Quotulatiousness

March 22, 2014

QotD: The “B-word”

Filed under: Media, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:27

To me, the Ban Bossy campaign is one of those unnecessary feel-good, pat-yourself-on-the-back schemes that puts lipstick on social media’s most dubious achievement, the sanctification of rampant self-promotion disguised as content. You could say it’s the Facebook-ization of feminism.

There’s even product placement. You can go the Ban Bossy website store and buy a Ban Bossy T-shirt, mug or tote. There’s even a Ban Bossy case for your iPhone 5. (Insert your own snarky Apple joke here.)

Big names — Beyoncé, Jennifer Garner, Melinda Gates — share inspirational quotes, to which no reasonable person could object because all of the edges have been blunted.

If ever there is a sign of the feminization of America, it could be that one Ban Bossy celebrity spokesman is former Gen. Stanley McChrystal. That’s right, the former head of NATO command in Afghanistan — whose swagger and irreverent attitude toward the Obama White House was so pronounced that he had to resign — has been reduced to piggybacking onto a campaign that exhorts little girls not to let themselves be stereotyped and suggests that teachers conduct “no interruptions” conversations so that every child has a chance to speak.

A wartime general wants to ban bossy? Why even have an army?

Debra J. Saunders, “Sheryl Sandberg, how about banning bossy billionaires?”, SFGate.com, 2014-03-19

Turkish Twitter users work to circumvent the government’s ban

Filed under: Europe, Government, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:00

In the Guardian, Constanze Letsch reports from Istanbul as users of Twitter actively flout the government’s peevish ban of the online service:

Turkish users of Twitter, including the country’s president, have flouted a block on the social media platform by using text messaging services or disguising the location of their computers to continue posting messages on the site.

In what many Twitter users in Turkey called a “digital coup”, Telecom regulators enforced four court orders to restrict access to Twitter on Thursday night, just hours after the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, vowed to “eradicate” the microblogging platform in an election speech.

The disruption followed previous government threats to clamp down on the social media and caused widespread outrage inside and outside Turkey. In a first reaction to the ban, Neelie Kroes, vice-president of the European commission, tweeted: “The Twitter ban in #Turkey is groundless, pointless, cowardly. Turkish people and intl community will see this as censorship. It is.”

Štefan Füle, EU commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said in a statement: “The ban on the social platform Twitter.com in Turkey raises grave concerns and casts doubt on Turkey’s stated commitment to European values and standards.”

The hashtag #TwitterisblockedinTurkey quickly rose to the top trending term globally. According to social media agency We Are Social the number of tweets sent from Turkey went up 138% following the ban.

March 18, 2014

These buttons would be a vast improvement to the Facebook user interface

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:55

John Donovan posted this image, and I wholeheartedly agree that it really would make the Facebook experience so much more enjoyable:

Facebook needs these 24 buttons

Update: Whoops! Forgot the link to the original source.

March 6, 2014

Getty Images changes their licensing policy to allow more sharing

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:26

BBC News is reporting that Getty Images has made a huge swath of their photographs free to use for small websites and social media users:

Millions of images — including famous shots of Marilyn Monroe and Barack Obama — will now be available without cost to blogs and social media sites.

The photos will be “framed” with a code that links back to Getty’s website.

Getty said it had made the move after realising thousands of its images were being used without attribution.

“Our content was everywhere already,” said Craig Peters, a business development executive at the Seattle-based company.

“If you want to get a Getty image today, you can find it without a watermark very simply,” he added.

“The way you do that is you go to one of our customer sites and you right-click. Or you go to Google Image search or Bing Image Search and you get it there. And that’s what’s happening…”

I’m delighted to hear this, as one of the things I would like to do with my blog posts is include more images, but it’s often too difficult to locate photos that I am legally allowed to share without having to pay a licensing fee (this blog is a hobby and I earn no money from it). Here’s the wording from Getty’s website:

Embedded Viewer

Where enabled, you may embed Getty Images Content on a website, blog or social media platform using the embedded viewer (the “Embedded Viewer”). Not all Getty Images Content will be available for embedded use, and availability may change without notice. Getty Images reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove Getty Images Content from the Embedded Viewer. Upon request, you agree to take prompt action to stop using the Embedded Viewer and/or Getty Images Content. You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetise its use without any compensation to you.

