What Is Mandarin for Finesse? TikTok, Perhaps?

June 17, 2022

I read “TikTok Exec: We’re Not a Social Network Like Facebook. We’re an Entertainment Platform.” That is an interesting way to describe the short video service, monetization platform, and data gobbling system. TikTok may not want to position itself to be a social network. But Facebook (and Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind) sure wants to be just like TikTok. One difference is that the possible links to a certain beefy nation state are not desirable.

The write up presents the TikTok positioning or what I call shape shifting finesse tactic. The write up presents a few interesting factoids and assertions; to wit:

  1. [Facebook] “will likely run into trouble if it tries to copy TikTok, and will end up offering an inferior experience to users and brands.”
  2. TikTok “did not fully embrace or see … how social this format [TikTok’s short form videos] could be.
  3. “History is not on Zuckerberg’s side.”
  4. TikTok has “an array of competitors across the world, including businesses in e-commerce and live streaming.”
  5. TikTok has not experienced an advertising slow down.

I am not sure about my enthusiasm for these observations. Perhaps more attention on the link to a certain nation state, data collection, and the use case for a nation state to have a real time feed of who, what, when, where, and similar data might be useful.

I mean “we’re not like” statements are dry runs for US government committee hearings. I can say that I am not like a small 1962 VW bug. What does that provide? Not much.

Stephen E Arnold, June 17, 2022

Another Baby Step Toward the Metaverse

June 17, 2022

Not one to be outdone by rivals like Meta and Snap, VentureBeat reports, “TikTok Launches Avatars for Creative Expression.” We wonder what what’s Mr. Zuckerberg’s avatar looks like. Citing the company’s blog post, writer Dean Takahashi reports:

“Available globally, TikTok Avatars is a new way for people to express themselves and create content on TikTok, opening doors to new and dynamic content. It feels like a step toward multiplayer gaming, where avatars are very popular, as well as the metaverse. Users will be able to select from a variety of preferences within the app, from hairstyles to accessories, to create an avatar that reflects a unique look and personality. Once customized, users can record videos as their avatars. TikTok said it created TikTok Avatars for everybody and worked to make sure the experience is as inclusive as possible. It will continue to improve and innovate to make sure the experience is representative of everyone on TikTok and will continue to listen to the community for feedback at every step of the development.”

Yes, they must be very careful not to run afoul of the inclusion police. The brief write-up continues:

“The company said it is building spaces across TikTok for virtual self expression and exploring ways people can connect and create across our global community.”

Might those spaces be metaverse-adjacent, perhaps? It seems TikTok is joining Meta and others on the cliff’s edge, getting ready to make the virtual-reality leap.

Cynthia Murrell, June 17, 2022

TikTok: Can One Monetize Human Smuggling?

June 6, 2022

Selling or renting people for illegal purposes remains an area of interest to government officials. Disruptions like Russia’s special action in Ukraine have contributed to the flow of product. I read “Inside the Risky World of Migrant TikTok” and learned:

migrant TikTok[is] an ecosystem of content by and for migrants often repurposed to advertise and promote perilous, sometimes deadly journeys across closed European borders.

The write up added:

experts pointed to migrant TikTok as a new entry point for young people into the world of irregular migration. The absence of reliable information means that social media has long played a role in helping people share advice, with Facebook groups and other private channels acting as informal hubs for knowledge: how to travel, whom to contact. But with the rise of apps like TikTok where posts are public, compounded by recommender algorithms that repeatedly suggest similar content, virality [sic] has given this information greater reach among people who aren’t actively searching for it.

The article includes an interesting observation about the smart software in use at Zuckbook and TikTok; to wit:

Social media companies like TikTok and Meta increasingly employ AI systems to moderate content at scale. But since these AI systems are context-blind, digital rights activists say they can end up missing, for example, a key word in dialect. That keyword may continue to feed similar content onto a user’s timeline.

The European Union is poking into this subject and regulations may emerge:

New EU legislation attempts to mandate the monitoring of online smuggling networks and even algorithm transparency, while agencies like Frontex and Europol have tried to use data scraping to inform predictive analysis models for what routes illegal migrants might use. So far, it’s resulted in a tug of war that leaves the content largely up and available.

