Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

The ethics of digital: round up #2

August 18, 2014

So are Facebook and Google publishers?

They’ve always said they’re not.

But when so much of people’s information is being curated and served up by them don’t they become something as near as makes no difference to a publisher?

And if Google and Facebook control so much of the information the public sees, then do they have any obligations to the public as well as to their advertisers?

For example, if there is a very important News event happening somewhere in the world, and their algorithms down play it in their users feeds and search results, isn’t that like a newspaper relegating a front page story to page 24?

Some thoughts from other people:

Zeynep Tufekci  on Medium: “Algorithms have consequences”        

David Holmes on Pando: “If Twitter implements a Facebook style algorithm you may not hear about the next Ferguson”

According to Aarti Shahani in this article for NPR Google does have a newsroom: “In Google Newsroom, Brazil Defeat Is Not A Headline”;

If you do a Google search on the World Cup game in which Germany slaughtered Brazil 7-1, the top results will say things like “destroy,” “defeat,” and “humiliate.”

But Google itself is choosing to steer clear of negative terms. The company has created an experimental newsroom in San Francisco to monitor the World Cup, and turn popular search results into viral content. And they’ve got a clear editorial bias…

…I ask the team why they wouldn’t use a negative headline. Many headlines are negative.

“We’re also quite keen not to rub salt into the wounds,” producer Sam Clohesy says, “and a negative story about Brazil won’t necessarily get a lot of traction in social.”

Mobile marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal, CEO of reDesign mobile, says that’s just generally true. “People on social networks like Twitter and Facebook — they generally tend to share happy thoughts. If my son had an A in math today, I’m going to share that. But if my son got an F in math, that’s generally not something you’re going to see on social media.”

In old-school newsrooms, the saying goes: if it bleeds, it leads. Because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone’s smartphone, Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts.”

Reddit has asked its users to “adhere to the same standards of behaviour online that you follow in real life”.

Although there does seem to be a problem if, as in real life, you try and fast forward through the boring adverts on your catch up TV:

Until an administrator changed the advice in response to questions from the Guardian, however, one rule also encouraged users to “link to the direct version of a media file when the page it was found on doesn’t add any value.”

That practice, known as “hotlinking”, is a common complaint of artists whose work regularly appears on Reddit, since it can send thousands of users to their site without a single one seeing an image credit or advertisement. The rule now only encourages hotlinking “if the page it was found on isn’t the creator’s and doesn’t add additional information or context”.

P.S. Google are looking for public comment and evidence about the right to be forgotten…

My 2013 on twitter

December 29, 2013

If this animation on Vizify is to be believed my life over the past year has been a luxurious round of cake, visits to the opera and intense discussions with musicians from New York.

If only…

Trolls, platforms, abuse, moderation and the BBC

August 2, 2013

The best piece I read about the vile abuse suffered by Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasey (and others) on Twitter in the past week was this from Jemima Kiss and Charles Arthur in the Guardian: “Publishers or platforms: media giants may be forced to choose”.


“…Twitter and Facebook are keen to describe their sites as enabling communications, rather than publishing content – a crucial distinction which means they are not liable for trolling or abuse”

The BBC is both a platform and a publisher. It struck me that this kind of unpleasantness is very rare on the BBC’s websites despite the fact that thousands of comments are published on BBC Online every week.


Because the BBC has an excellent moderation service run by a central team who use all their experience and wisdom to root out any potential problems before they occur, a technical platform (DNA) to moderate comments that really works, a skilled and well trained out of house moderation team, good tools for staff, a clear set of house rules and people across the BBC who know how to host. This all adds up to a social space which is civilised and lives up to the BBC’s values.

This is something the BBC should get credit for. But I don’t expect we will anytime soon.

It’s worth remembering however, that you can do something about abuse online, if you want to.

(Disclaimer: I used to be in charge of this service, although I’m not now).

The BBC page for alerting a comment

The BBC page for alerting a comment

Propaganda kimono = twitter dress?

May 31, 2013

A day in London yesterday, full of culture.

First to the British Museum to see the amazing #IceAgeArt exhibition. A humbling experience.

Then to the Royal Festival Hall for “Apres-Midi D’Un Faune” (beautiful), Varese’s “Ameriques” (enjoyable but Mingus did it better – so did Ives) and “The Rite of Spring” (disturbing, yet not quite right).

While in the British Museum I spotted this Japanese kimono with propaganda messages printed on it:


It reminded me of this:


More here.

“The Director General opened her Twitter app…”

December 7, 2012

N.B. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

The Director General switched off her television and sat quietly for a moment.

She was shocked. The allegations in the programme about one of the BBC’s most iconic stars were appalling.

She took a breath, and gathered herself together. She reached for her iPhone and opened her Twitter app. The BBC_DG account which she had set up two months ago already had forty thousand followers, including many BBC staff.

