Hey Elon Musk, Tinder Imperfectly Cracked Verification, So Can Twitter

If you were on the internet over the last week you probably heard that Elon Musk bought up stock in Twitter to the point he is now the largest single shareholder. Musk started Tweeting, like a college kid who decided to try the big Adderal for the first time, turned down a board seat, deleted some tweets, and got sued by other Twitter shareholders. A normal week for Musk.

One of Musk’s now-deleted Twitter threads was however on the right track. The idea of expanding verification.

Musk floated a few ways to do it, from charging a low monthly fee, to making everyone fork over IDs. I’ve been loudly arguing for expanding Twitter verification for years now. Giving out more blue checks has harms and advantages, but would certainly make the platform feel a little more human.

Something that is little discussed is how well Tinder has handled verification. If you’ve seen those blue stars on Tinder, you’ll know it just means someone took a few photos. To get verified on Tinder, users have to take a few photos, mimicking models’ facial expressions. Those photos are processed by a combination of AI and human review to decide if a person is a person.

Tinder’s approach to verification means little more than that an account is probably not a bot. This sidesteps the problems that come when verification is seen as an endorsement. Twitter paused verification back in 2017, after verifying someone associated with hate groups. The outrage was largely fueled because people felt the blue check was a measure of worth in the eyes of the company Twitter.

At the time I argued verification shouldn’t be seen as an endorsement, but I made the clumsy argument that Twitter should open the existing process to everyone. In the above linked VentureBeat article, I said “I got my verification back when the public could request it. I had to jump through a few hoops, filling out a form explaining why I deserve verification. […] I also had to submit photos of my ID and other documents to verify I was, indeed, myself.” 

But four years later, I now think Tinder is onto something, with a dramatically different approach to verification. Online bots are incredibly hard to spot, many real people, behave in ways that could be seen as bot-like. 

As Florian Gallwitz, Professor of computer science and media at Nuremberg Institute of Technology pointed out on Twitter, Botometer a tool academics often use to identify bots is highly inaccurate. In one example Gallwitz showed that Elon Musk himself with his blue check, 81 million followers, and nearly 10% ownership of the platform Twitter is possibly a bot according to Botometer.


So Mr. Musk, Elon if I may. If you’re serious about buying Twitter, may I suggest that you address the bot problem using the same, imperfect method Tinder has adopted?

Elon Musk and Chris Anderson at TED 2017” by jurvetson is marked with CC BY 2.0.

If you enjoyed this article, feel free to read my criticism of an LA Times article claiming Tesla used Twitter bots to push the stock price up, or watch the video.

The Metaverse Is Stupid, I Think

A few Tweets aside, I haven’t said much about the metaverse. This is entirely because I think the metaverse as currently advertised is incredibly stupid. Some see a sort of merger of the corporeal and virtual worlds, somehow different from Second Life. I see it as, at best, a gimmick and, at worst an ad-supported hellscape we are forced into by people who think it’s cool. 

It’s very hard to see the metaverse as proposed by Mark Zuckerberg as anything other than a new graphical interface for the same stuff we already do digitally. We have video calls, video games, chat programs, online banking, email, and other online tools that replace physical counterparts. I no longer need to go to an ATM to deposit a check. I don’t want to go to a virtual ATM in the metaverse to deposit a digital check.

Sure, it’s possible the metaverse could have a utility I don’t yet understand. It took a global pandemic for me to consider QR codes useful for general consumers. But the best applications I can think of are essentially digital screens, and a VR whiteboard in a VR room isn’t so different from a digital display. 

My Experience Working With Entrepreneur Sunil Paul

The full story about working with Sunil Paul is on Push ROI. But the highlights:

  • Spring Free EV approached my company Push ROI about providing marketing services.
  • Spring Free EV negotiated a contract, resulting in both written clarification of the terms and changes to the terms
  • Spring Free EV signed the contract, and I countersigned.
  • After signing Spring Free EV informed me they wouldn’t honor the contract until I signed an adhesion contract containing terms that altered our current agreement.
  • I said no.
  • Spring Free EV breached the contract.
  • Spring Free EV refused to pay the termination fees outlined in the contract.
  • Spring Free refused to negotiate a settlement.

Feel free to read the full story including screenshots and much more detail about the Spring Free EV contract breach.

Header image TechCrunch, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1xftrv9efs of Covid19 – Google Test

Hey all, as you may have experienced Google Search as gotten worse over time. It’s hard to find specific articles from smaller websites now even when you search for very unique titles. This post will serve as an example.

