Did Social help the rioters – or the clear-up?

I’ve been out of the country, and largely out of contact, from a couple of days or so after the riots in Tottenham, in Hackney (near where we used to live), in Clapham (everyone travels through there!) and elsewhere. So I’m cautious about comments about causes and analysis, because I haven’t followed it.

But one thing appears. Many politicians and the media have been lamenting the role supposedly played by Twitter, Facebook and BBM in encouraging people to join in the “fun” and “free stuff” looting. The PM started this ball rolling in Parliament, though there’s been some more considered comment from some quarters.

But one up to The Guardian. They’ve done the job properly and gone to look at what the data actually tell us. From a database of Twitter traffic over four days they’ve produced some clear initial results. Here’s a sample:

  • there was far more Twitter traffic between people trying to stay away from the trouble than bringing people in
  • the peak traffic mostly came after key trouble, not before it, suggesting people were trying to communicate what was going on rather than to incite it
  • on the other hand, the Hackney trouble was preceded by a lot of traffic reporting stores closing and the build-up of police presence – but not inciting trouble
  • the highest Tweet peak was indeed aimed at coordinating people: but it was the day after the last major trouble, and brought people together to clean up

As the Guardian also points out, “… no politician would seek to switch off TV news or demand a newspaper blackout during a riot …”. This preliminary analysis suggests that switching off Twitter (and the other channels) would have been counter productive both in terms of the information being exchanged, and in public relations.

This is a brief summary and the paper promises further, deeper analysis of its database in the days to come. Social media advocates and sceptics alike should follow this for an example of good use of data and an accurate, research-based picture of reality. Watch the space.


The Guardian published these articles in the paper copy 25 August 2011 under the title Networks to stand firm over government calls for censorship. Online they are datelined 24 August.
• Twitter study casts doubts on ministers’ post-riots plan
• Twitter traffic during the riots, with interactive graphic (this may take some time to load/display)
• Riots database of 2.5m tweets reveals complex picture of interaction

More is available through the links in the sidebar to these stories, which have also been secondarily reported in other places.

Reprise: Apple after Jobs

Plenty of comment already about Steve Jobs stepping down as Apple CEO, and discussion of Tim Cook who takes over. We’ve been here before, of course, when Jobs left the company previously: after which it lost its way until he returned. The company’s in a lot stronger position now than it was then; and this departure has been well anticipated, and planned for, rather than being a boardroom coup.

Jobs hasn’t altogether disappeared; he takes over as Chairman. As well as the announcement in a press release, Apple have also published his (very brief) resignation letter recommending the existing succession plan be implemented.

Apple is sufficiently important these days that this made the headlines on the mainstream BBC news this morning. There’s a lot of comment out there already and, unsurprisingly, the share price is down. The BBC quote Gartner’s Van Baker to the effect that “Apple will do just fine”, though I haven’t been able to verify the quote (Van Baker is on the Gartner Blog Network, but hasn’t posted there since March this year).

In the Forrester Community, their JP Gownder has looked at the implications. His comment is for product strategists (that is, Apple’s competitors or those whose products are Apple-related). But it’s relevant to users: in brief, he considers that Apple’s competitive position isn’t going to become suddenly vulnerable (to Microsoft, Google, HP, HTC and so on) – nor will it for some time either. Apple has learned long term planning, he says, both for its people and for its product strategies. So don’t hold your breath; Tim Cook’s been running the show for months anyway.

Best wishes to Apple’s visionary; let’s see what happens next.

Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple, Apple Press Release, 24 Aug 2011
Letter from Steve Jobs, Apple, 24 Aug 2011
• Steve Jobs resigns as Apple CEO, Tim Cook takes the reins, Tech Republic, 24 Aug 2011
• Apple boss Steve Jobs to be replaced by Tim Cook, BBC News, 25 Aug 2011 (with other links)
• Steve Jobs resignation hits Apple shares in Frankfurt, BBC News, 25 Aug 2011
• What Steve Jobs’ Resignation Means For Product Strategists, JP Gownder, Forrester Blog (Consumer Product Strategy), 24 Aug 2011

Google needs content needs Google: listen to Eric Schmidt

Yesterday’s Guardian Media section has a spread trailing a lecture to be given to a media audience on Friday, by Eric Schmidt of Google, at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. The MacTaggart Lecture is sponsored by Media Guardian.

