Snapchat, Livestreaming and Digital Diplomacy

Bond 007 snap by UK FCO

UK FCO using James Bond in Snapchat! (source:

From a personal perspective, it has taken a while for me to see the point of Snapchat and live-streaming apps like Periscope.

First the ephemeral and live trends have some crossover, but they’re also a little different (which might be worth another future post), but both are so new that they’re worth talking about together.

One of the issues with both ephemeral and live social media is that it can be hard for an organization to measure engagement in the traditional sense.  Some have suggested that this can be a major hurdle for the adoption of these new technologies, but I disagree that it’s an engagement issue.  It’s simply more that for marketers and communication staff, there is not yet any real way to measure the engagement yet in the traditional sense and link it to expectations such as “bottom line” or to traditional KPIs such as “conversions”. Although even on that, there are some indicators–and just like 10 years ago with twitter, the US government might be leading on this as the US government has recently jumped onto Snapchat.  In announcing their entry onto the platform, they even shared how they were going to :

  • Followers: We’ll measure our audience size after six months and assess growth. Are we seeing new followers being added or are people unfollowing us?

  • Views/Completion Rate: Snapchat lets you see how many people are watching your story and where they drop off in the process. We’ll measure those numbers to determine if people are watching the whole story or giving up halfway through. We’ll also analyze what kind of content performs best so that we can deliver more of what our audience wants.

  • Engagement: We’ll look at the number of people who send Snaps back to us to help determine how engaging our content is.

  • Screenshots: Snapchat notifies you when someone takes a screenshot of your content. We’ll use screenshots to help us determine if we’re sharing important information that our audience thinks is worth keeping. We’ll look at what kind of content is screenshotted the most to learn what’s important to our followers.

(The UK’s foreign ministry also uses Snapchat well in their international outreach, although I preferred how simply the above example crystallized how they were going to measure results. However, the UK blog post which is well worth reading, explains some of the challenges of using Snapchat very well.)

Many of these products are integrated into larger platforms – Facebook Live with Facebook; Periscope with Twitter;  upcoming YouTube Connect with YouTube.  So these snaps or live broadcasts can be repurposed and shared elsewhere. This means you’d possibly then see engagement from there.  The hurdle is not the newness of the platforms, but getting your content right and doing your due diligence as with any other social platform. See very often organizations simply jump onto new platforms without assessing their resources, thinking about the demographics their targeting and keeping in mind the pecularities of the platform.  I’d imagine that this is still mandatory even if you are jumping onto a new platform!

The last thing I’d say is that the potential long duration (Periscope and other live apps) of video should not be intimidating. It’s actually ok if viewers jump in and out of videos and this is not necessarily that new. It’s just not how people consume even traditional media like television, think of how often the TV is on in the background at your house!  Think of any broadcast or video you’ve seen before, for example, in 2014, the United Nations streamed their entire UN Social Media Day which if I recall correctly, I followed on livestream.  I obviously did not sit all day watching it, but I remember sending in tweets in their Q&A that were responded to, so I was able to “engage” and derive value without watching the whole thing.  And now the video is available on YouTube as are experts from it.  Basically, I don’t think all types of live streams necessarily require ones full attention from beginning to end.

Very interesting to see how all this develops.


Social Media and Self-Identity

Young professionals are now facing the conodurum of receiving friend request’s from new employers or more formal contacts.  We already know that the teens are fleeing  Facebook since parents, uncles, teachers, etc have started monitoring their activities there. But what about those of us that are more established with our online social networks? It’s easy to avoid that aunt, or even your dad, on Facebook. But the employment one is more difficult to figure out.

I’ve been thinking about this since I’m currently reading Danah Boyd’s It’s Complicated.  Her book focuses on teen use of social media but it raises interesting questions about how and why people use digital platforms to communicate and also how that affects the quality of their lives. In an offline context, most people would act differently depending on the environment–in their living room, at a bar, at a business networking event, etc. Why shouldn’ t it be the same online? I’ve only just joined Linkdn with a view to facilitating my long-term career progression.  I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit. I’m “signed up” on Instagram and Google Plus but I don’t use either. There is actually not much overlap in my social networks, but they serve different purposes:

Facebook is like me at a house party. I’m at the bar. I’m talking about stuff I would talk about at a bar, in the way that I would at the bar on a Saturday night. I’m not talking politics or anything too heavy, on here I simply don’t take myself too seriously. If someone is going to friend me here, ideally it would be someone that I’d be comfortable downing a couple of shots with on a pub crawl. Or someone who I’d be ok inviting to a friends block house party.

