Author Topic: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed  (Read 857 times)

Faust

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Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« on: June 22, 2018, 04:56:59 pm »
Back in my college years, I used to use RSS, getting my most recent new items pulled from the sites that I wanted. It's a simple system, and still works nicely for blog posts, web comics or any content that can go with long gaps between something new coming out. I started with google reader, then when they ditched that moved to digg reader, which too has fallen at the wayside and I've resorted to using feedly. It's neither the nicest interface, but it still gets me what I need in a focused space that I can look at and then move on.
I fear though that the days are numbered for RSS. If google and Digg both failed to make any money on it then its going to be hard for others to do the same right?

The alternatives are the user curated feeds of the social media sites. These were exciting technologies for a while with a lot of variety in the mix; LiveJournal and MySpace gave way to Bebo and  Facebook, twitter, snapchat etc. Facebook has for whatever reason held on to its staying power and has worn out its welcome.

What started out as addictive and an exciting technology with each of these was the ability to interact with your friends, and to tailor the content the site gave you to see. Stupid conversations, arguments and discussion of social events, the evidence in photo the morning after the night before and all that. It was fun, and fresh.
But it doesn't make the money these companies want. Sure it gave them page clicks, and a platform to advertise on, but adblock has always had a limiting effect on that, and these companies don't just want good revenue, they want every possible cent they can get out of you.
So we hear a lot about how facebook shares our details with advertisers, building elaborate profiles on you, what you like, where you have been, what items you have in your home, who you talk to, what your political leaning is, enough to make your average intelligence agency salivate at the thought (if you don't believe they have direct access on tap).

But that is only half of the problem. You see, sure the advertisers pay for ads on the page, and pay for your profile data, but what they really want, what they probably always wanted, was a direct channel to feed you their product. If they had attempted that in the early days people would have left in droves, so it has been a slow process of normalization.

The trick is to take away the users ability to curate their feed. In its simplest form I want to see the most recent, from all people and websites I have decided to follow.
So this was the first target. On facebook the default view is a hybridization of most popular and most active, to the people you interact with the most. There is an option to click most recent, but the site defaults back without telling you regularly, as well as hiding certain content entirely as a penalty for going on most recent.

As soon as you trust that the site knows better then you, as to what you should be seeing, they can start getting more adventurous.
They started simply: push news stories and "shared content" over text only status messages to normalise that what you will see will likely be from some other site.
The next step was pushing peoples interactions with specific companies "X likes this" for promoted venues, websites products etc. The person in question might have liked that a long time ago but as soon as those affiliates start paying for promotion, that stuff will start rising to the top like turds in the swimming pool.
The end goal is to be able to embed the advertisers content seamlessly in our feed so that we wont even be aware that there is content in there coming from no source you have decided to follow, at this point your curated feed is no longer your own, it belongs to someone else, the highest bidder

So apart from the sleazy commercialization of these system, the dangers of doing this should be obvious in recent years. We hear about the Fake news. The media manipulation through social media, the targeted adverts to bias elections based on your psychological profile from these sites. Russian troll farms could not have achieved what they did without the elaborate systems that have been built to facilitate them being able to show you, what they want you to see.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal and the tampering in the election were only the first steps of a newborn system of control. It was clunky, obvious, and attempted in a short period of time.

Imagine what can be accomplished over a longer period, with more subtle steering of social groups through a prolonged and simple system, The Conspiracy put a fat stack of cash on the table and say "we want good consumers who are apathetic to social change, who'll bicker among  themselves,  fracture and divide their energy and divert their attention away from where they need to look." These people do not have our best interests or the best interests of society at heart.

We have been sold to the greatest system of social control that has ever existed, it's been attempted in every communication medium that has ever existed, but it has never been as effective and dangerous as it is now.

So we come back to the user feed. Your agency to choose what you read, to choose what you see. The trend is spreading. YouTube recently changed the way their subscriptions work, and you can bet their end goal is to treat us like battery chickens eating whatever they put in front of us. I don't know what the answer is, we've probably already lost. People throw back the argument if you don't want it tochappen dont use their product, and maybe they are right, but what are the alternatives, paid subscriptions with a promise of protection?

We need the freedom to choose what we consume, to look at what is at the end of our fork, and if it is good for us to swallow.

