Saturday, December 20, 2014

How Private is Private?

A current court case wending its way through NY has some implications for all of us and how we use social media.  How many people do you share your posts with?  On Twitter, the case is pretty strong for law enforcement to have access to these during an investigation.  Anyone can follow you without your permission and then can retweet it to anyone they want.  So there is very little expectation of privacy. 

On the other hand with Facebook, you have the option to share only with your direct links.  Furthermore, you can set up your privacy settings so your friends can’t forward it/repost it to others.  But the current law suggests that even this is not a sure thing.  If you have only five FB friends, and they are all real friends, you can probably be sure that they will follow your wishes and you therefore have an expectation of privacy.  So law enforcement can’t get access to it by subpoena to Facebook. 

But if you have 500 FB connections, a reasonably aware person should know that no matter what your settings are, things can get out. Especially if they are juicy.  So the courts are leaning towards allowing law enforcement access to this information if they have enough probable cause to get a subpoena. 

My Take

So what this really may tell you is that when you get those random friend requests from people you don’t really know, you may be better off turning them down.  Not just because they will clutter your news feed with posts you don’t care about, but because it may protect you from subpoena later on.  And please don’t say “but if you haven’t done anything wrong you have nothing to worry about anyway.”  There are plenty of cases where someone was investigated based on very little evidence and had their reputations ruined by the time their innocence was established.  So it matters for all of us.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Marijuana humidors in our future?

The opening up of Cuba and the growth of medical marijuana legalization got me thinking. You need to store these items in a way that keeps them fresh.  They are pretty expensive and they lose their functional value as a substance as well as extrinsic price if not stored in the proper conditioners. 

Now I see that there is a weed of the month club that could increase the need for effective storage solutions.  So standard cigar humidors work for weed?  Would they work for the really high end Cuban cigars that we might be importing soon?  Just how high end do I need to go?  My regular cigar box probably won't cut it.  But I don't want to drop $1,000 either.

This Week in EID – Episode 33

We have some very practical but future thinking ideas on Ergonomics in Design this week.  If you think those are contradictory, please take a look at the articles.

For example, on Monday we talked about the electronic-only residency program that has been launched by Estonia.  This is a reality, although at the cutting edge of e-Gov inititiatives.  Whether it is really practical or not I guess depends in part on how many people sign up and if they get some benefits from it.  But I have no doubt that what we learn from the exercise will lead e-Gov development going forward.

Tuesday’s example may be the future, but probably not exactly as suggested in the article (so it is still forward thinking).  In a few different LinkedIn groups, ergonomics, design, and optimization experts have weighed in on some challenges with the design. But the approach seems to match what airlines are trying to do, so I suspect something along these lines will be our reality.

I really liked the Wednesday post.  In part because it goes against conventional wisdom and I love when that happens.  But also because it suggests that aging might not be as bad for cognition as we previous thought and since I am getting old soon enough it gives me personal hope. 

And Thursday, I cited a report that found that the data many people are basing their social media research on is flawed well beyond what we appreciated.  There are many sources of bias that, when added together, might make all of our generalized findings suspect.  Back to the drawing board.  And since my personal expertise is in designing research methods with internal and external validity, I am happy to work with these social media companies to restructure their approaches.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The future of content marketing

I don’t often talk about the content marketing side of my consulting business here on my blog.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, content strategy is a powerful business tool and content marketing is potentially the future of marketing in a variety of ways. 

The basic idea of content is not new.  Write content so that it gives users something that they need, written in a way that they can use, at the right time, in the right place, on the right medium.  For those of us in user experience, this is pretty straightforward. But using it in marketing is still controversial, despite the fact that it has been growing steadily over the past 10 years or so.

Think about the standard advertisement.  It promotes a product or service, telling you about its features, its strengths, its price --- perhaps offering a discount or a slogan or a pitch --- perhaps using social proof to tell you how many other people use it --- and so on.  On the other hand, content marketing would give you information that is useful whether you purchase that particular product or not.  How to decide whether to get an iOS or Android smartphone, whether you get the Galaxy or not.  How to decide whether to buy organic apples or not, whether you shop at Wholefoods or not. 

