Tag Archives: Facebook

Social media warning – This time from former Facebook exec

Didn’t you suspect the backlash was coming? Is Chamath Palihapitiya right?

The former Facebooker (someone I’ve featured before) gets to the heart of the matter. Calling out the addictive nature of social media –what he calls the “dopamine-driven feedback loops.” He doesn’t mince his words. Listen to his interview and see what you think.

A few days ago I expressed my disgust:

Indeed, we need to call out social media when it is not social, and in fact becoming thoroughly anti-social. We need to aggressively educate our younger generation before they climb on board this seductive train.

Or as Chamath says, we need a ‘hard break‘ from these tools.


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Coding in schools gathers steam, thanks to Microsoft, Google, Apple, Facebook et al

I began introducing coding to my 5th grade classes this year, and the interest level is truly inspiring. I was planning to up the ante in the next school year. Looks like my timing couldn’t have be better.

Many stories have begun to appear about how Coding is being pulled into the curriculum.

The latter piece (by Matt Richtel, 10, May 2014) weighs in on the pros and cons, especially wondering if there’s something iffy about having big-name backers such as Microsoft and Facebook. The insinuation is that they may have vested interests in this, and not be interested in the bigger picture of inspiring the science in computer science.

That’s being a bit too snarky. After all, the ‘career ready’ jobs that educators talk up so much are in such spaces that the present and future Gates’ and Zuckerbergs will create and nurture. I want these kids to glide into those plum jobs, ten years from now. That the runway is being paved with corporate dollars –and their sweat– is not necessary a bad thing, is it?

Also, teaching students to code is not trying to turn them into over-paid kids working out of a coffee shop. Making computer science a mainstream discipline, not a nice-to-have, is a place to start.

If you really want to know the grand plan of computer science, here is an illuminating document on Computer Science Standards for K-12 by the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA). Some of the points they stress:

  • CS’s role in “logical reasoning, algorithms thinking, and structural problem-solving.”
  • The value of being closely aligned with business people, scientists, artists etc.
  • Teaching students to work ‘cooperatively’ and ‘collaboratively’
  • Teaching ‘Computational thinking’ –from data representation to problem solving

Sounds a lot like Common Core to me. This is what educators in CS have thought through, calling for us to embed these skills as early as Kindergarten. This is not something that grew out of Silicon Valley.

It’s time we put it into practice. The kids are hungry for this!

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Education


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The urge to exit Facebook

I’ve begun running into people in the past few months who are wrestling with the idea of cancelling their Facebook accounts.

Are you one of them?

It’s been some seven years since I signed up, and I have to admit it almost feels like I have to hold my nose when I login, now and then. Now and them, meaning a few times a week -down from a few times a day some years back. Hence that post a few weeks back when I wondered if the social network, was more of a faux community.

There seems to be a bigger picture emerging.

As one person I interviewed noted, the land grab to just be seen on Facebook, and that “me-first’ mentality has worn thin. There is too much chest-thumping, too much ‘thought burps’ for some to want to be part of it.

I like to hear what you think of all this, and how you use or ignore. I don’t want to know the obvious: that it’s easy to find long-lost high school friends, and how it makes you feel connected. There are dozens of ways we could do that now.

I like to know:

  1. Have you changed your Facebook activity?
  2. What makes you wince at what people say/post?
  3. Are you using Facebook in some other interesting way?
  4. Are you (or someone you know) contemplating heading for the exits?
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Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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An evening of “Crosstalk” reveals how people and text interact

No, this is not about Facebook, and how we seemingly interact with text that sometimes seems like a bunch of posturing and talking at cross purposes!

This is about a performance I went to last Saturday at ASU, brought by the School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

crosstalkThe key ‘performance — a semi-choreographed interaction of two women –was to demonstrate how conversations (and text) can ‘make’ people, and their reality. Meaning, how language doesn’t just represent us, but shapes who we are, even while we use it. Here’s how they describe it. The art form:

interrogates these questions (using) 3D infra-red motion tracking, voice acquisition, speech recognition, multi-screen video projection and multi-channel surround sound to create an immersive multimedia environment.

As the dancers move and speak, speech recognition software reveals sentences (and sentence fragments) on two screens at right angles to each other. Then these texts begin to intersect, and create some interesting visual ‘performances’ – dropping off, angling, growing, and interacting with the other person’s texts.

