Riots – Social Media the problem or a help?

Part of the reaction of politicians to SM and the riots is of course that they don’t get it all! Interesting that the police do

Joe mentioned this week that the use of Social Media still have not taken off in small business.

But we also learned this week that the use of social media and texting is at the core of how the riots in the UK are being organized. The best rioter’s tool – The Blackberry which is encrypted.

Since then, the BBMs regarding Duggan’s death and the ensuring riots have gone viral. The Guardian was shown one message by a recipient which read, “Everyone in Edmonton, Enfield, Wood Green, everyone in north London, link up at Enfield train station at 4pm.” It detailed what items to being–including hammers–for the demonstrations.

The advantage users have with BBM is that the news continues to circulate, but is covert enough that it is difficult to trace. BBMs are encrypted and hacking this network would be incredibly difficult, so protestors are able to stay a step ahead of authorities.

RIM UK has stated that it will help Scotland Yard in any way it can, so the BBM may only have so long to live as a tool for rioters. But most of them are of the young, mobile-minded, tech-savvy generation, and there are a variety of tools at their disposal.

The Police and the community are learning also in real time how to help each other – by also using social media. Citizens are using Twitter and Facebook to help the police have better intelligence and the police are learning this week how best to respond and to monitor.

Here is a Google map that is being run to track incidents

The Police are setting up a Flickr site to help citizens help the police identify rioters

The Guardian has a map that shows incidents all over the UK

The only chance that citizens and the police have to get ahead of this to to get ahead of it – they have to use the same tools better and faster.

I make no ethical comments – this is what it is and there is no going back

This is the reality of our world today – it is rushing to a network state. So if you don’t know how to use this well – you are at extreme risk. You just don’t know what is going on and the pace of your interaction with the world will be too slow. It does not matter how small you are – you will be too slow to know.

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Arab Spring – the networks over throwing the hierarchs who have failed their people – Business next?

Ah the irony of western politicians supporting the Arab spring and social media and THEN not seeing the link to their own problems? Oh the irony of big business still keeping a firm hand on their communist central planning systems! It will change…

Don’t you feel something big in the air? The Wirearchy amplified events in the Arab world this spring and many regimes have fallen. Do you think the rest of the rulers feel safer now or more vulnerable?

In the last 2 weeks, the establishment in the UK has been rocked. Again the amplification and openness of the Wirearchy has prevented the old system from being able to contain the firestorm. It is also early days, but it is not just the Murdochs who have been shaken but the entire establishment. Do you think that this will blow over and all in the UK will go back to normal?

In the US our political system is log-jammed at a time when it has to cope with all sorts of real problems – do you think that we will avoid a crisis here at home?

Are you ready as a individual or a CEO to cope with what is unfolding?

This global meltdown and systemic failure of our system is I think the real context for social media and its tools and your adoption of them. The Wirearchy is the only way to survive. The Hierarchy is the sure way to die.

Many have thought that they could adjust slowly to the Wirearchy.

It was great to see how they are slowly being adopted in the enterprise. It is now common knowledge that we have to be more human in our work and how our work must do something that offers real value to all not just to a few owners.

Many know that we should go here. But maybe not just yet – so much risk in changing right?

Bu now all the risk is in not being there. The system has tipped and total turbulence is here.

Chaos is our new normal. Will the Euro continue and what will happen if there is a default? How will America get though its own financial and fiscal crisis? What will this mean to the election. What new weather event will affect us and the global system? Will the millions of underemployed, unemployed sit quiet?

And in this context a new kind of competitor that has been forced into being by the evolutionary pressures of this time.

An entirely new economy, based on the small tribal networks, will emerge very quickly out of the desperation of the people who have no alternative. They need no capital. They don’t need what you needed. They can get the best people. They can go from an idea on napkin to your doom in 5 years.

All organizations who rely on concentration will be too slow to keep up as the pace of change accelerates.

If you as a person cannot find your way through this and if you the CEO of a large organization cannot be agile enough, these waves will take you down.

So it is now “Change or Die”.

War and Social Media

A constant theme of my posting on FF was Social Media and war. Wars are now won by using Social Media. Here is a key post that put this on the table back in 2007!


