I enjoy Wired’s periodic long articles about Facebook. They avoid the shrillness that most media outlets exhibit when writing or talking about Facebook. This article is all the more powerful for it. And unlike many self-publicists who spend a lot of time writing basic stuff about Facebook and acting as though they’ve discovered the story of the decade, this contains genuine insights and new information.
Archive — Facebook
I had forgotten (or never realised) that ‘people you may know’ was originally a LinkedIn feature before Facebook poached it. This article covers how the shady world of shadow profiles enabled Facebook to turn this cute idea into something spooky.
If Facebook sees an email address or a phone number for you in someone else’s address book, it will attach it to your account as “shadow” contact information that you can’t see or access.
That means Facebook knows your work email address, even if you never provided it to Facebook, and can recommend you friend people you’ve corresponded with from that address. It means when you sign up for Facebook for the very first time, it knows right away “who all your friends are.” And it means that exchanging phone numbers with someone, say at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, will result in your not being anonymous for long.
Making the case that, sometimes, friction in design is a good thing.
Often, invoking the concept of friction is a useful way to obscure some larger, less savory goal. For Facebook, “frictionless sharing” was a thinly veiled cover for the company’s true goal of getting users to post more often, and increasing the amount of data available for ad targeting. For YouTube, auto-playing videos have sharply increased view time, thereby increasing the platform’s profitability. And for Amazon, tools like one-click ordering have created a stunningly efficient machine for commerce and consumption.
Facebook is giving advertisers access to your shadow contact information
Facebook is not content to use the contact information you willingly put into your Facebook profile for advertising. It is also using contact information you handed over for security purposes and contact information you didn’t hand over at all, but that was collected from other people’s contact books, a hidden layer of details Facebook has about you that I’ve come to call “shadow contact information.”
Facebook fuelled anti-refugee attacks in Germany, new research suggests
Evidence that racism or anti-refugee sentiment is correlated with Facebook use.
Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50 percent.
Everything bad about Facebook is bad for the same reason
How Facebook’s focus on the connections between users, rather than the humans who use it, is its core problem.
Underlying all of Facebook’s screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans. The company’s singular focus on “connecting people” has allowed it to conquer the world, making possible the creation of a vast network of human relationships, a source of insights and eyeballs that makes advertisers and investors drool.
But the imperative to “connect people” lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them. The billions of Facebook accounts belong not to “people” but to “users,” collections of data points connected to other collections of data points on a vast Social Network, to be targeted and monetized by computer programs.
This is exactly why it’s worth investing the effort to own your content.
Medium owner/operator Ev Williams is Mark Zuckerberg. You remember when Facebook enticed publishers to pivot to video for Facebook and then killed news/opinion video on Facebook? Medium has pivoted something like five times, and each time it’s severely injured a whole tranche of publishers and writers who it invited in.
I really don’t understand why companies and professional media organisations are using Medium at all.
Note — 2018-07-31
From tomorrow, Facebook will stop allowing automated posts to personal Facebook profiles. Dodgy ads, fake news and inflammatory content are all still allowed of course. But that’s how Facebook make their money. So normal people’s automated updates is what they’re clamping down on.
As a result, updates from my blog have stopped appearing on my Facebook profile.
In the words of an email WordPress.com have sent out about this:
We believe that eliminating cross-posting from WordPress is another step back in Facebook’s support of the open web, especially since it affects people’s ability to interact with their network (unless they’re willing to pay for visibility).
Funny that. 🤔
So if you would like to stay up to date with me on Facebook, I have now set up a page for my website — where it will still be possible for the updates to be pushed out to Facebook.
However, I would encourage you to stay up to date another way. I don’t push everything out to Facebook. So the only way to be updated on everything I post is to subscribe to the RSS feed or email notifications.
Since this was pretty much all I used Facebook for by now, my Facebook profile will probably become very quiet.
