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Four ways of watching TV

I recently wrote a blog post for Social Media Week about the changes to the television industry over the past few years. Below is the opening excerpt. You can check out the full post here.

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There’s no doubt about it, television has well and truly changed.
The advent of live broadcast television with integrated social media commentary or on-demand television allowing marathon viewing of our favourite television shows (yes, I’m looking at you, Orange Is The New Black), has altered the entertainment landscape.
 
At Beamly, the social and content network for television, we pay close attention to the ways that people interact with and consume television, and, of course the way people socialise around it.
 
It’s not just dependent on technology either: a show’s genre and the mood of the participant shifts the way that that person interacts with television.
Let’s look at the different ways that television is consumed in 2014…

You can check out the full post over at the Social Media Week site here.

The Evolution Of Privacy On Social Networks

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Over the past decade, we have seen an enthralling evolution take place. We have seen social networks bloom and collapse based on changes in culture around privacy and digital footprints.

The original incarnation of MySpace was one of the first time that people who didn’t know how to build a website could have an online presence and connect online. It was open, you would befriend strangers with similar interests and could comment on each person’s profile. It was a pretty simple site, which could be personalised with the exciting feature of unique backgrounds and images.

When Facebook launched, it had something that people didn’t know they wanted: privacy. The ability to post to a select group of people was something that we discovered we craved online – especially for the demographics which brought Facebook to it’s heights – the twentysomethings and teens who were busy finding ways to communicate outside of prying eyes of parents.

Twitter launched with an almost exclusive public focus – but due to the character count, Twitter became less of a personal diary and more about sharing articles and information – it became a public chatroom where what you said was said to be seen (with the rise of the twitter one-liner becoming core to it’s culture).

In 2014, we know a very different kind of Facebook. It’s now no longer private – and not just because of their privacy settings and data mining, but because everyone’s entire social network is connected to them. Most people are likely to have friends, family and colleagues on the site, so information about personal views/feelings/politics/that night out is no longer limited to a select few besties, but, it is, in the context of your social circle, entirely public. In fact, an average user has over 300 friends – which is double the amount of people we can actually maintain relationships with, according to Dunbar. Posting on Facebook is, essentially, posting into a public environment which not only impacts those who see the content each day, but leave a digital footprint which is pretty close to impossible to erase.

Digital footprints are with us forever – comments, blog posts, photos, stupid updates online – it is something that will haunt us. So we are noticing a trend in people looking for a new kind of privacy. The rise of niche social networks on mobile devices which limit the people who can see your content is a reflection in this.

SnapChat has the feeling of privacy that Facebook had decade ago – where teens can send information to their friends without their parents entering that space without their permission, with the additional benefit of knowing that it isn’t going to be recorded to use against them (either long term for future employers, or for what they did last Saturday night – as many an incriminating SMS would have taught a few teens).

Facebook’s epic $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp is a move to muscle in to this private messaging mobile space. It’s a safe bet that Facebook will attempt to monetise WhatsApp. After purchasing Instagram, they have rolled out ads on the network early this year – there is no reason they would not do the same thing with WhatsApp.

It’s entirely possible that if Facebook include advertising in WhatsApp, users will flock from the app. Using private conversations as a basis for advertising is the very thing people are using WhatApp to escape from, so it would put Facebook on very thin ice.

The Average Joe, however, will not pay for a social network like Facebook – freemium models are the norm.

Niche-based networks, like LinkedIn, have had more traction in that realm with both free and Pro versions. The subscription social network app.net (aka “twitter for rich nerds”), doesn’t seem to have gained traction on a large scale (but then, maybe that’s the point of a paywall, to keep out the masses.)

People might be shifting to niche and mobile platforms to grasp at privacy: but the same stresses and strains exist around how to maintain a business model. Will WhatsApp shift from being a private place to one funded by ads and user data? Probably. But is it the only way forward?

Recapturing the Vine

When Twitter’s video service Vine first launched, a lot of people didn’t really know what to do with it. It was only six seconds of video – which isn’t a lot of time to capture a video memory.

