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Gender differences in response to Skittlemania

skittles from ambibambie39507's flickr pageSunday night, Agency.com relaunched the Skittles* website as a redirect to social network sites.  The main page showed a Twitter search for “skittles”.  Other links went to flickr, Facebook, and Wikipedia.

Hilarity ensued, with “#skittles” shooting to the #1 Twitter term for the day. With over 4000 blog posts and positive articles in the Wall Street Journal, LA Times, the Financial Times and Advertising Age, it’s a viral marketing success story for the ages!  Emily Steel’s Skittles Cozies Up to Social Media, David Amaro’s Skittles Goes Modernista! With A Distributed Experience on Logic and Emotion and Tiphereth Gloria’s Why it takes balls to Skittle on Digital Tip are some thought-provoking discussions.

What’s particularly fascinating to me, though, is something Katrin Verclas of MobileActive.org pointed out on the Progressive Exchange mailing list: the significant gender differences in people’s reaction.

Sure enough, the pattern is there in blogosphere as well.  I classified the opinions in Skittles articles on the Google News page and a handful of the top hits on Google Blogs as positive, neutral, and negative. The results:

  • women: 6 positive, 4 neutral, 0 negative
  • men: 12 positive, 3 neutral, 8 negative

And when I say “negative”, whoa baby.  David says “By just about any rational indication, Skittles went too far.”    Noah characterizes it as “generally A Bad Idea” and “a gaffe”. Harry sees it as “social-media marketing nihilism.”  Riche thinks it’s “the worst strategic decision I have seen online in a long time.”  Yow.

There’s no easy way to know how much this reflects an actual difference in opinions.  It could be that women avoid harsh criticisms in favor of neutrally-worded posts like Allyson Kapin‘s and Shannon Nelson‘s raising questions about the effectiveness of Skittles’ strategy.  One way or another, though, it’s really striking.

twitter logoTwitter is an opportunity to engage with communities currently marginalized by the “progressive blogosphere”.

— Tracy Viselli and Jon Pincus, Strategies for progressives on Twitter in The Exception

There’s an important lesson here for anybody trying to understand social media, and Twitter in particular.  Make sure you’re getting a range of opinions — as well as gender-based differences, there are also age-based differences.  In particular, if you’re getting your political news from the male-dominated “progressive” or “conservative” blogospheres (or the mainstream media and pundits who look to the big bloggers as being on the cutting edge), be aware of the possibility that you’re getting a distorted view of social network sites and their value.**

Today Skittles’ home page instead redirects to their Facebook page.  Any bets on how people will react?

jon

PS: in the credit where credit is due department, Modernista! took a similar approach with their own web site almost a year ago.  Allison Mooney’s Modernista!’s new siteless site on pfsk has more.

Skittles photo from ambibambie39507’s flickr page,
Twitter graphic from joomlatools on flickr,
both licensed under Creative Commons

* a horrible trans-fat-based chemically-tasting candy, if you ask me, although some people loooooove them.

** see for example my comments in Petitions are soooooo 20th century.

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#p2: statistics, with a gender perspective

#p2 logoI wanted to expand on my remark in yesterday’s post about the gender ratio on #p2 staying “relatively well-balanced” with some statistics from the 24 hours ending at noon (Pacific time) today.  While this is only one data point — and over a weekend, too — it’s roughly in line with the other measurements I’ve been makingover the last week.

For about 80-90% of the people participating, it’s possible to able to infer the like gender of the tweeter based on self-descriptions (“mom” or “dad” for example), visual information, name, and so on.  Of course there’s room for error here,* so don’t treat this as gospel; and my apologies to anybody I inadvertently misclassified. Still, it’s enough to get some useful information.

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#topprog: #tcot, trolling and topics for #fem2.0

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Update: #topprog Tweetup : Tuesday Night 7:30 EST : Subject – topprog.org features, functionality, and community. Please Retweet!  H/T @cacardinal

The new #topprog Twitter hashtag for progressives continues to make progress with a good range of topics and tweeters — including big names like @blogdiva, @PunditMom (who’s moderating a breakout session at fem2pt0 tomorrow), and @JoeTrippi.

The progressive blogosphere’s ignoring it, of course,* but the conservatives of #tcot are nervous enough that they’re already labelling it a #fail, thinking about flooding it, and coming up with euphemisms for trolling.  And in fact @The_Anti_Guru’s “active engagement” probably accounts for over 50% of the traffic, counting replies.  Guy attempts to disrupt and dominate conversation in potentially-woman-friendly-space, film at 11!

