It’s so easy to get drawn in …

A friend recently posted on Facebook an observation that several friends had “Liked” a posting relating to the case of the war veteran who went missing from his Hove care home in order to attend the D-Day celebrations. What concerned my friend wasn’t the underlying story; it was that that the posting in question had been placed by an organisation which is an offshoot of the BNP. No, I’m not going to add to their publicity by naming it, but you can find some discussion by following the Costa Connected link below.

My friend has a strong antipathy to the message of spurious British-ness, not least because of having a marriage partner whose family were recent immigrants – from what used to be referred to with pride as a Commonwealth country. Having lived in east London for over twenty years, and enjoyed the variety and splendour of a multi-cultural society, so do I. But that’s not the point of this post.

The point is one I’ve made before: when one assesses a piece of content, especially online, be careful. Especially especially [read that carefully, it’s not a mistake] if one proposes to share or Like it. It’s important in serious or academic reporting, which is why ITasITis postings always look behind the news reports. Media often do little more than repeat the press release, or they contain unintentional inaccuracies. Go back to the original source, look for other independent reports of the work.

But this highlights that it’s equally important in the easy world of social media.

It’s so easy to Like a Facebook posting, especially now that FB drops a lot of things into your stream that have nothing to do with your friends. It’s easy to re-tweet something without really looking. But the organisation that made the initial post, in this case, gets to count those Likes and give itself an air of unwanted respectability.

Oh and incidentally: the media reports were way over hyped. It was made out that Bernard Jordan had had to “escape” from his care home. Yes, there are people who are diagnosed as EMI (Elderly and Mentally Incompetent) who have to be protected by not being told the code for the door to the outside world. But not in this case. What actually went on was that Mr Jordan was too late to join any of the organised travel parties. So he decided to make his own way. He simply forgot to tell the home he was going and, quite rightly, they got worried when they realised he’d disappeared. Thanks to media (social and conventional) he was quickly located, but there was no suggestion that he wasn’t then safe. BBC reporting, especially locally here, was more balanced: see the links. Escapade, yes: escape, no. Another case of going behind the high-profile headlines.

But to return to the main theme: Look carefully at what you’re Liking, and equally carefully at who.

• What It Really Means When You Like or Share Content from [name deleted], Costa Connected, 7 Jun 2014 (thanks to my Facebook friend for this link)
• Disappeared D-Day veteran back in UK, BBC News, 7 Jun 2014, featuring an interview with the Chief Exec of the care home
• Bernard Jordan: City honour for veteran’s ‘heroic escapade’, BBC News Sussex, 10 Jun 2014

Google gets Lively

Google’s recently launched its own virtual world: Lively. The announcement was posted on the Official Google Blog earlier this month. So I’m a little late in finding it, but that means that other blogs and commentators have covered the basics and we can dig a little.

What is it? It’s not by some distance a full competitor to Second Life. Instead it’s aimed to be simple to get into, and relatively easy to use. It’s a 3-D representation of a string of chat rooms, not a full virtual world. You can create your own real estate, but it’s limited to a room. There aren’t all that many things you can customise. And at most 20 people can be in a room at once: no IBM WorldJams here!

Gartner believe it’s aimed at Facebook and MySpace, not SecondLife; and you can (for the moment at least) read Gartner’s admittedly brief comment in full on the website, even without an account. There’s a key thing that they highlight, which is that Lively rooms can be embedded in other websites and blogs. You can’t do that with SecondLife. The gadgets you create in your Lively room can also run on your desktop, Google say. You can’t do that with SecondLife, either.

As Gartner say, it breaks little new ground in virtual world technology. It’s based, at least partly, on research carried out at Arizona State University, but reading between the lines it looks as if this research was into the social side (what will attract users?) rather than the technology.

Forrester cover Lively in more detail (but you’ll need an account). They broadly agree with the points above, that it’s “aiming for a more mainstream, social, and multiapplication audience” – it’s more “Small World” than SecondLife, and its ties to other social networking tools (including Facebook and, of course, the Open Social platform) are important. Forrester’s coverage is aimed mainly at consumer marketing people, and they list a number of markers to track over the coming months to aid decision making.

What is clear is that Lively is designed specifically not to be self contained. It’s going to encourage movement to and from the standard desktop, integrating Lively into all sorts of other things people already do. And there’s one possibility which this raises, which I haven’t seen anyone comment on.

This feature just might turn out to be one to take virtual worlds into the everyday enterprise as well as the consumer arena. If it’s easy to embed a virtual room in, say, an internal meeting database then global companies might finally see the value.

Be who you want on the web pages you visit (official Google blog)
Facebook Is the Real Target of Google’s Virtual World (Gartner, 10 July 2008 )
Lively: Google Enters The Virtual Worlds Space (Forrester Research, 15 Jul 2008 )

There’s a ton of commentary on the web. Just put “Google Lively” into Google!