I'm fairly new to blogging, I started at the end of October 2010 I believe. I started because because I wanted to promote the things I make but it has turned into something more than that, I find I really enjoy blogging. As a began this journey I started doing research on how best to promote and market. I have a bachelor's degree in marketing but I honestly do not know much about online marketing as I went to school 20 years ago. I keep reading about SEO, Search Engine Optimization. I had a general idea what it meant but I've been pretty foggy about the whole thing. I went to a sales and marketing conference yesterday and the meaning of SEO became clear to me so I thought I would share what I would find out in terms that would help people like me, who are not necessarily as intern savvy as a lot of people .
SEO is basically getting your name or your business's name on to the first page of search results when you do a search on Google and other search engines. The way you go about doing that is getting your name out as much as possible. For example, you have a blog or Etsy shop and you want people to find it when they search for your name or product, the way it will come up on the search engine is related to how much it is out on the internet. That's why you want to have a Facebook page, that gets your name out there, then when someone likes you it goes on their Facebook page, each time you SEO goes up a little bit. When you are on Twitter if people re-tweet your tweets or mention you, your SEO goes up a little. It's almost like building a pyramid. Something else I just read about is Google is now looking at how many links you get. So you will want to create content that people will want to link on their blogs or Facebook pages to raise your SEO. It does not happen immediately, I've noticed it takes around a month for Google to start finding you so do not give up if you do not see immediate results. I hope that helps, it helped me figure out how I want to get my name out there more and how I want to do that now that it's a little clearer for me.
In fact, the example Daily Beast reporter Ben Collins found was a single account, @crystal1johnson, getting two juicy retweets from Twitter’s very own “@jack.” The discovered posts (which are now archive-only, thanks to the account being deleted in August) date back to March 2016. Both revolve around black identity in the United States.
The first congratulated musician and actor Rihanna for winning a Humanitarian of the Year award from Harvard (dead link here, proof of its content here). The second shared a now-dead image of what may have been children of different races having fun together, with the description reading, “Nobody is born a racist. This picture is so sweet! Teach your children to judge others by the kind of person they are inside.” (Archived link of Dorsey’s retweet [RT], found by Collins, is here.)
Collins points out that another outlet, the non-government Russian agency RBC, identified @crystal1johnson as a Russian troll-farm account, and that his own team was currently working to independently confirm that allegation.
Should Daily Beast’s search bear out, this may prove to be the most glaring example of exactly how troll-farm operations work. Their accounts often debut with an apparent political and social identity, along with a stress on link shares with unique, viral-styled descriptions and exclamations. This is perhaps done with hopes of gathering followers, “likes,” and shares. Then, when it politically suits an operator, an account may start sharing politically divisive messages. In the case of the “Crystal Johnson” account, at least one of those came in May of last year, when the account posted, “Clinton’s True Face.. KKK leader claims he gave $20K to Hillary Clinton campaign.” That now-dead post’s linked story has since been all but refuted. Otherwise, archive searches of @crystal1johnson’s full account reveal posts that mostly revolve around issues of black identity and the Black Lives Matter movement.
RTs from an account as heavily followed as Dorsey’s does just the trick: it allows a fake actor to attract seemingly organic connections to other users, which Twitter may look for when determining whether an account is legitimate and/or should be pushed down by its “quality filter.” From there, a politically motivated actor can distribute divisive messages or target advertising at a bucket of like-minded users.
And if you think this kind of troll-farm activity is all over and kaput since such news has broken, or hews largely to national news trends like the Presidential election, then allow me to offer my own strange story from this Tuesday.
After posting my own personal thoughts about a mayoral race in my home town of Seattle, I began receiving curiously pointed responses from an account I’d never interacted with that dates back to 2009—which had, up until recently, posted a lot of stories about feminism and female politics with share-hopeful personal opinions attached. (Not to mention at least one phonetically awkward post about cooking.) More recently, it began posting about Seattle politics and sending replies to local political reporters.
