Digital 2021: Lots of Numbers

April 23, 2021

One of the Beyond Search team called my attention to the We Are Social / Hootsuite “Digital 2021 April Global Statshot Report.” The original link did not resolve. After a bit of clicking around, we did locate the presentation on the outstanding SlideShare service. No, the SlideShare search function did not work for us, but we know that it will return to its glory soon. Maybe real soon perhaps?

The report with the numbers is located at this link. If that doesn’t work, there is an index located at this link. If these go dead, you can give the We Are Social / Hootsuite explainer at this Datareportal link.

After that bit of housekeeping, what is the “Digital 2021 April Global Statshot Report”? The answer is that it is:

All the latest stats, insights, and trends you need to make sense of how the world uses the internet, mobile, social media, and ecommerce in April 2021. For more reports, including the latest global trends and in-depth local data for more than 240 countries and territories around the world, visit https://datareportal.com

As readers of this blog have heard, “all” is a trigger word. I want to know how many Dark Web encrypted message services are operated by state actors, not addled college students. Did I find the answer? Nope. So  the “all” is baloney.

The report does provide assorted disclaimers and numerous big numbers; for example, 55.1 percent of 7,850,000,000 people are active social media users. Pretty darned exact. When I was on a trip to Wuhan, China, I was told by our government provided guide, “No one is sure how many people live in Wuhan. There are different methods of counting.” If China can’t deal with counting, I am curious how precise numbers are generated for a global report. Eastern Asia (possibly China?) accounts for 25.1 percent of global Internet users by region. Probably doesn’t matter in the context of a 200 page report in PowerPoint format.

Other findings which jumped out at me as I flipped through the deck which has taken its inspiration from Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report last seen in 2019.

  • Mobile users are 92.8 percent of the total number of Internet users and mobile phones account for 54.18 percent of Web traffic
  • The zippiest Internet is located in the UAE
  • Google’s search market share is 92.4 percent. Qwant, which allegedly caused Eric Schmidt to lose sleep, does not appear in the search engine market share table
  • 98 percent of Internet users visit or use social networks
  • TikTok is the 7th most used social platform but the data come from TikTok, an outfit which is probably the gold standard in reliable information.

The reportal document does not explain what these data mean.

Here’s my take: The data provide many numbers which make clear three points:

  1. Mobile is a big deal
  2. Facebook and Google are bigger deals
  3. Criminal activity within these data ecosystems warrants zero attention.

The reportal’s data are free too.

Stephen E Arnold, April 23, 2021

Where the Harpies Roost: A Familiar Spot?

April 21, 2021

Insults, lies, and even doxing. We learn of a group of mean-spirited people who seem to have way too much time on their hands in the piece, “How Gossip Forum Tattle Life Became the Most Toxic Place on the Internet” at the UK’s NewStatesman. Perhaps risking her own tranquility, reporter Sarah Manavis writes about those who go to Tattle Life to gossip about thousands of public figures. That term is used loosely here—some of the “influencers” they target have fewer than 10,000 subscribers. For whatever reason, Tattle Life members are motivated to uncover and discuss personal details about these figures and their family members, including young children. They condemn their targets for the smallest of details from weight gain to missing a lampshade in their bedroom. Manavis writes:

“Tattle Life describes itself as a platform for ‘commentary and critiques of people that choose to monetize their personal life as a business and release it into the public domain’, framing itself as a space where users can hold the rich and famous to account. The site’s Wiki, which includes basic biographical information about high-profile influencers, also catalogues each individual’s perceived ‘wrongdoing’ – from rumors about unethical business practices to the number of times they’re suspected of breaking lockdown rules during the pandemic. … And although there may only be a few thousand different dedicated threads, the volume of comments shows the true breadth of the site: in the subsection of ‘Instagrammers’, which includes 2,000 threads, the number of total comments surpasses one million. This is staggering when you consider the site is less than three years old.”

If these rumormongers cannot find any details to prattle on about they will simply make them up, going into great detail about fictional past relationships, jobs, and more.  Even worse, several targets have been doxed, putting them and their families in harm’s way. Many of the subjects of this abuse, understandably, find it takes a toll on their mental health. Several have been driven offline altogether. There have been efforts to have the site taken down, like this Change.org petition, but the British parliament has declined to interfere. If this site’s attacks do not count as objectionable content, what does?

