Social Media Mixed Messaging

Figuring out the real information from disinformation/ misinformation can be confusing on any social media platform. Social media companies, e.g., Facebook, Twitter, also struggle to make this determination.

Facebook claims to use algorithms to scan through millions of posts. However, with over 2 billion users, missing even 1% of questionable content is a big deal. It’s also unknown how the algorithm is programmed. Who decides what is questionable?

What about the difference between expressing an opinion and spreading “hate speech”? Some companies claim to ban “hate speech.” Or posts that are perceived to incite violence. Who makes that determination? And how is it enforced? Should we allow others to express their viewpoints even when we don’t agree with them? When is the line crossed between an unpopular opinion and something hateful? It may be obvious in some cases, but language is nuanced.

In library school we learned about collection maintenance. We were taught a good library has at least one thing you find offensive. This doesn’t mean the collection has bad content. It means the collection offers diverse and varied perspectives. Even if you don’t agree with all of them.

Could a library have something like “hate speech” in the collection? Well, they might if it was published from an authentic source and contained information. In other words, if it was verifiable information, as opposed to disinformation.

One big difference between libraries and social media platforms is that the former curates published content. If you find something objectionable in the library catalog, it was still vetted by professionals. Meaning, it was real information, not disinformation/misinformation.

Social media, by contrast, largely acts like a distributer instead of a curator. They’re available for anyone to post his/her thoughts, verified or not. However, social media companies have been forced to rethink how they operate because of recent criticisms.

The first challenge for social media is to figure out what role they play with content. Are they going to be distributers, publishers, or curators? Once that is established, they need to determine what content should be allowed. And finally, how to enforce that, keeping in mind that social media platforms operate across cultures, languages, and countries.

Social media is an influential and popular mode of communication. Social media companies can no longer afford to be mere distributors. Or send mixed messages about the content that is allowed on their platforms.

Google: Not Built for Deletion

Last week Google announced that it would delete users’ histories on new accounts, by default. For existing accounts, the options have always been available. Google didn’t want to change the default for existing users. Meaning, if you already have an account, you’ll have to make the changes yourself.

Google’s support pages provide instructions on how to Delete Your Activity. You can also learn how to set up scheduled deletions.

Deletion by default is a big deal. I never liked the idea of data being collected just because it can be. Or as a way to “improve customer experience.” This is really just something companies say when they are giving us something for free in exchange for collecting our data. The companies then monetize this data, usually with targeted advertising.

Personally, I find this a bit creepy. However, I know lots of people that appreciate the focused advertising, catering to their needs and likes.

Activity controls in your Google account are available for: Web and App Activity, Location History, and YouTube History. Choosing to save your activities provides… “for better personalization across Google. Turn on or pause these settings at any time.

Being The Deletist, I felt compelled to investigate the new deletion options. However, I had paused my activities a long time ago. So I didn’t really have much to delete. Also, as an existing customer, I had already set my auto-deletion to 3 months for everything. I probably did this right when the option became available.

Even though Google is now trying to be more transparent and make it easier for us to have some kind of “control” over our data, it’s still tricky to navigate. Many options are buried several layers deep in the settings. And a lot of people probably never even check their settings. If they do, they likely don’t have time to go through all the choices. It can be overwhelming at times.

I suppose this is why Google decided to do deletion by default. It’s not perfect, mostly because Google still retains some data. Even with anonymizing the data, as Google claims to do, I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of having data collected about me and my habits. But if I want to be part of society, that’s the price to pay.

Online vs. In-Person Meetings

Meetings. Somehow it seems there are always too many of them during the work day. Seemingly overnight, the pandemic shifted meetings from in-person to online. But for many of us, they still probably consume most of each day.

Before we had things like mobile phones, laptops, internet, and cheap phone rates, the office was the place to be. Working from home wasn’t possible. You needed to be there physically, to get things done. To interact with the right people. To access your documents.

We no longer have to go to the office to work because of technology, mobile devices, and affordable home office equipment. Yet many of us still do. Perhaps because “that’s how we always did things.” The sudden shift from in-person to online has offered a new way to do business. But is it a better way? Will it stick?

Pros and Cons of In-Person Meetings

Depending on the type of meeting, it can be really fun (and productive) to collaborate in person. Provided you like your co-workers.

Reading body language and other non-verbal cues is easier. These clues are valuable for understanding how messaging is being received and reacted to.

An in-person meeting can be totally private. It’s easy to record an online meeting, even without the other participants knowing.

One the flip side, attending in-person meetings can be really time consuming. In addition to time spent in the actual meeting, there is time wasted traveling to/from meetings. Or spent packing up/setting up equipment, like laptops or projectors.

Inevitably something fails with the projection equipment in the meeting rooms, requiring ad-hoc workarounds.

Half the people attend remotely anyway.

Pros and Cons of Online Meetings

Time is saved getting to/from meetings.

It’s easy to record the event for reference or compliance purposes.

It can be a less expensive option because rooms don’t need to rented. Plus people can join from all over the world without travel expenses to be there in person.

On the flip side, every attendee needs to know how to use the technology.

Coordinating who speaks when can be challenging. This is especially true when video and audio-only participants are in the same meeting.

Hearing, or seeing details on the screen, can be difficult.

Using video can make people uncomfortable. Views of people can be unflattering, or incomplete, depending on where the camera is pointing.

Which type of meeting do you prefer?

