Friday, October 17, 2014

One more reason to avoid taking selfies

Personally, I don’t actually need another reason to avoid taking selfies. I have plenty enough already.

My principal reason is just plain having zero interest in taking one.

Still, always wanting to expand my skillset, and fearful that there might be some sort of emergency that would require me to take one – or that I might get caught up in an outbreak of narcissism or something – I thought I should at least know how.

Now, there are plenty of things that I don’t know how to do. There are plenty of things that I do poorly. But, as it happens, mastering the art of the selfie is well beyond my feeble grasp. Oh, I suppose my selfie-competence exceeds my ability to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while blindfold. But it’s pretty darned poor. The few times I tried, I mostly took a picture of the top of my head. The one time I managed a head shot, I looked like Mama June on Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo. (If you don’t know what she looks like, the short version is morbidly obese and squint-eyed mean. And, no I won’t be posting that selfie. It’s already been deleted from my Blackberry.)

So, no, I don’t need yet another reason why not to take a selfie.

Nonetheless, as a public service announcement, I will offer this one to my dear readers who are no doubt madly, wildly, faithfully taking self portraits and posting them in and on places I don’t go. So here goes:

…a new crop of digital marketing companies are searching, scanning, storing and repurposing these images to draw insights for big-brand advertisers.

Some companies, such as Ditto Labs Inc., use software to scan photos—the image of someone holding a Coca-Cola can, for example—to identify logos, whether the person in the image is smiling, and the scene’s context. The data allow marketers to send targeted ads or conduct market research.

Others, such as Piqora Inc., store images for months on their own servers to show marketers what is trending in popularity. Some have run afoul of the loose rules on image-storing that the services have in place. (Source: WSJOnline)

And just so we could figure out how this particular bill becomes a law, the article even has a handy-dandy infographic:


Needless to say, I had to traipse on over to at least one of these sites, and I went and picked Ditto, where, we are told that “1.8 billion photos are shared on social media every day. Have you seen what they say about your brand?” The home page then cycles through a couple of sub pages, one of which shows a map of the U.S., which shows a handful of images avec logo linked to a specific location.

Now, maybe everyone gets to see the same map, or maybe the map will always have something specific to your area, but mine came up showing that someone in Virginia has “shared” a picture of a cup of Dunkin Donut (a made-in-Boston brand), and that someone had uploaded a picture of their kid in Fenway Park wearing a Red Sox jersey and cap.

The header on the map page is:

Reveal when, where and how people experience y our product. 

Well, I don’t really think that the Red Sox need to pay Ditto anything in order to discover what I could tell them for free: that on any given summer home game evening, 90% of the people at Fenway Park will be wearing Red Sox gear. And, depending on how the game/season is going, they may or not be smiling.

And, well, I don’t really think that the Red Sox need to pay Ditto anything in order to discover what I could tell them for free: if the Sox are up, the fans will be smiling. If not, the average fan will be grimacing and swearing under their breath about having Clay Bucholz as your ace. (Actually, this only goes for the adults. The kids will be smiling regardless of what’s happening on the field.)

You know, I actually want to like Ditto. It’s a local company, with a lot of MIT-ers associated with it. Not that I’ve spent my career promoting the greater good of mankind, but I’m not the big-brain-inventive-genius type, eitther. So I sincerely ask: aren’t there better things to use those big MIT brains on, other than helping consumer goods companies more effectively market crap by exploiting the privacy of the their customers? (Clever marketing bit on their management team page, by the way: everyone’s wearing, holding, or using something with a big, fat logo on it.)

Why would Instagram and Pinterest enable Ditto et al. to grab all these pictures of, say, cute kids in Red Sox jerseys at Fenway Park?

The photo-sharing services…hope the brands will eventually spend money to advertise on their sites.


Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest Inc.—among the largest photo-sharing sites—say they adequately inform users that publicly posted content might be shared with partners and take action when their rules are violated by outside developers. Photos that are marked as private by users or not shared wouldn’t be available to marketers.

Wonder what percentage of Instagrammarians and my friend Flickrs read the fine print.

Not something that someone who is both anti-selfie and selfie-challenged has to worry about.

David Rose, who founded Ditto Labs in 2012, said one day his image-recognition software will enable consumers to “shop” their friends’ selfies, he said.

I have no idea whatsoever what this means. But I’m sure as hell happy that none of my friends will be able to “shop” that picture of me looking like Honey Boo-boo’s mother…

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