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Can Facebook Really Bring About A More Peer-to-Peer, Bottom-Up World?

This post originally appeared on Techdirt

Mark Zuckerberg’s letter to shareholders included in Facebook’s IPO filing contains a pretty bold vision for Facebook to not just connect people and enable them to share, but to fundamentally restructure the way that the world works:

By helping people form these connections, we hope to rewire the way people spread and consume information. We think the world’s information infrastructure should resemble the social graph — a network built from the bottom up or peer-to-peer, rather than the monolithic, top-down structure that has existed to date. We also believe that giving people control over what they share is a fundamental principle of this rewiring.

We have already helped more than 800 million people map out more than 100 billion connections so far, and our goal is to help this rewiring accelerate. [emphasis added]

That sounds pretty lofty, but if you recognize that Facebook provides a social networking service that hundreds of millions of people use — but forget for a moment that it’s Facebook — it’s quite a bold “social mission.” And there are many examples of how the service has been used as a key tool in affecting change on everything from opposition to the Canadian DMCA to the Arab Spring. There’s no doubt that the service makes it easier for people to organize in a more bottom-up way.

But, once you remember that it’s Facebook we’re talking about, the vision sounds more problematic. Could Facebook ever truly bring about a peer-to-peer, bottom-up network? The notion seems to be an inherent contradiction to Facebook’s architecture — as a centralized, proprietary, walled garden social networking service. Facebook may enable a more bottom-up structure, but it’s a bit disingenuous for Zuckerberg to decry a monolithic, top-down structure when Facebook inserts itself as the new intermediary and gatekeeper. As a centralized, proprietary, walled garden service, Facebook is a single point for attacks, control, and surveillance, never mind controversial policies or privacy concerns. Facebook may enable a more bottom-up and peer-to-peer network compared to many things that came before, but there is something fundamentally at odds with a truly distributed solution at the core of its architecture and its DNA.

To realize the full potential of bottom-up, peer-to-peer social networking infrastructure, we need autonomous, distributed, and free network services — the sort of vision that StatusNet/Identi.ca or Diaspora have tried to bring about. Rewiring the world to create a more bottom-up, peer-to-peer network is a bold vision for Zuckerberg to put forth — and one that Facebook has advanced in many ways — yet it’s fundamentally at odds with the reality of Facebook as a centralized and proprietary walled garden.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)

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Thumbs Down for “Like” Culture

When the “Like” button was first introduced on Facebook, it was a useful alternative to leaving a comment, another way to show you were paying attention, but it crept from posts to comments and pages, and it now permeates every aspect of the Facebook experience and defines the entire ethos of the site. What was at first a secondary option to conversation has been enshrined as the primary and defining characteristic of Facebook. Not only is it often a superficial way to interact with someone else, by just hitting “like,” but it also influences and shapes what people post and share.

Just as stand-up comedians are trained to be funny by observing which of their lines and expressions are greeted with laughter, so too are our thoughts online molded to conform to popular opinion by these buttons. A status update that is met with no likes (or a clever tweet that isn’t retweeted) becomes the equivalent of a joke met with silence. It must be rethought and rewritten. And so we don’t show our true selves online, but a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.

Now, we rarely “show our true selves” offline either, but it’s not self-presentation that impairs authentic social interaction. It’s when automated, superficial interaction becomes the dominant mode of communication. A “Like” or +1 may be better for Facebook or Google than a comment — a simple binary value is easier for their algorithms to tally — but that’s not the kind of human interaction that drew me to social media.

There is so much more value in online social networking than the popularity contest, than merely pressing digital levers, like lab rats looking for pellets of social affirmation. Social technology can enable intimate and in-depth conversations where time, space and fate might otherwise not allow. Ambient awareness can maintain ties that distance and a loss of common circumstances might otherwise break. The ease of organizing can enable groups and communities to thrive where, offline, they might be dispersed. Yet, I’ve seen less of this in the evolution of Facebook and other social media, and more encouragement of the lab rat lever-pushing type interaction. Deep, rich, intimate and profound interactions — expressions of love, nostalgia, unity, shared memories, the meeting of minds, bonds of friendship or common experience — these are much harder for an algorithm to make use of than a binary +1 or “Like.”

