First, it happens through competition. Good psychology hacks are things like tinder's fast paced swiping. Out of the squillions of dating apps, the one with a good hack won. I think Facebook used an identical hack for its first version, the hot-or-not version. Twitter's basic concept. Snapchat's. Lots of examples. All good "psych-hacks" that formed a core of successful products, arrived at through a sort of natural selection process. I suspect that almost any app which does not "solve a problem" leverages some hack instead.
Second, psych-hackers FB actually employ are not psychlogists. They're data scientists doing split tests. If this works like that, will you like more posts. A/B testing is really behavioural psychology expirementation, weaponized.
I think both of these are quasi-inevitable. But, constant optimization towards viral drek is not.
Where I think FB should be sheepish about is allowing the optimization to go on directionless. The only goals are quantitive. Quality is a foreign concept. No one has asked the question "what should FB be." The answer is simply "popular."
This isn't inevitable. Applied to businesses as a whole, you could replace "popular" with profitable. All businesses are under this imperative. But, that doesn't mean directionless. Businesses can strive to be all sorts of things in addition to (or preferebly as a path to) profitable. FB is itself an example of this.
What I want from FB (and Google) is a recognition that they are media companies, the biggest media companies. After that, they need to start dealing in quality. If you only optimize for quantity of reactions, shares and such while disregarding quality you become a shitty tabloid. No taste. No integrity. Just clickbait.
FB need to ask themselves "is the content (eg news) on FB of good quality?"
I'm very curious if you have a proposal for how to gauge content quality at scale. Back when I majored in journalism, "community engagement" was a massive topic. People wanted to create content that wasn't just "good" in a vacuum, but actually motivated society towards positive change. The theory went that if we reported on social issues in a certain way, perhaps we could influence society for the better. This was even the topic of my capstone project.
In the end, I became disillusioned. My observations contradicted the notion that content quality (news content in my case) matters in either a commercial or social sense when conducted at scale.
In my capstone project, some people volunteered to be interviewed about their volunteer work and their motivations. It was really interesting talking to all of them, but what I found in every case was that these people were motivated by life experiences, not media. I talked to an ex-con who had his life turned around by a books program, so he volunteered with the program when he got out. I also talked to a soccer mom who organized community events for her kids.
This was admittedly a qualitative study on personal anecdotes with a small sample set so it's not hard science. But the hypothesis that content quality is irrelevant at a mass scale seems to hold up in practice.
This also tangentially ties into a hypothesis I have on US presidential elections, which is that once it's down to two candidates, name recognition is all that matters. Every time (I'm aware of) that a president dominated the mass media of the time, he won the election. From FDR on radio to Kennedy on TV to Obama on social media and now Trump who rode on the public obsession with gossiping about every stupid thing he did or said.
Okay, rant over. I am legitimately interested, though, in any ideas for determining content quality at scale just because it seems like an interesting project.
From what I hear, FB are now pretty worried about fake news and other issues relating to the last US elections. I suspect they're also going over a few other big political events where FB played a big role. After seeing it happen at home, it probably feels more real. Brexit. The Syrian protests, later civil war. ISIS. The Turkish coup attempt. FB played a bigger role than any other media in all these.
I suspect what they are doing about true fake news is probably spam filtering.
What I'd be interested in seeing them try is the stack overflow approach. Have a subjective opinion about what a good contribution to FB is. Design features to promote that kind of content.
Makes more sense than blaming Russia and Facebook.
From Europe that's what it looked like
And that's what fake news and russian trolls pushed
And also "she wants war" and now we're getting closer and closer to a new world war
Occam says that the most simple solution should be accepted
But Occam was an english monk from the 13th century
He could not know that hacking the news using money power is easier than spreading a good message through a decent candidate
No, it translates to:
* Obvious corporate shill and corrupt beltway insider - made even more obvious in light of the content of the leaked emails.
* A candidate who had a chequered political career that included dog whistling racists - an event that Trump made massive political capital out of and used to get large portions of a base she was relying upon - black voters - to stay at home.
* A candidate whose approach was to present herself of defender of the status quo at a time of obvious economic distress for most Americans which has never worked, ever.
* And yes, warmonger (that much was obvious from her term as secretary of state)
* A candidate whose strategy to get people to vote for her was to hypocritically either imply or outright state that you were sexist or racist if you considered voting for the other guy. Funnily enough that backfired massively but people (like you) are still flogging that dead horse in what I can only assume is an errant attempt to ensure that Trump wins a second term in office.
The really puzzling part of this whole thing is the number of people on Hacker News who will argue out of one side of their mouth that Facebook ads area a scam that simply don't work and on the other hand that spending what is essentially political pocket change on them will buy you a presidency. Crazy.
If you'd like to be unbanned, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and commit to commenting civilly and substantively in the future.
So what you consider quality is probably different that what the (mode) average person considers quality. Perhaps the issue is joe sixpacs are the bulk of the bell curve.
Compounding this is most people are also information-overloaded anyway and don't have time for quality. Emotional appeals and manipulation on the other hand are hard to ignore even if you don't really have the time or desire to engage with them ..
Sure. But I think it's analogous to the days of patent medicines. Coca-Cola really did contain cocaine at some point; opium and heroin were also popular ingredients.  Did the people making those medicines intentionally set out to sell dangerously addictive substances? I doubt it. They just tried to make their sales graphs go up and to the right, experimenting and copying what worked in other patent medicines.
The only reason things changed is that there was a national outcry. People came to recognize the dangers of addiction. When Coca Cola was created in 1885, it was made from coca leaves and kola nuts. By 1891, they cut the coca content by 90%. They cut it again in 1904, and by 1922 went entirely without. [1, 2] And it wasn't until 1983 that they offered a version without the other addictive stimulant. 
I think we're starting to see the beginnings of a similar outcry today. I hope we'll see more of it. But if we want it to have an effect, it will have to happen at a societal level (e.g., the threat of regulation) and an individual level (with more people refusing digital time-sucks like Facebook and Candy Crush). I also think it needs to happen at an interpersonal one; people working on addictive digital products should face social questions, just like somebody making cigarettes would. Because as you say, many of the individuals creating things like Facebook just aren't thinking about these broader issues.
