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

How to comment online

Anne says: This week an article from The School of Life has been one of those brain worms – it just keeps mulling around in my thoughts on daily basis. Why? A number of reasons: the title of the article; the opening paragraph positioning; the graphic use of examples (bad language warning); their explanations for why people write harsh (abusive) comments; and their remedy.

Let’s unpack these aspects. The title of the article: How to comment online? A how to guide on commenting – interesting – definitely made me read further – what sort of comments were they advocating? Expanded later in the article to explain it’s a learnable skill.

Then the opening paragraph:

“Comment sections online should be the beautiful public squares of our democracies: places we navigate to for frank and thoughtful exchanges of ideas; places where we learn to understand each other’s point of view and where serious discussions evolve over time.”

Totally! Whatever happened to the art of disagreement? How did we stop being able to hear another person’s point of view? In fact, for me, in many cases, I’ve just stopped writing comments unless I’m really passionate about having a say.

The graphic examples. I’m not repeating them here – I don’t want our site blacklisted. They do it well – brief, and smack straight in your face!

The explanations. OK – this is probably the piece that leaves me ruminating… I’ve studied and researched the psychology of communication online for more than 20 years now, it formed the basis of my PhD, however I find their explanation rather idealistic. There are still a number of behavioural factors such as disinhibition that are not addressed in their reasons.

Moving on to remedies. Now – this is valuable. We all need to learn (and practice) how to position our comments or statements to others with opposing views more eloquently. We need to respect there are other opinions and learn to listen to understand the differences.

And let’s just close all these aspects with a very simple mindset – be kind! So many of our leaders and politicians could gain from this perspective when talking with others – online or offline.

And now I leave the article with you for you to consider…


The Tech Industry’s Gender Discrimination Problem

Nat says: The male dominance in the modern workplace is the focus of this long read. The debate itself is nothing new – a female employee encounters sexual harassment, unequal pay and a lack of promotion; experiencing the imbalance of pay and power that exists between men and women. The article states that such an imbalance is most prevalent in the tech industry. One of the latest studies out of the US claims that in recent years, Silicon Valley has seen an increase in arbitration clauses in employee contracts. Arbitration – a form of dispute resolution – translates into harassment claims being settled in-house rather than being aired and settled through the judicial system. Some big names are mentioned in the article, businesses such as Tesla, Microsoft and Google, who have such clauses in place with their employees. It seems these clauses exist because of the rampant and systematic problem of everyday casual sexism, as mentioned in the article concerning a female employee of Tesla:

She noticed that sometimes, when female employees walked through certain areas of the plant, male workers whistled, catcalled, and made derogatory comments. Women called it the “predator zone”.

I remember a few years ago talking to a colleague who was working with tech startups, and he had visited Silicon Valley numerous times for his work. He had told me that some of the female entrepreneurs he met had great ideas, but there was a perception about their ideas because they were female. The tech investors were more likely to invest in the male ideas than the female; even when knowing the female idea had more bravado to it. These kinds of stories and realities are not new, especially if you are female. Chances are that you have experienced some form of discrimination or sexism in your waking life. The recent Harvey Weinstein scandal and his secret settlements have cast a harsh spotlight on male-dominated industries. There has even been commentary that the women who have come forward to tell of their workplace tales are some of the world’s richest and most powerful women. These women feared coming forward to share their story, so what hope is there for the average Jane Doe citizen experiencing something similar – someone with no platform or status to support them in their claims?

Since starting a PhD in the ivory tower of the Capitalist West – a business school – I have become more attuned to the dominance of male power. I’ve noticed how different the female scholars are treated compared to the male scholars, and how this distinction seems to be highlighted so much more than I can remember in my working career. There are things that male academics will say to me that they would not say to my male peers, but I honestly believe that those who are making such comments are unaware of their behaviour. I hope that all these stories coming to life encourages more self-reflection among men, and strength and unity among women. There’s a reason Simone de Beauvoir wrote her book The Second Sex, and why she stated:

Economically, men and women almost form two castes; all things being equal, the former have better jobs, higher wages, and greater chances to succeed than their new female competitors; they occupy many more places in industry, in politics, and so forth, and they hold the most important positions.


Why Gen Z might signal the end of demographic targeting as we know it

In the old days, there was one segmentation — that was great and we all loved it…Now we have to have smaller, more customised, more lean segments to go through. They can’t be based on demographics anymore.

Emilio says: For all the fervent interest amongst marketers in targeting millennials (Gen Y), the generational group after them, called ‘Generation Alpha’ or simply Gen Z, is proving even more elusive to reach. That’s according to the big brand marketers who gathered recently at an advertising conference in the US.

