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Circles of Trust

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Hopefully I have not given away too much in the title, but if you’ve made it this far, you are perhaps somewhat interested in what I do for a living, how I came to be on Google+, what insights this young whippersnapper could possibly have to impart. (With any luck, you also agree that a well-placed Meet The Parents reference never goes amiss.)

So again, hello. As you might guess from my profile, I am an actor-writer-producer working in the two US cities where those professionals are typically found. In a previous life, I briefly plied my wares in the dotcom dales of Silicon Valley and in Redmond WA; which seemed the natural path for a geeky girl graduating with an EECS degree from Berkeley. And then there’s the other thing. Why yes, well guessed – I am black. African-American if you like (though not quite that either, as my passport is not blue.) A person of colour (with a u, if you don’t mind). Frankly, I tend to refer to myself more as being melanin-fortified. It gives an extra bit of a kick to match the afro pick.

I was invited to Google+ on Beta Day 2 by +Kenny Yu, an MIT grad with whom I worked during a college summer internship in the technology division of a certain (particularly notorious) investment bank. Like many of my old techie friends, Kenny continues to be bemused by my unchecked enthusiasm for Google products. Over the years, I have socially networked on Friendster, Orkut (I know), Facebook, Nerve (hey yohh), and Twitter (only becoming active 6 months ago, for shame.) The extent of my activity on MySpace was a skeletal profile boasting Tom as my only friend. Which naturally leads us to Google+; where I once more have the pleasure of including +Tom Anderson in my special circles, only voluntarily this time.

Quite unlike any of my previous experiences in social media, the philosophy behind Google+ neatly mirrors my own – marrying my myriad spheres of interest with my passion for exploration. With one quick peep at a G+ profile, I can populate and fortify my little village with interesting views from all over the world. Creepy and exhilarating all at once!

But in my very first Hangout on the Plus, a strange thing happened. I had +Mike Downes in my circles because we have the UK in common and he’s active in new business and cultural development in his local area, but we’d never previously spoken. Once I got in the Hangout however, I was suddenly aware of my being in the presence of older, white, middle-class, almost certainly heterosexual males (per their profiles or my own conjecture), and was rendered instantly camera-shy and tongue-tied. A fearful doe trapped in the big, bad lion’s den of the Interwebs. I exaggerate of course, but this is learned behavior that a darker-complected girl might well take on once she unpacks her bags and settles down in America.

With the current Arrington vs. O’Brien CNN faceoff and with each public kerfuffle on the topic of race in this country, I rehash incidents from my own life as a perpetual other. For good or ill, I reside at the unmarked intersection between technology, high society and street culture. I write at turns in Franglais, Russian, Yoruba, American Southern argot and various pidgins and patois. I am frequently told I “act bougie” (as in bourgeois), that I “don’t sound black at all”, or that I have a “male sense of humour”.

I bristle at any and all of these, but will admit to having developed some skill in the art of code-and-context-switching. And I don’t mean the computer science kind. Forgive my Harvard for showing, but I’d be answerable to quite a few minority folk if I didn’t drop some W.E.B. Du Bois right here. Double consciousness, or always seeing oneself through the eyes of others, is a concept that’s likely familiar to anyone outside the dominant culture; anyone who’d have had anything resembling the reaction I had to encountering +Mike Downes and +Lord Miles Parker (who, naturally, turned out to be perfectly harmless and who indeed were gracious enough to share quite a few tech tips and even some entertainment industry related tidbits! We now have a little mutual appreciation society going, by the way, and I highly recommend both for your encircling pleasure).

But this tale of fleeting discomfort leads me to now point out the notion of privilege – in real-life society, as well as online. Equality is paramount among social issues of personal interest to me, and that means equality for people of all shades, for women, the LGBTQ-identified, the mentally ill, the non-religious, and every other identifier that describes me and the peeps in my circles. In an insightful article I came across recently by blogger Jeff “Dark Spirit” Adams, he offers the following tale from This is Water, a novel by the late David Foster Wallace,

There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, ‘What the hell is water?”

According to the wisdom of Jeff (himself a self-confessed member of the dominant culture, i.e. a white boy), creating change is about changing perception, educating yourself, and finally joining the conversation.

My tenure on Google+ reinforces my hope that conversations and exchange can indeed change the world. One last quote if I may – it’s one of my favorites and is quite apt advice for a happy experience online and off.

Veux-tu des perles? Plonge-toi dans la mer. [Do you want pearls? Dive into the sea.]

More Fun Stuff!

