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Facebook Morale Takes a Tumble Along with Stock Price (wsj.com)
382 points by dsgerard 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 285 comments

My favorite paragraph [0] I've read about Facebook is:

“Zuck himself so clearly doesn’t even understand Facebook” strikes me as a completely fair and not even controversial position. Mark Zuckerberg built an online facebook for Harvard students. It became popular, and he turned it into a company with a vision “to make the world more open and connected,” and now it is enabling mob violence in India and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and election interference in the U.S. and corporate emotional manipulation and the transformation of the news media and also probably just making people sad a lot. That list is sort of random, which is the point; no one at Facebook sat down to build an election interference function. They sat down to build a system for purposes that they thought were good, and are happy to brag to you about: sharing baby pictures, connecting the world, making piles of money by showing you ads, that sort of thing. All — most, anyway — of the bad effects of Facebook are emergent features of the system that they built for the good effects; that system itself, and its messy interactions with billions of people out in the real world, creates the bad effects.

Conventional wisdom for a long time was that ad-funded social media was a pretty cool and not-that-bad thing. Those emergent properties might make it a sometimes cool, mostly bad thing.

When the stock price is climbing, I'm sure it's pretty easy for employees to ignore that line of thinking. When it stops—if you agree with the shifting conventional wisdom—then why wouldn't you leave?

[0] https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2018-09-13/the-cr...

I don't know, it makes me laugh every time I see facebook blamed for things created by messages they cannot see (whatsapp is e2e encrypted, remember?) and blamed for not respecting privacy and censoring people at the same time. They cannot win, and they're expected to monitor and censor everything in real time (and what they do already apparently is bad enough for people that they get PTSD right now, I don't want to imagine the crap they remove).

I can already imagine the next media scoop: there are scams on the facebook marketplace, and facebook does nothing unless someone reports them. You read it here first, remember! :)

The same argument that paragraph makes could be made about the Internet (it's full of shit and bomb manuals and piracy and hate and extremism regardless of social media, stormfront was nothing new) for example, so I feel that maybe it's something pretty good-sounding but fundamentally empty.

The reason Facebook has to police content, is that they want to be a platform where you can reach 'the world' and 'go viral', not just a platform where you can reach two or three degrees of separation.

If Facebooks algorithms prioritised content from people I actually interact with, instead of showing the clickfarm-content that some high school classmate of mine liked, I suspect many of their problems would actually dissapear.

The reason they have to police content is that they want to sell ads next to that content.

The ads are content too and probably need more and better policing than the content they appear next to. Literally anyone can buy a Facebook ad and target it with exquisite precision to people who will agree with it and not report it, and since it’s their main source of revenue they’re not inclined to turn people away.

+1 hahahaha

You could unfollow your classmate and won't see the crap he posts. What you say you want is for Facebook to read your mind and detect who you like and who not. And if they actually will do that, "omg that's creppy, bad Facebook"...

I wouldn't mind seeing what my former classmate posts herself.

I mind seeing the post from WhateverLADMeme that she 'liked'. It's easy for me to see the difference, and I think it would be easy for Facebook as well.

Last time I checked, Facebook filters your content by default to optimize their ad business. They don't show things chronologically, which would make your argument pertinent.

They already filter what you see and they prefer to choose that because it serves their interests, not yours.

If they wanted to serve the user's interest, that comment would most likely be filtered out.

Exactly this! Once Facebook became a broadcast medium, their responsibility changed. They don’t need to police me taking to my friends. But when content literally can travel around the world to millions in an instant, they have a very real responsibility that can’t be shrugged off.

If they are going to take the role of curator — which they have via their newsfeed algos, then they have become something other than a friend-to-friend sharing platform and they assume the responsibilities therein.

Does Facebook need to police your friends talking to their friends? And those friends talking to their friends? That's all "virality" means. People (on average) are garbage, and Facebook empowers people. If Facebook is wrong, maybe Noah and is Ark are the only ones who were right.

The problem is not that they need to police people's interactions. But they take (a big) part in deciding which interactions to display to each person and insert their interests in the middle of them.

That needs to be moderated.

The reason they have to police such a sheer amount of content is because they are too big. Communities should be smaller. And social networking technology platforms should be distributed to everyone (open source).

I put my $ where my fingers are: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ1O_gmPneI

Along with all their revenue.

Come on, not all their revenue. Facebook has been taking the ugly easy way forward for way too long. How many of these messy features were rolled out after Facebook already built its userbase on the strength of features people actually want? If a TV show or some other media platform switched around on us to the extent Facebook has, we'd have stopped engaging long ago.

I would wager that the primary reason the majority of people are on Facebook (unlike Twitter and Instagram) is still the original reason: to be connected to people they already know. Facebook wants to leverage and interrupt that as far as possible, as far as we will allow.

> facebook blamed for things created by messages they cannot see

The WhatsApp founder quit over differences around privacy / advertising, and WhatsApp is only one part of facebook. Facebook can see everything on facebook itself, and Messenger. In addition, they failed to the data that they do have private. The problem is they are failing on both fronts simultaneously, privacy, and preventing harm on their platform.

If they were only failing on one front, then I would have some sympathy for your position.

> The WhatsApp founder quit over differences around privacy / advertising, and WhatsApp is only one part of facebook. Facebook can see everything on facebook itself, and Messenger.

The particular accusation I was referring to was the one pertaining the mob violence in India, which is a tragedy that was completely orchestrated on whatsapp AFAIK. I'm pretty sure I can find more if I look on the media, more recent also.

The founder of whatsapp quitting does not change anything in the equation.

It was orchestrated on 'WhatsApp' as it is the current most popular IM application. Had Line or Telegram been the most popular ones, those platforms would have been used.

These are just tools of the trade - which in this case was probably some local politics. Today, when more and more such tools are available with instant communication to a large audience, having an educated opinion and thought about the incoming communication (messages, memes or videos, etc.) is more important. Unfortunately, that is way more easily said than done.

With all the media already causing severe cognitive load, giving a thorough thought to something you come across becomes even more difficult, especially when just reacting to it is so much more simpler.

This applies not only to WhatsApp or FB, but the numerous online platforms that have a wide reach.

Since I may have gone off-topic, I suppose I should end this with a /rant

> These are just tools of the trade - which in this case was probably some local politics.

Some of these things that have occurred could reasonably be argued to be genocide. Calling that ‘local politics’ and minimising FBs role is not the way this should be handled.

Not trying to minimize it in any way, and sorry if it gives that impression.

There are steps that Facebook could take to prevent, for example, the use of Messenger and WhatsApp for mob violence.

In fact, I seem to remember they recently did... The idea was limiting the number of possible recipients of a message, and also limiting forward chains. That would seem a promising policy to stop the sort of mass-coordinated eruptions of violent emotions these products otherwise enable.

The second point is rather more subjective, but in my recollection, there was never a moment where there was a collective sense that the internet is of negative net value in the way that is the case for FB today.

When the internet was small, it was also unknown. At the time where it became part of the general dialog, it often came in the form of CompuServe and AOL. Those were rather sanitised walled gardens, and the obvious positive uses had front page billing in the average person's mind. Sure, there were lots of scare stories of porn and whatever, but I don't remember them ever getting close the far larger narrative of the dotcom boom.

That's an interesting idea to have a Time To Live attached to things you can share, so it will stay in your close network.

However, who would like to use a platform where things can not go viral ? Certainly not advertisers. This is an impossible conundrum.

I actively try to avoid content that's "gone viral".

I've come to the conclusion that (to a first approximation) anything that the masses want to share, I don't want to see.

I don't disagree with you, but it is hard to tell if social media platform are developed primarily for their end users or for advertisers.

> (whatsapp is e2e encrypted, remember?)

They built systems with a dreamy vision that drastically reducing friction for sharing, communicating, grouping and discussion will lead to a better world.