One of the things it did create is an artistic community, determined to work with the limitations of six seconds. Whether it’s sketch comedy or stop-motion animation, the Vine community which arose was more like Tumblr or Etsy – a community exclusively for creatives.

Vine themselves are obviously embracing this trend, as their more recent update has grids and ghosting features as a default – all features pretty exclusively used for projects involving stop motion animation.

One of the things which I believe has really fostered the creativity of Vine is Mashable’s weekly Vine challenges – a topic set each week where people submit a Vine relating to the topic. The reward? Internet fame!

 

It’s been very fascinating watch six-second animators rise out of the woodwork, I began to wonder if an interest in stop motion animation such as clay animation in a longer form would arise and come back in vogue (especially with 20-somethings wanting to recapture a time before the fast-paced world of technology where they can listen to their LP’s while animating.) I reviewed Google Trends to see how many people have searched stop motion animation, but interest has been seriously lacking – down to double digits of people curious enough to google it.

In the end, I doubt there will be a rise in hobbies like long-form claymation, simply due to the time it takes to create content – and the fact that our culture is enamoured with snack-sized entertainment. In the end, we will probably see stop-motion animation left to the experts (who have sway with narrators like Geoffrey Rush. You just wouldn’t see that on Vine!)

-Rach.

(p.s. If you are one of the seven people researching clay animation it it’s longer form, this website dredged from the past has many useful links. It’s like sitting aside McFly in the DeLorean. Seriously.)

The death of a social network

For nearly a decade, Facebook has been the dominant social network in most of our lives, with the rise and fall of a social network usually only happening on the fringes of the internet. For this reason, most of us haven’t really experienced the loss of a social network. However, I think it’s time we began talking about the loss of social networks, and how they impact us.

Let’s imagine that your local rollerskating club that meets every Tuesday is thrown into disarray because the only rollerskating rink in town is shut down. You try moving the group to a park, but only some people turn up.  One by one people drop off. And then your Tuesday becomes Macaroni and Cheese night curled up with an Agatha Christie novel. The loss of a real-world community is genuinely heartbreaking, and the loss of a community, in the same way as breaking up with a friend, is rarely discussed.

Social media communities are a real community. When a social network closes down, in this example the rollerskating rink, that community is lost. One of the hardest parts, I believe, is actually talking about this loss with people, because it’s easy have it brushed off with ‘it’s just a website’.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen networks like  Google Wave shut down,  Google Buzz shut down, Myspace relaunched (stripping all your old contacts and communities) and Posterous is about to wind down, too. Over the past decade, I suspect countless online forums have also closed. Those communities that are lost are spaces where those that inhabit it daily share their lives, loves and fears with friends who have been met in person and those communicated with online only.

The loss of a social network also means the breakdown of an entire support network for those people that use it. And it’s really tough to regain that community in a new space – especially when that community formed around the way that space functions (for example, the way that forums frame long-form dialogue is really hard to come by on other spaces).

It feels particularly cruel when you know that when a social network is downsized, it is usually due to a strict number-crunching process of a business stripping off the fat. The fact that we have no control over whether these spaces live or die can be incredibly frustrating when it is announced that these spaces are shutting down – and there’s nothing we can do about it.

In the end, we cannot control when social networks make big decisions which affect our lives like this, but we can certainly begin talking about it more.

 

 

Facerage: Facebook ads getting all up in our newsfeeds

For a few years now there have been members of the online space who have predicted Facebook’s downfall. Maybe it’s part of Australia’s tall-poppy syndrome – how can one company stay top dog for so long; or maybe it’s because the fall of Rome has set a precedent. We’ve seen the establishment of rival social networks in an attempt to capitalise on this shift from Facebook, such as Diaspora and App.net, but as of yet with little traction – people still, day in, day out, use Facebook.