I engaged the account and questioned its legitimacy, only to receive question dodges and logically unclear responses that dried up once I mentioned my work at Ars Technica. A source at an American graduate program in computer science offered an anonymous analysis of the account in question, declaring that it “exhibited patterns conducive to a political bot or highly moderated account tweeting political propaganda.” Why this account would target one Seattle mayoral candidate is unclear, given that the account’s complaints hinge largely on one candidate being independently wealthy—even though both candidates have significant personal wealth in common.
Even when they don’t have obvious national ramifications, other seemingly organic accounts are likely still being operated with designs on striking whenever politically convenient. Any such run-ins on your end, readers?
The Oz You Never Imagined, in Endless Runner Rhythm Game
Vancouver, Canada. October 20, 2017.Virtro Entertainment – the female-led VR indie game studio out of Vancouver, Canada, today announced the release of Run Dorothy Run – an immersive endless-runner and rhythm VR game, with a cheeky take on the classic novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The game is being released on Sony PlayStation VR in the Fall of 2017, with other platforms to follow shortly after.
Run, jive, and bop your way through the world of Oz to an electro-swing soundtrack while the story unfolds. Explore fantastical lands in your journey through the Emerald City, the Scorched Plains, the Wicked Witch’s castle, and more. Clash with enemies, collect magic crystals, and activate power-ups, all to an irresistible dance beat. Unravel the curious alliance Dorothy makes with the Wizard of Oz to settle a score with the maybe-not-so-Wicked Witch. But don’t take yourself too seriously—navigate the crazy plot twists with your tongue firmly in your cheek.
“Right from the early days of development, we brought in play-testers each week to give us insights we could use to evolve the game into the rich story and immersive experience we have today,” said Jordan Brighton, Virtro’s cofounder and CEO. “We’ve had hundreds of play-testers, ranging from total newbies to VR aficionados. They loved the actual VR experience, but just as importantly, they loved the zany story-telling. Let’s just say ‘Ozzy’ and ‘Effy’ – who we know from the book as the Wizard and the Wicked Witch – emerge as you never imagined.”
Run Dorothy Run is a physically engaging, hyper-energetic, action-packed adventure. It is Virtro’s first title, and is designed specifically for virtual reality.
To arrange an interview, obtain more information, or to get on the list for a pre-launch Sony key for Run Dorothy Run, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
About Virtro Entertainment
An independent VR gaming studio based in Vancouver, Canada, Virtro was founded by the female Aussie duo Jordan and Lee Brighton. Virtro designs Everyone-Rated VR game titles that blend excellent storytelling, effects, art, music, and VR technology. Virtro values a culture of inclusion and diversity – in both the team and in the titles the team designs.www.virtro.ca . Follow Virtro onFacebook,Twitter, andInstagram.
Games Press is the leading online resource for games journalists. Used daily by magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, online media and retailers worldwide, it offers a vast, constantly updated archive of press releases and assets, and is the simplest and most cost-effective way for PR professionals to reach the widest possible audience. Registration for the site and the Games Press email digest is available, to the trade only, at www.gamespress.com
The whole idea behind Unleashing an Ideavirus is to stop marketing at people and turn those ideas into epidemic viruses that will have others marketing for you.
In the old days we sold a product by interruption marketing. Running ad, interrupting people with impersonal, irrelevant ads hoping that they would buy something.
What is an ideavirus? I’m so glad you asked. It’s a big idea that takes off across a target audience that takes on a life of its own. For example, everyone watching the same TV show or reading the same book. It creates a buzz around that medium which creates an ideavirus. Almost like starting a rumor, good or bad you know it’s going to spread.
While reading the book, Unleashing an Ideavirus, by Seth Godin I also started watching the movie The Social Network and it dawned on me the parallel between an ideavirus and Facebook; both started out as an idea that one person acted on that went viral.
Traditional marketing promotes a product or service, but the currency of the future is ideas. An ideavirus begins with a sneezer. He is simply the person who promotes the idea, starts the rumor or creates the buzz in hive.
There are 2 types of sneezer promiscuous and powerful. A promiscuous sneezer is a member of a hive that can be counted on to sell you something usually for financial gain.
A powerful sneezer already has the attention of the hive and uses the power of their influence to promote ideas that go viral. Money is not a problem because when they speak (sneeze) people listen.
