The eternal hypocrisy of tech douchebags specifically relating to Facebook's newsfeed algorithm

Another day, another tech blog post somewhere complaining over the evils of Facebook's mysterious algorithm that determines what you see in your news feed. 

To be honest, I think rather highly of John Gruber, the author of Daring Fireball. 

His comments on the above-linked-to post are merely more of many hundreds I have read over the last few years of Twitter fans complaining that evil Facebook messes with your news feed. 

But let's break it down for a second here. 

What people are complaining about is that Facebook doesn't present to you a chronological ordering of posts from people and organisations you have liked or befriended.

These people invariably love and use RSS and Twitter heavily, two services which DO in fact give you a the much praised chronological feed. 

Here's a couple of things I would like to point out to the whingers and whiners who need to stay over on Twitter.... 

One... no-one uses Twitter. Your mum doesn't use Twitter. Your 13 year old kid doesn't use Twitter. The only people on Twitter are the tech savvy, the journos, comedians, and famous people. And a good 70% + of the people I ever speak with that actually use Twitter admit they never post anything, they just read stuff. 

Seeing I only have one friend on Twitter, I too mostly use it just to follow famous and interesting people I know. It's not a social network, it's a broadcast network. And that's fine. It's awesome at being that. 

RSS is also a broadcasting tool. Not social in the slightest, but a great way of following blogs and news sites of interest. 

BUT, that's not how the real world works. In the real world, millions of conversations are happening all the time. Lots of news worthy events are happening all the time. Your own friends are engaged in hundreds of conversations at any given moment, some public, some private. 

And people in your life fall in to different categories. We don't have names for these categories, other than maybe friend and good friend. But the truth is we have some friends that we love knowing what is happening to day by day, and we have other friends whose children's names we don't even recall... but we might like to know if they become engaged or crash their car. 

It's the same with businesses and news services. We might like some of the more popular items the ABC publish, but we might not really care about every flamin' thing that happens in our country. 

An orderly, chronological feed on Facebook of every item every friend posts would have one of two outcomes...

1. We would unfriend 90% of our network thus collapsing the entire value of the "social" aspect of the giant network and making people loathe to like another page or add another friend. 

2. We would stop opening the app because we know when we do we will be hit with a bunch of crap we don't want to see. The end. 

Number 2 is why most NORMAL people don't bother with Twitter. They gave it a go, followed a bunch of friends, family, famous people, some news services, and maybe a comedian or two. Following 300 people means every time they refresh the feed another 18 posts, mostly with links, appear. Screw that. They're hit with the feeling of not being able to keep up. They could unfollow their friends and risk them finding out, or they could just go back to happy Facebook land and for some reason unbeknownst to them see content that is more appealing. Guess which option requires less effort.

I personally still love Twitter, but I cannot follow any more than 100 people or I am just drowned by the volume of content. I can't even keep up as it is. Good luck if you're joining Twitter now and hoping to get a bunch of followers. People used to follow anyone that looked interesting, now we hand out "follows" like they were the rights to our first born child's soul. 

So back to Facebook's "algorithm".

Why is Facebook persecuted for arbitrarily deciding what you see in your "news feed", and for keeping their formula a secret? The same people complaining about this never seem to have a problem with the New York Times or The Australian exercising even greater discrimination over what content appears in their pages. Do these newspapers publicise the formula they use for deciding which letters to the editor to publish? Not they would even have one. Do they ask the reader to decide what should go on the front page, and what should be buried on page 32? Do they offer an edition of the newspaper that simply lists the week's events in chronological order all in the same font size so you can be sure you didn't miss anything and no extra emphasis was added to one story over another?

No, of course not. 

Because that's not what we want. 

We want the, admittedly subjective at times, important stuff at the top, and if we get to the other stuff we get to it, but if not... no stress. 

And that's what Facebook provides. 

Here's a Facebook scenario:

Susan rolls their car and posts a picture on Facebook saying they're ok.  

Facebook shows it to 7 people to see what sort of a reaction this post will get. All of them click on the image. 6 of them like the picture. 4 comment. Two of them tag a friend in the comments. 

