Author Archives: Angie Myers

Five Steps for Fighting Hate Speech on Social Media

For my final paper in ENGL 745: Communication Strategies for Emerging Media, I chose the topic of hate speech on social media. While learning about social media in this course, I was reminded of its impact and importance every time our country endured another mass shooting and a social media connection was revealed. I decided to research the relationship between online hate speech and real-world violence, and I was surprised by what I found.

In their policies that govern content, social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter acknowledge that hate speech can lead to violence. The first sentence of Facebook’s hate speech policy reads, “We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.” Twitter announced it is updating its “Hateful Conduct Policy” to prohibit content that dehumanizes members of an identifiable group because it can “lead to offline harm.”

Social Media Hate Speech and Violence Feedback Loop

I was glad to see they recognize the problem, but their efforts to combat hate speech seem too little too late. In my final paper, I wrote about the recent shootings involving gunmen who spewed hate speech on social media. I also learned how research is looking at the feedback loop of social media hate speech and violence that is amplified by algorithms and filters that create echo chambers and spread hate speech in a viral way to those outside a self-segregated group. The study that I found most interesting was by Petter Törnberg from the University of Amsterdam.

Triple Parentheses Hate Speech App

In my research, I also learned about the Google Chrome plugin called the Coincidence Detector that was removed from the Chrome store by Google in 2016 due to hate speech. The app would find people with names thought to be Jewish and tag them by surrounding their last names with triple parentheses. The triple parentheses would then help users find people to harass online, especially Twitter.

The Coincidence Detector app was especially frightening to me since I grew up in Alabama with the name Goldblatt and a Jewish grandfather. I went to an elementary school that was predominantly Jewish in Birmingham, Alabama in the 1970s, and I remember having to evacuate a couple of times every school year due to bomb threats. I never understood it at the time, but now I realize why that happened.

Five Steps to Limit Hate Speech on Social Media

Hate is alive and well today in the United States, around the world, and online. Technology companies and governments have an obligation to make sure social media networks are not used to spread hate. In my final paper, I recommended five steps to limit hate speech on social media:

  1. A broad definition of hate speech such as the one suggested by Change the Terms should be used. The policy should be presented to users on a regular basis in a form that is easy to understand such as in a question format as suggested by Flynn (2012).
  2. Hate speech should be taken down immediately. Violators should be warned or banned, and technology companies should face steep fines if they do not act quickly.
  3. Accounts posting objectionable content should not be amplified by algorithms. If posts are deemed objectionable, but not hate speech, they should be quarantined making them searchable but not deleted nor promoted to others.
  4. Technology companies should consider working together to ban repeat offenders on multiple platforms but allow for an appeals process and provide transparency in tracking and enforcement.
  5. Companies that have billions of users should have more than 10,000 content reviewers. Governments should consider requiring social media networks to have a minimum threshold of workers doing content reviewing that is in proportion to the number of users they have within a given jurisdiction.

Communication Strategies for Emerging Media has been one of the best courses I have taken in the Master of Science in Technical and Professional Communication program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Thank you Dr. Pignetti for an exceptional learning opportunity, and thank you to my fellow classmates for your contributions to the course and your responses to my blog posts as well as discussion posts. I hope you all have a happy holiday season.

Viewing China’s Social Credit System Through a Cultural Lens

Hong Kong street

A street in Hong Kong from Getty Images

In Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, Barry Thatcher writes about understanding digital literacy across cultures. He points out that ethnocentrism about the way digital media will be used is common in U.S. research and theory. Thatcher advises technical communicators to consider the cultural aspects of a technology’s audience. He discusses the difference between individual vs. collective, universal vs. particular, and specific vs. diffuse. Thatcher uses China as an example of a collective culture. He writes that collective cultures “emphasize solidarity in relations, the common good of the group, and little need to focus on individuals.” By contrast, the U.S., Thatcher explains, values individualism.

An interesting case to examine how audiences view technology through a cultural lens is China’s social credit system. Recently, I read an article about China’s plan to monitor and rank its 1.4 billion citizens according to a social score in a system that punishes and rewards them for their behavior. Alexandra Ma of Business Insider reports the system is expected to be fully operational by 2020, but millions of people are already part of pilot programs.

