Updating Again Soon

I realized it’s been two years since I updated this blog, but with the recent events regarding data, privacy, and social media, I feel it’s important to dust this place off and start writing again. Stickied to the top of Robots Nobots is a post I wrote four years ago about the dangers of Social Logins and how your information, along with all your friends, is being bought and sold simply by clicking a small, convenient button. Seems it’s gotten worse since then with the explosion of Apps asking for “permissions” before you get to use them.

These topics are relevant. They will always be relevant. To anyone who happens upon this blog, I hope you enjoy my content.

Upvoted – Reddit’s News Site – First Impressions

Every social media buff knows about Reddit. Submit links to be judged by the faceless masses via Upvotes and Downvotes, and if you pass the gauntlet of reposts and re-reposts and re-re-reposts and follow the rules of each subreddit just right, you might just be in the orange. Play the right cards at exactly the right time, and you might even end up on the front page of Reddit. For about four hours before the limited attention span of the Internet buries your post in the second page. All of this, of course, is reinforced by “Karma,” a sort of point system for your account; every link with a positive number of Upvotes adds to your Karma score, a meaningless number next to your username. You might get some recognition if your Karma score is in the tens of thousands, but unless you’re a celebrity or a novelty account like user poem_for_your_sprog, you probably won’t be known for anything noteworthy. Verbose intro aside, let’s talk about Upvoted.com, Reddit’s recently launched news site.

It appears that the purposed of Upvoted is to find the most interesting stories and links on Reddit and expand on them with an editorial process, something that many existing news site already does on a daily basis. It could be that Reddit wants to curate this type of content with the added benefit of getting straight from the horse’s mouth. Given the site’s disastrous history of neglecting users, subreddit owners, and its own staff, using its own editorial staff to dig up and expand on trending topics and freshly popular users might be more than they can handle. Everyone’s comparing it to Buzzfeed, and at first glance, that’s about right. At second glance, it looks about the same. At the moment, the people most likely to see beyond Upvoted’s Buzzfeedesque exterior are current users who are versed in Reddit’s posting culture and business motivations.

Looking at the front page of the site also reveals a great deal about Reddit’s motivations. Front and center is the top story with the number of upvotes associated with the original link at the top left corner, and under it, the top 3 trending stories. Directly to the right and taking up about 25% of your screen…a sponsored link. Advertising. Funding Reddit’s servers isn’t cheap, and Upvoted looks like another way for the social site to rake in more advertising revenue from companies looking to monetize on Reddit’s popularity. The promise is that this sponsored content will be just as rich as normal posts, written and curated by the editorial staff, but paid for and approved by the company. In other words, “Branded Content”. Upvoted does make it very clear that it’s sponsored, so there’s no shady business going on. Good.

Let’s talk privacy. Many of Upvoted’s posts include comments from users. Does the editorial staff ask permission before a comment is used in their curated content, or does the terms and agreements of the site already opt every user in to be fair game? This is an important question because of the “throwaway account” culture on Reddit; people who don’t want their comments or questions associated with their regular usernames will often create a burner account. Make a comment, ask a question, and never touch the username again. I don’t have an answer yet, but I will update this segment when I get a clear answer.

Social Media: Bridging the Gap Between Police and Public

The number of police brutality cases seem to be at an all time high. Is it because corruption and abuse of power within the local authorities has gone up in the past two decades, or is it because social media outlets have allowed citizens to to record and report these incidents more easily? Nearly everyone with access to a smartphone and the Internet can record instants of police brutality and broadcast it, so it’s no wonder we’re hearing more and more about it on channels like Youtube and sites like Reddit. Not only does this put power in the hands of civilians, instances like the death of Eric Garner forces institutions like the NYPD to change the way they train their officers. But this begs the question: why weren’t our officers trained properly to begin with? Why does it take a huge blow to the reputation of the NYPD to inspire any change at all? Perhaps there are changes, and we’re just not hearing about them.

Local authorities and other government institutions don’t have a stellar reputation because they don’t have a stellar presence online. The Internet is where most people get their news today. It’s where they find the most interesting stories about heroics, and the problem here is that the police aren’t broadcasting their good deeds well enough. Until recently. Just take a look at his story of an NYPD officer who saved a baby’s life by performing CPR found on Gothamist. Rather than posting the usual dry and detailed press releases that clinically describe what happened on the case, they posted it on their Facebook Page, giving the officer and the department a more human face in a place where humans tend to congregate and socialize: social media sites.

In all honesty, the reports of police department misdeeds are like Yelp reviews: people post negative reviews more often because a complaint is easier to write than a compliment; we don’t see the whole story. It’s up to the police departments to take their reputations into their own hands and really work on showing off their positive deeds where people can see them. The bridge between the public and the police are wide enough. Cops are supposed to be protecting the people. Our tax dollars pay their salaries, and they should live by the mantra they have printed on the sides of their cars: CPR, which stands for Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect. These are the things civilians should expect and experience from the police, not what the police should expect or demand from the citizens. To every precinct in America: if you want respect to go both ways, show us you are on our side, and we will gladly have you on ours. Speak to us where we can hear you. Like with every institution in the world, you must adapt and adopt new forms of media and communications, or you will be left behind.