Worry About Facebook, Not Skynet

| Particle Debris

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.

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My Facebook story:
I signed up a number of years ago. At first it was amusing but even then the data mining and spying bothered me. After a while I adjusted my profile to remove just about everything but my name. Then I saw what others were posting out there. Seriously, I didn’t need to see some relatives infant’s first bowel movement, or shots of younger relatives way too drunk at a frat party. I unfriended everyone. Not that I had a lot. Just a fe relatives but I cut everyone off, mostly to avoid the “why did you unfriend them and not me” questions. I kept the account fro a few more months because there were a few businesses and sites that used it for feedback. Finally though, I just couldn’t take the obvious data mining. If I had an account people were still linking me in photos. If I had an account Facebook was still connecting things I had looked up. Just to Big Brotherish. I killed the account (Yes there is, or at least at the time there was a way to completely delete a Facebook account. It involved going through an arcane process and then touching nothing that might link back to Facebook for several weeks.) I’ve been Facebook free for nearly two years now. My wife still has an account to keep up with family. She’s starting to complain about the things that bothered me and what you mentioned. Maybe someday I’ll get her to drop it too. Next we just need to get a billion more to do so and the world will be a better place.

Lee Dronick

I am active on Facebook and I find it useful. Not only do I keep in touch with family and old friends, most of whom are on the East Coast, but I have made a number of new friends who were friends of friends. Now that being said there are some downsides, but there are always those no matter the social network be it in person or cyber.


The interesting thing I find about all social media is the focus. Facebook is people-centric. Facebook is all about following people and linking to people they link to. This does nothing for me. I’m interested in topics. That’s why I’m on Tumblr. I can follow Humour, and Technology, and Palaeontology and I’ll see all sorts of interesting things. Who posted it is irrelevant, it’s what they post.


The interesting number would be the number of people who did NOT buy into “social marketing” aka social media EVER.  I never joined MySpace - the first “facebook” let alone Facebook. George Orwell didn’t predict that the minions would flock like lemmings to the Big Brother Machine if it was disguised as ego feeding nonsense. Most of my friends in CT (I’m in Hollywood CA) have zero interest in social media. I don’t know if it’s an age thing - we’re over 50, or if it’s a New England thing where the salt of the earth don’t really care about dumb time wasting unless it involves the Sawx or the Brady Bunch.


NFC is nearly useless? How many other useless “advantages” does Android have over iPhone?

Facebook, Google, Lexis-Nexus, etc all perturb me with their data gathering and their dossiers on each of us. I try to avoid them and their products as much as I can. I want my privacy protected, and hate it when charities or businesses share my name & address. But it seems most people don’t care, or don’t complain to legislators or news organizations. Just as they don’t care about their freedom / civil liberties. Sad.

john Dingler, artist

So where’s my comment, test.

John Dingler, artist

Trying to figure out whether or not using F. would lead to increased sales. Is the time/benefit ratio good (e.g., How much of the time devoted to its use to promote self would replace production in the studio.)

The reason I ask is because I hear stories that it takes time to use it and people seem to get addicted to its use.

Social media must appeal to a certain personality type, perhaps to a type that seeks companionship, inner validation where that lacks. So I ask how much of a psychological benefit does it offer?

How much of a business benefit does it offer to an artist? These two questions are asked given that the net is swamped with F. users and I suspect that cutting through that pile of irrelevancy might require more energy than return benefit.

But the main reason I reject F.‘s offer is that I nearly completely resent its MO which seems to be a spying dragnet, spying in the civilian sphere, albeit where data/info is offered up freely. No method is provided to opt in. It’s all opt out, and opting out is made difficult and selectively impossible, I believe.

Big gub’mnt’s Carnivore (or whatever it’s called now) would be big gov.‘s analogue where your info is stolen surreptitiously. But F., MySpace, etc. is in on this too; Big gov. simply buys the data from such domestic spy agencies but also from ChoicePoint, Equifax, etc. These entities are spying on us for NSA, CIA, and the myriad of Pentagon-related spy agencies who, pre-US Patriot Act, would not otherwise be allowed to spy on us.

By not using F., I feel that I am not rewarding it for its bad deeds.

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