In Over My Head

Just another weblog

Discussion from last week May 21, 2007

Filed under: Discussion Leader — trinx @ 8:35 pm

My thoughts on the experience:  I don’t really have any new thoughts. Tony, Kristina and I all managed, without a lot of discussion about it, to focus on different aspects of the subject.  I was somewhat frustrated by the fact that the Sephora tooth-whitening video I selected wouldn’t run–but as Kathy pointed out, the very fact that it didn’t work was relevant to Sephora’s online credibility. Overall, it was an easy presentation to give and an easy topic to tease out additional material on.


Are the chattering classes listening only to themselves?

Filed under: Reading — trinx @ 5:12 pm


Why Employees are More Trusted Than the CEO

I had to look up the phrase “chattering classes,” which is a Britishism. It is, interestingly, “frequently derogatory,” (not sure why–was it coined by the upper class?) and means “members of the educated metropolitan middle class, esp. those in academic, artistic, or media circles, considered as a social group freely given to the articulate, self-assured expression of (esp. liberal) opinions about society, culture, and current events.


Basically, the reason that employees are more trusted than the CEO is that a plurality of people think that a credible spokesperson is “a person like myself.”

This is the part I just don’t get. When did we transfer credibility from people with real knowledge and authority to people like ourselves? As a stockholder, do I want to hear what a lot of average Joes think about Federated Department Stores? If I’m really, really doing a lot of research for some reason (which I normally don’t), then sure, I might read a blog by Janet in the cosmetics department at Bloomingdales in Cleveland—sometimes employees, especially if they’ve been around for a while, have a good sense of whether cutbacks are in the wind, and are willing to be more blunt than company officers. But that doesn’t replace hearing what the CEO and CFO have to say about the company’s direction. They know that stockholders Google everything and know everything—what employees are saying, what the analysts are saying, and whether the company directors have filed to sell stock. If they hedge or lie, they’re stupid, and the stock value will reflect the fact that the company is run by stupid people.

But then, I’m an idealist—a grouchy one, but still. It’s not that I don’t believe that the AJs have something to contribute–they definitely do. My quarrel–in my usual can’t-see-the-forest way, is with the idea that someone like me has more to tell me than someone kind of like me but smarter and with more perspective.


Clarifying IBM’s Strategic Mission for Social Media

IBM’s approach to social media is amazing. It’s extremely forward-thinking of them to put real power behind employee-generated content and collaboration. The most interesting and telling comment of Philippe Borremans’: “It doesn’t matter where the content comes from, as long as it’s good content.”

Is there another side to the story, I wonder? They added “structure” to existing information–I wonder if that had any effect on the information (i.e., was there any censorship). Obviously (giving the lie to my protestations above) what Joe Random Employee has to say about the structure might carry more weight than what Philippe Borremans has to say.

Discussion question: We all want a lot more information than we used to. Is there a balance between wanting information from “regular folks” and wanting information from experts? And how do companies put some structure around public information, and how do they distance themselves from misinformation/disinformation?


Discussion leader abstract and links May 15, 2007

Filed under: Discussion Leader — trinx @ 1:10 pm

Abstract for my presentation:

As the growth of online commerce begins to slow, e-tailers are considering the trust barriers that keep potential customers from spending online. The fears that many e-consumers had a decade ago are still around. There are well-recognized ways to create credibility, and consumer research shows a few tried-and-true methods used by the wary to establish confidence in online purchasing. Finally, Web 2.0 features are expected to usher in a new era of e-consumer confidence and a boom in online spending.

Power Point

Articles and links:

Alexander, Blair, Lorraine Friend, Beth Godwin, and Patrycja Babis. “Learning to Trust E-Tailers: Strategies for Consumers.” Journal of Research for Consumers 10 (2006): 1-9. Retrieved 12 May 2007, ProQuest.

Burke, Ken. “Trust Us.” Multichannel Merchant 23.11 (2006): 42-43. Retrieved 12 May 2007, ProQuest.

Hemp, Paul. “Are You Ready for E-tailing 2.0?Harvard Business Review 84.10 (2006): 28. Retrieved 14 May 2007, EBSCO.


