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Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

I do have a Facebook account, but I don’t use it – not even to spy on my children. So I wonder: is this just an interesting experiment, or the start of something big?

At Basecamp, we’ve decided to go Facebook Free from today. If you’d like to join, either today, tomorrow or next year, just comment on this post, and we’ll highlight credible pledges for all to see. You’re also free to use the 100% Facebook Free badge that we’ve released under Creative Commons (CA BY-SA 4.0) and have it link back to this page.


Anyway, since I don not use FB (or Instagram, for that matter) in a professional context, you could say I’m “Facebook Free” as well. Hi there, DHH!

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That’s not my title, it’s the conclusion of Dave Pell when he wrote about the Facebook affaire a few weeks ago. You can’t blame him for saying so, and he’s illuminating, serious and funny at the same time in “The Flight of the Zuckerberg“.

2. Facebook is constantly urging you to share your immediate thoughts and reactions to every life event. We were a couple days into the company’s biggest challenge before Facebook’s creator shared any of his thoughts on the matter. There’s probably a lesson in that…

11. You read the stories about Cambridge Analytica and you think, Damn, these guys are total geniuses who can control our minds. You watch the undercover video of the Cambridge Analytica execs and you think, Damn, these guys are seriously some clown-ass schmucks. Like always, believe what you see…

12. If Facebook really manipulates our thoughts, they must want us to be really pissed at Facebook…

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Why Do We Blog, Jason?

Last week, Jason Kottke’s blog celebrated its twentieth birthday. Yes, that’s less than Johann S.Bach, but nevertheless quite a feat: I don’t know many blogs that go back so long (Dave Winer’s Scripting.com is probably the most prominent one).

His first post, March 14, 1998

I can’t say that I have read every one of Jason’s posts, but at least I knew – and appreciated – his writings many years ago; I even referred to his blog in 2003. Some of his latest words resonate clearly with my own experience:

I had a personal realization recently: kottke.org isn’t so much a thing I’m making but a process I’m going through. A journey. A journey towards knowledge, discovery, empathy, connection, and a better way of seeing the world.

In December 2014, I mentioned a similar realisation on the one but last slide of a presentation on blogging. Check it out on “My Life As A Blogger In A Few Images“.

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More than 15 years ago, I wrote about my resolve to keep up with the writings of Brent Simmons. I wanted to do that, not because he was one the makers of Frontier and working at UserLand, but because I liked (and still like) the fact that he applies ethics to all aspects of his life – including programming and software.

You don’t have to agree with his take on things, but at least go over and read Brent’s hopes for 2018:

Rebuilding the social open web is not the one cure that we need for all our ills. I’m fully skeptical of technological solutions to problems of culture and politics. But it is an important thing we can and should do. My small hope for 2018 is the knowledge that I’m not the only person thinking that way.

Building a social open web will, unfortunately, take more than one calendar year. But it’s important to start (some will say: to continue) the construction of such a web: every journey starts with a single step. Technology won’t bring the cure; only people can do that.

PS. No, I haven’t yet started reading Tim O’Reilly’s “WTF What’s The Future And Why It’s Up To Us”. But you can see why I had to buy (and read, I promise) that book.

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Now That’s Activism!

(Thanks, BoingBoing, for pointing me to this story: “Man spraypaints Twitter office sidewalk with abusive tweets it refuses to delete“)

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David Byrne wrote Eliminating the Human.

Human interaction is often perceived, from an engineer’s mind-set, as complicated, inefficient, noisy, and slow. Part of making something “frictionless” is getting the human part out of the way.

I’m not an engineer, but it’s true that certain processes, certainly in a business context, can benefit from automation.

While Facebook and others frequently claim to offer connection, and do offer the appearance of it, the fact is a lot of social media is a simulation of real connection.

Right!

We have evolved as social creatures, and our ability to cooperate is one of the big factors in our success. I would argue that social interaction and cooperation, the kind that makes us who we are, is something our tools can augment but not replace.

Personally, I would rewrite that last sentence: “I would argue that social interaction and cooperation, the kind that makes us who we are, is something our tools should augment but not replace” (and perhaps I should have used the word “must”). But you have to read the complete piece David Byrne wrote – really. Or better yet: check out the extended version on his website.

(I found this portrait of DB on http://liveforlivemusic.com/)

It took me a lot of time to learn that talking to people can be more effective (not necessarily more efficient) than a note, an email, or a letter in the right situation. How do you know when to use which tool? Well, you have to learn that by doing and making mistakes ;-)

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Social media are everywhere these days, to the point where they suddenly seem to be more important than any other communication medium. Families and friends use them to stay in touch while on holiday, companies use them for informal meetings and discussions, news media distribute their headlines with them, politicians on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean (and probably elsewhere in the world too) use them to try and set the stage for policy changes.

Privacy questions remain, however. Especially now that the concept of real and virtual walls around nations is rearing its (ugly) head again. So here’s an interesting suggestion from Maciej Cegłowski, in a post titled “Social Media Needs A Travel Mode“:

All I care about when I’m on vacation is posting devastating beach photos that will make my friends jealous. So why do I need to carry the complete list of people I went to high school with, or an archive of messages I exchanged with a chance acquaintance ten years ago?

[…]

We need a ‘trip mode’ for social media sites that reduces our contact list and history to a minimal subset of what the site normally offers. Not only would such a feature protect people forced to give their passwords at the border, but it would mitigate the many additional threats to privacy they face when they use their social media accounts away from home.

Reinforced real borders the world all over form a strong contrast with an Internet that has (almost) no frontiers. So I do wonder if we’ll ever see such a thing – perhaps Diaspora could propose a solution?

