Facebook: Chock Full of Good Ideas

December 31, 2019

Investigators are not a priority for Facebook. How does DarkCyber know this? “WhatsApp to Add ‘Disappearing Messages’ Feature Soon” explained a function that may make those managing interesting groups to have more control over content.

Here’s the statement which caught the attention of our alert service:

With the ‘Delete Messages’ feature, group admins will able to select a specific duration for messages on the group and once a message crosses the duration, it will be automatically deleted, news portal GSMArena reported recently. Initially, the new feature was expected to be available for both individual chats and group chats, but now the report claims that the feature will be limited to group chats only. The ‘Delete Messages’ feature for group chats will make it easy for the admins to manage old messages and chats.

How many coordinators will find this new feature helpful? Too many.

Stephen E Arnold, December 31, 2019

Business 101: Incentives Work at Facebook. Talk, Not So Much

December 18, 2019

Many years ago, I worked on a project for a very large, quite paranoid company. I am not sure how I landed a project to interview about two dozen unit CEOs and interview each about technology. As I recall, my task was to group the CEOs into three categories:

Bluebirds—These were the CEOs who understood technology germane to their business unit, evidenced no particular fear testing and integrating such technology, and who were following the company’s marching orders.

Canaries—These were executives who evidenced fear of technology. These individuals were not likely to move forward in order to reduce costs and staff using technology whilst increasing revenue and profits for the company.

Sparrows—These were hapless commodity CEOs who did not know much about technology, were happy snacking near careless MBAs lunching in the park, and who generally reacted to what most other CEOs were doing with regards to technology.

I had a bunch of fancy criteria, scoring sheets, prepared and consistent questions, plus other odds and ends required for such a subjective job.

My findings, I believe, revealed that the technology question was stupid. The CEOs were accountants and lawyers. Knowledge of technology was abysmal. The CEOs as a group responded to one thing—bonuses and raises. Chatter about technology was essentially irrelevant.

Whatever DNA this group of big time “leaders” had was warped in the intense radiation of benchmarks needed to take home a fat pay packet and get a bonus big enough to choke an investment banker.

I thought of this project when I read “Facebook Is Still Prioritizing Scale over Safety.” There’s quite a bit of yada yada in the write up, but this segment explains what drives Facebook:

Facebook calls its product managers’ ability to hit their metric “impact,” and impact can count for high percentages of product managers’ evaluations, though it varies by position and level. At the end of the evaluation process, each individual is assigned a rating by a manager — ranging from “doesn’t meet expectations” to “redefines expectations” — which is algorithmically tied to their compensation. Managers at Facebook aren’t given discretionary raise pools (raises are handed out evenly based on ratings) and there is no appeals process for evaluations, making a good rating paramount if you work at Facebook.

In order to be a bluebird, Facebook managers follow the incentive breadcrumbs. Why? Money. Public statements and other interesting Facebook behavior are irrelevant.

Why? The explanation may be found in the precepts of high school science club management methods. These are not taught in MBA school; these are learned in high school science club meetings and late night dorm sessions among programmers and assorted engineering wizards.

To fix Facebook, change the incentives.

Stephen E Arnold, December 18, 2019

Facebook Helps Employees Think

December 4, 2019

I read the headline “Facebook Gives Workers a Chatbot to Appease That Prying Uncle. The “Liam Bot” Teaches Employees What to Say If Friends or Family Ask Difficult Questions about the Company over the Holidays.”

I thought “Liam” was a misspelling of “liar.” Upon a second look, I realized that “Liam” was a friendly, neutral, even trustworthy word.

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Is this a photograph of one of Liam’s ancestors? DarkCyber believes that this is not Facebook’s Liam. But the possibility of this individual’s DNA finding its way to Facebook is interesting to contemplate.

The main point of the write up is that Facebook is not sure what employees will say when asked a question. To address the problem, the company has rolled out a smart system to provide some digital support to the Facebookers who have to answer spontaneously.

The write up explains that answer should point out that Facebook seeks information from experts. No definition of an “expert” is provided it seems. But that’s a minor point because we’re are doing damage control here, not thinking.

Other steps Facebook is taking to deal with interesting content includes contractors who review information before it goes live, identify hate speech, and other hand waving.

Google explained that volume makes it difficult to catch certain types of interesting content. Bigness is a burden for sure, right?

I circled in True Blue marker this statement from the write up:

In its answers, the Liam Bot often links to company blog posts and news releases. It doesn’t just provide answers to difficult questions about Facebook’s role in the world, either. Liam Bot is also practical with personal technology advice.

Several observations:

  1. A brain implant might be a useful supplement to Liam
  2. Activating the employee’s mobile phone to video and record conversation would provide useful training data
  3. Chat bots are quite useful, particularly when interacting in a spontaneous manner with friends and family. Why look a person in the eye. Just read from the mobile phone.\

Facebook is a pioneer following in the footsteps of individuals who wanted to control thinking and speaking. Who were these individuals?

