Social Software

More on the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal

Here’s some more discussion of the Facebook/ Cambridge Analytica scandal I’ve read in the past few days that I think adds to our understanding of it.

I’m posting these links less as political commentary on the Trump campaign and the Mercers and Bannon’s underwriting this data scrape, more for those of you reading who are Facebook users and/or serious social networkers who are trying to wrap your heads around the significance of what’s happened here.

Alvin Chang at VOX:The Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, explained with a simple diagram.

Zeynep Tufekci in an op/ed for the New York Times (recommended by Bruce SchneirFacebook’s Surveillance Machine.

Adrian Chen, Nathan Heller, Andrew Marantz, and Anna Weiner (at The New Yorker): Discussion: How to Fix Facebook.

Update
How Facebook Groups Are Being Exploited To Spread Misinformation, Plan Harassment, And Radicalize People.

Cambridge Analytica’s “psychographic microtargeting”: what’s bullshit and what’s legit.

Affiliate marketing gone wild

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

This is an incredible piece by David Zax on affiliate marketing in the online mattress sales world.

For me, the bottom line is, any site that makes money from affiliate links loses objective credibility in reviewing the products its making money linking to.

If I review mattresses and also make money linking you to various mattress companies, I can easily be influenced by one mattress company offering a bigger payout for each sale I send their way.

And, this is not small money: a number of these mattress review sites are making over a $1 million a year in affiliate payouts.

This is an incredible story, read until the end, it will blow your mind.

Tip: if you are doing research online on a product you want to buy and follow a link from a review site to, say, Amazon or the company selling the product, look closely at the URL in your browser and you can see the affiliate link clearly. If you want to support the reviewer (the linker), buy with that link, if not, change the link.

Note: This site does not take part in affiliate marketing. The link below to Jason Kottke’s site does not generate income for me or him, it is simply an acknowledgement that I read about the Fast Company article at his site and followed a link from his site to the actual article. I try to acknowledge sources as I can.

[via Kottke.org]

Inside the making of Serial, season two

Inside the making of Serial, season two

This is a fascinating, behind the scenes look at how the Serial crew came up with their subject for season two written by Carl Swanson.

Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life hosted by Sarah Koenig.

Season one of Serial was the most successful podcast of all time (which it remains) and it was so effective that it got the case of Adnan Syed reopened in Baltimore, Maryland.

For more on Serial, see the Wikipedia entry: Serial (podcast).

For a list of interesting podcasts of the same type: The best factual podcasts.

John Oliver on online harassment

Another amazing rant from John Oliver, this time on revenge porn, online harassment of women, and more.

The larger issue of cyberbullying is a huge problem and it will be interesting to watch what companies like Facebook and Twitter do about it over time, not to mention what individual states and the US government does about it, if anything.

Hacking Airplanes

I’ve been following and reading Bruce Schneier for many years. He’s one of the most well-researched, articulate, and reasonable technology experts writing about computer and network security around.

I highly recommend reading: Hacking Airplanes. It’s a well reasoned and well written piece on internet vulnerabilities as we become more connected.

Imagine this: A terrorist hacks into a commercial airplane from the ground, takes over the controls from the pilots and flies the plane into the ground. It sounds like the plot of some “Die Hard” reboot, but it’s actually one of the possible scenarios outlined in a new Government Accountability Office report on security vulnerabilities in modern airplanes.

He’s not saying that the above scenario will happen any time soon, or ever, but he is worried that as “the internet of things” grows and our refrigerators, watches, cars, planes, baby monitors and medical equipment become more connected, our vulnerability to cyberattack grows.

Is Netflix about to drop DVDs (again)?

Let me preface this by saying I love Netflix: I love the process, I love the depth of their DVD library, I love their new streaming content, and coupled with AppleTV it’s a great service. When Netflix works right it’s one of the best services out there.

That said, in the past year they’ve been moving toward demoting their DVD service and it looks like they’re working on a way to drop it without causing as much of a stir as they did the last time they tried this (remember Qwikster?).

For a detailed history: Wikipedia: Netflix.

On their web site, the DVD queue is now a separate list and that part of their web site is at dvd.netflix.com.

When I called Netflix to report a problem getting DVDs in my queue I first got connected to someone from the streaming end, then I waited with muzak while they transferred me to the DVD end. This seems to point to the idea that they are less concerned with the DVD service than they have been in the past.

