Algorithm Angst in Twitterland #NaBloPoMo

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

There are days when Twitter seems like the final frontier of social media. There’s a certain lawlessness to shouting out into the Internet ether to see where it lands. By lawlessness I mean disorder and randomness.

I have been on Twitter for about 18 months and now look back on my Twitter evolution. There was no doubt that in the early days of my exposure I just didn’t get it. However, like any virtual community and platform experience teaches us the unwritten rules. Whilst there are many social media gurus out there blogging and writing about Twitterland, these are rules that you can only learn from the inside looking in.

In real life they say you are judged by the company you keep. In Twitterland they say you are judged by what you retweet.

Retweeting is somewhat of a science in itself, with the use of the acronyms RT and MT and the vexing question of when does repeating a Tweet move from the realm of the retweet to the modified tweet? And then there’s the issue of whether you simply retweet as in copy the tweet into your feed or do you quote the Tweet and say “RT @ [insert Twitter ID of the person you are retweeting] [Tweet text]”. Doing it one way or another affects the original Tweeter’s influence ranking, on some virtual index somewhere. But these are things you can’t know before you dive in.

And then there’s the Twitter algorithm. Helpfully or unhelpfully, Twitter has a “similar to” feature. This is a list which is attached to your Twitter profile which contains Twitter’s suggestion of those Twits who are similar to you. I hate my similar to list. There I said it, I feel better now.

This is nothing personal to those on my similar to list. I know nothing about these people, I’m sure they are very nice. But if this is meant to be a mirror to my Tweeting soul, I feel it is a little cracked.

You may have heard of the concept of the filter bubble and the notion that in the virtual world everything is specifically tailored to your tastes and preferences based on the data you pump out. The data includes who is on your friends and followers lists. So there you are unknowingly trapped in your little bubble reading about the things you like and what your friends like and oblivious to what is happening beyond it based on some algorithm that predetermines to what you are exposed. The likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter are at great pains to emphasize that their algorithms are entirely objective, purely based on data. However, at some point the algorithm has to be programmed by a human who inevitably has his or her own biases reflected in the output.

So Twitter tells me that my bubble consists of mommy bloggers. And I am not sure why.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

True it is that the first three descriptive words in my Twitter profile are Mother, Wife, Blogger. However, my tweets tend to focus on business, leadership, social media and life on general. Added to this is the occasional parenting post and humour tid bit. I will follow mommy bloggers who follow me first, but I certainly don’t seek them out. I don’t post about recipes, cooking, craft, fashion, coupon shopping, shopping in general, parenting tips or drinking alcohol at the end of the day. And, I am not promoting a business from my kitchen.

So Twitter, I just don’t get it. Why does my bubble not consist of business people, humorists and in fact, the occasional male? Am I therefore being judged by the company I don’t keep?

Apologies to any mommy bloggers who may be offended by this post. You guys form an amazing network and pump out great information for those who are interested. It’s just not for me. Probably because I use social media to destress and to expand my non practical horizons.

Perhaps the programmer of the Twitter algorithm is really a mommy blogger. In which case, I have some great suggestions for who she can follow on Twitter.

Have you had any strange platform algorithm experiences? What are your views on the Twitter algorithm?

Today I Give Myself Permission to Unplug #atozchallenge

Letter UTime for a permission that is a little less etherial and perfect for the letter U. Vowels are always the hardest letters of the Challenge for me and here we are at the last one!

The topic for today’s post was inspired by a conversation I had with a colleague this afternoon. Tomorrow is a public holiday here as Australians and New Zealanders celebrate ANZAC Day. On this day we commemorate all those who have served and are serving in our armed forces and support services. Falling on a Thursday, many people have taken Friday as a holiday making it a four day weekend. Conversing with my colleague she mentioned her plans for Friday to relax and indicated she would probably log on and check in to work that day.

