The Internet is a powerful thing, and it can bring about connections in places we once never imagined. Providing an oddly tangible way of interacting with someone on the other side of the world has presented a wealth of business opportunities, largely democratizing a large portion of our corporate and small business culture on a global scale.
Samasource is a company that utilizes the Internet to bring job opportunities to marginalized individuals, including refugees. Its new Refugee Work Program, created in conjunction with CrowdFlower, aims to bring these opportunities to people through its new iPhone application.
The new iPhone app is called Give Work, and it leverages its crowdsourcing technology to connect users with refugees in search of a job. Give Work is designed specifically for refugees at one of the world’s largest refugee sites, at the Dadaab, Kenya data center.
The idea behind Samasource’s company is to aid in computer training and helping refugees land technology-based work. Job skills plus opportunities can enable an individual to better sustain their own livelihood, which can be difficult to maintain at times when you are a refugee.
In matching the two aspects of the job world, Samasource’s new iPhone app allows clients to list a host of quick and easy tasks from CrowdFlower customers, which are completed by the end users of the application. The tasks translate into real work for the company, and real pay for the refugees. Tasks could be the creation of keywords for images or video clips, or classifying text.
These are aspects of web data organization that have typically been reserved for users of a given site. However, not all companies seeking this type of information has the desire or resources to create their own application or website in order to render such massive amounts of user activity.
For participating companies, they are able to give back to refugee camps with the donation of their time instead of money. It is an interesting coupling of business and community service, ultimately benefiting more than just a commercially interested entity. In extending the digital economy to members of a refugee site, an exchange of knowledge and resources becomes a socially aware byproduct of attempting to do the right thing. If you would like to learn more about Samasource and its new iPhone app with CrowdFlower, click here.
Twitter is a phenomenon unto itself. Which is why, in the study of Social Media, Digital Anthropology and Sociology prevails.
Technology indeed facilitates interaction while also introducing us to nuances that transcend the parameters governing natural conversations and asynchronous dialogue into new forms of conversational threads and networks.
Twitter is among those networks actively studied by many (myself included) as it seemingly defies the laws of natural flow and engagement. The foundation that makes Twitter work is also the very essence that should prevent it from working at all.
In Social Media, psychology and the study of the mind now also plays a role in understanding the context to those affecting and affected by online behavior.
The Twitterverse and its supporting ecosystem is an anomaly that may represent as Dr. Drew Pinsky captured in our recent conversation in Los Angeles, “potentially a place where pre-existing pathologies are freed and where modalities are acted out.”
Is it fueled by narcissism and self-promotion as so many claim?
Dr. Drew believes that acquired narcissism does not exist.
In his research, he has found that the amount of time someone spends in a new medium has zero impact on their narcissistic impulses. Meaning that if they are narcissistic prior to their exposure to Twitter, they are most likely prone to egotism in their behavior on Twitter – not because of Twitter.
As Dr. Drew observed, “After a certain stage of development, our environment does very little for us.”
He did however, muse on whether or not today’s youth are living life like a reality show with social media’s magic portal serving as their stage, empowering them to “act out their narcissistic impulses into the world.”
I believe this is the case and therefore it brings the uncomfortable conversation of individual value systems to light. It’s one of the reasons why I created a Social Compass to serve as our moral compass in professional online engagement.
Dr. Drew advocates a deep understanding of the importance of relationships in the real world in order to foster and cultivate meaningful connections online.
In our discussion, I shared my theories suggesting that Twitter and other social networks are transforming and augmenting how we form and manage relationships, creating lineages that reinforce “relations” instead of relationships, and in many cases, creating hierarchies that introduce us to a new dynamic that may actually engender micro-celebrity complete with supporting fandoms.
I also proposed that in Social Media, with an emphasis on Twitter, that we are creating a new generation of digital extroverts who gain confidence in online interaction reinforced by every new update, follower, retweet, public @ (acknowledgment), and linkback. I then suggested that this may actually have a positive impact on society as, we then carry this new found courage back into the real world, supported by our invisible army of supporters who define our social graph. I call this, until I can come up with something better, the “Verizon Network” theory. We carry this unseen support framework with us wherever we go.
Dr. Drew listened, nodded his head, and with a pensive and optimistic beam responded, “I agree with that. We have to tolerate closeness and build sincere bonds through empathy.” He continued, “Yes, enjoy your Twitter, but live life through a cultural ethos that recognizes the importance of ‘real’ relationships. Ensure that you contribute to healthy families and value systems. it’s what gives life its meaning. Live by that credo.” He concluded, “It what I tweet about…”
Indeed. a vast network of socialites who publish but don’t listen, who broadcast but don’t feel what surrounds them, potentially contribute to a global epidemic of empathetic failure.
