Thursday, September 6. 2012
Now this is interesting - Reprieve:
Apple has for the third time this month rejected an iPhone app which alerts the user to a drone attack and to the number of people killed. Drones+ enables those concerned about the CIA’s illegal, unregulated use of these remote-controlled weapons to track the strikes to their handset.
Seems like Apple is squirmning a bit with such "difficult" content:
The reason the Drones are attacking over the Afghanistan border is because thats where the enemy is, and everyone knows that, but nobody wants to say they know that, as the ramifications of officially admitting it are just too uncomfortable for all parties concerned. And Apple is a business, biting hands that feed you is just not going to happen. But its two of the biggest modern trends at loggerheads - mobile robotics vs social media. On the flipside, within the US and other countries there is increasing worry about private drones being used as spies, in which case the various invested interests here would be in alignment.
New technology giveth, and it taketh away. One to watch......
Thursday, August 23. 2012
WSJ notes that many companies are still using the Freemium model, but its not necessarily successful:
If only they'd read us in 2008, when we explained why FreeConomics overall would fail. (I can tell you that presenting ^that^ paper in 2008 at the O'Reilly Berlin conference was "interesting" as Free! was at the time the latest prayer to a cash-strapped bootstrapping startups' needs. In 2012, maybe not so much controversy as to what does and doesn't work - as the article notes:.
Start-ups are attracted to the freemium model because it is "deceptively simple"—lure users with free services until they're hooked, then charge for extras, said Vineet Kumar, a professor at Harvard Business School, who is currently working on a study of the model.
Its that low takeup rate (in 2008 people were casting about numbers like 10% takeup, we thought 5% would be damned lucky) and lack of business customer interest that caps the Freemium strategy in any given niche, and if its a popular niche there is always the next entrant with a bit more VC funding runway left who will still be free when you are trying to charge. And as we predicted, the most likely way Freemium would actually work was via offset funding (Ads, Virtual Goods, Buy-through goods) - ie other revenue streams than the product itself. Successful Apps (which have the best Freemium profile - low setup cost, low marginal distribution cost, minimal support cost) just about all use offset funding of one stripe or another.
Anyway, here is a summary of the knowledge today:
In defence of Ad based Freeconomic advocates however, we were wrong (so far, anyway) when we foresaw that the biggest risk was in using Ad funding to fund the Freemium business - we pointed out in 2008, if you ain't paying for the free lunch, then you are the free lunch (or as it was better put later, users are not the customer). Needing to feed the Ad Monster forces the company into ever more risky data mining activities, and playing ever more loose with customer privacy. We thought that more companies would have had this aspect blow up in their faces by now, but we have been proved naive about how little reward people require in exchange for putting large amounts of their personal data online.
Tuesday, August 14. 2012
Yahoo (blue) and New York Times (yellow) stock prices vs NASDAQ (brown) from 16 July (Courtesy Google Finance)
When Marissa Mayer announced she was joining Yahoo on July 16th, Twitter was largely positive in its praise of her, but Yahoo's stock went down slightly - see graph above (on an announcement of flat results, on a day when the NASDAQ also went down slightly, so the Marissa Effect was at best neutral, maybe slightly negative)
Today, when Mark Thompson announced he was leaving the BBC to joing the New York Times Twitter was more sceptical ("UK Publicly Funded TV/Radio Broadcaster to be responsible for US Commercial Newspaper revenue" was typical) but the stock market price went up a bit.
In recent months Twitter has been hailed as a predictor of a company's future success, even it's stock price:
In the case of YHOO (Twitter +ve, Stock market slight fall) and NYT (Twitter sceptical, stock market slight rise) Twitter and the market are at odds. Be interesting to see where things are in a year or so's time. As the old adage goes, you can't buck the market......
Thursday, July 26. 2012
Tanking Facebook Share price to Q2 (Courtesy Yahoo Finance)
The second quarter earnings report is out, Q2 2011 vs 2012 quarter revenue growth is 28%. While that's impressive, its not nearly impressive enough for an On-Track-for-a-$100bn valuation. To really persuade people it is a $100bn company in embryo, the growth in the user base has to be higher and ARPU must grow - but ARPU has remained about the same - so the stock price has tanked to c $26 at close (and down to below $25 on after-market trading) , giving around a $60bn valuation (And that is still high in my view on current performance*).
