How Facebook & Twitter Comments Are Changing Commenting On The Web

For those of you familiar with WordPress.com you know for sometime now the website has been allowing readers to comment on online articles using their Facebook and Twitter accounts.  For Facebook commenting this was made possible by integrating the Facebook Comments plugin with their website. Posting comments on an article via Twitter was made possible in a similar manner using a separate plugin enabling Twitter users to post comments. These features allow users to post comments on articles across the Web.

These features certainly make online commenting a simpler process but for those who may think there is nothing wrong with the Facebook Comments feature letting users comment on online articles there are those who would argue it is not as innocent sounding a feature as some would think. You see Facebook has a real name policy that worries privacy advocates and some consumers. The lack of anonymity for users commenting on online articles via their Facebook accounts is a cause for concern. Twitter doesn’t care what your real name is though so using Twitter to comment on online articles is not as worrisome as using Facebook.

It’s also worth pondering what if any impact Facebook Comments may or may not have on the filter bubble phenomenon critiqued in Eli Pariser’s book “The Filter Bubble: What The Internet Is Hiding From You” that I’ve discussed in the past. So far I’ve found no problems using Twitter to post comments on a WordPress.com article or other online article but using Facebook Comments certainly has its risks. Of course you don’t have to use Facebook or even Twitter to comment on articles there are other options to do so but for users of these social networks they will certainly be the two simplest ways for doing so.

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Personalized News: Only News Tailored For You Fit To Print

With the New York Times and Washington Post flirting with personalization despite readers disliking it I thought I’d explain why personalized news is bad. The fact is personalized news is filtered to only show information companies think are personally relevant to us. Only the news they think is personally tailored to us would be fit to print leaving out news and information that we might not be interested in but need to know about because it challenges or broadens our world view.  Now its worth pointing out that some filters on the Web are acceptable like Amazon.com using filters to determine what products its customers might like to buy next based on their previous orders. However, personalized news should be and is in my opinion unacceptable. In fact in my previous post I mentioned a blog post on TheFilterBubble.com that cited a study that while newspapers were embracing personalization their readers were not doing so. Obviously readers aren’t overwhelmingly accepting personalization and as I’ve stated before that’s a good thing.

Again its also worth pointing out that personalized news is not good for readers and its not good for democracy. As citizens we have a civic duty to be informed so we can make informed choices in society and participate in our democracy. So lets ramp up the pressure on these newspapers. Ask them why are they pushing personalization when their readers don’t want it. Now websites with news having social media integration letting users share articles they like on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc is perfectly fine but beyond that for these companies to launch personalized news services that filter our news and information for us is just wrong. Don’t use personalized news services. If you want to use a social network to get breaking news use Twitter which is unfiltered. Let’s reject personalized news!

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Facebook Notifications Show Important Updates First

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Interesting it seems Facebook is going to make it harder to circumvent its filters with some of its new features. One feature change involves their notifications system which is now being designed to only show the “important updates” I discussed in previous posts first. Important updates as noted in the last post are those that are personally relevant but what if they think something is not personally relevant to you that is? So this is a change that really worries me. One of the biggest problems of the filter bubble is most users don’t know about it. One day we could wake up and all discover that filters are running things on the Internet and it already be too late to reverse the trend. So it is important to spread the word and educate others on the issue. Those of us who blog regardless of what blogging site your affiliated with concerned with the filter bubble phenomenon should if possible inform our readers about this problem. That is we should use our platforms to increase awareness among others about the filter bubble.

A previous post detailed some steps users could take to pop their filter bubbles but noted there was little they could actually do in doing so which is why Eli Pariser has been pushing for web companies to drop filters or program a set of ethics in them to make sure they also provide us not only with information they think is personally relevant for us but information that challenges or broadens our world view. In an ideal world users could opt-out of filters by choosing to not use Google+ or Facebook, deleting the Web History associated with their Google accounts that keeps track of their web searches, using social networks that respect their privacy more and don’t have filters like Twitter or the open source Diaspora. Should users choose to still use Google+ and Facebook even then they could turn off automatic personalization in their accounts. The problem is as most users are unaware of the filters how can they be expected to opt-out. Ideally users should have to opt-in to personalization if they want it so they’ll know about it. If personalization is automatically on and you have to opt-out but don’t know it how are you expected to opt-out.

 

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Facebook Updates Supposed To Be Personally Relevant?!

In my previous post I explained how for each user you follow/subscribe you can choose to have all their updates, most updates or only important updates show up in your News Feed. I’ve found out that Facebook determines important updates to be only updates personally relevant to each individual user. I don’t trust the important updates setting though because I’m afraid Facebook might make a mistake. They might think they know me better than they do and filter out something I’d want to know about.

