Guilty By Association: Reddit and Monetising Hate Speech

RedditA few days ago, Reginald Braithwaite posted an excellent piece titled “So Long, Reddit,” in which he stated that he would no longer contribute to a website that makes money off hate speech. Racist discussion threads (“sub-reddits”) like Chimpire might stand as a testament to just how far Reddit is willing to take its policy of free, virtually unmoderated discussion, but as Braithwaite correctly points out, Reddit is a business, and it’s making money off adverts placed in those threads. Essentially, as he puts it, they’re monetizing hate. While the majority of Reddit users may completely disagree with the sentiments expressed in these threads, they’re supporting their existence by supporting the website and its current policies.

This then begs the question: what are we complicit with, or could we consider ourselves to be complicit with, by continuing to be part of larger social networks? By giving Facebook money to post your adverts in people’s newsfeeds, are you supporting their “real name” policy and its negative implications for the transgender and drag community? By viewing sponsored photos on Instagram and contributing to their advertising revenue, are you supporting the deletion of breastfeeding photos as “obscene”?

If you create your own private social network, on your own website, you know exactly where every dollar is going. You can create policies and terms that you’re proud to announce. You can rest assured that everything you’re participating in sits well with your personal sense of right and wrong.

Do We “Need” Social Media?

While researching the Essena O’Neill saga, I came across this video on YouTube.

It makes some really salient points about the benefits of social media, which can be carried across to (and arguably, amplified within) private social networks.

Social networks open us up to new ideas and new points of view. Facebook, Twitter and other large social networks are like taking an undergraduate class; lots of perspectives and ideas, from lots of people, all in the same space, figuring out what they think about things and finding what they love. Private social networks are like a PhD, or a masterclass: a smaller group, really refining their ideas and beliefs.

Starting up a private social network where people can gather around a shared experience or something they all really care about creates a space for learning and growth; it removes the superficiality that pervades mass social media and networking sites from the proliferation of perspectives and ideas which can make social networking so valuable. For example: if you create a Facebook page or group for discussions of transfeminist issues, you are likely to get some homophobic, misogynist and transphobic people slipping through the cracks and dominating discussion. If you create a private social network, it’s a focused, safe space which could ultimately build similar numbers and achieve the same things.

In essence: while we could certainly live without social media, our intellectual and emotional lives can absolutely be enriched by it, in a variety of ways. Private social networks create yet another, more dedicated space where that enrichment can take place.

Essena O’Neill, Social Media and Authenticity

It seems like everybody who works in communications is talking about Essena O’Neill at the moment; how she exposed the truth behind the photos she posted on Instagram, sharing what it took to get the perfect photo and how much she was paid for promoting certain products. She claims that social media is fake, and we’re all just seeking validation. essena

While many studies exist showing the negative effects of social media on self-esteem, most of the backlash against Essena has focused on three things: the fact that she’s still online and asking for money, that she’s manipulating information, and that there are many positives to social media.

I have a group of friends who I’ve known for ten years (we all met in 2005). One of them has made me and my partner godmothers to her son; another is planning to sign as a witness on my marriage certificate. Three of them live in my old hometown, and the first thing I do when I book a flight is send them a group text so we can arrange a girls’ night out. They’re my cheerleaders, my confidantes, people who I love dearly and who will drop everything just to call me on a bad day.

I met all of them online, because we joined the same private, niche interest social network.

Imagine if you were the only kid in your town who loved comic books. Imagine if you were the only person you knew with severe anxiety or depression. Imagine being transgender in the middle of the most conservative, religious city in your state. Imagine if everyone in your family just switched off when you started talking about your favorite book (again).

Maybe mass social networks are all about validation and popularity, but niche social networks are all about community. Technology isn’t inherently bad in itself; it’s how we use it.

There are several products which have been developed to try and create a more authentic social experience online. Casey Neistat created Beme, a video sharing app where you press to your chest to record, and the second you’re done, your video is uploaded (no opportunities for editing or withholding the information). Once the video has been watched, it’s gone. You can watch Neistat’s introduction to Beme below.

And of course, there’s PeepSo. Essentially, when you remove the mass market from the social networking experience, you remove the need to perform. When people join private, niche communities with a specific focus, there are no “celebrities”, there is nobody you have to impress. You’re simply there to connect with others, to have a shared experience.

