MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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Get Up, Stand Up: Stand up for Your Rights!

Online privacy issues have dominated the news both nationally and internationally for the past few weeks. Coverage has ranged from Bill IP21C (Way to represent Matt!) to Iran’s chokehold on civilian Internet access. Since hasn’t updated since May 24 (Seriously, guys, get with it!), I’ve decided to blog about what these issues mean for us as users. I’ve also thrown a light article in to the mix to help validate a few of my points.

So, as the story goes, the city of Bozeman, Mont., has invoked a human resources requirement that has job applicants forking over tons of personal information. The requirements include, but are not limited to, “…any and all, current personal or business websites, web pages or memberships on any Internet-based chat rooms, social clubs or forums, to include, but not limited to: Facebook, Google, Yahoo,, MySpace, etc.” The etc. here includes email passwords by the way!

Bozeman Attorney Greg Sullivan defended the requirements in the media, stating that a number of the positions (Police, Fire, lifeguards) require people of “high integrity.” So, they conduct these types of investigations to “make sure the people that we hire have the highest moral character and are a good fit for the city.”

While I admire the effort this city is going to ensure it has the finest town council possible, I feel that it’s a tad ludicrous. I mean, it’s a bit like allowing your employer to snoop around in your underwear drawer. Sure, the town would like upstanding citizens to serve the municipality, but where does it end in regards to background checks? It is really necessary to have access to personal email and websites? When did the disclaimer “this is not a reflection of XYZ organization“ expire? Did Bozeman miss the memo that grants civil liberties to ALL, and not just those outside of civil service?

For me, all of this dialogue around state officials demanding personal information and pushing bills that allow authorities to take personal information from ISPs is a blatant violation of the constitutional amendment. Are we shifting toward a communist type approach to Internet governance? Are we moving toward a state-run-media like China?

Just Friday, it was reported in the New York Times that the Chinese government had ordered Google to take down its Google Suggest application because it gave search results with “suggestive implications.” Alike their Iranian counterparts, Chinese computer users are also outraged by such government censorship. What’s more, the Chinese government has also announced plans to “force computer makers to install Internet censorship software on all computers sold in China after July 1.”

Again, I get that there are good intentions behind these outlandish requests, such as limiting pornography, but aren’t adults capable of making their own choices as to what they should or should not view?

My dear colleagues, it seems that sadly, our privacy is being threatened, and that the line between being secure and being invaded is incredibly blurred. My hope is that our friends in Iran and China continue to fight for their online rights, and that we Canadians blogg and tweet like nobodies business to have our online voice heard- we will NOT be silenced!

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If Social Media Were a Small Town That Nosey Old Lady Down the Street Would be Facebook

This week on Managing the Gray my eyes were shocked to behold a brand new podcast by our pal (you’ll be meeting him via Skype tomorrow) C.C. Chapman. As always, the podcast impressed. One topic that stood out the most for me was a presentation he did called Social Media is a Small Town.

Being from a small town in Newfoundland, I could totally relate to what he was getting at with this presentation. He says, there is often a small town mentality associated with social media. To me, that means it’s all about generating a conversation or dialogue with your publics. In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business. If you want to know what movie to rent you will ask your neighbour. Growing up in a small town can often be cumbersome especially if you are a private person; but, if you’re into social media you want people to know your business! (or at least want to know other people’s business)

Chapman says growing up in a small town has helped him excel in this world of blogging and podcasts and social marketing. I would have to agree with him there. Small towns teach how to spread information whether you want to share or not. I guess it all comes down to transparency. In a small town, the flow information is often inescapable. If you are to be successful in the social media world you need to realize that information must be truthful and passed along the right channels and to the right people.  In every small town there is the one nosey lady down the street who knows everything and shares it with everyone she speaks with. In our social media world she would Facebook or Twitter. Tell her a secret and within seconds all of your friends will know.

So, who agrees? Who in the class is from a small town and can see how this has helped them with social media? Or conversely has it hindered you? Let me know!

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , | 3 Comments

Did I break up with the love of my life for the cheap thrill of a fling?


