MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Online technologies:The good with the bad- we gonna work it out

It seems June has been a busy month all around. has yet to post any new content for this month. So, in following a common trend, I went through some old contributions and found something that peaked my interest, and hopefully it will yours as well.


Back in April, Papryus blogger Sonja Lind commented on how discussions around online technologies seem to focus on the negative and what’s bad about electronic mediums. She referenced cyberbullying and the loss of human connection. Likewise, we, as a class, have also discussed whether or not the internet is making people antisocial or allowing individuals to hide behind their online persona. Lind acknowledges that these are valid arguments, but counters her statement with a link to a good news story about how an American teenager was able to save a British teenager’s life through the use of Facebook. Supposedly, the British male send a private message to American girl saying that he was going to hurt himself. The girl, not knowing his address, told her mother, who then called local authorities. The police called in a “special agent” from the British Embassy who then narrowed down the suicidal teens location. He was found after four attempts, haven already taken an overdose, but still conscious. 


This is truly an inspirational story.  It not only shows the power, reach and good qualities of such social media tools, but also reiterates some of the points Kim raised in her post “iTube, weTube, we all scream for YouTube,” specifically, that the internet does have a heart, compassion and humility.


It is so easy to disregard the fact that an actual living, breathing, feeling human beings on the other end of your electronic exchange. Computer generated messaging have become quite common and users have become pretty skilled at filtering out a lot of targeted messaging. Don’t get me wrong, this is a necessary skill to have to avoid information overload and media bombardment. Nonetheless, I think this article emphasizes the overlap between online and offline and the impact these relationships can have. In this case, it saved a young males life. Had the teenage girl dismissed the message, he might not be alive today. I think it also highlights the importance of good blogger etiquette and treating people with dignity and respect despite lacking the face to face exchange. As common sense as it may sound, we must not forget that behind these technologies are someone’s sons and daughters, real people with real problems, who just might need a virtual shoulder to cry on. 


I’d like to leave you all with a song I’m totally obsessed with lately, musical preferences aside, I think we can all appreciate the message: let love prevail. 🙂




June 14, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , | 3 Comments

the great divide…

Today in class we touched on something again that we’ve talked about a lot – the great divide between the generations and their social media usage. I think it was Dee who mentioned that her group was finding it difficult to engage two generations of PR practitioners, and DeNel countered that by saying that there are a lot of ‘older’ people using these tools and there’s just the perception that they’re not.

My thoughts on this are that social media usage has become just one of those things that people have preconceived perceptions about, that may not even be true. Another example of this (which has been discussed in our PR & Gender class) is the idea of ‘bra burning feminists.’ In reality no one ever burned bras; it just became this idea that was naturalized into the history of feminism.

How does this relate to social media usage across generations? Well, I feel like the idea that older generations are not accepting of social media has transferred from just an ‘idea’ to people’s attitudes and expectations. Maybe the reason people are so hesitant to accept social media is because they are expected not to. In the same way that I feel I HAVE to understand it because of my age…

Does this make sense?

Thoughts, ideas, suggestions??

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , , , | 2 Comments

Tips for Social Media Success

This week I listened to The Dean’s Podcast (episode 6) about the use of social media in graduate recruitment. This was especially relevant because not only was I directed to it by Denel, but it relates to the topic of my communication plan for this class (MSVU’s MPR program).

The podcast features an interview with Noreen Golfman, Dean of Graduate Studies at Memorial University. The podcast is hosted by Carolyn Watters, Dean of Graduate Studies at Dalhousie. It’s a really interesting and relevant topic and I encourage you guys to check it out if you haven’t already.

Through the use of their new social media campaign, MUN increased the visitors to their site from 5000 to 38, 000 in the first 24 hours of its launch. Golfman offers a lot of advice about using social media for this target market, but her advice could be applied to anyone’s social media communication plan. Highlights include:

• Don’t just update your website – All of your online tools need to have a connection to each other and have the same main focus. There needs to be coherence among every link.

 • Make sure that everything is easy to navigate – Graduate students are “shopping” online for different programs so make sure that all information is available and accessible.

 • Stay on top of it – Keep everything up to date and current at all times.

 Hope some of this is helpful!

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | | Leave a comment

“Live the change you wish to see”

This week on PR 2.O, Brian Solis posted a paper he wrote about the impact of social media on PR practise as we know it: The State of PR, Marketing and Communications: You are the Future.

Though lengthy, this is a paper that is more than worth reading – its relevance to our futures in public relations can’t be argued.