The best thing Essena has done here is crack the door wide open, so we can start to have a real, informed conversation about what social media is, how it works, why we use it. We’re excited to be part of that conversation, and would love to hear your thoughts.

PeepSo 1.3.0 Is Out!

In version 1.3.0, we focused on tweaking some of the features. These tweaks are important for future versions.

Groundwork Laid For One-Click Updates For All Plugins

We’ve started the process of preparing PeepSo for one-click updates. Instead of uninstalling then re-installing all the plugins, for future versions you’ll be able to just click the update link next to each plugin. Very simple.

This function will start working in the next version of PeepSo. This should be the last time you update manually. Please remember that this is still work in progress. It will look somewhat like this:

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

One click updates and upgrades for PeepSo and its plugins.

PeepSo’s Router Re-Written

Now that PeepSo has been out for a while, we have had reports of a few URLs and third party plugins not working well with PeepSo.

To improve the compatibility and stability of the plugins, we wrote the router. That should avoid issues with popular plugins like WPML which change the URL of the page by making additions like:
‘?lang=french’
This improvement is strictly under the hood. The only change you’ll see is the construction of the URLs. That’s usually just the addition of a question mark.

This is how the profile link appears in PeepSo 1.2.1:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/eric

And this is how the link appears in PeepSo 1.3.0:
http://sampledomain.com/profile/?eric

Three-State Friends Buttons

We also changed the behavior, look and feel of the action buttons on user profiles. Adding friends is now a three-state button with no modal confirmations needed. It’s all ajaxified too.

3-state friends buttons on user listings

3-state friends buttons on user listings

Those action buttons have also been added to all user listings. You can see them on members pages, user profiles, and your friend list. The design is consistent to give users a feeling of confidence and to avoid confusion.

Styling Tweaks and More Changes To Profile Pages

We made a few minor changes to the profile pages:

  • Blocking users has been moved to a ‘cog’ icon.
  • Users can be banned from the front end by clicking the cog icon.
  • To save space, we replaced the “Send Message” button with an envelope icon.
  • We improved the look and feel of the modal window for sending messages.
  • Square avatars
  • Removed gray shadow stripe and added shadow for letters
Profile view after styling tweaks.

Profile view after styling tweaks.

We’ve made sure that PeepSo styling is consistent. That’s why we went with square and sharp edges over rounded corners and round avatars. If you feel like all square is not your thing, feel free to check out our documentation on how to override PeepSo CSS.

Bug Fixes

In addition to those design and functionality tweaks, we also fixed a number of bugs. You can see the full changelog here.

What, No Chat Plugin?

The chat plugin is almost ready. It just needs a few design tweaks and some testing. It will be released next. Watch out for it!

Upgrade PeepSo Now

To update to Version 1.3.0 you’ll have to un-install and re-install all the plugins. Last time! Here’s the documentation on how to do it.

No PeepSo?

The free core version is fantastic on its own. If you want to unlock the true potential of social networking for WordPress, get the other plugins today. You can buy them by clicking the link below.

Buy Today!

If you’d like to see what’s coming up next, check out our roadmap here.

Comments? Questions?

Please leave them below.

PeepSo 1.2.0

PeepSo 1.2.0 Is Out!

We’re proud to announce the release of PeepSo 1.2.0. This release focuses on Core PeepSo and MsgSo. We added a bunch of new features and improved others.

Core PeepSo Improvements

Members Page

PeepSo 1.1.0 introduced a Members Page that listed community members and included a search field. This version adds sorting and filters.

You can sort users by:

  • Alphabetical order
  • Recently online
  • Latest members

You can also select members by gender and only view users who have uploaded avatars. Combining filters means you could search for “female users with avatars who were recently online.” Cool, right? You could even filter further by adding a name and looking for “female users with avatars who were recently online and called ‘Jane.’”

We used Ajax to power the search which means there are no reloads and everything is superfast. Want to see how fast? Check this out.

