Dear Facebook: give us back Joe Average

July 1, 2010 at 11:32 pm | In arts, facebook | Comments Off on Dear Facebook: give us back Joe Average

Joe Average is a Canadian painter who changed his name to Joe Average. It wasn’t his name when we were in high school, but it has been his real name for decades.

Joe Average was on Facebook, but last night (at the GFs-from-highschool-meetup) I learned that his personal account has disappeared. His fan-page still exists, and in the info box a friend/ administrator notes, “Joe’s personal facebook page has been disabled for some reason. He’ll be back as soon as possible. In the meantime – you can visit Joe’s website at“…

No one seems to know why Joe’s page is disabled – it just was, and Facebook gave no warning or reason. That’s some pretty high-handed shit on Facebook’s part, given how we the users are the content generators. Maybe Facebook doesn’t believe that Joe Average is Joe Average’s real name – but it is. Did they ask him? Probably not.

Facebook has a history with this sort of blundering. In 2009 the company did it to NakedJen without explanation, and there was plenty of discussion whether that deletion had to do with nakedness or with using a name one wasn’t assigned at birth. The explanation, as NakedJen herself wrote, was that according to Facebook:

…my profile was obliterated because I am a PRODUCT and not a real person.  Of course no one from Facebook actually checked with me before the obliteration.  It had nothing to do with my name being Naked Jen. (A check of the Facebook database will quickly reveal that there are currently over 500 people using NAKED in their name!)  They falsely assumed that Naked Jen was a product and belonged in the product pages and not the personal pages.  However, we all know, especially those of you reading, that Naked Jen is a person.  A real person.  My request to reinstate my profile because I am a real person and not a product have fallen on now deaf ears.  I am still requesting that my profile be reinstated. (source)

In the case of Joe Average, his nakedness (which is also NOT a PRODUCT) comes to you like this: HIV+, community involvement, heart-on-sleeve, and:


As a boy growing up in Victoria, he built a fort in some scrub overlooking the city and seashore, where he’d run away time after time to escape, or, rather, to test his inattentive family. “They didn’t care. They never came looking for me.” (source)

Seriously, Facebook: stop disabling Joe Average’s account. It’s his real name, he’s the-real-deal-human-not-a-PRODUCT, even on Facebook, …and we’re looking for him.

Journalism and (use of) social media

May 14, 2010 at 11:32 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, free_press, guerilla_politics, media, newspapers, northernvoice, web | 1 Comment

During the How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media? session at last weekend’s Northern Voice 2010 blogging conference, panelists Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe both noted that newspapers regularly mine social media, especially Facebook, for information, leads, and photographs. Sometimes the journalists use the site to obtain information on criminal activity – if I recall correctly, Lisa Johnson explained how Hell’s Angels member Leonard Pelletier’s involvement in a Vancouver-area shooting was (partially?) outed via Facebook. And sometimes the media uses Facebook to obtain photos of teens who have died.

I sensed that some people in the audience were perturbed to learn this, even though it’s increasingly clear that material published online can be discoverable in one way or another. And if it’s on Facebook, it’s even more likely to be found – hence the growing popularity of the google search, “How Do I Delete My Facebook Account?”

Lisa Johnson and Kirk Lapointe – photo by Kemp Edmonds

Based on what I heard from Lapointe and Johnson at Northern Voice, the discussion of journalism’s use of social media now splits, for me, into two directions.

One path, broached by Kirk Lapointe after he was challenged by an online new media journalist, Linda Solomon of the Vancouver Observer, leads to the question of how the mainstream media uses leads and information – stories – that it harvests from social media sources, and whether or not it shares those sources with its readers.

Most of the time, mainstream media doesn’t share its sources with readers, as my post from yesterday (about Bruce Schneier’s article for illustrates clearly. Lapointe tried to cow Solomon, who challenged him (in his capacity as managing editor of the Vancouver Sun), by arguing with her, claiming that bloggers and online media also “steal” the newspapers’ stories. True, Solomon replied, but, she added, we give credit – aka “link love.” Bloggers and digitally native media freely give links back to the various sources, which is something the mainstream media still has to learn to do. We don’t need to “own” the story – but mainstream media apparently still does. This is particularly odd thinking, in my opinion, since – as Kirk Lapointe said himself at the very session – in the new landscape opening up for journalism, “the topic, not the article, is the centerpiece.” How, I would ask him, can a news outlet, “own” a topic?

