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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

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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

Pinterest has officially been the fastest growing social network this year. But why do we love it so? Why is it driving sales so much better than other social networks? Why is it so moreish?

Pinterest traffic growth to March 2012

I’m running a private Pinterest training session next week, where I’ll be covering:

  • A rapid introduction to the hottest visual social network right now
  • Overview of best in class activity
  • Activation framework

And I thought it would work well, especially for those in the room not already into it, to start off explaining why people love Pinterest… how they feel about it… to bring it to life. Personally, I’d muse the following:

  • We’re tired of looking at words on screens. I was talking to an old friend the other day who was at college when computers first hit the market. She said they used to tell them not to read on screen. To this day she usually prints everything – she says everyone has got too obsessed with saving trees (which can be replaced) – but your eyesight can’t. Whatever you think about this logic.. I think one of the reasons we love Pinterest is our eyes have become wary of reading reams and reams of information, and you can actually see a whole world of ideas on Pinterest (especially when you browse the ‘everything’ tab – without reading a word.
  • Simple serendipity. Eli Pariser, among other doom-sayers, have waxed lyrical at length about the danger of filter-bubbles in how we use the web as individuals. Our use of Twitter is mostly confined to the people we follow, the lists we have chosen to follow, searching for – or following the hashtags we are already interested in. On Facebook we see the pages and people we already like or know. But on Pinterest the ‘Everything’ tab is an easy, visual view into the world of many, many, others. It’s easy to skim past any picture you find offensive (and actually its Acceptable Use Policy and usage norms mean I very rarely see anything that fits that category from my perspective).
  • The whole world meets one click product discovery. When we shop online we usually go to a very few trusted websites, for the brands and websites we know. Or use massive shopping aggregators like asos which enable us to scroll through pages and pages of bags and shoes. But it can be samey. We get tired of looking at 300 dresses just to find one we like. We get ourselves into the mood to shop but somehow the pressure of scrolling and searching takes the shine off. You can’t touch or see the items up close and you get a bit fed up after watching 20 little videos to work out how the fabric hangs. But on Pinterest a dress or pair of shoes, new make-up or hair idea is all mixed up with cool travel and home and even digital inspiration. It’s not just one shop or even a virtual high street… it’s pictures of the whole world online.. it’s the beach, the bar, the library, the philosopher and the boutique all at once.

That’s just some speculation from me… but why do other Pinners love it? I thought I’d use the ethnographic method of observing what people say about their feelings about it on Twitter:

In keeping with ethnographic research principles – I started with a question, gave my feelings on the platform and the perspective from which I am approaching the question, and uncovered themes from my observations.. represented here in this word cloud:

Here are those themes in more detail:

  • It helps you easily share what you find and love.. without having to comment on it in any great detail – e.g. Danni Minogue’s pets board has shown me with pictures, some insight into her personality I’d never have really gauged otherwise
  • I’ve heard people say this in person too – it takes you into another world – a more dream-like world
  • It drives desire
  • It inspires you to make new things (or makes you feel you should be!)
  • It gives you hints, tips and recipes that can brighten your day
  • Music was a new one on me – how does one use it for that I wonder? Via video perhaps? This is how I discovered you can now pin sounds from Soundcloud onto Pinterest
  • The quotes help you feel positive (personally I always feel an undercurrent of embarrassment when I re-tweet inspirational quotes on Twitter but it just doesn’t feel like that on Pinterest)
  • It makes you feel good by letting you know when other people like what you love
  • I’ve often found it annoying that I can’t pin directly from G+ or Facebook – but the fact someone suggested it as a reason to love Pinterest made me think… it’s a good safeguard against it getting filled up with lots of personal pictures of people falling out of nightclubs and indeed outfits
  • It can lift your mood – or help you explore the mood you’re in
  • The ease which which you can share visually makes it less intimidating for non-technical users as a collaboration / bookmarking tool
  • Photos are usually professionally taken / shared when they fit with the professionally taken shots there – meaning their visually stunning appeal differs from the more amateur photography you might expect on Flickr, or personal (to you) shots you see on Facebook
  • It can help creative people to think visually

So that was fun… a view into the world of our positive feelings towards Pinterest. But I must report that in the course of this research I found a significant number of people reporting negative feelings – i.e. the wish their lives were as fabulous as the world they can enter on Pinterest / their Pinterest boards. This reminded me of criticisms levelled at magazines over the years – on how they make people feel in terms of pressures on how to be and what to buy.

Back on the sunnier flip side, something I realised in trawling tweets about why people have taken to Pinterest so readily – is how much they love to say how much they love eachother’s pins. We might posit here that if Facebook be the platform of like, Pinterest be that of love


This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

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