Monthly Archives: July 2009

Tenant sued for defamation by landlord

A tenant who used the micro-blogging service Twitter to complain about mould in her Chicago apartment is being sued.

Horizon Group Management filed a lawsuit that has accused Amanda Bonnen of defaming the company with her tweet.

She sent out a message that said “Who said sleeping in a mouldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon really thinks it’s okay.”

“The statements are obviously false, and it’s our intention to prove that,” said Horizon’s Jeffrey Michael.

Mr Michael, whose family has run the company for the last quarter of a century, told the Chicago Sun-Times that while Ms Bonnen recently moved out, he never had a conversation about the post and never asked her to take it down.

“We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organisation,” Mr Michael told the paper.


While, the landlord here might be entitled to sue for defamation, but people in perceived positions of power need to learn to modulate their legal responses in online conflicts to be appropriate for the online environment.

If the plaintiff and defendant are both online operations (or individuals) and the alleged wrong happens online, a real-world style response, however legitimate it might be, will be seen as heavy-handed and, in that situation at least, the defendant’s online community has the ability to respond to the plaintiff online or otherwise make their life difficult.

Here, the plaintiff is offline, but the defendant and the alleged defamation are both online, and on a platform that is made to spread information. The landlord here should at the very least make an initial gesture that can’t be described as anti-social. Instead, this landlord is acting the definition of anti-social: sue first, talk later.

BlackBerry Fail on Bell Canada

BlackBerry Smartphone Combo plans are great for: n/a


Active Listening on the Social Web

If a brand’s ultimate goal is not just to know more but to actually have a positive impact on its relationships with consumers, that can only be accomplished by demonstrating through its actions that it’s been listening.

In other words, the only thing that really matters is what you do after you’ve listened. Problem is, there are a lot of engagements underway that begin and end with listening.

That’s because listening provides brands with a safe introduction into the social world. It feels like a controllable way to dip a toe in the water. Unless listening is turned into action, these exercises become the last thing anyone needs: another monthly meeting to review a deck.

So here are some suggestions to consider for developing an active approach to listening, one that makes listening both necessary and sufficient.


This is a very insightful approach to branding and marketing strategies using social media. I especially like the suggestion to send a public tweet summarizing private conversations that may be valuable to others. That’s a valuable asset that sidestepped the public (and searchable) value of the medium, so it’s important to bring it back in.

The Canadian Privacy Commission’s Twitter experiment

The Office of the PrivacyCommission of Canada has been on Twitter since April, but today announcesa more deliberate approach to their use of the service. Citing thepopularity of hashtags that indicate Twitter users have similarconcerns to the Commission, like #privacy, #dpi, #dhsprivacy, and#crtc, they are turning to their own Twitter identity, @PrivacyPrivee, to engagethis community:


But how does an Office like ours represent itselfwell in such a fast moving medium? We’re advocates, but we also havelegislated responsibilities. We are interested in a wide range ofissues and policies, but recognize that there may be more authoritativevoices than ours.

This brings us back to @privacyprivee. We’re still learning how to useTwitter. We’re trying to find a voice for the Office on Twitter that isreliable, authoritative AND respects government policies. We recognizethat the tool is extremely useful, and that we should be using it moreeffectively. This will take some time. I thank you for your patience aswe find this voice.

Read more on the OPC’sblog.

Canadian copyright consultation will begin Monday!

Michael Geist is reporting today that the Canadian government will launch copyright consultations on Monday that will include online discussion forums:

The Government of Canada has committed to modernizing Canada???s copyright laws, to provide meaningful rights for creators and promote the use of digital technology by its citizens.  We are consulting to ensure that all perspectives are taken into account in an open and transparent process, to help deliver new legislation in the Fall that is forward-looking, reflects Canadian values, and strengthens Canada???s ability to compete in the global digital economy.

It will be critical to have involvement from content users and innovative, creative thinkers so we have balance in the Bill that comes out of this process.