The write up points to a word like haraga (?????) or harraga when converted to Kentucky speak’s colloquial “those who burn at the borders.” (Klassy Kentucky, of course.)

I was curious about the estimable Google. The link to search YouTube’s version of TikTok is at this link. Now enter the term “haraga”. Here’s the result I saw using my “we track you, Beyond Search person:


Yep, looks like the type of content discussed in the cited article.

What about the spelling harraga:


To sum up, the focus on TikTok is good. TikTok is gnawing into the viewing habits of people younger than I. Facebook and Google want to check the China-affiliated super app. The Google’s filtering system may need some tweaking to cope with the migration information findable to some degree on YouTube.

Several observations:

  1. More attention should be directed at TikTok and other short video platforms as well
  2. Smart software has not been turned to filter certain content some European border control professionals might like
  3. The EU regulatory moves warrant watching. Now there’s a story for the big US media to explore.
  4. Where there is traffic, there will be ads.

Net net: The content related possibly illegal trans border activity is one more example about the growing influence of TikTok. The flip side is that Zuckbook and Google may find themselves “following.” I do not give this a “like.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 6, 2022

Senior Citizens Take to TikTok

June 1, 2022

More bad news for Facebook? Yep.

We learn from The Guardian, “Older People Using TikTok to Defy Ageist Stereotypes, Research Finds.” Does an influx of Boomers and above on the typically Gen-Z platform counteract the image of frail and technophobic oldsters? We are told their millions of followers suggest it just might. Citing a recent study, reporter Amelia Hill writes:

“The paper looked at 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users who were aged 60 or older and had between 100,000 and 5.3 million followers. In total, their videos, all of which explicitly discussed their age, had been viewed more than 3.5bn times. Ng found that 71% of these videos – including those from accounts such as grandadjoe1933, who has 5.3 million followers, and dolly_broadway, who has 2.4 million followers – were used to defy age stereotypes. A recurring motif was the ‘glamma’, a portmanteau combining ‘glamorous’ and ‘grandma’, with videos including those of a 70-year-old woman joyfully parading around the streets in a midriff-bearing top. Almost one in five of the videos analyzed made light of age-related vulnerabilities, and one in 10 called out ageism among both younger people and their own contemporaries. Other videos positioned older users as superior to younger people. ‘I may be 86 but I can still drink more than you lightweights’ says one clip. ‘I may be 86 but I can still twerk better than you,’ says another, showing an octogenarian leaping up from a fall down the stairs with a twerk.”

Um, are we sure followers are supporting these content creators, not just laughing at them? Perhaps it does not matter, as long as the elders are having a bit of fun. See the write-up for more examples of seniors strutting their stuff on TikTok. The trend emerges as, according to the Pew Research Centre, more folks over 65 are finally obtaining smartphones and joining the rest of the world online. It seems many are eager to make their presence known.

Cynthia Murrell, June 1, 2022

Online Platforms Fail to Prevent Circulation of Buffalo Shooting Video

May 27, 2022

Once again, the Internet proves that even the vilest content cannot be contained. It is a fact racist terrorists have learned to exploit to spread fear, hatred, and inspiration for more violence. The Washington Post reports, “Only 22 Saw the Buffalo Shooting Live. Millions Have Seen it Since.” Writers Drew Harwell and Will Oremus tell us:

“When the Buffalo gunman broadcast the shooting in real time Saturday on the live-streaming site Twitch, only 22 people were watching, and company officials said they’d removed it with remarkable speed — within two minutes of the first gunshots. But all it took was for one viewer to save a copy and redistribute it online. A jumble of video-hosting sites, extremist message boards and some of Silicon Valley’s biggest names did the rest, ensuring millions of people would view the video. One copy made its way onto the little-known video site Streamable, where, thanks to links posted on much larger sites, it was viewed more than 3 million times before it was removed. One link to that copy on Facebook received more than 500 comments and 46,000 shares; Facebook did not remove it for more than 10 hours. ‘Terrorism is theater,’ said Emerson T. Brooking, senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, which researches how information spreads online. ‘The purpose of terrorism is always to reach the greatest number of people possible with the most horrific or spectacular attack that you can perform.'”

