Was The Facebook Hacker Story Irresponsible Journalism?

This article originally appeared as a guest post on All Facebook.
 
The media scandal du jour relates to how WikiLeaks leaked all this classified information about the war in Afghanistan, but let’s not overlook this extremely irresponsible piece of reporting that MSNC published earlier this week about an alleged Facebook privacy breach.

Why is it irresponsible? Well, before I break it down for you, let’s take a few journalism lessons from Robert Scoble, who explains why Flipboard (an iPad application that turns RSS feeds into a magazine-like layout) is superior to the one-item-after-another streams of information that we’re used to browsing on the Facebook news feed, Twitter, etc. He writes:

“I remember that early eye tracking research showed that pages that had a single headline that was twice as big as any other headline were more likely to be read. Same for pages with photos. If you put two photos of equal size on the page, it would be looked at less often, or less completely, than a page that had a photo that was at least twice as big as any other.
I won a newspaper design contest in college because of this my designs made sure that they included headlines that were twice as big as any other and photos that were twice as big as any other.”

MSNBC used these exact techniques to spin an oh-so-scary story about an alleged Facebook privacy breach.
lies1(2)This first screen shot is what I could see on an average (15″) monitor “above the fold.” (You can click the image to see it in actual size.) Note the massive font used for the headline and the four tiny images. Keep in mind that some internet users don’t know how to scroll (really, I’m not kidding), so by not showing a broken line of text at the bottom of the page, many people won’t know that the rest of the article is even there, let alone how to get to it.

lies3If you endeavor to read past the headline, you’ll notice that they “end” the story with more scary talk from the alleged “hacker” and hide the final three paragraphs behind this completely absurd “Show More Text” link, which serves no purpose other than to obscure the truth, which is in the final (that’s right, the very last) paragraph of the article:

“No private data is available or has been compromised. Similar to a phone book, this is the information available to enable people to find each other, which is the reason people join Facebook. If someone does not want to be found, we also offer a number of controls to enable people not to appear in search on Facebook, in search engines, or share any information with applications.”

So, if I were to email MSNBC and tell them that I was “a researcher” or “a white-hat hacker” and I had discovered a huge scam — “You see, these conspirators from Yellow Pages have been collecting and amassing all this private data and delivering it to everyone’s doorstep!” — they would think I was completely insane. Well, change “Yellow Pages” to “Facebook” and “delivering it to everyone’s doorstep” to “making available for download” and I think you see my point.

msnSo how did MSN get away with posting this completely absurd story? To understand that, we need to look at their demographic. I went to Alexa.com to find out. As I had guessed, their readers lean toward females of the Baby Boomer generation and up. The same people who don’t know how to change their default settings in their default browser (IE6) on their default operating system (Windows XP) to anything other than MSN.com. Big suprise? No: MSNBC is preying on innocent victims by using psychological tricks to create phobias for things that they don’t understand. And there’s nothing scarier than the fear of the unknown.

bowling-for-columbineThe premise that the media is out to scare us all into staying home and buying more security systems/guns/etc. is not news; Michael Moore built a really compelling case against Big Media’s fear tactics in Bowling for Columbine in 2002. However, an interesting question to ask in 2010 is:

if Big Media is prone to Big Lies and Misinformation, can social media serve as an antidote?

In other words, can investigative reporting by “citizen journalists” help suss the truth out of all the lies?

To help answer the question, I turned to the 875+ comments on the article. To do some highly unscientific semantic analysis, I read a small sample to look for keywords were common in a neutral-to-favorable comment (information, private/privacy, security, people/friends, public) vs. what keywords where prevalent in a highly negative response (wrong, attention, fame, fraud, scam, boring, crap). Then I ran all the comment text through a histogram tool.

histogramUnfortunately, the results of my study show that most comments were favorable by a ratio of over 5:1. However, it all goes back to to the demographic. After glancing at the TechCrunch coverage on this, it seems about 60-70% of the commenters call bullshit, which seems to be in line with a younger, male-dominated, tech-savvy demographic.

