April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Salvador Rodriguez, Half of Twitter’s board members rarely tweet
Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Dick Costello have tweeed 14,278, 7,178 and 7,122 times respectively.
Kara Swisher comments on Marjorie Scardino joining Twitter’s board, but notes that there’s still a huge underrepresentation of women in tech at all levels, and especially in leadership roles.
The tech industry — and, more specifically, Silicon Valley — continues to stumble forward in earnest about how few women are represented in its top ranks of management and on its boards. This, despite the enthusiastic embrace of tech products by many women.
This is not a new problem, of course, but one that rears its head periodically as it becomes clear that the ground gained by women in this perhaps most important sector of the economy — a sector more amenable than most to more tolerance and diversity, too — is being lost rather than gained.
Any gander at the variety of studies, and even a not-very-scientific look at the subject, will show that fewer women are starting companies, are being promoted at companies, are funded, are funders, are on boards, are being rewarded in the same way. At a high-profile party I attended last night, for example, the small handful of women in attendance all seemed to notice and comment on the massive sea of men, though the men appeared blissfully unaware of the imbalance.
“They have no idea at all,” one prominent woman said to me, recounting a story about her visit to an advisory meeting of a tech bank board, where she was the single woman in a room full of men. When she brought it up there — not an easy thing for her, since she was the only woman — she was met with a lot of genuine concern when the penny dropped, but few ideas for action.
• Moreover, given her [Sheryl Sandberg’s] positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. - Anne-Marie Slaughter •
The individualistic, libertarian-leaning Silicon Valley types have absorbed the credo that tech is a pure meritocracy, and if there is an imbalance in the number of women in the industry it is a flaw in society as a whole, education, or women’s ambitions. To some extent that is the message of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which characterizes the barriers to women’s advancement to senior roles as their unwillingness to ‘lean in’ — to be more ambitious, aggressive, and to take on more difficult work.
As Anne-Marie Slaughter put it in a review of Lean In,
Sandberg’s approach, as important as it is, is at best half a loaf. Moreover, given her positions first at Google and now at Facebook, it is hard not to notice that her narrative is what corporate America wants to hear. For both the women who have made it and the men who work with them, it is cheaper and more comfortable to believe that what they need to do is simply urge younger women to be more like them, to think differently and negotiate more effectively, rather than make major changes in the way their companies work.
So is the dearth of women in top jobs due to a lack of ambition or a lack of support? Both, as Sandberg herself grants, proposing that women should “wage battles on both fronts.” Yet she chooses to concentrate only on the “internal obstacles,” the ways in which women hold themselves back. This is unfortunate. As a feminist and a corporate leader, Sandberg seems ideally placed to ask the question that all too often gets lost amid the welter of talk about what women should do, what they should want and how they should behave. When it comes to ensuring that caregivers still have paths to the corner office, how can business lean in?
The authors of this NY Times piece ask an interesting question about the compatibility of Snapchat’s imagined world and Facebook’s:
As for Snapchat, its compatibility with Facebook is unclear. Snapchat is centered on impermanence and offers privacy and anonymity. Facebook constantly pushes users to share more and is rooted in real-world identities and creating a permanent, largely public record of people’s daily lives and interactions.
Given these differences, the Snapchat bid looks like an attempt to corral back some of the cool factor in the form of young eyeballs. Three years ago, Snapchat did not even exist, and Facebook, with a valuation of $100 billion before its public offering, was the hot company. Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.
“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”
Mr. Poole said Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of Snapchat may point to an identity crisis of sorts.
“Does that mean that they’re willing to embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel that threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?”
But what of the larger question: is society (starting with the Snapchatting young) rejecting the Facebook notion of a single, unchanging identity and a global social network based on publicy? Yes. The fall of Facebook has started. Peak Facebook has already passed or will soon. Why?
The Benthamite underpinnings of Facebook are becoming unpopular. Young people in particular don’t want their teachers, parents, employers, and even all their friends to know everything going on in their lives. Oh, and the government. People want to have multiple, contextually defined identities, different circles of knowing, different non-overlapping rules of attraction. Everything is not everything.
