Things as other things

Cookie monster bin

Image courtesy thingsthatlooklikeotherthings

Occasionally several dozen people have to stand and listen to me share some thoughts and answer some questions whilst they wait for free food and drink.

Surprisingly this is not a punishment. Or at least it’s not meant to be.

Neither is it a sales pitch, an attempt at mass conversion, a wedding reception, funeral oration or ‘free’ seminar.

At least it’s not meant to be.

During the most recent run of this delayed gratification Q&A session (or cruel and unusual experiment if you’ve read the Geneva Convention) I was asked to comment on the #Kony2012 phenomenon. (I’m going to assume from this point forward that you know what that is)

So when asked to write something for a company blog, I naturally thought I’d put together some words about how things start off as one thing and end up as another.

Even as Kony 2012 got into full swing – (when it had a mere 12m views as opposed to the 85m it currently has) – there was growing criticism.

(Warning – contains swearing, unsavory references, is unrelenting and merciless (full disclosure – I like Charlie Brooker and I don’t care…))

Since founder/director Jason Russell was arrested in San Diego after police received reports of a man running through the streets and traffic naked, vandalising cars and “masturbating” things have just got worse. (you can find the video yourself).

CEO of the charity behind the film, Ben Keesey issued a statement claiming Russell had been admitted to hospital suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition but I’m pretty sure that most people will have ruled this out as an explanation and provided one of their own. And there is the problem.

Something that probably started with a load of good intentions has ended being something where the central message has been lost, credibility destroyed and a video of a psychotic man with problems has also “gone viral” (ok, well only 1.5m views so far).

A thing that ended up as another thing. Social media can be tricky like that.

One of the problems, as COO of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg put it, is that ““What it means to be social is if you want to talk to me, you have to listen to me as well.”

A lot of companies engage in social media trying to create a social brand instead of trying to become a social company. And then they don’t like what people are going to say. For the past 3 and a half years I was involved in a company that worked with many of the leading travel brands. Here’s how one of them opened a social dialogue with its customers (after grounding its entire fleet a few weeks before as part of an industrial relations wrangle – leaving about 80,000 of them stranded) and offered them some pajamas…

Step 1 – the “social media team” at Qantas, as part of an ongoing “social media campaign”, released details of a competition on Twitter:

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Step 2 – instead of a few tweets of nice stories to be used in a ‘crowd sourced’ campaign, they got a flood of sarcastic comments more about the ongoing labour relations battles with the unions and the grounding of the fleet than the quality of their service. The whole thing becomes a trend:


The entire episode took a further plunge when this rather well done parody of Downfall – a film depicting the last days of Adolf Hitler – was posted on YouTube, as seen below.

(Warning – also contains swearing, (full disclosure – I still don’t care…))

A thing ends up as another thing.

We’re quite busy making sure that a company where I now have the great pleasure to work: Mxit, is going to become a social company not a social brand (it’s already Africa’s largest mobile social network). This means a bunch of stuff such as internal connectedness, preparedness, and collaborative approach to customer and employee engagement.

It also means that when we want to talk, we have to listen as well.

So to any of the staff who might end up reading this and have been ‘talked to’, we, and especially me, are listening.

If that doesn’t work, as Hitler put it (meant to be Quantas CEO Alan Joyce in the clip above) –

“With any luck someone will post a new funny cat video”.

Not much new for a while

Have started a new job.

More to follow, but here’s a thought

It’s from the retronaut.

Dear Photograph

Goodbye Grandpa

Dear Photograph:

A wonderful site where people post photographs that feature locations along with old photos of people in the exact spot and held at an angle that mimics the original setting. Each photograph is accompanied by a brief caption that states its significance or story to the contributor.

I am so excited by what the internet and sharing are doing with Photograpy as well as opening the floodgates and turning on all the taps…

Rescue Annie

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A chance to link to one of my favourite sites: Aesthetics of the invisible world.

A breathtaking article which made me stop in my tracks, mostly because as the son of a Swimming teacher I did a lot of Lifesaving badges up to and including The Royal Life Saving Association’s (RLSA) Bronze Medallion and got to know Rescue Annie quite as well as any 14 year old boy should.

In full:

“In the late 1880s, the body of a 16-year-old girl was pulled from the Seine.  She was apparently a suicide, as her body showed no marks of violence but her beauty and her enigmatic smile led a Paris pathologist to order a plaster death mask of her face.

In the romantic atmosphere of fin de siecle Europe the girl’s face became an ideal of feminine beauty.  The protagonist of Rainer Maria Rilke’s 1910 novel The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge writes, “The mauler, whose shop I pas every day, has hung two plaster masks beside his door.  [One is] the face of the young drowned woman, which they took a cast of in the morgue, because it was beautiful, because it smiled, because it smiled so deceptively, as if it knew.”

Ironically, in 1958 the anonymous girl’s features were used to model the first-aid mannequin Rescue Annie, on which thousands of students have practiced CPR.  Though the girl’s identity remains a mystery, her face, it’s said, has become “the most kissed face of all time.”

Internet 1 RLSA 0

Never forgotten house

Childhood memories by musicalfish d2yksha
(image from Musicalfish)

Pure wonder from Joanne McNeil over at Rhizome

In the world of superabundancy of information including images, there’s something as valuable as our privacy that we could lose.

(My unease with aspects of the ‘new photography’ are well known to my peers!)

Full article after the break but here is the final paragraph and sentence:

“We could accumulate hundreds of thousands of images throughout our lives but they will never taste like anything. An image represents and verifies a memory but the rest is left to imagination. Every essential moment of a child’s life is documented if he was born in the West. With digital album after album for every birthday, every Christmas, he will never struggle to remember what his childhood home looked like. That reaching, that vague warm feeling for a place one remembers but cannot see; that is a sense now growing extinct.

A child today grows up in a never forgotten house.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Orwell Poster

I did this, in the spirit of minimalism not of inspired design!!

Orwells vi for web

Anyone wants the original – let me know.

PS No I don’t own the original photo either but I can’t even remember where I got it from. If you do and object I can take it down.

How not to fall asleep and drool

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Sitting in a darkened room after a free lunch on day two of a conference….

My advice to avoid this follows. Read the rest of this entry »