“Like private credit scores, a person’s social score can move up and down depending on their behavior. The exact methodology is a secret — but examples of infractions include bad driving, smoking in non-smoking zones, buying too many video games and posting fake news online,” writes Ma.

Ma reports that local governments in China monitor behavior, and millions of Chinese people with low social credit scores are being punished by:

  • Banning them from travel and hotels
  • Blocking their children from the best schools
  • Preventing them from working in state-owned businesses
  • Putting them on blacklists for getting government contracts or credit cards
  • Slowing their internet speeds
  • Confiscating their dogs

Those with good social scores, according to Ma, get more matches on dating websites, discounts on energy bills, and better interest rates at banks.

Reaction to the system seems to depend on cultural values. Simina Mistreanu in an article for the website Foreign Policy explains the system is meant to promote trustworthiness in China’s economy and society. On the website What’s on Weibo, an article by Manya Koetse compares media coverage of the social credit system on Chinese online media versus Western media. Koetse writes that in Western media the social credit system is described in dark ways such as Orwellian, dystopian, chilling, or creepy. Chinese reaction is more positive. A citizen is quoted saying, “I feel like in the past six months, people’s behavior has gotten better and better. For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points. At first, we just worried about losing points, but now we got used to it.”

These differences in the way Chinese media and Western media cover the story may be based in our cultural views. In China, the collective good is paramount, but in the U.S., we value individual rights. Most Americans would view a social credit system as an infringement of our freedom even though in the U.S. we do have systems that monitor the behavior of people and companies. We have financial credit scores, but they are mostly private and only accessed by authorized people and companies, and many states, such as Illinois, have banned the use of credit reports for job applications. The federal government maintains a no-fly list; however, it’s only for suspected terrorists. State and local governments have sex offender lists…only for people convicted in a court of law. Businesses may be rated through organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and websites like Yelp and Amazon, but these are not created by the government.

In my opinion, China’s social credit system is an interesting idea, but it would never work in the U.S. Americans would not want the government to have too much control over our lives. Furthermore, people would figure out a way to get around it and abuse it. Overall, its potential negative effects far outweigh its benefits.

Make Video an Essential Part of Design and Information Architecture

Presentation of a video channel of laptop. Light blue background with tall buildings of the city. Modern technologies for business. Flat design. Vector illustration

Presentation of a video channel on a laptop. Source: Getty Images

As video usage and video views continue to grow, so does the importance of making video a key part of digital design. A Forbes headline from June reads “Video Marketing in 2018 Continues to Explode.” Consider this statistic from the article: more than 500 million hours of videos are watched daily on YouTube. In a 2018 survey that Hubspot conducted, 81% of businesses reported using video as a marketing tool, which is up 18% from last year’s survey.

Video Placement Guidelines

Despite the increased profile of videos, many people still place them at the bottom of emails, hide them in links, or forget about them altogether. A 2015 article by Stjepan Alaupovic for OnlineVideo.net has some practical guidelines for the placement of video on websites:

  1. Use a simple video player that viewers are used to seeing such as YouTube or Vimeo with a video play button to provide a visual cue to users.
  2. Place videos above the fold (in the top part of the screen) and in a prominent spot so that viewers see them easily.
  3. Enhance search engine optimization (SEO) with good metadata including a description that includes the word video and a verbatim transcription.

Recently, my own firm was redesigning our website. When the plan for the site was presented at a meeting, video was not part of it. Not only is video a product of most agencies today, it is essential for capturing an audience’s attention and presenting information in today’s digital environment.

Video Gallery or Library

In Chapter 4 of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication on information designMichael J. Salvo and Paula Rosinski discuss the need for technical communicators to consider “findability” of documents and information. Today, users want to be able to find information in many formats including video. Websites should have a video gallery or library that is linked in a tab, card, or area of the homepage that is easy to see. Videos should be organized by category and playlists. Descriptive thumbnail images are useful, too.

Many organizations spend time, effort, and money producing videos, but they fail to consider where the video will be placed online, how it will be seen, and why users will view it. I recommend starting any video project by completing a video creative brief that lists a series of questions that should be considered. One of the most important questions to answer is “where will this video live online?” Below, you’ll find an example of a video creative brief.