She tweeted:

“Just watched programme. I’m horrified by these allegations. More on the blog shortly”.

Opening up her laptop she logged into the BBC’s content management system and began writing a blog post. She expressed her shock and concern, asked for the sympathy for the victims, for reaction from readers and said that over night and the following day she would coming up with a plan for what to do next.

She then made two quick phone calls. One to her official spokesperson to sense check what she’d written and to give him an early heads up for press enquiries, and one to the BBC’s moderation service: they would need to take extra care moderating comments on this post.

Then she pressed the publish button. Her post appeared instantly on the DG blog.

For the next half hour she monitored comments and responded to some. Although some were the usual off topic abuse, others were sympathetic and one or two sparked ideas in her mind.

After signing off, she closed comments and went to bed. In the morning she’d draw up a plan of action, a plan already forming in her mind…

Unfollowing people on Twitter

October 21, 2012

I am getting on.

I remember a time before social media.

The other day I thought to myself:

“I seem to be more aware of marketing messages, adverts and hype than ever before. Is this because I am spending more of my time on social media?”

I pondered for a bit and then decided “yes”.

When I first got involved in social and blogging it seemed wilder and fresher, and a source of new ideas.. Now perhaps inenvitably it seems dominated by people sending me marketing messages and spam, trying to sell me things I don’t need, or misuing the word “narrative”.

As well as people earning a living out of messaging people rather than actually talking to them, even people who think they are just chatting are now inadvertently buying into these messages without even knowing it.

Or even telling me things I already know and which I have made up my mind about.

So I went through the accounts I follow on twitter and removed those which were purely marketing something, and removed all the people who work in communications and marketing (even if they call it “social”).

I also applied what I called “the James Bond test”. Even if I like you as a human being, are you likely to tweet me something boring about James Bond? If you are I’m not following you.

Don’t get me wrong. I like Bond as much as the next fifty something hetrosexual man. There’s something comforting about the fantasy that somewhere out there in the darkness there’s a virile killing machine roaming around.

But I know what I think about Bond. In all aspects. My mind is closed. I don’t want any more, thank you.

So if I unfollowed you on twitter last week, it isn’t because I don’t like you. Indeed am still following many people who I dislike and violently disagree with. As well as some who may just tell me things I don’t already know.

If you want a chat, I’ll buy you coffee instead.

“Manifesto” Time BBC

July 28, 2011

Alan Connor’s brilliant dissection of “Anders Breivik’s plagerised manifesto” should be required reading for everyone. Extract:

The lengthy “how the world is” section, for example, is a barely-finessed paste of a 2005 report called Political Correctness: A Short History of an Ideology by American think-tank the Free Congress Foundation; Life Site News hosts what appears to be the original. Breivik might have found it all together, or in the various forms it’s been scattered across the net.

Paul Graham’s “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” made me think “Ah – so that’s why I can’t manage my diary”.

Nevali’s summary of his first six months at the BBC suffers from that strange tendency of people who work there to be over cautious in what they say. However as a description of what working at the BBC is actually like it’s about 60-70% correct – which is a lot higher than usual.

N.B. So I was fed up with the amount of noise (or as I shall call it from now on “drivel”) I was getting from Twitter. So I culled my twitter account, and stopped following people (even nice people) who were tweeting me drivel). I realised later that this drivel was little to do with social media but was actually coming from “media”, or what used to be called “mainstream media” or as I shall now call it “people who are paid too much money to churn out drivel to an arbitrary deadline set by a publisher”.  This drivel was then being retweeted by people who really ought to know better. As soon as I did my cull the quality of what I was getting from Twitter improved. It’s interesting to note that neither Nevali or Alan Connor probably got paid for writing the very useful things above (I don’t know about Paul Graham). Alan certainly should have been.

Privacy Brain Dump

May 21, 2011

Random thoughts:

  • some cultures have no concept of privacy
  • is there a connection between the concept of privacy and the “aggressive western eye”? in order to establish a line between private and public is do you have to “see all”?
  • or is “seeing all” a state of pre consciousness – not being able to see the wood for the trees?
  • in a world of Google Street View do we now see all?
  • does the concept of privacy rights emerge from ideas about the nobility of man and his “rights” (and should therefore be treated sceptically?)
  • tweets are not phone calls – they are published, permenant and therefore subject to the law – people are outraged by having their phone calls hacked but are happy to make their tweets public
  • interesting conversation between lawyers on Newsnight last night seemed to be about tactics not principle – Twitter is within the reach of the law but what’s the best way to stop people tweeting injuncted information
  • if journalists wish to challenge an injunction they should go to court – but that’s a lot more expensive than an anonymous tweet – a power imbalance
  • the feeling that this is one group of powerful elderly men (judges) protecting another group of powerful younger, more potent men (footballers) against women
  • private behaviour does have an impact on public accountability – if someone shows poor judgement and treats people badly in their private life then surely this must influence their public judgement
  • Pictures of Imogen Thomas outside the High Court (this seems relevant but I can’t quite work out why)

BBC Trust, Private Eye and Jazz Solos

May 5, 2011

So what do I really know about Diane Coyle, new vice-chair of the BBC Trust?

