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[facebook] Study: Facebook can actually make us more narrow-minded


On the surface, it seems like social media has the boundless potential to expand our world, connecting us to ideas and people we otherwise would never have found. However, a new study claims just the opposite: Social media actually isolates us, creating and facilitating confirmation biases and echo chambers where old — and sometimes erroneous — information is just regurgitated over and over again.

If it sounds bleak, it’s because it kind of is.

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The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Using data modeling, a team of researchers from Italy mapped the spread of two types of content: conspiracy theories and scientific information.

“Our findings show that users mostly tend to select and share content related to a specific narrative and to ignore the rest. In particular, we show that social homogeneity is the primary driver of content diffusion, and one frequent result is the formation of homogeneous, polarized clusters,” the paper concludes.

In other words, you and all of your friends are all sharing the same stuff, even if it’s bunk, because you think alike and your tightly-defined exchange of ideas doesn’t allow for anything new or challenging to flow in.

“Users show a tendency to search for, interpret, and recall information that confirm their pre-existing beliefs.” This is called “confirmation bias,” and Bessi says it’s actually one of the main motivations for sharing content.

So instead of sharing to challenge or inform, social media users are more likely to share an idea already commonly accepted in their social groups for the purpose of reinforcement or agreement. This means misinformation — which is a much more appropriate term for “fake news” — can rattle around unchecked.


My 2 cents:

It follows that, in the pursuit of user engagement, viewership and organic sharing that social media (and plain old media) platform algorithms would begin to create these bubbles of opinions and “facts” that have recently come under greater scrutiny. Being caught unaware of the inherant shortcoming of predictive and reactive algorithms in our media feeds is as much a result of the end of our first decade under the influence of our Facebook feeds as the (naive) theory that humans would be able to discern absolute truth from social media truth, much in the way that we expect humans to be able to discern absolute truth from general media truth.

Recent US elections seem to have shoved this danger into the spotlight, and, as a parting gift of sorts, (former) President Obama finally called out how “splintered media” is fueling mass “group think”:

“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions. The rise of naked partisanship, increasing economic and regional stratification, the splintering of our media into a channel for every taste—all this makes this great sorting seem natural, even inevitable. And increasingly, we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”

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[facebook] Can Facebook bring internet access to the entire world?


Only 3.2 billion people, or roughly 43 percent of the world’s population, can access the internet today. In the world’s least developed countries, that number drops to only 9.5 percent.

Facebook wants to change that. For years, the company has called for broader web access, citing technology’s ability to spark broad social and economic progress. Recently it took an important step forward in its efforts, revealing a gigantic data project that used artificial intelligence to figure out who likely has internet access — and even more significantly, who doesn’t. Identifying the latter will make it easier to decide where technology is needed and how to deliver it most effectively.

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The first step for researchers at Facebook’s Connectivity Lab was to get a better handle on where internet access might already exist. They decided to use structures built by humans — buildings, roads, and other infrastructure — as a proxy for where people might live and get online.

Armed with a specific sense of where people are, Facebook envisions someday using solar-powered drones in the stratosphere to bring internet to hundreds of millions of people who lack access due to weak infrastructure, poverty, or unequal resource allocation. The drones will also carry equipment that can form high-speed connections using laser beams. The idea is that Facebook will create aerial chains with the drones to link several rural areas to the internet. The drone nearest an urban area would use its laser to hook into the global internet, and that connectivity would be passed down the line to drones over rural areas using the laser links.


If Facebook succeeds, it will have solved a crisis that can affect not only individuals’ ability to like and share, but also their upward economic mobility. (Facebook’s Free Basics service, part of a larger initiative to bring the world more internet, already is providing mobile-enabled users with websites that are accessible without data charges.) “Being left on the outside can have a profound effect,” says Danica Radovanovic, a digital media specialist and internet researcher who has spent years considering the digital divide between the developed and undeveloped world.

The Catch

Of course, Facebook’s actions have long raised questions about whether it plans to expand internet access or simply turn Facebook into the internet. Last year, an internet researcher noticed that focus groups of Indonesians and Africans have begun confusing Facebook with the internet — and a Quartz-conducted survey found that a majority of respondents in Nigeria, Indonesia, India, and Brazil agree that “Facebook is the internet.” But Facebook has competition: Google, too, is in the pilot phases of a program to get “balloon-powered internet for everyone” through its ambitious (and whimsically named) Project Loon.