Members page user filtering

Members page user filtering

Twitter link fetched on PeepSo Stream

Twitter link fetched on PeepSo Stream

Native WordPress oEmbeds in PeepSo

Paste a video link or Instagram link into a Web page and you immediately get a preview of the destination. It’s very cool… so we now do the same thing in Peepso. Paste a link and those oEmbeds (that’s what they’re called) will give your audience a preview. This is how it looks.

Cool, right?

MsgSo improvements

Ajax worked so well in Search that we decided to use it to improve Messages as well. Now there’s no need to reload a page when sending a message and when someone contacts you, you’ll receive both a notification and the message itself. It works exactly like a chat.

You can even see when someone is in the process of typing to you, so no more crossed messages or wondering whether you’re being ignored.

Messages indicate when someone’s typing.

Messages indicate when someone’s typing.

We’ve added many more small improvements and fixes. You can read about all the major features of this release here. The full changelog will tell you everything we did. To see what we are planning next, check out our Roadmap here.

Don’t wait. Upgrade to the latest version today. You can find upgrade instructions here.

 

Women of WordPress: Defining Influence

There are a lot of great “Women of WordPress” or “women to follow on WordPress” posts out there; for the most part, the selections are based on the author’s personal preferences/favorites. If you amalgamate all these lists, you’re likely to get a pretty good picture of who’s making waves in the WordPress-sphere – or at the very least, who’s the most popular.

women-in-wordpress

As part of this series, we’re aiming to put together a definitive (though by no means exhaustive) list of women who are really changing the way we use and think about WordPress; the big names, and the unsung heroes. To do that, we need to get to the crux of what “influence” means and how it can be measured, with specific reference to this platform.

Initially, we’d considered limiting the list to women who have in some way changed the platform itself (creating a plugin or theme, being part of the WordPress team, etc), but that seemed restrictive; there’s some women out there putting together fantastic tutorials and discussion posts, and through those posts significantly changing the way people think about WordPress and the ease with which they use it (or just leading by example).

Here’s a few of the items we ended up using as a yardstick in our quest to quantify influence, and build a meaningful list; we’ll be sharing said list in a few days, followed by more individual features and interviews.

1. Social Authority

Moz has developed a metric to measure how influential someone is on Twitter; and it’s really pretty genius. You can read more about it here, but in a nutshell: it looks primarily at retweets, and takes into account a user’s friend count, follower count, etc. It also adjusts for time, favoring recent activity (aggressively discounting scores for people who haven’t said much recently). They see retweets as the holy grail of Twitter activity; to share someone’s content to your feed/your circle, it must have resonated with you on some level. Combine this with the #wordpress hashtag, filter by gender, and you’ve got a pretty excellent measure of who Twitter thinks our Women of WordPress should be.

2. Content and Contributions

To be a woman of WordPress, you’ve got to have done something of note that’s WordPress-specific. As mentioned above, we’re being pretty flexible about what counts as “something of note”; it’s the WordPress part that counts. This could mean they’re using WordPress in a way that’s being picked up by others as a direct result of their influence and visibility, it could mean that they’ve put together a really excellent plugin, it could mean that their tutorials are the go-to spot for people wanting to learn the basics of this platform.

Admittedly this leaves us with a pretty huge list (which is awesome); so we’re curbing it by picking women whose content/contribution is either a) original and mostly unprecedented or b) has consistent traffic/downloads/comments/shares (ie, activity of all kinds). If what you’re putting out there is good, it will stand the test of time.

3. Appearances on other “best of” lists.

As we stated above, these lists are kind of a popularity contest; but here, popularity matters. Unlike high school, people who are popular in the tech world usually have that status for a reason (based on their merits and achievements). To make a “Women in WordPress” list, you have to have more than hair that’s full of secrets – so we’re taking those appearances into account when building our list (as a “nice to have, but not necessary” qualification).

Again, the full list will be released in a few days; if you have any thoughts, questions or even rebuttals, we’d love for you to connect with us in the comments, on Facebook or right here on PeepSo’s own social network.

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool

PeepSo to Buddy Press Migration Tool

PeepSo to Buddy Press Migration Tool

One of the most frequently asked questions we’ve received since releasing PeepSo is whether we have an easy way to migrate BuddyPress to PeepSo.

Why, yes. Yes, we do!

PeepSo Migrate is a migrator plugin that will move your data from BuddyPress to PeepSo. It’s super-easy to use.