So what do you think? Can commenting/voting/Tweeting uncover the truth obscured though it is by the news outlets that report it? Or will we all just continue to propagate the monkey excrement that the mass media keep throwing at us?

Leave a comment to tell us what you think!

Crowd Campaign, The Social Contest Builder

(I-Newswire) November 16, 2009 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CC_Glossy_Side2.pdf (1 page)New York, New York – November 16th, 2009 – At Web 2.0 Expo today, Social Collective, Inc., the company behind the hosted social networking and scheduling software that powered SXSW and Oracle OpenWorld, announced the launch of their newest product, Crowd Campaign. Using Crowd Campaign, Twitter users can easily launch cost-effective branded online contests.

With the power of Twitter and the social web, people who enter these contests, vote on entries, or make comments help propagate their viral spread via easy-to-use sharing tools that facilitate posting contest updates to a multitude of different social networking sites.

When setting up a contest, Crowd Campaign offers the ability to customize the contest’s subdomain, upload a logo and background image, write a Terms & Conditions page, set colors and styles, insert Google Analytics tracking code and change all of the contest rules and other marketing copy. Contest winners can be decided by popular vote or by an “expert panel” or some combination of both. Contests can include text entries, photo or video submissions and links to other content such as blog posts or web sites, meaning that Crowd Campaign contests can be used for any type of competition. Crowd Campaign also offers a rich set of entry management tools for removing offensive content, merging duplicate entries and tallying entries, votes and page views. Crowd Campaign offers a free version for contests containing no more than 10 entries and/or 100 votes. To increase these limits, contest managers can pay as little as $95 up to $4,995 for a one-year unlimited-use license.

Crowd Campaign is used by ad agencies, event managers, social media marketers, small business owners, popular authors, independent film makers and musicians – anyone who wants to leverage the power of the social web to build a brand. Any type of contest can be set up in 10-15 minutes, limited only by one’s imagination and federal, state and local laws.

During the private beta period that ended with today’s launch, hundreds of Crowd Campaign sites were created, including these prominent contests:

http://w2e.crowdcampaign.com — Ask Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO of the US Government a Question: Tim O’Reilly will pick from among the top questions and ask Noveck the best one during their Web 2.0 Expo Keynote later this week. The winner will also receive an autographed copy of Noveck’s book, Wiki Government.

http://w2e.crowdcampaign.com — Search for the Best LinkedIn Profile: Mike O’Neil and Lori Ruff will feature the top five vote-getters in O’Neil’s new book, Rock the World with Your Online Presence.

http://expoexpo.crowdcampaign.com — Ask Guy Kawasaki, Chris Brogan, Rick Calvert, Ann Hamilton and David Rich a Question — the panel moderator will ask the panel the top question at Expo! Expo! in Atlanta in early December. The winner will also receive an autographed copy of Kawasaki’s book, Reality Check.

http://techcocktail.crowdcampaign.com — Enter a DC-area startup company and Frank Gruber and Eric Olson will give the top vote-getter a free Bronze Sponsorhip at the next TECH Cocktail DC event (a $999 value).

http://digitalmarketingmixer.crowdcampaign.com — Suggest an idea for MarketingProfs’ Digital Marketing Mixer: the winner of a random drawing will receive a free registration to MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2010 in Boston, MA (a $695 value).

Mike O’Neil, who launched a Crowd Campaign contest in support of his book, Rock the World with Your Online Presence, said:

“With just weeks from start to finish, we embarked on a partnership with the folks at Crowd Campaign to see how we could find and refine applications for [online contest] technology in social media.”

O’Neil launched a very successful contest centered around finding top LinkedIn profile pages and featuring the winners in his book, which is “something that money can’t buy.” O’Neil remarked on how powerful it was for CrowdCampaign to “create a following around the pop culture image we represent with social media, networking and music.”

