Your opinion vs. mine: where are the facts we can agree on?

Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. — Daniel Patrick Moynihan

But what about alternative facts? — 2017

CATEGORY: Democracy & Social Mediaby Carole McNall

I’m cruising my Facebook feed when I see an impassioned plea:

“If you disagree with my take on this [and I did], please back up your opinion with facts.”

Reasonable request. I reach toward my keyboard to find the sites I want to cite.

Then it hits me. I ask: “What sites can I reference that you and I will both accept as true?”

He never answers. Continue reading

In just a decade, ‘content’ trumped ‘news’ (and those who reported it)

 Ten years has seen the evisceration of newsrooms; the alteration of form, function, and distribution of information; and the emergence of a distorted public discourse. Oh, joy.

Since 2007, I’ve written about the stark reductions in numbers of reporters and editors in America’s daily print newsrooms. During that time, I’ve witnessed more than 20,000 newsroom jobs vanish. Now, it seems, only about 30,000 men and women toil in those newsrooms.

MediaI chose toil deliberately. First, those who remain have had to meet the continued and unchanged corporate demand for product or content once produced by twice their number. Second, the job has changed: In addition to the still-present demand for print content, those 20,000 face the imposition of onerous digital deadlines and unbelievable expectations of quantity. Post so many stories a day, or an hour, they’re told. That, of course, has impacts on the quality of those stories.

For many, those who remain even have different titles — they are no longer reporters or editors. They have become “community content editors,” “content coaches,” “presentation team members,” “engagement editors,” “headline optimizers,” “story scientists,” or “curators in chief.”

Yes, the operations of those places once known as “newsrooms” are rapidly and radically changing. But that obvious observation obscures a few emerging realities about how information (once known as “news”) is crafted and distributed.

Continue reading

Newspapers’ big problem: failure to distinguish meaningful from meaningless

Warren Buffett, the newspaper-loving Oracle of Omaha, isn’t loving newspapers quite as much these days. Speaking of the industry’s attempts to create a viable business plan, he told USA Today’s Rem Rieder, “We haven’t cracked the code yet.”

Said Buffett:

Circulation continues to decline at a significant pace, advertising at an even faster pace. The easy cutting has taken place. There’s no indication that anyone besides the national papers has found a way.

JournalismWell, duh, Mr. Buffett. We’ve known about your first two sentences for a decade. And the third? The New York Times is the only “national paper” I pay to read, as a digital subscriber. But I routinely read stories in The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal — as I’m doing this morning over breakfast. The Times gets a ten spot from me every month. Everyone else gets squat.

Unlike millennials, for whom all information must be free, I’m willing to pay. That’s because at my age, I have a long history of paying for news. That’s how newspapers operated: Pay us and read our ads, and we’ll provide you the news you want and need. That was the fair exchange under the previous, and now failed, business model newspapers rode to riches (well, at least their owners) for more than a century.

Continue reading

My brief, wonderful life without Facebook

I caught a cold last week. So I missed several days of scrolling endlessly and mostly fruitlessly on Facebook.

fbthumbdownMy world, sans Facebook, did not end. The sky did not collapse upon me. Chicken Little became, for a few days, merely chicken soup.

I did not suffer from FOMO — that Millenial-dreaded “Fear Of Missing Out.” I don’t care that I missed so many things that so many others felt so important they had to be shared. I read books instead.

I probably missed birthdays and Facebook invitations to “send a message” to the honorees. Maybe I missed my brother reaching his biking mileage goal. (So I called him and asked. He’s close.) Surely numerous friends and former students posted more kid pictures. I missed, no doubt, hours of scrolling through auto-play videos, listicles, quizzes, cute (to someone) YouTube kittens and puppies, what (to someone) is newsworthy, screeds about morality and politics, and the “ten things you need to know now.” I didn’t learn what Shakespearean character I am or what my favorite color says about me or whether I can successfully identify hit songs of the ‘70s. My bout with a virus deprived me of screen loads of time-wasting crap.
Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Facebook’s See Less: the new “feature” that DOES. NOT. WORK.

