8
May
2011

Empire AvenueEmpire Avenue is yet another way of trying to measure just how influential someone is in the social media scene, but, as with all of its predecessors, it’s broken on launch.

I won’t lie, the link above to the new social media game Empire Avenue will earn me some credits in the game.  Just because I’m going to mock something doesn’t mean I don’t also participate in it.

Since the dawn of social media, people have been trying to figure out who is the most influential, who has the furthest “reach”, who has the most “klout” and so on.  The problem is that as soon as these services launch, someone figures out how to game them, or they give such a weighted value to well-known social media types that people lost interest because they know that their scores will never go up.  Lets face it, unless you are a blustery windbag (like some I won’t name), you’re never going to be considered a “network influencer” because you don’t cause enough drama.  And if you don’t think manufactured drama fuels the social media scene, then you should be thankful for being blissfully unaware.

Empire Avenue is at least up front about the fact it’s a game, and that’s part of the reason I’m enjoying it so much.  People are desperately running around trying to improve their “worth” on a fabricated stock exchange because they have some sort of delusion it will prove how valuable they are in the social media sphere.  While I am well aware I’m playing a game and know that my supposed “worth” isn’t even as valuable as the pixels that take to display it on my screen.

Lets take a look at my profile.

Empire Avenue Profile

In another day or so it should look even more “impressive” because I will have been on the service for five days and that’s when calculations for your activities on other sites kicks in.  For now, it’s a decent amount of “achievements” and so on, but can you spot the gaming?  Notice it says the my two blogs (SeanPAune.com and FunJug.com) have been endorsed ten times?  For a blog to help your score it needs to be endorsed five times, so how did I get my endorsements so quickly?  I went on the blogging community board and asked people I don’t know to endorse them, and I did the same for them.  Yep, really measures your influence, doesn’t it?

Seven people have bought shares in me thus far, a couple of them then left me messages asking me to do the same for them as the more investors you have, the higher your ranking on the site.

Once again, a site comes along to help you see who is the most influential in social media, and immediately people begin gaming it to get a higher score and make people think they are big names in the industry.  The thing I hate to break to these people is … no one is ever going to look at Empire Avenue as any sort of true metric.  It’s just not going to happen.

The other issue?  You will never get your average person to play this game because they just aren’t going to care about it.  A virtual stock exchange where you buy shares in people?  It’s absurd, involved and quite frankly, boring.  Do you think your average Facebook user is really going to care what their value is on a faux stock exchange?  No, they don’t.

While this game is all the rage right now in the social media scene, just like so many other things that have popped up over the past few years, it will fade into relative obscurity within a month or two.  The main reason is it does nothing useful.  Something like Twitter is useful, Empire Avenue is a time suck with no useful aspects that people will eventually figure out and move on to “the next great thing.”

You want to know the secret to knowing how influential you are in social media?  Just don’t care about it and use the tools that actually do you some good.  If extra people start following you, it’s just a nice byproduct.

30
Jun
2010

I think some of my brain cells exploded yesterday.

I think I have officially gone off the deep end when it comes to social media.  Working in the tech industry I am inundated with the stuff every single day, and the only way I can get through it without losing my sanity is by doing the Braindead Techcast with Steven Hodson every weekday evening.

See, I think Steven and I (along with Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins) realized long ago that the whole concept of “social media” is a sham.  This whole, “It’s about conversations!” line is just a whole lot of clap trap.  No, what it’s about is giving even more information to marketers and letting them find whole new ways to sell you things.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some value in it.  It’s an easy way to keep up with friends and family, to find out about interesting links you may have never stumbled across, but at the end of the day it is just a giant marketing tool, and we’re all playing along like good little lemmings.  I’m a part of it, I admit it, I belong to so many “social” sites that I have probably forgotten some of the one’s I’ve joined, but I also have no delusions of grandeur about being at the fore front of some wave of world change.  There have been moments where it has empowered people, such as last summer with the Iranian elections, but most of the time it is just a way to promote yourself, boast about how drunk you got or to share photos of your life that no one really cares about.

