Friday, November 17, 2017

Recap of Our Predictions for 2017

We feel it’s not enough to issue predictions for the upcoming year. We also think it’s important to look at how we did with predictions for 2017.

A brief recap – though we predicted a shorter news cycle in 2017, we did not expect it to be this fast/short. Whether or not you’re a news junkie (and if you’re reading this, we assume you are), 2017 has been an unusually exhausting year. Even generally apolitical Jimmy Fallon envisioned Halloween nightmare that entailed being unable to escape the news cycle. There were a lot of stories this year that we (nor anyone else) predicted – a list of so many, mostly political (which we avoid), we are not going to list them here. We will say that we did not expect the solar eclipse to generate so much coverage.

One of the big themes late in the year was the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in Hollywood, politics, the media, and pretty much every field; we hope awareness of and concern regarding sexual harassment continues to be a public conversation that will make it difficult for those perpetrating the harassment to get away with it. We also hope that it will be easier for victims to be believed and supported.

Here are our assessment of our predictions for this year.

  1. Fake news won’t fade in 2017. 
Unfortunately, we were right about this one. “Fake news” is too broad a term says Claire Wardle, Strategy and Research Director of First Draft News, a nonprofit research group housed at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University. Wardle told CNN’s Brian Stelter on his “Reliable Sources” podcast that there are “three different types of problems:
    • Mis-information: “the kind of false information disseminated online by people who don't have a harmful intent.”
    • Dis-information: “false information created and shared by people with harmful intent. False news reports around presidential candidates ahead of the 2016 election fall into this category, and so does their social media amplification from malicious accounts.”
    • Mal-information: “the sharing of ‘genuine’ information with the intent to cause harm. That includes some types of leaks, harassment and hate speech online.”

Keep in mind: the general definition of “fake news” tends to be news the speaker doesn’t agree with – it’s actual truth, notwithstanding.

We think Wardle’s definitions are useful to understand there are flavors of fake. But we don’t think the distinctions will become mainstream because currently there isn’t much consensus on facts (or “facts”), with one person’s dis-information (harmful intent) being someone else’s mis-information (false information passed along with non-harmful intent).

Meanwhile, we said it will be difficult for social media sites to combat the spread of fake news, especially because they profit from fake news.

Grade: A+.

  1. Big Social will evolve in 2017, but not necessarily in a good way. 
Unfortunately, we were right about this, too. We said, Twitter’s future “is very much in doubt,” and that continues to be true. We said that Facebook is facing problems about fake news, and that was proven true in November’s Congressional hearings. But we left out Google – oops. We said, “all of this turmoil will benefit Snapchat, which is already is favored by the millennials,” and Instagram, and we think that’s right – butt we overstated things when we predicted that SnapChat will be the dominant social media platform by 2018. We also predicted “LinkedIn will thrive as long as it remains (as we think it will) apolitical,” and that’s been true.
Grade: B+

  1. The media cycle will speed up. 
This certainly was true in 2017. While President Trump’s use of Twitter to announce official government policy certainly is a major reason, it’s just one factor. Another: a recent Pew Research Center report found that, “About a quarter of all U.S. adults (26%) get news from two or more social media sites, up from 15% in 2013 and 18% in 2016.” So expect this trend to continue into 2018 and beyond. (This is not necessarily a good thing but was predicted in the early 1980s by futurist Alvin Toffler.)
Grade: A+

  1. The gig economy and the sharing economy will continue to go mainstream.
Independent contractors or contingent employees – as the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) used to refer to them – now comprise an estimated 30% of the U.S. workforce. The BLS and U.S. Census Bureau plan to do a better job of tracking the gig economy. In the meantime, we were right when we said, “We need to more accurately define the gig and the sharing economies… to gain an accurate portrait of overall U.S. economy as well as develop appropriate policies regarding taxes, healthcare and social services.” Both the New York Times and Wall St. Journal validated our predictions.

Grade: A

  1. IoT will continue to open the door to cyberattacks.
This was not as big an issue in 2017 as we expected. That does not mean the threat is over. As the Internet of Things (IoT) does go mainstream, cyberattacks remain a significant threat – though likely more targeted to companies than to the average home. But overall, we overstated this.

Grade: C

We will post more of our annual recap in the next few days.

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