The other path that’s red hot right now, which Johnson and Lapointe also opened up, is the question around privacy and social media. For an impassioned analysis of that issue, read Danah Boyd’s blog post, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant), which she published today.

Boyd says it better than most: questions around transparency and privacy are also class issues, which must be analyzed in terms of privilege and/or disadvantage. Mainstream media can certainly use social media as a “news scanner” (or maybe police scanner), as Lisa Johnson put it (see Raul Pacheco-Vega’s live-blog of the session). But the media must also realize its use (and possibly abuse) of power here. Given Boyd’s excellent deconstruction of the power relationships exerted by closed platforms like Facebook vis-a-vis the users, there should be a conversation – and maybe policies – around the morality of mainstream media mining social media sites for information. Of course they (we, anyone) are going to mine these sources, but we don’t do so innocently.

(note: photo by Kemp Edmonds, on his Flickr stream here.)

No policy …no strategy, either

April 27, 2010 at 11:57 pm | In advertising, black_press, facebook, free_press, local_not_global, media, newspapers, social_critique, times_colonist, victoria, web | 13 Comments

Tonight I attended the 14th meeting of Victoria’s Social Media Club to listen to five panelists from Victoria’s mainstream media (MSM) talk about how new media (including social media) is affecting their business.

Panelists included Bryan Capistrano (promotion director for radio station The Zone); Amanda Farrell-Low (arts editor for weekly paper Monday Magazine); Dana Hutchings (producer/ host for “Island 30” on TV station CHEK News); Sarah Petrescu (reporter and webmaster at daily paper Times-Colonist); and Deborah Wilson (journalist for CBC Radio-Victoria “On The Island”). The panel was moderated by Janis La Couvée.

blog might render photo cropped – click on picture to see original


The setting was the gymnasium of a former elementary school (now used as the University Canada West campus), hence the …well, gym-like setting.

But the setting wasn’t really the disappointing bit: it was the panelists. They all came across as very sweet people, but I left wondering just what the hell they’re doing.

The panelists (representing local heavy-hitters CBC Radio, Monday Magazine, CHEK News, The Zone Radio, and the Times-Colonist) all stated that their organizations have no specific social media policies in place.

Maybe that’s fine – but what was striking was the absence of clear thinking around social media strategy. The one glimmer of an exception was Dana Hutchings of CHEK. In the summer of 2009, while on vacation in Sweden, she received an email from her boss, letting her know that the owners were about to shut down the station.

CHEK had orders from its owners that forbade the station to report on its own troubles. In his email, Dana’s boss wrote (and I’m paraphrasing): “You’re on Facebook! What can we do?”

First, a brief digression on the history of CHEK News, which is worth knowing: see this wikipedia page for details. In brief: CHEK launched on December 1, 1956, which makes it a venerable local institution. Over the decades, CHEK underwent various changes in ownership, and by 2000 it was owned by Canwest, which happens to be the media conglomerate that owns so much of Canada’s media – including most newspapers, the Times-Colonist among them. Canwest, however, was in deep financial trouble by the middle of the decade, and by late 2009 it had to file for creditor bankruptcy protection. Leading up to this, Canwest tried various downsizing moves to save itself, including pulling the plug on CHEK in August of 2009. But by September 2009, the employees had managed to put together a scheme to buy the station and keep it in operation as an independent in Victoria.

Social media played a huge role in CHEK’s turnaround. Dana Hutchings answered her boss’s question (“You’re on Facebook – what can we do?”) by starting a Save CHEK News fan page, which in turn galvanized the local community who learned about the true goings-on at the station through the Facebook page. Before long, the page had thousands of fans.

The employees at CHEK, spurred by the support they saw pouring in through social media, worked feverishly around the clock for over 46 days, and in the end the station was saved – bought by the employees and contributors.