My 2 cents:

Facebook’s internet crusade is know as Zuckerberg’s pet project and is outwardly attributed to the hacker company’s deep commitment to spreading the internet wealth in underprivileged regions. However recently, Zuckerberg’s good intentions have come into question given that is acting as more of a gateway drug to Facebook than as the social mission it is often portrayed to be. You can’t blame Facebook for trying to make a buck and help at the same time, especially with unspoken concerns about keeping Facebook membership growth in light of perceived dropouts in the future, but you shouldn’t be surprised to find Google at every cross-section of money and PR out there.

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[facebook] Facebook Emoji ‘Reactions’: Are There Ulterior Motives?


Last week, Facebook globally launched the alternatives to its trademark “like” button known as “Reactions.” Facebook users can continue to “like” or “comment” on posts, but now they can also select from six different animated emoji: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad or Angry. There is a likely deeper reason for the existence of those new friendly and cute emoji: richer data.

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Why Amplify Reactions?

One of the biggest problems with the “Like” button is that it was very limiting when responding to a friend who is going through a tough time. For example, “liking” a photo about someone that has lost a loved one feels inappropriate. That is why many people suggested Facebook should make a “dislike” button. Under these circumstances, Facebook users will now use the “Sad” emoji button instead of the “Like” button.

Facebook users have been responding more frequently to posts using the “Reactions” options. Currently, the Facebook News Feed algorithm will factor the “Reaction” button as much as the “like” button. So posts that receive a like, love, haha, wow, sad or angry clicks will appear higher equally. But Facebook will eventually determine different ways to rank posts based on the “Reactions” it receives.

Why Didn’t Facebook Make A “Dislike” Button?

At a town hall meeting in September, Mark Zuckerberg addressed a question about why Facebook did not have a “dislike” button. Zuckerberg said that Facebook did not want to make tools that would let users easily criticize each other, but the social network company was looking for ways to express sympathy.

Is There An Ulterior Motive To Facebook Reactions?

Facebook will be collecting data from each of the new emoji. As mentioned earlier, the data collected from each of the “Reactions” will be used to personalize everyone’s News Feeds. This information could also be used for tailoring ads to users based on how they “React” to content.  The “Like” button has been used to indicate the types of posts they want to see more of, but “Reactions” actually provides Facebook with details about how they feel about the post.

My 2 cents:

Of course Facebook’s emojis are a data play, but they’re also a client facing play. Zuckerberg is right in keeping the Facebook society fundamentally positive or “sympathetic” and he is right in identifying that there is a craving for additional ways to react to posts. But most importantly, Zuckerberg is spot on in understanding the additional reactions means additional insights; sellable insights. One must wonder how clinical these emojis will be in the long run; will they be as emblematic as the fabled Like?

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[facebook] Mark Zuckerberg says VR is the future of Facebook


“VR is the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want,” said Zuckerberg. “Pretty soon, we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just right there in person.”

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Zuckerberg was speaking at a Samsung event held to launch two new smartphones and where the South Korean company also unveiled a new 360-degree still and video camera called the Gear 360.

The two companies started working together last year, and in November Samsung launched the $99 Gear VR headset. Users clip in a compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone to be able to take virtual adventures.

Facebook added support for such video last year and Zuckerberg said there are already 20,000 360-degree videos on on Facebook.

“We’ve only just started to explore what’s possible with video and VR,” he said. “It’s still really early.”

To help push the technology forward, Facebook recently formed a number of engineering teams to create new social VR applications, he said.

Zuckerberg credited Samsung for helping come up with some of the hardware components required. He said engineers at Oculus and Facebook are also working on reducing network-related challenges.

One recent innovation involves streaming just the part of the video being viewed rather than the entire 360-degree view. That’s helped engineers realize a 4x increase in the quality of video while reducing bandwidth consumption by three-quarters, he said.

Zuckerberg said Facebook and Oculus are committed to VR “for the long term” and new VR games are among the new experiences coming this year.

My 2 cents:

Not to claim I said so, but I did say VR was going to be the big thing in 2016 (though with Apple’s Open Letter, privacy is back on the table). VR has been a lot of talk and disappointing and expensive dev. kits to date, but Zuckerberg’s announcement and Facebook’s actions are the first points to work with. VR will mean immersive experiences in the Facebook platform: media streaming and gaming, which is pretty different from Microsoft’s functional stance on Hololens. Also, notice Samsung’s presence and Apple’s more glaring lack of presence…

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[whatsapp] WhatsApp Is Nearing a Billion Users—Now It’s Time to Find the Money


WhatsApp—a quick, easy, inexpensive way to trade text messages and photos—is now the second-most popular app on Earth (not counting the apps Google and Apple bundle with their own mobile operating systems). Only Facebook’s own app reaches more people. Since Facebook purchased WhatsApp—and many questioned whether Mark Zuckerberg and company had grossly overpaid for the startup—the audience has more than doubled.

