Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Feb 20

The UX of Decent Online Discussions: Twitter’s New Troll-Killing Algo

Posted: under Blogging, Sip With Caution.
Tags: , , , , ,

Twitter declares open season on trolls

“I think the new moderators are striking *just* the right tone for dealing with the 4chan infestations…” (/lame attempt at New Yorker-style caption)

Twitter is rolling out three new tools to crack down on trolls, spam & abuse

Meanwhile, there’s also “Project Coral” – backed by NY Times, Washington Post and Mozilla – rolling out Talk and Ask, aimed at making comment threads a way to connect with an audience – rather than to alienate & depress them. Read More

Comments (0)



Feb 02

Brainwashed User Confesses: “I Was a Human Bot-net for Klout”

Posted: under Digital Migration, New Marketing, Sip With Caution.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Industry-leader social management tool Hootsuite “deprecates” Klout – but who’s next?

Klout, you were mean to us and made us like it. You made us feel inadequate, and spend far too many hours indulging in unnatural behaviors to please your algorithm. And all we got were inane “Perks” like bland business cards that look like they were spat out of an old dot-matrix printer …

… or 1/2 off a crate of Sooper fREEKy POWer Drinkzzzz (aside: WhenTF are we going to collectively decide that replaces “S” with “Z” no longer denotes hip & outlaw status?) that magically combine the lovely taste of licking the sludgecrust from the bottom of a riding lawn mower with the sensation of a myocardial infarction and COPD. Yummy!

But all along, there was a sneaking suspicion that Klout scores were not all they were cracked up to be; that the “social media influence” they purported to measure&deliver was flawed, at best. Still, we went along with it, because, well, there really wasn’t much else. (Kred came and went and the less said about the brief spring of Empire Avenue, the better.)

Now comes the hardcore notice from Hootsuite that they are no longer including Klout, because “we put our customers at the forefront of every business decision.” My oh my. Whatever could that mean? Maybe that Klout does NOT do so? That they are, in fact, preying upon customers by snarfing up all our actions, interactions, posts, updates & etc. and selling them to the highest bidder? Or something worse?

BTW – do a quick Google search on “Why quit Klout?” and read through the posts. Most date back to 2011, but their objections still seem … unpleasantly valid.

Hootsuite deprecates Klout

This is what you get when you click on the Klout link. In corporate-speak, this is pretty much a bullet to the back of the head.

Embarrassing admission: I totally bought into Klout. For a time, I was even clicking like a lab rat hooked on blow on the “Share Our Content Now!” features on Klout. Yes, I was that kind of dingbat. I gave over my social media profiles to Klout and let them hijack my voice and suggest things that my friends and colleagues should read, all wrapped up nicely in a Klout-enabled URL shortener.

Mea culpa. Sorry. Won’t make that mistake again.

In my defense, when I obediently shared Klout’s suggested content, I saw my Klout score shoot up. But when I checked out all my shares, likes and interactions? Not a big change. Which obviously made me suspect that Klout was boosting its number to try to keep me incentivized into using Klout’s content and shortener.

I was becoming a human bot-net. 

It made me uneasy months ago, and so I quit sharing Klout’s content. But I still had in the back of my mind that I should pay more attention to Klout, that the score is essential to building and maintaining “your personal brand,” etc. etc.

But then I saw the above notice when trying to use Hootsuite. I can only read between the lines as to what’s going on here, but if Hootsuite, the industry leader when it comes to managing social media profiles, removes a feature that seems so essential to what so many community managers, social marketing execs and wanna-be YouTube stars are trying to do (i.e. identify & interact with “influencers” to thereby achieve business goals), then there is definitely Something Really Heavy going on behind the scenes.

Maybe it’s all the old objections finally coming home to roost: inaccuracy, lack of transparency, encouragement of inauthentic behavior …

…or maybe there’s been some business fight going on, over who should share what money with whom in exchange for what. But the bottom line is: with Klout out of Hootsuite, we are going to have to start using something else.

