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David Cameron prepares to get the YouTube treatment

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On Friday, David Cameron will be grilled by the users of YouTube. It’s part of the Al Jazeera World View series being run by YouTube which last month saw Barack Obama give a frank but less than earth-shattering interview.


If you haven’t seen World View before, the system is probably as you’d expect: YouTube users go to the World View microsite and submit questions in video or text form. You can also vote on which existing questions should be asked. The questions that get the most votes get asked – apparently with no form of censorship or regulation. Users currently have less than 12 hours to submit their questions.

It’s a nice idea, and I’m all for crowd sourcing but I can’t help but be reminded of early 90s Newsround Press Pack interviews, where an enthusiastic but ill-informed teenager would ask a cabinet member what their favourite colour is and what they thought of Brother Beyond.

Of course there are a few contributions from the inhabitants of Crazyville but I can’t see them getting an airing. I think this one from a young chap who seems to think this is an oportunity to ask the PM for a shout out. (Name and email removed)

Will you make a video, For me. . .Saying, Hello ****** ******* from plymouth in devon, Thankyou and send it too a private email adress *******************

***** ***** Royal Marine Cadet.

Good work keeping that email address private, Private. Also, this isn’t Babestation (whatever that is). What kind of video is he expecting if it isn’t suitable for public viewing… *shudder*.

Crazies aside, if there really is no intervention, why are all the questions so perfect for the politician? I’m browsing the top questions for Cameron and they are mostly relevent but bland and likely to allow the interviewee to say exactly what he wants. Is the voting system geared towards presenting questions that give the politician an easy ride or are crowd sourcing systems innately geared towards the bland and predictable?

Unfortunately I think it’s the latter which is why I’d rather see Cameron being put through the wringer by Paxman or another hard-nosed journo with a desire to see someone squirm.

Incidently if it’s Cameron squirming on YouTube you want, look no further.

Social Media tsar’s criminal use of twitter.

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Sharing is good right? Well not always. As with all parts of life, a huge part of any organisation’s social media strategy is knowing when to shut the hell up.

Labour’s so-called and much lauded social media tsar,  yesterday committed a potentially disastrous gaffe when she tweeted results of postal votes for the upcoming election.

Kerry McCarthy (@kerry4MP) is the twitter evangelist who was responsible for training up Labour politicians in the art of teh interwebs. Oops.

Under the Representation of the People Act it is illegal to reveal details of votes cast before the polling day as it may influence those yet to vote. Avon and Somerset police are now investigating this potentially criminal act.

Other twitter users pretty quickly realised something was amiss and let Ms McCarthy know. Blogger Darren Bridgman was first on the scene.


After briefly trying to defend her position, and presumably consulting with those who know better, @Kerry4MP deleted the tweets. But as we all know, news travels fast and word had got out. Here was her response to the BBC.

On hearing the results of a random and unscientific sample of postal votes, I posted them on Twitter. It was a thoughtless thing to do, and I very quickly realised that it was not appropriate to put such information in the public domain.

“Quickly realised” but not quick enough. At its heart, this is not a social media error. Kerry McCarthy made a simple mistake. She should have known it was illegal to share that information with the public and not done it. This error could have been made when talking to a journalist or writing a press release but in this case she is not only the source of the information but the editor and publisher. What this incident proves, if more proof be needed, is that in this world of instant communication, you have to be really sure of your message and in control of the information you choose to share.

Battleground Google: Labour vs. The Sun

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Today’s announcement that The Sun will be supporting the Tories in the next election has effectively marked the beginning of what will be a lengthy election press campaign. But, unlike ‘79 and ‘97, this battle will be won and lost not in the printed press, but on the web.


The Sun has drawn first blood with the sensational headline “Labour’s lost it”. The online version of this article is juicy enough link-bait to already hit the first page of Google for the search term “labour”.

Search returns for "labour"

There it is, at the time of writing, in fifth position (not counting news results). Ouch.

As well as associated articles, dossiers and microsites also to be found on the sun website, they are also using PPC as part of their attack strategy.

The terms labour, labour party and labour conference all bring up one of the following ads linking to the topic dedicated Feeling Blue section of their site.



And they seem to be pre-empting a response by buying up their own name.


It’s not been all one way traffic, though. Labour were pretty quick to respond with their own ad that plays on a pretty emotive anti-sun topic: Hillsborough. I took this screenshot this morning:


The gloves are off.

However, Labour don’t seem to be buying as many or as broad search terms. If they want to compete, they should be buying up all the search terms the Sun is and directly attacking the paper on its own turf. That could require some deep PPC pockets. In fact, as I check now the ad isn’t showing. Has the budget dried up already?

