November 26, 2013
Last month, Facebook admitted that users, particularly teens, are using the site less these days. The Guardian reports, “Teenagers Say Goodbye to Facebook and Hello to Messenger Apps.” (Messenger apps function much like text messaging, but without the extra charges on the phone bill.) Writer Parmy Olson blames the shift on the wider audience Facebook has successfully attracted over the years.
“Their gradual exodus to messaging apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk boils down to Facebook becoming a victim of its own success. The road to gaining nearly 1.2 billion monthly active users has seen the mums, dads, aunts and uncles of the generation who pioneered Facebook join it too, spamming their walls with inspirational quotes and images of cute animals, and (shock, horror) commenting on their kids’ photos. No surprise, then, that Facebook is no longer a place for uninhibited status updates about pub antics, but an obligatory communication tool that younger people maintain because everyone else does.”
I’m sure that is a factor, but the Reference Heap provides another perspective. It isn’t so much that Facebook’s user base has changed, but that changes to the site have made it less useful. At the same time that its algorithm presents us with pointless information, it often fails to deliver truly relevant missives from friends and family. In a note beginning “Dear Facebook, You Suck,” the angry pastebin writer charges:
“One of my best friend’s mother lost her battle with cancer the other day, my friend wrote a beautiful status update commemorating her mother, it got 297 likes and tons of comments before I noticed it… You know how I noticed it? My mother called me and told me about her mother dying and I went to her actual page to see for myself. But you know what I did notice? Becky hates Mondays. My 3rd cousin whom I haven’t seen since a family reunion 10 years ago started playing his umpteenth game on Facebook.”
I can relate. I know I have missed important news on Facebook in a similar fashion, and messages I really wanted folks to see got little traction. Is this a deliberate attempt to get us to pay Facebook the seven bucks (well, $6.99) to “promote” posts we actually want others to view? Perhaps I’m being too cynical.
Cynthia Murrell, November 26, 2013
October 14, 2013
Facebook has assembled a new team to build a “deep learning” approach for the site’s AI, MIT Technology Review reveals in, “Facebook Launches Advanced AI Effort to Find Meaning in your Posts.” The method promises to greatly speed data analysis by simulating our own neural networks.
Google and Microsoft have both recently made strides in this area. Google is using the approach to help its algorithm recognize objects in photos (beginning with cats, of course) and to improve its voice recognition services. Microsoft employed the technique to create its real-time English-to-Mandarin translation software. For its part, Facebook hopes deep learning will improve its news feed, which must pick up the pace to keep up with changing user habits. Both the compulsion to check our feeds with our mobile devices and ballooning friends lists require Facebook’s AI to better and more quickly decide what to show each user.
So, how is deep learning different from older AI models? Reporter Tom Simonite explains:
“Conventional forms of machine learning are slower because before data can be fed into learning software, experts must manually choose which features of it the software should pay attention to, and they must label the data to signify, for example, that certain images contain cars. Deep learning systems can learn with much less human intervention because they can figure out for themselves which features of the raw data are most significant. They can even work on data that hasn’t been labeled, as Google’s cat-recognizing software did. Systems able to do that typically use software that simulates networks of brain cells, known as neural nets, to process data. They require more powerful collections of computers to run.”
Facebook engineering manager Srinivas Narayanan, who is helping assemble the deep-learning team, says some of their more general research will be shared with the public. He also notes that the project will be informed by work Facebook has done on integrating hardware and software to process large data sets.
Cynthia Murrell, October 14, 2013
September 16, 2013
Here we go again with Facebook and Google. The two big IT rivals have been vying for control of the Internet for years and Yahoo Small Business Advisor informs us that another face off is coming in the article, “Graph Search Vs. Google.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already changed the way people communicate, but now he wants to change how people search. Instead of relying on basic content results, like Google, Zuckerberg wants Facebook’s Graph Search to return results based on its users friends and their likes. Google CEO Larry Page does not think his company and Facebook need to be rivals, but user speculation cannot help but compare the two and the article lists some of the problems Graph Search face.
There are “dirty likes,” which are likes for a business not based on it genuinely being liked but because of incentives it gives users. Also Graph Search will not be helpful to users who have too little or too many friends, because the results could be too big or too broad. The usual privacy concerns are noted and mobile search still has its limitations.
