Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Started with a tweet

Photo of The Left Reverend Gary-7

So even MySpace is starting to see action on the current protests sweeping the world. An artist on MySpace name The Left Reverend Gary-7 has a song called "Started with a Tweet", which celebrates what it sees as an emerging protest movement started by social network.

The Left Reverend Gary-7 | Free Music, Tour Dates, Photos, Videos

This song is interesting for two reasons.

Firstly we are starting to see the "cyber revolution" spirit spreading beyond Twitter and Facebook and extending wider and deeper, with more and more sites like Flickr and MySpace which we had not seen involved being drawn in to the current event.

We also are seeing a growing sense that the Internet is empowering protest movements. They are even motivating them, washing away much of the cynicism of the last couple decades.

Again social networks are a tool and a tool alone. There are a lot of causes for discontent from the Middle East to America. Current efforts to use the cost of the bank bailouts as a justification to reduce government spending on social programs while there is little evidence anything has been done to re-regulate the financial system has clearly angered a large number of people around the world.

But one should not discount the impact of social media. Which has been very dramatic not just for organizing and communication, but for a space for people to build a shared unified global identity.

Why Flickr and Yahoo! are not part of the current Social Network augmented revolution

Going back to May 2007 the BBC ran a report on Rebekka Gudleifsdóttir. See Flickr site. Comments on her photo stream were censored in mass by Flickr because a few were rather angry. Seems that her work was being taken off Flickr and sold by a company, and when her fans got mad on Flickr they soon found themselves censored.

At the time this event had a massive chilling impact on those hoping to use the Internet as a platform for democratic discourse. 2007 was the year when the idea that the Internet was just a means of control and domination seemed inescapable.

But we should always remember the Internet is a tool. Fast forward a few years, introduce some new players with ethics, energy, and a wider perspective and you have Twitter, Facebook and Google actively helping the protests in the Middle East and becoming a major enemy for regimes in those nations.

And now the story has changed a great deal:

"Feb. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton vowed the U.S. will step up support for global Internet freedom, as citizens using social networking sites run by Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. organize demonstrations spreading across the Mideast and North Africa."

From a purely business point of view the lesson is pretty clear: if you are going in to the Internet communications business don't sell your customers out to their brutal regimes: its bad press and bad business. Yahoo! has lost the confidence of a generation of web users who can't even remember why it was hot back in the 1990s. But to say they "lost" it is an understatement, they intentionally crushed it.

And this is why we hear about Google, Facebook and Twitter on almost every news broadcast and nothing about Yahoo! and Flickr. The key lesson is that you can't control a Web 2.0 environment, users will find a way around you and in a landscape that encourages insurgent innovators they will find another place to go. Flickr lost the photo market to Facebook, and now people who may have started using Facebook as a place to post photos are seeing it as a place to organize political identity. When people tried to do this on Flickr they were beaten down.

In the summer of 2009 Flickr carried out a mass cull of posters that showed Obama as the Joker. They claimed copyright infringement but most people took it as either part of a deal with th White House to distribute photos on Flickr, thus bypassing the official web site, or just the bias of the users. No one has ever claimed that their images were violated.

All of its established a pattern of a careless center out attitude towards control and content that was clearly part of the the culture of Flickr and Yahoo!. The thing is this center out approach is precisely the opposite of the flow of social networks. Social Networks are not simply new broadcasting formats with the content producers as controlled unpaid, or in the case of Flickr even paying, slaves. People will soon figure out any structure that tires to play them in to that roll and work to get around it. In the case of Flickr the work around was to go to Twitter and Facebook.

Firms that do not grasp that there has been a fundamental decentralization of information creation and distribution are doomed.

Web 3.0 technology using mobile phones just extends this. If you block your employees access to sites like Twitter and Facebook they will just go to their smartphones. If you try and control the content of groups and forums people will just form them on freer networks. Flickr has an amazing services for creating groups and managing discussions but it plays no role right now in current cyber organizing because no one trusts Flickr.

chaosMonster (The Mind of Bob 2.0): Yahoo 'censored' Flickr comments

Terrorists caused the 2008 collapse? Maybe not

The Right Wing Daily Online in the UK has this story about an assessment that the 2008 US collapse was caused by terrorist.

'Financial terrorists bankrupted America': New Pentagon report blames U.S. enemies for financial crisis | Mail Online: "The 2009 report, Economic Warfare: Risks and Responses, said financial terrorism by Jihadists or countries such as China may have cost the global economy $50 trillion in a series of co-ordinated strikes against the U.S. economy."

The story goes on to talk about a few secret traders, bear runs, and a 3 phase attack which somehow brings in US national debt.

Kind of chilling reading, but this is the Daily Mail. A review on Google News sees that what sounds like the biggest story in history has not got legs yet. A more measured look Atlantic Wire debunks it:

Blame Terrorists, Not Wall Street, for the Recession? - The Atlantic Wire: "But not many accept Freeman's analysis. The government's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission says the 2008 crash happened because a lot of big loans were given out to people who couldn't afford them, and a lot of firms bet on those loans. And Yale's Paul Bracken, who has studied economic warfare, sees 'no convincing evidence that 'outside forces' colluded to bring about the 2008 crisis. ... Foreign banks and hedge funds play the shorts all the time too. But suggestions of an organized targeted attack for strategic reasons don't seem to me to be plausible.'"

Really blaming the 2008 on traditional enemies of the US like China (like they would gain from losing their largest consumer population) or Al Qaeda (really? That just sounds strange) for a collapse started with millions of people buying homes they could not afford strikes me as just a Think Tank trying to wrap up the largest failure of Capitalism since 1929 (only 80 years before) in a nice Military Industrial complex story.

If we follow Freeman's report a number of conclusion that traditional Conservatives would like emerge:

First the Capitalist system that exists in America has nothing wrong with it, the collapse was conducted from outside.

Therefore to secure the economy the levels of defense spending need to increase vastly.

And Freeman points to the national debt as a part of a third phase of the attack, so slashing government spending is just required to protect us from China and Bin Laden.

One has to wonder how people get these jobs?