I’ll start this post by stating a bit of a disclaimer. The freedom of assembly and to protest is a fantastic right. One that we should always value. I also want to give kudos to anyone who stands up for what they believe in. Political apathy is easily one of the worst elements about society and as long as a protest doesn’t revolve around hatred or violence, I’m all for people exercising their right to assemble.
But with that being said, it is time for the OccupyCalgary group to just stop.
I don’t know how to say it, so I’ll just be blunt – this is just embarrassing. Frankly, OccupyCalgary is probably doing more harm than good and only diluting the actual issues which are coming from the US Occupy movement. Let’s be frank and honest with ourselves, Canadians (and particularly Calgarians) aren’t dealing with the economic uncertainty of our southern counterparts. The average Calgarian isn’t really ready to get involved in the OccupyWallstreet or OccupyKStreet movement, because the frames of reference are just too different. Comparing the Canadian and American situations is really like comparing Apples to Oranges.
I ask this as someone at the tail-end of the generation of Canadians within their 20s-30s, but can anyone tied to the Calgary version really state that there are any real barriers to success in Canada, let alone Calgary? What are the economic barriers that are crippling an entire generation of youth? Is it our relatively affordable post-secondary education costs? Is it Universal Health Care? Is it strong foundation of workers rights (i.e. no incestuous intern culture)? Or is it a relatively stable economy?
See, trying to impose what’s going on in the States on to the Canadian system is a bit disingenuous. As I’ve said in my previous post, the underlying message of Occupy
I’ll say it again, but as a Canadian (and more importantly as a Calgarian) I never once felt at a disadvantage or that there was never an opportunity to advance myself. And I don’t think I’m in the minority when I say that. I went to a great local University that I was able to pay for with a reasonable amount of Student Loan Debt and help from the government. I got a great job in the Oil & Gas Industry, which gave me the wherewithal to start my own business. I was never crippled with Health Insurance debt. My student loans were always incredibly manageable. There was always an opportunity to purchase some sort of property. Canada is a fantastic country live in right now. Sure it does have some minor faults and there are definitely things that need to be addressed, but overall it’s an exceptional place to be young and hungry for opportunity. Overall, the opinion you’ll find from the average citizen is that the playing field is relatively level. Which in itself is nothing to be ashamed of.
The US on the other-hand. Not nearly as fun. (well for this generation at least)
The movement in the US is spreading, not because it’s a bunch of free loaders playing bongo drums in a park, like elements of the media want to portray, but because the message of a level playing field is starting to resonate with the real stakeholders – this generation of Americans. They are the ones being handcuffed by student loan debt, zero job prospects and increasing health insurance premiums. It’s a situation that doesn’t resonate with the average Canadian, especially not Calgarians. Not because Canadians don’t care, but because there isn’t a similar reference point to really get a core feeling for what is happening in the US.
One of the biggest criticisms of the movement is that the message isn’t really as clear as it should be. From what I’ve seen recently, the message is slowly becoming clear to the general public in the US. People are rallying and starting to support the ideas. But for ever ten steps forward, one stupid move (see Jon Stewart’s October 17th show as an example) pushes them back in the eyes of the public. So when you see a tiny fringe faction, in a city where the circumstances are completely different, appear to be acting in an amateur way at best, it inevitably detracts from the overall concept.
In essence my point is; OccupyCalgary please stop. Stop requesting Condoms. Stop with the disorganized spectacle that makes it easy cannon fodder to opponents. Stop degrading a movement which isn’t applicable to the vast majority of your local audience. Stop taking away from a cause that’s actually important to a lot of people.
I’ve probably ruffled some feathers with people in Calgary and I accept that. I do understand that I sound very cranky with this post. But I wrote this because I’m incredibly empathetic to the concerns of our friends here in the Washington DC area. So for them, I want to see success for this cause and issues addressed.
If you want to stand with solidarity with people in the US – kudos and good on you. If you are hell bent on making a statement, wouldn’t it be better to donate some money to buy an evenings worth of food or help out with supplies at one of the local US movements. I understand everyone’s love of awareness, but your time would be better spent engaging your own colleges and friends in a discussion of the key issues. But please stop occupyCalgary and stop diluting a message that is actually important for a generation of Americans.
Never one to miss a chance to see a good DC protest, my wife and I took the opportunity to check out one of the #occupyDC camps on Monday night. We spent a good two hours with a close friend walking around, listening, observing and getting a first hand feel for the occupy movement in America’s Capital.
I’m just going to assume that everyone has basic understanding of what’s going on and has a general idea how the the occupy wall street movement in New York has spread across the US. I’m sure everyone has already formulated some opinions on what’s going on. But I just wanted to post with some first hand insights and my own two cents.
