The week Edward Snowden was revealing the extent the U.S. government tracks its citizens' communications, I was at an editorial meeting where we were discussing the importance of online engagement.
Vendors want to use the Web to interact more closely with potential buyers. They want to go beyond yesterday's static ads, leveraging online conversations to influence people--especially the many whom they don't know and who don't know them yet.
I already knew engagement marketing was the new buzzword. I also have heard engineers say they share as little as possible online for fear whatever they share will be sold, spawning a stream of spam and cold calls.
A week later I was listening to a ukulele teacher at a folk festival tell us about his lessons on video on YouTube. He can find them by searching his name and the keyword "uke," but we might not find them that way because of the way Google personalizes search terms, he said.
Not unlike the analysts in the U.S. Prism surveillance program, Google and probably most companies in online advertising use many clever techniques. They swallow huge bites of big data and perform analytics on them to find patterns.
At this point you could make the case I am conflating unlike experiences, but I don't think so. There are common threads here around whether we stay anonymous or identify ourselves online and how we share and seek the treasures we have and believe are hidden somewhere on the vast Net.
We are hungry for information and connection. And everything, it seems, is on the Net.
Information can be very powerful--it can identify a killer, a multi-million dollar opportunity or a long lost friend. We want to keep some of it private. Some of it probably should stay private, and some of it probably shouldn’t. The tools for hiding and guarding data online themselves are often less than transparent to the average Netizen.
I don't have any good answers, but for the last several days these questions have been circling around in my head:
- How do we talk to one another online?
- How do we know if we can trust whoever is on the other end of the connection?
- What are our terms of engagement?
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