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Spammers, spam – and Monty Python

Research explores how key spam players interact.  Canada’s new anti-spam legislation came into effect in July 2014. 

It is estimated that over 14 billion spam messages are sent around the world every day.  Researchers at Aachen University in Germany and the University of California, Santa Barbara explored the three key elements required in a spam campaign – the list of victim emails, the content, and a botnet.

Experts specialising in each of these three elements have emerged, selling their expertise in a ‘prosperous underground economy’ and building their own versions of customer loyalty. By seeking to better understand the relationships between the key players, it’s hoped that researchers can develop more effective anti-spam measures.  (You can download their findings here.)

Meanwhile, Canada has rolled out new legislation that aims to tackle the issue of spam.   The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is outlined in summary here.  Although the potential fines are high, the fact is that any organisation following good practice will not fall foul of the new legislation.  You should have clear unsubscribe processes, and have the permission of the recipients to send them commercial messages.

And of course, the legislation is only relevant for email addresses in Canada (.ca)

And now for something completely different

Spam of the edible kind features in a famous Monty Python sketch (described in this humourless Wikipedia entry).   In July 2014 the surviving Monty Python cast is taking to the stage for the first time in decades.   The 20,000 tickets for their opening night at London’s O2 Arena sold out in a record breaking 43 seconds.

The ‘Tour’ is embracing social media. Fans can follow the Tour on Twitter and appear on the fan wall by using the Tour Hashtags.  They can also treat themselves to a Ministry of Silly Walks app and  join the Python Spam Club.  Which begs the question, what if your spam is about the spam club?

Ephemeral messaging

“This message will self-destruct in 24 hours”

The growth of ephemeral messaging services and private social networks – individuals want more privacy; companies want to be more like Snapchat!

Path is a private social network that supports photo-sharing and private messaging between close friends.  Each user may include up to 150 friends in their network.  Path has now announced that all new messages will be automatically removed from their servers after 24 hours (downloaded messages will remain on users’ devices).  The service has described these messages as “24-hour ephemeral”.

Ephemeral messaging is of course key feature of Snapchat.  Dating website Tinder is also following suit, announcing that it will be rolling out a feature that allow users to share photos that will disappear in 24 hours.  Apple is also appropriating this feature in iOS 8 due to be launched later in 2014.  Facebook has accidentally revealed it is developing its own Snapchat tribute.

‘Antisocial networking’

Apps such as Cloak and Split allow users to avoid people they may know but don’t want to run into.  The mine geolocation information from other social media tools to let you know if you are about to bump into someone you would rather avoid.

Anomo is an anonymous social app that counters the ‘oversharing’ that many people feel is happing in many social forums.

What about ephemeral messaging in the workplace?

Apparently, Snapchat is already being put to use by insider traders on Wall Street – boo!  Seth Fiegerman explores the growth of startups aiming to introduce ephemeral messaging into the workplace.  These include an app (Confide) to support ‘off the record’ conversations which are encrypted and then destroyed.  Users are barred from taking screenshots.  The tricky path for some of these startups aimed specifically at business is to ensure their business model does not rely on supporting illegal behaviour.

Sources: Mashable; The New Yorker; The Guardian; Gadgetsndtv;

The second digital revolution

New information seeking behaviours mean libraries and publishers have to change.

People are increasingly creating and consuming information on the move.  This, combined with the growth of cloud-based products and services, is challenging the traditional workplace environment and opening up new opportunities for agile working, personal development and how we spend our leisure time.  The first digital revolution took place in fixed space – in the office, the home and the library.  But the second digital revolution is taking place on the move – and this has enormous implications for the continued existence of libraries and for publishers of information.

These are the conclusions of David Nicholas of the pan-Europe research organisation CIBER.  He explained how he had come to these conclusions at the latest NetIKX meeting held in London.  He described how he and his colleagues use technology to record millions of digital footprints and how this provides high-value insights into how people really interact with information.

He describes a world in which ‘horizontal’ information seeking (shallow and skimming) has become much more important than ‘vertical/deep’ activity. Users are bouncing around, clicking on hyperlinks that discourage deep engagement.  They are hyperactive (looking at one page before moving on); unsophisticated searchers and generally ‘promiscuous’ – 40% will never return to the webpage.

