Jan. 13, 2013 — This week in social media: Mark Zuckerberg wants $100, Chelsea and Pyongyang hot spots, and the first meme of 2013

We’re only three weeks in and 2013 is already a mess. Yes, CES was a great success but I’m not even going to go there.* A ton of other news that will change our world took place.

*Ok, maybe just one thing. The iPotty, below, is perfect for lazy parents who don’t want to potty train their kids. (There are tons of apps for that.) CES next year will feature an upgraded version where the iPotty will have arms that wipe your kids’ butts for you…controlled by another app that you access from your iPhone 15. I hear competitors are already building the iPad attachments for adult-sized toilets.

Need potty training? There’s an app…and a potty for that.

And now, on to the real head-scratchers from this week…

1. Message Mark Zuckerberg for only $100, tax included

The Mashable team discovered this week that it costs $100 to send a message to Mark Zuckerberg. More specifically, the $100 fee will insure that a message gets delivered to Mark’s Facebook inbox rather than thrown into his “other folder.”

Facebook announced that it would be testing this pay-to-ping feature last December. For a dollar, users can send messages to total strangers, they said. Now, it appears that if the stranger happens to be a well-known public figure or has a ton of followers, that fee jumps to $100.
While Facebook spokespeople are saying that they’re testing “extreme price points to see what works to filter spam,” it’s seems to me that the company’s just a bit desperate to create more revenue streams to please investors.

This week, Eduardo Ustaran, who heads the privacy and information law group at Field Fisher Waterhouse, warned that European regulators are proposing new rules that would restrict companies like Facebook from using personal data for advertising. He also said that they “wouldn’t be able to rely on consent” either. ZDNet’s story also quotes Facebook’s head of EU policy for Brussels, who said that Facebook is “concerned” that the new rules conflict with online business models.

If the proposals are approved, millions of European users will be relieved of “sponsored stories” in their News feeds, not to mention targeted adds for “Bridal Uggs” or becoming the spokesperson for personal lube. Everything is just so much better in Europe.

Thankfully the stock actually climbed above $30 this week, the first time since its IPO more than six months ago. So, maybe they’ll drop that pay-to-ping price down to $50.

How much would I pay to message Mark Zuckerberg? A hundred if I knew he would definitely read my message and respond. If not, I’m happy to take my chances in the “other folder.” (It’s like paying for VIP cover at a club where Kim Kardashian is hosting a party. You at least know that she knows you’re kinda in her vicinity.)

By the way, the existence of an “other folder” was news to me. Apparently, the “other folder” is akin to a spam folder and the opposite of Gmail’s “priority” label. Facebook throws into the “other folder” messages it thinks you won’t want to read. I’ve been so out of the game…

2. Chelsea and North Korea cheer for Google…

Cheers across the world for Google this week, who deployed their senior executives to the two most contrasting places on earth: the Meatpacking district and Pyongyang.

Google rolled out free Wi-Fi to residents living within a 10-block radius of its Chelsea office on Tuesday. This new “hot spot” (wink wink) is the largest contiguous Wi-Fi network in the entire city. Google’s joint effort with city and state lawmakers and local developers may be a hint that Google is looking to expand its New York office — its second largest — even more. Good news for all, especially people who hate San Francisco but want to work in tech, starving artists living in huge Chelsea lofts, and apartment hunters. “FREE internet!” and “More jobs!” cry the Craigslist postings. The Associated Press has the full report on the story here.

While Chief Technology Officer Ben Fried was unveiling the new network on the cobblestone streets of Chelsea, executive chairman Eric Schmidt visited a computer lab at Kim Il Sung University in steely Pyongyang. Schmidt was there with his daughter, Sophie, former New Mexica Gov. Bill Richardson and Google Ideas think tank director Jared Cohen. The reason for the four-person entourage’s four-day trip to North Korea is not yet known. According to the Associated Press, Richardson has called the trip a “private, humanitarian” mission. Many speculate that he was there to negotiate the release of detained Americans. (In 1996, Richardson secured the release of two Americans from Iraq, negotiating one-on-one with Saddam Hussein. That same year, he played “a major role in securing the release of American Evan Hunziker from North Korean custody[16] .)

