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Trigger warnings for misogynists

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I admit that when I initially saw trigger warnings at the beginning of articles, I was a bit baffled. That sense of bafflement was well-captured in this New York Times article from May, about requests to apply them to literary works in college courses. I’ve come to think that the appropriateness of trigger warnings depends entirely on the context in which they are used. If you want to know more about them, the Geek Feminism Wiki has a good writeup of how trigger warnings are used and the reasons for using them.

A couple of days ago, my colleague Lara Swanson posted about unsolicited feedback she received from dudes after her Velocity keynote, and I realized that there’s definitely one context in which trigger warnings are underused. Clearly the men who gave the feedback would have benefitted from a trigger warning that might have prevented them from unexpectedly having a negative emotional experience while watching a conference talk.

With that in mind, here are some new trigger warnings speakers may want to use to protect men from having a damaging emotional response, and worse, taking it out on others.

  • TRIGGER WARNING: Woman to speak authoritatively about topics not considered “girl stuff.”
  • TRIGGER WARNING: Content may force representatives of privileged groups to confront the existence of that privilege.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker apt to apply metaphors men are unfamiliar with.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker to extoll diversity for its own sake.
  • TRIGGER WARNING: Speaker using whatever tone they like when giving this talk.

With these precautions, hopefully we can make conference talks a safe place for men.

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superiphi
4 days ago
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Ha :)
Idle, Bradford, United Kingdom
acdha
4 days ago
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Can we reboot the tech industry yet?
Washington, DC

Why don't OKCupid's experiments bother us like Facebook's did?

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Hi, everybody! Tim Carmody here, guest-hosting for Jason this week.

OK Cupid's Christian Rudder has responded to the outcry over Facebook's experiments with user emotions by... publishinga list of experiments that the dating site has run on its users, along with their results.

And it's not little stuff either! To test its matching algorithms, OKC has selectively hidden users' profile images, their profile text, and even told pairs of users they were a good match when the algo said they weren't, and vice versa.

In short, Facebook may have hid stuff from you, but OK Cupid might have actually lied to you.

But... nobody's really upset about this. Or if they are, they're mostly just upset (or dryly observing, it's hard to tell) that other people aren't upset.

Why? I have some theories:

  1. It's early yet. It took the Facebook story some time to steep before it really picked up steam.
  2. OKC users are less likely to be troubled by this sort of thing than Facebook users are. And people get more upset when they feel like they personally might have been messed with. Hilary Parker pointed out that non-online daters are less likely to get upset on online daters' behalf: even if you don't actively look down on OKC users (and many do), you might be more likely to think they got what they deserved. OK Cupid has a history of disclosing these kinds of numbers, and there's a laissez-faire attitude towards users gaming accounts for their own purposes.
  3. We trust Facebook in a way we don't trust OKC. Facebook is the safe baby internet, with our real friends and family sending us real messages. OKC is more internet than the internet, with creeps and jerks and catfishers with phony avatars. So Facebook messing with us feels like a bigger betrayal.
  4. OKC's matching algorithm may be at least as opaque as Facebook's news feed, but it's clearer to users that site matches and views are generated using about being an algorithm. Reportedly, 62 percent of Facebook users weren't aware that Facebook's news feed was filtered by an algorithm at all. (That study has a small sample size, but still, we can infer that lots of Facebook users have no idea.)
  5. The results of OKC's experiments are less troubling. Facebook's study showed that our posting behavior (and maybe our feelings) were pretty susceptible to manipulation without a whole lot of effort. OKC's results seemed more complimentary. Sure, lots of people on dating sites are shallow, and sometimes you may have ended end up in longer conversations than you might like with incompatible people, but good matches seem to find a way to connect no matter what OKC tells us! So... the algorithm works and I guess we can trust what they tell us? My head hurts. (Jess Zimmerman adds that part of the Facebook intervention was deliberately designed to cause harm, by making people unhappy, at least as mediated through their posts. The difference here depends on whether you think trying to match you up with someone incompatible might be causing them harm.
  6. The tone of the OKC post is just so darned charming. Rudder is casual, self-deprecating. It's a blog post! Meanwhile, Facebook's "emotional contagion" scholarly paper was chillingly matter-of-fact. In short, the scientism of the thing just creeped us the fuck out.
  7. This is related to the tone issue, but OKC seems to be fairly straightforward about why it performed the experiment: they didn't understand whether or how their matching algorithm was working, and they were trying to figure that out to make it better. Facebook seemed to be testing user's emotional expressions partly to solve a scholarly dispute and partly just to see if they could. And most of the practical justifications folks came up with for the Facebook study were pretty sinister: tricky folks into posting more often, into clicking on ads, into buying stuff. (Really, both experiments are probably a mix of product testing and shooting frogs for kicks, but the perception seems to be different.)
  8. The Facebook study had an added wrinkle in that academics were involved in designing the study and writing it up. This raised all sorts of factual and ethical issues about university institutional review boards and the responsibility of the journal's editors and publishers that don't seem to be relevant here. I mean, maybe SOMEbody should be veryifying that experiments done on human subjects are ethical, whether it's in a university, medical, or government context or not, but it's not like someone may have been asleep at the switch. Here, there is no switch.
  9. Maybe we're all just worn out. Between Facebook, this, Uber ratings, and god knows what, even if you're bothered by this kind of experimentation, it's more difficult to stay angry at any one company. So some people are jaded, some people would rather call attention to broader issues and themes of power, and some people are just tired. There's only so many times you can say "see? THIS! THIS is what I've been telling you about!" or "I can't believe you're surprised by this" before you're just like, ¯\_(?)_/¯.

