Exploiting tragedy to boost your PR

Yesterday, Microsoft was largely — and rightly IMO — condemned for a now-apologized-for tweet they made in which they said that they’d donate $1 for every retweet (up to a maximum of $100,000) to Japanese earthquake relief efforts. It definitely got them a lot of publicity, most of it not so good. It took attention away from any legitimate (and non-PR-based) help Microsoft had actually offered in the face of the disaster.

Today, my Facebook news feed is full of people reposting a message from Explore.org, which urges people to like one of their Facebook pages and saying that they will donate $1 for every fan they get (up to a maximum of $100,000) to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation.

They’re doing the same thing to capitalize on the unrest in Egypt by urging people to like another one of their Facebook pages, saying that they’ll donate $1 for every fan they get, up to $25,000, to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals.

On the surface, that seems like a noble effort, raising awareness and encouraging people to help. However, for me the problem arises in how they’re doing it. In the comments on a post about the Dog Bless You page on Mashable, someone from Explore.org remarked, when people questioned using a disaster as a marketing device, “We want to encourage and inspire online communities to work together and take immediate action. We work with many non-profits and the more recognition we can bring to them the better!

That would be marvelous if they were actually bringing significant recognition to the non-profits they’re supporting. Rather than providing links to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation site (or its Facebook page) or to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals site (or its Facebook page), they hinge these donations on people liking their own Facebook pages.  On each of Explore.org’s Cat/Dog Bless You Facebook pages, they only mention the sites of the actual organizations in unclickable, uncopyable text on the poster graphics, making it harder for you to visit those sites (and thus less likely that people will make the effort).

You know that Explore.org is going to make those donations to the organizations in question regardless, just like Microsoft did (and had always intended to) when it made that unfortunate tweet. You Liking their Facebook pages isn’t actually accomplishing anything that not Liking them would. If Explore.org was really all about raising awareness for those organizations, they’d have made it about increasing the number of fans for the organizations’ own Facebook pages instead of their own. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great that Explore.org plans to donate to both of those organizations and I don’t want to take anything away from that, but by tying it into increasing their own fan base, they proving themselves to be not a lot different from Microsoft.

If you really want to help National Disaster Search Dog Foundation and Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals, you’ll go Like their Facebook pages (instead of or in addition to the Explore.org ones) and donate directly to them.

(Note: The lack of links to Explore.org or their Facebook pages in this post is deliberate.)


OMG Facebook is down

How will the world survive? I must have just squeaked in under the wire, posting a link to an art video just before I completely lost my connection.

Geek.com’s article says it all:

Facebook is down, world productivity spikes

Facebook is offline. Return to your desks people, and resume work. Your online social life is on hold while Mr. Zuckerberg and his team of developers desperately search out the issue.


Pet Peeve #34,098

Facebook pages/applications that require you to “like” them before you can see the content, and the fact that this seems to be the new marketing trend.

Pet Peeve #34,099

Facebook pages/applications that require you to “like” them and spam your friends list (with no opt out option) before you can see the content.

Pet Peeve #34,100

Facebook friends who do #34,099.

I’m beginning to hate you

Yes, Facebook. I’m talking to you.

I don’t need to see my mother’s face as avatar all over my news feed.

And I don’t need to see all of the “RIP Grandma” status posts and messages of condolence slipping through that same news feed.

I’ve deliberately not posted a message myself on my own wall in order to avoid all of that from my own friends, but it’s leaking through all the same because many of my friends are people who knew and loved my mother.

Maybe I’d feel differently if I didn’t permanently have this connection now between Facebook and my mother dying. Maybe I’d be feeling more generous and understanding. I’m not there yet.

I got an e-mail from a friend of my parents’ (a very sweet lady) that included the sentiment “I know how you are feeling but we all have to be there for your Dad now”. And it’s making me cranky, I think because it presumes both that she knows exactly how my grief is manifesting itself  and that my grief is insignificant compared to my father’s. I don’t like that her well-intentioned message is evoking this reaction in me — she’s grieving herself (and she lost her own mother when she was much younger so she has been in a similar situation) — or that the activity on Facebook is doing the same thing. It’s not my place to dictate how anyone else grieves. But the feelings are there all the same. It’s something I’m going to have work through and come to grips with — I’m not as enlightened as I would wish to be.

