Students Out PR Professionals

As a Valdosta State University student, we nicknamed the student paper the Speculator. Incorrectly reading between the lines were their specialty. Grammatical errors and spelling mistakes were part of their standard. But it was amusing to see them go after the administration. Not so much to be reported on when I made big mistakes.

As university staff, I made the Spectator in information technology articles on viruses, online elections, WebCT upgrade, and the portal. At first they made me nervous because I worried about them finding out about the skeletons. After a couple interviews, it became obvious they had no idea about the skeletons and would only cursory look at the topic without digging very deep. So it would good publicity and exposure.

The Red & Black as a daily published much more that the Speculator. Last year the paper moved to a weekly print but daily web. This week several students (Editor-in-Chief, other editors, photographers, etc) all quit in reaction to a memo placing editorial control in the hands of non-students and hiring professionals to take over more decisions in the creative process. Immediately the students setup a web site, Red and Dead, a Twitter account @redanddead815, a Facebook page. Their Twitter account was suspended for gaining followers too quickly.

At present, the whole story is extremely one-sided. A couple statements from the R&B board against the draft memo, dozens of statements, bloggers, and newspaper articles like the Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Times, and Washington Post critical of the board. It is like the board is not even trying? Or unaware or unable to use the public relations avenues available to them. None of this means they are in the wrong or think they are in the wrong. It just helps the rush to judgment against them.

Maybe these students are in the wrong field? Public relations seems to be their strength.

Twexports

Data portability is good both for users and systems. But I like being able to export my data for another reason: search. Some times I want to build on an old conversation. It would be easier with an eidetic memory. Lacking that, knowing the terms I would have used, searching for it should yield that conversation. Except social media sites tend to suck at search. Twitter only goes so far back. Facebook searches contacts, pages, etc but not content like status updates. Even this WordPress site is far better at a term entered matching the same term that exists in the system.

Twitter intends to let us download a file with our tweets. I am excited because I can search it.

“We’re working on a tool to let users export all of their tweets,” Mr. Costolo said in a meeting with reporters and editors at The New York Times on Monday. “You’ll be able to download a file of them.”

Probably it will disappoint. The main disappointment will be that replies from others will not be present. So I will see where I address something to someone else, but not what they said to prompt the response or other’s followup. It will be like listening to someone have a conversation on a mobile phone where you get only half the conversation. At least, when I went to look at my earliest entries in Facebook’s archive file when it operated like Twitter, that was the disappointment I had.

P.S. What a bad title, right?
🙂

Best Sellers

Several friends mentioned reading the Hunger Games over the past few months. The movie opened last night. (No, I have little interest in either seeing the movie or reading the book. But then I was late to jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon plus have not yet jumped on the Twilght or Sookie Stackhouse bandwagons.) Presumably people were reading the book because of the movie. That should mean book sales increased, right? UPDATE 2012-MAR-18: Oh, right, in the NovelRank graph below and others, the trend appears to be sales decrease in the months before the movie release. I probably should check again on April 1st to see if March stays low. Maybe Jan/Feb buyers delayed for March? /UPDATE

So I went looking for information on sales.

My first mistake was thinking to look at best seller lists. The New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble lists all provide ranks. NYT bases its on numbers reported from various book stores. Amazon and B&N base theirs on their own sales. Ranks do not equate to sales volume. The difference between any two ranks could be 1 unit or 1,000. All three lists only provide rank. Only the NYT provides old lists. It would be really cool for Amazon or B&N to make available a chart showing the popularity over time. Though, because it is just rank, I could see some obsessive types worrying about dropping from #1 to #2 when sales stayed the same.

Strangely Amazon and B&N both ranked the Hunger Games paperback #1 with other editions and sequels also show up in the top 100. NYT did not have it. Depending on the kinds of stores used by the NYT, I could see this being true.

I did run across an interesting site called NovelRank. It purports to provide exactly what I want: sales numbers over time.

NovelRank Hunger Games
NovelRank Hunger Games

Then the numbers seemed absurdly small. Over the past year, Amazon sold less than 28,000 copies of the Hunger Games paperback? Hardbacks added another 10,000 and Kindle editions another 11,000? All combined less than 50,000 copies over the past year?

According to the NovelRank FAQ:

Are sales estimates 100% accurate? Book sales estimates are still estimates, and for books selling a low volume ( less than 100 copies a month for instance ) the estimates are most likely accurate within 1%. In the end, it is all based on sales rank changes rather than sales numbers, and NovelRank should not be used to dispute hard sales figures from publishers or Amazon.

Again, these are sales ranks used to imply unit sales volume. That could explain why the numbers seem too small.

Ah, well. Hopefully the information exists somewhere and my short adventure looking for it just needed a few more hours.

Collusion on Firefox

As we browse the Web, our browsers picks up cookies. Many sites will give our browser advertiser’s cookies. More importantly, the advertiser’s servers can look to see whether we have their cookies and where we obtained them. This is how they record our browsing habits. The more places they advertise, the better they are able to track us.

