November 7, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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I think this question requires a higher power than the Facebook Questions box. Like maybe Google. Or Yahoo Answers.

[ image from Facebook ]


Two Ads

March 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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I’ve talked about Facebook advertising in the past (here and here), particularly how its ad targeting software can be both (a) creepily accurate, and (b) laughably wrong. The two ads that kept popping up on my Facebook over the past week seem to fall into both categories:

(a) Raptors (and a fear thereof) are probably the most commonly referenced animal in my apartment; e.g. my boyfriend will randomly say “Raptor Jesus!” sometimes without provocation.
(b) I have an extreme aversion to Facebook-based games such as Farmville, or, as this ad references, Zoo World.

(a) I love babies.
(b) That baby creeps me out.

[ both screenshots from Facebook ]

Rant: People Who Capitalize Every Word

January 29, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Internet Sleuthiness | Leave a comment
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Can someone explain this phenomenon to me? First I noticed a guy capitalizing every noun he wrote, as though he forgot he was writing in English, not German. Then, I saw this answer to a post on a Flickr group about sewing:

Capitalization upgrade: all Nouns –> All Words (including words like “is” that are typically not even capitalized in titles!)

The final straw? This Facebook exchange posted on STFU, Marrieds:

It seems clear that Cynthia’s first response is not simply an aberration; her unwavering dedication to the All Capitalization All The Time Lifestyle is solidified by her second response. Also, isn’t the time you save by typing “U” for “you” sort of negated by the time you spend moving your pinky finger over to Shift every two to five characters?

[ images from Flickr and STFU, Marrieds ]

The 2009 List

January 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Me | Leave a comment
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Last January I wrote a list of ten things that I had discovered or begun using in 2008 that had made my life all the more enjoyable and delicious. Many of those items—such as Jezebel, “Bones,” and peppermint bark—are still objects of my deep affections, but they are joined by these new additions from these past twelve months:

1. iPod Touch. My parents gave me a second-gen iPod Touch for graduation this past May, and it has served me incredibly well ever since. I was particularly thankful to have it when I was traveling in Europe for five weeks last summer, for my iPod functioned as not simply a music player, but also an email/internet device, translator, calendar, currency and temperature converter, and even a free phone (thanks to Skype!). It is such a lovely little piece of technology to have in my life.

2. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I brought three books to read on the aforementioned trip—The Devil in the White City, The Things They Carried, and The Joy Luck Club—but found myself short on reading material by the time we hit Athens, so I picked up a copy of Unaccustomed Earth from an English bookstore, remembering my mom’s affection for Lahiri’s books. I loved this book so much. It made me weep in public, and I practically read it in one sitting, I was that transfixed. Aside from The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, which I read in October 2008, this was the best book I have read in years.

3. “Radio Lab.” This delightful podcast, which could be described as “This American Life” for science, joined “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” and “This American Life” in heavy rotation on my iPod this fall. On a friend’s recommendation, I both subscribed to the weekly episodes, and also downloaded some choice older shows, such as “Placebo,” “Memory and Forgetting,” “Mortality,” and “Morality.” And if you needed any more proof that it was awesome, Ira Glass said he loves listening to “Radio Lab.” Booyah.

4. Egg-lemon soup from The Joy of Cooking. I’m not exactly sure how this started, but this year I became obsessed with this soup, which is like a vegetarian version of avgolemono. I eat it about once a week, if not more frequently, and it is so fast and easy and delicious, especially when it is cold outside. It is this simple to make: Boil 3 c. broth, add 1 c. cooked rice, turn down to a simmer. Beat 2 eggs and the juice of 1 lemon in a bowl. While stirring the brother, pour in the egg/juice mix. Add a bunch of black pepper. Eat. Be happy.

5. “Dollhouse” and “Firefly.” I don’t know why it took me so long to discover the glory that is Joss Whedon, but this year I did so with gusto. It started in the spring when my friend introduced me to her and her roommate’s new favorite show, “Dollhouse.” I thought it was odd at first, but by the second or third episode I was hooked! Then another friend lent me her box set of “Firefly” DVDs, and then my boyfriend and I rented “Serenity” in June, and that basically sealed it. I am now officially a fangirl. Unfortunately “Dollhouse” was canceled halfway through its second season, but we all know Fox’s history of cutting great shows in their prime…

6. ModCloth.com. I give credit to Facebook’s impressive ad-targeting algorithm for introducing me to ModCloth, a clothing site they somehow knew I would love. Though I have yet to purchase anything from the site—mostly due to its expensive prices—the clothing they sell is totally my style, and I definitely plan on incorporating their wares into my closet soon.

