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opinions — TechWhimsy


Slacktivism: you get the engagement you deserve

by Shane Perris on Thursday, 22 April, 2010

in opinions

Slacktivism: n. 1. halfhearted activism.
(Wikitionary see also Slacktivism on Wikipedia)

At the recent Digital Citizens event “Social media for social good”, many worthwhile and interesting  issues were discussed that revolved around how Not For Profits (NFPs) could use social media to raise awareness of their particular issues and use that awareness to try and achieve some substantial change. However, all of the panelists on the night danced around the notion of big online campaigns that attract widespread but shallow engagement. In other words, what about the slacktivists?

While slacktivism is everywhere, it is highly visible is social media. For example, classic slacktivist slacktivities include changing your avatar on a social network (twibbons being the obvious example) or following a Facebook group that professes to support some cause or other.

The personally removed nature of online interactions make it very easy to look engage with little to no effort and indeed little to no emotional or financial cost to the individual. Even ribbons, wristbands or lapel pins (which achieve as much social change as a twibbon) at least require a financial investment that has the added benefit of raising funds for the NFP. Online slacktivism adds nothing but awareness that is fleeting if not followed by action.

You get the engagement you deserve.

People are busy. You are battling competing interests. Frankly, most people are lazy and disinterested in your campaign to begin with. It’s hardly the most supportive environment to bring attention to your cause.

It’s not enough to just drum up support. Simple gestures with low barriers to entry like twibbons, Facebook groups or online petitions are merely a gateway. If you cannot provide a clear road map of action that accommodates different levels of engagement from your supporters, you might as well not have started to begin with. Attention is precious. Don’t waste it.

Slacktivism allows someone to feel engaged while they make empty non-committal gestures that them indicate a basic level of support with having to commit to anything or make any real investment beyond a few seconds of their time.

The depth of feeling and support from your supporters is directly related to the amount of prep work you do for them and what you give of yourself to your supporters in the process. It’s basic leadership: put in the groundwork and map out a clear pathway, people will follow you to the final goal. Slacktivism fills the void that is left behind when an issue becomes stronger than the leadership in the community.

Bringing the slacktivists into the fold

If you are going to use social media to encourage individuals to participate and affect real change, you need to engage with individuals. Getting people to contribute to anything that does not provide them with an immediate benefit  is difficult. You only need to ask the same old faces that man the canteen at your children’s sporting events every week, or those who help out at the homeless shelters or the stand on street corners soliciting donations. Volunteering is often a thankless task with a shortage of people prepared to step in and do their part.

Online campaigns and social media are no different. People are still people, no matter the mode of interaction and communication. Getting people to volunteer real time and real resources is hard. Signing a petition, changing an avatar or joining a Facebook group are easy and, for the most part, very public ways of showing support without even getting out of a chair.

The only way you will really engage with these people is through baby steps. Without a clear plan of progressing such people through incremental action, they will shallowly interact and then fade away.

If you haven’t done the work, neither will they. You get the engagement you deserve.


Is the iPad the gateway to the smart house of the future?

by Shane Perris on Thursday, 1 April, 2010

in opinions

Some of the most memorable moments of future computing in sci-fi film emphasise ease of use rather than raw power, features and hackability.

Think “enhance” in Bladerunner…

(sorry about the quality)

or the classic touch user interface in the Minority Report…

Most people don’t want fancy computers, they want things that just work without too much effort. Everyone knows what the technology is capable of doing these days, and most people despair at some point that it isn’t easier to use.

[click to continue…]



by Shane Perris on Thursday, 25 March, 2010

in opinions

Social media allows us to make many connections but are they meaningful ones?

Internet Splat Map by jurvetson

"Internet splat map" by jurvetson on Flickr. Creative Commons 2.0 By Attribution

From personal experience, more than ever before we can make new social connections and befriend people over a wide range of distance, culture and beliefs. I now know people in most capital cities of Australia, and in a number of regional cities, too.

The recent inaugural Digital Citizens event was chock full of social media inhabitants (enough for a swarm on Foursquare). Some were Social Media Douchebags, most were not. Given that while I was familiar with many of the attendees but only casually so, I took the opportunity to sit back and watch social networks manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s my training as a sociologist, but I love observing people when they don’t think they’re being observed (not as creepy as it sounds – well, just a little bit creepy, but you know you love it). I was curious about how deep some of these networks really were, and the results were interesting.

[click to continue…]


Who gains the most from your lifestream?

by Shane Perris on Thursday, 4 February, 2010

in opinions

Facebook is becoming the hub for all the popular social web activities

"Facebook stream hub" by javier.reyesgomez (cc-by-2.0)

“Lifestreaming” was all the rage several years ago. Services like Jaiku, Second|Brain and FriendFeed cropped up and allowed people to centralise notifications of their online activities.

