Category Archives: In Our Time

Other causes envy the viral success of the ice-bucket challenge

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

Top staff at the Sisters of Charity Foundation, accepting the challenge last week.

On a previous thread, Silence expressed how tired he was of “everyone’s stupid ice bucket challenge videos.”

He’s not alone in that. Even this laudatory article (“The Perfect Viral Storm“) on an advertising industry site notes the meme’s “somewhat annoying ubiquity.”

That aside, there’s no denying that this is the best thing to happen in the fight against Lou Gehrig’s disease since, well, Lou Gehrig. (Even if, as Silence also pointed out, Gehrig may not have had ALS.)

Samuel Tenenbaum, head of Palmetto Health Foundation, made that very observation to me yesterday in a breakfast meeting in which he and I and Ashley Dusenbury were discussing the promotion of this year’s Walk for Life (watch for more coming on that very soon, teammates!). The Walk has been hugely successful, and they already have some mechanisms in place to make it even more successful this year, but Samuel stands ready to have ice dumped on him if it will make it more successful yet.

Then, over in the world of political advocacy, I received this yesterday from Conservation Voters of South Carolina:

Climate Challenge

Folks, here’s a challenge that doesn’t involve ice buckets.

When local officials, citizens and natural resource managers are meeting to prepare for sea level rise, wouldn’t you think it’s time for us to pay attention?  I challenge you to learn more about the public workshopsin Bluffton and St. Helena Island sponsored by the Beaufort County Planning Dept, Sea Grant Consortium and USC’s CISA.

When veterans talk about “climate security” and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events to “critical infrastructure at home,” shouldn’t we take note? I challenge you to read Clay Middleton’s letter to the editor of The State.

When the Washington Post announces a series of climate editorials and observes that “despite ups and downs in the polling, a solid majority of Americans favors action to curb greenhouse emissions,” we are reminded of Governor Sanford’s warning in an op ed to that paper in February, 2007: “If conservatives cannot reframe, reclaim and respond to climate change with our principles intact, government will undoubtedly provide a solution, no matter how taxing it may be.”  I challenge you to ask Governor Haley to tell us where she stands on climate. Click here to send her a message

Yeah, she has a completely different point, but you can read in that lede a certain envy, a wish that her challenges might acquire the “somewhat annoying ubiquity” of the ALS phenomenon.

Success has that effect.

The new penitence: Using the ice bucket challenge to wash away one’s political sins

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected. The guy in the video is a candidate in Colorado, not Texas. Hence the picturesque mountains in the background.

Corey Hutchins brought this to my attention this morning via Twitter.

We have a self-described “right-wing Christian minister” running for the state House in Colorado who has accused a Democratic congressman of essentially being no better than the ISIS rebels who behead Christians (and others) in Iraq and Syria.

And above you see his video “apologizing” for his statement. Never mind that the “apology” is a passive-aggressive opportunity to repeat his points about the differences between himself and an “openly gay” Democrat. Never mind the problems with this passage:

I would never compare you to the ISIS rebels who behead Christians, right? Of course, you would never go in for something like that.

When a) he just did make that comparison, and b) the construction “you would never go in for something like that” bluntly reminds hearers just what the congressmen does go in for, nod, wink.

And forget the imputation that the only reason he has to “apologize” is that “some Democrats do not have a sense of humor”… about ISIS and beheadings of innocents.

What interests me about it is the way he uses the ice-bucket challenge as a sort of ecumenical-secular mode of baptism to wash away the political sins of which he apparently does not fully repent.

Wow. This meme is just insinuating itself into everything, isn’t it?

Note that he's baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing...

Note that he’s baptizing HIMSELF, rather than having someone else administer it. Must be some fundamentalist Protestant thing…

I do not think Hemingway would do listicles, do you?

Hemingway

At first, I was pleased to see that Ernest Hemingway was following me on Twitter. It made me feel good, in the way that thing that are clean and true make a man feel when he is a man.

But then I perused the feed, and felt less good.

