Archive for the ‘Facebook’ Category

Early in my years of understanding social media, I said it was a lot like other social interactions: face to face individually and in groups, on the phone and in email exchanges. I was right in many ways, but I hadn’t yet noticed how different social media could be at the extremes of interaction.

I’ve been fascinated the past couple years with how kind strangers have been on social media, and how rude they have been.

I don’t know how much this represents evolution of social media (or perhaps tweaking of algorithms that govern the social-media experience) and how much it represents my eventually noticing what was always going on. It certainly represents only my experience, rather than any extended research. And I’ll admit that my transparency about personal matters probably draws more support than many people when life turns difficult. And my willingness to engage with (OK, sometimes to provoke) the rude people butting in on conversations probably inflames their rudeness beyond the usual experience.

But I’m fascinated with the way that social media brings these responses, so I want to mention them both. I will note only briefly, with appreciation, the many people whose outpouring of support has uplifted and touched me the past couple of years. When I lost my job last year, the encouragement and support on social media (and tips and introductions to people who actually offered me jobs) were overwhelming.

But that support paled in comparison to the virtual hugs I have received since my lymphoma diagnosis last December. During my treatment, which has included some setbacks I won’t repeat here, the digital embrace on Facebook, Twitter and CaringBridge was tremendous. But it went beyond words of encouragement and promises of prayers. People I never or barely met in person, as well as friends of Facebook friends whom I truly didn’t know, even digitally, sent me a journalism game, a handmade prayer shawl, a personal note about baseball, headgear when my hair disappeared, and, I’m sure, other gifts I’m not recalling at the moment. A person I’ve met only digitally shaved his head in support of me and another person undergoing chemotherapy.

These weren’t just journalism friends who knew me through my blog and meetings at conferences (though the support from my journalism friends was amazing). But non-journalists joined my support network after seeing my blog posts or CaringBridge posts in their friends’ comments and likes.

I don’t want to go on too long about the wonderful extreme of social media, though I’m writing the first draft of this post on Thanksgiving Day, so it feels appropriate. To go on at length about the support could go beyond expressing gratitude to boasting about how beloved I am, or inviting more support. I mostly mention the positive extreme to provide the necessary contrast to the primary point of this post: Facebook trolls.

Consider other social situations: Political arguments are common, whether at an office holiday party, a meeting of friends in a bar or restaurant or a family gathering. But I can’t imagine one of those situations, even in settings that involve lots of drinking, where a stranger would decide to join a conversation that’s already under way and take it over, insulting the others in the group and even calling names, without ever making sense.

That happens to me multiple times in a week on Facebook, not just with politics, but politics and cultural issues are the most common settings in my experience. Who, in overhearing a political discussion in a restaurant or at a party where you’re mostly or entirely an outsider, would butt in, however certain you were in your position, belittling people to their faces and calling names? I’m not saying it’s never happened, but I can’t remember it. We’ve all been at parties of people we didn’t really know, perhaps a spouse’s office party or a business conference where we don’t have many friends. We hear people making absurd statements, but we don’t feel the need to loudly set them straight.

Not on Facebook. Again and again, usually in political discussions, people I’ve never heard of jump in and go off on rants like I almost never see in personal encounters. I’ll illustrate with two discussion threads from Facebook this week (and they could come from nearly any week).

Before I show these discussions, I should acknowledge that these situations don’t necessarily bring out the best in me. When strangers interrupt rudely, I am not as gentle in pointing out their errors as I would be with friends. As I might do with a stranger interrupting a dinner conversation in a restaurant, I sometimes suggest they return to their own tables. I believe I am patient in most of life’s circumstances, but I sometimes hastily return rudeness with rudeness. Which makes me rude, I guess. If the point it to bring people down to their level, it sometime works. But sometimes I just like to poke them because their responses are so predictable.

I started one discussion Tuesday, sharing a link to a Washington Post story that labored too hard over whether Donald Trump’s many completely false statements are actually lies:

FB trolls lying 1


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A sponsored post in my Facebook news feed Nov. 13.

A sponsored post in my Facebook news feed Nov. 13.

I can’t figure out whether all the data that Amazon and Facebook have about me is scary or laughable.

But I know this: Surveillance of my Internet use isn’t the best way to sell me stuff.

Several years ago, I noticed a vendor in Washington’s Eastern Market who sold purses for women made from hardback book covers. My grandmother, Francena Arnold, was a successful author of Christian romance novels, so I ordered her first and best-selling novel, Not My Will, from Amazon and had a purse made for Mom (I couldn’t find a hardback edition available today).

