Company or person? The Twitter dilemma…

… or, I’d say, not so much of a dilemma really.

This question arises time and again and many opinions have been put forth. A quick search on Google can find a dozen variants on the theme or more. Given I was asked by Tim Malone to explain my position when in retweeting Andrew Barnett I said:

RT @andrewbarnett: sigh – companies should NOT be on twitter – companies should encourage their employees to be on twitter.

Tim asked me what I meant, and I responded with:

@tdmalone companies are not people. Humans connect with people not companies. This conversation could get long #

Here’s what I mean.

As a customer, consumer, stakeholder (or whatever) interested in your product, service or information, I may at some point have to, or choose to, interact with you. That is, with your organisation. But when this happens, who do I interact with?

At this point, you (the organisation) have got a couple of choices. You can present the typical nameless, faceless contact center to me – and you know how much I and all the other customers coming to you love that (and yet you persist), or you can maybe put a little sunshine in my day and let me interact with Mary from Sales, or Pete from Shipping, or Lou from Customer Support.

Even better, if you get this interaction right, Mary, Pete or Lou can actually be empowered to resolve my issue, rather than being bound up in dumbplexity (I love that word! I discovered it in Graham Winter‘s Think one team, which you should buy and read if you even remotely care about working in inspiring, meaningful businesses that are focused on their people and customers).

So how does this apply to Twitter?

Well, in my mind (and you needn’t agree) a Twitter account that is simply the name of your company (and that you use for anything more than announcements – see below) is like the contact center – a nameless, faceless, inhuman blob. I don’t like dealing with things that are inhuman. I’d much rather interact with a real person. And particularly with a real person that wants a conversation with me and that can resolve my issues.

Imagine!? Happy customers dealing with real people! Revolutionary!

There are many companies getting this right – Comcast and Frank Eliason, Telstra with Mike Hickinbotham and the BigPondTeam, Lauren Cochrane at RSPCA and anyone and everyone at Zappos with a Twitter account to name just a few.

Who are these people? Just that. People. But they’re people who want to help and are empowered to do so. There are several more examples that aren’t hard to find if you go looking.

What these people are doing, on behalf of the companies they work for, is building brand identity, adding value to the customer experience and being a real, human face with which to interact. And frankly, we humans like interacting with other humans.

On the other hand, there are Twitter accounts that represent brands that aren’t helping the brand identity and reputation much. They’re simply 140 character at a time foghorns for the companies. Or they are unresponsive. Or they look like they want to engage but don’t do much of a job at that engagement (are you reading this @KevinRuddPM?). They don’t add value. They certainly don’t feel like they’re managed by a human. They aren’t doing anyone any favors.

So, it’s not that the companies themselves shouldn’t have representatives on Twitter. They should. But those representatives should be identifiable as real humans. I don’t want to just talk to Coca-Cola, or SAP, or The Labor Party. I want to talk to a real, flesh and blood person involved with those organisations.

As ever, there are exceptions to every rule. These faceless accounts can be useful for announcements or broadcasts. So long as you make it clear that’s what the account is for. I have a secondary Twitter account, @acidlabs, that I use for just these announcements. But I made it clear when launching the account that that was what it was for.

So, if your organisation has one of those faceless accounts, either change the way it works to be backed by a real, identifiable person, or make sure it’s for broadcast and obviously so. In every other case, make sure your organisation is represented by people.

You can get some real insight into what organisations, and their people, are present on Twitter by looking at twibs. I’m there!

As ever, this is just my opinion. What do you think?

TED Session 4 – See

Today started oddly for me. Tired after too few hours sleep (I was on Canberra time last night), the first session, while certainly interesting didn’t feel like it resoonated with me quite so much as the previous day. I am neither artist, scientist nor musician and the morning was dominated by these disciplines.

Don’t get me wrong, it was all deeply interesting, it just didn’t sing for me. That changed dramatically over the day, as I will explain in a further post.

Deepak Ram

One word. Haunting.

Oliver Sacks

  • we see with the eyes but we see with the brain as well
  • imagination and hallucinations – they are different
  • patient – Rosalie, 95 years old, blind, no mental deterioration
  • began visual hallucinations
  • “It’s like a silent movie”
  • unrelated to anything she was doing
  • no familiar components
  • Charles Bonnet Syndrome – originallly described in 18th Century
  • approximately 10% of Sacks’ patients have visual or auditory hallucinations
  • as vision decays, visual center of brain becomes hyperactive
  • less than 1% of patients with hallucinations acknowledge the condition
  • not the same as psychotic hallucinations which are fully interactive
  • temporal lobe hallucinations are recollective and involve all senses
  • Bonnet is very different as you are an ousider – common factors of facial deformation in characters (large teeth and eyes) and seeing cartoons
  • FMRI now possible during hallucination
  • these issues need to be normalised as a condition
  • “The theatre of the mind being generated by the machinery of the brain”