Cynthia Murrell, April 21, 2021

Social Audio Service Clubhouse Blocked in Oman

March 15, 2021

Just a quick note to document Oman’s blocking of the social audio service Clubhouse. The story “Oman Blocks Clubhouse, App Used for Free Debates in Mideast” appeared on March 15, 2021. The invitation only service has hosted Silicon Valley luminaries and those who wrangled an invitation via connections or social engineering. The idea is similar to the CB radio chats popular with over-the-road truckers in the United States. There’s no motion picture dramatizing the hot service, but a “Smokey and the Bandit” remake starring the hot stars in the venture capital game and the digital movers and shakers could be in the works. Elon Musk’s character could be played by Brad Pitt. Instead of a Pontiac Firebird, the Tesla is the perfect vehicle for movers and shakers in the Clubhouse.

Stephen E Arnold, March 15, 2021

Changes in Social Media To Go Beyond the Feed

March 11, 2021

Social media platforms are, perhaps regrettably, not going anywhere. They are evolving, however, according to “The New Era of Social Media Isn’t About Feeds” at OneZero. We have grown used to scrolling through our social media feeds, and advertisers have grown used to meeting us there. Writer Will Oremus observes:

“But while these feeds may be addictive, they’re also exhausting and numbing. When every post in your feed has been selected from a huge pool of possible posts for its attention-grabbing qualities, you can start to feel shouted at, manipulated, pandered to, and overwhelmed. Over time, it might dawn on you that the feed’s value to your life is less than the sum of its posts. Not to mention, the value to society of bombarding everyone with attention bait from all sides is, let’s say, mixed at best. I think that’s part of why we’re starting to see a new crop of platforms that operate according to a different logic — a logic of loyalty, intentionality, and deliberate payment (whether of attention or money). The Pattern: New digital media products are focusing on low-volume, high-attention relationships rather than high-volume, low-attention feeds.”

Oremus takes a look at some new and upcoming products and features that point in this new direction. For example, Twitter plans to launch Communities, which will form groups around common interests. There is also Super Follows, also from Twitter, which suggests a monetization alternative to advertising—the feature will allow users to charge for “premium” tweets or other content. We agree with Oremus that this might be a profitable avenue for celebrities, less so for journalists. See the write-up for more examples.

Whatever specific ideas sink or swim, this tinkering indicates a new direction for social media—more deliberate user choices and less aimless scrolling through whatever an algorithm sends our way. This sounds like a welcome shift, but will it be enough to combat filter bubbles and fake news?

Cynthia Murrell, March 11, 2021

LinkedIn: Social Media Excitement from the Softies

March 10, 2021

Microsoft is reportedly embracing the gig work mentality via LinkedIn, which it purchased in 2016. What could go wrong? Social Barrel tells us, “LinkedIn to Rival Fiverr and Upwork with Marketplaces.” The pandemic has greatly increased demand for independent workers, and it sounds like Microsoft refuses to cede the increased freelance-connection business to Upwork and Fiverr. Writer Ola Ric reveals:

“If true, the Microsoft-owned professional network service is all set to rival Fiverr and Upwork. Without a doubt, LinkedIn stands a big chance of rivaling Fiverr and Upwork considering its massive user base said to be around 740 million. The service is called Marketplaces according to The Information, and is already being developed. Apparently LinkedIn wants to explore a market, though small, but with potential for growth.”

Of course, many besides the self-employed are working remotely now, and many predict the trend will continue after the pandemic is in our rear view. This new reality means many new challenges for HR, and several employee management applications are being used to cope. Microsoft is also moving into this territory with its Viva platform, we learn from “The Arrival of ‘Enterprise Social’” at India’s BusinessWorld. Reporter Pradeep Kar elaborates:

“The opportunity is so big that Microsoft’s Chief Executive Satya Nadella went public, saying that the COVID-19 crisis would result in employee management applications that would outlast the pandemic. His company has quickly unveiled a new category of technology solutions called employee experience platforms (EXP) with Viva that ‘provides a single-entry point for employee engagement and internal communications.’ Microsoft calls Viva a gateway to the digital workplace. It includes human resource functions like payroll, tools to track employee performance, career development initiatives, etc. We know these employee engagement applications are not just good-to-have. They are critical. They allow organizations to keep employees connected, binding them to company goals and culture, improving productivity and loyalty.”

Microsoft’s Viva is not the only option, Par informs us. He lists Darwinbox, ADP Workforce Now, ZohoPeople, and PeopleStrong as just a few of the many alternatives.

We note Microsoft continues to explore its options as new things come along, a practice that has kept it in business since 1975. We wonder, though: Could this timing be a way to distract from the company’s part in the SolarWinds fiasco?

