Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Social Media.

“Don’t Underestimate The Value of Cute Cats”

When the population uses web apps to share cute cats, those web apps gain political capitol and become more difficult to shut down.

‪A quote from Clay Shirky I heard in an NPR interview the other day led me an interesting talk by Ethan Zuckerman about social media web apps and activism.‬

‪The quote, which is the title of this post, ‬comes from a 2008 talk Zuckerman gave at the O'Reilly Etech conference. Zuckerman points out that the widespread usage of certain internet applications for activities like sharing cute cat photos makes it harder for governments to shut down said applications when they're used for activist activities.  ‬Says Zuckerman:

With web 2.0, we’ve embraced the idea that people are going to share pictures of their cats, and now we build sophisticated tools to make that easier to do. As a result, we’re creating a wealth of tech that’s extremely helpful for activists. There are twin revolutions going on – the ease of creating content and the ease of sharing it with local and global audiences.

Zuckerman: Cats / Activism

Shirkey reiterates the point in his interview: social media platforms and environments that are designed to allow citizens to share anything they like are better environments for political activism than tools that are specifically designed for political activism.

Zuckerman also puts forth a formula that describes the effectiveness of social media platforms: if a platform isn't being used for porn, it doesn't work, and if it isn't being used for activism, it doesn't work well.

Porn is a weak test for the success of participatory media – it’s like tapping a mike and asking, “Is it on?” If you’re not getting porn in your system, it doesn’t work. Activism is a stronger test – if activists are using your tools, it’s a pretty good indication that your tools are useful and usable.

The whole article is worth a read.‬

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AndreaJan 25, 2011
 

NY Times on the Beauty of Opt-Out

An assistant managing editor at the New York Times "seems to think its customers aren't all that bright" (Forbes).

Listen to this, from the Forbes blog:

During a panel discussion at the Digital Hollywood New York conference, Gerald Marzorati, the Times’s assistant managing editor for new media and strategic initiatives, explained why the paper's print business is still robust. "We have north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of $700 a year for home delivery," Marzorati said. "Of course, they don't seem to know that."

As evidence that Times subscribers don't realize how much a subscription costs, he pointed to what happened when the paper raised its home-delivery price by 5 percent during the recession: Only 0.01 percent of subscribers canceled. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're literally not understanding what they're paying," he said. "That's the beauty of the credit card."

...Stealthily hiking rates on the assumption that customers are too dim to catch on and/or too lazy to do anything about it is the kind of thing that gives banks, credit card companies and cell phone providers such a bad reputation. When I pointed this out after the panel to Marzorati, he was quick to dial back his condescension. All he meant to say, he explained, is that customer retention is always better in an opt-out situation.

Nick has been pointing out the problems with this kind of scammy thinking for a while now, but it's a bit of a surprise to hear it from the New York Times. More evidence that you've got to keep a leash on your social marketers -- and that includes anyone who speaks for you in public.

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PaulNov 29, 2010
 

A Graphic Guide to Facebook Portraits

Doogie Horner provides a handy visual reference for using Facebook profile photos to psychoanalyze your friends and acquaintances.

I love this chart, created for a post at Fast Company by Doogie Horner, author of Everything Explained Through Flowcharts.

Here is his gloss:

This chart will hopefully help you view specific Facebook portraits within the context of the larger genre, and therefore lead to a richer, more complex appreciation of Facebook portraiture as an emerging form of banal, eye-numbing expression.

Facebook portraiture explained
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PaulNov 8, 2010
 

Honest Tea’s Honest Store

This summer, Maryland-based organic tea company Honest Tea's unmanned "Honest Stores" popped up in several major metropolitan areas, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, DC, and my own hometown, Atlanta.

The "Honest Store" promotion is pretty simple: Honest Tea (owned in largest part by Coca-Cola) set up unmanned kiosks in central city locations, offering their wares at an indicated price of a dollar a bottle. Of course, kiosks unmanned, payment was on the honor system. The catch, as you might expect, was that each kiosk was equipped with hidden cameras to decide which big-city folk are honest enough to cough up for their bottle.

The Honest Tea Honest Store in Chicago
Via NBC Chicago

How "honest" were people? The tallies vary from 75% (Los Angeles) to 93.3% (Boston), with New York and Atlanta falling between at 89%, and DC a nearby second-place at 93%.

We, at DLB, have got a few questions about this promotional scheme. First of all, it seems clear enough that what's being tested here isn't necessarily how honest people are, but — just as likely — people's wherewithal. Nobody in their right mind should be able to see an unmanned corporate kiosk in the age of social media without asking herself what the catch is. I'm inclined to think that the results of this experiment are just as germane to the claim that the citizens of Boston deliberate correctly at 93.3% as they are to the claim that the citizens of Boston act honestly at a rate of 93.3%.

But, esoteric and pragmatic worries to one side, I think the real question is this one: how honest is the honest store? Doesn't it strike a dubious note to test honesty with hidden cameras? Does tricking people into being dishonest for the sake of a promotion undermine the moral authority of the experimenters?

Promotional Video for The Honest Store in Los Angeles

For the record, finally, all proceeds of the Honest Tea Honest Store social experiment are being donated to City Year, a non-profit organization that "unites young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service" in metropolitan areas. So, on the face of it, that seems good. But, of course, and with Milton Glaser (cf. §2) now, "C'mon!"

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PaulAug 10, 2010
 

The age of easy mistakes

A new post at Experience matters serves as a good reminder that in the social media age, the path to insecurity is paved with credulousness.