Gender issues aside, a lot of people are skeptical whether it’s possible to have meaningful conversations on Twitter.  Won’t the loudest voices drown everybody else out?  The three loudest tweeters yesterday had 46, 30, and 29 tweets yesterday.  As calibration, @drdigipol, aka Alan Rosenblatt, who as the creator of the list presumably has as much to say as anybody else, had 7.   So it’s easy to overlook @lizandra311’s updates on the Rootscamp in Philadelphia, or the occasional posts from @blogdiva, @Heardtfelt, @myrnyatheminx, @GetFISARight and others.

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#topprog … yeah, that could work

twitter logoIt still bugs me that Steve Elliot’s Get FISA Right: Last Chance To Vote Against Domestic Spying was buried by pro-surveillance diggers after I foolishly twittered it to the #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter) channel.  So when I got Alan Rosenblatt’s email about a new #topprog hashtag, my immediate response was that we should think about how to use it for information diffusion including posts that might be worth digging.  Not that I’m competitive or anything ….

Of course as Twitter Vote Report and the Motrin Moms have shown, Twitter hashtags are potentially useful for far more than that.  From the Get FISA Right perspective, for example, it’s another great way of broadcasting our dailyish update — and the same’s true for every other grassroots campaign out there.

One especially intriguing aspect of this to me is that Twitter is a far less male-dominated environment than digg, email and the blogosphere — and indeed the early posts to #topprog include @WomenWhoTech, @nerdette, @PunditMom, @myrnathemynx and many others.  So it’s a great chance for a key piece of progressive infrastructure where feminists and womanists — and women in general — can participate on a fairer basis.

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Tales from the Net

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Gender, race, age, and power in online discussions, chapter n +1 (DRAFT)

DRAFT! Still under revision!

First draft July 26; substantial revisions August 2.

Originally written as a three-part conclusion to

Gender, race, age, and power in online discussions, chapter n

Introduction

The “mutual guest-blogging” project I’ve been leading on OpenLeft has been taking place in the context of a surprising amount of coverage of diversity issues in the blogosphere in the mainstream media recently. Articles like Amy Alexander’s The Color Line Online: Minority Bloggers Fight Inequality in The Nation and Karen Jesella’s Blogging’s Glass Ceiling in the New York Times (nicely analyzed by PhysioProf in Teh Laydeez Are So Cute When They Try To Blog on Feministe) are the highest-profile treatments I’ve seen of this topic since Jose Antonio Vargas’ A Diversity of Opinion, if not of Opinionators in the Washington Post a year ago.

It’s also come up in a broader context in stories like Jose’s Liberal Bloggers Brace for Victory in the Washington Post, and Kirsten Powers’ Net-roots Ninnies: Dem’s Left Dum Bam Slams in the New York Post.* As Kirsten, who’s also a Fox News reporter, says:

Newsflash to the netroots and the media (which seems perpetually confused on this issue): The netroots are not the base of the Democratic Party.

Overwhelmingly white, male and highly educated, they’re a loud anomaly in a party that’s wholly dependent on the votes of African Americans, women and working-class whites.

Not everybody sees it that way. Chris Bowers’ OpenLeft post The Myth Of The Non-Diverse Netroots, for example, presents a different perspective.  (See Is netroots non-diversity a myth?, as well as my responses in Chris’ thread, for my opinion.)   In the aftermath of the nastiness with race and gender we’ve seen so far this election year, with the McCain campaign and New Yorker throwing gasoline on the fire on the race and gender front and a lot of Democrats doing their best to get equally nasty about the age dimension, it’s certainly a good discussion to be having.

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Mutual guest blogging: intermission and discussion

Second draft, posted on OpenLeft with a different poll.

the version on OpenLeft continues to evolve

please link and comment there rather than here.

Originally posted July 17; revised July 18-19.

We’re now at the midpoint of our first, more-leisurely-than-anticipated mutual guest blogging series. Thanks to Melissa, Sara, Pam, and rikyrah for their time, energy, and extraordinary posts. In retrospect, our original plan of getting all the posts on OpenLeft and the mutual posts on the guest bloggers’ blogs all in one week was a little over-ambitious. Oh well, live and learn.

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A proposal for OpenLeft: mutual guest-blogging

Update, June 14: posted on OpenLeft.

Update, June 21: first round on track for week of June 30!

Thanks to all for the feedback and review!

We propose that OpenLeft feature 5-7 guest bloggers each week, prioritizing diverse voices and perspectives not usually heard on the front page. OpenLeft front page posters will reciprocate, by blogging on the guests’ sites, and the combination will (with luck) create a temporary hub in the progressive blogosphere. The result is improved mutual understanding, links with other tightly-connected networks, and a base for more collaborative and effective strategic actions.

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“Where do you get your political news?”

when reading blogs, make a point to get a range of perspectives, starting with those that are shut out from the mainstream news.