As we have said in the past, to get that valuation things have to go spectaculalrly well.
Most interesting thing in my opinion is the huge CAPEX spend - nearly $1bn in the first half of 2012, equal to the total CAPEX in 2011- what ARE they up to?
*The thing that amazes me most about the Facebook share price in the last 3 months is the climb up to $32 before the all-too-predictable precipitous decline. There is clearly more than one born every minute.
Wednesday, July 25. 2012
As we wrote some years ago, being a 3rd party application on someone else's platform is always uncomfortable, especially if you do what the main platform also does - like, say, providing access to Twitter's datastream. There is a relationship not akin to that of the pre-conjugalated male spider - you are useful for now, but at some point the jig-a-jig is up and you are going to get eaten.
So, news out yesterday that only about 23% of all traffic is not from native Twitter systems is no surprise.....Benjamin Mayo collected 1m tweets from a random sampling of tweets across a 9-hour period, approximately 9am to 5.30pm on the 18th July:
The best way to avoid being eaten is to be bought, as TweetDeck managed about a year ago - at the time they were reportedly about 20% of Twitter traffic. Now they are a mere c 1.96% of all Twitter traffic...a 90% decline in a year.
There is a lesson there....
(Update - @tentonipete (Joel Williams) reminds me that the 20% number for Tweetdeck 2011 traffic share is of all 3rd Party client traffic only, not all traffic - so it actually therefore now has c 1.96% of c 23% of all traffic (best case, assumes they are still counted as a 3rd party not 1st party client in which case its 1.96% of c 25%), ie about 8.2% - still a c 57% decline in a year! I suspect the Twitter share of all traffic has also risen in the last year as more Twitter-first-party mobile device clients became available!)
Tuesday, May 15. 2012
Gizmodo on Yahoo's long and lingering strangulation of Flickr, as a case study of what happens when you get Bought by a Behemoth - from:
three years ago, of course Flickr was the best photo sharing service in the world. Nothing else could touch it. If you cared about digital photography, or wanted to share photos with friends, you were on Flickr.
The site that once had the best social tools, the most vibrant userbase, and toppest-notch storage is rapidly passing into the irrelevance of abandonment. Its once bustling community now feels like an exurban neighborhood rocked by a housing crisis. Yards gone to seed. Rusting bikes in the front yard. Tattered flags. At address, after address, after address, no one is home.
How? I found this quite interesting as I've done this role from both sides. Gizmodo argues there were 3 main mechanisms:
Firstly - the Incoming Conditions set the scene
When a big company gobbles up a smaller one, often only a fraction of the money is handed over up front. The rest comes later, based on the acquisition hitting a series of deliverables down the road. It's similar to how incentives are built into the contracts of professional athletes, except with engineering benchmarks instead of home runs. Corp dev sets these milestones. They reflect the reason for the acquisition, and how the company—in Flickr's case, Yahoo—can leverage them.
Secondly, Integration takes precedence over new features
An acquisition integration team begins working immediately to make sure they are met. Typically, they're very engineering-based, designed to integrate the smaller company's product into the enormous corporate machine. And because payment schedules are based on achieving those CorpDev terms, it means both companies have a vested (pun intended) interest in putting those milestones ahead of new features.
Thirdly, Big Companies don't feed the small growing businesses - its not in their DNA
"The money goes to the cash cows, not the cash calf," explains one former Flickr team member. If Flickr couldn't make bucks, it wouldn't get bucks (or talent, or resources)
Gizmodo argues that as a result of being resource-starved, "Flickr missed boats - on local, on real time, on mobile, and even ultimately on social—the field it pioneered. And so, it never became the Flickr of video; YouTube snagged that ring. It never became the Flickr of people, which was of course Facebook. It remained the Flickr of photos. At least, until Instagram came along. The Flickr team was forced to focus on integration, not innovation".
