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December 18 2013

Tweets loud and quiet

Writers who cover Twitter find the grandiose irresistible: nearly every article about the service’s IPO this fall mentioned the heroes of the Arab Spring who toppled dictators with 140-character stabs, or the size of Lady Gaga’s readership, which is larger than the population of Argentina.

But the bulk of the service is decidedly smaller-scale–a low murmur with an occasional celebrity shouting on top of it. In comparative terms, almost nobody on Twitter is somebody: the median Twitter account has a single follower. Among the much smaller subset of accounts that have posted in the last 30 days, the median account has just 61 followers. If you’ve got a thousand followers, you’re at the 96th percentile of active Twitter users. (I write “active users” to refer to publicly-viewable accounts that have posted at least once in the last 30 days; Twitter uses a more generous definition of that term, including anyone who has logged into the service.)

You're a bigger deal on Twitter than you thinkYou're a bigger deal on Twitter than you think

This is a histogram of Twitter accounts by number of followers. Only accounts that have posted in the last 30 days are included.

For a few weeks this fall I had my computer probe the Twitterverse, gathering details on a random sampling of about 400,000 Twitter accounts. The profile that emerges suggests that Twitter is more a consumption medium than a conversational one–an only-somewhat-democratized successor to broadcast television, in which a handful of people wield enormous influence and everyone else chatters with a few friends on living-room couches. There are undoubtedly some influential Twitter users who would not be influential without Twitter, but I suspect that most people who have, say, 3,000 followers (the top one percent) were prominent commentators, industry experts, or gregarious accumulators of friends to begin with.

Active Twitter accounts follow a median 117 users, and the vast majority of them–76%–follow more people than follow them. Which brings to mind both discussions about the mathematics of pairing and studies that suggest reciprocated friendship is both rare and valuable. Here’s the histogram from above with the distribution of number of accounts that users follow superimposed.

followers_following_comparison_histogramfollowers_following_comparison_histogram

Not that number of followers is an indicator of quality. Twitter’s users are prone to swarms and fads; they flock to famous people as soon as they appear on Twitter, irrespective of both activity and brow height. Former New York Times editor Bill Keller amassed thousands of followers in his first months on Twitter, despite posting just eight times in 2009 (and then baffling his readers with this tweet upon reappearing on Christmas Eve in 2010). On the other end, just under one in every thousand Twitter accounts has a name that refers to Justin Bieber in some way; an additional one in every thousand refers to Bieber in its account description.

Far more inscrutable than the famous zombies are the anonymous ones, like a Wayne Rooney fan account, a skin-care promotion feed, and a fake Taylor Lautner account that each managed to amass thousands of followers with just a single tweet. (The commercial accounts of this sort are probably the result of promotions–“follow us on Twitter for a discount!”–that got no follow-up, or are the beneficiaries of bot armies hired to make a business look popular.)

Twitter is giant, and it has an outsize influence on popular and not-so-popular culture, but that influence seems due to the fact that it’s popular among influential people and provides energetic reverberation for their thoughts–and lots and lots of people who sit back and listen.

How you stack up

Percentile of active Twitter accounts Number of follwers 10 3 20 9 30 19 40 36 50 61 60 98 70 154 80 246 90 458 95 819 96 978 97 1,211 98 1,675 99 2,991 99.9 24,964

The technical mumbo-jumbo

Twitter assigns each account a numerical ID on creation. These IDs aren’t consecutive, but they do, with just a few exceptions, monotonically increase over time–that is, a newer account will always have a higher ID number than an older account. In mid-September, new accounts were being assigned IDs just under 1.9 billion.

Every few minutes, a Python script that I wrote generated a fresh list of 300 random numbers between zero and 1.9 billion and asked Twitter’s API to return basic information for the corresponding accounts. I logged the results–including empty results when an ID number didn’t correspond to any account–in a MySQL table and let the script run on a cronjob for 32 days. I’ve only included accounts created before September 2013 in my analysis in order to avoid under-sampling accounts that were created during the period of data collection.

Twitter IDs are assigned at an overall density of about 63%–that is, given an integer between zero and the highest number so far assigned, there’s a 63% chance that a Twitter account has been opened with that number at some point. That density isn’t constant over the whole range of ID numbers, though; Twitter appears to have changed its ID-assignment scheme around July 2012. Before then, Twitter assigned IDs at a density of about 86% and afterward at 49%.

With a large survey sample of Twitter accounts, I was able to project the size and characteristics of the Twitter ecosystem as a whole, using R and ggplot2 for my analysis.

This post was modified after publication in order to add the table of follower percentiles above.

September 04 2013

VZBV: „Datenschutz darf Geld kosten” – Darf er wirklich?

Wir geben gern sofort zu, dass wir Sympathie mit der Tendenz derartiger Verkündungen haben: Der Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen (VZBV) schreibt in einer Pressemitteilung, dass der Schutz persönlicher Daten im Internet „für Verbraucher in Deutschland an Bedeutung” gewinnt:

Mehr als jeder Dritte ist bereit, für mehr Datenschutz ins Portemonnaie zu greifen: 35 Prozent der Befragten würden für Internetdienste wie E-Mail oder Soziale Netzwerke zahlen, wenn sie höchsten Datenschutz bieten und werbefrei sind.

Das zeige eine aktuelle Umfrage von TNS Emnid, die im Auftrag des VZBV durchgeführt wurde.

Allein: uns fehlt der Glaube.

VZBV Infografik Umfrage Datenschutz darf Geld kosten TNS EMnidWir würden sogar so weit gehen zu behaupten, dass es kaum ein besseres Beispiel für der Effekt  der „sozialen Erwünschtheit” gibt, als die vorliegende Umfrage. (Wikipedia: „Soziale Erwünschtheit liegt vor, wenn Befragte Antworten geben, von denen sie glauben, sie träfen eher auf Zustimmung als die korrekte Antwort, bei der sie soziale Ablehnung befürchten.”)

Urteilen Sie selbst. TNS Emnid fragte

Bisher sind Internetdienste, wie zum Beispiel E-Mail-Dienste oder Soziale Netzwerke, kostenfrei. Wären Sie bereit hierfür zu zahlen, wenn diese höchsten Datenschutz bieten und ohne Werbung sind?

