Social Media

Americans Hate Social Media but Can’t Give It Up

5 April 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Americans have a paradoxical attachment to the social-media platforms that have transformed communication, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds, saying they regard services such as Facebook to be divisive and a threat to privacy but continue to use them daily.

Across age groups and political ideologies, adults in the survey said they held a negative view of the effects of social media—even though 70% use such services at least once a day.

. . . .

The deep-dive survey into views of technology draws a picture of Americans struggling personally with their social-media habits and looking for more supervision of social-media companies by the federal government. Pollsters said they were surprised by the high and relatively uniform dissatisfaction with social media across demographic and political groups.

“If we saw this same, strongly negative force of opinion—spanning partisanship and age—stacked against any one of our corporate clients, I think they would certainly be concerned about their standing in the marketplace and in the halls of Congress,” said Micah Roberts, a Republican pollster

. . . .

The findings about social media show that “people are kind of struggling with how to handle it from a self-regulation point of view and how we regulate it as a country,’’ said Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster

. . . .

While they take a skeptical view of social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter,  Americans have favorable views of Amazon, Alphabet Inc.’s . . . Google unit and Apple, though they have little faith in the ability of these three tech giants to protect their personal data.

. . . .

[A]lmost three quarters of respondents said they believe the trade-off that underpins the huge sector—consumers receiving free services but giving up detailed data about their online behavior—is unacceptable.

And a solid majority of respondents said social-media services such as Facebook and Twitter do more to divide Americans than bring them together.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (stock symbols and less-familiar formal names omitted or shortened)

Facebook Says It Left ‘Hundreds of Millions’ of Users’ Passwords Stored in Plain Text

21 March 2019

From The Washington Post:

Facebook on Thursday said that it had left “hundreds of millions” of users’ passwords exposed in plain text, potentially visible to the company’s employees, marking another major privacy and security headache for a tech giant already under fire for mishandling people’s personal information.

Facebook said it believed the passwords were not visible to anyone outside the company and had no evidence that its employees “internally abused or improperly accessed them.” But it said it would notify users of Facebook as well as its photo-sharing site, Instagram, that they had been affected.

The incident was first revealed by the Krebs on Security blog, which estimated the total number of affected users ranged between 200 million and 600 million. Facebook declined Thursday to confirm the estimate.

. . . .

Like most companies, Facebook said it stores passwords using a technique called hashing that’s supposed to make them unreadable. But a security review in January, detailed in a blog post Thursday, found they were actually stored in a readable format, a problem Facebook said it has since fixed. Most affected were users of Facebook Lite, the company said, a stripped-down version of the social network that’s largely in use in countries with lower Internet-connection speeds.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG wonders if there is any manner in which Facebook can’t screw up.

Taming Facebook, Google and Amazon

14 March 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

 The internet, the web, all things digital are officially in beta. Because they’re in beta, everything is forgiven—there is absolution for the infelicities, the flaws and the wrongs, intended and unintended. Here we are in the midst of e-evolution, looking for a moral and intellectual GPS at a time when our phone is supposed to measure heartbeat, steps walked, stairs climbed and hours slept, but gives no true sense of perspective or place. Yet there is an awakening, and we are on the cusp of a reckoning.

. . . .

Almost 12 years ago, as editor of the Times of London, I testified to a House of Lords committee: “Facts are incidental if not accidental, and the problem that we have as a society is that there is a significant number of people who have grown up in a different information environment . . . surrounded by much more information, but whose provenance is not clear. . . . The rumors will be believed; the fiction will be thought of as fact; and the political agendas, among other agendas, will be influenced by interest groups who are coming from some quite strange trajectory to issues based on collective understanding that is founded on falsity.”

The digital world has brought manifold benefits, but it shouldn’t surprise us that there are problems with provenance and opportunities for bad actors to damage democracies.

. . . .

A few facts about the media: Some 1,800 U.S. newspapers have closed in the past 15 years. An industry that employed 412,000 people in 2001 declined to 166,000 in 2017. Have the digital natives succeeded where the traditional titles have failed? No. In recent weeks, BuzzFeed, Vice, the Verizon digital properties and others laid off more than 2,100.

The creators are still being slain by the distributors, who are publishers, though they find it hard to pronounce the word. If you are intervening to filter out offensive material, you’re editing, and if you are editing, you should aspire to be a great editor, not selective and reactive but proactive.