Here are the suggested alternatives to Klout:

First, Right Relevance claims to ” helps you better engage your social audience by letting you search and share the most authoritative content currently trending on the social web. We achieve this by mining the social web to identify and rank topical influencers. The inherent trust of the influencers communities is applied to finding the most relevant articles.”

This app breaks out the "share relevant content" features of Klout.

This app breaks out the “share relevant content” features of Klout. As with so many other “content suggestion engines,” the danger lies in the possibility that they will recommend content that benefits THEM more than it benefits YOU. I will be poking this one with a stick very carefully. 

Next up, Riffle Twitter Insights says that they are an “easy-to-use efficiency tool that helps you build an instant rapport with anyone on Twitter. With a simple, intuitive dashboard showing users’ social patterns, networks and interests.”

What, no Perks for using? (sigh) OK, the big downside here is right in the title: it’s only for Twitter. Klout claimed to bring in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and any other bright-shiny-jingly-key-social-media-network.

Riffle Twitter Insights

They make the interface look so very cool. But I rather suspect that you don’t get these kinds of charts, graphs & sophistication with the Free level of service.

Unnoticed to most casual users of Klout: many of the high-end social media measurement and management platforms (such as UberVU, RavenTools, Radian6 and others) scraped Klout scores and put them right next to usernames in the dashboard. It was a quick shortcut to identifying “influencers” without having to built your own algo or develop that side of your business.

I’ll be interested to see if any of these alternatives gets any traction – or if Klout starts showing more signs of distress (other than the inconsistencies in their dashboards, UX, features or all the other quirks that have surfaced in the past year or so).

Comments (0)



Mar 04

Gaming Twitter Follower Counts Makes You a Dick

Posted: under Blogging, Lemmings, Sip With Caution.
Tags: , ,

The “Follow/Unfollow Dance” builds your lists … but to what end?

Social media whiz & Cheesehead Homie Erik Johnson writes powerfully about his experience with one of his intellectual idols. Viz:

Every school had one. The kid who pretended to be your friend just to get something he wanted from you and then acted like you’d never met. The user. Not the model you would build a business around and certainly not the model for a business social media strategy.

If you’ve been paying attention to the growing phenomenon on Twitter of people who want to bill themselves as thought leaders & social media experts following you & then unfollowing you a few weeks later after snookering you into believing there is a mutual interest, this sad saga will seem very familiar. I’m having my own issue with it myself – I’ve noted that a lot of the people that I follow don’t seem to actually be interested in connecting with me, other than to connect. I don’t get any follow-up conversation out of the connection.

I’ll admit it. I’m not as diligent as I should be in following/unfollowing and tracking everything that’s going on in the social sphere. Been spending a lot of time on content creation the past few months – writing books, creating lesson plans, wireframing sites, handling social media for other people … so yeah, mea culpa.

I turned to JustUnfollow to see if this would help.

JustUnfollow home page

JustUnfollow purports to help you keep track of whether or not you’re being gamed … and perhaps even to start gaming the system yourself (Not Recommended). I am dismayed, but not surprised, that services like this are becoming common & in-demand.

The service generates a DM that you can customize to say thanks to the people that follow you. It’s kinda filled up my DM column with these messages. As you can see, I tried to make the “Thanks” message a little less boilerplate sounding.

JustUnfollow DM in Tweetdeck

I get a steady stream of notifications as to who has followed me in Tweetdeck. This is handy, as the notifications often wind up in my spam folder in Mail. However, this is still something of an impersonal-feeling process, mostly because I’ve been slacking off on actually connecting with those who connect with me. My bad, people.

I had kinda hoped that this service would run in the background and keep some kind of order to my Twitter feed. And then, I got this little notification:

Alan Rosenblatt @DrDigiPol

Apparently, I’ve been rude. Didn’t realize that I was doing so. I was buried under book deadlines, designing a multi-platform site for a client, and teaching a class. Still, I was negligent and I got called on it. Worse, it seems the solution I tried to impose has actually done the opposite from my intentions.

