Tag Archive for ‘FaceBook’

The Invisible Hand

John Gruber, on the difference between Facebook and algorithm-free anonymous message boards:

We instinctively think that 8kun is “worse” than Facebook because its users are free to post the worst content imaginable, and because they are terribly imaginative, do. It feels like 8kun must be “worse” because its content is worse — what is permitted, and what actually is posted. But Facebook is in fact far worse, because by its nature we, as a whole, can’t even see what “Facebook” is because everyone’s feed is unique. 8kun, at least, is a knowable product. You could print it out and say, “Here is what 8kun was on December 29, 2020.” How could you ever say what Facebook is at any given moment, let alone for a given day, let alone as an omnipresent daily presence in billions of people’s lives?

John’s gone off the rails a bit when it comes to some of his writing lately, including some portions of this piece, but I agree with this specific section.

8kun, 4chan, and sites of their ilk are more honest than Twitter and Facebook because they’re a known quantity. You know what you can expect when you go there. Their open and anonymous nature means that they’re filled with some pretty despicable content, but everyone’s words are on equal footing and there’s no algorithms influencing what you see. There’s no platform using their weight to condone or discredit any of the commentary. The speech is what it is.

But with Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube there is an invisible hand influencing what you do and don’t see. And because of this, it’s impossible to truly know what people with opposing viewpoints actually think and what information you should or shouldn’t pay attention to.

Every person is influenced by their surroundings — their friends, family, the shows they watch, the publications they read, and so on. You as a person and the opinions you form about, just about everything, are a product of what you surround yourself with. And when you spend a fair amount of time scrolling through social networks where the invisible hand is deciding to some degree what you see, that invisible hand has a tremendous amount of influence on your world view.

But here’s where it gets even worse. One would assume that you could simply delete your Facebook account, stop visiting YouTube, and abstain from Twitter to prevent that influence from entering your life, but that’s not actually enough. When all of your friends and family use these services, they carry that influence with them and pass it onto you through their actions and communication. It’s practically inescapable.

I still hold out hope that the open web will prevail in the end. That these platforms will eventually fall out of favor as we collectively move toward technologies that let you own your content and control what you read without the influence of an invisible hand. It’s only a matter of time before the accessibility of the tools, level of frustration with existing platforms, and cost reaches a tipping point.

But if Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others wanted to, at the very least, delay the inevitable, they could start deemphasizing the algorithmic timelines and move to reverse chronological feeds based on posts from your friends/follows. But I don’t expect that to actually happen. The services are fueled by engagement. And anything that diminishes engagement is doomed before it even has a chance to see the light of day.

Instagram Rolls Out Suggested Posts to Create an Infinite Feed ➝

Nick Heer:

Instagram has been testing this for a while; suggested posts began showing up in my feed earlier this year. It tried something similar about two years ago, but stopped after some time.

This time, the change seems permanent, and irritates me so much that it singularly caused me to abandon Instagram. I signed up days after it launched, and posted often. I love the creativity that it encouraged. But I do not want to see photos in my feed from accounts I do not follow, and there is no way to turn this off.

This feature doesn’t appear to be implemented on the Instagram website, at least not yet. So one workaround would be to visit the site instead of launching the app. You could even add the site to your home screen, which will give you a more app-like experience without Safari’s browser chrome.

But the writing is on the wall. Instagram will only get worse with more features like this being added in the future. I’ve been toying with the idea of taking ownership of the platform in which I publish photos and this change on Instagram only further affirms my interest in doing so.

➝ Source: pxlnv.com

Facebook, Google, and a ‘Contract for the Web’ ➝

Matthew Butterick:

So it’s flabbergasting to now see Berners-Lee in the New York Times sidestepping any accountability, and instead promoting himself as the restorer of the web’s virtue. Berners-Lee is pushing what he calls the Contract for the Web, which he describes, with no irony, as a “global plan of action … to make sure our online world is safe, empowering and genuinely for everyone.” He assures us that “the tech giants Google, Facebook, [and] Microsoft” are all “committing to action.” What a relief! Berners-Lee still seems to think Big Tech can do no wrong, even at a time when public and political opinion are going the opposite direction.

I don’t think I’m nearly as negative as Matthew, but I do find it ironic that this “Contract for the Web” is being supported by Google and Facebook.

