Some perspective on Facebook to for the maddening crowds

It’s almost fashionable to bash Facebook at the moment. To a large degree, the criticism is well deserved. At the same time, we should maintain some perspective on the reports, and resist the urge to be carried away by the maddening crowds.

I read Jeff Jarvis’ post titled “Facebook. Sigh.” recently. He makes an argument that Facebook’s executives aren’t necessarily malicious, they’re just really not thinking through the implications of what they do, or even why shouldn’t do what they do.

None of this is to say that Facebook is not fucking up. It is. But its fuckups are not so much of the kind The Times, The Guardian, cable news, and others in media dream of in their dystopias: grand theft user data! first-degree privacy murder! malignant corporate cynicism! war on democracy! No, Facebook’s fuckups are cultural in the company — as in the Valley — which is to say they are more complex and might go deeper.

For example, I was most appalled recently when Facebook — with three Jewish executives at the head — hired a PR company to play into the anti-Semitic meme of attacking George Soros because he criticized Facebook. What the hell were they thinking? Why didn’t they think?

Jeff Jarvis

I recently blogged about Facebook sharing private messages with various companies. While we probably don’t know all the details, this clarification from Facebook is not unreasonable:

Why did the messaging partners have read/write/delete messaging access?

That was the point of this feature — for the messaging partners mentioned above, we worked with them to build messaging integrations into their apps so people could send messages to their Facebook friends.

Specifically, we made it possible for people to message their friends what music they were listening to in Spotify or watching on Netflix directly from the Spotify or Netflix apps (see screen shots below), to message links to Dropbox folders (like a collection of photographs) from the Dropbox app, and to message receipts from money transfers through the Royal Bank of Canada app.

In order for you to write a message to a Facebook friend from within Spotify, for instance, we needed to give Spotify “write access.” For you to be able to read messages back, we needed Spotify to have “read access.” “Delete access” meant that if you deleted a message from within Spotify, it would also delete from Facebook. No third party was reading your private messages, or writing messages to your friends without your permission. Many news stories imply we were shipping over private messages to partners, which is not correct.

Facts About Facebook’s Messaging Partnerships

One of the factors that Facebook points out is that they share your personal information in terms of their privacy policy, so with your permission. The big question is how familiar you are with Facebook’s privacy policy?

James Ball tweeted a similar criticism of reports about the private message issue:

It’s worthwhile reading Jarvis’ post:

Featured image by Thought Catalog

Creating good through open source

I really like videos like this:

Open source as a way of doing things has such amazing potential to make our world so much better.

Watching videos like this tend to prompt me to revisit my calendar and try find regular blocks of time I can dedicate to my dusty coding projects.

A perspective on what it’s like to be a Jew in the United Kingdom at the moment

Replied to

Thank you for the thread. You offer a valuable perspective on what it feels like to be a Jew in the UK.

You shouldn’t be victimised for being a Jew, certainly not because of a distorted view of what our government is doing to keep us safe, here in Israel.

Modi'in-Maccabim-Re'ut
25°C few clouds

Should You Quit Facebook?

Whether you’re concerned about recent news about the extent of Facebook’s tracking or not, this discussion is worth watching:

Be a better man

Today’s random sampling of the crap men still do to women in 2017 is both a source of despair, and inspiration to be a better man.

https://twitter.com/GucciClout/status/944380469226897408

I’m not just talking about starting in 2018, I’m talking about starting today, right now.

https://twitter.com/thisisnadiaali/status/944727462101094400

Why wait until the new year to start figuring out how to be a better human being?

It’s 2017, we can send people into space, and talk to our phones. Surely we men can come to terms with this idea that the women we live and work with are just as smart and capable as we are (often smarter and more capable) .

Good grief, men, this is what it means to man up!

Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

Celebrating Women in Tech with the awesome #WITBragDay meme

Three women in technology collaborating with laptops

My favourite meme at the moment is the awesome #WITBragDay meme on Twitter that celebrates women in tech. It seems to have been started by Alice Goldfuss with her tweet:

The result is tweet after tweet of pure inspiration from women in the technology industry. I spent some time reading tweets this morning when I woke up and I found myself smiling because these stories are just awesome.