Google is involved in a huge brouhaha now about imposing Google+ ‘real identities’ on YouTube commenting, which is an echo of the same shout for identity freedom.
My bet for the next answer is on social operating systems, although Google is moving down a dark road with Google+ identities, and Apple seems oddly reluctant to do anything social, natively. Perhaps the failure of Apple’s Ping has frightened them off it.
Maybe we should be on the lookout for some crazy developers that build streaming at the OS level, or near to it. Dropbox and other virtual distributed file systems are close enough to do something like that, constantly syncing in the background, and implementing a distributed model of sharing. Imagine if Dropbox supported plugins to provide the equivalent of Snapchat, or Facebook-like sharing of updates with friends, but where the user can define the visibility of interactions, not Facebook. And — if they want — users could opt to share some things in closed contexts, like private accounts on Twitter, and others in more open settings. People are after a spectrum of identity sharing, and Facebook just won’t go there.
This week’s GigaOM Research Tweets, and my first customer timeline.
My first tweet, Oct 26 2006:
working on a big fat report
Nova Spivack, CEO Bottlenose | Twitter’s Lucrative Data Mining Business
Bernhard Warner, More Evidence Shows Teens Prefer Twitter, Reddit to Facebook
Pew and Piper Jaffray research form May show Facebook fatigue is growing for teenagers.
Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed reported on a study from Stanford (Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks, Michael S. Bernstein, et al) that says that we all underestimate the size of our ‘audience’, by which the authors mean the number of followers that actually read what we post, and underestimate by a factor of four. Facebook News Feed manager Lars Backstrom responded, as discovered by Peter Kafka:
Peter Kafka, You Really Might Be Boring Your Facebook Friends
Here’s Facebook News Feed manager Lars Backstrom’s response to Warzel’s piece.* I approach Facebook PR very warily, but it’s entirely possible that Backstrom’s argument — if Facebook thought (normal) people wanted to see how many “views” they were racking up with their updates, Facebook would do it — is the truth, or something close to it.
But what Backstrom doesn’t do is respond to the much more interesting part of the BuzzFeed piece. That’s the part where Warzel reports on a Stanford research project that argues that most Facebook users consistently underestimate the size of the audience for their posts, by a factor of three or four.
One key theory proposed by the paper’s authors: Just because none of your pals are commenting on, liking or sharing something you wanted them to see doesn’t mean they didn’t see it. It’s entirely possible that they saw it, and didn’t care.
And it turns out that Backstrom didn’t respond to that part of Warzel’s post for a good reason. His company participated in the Stanford study — it provided Facebook log data for the research — and he’s generally okay with its results and conclusions.
“Most people are not doing a great job of estimating the size of their audience,” he says. “It’s fine that most people don’t have a sophisticated understanding of who’s seeing their posts.”
I contrast this lack of feedback from Facebook and others with the stream of feedback on Tumblr. But even on Tumblr — which presents users with a sampling of the gestures that other users leave behind — likes, reblogs, replies — there is no unequivocal answer to the basic question: how many people saw this post, this tweet, this photo, this check-in, this status update?
And it’s evident that they could provide this information. The could collate the clicks and user’s scrolling behavior, along with the things we already see, like retweets and reblogs. But why don’t they?
One argument is that it’s hard. Well, getting Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to scale was hard too, but they accomplished it.
Another more psychologically interesting argument — the one implicitly raised by Backstrom’s comments — is that people aren’t asking for it, because they don’t want to actually know.
Perhaps I should restate that. Offline, there is no way to know how much others care about what we say. With our close friends, we expect feedback: we mention something about our day at work to a friend at a bar, and he responds with his own tale of woe. But when we say something in a group of 10 — say in a business meeting — there is no norm that leads to us finding out if all the folks in the room are thinking through what we said, or paid attention to it at all. In real life we accept that social indeterminacy all the time.
So, maybe it comes as no surprise that people don’t expect to know how many actually read our tweets, while non-people like publishers, brands, and journalists would like to know. (Just kidding about the journalists being non-people. I think.)