The case against Facebook

But Googlers can also make a strong case that Google makes valuable contributions to the information climate. I learn useful, real information via Google every day. And while web search is far from a perfect technology, Google really does usually surface accurate, reliable information on the topics you search for. Facebook’s imperative to maximize engagement, by contrast, lands it in an endless cycle of sensationalism and nonsense.

I’m not sure I’d give Google as much of a moral edge over Facebook. Both are focused on optimising engagement. That’s pretty much a necessity given their business models. At the same time, Facebook does seem to turn engagement into an art form.

Courtesy of Vox in “The case against Facebook“.

Jews, still trending after 2,000 years

Twitter_trends_-_Jews_and_IsraelisNow and then I look at the trending topics that Twitter presents me with. They usually have some variety based on current affairs in our region but two trending topics seem to be constant fixtures: #Jews and #Israelis.

Sure, Israel and Israelis are in the news a lot and have been for a few decades. We are a convenient target for a variety of organisations that are allied with Palestinians or just looking for ways to target Jews without actually referring to Jews.

The #Jews trending topic amazes me, though. Clearly some cultural fixations don’t wane. Despite numbering in the tens of millions (I believe there are less than 20 million Jews in the world), we remain a popular topic of discussion after more than 2,000 years.

That being the case, is it still appropriate to have #Jews as a trending topic on Twitter? If we are a constant subject of discussion and debate, surely we should be elevated to something along the lines of “Constant Source of Consternation” or “Given Topic of Conversation”?

If we have been trending for so long, surely we have transcended merely “trending”?

In the meantime, here is the latest news about “Jews” on Twitter. I’ve filtered out what Twitter regards as not being “Top tweets” in the hope of achieving some measure of quality control:

“… the whole stream is just noise”, the state of news media

The state of news media
Reading newspapers

A depressing thought from Om Malik about the state of much of the news media these days. Fortunately there are still sources of insightful analysis that is worth reading. You just have to dig a little deeper to find them.

One of the current downsides of news blogging is that we have atomized it to a point where the whole stream is just noise. In the tech industry, funding news and HR moves have been fetishized to a point where there’s no point checking anything. Companies are getting smart and spewing so much PR content that everything and anything seems all the same — important and unimportant, both at the same time.

There is a metaphorical silver lining, though:

I know one thing: there is so little context to what we read that when we find something intelligent, we actually read it, even when there are annoying banners or native ads or teeth-whitening messages.

But be sure the read Malik’s whole post. As with all of his work, it is well worth the read.

Source: A rainy day & I’m thinking about the current state of media – Om Malik

Image credit: Igor Trepeshchenok

Portrait photography lesson for Donald Trump

Portrait of Donald Trump from Quartz
Credit: Quartz

Quartz’s article about a tangle with President-elect Trump about a photograph CNN used for a publication about the 2016 Presidential Elections is pretty instructive.

According to Quartz’s Johnny Simon, CNN’s photographer wasn’t granted access to Trump for follow-up photos after his election and resorted to photographing Trump from the crowd at his victory party. The resulting photographs weren’t as flattering as studio photographs made previously.

Trump apparently complained about the victory party photograph used for the second edition of the CNN publication and Simon made a good point:

The dustup around Unprecedented teaches a pretty obvious lesson for the president-elect: If Trump wants better pictures of himself, the first step would be to let photographers in.

Source: Donald Trump’s criticism over the cover of CNN’s “Unprecedented” illustrates a pitfall in portrait photography — Quartz

Credibility, journalism in the Trump era and other news

Reading the news

The Content Strategist has a news roundup that is worth reading. It is somewhat political. At the same time, it includes a number of articles gathered from various news publications that make for very interesting reading. I am particularly interested in the piece about credibility on Current Affairs:

Current Affairs editor Nathan J. Robinson lays out, with convincing evidence, the many hypocrisies of the journalism establishment, and how the media’s clickbait sensationalism, lack of transparency, and centrist-liberal bent are all partly to blame for the current crisis of misinformation.

