Social Media

The Mark Zuckerberg Manifesto Is a Blueprint for Destroying Journalism

18 February 2017

From The Atlantic:

It’s not that Mark Zuckerberg set out to dismantle the news business when he founded Facebook 13 years ago. Yet news organizations are perhaps the biggest casualty of the world Zuckerberg built.

There’s reason to believe things are going to get worse.

A sprawling new manifesto by Zuckerberg, published to Facebook on Thursday, should set off new alarm bells for journalists, and heighten news organizations’ sense of urgency about how they—and their industry—can survive in a Facebook-dominated world.

Facebook’s existing threat to journalism is well established. It is, at its core, about the flow of the advertising dollars that news organizations once counted on. In this way, Facebook’s role is a continuation of what began in 1995, when Craigslist was founded. Its founder, Craig Newmark, didn’t actively aim to decimate newspapers, but Craigslist still eviscerated a crucial revenue stream for print when people stopped buying newspaper classifieds ads.

Craigslist was the first signal (and became the prototypical example) of a massive unbundling of news services online that would diminish the power and reach of the news, culturally, and make it more difficult to produce a profitable news product.

Zuckerberg’s memo outlines a plan for the next phase of this unbundling, and it represents an expansion of Facebook’s existing threat to the news industry.

Facebook already has the money. The company is absolutely dominating in the realm of digital advertising. It notched $8.8 billion in revenue last quarter—more than $7 billion of which came from mobile-ad sales. One analyst told The New York Times last year that 85 percent of all online advertising revenue is funneled to either Facebook or Google—leaving a paltry 15 percent for news organizations to fight over.

Now, Zuckerberg is making it clear that he wants Facebook to take over many of the actual functions—not just ad dollars—that traditional news organizations once had.

. . . .

In the past, the deaths of news organizations have jeopardized the prospect of a safe, well-informed, civically-engaged community. One 2014 paper found a substantial drop-off in civic engagement in both Seattle and Denver from 2008 to 2009, after both cities saw the closure of longstanding daily newspapers. (In Seattle, the Post-Intelligencer halted its print edition, but continued to produce online news; In Denver, the Rocky Mountain News folded.) Lee Shaker, an assistant professor of communications at Portland State University and the author of the 2014 study, found that the decline was “not consistently replicated over the same time period in other major American cities that did not lose a newspaper,” suggesting that the decline in civic engagement may be attributed to disappearance of local news sources. (The effects in Denver, where 20 percent of the population had subscribed to the shuttered Rocky Mountain News, were especially pronounced.)

. . . .

News organizations provide the basis for public action by building and strengthening community ties, “so, if local media institutions are strong and are binding individuals and groups together, then citizens should be participating in more community groups, contacting their government more frequently, and circulating more petitions because they are more aware of shared problems, interests, and opportunities,” Shaker wrote.

Zuckerberg obviously understands this. “Research suggests reading local news is directly correlated with local civic engagement,” he wrote in his manifesto. “This shows how building an informed community, supportive local communities, and a civically-engaged community are all related.”

The problem is that Zuckerberg lays out concrete ideas about how to build community on Facebook, how to encourage civic engagement, and how to improve the quality and inclusiveness of discourse—but he bakes in an assumption that news, which has always been subsidized by the advertising dollars his company now commands, will continue to feed into Facebook’s system at little to no cost to Facebook.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

WordPress blogs defaced in hack attacks

11 February 2017

From the BBC:

A security flaw in the WordPress blogging software has let hackers attack and deface tens of thousands of sites.

One estimate suggests more than 1.5 million pages on blogs have been defaced.

The security firm that found the vulnerability said some hackers were now trying to use it to take over sites rather than just spoil pages.

WordPress urged site owners to update software to avoid falling victim.

. . . .

The vulnerability is found in an add-on for the WordPress blogging software that was introduced in versions released at the end of 2016.

. . . .

In a blogpost, WordPress said it delayed going public about the flaw so it could prompt hosting firms to update their software to a fixed version.

The patched version of WordPress was formally released on 26 January and led to many sites and blogs automatically applying the update.

However, many blogs have not followed suit leaving them open to defacement attacks.

