Tag Archive | "Mark Zuckerberg"

Effortless sharing on Facebook is killing taste

Effortless sharing on Facebook is killing taste

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If Mark Zuckerberg has his way, everything you do online will be shared by default. And that sucks.

Three years ago, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg noted a mind-boggling statistic about the Internet.

Every year, people share twice as much online than they did the year before.

If you Liked 200 news articles this year, you’ll Like 400 next year, and have only Liked 100 last year.

People have come to call this Zuckerberg’s Law, and it’s obvious that Facebook sees “sharing” as the cornerstone of its future endeavors.

This is so as the more people share through Facebook, the more reasons people will have to keep coming back to Facebook, and the more central Facebook becomes in their lives.

So far, this seems to be working: recently, on a single day, Zuckerberg said 500 million people logged in to Facebook.

Now, it might just be the case that whatever you read, you watch, you listen, you buy, everyone you know will hear all about it on Facebook.

What this means is that you don’t have to bother with the “friction” of choosing to tell your friends that you like something.

Zuckerberg, at a developer conference last Thursday, called automatic or effortless sharing “frictionless sharing”, which is what lies behind a grander vision of the Web.

This is where Facebook apps will share with your friends whatever it is you are doing or experiencing.

For example, on a music sharing app (Spotify) on Facebook now, merely experiencing something is enough to trigger sharing.

A Ticker box appears on the right side of your page which tells your friends what you’re listening to and plays it for them if they click on it.

However, frictionless sharing is missing the point about sharing: Sharing is fundamentally about choosing.

You experience a huge number of things every day, but you choose to tell your friends about only a small number of them, because most of what you do isn’t worth mentioning.

“One thing that we’ve heard over and over again is that people have things that they want to share, but they don’t want to annoy their friends by putting boring stuff in their news feeds,” Zuckerberg said during his keynote.

This doesn’t sound like a problem that needs solving. Because if Facebook users aren’t sharing stuff because they worry it will bore their friends, then this sort of filtering works.

But Zuckerberg, nevertheless, has the solution.

“Our solution was to create a new place that’s lighter-weight where you can see lighter-weight stuff—that’s how we came up with Ticker”, he said.

If you translate “lighter-weight” to boring, you’ll understand what Zuckerberg is saying: Facebook now has a place on its site reserved especially for boring updates.

But Zuckerberg is right that the Web is better when everyone shares more.

Just that you should also consider not sharing if you have no strong feelings about it, especially if you suspect that your friends will consider it just another bit of noise in their already noisy world.

So do everyone a favor and don’t say anything about it all.

This is a 60-second reduction of the original article here.

Who values online privacy anymore?

Who values online privacy anymore?

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Corporations can mine data all they want – so long as it doesn’t affect the user experience.

By Fang Shihan

Photo: JASON / Creative Commons

WHEN Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Christopher Poole of 4chan last thrashed out the ethics of anonymity in cyberspace, the former said “not putting down your real name is tantamount to lying”, while the latter responded “well… people are shy”.

I’m paraphrasing. 4chan is better known as the crazy forum that incubated celebrated ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous and judging by some of the content posted there, it does make sense for some users to stay anonymous.

4chan has 12 million unique visitors per month while Facebook has 500 million users. Facebook, last valued at $89 billion clearly makes truckloads more from advertising revenue due to their more reliable user data.

Of course, both Facebook and 4chan are right in addressing the privacy concerns of their respective users. But the two social media giants are missing out a quickly evolving characteristic of internet users – they don’t care about anonymity or privacy anymore.

Aside from a minority of high profile individuals, most people don’t feel the need to guard their data trail. Partly because they feel that they’re not significant enough to warrant notice and partly because they’re likely to post updates only once every few days and don’t have much of a trail. While public figures like George Yeo or Paris Hilton probably have to worry about stalkers finding their home addresses, the majority of online users are average, less than average, and may even look like this.

Under normal circumstances, no one would bother digging up all the online rubbish left behind by Tan Ah Lian. Unless you’re a victim of overenthusiastic sedition enforcement like Abdul Malik.

Even the ‘dangers’ of behavioral advertising registers hardly a bleep on the minds of internet users. Behavioral advertising selects advertisements for users based on their preferences. It saves advertisers time and money by increasing the probability of their ad having an impact. At the same time, privacy advocacy groups such as this one argue that companies have no right to use users’ surfing patterns for their purposes.

The thrust of the privacy argument now isn’t about the sanctity of privacy per se, but because companies can profit from your data without giving a cent to you. Facebook and Facebook app developers came under fire in October last year for leaking user information. Aside from some minor embarrassment quickly corrected by promises by both companies to protect their user IDs, nothing much came of the incident.

Users really don’t care much about their privacy, or even the fact that companies are profiting from user data, unless of course, they could potentially make a substantial amount by letting companies monitor each click, ‘LOL’ or online search. Data mining requires economies of scale – a database is worth a lot, but a single click is not.

Critics of behavioral advertising also overestimate the impact of online advertising on online users. As I’m writing this while surfing Facebook, there are four ads on the right column – skincare, iphone printer, forex and a dining cashback card. Nothing I’d be upset about and also nothing I’ll pay much attention to. The one and only Facebook ad I ever clicked on was about the NUS Masters program. Again, it’s not something I’d mind lurking around at the side of my screen.

if you’ve been consistently using the same pseudonym for a few years, then you’re not really anonymous either. The only difference between an account profile names Tan Ah Lian, or MissFlower82, is the name.