 See, e.g. https://io9.gizmodo.com/how-todays-illegal-drugs-were-market...
So I believe my comment above is still correct.
It takes some effort to transform one into the other.
One is a medecinal herb (commonly used to fight altitude sickness), still used by Coca-Cola today, the other is a dangerously addictive substance that Coca-Cola used before they understood it's dangers.
Classifying a topic as/as-not viral dreck is, I posit, quite hard. Indulge me a bit here - I primarily come to HN to read about ML/AI/DNN. I mark the ones I like with the favorites button. During my work downtime, I go back to my favorites folder and re-read the topic. For some of the topics such as Word Embeddings, I must have re-read that paper a dozen times. I have actually used the material I learnt from my HN favorites list at my workplace, built it into products, gotten $$ off of it. So stuff like JIT compiler, LibHTTP, Bitcoin Bubble, Nintendo (all the topics trending right now) are viral dreck to me. I don't want this viral dreck. Get it off of HN!
You can see how quickly this sort of reasoning becomes vacuous.
I have an FB account mostly to interact with my extended family. Most of them are in their 70s and 80s. Every single topic they interact with on FB qualifies in my mind as viral dreck. However, by the nature of their comments, they seem to derive much pleasure in engaging with it. Given their age, who am I to deny them their cup of poison. Its not like they are going to get wise on word embeddings at the age of 75. Let them have their viral dreck.
On the “this is hard” point. Yes it is. I’m asserting that every business have a handful of core, hard problems. One of journalism’s is maintaining good quality standards, traditionally using subjective yet fairly well established definitions and methods, like an editor with good taste, formal fact checking, etc.. One of Apple’s hard problems is making consumer tech elegantly simple. The rhetorical click-wheel iPod. Again, there’s a lot of subjective elements that go into this.
How does a FB tackle this? Judging by your favourite HN article, I will forward a guess that you immediately jump to an ML or an algorithmic way of classifying things. On that front, I think FB could get some wins. Is dreck classification all that different from spam classification? Does PG’s “plan for spam” apply here? I would guess that it does for some dreck types. I actually think FB is currently deploying some spam-filter like system to deal with the most onerous “fake news.” Google’s starting point was page rank, a relevance ranking system. Fairly quickly, they added in “quality” ranking to supplement that. This is probably the least monolithic of their core systems. At the same time, SEO came into being and anti-spam became the third plank to google search. Taken together, this is quality classification. The inverse of dreck classification.
I don’t want to overemphasise these things though. FB is one of the best positioned to use “computer science-ish” solutions. But, I think the bigger choices are not at that level. They’re not a choice of technological approaches. It’s more mundane, values, priorities, product culture. Defining what they are and making good content a part of that definition.
HN already has quality built into it. When a feature is released (rarely, after all HN is not even a commercial product) someone makes a decision. Does nesting comments like this encourage dreck, in HN’s case flame wars and quips? Does changing something about moderation improve the quality of discussion? Are the really good, but slower, harder and more technical topics being buried? How do we unbury them? This speaks to your ideal HN.
No one has ever asked and answered such a question about youtube comments, we see the results. I don’t think FB has done enough of this, especially as relates to the high exposure. “viral” content.
The best articulation of the approach (IMO) is Spolsky’s “social UI^” and the early podcasts with him and Atwood. When they were making Stackoverflow, a lot of attention was paid to the type of content/behaviour encouraged by certain product/UI choices. They had an idea of what a good comment, question or answer looks like. They built the product to produce these. It wasn’t just about “more stuff.” They had an opinion about what stuff is valuable.
FB will need to be more programmable, but that’s easier if you start from the Spolsky mentality. Instead of “dreck classifier,” you just need to recognise flame wars, thought bubbles, divisive headlines. You need to decide that a comment by someone who has read an article is more valuable than a comment by someone who has not. The components become more achievable sounding, IMO.
^I wonder if this falls into your “dreck” category, for a little bit of extra irony. https://www.joelonsoftware.com/2004/09/06/its-not-just-usabi...
I think this is a general problem. If Facebook is optimizing for whatever users "Like", as you suggest with the data scientists, it is analagous to a business given customers whatever they ask for.
As Henry Ford is said to have said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse" (or something). You have to find a balance between "the customer is always right" and the fact that you are in a better position to be a domain expert.
They have to balance "what gets people engaged" with "what's good for everybody" and hopefully find an optimal solution for both.
Not sure how accurate it is, but the way Facebook's founding ideas are portrayed in The Social Network definitely screams "exploiting human psychology".
The means - intentional or not - are going to take whatever form necessary to meet the ends.
If there's a surprise here is that its taken Parker et al this wrong to figure this out.
Well sure. I'm sure thousands of employees have very sophisticated and subtle views. But when you average out all of those views, it winds up that the only thing that really matters is getting eyes on ads.
No one needs to be a villain. The subtle views just cancel each other out, and the huge amount of effort fb puts forth regresses to the mean. Get more eyeballs on ads.
We don't? Seems accurate to me.
The game is a product — the company produces it. The players are players — they play the game. The whales are a sub-category of players, so if the players are indeed the product, you'd have to say they're buying themselves. In fact, the game is a product that both paying and non-paying customers consume, in some cases with barely differing experiences.
It's fiction. Yes, inspired by a true story but fiction nonetheless.
You wouldn't base your knowledge about Nikola Tesla on "The Prestige", would you?
I guess you're saying "don't trust movies" and/or "Facebook would never exploit human psychology, that's a made-up fiction." Har har, good one.
Regardless, "fiction inspired by a true story" would presumably have some true elements and some not-true elements. If they were all not-true elements, it would be completely made-up, literally 100% fiction (not based on or inspired by a true story), and anyway I don't think there's any such thing as 100% fiction, no matter how hard people try. Every fiction owes something to the reality it was concocted in.