For months afterward, I got emails from Amazon urging me to buy other Christian romance novels, even though I’ve never read one that Grandma didn’t write. Proud as I am of her, it’s her genre, not mine. But I get that: I registered with Amazon and bought a book there, and their computer tells them that I might like these other books that people who bought Not My Will also liked. That’s probably a successful use of data most of the time.

Check out the suggestion above from Amazon in my Facebook feed today: Amazon or Facebook or both think I might be interested in buying Pete Rose’s book, My Prison Without Bars. It’s a 12-year-old book, and I don’t know whether I’ve ever ordered a baseball book from Amazon (I usually get my baseball books as gifts), certainly not one that showed any interest in Pete Rose.

Here’s why Amazon and/or Facebook think I might be interested in that book, though: I went to Amazon and grabbed a screenshot of the cover for an Oct. 31 Hated Yankees post mocking Fox Sports for putting Rose and Alex Rodriguez in its pre-game studio during the World Series. I called it the Fox Sports Image Rehab Clinic and posted memes making fun of Rose’s photobomb moment in the studio.

I think Pete Rose is a liar and an embarrassment to baseball, however well he played the game before he started gambling. I didn’t buy the book in 2003 and I’m not going to buy it today. But because I visited that page a couple weeks ago Amazon and/or Facebook think a gentle reminder might nudge me back there to finally buy it.

Other times, when I have actually bought something from Amazon, I’ve seen ads for the same thing shortly afterward on Facebook. These were things that you’d only want one of. Maybe they thought I’d want to give them as gifts?

Another time I searched for an image to use in a smart-ass remark in a Facebook discussion. And Facebook kept showing me the same image for several days after that. (See my discussion of that below.)

It’s creepy that Facebook and Amazon computers know I showed an interest in the Pete Rose book and are trying to figure out how to sell me the book. But I’m not going to get scared until they figure out what to do with this data.



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Facebook debate

My Facebook profile photo

My Facebook profile photo

Whether you regard Facebook as a beneficial, benign or sinister force in media, your vision probably rests in part on the value of all that data the digital behemoth has about us.

At least 10 Facebook posts this week by me, or posts on my wall by friends, have included some combination of the words Royals, Mets, World, Series, baseball and #TakeTheCrown. And I’ve “liked” many more posts and comments by friends who share my excitement and interest about the World Series. And my profile photo on Facebook shows me wearing a Royals hat. That’s a lot of data telling Facebook what I might have been planning to do tonight.

I do show some political interest on Facebook as well. But any posts I’ve made about the current crop of Republican presidential have been critical or sarcastic in nature and tone.

But when I went to Facebook tonight (to post something about the World Series), Facebook suggested I let my friends know I’m watching the Republican debate. Um. no.

I’m not worried or optimistic that Facebook knows what to do with all that user data it has.

Earlier posts about Facebook

(starting with one just two days ago):

Facebook sucks, except when it doesn’t, like on my birthday

Updated tips for Facebook engagement by newsrooms

Lots of precedent for media dependence on Facebook, including cautionary tales

Why does Facebook keep ignoring my choice of ‘most recent’ posts?

‘Remember when?’ photos have great engagement potential

Facebook engagement lesson: ‘It’s about community’

Community fun drives Facebook engagement

Jeff Edelstein’s Sandy engagement shows how to use Facebook during a big story

Facebook news-feed changes mean newsrooms need new engagement strategies

Facebook engagement tips already working for Register Citizen, Middletown Press

Correction on AP photos: Newsrooms don’t have rights to post them on Facebook

Why does Bill Keller write about Facebook without trying to understand it?

Facebook engagement tips: Use breaking news photos and calls to action

Engage on community Facebook pages, not just your page

Romeo and Juliet on Facebook: great fun and community engagement

Reach out through Facebook to gather information on tragic stories


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Facebook birthdayFB Teresa SchmeddingI whine a lot on Facebook about the user experience there. But not on my birthday.

(Well, a little the morning after my birthday, but more on that later.)

On my birthday yesterday, I was overwhelmed by the well wishes of friends, family, former colleagues and people I’ve never met who somehow connected with me digitally. It’s a wonderful experience and a challenge to keep up with just “liking” each birthday wish, let alone responding to them.

