Tag Archive for ‘Social Media’

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.

‘The Platforms Themselves Are Designed to Breed Confrontation’ ➝

Álvaro Serrano, on taking a break from social media:

It’s taken a lot of introspection, but I’ve realized that social media has been slowly poisoning my character in ways I don’t even fully understand. Being constantly exposed to an endless stream of negativity has made me more angry, and it has shortened my fuse significantly. My tolerance for disagreement is at an all-time low, and I find myself being defensive even when there’s no apparent reason for it. Perhaps more importantly, it’s been draining my capacity for joy and my ability to appreciate the little things in life. All of this has had an impact in my everyday life, my work and my relationships, and I’ve had enough.

It sounds like Álvaro is taking more drastic measures than I am, but I can’t fault him. The level of anger and frustration I experience from my timeline has increased exponentially over the past few years. It’s finally reached a breaking point.

I tried mitigating it with mute filters, but too much snuck through. So I’ve decided to unfollow some folks for a bit to see if that’s a more effective method. I’ve made note of everyone I’ve unfollowed and plan to refollow many of them at a later date.

Much of the tweets that leave me angry and upset are regarding news stories that I’ve already seen through other outlets — primarily RSS and Reddit. So it’s not as if I’m going to miss anything that I want to or should know about. But removing those from my timeline is a way to manage my exposure to topics that effect my mood.

And hopefully these steps will improve my mental health and turn Twitter into a service that I actually enjoy again.

➝ Source: analogsenses.com

Twitter Announces New End-of-Life Date for APIs ➝

A great overview by John Voorhees on the upcoming changes to Twitter’s APIs, which will have a serious impact on third-party developers. The key takeaway is that the new streaming API will become too costly for most developers to use unless Twitter offers steep discounts to those effected. The streaming API is what allows third-party clients the ability to stream newly published tweets into your timeline and offer real-time push notifications for likes, mentions, retweets, and direct messages. If individual developers aren’t able to reach an agreement with Twitter for affordable pricing, notifications within their apps will likely be delayed by 1-2 minutes.

I think it’s a damn shame that Twitter, a service that grew on the back of third-party clients, has such a terrible relationship with developers. It feels like there’s a new story every few months about some awful decision that negatively impacts developers and users of third-party clients. Eventually they’ll do something boneheaded enough to force us all onto another platform and the company will lose a large chunk of their most active users.

I certainly hope that doesn’t happen. But I have no evidence to support the idea that they’ll learn from their mistakes and start making decisions that benefit everyone in the community, regardless of what client they choose to use.

Twitter’s New, Longer Tweets Are Coming September 19 ➝

Chris Welch, reporting for The Verge:

Twitter is about to make a big change to the way that tweets work, The Verge can independently confirm. Beginning September 19th, the company will cut down on exactly which types of content count toward the platform’s 140-character limit. Media attachments (images, GIFs, videos, polls, etc.) and quoted tweets will no longer reduce the count. The extra room for text will give users more flexibility in composing their messages.

I’ve been looking forward to this change since it was first announced back in May. I’m a huge proponent of retaining the 140-character limit, but I don’t think attachments should be treated the same way as text.

Twitter Now Lets Anyone Request a Verified Account ➝

Nick Statt, writing for The Verge:

Starting today, the company will let users request a verified account on its website by filling out a form with a verified phone number and email address, a profile photo, and additional information regarding why verification is required or helpful. In defining who will get approved, Twitter still says “an account may be verified if it is determined to be of public interest.” Prior to today, Twitter tended only to verify public figures, brands, and people in media, politics, sports, business, and other high-profile sectors.

That line about “public interest” is going to keep normals from having verified accounts. Hell, they won’t even give the checkmark to Federico Viticci. This is definitely a step in the right direction, but I hope they continue to lower the barrier to entry.

Pinterest Announces ‘App Pins’ ➝

Julie Black, Pinterest Product Manager, writing on Pinterest’s official weblog:

Now if you’re on your iPhone or iPad, you’ll see another kind of Pin: app Pins. Let’s say you’re Pinning workout inspiration to your Marathon Training board. If you see a fitness app that helps you reach your goals, you can download it right from Pinterest.

When you come across an app Pin, tap Install to download the app right to your iPhone or iPad without ever leaving Pinterest (you’ll only see app Pins when you’re using the Pinterest app on your iPhone or iPad).

Interesting collaboration between Apple and Pinterest. Although it’s only been a few days, I wonder how successful it will be given that every Pinterest user I’ve talked to hasn’t seen any app pins yet.