Not much. I’ve never met her.

I do however follow her on Twitter, and through that read posts from her blog. The impression I get is from those is that she seems a very intelligent and rather nice (and friendly) human being. Through following her I’ve been put in touch with some well expressed and original thoughts and ideas.

So I was disappointed to read the rather snarky piece in Private Eye about Diane Coyle’s and David Liddiment’s appearance in front of the Select Commitee as BBC Trustees. (Private Eye don’t put much of their content online as they want you to buy the magazine so here’s a rather blurred picture to prove I did).

The most revealing phrase in the piece is the description that Liddiment…

“listened to all this like a jazz musician who has just listened to a colleague give an obscure solo”.

It reveals a very particular attitude: suspicious of anything that might require some intellectual effort to appreciate.

Like a jazz solo.

Or running rather complex governance structures and processes as BBC Trustees have to do.

“Licence payers stuffed again”

…Gavel Basher ends with a rhetorical flourish.

How exactly have licence fee payers been “stuffed”? By BBC Trustees trying to do their job? How are they going to do that other than with processes and committees? Perhaps Gavel Basher would prefer them to do their jobs without any evidence as he seems to object to the phrase “evidence based research”?

Really it’s the language that Gavel Basher objects to. Our old friend “Birtspeak”.

“Birtspeak” … well I remain an unrepentant Birtist.

John Birt was in my opinion the greatest BBC Director General of the past forty years. (I suspect I’m in a minority here).

People who attack Birtspeak are like people who go to Paris for the weekend and then take umbrage at the fact that people there speak French.

So I’m more inclined to believe what I’ve read of Diane Coyle on Twitter than in Private Eye. Although, like Diane herself, I’m trying to keep an open mind…

“The etiquette of social media”

December 14, 2009

The following article was published last week in the BBC’s staff newspaper Ariel and appears with their kind permission. My original title was “Anti Social Media and the Human Shape”.

Social media. We love it.

I’m making a very good living out of social media myself.

But if you want to be “social” it’s about more than just starting a twitter account. For to be social is to be human. As Steven Fry wisely said recently twitter (and he could have easily said all social media) is “human shaped not business shaped”.

And human beings are strange creatures. Prey to emotions and irrational impulses and yet the only animal that worries “what’s the right thing to do?”

The ethics and morals of social media are still evolving. As everything and everyone goes online, what becomes important is how people behave, not what they’re called or what social tool they are using.

Recently two incidents have brought the ethics of social media and publishing online into sharp relief.

First Rupert Murdoch described the likes of Google as “parasites” and threatened to sue the BBC for using his newspapers stories. A few days later one of Rupert’s papers The Times reprinted a tribute to Edward Woodward from Edgar Wright’s personal blog. The trouble was they had not asked Edgar’s permission first, nor had they paid him. Edgar was understandably annoyed. So who’s the parasite now, cried the blogosphere?

Then the new Chair of the Press Complaints Commission seemed to suggest that the PCC could regulate blogs. There was a tart reaction from blogger Sunny Hundal. Sunny pointed out that when bloggers make mistakes they correct them prominently (one convention is to leave the text online but with a line through the offending section). However one of the long running complaints against the PCC is that some newspapers, when they are grudgingly pushed into admitting error, make sure that any corrections are buried well away from the original story and airbrushed out of history. “Thanks but no thanks. We behave better than you”, said Sunny to the PCC.

So if you think social media is just an easy way to get a “story”, think again.

One man’s story is another man’s personal tweet. Ransacking someone’s social media to get a news angle is like jumping into someone’s garden, stealing their flowers, shouting “I need this for something important” and then jumping back over the fence again. Bad behaviour, unethical even, and not BBC behaviour I would hope.

You’ll also have to behave well while those around you behave badly. Social media can an emotional and partisan thing. I’ve been called a parasite, and worse on message boards. Indeed only this week I was dubbed a “power mad cretin” by some anonymous wit who objected to the fact I removed his comment from the Internet blog. Fearlessness, honesty, humility, a sense of humour and a thick skin are all qualities you will need.

And these are not things you will learn on a training course, or through a new application on your iPhone.

Good luck and see you on twitter!

NB – on digging up the links for this piece I discovered that it looks like it wasn’t Rupert Murdoch who first dubbed Google parasites – it was in fact Robert Thomson. I stand corrected.