Ask Liam, please. Not even IBM Watson can help with this question.

Stephen E Arnold, December 4, 2019

Information about Facebook Ads

November 15, 2019

Advertisements are one way companies keep tabs on their competition. Unless they resort to corporate espionage, the only way companies learn about ad campaigns is when they are shared with the public. Companies spend millions of dollars to advertise on the Facebook, which is how the social media platform generates most of its income. In fact, mobile ads bring in the most advertising profit for Facebook, accounting for 84% of their entire revenue.

Unlike other social media platforms, television, radio, and print mediums, there is tool companies can use to spy on their competition’s Facebook ad campaigns. Admin PowerAdSpy posted a YouTube video entitled, “How To Spy On Your Competitor’s Facebook Ads With The Best Ad Spy Tools In The World Power AdSpy.”

According to the video, Facebook has 2.38 billion monthly users, which is almost 1/3 of the world’s population. Since Facebook has such a large user base, it is a gold mine for companies wanting to advertise their goods and services. The video also reports there are 3 million companies with advertising campaigns on Facebook. Facebook ads have seen a 66% return on ad spend (ROAS, money spent on an ad campaign) in 2019’s first quarter.

It is becoming cheaper to advertise on Facebook and Power AdSpy claims its set of advertising spy tools will help companies improve their Facebook advertising strategy. The biggest problem is the video does not say how.

The video is obviously made by someone with a less than fluent grasp on the English language and they relied on free graphics to make a professional, albeit cheap looking video. It would be impressive for a school project, but not to sell a set of marketing tools to a company. What is even worse is that Power AdSpy claims to return heaps of cash, at least the clipart graphics promise that ROI.

Software companies at least explain how their products work in theory on advertising campaigns with the promise of more tailored solutions. Power AdPlay’s own ad campaign is less than grammatically correct. If they cannot get that part right, the product itself might be sketchy.

Whitney Grace, November 15, 2019

Facebook: Following the Credge of Innovation

November 5, 2019

Cue the music. There’s nothing like a logo. Nothing in this world. DarkCyber noted the Credge logo innovation. Not to be outdone, Facebook, a very popular and profitable company, has added a logo. It looks like this.

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See the innovation. The logo changes colors depending upon what a happy and possibly insecure Facebook user is doing at a particular time. A context aware logo! And DarkCyber thought Einstein was insightful and semi-creative. Al, you are not in Facebook’s league.

Why? Well that answer appears in a Facebook post called “Introducing Our New Company Brand.” DarkCyber learned:

The new branding was designed for clarity, and uses custom typography and capitalization to create visual distinction between the company and app.

Facebook is quite expert at clarity.

Is DarkCyber Confused?

No, DarkCyber understands. A new logo takes companies to the credge of innovation.

Stephen E Arnold, November 4, 2019

Zuck Under Fire

November 5, 2019

Mark Zuckerberg might be the lead smart dude at Facebook, but that is only one facet of his career. The Sydney Morning Herald published an editorial about Zuckerberg called, “Mr. Zuckerberg, Have You Considered Retirement?” and it opened with the following description of him:

“If I were Mark Zuckerberg — newfound defender-to-the-death of liberal free expression even if it includes outright lying except if there are female nipples, a would-be curer of all the world’s disease, side-gig education reformer, immigration crusader, quirky dad, fifth wealthiest person in the world, hobnobber to pundits and politicians and all-around do-gooder digital hegemony who is also now vying to run the world’s money supply, I mean my God, Mark, where does all this end?”

Whoa! Zuckerberg has his hands full! Farhad Manjoo, the editorial’s author, suggested that Zuckerberg should vanish from the spotlight and retire to a nice, quiet Pacific island. He draws a similarity between Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who stepped down from the company and transformed himself into a philanthropic billionaire. Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin pulled back too and are basically ghosting society.

Manjoo did state that Zuckerberg’s commitment to addressing hot topics might be seen as admirable, but his responses to his opponents are confusing and have mixed up what is good for Facebook vs. what is good for the US. Democrats have turned him into one of the party’s villains and the republicans are not to fond of him either.

Zuckerberg has a lot of power due to his wealth, most of which he earned by applying his intelligence to a product that became part of everyday life. He bows, however, to making money and “supporting” anyone that will put more dollars in his pocket.

Do not forget that Zuckerberg has high functioning autism spectrum disorder, which explains his awkward behavior in public. That does not excuse his behavior towards politics and amassing more and more wealth without a conscious. He is socially awkward, not ignorant of the world.

Whitney Grace, November 4, 2019

Facebook Kills Accounts of NSO Group

October 31, 2019

Yeah, Facebook is putting its ethical flag down. The problem is that the pointy end of the flag staff may go through Facebook’s foot. “Facebook Permanently Deletes the Accounts of NSO Workers” reports:

A day after Facebook-owned WhatsApp sued NSO Group, the social media platform has permanently deleted the accounts of employees who work at the Israel-based spyware maker…

Facebook can do what it wants.

