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Rachel Weidinger's picture

Upwell Team Uniforms

on June 7, 2012 - 8:35am

It may be some time before all of the components of our Team Upwell equipment are sourced.  For now, all we've found is our team Adidas, and naturally they're out of stock.  The outfitting of Team Zissou has many inspiring components, and the shoes are no exception.  Does anyone have a gold foil alpabet stamp we can borrow?  We just need U, P, W, E, and L.  Thanks.


We do not, however, find inspiration in the Team Zissou policies covering the issuing of firearms.  Our summer intern program, now accepting applications, is entirely Glock free.  Send us all your sea-loving, internet-whiz pals today:

Rachel Weidinger's picture

Marketing Toolkit for World Oceans Day

on June 5, 2012 - 6:44am

Alyssa at The Ocean Project has created a handy Marketing Toolkit for World Oceans Day, June 8, 2012.  Targeted at communications staff, bloggers, journalists and social media evangelists, it catalogues a useful body of resources. Hop over to check it out now, and make your participation in World Oceans Day easy. Here are a few highlights from the toolkit:

Facebook Timeline Cover

Sample tweet:

Did you know June 8th is World Oceans Day? #WorldOceansDay

Sample articles for bloggers:

Ray Dearborn's picture

Radioactive Tuna + #worldoceansday + OpenROV + ICCB Livetweeting Stats: Sea Signals for the Week of May 28

on June 4, 2012 - 4:13pm


We’re gearing up for World Oceans Day (June 8) here at Upwell, and had a good chat with the organizers about how we can support their work. One of the things we’ll be working on next week is to help amplify the #worldoceansday hashtag on Twitter , and the call for folks to upload a photo with their World Oceans Day pledge

We hope you’ll join us by using the #worldoceansday all next week, and sharing your World Oceans Day photo + pledge.

Radioactive Tuna

On May 28, the AP reported that Bluefin Tuna were arriving in California after a very long swim from Japan, and were carrying small amounts of Fukushima-related radioactivity. This news spread quickly, as a story with “radioactive” in the headline is wont to do. 

The scientific takeaways of the tuna study had little to do with the health effects, and much more to do with implications for tracking fish. The amount of radioactive cesium found in the fish was actually far below levels that would be considered unsafe.  

Online mentions of the radioactive bluefin tuna story, May 28th - June 1st, 2012

This story hit Upwell’s radar like a hurricane. Our big questions were, how can we expand on this conversation without playing into fears? And, even if we do play into fears, is there a way to pivot the conversation to key people into the other issues affecting bluefin?

Amplification & Reaction

The conversation about this was already happening big. Knowing that the story had hit the mainstream, we decided to make an animated gif to bring the story to new online audiences likely to have lively conversations: Tumblr and Reddit. Our gifs:

We asked our networks for a big Tumblr-er or Redditor. We found some, but Redditors in our network are highly educated on radioactive risks, and viewed further amplification of the news as fearmongering.  Reddit founder Alexis also responded to our request for help, letting us know that there are no superstar Redditors.

We shared the gifs with some tumblrs that catalog animated gifs. One of the gifs was featured on .gifs i use

We also posted the gifs to Reddit ourselves, knowing that without a lot of Reddit karma, we were unlikely to get many upvotes. That turned out to be a safe assumption. We also linked to the gifs in comments on links to radioactive tuna stories that had been upvoted on Reddit. 

Lastly, we included one of the gifs in a comment on Facebook. That got one like. 

We shared them on Twitter as well, and got one retweet by @Twyspy. hooray.

As of June 4, the gifs have been viewed over 250 times. 

We also did a couple traditional media pitches. Since the story was covered in most major news outlets fairly quickly, we focused on providing a new angle. We asked USA Today (who hadn’t covered the story yet) to take a broader look at food safety issues around seafood. We wrote On the Media to see if they’d like to look at how the media had covered the story, asking whether the sensational headline was misleading. USA Today did not want to cover the story, saying it had already run its course. On the Media did not respond.

We Learned

With a story like this, it’s important to act fast. The release of the story to mainstream media happened over a holiday weekend, and we had no advance notice from Scripps or the people in our network who had advance knowledge. The conversation got big quickly, and our monitoring allowed us to track the spike in attention.

