Canadian Cancer Society urges smokers to “Break It Off”

Everyone knows someone who’s a smoker, has tried to quit, or who has successfully kicked the habit.

I’m not a smoker, and outside of my parents (who quit smoking a few years ago) I don’t preach to others that they should quit – it’s ultimately a personal choice. For those looking to quit though, Break It Off with Smokingthe “Break It Off” campaign recently launched by the Canadian Cancer Society looks like a great resource. It offers help for people at each stage of the quitting process, including a a combination of 13 different methods to quit, because there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

They’ve also included a cool initiative to help make the whole break up a bit more social. Called the “World’s Biggest Breakup“, it allows anybody to upload a video of themselves breaking it off with smoking; even non-smokers can show support. I’m not big on making videos, but I can see how this may help people share in the experience together. As of publication there are four journal postings – I expect that number will grow quite a bit as people find out more about the initiative.World's Biggest Breakup

Available on both iPhone and Android devices, the app seems friendly enough to use. Similar to the site, it offers tips on quitting but also lets users track his or her progress and share milestones on Facebook. My favourite feature is the ability to see how much money can be saved from quitting. I’m sure other than health reasons, the ridiculous cost is probably why many decide to quit in the first place – I know it’s one of the big reasons I never started.

As with quitting anything, the willpower must be there. If a person isn’t really willing to give it up, no number of websites, Youtube videos or apps will help them get there. For those who are willing, this looks worth checking out.

Jeff Jarvis bares all in Public Parts

Public PartsFor all the negative aspects around online sharing, there are just as many benefits that help make our day to day lives that much better.

Those benefits are all discussed in Jeff Jarvis’ latest book Public Parts: How sharing in the digital age improves the way we work and live, which I picked up when he came to Third Tuesday Toronto to speak about it, in November.

Every so often a disruptive technology comes along that causes people to worry about the effect it has on privacy. It happened with theĀ  printing press, camera, TV, computer and of course, the Internet. People have trouble adapting to new technology, but for the most part, they have made us more connected and aware of our surroundings. Like Jarvis says in this interview on CNN’s Reliable Sources (paraphrased), if people continue to worry about the worst that can happen, you could miss out on the best that could happen.

For businesses, getting to know their customers on is becoming the norm. Examples that the book looks at are Facebook and Amazon, which have grown by targeting their services toward the individual user. Jarvis argues that if you’re getting better services from these companies, wouldn’t it be in your interest to give up some information?

As a consumer I’m down the middle on this issue. I actively tweet, post on Facebook and blog so I’m putting out information all the time, but there’s still a lot that I don’t care to share. I’ll never intentionally click a social ad on Facebook, or sponsored tweet on Twitter even if it’s targeted toward my interests, but if a site like Amazon offers me better suggestions on products based on what I’ve looked at, I don’t mind them tracking my usage because it makes shopping that much easier. Jarvis also brings up a great point – if you’re worried about having your information out there for the public to see or companies to use, no one is twisting your arm to post it. I couldn’t agree more.

The benefits of public vs. private have also played out a lot with the revolutions on this past year in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the Occupy movements across Europe and North America. Through sharing on blogs and social media sites, people have been able to mobilize mass-movements that have led to the fall of governments and bringing to light the shady practices of many corporations. Specifically in the Arab countries, people were able to share their experiences with the public, and journalists, who weren’t permitted to enter those countries, could work with the citizens to report on the revolutions. Examples like this show the benefits of social media to the journalism industry as well as the effect it has on allowing people to change their livelihood.

Near the end, Jarvis asks “who will protect publicness?” and goes through examples of governments and companies that have proven to be unreliable. He says there needs to be a set of principles that act as a watchdog if governments or companies violating our freedoms, but I don’t see anyone other than governments who could do so. It’s very complicated topic and I feel there needs to be some regulation, but I don’t see how that could happen without it affecting someone’s freedoms.

Public Parts is definitely a worthwhile read, though I found his chat at Third Tuesday a lot more engaging. If you’re into the public vs. private debate then I say give this one a go, and if not you probably haven’t read this far anyway. I give the book a 3.5/5.

The Peep Diaries: An eye opening look into how much we share online

PeepingHave you ever wondered why you bother to share things online? People complain about privacy issues all the time, yet willingly post every facet of their lives on sites that are designed to have that content shared.

The Peep Diaries by Hal Niedzviecki was sitting on my bookshelf for quite a while after I’d won it in a contest run by the CBC show The Passionate Eye. I originally watched the documentary Peep Culture, which is a great example of looking into why we do what we do online. The book, while covering many of the examples in the documentary, delves deeper into the subject.