Jo-ann Kuchera-Morin

  • at UCSB
  • the Allosphere
  • imagine a giant microscope hooked to a supercomputer
  • fit 20 people on viewing platform inside
  • massive visualisations of any activity at any scale
  • H atom particle emissions mapped to sound output
  • listen to the hydrogen

Dale Chihuly

  • trained as interior designer
  • melted some stained glass and changed his life
  • went fishing in Alaska to pay for his graduate study at U Wisconsin (only US glass blowing course at the time)
  • studied in Venice

Olafur Eliasson

  • studio is more like a lab
  • “What consequences does it have when I take a step?”
  • is art about that?
  • works with space – has dimension and temporal factors
  • Negotiability
  • Tangibility
  • Responsibility
  • Causality
  • Consequences
  • between thinking and doing is experience
  • his students (average 20yo) expected TED to be Technology. Environment. Democracy.

Don Levy

  • Sony animation
  • making Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs
  • massive labor intensity
  • computing power changes mean realistic area rather than point lighting now possible
  • also light bounce for surfaces
  • release will be September 2009

Ed Ulbrich

  • team worked on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Benjamin is 100% CGI from the neck up for the first hour of the film
  • have we crossed the Uncanny Valley?
  • anything is possible with enough time, money and resources
  • David Fincher insisted the character be played by a single actor
  • prosthetic would not hold up
  • very high risk
  • beleived they had “a solid methodology that might work”
  • sample verion done in 2004
  • Ed threw up when they were green-lighted
  • 325 sfx shots in the first hour of the film
  • looked at marker-based motion capture
  • needed the “between” data – skin behavior, muscle and bone
  • walked away from motion capture
  • now have a “technology stew”
  • Facial Action Coding System (FACS) defined in early 70s has a set of core actions
  • capture surface in 3D in real time
  • FACS library of Brad Pitt built, mapped against realistically aged maquettes
  • digital puppet that Pitt could control with his face – no animators needed
  • emotion capture
  • 155 people took 2 years

Randy Gleason

  • we have developed a culture of always-on availability
  • we have a proliferation of mobility
  • we have established an expectation of availability
  • we are documenting everything – to the detriment of engagement in the moment
  • there is a correlation between availability and a need for shared narrative
  • “I share therefore I am”
  • we create technology to build shared experience and therefor recreate our world
  • let’s create technology that makes us more human, not less

Ray Zahab

  • just set world speed record for on foor to South Pole – 33d 23h 55m
  • towed own sleds
  • Also ran across Sahara in 111 days – most strong memory is number of people affected by lack of water
  • there has to be a reason for adventurers
  • use adventure to bring attention to issues
  • for Antarctic trip had live updated web site
  • use it to tell the story re pollution and ozone
  • answer questions from school kids
  • solar powered equipment – no batteries
  • inspire young people through web site and also being inspired by their interest
  • has only been running 5 years – before that a pack a day smoker
  • “We can make the impossible possible”

Golan Levin

  • where is art on the iPhone store?
  • empower people through interactivity
  • “The mouse is the narrowest experience to suck the human experience through”
  • Remark system visualises the shape of sounds in the voice
  • phonesthesia
  • Gaze system eye-tracks as a relationship marker
  • videos at
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Engage them

Clever look at the new age of marketing by European agency Scholz & Friends

While it does talk about engagement and a conversation, it doesn’t mention the principles behind success in all of this. Openness, honesty, clarity, respect for the (former) audience – those in Cluetrain.

BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.

My favorite TED talks

A couple of weeks ago my friend, Tara Hunt, posted a list of her 10 favorite TED Talks. She’s inspired me to do the same, except I’m limiting myself to just five. Why five? Well, if I go over five, I’m just as likely to go over 10. And so on. I pretty much like everything I view from TED, and it’s definitely an event that I want to attend one day.

ted_logo.gifTED strikes me as an odd event – full to the brim of inspiring and inspired people, many of them very powerful and totally capable through the money or social capital they have access to of making a real difference. For a regular person like me, I imagine TED is incredibly exciting to attend, yet almost disheartening as you return to real life afterwards and realise that your individual capacity to drive the sort of innovation and change TED aspires to is rather limited.

That’s perhaps a little bit of a dark view, so I’ll let it just slip on past. Without further ado, my five TED favorites are:

  1. Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity
  2. Ben Dunlap talks about a passionate life
  3. Larry Lessig says the law is strangling creativity
  4. Al Gore’s new thinking on the climate crisis
  5. Johnny Lee demos Wii Remote hacks

What about you? What about TED inspires you and gets you to think differently?