Facebook's naughty little algorithm says "this is popular" and makes sure all of Susan's friends see that post at least once at the top of their feeds over the next 6 days, except for Bob who has asked Facebook to never show any of Susan's posts.

John, Susan's cousin, isn't a big tech user, but checks Facebook every week or so. He saw the post and gave her a phone call. 

Here's the same Twitter scenario. 

Susan rolls their car and posts a picture on Twitter saying they're ok.  All of her friends who logged in to Twitter in the following 4 hours saw her post. Despite the large amount of "stars" it received anyone who went to Twitter later never got far enough down their feed to see her post.

John logged on to Twitter two days later and never saw the post. 


Ok, so it's great that FB sort the posts... but the formula is SECRET! Secrets are BAD!

Hello?!!!

Trust me, you do NOT want Facebook's (or Google's for that matter) formula's made public. In the never ending war against spam etc the last thing any user should want is their algorithm controlled service to have it's formulae made public. If everyone knew exactly what posts got ranked higher... we might as well just go back to Twitter. 


I'm not saying Facebook is better than Twitter, or any other online service. And they could of course use their algorithm for nefarious purposes... again. 

But you wouldn't read a newspaper that didn't discriminate content, so why stress so much when Facebook does it.

Facebook should NOT try to be Twitter, or RSS. If that's what people want, then that's what they will use. 


Oh, and by the way, if you want to follow twitter style certain pages and people on Facebook you actually CAN do that by asking to be notified whenever they post. There are about 4 who I have this setting turned on for. For the rest of it, just show me the good stuff Facebook. 




I love cigars

Since the time I can remember I have believed cigarettes are bad. 

My Christian parents made sure I knew that Christians don't smoke, Jesus would be re have condoned it, and besides, it's bad for  you and will kill you.  

As I look around at society, I think they would be happy with how our culture has gone from celebrating smoking to outright demonising it. Smokers, once the loudest and coolest at the bar or restaurant, now huddle in the wet and cold around the corner outside observing the 20 metres from the doorways rule.  

Apart from the odd cigarette in my teen years as I tested how cool I really would have been if I smoked, I never really saw the appeal of smoking and had little desire to be admired by the smoking crowd.  

But now, in my 30s, I am warned yet again of another horrible killer that needs to become demonised... junk food.  

Processed food, to be more accurate.  

I don't disagree with the consensus, but my eyes roll when I hear people preaching about how Maccas is evil, soft drink should be taxed, and parents who allow their children to eat sugar should be castrated.  

If I'm honest, I look around my church and see nothing but overweight and obese people. It grosses me out, as a skinny person, but I love them all the same.  

But I know in my heart if I lit up a cigarette in the church car park on Sunday afternoon, I would get looks of dismay and judgement as though I were a sinner fallen from grace. Someone who loved be enough to talk with me would explain that it's killing my body, which is a temple.  

Perhaps they would invite me to McDonalds to talk with me about how I need to look after my body like a good Christian. 

I'm not suggesting junk food needs to be treated like smoking, I'm suggesting smoking should be treated like junk food. 

We all know it will kill you, but do you want a long and celery filled life, or a short and quarter pounder filled life? If smoking takes 10 years off your life, but you enjoy your 70 years more than having lived 80 and abstained the whole time, are you really worse off?

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the warning labels, education, taxes, advertising restrictions etc on any product that potentially does a human harm, including bread, roundup, junk food, alcohol, cigarettes, petrol powered automobiles and school, but what I hate is the hypocritical judgement cast on a fellow human who knows the downside and makes a conscious choice to enjoy his or her life and smoke (away from my children of course). 

Having put a lot of thought into how I really feel about smoking, I realised I always wanted thought smoking a cigar would be great.  

I love the thought of sitting back in a comfortable armchair, reflecting on the week's happenings, cigar in hand. 

So I decided to take up cigars.

And they're great.

The time I spend doing nothing except smoking a cigar is probably the only time during a week where I don't have some kind of electronic device either talking to me visually or audibly, or a person trying to communicate with me. 

I feel like I have time now to reflect on the world and my own actions, and since doing so I have become more calm, self controlled, peaceful and unperturbed by the actions or missteps of others.  

