The Habits of Highly Effective Internet Trolls

Here’s a quick test to find out if you’re an Internet troll:

Read the statement below and see if you agree with it. If so, you just might have what it takes to play a troll on the Internet.

“The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.”

Researchers at the Unviersity of Manitoba recently presented this statement – along with several others like:

I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz

and the very telling

I like to troll people in forums or the comments section of websites”

and asked study participants if they agreed or disagreed with the sentiment.

Trolls just want to have fun

What they found was alarming but probably not surprising: “People who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). – Chris Mooney for Slate

In other words, the data showed that the favorite pastime of narcissistic, psychopathic sadists is trolling on the Internet:

The Habits of Highly Effective Trolls

I guess the takeaway is simple: next time you start to get upset at a comment you read online, consider the source. It’s probably just a sadist looking to have a good time. Because trolls just want to have fun.


Crimes against humanity (in marketing)

Creepy Conan billboard marketing

Put down that marketing before you hurt yourself

For the past decade, I’ve had the privilege of working with brands of all shapes and sizes in a wide variety of verticals. And though every brand has unique puzzles to solve, many of the challenges—and pitfalls—are common to all.

Here’s a list of the biggest crimes brands commit when attempting to earn relevance in the new attention economy—and what steps they should take instead.

Continue reading

And you will know us by the trail of discarded technology

A brief meditation on software obsolescence

I have been fascinated with high tech stuff as long as I can remember. Growing up in the 60s right in the middle of the Apollo mission push, tech permeated the culture, and I sucked it up like a sponge.  The first book I ever had, bought by my dad as a bribe so I would read the school’s execrable “Dick and Jane” readers (Yes, I’m that old) was titled, simply, “Space”, about outer space and exploring it.

So I’ve been doing tech for a long time.  And I’ve been in the high tech industry my entire career, from before there was a Web, and when the Internet was young.  I’m used to it.  I’m familiar with it.  And one of the things you get used to is the ridiculously fast pace; you take a year off, you miss a couple of updates, and you’re screwed.  You get accustomed to it; you get so you expect it.  And in general, it’s a good thing; those bugs that annoy the crap out of you, or the slow speed of a particular app, or that lack of functionality that really drives you nuts, well, just wait a bit and hey, presto! it’s fixed.

But that has a down side.   Continue reading

In the attention economy, spoilers might be criminal

The “spoiler warning” is an evolving social cue, and an important social cue for avoiding harm.

We live in an attention economy. They used to say knowledge is power, but now there’s Google — information is everywhere, and cheap. What matters is getting people to actually listen. That’s what companies will kill for right now; your attention, even if it’s just for a fraction of a moment.

As such, our attention is our most valuable resource. The moment when we choose what to watch, browse, or read, or listen to is what keeps businesspeople up at night. With on-demand viewing and home entertainment systems that rival theaters, there is actually too much good entertainment … far more than we consume on any reasonable media diet. So we talk about giving up shows to make room for new ones, having a long list of shows we’re going to get around to as soon as we finish binge-watching the show we’re watching now, marathon-viewing of Oscar-winners, and so on.

What we consume isn’t just enjoyment — it’s an investment. Our attention is precious, and we know that. Every minute we spend watching “Breaking Bad” is a minute we’re not spending watching “Orange Is The New Black”, and the storytellers and executives behind each show are frantic to keep our attention.

So attention is important, and what you watch is an investment. But what are you investing in? Continue reading

Trust me, I’m a marketer

Think for a minute about who you’d expect to see in hell.

I have a pretty good idea of the type of person who might be on your short list. Aside from the truly reprehensible—like the people they make Law & Order episodes about—there would be sleazy lawyers, of course, and fraudulent investment bankers. A few Internet comment trolls and maybe even a couple of snake oil salesmen (who’ve been in line for a long time).

But who else?

If lies and deception are enough to punch your ticket, recent research (here’s an interesting article in Forbes) suggests you’d find at least a handful of marketers.

This select group of professionals never killed anyone (directly), nor are they responsible for many of the ills that permeate the surface of our blue-green planet. But they each have something truly unforgivable in common: They lie, cheat and steal. And marketers are among the guiltiest charged.

We’ve got no one to blame but ourselves, to be honest.

In a reckless pursuit of the almighty attention span, marketers have left a trail of broken promises in their wake: Continue reading

You can’t build community at the last minute

You’ve got to make a down payment on community before you can take out a loan.

Some of the less-than-wild late nights I had in college were spent in all-night study sessions the night before a big exam, drinking coffee by the pot and furiously trying to memorize everything I should have learned in the semester prior in one last-ditch attempt.

