Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week
Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive.
The paradox of comments and engagement
Anne says: I’ve always been an advocate for comments on social media sites – it probably stems back to early days when we only had blogs (we even called them weblogs), way before Facebook, Twitter, YouTube were even concepts! Comments were meaningful ways to engage with each other about content we published. Comments allowed us to share diverse perspectives. AND – I always read the comments accompanying a blog post.
A lot has changed since those days in the late ’90s – early 2000s. That’s why this article from Wired Magazine particularly caught my attention: Actually, do read the comments – they can be the best part.
The article opens with a powerful analogy:
Imagine you want to collect donations for a food bank. You could place an empty box on the street, walk away, and hope there’s food inside when you return. The likely result? Your box will be filled with trash.
When people are not guided as to how to behave – they interpret the situation (the box) – and use it in ways you didn’t intend.
You could just give up right there – say the box didn’t work, people don’t donate!
On the other hand, you could consider how you want people to behave. Wired describes key metrics used by advertisers and publishers: number of views, time spent on a page, and the loyalty of an audience. I would add an engaged audience. What we do know, is people who read and write comments, stay the longest on pages, return frequently to engage with others and continue reading the publication. The Financial Times has found that their commenters are 7 times more engaged than their other readers.
Surely the benefits outweigh the negative issues.
But we still have the trash in the box – right? Trolling, abuse, racism, misogyny and general nastiness are rampant!
Wired highlights a topic that we are constantly bringing to the attention of clients – to gain value and reap the benefits of engagement, you must commit resources to community management. Someone needs to manage the empty boxes and avoid them being filled with trash.
The article continues by analysing the approaches taken in the mainstream US online news media: The Washington Post, the Atlantic, the Guardian etc. Some thought provoking issues should raise our awareness of how comments can be successfully used, and the dangers of turning off.
I would like to encourage or challenge everyone to consider the value of comments – whether that’s on social media or organisations’ internal communication channels. Remember – to gain the value, you need to commit to a sustainable community management approach!
We would love to hear your thoughts, perhaps you’d like to use the comments on this blog post?
Facial recognition – for dogs!
Whoopi says: Google Photos has launched facial recognition for photos of your pets! Now – you will be able to see photos of the cats and dogs grouped alongside people, and label them by name, search to quickly find photos of them, or even better, photos of you and them.
Aside from organising your photos – how else could facial recognition for dogs be used?
Well, I was thinking about monitoring, local Council registration becomes digital doggie head shots instead of those micro-chips! Imagine, you’re out for a walk with your owner, you’re off the leash (in an area not designated as off leash) and you do a poop! The owner, oblivious to your whereabouts, fails to pick it up! The Council can now review CCTV footage of these areas and identify the dog using facial recognition (and fine the owner).
Perhaps on the other hand it might be useful for identifying and re-uniting lost dogs with their owners – reducing the number of homeless dogs in shelters!
13 million stories shared on social media with just two words
Nat says: This week saw a global phenomenon of human camaraderie on display. Social media erupted with the hashtag #MeToo in response to the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal. It all started with a tweet from Actress Alyssa Milano who asked her followers to simply tweet #MeToo if they had been sexually harassed or assaulted. From the millions of tweets that were sent, one-third were stories from men, and more than 3.5 billion people clicked or interacted with tweets that included the hashtag. I myself contributed to the hashtag after watching the BBC interview with actress Emma Thompson who said:
Speak to women over the age of 15 and they will all have a story to tell you about some kind of harassment.
I realised the alarming truth in Thompson’s claim. For me personally, some of my experiences include: when I was 8 years old, a man tried to abduct me/take me into his car when I was out cycling in my neighborhood. In two separate jobs I’ve had male colleagues send me (of course, unsolicited) porn via internal mail. In one job a male colleague followed me into the lift, pressed the emergency stop button, and pinned me to the back wall. In another job, on a selection panel, one of the males on the panel cornered me and got angry when I declined a dinner and movie date with him and his daughter. In another job, I was wearing a bandage on my wrist, and my male Director asked if I had gotten a new boyfriend.
