Tag Archives: Twitter

Spewing From the Facebook News Feed

In a sharp article that takes a curious turn at the end, Derek Thompson discusses the Facebook News Feed and how it’s influenced by users. The broader and more important point speaks to the role of Facebook as a news source and how it shapes the public’s attention on important issues and conversations.

The News Feed is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated mirror of its readers’ preferences—and it’s fairly clear that news isn’t one of them. We simply prefer stories that fulfill the very purpose of Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm, to show us a reflection of the person we’d like to be, to make us feel, to make us smile, and, most simply, to remind us of ourselves.

In Thompson’s view, since each user has the power to alter her News Feed, we can conclude that evocative and emotional stories are extremely popular on Facebook because users prefer engaging with these stories. We choose to like and share this kind of content and we prefer it over traditional journalism and “hard” news. Thompson believes that Facebook has become a portal to entertainment-focused stories because that’s what users actually want to consume.

The problem I see in this line of reasoning is how little attention is paid to Facebook’s own control of the algorithms that determine what users see. In Thompson’s essay he makes it seem as if users have full power to create the News Feed just because a user can friend/de-friend and follow certain pages. But I think Thompson confuses the ability to alter the News Feed with transparency and control over it. Except for Facebook employees, nobody knows what the News Feed algorithms look like. Thompson also fails to acknowledge that even machine-learning algorithms were created by humans and contain very human biases both unintentional and by design (which news sources are favored/what kind of behavior determines that a user actually likes a story).

Facebook’s interest is to maximize user engagement. By measuring likes, shares, and comments, the company is improving ways to keep us on the News Feed. But I think the question “How best to retain the audience?” is different from “What are the deeper preferences for consuming news?” Thompson, however, thinks they are the same.

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From Tweet to Ad to Mini Modern Scandal

AO Scott, movie critic of the New York Times, writes a personal essay on movie marketing and Twitter. After one of his tweets is altered and turned into a print movie ad, a strange conversation sparks.

Here we begin a rapid descent into a wormhole created by the collision of movie-awards campaigning and paracritical chirping. The world may be divided between those who think Twitter defines the boundaries of the universe and those who don’t know what it is. It may also be divided between those who follow every surge and stumble of the “race” to the Oscars and those who might or might not remember to tune into ABC on March 2. Somehow, I have found myself in the Venn diagram circle of hell where two pointless obsessions — with words and statues that, by any reasonable measure of significance, mean nothing — converge, and if you are still reading, I have dragged you along. As they say on Twitter: #sorrynotsorry.

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Foucault and Social Media

Rob Horning of The New Inquiry discusses Foucault and the way we speak, confess and perform on social media.

Sharing can be simply volunteering the self for ridicule, purging, nullification, ritual flaying — self-branding of a different kind. It’s why people sign up for demeaning reality TV shows, as Wayne Koestenbaum suggests in Humiliation. It’s part of why we sign up for Facebook. Moments of humiliation, Koestenbaum notes, “may be execrable and unendurable” but are also “genuine” in a “world that seems increasingly filled with fakeness.” Social media neatly increase that feeling of the world’s phoniness while providing a means for the sort of self-exposure that combats it. As more behavior seems inauthentic and “performative,” we have greater need to expose ourselves and have our own authenticity vindicated through the embarrassment this causes us.

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Snapchat Stories

From the Snapchat blog: “Snapchat Stories add Snaps together to create a narrative. When you add a Snap to your Story it lives for 24 hours before it disappears, making room for the new. Your Story always plays forward, because it makes sense to share moments in the order you experience them.”

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GigaOm Book Review – Cybersexism: Sex Power and Gender on the Internet

GigaOm published my book review of Laurie Penny’s new book on the misogyny that is rampant online.

Daring in style — fluttering from explanatory journalism to lyrical reflection to pistol-cocked cultural critique — Penny sustains a provoking discussion that is rigorous and kinetic. She smartly observes that patriarchy, not the surveillance state, is the original panopticon. And she condemns those prejudiced naysayers who think all of this is innocuous: the ones who accuse feminists of harboring sanctimonious “butthurt”; of not “just dealing with it;” of being dumb women who continue to talk.

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Wall Street Rewired: Apple, Icahn, and the $17 Billion Tweet

“With just two tweets, Carl Icahn raised the value of the Apple empire by $17 billion. That’s $8.5 billion per tweet, and about $62 million per character — including spaces,” writes Cade Metz of Wired.

Indeed, the Securities and Exchange Commission has recently said that companies can use social media to disclose financial information — provided they warn investors that it might happen. Icahn’s investment outfit, Icahn Enterprises, did warn the market, saying — in a notice filed with the SEC a day earlier — that he intended to “use Twitter from time to time to communicate with the public about our company and other issues.”

And even that may not have been necessary. With his Tuesday afternoon tweets, the only thing Icahn revealed about his own company is that it owns some Apple stock. You could argue that such a basic disclosure didn’t require formal notice with the SEC.

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Why Vine Just Won’t Die

Vine and Instagram

Gif by Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

There is a struggle being waged for mobile video. Facebook has Instagram and Twitter has Vine. Even though Instagram’s video has a suite of features that make it a more powerful tool, Vine’s popularity persists. Mat Honan of WIRED thinks this has to do with Vine’s off-the-cuff youth culture, it’s dedicated community of minorities, it’s unique cultural force.

Facebook and Twitter are slugging it out to be your go-to social updating service. After the former snagged Instagram, the latter launched its own picture-sharing service. That’s spilled over into video, where there’s a proxy war going on between Facebook’s Instagram and Twitter’s Vine. Instagram appeared to be winning this–handily–based just on sharing. But Vine has proved surprisingly resilient, and as it turns out, it looks like it has a hidden killer feature: a distinct culture.

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Facebook Courts Celebrities; Builds Twittery Tools

“It’s all part of a bigger push to encourage more “public” content on the site, beyond the stuff only you and your friends care about. Facebook wants you to spend more time talking about things in the news, or stuff you see on TV. And it would like you to pay attention to things your favorite celebrities do on the site,” reports Peter Kafka at AllThingsD

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The Olds Don’t Know Where Facebook Is

With a humorous bite Becca Hafter writes at The Awl:

But Olds don’t have Facebooks. They’re “on” Facebook. The Olds need a preposition when they talk about Facebook because they do not automatically locate themselves on the Internet. But their word choice serves an additional function. Their constant verbal reification of operating in (on) a space that is not theirs but Facebook’s works pretty well to keep themselves aware of the fact that Facebook owns everything they post. This is something millennials love to disregard.

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