The idea behind Facebook’s lightening fast success worked because the ideavirus concept was added in from the start. Wouldn’t we all like even one of our ideas to take off like that? Well, here are 5 ways to unleash and ideavirus of your own just like Facebook:
1. Go full viral. This is the holy grail of idea marketing. What’s the concept? The more you use it, the more you market it. Using the product is the same as marketing it. Like Facebook; every time you use it; you’re marketing it. The whole idea behind it was pure genius. Thinking about it makes you want to dig out those old notes and take another look at some of those ideas you forgot about.
2. Pay off the Promiscuous. The idea is simple: if your recommendation is going to help my business, I’m happy to pay you to recommend me. You have to give them a reason to want to share it.
3. Make it smooth for the Powerful. The easiest way to do this is to make it easy for a powerful sneezer to share with their hive. So that once they are exposed they are hooked. Again, look how easy Facebook has made it to invite friends to join and find friends of friends. This is a prime example of an ideavirus and viral marketing at it’s best.
4. Go digital. If you see a movie or read a book that you like post a review, like or share it. It has the potential of reaching millions of people with the click of a button. It has much greater velocity.
5. If you really want to unleash an ideavirus create some mystery around it and let the members promote it for your. Case in point; Facebook. You have to be a member to sign in and find your friends. It increases your power as professional sneezers.
There’s a lot more I could say about unleashing your very own ideavirus. but you can get the book and read it yourself. In the meantime, go dig out some of those old notes and start putting your ideas into actions. Who knows you may even release an ideavirus of your own.
Facebook marketing is one of the most powerful trends to hit online business marketing in years. With over 500 million subscribers now, Facebook is becoming the social media website. With an array of tools available to the creative marketer, Facebook is increasingly relied upon by marketers on a shoestring budget.
Why Facebook?Trust Thy Neighbor!
Consumer research over the past decade shows a very consistent trend of decreasing levels of trust for traditional authority figures and increasing trust for friends, neighbors and acquentions. According to a 2009 Nielsen survey of over 25,000 consumers from over 50 countries, "90% of online consumers trust people they know, while 70% trust consumer opinions posted online."
This indicates the new power of the consumer-generated media in the decision-making process of most consumers today. Websites like Facebook are on the leading-edge of this powerful trend.
FaceBook Marketing Channels
In terms of Facebook marketing and advertising, it is still early in the game for any trendsetters who want to leverage this powerful social networks. There are a few different ways small businesses that generate customers and build publicity online through Facebook. These channels include:
Facebook pages (including "notes")
In the rest of this article, we will focus on some key features of the Facebook Fan Page.
Facebook Fan Pages (or Facebook Pages)
Facebook fan pages as they used to be called, operate in a similar way to individual Facebook "profiles" but there are some key differences.
Facebook pages feature a "Like" button which which registered members of Facebook can begin to receive page updates or even make comments on the page wall (when the page administrator allows it).
You can use Facebook pages to send "updates" – messages which show up on individual's wall when they "like" (subscribe) your page. Facebook pages are visible to people unregistered in Facebook, and therefore they are visible to the search engines. This is a powerful advantage for building "Do Follow" links to your web properties with the Facebook "notes" tab.
Facebook pages also allow the use of Apps which can extend the functionality of the page tabs such that html capture forms, YouTube videos, and other attractive elements can be embedded and other features added. Our consulting practice is now walking clients through turning their fan pages into a high-engagement mini-portal with videos, discussions, Facebook notes (roughly equivalent to blog posts), and Facebook page "wall" updates that feed information, links and pictures to everyone that "likes" their page.
Finally, Facebook pages can be promoted with Facebook Ads – something that Facebook Groups do not have access to.
If you own a small business, particularly a consumer-focused service firm or a local retail establishment, you can not afford to ignore Facebook marketing with Facebook pages. Our case studies and marketing tests with this powerful Facebook channel have shown that you can combine it with another marketing channel for great results.
I’ve always wanted a Nest thermostat, but was never willing to pay $250 to get one. Sure, there’s the newer, cheaper Nest Thermostat E, but even that one’s $169 — and somewhat limited compared with big-brother Nests.