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Video Creative Brief by Angie Myers

 

 

The Constantly Evolving Role of a Technical Communicator

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Angie Myers shoots a video with SWE Past President Jonna Gerken. Photo credit: SWE Public Relations Manager Jenny Balogh

As manager of digital media for my client, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), my role is constantly evolving as I oversee content development and marketing communications for the society. Instead of simply creating content primarily by myself as I would have in the past, today I must find ways to help my clients work together to develop their own multimedia and share it through a variety of communication channels.

Today’s media environment demands a consistent stream of content provided in a variety of ways at a low-cost by a reliable source in an authentic voice. To meet that need, those of us who work in technical communications today have to be resourceful, lifelong learners. In Chapter 2 of Digital Literacy for Technical Communication, R. Stanley Dicks writes that user-centered design, collaborative technologies, and user-generated content are transforming the jobs of technical communicators.

“Rather than the relatively limited contributions of writing and editing in narrowly defined and conceived technical communication jobs, future jobs are more likely to require that communicators engage in the more complex symbolic-analytic work involving not just developing information but also managing, reconfiguring, disseminating, and customizing it for a diversity of audiences and in a diversity of media” (Dicks, 2010, p. 75).

As I encourage SWE to embrace the organization’s communications strategy, I am always looking for ways to help create content and share it through social media. I ask SWE members, sponsors, and staff to write blogs, do Facebook Live posts, and record videos as well as podcasts. When I request their contributions, I facilitate the development of content by explaining any processes or tools involved.

Using Collaboration to Create Content
Using collaborative technology is an essential aspect of developing content in today’s workplace. For example, to write marketing emails, SWE now uses Google Docs. First, I write copy in a Google Doc that is concise and includes multimedia such as videos and images. Next, I share it with coworkers who are involved in program(s) being promoting. They proofread and edit the document directly. Finally, it is viewed and approved by the organization’s leadership. We all have access to the same, updated content that is saved indefinitely in Google Docs to use again at a later time.

Recently at SWE’s annual meeting, I shot video interviews with SWE members who were taking part in programs such as the SWE High School Leadership Academy, Collegiate Leadership Institute, and Academic Leadership for Women Engineers. Prior to the conference, I asked SWE staff who oversee those programs to help me develop questions and select participants for video interviews. After the interviews were recorded, I sent the video files to a transcribing service so that I have a verbatim transcript of what they said on video. Next, I will create a written script of the edited video so that my team can create video graphics and the content can be easily approved to make sure the video includes all of the pertinent information. When I publish the video on YouTube and in a blog post, having the transcript will improve search engine optimization (SEO) and make the content accessible to a broader audience. Using a transcript also makes it easier to pull out quotes while sharing video and podcasts on social media.

Transcribing Videos and Podcasts
For anyone working with video or podcasts, transcribing, captioning, or subtitling can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive and costly task. Transcription services in the past cost a fair amount of money, which made them too expensive for some projects. Fortunately, I have started using Rev.com. It costs $1/minute for transcribing, and the transcripts come back within hours of uploading the content. The service has been around for a few years. The company’s FAQ page says it employs workers in the U.S. and some overseas after business hours.

Using a service like Rev.com is a good example of finding a new solution to a communication problem, which is one of the primary functions of being a technical communicator today. I am always learning new processes and technology in a constantly evolving communications landscape.

Forming Virtual Communities with DIY YouTube Videos

woman using laptop for home repair

Howard Rheingold writes about collective intelligence, why social networks matter, and how using the web can make you smarter in the last three chapters of Net Smart. The ideas and information discussed in these chapters apply well to First Monday’s 2016 special issue that focused on critical perspectives of a decade of Web 2.0.

The Meaning of Web 2.0
The term Web 2.0 was invented around the turn of the century as the dot-com bubble burst, and it was popularized in an article by Tim O’Reilly in 2005, What is Web 2.0. O’Reilly and his colleagues realized that even after the dot-crash in 2001, the web was more important and useful than ever. New applications and websites were being developed and deployed with increasing frequency and having far-reaching implications on the integration of technology in our everyday lives.

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As the chart shows, instead of creating personal websites in Web 1.0, people were blogging in Web 2.0. Instead of only consuming published content that transmitted information in one direction in Web 1.0, people were participating in Web 2.0 by developing and contributing content themselves creating two-way, interactive information transmission.