Then yesterday I think I had a minor aneurysm.  I saw a Tweet from a well-known social media “expert” who shall remain nameless because they simply don’t need any more ego boosting of their importance that said:

so interesting to see how many internet marketer types have 4000+ followers and a klout of 5. that’s what happens when you twitterfeed only

Now, I had heard of Klout, but I honestly hadn’t bothered to check it out because I simply didn’t care, but now my interest was up.  I went to their About page and … well, I’ll let it speak for itself:

Klout is the standard for influence. We believe that every individual who creates content has influence. Our goal is to accurately measure that influence and provide context around who a person influences and the specific topics they are most influential on.

Klout tracks the impact of your opinions, links and recommendations across your social graph. We collect data about the content you create, how people interact with that content and the size and composition of your network. From there, we analyze the data to find indicators of influence and then provide you with innovative tools to interact with and interpret the data.

The Klout Score is the influence metric. It measures overall influence through 25 variables broken into three categories; True Reach, Amplification Score and Network Score.

I’m sorry, “the standard”?  And who exactly figured this out for you?  Is there a new division of the National Institute of Standards and Technology that I am unaware of?  Have you been certified to be “the standard”?  Uh-huh, right.

And this, kind readers, is two of the main problems with social media: That people set them as experts and people just accept it, and that anyone would every really give two hoots what their “klout” is.

The first point is obvious.  Since the dawn of social media, people have been proclaiming themselves to be “experts” and “gurus” in the field, and I just laugh my rear end off at them.  This is still a field in its infancy, and it changes daily as to what is in and out.   Remember when we all had Digg buttons on our posts?  Funny, now they all say Twitter.  How’d getting to be a Digg “expert” work out for ya?  Still getting a lot of calls?

Klout saying they are “the standard” means just as much.  It immediately conveys a sense of importance and weight to their service that just simply doesn’t exist.

And that brings us to the second issue about anyone giving a hoot about this.  The above quoted Tweeter later said it was just a number and then went on some namby pamby commenting spree about its the quality of the conversations and so on.  Sorry, but you brought Klout up, you get stuck with it.  Why in the world are you looking up other people’s Klout numbers if they are “just a number”?  It means you put some importance on it, and I just don’t get that.

How about we just go back to using social media for what it’s best at?  Fun.  Who cares what my “reach” is?  Who cares how much “influence” I have?  Social media isn’t science, and I think we’re stripping out some of the core components of it by caring about such stuff.  I don’t ever want to see the day where I think twice before sending out a Tweet because it might damage my “influence”.

I’ll save you all the trouble since I know some smartass will go look it up, @seanpaune has a Klout of 30

21
Mar
2010

twitter_logoThe popular micro blogging service Twitter turned 4-years-old today.

A year ago today I documented the third birthday of Twitter by asking when it would finally start making money.  Now here we are a full year later on its fourth birthday … and it still isn’t clear how the company is going to make any money.

There has been a lot of talk about the service possibly starting business accounts which will have more tools at their disposal for the companies to follow the analytics of their account.  This has been discussed for ages now, and still nothing has come of it as of yet.

Possibly with the data it has open up to search engines via its “firehose” for search purposes?  We know that both Microsoft and Google paid them for the access, and while it’s believed to have been in the millions, but it doesn’t come even remotely close to making up the $160 million total the company has taken in venture capital thus far.

Some expected Ev Williams, one of the founders of the site, to announce a Twitter ad platform at the just completed SXSWi conference, but all he did was announce a new system for publishers for further content distribution.  Some think the announcement may come next month now at Twitter’s chirp conference for developers, but it looks like finally, after four years, there might some sort of plan for cash flow.

fail whale… I may faint.

The problem is that I want Twitter to succeed.  While I don’t think it is the be-all, end-all that some people out there do, I do think it is a highly useful tool.  I feel some people have blown out of proportion just how important Twitter is, and that they have convinced themselves that nothing more important has ever happened in the history of man, I just see it as an extremely useful tool.  It has broken down some communication barriers in this world, and I think that is  a great thing, but I don’t think the service has quite gotten to point of greatness some of its zealots would have you believe.

At its core Twitter is still but a tool, a tool with a lot of potential, but a tool nonetheless.  As my friend Steven Hodson has begun to be fond of saying, “Twitter is becoming part of the plumbing of the Internet, and plumbing doesn’t go away.”  I have to agree with him, Twitter is with us for a long time to come, it would just like to see them start making some money so we coul dbe sure of the fact that it was indeed going to stick around.

So, happy birthday, Twitter … now start making some money so that you can be here for at least a few more years.