Mainly, the article’s an analysis of the interaction between Google (or search more widely) and the content providers, charting the way the relationship has developed.

Google isn’t a content provider and, largely, has been able to move on from the “copyright busting” image promoted by content providers who targetted both its search business and the range of clips from shows posted on YouTube (owned by Google, of course). Content ID helps: Google’s search capability is harnessed to identifying “pirated” material on YouTube, and providers can either have them removed, advertise against them, or capitalise on them in other ways. YouTube viewers are, after all, a self-generating fan club.

In more depth, the article reviews how the definition of “television” has changed: many people, and a lot of popular content, is now viewed online from archive rather than at the time of broadcast. The BBC’s iPlayer, and other channels’ similar services, facilitate this. And if you watch a commercial channel’s online replay, adverts that get interpolated into the stream. TV replay isn’t killing broadcast advertising; it’s facilitating it.

In the words of the article: “Google needs content creators in order to thrive. Good content drives search, and search drives advertising.” The lecture will be streamed live from 18.45 UK time on Friday: see the link below.

• ‘Google needs television industry’ will be message at Edinburgh, Media Guardian, 21 Aug 2011 (the printed copy Google: let’s make profits, not war was published 22 Aug)
• Dr. Eric Schmidt to deliver MacTaggart Lecture, Edinburgh International Television Festival. The list of past speakers is here.
• Relay of lecture, Friday 26 August, 18.45 BST; see http://www.youtube.com/user/mgeitf and click the link for the 2011 lecture (the link here is current, but may change)
• YouTube ContentID

Analyst Blog Index: Forrester index enhanced

Since the last review of the InformationSpan blog index, Forrester have significantly changed their approach to analyst blogs.

They’ve tidied up the structure of their aggregate blogs, which now closely follow the professional Roles used to categorise their research. Within each of the three broad categories (Information Technology, Marketing & Strategy, Technology Industry) there are a number of roles defined: 18 in all.

At least as importantly: the Forrester blog network is now based on blogs by individual named analysts. Previously, individuals only appeared as authors in the topic-related blogs. In response to this, InformationSpan has rebuilt our Index to Forrester blogs so that you can see a complete list of analysts who are blogging, with links to their blogs, their bios and the roll-up blogs for their coverage areas. So far as that goes, it’s similar to what we’ve always done for Gartner; we will also indicate changes to the list such as new analysts or blogs no longer active.

Forrester have done some smart stuff behind the scenes though. Contributions in each topic area are “rolled up”, so you can still review “the Forrester blog for XXX professionals”, in each of the 18 Role definitions, at the three category levels, and as a single roll-up (or should that be “Role-up”?) of all blogs. Alongside the 18 Role blogs, also, there are lists of the analysts contributing to each topic: so InformationSpan doesn’t provide analyst-name indexes in the topic areas, because we don’t need to (unlike the case for Gartner).

Similarly, we don’t provide a custom search for Forrester blogs. Again, we don’t need to, since Forrester’s site has the capability to do it.

Finally, we commend the Forrester Community which is an online discussion space linking analysts to the wider community. You don’t need a Forrester subscription to join the Community.

One negative change, though. We’ve removed all references to Forrester podcasts. Yes, you can still find some podcasts if you search the iTunes store. But no podcast directly published by Forrester (at least, so far as I’ve discovered) has had content added since mid-2010 and the Forrester podcast URL no longer exists. Some analysts do contribute to external podcasts, and iTunes will find these for you.

Along with this, the Gartner index has been updated but, apart from one or two changes in the analyst list, there’s little to report here. Gartner’s Blog homepage has always been an aggregate of the most recent blogs from the home community, much as Forrester’s is now.

Reviewing the Index is a work in progress. I intend to add a section for IDC, whose online Insights Community is a combination of blogs and discussion, and is worth exploring – though many of the categories relate to industry vertical sectors, so don’t blanket join everything! Watch this space, and keep an eye on the “last updated” dates on each existing page. Do let me know of any problems, but please make sure you’ve done a browser refresh first!

One other note. I find that the latest versions of Firefox don’t correctly back up the framed pages when you use the Back button; and Chrome reverts to the first-loaded version of a framed page. As a longer term project, I’m looking to simplify page structures. In the meantime, apologies!

• InformationSpan Analyst Blogs Index
• Forrester’s blogs homepage
• Forrester Community
• Gartner’s blogs homepage
IDC Insights Community