Category: Social Media

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Facebook, Mainstream Media, Confirmation Bias, and the Trump Trauma

Lots of Americans, like those out here in liberal-leaning, Hillary Clinton-supporting California, are suffering what I call the “Trump Trauma”. They were sure she would win, easily, and are shocked at the unexpected outcome. It’s all disbelief, like someone suddenly died without warning. They were unprepared and now mourn the death of the Clinton candidacy. How could this come to be?

During our pre-election Frak That! podcast, on Nov. 7, 2016, cohost Randall Kennedy and I discussed the social media election. He expressed surprise at the “speed with which information travels”. I interrupted: “The speed with which disinformation travels now”, later describing social media interaction as something like “Borg sentience”, in context of phenomenon “confirmation bias“. The group mind—perpetuated by Facebook, news media reports, and political polls over-weighted to fit the narrative booming from the Echo Chamber—led many Americans, regardless of party affiliation, to misguided expectations about whom would be President-elect.

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CNET Expunged My Byline–and I Don’t Feel Fine

I made a rather startling discovery yesterday while looking for one of my old CNET News stories: My byline has been removed and changed to Staff. Not on just the one, but all. That ends any historical record reporting for the early tech website—from 1999-2003. While others sites I wrote for during 2003-2009 have vanished, CNET remained and my name as author of record on thousands of stories. It was a repository I could rely on. No longer.

The discovery came while searching for “Mac Cube: Is it all it’s cracked up to be?” The analysis sought to answer a question I had as a G4 Cube owner—as did others, many of whom were regular readers. The dek captures the story’s spirit: “Apple Computer is fending off criticism its stylish Power Mac G4 Cube is marred by cracks. But are the hair-thin lines the defects they appear to be?” 

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Microsoft tries to trump Apple

Timing is everything, particularly in business marketing tactics. Surely it’s no coincidence that hours before Apple’s big developer conference, where questions about iPhone’s future and product innovation loom large, that Microsoft announces plans to buy social network LinkedIn.  Oh, the next Xbox reveal is planned to coincide with the WWDC 2016 keynote, too. Hehe, how do you like them apples?

The merger will split tech news and analysis coverage this fine Monday and spill over to tomorrow, robbing Apple of attention it needs now to subdue rising negative perceptions about the future. Global smartphone sales are slowing and iPhone accounts for 65 percent of total revenues. Meanwhile, the fruit-logo company hasn’t perceptually lifted the innovation meter since before cofounder Steve Jobs died nearly five years ago. Apple needs to deliver wow and have bloggers and reporters giggle with glee all over the InterWebs. 

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Be Careful What You Wish For, Mr. Thiel

A report available today from Pew Research Center finds that 62 percent of American adults “get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often”. Those statistics should frighten new and old media, but more so critics like billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker; the blog and news site lost. Depending on the outcome of a court hearing, Gawker could be shuttered or sold, if forced to put $50 million in escrow during the appeals process. The amount exceeds yearly advertising revenues.

Thiel admittedly put up about $10 million, if not more, to support Hogan’s lawsuit and unnamed others. Destroying Gawker might seem like an enviable outcome for one of Silicon Valley’s tech elite—he is a PayPal cofounder and early Facebook investor—but, as they say, nature abhors a vacuum, which replacement isn’t waiting around. Social media increasingly fills the niche that Gawker vacates. 

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Reconsidering Facebook

I spent little time online the past week following the unexpected passing of my sister Annette exactly seven days ago. The reaction is strange, seeing how much Facebook, texting, and other connected activities and services enriched and changed her life during the last six months or so she walked this Earth. I was clueless.

Last year, I added Annette to my cellular account; she used Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone to start. This opened a new world of connection to children, other relatives, and friends by texting. In November, when switching the family to T-Mobile from Verizon and upgrading to Nexus 6P, I sent her my Nexus 6. Soon after, her fraternal twin, Nanette, helped set up Facebook. Annette’s first post was Nov. 22, 2015—a family photo with our brother-in-law Michael Bellerieve, before his death from cancer. 🙁 

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Don’t ‘Fall into the Gap’

The Internet outrage over the photo for a Gap Kids advertisement is rather ridiculous. The meme accuses racism, because the taller white tween rests her arm on the shorter black girl’s head. Gap was wrong to apologize and replace the pic, bowing before the will of social media bullies. They read too much into the modeling, and you shouldn’t side with their idiocy.

