Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Three Gems from the Web - Every Tuesday (2)

Today I am all about self development and acquiring knowledge. I always feel like I am behind with my readings and with being aware of who I am and what I am best at. I am sure that most of you don't have my struggles, but there is always space for some good tips on how to grasp the knowledge out there in a more efficient manner.

So here we are:

1. My first pick is Audible.
Audible is the audio-book section of Amazon, and you, again, probably know it already. And if you know it, maybe you need a bit of reinforcing to dive in. I did, and it is fantastic, I went to reading (or better said, to listening) around 5 books every month, which is a major improvement for me.
The nicest thing is that you have a free trial month in which you can take and return as many books as you like. I downloaded the IPhone app and when I returned the books I got to keep them on my phone. So I stocked up on several books before the month ended. Eventually, I started paying because it is so worth it for me.
Keep in mind that you will need an Amazon account for this, which means giving them your banking details from the very beginning (even if they don't charge you for the first month).

2. Another reading related pick for this week is the YouTube channel called FightMediocrity.
This is a collection of short videos that summarize various non-fiction/self-development books by means of using animation. This is especially good if you want to see what they are all about without taking the time to actually read them. The videos will give you a good glimpse at the main ideas, so you would be able to decide knowledgeably if you should be buying the book. I personally liked the choice of readings and the simple yet poignant style of presentation.

3. Last, but not least, I have just discovered the Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator and the related analyses. It is basically a Personality Test that will place you in one of the 9 personality types that the Enneagram consists of.

After you take the test, you can then go on and read about the traits of your personality type and then, very interestingly, you will find a set of affirmations for each type (you will find them in the left column under "E-gram Transform"). The affirmations are extremely powerful as they pin down precisely the struggles and the blessings each personality has to deal with. There are also loads of readings available and various analyses such as those regarding emotions or compatibility. Have a look and let me know if it nailed you as well.

That is about it.
Hope you liked my picks and that you will let me know about any of your choices.
Don't forget to say hello on our Facebook Page or on Twitter @socialmgeek.
Thank you!

Monday, 30 May 2016

Sharing on Social Media?

This is a topic that is very dear to me, because one of my core beliefs is that information is most valuable when it is shared. Nevertheless, we not always decide to share information that we find useful or interesting. Why is that?

To start, I had a look at a survey conducted by Oglivy in 2014 that tried to reveal some explanations around the sharing behavior of social media users. This topic is extremely important for the marketing industry, so if you are interested in how ads and commercial content gets shared, have a closer look at the study here. I brought it up, though, because it pointed out a few interesting facts:

  • 46% of the users, globally, share content on a daily basis.  
  • cultural aspects are very important when it comes to sharing decisions, while 80% of the Chinese respondents share consistently on social media, 90% of the Japanese respondents don't share or share very rarely..
  • sharing funny (35%) and informational (38%) content is mostly common, with the humorous content being regarded as garnering most attention from friends and followers.
  • the political content, on the other hand, is the least favored in all countries analysed except for Turkey, where 22% of the respondents say they favor political content.
  • most people share to be useful (32%), thoughtful (17%), creative (13%) or resourceful (12%). The Japanese stand out as 21% of them share to feel "unique".

Types of sharing on social media 

With all that in mind, I tried to make a categorization of  the types of sharing decisions that most of us take. Then I will have a look at what might go on when we don't share, and finally, I will try to draw a few conclusions about sharing in an effective and authentic way. 

I do these categorizations because  my mind works well with taxonomies. That used to be the way I learned in school, and  that is the way I strip down an issue that I need to figure out or a plan I need to put down on paper.  Nevertheless, these categories stand under the assumptions that we have already "consumed" a piece of information that we don't own and that we've found it notable (in any way).

1. Sharing for "support" - to support a friend, a cause, an institution or a person, to help them get heard, if they matter enough for us we use our network to reverberate their message.

2. Sharing for "staying in touch" - we share content to start conversations and stay in touch with people who share our interests. We share so that people remember us, stay in touch with our interests and maybe engage in a conversation.

3. Sharing for "defining the self" -  as a means of self assertion, of identifying ourselves by what we like or find interesting, noteworthy, amusing, etc.

4. Sharing for "helping others" - it is clearly a piece of useful content, and our sharing of it stands proof that we can empathize with those who might need the information. Or we share to gather support for helping a cause or a person (donation, volunteering, etc).

5. Sharing "out of conviction" - it is a piece of content that is very close to our core beliefs and stirs emotional engagement, We become engaged preachers, we even extend the sharing to other platforms

6. Sharing "fresh news" - news are so hard not to share when they are steaming hot, that apparently 40% of the media outlets' news reach the readers through social platforms. Notably Twitter is a platform that has specialized in sharing news, and people create their networks of friends or followers for this purpose, among others.

