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Facebook Users Lack Understanding of Filters: No Big Surprise

March 29, 2015

Let me be clear. I am not a Facebook user. One of the goslings configured the Beyond Search blog to send content to a Facebook page. I, however, do not need a stream of information about my high school and college classmates. At my last reunion, the 50th, I saw only two mobile phones: My wife’s and mine. Obviously central Illinois is not a technology hot spot for the over 70 set.

I read “Many, Many Facebook Users Still Don’t Know That Their News Fees Are Filtered by an Algorithm.” Big whoop. Most of the MBAs I know are clueless about Google’s personalization functions and don’t have much appetite for understanding that what you see may not be what is available. For these cohorts, a little learning is just fine. Drinking from a spring is okay as long as the water comes from an authentic source like Dasani. Isn’t that Coca Cola’s outfit?

The write up reveals what strikes me as a no brainer type factoid:

But a majority of everyday Facebook users in a recent study had no idea that Facebook constructs their experience, pushing certain posts into their stream and leaving others out. And worse, many participants blamed themselves, not Facebook’s software, when friends or family disappeared from their news feeds.

The article reports:

While some participants were upset by the idea that Facebook was changing their social experience, more than half of the study participants “came to appreciate the algorithm over the course of the study.” Most came to think that the filtering and ranking software was actually doing a decent job. “Honestly I have nothing to change which I’m surprised!” one said. “Because I came in like ‘Ah, they’re screwing it all!’”

Sigh. Is there a remedy for this lack of understanding? Nope.

Do most online “experts” care? Nah, but some of them charge windmills with their iPad Airs as a shield.

The reality is that a comprehensive understanding of a particular content domain requires good, old fashioned research. The idea is to read, talk to informed individuals, gather additional primary data, analyze what you collect, and then figure out who knows what about a topic.

We are doing this type of grunt work about one facet of the Dark Web. Early results are in. Most of the people writing about the Dark Web are not doing a particularly good job of explaining where the “dark” content lives, how to find it, or what the content reveals about a fundamental shift in online usage for a small but important and interesting group of users worldwide.

If one cannot understand what Facebook is doing, the Dark Web is of zero consequence. If a Google user accepts search results as objective, I am not sure there is much hope for remedial intervention.

Net net: At a time when ease, convenience, short cuts, and distractions are of primary importance, thinking about information is not of much interest to many people.

“Hey, after the NCAA games, let’s binge watch Breaking Bad. We can post our comments on Facebook too!”

Sound fun? Oh, wait. I have to take this call, send an SMS, and post a picture of our pizza to Facebook. Cool.

Stephen E Arnold, March 29, 2015

Painting an IT Worker’s House Requires an NDA

March 27, 2015

You would not think that contractors, gardeners, painters, plumbers, and electricians would have to sign an non-disclosure agreement before working on someone’s home, but according to the New York Times it is happening all over Silicon Valley“For Tech Titans, Sharing Has Its Limits” explains how home and garden maintenance workers now have to sign NDAs for big name tech workers just like they have to with celebrities.  Most of the time, workers do not even know who they are working for or recognize the names.  This has made it hard to gather information on how many people require NDAs, but Mark Zuckerberg recently had a lawsuit that sheds some light about why they are being used.  He goes to great lengths to protect his privacy, but ironically tech people who use NDAs are the ones who make a profit off personal information disclosures.

“The lawsuit against Mr. Zuckerberg involves a different residence, 35 miles south in Palo Alto. In it, a part-time developer named Mircea Voskerician claims that he had a contract to buy a $4.8 million house adjoining Mr. Zuckerberg’s residence, and offered to sell a piece of the property to Mr. Zuckerberg. He says that in a meeting at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, he discussed a deal to sell his interest in the entire property to Mr. Zuckerberg. In exchange, he says, Mr. Zuckerberg would make introductions between him and powerful people in Silicon Valley, potential future business partners and clients. Mr. Voskerician passed up a better offer on the house, the suit contends, but Mr. Zuckerberg did not follow through on the pledge to make introductions.”

Voskerician said he only signed the NDA on as a condition to the proposed agreement, but Zuckerberg’s legal representation says the NDA means all information related to him.  On related terms, Facebook is making more privacy rules so only certain people can see user information.  It still does not change how big name IT workers want their own information kept private.  It seems sharing is good as long as it is done according to a powerful company’s definition of sharing.

