Tag Archives: facebook

Just Stop It

Some things are really annoying me in my digital life, here’s a short list of the most annoying.

Please add yours in the comments.

1; Facebook, stop giving me a pointless warning page when I click a link

It’s a link to the New York Times and there isn’t a problem. If this is supposed to be preventing us from opening dodgy websites it fails since it happens on every link so the user (ie; me) learns to click past it very quickly.

Stop it.

facebookmobile

2 Content Publishers, don’t make me download an app to read your content.

Given that they could use responsive design I don’t care about one piece of your content enough to use my data limit to download your app.

Stop it…. (cute turtles though).

usatoday_mobile

3; Website designers, stop assuming I want Dutch content

I type in domainname.com and am flipped into the Dutch site, based on my IP address. Lots of guilty sites; google, expedia, msn to name three. I do understand the reason behind this, but make it easy for me to switch languages. Do not do what Kobo does – lets me change the platform language but still delivers content in Dutch (even with a login, it go so annoying that I deleted my account).

Just stop it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-10 at 20.12.56Thanks I feel better for letting that out. So much better that this might become a series.

What are your digital “stop it” messages?

Missing Communication

communicationmissWhen a friend of mine didn’t answer question on Whatsapp last week, I went cyberstalking. I checked his facebook and found he was in the UK. Not really an excuse, it’s just next door and it’s almost the same timezone, his phone should work there.

Turns out, he has a brand new shiny phone, with a new phone number. I found this out because he emailed me.

I started thinking about all the tools I use to connect, and how I choose which tool to use. It’s a question that comes up in companies as communication tools proliferate, I can remember conversations with internal comms colleagues wanting to make a guideline to help people along the lines of “if you have this type of content – use this tool”.

It turns out that for me, it’s less about the content and more about the people, particularly when it comes to short messages.

Email

I have multiple email addresses, to add to the fun. I use email to communicate with my mother, she’s on a very different timezone so if I need to send her a message email works well. I know she’ll go to her desk at least once in the day and she’ll pick up my message (while I’m asleep).

In my social circle almost no-one emails me, unless they have a specific document to send me, or perhaps photos to share that they don’t want on facebook.

sms

One group of friends has never evolved past using SMS; few of them are on facebook, so that’s not an option, and one doesn’t have a phone smart enough to use Whatsapp. It’s fine, until you want to have a many-to-many conversation.

Lots of friends use this as the fastest way to get someone’s attention for a short message.

whatsapp

Currently my favourite tool, used by certain groups of former colleagues. It lets you have one-to-one or many-to-many conversations. It’s phone agnostic. Plus the emoticons are prettier. I tried using it with other groups, but mostly people default back to what they’re used to.

facebook

I limit my facebook to family and friends, so “only” have 111 facebook friends. I use the chat function within facebook a lot, it seems to be the tool most friends are most comfortable with, it works pretty well in the phone app (despite the endless invites to upgrade to another level of service). I have a group of friends from all over the world that I got to know online, we started out as anonymous handles in a chat room, but as we’ve grown to know and trust each other real names have been shared, and this group are the most comfortable using facebook – it’s a lot like having them in the room.

twitter

Rarely used for messaging, unless twitter is the only way someone knows me. Often use the “@” function to share something the person will find useful or (more often) funny. Pretty much no-one uses DMs.

linkedin

Former colleagues, classmates, conference delegates, business contacts – either through a message or an in-mail, the connections there are more of a work nature, and so is the contact.

homescreen2These tools are all available to all of the people (except whatsapp – blocked for one person). Who uses what has evolved, and there are certainly people I would contact on more than one platform. I don’t keep a list, I don’t use any special decision tree. The icons for all these tools are on the home screen of my phone so it’s easy. In the olden days I used to know people’s phone numbers, this knowledge has replaced that.

I think the same thing is happening in the workplace, each platform added to the workplace is adding another communication or messaging tool, and for some the choice feels overwhelming – particularly as the number of external tools is also growing. As people get more used to the tools, and understand how groups and communities form, it will feel very natural. Rather than take a prescriptive approach, trying to guide employees to a “right” way to use the tools, companies should take an open platform approach, simplifying access and enabling employees to find all the tools they need in one place.

Finding the right tool to communicate should be as easy as accessing it from my phone’s home screen.

Image; Communication Art Prize 2010 / Fellowship of the Rich/ CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Quiz Abyss

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 10.53.45
If only this came with a pied-à-terre

I should live in Paris, I should live in Barcelona. If I were a movie it would be an action movie, but my TV friend group is the Office (and the US version at that). If I were a planet I’d be Venus and if I were a piece of furniture I’d be a coffee table. The Daily Mail hates me (fine) and I belong in the 80s (please no).

On the upside I got a perfect score on European Geography.

There seems to be a frenzied fashion for these quizzes judging by my facebook timeline at the moment; a sort of “quantified self” meets “cosmo quiz”.

