Today I Saw a Bird: Balancing Sharing and Ethics

Today I saw a bird.  It was orange, and brown, and about the size of a blackbird.  At first I was thinking it was a robin (bright orange, with white bits on the sides of the tail), but something wasn’t right.  Maybe it was a an oriole? A cardinal?

Today I saw this bird. Should I share or should I hide?

I was at a loss.  None of my many apps or books provided an answer (the Merlin App was insistent that I was looking at either a robin or a cardinal).  What I needed was a community of passionate enthusiasts to help!  A quick click of my camera and an upload later I had it posted to a birding group on Facebook.  Within in a minute I had an answer:  a Varied Thrush.

While listed as being in steep decline on Cornell Lab’s website, the Varied Thrush is still common in its home range of the west coast of North American.  So…? Great question!  I saw this bird out of my window in chilly Haliburton, Ontario… some 3,000km from where it should be.

Over the course of the day I had several conversations, both on-line and face-to-face about this rare sighting.  More than a few people had questions about my sighting.  Was it accessible to the public?  Could you see the feeder from a public space?  Could I make arrangements for a couple of serious birders to come out and check for themselves.

I’ll be honest here, I felt uncomfortable about the whole thing.  I try to be helpful.  I remember being new and having questions and feeling like I was interfering or was unworthy or I wasn’t enough…  I didn’t like feeling that way then, and I certainly going to be some Gate Keeper standing between my community and something special.  But that’s exactly what I was doing; I was a hypocrite.  I had shared an amazing find on social media and wasn’t willing to let others share in the experience.

Fortunately, a mentor reminded me of a real and hard fact:  I have a moral and professional obligation to keep that bird safe.

Birders, like with any group of enthusiasts, have some members who take their passions to a fanatic level.  I’ve read several blogs about the length some will go to in order to capture the once-in-a-lifetime picture or add a rarity to their life list.  Check out John Aldred’s ““Baiting” animals worth the short for wildlife photography” and Tom Spears’ Ottawa Citizen story from February of this year to get a better idea of how bad it can get.

How than, am I suppose to balance the duality of wanting to participate in an on-line community while at the same time protecting the bird and the environment?  In the end, I made some compromises.  I recorded my sightings on eBird (a birding app connected with Cornell University), shared the general area of the siting on Facebook (“general”, in this case being roughly 200-square kilometers), and invited some trusted professionals to come out and see for themselves.  Also… and this is a big one… I generally tried not to brag about this random and magical experience.

By its very nature, social media is all about sharing; sharing important life events, or what you had for lunch, or a picture of a cloud that looks kinda-sorta like that guy you use to know.  The challenge today is finding the balance between wanting to share with the world and the need to protect sensitive environments and threatened species.

Having a plan is important. Taking time to figure out what you are going to do when faced with a similar situation will help you be who you want to be.


Facebook: Today I Saw a Bird: How a simple moment raised questions about sharing and stewardship.

Twitter: Birds, sharing and ethics #WhatWouldYouDo

COM0014 – Blog #2: I shoot people for a living, and I brag about it.


Following a VIP in Ma’Sum Ghar, Afghanistan, in 2010. Photo by a friend.

I bet the picture with me and a camera de-fused that violent image you initially had in your head. That is the power of images.

It is my job as a photojournalist to tell stories. My story is simple. My assignments as a photographer take me anywhere and everywhere, therefore allowing to share what I experience along the way. I also have other passions like trail running, martial arts and traveling. On my blog, I want to portray myself as an accessible person who likes to share his adventures and challenges, that’s why I write in first person. I try my best to remain positive and prefer experience to opinions.

Covering the RCMP Sunset ceremonies in Ottawa, 2015. Photo by Rick Millette.

Luckily photography is a medium that is easy to share. They tell a story or show something in a way that is a lot easier than having to explain it; hence the cliché quote: “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

My intent is not to teach nor speak about the science behind photography, or at least not really in depth. There are plenty of people that do that very well in YouTube already. I try to keep it simple, and just give a bit more details about the photographs. I tell my story, very much like a journal, or a conversation I would have with my friends. It also serves the purpose of building credibility to the people who might be interested in hiring me down the road, allowing them to get to know me better before they make that first contact.

Would you allow me to shoot you now?


Documenting the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, France. Photo by my boss.


COM0015 Blog #2: The Strong vs. The Weak?

If there’s something you want to know, odds are there’s a TED talk about the subject matter. TED talks span a wide range of subjects and feature a variety of expert speakers. No wonder its Twitter account has more than 3.5 million followers.


