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People aren't sharing the way they once did

This week, wireless provider Fido said it would immediately allow its customers in need of assistance to talk to actual human beings.

BAZ RATNER/REUTERS

Have you heard the news? Oh, wait - that's right, people aren't sharing the way they used to. At least that's the surprising conclusion reached by a study of almost 3,300 U.S. residents for Colloquy, the loyalty marketing consultancy owned by Canada's LoyaltyOne. Apparently, despite the efflorescence of social-media channels, only 57 per cent of respondents said they often recommend products and services to others, compared with 75 per cent in 2008, a 24-per-cent drop. Colloquy is chalking it up to the poor economy, which has apparently made it bad manners to talk about all the latest expensive gadgets and gizmos you've bought. Or maybe people have found something more important to talk about. Like, um, life?

We know, we know: We shouldn't get too hopeful. Still, hope does spring eternal on this week in which we humans struck a massive blow against the sneaky robots taking over our planet and our brains. On Wednesday, the discount wireless provider Fido announced it would immediately allow its customers in need of assistance to talk to actual human beings. FidoAnswers, which will be available in English, French, Cantonese and Mandarin, is the company's response to a Léger Marketing survey that found "89 per cent of customers prefer talking to a representative when calling their wireless provider." The other 11 per cent are apparently awaiting their next instructions from HAL.

Or maybe they'll just switch to Skype. The Internet calling service was in the news this week with its $8.5-billion (U.S.) acquisition by Microsoft, which apparently intends to bundle Skype into products like Windows and Kinect (which, um, already have voice and video capability). Microsoft also apparently intends to increase the advertising that Skype users experience when they log on to the service. "Given the size of our base … (advertising) seems like a natural monetization extension," said Skype CEO Tony Bates. Rush in now, dear advertisers: given Microsoft's habit of shutting down beloved consumer services a year or two after it buys them, Skype may not be long for our virtual world.

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Mind you, we wouldn't mind seeing ads for Skittles on Skype. The chewy fruit candy has been on a tear over the last year with bizarre TV spots featuring a character named Tree Boy, who has a Skittles-bearing tree growing out of his chest. Wrigley Canada has launched a faux social-media movement to support the poor boy's wish to go to college. Fans are asked to log on to freetreeboy.ca, where they can vote on which college Tree Boy should attend (ex: U. of Arborta, to major in Saponomics), and wear one of six free rubber bracelets. If this tongue-in-cheek campaign means the PR firm behind it will take everything else it does a little less seriously, we'll wear as much rubber as they want.

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