A Handwritten Blog Post

I would hurl words into this darkness and wait for an echo, and if an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight, to create a sense of hunger for life that gnaws in us all. ~Richard Wright, American Hunger, 1977

An Handwritten Blog Post

Now it’s your turn. Do your very own handwritten blog post 😉

Why I Quit Facebook (and you should too)

At 8:25am this morning I deleted my Facebook account. In this article I have detailed the reasons and perhaps why you should do the same.

Before sitting down to write this article I had to consider the many factors which may come to haunt me in the aftermath. As a student who prides himself by pushing ahead of the social media game, not only leaving Facebook but then negatively writing about it could harm future career prospects. Somewhere stored in a database in the archives of the BBC is written my name with “Facebook Hitler” next to it for Radio Stations to call whenever a negative opinion of Facebook is needed. This piece of writing isn’t exactly concerned with “Why Facebook is bad” but instead “Why Facebook isn’t right for me”. So don’t be fooled by my often cynical, frequently rampant debacle of this social network. Sitting before the PC now is a student who has grown tired of this particular breed of social network. Personally I’ve had enough and if I have written and argued well enough, perhaps you will leave Facebook too.

It all started with a Secondary School student called Shane Murphy who sent the, then considerably rare, “I’ve added you as a friend on Facebook” email. A title to this very day which doesn’t make sense as before 15th April 2007 I didn’t have a Facebook account. Indeed the first time I heard about the network (then called the thefacebook) wasn’t too long after its conception in 2004. At the time I was a member of St Paul’s Church in Cheam and was beginning to get into a scripting language called Hypertext Preprocessor (Check out ‘How Does Facebook Work?’), commonly known as PHP, the same language which binds Facebook together today. Instead of gazing at Facebook as network which would change the world, my friends and I were only interested in the technical aspects of it.

Registered to Facebook Image
Newly Registered to Facebook

Eventually I joined the network. When I decided to trawl through the emails in my inbox to find the above Facebook registration email I didn’t expect to be treading down memory lane. Since using Facebook I have never switched off email notifications and I found myself gazing at past private messages and wall posts from bygone romances, ex-girlfriends, former friends and colleagues. Such conversations should never be preserved so freshly…

Fictitious Friends, Lost Acquaintances and Stalkers
Any social network blurs the line between friend and contact. The most awful occurrences example this the most such as the death of Simone Back but most the time people live their lives out on Facebook with the feeling that they are being sociable. Facebook has removed the art of actually talking with your friends to find out how they are doing. Nowadays (I’m now beginning to sound like an old man) checking how your friends are doing simply consists of checking their social media profile. I admit this might not just be a problem with Facebook but with social media culture as a whole. However, in my view, Facebook leads the way for this unsociable generation, the Facebook generation. In conversations I found myself not asking my friends what they had been up to recently but instead ‘Oh, I saw your last Facebook status about x y z’. It drives me nuts!

Not only that but I bet most of your friends on Facebook aren’t really friends. They might simply be internet contacts who you are friendly with and added you on Facebook. In many cases Facebook is the network for lost acquaintances, the network which caused Friends Reunited to lose their share of the social network market, the network which gives you the opportunity to get back in contact with the people you never gave a shit about in the first place.

On examination my Facebook contact list features a large amount of people fom Primary School, Secondary School and Sixth Form College. Most of which I don’t have any direct communication with and may never have actually been friends originally. I was simply added because they found me on Facebook and for some reason I accepted their request (probably because I didn’t want to seem rude). Facebook allowed me to still be in communication with them (or gave the illusion thereof) and I could stalk them to my heart’s content.

Don’t think stalking is an activity on Facebook which is exclusive to the strangers, everyone does it. Stalking happens even if you don’t mean to because all of your contacts new photos, statuses, relationships, etc, will appear on the Facebook New Feed. We are all stalkers on Facebook and nobody is left behind.

SEO Tips for a WordPress Blog

Using a WordPress blog? If so follow this lists of tips and your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) efforts won’t go far wrong.

Download the “All in One SEO Plugin
For any budding WordPress king installing this plugin is your first port of call. This will not only generate META tags automatically to enhance your site in search engine listings but allows you to edit content descriptions for each page. SEO is not just about climbing the search engine tree but also attracting a user to make that first click.

Download the “XML Sitemap Generator for WordPress” and visit Google webmaster tools
The XML Sitemap Generator is the hidden key behind a successful WordPress SEO effort. This plugin automatically generates an XML Sitemap in a format accepted by Google News (plus obeys Google’s guidelines). Once the Sitemap has been created submit it to Google webmaster tools. This will not only advise the Google crawlers the structure of your website but will inform the search engine giant whenever a new post has been created. Another neat feature of Google webmaster tools is its ability to detect errors on your site’s pages.