Radiohead manager building on Radiohead strategy with new artist-centric music label

Radiohead manager Brian Message has launched a new record label, Polyphonic, which will allow artists to keep their copyright.

Although specifics details have not been released, the new company’s policies look set to place emphasis on the digital distribution of music and may see release plans similar to Radiohead‘s 2007 album ‘In Rainbows’, which fans could choose how much to pay for when downloading it.


Medical Data Breach Analysis tool now available

Khaled El Emam is anuber-Prof and Canada Research Chair in Electronic Health Information atthe University of Ottawaspecializing in privacy of electronic health information andtechnologies for de-identification of personal health information.

Today, Khaled’s research group is releasing a beta version of their medical data breachanalyzer tool. This is especially timely in light of yesterday’snews of a data breach involvingthousands of electronic health records in Alberta.

 We have just deployed a version (beta) of ourmedical data breach analyzer tool. This provides a dynamicdashboard to view medical breaches over the last few years. The toolcurrently allows you to view breach trends over time categorized bymethod and type of breach. It is available hereand you get to it from our main web page as well. There is moreinformation about the data source, data quality, etc. in the help file.

Some interesting observations on medical data breaches from January2007 to June 2009: (a) there were 183 reported breaches at medicalorganizations (from hospitals to health insurance claims processors)affecting ~6.6 million records, (b) the vast majority were caused byoutsiders (131 breaches and ~6 million records), and (c) the majorityof these were caused by theft (97 breaches and ~5 million records) andmany of these thefts were due to stolen laptops (59 breaches and ~2million records). Also, 43 of all the medical breaches (~23.5%) are dueto insiders.

Lessons learned from the Beers for Canada fundraising campaign

Beth Kanter has aterrific blog that helps not-for-profits learn to use social media. Following Visible Government’s Beersfor Canada campaign last week, Alistair Croll has a valuable follow-upguest post on Beth’s blog reviewing the campaign and consideringwhat we did right, and what we learned for next time. It includes goodadvice for anybody running a similar campaign, whether it’s for profitor not:

Last week, wehelped out our friends at VisibleGovernment with their Beers forCanada campaign. In theend, thecampaign raised just over $1,000 in twodays; donations will help open government data to citizens and promotetransparency in public offices. We learned a lot about what did anddidn’t work, and in the interests of transparency, we thought we’dshare some of the lessons we learned along the way (and see if we cancollect some ideas for next time.)

Howit worked

Beers for Canada donation pageA week before Canada Day (July 1) we built and testeda simple site that encouraged donors to “buy their country a beer” —basically making a donation. We told a few key bloggers and Twitterpersonalities about it beforehand; then, on June 30, we started talkingabout it online. We continued to mention it, and amplified what otherswere saying, until midday on July 2.

From the outset,this was a short-term campaign built around a single day. We did thisto give it urgency and purpose. We chose to start talking on June 30because so many people were out the office (and away from theircomputers) on the holiday itself. But it’s important to realize thedifferences between a short-term campaign (minimal upfront work, strongword of mouth, modest goals, and real-time virality through Twitter)and a longer one. The timeframe also meant that most blog coverage onlyhit on July 1st (and thanks to all the bloggers who covered us!)

What worked? Whatdidn’t? What would we have changed? Here’s a quick list

Read more on Beth’sBlog.

How will United Airlines respond to getting pwned by songwriter?

