Trends to End a Decade

Digital Riots & Nouns as Verbs

As we end one decade and begin another, two trends have emerged that are changing media and indeed all of business. One will impact business directly and meaningfully, and the other is, well, interesting.

Social Media in Business

Impacting business directly is the trend of using social media in business, not just in your personal life. Using social media in business is now imperative, but sometimes it feels as if I’m being forced to do it at gunpoint. Are businesses actually getting value from having people “follow them on Twitter”? Of course, posting regularly keeps your brand in front of your followers... which would be great if you knew that your followers were also your customers. The true business value remains to be seen.

I use Twitter primarily for conferences. Tuning into the Twitter conference feed is like hearing all the comments that are whispered among audience members. This is most popular at conferences where everyone is using laptops or smartphones (Where 2.0, Web 2.0, and ESRI User Conference, to some extent). But the Twitter pages were not as active in conferences such as GeoInt, where the culture dictated that laptops were generally not used in the audience. The only conference I attended in 2009 where no Twitter page was available was in Beijing – no surprise – at the International Symposium on Digital Earth.Myrna James Yoo portrait

Using social media at conferences has evolved from being virtually nonexistent in 2008, to being almost ubiquitous in 2009, and even to a point in November where an unfortunate event that could be called a “digital riot” occurred.

LBx Journal editor Natasha Léger was attending a keynote speech at the Web 2.0 Conference in New York, where conference organizers were showing the live conference Twitter feed onstage behind the speaker, who did not realize this was occurring. Everyone in the room could read (and comment on) reactions to the presentation by using the Twitter page.

What happened next was inevitable. The speaker was confused, unaware of the comments behind her. This reaction caused even more tweets — more digital tomatoes. A digital riot ensued because a digital mob gained power over a defenseless victim. As people began criticizing the content of her presentation, she literally lost control of the speech, and of the audience.

Organizers probably could have stepped in to regain control for the speaker, but, unfortunately, they did not. There can be value in everyone having a voice, but in some instances, when one voice has value for everyone, it does not make sense to allow multiple others to take over. Trusted editors and experts are still needed – the audience cannot be in control of the show.

This debacle offers an example of the difficulty in managing and properly using social media for business. What we have now is too much information. Not everything said is worth hearing. There are too many posts, and many of them are irrelevant.

One purpose of professional media that we at Imaging Notes take seriously is to sort through the information that is out there, to help edit for our readers, and to share what is really important. This need for editing is perhaps more crucial than ever, now that anyone can say anything at any time (and we are all very very busy).

Nouns Are Verbs – Oh My!

The second trend is perhaps less important but still worth noting. Nouns are increasingly being used as verbs. As a grammarian, I am quite disturbed by this, though I realize that language evolves naturally and no one is in control of how this happens. Examples abound. “Google” is now a verb: “Just Google it!” “Text” was once print on a page; now we are “texting.”

There’s “map it” for those of us in the geospatial industry. We used to “create a map” or “draw a map,” but these phrases are no longer needed. So we are simplifying or streamlining our language, but it is still very hard for purists like me (and our copy editor) to “stomach” the use of nouns as verbs, especially in print.

That said, we are beginning to allow this usage in our magazines. In this issue, on page 46 of the in-depth report on LiDAR, you’ll see this sentence: “…imagery can be used to quality control LiDAR data.” In the current Fall/Winter issue of LBx Journal, Dr. Mark Feldman of Space-Time Insight uses both “walled-off” and “islanding” as verbs, meaning almost the same thing.

Everyone has a voice due to Web 2.0’s mass distribution of content. And there is still a place for editors who take their job seriously – editors like us. Email your comments to

—Myrna James Yoo

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