Do-It-Yourself YouTube Videos
For First Monday’s special issue on Web 2.0, Christine T. Wolf writes about “DIY Videos on YouTube.” Do-it-yourself videos on YouTube are good examples of user-generated content that illustrate the ideas outlined by Rheingold including collective intelligence, social networks, and how using the web can make you smarter. Wolf describes how YouTube has blurred the line between expert and lay person. Knowledge is shared among peers, and social groups are formed. In fact, YouTube content creators refer to themselves as YouTubers and as members of a specific community of YouTubers. In Chapter 4 of Net Smart, Rheingold refers to these characteristics of the web as mass collaboration and virtual communities.

In her article, Wolf focuses on the home improvement community. As Rheingold states, members of a virtual community seek to learn from each other as well as teach each other. Do-it-yourself YouTube videos are educational, instructional, and social. As Wolf suggests, they combine “personal, social, and economic realms of everyday life.” She also examines how algorithms shape social networks and in the case of YouTube, they affect the videos that are presented to the user, and in turn, what the user watches affects what additional videos they are shown, and which videos similar users are shown.

Wolf explains that the subject of home repair emerged during the data collection phase of her study. Of the 21 participants in the study, 20 reported using DIY YouTube videos to complete home repairs. I can relate to this because as a woman who lives alone, I have also used DIY YouTube videos for home repair. I have used videos to help me replace the knobs of my bathtub faucet and the seat of my toilet. Recently, I watched a YouTube video to figure out why my home intercom system started to make a nonstop humming sound. I was relieved to be able to fix it myself without having to spend a lot of time and money on it.

Effects of Virtual Communities
During interviews with the study participants, Wolf found that watching DIY YouTube videos affected:

  1. Information practices – subjects questioned the relevance of other media such as books
  2. Self-efficacy – subjects felt empowered and more confident in their abilities
  3. Credibility – subjects used common sense to assess the credibility of the information in a video (Rheingold refers to this as crap detection in Chapter 6 and other chapters.)

In Chapter 5 of Net Smart, Rheingold addresses the impact of a virtual community on users when he discusses social network analysis. He writes about the data that show if your friend’s friends are obese, unhappy smokers you are more likely to be obese, unhappy, and smoke. Likewise, if you are in a DIY home repair YouTube community, you are likely to feel capable and self-reliant. Being in a virtual community also offers social capital that you can use when you have a specific question. You can contact one of the YouTubers in your community to ask for help or advice.

It is important to use the five literacies that Rheingold outlines in Chapter 6 when viewing video content on YouTube: Attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration, and network smarts. Wolf concludes, “Through everyday information practices, people are continually made and remade through their exposure to ideas — these ideas shape identity making by influencing perceptions of what is or might be possible.”

You’ve Got 6 Seconds to Make Your Point

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In Net Smart, Howard Rheingold writes “self-control along with the skillful use of attention, participation, CRAP detection, collaboration, and network awareness through social media ought to be taught to future netizens as early as possible.” Rheingold wrote that in 2012, but it has never been more relevant than it is today.

Paying Attention to a Screen
The first chapter of Net Smart is about attention. As a professor, Rheingold is frustrated by all of his students looking at their laptops and smart phones while he is giving his lectures. Instead of expecting students to shut down their devices, he decides to teach them about attention. He also discusses mindfulness and being aware of how you direct your attention, not just how you spend your time.

I’ve noticed in meetings these days no one seems to mind if you are looking at your laptop or your smart phone. In the past, it was considered rude or unprofessional, but today it is expected that you bring your laptop to meetings. Often, we use them to take notes, or we plug them into a monitor to show the group a visual presentation. As long as you are paying enough attention to know the answer when someone asks you a question, being distracted by a screen is acceptable behavior…at least it is in my workplace culture.

In my personal life, it’s a different story. One of the reasons I liked my boyfriend early on in our relationship is that he gives me his undivided attention. When I am around, he never spends time looking at his phone or paying more attention to the TV than me. If that ever starts to happen, I’ll know something has changed for the worse in our relationship. If you truly care about someone or something, that person or thing has your attention. If you don’t really care about it, you can easily find something digital that’s more interesting and holds your attention.