Here is another big factor that users will like:
“And here’s the thing: Google’s social network does not use ads, letting users see only what they want to see. Since G+ users don’t face the same pressure that leads to “dirty likes,” their circles are more likely to reflect their own personal interests. So even though Facebook has a much larger user base than Google+, the latter gives users a more personal experience. Plus, the fact that a person can access Gmail, Drive, and YouTube, all on the same website, while also finding personalized search results thanks to G+, is nothing to sneeze at, either.”
I am not looking forward to the news feed for the next few months as Graph Search comes out of its infancy. The true comparisons can only begin at that time, but then so will the rants and raves.
Whitney Grace, September 16, 2013
September 16, 2013
According to the recent MakeUseof.com article “Facebook Usage is Changing – So Which Online Social Activities are Growing?” Facebook is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Instead of utilizing social networks that are tied to their real-life identity, today’s teens are flocking towards other networks that allow them to use pseudonyms and avatars.
The article explains why Twitter was included in the list, and how it differentiates itself from Facebook:
“There’s some evidence that Twitter is becoming more popular, with usage among teens doubling in the past year. Twitter might seem a bit stuffy, like one of the established social networks, but it has much in common with some of the upstarts. Unlike Facebook, Twitter doesn’t demand your real name — you can use anything you like as your Twitter handle. You can then engage publicly with other people about topics of interest or set your Twitter account to private and have your tweets visible only to your friends, although most Twitter usage is public. You don’t even have to send your own tweets — you can follow other accounts and just view them.”
As with everything in technology, what’s cutting edge today is inevitably going to be old news tomorrow. With this in mind, its no surprise that Facebook is losing its momentum. I wonder if they, like Twitter, will find new ways to stay relevant.
Jasmine Ashton, September 16, 2013
September 7, 2013
Which social media platform is better? Google Plus and Facebook each have their pros and cons, but for a serious comparison read the article from Makeuseof.com: “The Final Showdown: Google Plus Vs. Facebook, Which One Is Really The Best?” Each social media platform is broken down into the basic functions and like an elementary school open response question they compare and contrast. A tally score is kept.
User interface goes to Google Plus, because it is slicker and looks like it was made in 2013. Facebook, by a small amount, wins the profile challenge with its Timeline function. The chat feature contest ends in a draw. Google Plus takes the lead with its circles when it comes to managing friends, plus it scores another point for its easy updating ability. Both platforms offer good ways to upload photo albums, but Google Plus seems to be easier to use.
Google fails, though, when it comes to privacy settings. We all know that Google gathers data on all its users, but managing the social networking aspect is hidden somewhere in the account settings. Facebook at least has its privacy out in the open.
The end result is that Google Plus is the winner, but:
“The main reason most of us still prefer Facebook is simple: it’s where people are. Why are people there? Probably because it was first. This is a recursive argument, because if we all move to Google+, that’s where people will be. But it’s not easy, and in the mean time, if you truly want to stay updated and have an audience, you will understandably stick to Facebook (I know I do).”
It all comes down to a matter of preference again. Does not everything?
Whitney Grace, September 07, 2013
August 6, 2013
Well, that’s a novel use of taxpayer money. Australia’s News.com reveals, “U.S. State Department Spent $690,000 to ‘Buy’ Facebook ‘Likes’.”(That’s about $630,000 in U.S. dollars.) According to a report from the U.S. State Department‘s Inspector General, over the last three years the agency spent this money to buy social-media “likes.” Perhaps one can buy love?
Er, not really. The tactic did not work well, even before Facebook started charging to push content to a page’s fans as well as non-fans. The practice ceased only when the change at the social site prompted a change in strategy. Actually it turns out that “strategy” is too strong a word. The write-up tells us:
“The report also stated that the bureau did not have a social media strategy. Various State Department bureaus had over 150 social media accounts that were uncoordinated and often overlapping.”
That is discouraging; no wonder there was trouble. The article specifies:
“The State Department’s Facebook page likes increased during the spending from 100,000 to more than 2 million and to 450,000 on Facebook’s foreign-language pages.
“Despite the increase, the IG said the spending did not reach the bureau’s target audience, mainly older and more influential people. Only about 2 per cent of the department’s fans engaged with the pages by liking, sharing or commenting.”