Source: ‘The Necessity of Credibility,’ and 6 Other Stories You Should Read

Confessions of a police assassin: fine journalism

The Guardian has a long form, investigative piece detailing confessions of a police assassin which is also a great example of fine journalism. The article is titled “Confessions of a killer policeman” and it definitely falls into what many would consider TL;DR.

Just when people predict the death of good quality, long form journalism, I look to publications like The Guardian that still invest time and money into important work like this.

I don’t always agree with everything The Guardian publishes but this kind of journalism is worth supporting. The Guardian is also one of the many publications testing alternative revenue models. In particular, it offers a membership option where readers can make regular contributions to support the publication and receive more value in the process.

My theory about the future of news is that we will see high quality, investigative journalism become a niche that its readers will pay for as mainstream media skews towards the inane.

I hope I am at least correct that great journalism will survive into the future. The prospect of a world dominated by meaningless clickbait is depressing.

Image credit: Pixabay

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:

View story at Medium.com

Image credit: kaboompics

When 140 characters are not enough to rant

One of the big pieces of “news” in the last few days is that Twitter may stop counting links and images in the 140 characters permitted for tweets:

While there is other news, this one seems to have the media in an absolute frenzy. Bloomberg reported the news in an article titled “Twitter to Stop Counting Photos and Links in 140-Character Limit“. The key paragraph is this one:

The social media company will soon stop counting photos and links as part of its 140-character limit for messages, according to a person familiar with the matter. The change could happen in the next two weeks, said the person who asked not to be named because the decision isn’t yet public. Links currently take up 23 characters, even after Twitter automatically shortens them. The company declined to comment.

Largely unsubstantiated speculation

Read that carefully. What Bloomberg said is the following:

  1. Some anonymous person said Twitter will stop including links and images (well, image links, effectively) in the 140 characters limit.
  2. This might happen in the next two weeks.
  3. Twitter declined to comment.

While all of this might happen, this news report is pretty much unsubstantiated speculation (well, aside from the “person familiar with the matter” who could be a guy who passed an open window where someone who looked like a Twitter employee said something about 140 characters and links).

This speculation has then been reported as pseudo-fact by a variety of other publications. The Verge, for example, reported this:

Twitter is planning on letting users craft longer tweets by not counting photos and links toward its 140-character limit, according to a report from Bloomberg today. The change may happen in the coming weeks, and it would remove one of the more annoying product hurdles that has persisted on Twitter for years. Links and photos currently hog 23 and 24 characters respectively.

Huh?

I’m not quite sure what to make of this. For one thing, seeing so much copy written about a lot of speculation, especially after the whole 10,000 characters fiasco not too long ago which probably had more credibility because Jack Dorsey made some obscure reference to the possibility.

Secondly, Twitter reportedly declined to make any comment. In other words, Twitter either won’t confirm it because –

  • it’s just another rumour about something Twitter is still thinking about;
  • Twitter isn’t going to make the change; or
  • Twitter is being coy because it thinks this sort of frenzy might just convince all those Facebook users to switch.

Lastly, surely this sort of “news” isn’t worth all this attention? We’re literally talking about roughly two dozen characters where people either post multiple tweets to express a whole thought or do what Dorsey did back in January and publish an image of a lot of text. To add to that, a lot of people even publish thoughts that can’t be contained in 140 characters in those things we old-timers call “blogs” (it’s a real thing and it’s in the dictionary).

It might happen

If this change comes to pass, it will be a good thing. Twitter shouldn’t be counting links and media in the already constrained character limit and commentators have been calling for this change for years.

It won’t change the tweetstorms, tweets attaching images of longer texts and other stuff. It will just mean that users can probably avoid publishing multi-part tweets when they happen to be a word or two over the limit and still want their tweets to be intelligible.

Making this change won’t bring about peace in our lifetime; fix global warming or make the wifi on my train work any better. It really isn’t that big a deal, people.