Archive:
Digital

Good writing and analytics don’t mix

If you want to be a good writer then you can’t worry about the numbers. The stats, the dashboards, the faves, likes, hearts and yes, even the claps, they all lead to madness and, worst of all in my opinion, bad writing.

Recently I have been thinking a bit about what stats trackers I should be running on my blog, particularly in light of GDPR. I currently run three, and I wonder if I should cut this back.

Robin Rendle’s blog post has got me wondering further if it’s just a bad idea to worry about — or even be aware of — how many people are reading.

It’s always tempting to look at the stats. But I also know that the most-viewed posts are not the highest quality ones. So perhaps it’s better to focus on improving something other than the numbers.

See also: Escaping Twitter’s self-consciousness machine, on what happens when you remove all metrics from the Twitter interface.

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The Facebook algorithm mom problem

An excellent description of one of the reasons I developed a distaste for Facebook for.

I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks “like” on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family related piece of content…

The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom’s sister sees it and clicks “like” moments later. Now Facebook’s algorithm has created a self-fulfilling prophesy and further narrows the audience of my post. As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook…

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How can we incentivise the digital world to make safer services?

How regulation came to be in railways, engineering and cars — and what this tells us about how digital services may be regulated.

Trigger points for regulation have varied depending on the field, the period of history and the country. However, the thing all these triggers have in common is a change in attitudes. People need to demand change to incentivize companies to make their products and services safer.

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Publishers haven’t realised just how big a deal GDPR is

With the media still consumed with scrutinising Facebook, Thomas Baekdal once again points out that it is the media who appear to be less prepared to deal with privacy trends and comply with new regulations like GDPR.

It’s interesting that Thomas Baekdal has emphasised that this is not only important for compliance. But because it is becoming a fundamental expectation.

He notes the clear changes that Google and Facebook have made in reaction to GDPR. In contrast to publishers.

I have yet to see any publisher who is actually changing what they are doing. Every single media site that I visit is still loading tons of 3rd party trackers. They are still not asking people for consent, in fact most seem to think they already have people’s consent…

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Strategic thinking with blog posts and stickers

There has been a lot of chat recently about the apparent decline in quality of Government Digital Service (GDS) blogs. That debate isn’t explicitly mentioned here by former GDS employee Giles Turnbull. But perhaps this is the blogging equivalent of a subtweet (a subblog?).

The idea is basically this: you think out loud, on your blog, over a long period of time. At least months. Probably years. Each new post is about one thing, and tells a single story of its own, but also adds to the longer narrative. Each new post helps you tell that longer, deeper story, and becomes another linkable part of the timeline.

This also feeds into the wider commentary surrounding the apparent (or perhaps merely hoped-for) resurgence in blogging this year.

I certainly find this a useful contribution in explaining the value of blogging. It must not be run through the traditional communcations department wringer. The whole point of blogging is that is by real people (not comms people), talking about their real experiences and even their mistakes.

If you only talk blandly about your successes, you’re not really talking.

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It’s the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech

You may think you’ve read it all from people complaining that the likes of Facebook are threatening free speech. But this is a genuinely smart, thought-provoking article on the wide-ranging ways society need to rethink its approach towards freedom of speech.

We are particularly susceptible to glimmers of novelty, messages of affirmation and belonging, and messages of outrage toward perceived enemies. These kinds of messages are to human community what salt, sugar, and fat are to the human appetite. And Facebook gorges us on them.

I have thought before that we need to start thinking about ‘eating your digital greens’. Which means being wary of processed content (processed through an algorithm, that is), and ensuring you seek out a balanced diet of content from different sources and perspectives.

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People and tooling

On the increasingly complex nature of design and development.

The way we build for the web right now feels problematic in so many ways. Instead of welcoming everyone from our teams with their various skills, we create layers of complexity that shut many out.

I sense this is deliberate, albeit in a subtly unconscious way. There is a culture among some in technology that seeks to belittle and exclude those who find complicated things intimidating. So development has grown in complexity over time, probably needlessly so.

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If you’re still shying away from using technology to improve customer experience – you’re doomed

Some observations from Paul Taylor on digital experience in Myanmar, where internet usage has skyrocketed recently.

