Tag Archives: Facebook

Episode 125: The only Glasshole left


We pour one out for Google Glass, which is no longer being sold.

Google claims it is graduating from the explorer program and getting a new team and all that. But is it really? In theory the plan sounds great. Tony Fadell, the creator of Nest and the iPod, is bringing Glass under his team. If anyone can rescue it, perhaps he and his team can.

Jeremy is going to keep using Google Glass in the classroom, but now he won’t be able to get a replacement if something happens to it.  We discuss what went wrong with Google Glass, how it could have been more successful and if products like Oculus Rift and HoloLens are better routes to go with head-mounted technology.

We also discuss the big net neutrality news. We did not expect to see the FCC come out so strongly in favor of net neutrality.

And we also have a quick update on my wifi problems (that may be better now). We provide some quick tips for how you can improve your wifi performance.

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Episode 115: God, I’ve got to click on that! What happens next?

Upworthy, the shitty website on the Internet.

Upworthy, the shittiest website on the Internet. The original click-bait whore.

Click-bait, click-bait, click-bait. It makes our blood boil.

We discuss click-bait headlines. Facebook empowered them and now wants to do away with them. You can personally thank Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook for the rise of Upworthy and its crappy brethren.

Facebook killing click-bait is good for news publishers and blogs that don’t want to trade in click-bait.

We also discuss Facebook vs Twitter for getting news and information. A lot of people have complained that news shows up slower on Facebook than on Twitter. Can you get news in real time on Twitter? Does it even matter if Facebook is different at showing news than Twitter?

We finally discuss how Uber is trying to illegal kill competition in the ride sharing business. There’s a rant involved about that.

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Episode 111: Facebook doesn’t believe in IRB or telling users before they’re test subjects


Pat gets ready to have a baby.

We also discuss Facebook experimenting on users without telling them, and we explain the important of IRB (Institutional Review Boards) when conducting research on human subjects.

We discuss why IRB approval is important for conducting research on human subjects, and the terrible experiments that led to it.

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Episode 103: I’m being poked in virtual reality


We discuss Facebook buying Oculus, the maker of the virtual reality headset Rift.

The original Oculus Rift was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, and intended as a way to make playing video games more immersive. Now, we enter into a virtual world where your friends can poke you whenever they feel like it. We think.

Should those original backers get some money from this $2 billion sale to Facebook? Should a company that is eventually going to seek VC money and to be bought out by a large company ever engage on crowdfunding?

We also discuss criticisms that 538 and Vox.com are too white and male.

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A look back at The Facebook in 2004


It’s always interesting to see what people thought of technology when it first launched. Here is a New York Times take on the site back when it was still known as The Facebook:

LIKE many addictions, it begins innocently enough. A tentative experiment here, a repeat visit there. Before too long, only the strong survive.

“At the beginning of the year you had people checking every five minutes to see if they had any new friends,” said Isabel Wilkinson, a Princeton University freshman from New York City. “I like to think it’s subsided a little, but it’s still heinous in terms of procrastination or wasting time. Last night I couldn’t sleep, so I went on for a half-hour or 45 minutes.”

I joined Facebook in 2004, and it would remain exclusive and college-only for several years to come. It was incredibly addictive. The exclusivity didn’t hurt either, and it was a really different experience when it was just a bunch of college kids making friends and sharing stories.

In many ways, Facebook is even more addictive than ever. It’s a testament to the staying power of the site and the additional work that has gone into the site that people still find it addictive 10 years later. Ten years is a long time in Web years.

Yes, Facebook users are aging, but the site is growing up with us. Where we used to share drunken stories and try to check out people of the opposite sex, we now connect with family all over the country and stay in touch with our college friends.

It’s hard to describe what Facebook was like when it first started if you weren’t there, but it took off like nothing I’ve ever seen in my life. Most people don’t get Twitter at first. Everyone got Facebook the moment they saw it.

Within days of it coming to Lehigh, almost all of my friends were on it. Everyone just had to have it. It made my last two years of college a lot more memorable.