Security firm WordFence said it had seen evidence that 20 hacker groups were trying to meddle with vulnerable sites. About 40,000 blogs are believed to have been hit.

Link to the rest at the BBC and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG says if you have a blog that uses WordPress, make certain both WordPress and all of your plugins are updated.

WordPress should automatically update itself (but not plugins) for major releases under most circumstances. However, if you want to check on the status of updates, you’ll need to be signed in as an administrator, then click on (or hover over) the Dashboard button in the left column, then click Updates.

Writing Prompts by iAuthor

11 February 2017

Here’s a link to an interesting Google+ Collection of writing prompts from iAuthor UK.

From iAuthor UK:

iAuthor is an interactive book discovery and promotion platform.

Through eye-catching book profiles, ultra-smart book samples and mind-expanding book themes, iAuthor connects AUTHORS and PUBLISHERS to READERS. iAuthor is global in reach and vision. We aim to give the publishing world something unique: a hub for serendipitous discovery.

Link to the rest at iAuthor UK

Since PG hasn’t paid any attention to Google+ for a long time, he had to look up an explanation of Google+ Collections.

Author Blogs: 5 Bad Reasons for Authors to Blog and 5 Good Ones

6 February 2017

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

5 Bad Reasons for Author Blogs

1) Getting Rich Quick

Nothing infuriates me more than those books and blogs promising writers they can make a gazillion dollars of “passive income” with a blog in the next month if they take this overpriced course or buy that book of rehashed advice from 2005.

The only people making a lot of “passive income” from blogging are the people selling the overpriced courses and worthless advice. Pyramid schemes always provide “passive income” for the people at the top of the pyramid. That’s not going to be you at this point. The boom is over.

Blogging is work. Writing is work. There’s nothing “passive” about it. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying.

I used to subscribe to a couple of hype-y “how-to-blog” blogs, but I had to unsubscribe because these people are getting so desperate. One blogger now sends an email 15 minutes after you click through to read his post saying, “You’ve had enough time to read my post. Now share it to Facebook.”

Creepy!! I’d just shared his post to Twitter, but I deleted the Tweet and unsubscribed. You’re not the boss of me, dude. And I’m not responsible for your bad life choices. If you really were making the fortune you claimed to be making a decade ago, why didn’t you invest it?

Another sad truth is that Internet ads pay less than they used to. You’re not going to make more than pennies a day from ads (especially “affiliate” ads that only pay when somebody clicks through and buys something.)

Your best bet is to get a deep-pockets sponsor to bankroll you, but even so, that’s not likely to pay a lot of bills.

Medium, the popular blogging platform started a couple of years ago by Twitter and Blogger founder Evan Williams has not found a way to make money. You probably won’t either.

Author blogs are for promoting your own brand. You’re making money by not spending it advertising elsewhere, but that’s not going to buy you a house in the Hamptons.

2) Overnight Fame

The days of Julie/Julia  over.

Yes, you can still raise your profile with author blogs, and I strongly recommend you use a blog as one tool for getting your name out there.

But nobody’s likely to become an overnight sensation with author blogs in these days when everybody and his grandmother has one.

When Julie Powell started her Julia Child blog in 2002, the term “blog” itself was only 3 years old. Blogging was a whole new concept.

Now, WordPress alone, with about a quarter of the market, hosts more than 76.5 million blogs.

The odds for instant fame are not on your side. I highly recommend that authors blog, but we need to be patient.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

Here’s a link to Anne R. Allen’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

IMDb is closing its message boards

5 February 2017

From The Verge:

The Internet Movie Database is an indispensable resource if you have any interest whatsoever in films. Want to try and figure out where you’ve seen that character actor before? Do you need to know ratings, runtime, or quotes? But if you want to discuss movies, you’ll now have to go elsewhere: the site is shutting down its message boards system.

According to a statement on IMDB, the site’s message forums and the private messaging system will be disabled on February 20th, because they “are no longer providing a positive, useful experience for the vast majority of our more than 250 million monthly users worldwide.”