To me, that is a forgivable mistake. But what's not forgivable is not doing proper introspection when something goes wrong. The job of the CEO is to ensure his company does well in the long run. That the company survives and thrives.

Due to this myopic vision of facebook and its assumption that creating such a platform will only foster good, it was too late to build effective controls to it's platform. It assumed that data is a cash-cow that ought to be milked and sold that to anyone willing to pay. It failed to see the repercussions of it's data-for-all approach, in fact it proudly proclaimed that the company's most valuable asset is its data, that data is the new oil, etc. It assumed that the millions of people on it's platform need not be monitored or the use of it's platform need not be regulated. It failed to build adequate tools to help it's own users counter / report abusive / blatantly false / troublesome content. Even if it built them, it failed to hire enough staff to handle the content on it's platform.

>They cannot win, and they're expected to monitor and censor everything in real time (and what they do already apparently is bad enough for people that they get PTSD right now, I don't want to imagine the crap they remove)

When FB is shouting loudly to the world that social is the next big thing, that social is the new google, that social is the new oil, that publishers ought to use it's platform to easily and quickly reach audience (remember that it's algorithms control who will see the publishers content), that everyone ought to be connected to it all the time, that everyone ought to play social games on it's social platform, that everyone needs to search social to make the next purchase, that everyone ought to get their information from social, then it ought to accept responsibility to the actions it's platform has enabled.

FB went to the extent of putting real effort in third world countries to eradicate the difference between the internet and FB. It has succeeded in a few African countries too.

FB's intent is pretty clear, it want's everybody to use it's platform and it want's to remove barriers to human interaction. Then it better not complain that it cannot control itself and it's not responsible for what's happening on it's platform.

If you know a murder is being committed in your basement every Monday, and you fail to do something about it, then you have a very high chance of being convicted to being an accessory to murder.

FB has become a monster and, in my view, a necessary scapegoat to educate the masses and those in power, the destructive effects of social media.

Unrestricted, anonymous human interactions have no hope of making the world good, as it's extremely easy for fringe elements to take control of the narrative and poison the well.

FB ought to die and from it's ashes rise the idea that when given a chance, most humanity will behave as wild animals rather than hermits full of wisdom.

To create article previews, WhatsApp scrapes the URL you share. They can't see the text you type in and send, but they definitely know which URLs are being shared, and how often.

> They cannot win, and they're expected to monitor and censor everything in real time

Are we supposed to stop complaining about Facebook's negative impact on the world because their business model makes it impossible for them to resolve those problems?

Are you saying that it would be good for Facebook to monitor and censor everything in real time and the only thing stopping them is their darn business model?

I think they're saying it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for Facebook to stop existing.

But that gap would just be filled by someone else. You can’t really stop technology and human greed.

I think that one company should be legally prohibited from occupying a gap that large. It happened with AT&T back and the day, and it feels like we are overdue today. Facebook shouldn't have been able to buy WhatsApp and Instagram.

Large industries with the ability to cause far-reaching harm have been regulated many times before.

Not to sound pessimistic but... have they been really regulated?

The most common example of this is the tobacco industry and it's pretty much still there. Smaller, sure.

But do we really regulate the sugar industry killing millions every day? Or the car industries destroying the environment, cities and people? Oil industry perhaps?

There are many other examples of these. They are "regulated" in the strict sense, but in reality, they control governments and keep doing whatever they want.

I don't think anything will ever change in this scenario. After all, capitalism is the answer to every problem, right? /s

There is plenty of reason to see it as a bit grim, but a lot of good has been done. I was specifically thinking of the industrial revolution and the abysmal human rights records, pollution and desperate mill towns which ground people to death. It’s a low bar, but things have got better.

>But do we really regulate the sugar industry killing millions every day?

Hyperbole much? Only 150,000 people die each day worldwide from all causes.

If an industry was committing a literal holocaust every few weeks I think we would notice.

So social media is like the tobacco industry? And what weas users knowingly, purposely share online should be regulated? And by which government? Companies like Facebook are global.

Probably a lot worse than the tobacco industry in the long term. With a lot more unknown effects and problems.

Again, the problem is not sharing. The problem is that they knowingly manipulate the sharing. How they do that is their problem.

I have no idea how to go about enforcing this. But it's impossible for me to look at it and say "just let it run it's natural course".

And smokers still knowingly smoke, causing themselves and others harm. Because of this (and also arguably for revenue) the behaviour of the multinational tobacco companies is regulated by the governments in the countries they operate in.

Regarding what should be regulated, I’d say that assisting genocide should be blocked for a start.

That might have saved Google+. Of course it's questionable whether Google would have handled it any better.

I'm really hoping we're headed towards decentralised federated social networks. With more control in the hands of the users. Like email + usenet on steroids. Not that those were perfect, but in that kind of environment, everybody can curate their own little corner, rather than putting all that in the hands of a single company.

Sure you can, you can at least reign it in. We do it all the time. Every time I read sentences like "you cannot stop technology xy" what you actually seem to mean is "I don't want to".

We have international nuclear arms proliferation agreements that are reasonably effective. We keep the worst actors in the world from possessing biological weapons. But we cannot control what social media company Mark Zuckerberg let's loose on the world?

And we can't stop greed? Compared to the robber baron era we're all bleeding heart socialists. Change is possible and we can determine what technologies we want to live with as a society.

The problem is that the thing you're really trying to control here is technologically-enabled gossip. You don't need a behemoth the size of Facebook for that. Stuff like Myanmar, that could happen just as well with simple text messages (1 guy sends to 2, each of those sends to 2 as well, and it goes exponential).

we've had popular and commercial peer or group based messaging for more than two/three decades now, but nothing has rivaled the virality and speed of Facebook, twitter and so forth. There's a difference between propagation in a private network of a handful of people at a time, and the sort of mass agitation of public social news feeds.

If twitter would only allow direct sharing between say, a personal circle of friends, I'd bet you a lot of money that we'd see very different outcomes.

In Myanmar, it was the private network of individuals, resharing posts on WhatsApp. Everyone only shares to their direct friends - but then those friends share with their friends etc. And I don't see how you can restrict that technologically - I mean, you could block share-of-share, but then people will just reshare screenshots (it's already common enough as it is).

I think it would be good, when Facebook is made aware that their platform is used for systematic genocide, that they don't stick their fingers into their ears and chant I can't hear you! I can't hear you! for month.

At least they do that until genocide in Myanmar turns into a Facebook public relations problem.

>Are we supposed to stop complaining about Facebook's negative impact on the world because their business model makes it impossible for them to resolve those problems?

You can always complain, but I find it akin to complaining about telephone companies because people use telephone services to plan and perpetrate crimes. Or knife manufacturers because people kill others with knives.

Facebook is a tool, and turned out to be a pretty effective tool. As with many effective tools, there are bad uses for it.

You're completely ignoring network effects i.e., the mob - the main reason to regulate social media - and the telephone doesn't have that, so it's not a good comparison.

> Facebook is a tool

...and so are its users. In any case: people are arguing specifically that the negatives outweigh the positives. While that is obviously subjective and debatable, there really isn't any argument defending Facebook under the assumption that they are net negative.

In fact, there is a rather long list of precedent. That's why you can't really enrich uranium even if it would make a really cool necklace.

In a free society we don't prohibit certain activities just because a vocal minority dislikes them. The bar for coercive control and regulation needs to be a lot higher than that.

I hope we've all read Taleb's thoughts on "The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority"[0], you'd be surprised how much influence vocal minorities appear to have in our "free" societies.


>While that is obviously subjective and debatable, there really isn't any argument defending Facebook under the assumption that they are net negative.

That assumption is very much the point of contention here.

Who told you that? Keep applying pressure, is the only way they will ever improve.

As long as you don't believe they can moderate an e2e channel you're fine in my book. :)

Do you complain about the general internet's negative effect on the world too, where anybody can make their own personal stormfront, or only these big companies because the media makes it trendy to do so?

