Social media needs to kill advertising

social media advertising

We should’t forget that all modern mass media was born with the money of advertisers, thus designed as advertising vehicles. If TV could not have sustained the mass consumption system, it would never have penetrated the living room of every home of the planet. If social media couldn’t fill the same purpose, it wouldn’t be standing constantly in the palm of our hand.

Modern online social environments are designed mainly for optimal ad placement. The whole goal of the user experience is to convert users into cash. Social networks couldn’t sustain themselves without a powerful advertising strategy. Social media already went through billions of dollars of R&D to enable a deep psychological tie with its users. Today, a lot of social media users are addicted.

A growing trend aims to draw back from the technology craze, unhook from the infinite stream of dopamine whiffs and reconnect with one’s natural self. I went through that phase. I am foreseeing that this early-adopter trend is going to go global in a few years, and by then, a new social network based on a different paradigm (not ad-centric) will draw the world wide web’s attention.

We need less mobile technology

mobile everywhere 2

In the past 3 months, I lived without a mobile phone. I was led to this situation more than I chosed it, but I went along with it to see where it would take me, perfectly knowing that mobile phones grew like cancer recently.

At first, living without a mobile phone is stressful. You always think that something important is happening and you are not in the know. Then you realize that this actually never happens. In 3 months, not having a mobile phone only mattered when dealing with people who just assume you have a phone and things can get planned at the last minute. They just got disappointed, and I could rightfully justify my unavailability. Otherwise, with a little planning like we used to do back in the days, everything went smoothly.

Once you understand that, you reach a first threshold. That’s the breaking point, where you took the blue pill and now stand on the other side of the screen. That every service has been digitalized sounds kind of a great thing, but that people are now obsessed with their portable screens and their never-ending flow of notifications is not that great. Mobile phones are used on any type of transportation and sometimes while driving, in the bathroom, while having a drink with friends, while there’s seemingly nothing else to do… This adds up to a lot of hours of attention for mostly noise. Most of the time, what we do with mobile phones is useless : Chatting, snoozing on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram, looking through contacts and latest sent texts over and over, playing popular games, even checking spam messages in email inbox because what else… Picking up a phone and do whatever has become the new void-filler.

mobile everywhere 1

Yet, when you don’t have a phone, you gain more thinking time: in an age when information has become a permanent attention-grabber, we spend a good deal of our free thinking time getting informed: news outlets, social networks and the mobile phone have made us zombies staring at a constant stream of info. Notifications keep us captive. With less mobile phone comes more free time, more thinking time, more self-made opinions, thus more autonomy overall. Quoting French TV vet Patrick Le Lay, head of TF1 “we sell available brain time to brands”. Reading posts on social networks and news articles is not the same intellectual gymnastics as reading a book. It’s usually easier and related to opinion news in general.

After 3 months off the hook, I did purchase a brand new phone. I only set up the following apps:

  • Android’s native: Google Docs, Keep, Calendar, Music, Maps, Photo, Chrome, Hangout. I also have YouTube but I never watch YouTube on mobile.
  • I downloaded Whatsapp because it’s widely used as a replacement of the phone in Latin America, Feedly because I’m an old school RSS geek, Skype and my printer’s app because they won’t work properly on my Chromebook, and Wemo to remotely manage some of my house’s electric devices.

No more Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, banking apps, blogging apps, analytics apps, gaming apps, Netflix, Soundcloud, … Truth is, I don’t need those apps in the palm of my hand. I use them on my laptop, this way they don’t feel invasive. I’ve been an Android fan for a long time. I bought the G1 when it came out, and always lived with Android since then. Just like any long-time, tech-curious mobile user, I tried an infinity of apps. I know how it feels to be a vibrant mobile consumer, but that ship has sailed.

Wikipedia-backed Wikitribune won’t fix fake news

wikipedia wikitribune truth

Those past months, we’ve been hearing about Jimmy Wales’ ambition to create Wikitribune, a system that analyzes potential fake news to sort out the truth from the junk. Wikitribune claims to deliver exclusively “evidence-based” information, or put more simply “true news”. While I have a lot of respect for what’s been built over at Wikimedia & co, there’s one thing that Wikipedia is not: A reliable source of true information when it comes to controversial topics.