Using “XML Sitemap Generator for WordPress” visit Bing webmaster tools
Just because Bing doesn’t have the same search engine dominance as Google doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Simply submit your website to Bing webmaster tools. The system isn’t as detailed as Google’s but will still provide you with optimised SEO from Bing.

Tag your WordPress posts
For three years I never bothered tagging blog posts and instead settled with categories. Use both; categories and tags. Search Engines love using tags.

Link Building
Get your blog networked around the internet. Write guest posts for others and make sure you link to other blogs. Using Social Media to its full potential to share content will soon help build the links to your pages.

Does News Content have a Value?

A few weeks ago I was in a discussion with a friend deliberating the future of newspapers. The Journalism industry currently has the challenge of a changing media landscape; including falling budgets (mostly due to shifts in advertising caused by readership), style of commentary (the idea of stand-up comedians being the new columnist) and the confusion of a homogenous audience (the thin line between local and national). Naturally such discourse led onto finding solutions in the digital age and much bartering of abuse to the much delusional Rupert Murdoch regarding his Newspaper pay wall decisions.

Guardian iPhone App
The Guardian iPhone App

Hope anchored to the Amazon Kindle (Amazon affiliate link), an eBook reader which not only has the ability to store books but also provides monthly newspaper subscriptions. Although in discussion it became clear that the value of news is in danger of being dismissed due to the contemporary news models being adopted.

Each morning I make my way to the local station to travel up to London for work. The journey entails a path involving the avoidance of Metro, London Lite, thelondonpaper and Shortlist on Thursday mornings. Never would I have thought that a hand-out on London pavements would be a gift, something worth keeping but psychologically this might be the problem.

We are so used to news being free. The mere act of newspapers being handed out freely on the pavements is a statement to us that news doesn’t have to cost. Yet the value of news in terms of accuracy, speed and delivery is being questioned by the very industry beginning to consider extended advertising options to keep publications free and readership levels up. I’m the consumer the newspaper industry must hate; I won’t even pick up a free newspaper, let alone buy a copy of The Times or The Guardian. The only content I touch is digital.

Glance away from the physical paper, from ink stained fingers to the soft touch of backlit LCD. Online content is a threat to Journalism, paraded by BBC News and the evolution of Citizen Journalism. On the whole online news content is mostly free of charge, there are exceptions.

Most of the news I consume is through The Guardian’s iPhone App. This convenient app allows me to select categories of the news I find most important (Headlines, Technology, Culture, Features and Obituaries in my case). On many occasions Twitter has been a useful source of news information. Through Twitter I discovered about Michael Jackson’s death before BBC News had the full details of the story.

Monetisation models for music downloads have led to subscription services rather than individual song costs. Is news heading the same way? Will readers ever pay for news content?

Five Methods to Gain Online Success

Sufi M and his staff operate The Glaring Facts, one of the leading and  densely populated websites involving    psychology, media-related material,  history of science, and money    management. We are certain you  will find something that will fascinate you.

Creating a website without the intent to maximize its public relations is guaranteed to disappear, both in brand and public identification. Customers require a website, it functions as an information portal extending both courtesy and respect for that consumer’s repeated business. A website also functions as a prime source of consumer identification with your product, reputation, legitimacy, and fluency in that market. In my previous post, commentator Tom Bowden-Green explained that social media comprises of a tremendous deal when it comes to a company’s community and social presence. Here, I will explain the non-obvious, or perhaps the obvious, online mechanisms that will drive a company towards success online.

We think of social media as the pinnacle platform to enhancing a company’s media presence; however, that is not so. Social media is simply an extension of a company’s brand reputation, driving traffic to their website using automation or even actual commenting. Let us have a close look at WebSEO Analytics.

Attractive WebSEO Analytics offers

WebSEO Analytics is an online organization that specializes in SEO (search engine optimization). As a requirement to reinforce its reputation, it has lived up to its brand image–driving a website to the highest point of online recognition and towards statistical domination. In both real life and virtual life, a company must be present in both these platforms in order to achieve success. Consider the following five methods that will assuredly develop online and offline significance beginning with the most immediate platform–the online world.

An Example of Unique Content to Increase Brand Confidence

1) Design of your Website: Simply put, your website needs to look nice. No one wants to stumble on an ugly website. A website’s design is such an integral component and the way it looks really reinforces your brand image. For example, no individual claiming to be a lawyer would dress like a gangster revealing tattoos, no one will take you seriously. The same principle applies to your online presence. Develop uniqueness, hire a website designer.

