We need to build a new social contract for the digital age | Kevin Keith

We are conditioned to view data as a threat, but it can be the opposite, if all parties understand the deal into which they are entering “Raise your hands if you trust Facebook, if you trust Google, if you trust government.” It was spring 2017, and I was leading a debate with young people in Canberra. “Has anybody heard of Cambridge Analytica?” Heads shook

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Beware the smart toaster: 18 tips for surviving the surveillance age

We’ve come a long way since the web was just a fun place to share cat gifs – now it’s a place mostly dedicated to finding and selling your personal info. Here’s what you need to know in this new eraOn the internet, the adage goes, nobody knows you’re a dog. That joke is only 15 years old, but seems as if it is from an entirely different era

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13 things Apple should automate after driverless cars

Tim Cook has called autonomous systems ‘the mother of all AI projects’. So here are the things we’d most like done for us by robotsApple is working on a self-driving car, but according to chief executive Tim Cook, “autonomy is sort of the mother of all AI projects” and that “a vehicle is only one” use for autonomous systems, which got us thinking: what other things would we want automated?Cook made the comments during an earnings call last night, and said that Apple was “very focused on autonomous systems from a core technology point of view” and that the company does “have large project going, and [it is] making a big investment in this”. Continue reading

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New opportunities, new challenges

As I look back over the past 15+ years I have been working within the Internet space, I never could have predicted the changes that have come about as a result of this amazing technology. From the first early days of just trying to get connected using SLIP/PPP, to the birth of multimedia content and now the rise of the social web, I feel really blessed to have contributed, even in small way, to how the Internet has changed the world.

Over that time, I have learned a ton! From innovative product and service concepts, to how brands are engaging customers, the pace of change has been incredibly invigorating. In my practice, I have focused on Customer Experience and Innovation with a particular emphasis on the social web. I’ve tried to delve into not only social media tools, but how attitudes have changed within companies as they look at how their business fundamentally interacts with their customers.

I began my company with the goal of “bringing companies closer to customers.” And I like to think that I’ve been able to do that by understanding our clients’ objectives and constructing solutions that help them more effectively interact with their internal and external stakeholders.

But what do you do when you are given a fantastic opportunity to work with a terrifically talented and hard-working team at a great company? As hard as it is to leave what I am doing now, I feel the time is right for me to join the Corporate Development team at LoyaltyOne (AirMiles). This move makes perfect sense for me at this time; I don’t feel that I am leaving anything behind because I am taking all the skills and resources I’ve developed and applying them to a new set of challenges.

At this stage, I won’t be taking on additional clients or projects, but I will, of course, remain engaged in this industry and involved in all the pioneering groups that continue to move it forward. And, I promise to continue to learn and contribute with everyone who has made this medium the great, ongoing experiment in communication and interaction.

Trending Terms on Twitter – Technorati

When news organizations try to bring breaking stories to their viewers as fast as possible, Twitter (and especially the “trending terms”) can give reporters and idea of what is happening in real-time. But do these terms really reflect what users are posting?

Take a look at the rest of the post on Technorati and let me know what you think!

Are governments interacting with citizens?

For many, getting information about government services is akin to trying to find a needle in a haystack.

But recently government departments have been using social media in different ways to bring services and information to citizens. But are they moving fast enough?

[Here is the original post on PCWorld, and reproduced below]



At various times in our lives we have to interact with the civil service. Whether it’s tax time, finding out about local services or even paying parking tickets, what used to be a painful experience is gradually growing to be more comfortable as various levels of government embrace social technologies to connect civil servants with their constituents who are thirsty for information.

At all levels of government, public servants are interacting with citizens using new and innovative technologies. Some of them you’ve no doubt heard of before, such as Facebook and Twitter, but you might not be familiar with others such as wikis and open data.

So how does one connect with the Federal government? The Servicecanada portal is an established means, but there is more to discover. Say, for instance, you want to find out about working in Canada. You can go to the “Working in Canada” Facebook page, where you will find the group’s mission statement, links and other information. You can also become a fan and post to the wall connecting with other users and the civil servants in the department.