The event was the work of visual artist, Simon Biggs, and composer, Garth Paine, both of whom dabble in the algorithms that work behind the scenes.

Why I found this fascinating was that it is in an oblique way related to my work in Chat Republic, and how our conversations determine our realities. We are, whether we like it or not, immersed in a digital landscape, and what we say to each other lives in a textual sense out there.

One does not have to be steeped in social media to be part of this Web 2.0 world, where much of what we do is cross-referenced by algorithms –when we sign on to purchase something, do a Google search, or leave a comment –that build profiles of us, and builds identities of us.

Just check what Facebook appears to be doing, sneakily boosting your ‘Likes’ when you message someone.

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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Technology


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Is Facebook a faux community?

Over the Christmas break I’ve had a lot of time to think through some of the social behaviors we accept, and quietly incorporate. Sometimes these are things we once scorned, and never thought possible in our lifetime.

Things like doing a Google search while driving; posting pictures the very second we experience an event (basically experiencing an important moment in our life through a screen, first); checking the status of things that once didn’t matter to us before (“What’s the temperature in DC today?”; What does Times Square on 31st night look like on Facebook –since the TV networks do such a sloppy job of it now).

You get the picture…

My wife and I have also contracted a curious digital illness, FAS. Call it the Facebook Avoidance Syndrome. We don’t check in on a daily basis because it means inviting a lot of useless information into our lives, and worse, making what someone posts the main topic of discussion, rather than real issues near us, and around us. I must admit, these are interesting sidebars, but do we really want to be informed how deep the snow is, or the ingredients of one’s holiday cookies? Is this community?

  • Yesterday our neighbor stopped my wife and wanted to tell us they were moving. “I didn’t want to leave a note on your door to tell you this, he admitted.”
  • Friends dropped in a few days ago to check how I was going. No status updates were required in this old-fashioned practice.
  • While we’ve been more-or-less off the FB grid, the phone has been off the hook

I felt the need to post a short message on Facebook the other day to say this: Going forward in 2014, I would further reduce my Facebook activity. I said I won’t be breathlessly posting the food I consume or the anniversaries I celebrate.

What “activity?” you ask 🙂 I hardly add content to the Zuckerberg machine. I don’t subscribe to birthday apps, and the likes. But the point was that, if folks needed to reach me, or keep me informed of things, I didn’t want them to assume I knew, just because it was on Facebook.

Many hard-core Facebookers –and I know plenty, have interviewed many– can’t imagine life without it. Some have begun to feel like this is the only way to stay in touch with community. Granted, we have all used Facebook or LinkedIn to discover people from our past, analog communities. They feel as if there is no other way to trade empathy.

I beg to disagree. If all you had is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail.

One of my friends asked me “What this means in a Chat Republic?”

I EXPECTED THIS.  My book dealt a lot about online and virtual communities, so I knew this question would come. I’m sure some of you are shocked I would even take this attitude. If you are, all I could say is re-read the  book’s introduction – “Why don’t we chat?” (If you don’t want to get the book, or borrow it from the library, I’d be happy to send you the chapter.)

Another asked me, why make a public announcement of this? Public announcement? I thought most people assumed our posts were just between friends. Maybe some realize that Facebook goads us into self-publicity, even while giving us the sense that we are engaging in private conversations. Indeed, Facebook’s public-private divide is confusing.

Digital Social networks were intended for communities. Humans weren’t built for the networks. Simply sharing whatever crosses our path –or our camera view finder– does not enrich our community involvement. Over-sharing is indeed a disease. It’s sometimes nice to be in the presence of a community where no one is taking pictures and setting others up for a Facebook post. (Sigh!: It’s an adjustment for me. There are places I go to now, where I don’t carry my SLR, and never, ever use my camera phone.)

It’s nice to avoid faux communities, and be in the presence of real communities.


1. There’s an interesting Carnegie Mellon University study if you are interested, about this very confusion, and how the many changes in Facebook’s privacy policy first reduced how much personal info people shared, and then how it began to rise. 

2. You may actually not see a link to this on Facebook. I don’t intend to post it there. The link between this blog and FB have been disconnected. This blog is obviously a public medium. 