Tips for Working from Home during the Pandemic

The social distancing requirements came suddenly prompting swift action to start working from home. For a lot of businesses, this probably posed challenges for employees who were not accustomed to working from home, logging in through a secure VPN, or accessing files from a shared, networked repository. Based on my experience, a lot of employees probably resorted to emailing themselves documents to make sure they were available rather than exploring, or learning about, alternative options. Or using email attachments to work collaboratively.

If this sounds like your unexpected working from home experience, you’re not alone. As an information professional, here are some tips for having a better experience working remotely with regards to accessing your documents and information.

Tips for Working Remotely

  1. Learn about options available from your workplace about how to store documents in a centralized and/or networked repository for accessing remotely. This will save you a lot of time and effort in locating things, plus it will help to keep your email inbox from overflowing.
  2. Contact the records and information or information governance department in your workplace and get tips from them.
  3. Use naming conventions and versioning. Document the strategy and share with your work team.
  4. Contact your IT department, or whoever does training, and get tutorials on how to use the available technology to work work effectively remotely.

As a consultant, I’ve been working from home for years. An internet search will yield lots of tips and advice, but here’s a short list of what’s worked well for me. These tips promote productivity and maintaining a work-life balance.

Tips for Working from Home

  1. Be comfortable. If working from home is going to be a long-term solution for you, invest in proper furniture (e.g., desk, chair, second monitor, ergonomic mouse, etc.).
  2. Get dressed everyday. You definitely don’t need to wear office attire, but at least change out of your pajamas.
  3. Separate personal from professional. This can be difficult when working from home, especially if you feel like procrastinating and there’s laundry to be done, kids running around, etc. However, make an effort to take real and designated breaks for meals, coffees, housework, time with kids, etc. (Definitely easier said than done with daycares and schools still closed!)
  4. Enjoy the perks! Non-existent commute means time/money saved. I used to love taking a 15-20 minute power nap as part of my lunch break or in the afternoon.

How to Host a Successful Live Virtual Event

Last week my partner and I hosted a ceremony. We wanted to broadcast it virtually so our guests could watch and comment, but not talk during it. This is a key difference between an event and a meeting.

The biggest benefit of the virtual event was guests attending from all over the world, even though finding an optimal time was tricky with so many time zones represented. Another bonus, as one guest remarked, was that everyone got a front-row seat.

The event was lovely with a few funny moments trying to get everything figured out live.

Here are some tips for hosting a successful live event virtually based on my lessons learned.

Figure out what you need (e.g., recording, presenting only, calendar invitations, etc.). Then pick your app. Skype, Zoom, and Google Meet, etc., will all offer slightly different capabilities. We needed to record the event for about an hour so we picked Google Meet even though it was a little harder to use than Zoom.

Practice the event. Set up the space in advance so you can figure out where to place your device. Practice with a friend so you know what it will be like during the event. For example, I had to adjust the settings to enable Google Meet to record.

Plan extra time for your guests who may have problems using technology or with the app. Offer practice sessions ahead of time and “open” the event 15 minutes early. I had a few guests with whom I set up Google Meet test meetings in advance to make sure they knew how to use it. This is how we discovered two of our most important guests couldn’t use Google Meet!

Determine how many devices you will need. We wanted background music and we knew that some guests couldn’t use Google Meet. Plus Google Meet will only record with a computer, not a handheld device. This meant we needed at least 3 devices, plus a way to prop them all.

Appoint a guest to monitor sound and video quality. I had no idea that only half my head was showing until my mom unmuted her microphone to point this out. It’s better to hear about problems from only one person.

Be kind to your guests and yourself. Every app works a little bit differently. Make sure guests know the basics, like how to access the event and mute microphones.

The Power of Sousveillance

Most people are familiar with the term “surveillance,” essentially being watched over by someone or something, e.g., cameras. These days it’s quite common for organizations, shops, services, or even residents to have cameras for monitoring, tracking, or enhanced security. No matter where you go, it’s likely that you’ve been caught on camera someplace. It’s also now likely that the captured image of you can be identified with facial recognition.

People may be less familiar with the term “sousveillance.” I’m not sure where or when I first heard the term, but I found a definition for it in an article in The New York Times Magazine by Jascha Hoffman, “Sousveillance.” In this article “sousveillance” is defined as “the monitoring of authorities.

As most people now carry around a smartphone, it’s become increasingly popular for these “sousveillance” videos to be posted. The most recent one to gain attention was the video depicting an act of police brutality in Minneapolis that resulted in the death of George Floyd.

Even though I’m not an authority, I often feel uncomfortable with the idea that I’m being watched, either by surveillance cameras or how anybody could be recording me surreptitiously. However, in certain circumstances it could prove beneficial to have so many devices available to record to so many different viewpoints. The challenge is that you can’t pick and choose when this happens so you have to accept that it is going on all the time.

In the right context, the act of sousveillance can be a powerful means to offer a different perspective. Sometimes through these videos, it provides the impetus needed to impact real change, though they can often be difficult to watch.

The first time I saw one of these videos was in 2007, when RCMP officers tasered Robert Djiekanski to death in the Vancouver International Airport. Each time one of these videos is posted, showing overly aggressive and often deadly actions of police officers, it makes me wonder how many other times this happened when it wasn’t caught on video from a bystander.

It’s sad to think that we need sousveillance to monitor our authorities to make sure they’re not abusing their power and people. Each time an act of police brutality is captured, especially those ending in fatalities, is one of those circumstances when sousveillance is serving a valuable purpose.