Same Old Same Old Tale. Google and Jaiku (remember that - Twitter's competitor once), Facebook and Instagram?
And yet, and yet. I knew some of the Corp Dev people, at Yahoo at that time, I'd even worked with a few before - they knew their stuff, they knew how to structure deals that didn't strangle the growth businesses they bought. And strategically the company was on board big time - as the article admits, in 2005 Yahoo made a number of innovative acquisitions, not just Flickr:
It's hard to remember, but back in 2005, Yahoo seemed like it had its game on. After losing out on search dominance to Google, it snapped up a bunch of small-but-cool socially oriented companies like Flickr (social photos), Delicious (social bookmarking), and Upcoming (social calendaring). There was a real sense that Yahoo was doing the right thing. It was, to some extent, out in front of what would come to be widely known as Web 2.0: the participatory Internet.
And looking back at Flickr stories on Broadstuff at the time, Flickr was patenting "Interestingness" algorithms in 2006, and soon after it limited the number of friends one could have, and tags per picture. These did not go down well at the time, we reported, so blaming errors on Yahoo Management only may be a bit simplistic.
Anyway the article then argues that Flickr failed in two ways:
Firstly, they didn't understand Community:
"By the time we were looking at Flickr, Yahoo was getting the shit kicked out of it by Google. The race was on to find other areas of search where we could build a commanding lead," says one high ranking Yahoo executive familiar with the deal. Flickr offered a way to do that. Because Flickr photos were tagged and labeled and categorized so efficiently by users, they were highly searchable.
I don't fully believe that fully, I saw some of the business cases soon after purchase, and spoke to some of the people. The Yahoo guys in Corp Dev understood all about Community. I am prepared to believe that - as in any large Corp - that not everyone else did. The question is how influential were they - bear in mind at the time Yahoo had the biggest existing "Web 1.0" social network, Yahoo Groups.
The other problem, says Gizmodo, was when Yahoo moved Flickr to a single sign on - the idea was that signing onto Yahoo got access to all Yahoo's services plus all the other new sites thay had bought, and levearged Yahoos existing multi country sign on acpability, something that Flicktr would otherwise have had to build. But this upset the Flickr uber-users:
Although Flickr grew tremendously with the huge influx of Yahoo users, the existing community of highly influential early adopters was infuriated. It was an inelegant transition, and seemed to ignore what the community wanted (namely, a way to log in without having to sign up for a Yahoo account). This was the opposite of what people had come to expect from Flickr. It was anti-social. And it very much delivered a message, to both users and to the team at Flickr: You're part of Yahoo now.
So - simplify the product experience, integrate it with many other services, massively increase the user base - a Good Result, surely? No, this is Not a Success because you have pissed off your small cadre of original users.
But in reality, all products have to go through that phase when they cross their Chasms (remember Digg?). I know it could have been done more sensitively (and was done in fact for other Yahoo acquistions), but I think the real problem is noted further down in the article - Social 1.0 got blindsided by Social 2.0
By mid-2008, a year after the RegID debacle, it was clear to most everyone that Facebook was the big up-and-coming social network. What had been a plaything for college kids and high schoolers was suddenly the network your mom, your dad, your gym coach, and everyone else you'd ever met was sending you friend requests from. Microsoft was pumping money into it, and it was fast approaching 100 million users.
Now, remember Yahoo tried to buy Facebook at about this time, so again its clear they knew how the land lay. They knew what was coming. But the Flickr community (and staff) were 1.0 hippies, and as Flickr had it had already had its Liquidity Event, it was no longer the place to go for the hottest talent:
"Flickr wasn't a startup anymore," explains [a Yahoo] engineer, "people didn't really want to work that hard to turn the entire product around. Even if they had, Flickr [was] very techie hipster, many didn't use or like Facebook and considered it bland, boring, evil, poorly designed, etc., and were certainly not ready to fast follow it. Emphasis was put more on how things looked, and felt, rather than on metrics and on what worked.
But what finally killed their market leadership was not following the Great Mobile switch:
"Flickr was not empowered to build its own iOS app—or any other mobile app for that matter," laments one former Flickr executive. "You had this external team with strong opinions as to what the app should do."