It appears that in trying to set up a system by which I rewarded people with at least a DM for following me, I somehow stumbled into a situation where that DM is seen as the very thing that I was trying to avoid. I probably need to go in and tweak the settings on JustUnfollow to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Also, I should probably use JustUnfollow to see if there is some chicanery going on with my Follow/Unfollow stats. I’m interested in connecting with journalists and New Media thinkers, to widen the variety and depth of the info-flow that I expose myself to.

However, I still struggle with taming the torrent. And yeah, I know that is ironic, given the stated mission of this blog. But The situation is not being helped by the amount of “Hey, are you really paying attention to me?” messages coming at me, especially when compared to the “Social Media Users” that are trying to get me roped into following them, just so they can boost their own Klout score.

Here’s what I wrote as a comment on Erik’s blog. And yes, I do recommend that you follow him.

Unfortunately, I am locked in exactly this kind of dance myself on social media. As the number of Twitter followers you have starts to become a real badge denoting authenticity and authority, the incentives are there to “game the system.” I’ve tried to restrict my Twitter feed to only people that I actually can pay attention to; when in the early days, I went nuts and got up into the thousands, my feed was streaming so fast that I couldn’t actually get any value out of it. Which brought my efforts to the equivalent of spitting into a vast, anonymous torrent. I’ve got quite enough of that trying to engage in the blogosphere, thank you very much.

Whenever I see Twitter accounts with 40,000 followers and 40,000 following – well, I know that the person has devoted significant time to building a list and a presence. But it makes me wonder – will they actually respond to an attempt at conversation? Can they? Is it even possible with the flow from 40K people coming through HootSuite/Tweetdeck? I couldn’t do it with 1500.

And if the point of social media isn’t to actually have a conversation with people about something of mutual value … then what’s the damn point, anyway? Just start graffiti’ing up billboards and save the rest of us from the tricks and games, already.

At this point, I’d have to give JustUnfollow a Sip With Caution rating:

Sips from the Firehose two shotglasses

Sip With Caution

Comments (0)



Dec 19

Stumbling towards a more truthful web

Posted: under Sip With Caution.
Tags: , , ,

LazyTruth is a Chrome extension for Gmail that purports to give you context for B.S. spam & chain e-mails

sip with caution

Verdict: Sip With Caution

 

One of the growing problems on the internet is the inability of many users to go beyond knee-jerk analysis of the information that comes gushing at us via the broadband firehose. And yeah, this is pretty much a natural for this blog.

So, for everyone wondering if the end of the 2012 elections would finally bring an end to all those stupid chain emails that clog up our email inboxes, claiming that US Navy Admirals somehow told off uppity Frenchmen about what aircraft carriers are good for, or that US Navy destroyers were made out of steel from the World Trade Center, or that more people are killed by liberal English-teaching lesbians from Barnard College … there is this little tool: http://www.lazytruth.com/

It’s a little plug-in that you can put in your Gmail inbox to try to filter out all the B.S. emails that you might otherwise be tempted to forward to your contacts.

Unfortunately, I haven’t seen it work yet – and the technical support page seems to bear out user complaints that it doesn’t really *do* anything yet.

Still, there is a massive pent-up demand for this – as evidenced by all the entries into the Knight News Challenge that purport to be able to sift through the hyperbole and deliver a score (or some other symbol) as to the “truthiness” of any fact. If this can just cut down on the amount of B.S. that comes into my in-box every day, I will be willing to wait around while they work the kinks out.

In the meantime, we’re going to have to still rely on such things as the rating system I’m launching above. What do you think about it? I’m leaning towards including little animated GIFs that would also demonstrate the level to which I endorse/consider the things I write about…

Comments (0)