Mindsets Policy issues Social Web

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

Business and work Social Web Writing

Journalism as a service

I just read Jeff Jarvis’ Medium post titled “Returning Scarcity to News” and especially appreciated his argument for journalism as a service, rather than as a commodity content business:

Only when we reconceive of journalism as a service rather than as a factory that churns out a commodity we call content, only when we measure our value not by attention to what we make but instead by the positive impact we have in lives and communities, and only when we create business models that reward quality and value will we build that quality and value.

News and entertainment publishers are increasingly looking to major platforms like Google and Facebook for wider distribution of their content and alternative revenue options. It’s easy to understand why: these platforms have far greater reach than any single publisher and with ad blocking increasingly hurting publishers, they need to do something. And soon.

I’m cautiously optimistic that ad blocking will prove to be a positive trend that forces publishers to focus on better content and improve the overall ecosystem. I think we will have to wait a couple years for business models to settle and the dust to settle before we can draw any conclusions.

Still, I am hopeful that good quality content will win.

I recommend reading the rest of Prof Jarvis’ post on Medium:

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Image credit: kaboompics

Blogs and blogging Mindsets People Writing

Hey IOL, it’s ok to link to Gareth Cliff’s blog post

I just read an article on IOL titled “Gareth Cliff pours out his heart in blog“. I noticed that while IOL mentions Cliff’s “blog post [which he wrote] to share how he feels about M-Net’s decision to fire him”, IOL didn’t bother to link to his actual blog post, titled “While We Were Sleeping  #SparrowGate2“.

Journalism professor (and general expert on matters such as this), Jeff Jarvis wrote the following in his book “Geeks Bearing Gifts” (see his blog post highlighting this, here, and the full chapter of his book, here):

Media people tend to believe that content has intrinsic value — that is why they say people should pay for it and why some object when Google quotes snippets from it. But in an ecosystem of links online, new economics are in force. Online, content with no links has no value because it has no audience. Content gains value as it gains links. That formula was the key insight behind Google: that links to content are a signal of its value; thus, the more links to a page from sites that themselves have more links, the more useful, relevant, or valuable that content is likely to be.

IOL would probably object to people citing its articles without, at the very least, linking back to the source articles. It is only responsible and appropriate that its journalists link to online sources they reference in their articles. Links are the currency of online media (it’s a relatively old concept but it still applies).

When you just take material from someone without the courtesy of a link, at a bare minimum, you devalue their contribution and undermine your own insistence that you be credited for your work. If you don’t want people to exit your site when they click on the link, just modify the link properties to open a new tab or window. If your article is as engaging as you think it is, your reader will stick around and keep reading.

About the article title: This is just me being pedantic. Cliff didn’t pour “his heart in blog”, it is a blog post. The blog is the whole thing. The blog post is the atomic unit of the blog. Like I said, I’m just being pedantic IOL isn’t the only publication that makes that mistake.

Image credit: Chain Links by Unsplash, sourced from Pixabay and released under a CC0 Dedication.

Business and work Mindsets Policy issues

Technopanic and bad laws

Jeff Jarvis has covered German publishers’ efforts to prevent Google and other search engines (but mostly Google) from linking to their publications and quoting snippets of their content unless a Google pays for the privilege.

These publishers seem to be ignoring the fact that Google sends a substantial amount of traffic to them in the process, at least in public discourse. Jarvis’ post titled “Oh, those Germans” summarises the German offensive and how they have, essentially, backtracked because they didn’t seem to anticipate what the effect of Google not linking to their publications would have on their bottom lines. He also quotes from a longer essay he wrote which nicely captures the broader implications of these sorts of campaigns:

I worry about Germany and technology. I fear that protectionism from institutions that have been threatened by the internet — mainly media giants and government — and the perception of a rising tide of technopanic in the culture will lead to bad law, unnecessary regulation, dangerous precedents, and a hostile environment that will make technologists, investors, and partners wary of investing and working in Germany.

German publishers may be leading the charge but I don’t think this will stop there. It is only a matter of time before similarly myopic content owners will attempt to prevent Google and similar companies from leveraging their content for mutual benefit. This sort of approach is already prevalent in the entertainment industry which has only recently begun to explore better business models.

The risk of “bad law, unnecessary regulation” is especially worrying because legislators tend to operate in extended timeframes, create impractical laws that are technology-specific and, increasingly, too rigid to be practically useful in an environment which is remarkably dynamic.

Hopefully the industry will self-correct, even if it blames its villain for its back peddling.