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

A guide to being an ethical online investigator

Anne says: An ethical online investigator? This headline caught my researcher and sleuthing instinct immediately!! But titles can be misleading. This article, positioned around the Capitol Hill riots, rather than being a ‘how-to’ guide, is raising issues that we need to be considering when social media is used as a tool during moments of heightened activity. We need to be thinking about how the data, photos, and videos are being used. The article highlights a number of these issues based on the experiences of an individual that started crowdsourcing images with the intention to identify people breaking the law. To me, that’s a simplistic approach to complex societal issues.

The article identifies the motivations of people crowdsourcing the identification process as: “… politically interested and invested but wouldn’t consider themselves activists under normal circumstances…”. Naming and shaming is not new to social media, or even before social media. But – it gets complicated.

The first example given is Roy Ball, from the photos he looks like he’s restraining a woman while she is pepper-sprayed. Someone recognised him, named him, publicly, and claimed his behaviour was putting her in harm’s way, intentionally. Read further down the article – wrongly accused and publicly shamed – it appears there was another perspective to the story. Damage can be done rapidly on social media, and undoing it can take a long, long time, if it ever gets totally resolved.

But back to the guide to ethical investigation (not just online). The tips:

  • You’re not a hacker
    Finding information about someone through private accounts, by whatever manner, and sharing it is illegal, in most (if not all) countries. The article refers to this as “doxxing” – digging up personal information and sharing it publicly.

  • Misidentification
    Getting it wrong can be easy with low quality images or crowd scenes.

  • Join accredited investigators
    In this instance, the FBI requested public assistance. This does not include you publicly naming and saying you’ve passed information to the FBI. You pass the information for verification. There’s a methodology used by professional investigators that cross-references and double-checks data before taking action. And in most cases, the information is not publicly posted on social media.

  • Ethical considerations
    This, unlike the article title, is hidden between the other tips. It does not reduce its importance. Critical issues to consider if you think you’ve identified someone include: could my actions put this person at risk? What if I’m wrong? Have I accessed the data legally? What role does the public play as crowdsourced investigators? Is what I’m doing legal? Have I double-checked the information? Should I pass on my findings to authorities?

There are many more ethical questions that we need to consider when we take up the call to help identify lawbreakers. Is this a form of citizen surveillance? And what is our role in becoming citizen investigators? There is certainly a role for crowdsourcing in many aspects of social media use, but when the outcomes can destroy lives and even threaten our personal safety, where do we draw the line? 1984 seems a lot closer to reality in 2021 than it ever has.


Dogs are officially back in the White House

Whoopi says: Well – it’s about time! Dogs should be a compulsory addition to all workplaces.

According to this article, “Dogs can make leaders and their families seem more relatable.” Really? I’d suggest it’s a lot more than relatable. People need us in their lives, we offer so much more than just photo opportunities. We listen, without judgement. We love, unconditionally. We support, your decisions are always right, well, mostly – sometimes we need more treats than we’re given! We know! We just know when you’re not OK, we’re always there for you.

During the current pandemic, people have found our company irreplaceable and at times like these, a bit more dog-sense around government buildings can only be a good thing! My team, Sansa and Lluna, send our US-based colleagues lots of encouragement, confidence and optimism. We hope you can bring out the best in all the people you come in contact with at the White House.


6 powerful communication tips from some of the world’s best interviewers

Jakkii says: This article, published in 2014, is an oldie but a goodie, and well worth a read – or even a reread if you’ve read it before.

Here at REG, in our role as researchers, we often find ourselves interviewing people as part of our work. As such, anything that can help us be as effective as possible in communicating – particularly on eliciting useful information and on listening effectively – is always of keen interest. But, in truth, techniques to improve communication are useful for everyone, not just those who undertake interviews for research! From small talk at a networking event to building relationships and conducting interviews, there are myriad uses for improved communication skills.

This article provides six tips based on advice from ‘legendary’ interviewers, complete with some useful diagrams and even a short video (~5min). The six tips are:

  1. First prepare notes, then toss them
    Do your research upfront so you’re prepared and can feel confident, but don’t force yourself to rely on a script or stick exclusively to a list of pre-written questions.

  2. Match your partner–in mood, energy level, language and body language
    This is probably familiar advice, but advice always worth revisiting. I particularly like the final point in this tip, though: “Just as important, says Fresh Air’s Terry Gross, is matching the right line of questioning to the right subject. The best interviews are never one-size-fits-all.”

  3. Practice flexible listening
    Use active, flexible listening to allow you to pick up on cues from your conversation partner (or interview subject) and follow them – again, rather than sticking to a script – and allow these cues to guide you as to when to move on, or when to probe further.

  4. Activate the power of the pause
    If you’ve ever watched police procedurals or read much in the way of crime fiction, you’ll already be familiar with this one: keeping your mouth shut and letting your subject fill in the silence. Silence typically makes people uncomfortable (unless they’re very familiar with one another), and people are often compelled to fill it. The “power of the pause” allows genuine space for a person to think, as well as acting as a prompt for them to actually say more.

  5. Cultivate curiosity: the Dale Carnegie approach
    As this tip says, “All of these techniques are tried and true, but they don’t really work without one simple quality on the interviewer’s part: curiosity.” Not only is that the case, but you can cultivate a sense of curiosity if you don’t find yourself naturally curious about others.

  6. Practice ego suspension: the power of forgetting yourself
    As important as curiosity is the ability to suspend our own egos. In general conversation, this might mean not centring ourselves by telling our own stories and instead asking questions of others. In interviews, this might also include suspending judgement (and, relatedly, overcoming our own biases as best we can).

That’s the gist, but I recommend reading the article for yourself, watching the video and reviewing the diagrams, and reflecting on how you can practice or improve these techniques in your own communication. Being keenly aware of how we communicate with others is, of course, all the more important when we’re doing so from afar, working remotely and using online tools to get together.


Long read: Twitter’s Birdwatch

Source | Original: mostafa meraji/Unsplash

Twitter has spent years and millions of dollars fighting falsehoods with a now well-worn arsenal—fact-checks and warning labels and context labels and algorithmic tweaks and bans and bans on the President of the United States—but this week the company unveiled a totally new weapon: us.

Read: Twitter wants your help fighting falsehoods. It’s risky, but it might just work

Friday Fives

Hybrid workplace

Podcast: LifeMatters – How we’ll be working in 2021 and beyond

Remote work

Communication, engagement and culture

Corona Business Insights Podcast – The Business of Vaccines

The business of vaccines: investment, research risks, pricing, manufacturing, and distributing a COVID-19 vaccine.

As COVID-19 sets out to change the world forever, join Sandra Peter and Kai Riemer as they think about what’s to come in the future of business.



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