The paper examines public relations in its current state,  including all of its shortcomings, malpractices and all of the stereotypes it has inherited over the years. Solis sums this up when he says (and please note I’ve bolded certain parts for impact):

Just ask any executive what comes to mind when you say “PR” and note the common misperception shared by many decision makers. The brutally honest responses, whether you agree or not, will represent more than we’d care to know or acknowledge. The assessments and responses will most likely span from “publicist” to “networker” to “press release” to some fallaciously degrading and sexist stereotypes of what PR people are, how they act, and what they look like. You’ll also summon war stories and bad experiences with PR people and agencies that unfortunately continue to reinforce the current state of PR crisis for the PR industry in general.

Social media offers our profession an opportunity to move away from malpractise and misconception, and a move toward transparency and genuine two-way communication… but this is easier said than done. To quote Solis again, “As long as PR agencies and consultants are profitable as is, why would they reinvent themselves?”

I witnessed this firsthand at my last work term at Harbinger, a successful PR/integrated marketing agency that handles clients such as Unilever (Dove, AXE, Hellmann’s, Breyers, Ben & Jerry’s) and Corby (Absolut, Malibu, Havana Club, Beefeater). During my term, the company did an offsite to a social media presentation. During the question period that followed the presentation, it was apparent that my colleagues were not entirely convinced – about whether or not companies would adopt this new vision, how we, as agencies, could quantify our results without traditional media impressions, etc, and why we should make the switch in the first place when most of our tranditional campaigns were perceived as “successful.” For many of my colleagues, who have made very successful careers (and large paycheques) from becoming “experts” at traditional PR, the resistance was especially noticeable.

We, as aspiring PR practitioners on the cusp of graduation with previous field-related experience, find ourselves in an interesting situation – a kind of crossroads, if you will, between the old and the new. In Solis’ paper, he discusses the idea that PR is a dying profession… and perhaps it is. Perhaps the “traditional” PR (which according to Solis has meant, “relying on hyperbole and jargon filled press releases for coverage, spamming targets with irrelevant information, maintaining a superficial and shallow knowledge of the products and industries we represent, and maintaining distant and removed relations with those we wish to cover our stories“) will die as our predecessors retire. This means we are faced with a choice: between ahering to traditional practices, or embracing the unknown and starting to make the shift now.This course has made me feel as though, already, I’m behind when it comes to social media, and in fact has been a bit of a wake up call. It has forced me to think critically about what my career in public relations will hold, and has made me personally accountable to my role in my own development as a professional.

 I think through social media, we are being given a chance to renew the face of public relations. I feel as though we will be able to put so many of the “best practises” that we learn in school to use (ie: ethics, two-way communication, transparency) with the transfer of power that is occuring as more of the public’s voice is being heard through new channels. I feel like it’s beginning to sound cliche, but perhaps we will see the “public” put back in “public relations.”

I find this invigorating, and maybe it’s just because I’m in the bubble that is this class, but I truly feel motivated to be part of this change in our profession. It may be challenging, but I think ultimately it will be worthwhile and rewarding – for any of you that were in Wade Kenney’s Ethics class, I feel like this shift to transparency, honesty and genuine communication will make the pursuit of “eudaimon” that much more attainable.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

Kids These Days…

Yesterday’s class was very informative and interesting, both guest speakers were very intelligent and knowledgeable  and it made me really appreciate my decision to take this Social Media Seminar as my elective!

Rob MacCormick brought up a really good point that stuck with me. He said that  kids today are not even questioning technology, they are just going along with it.  They seem to be unphased with the amazing advances in technologies and have almost come to expect it. I never thought of it before, but HOW true is that!? It’s kind of scary to think about.

Growing up, I only really started using a computer when I was in grade 7. I can still remember thinking how cool MSN was, and good ol’ ICQ. E-mailing my friends when they were away was the only way to stay in touch (for free), and I took advantage of that. I guess I wouldn’t say that I questioned these technologies, but I definitely thought they were amazing and felt very privledged to be able to use them.

Now I look at my 12 year old sister who has had facebook since she was in grade 5, used MSN all through elementary school and who got an iTouch AND a digital camera last Christmas (don’t get me started on how jealous I was…) now, she’s on the verge of getting a cell phone, and she’s not even in GRADE 8!

I feel that because she started using these technologies at such a young age, that’s the reason she is so unphased by them. When she got facebook in grade 5, she was too young to be able to even think critically about it, or to realize the amazing amount of intelligence that goes into creating each and every one of these technologies.

