Why I won’t be using Twitter’s new content filters

Some new features to help you control what you see and who you interact with on Twitter

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Twitter opens a window on the world. We can see events as they occur through the eyes of first hand witnesses and we can discuss events and issues with others. We can be entertained. We can learn. We can expand our horizons.

Unfortunately, these positive experiences may be offset by exposure to trollish behaviour and harrassment.

Yesterday, Twitter announced two new features that will allow people to filter the content that they see in their notifications and main twitter stream. A new Quality Filter will suppress content that Twitter’s algorithm considers to be low quality, such as “duplicate Tweets or content that appears to be automated.” In addition, a new control will be added to the notifications pane to enable users to “limit notifications to only people they follow.”

Providing users with greater control over what gets into their Twitter feed will be welcomed by many.

I, however, do not plan to enable either feature. Why wouldn’t I use these features? For a couple of reasons.

First, because I curate my feed, the trolls don’t find their way into it. I am not a profligate follower. I don’t automatically follow everyone who follows me. I follow only those people who have caught my attention with their views and thoughtfulness or their humour or just the fact that they are interesting people. So, I rarely have the problem of seeing garbage content. And when I do see it, I unfollow or block the source.

Second, I don’t want an algorithm to make my content decisions for me. I especially do not want to be limited to seeing only the content of people whom I have already followed. I do want to be open to the person who I have never met but who comes into my notifications because he or she shares my interests and has responded to something I said. And that doesn’t mean just someone who agrees with me. It also means the people who disagree with me, but who offer something worth considering in their disagreement. I want to discover these people. Because contact with the people I disagree with is my protection against homophily, the tendency we all have to seek out and associate with the people we agree with, the people most like us.

Homophily is the enemy of open-mindedness. And my open Twitter feed, a feed that is open to discovery, is my protection against being trapped in the bubble of likemindedness.

And that’s why I won’t be using Twitter’s new filters. They may create a safer experience. But at a price. A price I’m not willing to pay.

WordPress 4.6 “Pepper”

Version 4..6 of WordPress, named “Pepper” in honor of jazz baritone saxophonist Park Frederick “Pepper” Adams III, is available for download or update in your WordPress dashboard.. New features in 4..6 help you to focus on the important things while feeling more at home..

I have been using WordPress since I launched ProPR.ca over a decade ago in 2005. And one of the things I look forward to are the videos they include with the notification of each upgrade to the platform.

Today’s it’s WordPress 4.6, named “Pepper.” And the video is straightforward and helpful. It doesn’t oversell. It tells me about the major changes and then gets out the way.

Hey WordPress team: Well done!

Source: WordPress 4.6 “Pepper”

Email and Twitter messages give behind the scenes picture of Ottawa sinkhole crisis management

Correspondence from key city officials after the massive sinkhole opened up reveal a scramble to control the situation — and the message.

In mid-morning June 8,  a gigantic sinkhole opened up in the middle of Ottawa‘s busiest shopping district. When I say gigantic, the sinkhole was big enough to swallow a van.

Luckily, no one was injured or killed. But the sinkhole broke gas mains, disrupted electricity to nearby businesses and close down one of the busiest intersections in Ottawa for several weeks. It also flooded the tunnel for auto was new LRT line, which was being bored beneath the location of the sinkhole.

Ottawa Council was sitting at the time of the incident. And you can only imagine what went on behind the scenes as the Mayor and Councillors pressed city staff and emergency workers on the scene for information to respond to news media questions. Well, actually, you can do more than image it. Thanks to the Ottawa Citizen, which filed an Access to Information request for the communications relating to the incident. The City of Ottawa delivered texts from email and twitter. On Friday, the Citizen published the verbatim highlights of the communications between the Mayor, Councillors, staff and contractors. And it makes interesting reading for anyone working in a communications position who have yet to have their first experience in real life crisis communications.

What do these communications show? People doing their jobs, trying to separate conjecture from fact and attempting to provide an honest, but responsible picture for the media and public of what they know and what was happening. Among the highlights:

  • This really was a “near miss.” Two city buses passed over the road only minutes before it collapsed.
  • In a world in which citizens provide witness to remarkable events, it was ironic that one of the first people to post a picture on twitter was a CTV weather announcer. Some days, you’re just in the right place at the right time.
  • Trolls will be trolls. Amidst the otherwise dry exchanges of information are a couple emails best not responded to. One writer copies Ottawa Jim Watson on an email addressed to Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne sarcastically comparing Ottawa’s sinkhole to the province’s Climate Change Action Plan.
  • In the midst of things, you just have to find a moment to smile. One city staffer found humorous relief forwarding an article in The Beaverton that attributed the sinkhole to the weight of people waiting in line to use the bathroom at a nearby McDonald’s.

Bottom line: the emails give a good picture of a system working as it should. Contractors and staff getting to the bottom of things and working to fix them. Politicians responding to the public and media. A classic case of finding focus in chaos.

Source: Emails from city officials show chaos after Ottawa sinkhole opened

Perceived bias or real bias? Inside PR 451

Twitter opens verification to everyone. Yahoo closes an era. Anthony Ponce is a backseat rider. And the New York Times Public Editor shines a spotlight on the importance of perceived bias.

Gini Dietrich, Martin Waxman and Joseph Thornley cover these topics on Inside PR 451.


RIP Yahoo

Yahoo once was the directory of the internet. So, we couldn’t let it fade into oblivion without marking the event.

Verify me, Twitter

It has been a widely-coveted symbol – the Twitter blue verification check mark. Now, we all can apply for it. Many will be called, but few will be granted? Have you applied for Twitter verification under the new process? Has your application been approved?

Backseat Rider

Anthony Ponce left his job as an on-air news anchor to spend full-time driving tax and posting the stories he picks up to his Facebook page. An interesting experiment. Politicians long have known that the best briefing they could get when visiting a city is the discussion with the taxi driver. They go everywhere and see everything.

Bias in News Media Redux

This is the issue we live with on a day by day basis. It’s also something which viewers of Fox News seem to accept, even welcome. Liz Spayd, the recently-appointed Public Editor at the New York Times reminds us that perception and reality do not necessarily converge when it comes to the issue of bias in news coverage. We’ve talked a lot about bias and personal perspective. And Spayd’s column brings us back to this topic.

Listen to the full podcast

Download Inside PR 451.