CDPR-105: Fall 2013

It has been quite awhile since my last post which was last winter. I am back in school however, this is my last week in this course called: Research and Program Evaluation at Ryerson University

I enjoyed this course and all the reading associated with research and evaluation. I  now catch bits of conversation association with qualitative research every day. There is so much to say  about the benefits to learning which I will leave up to your experience. This blog is to share some of my learning experiences this fall. For example, a free app from Google to track visitors on your website or blog, read on:

The Value of Google Analytics to Public Relations

Google Analytics is a useful, one might argue indispensable tool for the twenty first century public relations professional. Google Analytics has the potential to help you deeply analyze who is visiting your site, how deep and long they spend on your site, where they come from, both geographically and in an electronic social media sense. Google Analytics has the capacity to measure the extent that a particular campaign or advertisement in a particular publication whether in print or electronic is having the desired impact. You can also measure trends and when people are most likely to visit your site. Since one of the cardinal goals of public relations is to know your audience, Google Analytics is an essential tool to use and deeply understand.

With Google Analytics you can measure whether people are visiting your site through basic Google searches, social media such as Twitter or Facebook or if they are visiting primarily through other websites that provide links to your site. Since it is very important to keep your ROI (Return on Investment) in mind it is extremely useful to know if you are spending time and resources trying to attract customers in ways and sources that are not providing expected traffic. Google Analytics can also be used to analyze your own website by tracking which pages people tend to spend the most time or the pages that are most visited. If there was a particular tab on your website that you want people to go to and you find that there is not much traffic there, then it is important to identify this gap and address the issue so that customers will go as easily as possible to where you want them to go.

It is also possible to segment the data so you can isolate people who are visiting your site from only one referring website. This could prove very useful if there was a new partner’s website that was providing a link to your website. You might be interested in determining how valuable this association was in attracting those who you were aiming for. It would also be possible to see if a particular article or campaign launched through some specific electronic media site was providing the intended readership and interest in the good or service that your organization was offering.

Another valuable feature of Google Analytics from a public relations perspective is the real time monitoring feature. In the case of some positive news or a crisis it is important to measure the impact as soon as possible so an appropriate plan can be devised to address the news or crisis. With the real time reports you can get a count of the active users on your website, where they came from (geographically), what brought them to the site (traffic sources) and what they’re looking at (content). This is once again an invaluable tool to get up to the minute data of how your audience or a particular segment of your audience are reacting and how they feel about your organization.

Alicia Lawrence recently identified in Ragan’s PR Daily 4 Google Analytics features for refining a PR campaign. The recently unveiled feature that particularly struck me was the Demographics menu that allows you to identify the demographic information of your audience, their interests and which users are buying your products. As she points out “Knowing the demographics and interests of your core customers can help you determine whom to target with your PR efforts and what angles to take.” She also pointed out that Google Analytics can also help you discover the languages and locations of your buyers which can help when deciding where a particular event or launch should take place and in what languages the promotional materials should be published in. Finally being able to track what are the top referrals to your site and how the largest number of conversions come about can greatly help focus public relations campaigns to best align to the company’s goals.

Clearly this report has done little more than outline the enormous possibilities of Google Analytics for the public relations professional. Like any such tool, regular use for a specific purpose and to meet specific goals is the key to optimum use. It is clear that any research that a public relations professional might need or want to do that relates to the ever growing use of electronic and social media will be greatly facilitated by gaining a strong working knowledge of the features offered by Google Analytics.

Have a very enjoy festive holiday season.

Legal Ease

Breaking down legal barriers

The major thrust of my storify for this week is how much there is to learn on a daily basis in this internet age; the interoperability between what we are learning and the daily news. As I work to produce a video, an application and webpage, I am struck by how much I have to learn and the legal requirements that I am supposed to agree to when I download and use the ‘free’ programs or try to post my creations to the web. The fact that the chapter from my text book Interop this week deals with Legal Interop also forced me to connect with what I was trying to accomplish in the course assignments. Let me break this down a bit.

As I was creating my video, and as I tried to post it publicly on the internet I began to recognize the potential of posting it on YouTube. I wondered if all my images from Creative Commons were in fact public domain. That lead me to have concern for the music I chose to use as background because I pulled it from my personal music library. I wanted to acknowledge the artists but not having received permission to use it, I know that I have no right to use it.  And for the sake of this assignment and all that I have learned in this fabulous course “Digital Skills and Innovation for the Global Economy” at Ryerson University, there is always the potential that what is posted to the internet can go far beyond our intended audience of instructor and classmates. So, needless to say, I pulled the song out and used one that was licensed as free to use found on Creative Commons, thanks Creative Commons!! A very clear YouTube video on what Creative Commons is all about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DKm96Ftfko

And, licensing can be so confusing, but this YouTube video explains it pretty well:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AeTlXtEOplA

The currency of the European Union examples and the Cyprus news this week as yet another example that by creating any sort of economic union with its legal implications, the whole will consistently be only as strong as its weakest link and the dangers of allowing the weaknesses of one nation to have an impact on the economic well-being of its partners and the global economy. Here is a video on YouTube entitled Could tiny Cyprus take down the world? It provides a very good understanding of the state of Cyprus.