Therefore the problem becomes knowing which elements are true (facts) and which are not-true (fiction).
Also just read this, coincidentally, about Buzzfeed today: https://www.startups.co/articles/interview-jonah-peretti-co-...
> ..arrived at through a sort of natural selection process.
I am not so sure. This all well-known stuff and employed methodically. There is an interesting article where a Google design ethicist explains how technology hijacks your mind .
Hijack 1: If You Control the Menu, You Control the Choices. Ask yourself: What’s not on the menu?, Why am I being given these options and not others? Do I know the menu provider’s goals? Is this menu empowering for my original need, or are the choices actually a distraction?
Hijack 2: Make apps behave like Slot Machines - give a variable reward. If you want to maximize addictiveness, link a user’s action (like pulling a lever) with a variable reward. You pull a lever and immediately receive either an enticing reward (a match, a prize!) or nothing. Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.
Hijack 3: Fear of Missing Something Important (FOMSI). If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities — it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — because there is a 1% chance you could be missing something important.
Hijack 4: Social Approval. When you get tagged by my friend, you think s/he made a conscious choice to tag you, when actually s/he just responds to Facebook’s suggestion, not making an independent choice. Thus Facebook controls the multiplier for how often millions of people experience their social approval on the line.
Hijack 5: Social Reciprocity (Tit-for-tat). You follow me — it’s rude not to follow you back. When you receive an invitation from someone to connect, you imagine that person making a conscious choice to invite you, when in reality, they likely unconsciously responded to LinkedIn’s list of suggested c ontacts.
Hijack 6: Bottomless bowls, Infinite Feeds, and Autoplay
Hijack 7: Instant Interruption vs. “Respectful” Delivery. Messages that interrupt people immediately are more persuasive at getting people to respond than messages delivered asynchronously.
Hijack 8: Bundling Your Reasons with Their Reasons. When you you want to look up a Facebook event happening tonight (your reason) the Facebook app doesn’t allow you to access it without first landing on the news feed (their reasons), so Facebook converts every reason you have for using it, into their reason which is to maximize the time you spend consuming things. In an ideal world, apps would always give you a direct way to get what you want separately from what they want.
Hijack 9: Inconvenient Choices. Businesses naturally want to make the choices they want you to make easier, and the choices they don’t want you to make harder. NYTimes.com claims to give you “a free choice” to cancel your digital subscription. But instead of just doing it when you hit “Cancel Subscription,” they force you to call a phone number that’s only open at certain times.
Hijack 10: Forecasting Errors, “Foot in the Door” strategies. People don’t intuitively forecast the true time cost of a click when it’s presented to them. Sales people use “foot in the door” techniques by asking for a small innocuous request to begin with (“just one click”), and escalating from there (“why don’t you stay awhile?”). Virtually all engagement websites use this trick.
There's a worse version here: some companies will mine various sources of information to get a strong indication that A knows B, suggest to B that they should connect to A in a way that sounds like an invitation from A but isn't, and if B takes the suggestion, send an invitation to A saying that B wants to connect.
 - https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1382248812
So you get credit for effort. Your odds go up with each attempt until you succeed. Rare items though, still Skinner boxes.
Problem is: Quality itself is defined by quantitative measurements. It's not some separate product attribute. If something increases your business KPIs, it is ipso facto higher quality. Motivated only by the imperative to optimize these KPIs, a company will do so, believing that it is continually making the product better. Allowed to run its course, you end up with a Paperclip Maximizer .
"A Theory of Mass Culture", Dwight Macdonald. First Published June 1, 1953
(Available via Sci-Hub: https://sci-hub.ac/10.1177/039219215300100301)
All firms, are in competition.
Media firms must get attention to succeed.
There is more media than any human can consume in a life time.
Therefore, to succeed, you must be the media consumed, instead of someone else.
THis means you want to get peoples attention - at all costs.
This is sufficient to create the situation we have. You can always add some twist to the whole thing, but this is sufficient.
But that is a very narrow view. The New York Times could claim they have proof Trump is an Alien from outer space. For the day, they would win the attention of the world.
But the cost would be their credibility, which would lessen the share of attention they would receive on every day afterward.
So the NYT pursues a strategy of building a customer relationship. And trying to get as much sustained attention as they can over the course of a relationship. They don't purse getting attention AT ALL COSTS on each individual day, and neither should Facebook.
For anyone who thinks this isn't the case it isn't aware of the extent because the paper is paywalled so you can't see how had it is, page back to the debacle where the editorial staff were asking whether it was their job to question politicians' statements, or just "we report, you decide". A lot of people dropped their subscriptions because that's literally the only thing they were subscribing to the NYT for, and the editorial staff were announcing it didn't fit their profit model.
The only readers they have left, are ones who don't mind tuning in to get the DNC agenda for the day. More or less.
I got a free trial, and called to cancel it early (I had to call!), because it's just another tabloid. The only major news source I can stand to read anymore is maybe Reuters? I have to get my news from citizens who comb social media and investigate independently.
And where do you find these citizens? Twitter?
Over the past several decades, a huge number of news papers have gone out of print.
In its place there is an explosion of non-newspapers, which have lower barriers to quality, accuracy, and cost.
The NYT website, as you recall was the first website perhaps aside from the WSJ, which jumped the trend of going free in order to survive.
As an aside - Even prior to the internet, there was sweeping consolidation in the media world. Most news papers could not afford to stay in print or defeat takeovers.
There is an older theory on industrialized economies - that most media firms will eventually be taken over, and therefore be soft on their particular conglomerate and sister firms.
It's that app feature which plays into the "exploitation" part of quick, responsive, immediate.
Anecdatally, I know people who have had long term relationships off of Tinder, some still together. I imagine that people will continue migrating over to Tinder from OKCupid.
