Category Archives: social

A Very Pinteresting Place


Pinterest, described by its creators as a visual bookmarking utility, is the latest social community flavour to hit the block. Launched a mere 2-years ago this month, Pinterest aims to fill the growing niche for digital scrapbookers who crave something between 140-character Tweets and traditional long-form blog posts.

Curiosity has risen steadily (in the shape of a hockey stick) with a reported 11.7 million unique monthly visitors in January 2012 alone, up from 418,000 unique visitors in May 2011 —a staggering 2702.2% increase in unique visitor traffic during a relatively short 8-month period.

A Site For Lululemon Athletica Toting Soccer Moms?
Pinterest’s user demographics are also quite interesting: currently 68.2% of visitors are women; 27.4% of which are between the ages of 25 and 34; 50% of users have children; 28% have an annual household income of $100k or more.

The endlessly scrolling pages are filled with beautifully curated photographs: dinner
entrées, desert recipes, pricey shoes, the latest Coach handbags and more. A special “gifts” drop-down menu allows you to browse products at various price points (retail prices are pinned to the corner of images), perfect for weddings and birthday parties.

Oh, and if you want conclusive proof of Pinterest’s female-centric audience base try searching for, say, Keith Urban, arguably the quintessential male heartthrob for the 25 to 34 set and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

The Globe And Mail’s culture columnist Russell Smith recently called Pinterest, “a vast city of beautiful mutes” and went on to lament of the site’s somewhat underwhelming “repin” functionality,

“…some people immediately repinned some of my images. Great! And that’s it. That’s all that happens. I did not feel the satisfaction that I am guessing I am supposed to. I didn’t really feel that I was involved with communication. Maybe I am just too verbal.

Actually, most posts on Pinterest are “repins” – that is, they are taken from someone else on Pinterest. So there are communication and community at work. I’m sure the motivations of the posters are genuinely generous desires to share ideas for how to make a prettier world. But there is also of course ego and competition.”

The “repins” incidentally are similar in function to Tumblr’s “reblog” feature, which make it incredibly easy to share (that is, repurpose) posts, but perhaps a tad difficult for Google’s search indexing algorithms.

Pinterest may very well be the place for the gluten-free-diet-preaching-Lululemon-wearing soccer moms and diehard Keith Urban fans, but also for anyone else looking for creative inspiration and fun. In fact it’s the perfect destination for that 15-minute mid-afternoon attention-deficit satisfying snack, in between Facebooking, texting, or whatever else it is that turns your social media crank.

Reading Between The Tweets

During its infancy Twitter was widely regarded as an obscure digital community for social media geeks and early technology adopters intent on sharing personal musings, self-indulgent daily affirmations and random brain farts. Undoubtedly the informal chatter is still a prevalent force, but Twitter has now entered into the realm of political influence and top breaking news.

The latter was demonstrated by the sudden news of Whitney Houston’s death on February 11th via Tweets surfacing almost a full 1/2 hour before the mainstream press began picking up the story. While not exactly a new phenomenon this (yet again) illustrates the incredible speed with which events unfold on Twitter, aided in part by the proliferation of smartphones connected to the Net and the growing number of Twitter users with hyper-active thumbs.
On another level, the question that is perhaps vexing editorial directors throughout the media world: has Twitter, and to a larger extent social media, finally supplanted television, radio, and print media as the dominant conduit for breaking news and information?

Twitter has become so fast and effective a means for breaking stories, the BBC and Sky News have reportedly implemented a policy mandating their journalists release news details internally first. That is, file copy among colleagues before venturing onto Twitter.
Established news outlets are clearly looking to cement their place among the micro-blogging communities. Twitter has caused some journalists to adopt a Tweet first, ask questions and write a thoughtful well researched piece later. Though others, like John Plunkett of the Guardian UK, are beginning to question this trend:

Is it right, for instance, to break news on Twitter before it reaches any broadcast outlets?

We are all feeling our way forward through the fog of this new media landscape. The social media revolution is changing power structures in newsrooms, allowing young journalists who understand this new world – and a few older ones – to build reputations independent of their own organisations.

Some would like to turn the clock back to a simpler time, when all power resided in the newsdesk, only star reporters got a byline, and sharing information with outsiders before the presses rolled or the bulletin began was a sacking offence.

But it is almost certainly too late for that.

A popular argument among social media proponents is that Twitter and modern blogging platforms highlight some glaring inefficiencies of the pre-digital age of news gathering. Namely that it was a slow and cumbersome system that relied on a few isolated channels of communication. Now these old analog channels of distribution must adapt to a culture of immediacy where the über-connected sect crave—and now expect—headline news as it happens, not at 6, 9 or 11pm in compartmentalized chunks.