Here’s a totally unrelated photo embedded using Getty’s Embed Images tool:


SIMFEROPOL, UKRAINE – MARCH 05: A statue of Lenin is viewed in the Crimean city of Simferopol on March 5, 2014 in Simferopol, Ukraine. As the standoff between the Russian military and Ukrainian forces continues in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, world leaders are pushing for a diplomatic solution to the escalating situation. The United Nations reports that the poverty rate in Ukraine is now at around 25%, with a falling population in recent years due to both a low fertility rate and migration to other parts of Europe and America. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Searching the Getty Images site, not all search results provide images that are embeddable under the licensing terms, so this isn’t a “free for all” on everything Getty publishes, but it’s certainly a welcome change for even making a portion of their holdings available for legal sharing without charge.

February 27, 2014

OQLF now monitoring social media for language

Filed under: Cancon, Law, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:32

No, not coarse language … the English language:

The agency in charge of enforcing the primacy of the French language in Quebec apparently has a new target — social media.

Eva Cooper, the owner of a small retail boutique in Chelsea, Que., has been notified by the language agency that if she doesn’t translate the shop’s Facebook page into French, she will face an injunction that will carry consequences such as a fine.

“Ultimately, to me, Facebook has nothing to do with Quebec,” said Cooper, who uses the social media site to inform customers of new products in her boutique north of Ottawa. The shop — Delilah in the Parc — has an all-bilingual staff of fewer than 10 people.

“I’m happy to mix it up, but I’m not going to do every post half in French, half in English. I think that that defeats the whole purpose of Facebook,” said Cooper, who has requested the agency send her their demands in English.

Cooper’s case represents a new frontier for the language agency, the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF). The agency says probes of social media complaints, which started only recently, are “not frequent.”

February 22, 2014

Venezuela’s crisis

Filed under: Americas, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:10

With all the attention being on Ukraine’s political upheaval, there’s another political crisis happening in South America:

How is Venezuela doing? Well, tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets, the army’s been sent to crush revolt, an opposition leader has been arrested and supporters of the government just shot dead a former beauty queen. It’s going to hell in a handcart, that’s how it’s doing.

After Hugo Chavez died he was replaced by Nicolas Maduro, a man of considerably less talent who bears a striking resemblance to an obese Burt Reynolds. A Venezuelan friend explains that Chavez’s titanic personality held his revolution together, reconciling its various contradictions with his charismatic nationalism. By contrast, “Maduro has let the worst people take over” — surrendering authority to radical mobs and corrupt officials in a bid to keep them all on side. The result? Bad economic management, inflation at 56 per cent, rising unemployment, food shortages, shocking levels of crime and an increasing reliance on government control of the press.

The Left always insisted under Chavez that some meddling in the media was necessary because it was otherwise controlled by dark, foreign forces (read: people who disagreed with Chavez). But Maduro is now threatening to expel CNN, which is about the fairest and most balanced news source on the planet. CNN’s crime was to report on the recent protests that have engulfed the capital. And good for CNN. Coverage on what’s happening in Venezuela has been eclipsed by events in Ukraine, so for those who don’t know here’s what’s happening on the ground.

  • On February 12, the opposition held a massive rally that resulted in bloodshed. Three people were killed, including two opposition protesters and one pro-government activist. The National Guard was dispatched to prevent further rallies.
  • Violence quickly spread out across the country. Some 3,000 troops were sent to pacify the city of San Cristobal, where the government also cut off transport links and the internet.
  • Opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, was forced to hand himself over to the National Guard on charges of inciting violence.
  • The President blamed America for starting the conflict and has expelled US officials.
  • Local TV stations have gone into lockdown and simply aren’t reporting the fighting. Venezuelans are relying on social media, which includes some false reporting. The opposition lack a single national TV outlet to be heard on.

February 20, 2014

Cracking Facebook‘s news feed algorithm

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:56

Sean Davis does the analysis on how Facebook‘s internal process works to determine who gets to see what in their newsfeeds. This was for an organization’s page, so the analysis may not be the same for personal Facebook pages, but the bottom line is that the money you may spend for ads is worth it, but you’re wasting your money with promoted posts:

If you manage your company’s Facebook page and have ever wondered how the Facebook news feed algorithm decides how many of your fans will see your content, then wonder no more. We’ve cracked the code (or we’ve at least cracked the code as it pertains to The Federalist’s Facebook page). And yes, for those of you who don’t feel like reading through the entire post or grappling with the math and statistics below, the Facebook news feed algorithm absolutely rewards the purchase of Facebook ads.