The point, however, is that without the resonant support from CHEK’s fans – support that would not have found a gathering spot without social media because of Canwest’s gag order on what was happening at CHEK – the employees wouldn’t have been able to muster the energy and enthusiasm to save the station.

But when asked how social media was affecting their business models, the other panelists relied on the old separation between “editorial” and “management” to absolve themselves of any strategic thinking around how the new media might save their old media bacon.

“I don’t know, I’m editorial, that doesn’t concern me,” was the gist of it. The panelists also seemed to think that the new media folks in the audience were trying to find ways to “pitch” to them, the arbiters of media truth. It was laughable.

First, people in the audience weren’t trying to figure out how to “pitch” to the MSM – they were trying to sound out the MSM to find out how they could get it to listen to them, the community.

Second, the panelists repeatedly told the audience that what would work – what they would be willing to retweet or run a story on – would be semi-sensationalist crap, like “there’s a house on fire on X Road,” or “the ferries are running late,” or “it’s snowing on the Malahat.”

Aside from sensational “news” like this, the MSM wants “human interest” stories: “how I found my true love on Twitter,” or, “my child survived bullying on Facebook,” or similar stuff.

This is truly sad. There must be more to MSM than burning buildings and true romance, no?

There were other annoying contradictions, and then also outright delusions. For the latter: the belief that bloggers are just the rumor mill, while the MSM are the arbiters of truth. Hahahaha. If anyone still believes that what is written in the daily paper is the truth, I feel sorry for them – I know for a fact that it isn’t. I know plenty of bloggers who are more assiduous about fact-checking than so-called professional journalists – and bloggers don’t mind correcting themselves. Try getting a newspaper to do that.

At the same time, every single one of the panelists belly-ached about being underfunded and understaffed, which was their main excuse for no longer doing investigative journalism.

Ok, so which is it? You can’t do investigative journalism because you’re understaffed and underfunded? Or you’re the arbiters of truth because only you are the professionals who can get at the truth?

You can’t have it both ways, kids.

While thumping their chests to claim truth-telling status, the panelists also begged “social media” to “spoonfeed” them potential news items (because, remember, they’re underfunded and understaffed and can’t get their own stories – the news are “thin” these days, as one of them put it). In other words, please spoonfeed us, but don’t think you can pitch us.

Are they nuts?

Which is it?

I could go on, but this entry is already costing me dearly in a town where everyone has to play nice and not step on anyone’s toes – and besides, it’s almost midnight and I’m on a deadline here.

Update, April 29: a follow-up post here (also noted in comments).

Follow up on commenting, and Facebook

March 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm | In comments, facebook, social_networking | 4 Comments

Here’s a follow-up to my Thursday post, Comment Quality?:

Lately I’ve noticed that my blog posts, which get posted to my Facebook account as Notes, are more likely to garner comments (or “likes”) over there (on Facebook) than here (on my blog’s comments board), and that it’s my local friends who are doing the Facebook commenting and “liking.” This got me thinking.

I love getting comments, so it doesn’t really matter whether they appear here or on Facebook. But whatever comments appear on Facebook are only visible to my Facebook friends, and no one else. I have some pretty draconian privacy settings on Facebook, while my blog is completely public and visible to anyone.

If there’s a particularly good comment on Facebook, should I port it over to my blog’s comments board, or leave it to its obscurity on Facebook?

For example, on the Comment quality? post, Rob Randall – who has commented here frequently – wrote a Facebook comment that I felt should go on the blog instead of remaining stuck behind Facebook’s garden wall.

Rob wrote:

Good point. Newspapers lost classified advertising to other entities that could do it better. They will lose commenting (and possibly the hallowed letter to the editor) if they don’t clean up the wild west aspect to their online presence.

Here’s relevant comment that I’m sure you’ll find agreeable from this week’s WaPo humour chat:

Santa Clara, Calif.: Since you have a poll regarding the comments following news stories, I feel obligated to share my beliefs about what works and what doesn’t. First and foremost, if you want good dialogue between people with differing opinions, unregulated and unmoderated commenting simply won’t work. As an online forum browser, participant, and moderator, I’ve learned a good commenting system takes a lot of effort from both the forum host and the participants, and has to have solid foundation of policies and standards.