Do you own index funds? I do. Which means I have stock in Coke and Pepsi both. But this is stupid because Coke and Pepsi are competitors, so my Coke returns are offset by my Pepsi losses whenever Coke wins and vice versa, right? Actually, no, because the beverage industry still grows in aggregate over time, and in exchange for not having to guess who's going to win the cola wars, I get to collect the benefits of both companies growing the overall market.
In this analogy, I'm match.com and OKCupid and Tinder are Coke and Pepsi.
But lately, I flipped. I think responsibility needs to correlate to some extent with power, to be useful. FB have power now, big power. They are not some site, they're a core social and political institution of society.
In some circles, FB's just a very common way to conduct part of your social life. In that context, complaining about FB is like complaining about your local town square. It's noisy and filthy and making our social time suck. I consider this an appropriate complaint, considering what FB is and does.
"Go start your own social network" is a red herring. It's like saying "if you don't like this country, leave". At least, I consider these similar.
On the news point, I consider this a seperate point and a bigger deal. This is what flipped me. FB is the world's most important news outlet. I think this is undeniable in 2017. They have tremendous power (and responsibility) in this role. News/journalism is an institution of democracy and political life generally. FB decide who sees what news, and this is a huge deal. If they peddle crap quality news, the overall quality of journalism in society deteriorates. The quality of news (taken as a whole, including the news bubbles and everything else) on FB is terrible. It's a valid complaint and we should be louder about it.
I favor freedom of speech and freedom of association. If I have a friend who keeps posting BS articles from shady sources (and I do) then I just block them from my feed or simply ignore their posts about current events and conspiracy theories.
I think asking FB, or any other platform, to start policing the quality of what we post is dangerous. What happens is if a story breaks that official authorities deny, but which is actually true. Would you want FB being the arbiter of truth, in such a case, or would you prefer for individuals (preferably alot of them) to be free to do their own research and to come to their own conclusions?
Imagine you run a coffee shop, and a local political group hosts a weekly get together there. They're weird people, always talking about crazy theories and plans, but they're not hurting anyone and they're great customers, so you don't want to kick them out. If some other people come in and start getting freaked out at the conspiracy talk and "time to march" proclamations, shouldn't you walk over and say "hey don't worry about them, this stuff is completely crazy, I actually looked it up myself since they talk about it every week. I'd be happy to show you some articles if you're worried." Maybe you're not technically endorsing their ideas, but you're hosting them, serving them, giving them a prominent place in your shop. You could put a sign out front that says "I don't endorse anything said in my shop", but that just protects you, not your customers.
Now imagine it's not just a coffee shop, but the only coffee shop, everyone in town goes there, and half of them get all their news just by talking to other patrons. Is there any obligation to pay attention to what's being said and who gets to reserve your best tables? If you didn't want to be involved in this, you should have grown so much. If you buy up every other shop and meeting place in town, you have to accept the responsibilities that come with all that power.
Cheers. I actually wrote a response before I read this comment and deleted it because this is exactly what I wanted to say, but better written. This is exactly the point. The thing is, we already hold journalism to these standards. It doesn't matter if its radio or TV or print. If a major publication or channel totally dropped all standards as a matter of principle, and responded with "but who knows what truth really is man"type statements... we wouldn't find this acceptable.
This is what Twitter and Facebook are today (Twitter will even hide these accounts in their German digital coffee shop, where spreading Nazi propaganda is illegal, but are fine letting it be for the rest of the world).
Facebook itself isn't a cesspool of just 1 side, so isn't meaningfully associated with any one. Independent and overlapping cesspools of all strokes form and grow in multitudes there.
This statement is incorrect. Twitter has a huge harassment problem, that users have been begging the company to fix for years, to no avail. There are users openly associating with nazi ideology (not exaggerating here - we are talking about users with swastikas as their avatars, nazi references in their bios, etc.) harassing others on the platform. In no way is this people in their little bubble, being perfectly isolated from others who don't share their ideology.
As far as left-wing vs right-wing or whatever, I don't really care. I chose nazis as the main example because this is a very clear ideological group that has been unequivocally responsible for crimes against humanity in the past, against which Twitter chooses to do absolutely nothing (even if this contradicts their own TOS). Well, they choose to do one thing: make those accounts invisible in countries where they would be breaking the law if they didn't. So they literally have a `isNazi` flag in their database, but they only choose to use it to not get in trouble with German/Austrian/etc. law instead of, you know, just banning people who are calling for ethnic cleansing. Great job, Jack Dorsey.
If there are other similar ideologies (left wing, right wing, or other) you would like to put in the same bucket, please do - I have no issues with that. The only fundamental issue is that Twitter is choosing to let extremist, well defined, communities such as nazi ideologues thrive on their platform because growth or something.
: if you really need proof: https://twitter.com/anp14
I agree that delegating to Facebook judgement of what speech is acceptable or not isn't a good idea, but the flip side of that is you have to take a slightly more active role in cultural discourse if you have any desire to see society converge on good ideas, and eschew harmful ones.
Do they have more power and responsibility than the grocery store newsstand that has the National Enquirer next to Time Magazine, or the cable TV company that delivers Fox News and RT alongside more reliable news sources, or the email services that people used to forward everyone nutty right-wing newsletters before sharing them on Facebook became popular?
Most people don't want news. They want outrage porn and confirmation bias. They want junk food. Facebook optimizes for what people want to see, just like your corner store optimizes for what people want to buy. It's not 7/11's fault that people want to drink 64 oz sodas and eat gummy bears and it's not Facebook's fault that people want to read Breitbart.
If 7/11 stopped selling Big Gulps and gummy bears, people would stop going to 7/11 and they would go broke. If Facebook stopped letting people share outrage porn and confirmation bias with each other, people would stop using Facebook and it would go out of business. So those of us who just want a nice place to buy batteries or keep in touch with distant friends and family members just have to accept that people will use those same venues and mechanisms for things we disapprove of.
P.S.: "Journalism is an institution of democracy"? Well, sometimes. And if you do a good enough job of it, you get a prize named after someone who made a fortune by selling terrible quality newspapers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Pulitzer. News has been a cynical business of propaganda for profit far more often than it has ever been an institution of democracy.
