Facebook can’t pin the blame on the machine-optimizing algorithms. It’s humans who are responsible for managing the equations and policing validity. A recent study also proved that it is humans, not bots, that spread fake news.
Data is the new oil
Even worse, says Tufecki, the precedent sets the stage for those in power to leverage data to their own advantage:
We’re building this infrastructure of surveillance authoritarianism merely to get people to click on ads. And this won’t be Orwell’s authoritarianism. This isn’t [easyazon_link identifier=”0452284236″ locale=”US” tag=”wells01-20″]”1984.”[/easyazon_link] Now, if authoritarianism is using overt fear to terrorize us, we’ll all be scared, but we’ll know it, we’ll hate it and we’ll resist it.
But if the people in power are using these algorithms to quietly watch us, to judge us and to nudge us, to predict and identify the troublemakers and the rebels, to deploy persuasion architectures at scale and to manipulate individuals one by one using their personal, individual weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and if they’re doing it at scale through our private screens so that we don’t even know what our fellow citizens and neighbors are seeing, that authoritarianism will envelop us like a spider’s web and we may not even know we’re in it.
Tufecki paints the picture of a haunting dystopia at our doorstep. And it’s the social networks, which started off so benign that may be opening the maw of hell.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the details and get caught in the maelstrom of facts. But if you turn your focus on the customer experience, you can start to see the forest through the trees.
McDonald’s can keep improving the taste of its smoothies to negligible sales results. It turns out that it’s not the taste that drives consumption but rather the purpose.
According to a study led by Harvard business school professor Clayton Christenson, the majority of smoothies sell in the morning. Commuters revealed that they wanted to hold onto something filling in their hand for the ride to work.
Data tells only half the story. The other half explains the actual choices people make. Practical observation goes beyond a spreadsheet and into the streets.
URLs are the essence. They make hypertext hyper. The term “web” is no accident – it refers to this explicitly.
Unlike other modern technologies that have hidden as much complexity as possible, web browsers have continued to put this technical artifact top center, dots, slashes and all. The noble URL caused a revolution in sharing and publishing.
The web is a bit like the brain, complex, with new cells (links) blooming and old cells decaying simultaneously.
You can read all the reports you want. At the end of the day, the most insightful information comes from merely observing your surroundings.
If you’re a retailer, this could mean observing which bags your customers are carrying into your stores. Now you’ll know which businesses compliment your brand and which compete against it.
If you’re a social network, pick a place where’s there’s a mass collection of sedentary people and watch how they communicate on their phones. I can tell you right now from riding the train into New York every day that Facebook is still far and way the preferred way to share online, at least for adults.
Sight and vision are only as powerful as their activation. Things also need meaning in order to remember them. First you observe, then you snap and connect.
Everything around you has meaning. There are niche trends today that will be mass trends tomorrow. Data informs decisions but to see it play out live makes you smarter.
Your best work is not what gets the most likes, shares, comments, i.e. combined interactions. How you define your best work is more likely related to the amount of time you spent on producing that piece of work.
While I have Google Analytics installed on my blog and I use Union Metrics to view the occasional Tumblr engagement per post (reblogs, likes, notes), I really don’t look at my statistics much. I know this is a sin for marketers but this blog is really just a place for me to write and synthesize information. I’m curious and ravenous just to know more which compels me to do more.
With that being said, I’ve produced a few books this year that are more or less a consolidated summary of these blog posts. If I’ve ever helped you in any way in the areas of self-help, social media, life hacks, and just general interest I’d appreciate if you wrote a quick review or note one of the Amazon books.
A lot of the information about our lives is simple to collect. Your mobile phone and computer stores so much data that it’s fascinating to unravel how we spend our time. At the start, I was just curious to find out what I had been doing for the past 12 months. Then people started asking how they could collect their own life data too. It led me to set up a website called Daytum which helps them discover how.
I don’t like examining my life’s data on a daily basis but I do like looking at monthly summaries of stuff like my Fitbit activity or my social media behavior. Aggregated data can tell you how boring, exciting, or healthy your life really is and what things need to change or remain the same. And sometimes the data reveals so much that all we care about is getting on with the business of living.
New York Times culture editor Adam Sternbergh explains the conundrum of popularity in today’s high speed, viral world.
If something is popular, it can’t also be good.
What’s to say something is actually popular, something that sells or streams, or both? Just because something is popular today, doesn’t mean it’ll still be popular tomorrow. Our digital appetites are transitory and therefore misleading.
Paradoxically, popularity is now both infinitely quantifiable and infinitely elusive.