Why? Three possible reasons

  1. We are our own favourite subject

    We love any chance to learn about ourselves, and see these tests as a way to learn more about ourselves. There’s probably some truth in this, but given that I don’t always understand the questions I’m pretty sure the answers can’t be accurate. In any case in most quizzes the outcomes are a limited range of options, sometimes just an option of Thelma or Louise; so they’re clearly less accurate than an MBTI test or a horoscope.

    All the results of the tests are phrased positively, which appeals to our egos, with just a touch of vague negativity, which makes them seem more credible. It’s the Forer effect at work.

    There’s a new test out called You Just Get Me that somewhat covers this by asking you and your peers to rate you on a series of characteristics, it then scores you on how close you were to others’ perceptions.

  2. Sense of belonging

    If my online friends also do the quizzes there’s a bonding effect, even stronger if you get the same or similar results. The most often completed quiz is “Which Game of Thrones character are you?” and I guess on some alternate facebook feed the Starks gang up on the Wildlings.

    Given that the population of facebook is over a billion, playing such games creates a kind of cohort or tribal bonding. Amongst my facebook friends it’s a source of amusement – either because of the scary accuracy or the rampant inaccuracy; either way the quiz wins.

  3. Competition

    Some quizzes are aimed more at finding out how much we know, or how much we’ve done. The one on European geography fits this category as does the perennial favourite the “bucket list” quiz. This one was pretty competitive across my facebook for about two weeks. Turns out it’s cheating to say yes to number 62 – “you’ve driven across the country” – if you live in the Netherlands.

The quizzes seem to come in waves, it’s all about which city you should really live in this week, but next week we’ll be back to movie characters I’m sure.

Now excuse me, I’ve had enough of the introspective tests, I’m off to find out which Friends’ character is my soulmate.

Linkedin ads are designed not to annoy you

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 11.16.56 AMHave you been annoyed by ads on Facebook lately? You’re not alone. A while ago I was served an ad for a product to quit smoking. I’ve never smoked, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never talked about smoking.

Have you been annoyed by ads on Linkedin? It’s rarer, and after a meeting with some of the guys working for Linkedin I started thinking about why.

Internet advertising works by matching your online attributes to the target audience of the advertiser and serving you their advertisement.

What online attributes are used? Your search or viewing history and your IP address, any information you’ve given the website (those popups asking you to help them optimise the experience are part of this) all contribute to a profile that allows advertisers to target  you.

If it’s a login service then any information in your profile or that you’ve contributed online can be used to build a profile for advertisers. Both facebook and Linkedin are sites where you are logged in, you build a profile, and you make ongoing contributions. So why is there a big difference between the perception of ads on the two platforms? It could be a difference in how the match is calculated between the profile and the advertiser – but I’m guessing that both companies have smart mathematics behind their algorithms and enough data to validate them thoroughly.

There are a couple of differences in the data collected;

  • on Linkedin members contribute data in a very structured way, it is possible to scan a profile and find out seniority level, occupation, membership of a group, fields of expertise and location.
  • Linkedin is valuable to grow your business network, and if you’re job hunting so there’s a clear benefit to adding more data to your profile
  • since your colleagues are also on Linkedin and likely to be among your connections you’re likely to be honest about your background
  • it’s a platform for professionals, so not every advertiser wants to be there – weeding out the tackiest advertisers

Facebook can also target based on your demographic information when that information has been added – but facebook profiles are often not completed in detail. The will also target in a way that works on probabilities, they know that if you liked Heineken there’s a 4o% chance you will also like Renault (a completely invented example). So the more brands you like on Facebook the more information about you Facebook has to sell to advertisers. This is pretty sound, brands have overlapping target audiences, so are likely to appeal to similar groups of people, and the masses of data collected about likes on Facebook will make pretty good predictions.

And that’s the biggest difference. Advertising is by far facebook‘s biggest revenue stream, at about 80% of revenue, so they need to keep advertisers happy as a priority. As the old saying goes if something is free it’s because you are the product. Whereas Linkedin has a range of revenue streams, most of which relate to services and professional subscription, so their need is to keep their members happy.

Or as the Linkedin guy said “we look at everything we do from a member first perspective.”

Which explains why their advertising is causing less interruption and irritation than Facebook advertising.

Image; push advertising / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Social Media is Bullshit

Screen Shot 2013-06-13 at 9.38.18 PMSocial Media is Bullshit

BJ Mendelson

It’s rare that I find myself challenged by a book, agreeing with much of what it says and laughing out loud on my morning commute; this is that book.

BJ Mendelson’s stated audience is entrepreneurs and leaders of small business. Those who he sees as being victim to a deceptive social media industry. He has no beef with using social media for personal entertainment – but he points to a growing hype that if believed could be destructive to a company’s balance sheet.

For example, for a while the Dell story of making money from a twitter account used to sell discount items made headlines. The  magic number quoted was 3 million USD in revenue. Sounds like a lot of money – certainly more than in my account. But compared to all of Dell’s revenue in 2009 it was tiny, how tiny? Here’s a graph showing the revenue from twitter vs all the other revenue for Dell.
Screen Shot 2013-06-23 at 3.27.35 PMIt turns out that the revenue via twitter is utterly dwarfed by the revenue from all other sources (61 billion USD). It was less than half of one percent of their total revenue. But Dell is a business so what did they get out of the social media? Mendelson points to a PR value; more than 13 million entries in Google’s search. (Note; a search for “Dell Twitter” now scores over 400 million search results).