If you don’t mind a previous-generation model, today’s deal is hard to pass up: Home Depot has the refurbished 2nd-gen Nest Thermostat for $139 shipped (plus tax). That’s the lowest price I can recall seeing for any Nest ever.
(Before I go any further, let me note that your gas and/or electric company might offer a rebate on the purchase of any Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat — though it may have to be a new one. That’s worth investigating, because you could potentially get close to the same price on the newer, 3rd-gen, Nest. Here in metro-Detroit, for example, DTE Energy offers a $75 rebate, while Consumers Energy offers $50.)
Don’t let the “refurb” part bother you; it’s manufacturer-refurbished and comes with a full 1-year warranty. Translation: It’s literally good as new. And Home Depot even offers a 90-day return policy in case you decide it’s not working out for you.
The Nest is noteworthy for two things. First, you can control it from anywhere: bedroom, airport, etc. (There’s Alexa integration as well.) Of course that’s true of any modern smart thermostat, but I mention it because if you’ve never owned one, you’re in for a treat. It’s crazy-handy.
Second, the Nest learns your habits, and will adjust the temperature when no one’s around and then again when someone’s due home. The goal is to help you save money on heating and cooling costs. Does it really work? I think any programmable thermostat can net you energy savings; this one just requires less programming.
Should you consider an Ecobee instead? It offers one capability the Nest lacks: remote room-temperature sensors. But, man, does it need a UI overhaul; I have to wade deep into the menus just to turn off the HVAC.
One last thing: Make sure the Nest is compatible with your furnace. It should be, but you may need additional wiring, and that can get expensive. A little pre-purchase research makes sense — though, again, 90-day return policy.
Bonus deal: So help me, I love fidget spinners. Therefore, I love this deal: Today only, and while supplies last, Meh is offering a 20-pack of LED fidget spinners for $10 or a 50-pack for $20 — plus $5 for shipping on either one.
My thinking: perfect for trick-or-treaters! You will absolutely be the most popular house on the block. Unfortunately, Meh makes no guarantees you’ll get them in time for Halloween, only that you “probably” will.
Amusingly, Meh also points to the three CR2025 button-cell batteries that come with each spinner, noting that you could choose to use them elsewhere — watches, car fobs, etc. — and save yourself some battery money. But then your spinner wouldn’t light up. (Honestly, that might be preferable.)
I’m in for 50. Totally handing these out on Oct. 31, UPS-permitting. (I need to restore some goodwill after buzzing the neighbors’ houses with drones all these months.)
What did you have to do for your teenage son or daughter to accept your Facebook friend request or requests. Come on, fess up!
My husband's aunt did an unbelievably unjust act out of desperation – she bought his son an iPhone 4s just to accept her Facebook friend request. She got her wish and was happy … for awhile. After a month or so, her son – who updates his Facebook status every two hours – suddenly became inactive and focused on Twitter instead. Happy kid, miserable mom.
I surprised about my own fate. Could this happen to me? Could my son who I I almost jumped out of the hospital window from pain during those 12 grueling hours of labor not befriend me out of embarrassment?
While this topic may be a bit to some, it actually has an underlying issue about parent-child relationship that will be of importance someday. But today, I will stand as counsel for all those kids who keep ignoring their parents Facebook friend requests. Kid's got a point (or points).
The I-have-a-headache-plus-sad-face status every other day is a cause for concern. Get yourself checked. It is annoying and is clearly a sign of Histrionic Personality Disorder. Kids know that you're clearly begging for attention. "Look son, I got 18 likes!". Way to go! It means, 18 people like that you have a headache.
Sad face statuses are my favorite. Extra points for the teardrop. When a concerned friend (read: gossipmonger) comments, "What's wrong?", The mom immediately replies "I do not want to talk about it". * flying expletives *
Tag, You're Not a Hit!
Uploading photos of Junior when he was 2 years old inside an inflatable pool naked is not cute. Tagging Junior in that photo is not cute. Tagging Junior and his girlfriend in that photo is sick.