It makes me angry. I don't even have Facebook, but the level of scapegoating and vilification is extreme. It's annoying enough to see people be tone deaf about the previous election. It's even worse when they act like the outcome was supposed to be one way, and it's largely Facebook's fault it was the other way.

It's like these trash psychological studies about conservatives being motivated by "fear" and "disgust" and liberals being motivated by "openness" and some other word with positive connotations. These people aren't lab rats. They have free will, Facebook didn't force them to vote for Trump. If they're able to be influenced by Facebook ads, they were just as well influenced by anything they saw on Fox, CNN, etc.

No doubt, Facebook has an influence on the thoughts of people who use it. But that influence is present in every other medium. Acting like people are two-dimensional characters who made the wrong decisions because they were badly influenced by Facebook, but not me, not me the intellectual who is immune to such influence because I'm not a lab rat but these people are. That attitude drives me up the wall. And the lab rats see it too. They're not so stupid that they're unaware about being talked about like idiotic subhuman specimens incapable of coming to their own conclusions.

And then the same people that talk about them like lab rats get mad at the NPC meme. Okay, I'm laughing again.

My humble opinion is that at some point the started using data to steer the company, and that's why we saw an increase in the "video" and "sharing posts" and "politics", and such a push to add everyone that you have ever come across in life as "friend", because it increases the screen time for users.

Had they stuck to their original vision, share baby photos, life events, etc., the user engagement would be much lower, but it would be a happier place.

Agree. You see this clearly with videos on there that are hard to close - bad UI, but surely bumps up their total hours of video served stat.

But I I get the odd feeling using Facebook that the content is not even so data-optimized for engagement (because surely if that were the case I’d find my feed more interesting than it is) but rather that it is optimized for revenue in ways that are actually negative in terms of real engagement. Example - if I see an interesting article and stop 5min to read it, that’s real engagement for a significant amount of time, but I might see only a couple of ads in that time. Whereas If the content is really dull and I’m just scrolling mindlessly, I’m seeing a lot more ads, and the gap between how interesting the ads are and how interesting the non-ad content is is much smaller.

Does anyone else get this feeling? Ie that facebook is almost intentionally boring?

Skinner box rewards you intermittently. You keep going however in expectation of more rewards.

>But I I get the odd feeling using Facebook that the content is not even so data-optimized for engagement

likely their metrics are way more involved than that because there are inherent trade offs there.

Absolutely this is the case. They trained the feed algorithm with years of A/B testing data and told it to optimize for engagement above all else. Well, guess what, this is exactly the same way YouTube trained their "Up next" algorithm and that's why you are 2-3 degrees of separation between cute cat videos and right-wing nazi/fascist propaganda.

When you optimize for user engagement above all else, this is what happens.

The algorithm found out that people are most engaged when they’re arguing with one another about provocative nonsense, and worked to create as much of it as possible.

Yes if my Facebook homepage was still mainly ALL my friends posting personal photos and stuff in a chronological order maybe it would still be fun and engaging.

I noticed last summer there was a sharp decline in vacation posts. Instead we shared on Whatsapp groups, so I guess monetizing it makes sense.

> Mark Zuckerberg built an online facebook for Harvard students. It became popular, and he turned it into a company with a vision “to make the world more open and connected,” and now it is enabling mob violence in India and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and election interference in the U.S. and corporate emotional manipulation and the transformation of the news media and also probably just making people sad a lot.

This is the most accurate description of what's wrong with Facebook in a single paragraph.

... I'm going to go post it on Facebook.

> it is enabling mob violence in India and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar and election interference in the U.S. and corporate emotional manipulation and the transformation of the news media and also probably just making people sad a lot

I always find it curious how Facebook, which is principally a new communications medium, is being blamed for things that happen over virtually every communications medium and are in fact just part of the human condition.

The key difference with Facebook is that they aren't just a data transmission service. They actively choose what to present to you in your news feed. So while the phone company isn't responsible for a customer calling fifty people to organise a violent mob, Facebook is culpable when they choose to show their user an inflammatory post about why people should be organising violent mobs.

They can't have it both ways. Optimising for engagement is a poisoned pill.

In a counterfactual scenario where the Facebook news feed sorting criteria never changed from "most recent" to whatever it is now, do you think anybody would actually feel differently about the issue?

Of course.

Sorting by most recent, you can only blame your friends for promoting extremism -- FB remains neutral.

But when FB promotes extremist/click bait content in your feed in order to maximize engagement and profit, they're obviously to blame for that.

Most sites now have algorithms deciding what you see and in which order, including news sites, email services, and other social media sites.

I mean, if you owned a cafe or a pub where angry mobs were organizing their campaigns of terror on the local population I don't think it would be out of line to ask you to perhaps reconsider allowing the mob to meet on your premises. Even if terrorizing the local population is just part of "the human condition."

It's more like owning almost every cafe in the world, having billions of unique customers per month, and trying to prevent the mob from meeting at any of your locations.

It's not just that they're letting the mob meet (which I agree is tricky to control) it's sending out flyers advertising that the angry mob is meeting and inviting people to come on down and join in.

If a pub or cafe had microphones on all the tables and a proprietor who knew the intimate details of every conversation that ever happened there I don’t think it would have a lot of customers.

I think you’re suggesting that the free speech argument is overblown when it comes to online discussion forums, and I agree with that - they can, should and do set house rules.

The problem that Facebook faces is that it has become bigger than government, and so people expect it to obey similar rules regarding the protection of free speech, but Facebook does not have the power to make actual laws, so it is not required to protect free speech on its platform. Free speech is intended to protect democracy from governments that would enact laws to limit dissent. It is not relevant to Facebook.

The argument that a product whose business model is based on artificially weighting communications between disparate groups for profit and engagement should protect peoples right to inject whichever provocative messages they want into it in the name of free speech seems like a perversion of the principal to me, because the result is an erosion of democracy and human rights as we have seen.

They absolutely should ban people for posting stuff that doesn’t align with their brand, and in a free market those people can find another forum for discussion with more permissive rules. Preferably an open, decentralised network that does not rely on ad revenue or have any incentive to automatically promote the growth of groups of algorithmically selected like-minded individuals.

And yes, I am ignoring all the good things about FB here. I don’t believe Facebook has amounted to a net good for society, however good its intentions.

"If a pub or cafe had microphones on all the tables and a proprietor who knew the intimate details of every conversation that ever happened there I don’t think it would have a lot of customers."

I agree but that wasn't the analogy I was going for, Facebook's (and Twitter's) main issue is the propagation of non-private communication. If the angry mob is meeting at your cafe and everyone in town knows they are meeting there and what they are doing then the microphones etc. are not required. The privacy issues are mostly orthogonal to the disinformation and bad-for-society stuff.

We can all pick the analogy to suit our argument.

You pick a cafe. I'll pick the phone company. Would it be out of line to ask phone companies to reconsider allowing mobs to use their services?

(Let's temporarily ignore the legal position phone companies have - they are explicitly protected by the law and not held liable).

I think we all agree phone companies should reconsider allowing telemarketers to buy lines from them.

Also start revoking lines and blocking calls from known telemarketers!

I'll pick the phone company

The phone company isn't calling me up and telling about about all the stuff the angry mob has been up to and inviting me to join in on their next conference call.

The phone company is also not giving the angry mob your number and telling them you probably like the cut of their jib.

I think trading analogies is more healthier than the Ben-Shapiro-I-win-because-I-sound-smarter-than-you style of debate.

We can trade analogies. And figure out where Facebook should lie, on the spectrum of analogies.

But it is not like a phone company at all, it is a publicly accessible space not a point to point communication mechanism.