Social networks are optimizing for the derivative of peoples actions. A/B testing to see what causes more clicks etc. However, people are complex enough that they notice patterns and change how they approach things. Some of the most frequent users suddenly chose to quit.
I remember seeing a slightly different discussion on HN ~5 years ago with almost the same arguments and thinking it was Déjà Vu because it was so similar to another HN post. Which get's a very different response than the first time around, because people change. Yesterday FB may have been the worlds most important news source, today less so, and long term people will treat it as just another tabloid.
In that context, starting your own 'social network' will eventually be good advice, because trust is much easier to lose than gain.
You're right, you don't understand.
This is a problem that you don't personally deal with but the data shows that there is a problem.
Many tech consumer products are specifically tailored to get a user more and more addicted to the service, similar to the way the food industry specifically tailors food products to make humans consume more and more of the food (salt/fat/sugar). Never-ending and constantly optimizing research and development goes into this addiction cycle since for many tech products revenue == traffic/engagement.
Adding a little bit of "sweetness" to your product makes it more enjoyable, and that's a good thing. But capitalism is a never ending process of optimizing for profit so before long your product is so "sweet" it is causing serious issues for many people.
I believe it is harder to empirically calculate and observe negative psychological effects than to do the same for physiological effects, but psychological concerns are becoming more mainstream.
The mass collection of data is the real harm. The slowly eroding public web is up there too.
"Oh, is the river polluted? Then don't go in the damn river! Use your head! Don't expect someone, or god forbid the government, to force someone to clean it up just so you can go fishing in the river!"
It doesn't matter if you or I choose not to use Facebook. The rest of the planet is glued to their smartphones and phubbing us every time we leave the house and that affects us regardless of our choices.
It's an analogy for the "age old personal responsibility argument", but if you want to get metaphorical then maybe society is the river, Facebook the pollutant?
I mean come on man, it doesn't take a creative genius to connect the dots here, and it's certainly not ridiculous.
Pretending like an individual can simply logout of Facebook and not have to deal with the social consequences is what is ridiculous!
I'll go full Godwin: There were probably less swastikas per square inch at the height of Nazi Germany than there are Facebook logos today. The perceived rise of authoritarianism of some political Other is nothing more than the actual authoritarianism of Facebook.
Take soft drinks which are terrible for peoples health. Your profit comes from:
1) Convincing people that buying your drink will make them popular & happy.
2) Convincing the government to keep corn subsidies.
3) Convincing everyone that calories in calories out and self control are the _real_ method to health. Our sugar water isn't at fault it's your personal weakness!
We're in a situation where powerful companies use their economic clout to buy off the government and convince the population of falsehoods so they can make more profit.
This isn't new but since we've gotten pretty optimised on at solving genuine human needs (companies vs entropy) is much harder to profit from than fooling suckers into bad choices (companies vs irrational monkey brains).
So now all our most profitable companies largely work to create little anti-competitive fiefdoms and to fool people into harming themselves. So of course people are going to point out that this is terrible and we should probably do something to regulate it's excess.
But underneath that simplistic surface view, you're dealing with somebody who inflicts cost on society as a whole to extract profit for themselves. And they extract it in a way that individuals don't necessarily care to fix.
And so, you'll need somebody to stand up for a functioning society. That would then be your "busybodies". (Sure, there's the libertarian fantasy of complete self-determination. Which inevitably leads to a might-makes-right world. Most of us have decided long ago we'd rather live in a civilized society)
Externalize costs, privatize profits.
And yes, that should absolutely apply to more traditional data-mining companies (credit card companies, for example).
On the other hand I can see why people are treating facebook more like an utility and not a service in a competitive market: the size of its network is now huge and too many people rely on it to receive and propagate information.
The problem with facebook, in my view, is they have (understandably) developed all these tools for you to easily add things to it but make zero meaningful effort to let you (as user) erase things you have place there. After a decade of using facebook, why can't I easily unlike everything I liked? why can't I go and unfollow (massively) "friends" from 10 years ago? why doesn't facebook REALLY delete my content when I tell it to?
I am free to leave facebook or stop using it, but apparently I'm not sure to stop facebook from keep using my old content for eternity. if this was a company that could fold tomorrow, I wouldn't care about this. But its facebook. it's the power company, the water company, the government, and they have my data and does not let me trim it.
Their algorithm acts like a "sad" person who after several desperate and failed attempts at getting my attention to use the service resort to showing my ancient posts/photos to people who are likely to interact with me so that I have to login and use it. It's a sad service.
Sure, they offer an archive process which gives you a zip archive of your post history in HTML, but it's not in any format that's easy to parse or process. On top of that, Facebook events are impossible to get off platform because their API does not expose any way to grab them, which keeps event invites and communication completely locked into the platform.
I'd be much more sympathetic to letting Facebook run amok if they had an actual story for meaningfully extracting data or interacting with your Facebook network without using their client. Then competitors to Facebook would actually stand a chance. But Facebook makes it as hard as possible to liberate your own data, which shows me that they have no intention on letting you leave once you're in.
But this is not gonna happen. As soon as they do that others will use it to migrate users away.
And the quality of the archive they send us is such that it's clear they don't think of the data as "ours".
Facebook didn't just build something really cool and people got addicted to it.
They built something really cool, then hired the smartest people to find ways to make it addictive.
Remember this scene:
If the Colonel simply makes great chicken that people want to eat, then I don't think there's anything wrong with that. If, on the other hand, he puts an addictive chemical into it that makes you crave it fortnightly, that's a different thing.
Facebook has spent a lot of time and money making itself addictive.
Also, most people aren’t nearly as smart as the people on this thread. So you have fairly average folks getting hooked on tech that was designed to be that way by psychology majors and data scientists.
Also, Facebook could do a lot better in removing propaganda and obvious lies. They just don’t want to remove all the hundreds of millions of fake accounts they report as real to their ad buyers.
