Weird Facebook

Steven Thomas, for Real Life:

The term “Weird Facebook” is fast becoming synonymous with Facebook pages dedicated to posting ironic memes — some of which, like Bernie Sanders’s Dank Meme Stash and I play KORN to my DMT plants, smoke blunts all day & do sex stuff, can clock over 100,000 followers. New York Magazine called them home to “thousands of the web’s most innovative weirdos,” while the Daily Dot called them “fodder for the guy you bought weed from in high school.” These larger groups often act like fan pages: One or a handful of admins make and post the memes for subscribers to like and share. But the delight of Weird Facebook is the network itself, which spills beyond these Facebook groups to the feeds of many of their members. “Dank Meme Stash” is only one realization of a vital and much more expansive sensibility. Weird Facebook lives in the posts that a loose community of artists, writers, weirdos and depressives make on their personal accounts and in conversation with each other. A genre emerges in these personal posts, something like a combination of performance art and comedy, and uniquely Facebookian: The art is in the performance of self, real or fictional or some combination thereof, with the depth and scope that a full profile, photo album and Timeline can allow.

See also:

Facebook to remove share count API

Last year Twitter stopped sites from displaying the number of times an article had been Tweeted. This sent marketers into meltdown. Now Facebook is doing the same thing.

James Parsons, for Inc.:

This is an interesting change. Facebook clearly still shows share counts on their own buttons. It’s only the availability of data for third party buttons that has been removed. In other words, Facebook is trying to shut down third party share counters, in favor of making marketers either use no-count buttons like Twitter, or making them use the official Facebook buttons.

Site owners everywhere will need to update or remove their sharing buttons. It’s questionable how useful having the count next to the button is to the audience anyway:

My question is actually how long Facebook’s buttons will continue showing share counts. I may be erring on the apocalyptic side here, but this hints to me at a larger change in the works. Facebook share counts are a good metric to monitor for tracking engagement rates, but the display of the counts wasn’t necessarily helpful or valuable.

Here’s what I think is the key takeaway:

[Marketers] didn’t work towards better goals, and treated share counts as the goal in and of themselves […] I’m not saying seeking engagement is a bad thing, but it’s just another example of fixation on a number that isn’t as meaningful as people thought it was.

Twitter map bots

@unchartedatlas is a Twitter bot that programatically generates maps of fictional lands:

Here’s a bit of background on how the bot does its thing.

See also @emojiatlas:

Instagram adds Stories for teens who delete posts

Casey Johnston for The New Yorker:

A recent Washington Post profile of Katherine Pommerening, an eighth grader from Virginia, noted that she never has more than a couple dozen posts visible on her Instagram profile at any given time. Teens love to post, but they love nearly as much to delete and unburden themselves of past gauche choices—the selfie taken in bad light, or with a then friend, now enemy. Pommerening and her cohort, in other words, have been rigging Instagram to do what Snapchat does automatically.

Audiogram turns audio into video for social media

WNYC, America’s most popular public radio station, is open sourcing its Audiogram service for turning audio clips into videos for native sharing on social media.

The most popular social media platforms—Facebook, Instagram and Twitter—don’t have a content type for audio and are predominantly visual. Facebook in particular sees video at the heart of what it does, and brands are using the format more often. See for example the huge increase in cooking and how-to videos.

It’s increasingly important to share content natively on social media platforms—that is, to use the platforms’ own media types, which are privileged in users’ news feeds.

Common solutions are to use audio hosting services such as SoundCloud or Audioboom, but these are a click away from a user’s Facebook news feed, or st the very least don’t auto play. This means that a user is less likely (source) to click to play or visit the content, which in turn results in low engagement, which in turn leads to lower exposure within Facebook.

I’ve seen this anecdotally when sharing SoundCloud recordings. I see far fewer likes, comments and shares, and people tell me they never saw the posts in their feeds.

