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Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

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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