> principally a new communications medium

There is so much to say about this and its just been accepted. It IS a new communications medium, but very unlike those before it. Its a medium that allows rapid propagation of both information and misinformation. Its sold as a family-friendly media to connect with those you love and care but ends up as a firehose of targeted ad consumption. To dismiss the power of this new communication medium by treating it "just as a new newspaper" is exactly where you are wrong.

> It IS a new communications medium, but very unlike those before it. Its a medium that allows rapid propagation of both information and misinformation. Its sold as a family-friendly media to connect with those you love and care but ends up as a firehose of targeted ad consumption.

You could literally say the exact same things about the postal service.

> You could literally say the exact same things about the postal service.

I don't think so. Its the "rapid propagation" part that makes it different from the postal service.

Fine. Then television. Or phones. Or email or the internet.

I don't think it's the exactly same thing; the reach of FB really is the issue, and that it's centralized. I do agree that there is an element of Facebook being unfairly blamed for what is effectively the large share of abusive behavior that happens on the Internet simply because for a lot of people, Facebook is "The Internet."

That being said, Facebook's entire mission statement is to "connect the world" and I think you can make the argument that there are some people, especially all the strangers of the world, that shouldn't be "connected" whatsoever and yet Facebook encourages these kind of connections every single day, although I do think they've realized their mistake and pulled back a little (getting rid of the trending news section and the cesspool of user comments that go along with them).

I always thought forums and message boards were the best part of the Internet. This site in particular (HN) is a great example where people explicitly went to discuss things with a somewhat similar group of people. I'd like to see Facebook embrace the "Groups" feature more, to encourage people to find smaller groups of like-minded people that are interested in having a discussion instead of public comment posts that devolve into a bunch of random strangers shouting at each other. I also like the idea that "Groups" can be decentralized from a moderation point of view. There is no way, as large as Facebook is, that they can centrally moderate the entirety of human thought across all languages and cultures they participate in.

Scale matters. That's why mass murderers are considered worse than someone who murders just one person.

> Scale matters.

Newspapers already had sufficient scale to start major wars, prop up and/or tear down governments, etc. And, while we may blame those newspapers, should we also blame the companies that manufacture printing presses? Direct mail can be used for similar things; should we blame the USPS?

Despite your argument being a false analogy, a bit of a strawman, and a non sequitur -- many historians have indeed chronicled the violent societal effects of the invention of the printing press:

"The effect of the discovery of printing was evident in the savage religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Application of power to communication industries hastened the consolidation of vernaculars, the rise of nationalism, revolution, and new outbreaks of savagery in the twentieth century."

-Harold Innis, The Bias of Communication

See also:


We do blame newspapers for starting wars though. At least we did back when they did so. We do hold the mainstream media as accountable for its actions.

You seem to be either (intentionally or for the sake of argument) excluding a lot of relevant context in your arguments to make Facebook look similar to a printing press.

I think that quote generalizes to "people don't understand large-scale socio-technological systems." Pretty much any technology that reaches a certain level of adoption becomes a double-edged sword that no single person can fully understand or control. I don't think any of this is unique to Zuck/Facebook in any way. They just happen to be the current punching bag.

I believe the first sentence is absolutely correct. The rest does not follow: if we don't have a good model we can't predict that it will become a double edge sword or why or when.

AS for Zuck/FB - anyone who creates a destructive technology needs to act responsibly.

> election interference in the U.S.

Election interference all over the world.

Fiji had elections yesterday. Before election day we have a mandatory 48hr blackout period where the media are forbidden from publishing or broadcasting political news, opinions, or ads.

When the blackout period started, three fake accounts named after and posing as the top media outlets in Fiji appeared and began posting highly controversial and damaging fake news designed to make opposition parties look bad. These fake news posts were all promoted (FB made a lot of money off them).

Despite FB saying they'd make political ads more transparent by showing who paid for them, they have not done so. The fake news could have been generated by Indonesia (in support of the current Fiji govt which turns a blind eye to their occupation/genocide in West Papua) or by Qorvis, the US corp that supports tyrants everywhere with propaganda and media manipulation (and who are on the Fiji govt payroll). Either way, FB is complicit and in refusing to divulge who paid for the ads, is showing they just don't give a damn.

> Fiji had elections yesterday. Before election day we have a mandatory 48hr blackout period where the media are forbidden from publishing or broadcasting political news, opinions, or ads.

This seems like the kind of law that is fundamentally unenforceable if the Internet exists in the first place. The ability to circumvent arbitrary restrictions on free expression used to be considered a good thing about the Internet.

Yeah, "fake news"--except that has more to do with the cost of publishing news than anything. Back when most people consumed TV news and it was expensive to run a TV network, there was less fake news, at least until TV networks became cheap enough that they could segment the market by bias. During the heyday of newspapers, there was a ton of fake news, except they called it "yellow journalism".

Several countries have similar blackout rules. In Australia there's a blackout from the Wednesday before election day up until after election day (which is always on Saturday).

These rules only apply to paid advertising by political campaigns and select broadcasters, and so your discussion of free expression and so on is not really relevant.

In Australia the blackout period only applies to radio and television advertising, while online advertising just requires the person who paid for the advertisement's address and name to be provided with the advertisement.

Yes, but in this case it's a single for-profit company. I hope Fiji sues the shit out of FB.

Well, presumably the clickbait sites are also for-profit companies.

Agree - in Brazil I also saw a few non-compliant paid political ads that should have been taken down, and there has been significant controversy re. professionally generated fake news on Whatsapp & fb having tilted results

The general idea behind Facebook is that open communication is an inherent good.

But too open communication results in knee-jerk emotional assertions and brazen judgement.

As most drunks know, sometimes inhibited communication is better.

There's one extremely important nuance here people are skirting over. Facebook is not "enabling" e.g. mob violence in India. It's not even the internet "enabling" these things. These acts existed long before the internet. All the internet has changed is allowing people to organize into these groups more easily. How is this related to Facebook? Well they're organizing through Facebook (or related properties) to do these things, yet it's clear that Facebook is not the a priori cause here. We still might want to declare them guilty as a facilitator rather than an enabler, but I'm not sure how reasonable even that is.

In particular there is no specific company necessary to communicate or connect on the internet. There are even fully decentralized messaging programs that operate independent of anything besides an internet connection. The reason it's easy to blame Facebook is because they are a net ill on society for many reasons aside from the ones being discussed here, they have a founder that's both remarkably visible and remarkably uncharismatic, and they or related properties are one of the most common methods of organization simply because they have, by a wide margin, the greatest marketshare of all means to organize.

But I think blaming Facebook for e.g. mob violence in India is akin to blaming the Bell System (which held a monopoly on telephone connections from the 19th century until they were broken up in the 1980s into AT&T, Verizon, etc) for e.g. the KKK organizing through telephone calls. In other words this a people problem, not a company problem. You're not going to solve this through some sort of content filtering or clever algorithms. I have absolutely no love for Facebook, but I think turning them into a scape goat for any social ill is hardly productive. It means you're going to spend all your energy shooting at one target that has nothing to do with what you're actually aiming for.

Technologies can amplify types of human behaviors. Twitter h brings people together, but it amplifies twits. That does not mean all people are twits, there are many people I respect who use/have used twitter. But it is an amplifier for certain kinds of people and messages. Zeynep Tufekci's book "twitter and teargas" is a great reference for this issue.

I doubt that his vision “to make the world more open and connected" was anything more than, "hey guy you left box 38 "vision" blank on your company starter form."

Your description makes me think of the fictional “chaotician” from Jurassic Park, Dr Ian Malcolm, and his speech in the book about why the park would fail because its complexities would lead to emergent phenomena beyond the control of the parks creators. (“Life finds a way...”)

> All — most, anyway — of the bad effects of Facebook are emergent features of the system that they built for the good effects; that system itself, and its messy interactions with billions of people out in the real world, creates the bad effects.

