Archive for October, 2007

Fake blog award 2007: millanblogi.fi

Friday, October 26th, 2007

This had to happen. Fake blogs have landed to Finland. Millan blogi is the worst case I’ve seen so far. It has FAKE written all over it with invisible ink. I can almost imagine how the marketing department at PICNIC (a cafe francise) and some clueless ad-agency got together to envision a new format to reach their customers:

Café PICNIC:
Our marketing is not effective enough. We are not reaching the 25-35 year olds through traditional means. We have heard that 25-35 year olds use the web and find their news online.

Clueless ad-agency:
We have a revolutionary idea: lets use the web as a medium and blogs as a platform to create an effective marketing campaign!

Café PICNIC:
Hooray! How come we didn’t come up with that ourselves, it’s so obvious! Thank you, thank you, thank you… Let’s get right down to details…

Clueless ad-agency:
Hold on, we will send you an exp…eerr innovative offer with all the details by monday. We look forward to work with you on the best viral campaign the world has seen so far!

As if Finland needs more failed viral campaigns… The end result is a blog, run by an imaginary 30-something Milla, an easy going and funny woman living in a buzzling city, probably Helsinki. She is once in a while dropping by at Café PICNIC for a sandwitch or two to fatten the bottom line of the company while going to the gym. She obviously has a blog to report that. Get addicted to her stories by following her for months.

That’s where the whole plan starts to go horribly wrong. A huge marketing budget with high production values meets low-cost social media… a combination that has no taste nor future.

Let me go through a few of the disgraceful mistakes in this “blog”:

  • On the front page you can’t identify right away if the site is a blog written by some girl called Milla, or just a cheesy commercial. This is unforgivingly misguiding for the readers.
  • The front page features 9 fake pictures taken by professional photographers with pro-cameras. The photos scream “I’m fake” right at you.
  • A commercial starts to play immediatly to disrupt you. It scares you to death with its unauthenticity
  • The content is written in first person but the whole story is childish, cheesy and hard to believe. The story and language of Milla looks deliberately crafted. The truth shines through shamelessly: it’s not written by a real person called Milla, but some cheap part-time trainee at the clueless ad-agency
  • The posts appear in a strict schedule every monday (sometimes tuesday, because the trainee was lazy), drifting the story totally out of context
  • The blog refers to PICNIC in about half of the posts without any warning of affilliates

Technically speaking, this site misuses the whole concept of a blog:

  • No permalink to refer to each blog post separately
  • No RSS feed to subscribe to new posts
  • No timestamps
  • No commenting or trackback feature, the site is talking right-at-you rather than with you
  • No “About Milla” page telling who she is, who she represents, what she will write about and how to contact her

The site is everything but authentic. It’s a shame for the whole finnish blogging community, that sites like this exist with the name “blog” written on it. Some companies do it right, some listen to ad-agency drones who don’t know what they are doing. For a better example, see blogger Veloena sponsored by Suomen Kuvalehti. She is doing a great job and probably costs less than this shameful campaign.

I feel sorry for the initiators of this campaign. They obviously didn’t have the best expertise around. In fact, I feel so sorry that I volunteer to lend my copy of “Naked Conversations” (or give a signed copy of the translation “Blogit ja bisnes” with my foreword when it comes out) and provide FREE consultation for them to fix this misdoing with a fraction of the original budget. If you know anyone responsible for this, please ask them to contact me.

Do you have other examples of fake blogs in Finland? Let me know.

Monetizing privacy

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

“I’ve never looked through a keyhole without finding someone was looking back.” — Judy Garland

Today is a moment for a dose of privacy concerns. Many who know me know that I’m not as scared about privacy issues in social media as some others, but I’d like to rise some issues to your awareness that you might or might not know.

My brother sent me a link to a video (Does what happens in the FaceBook stay in the FaceBook) about privacy concerns regarding Facebook. According to the story, FaceBook knows a lot about its users, including but not limited to media consumption interests (movies, books, music), personal media productions (photos, videos, blogs), contact information (address, home town, phone number, email, IMs), organization memberships (work history, clubs, educational history, political affiliations), personal details (name, birthday, sexual orientation, interests, daily schedules, personal relationships) and so forth.

Third party application support fuels this onwards with new and innovative ways to extract information about Facebook users.

Even if you don’t proactively share this information, your friends will do it for you. They are constantly harassing you to reveal as much about yourself as possible with continuous streams of relationship confirmations and invitations to join certain activities where information about you is made public. Turning down such invitations from your friends is not a very nice thing to do either, so once you are a member, ignorance is often hard to maintain.

According to the terms of service, Facebook has the right to use this information world-wide without any restriction or your prior knowledge, even sell it. This is what you agree on when you sign up.

Of course this is nothing new. Google employs the same strategies to monetize your privacy. Google knows a lot about their users and uses that information to better target advertisements and information for personal interests.

They know your search history, what links you follow, what sites you view (where Google AdSense or Analytics is present), every email you send (Gmail), every instant messaging conversation (GTalk), every calendar appointment (Google Calendar), what you read (Google Reader), what you have on your hard-disk (Google Desktop), where and how you took your photos (Picasa), where you are going (Google Maps), what videos you watch (over 60% of online videos are watched on Youtube) and many other things. Soon they might have access to your radio and television consumption habits.

Recently they have bought a company that records your gaming style (e.g. aggressive) to better target advertisements inside or outside games. They create psychological profiles of their users. Recent Jaiku acquisition is interesting. Jaiku allows them to use your phone to retrieve information on where you are, who you are with, your status (e.g. busy) and what you are doing. The service you are using today might be part of Google tomorrow. If Google buys Amazon, Yahoo and eBay tomorrow, they will dominate the online world. They might even implant you with a chip that reads all your sensory input and brain activity.

