Mobile Apps Reforming Society

“All kitchens are filthy, Mr. Fawlty, in fact the better the kitchen, the filthier it is. . .” Basil the Rat, Fawlty Towers

Mobile applications have changed the face of social media in a few short years.  According to a recent study, 87 percent of the world’s population (5.9 million subscribers) has a mobile device, and 20% of those users have 3G coverage (mobiThinking). The study also shows that in the U.S., 25 percent of mobile users only access the web through their mobile device.  All of this goes to show that mobile apps are having an effect on how social media spreads, and are poised to continue to have a significant effect on the future of social media.

Mobile apps carry the social media revolution into the ‘real’ world.  For example, consumers engage in new forms of immediate market research thanks to apps such as the Amazon app and Amazon price check app.  In April 2012, Best Buy’s CEO Brian Dunn left the corporation after a career with the company beginning as a “blue shirt” thanks to criticism that he was ineffective in meeting the challenges posed by online retailers such as Amazon.  In particular, the criticism leveraged by the industry and aired by a Dateline NBC segment, was that Best Buy had become Amazon’s showroom (Skariachan).  However, the challenge posed by Amazon is not limited to high end electronics.  Amazon offers everything from Kleenex to diamond rings, all of which can be price checked in a moment using the Amazon price check app.  Simply scan the bar code and find the best price for the item.  Shoppers have been empowered by mobile apps to think beyond getting an item to finding it for the best price.  As brand loyalty takes a second seat to personal benefit, the market economy shifts to favor the buyer not the seller.

The potential for shifting power relationships through social media has not go unnoticed by the United States Department of Labor.  Mobile apps and instant comparison information offered the perfect forum for social activism.  In 2011, the DOL announced a mobile app contest called the DOL Occupational Employment Statistics App Challenge.  Prizes were to go to application designers who could use DOL data sources (or other online data sources) to make users more aware of the information collected by the DOL and could use that information to make long-term decisions related to education, career, or more immediate decisions, such as where to spend money.

The winners were announced in October 2011.  First and second place went to mobile apps that provide essentially the same information.  They use geocoding to identify the restaurants, stores and hotels that have health, OSHA or Department of Labor code violations, allowing consumers to choose establishments that have chosen to operate safely and fairly.  Eat Shop Sleep is available to both iPad and Android platforms, while  iCitizen Labor Report is available only from the iPod App store.  Consumers can let companies know that they feel committed to fair labor practices, safe working environments, and compliance with food safety laws by looking up a local business and instantly retrieving an easy to use rating that lets the consumer know how compliant that business establishment is.  Being socially conscious and active has never been so easy.

These apps hint at the future value of the merging of information and portable technology to all of us. Economic awareness is part and parcel of the social media world.  As Clay Shirky points out, this is truly a revolutionary moment.  For the first time in history, people have both the technological and social mandate to control what is said in a public forum (Shirky).  They are allowing information that is relevant to be accessed easily and immediately to allow for decision-making that benefits the user.  Mobile apps do more than make old information relevant, they have the power to reshape habits and democratize the ‘real’ social marketplace just as the virtual marketplace has already started changing.


Amazon price check app.  Application for Android, available at

Eat Shop Sleep.  Application for Android, available at

iCITIZEN LABOR REPORT.  Application for Apple iPod, available at

Occupational Employment Statistics Challenge.  Retrieved May 9, 2012 from

OPA News Release.  (2011, October 27).  US Department of Labor Announces Winners of Online and Mobile Development Contests.  United States Department of Labor.  Retrieved May 10, 2012 from

mobiThinking. (2012, February).  Global mobile statistics 2012.  Retrieved April 24, 2012 from

Shirky, C.  (2009, June).  How Social Media Can Make History.  TED, Retrieved April 2, 2012, from make_history.html

Skariachan, D.  (2012, April 10).  Best Buy CEO out as more shoppers move online.  Reuters, Retrieved May 9, 2012 from


I Read the News Today, Oh Boy

How do you get your news? Google or Yahoo? RSS Feeds? Twitter? Among the industries most changed by social media, according to “social media guru” Brian Solis, are financial services, music and news reporting (Heath, M.) The one that I have been following with the most interest is news reporting – not necessarily because I am all that interested in the news industry – but because as a regular listener to NPR, reader of internet news, and regular reader of my local paper (Gannett’s Tallahassee Democrat) the change has impacted the way I get the news.

I have followed the fate of my local paper with some curiosity. Over my last 10 years of readership, I have noticed significant changes. The Monday edition is so thin that it would not cover the bottom of a bird cage (if people still use newspaper for that). Since 2008, the Real Estate section has gotten thinner and thinner. First, of course, it was because no one could sell a house and so the desire to spend money marketing it no sense. Subsequently, the real estate industry has moved online. Clearinghouses such as, Zillow, and Trulia, along with Craigslist and websites that feature detailed tours of homes have taken the place of the photo and specs listings we used to browse on Saturday morning. Midweek print advertising has also taken a hit. Thursday’s paper used to carry thick, glossy ads from the national retailers in town. Those ads have been replaced with weekly emails to opt-in consumers. No more Old Navy ads in our paper.

