Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Pacific and Fan Generated Content

HBO's miniseries The Pacific is midway through its ten week showing and is already drawing praise similar to that given to its companion series Band of Brothers. HBO fully utilizes social media to market its original programming and is continuing this strategy with The Pacific. Their social media strategy encourages fans to generate content far beyond the first run of the series. Fans have already produced an enormous amount of content through reviews, comments, and forum discussions. Thanks to these fans, the series will remain alive even beyond its first run and viewers will find plenty of opportunities to join in on the discussion now or in the future.

Official Content

HBO maintains an official website for the series. The site includes a forum, newsletter, photos and videos, episode guides, and several "making of" videos. The site is professionally designed and matches the style of the pages of HBO's other original programming. Fans can interact on the forum and can also submit stories about family members who are veterans of the war.
HBO also maintains a fan page on Facebook for the series. The official The Pacific Facebook fan page is one of the best fan pages for a TV show or movie on Facebook. There is a welcome video, information about the series, wallpaper and posters, music from the series, a discussion board, videos, and much more. There are already over 108,000 fans of the page and the wall is filled with user comments. HBO also posted 27 official trailers and interviews from The Pacific on Youtube. There is much more online about the series but the remainder is mostly fan generated.

Fan Generated Content

One of the main sources for fan generated content is the Official Fan Site. The site contains previews of upcoming episodes, news regarding the series, and an active forum. Fans can post reviews of episodes and discuss the series and the history of World War Two.

Fan reviews and forum discussions can also be found at Internet Movie Database. There are 28 reviews so far and 78 pages of forum discussion. This content will only grow as the series continues and then the DVDs are released.

An interesting place to find more user reviews is at Product listings are already posted for the soundtrack, the book, and the soon-to-be released DVD’s for The Pacific. Each listing allows for fan product reviews too. Beyond these sites, there is a listing at Wikipedia and numerous blogs and review sites maintained by fans.


There's already an enormous amount of content online about The Pacific and it's growing daily. HBO set-up the series main website, fan page on Facebook, and posted videos from the series on Youtube in order to get things started. But the remainder of the online content is coming from fans and users who post reviews, comments, and discussions on the growing number of forums and sites dedicated to the series. Fortunately for HBO, the series is getting positive reviews. Otherwise, this strategy could backfire as fans might blog and discuss the failings of the series and affect DVD sales. But the sucess of the series and the extent to which it is already discussed online provides further evidence of the power of social media and the value of user generated content.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Opting-Out of Select Features

While it seems like social media might be necessary to function, stay connected, or to get ahead, it isn’t. It’s acceptable to refuse the onslaught of social media. There is plenty to experience in the world that doesn’t involve a computer screen or a cellphone. A letter or a phone call still mean more than an e-mail or a tagged Twitter update. It’s possible to find employment based on your merit, not your Facebook or LinkedIn profile.

In fact, we’ve done pretty well without it until now. And social media isn't all or nothing. You can opt-out of select features and services while still getting what you need out of social media.

Opting-out doesn't mean living in the dark, as the Onion News Network humorously portrays in its "Google Opt-Out Village" special report. It simply means choosing to not use certain aspects of social media, telling services not to share your information with third parties, and spending your online time wisely.

If you are interested in using social media, but don’t want to be deprived of a legitimate existence beyond the reach of your electronics, I encourage you to use social media sparingly. Evaluate how useful each tool is for your needs. If you know what to look for, you can get the best parts of social media without having to deal with the bad.

Important rules for the cautious social media user:

  1. Know your needs before you start.
    This will keep you focused and help you find the services that are best suited for you.
  2. Know the rules.
    Some services require you to either opt-in or opt-out for specific features. Find out what options are available to you and tailor what services and information sharing practices you agree to.
  3. Log out!
    Facebook communicates with other websites to enhance features and make a profit. This practice may share your information without your full knowledge if you are still logged in when you visit outside websites. Worse, it might then display your activities to anyone in your network.
  4. Personalize privacy settings.
    Know the features of your account and your privacy options. Many opt-out or opt-in features are hidden deep in the account options.
  5. Be selective.
    Many social media services overlap in functionality. Rather than have profiles with three different services, find the one that suits your needs best and stay there.
  6. Don’t commit before you’re ready.
    If the social media service requires you to make a profile or an account in order to view basic parts of the website, don’t bother.
  7. Use a screenname whenever possible.
    Use more than one if you prefer. Facebook requires your real name. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your name everywhere you go on the internet. Embrace the anonymity and protect your identity.
  8. Use different passwords.
    Never use the same password twice. If you must, at least use different passwords for social media sites so that unwanted parties cannot then gain access to your e-mail, work, or bank accounts.
  9. Never pay for anything.
    Don’t provide your credit card number to Facebook or other social media websites, even if you don’t buy anything.
  10. Delete old profiles.
    If you no longer want to use a service, delete your profile and cancel any e-mail notifications. It won’t remove your data from the history files entirely, but it keeps your information more secure and prevents spam.
  11. Don’t play games.
    Online games are the easiest way to lose money through social media platforms. If you want to play a video game, go to an arcade or buy a solid game that is worth the investment.
  12. Choose applications wisely.
    Applications can be useful and fun. Like games, however, they can leech money and time from you. Only choose the most important ones for your needs.
  13. Bookmark your favorites.
    Save time by clicking a single button to get the news you need without having to type out addresses or search terms and sort through the results.
  14. Contribute when it feels right.
    You don’t have to leave a comment everywhere you go, but feel free to engage in discussions and to commend good works. It’s acceptable to use a pseudonym or a screen-name; you do not have to use your real name.

Embracing social media doesn’t mean giving up your identity and your free will to the denizens of the internet. You can choose what people see about yourself and what you see about others.

You can engage in discussions, projects, and networks that appeal to you the most. Social media should be free to participate in, although always consider the possibility of making special, one-time donations to your favorite connections.

Most importantly, remember that social media is a realm of choices. But you must actively make and protect the right to make those choices. Otherwise social media services, like any growing business, will sell you out for a nifty project or a crisp dollar.

Choose when and where you want to accept social media and firmly deny it where it isn't welcome.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Student Gets Expelled Over Status Update on Facebook

What Not to Post

A teen from Brevard County Florida recently got expelled from school after his principal read his status update on Facebook. Apparently the student ranted about how much he hated his school and raved about how he was going to slit the principal’s throat and laugh while she bled to death. He also stated that he was going to tie all of the teachers up and set them on fire.

Are you kidding me? Did this kid forget that he friended his principal and that she was going to see it? Or did he have total disregard for her and wanted her to read it? Either way this was her response, “Did you know your principal can read this? This is a horrific level of disrespect to our faculty. Death threats are not a joke. Do not even bother coming to school tomorrow. I will be mailing an expulsion letter to your house. You may go to the unified school district office to enroll yourself in another school. The last thing we want to have our students act in your behavior.”

Where Should We Draw the Line?

Okay, so we’ve all vented on Facebook before. I’ll be the first to admit that I was having a bad day yesterday and cursed the summer heat. But to curse at someone and threaten his or her life is out of line and should not be tolerated on Facebook or any other social networking sites. I know that you guys (my classmates) may be a little tired of me posting about etiquette when online, but I think that it should continue to be discussed because time and time again teens and adults alike fail to use common sense when posting.

Some people agree with the principal’s actions, while others feel as though there should be no repercussions for his actions because he’s simply exercising his freedom of speech. Some even argue that since his threat was made on Facebook, a social networking site, that it should not have been taken seriously because it was obvious to everyone that this teen was in no way a threat to his school. They’ve also stated that he should be cut some slack because he’s a kid. I disagree with these statements. I think that users should take responsibility for their actions when posting online.

I came across another story where a young athlete was expelled from school for posting inappropriate material about a teacher. Parents of the athlete used their ignorance of online etiquette as an excuse for such behavior. They didn’t think that anything he posted online would get him into trouble with his school and thought that none of this would have happened if they had been forewarned.

Similar stories such as these pop up everyday and yet nothing changes. I think that both parents and schools should take part in educating the younger generation on using etiquette when posting online.

The Virtual Takeover

virtual image

Kim Yoo-chul and Choi Mi-sun were good parents. They dedicated hours on end to raising their daughter, Anima, while their real, unnamed, three-month old daughter starved to death.

This, and other recent issues regarding online addiction and cyber bullying, go beyond being irresponsible to reveal the tragedies that can happen when the virtual and real worlds collide. Nowhere is the potential for this greater than in the gaming and virtual world environments where some people spend as much as ten hours per day, not just playing games but living in pseudo worlds.

The fact is that most people responsibly manage their online and real world selves, and escaping to a virtual world is no more addictive than watching a good TV show. However, for some reason or reasons, others can’t get enough, which is unfortunate since virtual gaming is going to take over our lives according to Jesse Schell, a game designer and professor at Carnegie Melon University.