While the tactics were questionable, the results were mixed. I probably got better grades than I deserved on some exams, and bombed others. But, most of us cramming in those late night sessions did reasonably well.

Unfortunately, most challenges in business don’t come in the form of a written test. They come in the form of an ongoing series of pop-quizzes that count on your permanent brand record. And that’s exactly how it is with audience development online. You can’t solve it all in one night. You can’t cram community development.

Why is this important? Here are some scenarios where this might have an impact on your organization: Continue reading

The unstoppable rise of FOMO

Humans have always had “fear of missing out” – the Internet just amplifies it.

FOMO (or “fear of missing out”) is a phenomenon driven largely by our connectedness to the digital layer. We can connect anytime and therefore see anything that our social network is posting online. And access is increasingly universal.

Plus, people tend to put their best digital selves forward: in other words, we lie to make our own lives more exciting than they seem. It’s a vicious arrangement, and it causes a constant, low-level pang of anxiety that we experience collectively.

It’s unclear who first coined the phrase “FOMO”, The New York Times wrote about it as early as 2011:

As the alerts came in, my mind began to race. Three friends, I learned, had arrived at a music venue near my apartment. But why? What was happening there? Then I saw pictures of other friends enjoying fancy milkshakes at a trendy restaurant. Suddenly, my simple domestic pleasures paled in comparison with the things I could be doing.The flurry of possibilities set off a rush of restlessness and indecision. I was torn between nesting in my cozy roost or rallying for an impromptu rendezvous, and I just didn’t know what to do.

My problem is emblematic of the digital era. It’s known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out,” and refers to the blend of anxiety, inadequacy and irritation that can flare up while skimming social media like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram. Billions of Twitter messages, status updates and photographs provide thrilling glimpses of the daily lives and activities of friends, “frenemies,” co-workers and peers.

And judging from the Google Trends graph below, that was the year it vaulted into pop culture normalcy. It was even added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Continue reading

Is there a business case for ignoring technology?

Old school diner technology

Ignoring technology in the name of memory lane.

There’s a diner down the street that’s perfect for breakfast on weekend mornings. It’s cozy, friendly, and it’s the perfect backdrop for conversation. When you walk in, you’re transported back in time. And the nostalgia-induced high is real.

It’s a time capsule of a calmer era. A time before status updates and check-ins and the vibrating smart phones that have so seamlessly become a part of our interrupted lifestyle. The diner served as a break from all that. Until not long ago, when they added a wall of big-screen and blaring, larger than life TVs.

I don’t want to sound like I’m telling the future to get off my lawn. I understand that the owners were probably proud that they’d made such a long-awaited improvement to their establishment – but did the “improvement” actually just diminish the thing that made the diner special in the first place?

Amidst playing catch-up with emerging trends in technology the diner owners forgot about their brand loyalists.

And the same thing can happen when organizations get carried away with what’s latest and greatest while ignoring what makes them special at the core. What’s newest isn’t always what’s best. Continue reading

When a launch is more of a stumble

All of the best practice documents in the world can’t prepare you for a thud that was supposed to be a splash when your new product hits (or misses) the mark(et).

Launching a new product is as complex as it is seemingly straightforward. Sure, everybody and their 11-year-old-nephew seems to be capable of publishing an app or website and calling it a business, but there’s a big difference between plopping a new product on the web and building a sustainable product or operation that serves a purpose, an audience, and a bottom line.

Intuitively, you already know this. But between the whiteboard, the wireframe, and the “why isn’t this working” discussion in the board room there are a lot of things that can go wrong if you’re not careful.

Here are the potential web redesign land mines you’ll want to avoid: Continue reading

The future the web (is the same as the past)

Predicting the future is nearly impossible.

Constantly emerging technology provides fodder for our imagination to run wild and our brains to crazy with the idea that latest is better than greatest. Especially when it comes to digital publishing.

Imagination outpaces invention. And invention outpaces convention.

It’s easier for an idea to live in our heads than to actually exist in the real world. And just because an idea exists in the real world, doesn’t mean people will adopt it and make using it the norm. This can be confusing when trying to predict what technological elements your digital presence needs today that won’t seem woefully out of touch in the near future. (And what shiny objects to avoid … at least for now.)

If we bet on technology, we can either be really right, or really wrong. But if we bet on people’s behavior, we know that we have human nature on our side and we’ll be well-positioned for the future. Besides, there’s no prize for beating your audience to the future (unless you’re the inventor – and most of us aren’t).

Despite drastic changes in technology, human nature remains consistent. That’s why the successful website of the future is actually rooted in logic from the past: technology may change, but human nature does not.

Here are 5 considerations for building a website that isn’t instantly outdated. Continue reading

exploring the digital layer