Your Life of Privilege by Jeff “Dark Spirit” Adams : on Nerdiest Kids

The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl :a webseries by +Issa Rae

Google Search:“W.E.B Dubois double consciousness”

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Apple Store refresh to show new Cinema displays, not MacBooks

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The recent rumors you’ve been hearing, the ones about new MacBook Airs, may not be true. Recent intelligence shows another possibility. You remember those leaked part numbers from Apple, don’t you? At first, we thought those were for some new MacBook Airs that were supposed to be refreshed on July 14. After that never happened, those leaked part numbers made no sense. The new rumor is that those part numbers are for Apple Cinema displays. These displays are to be updated with Thunderbolt support. This way, you can ditch standard display connections and use the new Thunderbolt technology to connect your Mac to a display.

This rumor wasn’t just dreamed up like the past MacBook Air rumor. Apple actually leaked this information theirselves. They posted an image on their website showing a cinema display connected to a MacBook Pro via Thunderbolt. What caught our eye on the image is that the displays show the Lion background instead of the Snow Leopard background that is being used on all other images on the website. Furthermore, the letters in the URL that the image was located at corresponded to the previously mentioned leaked part numbers. To add fuel to the fire, the cinema display portion of Apple’s site would not allow purchases for a while. The “Buy Now” link was broken, but this was later fixed. Whatever the case, a near-future refresh to the cinema displays seems very promising. We might also see Lion released with the new displays, since the leaked images show the Lion background instead of Snow Leopard. Lion is, in fact, due to be released sometime in July, per a promise by Apple.

Browser-based apps to make your life easier

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I hate it when I have to log in to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn to check on the status of those sites. By the end of it and including email, I might have 8-10 tabs open–on a slow day. Logging into all of these sites is time-consuming and takes an application all its own.

Yonoo is a tool that’s available that can help you consolidate your social media into one browser-based view. Set up was easy. You can establish a free account and then you select the social media that you want to include in your Yoono view. As you select each site, a window opens where you log in to the social media site and that’s it.

You have to install the Yoono plug-in for your Firefox or Chrome browser. I use Safari, FireFox and Chrome constantly so I loaded the plug-in for Firefox and Chrome. There’s also a client version that you can download but lately I’ve been using browser-based applications more and more.

Once you have the plug-in installed and the social media hooked into it, Yoono runs as a sidebar that you can easily minimize as needed. I’ve only just started playing with it but my initial opinion is that this is a pretty handy application. Price: FREE-99.

The next browser-based application that I think is a must-have is HootSuite. HootSuite is a great way to update your social media in one consolidated application. If you have multiple Twitter accounts or blogs or even LinkedIn, you can submit updates using HootSuite There are many cool functions that HootSuite has but one of that I like best is the ability to schedule the posting of my Tweets. I can work on my Tweets for tomorrow right now and I can line up however many tweets I want so I can dominate a Tweet Stream. I always Tweet and retweet through HootSuite. I tweet excerpts from each of my blog posts and sometime retweet others’ tweets. Price: FREE-99.

If you’re a Mac user and even if you’re not, you might want to look into Microsoft’s browser based versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel. These are stripped down versions of the client apps but they work pretty well, they’re browser based so you don’t have to bastardize your Mac with Windows software, and it’s FREE-99–always the best price. You have to have a Live.com account. I’ve written on this before. You can check it out by clicking here. Price: FREE-99

Another really cool app that I use all of the time is iCyte. ICyte lets you capture webpages and save, categorize and reference whenever you want. This has been great for me because I still like to keep lots of tabs open so that I don’t loose a page that I’m interested in. Now, I can just save the page to iCyte and come back to it whenever I want. What’s key is that it saves the page as it was when you saved it so if the site owner takes the page down, you can still get back to it. ICyte also has a feature where you can go to the live version of the page. Price: FREE-99.

Best Time To Share On Google Plus

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While content is the most important factor on people selecting to leave a comment or re-share your posts, the time of the day you post also plays an important role. The factors to consider when posting are:

– Time of the day when your target interest group is most active – The post “Time to live”. How the amount of comments and re-shares is distributed across the post life – Day of the week. People are more active over the weekends on social sites. – How many posts you make per day.

There is an interesting info-graph on the science of social timing here.

While this information applies to Twitter and Facebook, the main trends do apply to Google+. They tell us that: – Wednesday and the weekend are the most active time periods for social media – The time to live from a post peaks right after the post goes live and drops down quickly afterwards. – Spamming and not posting are equally wrong strategies. In Facebook your followers will give you more likes if you post something every 2 days. Masters of the social media like Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble post multiple times a day, thus it does not feel as if they were spamming your stream.