However, DarkCyber wants to make a few observations:

  1. Some firms offer services and systems designed to create false personas (sock puppets) so that these identities can be used in various ways; for example, obtain and use Facebook services.
  2. Irritating a company with specialized services may have unanticipated consequences; for example, friction when Facebook attempts to do business with an NSO partner or an NSO friendly government.
  3. Facebook’s grandstanding may be one way for the company to mute the fact that it paid a fine for its Cambridge Analytica adventure.

Too little, too late, and too childish may be one way to describe Facebook’s Silicon Valley tactical play.

Stephen E Arnold, October 31, 2019

Facebook: What Is a Threat to the Company?

October 29, 2019

I spotted a headline on Techmeme. Rewriting headlines is part of the Techmeme approach to communication. The link to which the headline points is this New York Times article. Here is the NYT headline:

Dissent Erupts at Facebook Over Hands-Off Stance on Political Ads

This is the Techmeme headline:

Sources: over 250 Facebook employees have signed a letter visible on an internal forum that says letting politicians lie in ads is “a threat” to the company

The messages are almost the same: Staff push back is a problem. But isn’t it part of the current high-tech company ethos.

The threat is management’s inability to maintain control. Companies typically work toward a goal; for example, manufacturing video doorbells or selling asbestos free baby powder. (Okay, those a bad examples.)

Perhaps something larger is afoot?

The corrosion of a ethical fabric allows certain aspects of human behavior to move through a weakened judgmental membrane may be more significant. The problem is not Facebook’s alone.

Are there similarities between a company shipping baby powder with questionable ingredients and Facebook?

Interesting question.

Stephen E Arnold, October 29, 2019

What Is Facebook Doing With User Data?

October 21, 2019

We have a message to Facebook, what the heck is going on with how you treat user data?

ITV shares in “Facebook Introduces ‘Clear History’ Tool But Your Data Won’t Be Deleted” that Facebook is rolling out a new feature that will disconnect, but not delete, user browsing history from its servers. The new feature is called the Of-Facebook Activity and provides a summary about third party apps and Web sites that report your activities to Facebook. This allows Facebook to send users targeted ads from desired products to political campaigns. Users can now opt out so Facebook will not access their browsing history.

When users turn on the Off-Facebook Activity, Facebook will still receive data, but personal information will be removed from it. Browsing history will not be used to send users targeted ads. Facebook wants to continue harvesting data, so they carefully selected the term “clear history” to communicate that data will not be deleted, just cleared of personal information. Facebook claims they need the information to share with businesses about their ad campaigns effectiveness. What does this mean for Facebook?

“With this tool, Facebook will no longer be able to target specific ads to their users, and the social media platform admitted in a blog post, the feature “could have some impact” on Facebook’s business. But it added “giving people control over their data is more important.””

Even though Facebook used the term “clear history” it is misleading and most people will not read the fine print about it. It is great that Facebook is giving users a report about how their information is shared with third parties, but why not give it a different name like “anonymous mode” or “privacy mode.”

Whitney Grace, October 21, 2019

Have You Stopped Beating Your Puppy?

October 5, 2019

What’s your answer? If you stop, you were beating your puppy. If you say, “Yes,” you are a puppy beater. Simple.

I read “Mark Zuckerberg Promises Facebook Won’t Be Biased Against Elizabeth Warren.” Does this mean that Facebook has been biased in the past? Does this mean that Facebook will not fiddle with search and auto generated info feeds going forward? Either way, there is a bit of puppy beater in the headline.

I also like the notion of “promises.” For example, a bully tells a teacher, “I promise I won’t hit anyone and threaten their life again.” What’s missing is the word “honest.”

Okay, that’s a life moment.

The write up asserts:

Zuckerberg said the company had been surprised by the leak, as it has been the first time in company history that an all-hands meeting had been recorded and shared with the media. (“A blog,” as Zuckerberg called The Verge!) “I think a lot of us internally were pretty shocked by that,” he said. “We want to be able to continue doing these, and have them be open. But then we had the second reaction which is, hey, you know, all the content that’s in there — we stand behind. And maybe I said that in a little bit more unfiltered of a way than I would say it externally, but fundamentally we believe everything we said that was in there.”

Honest.

DarkCyber noted this scintillating bit of reporting:

To the employee who worried about this weekend’s New York Times report about the use of social platforms to spread child exploitation imagery, he explained the steps that the company has taken to address the problem so far and committed to doing much more before Facebook attempts to encrypt Messenger messages by default. Then someone asked him about Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who had gone after Zuckerberg after reading the remarks he made in our earlier report. How would Zuckerberg remain “impartial” given the dust-up? “God,” he said, laughing to himself. “Try not to antagonize her further.”

Honest.

No, honestly. A blog. The Verge is a blog?

Stephen E Arnold, October 5, 2019

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