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Black Mirror Nosedive
A screenshot from the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive”

The brilliant television series Black Mirror is described as “the way we might be living in 10 minutes’ time if we’re clumsy” by its creator Charlie Brooker. Yesterday, with a handful of new announcements from Apple, the privacy Doomsday Clock just ticked a few minutes closer to midnight.

Hyperbolic? Maybe. But between the new Face ID technology of the iPhone X and the biometric measurement of the latest Apple Watch, users are going to be voluntarily conceding a lot of personal data, and quite passively so. In theory, both are very dangerous things to normalize; but with Apple’s smartphone and watch market share, it may very well become practice sooner rather than later.

So what’s the big deal? We take selfies every day, and Face ID is just a 3D selfie, right?


Today’s Selfie is Tomorrow’s Biometric Profile

That was a quote from a piece of art hanging in the window of the New Museum in New York City that I chanced upon back in March 2016:

Today's Selfie is Tomorrow's Biometric Profile

Selfies may seem harmless now, but they are the proverbial foot in the door for lower and lower expectations of privacy. Fifteen years ago, nobody took selfies. If you did, it was as a joke and very few people (if any) would ever see it because you had to develop the film and they were embarrassing. Nowadays, we have high quality cameras within arm’s reach at all times, making it normal to take a photo of yourself. Face ID was just one minute past the introduction of the front-facing camera. The more photos of ourselves we publish on the internet for corporations and institutions to consume, the more we expose ourselves.

Or as famed media/communications theorist Marshall McLuhan put it:

“Publication is a self-invasion of privacy. The more the data banks record about each one of us, the less we exist.”

Speaking of biometrics, remember how Apple said their latest Watch would be able to detect whether or not your vitals are normal at any given moment? Hand that information over to the proper authorities, and you’ve got yourself a real-time lie detector. Sure, polygraphs are notoriously ineffective and usually not admissible in court (regardless of what TV shows and movies have you believe). The law is constantly playing catch-up with technology, and Apple just made it easier to facilitate government overreach.

You can’t find the boundaries until someone oversteps them

Let’s take a look at Apple’s contemporary, Facebook. Facebook has been honing its facial recognition technology for years now.

So has the FBI.

The difference is that Facebook’s tech reportedly operates at a staggering 98% accuracy, which is far better than the FBI’s because the government database mostly consists of mugshot-style photos and security camera footage. In contrast, Facebook stores billions of first-party-verified photos of its users from multiple angles, backed by a learning program that can continually refine itself with every single upload.

What’s one minute further than Facebook’s database and algorithms? How about a camera phone that is capable of performing an infrared scan of your face and its unique contours? One with a 1 in a million chance of being fooled. One whose camera you use to unlock your phone dozens of times each day, 365 days a year. That’s a hell of a lot of information.

Given a few months and billions of data points, Apple may end up with the most advanced facial recognition software in the world. Apple touts their “neural network” as a benefit, but it should be interpreted as a warning sign.

Not to mention this other potential security flaw that made its way around Twitter concurrently with the Apple Event:

What’s stopping Apple from going full Black Mirror?

Right now, the only thing stopping Apple from becoming a willing surveillance arm of the government is Apple itself. Giving credit where credit’s due, Apple did once refuse FBI orders to unlock the phones of the San Bernardino domestic terrorists back in 2015. And they also denied a request from the DOJ to wiretap iMessage/Facetime, while in the same breath confirming that they had the capability to read and listen to our conversations (so… thanks, I guess?).

To quell our fears at Tuesday’s Event, Apple did say that the personally identifiable data will only be available locally on your devices.


Jennifer Lawrence playing with her iPhone

This is the opening line of a blog post I never thought I’d have to write: this blog post covers the topic of nude selfies and online masturbation culture, and as a result, may not be safe for work.

On August 31, a deluge of nude celebrity photos was leaked onto the internet. In the past, we’ve seen similar isolated incidents (Scarlett Johansson and Rihanna, for example), but the leak that occurred over Labor Day weekend was unprecedented: it included photos of dozens of celebrities (including Jennifer Lawrence, Victoria Justice, Kate Upton, and Ariana Grande).

It quickly became fodder for tabloids, Twitter users, and journalists on the 24-hour news cycle. And as is typically the case when you have non-tech journalists reporting on technology and Internet culture, there was a severe lack of information at play. I know I’ve made a habit of picking on CNN, but it is never without warrant. For instance, the following video:

Let’s ignore the fact that this Brett Larson is obviously underqualified to be CNN’s “Technology Analyst”. But there are so many things wrong with what he’s said in this clip. Most of these things could have been easily fixed with a simple visit to Know Your Meme.

To clear some things up:

4chan is not a person. It is a message board located at On that site, there are many sub-forums, known by shorthand abbreviations. For instance, /v/ is the Video Games forum, and /mu/ is for Music.