Cynthia Murrell, March 10, 2021

An Existential Question: LinkedIn or LinkedOut?

March 5, 2021

Writer Joan Westenberg is over LinkedIn, and advises us we would all be better without it. The Next Web posts, “Delete LinkedIn—You’ll Have Zero F****ing Regrets.” After years of enduring countless messages from those who want to sell her something, she finally deleted her LinkedIn account. Not only did the platform fail to provide her any professional benefits, she was also disheartened by the superficial relationships with her hundreds of contacts. (At least this platform does not call them “friends.”)

Having had some success at sales for her business, Westenberg has observed that the way to sell to someone is to build a real relationship with them. Her favorite way to do so is to offer help with no agenda, to demonstrate her products have value. She writes:

“That is the antithesis of LinkedIn. Where people send you off-brand and clumsy sales pitches at best — or at worst, scrape your details for scalable and utterly useless outbound campaigns. They send pitch decks in the same breath that they introduce themselves for the first time. They want you to buy with no reason why. LinkedIn feels less like a platform for selling, and more like a platform for being sold to. A LinkedIn message is the 2020s equivalent of a cold sales call. You dread it. You hate it. You just don’t want to deal with it. … I would rather focus my attention on platforms where I know people have come to genuinely research, interact, learn and consume. Quora. Angel List. Dribble. Medium. Substack. And yes, Twitter. And I would rather remove the false sense of accomplishment we get from engaging on LinkedIn, where we log into a landfill of utter [excrement] several times a day and feel like we’ve done our bit of networking and growing, with no evidence to support that belief.”

Westenberg advises others to join her in ditching the platform. All we will lose, she concludes, are the vanity metrics of clicks, likes, shares, and comments, all of which provide nothing of value. Hmm. I for one have never gotten a job through the platform, but I do know someone who has. Then there are all the professional courses the platform acquired when it snapped up Lynda.com in 2015, many of which are quite helpful. I suppose each user must weigh the site’s role in their professional lives for themselves, but on this point I agree—LinkedIn is not fundamental to professional success. No one should feel they have to use it by default.

Cynthia Murrell, March 5, 2021

How Quickly Can Facebook, Google, and Twitter Remove Content? 36 Hours or Less?

March 3, 2021

I read “Social Media Sites Must Remove Content in 36 Hours of Order: Govt in Draft Digital, OTT Platform Rules.” The rules will be imposed by India. According to the article in News 18 India:

The central government has finalized the rules to regulate internet-based businesses and organizations – social media companies, OTT streaming services, and digital news outlets, among others – as it plans to introduce a sea change in legislation to assert more control over powerful Big Tech firms. Under the new Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, the government plans to mandate social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to erase contentious content as early as possible, but not later than 36 hours, after a government or legal order.

Pretty clear. India sends an email; the recipient has 36 hours; then the fines begin.

Twitter, headed by a very talented, articulate, and handsome wizard, is allegedly the cause of this decision. Hey, tweet in real time, no problem. Fail to deal with flagged content, big problem.

Sucked into the “go where the money is” process, the inability to move in a sprightly manner could be expensive.

What’s next?

You know those weird motion picture ratings which lured under age limit viewers like roasting burgers in the park on a hot summer day? Ratings, yes. The Indian government wants tags on videos:

While the new rules for social media and other digital platforms will be governed by the IT Ministry, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry will be the governing body for rules concerning streaming platforms. Referring to films and other entertainment, including web-based serials, the draft rules called for a “classification rating” to describe content and advise discretion.

That will allow the Google to demonstrate its ability to do more than create financial hardship for content creators. How long does it take for Google to remove my video interview of Robert David Steele? Answer: About two years. The 36 hour ceiling is obviously going to be no problem for the Googlers.

Like Facebook’s massive victory over Australia, the social media giants will have no difficulty in dealing with another pesky nation state.

Stephen E Arnold, March 3, 2021

Cision: More Data from Online Monitoring

March 1, 2021

Cision calls online monitoring “listening.” That’s friendly. The objective: More particular data to cross correlate with the firm’s other data holdings. Toss in about one million journalists’ email addresses, and you have the ingredients for a nifty business. “Brandwatch Is Acquired by Cision for $450M, Creating a PR, Marketing and Social Listening Giant” says:

Abel Clark, CEO of Cision said: “The continued digital shift and widespread adoption of social media is rapidly and fundamentally changing how brands and organizations engage with their customers. This is driving the imperative that PR, marketing, social, and customer care teams fully incorporate the unique insights now available into consumer-led strategies. Together, Cision and Brandwatch will help our clients to more deeply understand, connect and engage with their customers at scale across every channel.”