Es ist ja schon eher ernüchternd, dass auf eine solche Frage 61 Prozent der Befragten sagten, dass es ihnen völlig Wumpe ist, ausgespäht und mit Werbung zugeklatscht zu werden ihnen Datenschutz und Werbefreiheit kein Geld wert sind. Da herrschte wohl offenbar bei den Befragten einige Unklarheit über das, was nach Ansicht des VZBV derzeit (PRISM! Tempora! Facebook! Google!) sozial erwünscht ist…

Daraus dann die Überschrift zu stricken „Weg von der Gratiskultur im Netz – Umfrage zeigt Umdenken” und zu schließen: „Das ist ein klares Signal an die Unternehmen. Geschäftsmodelle im Internet müssen nicht auf Werbung und dem damit verbundenen massenhaften Sammeln von Daten fußen”, wie es Gerd Billen tut, Vorstand des VZBV, ist zumindest, nun ja: gewagt.

Das ändert nichts kaum etwas daran, dass wir dem VZBV in seinen Forderungen zustimmen: „Nutzer müssen wissen, was mit ihren Daten passiert. Daten dürfen nur mit ausdrücklicher Zustimmung der Nutzer erhoben und verarbeitet werden.” Und es in Ordnung finden, dass der VZBV die künftige Bundesregierung auffordert, nicht länger auf die Selbstregulierung des Datenmarkts zu vertrauen. Sie müsse sich in der zurzeit verhandelten Europäischen Datenschutzgrundverordnung für verbraucherfreundliche Regelungen zur Datenerhebung und -verarbeitung einsetzen.

Und auch den Hinweis auf das VZBV-Angebot www.verbraucher-entscheiden.de wollen wir nicht unterschlagen: „Die interaktive Informationsplattform  bietet Nutzern die Möglichkeit, sich vor der Bundestagswahl über die Positionen der fünf Bundestagspartien zu informieren und sie mit den eigenen Einstellungen abzugleichen. Neben digitalen Themen geht es dabei in insgesamt 15 Fragen um Finanzen, Lebensmittel, Gesundheit und Energie.”

Na, dann los und testen, welches Programm einem am besten gefällt. Aber immer schön auf unerwünschte Antworttendenzen achten!

August 11 2013

Mit dem Urheberrecht Fotos von Speisen verbieten: ein Sommermärchen

May 30 2013

These are the top 20 investors to follow on Twitter? Really?

Business Insider really jumped the shark with their recent post entitled These Are The Top 20 Tech Investors You Should Follow On Twitter. It was clearly linkbait for social media rather than real advice for those looking for investment wisdom.  Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) as the top investor to follow on Twitter?  Really?  When the greatest investor of all time, Warren Buffet (@WarrenBuffet), is also on Twitter?  Sure, Warren is new to Twitter and has only posted one link (to a fascinating article about why women are key to America’s prosperity), but when millions of investors hang on his every word, you’d think he’d get a mention. Ashton is great, but is he a better investor to pay attention to just because he has more “social media pull”?

This kind of story illustrates the vapidity of so much social media reporting.  What does someone’s social media following have to do with whether or not they are worth following for investment advice?

I’d prefer to follow investors who are good investors and who share their investment strategy!  That’s why I’d probably put Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) of Union Square Ventures (who was at an inexplicable number 19 on the Business Insider List) and his partners Brad Burnham (@BradUSV) and Alfred Wenger (@AlbertWenger) at the top.  Not only are they among the most successful tech investors active today (Twitter, Tumblr, Zynga, Foursquare, Etsy, Kickstarter, to name only a few of their investments), but they clearly explain their rationale for investing, their criteria, and their interests.

The other pair of power investors to follow are Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz of Andreessen Horowitz.  They don’t really tweet, but Marc tweets a feed of his blog posts, which are always worth reading.

Next up, I’d put my colleagues at O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (@OATV), Bryce Roberts (@bryce) and Renee DiResta (@noUpside). While I have a much bigger social media following (I was number 11 on the Business Insider list), I post much more about long-term tech and social trends than about investment. You’ll get much more practical investment advice and insight into our investing philosophy from Bryce and Renee!

Speaking of practical advice, Brad Feld (@bfeld) offers a constant stream of useful advice to startups.  Eric Ries (@EricRies) is not primarily an investor, but he, too, is an amazing source of insight for anyone building a web or social media startup.

And if you are looking for the big disruptors of the venture capital industry, look no further than Paul Graham (@PaulG) of Y Combinator and Babak Nivi and Naval Ravikant of Venturehacks (@VentureHacks) and Angellist (@AngelList).

If there’s an investor to follow for a long-time horizon and a global perspective, it would have to be Esther Dyson (@edyson), an angel investor whose interests and investment choices are always light years ahead of everyone else.

And for the broad sweep of Internet industry statistics, how can you not include Mary Meeker of Kleiner, Perkins. Her annual Internet Trends Report is one of the most hotly awaited reads of the year for any Internet investor.  You won’t find her tweeting, but her slides from D11 were all over Twitter yesterday!

I do love following some of the others who appear on the Business Insider list, like Jason Calacanis (@jason), Mark Cuban (@mcuban), Chris Sacca (@sacca), Evan Williams (@ev), Biz Stone (@biz), and Jack Dorsey (@jack), but I wouldn’t consider any of them but Jason and Mark people who primarily tweet insight for investors.  If you’re going to follow them, you should add Marissa Mayer (@marissamayer) and Sheryl Sandberg (@sherylsandberg) to the list.  Their decisions will probably shape as many venture exits as those of venture capitalists!

And even with this off-the-top-of-my-head list, I really have just focused on Internet investors.  There’s a wealth of investment advice on Twitter, but finding the right people to follow has very little to do with how many Twitter followers they have!

April 24 2013

Social media’s 2.0 moment: Responsiveness beats planning

In 2004, O’Reilly Media delivered a counter-cultural (at the time) message: The dot-com bubble had burst, but the web was here to stay as an economic and social force. The meme they coined was Web 2.0, and their manifesto was captured in a seminal blog post by Tim O’Reilly. Web 2.0 was not meant to indicate a version number, but to point out the deep, persistent patterns of the web that were rewiring business and society.

I led the consulting practice at O’Reilly Media after we coined the term Web 2.0, and I think we now find ourselves at a similar (though softer) inflection point. There are a lot of valid questions regarding the business models in social: Is Facebook not a scalable vehicle for advertising and thus overvalued? Is Groupon bad for merchants and thus doomed to fail? Was social gaming (and Zynga) overhyped?