7. Sharing "as a  reminder" -  we often share content just to get a hold of it for future reference, to pin it in place on our home-page.

8. Sharing for "emergency" - sometimes there are emergencies happening when sharing information in real time is of most importance, and then, people use social networks to do this.

9. Sharing the  "elating/stupendous" or "to good not to share" - pieces of content that are so good, so interesting, so innovative, so amusing that we feel anybody would enjoy it. Of course, sharing interesting stuff makes us feel a little more interesting, also.

10. Sharing the "tremendous/terrifying" or "to scary to bare alone" - pieces of information that we feel the need to share so as to create a mini community with whom to start a dialogue, to debate so as to consume the anxiety that it stirs inside us .For example, a specialist's analysis on a new pandemic outbreak that is about to happen. While it isn't news or emergency, it is a piece of information that we need the community to dismiss or otherwise to help us figure out the way other people deal with it. If they don't care about it, it's a sign of relief,

What about not sharing? What are the reasons we decide not to share:

1. Out of habit or cultural upbringing, a sense of privacy or discretion. This is definitely the case for the Japanese, but many cultures or traditional communities value discretion and modesty.

2. Out of high personal scrutiny - very few things are worth mentioning to such a large audience. These are instances when we balance the utility of the content with the immense power that social media garners for putting out the word  Is it right to use a  missile to yield a bullet-like power?

3. Doubting the source - source is key to sharing. People need to perceive the source as legitimate so as to start sharing it. In some countries media outlets are perceived as being the most legitimate, in others, on the contrary,. Professional communities or individuals are perceived to be very legitimate.

4. Doubting the subject matter or the way it is presented - while it drew our attention we might decide that the content could be better or more clear.

Finally, some conclusion on how to share to be effective, and, most importantly to stay true to ourselves:

First of all, keep in mind the context when you decide to share. Some piece of information might seem interesting or clear to you because you have a solid background on the matter. On the other hand, some very good content might seem boring for that very same reason. Your level of understanding will always influence your sharing decisions.

Secondly, what you share speaks loudly about yourself. It says others what you think about, what you read, what type of language you prefer, what is your perceived audience, what are your aspirational models, what type of humor you like. While these things are fluid and change over time, the multitude of traits can help people draw important core conclusions about your character and personality.

Stay away from oversharing, because everybody hates it. Even if you genuinely like and consume a certain type of content, you should not burden your social network with all your readings and videos. Instead, right a message to your friends and recommend your sources if you think they are so useful.

And finally, being authentic will consolidate your network and friendships, while going away from who you are will appear dissonant and eventually damage your connections.

Hope you liked this post and please let me now if you think there is a category that I left out. I am sure I didn't manage to cover it all.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Content Moderation - The Undignified Work in Social Media

Today I am touching a sensitive subject  - content moderation in social media.

The reason it is a sensitive matter is because the work of content moderation itself constitu
tes the tenuous job of erasing all the dirt, the crime, the outrageous, the terrifying and the abominable that humans are capable of putting on the web. Commercial content moderation is a service for commercial sites to perform "cleaning" of user content, usually by outsourcing the task to specialized companies. Employees work by viewing, assessing against the agreed moderation rules, and deleting disturbing content. In the process they often suffer psychological damage.

Here are the 10 things that you probably don't know about content moderation in social media:

1. NUMBERS: Reportedly, social networks rely on armies of content moderators. One source, that I came across quite often in the research I have done on the subject, estimates 100.000 content moderators across the entire industry, with big companies employing significantly more content sweepers than engineers and other specialized staff.

2. TYPES: There are three main types of content moderation: the automated, the passive and the active moderation.

The automated, as you can probably guess, is the type of content blocking that is based on algorithms developed within each social network. This is constantly evolving but cannot substitute the human moderation. There are "crazy" innovations happening in this area as we speak, such as adaptive listening technologies, 3D modelling or PhotoDNA.

The passive content moderation is made by humans and it is based on a flagging system that comes from the users themselves. This way, once a piece of content is notified as offensive goes to a content moderator's screen, where, based on their internal set of rules, it gets decided whether that content stays up or goes down.

The active moderation is the one that filters the entire content shared on the network, in real time. It is done both by humans and machines and it is significantly more labor-intensive. Nevertheless, nowadays it seems to become an imperative so as to keep up with the user's increasing expectations.

