Get Involved in Big Boulder 2015

Big Boulder 2015 is just around the corner and we can’t wait to welcome you to Boulder in a few short weeks. Many of our members have been asking how they can get more involved in this year’s conference. Well, here’s your chance! Below are three ways you can participate:

Speak at the Conference

Do you have something important to share with the others in the industry? Is there a topic you think we should cover at the conference? Well, here’s your chance.

We’re using Pecha Kucha format to give you the opportunity to share it with us. So, craft up your best ideas in and send ‘em in! If your Pecha Kucha is selected, you get a free ticket to the conference!

What should a social data ecosystem look like in five years? What are the building blocks? Who controls the DNA? What values will inspire and secure its future?

We invite provocative Pecha Kucha submissions on these and related topics relevant to the work of the Big Boulder Initiative. Please send your 20-slide Pecha Kucha-compliant slide deck to by Monday, June 1, 2015. No product mentions or sales pitches please!

An expert panel of cast members from HBO’s hit series Silicon Valley will review the proposals (or we will have a BBI subcommittee). Either way, the competition for these spots will be cutthroat. Please carefully study the art and science of Pecha Kucha and make sure you are a registered and paid BBI member before making a submission.

For more more information please email

Star in the Opening Video at Big Boulder

Have you attended Big Boulder in years past? If so, you are probably familiar with our famous opening videos that kick off the conference each year. This year we are changing it up a bit and would like to feature you, our members!

We are holding a video contest for all Big Boulder Initiative members. The winner will be featured in the opening video at this year’s Big Boulder conference and will not only win bragging rights but a new Apple Watch.

We are looking for short, fun videos that highlight:

  1. Why you or your organization joined the Big Boulder Initiative
  2. What you are looking forward to at this year’s Big Boulder Conference

Video requirements are as follows:

  1. Your video should be under two minutes.
  2. Your video should open with your name and organization (i.g. Hi, I am Bre Zigich from the Big Boulder Initiative).
  3. Your video can be submitted via Twitter, Facebook (public profile only), YouTube, or Instagram using #BigBoulderOpeningVideo.
  4. Once you have submitted your video, please email Bre Zigich at with your name, title, and company to ensure we get your submission.
  5. The deadline for video submissions is Monday, June 1, 2015.
  6. Bonus point for creativity! Remember these don’t have to be too serious and should show your personality.

Here are some tips and tricks of the trade for creating your video. Happy filming!

For more information please email

Join Us on Sunday, June 14th and Take Part in a Member Meetup

We will be hosting several Big Boulder Initiative member meetups to discuss the BBI Code of Ethics, an upcoming workshop on Social Data for Social Good, and how to grow and activate BBI members. The meetups will be held on Sunday, June 14th from 3:00pm to 4:00pm. If you can make it, please RSVP using the links below and plan to meet in the lobby of the St Julien at 3:00pm on Sunday, June 14th.

BBI Code of Ethics & Standards for Social Data
Social media offers an unprecedented set of opportunities and responsibilities for individuals and organizations. For individuals, social media offers new routes to self-expression mixed with shifting, sometimes unfamiliar expectations regarding ownership and privacy of that data. For organizations, social data offers new ways to glean insight into customer and consumer attitudes, emotions and behaviors down to the individual level, and therefore also raises ethical dilemmas with regard to direct use. This meetup, lead by BBI Board members Susan Etlinger and Farida Vis, will seek to generate more input for the authors of the draft code.

Planning a Fall BBI Workshop in Chicago
We have interest from Don Heider (Loyola) Rayid Ghani (UChicago) and Sherry Emery (UIC) in having a “Social Data for Social Good” BBI workshop on Saturday November 7, the day after The Center for Digital Ethics & Policy at Loyola University Chicago  will be holding its 5th annual International Symposium on Digital Ethics. This meetup will begin to pull together a team to launch the workshop planning.

BBI Membership Growth & Activation
What sorts of activities can the Big Boulder Initiative undertake to increase membership? How can the BBI value proposition reach its full potential? This meetup, lead by BBI Board members Pernille Bruun-Jensen and Megan Kelley, will address how BBI can better convey its purpose while activating members in the types of dialogue and activities that define an effective organization.

A Code of Ethics for Social Data: We Need Your Help!

Update: Nov 14, 2014. Revised Draft Code of Ethics

One of the most important functions that the Big Boulder Initiative can provide is to help establish and clarify a code of ethics for the proper use of social data for industry, academia and other organizations who use it. To this end, the Big Boulder Initiative Board of Directors has drafted the following document, which we hope will serve as a starting-point for a final code of ethics to be posted on this blog and shared widely elsewhere.

Thank you to all the board members who have contributed, and also to the many others whose work provided a foundation for our thinking, in particular, the work of Jon Lovett and Eric Peterson of the Web Analytics Association (now Digital Analytics Association). We need your help and hope you’ll add your thoughts and comments so we can finalize it knowing that it was a collaborative effort by the social data community. If you don’t want to comment publicly, please feel free to email feedback to


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DRAFT Code of Ethics for Social Data


The Big Boulder Initiative was founded to establish the foundation for the long-term success of the social data industry. To accomplish that, we must address the many and complex issues that social data poses: to interpretation, to analysis, to custodianship, to business value, and, of course, to individual protection and privacy.

