Category: Social Media

Samsung Galaxy Nexus hits Bell, Virgin on December 8th

Given that it’s going to be the first device in Canada to come equipped with the latest version of Android – Ice Cream Sandwich to those of you in the know – it’s fair to say there’s a good amount of anticipation surrounding the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, which was confirmed to be arriving on Bell and Virgin’s networks.

And now we know when and how much: December 8th is the date you’ll be able to take your place in line at participating retailers to grab one of these smartphones before the holidays and it will cost $159.95 on a new three-year term.

I know, I know – another line. I’m not a big fan of lining up either. Heck, I will intentionally wait weeks after a movie opens if it means I can avoid a line up for tickets.

So I’m a little intrigued by this new concept (at least I think it’s new) that Bell has cooked up called a “Bell Twitter line up.”

It works like this:

If you want the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on launch day, but you do not want to go and physically line up at a store, you can do your lining up a week earlier, and from the comfort of your home or office. But you’ll need a Twitter account and reliable internet access to do it.

On Thursday December 1st, hit Bell’s sign-up website between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. EST. If you’re one of the first 100 people to sign-in, you’ll be given a pre-populated tweet that you will then need to tweet from your account immediately. You must then check back in to the site every hour that day until 10 p.m. and repeat the process. This is how you will “stay in line.” At 10 p.m., if you’ve successfully tweeted the required tweets during the day, Bell will get in touch with you and arrange the shipping and payment.

Follow this process to the letter and your Samsung Galaxy Nexus will be shipped to the (Canadian) address of your choice and arrive the same day as the phone goes on sale (December 8th). No line ups, you don’t have to take the day off work or leave your kids or even miss your favourite TV show, and you’ll get your phone on the same day as those who had to line up. Not a bad option.

So Sync readers, does this idea of a virtual line up work for you? Or will you go the tried-and-true route and take your chances at a retail location?

Disclosure: Sync is owned and operated by Bell Media, a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc.

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Westboro Baptist Church plans to picket Jobs funeral

It’s been a bad 18 hours.

Last night, while finishing dinner and settling into some homework with the kids, I got the call I knew would come sooner or later: Steve Jobs had died.

Needless to say, when you’re a tech editor, this is the kind of event that propels you into action mode – making sure you’ve got all the facts and then doing your best to tell readers what they need to know and helping put it all in context.

That’s what we did last night, and the process continued this morning and throughout the day.

And it wasn’t restricted to the media. As we watched the wires and Facebook and Twitter, it became apparent that the Internet itself was in a state of mourning for the man who, perhaps more than any other, had helped make it the thriving world of communication that it has become.

Some tributes were grand – whole websites dedicating their homepages to the visionary – others were small but no less powerful, like the Asian design student who artfully married the iconic Apple logo and a cameo of Steve Jobs into an elegant statement that Jobs himself would have found delightful.

But as is so often the case, there’s the one or two people (or groups) who choose to take a tragedy like the loss of Steve Jobs and turn it into an opportunity for grandstanding. That’s what the Westboro Baptist Church did when member Margie Phelps, the daughter of the church’s founder tweeted this:

It’s hard to know what to say to something like this when your brain is struggling just to understand the mentality that created it. But that didn’t stop the twitterverse from pointing out the irony, not to mention the hypocrisy that Phelps had used an iPhone to send her message.

To which she eventually responded:

Yeah, we’re apparently going down that road and it isn’t pretty.

While part of me is angered beyond words that Phelps would manipulate Jobs’ death in this way (along with the distress such a message must surely cause Jobs’ family) I couldn’t help but notice the strange flow of logic that she created. Is it just me, or does Steve Jobs end up being God as a result of creating the iPhone? If so, I think I could live with that. I might even become a fan of Intelligent Design. No one more than Steve Jobs proved that there is such a thing.

Rest in peace Mr. Jobs. You’ve earned it. Millions of times over.

