Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Facebook”

Twitter vs Facebook and blog stats

This blog got the biggest number of hits over the last 30 days on 21 February, when I re-announced an old post on Home Schooling and Bigotry on both Facebook and Twitter.

I just checked the blog stats for that day, and the home schooling post was the most popular. It was interesting, though, that 45 visitors were referred from Facebook, and only 2 from Twitter.

I’m not a great one for stats, and don’t often look at them, though I have noticed that since I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress the number of visitors dropped drastically and still hasn’t recovered. I moved it because the Blogger editor became more difficult to use.

But another blog I read, A Pilgrim in Narnia, had an article on blogging stats, and so I thought I’d take a closer look at them. And it seems that that blog, too, gets far more hits from Facebook than from Twitter.

Perhaps as a result of this, Twitter has started trying to imitate the Facebook way of doing things, and I suspect that that will cause them to lose a lot more ground a lot more quickly. Instead of doing what Twitter did well, the people at Twitter are trying to do what Facebook does, and doing it badly.

To start with, Twitter was a quick and concise way of sharing information, if necessary with links to where one could get more detail (so great for announcing blog posts). The 140 character limit ensured that. But then they added pictures, which made nonsense of the 140-character limit. Now, like Facebook, they are deciding what to show people, which means that big organisations get more exposure than individuals, and eventually the individuals will leave Twitter to the big organisations to tweet to each other.

There were other tools that enabled one to fine related material on blogs, but they’ve all killed themselves off, perhaps by trying, like Twitter, to emulate the Facebook model instead of doing something useful and unique. There were Technorati and BlogCatalog, which killed themselves off in that way.

So statistically, at any rate, Facebook seems to be one of the best ways of announcing blog posts at the moment

 

 

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Social networking and social media

Over the last 30 years or so we’ve seen a tremendous increase in electronic communication by computer networking. Thirty years ago I mainly communicated with distant friends and family by snail mail. Now I mainly use email, if I have their email address. And there are social networking web sites like Facebook and Twitter where you can find friends and family even if you’ve lost touch with them.

But though the internet in general, and social networking sites in particular, make communication easier, the owners of the sites seem to go to great lengths to place obstacles in the way, so that the potential of the internet for communication is never fully realised. One of the most notorious examples was when Facebook, without telling its users, changed every user’s email address in its directory to a Facebook address, and hid mail sent to that address in a place where no one could find it.

I’d like to make some suggestions for improving the utility of social networking to the users. They probably won’t be tried, because there is a huge clash of interests, so Facebook is perpetually fighting its users in order to manipulate them and sell them, offering them the minimum of what they want in order to keep stringing them along.

Other social networking sites have been less successful at this. They start offering something that people find useful, and gain a lot of users. They then sell the site to a big company that announces that they are going to improve the site, and remove the very thing that attracted users in the first place. Yahoo! was notorious for buying up such sites and killing them — for example Geocities, BlogLog and WebRing.

When BlogLog went, there was another similar site called BlogCatalog, but they tried making “improvements” that crippled the main thing that attracted users.

Yet another was Technorati, which was a very useful tool for finding blog posts on similar subjects by means of tags. It also showed a list of trending topics in blog posts, some of which I did not understand at all, but curiosity made me investigate some of them, and so I leant something about popular culture, and the meaning of words like Beyonce, Pokemon and Paris Hilton (no, not the hotel, the daughter of its owner). And one of the things that trended was Twitter. I didn’t see much point in Twitter at first, but when Technorati abandoned its main function, Twitter became a less satisfactory substitute.

friendsWhenever I link to a new blog from one of my WordPress blogs, there is a kind of social networking questionnaire. It’s an idea that’s been around for a long time, and I’ve filled in the information in the hope that someone will find a use for it one day. It’s called XFN, or the XHTML friends network, and you can read more about it here.

The rationale behind XFN’s categories of relationship is given here. While I don’t agree with all their decisions and categories, I think that it is a pretty good starting point, and that social networking sites like Facebook would be immensely improved if they instituted something like that.

In terms of XFN categories, all these are obviously "met". But otherwise, from left to right -- (1) friend kin colleague; (2) kin, friend; (3) me; (4) acquaintance (5) friend, colleague.

In terms of XFN categories, all these are obviously “met”. But otherwise, from left to right — (1) friend kin colleague; (2) kin, friend; (3) me; (4) acquaintance (5) friend, colleague.

The only thing I would add for a site like Facebook would be the time dimension — the “met” category can mean last week or 40 years ago. I find Facebook most useful for contacting old friends and far-away friends.

