by Stephen Downes
Aug 12, 2016
Ascent From Social Media
Stephen Downes, Aug 11, 2016.
I think it's time to move on from Facebook. Not to try to replace it, but to rather ascend from it, to get away from the bottom-feeders and think about new ways to connect with family and friends, new ways to cooperate with colleagues around the world.
We can blame social media for society's ills (including those caused by social media) but I wonder whether this isn't the case. After all, society's ills began well before social media - I remember working in the Gauntlet office in the mid-1980s and being just blown away when Television the Drug of the Nation played on campus radio. We're seeing a repeat. "Social strategies for news media are largely beholden to business interests. That some content must be cheapened, sensationalized, and churned out in bulk to amass traffic and woo advertisers may seem justifiable if it finances more meaningful work." The fear expressed in this article is that it might not be possible to escape this downward spiral.
According to this report, loosely based on a Facebook post (and probably this week's New York Times article) "The Summit-Facebook system, known as the 'Summit Personalized Learning Platform,' allows students to be in control of their own learning process and complete lessons at their own pace." Can Facebook learn enough about you to offer you personalized learning? Based on their advertising selection, no. But if they can peer into even more of your private data, maybe it will work (and if not, they can always feed advertisements into the system). You can see the same story in an EdSurge article from two years ago (using the same graphics) on the use of the system in Summit's own charter schools. There's an update from edSurge from April. But read more in this week's coverage of this breaking news story from Education Dive, Business Insider, The NonProfit Quarterly Blog, Education Week (which actually charges money for this rehash), Washington Examiner, Times Higher Education. *sigh* #facepalm
Ironically posted on Buzzfeed, this article asserts that "for nearly its entire existence, Twitter has not just tolerated abuse and hate speech, it’s virtually been optimized to accommodate it." Now, writes Charlie Warzel, "With public backlash at an all-time high and growth stagnating, what is the platform that declared itself 'the free speech wing of the free speech party' to do?" It's a good question. Though described as a social networking platform, Twitter is in reality a publishing platform (albeit of very short articles). Moreover, there's no real distinction between 'friend' and 'abusive stranger' on Twitter, which means your harassers can target both you and all your followers. “The original sin is a homogenous leadership,” one former senior employee told BuzzFeed News. “This is part of what exacerbated the abuse problem for sure." Language warning, because Buzzfeed.
Silicon Valley has a diversity problem. How else to explain the distribution of Pokemon locations? How else to explain how Snapchat came out with what is essentially a racist photo filter? "Snapchat recently released a new selfie lens that it says was 'anime-inspired.' But it made your eyes look squinty and slanted. And if you had your mouth open, it would also appear as if you had buck teeth. In short, it turned you into a racist Asian caricature... (yet) Anime is generally known for large, soulful eyes and tiny mouths, not slanted eyes and enlarged teeth." This isn't an isolated instance, either; witness the recently released 'nerd filter' (illustrated).
The most striking feature of this article is a list, side-by-side, of the sharing and network features that existed in the early days of the blogosphere and those that are available today. In far too many categories, today's listing is "n/a" - in other words, nothing. We've lost blog search, responses, favourites, updates, friend lists, and more. Some of these have just be slurped into the closed social media sites, while others are just gone. "I think most of these ideas were good ideas the first time around and will remain good ideas in whatever modern incarnation revives them for a new generation," writes Dash. "I have no doubt there’s a billion-dollar company waiting to be founded based on revisiting one of the concepts outlined here." Via D'Arcy Norman (listed only as 'dnorman' in his author metadata).
This excellent paper has been the subject of some recent social media pranks, the point of which are to show that people rarely read the posts they share on Twitter or Facebook. You can read a Washington Post article about it from mid-June. “People are more willing to share an article than read it,” study co-author Arnaud Legout said in a statement. “This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper.” The study does go deeper, and in a way that will be of significant interest to analysts; in addition to providing the analysis, it proposes a new metric to measure the influence of a URL. "Ideally," write the authors, "we would like to create a similar metric to quantify the influence of a user," which in the end is suggested via an indirect statistical mechanism.
Medium, which started out as a company run as a holocracy, is moving on from that model. The reasoning is illustrative. "So we’re off Holacracy. Not because it didn’t work, or because it’s 'wacky' or 'fringe.' We are a little wacky and fringe, and we’re okay with that. We are moving beyond it because we as a company have change.... Beyond that, the system had begun to exert a small but persistent tax on both our effectiveness, and our sense of connection to each other." Governance is hard, which is why so many management gurus have so many quick-fix solutions.
Some fun from Ben Werdmuller. And good advice (and well-times as I seek to move beyond Facebook, somehow). A lot of what he says falls under of the heading "it's been done, it didn't work, move on." The whole point of creating something new is that it has to be new, not just a clone of something else. (We were actually given manuals saying we should describe our innovation as "the X of Y" where X was a well-known concept and Y was a new market. As if.)
This newsletter is sent only at the request of subscribers. If you would like to unsubscribe, Click here.
Know a friend who might enjoy this newsletter? Feel free to forward OLDaily to your colleagues. If you received this issue from a friend and would like a free subscription of your own, you can join our mailing list. Click here to subscribe.