Tag Archives: socialmedia

Is Dave Eggers right about the risks of social media?

eggers the circle

I have to admit, though Egger’s is a pretty famous author, I wasn’t familiar with his work. I do however read AVC regularly, the writing of renowned VC & Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson. So when one of the commenters pointed to the book as a great read I grabbed a copy on my Kindle.

Flipping through to the back of the book, the further reading section is telling. Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, DeLillo’s White Noise, Huxley’s Brave New World & Orwell’s 1984 are just a few on the list. All books that I’d read & enjoyed not only for their story, but for their cautious warning of a dystopian future.

The Circle story takes place at a fictional Silicon Valley company “The Circle”, whose campus includes wings such as Old West, Renaissance, Enlightenment, Machine Age & Industrial Revolution. The main character Mae, has just been hired in customer experience. Employees at the circle are all but *required* to socialize together. There everything is ranked, from customer satisfaction, to employee participation, comments, likes, posts & shares.

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I came away with five major themes from the book. As the characters march through the pages, watch them sacrifice their morality, free will & eventually human rights too.

1. social media is like snack food

What I loved most about the story, was how extreme the social media use had become. It was as though every moment had to be captured, every interaction “shared”. And with that, others then comment, favorite, and interact.

But as we found later, social media became something of lesser value. It was like eating snack food, a simulation of real food, missing in nutrients, but masquerading as the real thing. The metaphor holds together well, as we see people become fatigued with Facebook in the real world, and the constant sharing of everything.

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2. Egger’s fictional technologies are close at hand

At one point in the story, Mae does a search to find out about her family history. What turns up is more than she bargained for. It turns out that her parents had a rather odd affinity for yearly baccanalian partying, and the photos shock & embarrass Mae.

Turns out some neighbor had scanned a whole shoebox full of photos, and from there the internet crawlers took care of the rest, indexing the photos complete with facial recognition & identification. Once that was complete, a simple search revealed pictures even her parents didn’t know exist.

Facial recognition technologies in fact already exist, though are not widely used quite yet. Governments are obviously beginning to use them for law enforcement, but facebook & google are certainly getting into the act too. What’s more the SeeChange cameras described in the story, parallel Google Glass for example, which is maturing quickly.

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3. secrets are a real human need

After Mae begins wearing the SeeChange monocle, everything she does is streamed to an online audience. It begins as an exercise in transparency, but we quickly see the trouble it brings as Mae has no moments of privacy.

In this world, moments of intimacy become shorter & harder to find. And we see then how Mae begins to crave those moments, and they become more precious too.

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4. monitoring changes our behavior

Much of the monitoring and transparency in the Circle story comes from a new technology called SeeChange, a camera monocle worn around the neck, perhaps paralleling Google Glass that we have all heard of.

Surveillance can surely help prevent crime, or provide evidence after the fact. But one other affect of the technology is in warping people’s natural behavior, as though we are all on a stage, all on camera all the time. In Mae’s case she begins to act for the camera, and those around her do too.

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5. how social media warps our sense of time & human scale

Another interesting scene occurs when Mae follows up with a friend via text. Her friend doesn’t respond back, so she sends along another text a few minutes later asking if “everything is ok”. By Mae’s fourth & fifth message, she’s sure she’s been kidnapped, and by the tenth message she’s just angry and declares their friendship is over! All this in the span of 25 minutes.

I think Eggers uses a sort of extreme example, but really to illustrate an important point. In the world of always on communication, these types of misunderstandings are more and more common. Our sense of time changes, and we may feel that others are in slow motion.

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Social Scoring with Klout, Kred & PeerIndex

Klout, Kred or PeerIndex… What’s with all these new social scoring sites? I wanted to know the answer, so I picked up a copy of Return on Influence.

Schaefer’s book is not intimidating, it’s a short 180 pages plus a short appendix with a primer on all things social media.

Upon first opening the book, I wanted to get right to the meaty topic first, so I flipped straight to chapter 10 – how to increase your Klout score. I mean that’s really what we want to know right?

It lists three steps:

1. build your network of relevant & related fans

2. build content, create, curate or conversation

3. find influencers and engage

Of course the devil’s in the details.

When I was first exposed to twitter, I would crosspost blog posts or newsletters, then sit back and wonder why no one was clicking on my links! Is it only valuable for brands to send out press releases and speak to loyal customers?

The answer takes time, with trial and error to get the hang of. How do you write punchy 140 tweets that grab people, and make them click? That’s a talent all by itself. Being on point can only get you so far if you can’t shake people up with those pithy one liners.

Mark Schaefer has done a laudable job introducing the world of social media with great page after page of good stories. What’s more the title itself is what grabbed me, flipped Return On Investment on it’s head to the more nebulous social media influence measured by scores like Klout.

Still all those chapters discussing Cialdini’s concepts of social proof and reciprocity are all fine and good, but I learned most of what I needed to know about the topic from the first page.

After big time interactive marketing exec Sam Fiorella learned about Klout the hard way, he set out to improve his score that sat around a lowly 45.

[quote]Fiorella went on a tweeting rampage to increase his Klout score by any means. He was determined that his experience at the ad agency interview would enver be repeated. He carefully studied and tried to reproduce the online behaviors of top-rated influencers. When he spoke at conferences, he made sure that every slide had a tweetable quote aimed at the Klout algorithm and asked attendees to tweet his name throughout the presentation. He engineered his online engagement to attract attention of high Klout influencers who could bend his score upward and filtered his followers by their levels of influence so that he knew which contacts to nurture to affect his score.[/quote]

And what was Fiorella able to push his score to? The Elite level of 70! Wow not bad at all. You might call it gaming the algorithm, or you could call it doing all the things that social media marketing and networking demand. I’d personally be happy to hit the 45 myself!

Marketing isn’t just for the big guys anymore, and as the ranks of freelancers and independent consultants swells, more and more will be looking to improve their influence and reach. Social scoring, like website page ranking is another one of those measures and one of growing importance.

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