I recently bumped into an old friend who I hadn’t seen for the best part of a year.
Every time I started to update her on my news she interrupted me to finish my anecdotes. Despite her not being a great Facebook user she was a regular reader and was more than up to speed on my life.
It’s something I’ve been mulling over since and it’s made me question not just how I use Facebook but why I use it.
In particular I’ve wondered about why I follow certain people. I’m not a collector of Facebook friends. I will only ever friend people I’ve met face to face. But if we slowly collect FB friends in our work and social lives, when is it reasonable to let go?
There are a people I follow who I know I will never meet again. There are others I’m friends with purely because I can’t quite let go of old lives. The photos they post are snapshots, not just how they live, but of how I used to.
There are also one or two car crashes, people who I wonder just how it’s going to work out for them. Where could they possibly go from here? They are their own soap operas.
Despite regular use I’ve never quite warmed to Facebook. Which, of course, prompts me to ask myself why I use it. I’m building up to what I’m calling No Facebook February to try and move away from it. The people I genuinely like I should return to meeting or emailing – the rest it’s probably healthy to let go.
I think we should allow ourselves to forget people we’ve known and moved on from. We have to create space. We need to cut down the noise and give a little more to those people (and causes) we genuinely care for.
Just because we can now keep all the friends we’ve ever made, doesn’t mean we should.
In short Zing has recently been caught in something of a “digital piracy” storm as a result of dodgy unlicensed file sharing. Then it emerged that the US Embassy was still using the platform as a result of what they claim to be a lack of online options for “public discourse”.
Why do I feel sorry for them? Well firstly I can see how this happened and I’m not entirely buying the line that there were few other options, though I’m sure that would have contributed. I have seen the stats and for much of the last few years Zing has been ahead.
Frankly back when I worked with the British Council there were two reasons why we didn’t set up a Zing account. The first was it was seen as something a little bit younger than our target market – younger than Facebook which, theoretically, you aren’t supposed to join till you are 16. Secondly the foreigners, due to the language issue didn’t get it and as a result there wasn’t a united push from locals and internationals to use the platform.
No one ever raised the issue of copyright, though I did know it was a music sharing site. I suspect local staff wouldn’t see it as abuse and foreigners, not being users, wouldn’t grasp the wider culture.
A quick look at the US Embassy website and there are links to a dozen different sites including Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and Zing, though no Twitter. I understand that Twitter usage is generally low in Vietnam though it remains a great way for sharing content. It’s networking, it’s not marketing. The British Embassy in Vietnam likewise still doesn’t use Twitter despite a very obvious foreign office love for the platform. (I’ve actually set up an unofficial one in their continued absence - channeling the various outputs over Twitter).
As I write it remains to be seen whether the US Embassy will continue with Zing but perhaps even more interesting will be how continued Facebook issues alter social media plans. In particular future problems may be less about local blocks and more about policy changes from Facebook themselves back in the States. Actually reaching your following without further investment is becoming harder than ever. Perhaps that’s why the Australian Embassy has gone the paid-for route as they look for friends (see below). Presumably once they have friends they’ll then have to invest further in ensuring all of them receive updates – such are the changes.
Interestingly I had cause to email the Australian Embassy recently and despite hunting across their website I couldn’t find an email address. I presume that while the culture is to open channels in social media other routes to assistance are being nailed shut in the interests of keeping inboxes empty. It seems a slightly odd approach.
In terms of making the best use of social media I’ve always maintained it’s more about content not platforms. With Zing’s reputation in tatters, Facebook blocks and operational changes I’m more sure of that than ever.
In which case it’s also worth noticing that neither the American Ambassador nor the Australian Ambassador blogs. Meanwhile the British Ambassador (as I type) hasn’t updated his since the end of June.
I have received spam on several occasions from the Australian “Wealth Management” Company Elston Partners.
Of particular annoyance is their insistence on starting correspondence with “Dear Australian Expat”. Not Australian. Never been there. Didn’t sign up to this. Unsubscribing didn’t work.
Because it bugged me and, yes, because I’m under employed, I Googled around, found a few senior email addresses and sent them messages requesting to stop.
I received one back from direct investment manager Anthony Castellaro who apologised for the inconvenience and told me that I’d been taken off the database. He blamed it on an “email marketing company” which they had employed.
But then I get another email “Dear Australian Expat” spam from them today. Bugged, and still under employed, I left a message (see above) on their Facebook page with its one follower.
They essentially accused me of signing up to the spam, presumably after being removed from the database last time. Perhaps they think I missed the spam. Then when I tried to respond to that they either changed the Facebook wall settings or blocked me – I’m not sure but I could no longer message them. Which is just lovely.
That’s not communicating, that’s putting your hands over your ears and shouting: “LA! LA! LA! CAN’T HEAR YOU!”
Anyway, I’m writing this for two reasons. Firstly getting this in their Google results will be more of a pain to them than me bugging them and secondly because of the wider issue of spam in Vietnam which was made illegal this week. Beyond the banning of non-signed up for emails and text it includes the line: “A copy of any advertising mail and SMS sent out must also be sent to the Ministry of Information and Communications’ designated server.”
What really bugs about Elston Partners beyond their clunky rude comms is that they must have received my email from someone I trusted. This is not the first time this has happened. I’ve been phoned at my old British Council job by wealth managers. Who gives them my email and even my desk phone number? When I’ve asked they’ve always said “let me check that for you” and never got back to me.