2) Content is still King: Without good, quality, and unique content, you will not be able to prove your companies market intelligence, social recognition, or online credibility. In order to attract a client, you’ll have to prove that your content reflects your attractive product. You may also provide free information to individuals and also free consultation with the information provided on your websites.

3) E-Mail Marketing: offering free consultation in exchange for their e-mail is a tremendous advantage, you can send relevant concise information targeting their needs, changes in prices of your services, and whether or not you’ve developed new services that may assist them. You can even provide deals, ongoing information and updates of your company, all because you provided them 30-50 minutes to explain how you can help them.

4) Newsletters: providing them exclusive information about the industry they are interested in through diverse newsletters are a wonderful way of attracting continual business. It’s also a good way to develop a long-term relationship with your clients and your website’s frequent visitors.

5) Testimonials: showing testimonials on your site is an excellent way to encourage confidence in your product, as well as showing that they too will be in good hands after each of their investments.

Conclusion:

With these points in place, your website will become a hardcore public relations online and consequently provide you with immense ROI. You must never flinch in your determination, otherwise, hire a PR professional for they are extremely well-equipped to solve a great deal of your exposure–they just know, it’s natural.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia: 10 Years Old… Yesterday!

‘Wikipedia is something special. It is like a library or a public park. It is like a temple for the mind. It is a place we can all go to think, to learn, to share our knowledge with others. It is a unique human project, the first of its kind in history. It is a humanitarian project to bring a free encyclopedia to every single person on the planet.’ – Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia Founder

At the heart of Wikipedia rests a basic feature. This feature has frustrated lecturers, impressed students and allows the layman to add fact into conversation. In the past Encyclopaedia Britannica or Microsoft Encarta had to be purchased but not anymore. Now lives on the internet an organically growing sum of knowledge. A Summum bonum of human knowledge which doesn’t come at a price but made possible by the most rudimentary feature, that anybody should be able to edit a page.

So a whole hearted (belated by a day) birthday wishes to Wikipedia who yesterday celebrated their 10th Birthday and congratulations to Jimmy Wales and Larry Sanger for making their dream happen. I believe I can speak on behalf of each University student in the United Kingdom to say that our studies would have been less effective unless we had the insights and links which Wikipedia offers! If you take a step back and evaluate the Wikipedia project then it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the statistics.

In honour of Wikipedia’s Birthday the British Library held an “Editathon”, an event which saw curators and other members of the public editing Wikipedia to improve content and then apparently (according to Wikipedia) celebrating down at the pub in the evenings!

There is no denying that the Wikipedia Project could be labelled as a geek’s achievement. Yet Wikipedia serves an important place in the digital landscape. Whilst social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are mentioned tirelessly each day, in my view Wikipedia made the greatest impact for Web 2.0. Not only was it founded well before Facebook or Twitter but it holds the summation of human knowledg

As I have mentioned before I believe education, in an ideal world, should be completely free. Education is at the foundation of society and at every human innovation. In many cases education cannot be free due to the expense of facilities and expertise but Wikipedia manages to educate the world for free merely funded by our donations.

What to know more about Wikipedia? Then search for Wikipedia on Wikipedia. You can donate towards Wikipedia here.

Facebook needs to take Responsibility: Simone Back’s Death

Last week I got a call from a Journalist at BBC Radio Sussex informing that a lady called Simone Back committed suicide on Christmas Day. This wasn’t any ordinary death as she had announced her intentions to commit suicide to her 1000 Facebook friends – with only several malicious responses. As her death took place on Facebook the BBC wanted to understand my opinion on the situation and then interview me on their breakfast show the following day.

BBC Radio Sussex is based in Brighton, the same area in which this lady died and I knew there was a high possibility that friends and family could very well be listening to the developments of this story over the airwaves. I agreed to be featured on their programme and started to write down my various views on the situation.

Before going on the radio I find that writing a list of key bits of information extremely useful. Sometimes the nature of a programme refrains from this activity. For example being on radio debate panels requires quick of wit and thought rather than a carefully written series of thoughts. Tone of voice in this story was critical, no jokes of any sort and a clearly laid list of different points to why Simone Back’s friends may not have come to the rescue.

Always remember this; the answer is never as simple as a news story makes out to be. Journalists only gather news and their opinions have to be simple (unless they are columnist’s scribe) as a story must be easily communicable, especially over the radio. Before going live on the radio I wrote down this list of thoughts:

Genovese Syndrome

Kitty Genovese was the name of a lady who was murdered in 1964. The murder took place in full public view for about 30 minutes but yet no witnesses came forward despite at least 30 people be present around the time of the murder. This gained the attention of the world’s media and raised many questions concerning human behaviour. A few years later an American Psychologist published an article explaining the behaviour of bystanders at the murder who did not attempt to get involved with the situation. Eventually Genovese Syndrome was postulated insinuating that when humans are in large numbers less are likely to get involved in order to manage information overload.