There are a few great videos on the privacy issues related to Google: Master Plan – About the Power of Google and EPIC 2015. What is behind the screen?

Both Facebook and Google are very open about their pursuits to privatize your privacy and don’t even try to hide the facts. Both companies are trusted and loved by their users. We just love Google’s ability to figure out what we want.

Sounds like a lot of trouble. George Orwell’s 1984, surveillance during the cold war, WW2 and recent war against terrorism all come to mind. The difference this time around is that it’s not the state only, but private companies and every one of us. Recently I’ve often cited Marshall McLuhan, and I do so once again. In his conversation about the drawbacks of the Global Village:

Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library, the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence.

I heard Pär Lannerö talk about Google in a conference recently. He noted that this time around the little brother of the big brother is you, the celebrated person of the year according to Time Magazine.

Congratulate yourself not just for your creativity, but also your contribution to the negative connotations of the global village.

None of this is going to be a problem if we can trust both Facebook and Google, just like Google’s motto goes, “do no evil”. But can we? What if governments force them to hand over information? What if they are already cooperating with authorities without your knowledge? What if someone steals information from their databases?

In February 2003 Total Information Awareness (TIA) project was started by the Department of Defence as a result of 9/11 to better be able to predict such terrorist attacks. Information Awareness Office’s mission was the following:

Imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness.

This mass-surveillance system was supposed to gather biometric data (face, finger prints, gait, iris), transactional data (banks, credit cards, money transmitters, casinos, brokerage firms), travel data (airlines, railroads, car rentals), medical histories, event participation histories, housing, communications (cell, landline, internet), ID information (passports, visas, work permits, driver’s licenses), gun purchases, internet activity, chemical purchases, criminal records and so forth.

This information was supposed to be linked together in ways that could detect suspicious activity. Due to privacy concerns the funding of this project was terminated in 2004, but the core of the system did survive.

Facebook investors can be traced back to TIA, CIA and other agencies. There are even rumors that Google is already cooperating with the authorities but take that with a grain of salt.

What if such systems are used to make a very convincing case against you by linking unrelated events together, where you have no way to prove otherwise? At Crete I discussed some of these issues with Erik Duval and he noted that this is fine as long as you have the ability to do the same for them. If the same data that Google, Facebook and other agencies utilize is open for everyone including you, then in a true democratic way both opinions can be heard and perspectives integrated. I stand on the same conclusion, we have to make sure that the data behind your online activities remains accessible by you.

Giving away privacy through social media has two implications that are the opposites sides of the same coin, the difference between an empowering light and total blinding darkness. Social media has the potential to become a place that fuels totalitarianism and disintegration of privacy. On the other hand, it has the keys to create a global mind sphere capable of learning and problem-solving on a massive scale never before seen in human history.

Students are not just numbers

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

I find this video really great in it’s ability to perceive the shortcomings of our educational system today. A school is a place where information is tranferred from the teacher to the student without passing through the minds of either. Can technology save us or not?

Jaiku house-warming farewell

Friday, October 12th, 2007

 Jaiku house warming farewell

Yesterday I was at the Jaiku house-warming party. Little did they know that the party would turn into a farewell party, as major part of the team will move to San Francisco very soon.

Jaiku has very nice offices together with Valve and Thinglink. Jyri said in his speech that he would like to see many other companies in Finland doing the same thing, sharing office space with each other and opening doors for collaboration. Many of the coolest features in Jaiku are made by Valve, for example. I’ve shared my office space with Idoneus Oy, the company behind Web 2.0 e-invoicing service verkkolaskut.fi. It has been very useful for both of our companies both for business, but also for collaborative learning.

My aim was to record a video with Jyri for our Yritys 2.0 book project about Enterprise 2.0 presence and workstreaming, but I didn’t feel rude enough to disturb the tired and happy man, so I just took the above picture through the window of their top floor offices. I don’t know when I will have the opportunity again to meet in person, but I wish Jaiku and the rest of the team good luck with Google. I understood from one of the developers that it feels very challenging to go and work for such an innovative company. So, selling your company to Google might not make your life a lot more easier, but at least it will be a great environment for learning new things.

JaiGoogle

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Jaiku was sold to Google. Congratulations to Jyri Engeström and the rest of the team. I’ve been promoting Jaiku around Europe. Many of the skeptics I’ve met – even in my closest visinity – should now come to terms in agreeing that I was right with the prediction of Jaiku having a bright future icon smile JaiGoogle The app has already provided me with a lot of joy and new connections. The Jaiku Eurovision party was one of the most memorable times recently I’ve had with popular culture. It’s so quick to use in a rush that it’s going to be a great addition to my reflective toolkit, too.

I continue using Jaiku as a regular user and I look forward to possible private business use and integration with rest of the Google universe I just happen to use.

If I’m lucky, I will have a project involving Jaiku and contextual learning in the near future.

UPDATE: I’ve been following the conversation on the web about the acquisition. Rumored to be a 12 million dollar deal. Feels a bit low compared to 5 million investment done on Twitter… or more likely, Twitter is overrated. Valleywag and many others are so off the record with the analysis of Jaiku being a Twitter clone and rival. I don’t see the core value or features being the same at all. Jaiku is older than Twitter and there is one thing the American’s don’t understand about the service: 3G enabled stand-alone application on your phone frees you from the intrusive nature and limitations of SMS and provides so much more. Jaiku also does lifestreaming rather than presence updates. Twitter is like American’s discovering SMS and Jaiku is like finnish people doing mobile communications right. You can join video, audio and photo streams with the service. You know where your friends are, who they are with, what they are doing, if they are available and when they will be busy next. The whole conversation on the web proves that people who don’t live in Europe don’t understand mobile technologies at all.

Sorry about the generalizations icon wink JaiGoogle