Don’t let thumbs and plus ones be substituted for authentic social interaction online.

When the “Like” button was first introduced on Facebook, it was a useful alternative to leaving a comment, another way to show you were paying attention, but it crept from…

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Facebook Suggests Celebrating My First Wedding Anniversary With a Facebook Message… Or Divorce

A week before my first wedding anniversary, Facebook started to remind me and suggested I celebrate by… sending my wife a Facebook message.

Thanks for the reminder, I guess, but I wasn’t exactly planning to spend my anniversary on Facebook. This brought up some similar stories from friends:

When I removed my “In a relationship” status […] all the targeted ads changed from ‘Buy Engagement Rings Here’ to ‘ARE YOU SINGLE AND ALONE?’

The barrage of wedding ads my wife and I received once we were engaged only subsided when we got married — then, she immediately started receiving ads for baby stuff. As my friend put it, “Facebook is like a really pushy, suggestive relative.”Watch 1916: The Irish Rebellion (2016) Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

My wife got the anniversary reminder too, but the next day Facebook stepped up its game and served her a divorce ad.

An hour later, the divorce ad and anniversary suggestion appeared on the same page.

… was it because I didn’t send her a message? Well, there’s yet another reason to move away from services like Facebook

A week before my first wedding anniversary, Facebook started to remind me and suggested I celebrate by… sending my wife a Facebook message. Thanks for the reminder, I guess, but…

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[Watch] Full Movie Why Him? (2016) Online Free

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Plot
‘Why Him?’ is great movie tell story about Ned, an overprotective dad, visits his daughter at Stanford where he meets his biggest nightmare: her well-meaning but socially awkward Silicon Valley billionaire boyfriend, Laird. A rivalry develops and Ned’s panic level goes through the roof when he finds himself lost in this glamorous high-tech world and learns Laird is about to pop the question. This movie have genre Comedy and have 111 minutes runtime.

Cast
James Franco as Laird Mayhew, Bryan Cranston as Ned Fleming, Zoey Deutch as Stephanie Fleming, Megan Mullally as Barb Fleming, Griffin Gluck as Scotty Fleming, Keegan-Michael Key as Gustav.

Production
The Director of this movie is John Hamburg. The film Why Him? is produced by 21 Laps Entertainment, Red Hour Films and released in December 22, 2016.

Similar Movie
Why Him? have some related movie, 3 Ninjas Kick Back, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up, Batman Begins, 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain, Django Unchained.

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The Temporary Web and Digital Histories

Jeff Jarvis recently voiced some concerns about the temporary web:

Twitter is temporary. Streams are fleeting. If the future of the web after the page and the site and SEO is streams – and I believe at least part of it will be – then we risk losing information, ideas, and the permanent points – the permalinks – around which we used to coalesce. In this regard, Twitter is to web pages what web pages are to old media. Our experience of information is once again about to become fragmented and dispersed.

My own worry is that I’m twittering more and blogging less. Twitter satisfies my desire to share. That’s mostly why I blog – and that’s what makes the best blog posts, I’ve learned. I also want to store information like nuts underground; once it’s on the blog, I can find it. But when I share links on Twitter, they’ll soon disappear. I also use my blog to think through ideas and get reaction; Twitter’s flawed at that – well, I guess Einstein could have tweeted his theory of relativity but many ideas and discussions are too big for the form – yet I now use Twitter to do that now more than this blog.

I don’t relate very much to the idea that the temporary web destroys the ability to read and write in longer form. Maybe it’s because I started blogging only shortly before I started microblogging, but I can still be pretty long-winded. Jarvis notes that Twitter conversations have the “half-life of a gnat,” and that they “go up in smoke.” Sure, that’s a limitation, but it’s also a lot like regular in-person conversation. I think it has just as much to do with the nature of informal conversation as it does with the fact that Twitter lends itself towards that type of communication, yet we don’t worry about day to day conversations going up in smoke. That’s why we have other types of communication. I get Jarvis’ point, and it’s important and useful to be aware of the nature of the medium, but it doesn’t bother me too much.