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Previously, WhatsApp was free for a year, after which the company would charge a mere $1 annually. Koum and company are now dropping the $1 fee completely. And in the months to come, they’ll begin experimenting with ways of generating revenue via the myriad businesses that use the messaging app.

Whatsapp has done really well in the consumer space, but there is whole other aspect of communication as you go through your day: You want to communicate with businesses.

Rather than picking up a phone or visiting some other app, you could just send a WhatsApp message to reserve a table and get your confirmation—the same app you likely used to make dinner plans with your friends in the first place. Maybe the restaurant replies with three different options and I just tap on a button and the reservation is made.

The move is part of a larger trend across the sprawling universe of mobile messaging apps. Facebook also offers its own Facebook Messenger, and under the guidance of former PayPal CEO David Marcus, it too is expanding mobile messaging into businesses, including airlines (checking flight statuses), online retailers (tracking orders), and Uber (getting a ride).

But the US isn’t really the market that matters to WhatsApp. While Facebook Messenger is more popular in the US, WhatsApp is dominant in places like India and Brazil and Africa. That’s why Facebook has two messaging apps: each is chasing the same goal, just in different places.

In these places, WhatsApp didn’t just remake online communication. It defined this communication. Now, because it’s so popular in places like India—and because there aren’t an enormous array of alternatives—WhatsApp has a good chance of becoming a hub for business services, just as WeChat is in China.

In the meantime, WhatsApp is working to expand the use of encryption on its service, an effort to protect user privacy. And it is moving beyond texts, photos, and videos to offer voice calls. Like Facebook and WeChat, WhatsApp is already more than messaging app. The question is just how much farther it will go.

My 2 cents:

Whatsapp’s monetization strategy will be best executed if it focuses on the markets it is dominant in, not only due to its relevance and “share of communications” but the mere fact that the technology wave hasn’t moved as fast in these regions. Much as WeChat pioneered the single source of services built into a widely popular messaging platform in China, Whatsapp has little to no competition in India and Brazil in pioneering the idea that you might never have to leave Whatsapp! The main stumbling block however might be the cyber-threats that come with online money transfer mediums; insert former PayPal CEO David Marcus’ expertise here.

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[facebook] Facebook at Work chief shares details on its new social enterprise tools

**Currently tech-trekking with my fellow Kellogg MBA’s through Seattle, Bay Area, Silicon Valley for the following week, posts will reflect our awesome schedule!**

Monday: Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon
Tuesday: Salesforce, Twilio, Linkedin
Wednesday: Intuit, Facebook, VMware
Thursday: Google, Medallia, Adobe
Friday: Apple, Cisco, PayPal


Facebook at Work isn’t just another app or service from the maker of the world’s largest media and communications platform. Facebook is entering a new arena: the enterprise. And the move requires different strengths, a shift in sales strategy and a modified business model, according to Julien Codorniou, the company’s director of global platform partnerships, and leader of the Facebook at Work team.

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Facebook is putting together a global sales team to better understand and serve these enterprise customers. “That’s not the kind of employees we have at Facebook, you know, employees who can help large corporations like RBS to deploy enterprise software to 100,000 users,” says Codorniou. “We need to scale up the team to make sure we have the right resources to invest in our customers because we see a lot of traction in the market, but we also need to make sure that there is no bottleneck to major deployments.”

Facebook’s social network for business will be free at launch, but the company will eventually charge for additional support, analytics and integration with other enterprise collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Azure, Office 365, Google Apps, Box, Dropbox and others, Codorniou says.

“The fundamental bet behind Facebook at Work is that a more connected workplace becomes a more productive workplace,” he says. “When you connect people, you create a more open, more transparent workplace, and ultimately a more productive workplace.”

My 2 cents:

Facebook at Work can be seen as a natural step as Facebook leverages its inherent competencies into new/less explored markets. Considering LinkedIn’s hot-streak as initiatives such as the acquisition of Lynda, revamping of job postings, and the revolutionary Economic Graph create a rich and, arguably, irreplaceable ecosystem, Facebook at Work’s success will hinge on its ability to provide a different experience (perhaps a more intra-job focus vs. Linkedin’s inter-job focus) or emulate this series of positive feedback loops and spill overs LinkedIn has been capitalizing on.