There were things that were true and right, such as:

But then there were the things that ruined it. You know the kind of things I mean. Things such as:

I do not believe the real Hemingway, the true Hemingway, would post such things. Do you?

A little ditty to help get you psyched for your next webinar, yo!

And now, from the genre of comedy that gave you “Dilbert” and “Office Space”…

If you’re all about lead generation (and who isn’t, homey?), you need to check this out, yo.

I found this in my inbox today:

Do you know DJ Dave, the dude who did the Whole Foods Parking Lot song? Well this guy from Workaholics and Dave teamed up on this video that I think your readers are going to go bananas over! B-A-N-A-N-A-S!

It’s one half marketing jargon and one half hip hop, one whole very funny video.

Check it out on the YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXRG0bJt7EA&feature=youtu.be

If you like it, it would be really awesome if you posted it or shared it.

As a bonus, I’ll throw in DJ Dave’s previous hit, “Whole Foods Parking Lot:”

Frankly, THIS looks kinda like spam to me…

I’m puzzled when I get automated replies like this, generally to having sent a “reply all” to a group:

I apologize for this automatic reply to your email.

To control spam, I now allow incoming messages only from senders I have approved beforehand.

If you would like to be added to my list of approved senders, please fill out the short request form (see link below). Once I approve you, I will receive your original message in my inbox. You do not need to resend your message. I apologize for this one-time inconvenience.

First, a message like that looks a lot like spam to me — it’s something I had to call up, thinking I have a reply to my message, only to find out I’m wasting my time looking at it.

Second — I find that spam filters work pretty well these days, compared to their lame antecedents 10 years or so ago. Avoiding spam just doesn’t sound to me like good reason to slam virtual doors in people’s faces. Does it to you?

I don’t hit “reply all” on anything unless I have something legitimate to share with the group. Once or twice a month is about it. It just doesn’t seem that I should encounter things like that in the year 2014.

But thanks for the apology, anyway…

OK, now THIS is impressive technology

This is very cool, and very impressive:

Your bag of potato chips can hear what you’re saying. Now, researchers from MIT are trying to figure out a way to make that bag of chips tell them everything that you said — and apparently they have a method that works. By pointing a video camera at the bag while audio is playing or someone is speaking, researchers can detect tiny vibrations in it that are caused by the sound. When later playing back that recording, MIT says that it has figured out a way to read those vibrations and translate them back into music, speech, or seemingly any other sound….

Alexei Efros, a University of California at Berkeley researcher, says in a statement…. “This is totally out of some Hollywood thriller. You know that the killer has admitted his guilt because there’s surveillance footage of his potato chip bag vibrating.” The research is being described in a paper that will be published at the computer graphics conference Siggraph.

Although it’s only marginally more amazing than what my iPhone can do — know me by my thumbprint, not by scanning it visually (which my laptop can do), but by touch. The sensor in the Home button is so sensitive that it reads the tiny ridges in my thumb — either thumb, from any angle — and recognizes the pattern. Which just floors me. This is that kind of analysis of the tiny, the subtle, taken to another level…

Explain to me how these are ‘public relations director’ jobs

 

PR 2

As I’ve mentioned before, back when I was job hunting after being laid off, I signed up for a bunch of services that were supposed to send me tips on jobs that were relevant to my skills and experience.

I’ve continued to get those emails, and they are often entertaining.

This one service, The Ladders, which specializes in placing executive-level job seekers, regularly sends me messages with the subject line, “Public relations director jobs for you.” I especially like that personal touch, the “for you” part, don’t you? Just for you; I didn’t compile public relations director jobs for anyone else but you…”

I’m not sure how The Ladders decided that that was the only type job I wanted, but it’s really fixated on it. I get an email like this from them every week or two, sometimes more often.

Here’s the thing, though — not once have they sent a tip on an actual “public relations director” job. At least, not since February, which is as far back as I’ve been saving them.