CIBER has conducted research on the Europeana website. As far back as 2010, their research outputs described the critical importance of the visual and the moving image to users.  The latest Europeana figures show that mobile access to the site is growing five times as fast as from fixed devices.  Mobile users are ‘information-lite’ users – they use abbreviated search and spend less time on the site.  They are seeking immediate answers.  Peak mobile access is happening at the weekends and evenings.

For the younger generation in particular, mobile devices are trusted ‘complete’ sources of information – in contrast to libraries which they view as ‘incomplete’. Conditioned by texting they have a ‘fast food’ attitude to information.  Mobiles provide access to everyone anywhere and OA models are simply increasing the information haul.

Libraries need to articulate the value and rationale for their collections in the borderless information landscape.  They need to emphasise their capacity for quality control and assurance in a ‘fast food’ world.

David Nicholas was speaking at NetIKX. The second speaker was Max Whitby of the innovative app publisher Touch Press.  His presentation, showcasing the innovative content of best-selling apps, highlighted that clever publishers can create content that meets the needs of both vertical and horizontal searchers.  Rob Rosset has written about his presentation on the NetIKX blog here.

NetiKX has also written about David Nicholas’ presentation here.  You can find out more about NetIKX here.

 

Chatham House rules! A historical digital archive for the 21st Century

Leading international affairs think-tank has released its digital archive.

Chatham House in London is the home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs which, by bringing together academics, researchers and decision makers, has helped shape and inform policy for almost 100 years. The famous ‘Chatham House Rule’ helps facilitate open and honest communication.

Chatham House Online Archive (1920-2008), published by Gale (part of Cengage Learning) is making over half a million pages available to researchers and students interested in politics, international law, economics and international relations.  The archive features fully searchable documents, transcripts of speeches and audio recordings of world figures including Mahatma Gandhi and Henry Kissinger. The Archive offers “unique insights” into political developments in the 20th century.

The publishers and Chatham House celebrated the launch with a high profile debate on how a deep understanding of the past can inform our understanding of the present and influence decision making.  The speakers (including David Stevenson, Professor of International History at LSE; Anne Deighton, Professor of European International Politics at the University of Oxford); debated whether lessons can be learned from the Cold War (particularly the end of the Cold War) to inform our understanding of the current political upheaval in Ukraine.

The final speaker, Times journalist David Aaronovitch, celebrated the arrival of the digital archive – and digitisation in general.  For him the resources and expertise of Chatham House help journalists get to the heart of the dilemma and are an essential part of the journalist’s toolkit to facilitate understanding of current affairs.

For more information on the Chatham House archive, visit the Gale/Cengage Learning website.

Sharing, collaboration and getting it wrong

There’s nothing like a headline telling you you’ve got it wrong to make you read on. 

An article on Time.com written by a data analytics expert tells us ‘What [we] think [we] know about the Web is wrong’ – or at least when it comes to measuring ‘clicks’.  Actually most of us already know there is a massive difference between what people share and what they have actually read, or what people click and what they read.  For information professionals, who act as curators for many audiences, clicking and sharing appropriately (or “delving deep into multiple pots of data and information*” is a critical skill.

The article shares some interesting statistics:

  • 55% of those who click on a link spend 15 seconds or less reviewing the screen (lesson – grab your visitors quickly)
  • Content sharers are a small percentage of content visitors – one tweet per 100 visitors/readers

…and is worth reading for longer than 15 seconds.

On SocialMediaToday, another headline suggests we’ve got social media ‘all wrong’.  It’s a brief overview of how social media supports search engine optimisation and reminds us that customers don’t owe brands anything “They don’t have to share your content, they don’t have to interact with posts and they certainly don’t have to suggest your page to other people.”

Collaboration goes mainstream in the sharing economy

Regular readers of this blog may remember a New York Times Insight report about the ‘psychology of sharing’.  A new report has looked at ‘sharers’ in Canada, the UK and US and has organised those participating in the sharing economy into three types:

  • Neo-Sharers are those who have used sharing services such as Etsy**, Kickstarter or Airbnb at least once in the past year
  • Re-Sharers – are those who are already using well-established services (eBay etc) but are not yet ‘Neos’
  • Non-Sharers are those with intentions to use sharing services in the next year

Neo- and re-sharers constitute about 40% of the US and Canadian populations and about 50% of the UK population.

Sharers are more likely to be affluent, young and are much more likely to discover services via word of mouth, social networks or blogs than from ‘traditional’ marketing.

