Social Studies 2.0

So. There it was. An iPhone just laying there under the front passenger seat of my cab. Should I pick it up? I knew it wasn’t the taxi driver’s because he was chatting up his friend on his phone while he zoomed me down 5th Avenue. Yeah, I gotta pick it up. Should be easy to just call the owner and tell him/her, “Hey busy guy/girl, ya left your iPhone in the cab.”


I reach down, pick it up. Hit the home button, slide the slider… oh crap. It’s got that damn password block on it. The one my teenage son uses so I won’t read his text messages. I guess at a few passwords. Of course, that doesn’t work. Crap. Now what do I do? It’s impenetrable.


I ask on Twitter what do I do with an iPhone I found that is locked? Most tell me to take it to an AT&T store. They can track it by GPS. But, I don’t want to do that… so impersonal. It would release me from my decent sense of civil obligation to personally return this phone safely to its owner.

Hey, what’s that? A tweet comes through from @steamykitchen. I look her up on my iPhone. She’s in Tampa, a food writer with a lot of followers. Hummm. Not likely she’ll know my iPhone owner. But, what the heck… Maybe she’s a sister; a college roommate? I send her a Tweet. No luck. I realize the Tweet notifier came through as “emFeigen.” (which I stupidly don’t recognize as her twitter ID). I google emFeigen. Nothing. I search “Emily Feigen Twitter.” Nothing. Shoot. We’re so close, but so far.

The iPhone is running out of battery. Luckily, I have my charger in my bag. I arrive at NYU Parent’s Day at the Kimmel Center, and I’m worrying about the iPhone. I settle into my seat in the auditorium and spot an electric outlet near me on the wall. I discreetly charge the iPhone.

The kickoff speech is over. I check the iPhone and see there are texts coming in. Mom, Shara, some other names, nothing that gives me a clue how to contact the owner.

Finally, a phone number texts to the iPhone… I text back, “You just txted someone’s iPhone. Please tell that persion I have her/his iPhone. It was left in a taxi in NY.” A text comes back, “Thanks for texting back! Where are you? Still in NY?” Yay! I feel good. I’m only one degree of separation removed from the owner. Connected.


It turns out the owner’s name is Emma, not Emily. Emma’s friend calls me while I’m in the rest room. I tell her I’ll be at NYU all day; my name is Susan. I eventually hear from Emma. She reaches me while I’m eating lunch with my daughter at a neighborhood Italian restaurant. She’s two blocks away. She says she’ll come by in ten minutes. She arrives with a beautiful bouquet of three dozen roses and offers to give me money. I flatly refuse the money, but am happy about the flowers because I know my daughter will love to have them in her dorm room. Emma is very sweet and very grateful. I had learned from her friend she is a chef downtown. I feel good about humanity.

It turns out, it was a banner social media day. The reason I was receiving so many texts on the iPhone is Emma wrote this note on her Facebook wall:


Because of the volume of texts I received, I was able to text back to the one number she did not have in her address book. (If a text from a friend comes up, you only see the friend’s name, not the number.)

Later, I text Emma and ask her for her Twitter ID and I ask her to friend me on Facebook. I tell her I’m a blogger and would like to post about this encounter and take a screen shot of her Facebook wall. She agrees.


In this simple vignette, I affirm for myself that the social web is bringing out the best in people. It’s connecting us in ways that are wonderful and useful. During the dotcom era I was a CMO for a digital startup. Our tagline was a question– “What happens when everyone is connected to everything?” In the late 90s, we didn’t know; the question was rhetorical. A decade later, the answers are unfolding.

The more connected I become, the more hopeful I am about the transformative, empowering changes that are taking place in society as a result of moving from an atoms-constrained planet to a pervasive-digital world. Yes, I know it’s only a minority of individuals who are connecting today, but the connections we’re making and the do-good we’re doing is establishing a new social order among civilized humans. With the exploding growth of mobile connectivity and ubiquitous access to the web, those in power to change our world are getting the job done in a spirit of service and humility.

So maybe it was only a lost iPhone and a grateful owner today, but the premise of humans helping humans via Twitter, Facebook, and SMS messages, is becoming the rule and not the exception.

And I’m loving every moment of it.

SXSW and the Fabulous Twegg Hunt


As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m helping to support Mobile Loaves and Fishes during this fun, frenzied SXSW season. Here are all the details you need to know for the #Twegg contest.Short version is– help the homeless and win a kindle!WHATWith the help of some social-media savvy volunteers, Mobile Loaves & Fishes, an Austin nonprofit organization that feeds homeless and working poor people on the streets of five U.S. cities every night, is launching two contests in conjunction with SXSWi. The name for the contest– “Twegg”–has a dual meaning. The first part of the contest takes place on Twitter, and hard-boiled eggs are one of the most popular and important foods served from MLF’s trucks. See IT WORKSTwegg #1:• Participants must be on Twitter and following Mobile Loaves & Fishes CEO and President Alan Graham @MLFNOW• Until 11:59 PM on Saturday, March 14th participants must make one or more tweets about Mobile Loaves & Fishes or its mission to be considered eligible. Each post must include the hashtag #twegg to have be counted in judging.• On Sunday, March 15th, a panel of judges will review each post tagged with #twegg and pick the best Tweeter. The winner will get a Kindle 2!Twegg #2:• This contest takes place at the SXSWi 2009 Plutopia music, art and performance extravaganza/afterparty on Monday, March 16–see• Find the Mobile Loaves & Fishes volunteers with Easter baskets and bunny ears, and exchange your business card for a free, informative egg and the chance to win a Kindle 2!• The winner will be announced at Plutopia between 11 and 11:15 PM (must be present to win).WHENTwegg #1 takes place until 11:59 PM on March 14, 2009 and Twegg #2 takes place at the SXSWi 2009 Plutopia afterparty on March 16.For more information, go to the Mobile Loaves and Fishes Twegg site. I will be judging the best tweets– so they better be good! I’ll be looking for the best tweets that respectfully show support for Mobile Loaves and Fishes and their mission. Good luck!Here is a video segment generously donated by Andrew Shapter of Alan Graham and his work with MLF.

