Social Media: Not ready for reality. Or vice verse?

  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 19, 2014 8:16 PM GMT
    We've read in the news about how "twitter" and the like are used to coordinate civil protests and "bloodless revolutions." No wonder they seem to fail...

    I recently experienced how "social media" works - or doesn't work - in a civil emergency. We had a fairly serious forest fire here, during the last couple of weeks. One weird thing about these big fires, in this day and age, the people on the ground, in the path of the fire, have no way of knowing what is going on. The official system is that the fire boss uploads a daily report to a national website once a day. If he has time. http://inciweb.nwcg.gov News outlets may or may not file a story based on this info, or an evening press conference. Meanwhile, a pine tree goes up and people for miles around see a huge plume of black smoke headed their way and don't know whether to set hose, or grab their ass and run, or relax and have a beer. The fire stretches for miles over rough terrain, so no one person can see what all is going on. If the wind whips up at the wrong time, those fires can (and do) turn into a wall of fire that moves faster than you can run.

    The last time we had a bad fire, several years ago, I accidentally discovered that one could get some real-time information on "twitter." People on different sides of the fire would snap pictures and post updates during the day.

    This time, the fire officials chose to use "Twitter" and "Facebook" to communicate with the public from the beginning. That worked for about six hours. You could "follow" the fire boss and the Sheriff's office, and get sporadic updates and evacuation notices. People uploaded a few pics of the fire from their viewpoint. But to get real-time information you had to follow the #search for the fire.

    So, it turns out that twitter has some sort of algorithm that determines whose posts actually show up in the search. They won't say just what it is, but basically if "celebrities" come on line, everybody else gets kicked out. I suppose it keeps down the noise from the tin-foil hat crowd. But it also eliminates normal people who happen to have something important to say.

    As soon as the TV reporters from Portland stations (celebrities!) started tweeting, the Fire Boss and the Sheriff got kicked out of the feed. The only way that lowly "commoners" could get anything posted was by sending pics to one of the "celebrities," who could then choose to "re-tweet" them, if they were pretty enough. Worse, the bubble-head TV reporters often didn't know what town they were in, and didn't know east from west. They would usually "re-tweet" posts from the Sheriff or the Fire Boss, but it wasn't always the same official posting evacuation notices every time.

    Pretty soon, the feed became saturated with "re-tweets" of the reporters tweets, apparently from TV station employees and other whores, trying to pump-up their tweet counts. The biggest problem with this was that there is no time stamp on these things, and they were reposting status messages that were days old, or had the directions wrong. Including evacuation and all-clear notices that were dangerously out of date.

    The same sort of thing was gong on with "Facebook" updates, but there was considerably less activity there... not really real-time info.

    These things seem to fail as a source of public information. As it is now, it's just a platform for the celebrity-whores with about equal parts mis-information and pretty pictures. I suppose that if you had a trusted ring of mutual followers pre-arranged, they might be useful within a closed network. But that seems like too much effort. I have no interest in even looking at it, unless there is something important going on.

    It all seems too cheap and flakey to take seriously.

    I would like to hear if someone has had a better experience than this.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 19, 2014 8:19 PM GMT
    It is not ready because of the lack of editorial judgement. This is why what is old is new again in that people will recognize the value of it.
  • jaroslav123

    Posts: 600

    Aug 19, 2014 8:21 PM GMT
    It works and it doesn't work in equal measure.

    Like most things it has positives and negatives.

    The main problem with e-Revolutions/e-Protests is that a substantial amount of people who don't understand the nuance of most political issues tweet and join in, so you get misinformation, confusion and bad ideas getting praised.

    However there are some good uses of the internet to make political statements:

    1) WikiLeaks. This is undeniable - whether you agree with their methods or not or what they were protesting against, you have to admit they were damned effective. Julian Assange has brought a shitstorm around the world, and made us seriously contemplate the motives and actions of our leaders.
    2) Anonymous. Whilst diabolically awful in certain areas - they have DDOSed various websites. A method which you may disagree with due to free-speech ideas, but nonetheless is certainly effective. They also helped significantly in the Arab Spring.

    Revolutions are difficult, so whilst you might say e-Protest "doesn't work", a substantial amount of protesting in most cases is ignored anyway: this is the most inherently annoying thing in left-wing politics. Uni-fee protests, Iraq war protests, Trident protests - the list is endless: sometimes leaders will ignore protests as they are so firm in their ideological positions and actions that they will maintain them and ignore the masses.
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    Aug 19, 2014 8:37 PM GMT
    The nugget of my argument is lost in the text above: Unless you go to the trouble of becoming a tweet-whore, and playing their little commercial games for months or years, your posts will not appear on-line. And given that, what is the likelihood that such a person would have anything useful to say on a specific topic?
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    Aug 19, 2014 10:02 PM GMT
    I've never used twitter so apologies in advance if this is a stupid question.

    If someone sets up a twitter account for only public, emergency, etc. announcements and you subscribe to that, won't that give you just what you need without the crap from the twitterati?

    If so, then the state could have a web page that lists by county the various twitter accounts that you might want to follow.
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    Aug 19, 2014 10:05 PM GMT
    Re-reading your post, it seems to me that the crux of the problem is your statement, "But to get real-time information you had to follow the #search for the fire."

    If the public officials aren't keeping things updated in a timely fashion it's really their fault.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 19, 2014 10:21 PM GMT
    Yes, but in that case, why not just go to the official web page? What purpose would "social media" serve?
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    Aug 19, 2014 11:13 PM GMT
    mindgarden saidYes, but in that case, why not just go to the official web page? What purpose would "social media" serve?

    It's the latest fad; they want to be seen as doing the Right Thing and are afraid of being left behind in case it really is the Right Thing. It's how managers think.
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    Aug 20, 2014 3:06 AM GMT
    Sounds like they need phone text emergency messaging, similar to what weather apps do for severe weather.
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    Aug 20, 2014 3:35 AM GMT
    mindgarden saidYes, but in that case, why not just go to the official web page? What purpose would "social media" serve?

    It takes time/effort to update a web page.

    And Lumpy is correct, all you really need to do is follow the official twitter account and their tweets show up in your feed.

    And you can go further, by adding that account to a special List so that you can filter out the other Twitter people you follow and only see those tweets.

    And you can go even further by adding a notification every time the official account sends out a tweet.

    But yeah, the hashtag search is flawed. It's great if you want to know what the Kardashians are eating for lunch. But other than that, what's "trending" on Twitter may not be relevant to your interests.

    Some public agencies don't understand that social is a fuckin full time job. Not only are you sending out official communications, but you also need to monitor the retweets, replies, and mentions. All those things might contain pertinent information and eye witness feedback that might be important to share.

    I think social is effective, as long as people know how to use it correctly.
  • ASHDOD

    Posts: 1057

    Aug 20, 2014 6:27 PM GMT
    Well, i don't know how it will work with a forest fire, but here in Israel we had a problem that not everyone could hear the sirens when the hamas fire rockets.

    so you download an app in your cell phone and so you get the notification in your phone [according to your location at that moment]
    also in all the big portals and online newspapers you get a notification by location.
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Aug 21, 2014 4:03 AM GMT
    The hashtag douchebaggery has got to stop, especially from Obama administration officials - and Michelle.

    #HashBrown #Selfie