The Inspector General also reports that many in the Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, the division responsible for the non-existent social media strategy, voiced objections to the approach. That is something. Perhaps their voices will be heard as the agency develops that strategy, as they surely must be doing after this misstep. Right?
Cynthia Murrell, August 06, 2013
July 5, 2013
Something strange happened on the way to Facebook’s first data center, as reported by The Register in the article titled Facebook’s First Data Center Drenched By Actual Cloud. The “humidity event” that Facebook mentioned was caused by the modern air conditioning system in place in the facility. The actual indoor cloud stole all the attention from the cloud that powered the social network. The cloud and rain caused panic and damaged many servers. The article explains,
“Consumer internet giants such as Google, Facebook, and others have all been on a tear building facilities that use outside air instead.
In Prineville’s first summer of operation, a problem in the facility’s building-management system led to high temperature and low humidity air from the hot aisles being endlessly recirculated though a water-based evaporative cooling system that sought to cool the air down – which meant that when the air came back into the cold aisle for the servers it was so wet it condensed.”
With new protective rubber seals around Facebook’s server’s power supply, the social media network is prepared to weather whatever storms may come, inside or outside. Facebook also made changes to its building-management system, making their facility one of the most efficient in the industry, even beating out Google in some cases.
Chelsea Kerwin, July 05, 2013
July 4, 2013
The article on Business Insider titled Well, These New Zuckerberg IMs Won’t Help Facebook’s Privacy Problems addresses an exchange Zuckerberg had in college recently after launching Facebook. In sum, he offers his friend information on anyone at Harvard, and when asked how he got access to all of that information, he stated that people just posted it, because they trust him, followed by an expletive aimed at all the people dumb enough to trust him, which now includes over a billion people. The article explains,
Chelsea Kerwin, July 04, 2013
July 4, 2013
The article on TNW titled How Facebook’s Entity Graph Evolved From Plain Text to the Structured Data That Powers Graph Search explores the timeline of Facebook’s ability to understand and make connections between billions of pieces of information about its billions of users. Eric Sun, Facebook’s software engineer, recently posted about the evolution of the Entity Graph on the Facebook Blog. Entity graph led to Social Graph, which eventually enabled the Graph Search. The article explains,
“In order to take advantage of all of those juicy details in your profile, Sun said his team had to find a data set to represent a seemingly unlimited number of interests. Their solution was to tap into Wikipedia, which powered Facebook’s creation of “millions of ‘fallback’ pages.” Facebook heavily relies on Wikipedia to this day. These fallback pages were matched to interests that couldn’t be connected to pre-existing pages. Afterwards, they were manually vetted for duplicates; ones which didn’t receive any connections were deleted.”
Today, Sun claims the Entity Graph is growing even faster than Facebook can keep up with. The focus of his team is now to improve the graph further. We have all witnessed the changes made to Facebook over the last ten years, but most of the reactions have been to the aesthetic qualities of the pages we think of as our own. The reason behind many of the changes was to incorporate the mapping of our interests and our lives, to allow Facebook to know more.
Chelsea Kerwin, July 04, 2013
June 14, 2013
The article titled The Tragic Beauty of Google Plus on Time’s Techland explores the new Google Plus features launched during the Keynote. These include the ability to see activity streams as tile columns and the ability to simplify to just one column if you prefer. Google Plus also can auto-hash tag, and in some cases even identify relevant hash tags by analyzing the photo. But even these new features and layout may not be enough to draw away Facebook users. The article explains why,
“Once a me-too service that seemed to exist solely because Facebook posed a potentially existential threat to Google’s dominance of the web, it now has its own style and signature features. Where Facebook is rather stolid – it has its own beautification initiative going on, but feels hamstrung by its need to retain some visual consistency with its past self — Google+ is exuberant. It’s fun to use.
And yet I’m pretty positive I won’t spend remotely as much time in it as I will in Facebook.”
The argument goes that Facebook is better simply because more people are on Facebook. A social network is only as good as the community it holds, sure, but we wonder if this is damning by faint praise. Google Plus is innovative whereas Facebook still clings to its original layout, but it is still no contest as to which is more popular.
Chelsea Kerwin, June 14, 2013