The animated gif experience was a huge learning experience. While fun, they are incredibly difficult to make popular, since Facebook and Twitter are not good outlets for sharing them. Reddit remains a powerful tool that we will continue to explore, but using it successfully may require us to befriend a few champion Redditors. (Are you one? let us know!)

We want to continue to experiment with animated gifs but know that in order for them to achieve meme status, they’ve got to be a bit more clever than cute, and have a clear message.

This story became popular because of fear. Is radioactive cesium in your tuna a terribly scary thing? To most people, yes, but the science says it won’t do us any harm in such a small amount. Amplifying a story like this made us consider carefully how spread good science without fearmongering or skirting around the truth that radioactivity is, indeed, scary.


On May 28th, The New York Times published a piece by Brian Lam, A Mini Sub Made From Cheap Parts Could Change Underwater Exploration, about an open-source underwater robot.

Amplification & Reaction

We reached out through Twitter and email to a couple folks we know who love robots, and through Twitter to a robot-focused blog. One individual tweeted about the article, which caused a RT.

We also shared the link to the NYT article via Twitter to Upwell’s followers, and in a separate tweet, we shared a link to a video of the robot being tested in a cave. Both links received the same amount of clicks, but the tweet about the video was RTd and favorited. 

We Learned

We’re wondering if perhaps we should have shared the video, rather than the article to the NYT article as seeing a robot in action is possibly more interesting than reading about it, or seeing a photo of it.

ICCB Livetweeting Stats Analysis

Working with David Shiffman (@WhySharksMatter) we contributed data analysis for a manuscript documenting his work livetweeting the 2011 International Congress for Conservation Biology. In order to better understand the impact that Twitter had on the online conversation surrounding ICCB, Upwell analyzed over 4,000 occurrences of the Twitter hashtag #ICCB, filtering out similar, but unrelated uses of the term (such as tweets mentioning the Ireland Colliery Chesterfield Band, who gave a performance during the week of ICCB). 

The resulting analysis clearly demonstrated the benefits—in both conversation and overall attention—of having an active livetweeter, especially a passionate subject-matter expert like David. 

We look forward to sharing an in-depth look at our findings with you here soon, as soon as David’s manuscript has been published. Stay tuned!

Rachel Weidinger's picture

World Turtle Day + Robot Fish Police + More: Sea Signals for the week of May 20, 2012

on May 30, 2012 - 6:30pm

It was a busy week at Upwell: the end of fish, seafood and slaves, mercury in dolphins from power plants, our plasticized ocean, robot fish police, robot boats, Upwell overcomes Facebook insecurity and asks for friends, and World Turtle Day.

The End of Fish, In One Chart

On Sunday, May 20th, “The End of Fish, In One Chart,”  was published on The Washington Post’s WONKBLOG by Ezra Klein.

Amplification & Reaction

When we looked at how the story was moving on Monday, May 21st, it seemed like it already had momentum in the marine conservation Twitter community, so we decided to reach out to a different audience: vegetarians and vegans. We sent a tweet to a vegan magazine with a large Twitter following, and its senior editor.  The magazine RT’d the story to its 36,000 + followers.

We also shared the link via Twitter with a sustainable seafood cookbook author to ask for her thoughts about it, and had a 2-tweet conversation.

We Learned

We’re wondering if people who write about food are an especially active online community.

Did Slaves Catch Your Seafood?

On Monday, May 21st, ran the article, “Did Slaves Catch Your Seafood?” about how, “Thailand, a major source of fish imported to the US, depends on forced labor for its product.”

Amplification & Reaction

Thinking that this might be a story that the human trafficking community would want to share, we tweeted the story to four trafficking advocates with large Twitter followings.  Unfortunately, they didn’t RT story, and the number of clicks to the story link were minimal.

We Learned

If future stories come up about human trafficking and seafood, it might be more effective to reach out to advocates who have a smaller twitter following, or to combine Twitter outreach with email.

Mercury in Dolphins Higher Downwind of Power Plants

On Monday, May 21st, ScienceDaily posted, “Mercury in Dolphins Higher Downwind of Power Plants,”  about a Johns Hopkins University study comparing the level of toxins in wild and captive dolphins.