Unlike the denizens of the meatpacking district however, most North Koreans have never accessed the World wide Web. Those who have are required to apply and receive clearance from the government. (Getting into Le Baron is a piece of cake comparatively.) Even after receiving approval to use the web, the government imposes strict limits and rules on users. University students, for example, are carefully monitored internet access and are instructed to only access educational materials. Even so, when asked how they look for information, the students at Kim Il Sung university said that they “Google it.”

Those without clearance can access the country’s domestic Intranet service, which provides access to state-run media and government-culled reading materials. According to CBS news: “North Koreans with computers at home can also sign up for the Intranet service.” Interestingly enough, Kim Jong Un highlighted science and technology as a way to build the country’s weak economy in his New Year’s Day speech…Let’s see if the Google visit will help him achieve his goal.

3. Soccer is boring, the clubs pay too much, cause professional players to become Twitter addicts…and racists

There’s nothing funnier than watching athletes go after each other on social media. It seems like soccer players are the worst or best offenders, depending on how you look at it. Usually, however, one player or spectator has to go and ruin it for everyone else with some racially-charged remark and pay a huge fine, blah, blah, blah.

The latest footballers in the spotlight for Twitter misuse are Hiberian striker Leigh Griffiths and Bolton Wanderers forward Marvin Sordell.

Griffiths told user Zak Iqbal to “go back to your own country” in response to another tweet. Griffiths has restricted access to his Twitter account and later apologized, saying it was out of order. His club said in a statement that:  “The player will be subject to a disciplinary process which will be a private matter between the club and the player.”

Sordell on the other hand had his phone confiscated this week to help with his “possible obsession with Twitter.” The Daily Dot reported that his manager “claimed that ‘there have been small issues off the field with his tweeting.'” He’s a young player, only 21, and has sent over 5,000 Tweets since joining Twitter in 2009. Though they took away his phone, he still continued to Tweet the next morning from his computer.

Didn’t think through the treatment of his obsession very well, did they? Maybe they should think about deactivating his account.

4. Rapper live-tweets his own suicide, 4chan instigates #CuttingforBieber
Some unfortunate trends have started online. First, over the weekend, a 23-year-old rapper from Seattle posted a dozen messages with suicidal undertones before taking his own life. According to The Verge, this is “the second time in three months that a suicide attempt has been broadcast live over Twitter.”
The Tweets are online but I haven’t been able to bring myself to read them.
Beliebers posted photos of themselves “cutting for Bieber,” not knowing it was a hoax. It made me sad and sick. Morality seems to be disappearing under the cloak of “jokes.” Everyone seems to be a comedian now.
“In the case of Operation Cut for Bieber, however, it seems that the prospect of hurting teenage girls hasn’t raised such a pushback as hurting cats. The site’s hard core will claim that everything Anonymous does is for the “lulz”- humour comes unencumbered by moral considerations. They will claim to be an ectoplasmic body, free from the typical constraints of morality. But the truth is this isn’t the truth. At its roots, /b/ is just a bunch of people, not some impersonal online force. And so long as human beings are involved, morality is too. When it comes down to it, encouraging teenagers to cut themselves is wrong, no matter the context, and a shame on the site that supposedly has none.” — Memphis Barker, The Independent
My guess is that suicide prevention hotlines, counselors and support groups will start incorporating social media monitoring as part of their routine. I’m sure efforts have already started.
The biggest trouble, as both of these Twitter travesties/tragedies demonstrate, is how do we tell when someone is just looking for attention versus someone who is looking for real help?
5.  ”1776 will commence again” is the first meme of 2013 

 On Monday night, CNN played ringmaster to the circus show that was the Piers Morgan/Alex Jones interview. Jones, co-creator of an official White House petition petition to deport Piers Morgan, lambasted the British journalist on his views for greater gun control. It was a spectacle that made me respect Morgan a little more than I have in the past. To keep his head on straight and be as cool and collected as he was in the face of an irate middle-aged man on national TV is why they pay the big journalists the big bucks. Right?

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