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CFAX: What on Earth is #SMCV12 ?

“Google is now developing a Facebook rival, a product similar to Facebook. They say their goal: so you never have to see your friends in real life ever again.” – Jay Leno

What is a hashtag? Why are tweets mentioning Victoria BC tagged #YYJ? Do I really need to use Twitter and Facebook for my business or organization? Find answers from experts at Social Media Camp 2012 in Victoria BC.

Chris Burdge with Adam Stirling

Chris Burdge with Adam Stirling

Now in its third year, Canada’s largest conference dedicated to Social Media has grown to two full days of keynote presentations, workshops, panels and more with interest for the novice to expert. Featured speakers are Chris Brogan, Erica Ehm, Simon Salt and many more, with topics ranging from Building Facebook Pages for Business to Politics and Social Media (see the full schedule)

New this year is the introduction of Power Sessions, and a partnership with Intertainment Media with The Innovation Zone. Participants can also partake in The Knowledge Cafe – one on one or small group training sessions – and even have a conference mentor to choose the the most relevant presentations and workshops, and for introductions.

Finally, Social Media Camp 2012 will conclude with the Coasties, West Coast Social Media Awards

The conference is an opportunity to learn and network: June 8th and 9th, Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria BC Canada Registration is Open!

Congress was broadcast live on Facebook for the first time in history. Now you can waste time and not get work done by watching Congress waste time and not get work done.” –Jimmy Fallon

Podcast: On CFAX1070 with host Adam Stirling (@adam_stirling) and Social Media Camp co-founder Chris Burdge (@b_West)

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CFAX: Alberta Vote Shows Problems with Polling

In a previous post on Social Media and the Alberta Provincial elections it seemed clear by all indicators that the upstart Wild Rose Alliance was headed to certain victory, crushing the 40 year reign of the Progressive Conservatives. Oh, how wrong we were.

In the final week of the campaign, 6 polls all came within 2 points of each other, showing Wildrose ahead in the popular vote by an aggregate of 41% to 33%. Those numbers indicating a majority government. Yet the results on Monday were a complete reversal – instead of winning a majority of seats, and wiping the floor with the popular vote, Wildrose only gained 17 MLAs with the Progressive Conservatives beating all expectations with 61 seats.

What happened with the polling is a matter of considered speculation and hand-wringing by polling companies and media, some journalists even jumping the gun and posting political obituaries to Alison Redford and her Progressive Conservatives before the polls had closed and the votes counted.

via The Globe and Mail: “There’s been much discussion about how the polls could be so wrong,” said Ian Large, vice-president, Alberta, for Léger Marketing.

“My first reaction was, `Oh my, maybe something went wrong’, ,” said David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data Inc., which conducted automated-call polling.

It was a late shift, nothing could be done

Mr. Large said Wildrose ran an effective campaign until late controversies — comments on gays and race relations by two candidates, Allan Hunsperger and Ron Leech, and Ms. Smith’s unwillingness to condemn them — reinforced voters’ fears about the party’s social agenda.

“None of the polls were conducted late enough to capture the impact of those comments,” Mr. Large said.

The other challenge, he noted, was that voting took place Monday and that the key shift unfolded during the weekend, when it is harder for pollsters to reach respondents at home.

Like last-minute shoppers, many Albertans made their voting decision during the last weekend, Mr. Large and Mr. Coletto similarly argued, both separately reaching for the image of voters making up their minds after hashing it out at family gatherings.

Listen to the podcast as CFAX host Adam Stirling and I discuss what issues and trends might have caused one of the most interesting election shifts in recent Canadian political history.

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Scoring Social Media in the Alberta Election

The Alberta Provincial election is Monday April 23rd – by the time you read this the results might be in – and judging by the most recent polls the upstart Wildrose Party looks to win a majority upsetting the Conservatives who have held power for decades. Social media has factored into the campaigns, especially highlighting comments, gaffes, by leaders and candidates, so how do the parties and leaders rank in terms of Twitter and Facebook statistics?