Hopefully with technology being simpler, it'll be simpler for the 95% (https://lifehacker.com/this-chart-shows-how-computer-literat...) of people to make websites without walled gardens. But a small business probably thinks an FB page is good enough, why pay for your own design and hosting?
It's getting harder and harder to "just don't use" social media.
You'll get left out of real life. If your social circle organizes events on Facebook, and you're the only weirdo that can only be contacted by email and phone, you'll be forgotten by all but your strong friends (who don't need Facebook's friend-menu to remember you).
That might not be a problem if your social circle doesn't rely on Facebook much or you're (for instance) an introvert who doesn't care about parties thrown by acquaintances (which are a nice way to meet new people), but there are a lot of people who those don't apply to and who would have to sacrifice to avoid Facebook.
I already covered that in my original comment: it might not be a bad thing for you, but you are not everyone. There exists a significant number of people for whom quitting Facebook would have some real negative costs.
> I think as one gets older one finds that "Partying" with distant acquaintances becomes less and less an important part of one's social life.
Also getting invited to a party was just an example, and not all parties are booze-fueled keggers where you "party."
It's also not "distant acquaintances" I'm taking about. The group I'm talking about are the people 1) who you like enough to want to hang out with, 2) who like you enough to invite you, but 3) don't like you enough to always remember your special communication preferences unprompted.
I'm reminded somewhat of certain websites only favoring a specific browser or being written in a manner that seriously messes with accessibility.
How is that a bad thing?
It's not normal or healthy to try to maintain hundreds or thousands of "friendships" with people you barely know. You don't need to keep in life-long contact with some guy you spent 4 minutes talking to at a bar while on vacation 5 years ago.
> How is that a bad thing?
I already covered that in my original comment: it might not be a bad thing to you, but you are not everyone. There exists a significant number of people for whom quitting Facebook would have some real negative costs.
> It's not normal or healthy to try to maintain hundreds or thousands of "friendships" with people you barely know. You don't need to keep in life-long contact with some guy you spent 4 minutes talking to at a bar while on vacation 5 years ago.
That's not what I was talking about at all. I was thinking more about the kind of friendly acquaintances that you see regularly. For instance, you might have 3-10 close friends, 20-30 more distant friends, and 500-2000 Facebook non-friends. I'm talking about the second group of 20-30 friends.
If you see them regularly, why not just exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses? I just don't understand why Facebook is needed to keep in contact with them.. unless you somehow feel it's necessary to always know what those distant acquaintances are eating for lunch at any given time.
By getting off Facebook, you simply make yourself hard to reach and it will make your casual relationships rot and die. When my friends create an event, they click "add all members of 'amazing friend group' to event" and that's it.
Nobody is going to then track down the one person who decided to leave the group for a casual event like "5-7 beer this Friday". Even for big events, you may end up being let out simply because you have made yourself harder to reach.
Sure, by leaving Facebook I would still be able to see my 2-3 closest friends and partner but that's it. Nobody in this day and age is going to send an email to me asking to come to a group event. Hell, I don't even know the email addresses of my closest friends, let alone our extended friend group. I can't even imagine how I would organize a 20+ Christmas event without it.
People will ask if you are going to the party and people tweet about a party or they will ig a photo about it. If you have no point of contact outside of facebookfriendgroup you are on the edge of losing connection to that group. It will start happening when people start moving over to snapchat one by one, joining new circles you are not part of, having smaller parties you didn't know about. If those casual friends are important you really need to strengthen those bonds outside of facebook. One day there will be a new smaller group.. will you make the cut?
Sure, if I'm not looking at Facebook and a party happens without me I'll receive some snaps about it. However at that point it's already too late. Snapchat is for sharing slices of life. Nobody organize big events via Snapchat.
Twitter and Instagram are for interacting with strangers. I can't see how posting a photo of a private event to my Instagram followers would help the situation. All it will do is end up with people unfollowing me for posting content that is not what they follow me for. It's not somewhere to interact with friends. Twitter is even worst. Am I to do? Look at #party daily in hope to stumble on a real life friend using it? On both those networks, I follow brands and hobbies. Not close friends.
Everyone is on Facebook and leaving it would simply make my social life harder. I've tried it many time and I've also seen it happen. Whenever someone isn't on Facebook, you don't see them. It keeps happening. "Where is Bob? Did we forget to invite Bob tonight? Does anyone of you has his phone number? I can't seem to find him on Messenger." Phone numbers and addresses are on a need to know basis. If I never needed someone's, I don't have it. Since everyone uses Messenger to communicate, I don't have a lot of them.
 Perhaps that's a French Canadian thing, over here Facebook has around 70% of the population while Twitter has only around 10%. Even if you go Canada wide, Facebook has 71%, Twitter 27%, Instagram 20% and Snapchat 9%.
I look at it this way: If FB wouldn't influence the content that you're looking at - e.g. they wouldn't go on fire if someone posts a nude photo - then it were alright to deny responsibility as they'd merely provide infrastructure.
If, however, they do discriminate content they don't like then, given their sphere of influence, they have to be held responsible I think.
Facebook's entire reason to exist is to introspect on, and discriminate between, messages you send through them.
But we're not even close to a libertarian enough nation to just ignore the problems that corporations create for our citizens, even if those problems could be avoided by personal responsibility. And "soul searching" is waaaay too far up Maslow's hierarchy for most US citizens to even start considering.
This is the distribution of federal spending:
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid consist of almost 50% of the federal budget. If you include "Other," which includes other welfare programs such as veterans benefits, federal food stamps, as well as "Non-defense," which includes additional veterans benefits/housing/health, you can see that a very large percentage of the federal budget is on welfare programs.
Military budget in the US is obviously absolutely atrociously massive, but it is only about 15% of the budget.
If you look at the federal debt, you can see that the trajectory doesn't look great:
So I don't think it is at all fair to say that the US is not a welfare state, particularly when compared to the foundation of the country being rooted in laissez-faire classical liberalism. I am all for the discussion of mitigating attempts on economic distribution of wealth, but what we have in place even now already far surpasses what the budget is capable of facilitating (in terms of cost, not strategy or outcome).