I spent my birthday in the hospital, starting my second stem-cell harvest, so it’s been doubly meaningful (I’m back for more harvest today). A hospital is a boring place to be a patient, never festive on the oncology floor, no matter how kind and attentive the staff (and the staff at Our Lady of the Lake have been terrific). (more…)

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Michelle Rogers

Michelle Rogers

I asked Michelle Rogers to share some links that show the work of the Redding Record Searchlight under the Four Platform Newsroom.

Michelle Rogers was a colleague of mine at Digital First Media, and I’m pleased she has found a new home as Content Editor at the Record Searchlight. In a companion post, her editor, Silas Lyons, answers some questions about the Four Platform Newsroom. Here are the links Michelle shared with me:

Shaping Our Future portal

Facebook group for Shaping our Future

Get Out portal

Facebook group for Get Out

Buttry comment: Facebook groups are great places for engagement about topics or within niches. I belong to several Facebook groups that include some of my most meaningful discussions on Facebook. For an excellent example of a newsroom using a Facebook group to improve its journalism and engagement, read about ProPublica’s Patient Harm group. Back to Michelle and her links: (more…)

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This week I saw a post from a Digital First Media newsroom in my Facebook news feed, and was surprised to see it there. I “liked” dozens of DFM newsrooms during my time there, but don’t particularly care to follow their news that much now.

So I decided to unlike the page. And, while I was at it, I went into the list of pages I liked and decided to unlike a bunch more — at least two dozen, maybe three (it was probably an oversight that I didn’t like all 75 DFM dailies and some weeklies). And most of them, I had no idea I was even following because, well, they never showed up in my news feed. In fact, I’m not sure how that one showed up the other day because I hadn’t seen it in ages. I only recognized two or three of the ones I dropped as occasionally showing up in my feed.*

That illustrates a problem for news brands. I know every one of those newsrooms I unfollowed has staff members faithfully posting all of their stories, or several stories they think have the most appeal, to their Facebook pages daily. And most of their “fans” never see most of their posts.

The most recent estimate I’ve seen of the percentage of fans seeing a typical post was 16 percent, and that was in 2012, and the figure has certainly dropped as Facebook has made several algorithm tweaks, all designed to make it harder for non-paying brands to get their posts seen.

Maybe the number is something like 10 percent these days, but it will frequently be many of the same people, and probably 70 to 80 percent of your fans almost never see a post. They’re surprised when you show up in their news feed, as I was when my former colleagues’ post showed up this week.

But Facebook traffic is growing in importance for news sites. Parse.ly reported last August that Facebook drives 70 million page views a month to news publishers, second only to Google and more than twice as much as Twitter.

In addition, Parse.ly reported this month that stories with a higher Facebook referral rate have a longer shelf life, attracting traffic over more days than stories that don’t get strong engagement. Higher Twitter referral rates also help shelf life, but not as long as on Facebook.

So Facebook is an important source of news-site traffic, but engagement on Facebook is more complicated than simply posting links there (since most people don’t see them). (more…)

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Facebook logo copyI blame Facebook’s crappy iPad app for this blog post.

I actually thought of the topic for this post before falling asleep around 11 p.m. That’s when I read the New York Times story about the Times and other news organizations considering and negotiating a deal to publish content on Facebook rather than on their own sites.

I have a busy day planned today (even if I am stuck in the hospital, I’m working and I have class today, plus many other chores awaiting me). So that post might have gone unwritten.

But something woke me up around 2 a.m. If you’ve spent much time in the hospital, you understand. And before trying to get back to sleep, I tried to answer a question on my iPad in a Facebook discussion. And Facebook’s iPad sucks so bad that I had to abandon the iPad, then redo and finish my answer on the laptop. And then, I had to blog about Facebook. Piss me off in the middle of the night when I’d rather be sleeping, and I will blog about you, even if I have to finish grumpy in the daylight.

Part of my initial response to skepticism about the wisdom of getting into bed with Facebook would have been to note that newspapers have been dependent on (at the mercy of?) other businesses my whole career. Other media are dependent, too, but I will focus here mostly on newspapers. Part of my argument would have noted that the dependency on Facebook was likely to cause problems (as it has before), but I was probably going to come down on the side of saying I might be exploring or testing such a relationship myself if I were the New York Times, BuzzFeed or National Geographic, the companies apparently in such discussions with Facebook.

But then I got pissed off at the Facebook app in the middle of the night, and thought of how dependence on external carriers was a bad decision for the Kansas City Star and Times decades ago, and I had to start blogging in the middle of the night about why publishers should be cautious about increasing their dependence on Facebook. (more…)

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