Toxic Journo Culture Oozes Across Blogosphere

E-Media Tidbits on Poynter.org
My Tidbits post yesterday seemed to resonate with a lot of journalists. Check out the comments .

My E-Media Tidbits post yesterday, Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?) (cross-posted to Contentious.com) has gotten many comments and also picked up wider traction. Here are the various people who’ve added substantive comments of their own to this public conversation. Check them out!

  1. Raising hell and having fun , by Charlotte Anne Lucas (A breakfast conversation I had with Charlotte Anne last weekend in Las Vegas actually gave me the motivation to write that article. Thanks!)
  2. Curiosity and journalism , by James McPherson
  3. The only journalism that counts is by mainstream news , by Mike Gregory
  4. Giv mig journalistik med Bøvl og Begejstring , by Kim Elrose
  5. Carpe diem, baby! by Sanjay Bhatt
  6. Journalists, Keep the Change , by Craig Stoltz
  7. The Capital Times Moves From Print to Online , by Kim Pearson
  8. It’s not whining if we have a good reason , on Smays.com
  9. Learning to love change , by Charlie Beckett

I’ll add more later as I find them. Glad my piece was useful to so many folks!

Rupert Howe mourns his dead Nokia N93

A post by Beth Kanter today introduced me to the work of videoblogger Rupert Howe, who recently emigrated from the UK to Canada. I checked out his videoblog, Twittervlog.tv, and saw that I’m not the only one who’s been having a passionate, torrid, heartbreaking affair with Nokia’s N-Series high-end phones.

Here’s Rupert’s moving tale of the sudden death of his N93:

Since Rupert just moved to North America (where Nokia’s service and support for its N Series phones may be slightly, um, more limited than what he’s been accustomed to in the UK), I left a comment to warn him about the situation here.

Good luck, Rupert. I hope you have better luck than I did.

Vegas-bound, sans Nokia N95…

Quick video post from the Denver International Airport today. Thanks again to the folks at Nokia for raising on their own Conversations blog the issues related to Nokia USA’s inadequate service I’ve been talking about on Contentious.com. (See Nokia’s posts yesterday and today) . I appreciate their willingness to engage in a frank public conversation geared toward solving problems for their US customers

Across the US, many journalists (pro and amateur) and mobloggers could make great use of pro-quality, multifunctional reporting tools like the Nokia N95 and N82. However, right now, the very slow and limited service that Nokia USA offers — coupled with significant known flaws in Nokia’s clunky, Windows-only firmware update process (which can turn your phone into an unresponsive brick) — foists too much risk upon high-end US consumers.

Please join this conversation by commenting at Nokia’s blog and in their support forum. Let them know how they can make their US service good enough to warrant trust from would-be N95 and N82 users!

Nokia’s Blog Starts Discussing Problems

Nokia.com
Nokia’s Conversations blog is getting interesting now that it’s not all just happy talk.

Recently Nokia launched its Conversations blog, a good first step any company can take toward transparency and engagement with its customers, partners, and critics. Not surprisingly, most of the initial posts were “happy news” of one kind or another. I don’t begrudge them that — almost any company is doing some good things worth discussing.

But the real proof of how serious a company is about embracing public conversation is whether it’s willing to openly discuss thorny problems. Today Nokia’s blog took a first step in this direction with this post: When things go wrong with updating your device software.

There, Nokia staffer Charlie Schick picked up on the discussion that’s been happening here on Contentious.com, and on other blogs (like Beth Kanter’s and Jenifer Hanen’s), and via social media like Twitter concerning the myriad obstacles encountered by current and would-be US users of Nokia’s high-end N-Series phones. He focused on the firmware update problem I and other US users have encountered and mentioned Nokia’s support forums — which can indeed be a useful resource for solving some problems with Nokia devices.

Schick’s blog post is a good start. But I found his comment today on my blog even more to the point.

…All in all, I think this is a promising start to the public conversation. Of course, so far it’s all “just talk” — but real progress comes from action. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of action Nokia and its US market can muster together.

I left a couple of comments on Nokia’s blog — which will probably be approved for publication to the blog after people get to work in Finland. So in the meantime, here’s what I commented…
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Nokia USA: Again, your service (not product) is the problem

MobileJones
Nokia Director of Corporate Communications Mark Squires (seen here in a recent MobileJones interview) has joined our conversation about Nokia’s US service problems.

This morning I was encouraged to see that yet another Nokia staffer, Mark Squires (Nokia’s Director of Corporate Communications) left a comment on my blog. He wrote:

“Hi Amy, I work with Charlie at Nokia and have just tracked to your posts. First up sorry that one of our phones has rolled over on you and thank you for your input/thoughts/patience. Charlie and I are based outside of the US but I’ve written to my colleagues who are local to you and brought this matter to their attention. Lets see what can be done, in the mean time feel free to get in tough directly. Mark”

Thanks for joining this conversation Mark. Rather than taking this to private correspondence, I think it’s more beneficial to keep our exchanges on this public, since it affects Nokia’s entire potential US market for your N Series phones. This isn’t just about my personal experience.

You wrote: “Sorry that one of our phones has rolled over on you.”

…Actually, as I explained in my most recent post on this theme, my N95 phone (the device) was NOT the problem in my case. As I’ve expressed several times: the phone itself was great, I loved it. And I do understand that a firmware update to any high-tech device always represents a slight a risk of malfunction.

The main problem was Nokia’s inadequate service for high-end US customers like me.

