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Influencer fraud is a thing

a close-up of an apple keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has a custom key that is red and says "GET ME OUT OF HERE"

Today I retweeted a great rant on fraud in influencer marketing. The thread, tweeted back in August 2019 by social media expert Susie Parker contains awesome railing on the mess that is influencer marketing. (Also, behold Ms. Parker’s savvy use of gifs with each tweet. The gifs compel the reader to keep reading, to “solve” the “problem” of whether or not the words match the action in the video.)

In short, influencer fraud happens when individuals falsely purport they can provide a company access to followers who will interact with their brand. This interaction is measured in terms of clicks and purchases. The company pays the influencer for various advertising services.

The problem, which by some measures adds up to a 1.3$billion loss, is that a large chunk of influencer followers are fake. Dummy accounts bought for a few bucks.

I haven’t once bought followers, but I’ve never sought to be an influencer, either. Boosting numbers by any means necessary is the name of the game if big corporations are ready and willing to throw money at popular Instagrammers. I don’t like to see small business owners be bamboozled by social media mobsters but I cry zero tears over big agencies failing to do their legwork before they lay out cash. Those big agencies cry zero tears, too. They have plenty of cash to lay out, and the people making those decisions just need to show they have an “edgy” and “now” social media campaign out there. Enter fraud.

What I loved about Susie Parker’s rant is this: numbers don’t mean much. Don’t be dazed by the digits. Influence is the ability to affect others’ behaviors. People on Twitter with fewer than 5000 followers often enjoy much more engagement than those who have more than 10K, and the quality of those interactions is amazing. Susie Parker said “influencer marketing is dead,” and I agree. Influence, though, is not.

We’re exhausted by the Millennial and Gen Z Insta influencer influenza. Agencies will still pursue these “influencers” because brands are still sold on their effectiveness, but the creatives that know a little about psychology and how peer behavior works can make some strides in this climate. Quantity ≠ Quality.

Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay

Accents gone awry

“What did you just say?”

4 cartoon speech bubbles with question marks in them.

You may assume that living my whole life in Pennsylvania would mean my accent would be, simply, “Pennsylvanian.” Ah how sweet you are, Young Grasshopper.

The regional flavors of vowels and words of Pennsylvania are quite distinct. I’ve lived in three corners of this rectangular state (Not Erie), and my vocabulary and my A and O sounds sometimes reflect this. Usually I adopt the accent of the area in which I live and no-one knows the difference. (I’m pretty good at hiding my mish-mash past, but there are some exceptions. I can’t, and probably won’t ever, naturally pronounce “water” like “wooder” as Philadelphians do. I can turn it on when I’m at the Wawa but my family doesn’t hear me say it at home).

I must be tired, though, because my blending in has been fading out. Twice in the last week 2 friends have noted the odd way I’ve pronounced a word or two. I’ve gone years without slipping!

I don’t know if it was the trip back to Pittsburgh a little bit ago, but my vowel sounds are way off lately. One friend asked if I was from Minnesota and another, knowing I was from the Scranton-ish (Poconos) area, noted the “coal-cracker” accent in my speech. I don’t know what’s happening. But now’s a good time to give you all a rundown on the accents that show up in my speech.

Scranton area/Northeastern PA
Sometimes you can hear the Northeast PA accent in the American version of The Office, but they didn’t capture it that well. The latter half of this old film of “Heynabonics” gets into some of the serious quirkiness of the Scranton accent. (Side note: The Jeet yet, no Jew? is also Pittsburghese but not Philadelphian. The rest of the video is strict Scranton). I definitely got the piss taken out of me when I showed up to the University of Pittsburgh and said something was “Mayan.”

Philadelphia area/Delaware County (suburb of Philly)
The Philadelphia accent is often mocked on Saturday Night Live (as NYC is OBSESSED with Philly). The best and funniest example of this was James McAvoy’s Charmin focus group skit. James McAvoy is BRITISH but his Philly accent is as good as Tina Fey’s, and she grew up about a mile from my house. I don’t know if they said the word “jawn” in that skit, but the CREED movie dropped it and added an explainer!

Pittsburgh area/Western PA
Strange thing – I played the McAvoy skit for my PGH-born-and-bred friends, and they said they heard the “Yinzer” twang. [“Yinz” is the word for the plural “you” in the Pittsburgh area. A “yinzer” is a Pittsburgh area resident with their distinct accent.] Watch this classic video from greganddonny on YouTube for a great example of not only the Yinzer accent but an explainer of one of their own very distinct words.

Anyway. I don’t know what the heck is going on with my accent lately. It’s all over the place. Thankfully it’s bouncing between a mere 3 PA places. Only 3. That’s not bad. Even SLATE noticed that Pennsylvania is awash in a gazillion different accents. I will tell you this, though: Pennsylvanians have sharp-ass ears. One vowel outta place and they are gonna call yas/yous guys/yinz out on it. Pretty crazy, heyna?

Image by Lynn Neo from Pixabay

Environmental Philly

If you’re from the Philadelphia area (or even if you’re not), please read the article in Philly Mag about how a non-coastal city still needs to prepare for the floods.

An image of a passenger jet, top-down view, on a runway. The run way is overtaken by water in rippling waves. It is a photo montage credited to Dan Saelinger, from Philadelphia Magazine

Philadelphia’s possible responses to climate change are outlined in this article by Clair Sasko and David Murrell in Philadelphia Magazine. I had already known that Philly is slated to get hundreds of thousands of climate refugees, from places like Miami and the coasts, but this article reminds me some will come from New Jersey. It’s an obvious idea, of course. The coasts will flood by the end of the century. We here in Philadelphia are so used to going to the New Jersey shores for vacation or to spend our summers that we forget about the people who live there all year round.