*Andy Tattersall writing about overload filters.

** We featured ‘the Etsy economy’ here.

 

 

Book publishing – some recent innovations

Book publishers experimenting with new models; books fighting binge drinking in Italy

Netflix models

An article on Wired.com looks at a new online fiction service called Rooster in which a book publisher adopts a magazine model to make itself more like Netflix!  The service uses a subscription based model that sends content to iPhones and iPads.  The daily chunks of content should take about 15 minutes to read and will deliver two books’ worth of content over a month.  Similarly, Waterstones in the UK has announced Read Petite – a ‘rich reading experience for time-poor readers’.

Another innovation learning from the Netflix model is Epic!  This app aims to encourage children to read by offering rewards for completing chapters or starting ‘reading marathons’.  For a monthly subscription, children have access to a library of over 2000 titles and can rate the books they have read.  The app also allows parents to monitor their children’s reading habits.

Book buying and book borrowing and struggling readers

The latest Pew report shows the link between highly engaged library users and book buying.  The report shows that ‘Library Lovers’ – the heaviest users of libraries and about 10% of the US population – are also frequent buyers of books, despite many of them experiencing a drop in income.

The UK Charity Quick Reads found that reading e-books can be particularly helpful for adults who may be struggling with their reading while 48% say e-readers  have encouraged them to read more.

Binge drinking – books to the rescue!

Sadly Neknominate, the social media drinking game, has spread around the world. In Italy a literary alternative to the game has been developed.  ‘Booknomination’ follows similar rules but instead of drinking, the nominated person must read a passage from a book over a webcam.  The initiative is on Facebook on the hashtag #booknomination.

Sources: Springwise; DigitalBookWorld; TheLocal; Pew Research Center; Publishing Perspectives; Wired.

Youth TV – ‘the need for speed’

The BBC’s youth TV channel to close; but a different story emerges in Belgium

In the UK the BBC has announced that it is to close its ‘youth-oriented’ TV channel and move the content onto its online platform the iPlayer.

Previous proposals to close down radio channels have been revised following public outcry.  In 2010 the BBC announced it wanted to close down two radio stations – 6 Music and the Asian Network.  Neither station was closed.

However, it seems unlikely that BBC Three will be saved.  The Corporation needs to make savings and this move alone could save it £50million a year. Some commentators have suggested the move is short-sighted.  The BBC is funded by licence payers and young people are the licence payers of the future.

In Belgium, VRT, the public service broadcaster has been developing digital projects to engage with its younger audience.  Rachel Bartlett, writing on Journalism.co.uk, describes how the broadcaster developed an internal ‘start-up’ to experiment with new platforms to re-engage with younger viewers.  The broadcaster has been consulting the target audience and is now developing three projects that reflect the way young people use and engage with social media:

  • a mobile video project on Instagram and Snapchat – Ninjanieuws
  • Sambal a Facebook-supported news platform
  • OpenVRT which encourages young people to collaborate with the channel via video, photography and blogging.

Key lessons – ‘the need for speed’

  • Keep videos very short
  • Embed animated gifs into articles – link out to YouTube
  • 15-second long videos helped launch Ninjaniews
  • Tell a news story on a 10-second Snapchat video
  • For the target audience (16-24) – focus on Facebook not Twitter
  • There’s no need for a homepage – Facebook drives traffic
  • Facebook also provides a home for ‘pop-up digital news products’ that respond quickly to certain trends

You can read Rachel’s full article on Journalism.co.uk.

The news behind a paywall – a success story from the Netherlands

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are often cited as paywall success stories.  But how are smaller news outlets making paywalls succeed?

In the Netherlands, a news site called De Correspondent set a world record in crowdfunded journalism.

In September 2013 it took just eight days for 15,000 donors to raise over one million Euros.  The site has over 25,000 ‘members’, each of whom pays 5 Euros a month to access the site.

De Correspondent has succeeded because it has brought a fresh approach to digital only journalism.  Elements of its ‘manifesto’ challenge traditional aspects of news journalism.