Feel free to follow me at @seanpaune if you are so inclined.

16
Feb
2010

In this final installment of my impromptu series about using social media as a weapon, I have one simple question for the detractors: If we aren’t supposed to use it to express problems and concerns with companies, why do they have representatives that monitor the sites?

Prompted by the recent Kevin Smith/Southwest Air dust up (which Mr. Smith has now said he’s tired of it and moving on), I’ve now spent two days exploring why there are still people out there that think we should never use social media as a weapon against a company.  As I said yesterday, social media is a tool, and we should use it.  Why shouldn’t we use a tool that exists?  “Oh, I need to sink this nail, and I have a hammer, but I should use it, it wouldn’t be right.”  Forget that, I’m swinging that hammer!  (and probably going to smack my thumb with it)

As I told the tale yesterday of how I had a problem with a FedEx delivery last month, I turned to Twitter as a last resort.  I had exhausted the other avenues of what I could do, so I turned to social media, and sure enough, I got a response, literally within minutes.  The first came from one employee, and the next day was his day off, but another FedEx employee was on.  So not only was FedEx taking the possibility of complaints and customers needing assistance on Twitter seriously, they were taking it very seriously.

There obviously is a reason these people are charged with being on Twitter, and that is because the company fully expects customers to use it.  Yes, you could make a “chicken and the egg argument” (which came first. the FedEx employees or the complainers?), but any way you slice it, the situation exists.  And I know I keep bringing up FedEx, but that is because it is the only time I have used Twitter in such a manner, and, hey, it worked.

If companies are going to take these services seriously, and they are going to put resources into them, why shouldn’t we use them?  Are these people to sit there and twiddle their thumbs all day?  They’re there to do a job, to diffuse problems before they get too big, and I say more power to them.

For the first time in modern history, you have a direct path to complaining to a company that is done in public and they can be held accountable.  In the past you would write a letter of complaint and hope for a reply, which more than likely would never come.  If it did, you usually got some sort of coupon and a curt note.

You did have the option of a phone call sometimes, but those also never seemed to be effective.

Writing a blog about it?  You could never be sure that the right people would see it.

Social media seems to be the most direct method to speak with someone from a company with the power to help you, and they are there for that reason.  Reach out to them, stay civil, but do reach out to them, that’s what they are there for.

In closing, I still think what Mr. Smith did was right, and I don’t think it had anything to do with his having 1.6 million followers.  Southwest Air has two employees that monitor Twitter for issues, so they expect people to talk about them.  More and more companies are doing this, and I don’t care what the “social media purity squad” has to say about it, I for one am going to use it.

15
Feb
2010

When you can’t get a company to help you with a problem, why shouldn’t you use social media to goad them into finally doing something about your issue?

As I discussed yesterday, movie director Kevin Smith is locked in an all out war with Southwest Airlines over his being thrown off one of its planes over his weight.  You can listen to the whole sordid tale in episode #106 of Smodcast, and while its lengthy, and full of cursing, I highly recommend it to get a much fuller view of what exactly happened.

While it is easy to say, “Well, he has 1.6 million followers on Twitter, of course he got the attention of the company!”, I’m here to say you don’t need anywhere near that many followers to get something done.

In Jan. I was awaiting for a package to be delivered by FedEx Ground, and when the delivery date came, it was snowing, so I gave them a day’s leeway.  I figured it was forgivable, no problem.  When the next day passed without delivery, I tracked it and saw they said it was a weather delayed again.  Okay, fine, I’m willing to give them one more day.

The next day, now two days late, I tracked it in the afternoon and saw that it was again just driving around my town.  I called FedEx to discover what was going on and was informed that it might not make it.  I took to my Twitter account and posted:

#FedEx just sucks beyond all comprehension. Weather delay my behind

If you aren’t familiar with Twitter lingo, by adding the # symbol in front of a word makes it into a hashtag which makes it easier to search for and will alert people who watch for certain terms that a subject is being discussed.  It didn’t take long for me to be contacted by a FedEx employee who looked into it, and he wasn’t able to tell me much more than the national tracking, but he did call the local office which told him they would deliver if they could.

They didn’t.

The next day, the third day my package was driving around my town, I again called the national number and was told the usual excuses about weather, so I again took to my Twitter account and a different FedEx employee was on duty that day.  She went through the same steps with me and after exchanges both on Twitter and via e-mail, she called the local facility and told them that they had to deliver the package that day.