Taking a cue from Web 2.0, I believe we need to look beyond specific applications of social media — even, God forbid, specific platforms like Facebook — in order to sort out the underlying design patterns that will endure and continue to disrupt marketing and communications.

So what are those design patterns? Here are four:

  1. Responsiveness beats planning
  2. Communities beat audiences
  3. Reputation beats branding
  4. Sociality beats media-mentality

I’ll focus on the first one for now: responsiveness beats planning. The kernel of my argument is that the social web is pressuring organizations to accelerate all forms of communications from “batch” processing to real-time interaction. The result is a fundamentally different approach to how a marketing/communications organization needs to be structured and serviced.

Human beings have spent millennia communicating in real-time. The acceleration of technology is simply an effort to catch up to our zero-latency experience of being. Whenever given a choice, we will opt for a service that delivers response times as fast as our own nervous system. The technology and processes around us are nowhere close to catching up — yet wherever they do, we see incredible value creation. Any information processing technology that moves from batch to real-time experiences a quantum leap in value, especially for those who adopt it first. Consider the arbitrage opportunity in financial systems capable of receiving prices in real-time, real-time trading desks that place advertising based on current inventory and effectiveness, the efficiency of inventory management occurring in real-time across the supply chain and you get the idea. All of the systems that surround and support modern life are accelerating into real-time systems. Social is moving into real-time precisely because that is the speed at which human beings prefer to communicate, and social technologies that have accelerated closer to real-time are now shaping customer expectations.

What are the implications?

With the rise of real-time, responsive communications, marketing and comms are experiencing a massive acceleration in the traditional timeline needed to create branded content. This goes well beyond customer care — it is more like a dynamic content production capability that marketers need in order to sustain brand relationships.

Examples:

  • The Presidential debates: After Barack Obama’s first debate with Mitt Romney, a debate in which all sides realized Obama had turned in an incredibly poor showing, the Obama camp took just three hours to pour over the debate and edit together a commercial highlighting some of Romney’s more damning statements.
  • Oreo’s response to the Superbowl blackout was retweeted 15,000 times and received more than 20,000 likes within 24 hours. The graphic released during the blackout was “designed, captioned and approved within minutes,” thanks to members of 360i — the cookie company’s agency — gathered at a war room during the game.
  • The popularity of apps like SnapChat and Poke are creating time-limited content and offers based on immediacy.

This type of speed and responsiveness has less to do with strategy and planning and everything to do with logistics and coordination.

It calls on marketers to actually understand how organizations are structured, how governance needs to shift to enable more responsive organizations, how we staff our accounts to develop a drumbeat of meaningful content that engages, how we equip our clients to become digital publishers of real-time communications, and how we automate as many parts of the communications "supply chain" as possible.

In the next article, I will explore the design pattern that is rewiring business, "communities beat audiences."

April 09 2013

Privacy vs. speech

A week or so ago this link made its way through my tweet stream: “Privacy and the right to be forgotten.” Honestly I didn’t really even read it. I just retweeted it with a +1 or some other sign of approval because the notion that my flippant throwaway comments on the interwebs would be searchable forever has always left me a bit unsettled. Many times I’ve thought “Thank God the Internet wasn’t around when I was 20, because the things I would have said then online would have been order of magnitudes stupider than the stupidest things I say now.” I haven’t gotten any smarter, but I am a little bit better at filtering, and I rarely drink these days.

But today I read this piece from Stanford Law Review on the subject. And it’s smart. As is this simpler summary on NPR.

In so many domains the Internet creates these dichotomous tensions. There are two things we want and the Internet enables either, or neither, but not both.

I personally don’t think we need this kind of law. However, eventually it will become obvious that the cost of storing every damned thing I’ve ever uttered online exceeds any conceivable or achievable ROI from mining it. Hopefully, as companies realize this, they’ll offer a “feature” to solve this problem by letting me, and people like me, establish preferences for time to live and/or time to keep. For example, I’d be perfectly happy if Twitter enabled a one week time to live on every tweet I posted. They are meant to be ephemeral and it would be more than fine with me if their lifespans matched the level of thought I put into them.

March 20 2013

Neue Strategie: Flattr ist tot – es lebe Flattr

Der Social-Payment-Dienst Flattr steckt in der Krise. Seit dem Start ist es in den letzten drei Jahren nicht gelungen das System so stark zu etablieren, dass die kritische Masse an Nutzern erreicht wurde. Es ist ein Nischen-Payment-Dienst geblieben, auch wenn teilweise größere Angebote wie die tageszeitung (taz) den Dienst eingesetzt haben. Aufgeben ist aber nicht die Sache der schwedischen Betreiber. Mit einer neuen Ausrichtung gehen sie in die Offensive.

Das Konzept von Flattr sieht vor, dass man ein Guthabenkonto anlegt und so selbst bestimmen kann, wieviel Geld man freiwillig in Kulturgüter bzw. online verfügbare Inhalte investiert. Je nach dem wie oft man dann die Flattr-Buttons beispielsweise unter Artikeln anklickt, wird das monatlich zur Verfügung stehende Guthaben unter den Begünstigten aufgeteilt. Die Macher um CEO Linus Olsson aus Malmö haben jetzt in dem Blog-Beitrag “Launching new Flattr – Add money to your likes” angekündigt, dass Flattr nun auch bei bereits bestehenden und genutzten beliebten Online-Diensten stärker eingesetzt werden kann. Man könnte es als Extended Flattr bezeichnen, da nun Werkzeuge bereitgestellt werden, die es erlauben die Flattr-Zahlungen direkt mit Angeboten wie Twitter, Instagram, Github, Vimeo, Flickr, Soundcloud etc. zu verknüpfen.

Im Blog-Beitrag schreiben die Flattr-Macher zu ihrer Motivation:

Everyday creators post 400 million tweets to Twitter and upload 5 million photos to Instagram. For most of us the internet is our most important source for information and creative work. We are on a mission to help creators get money for the value they create for all of us. We believe that the way people pay must be in line with the way people behave online. If you think about it, we click a lot of links only to realize it wasn’t for us. That’s because we are explorers.