I have come up with ideas for my company which I otherwise would not have thought of, and I genuinely enjoy the time. 

Boiling it down, smoking a cigar once every week or two has meant my marriage is better, I'm more present when with my kids, I function better at work, and I feel better about myself. Am I happy to trade 5 to 10 years of my life for this? Yes. 

 

What about prayer or meditation? 

"Surely you could have achieved this outcome using some other method, Jason!?" 

Perhaps.  

But I haven't succeeded at meditation, I don't find it enjoyable and my mind just wanders. 

I value prayer, but I have never felt effective in prayer by setting aside "prayer time". It feels forced and ineffective. The only way I can pray is to simply talk with God throughout the day. That's just how it works for me. (Sorry atheist friends, I know you're rolling your eyes) 

Culture

Why are other people's cultures so precious, but our own so meaningless?

Why do we work so hard to preserve cultures from other people groups, romanticising and cherishing their very existence despite their primitive, inappropriate and oft barbaric ways... but rebel against and spit on the culture of our own parents?

Why are my children treated so disrespectfully?

I notice as I walk around the supermarkets with my two young children, aged 4 and 6, there's a level of disrespect commonly shown towards them that I can only put down to their age. 

If I am walking or standing in an aisle, a person who wants to pass me will invariably go around me, even if it means waiting a moment or manouvering their laden trolley. 

But if it's one of my children in their way, they expect the child to move. Sometimes they will almost move the child themselves.  

I cannot understand this, and I am quite offended by it to be honest.  

Also, sometimes people when walking around won't see my children and will walk in to them, because my children are short (tall for their age, but they're young) and not in the normal plane of vision. But instead of apologising for not seeing my children, they will act frustrated that a child dared to be in their way.  

The exact same thing could have happened if it were a dwarf or midget, but I am sure they would have profusely apologised if that was the case, rather than blame them.  

This is the main problem I have with how people act toward children, but there's other things too... the condescending tones, the lies, the demand for a please or thank you, things that could be excused but ultametly seem inappropriate to me.

I have learned from the few years under my belt as a parent, that children don't learn what you teach them, they learn what they see you do.  

If you want children to be courteous, just do it and they will copy. If you want them to say please and thank you, demonstrate it.  

But I'm not ok with adults bullying my children or making them observe practices that adults are not made to observe. 

So why do we adults act like this? I thought we all loved children and thought of them as the most precious things on the earth. 

I don't know the answer, but I will give it some thought.  

 

2 player Lego Star Wars

My 6 and 3 year olds figured out how to play two player mode in their iPad game Lego Star Wars. 

I was quite suprised to hear them tell me they were going to play two player, then they showed me how. 

They both pick the same training level and the same characters, then both start playing on their own iPads fighting the other persons character. 

Genius :)

 

yeah so they weren't actually playing two player, but the 3 year old, Israel, still got extremely upset when his big brother was beating him.  

Pulling all nighters

Lately I've had my hands full trying to get the new Everything Geraldton website ready. It involved a couple of all nighters, which I had no problem doing as I quite enjoyed the work. But I promptly got sick after a day or two. 

Thinking it was just an anomaly, a couple of weeks later I did the same thing and got the same results.  

It's not like I used to do all nighters all the time when I was younger, but I certainly feel fragile and old now and am scared to try it again.  

Perhaps it's not so much age, but more fitness level.  

I think in the back of my mind I'm a sport playing active individual who has no problem going for a quick sprint or walk or whatever. But when I pause and think about it, I haven't played a sport for 6 years, don't regularly walk further than a flight of stairs, and enjoy swimming at the beach about as much as a hole in the head.  

 I can hardly classify myself as fit, though my skinny build deceives my own mind into thinking I'm not unfit.  

But what to do?  

My life, as many others, is littered with fitness resolutions and short lived good intentions. Unless I am compelled I cannot imaging having the will power in a few weeks to keep jogging or lifting weights. 

 .....

Alright, I've emailed the basketball association to ask to be placed in a team. Surely if my team needs me, I would not be able to say no.