Amplification & Reaction

We tweeted three dolphin-related organizations, and one nonprofit that covers a range of environmental issues to make sure that they saw the piece. The dolphin-related orgs didn’t respond, but the general environmental one RT’d its 18,500 + followers.

We Learned

Our insight as to why the general environmental nonprofit RT’d the link, and the dolphin-related orgs did not, is that viewing its Twitter history shows that it shares a variety of links from different sources regularly.

Research ship finds the world's oceans are 'plasticized'

On Tuesday, May 22nd, CNN published the story, “Research ship finds that world’s oceans are ‘plasticized,’”  about how an expedition of environmentalists discoved that the pervasiveness of plastic in the ocean extends beyond the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

In spite of this discouraing news, a handful of encouraging plastic-related stories had also been shared recently:

Amplification & Reaction

Because the CNN story was so disheartening, we decided to try sharing it within an Ocean Plastic Solutions Storify  that included links to the positive stories (above) as well as links to:

We tweeted five of the sources mentioned in the story to let them know that they were included in the Storify. We also tweeted three bloggers who write about ocean plastic, and asked them for other ocean plastic solution story ideas.

The sources mentioned in the Storify did not share it, but the bloggers all responded via Twitter, or email.  One let us know (the next day) that Los Angeles City passed its ban on plastic bags!

We Learned

  • Even though the Storify didn’t receive as many hits as our first Storify, it did help to build relationships with bloggers who are passionate about ocean plastic issues.
  • Asking questions can be a wonderful way to engage with folks on Twitter
  • Always put an image in your Storify header!

Robot Fish ‘Police’ the Oceans

On Tuesday, May 22, 2012, BBC news published “Robotic fish to patrol for pollution in harbours,”  a story detailing the possibilities of using a robotic fish to patrol waters and sense pollution.

Amplification & Reaction

Our tracking showed a fair amount of online conversation about the story, but little among ocean and water advocacy groups. To spur conversation, we reached out to organizations focused on ocean and water pollution issues on Twitter and asked the question “Which waters would you patrol?”

Our tweet was retweeted three times and favorited twice, but our campaign’s overall impact on amplifying the story and conversation amongst the target group was minor.

We Learned

This campaign was started in the evening pacific time and performed comparably to similar twitter-focused micro-campaigns launched during normal business hours. It was also the second campaign in which we asked a question to spur conversation (see Endangered Species Day) with little direct response to the question asked.

Robot Boats

On May 23 Wired’s Gadget Lab published “Robot Boats Survive Epic Voyage Across the Pacific – So Far,”  tracking the voyage of wave-powered-data-gathering-remote-controlled boats from San Francisco to Hawaii.

Amplification & Reaction

The story’s author, Brian Lam, asked for Upwell’s help promoting the piece – at the time there was little online conversation about the story. In reading the article, we noticed a very interesting piece of information that was not obvious in the existing online conversation – the data gathered by the robot boats is available to the public for free. We decided to reach out via Twitter and Facebook to organizations interested in ocean data collection with a message that emphasized the data angle of the story. Three of seven organizations contacted retweeted or commented on our Facebook posts. One organization and one follower of another organization favorite out tweet.

We Learned

This campaign was also primarily executed in the evening, and performed comparable to other campaigns, indicating that time of day may not be as important as we’d thought.

World Turtle Day Pinterest Board

May 23rd was World Turtle Day!

Amplification & Reaction

After our positive experience with the Goliath Grouper Pinterest Board, we decided to create a World Turtle Day Pinterest Board  that included photos of turtles from marine conservation organizations’ sites that we saw were already discussing World Turtle Day, and photos from ocean organizations’ Pinterest Boards.

We created a custom bitly URL, and shared the Board with 11 of the organizations whose photos were featured on our World Turtle Day Pinterest Board.

According to bitly, the board as of last week received 49 clicks from 5 countries (United States, Venezuela, Canada, Germany, and Costa Rica) + “other.”  It also had 18 re-pins of images, 5 likes of images, and 10 followers.