And, the currency of cyber terrorism described on page 188 with the situation that South Korea faced in this past week at the hands of what many observers suspect was the work of North Korea.

One can choose to feel overwhelmed by the learning that is required by anyone whose goal it is to fully participate in the internet age and for that matter keep up with this course content and all its recommended readings, and applications. And, yes it is all very exciting, stimulating and valuable. This course moves as fast as the information it serves to provide us as it changes and develops over the internet.

How are we as student learners assured that what we do for this course online through our learning processes does not come back to haunt us in the future?

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

From Consumer to Prosumer

My learning continues into week 8 of 12.

In week eight my learning curve moved significantly upward as I explored the many programs that can be used to become a prosumer of my own cultural content. Such programs as Picasa and Windows Movie Maker or iMovie can lead anyone into the vast possibilities of creativity and innovation. To steepen my learning curve even more was the rather weighty article on “Semiotics for Beginners” by Daniel Chandler and a part of my course reading. Clearly if a person is going to be an effective prosumer of cultural content and messaging/story-telling, I gained a heightened awareness of the importance of how signs can be used and how essential it is that signs are clear enough to help the intended audience receive the intended message. This means being aware of the cultural norms and understanding of the intended audience and beyond. Here is a ToastMasters presentation that I thought was very clear on what you can do to learn more about your audience.

And just for fun, I threw in this YouTube video with the characters from the Big Bang theory. Sheldon is doing want you want to avoid sharing with your audience.

What strikes me in particular is the realization that when I post something to the world-wide web, I have to recognize that my message might go far beyond my intended audience and my cultural compatriots. I was reminded of the incidents within the last year where a political cartoon that deeply offended those of the Islamic faith which caused riots thousands of miles away almost instantaneously. We must be very aware of the power and possibilities of signs and choose our messaging, visuals and stories with the global village in mind. In short, I learned this week of how I can develop my own cultural content and the need to understand the power of semiotics.

Here is a quick clip showing a “world of images” right outside ones urban door.

As more and more people gain the ability to produce cultural content, at what point will there be an oversaturation of content on virtually every topic imaginable and how will people who do not understand an individual’s ability to manipulate images and messages ever gain accurate information? Will this lead to an even deeper cultural and digital divide?

Compliance: Institutional and Human Interoperability

The key message this week from Interop by Palfrey and Gasser was the challenge presented is the issue of compliance by all institutions in Ontario to accommodate the needs of disabled and vulnerable members of society. The United Nations states “Internet Access is a Human Right.” The following article and embedded video provide more insight.

http://mashable.com/2012/07/06/internet-human-right/

When you get right down to it the planning and training necessary to be able to provide accommodations to information, internet and websites in Ontario have nothing to do with technologies and data. They have everything to do with human and institutional interoperability. The next YouTube video explains to a larger degree.

As I reviewed the Accessibility Wizard, I realized that it emphasized that not all institutions were the same but rather that the goal was for all institutions and humans who work in those institutions to work together to accomplish shared goals. In this case, to make accommodations in whatever way individuals require to access information, maintain their safety and acquire employment. Take the Accessibility Wizard to see how your organization can be more accessible. https://www.appacats.mcss.gov.on.ca/eadvisor/start.action

The question becomes what can the Ontario government do to increase institutional and human interoperability in an accessibility program that aims to bring so many diverse institutions into a common goal?

Complexity

Thinking with design in mind – is not a novel concept

Complexity is certainly the theme that ran through all that I learned in this week’s module. It began with design thinking that requires the designer to consider all those who might use the device, website or commodity that is being created. Considering the various needs, expectations and potential platforms people can access there are an extraordinary number of possibilities that must be considered as we know. From here, the step into context-aware computing and ubiquitous computing added new levels of complexity with the number of different devices that are available for use.
The You Tube video that follows explains the potentials of ubiquitous computing.

