The Obsolete Social Network?

How did you spent the Fourth of July holiday?

For me, there was some barbecuing, some beer drinking, and some productive outdoor activity.

And of course the Twilight Zone marathon on the SyFy Channel!

There are few annual occurrences that I get really geeked out on, and the Twilight Zone marathon is one of them.

No matter how many episodes I see, there are always a few new ones that I find completely fascinating in how their ethical implications transcend the test of time.

Take for instance, The Obsolete Man, featuring Burgess Meredith as a librarian.

No, it’s not that famous episode you may be thinking of featuring Mr. Meredith as a bookworm who survives the nuclear holocaust (That’s not fair! There was time now, there was all the time I needed…)

This particular episode featured Mr. Meredith as a librarian sentenced to death for being obsolete, because The State, an all-seeing and all-powerful entity, had decided that books no longer existed. By their rationale, the librarian should no longer exist either.

An interesting fable, and one that may have moral and ethical applications to today’s world.

Submitted for your approval: The social network.

About ten or so odd years ago, some of my friends told me about this website called Friendster that I should check out. I could upload photos and send notes to my friends in lieu of e-mail messages.

But Friendster soon became obsolete.

A few years later, the cool place to be online was on Myspace. There, you could upload more photos, write funny stuff on other people’s profiles, and include music and videos to express your inner-most feelings.

But Myspace still wasn’t good enough. It too became obsolete.

Along came Facebook and LinkedIn as other social networks. Soon words like Twitter and Quora began to crowd the conversation, but that was not the end either.

Just last week, the mother lode dropped when Google announced Google+: it’s new social networking offering.

Not to be outdone, Facebook announced yesterday a partnership with Skype to allow for video calls and group chats through their network.

How will the next social network be judged?

What’s the next evolution? What does this constant stream of social networking sites online say about our society? Will the human need to connect online ever be satisfied with just one network?

Like The Twilight Zone, there are no black and white answers. There are still  gray areas open to interpretation and it may be too early to predict the successes for these networks and for their users.

At any moment, the means with which you use to connect to your friends and family can be rendered obsolete. You may have to migrate all your contacts to the next big thing at any moment.

What should never be obsolete in between these changes is the need for human connections, whether online or in person. That may be the biggest challenge for humankind as more and more communications move online.

What do you think of the social network battles? Have simple human interactions become obsolete? Do you have any favorite Twilight Zone episodes to share?

July 7, 2011. Tags: , , , , . social media. 2 comments.

Blink and You Might Miss It

I am amazed at how much information is available on Twitter each minute of every hour on any given day.

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Since I’ve joined Twitter a little over three months ago, I feel more informed on topics of interest to me and more connected to other kindred spirits who believe in the social media creative community.

I know that sounds like a bunch of hippie junk, coming from a down-to-Earth Midwestern gal like myself, but it’s true.

While I appreciate the constant flow of information from Twitter that directs me to helpful resources, blog posts, statistics, jokes, videos, and other random ideas, it can get overwhelming.

It all moves so fast, you may miss something of importance in the blink of an eye.

Social media participation has reached a crescendo and now there’s talk that social media will be the next “bubble” to burst as did the DotCom and tech bubbles of the 90′s.

Regardless, social media platforms like Twitter, and other popular networks like Facebook, have established themselves in people’s personal and professional lives.

Twitter can be like a moving target each day, and keeping all those tweets organized is the tricky part, especially for businesses that look to social media as an avenue to connect with stakeholders and promote various products and services.

Luckily, there are multiple Twitter applications that serve to keep the constant stream of information organized. And thanks to Twitter, I stumbled upon a helpful resource earlier this week that literally maps them all out.

On Monday, I saw a tweet from Brian Solis with a link to his updated Twitterverse Version 1.0 map of the various categories of Twitter applications. 

by Brian Solis and JESS3

I personally am a fan of infographs and other visual representations of useful data, but what Mr. Solis does with his Twitterverse map is outline different levels of Twitter applications for various purposes. There are literally a dozen apps I had never heard of before studying this new resource.