Reviewing an earlier draft of Allies in the blogosphere, one of my friends asked me for more details on this. Rather than bury it in an comment, I figured that it was worth a thread of its own — because that’ll also give me a chance to ask others the same question.

As an experiment, for the last year I’ve been getting virtually all of my political news online, mostly avoiding newspapers, magazines, and TV. At first I’d start out each day by checking Google News, the New York Times, and a few blogs on specific topics, like Juan Cole’s Informed Comment on Iraq. Then I added Yahoo! News (which gets feeds from Huffington Post and Real Clear Politics as well as CNN). This gave me some different perspectives and a few more stories but it was still pretty limited.

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Allies in the blogosphere

There’s so much to write about for Angry Black Woman’s Carnival of Allies that it’s hard to know where to start. At first I thought of focusing on “why the usual excuses are not good enough.” As the month of April went on, though, with brownfemipower’s and Blackamazon’s final statements, the growing list of women of color bloggers rejecting the term “feminism”, prof bw’s call for a Seal Press girlcott, open letters to white feminists from Jessica Hoffman and Ico … I realized that after all that, if anybody is still clinging to the usual excuses, it’s almost certainly beyond my power to reach them.

So I started working on an essay building on the discussion in places like Melissa McEwan et al’s We write letters on Shakesville, Chris Clarke’s Is a humane online politics possible, and Theriomorph’s An ally 101 thread. not currently publicly available

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A Carnival of Allies

From The Angry Black Woman:

I call a Carnival. The Carnival of Allies. Where self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong. Why they are allies. Why the usual excuses are not good enough. I figure allies probably know full well all the many and various arguments people throw up to make prejudice and oppression okay. Things that someone on the other side of the fence may not hear. Address those things and more besides.

And when I say allies, I’m talking about any and every type. PoC can be (and should be) allies to other PoC, or to LGBTQ people if they are straight, or any number of other combinations. If you feel like you’re an ally and have something to say about that, you should submit to this carnival.

More, and a submission form, in Allies Talking.  Deadline is May 5, and she’ll be posting the links in the second or third week of May.  It’s a subject I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, so I’ll almost certainly be writing something … I encourage others to as well.

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Intersectionality 2.0

I’ve been working on a couple a potential proposal a keynote for this year’s Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference related to the topic of intersectionality and social networks. Here’s an overview:

Since first being developed by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1970s, theories of intersectionality have become a powerful lens for examining questions of race and gender. In the interim, advances in network theory have shown the importance of intersectional hubs; and research in cognitive diversity and problem solving have highlighted the unique contributions of those at the intersections. Does the recent development of social computing technologies, allowing “micro-niche” generation of content as well as enabling people to participate more easily in multiple online social networks, point to new approaches for valuing and leveraging intersectionality? And what does this imply about technology policy in a web 2.0 world?

To explore this area, I propose an joint keynote session (perhaps over lunch or dinner), featuring an expert on intersectionality and an expert on social networking. Crenshaw herself, currently at UCLA law school, would be ideal for the intersectionality expert [unconfirmed; if she’s not available, there are many excellent alternatives]. From the social networking perspective, researchers such as TL Taylor, danah boyd, Joi Ito, and Clay Shirky who explicitly consider questions of race and gender would be good choices.

Thoughts? As always, critiques, suggestions and feedback welcome!

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Gender, race, age, and power in online discussions, chapter n

I summarized the Economist’s debate on social networks in education on the Tales from the Net blog, but I wanted to focus more on the race and gender aspects here on Liminal States. To start with, check out the participants and their roles. Superficially (and to the extent we can tell from the pictures and pronouns people use), it seems gender balanced: three male, four female. Look a little more closely though:

  1. the “speakers”, presenting the arguments for and against, are both male.
  2. the “moderator” (who frames the issue, provides commentary on both speakers’ arguments, and “will peruse all correspondence from the floor and raise points that are of particular interest or merit with the two speakers”) is also male.
  3. the women are all “guest participants”

Marginalized much?

Things are even more extreme in the “age” dimension — in a comment in the debate, I asked whether there were plans to involve any current or recent students as guest participants. And although it’s much harder to infer reliably from photos and language, there appears to be even more extreme marginalization in the race dimension … it’s a mighty white-looking bunch of folks they’ve got.

One of the thing that makes this lack of diversity more acute is the Economist’s “Oxford 2.0” debate rules:

In our reconception, the proposition and the opposition are each represented by individual speakers—experts in their fields chosen by The Economist‘s staff to match the proposition at hand.

Because, after all, we wouldn’t want those (nudge-nudge) other perspectives to get equal standings with the guys hand-picked by The Economist’s staff.

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