For those unfamiliar with the movement in DC; there are actually two separate occupy factions in the city. The one we walked around is centered in MacPherson Square on K Street, which is of course right in the heart of the lobbyist row. This group is a far more subdued version of the more active and confrontational group situation in Freedom Plaza. The Freedom Plaza occupy movement has been the one corralling the headlines with daily protests and alignment with other movements. If you’ve heard of arrests in DC at various protests, it’s coming from the Freedom Plaza group rather than the MacPherson group.
As mentioned, our little group spent the evening watching the MacPherson Square General Assembly. We also spent time walking around and listening to the protestors.
Contrary to what the media spin is, it was pretty clear that the occupyKst group was made up of a pretty diverse mixture of people. Of course, there was a handful of anarchists and what I would call professional protestors. You also had a few homeless people hanging around for a bit of free food. But on the most part, of the 200 or so people there that evening, most were made up of disenfranchised youth. And when I use the term youth, I mean educated and working professionals between the 24-33 year old range. Yes, this isn’t just a bunch of squeegee kids. The people hard at work, trying to build some sort of open organizational structure and to help craft a specific message were from a big swatch of very professional minded people. They were all working within the organize and group structure to establish a direction. (By the way, massive kudos to the amazing IT brigade of 5 dedicate nerds live streaming the entire process).
One of the biggest criticisms of the whole occupy movement is that there is no clear message and doesn’t seam to be an end goal. And from watching the Occupy K street General assembly trying to forge a structure and hierarchy, there are some issues. It’s clear that there are some leadership holes in the structure, but for the most part they were really trying to establish a collective direction. Which in the context of the who event is a pretty difficult task given the diversity of the stakeholders.
And while I’ll agree with many pundits, that the most glaring criticism of the protests is that they don’t necessarily have a concrete objective or even an end goal; it is easy to see why people are heading there and becoming involved.
Coming from Calgary and being a professional within the 25-30 year old range, I never felt like I was behind the eightball in career options. I also personally don’t have patience for people who believe that just by getting an education, whether it’s high school or university, they are instantly entitled to a 50k salary, the big house, five cars and the ability to live large.
But at the same time, I honestly never felt like I was ever going to be pinned behind crushing health insurance debt, student loans or a lack of job opportunities – in Calgary at least these issues were never something that crossed my mind. The tables never felt slanted against my ability for upward movement in society. As long as I worked hard and made connections, things will eventually work out.
But in DC, when I chat with my wife’s cohorts, there is an underlying sense that this generation of Americans are not getting that same sort of opportunity. The playing field isn’t even remotely level. Either crippled by the insane costs of health insurance, crushing student debt (3-4 times what the average Canadian takes on), stuck in the cycle of the unpaid intern culture, running two jobs (a professional job during the day and service job at night), or not being able to purchase property. There seams to be a disconnect with the potential for success that was available to previous generations. The question becomes, is the playing field really level anymore or is it stuck in an upward slant. In America, at the current moment, I’m inclined to say that things aren’t remotely level – and that in my opinion is the essence of these movements.
From the time I spent watching and observing the #occupyDC group last week, it’s pretty clear that their biggest challenge is changing the public opinion of their movement. To switch it from what seams like a disorganized bunch of radical left-wing hippies to a focused generational movement against what seams like a hopeless and daunting system. But until these groups are able to specifically channel that idea, they’re going to continue to face an uphill PR battle.
For those unfamiliar, klout is an emerging social media application, which essentially quantifies your online network influence. Through an elaborate algorithm, klout’s services assign you a klout score based on your engagement and influence on sites such as twitter, facebook, linkedin, foursquare, youTube, instagram and now tumblr. It uses some sort of mathematical medieval sorcery to create a rating, which is suppose to measure your range of online influence.
And while the data and information that klout is able to produce is quite impressive, it’s also a bit … well … it’s a load of rubbish.
I am definitely not the first and I won’t be the last person to bring this up, but attempting to attach a numeric value on a person’s influence in a variety of social circles is a bit ridiculous. Yes, Gladwell talked about influence in Turning Point and others like Julien Smith, Chris Brogan and Charlene Li have done likewise. But neither one attempted to attach a hardened numeric value to this concept. Because frankly, there are far just too many tangibles to factor in.