The same goes for children in Western Civilization today. These technologies are being introduced to them at such a young age that they don’t know to question what they are doing. They just go with the flow!

The question I’ve been struggling with is if in fact this is a good thing, or a bad thing? For me, it’s hard to say! I think technology today is amazing, and it’s great to teach our kids to embrace it and learn to use it at a young age. But I also think that we need to do a better job in letting our kids know the dangers involved, and how they shouldn’t be taking things like this for granted.

The generation of kids today are going to be some of the most technologically savvy people we’ve seen. I think this is a great and exciting thing! Is the development of children now going to include “computer skills training”? Which would come in right after potty training, and just before walking?

Think about it,


June 9, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | , | 1 Comment

Power to the people. I mean ALL people!

On the current edition of the Spark radio show/podcast/blog there are many interesting topics to explore. I’m really enjoying this exercise and finding myself constantly surprised by how many relevant issues are discussed on Spark.

This week Nora Young interviewed Ethan Zuckerman of Global Voices Online. Zuckerman mentioned that in 2006, Technorati reported that there were more blogs written in Japanese than in English. Zuckerman says that today English is actually a minority language on the net. There is a great need for translation so that more information can be shared. Global Voices serves as a social translation site, where people from all over the world can offer up translation services to make blog content available in multiple languages.

Social translation seems to be similar to the wiki concept—people who are bilingual or multilingual and who are willing to translate content in their free time are able to register on the site and begin translating. As Zuckerman points out, many times Google Translation and other websites don’t provide the best translation services. “Translation is about taking text and making it comprehensible”, not just word for word. Global Voices uses volunteer authors and part-time editors to create the site that emphasizes “voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media.”

On a larger scale, Global Voices aims to:

  • Call attention to the most interesting conversations and perspectives emerging from citizens’ media around the world by linking to text, photos, podcasts, video and other forms of grassroots citizens’ media.
  • Facilitate the emergence of new citizens’ voices through training, online tutorials, and publicizing the ways in which open-source and free tools can be used safely by people around the world to express themselves.
  • Advocate for freedom of expression around the world and protect the rights of citizen journalists to report on events and opinions without fear of censorship or persecution.

    Finally, another thought-provoking quote from the website:

    “At a time when international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens, Global Voices aims to redress some of the inequities in media attention by leveraging the power of citizens’ media.”

    Personally, I think this is a global step in the right direction! What do you think?

    P.S. If this whole social translation thing really grabbed your attention, I dare you to check out another really interesting site: TED -“Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world”.

June 7, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , | Leave a comment

Twitter and discovering psychic ability… SERIOUSLY!

As a follow-up to one of my last posts, I’ve decided to take plunge and make my very own Twitter account (click here to follow me!).

Listening to our guest speakers yesterday and participating in their Twitter activity made me think of Twitter in a whole new light. The whole idea of using “hash tags” to organize tweets and thus participate in discussions really piqued my interest.  I was aware that they existed, but seeing them used in practice with the Kermit Card example really opened my eyes. As a new speck in the “Twitterverse”, I’ve decided to approach this new technology as a learning tool.

When I logged in to our blog today, this thought was solidified for me by what came up on the home page: A link to Richard Wiseman’s blog, a blog that is helping conduct the first ever scientific Twitter experiment! (To follow this experiment on Twitter, click here)

According to Richard, “The experiment will examine the possible existence of ‘remote viewing’ – the alleged ability to psychically identify a distant location.” The entire experiment will be conducted over Twitter, using only Tweets to communicate. I’m sorry, but I just think this is SO COOL – I will totally be following this, and I highly recommend that all of you do, too. If this experiment is successful, it will provide researchers with a whole new way of conducting social and scientific experiments – we’re witnessing history in the making!

To reiterate, I now interpret Twitter as a fantastic learning tool.  Of course there’s a lot of (often useless) noise to avoid, but I think that by following the right people and being involved in the right conversations, there is a tremendous amount of value in such a technology.

June 2, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff | 1 Comment

I Bless the Cell Phone Coverage Down in Africa…

What do we rely on our cell phones for today? To text friends, to talk to family, to take pictures, to listen to music or to play games on when we’re bored. What if we relied on our cell phones for something more? What if cell phones were our only way of being supplied with money? What if without a cell phone, our family couldn’t afford to put food on the table or aquire clean water?

