Bots spread a lot of fakery during the 2016 election. But they can also debunk it.
“According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications today, automated Twitter accounts disproportionately amplified misinformation during the last U.S. election. It found that, while bots only accounted for about 6 percent of the Twitter users in the study, they were responsible for 34 percent of all shares of articles from “low-credibility” sources on the platform.”
I’ve thought about manipulation a lot over the last year. Ask any single person if they want to be manipulated and they’ll vehemently say they do not. Ask if they understand that advertising is manipulation and they’ll say they do. Yet, ask if they understand that most of of what they see and share on social media is manipulation and I bet they’ll disagree. That’s because social media manipulation is insidious. It’s a far more clever form of manipulation than the blunt instruments we’re used to. But it’s still manipulation, and the only way to offset it is for everyone to remain critical and vigilant. You can still use social media, just don’t be naive about what it is and how it really works.
The woman who bought the Banksy painting that shredded? She's keeping it.
“The buyer’s identity was not revealed but Sotheby’s quoted her as saying: ‘When the hammer came down last week and the work was shredded, I was at first shocked, but gradually I began to realize that I would end up with my own piece of art history’.”
The buyer must have a background in PR or marketing because that’s an impressive spin. And, oddly enough, it’s true.
Project Strobe: Protecting your data, improving our third-party APIs, and sunsetting consumer Google+
“This review crystallized what we’ve known for a while: that while our engineering teams have put a lot of effort and dedication into building Google+ over the years, it has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”
This is how a social network dies: With an official blog post that buries the real lede (i.e. the privacy of 500,000 Google+ accounts is in question because of a bug).
Henry Cavill Out as Superman Amid Warner Bros.' DC Universe Shake-Up
“‘There’s a recognition that some parts of the previous movies didn’t work,’ says the studio insider. Another source says Warners is trying to hit a ‘reset’ button with the DC universe, steering its ship slowly into another direction.”
Most of the previous DC movies didn’t work. At all. Wonder Woman is the only recent DC film that had life. Everything else was marred by noise and a nihilistic tone that made watching the likes of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad unpleasant. And there’s no reason why superhero movies should ever be unpleasant. Trivial? Sure. Silly? Yes. But unpleasant? It makes no sense.
Can You Spot the Deceptive Facebook Post?
“The page’s most notable activity was its lack of political messaging. For the most part, this page was quiet and convincing. Other than the two political posts above, it stuck to noncontroversial content, rarely with any added commentary. That could suggest the page was following a common troll strategy of building a page’s audience with inoffensive content, then veering into the political.”
Two things. First, this quiz from the New York Times does a fantastic job illustrating how hard it is to identify deceptive social posts. It’s not like the old days of spam when you could spot it from miles away because of screwy grammar and formatting errors. This stuff is insidious, as noted by the highlighted passage above. The initial interactions you have with the material could be innocuous, but over time the content shifts into an influence campaign. Second, in the early days of online journalism people poked at the idea of *interactive* content. This typically took the form of a half-baked quiz or a Flash-based game that never quite worked properly. But journalists, developers, and designers eventually figured it out. This simple quiz from the Times is an example of what can happen when interactivity is applied with great intention.
What the heck is The Eck talking about?
“[Dennis] Eckersley, who pitched for 24 years in the majors, including eight over two stints with the Red Sox, excels in his own unique way in his second career. He’s more candid — blunt, even — and enthusiastic than one would ever expect a Hall of Famer to be. There is no I’ve-seen-it-all haughtiness to him. He is one of the most accomplished players of all time and has the plaque to prove it, yet his enthusiasm for, say, the random August game against the Rays never wanes. But it’s Eckersley’s particular lingo that adds that extra dollop of color to his analysis.”
Eck is a local treasure. I say “local” because I don’t want ESPN or Fox taking him away for too much national work. Part of the joy of baseball is the familiarity of local announcers. You get to know them in a weird, one-sided way. And Eck seems like the kind of person who’s delightful to be around. He doesn’t take himself seriously, even though his bona fides are most definitely serious. Plus: He’s so loose there’s always a chance he’ll accidentally swear. As for Eck’s unique vocabulary, I’m partial to “cheddar” (a great fastball), “iron” (money), “moss” (a comment on someone’s hair) and “I gotta have that” (when an ump doesn’t call a strike just outside the zone).
We're Bad At Regulating Privacy, Because We Don't Understand Privacy
“The basic issue is this: privacy is not a ‘thing,’ it’s a trade-off. Yet, nearly all attempts to regulate privacy treat it as a thing — a thing that needs ‘protecting.’ As such, you automatically focus on regulating ‘how do we protect this thing’ which generally means prohibitions on sharing information or data, or even being willing to delete that data. But, if we view privacy that way, we also lose out on all sorts of situations where someone could benefit greatly from sharing that data, without the downside risks. When I say privacy is a trade-off I mean it in the following way: almost everything we do can involve giving up some amount of private information — but we often choose to do so because the trade-off is worthwhile.”
When a debate degenerates into either/or I always appreciate the *and* perspective. That’s what this piece provides. The only thing I really understand about privacy is that it needs a multi-pronged effort to be managed. It requires government regulation (how much is the question), corporate accountability, and individual responsibility. Focusing on a single prong will only yield unintended outcomes.
You Won't Miss Brookstone, But You Should
“Brookstone was among the first to carry Parrot drones and iRobot vacuums, Tempur-Pedic beds and Fitbit wearables. But its main appeal was that sense of discovery, the joy of the inessential.”
The joy of the inessential is a perfect description of Brookstone.
The Bullshit Web
“An honest web is one in which the overwhelming majority of the code and assets downloaded to a user’s computer are used in a page’s visual presentation, with nearly all the remainder used to define the semantic structure and associated metadata on the page. Bullshit — in the form of CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor — is unwelcome and intolerable.”
I have soft spot for lightweight, text-centric web pages because they’re pure. The distance between the audience and the intention of the content is as short as it can be. At the same time, I appreciate the need for analytics and digital marketing. That’s why we should seek a middle ground between a text-only web and a web with effective-but-minimal marketing tools.
'Mission: Impossible' — Tom Cruise Pushed for a Dark Plotline That Was Cut
“What Tom and I have done is we’ve developed a pretty solid set of muscles in terms of how to shoot a scene so that scene can be manipulated, so that it can be quickly reshot. For example, all of the information dumps in a Mission: Impossible movie — whenever possible — are in a car, a phone booth or a confined set of some kind so we can go back and reshoot that stuff. We can change it if we really need to. And, all of the character stuff where we’re finding those characters, whenever we’re shooting it, we cover the scene in such a way that I can lift whole chunks of the scene out if they don’t apply to the movie anymore. So, it allows us to explore.”
I assumed movies that started filming without a completed script were workflow failures, even if the movie itself turned out fine. But this interview with director Christopher McQuarrie changed my mind. Accounting for reshoots within the production is a smart way to handle the agility and serendipity some stories need.