Several ideas have been floated to combat the spread of this grisly propaganda. Some are trying to wield digital fingerprint technology for good by using it to filter content. Then there was the “hate clusters” concept. Major tech companies even set up a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, a system meant to automatically block terrorist videos that was based on tech originally used to block footage of child sexual abuse. Clearly, none of these measures are working. Will the answer be found, and implemented, before the next attack?

Cynthia Murrell, May 27, 2022

MBAs Gone Wild: CNN Plus and Its Financial Sussy

May 3, 2022

I read “This Chart Might Explain Why CNN Plus Shut Down Early.” The chart may be semi accurate but it is like one of those weird stone knobs on Ollantaytambo’s megalithic walls. The numbers are visible, but the mystery of the stone making remains.

CNN Plus was the exact opposite of the video derby — TikTok. CNN Plus paid people. TikTok allows people to monetize. CNN Plus required expensive cameras and accoutrements. TikTok requires a smartphone. CNN Plus was the equivalent of a mud flap on a 1950 Ford truck with patina (translation: rust).

What is interesting is that the real news analysis noted:

We don’t know the exact logic that caused CNN to pull the plug, but seeing how CNN Plus only had 150,000 subscribers and apparently needed to burn $1 billion for a chance at that $800 million a year, it’s not hard to see what was at stake. Instead, CNN got out early.

Okay, insightful. And the cited source and CNN are going to shape the future of journalism?

Stephen E Arnold, May 3, 2022

Some Twitter Twaddle

May 2, 2022

Twitter matters to a modest number of self promoters. Nah, I won’t name those who are laboring away in the self branding rock climbing event. I think software posts when one of my research team cranks out a story for the Beyond Search blog. I suppose I should know, but I am not a digital rock climber.

I read “New Study: TikTok Industry Engagement Benchmarks for 2022.” Since I don’t know much about Twitter “twaddle,” the factoid in the write up which caught my attention explores the much-desired notion of “engagement.”

The TikTok outfit with some connection to China has an engagement score of six percent. I am not sure what the other 94 percent means. Maybe those folks are in non engagement mode? If the data in the write up are on the money, other big name social services are breathing the fumes from the Chinese coal burning video platform; to wit:

Facebook:  0.83 percent

Instagram:  0.13 percent

Twitter: 0.05 percent

The write up includes a nifty chart:


What’s interesting is that an outfit which I thought was a Big Dog (YouTube) was not included.

Will the rocket guy with trendy golf carts jazz up the Tweeter’s engagement score? I find it amusing that the wall climbers avoid TikTok, yet express considerable delight when Top Tweeters meet at the gym to talk about their achievements.

If the other social media companies are not delivering “engagement,” will CNN Plus or whatever it was, make a comeback?

Perhaps some Chinese thinking would help? Here’s an example for the Tweeters to ponder?

Navigate to “Tiktok Dominates in Tech Earnings, Digital Ad Giants Struggle to Compete.” Consider this passage:

Based on Insider Intelligence’s forecast, TikTok will garner 755 million monthly users globally in 2022, and its market share in social networking could top 20% this year or nearly 25% by 2024. The short-video-based platform’s immense popularity is exactly the reason why it is making the competition field harder for other platforms.

Maybe the Tweeters should TikTok?Maybe traditional media companies should emulate TikTok?

Stephen E Arnold, May2, 2022

NCC April TikTok: Yeah, Not Good for Teenies

April 29, 2022

We wonder whether China will more aggressively exploit TikTok’s ability to influence. The New York Post describes “How TikTok Has Become a Dangerous Breeding Ground for Mental Disorders.” Apparently, tiktoks discussing mental health conditions are trending, especially among teen girls. This would be a good thing—if they were all produced by medical experts, contained good information, and offered guidance for seeking professional help when warranted. Instead influencers, many of whom are teenagers themselves, purport to help others self-diagnose their mental conditions. As one might imagine, this rarely goes well. Writer Riki Schlott tells us:

“After nearly two years of lockdowns and school closures, lonely teens are spending more time online, and many inevitably come across mental health content on TikTok. When they do, the platform’s algorithm kicks in, serving suggestible young girls even more videos on the topic. While mental health awareness is surely a good thing, well-meaning influencers are inadvertently harming young, impressionable viewers, many of whom seem to be incorrectly self-diagnosing with disorders or suddenly manifesting symptoms because they are now aware of them.”