Shrinking Attention Span
Rheingold’s teaching about attention reminds me of the Ad Council’s #SheCanSTEM campaign to get young girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math. My client, the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), is one of the nonprofit partners participating in the campaign, so the Ad Council gave the Society videos to use on social media. Some of the videos are only 6 seconds long. You can watch them on SWE’s YouTube channel.

In one that features SWE member Lisa Seacat DeLuca, a girl asks Lisa, “What do you do for a living?” and Lisa replies, “I work at IBM in our Watson Internet of Things Division.” The girl reacts by saying, “That’s really cool,” and the video ends. (I guess if you don’t know what the Watson Internet of Things Division is, you can always Google it.) Go ahead and watch the video below…after all it’s only 6 seconds.

Allison Fleck reported in Ad Week in May of this year that a survey of more than 300 brand marketers and agencies found that the 6-second video format is the most effective ad type for digital media. Of those surveyed, 81% said that 6-second ads are effective or very effective. According to Ad Week, 53% of advertisers use 6-second ads, and in two years that percentage is expected to climb to 77%.

In a May article in Ad Age, Krishan Bhatia, executive vice president of business operations and strategy at NBC Universal, attributes the success of 6-second ads to “lower attention spans.”

In an Ad Week article from last year, Jake Malanoski, a customer acquisition director, explains that shorter is better because “if somebody hasn’t heard of you, they are not going to give you the time of day.”

Collaborative, Efficient, and Overwhelmed with Online Services

Five years ago, Toni Ferro and Mark Zachry wrote about the use of publicly available online services (PAOSs) among knowledge workers associated with the technology sector. In their article “Technical Communication Unbound: Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices” in the December issue of Technical Communication Quarterly, Ferro and Zachry reported that the majority of knowledge workers surveyed used PAOSs for at least part of their workweek. Knowledge workers used them an average of 25% of their week, and a small percentage used them 80-100% of the time.

As a digital media director, I am a knowledge worker associated with the technology sector, so I decided to take a look at my own work processes in 2018. For my job, graduate school, and in my personal life, I use most of the services, tools, and social media platforms that Ferro & Zachry discuss.

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Almost all of the PAOSs I use are well known, but there are a few that are unique to the type of work I do including Zencastr for recording podcasts online. Motion Array is a site with royalty-free music and effects for video editing. Interact is a service that helps me create online quizzes. If you include all of these tools, I am among the group of knowledge workers who use PAOSs 80-100% of the time.

My list of PAOSs does not include all of the applications I use for work. I use a MacBook Pro laptop with apps such as QuickTime to record websites and Preview to edit photos. I also use browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox with plug-ins for specific uses such as downloading video and full-page screen shots. I have an iPhone with apps such as Voice Memos to record audio tracks. Plus, I use other software and applications that are mostly subscription-based and provided by my employer: Adobe Premier Pro, Adobe Audition, Adobe Acrobat, and Microsoft Office 365 which includes PowerPoint, Excel, and Word. There are also apps for services in the physical world such as Uber and Southwest that I use for work and in my personal life.

In my current position, I produce videos and often need to share large video files. To do that, I use Dropbox and Google Drive. In the past, I used Hightail, which was once called YouSendIt. Every few years, one of the services I use will be sidelined by a new one. I find that it’s best to work with the ones that are most familiar to my clients. Occasionally, I’ll need to learn the features of a PAOS that is new to me such as Vimeo because my client prefers it over the video player I normally use, which is YouTube.

My clients expect me to be up to date on all sorts of PAOSs and new technologies. Often, they rely on me to train them as well. It’s all on-the-job training. If I need to learn a new PAOS or app, I Google it. I also watch video tutorials on another PAOS, Lynda.com, which I just found out is now part of LinkedIn. I enjoy learning the latest apps and services, and many of them help me work collaboratively and efficiently. The downside is that I never feel like an expert at any of them, and at times, it can be overwhelming trying to remember all of the various passwords and platforms. I find that browsers can be helpful by storing login information, and luckily, most services are user-friendly if not user-centered with a not-so-steep learning curve.

