EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on Gazing Skyward TV in March of 2017. It has been updated and reposted here.
A lot has changed in aviation media over the past decade. Along with this change, how “we” access our news has also changed. This change is especially true for the younger generation. It is becoming less and less common for people to visit the homepage of a website. It is also becoming more and more common for people to visit web pages found through their social media home streams. I am growing increasingly concerned that we are granting too much power to the algorithms. These algorithms control what we see in our home streams.
Over the past three years of operating Gazing Skyward TV, I’ve come to understand some of the unique challenges facing aviation. Digital media has become a particular interest of mine, especially when used as an instrument to introduce, inform, educate, and grow the aviation community.
As a result of this interest, I pay attention to the trends in digital media. The happenings of this past year have proven to me there is a shift occurring. President Trump’s use of Twitter to bypass the media, the concerns over fake news, and accusations of censorship on the part of major social networks are just a few of the most notable shifts.
There is an inherent risk involved in building your “house” (online presence) on “rented land” (social media). After Super Bowl 51, Marketing Land published an article revealing that URLs had overtaken hashtags placed in Super Bowl ads. This Marketing Land article demonstrates an increasing level of uneasiness amongst advertisers.
Social media is still a vital tool. It reaches people outside of aviation in order to inform and educate. Although, there needs to be a bit of a realignment.
Algorithms Distort Reality
In his open letter marking the 28th anniversary of the web, the founder and web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, addressed three major concerns:
- We’ve lost control of our personal data.
- It’s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web.
- Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding.
While I am concerned about all three points, I am particularly concerned about number two.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee said, “Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines.”
Five years ago, I gathered news from my social media home stream. Using social media to stay informed was very effective. Most social networks are now using algorithms to determine what posts “they” feel are most important for us to see and in what order.
These algorithms are effective in displaying posts we will likely find interesting but are terrible if we want to stay up-to-date on the latest news from a variety of perspectives. An over-dependence on social media is creating a filter bubble and should no longer be the primary means of staying up-to-date on the latest news.
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An issue I see in aviation is the lack of resources directed toward digital media. There are many fine aviation magazines. The problem is many young people do not subscribe to print magazines. They get their news and information via internet-connected devices. What currently is available online is fragmented. Individuals in the aviation community have stepped up to fulfill some of this need. The youth of today represent the future of aviation. How can we interest them in a career in aviation if there is a lack of resources directed toward digital media?
The Flying Cloud
Over the past few years, I have been thinking about a possible solution. Since late 2016, I have been working on The Flying Cloud which I believe will help to knit together this fragmentation.
The Flying Cloud’s mission is to build and maintain a content aggregation website owned and operated by people who know and love aviation. Our intent is to feature articles and videos from the best aviation news, lifestyle, and legacy sources on the web.
A significant portion of the article feeds on The Flying Cloud are pulled directly from RSS feeds of the source website. There are two reasons for this:
- Transparency. Algorithms will not be hiding content from your favorite aviation websites.
- Convenience. See all the articles from your favorite aviation websites in one place.
The homepage and select feeds throughout the website will be hand-curated in order to provide a broad overview of what is happening in aviation. It is recognized that not everyone has the same interests so we have included the ability to search for articles by keywords. This will save you time when looking for articles based on a particular topic.
Currently, we are limiting video platform sources to YouTube. At launch, a majority of the videos that appear on The Flying Cloud will be hand-curated. This will likely change in the future as we build working relationships with YouTube channel owners.
It is important to hear from the aviation community as to which aviation articles and videos should be featured. We will be listening on Twitter to the hashtag #FlyingCloudNews for tweets containing article and YouTube video links with this hashtag.
We want to help ensure a bright future for aviation media through collaboration with people in the aviation industry, especially those who work in aviation media. I would like to connect with like-minded individuals on Linkedin.
If you have further questions, check out the About page where many common questions are answered. If your question is not answered there, send us an email through the contact form at the bottom of the About page and we will get back with you.
Please take some time to explore the website and bookmark it for easy access. Also, we would be grateful if you would introduce your friends to The Flying Cloud.
With feedback and support from friends, I have developed The Flying Cloud to fulfill a need. That need is for a transparent and convenient way to access the latest aviation news and information free from the negative influence of social media algorithms.
I very much agree with you about search engines and aviation in general! As a young boy of 12, My first real job was that of a line boy at our local grass field airport. Hours worked were traded for flight instruction only. Dual in a Piper PA-11 was 9.00 dollars an hour in 1954!
After 6 years of working there, I had a private license and 400 hours. 3 years of college and another 1000 hours, landed me a career as an airline pilot. A dream as a boy and later and dreams come true!
My my! I wish I could rent an aircraft for $9.00 an hour today… I hope to work on my pilot’s license in the near future. Possibly as early as next year.
RE: search engines/algorithms. Algorithms are here to stay and help us be more productive. So far there hasn’t been much of a discussion around which algorithms are healthier and which ones are more destructive. In the future, I plan on tackling this subject in more detail through a series of blog posts. Stay tuned!