Whilst the interest in Gen Y is understandable – now the largest consumer group, outnumbering Baby Boomers in the US – there’s great promise and profit looming from Gen Z, but there’s also something quite unusual and rather irregular about them. This group of tech-savvy and outspoken young consumers and creative thinkers – comprising 25% of the population in the US with an estimated purchasing power of $44 billion – are themselves disrupting the models of consumer marketing.

How exactly is the Gen Z cohort changing the way smart marketers are approaching audience targeting? Majorly. In fact, the revolutionary new idea being bandied about by brand experts at this conference point to the absence of traditional demographics and segmentation to really pin down Gen Z. It’s no longer about segmenting by age, gender and race – but more about a needs-based, behavioural and value-driven targeting approach. This complexity means marketing budgets are going to need to be bigger and more flexible.

Here are a few more fascinating findings about Gen Z from the mouths of marketers at this Conference:

  • Gen Z are glued to their mobile devices (no surprises there) and consume heaps social media, particularly YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat;
  • they are ‘the generation that learned how to swipe before they wiped’ – but don’t let this fool you for they are security and identity conscious;
  • they have an influential voice in family decisions; they think differently about gender orientation and race compared to teens in previous generations; and
  • they are savers not spenders, socially-conscious, entrepreneurial, and shun traditional promotional tactics.

Gen Z is disrupting demographic targeting, but they also hold tremendous promise for the future, being independent, cautious, fiscally responsible and future-focused. They claim to be the first true ‘digital natives’ who have never lived without social media – which means savvy marketers need to learn how they live in their world in order to engage and market to them effectively.


What to expect from Amazon Australia

Joel says: It’s no secret by now that massive online marketplace Amazon is coming to Australia. We wrote about it back when it was first confirmed. But since then Amazon have remained extremely tight lipped about when it would be coming and have only offered non-descript statements saying “it will be launching really soon”.

If you’ve visited Australian news websites over the last month you’ll likely have heard the whispers stating that the highly anticipated website is planning to launch on or by Black Friday this year (FYI – that’s today), following a secretive soft launch on Thursday afternoon.

As the clock clicked past 3pm yesterday (the rumoured time of launch) the internet went into a freak out as the site appeared unchanged, and many keen to get their hands on some new products turned to twitter to vent. Although this whole thing was based on rumours in the first place, Amazon refused to comment to any outlets regarding the launch date or the ‘soft launch’. It may have all been a case of peoples expectations letting themselves down.

As of the time of writing, Amazon’s marketplace still hasn’t launched in Australia, with many still hoping it will launch at some later point today to take advantage of the Black Friday sales – another American tradition that Aussie outlets have decided to jump on over the last few years, generally to act as their last pre-christmas sales.

While we wait, check out this article published by CNET this week, detailing what we should expect from Amazon Australia when it does eventually launch, including predictions on how disruptive it’s going to be to existing stores already here.


YouTube is addressing its massive child exploitation problem

Jakkii says: Last week I shared a piece exploring some of the bizarre and disturbing videos on Kid’s YouTube. This week is somewhat of a follow up: in addition to the types of videos addressed in last week’s piece, YouTube also has a big problem with videos that are, or come close to being, exploitative of children. The piece shared provides numerous examples of these videos, and, as with last week’s article, notes that in many instances the videos are walking a fine line, hovering in a strange grey area of creepiness that would seem to be eluding YouTube’s moderation algorithms.

These videos, while still bizarre and disturbing, likely pass through some of YouTube’s algorithmic moderation channels. In previous statements to numerous outlets, including BuzzFeed News, YouTube has said that it “will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert Trusted Flaggers.” And the recent blog post details significant changes in enforcement on this content.

Still, it’s unclear whether these programs are substantial enough to catch and limit the volume of disturbing children’s content across the platform. YouTube told BuzzFeed News that it plans to continue to evolve its policies alongside the bad actors who will inevitably attempt to keep posting disturbing content of this nature. While the company noted that this will be an ongoing fight, it suggested that machine learning will play an important role to address the issue at scale.

Of particular interest to me is that last line – almost a throwaway in its lack of detail or nuance. How does YouTube plan to deploy machine learning in this fight, and how will they teach it to effectively walk through this grey area? Will they instead use it to manage the more black & white cases, queuing up the grey for human intervention and decision making?

How will we know that this machine learning algorithm is doing away only with content that, for example, exploits children, and is not acting as thought police, censoring views Youtube Tinds distasteful, but are not otherwise hateful or inciteful?

We simply must stop referring to AI and machine learning as mysterious things that will just magically do what we want. They are powerful tools that are programmed by humans – they are to serve and help us, and it is imperative that we question them, that we demand openness and transparency, and that they are implemented and executed ethically.

PS – Did you know Buzzfeed do actual journalism, and not just quizzes and listicles? If you didn’t – now you do!


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