When Facebook first launched, it was a lot wilder. It was just college kids, and there was no way for outsiders to see what we were doing. You could also see what classes people were in and even where they were checking into Facebook from.

If you met someone at a party at night, you just had to check them out on Facebook when you got back to your dorm and friend them. When I look back at the messages we exchanged back in the early years, they really crack me up. Now everyone is scared of employers seeing what they do on Facebook, but before those issues cropped up, it was kind of like hanging out in a pub.

The magic of Facebook now is that it allows adults to stay in touch with each other when they move around the country. I get why that appeals less to teens, but Facebook was built for Zuckerberg and his friends when they were in college and now they are all grown up.

There is demand, however, for a new Facebook — an exclusive social network just for college kids. I don’t know if that will ever happen again, but it was a blast. I’m sorry kids today won’t get that experience, and that privacy is one reason many might be flocking to Snapchat.

The Facebook of today is not a great tool for irresponsible high school and college kids. On the other hand, when they graduate from college and really start their lives, they’ll really like what Facebook has become. It’s an indispensable tool in my life.

I only see my nieces and nephews a few times a year, but thanks to Facebook, I get to see lots of photos and videos. I can quickly say high to one of my high school or college friends and see what they are up to. It helps make the distance seem smaller.

A look back at 10 years of using Facebook

Facebook is celebrating its 10th anniversary today, and perhaps the coolest thing for users is the Look back tool that creates a short video of your history on Facebook. I joined in 2004, so I have a lot of stuff to go through. Some of my earlier photos aren’t showing up for whatever reason (permissions maybe?), but it’s fascinating. I got a bit choked up.

In these photos you can see my life unfold. There are photos from senior prom (posted to FB a bit later), my wedding day, the day I announced my baby and more. It’s really quite magical. Facebook should make more of these tools available all the time. Why wait for a corporate anniversary to do something truly amazing like this?

If I were Facebook, I’d make this tool available all the time and work on creating other tools like it. This is something that no other, especially newer, social network can compete with.

Maybe Facebook should worry less about being Twitter or this or that and worry about being Facebook. No other social network can match this kind of experience.

Episode 76: Facebook hashtags #youin?


How useful are hashtags?

How useful are they on platforms other than Twitter? Facebook is much bigger than Twitter. Do hashtags make sense for a network with more than one billion people?

We also talk about Instagram video and the new Flickr.

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Episode 74: Jeremy becomes a glasshole

Jeremy has Google Glass. So naturally we talk a lot about that.

How is his experience? How much would he pay for it? How much would you pay for it?

How does Google Glass fit in a smartphone world?

We also discuss Pat’s photo of the day project. 365 photos over the course of a year. This leads us to discuss digital photography, Facebook, Flickr, Tumblr and more.

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The curious case of sharing on Facebook (sometimes it comes with a price)

Nick Bilton on the curious case of sharing on Facebook:

Every Sunday morning, I started sharing my weekly column with this newfound entourage. Those garnered a good response. For example, a column about my 2012 New Year’s resolution to take a break from electronics gathered 535 “likes” and 53 “reshares.” Another, about Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and chief executive, owing me $50 after the company’s public offering, quickly drew 323 likes and 88 reshares.

Since then, my subscribers have grown to number 400,000. Yet now, when I share my column, something different happens. Guess how many people like and reshare the links I post?

If your answer was more than two digits long, you’re wrong.

As a social media manager and researcher and as someone who spends thousands a year on Facebook ads for work, I can confirm that Facebook’s sharing algorithm changes a lot, has been all over the place the past year or so and that paying for ads — even small amounts like $10 — makes a huge difference in engagement and reach. The amounts of engagement that Bilton is seeing normally sounds low, however, and perhaps that is due to his content and not just the algorithm.

You don’t need to study social media to see that pictures, images and memes are what rules Facebook these days. This was not always the case, but in the last few years, sharing links has not gotten the same penetration as sharing photos and other visual content.