The following Code of Ethics represents an effort to begin to define a set of ethical values and practices for the treatment of social data. It represents a commitment of the Big Boulder Initiative to proper data stewardship and an effort to educate the industry about ethical social data collection, processing and utilization practices.

Consider: what’s the worst that can happen?

About Social Data

Social media offers an unprecedented set of opportunities and risks for individuals and organizations. For individuals, social media offers new routes to self-expression mixed with a complex and ever-shifting set of contexts and expectations regarding ownership and privacy of that data. For organizations, social data offers new ways to glean insight into customer and consumer attitudes, but also raises ethical dilemmas with regard to proper use of that data in areas such as privacy, stewardship and storage.

The Code of Ethics

This document represents a starting point for articulating and honoring the most ethical business practices surrounding social data and its use for organizations.

1. Privacy

First, do no harm. Because of the many platforms, privacy settings and contexts for social data, privacy is much more complex than a simple “on or off” setting. It is highly contextual. For example, while tweets are generally public, broadcasting a specific tweet on television, with attribution, may represent more public scrutiny than an individual intends. The BBI board of directors believes that, in addition to honoring explicit privacy settings, organizations should do their best to honor implicit privacy preferences where possible. This may mean broadcasting a tweet without attribution, or with a blurring of the name. Specifically, the best practice is to preserve content within its original context so as not to surprise the user.

2. Transparency and Methodology

Social data can be used to make business or personal decisions, so it is critical that data sources are as clearly articulated as possible. A best practice is to include methodology, including sources and sample percentages, where possible, to enable readers to draw their own conclusions about the scientific validity of a particular set of recommendations. Be honest, especially when you don’t have all the answers.

3. Education

Because much of social data is unstructured, and its applications still relatively new, you must consider the implications when working with it. Be curious: what’s the worst that can happen? Your job is to facilitate effectively positive conversations and education within the industry versus fear and hype, and provide actionable and practical advice to users of social data, whether in the public sector or industry.

4. Accountability

Finally, prepare an action/crisis plan in case something goes wrong. As we’ve seen with many, many social media crises, social data can give rise to a host of unintended consequences. Do scenario planning: what options will you offer your consumers, providers, partners, customers if something—an outage, data corruption, hacking, privacy breach, or just poor judgment—goes wrong?


By agreeing to the four sections outlined in this Social Data Code of Ethics, I pledge to uphold these standards across the Internet. I will support the Big Boulder Initiative’s efforts to safeguard consumer data and privacy by providing feedback, referencing this Code and other related publications, and by advocating for adherence to these standards. If I observe a violation of these standards, I will make a reasonable effort to notify the site owner and provide feedback directly and privately, referencing this Code of Ethics as warranted.

[Note: the following will have live links when we finalize the COE:]

I agree to the above Social Data Code of Ethics and am ready to pledge.

View the current list of supporters.

Many thanks to the BBI Board for their input, and many thanks in advance to all of you who contribute!

About the Author

Susan Etlinger is a founding board member of the Big Boulder Initiative. She is an industry analyst at Altimeter Group, where she works with global organizations to develop social data and analytics strategies that support their business objectives. Susan has a diverse background in marketing and strategic planning within both corporations and agencies. She’s a frequent speaker on big data, social data and analytics and has been extensively quoted in outlets including Fast Company, BBC, New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Find her on Twitter at @setlinger and at her blog, Thought Experiments, at

The Future of Social Data Starts Now

We first announced the formation of the Big Boulder Initiative last June to build the foundation for the long-term success of the social data industry. We’ve made a lot of progress since then.

Last fall, we held a series of small workshops in four cities to discuss the future of social data and the challenges we all face in creating the future we believe is possible. Across all of the workshops, participants – publishers, brands, solution providers, analysts, academics, public sector, finance and more – represented a range of perspectives. We achieved two key outcomes from these events: we identified six high-level topic areas to address, and we elected a board of directors.

This year, the board has gone to work. We established the Big Boulder Initiative as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization. We refined and focused the topic areas identified in the workshops. We developed a working draft of a code of ethics for the the social data industry. We created a structure and definition for what it means to be a member of the Initiative. And last but not least, we pulled together the 2014 edition of the Big Boulder conference.

Today, we’re releasing several items so we can drive the discussion forward with the entire industry. First and foremost, our draft Code of Ethics is now available and open for discussion. Stewardship and appropriate use of data is a key topic that we’re planning to address, and the Code of Ethics is the foundation for this discussion. Second, you can now sign up to be a member of the Big Boulder Initiative. We have memberships for companies, academics, nonprofits and individuals. Third, we’re launching a new website for the Initiative. This includes membership information, this blog, and a forum where members can discuss topics we’re addressing. And finally, we’ll kick the conversation into high gear with the start of the Big Boulder conference tomorrow morning.

I’m thrilled to see us take this big step forward with this Initiative. I hope you’ll consider becoming a member to take part in defining the future of the social data industry. This is the beginning of something big.