The author continues, expanding her warning to include social media in general:

“Eating disorders have also been shown to spread within friend groups. As a member of Gen Z, I’ve watched firsthand what social media has done to a generation of young women — it even left behind self-harm scars on many of my peers’ wrists. I know a terrifying number of peers who have self harmed, many of whom were habitual social media users. Rates of depression have doubled among teen girls between 2009 and 2019, and self-harm hospital admissions have soared 100 percent for girls aged 10 to 14 during the rise of social media between 2010 and 2014, the most recently available data.”

Clearly a solution is needed, but Schlott knows where we cannot turn—politicians are too “clueless” to craft effective regulations and the platforms are too greedy to do anything about it. Instead it falls to parents to take responsibility for their teens’ media consumption, as difficult as that may be. Citing psychology professor and author on the subject Dr. Jean Twenge, the write-up advises a few precautions. First parents must recognize that, unlike playing age-appropriate games or texting friends on their devices, social media is completely inappropriate for children, tweens, and young teens. The platforms themselves officially limit accounts to those 13 and older, but Twenge suggests holding off until a child is 16 if possible. She also proposes a household rule whereby everyone, including parents, stops using electronic devices an hour before bedtime and leaves their phones outside their bedrooms at night. Yes, parents too—after all, leading by example is often the only way to convince teens to comply.

Cynthia Murrell, April 29, 2022

TikTok: A Murky, Poorly Lit Space

April 15, 2022

TikTok, according to its champions, is in the words of Ernie (Endurance) Hemingway:

You do not understand. This is a clean and pleasant café. It is well lighted. (Quote from “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place”)

No, I understand. If the information in “TikTok under US Government Investigation on Child Sexual Abuse Material” is on the money, the Department of Justice and the US Department of Homeland Security, TikTok may not be a “clean and pleasant café.”

The paywalled story says that TikTok is a digital watering hole for bad actors who have an unusually keen interest in young people. The write up points out that TikTok is sort of trying to deal with its content stream. However, there is the matter of a connection with China and that country’s interest in metadata. Then there is the money which just keeps flowing and growing. (Facebook and Google are now breathing TikTok’s diesel exhaust. Those sleek EV-loving companies are forced to stop and recharge as the TikTok tractor trailer barrels down the information highway.

For those Sillycon Valley types who see TikTok as benign, check out some of TikTok’s offers to young people. Give wlw a whirl. Oh, and the three letters work like a champ on YouTube. Alternatively ask some young people. Yeah, that’s a super idea, isn’t it. Now about unclean, poorly illuminated digital spaces.

Stephen E Arnold, April 15, 2022

Google YouTube Search Working the Way Alphabet Wants?

April 8, 2022

The online news service Mashable may be in gear for April’s Fool Day early. The story “YouTube Added 1,500 Free Movies, But Good Luck Finding Them” makes clear that Google YouTube search doesn’t work.

The write up reports:

YouTube has also made browsing its free titles much more annoying than it needed to be. The platform won’t just show you all its free titles and let you scroll through them to find your next binge watch. It certainly won’t let you filter them, so you can’t narrow your search to all of YouTube’s free action movies, or free romantic comedies. Rather, YouTube’s algorithm selects a few hundred ad-supported titles to show you in its “free to watch movies” section, hiding the rest.

The Mashable take is definitely not Googley. A new age, Silicon Valley like information service should be able to make sense of Google YouTube’s brilliant approach. A casual user will have access to some, smart software selected content. The desire for a way to browse a comprehensive result set is irrelevant. The Googley person will recognize:

  1. Paying for Google’s TV service delivers a better experience. Presumably that experience includes a listing of available content. On second thought, I am kidding myself. Smart software does not understand exceptions unless the system was trained to implement fine grained user classification.
  2. There are Google Dorks available to make quick work of narrowing Google result sets. Not familiar with Google Dorks? Well, certain individuals in Russia are and possibly a bright 12 year old near your home has this expertise.
  3. The results you see represent “all the world’s information.” The fact that you have knowledge which indicates a partial result set makes one point and only one point: You take what you get.
  4. Oh, those contractors and interns are enhancing the search experience again whilst doing no evil.

I hope this explains why Mashable does not understand the brilliant method Google uses to remain in close contact with its humanoid users.

Stephen E Arnold, April 8, 2022

Next Page »

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta