Barriers To Audience Engagement

this application will be able to huh?It’s nothing really new. You visit a Web site, read an article or consume some bits of content and, depending how much coffee you’ve drank, feel compelled to leave a comment.

“Join the conversation”, “share this post with your friends and followers” are the mantra of those looking to build an audience in what’s become a fractured digital landscape saturated with countless options vying for our attention.

What follows next (still) baffles me. Please sign-in with Facebook, Twitter, or [insert prominent social network here] to leave a comment on our glorious Web site.

Ok, if you insist. Hmm… I’ll choose Twitter.

Web-site-you-want-to-leave-a-comment-on would like to access your Twitter account and “Update your profile“, “Post Tweets for you“.

Oh wait. Let me think about that one for a moment. Hmm… No.

Incredibly there are many sites still employing this rather severe mode of access and APIs that want untethered access to everything under the sun, including your firstborn child.
Content administrators who subscribe to the argument of forcing users to sign-in with their social media credentials would likely say it’s the most effective way to ensure everyone leaving a comment is a real person. Automated bots and trolls on the other hand conspire to pollute discussion threads with bogus or low quality content, so these protocols are necessary the moderators would argue.

Perhaps so, but sites imposing strict rules governing audience engagement, for example, requiring users to log-in with their Facebook credentials or only a few other cherry-picked social networks, is an unfortunate measure for dealing with the mountains of automated crap now circulating the Web. I’m afraid resorting to these tactics only discourages authentic audience participation.

Because You Watched…

because you watched

Reading Yoav Aner’s blog this morning I’m reminded how many applications, particularly the mobile variety, have the capacity to creep us out by appropriating our personal information. Whether it’s compiling recommendations based on our usage behaviour, accessing our physical location, or trolling our contact list, the expectation is that our software experience is somehow enhanced by the unscrupulous broadcast of our personal information.

Netflix is a prime example of a service that tries way too hard with the concept of personalization. Not really creepy, just more of an annoyance.
If I happen to watch an episode of Doctor Who Netflix starts filtering my menu with list after list of science-fiction related movies and TV shows.

Because you watched… Conan the Barbarian our clever algorithms have determined you’ll be interested in seeing Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise. Really? I’m curious, what’s the logic behind these seemingly arbitrary recommendations.

Because your 7-1/2 year old son logged in under your profile and watched an episode of Transformers: Rescue Bots we think you’ll be interested in watching… The Smurfs.

Because you watched… Waiting for Lightning, the documentary covering the life of legendary skateboarder Danny Way, here’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Walking Dead, and Jack Reacher.

Here’s what’s popular on Facebook:  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, The Walking Dead, and (surprise surprise) Jack Reacher starring Tom Cruise.

Ok, Netflix really thinks I should watch Jack Reacher.

Please no. Stop it. Stop trying to learn what I’m interested in viewing. Please just allow me to search by genre (PS3 interface) and decide for myself.

Clusters Of Transit Time

transit clusters

As I write this post I’m sitting in bumper to bumper traffic going up Bathurst Street on my way to the subway station. “What’s the hold up?!” I can hear one of the elderly passengers towards the front griping abrasively to the bus driver, who seems largely unconcerned by the gridlock. Our bus is moving at a snail’s pace. Oh but thanks to WordPress’ lovely Android app I can blog to my heart’s content while stuck in this transit purgatory.

“It might actually be faster to get out and walk” one of the guys sitting behind me jokes. Yeah, you’re probably right, I say with a cynical undertone. I wonder if I’ll get home before 7:30 pm to eat dinner with my family. Yeah right, who am I kidding, they’ve already finished.

Like many people living in Toronto, I spend what feels like an agonizing amount of time commuting each week. Sure, my carbon footprint is awesome but that gives me little solace when I think about Toronto’s current traffic woes and how difficult it’s becoming to get around the GTA (that’s Greater Toronto Area for all you international readers).
What will Toronto’s transit system look like in 10 years if we continue paying lip service to bolstering subway and LRT lines?

The disheveled man sitting next to me smells like an ashtray. There’s also the palpable scent of a late afternoon fast food lunch, perhaps stale fried chicken grease —or was that hot dog and onions au jus? —I can’t put my finger on it. The man’s stinky third-hand smoke odour reminds me of a scene from the first Matrix movie when Agent Smith tells Morpheus why he wants out of the [Matrix] simulation.