Sadly my stories are not unique, and they are definitely nowhere near the worst or most shocking of stories shared via the #MeToo hashtag. The scandal that prompted the movement has cast a harsh spotlight on not only Hollywood and the entertainment industry, but of abuse of power – both in a physical and social sense – in any context, workplace or otherwise. The media rhetoric for the Weinstein case has been criticised as prior to the #MeToo movement, women were berated for not ‘speaking up’ sooner. Perhaps this is why the male response of #HowIWillChange has emerged to encourage self-reflection and awareness of the issue. Social media is a great platform for such discussions to take place, but it is only in the real world where real change can occur.
A bot that makes Trump’s Tweets Presidential
The Twitter bot, @RealPressSecBot, resonated because it visually intersected Mr. Trump’s often bellicose words with the reality of the impact they can have.
Emilio says: When the most infamous ‘tweep’, Donald Trump, tweets, the world listens and perhaps even prays that the leader of the land of the free and the home of the brave would have, through his words, wisdom, tact and diplomacy befitting the high office he occupies. Unfortunately, most of his tweets are far from this.
For all the bad rap that Twitter bots get – and I have written about how it has the potential to be used as ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction and Disinformation’ (WMDDs) in an earlier piece – here are two amusing, if not telling, uses of Twitter bots.
A software engineer in Missouri created the Twitter bot, @RealPressSecBot to put Donald Trump’s statements on Twitter in context and demonstrate the relative impact they might have when treated as official statements from the White House. The account automatically formats Trump’s tweets into memoranda-style releases from the White House Press Secretary – and reading them in official statement format is cringe-worthy.
Even as he cops copious flak for his tweets, Donald Trump himself went on the defensive, proclaiming in a tweet that his use of social media was ‘not presidential’ – but was in fact ‘modern day presidential’. Many argue his use of social media may appear modern day, yet it lacks the decorum of a leader.
Similarly, by way of a Twitter bot, a London man created @TrumpsAlert as a way of tracking the Trump family’s proclamations and actions on Twitter and gaining an understanding into which personalities are winning or losing favour from the US President.
It is fascinating how social media allows us to glean into people’s motivations and actions even if we do not know them intimately. And in the case of Donald Trump, his ‘modern day “un-presidential” use of social media may actually be hurting his agenda rather than helping it.
Understanding how mosquitos take off so quickly could help inform drone design
“Mosquitoes feed on a landmine, and by that, I mean they are surrounded by hairs,” Dr Sridhar Ravi, an aerospace engineer at RMIT University in Melbourne who studies how insects and hummingbirds fly, says.
A strong leap that “trips” a sensory hair might be felt by their victim and attract a slap.
So to find out how mosquitoes manage to slip away undetected, a Dutch and US team, led by Florian Muijres from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, shot high-speed footage of 32 human-blood-fed and 31 unfed female Anopheles coluzzii mosquitos flying off a platform.
Dr Ravi says take-off technique is still an understudied aspect of small insects, but has the potential to inspire the design of stealth defence microrobots that could complete covert missions that require surreptitious landing and taking off.
What interested me most about this article is that scientists and engineers are looking towards animals to inspire designs for future technology. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have unmanned combat submarines that can move swiftly through the water mimicking sharks.
Long read: Love in the time of robots
Jakkii says: This is a long read, but it’s a piece worthy of your time.
Everything about this piece fascinated me, from evoking science fiction – Blade Runner, Black Mirror, Replicants, to name but a few films brought to mind – to science reality, as I pondered the correlation between things like Nadia and Digital Mike, and Ishiguro’s androids.
And yet, what stands out most from the piece is more existential than that: what does it mean to be human, and what drives our desire for connection? And, accepting our need for connection, to keep our an unrelenting loneliness at bay, how do we make connections, and must they be with humans? As the author asks:
“What sort of connection do we need most? How much is enough – enough to sustain us, to alleviate the feeling of being alone?”
As the piece explores Ishiguro’s work from his earliest androids to his most current, the author weaves in related topics such as sex dolls and sex with robots, all the while adding a very human touch through her observations, emotions, experiences and interactions which are interspersed throughout. These serve as touch points, almost anchors, to some idea of what it means to be human – to experience, to love, to feel – as we are encouraged to consider what human-robot interactions might one day be like.
I highly recommend you put aside some quality focused time to give this piece a read.