Worse is when college friend tags you in a photo where you're half naked and doing a beer bong. This is exactly the kind of situation that will get you and your son on The Dr. Phil Show. Your son will talk about how that one Facebook picture made him quit school, lived under a bridge with rats for three years before finding inner peace by going on a two week trip to Calcutta.
The Fibber Post
Your Facebook Status: "At the mall with my girls! Shopping time!"
Daughter heads over to the garage: "Mom! What are you talking about? You're doing laundry! God!"
I believe that this is the reason why Facebook added the location button. It was invented to make us lie less.
The My Son / Daughter is the Best Post
I definitely understand when you upload pictures of every achievement (medal, report cards, good behavior certificate, hotdog eating contest award) of your kid; the thing is, your child does not. You have a huge wall in your house waiting for that. Fill it up.
Someone should make a law regarding the age limit for using internet acronyms. Adding WTF, ROFL, LMAO, FML in your posts when you're over 40 is too much.
It's not always about you. Our kids have their own reputation to protect. They have a life away from our eyes that we should respect. We have all been there. It's a phase. My boys act all lovey-dovey with me when we're at home but they project a different attitude when they're with their friends.
If Facebook exists during my college years, I would never add my parents even if they bribe me with a yacht. Kidding! Of course, I would!
Now that I'm more "mature" and have my own family, I would often include them in my Facebook statuses of gratitude and love. Unfortunately, they do not have Facebook accounts because they're both dead.
I'm guilty of almost all of the above, so this post doubles as a therapy for when my kids ignore my Facebook friend requests. I can live with that. The future does not look bright for Facebook anyway. Defense mechanism right there.
Back in 2006, rumors were swirling about Apple’s new iPhone, but most of us were still carrying around clamshell phones or old-school BlackBerrys. A handful of kids had their hands on T-Mobile’s new Sidekick, which came with a hidden QWERTY keyboard to make texting faster but without a decent handheld device to actually support gameplay, video games were still reserved for console systems.
One company out of France focused entirely on mobile games, with a vision that U.S. gamers would quickly adopt the platform. Gameloft (now a subsidiary of Vivendi) first began in 2000 by Michel Guillemot, who is one of five brothers that founded videogame developer and publisher Ubisoft.
Gameloft hired me, and between 2006-2012, I wrote over 150 mobile video games for the publisher. Mobile gameplay was limited in those early days, but by 2008, the iPhone 3G became available and the App Store was born. Developers were scrambling to release titles for $5 a pop, and consumers gobbled them up, all to feed a growing addiction of gaming on the go.
The journey back
In the summer of 2006, I was living in Los Angeles but making plans to move back east. I was overeducated, with a Masters of Fine Arts from Columbia University in Screenwriting and over $175,000 of student loan debt. While my old college friends were becoming VPs, I was stuffing ASCAP paperwork into file cabinets at the now defunct Sony Connect, the online music store that was attempting to compete with a new Apple venture called iTunes.
A vice president in Sony’s marketing department recognized my creative skills and took me under his wing. I subsequently earned copywriting experience there and then built a small freelance business on the side. It felt like I discovered a gold mine. I was finally getting paid to write, and I had so many projects that I had to turn some clients away; this was a dream.
Based on my online portfolio, Gameloft hired me sight-unseen as a full-time copywriter. I moved back to New York City and began writing just about everything: advertorials, sales collateral, game titles, and game descriptions. One day, a French game designer in the office approached me in search of a native English-speaking writer to work on a new game set that was intended to be a cross between Big Brother and American Idol.
Here’s the thing: I was not a gamer. Sure, I was an ’80s kid so I had played Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Haunted House on my Atari 2600. I also had a brief stint in college when I became unhealthily addicted to Nanosaur on my mom’s iMac, but all of this was ages ago. I didn’t even own a console system. Half of me thought I had no business writing a game, but I understood storytelling, and I was a pop culture aficionado, so I happily obliged and said I would write the game during my downtime.
Adapting to a new format
Once I started writing, however, I quickly discovered a major roadblock. I had been trained to write in screenwriting format, and because every piece of text for the game would be sent to a programmer, I had to keep all text in an Excel spreadsheet. My brain was programmed to visualize scenes in a very particular format: scene heading, action, character name, parenthetical, and dialogue. Other than my narrative fiction projects, I had written in this same format since I was in high school.
