Bookmarked Inside Facebook's Two Years of Hell (WIRED)
When social media started becoming driven by images, he bought Instagram. When messaging took off, he bought WhatsApp. When Snapchat became a threat, he copied it. Now, with all his talk of “time well spent,” it seems as if he’s trying to co-opt Tristan Harris too.
Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein disentangle the last two years in Facebook’s rise, with a particular focus on the way that they have embraced news. As with Google+, the picture is painted as to how Facebook ‘copied, then crushed’ Twitter and their hold on distributing news:

Back in 2012, the most exciting social network for distributing news online wasn’t Facebook, it was Twitter. The latter’s 140-character posts accelerated the speed at which news could spread, allowing its influence in the news industry to grow much faster than Facebook’s. “Twitter was this massive, massive threat,” says a former Facebook executive heavily involved in the decision making at the time.

So Zuckerberg pursued a strategy he has often deployed against competitors he cannot buy: He copied, then crushed. He adjusted Facebook’s News Feed to fully incorporate news (despite its name, the feed was originally tilted toward personal news) and adjusted the product so that it showed author bylines and headlines. Then Facebook’s emissaries fanned out to talk with journalists and explain how to best reach readers through the platform.

The catch with this change is that it is merely a focus on being THE platform. This therefore meant overlooking the multitude of complexities associated with ‘news’:

Facebook hired few journalists and spent little time discussing the big questions that bedevil the media industry. What is fair? What is a fact? How do you signal the difference between news, analysis, satire, and opinion? Facebook has long seemed to think it has immunity from those debates because it is just a technology company—one that has built a “platform for all ideas.”

The problem with this stance, to “never favour one kind of news”, is that “neutrality is a choice in itself.” This choice is one that can then be cajoled and manipulated:

While Facebook grappled internally with what it was becoming—a company that dominated media but didn’t want to be a media company—Donald Trump’s presidential campaign staff faced no such confusion. To them Facebook’s use was obvious. Twitter was a tool for communicating directly with supporters and yelling at the media. Facebook was the way to run the most effective direct-­marketing political operation in history.

In response to Trump’s use, the purchasing of ads and criticism for people such as Tristan Harris, Zuckerberg set out this year to right the wrongs:

One of the many things Zuckerberg seemed not to grasp when he wrote his manifesto was that his platform had empowered an enemy far more sophisticated than Macedonian teenagers and assorted low-rent purveyors of bull.

Ironically, he has now turned to the community to work as curators.

Along with investigations into the links between Facebook funding and research, these posts help highlight the tangled mess that we have gotten ourselves into.

Bookmarked Facebook has a Big Tobacco Problem by Frederic Filloux (mondaynote.com)
Facebook’s problems are more than a temporary bad PR issue. Its behavior contributes to a growing negative view of the entire tech industry.
Frederic Filloux compares the current situation with Facebook to the collapse of the tobacco industry in the 90’s. The first comparison is the denial of intent:

Facebook never sought to be the vector of in-depth knowledge for its users, or a mind-opener to a holistic view of the world. Quite the opposite. It encouraged everyone (news publishers for instance) to produce and distribute the shallowest possible content, loaded with cheap emotion, to stimulate sharing. It fostered the development of cognitive Petri dishes in which people are guarded against any adverse opinion or viewpoint, locking users in an endless feedback loop that has become harmful to democracy. Facebook knew precisely what it was building: a novel social system based on raw impulse, designed to feed an advertising monster that even took advantage of racism and social selectiveness

The other comparison is with Facebooks intrusion into the third world:

As in the 1990’s, when Big Tobacco felt its home market dwindling, the companies decided to stimulate smoking in the Third World. Facebook’s tactics are reminiscence of that. Today, it subsidizes connectivity in the developing world, offering attractive deals to telecoms in Asia and Africa, in exchange for making FB the main gateway to the internet. In India, Facebook went a bit too far with Free Basic, an ill-fated attempt to corner the internet by providing a free or nearly free data plan. Having some experience with Western colonialism, the Indian government rejected the deal.

More information to add to the discussion regarding sharecropping and Facebook.

Replied Facebook, Medium, And Staying The Course Within Your Own Domain by Kin Lane (kinlane.com)
We all want more traffic, readers, and hopefully revenue around our work. It is always tempting to think the grass is greener on another platform. However, we should never lose sight of the importance of owning, operating, and cultivating our own domain. There will always be new platforms who come along and prey upon our desire for more traffic, and the magical network effects they will bring, but it will NEVER be worth abandoning our own domain. Platforms come and go, pivot, shift courses, and rarely will think of you as more than just a data point. Nobody will ever care as much about your content, data, and audience as you do, and I’m hoping folks are starting to learn their lesson after the whole Facebook bullshit.
Great post Kin. Personally, I have really enjoyed digging into the #IndieWeb and taking my blogging and experience with –domains even further. One of my frustrations with Medium is the lack of webmentions. I can understand why – all about the eyeballs – and I do not agree. Like yourself, there are some random posts I POSSE there, but most of the time stay away.