[table id=1 /]

A quick overview of the party leader social media statistics illustrates the two top contenders, The Wildrose Alliance and Progressive Conservatives, easily outweighing the NDP, Liberals and Alberta Party on popularity, Interesting to note the incumbent Premier, Alison Redford has close to 700 more Twitter followers than Danielle Smith of Wildrose, but using it far less – not really engaging with followers. (note, during the Conservative leadership campaign Alison Redford was far more prolific on Twitter)

Wildrose Party and Social Media

Wildrose Party and Social Media

Not surprising that Facebook continues to be the key engagement platform. While Twitter is gaining traction among social media users, the percentage of Canadians on Facebook is still far higher (around 52% on Facebook vs 20% on Twitter). This is where Wildrose overwhelms all other parties and leaders combined, with over 28 000 Facebook page likes – an indicator of popularity and social media campaign strategy. Same is true of Twitter, where the number of updates (messages) put out from the @ElectDanielle profile beats all others combined.

Video is also a factor. All parties have a Youtube channel, although the Liberals are not highlighting theirs and relying on the Liberal MLA Caucus Channel. The latest Wildrose Video – “Wildrose Momentum” – is a slick, 30 second advert posted on April 18th, with nearly 56 000 views. The Conservative Channel by contrast has few high value videos, with the highest view rate on a video posted 2 weeks ago at 3018.

Throughout the election campaign Wildrose has had the better communication team, focusing media on the leader, Danielle Smith, and handling the inevitable gaffes and controversies immediately and with unapologetic clarity. It is no surprise they are leading the polls based on social media engagement alone.

 

CFAX – Apps, Instagram and Customer Service through Social Media

What makes an 18 month old, free mobile App, worth $1 Billion? Is the App space a new dot comm bubble? Who is doing well using Social Media for customer service? Some answers and a great conversation with Adam Stirling on CFAX 1070.

Instagram

Instagram

Instagram was bought by Facebook for $1 billion. Plenty of reasons why this might be a good deal for the Social media giant. First, Facebook has become a far more visuallly oriented platform with the recent introduction of Timeline for both individual profiles and pages. Users are now uploading more photos and graphics than ever before, mainly to gain attention in a crowded space. Instagram’s users fit that profile – a reason to grab that 30-40 million share of the market.

Facebook has also indicated Instagram will remain a stand alone product, and for good reason: advertising. Mobile screen real estate is tiny compared to desktop monitors, and Facebook wants to own the market. By keeping Instagram an open product, those ads can be shared across other social media platforms, like Twitter.

Is it worth $1 Billion? That remains to be seen. Apple, Facebook, Google and others are awash with cash, and seeking to out bid each other for App and mobile share. Look for others to be on the buying block in the near future.

Social Media and Customer Service: Not so long ago BC Ferries was being blasted for having a Twitter account, and not really using it. Times change quickly with a dedicated team online, using social media to post route and service updates, links to answers on parking and fares, weather warnings and, responding directly to questions. Other local, regional companies doing well using Twitter are SHAW, providing quick service requests to customers, Drive BC, highway and road information, and BC Hydro, with responses to power outages. There are plenty more, so if you can add to the list leave a comment on this blog – I’d love to hear of more!

We wrapped up with a question: if companies are raising their profile, and using social media for customer service, where are our local and regional governments? Portland Oregon, and many other cities, are implementing Apps and online engagement tools to do everything from reporting potholes and graffiti, to showing real time updates on garbage collection routes and road repairs. The online, mobile connected, App happy audience is out there – time for our local governments to join the party.

Podcast – Adam Stirling (@Adam_Stirling) on CFAX 1070 (@CFAX1070)

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Podcast: NDP Convention, Social Media and DDoS

Over-shadowing the NDP Leadership conference on March 24th were delays in the members e-voting system apparently due to a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. While the online program was delayed during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th ballots, the NDP have stated no data was actually breached – a headache yes.