Facebook - UnshareRecently the wizards at Facebook rolled out a new feature: See Less. It allows you, allegedly, to mark certain of your friends so that fewer of their posts show up in your feed. Intended as a polite way of dialing back your exposure to overparticipaters and people that, for whatever reason, you just aren’t as interested in as others.

Great idea. Great idea. If you’re like most people, you’re probably “friends” with all kinds of people you aren’t friends with. In my case, I’m friends with people I don’t know and couldn’t pick out of a lineup and I can’t actually remember how we “met” in the first place. Which is fine – some of these people are really bright and I enjoy what they bring to my news feed. Serendipity, exposure to unexpected viewpoints – these are good things.

But. Continue reading

Eight seconds — why the NYT caves, and Facebook wins

An impatient audience wielding smartphones says, ‘We want it NOW.’

Eight seconds.

Count with me, please: one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six, one thousand seven, one thousand eight.

Eight seconds. That snippet of time, about 1/300,000,000 of an actuarial life, has driven The New York Times (among others) into the inviting arms of a Facebook lusting for revenue. Eight seconds. That’s the time Facebook says a user endures after she clicks on a Facebook link to a third-party site like nytimes.com.

About 15 percent of The Times’ digital traffic arrives via Facebook. Continue reading

Facebook, the NFL and the GOP: #WTF

What a fucking day.

Item: Congress has tentatively agreed on a bill that will keep the government from shutting down. Now, there’s a lot wrong with it, starting with the fact that the Republicans are insisting on a huge payoff to Wall Street, basically holding the best interests of the people hostage to the best interests of the insanely rich. The smart money says the Democrats will:

a) raise holy hell, then
b) fold like the Vichy little bitches they are.

In other news, the sun is expected to rise in the east tomorrow.

None of this is the fun part, though. First, the GOP plan would … well, just read it. Continue reading

Using Facebook to promote school fundraisers: a friend goes ballistic

A friend of mine has been using Facebook to solicit contributions for his son’s school fundraiser. He’s not alone – I’ve seen more and more of this lately, and perhaps you have, too. Last night he exploded – apparently despite all his pleas, he got no response. As in, zero. He went off on his FB friends in ways that are certain to offend a lot of them.

A few moments ago I posted this to the thread.

_________

Dear Xxxx:

I understand your frustration, and if I had kids I’d probably stay mad. But I think you’re upset at the wrong people. Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: you owe us one hell of an explanation

Did Facebook’s scientific study contribute to user suicides? We’ll never know, but statistics demand that we ask the question.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.

As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.

A key element of my expressed outrage is this:

Did you know that you were consenting to have your emotional state manipulated? Continue reading

New Facebook app update demands unreasonable privacy access – The Tech Curmudgeon

The Borg meet the One App in the Facebook app’s latest privacy permissions.

Internet and Social MediaThe Tech Curmudgeon has got a Facebook app on his smartphone, probably like nearly everyone else in the English-speaking world. But the Tech Curmudgeon hasn’t updated it to the latest app, and he won’t. In fact, when his current version of the Facebook app stops working, the Tech Curmudgeon will purge the app from his phone entirely rather than update to the next version. And when his phone finally dies and the Tech Curmudgeon has to get a new one, he’ll probably purge the Facebook app from that one too, all because Facebook’s recent update has asked for permissions no one in their right mind would give Facebook. Continue reading

Hey Facebook – can you tell me who my perfect match is?

PrivacyBig Data and Social Media: Americans can’t give their privacy away fast enough…

Big Data just keeps getting bigger and biggerer, and it seems like if you have enough data you can figure out damned near anything. Last year we had the case of Target telling a Minneapolis man his teenaged daughter was pregnant before she did. Now it seems like Facebook knows who you’re involved with whether you reveal it or not. Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

The UNSHARE button: Can we all just step away from the propaganda?

