Oxford Social Media Convention 2009

The Dean of the Said Business School has just kicked off the Social Media Convention 2009. Very busy lecture theatre…

Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre
Nelson Mandela Lecture Theatre

Follow it today on Twitter by searching for #oxsmc09 here (make sure you’re not logged in to twitter)
I’m writing this review of the day live, so excuse spelling mistakes please 🙂
The first panel is very distinguished. From right to left: Dave Sifry (founder of Technorati), Bill Thompson (creator of The Guardian’s first website), Kathryn Corrick (organizser of Digital Britain Unconferences), Wiliam Dutton (Director of the Oxford Internet Institute), Nigel Shadbolt (Professor of Artificial Intelligence at University of Southampton).
(click to enlrage. Sorry about the fuzziness)
(click to enlrage. Sorry about the fuzziness)

Bill’s talking about how early we are in the SM revolution by citing how there are 5 billion more to come to ad to the 1 billion already on board. This massive change in numbers is going to shift the whole internet once again, because they will all do things with it better than we’ve done already.
William points out that in 2007 14% of Britons had created a network profil, in 2009 it’s 49%. “The systems are truly making a difference. It’s reconfigures how we communicate with people and it’s also changing who we communicate with. The most common theme is the reinforcing of social networking in real life. 35% of internet users have met someone online they have not met before.”
Nigel Shadbolt was in A.I. in 1978: “It was a simper world back then.” They didn’t get the web in A.I. – but they do now. AI nowadays is much more like augmented intelligence rather than just the brain in a box idea they used to work on. The web has changed this. He’s making a good point about why we can’t predict the effects of the new technology before it appears. He’s discussing why we are mopping up after things like blogging and micro blogging have taken hold on a large scale instead of predicting the effects of pings, trackbacks and other developments that scale SM upwards. Great gag about engineers: “If it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet”. At scale, we can ask questions. The battle is for our attention space, which is ultimitely a limited resource.

It’s amazing how the train tracks of the mind of this engineer are the same as the mind of the internet marketer. It really is about grabbing their attention, keeping them interested, creating continuity.

Questions from the floor now: I’ll be keeping quiet for now. There’s a guy from the BBC here that doesn’t twitter!
More discussion about the unintended consequences of giving our email address and twitter addresses instead of our real names, but William thinks the internet is going to reflect real life more and more.
The discussions are very interestingly going on about the serendipity of the internet allowing us to find content we don’t neccessarily agree with, which brings broader, deeper discussions. But no-one’s talking about the trackability of everthing we do online and what kind of “profiling” this creates for us as indiviuals or masses of individuals and what this data could be used for. Tracking what we say, where we say it, who we say it to – what happened to private conversations? Or does the nature of the medium itself actually threaten the way we actually talk to each other?
William Dutton sees private networks as non-substantive compared to mass media power. Bill Thompson disagrees with him. He says the mass media are being undermined. He’s right, but thinks it’s corrosive being “eaten out by the maggots of the twitterverse” (big laugh).
Making Science Public: Data sharing, Dissemination and Public Engagement with science
Ben Goldacre (author Bad Science), Maxine Clark (editor Nature, and Nautilus), Felix Reed-Tsochas (Lecturer in Complex Systems at ISIT) and Cameron Neylon (Biophysicist and leading advocate of data availability).
Ben Godacre and panel on SM in Scientific Data Dissemination (cte)
Ben Godacre and panel on SM in Scientific Data Dissemination (cte)

Cameron is talking about how data distribution in science has tremendous potential for making massive cost savings in increasing efficiency. “open Science”
Ben’s doing funny twitters whilst waiting to speak. He’s talking about a lack of correctly pitched scientific content to keep the nerd capital interested, but how blogs like mindhack are a fantastic example how it can be done on scale. Follow him @bengoldacre – he’s doing a lot of good work.
He’s also pointing out that the Royal Society is rewarding books that sell 3000 copies, whilst ignoring the more powerful blogosphere that is connecting with larger numbers. It’s simply never occurred to the panels in charge, because they have no connection with new media. He’s advocating a new media “infiltrator” (my quotes) at government level.
Journalists obfuscate on the sources of their content for national press because they don’t want us to know that their primary source is often a press release instead of primary sources of information which would force them to be a bit more “sound”.
Felix has asked how we can trust the quality of the internet content. Ben points out that people who question the quality of the content don’t actually understand how the internet works.
Maxine is pointing out that the interaction element to some of the excellent science blogs out there is the most exciting part of it. She points out that there is a science blogging competition called The Open Laboratory published on Lulu each year. There are more examples of science blogging here.
Ben wants more science editors rather than science writers as a further quality control measure.
Cameron: “Scientists are very arrogant and lazy when it comes to dealing with other people”. This needs to change especially as so much science is publicly funded.
There seems to be a large gap between the scientific community and the public at large. I’m glad that people like Ben are facing this problem and building bridges between the two groups. He wants an incentive for people that take communication of their work more seriously. “Give them a day off to blog”, basically.
To me, this science debate relates powerfully to internet marketing. The quality information is hard to find and, like in science, there are a lot of snake oil salespeople. It really is all about quality content, arranged in a logical and clear way.
Ben’s saying that peer-review is the best of a bad lot in terms of deciding on the quality of scientific content, although he’s arguing what the pitfalls for that are. Maxine’s experience is that the 95% reject rate for reports being submitted to Nature and the 5 or 6 peer reviews often result in papers’ having a higher quality (and therefore maintaining the reputation of her publication (see Nature.com’s page rank – 9!).
Cameron points out that the rewards of social media in science for him have led him to being on the panel, and may other career boosting benefits. “Science is the great open source endeavour”.
Personally, I think the mainstream press should be accountable in some way for the quality of their scientific reporting (dont know how) but as far as SM goes: the quality stuff will rise, and the rest will fall.
Social Media? So What?
Social Media So What?
Social Media So What?

