Updating Word’s language canon… though social media tracking?

11 Aug
SPY by twicepix

SPY by twicepix

Or, you can’t always get what you want… but you can still complain when you do, right?

I’m always logged in to Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, Evernote, and WordPress on pretty much all of my devices.  (Thank you tab browsing!)  I check my various accounts on my personal laptop, my work laptop, my iPad, and my Droid; and I’d bet that at least three of my four devices are logged into most of those accounts at any given time.  So, I get that my activity is tracked across all of my devices in all sorts of ways.

Sometime that tracking’s even helpful – like  when I go to search for an address in my phone and it knows which store I’m looking for because an hour ago I used my laptop to check if there was one near my route home.  But, today I saw such an egregious example of tracking and targeting based on my internet activity that even I was shocked.

Spy-Shot-6 Movie-2007 Real-Gear-Robots Transformers 012 by rominuspower

Spy-Shot-6 Movie-2007 Real-Gear-Robots Transformers 012 by rominuspower

Last night, I posted about my frustrations with Microsoft Word’s grammar checking function and how it’s not adaptable to word usage common in the discussion of social media (“Social Media and the evolution of language”).  I did some Google searches on the topic and typed the post on my personal laptop at home over the last two evenings and cross the posted it to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.  I checked the comments for the post on my work laptop upon arriving at the office this morning, and was logged into my various other accounts for work throughout the day.  (Have I mentioned how much I love having a job in social media?)

I spend a good deal of time today working in Microsoft Word, editing a document that I had created a few weeks ago to incorporate colleagues’ suggestions.  As I shut Word down when I was getting ready to leave, this message popped up:

Help Improve Proofing Tools -- Microsoft Word

For those of you that can’t see the image, the main text says “Help us improve our proofing tools.  The information listed below is from your use of spelling checker, grammar checker, thesaurus, and hyphenation tool.  We want your permission to send these words and phrases to Microsoft.  If you choose to send it, the information is treated as confidential and anonymous, and is only used to improve our software and services.  Review the information in the list below.  You can delete lines that you do not want to send to Microsoft.”  Below that are a listing of phrases, many of which I recognize as things I’ve written, others that I’ve read before.

Cheese by Rafiq Phillips

Cheese by Rafiq Phillips

But here’s the thing: I don’t think that I read/wrote all of them in Word.  I’m pretty sure that some of them came from Evernote or LinkedIn.  I’m not even sure that I read/wrote them all on my work laptop; I think some of them came from blog posts/drafts that I wrote at home.  I guess it’s possible that I brought them over to work via Evernote and worked on them over lunch, but I usually work though part of the lunch hour and spend the rest of it on a walk. – not a lot of time left for blogging.

No matter how the information got transmitted, I don’t think I’m crazy to suspect that last night’s blog post had something to do with this pop-up message today.  Between my blog and my job, I spent hours every day in Word.  I’ve been using it since 5th grade, and I’ve never seen this message before.  Yesterday I posted about the need for Word to adapt its grammar checking rules to common usage patterns, and today I get a message asking me to help Microsoft improve its grammar checker.  It just seems like too much of a coincidence.

Scared by Capture Queen

Scared by Capture Queen

Part of me thinks, “Well, you said you wanted to be able to make changes and now they’re giving you input into that process.  You should be happy.”  Another part of me says, “They tell you they’re giving you input into the process, that’s doesn’t really mean that you have input.”  And a third part goes, “Who cares if you really have input.  This is creepy.”  (So, I guess my brain’s like Smeagol and Gollum, plus one.)

And the winner is… Part Three.  “Who cares if you really have input.  This is creepy.”

Questions of the day: Am I being crazy?  Is this really just a coincidence?


MaggieCakes is a blog about social media, marketing, culture, and what’s new on the internet written by me, Maggie O’Toole.  Every day (okay, I try for every day) I comb blogs and news outlets for the news about internet culture and social media to bring them to you (with my commentary, of course) here on MaggieCakes. Find anything interesting in the worlds of culture or social media that you’d like to see a post on? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail at 2maggieotoole@gmail.com.

7 Responses to “Updating Word’s language canon… though social media tracking?”

  1. Paul Leroux August 12, 2011 at 4:39 am #

    I use Google Mail (gmail) and I get featured links at the top of my screen, which are directly related to an email I’ve recently sent. So, no, I don’t think you’re being paranoid. It does get a little creepy sometimes.

    • Maggie O'Toole August 14, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      This week’s “On the Media” had an interview with the author of “Confessions of Google Employee #59” and he said that they do not read people’s e-mails or data mine them. Somehow, I didn’t believe it.

  2. georgettesullins August 12, 2011 at 5:27 am #

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence and I’m looking forward already to your next post.

    • Maggie O'Toole August 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm #

      Thanks! I told my boss about it and she was like, “No way is that a coincide. You should tell the head of IT and see what he has to say about it.” I think I’ll be asking him for a techie perspective on it.

  3. ravolution August 12, 2011 at 6:50 am #

    That is creepy, though a step in the right direction. I think a lot of people would identify with the desire for a change, yet not wanting their privacy hampered. Guess we just have to come to terms worth the fact that the internet is public space and everything we do on it is monitored by some super computer somewhere

    • Maggie O'Toole August 14, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

      You’re right. I get that everything really is being monitored. So, when the powers that be reach out to me for an opinion, I guess I should be glad that they think I count.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Do Not Track — Or, At Least Pretend You’re Not Tracking | Maggie (Not Margaret) - March 24, 2013

    […] internet, so has the web’s ability to track who and I am what I do.  I’ve written before about Microsoft using social media data to update Word’s canon and recognize that, if anything, Microsoft is probably behind Facebook and Google’s ability to do […]

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