Whitney Grace, March 27, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Study Find Millennials Willing to Pay for News to a Point

March 26, 2015

The article titled Millennials Say Keeping Up With the News Is Important To Them—But Good Luck Getting Them To Pay For It on NiemanLab explores the findings of a recent study by the Media Insight Project in partnership with the American Press Institute. A great deal of respondents get their news from Facebook, although the majority (88%) said it was only occasionally. Twitter and Reddit also made the list. Interestingly, millennials claimed multiple access methods to news categories across the board. The article states,

“The survey asked respondents how they accessed 24 different news topics, from national politics and government to style, beauty, and fashion. Facebook was either the number one or two source of information for 20 of the 24 topics, and in nine of those topics it was the only source cited by a majority of respondents. Search was the second most popular source of information, ranking first or second in 13 of the 24 news topics.”

In spite of the title of the article, most millennials in the study were willing to pay for at least one subscription, either digital or print. The article doesn’t mention the number of people involved in the study, but deeper interviews were held with 23 millennials, which is the basis for the assumptions about broader unwillingness to pay for the news, whether out of entitlement or a belief that access to free news is a fundamental pillar of democracy.

Chelsea Kerwin, March 26, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at www.xenky.com

Facebook Gains Natural Language Capacity with Via AI Acquisition

February 11, 2015

Facebook is making inroads into the natural language space, we learn from “Facebook Buys Wit.ai, Adds Natural Language Knowhow” at ZDNet. Reporter Larry Dignan tells us the social-media giant gained more than 6,000 developers in the deal with the startup, who has created an open-source natural language platform with an eye to the “Internet of Things.” He writes:

“Wit.ai is an early stage startup that in October raised $3 million in seed financing with Andreessen Horowitz as the lead investor. Wit.ai aims to create a natural language platform that’s open sourced and distributed. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but indicates what Facebook is thinking. As the social network is increasingly mobile, it will need natural language algorithms and knowhow to add key features. Rival Google has built in a bevy of natural language tools into Android and Apple has its Siri personal assistant.”

Though the Wit.ai platform is free for open data projects, it earns its keep through commercial instances and queries-per-day charges. Wit.ai launched in October 2013, and is headquartered in Palo Alto, California.

Cynthia Murrell, February 11, 2015

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Is Facebook the Internet?

February 9, 2015

There has been a buzz in some circles that Facebook is the Internet. I think that one’s point of view plays a part in feeling comfortable with the statement. The author of “Millions of Facebook Users Have No Idea They’re Using the Internet” finds the idea more than a little intriguing. The write up makes reference to Facebook users far from Silicon Valley.

I highlighted this passage:

Since at least 2013, Facebook has been making noises about connecting the entire world to the internet. But even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s operations head, admits that there are Facebook users who don’t know they’re on the internet. So is Facebook succeeding in its goal if the people it is connecting have no idea they are using the internet? And what does it mean if masses of first-time adopters come online not via the open web, but the closed, proprietary network where they must play by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s rules?

The write up points out that there is a slip twixt cup and lip. However, the theme of Facebook is the Internet continues to form the spine of the write up. I noted this passage:

Already services are starting to move away from the open web and to Facebook. And it’s happening not just in the poor world, but in poor parts of the developed world, where there also exists a sense among some that using an app isn’t the same as using the internet, which requires a web browser like Safari or Internet Explorer.

My view is that the notion of the open Internet is going to be a thorny issue. Governments are clamping down on some types of Internet sites. I checked one extremist Web site based in France. On February 5, 2015, the site was online. On February 6, 2015, the site returned 404s. However, some of the somewhat disturbing videos posted by the Web site remaining available on YouTube.com.

The idea for a state-certified information service may have some appeal. Did you explore Sputnik? Have you encountered issues with site access in China, Iran, or Turkey?

Is there a future in walled gardens?

Stephen E Arnold, February 9, 2015

Online Brand: Will Facebook or Google Become the Internet

January 26, 2015

I read a very interesting item on a UK information service. The article is “People Actually Confuse Facebook and the Internet in Some Places.” Here’s the point I highlighted with orange this fine morning:

Ex-Googler, Facebook COO and mouthpiece Sheryl Sandberg claimed this week that some users (sorry, people) actually think that Mark Zuckerberg’s free-content ad network is the Internet.

I filed an item about Eric Schmidt’s widely publicized prognostication just a day or two before. Here’s a representative article: “Eric Schmidt’s Quite Right The Internet Will Disappear; All Technologies Do As They Mature.”

