Technically Wrong, Wachter-Boettcher attacks the sort of techies whose ‘disruption’ seems aimed as much at common sense and decency as anything else.… She urges activism, not passivity: Know your products, demand the best, change brands if need be, complain until the Silicon boys get it right.”
David Luhrssen - Shepherd Express
The stories [Wachter-Boettcher] tells… are good, as are the examples she provides of corporate failure.
This is a powerful read reflecting on the prejudices that lurk within a powerful industry.
Web consultant Wachter-Boettcher (Content Everywhere) clearly demonstrates the ways digital products are deeply connected to the intentional and unintentional biases of their designers in this approachable primer on digital technology. Wachter-Boettcher calls attention to the abdication of responsibility by the engineers who created the algorithms that result in major and often cruel design flaws in social media, such as the automated Year in Review feature on Facebook that pushed pictures of users’ dead children into their news feeds or the Google Photos tagging feature that was not trained on dark-skinned people and thus marked them as gorillas. The book also highlights more insidious and disturbing uses of certain technologies: discriminatory targeting and surveillance of users, culturally insensitive and obligatory forms requiring personal data, potentially dangerous verification processes such as Facebook’s real-name policy. Many of the real life examples of the major design flaws of digital products, such as spread of abuse and hate speech on Twitter— will be familiar to most readers, but the author adds technical detail pointing out how Twitter developed features like retweets and hashtags while failing to improve features to prevent or stop abuse. Wachter-Boettcher urges readers to hold engineers and venture capitalists accountable for the harm they cause by failing to incorporate diverse voices in the design process for creating the everyday tools of the 21st century. (Oct.)
Technically Wrong offers one of the deepest, most thoughtful views on exactly how today’s tech is affecting us, and at how we could change those apps for the better. It’s an essential guide for people who care about ensuring that today’s tech is humane and ethical."
"If a book on design in the technology industry ever deserved a standing ovation, this one is it. Sara Wachter-Boettcher has laid out a concise case for digital product makers to work with a broader range of people. And that means working with people unlike themselves as both makers and consumers, and from start to finish."
"No matter how we set the preferences, the results turn out the same. For all of digital technology’s supposed configurability and customization, there’s a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all quality to the apps and platforms we use, pushing conformity over individuality and acquiescence over identity. Sara Wachter-Boettcher reveals how none of us can, or should, live up to the image our technology has of us."
"Just as the current political climate has inspired many to pick up a sign and head out into the street for the first time, I hope
Technically Wrong will inspire newcomers to start thinking more critically about the apps and algorithms around them."
Science - Anna Lauren Hoffmann
"Sara Wachter-Boettcher is exactly the kind of sharp, informed and deeply compassionate critic of the tech industry that we need right now.
Technically Wrong makes a strong case for adding basic humanity into the algorithms of the digital products that define the age. It's an invitation for all of us to think more deeply about our connections to others in any medium."
"An entertaining romp that tells us where and why the tech industry, once America's darling, went wrong, and what it might do to recover its good graces."
From enabling fake news to facilitating online harassment to causing corporate scandal, the companies that create and control online environments are awash in biased, unjust, and even dangerous practices, according to web consultant and debut author Wachter-Boettcher. Social media platforms and apps that connect, educate, and entertain also inconvenience, offend, and harm many of their users. In an engaging, if dispiriting, blend of anecdote and data, Wachter-Boettcher describes algorithms that discriminate against users and forms that deny people their identity. She ascribes these attributes to the industry's near-complete dominance by white men of relatively similar circumstance, perspective, and bias. A culture in which people of color are barely represented in roles of power, disregards the needs and realities of diverse consumers. Thanks to media coverage, investigative reporting, and ongoing conversations about these issues, this book is not breaking news but has significant value, especially as a call for meaningful action. A stronger focus on solutions and on companies with healthier practices, such as the briefly profiled Slack and Nextdoor, would have been welcome. VERDICT Recommended for all readers interested in the intersection of technology and social justice.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus
Those with hyphenated names often encounter difficulty when filling out online forms, and there's usually no option in the drop-down menus for those who are multiracial. Social networks show us the year in review with jaunty music and animation, without acknowledging that some of our most popular posts may be about tragic events we don't want to remember. In straightforward prose, Wachter-Boettcher lays out a convincing and damning argument about the small daily failures and large systemic issues that stem from Silicon Valley's diversity problem. With plenty of examples and studies, she illustrates how systems are designed to be used by people like the creator—usually privileged cisgender heterosexual white men. Anyone else is seen as an "edge case" and not worth worrying about. Along the way Wachter-Boettcher thoroughly deconstructs many of the excuses offered for technology's lack of inclusivity, including the pipeline issue (or the idea that outside of white male demographics there isn't enough talent) and the concept that an algorithm can be neutral. VERDICT This engrossing volume is important for readers of all ages, especially the next generation of developers.—Jennifer Rothschild, Arlington Public Library, VA
Like a friendly litigator making her case to a jury, narrator Andrea Emmes advances the author’s thesis that the tech industry’s white male mindset is often tone-deaf to sexual orientation, race, gender, age, disability, and personal tragedy. It’s a credible argument and should be mandatory listening for those caught in the rush-hour commute to Silicon Valley. In an affable, clear style, Emmes explains why some app designers are unapologetic about racist stereotypes (Snapchat’s Asian caricature morphing filter, for example); why some websites bother collecting information they don’t need (gender and title, for example); and why some websites use passive aggressive opt-out messages (“I don’t want your newsletter because I’d rather stay uninformed.”). You could ask Siri these questions, but first you might want to ask her why all digital assistants are female. R.W.S. © AudioFile 2018, Portland, Maine