Just install the plugin, click the button, and watch the magic happen.

Note that the Migrator only moves the data within the same WordPress installation. So you can’t use it to migrate BuddyPress from http://sampledomain1.com to http://sampledomain2.com. But you weren’t
planning to do that anyway, were you?

If you’ve wanted to give PeepSo a try but were afraid you’d lose your BuddyPress content, you’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a video that shows how the migrator works:

Steps:

  1. Make sure that BuddyPress is installed and working.
  2. Install PeepSo and any supporting plugins you want.
  3. Install the Migrator.
  4. Open the Migrator.
  5. Click the ‘Start Migration’ button.
  6. Confirm that you want to migrate data.
  7. Stroke the cat while the data flies into PeepSo.
  8. Done!

Which Data Is Migrated?

  • Users
  • Uploaded user avatars
  • User friends
  • Notifications
  • Messages
  • Posts
  • Comments

What Data Is Not Migrated?

Data for features that PeepSo does not currently support, such as groups, cannot be migrated. Once we add those features, we will add them to the migrator as well. For the Migrator to move data such as User Friends and Messages, the FriendSo and MsgSo plugins must be installed with PeepSo.

How Long Does The Migration Take?

That depends on how much content you have on BuddyPress. We tested it with a community of over 2,500 users and more than 15,000 activities. It took us about four minutes. A larger community with about 1000 users and 60,000 activities can be migrated in about 11 minutes. That should be just enough time to make your cat purr. If you don’t have a cat, it’s enough time to make a cup of coffee.

What If I Already Have Some Content In Peepso?

The Migrator will delete all your existing PeepSo content, so don’t use it if you have anything you’ll miss.

The BuddyPress Migrator is totally free and available from the backend of WordPress. Go to Plugins > Add new and search for ‘PeepSo’.

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool listing in WP plugins directory.

BuddyPress To PeepSo Migration Tool listing in WP plugins directory.

Give it a try today and create an amazing community with PeepSo!

See the listing of the plugin on the official directory of WordPress plugins, just click here.

 

Five Posts About Social Networking That Everyone Should Read

facebook best articlesFor the relentlessly curious, there’s nothing better than reading something that opens you up to new ideas and ways of thinking, or takes you to a whole new level of understanding. A good piece gives you answers; a great piece inspires you to ask more questions.

We’ve read hundreds (literally hundreds – hundreds of hundreds, even) of blog posts and articles about social networking (and by proxy, social media) and these five really stood out – so we decided to share them here. There’s a variety of topics and writing styles represented in this list, so we’re confident you’ll find something that really piques your interest (truth be told, we’re confident that all these things will pique your interest).

1. Social Authority: Our Measure of Twitter Influence by Peter Bray

This piece on the Moz blog is over two years old and will be familiar to many of you, but it’s well worth reading again. What makes it so noteworthy is its focus on activity and engagement as a measure of social media/networking success, rather than followers; the popularity of “get more followers!” bots and apps would suggest that most people still see followers as the yardstick against which they should measure their social media/networking prowess. At a glance, it might look like someone with 8000 followers is more social-networking-successful than someone with 5000, but as Bray very successfully argues, following someone is a very passive act; sharing their content to your circle and taking the time to interact with someone is proof that what you’re sharing is reaching people and making a difference. We particularly like this because it’s a great argument for why people should consider starting their own private social network, despite the dominance of Facebook; is it better to have five people really talking to you and engaging with what you have to say on your own, WordPress-hosted social network, or a hundred people scrolling past (or never even seeing) your posts on Facebook? We also love the transparency of this article; they explain their research and methods in a way that’s clear without being condescending.

2. Dispelling the myth of free websites would diversify business models by Ronald Klingebiel

We like this article because it puts forth a really brilliant idea. People get up in arms about paying for Facebook, but they’re also not happy about using it for free in exchange for Facebook selling their data to advertisers (as the saying goes: if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product). What Klingebiel suggests is: give people a choice between paying for the service with money, or their data. There’s already a precedent for people being willing to pay a small amount in exchange for (relative) peace of mind, in the form of Posteo’s promise of truly private email and Ello’s one dollar charge for certain features and services (it’s still seeing tens of thousands of membership requests per hour). For those who can’t afford to pay or don’t want to hand over their credit card details, they can make peace with the fact that advertisers will be able to ask them to buy things, and find out “public” information like their hometown or alma mater.