That's why I love the forum bbs format, its transparent where everything comes from. It's not just good for discussion, or dissection of ideas, it's built for it. If someone comes in trying to spout propaganda or bad signal, that shit gets the bar stool. Take these forums for example, as long as this site exists, I will never share anyone's data. I will never try to push what you see here. If I think something is cool and Discordian related I'll put a link on the bog or front page because its something I think is worth sharing. We're not an active forum any more, but we're not a desert like some of the others have become, it's important for people to have a place where they can discuss the crazy shit going on in the world in a medium that isn't directly tied to the madness itself.

I'm afraid we are losing agency in the digital landscape, that the freedom to think for ourselves is under threat, and it all starts with them taking away your ability to decide what you see.
This ended up being more of a rant then I wanted to and probably needs a clean up, but I hope I'm not the only one who feels this way.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2018, 05:49:51 pm by Faust »
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2018, 05:11:25 pm »
I've noticed all that.  As FB's actual content drops, the programming is more and more prone to show me the same things over and over again, effectively forming a fart blanket for me.  Everything *I* believe is reinforced, because I almost always only the posts of people like me.

That is why I have never dropped PD.  Also, because I as well just like the actual format.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2018, 05:47:28 pm »
:like:

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2018, 07:05:11 pm »
Yeah, I tried to map some of those other territories mentioned above, then they went all dark city on me. No thank you.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #4 on: June 24, 2018, 06:07:35 am »
diaspora is a nice social media site that actively resists this trend. it's also open source, so the profit motive doesn't enter into it the way it does with FB.  It gained a lot of users after the CA scandal, although it is definitely not a finished product yet.

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2018, 06:06:21 pm »
Excellent observations. I'm not a huge fan of social media in general. I have a facebook account but I don't really use it for much other than keeping additional tabs on my aging mother. I used to enjoy rss feeds until they started going the way of the dodo, and I do generally lament content algorithms that think they know me better than I know myself.

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the most talkative in message board environments, but I've always enjoyed them in large because of the open dynamics they can and should allow. This board is one of the very few I still visit, and it's easily the best by leaps and bounds.

Thank you to the mods/hosts and community for making this place what it is.

Faust

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2018, 08:27:28 pm »
diaspora is a nice social media site that actively resists this trend. it's also open source, so the profit motive doesn't enter into it the way it does with FB.  It gained a lot of users after the CA scandal, although it is definitely not a finished product yet.
I'm not really looking for an alternative, the only way I can see these services surviving long term and not getting crushed or selling out as the costs go up is to go decentralised, maybe even peer to peer but best of luck getting the average Joe Soap to figure that one out.
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Faust

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2018, 08:41:11 pm »
Option one:
Ask them nicely to not decide what we want to see (ha ha)

Option two: empty the user base (this will happen naturally but to force it is like trying to get water to run up hill)

Option three: Attack the advertisers (make it toxic to be associated with these). I have seen this having the opposite effect, you fill your page with toxic "off message" content on your page until the advertisers get skittish, all this does is tighten the noose of what is acceptable until they even start blocking historical images

Option four: Poison the well of information. Ok, so they are playing a game of profiling, indexing and associating you with information that makes you the product, tailor made to be sold to their sponsors. If our inherent value is in the data associated with us, we have tried to stem the flow of this information with ghostery, script blocking, blocking tracking beacons, but they are getting better and better at circumventing these.
Instead we can make it worthless by flooding it.
Like everything you can contradictory pages, interests you would never be interested in, every group you can join. Every event that is on in your city, or every event in Vladivadstock. Make the whole thing so contradictory that it has zero value.
It occurs to me this that this last option only works if enough people do it, maybe a plugin could be created to act as virtual chaff grenade.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2018, 09:43:25 pm »
The entire system is in a precarious position, penned into an unfomfortable balance between multiple opposing worst-case scenarios.

I don't want Facebook deciding what I should be aware of. At the same time, I do want Facebook to shove information in front of willfully ignorant people who would never be exposed to it if the algorithms respected their choices completely. Am I qualified to decide for myself whether or not my horizons are sufficiently expanded? I'd like to think so, but my experience with other human beings leads me to believe that I am not.

I don't want a feed that's dominated by advertisements, especially advertisments that are disguised to look like content, especially content from or associated with people and organizations I have designated as being worth my attention. Meanwhile I also don't want to pay for social media. But somebody's got to keep the lights on at the data center, and ultimately everything boils down to that.