If the opportunities available in Second Life are any indication, Schell’s prediction has already started to unfold. The following is a sampling of the real life areas in which Second Life has already gained significant reach.


Video games, and by extension, online games used to be for kids. Statistics show however, that the vast majority of virtual players are adults older than 26. With so many environments to choose from: outlandish planets with their own culture to the ability to create one’s own alter-environment, it is no wonder that the more popular sites like Second Life play second home to more than two-million subscribers with more than 50,000 online at a given time.


As if the sheer entertainment value isn’t staggering enough, virtual environments are giving a deeper meaning to the term e-commerce. Virtual shops and businesses that were once figments of someone’s imagination are translating into real dollars for some people. But how? Forbes has a list of virtual professions that have turned out to be pretty lucrative.

Already established, social media savvy companies, like Dell, are also getting in on the act.

Education & Training

Second Life actively promotes its platform as a medium for education and training. The advantages for learning institutions and businesses lies in the fact that Second Life goes beyond the typical tools used for teleconferencing and distance learning. In addition to the ability to meet online for collaboration purposes, real environments such as the classroom can be mimicked, and simulations can be created without having to develop new software technology.

Despite these advantages, some colleges are returning to the real world in hopes of creating their own virtual environments following Second Life experiences that did not live up to the hype. Considering its commercial success, Second Life might be a better alternative for companies like Alpine Access that are in need of an interactive meeting point for employees that are geographically dispersed across the country.

While it is my personal hope that gaming technology does not grow to the point (at least not in my lifetime) where it is somehow integrated into how we brush our teeth, as Schell asserts, where we are at now is clearly only the beginning.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Risky Recruiting with Social Media

As a candidate for a position with XYZ Corporation, I would be foolish not to use all the social media tools at my disposal to draw a complete company picture. Using a variety of networks, I would try to determine XYZ’s online reputation; I’d research its products and its culture; I’d look for stories from current and former employees; and I’d look for a social media presence that was compatible with what I already knew.

Of course, the hiring authority at XYZ would be equally foolish not to check me out on every available network. In fact, one could argue—if not yet, then soon—that the company who didn’t scour the Internet for every tidbit about a potential new hire was being negligent.

It’s too soon to tell, but this scenario has been suggested as one of the real threats social media has introduced into human resources and the employment life cycle. Another possibly more serious threat is the charge of discriminatory hiring practices, stemming from the use of information that employers find on social media networks—information that would not/should not have come out during a typical interview. Ethical hiring managers are careful to avoid asking interview questions about religion, sexual orientation and the like; but what is the correct response when they find pictures or texts of such privileged information on a networking site?

On paper, that answer is easy: ignore the contraband and continue evaluating the candidate for all the right (i.e., job-related) reasons. In reality, however, those cards have already been played, and you can bet that even the most conscientious among us would find some job-related insufficiency to weed out candidates that didn’t meet our surreptitious criteria. Assuming that we were able to rise above such behavior, proving that we did so would present an exceptional challenge.

Renee Jackson, an associate with the law firm of Nixon Peabody, wrote about these risks in a January article for the National Law Journal. She warned that “employers must address their use and misuse [of social media] before, during and after an employee’s tenure.” She confirms that employers may face liability for using information learned about a candidate from a social media site. Protected class status—race, age, disability, religion, etc.—are off limits and cannot be considered in hiring decisions. She echoed what I’ve read in other places: that it would be hard for an employer to prove that it viewed, but did not use, the information from a social network.

Jackson also lists some information employers can lawfully use in their decision-making. Illegal drug use, poor work ethic, poor writing or communication skills, feelings about previous employers and racist or other discriminatory tendencies that may be revealed online are fair game. And, in a tongue-in-cheek warning to applicants, she reminds us that employers may “lawfully consider an applicant’s general poor judgment in maintenance of his or her public online persona.”

As social media permeates the workplace, greater access to information brings opportunities and risks for employers and employees. Essentially, both parties have to be alert and weigh the benefits against the risks of using social media-both on and off the job.

Meow, Meow, Myspace! Social Media and Pets

Social Media has changed how we interact with our pets and others

As I write this blog, my "child" is sitting on my shoulder, serving as both muse and distraction. This "child" is not, in fact, human; it is my one year old cat who plays quite a large role in my life. When he is not removing keys from the laptop or snoring on the couch, Soscal, my cat, enjoys staring into the screen because it is bright and it moves. These two traits are major prerequisites for holding a feline's attention. However, some pet owners have taken this interest to a novel level with the creation of social media profiles for pets of all kinds.