In addition to that “Commercial Escrow Officer” gem above — which in no way bears any relationship to anything on my resume — The Ladders has in recent months tipped me to the following “public relations director” opportunities:

  • Sr. Electronic Engineer / Support
  • Air Compressor Technician
  • Executive Assistant
  • Supervisor Meeting and Special Events
  • Executive Director
  • Military Analyst Lead
  • Veteran Arabic Levantine Linguist Analyst
  • Veteran Arabic Iraqi Linguist Analyst
  • Video Production Specialist
  • Army Mission Command Program Analyst Senior

What makes this worse is that The Ladders is really selective in what it sends me. Other services send me lists of 25 or 30 job openings at a time, many (but not all) of them just as irrelevant. But The Ladders picks one or two at a time especially for me!

And yeah, I see the thing that advises me, “To improve your matches, consider editing your job goals.” But I have no idea what username and password I set up for that service five years ago, and would it really be worth it? It obviously ignores the input from me it has now.

This would all just be a hoot if not for the fact that there are algorithms just as bad as this one screening resumes and rejecting them before they are ever viewed by a human. I’ve had plenty of experience with that. When your last job, the one you held for many years, is “vice president/editorial page editor,” if the prospective employer is anything other than a newspaper, their algorithm isn’t going to have a clue what to do with you. It takes a human to think, “Hmmm, here’s a guy who knows his community, knows the movers and shaker in both politics and business in the state, and has writing and other communications skills that could translate well to what I need…”

So forgive me if I don’t laugh uncontrollably at the fact that these programs are even worse at matching me to a job than Netflix is at figuring out what kinds of movies I like…

As Orkut fades, Facebook gets so full of itself that it starts using us as lab rats

473px-Logo_ORKUT.svg

Two stories today from the realm of social media.

First, the biggest social media platform that you never heard of is shutting down. That’s Google’s Orkut. Never heard of Orkut. That’s OK; it was sort of the Boxcar Willie of social media — it was huge overseas, if not here:

Google’s oldest social network, Orkut, is finally saying the long goodbye. On Monday the Orkut blog announced that Google will end support for the decade-old service on Sept. 30. If you’ve ever used Orkut, it’s time to trudge to Google Takeout—sometime before September 2016—and get your data out of there….

When Orkut gained Google Plus integration in 2012, it seemed like a sign that the end might be coming. But if you never used Orkut and aren’t feeling a wave of nostalgia, it’s because the service was never that big in the United States. In Brazil and India, on the other hand, it was a most-trafficked website for years. Now YouTube and, of course, Google Plus will be Google’s social focus. At least in death Orkut probably won’t be the butt of everyone’s mid-2000s jokes. Ahem, Myspace.

Orkut was actually started a month before Facebook. But what a different fate! Facebook has now become so big, so sure of itself, that it thought it could get away with conducting psychological experiments on its users without telling them. From The Guardian:

Facebook’s second most powerful executive, Sheryl Sandberg, has apologised for the conduct of secret psychological tests on nearly 700,000 users in 2012, which prompted outrage from users and experts alike.

The experiment, revealed by a scientific paper published in the March issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, hid “a small percentage” of emotional words from peoples’ news feeds, without their knowledge, to test what effect that had on the statuses or “likes” that they then posted or reacted to.

“This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated,” said Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer while in New Delhi. “And for that communication we apologise. We never meant to upset you.”

The statement by Sandberg, deputy to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, is a marked climbdown from its insistence on Tuesday that the experiment was covered by its terms of service. The secret tests mean that the company faces an inquiry from the UK’s information commissioner, while the publishers of the paper have said they will investigate whether any ethics breach took place. Psychological tests on human subjects have to have “informed consent” from participants – but independent researchers and Facebook have disagreed on whether its terms of service implicitly cover such use…

In case you doubt whether Facebook is really, really sorry, check out this photo of Ms. Sandberg shrugging. Which may or may not reassure you…

Does ‘quality’ television really have to be so morally arid?

Does "quality" really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

Does “quality” really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

This is by way of following up on a brief exchange Kathryn and I had yesterday about the dearth of appealing characters in the TV shows that currently compel our attention.