On this panel, Matthew Hindman (Author “The Myth of Digital Democracy)”, Richard Allen (Facebook Europe), Sandra Ginzalez-Bailon, Stefan Niggemeir (BILDblog), Evgeny Morozov
Stefan kicks off talking about how he gets 2 million visits per month to his political blog and how they can only do i because of the interaction of people finding mistakes in mass media to help BILD expose them. He also cites the recent example in Germany where an online petition about child porn got over 100,000 signatures, and how this proves the power of social media (because the government is paying attention).
Evgeny is talking about SM being a democratizer. He points out that social media is being hi-jacked by parties with other interests. Governments are using cyberspace to manipulate information and push their own agenda. AT LAST someone here is talking about the freely available data that can be found on places like Facebook and how this can be used by Governments and other organisations against us.
He’s talking about how the recent twitter-based “revolution” in Iran is being used against the dissidents because the data is being studied to find out who is linked to who. He’s speaking very fast, so I can’t quite keep up, but I’m interested in Mr Facebook’s reply…
Waffle really. He’s doing a music festival analogy. Completely ignored the excellent points made by Evgeny.
Now Matthew Hindman: he doesn’t think there are low barriers to entry getting online. I agree with him. You have to spend money and time to get noticed online.He says that Google will have spent more on developing their product in 6 years than the whole Manhattan Project. He reiterates that this is not a low-barrier to entry market.
“The internet is not necessarily a democratic platform for ideas”. He points out that the Obama campaign actually did damage to local social networks be centralising the top-down structure of the campaign. Obama also did a huge amount of demographically targeting people based on information held on them.
They are no talking about the unintended consequences of the internet and social media.
Stefan is kind of disagreeing with Matthew because he points out how much it would cost him to achieve the same influence without his blog. Matthew points out that in traditional publishing you will be heard. Online, not necessarily.
Evgeny reiterates the point that the dictators will benefit more then the grass roots. Then Richard focuses back on the glass half full angle, again ignoring the idea of what is done with all of the data collected on all of us when we use social media (and the internet itself).
The brilliant Evgeny Morozov next to BILDblog's Stefan Niggemeier
The brilliant Evgeny Morozov next to BILDblog's Stefan Niggemeier

A good debate overall, but ultimately going nowhere especially as it’s kind of restricted to the world of online politics, which accounts for a very low percentage of online acitivity.
Is the glass half full or half empty?
Stefan – half full
Evgeny – half empty, although SM does also empower the individual
Matthew – he wouldn’t want to go back
Richard – half full.
Best part of the convention so far. Off for tea…
“The Growth of the Corporate Blog – “Letting Go” of information control or maintaining the official line?”
The Growth of the Corporate Blog
The Growth of the Corporate Blog

