Why are we obsessed with vanity metrics? Like Love Island, we know they’re bad for us, but we keep coming back for more. There’s a guilty pleasure in notching up followers, or clocking more likes on a post. But measurements that involve sheer numbers, such as follower counts and likes, don’t actually prove very much. They aren’t particularly good indicators of how well you’re really engaging your audience.
Open data is a nebulous concept. What does it actually mean? Openness is generally considered to be a good thing. And we all know data is valuable. So open data must be double plus good, right?
We tend to get confused about what’s “open” and what’s not (hardly surprising when few of us read the terms and conditions on anything). As Tim Berners-Lee pointed out at the fifth ODI Summit yesterday, most of us don’t realise we shouldn’t be using Google Maps on event invitations, because that data is copyright Google (he recommends we use OpenStreetMap instead).
At the same time as being trigger-happy with other people’s copyrighted data, we’re even more foolhardy with our own. What we really don’t want is what Sir Tim calls “promiscuous data” – that’s personal data which goes off in all sorts of directions we don’t want it to.
The Open Data Institute believes that open data is the glue society needs. It is campaigning to establish data as “an infrastructure not a commodity”. If we all share data and collaborate, we’ll save ourselves billions of pounds annually. But if we’re individually confused about what we should and shouldn’t share, the companies and organisations currently managing our data for us are even more conflicted.
Even before the Cambridge Analytica story broke in March, public trust in social media was at an all-time low. The Edelman Trust Barometer published in January reported concern around bullying, extremist content and lack of transparency, with only a quarter of the UK population saying they’d trust social media as a source of information.
The seismic shift in the way we see social media was summed up nicely by a former Silicon Valley executive speaking on Radio 4 this week (The New Age of Capitalism: the Attention Economy). James Williams was working in search advertising at Google, when he realised things weren’t right:
If this last week has taught us anything, it’s that our data – the data we put into Facebook (and other social networks) has real, tangible value. Corporations and politicians are buying and selling it. And sometimes it gets into the hands of people we don’t particularly like.
How do we make this stop? I don’t know, but I do know it’s not as simple as #deleteFacebook. That seems all too much like putting your fingers in your ears and singing loudly.
Yesterday was one of the most fun working days I’ve had in a while: I got to spend the morning with a group of brilliant, funny and talented women, putting together a live TV show at Facebook HQ. Thanks so much Sue Black and Isabel Chapman of #techmums for having me 🙂
The topic was “how to find work online”. I was on there to talk about using LinkedIn, understanding your digital footprint and building a personal brand. My fellow guest was the amazing Charlotte Pearce who runs a marketing company called Inkpact which sends handwritten notes at scale. Inkpact employs around 400 “scribes”, many of whom are mums working from home.
In the photo you can see me (second left), sharing a giggle with Sue (far left), Charlotte (second right) and Isabel (far right). One of the main aims of the show is to talk about technology in a way that is positive and accessible.
Andy Warhol said that in the future we will all be famous for 15 minutes. George Orwell predicted constant surveillance. Maybe it’s only with hindsight that we see these two things as inextricably linked: our “fame” always comes at a price.
Online social networks offer us free connectivity and the ability to broadcast edited versions of our lives. In exchange, we give them our data. Trouble is, the details of this contract have never been clearly articulated or explained, much less negotiated.
Last week I went to Facebook’s new office in London for a Design Jam. The Design Jams are open innovation – a series of hackathons to help Facebook users better understand, improve and navigate the legal complexities of its website.
Facebook is understandably concerned that it may be losing younger users and that hours spent on the platform are declining. Last week’s event focused on data transparency for young people.
Revenue is also up: the company took $286 million in advertising income in the year to December 2017. Snapchat recently simplified its advertising platform, making it easier for brands to access the network. These changes appear to be paying off.
In 2014 Snap CEO Evan Spiegel came under attack when a series of offensive emails sent while he was at college were leaked online. He made a public apology. Last year, he married supermodel Miranda Kerr in a quiet ceremony. The couple are now expecting their first child. Maybe Snapchat, like its CEO, is finally growing up.
NB: If you were up bright and early on 7 February you might have caught me discussing these points in a live interview on BBC World Service Newsday.
On Tuesday I went to a school careers fair to talk about working in social media. Nearly all the pupils I met (aged 13 – 16) were already active on social networks like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram; a couple had their own YouTube channels.
Some of them asked me how to become an influencer. They were keen to monetize their presence like Zoella or KSI. One of them simply wanted to know how to be famous. Most had questions about how to make the jump from using social media for personal social networking to using it for work.
Here’s the advice I gave:
1. Yes, there are YouTubers and celebrities who’ve become famous and made millions from their social media profiles. They probably make up less than 1 percent of people who earn a living through social media. Many of these (like Paris Hilton or Kylie Jenner) already had money and networks of privilege to help them. Others (like PewDiePie or Jenna Marbles) have become leading influencers through their own unique style and delivery – and sheer hard work. It’s not impossible but the odds will be stacked against you.
Zunas’ tweet shows a photo of her colleagues on board their expedition ship, preparing for the march. Each of them holds a placard with a message: “Men for the earth”, “Save the planet”, “Seals for science” or “Penguins for peace”.