When I told Netflix about slow service they pointed to the US Post Office and it may be true that the Post Office is responsible for the slowness but its not responsible for the web site and the support phone tree. Something is going on.

One thing that’s happened in the past year is the US Post Office’s various services have changed, consolidated, and gotten worse. I love the Post Office and use it a lot but it doesn’t take heavy use to see that either they’re being starved by a Congress who won’t adequately fund them, and/or, they’re simply not a well run organization, or most probably, a bit of both.

In the old days (mid year last) the DVD disc turn around for Netflix was almost overnight for me. That has slid to a week or more.

Netflix says they’re working with the Post Office to resolve this but my guess is Reed Hastings (CEO) who tried to dump DVDs before and undid the change because of universal negative user feedback now has the cover to dump DVDs and I think he’s gearing up to do it.

This would be a shame because Netflix does not offer the depth in their streaming service that they do through DVDs. This is partly because the internet is feeling the strain of so much streaming, and partly because distribution agreements don’t allow streaming of all content.

If Netflix is going to offer a service, it ought to work correctly or they should fix it, and if they can’t fix it then drop it. This slowly cutting off the oxygen to the DVD service is a bad idea. Netflix has great content, but in my mind, the process is at least part of their product.

Has concern with popularity peaked?

After reading that some teens are dropping off of Instagram and other social networks and are using Apple’s AirDrop I asked my thirteen year old granddaughter about this. She’s done the same: she’s dumped Instagram and all social networking sites where she was extremely popular and is now just using AirDrop with her closest friends.

Tapping concern with popularity is a piece of almost all social software: Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, WordPress and all of the rest of the connected content management systems have lots of social tools that aren’t necessarily essential for there use, but seem to exhibit an assumption on the part of the designers that we’ll want to use them to increase our popularity.

I first started chewing on this in 2007 when I commented on the effect Flickr Explore was having on photographers that I followed there.

My biggest concern with Explore is that many Flickr users change the way they take and then process pictures on their computers in order to become more popular.

The New Yorker has a fascinating profile by Andrew Marantz on Emerson Spartz who is an expert on how to make web sites and memes go viral: The Virologist.

The way we view the world, the ultimate barometer of quality is: if it gets shared, it’s quality. If someone wants to toil in obscurity, if that makes them happy, that’s fine. Not everybody has to change the world.

I’ve never been able to fully explain why I think concern with popularity on the internet is a problem but reading this piece gave me a bit more to chew on. I still can’t explain it fully but I’m closing in on it.

I’m pretty sure that concern with popularity is part of human nature, but I’m also seeing the effect of 24/7 connectedness enabling that concern to the point where it gets in the way of creative work, and for some, life in general.

Has (over) concern with popularity peaked? Probably not, but here’s hoping it will soon.

Jon at Blue Bottle

Jon at Blue Bottle

Jon Moss at Blue Bottle Coffee (2014)

We met up with a “Flickr friend” who I’ve known for close to ten years who was visiting New York recently. After walking the High Line we went in for coffee at the hip, Blue Bottle Coffee in Hell’s Kitchen (I like Peet’s better but that’s just me).

I joined Flickr in 2004 and sometime in that first year I joined the Canon DSLR Group. In that group I met a number of people who have remained my online and offline friends to this day. None of us shoot Canon DSLRs anymore which is an interesting side story. One of them, a chap from Hull, England, Jon Moss got in touch in 2007 when he was coming to New York to buy some new camera equipment (at B&H of course).

Jon Moss at Ten Mile River

Jon Moss at Ten Mile River Station (2007)

We’d never met but I had a sense that Jon was a decent guy and so, invited him up to Connecticut for a visit on that trip and here’s that post: Jon Moss at Ten Mile River.

Jon at Macricostas Preserve

Jon at Macricostas Preserve (2007)

After unboxing all of his new gear I took him out to our local nature preserve to try it all out: Jon at Macricostas Preserve.

Two dudes with their weapons

Two dudes with their weapons (2007)

I’ll jump at any chance for a trip to New York so Anne and I accompanied Jon back to the city for his return trip: Two dudes with their weapons.

These days its very hip to get down on Flickr as an example of a great web service that peaked and sank after being acquired by Yahoo. This is most certainly true and Flickr’s photo sharing technology is way behind the times. But, like all of the other social networking tools, Flickr allowed and continues to allow people from all over the world to get to know one another through their photography and for that it remains one of the best tools out there. The fact that I’ve met quality people like Jon through Flickr speaks for itself.