The US presidential election digital campaigns demonstrated the importance of rapid response to on and offline trending topics. In particular the paid search campaigns for both camps had to respond quickly and effectively to online buzz and breaking news. Eric Frenchman, the guy in charge of John McCain’s PPC has blogged about using search for political or news rapid response.

So now it’s the UK’s turn and although I hope the tactics might not get quite as… dubious as in the American election, I think Search and social media will be two areas where the battle will be viciously fought.

Interesting times lie ahead.


Update: It seems Labour didn’t have anything directly to do with the Hillsborough ads, the Telegraph reports. The ads stopped showing around 2 the afternoon. Either there was a very small budget allocated or they were pulled. Over enthusiastic supporters or plausible deniability? Either way it’s a shame, I’d have liked to see a real scrap!

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daily_mail_cannabisI’m getting sick of mainstream media reporting on non-stories tenuously associated to the internet just so they can write a headline that contains the name of the current “in” social media application. These headlines work especially well if crowbarred into a story about another hot topic that can be easily sensationalised. The resulting hot topic mash-up is guaranteed to sell papers and give Daily Mail readers something to get all frothy and indignant about.

Over the last couple of years the frequency and ridiculousness of these stories has escalated. Two years ago it was MySpace Thugs Trashed my House or similar and in the last year or so Facebook has been accused of being responsible for identity fraud, economic ruinmurder and cancer.

I was most pleased last month when eight newspapers and one news television channel were forced to apologise and pay settlement charges to a family after running stories describing how a “Facebook party” had gone “out of control” and that gatecrashers had “trashed” the house in Marbella. It came out that the news “journalists” involved didn’t know or didn’t care that the party wasn’t gatecrashed, only led to very minor damage and in any case was organised on Bebo, not Facebook.

The worst example of a paper using a web application to fabricate a story was last month when the Scottish Sunday Express, as Graham Linehan put it so well, won the race to the bottom by describing the impish Internet behaviour of Dunblane teenagers as “shaming the memory” of those who died in the Dunblane massacre 13 years ago.  They too were forced to apologise.

This year’s main headline-grabbing SM service is Twitter. So I shouldn’t be surprised that last week a story broke about the upcoming report by Sir Jim Rose that will make recommendations for an overhaul of primary school education. The leaked report features many recommendations including the teaching of health and environmental matters and that certain topics from history, notably WW2 and the Victorian period should not be taught at a primary school level. There is also going to be a recommendation that by the time pupils leave primary school they should be familiar with modern sources of information including blogs, wikipedia, podcasts and twitter. Guess what the headlines were?

Pupils to study Twitter and blogs in primary schools shake-up
The Guardian

Pupils ‘should study Twitter’
BBC online

This is a leak from a report recommending the biggest shake up of primary education in 20 years and they focus on Twitter? There of course followed lots of discussion on public phone-ins, panels shows and editors columns about how disgraceful and silly this was. Calm down everyone!

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A response from Wandsworth police

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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Juvenal / Alan Moore

I think this is the last time I’m going to post about this. Pseudo-political wittering was not the intended use for this blog when I started it. However there has been a bit of a development since my initial post describing my thoughts on how the police use anti-terror laws to stop and search people. When I say people, I really mean me. Specifically me, in Clapham Junction on the 7th of March 2009. I know, I’m not a great philanthropist.

After the incident I wrote to a high ranking officer in the Wandsworth borough of the Metropolitan police to complain, making clear that I think randomly stopping members of the public with no reason for suspicion is complete waste of police time and the cause of unnecessary disruption and upset. I have since received a reply and engaged him in a brief email exchange in which I asked a few pertinent questions and a few impertinent ones as well.

My main gripe was that although I was told that I was stopped at random, the officer ticked the box stating I was stopped on grounds of “behaviour”.


You can see that there is no “random” box to tick. So as I am on record for suspicious behaviour I wanted to know what happened to that data.

Some of my questions were answered and some were artfully dodged. You’ll notice I’m not naming the high-ranking officer in this post. This is because he declined to go on record and asked that the contents of our email exchange were not discussed on this blog. In fact as soon as the word “blog” was mentioned he clammed up and told me he couldn’t help me further. (Bloggers! Aaaaaaaagh! To the hills!)

As I have no journalistic reputation to speak of, it probably wouldn’t harm me to post the email exchange in its entirety. However, I do have some respect for people’s wishes so I will only tell you some of the questions I asked and describe the answers I received.

My first question.

What happens to the record that I was stopped on grounds of “behaviour”? How long are the records kept? Are the records public? Can they be used by the police or any other government body in any capacity or investigation not linked to terrorism?

The response was rather shocking: turns out that stops are placed on the police stops database and are kept for seven years. They are not public records but they can be used by the police and certain government bodies in any other capacity not linked to terrorism.
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