3. LOCATION: Most of the content moderation is done far away from the fancy Silicon Valery campuses, many of the companies subcontracting to developing countries such as the Philippines. According to a Wired article, the Philippines are preferred because of their cultural ties with the US, from it being a former colony. As one could imagine, content moderation involves a lot of cultural familiarity. Even if outsourced, the headquarter will always keep a content moderation team dealing with the most sensitive cases. The employees are generally entry level, women and their salaries are significantly lower than the industry average. While one could only guess why this is happening, we can conclude for sure that this is a side of the industry that is not very much praised.

4. PSYCHOLOGICAL SIDE EFFECTS: Most of the workers don't last in this jobs for more than 6 months and they often have psychological difficulties a few weeks into the job such as depression, anxiety, paranoia, low self esteem, low sociability, substance abuse, etc. Although they get professional counseling, they hardly ever prove efficient.

5. NONDISCLOSURE: The content sweepers are tied by very strict confidentiality rules and contracts and are not even allowed to speak openly to the other company employees. When they deal with other departments such as legal, privacy and security or brand and product managers, they don't show the actual piece of content but they are asked to describe it. In other words, "smelly" things need to be contained.

6. POLICY & LEGISLATION: For the US, the notorious Section 230 of the 1996 Communication Decency Act states that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider". In other words, social media companies are exempt from legal obligations to moderate their content. Nevertheless, they decided to do it because it is business savvy. 

The situation is more or less the same in Europe, where again the social platforms (or hosting companies in general) are not responsible for the content posted by their clients, unless this content is reported as abusive. Europe also have the "The Right to Be Forgotten" legal principle which is rather more restrictive than the US legislation, separating the issues related to freedom of speech from those related to the right to privacy.
There is also a tier of self regulation created by most social media giants, with Safety Advisory Boars/Councils that gather independent experts, civil society organisations or even think tanks like Google's Jigsaw to discuss and decide upon sensitive issues. Nevertheless, the discussions remain private. The most open, as industry insiders point out, seems to be Pinterest. Apparently, being open with it's content moderation policies and trying to be more transparent has gained the platform a good reputation.

7. CONTENT: The actual content of some of the deleted imagery is hard to describe. They include cruelty, horror, death, terror towards humans, children, sacred artifacts and symbols. Most shockingly, testimonials say, is seeing these dark images through the eyes of the perpetrator. This means it is not like watching a news report but as watching it happen in real life, together with the often hyper elated criminal's reactions.

8. RELATIVITY: Whether we say it or not, content moderation, is, to some extent, the same thing as censorship. So as to be able to censor a certain public's access to a piece of content you must understand its deepest and most profound cultural, religious and historical traits. What could be outrageous for a certain public, could be mundane for another. This poses difficulties in both deriving automated mechanisms of content moderation and outsourcing this task to specialized businesses. There will always be a misunderstanding, an outcry, an accident. Meanwhile, Social Media companies have to walk a very thin line.

9. CONTEXT: The context in which a certain piece of content is put on a social network is also important and can result in traumatizing situations although the trauma is not readily apparent. Also, moderators' decisions to delete or not to delete a piece of content, such as the footage of the shooting of a civilian girl during protests, can alter an entire country's political life.

10. ABUSES: Many of the social networks still have problems with protecting victims of abuse via their own content moderation systems. It is quite common that the so-called internet trolls, savvy of the network's automated systems, would act to quiet down those with opposite points of view. This is especially common in political disputes but also business, sports or other passion-stirring areas.

There is plenty more to say and grasp about this topic. I just highlighted my first conclusions after a few days' worth of researching. I will leave bellow the most valuable links I could find for further reference.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Three Gems from the web - Every Tuesday

Today I am launching  a series of posts that will be here every Tuesday entitled "Three Gems from the Web"

Basically, I will be posting my top three places to visit on the web that will hopefully prove useful to you and that will potentially enrich your existence. Here are my first picks:

Pick 1. My number one favorite is an app called  AppsGoneFree. As far as I know is only available for Iphone and IPad, but there are plenty of alternatives for Android users as well, if you look hard enough.

The app notifies you of any paid apps that are available for free for a limited period of time (usually one day). I use it mostly to download toddler games on my IPad for our son. You know how annoying it is to download free games that only allow access to a few of their features, and then, you have to explain to your child that he cannot play the other features as they have a little lock on. Well, not anymore. I've been using it for the last few months and I could find a nice game almost every time I checked it.

There are plenty of  grown-up apps available there also, such as photo editor, document editing, and plenty more ...

Pick 2. It has to be Casey Neistat. He is one of the most famous youtubers ever, so you probably know him already. 
The reason I like him, and probably the reason other people  also like him, is that he has an artful way of vlogging his life and that he is relate-able to teenagers and parents at the same time. He lives a quite hectic life with loads of work, traveling, glamorous and mundane events that he records and uploads daily. He's been doing so for more than a year now.

