Online Identification to Exterminate the Trolls

Andrew Keen - The Cult of the AmateurIn 2006, on the cusp of Web 2.0 and the social media revolution, Andrew Keen wrote The Cult of the Amateur. In the book, he argues that “blogs, MySpace, YouTube, and the rest of today’s user-generated media are destroying our economy, our culture, and our values.”

Among the many words of caution issued by Keen is that in an online world, community-wide trust is very hard to find. There is perhaps no better evidence to illustrate this point than in the comments dialogue on many YouTube videos. You have probably noticed that the discussion below each video regularly turns unproductive, nonconstructive, extremely vulgar and even hateful.

The trend even makes its way into lyrics of popular music. Take these Macklemore and Ryan Lewis lyrics from the song Same Love, for example:

If I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me. Have you read the YouTube comments lately? “Man, that’s gay” gets dropped on the daily.

One possible explanation for Internet users acting in a way that they wouldn’t want their mothers to witness is the ease of creating alternative identities. Anonymity allows individuals to act online without any actual repercussions in “real life.”

That explanation is supported by a recent study covered by TechCrunch. Comments on the website of The Washington Post articles were compared to the comments on the Facebook post directing to the same article. And it was found that “Facebook users are about twice as civil as the anonymous trolling netizens that comb the badlands of The Washington Post’s comment section.”

So the solution seems fairly obvious: disallowing anonymity results in more productive, less offensive comments.

Great news, everyone: In late September, Google announced a number of changes to the commenting of its YouTube site. Among the benefits, at least in my opinion, is that commenters will be required to sign into a Google+ account in order to add to the discussion.


Sure, this might result in less YouTube comments and some angry Internet Trolls. But the added layer of identification will help to make the comments below your favorite video actually relevant.

What do you think of the changes to YouTube comments?

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Don’t Send Tweets Like This

Insensitive Tweet

We’ll keep this short and simple…

Don’t send tweets like this.

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Embed Facebook Posts on WordPress

This is really great news: you can now embed Facebook posts directly into your WordPress blog – just like we’ve been able to do with individual Tweets.

I really don’t know why it took Facebook so long to make this possible. With so many niche bloggers and reporters covering stories that are developing in real time, we often need to reference things happening on social media sites.

This is especially true when covering the actions of celebrities and other A-listers. For example, when Jay Z released the video to “Holy Grail” via his Facebook page, it was talked about and linked to by countless individuals. But now it can be directly embedded into the post, saving the reader a step and increasing the likelihood that they engage with the content.

Facebook is battling Twitter to take back more real-time action, and this definitely helps.

Check out the WordPress announcement for more information on how to embed Facebook posts.

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ZDnet Writer “Creeped Out” by PR Pitch – But Why?

Each month, ZDnet enterprise technology reporter Rachel King highlights (or maybe I should say low-lights?) a particularly awful pitch from a public relations professional. I am a fan of columns like this one because it keeps PR people earnest. A little for shame for representing the field in a laughable manner is completely acceptable.

This month, though, I don’t really understand King’s issue with the pitch.

Chatwing is a widget “specializing in delivering real-time communication at any given time,” and a review from anyone writing for ZDnet would obviously be a big win for the company. To catch the attention of a reporter that is presumably inundated with pitches over the course of any given day, Chatwing’s PR opted to send snail mail as opposed to email. In a digital world like ours, a package can really break through the noise.

They sent the T-shirt pictured below, a mock-up of the service provided by Chatwing. King was very “creeped out” by the use of her own image on the shirt.

Rachel King, ZDnet, Chatwing

It’s possible that Rachel and I simply have different expectations of online privacy. But then again, she is a journalist for a tech publication – and journalists aren’t exactly trying to cover their identity. As someone that researches the best targets to send a pitch and press release, it is commonplace to find images of countless reporters – on social profiles, Google and even on the outlet’s website.

I am worried that this is a disconnect between journalist and PR practitioner.

What do you think?

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