And then there’s /b/, which stands for Random, because why not? It’s where anything goes, including porn, gore, illegal porn, file sharing, coordinated cyber-bullying, and even some hacking. /b/ is also typically what uninformed journalists think all of 4chan is.

To be clear, using “4chan” as a metonym for “/b/” is as inaccurate as saying reddit’s now-defunct /r/jailbait sub-reddit represented the whole community (which happened all too often during the 2012 scandal).

Now, Anonymous refers to a collective of “hackers” or “hactivists” with a cause. The problem (and genius) of using this name is that literally anybody can be part of Anonymous. Occupy Wall Street protesters in Guy Fawkes masks called themselves Anonymous. A high school kid participating in a low-level DDoS attack can be Anonymous. The people who leaked information related to the Steubenville High School rape case were Anonymous. They even made Time Magazine’s 2012’s list of The World’s 100 Most Influential People. The biggest mistake that journalists make with regard to Anonymous is to pigeonhole them into a single agenda. It is a group with almost no central leadership, all using the same name for purposes of solidarity and obfuscation. They can use their powers to correct what they believe to be political injustices, or they can just completely dox someone (i.e. share their private information online) for the “lulz” (i.e. just because they think it’s entertaining). That said, there is a high likelihood that Anonymous and 4chan users from /b/ were involved with the celebrity phone hacking in some way.

Some more terminology that you’ll hear include “The Fappening”. The name is an obvious reference to the terrible M. Night Shyamalan movie The Happening. It was likely coined by 4chan/reddit, but was definitely popularized by reddit by way of /r/TheFappening, a community devoted to covering the leaked celebrity photos. This sub-reddit became the fastest growing for the month, with over 55,000 subscribers in about a week’s time.

The popularity of /r/TheFappening

Now, for some “lulz”. “The Fappening” derives from the term “fap”, which is used as an onomatopoeic euphemism for masturbation. It is both a noun and a verb, though the latter is more common. For instance, there’s a community on reddit for the 30 day no-masturbation challenge (a la Seinfeld) called /r/NoFap. With all due seriousness, it’s undeniably hilarious when established news sources adopt the term “The Fappening” because of all of its sophomoric connotations.

Here are some other terms that you’ll probably see thrown around in relation to this scandal:

iCloud: The cloud refers to saving data on the internet for backup, sharing, and syncing purposes. iCloud is the service that Apple uses for its devices, including iPhones. It has been speculated that there was a security breach involving iCloud that led to the leak of all these photos.

Brute forcing refers to utilizing all possible key combinations in order to gain access to someone’s account. In the CNN video above, their “technology analyst” implies that a hacker brute forced their way into all of these celebrity’s accounts, which is a preposterous claim.

Hacking and Hacker are both extremely loaded terms, typically with negative connotations. At its fundamental definition, a hacker bypasses a computer or device’s security in order to gain access to files or systems. This can be done for improving security, or for more nefarious purposes. In the common tech vernacular, a Cracker refers to hackers who partake in criminal activity.

White Knighting is an Internet slang term that refers to when people (typically men) defend strangers (typically women) from online criticisms due to some romantic attraction. It can also refer to what’s happening when “journalists” and celebrities refer to the hackers as pathetic, pervy basement dwellers or calling people who view leaked photos sexual molesters.

Victim blaming: Let’s try our best not do this.

I was invited to attend the Mobile Media Upfront presented by the Mobile Media Summit in New York City on May 19. There were many presenters from my employers’ family of companies (GroupM and WPP) as well as some who worked with my clients. There were many recurring themes, including current deficits in mobile analytics, the need for stronger cohesion in media tactics, the fact that mobile should be measured through its own metrics, and the general notion that mobile’s time is now and it’s here to stay.

Below are a summary of some of the favorite tracks I attended, as well as some live Tweets. As always, the points and POVs presented below belong to the representative speakers and inclusion does not indicate an endorsement.

Featured Fireside Chat: Babs Rangaiah, Vice President, Global Media Innovation & Ventures, Unilever
Babs Rangaiah (Unilever), James Smith (Verve)
Babs shared insights into Unilever’s mobile strategy, including both strengths and weaknesses, and where the future of mobile marketing is from a global perspective. He shared the difficulties involved with marketing across different regions, as well as unique marketing opportunities that are available only in developing markets.

App Marketing Done Right
Spencer Scott (Fiksu), Jonathan Anastas (Activision), Stuart Meyler (Beeby Clark+Meyler), Lewis Goldman (MetLife), Ian Beacraft (Leo Burnett)
This was a great panel with tons of actionable insights on how to coordinate all marketing channels and efforts to connect with users throughout their consumer journey, and not necessarily via a mobile-first approach.