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I did not know who Peter Thiel was until a few months ago, with the Gawker incident. But the reaction of Zuckerberg to Thiel’s donation to Trump is just another symptom of the false neutrality that FB wants to display. In the words of Davey Alba on the Wired website:

Thiel isn’t just another Facebook user; he’s a man in a unique position of power who has decided to use that power to suppress diversity and work against the very goals Zuckerberg claims to support. Zuckerberg may fear that in removing Thiel, Facebook opens itself up to charges of bias. But it’s too late: not removing him is biased against everyone who Trump has demeaned. Zuckerberg may want a middle to straddle, but it doesn’t exist. “Diversity” certainly isn’t it.

It’s hard to see how any social media platform can be neutral if it is managed by commercial objectives. We, the end users, will have to run our own platform to avoid the censorship of big money. But will Diaspora be able to rescue us?
diaspora.png

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The first mention of Snopes on this blog goes back to the year 2000, and I’m happy to announce that there is a good overview of what Snopes is (and how it came about) on the Webb Awards website. In summary, Snopes is a “fact checker”, where you will almost certainly find your favourite urban legend, its ‘truthiness’ and its history. Snopes started checking ‘hoaxes’ and ‘urban legends’ in 1994, shortly after the birth of the Web. These days, the presidential election is more than enough to keep the Snopes team hard at work; suffice it to say that many extravagant claims turn out to be fabrications, with or without Photoshop. There are many ‘fake news’ sites on the Web, but ‘real’ news media sometimes forget to verify their stories as well, and that just means more work for Snopes and its ilk.

Sarcasm by XKCD

Sarcasm by XKCD

How the Truth Set Snopes Free – Racing Against the Web’s Rumor Mill” also explains:

And therein lies one of the biggest lessons that Snopes has to teach: Urban legends are most interesting for what they say about those who spread and believe them—our hopes (as in the grateful millionaire tale) as well as our fears about the secret ways the world really works.

Here’s the current biography of David Mikkelson, Snopes’ founder:

David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.

The interpretation of that sentence is left as an exercise in humour detection to the reader ;-) Or you could try the “Random” function of the website to be surprised again and again with how stories are morphed from fact to falsehood, myth or hoax.

For details on what Mark Twain said, check out https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

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Since about two years,  a few colleagues at work are trying to explain different forms of social media to all the personnel. I was asked to explain what blogging is all about, and this is what I presented in December 2014: “My life as a blogger (PDF).

So tell me about yourself: where do you blog?

For more cartoons by Quirit click the image.

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This is something to remember: “Whatever evil you think you see, it’s probably not as evil as your joining in a mob.” A virtual mob is as bad a real one, so this goes for Facebook or Twitter or any social medium too.

Thanks, Brent, for this important, nay: essential advice (http://inessential.com).

mob-behaviour.jpg

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In “Twitter and Facebook aren’t working“, Dave Winer writes:

We may think we’re being informed by these great social media tools, but more likely we’re being fed. High fructose emotional rage medicine. Here’s the next thing to be angry about. And the next and the next and so on. Facebook is a bit nicer… But something is seriously missing.

Of course something is missing!

First of all, what you see in many social media tools is just a pale reflection of the people that are posting the content on them. Getting to know the people in the flesh could be an eyeopener for you, as it did for Dave.

Secondly; “Social Media” aren’t necessarily very social, unless you’re someone who limits his or her social interactions by saying “Hodor“, I mean “Like“.

I have once tried to explain to my son that being a “member” of Facebook does not make you more social than someone who is not. Being able to manipulate a social media tool does not make you a social being. “Social behavior” is composed of actions, “which are directed at other people and are designed to induce a response” (see the Wikipedia). Those responses can take many other forms than “Like“, and the discussion about a “Dislike” button on FB barely touches the surface of that rich spectrum of emotions humans are capable of. Capturing those emotions with just a simple black-or-white decision such as “Like” is very, very hard, even when there is no software around to make things worse if it’s not thought through completely.

Consider the case of Eric Meyer: his story (on his blog) about the death of his daughter drew many reactions of sympathy. A culture where “popularity” – as in “many readers” or “many likes” – equals “success” (in terms of advertising revenue, for example) makes it very hard to see the reason for that “popularity”. In Eric’s case, it was mostly “compassion” for a family that grieved – is still grieving – over the loss of a loved one. Not exactly a cheerful event, nothing to brag about, and perhaps even not something you want to be reminded of by a dumb website…

Dislike” and “Agree” and “I Feel Your Pain” buttons won’t be coming anytime soon, I’m afraid. In the meantime, we can only hope that social media tool developers will adapt the tools, to make it easier to opt out of any aspect of the tool that relies on dumb statistics. And even that might prove difficult, given the business models many social media companies rely on.

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I did not post on December 23rd, 2014, but nevertheless I am a bit proud that I managed to keep this blog / website alive for 15 years. Although started as an experiment, this site soon became important to me. Not because my readership is that large or important, but because it helps me reflect on what goes on in my life and in the world. Bacause it helps me think about the best way to formulate my opinion.

Anyway, the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Don’t expect any surprises (except, perhaps, the number of countries that sent visitors to this blog!).

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Have A Laugh With The CIA

Ars Technica writes: “It’s not often you’ll see the spy agency having a sense of humor.

First tweet of the CIA on June 6th, 2014.

First tweet of the CIA on June 6th, 2014.

Well, that gives us at least one opportunity in many years to laugh with what the official intelligence instances are doing…

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nsa-listens.jpg
Is your government listening to you? Or is it, just like the NSA, just listening in? As reported on Ars Technica (“It’s OK to parody the NSA“):

Citizens shouldn’t have to worry whether criticizing government agencies will get them in trouble or not.”

Let’s hope the Turkish and Kurdish citizens have the same right, regardless of what PM Erdogan thinks: without freedom of speech there is no democracy.

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