Perceived credibility: an elusive concept May 14, 2007

Filed under: Reading — trinx @ 6:02 pm

Measuring Online Trust of Websites: Credibility, Perceived Ease of Use, and Risk

This particular paper is about the development of a survey tool for measuring online trust. Social scientists have long had good data about offline trust, but have not until recently had a body of information about online trust. Obviously, many commercial websites would love to know exactly what they can do to better project authority, credibility, and sincerity to consumers.

The paper describes how the tool was tested using two well-known websites and gives the statistical data that shows the tool is valid. The authors used confirmatory factor analysis, a statistical method that helps develop the full and accurate set of attributes describing the data. The goal was to pare down the instrument so that the questions comprising it do not overlap, but still completely describe this model of online trust.

It’s interesting that scientists have taken this long to quantify information that is so useful—and therefore so financially valuable—to e-commerce.

Credibility Assessments of Online Health Information: The Effects of Source Expertise and Knowledge of Content

It’s not too startling to learn that it’s not medical professionals who author most of the medical information on the Internet (what, are you kidding?). This is an important reason to educate online health site users in assessing the credibility of these sites. This article, like the previous one, is about the development of an assessment tool with independent factors that hopefully will completely describe online credibility without redundancy.

The news that 55 percent of Internet users are specifically seeking medical information online is rather startling. As the article points out, there’s no FCC to keep people from posting egregious misinformation on their websites, so the more gullible of the medical information seekers may be dangerously vulnerable. I know one of the doctors in the clinic I used to go to would actually get a bit testy whenever a patient would mention having looked up a symptom/disease/treatment online, unless they specifically said “I looked this up on the CDC website” (or UWMC, Harvard Medical School, NIH, Mayo Clinic–insert venerable medical institution of your choice here). I always thought she was being a little ridiculous, but that’s because I wouldn’t think of doing a Google search for “ovarian cancer” and looking at every Arial-font, Flash-advertisements site that pops up. Quite honestly, I have a hard time believing that anyone else does either; I think most of us have a strong innate perception of what is credible.

Which brings us to what may be the hidden point of this research: some information that meets many of our innate credibility tests (professional site design, reasonable privacy policy, source citations, etc.) may be problematic—and it wouldn’t have to be completely bogus in order to misinform users, particularly where medical information is concerned . I think I’ll keep that more firmly in mind, and not just on medical sites.

Discussion question:  what exactly is “dynamism,” and why does it affect perceived credibility? (And why does the word itself make me think of a county-fair huckster in this context?) (Eastin 2001)


Cluelessness is not credible May 11, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — trinx @ 11:56 pm

I wonder if Kathy had us read “Credibility Assessments of Online Health Information” because she knew it would crash (some of) our browsers. I tried several times to get into this site to read the article before I realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to read it in Firefox. I personally find IE-centrism annoying enough to NOT want to use the site, and ignorance is no excuse, because it just makes them look clueless and bumbling.

Boy, my blog makes me sound like the biggest ranter ever! Whine, whine, complain, bitch, whine. Don’t worry, I’ll find something positive to say soon.


How ubiquitous do Gb networks need to be? May 7, 2007

Filed under: Reading — trinx @ 10:34 pm

I’m hardly anti-progress (and I am no fan of Qwest) but it seems to me that there’s a lot of Sturm und Drang in the IEEE’s white paper about Gb networks and why we have to have them RIGHT NOW or risk getting creamed in some kind of global thumb-wrestling match.

The paper starts off well: high-quality video conferencing, OK (although the low-def stuff seems fine to me; do I need to see nose hairs?), but the authors lose me when they start talking about the transformative economic potential of digital home entertainment and the great importance of having 100 HD channels. Then it transpires that what they’re really talking about is how everyone needs to be exchanging video files. I’m sure there will be a Great New Paradigm soon, and it may even require Gb networks, but I don’t think ubiquitous HD YouTube is it. Then they talk about telemedicine. Telemedicine might be truly revolutionary. I know I sound like an incredible cynic, but I believe that for a long time it will only be revolutionary for the people who can afford a certain level of care.