And so, after a bit more score settling in the article, Gizmodo concludes:
Flickr's mobile and social failures are ultimately both symptoms of the same problem: a big company trying to reinvent itself by gobbling up smaller ones, and then wasting what it has. The story of Flickr is not that dissimilar to the story of Google's buyout of Dodgeball, or Aol's purchase of Brizzly. Beloved Internet services with dedicated communities, dashed upon the rocks of unwieldy companies overrun with vice presidents.
I don't buy this, in this case I think its uber user grumps distorting the reality-field. I reckon there was actually a different story going on:
1. In 2005 Yahoo knew what Social was all about, and went out of their way to buy leading "Web 2.0 v.1" companies.
A comeback doesn't seem likely, says Gizmodo, unless its spun out.
Flickr is still very valuable. It has a massive database of geotagged, Creative Commons- and Getty-licensed, subject-tagged photos. But sadly, Yahoo's steady march of incompetence doesn't bode well for making use of these valuable properties. If the Internet really were a series of tubes, Yahoo would be the leaking sewage pipe, covering everything it comes in contact with in watered-down shit.
Now I really don't buy this one. Facebook's IPO is going to create a Social Frenzy, and anyone with the assets Flickr has, is going to be valued pretty highly. Perish the thought that those who want Yahoo to sell it off for "a few bucks" know it full well too, and want to do a Del.icio.us flip-play
Thursday, March 29. 2012
This Olympic's logo was an object lesson is paying vaunted professionals a lot of money for a very mediocre product, and the UK olympic strip is coming up much the same - it seems to have left out the red in the Irish, Welsh and English colours. (It is mainly blue, leading wags to point out its the only way Scotland will ever be seen to win anything. Well,the designer was called McCartney....)
Which could be bad news for the UK, because it appears that teams that wear red win more games than ones that don't - Economist:
And why is this - some hints from another piece of research:
In 2009, a team of German scientists working at the University of Munster found that combat sportsmen were more likely to win dressed in red than blue because of the effect on judges. During their experiment, referees watched clips of fights in which contestants’ outfits could be digitally manipulated. When shown in red, the same fighters scored better than when clothed in blue.
As the Economist points out, this stuff should be fairly well known in sporting circles so it is a missed opportunity for the UK. But thre is something depressing about the inevitability of "designers" putting form over function.
If the British do not bag a lot of medals there will be some very angry Londoners, as it wil be adding insult to the various injuries done already from wildly underestimated budgets, shutting off the transport system to commuters and more (and don't mention the limited ticketing to citizens).
And next time round, how about crowdsourcing the designs (and a lot more in fact) - costs less, involves the nation, and you will very likely also get better designs. Coming to think of it, why not this time round, its not too late to change the strip.
Wednesday, March 28. 2012
As with Ads and popup killers, now comes the social network privacyscrape killer - TechCrunch:
In the age of endless sharing, super cookies, social search results, and that ever-present social graph, it’s comforting to know that there are some who are still prioritizing privacy. (And a few of them are former Googlers no less!) In October 2010, Google engineer Brian Kennish created Facebook Disconnect, a Chrome extension that disables all traffic from third-party sites to Facebook servers but still allows you to access Facebook itself. The extension was an immediate hit, racking up 50K active users in two weeks (it now has 200K+), prompting Kennish to leave his job at Google to focus full-time on helping the average web user take back control of their data.
Doing well by doing good - it's fascinating that the company has ex Googlers and Facebookers in it. These are the sort of tools that every self respecting self-hacker should have. They have a simple "Mission Statement" too:
Personal data should belong to people, not corporations.
What is most interesting is the takeup rate - the pundits tell us Privacy is So Ovah, but the people seem to be behaving very differently. (I always thought those pundits were drunk on Kool Aid, but nice to see the evidence).
There is also something marvellous about disrupting the Big Data-mining business models of "disruptive" companies
Props to @Janetparkinson for the link
Monday, March 19. 2012
There is some interesting detail in the latest Pew Research on the impact of Social Media on News - firstly, its only 9% of all people who get news this way - El Reg:
News websites are still the place most people visit to get their daily digest of current affairs. The PRC described Facebook and Twitter as being "pathways to news" but added that their role had been somewhat over-hyped. "The population that uses these networks for news at all is still relatively small, especially the part that does so very often," researchers said.