It does all make me want to turn off my computer for awhile, though.

And maybe that’s a good thing.


If you’re ever unlucky enough to eat a Thanksgiving turkey dinner with me, you’ll understand just how anally obsessive I am with my food. My Thanksgiving plate is very beige and completely segregated. None of the foods touch each other (gravy and other sauces and condiments are completely out of the question) and each group is generally eaten before the next group is touched — no mixing and mingling of foods in my mouth, thankyouverymuch.

The plate on the left is a (mostly) properly segregated plate. The plate on the right is just so horrifying that I can't bear to look at it.

Interestingly enough, I don’t have the same fastidiousness in most other areas of my life. (Can’t really be a hoarder if none of your stuff can touch other stuff, you know?) But I learned today that it does subconsciously carry over to my Facebook account. I recently created a Friend Wheel, which maps your friends’ relationships with one another and creates this lovely little string art like image.

This is what mine looks like:

My Friend Wheel

Looks a lot like my dinner plate. The spokes of the wheel are the names of my friends. For most people, the names on their wheel form a basket-like string art picture, with links crisscrossing the circle. Mine, as you can see, does not do that. My various groups of ‘friends” do not interact with one another and stay nicely and quietly in their own little compartments. (And, yes, I realize that this shows I have under 80 “friends” — I could have hundreds, but I choose to limit my connections in Facebook.)

The OCD Gods would be proud.

Shall I or shan’t I

So, I’m aimlessly browsing through friends of friends on Facebook, looking for anyone I might know or have an interest in connecting with. Two very small and unexpected degrees of separation later and I”m faced with a slew of people I’ve only met in this persona.

Should I friend or shouldn’t I? Should I blur the lines between my worlds? Next thing you know, I’ll be following them on Twi…oh, wait…

Oh. My. God. Should Facebook really be this nerve wracking? Will they accept my request or won’t they? (Hey, one of my nieces didn’t so who could blame you.) Can I avoid taking the rejection personally? (Clearly you haven’t been reading this blog if you think the answer is “Yes.”) Will they think I’m a complete nutjob? (Well, hey, if the blog fits…). Ahhhhhhhh!!!!!

Decisions, decisions.

In the end, I pretended I was bold.

So, if you got a friend request from me and want to say “Hell, no!” to it, don’t worry — I’ll stop crying eventually. 😉

I’m still here

I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am.

I set up a sort of private support blog for me and a friend to use (long story that I won’t go into), and I have been mostly posting there over the last week or two. That seems to set the “have I blogged today?” flag in my head to “yes” and I then forget about this one. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

I also blame Twitter. Without Twitter, I wouldn’t have learned that PopCap Games has a special version of Bejeweled on Facebook — Bejeweled Blitz — which is where the rest of my time has been spent.



Random thoughts. (Because I don’t get it. I’m in it but I don’t get it.)

How do people have the time to tweet all freakin’ day like that? I’m talking about people who actually have lives. Do they live on their iPhones and BlackBerries? Should I feel like a less accomplished human being because (a) I can’t tweet on the go and (b) really don’t have anything worth tweeting about even if I did? (Why am I daydreaming about the smartphone-free, computer-less, information-underloaded era of Jane Austen?)

Why are all the kewl Twitter apps for Macs only? (Ne-ver mind, I know the answer to that one.)

Are you supposed to keep your personalities separate from each other, with their own followers? Or are you supposed to just whitter on about how awesome your lunch is to e.v.e.r.y.one who’s following you? Your boss, your coworkers, your family, online acquaintances, friends-of-friends-of-friends, some snack food-producing stranger (and his wife) in Indiana?