I’m sorry to harp on the service quality vs. product quality issue, but it’s very important that you and your company understand this distinction. So far, I’m not sure Nokia really gets it. But this key concern could easily make or break Nokia’s attempt to make serious headway in the US high-end cell phone market. I’m continuing to speak up about this because I really do want Nokia to succeed in the US….

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Talking with Nokia About US Service/Repair Problems (Finally!)

Gdugardier, via YouTube
Charlie Schick, the guy from Nokia USA who just reached out to me about my N95 nightmare.

This morning, I was pleased and relieved to see that a representative of Nokia USA, Charlie Schick, left a constructive comment on my most recent post about my recent N95 fiasco. I’m glad to see that at least someone in that company is savvy about talking over problems and finding solutions through public conversation.

Actually, I’d heard of Charlie just yesterday, before he left that comment. According to Mobile Jones, he’s Nokia’s “social media expert” who ran the company’s blogger outreach program. Also, blogger and N95 user Jenifer Hanen mentioned him in her comments yesterday.

Coincidentally, sometime today Nokia is going to launch a new blog, Nokia Conversations (that link isn’t live just yet, keep trying). Mobile Jones reported that this blog will “highlight the developments inside the world’s largest device manufacturer, and new entrant into mobile content and services that the 60,000 employee company represents. Some of those 60K employees are also introduced along with their accomplishments and new products. Comments are welcomed.”

In this interview, Nokia’s head of social media, Mark Squires (I gather he’s Charlie’s boss), told Mobile Jones that “The idea is to give people who use our products a route straight in to us to talk to us. …A lot of the time we’re selling products to people via up to six [intermediaries], and this way if they don’t like the product, they can tell us. …For me, commenting is the main thing.”

I’m crafting a separate post to respond to Charlie/Nokia USA. It’ll be posted shortly. But I did want to acknowledge that I appreciate being engaged publicly and constructively. I’m skeptical about whether it’ll make any real difference, but it’s a better approach to communication and service than what I’ve experienced thus far from Nokia. Thanks.

…By the way, here’s Charlie’s blog.

WordPress 2.5 Upgrade Weirdness

A few minor things went screwy with my WordPress 2.5 upgrade.

I recently upgraded Contentious and Boulder Carbon Tax Tracker to the latest version of WordPress (2.5). There seem to be some bugs with this that I’ll need to figure out.

First of all, the image upload function has stopped working.

When I try to upload an image to a blog post via WordPress, I get this: Fatal error: Call to undefined function. Apparently a lot of people are having this problem, and there’s no fix yet.

My temporary image upload fix: For now, when I want to include an image in Contentious I uploading it to my Typepad account, grab the image URL from there, and insert that into my WordPress post.

I also tried uploading an image to Contentious via the blog editing application MarsEdit. In that case I got a different error…

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Where’s Your “Personal Brand,” and Why?

There are lots of different ways to brand yourself.

Yesterday my colleague Jim Kukral wrote about why he’s decided to focus on centralizing his personal brand. He wrote:

“My biggest mistake from the past 7-years or so was not building my personal brand on my own blog hard enough, earlier enough. Some may wonder why someone like me who’s been around for a long time blogging (since 2001), only has about 600 rss subscribers. I’ll tell you why… because I never focused blogging and building my brand here on JimKukral.com until recently.”

That got me thinking about Contentious.com and my own “personal brand.” Although I have an innate dislike to the term “personal brand,” I’ll admit it’s a useful and important concept for people in media-related work and many other fields these days.

The simple reason for that, I think, is that these days it’s unwise to rely on any company, organization, or institution to stick by you. The only leverage most professionals have these days depends on their ability to find or make their own opportunities — which means they need to be known as individuals. not just as faceless functionaries.

Jim seems to gauge the success on his personal brand by traffic to his site and feed. For a lot of people and purposes, that’s perfectly valid and appropriate.

But personally, I see a lot of value in the hybrid home base/distributed presence approach to personal branding…

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Sneaky Spammers and “Clickthrough Cloaking”

As I mentioned earlier, it appears a spammer has hacked this blog again. This time they were especially sneaky about it. You won’t see the spam when you visit my blog, or when you get my feed or e-mail alerts. But search engines see it, and display it in my search engine results. Which can do serious damage to my search ranking, and eventually get me banned from Google and other search engines if I don’t put a stop to it.

Judging from how this spam hack is exhibiting, the most likely explanation seems to be something Tom Vilot turned up with a bit of research. (Thanks, Tom!)

It appears that this hack is using a technique known as cloaking, which serves one page to search engines crawling the site, and another to visitors’ web browsers. This means the search engines are not actually indexing the same content that people see when they visit your site. Nice for the spammers, bad for the site owners.

Microsoft published a 2006 technical paper detailing this technique and what to do about it. From the intro:

“Search spam is an attack on search engines’ ranking algorithms to promote spam links into top search ranking that they do not deserve. Cloaking is a well-known search spam technique in which spammers serve one page to search-engine crawlers to optimize ranking, but serve a different page to browser users to maximize potential profit. In this experience report, we investigate a different and relatively new type of cloaking, called Click-Through Cloaking, in which spammers serve non-spam content to browsers who visit the URL directly without clicking through search results, in an attempt to evade spam detection by human spam investigators and anti-spam scanners.”

…Coincidentally, I just updated all my WordPress plugins yesterday. Also, Google just re-indexed me a few hours ago. The spam is no longer showing up for my site in Google’s results, which indicates that by updating my plugins I may have closed this vulnerability, for now. We’ll see.