The study shows 9 per cent of people clicked on news links recommended by social networks "very often", compared with 36 per cent who go directly to a news website for stories, 32 per cent of current affairs fans, while 29 per cent of Americans used an aggregator or app to access the same information.
More interesting to me, the same survey noted that Twitter and Facebook were perceived differently by their respective users.
"Facebook news users get more news from friends and family and see it as news they might well have gotten someplace else if Facebook did not exist," the PRC said. "For Twitter users, though, the news links come from a more even mix of family and friends and news organisations. Most of these users also feel that without Twitter, they would have missed this kind of news."
The stats show that 70% of Facebook users get news from friend and family, 13% from News organisations, 10% from "Other". This is 36%, 27% and 18% for Twitter.
Facebook has the larger user base - the populations do overlap, with Facebook as the leading platform. 82% of those who ever get some news via Twitter recommendations also get some news via Facebook recommendations, and 40% so do very often or somewhat often. Facebook users are much less likely to be on Twitter than the other way around. Just 27% of Facebook news followers also get news via Twitter, with 11% doing so somewhat or very often. Over all, 13% of digital news consumers follow news recommendations on both Facebook and Twitter – but fewer than 4% do so very or somewhat often.
Twitter users believe they get news that they otherwise wouldn't have:
Also, men and women use services different.
Men and women responded very differently. Women were more likely to see the news as not special to Twitter (53% versus 30% who said they wouldn’t get it elsewhere). Men were more likely to see it as giving them a unique or broader sense of the news (46% versus 35% who said they would get the news elsewhere).
There is quite an interesting split of device usage too (see picture at top):
Looking at the heaviest users – the relatively small number of people who rely on social media recommendations for news very often the percentages are similar across devices. Of those who get news on desktop/laptop computers, 6% get news via Facebook recommendations. The same is true for 7% of smartphone news users and 8% of tablet news consumers. For Twitter, the numbers are smaller but follow a similar pattern: 2% of desktop/laptop users follow Twitter recommendations very often on the desktop/laptop, 3% for smartphone news consumers on smartphones and 3% for tablet news consumers on that device.
As you'd expect, Twitter, being more lightweight, is more the go-to service on the small screen
Twitter news followers tend to be more heavily mobile than the public at large, and they lean toward smartphones in particular. Fully three-quarters, 76%, of Twitter new followers own a smartphone. That compares with 67% of Facebook news followers and 60% of digital news consumers over all. Twitter users are also more likely to get news on their smartphone, 64% versus 47% for Facebook users and 30% for all mobile news consumers.
Also, Twitter news followers are more likely to be male, 57% versus 44% of Facebook users and 48% of the population over all. They are also younger; 39% are 18 to 29 years old, which is nearly double the population over all (22%), but about the same as Facebook users (37%). Not only that, they are highly educated. More than a third (37%) have a college degree or beyond, higher than the 28% for all adults, and fewer have no more than a high school diploma (34% versus 44% over all). They are less white than the population over all and less white than Facebook news users.
There are some emerging implications to this - the Facebook audience is probably more mass market (ie lower value), the Twitter audience would appear top be more akin to the higher value audiences that the FT, Economist et al go for. There is a lesson in that, perhaps?
And, as AllThingsD point out, this will grow and grow:
Wait a minute: Aren’t the Pew people the same ones who told us, a year ago, that Facebook was an increasingly important source of traffic for news sites? Yup. (Good memory!) But these two reports aren’t mutually exclusive. Last year’s survey pointed out that social media is a lot more important to news sites than it used to be. This one just reminds us that, for most sites, other stuff still matters more.
'Till next year then.....
