a feminist technology blog

Month: July 2006 (Page 2 of 3)

links for 2006-07-13

MySpace is Too Scary to Advertise On

My assertion yesterday that advertisers aren’t going to keep flocking to MySpace is born out by this editorial by strategic consultant Mark Naples on iMedia:

Look for different kinds of branding campaigns than we’ve seen before to proliferate on MySpace. The kind of edgier video that makes its way virally around the web will increasingly be distributed, if not spawned on MySpace. If you’re an advertiser doing something very different than what is accepted on most sites, and you want to increase the buzz among those under 30, looking at MySpace may make some sense. But, for those of us who have been waiting for and advocating for larger and more established brands to spend their money online, the last thing we want to do is drag them to a suburban house party filled with teens and college kids, behaving in ways that they would only behave there– that is, until MySpace.

Again we see the disapproving voice of the parent, scandalized by what teens are doing online. Ho hum. But it is precisely this prudence (or prudery) that will prevent “established brands” from flocking to the site, which is probably a good thing. All the kids I’ve talked to who want microtargeted advertising want it because they don’t like seeing ads that aren’t relevant to them. They would way rather see something from Panic! At the Disco (a band that basically broke on MySpace) or the Scion (or, if the Facebook’s Pulse section is to believed, Coldplay or Jack Johnson.. snore) than something from Verizon or 1-800-PETMEDS (which is the current banner on my MySpace page). Honestly, MySpace’s current advertising is low-budget and of the “Get 1000 Smileys FREE!” variety, so they have a long way to go before advertisers really need to start worrying about whether or not to buy space on the site.

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ClickTale: Where’s the Consent?

TechCrunch blogs about a new tool that lets website proprietors watch what their users do. And I do mean watch. They provide “movies of users’ individual browsing sessions” including all mouse movement, clicks, and keystrokes. They also aggregate data to provide overall statistics.

These types of tools are often used in usability studies to make websites more accessible or information easier to find. However, in usability studies, there is full disclosure and the participants are usually paid.

The interesting point is that this service will be made available to everyone and not only to big corporations greedy in user stats. ClickTale is a hosted service, so no installation is needed on the server-side or client-side and setup takes only a few minutes. Webmasters add a small piece of javascript code to their webpages. The javascript collects browsing data and transmits it to the ClickTale servers for processing. ClickTale creates movies of browsing sessions almost instantaneously and webmasters can log-in securely at anytime to view these movies. This point is important: Indeed the technology is site centric, meaning not based on a panel of users but on the site total active user base.

It’s nice to think about this in terms of usability and bloggers and indie websites, but in reality how is ClickTale going to make money? Through its relationship with enterprise customers. I am sure that the free package is only the tip of the iceberg, and that paid customers get far more advanced user tracking tools. Ouriel at TechCrunch mentions the privacy features: only website owners can view the results, no personal information is tracked, no password tracking.

But there is no consent and no means to inform the user that they are tracked. While a few people voice privacy concerns on the comments to this entry, the responses are:
1. Privacy’s dead, get over it –and
2. That is a niche user preference.

Arik from ClickTale says in the comments:

LOL. You might be surprised but most of the users are not concerned by this like you do. This is a personal preference and we respect that. There is an option to install a cookie that will disable the service for you (more on this in our soon to be released privacy policy), or you can use whatever tools that you are familiar with if you don’t like cookies.

Again, privacy is reduced to a boutique concern of a small number of users. This is unbelievably irresponsible and I have no problem calling ClickTale out on that. There are plenty of ways they could require informed consent from users, but they know that marketers far prefer users not to know about tracking, because users will then opt out. These types of technologies should not be opt-out in the first place, and I am curious how this will fly in the EU where privacy rights are more strict than they are in the United States (which has some of the weakest privacy rights in the world).

BTW, as I’ve written about before, “personal information” does somehow not include IP addresses. But an IP address is a perfectly legitimate personal identifier (just ask the RIAA) and it’s specious to think otherwise.

The argument “privacy is dead anyway” is a straw man. Privacy rights have diminished greatly in the United States because people don’t know that most privacy violations are going on, people don’t know what their rights are, and because the government has not legislated any sort of privacy protections. If these things changed, we could have a greater expectation of privacy. To say “there’s nothing we can do” ignores the fact that we are going to see more technologies like this which are increasingly intrusive and problematic.