Dialogue is centered on the page which allows me to hear its rhythm. I follow the cadence of story beats in scripts because of how the action is laid out on the page. But here I was, forced to write everything in boxy cells.
Cells were eventually broken out into different tabs by the programmer and before I knew it, my dialogue for single scenes was divided between several tabs. If I needed to make an edit, I’d have to play the half-done game to follow along and then find the appropriate cell somewhere in the spreadsheet. I also had to keep careful track of the character count in each cell to avoid making the player click a phone key to read the remainder of dialogue on a screen.
Everything became formulaic and for a moment, the creativity I once associated with screenwriting fell by the wayside. I plowed through and managed to finish writing the game which we called American Popstar. A top reporter at IGN gave it a glowing review and called out its “whip-smart writing.” The game went on to win several industry awards and soon after, Gameloft offered me a full-time position as the company’s first full-time game writer.
It took a move back from Los Angeles to New York City to finally get a job in screenwriting. The world works in mysterious ways.
Gameloft eventually grew its writing staff to a team of five. All of us had MFAs in screenwriting from either Columbia University or NYU. We understood narrative, could speak the same language, and finally had the chance to apply our expensive degrees to something of tangible value.
We built this city
A year later, the iPhone brought new types of gameplay possibilities and attracted millions of new players, many of whom had never played a video game before. With its mobile-only vision, Gameloft soared to the top and pushed hundreds of new games into development.
For the next five years, I had the opportunity to work on some amazing iPhone games for studios around the world, including Oregon Trail, Iron Man, CSI: NY, Castle of Magic, Cops, and 9mm – the latter of which included an obnoxious amount of cuss words and violence that I was secretly quite proud of penning. For Sherlock Holmes: The Official Movie Game, I listened to the movie in my headphones over and over again while I was writing the script so I could channel Robert Downey Jr.’s speech patterns. As the only woman on the team, I was also the go-to writer for games intended for girls. Yes, I wrote a Twilight-inspired video game called Vampire Romance and several romantic strategy games, including Date or Ditch, Paris Nights, and High School Hook Ups. Seducing love interests with sexual innuendos and escaping bullies became my M.O.
That is… until Zynga popped.
In 2009, Zynga’s Farmville became the most popular game on Facebook, a platform that was quickly overshadowing mobile. Players grew various crops and enlisted their Facebook friends to help improve and manage their farms. The game was very addictive and for publishers, social simulation and city building quickly became the new recipe for success.
By 2011, virtually every single game in development at Gameloft fell within the city building genre. The only aspect that changed between titles was the environment. Players could grow their own space colonies or transform tropical islands into bustling metropolises. Gameplay was repetitive but players didn’t seem to mind, and publishers took notice.
It was clear that the world of mobile gaming had changed, and there was literally no endgame in sight. My task of coming up with exciting narratives continued but with monotonous gameplay, I struggled to maintain my enthusiasm and eventually made the decision to return to marketing as my day job. The city building genre’s popularity in mobile eventually died down. Zynga had its ups and downs and in 2015, Gameloft shut down several of its development studios including the New York City one where I worked.
I have no regrets. The volume of game scripts that I drafted under strict deadlines truly exercised my writing muscles, and I’m a better writer now because of it. Divulging my past life as a mobile game writer is also an amazing conversation starter.
Tammy Blythe Goodman is a PR and marketing communications professional. Follow her on Twitter @gooblythe.
The flaws in their business models keep on becoming more apparent:
If you saw ads on your Facebook feed showing an alternate reality where France and Germany were governed by Sharia law ahead of the 2016 elections, you’re not alone.
Facebook (FB, +0.89%) and Google (GOOGL, +0.18%) helped advertising company Harris Media run the campaigns for their client, Secure America Now—a conservative, nonprofit advocacy group whose campaign “included a mix of anti-Hillary Clinton and anti-Islam messages,” notes Bloomberg.