A nice diagram at Experience matters caught my eye today, when reading this post.

Although it looks to me like the author of the article conflates application insecurities (buffer overflows, unvalidated form input, improper exception handling, etc.) with what we used to call cases of social engineering (popularly represented these days by phishing), the main point here is worth heeding: our dumb behavior on social media sites leaves us vulnerable to cybercrime.

What's worse: in the age of the personal brand, where there may be good prima facie reasons to "add" contacts you don't recognize, those tinyurl-filled twitter streams become a minefield. I think it's incontestable that now more than ever, it's easy to make a dangerous mistake.

Here's Lindsay's nifty flowchart, which may be of some potential use for those remaining credulous internet users we all know.

Facebook: Security and Credulousness, flowchart by Lindsay Lewis
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PaulJul 26, 2010
 

Four Ethics Links:
July 5, 2010

Four ethics links is a review of recent stories in applied ethics. This week: Business Ethics for Recent College Grads, Twitter and Corporate Ethics Agreements, The Ethics of Criticism, and Ethics in Chinese Science.

1. Workplace Ethics: The High Cost of Compromise

Kirk O. Hansen recently made some interesting observations about the ethical challenges that will face new college graduates. Facing the current, difficult economy, Hansen claims, will "make ethical decisions even tougher."

Because it has been difficult this year to land any job, new graduates will be less likely to resist, less likely to put their new position at risk in order to do the right thing. And that threatens to undermine the ethical character of this year's graduates at the outset of their careers.

John Constable: Detail from 'Seascape Study with Rain Cloud'
John Constable, Detail from Seascape Study with Rain Cloud (c.1824)
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PaulJul 5, 2010
 

News Flash: Work is no fun for teenagers

Blog writing and commenting is down among teenagers and young adults. Who is surprised about this?

Rough Type alerted us to a new Pew study which indicates that blogging "has declined in popularity among both teens and young adults since 2006."

Here are the highlights of the study:

  • 14% of online teens now say they blog, down from 28% of teen internet users in 2006.
  • This decline is also reflected in the lower incidence of teen commenting on blogs within social networking websites; 52% of teen social network users report commenting on friends’ blogs, down from the 76% who did so in 2006.
  • By comparison, the prevalence of blogging within the overall adult internet population has remained steady in recent years. Pew Internet surveys since 2005 have consistently found that roughly one in ten online adults maintain a personal online journal or blog.

Not to be too glib about this, but, *obviously*. Blogging is a lot of work. You have to construct and type sentences, often simultaneously. You have to think of something to write about. You have to develop that thought across multiple sentences. You have to make inferences, sometimes even explicitly.

In sum, blogging is a royal pain in the ass, especially when compared to now-available social media technologies (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) which have none of the above requirements.

So, should we be surprised that these average young Americans don't choose to do more work? No. Not at all. After all, it doesn't surprise us that MUD-playing and fiction-reading are down significantly among teens, and that MMORPG playing and television-watching are way up.

It takes a special kind of masochist to write a blog, and I think that masochism can only be born of experience. The less people are forced to read and write, the less of them will learn to enjoy it, hence, the less of them will do it. Consider, for example, that instead of this post, I could have just tweeted:

Blogs are over: http://bit.ly/aj1ZfT.

And you could have been on your way five minutes ago.

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PaulFeb 22, 2010
 

Laptop Steering Wheel Desk

The BlogLESS Department of Doing it Wrong was overwhelmed to discover, hot on the heels of last week's post, the AutoExec WM-01 Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray.

While the makers of the Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray (a desk that attaches to your steering wheel "for easy access to a writing and drink storage surface") warn consumers that they ought not use this product while driving, "for safety reasons," users of Amazon.com have lit up switchboard at the product's Amazon Customer Image Gallery and Customer Reviews section, registering their views on the fatuousness of this warning, and on the danger of this product design more generally. It's an unusually great moment for Amazon customer feedback working as a vehicle for social critique.

Oh, did I mention it's damn funny?

Some Choice Customer Images

Customer Image for the Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray (1/3)
Customer Image for the Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray (2/3)
Customer Image for the Wheelmate Steering Wheel Desk Tray (3/3)

Some Choice Customer Reviews

1,057 of 1,072 people found the following review helpful:
4.0 out of 5 stars These worked great in the cockpit for our tanscontinental flights!, November 4, 2009

My copilot and I both used these during our "daily grind" transcontinental flights from San Diego to Minneapolis. We had to modify them a bit to fit snug against the instrument panels (when we bought them we didn't realize the planes we fly don't have steering wheels!), but in the end it did the job. With our laptops firmly in place we were able to focus our attention on what really mattered, participating in raids with our WoW clan. During our last flight we were so immersed in trying to take down Eranikus that we overshot Minneapolis by a full hour and a half before some annoying flight attendant interrupted us, babbling something about "FAA and F16 fighters."

We'll definitely use this product again at our next gig, whatever and whenever that happens to be...

Highly recommended!


848 of 883 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! Holds my sheet music perfectly while driving., May 7, 2009

This has been a total lifesaver. It allows me to prop my sheet music against the wheel, allowing me to play the guitar with both hands while driving.


173 of 179 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Makes a boring drive easier, November 19, 2009

You wouldn't believe how much more interesting my commute is now that I have something to do other than just stare out the window! I'm using it right now to post this review and I never


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PaulFeb 12, 2010
 
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