It’s something worth considering: would you rather hand over your money, or your data? And, if you’re looking at setting up a private social network, how would you go about monetising that service/covering your running costs?

3. Who ‘likes’ my Virtual Bagels? by Rory Cellan-Jones

This fantastic experiment makes for a very entertaining read, and we’d consider it a must-read for anyone considering (or already engaging in) Facebook advertising. His simple experiment using a bagel shed light on just how many fake profiles are clicking on your Facebook adverts; fake profiles, but very real money you’re spending for those clicks. He then uses simple targeting to see if that decreases the number of fake profiles, with good results.

We like this post because Facebook can be really overwhelming for small businesses, and fake profiles clicking your adverts and liking your paid posts isn’t something Facebook is going to help you with – they get your money, regardless of whether you get real conversions. It’s witty, transparent as air, and has the potential to really help small businesses navigate the minefield that is Facebook advertising.

3. Almost None of the Women in the Ashley Madison Database Ever Used the Site by Annalee Newitz

While the title of this Gizmodo article might make it look like yet another piece of Ashley Madison related clickbait, Newitz’s attempt to find out just how many real women were using the site (in the wake of claims that around 95% of the female profiles were fake) is incredibly interesting.  While most articles have focused on email addresses and credit card details, this one looks at how their messaging system worked, the IP addresses of female accounts, and other aspects of the massive data file that other writers have mostly overlooked. 

While it’s pretty clear Ashley Madison created the fake profiles themselves, the common markers of bot-created/fake profiles that Newitz highlights here will be useful for anyone running their own membership site (particularly their own dating site) and trying to keep it safe and spam-free.  

The internet’s golden rule is usually “don’t read the comments”, but we’d suggest taking a look at the top comments just this once (filed under “Annalee Newitz’s Discussions”) for some further interesting points (and general witty banter). 

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed by Adrien Chen

This post from last year puts a face to the person who receives your report when you flag spam or transgressive content on Facebook or Instagram. It’s easy to see a process where you simply have to click a button and select a few options as something that would be automated; this article looks at how this process works, and talks to the people who have to watch hours upon hours of content that would make most of us sick, to check if it really does violate that particular network’s guidelines.

It does a really good job of making you think about how these processes work, and the mental and emotional toll they can take on the people behind them. For people who have, or are thinking about building, their own private social network, it’s excellent food for thought with regards to how you’ll deal with spam and unwanted content on your network.

 

Reddit, Quarantine and the Problem with Vague Policies

Since its creation ten years ago, Reddit has been one of the most liberal social media/networking sites when it comes to moderating unacceptable content; while Facebook has very strict rules around what you can post and what you can’t, Reddit’s general approach has always been “everything except child pornography, spam and personal information is fine”. This incredibly liberal approach caused Reddit to come under fire as a hotbed for extreme racism and misogyny;  top level employees left the site in droves, as its sheer size and sprawl made the site increasingly difficult to manage and maintain.

redditJust over a month ago, new CEO and site founder Steve Huffman proposed a new content policy. This new policy bans illegal content, harassment and bullying, the publication of other people’s private information, and anything that might incite harm or violence against other people (on top of the existing ban on spam and sexual content featuring minors); anything that would be considered “adult content” must be tagged NSFW (not safe for work). On top of this, content which violates “a common sense of decency” is to be quarantined, meaning users must log in and opt-in to see the content. Quarantined and NSFW content is free from advertisements (ie, generating no revenue for Reddit) and does not show up in public search results.

While the policy sounds good in theory, allowing Reddit to maintain the freedom of speech which has made it so popular while distancing itself from transgressive content, the vague wording is already causing some problems.