See, the problem with the weather delay excuse was that UPS, the postal service and the garbage truck were all making it to my property, but yet the local FedEx office was claiming my road was impassable.  After three days of this, the Twitter monitoring employees told them they had to deliver it to me that day, no more excuses.  The driver did finally show up, parked down the road, walked to my building, pounded on the door like he wanted to knock it down, left the box on the porch and stormed off before I could even get to the door.

Yes, I finally had my package, but I had to take my argument with the carrier public to accomplish it.  There are people who consider what I did “abusing Twitter”, and how I used “social media as a weapon.”  You know what?  I did, and I’ll do it every time I feel I have no other option.

Lets go down my options here:

  • I called the national service number, and all they would do for me is track the packages and nothing else.
  • I could not call the local service center directly because they do not give out those numbers.
  • I did not e-mail customer because they say it may take over 24 hours to respond, so what is the point?

I paid for this delivery, it was a gift for someone, and if UPS can make it down my road in their unstable delivery trucks, the small van the FedEx Ground guy drives can make it to me.  I even called the company I bought the item from to see if they could help me, but they were unable to get anything done from their end either.  I was out of options.

So I view Twitter and other social media sites as just another tool in the consumers toolbox to get things done.  There is nothing wrong with using a tool that is at your disposal, and guess what, it got something done.  Yes, the local driver was angry with me, but you know what?  I couldn’t care less.  Oh no, I asked him to do his job, the horrors of it!  I even offered the national number that I would meet the driver somewhere in town to get the package from them, and they refused to set that up.

In the third part of this series, I’ll touch on the subject of if we aren’t supposed to use this, why are they on the networks?

14
Feb
2010

In the age of social media, there have been many pundits that have said it shouldn’t be used as a “weapon”, but the question is: Why not?

Companies are putting customer service reps on to sites such as Twitter with increasing regularity due to users turning to that site more and more as a place to vent their frustrations with a company.  Last night service rep for Southwest Airlines got a definite work out as film writer and director Kevin Smith took his anger with the airline to the masses.

The creative mind behind such films as Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma and others was taking a flight from San Fransisco to Burbank on Southwest Airlines last night.  After he had put his luggage in the overhead bin, and been seated, he was informed that the Captain of the fight had decided that due to his extreme weight that he was a “safety risk” and had him removed from the flight.  As is the way in this day and age, Mr. Smith took to his Twitter account, and what followed was a slew of Tweets, the name for the messages on Twitter, from the director (language left intact for impact):

Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?

Dear @SouthwestAir, I flew out in one seat, but right after issuing me a standby ticket, Oakland Southwest attendant Suzanne (wouldn’t give

last name) told me Captain Leysath deemed me a “safety risk”. Again: I’m way fat… But I’m not THERE just yet. But if I am, why wait til my

bag is up, and I’m seated WITH ARM RESTS DOWN. In front of a packed plane with a bunch of folks who’d already I.d.ed me as “Silent Bob.”

So, @SouthwestAir, go fuck yourself. I broke no regulation, offered no “safety risk” (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I was

wrongly ejected from the flight (even Suzanne eventually agreed). And fuck your apologetic $100 voucher, @SouthwestAir. Thank God I don’t

embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training). But I don’t sulk off either: so everyday, some new fuck-you Tweets for @SouthwestAir.

Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SOUTHWESTAIR.

Via @byrneification “save the anger for SModcast” Believe it, Son. @SouthwestAir? You fucked with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!

(1/2) @pigz “I know several people bigger then u who have flown on other airlines” I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn’t

(2/2) about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I’m being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like “Please don’t tell…”

Dear @SouthwestAir, I’m on another one of your planes, safely seated & buckled-in again, waiting to be dragged off in front of the normies.

And, hey? @SouthwestAir? I didn’t even need a seat belt extender to buckle up. Somehow, that shit fit over my “safety concern”-creating gut.

Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off! http://twitpic.com/1340gw

Hey @SouthwestAir! I’ve landed in Burbank. Don’t worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.

This wasn’t even all of them, but I shared with you the most important ones to follow the story.

The Southwest employee charged with monitoring Twitter for the evening did reply to Mr. Smith on several occasions, and claimed that calls had been placed to him to try to make amends, but the damage was certainly done by that point to the airline’s reputation.

