Friday, December 21, 2012

Free, open and smart

I’m a strong advocate of a free and open Internet, and for Creative Commons as the best alternative to the stranglehold of media conglomerates. Together, the two provide the best options for collaboration, creativity and free expression. But some just don’t get it.

Today I wanted to post a fundraising video related to Creative Commons. The code was bloated and if used as provided would have taken up the visual space usually given to an entire blog post. I’m not an HTML coder, but I tried what I knew to fix the issues, to no avail. So, the video isn’t posted and the fundraising project gets no publicity on this blog.

The point isn’t really that organisation’s hapless social media integration, but, rather, the fact that this is a common failing. Non-profits and corporations alike just don’t seem to grasp how best to use social media, which is astounding, considering it’s so bloody easy.

So, here are a few tips for the clearly incompetent:

First, videos: All videos should be embeddable with simple code. Look at the code YouTube provides to embed video and if yours is longer, it’s total rubbish. SIMPLE is what counts—no padding, no weird borders, shadows or framing, no stupid text links to what’s already in the video—just simple, clear code that can be scaled to fit the available space (again, like YouTube does).

Next, Twitter posts should be as short as possible so one can add comments. I often skip re-tweeting an interesting Tweet because it’s too long to add my own comment, even when I delete extraneous hashtags. Shorter is better.

Hardly any group gets Facebook (or Google+) right, either: It should be easy to share without a lot of added nonsense (the preview almost always provides some of the text, so why add that to the auto-generated Facebook post?

And finally, sites should have clear and obvious re-use/licensing policies. It’s shocking how many sites, mainstream and, especially, non-profit, don’t make it clear what can be used under what circumstances.

This little rant was inspired by a good fundraising effort for a good cause that was ruined because the group couldn’t even get the simplest things right. Groups—and businesses—really need to ask themselves whether they want to be shared, spread and talked about or ignored. Getting social networks right is shockingly easy—and so often done wrong. The choice should be easy.

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