What does bother me about “streams” is memory. I’m a digital pack-rat. I have important MSN conversations saved from the past 8 years (which is nearly forever for someone who hit the age of reason 10 years ago). I have tons of long emails with close friends filed away (and backed up) for safekeeping. I don’t take the ease of record-keeping with digital communication for granted. Memories of important and meaningful phone conversations fade, but I take advantage of the fact that I can revisit a conversation that happens online.

Except, Twitter is lousy at that. Ever try digging for a message you posted a year ago? Facebook has become the same way since it adopted a stream-like interface. I get the focus on real-time, but it drives me nuts that results disappear from Twitter’s search engine after only a few months. Real-time can be the default, but what about offering a sort of search that taps into the history of conversation, rather than solely what’s trending?

I welcome the move to a more stream-like web, but what about taking advantage of our ability to store and access our history? Real-time is cool, but sometimes I’d like to search the past.

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Student On Probation For Expressing A Negative Opinion About An Instructor On Facebook

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

A student at the University of Calgary was put on academic probation for making the following post on a group titled, “I no longer fear Hell, I took a course with [instructor’s name]:”

[Instructor’s name] IS NO LONGER TEACHING ANY COURSES AT THE U OF C!!!!! Remember when she told us she was a long-term prof? Well actually she was only sessional and picked up our class at the last moment because another prof wasn’t able to do it .. lucky us. Well anyways I think we should all congratulate ourselves for leaving a [instructor’s name]-free legacy for future [law and society] students.

It’s pretty hard to see how this isn’t just an expression of opinion, but the university thinks it qualifies as non-academic misconduct. The problem is, it’s not at all clear how. The only part of the definition that doesn’t involve injury, damage or theft is “conduct which seriously disrupts the lawful educational and related activities of other students and/or University staff.” It’s hard to see how a Facebook post of this nature “seriously disrupts” much of anything (until someone gets put on probation and the Streisand Effect kicks in). But there’s a nice little “includes but is not limited to” that makes the definition non-exhaustive, which is likely what university officials are relying on. You’d think that other instances of misconduct would be similar (hurting people, breaking stuff, stealing, “serious disruptions”), but apparently “expressions of opinion that we don’t like” can qualify…

A computer science professor interviewed said the posts “can be compared to putting up notices all over the university campus” (quoting the article, not the prof). But this is more like putting up a notice off campus (albeit in public). It may not have been nice, but it’s pretty troubling that a student’s right to express an opinion (free speech much?) on a third-party site is overridden without a clear policy violation.

I’ve had direct experience with this sort of thing. A couple years ago, friends of mine at another university were sent ominous emails and hauled into their department head’s office over some comments about a professor on Facebook (jokes, e.g. “crazy drunk [instructor A] is better than boring stoned [instructor B]!”). The department heads argued that the comments were “visible to the community” (similar to the “notices on campus” argument), but they clearly didn’t understand the context (wall post or message? profile or group?) or privacy settings, and they couldn’t even locate the comments on the site (someone had copied and pasted them into an email). They, too, failed to specify how any policies were actually violated (or even which ones), yet they’d gone ahead and notified the professor of the students’ comments and identities (while there was still grading to be done). We convinced them to back down and apologize, but it took a solid week, mid-semester, to deal with the mess.

Universities should understand and develop policies about social networking sites before they take action against students. If they can’t be clear about what qualifies as misconduct, how can students expect to know? What’s the difference between a Facebook group and study group? An email and a Facebook message? What difference do privacy settings make (hopefully some…)? How was this post on a Facebook group different from a review on RateMyProfessors.com? What’s the difference between off-campus speech and speech on non-school websites? Before policing student speech off-site (problematic in and of itself), universities should at least ask these questions and develop policies first. It doesn’t seem like many of them have. It’s pretty ridiculous to just throw social networking under the ambiguous “but not limited to” umbrella.

