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Data Consumers vs. Data Producers: Every Outspoken Expression is a Social Act

2015-09-13 in Uncategorized

As people who follow my writing on other forums probably know very well, I often post more theoretical / abstract articles on one of my personal blogs which I set up for my own personal opinions (see e.g. “Delusions of Grandeur“). Here, I intend to be more “practically” oriented — and in particular towards an audience without much experience with respect to online media.

This weekend I took part in a sporting event, and as is quite common at such events the group (all adult males) also socialized quite a bit afterwards. There was one moment in particular that I wish to focus on right now. One father mentioned that his son, after returning from a summer camp, had over 6000 notifications on some app on his smartphone… and he shook his head at how much time is being wasted on these “social media” applications. I neither agree nor disagree with what he said, but I noticed something I find absolutely fascinating. Almost all the other men who agreed with this man did so without really adding any nuance to the conversation — and I find that particularly noteworthy. In other words, all who raised their voice did so mainly in order to join the group of like-minded… more so than in order to make a new observation or unique statement themselves.

After thinking about this for some time now, I have come to the following conclusion. Very often — no: I would indeed venture to say it is always the case that when we express some opinion, we do so primarily in order to state our wish to belong to some group. We declare our territory, our pledge of allegiance, and thereby each of our expressions should be seen as a social act. It is a declaration of intent: We seek to be a part of a community. Although the similarity between the actions of the fathers and their children seemed to completely escape these parents, there is indeed something different about the two cases.

The fathers who voiced their opinions stood before me in flesh and blood. I could see the frustration and exasperation in their eyes, their voices carried nuances of engagement technology startups can only dream of. Notifications on smartphone apps, in contrast, are not expressions of individuals per se — they are little more than tiny micro-publications made by some Silicon Valley company. The group affiliation the children are engaging in is one of servitude: they submit their expressions to some corporate entity which they hope will publish this content on their behalf. Indeed: Many people use such proxies in order to preserve their anonymity, and many of these anonymous users could easily be classified as trolls. In this vein, such inauthenticity might also be linked to mobbing, bullying and other at least questionable types of engagement.

We can hardly blame naive children for such inauthenticity — especially if we are not telling them how engagement might be considered as more authentic (as I have alluded to above). I myself have long ago developed “authenticity guidelines” for use in online settings. Above and beyond that, we might also bring to attention the degree to which more inauthenticretard media” websites exist in order to satisfy consumer and/or “selfie” attitudes — and also the degree to which their profits (or at least their profit motives) are based on the exploitation of their subordinate users.

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Get Paid to Change

2015-05-02 in Uncategorized

People want to “get paid to…” do whatever.

Nowhere is that more clearly exemplified than on “YouTube” websites. Many people create videos, movies, stories, channels or whatever in order to get paid. I recently heard some media executive (it could have been any of thousands of executives, really) argue on some news program that “we need to end free”. People like this don’t seem to realize that there is no money in digital (“on the page”) content (see also “People as Content: Virtual Content vs. “In Real Life” (IRL) Content“). Where the real money is in tracking what content people are consuming, and then making educated guesses about what type of other crap they might want to consume — at least from an advertising perspective.

From a community perspective, it’s actually quite different. In a community, members are already engaged much in the same way that they might join a club — they are willing to pay membership fees, they want to participate, and so on. It’s an entirely different mindset — and one that most people don’t understand, because they are so mesmerized by the idea of consuming mass quantities of free crap.

One thing that is fascinating to watch happening is how YouTube sites kind of bring together people who expect free content with people who expect to get paid to produce content. Maybe it is a marketplace that introduces people to the idea that payment for quality engagement might have a future. At the very least, it should introduce people to at some point realize that when they signed up for a free lunch they are in reality just being sold down the river. 😉

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2015-04-30 in Uncategorized

This post is a preliminary sketch of a number of threads that could be interwoven… that could become a fabric, but as yet are still just loose threads. They are closely related to something I wrote the other day about language, technology and evolution (see “Neither Not at All Nor Completely“).

Ownership has some good characteristics, and some that are not so good — maybe even bad. In general, I think it is an illusion, a way of thinking that clouds our ability to think clear thoughts.