It is the economic sustainability of these platforms that is at the root of it all, of course. And that reality is an inseparable feature of the modern capitalist world. It's because of the philosophical assumptions baked into the way everything works -- assumptions like "material wealth is the only/best motivator of human labor" or "nothing is worth doing unless somebody gets rich", which may or may not be true, but nevertheless form the foundation of everything in modern Western societies from getting out of bed in the morning to guzzling zQuil to fall asleep at night. It is unlikely that Facebook will ever find an economically sustainable (let alone "profitable") model without selling people out to advertisers. Twitter isn't even trying, and it still isn't profitable.

The alternative platforms  are non-starters, at least for me. To begin with, these platforms suffer from the same catch-22 disadvantage that other major-name, proprietary systems like Google+ do, namely that nobody uses them because nobody uses them. But for open-source initiatives, there is a host of additional hurdles they are unlikely to overcome.

If it's a roll-your-own solution, then anyone can run it, and nobody will want to join yours because they can make their own version. If there is an authoritative provider, then it still has physical operating costs and maintaining free service will result in either its eventual corruption by advertisers, or its support and maintenance will suffer, or it will depend on a convoluted system of decentralized monetization that no one understands or bothers with. And if it isn't free, nobody will pay for it.

The other major problem with open-source, free platforms is that their major selling point is "privacy" and "freedom from government/corporate regulation". This lends itself to a cavalier attitude with regard to freedom of speech as well which, as we are learning in the latter half of this decade, attracts extremists like flies. I experimented for a while with Minds.com, but within a few months of its release, it had become an absolute sanctuary for white supremacists, MRAs, incels, and every other kind of toxic Internet scum. The administrators were either completely unconcerned or actively participating.

But beyond all of this, the fact is that most people don't care. They don't care that their information is being sold to advertisers or accessible to government spies. They don't care that their feed is full of sponsored content. They aren't even aware that they're only responsible for choosing about half of the content they see, and if they were aware, they wouldn't care about that, either. They don't place much value on "privacy", which is an increasingly absurd concept anyway. Hell, I don't even care that much. It just isn't worth my time to dodge every nefarious plot to steal my attention. People in general might post a meme about it once in a while or something, but they're certainly not going to change their behavior over it.
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Faust

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2018, 11:24:37 pm »
But beyond all of this, the fact is that most people don't care. They don't care that their information is being sold to advertisers or accessible to government spies. They don't care that their feed is full of sponsored content. They aren't even aware that they're only responsible for choosing about half of the content they see, and if they were aware, they wouldn't care about that, either. They don't place much value on "privacy", which is an increasingly absurd concept anyway. Hell, I don't even care that much. It just isn't worth my time to dodge every nefarious plot to steal my attention. People in general might post a meme about it once in a while or something, but they're certainly not going to change their behavior over it.

The main problem isn't what these systems currently represent, though they are odious. You're right people DON'T care, I get that, and that is the reason these stories of abuse come out and are forgotten a day or two later. It may even be integral for this platforms longevity, the reasons the others died out was this one bedded itself in so it was harder to leave than the others and people are lazy.

The danger of coopting the system beyond advertising into full on social control is the real threat I see on the horizon, and it seems we're already arriving at that outcome a lot faster then expected. Cambridge Analytica failed to with Ted Cruise:
They created variants of the adverts that would play up to different aspects of the viewers personality based on their profiling. In one hand they attempted to portray him as a man of the people, and a risk taker. And in the other as a prudent methodical thinker. They failed (because Cruise is only vaguely human and more of a reptilian then the average candidate).
They blew it the first time, but with what they learned they are going to continue to get better at it, refine it make it more subtle, make the hooks dig deeper into peoples psyche. Propaganda and social control through technology is the hottest new technology (a title it seems to have held since Johannes Gutenberg's time) and it's the single greatest threat facing democracy in western countries, not separate from the flag waving nationalism that is sweeping across but entwined with it, feeding off it, supporting it.

As traditional news media dies out and verifiable sources become more difficult to find, systems that portray a kaleidoscope of information will obfuscate any true information and lead people around by the nose, at that point any form of organized resistance will be impossible to generate, The Machine will have finally won.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2018, 11:30:43 pm »
But beyond all of this, the fact is that most people don't care. They don't care that their information is being sold to advertisers or accessible to government spies. They don't care that their feed is full of sponsored content. They aren't even aware that they're only responsible for choosing about half of the content they see, and if they were aware, they wouldn't care about that, either. They don't place much value on "privacy", which is an increasingly absurd concept anyway. Hell, I don't even care that much. It just isn't worth my time to dodge every nefarious plot to steal my attention. People in general might post a meme about it once in a while or something, but they're certainly not going to change their behavior over it.

