April 25th & 26th
287 Kent Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Abstract Submission Deadline: January 19th
What does it mean that digital technologies are increasingly a part of...
Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
The authors of this NY Times piece ask an interesting question about the compatibility of Snapchat’s imagined world and Facebook’s:
As for Snapchat, its compatibility with Facebook is unclear. Snapchat is centered on impermanence and offers privacy and anonymity. Facebook constantly pushes users to share more and is rooted in real-world identities and creating a permanent, largely public record of people’s daily lives and interactions.
Given these differences, the Snapchat bid looks like an attempt to corral back some of the cool factor in the form of young eyeballs. Three years ago, Snapchat did not even exist, and Facebook, with a valuation of $100 billion before its public offering, was the hot company. Now with younger users preferring Snapchat — which says it processes nearly as many photos as Facebook each day — Snapchat may well have the upper hand.
“It’s head-scratching,” said Christopher Poole, 25, the founder of 4chan, the message board. “From a business perspective, I understand it. But from a cultural perspective, it’s like, ‘Wait, what?’ ”
Mr. Poole said Facebook’s aggressive pursuit of Snapchat may point to an identity crisis of sorts.
“Does that mean that they’re willing to embrace an alternative to Facebook identity, or does it mean that they feel that threatened by it that they’d leave their own wheelhouse?”
But what of the larger question: is society (starting with the Snapchatting young) rejecting the Facebook notion of a single, unchanging identity and a global social network based on publicy? Yes. The fall of Facebook has started. Peak Facebook has already passed or will soon. Why?
The Benthamite underpinnings of Facebook are becoming unpopular. Young people in particular don’t want their teachers, parents, employers, and even all their friends to know everything going on in their lives. Oh, and the government. People want to have multiple, contextually defined identities, different circles of knowing, different non-overlapping rules of attraction. Everything is not everything.
Google is involved in a huge brouhaha now about imposing Google+ ‘real identities’ on YouTube commenting, which is an echo of the same shout for identity freedom.
My bet for the next answer is on social operating systems, although Google is moving down a dark road with Google+ identities, and Apple seems oddly reluctant to do anything social, natively. Perhaps the failure of Apple’s Ping has frightened them off it.
Maybe we should be on the lookout for some crazy developers that build streaming at the OS level, or near to it. Dropbox and other virtual distributed file systems are close enough to do something like that, constantly syncing in the background, and implementing a distributed model of sharing. Imagine if Dropbox supported plugins to provide the equivalent of Snapchat, or Facebook-like sharing of updates with friends, but where the user can define the visibility of interactions, not Facebook. And — if they want — users could opt to share some things in closed contexts, like private accounts on Twitter, and others in more open settings. People are after a spectrum of identity sharing, and Facebook just won’t go there.
This week’s GigaOM Research Tweets, and my first customer timeline.
My first tweet, Oct 26 2006:
working on a big fat report
Nova Spivack, CEO Bottlenose | Twitter’s Lucrative Data Mining Business
Bernhard Warner, More Evidence Shows Teens Prefer Twitter, Reddit to Facebook
Pew and Piper Jaffray research form May show Facebook fatigue is growing for teenagers.
Charlie Warzel at Buzzfeed reported on a study from Stanford (Quantifying the Invisible Audience in Social Networks, Michael S. Bernstein, et al) that says that we all underestimate the size of our ‘audience’, by which the authors mean the number of followers that actually read what we post, and underestimate by a factor of four. Facebook News Feed manager Lars Backstrom responded, as discovered by Peter Kafka:
Peter Kafka, You Really Might Be Boring Your Facebook Friends
Here’s Facebook News Feed manager Lars Backstrom’s response to Warzel’s piece.* I approach Facebook PR very warily, but it’s entirely possible that Backstrom’s argument — if Facebook thought (normal) people wanted to see how many “views” they were racking up with their updates, Facebook would do it — is the truth, or something close to it.
But what Backstrom doesn’t do is respond to the much more interesting part of the BuzzFeed piece. That’s the part where Warzel reports on a Stanford research project that argues that most Facebook users consistently underestimate the size of the audience for their posts, by a factor of three or four.
One key theory proposed by the paper’s authors: Just because none of your pals are commenting on, liking or sharing something you wanted them to see doesn’t mean they didn’t see it. It’s entirely possible that they saw it, and didn’t care.
And it turns out that Backstrom didn’t respond to that part of Warzel’s post for a good reason. His company participated in the Stanford study — it provided Facebook log data for the research — and he’s generally okay with its results and conclusions.
“Most people are not doing a great job of estimating the size of their audience,” he says. “It’s fine that most people don’t have a sophisticated understanding of who’s seeing their posts.”
I contrast this lack of feedback from Facebook and others with the stream of feedback on Tumblr. But even on Tumblr — which presents users with a sampling of the gestures that other users leave behind — likes, reblogs, replies — there is no unequivocal answer to the basic question: how many people saw this post, this tweet, this photo, this check-in, this status update?
And it’s evident that they could provide this information. The could collate the clicks and user’s scrolling behavior, along with the things we already see, like retweets and reblogs. But why don’t they?
One argument is that it’s hard. Well, getting Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter to scale was hard too, but they accomplished it.
Another more psychologically interesting argument — the one implicitly raised by Backstrom’s comments — is that people aren’t asking for it, because they don’t want to actually know.
Perhaps I should restate that. Offline, there is no way to know how much others care about what we say. With our close friends, we expect feedback: we mention something about our day at work to a friend at a bar, and he responds with his own tale of woe. But when we say something in a group of 10 — say in a business meeting — there is no norm that leads to us finding out if all the folks in the room are thinking through what we said, or paid attention to it at all. In real life we accept that social indeterminacy all the time.
So, maybe it comes as no surprise that people don’t expect to know how many actually read our tweets, while non-people like publishers, brands, and journalists would like to know. (Just kidding about the journalists being non-people. I think.)
Casey Chan, Bank of America’s Twitter Account Is One Really Really Dumb Robot
It’s a hilariously epic mistake by the official BofA Help Twitter account. When Twitter user @darthmarkh tweeted about how he was chased away by cops after drawing chalk in front of a New York City Bank of America that was pointing out how BofA was taking away people’s homes, the BofA Help Twitter account decided to jump in and asked @darthmarkh if he needed help with his account… completely ignoring the fact that @darthmarkh was eviscerating Bank of America right in front of its face.
It gets worse for BofA though. When other people jumped into @darthmarkh’s replies, they all get mentioned by the same BofA Help Twitter account with the same generic answers. It’s completely embarrassing because NO ONE is actually asking for help, they’re all just destroying Bank of America (with the ammo Bank of America is providing no less).
You’d think the robot behind these tweets would have better filters that would allow it to ignore people who don’t have Bank of America bank accounts and are clearly making fun of Bank of America but NOPE. You’d think there might be some human oversight but NOPE. It’s just large corporations making a fool of themselves on the Internet.
Joyce Carol Oates, cited by Frank Bruni in Tweeting Toward Sacrilege, after causing a brouhaha by tweeting about the apparent relationship between Islam and the mistreatment of women in Egypt. Oates is apparently unaware of the deeply repressive undertow of the web.