[Source: The Toronto Star]

Facebook launching music service, but not in Canada

image credit: Forbes.com

According to a report by Parmy Olson on Forbes.com, Facebook has signed a deal with streaming music provider, Spotify, in a move that could see music added to the giant social network in as little as two weeks.

Unfortunately for Canadians and Americans, Spotify has yet to sign the necessary agreements with North American record labels to bring its very popular product to Facebookers in Canada and the U.S.

Olson makes the connection between Facebook and Spotify clear for those who aren’t familiar with the two organizations: Not only is Mark Zuckerberg a big fan of Spotify, Facebook’s first president and early Napster employee, Sean Parker, sits on Spotify’s board, while the two companies also share investors.

But the coming-together of these entities is not limited to dollars and directors. While Spotify started out in 2006 as a way to listen to music online, it has grown considerably since then, most recently in 2010 when it added a social networking feature powered by – you guessed it – Facebook.

Once integrated into Facebook officially, according to Olson, a Spotify icon of some description will appear to the left of users’ Newsfeed.

The intent is move Facebook’s media strategy forward (they already have a movie agreement with Warner Bros.) while giving Spotify access to a massive new source of potential subscribers. Spotify’s free service is ad-supported, but they also have a paid service which is ad-free and offers a higher bitrate for the music streams.

The real question however is: Will this new socially-powered angle prove tantalizing enough to Facebook users to make a real difference for either company? After all, this is hardly an original concept. Microsoft tried to make music social with their nearly-defunct Zune product – even going so far as to let users of their Zune media players “find” other Zune-ers who were located within range of the device’s Wi-Fi connection. Apple has kicked this can too with their poorly received Ping product which is now a feature built-in to every copy of iTunes and several of their devices including the iPhone. Yet even with Apple’s significant market share, Ping is hardly a success story.

But if social music on Facebook is going to be a success, it will happen in Canada. Why? Turns out our very own country has the world’s most extreme users of Facebook. I can’t say I’m surprised. Sync readers seem to have an insatiable appetite for all things Facebook-related. So that’s all the more reason why Spotify has to hurry up and sort out whatever remaining legal hurdles it faces with record labels and add Canada to its list of supported countries. Heck, given how rabid Canadians are when it comes to Facebook, it might make sense to get the Canadian deals ironed out first, before the U.S. – we could be the perfect test-bed for new features.

Alright readers – your turn: Are you excited by the idea of being able to share your musical tastes with your FB friends via an integrated platform like Spotify?

[Source: Forbes.com]

PR guy's email earns him a humiliating headline

image (c) Simon Winnal and Getty Images

image (c) Simon Winnal and Getty Images

I love blogging.

It’s the immediacy of having your words appear on your site the moment you hit the publish button and the immediacy of the feedback when readers leave comments. It’s the dialogue that then becomes possible in a way that other mediums simply can’t deliver. It’s the freedom of writing online.

But some take this freedom too far. Yesterday, Robin Wauters, a blogger for TechCrunch.com crossed a line when he blogged and subsequently tweeted:

I think very highly of TechCrunch. They are unsurpassed as a source of information in their area of focus – Silicon Valley startups – and they’re often ahead of other publications and blogs on general tech stories too. If you’re a regular TechCrunch reader, you know they tend to colour their commentary with a heavy dose of opinion and analysis, both of which make for a unique and valuable experience. Now and then, however, the daggers really come out and they will aggressively attack someone who they feel has it coming. Often it’s the blog’s founder, Michael Arrington who dishes up the rhetoric. When he recently went after fellow blogger and AOL colleague Joshua Topolsky from Engadget, it was quite a show. I happily read the back and forth that ensued because it was a clash of titans. Each one railed against the other from their respective soapboxes in a rare show of blog vs. blog animosity.

So when I saw their tweet above, I eagerly clicked on the link expecting to read about a truly heinous action on the part of the PR person who had been singled out so viciously.