I love WaPo and I’d really like to see good dialogue, but I’m almost always disappointed when I see most of the comments are crap. If you want to do this right, you need three essential elements:

– Active moderation. The best systems rely not only on the forum hosts, but on the participants themselves to filter or ban users when needed (qualified participants, see below).

– Qualification. New users should be identified as such, and they should not be allowed to freely comment without qualifying themselves first. Moderators and other “starred” participants can judge.

– Recognition. Use well qualified commenters as an extra resource. Identify and recognize them, and that will motivate participants to be that much more responsible.

The A-Q-R elements list really nails it. Q and R especially require a lot of human curation: someone from the organization (the newspaper, in this case) would have to be there to monitor the community, but it’s not impossible to do. It’s a comment that should be accessible.

Other recent blog posts that have generated comments (or “likes”) on Facebook (but not here) were Getting it up with coffee; City Hall sure likes to feather its staffing bed; Trust Agents, one; The future of publishing video; 28 seconds of reasons why I live here; and Theater of the absurd for 2010.

Most of those posts were about something local, and all of them were “liked” or commented on by local people near me, people I know. None were commented on or liked by far-flung friends. I guess that says something about the strength of Facebook in the local community – that people find it easy to use, easy to slip into, and that they’re comfortable with the level of privacy they feel it affords. I’m still trying to figure out how to transpose this into what I think should be a more truly public space.

For me, Facebook is not public – not like my blog is public, not like Twitter is public. Whenever I “like” or comment on anything on Facebook, I feel like I’m in a room (or walled garden). And there are several different rooms – I’m aware of the different levels of privacy / visibility I’m engaging in, and I’ve got some sense (right or wrong) of control – my networks or my friends-of-friends have some rights, whereas people completely unconnected to me have none. (I think.)

Whenever I comment on anything on a blog (my own or that of someone else), I know it’s public. No “rooms,” just an open platform. (The same holds true for Twitter, of course: completely public.)

As I said, I love the comments – whether they’re here, in public, or in that Facebook room.

But when push comes to shove, I’ll go for the open, public comments – breadcrumb trails that others can track.

No, no, so sorry: I don’t love it

February 18, 2008 at 2:29 pm | In advertising, facebook | 2 Comments

Quite good, this ad — via IF! from PSFK, a pointer to the Marmite campaign (“you either love it or hate it”), and that Marmite started a Facebook group. So far, it has almost 1400 fans…


October 22, 2007 at 12:04 pm | In facebook, housekeeping | Comments Off on Updates

I spend too much time on a local forum, where I post many items, and I spend quite a bit of time on Facebook, to which I also post interesting items I come across. Between those two opportunities, plus the minimally paid work (writing) I do, I find that my poor blog is being neglected.

Well, here’s the deal: until I get around to writing longer posts here, I’m going to use my diigo account to blog the same items I post to my other digital playgrounds. That way, the old place will at least have some semblance of life!

Red Fish Blue Fish

August 6, 2007 at 5:58 pm | In architecture, business, facebook, heritage, local_not_global, scenes_victoria, victoria | 3 Comments

It’s a holiday today in British Columbia, and I managed to take full advantage of the fact (well, aside from doing the usual Monday laundry-loads , food-preps, dog-walks, and other normal family life stuff…). But around mid-day all five of us (that’s counting the dog) walked over to Red Fish Blue Fish to have lunch.

The food was really delicious (a scallop sandwich to die for, for example), and the only drawback was that the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority has forbidden Red Fish Blue Fish to set up any tables or chairs on the pier. So we parked ourselves on the pier’s edge, which wasn’t quite as comfy as sitting at a proper table. The irony is that “safety issues” are Harbour Authority’s excuse for not allowing table set-up — perhaps they feel the tables might be wobbly on the old pier? Whatever the reason, “safety issues” is a hilarious objection since perching on the edge of the pier is risky. You could topple over the edge and land 15 feet below on some gangway (if you’re lucky) or fall right into the harbour waters (if you’re outta luck), or you could get some serious splinters in your bum from the old wood (if you just want to be sublimely distressed). (Did I mention that the pier is old?)