The other half of the conversation is the functionality provided on Medium. If people want ‘annotations’, they can use things like Hypothes.is, if they want to provide the options to link, they can add fragmentions, while there are many themes that provide similar look and feel. To be honest, I think that Hackeducation.com is one of the cleanest reading experiences.

Although third-party applications make it ‘easy’ to sharecrop, the question is at what cost?

Liked HEWN, No. 249 (TinyLetter)
Instead of experts, Zuckerberg says, it’s going to be up to “the community.” This disdain for experts is part of the problem we face now – culturally, politically, intellectually. There are researchers whose field of study is precisely this: how do people assess the credibility of information sources? How do technologies shape our notion of trust? How is trust gained, and how is trust violated? How is trust gamed? But why listen to experts when Facebook’s CEO can just get the engineers down the hall to cobble together some poll, and then tell the users this is what they wanted all along. Personalization.
Audrey Watters highlights yet another poor decision from Facebook to ignore experts in order to garners more ‘likes’ and supposed trust.
Bookmarked The human solution to Facebook's machine-produced problems also won't work by Doc Searls (dsearls)
The best thing for Zuck to do is get the hell out, let it finish failing, and start over with something new and better, based on what he and others have learned from the experience. (Which tends to be the best teacher. And hell, he's still young.) It should help him—and all of us—to know that all companies fail; they just fail faster in Silicon Valley.
Doc Searls on why Facebook’s attempt to fix itself will fail and how the world has changed.
Read
The Circle by Dave Eggers is a novel which tries to encapsulate life inside of a fictional company that is a mixture of Facebook and Google called The Circle. It is very much a novel for the current generation.

The book was recently adapted for film. I am not sure though whether it captures Eggers’ nuances associated with character.

Here are some quotes from the book which stuck out:

Instead, he put all of it, all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person. There were no more passwords, no multiple identities. Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity—the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable—was the person paying, signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen. You had to use your real name, and this was tied to your credit cards, your bank, and thus paying for anything was simple. One button for the rest of your life online. To use any of the Circle’s tools, and they were the best tools, the most dominant and ubiquitous and free, you had to do so as yourself, as your actual self, as your TruYou. The era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems was over. Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal. Once you had a single account, it carried you through every corner of the web, every portal, every pay site, everything you wanted to do. TruYou changed the internet, in toto, within a year. Though some sites were resistant at first, and free-internet advocates shouted about the right to be anonymous online, the TruYou wave was tidal and crushed all meaningful opposition. It started with the commerce sites. Why would any non-porn site want anonymous users when they could know exactly who had come through the door? Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable. The trolls, who had more or less overtaken the internet, were driven back into the darkness.

Production on the cameras, which were as yet unavailable to consumers, went into overdrive. The manufacturing plant, in China’s Guangdong province, added shifts and began construction on a second factory to quadruple their capacity. Every time a camera was installed and a new leader had gone transparent, there was another announcement from Stenton, another celebration, and the viewership grew. By the end of the fifth week, there were 16,188 elected officials, from Lincoln to Lahore, who had gone completely clear, and the waiting list was growing. The pressure on those who hadn’t gone transparent went from polite to oppressive. The question, from pundits and constituents, was obvious and loud: If you aren’t transparent, what are you hiding? Though some citizens and commentators objected on grounds of privacy, asserting that government, at virtually every level, had always needed to do some things in private for the sake of security and efficiency, the momentum crushed all such arguments and the progression continued. If you weren’t operating in the light of day, what were you doing in the shadows? And there was a wonderful thing that tended to happen, something that felt like poetic justice: every time someone started shouting about the supposed monopoly of the Circle, or the Circle’s unfair monetization of the personal data of its users, or some other paranoid and demonstrably false claim, soon enough it was revealed that that person was a criminal or deviant of the highest order. One was connected to a terror network in Iran. One was a buyer of child porn. Every time, it seemed, they would end up on the news, footage of investigators leaving their homes with computers, on which any number of unspeakable searches had been executed and where reams of illegal and inappropriate materials were stored. And it made sense. Who but a fringe character would try to impede the unimpeachable improvement of the world? Within weeks, the non-transparent officeholders were treated like pariahs. The clear ones wouldn’t meet with them if they wouldn’t go on camera, and thus these leaders were left out. Their constituents wondered what they were hiding, and their electoral doom was all but assured. In any coming election cycle, few would dare to run without declaring their transparency—and, it was assumed, this would immediately and permanently improve the quality of candidates. There would never again be a politician without immediate and thorough accountability, because their words and actions would be known and recorded and beyond debate. There would be no more back rooms, no more murky deal-making. There would be only clarity, only light.