Ab sofort können im Flattr-Mitgliedsbereich die entsprechenden Verknüpfungen mit bereits genutzten anderen Diensten hergestellt werden. Teilweise war das bislang auch schon möglich, nicht aber so einfach und mit so vielen Auswahlmöglichkeiten für unterschiedliche Angebote. Das Blog über Fragen der Internet-Ökonomie Netzwertig.com beschreibt weitere Auswirkungen der aktuellen Änderung im strategischen Konzept von Flattr insbesondere hinsichtlich der möglichen Verlagerung von Zahlungsströmen:

Wichtig ist an dieser Stelle zu erwähnen, dass sämtliche Flattr-Buttons für externe Websites uneingeschränkt weiterfunktionieren. Zumindest nach dem heutigen Kenntnisstand wendet sich der Dienst nicht von den unter eigenem digitalen Dach kreative Inhalte schaffenden Produzenten ab, sondern verlagert lediglich den Fokus der Kommunikation. Da durch die zusätzlichen angeschlossenen Plattformen mit einer breiteren Streuung der Flattr-Klicks zu rechnen ist, könnte der Vorstoß für Blogger und die wenigen, Flattr einsetzenden größeren Medienangebote wie taz.de zwar kurzfristig mit einem Rückgang der Einnahmen verbunden sein. Gelingt es den Skandinaviern jedoch, endlich auch den Internetmainstream zu erreichen und die breite Masse zum Befüllen ihres Flattr-Kontos mit einer monatlichen Summe zu bewegen, dann würde davon mittelfristig das gesamte Flattr-Ökosystem profitieren.

 

In einem Interview mit PandoDaily kündigt CEO Olsson zudem an, dass auch die entsprechenden Tools für eine Anknüpfung an Facebook bald bereitgestellt würden, es hier aber aktuell noch technische Probleme gebe. Im Interview heisst es:

The only difference is that Facebook is so far conspicuously absent. (Flattr says that’s because of a technical issue related to Facebook’s API, and it is a “high priority.”)

 

In einer einfachen Grafik hat Flaatr hier noch einmal die Funktionsweise des Systems dargestellt:

Es wird spannend sein zu beobachten, ob Flattr mit dieser Offensive vom Mikro- zum Massenphänomen wird und es gelingt, weit über die üblichen Kreise hinaus, ein neues System der freiwilligen Zahlung für kreative Leistungen zu etablieren. Die Hausaufgaben sind nun erst einmal gemacht, jetzt müssen die Nutzer zeigen, ob sie mit den neuen Möglichkeiten zufrieden sind.

March 07 2013

If followers can sponsor updates on Facebook, social advertising has a new horizon

This week, I found that one of my Facebook updates received significantly more attention that others I’ve posted. On the one hand, it was a share of an important New York Times story focusing on the first time a baby was cured of HIV. But I discovered something that went beyond the story itself: someone who was not my friend had paid to sponsor one of my posts.

Promoted post on Facebook.Promoted post on Facebook.

According to Facebook, the promoted post had 27 times as many views because it was sponsored this way, with 96% of the views coming through the sponsored version.

When I started to investigate what had happened, I learned that I’d missed some relevant news last month. Facebook had announced that users would be able to promote the posts of friends. My situation, however, was clearly different: Christine Harris, the sponsor of my post, is not my friend.

When I followed up with Elisabeth Diana, Facebook’s advertising communications manager, she said this was part of the cross-promote feature that Facebook rolled out. If a reporter posts a public update to his followers on Facebook, Diana explained to me in an email, that update can be promoted and “boosted” to the reporter’s friends.

While I couldn’t find Harris on Facebook, Diana said with “some certainty” that she was my follower, “in order to have seen your content.” Harris definitely isn’t my friend, and while she may well be one of my followers, I have no way to search them to determine whether that’s so.

In these situations, “sponsored” is the label you’ll see on promoted posts, Diana explained. She also confirmed to me that anyone can (or will be able to) sponsor/promote the public post of someone else, “if they are following them or are friends with them.”

If that happens, the sponsored post will then be boosted only to friends of its author, as opposed to an entire network of followers, said Diana. In the United States, she said that will cost about $7. If this is broadly rolled out, it will be interesting to see if PR companies or news outlets quietly opt to boost stories.

The only constant on Facebook is change

What this all seems to herald is a broader move where getting seen on Facebook will depend much more upon your willingness to pay for it. This is, of course, the dynamic that has long existed on radio and television, unless you can earn “free media” coverage by being newsworthy.

Given the recent kerfluffle over the cost of sharing on Facebook and criticism of the Facebook newsfeed, issues around algorithmic transparency only seem to be growing.

While Facebook posted a “fact check” in response to Nick Bilton’s New York Times column, arguing that “overall engagement on posts from people with followers has gone up 34% year over year,” my experience on the platform matches his: even with nearly 100,000 subscribers, my updates aren’t receiving anywhere close to as much engagement as they did before last November.

Given the reactions I’ve seen to his column, I believe that Bilton speaks for many journalists and others who have turned on subscribers, along with quite a few Page owners. What we see on Facebook is now driven not just by what our friends and family share but how we and others respond to it, as interpreted by algorithms, along with our interests, expressed by Likes, and the social networking giant’s need to make money.

I remember quite clearly when this shift began, on November 3, 2012. WolframAlpha analytics told me that an update with a screencap and annotation of Facebook’s prompt to “pay to promote” received the most comments of any picture in 2012.

Pay to Promote on Facebook imagePay to Promote on Facebook image

My feeling last November was that paid promotions would result in my updates becoming deprecated in the newsfeeds of others. Feelings, however, have to be balanced with data. Recent research suggests that, like most users, I have underestimated the audience size for my posts.

A new study (PDF) by the human-computer interaction group at Stanford University’s computer science department and Facebook’s data science team found that a median Facebook user reaches 60% of his or her friends over the course of a month.

Percentage of Facebook friends who saw a postPercentage of Facebook friends who saw a post

I’m not sure if making public updates sponsorable will fundamentally change how we use or experience the world’s biggest social network. Will having followers promote posts degrade your relationships with friends or your interactions with them? Does it create an incentive to be nicer to them? Perhaps the latter, but the rest of it seems uncertain.

What does seem clear is that, over the past five months, Facebook users have been seeing fewer updates from friends and more content targeted to their “Likes.” This now include updates containing links or ads regarding products, services, causes or politicians that their friends “Like” elsewhere online.

Given that Facebook is a public company that provides a free, advertising-supported product and needs to grow its revenues, these changes aren’t surprising. That said, these changes feel like one more step away from the clean, uncluttered network I joined in 2007 to privately share details about my life with friends and family.

If this new pay-to-promote feature catches on with brands and corporations, they will have a quietly effective new means to influence us through our friends. I still find Facebook valuable, but my relationship status with Facebook is now set to “it’s complicated.”