Brand Experiences in the Mobile World
Sal Candela (Undertone), Andrea Wolinetz (PHD Network), Eric Korsh (DigitasLBi), Amanda Zaky (Mars Chocolate N.A.), Danny Englander (Mobext)
This panel focused on the importance of context when marketing in the mobile space, without overstepping the bounds of users’ “personal time”.

Creative in a Mobile World
Harry Kargman (Kargo), Mark Jackson (McCann Worldgroup), Eric Weisberg (JWT New York), Glenn Sheehan (GSD&M), Gregg Colvin (Universal McCann)
This track focused on creative solutions for bringing brands to the mobile consumer (not exclusively within the bounds of digital ads). In addition to the points below, Etsy was brought up as a disruptive service, WWF was brought up for their Snapchat campaign for endangeres species, and Kit Kat was praised for its partnership with Android.

November 21st, 2013
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Boy meets girl. It’s a classic (and boring) story, but like most things, the Internet has drastically changed and arguably streamlined the process. According to a recent Pew Internet study, one in ten Americans have used online dating or a mobile dating app. 7% of smartphone owners have used a dating app.

“Frictionless” is not typically a term we commonly associate positively with dating. But in the world of online dating apps, the recent trend seems to be towards removing steps between discovering that someone exists and meeting them. Sometimes, this process even skips using words altogether. It’s a strange new world for digital savvy singles.

In this blog post, I’ll be detailing several dating services and apps that I’ve used in the past. I think you’ll notice a trend as you move down the list. And please note that I will be using the term “dating” liberally.

High Effort: OkCupid (website)

OkCupid was founded in 2004 and firmly staked its claim in the market based on its statistical prowess (after all, it was formed by the same guys who created The Spark, a personality quiz site) . With the advantage of having talented engineers and mathematicians on board, OkCupid also ran a (now defunct) blog called OkTrends. This blog helped reinforce OkCupid’s unique selling proposition of using a superior matching system compared to everything else on the market because they had multitudes of user data and algorithms that adjusted to (and were influenced by) their research. It also helped that their main target demographic skewed younger; these users would appreciate these nuances and efforts more.

OkCupid was my first real foray into online dating, and it was a lot of work. Using the website consisted of the following steps: browsing/finding matches (sorted by various dimensions, such as distance, employment, race, availability, etc.), looking at photos/reading profiles to see if you’re interested (this step is totally optional), and then messaging them directly. Typical millennium-era dating website stuff.

OkCupid took a lot of time, since I was under the false assumption that longer messages would garner the best response rates. Live and learn. Then stop trying so hard.

Medium Effort: HowAboutWe (site and app)

HowAboutWe launched in April 2010 with a simple premise at heart: instead of singles sending messages back and forth before setting up a date, why not just let them agree on a date first? Basically, users complete the question “How about we _______?” If a date idea piques a user’s interest, he or she can reply that they’re intrigued.

Screenshots of the HowAboutWe App

Putting the cart before the horse? Perhaps, but at least the date ideas that you formulate tell people something about you. The website and app work basically the same way. The main drawback for both is that in order to send someone a message (or to read the contents of your inbox), you need to pay for a monthly subscription.

Lowest Effort: Tinder (app)

Tinder is perhaps the lowest effort dating service out there. It took the dating scene by storm when it gained popularity in 2013 (its spiritual predecessor was Grindr, the popular gay/bisexual location-based app). Unlike OkCupid and HowAboutWe, Tinder is currently only available on iOS and Android smartphones; there’s no desktop functionality at all.

Screenshots of the Tinder App

Remember how your parents told you not to judge a book by its cover? Well, that all goes out the window with Tinder. With Tinder, you’re shown pictures of users in your area (it accesses your phone’s GPS), and you’re given two options – pass or like. If you “like” someone, they won’t find out unless they mutually “like” you and then you can message each other. If you “pass”, it’ll be like the person never existed at all. And if this process didn’t seem simple enough, you can also use touch gestures in order to swipe people into your list of people you like or people you dislike. It’s like a cross between the technology featured in minority report and the lazy perversion of Jabba the Hutt.

Somewhat Low Effort: The OkCupid App

Not to be outshone, OkCupid also has similar “low effort” dating functionalities within their app. The first is Quickmatch, which is basically like Tinder. You swipe left or right depending on if you like someone. The second function is Locals, which tells you who’s near you, but you still have to rate or message them yourself. In terms of flexibility of use, the OkCupid App definitely takes the cake.

Screenshot of the OkCupid App

Everything else

From conversations with friends and coworkers, I’ve learned that other services have evolved over the years. Plenty Of Fish now has an app and is no longer just a poorly designed website (circa 2009). Younger people are now on and eHarmony, and it seems the stigma of online dating has slowly been lifted. Actually, a close family friend of mine met her current husband on eHarmony, so it can work (they were an older couple though).