According to our analysis, five simple variables explain the vast majority (nearly 75 percent) of how the Facebook news feed algorithm works: total likes, daily paid reach, site page views from Facebook, weekend vs. weekday, and posts per day. The full magnitude of each factor’s effect is discussed in detail below.

[...]

Facebook can deny the charge all it wants, but according to extensive data for our Facebook page, the Facebook news feed algorithm clearly rewards the purchase of ads. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that — Facebook has every right to charge whatever it wants for the services it provides. The company’s advertisers and publishers, however, need to understand the extent to which Facebook uses ad purchases to increase a page’s news feed exposure. That’s why we conducted the analysis we did — money doesn’t grow on trees, and we need to have a very clear understanding of how money invested in advertising affects our overall bottom line. But it would be nice if Facebook were more transparent and specific about how its news feed algorithm works.

The company’s continued opacity is what led us to do our own digging, and according to Facebook’s own numbers about how our fans interact with our page, it turns out that a dollar spent on Facebook might not be worth as much as a dollar spent somewhere else.

February 14, 2014

Facebook‘s multiplicity of gender choices

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 14:30

I have known enough people for whom the arbitrary division of people into “male” or “female” was insufficient that it didn’t surprise me at all that Facebook has extended their available self-designators. What does surprise is the vast selection of choices they currently support. Slate‘s Will Oremus attempted to identify all the options:

Facebook told me it has no plans to publish a comprehensive list of the choices it offers. So we took it upon ourselves to reconstruct it by typing each letter of the alphabet into the text field, one at a time, and transcribing the options that appeared. We found 56 custom options, bringing the total number of options to 58 including male and female. Please note that it’s possible that the list below is not complete. If you find one that we missed, please feel free to point it out in the comments and we’ll update accordingly.

The list goes from “Agender” to “Two-Spirit”. Who knew there could be so many discrete gender states?

January 16, 2014

Facebook‘s business model and why your status isn’t gathering “Likes” anymore

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 13:36

Derek Muller has an interesting analysis of the different business models of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media sites:

Published on 14 Jan 2014

Share this on Facebook ;)

Facebook is a complex ecosystem of individuals, creators, brands and advertisers, but I don’t think it serves any of these groups particularly well because its top priority is to make money. Now, I don’t think making money is a bad thing, in fact I hope to make some myself. The problem is the only way Facebook has found to make money is by treating all entities on the site as advertisers and charging them to share their content.

This business plan backfires because 1) not all entities ARE advertisers and 2) it was the content from these people, specifically friends, family, and creators that made the site worth visiting in the first place. Now the incentives are misaligned:
- individuals want to see great content, but they are now seeing more paid content and organically shared content which appeals to the lowest common denominator (babies, weddings, and banal memes)
- creators want to reach fans but their posts are being throttled to force them to pay to be seen
- brands and advertisers have to pay once to advertise their page on Facebook, and then pay again to reach the people who have already liked their page. Plus Facebook is not a place where people generally go to buy things.

Facebook stands in contrast to other social media like Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram where all content is shared with all followers.

I don’t spend much time on Facebook, even though I have my blog posts automatically posted to my timeline. When the video ads start to arrive, it will provide me with even more of an incentive to avoid spending time there.

H/T to Cate Matthews for the link.

Update: Apparently the folks who “Like” their own posts are not egomaniacs (well, not all of them) … they’re rationally responding to how Facebook‘s algorithms rank posts for deciding what will appear to your friends. A post with a “Like” is much more likely to be shared than one that hasn’t been “Liked”.

January 11, 2014

Do you tweet a lot? You might just be a narcissist

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:11

I’m not sure this even rises to the level of “bleeding obvious”, but Tom Jacobs connects the dots to make the point that narcissists on Twitter send frequent tweets:

Spotting a narcissist can be tricky, but newly published research suggests a tell-tale marker: Note how often he or she tweets.

“Narcissism does appear to be a primary driver for the desire for (Twitter) followers, which in turn drives tweets,” writes a research team led by Shaun Davenport of High Point University.