Speaking of sublime, do take a look at the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority front page — they have an impressive banner photo (currently, anyway) that shows Ogden Point with two docked cruise ships, and part of downtown to the north, past the trees of James Bay, the residential neighbourhood between downtown and Ogdon Point.

I uploaded photos of Red Fish Blue Fish’s facility to my Facebook account, which you can view if you have an account. Their idea isn’t new, but it’s great nonetheless: the entire operation is housed in a converted shipping container, which the partners creatively remodeled into a charming piece of ex-industrial humdrum hunk-of-steel qua architectural trendiness. They planted the roof with drought-resistant plants (sedums and grasses — typically, our summers are extremely dry), which very fetchingly sets off the space-age style chimney and vent, and pierced the container with openings that serve both a useful function (air, ventilation) and make for a pretty cool “look,” too.

In addition, the restaurant is situated right below “Malahat Building,” also known as the Old Customs House, on a pier that could well deserve the “heritage” designation. While the Inner Harbour has silted up somewhat, it used to be a deep water harbour all the way up the rock edge at the foot of the Customs House. Embedded into the rock are three iron rings (one of which, under water whenever the tide is up, is mightily corroded while the others — above the tide line — are still in good shape). These were the rings that Sir James Douglas’s men attached to the rock to tie up their ship after they sailed to Vancouver Island in the 1840s — they’re effectively what remains of the decision by the initial European explorers — James Douglas, actually — to make this particular place the birthplace of what would become British Columbia.

In recent years, that particular spot became a favoured locale for drunks and junkies to congregate and watch the sun setting over the harbour behind the Sooke Hills. After they finished drinking and shooting up, they smashed their bottles on to the rocks and chucked their needles into the shrubs that cling to the edge. When Red Fish Blue Fish was building its facility, that activity continued every evening. Since they opened three days ago, however, those folks have moved on because the pier is now frequented in the evenings by other people coming to enjoy a meal.

Simon, one of the partners in the restaurant, hopes that the Harbour Authority will eventually build some stairs down to the water’s edge — as he pointed out, it’s the only place all along the city’s Inner Harbour where you can actually touch the water, play in it — and if they do, he and his people will pitch in to clean up the broken glass, clear the debris that accumulated over years of neglect, and let people know that right there, below the “heritage” pier, is Victoria’s equivalent of Plymouth Rock. Well ok, not a rock, exactly: three stout rings, one of which is massively corroded. Thanks to Simon and Red Fish Blue Fish, the corroded ring has been treated to retard or prevent further corrosion. It’s interesting that it took a business owner to make sure that this bit of history doesn’t keep slipping further into the sea…

Quick followup: I noticed that RFBF has a “press” page, which only links, however, to an already disappeared story in the local paper. Not to worry, however, as vibrant Victorians have been following this story on the Vibrant Victoria forum since last December. So, if you’re interested in how this has wound its way through city hall etc., read more on the forum…

Not TV

June 30, 2007 at 10:07 pm | In facebook, ideas, links, style | 1 Comment

For something a bit less predictable than TV, but pleasurable in an eye-candy sort of way, 3 links to visuals that might intrigue you:

For the designers, via Cool Hunting, there’s wind to light, an installation that “illustrates alternative energy sources in the form of a cloud of LEDs. Mini wind turbines power the lights (both are mounted on poles); as the wind moves through them, it creates a visual pattern.” There’s a Quicktime video of the installation here. It’s a prototype and beginning of an art form that could (should) be deployed more in our “urbanscapes.”

Via the Doc Searls weblog, a pointer to an “animation made by digital media artist Aaron Koblin, airplane traffic looks much like fireworks in the night sky. Using air-traffic data from the Federal Aviation Administration, categorized using criteria such as ‘types of aircraft,’ ‘location,’ and ‘altitude,’ Koblin shows the changing dynamics of air traffic over the United States and Canada over a 24-hour period.” (From Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge) Watch the video by clicking here. Great soundtrack, by the way.

