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Posts Tagged ‘technology

PositionDial is anonymous – if you want it to be.

Last night I attended an excellent event hosted by Involve at the University of Westminster – entitled ‘Technology and Democratic Participation – friend or foe.’

Involve

A point well made by Catherine Howe was on paying attention to the architectural layer, not just the application layer. And the ‘why.’ Including the choices we make about identity as we build opportunities to participate online.

I have spoken and written on the importance of anonymity and flexible identities online many times, and this is very much built into PositionDial‘s architecture.

PositionDial helps you work out where you stand, see who matches you, and explore the issues you care about. We have several levels of identity on site (and are at this moment building an even more super-secure identity system for y’all):

  • Anonymous – you can use PositionDial, and get your PositionDial, without registering with us or logging in. We use cookies to remember you and help you build your dial as you browse from page to page. But we don’t store your IP address. So there’s no way of us storing your activity or your PositionDial with your location or identity once you close your browser window.
  • Pseudonymous – You can register with any username you like / or Twitter – we don’t force you to use your full, real name
  • Full name – but if you don’t mind, we’d love you to know your real name. We’ll only use it for keeping in touch and making  PositionDial better for you.

Transparency is the only way

There’s a lot of valid, and invalid concern about data sharing and privacy on social media and discovery sites. Transparency is of course the best and the only way to handle this.

For our part, PositionDial offers agencies, charities, businesses and others analytics and insight into where their target customers, stakeholders and partners stand on important issues (we strongly believe this is win:win, if ‘they’ know better, they can do better for all of us). These analytics are based on aggregated, anonymised social PositionDials, and aggregated action PositionDials (from data about MP voting and companies etc. which is already public).

In other words, we would never, and have no reason to, share any personally identifiable data about you.

Furthermore, as stipulated in our privacy policy, we would, as Twitter and others have done before, closely interrogate and strenuously resist outside requests to access your data.

You also have the right to be forgotten (by us). That is, seriously, even if you’ve signed up and got your PositionDial and it’s all saved nice and neatly in our system. If you want out, we’ll delete you. Simples.

Image credit: Triple Pundit

Reposted from PositionDial’s blog

In a recent post Haowen Chan and Robin Morris warn “the last thing you want to do is implement a [big data] system that develops and propagates data, only to learn it’s hopelessly biased.” All research and analysis has bias built in by the very nature of human involvement. However Chan and Morris provide four useful bias-quelling tactics that can be used to improve the big data science process:

  • Employ domain experts Rely on them to help select relevant data and explore which features, inputs and outputs produce the best results. If heuristics are used to gain insights into smaller data sets, the data scientist will work with the domain expert to test the heuristics and ensure they actually produce better results. Like a pitcher and catcher in a baseball game, they are on the same team, with the same goal, but each brings different skill sets to complementary roles.
  • Look for white spaces  Data scientists who work with one data set for periods of time risk complacency, making it easier to introduce bias that reinforces preconceived notions. Don’t settle for what you have; instead, look for the “white spaces” in your data sets and search for alternate sources to supplement “sparse data.”
  • Open a feedback loop This will help data scientists react to changing business requirements with modified models that can be accurately applied to the new business conditions. Applying Lean Startup like continuous delivery methodologies to your big data approach will help you keep your model fresh.
  • Encourage your data scientists to explore.  If you can afford your own team of data scientists, be sure they have the space and autonomy to explore freely. Some equate big data to the solar system, so get out there and explore this uncharted universe!

We can also consider what bias we are encouraging when we develop systems – from social media plugins to smart objects – which collect ‘big data,’ or data which could be aggregated into big data analysis. Might we be unfairly representing a picture from our data subjects, either by representation or omission? Collection, processing and analysis are all crucial to consider in the quest for useful and accurate big data outcomes.

Image of what the Internet looks like via Flowing Data – the work of Peer 1 Hosting & team

G.E’s big bet on what it calls the “industrial Internet,” [is] bringing digital intelligence to the physical world of industry as never before… G.E.’s effort, analysts say, shows that Internet-era technology is ready to sweep through the industrial economy much as the consumer Internet has transformed media, communications and advertising over the last decade.

Steve Lohr

For website owners and advertisers, user intent matters. But those ever-desirable eyeballs may as well be attached to sticks for all we know about their owners much of the time. The feelings, the mood, the intent of site visitors is incredibly valuable  to understand, because knowing this and serving up an appropriate user experience enables happier, more satisfied individuals.

Yieldbot is a publisher-side analytics and targeting platform which “captures and organizes the realtime intent existing in web publishers and makes it available to advertisers so they can match offers and ads at the exact moment consumers are most open to receiving relevant marketing.”

In the presentation below, Yieldbot boasts goal conversion of 26% higher than Google paid search and 326% higher than organic Google search traffic, on a ‘Leading deal site for Moms’ for ads placed according to its ‘intent-based targeting.’ (You may also be interested in this Business Insider post which refers to Yieldbot as a solution for Yahoo.)

Eyeballs image from Celebrations.com

Some of Darwin’s statements to others also cast doubt on his mental stability. For example, in 1875 he wrote the following words to fellow scientist Robert Hooker:

You ask about my book, & all that I can say is that I am ready to commit suicide: I thought it was decently written, but find so much wants rewriting. . . . I begin to think that every one who publishes a book is a fool (quoted in Colp, 1977, p. 228).

Jerry Bergman

While Darwin may well have been mentally disturbed quite severely and frequently during his quite brilliant life… this particular quote I find hilarious.. and totally lucid. The capability to edit our work after publishing, especially for those of us that agonise over what they have written on looking back, is a tremendous gift from the web to us all.

BRANCH_FEATURE

In this vein perhaps Branch should reconsider its unfortunate design ‘feature’ … I’m sure it will do the service, and its users, no favours..

There’s no edit button and no delete button. If you make a mistake, just keep going. It’s a little unsettling, but Miller wants to force a little more thoughtfulness in online dialog.

Andrew Phelps

We live in an era of deep technological and economic change that has not been matched by a similar development of public institutions responsible for its regulation… We need to move forward to new, more extensive and deeper forms of democracy…

The existing national-state organisations have to be part of a wider and much better coordinated structure, which involves democratic regional institutions on all the continents, the reform of the International Court of Justice, a fairer and more balanced International Criminal Court and a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly as the embryo of a future World Parliament.

Yet, this institutional change will not be successful if it only accrues from the actions of a self-appointed elite. On the contrary, it must come from a socio-political process open to all human beings, with the goal of creating a participative global democracy.

David Hayes, sharing the Manifesto for Global Democracy, signed by Daniele Archibugi, Noam Chomsky, Richard Falk, David Held, Fernando Iglesias, Lucio Levi, Giacomo Marramao, George Monbiot, Heikki Patomäki, Mary Kaldor, Saskia Sassen, Richard Sennett, Vandana Shiva, Andy Strauss

Disclosure:  David Hayes is a former openDemocracy colleague


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