Simon Hampton – Google European Policy
Mark Rogers – CEO of Market Sentinal (they use your blog comments to research and improve brands)
Kara Swisher – Wall Street Journal digital correspondent
Kara kicks off. Savvy, smart, insightful, funny. She has 300,000 twitter followers “The Ashton Kutcher of tech”. Kara says don’t discount the emerging internet technologies. She’s seen what’s coming next from Silicon Valley.
Mark Rogers is coming from the large corporation viewpoint and discloses that these big companies are using maths to decipher our online conversations about them. The question is then: what do we do next with the information? The internet has changed the face of corporate communications. The old way would be to invite journalist for junkets. He cites VW doing it recently for bloggers, but pointing out that these guys act differently to journalists. So the temptation for companies is too “dive in” to blogging.
Personally, I’ve been “corporate blogging” for over 5 years now, and I cannot tell you how powerful it is. I’m interested to know if this panel are going to reflect any of my own experiences….
No mention of using blogs to make emotional connections with customers.
An interesting jibe from Kara about the case study of Apple not blogging or tweeting, just putting the product out and then everyone else blogging and twittering. Kara said “and where do you think they got the information on those products?”
Google’s Simon Hampton – Google have 150 corporate blogs! Simon’s blog is googlepolicyeurope.blogspot.com. The objectives of this blog were:
– they were the first company to blog on policy issues in Brussels
– it felt like the right thing to do
– a desire to be more transparent about lobbying in Brussels
– to be scaleable
They want to strike up a dialogue between NGOs and citizens groups and they want to do it faster than other companies.
Kara: “Google’s gonna become self-aware in 2012 and start killing the human race”. Big laugh based on the petulance of Google, Yahoo etc.
Funnily enough, there is no mention of the power of social media in Search. Hmmmmm…this is one of the best aspects of SM for me, and here are the Oxford Internet Institute, there is no real mention of it!
Bottom line: corporate blogging is a great way to:
1. get feedback from your customer base
2. grab SEO space
3. sell without selling
4. emotionally connect with people.
Hardly any of this (my personal experiences) were covered in the seminar, but Kara was very funny.
The final session of the day…
Chaired by William Dutton, with Kara Swisher, Nigel Shadbolt, Richard Allen and Dave Sifry.
The final panel at the Oxford Social Media Convention 09
The final panel at the Oxford Social Media Convention 09

What are the panel’s fears about the future?
Kara: “It’s about young people and the way they embrace it. We’ll all be dead in 40 years. This is going to be the oxygen going forward. It’s how TV, movies, politics are all going to be delivered. You have to think about the bigger issues such as privacy and getting these devices cheaper so they can get into the hands of more people.”
Dave: “We’re thinking about it from too much of a Western perspective. My fear is that the internet is something that will become fragmented and if we lost the scale of the network capabilities now.”
Richard Allen then went on to say that more control from Governments is inevitable. He pointed out that Facebook’s daily reach is now 9 million in the UK spending 1/2 hour every day. That’s TV channel reach! Which he believes is big enough for Government to want to control at some point in some way.
Nigel joins in: “…space and place will get more and more exquisitely defined. You will be deeply revealed by your digital behaviour, so privacy is going to be the biggest issue. What is the duty of care of the company that I’m handing my data over to? There needs to be transparency about what happens with our data.
Organisations and Governments need to be accountable about our data. I was delighted today to hear that Facebook will be supporting public data portability.”
Hear, hear Nigel.
It’s taking a scarier turn because heir talking about the inevitability of geo-locating people and computer regluated body parts. (They already know where you are through your mobile phone).
William: Are social networks going to enhance or undermine the quality of our information?
Nigel: In scientific research having a collaborative environment is proving to be a challenge. The environments of sharing information in networks has led to an increase in quality.
Kara: more collaboration the better. There is no downside. New media has incredible quality and is only going to get better. We just need to improve the quality period.
Dave: The answer is yes to both questions. It’s going to be better and it’s going to be worse. We need to build mitigators for the bad and amplifiers for the good.
Last question related to video. Yet again, it’s all about video, video, video.
There will be screens EVERYWHERE very soon. All communications need to be on video. I’m very pleased that I’ve been justified in thinking in these paradigms and recommending all internet publishers should be using video for over 4 years now.
Saying that, Dave Silfry disagrees. Ha ha. He’s got a point though – why would we suddenly switch to one single mode?
He went on – whatever’s on top today will not be on top in 20 years time. He predicts that in 5 year 50% of the top web properties won’t be there.
Nigel – silicon is going to meet meat. Chips in bodies. And a pretty good babelfish.
That’s the end. A good day overall, some very good speakers and a lot to think about.

The founder of Attwood Digital, Mark is a digital marketing veteran having been working online since before the dotcom boom. He created the world's first online skip hire service in 2003, has created multiple online courses, lectured on digital marketing and even written a book on the subject. He is also an ICO advisor and crypto-enthusiast.
  1. Facebook issues arent just privacy . Sean Roach has pointed out on many occasions that revenue generation mechanism for facebook and myspace is SELLING the content. What you post on facebook you give them rights to use and sell. The terms of google, facebook and myspeace are similar in that regard.
    The possibility exists that the photo you post on facebook, could end up on a porn site.
    Whether or not it succeeds is another question but one motive for what roach calls web3 (gotaccess) where commerce meets networking and membership sites – is to grant users rights back over their own content. And considering a huge offer i Believe he had from yahoo –
    people are taking this seriously We shall see!

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