Facebook is a utility; utilities get regulated
I have only just discovered this article by Danah Boyd from 2010 (and I can’t remember how). But reading it today, it feels very prescient.
I hate all of the utilities in my life. Venomous hatred. And because they’re monopolies, they feel no need to make me appreciate them. Cuz they know that I’m not going to give up water, power, sewage, or the Internet out of spite. Nor will most people give up Facebook, regardless of how much they grow to hate them.
How many people — like me — hate Facebook, but find themselves unable to give it up?
We are all trapped in the “Feed”
Om Malik summarises the problem with the big social media companies whose algorithms are causing us to drown in junk content.
Many have forgotten, but services like Digg helped popularize the idea of what I call intellectual spam. Headlines, followed by vapid content, meant to attract the likes. Against such a backdrop, a decade ago, we all assumed that the rise of the personal web, shaped by individual data would result in signals that will help us dampen the noise. We thought that our systems would get smarter, learning from our behavior, and we would be able to separate signal from noise. And this would allow us to focus our attention on the meaningful and essential.
Unfortunately, the reality of capitalism and turned that dream into a big giant popularity contest, shaped by crude tools – likes, hearts, retweets, and re-shares. We have created systems that boost noise and weaken signals. Every time I tune into news and all I see is noise rising to the top. Whether it is YouTube or Instagram — all you see are memes that are candy-colored candy, mean to keep us hooked.
How much would I have to pay you to quit Facebook?
Many people may feel like they are addicted to Facebook. But it’s amazing to see just how little people actually value it.
Economists have been carrying out experiments to see how much people would have to be paid to do without certain types of websites. By this measure, social media appears to be the very bottom of the pile — worth almost 60 times less than search.
Their rough-and-ready conclusion is that the typical person would have to be paid about $17,500 a year to do without internet search engines, $8,500 to abandon email and $3,500 to quit using digital maps. Video streaming through sites such as Netflix and YouTube is worth over $1,150 a year; ecommerce $850, and social media just over $300.
The Facebook current
The Senate hearing into Facebook has come to be seen as a bit of a sideshow, partly because the questioning was so inadequate. But this article outlines why it was a bigger deal than it might seem at first glance.
[T]here was a significant amount of agreement amongst the Senators… that something needed to be done about Facebook. Forget the specifics, for a paragraph, because this is a notable development: while these hearings usually devolve into partisan cliches with the same talking points — Democrats want regulations, and Republicans don’t — yesterday Senators from both sides of the aisle expressed unease with Facebook’s handling of private data; obviously Democrats tried to tie the issue to the last election, but that made the Republicans’ shared concern all-the-more striking.
WhatsApp founder plans to leave after broad clashes with parent Facebook
Jan Koum, the co-founder of WhatsApp, is leaving. Apparently, he clashed with Facebook over how they use WhatsApp users’ personal data.
This comes just months after the other co-founder of WhatsApp, Brian Acton, left — and endorsed the #DeleteFacebook hashtag.
[E]ven in the early days, there were signs of a mismatch… Koum and Acton were openly disparaging of the targeted advertising model…
The WhatsApp co-founders were also big believers in privacy. They took pains to collect as little data as possible from their users, requiring only phone numbers and putting them at odds with data-hungry Facebook.
All of which gets me wondering, why did they even sell up to Facebook in the first place? 🤔
The Facebook algorithm mom problem
An excellent description of one of the reasons I developed a distaste for Facebook for.
I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks “like” on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family related piece of content…
The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom’s sister sees it and clicks “like” moments later. Now Facebook’s algorithm has created a self-fulfilling prophesy and further narrows the audience of my post. As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook…
MySpace Tom beat Facebook in the long run
“Wouldn’t you rather be a rich nobody than whatever Mark Zuckerberg is?”
I love this perspective. Tom from MySpace may have been a bit of a laughing stock for a while. But you have to say, he must be feeling a bit better than Mark Zuckerberg is right now.
