Villages have voices

BBC News has a great article – Giving a voice to India’s villagers – about an experiment in rural India, using mobile phones to bring people news made by local villagers. People call a number to ‘upload’ a news item which is then sent out as a text message to all subscribers.

“No-one has given any information about the Mongra dam and the displacement it has caused in 14 villages. I want the voice of the poor to reach the people through my report.” – Bhan Sahu, Citizen Journalist for CGNet Swara

Mobile phones are pivotal to the service and, in the remotest parts of India, are more accessible than the TV or newspapers. They make it easy to capture conversations and also spark new debates as people gather round to receive the latest news. Mainstream media dedicates just 2% of space to rural villages. Social media can do better.

Institutions will always resist change

This is a follow on to the previous post: The Inevitable Collapse of Systems. Clay Shirky recently quoted (posted by Kevin Kelly but without a link, naughty Kevin!):

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

This is along the same lines as the great quote by Nicholas Machiavelli back in the 16th Century:

There is nothing more perilous to conduct, more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things, because the innovator will have for enemies all who have done well under the old conditions, and only lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

The trouble with challenging institutions is the power they wield to help protect and maintain their position, and the fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) they will generate about anything new that threatens their comfortable existence. As being ably demonstrated by the music publishing industry. Those who profited from the old conditions would have everyone believe music creativity is dying because of new conditions created by the Internet (i.e. illegal downloads). Watching the recent music awards on TV (US and UK), there are no such signs. People were creating and performing music long before publishing industry came along and will continue to do so no matter what the financial rewards. It is not creativity that is dying, it is the ability to generate money that is being challenged. And here we are in the UK, facing a hastily written Digital Economy bill aimed at protecting an industry’s distorted revenue model.

It is not the fittest or the strongest of species that survive but the one most adaptable to change. – Darwin

When institutions are able to persuade governments to try and protect their status at any cost, they are using their strength to delay the need to adapt. And that presents a huge risk for everyone, because creating legislation or spending tax to prevent change shows all the signs of an economic system heading towards collapse.

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory. – W. Edwards Deming

Why do we need music albums? We don’t and we never did. They were invented by the music publishing industry because it is easier to make profits from selling albums than singles. That was possible under the old conditions. It isn’t so easy under the new. But with change brings opportunity. If you are selling albums, you only need to support a few performers and are only interested in the ones that generate easy album sales. Now that I buy mostly singles, I purchase from a far more diverse range of performers, often discovered from hearing or watching them online. Well done iTunes, Spotify and YouTube! No surprise that none were the invention of a music publishing company.

Illegal music downloads are wrong. But focusing on piracy and trying to claim it is damaging creativity when what it is really damaging is abnormal wealth that was only possible under the old conditions is FUD that diverts attention away from the industry’s resistance to change.

[Update: 08 Apr 10] Too funny to not include as an update. Just days after rushing through the Digital Economy Bill without proper debate, the two main political parties are both accused of copyright infringement for not asking permission before using images from a TV series as part of their election posters: Labour and Conservative parties accused of copyright infringement

References

Related blog posts

Blogging mistakes help improve policy

A mini-furore erupted on Twitter this week, when a Twitter developer tweeted about “some nifty site features” in development on the internal version of Twitter that could impact third party solutions. GigaOM has a good post documenting it all, and the title says it all – Twitter Staffer Stops Blogging After Backlash

The interesting part and reason for this post:

So did the Twitter incident cause Payne to stop blogging? He says in his final blog post that while he intended the personal blog to be a place where he could talk about ideas, his posts had started to “spark whole conversations that I never intended to start in the first place…”

It’s an issue that many organisations worry about when embarking on a social media strategy – what if an employee gives out information they shouldn’t? How do you control the message? And the simple answer is you can’t. How you react is another matter entirely.

