There is nothing new under the sun…turn, turn, turn

Archive for the tag “facebook”

When choice isn’t – how Big Data, and the highest bidder, could “guide” you

I haven’t even finished reading an article and I already want to share something out of it.

Phil Baumann shared an article by Evgeny Morozov that, among other things, notes that Silicon Valley is not subject to the same critical analysis that is applied to, say, the oil industry. As I said, I’m still reading the article, but I was struck by Morozov’s futuristic “what if” buried within…which shows how a decision that you would presumably make independently can actually be guided behind the scenes.

Suppose you want to become a vegetarian. So you go to Facebook and use its Graph Search feature to search for the favorite vegetarian restaurants of all your friends who live nearby. Facebook understands that you are considering an important decision that will affect several industries: great news for the tofu industry but bad news for the meat section of your local supermarket.

Facebook would be silly not to profit from this knowledge – so it organizes a real-time ad auction to see whether the meat industry wants you more than the tofu industry.

To this point, there’s nothing really new here. The meat industry and the tofu industry have been battling for our minds – and wallets – for years. But now that you have an individual Facebook account, tied to a Google or Apple phone that you carry with you all the time, that battle can be carried out on an individual, personal level. Morozov assumes that the meat industry won the ad auction, and magical things begin to happen.

[Y]ou enter your local supermarket and your smartphone shows that the meat section offers you a discount of 20%. The following day, as you pass by the local steak house, your phone buzzes again: you’ve got another discount offer.

In the past, I (and other) have spoken of the ideal form of advertising as one that doesn’t feel like advertising at all, since it provides you with the information that you want. But what if you only get SOME of the information you want…and the party that didn’t pony up the money is shut out? Then something like this could happen:

After a week of deliberation – and lots of cheap meat — you decide that vegetarianism is not your thing. Case closed.

Of course, had the tofu industry won the ad auction, things might have gone in the opposite direction.

Now in and of itself, this would not be a problem – provided that the whole deal was done transparently. “Transparency” is a word that is often preached as the foundation of social interaction – I should be transparent when sharing my likes and dislikes with Facebook, Google, and the rest. But the companies that use my data, and in some cases own my data, are not always all that transparent themselves when saying how that data is used.

My quick thoughts – let me get back to reading the article.


Before your professor contacted you on Facebook

I recently saw an item on Facebook that caught my eye.

Here is a link to the new revised edition of the Zach Hunter book you asked about before class today.

This was a message from a college professor to one of his students. I happen to know both the professor and the student, by the way.

As I looked at the message, I thought about how things had changed since I was a student.

If Professor Ray Kierstead or Professor Arthur Leigh wanted to send me a message, they’d probably have to see me in class or encourage me to set up an appointment with them during office hours. Professor Kierstead or Professor Leigh wouldn’t just show up at my dorm room.

The professors obviously couldn’t send me a Facebook message like today’s professors can; Facebook wouldn’t even be established for another quarter century.

The professors couldn’t email me. Email was in its infancy, and even if the professors happened to have accounts on the DEC PDP/11-70 UNIX computer, I’d have to go all the way to the computer room to read them. It wasn’t like I had a computer terminal in my room or anything like that.

The professors couldn’t even phone me. Well, I guess they could; there was a pay phone in each of the dorms, and I think that they accepted incoming calls. (Younger readers, someday I’ll tell you what a “pay phone” was.)

So today, via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or similar services, it is easy for professors to keep in touch with students and vice versa. Obviously there are drawbacks to this; if the professor happened to be vegan, and if the student happened to post something about a late night visit to In N Out, this could cause some issues. (However, I know that this particular professor likes turkey, so there’s no vegan issue here.)

I happened to think that this increased inter-communication is a good thing. But then again, I’m not a student today.

The first social network DOES bear some negative similarities to modern social networks

Shawn Rossi shared a Lifehacker post from Alan Henry with an interesting premise:

Before you joined your first “social network,” you were already using a tried-and-true social network that all your friends had joined, that never tweaked your privacy settings without asking, and that worked incredibly well. It was called email.

The post then goes on to describe how an email client (Gmail is assumed, but many of the tips will work with Microsoft or other mail systems) can be reconfigured to be more social.

But before he provides these tips, Henry lists five reasons why an email client is a better social app than Facebook. I’m fine with his first, second, and fourth reasons, but I have problems with his third and fifth reasons. Yes, Facebook does the things that Henry describes – but so does email.

Reason number three:

[Facebook is] full of apps designed to invade your timeline and trick you into sharing things.

Yes, Facebook has such apps – but you can easily find them in email. How many of our email inboxes have been, in Henry’s words, “invaded” with all sorts of messages with titles such as “Look at this funny picture”? If you’ve had an email account for several years and have used it for a lot of correspondence, you probably get a lot of these messages. Now I’ll grant that such emails can be filtered, but you still have to deal with them – invading junk is in email just as it is in Facebook.

The more serious issue, however, are those Facebook apps and email messages that “trick you into sharing things.” My favorite example is the virus warning that effectively acts as a virus itself. Not that it literally is a virus, but when an URGENT email message WARNS you to TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS about a SERIOUS THREAT to your computer/your country/whatever, it’s just like a virus. More insidiously, there are the messages that are purportedly from your bank that tell you that you have to go to a website and enter your personally identifying information or else your account will be closed.

So regardless of your platform – Facebook, email, CB radio – there are nasty things out there that can invade your stream and trick you into doing bad things.

Let’s move on to Henry’s reason number five:

We all do stupid things on Facebook.

This is in reference to the college students who post drunken pictures on Facebook, or the new hires who say how stupid their bosses are.

Yes, you can do these stupid things on Facebook – and we’ve been doing these stupid things on email for decades.

All email clients have a “Send” button. It just takes one click to send an email message. And if it’s a “Reply All” email message, that email can go to dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people.

Several years ago, when I still worked for Motorola, someone accidentally sent an email message to thousands of people. This resulted in a complaint from one of the recipients – but the recipient hit “Reply All,” so the complaint also went to thousands of people. This resulted in a “Don’t hit Reply All you stupid jerk” message which – have you guessed already? – went to thousands of people.

After an hour of two of this, our local Motorola office temporarily removed itself from the email network until the brouhaha died down.

So while email does offer some “social” advantages over Facebook – and I strongly encourage you to read Henry’s tips – please remember that email has its own issues – issues that we’ve known about for decades.

Another description of change taking place – rematerialization

Remember Jim Ulvog’s blog Outrun Change (that I previously mentioned)? Well, Ulvog has written a post entitled Another description of change taking place – dematerialization. After quoting from a recently Matt Ridley item in the Wall Street Journal, The Future Is So Bright, it’s Dematerializing, Ulvog goes on to observe:

Music, books, photographs. All have dematerialized. The last half-dozen books I bought were in Kindle format.

Add to his list: x-rays, both at the hospital and dentist’s office. Over the next few years, medical records will dematerialize.

Ulvog then observes how his own field, accounting, has changed because of this dematerialization.

And he’s right – to a point.

You see, from his perspective (and yours and mine), it appears that things have dematerialized. After all, I’m writing this post without having to use any paper.

But when we buy music or e-books, where do they come from? And when we store photograph and blog posts, where do they go? Well, in certain cases, they will come from and go to Prineville, Oregon:

Apple Inc. confirmed today that it bought 160 acres near Prineville in central Oregon for a new data center, making it the latest tech giant to locate a server farm in the state….

The Oregonian reported in December that Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple was eyeing the land, about a quarter mile south of a data center operated by Facebook….

Amazon and Google already own data centers in Oregon, too.

And everywhere else, also. These “server farms” take up a lot of space, and while it might be less than the physical equivalents, we have to remember that all of our so-called “virtual” items actually have to be stored SOMEWHERE.

Blogs, social networks, and what this means for tymshft

On Sunday, February 19, I started a blog. You’re reading it right now.

At the same time, I established a Google+ page (https://plus.google.com/b/110538760339914860505/#) for the blog, as well as a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Tymshft/390937200923679?sk=wall). My idea at the time was that the Google+ and Facebook pages could be “outliers” for my blog, which would be the center of the tymshft universe (such as it is).

On Monday, February 20, Jesse Stay wrote something (My Official (and Obligatory) “Traditional Blogging is Dead” Post) that presented a different perspective. Excerpts:

As sad as I am to see it, I think blogging really is dying. It’s a really tough way to make a living, and will become even more difficult in the future, in favor of more traditional news sites and people able to share and post personal opinion on social networks such as Google+, Facebook, and Twitter….

Does this mean I’ll kill my blog? Of course not – it just means I have to adapt its focus….

It means my blog is now becoming an extension of the social networks, and not vice versa.

For the record, I saw Stay’s thoughts on Facebook before I saw the blog post in Google Reader. Sign of the…um…times?

As is often true in technology, this represents a swinging of the pendulum. Back in the 1990s, it was important to have a presence on America OnLine. Then, by the time I finally got around to blogging in late 2003, it became more important to have your own presence – your own webpage, your own blog, what have you. Now the pendulum is swinging back in the other direction, and both individuals and corporations are finding that it’s more important to have a Facebook/Twitter/Google+ presence than it is to have your own thing.

When I read Stay’s comments I had not yet formally announced the existence of this blog – actually, I STILL haven’t made a formal announcement – so I’ve been posting cryptic statements saying that this was an interesting time (heh) to read things such as Stay’s article.

As any good Lutheran would, I am now asking myself the question: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN? In this case, it means that I need to pay attention to the Facebook and Google+ “outliers” more. (I’ve established similar pages for some of my other Empoprises blogs, but have neglected them.) After all, the “outliers” may actually be “inliers.”

So, I encourage you to join the tymshft pages on Facebook and Google+.



And, more importantly, PARTICIPATE! Somehow we’ll all figure out how the blog and the Facebook page and the Google+ page can all work together as part of one happy family. Because I read something else last night – something from Kyle Lacy – that reminded me that the whole “comment fragmentation” issue hasn’t gone away.

Post Navigation