This statement is imprecise. Most of the bad effects are as a result of Facebook gaming its own system on behalf of both advertisers and valuation-driving metrics (growth, engagement, etc.). A Facebook that just allows people to connect is fairly benign. A Facebook that differentially exposes metadata and drives user attention in return for money is inherently dangerous. Positive feedback loops are mathematically unstable in dynamic systems.

"emergent features"

Yes, exactly.

Bigger picture: one problem with moving to give algorithms more control is that you can't always anticipate the behavior of algorithms. Especially when the algorithm is being targeted by an attacker. You need to predict not just best-case or average-case behavior, you need to know all the possible worst-case behaviors.

There's a direct analogy to computer security, where we have no answers to how to make systems hack-proof. Systems and algorithms are hard and we don't have a solution to prevent exploitation.

Humans are much harder to exploit. If Russia tries to get Ukrainians banned from an event by appealing to humans, that's much more attacker-resistent than when Russia gets Ukrainians banned from Facebook by exploiting an algorithm.

Zuck understands facebook:

Zuck: People just submitted it.

Zuck: I don't know why.

Zuck: They "trust me"

Zuck: Dumb fucks.

This attitude is totally in line with a situation such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

"More open and connected" is for the TED Talk. Selling user data to advertisers is for the executive boardroom.

The really bad stuff like mob violence and ethnic cleansing would still happen one way or another, that's blaming Facebook for human behaviour that's been occurring for centuries. The irony is that Facebook also helps to bring such events to public attention.

I like this quote too, but it portrays Facebook leadership as bumbling but good-hearted. I'm not sure if that's the case, or if they've been aware of the problems and just never gave a shit.

And when it's one of the biggest companies in the world and has a user base of 2.3 billion people, those mistakes are not small. Here's an assessment showing that they accidentally made the genocide in Myanmar worse. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/11/myanmar-hria/

It strikes me odd when facebook is being blamed for all society problems. It is a mere reflection of a society, and if reflection is shitty that is not the problem of the mirror.

The fact that they profit heavily from such behavior is most certainly disturbing.

> now it is enabling mob violence in India

Most of these cases are via watsapp not facebook.

You know who owns WhatsApp, right?

yeah but comment is talking about zuckerburg building it for harvard ect. If not zuckerburg someone else will build it, like watsapp. Its a consequence of tech moving forward, not a guy making mistakes.

The old media powers want their control back, so they say "see the stupid masses need us to distill the information to them, these plebes can't handle it themselves". It all sounds very similar to what the European monarchy said about the United States, that democracy would fail and that the US would be begging for a king to rule them. Freedom has risks, but I prefer that to living in a gilded cage.

It mainly has to do with the fact that social media enabled things that these people didn't want like Brexit and Trump. They were singing social media's praises during Arab Spring

Funny. Facebook Newsfeed was the darling of the world until Brexit happened and Trump got elected and then the Western press brought out the pitchforks.

I think shift in tone really only started after Trump's election but the seeds were sown once the press realised the balance of power shifting away from them.

I noticed Facebook's feed is now only 4 posts from friends between sponsored posts. To me this looks like they are starting to push the boundary of advertisement beyond what makes sense for the UI. I didn't think they were desperate for revenue but that's kinda what it looks like.

They feel like AOL in 1998.

I'm 39, so out of touch with many people and especially out of touch with younger generations. I recently spoke to a college counselor who has tremendous interaction with students across all mediums.

He is pretty balanced in his views. He swears, Facebook interactions are an empty shell of what it was in 2008 and that it is nearly completely irrelevant for the current and incoming generation of students (not including Instagram and WhatsApp, which are FB properties, and very much hot.) He bases this on interactions he has with almost a thousand+ students. For me, this is difficult to fathom, Facebook to me is like General Electric, a bastion of day to day life.

I'm in my mid-30s and I agree based on what I've seen. Facebook is a ghost town now. And a lot of people I know that have both Instagram and FB are only using Instagram now. I think it's clear that people are more careful about what and who they share with, which is why the ephemeral systems (snapchat, instagram stories) are gaining in popularity. Apple has improved the photo sharing stuff in iCloud lately too, so I'm seeing more and more people I know close using the (private) photo sharing system.

A lot of people don't want their daily musings to be on the "permanent record," regardless of age group, and Facebook is almost a victim of its own success -- it's too good at connecting people by loose ties and encouraging this problem. And then it's not long before you have a huge list of Facebook "friends" which include actual friends, family, extended family, bosses, ex-bosses, co-workers, etc. Now, imagine putting all of those groups of people at your dinner table and try to think of topics you'd be open to discussing among all of those disparate groups.

>And then it's not long before you have a huge list of Facebook "friends" which include actual friends, family, extended family, bosses, ex-bosses, co-workers, etc. Now, imagine putting all of those groups of people at your dinner table and try to think of topics you'd be open to discussing among all of those disparate groups.

This is what it comes down to, isn't it? That's all of facebook's problems.

The success of Instagram and WhatsApp comes from them being less connected, that's their core feature. I don't even mind facebook owning them. I like that the big trend is moving away from documenting every minute of your life in an online repository. Instagram is its own, surreal thing and WhatsApp is basically texting.

Yeah - ephemerality is going to be the word of the century. We forget, and since this is such a natural thing to us, we did not immediately realise how machines that cannot forget was very much problematic. We get that now.

There are a bunch of people trying to make apps that forget over time, eventually, one of them will figure out a way to mass market. Heck, I spent last Saturday at the top of HN with one of those that I made, Aether. [0] Prior HN discussion: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18370208

[0] https://getaether.net

> And then it's not long before you have a huge list of Facebook "friends" which include actual friends, family, extended family, bosses, ex-bosses, co-workers, etc. Now, imagine putting all of those groups of people at your dinner table and try to think of topics you'd be open to discussing among all of those disparate groups.

Incidentally, this was exactly one of the problems that Google+ was trying to solve with its "Circles" concept.

I'm only a few years younger than you, and I also use Facebook a lot. But I only use groups, events and messenger.

It's impressive how bad their UI is for my use, though. It seems like Facebook is trying to be useless for important things, like community groups where you actually have to coordinate things, or events you actually want to show up to. Instead they're working really hard to always shove uninteresting algorithmic suggestions in your face at every turn.

I know the feeling, even though I haven't been on Facebook in years. My 18 year-old met his current girlfriend because she saw him in a parking lot and asked what his Snapchat name was. I don't think he even bothers with FB any more.

The interesting thing to me was that this girl simply expected that he would be on Snapchat. I guess that's where everyone is these days.

Snapchat is out of fashion already. It's Tik-tok/Musically that's the current fad (or trendy) social media app.

Tik Tok is Chinese, though. Is there a US version out?

Yes. Facebook just launched one :)

Tiktok bought their way to their current position. I bet most of the "best tiktoks" accounts on Facebook/Twitter are owned by themselves. In a matter of months they will die off naturally.

It does seem very artificial. A very boring/obnoxious app that went from nothing to being pushed at me from everywhere.

Car parks, quality dating grounds!

For many Americans, large parking lots/being carbound are facts of life. Half the land area in non-residential zoned properties is required to be parking in many municipalities, which helps to make these areas unfriendly to commute in for any mode, pushing buildings significantly further apart for little benefit.

Cars have been the least worst way to get around these hostile environments for a long time, though I think eBikes are starting to become more popular as they can cut around the horrifyingly bad traffic in many of these places, while not requiring one to join the lycra crowd.

Why would you need to join the lycra crowd without an eBike?

I hope they take off, though. Everything I hear about US traffic sounds hopelessly hostile.

> Why would you need to join the lycra crowd without an eBike?

Because you get very sweaty trying to ride a bike any distance in 90 degree weather.

What a strange, cynical comment.

Car parks are a mere part of greater reality - what sense of quality does it imbue that is more or less worthy than any other where perchancing on another is concerned?

that probably depends a lot on the time of day

I'm in my early-40s and when I first met my wife in college, we exchanged AIM handles :)

> I'm 39 ... Facebook to me is like General Electric, a bastion of day to day life

I'm in my early 50s. None of social media made any sense to me, and I never engaged in any of it. Email seemed (and still seems) to be perfectly adequate for keeping in touch with friends and family.

Mid 30s here. For me, fb is an easy way to connect with new people. Particularly useful when traveling or in a new school. You search by name, confirm the photo is of the person you're looking for, and bam, they're in your address book.

The rest of it - constant updates about mundane things - in other words, the whole news feed - can be ignored.

For another anecdote: I’m a college student, and essentially the only reason that anyone I know uses Facebook is for groups that date to a while ago, groups set up by older people, and Messenger.

I can confirm this is true with my son (24), his GF, and most of their peers. Facebook interaction is limited to occasional sharing of photos with older relatives, usually via Instagram.

This is mostly true of my younger employees, who are a similar age as my son.

Definitely makes me wonder if Instagram got rid of the crosspost-to-facebook feature, how much more dead would Facebook appear? Most of the people around my age group (20-30s) are largely on Instagram and then some cross-post to Facebook for the "old people."

General Electric is not doing so well either.

GE is "reinventing" just like IBM. They will probably be dying 10 years from now...

The same way people have been predicting the death of IBM, Microsoft etc. for past couple decades?

Yep, same tangent/thinking. Reality is IBM & Microsoft have enough contracts and political capital to ensure their continued existence.

Microsoft still exists as a business, but what about mindshare? It's not event part of FANG

They don't merely exist as a business. They have a higher market cap than 4/4 FANG companies.

GE stock has plummeted by nearly 80% in the last two years.

So are you saying that it's going the way of MySpace?

A big difference is that Facebook has gained a large number of older users. For that reason, Facebook is going to have a much slower decline.

I'm 25, very few of my contemporaries share on Facebook anymore. It's a shadow of three years ago. My mom and her brother will post pretty often. Self promoters fill up my feed. I can infinite scroll for a while without seeing anything from friends I spend time with offline. Facebook Messenger, Facebook Events, Instagram are still ubiquitous.

I'm not young and Facebook is heavily used in hobbies with various groups chiming and thriving. Messenger is also heavily used.

If anything it's "what my friends had for dinner" that's dying and that's good thing.

I’d second that observations just based on how my 8 younger siblings use it. They’re 13-28 and all barely touch Facebook, though some are very active on Instagram. To them, me using Facebook is what old people like me do.

The problem for Facebook is the stock price has been bid up to unrealistic levels and investors have unrealistic expectations. End result...FB tries to meet those expectations by basically flooding the platform with ads.

Meanwhile the management team is basically a major flop. They view FB as having the only source of revenue being from ads. That's why they focus so much on increasing DAU. The real value in facebook is that FB has a captive audience which would most likely consume related related products created by facebook. The fact that there is no facebook e-mail service, banking services, dating service or ebay oriented marketplace (the current facebook marketplace is effectively a disaster which is loaded with scammers) basically shows that FB management has failed to utilize the platform to create value for shareholders.

Meanwhile, the over reliance and over pushing of advertising is discouraging people from using the platform.

And the fact they - possibly as a result - don't really put much stock (no pun intended) in privacy. Why are my comments on posts, a notification to other people, to list just one example?

Because it increases engagement, which makes you spend more time on Facebook, which exposes you to more ads.

Well obviously. Still a shitty way to run a company.

Start of this year, PE ratio for Facebook was ~30 (https://ycharts.com/companies/FB/pe_ratio). That’s not that unrealistic for a tech company.

Facebook used to have email - they retired it few years ago. Banking services - not there, but you can send money with messenger. Dating - that literally just launched Marketplace - it’s still growing

I've also noticed that the rate of advertising on Instagram is through the roof too (at least on my feed). It seems like 1 in 3 posts is now an ad and there even random ads when looking through recent Instagram Stories.

It makes the whole product feel super cheap and needy.

I actually enjoy the Instagram ads in my feed. It's usually quirky Kickstarter products like iPhone camera swivels, or magnets that keep your shirt tucked in, or a new brand of chef knives. Pretty fun seeing all the gadgets and ideas.

Instagram Stories ads are not as profitable for FB as News Feed ads, so the frequency is likely to increase.

I don’t think it is a coincidence that the founders recently left.

Facebook posts from actual people are so mundane, self-serving and egoistical that I actually enjoy the ads more.

Completely agree. Most of my FB posts seem to focus on "look how rich I am to afford these shoes, this expensive vacation or these nice clothes/diner" etc. Some of these people on my feed also seem to have some sort of narcissistic mental illness...like craving for attention without end. Then you have the people that post nothing but political ramblings. The amount of people sharing genuine content has plummeted and the overall platform just seems to be fake overall. I've stopped posting to the platform and only look at the new feed a little. I mostly use the site for the groups function.

I had to laugh at how true this is. Before I stopped using it I found myself scrolling past everything but the ads which at least caught my eye.

It's typically 1/3 of your feed in my experience. It depends on time of day I've noticed. I usually use Facebook either in the morning before I get up and there are less ads. Or late at night when winding down. But they really have dark patterns to disguise an ad. It's disgusting, a friend liked some random post 6 months ago and everything that company posted since is popping up. They make it appear as if that friend is endorsing everything from that company.

Aol is probably being too complimentary.

Huh, you're right.

I just checked my Facebook feed, and there's an ad every four posts.

But like AOL, it feels like more.

I currently handle digital advertising at a company that is heavily reliant on Facebook Ads. I've worked with this company nearly 3 years, and we got a call from the Facebook Ads team for the first time ever, around September of this year.

They called under the pretense of 'making sure we were utilizing the full potential of their ads manager' but after about 2 or 3 phone calls with them, my manager and I caught on to their angle.

Their suggestions over these phone calls were for us to test out all of these new features and 'creatives' they were adding to the Ads platform. Testing these new features and methods costs money, and what we had spent years tweaking and perfecting was actually working just fine.

Essentially they were targeting us because we had around $XX,XXX in annual ad spend, which probably put us in some Small - Medium business category where they felt they could extract more ad dollars from us.

It definitely smells like they are desperate for revenue and I can only imagine what they're Ads (read: Sales) teams are pushing to marketers at Enterprise levels with millions in ad spend on FB.

I feel like Facebook is burning the furniture to heat the house at this point.

Most of the action has moved to WhatsApp and Instagram. Though engagement fatigue can be seen there too.

At the end every service will drop to its utility.

I remember sitting in front of my Desktop and searching pointless stuff in Google for hours in the 2000s, these days I do it only when I actually do need to search something. Even there I search for things to buy on Amazon or Flipkart. People I search on LinkedIn or Facebook.

I almost never check my feed on Facebook. I get notifications for posts from the few people there I really care about (close family plus one acquaintance who posts really interesting stuff). That seems to me like the best way to use Facebook.

We are talking about a man (and his company) who began with a site that, per Wikipedia, "allowed visitors to compare two female student pictures side-by-side and let them decide who was hot or not." Imagine being subjected to such childish humiliation. Of course I also did stupid and childish things as a young adult. But I never thought things like this:

"I'm a little intoxicated, not gonna lie. So what if it's not even 10 pm and it's a Tuesday night? What? The Kirkland dormitory facebook is open on my desktop and some of these people have pretty horrendiedous facebook pics. I almost want to put some of these faces next to pictures of some farm animals and have people vote on which is more attractive."

That is just mean. To me it reveals his vision from the beginning was to prey on people's worst instincts.

Marc Zuckerberg is, I fear (because of his enormous power), a man devoid of empathy. This is the root of Facebook, and that is the problem with Facebook.

