Attention, meaningful content and post-apocalyptic novels

Our latest podcast ended up being a tad longer than planned – clearly a sign of a lively, engaged discussion. In talking about various aspects of the attention economy, we managed to hold each other’s attention for a good 45 minutes.

Many ‘attention economists’ these days quote Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon and his observation that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. It is certainly a quote that has aged well, and one can only wonder what Simon would make of the world now, 47 years on from his famous statement.

Sam doesn’t quite see the crisis of attention that brands often lament. But quality and controllability matter more than ever, and producers of content – especially the advertising and media industries – need to up their game to stay relevant. Users control their online experience through ad blockers and subscription services to filter out interruptive commercial communication.

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Inertia, ethics, and breaches of trust

Data, data everywhere, but ethics in short supply.

The latest episode of the Small Data Forum podcast follows the classic narrative arc of a three-act story. Beginning, middle, and end. The set-up, the confrontation, and the resolution. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

And although our wide-ranging discussion did run the risk of leaving all three co-hosts in the depths of despair, Neville Hobson, Thomas Stoeckle, and I end up hoping that the asteroid NASA predicts is hurtling towards earth can be diverted from its nihilistic path.

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“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it” – Facebook, Cambridge Analytica and the future of the surveillance economy

The SmallDataForum convened in late March, and as for our big story, we had several candidates and angles on the same theme of the use and abuse of data.

Sam is now a newly published author of a book about how to tell powerful and purposeful stories with data, Narrative by Numbers. A very timely (and equally timeless) topic and title.

A recently published study in Science about the velocity and spread of true and false news online caught our attention. Tina McCorkindale, CEO of the Institute for Public Relations, did a great analysis with key takeaways for communicators.

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08: The Facebook files, machine learning and fake news continue

Such is the nature of our continuously evolving subject matter, when we have completed a podcast, we often find that on key discussion points, there is already more, and breaking news.

Just days after recording our latest musings last week on the challenges and opportunities surrounding big-small data, with multiple references to Facebook and their attempts to counter fake news, the Guardian broke the story of the Facebook Files, based on more than 100 internal training manuals, spreadsheets and flowcharts outlining the rules and guidelines for what its two billion users can and can’t post on the site.

This will add to the global debate about the role and ethics of Facebook and other social media platforms in public discourse. And without a doubt it will be a key topic of future SDF podcasts.


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