Pick 3. Is another YouTube channel called StyleLikeU and I think is very meaningful for women of all ages and walks of life. They are basically interviews with women about body image and life stories. They are all beautiful and emotionally engaging videos. I think that especially young women and adolescent girls  could benefit incredibly from the wisdom shared in these videos. Also worth checking if you are a men. :-)

Hope you liked my suggestions. If you did, let me know in the comments bellow or

on Facebook at New Social Media Geek
on Twitter at @socialmgeek

Thank you!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Why do people hit the "Like" button?

The like hand
This is a topic I came up with while talking to my husband over a delicious Greek lunch. He'd just posted on Facebook a bunch of photos from our trip to Zakynthos  and we had a look at how many likes he'd got. And then we started talking ... 

After that talk, I put a bit more thinking into it and came up with a few patterns for people's reasoning and behavior around hitting the "like" button. This is a topic that has startled mostly psychologists, so if you are into that, check this article, and also this one.

We can view the underlying motivation and meaning of the like button from two perspectives: the perspective of the sender and that of the receiver. 

Why do we like other people's stuff? The SENDER 

1. The familiar like - we all do them. For example, we have a close friend we want to support, or one of our parents just joined the social networking site, so, we hit the "like" as soon as we see it. The contents are not as important, but the public validation of our good relationship is.

Likes2. The "fair-trade" like or "you like me, I like you" like - we all have those good people in our networks that would willingly give us a like at most of our posts. So it is only fair to give them some positive feedback when they post as well.   

3. The social affirmation like I want my network to see that I am associated with good contents, that I belong to a certain community, that I have a certain social status. Actually, I think is not even that rational, but we feel a natural impetus to like what people we like decide to like on social media. Does that make sense?

4. The "trap" like - is the like that would shed a bad light on you if somebody noticed that you haven't given. For example, your classmate from college just got married/had a baby/met the President etc. Everybody likes that, especially if it is happening for the first time. If you are spotted not liking that, you might be considered envious to say the least. And you do not want that to happen. 

5. The "bored" like - you usually hit a few bored likes in a row. Some people do this daily without getting properly engaged in the network. It's a habit, a way to stay connected in the most superficial way. This is a stance of being present on the platform which is the least time consuming and least soliciting. 

6. The like with a comment - that is the really enthusiastic like. It is generally accepted that if you send a positive comment you also hit the like button, to top up the numbers for the receiver.

like words7. The genuine like - might be as enthusiastic as the one with a comment but you do not comment because you are shy, or you feel you are not familiar enough with the person and/or topic. 

8. The pragmatical like -  you win something out of it - enter a competition, get a discount, etc. (although, most of them end up being pranks).

9. The get in touch like - some people start liking your posts before they contact you. It's a way to give you time to remember who they are and think about them so it would not be as awkward when they PM you.

10. The reunion like - they generally come in a bunch. It's a distant friend/acquaintance/relative you just got reconnected with. They go through your profile and feel it is appropriate to like a few of your posts as a sign of deeper acknowledgement of your relationship.

What happens at the other end? The RECEIVER

lots of like
We generally check our profiles much more often on the days that we post something than when we don't. Actually, people who post more frequently have most followers and spend most time on social media. 

At the workplace, you don't get much work done shortly after you posted something, unless posting is your actual work (I mean you are something like a social media marketing person). Probably, this is why reportedly, best posting times on almost all platforms tend to be during lunchtime or in the afternoons. 

Then, what do we look at when we are appraising our feedback? This is a three tiered process: 

1. Counting the likes - Fortunately the platforms do this for us. The purpose is to get a high number of likes, so that other people will have a good opinion about our sociability. 

2. Looking through the likes - After a while we start looking through the list of people that liked us. For some reason, the more unfamiliar we are with the person who is hitting the like button, the more flattering that like is. And, of course, we tend to overlook the familiar, the trap and the fair-trade likes because we instinctively know they are out of complacency. It is also true that we tend to mistake the bored likes for the genuine ones. 

3. Thinking of the non-likes - This is the last stage and it isn't an usual thing for most people (especially the busy ones) but can be quite a thorough process for others, so watch out!
At this stage, we start checking the activity of the people that could, should or would have hit the like button but didn't, and we try to compile a motivation for them. 
- they didn't see the post;
- they saw it but didn't like it;
- they saw it, they liked it but did not want to press the magical button out of envy, competition, revenge, laziness or any other contextual motivation. In any case, people that reach this stage usually make up their own stories that do not have much to do with the reality. Nevertheless, they are important because these narratives will inform their future engagement and connections with the others. 

