The Social Web

WikiLeaks needs to clean up their public face.

I really believe in WikiLeaks’ cause. It’s a kind of journalism that wasn’t possible with older communications media, and as such is definitely forcing us to reconsider our values when it comes to reporting, openness, bias, source reliability, censorship, confidential sources, and more. I’m convinced that it will serve as a great benefit to democracy.

It’s also under plenty of threats from those whose power is threatened by WikiLeaks. It’s still a budding tool, and has yet to become a major journalistic establishment with its own protections and stability. Powers are certainly working to compromise it before it can attain such success. They’ll go after anything they can in order to interrupt WikiLeaks’ operations or tarnish their reputation. In the meantime, WikiLeaks publicly spouts tons of arrogant, self-congratulatory, and tactless content online, instead of protecting their own reputation with an air of professionalism.

A few bits from their Twitter feed that keep setting me off:

US media end times: Boston journalism Prof. (former Pentagon hack) calls for WL prosecution (FOX, video)

Calling anyone a hack is not Journalism.

NYT ran a tabloid profile on WL trying to “balance” itself. Case study in bad journalism. Wrong from top to bottom.

Ethics101 for mainstream media: Ask not what llegal & illegal but what is moral & immoral. Recall that slavery was once legal.

WikiLeaks apparently thinks that not only should the media be judging morals, but that they’re in a position to lecture their peers on it!

If any publication says anything about us, unsourced, you can be pretty much bet that it is a falsification.

I don’t even need to point out the irony in WikiLeaks telling others not to trust unsourced claims.

I feel like WikiLeaks risks sabotaging its own cause by its lack of PR tact. I am not at all surprised that so much of the media is criticizing WikiLeaks. Hey, guys, other people want to smear you, yes, but you need to stop inviting it with your own tactless behavior.


I’m working on a short-turnaround project with two developers, an ERP administrator, and other stakeholders. This is typically the kind of development project where any time spent on administrative overhead or communication (and re-communication) can hold up real progress.

So I set up a WordPress instance running the P2 Theme by Automattic this afternoon. P2’s closest equivalent is the Facebook News Feed: users can share status updates, blog posts, photos, links and videos with each other in realtime. But P2 is self-hosted, and can be used for just about any purpose, since you’re in control.

I’ve got it set up as a private, password-protected internal development communications tool, but it can do all kinds of different stuff. I just think it’s nuts how easy the whole thing is to set up, customize, and use- a real benefit to productivity and communication, instead of a technological barrier.

Growing Pains in the Web’s Social Revolution

I’ve observed these two things in last ten years of evolution in the “Social Web:”

  1. The Social Web has made huge changes to the way people express themselves and communicate in their daily lives, generally enhancing connections and making the world a lot smaller.
  2. That very same trend has also created more complexity from the sheer amount of information being shared through social platforms.

The actual nature of what we do in our lives hasn’t changed much; it’s just become so much more public and easily shared with the masses. In person, we can only have so much interaction, due to the limits of time and physical location.  But now technology has removed many of those barriers; we can now blast information to the masses regardless of our location or the availability of a captive, dedicated audience.

Personally, I find that these developments make it a lot harder parse all the information and isolate the stuff I find most relevant. Some of this is because people on the Social Web write for so many different audiences; one person might use Twitter to promote their business, ask people in their industry a question, post pictures of something random that happened, link to a popular meme, or just vent about what they’re feeling at the moment. (Or, God forbid, tell everyone what they had for breakfast.) To that person, it’s all self-expression of things they felt like sharing. But for the follower, it’s totally void of any personalization to deliver the content they personally care about the most. Some of my followers online are people in my industry, and some are friends or family. But they all get the entire stream, and are subject to reading whatever I decide is worth putting in their content stream.

Some of this problem can be solved by making more conscious decisions about the most relevant place to post different content online, or through the creation of more context- or audience-aware social platforms. But more than this, I think our society is just struggling to adapt to a very new kind of communication. As always, the young will find it easiest to adapt, so they will drive the changes before anyone else does.

I don’t know how things will turn out, but I’m pretty sure we’re going through a cultural revolution. A couple of decades from now, social interaction across the world will look very different, and I imagine that will also have serious implications in other spheres- especially world politics and economics.

If you’re a personal branding/social web nerd like me, you will greatly enjoy “The Myth of the Personal Brand,” a guest post on Redhead Writing by Aaron Templer. It raises some interesting questions about the very idea of branding real people instead of companies, and a lot of the commenters bring up really good points as well. (I only recently discovered Redhead Writing and have since encountered quite a few excellent online strategy articles. Highly recommended.)