It’s worth a gander, as the levels help to discern between which applications function best for professional, personal, and business needs.

For my personal/professional Twitter account, I use Tweetdeck to organize several columns of discussion streams and folks I follow. I also participate in a handful of weekly discussions, which helps to solidify connections and further enrich my knowledge via 140-character conversations.

But there are various times throughout the day when we must disconnect and attend to priorities in real life– work, family, walking the dog, doing the dishes, or reading a few chapters from that book sitting on your coffee table.

It’s okay to blink and miss a few tweets, and the world will not draw to a halt if you don’t retweet at all hours of the day.

Then again, that’s just my take on the Twitterverse.

What applications or platforms do you use to keep your content organized? When do you decide to unplug and break away from the Twitter stream?

January 5, 2011. Tags: , , . social media. Leave a comment.

Fun with Semantic Networks

I admit I’m kind of a nerd.

Being a nerd has its advantages, like making a killing at pop culture Quizzo and the ability to spout random movie trivia. (For example, did you know that Steven Spielberg named the “Jaws” mechanical shark after his lawyer, Bruce?)

Another advantage to being a nerd is when it applies to my professional career.

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For instance, I get really geeked out about semantic networks, which have applications for public relations, marketing, social media, and lots more.

Put simply, a semantic network is a visualization of the relationships between words. The analysis is how researchers (or us communicators) interpret those relationships.

Semantic network analysis lends itself to public relations and social media research because it can help communicators visualize content and identify opportunities or potential issues.

There are several and paid tools out there that can help you chart semantic networks. Here are a few I have bookmarked and find helpful in my communications research:

1. Wordle - this is a quick, easy way to generate a semantic visualization. Wordle asks users to simply take a text (be sure to convert Word docs into Plain Text) and it will generate a word cloud where the most prevalent words appear larger than others to emphasize dominance in the text.

Word clouds are helpful to get a quick-hitting analysis of common threads or topics in Tweets, blog comments, or news articles.

Here’s a Wordle of all my blog posts, showing that I write predominantly about media, PR, and “social,” which could be linked to media:

Image courtesy of Wordle

2. MentionMap – hat tip to Adam Vincenzini for bringing this tool to my attention (and for sucking up an entire afternoon once I got into it!)

MentionMap pulls public information from a Twitter account (Tweets, hashtags, @replies) and creates an incredible, almost organic network visualization to demonstrate the connections between the content and the origin.

This visualization network is helpful because it can identify strong discussion streams among the Twitter account and others, and also identifies dominant hashtag discussions.

Here’s a MentionMap of my Twitter Account, showing I contribute to the #PR and #socpharm discussions frequently:

Image courtesy of MentionMap

3. Crawdad – this is a paid software I became familiar with through a graduate class on social and semantic networks.

Crawdad is more advanced and technical than the other tools mentioned. Like Wordle, it asks for text that can be converted into a semantic network chart where prominent words and conversations are connected.

The researcher can code certain words, remove unnecessary ones, and create a comprehensive network to identify dominant themes and connections. Crawdad also allows the researcher to compare texts, for instance press release messaging vs. news articles, to add another layer of information.

Here’s an example of a semantic network I created through Crawdad a few years ago, using news articles from The Philadelphia Inquirer about Purdue Pharma. It looks kind of crazy, but makes sense to see the prominent words that appeared in the news articles over a period of time:

So, while my random knowledge of classic films may not do much for my career, using semantic networks in communications research certainly does. It’s fun to learn something new and to see data visualized in a colorful, engaging way.

Semantic network analysis may not be the end all, be all of communications research. While I like to believe that data can’t lie, the analysis part that is connected to the human mind can be fallible.

So what gets you geeked out that has been helpful in your professional role? Do you have any other semantic network research tools to share?

November 30, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . public relations, Research, social media. 3 comments.

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