Cision data may open some new markets for the PR outfit. Do you, gentle reader, law enforcement and intelligence professionals would be interested in these data? Do you think that Amazon might license the data to stir into its streaming data market place stew?

No answers yet. Worth “monitoring” or “listening.”

Stephen E Arnold, March 1, 2021

Microsoft LinkedIn: Opting and Gigging

February 25, 2021

Microsoft LinkedIn has determined that its millions of job seekers, consultants, and résumé miners can become gig workers. “LinkedIn Is Building a Gig Marketplace” asserts:

LinkedIn is developing a freelance work marketplace that could rival fast-growing gig sites Fiverr and Upwork. The two-sided marketplace will connect freelance service providers with clients in need of temporary workers for one-off projects. Like Fiverr and Upwork, it would focus on knowledge-based work that can be done remotely online…

How long has Microsoft LinkedIn been contemplating this shift? One date offered in the article is 2019. That’s when LinkedIn acquired UpCounsel. The idea is that when one needs a lawyer, one uses a legal version of Match.com. Very me-too. Thomson Reuters offers a service called FindLaw.com, which has been available since the early 2000s. But good ideas take time to gestate. This is not a me too knock off of TikTok which has inspired Facebook and Google innovation. LinkedIn innovated with ProFinder. This is a way for LinkedIn members to find “professionals.”

Sounds good, right?

Writer Joan Westenberg is over LinkedIn, and advises us we would all be better without it. The Next Web posts, “Delete LinkedIn—You’ll Have Zero F****ing Regrets.” After years of enduring countless messages from those who want to sell her something, she finally deleted her LinkedIn account. Not only did the platform fail to provide her any professional benefits, she was also disheartened by the superficial relationships with her hundreds of contacts. (At least this platform does not call them “friends.”)

Having had some success at sales for her business, Westenberg has observed that the way to sell to someone is to build a real relationship with them. Her favorite way to do so is to offer help with no agenda, to demonstrate her products have value. She writes:

“That is the antithesis of LinkedIn. Where people send you off-brand and clumsy sales pitches at best — or at worst, scrape your details for scalable and utterly useless outbound campaigns. They send pitch decks in the same breath that they introduce themselves for the first time. They want you to buy with no reason why. LinkedIn feels less like a platform for selling, and more like a platform for being sold to. A LinkedIn message is the 2020s equivalent of a cold sales call. You dread it. You hate it. You just don’t want to deal with it. … I would rather focus my attention on platforms where I know people have come to genuinely research, interact, learn and consume. Quora. Angel List. Dribble. Medium. Substack. And yes, Twitter. And I would rather remove the false sense of accomplishment we get from engaging on LinkedIn, where we log into a landfill of utter [excrement] several times a day and feel like we’ve done our bit of networking and growing, with no evidence to support that belief.”

Westenberg advises others to join her in ditching the platform. All we will lose, she concludes, are the vanity metrics of clicks, likes, shares, and comments, all of which provide nothing of value. Hmm. I for one have never gotten a job through the platform, but I do know someone who has. Then there are all the professional courses the platform acquired when it snapped up Lynda.com in 2015, many of which are quite helpful. I suppose each user must weigh the site’s role in their professional lives for themselves, but on this point I agree—LinkedIn is not fundamental to professional success.

Cynthia Murrell, February 25, 2021

Microsoft GitHub Goodie: Social Profile Finder

February 22, 2021

Do you want to locate the social media profile of a person? How about locating that social media profile across several hundred online services? Sounds good, doesn’t it? You can try this open source tool by navigating to Social Analyzer, downloading the code, and reading the documentation. Is this open source software as good as some of the tools available from specialized service providers? The answer is, “In some situations, it’s close enough to horseshoes.” The GitHub information says:

This project is “currently used by some law enforcement agencies in countries where resources are limited”.

Do some commercial specialized services providers charge their customers for access to this tool? Does Vladimir Putin have a daughter who is an expert dancer?

There are some interesting functions in this open source package; for example:

  • Email detection
  • Use of OCR to make sense of content in images
  • String and entity name analysis.

Having a user name and password for each system may come in handy as well. Microsoft is a helpful outfit in some ways.

Stephen E Arnold, February 22, 2021

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