Timothy Johnson must have done something crazy like insulting the TechCrunch team, or perhaps badly misrepresented his clients’ products or services. Maybe he committed a career-ending tech blunder. Or maybe he called out the author, Robin Wauters in a public forum, like Twitter and was about to receive an equally public thrashing for his misdeeds.

No. Nothing like that had happened.

It turns out Mr. Johnson made the mistake of taking an attitude with one of TechCrunch’s writers – Leena Rao.

In an email exchange, Johnson suggests a story idea to Rao, who politely declines and is then met with a surprised and somewhat sarcastic response from Johnson who questions TechCrunch’s commitment to covering Asian tech start-ups.

According to Wauters, this sort of thing happens from time to time but that “Most of the time (but not always), we keep our peace when PR flacks go off on us with or without a shred of reason”.

Hmm. Sounds pretty bad.  Let’s see how Johnson went off on TechCrunch:

Seriously?

– You wrote about platforms that move maybe $40 million in 2009. Platforms. Not communities. Not much since.

– Even if mig33’s virtual goods averaged 50 cents USD – and that’s a HUGE if – that’d mean about $20 million in rev, which is over twice mig33’s recent round

– You guys devote little coverage to SE Asian/Asian sites – don’t you think it’s time, or is FB all that matters?

Really? Wait for a product announcement? Is that a joke, Leena?

tim

You can read the full exchange (which amounts to little more than three emails) on Wauters’ post, but as far as I can tell, the most inflammatory thing Johnson says  is “Seriously?” “Is that a joke?” and the clearly provocative “Just wow” which he throws in at the end of his last note.

Given the “thousands” of pitches TechCrunch receives daily, and the hundreds of email threads that probably result, Wauters would have us believe that Johnson’s comments are indicative of a PR person who has gone “off the deep end.” Or maybe Wauters was simply trying to impress Rao, who he describes as “extremely sweet and mild-mannered”, by teaching her tormentor a lesson.

So what started out as an email thread between a PR professional and a journalist has now become justification for public humiliation, at least as far as Wauters is concerned. Not only does he present the email thread in full, he goes on to offer Johnson’s client – the previously unknown mig33 – some unsolicited advice:

“And by the way, mig33, you might want to reconsider who you work with. Seriously.”

Wauters defends his attack as “a public service we do for the PR industry to show them the error of their ways.”

I think it’s the height of hubris and and shocking display of unprofessional behaviour.

Before I go any further, I need to point out some facts that non-TechCrunch readers may not know:

– TechCrunch is engaged in something of a war with the PR profession, or at least the members of that profession they feel are especially worthy of contempt.

– TechCrunch has a habit of treating all communication as non-confidential. They have in the past published emails and snail mail of a legal nature, and have shown they have little respect for journalism standards such as the embargo.

If Johnson wasn’t aware of this, he should have been. As a PR professional it’s his job to know the players.

So was it foolish of Johnson to get snippy with a TechCrunch writer? Yes. He should have known better than to let his frustration with Rao show so transparently. Do all journalists get frustrated by the various bad habits of PR people at some point or another? Absolutely. Was Johnson’s email so out of line as to deserve the disproportionate response (from a different journalist than the one he was corresponding with) that he received? No way. Not even close.

TechCrunch is a giant in the technology news space. According to Compete, their average audience size is around 1.7 million unique viewers a month and that’s just their U.S. audience.  Their posts are required reading for every executive in the tech industry. That is a ton of power and influence by any measure. To use this platform to attack an individual for what can best be described as poor choice of words and to do so in such a way that his very livelihood is threatened is an appalling misuse of that power.

Just how bad is it? Try Googling “Timothy Johnson”. Result #4 as of today is TechCrunch’s article. Johnson’s own LinkedIn profile is #8. Unfortunately the post you are reading right now is likely going to perpetuate that reality as Google ups TechCrunch a little bit more for the link we’ve given them.

Now I know some might argue that Johnson ended up the winner in this situation. After all, his purpose was to get TechCrunch to write an article mentioning his client. If you buy into the belief that any press is good press, Johnson and his client both win. I suspect that any minor lift in awareness of mig33 that Wauters’ article created was more than offset by the damage done to Johnson. Will present and future clients look upon this incident and reward him for the success of a guerrilla PR strategy, or take their business elsewhere for fear of working with someone who elicits this kind of reaction with his PR pitches?

I hope for Timothy Johnson that the fallout from this episode is negligible. He was attacked without warning by someone with whom he hadn’t been emailing, on a site that is widely read by his clients and peers and wasn’t given the opportunity to defend himself, or at the very least, apologize.

Robin Wauters wanted to show Johnson the error of attacking a journalist via email. Judging by a few comments on Wauters’ Twitter page, he has some support for his goal. But instead of contacting Johnson privately and letting him know how he messed up he chose to publicly humiliate him. There’s no question in my mind that an apology is owed. Robin, perhaps you should go first.

Updated: Yahoo *isn't* shutting down del.icio.us… yet.

Delicious isn't dead... yet.

Delicious isn't dead... yet.

It’s a sad day for the many people who have come to rely on del.icio.us, a very popular social bookmarking site. Yahoo, which bought the site in 2005, is now in the midst of shutting it down after deeming it an “off-strategy product.” This news comes to us via TechCrunch who verified the story with a WSJ reporter as well as with Yahoo itself, mere days after announcing it had layed off 4% of its staff in a recent downsizing exercise. Some people will remember delicious as one of the sites that kicked web 2.0 into high gear back when it launched in 2003.

And while this will certainly be disruptive, there are alternatives for people now forced to seek a new home for their bookmarks. Andrew has written several times about the excellent Xmarks site which not only organizes your bookmarks, but synchronizes them across multiple browsers, platforms and devices. Xmarks is the tool I have come to depend on for bookmarking as it lets me keep my personal and professional sites all neatly organized in one place.

Lifehacker has assembled a few other options to consider. To begin the process of migrating your bookmarks out of delicious, start with their import/export page here.

So Sync readers, will this announcement change things for you or were you never big users of delicious to begin with?

Update: According to Delicious’s blog, the service is not being shuttered, with Yahoo opting instead to find another home (owner) for the product. So it seems Delicious has a stay of execution at the least and possibly new masters in the longer term. However, with no buyer immediately on the horizon, Delicious’s future is far from certain.

Facebook adds Friendship Pages; controversy erupts

Reading all of the interactions between two friends on Facebook just got a lot easier. Click to enlarge.

Reading all of the interactions between two friends on Facebook just got a lot easier. Click to enlarge.

Last week, and without much in the way of fanfare, Facebook launched a new feature on their massively popular social network called “Friendship Pages“. The tool lets you view an aggregated page of all of the comments, likes and wall posts that two of your Facebook buddies have had with each other. You can also see the friends they have in common, the events they both attended and the photos in which both of them are tagged. In fact these pages even pull the most recent photo in which the two people are tagged as the profile photo for the upper left corner.

To try it out, go to the profile page of any of your friends. Under their profile photo, you’ll see a new link that says “View You and Friend” – this will take you to the Friendship Page for you and that friend. On this page you’ll see a brick in the top right corner called “Browse Friendships” where you can see the Friendship Pages belonging to any two of your other friends. The only time this won’t work is if you don’t have permission to see both people’s profiles.

While this new feature doesn’t change a thing in terms of privacy – none of the info visible through Friendship Pages was hidden previously – the reaction that people are having toward it suggests that it crosses the murky “creepy line” and reactions on Twitter seem to bear this out.

The reason for the reaction seems to centre around context. Even though Facebook users are now well and truly aware of the fact that items they post to the site are visible to their network of friends (assuming that you haven’t modified your privacy settings), being able to browse these interactions chronologically and in as much depth as you like, changes the dynamic just enough that it raises serious questions.