Here is a wonderful example of ubiquitous computing. The world as we might think it should be:

Everything introduced in this seventh week of learning presented mind numbing potential and possibilities while at the same time reinforcing the increasing complexity of the age in which we live. It appears to me that with each new potential and possibility that seems useful, there is an equal if not greater potential and possibility for disaster. The case of the global financial meltdown and the extent that within the global village, a mismanaged economy in Greece or an erupting volcano in Iceland can have dire global impact highlights the complexity in which we live. Since by nature, governments tend to be short sighted, business leaders tend to be self-serving and both of these groups aim to use system designers and engineers for their advantage. It is hard to understand what needs to happen in order for the mechanisms to engage to allow us to work proactively with the negative effects of a highly interconnected world. (Interop, pg. 153)

The question becomes:
What can citizens of the global community look for in a proactive way to ensure that governments and business leaders are implementing mechanisms that will enable us all to deal with the negative effects of a highly interconnected world?

The Potential of Intrapreneurship

How far can it go
With all the reading and viewing featured links that I did during this week gave me cause to be most intrigued by the concept of intrapreneurship. As I thought about the goals of an organization becoming economically efficient by increasing their utility (Palfrey and Gasser, Pg. 131-132) through innovation and the role of social innovation through greater interoperability, these concepts all seemed to add up to intrapreneurship. It seems that if an organization can harness all the qualities of an entrepreneur into their employees the sky could be the limit. A major challenge as I see it is the extent that organizations can foster the organizational culture necessary to achieve this goal. Even more challenging is for an organization to work from the inside out as Simon Sinek would describe it and above all things “define its purpose, cause and belief” both for itself and for the employees who are part of the organization.
(Week 6 Course Notes, Pg. 8)

Because one of the key characteristics of an entrepreneur is the willingness to take risks in order to “…undertake innovations, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform innovations into economic goods’, the goal is consequently to achieve autonomy and personal gain. The idea of employing these skills on behalf of an organization that an employee works for intrigues me because I can only imagine the stimulation that would come from working in that kind of organizational culture.
Here is an interesting article on how motivated Google employees are, striving to be perfect.

http://www.fastcompany.com/46495/how-google-growsand-growsand-grows

The other thing that strikes me is the extent that intrapreneurship might very well take increasing hold of organizations because of the extent that ICT (Information and Communications Technologies) , social innovation and interoperability of social networks might facilitate the possibilities for “safe interpersonal spaces, training for creativity, strong task orientation and support for creativity.” I was quite moved by the connection between social innovation and economic innovation that were highlighted in the Kiva (http://www.ted.com/talks/jessica_jackley_poverty_money_and_love.html) and Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/kickstarter%20basics?ref=nav) case studies. Clearly an organization whose purpose was to strengthen social innovations might very well have developed economic innovations as a result. If employees existed in such a culture with such a mindset, they might more likely achieve the kind of radical improvements that were described in our text, Interop by Palfrey and Gasser, pg. 135). In the link below, this is a company looking for financial support of $1 from Kickstarter. I really like their idea.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1351910088/3doodler-the-worlds-first-3d-printing-pen

My major question is it possible for intrapreneurship be obtained in a public sector, unionized environment?

From my experience, such an organization does little to promote such a culture but you would think that its purpose, cause and belief would seem obvious and all should be able to buy into it.

My subsequent question would be to what extent might a key social innovation in such a public sector organization lead to a greater chance of intrapreneurship being fostered?

Competition and Uniformity

Information Overload

I found an interesting connection between the information in this Chapter on Competition and Conformity and the other information learned in this Module concerning the problem of information overload, and some strategies that can help manage information in my personal and professional life. The chapter focused on how interoperability can both stifle and spur on competition depending on the factors that are in play such as size of company, maturity of the company and network effects. To a certain extent I draw an analogy between interoperability and information overload as being total interoperability. I mean that in an age when anyone can publish and make information available to a huge potential audience and where we are bombarded by more information each day than we can possibly process we have to establish filters, folders, and strategies to access the information we really need to become experts at something. In other words, we have to determine the extent that we can limit the information interoperability by filtering out all the unwanted information that is competing for our attention. This YouTube video identified in our Module 5 helped me see the connection between competition and interoperability and ‘information overload’ as being total interoperability. The examples cited regarding Facebook and managing personal preferences and the Ryerson case of ‘freeriders’ really explains my point. Despite the length, it is worth a couple of views…very deep!

My other key learning this week was the need to avoid the network effects of only going to ‘favourite’ news sources and constantly hearing news that reinforces one’s personal beliefs. We should fight conformity and suboptimal standardization in the information that we choose to accept. This all boils down to becoming critical thinkers in terms of the information that we consume and becoming more aware that junk information is easily available, but we have to keep it out of our information diet. Just as Microsoft adjusted the degree that it allowed it systems to be interoperable at different stages of its history, not necessarily always of its own choosing, we must adjust the degree that we control the interoperability of information coming into our life.

