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.
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.
How Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to find out who you are
No doubt you know all about this and other Facebook data scrapes and breaches by now but this cartoon explanation, by Eleri Harris and Andy Warner at The Nib is a useful explainer.
Note: I had an early Facebook account but dumped it after a year as I didn’t particularly like the Facebook design and found it less than useful. When Facebook bought Instagram I dumped that too. To me, there’s something questionable about social tools that attempt to pull people in by appealing to their desire to become more popular. Yes, I realize that Facebook and Instagram are more than that, but these (popularity) tools are deeply engrained in their designs. What people will do to become and remain popular is bothersome to me. Flickr does this and I ranted about it a number of years ago: Flickr Explore.
Of course, WordPress (this site) does this as well… Sigh.
The Facebook experiment has failed. Let’s go back.
This is a well written essay on deep, structural problems with Facebook by a Medium user named jeswin.
The social internet seems to have tipped into one, large popularity contest and the tools each platform uses to allow users to “like” and/or “recommend” content they like have become too important. It’s certainly understandable that platforms like Facebook, flickr and twitter and others want more users, more posts, more interaction, more action, but is enabling competition for popularly the only way to do this?
This reminds me of a post I wrote in 2007 on flickr explore, flickr’s system of promoting popular photographs. It must be a well known idea among social platform builders that to attract more users, more content, more interaction, the platform should include tools for faving, liking, commenting, and more and a black box to compute which posts, images, comments are the most popular. This, at least as it is now implemented, seems to be both an attractor and a curse.
[via Jon Moss]
Facebook’s plan to find its next billion users: convince them the internet and Facebook are the same
This is the story of Facebook’s rapidly unfolding plan to take over the world, or at least the world wide web. It’s a tale that’s been hiding in plain sight for years, and it begins with an explanation of how Facebook has reached almost a billion users. It continues with a roadmap for how the seeds of Facebook’s future growth – to two billion and beyond – have already been planted. In both cases, what matters is emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and Latin America: the striving, proto-middle class “next billion” whose first impression of the internet is often that it seems to consist entirely of a site called Facebook.
I’ve always thought Facebook would come out with a device (phone or communicator) that only ran Facebook but in fact, Facebook for SIM, Facebook Zero and various Facebook apps are better and more generic gateways to the Facebook community. Had AOL done this type of thing in the old days they might have lived a bit longer.
Through a series of canny partnerships, acquisitions, and roll-outs, Facebook has made its service usable for anyone, whether they’re using the latest iPhone or a five year old gray-market Nokia with a black and white screen. In many cases, users don’t even have to have a data plan.
And the key to Facebook’s strategy is that no matter where users start on the ladder of mobile technology, from the most basic device to the newest smartphone, Facebook becomes better and more fun to use as they upgrade. And this is also why carriers are so eager to partner with Facebook, because the next billion to come onto the internet will do it through a mobile device, on which every megabyte that they use in connecting with their friends can be measured and billed.
This piece is worth reading carefully and while I’m no fan of Facebook, this is a brilliant idea.
[via The Verge]
Behind Instagram’s Success, Networking the Old Way
This is a great start up story which takes about 18 months and ends as many know with Facebook buying Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock.
Many Instagram users who want to make a statement about their “hatred” of Facebook have left the service. While I’m no fan of Facebook and don’t use it I still use and enjoy Instagram. I plan to keep using Instagram until they require a Facebook login or mess it up with more Facebook integration. It remains an excellent tool for posting images to Twitter and flickr and if you use Facebook, that service too.
What happens after Yahoo acquires you
But in 2008, co-founders Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield both left the company. In 2009, many engineers from the service were laid off or left on their own.
Meanwhile, Facebook kept taking a growing share of photo traffic. Yahoo’s top executives barely mentioned Flickr publicly (and few of them actually have a public Flickr account). Decision-making at Flickr slowed because of bureaucracy.
Fascinating article and comment thread. I highly recommend reading it, whether or not you’re involved with flickr.