I looked up the Grant County initiative the paper mentioned, which seemed to have little to do with Gb networks. What that initiative did that was valuable was to provide inexpensive triple-play to a rural area. Hey, I’m all for that.

Discussion questions:

1) Is there more value in promoting universal access than in Gb networks?

2) I have some concern that making telecommuting easier/faster/cheaper is going to lead to a drop in urban population densities–in other words, if you can live in a cabin by a river in the middle of Montana and still make a high-tech living, that’s what you’ll choose. Could this be the next great paradigm shift, and if so, what impact will it have on the environment?

3) Are ubiquitous Gb networks exciting because they will make ordinary people’s lives happier, healthier and more fruitful? Or are they exciting because they’ll make Disney shareholders richer?

Now, for “Flash Journalism.” I like the way Flash is used in online news stories, for the most part. It’s not hard to imagine that it will eventually be improved on, however. I clicked on several of the links at the end of the story. The first was to multimedia at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (which I’m partial to, because it clothed and fed me as a child). The link produced a “Unfortunately we are unable to locate the page you have requested” message. They let me down! Next, I clicked on one of Naka Nathaniel’s productions for the New York Times. This one turned out to be a perfect subject for a Flash feature, a discussion of the job of the man who is the chief lighting engineer for public buildings in Paris. (Wow!) These two experiences typify my feelings about Flash. It often enriches my understanding of a story, but Flash content can also be clunky or badly managed.


Notes from Matt McGarrity’s talk May 1, 2007

Filed under: In-class notes — trinx @ 7:04 pm


Rhetoric is:


Persuasion thru argument – logic and reasoning

Persuasion thru identification – constructing a shared identity

Persuasion thru framing – manipulating the user’s view of the information


Persuasion through Argument

Aristotle: logos, pathos, ethos

LOGOS shows us something, or seems to – it offers a claim supported by evidence

political blog example:

PATHOS arouses emotions in the audience; we sometimes have a negative view of this, but Aristotle said “it puts the audience in the right frame of mind”

Save Darfur www.savedarfur.orgshows a lot of children and women

LBJ vs. Goldwater “daisy”ads in ’64 were an appeal to fear


ETHOS presents the character of the speaker as trustworthy

Greg Nickels

Huffington Post vs. Crooks and Liars

these three are useful as production tools and analytical tools; used together, they are more persuasive than any one of them is alone


Persuasion Thru Identification

we identify with each other thru common goals, beliefs, interests and enemies

we persuade by creating “us” and “them” identities — not as overt as using pathos to create fear

FIGs – freshman interest groups


Persuasion Thru Framing

What is the dominant metaphor or concept you want the audience to use when thinking of your issue? “Framing” is a metaphor for talking about metaphors. See the work of Frank Luntz.

Concepts and narratives

Examples: do we talk about “estate tax” or “death tax”? “Clearcutting” vs. “healthier forests”? “Global warming” or “global climate change”?

Another famous example: Time darkened O.J. Simpson’s photograph for their cover after Nicole Brown’s murder


Narrative framing

Fifty years ago, Kenneth Burke talked about highlighting certain story elements in 5 key terms:

Agent: who did what

Act: what was done

Agency: how was it done

Purpose: why was it done

Scene: in which context was it done

What do you privilege as the dominant idea in a narrative– actor, act, purpose, etc.?

Example: I bought a new CAR.


THE DEALER persuaded me to buy a Volvo.

MY NEW JOB AS A LAWYER for Bristol Myers demanded that I buy a new car.

Headline examples:

Bush to Suspend Oil Reserve Deposits (AP)

Bush tries to ease soaring gas prices (IHT)

Bush brings in measure to taclke oil price crisis (Irish Times)

Fighting gas prices, Bush halts filling of emergency oil reserve, urges waiver of clean air rules (AP)

Soaring oil prices pubsh Bush under pressure (AFP)

Feeling political heat, president halts new oil reserve deposit (IHT)

Oil prices retreat as US stops increasing strategic oil reserve (Xinhua News Agency)


Famous textbook: Everything’s an Argument (here’s the Amazon link)