February 22 2013

Four short links: 22 February 2013

  1. Indiepocalypse: Harlem Shake Edition (Andy Baio) — After four weeks topping the Billboard Hot 100, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “Thrift Shop” was replaced this week by Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” the song that inspired the Internet meme.
  2. SplinterNetan Android app designed to create an unblockable Twitter like network that uses no cellular or Internet communications. All messages are transmitted over Bluetooth between users, creating a true peer-to-peer messaging system. All messages are anonymous to prevent retaliation by government authorities. (via Ushahidi)
  3. Disposable Satellites (Forbes) — tiny, near-disposable satellites for use in getting battlefield surveillance quickly [...] launched from a jet into orbit, and within a few minutes [...] provide soldiers on the ground with a zoomed-in, birds-eye view of the battlefield. Those image would be transmitted to current communications devices, and the company is working to develop a way to transmit them to smartphones, as well.
  4. Native iOS to HTML5 Porting Tool (Intel) — essentially a source-to-source translator that can handle a number of conversions from Objective-C into JavaScript/HTML5 including the translation of APIs calls. A number of open source projects are used as foundation for the conversion including a modified version of Clang front-end, LayerD framework and jQuery Mobile for widgets rendering in the translated source code. A porting aid, not a complete translator but a lot of the dog work is done. Requires one convert to Microsoft tools, however. (via Kevin Marks)

February 18 2013

January 24 2013

Update E-Book “Das Netz 2012 – Jahresrückblick Netzpolitik” erschienen

Es lebe die Technik. Anfang Dezember ist unsere Publikation “Das Netz 2012 – Jahresrückblick Netzpolitik” als Print und als E-Book erschienen. Das brachte es mit sich, dass wir in den chronologischen Zeitleisten die wir für jeden Monat angelegt haben, den Dezember 2012 nicht berücksichtigen konnten. Das haben wir jetzt nachgeholt.

Das E-Book ist jetzt in allen Stores in seiner aktualisierten Fassung zu haben. Natürlich zum gleichen Preis von 4.99 Euro. Frisch herausgeputzt liegt es jetzt also zum Download bereit. Hier der Link auf die Bestellseite.

Da kann man es ebenfalls auch als Print-Ausgabe bestellen. Wer es gerne ohne Maschinen kaufen will, der kann zum Beispiel zum “Kulturkaufhaus Dussmann” in Berlin gehen, dort liegt es im dritten Stock, aktuell wird es auch im Erdgeschoss im Schaufenster beworben. Hier eine Impression:

Acuh in allen anderen Buchhandlungen kann der Jahresrückblick bestellt werden. Es genügt aber auch einfach eine E-Mail an info@irights-media.de dann packen wir das Buch ein und es ist schnell da. An dieser Stelle auch schonmal einen großen Dank an die vielen Leser und die vielen Reaktionen. Diese waren nahezu alle sehr positiv. Das freut und belohnt uns für die ganze Arbeit. Danke!

January 10 2013

Four short links: 10 January 2013

  1. How To Make That One Thing Go Viral (Slideshare) — excellent points about headline writing (takes 25 to find the one that works), shareability (your audience has to click and share, then it’s whether THEIR audience clicks on it), and A/B testing (they talk about what they learned doing it ruthlessly).
  2. A More Complete Picture of the iTunes Economy — $12B/yr gross revenue through it, costs about $3.5B/yr to operate, revenue has grown at a ~35% compounded rate over last four years, non-app media 2/3 sales but growing slower than app sales. Lots of graphs!
  3. Visualizing the iOS App Store — interactive exploration of app store sales data.
  4. BORPHan Operating System designed for FPGA-based reconfigurable computers. It is an extended version of the Linux kernel that handles FPGAs as if they were CPUs. BORPH introduces the concept of a ‘hardware process’, which is a hardware design that runs on an FPGA but behaves just like a normal user program. The BORPH kernel provides standard system services, such as file system access to hardware processes, allowing them to communicate with the rest of the system easily and systematically. The name is an acronym for “Berkeley Operating system for ReProgrammable Hardware”.

Four short links: 10 January 2013

  1. How To Make That One Thing Go Viral (Slideshare) — excellent points about headline writing (takes 25 to find the one that works), shareability (your audience has to click and share, then it’s whether THEIR audience clicks on it), and A/B testing (they talk about what they learned doing it ruthlessly).
  2. A More Complete Picture of the iTunes Economy — $12B/yr gross revenue through it, costs about $3.5B/yr to operate, revenue has grown at a ~35% compounded rate over last four years, non-app media 2/3 sales but growing slower than app sales. Lots of graphs!
  3. Visualizing the iOS App Store — interactive exploration of app store sales data.
  4. BORPHan Operating System designed for FPGA-based reconfigurable computers. It is an extended version of the Linux kernel that handles FPGAs as if they were CPUs. BORPH introduces the concept of a ‘hardware process’, which is a hardware design that runs on an FPGA but behaves just like a normal user program. The BORPH kernel provides standard system services, such as file system access to hardware processes, allowing them to communicate with the rest of the system easily and systematically. The name is an acronym for “Berkeley Operating system for ReProgrammable Hardware”.

January 05 2013

Facebook-Vorschaubilder, Abmahnungen und Aufmerksamkeit

Seit Donnerstag verbreitet sich die Nachricht im Netz, nun ging sie auch über den Ticker: Ein Facebook-Nutzer wurde abgemahnt, weil er durch das Teilen eines Links mit Vorschaubild bei Facebook eine Urheberrechtsverletzung begangen haben soll. Das Vorschaubild soll das Urheberrecht einer Fotografin verletzt haben, die es auf einer Fotoplattform eingestellt habe.

Droht jetzt die nächste Abmahnwelle, wie zum Beispel bei stern.de „Experten fürchten”? Oder ist alles halb so wild, wie Christoph Kappes meint? Die Diskussion dreht sich jetzt vor allem darum, ob solche Abmahnungen nicht eher aussichtslos wären, falls der Streit vor Gerichte wandert. Bei der Google-Bildersuche hatte der Bundesgerichtshof entschieden, dass Vorschaubilder erlaubt sind. Wenn Webseiten-Betreiber die Suchmaschinen nicht aussperren, hätten sie durch ihr Handeln eingewilligt, dass Vorschaubilder erstellt werden (Vorschaubilder I, Vorschaubilder II).