There are some classics that are powerful examples. Scrivener’s published a magazine over 100 years ago that highlighted engaging articles about famous authors like Hemmingway.  They happened to be a book publisher and if you purchased a Hemmingway book they would make some money. But the magazine was great whether you bought the book or not.  Kraft offers recipe books that just happen to note when you can use Kraft cheddar or Italian dressing, but you don’t have to and the recipes still work.

A newer movement in this space is to partner with serious journalists to create very high quality content.  Time Magazine and the New York Times have new divisions where they will assign journalists to work with clients to write advertorial sections such as Exxon Mobile on clean energy or Norton on computer security. 

In Chief Content Officer magazine last month, Joe Pulizzi (who is one of the best thought leaders in content marketing) wrote an editorial with an interesting speculation. At the moment, Apple and Microsoft and many other tech companies have more spare cash on hand than the entire market cap of the New York Times.  Jeff Bezos just personally bought the Washington Post.  So why not just cut out the middle man?  Why doesn’t Apple recreate the New York Times, with high quality, hard hitting, investigative reporting, but as brand journalism rather than a newspaper?  Red Bull’s YouTube video channel becomes a real TV network. Kraft’s food magazine becomes the next Gourmet magazine.  Marriott’s travel and tourism web site becomes the next Orbitz.  

What do you think?  Would these media have the credibility of Time magazine, the Food Network, or Conde Nast?

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Marky Mark's atonement

Some of you may not be familiar with a story that is making the rounds in Boston this week, but Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg) is back in the news.  He has a chain of hamburger restaurants and he wants to expand.  The problem is that he is not allowed by law because he has a felony on his record from beating the crap out of someone when he was young and impulsive.  Since then, he has atoned.  He has found religion.  He is a new man.  And he wants a pardon from the governor (who is leaving office this month), and has admitted that he is asking specifically so that he can expand his hamburger chain.

I have a bunch of questions on this case.  Perhaps the first question is why someone is prohibited from expanding the hamburger restaurant chain because of a 20 year old felony conviction.  There are people who get elected to state or national political office with felonies on their record, but you can’t expand a hamburger chain?  Something is definitely wrong there.

But let’s put that aside for now and look at Mark Wahlberg’s current problem.  Is his atonement believable?  He admitted he is only asking for the pardon because of the restaurant situation.  But according to the news, he has been practicing his atoned behavior for many years now and really seems like a changed person.  Except for one thing.  Apparently, he never asked forgiveness from the family of the guy he beat up.  Only from the governor.  Does that call into question the truth of this atonement? 

Second question is the difference between legal forgiveness and personal forgiveness.  It is very healthy to forgive anyone who has wronged you (link).  But the government isn’t a person and doesn’t need to worry about its psychological health.  If we imagine that there is a legitimate reason for a law that prohibits felons from having restaurant chains, should the governor grant pardons to get around it?  He still did the crime and did the time.  What is a legal pardon anyway?  I have always wondered about that. If a pardon is given because the law was unfair or perhaps changed since.  Or if the trial was unfair but not enough to be overturned.  But being sorry is a good reason to be personally forgiven, but not legally.  At least not for me.

I am not really sure what I think about this situation.  I think the original prohibition is foolish so my thoughts of the subsequent events is clouded.  But it is a good strawman to think about it.  And it is always e kick to make fun of Marky Mark since that is what many people called me in high school. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

This Week in EID – Episode 32

Wow, what a week of society-level issues in EID.  We talked about world peace, climate change, the Ferguson and Staten Island police stories, and video games.  Well, maybe video games don’t rise to the same level as the other ones, but still.

I think there was an underlying theme to these posts though.  Human Factors can be a much more powerful discipline than we often realize. We can have a (positive) impact on many aspects of society that we don’t target. We spend time focusing on the UI of the latest smart phone app.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, it is just that we can do so much more. 

I guess I am asking that each of us allocate a little bit of our time and effort on the bigger pictures around us.  Are you in?