Giving beyond the big-name nonprofits

Vox.com published an article this Monday on the “income inequality” of nonprofits — rich charities keep getting richer because they have the resources to market/fundraise and because everyone knows their familiar name.  Each marginal dollar donated to these large organizations potentially is less effective than the same dollar donated to a lesser-known, smaller nonprofit.  The article urges U.S. donors to try to find these lesser-known nonprofits where their dollar could possibly be more effective and asks donors do their research before giving.

This can be a daunting process (how do you even begin?), so my companion piece here leads potential donors to the most suitable resource for their mindset.

Inside Smash Summit – Spring 2017

In a house somewhere in Los Angeles, 16 people took turns fighting each other from March 2 to March 5, 2017.

It was the fourth “Smash Summit,” an invitational video game tournament of the top competitive Super Smash Bros. Melee players.  Although much of the event was livestreamed on Twitch, the event was closed to the general public.  The following is a collection of videos and reactions curated mostly from Twitter to try to capture the feel of the event (and also attempt to figure out what they do when they’re competing on stream).

As warm-up for the real tournament, apparently there’s a practice room packed with top Melee players:

To keep their energy up, the gamers have a stash of Monster energy drinks and string cheese.

https://twitter.com/MonsterGaming/status/837352687054180352

https://twitter.com/RagingCherry/status/837765014853341185

Most people play video games for fun.  But what do professional gamers do for fun to relax after a day of competition?

There’s some cornhole:

And every night ends with a game of Mafia:

Back to gameplay, this is what it looks like behind the match as players are on stream.

At the end of the weekend, Swedish player Armada (Adam Lindgren) won 3-1 in the Grand Final to seal his fourth Smash Summit championship for $18,006.80 in winnings.

This stream viewer is going to have to eat some plastic:

Some viewers appeared a little disgruntled with Armada winning all four Smash Summits thus far:

And others seem to accept Armada’s win as part of Summit and congratulated him:

Here’s the Twitter reaction from Hungrybox (Juan Debiedma), who won 2nd place after losing to Armada:

https://twitter.com/LiquidHbox/status/838608431883833344

And Armada goes home with this trophy on top of the $18K+:

Anne’s Media Diary

From Sunday 2/12/2017 to Saturday 2/18/2017, I tracked my media consumption with RescueTime on my laptop, RescueTime on my phone, and logging time by hand.

This is how RescueTime and my discrete hand-logged records claim I spent my time:

However, my own logs showed the real picture.  With my laptop, a second monitor at home, my phone, and countless apps, I’m constantly multitasking, or at the very least, switching between activities.  

I send my friends excerpts from news articles as I read, providing (unasked for) running commentary.  I run Netflix in the background as I plan out my day in Google Calendar on my second monitor.  I read a case for class, and WhatsApp notifications pop up on my phone, so of course I check them.  

While listening to music on my phone and walking to class, I scroll through Facebook, see an interesting article posted by someone I vaguely remember from summer camp a decade ago, Gchat the link to my friend from college, and start chatting about it, continuing throughout the day.

I originally thought this would be a lesson about distractions and lack of depth in media consumption, but it’s instead about the discussions.  Over the last year, I was oddly proud of myself for actively trying to see other perspectives by actively clicking on Facebook links posted by people with different ideologies.  But that isn’t sufficient — there’s a difference between simply consuming information and being immersed in discussion about that information.

Location-based social media monitoring

Beacon Hill, Sunday night, 10:50 p.m.: Sitting at my kitchen table, I heard a series of pops followed immediately by the sound of sirens.  “Were those gunshots or fireworks?  Should I be worried?  And are the sirens related to the pops I heard?”  

My first reaction was to search for possibly related posts on Twitter while looking for a live audio feed of Boston police scanners.  Instead, I remembered reading about the location-based social media search services that aggregated posts from across several platforms, and I tried the first one I could quickly get a free trial for: Echosec.

Instead of searching across several social media platforms separately, Echosec allowed me to search for all geotagged posts in an area of my choosing and within specified date ranges.  My story has a simple ending — I found on Echosec that neighbors on reddit posted that it was definitely fireworks, which was later confirmed by the police through the live feed.  