Twice in his official statement, Huffman suggests that you know pornography and transgressive content “when you see it.” What comes across as explicit sexual behaviour to one culture might seem completely benign to another (eg, a couple kissing); violent, racist speech may seem acceptable (right, even) to a religious minority, even if everyone else finds it abhorrent. Given that Reddit mostly relies on unpaid moderators to keep content in check, any policy those moderators have to enforce should be clear enough to transcend cultural differences and misunderstandings. Further, they should also make sure that they have enough moderators to keep up with the enormous amount of content posted to the site every day, and apply the new policies to existing subreddits in a timely manner. While some of the most notorious offenders, like racist subreddit Chimpire, were immediately removed following the implementation of the new content policy, other incredibly disturbing subreddits which feature illegal content (like Watch People Die, which includes incredibly graphic video content from car accidents and even murder scenes) are still standing, with only an age restriction in place.

Banning “illegal” content is also mildly problematic, as different geographic regions have different laws; for example, a Redditor based in Colorado should be perfectly within their rights to promote and sell marijuana via the website, whereas a Redditor based in New York should not.

If you’re running your own private social network, you’ll need to have content policies in place to make sure it’s a safe, welcoming environment for your members; you’ll also have to be mindful that you may need more staff as your community grows (voluntary or paid). That policy may also need to evolve as your community does. PeepSo will take care of the technical side, with a fantastic admin interface that works right out of the box; it’ll be up to you to come up with a set of rules that is clear, fair, and will allow your community to run smoothly.

What Everyone Can Learn From The Ashley Madison Hack

In July this year, a group of hackers claimed that Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate affairs between married individuals, retained users’ data even after they’d paid 19 dollars to have it completely scrubbed from the database. They released a small sample of the data they claimed to have stolen, and said they would release the rest of it if Avid Life Media, the owner of the site, didn’t take it (and its companion site, Established Men) down. Avid Life Media said it was a bluff, and Ashley Madison stayed up.

ashleymadison

Today, a 10GB torrent file was released on the dark web with the following statement:

“Avid Life Media has failed to take down Ashley Madison and Established Men. We have explained the fraud, deceit, and stupidity of ALM and their members. Now everyone gets to see their data.

Find someone you know in here? Keep in mind the site is a scam with thousands of fake female profiles. See ashley madison fake profile lawsuit; 90-95 per cent of actual users are male. Chances are your man signed up on the world’s biggest affair site, but never had one. He just tried to. If that distinction matters.

“Find yourself in here? It was ALM that failed you and lied to you. Prosecute them and claim damages. Then move on with your life. Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.”

A number of sources have claimed the validity of the data; Per Thorsheim, a security researcher, was able to confirm the validity of some of the details included in the dump (his own, from a profile he created while researching dodgy dating sites, and that of one of his sources). He was also able to verify that other information in the file matched up to users he’d viewed while investigating the site. Microsoft MVP for Developer Security Troy Hunt said that there are too many things in the file that couldn’t have been faked – or would have required an enormous amount of effort to fabricate.

While it would be easy to see the moral of this story as “don’t cheat on your spouse”, it also highlights just how careless people can be with handing over their personal data. 73% of people admit to not reading website terms and conditions before handing over their email address, if not their full name, date of birth and other valuable data. Of those who do read the terms, only 17% say they understand them.

When you’re signing up for an online product or service, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1. Why do they need the data I’m handing over?

2. What are they going to do with that data (including, but not limited to, how long will they be keeping it in their system)?

3. How would I feel if this data were released to the public (by the website, or one of its users)?

For the most part, handing over your credit card details to a website that’s planning to store them for future use (eg, ongoing automatic billing) isn’t a huge issue; if your card details get released, you cancel the card and hope you don’t end up out of pocket. If your name, date of birth, address and/or phone number are posted, you might run into some issues with stalkers or identity theft (the likelihood of that depends on your profession). If there’s something you don’t want your friends and family knowing about (your sexuality, gender identity, hobbies), think carefully about who’s on your friends list (because you never know who might take a screenshot), make sure you understand your intellectual property rights, and if you really don’t want anyone seeing your posts, messages or knowing you’ve bought a particular product or service…maybe it’s better to avoid it altogether.

Ashley Madison lied to its users, and asking for 19USD to completely scrub a user’s details (whether they did it or not) is very thinly veiled extortion. For the most part, asking yourself the above questions will help you keep your information safe online; particularly if you belong to a private social network, where you know the owners/moderators and can trust them to remove your data if you ask them to.