As Dr. Drew believes, we must, “create friendships and ties that contribute to social good. Aggregate emotions and intelligence and embody it in your endeavors.”
Every few months or so we see another social network pop up and entice new users with promises of payouts to users that simply join and use the site. It’s an incentive method that site owners have used for years, playing both sides by joining marketers and eyeballs. When you can’t gain immediate traction, such incentives are quite necessary, though oftentimes the end result is the same–you need a great deal of users in order to maintain site operations.
Nevertheless the public beta of Spiffbox has debuted the latest social network that has taken a familiar tactic to an age-old problem. Spiffbox will pay you to join the site, invite friends and send messages to each other. Plain and simple. Once you’ve racked up $20 worth of points, you can request your check. Cha-ching!
So will Spiffbox work? There are a few aspects of Spiffbox that caught my eye, particularly since the need to monetize one’s user base has become a growing problem for several social sites out there. Spiffbox doesn’t have display ads on its site, and has already incorporated Twitter and Facbook into its grand scheme to make money which is passed down to its users.
One of the methods for encouraging activity on the Spiffbox site may also be another way in which Spiffbox plans to make money. You can earn points quite easily on the site by requesting and offering advice from and to other users. Combine this with the Facebook and Twitter integration, and it appears that Spiffbox may b looking to create a database of user profiles that aggregate real time status updates and potential market research in the form of recommendations amongst its users.
Spiffbox also has a Facebook application, which appears to be a mini version of its actual website. I found this particularly interesting, as there are several paralells between Spiffbox and the way in which brands look to monetize (or at least create a decent return on investment for) their applications on social networks such as Facebook. To a large extent, Spiffbox could benefit moreso from its Facebook app than its standalone website.
The other reason I thought Spiffbox’s launch was noteworthy is because it speaks to the ongoing desire to more efficiently monetize a user base. Other sites such as Referralville have taken to Twitter and Facebook, along with personal recommendations of sorts, in order to provide more value to users than just a check in the mail, while gathering important consumer data and generating leads all the while. As much as we may laugh or shudder at the thought of a site promoting such an incentive method, the need to monetize a user base has not disappeared.
WinMoDevCamp is aligning with the Silicon Valley CodeCamp this weekend to help developers learn, share, and collaborate on future mobile and desktop applications.
Organized by Microsoft evangelist Giovanni Gallucci with some help from the Windows Mobile dev team, The WinMoDevCamp San Francisco will be held on Friday, October 2nd at the Microsoft Offices in Mountain View from 10 am to 5 pm with a slew of presenters leading sessions including Susan Kevorkian of IDC’s Mobile & Wireless team, Microsoft MVPs, Sony Ericsson, Samsung and more. It’s free to attend: RSVP here.
With Windows Mobile 6.5 aka Windows Phone launching October 6, this devcamp will help developers learn about the new OS, market direction and trends, as well as highlight opportunities to fuel innovative apps around the new WinMo.
The event continues throughout the weekend with Microsoft resources also attending the Silicon Valley Code Camp taking place at Foothill College.
There, developers have the opportunity to:
- Create new applications for the Windows Mobile Platform
- Meet and work side-by-side with team members from the Microsoft Mobile Developer Experience team
- Migrate existing mobile applications from the iPhone, Blackberry and Palm Pre to the Windows Mobile Platform
- Create applications to support Windows Enterprise Applications
- Test and optimize applications for Windows Mobile 6.5
RSVP for Windows Mobile Devcamp hosted this Friday
I admit it. I’m old fashioned. That may seem a silly statement coming from someone as deeply steeped in the digital realm as I, but when it comes to certain things this Silicon Valley geek likes to roll old school. I believe in charcoal barbecues. I believe in hand-writing thank you notes. I believe that white shoes have no business being worn after Labor Day. Most of all though, and to the great amusement of many I know, I believe in daily newspapers.
So when someone started to steal my New York Times off the front step of my building, I did what any self-respecting social media person would do. I launched an aggressive effort to catch the SOB, and began to chronicle my efforts in streaming video.
After a couple of weeks of on and off success in at least getting my paper but failing to snare the culprit I escalated my efforts, as I explain in this video:
Day after day I arose far earlier than my non-morning person self cared to, and I waited. Through the process I got to know many neighbors – those in my building as well as various and sundry folks whose morning schedules took them past my stakeout perch. I realized that every morning more than a half dozen newspapers landed on the step of my building alone. I saw similar stacks of newsprint on other stoops. I saw myriad people walking dogs and striding purposefully towards bus stops – many of them also with broadsheets in hand.
When it came to that daily paper fix, clearly I wasn’t alone.