Collusion is an addon for Firefox detects the cookies added to my browser in order to identify the parties tracking me across sites are. For example, I just installed it and visited Google which dropped cookies for doubleclick, rubicon, bluekai, and others. I then went to the New York Times web site which added Nielson, Doubleplex, and other such as doubleclick.

This is going to occupy me for days… Maybe even weeks.

Stories

Those who enjoy thinking are mentioned at the end of this quote from Why Stories Sell: Transportation Leads to Persuasion as most vulnerable to being persuaded by a story. Reading Oscar Wilde is fun if only because he puts in so many entertaining quips from his characters to comment and persuade the reader. I feel transported back to college where my friends were challenging my ability to keep up with the craziness of who did what, when, how to who.

Stories work so well to persuade us because, if they’re well told, we get swept up in them, we are transported inside them.

Transportation is key to why they work. Once inside the story we are less likely to notice things which don’t match up with our everyday experience.

For example an aspirational Hollywood movie with a can-do spirit might convince us that we can tackle any problem, despite what we know about how the real world works.

Also, when concentrating on a story people are less aware that they are subject to a persuasion attempt: the message get in under the radar.

Two sorts of people who may be particularly susceptible to being persuaded by stories are those who seek out emotional situations and those who enjoy thinking (Thompson & Haddock, 2011).

Drew Westen at Emory University has a good New York Times piece on how President Obama failed to keep up the grand story he built transporting people into building a better America during the campaign. He needs to resume telling it or start a new one to convince the American public he should be elected for a second term.

For 9/11

This seemed appropropriate to re-post today, the tenth anniversary of the event which inspired its need. The problems we are to overcome seem more prevalent and prominent today.

This statement was issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States in December 2001 as a response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. It first appeared as a full-page statement in The New York Times on December 21, 2001 and was subsequently reprinted in dozens of other newspapers around the country.

At this time of world turmoil, the United States Baha’i community offers a perspective on the destiny of America as the promoter of world peace.

More than a hundred years ago, Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, addressing heads of state, proclaimed that the age of maturity for the entire human race had come. The unity of humankind was now to be established as the foundation of the great peace that would mark the highest stage in humanity’s spiritual and social evolution. Revolutionary and world-shaking changes were therefore inevitable.

The Baha’i writings state:

“The world is moving on. Its events are unfolding ominously and with bewildering rapidity. The whirlwind of its passions is swift and alarmingly violent. The New World is insensibly drawn into its vortex….Dangers, undreamt of and unpredictable, threaten it both from within and from without. Its governments and peoples are being gradually enmeshed in the coils of the world’s recurrent crises and fierce controversies….The world is contracting into a neighborhood. America, willingly or unwillingly, must face and grapple with this new situation. For purposes of national security, let alone any humanitarian motive, she must assume the obligations imposed by this newly created neighborhood. Paradoxical as it may seem, her only hope of extricating herself from the perils gathering around her is to become entangled in that very web of international association which the Hand of an inscrutable Providence is weaving.”

The American nation, Baha’is believe, will evolve through tests and trials to become a land of spiritual distinction and leadership, a champion of justice and unity among all peoples and nations, and a powerful servant of the cause of everlasting peace. This is the peace promised by God in the sacred texts of the world’s religions.

Establishing peace is not simply a matter of signing treaties and protocols; it is a complex task requiring a new level of commitment to resolving issues not customarily associated with the pursuit of peace.

Universal acceptance of the spiritual principle of the oneness of humankind is essential to any successful attempt to establish world peace.

Racism, one of the most baneful and persistent evils, is a major barrier to peace.
The emancipation of women, the achievement of full equality of the sexes, is one of the most important, though less acknowledged, prerequisites of peace.

The inordinate disparity between rich and poor keeps the world in a state of instability, preventing the achievement of peace.

Unbridled nationalism, as distinguished from a sane and legitimate patriotism, must give way to a wider loyalty, to the love of humanity as a whole.

Religious strife, the cause of innumerable wars and conflicts throughout history, is a major obstacle to progress. The challenge facing the world’s religious leaders is to contemplate, with hearts filled with compassion and the desire for truth, the plight of humanity, and to ask themselves whether they cannot, in humility before their God, submerge their theological differences in a great spirit of mutual forbearance that will enable them to work together for the advancement of human understanding and peace.

Baha’is pray, “May this American Democracy be the first nation to establish the foundation of international agreement. May it be the first nation to proclaim the unity of mankind. May it be the first to unfurl the standard of the Most Great Peace.”

During this hour of crisis, we affirm our abiding faith in the destiny of America. We know that the road to its destiny is long, thorny and tortuous, but we are confident that America will emerge from her trials undivided and undefeatable.

The source of the above text of The Destiny of America and the Promise of World Peace.