DDoS Attack

DDoS Attack

As Adam Stirling pointed out during our interview this has similarities to voter suppression phone calls during the May 2011 Federal election. So, can e-voting ever be included as part of an election process? In the first half of the interview, we discuss the possible impact to the technological side of elections, followed by the role of social media in the leadership campaigns.

some Twitter stats – via politwitter.ca

Paul Dewar: 8872 followers. 50 Klout score
Thomas Mulcair: 8120 followers. 44 Klout score
Brian Topp: 7946 followers. No Klout score recorded
Peggy Nash: 6607 followers. 17 Klout
Nathan Cullen: 6489 followers. 48 Klout
Niki Ashton: 4114 followers. 44 Klout

Update: Tuesday March 27th

In a statement to media, the company contracted by the NDP to run the advanced and convention e-voting system noted “Well over 10,000 malevolent IP addresses (computers) have been identified so far, as having generated many hundreds of thousands of false voting requests to the system”

via Canada Wire

What Happened

Scytl Canada was contracted by the New Democratic Party of Canada in an open, global competition to provide the voting services for both advanced and election-day balloting.  The advanced balloting was performed via electronic and mail-in ballots using a preferential voting process. This occurred flawlessly, without incident.

The first round of balloting began at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, March 23 and was completed on schedule at 09:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 24, 2012.  When the second round of balloting began at 11:00 a.m., there were some initial voter delay and timeout reports that quickly increased in volume.

On receipt of these reports, Scytl determined that the voting system was operating normally and the user delays were being caused by a growing volume of external voter requests.  The logs of automated monitors such as Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) and firewalls were analyzed and Scytl quickly recognized that this might be an external attack on the system. Scytl technicians commenced standard mitigation procedures including increasing the system throughput, identifying and blocking malevolent IP sites and other actions.

Within 20 minutes following the evidence of external attacks, Scytl had an additional team of over twelve high-level personnel involved in these mitigation activities, which allowed the voting portals to be kept open albeit in a slower mode. By keeping ahead of the attackers, Scytl was able to allow the voting process to proceed with an overall three-hour delay.
Preliminary Attack Analysis

Scytl has performed a preliminary forensic analysis on the attack and has concluded the following:

This was an organized and large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack launched against the voting system in an orchestrated, professional, albeit illegal manner.
Well over 10,000 malevolent IP addresses (computers) have been identified so far, as having generated many hundreds of thousands of false voting requests to the system. This effectively “jammed up the pipe” into the voting system, delaying voter access. This network of malevolent computers, commonly known as a “botnet”, was located on computers around the world but mainly in Canada.
The required organization and the demonstrated orchestration of the attack indicates that this was a deliberate effort to disrupt or negate the election by a knowledgeable person or group.
ABOUT SCYTL CANADA

Scytl Canada is a company incorporated in Toronto, Ontario. Scytl Canada is a subsidiary of Scytl Secure Electronic Voting.

Scytl Secure Electronic Voting (www.scytl.com) is a technology company specializing in the development of secure electronic voting and electoral modernization. It has conducted over 100,000 voting events since its founding in 1994.

Based in Barcelona and with subsidiaries in Baltimore, Toronto, New Delhi, Athens and Kiev, Scytl’s solutions have been used in public elections by governments from countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, France, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India and Australia, among others.

Podcast: With host Adam Stirling (@adam_stirling) on CFAX 1070, Victoria BC

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E-Voting Denial of Service Attack a Wake Up Call

Saturday March 24th saw the New Democratic Party in Canada hold a leadership convention. Nothing new in that, except this time instead of the usual sending pre-selected delegates to represent regions, and vote on the floor on behalf of party members, from what frankly is a geographically huge country, this convention was unique, and somewhat experimental, implementing an online e-voting system for any member to participate in each ballot from anywhere.

