Libraries, Digital Advertising, and the Machine Zone

Librarians are an underused, underpaid, and underestimated legion. And one librarian in particular is frustrated by e-book lending. Not just the fact that libraries have to maintain waitlists for access to a digital file, but also that the barriers to checking out an ebook are unnecessarily high. As she puts it,

“Teaching people about having technology serve them includes helping them learn to assess and evaluate risk for themselves.”

In her view,

“Information workers need to be willing to step up and be more honest about how technology really works and not silently carry water for bad systems. People trust us to tell them the truth.”

That seems like the least that can be expected by library patrons.

We are all users of technology, and we can demand more of it and its creators rather than accepting the software and application environment that we currently inhabit. (The indie web movement I mentioned last time would certainly agree).

E-books are part of the growing shift in the meaning of ownership. As Alexis Madrigal and Rob Meyer explore at The Atlantic, when everything works like your cell phone and is connected to the internet, “three things happen: it becomes smart, it becomes hackable, and it’s no longer something you own.”

Joining libraries as common, valuable, and strapped-for-cash cultural institutions are museums. Museums are starting to make more use of data that they gather by tracking customer behavior. Sensors to monitor patron movement, demographic analyses–not always new techniques, just automated ones. This has serious privacy implications, but is all-too-common (retail stores are doing the same and beyond). As museums continue to focus on data to gather insights on the populations that they serve, they need to make sure that they’re using data in the right ways, and are prepared to adapt.

The internet advertising industry had a bit of a wake-up call last month. Google shared the results of a study they conducted on the viewability of Google Ads. Stunningly, “many of the ads served on the web never appear on a screen.” That doesn’t mean that they weren’t loaded on the page, but that they didn’t meet the criteria for viewabiity as defined by the Media Rating Council: “A display ad is considered viewable when 50% of an ad’s pixels are in view on the screen for a minimum of one second.” Even worse, another study by security researchers and the Association of National Advertisers revealed that:

“Almost one-fourth of video ads and 11 percent of display ads are viewed by fake consumers created by cyber crime networks seeking to take a chunk of the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising, according to a new research report released on Tuesday.”

Say 100 digital ads are purchased. On average, half of them (50) will be viewed. Of those 50, 11% (5.5) are viewed by bots, not real people. #botsruntheweb

In writing my lead-in to this next link, I ended up writing about my resolutions/goals for this next year. Because have you ever found yourself on Facebook (Twitter, Tumblr), and then look at the clock and realize that an hour has passed? Or that you’ve clicked through to your cousin’s girlfriend’s sorority sister’s boyfriend’s profile? You don’t even know or care about these people, and yet you’re staring at their profiles, clicking and scrolling. You’ve hit the machine zone.

“What is the machine zone? It’s a rhythm. It’s a response to a fine-tuned feedback loop. It’s a powerful space-time distortion. You hit a button. Something happens. You hit it again. Something similar, but not exactly the same happens. Maybe you win, maybe you don’t. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It’s the pleasure of the repeat, the security of the loop.”

That loop is exactly why I made resolution #1, which is to stay off Twitter more and read fewer articles on the web. The machine zone is just that—a zone within a machine, not within a genuinely social context.

“It explains how the more Facebook has tuned its services, the more people seem to dislike the experiences they have, even as they don’t abandon them. It helps explain why people keep going back to services that suck them in, even when they say they don’t want to.”

It isn’t fun like it used to be (if it ever was):

“on occasion, on those very same days I’m supposedly too busy to go out, I spend several hours clicking around to random stuff online. “It would be one thing,” I was telling my husband a couple months ago, “if I got to the end of the day and thought, well, I squandered every free second I had on the Internet today, but at least I had a really great time!” I remember when I did feel this way, more than a decade ago, when I was first blogging, but I never do now. I think about how much nicer it would have been to go out and talk to someone.”

The Oscar nominations were announced recently, and critics were quick to point out that many well-regarded movies, like Selma and the Lego Movie, were snubbed. Not only that, but this is one of the least-diverse Oscar nominations field in years. The Atlantic ran the numbers of how many films with Best Actress nominees are also nominated for Best Picture, and it’s far lower than the number of films with Best Actor nominees. This year’s Oscar field is no exception.

A new antibiotic was discovered, thank GOODNESS.

“A team of scientists led by Kim Lewis from Northeastern University have identified a new antibiotic called teixobactin, which kills some kinds of bacteria by preventing them from building their outer coats. They used it to successfully treat antibiotic-resistant infections in mice. And more importantly, when they tried to deliberately evolve strains of bacteria that resist the drug, they failed. Teixobactin appears resistant to resistance.”

That’s a promising sign, but we’re still making mistakes in how we use antibiotics in the U.S.. Not only are they overprescribed for sicknesses like the common cold (a virus), but they’re also (over)used to treat adult acne.

“Antibiotics are one of the main ways to treat moderate to severe acne, and patients often are put on them for months or years. Although dermatologists represent only 1% of the nation’s physicians, they prescribe 5% of antibiotics, pharmaceutical-industry data show. Over time the microorganisms the antibiotics are designed to kill adapt to them, making the drugs less effective.”

While acne is pretty awful, there are alternative methods that are more effective, but are historically frightening, like the drug commonly known as Accutane. Accutane is packaged in a drug packet with frightening diagrams of the babies that can result if you get pregnant while on the drug, plus you have to take a monthly quiz to prove that you understand the risks if you get pregnant, including declaring two different forms of birth control that you use. I’d prefer that to contributing to wide-scale antibiotic resistance any day!

I’m overly ambitious with themed links, contributing to the slow, but still stay tuned to hear more about river reconstruction, container ships, high frequency trading microwave networks, and much more!

I’m listening to Daughter while I write this, and making my way through a book about HTML and CSS to make sure I fill any holes in my self-taught knowledge before I move on to JavaScript (there’s that new year goal kicking in). We’ll see how it goes.