. . . .

There is generally an understanding in business that connections lead to partnerships, which lead to relationships with responsibilities. But digital partnerships quickly descended into abusive relationships—serial cheating, digital denials, haughtiness, smugness, playing content creators for suckers. Allowing rampant piracy, sometimes actually encouraging it, was at the core of the business model for some.

. . . .

I’ll highlight one more egregious example—the Amazon Book Summary. These are blatant rip-offs, unauthorized bastardizations of best sellers that sometimes use the same cover art and for which authors and publishers receive no compensation. Amazon leveraged these unauthorized summaries by including them in its Kindle Unlimited and “Audible” subscription services. After complaints from publishers, the company promised to take action—but complaint compliance is not a sustainable strategy for Amazon, Facebook or Google.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG just searched Amazon Books for “Summary” and he was appalled at what he found.

Total Number of Twitter Users Worldwide

28 February 2019


PG was an early adopter of Twitter and an early unadopter of Twitter.

For him, the Prime/Slime ratio was all wrong and he was not as amused by 99.99% of Twitter users as they were amused by themselves.

PG recognizes that others will have different experiences and information preferences. However, the chart above indicates to PG that Twitter is experiencing a high churn rate. A bit of quick-and-dirty research shows this may be the case:

From Verto (2017 information):

[F]or any digital company, an often-overlooked number is churn rate: the percentage rate at which users of a given service leave that service from one time period to the next. That is to say, it’s the percentage or number of consumers that a given company loses over time.

. . . .

[B]oth Snapchat and the ailing Twitter show churn rates of around 25%, meaning that both platforms have lost nearly a quarter of their user base between Q3 and Q4 2016.

. . . .

While churn is not necessarily a bad thing for all businesses, a high churn rate compared to your competitors can be a troubling sign. For social media and advertising platforms, it can suggest a lack of engagement and loyalty among the user base – and increased consumer dissatisfaction with the platform at large.

Link to the rest at Verto

There is also the question of Twitter bots:

A Twitter bot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API. The bot software may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, re-tweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts. The automation of Twitter accounts is governed by a set of automation rules that outline proper and improper uses of automation. Proper usage includes broadcasting helpful information, automatically generating interesting or creative content, and automatically replying to users via direct message.

. . . .

Twitter bots are estimated to create approximately 24% of tweets that are on Twitter.

. . . .

One significant academic study estimated that up to 15% of Twitter users were automated bot accounts.

. . . .

A subset of Twitter bots programmed to complete social tasks played an important role in the United States 2016 Presidential Election. Researchers estimated that pro-Trumpbots generated four tweets for every pro-Clinton automated account and out-tweeted pro-Clinton bots 7:1 on relevant hashtags during the final debate. Deceiving Twitter bots fooled candidates and campaign staffers into retweeting misappropriated quotes and accounts affiliated with incendiary ideals.

. . . .

The majority of Twitter accounts following public figures and brands are often fake or inactive, making the number of Twitter followers a celebrity a difficult metric for gauging popularity.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

If you Google free twitter followers, PG will point out another element of Twitter. You can pay to become a big shot on Twitter. On the internet, one of PG’s expectations is that whenever something is free, there is a paid version that works evey better.


Looking to buy Twitter Followers? Or maybe followers onFacebook, Instagram or another social network?

Let me ask you…

What’s more important, 10,000 fans or followers, or 100 who will actually engage with you?

It seems this question isn’t asked too often by a number of people running social media channels who opt to buy their followers in order to boost their numbers.

. . . .

There are plenty of services out there which claim to boost your numbers. Many say they can boost your numbers quickly. Some services offer to do this for free and some require payment.  There are a number of different methods that they can employ.

  1. Aggressive Following Technique. (Twitter Only) By following a large number of people each day, waiting for them to follow you, then unfollow those who don’t follow you back it is possible to artificially increase your followers very quickly. This goes against Twitter’s terms and conditions and so is definitely to be avoided. There is nothing wrong with following or unfollowing a large number of people every now and again, but if Twitter think you are aggressively trying to increase your followers by follower/unfollower churn methods, you are likely to get your account suspended. Note- a service will need you to give permission for it to access your Twitter account in order to follow Twitter accounts
  2. Zombie Account Following. (Facebook & Twitter) By paying a 3rd party you can get 100s, 1000s of even 10,000s of followers or likes. Generally each supplier has a database of twitter or Facebook “zombie” accounts that they can use to follow or like you. These are usually completely inactive accounts, sometimes with random names with jumbled up letters and numbers.