As an example, over the first week in July my klout score, yes and I say that with sarcasm, went on a roller coaster ride plummeting 6 points in two days and then slowly creeping back up a couple of points a week ago. Now, I don’t think much changed in my daily routine or my supposed range of topics of influence. Sure, it is the hockey off-season and Vince Vaughn (another point of contention) isn’t making fun of Luongo as much, so I can say my strongest two spheres of influence could have taken a hit – but what else changed? Have people started ignoring me? (which I wouldn’t hold against them) Am I less trust worthy as a source of information of good taste? Have people already tired of my infatuation with Cobra Commander and Andrew W.K.‘s twitter accounts?
The real answer is – why should I care.
As someone who uses social media for professional and personal benefits, the last thing I should be doing is worrying about the influx of an arbitrary number. In the grand scheme of things, this number means nothing in regards to business and personal success. In actuality, one’s klout score is really only a massive benefit to the plague of social media experts, who have been yearning for a yardstick to quantify their existence for quite sometime. For those of us who value building solid online relationships with a variety of circles, klout’s scoring system really doesn’t bring anything to that table.
So with all that, you’d think I would hate klout and I truly do… But then there is this whole klout perks concept.
Klout Perks is essentially the profit arm of the company.
Businesses broker deals with klout to offer up free access, samples or invitations to their various products through the perks program. Klout then divvies out these products out to a variety of users to test and hopefully encourage a positive word of mouth campaign. The catch being that only users with a certain klout score can receive these freebies. Which from a business perspective is genius.
Yes, the klout perks concept essentially goes against everything I just said in the past few paragraphs and makes me a walking contradiction, but I’m okay with that. I told you this was a complicated relationship.
But for businesses, klout’s perks program is a perfect win-win. As a business whenever you allow potential customers to try out a product for free, you always want to maximize your exposure from this loss of revenue. You want to target people of strong influence or with a passionate following, who will hopefully return your kindness by becoming champions of your product. So with the klout perks system, businesses get a swatch of exposure from a verified group of power users that are going to have a guaranteed level of online influence. Thereby increasing the chance that these freebies will generate a positive return on investment and therefore minimize their risk.
And over the past couple of months the klout perks program has already flexed it’s social muscle. It broken on to the scene with a major coup, by offering up free Spotify invites to high ranking American users. (As a side note: Spotify is the much anticipated online radio platform that has dominated Europe and is just breaking into the the North American market). Since then klout has followed-up with product offers from Subway, Mint Beverages and sneak peaks of major studio releases.
I was lucky enough to partake in both the Spotify and Subway ‘BBQ Pulled Pork’ Sandwich programs. I’m now hooked on Spotify and I can’t wait to send invites to others. The Subway program worked so well, it was able to convince a gluten-free ex-sandwich artist to be excited about a sandwich – which in itself is no small feet. Either way by partaking in both programs, each company has earned a tonne of goodwill in my eyes and the likely hood I will reciprocate this goodwill to my peers is incredibly high. (Well maybe not the sandwich, but damn do I love Subway cookies)
From a user perspective the attractie elements of the klout program is two-fold. First and this is the obvious one, but people love to get free things. Second, people also love to feel like they are a part of a elite group. Participating in the klout perks program banks on this element of human nature. It’s cool to get free things, but if you’re told you’re getting a free sandwich because you’re included in the cool group, most people are inherently going to become instant champions. It plays off everyone’s ego, whether we like to admit or not.
In a roundabout way, I’ve tried to explain my feelings towards klout. The idea of ranking people’s social influence irks me. It’s human nature to be inherently competitive and a numeric value tied to an intangible such as social influence, is in my opinion a bit dangerous. But from a business perspective, using everyone’s love of free stuff and our desire to be apart of a secret society, is pure genius. It minimizes the risk in giving away products for free and works to provide goodwill to a group of influential customers.
Update: So just to clarify my comments on the klout rankings. I’m not a fan of the precise ranking of social influence. Truly, what is the difference between a 54, 58 and a 56? But in regards to the klout perks program, I understand that the math and algorithms are fundamentaly solid enough to tell the difference, between a user in the low 30s and a guru in the high 70s.
True confessions. I have this odd love/hate/adore relationship with everyone’s favourite iPhone photograph app – Instagram.
There are somedays, where I marvel at this little photo tool and contemplate how it’s growth is making it one of the most important Social Networks out there (especially for unique businesses). Then on other days, I despise everything about it and want to punish it… in an emo-centric sort of ‘write in my journal’ way. Then there are the days, where I just want to make sweet love to it and thank it for being there all the time. To thank instagram for letting me capture the elements of my daily life.
There’s a great article from an old SXSW college, Colleen Lin, on the whole instagram phenominea. So I won’t rehash that, but read it if you’re unfamiliar with Instagram.