When I step back and look at it in a larger picture, I kinda see a welfare program that demands its recipients stay in shape and follow some special rules.
Conversely your own argument can simply be stated as
"We have a smaller welfare state than most other industrialized countries"
So I don't think you successfully argued that we don't have a welfare state at all.
By the technical definition, yea, it does seem to.
> As far as I know there's no word for something we like too much. The closest is the colloquial sense of "addictive." That usage has become increasingly common during my lifetime. And it's clear why: there are an increasing number of things we need it for.
> The next 40 years will bring us some wonderful things. I don't mean to imply they're all to be avoided. Alcohol is a dangerous drug, but I'd rather live in a world with wine than one without. Most people can coexist with alcohol; but you have to be careful. More things we like will mean more things we have to be careful about.
> You can probably take it as a rule of thumb from now on that if people don't think you're weird, you're living badly.
We'll have to worry not just about new things, but also about existing things becoming more addictive. That's what bit me. I've avoided most addictions, but the Internet got me because it became addictive while I was using it.
Sounds pretty eccentric, doesn't it? It always will when you're trying to solve problems where there are no customs yet to guide you.
> And unless the rate at which social antibodies evolve can increase to match the accelerating rate at which technological progress throws off new addictions, we'll be increasingly unable to rely on customs to protect us.
That means there's going to be a market for products to manage addiction. My bet would be driven by parents and schools
There is an expression that could be relevant: Supernormal stimulus, .
> Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett argues that supernormal stimulation govern the behavior of humans as powerfully as that of animals. In her 2010 book, Supernormal Stimuli: How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose, she examines the impact of supernormal stimuli on the diversion of impulses for nurturing, sexuality, romance, territoriality, defense, and the entertainment industry’s hijacking of our social instincts.
I thought it was weird that if you don't have a Facebook account you're kind of looked at weird now.
In fact, Id bet that tech-savvy adults aged 20-50 who have Facebook accounts is in the high 90% range.
You are weird for not having one. She isn't weird for expecting you to.
He was a smart guy.
The advantage is that I can still give my number and people will see that I don't have WhatsApp, so at least nobody feels like I'm dissing them.
I don't know what you can do about it though. I can't imagine any company willingly dumbing down engagement with their product for the common good. I'm guessing that as all these psychological techniques become more prevalent, cultural norms will probably shift to counter.
Messages about the damaging effects of social media need to be promoted in society, just as we hammered home the cancer-causing effects of tobacco. In fact, it would be great if there was a counter-advertising campaign against social networks that told people how they worsen depression, how many hours/days/years you're wasting on Facebook, and that you can put down your phone and actually do things with your friends. If Facebook has any real value, it can fight negative press. But they won't because they have very little value; just with big tobacco, they'd spend a bunch of money on misinformation and slander, which would come out and make them look worse than when they started.
The catch is twofold.
Leaders, by definition, are few and far between.
Moreover, for a leader, FB offers tools and prospects to gain an ever-expanding audience. The leader must have a strong aversion to FB to ignore this lure.
The submission can be read here: https://web.archive.org/web/20071109094843/http://ycombinato...
Surprisingly to no one, a year later the issue hadn't gone away: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=372593
The time investment that Facebook exacts from its users far outweighs the benefits it provides — e.g. social cohesion. So we feel much less comfortable with the platform's effective psychological hooks. But take an app like stickK, which cleverly recruits social and financial pressure to incentivize user-defined good behavior, and the effectiveness of the hooks don't make us so uneasy. Nir Eyal recently discussed this distinction on the Indie Hackers podcast.
I suppose a part of this is due to consent; stickK users consciously sign up to be manipulated. But consent can't be the entire equation, or else we'd let modern-day cigarette companies off the hook. It's 2017 — smokers know what they're signing up for, and yet they sign up.
I think the tide has been steadily turning on this. I never did use social media beyond creating an account for work or curiosity, quickly getting bored and abandoning. Sure there may have been a time where I felt a little less connected, but those feelings have diminished over time.
The "workarounds" available for those not on social networking are abundant, and more importantly to me, much simpler and time effective for me to use.
Yet here you are posting on HN.
The bottom line is there is no connection.
Social media, especially Facebook, seems engineered to create this illusion that we're more connected with our "friends"; while those people may have been our friends in another time, that doesn't mean they're our friends now just because we have Facebook connections with them. If it only takes not having a Facebook profile to not exist to people, they're not really our friends to begin with. I can say this about the vast majority of people who are my "friends" on Facebook; I know for sure that 99% of them will never contact me unless Facebook prods them to post "Happy Birthday" on my timeline. This isn't to say that my connections are bad people, but it's to say that social media has distorted what friendship and human bonding actually mean in order to profit on peoples' loneliness.
It's not difficult for a truly lonely person to come to that conclusion, but that perspective solidified in me when I became real-life friends with a neighbor of mine. It had been several years since I made a non-superficial friendship. And no social medium was required. I was reminded that real friends are actually interested in seeing you, talking to you, and coming to you first when they've got news about something. Just one friend like that is far more valuable than all the "friends" I ever had on Facebook.
You may still feel a void from it, but I do hope you eventually make some real-life connections like I have and forget about your old "friends" entirely. I abstained from Facebook for 9 months, and even near the end I was feeling the void. Going back to it was starkly different and I realized how much of a waste of time it is. I do still use Facebook, but only as a photo repository since I do have some semblance of friends and family on there. Though I'm sure they wouldn't bother with me if I wasn't there to bolster their friend-count.
-- The Wire
And China has their own version of FB, what will that be used for in the hands of a totalitarian government?
Remember way back when when cigarettes were cool? Well fast-forward 70 years and that’s social media now.
Then again, that might not even be necessary. I think Facebook is going to be in serious trouble within the next 3 to 5 years. Instagram might be fine, but Facebook as a platform is definitely not forever, and it doesn't seem like anyone is really trying to replicate it.