The Peep DiariesNiedzviecki defines “peep culture” early in the book:

“Peep culture is reality TV, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, MySpace and Facebook. It’s blogs, chat rooms, amateur porn sites, virally spread digital movies of a fat kid pretending to be to be a Jedi Knight, cell phone photos – posted online – of your drunk friend making out with her ex-boyfriend, and citizen surveillance. Peep is the backbone as Web 2.0 and the engine of corporate and government data mining. It’s like the famous line about pornography: you know it when you see it. And you do see it. Al the time, every day, everywhere.”

As you can tell by the MySpace reference, the book is a tad dated. It can be distracting in some cases where he discusses numbers or tools like MySpace which are no longer popular. Regardless of the tools, the examples he uses still make sense.

Throughout the book Niedzviecki looks at many different ways in which “peep” is invading our lives. From online voyeurs creating a separate identity, to reality TV and how surveillance has evolved from taboo to downtown streets to fodder for YouTube viewers.

He paints an interesting picture to show that through these different outlets we’re looking to build that sense of community that was lost in the age of “me”. When communities were closer knit, privacy didn’t exist nearly as much as it does today, if at all. We always had someone to share with, or protect us from bad seeds, but now that’s all changed.

He brings up a great point in that we’re putting out all this content in the context of connecting with like-minded individuals, but in reality the info we post is used by larger companies to make money. Why must we share everything online? What did you do before blogs, Facebook and Twitter started invading your life? Could you stop today if you had to?

The more I read, the more I thought about why I like to participate in online communities. While I do keep a lot offline, I’m open about who I am and the issues I believe in. I like to share that with others online who are willing to have a conversation about any of those topics. I’m not about having a double identity or someone that posts daily videos of themselves; it’s just simply connecting with others and learning from them, or sharing my own knowledge/experiences.

The Peep Diaries does a great job of starting the conversation about privacy and how much we’re willing to give up for a sense of community. It would seem that society is moving toward that Big Brother scenario, except we’re all watching each other, and more and more people are willing to go along with the ride without questioning it. I give it a 4/5.

Say hello to the new Facebook Timeline

Facebook Timeline

Yesterday at f8, Facebook announced its newest feature: the Timeline, which along with other features will come out on September 30. Through a workaround posted on Business Insider I became a “developer”and therefore can now have access to said Timeline. I’ve only had it for a short time but here are my early thoughts on the big changes:

Cover Photo: Kind of like many of my blog posts, Facebook now features a large photo at the top of each profile. The focus is no longer on your profile picture, but on whatever image you choose to post at the top. I like this a lot because it lets you showcase some personality, which had mostly been left to your status updates/posts.

Timeline: Ah yes, the Timeline itself. The first thing I did when I activated the new profile was head to the bottom of my profile. In the timeline I can see when I was born, graduated high school, joined Facebook (November 29, 2006) and all the major events/albums from then until now.

One of the presenters yesterday made a great analogy to a scrapbook. He was selling us on the emotional connection with Facebook and it made sense. We’ve “collected” all of these events over the years, but unless we’re scrolling down or getting lost in past photo albums, we’d probably never interact with them again. Over the past while, Facebook has been conditioning us to hop on board by showing photos or status updates from years past to the right of our newsfeeds and now I understand where they were going with it.

My one issue right now is when I post something new I want it to be the most visible thing on my page. So, if I click the option to “feature it on my timeline” and make it bigger, would it then be considered an important piece of my life in three years, when all I wanted to do was get more eyes on an interesting news story? Or, will Facebook be able to determine what’s important and what’s not, based on something I’m not yet aware of?

Ticker and Chat: With the new update, ticker and chat (far right) look a lot cleaner and useable. I can conceivably see myself spending time on my own profile just looking at the ticker for updates if I so chose to do so. Chat isn’t as clunky and can also be adjusted in size with the ticker so it doesn’t take up the entire right side of the screen.

One early con: The thing I can see people complaining about is the over-crowded feel of the new profile. Sure you get a lot more personality, but there’s just so much going on, which is the opposite of the Facebook we all know.

What are your early thoughts on the new profile?

Intern gone wild @MarcJacobsIntl

The latest corporate Twitter account to suffer from an employee not using their brain is Marc Jacobs (@MarcJacobsIntl). It appears an intern with the company (I’m sure the name will soon be revealed) took over the account – presumably it was his or her responsibility to update it – and posted a few not-so-positive tweets about the company:

This situation breeds the question, should an intern be responsible for managing a corporate social media account or should it be the responsibility of a permanent employee? In this case I am of the opinion that anyone – intern, employee or agency – can do harm to an account. Having a blanket policy like that would not solve a potential PR disaster like this one. These issues, while public when they happen, don’t happen that often in the grand scheme of things. What is most important for organizations, is to learn how to manage the after effect and repair the brand’s image, when they do happen.

I’m interested to see how the Marc Jacobs handles this, because unlike the mistakes that happened with Red Cross and Chrysler, this example is a blatant hijacking of the Twitter account. Either way I’m sure this is going to be a fun Friday for the communications team.

Thanks to @ChrissyChrzan for the title inspiration.
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