Kann man das auf Facebook übertragen, dessen Crawler nicht wie bei Suchmaschinen über die gute alte robots.txt, sondern nur über eine Art Workaround ausgesperrt werden können? Zumal dann, wenn Webseiten mit Like-Buttons ausdrücklich zum Teilen auffordern und fürs Sharing optimiert sind? Das wenig überraschende Ergebnis: Man kann es so oder so sehen.

Nina Diercks schreibt bei Social-Media-Recht:

Die Situationen “Google / robots.txt” und “Facebook / Open Graph” sind aus meiner Sicht so gut vergleichbar, dass der Rechtsgedanke des BGH hier Anwendung finden kann.

Dennis Tölle dagegen bei Recht am Bild:

Allerdings hat der BGH in seinem Urteil darauf abgestellt, dass der Websitebetreiber nur dann ein Recht zur öffentlichen Zugänglichmachung erteilt, wenn die (fremde) Nutzung bekannt und gängig ist (…). Dies wurde zwar im Fall der Google Bildersuche angenommen, ob dies allerdings auch auf die Teilen-Funktion zutrifft, ist fraglich.

So oder so: Gerichtsentscheide gibt es nicht, eine (in Worten: eine) Abmahnung muss keinen Trend einläuten. Allerdings ist es nicht das erste Mal, dass die nächste Urheberrechts-Abmahnwelle auf Facebook vorhergesagt wird. Zuletzt war es der Fall einer Gummiente, die ein Nutzer auf eine Pinnwand geposted hatte. Die große Abmahnflut blieb dann aber aus.

Inzwischen profitieren nicht nur Abmahnanwälte davon, dass alltägliche Handlungen im Internet und sozialen Netzwerken an die Grenzen des Urheberrechts führen. Im Schatten der Abmahnindustrie ist auch der Markt für anwaltliche Beratung der Abgemahnten gewachsen. Wer die nächste große Abmahnwelle vorhersagt, hat einen Werbe-Coup gelandet: „Abmahnung erhalten? Wir beraten Sie sofort!”.

Vielleicht sind Abmahnanwälte und Anti-Abmahnanwälte darüber zu unfreiwilligen Komplizen in der Aufmerksamkeitsökonomie geworden.

Update, 6.1.2013: Gegenüber IT-espresso.de hat die Kanzlei Pixel-Law, die die Abmahnung verschickte, ihr Vorgehen verteidigt. Man distanziere sich von Massenabmahnungen und treibe „einen unglaublichen Aufwand, um herauszufinden, ob es sich um eine gewerbliche Nutzung handelt”.

Facebook-Vorschaubilder, Abmahnungen und Aufmerksamkeit

Seit Donnerstag verbreitet sich die Nachricht im Netz, nun ging sie auch über den Ticker: Ein Facebook-Nutzer wurde abgemahnt, weil er durch das Teilen eines Links mit Vorschaubild bei Facebook eine Urheberrechtsverletzung begangen haben soll. Das Vorschaubild soll das Urheberrecht einer Fotografin verletzt haben, die es auf einer Fotoplattform eingestellt habe.

Droht jetzt die nächste Abmahnwelle, wie zum Beispel bei stern.de „Experten fürchten”? Oder ist alles halb so wild, wie Christoph Kappes meint? Die Diskussion dreht sich jetzt vor allem darum, ob solche Abmahnungen nicht eher aussichtslos wären, falls der Streit vor Gerichte wandert. Bei der Google-Bildersuche hatte der Bundesgerichtshof entschieden, dass Vorschaubilder erlaubt sind. Wenn Webseiten-Betreiber die Suchmaschinen nicht aussperren, hätten sie durch ihr Handeln eingewilligt, dass Vorschaubilder erstellt werden (Vorschaubilder I, Vorschaubilder II).

Kann man das auf Facebook übertragen, dessen Crawler nicht wie bei Suchmaschinen über die gute alte robots.txt, sondern nur über eine Art Workaround ausgesperrt werden können? Zumal dann, wenn Webseiten mit Like-Buttons ausdrücklich zum Teilen auffordern und fürs Sharing optimiert sind? Das wenig überraschende Ergebnis: Man kann es so oder so sehen.

Nina Diercks schreibt bei Social-Media-Recht:

Die Situationen “Google / robots.txt” und “Facebook / Open Graph” sind aus meiner Sicht so gut vergleichbar, dass der Rechtsgedanke des BGH hier Anwendung finden kann.

Dennis Tölle dagegen bei Recht am Bild:

Allerdings hat der BGH in seinem Urteil darauf abgestellt, dass der Websitebetreiber nur dann ein Recht zur öffentlichen Zugänglichmachung erteilt, wenn die (fremde) Nutzung bekannt und gängig ist (…). Dies wurde zwar im Fall der Google Bildersuche angenommen, ob dies allerdings auch auf die Teilen-Funktion zutrifft, ist fraglich.

So oder so: Gerichtsentscheide gibt es nicht, eine (in Worten: eine) Abmahnung muss keinen Trend einläuten. Allerdings ist es nicht das erste Mal, dass die nächste Urheberrechts-Abmahnwelle auf Facebook vorhergesagt wird. Zuletzt war es der Fall einer Gummiente, die ein Nutzer auf eine Pinnwand geposted hatte. Die große Abmahnflut blieb dann aber aus.

Inzwischen profitieren nicht nur Abmahnanwälte davon, dass alltägliche Handlungen im Internet und sozialen Netzwerken an die Grenzen des Urheberrechts führen. Im Schatten der Abmahnindustrie ist auch der Markt für anwaltliche Beratung der Abgemahnten gewachsen. Wer die nächste große Abmahnwelle vorhersagt, hat einen Werbe-Coup gelandet: „Abmahnung erhalten? Wir beraten Sie sofort!”.

Vielleicht sind Abmahnanwälte und Anti-Abmahnanwälte darüber zu unfreiwilligen Komplizen in der Aufmerksamkeitsökonomie geworden.

Update, 6.1.2013: Gegenüber IT-espresso.de hat die Kanzlei Pixel-Law, die die Abmahnung verschickte, ihr Vorgehen verteidigt. Man distanziere sich von Massenabmahnungen und treibe „einen unglaublichen Aufwand, um herauszufinden, ob es sich um eine gewerbliche Nutzung handelt”.

January 04 2013

Iran: Police Looks For ‘Smart Control' over Social Networking Sites

Iran's police Commander in Chief, Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam says police is looking for 'smart control' over social networking websites. He believes this 'smart control' is better than a full blocking and people may use their 'useful parts'.

