Archive for “April, 2011”

Elections Canada: Tweet At Your Own Peril

Canada.  The true north strong and free.  And wide.  Six time zones wide.

Our nation’s girth has long presented a challenge for Elections Canada.  In a country where half the population is compacted into two eastern provinces, it is possible that an election’s outcome might already be determined by the time the polls close in Ontario.

To keep our country-mates in the west motivated, Elections Canada passed a law in 1938 prohibiting national news outlets from broadcasting news that might influence those who had yet to cast a ballot.  Now, thanks to social media, we live in an age where every individual can essentially act as a “broadcaster”, putting Elections Canada in the position of needing to uphold what is essentially an unenforceable law.  Pity them!

In our last election just two short years ago, they made an example of Vancouver blogger Paul Bryan. Poor Bryan was charged for posting results from Atlantic Canada online before polls closed in western Canada. He was fined $1,000 but fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing the act was unconstitutional for infringing on his freedom of expression. The case garnered the attention of Canadian media outlets, which later joined Bryan in the challenge.

He lost.  Which I guess is justifiable, if you believe that judges are in place to rule against the laws as written, not rewrite the laws.

But if we believe that it’s important to protect all citizenry from bias on election day, then something must change. Here are a few choices, presented in increasing order of difficulty:

  1. Revise the law:  New definitions need to be established for what constitutes the “broadcasting” of election news.  If I have but 10 people following my on twitter, and am unable to contain my excitement and emit a tweet, should I be treated the same as a television broadcaster who might have 1 million people tuned in?
  2. Revise the voting system:  Open and close the polls at the exact same time, all the way across the country.  Polls open in Halifax at 11am and close at 7pm.  In BC, they are open from 8am and close at 4pm.  Better yet, let us vote from our desks.  If I can pay bills online, I should be able to vote online too.
  3. Revise the electoral system.  A move to proportional representation eliminates the issue. Everybody’s vote counts, even if you are a conservative living amongst the left.

There’s been a lot of conjecture about the significance of social media on the outcome of this election. Now, the election might have an impact on social media.  Be careful what you tweet!

A Quick Look at PostRank's White Paper on URL-Based Monitoring

PostRank’s new white paper Listening Beyond Keywords highlights some key ideas to consider in the realm of social media monitoring as well as the need to move past the standard keyword-based approach. PostRank thinks the future is in URL-based content monitoring and they make a pretty good case. (more) Continue Reading…

Dear Big Companies: Please Stop Wrecking My Stuff.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vipulmathur
Big company buys small social company. Several unremarkable years pass. Big company suddenly announces that they are sunsetting/shuttering/selling small company, now much diminished from lack of care and feeding.

Rinse and repeat.

I get that this happens – I get that cultures clash (AOL/TimeWarner, anyone?) and I also get that the initial innovation stagnation problem that prompted the acquisition can end up being the reason it doesn’t work (sometimes we call this an “antibody response” – but that’s another blog post).

All the same, here are two things I liked that acquisitions just wrecked, and one thing that I didn’t much like, but which was wrecked all the same:

1. Delicious. The best thing about this news was how we all found out one of the most popular social bookmarking sites on the web was being shuttered: a cellphone image of a PowerPoint slide taken at a Yahoo! staff meeting. I had to migrate all of my bookmarks to Diigo, and it’s not the same. I have been using Delicious since 2006, people. This is serious upheaval!

[Update: it is possible that Yahoo! may be considering selling Delicious to StumbleUpon - a Big Company acquisition survivor - for as little as one million dollars].

2. MySpace. Okay, I never really cared for MySpace. I’m not sure whether it was the spam-inspired UI or the fact that Tila Tequila was one of the first MySpace personalities to break into mainstream, but damn you, NewsCorp! I thought you actually had a plan – a plan to reach the young kids of today who don’t buy your dead trees! Apparently, not so much.

3. FlipCam. This news came out today. I don’t know why Cisco bought them in the first place (um, video-enabled phones anyone?), but damn – their tech is simple, their editing software elegant. This news made me sad.

So, Big Companies, I know you’re not going to listen, but can you please stop snapping up the stuff I like and then totally wrecking it? Small firms often wither and die within a short time of acquisition unless there is fundamental business alignment, solid strategic direction and an internal executive champion. There must be a better way for you to accelerate innovation that isn’t anywhere near as messy.

Share your examples of big companies buying something really promising in an effort to kickstart innovation, only to have the incredibly persistent “Not Built Here” antibodies smother the spark!