My solution would be legislative, since neither marketers nor technology companies seem to be able to follow an internal code of ethics. Similar to anti-spam laws, technologies which track user data should a) notify the user and b) require consent to proceed. I also believe that tracking cookies (like DoubleClick) violate privacy, and this type of requirement would cover those as well.

Now off my high horse. I have to catch up with go fug yourself.

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c|net: women like shiny things, revisited

I’ve blogged before about my infuriation with technology companies who market to “women” as if they are a monolithic group consisting of mommies and fashion junkies. Today, CNET gets into the action with a really condescending article about women and gadgets. Some choice excerpts:

“It’s increasingly not just about having a gadget, but having a functional product that enhances the life of the family,” said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis for The NPD Group. “The idea that people go online to go shopping–that makes the computer (purchase) something of a household decision. It’s not just guys in charge of the gadgets.”
Gadgets for girls

Whether the wallet is being wielded by a stay-at-home mom, a working woman or any of the other countless variations on the 21st century female, gadget makers are taking note. Major companies including Apple Computer, Motorola, Eastman Kodak, Sony and Nintendo are giving products like cell phones, USB flash drives and handheld game devices bursts of color and graceful lines, and featuring women prominently in ads. Some designers, meanwhile, are developing products with an exclusively female audience in mind.

These “countless variations” are still family-oriented. There are just as many married men as there are married women (duh), but you don’t see articles about gadgets singling out that they are for men– that’s by default, I suppose– or mentioning kids or family responsibilities.

If there’s a theme, it seems women are attracted to portable gadgets like cell phones, digital cameras and notebook computers, which, according to NPD’s Baker, “tend to do better with women than big, desktop, stationary kinds of products.”

No way! Like everyone else? I know that all the men I know would much rather have a giant, heavy boom box than an iPod video.

“Women don’t want anything but an iPod,” she said. “Most of them won’t go outside the iPod circle for an MP3 player.”

Part of the appeal has to do with the abundance of iPod accessories, Hughes says. Another factor? Advertising. “The way that Apple advertises…they advertise hip. It doesn’t seem like a nerdy thing. It’s hip. It’s fashion.”

Thanks Hughes. I hope you’re not getting paid the big bucks for your invaluable consulting advice. The article does gently point out that she’s totally wrong and that there’s no evidence that women purchase iPods more than men do. I would also like to point out that the iPod has major market share in all demographics. Overall, this article completely jettisons any discussion of features, or functionality in favor of vague generalizations about style and design.

The trackbacks and comments are way better, pointing out that it might be nice to focus on women users in all articles, rather than run one of these tired pieces every three months. I’d also like to see more on women technologists in general, about sexism in technology culture, and also on use of technology by actual people, rather than these “consultants” who are totally talking out of their ass making major generalizations about how “women” use technology. Women make up the majority of bloggers and the majority of teens using social software are girls.

Women are more than half the population. Can we please stop talking about women as a monolithic group? Thank you.

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a little too close to home?

This was one of the featured topics in the Cafe Press newsletter this morning:

Nuclear Reactions: Iran, North Korea, and You

Does this strike anyone else as odd? The other featured topics are the World Cup and something suspiciously artificial-sounding called “Parents Day”.

links for 2006-07-12

myspace #1 site last week

Maybe I should just rename this “The MySpace blog”. Hitwise reports that MySpace was the #1 most visited internet site last week, accounting for 4.5 of all U.S. internet visits. (This is a 4300% increase in the last 2 years and 132% since last year).

I still maintain MySpace is jumping the shark. All the advertising blogs I read are indicating that MySpace is too shady for mainstream advertisers, so now they’re all trying to figure out how to monetize YouTube.

BTW: Read of the Day is danah boyd & Henry Jenkins, two scholars I greatly respect, on MySpace and Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA). A must read if you care about these issues at all.

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links for 2006-07-11

Link roundup for July 8, 2006

Interesting MySpace profile that incorporates a Flash overlay.

Elaborate if tacky MySpace layouts.

Adds a ton of web2.0 integration to wordpress blogs.

links for 2006-07-07

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