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UK Online Protest Finds Success In Just 48 Hours

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

Using social networking tools to organize political protests is nothing new or surprising, but online protests have been growing increasingly efficient, especially on Facebook. In Canada, for example, a group protesting copyright legislation caught the attention of federal parliament last summer, and another opposing strict restrictions on young drivers had the Ontario Premier considering Facebook consultations in the fall.

The latest story comes from the UK where, in a mere 48 hours, a campaign run through Facebook and TheyWorkForYou.com by mysociety.org helped stop legislation that would have exempted MPs’ expenses from the Freedom of Information Act (via the Search Engine). Thousands of emails were sent in the two day period, reaching 90% of MPs, before the opposition parties turned and the government backed down. It’s not so much the scale that’s worth noting, but the sheer speed at which the campaign was successful. The legislation was scrapped before most snail mail would have had time to arrive. Now, the online protest likely wasn’t the only factor, but it played an important role in spreading the message. It seems to be getting a lot harder to sneak stuff through the legislature (though that doesn’t stop people from trying) when it only takes a couple days to build an opposition.

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Hired via Facebook? Fired via Facebook

This article originally appeared on Techdirt.

We’ve seen stories of people being fired over email and even text message before, but now there’s a story of a Canadian spa worker fired via Facebook (via Michael Geist). The woman still got dressed and went to into work that day because she thought it was a joke. Using Facebook seems rather harsh, though she admits to being hired over Facebook and the firing was done via private message (as opposed to a wall post…), but it’s no real surprise that a common method of communication eventually gets used this way. That doesn’t mean it’s not cruel, but I wouldn’t expect it to be an isolated case (we’ve already seen legal papers served via Facebook). It’s got to make you wonder what’s next though, fired via Twitter? “@unfortunatesoul btw you’re #fired sry”

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Facebook Artist Pages Still Have A Long Way To Go

When Facebook first launched music pages back in November 2007, I predicted a shift away from MySpace. A couple months later, I created a MySpace profile for myself, ending a self-imposed boycott. It was stupid of me to ignore the community (MySpace is simply where musicians are, unfortunately), but beyond that, Facebook Musician Pages are still really awkward.

Music Player

It’s obvious that Facebook wasn’t designed with musicians in mind just by taking a simple glance at the music player (take my page for example). I’m a fan of simple, but there’s a difference between elegant and lacking. There isn’t even a way for artists to order the tracks in the playlist, nevermind enable downloads or include lyrics or album art. It was just a few weeks ago that Facebook began providing stats on audio (and video) plays in the Page Manager application, but you can’t even tell which songs people have been listening to. I’m the last person to obsess over meaningless profile stats on MySpace, but a simple play count is fundamental feedback.

Relationship with Fans

On Facebook, you don’t friend a musician, you become their fan. Now, I wouldn’t want everyone who’s interested in my music to become my Facebook friend (that’s one of the annoying things about MySpace), but the alternative Facebook has chosen is very impersonal. You don’t message fans, like you would members of a Facebook group, but you send an “update.” You can’t reply to an update. It’s faceless, one-way. If someone wants to get in touch with you, they can post to your wall or discussion board and hope that you notice.

The relationship of “fan” versus “friend” is technically more accurate, but it gets in the way of forming a real relationship. The artist is a distant and mysterious figure, hiding behind some “wall” (har). Facebook was right to rethink MySpace’s approach, but they need to do much better.

Part of the problem is they’re using the same tool for corporations as they are for artists. It’s okay if a giant brand is faceless because it has a different type of face. Even if Facebook would just add some privacy settings, that could go a long way to allowing different uses, such as letting artists connect to their fans if they want to (e.g. “can fans send you a message in reply to an update?”, “should page admins be visible to fans?”).