So this week on The Hobson and Holtz Report they covered a study done by Harvard University about the usage of Twitter.  This seemed relevant given last weeks class and the seemingly consented opinion that no one knew what to think of Twitter and whether to jump on that band wagon like it was the new facebook or not.  Apparently though, we’re not the only ones having a hard time deciding about our romantic feelings toward this relatively new social media sensation.  According to the study Twitter’s major content is generated by a small and loyal user base.  Okay, so perhaps that’s an understatement, the reality of it is that 90% of Twitter’s content is generated by…guess…are you ready for this? Only 10% of their users.  That means that if there were 100 people signed up for Twitter and 100 tweets, 10 people would have generated 90 of them while the other 90 people split the other 10 between them. Alright, so I’m not trying to insult your intelligence with that grade 1 math lesson, but when I finally realized that and the implications that holds for Twitter, especially if they do start charging for use as we discussed in class, it absolutely blew my mind. I mean, after our Kermit Card Twitter experiment I was absolutely positive that this was a boat I was missing and I should try to catch up.  But after hearing about this study, I realized that maybe it’s not as effective a tool as I’d originally thought. Maybe more people have only luke warm feelings towards Twitter like we do than I realized.

On the report they questioned whether Twitter was actually about engagement or if it was really just a broadcasting platform that could be used as a marketing/communications tool.  My thoughts: how could it really be an effective marketing/communications tool if everyone is signing up but no one is using it? Honestly though, if you think you’re reaching a million people but really you’re only reaching 100,000, that may seem like a lot but you’re also missing out on ways to engage the 900,000 you’re not actually communicating with. How effective is that really?  Not that I’m ready to break up with Twitter and lie that I just want to be friends instead of a passionately engaged companion, but this report really added to my confusion. Maybe I should have just stuck with my first long term relationship with Facebook before abandoning it for a younger lover.

What do you think?  Did I break up with the love of my life for the cheap thrill of a fling?

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here, there and everywhere

It’s fascinating to see how social media, viral marketing and on-line technologies are becoming prevalent in almost all of the PR courses I’m taking this semester. Whether it’s media relations, employee relations or our co-op placements, these electronic tools are becoming a huge part of how we conduct business as communicators.

Last week, in my media relations class we had a student YouTube day, where every student had the opportunity to teach the rest of the class something. I chose to speak about how bloggers influence mainstream media using a video featuring Bad Pitch Blog co-founder Kevin Dugan. Dugan had many interesting points, including how bloggers are becoming official sources and experts as they, unlike the journalists of today, have the time to focus on one beat at a time. He also discussed how bloggers are changing the news curve by extending the traditional peaks or breaking news to include pre and post-analysis of media coverage. It’s amazing to see how the blogosphere is broadening how we define official sources and conduct media relations! Likewise, it’s exciting to think to about how we can use this knowledge to help organizations conduct accurate media monitoring and extend its brand visibility and audience reach. 

Last week, I secured my final co-op with Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). One of the reasons I applied for this position was because it offered the opportunity to use many of the tools I’m currently learning about in this course (wikis, blogs, video and other multimedia). I was pleased to learn that NRCan has its own version of YouTube called NRTube and has an internal wiki that they say gives wings to employee ideas. Furthermore, I was informed that Facebook and other SMS are not blocked from the server and that employees are encouraged to use the tools they deem necessary to achieve their communications goals. I’m so excited to be able to hone the skills I’m learning this semester in, what I see as, a progressive national institution. Having the ability to choose the best medium to reach your audience, as opposed to being limited to traditional communications tools allows for more effective strategies and targeted audience reach. It was also refreshing to hear my new employers say that just because these tools are available to employees doesn’t mean they’re always the most appropriate vehicles. We are all learning that there is no point in using these tools just for the sake of doing so. The message must lend itself, we must have interesting video and material that is relevant to the target audience. 

One of the most important things I have learned about blogger relations and increasing your online presence is to remain relevant. I know I have so much more to learn about social media, but I am thrilled with the foundation this course has provided. I can already see how the knowledge I’ve gained is starting to transpire in other courses and how it will allow me to remain relevant to future employers. 

Muchas gracias Dr. D!

June 14, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material, Really Relevant Interesting Stuff, Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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

Social Media Insurance?