The main problem isn't what these systems currently represent, though they are odious. You're right people DON'T care, I get that, and that is the reason these stories of abuse come out and are forgotten a day or two later. It may even be integral for this platforms longevity, the reasons the others died out was this one bedded itself in so it was harder to leave than the others and people are lazy.

The danger of coopting the system beyond advertising into full on social control is the real threat I see on the horizon, and it seems we're already arriving at that outcome a lot faster then expected. Cambridge Analytica failed to with Ted Cruise:
They created variants of the adverts that would play up to different aspects of the viewers personality based on their profiling. In one hand they attempted to portray him as a man of the people, and a risk taker. And in the other as a prudent methodical thinker. They failed (because Cruise is only vaguely human and more of a reptilian then the average candidate).
They blew it the first time, but with what they learned they are going to continue to get better at it, refine it make it more subtle, make the hooks dig deeper into peoples psyche. Propaganda and social control through technology is the hottest new technology (a title it seems to have held since Johannes Gutenberg's time) and it's the single greatest threat facing democracy in western countries, not separate from the flag waving nationalism that is sweeping across but entwined with it, feeding off it, supporting it.

As traditional news media dies out and verifiable sources become more difficult to find, systems that portray a kaleidoscope of information will obfuscate any true information and lead people around by the nose, at that point any form of organized resistance will be impossible to generate, The Machine will have finally won.


The machine won when Edward Murrow died.  Can anyone here remember a time when you absolutely believed what the news told you?


I was a teen-aged shit-poster; as you can see, the condition became chronic.

Faust

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2018, 11:45:15 pm »
But beyond all of this, the fact is that most people don't care. They don't care that their information is being sold to advertisers or accessible to government spies. They don't care that their feed is full of sponsored content. They aren't even aware that they're only responsible for choosing about half of the content they see, and if they were aware, they wouldn't care about that, either. They don't place much value on "privacy", which is an increasingly absurd concept anyway. Hell, I don't even care that much. It just isn't worth my time to dodge every nefarious plot to steal my attention. People in general might post a meme about it once in a while or something, but they're certainly not going to change their behavior over it.

The main problem isn't what these systems currently represent, though they are odious. You're right people DON'T care, I get that, and that is the reason these stories of abuse come out and are forgotten a day or two later. It may even be integral for this platforms longevity, the reasons the others died out was this one bedded itself in so it was harder to leave than the others and people are lazy.

The danger of coopting the system beyond advertising into full on social control is the real threat I see on the horizon, and it seems we're already arriving at that outcome a lot faster then expected. Cambridge Analytica failed to with Ted Cruise:
They created variants of the adverts that would play up to different aspects of the viewers personality based on their profiling. In one hand they attempted to portray him as a man of the people, and a risk taker. And in the other as a prudent methodical thinker. They failed (because Cruise is only vaguely human and more of a reptilian then the average candidate).
They blew it the first time, but with what they learned they are going to continue to get better at it, refine it make it more subtle, make the hooks dig deeper into peoples psyche. Propaganda and social control through technology is the hottest new technology (a title it seems to have held since Johannes Gutenberg's time) and it's the single greatest threat facing democracy in western countries, not separate from the flag waving nationalism that is sweeping across but entwined with it, feeding off it, supporting it.

As traditional news media dies out and verifiable sources become more difficult to find, systems that portray a kaleidoscope of information will obfuscate any true information and lead people around by the nose, at that point any form of organized resistance will be impossible to generate, The Machine will have finally won.


The machine won when Edward Murrow died.  Can anyone here remember a time when you absolutely believed what the news told you?
No but when I have two or three sources vaguely overlapping you can assemble a rough picture. After this, the direct paid sources are gone, and all you can get at are variants of pages that confirm your bias, generated on the fly to get you to arrive at an outcome that has been decided for you.
At the moment I trust less than half the articles I read:
There's a fun game I play  (my RSS gets all the articles as the appear), reading the version from time of publishing and comparing to the evening of the same story can be interesting by what is removed as the day goes on.