By now, you’ve probably noticed the aforementioned trend of dating services increasingly migrating to our handheld devices. There are many possible rationales behind this – personal GPS availability makes finding dates easier; people’s fond attachments to their phones translate to dating apps; people are using desktop computers as their primary internet access device less frequently than they were last decade; the social media generation is impatient and are all about instant gratification. No matter the theory, online dating was originally created to connect people in a way that’s much easier than actually going out and meeting strangers. And now, dating apps and online services have taken out even more barriers to entry (sometimes to ridiculous extremes). Is this a good or bad thing? Can it ever be too easy to meet people? I guess we’ll find out in 10 years when Pew Internet conducts an online marriage divorce rate study.

I’m going to lead off by saying that I could have named this blog post many different things, and they all would have been accurate. One title that I threw around was “Crowdsourcing 2.0 – Translating Reward Systems to Web 2.0.” Another was “Quora vs. A Tale of Two Reward Systems.” But alas, I ended up with a title somewhat amalgamating the two: “Quora vs. Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation in Crowdsourcing.” While I’ve written about the value of crowdsourcing before (Crowdsourcing- wisdom of the masses?), this post is not so much an update, as it is an analysis of two sites that I feel are doing it right.

I’ll start off with a brief introduction of the services, as I am wont to do: Quora is a question and answer site, much in the vein of Yahoo! Answers. The main difference is that it’s not anonymous, so the answers are typically of higher quality and many respondents are actually professionally qualified to give their opinions (as long as you stay out of the Psychology Quora page). Users can vote up or down each answer that a question receives, and they can also “Thank” someone for their answer. The difference (at least from what I’ve read in a Quora thread) is that voting means you think a response is the most appropriate answer, whereas Thanking someone could mean you appreciate their effort or unique input. is a crowdsourcing music website where the “audience” listens to up to 5 users (DJs) take turns playing songs. The crowd can vote a song up if they like it or down if they want it to change. Each positive vote gives the DJ who selected the song 1 point. Alternatively, if enough people vote down a song, the song skips and the next DJ gets to have their shot in the limelight. Points can be used to change your user avatar into something either ridiculously large or just ridiculously “expensive”.

Quora vs. Turntable.fmQuora vs. – Slightly different audiences

Obviously, Quora and are about as different as you can get in terms of social media websites. I’ve been using both a lot more lately (just to plug, here’s a link to Quora/Kenny-Chung, where I answer questions about SEO, Graphic Design/UX, Psychology, etc.). Both were quite addictive to use, but the area that interested me the most was how different their reward systems truly were.

And now (as I am also wont to do), I’ll provide some basic psychology 101 terminology. Intrinsic motivation refers to when someone does a task or chore because they want to (because they like doing it, if they like helping others, etc.). Extrinsic motivation means that someone is doing something for reasons outside of themselves (money, to avoid consequences, to be better than others, etc.). Those are highly simplified explanations, but they’re adequate for the purposes of this blog post.

With regard to these two sites, Quora uses intrinsic motivation to drive user responses (the votes and Thanks don’t amount to anybody’s profile being quantitatively better than someone else’s, unlike on sites like Reddit). Yahoo! Answers has the opposite approach. There, users gain points for answering questions, for being chosen as the best response, or for voting. This is a form of extrinsic motivation, and it can be argued that that’s why the community answers there are so… terrible. Because Quora targets knowledgeable and educated people to begin with, intrinsic motivation is more naturally suited for its user base. And from personal experience, it actually does feel good to know that I could help someone out with the knowledge that I’ve accrued over the years.

On the other hand, is driven by extrinsic motivation (for its DJs). The reason people spend their time picking songs for others to listen is for points. While it’s very possible that people enjoy the music they choose, sharing a space with others, and spreading knowledge of their favorite bands, I’ve found that most rooms are an exercise in self-affirmation, with the DJs choosing popular/safe songs in fear of being skipped and not gaining any points. But for a site where the focus is all on the audience’s enjoyment, I think it works well.

So is one reward system better than the other? Yes and no. It depends on context. It’s hard to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg, but reward systems attract certain types of people, and certain people are attracted to certain types of reward systems. There’s a barrier of entry to answering questions on Quora (actually possessing knowledge), whereas is more for fun and anybody can join (well, only if you’re Facebook friends with someone already using it).

I’m going to end with a well known idiom- “different strokes for different folks.” Especially in this growing online environment of crowdsourcing, the most important consideration when building a loyal fanbase is whether or not users are engaged and if they have any reason to be. And the best way to do that is by motivating users properly.

So next time you’re on a social networking site, take a step back and see how they’re getting you to do what they want you to. And if you’re thinking of starting your own web service with a reward system, my only advice is to choose wisely.

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