Over the past month Facebook has made some changes to it’s Edgerank algorithm, which affects the way that news stories are served to people based on their interactions with them, which has affected brands, and, for the first time, consumers. These are two different activities around sponsored stories which are frustrating users of Facebook which might be the first steps toward a movement away from Facebook.

There have been several articles which discuss Facebook’s Edgerank changes for brands: in short, historically, when a Fan page made a post, only about 20% of fans saw those posts. In the past few weeks, Community Managers have noticed that posts which should have reached a wider audience are reaching a lot less. Like 5% – 12%.

Facebook claims that this that this is to separate ‘the boys from the men’, to ensure that fans receive the updates which are most engaging and relevant to them, not simply Likebaiting. If a post has more likes and comments, it will increase the exposure of that post. The theory is that we must work hard to create engaging content which is most relevant to fans – which sounds fair enough. But what if the content which was engaging fans last month now simply isn’t reaching fans for them to interact?

For those with the freedom to increase their marketing spend, the simple answer is that Facebook has created the ability for each post to be sponsored to reach a greater number of fans. So in order to reach the amount of people which we organically reached a month ago, we now need to pay.

Smaller businesses have been effectively priced out of the market and it’s a wonder they don’t turn to other social networks which they have been cultivating which have the same if not greater exposure without having to pay per post. However, we are still in the hands of a third-party site, being completely disempowered as the web underclass with no control of the platform which we’re on.

Those who have been lucky enough to have marketing budget to spend on Facebook, have been suffering the ramifications of their sponsored stories turning up un newsfeeds of not just their fans, but of average users. It’s being branded as spam – which is a damning association for a brand to have.

Facebook advertising has often been accepted by users because it’s either in the sidebar, unobtrusive, or opt-in, such as Liking a Fan Page. When posts are shared because a friend interacts with it, this was also understood – it is the action of someone you know, not a brand. However, now advertising on the newsfeed is not opt-in, Community Managers are now dealing with huge volumes of rage directed at their company because they are ‘spamming their newsfeed’.

 

Sponsored Stories are the only form of advertising currently on Facebook Mobile, so browsing the newsfeed on mobile means that suggested pages and sponsored posts feel like they flood the feed. Of Facebook’s 1 billion users, 604 million access Facebook on a mobile device. With a large number of people using mobile as their core access of Facebook, it’s easy to see why ads in the newsfeed are becoming a point of frustration.

Irrespective of whether both advertisers and consumers become frustrated with Facebook’s new advertising model, there seems to be no alternative social networks to turn to – although Google Plus is making traction as a viable alternative.

As to whether these changes will entice people to shift to other networks or simply abandon social networking because they’ve lost faith in social networks as a whole is yet to be seen.

The borrowers: the shifting culture of the internet

On the other weekend I saw an adorable anime called Arriety – an interpretation of The Borrowers, which you may know from the books, or the terrible John Goodman film from the 90s. The premise of the story is that little people, smaller than our thumb, borrow items which are discarded about our homes – a cube of sugar, a pin, a millimetre of sticky tape. The culture of ‘borrowing’ in Arriety would be seen by others as theft – but these items which are taken are pieces which are unnoticed and are morphed into something for a whole new use. A pin becomes a sword, a match becomes a lantern, sticky tape gives you spiderman hands.

I’d like to talk about borrowing and how our culture uses digital media to feed, recycle and create. Our online culture has become one of borrowing – we piggyback off information, creations, words and stories which are already on the web. Sometimes we reference these sources, with a nifty little hyperlink, but often we don’t – there is simply no way of sourcing the origin of a meme.

No longer is the dominant form of communication on the web static pages written by individuals – whether these be journalists or bloggers. The internet seems like was built on the premise of linking an encyclopaedia – that one person would create a lengthy piece of information, and to link to other sources using hyperlinks. However, today, we source our stories and entertainment from across the web – our jokes are memes pulled from a pastiche of sources as they evolve, we torrent movies from someone anonymous on the otherside of the globe. This is our culture – we borrow.

The internet today is community driven, community written and exists by a mass of voices coming together. The most popular platforms on the web – Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia – are written by millions of voices.