A dramatization of this scenario plays out as an interesting subplot in the film Contagion. Jude Law’s character Alan Krumwiede, a journalist and renegade blogger, encounters opposition in the form of editorial barriers by his superiors as he attempts to break news of a deadly virus outbreak. In citing YouTube material, his television editor casts a shadow of doubt on the authenticity of the footage, thus forcing Krumwiede’s hand into leaking the story on his blog (and presumably onto his public Twitter account).
Here the implied dubiousness of the YouTube footage in the film is symbolic of digital media’s lack of maturity and acceptance as a credible source of information. In the same way, vaguely reminiscent of a university professor’s weariness of accepting Wikipedia citations as part of an essay submission.
In another scene Krumwiede approaches Dr. Ian Sussman, a virus vaccine researcher played by Elliot Gould, who learns of Krumwiede’s theories but quickly dismisses him (and his rogue ideas): “…you’re not a writer. Blogging is not writing. It’s just graffiti with punctuation”.

Aside from Twitter’s inherent spontaneity, some of which may be interpreted as graffiti, is this idea social media is unfettered by the existing layers of hierarchy and publishing protocols rigorously followed by conventional news agencies. Whether this is advantageous long term to fostering cohesively-minded news organizations producing high quality material or bands of free-wheeling renegade journalists spewing half-baked noise is debatable.
In any case, the raw unfiltered nature of Twitter and other social communities can be both alluring and a daunting proposition for mainstream news outlets. Senior editors must invariably balance timeliness of reports with quality and accuracy of the information being presented.

Whether it’s the reputation of an individual or the identity of an entire news organization at stake, Twitter has, at least for the time being, become part of the news media mainstream.

Twitter is fast—really fast—as demonstrated in the case of Whitney Houston’s death, but also a magnet for misinformation and graffiti (with punctuation). Case in point: RIP Chris Brown Death Hoax Trends on Twitter After Whitney Houston’s Death.

It’s naive to assume everything we read on Twitter is factual. The Chris Brown RIP hoax, also: Tiger Woods, Madonna, Cher, Jackie Chan, and Soulja Boy hoaxes only continue to illustrate Twitter’s fallibility as a credible source for news and information.

The Twitterverse: More Than Meets The Eye

It’s not hard to find people out there who feel compelled to ridicule Twitter.

Oh, that’s ok. Twitter isn’t for everyone. Great conversations sometimes appear in #disguise.

As far as social networks go Twitter is curiously one of the most misunderstood slices of popular Web culture. Twittering is for Tweeps —I mean, Tweeting is for Twits. Umm.. no, Tweeps are good, Twits are trivial —so we’re told.
I’ve met loads of people over the past few years who simply don’t “get it” or feel Tweeting is nothing more than a colossal waste of time.

Just witness this eloquent thrashing by Jim Schembri, pop-culture columnist for Australian newspaper, The Age:

The Twitterverse, in my view, is largely populated by idle minds seeking to engage in banal, repetitive discourse and revel in the cheap thrills derived from being crude, vulgar, ignorant and abusive.

Ouch! Ahh yes, but therein lies the charm! I wonder what Schembri, who goes by the cryptic Twitter handle @jimschembri incidentally, would think of the creative monstrosity that is Tumblr? No —don’t even think of perusing this or critiquing this. Leave the quirky left-field tangent memes to the creatively enlightened.

But imagine my surprise reading last Friday’s Globe & Mail, their resident technology expert questioning, “If Ashton [Kutcher] leaves, what will keep us on Twitter?” Oh, I almost burst out in spontaneous laughter —come on!! As though following @aplusk and other celebs keeps us all on Twitter. Yeah.

Amber MacArthur goes on to say, and I quote, third-party Twitter tools are the only thing keeping her on Twitter by making the non-stop stream of information somewhat manageable.

I find this statement perplexing, and funny. Why do so many of us, including the social media pundits, take Twitter so seriously? For all the non-stop streaming, crudely vulgar and ignorant content, there are equally engaging conversations to be had and quality bits to be shared. I’d say Twitter is a very real slice of life —unfiltered and usually quite raw. Take it or leave it. Yes, there’s a lot of crap as Amber Mac laments, but Twitter is also chalk full of informative, intelligent and funny feeds, if you know where to go looking. While some of us see the intrinsic value, others vehemently dismiss the Twitterverse as a forum for idiotic psychobabble. Participation isn’t mandatory, in any case, but for God’s sake, use lists or suffer the consequences of feed-fatigue!