Obama’s Blackberry

I had almost forgotten that there was a controversy about whether or not President Obama could keep his Blackberry until Qualman mentioned it.  According to Qualman the reason they were going to take it away was that all his messages would become part of the public record, “The reason for the discussion about whether Obama would need to relinquish his BlackBerry did not center on overuse. Rather, it revolved around the fact that his text messaging, tweets, status updates, and e-mails would be part of the public record” (p. 77).

But that isn’t the whole truth I think.  This is a little off subject, but Research In Motion (RIM), the maker of the BlackBerry, has a proprietary email service that runs on servers located in Canada.  Every single BlackBerry message flows through these servers.  That’s why when they go down it takes down the service of every single BlackBerry.  As I remember it, the bigger concern was the security issues around having the private messages of the President of the United States being sent to servers in another country and the fear that some hacker would be able to tap into it.

I don’t think that people were afraid that he’d text a mistress (cough, cough, Tiger Woods).  I think everyone believes that he is savvy enough to use a BlackBerry (or other device) intelligently, but it wasn’t as simple as Qualman made it sound.  Even with GPS turned off on your phone, the cellular provider can still determine roughly where you are based on which cell sites your device is connected to–a potentially bad thing for the President of the United States.

Ok, rant over.  Other than that, I think that Qualman made a lot of valid points about how social media really propelled Obama into the White House.  The way he was able to connect in a personal and direct way with voters energized people in a way that robo-calls and junk mail can’t.  Also, I think he is the first President to really understand and leverage the power of the internet to gather analytical data about what people are thinking about at a specific moment in time.  Why conduct polls to find out what people are saying they think, when you can go to the internet and see what they are ACTUALLY thinking and doing by analyzing search phrases and page hits?

Qualman used the flu to illustrate his point, “Comparing the CDC data to Google’s data showed that Google’s insight was roughly two weeks ahead of the CDC” (p. 71).  If Google can get a two week jump on the CDC, then how much of a jump did the Obama campaign have on McCain?

Posted on October 6, 2012, in mobile, Social Media, Society, Trust, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Interesting point about the blackberry issue, Bob. I had forgotten about that as well, until reading your post. Good point. I am thoroughly enjoying Socialnomics, but it does seem like Qualman glosses over certain things to fit them nicely into his views. I have began to read a little more objectively due to this tendency. For example the portion of his text that referred to social media making society more efficient, was also questioned here on the blog.

  2. You ask a great question: Why conduct polls to find out what people are saying they think, when you can go to the internet and see what they are ACTUALLY thinking and doing by analyzing search phrases and page hits?
    While I agree with Jodee above about how Qualman glosses over some things, I think your reaction reminds us that we cannot dismiss speed and how quickly [no pun intended] we are getting used to accessing information so quickly. In fact, the Blackberry example is a good reminder of how we’ve forgotten something that seemed like such a big deal back in 2008.

    • I went to a conference last year, and there was a company–I think it was Symantec–whose documentation group and customer support group worked together. All the documentation was posted as topics to the internet and so were all the knowledgebase articles.

      They would use analytics to figure out exactly what people were searching for and then they would use search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure their site directed customers to the right article or topic.

      Also, they could tell from past history exactly what kinds of information people needed for their products after it was launched. Armed with that data, they scheduled their documentation work so that only about 80% of the total documentation was available at product launch, and the rest came later.

      It was so cool what they were able to do. I wish our company was there.

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