Back when I worked at Microsoft, a great mentor told me about a case study he had researched as part of his management studies. A Japanese manufacturer, through human error, experienced a serious problem in their production line. Serious enough to damage both the stock price and reputation of the brand (as well as cost a small fortune in lost inventory and wasted resources). The person at fault offered his resignation. In many organisations he would have been fired before having the chance to volunteer. His resignation was refused. The CEO was asked why (when interviewed for the case study). His response went along the lines:

What would I gain from firing him? The problem still needed fixing and he was a good employee, who would have gone to one of my competitors. I didn’t fire him, I promoted him and put him in charge of not only fixing the problem but improving the process… (spotting the mistake sooner would have cost less)

Pity politics doesn’t work this way…

If you’re a good person (I do believe that applies to the majority) and you screw up, you learn a hard lesson very fast but it is not one you will quickly forget. And having learned the lesson through bitter experience, you have a vested interest in seeing the problem fixed and helping others avoid falling down the same rabbit hole. It’s simply adding another mistake to the pile if that experience is ignored or lost out the door.

There’s an old ‘techie’ quote about hard disk failures and the importance of back-ups: there are those who have lost their data and those who have yet to… Organisations wanting to embrace social media but worrying about the ‘what if…?’ need to do two things:

  1. Implement a policy and training programme, even if it’s just lunch briefings, to ensure everyone understands their responsibilities when discussing company information in any pubic forum, social or otherwise.
  2. Have a procedure for how to handle the inevitable mistakes. Step 1: Identify the type of mistake – is it a disgruntled employee deliberately trying to cause damage or (far more likely) human error. Do not treat them as the same thing.

Related posts:

Private Public Sector Clouds

Data Center Knowledge has an excellent summary of the different contenders bidding to win cloud-computing projects within the public sector. Whilst US focused, some of the main players will almost certainly be adopting a similar approach with their service offerings to government agencies in other countries around the world.

It’s interesting to see the different types of international company bidding to run national government and military networks, for example:

  • Systems integrators such as HP and CSC
  • Software/hardware vendors such as IBM and Microsoft
  • Online service providers such as Google and Amazon

Microsoft and Google are both building dedicated government cloud platforms separate to their commercial data center offerings. IBM and HP seem to be building on a client-by-client basis, building private cloud platforms to service the Department of Defense and U.S. Airforce. Others like Amazon and CSC are partnering with niche government specialists to build out their services.

Cloud computing has found a logical fit within education, with the need to annually provision accounts for large numbers of users who are temporary for the duration of their education at a given college or university. I suspect the drive to move longer-term adult and social care services into the cloud, along with the more sensitive concerns surrounding military content and applications, will be a bumpier journey.

Reference:

Social Media judges the Olympics

Techcrunch has an interesting article: How We Hate NBC’s Olympic Coverage: A Statistical Breakdown.

NBC Olympics Sentiment Analysis

The statistics are coming from a couple of different ‘Sentiment Analysis’ services that track what people are saying about brands online. Twitter Sentiment tracks positive and negative comments on Twitter, updated in real-time (image shown above). Another service, Crimson Hexagon, went further to breakdown into specific categories, discovering only 15% were happily watching NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage (more details are provided in the TechCrunch article) whilst 85% were complaining.

What’s interesting is how easy it has been for these services to gather the data. Crimson Hexagon analysed over 20,000 tweets and 5,700 blog posts and forum comments. Twitter Sentiment is continually updating in real-time, as the tweets are posted. When I grabbed the screenshot above, over 2,500 tweets had been automatically categorised as positive or negative.

The analysis demonstrates just how easy it is to discover what people really think thanks to the Internet. People who take the time to tweet and write blog posts are more likely to be giving raw opinions than a selected audience targeted to respond to a survey. For sure we tend to be more compelled to write when we have something bad to say, so results are almost always going to skew towards the negative. But they are readily available, often for free or little cost, and offer an insight into how products and services could be improved. Sentiment analysis shows how businesses can benefit from getting involved in social media, even if only to listen.

References:

Related posts: