A wise man was once known to say, "I don't know how the danged thing works; I just use it."
That could apply to just about anything, but these days, almost anyone could make that statement about computers, social media, digital systems and anything else electronic. When it comes to metrics that control how material appears on business websites, for instance, there's no "man behind the curtain" controlling Oz the Great and Terrible. Even with most newspapers these days, random selection has a lot to do with presentation; a general format is selected by the powers that be, but the system itself makes certain decisions.
In the case of the TDP website at www.tahlequahdailypress.com, the "carousel" at the top of our homepage has been the unexpected source of controversy when we publish stories that include several photos - especially when those photos are of top graduates of a class at school. In TDP's case, the carousel features top stories that include photos, and those rotate out when new items are added. But regardless of how many photos are attached to a story, the operating system will choose just one to display on the carousel. The same thing happens on social media. On our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/tdpress, the system will randomly select on photo to profile with the link to the story. Sometimes, it's not even the main subject of the story.
For the past few months, TDP has been publishing stories about the top graduates from area schools. There may be just two photos - a valedictorian and salutatorian - or up to a dozen or more. The problem occurs when the digital program chooses to spotlight not the top student in a class, but one of the others in the photo array. In two cases, upset mothers have called to ask why their children's photos were not displayed first. They seemed to suspect that the newspaper itself selected a student with lesser grades and set the top kids aside.
This is not the case. While TDP staffers could go back and manually "force" the system to put a photo at the top of the heap, others might be omitted, or misidentification could occur - as it did in one case when we tried to placate a mother. And it takes lots of time we don't have. In the end, that winds up short-changing everyone involved.
We felt it was important for readers to know that these selections are random, not based on TDP choice. Just like most other average folks, we don't know exactly what makes our digital systems tick; we just know how to use them.