But the use of categories like the XFN ones could enable Facebook to improve their algorithms of what they show to users. At the moment Facebook shows me lots of stuff from some people in the “contact” category, people I have never met.

Allowing users to categorise posts would also help. Some categories might be family news, general news, professional news, humour, trivia, etc. And possibly an importance rating — I don’t want to learn of a death in the family after the funeral has taken place (as happened in a couple of cases recently), while a new bird seen in the garden might be of less importance.

Does anyone else think any of this would be useful if implemented by Facebook or some other social networking sites?

It’s a good thing that no one is reading this

… so why do I bother to write it?

Pointless, my favourite TV show

Pointless, my favourite TV show

It seems that when I post a link to a blog post on Facebook lots of people comment on Facebook (never on the blog itself) and haven’t read the post anyway. It sometimes worried me and made me think sometimes that blogging was a pointless activity.

Here was I taking all this trouble to write something, but nobody was reading it. And anyway the people whose opinions I was seeking never responded because Facebook never showed it to them. Facebook’s algorithms seem pretty pointless too. I have something like 470 friends on FB, and Facebook only shows me stuff from about 15 of them. I become friends with someone on FB, and Facebook shows me their posts for 3 days and then stops. So what’s the point?

But then I read this (from a link from Twitter), and thought I’d better stop worrying about it Why it’s a very good sign that people don’t read your content:

When I started out as a blogger, I had no idea what I was doing. I was working so hard, and creating content that was pretty darn good. And yet, nobody was reading my posts, commenting, or sharing. I was frustrated.

Pointless-3But if it’s all pointless anyway, what does it matter?

As that article points (oops!) out, it doesn’t matter whether people read it or not, so why bother to try to write anything coherent when no one is going to read it anyway just random stream of consciousness stuff will do and writing a blog post will be like a dog scratching itself to get rid of flees but why is my doing still scratching himself when I just put Frontline tick stuff on him three days ago? Ah, Frontline there’s a brand, and brands are the most important thing nowadays. Content is nothing, brands are all. I’ve seen web sites that ask you what you’re interested in and one of the important things to be interested in is brands not brands of anything — cars, shampoo, antitick stuff for dogs it doesn’t matter the important thing is brands. Not art literature books or anything just brands.

TelkomQuotaActually I haven’t been reading many links on Facebook myself lately either. I “like” it or not based on the headline, because if I go to the article itself this will happen –>

And waiting for web pages to load becomes like watching paint dry. Telkom does have a thing where you can buy more bandwidth and speed it up again, but it hasn’t been working for a week now, which makes Telkom Internet pretty pointless too.

So I’m not reading your content and you’re not reading my content, but that’s a good thing, according to the quoted article, which I bet you haven’t read either.

And so life is reduced to pointless click bait.

 

Protest against Facebook’s racism

Quite a number of people that I know on Facebook are not happy about Facebook’s racism, when they offered a French flag to cover one’s profile picture and urged people to Change your profile picture to support France and the people of Paris.

Lebanese Flag, posted on Facebook by Bruce Henderson

Lebanese Flag, posted on Facebook by Bruce Henderson

After the news that more than 120 people had been killed in terrorist attacks in the city, many people did change their profile pictures, but I and several others did not. It was not because we do not find the violence reprehensible, or that we do not sympathise with the victims. But we wondered why Facebook had not offered a similar option with the Lebanese flag the day before, when similar attacks had taken place in Beirut.

On Saturday a cousin’s husband posted a Lebanese flag (a cousin on the Hannan side of the family, in case anyone wants to know), and said the following:

Bruce Henderson

14 November at 12:08 ·

Today we see all the outpouring of sympathy for people I. Paris, but when will the western news puppets remember that on Thursday 41 people were killed in Beirut. Or is Lebanon not enough of a “friendly” nation. If you are gonna pray for Paris, remember Lebanon too. Terrorism is terrorism.

In the USA there has recently been a sustained attack by some people against the idea that all lives matter (if you don’t believe me, just Google “All lives matter”). And Facebook, by offering this option in one case, but not the other, appears to be part of this trend. In Facebook’s view, if Lebanese lives matter at all, they matter a lot less than French lives.

#BlackLivesMatter ? Not to Facebook

#BlackLivesMatter ? Not to Facebook

Earlier in the year, 147 students were victims of a terrorist massacre in Kenya — more than in Paris. Facebook never suggested that people change their profile picture to support the people of Kenya, nor did they offer a Kenyan flag to make it easy for people to do so.

