wasting bandwidth since 1999

Tag: regulation

Guidelines for How You Must Use Social Media

As with educational institutions at all levels, our overly-large school district is trying to figure out how to handle the use of social media channels, by staff members as well as students.

So, as often happens in a large bureaucracy like this one, our administration is writing some regulations and guidelines that will cover all the bases. Every one of them!

In looking through a first draft of a set of guidelines for employees, now being passed around for comment by our public relations department, I’m not sure the people involved have a clear understanding of what social networking is all about.

It starts in the definition section where they offer examples of “social media applications”: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and… Wikipedia? Never seen that last one linked with the others but it’s in the picture below so…

Then comes an interesting section spelling out some reasons why schools might use social media.

Reinforce messages. Targeted communications. Educate stakeholders. Promote good news.

All one-way, us to them, broadcasting of information, which is pretty much how our system uses it’s Twitter feed and Facebook page, mostly as a link to press releases.

However, that’s just not the way social media works. It’s all about an exchange of ideas, encouraging feedback, and even criticism, from the people in your network.

Elsewhere the document also lays out some “best practices” for the use of social networking, which turns out to be a mixed bag of the good, the bad and the strange.

Like suggesting that negative or controversial comments not be deleted in one place while in another declaring that the school system reserves the right to remove any post for any reason in another.

Of course, that second part will be difficult to accomplish since our district doesn’t host any social media tools for us to use (outside of our closed Blackboard system) and I doubt Facebook or Twitter will pull down a nasty comment about the superintendent upon request.

For an example of the strange, the same section recommends a convention for schools to use in naming their social networking accounts: ASPS, Happy Valley ES, Mrs. Smith’s Class.*

That’s pretty clunky! And my first thought was a Twitter name like that would really discourage retweeting or @ references. The name alone would eat up a big chunk of your 140 characters.

Anyway, there’s more and much of it also needs work. It will certainly be interesting to see how this document evolves, especially to see if it really becomes a set of “guidelines” or turns into a regulation.

Stay tuned. After all, they did ask for comment.

* ASPS = AssortedStuff Public Schools :-)

Image: Social Media Landscape by Fred Cavazza, from Flickr and used under a Creative Commons License

The Feds Are Monitoring Your Blog

Among other things, the Federal Trade Commission is responsible for monitoring advertising to check for fraudulent or misleading claims. They also investigate suspicious endorsements by supposedly neutral parties.

Should they do the same for blogs? Like it or not, it will be happening soon.

New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after bloggers – as well as the companies that compensate them – for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

It would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical ad or a link to an online retailer – and getting commissions for any sales from it – would be enough to trigger oversight.

If the guidelines are approved, bloggers would have to back up claims and disclose if they’re being compensated – the FTC doesn’t currently plan to specify how. The FTC could order violators to stop and pay restitution to customers, and it could ask the Justice Department to sue for civil penalties.

I have mixed feelings about all of this.

On one hand, it’s hard enough to tell the difference between “experts” and just plain old talking heads in the regular media, much less on the growing millions of sites claiming some kind of authority on the web.

So, it would be nice to have someone who’s trying to keep track of the frauds.

However, the naive, faith-in-the-self-regulated-web part of my mind doesn’t see a large US government office as the best way to accomplish the job, especially since people need to learn to validate for themselves everything delivered by all media.

Whatever happens, I doubt the new rules will affect this little rantfest since I’m too lazy to bother with ads and don’t often recommend stuff anyway (as if that would carry much influence :-).

But does this really end with blogs? Should the FTC also be monitoring traffic on Twitter, Facebook and the dozens of other social networking tools where authority is left to the mind of the reader?

Looking For Something Better Than Chaos

In the past couple of weeks, the politicians have talked a lot about government regulation (and the lack thereof).

Not so much has been said about the deteriorating condition of our national infrastructure, and how we don’t invest nearly enough in it.

In traveling cross country by air this past week I got a close up look at the problems created by the intersection of the two issues.

On Wednesday, we got to sit at a gate at National Airport for almost two hours waiting on a weather delay at our transfer point, Atlanta. They had heavy rain and a low ceiling.

Now, most modern passenger aircraft are well equipped, and the pilots are highly trained, to land and take off in all kinds of bad conditions.

The air traffic control system in this country, however, is not nearly so prepared.

Even with perfect conditions, the system at most major airports is overloaded or close to it. In many cases the computers and other equipment being used are outdated and inadequate for the job.

The result is that when things are even slightly less than ideal, everything falls apart.

That’s the infrastructure part. Here’s where the lack of regulation in the airline industry makes a bad situation worse.

Up until the late 70’s, the federal government regulated pretty much every aspect of air travel. Not just prices but also routes and schedules. The primary point of competition for the airlines was service.

After deregulation lots of new airlines appeared to compete with the established carriers in the new atmosphere. Prices, at least on the flights between major cities, declined.

The quality of service for passengers also began a steady decline until arriving at the general mess we have today.

A big part of the problem is the hub-and-spoke system implemented by many airlines, including Delta which has a huge hub at Hartsfield.

In good times, scheduling almost all their east coast traffic through the same airport offers the company lots of economic advantages, especially being able to handle many more passengers.

And when things are not so good? Well, I guess we certainly have no reason to complain about the transportation system falling apart since we’re only paying for a seat, not for service, right?

Ok, so maybe some of this is my fault for choosing to fly Delta (as I’m always thanked for doing as we taxi to the gate). I got sucked into the fraud that is the current state of airline frequent flyer plans.

But they certainly are not alone in using this system. If I go with United, I could get caught in their major choke point in Chicago. American has theirs in Dallas.

Essentially, instead of one national air transportation system, we have many different companies each running their own with little or no coordination on the part of anyone.

I’m certainly not advocating that the federal government take over the airlines or even that we move back to the regulatory situation that existed in 1975.

However, as with regulation of the financial industry (or the lack thereof), when it comes to air travel, there must be a middle ground position between complete control and complete chaos.

I suppose, in light of all the other crap going on with mortgages and the stock market, fixing the airline industry is going to have a low priority. It’s likely that fixing the air traffic control infrastructure will as well.

So, while I’m waiting for all that to happen, I need to find an airline that doesn’t route everything through Atlanta.

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