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Crisis PR in the Internet age

Director Kevin Smith has brought a firestorm down on Southwest Airlines after being ejected from a flight for being too fat, demonstrating the power consumers wield with social media.

Southwest got some practice implementing crisis control in the Internet age after Kevin Smith sent out a flurry of Twitter messages to his legion of followers. Fans were furious, the media picked up on the story and the rest was history.

Southwest Airlines has apologized in blogs and defended itself in the face of furious Tweets. The fracas brought so much attention, it crashed their feedback page.

So many public relations people diligently make a daily practice of blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking, mostly to an audience of no one. Only when things fall apart is the importance of having those established networks made clear.

But the true test is whether Southwest's spin control was able to smooth the feathers it ruffled. Are you satisfied by Southwest's reaction? Do you think Smith was making a big deal over nothing? Do you think Smith got the reaction he did only because he's famous, or do you think an average consumer could have made the same impact?

Still, Smith doesn't think Southwest handled things very well. But in a situation like this, who gets the last word?

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann

New signs sneak peeks at shoppers

Score another one for Big Brother.

According to a Wall Street Journal article, a new series of digital signs contain tiny cameras which capture images of people walking by in crowded places such as airports and shopping centers. That footage is synced up with a software program that scans it to determine shoppers' gender and age. Though not 100 percent accurate, the program zeroes in on age within a 10-year range.

That information can then be used to determine when and where certain demographics pass by in order to better target advertising, according to the program's developers at the Japanese company NEC Electronics Corp.

---Samantha Maziarz Christmann