a feminist technology blog

Month: June 2006 (Page 1 of 3)

links for 2006-06-21

Link roundup for June 17, 2006

I still want more specifics on how large these tracking networks are, and what are the specific cookies that users get tracked by. You know, so I can block them.

File this one under RIAA: Cluelessness of

I wrote a really fun paper last semester for Faye Ginsburg’s Anthropology of Media class on Google Idol (see some of my del.icio.us links here). I got really into Henry Jenkins’ work on participatory culture and ended up heralding these types of sites as examples of new fan-created content that moves beyond derivative works and towards entirely creative and interesting new types of media.

In a brilliant scheme guaranteed not to anger anyone, the RIAA has decided that lipsynching YouTube users are a huge threat to their rapidly sinking profits and have started sending C&D letters to violators. Let me see, how can I make this more clear?

1. The lipsynchers obviously already own the song if they are lipsynching to it.

2. They are obviously fans of the song.

3. They are basically doing free promotion of the song.

4. Nobody in their right mind would *not* buy a Backstreet Boys CD because they had a copy of the Two Chinese Boys lipsynching to it.

5. Everyone already hates the RIAA, and even Hilary Rosen has stated that she thinks suing customers was a bad idea (no!! you think??). At a time where forward thinking companies are starting blogs to talk directly to their consumers, holding remix contests (see the Pretty Girls Make Graves video contest on YouTube), working with Google Idol to promote their songs, and the like, cracking down on fifteen year old girls lipsynching to Little Mermaid lyrics is stupid, counterproductive, and just plain mean.

I will be glad to see these companies crumble and die. They deserve it.

Link roundup for June 16, 2006


Cool aggregate of RSS feeds of new mashups, etc.

cool mashups blog/news/aggregator.

Link roundup for June 15, 2006


Nowadays they have newfangled machines that include wind effects and animation.

Review: MySpace IM

MySpace launched its instant messenger clone in beta a few months back and now it appears to be ready for prime time. I installed it and have a few thoughts on the product.

Setup is easy, just download and install the application.

However, adding friends is a big pain. The app doesn’t autopopulate your friends list, and there’s no feature to let you add all of them at once. Rather, clicking “Add Your Friends to IM” brings up your Friends, 20 per page, sorted (as usual) by date the person joined MySpace. (The way your FL is sorted, BTW, is one of my top pet peeves of the site, because it makes it really difficult to find people if you have large numbers of friends. Why can’t they institute alphabetical sorting already?) Since you can’t see all your friends on one page, you have to go page by page and click “add everyone on this page to IM” which, if you have 321 friends like I do, is a big pain in the ass. I had to do this 18 times.

The second obvious flaw is that the application does not integrate with MySpace’s pre-existing IM feature. I’d expect that my Friends who are on MySpace currently would display within the IM application as “online now”. But this isn’t the case. Rather, in order to chat with your MySpace friends through the application, they need to install and configure it. So the IM is basically useless if your friends haven’t bothered to do so. As a result, the only one of my “friends” online is “Tom”.

What works

– Smooth interface without too much extraneous advertising; less intrusive than MSN or AIM (I use Trillian and Google Talk).
– Makes it very easy to access various MySpace features
– Plus, gives MySpace persistent desktop real estate.
– Easy application installation

What doesn’t work

– Setting up friends is a big pain
– Should integrate with pre-existing MySpace IM/PM features

Overall: A great deal of room for improvement. I won’t be using this until enough of my friends install it for it to become compelling. MySpace should also realize that their early adopters on these types of technologies will likely be power users who have tons of friends, and adjust the UI accordingly.

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myspace searching for search, advertising

Two very similar stories this morning: MySpace (News Corp) seeking online advertising partner and MySpace seeks search partner. In both cases, they’re talking to the usual suspects, Google, Yahoo! and MSN about search, and they’re looking to “acquire” an online advertising company.