For those working inside the federal government, GCPEDIA is the wiki for the employees of the Government of Canada. A wiki is defined (by Wikipedia.org!) as: “… a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser.”

Unfortunately GCPEDIA is only accessible on the Government of Canada network so for those outside, you could try another route for up-to-date information: follow the several government departments on Twitter. For example, Health Canada has an active Twitter account posting brief messages and links about its programs and issues of interest to citizens.

Health Canada Twitter account

Another way to connect to government departments is the video sharing site YouTube. Even the Canada Revenue Agency has videos posted to YouTube for a contest it ran recently on how the Underground Economy is a bad thing for the country!

Not to be outdone by the feds, at the provincial level, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, has his own YouTube channel where viewers can view and comment on videos of the Premier giving speeches or cutting ribbons at various functions.

Various cities across the country are taking interesting approaches to using social media to keep citizens up-to-date on information at the municipal level. From Twitter accounts for council members to blogs authored by politicians, all sorts of initiatives are available to citizens. Vancouver recently made selected municipal data available in a project called “Open Data” to outside developers so they could create applications (like the location of all water fountains in the city) that city workers likely don’t have time, initiative or funding to do. Rumour has it that Toronto’s soon to follow suit.

The movement towards social media and open data is an important one. Citizens world-wide are looking to their governments to become more transparent. Increasing ways they communicate and making data available are critical steps to this goal and go a long way towards quenching citizens’ thirst for information.

Socially yours,

Jeffrey Veffer
Twitter: @jeffreyveffer

Politicians using social media

During a recent by-election in my neighborhood, I started following one of the candidates to see if indeed they were really trying to engage their followers. But since the election, I haven’t seen any posts at all!

I’m thinking about the recent rise of social media use by politicians and I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?

Here is a link to the orginal post on PCWorld- and reproduced below.



After seeing some tweets by a candidate in a recent provincial by-election in my neighbourhood, I pondered the recent rise of social media use by politicians. I wonder if the candidates’ use of social media was just to win the election or were they just trying to use something during the election that’s “new and cool” to convince voters that they are keeping up with the times?

Since the rise of mass electronic media in the last century, politicians have been trying out new technologies to communicate their messages to voters. In the early 1960s politicians were looking to the relatively new medium of television as the next big thing to connect with voters. The first televised presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy attracted enormous publicity and would prove to be a turning point in the 1960 presidential election.

At the time, the Kennedy team knew that America was tired of the same old politicians and the team wanted to harness the relatively new medium of TV to portray Kennedy as a young, dashing politician in contrast to the more conservative Nixon. In the first debate Nixon argued his points clearly, but didn’t look as composed and relaxed on screen as Kennedy. To highlight the difference the new medium made to the results of the first debate, those watching on TV said that Kennedy won the debate and those listening on radio gave the win to Nixon.

More recently in the 2008 Presidential Race, Team Obama used social media very effectively to convert online donations into voters and channel online enthusiasm to effective on-the-ground support.

For example, in February 2008, Barack Obama did not attend any conventional campaign fundraisers. Despite that, he raised $55M in 29 days through the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. During the same period, McCain raised $11M through conventional fundraisers.

But what about after the election? Was Obama’s use of social media just to win the vote? In the case of Obama, the use of Twitter for example has continued post-election with the image below showing a recent tweet.


Closer to home, Toronto Mayor David Miller is certainly an ardent “twitterer'” using it to interact with city residents on a variety of topics from city council to Toronto FC soccer club matches.

When used authentically, social media can help politicians get their message across to motivate voters. But savvy politicians need to know that in order to retain credibility with their constituents they have to be willing to put in the time to continue to connect with their followers; if not, they run the risk of being thought of as jumping on the “new technology” bandwagon, and damaging their image and reducing their credibility.