Tallahassee.comAnd yet, despite these changes, the paper has actually expanded coverage of local events and news. The Tallahassee Democrat appears to be an interesting case study in what is working these days for newspapers. Its website began charging for access to premium content in 2010, but has been able to remain the largest news website in its market, including both charging and free websites (Kulicke). Local politics, crime, sports, and events make up the bulk of the paper, which is exactly what I need, because I can read the NYT, WSJ, USA Today, AP, Reuters, and watch the BBC news feed all on demand. What becomes more complicated is weeding through the Leon County Schools website to figure out what the newest standardized testing change means to me and my elementary-aged children.

Tallahassee’s local paper has fantastic reporters that offer real value to the community by focusing on the information and issues that cannot be gleaned easily from the mainstream, national and international news media. When local news stations began to focus on making news relevant to the local market, the news tended to be edited versions of national news that included a few lines about how a local person was at the event (Tallahassean witnesses Tsunami – story of a local couple on vacation who happened to see a few waves).

Local reporting has matured to the point of being able to understand that providing value to a community is covering the community. This niche reporting is the result of two social media trends. First, the lower cost model of communication through social media outlets creates an expectation of information that is of great relevance to more specialized groups of people. Second, the technology behind social media means that markets are segmented less by geographic location, and more by interest. Local papers can take advantage of both of these trends.

The Tallahassee Democrat offers blogs, twitter feeds, online commentary on stories, breaking news alerts, and is available on mobile devices, tablets, and probably Google’s rumored web-enabled eye glasses (Henn). But as with everything in social media, the innovation is not the technology itself, but the application of the technology. Local papers have a lot to gain from the instant communication of national and international news via social media – they have an audience again.

Heath, M. (2011, October 24). Three Industries Forever Changed by Social Media. Invest Forward, Retrieved May 2, 2012 from
Henn, S. (2012, February 24). Google’s Goggles: Is the Future Right Before Our Eyes? NPR – All Tech Considered, Retrieved May 4, 2012, from
Kulicke, H. (2012, February 9). Case Study: Newspaper Thriving in Tallahassee. Editor & Publisher, Retrieved May 5, 2012, from–Newspaper-Thriving-in-Tallahassee

Virtual Marketplaces, Virtual Communities – The Best of the Web

As I begin this blog, the amazing potential of the combined information, talent and effort that people share on the Internet feels overwhelming.  Groundswell has described social media as a revolution or “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Li & Bernoff (2011), p. 9).  This revolution has two parts, a commerce piece in which goods and services are exchanged, and a communications piece, in which individuals interact with each other.  Technology facilitates both of these interactions.  Early in the social media revolution, sites seemed to specialize in either the exchange of goods and services or the building of online communities.  Think eBay.  Originally an auction website, it grew into a way to connect people to each other through the selling and buying of goods.  The virtual marketplace established by eBay, became what a traditional market in the ‘real’ world is, a place where people buy, sell, but also learn, gossip, and explore.  According to the site, “eBay continues to passionately believe in the potential of technology to connect people around the world” (eBay).

The sites that bring together the exchange of goods and services with the establishment of communities of people through technologies are the ones that illustrate the potential of virtual worlds and social media.  Four networks (described below) incorporate commerce and community into their essential workings.

Etsy is an artists’ marketplace that espouses a philosophy of making art a part of life, and challenges the cheap commodification of the goods and services people buy.

Twitter not only promotes conversations, but it promotes tertiary links between online communities and as such plays an extensive role in the viral nature of social media that is essential for maintaining communities (they need to exist in real-time).

You Tube, like Twitter, is a successful commercial and commercialized social media site with its own brand to promote and maintain.  It is an interesting site, however, in that it allows film clips and commercials produced by the major studios and agencies to be posted next to videos uploaded by the average next-door neighbor.  In between the commercial advertisers and amateurs, You Tube hosts video by news agencies, non-profits, educational institutions, and political campaigns, among other groups.  Commerce meets the world on You Tube.

Finally, Skype uses new technologies to let people communicate in what may seem to be an ‘old fashioned’ way – through real-time voice and/or video communication.  However, in a world market, it is essential that people have access to each other without crippling fees.  Skype allows businesses and individuals to maintain personal relationships without pricy institutional intermediaries.

When we think of the internet as a marketplace, it is important to remember that markets are where people exchange goods, services, information, lifestyles, and shape communities.  Although the internet moves at lightning speed in some ways, the goal should be more than efficient exchange of currency.  It should also be the inefficient, pleasurable, creation of lasting connections.