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[whatsapp] WhatsApp Is How Facebook Will Dominate the World


In North America, mobile Internet traffic is dominated by YouTube and Facebook. So says Sandvine, a company with an unusually good view of the world’s Internet activity. YouTube accounts for nearly 20 percent of all mobile traffic, and Facebook tops 16 percent.

But the situation elsewhere in the world may surprise you. Take Africa, for instance. In terms of mobile traffic, the continent’s most dominant service is a tool that many in the US haven’t even heard of: WhatsApp.

WhatsApp is the smartphone messaging app Facebook bought for about $22 billion last year, and according to Sandvine—which helps big ISPs monitor and manage all the bits moving across their networks—it accounts for nearly 11 percent of all traffic to and from mobile devices in Africa.

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This shows just how popular WhatsApp is across the continent, in large part because it lets people exchange texts without paying big fees to carriers. And it shows that people are using the service for more than just texting. Like other messaging services, it’s a way of trading photos and videos, too. And this year, the company expanded the service so it can make Internet phone calls, echoing services like Skype.

In a larger sense, this shows that the Internet is evolving differently in the developing world than it has here in the US. Because network and phone technologies aren’t as mature—and because people have less money to spend on tech—low-bandwidth messaging apps like WhatsApp have become a primary gateway onto the Internet as whole.

That’s why Facebook acquired WhatsApp. Mark Zuckerberg and company now have a sizable foothold in areas where the Facebook social network is less viable and, indeed, less popular. This means that, more than ever, the company can grab new Internet users as they come online.

And don’t forget: Facebook is dominant in the US as well. It accounts for more than 16 percent of mobile traffic and more than 2 percent of wire-line traffic. That means it has evolved to embrace the trend towards online video. And it means that the masses are embracing the trend from inside Facebook.

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[facebook] How Facebook Keeps Scaling its Culture


What’s striking about Building 20 is how hard Facebook has worked to preserve the stripped-down, collaborative atmosphere of the workplaces that preceded it. The floors are still bare cement; girders and vents remain exposed. Staffers, as before, are encouraged to write on walls. Everyone—CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg included—works at tables in open spaces.

In short, any specific nook or cranny resembles the vastly smaller premises that Facebook called home five or 10 years ago. That’s very much by design, and it reflects the company’s obsessive desire to scale up the fabulously successful working environment that Zuckerberg devised in the early years, which is a big part of preserving its culture.

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One reason Facebook has managed to keep on attracting top engineering talent is that it isn’t just the same company it was a decade ago, only larger. The company has discrete teams working on Instagram, Oculus VR, Messenger, WhatsApp, and other projects.

“Smart people generally want to work with other smart people on hard problems,” says Instagram cofounder and CEO Kevin Systrom, who became responsible for integrating his tiny startup into the greater Facebook culture when Instagram was acquired in 2012. “When you start to get a critical mass of smart, driven people in an area, they want to work together. When you think of the best universities in the world, they work this way, too. You get some of the best thinkers in political science or physics or whatever. There’s a positive feedback loop once you build to a certain size. I feel like I’ve seen that develop over the last few years here. And that doesn’t happen at many companies.”

“Facebook’s mission is to give everyone in the world the power to share, and to make the world more open and connected,” he wrote. “Connecting the world is one of the fundamental challenges of our generation, so this is a long-term effort. As long as we stay focused on that mission, we’re going to keep attracting talented people who share the same goal and want to make it a reality.”

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[facebook] Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Bold Plan for the Future of Facebook


We go mission-first, then focus on the pieces we need and go deep on them, and be committed to them.” Facebook’s mission is “to give everyone in the world the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” as Zuckerberg says, explaining that he is now spending a third of his time overseeing these future initiatives. “These things can’t fail. We need to get them to work in order to achieve the mission.”

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To further grow these services and any others that Facebook develops or acquires, Zuckerberg is betting his company’s future on three major technology initiatives. One is developing advanced artificial intelligence that can help Facebook understand what matters to users. The second is virtual reality, in the form of Oculus VR, the groundbreaking company that Facebook acquired in March 2014 for $2 billion, which Zuckerberg believes will be the next major technology we use to interact with each other. And the third is bringing the Internet, including Facebook, of course, to the 4 billion–plus humans who aren’t yet connected, even if it requires flying a drone over a village and beaming data down via laser.

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