Google wants the disappearing Internet to be into Google. If Facebook acts out the suggestion that Facebook becomes the Internet, Google will not be happy.

The battle, therefore, is less about disappearing technology than a return to the good old days when a telephone meant Bell. Just cross out Bell, and slot in a nifty company like Facebook or Google.

Is this disappearance or a de facto, ubiquitous monopoly?

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2015

Debing, Bada Gone: Facebook Search

December 13, 2014

I am not too keen on Facebook. I get odd ball friend requests to our automated Beyond Search account which baffles me. Who wants to be friends with a script.

Nevertheless, I read “Facebook Dumps Microsoft Web Search Results.” The Facebookers have to get control of information access to their content. Note I said “their”, not your content, gentle reader.

The write up, which is a foundation, asserts:

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has flagged search as one of the company’s key growth initiatives, noting in July that there were more than 1 billion search queries occurring on Facebook every day and hinting that the vast amount of information that users share within Facebook could eventually replace the need to search the Web for answers to certain questions.

Yep, the Googlers at Facebook know there is money in them thar search results.

Debing, bada, gone.

Stephen E Arnold, December 13, 2014

Google: More Ad Pain Coming

December 10, 2014

I am not sure if the information in “Facebook Video Is Driving YouTube Off Facebook” is spot on. Counts of user behavior without the actual log files are subject to interpretation. But the main point is darned suggestive. Facebook video may be cutting into uploads to YouTube.com. Now the Googlers are trying to make YouTube into a bigger money spinner. If Facebook pushes into video, advertisers are going to want to put their messages in front of Facebook viewers of hot videos. Bad news for Google.

The passage from the article I noted was:

It is evidence of a dramatic shift in power: Until recently Facebook was not even considered a destination for video. Page owners simply shared their YouTube videos on Facebook, and that was that.

My view is that Google struggles to convert social into a service that can compete with Facebook. If Facebook figures out how to play nice with China, the GOOG has a yellow alert flashing. Is the answer in “How Google Works”?

Stephen E Arnold, December 10, 2014

Quote to Note: Facebook Search

August 31, 2014

Facebook has done little public facing work on search. Behind the scenes, Facebookers and Xooglers have been beavering away. A bit of public information surfaced in “Zuckerberg On Search — Facebook Has More Content Than Google.” Does Facebook have a trillion pieces of content. Is that more content than Google has? Nah. But it is the thought that counts:

Here’s the quote I highlighted:

What would it ultimately mean if Facebook’s search efforts are effective–and if Facebook allowed universal use of a post search tool that really worked? It’s dizzying, really. As Zuckerberg said early this year on an earnings call: “There are more than a trillion status updates and unstructured text posts and photos and pieces of content that people have shared over the past 10 years.” Then the Facebook CEO put that figure into context: “a trillion pieces of content is more than the index in any web search engine.” You know what “any web search engine” spells? That’s a funny way of spelling Google.

With Amazon nosing into ads and Facebook contemplating more public search functionality, will Google be able to respond in a manner that keeps its revenues flowing and projects like Loon flying? I wonder what the Arnold name surfer thinks about Facebook? Maybe it is a place to post musings about failed youth coaching?

Stephen E Arnold, August 31, 2014

Facebook Factoids

July 24, 2014

I enjoyed “Facebook Now Has 1.32 Billion Users, with 30 Percent Only Using It on Their Mobile—and the Average American Spends 40 minutes a Day on the Site.” Why read anything except the headline?

Tucked into this sensational write up was this gem:

The number of people who log in at least once a day on mobile devices was 654 million on average in June, up 14 percent from a year earlier.

The reason I highlighted this item is that it focuses on the problem Facebook poses to Google. Not only do hundreds of millions of people use Facebook on a notebook or desktop computer, Facebook’s mobile cohort is growing.

So what?

Facebook users willingly create content for Facebook. Facebook users willingly provide information to Facebook. Facebook captures implicit data from user behaviors.

Advertisers like this situation.

If Facebook keeps expanding its mobile advertising paw print, the Google will have to find a way to counter or take some steps that might be unpalatable to some folks.

In short, the headline tells a story, but the pressure on Google is not front and center where it should be. And search? Who thinks about that for either Facebook or Google? (My tiny voice says, “I do.”)

Stephen E Arnold, July 24, 2014

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