It’s very easy to sneer at the waves of spam you can get from less than subtle Vietnamese operators but there are western organisations playing ball too. Someone is selling business cards.
That said, I’ve been genuinely shocked by some of the online tactics of even large international organisations in Vietnam. I’ll write more about them one day. This doesn’t begin and end with Old Quarter hotels writing false reviews on TripAdvsior.
In the meantime, Elston Partners, can we stop this now?
Update 19.10.12: Finally had a proper response from Peter McVeigh, a director at Elston Partners which reads as follows:
I have spoken to the people involved and they assure me that your details have been removed from the marketing list involved. By way of background your information was provided to us by a Singaporean based financial services businesses who we are collaborating with. We did not buy this list from them but it was provided to us in good faith and we were of the understanding that the contacts on the list had previously dealt with this firm and were Australian expats.
Great to see some transparency and actual communication finally but it still begs the question – where did the Singapore firm get the details from?
I recently wrote a short piece on NGO use of Twitter which I’ve now shelved as a result of the above.
It’s a masterclass. There is so much that bugs me about the way NGOs misuse the platforms. Firstly your life may be workshops and conferences but that isn’t the end product of what you do. Don’t tweet the work, tweet the results. I’ve lost count of how many NGO people I’ve unfollowed because they’ve decided that a conference is the most interesting thing they can find to share.
The other problem with personal Twitter accounts of NGO employees is that all they do is retweet the corporate feed. If you’re following that then you don’t want it subsequently retweeted by every employee. One senior NGO tweeter I recently unfollowed would retweet messages two or three times, obviously trying to get hit numbers up.
Scott’s a mate and I was priviledged to work with him briefly at WCS. By his own reckoning he’s no techie. He’s still trying to work out how to get films off the internet. But what he does have is the ability to work out what’s interesting and what isn’t and he responds to others. Missed out here are the tweets from an FT correspondent and assorted retweets from those of us cheering on from the sidelines.
It seems obvious to tweet events like this and yet I’m not seeing it anywhere else, not in Vietnam at least. Most NGOs are too paralysed by fear of getting something wrong that they instead continue to share only retweets from head office.
This is storytelling, brilliantly done. Typos, blurry pics etc – it doesn’t matter. It’s live and more effective than a hundred multipley signed off, written by committee, statements that only find their way to this platform once sanctioned, old news and having had all life and interest well and truly trampled from them.
Finally, the tweets are giving us something. In the past I’ve tried to explain to an NGO comms boss that their tweet feeds are like a bloke who only turns up at the pub when he wants a favour or to borrow some cash. Nothing for weeks on end then suddenly you want us to retweet, or write to our MP or donate cash. Many of us will give to the right people at the right time but you have to give a little first.
* NB, this is my first time using Storify. I was impressed but not all the functionality would work in embedding it here. That might be my lack of expertise, it may be the tools or it might be the clunkiness introduced by assorted social media blocks in Vietnam. In the end I’ve got a screen grab instead – click it and it’ll take you to Storify with the full functionality.
My new job means I have a little flexibility as to where I work. I was actually supposed to be off this week but there was a “final final” version of a document to look over so I went into work at nine for a last read.
But, these things being the way they are, various other people wanted to see if before I could. When I left at 10 it had just started to rain. By 3.30pm when the report finally reached me, I was speed reading for a 5pm deadline . So when I heard huge thunder claps at 4.18pm I didn’t have the chance to stick my head out of the door as Kai-tak arrived.
Later, as the report went back I started checking through Twitter and Facebook. Best of all was @PamMcElwee whose climate change conference had to finish early due to the extreme weather. Elsewhere here in Tayville, Tay Ho @ptmitchell and @doortomykitchen were already tweeting pics of Westlake in various stages of storminess.
In the centre @Dabeat25 tweeted this rather atmospheric pic from the Old Quarter.
Then at 5.13pm – with the storm already starting to slow, @LeFlic17 tweeted this from an overflown Hoan Kiem lake – that famous old turtle could just about swim away.
It blew itself out fairly quickly although the rain keeps, intermittently coming. Across Hanoi there are uprooted trees and talk of fatalities (Tuoi Tre confirms it as 10). The pictures at the top of this piece are from the day after when I whizzed around the lake from To Ngoc Van on my bike. One Facebook friend called it the worst she had seen in half a dozen years. Certainly Hanoi trees do seem to topple remarkably easily due to their shallow roots but I’ve never seen so many fall.
Finally Wiki, as this is written, has the following to say about Kai-tak’s impact on Vietnam:
….in Vietnam, Typhoon Kai-Tak has stormed across the country’s north bringing high winds and floods to several areas including the capital Hanoi. Among the victims was a taxi driver who was killed when a tree fell on his car in Hanoi, while two others died from electric shock after a cable fell in northern Son La city. Another victim died in a landslide. Earlier more than 11,000 boats, including several hundred used by tourists at Halong Bay, were ordered to stay close to the shore. The Vietnamese army put 20,000 soldiers backed by helicopters, rescue boats and canoes on standby to handle any incidents.
We’ve become used to weather warnings in Hanoi that start off as typhoons and are down graded to fairly mild tropical storms before coming close to Hanoi. It’s usually those in central Vietnam that get the worst of the weather. But this will get worse.
*Yfrog the pic host of the Old Quarter pic has an embed feature which means I guess it is okay to do so here (rather than just link back) – however if anyone has any problems with me using the pic then let me know.