But from a social perspective there is incredible amount of business potential with Instagram. If Hipstamatic can figure out unique ways to further monetize their services, then Instagram can do the same thing. Thousands of users sharing hundreds of photos each day – the potential is limitless.
For a simple and effective example, The Deftones, held an incredibly successful instagram contest on their last tour. The idea was simple, ask concert goers to take the photos of their experience and then post them to instagram with the hashtags ‘deftonesband’ and ‘thecityoftheconcert’. The band garnished thousands of followers and made the main Instagram page a dozen times.
In a way, the promotion was a unique success, because it transended the typical contest. It wasn’t a simple ‘like’ contest through a stale Facebook page or a spam-induced retweet contest. Instead, it was a simple and creative way for fans to showcase their artistic talents and to allow them to be apart of the overall Deftones experience. Essentially a win-win for the band and the concert goers.
Another, more local example of a unique Instagram business use, is the popular design magazine Uppercase Magazine. Known throughout the design industry for their beautiful magazine, Uppercase is easily one of the most intriguing accounts to follow on Instagram. Not only do you get a sneak peak into the design and development process of this much loved magazine, but you also get to get an intimate look into the personal side of the creative process.
These are just two simple examples, but really the sky is the limits. For example a Food Truck could easily use instagram to not only advertise their latest specials, but also their location (thanks to the Geo-locational API). And I’m sure someone will come up a few more unique instances.
Again, I’m a bit of a Luddite.
I’m not a gadget person and definitely not a tech fan-boi. And while I treasured my first Sony Digital camera, until I placed my thumb through the display screen, I don’t lust for Digital Camera toys.
In an odd way, the emergence of the Digital Camera has made me want to spend more time with analog cameras. I currently own a Polaroid and a Diana Mini and I enjoy the basic level of discovery and the excitement of both cameras. Especially, in comparison to the routiness of a Digital Camera.
But with Instagram and an iPhone/iPod Touch, you get the best of both the digital and analog worlds. Which makes it almost impossible to justify lugging around one of these clunky cameras. Who wants to bother with the inconvenience of finding room for a bag of film or dealing with the uncertainty of how the film will turn out, when you can just Instagram it straight from a smartphone.
So in that instance, Instagram steals the fun and excitement of exploring the world of analog film. It also feels foolish to spend a few hours playing with an old Lomo camera and scanning the five or six quality photos to Flickr, when you can just snap a photo with your iPod, add a filter, and upload it to your favorite social networks. It kinda takes the excitement away from experimenting with Polaroid film and some old 35mm film.
But in the same breath, Instagram is a powerful, powerful app.
With the brisk pace of Digital Camera development, everyone pretty much has a high quality camera at their disposal at all time. Instagram allows users to kick that up a notch and more.
For me, I adore this little app, because it allows me to capture the unique elements of my daily life and add a artistic flare. Instagram allows me to instantly share with my friends, family, facebook friends and twitter followers my daily experience and the images which inspire me. The elements of my new home and the elements of discovery that I come across. And I can also watch my friends and see what is going on in their lives.
So in the same breath that I hate this app, I also love it. It’s why this is such a complicated relationship.
As I watch and continue to use Instagram, I’m starting to believe that it will become one of the most powerful and influential social networks out there. Sure all the buzz is on the Google+/Facebook stand off, but to ignore the untapped potential of Instagram, would be a big mistake.
Even if it means allowing my Polaroid and Diana Mini to gather a bit more dust.
We all know that Canadians are heading to the polls for first time since Social Media crept into our daily consciousness. Canadian mainstream media has be salivating at the so-called Twitter and Facebook Revolutions across the middle east and recent social media successes of Barack Obama and Naheed Nenshi. Because of which, most national news outlets are jumping on the Social Media bandwagon and transposing those scenarios on to Election 41, dubbing it Canada’s Twitter Election.
While Social Media will play a part in the remainder of the campaign, I can say with almost certainty that Election 2011 will not be ‘won’ by a Social Media Movement.
… and here’s why.
Anyone who has ever run a successful Social Media campaign will tell you that the returns on these campaigns are never instantaneous. A successful Social Media campaign takes time, patience and a whole lot of hard work.
The mainstream media loves to portray the big successful Social Media campaigns of the past few years as these amazing brightly coloured rockets of excitement, which shot out of nowhere to captivate our collective imaginations. Which is all find and dandy, but it’s far from the reality. Rather a well orchestrated Social Media campaign is a slow and tedious grind. But with steady persistence and a bit of luck it can be turned into an avalanche of activity and excitement at the right time.