On paper it is seemingly an acceptable technological challenge, and nothing that is totally new within secure e-commerce, or even corporate share holder events. The NDP have 130 000 declared members; it is a simple process to tag each with a unique online identifier for tracking, and provide a login/password for e-voting access.

The problem is tying an online system to a live, dynamic multi-ballot political leadership conference where candidates are voted off the list at each stage, and opening windows for members to vote again. At any point, if the technology breaks down, or the online security is breached, the entire process can stop. In a delicate political situation where the leadership of a party is at stake, any issue which stalls access, or deems the process unreliable, can have major impacts. Especially for a party which holds official opposition status.

During the actual convention, as the 2nd ballot opportunity was opened an apparent DDoS attack on the NDP e-voting system was launched. This affected not only party members trying to access and vote online, but also the 4300 at the actual Toronto convention site, as that was the system they had to use. The snaking lineups of people trying to vote from the convention floor only mirrored the frustration of thousands more attempting to vote from across the country, in fact some were on holiday or business in the US and elsewhere worldwide. While online service was restored to the conference floor, and later to the wider online voter base for the 2nd ballot, problems surfaced again for the 3rd, and later 4th and final vote.

To make it clear: the NDP convention team itself stated to the assembled media it was a DDoS attack, and they had identified two IP addresses as being responsible. This while some media outlets, and social media pundits, were messaging ‘hack’. There is a large difference between the two definitions: DDoS – commonly defined as ‘distributed denial of service’ is designed to overload a web server using multiple computers, on many different IPs, and essentially overwhelming its ability to individually serve a webpage or program. As an analogy, it’s like jamming a multi-line phone board with calls. At a certain point the capacity to serve content breaks down. A ‘hack’ is different. In the negative sense it is an attempt to subvert security controls, enter into an online database of information and page content, and either download, manipulate or alter that content.

The NDP have Price WaterHouse for the voting audit, and one hopes they will report very quickly – at the very least to affirm the security around the online voting process was not compromised.

As an affirmation, what the NDP accomplished during the actual convention day is the way forward. Despite a total of 8 hours delay due to online voting technology issues: and kudos to the conventioneers, media and online participants who stayed, it allowed for a more direct and personal interaction for NDP members. (Note – I am not a member of any party, and did not participate in the vote)

The NDP hired the firm SKYTL – a Spain based e-democracy company, with offices in Canada, to run the e-voting system for the convention. Despite the on-day issues it appears they were able to either overcome, or had back-up plans in place for a credible compromise.

NDP E-voting Fail

NDP E-voting Fail

The lesson is twofold: securing an online voting process is one issue, and there is nothing indicating the actual voter database, or information was breached during the NDP convention. However, a DDoS is a simple, effective method to upset online participatory democracy – it could be initiated by bored teenagers, a rival party, a company, or even a country. How many were prevented from voting online is the question – how many gave up? The optics for the NDP are not good: during spring 2011 Federal election, and the leadership campaign, the party has almost doubled to 130 000 members, yet only around half voted in the leadership convention.

There is demand for greater participation at all levels of policy and politics – voting is key. The NDP are to be congratulated for taking the risk, and largely accomplishing the goal during a leadership convention. The wake up call is to all other parties, and candidates, and in fact government, that IT security cannot be taken for granted.

As always – your comments and thoughts are welcome….

 

ABC News Data Test, or Did Santorum Win Illinois?

We all know that sometimes mainstream media can publish too soon, get the parameters around a story wrong, or to put it in simple words for TV and radio: a screw up. In the data age, it is a different matter. The pressure to be ahead of the competition creates some amusing tweets and Facebook posts, but becomes somewhat surreal when a mainstream news outlet, namely ABC Chicago, launches an election page with erroneous data, 24 hours ahead of the vote. (maybe shows a bias?)