What this means is really not much, except MySpace could certainly use a better search engine. There is one bit of info in the Mediapost article that “20 percent of the ad dollars comes from display impressions, with the rest stemming from sales of remnant inventory.” What does that mean? Remnant inventory of what? I’m extremely curious about what types of personal information MySpace’s advertisers use for targeting: profile info? behavior? I am almost positive it’s both, although I can’t seem to find any indication from News Corp one way or another. They definitely don’t claim to protect personal info.

In other news, eBay (who owns Skype, which I didn’t know) is finally integrating the two. They’re adding them mostly to high-cost, high-profile auctions where buyer-to-seller communication is necessary (meaning Skype buttons will probably not show up on my vintage dresses and wedge heel auctions). This is really interesting, especially since it’s sort of zero-to-sixty; eBay could have integrated text chat or IM a long time ago, and they stuck to email. So I’m not sure if this is a needed technological integration as much as it is eBay having to prove that they didn’t make a mistake acquiring Skype, a company that has little to do with their core business.

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links for 2006-06-14

links for 2006-06-13

marketing surveillance 1: behavioral marketing

I talk a lot about online data mining and aggregation. Let’s talk specifically about the techniques online advertisers use to collect and “monetize” user information. First up is “behavioral marketing”, a hot buzzword in marketing since 2004.

Behavioral marketing is marketing to people based on their behavior. Say I sell pizza. I want to market my pizza directly towards people whose behavior shows that they are receptive to, or interested in, my pizza. Offline, it’s not that easy to figure this out: you could mine my grocery store rewards card to find that I like to buy frozen pizza, or you could access Domino’s or Local Pizzeria phone records, but all this information is locked up in “information silos” and not easy to combine. However, online the problem is that there is too much data, not too little. Thus, marketers concentrate on “high value data points”.

From iMedia:

The overriding and proven assumption here is that what pages Web site visitors click on and where they go from those pages indicates at least a presumptive interest in buying products related to the topics that they click on. For example, repeat visits to a Web page with reviews of sport utility vehicles, coupled with a cruise to the automotive section of classified ads on a site, clearly indicate at least a curiosity about SUVs.

Now, let us suppose that same visitor is also going to pages where she clicks through to an online book seller to a book about how to help your child adjust to kindergarten. Behavioral targeting specialists may look at this data and start to conclude that the site visitor is looking for an SUV to fit the transportation needs of her growing brood.

Often, this information is not just gleaned from one visit, but repeat visits over time. Perhaps on the first few visits to a newspaper site, most clicks are to articles about SUVs. On the second visit, or maybe the third, the articles are revisited, but the customer also clicks on the automotive ads. It does not take a degree in rocket science (or in marketing, for that matter) to recognize the likelihood the customer is on a likely trajectory from “investigate” to “purchase.”

This behavior, then, is extremely individualized, and marketing is designed to interface with users at the point where their behavior indicates they might be ready to purchase.

(Com scholars will appreciate this piece comparing mass advertising to the magic bullet theory & behavioral marketing to uses & gratifications theory.)

Here’s an illustration of how this works:

1. Users visit websites
2. Their site visits are tracked and aggregated across the sites using tracking cookies
3. Users are shuffled into psychographic/demographic groups based on behavior (like “hip mamas” or “car enthusiasts under 40”)
4. Users see different ads based on their demographic group.

This method is a perfect fit for Web2.0 companies (via Charlene Li):

A case in point: digg.com produces no content of their own but has a very unique way to look into the interests of its users. Kevin showed a very cool software tool they use internally called “Trace” that looks at the stories a specific user is reading, and shows in real time how that user’s attention jumps to other topics. Kevin also showed how “diggers” were related to each other based on the stories they mutually “dugg”. The traditional “audience management” advocates like Tacoda have shifted toward behavioral targeting, but at the core, understanding users at a highly granular level will be an essential skill for media companies.

Awesome! So keep this in mind next time you put together a kick-ass, totally personalized, super Web2.0 experience for yourself.

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