Unfortunately, this is a reality in many third world countries. Living in Western Society we don’t even think twice about how lucky we are to be able to walk down any street and go into a bank. We don’t think about how lucky we are to be able to use online banking, or to take $20 out of an ATM.  The use of mobile banking to people in third world countries is almosty a crucial part of their survival and well being.

Think about the husbands who have to travel miles away from their wives and children in order to find work. How will they get the money they earn back to their families? Certainly not by walking back home.

A recent podcast on SXSW spoke on this issue, which is something that I truly had never even thought about, but is obviously a huge problem for developping third world countries.

There are 2 billion unbanked people in the world today, and about 1 billion of those unbanked people have access to mobile. Third world countries have taken this information, and have become the most innovated countries in regards to expanding on mobile banking and mobile payments, Africa being the largest contributor.

With mobile payments, working spouses are able to make transfer payments to their spouse’s cell phones back home. A great example the podcast uses is if a husband is working in a mine far from home, he is able to transfer his received funds to his wife and kids.

This technology doesn’t stop there. Mobile phones in these countries are actually starting to take the place of currency. It’s safer to be carrying around a cell phone than a bunch of cash. Consumers are using these mobile transfers to pay merchants, and entrepreneurs are able to transfer funds to laborers who are, for example, building homes. Airtime is also taking the place of currency in these countries. People are trading cell phone minutes for goods and services, which shows how precious airtime over there really is.

A panelist from the podcast states that the GSM coverage in Africa outdoes the electricity coverage by a significant amount. This means that yes, maybe these third world countries aren’t as “up on the times” with social media tools a we are, but it’s because they simply don’t have the type of coverage that we do. They are however, doing the best they can with what they have.

I certainly wouldn’t know how to make a mobile payment or transfer. Maybe the folks in Africa can teach ME a thing or two?

I think Toto sums it up… “It’s gonna take some time to do the things we never have, oooh”


June 2, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , | 1 Comment

Top Secret Government Information? Not anymore…

This week on Spark, Dan Misener posted some interesting thoughts on open, accessible government data. A few days later, Spark radio host Nora Young interviewed Vancouver city councilor Andrea Reimer who is introducing the concept of open government data out on the West coast.

Upon Councilor Reimer’s recommendation, Vancouver City Council recently passed a motion to make its government data “open and accessible to everyone where possible, adopting open standards for that data and considering open source software when replacing existing applications.” So basically, they are going to make their existing and future information available online to anyone and everyone.

Councilor Reimer says that this move will “allow the city to improve transparency, cut costs and enable people to use the date to create new useful products, including commercial ones.” Obviously, the city must still respect security and privacy concerns when it comes to certain data, but for the most part, they will be freely sharing “the greatest amount of data possible”.

 A few other cities like Toronto, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco have started moving in the same direction. Just last week, the White House launched a website solely devoted to open government information. In my opinion, is a surprising move from the U.S. government. The purpose of the site is to “to increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government.” Not exactly the kind of openness I would expect from the government who has spent much of the past decade peering over its own shoulder to make sure there’s no one sneaking up from behind.

I find this new level of government transparency very intriguing. I think Councillor Reimer is correct in saying that this move will benefit the City of Vancouver; however, I also believe that with any new initiative there are new problems to face and challenges to overcome. This will be an interesting story to follow!

What do you think?

June 1, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | Leave a comment

Exclaiming (!!!) the variety of Spark

This week on Spark there were many topics to explore. Although I couldn’t help but read or listen to everything, for sanity’s sake I will give you only the ‘Reader’s Digest’ version. Here are two interesting tidbits:

-An interview with Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl about all things grammatical. She talks a lot about the overuse of exclamation marks in email writing.
Do you think we’ve taken advantage of the exclamation mark?  Is it unprofessional to use multiple exclamation marks in an email? What about emoticons? I think this is a relevant discussion for PR practitioners.  Please, do tell!!!!!! (grammatical pun intended)

-Spark conducted somewhat of an online experiment in partnership with a website called

Allison Buchan-Terrell writes, “Have you ever been embroiled in a fight you just can’t resolve? You’ve talked to everyone you know about it, but you can’t seem to find an impartial ear. Why not trust the blind wisdom of the online masses to solve your dispute and get a crowdsourced resolution.” allows people to make anonymous postings defending one side of an argument and then the ‘crowd’ gets to decide who the winner is. This is an interesting concept. I’d like to know if Sidetaker actually helps end arguments, or if it just becomes the root cause of many more arguments.

May 25, 2009 Posted by | Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | 2 Comments