Tag Archive for big data

On the internet, no one knows you’re a bot….



I will go so far as to say that this is a pervasive problem.  Not the idea of anonymity, but rather this type of abuse of anonymity.   Twitter is the most obvious place to find these kinds of networks of imaginary followers, but it’s far from the only place.  Automated systems can (and have) been built to boost ratings for You Tube videos, dog-pile comment sections, adjust app rankings, you name it, on the internet, there seems to be a bot for it.

The thing is, nobody *really* wants to look closely at those numbers.  Anyone with a million followers on Twitter is not going to be interested in figuring out what percent of those are real and what percent are bots.  The paycheck is in the aggregate, in being able to sell to advertisers or throw your weight around.  So it behooves those bots to follow your lead.  The people who run those networks of bots need them to be valuable enough to not be run off, so they re-tweet, they signal boost, the amplify the signal of whomever they follow.

They don’t think, they don’t have morals, they don’t care, they just copy.  In doing so, they can give a megaphone to a great cause or a sh*tty one.  They can run people entirely off the internet forever, or draw eyeballs to a situation that needs to be discovered.

But in order to determine just how much of that signal-bump is real, you have to dig into it.  Data-mining is the only way to try to figure out where the real influencers are versus the ones that are just digital myna-birds.

Gravity well

This is actually a little more disturbing to me than the idea of drones in our cities, or government data mining on a grand scale.  In part because those things, well, bucking against those is a bit obvious, isn’t it?  But this kind of thing, companies mining your data to give you what they think you want.  Well that’s just pernicious.  There is already a tendency to bubble-up, to surround yourself consciously or unconsciously online with people of a like mind and of like opinions.

This idea of data comin’ to you takes your agency out of the picture.  Instead of you actively seeking like opinions, and running the “risk” of wandering into places where you might be exposed to something new, something that might change your mind, you are, in essence, going to be spoon-fed information.  The data will be mined, the numbers crunched and you will be handed just what you want, or what the algorithm *thinks* you want.

Which isn’t all bad, I mean, you’re getting what you want, right?

But think about marketers.  Think about SEO and pay-per-click advertising.  Do you really think that is going to remain an untapped resource for them?  This kind of thing is a freaking goldmine.  They can advertise directly to the interested parties.  Target individuals who might be lured from a competitor.

But, it will give you what you want.  You’ll get advertisements that are for things you might actually consider buying (or for things you already have, validating your choices).  You won’t have to put up with boobie-riddled vodka ads or discounts on Pampers (unless those are things you are into, of course).

BUT, you may tell me, you’re going to get things you don’t want as well.  Advertiser Wars, people aggressively targeting customer and fanbases of their competitors products.

Well, yes and no.  If you have to pay per click, then you want to have each of those clicks be as close to a sale as possible.  You want already interested parties to click, people who have a higher percentage of actually buying your product.  Expanding your userbase is a much more dicey proposition, in fact it’s an “investment” which means you are going to spend a ton of money without a clear and obvious return for a while.  So unless an advertiser is in the mood (or has the cash) to get expansive, they are probably going to spend their budget on people who will return a sale.

But you will still get what you want, right?

Thing is though, you are LOSING something in all of this.  You are losing the opportunity to change your mind.  You are putting yourself in the position of being easily manipulated because, by closing out opposing opinions, you will find yourself doing whatever *they* (whichever “they” you happen to consort with) tell you, simply because you are less aware of the alternatives.