Mind share and market share
This morning I came across yet another article about how only 3 in 100 accused rapists see any jail time. This is riding on the coat tails of yesterday’s annoyance about creepy reddit so I am, not unexpectedly, annoyed. Or disgusted. One of those for sure 🙂
And I’m also annoyed because I really freaking love the Predator Alert Tools that maymay and Co. created. Specifically, I love the Facebook add-on which scales the protective behavior I already do, and the OkCupid app because it’s an easy at-a-glance alert. What I’m pissed off about, is that like many a technical solution to a human problem, adoption was spotty. Actually, from speaking with the creator, it wasn’t spotty so much as not attempted – the tools were a proof of concept.
Proofs of concept, however, don’t reach the regular Jane, and social tools need high conversion rates early on to be seen as worth while, and in this case, to generate the content needed to protect users from sexual assault. It’s ok, I’m not saying the people working on this suck or anything, these tools were made in a metaphorical garage with minimal resources (you can help). If Google+ can’t cope with the roll out/adoption challenge and it has the backing of an Internet mongrel, I’m surprised small social enterprises happen at all.
What I am saying, however, is that this absolutely hands down matters. For OkCupid less so, because you can piggyback off of OkCupid’s existing community since all the questions are crowd sourced but from the general question pool, not from specific PAT-OkCupid questions. Here you have a direct link between people who install and run the plug-in and people who are helped by it. The challenge you have is easier, really you just need to get the influencers in college dorms (and with age of first marriage going up, urban book clubs and wherever mid-20s women gather) to try it out. If they tell their friends, or better yet, use it while a friend is shoulder browsing, you’re 75% of the way there. PAT-OkCupid is a technical challenge, make it fast enough and non-obtrusive enough and it’s worth a try. Roll out a feature that lets users add specific filter questions on their version only (he wants kids, he loves dogs, whatever) and you can alert users to potential sexual predators while they’re using a better filtering convenience tools.
The Facebook app is harder. It requires users to give a little in order to function. User generated content is hard to bootstrap already, I can only imagine how hard it is to bootstrap such private and sensitive content. I have to say, I was royally miffed when this was marketed as “by survivors for survivors,” but people who identify publicly and conscientiously as survivors are most likely to create this kind of content. Unfortunately, that framing is extremely off-putting to most outside the social justice clique. I hate to say it, but this is a fantastic engineering solution that was incubated in too niche a bubble and missed it’s mark. Well, actually, that may not be true – if it’s target has always been social justice die hards who want to share their story and help each other heal it’s probably spot on, it just doesn’t address my problem: how to we proactively flag inappropriate sexual behavior and put preventative information in all women’s hands?
Again, I have to applaud the creators for doing so much with bare bones resources. The tools themselves are a solid foundation, they achieve their goal of being proofs of concept, and they certainly spark conversation. Where they miss the mark, in my mind, is on adoption and market growth – areas the creators weren’t interested in to begin with.
Anyway, back to the if I ruled the world scenario (I just love that scenario!) You have these tools that from a technical perspective are really cool, and they use technology to scale an existing human behavior, and they help women avoid sexual predators: that’s awesome! But they seem pretty niche, which is less awesome because it means fewer women will use them to avoid sexual predators. So, what would I do if I had a dev team and all the money in the world (or the mythical million dollars which runs a small team for one year…)
- Focus development on making the tools faster and more reliable. I hate to say this, but faster browsing today beats avoiding coffee with a douchbag tomorrow 😦
- Position the tools as convenience or information sharing, not as a crusade against sexual assault or a survivor support group. Most rapes are not reported, there are a lot of reasons for this not least of which is a desire to move on with one’s life. We also have some pretty negative perceptions of what walking through the world as a survivor means even when we are trying really really hard to not blame the victim and to give them space to heal. Finally, and I know this sounds weird, but sometimes doing the things you’re supposed to do to not get raped feels dis-empowering. Just think about all the times women are told not to wear that, or not to walk there, you get the idea.
- The people who are most invested are most invested for a reason – they’re also the most likely to be butt hurt when it doesn’t match their vision. That’s why I’m up to 930 words on the topic, but it’s also why there is soooo much chatter about every little detail of these tools from the choking question (come on dude, haven’t you used Yelp before!) to moderation (because you clearly don’t realize that these conversations happen already). Which gets me to the point: cultivate the passive users too. This is harder for the Facebook app, again cause content, but rather than going after every evangelist in the social justice scene, grow a large user-base of folks who just want a better flagging mechanism. 1) They’ll be helped from day one, and 2) you can rally them later around a big issue, or slowly over time.
- Build relationships with the sites themselves, with college rape crisis centers, and with consumer brands. This is a serious blue sky if I ruled the world thing. It’s not what the creators of these tools are about, and I know and respect that. I also know they’ve reached out to the sites themselves and didn’t get a response (shame on you OkCupid). However, this is my blue sky solution and in that solution I want Jezebel to promote it. I want mid-range women focused brands (brands like Healthworks, which recently partnered with rape prevention programs to offer self defense classes) to sponsor the damn thing, and then I want OkCupid to be pressured or shamed into integrating this and other rape prevention methods (perhaps post-date reporting) into their services. By the way, some of this is way far out, but other things, such as promoting PAT-OKC on college campuses, is the easiest place for you to get involved (there’s a list of groups to reach out to here, but PiratePad is down as of this writing).
It’s easy to theorize about how a thing should be different when someone has already done the hard work of making it to begin with, so what concrete, non-theoretical, things can we do today to make sure that rapists have nowhere left to hide?
TL:DR – You fucking douchbags how are you not outraged?! Here, this person did a thing, go do things like that.