So someone posted the graphic on the right. Not quite fair, I think, because Facebook did not offer the option of posting any of those flags. If it had, maybe more people would have posted them.

Similar events have also taken place in Nigeria. At one time there was a hashtag on Twitter #bringbackourgirls but Facebook did not offer a Nigerian flag either.

Like and share this on Facebook if you are not happy with Facebook's racism.

Like and share this on Facebook if you are not happy with Facebook’s racism.

And then someone else posted this graphic on Facebook, obviously trying to do what Facebook has refused to do.

If you don’t like Facebook’s racism, why not like and share one or more of these on Facebook, whether you have covered your profile picture with a French flag or not.

 

Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works | TIME

facebookLDFacebook is one of the most popular web sites on earth, but most of us have at times felt that we are being manipulated and messed around by Facebook’s algorithms — showing you lots of stuff you have no interest in, and missing out things that are vital.

If you don’t “like” enough things that someone posts, Facebook stops showing that person’s posts to you, so after not seeing anythimng from them for several weeks and wondering if they are ill or have died, you look them up and “like” everything in sight, whether you actually like it or not.

This article suggests that that is about to change.

Facebook is injecting a human element into the way News Feed operates. The company’s growing army of human raters help the social network improve the News Feed experience in ways that can’t easily be measured by “Likes.” A new curation tool launching Thursday, for instance, called “See First” will let any user choose which of their friends they want to see at the top of the feed, rather than having the decision dictated by an algorithm. via Here’s How Facebook’s News Feed Actually Works | TIME.

I have a suggestion for Facebook, to improve this for users.

First, that they should allow one to categorise things that one posts. Categories could include things like:

  • Vital family events – birth, marriage, death, serious illness
  • Other family events – moving/renovating home, graduation, holidays etc
  • Work-related stuff
  • Recreation, hobbies, travel etc
  • Religion, spirituality etc
  • Society – politics, economics etc
  • Art & literature
  • Travel
  • Technology
  • General

And then allow you to say which kind of stuff you would like to see from any particular friend.

That would do a great deal to improve the Facebook “user experience”.

 

97% of you have not danced

Sometimes I feel like that generation.

And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?
They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept (Luke 7:31-32).

I sometimes feel like that, especially when I look at Facebook and similar web sites, and the kind of communication they promote.

LoveMom2When people repost (“share” in Facebook-speak) something second-hand, trite and derivative, it gets lots of shares. Turn a worn-out cliche into a graphic, and say “97% of you won’t share this” and a lot more than 3% will.

I love my mother, and I love my daughter and I love my sons, and I love my cousins (even if they don’t all love me), and I don’t need to click on some mawkish graphic to prove it. Yet a huge proportion of Facebook “communication” is made up of just such trite trivialities.

Of course quite a lot of these are scams — people set up such a thing to get lots of “likes” for a page or site, and then sell it to the highest bidder. That’s why they say that on web sites like Facebook you are the product that they are selling.

But I have noticed in the last couple of weeks that when I share things that other people have posted, they get a lot more “likes” than actual personal stuff. And even if those things are not just tarted up cliches, I find that rather sad. It might be a news item, or comment that I think is worth thinking about, even if I don’t entirely agree with it. And sometimes people comment on such things too.

97percentBut when I posted something of my own, as opposed to something derivative and second hand, like this, for example, Tuesday 4 August 1914 | Khanya, it got precisely one “like” and one “share”, and no comments, either on the blog itself, or even on Facebook. It’s not that I go soliciting “likes” and “shares”, and I’m not posting this to urge my friends to “like” stuff that they dislike, or that they don’t give a damn about. I am rather noting that Facebook as a medium seems to favour and promote communication in the second-hand and derivative. Much of it seems calculated to appeal to those who are more amenable to our blackmail than our message — like the appeal to mother love above, or the ones that begin “97% of you won’t repost this”.

So I’m not asking people to “like” things that they don’t like, or “share” things that they don’t agree with, though I really do wonder what people are thinking when they imply that I am among the 97% of their friends who love cancer, and just hate their spouses, parents, children and other relatives.

LikeFacebookWhat I would like to solicit, however, is comments — preferably on the blog post itself, but on Facebook if you must. You can comment on something even if you don’t “like” it, and even if you don’t actually like it. You can disagree and say why you disagree. In that way sites like Facebook can facilitate communication between people, rather than just endlessly recycling sentimental cliches. Having said that, if by any chance you do actually like this (or any other post on my blog) there’s a button down at the bottom where you can click to “like” it on Facebook.