I’m not sure how checking work emails is relaxing, but I suppose there are stranger ways to relax. Some people clean and cook for example. Who am I to judge?

uni technologyThe advent of Smartphones and other mobile devices have meant that we are constantly plugged in. We are getting to the stage where the priciest piece of real estate at any airport will soon be the five metre square radius around the charging pole.

Earlier on in the Challenge I gave myself permission to be curious and I wrote how I had returned to postgraduate studies at university. Talk about falling down the technological rabbit hole. Technology has made a huge difference to study practices. Free WIFI and charging outlets everywhere! Need to look up a website the lecturer is referring to in real time? No problem and to someone of my young years, that’s amazing!

So, I’m sitting in the lecture theatre looking around observing the sweet young Gen Y things and how they interact with technology. Sometimes the only way an old dog can learn a new trick is to scout. This is what I have learned so far:

  • it is possible to complete a university degree by  never taking a hand written note. PEN: noun, definition: a prehistoric writing implement filled with ink, that can be converted to a pea shooter or juggling device when owner suffers a chronic case of boredom.
  • the lecturer actually announced at the start of the lecture series that students should take notes as the assessment will be based on writing and note taking builds skills in that area. Writing is THAT novel, is it?!?
  • there is a considerable proportion of the Gen Y student body in that lecture that NEVER look up from their screens. Not once, the whole lecture. I wonder if the lecturer ever notices. Must be some real entertaining stuff on Facebook or maybe the web cam is getting a great work out. Or they could be reading the assigned material after all, these guys REALLY know who to multi-task.

No doubt about it, technology has revolutionised education, social interactions, news distribution, communication and a whole lot of other things too. Everything at your fingertips only a few clicks away.

But does this mean we have to stay plugged in all the time?

Work emails on the weekends and after hours when I don’t have to be “on”. Not even tempted. Weekends and after hours are for family, regeneration and reorienting our perspectives so that we can perform again the following week. Weekends are for reading the weekend papers, breathing fresh air and getting stuff done.unplug

Social media, blogging and surfing the net, yes daily first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But if I don’t check in, that’s OK too. Recently, I removed the Facebook App off my phone and it has been a really positive move. There’s only so many cat pictures and pictures of doctors who will operate when they hit 10,000 likes one can handle. I don’t feel I’m missing out by not checking Facebook ten times a day.

Being involved in a face to face conversation and hearing the mobile phone ring? I never pick up. Having made the effort to get together we each deserve the other’s full attention. The biggest compliment you can pay someone in this day and age is to give them your FULL attention.

Technology is a fantastic supplement to real life. The world is amazing and technology provides a window to it.

However, at the end of the day it is a tool. It is not a real life substitute.

The Gen Y and Gen Z gods and goddesses will no doubt heap a load of thunderbolts at my head for that sacrilege.

Do you struggle with technology usage? How to you see technology fitting in to your life?

Today I give myself permission to unplug.

Have An Uneasy Relationship With Your Photo ID? This May Give You Hope

It was not so long ago that photos displaying a bad hair day or an acne breakout could be safely locked away in the privacy of a bottom drawer.

Some of you might remember the luxury of being able to pick and choose which photo of your person would escape for public consumption. Remember sitting around with friends looking through photo albums that had passed through the family’s Censorship Department? Apart from your passport photo for which you were always suitably attired and somewhat somber, there were generally no photos circulating out there for which you had not primped and prepared. And all of this before the days of Photoshop.

Let’s roll the film forward (pun intended) to the present day in which photo ID cards abound. Apart from having a photo album on tap via a smart phone, most people walk around with a photo album of bureaucratic memories in their wallets. An absolute highlight reel of bureaucratic encounters and of putting your best worst face forward.

Rowan Atkinson funny ID photo

Some of my personal chart topping looks are:

  • Drawn, Haggard And Sunburned at the Motor Registry
  • You’re Kidding, A Photo, Really? at my local social club
  • You’re a Security Guy Taking This In A Dimly Lit Dungeon Using a Two Bit Camera at my work place
  • Gonna Have To Live With This Legacy For As Long as I Work Here also at my work place

Now, I don’t know about you, but the question of whether I’m going to have a photo taken on any given day is not on my daily morning checklist. It is enough to race out of the house in the morning with two matching shoes. I can’t tell you how many times I have confused navy with black in the early morning light. As a business woman, I know I’m not meant to talk about this. We are after all high-powered, multitasking infallible Amazons! But, a straw poll of some of my fellow working friends reveals that this is more common than the polished, together, high-powered female business fraternity have you believe.