The text book example for the network effects occurred when everyone moved over from Beta to VHS because it was the thing to do even if the Beta product was on the whole superior. I found this YouTube video informative in the sense that it explained how consumers who chose Beta lost when competition was based on interoperability between two competing technologies. This struck home for me since I chose Beta and was ultimately shutout as a result of noninteroperability.

As we move forward, is interoperability the key to increasing competition and benefitting consumers?

Privacy, Security and Intellectual Property

Privacy, Security and Intellectual Property

Week Four: The pitfalls of too much interoperability

The fourth chapter in Interop has pointed out the potential pitfalls of too much interoperability when designing programs or websites. The three different versions of flawed designs by Sony (PlayStation Network), Google (Buzz) and Facebook (Beacon) pointed out the increasing need to determine how much and what kind of interoperability is appropriate from a corporate perspective. The links provided below are all privacy issues that as a result from public demand stricter regulations were implemented.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/09/beacon-settlement-approved/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Facebook_Beacon

http://www.savethemoney.co.uk/sony-hit-with-huge-data-loss-after-playstation-hack/

I was struck by the Big Data and information security piece the power and potential for any organization that can effectively analyze and process all the data that is now available. I could not help wondering if indeed ‘Big Brother’ is just around the corner?

The key message in this YouTube video for me is that big data would be of great benefit for those who are equipped to analyze them. Given the vast amounts of data that even the average organization cannot process and analyze, it seems that only the largest corporations and government agencies will truly benefit from the trends in big data. Having said that however, we have seen that applications are invariably developed that make each new data set more accessible to more people. I cannot even comprehend 4.8 zetobytes so I think it would take a very amazing application to help me deal with ‘big data’. In the long run, ‘big data’ could very well be a net positive. I could not help being concerned when the video mentioned that ‘big data’ could help a government plan for civil unrest or a pandemic. I wondered – what if the civil unrest was a legitimate protest over government abuse of power. ‘What if’ planning for a pandemic was not used to try and stop the spread of a disease. I think it would be careless to not be a little concerned. I love this explanation of Big Data. I enjoy how the story unfolds.

More about Big Data in this YouTube video:

Closer to home, I was dismayed with the extent that my computer can attract cookies that I would not have suspected could be there. My personal action is to become more aware of my personal computer security. For an example, since I do not use Java script, I have since removed Java. I learned of the vulnerabilities it has as a result of its written program being incomplete. And the vulnerabilities had not been fixed since the article of January 11, 2013. The vulnerabilities allowed malware/malicious code to left on my system, and putting my at risk for identity theft or lesser inconveniences.

A tweet by Charles Williams @ComputerOneStop
http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/1/prweb10383840.htm

Why The Java Bug Is A Big Deal http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddganos/2013/01/12/why-the-java-bug-is-a-big-deal/

How to turn off Java on your browser – and why you should do it now
http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012/08/30/how-turn-off-java-browser/

It is essential that intellectual property be made more secured and protected in an age when knowledge and ideas that can transform knowledge into practical applications of all kinds from the arts to science are the ultimate products of the digital age. It is so much easier today to steal such property than it ever has been before. On the other hand there is also increased opportunity to uncover such theft by anyone who chooses to digitally dig into it. Just consider the case of the resignation of the Director of Education of the largest school boards in Canada, Mr. Chris Spence, who was nailed for plagiarism by a regular individual who looked into a rather innocuous Edoc that he had written in the Toronto Star and it then snowballed.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/01/13/chris_spences_online_reputation_takes_a_hit_amid_plagiarism_crisis_can_it_be_recovered.html

Do all these issues that will increasingly have an impact on virtually every person in the world who owns a computer mean that future empowerment will be based on an individual’s and organization’s ability to grasp the need for and take appropriate action to protect, secure, and design programs that deal with interoperability and security threats?

Interoperability in Consumer Empowerment

Or the road to disaster.

This is my third week in the Ryerson Communications program in Digital Skills and Innovation for a Global Economy and I have learned so much. So much that through my excitement I felt compelled to share the pivotal points to you by tweeting the YouTube videos and other views that I felt you would benefit from. There is so much out there as you already know, but to a novice that I feel I am, I have been enjoying this learning and hope you enjoy my adventure. The following YouTube video has the authors of my text Messrs Urs Gasser and John Palfrey on Interop: The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems speaking on this subject.