Network Business or Consumer User Primary Purpose or Focus Presence of Blog/ user feedback? Advertising Content Information Content Source(s) Single country or Global?
Etsy Both Handmade artwork sales; also sells   vintage items and supplies,  site   states its mission is to be “anthropologists of commerce” and to help people   learn more about being human. Yes – the site encourages   feedback, and states that “markets are conversations and we ask that you talk   vigorously back to us.” Yes – Etsy offers sellers the   option to pay more for a Showcase listing or search ad keywords to increase   traffic to their listings. Sellers post their wares;   designers and collectors also create blogs that link to multiple sellers;   Etsy links also found on Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, etc. Global – UK, French and German   versions
Twitter Both Quickly share something of   interest real-time through short (140 character) tweets or messages Yes – Twitter is created by user   content and user activity.  The site   offers multiple ways to contribute and follow tweets from various platforms Yes – Twitter offers Promoted   Tweets, Trends, and accounts along with Analytics tools that let large and   small businesses promote brands, products, and learn who is following them Users post and follow tweets.  There are two main types of content –   tweets on what is happening to a person/ situation real-time or retweets of   content available elsewhere on the web.    Twitter is fast becoming the glue that connects sites to each other   and therefore communities to each other Global – 27 language options are   available from the homepage in addition to English
You Tube Both Allow anyone to share video   content with a world audience; amateurs and professionals share video on this   site, all placed next to each other Yes – You Tube’s popularity is   that anyone can make a film and anyone can be a critic Yes – Almost every major advertising   campaign has a You Tube component Video postings from professional,   commercial, individual, and groups form the basis of the content.  Additional commentary on the postings form   the secondary content. Global – 43 countries are listed   as content locations
Skype Both Skype says its mission is to allow   users “to bring their social networks to life” b providing voice and/or video   communication in real-time; in a new campaign, Skype promotes the more   personal connections created by voice and face-to-face communications No, not directly.  But Skype does connect via Facebook, and so   extends the communities created there and elsewhere Yes – Skype has a business tool   that companies can use to make contacting them via Skype simple; Skype also   offers online Display advertising Skype’s online content consists of   listings, locations, and contact information for businesses and   individuals. Global – 23 languages in addition   to English are supported; calls place via the internet can reach many   countries


About Us, Etsy.  (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2011).  Groundswell:  Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies.  Boston:  Harvard Business Review.

Skype Challenges Impersonal Social Media in New Ad Campaign. (2012, April 6).  The Think Tank Blog.  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from

Skype. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Start Advertising, Twitter. (2012).  Retrieved April 8, 2012 from

Timeline, eBay. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from

You Tube. (2012).  Retrieved April 7, 2012 from

Does Happiness Make You Live Longer? Maybe Not!

Is happiness correlated with a long life?  Drs. Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin published a book on this topic in 2011 that was based on the data gathered from The Longevity Project, a longitudinal study of 1,500 United States individuals that began in 1921.  The key finding was that happiness was NOT correlated to long life, but that both happiness and long life were correlated with specific patterns of living that included honesty and health-consciousness.  The authors state, “Following over 1,500 American across many decades, we have found that the same behaviors, personalities, friendships, and careers that make you happy are the ones that help you stay healthy” (Friedman, para. 7).

The Longevity Project was initiated by Dr. Lewis Terman, a Stanford University psychologist, who looked for children born about 1910 for his study.  Dr. Terman died in 1956, but others continued the study.  Individuals who were selected for the study were tracked over the lengths of their lives, including information about what they ate, how they felt, when they were sick, what they did for a living, who they married, and when they died.  The data gathered was invaluable, because most of it was factual and contemporaneous, rather than based on recollection or self-reporting.  Some of the myths of long life that this study disproves include the following (Friedman & Martin):

1. Get married and you will live longer (not true)

2.  Thinking happy thoughts reduces stress and leads to long life (not true)

3.  Worrying is bad for your health (not true)

In fact, the study suggests that worrying can actually be good for a person, and that living a “meaningful” life “dedicated to work, genuine friends and dependable lifestyles” was the key to health, happiness and longevity (Friedman, para. 9).


Friedman, H. (2011, April 2).  Does Being Happy Improve Our Health?  You Might Be Surprised.  Huffpost healthy Living Blog, Retrieved April 24, 2012 from 

Friedman, H. and Martin, L. (n.d.).  Read the Introduction.  The Longevity Project Website, Retrieved April 25, 2012 from

Getting Started

What are the things that seem to get in the way every day on the journey from there to here?  Between work, family, school, and me, I have had the tendency to curse those things.  But why not embrace them instead?  In this blog I am going to take some time to look into the stray pieces of information that come in (and out) of my field of vision each week.   Efficiency is over-rated – sometimes it is important to be inefficient, to take a detour, to look in the underbrush.  So, take a moment and a deep breath, and please – give me ideas about the things that get in your way, too!