Yik Yak, yes or no: anonymous location-based social app raises concerns (COM0011, post #6)

Want to know what everyone’s saying around you? Well, Yik Yak allows you to do just that – listen to all kinds of comments within a 2.4 kilometre radius. Only you don’t know who’s saying it. And if you contribute, no one will know it was you. It’s an anonymous twitter feed that’s based your on location. And even though it’s not intended for high schools, it has become very popular among secondary and university/college students alike, with a few challenges…

For example, two California high schools were put on lock-down recently after bomb threats were posted via Yik Yak (CBC article). According to the Huffington Post, 11 college students in the US have been charged with threats of violence made through the app this past semester alone. The second challenge is a flaw that de-anonymizes users and even allows hackers to hijack someone’s account through third-party software (Softpedia article). I suppose they can look into fixing that – urgently, I hope. But the last issue is, yet again, cyber-bullying.

Recently, an 18 year-old who was encouraged through the app to end her life after a failed suicide attempt started a petition to fix or get rid of it. So far it has nearly 70,000 signatures. “The app claims to not tolerate bullying or threats, but no action is being taken to remove threatening or harmful posts, or suspend users who write them,” the petition reads.

“That is why I am calling on the inventors of the app to create a stronger set of community standards and employ a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and threats — if they don’t, we want the app removed from the Apple App Store and Google Play immediately.”

But like Snapchat, Yik Yak is taking off in popularity and just received an investment of $62 million. What do you think? Should it be banned in schools? Or are people overreacting?








What Facebook does to your self-esteem (COM0011, Post #5)

I was afraid of this:

“Research into how social media websites define us socially and the influence that social media has on our personal welfare suggests that a lack of social participation on Facebook leads to people feeling less meaningful.” (www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140508095456.htm)

The article on Science Daily’s website last spring highlights research suggesting that we’re happier if we’re posting away on Facebook and getting lots of feedback from our friends. The first study examined frequent Facebook posters. Half the participants actively posted and the other half passively observed. The second group experienced “a negative impact on personal well-being”.

In a second study, researchers asked a group of participants using anonymous Facebook accounts to post and comment. It was set up so that half the group would not see any feedback. They were then “interviewed on their feelings of belonging, meaningful existence, self-esteem and control after the exercise”.

“Both passive and shunned users experienced feelings of exclusion and felt ‘invisible’ and less important as individuals. Shunned users also experienced lower self-esteem and control.”

stockimages-smilestockimages, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

I guess these findings show that Facebook can have a positive affect on how we feel about ourselves, but I started wondering about the different experiences and expectations of various groups – particularly in terms of age and how regularly they use social media like Facebook. For example, the first study looked at frequent Facebook users – perhaps the results would have been less striking if they had included a number of non-frequent Facebook users, like me.

Unfortunately I can’t access the original study published in the Journal of Social Influence. But I would love to know the age range and previous Facebook exposure of the participants in the second study. I can examine my own feelings when I receive a comment or like after a rare post I’ve made – I guess it does feel good. But I still rarely post. Is it because I’m older, just don’t have time, couldn’t care less about what half of my connections are posting…?

What about you? I know in our class we have quite a range of ages and experiences. Are these effects more striking among younger people who have been growing up with social media? I’d love to know from teenagers especially if they feel don’t feel cool unless they’re posting regularly, and not just the popular kids. What if you’re unpopular, and nobody ever comments, are you feeling worse? I guess I’ll start asking my nieces as they approach this delicate age.

Should consumers even bother with online reviews? COM0011, blog post #4

So you’re ready to make the next step up to a high-end digital SLR camera before your trip to New York city next month. And, oh yeah, you’re looking for a quiet, clean, respectable hotel during your visit. Where do you start? Probably where most people start – online reviews.

But before you do, take heed. Those glowing reviews you read may not be legitimate in the least. Up to 15 per cent of online reviews are fake, according to the CBC’s Marketplace TV show that aired last Friday (http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/episodes/2014-2015/online-reviews-faking-it). I’m starting to think that number may be much higher.