As Ferro & Zachry noted, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said in the 1990s that the U.S. economy was shifting from manufacturing products to generating ideas and from the production of goods to specialized knowledge. While I feel I have a valuable skillset, my skills are always changing and evolving. I rely on my ability to problem-solve, write, organize, and plan. I also have gone back to school to update my knowledge and learn the latest tools as a graduate student in technical and professional communication.

Tracking Your Every Move as You Shop

Close up on the Amazon Go store sign at the downtown Seattle Amazon headquarters

In Superconnected, Mary Chayko discusses how the internet has revolutionized the retail industry. She mentions Amazon’s efforts to make online grocery shopping successful.

“The largest share of online revenue in the United States is generated in retail shopping, with Amazon the top vendor…Some businesses have not translated to e-commerce as well as others, but due to the large profits possible, innovations to them are being explored. For example, grocery shopping, which as of 2014 had not found major success online, seems to have a brighter future in e-commerce. Amazon is fronting the cost of an expensive delivery infrastructure, without which the business could not take off, and customers are getting used to the idea of buying fresh food online. It takes both a technological and a psychological shift for some businesses to succeed.” (p. 169)

It’s interesting to note that Amazon just opened a cashier-less grocery store in Chicago this week. This is the fourth Amazon Go store and the first outside of Seattle. It’s in the same building as Amazon’s Chicago office.

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The Chicago Tribune posted a video of a high-speed walk around the store. In the video, you can see the store’s slogan: “Just Walk Out Shopping.” There is no cashier or self-checkout stations.

Customers use their smartphones to scan an app on their way into the store. From there, hundreds of video cameras and infrared sensors in the ceiling track shoppers as they move around and pick up merchandise, which is monitored by weight sensors. Items are added to a virtual shopping cart as customers take them off the shelves.

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Chayko warns about data privacy in e-commerce, “…data mining and surveillance should be kept in mind. Consumers and companies alike should be aware of the implications of widespread sharing on people’s privacy and safety and of the (in)security of data in online spaces.”

Depositphotos_40145553_m-2015An article in the Washington Post quotes Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University’s law school, saying it’s highly likely that Amazon Go collects more information than any other retailer setting today.

There’s also concern about the effect of cashier-less stores on jobs. Bloomberg reports that Amazon is considering opening up to 3,000 Amazon Go stores in the next three years. The Washington Post points out that being a cashier is America’s second-most common job according to federal data. About 3.5 million Americans are cashiers.

The Chicago Tribune reported that at the Amazon Go in Chicago there are several employees who answer questions, help customers download the app, find their receipt on the app, restock shelves, and check photo IDs of those buying alcohol.

I’m looking forward to visiting Amazon Go. As a tech enthusiast, I’m willing to give up some privacy for the convenience and novelty. And, now that I know there are cameras and sensors tracking my every move, I’ll be sure to be on my best behavior.

Why Google Needs Oversight

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A smartphone and computer running Google search. Photo from Depositphotos.

In Superconnected, Mary Chayko discusses the inception of Google. It was developed by Stanford PhD students Larry Page and Sergey Brin and revolutionized the internet when the search engine became publicly available in the late 90s and created algorithms in the early 2000s. Today, Google is the world’s leading search engine.

“At the same time that it produces results for the user, Google also stores, caches, and archives large portions of web content as the web is being searched…Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and other major tech companies also allow the data that flows in and through their platforms to be mined and in some cases participate in the mining. As a result, nearly everything that is done on the internet is tracked, analyzed, stored, and then used for a variety of purposes,” Chayko writes.

Google Accumulates Power
In May of this year, Steve Kroft of the TV news magazine 60 Minutes reported on the power of Google and critics who say the company, worth three quarters of a trillion dollars, is stifling competition. Google, which is owned by the holding company Alphabet, went public in 2004. It has also bought more than 200 companies including YouTube, the largest video platform, and Android, which runs 80% of smartphones.

In the 60 Minutes story, Gary Reback, a well-known antitrust lawyer, says Google is a monopoly. He says it’s a monopoly not only in search, but also other industries such as online advertising. Plus, Google accumulates information about users and sells that information to advertisers. He points out that people tell search engines more than they tell their spouses, giving Google a “mind-boggling degree of control over our entire society.”

The Business Insider reports Google is also a major player in the news industry, surpassing Facebook last year as “the leading source of traffic to news publishers’ websites according to Chartbeat…the majority of traffic to publishers’ websites from mobile devices.”