Facebook is also where I share photos from social events. Another cool area of Facebook I’ve discovered is that it’s actually pretty decent for following famous personalities or activities in a casual sense.  It’s actually kind of cool to see what other projects and adventures the crew of X-Men or Fast & Furious experience (by the way for my marketers, the marketing for the X-Men: Days of Future Past movie was off the charts, they did a fantastic job on Facebook marketing that for a year).

Twitter meanwhile is where I follow industry leaders on topics that I actually would feel compelled to engage in. For me that is International Relations, Politics, Tech, Social Media.  I just find it a more intellectual endeavor than Facebook in the way that I use it. I also dabble in soccer over there, as you get news directly from the top journalists in the sport and you can even interact with them sometimes–again this is at a higher level.  Obviously some people use it as a stream-of-thought style, which is how I use Facebook.

Pinterest meanwhile is where I go to dream. Pinterest is the digital depiction of my dreams and fantasies.  My fondest hobbies, my biggest wishes, things that take my breath away….I display those on Pinterest, where pictures speak a thousand words. Here, it does not matter who I follow or who is following me, it’s irrelevant.

Reddit, I’m there for getting answers to random Q & As. For me, Reddit has taken over from Yahoo Answers! which used to be the best at this pre-social media.  I’m also there for anime, which is another of my hobbies (I have many hobbies–why not? Having too many things that provide pleasure in your life is better than having the opposite problem where you are bored and nothing tugs at your heart).

Linkedn is new to me, I’ve only just signed on.  I’m still trying to figure it out but I think it will end up being a resource to help or get help from alumni and work colleagues for professional networking. Some of the articles I’ve seen are interesting, but it can become a source of information overload, plus for industry trends I prefer getting it directly from thought leaders on Twitter.

Yet my expectations of these platforms and how I use them may differ widely from others–for example, Reddit describes itself as ” an entertainment, social networking service and news website where registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links.” Yet I never use it as a news source at all–the thought had never even occurred to me until I decided to write this blog post (I get my news on Twitter).  Nor have I use it for entertainment per se (that’s Facebook for me).   Returning to the premise of this post then is it appropriate for everyone to be in all of your networks? Or is it highly dependent on context? Is it leading a double-life to present different faces on different platforms? Or is the self always shining through, and you should be an open book everywhere and all the time?  Are these questions Human Resource Officers should consider when developing corporate social media policies for employees?


The Washington Post’s Outstanding Weather Blog

Lincoln Memorial Snow

DC is a beauty when it snows. (Photo credit: Gab!S on Flickr:

This morning Washington, DC has been hit by one of the strongest snowstorm in years, with an average of about a foot in most of the area.  The federal government has shuttered down, they made the call late last night to the delirous delight of thousands of adults in the capital city. Snow day!!! It never  loses it’s magic, does it? The way your inner child jumps up in joy when work closes has been seared into our psyche from our days of Middle School when we didn’t have to do our homework and would stay up late watching TV.

So how have I spent most of my morning? By reading a newspaper blog online which is……way more fun that it sounds, you will not believe me. Like the WEATHER section of the newspaper. The most fascinating and addictive blog on the internet might just be about the weather.  I am referring to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang’s Blog . The gang affectionately referred to as CWG is run by Washington Post staff who are actual meteorologists. 

As a student of social media, there are many areas that are interesting enough that they could be fertile research topics for an enterprising grad student.  For example:

Two Way Communication:  I have never seen a “serious” blog in which the bloggers interact with their commenters as much as they do here. By “serious” I mean a blog run by technical professionals employed on behalf of a large visible organization.  There is a lot of public interaction, the Post’s weather staff there drops contribute to the comments, answers questions, and they have gotten to know some of the more popular commenters well (more on this below).