Bryan sent me a link to this piece, headlined “The Moral Relativism Of Serial Television.” It’s actually several years behind the curve, with this observation:

The sweet spot for serial television drama right now exists on non-premium cable channels. After decades of dominance by the broadcast networks, followed by a period in which the premium cable channels broke the mold with hits that reached mainstream culture like OzThe Sopranos, and Dexter, non-premium channels like the Fox property FX, BBC America and AMC have rushed in to, at least temporarily, hold a lock on the highest volume of compelling drama on the small screen today.

That’s something I might have said two or three years ago (think “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead”). What I sense happening now, or about to happen now, is a shift beyond non-premium cable TV, and on to series made for streaming and bingeing, such as “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.”

But the general observation of the piece is that there is a seemingly deliberate lack of characters to root for, or even care about, in the most compelling recent dramatic series.

It ends, as do so many episodes of these popular series, on a dark note:

It is at least marginally troublesome that as a society, our most compelling entertainment increasingly eschews the concept or even the ideal that good exists in the world and ultimately should prevail. An artistic criticism of this view can legitimately point out that life is rarely so neat as to allow for the inevitable victory of the white knight. However, the rejoinder to this point is that we are not considering real life but rather television, which exists because we would rather watch it than real life. The entire raison d’etre of the medium is to idealize real life interactions into conclusions that are satisfying on at least some visceral level. If our television tastes are any guide, America increasingly takes satisfaction from a muddled mess of emotional responses which are provoked by disorderly and sometimes directly contradictory stimuli. Perhaps, if a society can be judged by its entertainment, what we are witnessing is the leading edge of the end of America’s desire to collectively be the good guy, or even to support the good guy in his efforts to be good. Or perhaps we don’t need television to tell us this; perhaps we need look no further than the ballot box.

Do we really not want to find good in characters and root for it? I don’t think that’s the case, although there’s no doubt we are living in a more cynical world than the one I grew up in.

I think we are still human, and there is still good in us, and within us lives a desire to perceive good, and embrace it — however many times we’ve been disappointed. I think the dark, moral emptiness of these recent entertainments is a function of writers and directors who are trying to produce high-quality material, and who buy into the insidious notion that moral clarity is lowbrow and insufficiently “artistic.” So they steer clear of it.

But does “quality” really have to be so dark, so morally arid?

I think if someone would come along and produce similar series, but with the humanity-affirming characteristics that marked “The West Wing,” the world would joyfully cheer, and reward the effort with their loyal patronage.

Think of that — a new series with the cinematic quality of “Breaking Bad,” but with characters like Jed Bartlet and Leo McGarry and Josh Lyman — characters you want to see succeed. As I watch the series for the first time, each night as I work out, I simply don’t see any characters who are utterly lacking in appealing characteristics. Even the adversarial figures who try to thwart our heroes have understandable, sympathetic reasons for taking the positions they do. While there are occasional digressions from this approach (one of the weakest scenes I’ve encountered was the one in which Jed Bartlet humiliates a character based on Dr. Laura with what he seems to imagine is a clever manner, but which is painfully trite — by asking her whether she literally supports all of the strictures in the Old Testament), by and large there is an appealing understanding of everyone’s motives.

Which is the way we should all live our lives. We should take strong stands based on what our discernment has taught us to believe is right, but strive to appreciate the convictions of those with whom we disagree. It could serve as an antidote to the default mode of today’s partisans, which is to demonize opponents, and scoff at their motives.

Imagine that — television that not only gives us heroes to root for, but which shows us ways to be a better society.

Now that would be television worth watching.

D’oh! is right. What century do you think this is?

hulu

Seeing as how she and Warren have gotten into blogging lately, and grown more sophisticated in their use of social media and such, I was disappointed when I didn’t find an embedded video with the online version of Cindi’s column today.

After all, it started this way:

IN ONE OF MY favorite Saturday Night Live skits, a just-exonerated Bill Clinton walks to the podium in the Rose Garden for a news conference, gives a thumbs-up to his supporters, declares “I … am … bulletproof,” and walks away. After a moment, he turns, walks back to the podium and adds: “Next time, you best bring Kryptonite.”

Our legislators must feel the same way after Circuit Judge Casey Manning discovered that they have bulletproof armor that protects them from criminal prosecution….

