Category Archives: social media

What Are Social Media Algorithms and Are They Really So Bad?

Social media algorithms. The concept of them is so unpopular that some alternative social platforms actually trade on the fact that they (supposedly) don’t have them. But in this post I just might change the detractors’ minds. I’ll explore the reality of algorithms, explode some of the myths that surround them, and find out whether they really do us a favour or a disservice.

WHAT IS AN ALGORITHM OR ALGO?

In the context of social media, an algorithm – algo for short – is simply a sorting mechanism. A system of priority for the display of content or profiles.

The most basic social media algorithm is a reverse chronological display. That’s newest posts always at the top of the timeline, with no filtering – i.e. nothing removed. Despite the order being very simple and basic, this is still an algorithm. And by default, any social app you can find on an app store will filter out some sensitive matter. They won’t be accepted by the app stores if they don’t. So essentially, all social networks with timelines use some type of algorithm – even those who claim not to. You can read some more network-specific details in Finding The Best Alternative Social Media Platform.

Most social platforms, however, additionally manipulate their basic, reverse chronological timeline. They’ll filter out more than they’re required to filter out by the app stores – most often to avoid endless repetition and valueless spam. Then they’ll start to interfere with the chronological order, so that popular or more personally-relevant posts are placed at the top of the timeline, even when they’re not the most recent. Continue reading What Are Social Media Algorithms and Are They Really So Bad?

10 Reasons Why Social Media Loves To Build Closed Platforms

Walled Gardens and Closed Platforms

One of the questions I see asked a lot on the social web is: “Why does [whatever network] not allow unregistered users to see what I publish?” I understand the frustration. Social networks of this type are normally known as “closed platforms” or “walled gardens”, and they heavily restrict the reach of their members.

In this post I’m going to examine the question, and provide ten separate answers. Just why do some social networks keep all their content locked behind a login and refuse to show it to anyone who isn’t a member? Here goes… Continue reading 10 Reasons Why Social Media Loves To Build Closed Platforms

How Much Does Social Media Need Mr and Mrs Angry?

UK TV Listings 1971
Central England’s programme listings for Wednesday 1st September 1971, in a vintage TV Times magazine. Image by @JPEGJuice.

Once upon a time, there was no internet, and for Mr Way-Too-Much-Time-On-His-Hands, finding a virtual release valve was nothing like as simple as it is today.

He couldn’t just go onto Twitter and disagree with news bots, or call football managers cretins until he got his enraged little ass suspended.

Nope. If Mr Way-Too-Much-Time-On-His-Hands wanted a reason to get his knickers in a twist in ye olde distant past, chances were that it would reach him via a newspaper, a magazine, or a television. But he’d still want to say his piece. So whilst interactivity was a very slow process in the mid twentieth century, print publications pulled out all the stops to expedite angry readers’ letters onto their sensation-hungry pages. Continue reading How Much Does Social Media Need Mr and Mrs Angry?

Flagbot: The Censorship Protocol That Will Change YOUR Behaviour

Flagbots

Once upon a time, we all used to post on old-style, moderated forums. Forums were far from perfect, but one thing we could be sure of was that if we observed the forum rules, our accounts and profiles were safe. On most forums, moderators would even privately warn members if they were sailing close to a penalty of some kind. How different things are now that massive social media and publishing sites have become the hub of our online activity.

ENTER THE FLAGBOT…

Almost all large, user-generated content platforms now use ‘flagbots’ to moderate their sites. A flagbot is simply a piece of software designed to detect breaches of the Terms of Service, so a human moderator doesn’t have to do it. Great! It’s labour-saving, and that means the sites can spend their money on more important stuff, like… Well, spying on us and selling their findings to corporate thugs, obviously.

There are just one or two snags. The flagbots are engineered not only to detect ToS breaches, but also to actually take immediate, shoot-on-sight, punitive action. So if they get it wrong (and Snag 2 – flagbots have no sense, so they do get it wrong, a lot), masses of innocent users are punished for good behaviour. Continue reading Flagbot: The Censorship Protocol That Will Change YOUR Behaviour

What Oath Should Do With Tumblr After The Porn Ban

What Oath Should Do With Tumblr

Agghhh, Tumblr. A technically beautiful site which has influenced the biggest and best blogging platforms, and is still packed with little-known publishing tricks and delights. But management of the blue-walled behemoth has been so frustrating through the past five years. Tumblr has to make money, and it can, but if it is to survive, the proprietor must stop kicking its enticers in the teeth, and put them at the centre of the revenue-earning policy.

I’m going to explain how that could be done in this post, but first, let’s assess where things currently are… Continue reading What Oath Should Do With Tumblr After The Porn Ban

Why Deleting Your Social Media May Worsen Your Privacy

Delete Social Media

Deleting a social media account, or the content within it, has become a hot privacy topic in recent times. As more and more stories surface about the extent to which cyber giants collect and use our personal information, we’ve let the shock push us towards reflex action. How dare they quietly store private call logs and precise location info from our mobile phones, we think. How dare they record every move we make with a mouse, and tail us around the web logging our various site visits.

As we finally wake up to the reality that the whole internet is one big piece of spyware, the easiest solution is to blame Facebook, then promptly delete Facebook. Because that’s what certain influencers and high profile blogs are telling us to do. Continue reading Why Deleting Your Social Media May Worsen Your Privacy

The Cyber Witch Hunt

Cyber Witch Hunt 1

They’re now so common that most of us have witnessed at least one as a live event during our cyberspace travels. We look on in borderline disbelief as a mind-boggling array of angry souls pile in to essentially re-word the same acidic criticism, punctuated only by the odd tirade of abuse, and a passing troll chipping in with a timely popcorn-chomping GIF.

The target, meanwhile, stands alone, quite possibly driven offline. What we’re seeing, is the cyber witch hunt – an ugly manifestation of sustained online gang pursuit and attack. The core characteristic is a sense of gross imbalance, in which just one person – metaphorically “the witch” – is persistently targeted by a growing mob. Continue reading The Cyber Witch Hunt