So, I have never worried about how I look in ID photos. Then again, I have never had to date in the world of ID photos. Perhaps it’s different when a potential would-be beau is looking through your wallet and stumbles upon Drawn, Haggard and Sunburned at the Motor Registry. Better he sees the real you, I think. Less room for morning after the night before surprises.

I am now wondering what happens to the mountains of ID photos once they are taken. As I’m writing this, I have visions of faceless bureaucrats scouring through mountains of photo ID’s looking for hot dates, perhaps even plotting the creation of a ranking system like in the beginning of the Facebook movie.

It is impossible to believe there will ever come a time when we can offer up our own selfies to bureaucracy.

However, I’m pleased to report that a photo ID miracle occurred this week. Having stumbled into a situation where I needed to create a new photo ID, I headed off to the gallows photo centre to get shot. The lighting wasn’t great (is it ever?) and the camera operator was not a professional. Nevertheless, after a little congenial conversation around how this was my third attempt at navigating bureaucracy to obtain the ID and a couple of clicks I had my photo. Expecting the worst, I took the card, eyes going straight to the mug shot. And then the angels sang! The photo was passable, even more than half way decent. It even looks like a happy and excited me. Actually, it’s probably more likely relief that I had finally been succesful in my quest to secure this ID.

So this has restored my faith in the amateur model, amateur photgrapher shoot and produce process. I now have a new chart topping look – Happy, Excited And Ready For Anything.

And I have learned that it is possible to ace the photo ID and carry around a bureaucratic legacy which you can proudly show anyone, even a would-be beau!

Do you get anxious about having your photo taken? Given the opportunity, do you prepare your appearance for a photo ID shot?

Of Tingling Toes and Grandmas

It’s been fairly hectic around Curtaindom for the past couple of months, but in a good way.

The family has survived the final exams apocalypse and the Creature aka my eldest son is starting to stir from the swamp of note paper filled with endless scrawl. The reason I know this is that the swamp of notes, textbooks and other assorted stationery has stopped spreading like the proverbial primordial ooze and now just sits forlornly in a pile like the blob. Except there’s no quiver, maybe a rustle or two, but certainly no quiver.

Just as Creature finished his final exam, my youngest son, started his own path towards the swamp by undertaking his end of year exams. They finish on Friday and …


Don’t get me wrong I think education is vitally important and I am totally supportive. But this year has been an exam marathon. I feel like I’ve been pregnant for 13 months! Lots of practice runs and then finally the real deal and well, now it’s almost over.

So it was with some glee and much relief that the family approached this weekend and my mother’s birthday celebrations. My mother, bless her, is now 80 something and has the most fantastic outlook on life. The past couple of years has not been easy healthwise and the changes become more obvious with every passing week. But through it all, she has maintained her peace, graciousness and giving heart. She has also maintained her relationship with my with boys, her grandsons.

Matti (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Purely and simply, they love her and of course…. she, them. You can see it in the way they support her when she walks, when they drop in on her unannounced for some TLC that only grandmothers do and the highest compliment of all, they have made her their Facebook friend. How much more evidence of her being teenage royalty can you get than a Facebook link? My mum is just plain cool. There is no other way to describe her, well there is actually … I would also say she’s super nice.

This adoration from my boys makes my toes tingle, my mouth curl upwards at the sides and my heart beat a little faster. Observing my boys and my mother together and interacting is one of my greatest joys. Probably because this experience was denied me as all my grandparents had passed before I was born. How wonderful to have the opportunity to seek out wisdom without judgement, to hear stories from another time and country and to have someone sneak you parental contraband!