Why am I following all the people that I am? Does it really matter to my life that I know what Bo Burnham is thinking right this very minute? (Well, actually, he’s kind of funny so pretend I mentioned someone else like, say, Oprah. Wait, that wouldn’t work either because I don’t actually follow her. Um…) I was ready to dump a number of them over the weekend (and may yet still do it) because it was all freakin’ sports, all of the everloving, kill-me-now-before-I-gouge-out-my-eyes time. Seriously? Do we really have to watch the entire game/match/bout with you? If I liked you that much (and that restraining order wasn’t in place), I’d be watching it in your living room with you. (Ask me if I care about sports. Go ahead.)

Why are people so indiscriminate about who they follow? You can’t possibly hope to actually keep up with 5,000 people on Twitter so why follow them? Why? Because, like Facebook and Myspace, it’s all about the link love, baby. I follow you, you follow me, both our numbers grow exponentially and then maybe people start thinking we’re cool, leading of course to us ultimately, really becoming cool. (Of course, you’ll never catch up with CNN breaking news or Ashton-f***ing-Kutcher but you have to start small, don’t you? Sorry, aplusk, I appreciate the intent behind your malaria pledge drive but I’m annoyed by all the bandwagon jumping — there *are* other charities and important causes on the planet.)

Why must social networking be the future of anything? All it’s really doing is exacerbating the information overload problem. We don’t need to have that kind of up-to-the-minute finger on the pulse of anyone or anything. It’s an easy access to not just information but instantaneous trivialities far beyond even the most obsessively written blog that breeds a very short attention spa…ooh, shiny.

Phil and the Facebook War on Nipples

(Sounds like a new blockbuster movie, doesn’t it?)

After the controversy over Facebook deleting pictures of women breast feeding, artist Phil Hansen (check out his awesome art creations at his Youtube channel or in his Goodbye Art blog; you won’t regret it) decided to experiment. Shirtless pictures of men are not banned from Facebook — clearly male nipples are acceptable — so Phil decided to create a profile photo for himself from a collage of pictures of his own nipples. The result is brilliant. He posted the video of him creating the photo on Youtube:

It took two days, but Facebook finally deleted the photo and warned him:

So, number of acceptable female nipples on Facebook = 0, number of acceptable male nipples = 2-ish. Pretty much reflects society as a whole (unless you’re in Toronto where I believe women are still permitted to be topless in public). Breastfeeding clearly falls into a different category than random topless women, though. While I’m not personally thrilled at breastfeeding women hauling out their breasts in public, most that I know are very discreet about it (and even if they weren’t, my personal discomfort is my problem, not theirs, and I certainly wouldn’t want breastfeeding or photos of breastfeeding banned anywhere as a result).

Membership in the “Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!(Official petition to Facebook)” Facebook group, which appears to have been created in August 2007, grew by leaps and bounds after the controversy erupted and currently has 154,176 members.

You never learn anything good on Facebook

I have a profile on Facebook, not because I want one but because I needed it to see something that someone wanted me to see on their profile. Long story. So, I don’t hang out there. I don’t actively seek out people I know to add them as friends. If someone I know finds me, great. (Well, actually, it’s kind of annoying, because it forces me back to Facebook but it isn’t annoying enough for me to not go back, if you get my point.)

Anyway, I got a friend request from a name that seemed familiar the other day. Couldn’t place it until tonight — I still can’t picture her but I remember where I know her from, and I remember the name. So I accepted the request. Then I thought I’d check on a couple of other people I know. That was a bad move. My ex has a very common name, like John Smith, so I never expect to find anything related to him specifically if I Google him. (I’ve Googled just about everyone I know at some point.) Imagine my surprise tonight when I found him on Facebook, of all places — what I can see of his profile isn’t very helpful but the names of the friends in his list tells me all I need to know. His step-mom is there, so are several of the friends he hung out with when I was with him, friends I missed terribly when we split up. (They were his friends so he got custody of them in the split. LOL)

I apparently wasn’t shell-shocked enough by that so I went searching for old colleagues. So many of them are there. It’s like browsing Wikipedia — you start off looking at one thing but get led down the garden path until you’re far, far from home.

I’m absolutely horrified. You can’t unlearn what you’ve learned.