Google Dominates its Competition
Also, in May, the Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims wrote about the growing demand to break up the monopolies of Google, Facebook, and Amazon. He writes, “…as they consolidate control of their markets, negative consequences for innovation and competition are becoming evident.”

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Google search results for “Mexican restaurants near me” showing Google information at the top of the first page

Jonathan Taplin, a digital media expert, says in the 60 Minutes story that Google has no real competition because it has 90% of the search market and Bing, Microsoft’s search engine, has 2%. The co-founder of Yelp, Jeremy Stoppelman, points out that Google has changed its search results over the years so that instead of returning the best information from around the internet, results at the top of the first page are often from Google properties. Google lists results from its own data first such as maps, restaurant reviews, shopping, and travel information. This is especially important when many users are viewing results on the small screen of a mobile phone.

Google Faces Regulation
Google has been fined by the European Union for anticompetitive actions. Over the summer, the EU slapped Google with a $5 billion fine. According to the Business Insider, the EU ordered Google to stop using its Android operating system to block competitors. Google is appealing that fine. Last year, the EU fined Google $2.7 billion for illegally promoting its shopping search results over its competitors.

The U.S. government should follow the example of the EU and provide more oversight of Google and other tech giants. It’s clear that Google is a powerful force in society, and with the company’s dominance comes the need for transparency and accountability. Recently, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have been called to testify and answer questions at U.S. Congressional hearings regarding Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. An Axios article by David McCabe had more ideas on how the government could provide oversight:

  • Require Google to release more information regarding its algorithms
  • Make it easier to sue big tech companies like Google
  • Designate it as a “common carrier” which would allow the government to appoint a body to oversee Google

All of these options should be considered, and more should be done to make sure Google and other powerful tech companies do not wield too much influence over our lives without our knowledge and consent. It should be noted that I relied heavily on Google to research this blog post.

Blogs Today Are Like News Sites

All Together

All Together, the blog of the Society of Women Engineers

I produce a blog for the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) called All Together. As the homepage states, it’s a blog about SWE members, engineering, technology, and other STEM-related topics. It’s up-to-date information and news about the Society and how its members are making a difference every day. You’ll find articles, videos, and podcasts under a variety of categories: Advocacy, Diversity & Inclusion, Member News, Outreach, Professional Development, SWE Magazine, and more.

Blogs vs. Websites
When I show people the blog or ask them to write an article for it, they often say it looks like a website. In fact, it is. As Robinson Meyer notes in the 2015 article “What Blogging Has Become” in The Atlantic, blogs in the past were a list of posts in reverse chronological order written by a single author. Today, blogs look like Medium, Tech Crunch, and Mashable. They have headlines, photos, and sections. They often appear the same as news sites, which many blogs have become. Huffington Post and BuzzFeed come to mind. Meyer also discusses how social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the online environment, driving traffic to today’s blogs.

Blogs and Social Media
Every post on All Together is shared on SWE’s social media channels which include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. Each article page also has social media sharing buttons to make it easy for readers to share the content with their friends and colleagues. This strategy seems to be working. I just checked Google Analytics for the latest data on how All Together is performing. So far in 2018, it’s had more than 100,000 visitors. That’s a great statistic considering the total number of readers last year was about 65,000. The bar chart below shows how All Together’s readership has increased since it was launched in 2015.

All Together

Visitors to All Together

When recruiting contributors to submit content for All Together, I send them a document describing the basics for writing a blog post. It calls for a blog to be at least 300 words for search engine optimization, and it should have subheadings and photos. Every blog should also have links to websites and embedded video or social media posts. This post follows all of those rules.

In Dylan Kissane’s 2016 DOZ article the 5 Most Important Trends in Blogging for 2016, number one is that bloggers are often now known as influencers. Number two is that size matters. The article cites a survey from Orbit Media Studios that found the average length of a blog post in 2015 was 900 words. Number three is  the comments section is disappearing. Four is great graphics are needed. Visual rhetoric is just as important as text. Finally, number five is that engagement rates are more important than visitors and page views. It’s a measurement of how much readers engage with the content in the form of not only views but also shares, likes, and clicks. Fortunately for All Together, the average time readers spend on a page is almost two minutes.