Relationship with Other Artists

How about “none.” MySpace wins hands down here. The only thing remotely close that Facebook offers is the ability to “favourite” another artist page. If you want to find or communicate with other artists, you need to do this with your personal Facebook account. Or on MySpace.

Events

This has been poorly thought out. There is no simple way to list upcoming shows! An artist must create a separate “Facebook Event” entity for every single show — that means guest list, photo, address, etc. Again, MySpace’s approach is riddled with problems, but at least you can have a simple upcoming events listing on your profile page without making a big deal of every event.

Plus, there are lots of problems with Facebook events in general that are magnified here. What if multiple artists are playing a show together? Do they each create separate events? How else can an event be listed on each of their pages? What about mutual fans — do they get multiple invites?

I’ve been experimenting with a “shell” event solution lately, creating an event for every show but (a) disabling extra content (posted items, photos, videos), (b) hiding the guest list (so I don’t have to send or monitor invites all the time) and (c) providing the basic details but linking to other Facebook events when relevant (here’s a recent example). I play a lot of shows with other songwriters, so when they setup their own Facebook events, I’ll create one of these “shell” events on my page that carries the core details but links back to their original event, and I’ll use their event to invite my friends.

Third-Party Apps

A lot of these shortcomings offer good opportunities for third-party applications, but it’s not that simple. As far as I know (and I’d be happy to be wrong), third-party applications don’t have access to Facebook Insights (the stats Facebook shows you about your page, which are always about five days behind). Sure, you could use/create another audio player or calendar, but then that application has to maintain its own stats, and all of the sudden you’re looking in three different places every time you want to check on your Facebook page (nevermind MySpace, YouTube or your own website…). For example, I’ve chosen to use a Flickr app instead of uploading my photos to Facebook, and as far as Facebook is concerned, no one has ever looked at a photo on my page. Third-party apps are second-tier when it comes to stats.

I still think Facebook Musician Pages are an important tool for artists and I have hope that the improvements will keep coming (if I wrote this two weeks ago, I’d be railing on them for the lack of any stats on audio plays). But, despite the clumsy and mostly incompetent design behind a MySpace profile, they’ve got the core things right about music. The fact that music is an “oh yeah, that too” on Facebook shows — one size doesn’t fit all.

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Are Facebook Groups the New (and Improved) Online Petitions?

This post originally appeared on Techdirt.

There was a time when online petitions were pretty common, but they never were that effective at actually lobbying government, mainly because there’s no easy way to validate signatures. The concept was ported straight from the analog world to the digital, but it’s interesting to see how government lobbying has evolved online. The Ontario government recently backed down from proposed restrictions on young drivers in the face of a significant backlash, which included a Facebook group that gathered over 150,000 members. The Premier, Dalton McGuinty, mused about conducting consultations through Facebook and, though that never materialized, the group was cited as one of the major indications that the government had “stepped in it.” Earlier this year, another Facebook group, Fair Copyright for Canada, had caught the attention of the national parliament in Canada.

What is it that Facebook groups have that online petitions don’t? First of all, 150,000 members in a Facebook group is not the equivalent of 150,000 signatures on a (real) petition. A portion of this group’s members are probably not even from Ontario (though at least Facebook provides some assurance that most members are real individual people). But, in the same way that 150,000 signatures isn’t the same as 150,000 people at a rally outside the legislature, you take the context into account. It’s a pretty significant number for getting a sense of a public reaction — the government definitely hit a nerve here. A Facebook group also contains associated debate and discussion, links to other efforts (websites, YouTube videos, etc.) and a means for members to coordinate further efforts online and offline. It’s more about organizing protest efforts than simply presenting a list of names.

Obviously, there are other relevant services besides Facebook (and there are lots of silly Facebook groups), but the Facebook example serves as an interesting illustration of how this sort of political activism has evolved from the digital attempt at petitions to a more involved hub of activity. In Canada, we see examples of politicians now beginning to pay attention, but to get involved — like McGuinty suggested through consultations and like the Obama team has demonstrated through a campaign — would take things to another level.

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