I believe this is for two reasons: Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm prioritizes visual content over written, and users prefer visual content or at least are more likely to notice it, click on it, like it and share it. Bilton’s own Facebook page bears this out. He shared a photo of himself with his dog at In-N-Out Burger that received about 30 times the engagement as a recent New York Times story of his. While we can all agree that Bilton’s writing is usually better content than him and his dog eating a cheap burger, Facebook friends and users feel differently, and Facebook’s algorithm prefers his smartphone photos to researched journalism pieces.

We have responded to this changing situation on Facebook by making a push to share more visual content on our Science News Magazine’s Facebook page. We will often share a great photo, image or illustration from a story and then provide a link to it in the caption on Facebook. This does significantly better than just sharing the story alone.

Facebook is always changing its algorithm, and as it currently stands, unless you pay money to sponsor an update that links to a story, you may not be getting great engagement or traffic out of it. The other issue I see with Bilton’s feed is that he doesn’t post that often. Posting daily on Facebook leads to more engagement per post. There is an upper limit to how often you should post to your Facebook page — roughly once every three hours — but Bilton is nowhere near hitting that limit.

Now, as to the paid vs. organic engagement, well that is an issue. This gets to the heart of Facebook versus Twitter. On Twitter, you are normally shown every single tweet from the people you follow in your timeline. On Facebook, you are normally shown only the content that the Facebook algorithm deems the top content in your feed.

The algorithm works as a positive feedback loop. The more often you interact with someone’s content, the more often you see that person’s content and then the more often you will see it again in the future. This has resulted in people seeing updates from a small selection of the people they are friends with on Facebook, and is something that bugs me as I find it too limiting. Facebook users can switch their news feeds to show most recent content instead, similar to a Twitter feed, but this is not the default and few people change this.

I can’t confirm this, but I feel that Facebook switches back this preference for users, as mine always seem to end up back on top stories. In Facebook’s mind, top stories is a great way to show content from strong ties — family and close friends — while drowning out of the noise of some of your weaker ties. I don’t have an issue with prioritizing strong tie content over weak tie content, but I have not liked the mix on Facebook and believe it needs to sprinkle in more random content from my weak tie Facebook friends and pages.

Unfortunately, Facebook followers of journalists is the definition of a very weak tie (it’s not even a two-way tie like a normal Facebook friendship). As long as Facebook shows the top stories algorithm instead of just most recent content like Twitter, people like Bilton are going to continue to see lower engagement than expected.

So, why does paying help this situation? Paying to make sure your content is shown to your followers and friends means that your content will be shown in someone’s news feed even if they have selected top stories and the algorithm would deem you too weak of a tie to show right now. What this is saying to Bilton is that his page is not deemed a top story driver for most of his followers.

Maybe Bilton’s followers would disagree with this and maybe they would prefer a stronger mix of content in their news feeds. I have found my news feed being dominated by a few friends and family with recent changes to the top stories algorithm. The positive feedback loop seems to have run out of control.

I believe that if Bilton started sharing more content and more varied content, with an emphasis on visual content, he would see more engagement per item, even his links to stories. That said, the Facebook algorithm seems to have issues showing variety by focusing too heavily on strong tie content, and I think this hurts journalists and other content creators. I don’t necessarily think this is anything nefarious by Facebook in an attempt to grab cash by encouraging people to pay for ads, and I do agree with the Facebook engineer that he quoted that this is not a good thing for Facebook.

If people want to see Bilton’s content, and they aren’t, that’s not good for anyone.


News.me discontinues iOS apps citing new Twitter rules

This is a bummer:

News.me, the social news service built on top of Twitter (and Facebook), todayannounced it is killing its curation apps for iPhone and iPad. The company is blaming Twitter for the move and says it wants to focus on its Digg efforts instead.

They claim this will not impact News.me’s great daily emails, but who knows how much data you’ll be able to get out of Twitter moving forward. News.me is the first thing I check in the morning to see what’s going on in my world. It always highlights interesting stories by seeing what my Twitter and Facebook friends are up to. I don’t use Digg and don’t plan to any time soon.