Information Overload

There is no doubt that Facebook has an issue with information overload. Indeed every social network suffers from the same problem of constant updates. The larger your network, the more widespread your influence but an increased amount of information. Simone Back’s Facebook network was 1000 friends big and the huge numbers of contacts may have meant a less likely chance of engagement.

Engagement

(Similar to my Information Overload point) In social media terms large networks are not always the best. The real value from social media comes by evaluating the levels of engagement. The trick is to create an online community, a task which is not easy as it requires to bond humans together. The larger networks can be far tougher to manage due to the high numbers of people necessary to reach out to. Too many people, too much information and not a lot of engagement.

Difference between “Friends” and “Contacts”

Facebook was initially built as private social network between different University students which is why the term “Friend” is probably still used on the site today. Yet, not all of your Facebook friends are indeed friends. I have contacts on my Facebook from people who have added me after only meeting me once over a year ago. Even people from Secondary School. These people aren’t my friends, Facebook doesn’t recognise the difference between friends and mere contacts. In my view I can’t believe Simone Back had 1000 friends, nobody has that many friends. Instead much of her network was probably contacts, acquaintances and so reading headlines “Simone Back Announces Suicide On Facebook –And None Of Her Friend Help” does irritate me a bit.

Facebook’s Responsibility

An inevitable outcome through the discussions of this tragic news story have been for Facebook’s involvement in Simone Back’s death. As the company who owns the social network where she decided to announce her death surely they should be some sort of responsibility on their part? Many views on BBC Radio Sussex were quick to call for a Facebook Panic Button, this would raise police concern over future serious Facebook status updates. Facebook do have a Help Centre but it is the most complicated piece of Facebook to navigate around. I can’t even find a relevant section.

Facebook are a strange breed of company. All of their money making tactics depends upon the large wealth of personal information they hold on their databases. A company who provides a social network also has the responsibility to safely manage a community. You would not have a city without police and so why abandon the police on the online equivalent?

On the radio I reminisced over online Forum systems who use moderators to organise and filter discussion. Perhaps Facebook should introduce something similar. I understand this could be awkward regarding privacy settings but a simple option in the profile would sort that problem out.

If Simone Back’s suicide message could have been reported then it is likely she may still be alive today. Facebook can’t refer the responsibility to Simone’s suicidal status to her contact list but instead should flag security to this message immediately. Finding how Facebook should do this is the tricky part but without a doubt Facebook hold some responsibility.

Discussing this story was a learning curve for me due to the possible emotional implications that could have been caused to her family. I only decided to take the story to straighten out public opinion, as I can relate to it personally due to an event that happened a couple of years ago and because Simone Back’s mother was the one to have approached the media first. Simone Back’s family and friends have my condolences during this difficult time. What a horrid way to begin 2011.

Being Shaped By Business

Influence can be triggered through many different forms, none is more potent than working within the business environment. To work effectively at a job it is necessary for you to fill a role not only through skill but also character, only then will you have effectively fulfilled your duties. It could be said that different career paths are set to different stereotypes.

If I were to ask you to form a character in your mind of a Vicar, Journalist, Policeman or Thief then it is easy to associate your character amongst a series of foundational rules:

  • Vicar: Will be moral
  • Journalist: Will be hectic
  • Policeman: Will be just
  • Thief: Will be deceptive

Occasionally there will be exceptions to the rule but each character seems to have a key attribute.

As of writing this I have been working as an intern for Microsoft for 7 months. This started with me working on Trade Marketing pieces, becoming a Multinational Account Manager (AM) and now undertaking an AM role whilst also being involved with Technical Account Managing (TAM), the scripting side of online advertising. All of these roles require a different sort of person.

It could be said that generally a TAM might be a quieter person who is naturally technically minding. An AM on the other hand must feature a social side to communicate well with clients, plus an acute ability to problem solve.

Using online tests/books such as Strengthsfinder 2.0: Online Test from Gallup’s Now Discover Your Strengths
(Amazon affiliate link) it is possible to evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses. Not only for personal interest but for a manager to observe how best you would work in a team (comparing the results of many people and matching together is extremely effective).

One of the challenges I have had during my intern year is to let the company I work for mould me into the worker they need. No doubt students will sometimes be the roughest of employee diamonds to set foot in an office but the challenge for the organisation who took you on is to teach the intern student how to fit into the working world. From the basics of arriving at the correct time in the office, to working effectively within a team and the attitude you show each day.

Part of being an intern is to allow the company to mould you into the person they would like to see. A slight character change, a learning curve, but a mould which doesn’t necessarily have to set permanently.