These women, and others like them, are the perfect response to the odious Damore memo. These stories are also the stories I want both our kids to know, especially our daughter. Heck, these stories inspire me as I learn to code. Here is a selection of some of my favourites:

I’ve created a Twitter Moment for the tweets I love the most. You can find that here too (it may be more complete and up to date):

Image credit: The #WOCinTech collection on Flickr, licensed CC BY 4.0

You can read more about the #WOCinTech project here too: “#WOCinTechChat – Promoting diversity in tech through stock photos

The James Damore memo can’t negate talented women or their work

What I find disturbing about the James Damore memo about men’s and women’s comparative capabilities (aside from the memo itself) is that its publication seems to negate women’s daily achievements in the eyes of so many men who read it.

Even the mighty pen can’t change a reality that talented women create each day. It can’t undo the extra work that women have to do just to appear comparable to men in men’s estimations[1].

Anyone who agrees with Damore’s conclusions about women’s abilities based on biology, even just a little, clearly needs to look up once in a while, and pay attention to what women are actually accomplishing.

A memo doesn’t negate talented women or the work they do. Although, we can’t say the same for its proponents’ link to reality.

Postscript: Also read Jeremy Keith’s post titled “Intolerable“.


  1. It can’t even offer a compelling explanation for why men’s estimations have any real value.

AltPlatform and a conversation about the Open Web

AltPlatform is a new conversation about the Open Web

There is a new conversation about the Open Web and it’s called AltPlatform.org.

The Open Web is increasingly important as the major silos online attract more users and become more insular to maintain their dominance. A prominent example of a silo is Facebook and its service ecosystem.

The Open Web stands as an important counterpoint to the siloed Web. In a sense, it’s a lot like the contrast between open source software and proprietary systems. Proprietary services tend to be easier to use, even if they are harmful on the long run.

As important as it is, the Open Web also a largely invisible theme because the vast majority of the Web’s denizens are happy to use siloed services without much thought about the implications of investing so much in them.

The open Web is a “global public resource”

I’ve been a big believer in the Open Web for some time and I was pretty excited to discover that Richard MacManus and a few other writers have launched AltPlatform.org, a non-profit publication focused on the Open Web:

What do we mean by “Open Web”? Firstly, we want to experiment with open source (like this WordPress.org blog) and open standards (like RSS). We’re also using the word open to signify a wider, boundary-less view of the Web. In other words, we want to look for opportunities beyond the Walled Gardens – proprietary platforms like Facebook and Twitter where you don’t own your own data, you have little control over your news feeds, and you have to live by certain rules.

Our desire to explore the Open Web explains why we’ve created a new blog, rather than simply start a Facebook Page or sign up to Medium. We’re a group blog because we want to create thoughtful, inspiring posts that link liberally to others. We want a proper archive of content, which isn’t possible on Facebook or Medium. We want our feed of content to flow across the Web using RSS. Heck, we might even resurrect trackbacks.

The chances are that the Open Web, as a theme and as a call to action, will have relatively limited appeal to people, generally speaking.

Most people want to share stuff and check their news. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other similar services make this really easy and you don’t need to build a site and maintain it to do that.

Open Web technologies also tend not to pass the “my Mom uses it” test. This is an adoption killer unless you’re sharing with communities who are already using alternative platforms.

Still, the Open Web is worth protecting and talking more about. It’s pretty encouraging to read about how Open Web technologies can be used for the type of sharing we have come to expect in more closed services, even if it requires a bit of tinkering at the moment.

AltPlatform.org looks like an important part of that conversation and I’m pretty excited to participate in that conversation going forward. If this appeals to you too, you should definitely read the Open Web Manifesto:

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One suggestion I’d make is that MacManus and Co. license their work under a CC license that fosters sharing and reuse. It sort of goes with the territory.

Image credit: Toa Heftiba