You have to realize what a special thing it is for Cindi Scoppe to make a pop culture reference that way. She doesn’t do pop culture. She is the most all-work-and-no-play person I know, and her readers are the beneficiaries of that affliction. So I particularly appreciated this reference, and immediately went hunting for a video clip…bulletproof

which I could not find. At least, not right away. (I’d be happy for some of y’all to show me what I missed.)

Oh, I found one that may have been the right one. NBC had taken it down. And then added insult to injury by saying, “Don’t worry, though. We have plenty of other stuff to watch.” Like I’m here to be entertained. Like any other “stuff to watch” will compensate for the lack of the one clip I need, the one being quoted.

Join the 21st century, folks. Rather than hiding your content, leverage it by allowing other media — including blogs and even newspapers — to praise your creativity and urge other people (perhaps people who have the time and inclination to watch that “other stuff” you’re offering) to seek it out. You’ll be a winner in the long run.

Sheesh…

Hey, iTunes! Where are all of MY tunes?!?!?

iTunes panic

OK, I’m trying to suppress the panic here…

I was already pretty ticked off because the only tunes that showed up on my Apple TV were ones that I had “purchased” (either for money or by redeeming a free song from Starbucks or something) from iTunes.

Whereas, most of the music that was in iTunes on my PC laptop and my iPhone and my iPad were songs I owned before iTunes was invented — things I bought long, long ago, either on CD or vinyl (I have a turntable at home that hooks up to a computer and converts vinyl to MP3s). Stuff I had every right to. I liked that this music was in iTunes because it meant it wasn’t subject to the ravages of time and rough use as they affect vinyl and CDs — and they were available to me on multiple platforms, wherever I went.

The number of songs I had “purchased” from iTunes were insignificant. I mean, unless someone has given me an iTunes gift card, why would I spend money on something I could hear on Pandora or Spotify for free? (Especially, especially, especially if I had already paid for it once, twice or three times in my lifetime?)

Anyway, this state of affairs got worse when I got a new iPhone a month or so ago. Everything transferred over from my old iPhone just fine. But recently I noticed that all of MY music (the music I owned before iTunes, from vinyl and CD) was missing.

So today, when I connected the iPhone to my PC in order to transfer some photos, and iTunes automatically launched, I thought, “I’ll try to fix this.”

I did this by clicking on “Brad’s iPhone” in iTunes, scrolling down to options, and clicking off the button that said “Sync only checked songs and videos.” And then I clicked “Apply.”

I got a dialogue box that I can’t seem to get back again now, but I think it said something like “Do you want to erase the iTunes profile on your phone and replace it with the one on your computer?” I said “yes,” because that’s what I wanted to do. And I ran it.

And now, I still don’t have any of MY tunes on iTunes, and a bunch of them (but strangely, not all) have disappeared from my laptop as well! For instance, all of the Beatles albums — just gone!

They’re all still on my iPad. So now I’m scared to connect the iPad to the PC, lest I lose them. (And yeah, I suppose I still have copies of these things somewhere, in some form, but getting them onto iTunes represented a lot of time and effort.)

Any minute now, I’ll start freaking out.

Anyone have any advice?

My very first Tweet was (allegedly) a sinful one

Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday, and in connection with that has set up a website where you can find your very first Tweet ever.

Allegedly, this is mine:

first Tweet

First, I remember that Tweet. Weirdly, I was thinking about it during Mass this past Sunday. I was thinking about how it takes willpower to refrain from Tweeting during Mass, and I suddenly remembered a time when I gave in to the temptation. I sort of remembered where I was sitting. I also remembered that I had been to Starbucks that morning, and was still feeling a very nice first-cup buzz at the time. And I remembered that I mentioned that I was in Mass in the Tweet. (And the timestamp, 12:37 p.m., places it smack in the middle of the Mass I attend most weeks. And I checked — May 24 was a Sunday.)

