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July 2014

Telling fact from fiction in social media

Wrong way
Social media is an incredible resource for learning the latest news and rumors. Unfortunately, just because something is trending on Facebook or Twitter doesn't make it true. And when we share inaccurate stories, we further obfuscate the truth. 

Below are three basic criteria that will help you determine what is fact, what is fiction and what lies somewhere in between.

3. Consider the source

Is this information coming from a reputable news source? If you are unfamiliar with the source, don't trust or share the article until you have verified this information with a trusted source.

Don't share anything based on a headline or picture alone. Read the article before passing it on. If the author is only quoting random rumors on Twitter, then it's just a rumor.

The same goes for infographics. Just because someone put text over a map or a picture of a politician, doesn't make their claims or quotes any more accurate. 

2. Check the date

Most news content has an expiration date. If this article is more than 24 hours old, do a bit more research before sharing. 

When sharing videos, check the upload date of the YouTube content. A three year old video cannot possibly portray yesterday's events.

1. Google it

Perform a Google Image Search on that image before sharing. If CNN used that image last year, it couldn't possibly depict today's tragedy.

If you suspect a story is untrue, search Google News for corroborating news from trusted sources. If no reputable sources are confirming this story, it's likely too fantastic to be true or possibly too fresh a story to be confirmed.

Three ways to follow along with Israel from home

The scariest part of any war is the unknown. Here are the most reliable, free digital tools and resources that you can use to follow developments from Israel, no matter where you are in the world.

  1. Live Blogs
    I personally prefer live blog over at the Times of Israel, but the Jerusalem Post and Ynet are also reliable and free.

  2. Red Alert Apps
    Anytime a rocket is inbound for an Israeli city, the army issues a Red Alert to warn everyone in the city to head towards their safe rooms. Depending on one's distance from Gaza, we have anywhere from 15 seconds to almost two minutes to get to safety. My home and office are both in the minute and a half range.

    The Red Alert iPhone app is available in English and Hebrew. 
    The Red Alert Android app is available in English and Hebrew.
    The Red Alert Chrome extension is currently only available in Hebrew and is somewhat less intrusive than a cell phone alert.

  3. Live Television
    Israel's two main broadcasters both offer livestreams, which can be found here (Hebrew). Be warned that the local live coverage is occasionally graphic.

    Tel Aviv-based i24 News offers free, live, streaming coverage in English. As i24 News is only a few years young, you will have to put up with a lower quality of reporting.

On a personal note, we are all doing well. We appreciate your messages, your support and your prayers. Please keep them coming.

For those who have asked, here's...

How we are staying safe

Like most homes in Israel, we have a fortified "safe room" that doubles as my home office and a spare guest bedroom. Our safe room is fully stocked with a computer, an iPad, a couch, bottled water and treats for the kids. When a rocket is inbound, loud sirens go off in the targeted city or region. As soon as the siren goes off, we pack everyone into my office, close the door and entertain the kids while we check the news. Within a minute or two, there is usually a report that Iron Dome has successfully intercepted the inbound rockets. After 10 minutes, you go back to life as usual. My kids schools and my office also have safe rooms.

The kids are doing fine. Ari (aged 6) gets annoyed when he's woken up and night, Ovadya (3) sleeps through everything and Shai (6 months) doesn't like being woken up. Though we are naturally concerned, we are safe and well protected.

Living and working in the center of the country, we have it relatively easy. Whereas we have 90 seconds to get into a safe room, residents of southern Israel have 15-30 seconds. And whereas we see a siren or two a day, they see sirens quite regularly.

People here are going about life roughly as they usually would. Many cities in southern Israel have built rocket-proof play areas for just this scenario. Those in the center and north of the country may not be spending quite as much time in large public parks where they would be far from shelters - but schools, camps and offices are generally operating with minimal interruption. Israeli have a wonderfully dark sense of humor when it comes to war. From jokes about the rockets being unable to find parking in Tel Aviv to hilarious bomb shelter selfies, we do what Jews to best - cope with it and get on with our lives. To quote a friend, The startup scene in Tel Aviv is really booming this week.

And amidst all this chaos, my big brother and sister-in-law had a beautiful baby girl. Mazal tov. May she grow up in a world that is free of this insanity.

My moral dilemma at Mashable #smdayjlm

Last night I had the privilege of moderating a panel of three brilliant marketers in front of about 150 attendees at Mashable's Social Media Day event in Jerusalem. About 25 minutes into the panel, I noticed one of the event organizers signaling for my attention. When I glanced at her laptop, my heart stood still. Our three missing teenagers had been found dead and discarded in a ditch.

As the words ברוך דין האמת (the prayer over tragedy) left my lips, I was faced with a deep moral dilemma.  

We weren't even halfway through the hour long event. Should I announce the news and effectively end the panel and the event? Should I allow the panel to continue as if nothing happened? 


My Considerations

On the one hand, the organizers and contributors invested a great deal of effort into this event. The attendees had taken time out of their busy schedules to learn and enhance their own efforts. The panelists had driven in from across the country. We were here to share our information and experience for the betterment of our industry and society overall. In a time of darkness, we were bringing light into the world. Would it be morally better to leave the people in the room in uninformed bliss, to give them a few more minutes of life without this tragedy on their shoulders? 

At the same time, how could we continue as if nothing happened? 


What I Did

I decided to let the panel continue, but to try and direct the questions and discussions towards positive topics such as cause marketing and the value of hashtags in starting or joining a movement. I also tried to prepare the room a bit by asking the panel for their perspective on sharing personal views, politics and beliefs on personal accounts when the public identifies them as brand ambassadors.

As the discussion continued, I noticed the faces of attendees as they caught news of our loss on their tablets and phones. One attendee buried their face in their hands, another's face turned dark red as they let out a deep sigh. 

As the panel was drawing to a close, I realized I had to say something. I left off with the following message:

Social media has the power to bring people together. It connects us as people, on a human level. Social media has taught businesses that speaking at people is not enough, but real dialog and discussion on a human level is necessary for success. 

Five years ago, I began planning my aliyah (immigration to Israel). I started by reaching out to strangers active in the Israeli tech scene. Using Twitter, Facebook, blogging and LinkedIn, you all helped me network my way around this industry. With the help of the many friends I made along the way, I found a number of fantastic career opportunities. 

We have suffered an incredible tragedy. The world tonight has become a little bit darker. As we leave this event, lets not just think about the business applications of these discussions, but the many ways we can use these same tools to bring a little bit of light back into the world.


And then I bid my farewell, got into a cab, and finally broke down in tears.

May we never see such tragedy again.