Worry About Facebook, Not Skynet

It requires a clear, articulate presentation to properly enumerate the perils of Facebook. A CNN author, who has quit Facebook, has done just that. He tells a story that's worse than you ever could have thought.


You won't find me on Facebook.

You might find someone with the same name there. There are several of us sprinkled around the U.S. But you won't find me there.

When Facebook first launched, I asked myself what the benefit was, especially as a writer. I had a hard time answering that question. So I waited, thinking that as time went on, I would discover the tangible benefits. Instead, I found what many others have: Facebook isn't designed to serve the customer, except through the user's own hubris.

Besides, if a billion people are using Facebook, I figure the only smart thing to do is to avoid it.

This week, Douglas Rushkoff, a regular columnist for CNN, wrote an article, "Why I'm quitting Facebook." The article lays out, with technical clarity, just why Mr. Rushkoff is done with Facebook. It's good reading. Here are some sobering quotes.

It [Facebook] does things on our behalf when we're not even there. It actively misrepresents us to our friends, and worse misrepresents those who have befriended us to still others."
Facebook does not exist to help us make friends, but to turn our network of connections, brand preferences and activities over time -- our 'social graphs' -- into money for others."

Douglas Rushkoff, CNN

More recently, users -- particularly those with larger sets of friends, followers and likes -- learned that their updates were no longer reaching all of the people who had signed up to get them. Now, we are supposed to pay to 'promote' our posts to our friends and, if we pay even more, to their friends."

But the final straw that broke the camel's back was this:

Through a new variation of the Sponsored Stories feature called Related Posts, users who 'like' something can be unwittingly associated with pretty much anything an advertiser pays for. [Emphasis mine. - JM] Like e-mail spam with a spoofed identity, the Related Post shows up in a newsfeed right under the user's name and picture. If you like me, you can be shown implicitly recommending me or something I like -- something you've never heard of -- to others without your consent."

I have no idea why people put up with shenanigans, distortions, trickery and exploitation like what Mr. Rushkoff described. It all makes Skynet look positively benign. Perhaps, with luck, the next generation will figure it out.

Tech News Debris

Once upon a time, Barnes & Noble realized that brick and mortar book stores stocked with books made of paper were an endangered species. So the company set about developing eBook readers as a way to ride the modern wave.

Some people still like the atmosphere of bookstores, but they'll both become much more rare. The ability to download a book in seconds to a tablet is so appealing that the conventional bookstore just can't survive.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD

But now Barnes & Noble has a new problem. They didn't get an early enough start. And so, while today's Nook tablet saved B&N from the fate of Borders, the lack of an early entrance with a great eReader allowed other companies with deeper pockets to jump in.

The New York Times tells the story, "Barnes & Noble Weighs Its E-Reader Investment." A defining quote is from Horace Dediu who said, according to the NYT  "... the difference in quality among the products [is] so small as to be increasingly irrelevant. We’ve moved beyond a game of specs. Now it is about your business model, about distribution and economics of scale.”

That's the first thing I noticed when I had the opportunity, after I reviewed the iPad mini, to handle a Nexus 10 and a Kindle Fire HD for an extended period of time. The build quality and the ability to deliver an eBook reading experience is identical to, perhaps better than, the Nook HD. The real question is, which ecosystem do you want to commit to?" Instead of B&N, many people have chosen Amazon, Apple and Google, companies that will be, and are perceived to be, around for a very long time.

The war has already started to replace the smartphone. Google's technology has been developed, developers have been engaged. Now the trash-talk starts. "Sergey Brin: Smartphones are 'emasculating'."

Attend the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona and then play with NFC equipped handsets and you'll have a pretty good picture of where NFC is going. (Unlike Samsung.) Peter Bright writes: "Mobile World Congress is Mean Girls, and NFC isn’t going to happen."

What do you do when you're trying to market a boring product, something decidedly unsexy like disk drives? The whole world depends on your product but you earn none of the credit. Why not insinuate yourself into the very sexy part of creativity achieved with the whole widget -- what other companies are touting as "magical." You elevate the dialog about your own critically important product. Here's a brilliant example of Western Digital developing its brand ... and maybe a litle of its own clever magic.  Watch and learn.



The Java story just gets worse and worse. Here's a news flash from March 1st at ars technica. " Another Java zero-day exploit in the wild actively attacking targets." The advice in the story is good. " ... people who have no need for Java should consider uninstalling it altogether, uninstalling just the browser plugin, or using a dedicated browser for the handful of sites they frequent that require Java and a separate browser for accessing all other sites."

Another option would be to, if you must, run Java in a browser in a virtual machine with, say, Parallels Desktop, and checkpoint your session. (If you think that would be an interesting How-to article, let me know.)

You have an old iPhone laying around. No one else wants it. What to do? Why ... turn it into a spycam. Splendid. Here's how to do it. "Koozoo turns any old iPhone into a 24/7 spycam." But pay attention to those pesky privacy issues.