Our tweets were RT’d 5 times, replied to 9 times, and favorited two times.

We Learned

  • Create a custom bitly URL
  • Pin photos from sources that you want viewers to click and read, in our case, ocean org’s sites
  • Re-pin from Boards that you want your viewers to click back to, in our case, ocean org’s Boards
  • Let the sources of your pins know that you have pinned their images via Twitter
  • Pinterest is fun!

Upwell Facebook Page: Like Us!

In order to access Insights for the Upwell Facebook Page, we need 30 likes.

Amplification & Reaction

Because we’re ramping up to amplify World Ocean Day stories, we tagged 25 marine conservation orgs on Facebook with a request for links to their World Ocean Day events. We also tweeted a request for folks to share their World Ocean Day events on our Facebook Page, and sent emails to friend of Upwell asking them to like our Page so that we can access our Insights.

No ocean orgs shared their ocean day events on Facebook, or liked our Page.  Our tweet received 3 RT’s.  We received 12 new Likes based on our emails.

We Learned

  •  It may have been too early to ask organizations to share links to their World Ocean Day events
  •  At this time, it seems like reaching ocean orgs through Twitter and email is more effective than tagging on Facebook.

World Turtle Day Image Macros

Photo based content is more likely to get broadly shared on photo-centric services than text only content. Such services include Facebook (whose Wall and Timeline interfaces both give prominence to images), Tumblr, and Pinterest.

Inspired by this Buzzfeed roundup of the currently popular Evil Cow Meme we decided to try to experiment with photo-based memes—referred to as "image macros"—in the hopes that we might eventually create something equally as viral but based upon ocean content (each one containing a URL pointing to related ocean content that we want to amplify).

Thanks to sites like MemeGenerator and Quickmeme, once an initial source image has been created and uploaded, anyone can easily create new versions. If a meme takes off, a distributed competition naturally emerges, with many people vying to come up with the best possible accompanying text. The resulting captions are far funnier—and more viral—than any individual is likely to come up with on their own. Read through the "Evil Cow" images on Buzzfeed's post and you'll see what we mean.

Open source campaigns like these also allow for greater audience interactivity and freedom of expression. Irreverence, politics, profanity and other controversial content is often highly viral, but may be inappropriate for Upwell to create ourselves. By giving anyone the ability to caption these images we can encourage maximum creativity with little or no direct accountability. "Who did it? The Internet did it."


  • Used, an image macro creation & hosting service, to create two turtle image macros, Sarcastic Turtle and Inquisitive Turtle, each containing a link to a World Turtle Day story
  • Searched for and selected images that were correctly Creative Commons-licensed for remix
  • Created a trackable link to Mother Nature Network's excellent World Turtle Day post
  • In Photoshop, cropped the images to a square format, added photo credit (to respect the CC-BY license), and added the World Turtle Day link
  • Created trackable links for the MemeGenerator pages for each image macro
  • Using these links, posted about these images on Twitter and Facebook

We Learned

  • Initial results on Facebook were promising, with Sarcastic Turtle receiving more likes and shares there than RT's on Twitter.
  • As puts their own URL in the lower right, that area should not be used for links or other text.
  • After being resized by MemeGenerator's image creation tool, both the link and the photo credit I'd added to the image became too small to read easily. In the future I would use a larger typeface, with a more pronounced outline or drop shadow, similar to what memegenerator themselves use when compositing their URL in the lower right of the image.
  • The MemeGenerator website was often unresponsive, with pages and image requests frequently timing out. This made it difficult to use, problems that would likely frustrate casual visitors from adding their own captions to the images that we posted there. In the future I would try an alternate image macro creation site, like the promisingly-named QuickMeme.
  • Add to Reddit next time to test in another community.
Rachel Weidinger's picture

Ocean of Life + NOAA Fisheries report + Endangered Species Day + Groupers: Sea Signals for the week of May 14, 2012

on May 21, 2012 - 11:32am

Ocean of Life
Buzz is building around the May 24th release of Callum Roberts’ new book The Ocean of Life. The Economist covered it on May 12th, and The Daily Beast shared an excerpt on May 14th (that appears in this week’s issue of Newsweek). The Mirror and Wall Street Journal covered it on May 18th, and Roberts is scheduled to be on The Diane Rehm Show in early June.