On the good side: If you believe in something, then you should own it — or maybe at least try to own it. There’s no need to say “So-and-so was great, and he said this”. I don’t care about So-and-so — what do you think? (see also “Subjectivity + Rationality“).

In a similar vein, people seek to “own their own narratives” — to write their own story, take their own paths, live their own lives. That is all good and fine, but this is one of the ways the illusion starts creeping in. For example: Without the path beneath your feet, how could you “take it”? You can’t. As I wrote a couple days ago (again, see “Neither Not at All Nor Completely“), you are also the other thing (in this example: the path)… — or because it is indeed not you, you can’t really own it.

In the case of language this could be the words I am using here and now: although I might be able to own the story or the narrative, the words I need to express them — to communicate the ideas to/with you — are shared (indeed: they would probably be worthless if they weren’t shared). This is to some degree a network effect — much like the path that connects two locations with each other, sharing a common concept is useful to both of us.

One other thread that also ties into this general space is involvement. In order for a shared, common space to be useful to a community, the members of the community need to be actively involved in maintaining the common technology. When people use a particular dialect or jargon, then the shared meaning is exclusive to those who are members of that particular community, and who actively maintain those concepts and thereby maintain those particular meanings and concepts within that community.

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Facebook Community Standards vs. Nominations Authenticity Guidelines

2015-03-17 in Uncategorized

In my opinion, Facebook Community Standards are too long, so I didn’t read them fully (TL;DR). I did post an update regarding what are some of the most salient points (According to FB: ” Please keep the following in mind:”) — see

I do not consider myself a religious follower of Facebook, Google, or such so-called “social media” websites. So whether these standards are applied or not doesn’t matter much to me (as I publish anything important on my own websites anyways). But I do commend such organizations for having such documents that are supposed to function as guides for people who do depend on other people’s websites to publish “their own” information.

With NominationsAuthenticity Guidelines, I go one step further: I attempt to document what are the “specifications”, “qualifications”, “quality criteria”, etc. for inclusion in Nominations website reviews. The way I see it, having such a written document helps to make each review comparable to other reviews by having a consistent framework, thereby promoting valid and reliable data and information standards.

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Whether or not anyone chooses to be their brother’s keeper, only a fool would ignore maintaining a healthy relationship with their environment

2015-02-07 in Uncategorized

This not a Bible lesson — I am neither qualified nor interested in that kind of vibe. That said, recently David Weinberger published a nice blog post that speaks volumes in terms of experience — he says: if we can choose between practicing sympathy or practicing empathy, he prefers “sympathy over empathy“.

David provides several examples, and it is quite clear that he is talking about interpersonal relationships (offline). In an online setting, it is important to keep things in perspective. There is a healthy balance between engagement and independence. As Viktor Frankl apparently said: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

I believe ignorance is rarely — if ever — a virtue, but in order to keep one’s wits and relationship to “reality” (or let’s just say: one’s environment) intact, it may be useful to simply agree to disagree. Do not get bogged down by someone else’s opinion — their opinion may work fine for their environment, you need to focus on what works for yours. You do not need to solve every problem in the universe, and neither do they. To generalize: People seem to be far too eager to make sweeping generalizations.

Another one of my “online friends”, Sue Braiden, reminded me of this when she shared a link (actually, it was a link to a link 😉 ) this week — a talk Monica Lewinsky gave to a group of “under 30 (years old)” people at some kind of event that was organized by Forbes. In her talk, Monica described in great detail how she had been traumatized and devastated by her experiences of ridicule by random people, the mainstream media and so on.

I would suggest that when people engage in online discourse, if they have difficulty maintaining their own intellectual independence, then they should consider online relationships and personal relationships to be mutually exclusive spheres of engagement. I am not saying that this is actually the case, but rather that it might be helpful to think about it this way.

By the way: Sue also shared links to 2 videos from “TED” conference speaker Brené Brown — one about “vulnerability”, the other about “shame” (the “shame” talk is sort of a “follow-up” to the “vulnerability” talk)… I also like these 2 presentations, though I feel the second raises many questions that are left unresolved.

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