Of course a large company can afford to try something in social media, and Dell has the klout in the business world and the advertising budget to make a success of their attempts. Which is Mendelson’s point; a lot of social media success stories are supported by large advertising budgets and the support of known brands. For a new brand or a small company social media probably isn’t the easy solution to marketing.

Mendelson is also pretty harsh on Facebook, pointing to its cloning or acquisition of ideas and its political activism against privacy restrictions (the book was written prior to PRISM). He argues that it’s redundant to build a Facebook fan base, since these people will visit your website anyway. Better to build a website with good content rather than to hope they’ll see your post in the 30 minutes it’s available in their timeline. If it even appears in their timeline, posts apparently only reach 16% of your fans.

There are of course good uses for social media by companies, Twitter has become a customer service channel for many companies. And Facebook is being used as a web platform for a number of cafes here in Amsterdam reasonably well. They do run the risk that the platform could disappear in the future, but for now it’s a free tool, free hosting to get a simple web presence out there. But it’s certainly not the solution to all marketing problems that some sell it as.

So what would good marketing look like? Start by making a good product,  make your product easy to use, get people behind your product via traditional media, improve your product using customer feedback. Not rocket science really.

I have said for a long time that you should use social media to achieve a business goal, and measure that goal; not fans or likes. Which is why there isn’t a simple play book for using social media.

Mendelsons’ book stands out as a refreshing, somewhat cynical take on the social media industry.

Through the Prism

Surveillance: America's PastimeThe US government has being spying on our online activities. That comes as no surprise, we’ve all seen the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act (FISA), but what is surprising is that it now appears some companies including Facebook and Google have been allowing the National Security Authority (NSA) of the US government direct access to their data via something called Prism.

Facebook, Google, and now Yahoo have issued public statements stating that they are not working with NSA, but complying with legal requests. In an Orwellian twist the FISA prevents any discussion of any requests made under the act, including whether such requests exist.

Facebook and Google both use the phrase “no direct access to our servers”, which is not the same as “NSA doesn’t get our data”, which they can’t say because (a) they can’t discuss anything around an FISA request and (b) they are obliged to pass on data within legal constraints.

The New York Times article talks about some of the technical changes that have been discussed;

one of the plans discussed was to build separate, secure portals, like a digital version of the secure physical rooms that have long existed for classified information, in some instances on company servers. Through these online rooms, the government would request data, companies would deposit it and the government would retrieve it, people briefed on the discussions said.

Which makes it sound like a technical solution developed to comply with a legal requirement, and certainly far less scary than the “direct access to servers” statement that raised concerns.

Mashable takes a similar view, calling Prism a “data integration API” which the NSA would need to analyse and use the data released. Mashable also suggests that the term “direct access” is used incorrectly in the original slide deck, for the simple reason that it’s difficult – which means expensive – to do.

In many articles these technical solutions, and the fact that the servers to host them belong to the companies are cited as evidence that the companies are somehow collaborating with the NSA making it easy for them to get the data. I suspect it’s the other way around; The companies are building these solutions to make it easy for themselves to comply with the law.

So possibly, probably Facebook et al have been acting legally; but perhaps that’s the scary part.

Robin Gross via twitter; the scandal is that what the govt is doing doesn't violate the law

The underlying laws, the Patriot Act and the FISA, raised concerns when they were passed, with cities opting out of the Patriot act, but now that the connection, and the scale of data requested/shared the concern level has gone up a notch. With commentators raising real concerns about the collection, use and safeguarding of personal data in an increasingly monitored nation. As the Guardian revealed the source of the leaked information as Edward Snowdon yesterday they also published his motives; safeguarding internet freedom.

Cyber security is a real issue, and it needs addressing. The global nature of the internet, and the huge potential unleashed by analysis of big data, make the online world a source of genuine crime-stopping information. But the right to privacy is upheld in the laws and constitutions of many countries and it is being eroded.

It would be easy to dismiss that as an “American problem” but it specifically targets foreigners, and our own governments show worrying tendencies to trample over privacy rights online including the Dutch proposal to give police the right to hack as a cybercrime prevention measure. Despite playing up their “Digital Agenda” in recent months the EU has been strangely silent.

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Image;
Surveillance: America’s Pastime /Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Facebook Privacy – a better format

Facebook privacy shortcutsIn a week where Instagram (now owned by facebook) was in the news for changing its terms and conditions, facebook improved its privacy set up by introducing privacy shortcuts.

I haven’t found any change to the options available, or any change to my settings – I’d be writing a very different post if that were the case. This just makes it a whole lot easier to check my settings. With the “view as”  option I can also see how various group members can see my posts in a really easy way – my mother doesn’t need to know some of the nonsense my friends post…. and that picture was photoshopped, honest.

I don’t always like how facebook behaves, but this seems to be a good step.