On Wikipedia, in case of a disagreement among the contributors of an article, two top principles are supposed to self-handedly manage the feud :
NPOV (neutrality of point of view): NPOV is reached by bringing up all verifiable POVs on a given topic, instead of working towards a more elaborated way to filter the controversial info.
Consensus by majority: In case of disagreement between the contributors of an article, a consensus must be reached in the discussion page before going any further. Thus the biggest group represented wins, regardless of the veracity of each party’s arguments, because it forms its own consensus (like a leading majority in politics).

Therefore, on Wikipedia, the biggest group of opinion represented can win over any battle of opinion because it will have the lead on controversial editorial decisions. And since NPOV is defined as nothing more than a patchwork of POVs, the winning majority will have the entire freedom to define how that’s going to be applied. In some cases, the minority abandons the field and the Wikipedia article becomes nothing more than a feast of biased and misleading information.

Needless to mention that when a leading party on Wikipedia also has connections in the press, the barriers of Wikipedia against distorted or fake news become useless (because if the press says it, it’s true). Wikipedia is a great vehicle of knowledge, but it certainly is not a conveyor of truth in any way. Therefore, there is no logical reason for Jimmy Wales to launch Wikitribune, because he has nothing to back it up with.

Source of featured image: The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia, which is also a great article to read on that topic.

calvin hobbs history

Trip down memory lane : Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

My wife just sent me this article on Le Monde about the legacy of Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz was found dead in early 2013 after committing suicide. I felt a shock when I heard the news, facing the unfair disparition of a brilliant mind and a proactive activist of the web’s underworlds.

I met Aaron Swartz once, in October 2007, to interview him. He looked very young at the time. We met at a Ground Coffee on Mission street and talked about one of his startup products, Jottit.

Aaron Swartz is one of the rare bunch on earth that made me feel small when I met them. It wasn’t about arrogance. He was barely 21, and let aside everything that he already had accomplished, it was his intellectual ease that left me unarmed. But you could also sense fear in his eyes. Aaron talked openly with me but I noticed that he kept having those suspicious looks sometimes, like “who’s this guy? what does he really want from me?” A little paranoia, but the good one, the one that keeps you alert. Despite lots of media coverage on the person since he passed away, I rarely read about the fact that he seemed to be often ill and forced to stay at home, with difficult moods to overcome (I used to read his blog). Thus he had a very hard personal struggle, and his struggle for the freedom of speech on the web may be correlated with his medical condition and his fight against it.

It’s going widely unnoticed that he also wrote amazing, web-formatted stories on his blog, and if you want to know more about the character, I recommend you start reading that.

This article has nothing new to say. It’s just a short trip down memory lane, to remember Aaron Swartz. It’s a weird way to put it, but Aaron Swartz is the Kurt Cobain of the internet: Both got caught up knee-deep in the mud they thought they were standing against, and preferred to depart to stop the madness. His death has a strong meaning, and it’s our duty to carry on his legacy.

Facebook vs Myspace, 10 years later

facebook myspace

I would define the peak of the web 2.0 from early 2000’s – blooming of the blogosphere and the first Friendster-like social networks – to 2008 – up until the iPhone broke in. In 2007, the debate was Facebook vs Myspace, the private (Facebook was walled down then) vs the public approach. While 10 years later it became cristal-clear who won the match, it’s still a good thing to look back and analyze what happened.

Historically, you could say that Myspace opened up the door for Facebook to explode. Myspace made social networks international, vibrant, and a great marketing tool for engaged online communities. The… URL was the first among its peers to walk in the world of traditional ads. Myspace was everything that Facebook became, without the cutting-edge technology. Both companies got financial traction through private investments, but Facebook had the right business ties, and its leader maintained a straight-forward vision that kept the boat afloat. Myspace got unsavvy Murdoch money and our friend Tom did not show clear signs of business leadership, which led to market failure.

That brings me to the topic of leadership in social-oriented technologies. On one end, we had Tom, founder of Myspace :

tom myspaceWhen you created your account on Myspace, Tom was automatically assigned as your first friend. And everybody was keeping him as a friend, which obviously made him the most popular guy on the site. On Facebook, you were invited to 1.Use your real name, and 2. Connect only with people you know (so no Mark was assigned as your first friend). Tom was some sort of democratic president, not elected by vote, but accepted, legitimized by his popularity.

When you think about it, Tom is the kind of leader we say we want : a like-us, close-to-us person that we can have a beer with, and a leader that doesn’t value business over its network’s social values. Exactly the opposite of the leader of Facebook. Tom failed. And Facebook, with its autocratic approach to social development, became a Big 3. What does that tell us about managing (online) communities ?