Amplification Action & Reaction
This week we reached out to 10 ocean conservation orgs  by email and through Twitter to let them know about the book’s release, its coverage in The Daily Beast and The Economist, and how to request a review copy for their blog.  At this writing, we’ve received one email reply from an ocean conservation organization who wrote to thank us for the heads up, and to say that they will share it through their social media channels.

It’s possible that the other 9 organziations didn’t respond to our tweets and emails because a. the email subject lines weren’t enticing enough, b. the email was never opened because the recipient didn't recognize the sender, and/or c. we should have waited to reach out after the book’s release when anyone could pick up a copy..

NOAA Fisheries Report
On May 14, 2012, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries. Overall, the report was positive, announcing that six fish stocks were rebuilt, and 86% of the 258 stocks monitored were in good shape. However, 45 stocks are still overfished, showing room for improvement.

The report received early attention in major news outlets -- Associated Press, Fishnewseu, New York Times among others -- and was receiving moderate amounts of attention in social media.

Number of online mentions (including blogs, social media, and forums) of the 2011 NOAA Status of Stocks report between May 13th and May 17th, 2012.

Amplification Action & Reaction
We  focused our efforts on reaching out to organizations focused on, or interested in overfishing and marine conservation and encouraged them to spread the story. Our message focused on the good news, but also recognized there’s still room for improvement.

The Blue Marine Foundation and The Black Fish responded positively to our emails asking them to write a blog post about the report or share through their social media channels.

The Blue Marine Foundations shared via Twitter on May 17. Our tweets to @oceanwildthings and @Bite_back were retweeted twice, and our @bite_back tweet was favorited.

    •    Emailing efforts (100% success rate{2/2}) seem to produce more responses than @tweets (50% success rate {3/6}).
    •    The response to already-popular stories seems to be positive overall and relatively easy to garner modest attention for.
    •    Our amplification efforts may be more effective if we can reach outlets earlier in the story lifecycle.

Endangered Species Day
Our daily Tide Report tracked that May 18 was Endangered Species Day. We spotted @savingoceans using the day to tweet about endangered marine life and their activities to preserve it. However, other ocean and seafood-focused organizations were largely silent about their thoughts on Endangered Species Day.

Amplification Action
To spur conversation, we tweeted organizations focused on marine animal conservation and asked them which animals were on their minds today. We also reached out via email to two organizations and asked them to share Endangered Species Day with their communities.

As of this writing, we garnered some attention: Marine Bio shared Endangered Species Day with their Facebook audience and our conversation-starting tweets to organizations were re-tweeted twice. We’ll keep you updated on the progress of our efforts as they unfold.

    •    We used the wrong hashtag in two tweets due to an errant space between “species” and “day.” Though not a horrible mistake -- one tweet with that error was still retweeted -- it’s a reminder to double check these kinds of things so we’re entering the right conversations.
    •    Again, email seems to be fairly reliable in starting conversations with organizations and soliciting engagement on issues with a 50% response rate in this micro-campaign.

In a May 16th, fish2fork published a piece, Fishing Bans Needed to Halt Groupers’ Slide to Extinction, about a paper published in the journal of Fish & Fisheries. According to the study, a quarter of grouper species are being fished to extinction.  The fish2fork piece followed a May 9th press release published by the California Academy of Sciences, and an article on ScienceDaily on the same day.

Amplification Action & Reaction
We shared the fish2fork article, and the stat that “a quarter of grouper species are being fished to extinction” via a Goliath Grouper Pinterest board featuring 14 photos of Goliath Groupers.

Goliath Grouper Pinterest screenshot

We shared the board on Facebook and Twitter, and tweeted 8 of the thirteen sources of the photos, which included a handful of ocean conservation organizations.  We also searched for folks who had already tweeted about Goliath Groupers and/or the extinction stat, and let them know about the board.

The tweets received a 3 retweets and 1 comment: “goliath groupers rebounding well in the U.S., however, as far as we can tell w/o stock assessment.”


What stories shall we amplify this week? Let us know! Email, or tweet us @upwell_us.