It reports in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that study participants with narcissistic tendencies tended to tweet more often than others, as well as to post more Facebook status updates.

Comparing the two social media platforms, the researchers found a generational divide, noting that “narcissistic college students prefer to post content on Twitter, while narcissistic adults prefer to post content on Facebook.”

This appears to reflect a difference in Facebook usage between millennials and members of earlier generations, with millennials’ posting of status updates being more routine and less likely to reflect narcissistic motives.

H/T to David Warren, who makes the obvious point:

December 31, 2013

Social networking – your weak contacts may be the most valuable ones

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:20

Tim Harford explains why your friends and family are not the most valuable members of your extended social network … at least when it comes to looking for jobs:

This dispiriting stuff reminded me of Mark Granovetter’s work on “the strength of weak ties”, published in 1973. Granovetter, a sociologist, brought together two disparate strands of work: a survey of how people with professional or managerial jobs had found those jobs; and a theoretical analysis of the structure of social networks.

Start with the theoretical observation first: the most irreplaceable social connections, paradoxically, are often rather weak or distant ones. A family group or clique of close friends all tend to know each other and know similar things at similar times. Their social ties are strong but also redundant, in the sense that there are many different paths through which information could pass from one member of that group to another.

By contrast, “weak ties” between one social cluster and another are valuable precisely because the social contact is unusual. Information passed along a weak tie will often be totally new — and if it doesn’t arrive through the weak tie, it is unlikely to arrive at all.

Granovetter then supplemented this theoretical idea with his survey, showing that it was very common for people to find jobs — especially managerial jobs and jobs with which they were satisfied — through personal contacts. The old saw is true: it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Or as Granovetter put it in his book Finding a Job, what matters most is “one’s position in a social network”.

But this is not because of crude nepotism: the key contacts who helped jobseekers find jobs were typically distant rather than close friends — old college contacts, perhaps, or former colleagues. Granovetter’s analysis made this finding make sense: it’s the more peripheral contacts who tell you things you don’t already know.

This observation has certainly been true for many of my jobs: colleagues from a decade or more in the past suddenly pop up with an interesting position or business opportunity (such contacts are all the more interesting because they’re completely unexpected).

December 28, 2013

Facebook ages out

Filed under: Europe, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:12

In the Guardian, Jemima Kiss explains why European teens are finding other social networking tools to be more attractive than Facebook:

Facebook is ‘dead and buried’ to older teenagers, an extensive European study has found, as the key age group moves on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Researching the Facebook use of 16-18 year olds in eight EU countries, the Global Social Media Impact Study found that as parents and older users saturate Facebook, its younger users are shifting to alternative platforms.

Facebook is not just on the slide — it is basically dead and buried,” wrote Daniel Miller, lead anthropologist on the research team, who is professor of material culture of University College London.

“Mostly they feel embarrassed to even be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives.”

Teens do not care that alternative services are less functional and sophisticated, and they also unconcerned about how information about them is being used commercially or as part of surveillance practice by the security services, the research found.

“What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request,” wrote Miller.

December 19, 2013

Patrick West on “the mourning wars”

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:07

In sp!ked, Patrick West notes the difference in tone for two recently deceased world leaders:

Remember when Margaret Thatcher died in April? ‘Ding dong, the witch is dead!’ they rejoiced on the streets and on social media, the recalcitrant losers of the old left uniting with today’s self-styled radicals, for whom Thatcher was a semi-mythical creature from the past who had wronged their ancestors. The Iron Lady was a mean old bitch, they cried, her creed of individualism being responsible for today’s troubled times.

A few months later, the hero of the left dies. Where was the comparable vitriol from the right, as was expected, about ‘Nelson Mandela the terrorist’? Sure, there was the odd, fringe UKIP fruitcake (isn’t there always?), but for the most part there was warmth and praise. Some, like former UK prime minister John Major, even said that the Conservatives were wrong on South Africa in the 1980s. Even the right-wing press has been quiet on Mandela’s real legacy and South Africa’s future. Curiously, only the Guardian — in articles by Simon Jenkins and Slavoj Žižek — has really questioned the saintly status accorded to Madiba (though not nearly as well as spiked has done, of course).