97percent2After observing these things, I think I’ll be trying to cut down on the number of second-hand things I recycle on Facebook. I’ll still “like” things that my friends post that are theirs — their photos, their articles, their blog posts. But I’ll try to resist the temptation to repost fancy illustrated slogans, no matter how witty they may be. It’s not that I think they should not be there at all. It’s just the proportions are all wrong. It seems to be 10% personal and 90% derivative. It should be the other way round.

Of course this post is 99% whinge, complaining that “We have piped for you and 97% of you have not danced.”

That’s enough whinging for now, so let there be an end to it.

Are Google out to destroy blogging?

Google seem to be determined to drive their users away to other platforms. I moved this blog from Blogger to WordPress when they forced their new dysfunctional editor on me.

Now Goggle have been inviting Blogger users to switch their Blogger profile to a Google+ one. But the Google+ one is inferior, from a blogging point of view. On the old Blogger profile you can click on your own, or someone else’s “Interests” and find other bloggers who are interested in those things, and thus find interesting blogs to read. The Google+ profile lacks this feature, so I resisted Google’s blandishments and didn’t switch.

But they punished me for it, because when I wanted to comment on blogs that have switched, I found that I could not do so — you could type anything you liked in the comment box, but nothing would appear on the screen.

One of the blogs on which this happened has now moved to WordPress, and another has gone back to using Disqus for commenting.

And now Google have decided to call their online chat thingy “Hangouts”. Well, I don’t care what they call it, I never do online “chatting” anyway. Watching someone remotely typing on my screen and correcting spelling as they go (or not) is as bad, if not worse, than watching paint dry. But for those who do like such chatting, beware. Now there is this: nourishing obscurity — Hangouts is an analogy for Big Brother.

Actually, all this is probably part of the war between Facebook and Google for market share. They are trying to lock users into believing and acting as if their site is the Internet. They want to force everyone to communicate with other people only on their site. That’s why Facebook changed everyone’s e-mail address to a Facebook one, without telling them, and without telling them how to use it either.

Never forget that you are not the customer. You are the product that they are selling to advertisers.

 

 

 

 

When technical innovation gets a bit too much

I’ve been having a bad day with technological innovations today.

It started with an announcement that Blogfrog was to close. OK, I’ve already had a rant about that over on my other blog so I won’t say any more about it here.

Then I discovered that in a book review comparing two books on Good Reads, all the links were to the wrong books. Good Reads has a nice system in which you can type [book:Asta’s Book] or [author:Barbara Vine], and it will automatically link them to the page describing the book, with other reviews, or the page telling about the author and their other publications. Except in this case it didn’t work. Both book titles were linked to the wrong books. The book called The child’s child was linked to one called The snow child, by a different author. Fortunately, having discovered it, it was relatively easy to fix in the copy on my blog, but much more difficult in the original review on Good Reads. These clever programming tricks are nice when they work, but create even more work when they don’t.

Then I went on to family history. I found that a second cousin of Val’s was apparently interested in family history, but was not even in touch with her own first cousins, and apparently didn’t even know who they were. We had been in touch with them some years ago, but weren’t sure if they were still at the same addresses. I found one of them apparently on Facebook, and wanted to send a message, to check if it was the same person, and if it was to connect them with other people. After all, that’s what Facebook is for, isn’t it?

But it seems that that is no longer what Facebook is for, because when I tried to do it, this is the message I got:

You aren’t connected to Gxxxxxx on Facebook, so your message would normally get filtered to his Other folder. You can:

Send this message to his Inbox for R2.51 ZAR
Just send this message to his Other folder—What is this?

I didn’t even know that there was an “Other” folder, and I suspect that most other people who use Facebook don’t know that either. And how do you pay that R2.51? By one of those methods that attracts a R100.00 minimum bank charge, perhaps?

But I looked in my message folder and yes, there was an “Other” folder with a dimly marked tab hiding in the corner.

I looked in it, and I discovered a whole bunch of messages from people that I hadn’t looked at, including some people I really wanted to hear from.

There was more.

There were three messages from me, which I had sent to myself nine months ago. You remember when Facebook changed every member’s e-mail address to a Facebook address about nine months ago? Actually you probably don’t, because Facebook never told anyone that they were doing it. Someone got wise to it, and put it on their timeline or status or wall or notes or whatever the thing is called now, and I saw that mine had been changed, and changed it back. But I didn’t know there was a Facebook address, so I decided to test it. I sent three messages to myself, which never arrived. Well I found them in my “Other” folder nine months later. I think Facebook is well on its way to becoming an antisocial network.