For something to succeed online, it doesn’t need to just be good, someone has to want to share it, according to June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media. Boy do people want to share all things TED! This concept has evoluted from a single conference into a global media platform as a result of social media.

TED encouraged sharing

There are 1900+ TED Talks now online that have been viewed collectively more than 900,000,000 times.

Cohen explained that the increasing widespread use of social media naturally played a part in this process, but more importantly using the tools of the web in the best possible way to increase the sharability of content.

“Online users are exquisitely vulnerable to distraction” said Cohen.

With a rise in mobile, TED embraced the trends of their community and purposely designed their online talks to be optimized for small screen, cut long intros and started the videos strong.

TED also made sure videos are framed close to the speaker’s face. So on a mobile phone, viewers can see the emotion of what is being communicated.


And TED videos can be watched through many devices, embedded, downloaded as free podcast, etc. By embracing open (free) models they aim to reduce the barriers between the ideas and their intended audience.

A “brand” that could use a little mentoring from TED is Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby posted a photo of himself on Twitter earlier in November inviting the Internet to meme him. The entire thing was eventually deleted when fans used the web tool to highlight past accusations against Cosby.

Bill Cosby

#CosbyMeme quickly devolved into a conversation about rape and rape culture, never quite achieving the cute, wholesome captions Cosby’s marketers were likely expecting with that tip-of-the-hat photo. How they didn’t see this possible epic failure is beyond me.

This seemed like an adhoc idea and a proper S.W.O.T. analysis was not carried out. With all the negative attention (please be advised that this is a sensitive topic and offensive language is used in this video) that Mr. Cosby has been getting lately it is hard to believe this campaign was initiated. Everyone knows that it’s not just your fans that follow you on social media.

Good, bad and ugly…it’s all on social media.

Please share your thoughts on this post.

COM0011: Too comfy


There’s a recent scandal at University of Ottawa concerning dialogue between student body candidates — those too comfy with social media and not realizing the possible disadvantageous blows. This blog post outlines, in detail, the sexually offensive dialogue (screen grabs!) between three male students about Anne-Marie Roy, the recently elected President of the Student Federation. It’s pretty bad stuff!
The official University of Ottawa statement on this issue

R emember the topic of Discussion #2 – the risks of social media? It seemed that all of us agreed on the importance of carefully considering how you would like to handle personal from professional personas, and all the rest in between. Others removed their personal life out of the entire digital scene, while others were Privacy Settings Masters or comfortable and aware of what they share. The truth is, social media can ruin reputations. It can close doors. And It can very well do the opposite as well!

Knowing what is appropriately perceived is very important, yet ambiguous at times – and fragile. What you publish online is met by this button… beware! :S

COM0011 – 521 Blog Post #1 – My Favourite Social Media Tools

Welcome to my first blog post.  Hope you enjoy it!

What is my favourite social media tool? What’s your favourite? How does one chose? What a challenge! Perhaps the most appropriate basis for deciding is one’s experience and familiarity with a particular tool. I have “tinkered” with Twitter recently, specifically re-tweeting corporate tweets, and connecting it to my LinkedIn account. When I post on LinkedIn, be it a newly created post or sharing a corporate post, a shorter version gets tweeting. I have a Google+ account and see the potential of a more integrated networking platform, considering gmail, Google search engine, etc., although it’s still a bit early to rate it over LinkedIn, despite Goggle+’s success (500 million registered users as of May 2013). Until this week, I’ve not had a Facebook account, so it’s a TBD. From my perspective, it comes down to two social media tools – LinkedIn and YouTube.

linkedin icon

I’ve used LinkedIn for many years, have in excess of 600 contacts (1800 in Outlook) and find it a useful tool for connecting, nurturing relationships and disseminating content of interest to contacts. It is a valuable business development tool. Some have mentioned that LinkedIn is the business “equivalent” of Facebook. With respect to the above-mentioned applications I agree, however, I have not seen the multitude of photos and videos.  Instead, it’s more posts and links. We’ll see if this holds true going forward as I have recently created a Facebook account.

you tube icon

YouTube is another favourite for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is unique in that is it all videos.  With respect to the saying “…a picture’s worth a 1000 words…”, I find it much easier to digest the multitude of content, especially since in my case, it’s mostly a one-way scenario – I don’t post video content, especially as it relates to a non-business application. While there is definitely an “entertainment” factor, I value YouTube for its educational content, specifically it’s “How to…” video tutorials. For example, I am renovating a bathroom and wanted a refresher on how to tile a floor. There are more “How to tile a floor” videos than you can digest.  This would be a typical application for me.

Until next time…

Bob Giddings