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Social media and policing

March 29, 2011

Protestors in Trafalgar Square on March 26

Here’s a follow up to last week’s article on Sukey, the social media tool used by protestors to avoid kettling and facilitate communication.
Last Saturday’s protest, March for the Alternative, was generally considered a success, with only a handful of the 250,000 people who attended it getting arrested. Considering the turnout, the violence and damage which happened towards the end of the day was minimal – unfortunately the media have been criticised for blowing these isolated incidents out of proportion.
This is a different reaction to the previous anti-cuts protests – and other protests in general – where the Met police have been criticised for their more aggressive policing tactics. Most notably, in the unlawful killing of of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller who collapsed and died during the G20 protests in 2009, when PC Simon Harwood, a Territorial Support Group Officer trained in dealing with social disorder, struck him in the abdomen with a baton. The Met is now facing five weeks of intense scrutiny as the inquest concerning Tomlinson’s death begins this week, two years after his death.
However, at last Saturday’s protests, the Met apparently used less violent policing tactics by using social media – just as the protestors did with Sukey. At 7.57 pm, Scotland Yard tweeted: “The Met police thank those outside Fortnum & Mason for their patience. They will not be held any longer than necessary.” They also informed protestors that “the last trains will be leaving central London shortly” and asked protestors to complete online surveys of the police’s performances the following day. This kind of communication gets the message across much more easily than batons and kettling does, because people are actually aware of whats going on.
Although the protestors kettled at Fortnum and Mason might disagree with their temporary incarceration, few can deny that the Met’s tactics were more internet-savvy and therefore less aggressive, resulting in a better protest for everybody.

(Photo: via Guardian)


Twitter responds to Japanese disaster

March 28, 2011

For an insight into how Twitter is reshaping the way breaking news is delivered to consumers, you need look no further than the coverage of the devastating earthquake that struck Japan earlier this month.

According to the New Media Index, 66 per cent of news links posted on Twitter that day were about the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

The report suggests that Martyn Williams, a reporter and bureau chief for the IDG News Service, was among the first to break the news with his tweet: “Major quake shakes Japan — preliminary M7.8.”

Before long photos, videos and updates from those affected flooded the Twittersphere give an often horrifying first-hand account of the disaster that struck the coast of north-east Japan.

According to the research, for the entire week of 7-11 March, 20 per cent of the news links were about that subject, making it the top story.

Twitter is now a source of breaking news, where users can often find content faster than through traditional outlets.

The growing trend may unsettle some of the large media corporations, with the thought of users by-passing their publication completely a genuine cause for concern.

But in truth Twitter is a journalistic medium that must be embraced by media both old and new.

By keeping users up-to-date with breaking stories through their own Twitter profiles, large media companies can enhance their brand image, and make users more likely to visit their outlet directly in future.

Twitter is now an accepted part of journalism, with tweets from celebrities being used as sources for news articles on an increasingly frequent basis.

While it is attractive for users to get their news directly from the celebrity/sportsman/spokesperson they follow on Twitter, by aggregating and republishing Tweets as stories, news outlets are playing an important part in new media journalism by ensuring their own readers are kept up-to-date.

By having an active presence on Twitter and incorporating social media into how they function, news outlets can ensure their service keeps pace.

(Photo: via Wikipedia)

Wi-fi coming to London Underground platforms ‘by 2012’

March 28, 2011

london undergroundLondon Undergound has confirmed plans to bring Wi-Fi to nearly half of its station platforms in time for the Olympics in 2012.

The announcement comes after a ‘successful’ test of tube hotspots last October by BT.

Now, Transport for London is inviting telecom companies to bid for a contract to provide the service by June 2012.

The proposal is to provide internet access at around half of the 270 subterranean stations on the London network.

Once implemented, the service could prove extremely useful for commuters looking to keep up-to-date with their various social media profiles while on the move.

The plans appear to form part of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s pledge last year to have ‘London-wide’ Wi-fi in place by 2012.

“I think people do want the facility of looking at their Blackberry, or whatever it happens to be,” Johnson said of the plans last June.

The announcement may however cause concern among the capital’s free daily newspapers handed out at tube stations across the capital.

It will be interesting to note whether the new service has any kind of effect on circulation figures and commuters are given the choice between snatching a copy of their favourite paper or browsing the web on their mobile device.

London is not the first city to consider city-wide Wi-fi. Venice, Italy, has already launched a hotspot network in 2009, which claims to be the largest of its type in Europe.

Access to the Venice system is free for residents of the town, but tourists wanting access have to pay 5EUR a day.

(Photo via Flickr – jessicamelling)

Top five social media monitoring tools

March 27, 2011

social mediaIf like us you often find yourself overwhelmed by the constant and ever-more-frequent stream of tweets and status updates, it will be a relief to discover there are a number of brilliant tools out there to help you keep a tab on things.

Our top five social media monitoring tools:

1) Social Mention – This is a great tool if you are trying to develop your own brand in the social media-sphere. It monitors your brand’s mentions from a number of sites including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube and displays it in an easy-to-digest search results page.

2) Topsy – Read Google for social media. Topsy is a basic yet powerful search engine which searches the social web and displays trending topics and results much like Google. It’s a very useful tool when you’re trying to locate a specific tweet, as Twitter’s own integrated search bar does not display older tweets.

3) Tweet Scan – Much like Topsy, Tweet Scan is a simple Google-like tool for searching the social web, but exclusively for Twitter. Again, it generally holds results dating further back than the Twitter search engine.

