Chris Nerney

Update: Site Takes Down Racist Image of Michelle Obama

Yesterday WebNewser wrote about the racist image that showed up as the top return in a Google Image search for Michelle Obama. Well, now the offensive image has been removed by the site hosting it. Mark Sweeney of guardian.co.uk writes:

A blog hosting an offensive image of Michelle Obama with monkey features has removed it and posted an apology.

The image, which has been appearing at the top of search results when the words “Michelle Obama” are put into Google Images, was posted on a blog called Hot Girls, which is hosted by the Google-owned blog service, Blogger.

Hot Girls’ owner has today removed the image, which appears to have originally been put up with a blog post on 21 October, and displayed an apology in Chinese with a very loose English translation.

Despite complaints about the image, Google decided not to remove it, stating in an explanation linked from an ad (see graphic below) at the top of the “Michelle Obama” Google Images search results:

michelle obama - Google Images_1259079351217.png

“Google views the integrity of our search results as an extremely important priority. Accordingly, we do not remove a page from our search results simply because its content is unpopular or because we receive complaints concerning it. We will, however, remove pages from our results if we believe the page (or its site) violates our Webmaster Guidelines, if we believe we are required to do so by law, or at the request of the webmaster who is responsible for the page.”

None of that applied, so Google stuck to its policy, which really was all it could be expected to do. Fortunately (and perhaps ironically), the Hot Girls owner showed some class and took the image down on his own.

Of course, it’s hardly the last we’ll see of this racist image on Google. It’ll pop up again elsewhere, a testament to hate’s persistence.

Social Media Practices of Top U.S. Charities

Since Thanksgiving is a time when we not only give thanks for what we have, but also extend a hand to those in need, this blog post from web marketing pro Jeff Bullas is timely.

In his post Bullas cites a recent study by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research on the usage of social media by the 200 largest charities in the U.S. (based on Forbes magazine data). Among the organizations participating were the Salvation Army, American Red Cross and Easter Seals.

Bullas writes:

[A] remarkable 89% of charitable organizations are using some form of social media including blogs, podcasts, message boards, social networking, video blogging and wikis.

Blogs are the top social media tool, used by 57% of the charities. An overwhelming majority (90%) reported that their blogs were successful (though how isn’t specified). Also, about one in four of the charities with blogs use WordPress as their platform.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of the top U.S. charities use video on their blogs, and uploading to YouTube is common.

You can read Bullas’s post for more data. One point made by a commenter to the post is that the survey isn’t about “best practices” as much as level and types of social media usage. I think that’s true. Still, as a snapshot of social media adoption by non-profits, the study offers some interesting information.

Are Your Twitter Analytics Tools Just ‘Data Puking’?

If there’s one thing Twitter lends itself to (OK, two things, if you count brevity) it’s metrics. Twitter data can be sliced, diced, charted, graphed and turned inside out. But according to Google Analytics evangelist Avinash Kaushik, most of this data is useless for determining the value of your Twitter efforts.

In a very long but fascinating post on his Occam’s Razor blog, Kaushik quickly defines the problem:

Analysis of new social media channels has been hobbled by old world thinking, when it comes to marketing, from the world of Television and Magazines or, when it comes to measurement, from the world of traditional web analytics.

These new channels, twitter and facebook and youtube and tumblr and, yes, even blogs, are very distinct customer/participant experiences. Stale marketing or measurement thinking applied to them results in terribly sub optimal results for all involved.

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Absolutely true. The problem with being able to grab and bang out Twitter data is that most of it merely measures activity, not effectiveness. Or as Kaushik writes:

Most twitter analytics tools just do data puking. They find numbers that can be computed and then proceed to puke at you as many as they can find, with wonton disregard of value being provided or outcomes being measured.

Hailing a “massive proliferation of new thinking,” Kaushik goes on to discuss four Twitter analytics tools that he believes “look promising.”

The four are:

Klout — attempts to measure reach, demand, engagement and velocity

GraphEdge — measures legitimate followers (see graphic), churn rate

(Note: The next one wins today’s “It’s a Little Freaky” award.)

TweetPsych — Kaushik: “uses the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC) method and the Regressive Imagery Dictionary (RID) method to build a psychological profile of a person based on the content of their last 1,000 tweets”

Twitter StreamGraphs — visualizes word associations

As I said, Kaushik’s blog post is long, but he really drills down. If you’re into analytics, it’s a must-read.

