Wandering Eye: Tracking unique visitors, 'just don't do it,' and more

A group consisting of 100 percent wealthy women discovered that most elected prosecutors are white men, The New York Times reports. The lack in particular of prosecutors of color troubles the backers of the study, a nonprofit called the Women Donors Network, which nonetheless seems not to have considered the fact that prosecutors are paid a tiny fraction, on average, of what those in the private defense bar earn. The Times, meanwhile, also talks to a (white, male, aged) Louisiana prosecutor responsible for an outsized number of death penalty convictions. That man, Dale Cox, says the state needs "to kill more people" in order to preserve civilization. Cox is an outlier, but the stories taken together raise another question they don't quite address: What if prosecution in the U.S.—particularly by elected prosecutors—has become a "cult of personality"? Would racial, ethnic, and gender diversity ameliorate the problem of justice meted out unequally according to jurisdiction? In unrelated news, the defense lawyers for the six police officers charged criminally in Freddie Gray's death reiterated their call for a change of venue. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


Ellen Petry Leanse, a former exec for Google, published an article on LinkedIn, which was subsequently published on Business Insider with the click-baiting headline "Google and Apple alum says using this one word can damage your credibility." That word? "Just." "I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that 'just' wasn't about being polite: it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message," she writes. And she argues that it's a gendered tic—"it seemed I was hearing 'just' three to four times more frequently from women than from men," she says—that people (particularly women, it's implied) should eliminate it from their vocabulary. But Debbie Cameron, a linguist, is less than impressed with Leanse's unscientific methods, and writes on her blog about what Leanse's assertion says about our perceptions of gendered language usage. It's a great linguistic analysis of the different uses of the word "just" in a sentence, as well as a discussion of what we're really saying when we tell women to eliminate a habit from their language. (Anna Walsh)


We in the publishing business know as well as anyone: Unique visitors matter. It's a number we can point to and say to advertisers, "Hey, look how many people are coming to our site and thus seeing your ads." This is a hugely imporant figure. And yet, FiveThirtyEight has a post on how this figure still reveals very little and is, in many ways, inaccurate. First, you have to understand that sites track your visits using web cookies, little profiles storing passwords you keep, sites you search, and such. "If you use both Chrome and Safari in a day, week or month, then you, the person, are now represented by two separate cookies. If you use Chrome and Safari on both your work and home computers, then two cookies becomes four. If you also use a phone and a tablet, and use multiple browsers on those, four becomes eight. And if, at some point during the month in which these cookies are being tracked, you or your antivirus programs delete your cookie cache, then fresh cookies get served, and the numbers climb even higher." What's more: "A study published this year by a Web security company found that bots make up 56 percent of all traffic for larger websites, and up to 80 percent of all traffic for the mom-and-pop blogs out there." So sites like to talk about how their internal unique visitor numbers are higher than those put out by tracking agencies, such as ComScore, but this is likely bullshit. The article goes on to say that more accurate numbers may become available now that Facebook is publishing articles directly, and they can track which accounts—accounts linked to real people—are reading articles or watching videos. (Brandon Weigel)

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