Then there were my online comrades. Besides the amusement several people seemed to get from my daily commentary, I found a growing chorus of support from folks on Twitter and Facebook. People shared my self-righteous indignation at the theft. That surprised me less than the passionate support that many shared for getting that daily slab of printed paper to complement their morning coffee. Most people felt I should just set up a streaming web cam and save myself the burden of getting up so darn early. Others suggested setting a booby trap for the culprit. Still others offered to come and sit in shifts to help me snare the thief. Then came a note from Chris O’Brien, a friend and long-time Journalist who writes for the San Jose Mercury News. His suggestion? My videos would make a great ad campaign for the newspaper industry.
Some might say that an ad campaign for the newspaper industry would be a waste of time. After all, why waste effort for an industry that, according to statistics, is on the decline? Seeing Chris’ name in my comment stream, however, reminded me that in addition to his being a dyed-in-the-wool member of the Fourth Estate, he had an up-close-and-personal perspective that maybe, just maybe things weren’t so bleak after all.
After a bit of calendar choreography, Chris and I managed to settle in for a phone chat one afternoon last week. Over the course of about a half hour, we wended our way through a discussion from which I gleaned several key points:
1) Newsprint may be black and white but the media business isn’t – While people tend to lean towards a twofold viewpoint (the world was this way, now it’s that way; people used to do things this way, now people do things another way), the truth is that the advent of new forms of media have yet to wholly kill previous forms. Television didn’t kill radio. The VCR didn’t kill the movies. Okay so maybe the Internet struck a near fatal blow to the music industry, but even in that case, things continue to evolve. In Chris’ words, “People want to get into a binary debate that we used to just all want (the newspaper) because we had no choice and now people want the raw feed to mix up their own news. From where I sit what’s really happening is that people have splintered in a lot of different directions. You still have people who value the gatekeeper/passive experience at one end and then you have (people on the other end) who just want the raw feed of all data washing over them, but mostly people exist on the span in between.”
2) Never underestimate the power of human nature - The people who get newspapers in print tend to be committed to getting the product in that form and whether it’s habit or not, they tend to stick with getting that paper delivered to their doorstep. O’Brien related that when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased publishing its print edition and went web only, thanks to a joint operating agreement all P-I subscribers were switched automatically to the only remaining Seattle daily – The Seattle Times. People had the option to cancel, but something interesting happened. They didn’t. Not only did they retain their existing subscriptions, but when those began to run out, almost everyone renewed. O’Brien is not surprised by this and spoke of the digitally saturated people with whom he speaks every day – the venture capitalists and tech company executives whose lives are shackled to Blackberries and RSS feeds. “These are people who use technology for everything in their lives and they still get the paper in print. They still have it delivered to their doorstep.”
3) In today’s rapidly moving world, tactile yet passive experiences have merit - One of my favorite things about that morning paper is, quite simply, turning the pages. Humans are, after all, kinesthetic creatures, so the hands-on experience of a paper has some value. O’Brien agrees with that, and thinks that there’s something even more simple. Sometimes people just want a “psychologically different experience … a purely passive experience.” He went on to explain that oftentimes people don’t want “something with buttons or to click around. Even with a Kindle, there are buttons to push and that’s not appealing to them. They just want something that’s there. Something they don’t have to think about.” There are some who disagree with that perspective, but I’m not one of them.
What does all of this mean? From where I sit, it’s pretty clear newspapers aren’t going away. While some may enjoy the macabre view of a deathwatch, the truth is that this is all about evolution; and as these things go, it’s not about today – it’s about what and who is coming across the horizon.
For starters, there are myriad efforts to revitalize and retool newsrooms and O’Brien has done more than dabble on this front. Awarded a grant from the Knight Foundation, O’Brien tackled the task of building a next generation newsroom for Duke University. His “Next Newsroom” project, included the development of a site on which to archive his research and create a conversation around the task of designing this newsroom of the future. Though the official part of the grant ended in 2008, the Ning network he created lives on – and is thriving. In addition, in spite of the bleak industry outlook, the numbers for Journalism programs across the US proffer a glimmer of hope – they’re on the rise.
Are these monumental steps that will swoop in and save the anemic newspaper industry? No. They do, however, represent positive movement in a necessary evolution – an evolution that will no doubt lead to a new kind of newspaper for a new kind of audience.
As for me and my newspaper thief – the problem has been resolved. No, I haven’t found the culprit (though I did narrow down the potential suspects to one of eight residents in my building). Instead, my newspaper delivery man has adapted. Rather than whizzing by my house and winging the paper out of the open window of his car, this fine fellow stops his car, and physically hides the paper for me every morning.
Besides the guarantee that this great service will keep me as a subscriber, you can be sure I’ll be giving him a nice present for the holidays.