As one colleague pointed out, Facebook interactions are often one part of multi-platform experience. The effect of reading a comment thread between two friends on Facebook is like listening to one half of a conversation – especially if those two people are engaged in real-world, SMS, Twitter, Instant Messenger and other forms of communication. And unless you decide to block someone from seeing your profile page, there is no way to turn off their access to your Friendship Pages.

Perhaps the sensitivity around this new feature is based on the realization that Facebook has now become a prime tool in court cases, many of which are divorce proceedings.

An example of a Friendship Page on Facebook. Courtesy of Facebook's Blog. Click to enlarge.

An example of a Friendship Page on Facebook. Courtesy of Facebook's Blog. Click to enlarge.

In his introduction to the new feature, Facebook engineer Wayne Kao says, “When it’s between two people who share a lot, the page really starts to reflect their friendship.”  I think that might be the dark side to this well-intentioned tool.

Stories of people “Face-stalking” their exes, cheating with other Facebook users or even trolling their former classmates looking for potential romantic affairs are easy to find. And while Friendship Pages aren’t likely to reveal romantic liaisons given that the information is already shared, the social patterns they bring to light might be the start of some uncomfortable conversations between partners, or between exes.

So readers, if you Facebook, please take our poll and leave us a comment – what’s your take on Friendship Pages? Cool or Creepy?

What do you think of Facebook’s Friendship Pages?online survey

Facebook launches Places in Canada

Facebook's Logo for Places

Facebook's Logo for Places

Good news all of you Facebooking Canadians – and I know that’s almost all of you – Facebook Places has just launched here. In case you haven’t been following the launch in the U.S., in a nutshell, Places is a new feature that lets you perform a “check-in” similar to services like FourSquare and Gowalla. The idea being that if you like sharing everything about your life on Facebook, maybe you’d like to share where you are at any given point in time.

Sounds great? Sounds a little scary? You’re probably right. I’m not a big fan of these check-in services yet – but mainly because I suspect none of my friends really care that much if I’m parking my car and headed into Tim Horton’s for my morning cup of joe. That said, if Tim Horton’s cares, and wants to reward me for my continued loyalty by making some of those cups of coffee free, well heck, I might just become a Places fan. Maybe. Of course Marc makes a really good point that you should always think twice before telling the whole world you’re not at home.

For all the details, I’m going to pass it over to the official Facebook announcement (and their How-To Video) since there’s just far too much info here and I think they’ve done a good job at communicating the key points….

A sample of Facebook Places on an iPhone

Facebook Places interface on an iPhone

Lots of people were already sharing their location with friends via their status updates (‘I’m at the CN Tower with Kelly’). Facebook Places just makes this easier, more consistent and more social.
Why use Facebook Places?

·         To share where you are with friends

·         To find friends who are nearby

·         To help you discover new places of interest, recommended by your friends

When would you use Facebook Places?

a.       Student heading to university for the first time

So you’re starting university and you’ll find that, in a very short space of time, you’ll meet lots of new friends. Your Facebook friend count will shoot up! When you’re in your halls of residence it might be easy to find your new friends and hang out with them, but how about on campus?

·         You check in to the biology department building on campus at lunchtime. Your neighbour from residence has checked in at the history building next door. You can send them a message and arrange to meet for lunch.

·         Check in at the library to let your new course friends know that you’re picking up the required reading for your first lecture. You see that Josh and Amy from your seminar class are also checked in at the library and appear as ‘Here Now’. You can arrange to get together to share thoughts.

·         Check in and tag your friends at the pub, does anyone else want to join?

·         You really wanted to go out tonight but your new roommates are staying in. You see that your some fellow students have just ‘checked in’ at a bar downtown so you send them a quick message and decide to head over and join them instead. 

b.      Young professional

You’re a busy, young professional, based in a bustling city. You work hard and want to make the most of your free time with friends and family.

·         You check in at a conference and see that a key contact for your business is there as well. She mentions that she’s grabbing a coffee in the café so you can head over to meet her there.