According to Marketplace, people tend to trust online reviews more than advertising, while in fact, many reviews are just that: advertising in disguise. Companies are so often turning to fake reviews, that an industry has popped up to serve them. Look at Fiverr.com and you’ll find dozens of women and even couples ready to tout the wonders of your latest products or services, starting at a mere five dollars.



Even companies such as the apparently no-longer-existing Emizr will create a number of reviews for you each month according to your contract with them, as the show’s producers found out. Emizr.com now redirects to a company named Qode Media Inc. – I presume since being exposed on Marketplace. The investment pays off: just one extra star on a restaurant’s reviews can translate in a revenue increase of up to 9 per cent.

Marketplace created a fake grilled-cheese food stand/truck company called CheezedOff.com and had wonderful reviews online without having produced a single sandwich. Yelp was the only site they used that screened out two of three fake reviews. Google and Urbanspoon found none of them.

truckCBC Marketplace

How to spot a fake review? It’s difficult. One of eight people stopped on the street thought the fake review was the real one and vice versa. Noticing language that is too glowing, or enthusiastic, and that uses a lot of story telling is a good start, according to Communication Professor Jeffrey Hancock of Cornell University, interviewed on the show. Fake reviews often involve conjuring up scenarios about what it might have been like, while actual review tend to be more to the point, like “Good product. It did what I expected it to do.”

Realsimple suggests being wary of formal names, model numbers and tech/marketing jargon in reviews; investigating reviewers; and checking their timing (http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/life-strategies/fake-online-reviews). If a bunch of amazing reviews were posted in a relatively close timeframe, chances are they’re fake.

But looking at the bigger picture: if we can’t exactly trust great reviews, and negative reviews are fading away thanks to the fear of legal repercussions (https://algonquincollegesocialmedia.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/social-media-comments-backfire-be-wary-of-reviews-you-post-online-alan-gilday/), is it still worth checking out online review? Well, for hotels at least, you have a tool that can help, thanks to Prof. Hancock’s Review Skeptic (reviewskeptic.com). It can tell you with 90 per cent accuracy if a review is fake. I think for the rest, I may just ask my friends.


Why it’s worth keeping employees happy, COM0011 post #3



At the last three places I’ve worked, I can’t say employees were generally happy. I was always thinking about the wasted productivity, the lack of moral, the seemingly “could care less” attitude of those higher up, and how they couldn’t see that it was hurting business. Well it turns out that I wasn’t far off the mark. Investing in the happiness of workers ends up benefiting a company or organization in several ways.

stockimages-smiling-business-womanStockimages.com, http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

In a TEDxWarwick 2014 talk (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mx7fYv2cAy4 ), well-being researcher Nic Marks points to a Gallop pole that shows only 13% of people are working with passion and engagement. Some truly dislike their jobs, but most are just putting in their time. This didn’t surprise me based on my own experience. But we often hear that human capital is one of the most important asset a company has. So why is employee happiness being ignored?

Perhaps the majority of companies and organizations need to watch this lecture. Marks highlights another poll that in companies that did invest proactively in their employee’s happiness found a 37% lower absentee rate, 47% less turnover, 48% fewer accidents and 21% higher productivity. Sounds pretty convincing.

An interesting point he raises is an equity analyst quoted in BusinessWeek saying that a certain company (Costco) was “… focused on employees to the detriment of the shareholders.” It turns out, however, that investing in employee happiness can nearly double your return on investment.

He gives another example of the online shoe sales startup Zappos.com, which grew to a multi-million dollar business in 12 years largely because it bases its business model on the idea that happy employees make for happy customers.

With these things in mind, it’s hard to imagine how so many employees are missing what could be a win-win for all. I’d love to hear your experiences and ideas.

Why does Facebook need a real name? (COM0011 post #2)

I am not a drag queen. But I was very curious about how Facebook’s policy of requiring a “real name” prevented drag queens from using its services. (http://www.npr.org/blogs/alltechconsidered/2014/10/01/353053455/facebook-apologizes-for-name-policy-that-affected-lgbt-community).

