Australian media misleads on social computing | acidlabs
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Australian media misleads on social computing

Australian media misleads on social computing

There’s been quite the Twitter and blogosphere conversation about this article in the News Limited papers today on employees wasting time using Facebook (and by inference other social computing tools).

It annoyed me so much, I was compelled to comment on the article on the News website. I was a (fairly lonely) voice of dissent amongst the “fire the Facebook users” comments.

It bugs me no end that the Australian media represent social computing use in a business context (no, actually, social computing generally) in such a negative way. As my peer, Laurel Papworth says on her reaction to the story:

They HATE us. With a passion. Every article about blogs, wikis, Facebook, MySpace and social networks is one about stalkers, paedophiles, time-wasters at work, mis-information, and- God help us – poor grammar/spellingz? Am I missing any other reasons to hate collaborative content? And it’s working – either Web 2.0 technology is belittled as in “ha ha you blog? That’s so funny” or we get Orwellian tones of doom “go on Facebook and you will lose your job, be stalked and be addicted, all by lunch time”.

I couldn’t have said it any better.

The problem is that social computing, as reported in the Australian media is just wrong.

They almost never seek out an active, successful social computing user. They certainly don’t talk to social computing strategists like Laurel and me. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a story in the Australian media about successful , real-world business-centric implementations of social computing tools.

Consequently, the Australian public and business are being fairly significantly misled on the tangible, measurable and real benefits a well-crafted, appropriate social computing strategy can have in business and the personal benefits it can offer people – from doing their job better, to connecting to professional networks, to finding long lost school friends.

I have no argument that there are probably a good percentage of social computing users wasting time at work on Facebook, but you know what, that’s a management issue (so I believe) from a few angles:

  • if these people are wasting time rather that getting their work done, they’d find a way to do so whether or not they were using Facebook, MySpace or whatever;
  • are these people in fact, underutilised? Do they have enough work to do? And therefore, is it actually a problem of management ability to distribute work rather than individuals goofing off?
  • are they using social tools to actually get something done that their employer doesn’t facilitate as identified in the recent Katzenbach Partners report The Informal Organization or using a non-approved tool because their employer doesn’t provide the necessary tools as reported by Yankee Group in their report Zen and the Art of Rogue Employee Management?

Just once, I’d love a journalist talking about social computing to call me and ask a few questions. I’d be more than happy to give them my time and clear up a few misconceptions.

Stephen Collins
No Comments
  • Nick Hodge
    Posted at 13:24h, 20 August Reply

    Substitute “Facebook” for newspaper (and I’ve lost count home many hours I’ve wasted reading a newspaper at work); and “SurfControl” with “papershredding company”… funny how it may sound…

  • Steven Lewis
    Posted at 13:34h, 20 August Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    It’s good that Laurel’s built Bloggerati so at least we can keep all these nonsense stories. That way next time a journalist calls we can hold up the mirror and say, “Look at these. Is this what you’re wanting to write? If so, copy-and-paste from this but do give credit to social media for helping you find the mother lode of rubbish.”

  • Brad
    Posted at 13:58h, 20 August Reply


    Yep – you’ve pretty much nailed it. The trad journalist types hate social computing and social media because, like the wheelwright, they will increasingly be left behind as audiences fracture into multi-information gathering networks.

    I also liked the comment from Nick about newspapers (add commercial television news broadcasts as well) – now they really are a waste of time!

  • Laurel Papworth
    Posted at 14:19h, 20 August Reply

    I remember when the office phone was for business purposes only. I think you rang the operator and left a billing code before they connected you. No I’m not that old – I just worked for some real old fashioned companies. Now they were the good ol’ days 😛

    Lets ban Facebook – and then spend a fortune on team building weekends. After all we want our staff to be a team but it has to be under OUR control, and OUR social tools. 😛

  • Laurel Papworth
    Posted at 15:26h, 20 August Reply

    Oh and a stupid question – how can that article be by both Dina Rosendorff (News) and Andrew thingummyjig from SMH? Are they both just mashing up a Press Release/Ad from SurfControl?

  • barry.b
    Posted at 15:47h, 20 August Reply

    It’s funny that there’s also horses for courses. I’ve set up a twitter account but after doing so will let it fade away. I don’t need George Orwells’ “Big Brother” to know about me every minute of the day. My friend who evangelises for Microsoft however, uses Twitter heavily, showing an inside view and just how much hard work he actually does behind the scenes.

    I’ll be taking up blogging again after a huge hiatus because I can now use it for a new job (I’ve set a condition of employment to allow me to do so). I’ll be pushing the boundaries of education and the new web and a bit of a higher profile on what we’re doing – and why – certainly won’t hurt.

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  • Jason Preston
    Posted at 08:15h, 21 August Reply

    So if I were the Australian media I’d be required to point out that it’s “Laurel and I” – OMG bad grammrz! 😉

    Fortunately I think that given a little bit of time, businesses will realize, media coverage or not, that they can earn some real benefits from spending time in social networks and social media.

    Thanks for pointing me to your posts!

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 08:57h, 21 August Reply

    @Jason – thanks for the comment.

    As for the grammar, modern language rules (as opposed to the archaic ones I was taught in school in the 70’s and 80’s) suggest the me/I rule is now “Say the sentence with the other person’s name and the word and removed. If the sentence makes sense with I, use it. If the sentence makes sense with me, use it.”

    So, my sentence makes sense using “me” rather than “I” and “me” it is. 😉

  • Des Walsh
    Posted at 10:00h, 21 August Reply

    You are spot on, Stephen. Sadly, this “story” is poisoned at the source, the outrageous bit of extrapolation by “SurfControl” (now there’s an interesting brand for the New Nanny Society). The underlying issues, as raised by you and Laurel, are far more important to the nation’s business – and government – than whether or not Kev went to a strip joint with a News Ltd exec and how much or little he can remember of it. But in the glorious tradition of the Australian media the non-story gets the airtime and the column inches, ad nauseam.

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  • Fabrizio
    Posted at 20:08h, 05 June Reply

    Looking at it from a business management perspective, the real problem is not exactly social media, newspaper, tv, mobile phones or anything else that people use to shirk at work. As a general rule, if you can assess performance, these things should not be an issue; targets met, rewards follow. Targets consistently below expectation, well.. you lost your job!
    If no performance measure is suitable for a specific team or role, I’m afraid a certain level of restriction is indeed necessary, as people will behave like irresponsible children more often that we imagine and it is just not economically viable to have managers baby-sitting them…

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