Finally, via links via facebook via groups thereon, a link via Upgrade! Vancouver (found via facebook groups — cause Roland Tanglao joined, I think, and this showed up in my “feed”…), a link to a 2007 movie by Peter Horvath, Boulevard. Description: “In Boulevard we follow a striking woman, the passenger of a convertible car, driven by an unidentified driver through the city, passing its generic streets, billboards and motels, with an unknown destination.” It’s a bit slow getting started, and it remains “slow,” but there’s something about it that makes you want to keep watching. Just in case. Spoiler: nothing happens. But it’s interesting, all the same. 😉

(n.b.: for some reason, the Upgrade!Vancouver link won’t work, so here’s one for Upgrade!Berlin. Just use it as a jumping-off point: if you scroll down, you’ll see the links to all the other global Upgrade! locations. I hope. Those internets. Sometimes they can be persnicketty…)

Social class on social networks: and style?

June 27, 2007 at 10:33 pm | In danah_boyd, facebook, health, ideas, MySpace, social_critique, social_networking, web | 7 Comments

danah boyd has a new article out called Viewing American class divisions through Facebook and MySpace, which everybody seems to be reading (and, looking at her blog, commenting on — two hundred comments and counting…) Basic thesis: facebook attracts more upwardly mobile college-bound types, while MySpace attracts non-college-bound, possibly declasse or lower-class or outcast-type kids.

I’m curious to know whether the design was the egg or the chicken here: I confess that MySpace pages look cluttered and messy to me, and I get weirded out by the fact that all sorts of applications (sound, video, music, whatever) start up when I click through to some pages. In other words, I have to let MySpace roll all over me, and that pisses me off (well, not really, but I’m like, Hey, can you let me decide when I want to hear your stupid music or see your movie?). I want my eyes to control everything first, and then I push the buttons (mouse & click the links), not lie there and think of England while some MySpaceling has its way with me.

So, does the style attract people who violate “nice” rules about tidy spaces and imaginary “protocol,” or is the style a result of people using MySpace in a really trashy way? Can the technology even have that sort of malleability? That sort of ability to respond? I don’t think so, which means that from where I’m sitting, MySpace design or style is “trashy” and non-eye-centered (non-controlling) first, and that therefore it attracts the more anarchic among us.

(I am exaggerating slightly when I describe myself as such a control freak in the above paragraph. Slightly. A bit.)

Tolerance for overflowing sensation, an ability to “live” with many people, in a tribe, vs in a more distilled fashion: I think that factors into things, too. Is it a class issue? Possibly, but there’re always exceptions to the rule. From boyd’s essay:

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school.

Right here there’s a snag: this passage describes me pretty much to a “t” (except for the Latina/Hispanic part, although I was an immigrant). My parents didn’t go to college, thought it would be a waste of time for me to go, were surprised I bothered finishing high school — which I barely did, a year and a bit “early,” too often too stoned to know what was going on, but desperate to get out so I could get a job — waitressing, incidentally — and make enough money to move away from home. I purposely skipped my high school graduation, because you wouldn’t have caught me dead trying to be pretty and stupid in a prom dress or sucking up to some old fart handing out diplomas. (I even skipped my B.A. graduation at UBC, and the M.A., and when I finally did go to one of my graduations — the Ph.D. ceremony at Harvard — I grinned at the Dean handing me my sheepskin, but I had the worst migraine in the world: I was smiling through pain, lots of it… Analyze that!)

Would I have gravitated to MySpace then, had it been around?

I don’t think so. I think one of my problems was stimuli overload (which explains the self-medication with drugs), and it was important for me to get enough control over my environment so that I could shut things out because it was difficult for me to handle the intensity of sensation I experienced. Experience. To this day, I find it crushing to be with people all day long: it’s too much. I vant to be alone is the rallying cry not just of Swedish actresses. Too much to observe, to pay attention to, to modulate, choreograph, perform, and respond to: after a day with lots of people, I’m exhausted. MySpace is an onslaught of entire rooms-full of people talking all at once, like a bad high school day times 10. In comparison, I guess Facebook is like meeting over coffee. Mocha vanilla latte, frapped. Maybe that’s our class structure today.

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