Of course the most popular example is Barak Obama’s grassroots online campaign. Every media outlet loves to champion this as the quintessential template for a political Social Media campaign. But anyone who followed the campaign, understands that it didn’t just appear on September 1st, 2008. No, the true momentum started building during the Democratic Leadership primaries of 2007. Where excited and influential supporters (Think Oprah) started jumping on board the Obama-train. From there it quietly built it’s momentum, like a small snowball, until November 2008 when Obama was elected.
Another, more local, example is the Social Media campaign of Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi’s. For those who followed the municipal campaign for much of 2010, they’ll tell you that Nenshi’s campaign didn’t start on August 12th. Rather his campaign started gaining traction with an influential circle of supporters way back in April of 2010. It started with an innocent little Facebook page. From there it shifted gears from a small group of excited supporters to a full on political movement. The campaign quietly built a solid online foundation; picking-up casual supporters and influential champions (something which I wrote about early in the Municipal election) up until October, where Naheed was elected Mayor of Calgary.
Which brings me back to Election 41.
Don’t get me wrong, I cherish the Canadian Parliamentary system. Especially the ability of opposition parties to force a non-confidence vote on minority governments. Unfortunately, an unplanned election doesn’t provide the most conducive environment to build a powerful online movement. Successful Social Media campaigns, especially in the political realm take time and patience; something which is not available to any political organization during a spur of the moment two month campaign.
The suddenness of this election means that any real sustaining momentum or movement won’t be able to gain traction until it’s far too late.
Using the Obama and Nenshi examples, one of the key elements in both scenarios was that it was a clean slate for the respective electorate populations. In the US, George W. Bush had finished his last term as president. Because of which, there was a fresh slate of political figures vying for the leadership of the two national parties. In the Nenshi example, we had an incumbent mayor who was stepping down after years at the helm, allowing a fresh new slate of challengers to replace him. One of the key factors in both situations, was that there was an unusual opportunity of change – an opportunity which is easy to rally a grassroots movement around and to captivate an audience.
Meanwhile in the run up to Election 41, there really isn’t the same sort of urgency or freshness to Canada’s political parties. Most of the leaders, with Michael Ignatieff as the lone oddity, have been at the helm of their respective parties for quite sometime. There is a national familiarity and sense of repetitiveness with this election and it’s showing with the underlying national feeling of apathy.
And yes, a case could be made that there is a different sort of urgency in this election. One where it is either a push for a Conservative Majority or to defend a Conservative Minority, but it’s not the same as a clean political slate. Many Canadians are already deeply entrenched in their loyalties to one party or the other. There isn’t the same level of excitement or variety during an election with already establish party leaders and a series of stale agendas.
In a clean slate political environment, there is a inherit new sense of excitement and opportunity. There is also an unusual amount of undecided voters. Maybe blame it on the attention span of the Gen X’ers, Gen Ys and The Millennial, but there really isn’t buzz or sense of newness with this election. In addition, there isn’t a bevy of undecided voters looking for a party to represent their values. So an online movement from either party is going to be hard pressed to gain any sort of traction, especially in a short two month time period.
Now don’t get me wrong, Social Media will play a part in Election 2011. But I think it would be foolish to think that it will have as big as an impact as the mainstream media is hoping for. There are far too many situational factors working against the Social Media organizers of either party to truly cultivate any real momentum for their causes.
I’ve been watching the proceedings from the comfort of my DC apartment and from simple observations, I’m are not seeing the same sort of buzz creeping into Canadian’s online conversations. The rhetoric is there in snippets, but we are not seeing the heavy influences on either network championing a Conservative, Liberal or NDP agenda. Yes, there have been a couple of blips. For example the campaign to have Elizabeth May added to the leaders debate gained some traction and there was a bit of a ground swirl revolving around the Ignateuff-Harper debate. But overall the conversation has been quiet and subdued.
It’s because of these factors that I’m pretty confident that Social Media won’t be as big of a factor in 2011. But that’s not to say that Social Media’s influence in the political spectrum is dead. One only needs to start looking at the grassroots movements cultivating in Alberta for the upcoming provincial election in 2012 to see that it will continue to be as important as ever.
A quick peak online sees the perfect storm for Social Media to wield it’s heavy influence. You have an incumbent Premier stepping down, a growing group of fresh faced Progressive Conservative leadership candidates gaining traction and a growing wave of optimism and opportunity surrounding two upstart opposition parties – The WildRose Alliance and The Alberta Party. Who are both generating an incredible sense of buzz in their own right.
So yes, while Social Media will probably be deemed ineffective in 2011, one only needs to look to Alberta in 2012 to see its future… Or better yet wait till Election 42 if the Conservatives receive another minority and a clean slate of political leaders are brought to the table.