Friday News: BuzzFeed is following you, Amazon, Hachette, and DRM, interesting beauty experiment, and online content v. comments
BuzzFeed is Watching You – In my everlasting quest to understand the phenomenon that is BuzzFeed, I come across pieces like this. Which makes me think of Facebook. Which makes me even more wary of BuzzFeed and its seemingly enormous online reach. Want to know what kinds of information BuzzFeed likes to collect about you — especially when you’re taking those nifty quizzes, check out Dan Barker’s breakdown. And be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
In other words, if I had access to the BuzzFeed Google Analytics data, I could query data for people who got to the end of the quiz & indicated – by not checking that particular answer – that they have had an eating disorder. Or that they have tried to change their gender. Or I could run a query along the following lines if I wished:
Show me all the data for anyone who answered the “Check Your Privelege” quiz but did not check “I have never taken medication for my mental health”. –Dan Barker
How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage – Well, this is interesting. While I think the article’s title is bullshit, I love the idea that Hachette’s dogged support of DRM is now turning back on them. Amazon, the argument goes, is putting their DRM on Hachette’s books, which means that Hachette cannot engage in encouraging people to buy their digital books from other outlets, stripping DRM, and reading them on their Kindle. I don’t know how big a deal this really is, given the number of people who already do strip DRM, but it is a nice little illustration of how antediluvian DRM has become in our rapidly evolving digital marketplace.
It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion’s share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon’s DRM. –The Guardian
Before & After – Esther Honig introduces her project by noting that “In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level.” So she sent an unadorned photo of herself to 40 individuals in 25 countries and asked them to use Photoshop to “make her beautiful.” The experiment is intended to demonstrate different standards of beauty in different cultural contexts. Honig is caucasian, which significantly limits and qualifies the results, I think (e.g. are the Photoshoppers interpreting the standard of beauty relative to the model or to their own cultural/racial/national/ethnic standards), and it would be really cool if the project could be more diversified in regard to the model, but I think the concept is fascinating and revealing, and is something to build on. –Esther Honig
Social media is important for journos but let’s keep things in proportion – Perhaps some of those websites that have shut down comments might instead want to post a copy of this article for readers to chew on. Here’s the upshot: a ridiculously small proportion of people who read articles online actually comment, and those who don’t comment are often the ones who consider information and arguments without the need to let everyone witness the friction their braincells produce in the form of commentary. Boy, do we all need to remember this, because, as the article points out, if we become too consumed by online comments, our content can be ruled by them — or, more importantly, by fear of or desire for them.
Martin Belam, digital editor at the Trinity Mirror group, crunched the numbers and made a startling calculation. If 2,600 people post at least 40 comments each, then their total must be more than 104,000, which means that a maximum of 496,000 comments are written by everyone else. In other words, at least 20 per cent of the comments on the website each month come from just 0.0037 per cent of the Guardian’s declared monthly audience.
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Let me make the counter-argument. The vast majority of readers do not comment on articles or write to journalists using Twitter. Instead, these people read, consider the arguments and reach their own conclusions, without leaving much of a digital footprint. That it is extremely difficult – impossible, even – to decipher what they believe does not mean they do not exist. Indeed, they are often exactly the people who may consider changing their minds. The silent majority, sceptical and open to new arguments, is the very audience journalists should try to reach. –New Statesman