Socially yours,

Jeffrey Veffer
Twitter: @jeffreyveffer

Social media and kindergarten

I’m now doing some writing for PCWorld on social media and to celebrate back to school, I’ve titled the first one, “All I need to know (about social media) I learned in kindergarten.

Here is the post, reproduced below.


SocMediaTagcloudAs I sip my morning coffee and look out the window to see children trooping off to school for the first time, I remember back (way back) to my years in kindergarten. When I look around at applications like Facebook and Twitter, I realize that what I learned back then is relevant to how we communicate today using Social Media. Because using Social Media – where we have fun with friends while communicating – is a lot like what we were taught back then. Things like sharing, fairness, and watching what you say and do.

Here is a sample of the rules I learned back then, and how they apply today.

Share – How many times have we heard this one? Social media is built on relationships and you have to give something to get something back in return. As happily married couples tell us, real relationships are built by sharing thoughts, opinions and information; sharing will always benefit you.

Play fair – This one is self explanatory. Unlike the recent feud between Perez Hilton (@PerezHilton) and Demi Moore (@mrskutcher), most of us appreciate courtesy and the golden rule will go along way to building your reputation as someone people can trust.

When you go out in the world, watch for traffic and hold hands – Be careful what you post online. As US President Barack Obama told schoolchildren in his internet address recently, “I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. That’s number one.”

So the next time you click the “Update” button on your next post perhaps it’s a good idea to think about what we were taught in the classroom. Milk and cookies won’t solve all of life’s problems but a little sharing can go a long way.

Please share your thoughts on this or any other post!

Socially yours,

Jeffrey Veffer
Twitter: @jeffreyveffer

Digital Life- Google and statistics


Google recently launched its Internet Stats site which brings together information from across five different industry groups and serves it up in bite sized, Twitter-like pieces for easy consumption. It by no means is a fully comprehensive look at all the statistics out there it does provide an interesting set of seemingly separate chunks of information.

That got me thinking – what if I could take some stats and try to build a story around them and set them to music? So here is the first draft of what that looks like.

Siri (a Semantic) application launches

As mentioned in this video at SemTech Siri is a Virtual Personal Assistant that is launching soon (in the US only :<) that really picks up on the “Knowledge Navigator” video that Apple produced 20 years ago! Twenty years may not seem like much, but in 1987, Michael Jackson was still the King of Pop (he just released the album BAD), and the President was Ronald Regan. A lot has happened since then in the technology space but we are still not quite where this video would have us believe is the future of human computer interaction. (If you haven’t seen the original I encourage you to take a look at it.)

What Siri tries to do is make an interface that is as natural as talking with gestures that correspond to how you’d want to communicate not to suit the demands of a QWERTY interface or a desk-bound mouse. As Tom Gruber mentions the vision that Apple put forward in their video anticipated many of the technologies we are seeing today. It knows who is in your social network, it knows time (and the interconnection of events) and there was continuous speech recognition which is a bit different than voice commands. This is where the computer knows the context of what is being said and can “intuit” what is meant by the context, something that today’s systems still have trouble with.

But the big question which everyone wants to know remains: “Is the vision of Apple’s Knowledge Navigator here today?” Tom answers, “Unfortunately No. (But we’re getting there)” This highlights the promise (and reality) of Web 3.0 (or the Semantic Web, or Information Simplicity or…) It is really difficult to do all of these things that we take for granted in our daily lives interacting with other human beings. It takes children years to learn social cues, knowledge, basics on living in their environment and current systems are far from the complexity of the human brain.

But we do have some interfaces that point towards an easier way of interacting (besides the keyboard!)  The iPhone multi-touch interface is one approach. Voice-based applications are another, but as I’ve written about before, its not just voice which will be the silver bullet to all our interface problems. As with other problems, there are a multitude of different interfaces we use without thinking (voice, vision, touch etc.) that help us understand the world around us. We have for the past 20 years, confined ourselves to one or two of these because that was the simplest way that we could get information into the cloud and interact. Now we really need to put the multi-dimensional aspect back in to fully experience the richness of information.

(PS Siri looks really cool and I wish it were available now!)