marcoRecorder

Disruptiveness matters


I have watched yesterday the video The Problem With Facebook by Derek Muller published on Devour. Although I found the video interesting, I must point out there a quite a few inaccuracies about what Derek presents and that I find his theory lacking some basic solid evidence.

Let’s watch the video and go through some points in common, things I disagree with and questions I prepared for Derek.

1) “People you disagree with will vanish from your news-feed.” I find this statement incorrect. The correct sentence should be “people you don’t engage with will vanish from your news-feed.” In fact, Facebook is also used to express disagreement over published content and I find it inaccurate to label Facebook’s algorithm as an attempt to create an echo chamber of self affirming views.

2) I don’t find it weird to have to “like” or “share” a post to express interest in a piece of content. How would Facebook then be able to adapt your timeline according to your preferences?

2) “The problem is Facebook is using is filtering power to make money” Isn’t that the technique used by any information system or media outlet? Why is it evil if this is done by a social network whose target is to become the best tailor-made newspaper?

3) The push-to-buy-advertisement point is true. Facebook is indeed restricting the reach of fan pages’ posts in order to encourage fan pages’ managers to buy  advertisement. Now, the question is “Is this practice fair?” In my opinion yes, with constraints. If a business or a public figure like Veritasium is benefitting from a service that Facebook provides, why shouldn’t Facebook, or any other social network, try to monetize these efforts?

The problem that these raises is the differentiation between what I call “genuine” and “non-genuine” social profiles. This problem also applies to Twitter and those who buy followers to gain visibility within their community. Certainly, pushing pages’ owners to buy advertisement increases this problem to the final user of the product (the regular people) for which a solid solution has indeed not been provided by Facebook.

4) The viewer-creator-advertiser triangle sounds like an interesting theory but lacks evidence. It is not true that viewers are advertisers simply because most viewers (like in YouTube) are not creator. In making this point Derek completely overlooks the differentiation between profiles, pages and groups that Facebook provides. Not all profiles are content creators and can’t then be advertisers. Although, that does apply to fan pages which are by definition content creators and, in a very far-fetching way, advertisers but only if they become non-genuine pages.

5) People don’t check those Facebook ads. True. However, this is mostly because of poor targeting by the advertisers themselves. I believe, local businesses have higher potentials to profit from Facebook ads because of their ability to “target” their efforts both demographically and geographically while most ads you see on your right hand Facebook bar are from distant advertisers which use Facebook the wrong way simply because, as Derek points out, people go on Facebook ” to keep up with their family and friends” not to get spammed. in this instance, Facebook are smart and huge advertisers are wasting their money.

6) “People go to Google when they want to buy things.” Hold on. People go to Google because they want to find stuff out and perhaps coincidentally sometimes this “stuff” is buying something. Besides, Google ads work actually very similarly to Facebook ads. The difference is that Google provides better filtering which is empowered by the fact that Google is a multi-platform business where information about users’ preferences are gathered through tons of channels (Google search, YouTube, Google Plus, Gmail, Google Play…)

7) “On Twitter, they don’t filter any tweets.” Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat??? Tweets are filtered based on the Twitter algorithm which is based on the way you interact with others. Secondly, also on Twitter you can have promoted posts, so according to your theory, also all Twitterers should be advertisers, right? Probably the filtering situation on Twitter is even worse since you can BUY FOLLOWERS which is a dreadful way to increase your visibility and popularity among your community.

8) “Facebook has saturated the whole developed world.” This is true. Their biggest enemy will be to manage information overload.

What do you people think?

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4 thoughts on “A response to Derek Muller on “the problem with Facebook”

  1. Veritasium says:

    1) I did say people you don’t engage with will vanish which *often means* people you disagree with disappear – standard filter bubble stuff.

    2) I think of some posts like about a cyclone hitting the Phillipines where it’s inappropriate to like it but it is an important post. I often feel that I derive value from something but it’s not necessary to make that a matter of public record. As to the question of how would Facebook figure out what I want, I would like to be able to tell it: I want to get all updates from all these people, and if someone is posting too much I would unfriend or hide. I think the ultimate solution is people posting less, not hiding more.

    3) I think it is fair to make businesses pay for reach. If Coke is running a new campaign, sure they should pay for every impression. But if someone seeks out an artist’s Facebook page and likes it, they do so with the expectation they will receive periodic art in their newsfeed from that artist. Most people I think believe they will see all updates from such a page. And for a while that’s how it worked. Now Facebook is changing the rules and I don’t think many are aware of that – hence the video. Of course the question of how does Facebook differentiate between a business and a creator who makes virtually nothing off the exposure they receive is impossible. Which is why it seems to me Facebook lumps everyone in the advertiser basket.

    4) The reason viewers are advertisers is because they can pay to have their personal posts shared to their friends. Isn’t that the definition of what an advertiser is?

    5) You’re right, local advertisers might have more luck with the side-bar ads, if they ever buy any. But if I’m a local advertiser I think I’d get much more bang for buck with google ads, and promoted google maps ads because I think that’s where people look for things.

    6) Yes a lot of Google’s traffic is not searches for good or services, but much of it is. And that is the perfect time to have your advertising appear. It is much harder to market to people when they’re not looking to buy than when they are – especially if you know the search term they just typed in.

    If there is something I disagree with most about your post, it is this:
    “Google provides better filtering which is empowered by the fact that Google is a multi-platform business where information about users’ preferences are gathered through tons of channels”

    I think a lot of social media people are seduced by the promise of profiling consumers by accumulating data, and figuring out exactly what they want before they even know it. Let’s be clear *Google provides better filtering because the consumer tells them right then and there what they want*: ‘pizza in Santa Monica’ ‘new GoPro’ ‘high school tutoring in Sydney’. And if someone types in ‘History of Australia’ they don’t show an ad because they know the user is not looking for a good or service. I don’t think Google’s ads in other places, e.g. in gmail are nearly as effective because again, they are advertising when people are not looking to buy. Sure some people may click sometimes but that is not an optimal advertising approach.

    7) On Twitter’s blog I found this:
    Q: Do you filter out certain Tweets before they appear on Twitter?
    A: No. Our users now send a billion Tweets every four days—filtering is neither desirable nor realistic.
    Has the situation changed since this post? If it has I was unaware.

    8) “Facebook’s biggest enemy will be to manage information overload” – that and figuring out how to cram enough advertising into its existing user minutes to grow revenue enough to justify a $100B valuation.

    1. marcoRecorder says:

      Thank you very much Derek for your prompt and accurate response! Although we disagree on some points, it is certainly true that Facebook will have to deal with its filtering and targeting problems. I will keep an eye on your awesome Facebook page!
      Cheers,
      Marco

  2. Marwan Ata says:

    Totally agree. .. I think your justifications are fair and subjective.

    1. suzan says:

      This is just one issue. What about all those people that have few accounts?
      I myself has 5 accounts.
      So let’s say Facebook has 1 billion accounts, they might have only 300,000-400,000 accounts because no ID is needed (SS) or address verification. Every account has few e-mail accounts.

      At least 70% of them are kids under 18. Those kids that share pictures click on “like” without knowing what is “like”. So I will agree that between the regular “fake” likes and the number of real facebook members, all is false theory of facebook.
      Facebook has no value o the social media

      Suzan

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