So I would never consent to only accept important updates on Facebook from friends. My next post may elaborate on the problem of important updates further and discuss Facebook notifications. I’m afraid Eli Pariser was right in his TED conference speech about the filter bubble and we as users have to stand up to these companies and demand transparency and openness. If you can boycott social news platforms. I will always use Twitter when I can which is unfiltered and democratic in nature unlike the news apps on Facebook. I will also provide a new post about the new features recently unveiled at Facebook’s F8 conference soon.

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Facebook unveils subscribe and smart list features

Facebook has in recent weeks unveiled a number of new features even before their F8 conference. Among them was the subscribe feature an idea copied from Twitter that lets users now not only “Like” a page or follow friends but subscribe to them and smart lists a feature to automatically create new friend lists. Users  can still create friend lists on their own and if they don’t want to use the new smart lists they can hide them from their profile. It’s worth asking while some of these new features may be beneficial for users whether any new features will affect our privacy or contribute to the filter bubble?

Smart Lists as noted is a new feature to automatically create new friend lists. To its credit Facebook as mentioned above will still allow users though to create and maintain friend lists the old fashioned way. The subscribe feature is really beneficial for journalists and public figures on Facebook to share content with others.  In order for others to be able to subscribe to your profile you must optin to the feature though. Individual users on Facebook can control what updates from users they are subscribed to show up in their News Feed. I will provide instructions on how to do this in my next post.

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Twenty Fifth Blog Entry Mon Sept 5th

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As promised at the end of my last article discussing the democratization of content across the Web using social networks like micro blogging service Twitter I will now share some insights on what to expect from a non personalized open Internet.  A non personalized open internet can be a positive force for good enabling diversity of information to be accessed something impossible with algorithmic editors that filter out content and present only information they think is personally relevant to us. The Open Internet was intended to provide us after all with a diversity of views. As a result the information we access is becoming increasingly limited thus short circuiting the Web’s potential to introduce knowledge and to build bridges between disparate viewpoints.

It is really unfortunate that some social networks are doing this. The solution is to disable automatic personalization in our social networking accounts, delete our browser history and cookies often or use private browsing as I have discussed in previous article covering solutions to pop your filter bubble. The good news is that there are open source social networks like Diaspora, Anybeat (formerly named Alltly) and even Twitter that don’t personalize our results for us so we can freely share and access diverse amounts of information.

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Twenty Fourth Blog Entry Mon Sept 5th

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As you can tell since yesterday I have been very busy blogging away on WordPress having added a number of new posts discussing everything from the monetization of content and alternative compensation models by Readability to AT&T’s T Mobil merger being denied. I’d now like to reflect though on the democratization of content using social networks like Twitter. Unlike Facebook and Google+’s Circles which have unfortunately ushered in the era of personalized filter bubbles Twitter has a democratizing effect on content and could be a positive force for good benefiting users and democracy itself.

You see while Twitter is a social network it is not a part of the filter bubble so it does not filter out information but presents us with the diversity we should expect on the Web.  This is what makes Twitter even better than Facebook or Google+. A number of news companies and other organizations utilize Twitter including the New York Times, HuffingtonPost.com, open source web developer Mozilla and even corporations like AT&T, Verizon, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook have Twitter accounts. Personally, I maintain both a public and a private Twitter account, with users wanting to follow my private account having to request and get my permission to do so. Nonetheless, Twitter can be a positive force for good. My next article will touch on the benefits of a non personalized open Internet.

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Nineteenth Blog Entry Sun Sept 4th

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Now here’s some cool news regarding Google’s OpenSocial platform launched a few years ago to provide application programming interfaces (API’s) for interoperable open source social networks to compete with Facebook. A new specification named OpenSocial 2.0 has come to light that stresses greater social media interoperability. Could the possible rise of OpenSocial coded social networks pose a serious challenge for Facebook? Will OpenSocial add to the filter bubble problem like Google+’s Circles or will it help solve the problem by not having automatic personalization enabled by default. It is worth pondering for sure.

Also in the Facebook era is blogging on sites like WordPress and Tumblr really worthwhile or is sharing content on Facebook more appealing? It’s worth considering and discussing this in depth. I hope that blogging tools will continue to improve in quality and we can have more open source social networking tools. What will become of the Open Web if personalized filter bubbles get in the way of our accessing and sharing great quality content with others across the Web. At least Twitter is one social network with a democratizing effect on information. Having discussed personalized filter bubbles and open source social networking now extensively I think it may soon be time to move on to other topics but these topics are still certainly worth discussing if you haven’t already.

Seventh Blog Entry Fri Aug 19

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In the previous article some tips were provided for how users can pop their personalized filter bubbles so they can access and view the neutral, unfiltered web. This article will provide details on how to prevent Facebook from filtering out posts from friends or pages in your your News Feed. Previous articles have discussed the unintended and possible dangerous consequence of having personalized filter bubbles online showing us information web companies think we want to see based on our previous purchases, clicks and searches online not what we have to see. The previous article noted while there was no magic bullet to do so there were some individual things users can do like deleting browser cookies, enabling private browsing and if their browser has a do not track feature turn it on to prevent tracking cookies from being installed on your computer. It also provided instructions for how to access and delete the cookies for Internet Explorer, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, how to erase the Web History in your Google account and turn off instant personalization in Facebook for partnered sites.