Harnessing the technology of Application Programming Interfaces (or APIs) from various web services, it became possible to alert people when you uploaded a photo to Flickr, favourited a video on YouTube, left a comment on someone’s blog (particularly if they used a third party commenting system like Disqus), updated your own blog, shared a link via Google Reader, bookmarked a page on Delicious, or submitted a news story on Reddit or Digg.

Then Facebook entered the game. Facebook has a legacy of being a walled garden where all activity takes place inside the boundaries of the site, and data are kept securely locked down and inaccessible to outside services. The Facebook environment has purpose-built photo galleries, video players, event organisers and a marketplace. It also developed and launched the Facebook Platform, creating a thriving ecosystem of third party applications that further entice people to spend increasing amounts of time inside the Facebook garden – games, polls, quizzes, virtual gifts, causes and campaigns.

[click to continue…]


Thoughts on the iPad

by Shane Perris on Thursday, 28 January, 2010

in opinions

The new Apple iPad

The new Apple iPad

This is mainly just to get ideas out of my brain and onto a page somewhere for my future reference. It’s this or talk to my wife about it and at least on the internet I can pretend I can’t see your eyes glaze over 30 seconds into the conversation.

A new Apple product stirs up a lot of buzz, both g ood and bad, as usual. If you know nothing about the iPad, here are the technical specifications. Go ahead and read them. I’ll wait.

I’ve tried to steer clear of early opinion pieces by my trusted Mac news sources such as Daring Fireball. I want to sort out my own thoughts first and then compare and contrast them later.
[click to continue…]

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Don’t blame technology for your lack of self-control

by Shane Perris on Sunday, 30 November, 2008

in opinions

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

via Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies)

News sites. RSS feeds. Email. Microblogging. Social networks. BitTorrent. iView (or Hulu or BBC iPlayer). Time sinks, each and every one of them, providing as much or as little value to your daily existence as you are prepared to let them.

“Information overload” is a fantasy, an illusion, and deep down inside you know it, too. [click to continue…]


Common platforms are a good thing. Right?

by Shane Perris on Thursday, 18 September, 2008

in opinions

Adobe AIR logo

Adobe AIR for Linux beta released (labs.adobe.com)

I can see the attraction of developing from a known baseline that is guaranteed to work, look and feel exactly the same across different platforms. One set of bugs to fix, one set of UI changes to make, only one lot of updates to push live. Less development time + potentially wider user base = WIN, surely. But does that always hold true?



[click to continue…]


Why digital TV adoption rates are low in Australia

by Shane Perris on Sunday, 24 August, 2008

in opinions

Dead TV

(Update at the bottom of the post)

The analogue TV signal in Australia will be switched off by 2013. This means that everyone without a digital tuner will suddenly find themselves free of broadcast television.  The date for the switch over has been shifted several times as politicians remained convinced that the digital TV (DTV) adoption rates were so low that it would be a disaster if the signal was turned off as scheduled. I remember when the switch over was going to be sometime in 2005, then 2008, and now it will begin by 2011 and be completed by 2013. [click to continue…]


Do I really want my attention managed?

by Shane Perris on Tuesday, 5 August, 2008

in opinions

With information overload comes a desire to manage time and increasingly managing attention as well.

Untethered technology gives us the freedom to do nearly anything, anytime, anywhere. It can also enslave us – we feel compelled to use it where ever it is. Technology is neutral. How, when and where we use it is up to us

– Linda Stone, “Is it time to retire the never ending list?” (Huffington Post)

What is attention management?

distracted There are two different concepts that are often referred to as “attention management” – one I’m not going to write about (mainly because I’m still researching what it means and its implications for my daily existence) and one I am going to write about. [click to continue…]


On information overload

by Shane Perris on Saturday, 26 July, 2008

in opinions

Over the last few months I have witnessed a steadily growing stream of writers declaring news feed, blogging and/or social media bankruptcy, citing such things as information overload, hobbies becoming ‘work’ or even the fact that so many people on the internet can be jerks about such small things.  Maybe you’re like Sarah Perez who wrote “Taking a breather from social media? Maybe we’re doing it wrong?”  Perhaps you’re more like Robert Scoble, who wrote in “Has/how/why tech blogging has failed you” that the joy of geeking out on tech walked out at around the same time everyone got obsessed by the business side of things.  Or, you might have sympathy for the views of Jason Calacanis who tired of the haters and ‘officially’ retired from blogging (Jason’s scheming something, I’m sure of it). [click to continue…]