While privacy may be overrated, online exhibitionism is underrated. The advent of blogging, tweeting and other platforms that enable anyone to communicate to many has created a class of everyday celebrities broadcasting anything from food to fashion to politics. This phenomenon of a one-way communication directed at a following or a two-way dialogue within a community of friends, has made privacy more of an obstacle than a necessity.

People want to be heard. More so for people who seek to find like-minded souls. Subcultures especially, flourish in cyberspace due to the ease of finding someone halfway across the world with almost identical tastes, habits and sense of humor. A private person has few friends online and let’s face it, we all get a kick from seeing the number of unique visitors rise on our blogs.

Then again, privacy advocates may argue that one can blog, tweet and Facebook under a pseudonym to remain anonymous. And it’s true, there’s a large group of online users that do just that. But as with all other consumer-oriented platforms, convenience is key to retaining usage. It’s too difficult to maintain different usernames and passwords all the time.

In any case, if you’ve been consistently using the same pseudonym for a few years, then you’re not really anonymous either. The only difference between an account profile names Tan Ah Lian, or MissFlower82, is the name. Behavioural advertising works on the basis on online habits. Unless you’ve been religiously using a VPN, the ads will get to you too.

Aside from big evil corporations out to bombard your liberty with ads they want you to see, governments have also been accused of infringing onto the privacy rights of online users. While the U.S. is still debating about how the patriot act would infringe on citizens’ civil rights, governments on this side of the globe never had to worry about citizens demanding privacy rights. Don’t like what they say? Throw em’ in jail. Period. The debate about privacy laws is nascent, to say the least.

In such a situation, yes, privacy and anonymity are valued for security reasons. But governments rarely utilize user data except for internal security reasons as well. Furthermore, politically-charged sites pale in comparison with commercial ones in terms of the number of users. This is in no small part due to a lack of advertising revenue for the former.

So while it is unethical to sell user information to advertisers without notifying the user, and it’s somewhat an infringement of privacy when companies monitor user behaviour via targeted advertising; the very painful reality is, none of these sites can survive without advertising.

My girlfriend and I are addicted to Google

My girlfriend and I are addicted to Google

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A story about loving via the internet. By Terence Lee and his non-tech significant other.

I KNEW something was wrong with me when my girlfriend prefers to fondle her iPhone rather than my stubbled chin.

In truth, our relationship had lost much of its previous flair: We started off by chatting two to three hours a day on MSN Messenger, especially when I was in lectures – which, by the way, totally explained my pathetic 3.3 GPA in my first semester of school. Phone conversations were an afterthought.

Nowadays, we’ve become too lazy to even talk on a dedicated chat software, preferring instead Gmail’s chat function, which meant I could type an email to my boring university lecturer and talk to my girlfriend at the same time.

Remember those cute little cards filled with cut-out hearts that you would make for your boyfriend as an expression of your unyielding love? We’ve ditched them, preferring instead to send free, animated e-cards to one another because we’re lazy and cheap.

Gone also are the days of calling my girlfriend to plan the time and place for our next date. We share our Google Calendars and sync them to our smartphones just so we can keep tabs on one another – which means she’ll question me endlessly if she finds a blank slot.

We also share a Google Doc where we create a list of places and restaurants we’d like to visit next. Most of them are culled from hungrygowhere.com, a good place to find out about the latest food joints without needing to ask a single person.

So what happens when we want to go somewhere but find ourselves lost? Well, Google Maps takes care of that. You can even key in your destination and Google will take you there, listing out three to four alternatives just for fun. There is no more approaching strangers who might point you in the wrong direction.

To be honest, I was happy with this state of affairs for a while.

But here’s the problem: All that spontaneity is lost. We’ve become a two-person tour group, where every date is a planned programme.

We’ve surrendered all elements of surprise to the meticulousness of our clever phones, and gave up on the notion of exploring the urban jungle like a modern Tarzan and Jane, who may just happen to stumble upon an obscure ramen store in Bugis or an old-school comic book store in Chinatown.

I read once about a journalist who outsourced his life to a personal assistant in India: He even got the assistant to apologise to his wife for an offense – via email.

I did one better: By relying on the omnipresent Google, I did not have to pay a single cent. I let slave machines do the thinking, instead of a foreign assistant dividing her time between work and boyfriend.

So this brings us back to my girlfriend’s love affair with her shiny iPhone – which she named Finna, by the way. Finna was always by her side, whereas she would be lucky to get a two-hour audience from me all week. Which was why I faded into irrelevance.

Faced with this crisis, I decided many weeks ago to set in motion a devious plan that would win her back, a plan concocted in Germany by one Klaus Teuber.

Sounds familiar? Maybe not. He’s the inventor of Settlers of Catan, a rather popular board game that has sold 15 million copies worldwide. So I recently bought the game for my girlfriend.

Yes, a board game made of actual cardboard paper and plastic game pieces, not some pixelated crap invented by a geeky software engineer in Silicon Valley. Settlers is a game created in love; Klaus mentioned that his main aim of inventing board games is to amuse his bored wife.

The plan worked like a charm. We played Settlers with my mum and brother when she came to my place. We yelped in amusement whenever someone was penalised or on the verge of victory. What would have been a sleepy Sunday afternoon turned into a time of genuine bonding.

And most importantly, I snatched her from the likes of tech kingpins like Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt, who obviously prefer that the world interact behind a computer screen, like their anti-social selves.

So friends, here’s a secret to rekindling your pathetic, dying relationships: Play a board game together. You won’t get that from any romance guru.

An edited version of this article was published on the Nanyang Chronicle.