Second, it seems highly unlikely that that was my first Tweet. I seem to recall rather clearly first trying out Twitter during the week, while sitting in my office in the Byrnes Building at USC. This was when I was on that 90-day consulting contract with Harris Pastides, right after I was laid off at The State. I had been talked into trying Twitter after a meeting in which some other consultants had given the university president and members of his communications team a presentation on social media. Tim Kelly talked me into it. I was reluctant to try Twitter, but he persuaded me that it would be a great tool for promoting my blog.

I remember trying it, sitting there in that office, and almost immediately becoming hooked on it. Which surprised me. I thought I would hate it.

It seems highly unlikely that I would have waited until Sunday, while I was in Mass, to try my first Tweet. For one thing, if I hadn’t Tweeted before, how would I know that it was something I enjoyed doing, and therefore be tempted into doing it at such an inappropriate moment?

Still, it was interesting to suddenly have that indiscretion thrown at me today. It’s both a pleasant blast from the past, and a cause for a wave of guilt. But then, as Yossarian said to Chaplain Tappman, “I wouldn’t want to live without strong misgivings. Right, Chaplain?”

I am guilty of the unforgivable crime of walking on the gym floor in street shoes

sock hop

On a couple of occasions recently, in the line of duty for ADCO, I have found myself out on the court at USC basketball games. A nonprofit client of ours has been blessed with donations that it has received in the form of oversized checks presented in front of the fans at Colonial Life Arena. (The client is the SC Center for Fathers and Families; the generous donors are TD Bank and Colonial Life.) I was there to help publicize the donations.

There are a lot of things a person might think as he steps out in front of a crowd like that, some relevant, some not: Do I have a good angle for the picture? Is my focus good enough to read the check? Cheerleaders are cute, but they wear a lot of makeup. Is it hard to smile that much? They’re also smaller than they look from the stands. The players are not. Am I standing in anyone’s way? Is my fly zipped? Who that I know is seeing me down here and wonders what I’m doing?

But the one predominant thought I had on both occasions was, I’m standing on the gym floor in my street shoes! This made me very self-conscious. I felt guilty, furtive, a scofflaw who was going to get yelled at by coach any second. (And in my day, coaches yelled what they pleased at us with impunity.)

Young people, and even some not-so-young-anymore people, are wondering what on Earth I’m on about. But when I was a student at Karr Junior High School in the suburbs of New Orleans in the mid-60s, it was deeply impressed on us that you never, ever walked on the shiny gym floor with street shoes on.

Perhaps I should explain what “street shoes” are. They are dress shoes, made of hard, polished leather. Like what your Daddy wore to work at the office, if your Daddy was old enough to go to the office back when men wore suits and hats. If he wasn’t, then your granddaddy.

We did not wear sneakers, athletic shoes, or whatever you want to call them to school. Or zoris, either (on the Mainland, y’all call them “flip-flops”). Nor did we wear jeans, or shorts, or T-shirts. We dressed in a manner that today is called “business casual,” only less casual than a lot of business people today.

Except in gym. In gym, we wore gym shoes. And shorts, and T-shirts. That’s how you knew you were in P.E. — you wore things that would be strictly verboten in English class. To participate in P.E. was to “dress out.” If you were sick and had a note from the doctor, you didn’t have to “dress out.” The rest of the time, you did.

And you wore those special shoes in P.E. shoes because you never, ever, for even one step, touched the gym floor with street shoes. Because gym floors were extremely delicate, and taxpayers shelled out gazillions of dollars to keep them perfectly shiny, and your parents couldn’t possibly make enough money to pay for the damage that street shoes could cause. It would be like mixing matter with antimatter, or crossing the streams (Egon!).

Stepping on the gym floor in street shoes was, in 1965, the civilian, junior-high equivalent of being a Marine and calling your rifle a “gun.”

We had dances in the gym in our street clothes on Friday nights, but it wasn’t a problem, because we were all completely conditioned to remove our shoes before stepping onto the gym floor. I have somewhere a Polaroid picture I took once of the pile of shoes under the bleachers. If I can find it, I’ll post it. Today, the kids would just wear casual shoes and clothes. But for social occasions that involved girls, you dressed up.