ABC SantorumThis web page was tweeted to me as a direct (private message) from @BC_News_Addict, with concerns. Was it a spam web page masking as an ABC portal , or could US election communication regulations be so regressive as to call a vote, before people have a chance to cast a ballot? At the time of this post it appears the webpage from ABC Chicago was simply a mistake. A data mapping staffer, or journalist, or editor, maybe entered a test page as a live link. (and note, the page was taken down by ABC as of 23:30 PST)

No matter. Testing data integration, especially for political journalism, is essential. It should be within a private module – one where designers, data technology experts, and lawyers get together over coffee, and firm up what can be accomplished within a media editorial board. What happened this evening is the opposite – the tech, and editorial at ABC failed, and went public.

It is a clear example of mainstream media, a national broadcaster, dealing with ever changing IT, web formats and social media, making mistakes. What makes it relevant, it could affect votes.

All graphics are computer screenshots credited to @BC_News_Addict

The question – this is now public. Will it affect the vote? Unlikely coming from a Canadian source. This news came out well over 24hrs before the vote, yet no one reported. Why? Is it journalism protecting democracy? How will ABC deal with the leak?

 

 

Canadian Humour in Politics with #RoboCallMovies

Conspiracy theories abound with the 2011 Federal election call scandal, with a wonderful response on Twitter by Canadians…

Ceiling Vic

Image: @RJMcClelland

While investigations are continuing by Elections Canada and the RCMP, it appears the voter suppression calls were not limited to simply the riding of Guelph, but occurred in up to 40 others. It will require considerable resources, and time, to uncover the truth – if that ever happens, but in the mean time, watching all Federal political parties make serious mistakes in their public relations is cringe worthy.

Stand Out: Facebook Timeline for Pages

By March 30th all Facebook pages will change from the standard wall, or app view, to Timeline. If you have a personal profile you will be familiar with the Timeline view – a large picture, an embedded profile picture, then four columns. Timeline also allows users to see your posts right to the beginning of your account, unless of course, you delete.

Timeline format is moving to business and organization pages, and as these affect brands, it is important to learn the new features, and set the apps, profile pictures and information to the best advantage. One major note, apps that previously provided entrance pages will no longer work. All users, new and subscribed will be directed to the wall, so it is vital to get it right.

While you can set your page right now to the Timeline format – those instructions will appear when you access the administration area – it might be worth playing with some settings first, and look at other pages for ideas, before submitting.

The Admin Panel:

Facebook Pages Timeline - Admin Panel

Facebook Pages Timeline - Admin Panel

When you access the new Facebook page format, the first obvious change is the administration panel at the top. Now, don’t worry, your viewers don’t see this, only people assigned as page administrators.

The tab right at the top right – Manage, Build Audience, Help and Hide – will lead to page and account management (settings), Facebook’s advertising program (which is the essential reason for the Timeline roll out), a help section – which is actually quite useful, and the hide button which will collapse the Admin. panel window.

Below that, you will see a box with notifications – comments, posts by others etc., a section for messages, one for new likes, and a box which provides a summary of Facebook Insights, their version of Analytics.

The Cover and Profile Photo:

Facebook Pages Cover Photo

Facebook Pages Cover Photo

This is the major design change to Timeline, and one that requires attention. Viewers will see a large photo at the top of the page, with the profile logo embedded at the bottom left. Getting these right will greatly assist retention.

The cover photo/graphic is best at 851 X 315 pixels, with the profile logo at 180 X 180 pixels. In terms of design, there is no right or wrong answer, except that both should be consistent with all your related marketing, especially the profile logo, and the cover photo should be compelling and tell a story. Facebook does have restrictions and guidelines for cover photos – No price or purchasing information, Contact information should be included in the about section and not on the cover graphic, and importantly – no calls to action such as ‘Share’ or ‘Like’

About and Apps:

Below the cover photo and profile logo, you should adjust the ‘About’ section – go to admin section under manage/edit page/basic information/About. The text you enter and save in that tab will appear under the cover photo to the left. Next to that are the apps. You can have 12 apps ordered as you wish, with the top 4 appearing on the page. Note, the Photos App is required. Apps can now be customized (profile graphic and information) so it is worth taking some time to maximize potential. These custom tab images are best at 111 X 74 pixels.