Secretary Gates made this statement in a recent speech:

It is just plain embarrassing that al-Qaeda is better at communicating its message on the internet than America. As one foreign diplomat asked a couple of years ago, “How has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communication society?” Speed, agility, and cultural relevance are not terms that come readily to mind when discussing U.S. strategic communications (My post at Fast Forward yesterday)

I am starting to see something here. War has been the agency that accelerates the development of key new technology.


In the 1860’s the civil war put the train on the map. Post the war, an enormous track laying boom exploded around the world. The military made the train the backbone of the industrial approach to war.The same with flight. In Europe, the military saw the potential of flight immediately. But the US did not – that is why Rickenbaker flew a Spad.

Spad_xiiit The Wright Company in particular and American airplane companies in general continue to lose their technological edge to the Europeans. This is due in part to the U.S. Government’s failure to support the fledgling airplane       industry. While the governments of England, France, and Germany are buying hundreds of airplanes for their armed forces and supporting aviation research, the United States is spending roughly the same amount of money   as Bulgaria. (First to Fly)

By 1918, the future of flight was assured. There were no doubters – and like the adoption of the train, this new way of connecting people has transformed our world.

So back to social software. As impressive as Facebook is, as impressive the growth of blogging – this is all personal. Organizational life and how we all live has not been changed yet.  There is immense resistance in the key institutions of our time to its introduction. Leaders in business, education, healthcare etc all fear the outcome of adoption.

The big money is all based in an advertising model. If you can form a large group, you get rewarded. But the true potential of the tool set is not being invested in.

The true potential of social software is that it allows many to many to meet in real time at low to no cost. This means that you can see what is really going on – the business intelligence aspects are immense and transform research as it is conducted today. It enables you to get your message out in a real time and precise way – will transform marketing. Most of all it enables people to have very different relationships. Large, central capital based organizations are no longer needed. So everything that we do now such as how we educate, provide healthcare, provide services will be radically transformed.

Our large institutions can no longer do anything properly. The military is no exception. It is too big, too slow, too ponderous, too expensive. It cannot deal with war as it is waged today. The military are themselves full of resistance to the kind of change that social software implies.

BUT, people in the military who are losing the war of public opinion – who know now that Human Terrain  is the new battlefield – are weighing the idea of loss of control with losing the war. My bet is that they will seek to win the war. This is what Gates is starting to say.

The greatest irony is that their enemy is showing them how to do this. Here is a CNN report on why NATO is now getting behind a Social Software approach to war. (Posted yesterday- sorry about the repeat but this makes sense)

CNN interviews a NATO Official in Afghanistan who echoes the Secretary and insists that we better get good at this or risk losing the real war – which is all political.

The strategy aims to counter years of propaganda video posted on the Internet showing Taliban attacks on NATO forces which fighters use to claim that NATO’s position in the Afghan war is deteriorating.

“The Taliban, who are literally cave-dwellers, are doing better than we are on a key battleground — and that’s video,” said NATO spokesman James Appathurai. “They deploy with videographers. We don’t. They have DVDs out in an hour, we don’t.”

Wielding video cameras like weapons, fighters quickly upload images of their attacks and create a valuable morale booster for their supporters.

Now, after much internal debate, NATO has begun declassifying and posting top secret combat video on YouTube and other Web platforms to try and beat theTaliban at its own game.

“We’re, in a sense, winning the tactical battles, but we’re not focusing enough on the strategic battle, which is public opinion,” said Appathurai.

The link to the excellent report and video is here.

In 1918, America could see for itself the power of flight. The nation adopted it like no other.

So here is my prediction. The first institution that will really invest in developing Social Software to radically improve how it delivers will be parts of the military. As with the train in the civil war and WWI, as with flight in WWI and WWII, how we deploy, how we fight and what victory is will be redefined.

The greatest irony will be is that the lesson for this change will have been taught by Al Qaeda.

This will not be an all or nothing adoption. Even in the 1920. and 1930’s Billy Mitchell fought an uphill battle with his superiors about the value of aviation. But the wedge was in.

The first flight was in 1903. By 1945, aviation was the new dominant military power. By 1975 aviation had captured the civilian world.

I think that history will look back at Facebook and smile.


Well done Mark – but look at what this technology really did!