Reposted byiranelection iranelection

January 03 2013

Four short links: 3 January 2013

  1. Community Memory (Wired) — In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer. This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer — a kind of “information flea market,” a “communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest,” according to a brochure from the time. What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary. But did it have retargeted ads, promoted tweets, and opt-in messages from partners? I THOUGHT NOT. (via BoingBoing)
  2. Latency Numbers Every Programmer Should Know (EECS Berkeley) — exactly that. I was always impressed by Artur Bergman’s familiarity with the speed of packets across switches, RAM cache misses, and HDD mean seek times. Now you can be that impressive person.
  3. Feds Requiring Black Boxes in All Vehicles (Wired) — [Q]uestions remain about the black boxes and data. Among them, how long should a black box retain event data, who owns the data, can a motorist turn off the black box and can the authorities get the data without a warrant. This is starting as regulatory compliance, but should be seized as an opportunity to have a quantified self.
  4. Average Age of StackExchange Users by Tag (Brian Bondy) — no tag is associated with people who have a mean age over 30. Did I miss the plague that wiped out all the programmers over the age of 30? Or does age bring with it supreme knowledge so that old people like me never have to use StackExchange? Yes, that must be it. *cough*

December 31 2012

Saving publishing, one tweet at a time

Traffic comes to online publishers in two ways: search and social. Because of this, writing for the tweet is a new discipline every writer and editor must learn. You’re not ready to publish until you find the well crafted headline that fits in 100 characters or so, and pick an image that looks great shared at thumbnail size on Facebook and LinkedIn.

But what of us, the intelligent reader? Nobody wants to look like a retweet bot for publishers. The retweet allows us no space to say why we ourselves liked an article.

Those of us with time to dedicate are familiar with crafting our own awkward commentaries: “gr8 insight in2 state of mob,” “saw ths tlk last Feb,” “govt fell off fiscal clf”. Most of the time it’s easier just to bookmark, or hit “read later,” and not put in the effort to share.

Rescue is at hand. The writer and programmer Paul Ford has created a bookmarklet, entitled Save Publishing. On activating the bookmarklet while viewing an article you wish to share, it highlights and makes clickable all the tweetable phrases from the page.

Presto! A quick way to share what you like from a piece without having to think too hard: as a bonus, it makes you look intelligent and as if you read the entire article.

"Save Publishing" highlights the tweetable phrases in an article"Save Publishing" highlights the tweetable phrases in an article

“Save Publishing” highlights the tweetable phrases in an article

Why will this simple bookmarklet really save publishing? Not singlehandedly, for sure, but anything that helps readers express what they like and share with each other is a boon to publishers and readers alike. Think of Save Publishing as Kindle’s highlight feature, writ large for the web.

Ford writes that Save Publishing started as a joke, and “now it’s serious and I use it all day.” I’ve certainly enjoyed it, enough to contribute a little code to the project myself. Best of all, it’s saving me from writing tweets for my own pieces!

December 26 2012

Big, open and more networked than ever: 10 trends from 2012

In 2012, technology-accelerated change around the world was driven by the wave of social media, data and mobile devices. In this year in review, we look back at some of the stories that mattered here at Radar and look ahead to what’s in store for 2013.

Below, you’ll find 10 trends that held my interest in 2012. This is by no means a comprehensive account of “everything that mattered in the past year” — try The Economist’s account of the world in 2012 or The Atlantic’s 2012 in review or Popular Science’s “year in ideas” if you’re hungry for that perspective — but I hope you’ll find something new to think about as 2013 draws near.

Social media

Social media wasn’t new in 2012, but it was bigger and more mainstream than ever. There were some firsts, from the first Presidential “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit to the first White House Google Hangout on Google Plus to presidential #debates to the first billion-user social network. The election season had an unprecedented social and digital component, from those hyperwired debates to a presidential campaign built like a startup. Expect even more blogging, tweeting, tumbling, streaming, Liking and pinning in 2013, even if it leaves us searching for context.

Open source in government

Open source software made more inroads in the federal government, from a notable policy at the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to more acceptance in the military.

The White House made its first commits on GitHub, including code for its mobile apps and e-petition platform, where President Obama responded personally to an e-petition for the first time.. The House Oversight Committee’s crowdsourced legislative platform  also went on GitHub. At year’s end, the United States (code) was on GitHub.

Responsive design

According to deputy technical lead Jeremy Vanderlan, the new AIDS.gov, launched in June, was the first full-site implementation of responsive web design for a federal government domain. They weren’t the first to automatically adapt how a website is displayed for the device a visitor is using — you can see next-generation web design at open.nasa.gov or in the way that fcc.gov/live optimizes to provide video to different mobile devices — but this was a genuine milestone for the feds online. By year’s end, Congress had also become responsive, at least with respect to its website, with a new beta at Congress.gov.

Free speech online

Is there free speech on the Internet? As Rebecca MacKinnon, Ethan Zuckerman and others have been explaining for years, what we think of as the new “public square online” is complicated by the fact that these platforms for free expression are owned and operated by private companies. MacKinnon explored these issues, “Consent of the Networked,” one of best technology policy books of the year. In 2012, “Twitter censorship” and the Terms of Service for social networking services caused many more people to suggest a digital Bill of Rights, although “Internet freedom” is an idea that varies with the beholder.

Open mapping

On January 9th, I wondered whether 2012 would be “the year of the open map.” I started reporting on digital maps made with powerful new software and open data last winter. The prediction was partially born out, from Foursquare’s adoption to StreetEast moving from Google Maps to new investments in OpenStreetMap. In response to the shift, Google slashed its price for using the Google Maps API by 88%. In an ideal world, the new competition will result in both better maps and more informed citizens.

Data journalism

Data journalism took on new importance for society. We tracked its growing influence, from the Knight News Challenge to new research initiatives to Africa, and are continuing to investigate data journalism with a series of interviews and a forthcoming report.

Privacy and security

Privacy and security continued to dominate technology policy discussions in the United States, although copyright, spectrum, patents and Internet governance had significant prominence. While the Supreme Court decided GPS monitoring constitutes search under the 4th Amendment, expanded rules for data sharing in the U.S. government raised troubling questions.

In another year that will end without updated baseline privacy legislation from Congress, bills did advance in the U.S. Senate to reform electronic privacy and address location-based technology. After calling for such legislation, the Federal Trade Commission opened an investigation into data brokers.