I can think of at least twenty of my contacts on flickr who are high end photographers who have left flickr for Facebook. I wouldn’t go that way if I left flickr but the fact that they did is meaningful.
Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter
Blogs wane as young people figure out it takes work to keep them up, and even more work to read them. Facebook and Twitter lend themselves to shorter attention spans and more easily attained popularity.
Chicken-egg: Are tools like Facebook and Twitter the right tools at the right time for our (TV) shortened attention spans, or, has the use of these particular tools shortened our attention spans (even more than they were already)?
All of us involved in online social networking have experienced the shortening of our attention spans as we scan large amounts of information looking for interesting tidbits. The question is, what do we do with the tidbits when we find them if they’re the tip of a long form article iceberg?
I’m noticing many on Twitter will re-blog this stuff without reading it which is a shame because sometimes their quick executive summary is way off the mark. Couple this with the fact that many on Facebook and Twitter are tracking thousands of contacts (some think more contacts = more popular) and you have a recipe for the dumbing down of information or certainly, the telephoning of tidbits that many aren’t taking the time to dig into and understand.
So, two things are happening that are creating shorter attention spans: Tools like Facebook and Twitter are built for chatter rather than long form writing and reading, and the sheer amount of information that many are tracking is growing, much of it chatter that gets in the way of or interrupts long form reading and more nuanced understanding.
Broadcasting tweets is a great way to build a revolution (Egypt) but it may not be the best way to build a new government and society. For that you need long form thinking, writing, reading, and understanding.
At Flickr, Fending Off Rumors and Facebook
Although Flickr is well known and still widely used, its traffic is shrinking. Unique visitors to Flickr in the United States fell 16 percent, to 21.3 million, in December compared with a year earlier, according to comScore. Meanwhile, for that same time frame, use of Facebook’s photo features grew 92 percent, to 123.9 million users.
I can only speak for myself: flickr is a well designed, easy to use system and the reason my use has dropped off has nothing to do with Facebook or any other photo sharing site (I don’t use Facebook), it’s because I haven’t been taking as many pictures lately and I burnt out on heavy use of flickr.
I think that’s true for many. Yes, many people use Facebook but they’re not choosing Facebook because it’s a superior photo sharing site, they’re using it because they already chose it for social networking.
Flickr’s tools are easy to use, stable, and have been for years. Facebook is a mess by comparison. However, since Yahoo acquired flickr development has slowed and this says worlds about how Yahoo has never recognized the value of flickr. They’d better wake up.
Man Wrongly Accused of Murder on Facebook Flees Home After an Angry Real World Mob Shows Up
This is what I hate about the social internet and Facebook in particular. People need no corroboration, no background, nothing except the word of strangers to pass judgement and accuse someone of murder.
As Walt Kelly (Pogo) said: “I have seen the problem and it is us.”
A while ago when I was deep into flickr I wrote a piece on how too much concern with the social networking aspects of it can affect one’s photography: Flickr Explore. Now Thomas Webber at The Daily Beast has taken apart how Facebook’s popularity contest works in a fascinating piece: Cracking the Facebook Code.
How does the social media giant decide who and what to put in your feed? Tom Weber conducts a one-month experiment to break the algorithm, discovering 10 of Facebook’s biggest secrets.
The bottom line is that you can game these systems if you want to be popular and Thomas shows you how. But then, being popular on Facebook means what exactly?
The popularity of Facebook and other social networking sites is probably partly the result of people being obsessed with their own popularity. Social networking for the sake of social networking.
I think our culture has hit a new low.
Postscript: Not that this should be a model for anyone but on Twitter I can’t see how people could be following 1000 other people who tweet a lot. How can they have a life among all of that information flying by like a crawl on CNN? I follow about 50 people and try to keep the number manageable so I can actually read the tweets. Anyone I connect with who floods that channel I disconnect from. I’m not interested in minute by minute updates from anyone, including The NewsHour, onPoint Radio or friends. I think many use Twitter as a way to make as many connections as possible and to me, that defeats the purpose of it. Again, social networking for the sake of social networking.