  • Commercial model – the site is advertisement-free and has a profit ceiling of 5%.  They want to ‘sell content to readers, not readers to advertisers’.
  • Not ‘readers’ but ‘participants’.  The site was created to enable much more than reader comment.  Instead, it has a focus on building relationships between people and acknowledges the expertise of the community.  ‘Dialogue not ‘monologue’
  • A focus on themes and connections – the site moves beyond traditional news categories such as ‘business’ or ‘international’ and instead aims to make sense of a globalised world
  • Like-minded people – not target audiences
  • An emphasis on fact-checking – and emotion

The power of community has been used to fund the site, and to develop its content.  It is also the way in which the word is spread.  De Correspondent limits its advertising to promoting some articles via Facebook.  All other marketing is conducted by the members who share with their friends and followers.

Further reading:  De Correspondent website; GigaOm

‘Convergence is King’ in the new information industry

In the new information industry, neither content nor technology is king.  It is the unique combination of both which is driving the sector.

With the start of a new year comes a flurry of reports and posts predicting emerging trends for the year ahead.

One of the most interesting to emerge so far is Outsell’s Information Industry Outlook 2014 report.  Last year, Outsell explored the theme ‘the new normal’ (which was the key theme for Internet Librarian International in 2011).  This year’s report, ‘Convergence Now!’ explores new partnerships and the creation of new information products that bring together community and commerce.

The report explores an information industry that includes both the ‘traditional’ (e.g. news and yellow pages, both of which are declining) and new players.  Growth information sectors include educational technology, health IT and marketing services.

Convergence – key trends

  • New partners, new competition – industry leaders such as Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier are partnering and competing with for example IBM, Deloitte, Oracle
  • No more ‘mobile’ or ‘digital’ - a new focus on cross-media approaches mean these words will gradually disappear and we will be offering simply ‘services’ or ‘strategy’
  • New solutions – combining content, software, community and commerce to create platforms that support workflow
  • Face-to-face – at the same time in-person events which offer ‘extended engagement’ are a strong market
  • EdTech – the move to digital will not be rapid but will continue.  A hybrid model market will continue for years
  •  STM – Open Science is ‘here to stay’ – bringing threats and opportunities to the industry

As usual, the report concludes with a list of companies to watch over the next year.  These include big established players, such as Amazon and Elsevier, but a number of new players working in the content market.  Examples include Hypothes.is, a non-profit offering ‘open annotation’.

The report is free to download from Outsell.

From Selfish Giant to Slumdog Millionaire – lessons from Channel 4 film and drama

Sometimes it is good to step outside of the information echo chamber. 

What can we learn from leaders in another profession – one which seeks to balance creative vision with tight budgets; is challenged by new formats, technology and delivery channels; has to balance multiple stakeholders; is threatened by pirated content, and is working to meet the anytime, anywhere demands of end users?

Tessa Ross is the Controller of Film and Drama for Channel 4 and recipient of the 2013 Bafta award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to British Cinema’.  Her projects included Slumdog Millionaire, A Field in England, In Bruges and The Selfish Giant.  She came to film via theatre and – speaking at the Olive Till Memorial Lecture* – described a ‘drift’ into her current role rather than a firm plan.  She commissions films for the Channel with a ‘tiny’ budget of £15 million a year.

Her responsibility is to spend that budget wisely and to help people fulfil their creative vision.  Her role requires her to combine creative mentoring, experimentation and risk taking, in depth knowledge of the industry and the people within it, team development and creative matchmaking – and financial and business acumen.

“I think you’re brilliant.  What can I do to help you?”

For Ross, talent rather than the medium is her objective.  The vast majority of projects brought to her will not be made and Channel 4 may not be the right home for everyone’s idea.  But for those that she does work with, her focus is on helping them fulfil their creative vision.  This requires tenacity and sometimes a long-term commitment (One of her recent films, Under the Skin, took 13 years to make it from script to screen).

Channel 4’s remit encourages eclectic storytelling and experimentation.  The recent ‘magic mushroom/civil war’ film A Field in England was the result of an experimental masterclass in making a low budget feature film.  It was released simultaneously on multiple platforms.

Ross works with – and helps to develop – creative talent and her role requires a wide-ranging skill set.  Many members of the audience, the majority of them film students, expressed their interest in working with Channel 4 – and her.  And who wouldn’t want a mentor like that?!

*The Olive Till Memorial Debate and Bursary are presented by Stewart Till CBE, CEO Icon Entertainment and Deputy Chair Skillset, in memory of his mother at Goldsmiths, University of London’.  Previous speakers have included Danny Boyle and Tim Bevan.

[Follow Val Skelton on Google+]