Should we be creating a new kind of internet which tags information in a new way, since our culture is now one of borrowers?

Could we consider building an internet where we don’t need to hyperlink information, but it is already tagged, so that when we share it, or edit it, we can always trace the original source? Could we keep the functionality, the simplicity of the web, but add a means to source and attribute original authours? Whether this is finding the original creator of a meme, an original tweet, or tracking down a production company and sending them a few dollars for a series we’ve torrented – could there be a new way to tag data to reflect our new use of the internet?

With new cloud-based services and operating systems (I’m looking at you Google Chrome) could this be facilitated more easily? Is there a need for this?

I’m not hearing people protesting in the streets for this – but I wonder if this is a tool which this new kind of internet needs – a way of mapping the travel of information or sources as it morphs from place to place.

What do you think? Is it time to update the internet? Afterall, the internet was conceived and constructed over 50 years ago – along with video tapes, super glue and Mr Potato Head.


Breaking apart the Call Me Maybe meme

I didn’t mean to get hooked. It’s something I don’t like to tell people. But when I get a bit tipsy, and Call Me Maybe comes on, my secret is out: I kind of have a little bit of an obsession with Carly Rae Jepsen. My flatmate and I have been sharing Call Me Maybe memes over the past month or two, so I began to wonder what features made this song so adaptable into a meme and see whether this actually a set rule which applies to other memes.

For those who have missed the hype, Call Me Maybe is a song recently released by Carly Rae Jepsen. She shot to fame after Justin Bieber tweeted about her – which shot her song to the top of the charts globally.

Subsequently, a series of video and image memes sprung up around it, and it’s the latter of these which I’d like to explore.

The image memes, a selection of which are below, played with the chorus: “Hey I Just Met You, And This is Crazy / But Here’s My Number, So Call Me Maybe?”.

Examples of this meme:

 

Breaking it down:

So what elements make this meme be so flexible and accessible to such a wide audience? I’ve broken down the features below:

1. Simplicity

Its actually not the whole song which is the meme for this song – but usually just the chorus, which is editing the chorus of “hey, I just met you and this might sound crazy but  / here’s my number so call me maybe” using a snowclone. On top of this, people need to get it. A lot of people need to get it. So the joke needs to be simple.

2. Self-contained

The chorus line in Call Me Maybe is self contained as a joke irrespective of the song as a whole being referenced. Unlike other music-based memes, like Rebecca Black’s Friday where you need to have watched the clip to understand why the meme is funny, Call Me Maybe is self-contained. Once you’ve seen a set of the memes, irrespective of having seen the song, you understand what the joke is. The comedy in this is the way that the line  it is adapted to the image – this means, of course, that what you’re reworking is text which can be adapted far more easily.

Ultimately, the line took on a life of its own as a meme.

3. Reach

Memes are only created or spread if there is a huge base to start the meme rolling, from there it spreads exponentially. Call Me Maybe had the benefit of it being a number one hit – other memes grew out of a wide audience being exposed to it (Friday was originally blogged on The Daily What), or via huge online communities being exposed to it, such as reddit.

For brands looking at this, this category might be called “money and advertising” which might be supplemented with or replaced by “pure luck”.

4. Accessibility

And a lot of people need a way to get involved easily. Accessibility helps if the joke is self-contained and simple for the joke being translated across genres so more people can appreciate it. However, accessibility also refer to the way in which someone interacts with the meme, as they are an active medium, not passive. This action could be facilitated by the ease of someone editing their own image, the ease of tweeting someone or something, or the ease of hitting ‘share’.

5. The lols

Ultimately, memes are funny. They are spread because they’re poking fun at the human condition (for example, the What People Think I Do / What I really Do meme) or they’re gentle satire. It’s wordsmiths combining well-known cultural references as an image and creating a new meaning in doing so. The Call Me Maybe meme is ultimately, silly wordplay, with a nod to popculture (like the Darth Vader example) or current affairs (such as the poor-taste Lindy Chamberlain case meme).