Would you have behaved differently if you’d known about the SeeChange cameras at the marina?” “Yes.” Bailey nodded empathetically. “Okay. How?” “I wouldn’t have done what I did.” “And why not?” “Because I would have been caught.” Bailey tilted his head. “Is that all?” “Well, I wouldn’t want anyone seeing me do that. It wasn’t right. It’s embarrassing.” He put his cup on the table next to him and rested his hands on his lap, his palms in a gentle embrace. “So in general, would you say you behave differently when you know you’re being watched?” “Sure. Of course.”

SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT

“That’s the idea,” Jackie said. “Just as within the Circle we know our Participation Rank, for example, soon we’ll be able to know at any given moment where our sons or daughters stand against the rest of American students, and then against the world’s students.” “That sounds very helpful,” Mae said. “And would eliminate a lot of the doubt and stress out there.” “Well, think of what this would do for a parent’s understanding of their child’s chances for college admission. There are about twelve thousand spots for Ivy League freshmen every year. If your child is in the top twelve thousand nationally, then you can imagine they’d have a good chance at one of those spots.” “And it’ll be updated how often?” “Oh, daily. Once we get full participation from all schools and districts, we’ll be able to keep daily rankings, with every test, every pop quiz incorporated instantly. And of course these can be broken up between public and private, regional, and the rankings can be merged, weighted, and analyzed to see trends among various other factors—socioeconomic, race, ethnicity, everything.”

“And as you all know,” he said, turning to Mae, speaking to her watchers, “we here at the Circle have been talking about Completion a lot, and though even us Circlers don’t know yet just what Completion means, I have a feeling it’s something like this. Connecting services and programs that are just inches apart. We track kids for safety, we track kids for educational data. Now we’re just connecting these two threads, and when we do, we can finally know the whole child. It’s simple, and, dare I say, it’s complete.”

“For this experiment, Mae, and the Circle as a whole, to work, it has to be absolute. It has to be pure and complete. And I know this episode will be painful for a few days, but trust me, very soon nothing like this will be the least bit interesting to anyone. When everything is known, everything acceptable will be accepted. So for the time being, we need to be strong. You need to be a role model here. You need to stay the course.”

“You’re completely overthinking it. No one, I mean no one, will look at you funny because some ancient ancestor of yours had slaves from Ireland. I mean, it’s so insane, and so distant, that no one will possibly connect you to it. You know how people are. No one can remember anything like that anyway. And to hold you responsible? No chance.”

By the time you read this, I’ll be off the grid, and I expect that others will join me. In fact, I know others will join me. We’ll be living underground, and in the desert, in the woods. We’ll be like refugees, or hermits, some unfortunate but necessary combination of the two. Because this is what we are.

“The Rights of Humans in a Digital Age.” Mae scanned it, catching passages: “We must all have the right to anonymity.” “Not every human activity can be measured.” “The ceaseless pursuit of data to quantify the value of any endeavor is catastrophic to true understanding.” “The barrier between public and private must remain unbreachable.” At the end she found one line, written in red ink: “We must all have the right to disappear.”

Replied Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us? | Facebook Newsroom by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke (newsroom.fb.com)
In sum, our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being.
I find the answer to improving social media as being how it is used as being problematic. This was a message that was also presented in a recent RN Future Tense podcast. What about the side effects of using such platforms as Facebook? I recognise the improvements in functionality, such as the ability to snooze, take a break from seeing an ex or detecting suicidal posts. However, these only add to the data that I as a user would provide you to develop a richer profile of me. As Ben Williamson reminds in his new book,

Whether you like it or not, a data-based version of yourself exists out there, scattered among different databases as data points in massive torrents of big data. Data mining, algorithms and analytics processes are increasingly being put to work to know and understand you, and also to know and understand the wider populations, communities and societies to which you belong.

If benefits are gained by how we use social media then I would argue that the #IndieWeb has a lot to offer, as well as the movement to claim your own domain. This means that I am more mindful of my space and potentially decide how to share my data and information.

Audrey Watters asks the questions ‘who is telling the stories’ of the future and about research:

Where do these stories about the future come from? Like, how do we know about “what’s happening” and “what’s trending” in education? Who are the people who are telling us what the future of education or technology or education technology is supposed to like? Who tells these stories? Who benefits from these stories? Who funds these stories? Why do we find these stories compelling?

Clearly, in this case it is Facebook and this is a concern.