After the news media sources are gone, as broken as they are, 0 would be a reasonable amount to trust as the information is poisoned at source.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2018, 12:52:44 am »
But beyond all of this, the fact is that most people don't care. They don't care that their information is being sold to advertisers or accessible to government spies. They don't care that their feed is full of sponsored content. They aren't even aware that they're only responsible for choosing about half of the content they see, and if they were aware, they wouldn't care about that, either. They don't place much value on "privacy", which is an increasingly absurd concept anyway. Hell, I don't even care that much. It just isn't worth my time to dodge every nefarious plot to steal my attention. People in general might post a meme about it once in a while or something, but they're certainly not going to change their behavior over it.

The main problem isn't what these systems currently represent, though they are odious. You're right people DON'T care, I get that, and that is the reason these stories of abuse come out and are forgotten a day or two later. It may even be integral for this platforms longevity, the reasons the others died out was this one bedded itself in so it was harder to leave than the others and people are lazy.

The danger of coopting the system beyond advertising into full on social control is the real threat I see on the horizon, and it seems we're already arriving at that outcome a lot faster then expected. Cambridge Analytica failed to with Ted Cruise:
They created variants of the adverts that would play up to different aspects of the viewers personality based on their profiling. In one hand they attempted to portray him as a man of the people, and a risk taker. And in the other as a prudent methodical thinker. They failed (because Cruise is only vaguely human and more of a reptilian then the average candidate).
They blew it the first time, but with what they learned they are going to continue to get better at it, refine it make it more subtle, make the hooks dig deeper into peoples psyche. Propaganda and social control through technology is the hottest new technology (a title it seems to have held since Johannes Gutenberg's time) and it's the single greatest threat facing democracy in western countries, not separate from the flag waving nationalism that is sweeping across but entwined with it, feeding off it, supporting it.

As traditional news media dies out and verifiable sources become more difficult to find, systems that portray a kaleidoscope of information will obfuscate any true information and lead people around by the nose, at that point any form of organized resistance will be impossible to generate, The Machine will have finally won.


The machine won when Edward Murrow died.  Can anyone here remember a time when you absolutely believed what the news told you?
No but when I have two or three sources vaguely overlapping you can assemble a rough picture. After this, the direct paid sources are gone, and all you can get at are variants of pages that confirm your bias, generated on the fly to get you to arrive at an outcome that has been decided for you.
At the moment I trust less than half the articles I read:
There's a fun game I play  (my RSS gets all the articles as the appear), reading the version from time of publishing and comparing to the evening of the same story can be interesting by what is removed as the day goes on.

After the news media sources are gone, as broken as they are, 0 would be a reasonable amount to trust as the information is poisoned at source.

Reuters and AP are still in business.  Another fun game is reading Reuters and then reading the people that carry their stories.
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LuciferX

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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2018, 01:27:00 am »

[...]

Option four: Poison the well of information. Ok, so they are playing a game of profiling, indexing and associating you with information that makes you the product, tailor made to be sold to their sponsors. If our inherent value is in the data associated with us, we have tried to stem the flow of this information with ghostery, script blocking, blocking tracking beacons, but they are getting better and better at circumventing these.
Instead we can make it worthless by flooding it.
Like everything you can contradictory pages, interests you would never be interested in, every group you can join. Every event that is on in your city, or every event in Vladivadstock. Make the whole thing so contradictory that it has zero value.
It occurs to me this that this last option only works if enough people do it, maybe a plugin could be created to act as virtual chaff grenade.
This reminds me of early attacks against SPAM. Works in principle. Problem is/was that advertisers are in bed with webernet indexing/search functions. As I obfuscate their interests, I am also destroying the relevance of my search results.

If I fracture/split my online profiles, only the coherent "work" profile will obtain relevant results, eventually obsolescing the functional use of "play." Not to mention that I think the requirement to compartmentalize is essentially an attack upon my sovereignty.

I'm thinking exit-strategy, that although gradual has also been steady.
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Re: Why social media is hostile to the user curated feed
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2018, 01:53:37 am »
It's worth mentioning that this dystopian Ministry of Truth shit is nothing new. For just about all of human history, information was entirely controlled by the Church or the State. Facebook owning all the news and allowing anyone who pays for advertizing to twist it to their own ends is the same thing, if a little less organized. But the technology that allows it also prevents it from being truly monopolized. Yes, biased "news" with an agenda will be the easiest and fastest information to get, but the Internet is still decentralised at its core and it isn't hard to smuggle bytes. As the vice tightens on "official media", new platforms and messageng formats will offer more options. If people are serious about finding The truth, it will be available. If they aren't serious about it, then it doesn't matter how hard or how easy it is to find.
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