The overview

Mainstream memes are more likely to go viral if they have:

  • Simplicity – the key element of the meme is easy to understand
  • Self-Contained – it can apply to any situation or genre
  • Reach – a jumpstart from a celebrity always helps
  • Accessibility – it’s easy to get involved in the meme, whether it’s creation or sharing.
  • Lols – it’s got to be funny – it helps if it relates to the human condition.

Does this work for other mainstream memes? Some elements work for more internet-centric memes like Rage Comics, and some for brand created campaigns which have gone viral, such as Old Spice Guy. As a whole, is it possible to recreate these elements intentionally?

I don’t think it’s really possible to recreate these elements from a brand perspective very easily. Firstly, it involves handing over your brand to the collective of the internet, which in itself can be dangerous as we’ve seen on numerous occasions. Secondly, the community itself needs to want to create this content – there are very few brands with fans so engaged that they’ll actively participate in a community around this brand.

Admittedly, a few industries might have an easier time of this – travel communities, pet communities, both book and film communities (which organically happens with fanfiction) and, I daresay, softdrink communities would have an easier time leveraging their communities to create something to be spread. However, the crux here is that for a meme to work, it needs to be self-contained, and beyond the initial burst of memes created in homage to a brand, how would it fly – and then, once it’s become self-referential, would a brand want to be associated with what the internet creates?

I’m not convinced a meme which is create and spread would work for a brand, and if it did, for it to be successful, it would quickly lose any brand references in order to fly.

What do you think? Have you seen brands attempt to create a meme? Did it work?

Til next time!

-Rach.

Social recommendations and clickthroughs

Dan Zarella has a great blog post from last year which examines where the highest click-through rate for a URL in a tweet is, depending on where the URL was placed. Surprisingly, he found that links placed one quarter along the length of the tweet actually had the highest clickthrough rate.

This led to a lot of discussion around how tweet should be constructed, and whether we should be more commonly using something like “Headline / Link / Info”, rather than the more conversational “Headlne / Info / Link” model.

Dan’s heat map of clickthroughs

This puzzled me at first, because I couldn’t I couldn’t think of any examples of anyone ever placed a link in the middle of a tweet.

But then I began to think about the old-school retweet and recommendation – where you retweet content, but add a personal recommendation on the end of it. The more commonplace model for this is “Headline / Link / Personal Comment”.

A recommendation-style tweet from the rad Danielle Warby.

 I began to wonder if in the original data used in Zarella’s study, we would be able to see see whether a lot of the tweets involved retweets or links where personalised recommendations are added?

If this is the case, I think this really cements the power of social recommendation: irrespective of someone’s  reach or influence, this data clearly shows that someone personally recommending something is far more effective in creating clickthroughs, than simply by sharing a link. Brand advocates, from a marketing perspective, have a very important role to play in the way that new people approach or see a brand for the first time.

However, in the context of our decentralised media environment, I believe that it’s this structure of personal recommendations is also very important. I think it could be taking the first steps in addressing the challenge of ‘how does quality content rise to the top?': because people actually talk about it, not just share it.

I suspect if we experimented with a “tweet this article” combined with “what did you really love about it” would see a significant increase in page views and traffice over a simple “tweet this” model. Only content which people really love will they add the extra effort to personally recommend to their friends.

Our media landscape is changing – but so is the way were finding and recommending what is the best content. We should keep an eye on how people are finding the best content as the mediums we use change: because this could be the centre point of how our media is found and consumed in years to come.

 

On learning to code

When I was sixteen years old, I wanted to code.

It was that time of year where we chose our year 12 subjects, which would, of course, we were told, define the rest of our lives. I wanted to code, but that involved joining Computer Studies. Our computer studies class was full of those socially awkward boys who could only converse with you about Pokebattles or, on a good day, something more pop-culture centric like The Simpsons. I would have been the only girl in the class, and, more importantly, at 16, none of my friends were doing it. On top of this, I had no idea what careers I could get into outside becoming a programmer: which was something I could barely comprehend in a world pre-MySpace. In fact, most people expected me to become an English teacher. I didn’t know what I wanted to do – but I knew I would be safe in the arts. And, honestly, I didn’t think that I was smart enough to code – so I scratched that secret craving off my to-do list. So I took Society and Culture.