The next crummy technical innovation is this new High Definition TV that there is all the hype about. The trouble is that I can’t see it half the time, because I have to close my eyes to listen to the dialogue. The sound is so badly synchronised with the picture that the characters’ lips move about a second before the sound comes out. They react to something oddly and only later do you hear the sound of the gunshot or whatever it was. So there’s this marvellously improved picture, but you can’t watch it because they cant synchronise the sound to it. One step forward, two steps back. What’s next? Bring on the Wurlitzers!

So we have social networks turning into antisocial networks, whizz-kid programmers linking you to the wrong books, and silent movies with sound coming later. Isn’t science marvellous!

Or is it just me, getting to be a grumpy and cantankerous old curmudgeon in my old age?

 

Casing the joint

Someone from the United Kingdom found your profile page on Google with the keyword:”status update about going on holiday

That was one of the notifications I received from the Academia.edu web site.

I wonder whether, if I lived in the United Kingdom, my home would have received some unwelcome visitors?

I wonder if anyone who does live in the United Kingdom, and who posted such a status update somewhere, did receive such an unwelcome visit?

Here we receive warnings from security companies about current practices of the criminal community (I think that is the correct way to refer to such persons nowadays). First they case the joint, then they leave different colours of plastic bottles or wrappers outside as a signal to those who do the actual break-in.

So when you post your status updates, be careful what you say. Someone may be watching, and you never know who.

Look for the deals for your holiday but don’t tell the burglars. | Squashed Bills:

You may be excited and all happy that you are going abroad or booking a holiday in the United Kingdom but don’t announce on Facebook and Twitter. We are amazed at the amount of people who tell people that they are going on holiday and put status updates on.

Burglars may only need to look and see that you have told people that you are going away.

A survey by a leading insurance company Co-Operative Travel looked at messages such as “packing my cases “and “just landed “found that they were able to track down the location of the person within 60 seconds by doing checks on publically available databases.

And the notification above shows that they not only may look, they actually do.

Overdone stuff on Facebook

On Facebook recently there seems to be a proliferation of pictures to illustrate sayings, slogans or cliches.

It tends to be the opposite of the “Occupy” movement — 99% are bad or meaningless, and a waste of bandwidth. The words themselves aren’t worth much, but on the principle that “a picture is worth a thousand words” people seem to try to give the impression that something is meaningful when it is actually meaningless by wrapping it up in pictures.

Now perhaps this is all a matter of personal taste. I’ve occasionally “shared” a picture that I thought was true or witty, and some people have then liked my “status” (status? as in married or single? HIV positive or negative? Employed, unemployed or retired? Refugee? Asylum seeker?).

Here are some of the sillier ones I’ve seen recently.

The only message I get from this one is that atheists are just as self-deluded as the rest of humanity. Whoever produced this conveniently ignores (and obviously wants to persuade other people to ignore), things like the Butovo Massacre.

And then there is this one.

At one level, the message is much the same as the previous picture, but in a sense it is worse.

The sentiment expressed is true enough, and I have no problem with that. The problem is not with what is said, but rather with what is not said, because the implication is that those, like the person pictured, to whom the saying is attributed, who are willing to shed blood and take innocent life in the name of national pride and imperial hegemony will, of course, bring a true and lasting peace.

Bah, humbug!

Like the first picture, it tells you half the story, and tries to get you to ignore the other half.

The next one, however, is the worst of the lot.

The one of Hillary Clinton shows something she said and shows a picture of the one who said it.

But in this one, the words don’t matter, because I’m pretty sure the silly-looking git in the purple jacket and bow tie never said it at all. I’ve seen his face on Facebook dozens of times, with all kinds of opinions attributed to him, some of them utterly contradictory.

At least with Hillary Clinton you know who she is, and you know that she is part of a government in whose name have been done many of the things that she ascribes to the name of religion.

But who is the bloke with the purple jacket and the bow tie? And does he actually know what opinions have been ascribed to him by countless thousands of Facebook posters? They are so contradictory that he can’t possibly agree with them all. And why should his supposed endorsement make the sentiment expressed any more acceptable?

I say nothing about the sentiment itself — in this case the content is unimportant. It’s just a question of why this guy’s endorsement is thought to be important. It’s about as silly as those old advertisements in the 1940s and 1950s that showed an actor in a white coat endorsing a particular brand of toothpaste.

On the other hand, I did think that this one was funny, and probably would not have worked so well without the pictures.

Which just goes to show that it’s probably all a matter of taste, after all.

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