·         You check in and tag your team from work at a local bar so that colleagues from other departments can come and meet you for that post-work drink

·         You’re at the local pub to watch Sunday’s big game on the big screen, and see that a friend of yours has checked in at the pub up the road which he says has the biggest screens you’ll ever see. Not only have you found out that your friend is close by so you can arrange to meet up, but you’ve been given a great recommendation

How does Facebook Places work?

From your iPhone:

·         Make sure you have downloaded the latest version of the Facebook application for iPhone

·         Click on the Places icon within the Facebook application (centre of the screen) and allow the application to use your location when prompted so that it can show you nearby places

·         Choose the place that matches where you are. Or, if there isn’t one already, create a new one

·         Tap the ‘Check in’ button to share that you’re at this place

·         You can also choose to add more details about what you’re doing there or why you like it

·         You might also want to tag friends that are with you. Be aware that you can only tag others if you are checking in too and only if their privacy settings allow you to

·         In the ‘People Here Now’ section, you can see who else is checked in at that place (this section is visible for a limited amount of time and only to people who are checked in there, or you can opt out of appearing there all together)

Places is also available through touch.facebook.com, on any phone that supports HTML5 and geo location.  

Where does it appear when I ‘Check in’?

When you ‘Check in’ at say, the library, your check in appears:

·         On your Wall

·         Depending on your privacy settings, on the news feed of your friends

·         On the Places page in the ‘People Here Now’ section (as long as your privacy settings allow) and in the ‘Recent Activity’ section, visible only to friends and others you allow to see your recent activities when they visit the Places page

Why can people tag me?

When people do things, whether that is going to the pub or to the movies, they will usually do it with friends. When friends want to see what you’ve been up to they usually want to see who you’ve been doing it with.  For example, if your photos had just you in them they wouldn’t be nearly so interesting! Tagging is what makes them so interesting.  It makes sense to extend this to Places as it makes the whole process more fun and engaging. 

Where does it appear when a friend tags me?

If your friend checks you in somewhere and you have already accepted check ins (by previously checking into a place yourself, or allowing others to check you in) the check in will appear:

·         On your Wall and in your News Feed

·         On the Wall of the person who tagged you as well as their News Feed (according to the set privacy controls)

·         On the Places page

o   You may appear in the ‘Here Now’ and ‘Friend’s activity’ sections of the place page (Only people currently checked into the same place will see the ‘Here Now’ section and only people you and your friends allow to access your updates will be able to see the ‘Friend’s activity’ section and only if they navigate to the place page)

If you‘ve never interacted with Places, or you have been tagged and clicked “Not Now”, here’s what happens when a friend tags you:

·         The post shows up on the Wall of the friend who tagged you, subject to his or her privacy settings (it will not appear on your Wall).

·         In the Recent Activity on the Place Page (visible only to the tagger’s friends)

·         You DO NOT appear in the Here Now section on the Place Page

·         You DO NOT show up in the “Friends Who Have Visited” on the Place Page on facebook.com

·         Additionally, no location data will be associated with your name. 

I’m a bit worried about who can see where I am if my friends and I are using Facebook Places. What can I do to keep this private?

·         Facebook Places is an optional service, you have to actively start using it and ‘Check in’ for it to appear on your profile

·         People can tag you just as they can with photos, but you have to give approval to be CHECKED IN. 

·         Your ‘Check ins’ are visible to your ‘Friends only’ unless you have your master control set to ‘Everyone’, in which case Places will default to ‘Everyone’, in line with your explicit desire to share things more broadly (you can be even more restrictive than ’friends only’ if you want to and select just certain people to share with)

·         You have to actively allow people to check you in and can remove this from your profile via your computer or your mobile

·         If you do not want anyone to see you have been tagged at a place, you can turn off the ability for your friends to tag you from your privacy settings under “Allow friends to check me in” setting.

·         If you prefer not to appear in the ‘People Here Now’ section on a place page after you check in, you can uncheck the appropriate box in your privacy controls