HootSuite Integrates Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter Lists

Twitter management console HootSuite today announced the addition of new features designed to better integrate other social media tools and the latest Twitter applications.

In a blog post today, HootSuite said Twitter Lists were a frequent request of its users, who now can import their existing Lists as well as create new lists in HootSuite. An example of the Lists management interface is below.

Twitterlists1.png

The blog also detailed how Facebook and LinkedIn are integrated:

Whereas before you could update Facebook and LinkedIn through Ping.fm functionality, things are different now. Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are treated similarly to Twitter accounts: you can create columns from these social networks, read your friends’ status updates, and update multiple Facebook accounts. Facebook integration offers in-line commenting.

Finally, HootSuite says it is extending the scheduling function for tweets to include status updates on Facebook, LinkedIn and Ping.fm.

This is a significant strategic move by HootSuite, which is trying to evolve from a Twitter-centric service to a social media management platform. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Runner’s World Launches Route Finder

I’m not sure why it took Runner’s World so long with this, given that MapMyRun has been around for at least a couple of years.

Runner's World Route Finder_1259088184312.pngNonetheless, runners should welcome the Runner’s World Route Finder, an online resource powered by TrainingPeaks. The RW Route Finder enables runners around the world to both search for or map new running routes in their own community or wherever they travel.

More details
from Runners’ World:

The RW Route Finder automatically searches for routes in the runner’s current location and displays all the available routes on a map view, not just in a list. In addition to a map, runners can view interactive elevation profiles of any hills, providing a more complete understanding of the route’s difficulty level. Finally, runners can search for routes in any part of the world simply by entering a new city in the search field.

In addition to finding new routes, runners may upload their favorite running course to the public RW Route Finder database. Runners also have the ability to drag and drop routes into their training log calendars, which automatically uploading the runs’ distances and elevation gains directly into their personal trainer account. Routes recorded in the RW Route Finder can be instantly shared with friends on Facebook and Twitter, allowing runners to post their achievements in real time and receive feedback from the running community.

It’s easy to test out the Route Finder, which I did. While it has a great interface and returns results quickly, there still appear to be some bugs in the coding. A search for runs in “Saratoga Springs, NY” produced some excellent runs in that area — along with a few courses in Saratoga Springs, Utah. Well, they’ll come in handy if I’m ever passing through.

When Racists Take Advantage of Google’s Search ‘Integrity’

If you do a Google Image search for Michelle Obama, here’s what you get.

Notice the very first image, on the top left. No, that’s not a still shot from Planet of the Apes. It’s a racist’s hilarious photo-shopped take on an old white supremacist chestnut (seen recently, of course, on the editorial page of the New York Post).

You’d also see this ad from Google right above the image:

michelle obama - Google Images_1259079351217.png

You’d think Google would do something about this offensive image beyond apologizing for its prominent presence in search results. Search Engine Land‘s Matt McGee says it did:

As we reported last week, Google had originally removed the Michelle Obama image on the grounds that the site hosting the image violated Google’s guidelines by serving malware to visitors. But the same image remained available on other sites that hadn’t run afoul of the rules.

Read more

FoxNews.com and GE, Sitting In a Tree

It’s well known that little love is lost between Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly and General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who long has been the target of O’Reilly broadsides.

Here’s one from earlier this month. Commenting in his syndicated column about the recently released White House guest list, O’Reilly writes:

General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt went to the White House five times. NBC, owned by GE, has been extremely generous to Obama, and now GE wants government contracts for environmental work. This has the appearance of a quid-pro-quo. I hope NBC investigative reporter Lisa Myers looks into it.

The mutual enmity between the two news organizations — and particularly between O’Reilly and Msnbc news host Keith Olbermann — got to the point that a “summit” was held earlier this year between Immelt and News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch to negotiate an end to hostilities.

Still, it’s sort of weird to see a GE ad on FoxNews.com. But there it is, in the screenshot below.

Breaking News - Latest News - Current News - FOXNews.com_1259009922485.png

Of course, business is business. When O’Reilly and Olbermann co-host a show, then we’ll know that all truly is forgiven.