I don't agree with all of these explanations, and all of them feel a little thin. But maybe for most of us, those little scraps of difference are enough.

Update: Here's a tenth reason that I thought of and then forgot until people brought up variations of it on Twitter: Facebook feels "mandatory" in a way that OKCupid doesn't. It's a bigger company with a bigger reach that plays a bigger part in more people's lives. As Sam Biddle wrote on Twitter, "Facebook is almost a utility at this point. It's like ConEd fucking with us."

Tags: FacebookOKCupid
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satadru
3 days ago
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yup
New York, NY
rachel
4 days ago
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I see OKC's as product testing, where the algorithm is a very useful part of the site, whereas FB is pretty much just shooting frogs for kicks, since I don't want them filtering my news feed at all. I want to do it myself.
somerville, ma
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We Experiment On Human Beings!

11 Comments and 16 Shares
I’m the first to admit it: we might be popular, we might create a lot of great relationships, we might blah blah blah. But OkCupid doesn’t really know what it’s doing. Neither does any other website. It’s not like people have been building these things for very long, or you can go look up a […]
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mgeraci
4 days ago
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Hooray, the blog is back! We've all been really excited as these experiments were running and Christian was writing the post.
New York, NY
jprodgers
4 days ago
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I hope these come back. They always give me things to think about.
Berlin, Germany
skorgu
4 days ago
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OKtrends is back!
dreadhead
4 days ago
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Always find these fascinating.
Vancouver Island, Canada
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marcell
2 days ago
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"The four-message threshold is our internal measure for a real conversation. And though the data is noisier, this same “higher display means more success” pattern seems to hold when you look at contact information exchanges, too.

This got us worried—maybe our matching algorithm was just garbage and it’s only the power of suggestion that brings people together. So we tested things the other way, too: we told people who were actually good for each other, that they were bad, and watched what happened.

As you can see, the ideal situation is the lower right: to both be told you’re a good match, and at the same time actually be one. OkCupid definitely works, but that’s not the whole story. And if you have to choose only one or the other, the mere myth of compatibility works just as well as the truth."

zagreb, croatia
llucax
3 days ago
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They are back! Andás with a new book!
Berlin
rgsunico
3 days ago
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I love OkTrends! It's a nice use of existing data as opposed to the need to change things around and see how people respond. =P
Quezon City
weelillad
4 days ago
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Fascinating
Singapore
gradualepiphany
4 days ago
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Sweet! I've always really enjoyed these.
Los Angeles, California, USA
tdwiegand
4 days ago
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Really happy to see a new post on this blog (even if it is partially an advertisement for a book)
Berkeley, California
AaronPresley
4 days ago
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Data is a hell of a thing.
Portland, OR

I'll Take a Few Dozen of These Cards, Thanks

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I'll Take a Few Dozen of These Cards, Thanks

Submitted by: (via knownsinner)

Tagged: cards , burn , g rated , win
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mwclarkson
5 days ago
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Oh my god.
Providence RI USA
MaryEllenCG
5 days ago
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I need a ton of these.
skittone
5 days ago
Needs a period.

Anatomy of Songs

jwz
6 Comments and 17 Shares
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smadin
7 days ago
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pretty accurate.
Boston
fxer
7 days ago
Pitbull
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5 public comments
catec
7 hours ago
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Surprisingly accurate
Australia
jimwise
2 days ago
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...
tante
4 days ago
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Anatomy of Songs
Oldenburg/Germany
JayM
5 days ago
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.
Shenandoah Valley, VA
Courtney
7 days ago
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If only every pop song had Pitbull
Boston, MA

July 25, 2014

3 Comments and 7 Shares

So, it turns out yesterday's comic was super similar to this Abstruse Goose comic. Thanks for alerting me. As far as I know, I had never seen that particular comic. Sorry!
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rtreborb
7 days ago
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I like this
wonnage
7 days ago
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lol
San Francisco
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