4) BackTweets – Billed as ‘Twitter Analytics’, BackTweets provides a useful tool for publishers looking to determine their reach. The free service lets you search for mentions of your brand, while the premium service offers a number of different analytics services, including graphs and other data, as well as Google analytics integration.

5) Addictomatic – While its tag-line ‘inhale the web’ may seem a bit extreme, what Addictomatic does do is let you “instantly create a custom web page with the latest buzz on any topic”. It can be very useful when you’re looking to keep track and monitor a specific topic as it breaks or develops.

Have we missed out your favourite social media monitoring tool? Let us know in the comments.

Sukey takes the kettle off

March 26, 2011

Today was ‘March for the Alternative’, where over 250,000 people are said to have attended. It is the largest public protest since the Iraq war rally in 2003.
The day has been eventful – Fortnum and Mason in Picadilly was occupied by campaigner group UK Uncut; a bonfire was lit in Oxford Circus; Topshop and various banks including HSBC and Santander had its windows smashed; missiles were thrown at the Ritz – and ultimately 38 people were injured, and 75 arrested.
However, this is a great result in comparison to the 24 November protests, where people decided to smash up Milbank, and student Edward Woolaard threw a fire extinguisher from its roof.  Because of these incidents the British media only picked up on the negatives, tarnishing the entire protest and thus causing the core message to be lost. Today’s protest, on the other hand, was considered a huge success and peaceful overall – largely because of better communication between protestors and the police. And this was helped by a nifty new app.
Set up specifically for the smooth running of these London protests, Sukey is a tool – both an app and a twitter account (@SukeyData) –  for protestors to be aware of police presence, in order to avoid kettling (a police containment tactic), unnecessary detention, and injury  – and for people not actually at the protest to keep an eye on what’s going on.
Sukey – the brainchild of a few UCL students – came about during the 9 December protests. Ultimately, it is a tool that makes full use of the present crowd in gathering information which is then analysed and handed back to the crowd. Protestors are kept informed of the official demonstation route togerhter with en-route amenities, such as WiFi, toilets, tube stations, first aid, coffee shops and payphones – and since then, protestors have been able to use the apps to track where police are on maps, in order to avoid kettles and thus raising tempers.
This just goes to show that confusion in a crowd can lead to disaster – but if everybody is in the know, then the crowd can march as one and focus on its main purpose. And therefore, the awesome Sukey is a social media win.

(Photo: via

Today's protest, which is said to have attracted over 250,000 people

Happy birthday Twitter

March 24, 2011

“As a social network, Twitter revolves around the principle of followers. When you choose to follow another Twitter user, that user’s tweets appear in reverse chronological order on your main Twitter page. If you follow 20 people, you’ll see a mix of tweets scrolling down the page: breakfast-cereal updates, interesting new links, music recommendations, even musings on the future of education.” – Steven Johnson, Time, 2009.

Twitter celebrated its 5th birthday last Monday, 21 March – and it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
For one, I only ‘got into Twitter’ because I had to for my course, as a means of promoting a ‘professional online presence’ – and so I’ve only actually been using it for a few months.  (Twitter, I’m not dissing ya, I actually adore you. But admittedly it takes a while to get used to you.)
Now is the perfect opportunity for a retrospective twitter-through-the-ages post.
From its humble beginnings on a tiny team comprised of co-founders @jack (Jack Dorsey) @ev (Evan Williams) and @biz (Biz Stone), Twitter is now an essential component in the world as we know it, impacting areas of social responsibility, politics, sports and media.
@jack posted the first tweet, ‘just setting up my twttr’ on March 21, 2006, at 9.50 pm Pacifiific Time.

2006 Twitter study by Pear Analytics

After spinning off into its own company in April 2007, and gaining considerable coverage at the 2007 South by South West (SXSW) festival, Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000.
The first off-Earth Twitter message was posted from the International Space Station by NASA astronaut T. J. Creamer on January 22, 2010 – now @NASA_astronauts.
Now, Twitter users send more than than 140 million Tweets a day, with 500,000 accounts created every day.
And according to research in 2009 by San Antonio-based market-research firm Pear Analytics, 40per cent of tweets are ‘pointless babble’, whereas 4 per cent are ‘news’ – the same amount as ‘spam’.

All in 140 characters or less.

What do you use Twitter for? Take the survey here(Photo: via Pear Analytics)

Get a social media education

March 21, 2011

“In the future, the cost of education will be zero.”

These words will never become reality but it is an idea which is worth exploring nonetheless.

Whilst the debate rages over the cost of higher education and the continued elitism of this country’s education system, it is worth looking at the possibilities social media offer to the youngest in our society as they grow up with all these still relatively modern ideas.

Already dubbed by some as the “Google” generation, more and more frequently individuals are able to discover the answers to the most of their questions online.

Seen as independence by some, others have argued that it means have lost the ability to research problems for themselves.

However, to criticise social media as a tool for education is short sighted and naïve.

No one is suggesting that children should not attend school, but rather that they appreciate the opportunity in front of them.

No longer are facts, data, figures and information of any kind kept by a few individuals in some exclusive establishments. The society we are living in now is more open than ever before. This openness provides problems of its own but as far as access to information is concerned, things are only improving.

Wikileaks is an obvious example, but search engines in general save time, money and effort, something everyone deserves to have more of.

In a world where people are working more hours, for more years for less money, social media seems like a great idea.

From finding out what is going in Yemen to the latest injury news in English Premier League, it has never been easier to find what you are looking for.

But take advantage of it now, as some fear the internet and thus social media will not be so even for long.