YouTube Pulls Video of Paula Deen Getting Hit In Face By Flying Ham

However amusing the premise may sound, there really isn’t anything all that funny about a 62-year-old woman getting smacked in the face by a thrown ham. But many people on this Twitter thread find the video of Food Network star Paula Deen taking a tossed ham to the nose during a charity event this morning in Atlanta to be absolutely LOL-worthy.

Of course, how they find it is one thing, but where they find the video is another matter. And apparently that won’t be on YouTube, from which the video “has been removed due to terms of use violation.”

Meanwhile, Deen says she had nothing to do with YouTube yanking the video. She posts on her @Paula_Deen Twitter account:

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BNO News to Launch Wire Service, Signs Msnbc.com

Breaking news service BNO News, primarily known for its @BreakingNews Twitter account that has more than 1.4 million followers, has announced it will launch a paid-subscription newswire in early January.

BNOlogo.pngCalled BNO News Wire, the international service will target news media organizations as subscribers. BNO News also announced the first client of its newswire: Msnbc.com.

There’s an interesting wrinkle to the deal, paidContent.org’s Rafat Ali reports:

MSNBC.com [also] will take over the management of the @BreakingNews Twitter feed starting next month, while BNO and its 20-year old Dutch founder Michael van Poppel will now focus on developing its subscription-based wire service to sell to news companies.

Here’s how BNO News described the arrangement in a press release:

MSNBC.com has agreed to manage @BreakingNews starting in early December and will continue to provide a 24/7 up-to-the-second feed of breaking news headlines via the Twitter account. This collaboration adds BNO News’ wire service to msnbc.com’s already robust news-gathering operation and means followers of @BreakingNews will continue to receive the timely news and updates they expect. BNO News’ service will be a key input for the Twitter feed, which will incorporate breaking news from many media sources, original reporting on developing situations and links to more information across the Web.

With only 41,500 followers of its @msnbc_breaking Twitter account, being handed the keys to @BreakingNews is a potentially big benefit for msnbc.com. For BNO News, surrendering day-to-day responsibility for its @breakingnews Twitter account frees up van Poppel and others to focus on developing another revenue-generating service. The company already charges for its iPhone apps and monthly subscription.

Crowd Getting Tired of Sourcing Wikipedia

Wikipedia-logo-en-big.pngThe number of volunteers who help write, edit and manage online encyclopedia Wikipedia is dwindling rapidly, according to this article in the Wall Street Journal:

Volunteers have been departing the project that bills itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” faster than new ones have been joining, and the net losses have accelerated over the past year. In the first three months of 2009, the English-language Wikipedia suffered a net loss of more than 49,000 editors, compared to a net loss of 4,900 during the same period a year earlier, according to Spanish researcher Felipe Ortega, who analyzed Wikipedia’s data on the editing histories of its more than three million active contributors in 10 languages.

Eight years after Wikipedia began with a goal to provide everyone in the world free access to “the sum of all human knowledge,” the declines in participation have raised questions about the encyclopedia’s ability to continue expanding its breadth and improving its accuracy. …

[A]s it matures, Wikipedia, one of the world’s largest crowdsourcing initiatives, is becoming less freewheeling and more like the organizations it set out to replace. Increasingly, newcomers who try to edit are informed that they have unwittingly broken a rule — and find their edits deleted.

I’m sure that makes Wikipedia a less fun place to contribute free work to than it used to be. It’s less start-up and more corporate, probably for the staff of 34 as well as the volunteers. But the staff gets this thing called a paycheck for the hours they put in on behalf of Wikipedia. The volunteers? Wikipedia’s eternal gratitude.

There appear to be two issues here. One is simple burnout: Volunteering to edit and write for Wikipedia undoubtedly begins as a labor of love for many before devolving into a grind. If you’re writing about anything contentious — politics, we’re looking at you — the arguing and editing and re-editing could wear down even the most determined Wikipediaist.

The second (and related) fact is that Wikipedia is eight years old. The truth is, a lot has changed since 2001, and even since 2006, Wikipedia’s high-water mark for attracting volunteers. The original vision that inspired so many dedicated volunteers appears to have faded over time and under increasing procedural rules. Plus, let’s face it, with Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools becoming increasingly popular, the crowd simply has better things to do than edit Wikipedia. For free.