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Reality bites – Twitter goes to War, SMS declines – The RAAKonteur #106

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16 November 2012
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Another landmark. We were wondering when SMS traffic would show signs of decline in the face of the rise of other digital channels for messaging (Facebook, Twitter, etc). In the US both SMS traffic and revenues have just declined for the first time.

War on Twitter

When the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) decided to live-tweet operations in Gaza, we caught another glimpse of Twitter’s unsettling immediacy. Zeynep Tufekci a year ago wrote about why Twitter was so much more visceral than broadcast TV with regard to the Arab Spring. But rather than inciting concern and compassion, this does something different altogether.

“There is something grotesque and disturbing about two parties with a long history of conflict live-narrating the launching of bombs that kill civilians and destroy communities. There is no empowerment or revolution here: just a dark, sinking feeling as we watch the bloodshed unfold in real time” says Jessica Roy in one of the better posts on the topic.

When gamification is in bad taste

While we think there is an important role for behavioural economics, psychology (see this post on the Obama campaign), and incentives in designing digital tools, crass gamification has it useful and ethical limits. It is instructive that games that imitated life more closely have tended in the other direction. For example the controversial Grand Theft Auto which removed obvious points, goals and badges. You could batter a woman on the street if you wanted. It was pointless. And you could get arrested (or not). And unlike other games, that ability made you feel queasy.

When turned around, when obvious game incentives are applied to real life, it does not seem pointless but if feels strange (to say the least) when applied to war. And that is illustrated by the IDF’s Gamified War blog. It awards badges with points and rewards for sharing content to social media. For example, if you visit the site 10 times, you get the “Consistent” badge. If you search the blog multiple times, you’re promoted to “Research Officer.” Yes, we have gamified war.

Much ado about the newsfeed

The natives are restless. Or rather Mark Cuban, is threatening to leave Facebook because of so-called Like Gate. You will remember we have covered exhaustively claims that through an algorithm change, Facebook is showing fewer of Pages’s updates to people that have Liked them. Some have countered that this behaviour – optimising the Newsfeed – from Facebook is justified, while others yet claim its an attack on the open web. Facebook, perhaps in response, is introducing two new features. You can now subscribe to receive *all* updates from a Page and Facebook is introducing a navigation item where a user can see only updates by Pages. But here’s the rub. One of our clients, Miista, is experiencing exactly the opposite of what everybody is claiming. Engagement rates have never been better. Another client confirmed the same to us yesterday. Stay tuned.

The revolution won’t be tweeted – Live Tweeting rights

You know the drill. An event happens and some broadcaster buys the sole broadcasting rights. Could that happen to Tweets? It already is. In the US journalists are being warned not to tweet “too much” at sports events under the threat of loosing their accreditation. But what about the attending public? Could that be enforced? Not easily. Unless you make sure there is not enough bandwidth. And in the UK that’s already the case, with many football fields not having adequate capacity for fans phones.

Livestream your gameplay

In an attempt to make their games more like spectator sports, Activision announced that it is partnering with YouTube. The game Call of Duty: Black Ops II will allow users in league games to live stream the gameplay. We hope that somewhere in the IDF somebody is not going – aha!

You are not only me, you are a part of US

Here at RAAK we’re a cynical lot. Facebook has gone ahead this week and created couples profile pages for all those listed as ‘in a relationship’ on the site. If logged in, the URL Facebook.com/us will give you a timeline of your relationship and the things that you and your special other have in common (photos, friends, events, shared Likes). The new feature, essentially Facebook auto-curating your relationship online, has not been kindly received everywhere. An auto-generated joint digital identity that you never asked for is downright none of their business.

It’s Twitter Jim, but as you know it

Twitter Big Data

One for the purists. Raffi Kikorian, Director of the Applications Services group at Twitter, recently gave a talk at GCon, detailing Twitter’s underlying architecture. We’ve lifted a few fascinating facts from the talk that you might not already know.

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Yu-kai Chou
    December 3, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing this. I just wrote a rebuttal on why there is NOTHING wrong with IDF Gamifying War. Games MIMIC War. Not the other way around. Plus, when “our enemy” Bin Laden died, it was pretty “glorified” with 2000 tweets every second. And we were just under attack ONCE. War is harsh and adding incentives for people to participate is the least insidious thing people can do, assuming they are already in a war and being attacked often…


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