a feminist technology blog

Month: May 2009

Technological Woes, Continued

… And now my Twitter account got suspended, probably because I have a link to tiara.org on my Twitter page. It’s under review, but Twitter doesn’t have the greatest appeals process for suspected spammers. I must have really pissed off some patron saint of technology out there.

We’ll see how long it takes for my iPhone to stop working or my laptops to explode.

My apologies

Somebody hacked my site yesterday and added iFrame code to two pages, start.html and lj_bib.html, which redirected users to some shady-ass spam/malware site. So the entirety of tiara.org has been blocked. I’ve fixed the problem, changed my password, and submitted the site to Google Webmaster tools for re-analysis, so everything should be back to normal in a day or two.

I’ve traced the hack to a major Dreamhost security breach, where 3,500 account passwords were “compromised,” mine probably among them.

I was impressed that Google Safe Browsing identified the exact pages that had been hacked and the links I should look for, which made it (relatively) easy to fix.

Some celeb twitter tools

So I’m working on a project about celebrity use of Twitter. Here are a few recent tools I’ve found to be endlessly entertaining when looking at celebs, status, and social norms on Twitter:

  • Who Celebs Tweet, with the tagline: Have they tweeted you? I find this the most interesting because they have a very clear demarcation between who is a celeb and who isn’t. Like, according to them, Heidi Montag is not a celeb. I don’t necessarily think she should be a celeb, but to deny that she’s famous seems odd. Maybe the proprietors never read the tabloids.
  • TweetingTooHard.com – this is sort of like Texts From Last Night minus all the drunk skulduggery and adding a lot of self-aggrandizing obnoxiousness. Tops now is “fan belt light came on in the 911 so now I’m driving the Cayenne Turbo S – the backup, backup car. Trying not to think about the Tesla…” That’s pretty bad.
  • Truth Tweet attempts to verify celebrity Twitter accounts, using all sorts of sources to do so. Extremely useful for my purposes (e.g. nerdily making lists of what signals celebrity “authenticity” on Twitter).

Tumblarity and Quantified Stand-ins for Social Status

So Tumblr launched its Tumblarity index last week. (Here’s Gawker’s obnoxious take.)

Tumblarity is a metric that measures one’s popularity, or degree of Tumblr-ness, depending on who you ask. It’s displayed on a nifty stats page modeled after The Feltron Report. Tumblr hasn’t revealed exactly what it uses to calculate this number, but it certainly includes number of posts, followers, likes, and reblogs. My Tumblarity is 3 (which is very, very sad, in case you’re wondering), but if it were higher, I could see where I rank in the top 50,000 Tumblogs or in my local area.

I stole this image from download squad so you can see what a slightly better Tumblarity score looks like:

stolen tumblarity

Like number of Twitter followers, Tumblarity is a quantified metric: a number that stands in for more complex social phenomena, like popularity or status. Tumblr helpfully includes leaderboards to make it extra-easy to compare Tumblarity with your friends, rivals, and frenemies, causing tech dorks pundits to complain about the “popularity contest” aspect of the feature.

A few basic things about quantified metrics:

1) They are always stand-ins for more complicated status measures. A single number cannot possibly convey the nuances involved in social status and social hierarchy (e.g. Why do so many people read your Tumblr? What group/subculture/community does it appeal to? What actions do you take to maintain this status? What does your community value that your blog provides?).

2) Techie/geek/engineer types love quantified metrics precisely because they facilitate comparison. Several of my informants talked about how Silicon Valley types love talking about VC funding and valuation because they allow people to attach clear numbers to companies in order to rank them (and convey status on their CEOs, VCs, and employees). (See also those obnoxious “30 under 30,” “100 Most Influential People in SV,” ranking lists.)

Clearly, people in general also like comparative metrics — see the high score lists at arcades, the Fortune 500, the Best Dressed list, etc.– but they’re becoming increasingly prevalent in social software (built by nerds).

3) Quantified status metrics spur competition and therefore increase user action. I’m assuming Tumblr is trying to reward certain types of behavior, which in this case is pretty obvious: Tumble a lot, follow lots of people, reblog a lot = spend more time on the site = benefit to the company.

4) Social status is an under-studied, under-rated aspect of product design and motivation for user action. This is the subject of my dissertation and I’m seeing increasingly explicit aspects of this in social software (which: yay!).

But let’s not fool ourselves that an algorithmically-generated number “is” social status. I’m sure there are tons of sub-groupings and communities on Tumblr that value different things. I’m sure the top 100 Tumblr users are popular for different reasons. I’m sure there are Tumblr conventions and social mores that mark someone as an insider or outsider, a newbie or a jaded user. There are many good business reasons for the company to boil this down to a single number, but it only tells us a little bit of the overall story. Tumblrites: ideas?

In Lieu of Writing a Real Post, I Post a Video

Here’s the @100interviews video of me from SXSW. Note I look exhausted. That’s because it’s halfway through South by and I was exhausted. Good basic overview of my dissertation.

Alice Marwick 100 Interviews

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