My question is why is this such a bad thing?  Mr. Smith was being wronged by the airline, publicly humiliated in front of a plane full of people, and he shouldn’t use the tools at his disposal to talk about it?  Mr. Smith has been very upfront about his weight in interviews and on his podcast, Smodcast, and if his weight was such an issue, why wasn’t anything said at the ticket counter?  At the gate?  Why was he let on another Southwest flight after being removed from the first?  He had a legitimate complaint to make, but I am sure the “social media purity police” will wag their fingers at Mr. Smith for sullying their Utopian society of social media tools as a weapon.

I have a dog in this fight as someone who used to need a seatbelt extension on airplanes, but that isn’t why I’m taking Mr. Smith’s side in this fight, and nor is it because I’m a fan of his work: it’s because companies and brands should be held accountable for their actions, and now the consumer has a way to do this.  In the old days you would write them a letter, you might get a voucher if you were lucky, but usually you would hear nothing of substance.  You’d tell your friends about it, and that would be it.  Mr. Smith has over 1.6 million followers on Twitter, and with just a 140 character message, he was able to tell all of them about the situation.He shouldn’t do this?  There is some sort of shame to this?

The shame is that people feel that you shouldn’t, and I plan to explore this more through out this week.

27
Nov
2009

cbpodcast

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven and I are at the Twitter discussion again tonight because MG over at TechCrunch wrote an article entitled This Is Why The Internet (And Twitter) Wins that made us both want to slam our heads into keyboards.  We spell the whole thing out for you, and, oh yeah, we discuss sex bots and e-readers … we are incapable of staying on one subject.

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

25
Nov
2009

cbpodcast

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven and I have a discussion tonight about … are you ready for it? … TWITTER!  I know, it is SO rare we discuss it, but it’s true.

Actually, tonight’s episode is based off of a really excellent post by Allen Stern over at CenterNetworks about how user unfriendly the Twitter Web interface.  Honestly, the article is almost shocking in how not in tune the technorati are with the common user’s experience, and Mr. Stern brilliantly dissects the problems with the interface.  Of course Steven and I use this as a launch pad for further discussion.  (links, as always, provided by Steven)

Welcome New Twitter User. Now Get Lost! – CenterNetworks

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

18
Nov
2009

cbpodcast

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven Hodson and I take on tonight’s duties and have a look at the idea of how social media could be used by people for evil.  Whether it be a serial killer to taunt their prey, or a group such as the Nazis to promote their agenda, social media could be the propaganda tool of the future for evil, but would we even realize it?  (links courtesy of Steven)

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

13
Nov
2009

Scattercast is 69 … and I am wearing old glasses.

- I lost a pair of glasses to the tiny terror tonight …

- Modern Warfare 2 has its moments.

- There is no such thing as a social media “expert” … get over it.

Here’s

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

for those who wish to download it, subscribe to Scattercast via iTunes.

19
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven Hodson and Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins handle tonight’s duties, and Mark is chomping at the bit to reply to the discussion Steven and I had Friday night in regards to sexism and how he feels it is more about politics.  They then follow this up with a discussion on the whole Mommy Blogger vs. the TSA story from this weekend that turned out to be a hoax and left the blogosphere with egg all over its face.

Push the big green button and have a listen in!

16
Oct
2009

cbslogosmall

Welcome to another week of the daily edition of CobWEBs, the flagship podcast of The Cynical Bastards!

For those who don’t remember from the other episodes, this is a new format for the show as we are going to try giving you daily bite sized chunks of our patented brand of cynicism over everything in the tech universe. The show will have a rotating host schedule between Steven Hodson, Mark ‘Rizzn’ Hopkins and myself. You’ll always get two of us, you just never know which two!

Steven Hodson and I discuss how social media seems to not only be full of sexism, but people looking to deny free speech to others as we look at what happened with Penelope Trunk, Meghan McCain and Jan Moir.  (thanks to Steven for digging up the following relevant links)

Penelope talks miscarriage – gets slammed, Pulver talks penis – gets patted on back
Don’t Call Me a Slut
Meghan McCain twitter photo is hot, draws haters
Jan Moir, the Web, Free Speech and the Wisdom of Mobs

Push the big green button and have a listen in!