Bubble bubble toil and trouble

The first time I saw online advertising that related to one of my recent web searches I thought it was interesting that technology made this happen.  I also thought it was kind of creepy.

Last week I came across a TED Talk in which Eli Pariser discusses how our online behaviour has the potential to impact web searches and social media feeds through ‘filter bubbles’.


According to Technopedia, a filter bubble

“is the intellectual isolation that can occur when websites make use of algorithms to of selectively assume the information a user would want to see, and then give information to the user according to this assumption.”

The assumptions are made based on previous behaviors, what you ‘like’, browsing history, search history and where searches take place can impact your future search results and feeds. Algorithms (mathematical codes) are used to serve up the answers to search requests and the feeds in social media platforms.

As an evidence based researcher I want to be able to access all of the information when I search for it, not just what a bot wants to serve up to me.  The following video suggests a couple of ways to ‘burst’ the filter bubble including:

  • using search engines like DuckDuckGo, with no track policies that help to ensure everyone sees the same results,Bubble
  • switching from Facebook to Twitter, as it shows every update in your feed no matter the content,
  • enabling privacy settings on search engines.

What about you? Have you noticed a difference in your search results or Facebook feed? Have filter bubbles changed what you see?

Getting to know you…Getting to know ALL about YOU!

Personal privacy is something most people have thought about at one time or another. Growing up this meant ensuring the lock on my diary was secured and the key safely stored. In today’s environment keeping things secure ranges from proper disposal of paper correspondence and records, to taking care of my presence online.

privacy keyWhat people are prepared to share online is as individual as their profiles. Like many, I am concerned about my presence and appropriate ‘sharing’ online. Increasingly we see the impact of what we share or do online, as well as how easy it is to learn about people with a few keystrokes. Consider the reactions of the people in this BuzzFeed video when they are confronted with details that have been learned about them after a little bit of online research.

Even if you do what you think is best to keep your online identity in check, Neil J. Rubenking’s February 2014 PC Mag article recommends reviewing your settings from time to time to confirm that they are still applicable. However, not all the information learned about us is as the result of our conscious sharing.

In her article “All Eyes on You”, Jennifer Golbeck, PhD. details the types and ways information is collected about us, often without our knowledge. In doing so, these ‘back-end’ processes learn more about us than we may appreciate. When you think about it, collecting personal data isn’t really all that new. Did you shop in a store this week? Most if not all bricks and mortar retail outlets monitor and record customers through close circuit video surveillance and regularly track habits and interests through purchasing preferences. But what about our online behaviour?   In her 2013 TED Talk, Golbeck explains how our actions in digital spaces are used to help determine things about us and in some ways predict what we do in the future. Big brother doesn’t appear to ever really sleep.

privacy cartoon

Increasingly we are learning how what we considered some randomly posted information is now available for all to see, read, infer and share. From the retweeting of personal photographs to closed communities on Facebook, the general public is learning a lot more about others than they might have ever been interested. The internet is a VERY public space and one where keeping things private means keeping them to yourself, or as Goldbeck suggests we can choose to just “get over it”.





COM0015 Blog #2: The Strong vs. The Weak?

If there’s something you want to know, odds are there’s a TED talk about the subject matter. TED talks span a wide range of subjects and feature a variety of expert speakers. No wonder its Twitter account has more than 3.5 million followers.


For something to succeed online, it doesn’t need to just be good, someone has to want to share it, according to June Cohen, Executive Producer of TED Media. Boy do people want to share all things TED! This concept has evoluted from a single conference into a global media platform as a result of social media.

TED encouraged sharing

There are 1900+ TED Talks now online that have been viewed collectively more than 900,000,000 times.

Cohen explained that the increasing widespread use of social media naturally played a part in this process, but more importantly using the tools of the web in the best possible way to increase the sharability of content.

“Online users are exquisitely vulnerable to distraction” said Cohen.

With a rise in mobile, TED embraced the trends of their community and purposely designed their online talks to be optimized for small screen, cut long intros and started the videos strong.

TED also made sure videos are framed close to the speaker’s face. So on a mobile phone, viewers can see the emotion of what is being communicated.


And TED videos can be watched through many devices, embedded, downloaded as free podcast, etc. By embracing open (free) models they aim to reduce the barriers between the ideas and their intended audience.

A “brand” that could use a little mentoring from TED is Bill Cosby. Bill Cosby posted a photo of himself on Twitter earlier in November inviting the Internet to meme him. The entire thing was eventually deleted when fans used the web tool to highlight past accusations against Cosby.

Bill Cosby

#CosbyMeme quickly devolved into a conversation about rape and rape culture, never quite achieving the cute, wholesome captions Cosby’s marketers were likely expecting with that tip-of-the-hat photo. How they didn’t see this possible epic failure is beyond me.

This seemed like an adhoc idea and a proper S.W.O.T. analysis was not carried out. With all the negative attention (please be advised that this is a sensitive topic and offensive language is used in this video) that Mr. Cosby has been getting lately it is hard to believe this campaign was initiated. Everyone knows that it’s not just your fans that follow you on social media.

Good, bad and ugly…it’s all on social media.

Please share your thoughts on this post.