Wednesday, March 14. 2012
This is getting quite fascinating. If you have not been following the story, here is a summary by Dan Parrotta of HBR:
Last week, Invisible Children launched a brilliant video aimed at making Ugandan rebel warlord Joseph Kony "famous" in the interest of capturing him and ending his reign of deranged brutality. The group hoped for half a million YouTube views by year end. They're up to 76 million today. And now they're being attacked — not by Kony, but by critics whose voices are raised louder about this video than they ever were by Kony's atrocities.
What is interesting me is why something so - at first glance right-on and in support of the fight against poverty, war and injustice and so on and so forth, has not got its own twittercolour - no, despite being massively sucesful in capturing attention and driving activity, many of the Digerati just hate the idea that this has happened. What - the Digerati hate that people have designed a very succesful viral campaign that has created action againsts a Bad Person is bad? WTF, I hear you say. So, let me unpick it - here is first rank Digeratiperson danah boyd
"To many people unfamiliar with Invisible Children, the Kony 2012 campaign looked like a brilliant example of “viral” media spread. The center of the campaign is a compelling 30-minute film where a father talks to his son about the evil practices of the Ugandan war lord Joseph Kony. The father makes it clear that his number one goal is to make Kony a household name in order to “raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.” In the days that followed, critics stepped up and critiqued the simplistic narrative (and colonial rhetoric) put forward by Invisible Children. (If you haven’t read it, I strongly recommend Ethan Zuckerman’s “Unpacking Kony 2012.”) Yet, what about the media campaign itself? Activists (and brand marketers) everywhere are in awe of what appears to be a magical campaign that came out of nowhere. But there’s more than meets the eye here."
Ah yes, the "but" - but why the but?
"Much to the horror of many human rights activists, Invisible Children is not known for spreading accurate information as much as it’s known for spreading information widely. Most of how they’ve gotten the message out is by engaging youth. Earlier films have been shown directly to youth (in schools and churches) and youth are actively encouraged to join the organization and participate in their campaigns. They provide toolkits for participation with the primary goal being to amplify attention to a particular issue."
The stories that Invisible Children create in their media put children at the front and center of them. And, indeed, as Neta Kliger-Vilenchik and Henry Jenkins explain, youth are drawn to this type of storytelling. Watch Kony 2012 from the perspective of a teenager or college student. Here is a father explaining to a small child what’s happening in Africa. If you’re a teen, you see this and realize that you too can explain to others what’s going on. The film is powerful, but it also models how to spread information. The most important thing that the audience gets from the film is that they are encouraged to spread the gospel. And then they are given tools for doing that. Invisible Children makes it very easy to share their videos, republish their messages on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr, and “like” them everywhere. But they go beyond that; they also provide infrastructure to increase others’ attention.
The initial tweets that came out came from seemingly disconnected youth living in Midwestern and Southern towns who frequently refer to Christian values in their bios. In other words, these tweets appear to be coming from communities that Invisible Children had already activated prior to launching Kony 2012. Not only did they then each turn on, but they spread the messages to their friends. This allowed the conversation to “pop” and then spread. The one profile that does have a lot of cluster is the Invisible Children profile, highlighting how their audience was indeed ready to respond to them. But you also see tight clusters that geographically disparate who bridged from the organization and then spread in their local community with a level of intense density. With this kind of graph structure, it’s not surprising that it quickly became a trending topic on Twitter. And then, it could easily spread. Attention begets attention.
So, in summary, they have been very successful using the exact same tactics that every other Person With A Message and a Cause uses social media for, they have:
- Put their message out with Inaccurate Information (Read - Accentuate polarities, no nuance, dropping Inconvenient Truths etc etc) and use the Impressionable Youth to spread it
So, not really "more to it than meets the eye" here. They have used exactly the techniques that all the the Social Media Advocates have been advocating and practicing for years. To think that these techniques are only going to be available to The Guys We Like is naive. The other complaint is about the target. Ethan Zuckerman, whose opinion I respect a lot, writes:
But its not as if no-one has tried these methods before. Its not just the Social Mediarati who are aghast, a plethora of "helping" interests are upset as well:
As a set of Kony-related hashtags trended on Twitter yesterday, some prominent African and Afrophile commentators pointed out that the Invisible Children campaign gives little or no agency to the Ugandans the organization wants to help. There are no Africans on the Invisible Children board of directors and few in the senior staff. And the Invisible Children approach focuses on American awareness and American intervention, not on local solutions to the conflicts in northern Uganda. This led Ugandan blogger and activist Teddy Ruge – who works closely on community development projects in Uganda – to write a post responding to the Invisible Children campaign titled “A piece of my mind: Respect my agency 2012“, asking supporters of Invisible Children to consider whether IC’s framing of the situation is a correct one, whether IC’s efforts focus too heavily on sustaining the organization, and whether a better way to support people of northern Uganda would be to work with community organizations focusing on rebuilding displaced communities.
