The Perils and Pitfalls of Personalization in Online Advertising

Harvard Business Review is making an article from their January-February 2018 issue available without fee: “Ads that Don’t Overstep.” The article describes recent research by the authors about how consumers react to digital ads on websites when considering issues like relevance, intimacy, and privacy. As they point out “When it comes to personalization, there’s a fine line between creepy and delightful…” (John, Kim & Barasz, 2018).

The article does a fine job of looking at consumer psychology and concludes with five very cogent guidelines that marketers should consider when using personal information about people to target advertising online.

Here’s the link:


Ego and Social Media

Today I read a very interesting Mashable piece written by a woman who recently decided to stop using Instagram. Here’s the link:

As I read her piece I reflected on my own use of Instagram, which has been very light, and thought I might offer a comment or two of my own. And first, let me say I don’t intend to delete my Instagram account. And second, that I’m not likely to increase my use of the app beyond my current low level of activity.

The reasons I continue to have the app on my phone are two:

  1. Some of my family and friends (real world friends whose relationships predate social media) use it to send out photos of what they’re up to. I like that. I enjoy seeing what they’re doing or looking at. It’s an easy way to stay in touch, while not really staying in touch.
  2. I can update my family and friends on places I’m visiting with minimal effort. It’s a time-saving way for me to let people I love know what I’m up to. Twitter would serve the same purpose, but then I’d have to write it out and consider how to keep it down to the character limit…too much trouble.

After reading Ms. Flynn’s Mashable piece, I have come to the conclusion that social media usage is heavily tied into self-perceptions. I think social media are dangerous to the degree that users have problems with self-image and personal restraint. Social media addiction (yes, I think there is such a thing) has roots in personal insecurity.

The reason I write this blog is to share articles and posts I come across with others who have similar interests. I don’t try and adhere to a regular schedule and so I avoid the problem of what to post on a day when there seems nothing much worth commenting on. And, too, why should people care what I find interesting? Well, I have enough ego to think that things I notice might not have been noticed by those who follow my posts and that they are interesting enough that more people than myself need to take note of them and stop for a moment to think about them.

So, that’s my post for today, and thank you for reading!

The Psychology of Online Professor Ratings

“Journal of Marketing Education” (from Sage Publishing) has published a study by David Ackerman of California State University Northridge and Christina Chung of Ramapo College of New Jersey about the presence of bias in online student evaluations of their professors. Their research compared actual on-campus ratings versus online ratings for the same professor and class and found that the latter tend to reflect whatever tone early ratings give. Thus, if a professor gets a couple early very bad ratings, later ratings are typically not so good. The opposite also holds true. They theorize that a kind of peer pressure, once removed, may be at work. But I would just call it “framing” in the Kahenman-Tversky sense.

What I like best of all about their work is their characterization of “Rate My Professor” and similar forums as the online equivalent of bathroom stall walls–a place to vent one’s frustrations.

Now what we need is more research into on-campus ratings in terms of their accuracy.

Here’s the link:

The Music Medium & Psychology

The November issue of Hollywood Reporter has a wonderful roundtable interview with six top film and TV composers. The questions were probing and the answers somewhat surprising, providing real insight into how composers think and approach their projects. It’s a great read and I highly recommend the article.

Here’s the link:

Internet Gaming Disorder…Not

DSM V has added “Internet Gaming Disorder” (IGD) to its list of mental maladies. But is it a real addiction and is it necessarily a chronic condition that needs intervention? One recent study says “No.”

According to a study of 5,777 American adults published in PeerJ, ( IGD should be looked upon in a nuanced way and most especially should not be assumed to be unhealthful, especially longitudinally. The authors cite studies that tend to support that IGD is “a possible psychiatric condition” (p. 1) needing intervention, but cite others that contradict this conclusion and urge caution. Their own work relies on three factors of mental health: autonomy, competence, and relatedness, and how these are or are not regulated by IGD.

Quoting from the authors’ Discussion section,

In line with predictions we found that the IGD criteria proposed in the DSM-5 (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) were, on an individual and continuous basis, moderately stable over a six month period. Contrary to what we expected, however, none of the participants meeting diagnostic thresholds at the start did so at the end of the study, and only three participants reported more than four IGD criteria at the start and six months later. These findings, that very few, if any, individuals who meet the proposed diagnostic thresholds over time mirror those derived from other large-scale representative studies of problematic gaming research (Festl, Scharkow & Quandt, 2013; Scharkow, Festl & Quandt, 2014). These unexpected results do not support a theoretical framing of Internet Gaming Disorder as a chronic psychiatric condition akin to substance abuse disorder as some have argued (e.g., Hasin et al., 2013; Petry et al., 2014); rather, the constellation of results we uncovered provide evidence that dysregulated gaming is a nuanced phenomenon that requires careful conceptualisation, and one which can be fruitfully studied from a motivational perspective (Deci & Ryan, 2000; Griffiths et al., 2016; Kardefelt-Winther, 2014b)….Also contrary to our expectations, we did not find that IGD had an observable direct effect on health over time. Although this finding is inconsistent with some results derived from small-scale convenience samples, it is in line with the only other representative longitudinal work which suggests mixed or non-significant lagged effects linking problematic gaming with life satisfaction and perceived success of gamers (Scharkow, Festl & Quandt, 2014). (Weinstein, Przybylski & Murayama, 2017, pp. 15-16)

This is not to say that IGD is illusory or that it might not have any long-term ill effects. The authors point out that in a minority of cases, IGD can have a negative influence on overall health, but generally in cases where other disorders are also in play.

In summary, the overall thrust is clearly cautionary and tends to align more with my own conclusions after a review of a number of studies (see my article on DSM V and bias in Research Gate), that psychiatric diagnoses are too often misconstrued labels for what would be better seen as normal challenges in development that tend to be worked out by the principals involved as they mature.

Microsoft’s Truly Awful Tech Support

Two days ago I went online and purchased Office 365 for Mac (2016) and downloaded it. But when I tried to open any of the apps (Word, Excel, etc.) none of them would launch. I got a pop-up that said “Invalid” and when I clicked on “More” got a window full of alphanumeric code. I saw something about “library” in there.

I tried to access MS’s online chat and after a long session we tried deleting various files, deleting all the Office apps and reinstalling Office. No luck. I went through this process twice.

I got another, supposedly higher up tech person. He was going to have me repeat all that and I let him know it had all been tried. Could we please just download Office 2011 for Mac, which I had deleted on the advice of my first techie. He navigated me to the appropriate web page and started the download. When we were all done it turned out we had Office 365 for Mac 2016 all over again!!!

The last tech sent me an email apologizing for the problem. He gave me both n 800 number to call and a support website URL. I tried the phone and got nothing but a continual outgoing message to go to the support website. No advice of my call being answered by a real person, no telling me I was in a queue position. So I ended the call and tried the support website, which put me through the same bunch of crap as my first two tech “support” attempts. And its responses to my inputs told me it was clearly some kind of AI robot, not a real person, as it clearly never read my original message.

I am now downloading the Apple apps for the MS files I have used up to now (Pages, Numbers, etc.) and as far as I’m concerned Microsoft can go bankrupt.

Reining In Smart Phones

I want to thank my niece for bringing this article in “The Guardian” to my attention. It’s an excellent look at how some of the inventors of high tech tools we use and overuse are taking steps to wean themselves off those very tools and protect their families from them.


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