A Place to Call Their Own

Time recently reported that pet owners have banded together to create a version of Facebook entitled Doggyspace andMycatspace . These websites feature pet profiles that allow the owner to post pictures, create status updates, and befriend similar breeds. Instead of focusing on the human, these sites are supposed to be from the pet's perspective. Doggyspace claims that it "is a social utility that connects people with friends and others who love dogs. People use Doggyspace to keep up with friends, upload funny dog videos, and to give their dogs their own cyber place." The site, along with Mycatspace, features blogs, headline pet news, and forums to discuss the joys and trials of pet parenting. Doggyspace also allows users to search by breed in order to find other Great Dane devotees or German Shepherd groupies.

Making it Accessible

The Iphone and Ipod Touch now feature a Doggyspace app. Users can easily access information about their pet's "friends" while on the go. Videos and groups encourage member participation while the unique pet focused forums could save hours of pet training or veterinary care if users band together to compile knowledge about a specific breed. Mycatspace is not quite as informative; though blogs, forums, and pictures do exist on the site, the main purpose seems to be entertainment value. There are several games that members can play as well as cutesy pictures for desktop backgrounds and screen savers. Only members can access the main parts of the site which does not lend itself to visitor stops.

Making Anonymity Easier

Blossom states in his book Content Nation that one of social media's biggest goals is to entertain. While this goal is most certainly the end result of the pet sites, they can also serve a very practical purpose. Users of social media who are not comfortable with sharing their name, city, or workplace can still find a way to express themselves online through pet profiles. By personifying your pet, you are allowing other users glimpses into your daily life and your personality. It gives pet owners the interaction that they may need with people of similar interests, but also allows the user to take the emphasis away from their own body or careers. Time also claims that "pets write messages to one another about shared interests and offer advice on health problems, training or local dog-friendly parks. Some have even enlisted their caretakers to arrange offline play dates." The user can extol Fido or Sassy's latest accomplishment for an audience of interested peers. What better way to use social media then for enjoyment?

A Few Problems

With more than 700,000 users of Doggyspace, social media for cats and dogs has really taken off. However, what about gerbils, snakes, bunnies and assorted other pets that do not fit into the traditional American home? Some bunnies have sneaked on to Doggyspace with the explanation that a Bunnyspace does not yet exist. So, unless your the owner of a dog and cat, you may have a hard time finding the social media site for you. Also, the dogs on Doggyspace tend to rack up friends even faster than their human counterparts. For this reason, it is imperative to keep personal information from infiltrating the site as it distributed to people you do not know except through the website. Caution would have to play a role in using the sites.

Soscal the cat

Overall, pet social media seems to be taking off at an advantageous time. People and their pets have gotten closer than ever and it no longer seems odd to create a profile for your furry friend. In fact, it may just allow me to figure out how to stop my cat from scratching my couch or how to appropriately keep him tick free. And all of this may mean a happier kitty, which means a less mutilated keyboard. I give it a two paws way up.

Utilizing Social Media: College Couture

My younger sister, Lydia, has recently started her own blog in March.

Titled "College Couture" it provides fun and fashion for college girls on a budget.

In an interview, Lydia states "I have always had a passion for fashion. I looked to fashion magazines and runway shows for advice on upcoming trends. However, I was really sick of going through magazines and finding none of their items really affordable. With the state of the economy and the recession, none of these items were really affordable for the average consumer. As a college student, I could not afford their items. How could I be trendy and chic without having to break the bank? I knew if I asked myself this question than others did too. And so my blog was born. Most of my items are under $30. I want to show other girls that you can still be trendy without having to pay high prices. I wanted consumers to know that they could still get a high fashion look without the high price. With my love for fashion and love for computers, I knew a blog was a good path to go on. I wanted everything to be online, so I could be environmentally friendly and not use paper. My future goal would be to eventually build my own website and I have already started on this project. I would also love to start a website for guys too."

I must say that I think my sister was very creative to come up with this idea for a blog. I didn't even communicate with her that I was in a social media class, so she came up with this idea on her own.

I think that people who have an idea for a business or a blog should definitely utilize social media to promote themselves, which my sister has brilliantly done. I wish her the best!