Now that we know some of the basic parameters, we can turn to the question on how to get the best time of the day for your interest group. The transparency report tool from Google gives you an overview of internet traffic on your country. For example, for Switzerland:

Note that you can search for different countries and across many Google domains. Unfortunately they don’t yet have stats for plus.google.com yet. Using the traffic for all Google sites should suffice for our purposes. Also note that different countries have different “footprints”. This is the graph for the US:

You can see the difference in surfing activities among citizens of these 2 countries. In Switzerland it peaks in the morning and after lunch. There is a “low traffic zone” in the afternoon and a peak in the evening. In the US this is more normalized: maybe because of the amount of time zones in the country. But it is still clear that the highest traffic is in the evening.

From the Kissmetrics blog we know that social activity is higher in the evening. This makes sense since many people don’t check social media while they are at work. From the country graph for Switzerland we see that the largest evening usage is between 7PM and 9 PM. The best time to get attention from Swiss people is to post at 7 PM (GMT+2)

In the US the best time would be between 6PM and 10 PM Eastern. We have also learned from Kissmetrics that most of the population of the US is in Eastern time (48%). This fact is reflected in the curve start-up time.

There is one remaining point to be discussed: Hangouts. If you want to organize a truly international hangout the best time is 10 AM Eastern time. You get the Europeans around 4 PM, the folks in Asia late at night, and the west coast folks are used to being up early to take the pulse of the world.

Do you have any recommendations on how to increase the visibility of your posts that you want to share with us?

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Are the Online Survey Respondents Excluded by TrueSample “Bad” or Just Different?

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The primary question asked of us at conferences or at other forums is “Are TrueSample-excluded survey respondents really “bad” respondents, or are they just different?”

TrueSample excludes online survey respondents that are “not real”, “not unique” and “not engaged”. The first and second have to do with the respondents being verifiable and not being duplicates. The third has to do with their performance in surveys – do they speed through the survey relative to other respondents, or do they straightline their responses? In all three situations, the online survey respondents are different from others in characteristics that are separate from their survey responses. In other words, they are outliers, but they are classified as such not because of how they answer the survey questions, but because of other characteristics that they exhibit.

Therefore, the obvious question that we are asked is why we would assume their data is not of high quality and therefore discard what could potentially be valuable information.

To answer that question, we need to consider the underlying problem: we start with the belief that there are, in fact, respondents who are intent on gaming the system and therefore provide less-than-truthful responses, thereby compromising online research data quality.

Starting with that assumption, the next step is how to identify them. We are definitely in unsupervised modeling land here. There are no tags that we can train a supervised model with, telling us what a “bad” respondent is. Supervised modeling is out of the question for this type of quality control – there is no cost effective way to identify a set of “bad” online survey respondents for model training.

So we do what we feel is the next best thing: we identify a set of undesirable characteristics, such as not providing verifiable information, like name/address (considering that is the only survey-agnostic information asked on a survey that we can verify) or speeding/straight-lining through an interview.

We feel strongly that online survey respondents that exhibit these undesirable characteristics are more likely to give data of poorer quality. And since our research (see the white paper on “What Impact do Bad Respondents Have on Business Results”) consistently shows that they provide data that is biased compared to the data provided by the individuals that do not exhibit these characteristics, we feel that the decision to exclude online survey respondents is the correct one.

There is a very valid argument made that the percentage of respondents that we call “bad” is more than small in some cases and in certain demographics. We agree that there are “good” respondents in the discarded pile that may have been excluded, for example, because their names and addresses are not verifiable for legitimate reasons, or because they think and move so quickly that they are in fastest few percentiles across a surveys and have been identified as “speeders”.

But do these people make up the majority of excluded respondents? If so, wouldn’t the data of the excluded people be closer to the data of the “good” ones? Is there something about these legitimately unverifiable people that causes their data to be in the same cluster as the gamers? We do realize that we are likely removing some respondents that are good – i.e. we are committing Type I errors. Having recognized this likelihood we are, in fact, continuing to conduct research to reduce these errors.

The questions that are asked of us are valid. If you truly believe that all online survey respondents are above-board, then in your view, such quality control measures are unnecessary. However, if you believe that there is a percentage of respondents that game the system and that provide questionable data, then we at TrueSample believe that we have a defensible quality control methodology. We also recognize that there is always room to improve a method and reduce errors. To this end, we are continuing to conduct research in this area and will continue to share our findings as we learn more.