"Always Make New Mistakes!"


I began this post last week when the recent blogstorm over Ketchum interactive VP, James Andrews and a questionable exposed email from a Fedex staff employee threw the blogo/twittersphere into a hightech lynching of Mr. Andrews, who has in my view, become a hapless digital transparency hero.The incident showcases how responsibility, privacy, constitutional rights, influence, transparency, and well, new rules of the digital era will present us all with new and interesting challenges.In case you’ve missed this, please prepare with the introductory reading assignment:

  • Andrews’ tweet as he arrived in Memphis, hometown of Ketchum client, Fedex.
  • PRinfluencer, Peter Shankman (with 20K+ twitter followers. That’s > /steverubel, but < /chrisbrogan), who exposed an email from an unhappy Fedex employee with this post.
  • @olivermarks’ crossover post to the e20 community.
  • You can see more blogger reaction here.

I borrowed the headline for this post from Esther Dyson who signs her emails with “Always make new mistakes!” It’s become such a trademark for her, it’s refrigerator magnet worthy. I’m choosing Esther’s slogan to frame my reaction to this new twitter-gate episode partly because of her long-time advocacy for Internet privacy, but also because of her belief that we can only learn through experience. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong, but in the end, we all benefit from the lessons learned.Oliver Marks says in his post, “no one comes out of this looking good.” So, yes. I agree mistakes were made. But, what’s more important is what can we learn from this?On PrivacyThere were two privacy issues in this case study. The first involves Mr. Andrews’ personal thoughts telegraphed to the world. Because of Twitter’s ubiquity and real-time reach, Andrews forfeited his right to privacy here. A right he chose when he unprotected his tweets. The second issue is related to the privacy of the individual who sent the damning email and now has perhaps embarrassed Ketchum and Fedex for being mixed up in a socialweb skirmish. Did the Fedex employee intend for Shankman to expose Andrews? If so, he/she gave up his/her right to privacy. If not, Shankman has some explaining to do. This incident reminds me of another social media expert who found herself in a dither with the social media community over a private email she sent to friends that also was posted (and exposed) via a blog. That was the Debbie Weil case. Different set of principles and values, but another lesson learned for all who jumped into that one. Regardless of where you stood on that issue, Ms. Weil’s privacy was jeopardized and led to a social media embarrassment for her.On ResponsibilityYes, “Think before you tweet.” It’s like Microsoft told Scoble, “Blog smart.” On the social web, we are what we tweet and what we blog. Going forward, as the social web colors in the paint-by-numbers portraits of our true character, we will need to stand on our principles. Where we have prejudices, they will be revealed. Nonetheless, I’ve been in the ad agency business. In many ways, I found it was that rare combination of Emotional Intelligence and IQ that made the best ad executives. The account executives and creative groups who were sensitive and respectful of the clients’ values succeeded in creating great campaigns and developing longstanding client relationships. We can ding Mr. Andrews on a breach in sensitivity here, knock a point off his performance review, but to call for his dismissal is a giant step backwards in the national discussion on transparency and openness.On Freedom of SpeechTwitter, YouTube, Blogs, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr– all of these open social media are lifting our voices. We are all being heard. We have a right to object, to argue, to agree, and to embarrass ourselves. Just like the pre-Internet age, with that powerful right comes the great responsibility to suffer the consequences when we fail to self-censor. I urge all of you who are active in online activities to learn more about Internet freedoms. Two good places to start are the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the OpenNet Initiative.On InfluenceJacob Nielsen’s 1/9/90 needs to be re-interpreted to explain the influence the 1% is wielding in shaping public opinion on the Internet. When eruptions such as the Ketchum/Fedex-gate occur, it’s incumbent upon the socialweb-orati to explain the significance of the events as well as argue their side of the debate. It has disturbed me that the loudest voices on this issue are coming from the PR/social media community who condemn the agency VP handily without seriously weighing the ramifications of lynching Mr. Andrews for what amounts to a personal opinion.On TransparencyWe’re entering a new era of openness and transparency. Transparency rests on a platform of truth. Transparency is our ally, not our enemy. Yet, transparency’s ugly twin sister is accountability. You can’t date one without the other. Will we hold Andrews accountable for Ketchum losing the Fedex account? I hope not. But should we be held accountable for what we say online? Yes, but within reason.Mistakes are the only way we will progress toward a universal protocol for our acceptable digital behaviors. May you make many of them!