Our social media activities would benefit from a dose of critical thinking.

A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on. – Terry Pratchett

I had an exchange with my sister earlier about something she had shared on Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, it’s the one alleging that 11 US states now have “More People on Welfare than they do Employed.” Hint number one: cluelessness regarding the mysteries of punctuation. And no, I won’t link to it. Continue reading

Can somebody ‘splain to me how the heck Klout works?

I have a Klout account. If you don’t know about Klout, it’s basically a new, high-tech way of stroking your ego and keeping track of how important you are. And I am all about that.

Problem is, I can’t figure out how it works. Oh, I get the basic concept: the more people like and follow and share your stuff on major social networks, the better. Especially Facebook and Twitter. But it professes to also count WordPress, YouTube, LinkedIn, G+, Foursquare, Instagram, Tumblr, Blogger, Last.FM and Flickr. I don’t use all these services, but I have connected all the accounts that I do have.

My first issue arises with the fact that they’ll only let you link one account with each service. See, I run four Twitter accounts – one personal, one for Black Dog Strategic (my business site), one for S&R and another for 5280 Lens Mafia, the awesome new photoblog. I also have the bridge for my personal and business Facebooks as well as a few others, including the S&R page. And I host several blogs at WordPress, including Scholars & Rogues, my business site and Lullaby Pit, my personal site. There is some overlap here and there, but we’re talking about very different audiences in most cases.

Which means that you cannot conceivably measure my influence, such as it is, if you limit me to one account per network. You can’t get close. As I see it, this is a problem in the methodology. Not that I’m vain or anything. I just care about services getting it right.

Even if I accept the one account rule, though, the results I get still make no sense. You can change from one connected account to another and the results either don’t change or they change in the wrong direction. For instance, the S&R Twitter feed has more followers and gets more retweets than my personal account, so if I unhitch Klout from the docslammy account and hook it up to the S&R account, my Klout score should go up, right? Nope.

An even more baffling example: up until a few days ago I had Klout linked to my Lullaby Pit WordPress site. But I figured that if I’m using Klout, I might as well maximize it, because my future hangs in the balance. So I switched the connection from the Pit to the Scholars & Rogues site, which does massively more traffic. Heck, I might get less than 100 looks a week at Lullaby Pit, but S&R has been blowing the lid off lately. My recent life on Mars post drove significantly more traffic in a few days than the Pit did in the last year.

So this change should have caused my Klout score to go up, right? Like, by a lot. Nope. It actually went DOWN a point.

There are two messages in this for the folks at Klout. First, I’m whiny and I want everybody to pay attention to me.

Second, and more important, is that your service is of no value if people don’t know what the scores mean. You want recruiters and managers to employ your results in things like hiring decisions, but only a chimp is going to do that if the methodology is this unreliable. At an elementary level, if you’re measuring X, and X is good, when X goes up the score should go up.

Right now you have a useless metric that confuses and disappoints us hapless vanity seekers and provides no meaningful value whatsoever to that business community you really need to buy in.

Might want to look into it….

Mark Zuckerberg: Is it time for Facebook's boy genius to go?

Today’s LA Times asks a good question: Is Mark Zuckerberg in over his hoodie as Facebook CEO?

Business writers Walter Hamilton and Jessica Guynn dig into an issue that I suspect some of us have seen before, and it’s remarkable that the clamor over Zuck specifically hasn’t been louder for some time.

Should Mark Zuckerberg, the social media visionary but neophyte corporate manager, step aside as CEO to let a more seasoned executive run the multibillion-dollar company? Continue reading

Facebook's bad year just got worse

It’s an interesting time to be Facebook. You know, as in the old Chinese curse “may you live in interesting times.”

They’ve been the target of freedom and privacy advocates for some time. All the way back in 2008 I was talking about the company’s anti-privacy tendencies and arguing that things were only going to get worse for the citizenry. More recently, I called them the most congenitally dishonest company in America, and I’m waiting for evidence that proves me wrong.