Indeed, the only tangible vitriol to emerge has come from old lefties themselves, complaining on social media when David Cameron paid homage. How dare the Tories try to appropriate a foreign leader to make themselves appear virtuous? We bagsied him first!

Politics isn’t meant to be this way. Right-wing people are meant to be horrid and selfish and left-wingers caring and nice. Yet, episodes such as this seem to suggest, once again, the opposite. It’s one of the paradoxes today that the liberal-left is often far nastier, more vitriolic, censorious and egotistical than the ‘selfish’ Tories they profess to loath.

November 22, 2013

QotD: Free speech can still have unpleasant consequences

Filed under: Liberty, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Speech has consequences. It ought to.

In America, we have an elaborate set of laws strictly limiting the government’s ability to inflict those consequences. That is right and fit; the First Amendment prevents the government from punishing us for most speech.

Private consequences are something else. Speech is designed to invoke private and social consequences, whether the speech is “venti mocha no whip, please,” or “I love you,” or “fuck off.”1 The private and social consequences of your speech — whether they come from a barista, or your spouse, or people online, or people at whom you shout on the street — represent the free speech and freedom of association of others.

Yet people often confuse these categories. It’s one of the fundamental errors of free speech analysis that I like to write about the most. I praise people who get it right — like a university administrator who points out that racist speech is not sanctionable, but will have social consequences — and ridicule people who get it wrong — like people who apply the term “bullying” to any criticism of their speech, or assert a right not to be criticized for being an asshole, or generally proclaim that criticism is tyranny.

Yet the idea persists.

[...]

But speech has private social consequences, and it’s ridiculous to expect otherwise. Whether sincere or motivated by poseur edginess, controversial words have social consequences. Those social consequences are inseparable from the free speech and free association rights of the people imposing them. It is flatly irrational to suggest that I should be able to act like a dick without being treated like a dick by my fellow citizens.

Some criticize social consequences as being chilling to free speech. That misappropriates the language of First Amendment scrutiny of government restrictions on speech and seeks to impose it upon private speech. It is true, superficially, that I am chilled from saying bigoted things because people will call me a bigot, or chilled from saying stupid things because people will call me stupid. But how is that definition of chill coherent or principled? How do you apply it? If Pax Dickinson suggests that “feminism in tech” is something to be scorned, to we treat that as something that as first-speaker speech that we ought not chill with criticism, or do we treat it as a second-speaker attempt to chill the speech of the “feminists in tech” with criticism? What rational scheme do you use to determine what speech is “legitimate disagreement,” and what speech is abusive and “chilling”?

Ken White “Speech And Consequences”, Popehat, 2013-09-10

November 20, 2013

An app like this may justify the existence of Google Glass

Filed under: Randomness, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:38

I have a terrible memory for people’s names (and no, it’s not just early senility … I’ve always had trouble remembering names). For example, I’ve been a member of the same badminton club for nearly 15 years and there are still folks there whose names just don’t register: not just new members, but people I’ve played with or against on dozens of occasions. I know them … I just can’t remember their names in a timely fashion. David Friedman suggests that Google Glass might be the solution I need:

I first encountered the solution to my problem in Double Star, a very good novel by Robert Heinlein. It will be made possible, in a higher tech version, by Google glass. The solution is the Farley File, named after FDR’s campaign manager.

A politician such as Roosevelt meets lots of people over the course of his career. For each of them the meeting is an event to be remembered and retold. It is much less memorable to the politician, who cannot possibly remember the details of ten thousand meetings. He can, however, create the illusion of doing so by maintaining a card file with information on everyone he has ever met: The name of the man’s wife, how many children he has, his dog, the joke he told, all the things the politician would have remembered if the meeting had been equally important to him. It is the job of one of the politician’s assistants to make sure that, any time anyone comes to see him, he gets thirty seconds to look over the card.

My version will use more advanced technology, courtesy of Google glass or one of its future competitors. When I subvocalize the key word “Farley,” the software identifies the person I am looking at, shows me his name (that alone would be worth the price) and, next to it, whatever facts about him I have in my personal database. A second trigger, if invoked, runs a quick search of the web for additional information.

Evernote has an application intended to do some of this (Evernote Hello), but it still requires the immersion-breaking act of accessing your smartphone to look up your contact information. Something similar in a Google Glass or equivalent environment might be the perfect solution.

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