We spent the rest of the evening in our socks. We did the Jerk, and the Monkey, and the Boogaloo in our socks. We engaged in the delicious mystery of slow-dancing in our socks (we waited and waited for the band to do “House of the Rising Sun,” which was the only slow song they knew). If we were total rebels, with no respect for decency and societal mores, and no teachers were in sight (a rare occurrence), we did the Alligator in our socks.

It was what used to be called a “sock hop,” although I don’t recall our actually calling it that. It’s just that when you danced in the gym, you did so in your socks.

Anyway, that’s what I was thinking about while standing in front of all those basketball fans at Colonial Life Arena. I have no idea who is going to pay for the irreparable damage that my Johnston and Murphys surely did to that floor.

No wonder coach was yelling.

Are things that ‘trend’ on Twitter really trending?

A blog over at The New York Times notes that making decisions on the basis of what’s trending on Twitter can sometimes miss what’s actually happening:

download (1)The greatest challenge of Big Data — especially social media — is separating the signal from all the noise. A study by the Pew Research Center, for example, found that Twitter users are more often than not negative. The study, which examined reactions on Twitter to news events, including Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential race, discovered that “for both candidates, negative comments exceeded positive comments by a wide margin.” More disturbingly, that reaction is not representative: “The reaction on Twitter to major political events and policy decisions often differs a great deal from public opinion as measured by surveys,” Pew reported. That is due, in part, to the fact that “Twitter users are not representative of the public”: They are younger and more likely to lean toward the Democratic Party. It turns out that what’s “trending” on Twitter may not really be “trending” at all.

Of course, some of us might say that Twitter users are swarming around what the rest of the public will be talking about in the future. But we won’t. In the meantime, be forewarned — to mine the wisdom of crowds requires some wisdom, some discernment regarding which data to study, and what conclusions to draw from them.

I don’t know why I’m getting these ads on Facebook

OK, so I’m a guy. I get that. You’re trying to market to lowest common denominators, and there is no lower common denominator among heterosexual guys than their interest in… what you’re showing me.risque ads

But this does not sum me up. It doesn’t even fit my Internet habits. Yeah, I may have paused to enjoy YouTube clips such as this one, but I thought that was kind of cute and harmless, and Google is leaping to conclusions when it thinks that’s the only kind of video I want to see. (Which it does sometimes, suggesting things such as these.)

I look at my Chrome history, and I see all sorts of topics, from breaking news to multiple attempts to find a quote I half-remembered from Catch-22; from Netflix (to remind me where I stopped in watching “House of Cards”) to the news that ADCO won more ADDY awards than anyone at the 2014 gala over the weekend.

There are no outrageously buxom or nearly nude women, no photographic representations of the Elvis Costello line, “You want her broken with her mouth wide open/’Cause she’s this year’s girl.” Although if you look far enough back, you might find where I looked up some Elvis lyrics.

I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before — in fact, I showed you one of these very ads. It was one of several that seemed to draw a connection between large breasts and learning a foreign language.

But the collection above really seems to have brought this trend down to a new level. Some of these things don’t seem to be just offering French lessons, if you know what I mean.

I suppose I could learn more by clicking on these come-ons. But that would seem to justify them; wouldn’t it? And who knows what kinds of ads I’d start getting…

By comparison, my browsing history startlingly bland...

By comparison, my browsing history is startlingly bland…

SC Democrats, you won’t get my digits THAT easily…

After having gotten way harsh on the SC Democrats’ case (or at least, the SC House Democrats’ case) the other day, I was about to respond in a positive way to this come-on:

Brad-

In the coming elections, we have a chance to make a big change to the future of South Carolina. We must change course, because failed leadership and no accountability isn’t working for the people of South Carolina.

Change is never easy, but with all of you on board to help, I know that we can make a difference at the ballot box.

This is all about you, so we want to hear from you. Click here to let us know which issues are important to you, and share your story.

In just the last year, South Carolina has seen major ethics scandals, botched cover-ups, and failed leaders who are more worried about making headlines than getting their jobs done.

We can’t change this without you. Let us know what your biggest priority is in the coming election and share why it is important to you. Click here and let us know today!