(mariancoan, freeimages.com)

It seems that someone had the time and energy to bother collecting a list of drag queen names on Facebook to get them removed. And it worked. At least for a bit. But public pressure from prominent drag queens such as Sister Roma and internal pressure from gay employees at Facebook not only helped get their accounts restored: they got an apology, too. Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said that enforcement of the “real name” policy would need to be handled somewhat differently in the future.

“We owe you a better service and a better experience using Facebook, and we’re going to fix the way this policy gets handled so everyone affected here can go back to using Facebook as you were,” reads Cox’s apology on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/chris.cox/posts/10101301777354543)

The policy, however, stays.

Cox stood by the original “real name” policy — which, by the way, Facebook says is not synonymous with requiring “legal” names. He said the rule helps Facebook stand out amid all the anonymity online and helps keep users safe from anonymous cyberbullying,” according to the NPR article.

I found it interesting that Facebook distinguishes between “real” and “legal” names. If Facebook claims its policy helps deter anonymous cyber-bullying, than “real” (as opposed to “legal”) shouldn’t make too much of a difference. Any troll can make up a name, right? But going back to Cox’s statement, he says, “The spirit of our policy is that everyone on Facebook uses the authentic name they use in real life.” This could be verified by a gym membership card in theory, if Facebook wanted to check. I guess that resolves my issue…

I suppose my real question is, is anonymous cyber-bullying really as bad as knowing who the bully is. To me, knowing who your bully is makes it more scary, more real (ok, anonymous death threats aside). I’m thinking again of the Canadian teenagers who took their own lives in the last couple of years… I think they knew very well who was causing their misery. I haven’t been using Facebook much in the last couple years, though, so maybe the things you’ve heard can help me understand this better.

Looking for a job? Don’t expect privacy. (COM0011, Post #1)

Will social media determine your next job? Chances are, it will affect your possibilities more than you may think.

Employers are increasingly looking to social media to determine an applicant’s suitability for a position. A large number of people are fired not because they “…didn’t have the requisite skills, but because their personalities clashed with the company’s culture,” says a recent BBC article (http://www.bbc.com/news/business-29343425).

So I’m wondering how this affects what people say and do online. Are we really being honest about who we are, if we know that future employers will probably review and assess everything. Will social media simply become a self-promotion tool, biased towards those who are more active on its channels and more conscious of the tactics used by recruiters? Can we really build solid relations with people online when we routinely censure and tailor our online communications?

More young people trade privacy for employability

With young people finding it harder to find work, do teenagers understand the consequences their actions on social media can have in the long term?

According to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Said Business School (http://pwc.blogs.com/files/future-of-work-report-1.pdf), “more than a third of the young workers surveyed said they were happy for their employer to monitor their status updates and tweets in return for greater job security,” (http://theconversation.com/new-generation-is-happy-for-employers-to-monitor-them-on-social-media-30635).

Does this reflect a desperation in our current climate of employment, or are those young people the clever ones, already censuring and tailoring their social media life to future employers?

Employers rely on algorithms and games

I also wonder if employers, many of whom are using algorithms to filter applicants, are seeing the big picture.

“Try the following for yourself: take a moment to think about the long and winding trails of personal data that weave together to form the digital tapestry that you and others create for yourself online. Now, imagine the implications that might arise from allowing your employer to surreptitiously unpick each of these strands in isolation, with little or no knowledge of the context in which they occurred,” (http://theconversation.com/new-generation-is-happy-for-employers-to-monitor-them-on-social-media-30635).

A related point in the BBC article asks whether leaving it to algorithms may bring an employer the same kind of people, when some variety may be good for an organization.

Some companies have developed games to analyze applicants’ suitability, but I think that at least some clever people will learn how to play these, just like some people know how to swing an interview. This brings us back to the original problem of finding someone who is truly a good fit. And what if you’re just good at playing games?

So many questions, and from what I can see, few answers so far. I just hope that employers don’t start overlooking CVs and interviews completely. Actually, I wish that they couldn’t monitor our online lives at all, but that’s probably not going to happen in my lifetime.