In this week, while I have learned that consumers, companies, and governments should work together for higher levels of interoperability, I learned that what is good for consumers is not necessarily in the best profit interests of companies. This was made clear in the case of chargers for all of our electronic devices. I certainly have a drawer of them and often frustrated in not being able to find the one I need. The fact that the European Union as a result of pressure from consumers and environmentalists finally had the top ten cell phone chargers interoperable by “introducing a shared micro-USB standard” was very encouraging. This “legislation by threat” example pointed out the power of humans if an institution such as the government steps in to apply pressure on companies for greater interoperability. (Palfrey and Gasser, Pg 58-59). This next article explains in more detail the advance technology and why some companies are not so quick to be interoperable.

http://mashable.com/2012/10/29/apple-lightning-micro-usb/

Without this pressure it seems that achieving horizontal interoperability where all the big companies make their various gadgets or in the case of China, instant messaging tools compatible, is a long term struggle. Companies such as Apple would be inclined to work toward vertical interoperability instead where all the consumers texting, viewing and listening desires are interoperable within the range of “I” products but not beyond. Even here, I learned that strides are being made to expand rather than contract the degree of interoperability (even if in some cases a premium has to be paid) as a result of consumer demands.

Finally as I explored the various instant messaging tools this week, it was interesting to read the case of the Tencent and Qihoo in the “Chinese Internet wars” in my text Interop, pg 67 cited how “consumer demand has played a role in driving interoperability horizontally across platforms.” It was interesting as well that it was computer programmers or the technology layer who were primarily responsible for the successes in this area. There is no doubt that interoperability empowers us in our role as active users of digital technology.

The YouTube video that follows shares more detail about these two internet giants in China.

”Most important from a society perspective, interoperability empowers us in our role as active users of digital technology. The powerful role that interoperability plays in this respect becomes clear when we look at the ways in which millions of computer and smartphone users now can create and share digital content.” (pg 72)

This YouTube video is an example of working together to make improvements to technology that is affordable for all.

The big question is, to what extent in the shrinking number of major players in the global economy, will demands for interoperability make the biggest players more competitive and therefore responsive to consumer demand? And, to what extent might we be setting the stage where one or a few giant companies control the thoughts and communications of all consumers?

Interop

The Promise and Perils of Highly Interconnected Systems
by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser

I began a new course last week at The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University. Although it is not towards my degree program in Public Relations, upon seeing it advertised I instantly thought I would be very interested in it. This course is callled Digital Skills and Innovation for the Global Economy. The link that follows is the information that gained my attention.

http://www.digitalspecialization.ryerson.ca/

The course textbook is called Interop, written by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser they are “both law professors and researchers, interested in the way the ongoing explosion of information technologies affect societies around the world.” (Pg. 4) Interop stands for “interoperability” which is the exchange of information between the four layers being technology, data, human and institutional. “The main purpose of the theory of interoperability is to help define the optimal level of interconnectedness and to lay out a path for achieving it.” (Pg 3) I walked into my local Chapters and purchased the last text book on the shelf the weekend before the course started, it was confirmed in my mind that this is the course for me at this time. This is the text I am reading through-out the next twelve weeks. This blog will serve as my platform share what I am learning from week to week until the end of this course on April 13th. After that, we shall see where this leads.

http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/events/2012/05/interop

I found that the Introduction and first chapter of Interop helped me understand the digital age in which we live and heighten my awareness of the potential benefits and pitfalls to social media. I was first struck by the layers of interoperability (page 6) and particularly the human and institutional layers which helped me understand that my difficulty in understanding their potential was the extent that they were the most abstract. If indeed greater connectivity and interoperability can help humans and institutions more collaborative (page 7) while maintaining unique characters the sky seems to be the limit. This is best summarized on page 11 where Palfrey and Gasser say “One of the primary benefits of interoperability is that it can preserve key elements of diversity while ensuring that systems work together in the ways that matter most.” The following YouTube Video helps to support my point:

The major thing that struck me in the chapter on the Technology and Data Layers was the extent that humans increasingly expect that the various systems and platforms in which they work and play and socialize are easily transferable; the challenge in an age where technology is advancing so quickly.
I like this YouTube video in that it is AODA compliant and recaps the major developments in technology within the last 10 years.

The concept of geolocation (page 29 in Interop) also resonated with me to the extent that producers and services that we have an interest in can keep track of us and provide us with benefits such as giving us coupons and by allowing us to read the menu as we walk by the restaurant but also can at the same time invade our privacy. It was at this point that I connected the text with the YouTube video that identified the extent that peoples likes on social media can be translated into advertising that makes them $millions$ and users marketing fodder.

Will the pictures we take today on one platform be available to us when we want to show these pictures to our grandchildren even 10 years from now?