Now don't get me wrong - I know full well that things are more complicated, more nuanced, not so easy, as this campaign is making it out to be. But, at this point I do also detect the sound of harrumphing vested interests, the murmurs of Not Invented Here (or even Done Better There) echoing round the ranks. In other words, one could read this as Turf being trampled on. And where turf is trampled on, Ad-Hominems soon follow - and here they are: As a charity, these people only spend 1/3rd of their money on Uganda!
The Visible Children tumblr points out that Invisible Children spends less than a third of the money they’ve raised on direct services in northern Uganda and bordering areas. The majority of their funding is focused on advocacy, filmmaking and fundraising.
But, as we pointed out years ago and many a time, few charities spend that much on their cause, a lot is sucked up in - ahem "operating costs" - the industry overall is at best inefficient (and resists all attempts to measure it), at worst it is a scam. I am shocked - shocked I tell you - that these critics apparently didn't know that (Well, I think they do, but they are not exercised by it when it is their own friends. Which is why this - like Bob Geldof's Live Aid at the time - ruffles feathers). In fact to me, these guys look better than many charities in that at least we know that some of the rest of the money is going into advocacy for their cause. I mean imagine that, a charity spending money advocating their cause? Revolutionary stuff, no?. Exactly. They are aiming for a revolution.
Parrotti summarises what Invisible Children is being criticized for:
But, as Parrotti points out, the approach used over the last 16 years hasn't exactly worked well and in 16 days this will do more.
Parotti also believes there's something bigger going on here, the rediscovery of activism and hope.
In the 1960s, critics whined that the money spent to go to the moon was more than it was worth. They didn't get that it wasn't about collecting moon rocks. It was about collecting passion and aiming it at something impossible. It was about demonstrating to ourselves that we were underestimating our potential by massive orders of magnitude. They didn't get the impact of millions of eight year-old kids watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, whispering to ourselves, "My God, anything is possible."
I think he is onto something. These people have used Social Media tools extremely well to generate a huge amount of activity in a niche area where all the kings horses and men so far have done sweet Fanny Adams. There is a fascinating exchange between a commetator and Ethan on his blog: One "Erin" says, if this is Bad then:
… what CAN we do? Much of the appeal of Kony2012 is that it gives us white, American liberals a method to engage and do SOMETHING with our bleeding hearts. I have no doubt of the complexity of the problem, and I appreciate the detailed blog post you’ve written. But you’ve made the same omission as many others who’ve written truthful narratives about Africa: you’ve left us with the impression that there is no solution, because all the players are bad and untrustworthy, so we shrug our shoulders, blame the Africans, and turn away. Give us hope; point us toward a solution; give us something specific and achievable to do! This is what Invisible Children has appreciated about human psychology and has done so effectively.
Erin, thanks for the comment. You’re right that my post doesn’t give “white American liberals a method to engage and so SOMETHING with our bleeding hearts.” For one thing, I’m not sure the LRA is the issue I’d urge people to engage with right now – I think pressuring the US to take the lead on Syria is likely a higher priority.
While I respect Ethan a lot, I think that tells you, in one reply, why the world is a-changing. Putting it another way.
(i) The current established structures are palpably not delivering the goods.
The Social Media Pandora's Box has been opened, and All Of You are using it. It isn't going to close again. The Digerati love to rail against the Olde Structures, but did not realise some of those pulled down would be beloved ones. The lessons from history of all revolutions in communications is that they are revolutionary socially too.
The times, they are a' changing.....
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