Link to the rest at


Kim Kardashian Sues U.K. Online Retailer Claiming Violation of Right of Publicity

27 February 2019

From The 1709 Blog:

Kim Kardashian is suing U.K. fast fashion online retailer Missguided and its U.S. subsidiary for trademark infringement and violation of her right of publicity. The case is Kimsaprincess, Inc.; and Kim Kardashian West v. Missguided USA (Finance) Inc., and Missguided Limited, 2:19-cv-01258 (C.D.Cal).

The complaint alleges that the inexpensive and fast fashion retailer is using Kim Kardashian’s likeness on its site and on its Instagram account to sell clothes. The pages on the site referring to the petite celebrity are no longer available, but the complaint shows a page entirely dedicated to the Kardashians, including a page named “crushin’on kim k,” featuring several photographs of Kim Kardashian, and another page named “5 party looks inspired by the kardashians” featuring Plaintiffs and several of her sisters.

The complaint states that Kim Kardashian commands a fee of several hundred thousand dollars for a social media post, while “longer-term endorsement arrangements regularly garner fees in the millions of dollars.” 120 million people follow her on Instagram, and a little less than 60 million do so on Twitter. The celebrity owns also several trademarks protecting cosmetic and fragrance products.

. . . .

The complaint claims that Missguided has breached California’s right of publicity law, Cal. Civ. Code § 3344 and California’s common law right of publicity when it “willfully and without authorization used Kardashian’s name, image, likeness, and persona for commercial purposes, to advertise the Missguided brand and website, and to promote the sale of clothing on Missguided’s site.”

. . . .

The California statutory law protects use of a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of products, merchandise, goods or services, without this person’s prior consent.

Link to the rest at The 1709 Blog

PG notes that Ms. Kardashian filed suit in California against a UK company.

How does a California court have power over a company that is headquartered overseas?

In civil litigation, a court in one state can assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant who resides in another state if the out-of-state defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state in which the court is located (the forum state).   A court in California can assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant who lives in New York, so long as the defendant’s contacts with California make it fair for the California court to force him to appear in court.

From Wikipedia:

[I]f a Florida orange grower were to breach a promise to deliver a bushel of oranges to a buyer in Alabama, the breach of that agreement would be sufficient for Alabama courts to assert specific jurisdiction, even if the Florida grower had no other contacts with Alabama, and had never even set foot there. The lone contact of a promise to deliver something to a state is enough to give the state jurisdiction over disputes arising from the breach of that promise.

. . . .

Merely placing products in the “stream of commerce” is insufficient to provide minimum contacts with the states where the products end up. The defendant must make an effort to market in the forum state or otherwise purposefully avail himself of the resources of that state. However, since only four of the nine Supreme Court Justices joined the opinion that required a defendant to do more than place his products in a “stream of commerce,” some lower courts still rule that doing so is adequate for a court to exercise personal jurisdiction.

. . . .

Courts have struggled with the Internet as a source of minimum contacts. Although not determinately established by the Supreme Court, many courts use the Zippo test, which examines the kind of use to which a defendant’s website is being put. Under this test, websites are divided into three categories:

  1. passive websites, which merely provide information, will almost never provide sufficient contacts for jurisdiction. Such a website will only provide a basis for jurisdiction if the website itself constitutes an intentional tort such as slander or defamation, and if it is directed at the jurisdiction in question;
  2. interactive websites, which permit the exchange of information between website owner and visitors, may be enough for jurisdiction, depending on the website’s level of interactivity and commerciality, and the number of contacts which the website owner has developed with the forum due to the presence of the website;
  3. commercial websites which clearly do a substantial volume of business over the Internet, and through which customers in any location can immediately engage in business with the website owner, definitely provide a basis for jurisdiction.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

Suffice to say, jurisdiction over non-resident persons or corporations is not a crystal-clear question in some cases. PG hasn’t read the Complaint filed on behalf of Ms. Kardashian, but suspects Missguided and/or its US subsidiary may have advertised and/or sold its products in California.