Hot on the heels of Hilary’s latest post – public openess on the internet has garnered much more interest than I would have imagined. As we’ve heard so may times, we are living in a world that changes exponentially, and the changes that we are seeing in regards to social media, throughout this class alone, have been astounding. In a recent post on PR Conversations, author Kristen E. Sukalac discusses how social media has really arrived, so much in fact that people are inquiring about social media insurance. 

Kristen points to a recent e-newsletter by the American Automobile Association (or CAA for us Canucks) where headlines were “do I have coverage for saying stupid things on facebook” and “is my coverage up to par for blogging activities.” Basically suggesting that people want insurance over what they say online in case someone tries to sue them. While these inquires almost shock me, it is a real reminder that the internet is not just its own world, but that the ‘real’ world is transitioning onto the web. 

As mentioned in the post, this insurance inquiry, also has to make you wonder how the content on social media will change. As social media becomes more mainstream will it loose some of its original transparency, maybe some of its clout, as people become more cautious?

How the world continues to shock and terrify me…

June 10, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , | 1 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

Eureka! My lightbulb moment

The required reading Social Networking Technology: Place and Identity in Mediated Communities really emphasized the overlap between on-line and off-line ‘communities,’ and the fact that the two are inextricably related. Honesty, before starting this course I viewed the two as completely different and separate worlds. This may sound like a very narrow minded way of looking at it, but I truly saw the on-line as merely a tool that I used to complete tasks relevant to my off-line, real life objectives and certainly not a ‘community’ that I was a part of. However, the qualitative analysis conducted on the exchanges between two, open access Myspace users made me reevaluate these sentiments. Specifically, Benedict Anderson’s original concept of ‘virtual togetherness’ is what made me realize that I am part of a ‘virtual community.’ Let me explain. I am a transfer student, studying away from my native province. I mainly utilize the SMS Facebook to stay connected with close friends and family back home. Despite our geographical distance, I absolutely feel a sense of belonging to these people, especially in relation to our pre established off-line relationship. They send me invites to events I am unable to attend and share photos of new happenings in their daily lives to keep us connected and maintain a ‘shared sense of togetherness’ as stated by Anderson. I now understand and support the hypothesis that new and unfolding forms of virtual communities are not stand alone or isolated from off-line communities. They are, as concluded in the reading, “delicately interwoven.” So, while I’m finally able to see the connection between on-line and off-line communities and reign in the abstract on-line, I still can’t help but wonder: 


Are SMS’s like Facebook a ”symbolic resource” for interpersonal communication, as the reading suggests, or evidence indicating that we’re reverting back to the traditional methods of communication?

May 31, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Bailey Inquiry: My Virtual Community

After our class with Jolene and the Goodings, Locke & Brown (GLB) reading on place and identity in social media communities, I got to thinking about my own ‘virtual identity’ and how it is indicative of my real life.

The GLB reading looks at a MySpace exchange and deconstructs the text and interprets the relationship, the inferences and makes an assessment of the participants’ identities. Jolene’s research methods on tracking exchanges on facebook took this to another level as it made me look at the way I myself use facebook.

SO like we did in class, I thought I would conduct a mini self-evaluation to examine the details of my facebook (number of friends) and interpret how representative it is of my ‘real’ life (RL).

 I started out with over 500 friends, which is ridiculous because I obviously don’t talk to that many people in RL and don’t need to share any of my information pictures with those people either. I then went through my list and started ‘weeding’ out all of the people I don’t talk to, don’t know etc. I realized that there was so many people that I didn’t know, couldn’t remember where/ why we met and honestly had no real value to my ‘community.’  So I asked myself how did I let it get this out of control?

I realized that it came from a variety of things:

  1. My inability to say no to people  (aka they add me as a friend and I accept);
  2. My need to feel included and that I belong (so I add people that other friends have to feel included); and
  3. My need to shall I say ‘hoard’’ for a lack of a better word (getting so many things, being cluttered and surrounded by stuff).

 Maybe I’m thinking to much into this or maybe I just feel the need to talk about myself (JK), but this exercise really got me to think about the idea of a virtual community, what kind of community environment I wanted and who I wanted to share it with. I realized that having all of these people was of no value to me, and that my identity and community would remain intact regardless or not if they were there.


Thoughts? Ideas? Haters?


Over and out.

May 27, 2009 Posted by | Comment on Course Material | , , , | 2 Comments