But these days, us privacy ankle-biters are the least of Mr. Zuckerberg’s concerns. You’re no doubt aware of the debacle surrounding the company’s IPO. They opened at 38, then all hell broke loose, and as I type they’re trading at 20 and change. Continue reading

Facebook: the most congenitally dishonest company in America

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

Did you know you have a Facebook email address? Maybe you did and maybe you didn’t. But if you have a Facebook account you have a Facebook email. And that email is now your default email on FB.

WTF? You didn’t do that. NOBODY would do that. As Kashmir Hill writes at Forbes, it’s a lame attempt by our friends at Facebook to force their service on you. Gervais Markham is even more pointed:

In other words, Facebook silently inserted themselves into the path of formerly-direct unencrypted communications from people who want to email me. Continue reading

The Saverin follies rumble on

So there seems to be a firestorm over the issue of whether Facebook co-founder and Brazilian-born Eduardo Saverin should have given up his US citizenship. While some on the Right have apparently taken this as a vindication that the US tax system is one step away from the Apocalypse, and we should therefore celebrate Saverin’s courage or something, the position on the left, if I can characterize it as a position, is that Saverin deserves his own special circle in hell. Mistermix over at Balloon Juice is outraged. Josh Marshall at TPM is scandalized, and is still devoting multiple posts to the subject. The Nation is fuming. The nerve of this guy. And the comments. Jeez, it’s like stepping into the comments at NRO. The level of invective is comparable, as is the level of knowledge on occasion, since so many people apparently derive their sense of history and current events from movies. Of course, US companies, as we mention below, do this from time to time, and the outrage level has been considerably lower.

Oh, honestly. Grow up. Continue reading

An important life lesson, courtesy of Facebook and Amendment One

Facebook reminded me of an important lesson this morning.

When I was young, I was an idiot. A well-intentioned idiot, to be sure. And in my defense, it must be said that I was probably less of an idiot than most kids my age. But still, I look back on the things I did, the things I believed, the insecurities and the ignorance and the utter five-alarm cluelessness that once ruled my life like a petulant child emperor and I can’t help being embarrassed. I know, kids will be kids, and it’s true that there were moments of rampant joy that I will likely never equal again. Still.

Through the years I have learned. Lots. I’ve seen more of my country and even a bit of the world beyond, although not enough. I’ve met people from just about everywhere and gotten to know them a little. Continue reading

Forget free speech. What does clicking "Like" on Facebook even mean?

Explicit SemanticsOn Friday, the Chicago Tribune posted an AP article by Brock Vergakis about a recent federal court decision as to whether “liking” a page on Facebook constitutes free speech. In brief, employees “liked” a competitor’s Facebook page. The employer (a sheriff running for re-election) fired them. Fired employees sue. Plaintiff’s claim, paraphrased? “Our first amendment rights have been violated.”

Now, as anyone who reads even a little of my occasional screed knows, I’m a huge fan of free speech. I love that I live in a nation where I am free to say or express whatever comes to mind within certain reasonable bounds. Continue reading

Is it a felony when companies ask for Facebook passwords? My letter to the FBI…

Network SecurityIt has recently come to my attention that you thought it would be really clever to ask prospective employees for their Facebook passwords so that you could peek under the hood and see all the goodies about them that they don’t care to make public. I’m not entirely sure what it is you hoped to gain by this malicious little bit of snoopery, but I can assure you that, were our roles reversed, I would certainly not hire the likes of someone like you who thinks this is a good idea.

First, let’s visit the patently obvious. You seek to hire individuals that, for whatever reason, are willing to give their private, sensitive information to someone they barely know. Is that seriously the kind of security risk you intend to hire? If so, you’re a moron.

Second, let’s take a look at the slightly less obvious, Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. You might remember this document. It’s the one you blithely ignored when you decided it would be a great fucking idea to compromise the security of people’s accounts for your own nefarious purposes. Here’s a few choice bits you should read more closely, or even at all, for that matter. Continue reading