According to Bloomberg’s account, Facebook and Google directly collaborated on the campaign, helping “target the ads to more efficiently reach the audiences.” Not only did the two tech giants compete for “millions in ad dollars,” but they also “worked closely” with the group on their ads throughout the 2016 election.
Voters in swing states saw a range of ads, including the faux tourism video that depicted French students being trained to fight for the caliphate, and the Mona Lisa covered in a burqa. Another ad linked Nevada Democratic Senate nominee Catherine Cortez Masto to terrorism, calling on viewers to “stop support of terrorism. Vote against Catherine Cortez Mastro,” and asking them to “vote to protect Nevada.”
Ads were optimized to target specific groups of people that they felt “could be swayed by the anti-refugee message.” And Facebook reportedly used its collaboration with Secure America Now as an opportunity to test new technology as well. Internal reports acquired by Bloomberg show that the ads were viewed millions of times on Facebook and Google.
This case distinguishes itself from that of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election in that Google and Facebook directly assisted Secure America Now in its targeting of audiences. Of course, the two companies have worked with political groups on their advertising strategies in the past, but the extent and secretive nature of their assistance in this case is uncommon. And the content of the ads themselves reportedly left some Harris employees feeling “uneasy.”
Google and Facebook were not immediately available for comment.
When a raindrop falls in San Francisco, it has two choices: flow east into the San Francisco Bay, or west into the Pacific Ocean. A ridgeline divides the city into two, slicing through the Presidio, hugging the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park, and skirting Twin Peaks. As the land drops off in either direction, the elevation difference doesn’t just drive raindrops downhill—it also moves human waste. San Francisco, unlike any other coastal city in California, has just one set of pipes for its storm runoff and sewage. First engineered more than a hundred years ago, the system still functions on the same basic principle as it did in 1890: Let gravity do the work.
But the city’s early engineers didn’t account for the eight inches of sea level rise the bay has seen over the last century. And they certainly didn’t foresee the additional five feet expected by the end of the next hundred years, which promise to cause major flooding—not to mention a serious poop problem. Engineering a solution to the rising tides will be enormously expensive. Which is why the city thinks someone else should pay for it. Like, say, Big Petroleum.
Last month San Francisco announced it was suing the five largest publicly-held producers of fossil fuels in the world. The lawsuit aims to make these companies pay for the miles of seawall construction and sewer system redesigns required to protect the city from climate change. Climate change caused in part by all the fossil fuels they sucked, mined, and fracked out of the Earth. It may sound like a long shot, but the case rests on one of the oldest and best-tested environmental laws on the books, the same one that brought down Big Tobacco in the ‘90s and Big Lead Paint in the aughts. Whether or not the same rules apply to the threat of climate change is a question with implications far beyond the sewers of San Francisco.
But for now, let’s start there. When Carl Edward Grunsky, a German-born geologist and civil engineer arrived in San Francisco in the 1890s, his sense of order was offended nearly as much as his nose. For nearly 40 years people had been laying brick sewers willy nilly. The result was a city that “smells to Heaven with a loudness and persistence that the strongest nostrils may not withstand and the disinfectants of a metropolis could not remove,” as one health official at the time declared. Grunsky developed plans for an innovative gravity-based sewer system that would drain rainwater-diluted waste all the way from Daly City to North Point, where the rapid current would sweep it out to the Golden Gate.
At the time, it was a great leap forward in sanitation, even though it overflowed during rainstorms and dumped raw sewage into the bay. By the 1970s, with the passing of the Clean Water Act, that was a no-no. So the city built a ring of giant underground chambers around the peninsula—some as big as 25 feet wide by 45 feet tall. During dry weather, sewage collects at one of two treatment plants. But when it rains, storm runoff and sewage run downhill through a single set of pipes and drain into the big chambers. They function like waiting rooms, detaining stormwater until the treatment plants can process it all.
Today, overflow only happens during big storms, when the chambers and treatment stations fill to capacity. Then, sewage and stormwater have nowhere to go but out of 36 discharge outfalls located around the city, several feet below street elevation. But if especially wet weather happens to coincide with peak high tides, those outfalls become submerged, flooding any areas of the city at or below bay level with a mix of sewage and stormwater. This has been happening more frequently lately, as climate change has already raised sea levels around San Francisco by a few inches. And it’s expected to happen a lot more in the coming decades, with levels estimated to increase by up to 24 inches by 2050—enough to put most outfalls underwater daily.