What do you think? Is there any other category of likes you would add to my list? 

Hope you liked this topic as much as I did!

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

You are a product! Do not delude yourself, you are not a customer anymore, you are a commodity!

While we apparently know what we're getting into, meaning we know the difference between various social networks, read their ever-changing and never-ending privacy policies and we define our preferences as to what and how we contribute to a given platform, people with special training, often stop and engage in serious categorization adventures with regard to who we are (the users of social networks) how we behave, what interests us, what we share, what we don't share, how much it affects us and how does that translate into our purchasing habits. And the more accurately we are profiled, the more valuable we are.

...And yes, you got it, It all comes down to making us use that credit card right then and there, on our sofa, with our brand new Mac book Air on your lap and broadband internet connection. Furthermore, the more you think about it, the more you realize that instead of being the rightful customer you have always been, you have unfortunately become a commodity that app owners, web service providers, social media giants and numerous other businesses sell back and forth for the only purpose of making you buy more stuff.

According to Google, people spend on average 30 hours a week connected to the internet, out of which approximately 1/3 is on social media. Keeping in mind that the numbers have been growing steadily over the last decade, we will soon reach the 40 hour threshold, equal to that of the most commonly accepted duration of the workweek.

And yes, I am meaning that in the near future, people will voluntarily spend 1/3 of their lifetime online, just as much as they are supposed to be working and be productive.

While many of the jobs nowadays involve being constantly online, please let me remind you that these are average numbers. with serious differences along age groups, residency and nationality.

Another fact is that more than half of the world population is connected to the internet, meaning that this average is calculated over more than 3.5 billion subjects. These are not statistics, these are facts!

In conclusion, we are 3.5 billion living products that work like ants 1/3 of our lifetime for the benefit of the few. Go figure!

If you do not believe me, have a look at this film, where a specialist tells it like it is.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Social media: An unequal battle for attention

As you must have probably guessed by now, my vision of social media is quite compassionate and humanistic. So here’s one concern that I have with regard to social media. I am wondering:  is it fair to compete with machines (bots), social marketers, huge media outlets, etc. for the attention of my friends?

Imagine Michelle, a 16 year old girl who is trying to gain confidence in her appearance and become a little more popular in her highschool by posting nice pictures of her vacation to Italy. She might not get as many likes and comments as would be enough to meet her expectations because she didn’t know the most perfect time to post them, she did not have access to professional filters to improve the quality of her pictures and, most importantly, she was competing for the attention of her friends with media, marketers, social media guru’s and all other professional and trained individuals that use metrics and automated posts to cover up all the authentic content, including Michelle’s.

I would dare a comparison: in real life terms,  sending out a message via social media posting is like speaking into a very loud microphone while being in a huge dark forest and then listening to the echo. For the receiver of the message is just like trying to make sense of a concert where you have a few hundred artists performing their own thing around you at the same time. 

Nowadays the only valuable currency in the online world is attention or traffic (this is not my idea, I took it out of a great book I read called Netocracy). The online world has its own rules, rather different from the traditional types of interaction.

One would be that it is not a purely human interaction. I would argue that individuals and machines alike populate the web and compete for attention. This opinion is consistent with the actor network theory developed by Callon and Latour and spanning out of science and technology studies into the social sciences.What they say is that networks should not be seen as purely human (or social) but there should be seen in contact with various "actants", such as machines or other objects. And indeed, think about the plethora of instances when you are asked to prove that you are not a machine.

Another non-traditional trait of social media is that people need to compete for attention with organized professionals, which are basically amalgamations of humans, organized in a hierarchy, which serve a purpose that is commonly profit. These organizations fight for the same attention span that humans and the machines are struggling for. Nevertheless, the scenery is built in such a way that we are led to believe that we are all the same and that we are all authentic. For this reason, machines have email addresses and organizations hide behind an individual or behind the people who share their content. As a result, our daily feeds contain much more professional content that we could ever imagine, and they are all pretending to be authentic. To prove I am right, have a look at your Facebook feed and try to observe how much of the content is professional video, re-shared articles, promotions, adds, news, etc. To be clear, I am not dismissing this content. I find it useful and enriching, but, this has nothing to do with my feed from 5 years back when I could see pictures of my friends or acquaintances all around. Now, this is only a fraction of the feed.

Therefore, if you do not become tech savvy, you risk getting lost under the big pile of professional content. This would not be a bad thing in its own if it were not to have impact on people’s self-esteem, like Michelle’s. For now, we can only guess how things will develop further ...