider being used to try to recreate the energy of the big bang that created the universe, has the initials LHC — think again.

Hat Tip: To Abraham Riesman and his article on Mother board

On International Women’s Day — Just STOP! #IWD2012

March 8, 2012: International Women’s Day — first observed in 1909 as a day to celebrate women, their accomplishments and contributions to society — is a day when I ask everyone to just STOP!

STOP devaluing women in the workplace.  Equal pay for equal work certainly sounds like both a logical and inherently American principle especially in 2012. But, as I’ve written previously, it remains an unobtained goal

STOP eroding women’s rights. Women are not second-class citizens and should not be treated as such. Attacks on rights granted by the Supreme Court should not be eroded by individual states that increase barriers to participation, such as, requiring a medical procedure prior to exercising your court sanctioned rights (yes, I am talking to you, Virginia and even worse, Texas), as that is as un-American as the old poll taxes and intelligence tests required by some states before African-Americans could vote until outlawed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

STOP attacking women in the workplace, in particular one of our most important resources – teachers. Yes, the education system needs a major overhaul but that involves issues related to policy, accountability and funding. Teachers are being attacked en masse (yes, I am speaking to you Pennsylvania with your “special rules” for the Philadelphia school district and to you New York) because they are an easy target for people frustrated with government, taxes, crime, etc. Oh yeah, and they’re 76% female.

STOP demeaning women in the media.  Please view this trailer for the documentary “Miss Representation” by filmmaker Siebel Newsom to understand how media affects women’s self-esteem, skewed body image and aspirations.

Now,that you’ve stopped– GO! Get mad and do something about it.

Of Jobs, Jobs and Social Media as Disruptor

Three points I’d like to touch upon:

  1. Jobs, Steve Jobs, that is. The passing of a tech giant.
  2. Jobs, lack thereof, that is. And bringing socio-economic change via protest.
  3. The job social media has as disruptive agent, and the blame it doesn’t deserve.

I was saddened to hear of Steve Job’s passing last week. Not as a Mac fanboi; I have always used Windows-based PCs, have an Android smartphone and except for a video iPod none of my gadgets begin with a lower-case “i”. But there is no denying his greatness as a tech visionary and pioneer. My Facebook post acknowledging his transition said it all:

When we were young, we learned about the great explorers: Magellan; Balboa; da Gama and later Lewis and Clark; Byrd and Amundsen. And the great inventors: Da Vinci; Franklin; Marconi; Babbage. Steve Jobs was a little of them all.

Jobs, and the lack thereof. Mark these words: More change comes about in this country by protest than by working within the system. Think about it. Women’s suffrage in the U.S. culminating in their right to vote in 1920; the Civil Right’s Movement’s victory in 1964; the end of the Viet Nam war, until last week the longest war in U.S. history; equal marriage rights and military rights And now we have Occupy Wall Street, sounding the clarion for increased employment and narrowing the gap between the haves and have-nots by exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly. You may not agree with what they’re saying, but you must admire the way they’ve made themselves heard. Their movement has spread to other cities across the U.S. The Arab Spring has given way to the American Autumn.

Which brings us to social media’s job as disruptive agent. They key to this is, social media is not the causal factor for disruption. It is a tool. Like the telephone (and cell phone) before it, the radio before that and the newspapers even before that. Silencing, censoring or otherwise attempting to control social media is a losing proposition.

Riots in London? Squatters on Wall Street? Don’t blame social media for fomenting the masses. It is simply a tool like the ones before it. Instead, look to cure the disease, not the symptom.

9/11: 10 Years Later, Like Yesterday

wtc

Image via Wikipedia

I was going to write my memories of the attack on our country on 9/11, in my New York, that occurred 10 years ago to the minute that this post was published, but I can’t. Each time I tried the emotions overcame me and I just cannot relive the details of that day and its aftermath. So let’s just say that living in the NYC area that day deeply affected me — and still does.

If you’re not from here (or D.C.) you may think you know what it was like — but you don’t. I don’t mean to belittle your personal 9/11 experience but for those of us who live near where the planes hit the effect was, and continues to be, devastating.

But I do want to mention one name to you today. Ernest James. What’s that? You don’t know him? Not surprising, he was a night janitor, one of the 2,753 average people for whom that sunny September morning who at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan would be their last day alive. Why mention him? His remains were just identified August 23, 2011. That’s right, almost 10 years later the identification effort continues. Most people don’t realize that even now, over 1,100 victims have yet to found.

The pain remains. So, God bless the victims, including the first responders (343 New York City Fire Department firefighters, including FDNY Fire Chaplain (and childhood friend of my father and uncle), Franciscan Fr. Mychal Judge,, 23 New York City Police Department officers, 37 Port Authority Police Department officers, 15 EMTs and 3 Court Officers. God bless their families.

And God bless the U.S.A.

Happy 100th IBM – and a One Word Lesson for Social Media

Image representing IBM as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Light the candles (and notify the Fire Marshall) on the cake and sing “Happy Birthday” to IBM as it celebrates its 100th birthday. Despite its many technological accomplishments including the revolutionary punch cards; electric typewriters, mainframes and personal computers, its most significant contribution to social media use may be its iconic company slogan — “THINK”.

On June 16, 1911 four companies merged into the Computing Tabulating Recording Corporation in Endicott, NY creating one of the great American corporations, renamed in 1924 as International Business Machines, IBM. Three years later its iconic leader, Thomas J. Watson, instituted the one-word slogan that both encourages and cautions – THINK.

And that’s the social media lesson for brands and individuals today. Before you send that photo… before you post that angry rebuttal… before you denigrate others (no matter how well deserving)… before you tweet that knee-jerk reaction that , at the time, you are sure is justified… THINK.

Think about how what you send may be received. Think about how what you say can be interpreted. Think about whether what you are about to do maintains accuracy, integrity or transparency — or — just lowers you to the same level as the muckrakers and mudslingers.

Too often, brands have been tarnished, careers ended or major revenue lost, due to the failure to employ a “digital count-to-ten” before publishing on the Web.

It’s not enough being right. It’s not enoughbeing technically correct. In social media, as in all marketing and indeed much of life itself, it’s all about how what you do is perceived. So before you post, tweet, like or digg…

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