Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beware the Ides of March

It is the Ides of March - which was a pagan religious holiday until Julius Caesar pissed off the wrong politicians. (Cautionary tale for the Republican front runner).  Because I do not wish to tempt fate with any questionable missives on the Ides of any month, particularly today, I will keep this blog post short. 

For contractual reasons I can't be totally forth coming on today's subject. I think people who followed the line of reasoning in yesterday's blog will get it, even if the message has to be encrypted slightly.

Yesterday I posed a theory that the more times you repeat a word or phrase in a blog, the more hits you would get on that subject. It isn't really a theory as much as it is a statement of how the Internet works. Search engines are just looking for similar sets of code (ultimately specific groups of 1s and 0s). Once found, programing can do all kinds of things with that discovered information.  

So yesterday, as you know, I tried to use several names and words repeatedly in the post to see what the algorithm gods of the Internet would make of it.   Pictured are two screen grabs of that blog post as it appeared on my virtual desk top yesterday. These ads are the real thing and I did not choose them nor place them in and/or near the blog. The ghost of the Internet did that.  As you can see it "read" the post and stuck in ads which seemed appropriate to the subject matter. They are self explanatory and not surprising at all.

It's not that the NSA, CIA and FBI are looking over your shoulder as  you write online, they don't have to. This trolling, searching, calculating digital brain is sorting through your data using a sophisticated algorithm. Basically what we do and say, click or like, repost or retweet on line is being used to profile us.  These screen pictures are proof although in this case the information is being used strictly for advertising. If you click on the ads that appear on any page, it adds to the metadata of your profile. 
I have been over careful about NOT writing the words and names I over-used in yesterday's blog. I doubt if the same ads will appear as part of today's blog but,  there is a bigger worry I have on this day of March 15th.  What other profile data is being gathered about me, and you right now.  These algorithms are so good they are probably doing a psychological analysis of the style tone and voice of these writings and coming to a much more complicated idea of who I am. Since I struggle with that personal identity myself, I wish there was a way to check the profile not unlike the way we can log on and check our credit score.
"Beware the Ides of March", said the soothsayer to Julius Caesar, predicting the day he would be assassinated. We don't have soothsayers to predict the future anymore, now we have algorithms and they don't seem to want to share.
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Grecian said...

I mention Trump a lot in my posts...and never in a positive way; but I get a lot of pro-trump ads because I simply mention the name. I also get quite a few anti-Trump ads. The algorithms aren't quite sure about me. And a lot of ads asking me to join Conservative groups. And a lot of right wing newsletter invitations.

I look at them in much the same way I look at a bad snail mail list.

Years ago I worked for an ad agency that had a giant set of computers and machinery on the ground floor that provided mailing lists for advertisers. I used to say that the people downstairs could provide you with an address list of one-legged left-handed Lithuanian lap-dancers within about twenty minutes.
Now, you could save money if you bought an older mailing list, that hadn't been updated for awhile...and that hadn't been, perhaps, as carefully vetted as the high-dollar lists.

In my television work I often wear an earpiece so that the booth can talk to me directly. It's called an IFB, and I get a new one about every fifteen years. In order to have one that fits, I go to a hearing aid company (as do all of us who use IFBs) and they take a mold of the inside of my ear and use it to build the new IFB.
For the last thirty years or so I've gotten some very nice full-color, varnished heavy card stock advertisements for hearing aids. I don't need a hearing aid (not yet, anyway), and I only need an IFB every fifteen years or so...but they're spending some pretty substantial money about once every ten days to send me hearing aid ads.

Bad mailing list.

And that is how I see the Internet in general and Facebook in particular.

Bad mailing lists.