Twitter use in the US is up across all age groups

161540A recent study from Pew’s Internet and the American Life project shows that Twitter usage has risen across all age groups. A full 72% of all American adults now use at least one social network and for Twitter that number is 18%.

White House ups threshold for new petitions

thCAV2WOJYThe White House has increased the threshold for response for all new “We the people” online petitions. You’ll now need 100,000 rather than 25,000 signatures.

While I think that it’s shitty that they’re quadrupling the numbers needed to get a guaranteed response I really can’t say I blame them. Between deporting Pierce Morgan, building a Death Star, and building the Enterprise, there are a lot of people abusing the system just for lulz. Now, that’s probably not the only reason they’re doing it. It also helps them avoid answering some awkward questions too.

You can argue that the White House was never going to take any of these petitions seriously (or at least the ones that weren’t convenient) but that doesn’t mean that we have to treat them that way. It’s easier to ignore all of these as a joke when the joke ones get so much attention.

One more look at Obama’s email fundraising campaign

Obama’s email fundraising campaign raised somewhere in the ballpark of $630 million. This was done through some pretty extensive a/b testing to figure out exactly which subject lines, text, and donation pages would produce the best results. That’s not exactly news in this post-election world.

What is interesting however is that Kyle Rush, a front-end web developer for the campaign, wrote a post detailing the behind the scenes of building the donation pages and what exactly was involved in the a/b testing. I doubt any of us will have to work on a platform of that scale any time soon but there are some good lessons in there none the less.

Google reports a 70% spike in censorship requests

Google is reporting that there were 1,791 requests by governments to take down content from search results in the first half of 2012; a 70% increase. The top 2 offending countries were Turkey with 501 requests and the US with 273.

via topsecretwriters

Tumblr subverts the media

So David Petraeus, former CIA head honcho, slept with someone who wasn’t his wife. For some reason, which is beyond me, this has become a big scandal. I still can’t sort it out despite having a giant flow chart.

Needless to say that there are other things happening in the world that may be a little more newsworthy. Then along came petraeusaffair.tumblr.com. It juxtaposes photos of other news stories that aren’t getting as much attention with headlines associated with the Petraeus case.

Petraeus Affair: Spouses to Stay, For Now – ABC News

I love this type of stuff.

Firing Big Bird

So last night was the first of the 2012 US presidential debates. Either Romney won handily or Obama gave him enough rope to hang himself. Depends who you listen too. One thing is clear though, you don’t fuck with Big Bird.

During the debate Mitt Romney brought up the fact that he wanted to cut funding to PBS. Now, this is bullshit for a number of reasons but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. Romney’s big mistake when talking about PBS was to mention that the cuts would effect Sesame Street and everyone’s favorite 7 foot tall anthropomorphic yellow bird.

Needless to say, this pissed off a lot of people who grew up with Big Bird (namely anyone born after 1969). The debate last night was the most tweeted about event in US political history and there were 17,000 tweets per minute about Big Bird.

So what can we learn from this? Well first of all don’t attack beloved and iconic characters. On a more practical note, something that is always stressed as a way to garner attention on social media is to be topical. This, assuming you can spin it to your cause, is a great opportunity to tap into the zeitgeist.

So far I’ve seen two groups jump on. First of all is PBS themselves. The Sesame Street Twitter account tweeted

Which was followed by the PBS account tweeting

which included a link to their fundraising site. They also bought the ad phrase Big Bird with the 2nd tweet so that anyone who searched for Big Bird was greeted with the message.

Aside from those involved I also saw Rainforest Action Network using absurdity of the situation to highlight the lack of any mention of climate change. This picture was originally posted by Forecast the Facts who, from a quick glance haven’t had anything even close to this big on Facebook before.

FTF’s post was shared 1,431 times as I’m writing this. All their other posts, at a glance, have been shared somewhere in the single digits or thereabouts. Not too shabby.

Facebook and peer pressure team up to increase voter turnout

via UCSD News Center

A new study published in Nature shows, perhaps unsurprisingly, that online peer pressure can influence people’s actions, sometimes in positive ways. The large scale experiment, performed during the US’ 2010 midterm elections, exposed 60 million people to a non-partisan “get out the vote” message.

The message featured a reminder that “Today is Election Day”; a clickable “I Voted” button; a link to local polling places; a counter displaying how many Facebook users had already reported voting; and up to six profile pictures of users’ own Facebook friends who had reported voting.

Of the 60 million who saw the post, 600,000 were randomly selected to have their friends appear in the display of profile pictures.

They estimate that of the 600,000 people who saw the message a total of 60,000 were influenced to vote who otherwise wouldn’t have. They also argue that these 60,000 people had a knock on effect causing another 280,000 people to turn up at the ballot box. More than a third of a million people all together. Not bad.

“The main driver of behavior change is not the message – it’s the vast social network. Whether we want to get out the vote or improve public health, we should not only focus on the direct effect of an intervention, but also on the indirect effect as it spreads from person to person to person.”

Pew: Politics on Social Networking Sites

Pew’s Internet and the American Life Project has just released their latest report, Politics on Social Networking Sites. Here are 5 findings (provided without context):

  1. More than a third of social network users say that social networks are important to them in keeping up with politics.
  2. Democrats feel that social networks are more important to politics than either Republicans or independents.
  3. The more politically engaged you are the more you likely you are to feel affected, politically, by social networks.
  4. Minorities and youth see a greater impact from social networks.
  5. Liberals are significantly more likely to become more active in an issue after seeing a post about it on a social network.

 

Facebook likes organ donation

Yesterday morning Facebook announced that they were adding organ donor preferences to people’s profiles. In their press release they say:

Today, more than 114,000 people in the United States, and millions more around the globe, are waiting for the heart, kidney or liver transplant that will save their lives. Many of those people – an average of 18 people per day – will die waiting, because there simply aren’t enough organ donors to meet the need. Medical experts believe that broader awareness about organ donation could go a long way toward solving this crisis. And we believe that by simply telling people that you’re an organ donor, the power of sharing and connection can play an important role.

Like a lot of people I thought that the hype surrounding this move – which, don’t get me wrong,  is welcome – was a tad over the top. That is until I saw this story. Apparently California’s organ donor registry has seen an 800% spike in sign-ups today. Any way you slice it, whether it was caused directly or just by getting organ donation in the news, Facebook is responsible.

Consider me humbled and be sure to check your cynicism at the door.