In a small country town, with all my friend on farms, I’d taught myself HTML from websites online, because the only other thing to do was cultivate weed, and gardening was never really my style. I didn’t know anyone else who build websites and a hobby so it kind of fell into the ether as something I did sometimes to relax (like beating that level of Angry Birds that has had you stumped for hours). It was the challenge to create this thing that was in your head into the real world. It, of course, never occurred to me that I was probably doing the exact same thing that those socially awkward kids in Computer Studies were doing.

At the time, I didn’t think it was really acceptable for girls to code. I know it was all “pro gender equality” and all that, but when you’re a teenager, no one really paid attention, especially when then most important thing your friends were concerned about was the dress they were wearing for their deb ball. Its been only a few years on where I’ve realized that, actually, girls can code – and no one cares if a girl wants to code. I’ve discovered that people actually really like a girl who can code – because there isn’t as much as a language barrier as compared with boys who chose to sink into a code-centric world, who discuss the universe is references to Skyrim or, if we’re lucky, The Simpsons.

I’d dabbled in code on and off for a few years , but never really knew how to get back into it – to learn more coding languages that meant I could play with the web 2.0 world. I want to create mashups with twitterbots and google maps and haul information from across the web to create new ways to connect ideas – but I don’t even know where to start. To counter the dusty, unopened l javascript textbooks on my bedroom floor, I’d briefly considered doing a TAFE course on web mashups – but that’s a pretty huge commitment. It only occurred to me how long it’s something I’ve been craving to do when @mikey_pants tweeted: “new years’s resolution to learn to code? Sign up now to free weekly courses.

It was like Christmas. I was so excited. I signed up and I’ve been working through the Codecademy courses like there’s no tomorrow. It’s been incredibly empowering. I can’t wait to fumble though the lessons and write my own code beginning with the dorky “hello world”. As for where to go from here – I don’t know. Maybe I have a base understanding to crack open my textbooks. Or maybe I’ll need to learn another language or two. I guess time will tell – either way, I can’t keep limiting myself from doing something I really enjoy simply because of something that, as a teen, I thought I couldn’t, or shouldn’t, do.

If you have any tips for rad sites to teach programming, hook us up. I’d love to know what else out there.

lolspeak: moar than just cute kitties

I came across* this excellent lecture by Jill Vaughan and Lauren Gawne from the Australian Linguistics Society annual conference 2011, looking at framing the construction of language around lolspeak.

I began to wonder whether this could lead to a linguistic divide between those who speak lolspeak, and those who don’t, mirroring the digital divide which we can see in Australian society, with the poorer of less computer-literate groups of society falling behind.

Every generation has it’s slang, but this is the first generation where one form of slang has created it’s own language structure, which is written, and in turn, formalized for that group who use it. In fact, there are kids who could have been raised being exposed more to lolspeak than traditional English.

I think there is already a shift in which younger generations struggle to be as traditionally grammatically-sound as older generations, which may be due to a combination of shifting standards in education systems, combined with leisure activities which don’t necessarily rely on the written word. Will lolspeak become a language which is adopted more naturally by the iGeneration? Will this cause a barrier to communication with older generations? I think it already is on the microscale in families, but probably not on a macroscale.

But then again, the media will taunt us with the fear that young people’s vocabulary is being drastically stunted by electronic mediums (where a teenager of 16 should know 40,000 words, and, instead, only knows 800.) So maybe teens will just throw the towel in and stick with the language they know. Long live Ceiling Cat!

What do you think?

I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak

I can has language play: Construction of Language and Identity in LOLspeak from Lauren Gawne on Vimeo.

* Hat tip to the rad Kate Fenerty for the link to this!

 
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