Monthly Archives: January 2012

Twitter Propagating News

After reading about how how Twitter was used to spread information in emergency situations, I started thinking about how applicable this could be.  It was already proven there is a difference in the speed a tweet is retweeted based on whether the tweet is factual.  Simply integrating some sort of algorithm to allow users to see how accurate the information is could help the propagation.

I actually believe this is the future of emergency systems.  Twitter is perfect for getting across important information very quickly.  In situations of emergencies, the truth algorithm could kick in.  No longer would the public have to rely on news networks to gather and post information on the television, radio, and internet.  The public themselves could contribute any useful information and control the spread of factual information.

Granted, a lot of this was covered in the article we read for class, but I believe this is a tool that should be applied by Twitter.  Perhaps more studies should at least be carried out to find out if this is truly an accurate method.  Either way, I think it would be foolish to let this research go to waste.

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Forensic Internet Linguistics

Evaluating internet conversations to identify potential criminals is a task I wish could be invested in more.   The internet makes criminal behavior such as stalking and acts of violence much easier while leaving the criminals hard to track down.  We constantly hear stories of pedophiles using chat rooms and social networking websites to connect with innocent teenagers and abuse them.  It is a real threat and one that could potentially be prevented.

David Crystal used some realistic methods of identifying predators.  Unfortunately, his corpus was relatively limited, as it is hard to obtain data from these cases.  I think it would not be an infringement of rights for this information to be shared to prevent these crimes.  It’s not for publication or even for sheer curiosity.  It’s for safety.

I also do not think it would infringe on rights to survey children’s internet conversations.  Minors already do not have all the rights of an adult, and this is for protection.  Why shouldn’t their online activity be moderated, at least by computer programs looking for the suggestive words such as the ones that Crystal used in his study?  It’s not to limit privacy.  Molestation and rape are real dangers.  I know individuals who have gone through these awful experiences, and it can scar people for life.

It is interesting how language usage can reveal intentions.  Isolated words aren’t necessarily bad, but how often they’re used can be enough to signal crimes before they occur.  Unfortunately, I have my doubts such a system could be perfect.  In rare cases, there may be a high level of suggestive words without any malicious intentions.  I would hope this wouldn’t lead to anyone being falsely criminalized.  I do not know why there would be a high level of suggestive words in such a case, but it’s a factor to consider.  Also, criminals aren’t necessarily unintelligent.  Ones that get away with their crimes may be skilled at being discrete, and so I am certain there would be predators who would find ways around the system.

Despite risks, I think that this research should be taken further.  It’s a huge advancement in the safety of children, which is something I do not believe is worth ignoring.  I don’t know how to easily obtain information and permission to carry this out, but I think it is something that truly needs to be done.  The internet has brought about a new medium for criminals, and it is important that, as we do with all other mediums, there be laws for the safety of individuals, especially children.

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Online Ad Efficiency

Reading about how online ads work and the mistakes they can make really made me reflect on situations I’ve seen it fail.  Though I’ve seen countless examples of this, a lot of the ones I remember clearly are from Facebook.  Many times I not only feel the ads I see on Facebook are irrelevant, but I also have trouble finding out where they come from… but perhaps further examination can clear up where they went wrong.


It’s nothing new for me to see ads for dating websites when on Facebook.  The best I can gather is that, because my profile says I’m single, Facebook assumes I’m looking for a girlfriend.  The ads are at least correct is assuming I’m a straight male, though that much can easily be gathered from my profile.  However, for about a year I constantly would see ads for Muslim dating sites.  I am in no way Islamic.  My profile states I’m a Christian, which explains why I sometimes see ads for Christian dating sites, but contradicts the ads for Muslim dating sites.  Sometimes ads appear because multiple friends have clicked like for them, but none of them have clicked like for any of the Muslim dating sites.  In fact, only one of my friends is Islamic, and I hardly talk to her (in addition to the fact that she lives in California, quite far from Rochester, NY).  I haven’t posted anything written in Arabic, nor do I appear to even look Islamic (or even Middle Eastern for that matter).  I simply cannot understand where the assumption was derived from that I would be interested in Muslim dating sites.  Quite clearly this was a failure on the advertising end, and would easily have been rectified; an ad like this should appear only on profiles stating the individual is a single Muslim.

The worst part is that I clicked the “x” to get rid of the ads, stating the reason being they were against my views.  It would be great if that got rid of the ads permanently, but the next time I logged onto Facebook, the ads were back.  I tried multiple times to get rid of them, so clearly the system did not remember my preferences, which might not be a linguistic problem but is a problem nonetheless.


Another good example is  An ad for this website appeared repeatedly on my profile for quite awhile. I am not a Mormon.  Once again, I am listed as a Christian.  Some consider the Mormon religion a branch of Christianity.  Ignoring my views on whether it is, and assuming the ad assumes it is, that does not mean all Christians are Mormons.  In other words, I gave the website no reason to believe I am a Mormon, nor that I am interested in becoming a Mormon.  I will admit I do have one friend that is a Mormon, and it is possible I was speaking to her often at the time this ad would appear, so perhaps that was triggering the ad.  However, it should not, as I had never expressed interest in becoming a Mormon, to her or anyone else.  Once again, this ad was falsely aimed at me.  Perhaps in this case, I had at some point used the word “Mormon” in talking to her, meaning it is very possible that it identified that word and assumed I had an interest in the religion.  I feel this ad would be better targeted towards individuals who state, in their profile, that they are Mormons.

Once again, the “x” refused to get rid of the ad, leading me to believe that the “x” does not actually do anything, or that whatever it does is fairly inconsequential.  I do believe that the “x” could have a linguistic function, by identifying the key words of the ad, determining which part or parts of it were insignificant to me, and used that for future ad placement.  As far as I can identify, it just removes the ad for the rest of the online session.


Another example: ads for research needing gay men with HIV.  I only fill one part of that requirement, being that I am a man.  My profile clearly states I am interested in women, not men, meaning right off the bat it failed to identify very easy to obtain data, wasting the advertising on someone who is admittedly straight.  The HIV part may not have actually been used for placement, as many with HIV don’t publicly state it.  Ideally, the ad could be shown for men stating they are gay and have HIV, and thrown out there sometimes for gay men who don’t state they have HIV, but there is no reason I should have gotten it, unless it was assuming I was a closet gay male with HIV.  I gave it no reason to assume that, though, so I feel it was another wasted ad.


One of the most recent misplaced ads I’ve gotten on Facebook has been for getting help with my diabetes.  FYI, I do not have diabetes.  Once again, I hadn’t ever said anything about having diabetes.  Granted, this isn’t something that would be noted in one’s profile, but I’ve never posted anything on Facebook that should lead the system to believe I do have diabetes.  Another ad that seems to have failed.


I’ve seen Facebook ads fail more times than succeed.  I do not know how they decide their placement, but I do know not everyone receives the same ads.  Sometimes it guesses right.  Sometimes it notes things in my profile that I like, claiming another product is similar and that I should try it.  The products have ended up not being very similar, but the ads were placed correctly.  However, there are still glaring problems in the ad placement.  I think most of these could be fixed by having them look through key parts of the profile, rather than everything posted.  Others didn’t seem to look through anything, as for as I could tell, else they would not appear, as I indicated information that clearly contradicted that ads’ requirements.  For such a widely used website, Facebook’s ads are very inefficient.  There is a lot of marketing opportunity to tap into if someone would simply fix the system.

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