Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Facebook's influence in the era of content

As a purported professional observer and chronicler and arranger of ~things that happen~ (and sometimes effusive emoter of excessive euphemisms), I enjoy taking note when ephemeral news gets entangled in ethereal virality.
And Monday was one such day, in which, like many other days before it, news happened.
But as big as those big things that happened were, I kept thinking about those other things, the ones that matter long past traffic inconveniences and web traffic spikes, like the schools elections that we care so little about even though we know better.
Or should know better.
Or, do we even know?
And, if you don't know, then how is it that we professional chroniclers of things that happen failed at informing those who needed to know?
For many a year, information mongers have arrogantly clung to the idea that it is the mythical citizen's duty to stay informed (it is, but whatevs). All of this is happening in an environment where the real citizens struggle with the day-to-day while enduring an incessant bombardment of all kinds of information.

So it is no wonder that nobody can hear the tree falling.
The forest is full of explosions.


YouTube finally released Cardboard support for Youtube on iOS, and that basically means that you can now watch every video on Youtube in a virtual reality device on what's essentially the most popular device out there. And that gives me a chance to share this little playlist of 360-degree Freeman videos I've been curating (and sometimes producing) for a while and yes that's the tractor trailer being brought back up on top of that list.

The live version of that video, which was posted to the Freeman's Facebook page, has been viewed more that 18,000 times as of this writing, which illustrates the evolving nature in the never-ending battle over the distribution of content. That's but an example of why there's been so much scrutiny about Facebook's relationships with news recently.

So let's go down the rabbit hole, for a counter-intuitive moment of context. You might have seen a bunch of these in your news feed.

"Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News" - Gizmodo, May 9.
"Senate GOP Launches Inquiry Into Facebook’s News Curation" - Gizmodo, May 10.
"Facebook news selection is in hands of editors not algorithms, documents show," The Guardian The Guardian.
"Facebook’s Own Legal Policies Keeping Trending Accusers Anonymous,," Buzzfeed, May 12.
"Facebook Admits Its Trending Section Includes Topics Not Actually Trending on Facebook [Update: Zuck Speaks]" Gizmodo, May 12.
"Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Meet With Conservatives Over Trending Topics," Wall Street Journal, May 16.
"Failure To Accurately Represent Trending Caused Facebook Unnecessary Pain," Buzzfeed, May 16
Bonus: "I worked on Facebook's Trending team – the most toxic work experience of my life," The Guardian, May 17.

And here, too, even with this tiny sample of coverage of Facebook's woes that started last week, the big issue might get lost. As Mathew Ingram and others pointed out, "The real point is that Facebook is orders of magnitude larger and more influential than any traditional media outlet."

So the current environment finds media companies throwing as much spaghetti at the Facebook wall as they can to get news to you, creating a downward spiral of content glut, diminishing the chances of that content actually finding you. Rinse and repeat. 

There is, however, a new paradigm in which filtering regains its value because of this content overload. It's actually an old idea, where news purveyors, once again, come in, and summarize the things that happened in sites and newsletters and podcasts and maybe soon virtual reality headsets, zeroing in on the things that matter.

So there's light at the end of the tunnel.
And a school election. 

But what do I know, really? I'm just a rambling 'Spanish looking man.'

One video: Daydreaming.

The Four:

One cat:

Yesterday's Internet, Today! is a newsletter that summarizes the things that happened around the things that happened, starting with an idea, followed by links of interest, a video, four links from the Freeman and a cat.