The enduring relationship is made even more poignant because when they were born my boys had a full complement of four grandparents and now there are only two.

So whilst there was no disco dancing and no rock music at this party, we had a great time and made some happy memories. At this stage, every birthday is a milestone birthday and every birthday is a true cause for celebration.

And the thing that really made by toes tingle? This is what my eldest wrote in his grandmother’s birthday card:

Dear A,

I love you and I will always do anything for you.

Love J

Well just pick me up and call me mush!

Did you have grandparents in your life as a child? How do you view interactions between your parents and your children?

Facebook Spam Party

A couple of days ago ahead of the Facebook IPO I uploaded a post on my Facebook wall about how much my Facebook data was worth in light of Facebook having been valued at US$104billion. It was worth about US$356 according to a website, FBME and I jokingly posted that I wanted the value in cash and not Facebook share options.

Ever since then, my blog SPAM folder has been playing host to a multitude of comments from various, mostly foreign, Facebook profiles. The comments seem intelligent and pointed, but directed at something other than my blog posts and comments to which they are targeted. I appear to be throwing a Facebook SPAM party and didn’t even know it.

Ever the gracious host I must have served up $356 in SPAM refreshments by now. I’d be grateful if you guys could find somewhere else to party. There have been about 30 of you in the last 24 hours alone and not a flatterer amongst the bunch! And not one request for my bank account number or news that a long lost wealthy relative has died and left me millions. Please move on and let the garden variety SPAM sleep in peace – they need their energy for their Viagra. Alternatively, I am sure there are a few Facebook shareholders with share options they wish to unload.

The good news is that WordPress spamware has caught about 98% of the comments, so whilst it’s my party, I don’t feel the need to cry.

I moderated the rest into the trash bin.

Are you having the same issue or am I the only one with the party balloons tied to the gateposts?

N is for Notifications: 14 Notifications I Would Like to See in Real Life

photo from flikr -
duncan's photostream

Hello little red/orange light. You shine out at me in a comforting glow and envelope me with your promise. I’m glad you found your way into my day. You beckon to me with that cute little number which signifies action and attention, a shift in the cyber universe, whilst the real one was spinning. I yearn for your presence everyday and today you have found me. As I reach for my mouse, my heart starts to pound, who…what? One click and you are gone to reveal your secret beneath. And your secret today…. Chris requests that you help him make two thousand pancakes at Cafe World, after he harvested and milled the two thousand wheat crops he grew on Farmville.

Facebook notifications, you gotta love them!

But what if real life came with notifications? What if that blinking, bubble of a red light appeared with really useful information in real time?

Here are fourteen notifications I would like to see in real life. The characters referred to in these notifications are purely fictional to protect the guilty and I have taken these names from lists of unusual children’s names. I apologise in advance if your name or a relative’s appears on this list.

The clerk at the dry-cleaners found your sunglasses which you left there yesterday and has sold them on E Bay.

Kermit pushed his supermarket trolley into your car whilst it was parked at the mall and caused that big dent in the driver’s side door.

Kermit has no money to speak of and he has a wife who is a mean lawyer.

Decimus knows the obscure word which is the answer to  twenty-two down to complete that five hundred clue crossword that has sat on your coffee table for two months.

Puck is jealous and is stalking your every move in real life and on-line and looks at your profile every hour on the hour.

Laviszia has no intention of calling you, despite kissing you on both cheeks today with a breezy, “so great to see you, we must get together, hun, will call you.”

Although he denied it, Macky put his finger through the chocolate frosting on that cake you have been icing for the last hour and saving for guests.

Macky commented that it tasted delicious.

Goncalo placed the television remote control on the sofa cushion next to him and it has fallen behind the sofa where you will never find it.

Your bum really does look big in that.

You sat down at this computer three hours ago to check the timetable for the bus which in fact left two hours ago .. why are you still here?

Kerripaula just white-anted you.

The dog just let off gas.

No, trust me, it really was the dog this time.

These I think would be most helpful.

What notifications would you like to see?