Of course research on two-way communication is not new in the Communication and Public Relations fields, but many large organizations are still trying to figure this out. Blogs where the bloggers interact with their audience are much more engaging than those in which either (1) the blogger NEVER comments or acknowledges comments or (2) where the blogger is a high-profile public personality but the individual blogging or answering comments is clearly a random staffer, responding in obvious PR-speak.  The second situation might actually be worse, audiences can tell and it just seems insincere.  (Note: Ofcourse CEOs can’t be on their iphones answering comments but the way around this is to simply acknowledge up front that while the “name” is being used for the blog, staffers are handling the comments).

Tribes & community building:  To my knowledge there is not much scholarly research on the study of online communities and tribes–but see Norman (2012) for a rare example from hockey.This site would be good source material for an online ethnographic study of blog communities.  How do the social interactions between participants on the blog construct the blog as a social space?  At the rate that the Capital Weather Gang blog is developing, I’m guessing that it is possible that at some point it will move into IRL events such as happy hours or meetups. A rich subcommunity of ‘snowbros/gals’ , meteorologists, and yes, trolls, is developing. Commenters here have become fiercely protective of the bloggers and often go to great length to reprimand ‘drive-by’ commenters that drop in to sneer at “failed” weather forecasts. 

Gatekeeping: How central is gatekeeping to online communities? As the blog has developed “regulars” do they become the opinion leaders? Who starts being looked at as a defacto authority figure–is it a function of posting frequency, personality or technical knowledge?  Today some posters are even recognized by the Post’s meteorologists for the substantive contributions that they bring to the table. Nice cred! 

Technological Change: Nobody likes change, anyone that works in a large organization knows that when the IT folks introduce a new software platform everyone groans in dismay.  Sure enough, the Washington Post has recently introduced a new comment system and it’s been not been well received.  Discontent with this new commenting feature is currently playing out on the CWG blog oo.

But apart from all that academic stuff, the blog is really cutting edge–hell, bleeding edge. 

There’s NOTHING like it on the internet. This is a blog about WEATHER (and I’m saying that in a good way) yet it’s accessible,  impossibly fun but also educational–I never though I’d care or know what polar vertices, derechos, or domma storm patterns were.

I wish every city had one like this, these guys make meteorologists hip.  I would also say that technical bloggers in any practice could do well to study this blog and see how to talk to both a general audience, and a technical audience.

You can see a history of the CWG blog here .

My Policy Brief on the “Right to be forgotten”

I have uploaded my final report synthesizing the information that I have been exploring over the past few weeks.

The final report and presentation can be accessed here, with additional recommended resources here. There is also a dedicated page at the top on the menu bar.

This policy brief is an overview of the European Union’s proposed policies on digital privacy as announced on January 25, 2012. It has been prepared for the benefit of US business interests as represented by the US Chamber of Commerce

The brief provides the following information:

  • Key facts and goals of the proposed legislation.
  • Assumptions that may have shaped the way proposed legislation is framed.
  • A brief assessment of the proposed legislation’s strengths and its policy gaps.
  • A few suggestions for how an entity like the US Chamber of Commerce can engage with Europe on this matter.

I hope that the report will be useful, and I welcome any comments and feedback.   Although it is my final report on this particular topic, it is certainly not the end of the blog, and I will continue to share my thoughts on various issues related to international affairs, culture,  social media, and other technology related news.

“Right to be forgotten” refresher

In a about a week I will post a short policy brief , which will be an assessment of EU internet policy relating to data privacy.

I will be focusing on one of the documents published on January 25, 2012 when the new data directive was officially unveiled.  I will specifically examine the communication by the European Commission to the European Parliament and Council; and I will make the subject official document available (it’s public domain).  Meanwhile, the European Union’s rationale for the urgency of reform in this area can be seen in this factsheet .

