Hookers & Hackers & Buffer - Oh, My!

George TakeiThis past week has been busy for me, prepping for Friday's panel discussion at DexCon2013 (thanks to Pierre Clark of the Chicago Digital Access Alliance for the invitation), but I didn't want to let this week pass without addressing several pieces of recent news and commentary on the tech scene....and their implications for non-profits, social ventures, and other mission-driven organizations. It will also allow me, for the first time, to use the phrase "hackers and hookers" in this blog.

That was the lead off to a recent piece by Blagica Bottigliero in Crain's Chicago Business, focusing on how a planned Halloween party in San Francisco was inappropriately marketed. She makes some very clear, concise points about how the tech field may be regarding women, and points out the irony of 19th-century values being played out in the first decade of the 21st century. At a time when social media can be leveraged by even the smallest organizations, promoting the idea that somehow one class of people is "less than" another can and should be anathema to anyone in the field. (Although the company in question removed the piece, the deeper question - why was such a piece approved in the first place - should be a primary focus of scrutiny). As increasing numbers of "networking" events focus more on driving numbers than building relationships (and yes, I'm talking specifically about Chicago Interactive Social Club and Networking After Work), and companies are held accountable for their actions (see my colleague Yesenia Sotelo's recent piece on GoDaddy), thinking about inclusion is incredibly critical. With the ability to leverage social networks, how organizations engage those networks - and the channels they use - need to be considered with greater scrutiny and clarity of thought.

A great example is the recent news that Buffer, a social media engagement platform that allowed for scheduling of posts, had been hacked. (Sadly, I was one of the many users whose accounts were hacked, with my Facebook contacts spammed). Although this was a situation easily reconciled (simply, a change of password, removal of spam posts and - for me, at least, disconnecting social media channels from Buffer), it was still a wake-up call. First, I am a proponent of using tools for a specific purpose, and in this case, although I rarely use Buffer (I much prefer Hootsuite), I still had a responsibility to make sure that my accounts were "safe". In addition, many organizations rely on web-based software to facilitate their engagement efforts....and this should be a reminder about online safety. Although Buffer, has made a public apology, and is "working on the problem"....this is a very real breach of trust. Having a site go down is one matter, but the resulting loss of credibility for many organizations using the platform is real....and that regaining that credibility will be a challenge.

Finally, one new (and hopeful) source of information will be the news that George Takei is launching a new YouTube channel called "Takei's Take", which will focus on education around social media. Unlike some of his co-stars, Takei has endeared himself precisely by being himself....which is one of the strongest lessons in social media. Although nerd/geek culture prides itself on being inclusive, it is easy to assume that inclusion means focusing on higher-end concepts. (For example, focusing on gadgets with an audience that may not always have the financial resources). It may seem like an offbeat choice to focus on, but Takei's channel does precisely what the "Hackers and Hookers" party failed to do: engage a wide audience around tech-oriented matters. In that, there are plenty of lessons for many non-profits, social ventures, and other mission-driven organizations to learn.

But what do you think? You're more than welcome to leave comments below, or please feel free to join the conversation via our new Facebook page. In addition, you can contact me directly via Linked In or private e-mail (just mention One Cause At a Time in your note). And as always, thanks for reading!

Leave a comment