Before providing instructions on how to change the settings in your News Feed to prevent posts from friends and pages you have not clicked to “Like” or “Comment” on will provide some  background information on why they would do this and how Facebook filters the News Feed.  Having done so will also use examples provided by Eli Pariser of how some of his friends have disappeared from his News Feed and then provide the instructions needed on how to resolve this problem in the following paragraphs.

In a lecture on the filter bubble Eli Pariser gave at the TED conference he mentioned an interesting discovery he had made about Facebook’s News Feed. A video of this lecture is available by the way on YouTube titled “Beware online filter bubbles” for anyone wanting to see it. Anyways in his lecture Mr. Pariser mentions that although he is a liberal he has conservative friends and likes to know more about how conservatives think and what they write about so he often friends conservatives on Facebook. So Mr. Pariser was surprised one day when he discovered all his conservatives friend’s posts had been automatically removed from his News Feed. What had happened was that Facebook without consulting him had automatically started filtering those friends out of his News Feed because he did not click on links to their posts in his News Feed and interact with them very often.  Now one could argue having such filtering might be a good thing if you have liked too many public pages on Facebook whose posts appear on your News Feed and/or have too many friends for the News Feed to show all those posts it could result in an information overload with your News Feed becoming cluttered with too much information. However, if you have friends you’ve not recently interacted with whose posts you want to be able to see in the News Feed it would be a good idea to edit the settings for your News Feed so Facebook can’t filter out posts by any of your friends.

Facebook will filter out content from your News Feed from friends you’ve not recently interacted with. In order to disable filtering of your News Feed in Facebook there is a very simple solution. Scroll down to the bottom of your News Feed and click the Edit Options link. A window will popup allowing you to edit the settings for your News Feed.  On the window that pops up notice the option “See posts from” and click to change the settings for that option. By default you will notice the option is set to show friends and pages you interact with most. What this means unfortunately is that if you do not “Like” or “Comment” on updates from a friend or from a page over a certain period of time  then updates from those friends and pages will stop appearing in your News Feed.Now one might argue that Facebook activated this feature for the News Feed by default to make the News Feed more personally relevant to you. After all if you are interacting more with certain friends and pages it would make more sense for you to see their posts.  However, one might think that this is what the Top News link in your News Feed should be for but unfortunately this default setting also affects your Top News. The good news is the solution to resolve this problem is very simple. All you need to do is change the option from show friends and pages you interact with most to all of your friends and pages to prevent Facebook from filtering out posts from your News Feed. Well there you go you can now browse the neutral un-filtered web without any personalized filter bubbles getting in your way.

First Blog Entry Sat May 23

To start off this blog I’d just like to say the web is really an amazing and transformative way to communicate and share information. Having grown up during the 1980s and 1990s and having seen new web based technologies that helped contribute to the decline of traditional print media and rise of new online and social media tools I am often fascinated with emerging technologies and their impact on society. At the same time I worry about the emergence of personalized filter bubbles only displaying pleasing and personally relevant information to each user since reading Eli Pariser‘s book “The Filter Bubble: What The Internet is Hiding From You” that undermine the purpose of an Open Internet. You see filter bubbles make the web more isolated as users form their own Circles in Google+ or lists in Facebook of friends they start interacting with those users and are cut off from everyone else. Considering the Internet is a global advanced telecommunications network that lets users from anywhere in the world freely communicate and share information online if social networks are isolating us from others not in our Circles or friends lists are they really social or anti social?

Mobile communications and the rise of the mobile web are also having a transformative effect upon society. In the era of the mobile Internet, users can update their Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Google+ status via text message, using mobile applications for Android, iOS, Blackberry, WebOS or Windows Mobile devices as well as the mobile websites of these social networks. Web publishing and authoring tools like Tumult’s Hype on the Mac App Store that enable users to create rich interactive web content experiences using HTML 5 animations are also nice. Platforms like Facebook, Google+, and sites like WordPress.com and Examiner.com reduce the need for using web hosting companies services to publish and host your own sites to the web. However, some of these sites have closed platforms and use proprietary technology to lock-in users to their sites. Privacy issues and control or lack thereof of your information on some of these sites might make some users reluctant to share information on these sites. As a result new alternatives like the open source Diaspora a social network whose mission is to be more open and respectful of user privacy than Facebook are gradually emerging online. If your interested in staying up to date with all of my work I often blog for Examiner.com also as their Yuma Culture & Events Examiner. Furthermore, you can find me on Google’s Blogger service also and I am currently working on creating a website using Google Sites.