7. Buffalo Chex Mix. Again, Facebook suggested I check out the winning recipes in a Chex contest to revamp classic Chex Mix, and on a whim I decided to cook up the first place recipe: Buffalo. Over the course of two weeks, I think I made four batches of the stuff, which is so incredibly addicting that my boyfriend and I consumed eights cups of the stuff in just three days. The ingredients are simple and the butter is plentiful. What more could you ask for in a snack food?

8. TOMS. I bought my first pair of Toms shoes (yellow with stripes and a braided raffia trim) last summer, and received my second pair (cranberry corduroy) for Christmas last week. Since I favor dresses but never wear heels—and, since moving to Northern California, have found that the flip flops I wore constantly in high school aren’t quite substantial enough for daily wear—I have been on the search for a good pair of flats are that are not simply cute, but also comfortable enough to wear for long walks to and from campus. Toms are the answer to this search, and the fact that they donate a pair of shoes for every pair purchased is the cherry on top.

9. “The West Wing.” I watched a few episodes of “The West Wing” when it originally aired ten years ago, but it wasn’t until this year that I sat down and began watching the series episode by episode. What an incredible television program! I am constantly moved to cheers or to tears, and am constantly reminded of why all my politically-inclined peers are obsessed with this show: because it makes you want to grow up to change the government and the world.

10. Hip Hop Music. I have no idea why, but for some reason this year I was drawn to hip hop like never before. Radio stations (such as Z90 in San Diego) that I previously avoided on the dial became my preferred stations, and all my favorite songs of the year seem to be hip hop songs, such as “Run This Town,” “Empire State of Mind,” and “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho).”

A couple of Fails

May 8, 2009 at 9:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Hi friends! While working on finishing up my thesis (and thus grossly neglecting this blog) I came across a bunch of images that made me laugh. Now that the final draft is turned in (yay!), I can finally post these images here. So let’s start with the first two: big-time FAILS that I noticed on Facebook in the past few weeks:

So, it wasn’ t bad enough that the ad targeted Cal students but referred to us by another university’s name, that other university had to be STANFURD! Target audience, FAIL.

Another instance of a dumb mismatch, this time between Chanel and Givenchy. This one isn’t a botched ad pitch like the previous image, but still, COME ON! The double-c’s say Chanel right below them! Quiz, FAIL.

Facebook Ads: A Case Study

February 1, 2009 at 10:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

(originally written December 25, 10:45 pm)

I’ve been having weird, Big Brother-esque experiences with Facebook ads recently. I know that they must use complex algorithms and micro-targeting to figure out which people should see each ad, but it’s gotten to the point that it’s really starting to creep me out.

A very unscientific study of the variety of ads I was shown revealed some patterns that seemed obvious, and other that were more impressive—and, for that matter, more creepy. For example, in ten page refreshes (which amounted to 24 total advertisements), I was shown four ads for engagement or promise rings—that’s 17 percent! (If you add in the Hello Kitty jewelry ad—because who knows, maybe I’m the Mariah Carey type—it goes up to 21 percent.) I seriously feel like I see engagement ring ads about every three clicks, but this trend doesn’t surprise me, since I’m sure anyone who’s In A Relationship for a certain period of time gets targeted as such.

Some of the ads were way off, and laughably so. A great example is Philip Morris Careers—seriously?! Thanks but no thanks, Facebook, I like my lungs the way they are.

A few of the ads made sense based on my profile, like offering me merchandise from “The Office” when I have the show listed as a favorite on my page. But then there were those that were the so awesome, so perfect, so HOW THE HELL COULD FACEBOOK KNOW THAT kind of ads. Like Hamlet 2. How could Facebook know that my brother once dressed as Sexy Jesus for a comic book convention and that I have waited for the flick to go to DVD so I can finally see what it was all about?? And John Edwards—he’s my boy! (Maybe I should finally resign myself to using the past tense… *sigh*) How did Facebook know that?

By far *the* creepiest thing that a Facebook ad has ever done to me is understand an inside joke. I have photographic evidence:

Not cool, Facebook. Not cool.

So, somehow Facebook figured out that my status was a reference to the 30 Rock episode where Liz Lemon meets “Oprah” on a plane and hears a list of her new favorite things… and then their computer system figured out that it should send me an ad about one of Oprah’s REAL favorite things. Holy shit! FACEBOOK, HOW?? Tell me your secrets! I really think, after these experiences, that their folks should enter the Netflix million dollar contest. Seriously.

EDIT: The other ad that I forgot to mention that continues to baffle me as to how I was targeted so perfectly is the one with the headline, “Like retro style?” that links to Mod Cloth. Why yes Facebook, yes I DO love retro style! Unless it’s been analyzing my photos to figure out what I like to wear, there is nary a mention of my preference for retro fashion on my profile. My only guess is perhaps the fact that, under Favorite Music, I list “Motown”…

[ screenshot from Facebook ]

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