The posing isn’t unusual for Gap marketing, and there is at least one earlier instance where roles reversed: Black tween resting arm on the head of a white girl, as filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry tweets with question: “Does the @GapKids pic on the left make the pic on the right okay? Let’s debate”. The answer is immaterial, because motivation and meaning are assigned, in conspiratorial fashion. I look at the pic and could, purely for contrarian perspective’s sake, assign equally-outrageous interpretation. 

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Frak That!

The major reason I won’t continue Flickr a Day for a second year is my new project, which rapidly is evolving; your input could help shape its development—and would be hugely appreciated. I’ll start with some background.

Seven months ago, fellow journalist Randall Kennedy unexpectedly emailed asking if I had any start-up ideas. He lived with his family on an island paradise off the East Coast of Africa, running a school, which had closed. He wondered about returning to journalism, or being a trade analyst—like me, both roles he had filled in the past. What he really wanted to know: Is writing a viable profession in what I call the Google free economy? 

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Tweet This and That!

My ninth Twitter anniversary is come and passed without my noticing. Looking at the archive the service graciously provides, first tweet was on Dec. 26, 2006 about, of all things, Microsoft Zune. Now there’s a device for the archaeological tech trash heap, eh? The tweet topic must have been traumatic, because the next isn’t until Jan. 2, 2007. 🙂

The same month I signed up for Twitter, Ziff Davis hired me to run the Microsoft Watch blog created by the esteemed Mary Jo Foley. Editors planned to build brand around a core of so-called star bloggers, putting personalities before content. But six months later, Ziff sold off the enterprise group, of which MW was part, to an investment group that had other ideas. My tenure ended on April 30, 2009, after bankers took more control over Ziff Davis Enterprise during to Econolypse. I was overpaid, they said. 

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credit: Roger H. Goun

Reporting Accuracy Starts with Responsible Sourcing

If you’re a blogger or journalist and read nothing else this week, make it New York Times story “Paris Attacks Give Rise to Fakes and Misinformation“. The Nov. 16, 2015 postmortem shows why, why, why I constantly harp about responsible sourcing. The Internet is not a reliable news source. You must corroborate and should, never, never, never second source anything you can’t confirm independently, or, in the case of breaking events, you can trust reliably.

I’ve been bitching on this blog since posting, in May 2010, “The Difference Between Blogging and Journalism“; September 2011 followup: “Single Sourcing is the Source of News Evil“. Or you can refer to the chapter on sourcing from my ebook Responsible Reporting: A Field Guide for Bloggers, Journalists, and Other Online News Gatherers

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 2)

June 2009, the future of 21st Century journalism moves with protestors across Iran’s capital. In an area somewhat removed from the commotion, philosophy student Neda Salehi reportedly steps from a car and is soon shot by a sniper. A bystander videos her death and uploads it to YouTube. The moment becomes the rallying point for demonstrators in the country and for spectators from around the globe. It is a seminal moment of change for the news media.

The next night, June 21, I write

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Who Mourns for the Fourth Estate? (Part 1)

April 2009, I busily bang out a news analysis for Microsoft Watch, one of two news sites I edit for Ziff Davis Enterprise. My boss sounds alarm that there is some jeopardy to my job. I earn a six-figure salary, which panics investors/creditors that recently increased involvement in editorial operations. He infers that I am the highest-paid writer on staff.

Days later, he informs me that in two weeks, ZDE will lay me off—the first time this has ever happened in my long journalist career. My last day will be April 30. As the end approaches, but I continue to produce content normally, he returns with an offer: Stay on writing news stories for eWeek, take a 36 percent reduction in pay, and agree to a 5-story-per-day quota. I politely decline but privately fume.