Have you been around 20 year old college kids much? They're drunk, and terrible, and generally pretty trolly at the best of times. I was, as was damn-near everyone else at a brother school of the Zuck's alma mater. I don't buy your assertion that you've never idly had a low-grade cruel thought like that and chuckled at it. Maybe that says more about me.

I've been 20 once, and nobody I hung out with at my university was that awful. I don't doubt assholes existed, but that doesn't mean they're not assholes.

Yeah, I don't understand why people like to bring this point to vilify his character. It is not right to do that but you can hardly expect late teens or early tweens to be that sensible. Zuck just had the misfortune of being successful and his dirty laundry being aired in public.

The quotes show a hollow moral core for which being young is not an excuse.

ok, so you all can have that one. How about:

"People just submitted it. I don't know why. They "trust me" Dumb fucks"

I know, I know, still just college kids being college kids. How about this one:

"I wonder how similar that is to the Facebook thing. Because they're probably going to be released around the same time. Unless I fuck the dating site people over and quit on them right before I told them I'd have it done"

More? really? ok... how about this:

"So have you decided what you're going to do about the websites?"

Zuck: "Yeah, I'm going to fuck them. Probably in the ear"


"Haha man come on. You can be unethical and still be legal that's the way I live my life. haha."

I think my favorite part is the "haha" at the end. haha indeed.

This one is probably the most relevant today:

"We copied his account like his profile and everything except I made his answers all like white supremacist."

That is why people like me love to vilify his character. He's an entitled asshole and always has been. He probably sits around in his house with Sheryl and Joel Kaplan laughing about how they have Washington by the balls and they can all do whatever the fuck they want.

Link to quotes: https://www.businessinsider.com/exclusive-mark-zuckerbergs-s...

Ive chuckled at rude thoughts, sure. Ive not thought of building a technology to humiliate people for my amusement. Its an important distinction.

I see people use age as an excuse all the time, but the simple fact is that 20 is not 12 and most people are decent enough to not do what he did. It does speak to your character that you think it’s entirely normal behavior.

How can you possibly state these things as if they're facts when you have never met the man? At least say you're speculating. You have no idea what's wrong at the root of Facebook, and definitively saying it's because you think he lacks empathy from such shit he did 15 years ago is just wrong.

You have no idea what ideas I have... :)

This seems to be a theme with Google and Facebook, when they realize the machine they are apart of. I remember interviewing at FB. While the process was a mess, the interviewers were mind blowingly brilliant. I remember zoning out for a moment realizing how sad it is that our smartest people work for ad companies...

Don't forget the smartest chemists, working for shampoo companies (or worse). As was pointed out in Idiocracy.

Sorry to reply here but i figure it's as good a place as any... how did this happen? 30 or so years ago ATT and Xerox were paying smart people to gather and invent things, more or less. And they did, a lot of key things. Now, they work for Google or Facebook, and are essentially useless to the world. Seems a bit sad to me, it would be nice to have another tech company that let their employees shoot for the moon (please don't mention the silo'd self driving tech or spacex).

I'm not a massive fan of Google or Facebook, but both companies invent lots of things. I recall seeing a demo a couple of years ago from someone at Google working on stabilising video by aligning all of the frames. The end result is a completely smooth animation of video, with all of the camera shake taken out (at the cost of reduced size of picture). I just noticed that Gopro is selling a camera with those features. I don't know if they are licensing the technology from Google, or if they did it themselves, but like I said, Google is working on stuff like that. For Facebook, React is innovative! It's not rocket science, but it solves a huge number of problems.

It's not like AT&T and Xerox were hiring thousands upon thousands of inventors. Xerox was a photocopy company and they pretty much stuck to that (hence their downfall). I don't know exactly how many people worked at PARC, but it wasn't massively huge at any time.

AT&T was an evil monopolistic company that also had a good research division. However, the research division was not its main function. You could compare it to Microsoft now (there are incredibly brilliant people working there right now).

Trust me, it's not worse than it was before.

Before web came along, Telcos is where the scale related engineering problems were.

The other places were companies like IBM, and Xerox who had to do new things to stay relevant.

With tech so highly developed, the market advantage goes from who can build the next great thing to who can have the biggest most profitable user farm.

You're saying Google or Facebook has not invented anything new? Do you even pay attention to the tech industry?

Something more groundbreaking than say, the transistor, unix, the laser, the concept of GUI? No, I think not...

I mean. They're still there making fine stuff for me to use. I love the Google Photos app. Maximum UX. I can search for photos by person, place, time, or type ("receipts San francisco").

I can translate by pointing Google Translate at a thing and having it be in English on the thing. Wicked shit.

Nah. I love these guys.

Morale must be even worse when you consider that Facebook tries to only hire people who are enthusiastic about the product. I've heard people who don't use or don't show enthusiasm about the Facebook platform are screened out before hiring as "bad culture fit."

What's wrong about that? My golden rule in hiring is that if there is no sense of enthusiasm for the product - don't hire.

It's utterly unrealistic for (IMO) probably 75+% of development jobs. The world runs on mountains of software that isn't sexy and that very few if any people are truly enthusiastic about.

I didn't even know exactly what the product did when I applied for my current job. Then they described what it did in my interview, and I understood a bit better, but not really.

Took me a few weeks on the job to actually understand exactly what we do. When people ask me what the software I work on does, I just tell them "it's complicated".

There is so much b2b software that fills a specific niche in a specific industry that makes absolutely no sense to people outside of that space.

Your current job at facebook? Or some other company. It's not uncommon for candidates to not understand a product. Many products are complex and if you weren't a shopper for that product or a deep user, you won't get it from the scant research you might do before a job interview.

Another company, working in a fairly niche b2b space.

It's not about being enthusiastic, it's about being able to express enthusiasm as a hiring candidate. If you can't even feign enthusiasm to get hired ... move on.

that's a pretty brown rule. You should try hiring professionals - people who have enthusiasm for a job well done. Most products are shit and most people know that. So when you hire product enthusiasts, you're hiring good actors.

Unfortunately, the parts of the industry I interacted with share your golden rule so many years ago I found refuge in infrastructure/backend where being enthusiastic about the product is never on the list of stuff to care about.

It spreads because devs who are willing to kiss butts to get hired are also willing to be paid less

A healthy criticism is more valuable than fake enthusiasm, otherwise you will get the "emperor is naked" situation. They already got it.

I had a CEO who always kept a gaggle of yes-men at his heels. They were very enthusiastic about the product, even as degraded into a flaming pile of garbage and the walls crumbled around us.

> What's wrong about that

Such hiring practices is how cults start.

This rule is a little weird to me having worked at places where there were a lot of good engineers who weren't overly enthusiastic about the product (I used to do legal software at a medium sized corporation). What did you hire for that you could have that as a rule? I imagine it would work a lot better at a smaller company or a company with a product that software engineers are likely to actually use.

I love this. I think for my next job I want to work at a place where people have enthusiasm for the product. It's very important to me to not just be building something that someone else told me to build. And I think that sort of team where engineers want to contribute to the definition of the product will make itself visible through enthusiasm for the product.

I'm sure there's room for the guy who wants to just build what you tell him to do and he's great it. I just don't want to do that and I want to be surrounded by people not like that.

imo most people fake it, so you're mainly self-filtering for people who are good actors.

This enthusiastic approach isn't exclusively a facebook thing; other big companies within IT are "suffering" from it as well and it seems it's an important part of corporate culture and marketing at the same time nowadays. Putting this simply, a critical approach is also important - you can't rely only on seeing your work and company thru pink glasses all the time.

You ever visit their campus? It's a cubicle Jonestown. Truly disturbing place. It was like they kept demons in the basement and put drugs in the water supply.

Jonestown is very apt. It's dialed back a little from what it used to be (especially outside of the Sun HQ complex), but yeah it feels like a farm of human batteries.

This whole discussion is making me glad they just rejected me. It sounds like I would have been miserable there.