At the time of writing, most of the (seven) results for “The 1xftrv9efs of Covid19 – Google Test” this blog posts title are unsurprisingly pages from Google websites about Govid19. Not one of those results uses the word “1xftrv9efs”, meaning this blogs title is entirely unique.

As of 12:21 AM 3/11/22, this page is not yet indexed by Google. Google also shows no results for the word “1xftrv9efs”. Apart from my Tweet, this should be the only page on the internet with “1xftrv9efs” on the page.

Apart from Tweeting this article, I’ve done no link building. The post will have a link from the masonpelt.com home page. The stats of my little website in ahrefs are nothing incredible, but this is not a new domain name, and is not without some links.

Update 8:00AM 3/11/22 This page is now indexed, and while it ranks on the first page for its title, that is because Google only shows 8 results for “The 1xftrv9efs of Covid19 – Google Test” without quotes.

I realize, as other sites, Flipboard, MuckRack, and various thread reader websites create links to the blog post, it may rank #1 for its title. All it took for that to happen was an 11 character random combination that appears no other place online in the title.

It’s of note that as of 3:10PM on 3/11/22, this blog post doesn’t appear in the first 150 results of Google for the phrase “the Covid19 – Google Test” without quotes. Lots of sites use the words “Google”, “Covid-19” and “Test”, but still my site is the best content result for that nonsense phrase.

Obviously, I could do a bunch of SEO things and within a few weeks to months rank this blog post for all the nonsense variations of its current title. But why? Is using Google to search a partially remembered title of a blog post, published by a small website an edge use case for the search engine? Will every blogger need to start doing SEO to rank for, random meaningless titles?

Header: “Random search” by Arenamontanus is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Orwellian Goal

If George Orwell had one goal, and that goal was to write a book that people who hadn’t read it would bring up in conversation as if it was the only fictional work to comment on politics prior to televised animation, he completed his goal with more success than any other person.

1984 is also one of my all time favorite books. It deserves to be read, contemplated, and analyzed, as do many other books. But 1984’s commentary on the world was remarkably well defined with in the work, the historical context around it, and by all of Orwell’s other works.

Orwell wrote an essay about how he makes tea. If someone wished to, they could analyze that essay to the point that they turn it into a religion. But it’s literally just about tea. Putting the tea into the pot directly wasn’t a commentary on education.

It’s not like Orwell was known for being unclear, and unable to speak for himself. You’d struggle to find a professional writer who hasn’t read the Politics and the English Language essay. So when he writes a book that clearly contextualizes something, it wasn’t a mistake.

When people draw 1984 comparisons to current events that are contextually entirely outside of anything contained in the book. I assume that they didn’t read 1984. Bringing me full circle.

“1984 Book Covers” by colindunn is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Is Online Ads Management A ‘High Demand’ Skill?

Every “learn that high demand skill [online ads]” course is bull shit. How do I know? Because I’ve run an absolutely obscene amount of digital ads, and I just had to explain to a VP of marketing that advertising online is actually still relevant.

I’ve been managing client ads since 2013, and I’ve run well over $100 million in ads. Those ads have driven at least $500 million in revenue for clients. Digital ads clearly make money. Being skilled in ads management is valuable, but it’s a competitive field, and only a fraction of the market understands the value.

I probably put together 60 bids for ads management a year. And even with the credentials I described above, I don’t sign anything close to 60 new contracts a year. Businesses have all kinds of reasons they don’t hire my ad agency.

The stumbling block for a chain of local restaurants was that ads didn’t work when the owner’s brother tried them a few years ago. The problem an auto parts seller had was fragmented departments with territorial department heads. And the CMO of a national liquor brand felt online ads broke their organic brand image.

It doesn’t matter that the brand sponsored concerts and had billboards. That putting PR in charge of the social ads budget while search marketing handled search ads is a bad business decision. Or that maybe a $500 ads test from several years ago may not indicate the medium won’t work for restaurants.

No salesperson will ever be able to overcome every emotional or logistical objection to running ads. Maybe the company just wants to keep things in house? Example, this classic email from someone who requested to meet with me years ago.

Even when companies not only run ads but hire a vendor, they have many options. Maybe they liked another venders pitch better? Perhaps, they want to hire a company with whom they have existing contracts; Or the vendor who offered them a better price. The list goes on forever.

I can guarantee you that taking a course on ads management isn’t going to have people beating your door down begging you to run ads for them. And while not a guarantee, the odds that the learn-to-run-ads course marketed on YouTube and Facebook is any good are not in your favor.

Photo by Hennie Stander on Unsplash

Did Negative Media Coverage of Covid-19 Reduced Treatment Options?