I really wish I didn't have to breath the Facebook's (and Google's) secondhand smoke every time when I interact with other people (or websites). Just like smoking, putting a "like" button on your website or using any of their services to chat with someone inflicts causes "secondhand" damage on people that choose to people that chose not to "inhale".
> I don't know what positives
Nicotine is a drug. It should be obvious that some people enjoy its effects and/or find it useful. The tolerance effect may reduce those benefits for some (most?) people, but that doesn't change that it had (or continues to have) positive effects.
> claim with a straight face
Maybe you should ask the doctors at the Harvard Medical School et al about the benefits nicotine seems to have for several mental health issues? Now that we are finally moving oast the taboos on any nicotine-related research, these discoveries might lead to entirely new types of medication.
 https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Nicotine_I... (paywall - google cache bypass: https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:t8ekKU... )
Having a large ranch of data cows is one of the ways of getting there.
Compound interest only works if you can maintain your returns without going negative. Even ignoring death & family members, the world changes around you and your mental models become outdated. A hundred years ago, investing in steel, oil, and automobiles was a sure path to riches. Now, not so much.
The Rockefellers are still the 24th-richest family in the US: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kerryadolan/2016/06/29/billion-...
Sure, it takes work keeping up - the Vanderbilts are a great example of what not to do - but money does usually beget money.
Carnegie is, I think, the most interesting example: He gave away almost all his money. His belief was summed up with "The man who dies rich, dies disgraced".
The Carnegie Corporation (a foundation), however, held on to the money neatly - their current endowment is $3 bln.
Just because you can sell a company for that much money doesn't mean it's not a lot of money
As a sibling poster said, that's a pretty sweet deal in exchange for... nothing aside from the luck of being born to the right family.
Many dystopian novels have explored that concept where at the point people can be kept alive indefinitely the moving around of wealth stops. Anybody not in the 'club' at that point is doomed to fight for fewer and fewer available resources. I personally don't feel that is the most accurate prediction of what will happen when billionaires become immortal but I recognize it as a possibility.
I'm more inclined towards the second, simply because even if the rich don't change, the world around them does. Joy's Law: "No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else." In my view, most of the rich got there because they had mental models that were particularly well-adapted to the times they lived in, and life circumstances that let them capitalize on the opportunities that this let them see before anyone else.
I've noticed that even in my relatively short life (I'm mid-30s), a lot of my mental models have already become outdated. When I started my career, desktop apps reigned supreme, you shouldn't even bother competing with Microsoft, and the richness and responsiveness of your UI determined how many customers you got (well, that and having a Windows version that was all of those things). By the time I graduated from college, this mental model was already out-of-date - and the people who recognized it was out-of-date, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerburg and Jeff Bezos, are now literally among the richest people on Earth.
I can only imagine how out-of-date someone's mental model would be after 1000 years of being on top of the world. Could you imagine putting Charlemagne into the modern world? He'd be dumber than the most idiotic teenager.
We've coped with that, our descendants will cope with social networks we've created, as well. Attention management and rapid critical thinking would become as crucial mental capacities as IQ and EQ are today.
If, of course, smart people acquiring these skills over the next generations are still going to have descendants and the volume is significant enough, because typical "exploited" subjects are going to, you bet.
Not really an 'immortal overload' but closer to a vampire seeing all of your friends & family pass away while you never age and only those that you decide to keep are allowed to continue living until they arent.
The hubris! Napster wasn't his idea or tech, Facebook wasn't his idea or tech. This man is the most undeservedly rewarded person in tech history. The commentary that we're dissecting here is tepid and late.
2) That said, when parents use technology as a pacifier, baby sitter, etc. why is that acceptable?
3) Let's say Parker is correct. What are the long term implications? Is The Matrix closer than we hope?
I've got plenty of critical things to say about social panopticons, but perspective, please.
After Peter Thiel's blood thing, and quotes like this, I think the French were a little too hard on Marie Antoinette.
If you're referring to the "why can't they eat cake?" thing, she didn't actually say that.
I believe there was a completely unrelated girl around the same time who said something more like "why can't they eat brioche?", but that alluded to a custom of baking brioche loaves with a knobbly bit on top which people would tear off and give away, so the question had the meaning of "why can't the poor rely on private charity rather than state support?"
Still not the most endearing line imaginable, but nowhere near as dumb as is usually supposed.
He sees what he and his friends are doing as potentially immoral and, by telling us, his conscience is asking us to stop him and his friends. At the same time, he's gloating about getting away with it and profiting handsomely. He believes he can't be stopped -- even if he tells us all about what they will do.
He won't stop by himself. It's in his self-interest. He enjoys the power and the technological challenge.
Not holding my breath though. Years from now, he and Thiel will probably be chilling in their dr. evil compounds in new zealand while the rest of us are fighting it out over scraps in apocalypto-shanty-town USA.
The only thing that seems to make people angrier than politispeak, is honesty!
Parker is a smart guy. If he were even half-way serious about what he was saying, he would be doing something a hell of a lot more effective than tweeting "conscientiously" and donating 10% to medical research.
"The inventors, creators — it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people — understood this consciously. And we did it anyway."
I disagree that he's a sociopath (sociopath wouldn't disclose this information). I think he's a geek who got so caught up with what he was working on that he lost sight that it was very immoral until much later (and perhaps too late).
An important lesson for us all.
He talks about it because he feels guilt but knows he won't be punished.
He understood it was immoral. He still did it, because morality doesn't have the power to stop actions. Now he feels guilt for doing evil. But at least now he's ultra-rich and powerful. He understood what he was trying to achieve.
(talking about sociopaths, not Sean Parker)
All of the recent social media handwringing looks more like dismay over alt-right shitposters co-opting their psyops weapon than a moral awakening.
does j.k. rowling exploit human psychology to make addictive novels?
does steven spielberg exploit human psychology to make addictive films?
could downvoters explain why it's evil for facebook to present interesting content but not for the individuals above or publishers like the NY Times, who tweak headlines and article content?