Timeline and Pinned Posts:

The actual Timeline will be similar to personal profiles, however you can ‘pin’ posts to highlight apps, blogs, offers or events. Those will remain at the top for 7 days, but is a good method to feature ‘push’ content.

Considerations:

Facebook is the number one social media platform with 850 million users, but is facing (pun intended) competition from Pinterest, Google Plus and Twitter. While G+ is not gaining the traction pundits were heralding a few months ago, Pinterest is, and each platform has one design theme in common – it’s all about visuals. The systems are designed to highlight visuals vs text, which might end up being a detriment to actual engagement.

as always, your thoughts and ideas are welcome. Your comments are welcome…

Podcast: Vikileaks Exposed, Robocon Scandal Widens

While CFAX 1070 host Adam Stirlingand I normally discuss social media, occasionally news and events create the issues for our regular segments.

Adam Stirling

Adam Stirling

This is certainly the case with the @Vikileaks30 Twitter account, which has now been exposed as a Liberal Party staffer, and the almost surreal, widening claims of robot/call centre phone messages which misdirected voters to non-existent polling stations in the May 2nd 2011 Federal election.

There are plenty of media articles, and new revelations daily, if not hourly…

Ottawa Citizen – Allegations Unprecedented

Canada’s former chief electoral officer says recent allegations of systematic voter-suppression phone calls are unprecedented in the country’s electoral history.

“We have never seen anything like this alleged case in terms of this potential organization and impact in terms of numbers,” says Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Canada’s chief electoral officer from 1990 to 2007. “People vote twice, people destroy the signs, but this automated means and this use of call centres is the first time the allegations go as far as they are going. They’re serious.”

Toronto Star – Call Centre Staff Misdirected Voters

However, one employee was so concerned that something was amiss she says she reported it to her supervisor at the RMG site, to the RCMP office in Thunder Bay and to a toll-free Elections Canada number at the time.

Annette Desgagné, 46, said it became clear to her — after so many people complained that the “new” voting locations made no sense or were “way the hell across town” — that the live operators were, in fact, misdirecting voters.

“We’re sending people to the wrong place,” Desgagné recalled telling her supervisor.

Chantal Herbert – Robo-call accusations raise uncomfortable questions

Under Stephen Harper, the Conservatives have pushed the line of what is considered fair game in partisan politics.

It now basically sits on the divide between what is legal and what is not. The evidence suggests that the closer parties play to that line, the greater the chances that some of their partisans will cross it.

The Liberals just learned that the hard way when it was found that one of their staffers was responsible for leaking details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ private life on Twitter.

Too often, the opposition has been prompt to follow the Conservatives down the same slippery slope.

On that score, the addiction of all federal parties to robo-calling is a telling development.

A technique originally used to dispense useful information to prospective supporters is being turned into an instrument of harassment.

When MP Lise St-Denis left the NDP to sit as a Liberal in January, the New Democrats hired a firm to robo-call her constituents of Saint-Maurice-Champlain.

The NDP was not identified as the sponsor of the calls and recipients were not told that if they pressed 1 to signal their displeasure with St-Denis, they would be re-directed to her riding office — where they swamped the phone lines for a number of days.

There is an Elections Canada investigation underway specifically seeking answers in the Guelph, Ontario allegations. However, as nearly 40 ridings across Canada are reporting voter suppression calls, it is now imperative an over-arching, deep investigation is pushed by the House of Commons. Voter suppression – the most common being negative adverts – is nothing new, and while many feel those are unethical, they are not illegal. Voter suppression which actually inhibits someone from voting, such as saying they need to go to a different polling station, IS illegal.

Podcast: CFAX1070 with host Adam Stirling (and read Adam’s commentary)

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