To follow the report, it would also help to reiterate again exactly what is meant by “the right to be forgotten”.  That phrase is actually not mentioned in the official document that I will review, and it is a phrase that really has caught on from analysts and media.   However, it’s meaning was first articulated by Commissioner Viviane Redding, who is Vice-President of the EU’s European Commission and in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.  on January 22, 2012 she stated that, “If an individual no longer wants his personal data to be processed or stored by a data controller, and if there is no legitimate reason for keeping it, the data should be removed from their system”

The legal foundation of such thinking can be found in French law which recognizes le droit a l’oubli i.e. a right to oblivion.  It serves the function of for example allowing rehabilitated criminals to object to publication of evidence of their conviction.

The French legal conception of the right to oblivion can be accessed on Wikipedia (in French):’oubli_num%C3%A9rique#Charte_du_Droit_.C3.A0_l.27oubli_num.C3.A9rique_dans_la_publicit.C3.A9_cibl.C3.A9e

Redding’s 2012 statement to the press can be read in full on the EU site:

Data Privacy & Transatlantic Trade Negotiations

The ‘cultural exception‘ spat between the United States and France is getting most of the attention in the imminent EU-USA transatlantic trade negotiations–known as the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP).  However, lookout for data, especially in light of the PRISM revelations, this is something else that could derail the trade talks.  From the Financial Times:

“With all the information we’ve found out in recent days about how easily the US spies on people’s private data I think it will be difficult for the Americans to oppose a strong data protection agreement,” said Hannes Swoboda, leader of the socialist members of the European parliament.

“This issue is very critical for us in Europe . . . there will be growing resistance against an agreement with the US unless there are some clear guarantees form their side that our European principles of data protection are respected.”

Given France’s current hardline stance on cultural representation in the media, the Obama administration might be able to offer some concessions by acquiescing to some of the European concerns on internet data privacy policies.

Europe reacts to the ‘PRISM’ news


Are Silicon Valley companies providing a ‘backdoor’ to the Federal Government to access consumer data?

The latest chatter in internet policy circles is the PRISM story.  PRISM is an alleged program in which the US National Security Agency obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other large internet companies.  All the internet companies have denied knowledge of the program (although there is speculation that even if they knew, they legally can’t admit it).

In the context of the current study I’m working on, I was curious to see what the European reaction to this would be, and the New York Times indicates that they are worried:

Privacy is an emotional issue in Europe, where memories of state-sponsored snooping by communist and fascist regimes still linger.

Privacy is an emotional issue in Europe, where memories of state-sponsored snooping by communist and fascist regimes still linger. And so the revelation Thursday that the U.S. National Security Agency had obtained routine access to e-mail, Web searches and other online data from many of the biggest U.S. Internet companies — whose users stretch far beyond U.S. shores — prompted hand-wringing about America’s moral authority.

“If the U.S. complains about foreign governments spying and then it turns out it is doing the same thing — well, what are you complaining about?” said Yaman Akdeniz, a law professor at Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey, where anger over restrictions on civil liberties has fueled anti-government protests.

European privacy advocates said Friday that the disclosure of Prism could bolster the push for stricter data protection in the new laws, including a proposed “right to be forgotten,” which would let Internet users scrub unflattering online references to themselves.

There is that “right to be forgotten”  being mentioned again.  PRISM is the sort of thing that I imagine Europeans would think vindicates their position.  Here is the German Chief Data protection public official, giving voice to European worries:

“The U.S. government must provide clarity regarding these monstrous allegations of total monitoring of various telecommunications and Internet services,” said Peter Schaar, German data protection and freedom of information commissioner.

“Statements from the U.S. government that the monitoring was not aimed at U.S. citizens but only against persons outside the United States do not reassure me at all,” he said.

I for one cannot imagine that such news would give leverage to Silicon Valley organizations lobbying in Brussels against stringent internet data protection legislation.

Net-Neutrality: Clues on national attitudes towards the internet

I just yesterday finished a policy review (Network Neutrality A Thematic Analysis of Policy Perspectives Across the Globe by Christine M. Stover) for a discussion with some fellow students on internet policy.  Although the paper reviewed net neutrality, which is not what I am covering specifically in my summer research, I think [authors] talk about it in a way that can apply to attitudes on ‘the right to be forgotten’ and other data protection issues on the internet.