Google is the primary driving force behind a project which essentially created a dumbed-down version of HTML, that thousands of websites have been functionally forced to implement in order to maintain reasonable rankings in search results. But many of these AMP sites are nearly indistinguishable from one-another and the improved page load times that AMP promises could just as easily been obtained by building a fast non-AMP website to begin with.

And then there’s Facebook, which has built one of the largest walled gardens the internet has ever seen.

It sort of discredits the whole endeavor, if you ask me.

(Via Nick Heer.)

➝ Source: tinyletter.com

We Should Replace Facebook With Personal Websites ➝

I’ve been a huge fan of personal websites as an alternative to social networks for years and I think there’s never been a better time to jump in. It doesn’t mean you have to abandon social networks entirely, but I think the world would be a much better place if we all occasionally took the time to fully form our ideas and write them out in a longer format before sharing.

There is a bit of a barrier to entry, especially when you start buying domains, configuring DNS, and installing weblog software. But services like WordPress.com makes things quite a bit easier. And since WordPress.com is built on WordPress, you’ll always have the option to export your content and move to self-hosted if you decide that it’s a better fit for you down the line.

Full disclosure: I work for Automattic, providing support to users of WordPress.com. But I would have recommended it regardless. I’ve used WordPress for nearly twelve years now and WordPress.com is the easiest way to get a site up and running on the platform.

‘Fuck Facebook’ ➝

John Gruber, on Facebook’s policy of forbidding The Internet Archive from saving copies of posts:

The Internet Archive is our only good defense against broken links. Blocking them from indexing Facebook content is a huge “fuck you” to anyone who cares about the longevity of the stuff they link to.

Treat Facebook as the private walled garden that it is. If you want something to be publicly accessible, post it to a real blog on any platform that embraces the real web, the open one.

I’m with Gruber on this one. Facebook is the worst.

As an aside, there seems to be a lot of people extolling the importance of an open web lately and I couldn’t be happier about it. I hope this trend continues to grow.

‘The Thinnest Tightrope They Can Walk Between What Is and Is Not Considered Creepy’ ➝

Nick Heer, on Google and Facbook’s ability to associate offline purchases with online advertising views:

For this to be effective, there has to be some association made between a purchaser, whether they have seen an ad, and how that campaign was delivered — through social media, a general website, and so forth. Therefore, there must be enough information to correlate the three factors, which is enough information for specific purchases to be tracked back to an individual. If there isn’t that level of granularity, the service is pointless, isn’t it? […]

When Apple launched Apple Pay, they made a point of stating that they don’t track transactions over time. I don’t think Apple’s privacy protections necessarily prevent Google and Facebook from associating purchases with ad views, but it can’t hurt to consider using services from companies that build privacy protections into their products and services, instead of those that try to find the thinnest tightrope they can walk between what is and is not considered creepy.

Fake News ➝

Ben Thompson:

There are even more fundamental problems, though: how do you decide what is fake and what isn’t? Where is the line? And, perhaps most critically, who decides? To argue that the existence of some number of fake news items amongst an ocean of other content ought to result in active editing of Facebook content is not simply a logistical nightmare but, at least when it comes to the potential of bad outcomes, far more fraught than it appears.

This is the biggest concern I have with this fake new debate: who decides what is and isn’t fake and could that position be abused?

Facebook’s Unsettling Referendum on News ➝

Charlie Warzel, reporting for BuzzFeed:

This morning, Facebook VP of product management Adam Mosseri announced that the social network is tweaking its News Feed algorithm to show more stories from friends and family members — a move that indicates Facebook is worried professional publishers are crowding out the normal people in your life you care about. The decision, according to the post, is based on “research,” which is a way to say that Facebook has been listening to the myriad signals of the real people who use its platform each day.

This reminds me of the the advice I used to see in “weblogs about weblogging” in the mid 2000s — don’t entirely rely on Google for your traffic. It’s dangerous to build a publishing business under the assumption that Google will always be a source for new readers. What happens if you see a sudden and unexpected drop in page rank and lose the majority of those visitors? The results could be devastating.

It’s funny how we’re seeing the same narratives play out a decade later. Granted, Facebook and Google are two entirely different companies — social networking rather than search — but the advice is still important to remember. You have to worry about sustainability if you can’t survive without your primary source of traffic. That is, unless your primary source of traffic is people typing your URL into their browser’s address bar.