For three weeks I’ve not dealt with any paper, any spreadsheets, and very few emails. I’ve negotiated seven hotels, seven flights, taxi’s and boat trips through a mix of apps, increasingly powered by automation and artificial intelligence.

In some respects coming home seems like arriving in the third world, rather than coming from it.

It reminds me of stories about smartphone usage in China, which is totally different to the west.

Westerners try to use their phones like tiny PCs. But because many people in developing countries didn’t have widespread access to PC, they don’t have those mental models. As such, they take fuller advantage of the capabilities of modern mobile devices.

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There is so much positivity in the digital world of media

As ever, Thomas Baekdal is brilliant and insightful on where traditional media companies are getting it so wrong. He compares the consistently negative focus of news outlets to successful YouTubers, all of whom are filled with “excitement and positivity”.

[I]t makes traditional journalists appear reactive, while digital natives appear proactive…

You can’t just be negative. You also have to give your readers hope and invite them to join you on a journey into a better future.

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Language in web teams

Content designer Sarah Richards shares an amusing story of a technique she has used to help people from different disciplines and backgrounds who have been talking at cross-purposes.

We are meant to be content and communication experts. But we often see people putting little effort into how they communicate internally, or even within their own teams.

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Accessibility according to actual people with disabilities

We often hear about the theory of accessibility in design. But we know that the reality can often be different.

So it’s great to see such a comprehensive run-down of actual digital accessibility complaints from people with disabilities.

The article ends with a sage point:

Basically everything that people with disabilities comment on are things that annoy everyone, so fixing these issues makes your interface better for all users!

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The significance of the Twitter archive at the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has now stopped preserving all public tweets. In the words of Dan Cohen in this article, “The Twitter archive may not be the record of our humanity that we wanted, but it’s the record we have.”

I am amused at the idea of future historians having a highly detailed record of everything on Twitter up to the year Donald Trump got elected, and the year before Brexit is due to happen. What a cliffhanger.

See also: Future historians probably won’t understand our internet, and that’s OK

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Predictions for digital and social marketing in 2018

Gary Andrews with some thoughts on what we might see in the coming year in the digital and marketing worlds.

There are lots of astute points here, not least on the hot potato of the moment: relationship between the tech giants and publishers.

One phrase that has been bandied around a lot towards the end of 2017 has been from publishers proclaiming their “pivot to readers”. At a basic level, this is the publisher’s way of saying we’ll no longer be beholden to platforms like Facebook and Google and will concentrate on building our own brand through focusing on our core readership instead.

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The great emoji debate

The Economist considers whether the Unicode consortium is wasting its time trying to standardise emoji when it could be focusing on “more scholarly matters” such as adding characters from ancient scripts.

Given the popularity — almost the ubiquity — of emoji in modern-day popular culture, I would argue that standardising this form of communication is much more important than trying to digitise seldom-used or dead scripts. Even if that means standardising a frowning pile of poo.

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I made my shed the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor

I made my shed the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor Brilliantly entertaining article by someone who managed to game TripAdvisor into ranking his fake establishment as the number one restaurant in London. When he staged a deliberately-awful opening night, some of the patrons asked to come again. The Shed at Dulwich has suddenly become appealing.…

Read full article — I made my shed the top rated restaurant on TripAdvisor

There’s a digital media crash. But no one will say it

There’s a digital media crash. But no one will say it A huge, huge, huge amount of digital media is funded by venture capital... The big picture is that Problem #1 (too many publications) and Problem #2 (platform monopolies) have catalyzed together to create Problem #3 (investors realize they were investing in a mirage and…

Read full article — There’s a digital media crash. But no one will say it

Designers, it’s time to move slowly and fix things

Designers, it’s time to move slowly and fix things Another reflection on how the culture of tech and design probably needs to change, this time from Basecamp product designer Jonas Downey. Designers and programmers are great at inventing software... Unfortunately we’re not nearly as obsessed with what happens after that, when people integrate our products…

Read full article — Designers, it’s time to move slowly and fix things

Google's Top Stories algorithm is failing to detect authoritative sources - One Man & His Blog The Las Vegas shootings highlighted a nasty flaw in Google's Top Stories algorithm. It's one that could be exploited.

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