It puts MySpace’s failure to evolve in a new light, as perhaps the healthy thing is for a platform to die and for everyone to move on.
Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica problems are nothing compared to what’s coming for all of online publishing
More on the hypocrisy of media organisation going after Facebook (which I recently wrote about).
What will happen when the Times, the New Yorker and other pubs own up to the simple fact that they are just as guilty as Facebook of leaking its readers’ data to other parties, for—in many if not most cases—God knows what purposes besides “interest-based” advertising?
‘The third era of Zuck’: how the CEO went from hero to humiliation
A reminder of just how recently it seemed plausible that Mark Zuckerberg could be a future US President. That seems highly unlikely now.
This is one of those moments where we’re really fascinated because this huge PR machine has sort of cracked and we can see through, and what we can see is someone way over his head
Publishers haven’t realised just how big a deal GDPR is
With the media still consumed with scrutinising Facebook, Thomas Baekdal once again points out that it is the media who appear to be less prepared to deal with privacy trends and comply with new regulations like GDPR.
It’s interesting that Thomas Baekdal has emphasised that this is not only important for compliance. But because it is becoming a fundamental expectation.
He notes the clear changes that Google and Facebook have made in reaction to GDPR. In contrast to publishers.
I have yet to see any publisher who is actually changing what they are doing. Every single media site that I visit is still loading tons of 3rd party trackers. They are still not asking people for consent, in fact most seem to think they already have people’s consent…
Facebook and the end of the world
When the world goes up in flames, the handful of people left in the burning ruins of civilization will shrug, look at their feet, and—from inside a deep black hole of unending ennui—mumble pathetically how ironic and silly it is that the thing that ultimately took us all down was Facebook.
Facebook, please just hire one normal person
Inside Facebook’s hellish two years — and Mark Zuckerberg’s struggle to fix it all
A very lengthy, but entertaining and informative, read about how everything went wrong for Facebook in the past two years, and why it is a mess of their own making.
While Facebook grappled internally with what it was becoming—a company that dominated media but didn’t want to be a media company—Donald Trump’s presidential campaign staff faced no such confusion. To them Facebook’s use was obvious. Twitter was a tool for communicating directly with supporters and yelling at the media. Facebook was the way to run the most effective direct-marketing political operation in history.
It’s the (democracy-poisoning) golden age of free speech
You may think you’ve read it all from people complaining that the likes of Facebook are threatening free speech. But this is a genuinely smart, thought-provoking article on the wide-ranging ways society need to rethink its approach towards freedom of speech.
We are particularly susceptible to glimmers of novelty, messages of affirmation and belonging, and messages of outrage toward perceived enemies. These kinds of messages are to human community what salt, sugar, and fat are to the human appetite. And Facebook gorges us on them.
I have thought before that we need to start thinking about ‘eating your digital greens’. Which means being wary of processed content (processed through an algorithm, that is), and ensuring you seek out a balanced diet of content from different sources and perspectives.
Facebook’s algorithm hijacked this $8 billion company to sell cat blindfolds
Online retailer Wish was developing a cult following for its incredibly bizarre Facebook ads. Among the products displayed to users: cat blindfolds, cocaine sweatshirts and “plastic tongue things”.
It’s yet another unforseen consequence of algorithms driving everything, and yet another indication that companies desperately need to stop giving so much weight to clicks alone.
The web began dying in 2014, here’s how
Highly interesting article about how the dominance of Facebook, Google and Amazon is beginning to damage the web. Facebook and Google are silently conspiring to specialise in social and knowledge respectively, further increasing their dominance. Meanwhile, the weakening of net neutrality threatens to move to goalposts even further in their favour.
Fashion, Maslow and Facebook’s control of social
An interesting look at the parallels between the fashion industry and modern day digital trendsetters.
The fashion industry does not set fashion – it proposes them. It tries to work out the mood and the zeitgeist and looks for ideas that might express that. The same, increasingly, for Facebook – it cannot really decide how people use its products or what they see, only propose.