About Crowd Campaign

Crowd Campaign is a social tool for building brands. It’s used by ad agencies, event managers, social media marketers – anyone who wants to leverage the power of the social web to build a brand. Easy to customize and manage, you can launch a Twitter-powered contest including a branded promotional site in minutes from your desktop. It’s FREE to get started and there’s no sign up or credit card required. Start a contest today by visiting http://crowdcampaign.com

For more information, contact Clinton Bonner at Social Collective, Inc., [email protected], 860-608-9074

The Social Collective to Provide Social Media Software for Experient’s e4 Conference

e4-sphere_bigger.gifToday we are pleased to announce that Experient, Inc., a full-service solution provider for conferences and events, has chosen The Social Collective as the social networking platform for Experient’s 2009 e4 Conference. Here at Social Collective, Inc., we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help Experient fulfill their brand promise of “delivering the total event experience” by adding a social networking component to their wide range of pre-existing services. These services include everything from scalable registration to a suite of event logistics solutions, and on to amenities that make for much happier attendees and much more profitable exhibitors. Experient has been a trailblazer in the events world since its inception. In their quest to be recognized as a thought leader in the events space, Experient continues to seek out and provide its clients with the best event services in the industry.

The Social Collective is a white-label conference social networking suite and social media aggregator which will serve as the event-centric networking community for Experient’s 2009 e4 Conference. The e4 event is the annual gathering of Experient’s clients and select sponsors. The typical attendee of e4 is an association executive or an event management professional. Each year, Experient chooses an overarching theme that is most relevant to the times the industry is facing. This year’s theme is Networking and the Infusion of Social Media into live events and their surrounding communities.

According to Karen Watson, Director of Strategic Events at Experient:

“Our goal is to simplify the social media experience for our e4 attendees and by using the Social Collective white label platform, we should create more opportunity for interaction before, during and after e4. Our ultimate goal is to create a community for our attendees to connect and interact with their peers year-round.”

At Social Collective, Inc., we’re looking forward to this opportunity to serve Experient and their e4 2009 conference. We’re excited about ushering this vibrant community of attendees and sponsors into a new era of inter-connectivity and social networking. The e4 gathering — taking place between August 2nd and 5th in National Harbor, MD — will showcase how physical meetings are evolving through the use of new technologies and techniques. As a result, the meetings industry can continue to grow by enhancing attendees’, sponsors’, and exhibitors’ experiences leading up to, during, and well after the physical event has taken place.

Visit http://www.experient-inc.com for more on their suite of professional services. Visit http://thesocialcollective.com for more information on how to build a thriving year-round community for your next event or follow The Social Collective on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nowgetsocial.

The Ultimate Cool Factor: Social Media Ideas from SXSW

Continuing their efforts as fine purveyors of “awesomesauce,” those ebullient SocialFishes Maddie Grant and Lindy Dreyer interviewed Chris Bucchere of The Social Collective for an article in FORUM Magazine.

The interview touches on a lot of different topics from defining the word “automagic” to how to make effective use of SMS at your next association event. Check it out for yourself or download your own copy.

Not resting on our laurels

Feedhaus_StickerTeam Feedhaus put out a new release tonight. This was primarily a bug-fix release. Here’s a run-down:

1) Speed up history detail pages — we’ve got more than 1.2 million stories stored up since our private alpha began in early September. Finding those records to show required some heavy lifting, but by adding some indexes to that table and making a few code changes, you can now play with the history slider all you want and pull up old stories almost instantaneously.

2) Speed up regular detail pages — some browsers were having trouble displaying some of the detail pages, mostly just because they were too big! We’ve capped the number of stories now at 20 per detail page. Eventually we’ll add pagination, but for now, there’s still plenty of news and blogs for you to read, with the latest and greatest stuff always bubbling to the top.

3) Detail page clipping — some tags returned feed content that was too wide for the detail page, which required you to scroll horizontally to see the full extent of the content — yuck! (We’ve had lots of complaints about this.) Using some CSS hacks, we fixed that for all the major offenders that we could find. If you find any other “wide loads” (i.e. detail pages that are too big for their britches), please let us know.