It’s a bit of an end-of-an-era moment. IMDb predates the World Wide Web: it got its start in 1990 with a series of lists on Usenet and migrated in 1993. At that time, the internet was almost nothing but discussion forums. Since then, we’ve seen the rise of dedicated message forums, social media companies such as Myspace, Facebook, and Reddit. IMDb noted in its announcement that more people were going to the site’s social media channels to post comments and interact with the site.

. . . .

The decision appears to mark the latest website to question the value of forums and comments, which can require heavy moderation. Other major websites, such as National Public Radio and Popular Science, have closed their own commenting sections because patrolling them for toxic users became a costly and time-consuming chore.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG has long believed that the comments are the best part of TPV. He has learned a great deal from various visitors over the years.

PG intends to keep welcoming comments. He asks that each commenter be respectful toward the views of others. The old saw about disagreeing without being disagreeable is still applicable here. Disagreeing without diminishing those who hold different views does not take a lot of time, effort or thought.

PG does suggest that, while the most recent US presidential election season was nasty on all sides and its outcome captured the interest and emotions of many, a large number of other virtual meeting places are much better venues to express views about such matters than TPV is.

Social media is a giant distraction

31 January 2017

Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.

Bryan Adams

Facebook Is Trying Everything to Re-Enter China—and It’s Not Working

31 January 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Facebook Inc.’s chances of getting back into China appeared to take a rare turn for the better when an employee noticed an official posting online: Beijing authorities had granted it a license to open a representative office in two office-tower suites in the capital.

Such permits typically give Western firms an initial China beachhead. This one, which Facebook won in late 2015, could have been a sign Beijing was ready to give the company another chance to connect with China’s roughly 700 million internet users, reopening the market as the social-media giant’s U.S.-growth prospects dimmed.

There was a catch. Facebook’s license was for three months, unusually short. Facebook executives found the limitation unexpected and frustrating, people familiar with the episode said.

Facebook never opened the office. The official posting disappeared and now exists as a ghost in cached versions of the government website. “We did, at one point in time, plan to have an office,” said Facebook spokeswoman Charlene Chian, “but we don’t today.”

The episode is part of Facebook’s running tale of woe in China, where it has been trying to set the stage for a return. Blocked on China’s internet since 2009, Facebook has courted Chinese officials, made Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg more visible in China, hired a well-connected China-policy chief and begun developing technology that could cull content the Communist Party deems unacceptable.

. . . .

It has made no visible headway. And as time passes, Facebook is watching from the outside as Chinese social-media giants mop up the market that might have been its own. Weibo, along with Tencent Holdings Ltd.’s WeChat and QQ, are now dominant in China, and it may be too late for Facebook, said industry executives including Kai-Fu Lee, Google’s former China head and now CEO of Innovation Works, a Chinese incubator.

“At this stage and time with WeChat, Weibo and other products, it’s hopeless,” Mr. Lee said.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Why There’s No Perfect Time to Post on Facebook

31 January 2017

From Buffer:

There probably isn’t a single best time to share to social media.

There’s a long tradition of studies that have attempted to uncover a ‘best time’ to post to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and almost every other social media marketing channel, with each study finding a wide range of results (we’ve even created our own studies here at Buffer).

Here are just some recommendations on the best time to post to Facebook to get you started:

  • Thursdays and Fridays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. [Hubspot]
  • Thursday at 8 p.m.  [TrackMaven]
  • 1–4 p.m. late into the week and on weekends [CoSchedule]
  • Early afternoon during the week and Saturdays [Buffer]
  • Off-peak times are best [Buzzsum0]

All of these studies are based on sound logic and can potentially be helpful to point marketers in the right direction. But almost every study reveals a different ‘best time to post’ and I believe there’s no perfect time to post to Facebook (or any social channel for that matter). 

The best time to post depends on a number of factors that are specific to every business: What’s your industry? What location is audience based? When are they online? Are you sponsoring your post?

I’d love to flip the conversation and say that instead of looking for a universal ‘best time to post’, maybe we should be focusing specifically on when is the best time for your brand to post.

Link to the rest at Buffer

How to Email

15 January 2017

From The Atlantic:

I recently cut the amount of time I spent on email by almost half, and I think a lot of people could do the same.