WNYC’s tool turns audio files (.mp3 and .wav) into movie files, adding branding, captions and a waveform visualisation. They plan to introduce options for subtitling in a future release. The idea isn’t brand new—organisations like The Economist have had some success already—but by open sourcing their workflow, more people can try it out.

The target audience for the tool is WNYC partners and other news organisations who record interviews, but there are potential uses for:

  • Bedroom musicians to share demos
  • Podcasters
  • Writers of spoken-word fiction or radio plays
  • Stand-up comics

WNYC’s Delaney Simmons:

WNYC shows have been seeing great results. On Twitter, the average engagement for an audiogram is 8x higher than a non-audiogram tweet and on Facebook some of our shows are seeing audiogram reach outperform photos and links by 58% and 83% respectively.

Maybe turning audio into video is the way for it to finally go viral?

Facebook crack down on clickbait

Alex Peysakhovich and Kristin Hendrix:

We’ve heard from people that they specifically want to see fewer stories with clickbait headlines or link titles. These are headlines that intentionally leave out crucial information, or mislead people, forcing people to click to find out the answer. For example: “When She Looked Under Her Couch Cushions And Saw THIS… I Was SHOCKED!”; “He Put Garlic In His Shoes Before Going To Bed And What Happens Next Is Hard To Believe”; or “The Dog Barked At The Deliveryman And His Reaction Was Priceless.”

To address this feedback from our community, we’re making an update to News Feed ranking to further reduce clickbait headlines in the coming weeks. With this update, people will see fewer clickbait stories and more of the stories they want to see higher up in their feeds.

Donald Trump’s fake Twitter followers

Nick Bilton in Vanity Fair:

The problem, like almost everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth, is that this number is drastically exaggerated. A large number of those followers aren’t potential voters. They are not even people. They’re bots.

The percentage varies tremendously according to who you ask: anywhere between 3.4 and 41 per cent.

I enjoyed the payoff to this paragraph:

Back in the early days of fake followers, the programmers who made the bots often just plucked pictures of people from Google, created a fake name, fake biography, and—voilà—you had a fake follower. But now, to subvert being found out, bots have become incredibly clever, even sometimes becoming indistinguishable from real people. They use semantic analysis to understand what people are tweeting about, and reply with answers that are mostly coherent, which also more or less describes how Trump uses the service, too.

Related: my friend Phil on the user experience of buying fake followers.

My father, the YouTube star

Kevin Pang on his parents’ surprise hit—a Chinese cookery YouTube show:

The first few emails were marked “Fwd: Jeffrey Pang sent you a video,” so I ignored them. Statistics were on my side: In the history of parental email forwards, roughly 0.001 percent have been worth opening.

Later he followed up by phone. I told him I hadn’t found time to watch whatever it was he sent. Several seconds of silence hung between us before my dad replied: “Oh.”

This is how it had gone for 30-some years — a father-son relationship kept cordial and indifferent through habit and physical distance. I live in Chicago; he’s in Seattle. Once a week, we’d talk on the phone for five minutes and exchange the least substantive of pleasantries: “How’s the weather?” “Plans this weekend?” Not a meaningful conversation so much as a scripted set of talking points.

Only when my mom nudged did I open the video Dad had sent.

Fade in: the company logo for Creative Production, with the E-A-T in “Creative” highlighted. Cue soft piano melody, the type of royalty-free soundtrack that sounds like the hold Muzak when you call your dermatologist. Dissolve to title screen: “Catherine Mom’s Shanghainese Green Onion Pancake,” with its translation in Chinese. And then a photo of my mother (Catherine) and my grandma. A shot of our white kitchen island, and my mother’s hands, her unmistakable wedding band, digging into and massaging wet dough. My virulently anti-technology Chinese parents were starring in their own internet cooking show.

Then one video turned into a few dozen, and now, somehow, my retired, 65-year-old father has nearly a million views on his YouTube channel.