Musician Dave Carroll was traveling on United Airlines when his guitar was severely damaged by baggage handlers. His efforts over nine months to get compensation from the airline having failed, he is turning to the internet and his songwriting to shame the company instead. His pledge: three songs and videos about his experience to be released online. His first is out now, called “United Breaks Guitars“:

Interestingly, by launching this campaign against United, Dave is updating a similar campaign against the now defunct Republic Airlines by folk legend Tom Paxton. Back in 1984 or ’85, if memory serves (and this is the first time in a while that the internet fails me for this type of fact), Paxton played at the Northwind Folk Festival on Centre Island in Toronto. I was about 11 years old and getting ready to go to summer camp in Wisconsin. I was flying Republic Airlines and planning to bring my guitar, so it made a strong impression on me when Paxton performed his song Thank You, Republic Airlines, which retells a similar story:


Thank you Republic Airlines
What a joy to a musician you are
What a zest you’ve added to pedestrian skies
It was boring to be flying where the wild goose flies
But the tedium was broken by your wonderful surprise
when you broke the neck on my guitar


Paxton’s song ends with these prophetic words: “There could no satisfaction greater than if / you should be the next to go the way of Braniff.” [Braniff International Airways having gone bankrupt in 1982] Sure enough, Republic Airlines was purchased in 1986 by Northwest Orient to become Northwest Airlines (which merged with Delta last year). Paxton’s song was played on the Dr. Demento Show on September 28, 1986, certainly as a tribute to the merger which was to be completed later that week. Thank You, Republic Airlines appears on Paxton’s album One Million Lawyers and Other Disasters.

I like that Dave Carroll pledged three songs, not just one. That gives United time either to squirm or to respond. I gave a talk last week at the OCRI Entrepreneurship Centre in Ottawa about how social media requires companies to rethink their traditional legal strategies, and this situation might be a perfect example of that. Dave’s campaign is a new type of customer activism that involves his audience in his difficulty with the airline. When we watch/tweet/blog/forward his video, we become invested in his experience with the company. United needs to recognize that involvement and fashion a response that addresses it.

In my presentation, I talked about three possible responses to a situation like this. The first possible response is a traditional, conservative, black letter law response, or even an overreaching legal response — maybe United threatens to sue Dave Carroll for trade-mark infringement for using their name, or they ask YouTube to take down the video. This approach is almost bound to backfire since the audience is now involved and feels attacked.

The second possible response recognizes that the customer’s complaint is much more visible than ever before, and aims to stop it as quickly as possible. Given that more people have already seen Dave’s video, heard the song, and know the story than probably ever heard Tom Paxton’s song, it is important for the company to put a lid on it as soon as possible, so this is an improvement over the classic legal approach. And it may achieve the airline’s goal — perhaps they can get Dave Carroll not to release two more songs if they give him enough in return.

That second response, however, ignores the audience, and leaves lots of people hanging without their own resolution of the issue. I tell companies that they need to go even further than recognizing the customer’s new-found power to reach an audience. Not only does the social media environment present new challenges like Youtube videos by upset customers, it also presents new opportunities to respond. United should be looking for a response that engages Dave’s video and his audience and turn this into a promotional opportunity.

The fact that Dave Carroll is going to release three videos means that this will unfold over an extended period of time. I’m going to be watching United’s response as each video comes out — if they’re smart, they’ll find a way to bring Dave and his new audience on board before that last video hits the internet.

Tagged ,

Michael Jackson, Inventor

You may know that Michael Jackson owned the publishing rights to many of the Beatles’s songs. He outbid Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono for the rights to ATV’s catalog of songs in 1984, which included almost all of the songs by Lennon and McCartney in the days of the Beatles.

But did you know that Jackson was also an inventor? He is named as such on US Patent 5255452 for a “Method and means for creating anti-gravity illusion“. When I first read that, I admit that I thought he had patented the Moonwalk! But no, that’s not it.


Jackson’s patent is summarized as,

“A system for allowing a shoe wearer to lean forwardly beyond his center of gravity by virtue of wearing a specially designed pair of shoes which will engage with a hitch member movably projectable through a stage surface. The shoes have a specially designed heel slot which can be detachably engaged with the hitch member by simply sliding the shoe wearer’s foot forward, thereby engaging with the hitch member.”


You can see the shoes in action in this video of a performance of Smooth Criminal, at around the 3:50 mark. In fact, if you watch the dancer on the right closely, you can see his struggle to get his shoe disengaged from the hitch on the stage.

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