Thank you for being part of our campaign to bring a new era of leadership to Columbia.

Sincerely,
Amanda Loveday
Executive Director, South Carolina Democratic Party

I was all like, I gave them a hard time for their agenda, so since they’re asking me now what their agenda should be, the least I can do is tell them what I think. Who knows; it might do some good…

But then I clicked on the link, and realized they were just after my contact info. That’s what they meant by “share your story.”

I should have known.

Anyway, they already have my email address. They can reach me when they want. Apparently, they won’t be satisfied until they have my credit card numbers. Which ain’t gonna happen…

Is it possible that the Almighty’s first language is not English?

What else are we left to conclude? I received this spam comment yesterday, posted by “God Almighty:”

We are a lot of volunteers in addition to starting up a fresh scheme in the local community. Your site made available you having handy info to help works of art for. You could have carried out a new solid occupation and our complete location could be grateful to you.

That was it. Decipher away..

Twitter more racially diverse than rest of Web (and, I’m guessing, way more so than this blog)

BeeHl7OCUAItUfm

This, from the WSJ, sort of surprised me:

For most of its rather short life, Twitter rarely mentioned that its user base is more racially diverse than U.S. Internet users as a whole. Now, as a newly minted public company needing to generate revenue, it is moving to capitalize on its demographics.

In November, Twitter hired marketing veteran Nuria Santamaria to a new position as multicultural strategist, leading its effort to target black, Hispanic and Asian-American users.

Together, those groups account for 41% of Twitter’s 54 million U.S. users, compared with 34% of the users of rival Facebook and 33% of all U.S. Internet users, according to Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project….

I don’t know why. Maybe it’s racist of me to have assumed that Twitter was way white. I think it probably had something to do with it being a geeky medium, and I think of geeks as white, the fictional Rajesh Koothrappali notwithstanding.

Facebook, as it turns out, is every bit as white bread as I thought it was. Twitter, less so.

These are not vast differences, but it seems meaningful that the Twitterverse is 50 percent blacker than the U.S. population as a whole. I don’t know what it means, but it seems it means something.

Lest you throw stones at me for being taken by surprise, I’ll have you know that many of my friends/followers/contacts are non-white. Although…

And I’ve sort of wondered about this…

I find myself associating more with nonwhite friends and acquaintances in real life than in the Twitterverse, or elsewhere on the Web. Look at my church (especially the Mass I attend, which is in Spanish), or the membership of the Capital City Club, etc.

In fact, and I hope I’m not insulting anyone here, I kinda think of most of y’all as white. Based on the regulars I actually have met — Kathryn, Doug, Silence, Bryan, Karen, Phillip, Bud, Mark, KP, etc. — that seems overwhelmingly the case. Of course, that’s totally anecdotal, but I tend to pick up on a pretty white vibe in most of our conversations.

This blog seems to lack crossover appeal. Unlike Twitter. I knew Twitter was cool, but I didn’t realize it could be quantified to this extent….

The end of civilization as we know it: The lifestyle of Thomas Ravenel, as entertainment for the masses

This is so low, so base, so degrading to all of us who belong to the same species, that I’m just going to make you aware of it, and comment no further. This is from an item about the new Bravo reality show “Southern Charm,” which stars Thomas Ravenel and several other decadent slackers:

Paternity drama, lots of sleeping around and black tie functions? How scandalous! Bravo describes the cast as “Southern bachelors who suffer from ‘Peter Pan Syndrome’ by refusing to settle down; and the women in their lives who challenge them to grow up.”

Look for the series to chronicle political careers, businesses, and of course love lives while trying to protect their family names “Because in Charleston, you’re only as good as your last garden party and one social screw-up can taint generations to come.”

Southern Charm debuts Monday, March 3 at 10 p.m. on Bravo.  A half-hour preview special airs Monday, Feb. 3 at 11:30 p.m….

Maybe when they were casting this thing, they saw this picture from Ravenel’s Facebook page.

And yeah, we elected this guy treasurer once. My newspaper even endorsed him.