Anecdotal, but a friend of mine was hired without having used Facebook. He had to create an account to log in to their platform so he could sign the offer. This was in 2016.

Not to say that they don’t do some such screening, but I thought I’d add another data point.

Was he part of an acquisition?

> I've heard people who don't use or don't show enthusiasm about the Facebook platform are screened out before hiring as "bad culture fit."

Maybe just the people that don't know how to fake it?

Why would you want to work with a liar?

Never said I did. It is, however, the reality of how job seeking works in today's competitive world.

Sorry, I meant it as a rhetorical question, not a personal one.

This week I interviewed a 19 year old woman for a junior position as a social media manager. When I asked about Facebook she naturally said that the last time she actively used it was in seventh grade.

On the other hand, there are several interesting groups created in Facebook that I cannot find on other sites. While the reverse is also true Facebook makes group creation frictionless and connected to many other services.

I bet she only uses instagram.

At Amazon all hands, Jeff Bezos is often quoted saying:

“When the stock price is 30% higher this month, don’t feel 30% smarter. Because when it’s down, no one likes feeling 30% stupider.”

Why does the article make it sound like the two are causally connected? A report says morale is down because employees don't feel like they're contributing to humanity. And the stock price happends to be down. Putting these two facts arbitrarily together makes it seem like morale is down because the price is down, which feels totally disingenuous.

in tech startups where large chunks of compensation are tied to stock performance, morale is primarily down b/c stock price is down.

Fwiw, E5 can make $400k-500k range or more. It’s an insane compensation just doing well on interview with 5 years of experience (know a few myself).

Or maybe employees are being disingenuous with themselves

This could read "Stock price at public companies a distraction for employees"

It could also read as "The Yuppie Nuremberg Defense Only Works If People Think They're Going to Get Rich."

Really hard to say "Fuck you, got mine" when you didn't "got mine"

Interesting that the employees reported that they expect to stay at FB for 4 more years.

That's because long term investments are short term investments gone wrong.

Warren Buffet would like a word with your investment strategy.

Warren Buffett engaged in highly speculative corporate raiding before it was even a term.

Forget his Baby Boomer conservative investment guru facade. Thats not how he generated wealth, it is a component to how he preserves wealth because he has a liquidity issue.

Any recommended links to more reading on his early days with those tactics?

Look into AmEx and the olive oil fiasco.

Wikipedia [0] doesn't mention Buffett in its description of the event.

All I can find is a description of Buffett betting that AmEx would recover after this crisis. [1] That sounds in line with Buffett's reputation: bet on a good company that for whatever reason has a low price.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salad_Oil_scandal [1] https://www.businessinsider.com/warren-buffett-and-the-great...

No, not really, I'm more surprised anyone cares, in this context he is just a trader that does trader things, the luxury of maintaining polyamorous relationships with no challenge from his wife and social circle, accumulation with no interest in conspicuous consumption, insulation from financial consequence when relationships fall apart. It's just activist investing, read about that and maybe his name might come up.

His switch to mild mannered thought leader is probably a story of redemption after corporate raiding caught on - in the pejorative - during the 80s.

Wow that's a new low. Bringing in his personal life to insult his professional life.

They weren't insults to me, I want those privileges too, he's very inspirational.

It is surprising to me that people want a particular image of him, when I see the opposite of what he projects and I like it. I like the influence. I forgot other people hadn't seen it, but I am surprised how important his image is to people.

I think these privileges are a part of his type-A trader life, and is par for course for successful traders living that life.

Not every trader has an open relationship. You are just brushing people with a broad stroke. Buffet is his own individual who had his own arrangement with his family. You are insinuating that he's the same as all "traders" while also insinuating the things "traders" are notorious for. No one's perfect , but time and again Buffet has set a good example for principled investing. You allege that he took a wild swing and got lucky, but he follows what he learnt from Benjamin Graham and then invests. He's always done that. For the layman he suggests just resting and vesting in index funds which have time and again worked over a long period of time.

I don't consider his incongruence with a nuclear family to be an imperfection, I consider it privilege. I never said even said it was a lucky wild swing, there is no interpretation of what I said that meant that, your hyperbole is based on a completely wrong assumption of anything I care about it.

Perhaps you decided to latch on to "highly speculative" as "wild swing and got lucky". Lets talk about the curve of risk, buying distressed companies after consolidating your friends and family's money with the addition of massive borrowing on top of that to accomplished your 'principled investing' would still be called highly speculative. This exists within the category of "highly speculative". There is nothing wrong with that?

I find it entertaining that his approach to inspiring people is the exact opposite of risk, as he could easily just be another Carl Icahn or Soros if he wanted and only inspire finance majors to make massive bets against governments. He is so successful at this image that people would actually ask me to post a source for my allegations.

This is obviously a lot more important to you than it is to me, and your cognitive dissonance is showing. This has been enlightening.

No sources, no proof. "He's a trader" is your argument. I"ll live with my "dissonance", best of luck with yours.

These are completely baseless accusations. Either provide sources or go back to reddit.

They aren't accusations I think those are awesome things

Again, I am more surprised people care

For example, I am surprised people need a "mild mannered Nebraska man" in their minds, when its really "type-A trader doing type-A things but check out the thought leadership my publicist suggested I do"

I'll consider coming back with sources, I don't really think these are worth "proving", they aren't accusations, they're privilege, and are par-for-course for traders living that lifestyle.

Please stop hiding behind "I'm surprised people care" as an excuse to attack someone's character whilst providing zero (0) sources.

People don't "need" anything—well adjusted people usually assume better of random strangers, unless actual proof is provided otherwise. Saying it's because he's a "trader" is very low-quality discourse.

Prove it. I'm willing to bet you cannot.

Buffet’s not doing what you do. If you pay a liquidity premium, use it.

Even with a stock decline, RSUs are hard to give up.

The ole golden handcuffs. Intel works this way too. You get grants every quarter. Once you are past initial vetting, each quarter is another payday. Hard to walk away when it is "only 3 more months" to another hit.

The real fun is going to start when there's going to be no chance for those that have started recently to be in the money on the options that they are getting.

Those leaks would make Sandberg portrayal in "Chaos Monkeys" look like a glowy puff piece in Vogue.

They don't get options, they get RSU grants.

RSUs still need to vest, and while you are not under water if the price drops you are definitely looking at a much smaller payoff for sticking around another year. The long tail of RSU payout over the vesting period also means that when things are going up you have an incentive to hang around because those early RSUs are paying off big, but if the price drops then there is really no incentive. The golden handcuffs are not a single RSU grant but the cumulative effects of several years of grants all slowly paying out -- a sagging price means that the big payoffs you were expecting from the tail end of early grants that have appreciated significantly are suddenly much smaller payoffs than you had been counting on. Yes, it is still a nice pile of money, but you had several years of watching it become a big pile of money and seeing it shrink makes you start to wonder if the grass is greener at places that are not as morally bankrupt...

According to this article (using LinkedIn data) the average tenure at FB is 2.5 years https://www.google.com/search?q=average+tenure+tech+companie...

Is that tenure at the time where people leave, or avg tenure of current employees? (if the later it's expected to be short, given the 40% y/y growth).

The decline is still manageable and Facebook could potentially bounce back. If stock prices continue to drop dramatically in the next year I'd expect employees to "cut their losses" and an exodus will happen. The gold mine will run dry.

That has to be pretty average for tech I'd guess.

I think it's interesting that despite all the idealism of SV, the minute bad press happens and stock takes a dive, morale is similarly hit. Shows how money oriented the entire environment is; at the end of the day, it's all about the cash.

The cold distance of virtual connection works as much against Facebook as its similarly cold, calculated attitude toward its users (and their data) as its product. Meetup (and its parent company WeWork) are every bit as for-profit as Facebook, but benefit from the physical connection it creates among its customers.

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