My friend in Pittsburgh says that the city has 191 car charging stations. We have less than 150 and we are a much bigger city. The article has a theory as to why that is. 80% of electric and hybrid owners charge at home, but the city stopped residents from putting up stations in front of their own houses, fearing a haves/havesnot divide over private parking spots on city streets. A bit myopic at best.

I don’t post about environmental things often, for two reasons. 1. I’m not living off-grid. I’m still driving a gas fueled car, we have natural gas in our home, and I don’t always know where my garbage goes (like clothing!) 2. I think the focus on the little guy, like me, is misleading. Huge corporations and literal nations are the overwhelming main contributors. We have to regulate them more. They are killing us all. I don’t know what to do about either one of those things. I do my research but I don’t have control over how my recycling gets processed, or how my donated clothes don’t end up being resold but instead put in a landfill. Don’t get me started on electronics. I use my phones, computers and cars until they are literally dead and cannot be revived. Does this give me some moral superiority over those who upgrade yearly? Probably not. That’s the thing, I don’t even know if I’m doing it right. My instincts tell me to use stuff until it can’t be repaired. Perhaps the right thing is to move it on earlier so more life can be squeezed from its parts. I just don’t know.

Hopefully we can get straight answers on all of this soon. Hopefully we’ll all be taking over the streets demanding them and instituting the changes business and governments need to make to save the planet.


Cyberpunk vision

a screenshot of my cyberpunk board

My view of what a (good-ish) future looks like

Over on Pinterest, you can see over 400 futuristic images of fashion, architecture, inventions, housing, etc., on my Cyberpunk board. It’s by far my most popular board. (Apologies to those who are visually impaired. I don’t have descriptions of all the posts.)

Using the term “cyberpunk” to title this collection of images is probably misleading. Cyberpunk is a socio-economic thing, where mega corps own everyone and everything and people are mere slaves in the fake capitalist oligarchy. Tech is pervasive but quality of life is low (hence the genre’s motto “high tech, low life”) more than it is a futurism aesthetic. It was a good idea at the time, I thought, when I created the board. You’ll see why if you search Pinterest on the term. Everything is 1980s style sexist cyborg crap. I wanted to counteract that a bit.

One way my board does reflect cyberpunk’s genre is the difference between the haves and haves-not. It is subtle, but if you look at the fashion and housing especially, the obvious wealth needed to obtain any of it is crazed.

Anyway. Have a look through my cyberpunk board and tell me what you see.


Digital coloring books

Online and off, I like coloring. But don’t call it a hobby.

Sandbox is an iPhone app that offers color-by-number pictures. There’s a free level and a premium level (~$40.00US/year). The free level’s been fine for me but I am tempted by some of the more complicated pictures that the premium offers.

Once you fill in the squares (all the pics are pixel grids), you can check a box to show an animation of the order in which you filled in the grid. Early on I began manipulating the order in which I populated pixels with “paint,” so I could make a certain animation happen.

Above you see a gif of completed grids. The animation that is added to the finished product is a separate feature from the grid-fill animation. The animation you see above is an easter egg of sorts. The grid has a surprise element that you can only see after you’ve completed the grid. Two examples of this post-fill animation are in the pic above.

A user can also make their own grids on Sandbox and submit them for others to color. You can scan in your photos and the app will convert it to a grid, with the premium customers getting better pixel detail than the freemium users. I’ve not shared any photo or drawing so I don’t know exactly how that works.

How I chose to color in the pixel squares affects the end animation

Like many people who spend hours playing Tetris or cards or the latest hey-pop-this-bubble/candy/bomb game, I also feel a bit guilty for the time I spend on Sandbox. Like Nir Eyal points out in his Indistractable book, the transition times between activities is the red zone. After everyone left the table tonight and it was time to go on to another activity for the evening (kid: Overwatch. Husband: Sports podcast/news on the phone. Me: blogging), I pulled up Sandbox “just for a minute.” I probably lost about 30-40 minutes. Poof. Gone.

For one thing, I didn’t want to blog. For another, I was tired. I heard on a TED podcast that people check Facebook, like, a gazillion more times when they are tired than when they are awake and alert. This rings true for me too. I scroll when my brain or my body is slowing down. Lately I’ve been coloring instead of scrolling so much. IMO this is an improvement!

There’s something soothing about repetitive actions, though, especially super-simple ones like tapping squares. And when I don’t have the energy or my thoughts are racing (or both), I tap, tap, tap away, planning out my final animation strategy while (almost) mindlessly filling pixels with color.

One of these days I’ll stop feeling guilty about it. I would be very embarrassed if, say, alien overlords invaded the Earth and I was forced to account for my pastimes. They would call Sandbox use a “hobby,” as if it were at the same level as knitting! Or sewing! (the horror). I would be ruined. More ruined than now having alien overlords, that is.

We all need some sort of calming exercise. The “boob tube” held the status as the mindless pastime for all of western civilization. Then came the internet, the web, and phones. Now we scroll and we watch TV very deliberately instead.

The real question is, why do I feel guilty? Why would I hide Sandbox from the aliens? What implicit value has society placed on iphone apps? We all know the answer – they are guilty pleasures. Trash. The new boob tube. But isn’t it merely a tool for us to calm our racing minds? To avoid stress? It may be boobtastic but it is useful. We’re human.

As I said. One day, perhaps when the aliens come, I’ll finally give up feeling guilty about being human.

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