In the article, Stover propose four models of approaching net neutrality:

  • legal regulation: Where governmental agencies can oversee and impose rules on businesses that offer internet, such as under debate in the USA.
  • transparency: Where ISPs are given free reign, except that there are requirements for transparency and up-front disclosures, such as in the EU (Incidentally, the EU today hinted at new net neutrality approach ).
  • non-neutrality: Complete freedom for internet providers, such as South Korea.
  • government control: Government has complete control, such as China.

This is just Stover’s take, but I would be interested in seeing how this might apply to the EU document on data policy that I will analyze.  This type of information that organizations wanting to operate on the internet globally in any capacity would find useful.



Assumptions on Privacy: It’s meaning and relationship with other rights

As far as internet privacy, everyone uses similar language  and appears to want the same end goal.  Firms like Google and Facebook are arguing that they are supportive of principles of digital privacy like what Europe is advocating.  US-based experts argue that there are many laws in place that amount to online privacy.  Is the issue a philosophical one? Here are some statements to see if any assumptions can be identified:


Ultimately, responsibility for deleting content published online should lie with the person or entity who published it. Host providers store this information on behalf of the content provider and so have no original right to delete the data. Similarly, search engines index any publicly available information to make it searchable. They too have no direct relationship with the original content.


Speaking yesterday at a conference on digital privacy taking place in London, Facebook’s Simon Milner, director of public policy in the UK and Ireland, said: “The right to delete your online data is an important one, the right to erasure is a key principle. However, the right to be forgotten… raises many concerns with regard to the right of others to remember and to freedom of expression. It is important this can be implemented in practice, but as drafted the current proposal risks introducing measures which are both unreasonable and unrealistic.

EU is not impressed:

Reding added: “The European rules [will] apply to every company … which operates in the internal market. The EU is a large market with 500 million citizens. If you want to take advantage of this goldmine, then apply the rules. Facebook and such providers like the one-stop shop. They like the fact that the rules are the same everywhere. There’s no opt-out. This is an internal market regulation. It’s a decision that will be taken by majority rule.”


Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, said: “At present a citizen can request deletion only if [data is] incomplete or incorrect. We want to extend this right to make it stronger in this internet world. The burden of proof shall be on the companies. They will have to show that data is needed.”

So first we see how privacy is not being discussed in isolation, with other rights such as freedom of expression being invoked by Facebook, Incidentally, this freedom of expression online was affirmed by the United Nations in 2012, with online expression being declared a human right.  For Google, they emphasize individual responsibility and ‘ownership’ being emphasized by Google.  Second are different views on the relationship between businesses, enterprises and the government. Reding’s frame is that the individual should be protected from unreasonable private sector practices.  That businesses should conform to US Law.

A 2004 report published in The Yale Law Journal explores the philosophical conceptions between privacy in Europe and USA.  The argument presented is that, “American law shows a far greater sensitivity to intrusions on the part of the state, while continental [European] law shows a far greater sensitivity to the protection of one’s public face.” (my emphasis)

My initial reaction to this is that while American’s may be hostile to state involvement, there is a tendency to enable contract law.  One can read about this in detail in the book Liberalizing the European Media, by Shalini Venturelli, Professor of International Communication at American University.  In one of her chapters, Venturelli details how privatization of law, state, constitutional law and public goods have forced the balance of content regulation regimes heavily in favor of  pre-political contract law as favored by global corporations.  Efforts at legislating a right to be forgotten might be a potential schism in the intellectual property rights regime between European legislators, and powerful US-based multinational corporations (along with their sympathetic American legal intelligentsia) –at least as far as data privacy is concerned.

Understanding ‘Big Data’

My last post introduced an idea of ‘big data’ and Kenneth Cuckier, Data Editor of The Economist has a nice succinct summary of what big data is.

Two takeaways: 1.Things that used to be informational, are now becoming data, that is digitized and trackable.  2. Information can increasingly be used for secondary purposes beyond their original intended intent.

Big data tends to be thought of on a large scale, evoking images of ‘Big Brother’, and an Orwellian surveillance state.  This matters at the individual scale, which is what EU legislation on individual rights is concerned with, because it is individual actions that create this big data.  Big data is basically a collection of my clicks, my status updates, your online purchases, your online flame wars on message boards, etc.

Cukier is author of the book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work and Think.