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Posted by on January 3, 2014 in Facebook, Social Media


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New York Times forcing us through Facebook funnel

Updated: 21 April 2012

I’m Ok with funnels for decanting liquids in the kitchen or garage. Media funnels are another matter entirely.

That’s essentially what The New York Times is trying to do with us readers: entice us down the narrow neck into Facebook territory. No thank you!

We’ll never know what the conversations were at the Times in the past few weeks, but it certainly didn’t involve us.

The folks there probably looked at the evidence of how media is now flowing through networks, how people are jumping platforms and thought it was time to send us to Zuckland. Call it Funnelization-meets monetization.

Were they scared we may be sucked in elsewhere?

I don’t buy the ‘newspapers are dead’ argument any more than I think books are dead. (I love my Kindle, but I don’t plan on not reading real books anytime soon.) I grant that I do get plenty of my news updates via social media, but that has never stopped me from picking up a newspaper, tuning into a radio show or watching a non time-shifted television show now and then. The sheer serendipity of discovery using ‘old media’ could never be replaced.

In short, I get sucked in by great content.

The Times and Facebook relationship is not new. It began in 2010, with a new design of the front page. (Explanation by NYT here.) I liked the idea of enabling readers to be able to follow threaded comments and connect via social channels. It was a tough call, to make trusted commentary a feature that was by invitation only. But hey, reputation is always earned!

Starting this week, however, content on is limited to ten articles a month free. Content will still be available via Facebook.

But that’s not the main problem. The Times requires one to link a Facebook account to the Times story to be authorized to comment.  That tantamount ro appointing Facebook as a sort of gatekeeper. An e-verify system for readers. Why Facebook? Why not LinkedIn, amore professional system? Good question. Andrew Rosenthal, the Times’ editorial page editor explains it thus: It’s coming! For now we’re stuck with Facebook.

Maybe it’s not so bad. After all Facebook is now a major authenticator and on ramp to other online properties. But it’s thumbs down for me. I’m not ready to jump into this funnel yet.

Updated: If you have inadvertently linked your Facebook account to the NYT, here’s where you can find the button to uncheck it.


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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Facebook, Media, Social Media


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What does Big Brother looks like in a post-Jobs world?

Those in marketing have this quaint memory of Apple and its overthrow of those who enforce “information purification directives” in a stifling “garden of pure ideology” (the words spoken by the image of Big Brother on a giant screen).

If it was revolution, it was the triumph of the little guy over big intimidating folks such as IBM, not government.

But what does Big Brother look like today? What would George Orwell have railed about if he wrote about it now?

Few have heard about a program dubbed Einstein –essentially a government surveillance program. Details are understandably sketchy. It was set up for network security of government properties, but aslso to conduct surveillance, to look for the bad guys. Einstein came to be in 2009 as an early warning system, and was described this way:

Developed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Einstein software provides real-time monitoring and analysis of Internet traffic flowing in and out of federal agency networks. 

There is more here, and here. You would expect governments to get with the program and be vigilant on who’s accessing an intending to compromise their networks. I would be upset if they aren’t.

But then, with the ability to monitor social networking,  it gets more complicated. It is one close hop from monitoring who’s clicking on links and from where they are arriving on, say a Federal web site, to doing real-time surveillance of those people via their social networks. It’s also so easy to do. Easy to eavesdrop on a Skype call, or drop in on a Facebook user and check on the frequency of exchanges with a particular person, and do some data-mining based on that user’s friends, photos, interests…

Sounds like the cloak and dagger stuff in the movies? Think again. Two years ago, the Boston Globe reported on social media savvy undercover cops, and in another case, AT&T was sued for helping the government intercept phone calls. Today Facebook is being drawn into this debate about how much we should share, and what it “knows” about us, with one researcher alleging that it could track you even if you have logged out of Facebook.

Somehow I am not shocked, or worried about this. That’s the Faustian bargain we make when we use these services, many of which come at no cost to us. I’ve made the case before that the disease of over-sharing, and our need to communicate with our friends-of-friends-of-friends every moment and minutae of our lives invites this.

We could of course turn these off, or do something else: provide information that would confuse the heck out of anyone watching over our keystrokes. There’s a line in the 1984 commercial that shows us how, and how we could talk them “bury them with their own confusion.”

Go ahead, poke Big Brother in his eye!

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Posted by on October 10, 2011 in Social Media


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