I’m sure my approach has made some people hate me, because I come off curt. But if everyone thought about email in the same way, what I’m suggesting wouldn’t be rude. Here are the basic guidelines that are working for me and, so, I propose for all of the world to adopt immediately:

No signoff.

Best? Cheers? Thanks?

None of the above. You can write your name if it feels too naked or abrupt not to have something down there. But it shouldn’t, and it wouldn’t if it were the norm.

No greeting.

Don’t waste time considering if “Dear,” or “Hey” or “[name]!” is appropriate. Just get right into it. Write the recipient’s name if you must. But most people already know their names. Like they already know your name.

Greetings and closings are relics of the handwritten missive that persist only as matters of, ostensibly, formality. Foregoing them can seem curt or impolite. But it’s the opposite. Long, formal emails are impolite.

Text messages and chat platforms like Gchat and Slack require no such formality, so why should it seem rude to forego it in email? It’s a culture overdue for change. In my experience, most people over age 70 or so are already totally down with blunt emails, it’s just the younger people who have been slow to adapt and insist on making each missive into a production on which they will be heavily judged, and on judging one another accordingly.

Brevity signals respect. Three sentences or fewer.

An email is an imposition on a person’s time. Writing to someone is saying I know you have a finite amount of time and attention today, and in life, and I’m going to take some of it.

Undue formality only wastes more of that time. And it wastes the writer’s time in worrying about exactly how formal to be.

Rarely does an email require more than three sentences. If it does, consider calling or getting together in person. Social interaction is healthy, and more time spent in the inbox isn’t likely to be.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Facebook Faces Copyright Issues Amid Video Explosion

3 January 2017

From Copyright and Technology:

It’s fairly well established by now — thanks to court decisions like Viacom v. YouTube and UMG v. Veoh — that online service operators have no legal duty to proactively police their services for potential copyright infringement.  But that doesn’t mean that some services don’t do it anyway.  The biggest example is Google’s Content ID system for YouTube, which uses fingerprinting technology to flag uploads that contain copyrighted material.

The reason why Google implemented Content ID (in 2007) is simple: Google figured out a way to make money from it.  Copyright owners can choose to allow their content to be uploaded and take a share of revenue from ads that Google places in or alongside the video clips.  The major record companies participate in this arrangement for the vast majority of their content.  They aren’t thrilled with the per-stream revenue they are getting, but both sides agree that it’s better than having YouTube just block everything that matches.

Enter Facebook. Over the past couple of years, Facebook has become a bigger and bigger video-sharing service, one that is starting to rival YouTube in audience size and arguably exceed it in audience engagement.  This has led to “freebooting,” or capturing video streams from YouTube and re-posting them on Facebook.  And not just major record label or Hollywood studio content, but any popular YouTube video.

After a crescendo of complaints from native YouTube stars as well as the music industry, Facebook announced that it would be building a “Rights Manager” system based on the Audible Magic fingerprinting technology that it has been using for years to scan uploaded audio.  (YouTube also used Audible Magic before Content ID was implemented based on its own technology.)

Facebook’s Rights Manager allows copyright holders to “claim” their content and decide what they want Facebook to do with it.  Yet unlike Google’s Content ID, Rights Manager ultimately allows only two options: just allow the upload (and offer usage statistics to the copyright owner), or report it to the copyright owner as a potential violation.  There is no option to block the upload automatically.  Instead, rights holders must receive notices of matched content and then issue takedown notices to Facebook using Facebook’s DMCA process; then Facebook will “promptly remove those videos in response to valid reports.”

. . . .

The NMPA (National Music Publishers Association, the trade group for U.S. music publishers) has raised concerns about the growing amount of videos of cover versions of copyrighted songs (compositions) being uploaded on Facebook without licensing.  Recording a cover version of a song that’s in copyright normally requires a mechanical license from the music publisher.  Under the law, the publisher can’t refuse to grant the mechanical license, but the performing artist must notify the publisher (if the publisher is known), and the artist must pay a standard royalty.

This requires that Facebook detect cover versions of musical compositions.  Audible Magic can’t do that. Acoustic fingerprinting technology is good at matching recordings, but it’s not designed to match cover versions of compositions.

Link to the rest at Copyright and Technology

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