Rising seas aren’t just a problem during the rainy season. In dry weather, big tides can breach the outfalls, flow into the collection containers, and wind up in the treatment plants. Corrosive saltwater wreaks havoc on the pumps, filters, and other equipment keeping San Franciscans from living in a cesspool. Today, that happens fairly infrequently. But more ocean means more ocean water entering and damaging the system.
A backseat engineer might ask at this point, “Why not just raise the outfalls a few feet?”
Oh, were it only so simple. But because the sewers are built on the city’s existing gravity-driven hydraulic gradient, you can’t go tweaking one part without feeling the effects system-wide. Higher outfalls won’t get submerged as often, but during storm events there will be less room for all that water to go. Which would mean even more flooding during the rainy season, even with the outfalls clear of the tides. And, don’t forget, those outfalls lead to containers and treatment plants that are mostly all underground, directly in the path of shoreline erosion caused by rising sea levels.
Without upgrades, here’s what will be inundated by the end of the century: SFO International Airport, the Giants Stadium, the site of the new Warriors Stadium. And, oh yeah, headquarters for companies like Facebook, Google, Airbnb, and the brand-spanking new Salesforce building, now the skyline’s tallest spire. Models project 6 percent of San Francisco will be inundated by normal, daily tides by 2100.
Last year San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee committed an initial $8 million to begin fortifying the city’s seawall. But shoring it up in the short-term will cost about $500 million—long-term, $5 billion. Add to that another $350 million to protect all the wastewater infrastructure and limit how much seawater makes it inside, and the climate change costs quickly add up. Costs, the city now says, should be shouldered by the corporations that still produce vast quantities of fossil fuels, despite having known for decades their role in driving climate change and accelerated sea level rise.
“These fossil fuel companies profited handsomely for decades while knowing they were putting the fate of our cities at risk,” San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit in September, which named BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell as defendants. “Now, the bill has come due.”
Oakland filed a similar lawsuit on the same day, with both cities charging the companies with liability for public nuisance, failure to warn, trespass, and negligence. They’re seeking only the funds needed to adapt infrastructure against encroaching seas. The cases represent the first real legal test of whether or not climate change blame is not only assignable, but quantifiable.
If they can get in front of a judge. To date, every attempt to bring a case based on a climate change-related injury has either been dismissed for lack of standing, lack of jurisdiction, or both. That’s because, while the courts were willing to entertain the complex causal chains linking secondhand cigarette smoke to cancer and lead house paint to behavioral and developmental issues in children, they so far have viewed climate change as so enormously complicated as to be outside the scope of adjudication. “I told you before I’m not a scientist,” former Justice Antonin Scalia told the Supreme Court in 2007. “That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth.”
But many legal experts say pressure (and scientific evidence) is mounting to let climate change have its day in court. “There’s certainly a sense that climate change is broader in scope than what nuisance law has ever addressed before,” says Sean Hecht, co-executive director of the UCLA law school’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. “But it couldn’t be that if the nuisance gets bigger and bigger that courts are less and less likely to impose a remedy. That flies in the face of reason.”
While it’s too early to say whether the court will be willing to look at San Francisco’s case, Hecht says it’s a strong one. The injury to the city is discrete, with sea level rise being the most well-established downstream effect of climate change. California, more so than any other state, has devoted serious resources to gathering data, modeling, and understanding the impacts of sea level rise on its shores. And the fossil fuel industry’s knowledge of the problem even as they sowed a public misinformation campaign has become increasingly well-documented. Any sort of victory, no matter how small, could embolden other local governments to sue oil and gas companies for host of other climate change-related expenses—like, say, super-soaking hurricanes or drought-fueled megawildfires.
Which is why San Francisco’s case is about more than just sewers and seawalls. It’s about who pays for climate change: the people hit hardest by it, or the corporations who profit from it? Like a raindrop falling on the city, there are only two ways forward. And every year the path to the ocean gets a little shorter.