No “cyber security” bill passed the Senate either, leaving hope that future legislation will balance protections with civil liberties and privacy concerns.

Networked politics

Politics were more wired in Election 2012 than they’d ever been in history, from social media and debates to the growing clout of the Internet. The year started off with the unprecedented wave of networked activism that stopped the progress of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA) in Congress.

At year’s end, the jury remains out on whether the Internet will act as a platform for collective action to address societal challenges, from addressing gun violence in the U.S. to a changing climate.

Open data

As open data moves from the information age to the action age, there are significant advances around the globe. As more data becomes available, its practical application has only increased in importance.

After success releasing health care data to fuel innovation and startups, US CTO Todd Park sought to scale open data and agile thinking across the federal government.

While it’s important to be aware of the ambiguity of open government and open data, governments are continuing to move forward globally, with the United Kingdom relaunching Data.gov.uk and, at year’s end, India and the European Commission launching open data platforms. Cities around the world also adopted open data, from Buenos Aires to Berlin to Palo Alto.

In the United States, friendly competition to be the nation’s preeminent digital city emerged between San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and New York. Open data releases became a point of pride. Landmark legislation in New York City and Chicago’s executive order on open data made both cities national leaders.

As the year ends, we’re working to make dollars and sense of the open data economy, explicitly making a connection between releases and economic growth. Look for a report on our research in 2013.

Open government

The world’s largest democracy officially launching an open government data platform was historic. That said, it’s worth reiterating a point I’ve made before: Simply opening up data is not a replacement for a Constitution that enforces a rule of law, free and fair elections, an effective judiciary, decent schools, basic regulatory bodies or civil society — particularly if the data does not relate to meaningful aspects of society. Adopting open data and digital government reforms is not quite the same thing as good government. Beware openwashing in government, as well as in other areas.

On that count, at year’s end, The Economist found that global open government efforts are growing in “scope and clout.” The Open Government Partnership grew, with new leadership, added experts and a finalized review mechanism. The year to come will be a test of the international partnership’s political will.

In the United States, an open government reality check at the federal level showed genuine accomplishments, but it leaves many promises only partially fulfilled, with a mixed record on meeting goals that many critics found transparently disappointing. While some of the administration’s transparency failures concern national security — notably, the use of drones overseas — science journalists reported restricted access to administration officials at the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Drug Administration and Department of Health and Human Services.

Efforts to check transparency promises also found compliance with the Freedom of Information Act lacking. While a new FOIA portal is promising, only six federal agencies were on it by year’s end. The administration record on prosecuting whistleblowers has also sent a warning to others considering coming forward regarding waste or abuse in the national security.

Despite those challenges, 2012 was a year of continuing progress for open government at the federal level in the United States, with reasons for hope throughout states and cities. Here’s hoping 2013 sees more advances than setbacks in this area.

Coming tomorrow: 14 trends to watch in 2013.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

December 19 2012

Why isn’t social media more like real life?

I finally got around to looking at my personal network graph on Linkedin Labs the other day. It was a fun exercise and I got at least one interesting insight from it.

Take a look at these two well defined and distinct clusters in my graph. These are my connections with the startup I worked for (blue) and the company that acquired us in 2008 (orange). It is fascinating to me that all these years later the clusters remain so disconnected. There are shared connections within a common customer base, but very few direct connections across the clusters. I would love to see maps from some of my other colleagues who are still there to see if theirs show the same degree of separation. This was an acquisition that never really seemed to click and whether this is a picture of cause or effect, it maps to my experiences living in it.

That’s an aside though. What this graph really puts in stark relief is what every social network out there is learning about us. And this graph doesn’t really tell the whole story because it doesn’t represent edge weights and types, which they also know. Social networks know who we connect with, who we interact with, and the form and strength of those interactions.

But this post isn’t a privacy rant. I know they know this stuff and so do you. What this image got me thinking about again is why social networks aren’t using this information to create for us a social experience that is more like our real world, and frankly more in tune with our human-ness.

Social media properties plumb this data to know which ads to show us, and sometimes they use it to target messages to us more effectively. Remember those LinkedIn messages we got with the pictures of our friends? We all clicked on them. But they just don’t seem to be making that much effort to make use of what they know to innovate on our behalf, to improve our experience.

For example, Facebook knows all of this too and yet they continue to cling to the curious fiction that our social life is one giant flat maximally-connected equi-weighted graph. A single giant room where we all stand shoulder to shoulder wondering who all of these strangers are. A place that refuses to acknowledge the nuance and complexity of our real world relationships. And Twitter, for all it’s wonderfulness, does the same thing. And Google Plus? Why are you making me curate circles? You know what they are. At least take a guess at making them for me.

They call themselves social networks, but in terms of how they express themselves to us, their users, they seem to be using the word “network” the way broadcast television does. The experience is more analogous to a vast mesh of public access television networks than with the complexity and richness of real world social connections. You say something and it is presented to everyone, no matter which of those clusters they inhabit. So 10% care and the rest of them filter it.

In the natural world of human-to-human conversation, communication travels person to person, modified and attenuated along the way. Or, in some cases, amplified into a cluster-spanning meme. I think it would be fascinating to see social media properties experiment with recreating some of these more complex dynamics. What if I could “talk” to a well-defined cluster in my graph and see the strength of the signal attenuate rapidly as the distance from that core increased? Not to make it invisible, but perhaps make its volume more appropriate to the another cluster’s contextual center of gravity.

Or, in the inverse, knowing things about my graph Twitter could give me a really nice low-pass filter that gave preference to those in my stream that are “close” to me, or share a common edge type, but who might not be tweeting at high frequency.

There are lots of possibilities along these lines. And I know that a big part of what makes these services useful is their simplicity. Fine. But ultimately, I wonder is all of this network science going to benefit me in any direct way as a user of these services, or is the whole field of data science ultimately about reverse engineering me for sake of advertisers?

I wrote a post a while back about our paleolithic roots and the way we consume media. The “diet” part aside, what I’ve been thinking about a lot since is a digital design sense that caters to our neurological reality. Instead of designing for the convenience of the machines and demand that we adapt, design for who we actually are. Buggy. Tribal. Easily distracted. Full of bias. Curious. Whatever. I’m eager to see a more ambitious approach to design that infuses our digital worlds with more of the nuance and subtlety we find in the physical realm, all while preserving the reach that makes our digital world special.

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