Facebook Custom Audiences

23 February 2019

PG hadn’t heard of Facebook Custom List Audiences before. Here’s a simple description from Facebook:

A Custom Audience from a customer list is a type of audience you can create made up of your existing customers. You can target ads to the audience you’ve created on Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network.

You upload, copy and paste or import your hashed customer list, then we use the hashed data from it to match the people on your list to people on Facebook.

Link to the rest at Facebook

PG hadn’t heard about Facebook Custom Audiences of any sort (there are a variety of different ones) before.

Basically, you send your customer list (or, maybe your email list, PG hasn’t checked to see what Facebook will accept) to Facebook (I know, I still don’t trust them either.)

Facebook identifies which people on Facebook and/or Instagram are also on your customer list and creates a one-of-a-kind advertising audience for your advertisements (for the book you just released, for example).

But wait, there’s more!

In the process of exploring Facebook Custom Audiences, PG discovered Facebook Engagement Custom Audiences as well. What are they?

An Engagement Custom Audience is a Custom Audience made up of people who have engaged with your content across the Facebook family of apps and services.

“Engagement” refers to actions like spending time viewing your videos or opening your lead form or Canvas. Using Engagement Custom Audiences, you can target ads to people who’ve taken these actions. You can also use it as a source for a Lookalike Audience, which will let you find people who are similar to those who’ve engaged with your Facebook content.

Here are the engagement types available, broken down Engagement Custom Audience type:

. . . .

 When you create an Engagement Custom Audience, you tell us how many days you want us to go back when collecting engagement. This means that if you tell us to look back 30 days and someone has engaged 29 days ago, that person will be in your audience. However, if they fail to engage in the next day, they will then be removed from it. Anyone new who engages within the time period you choose will be added to the audience. This means that the audience is constantly being refreshed, so you don’t need to edit or create a new Engagement Custom Audience unless you want to change the time period or the type of engagement.

PG didn’t look at the costs involved with advertising via custom audiences but expects it’s greater than zero and probably higher than just buying a Facebook ad.

PG understands why some authors might not trust Facebook with their mailing lists. He deleted his personal Facebook accounts several weeks ago in response to Facebook’s privacy shortcomings/failures/abuses.

Advertising on Facebook may fall into the Doing Business with the Devil category for some people. However, some people are willing to use the services of those whose values differ from theirs. PG is willing to walk into a store owned by people he wouldn’t invite into his home.

Has anyone used any of the Custom Audience features on Facebook?

If so, what was your experience and what were the costs?

Social Media for Indie Authors

22 February 2019

PG is interested in hearing about the following:

  1. What are the best social media practices or systems for an indie author? Speaking generally or with respect to specific social media services – Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
  2. Among indie authors, who is doing a really good job with social media (PG understands this is your opinion). Feel free to provide links to the accounts in question.
  3. What are the biggest mistakes/most useless practices of indie authors in using social media?

Share your thoughts in comments. Feel free to include links to examples.

Spam Report

15 February 2019

While checking the Akismet spam filter to respond to one of the commenters on another thread, PG discovered a statistical summary of the last twelve months of TPV from a ham/spam perspective. He thought some visitors might find it interesting. (Click on the graph for a larger version)

PG really enjoys reading 99% of the comments that appear on TPV, but he had no idea there were almost 11 thousand comments he didn’t see because Akismet zapped them. That’s 36% of the total comments that were submitted to the blog.

Since PG opened up Excel to calculate that 36% spam percentage, he played with the numbers a little bit more.

Absent the spam filter, PG isn’t certain how long it would have taken him to clean up the spam by manually deleting spam comments.

However, Excel at hand, if each spam comment took him an average of 15 seconds to identify and delete, that would total almost 45 hours in addition to the time he already spends on TPV that he would have to devote to keeping the conversational space tidied up.

If it took 30 seconds per spam post, that’s almost 90 hours. 60 seconds per spam would total about one month of 8-hour Monday-Friday work days.

PG’s calculations only assume time spent on the 10,744 spam comments that Akismet caught during the last twelve months. However, in order to identify the chaff or mostly-chaff comments, PG would also have to at least briefly examine the wheat comments before determining he wouldn’t need to delete them.

The total number of wheat and chaff comments would have been almost 30,000. Presumably, without Akismet cleaning the chaff, spammers might well have been incented to drop more comments into TPV, thereby consuming more human filtering time.

PG needs to figure out a way to make a donation to Akismet.

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