The other day, Jon Hardister a Republican member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, Tweeted his summary of a working paper from November, 2020. That paper analyzed the tone used in U.S. media coverage of Covid-19. The paper maybe of interest, but Hardister didn’t link to the paper, he just Tweeted the following: 

“A study at Dartmouth finds that media coverage on #COVID19 has been nearly 90 percent negative, much more negative than scientific data justifies. Media should focus on straight, objective reporting, not hyperbolic negativity. We can do better than this.”

The Tweet is both decontextualized from the original paper and not the best representation of the paper’s content. The paper analyzes the tone of English-language news articles written from January 1, 2020 until some time in November of 2020. The finding is that 91% of stories by U.S. major media outlets are negative in tone versus 54% for non-U.S. major sources and 65% for scientific journals.

The paper isn’t all that interesting to me — it also foolishly speculates that the 1987 repeal of the fairness doctrine may have something to do with the amount of negative coverage in the U.S. Despite the fact that the fairness doctrine would have only applied to 4 of the 14 media companies selected as U.S. mainstream sources. — Even the comparative metrics of the more positive tones used by non-U.S. major sources and scientific journals have explanations besides simply “U.S. Media is being a negative nelly.”

For example, while it may be changing, scientific journals don’t publish negative findings as frequently as positive findings. This doesn’t speak to the tone, but if a test, trial, or experiment works, it’s more likely to be published in scientific journals. For non-U.S. major sources, it also may be easier to be positive when you do not have to debunk a leader who claims Covid-19 will disappear one day like a miracle… Even the non-U.S. outlet The Irish Times was very negative about Donald Trump’s handling of Covid-19 in 2020.

As you can probably imagine, Hardister’s Tweet wasn’t well received. Without a link to the study for context, the Tweet carries the implication that if media coverage of a pandemic that’s killed over 3 million people were objective it wouldn’t be so negative.

I, however, got the honor and privilege of having someone claim that negative media coverage caused actual harm. They said negative media caused the “suppression of treatment options.” — Specifically citing Hydroxychloroquine & Ivermectin as having research halted because outrageous media coverage made it impossible to find test subjects. Below are the screenshots of part of my interaction with @founding_ideals.

The only problem is not only are both drugs well tested, neither Hydroxychloroquine nor Ivermectin is particularly effective for treating Covid-19. And that is not dishonesty on my part as I already explained on Twitter.

True some trials, like the Novartis hydroxychloroquine trials were halted due to enrolment challenges. But many trials were completed looking into Hydroxychloroquine and Ivermectin as a Covid-19 treatment option.

In November of 2020 a study, from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute PETAL Clinical Trials Network, focused on hospitalized patients with moderate to severe disease. The authors randomized 479 patients to receive Hydroxychloroquine. “The trial was stopped early at the fourth interim analysis for futility. For the primary outcome, clinical status at 14 days measured on a 7-category ordinal scale, there was no significant difference between the hydroxychloroquine and placebo groups”

As of now, both the U.S. Food And Drug Administration and The World Health Organization caution against the use of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of Covid-19 outside of hospital settings or a clinical trial. But even now, Hydroxychloroquine is still being tested for some possible uses, like potentially decreasing hospitalization for mildly symptomatic outpatients with covid-19.

For Ivermectin, a randomized clinical trial included 476 patients and that trial determined the “findings do not support the use of Ivermectin for treatment of mild COVID-19, although larger trials may be needed to understand the effects of Ivermectin on other clinically relevant outcomes.”

While the above is the most comprehensive trial of Ivermectin for treatment of Covid-19 to date, it is not alone. Based on the analysis of 16 trials, The World Health Organization recommends that due to the methodological limitations of the trials thus far recorded and the low significant scene within those trials that Ivermectin not be used outside of clinical trials. Also both the U.S. Food And Drug Administration, and the European Medicines Agency specifically advise not to use Ivermectin to treat covid-19.

Even Merck, a pharmaceutical company that would make a lot of money if Ivermectin was an effective Covid-19 treatment found that Ivermectin has “[n]o scientific basis for a potential therapeutic effect against COVID-19 from pre-clinical studies” and “[n]o meaningful evidence for clinical activity or clinical efficacy in patients with COVID-19 disease”.

However many other drug trials have continued and are continuing despite all the “negative media coverage” of Covid-19. It seems unlikely that U.S. or the global public would have had effective treatment options, but for the darn media and all their “if it’s bleeding, it’s leading.”

“COVID19 social distancing” by Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine is marked with CC0 1.0