Nothing became of this tiny story, but imagine the uses for location-based social media monitoring services in situations with more impact and higher stakes.  

Using Echosec (and other similar services) for discovery and identification

Google “location-based social media monitoring,” and you’ll find pages of lists suggesting various services, most of which appear to be enterprise services.  While many of these services appear to primarily serve police departments, security companies, and marketing departments of large businesses, over the last couple years, journalists have also used these tools to assist their reporting.  For example:

  • At NBC 5 in Chicago, a producer used Geofeedia to quickly find photos of people who were hiding inside a building after an employee shot his boss.  Based on these photos, the station was able to identify potential sources.
  • A social media editor for The Associated Press used SAM to identify students at a South Dakota high school where a shooting was foiled, which led to a reporter being able to conduct an interview to confirm details seen on social media.

In more general cases, these tools can also be used to get a sense for people’s reactions to news and events across the board, not only to identify sources and images.  Broadly, using geolocated social media search tools as several benefits over simply searching on Twitter.

  • Aggregating data from many social media platforms saves time in pressing situations.
  • Aggregation also provides more comprehensive coverage, especially as different social media platforms are prominent in different areas of the world.
  • Searches can be more location-specific and time-specific than most apps allow within their own search function.

Drawbacks to these services

However, there are two major hurdles these services have to overcome to gain more mainstream traction:

  1. They’re relatively costly.  At the lower end, Echosec costs $129 per user per month, and as of 2012, the much more powerful Geofeedia’s preliminary pricing was $1,450 per month for five users.  (And as I searched through lists of services that were only a couple years old, I found that free versions don’t seem to last long in the marketplace, or if they still exist, are not well supported.)  Either the prices have to come down, or the services have to become much, much better than they currently are in order to make the price tag worth it for newsrooms that are satisfied searching on their own.
  2. The vast majority of social media posts are not geolocated. While the percentage varies by platform (Instagram, for example, tends to have “a lot more [geolocated posts] than Facebook, Youtube, or other platforms”), a Knight Lab sample of 200,000 tweets run in 2015 found less than 0.4% were geocoded.  This means that while you can get a sample of tweets that are geolocated, you do have to make sure not to rely on these tools too much — you could miss an important non-geocoded post that does not turn up in your searches.

That said, for many reporting purposes, simply knowing how to strategically search on popular social media sites is enough.  For journalists without access to these fancier aggregated geolocation search tools, old-fashioned hashtag-hunting and keyword-monitoring may be sufficient.

The potential

A common accusation recently is that the “mainstream media” has lost touch with the average American.  One way to gain easy access to some representation of those viewpoints (although we do then get into the issue of comment rage and trolls — which we’ll sidestep for now) is to see what everyone is saying across various social media channels and be able to check for location-based trends.  After all, the Internet is supposed to be the great equalizer — according to a 2016 Pew Research study, 87% of Americans use the internet.  That percentage will only grow.

Going forward, I do think location-based social media monitoring tools have the potential to become even more powerful as a way to explore the public conversation and identify trends, or simply to get the “pulse” of the public.  

Anne’s Bio

[I’m Anne, spelled A-N-N-E but pronounced “Annie.”]

I’m a first-year MBA at MIT Sloan, and I’m interested in the intersection of tech and media, especially from the angle of understanding how consumers interact with and are affected by products or information. Before Sloan, I worked in the Boston office of Analysis Group as an economic consultant, where my favorite cases involved running survey experiments and analyzing market data to understand consumer behavior for a variety of clients.

I studied Math and Political Science at MIT as an undergraduate, while serving as a reporter, news editor, and finally Editor in Chief of the campus newspaper, The Tech. Newspapers have been a huge part of my life since the fourth grade, when I started a school newsletter with a handful of friends, inspired by the surprise removal of our playground’s bamboo grove. I’ve worked on school newspapers ever since, plus a short stint as a writer for the local newspaper of Charleston, SC.

Going forward, I want to learn from working with all of you and come up with solutions to the challenges facing the news media industry (or at the very least, through our discussions, I want to train myself to think critically about all the media I consume and maybe produce).

In my spare time, I play violin in a quintet through MIT’s Chamber Music Society, revisit 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, crochet tiny animals,cook, and drink tea while contemplating how to bring more “artsiness” into my life.