Archive for the ‘Social Media’ Category

O Hai

Posted: January 11, 2011 by bennettfiasco in Politics, Social Media
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So it’s 1.11.11 and it’s our first post of the new year.  Clearly, we’re very busy and important.  Clearly.

I woke up this morning and, whilst perusing the internets, something very common happened to me.  I read an article that got my hopes up.  Something that was finally going the way it should be.  Like someone actually “got it” and was doing the right thing.  I shouldn’t have to talk about how sad it is that that is what passes for up-lifting these days.  But this is what I saw.


On Friday, it emerged that the U.S. government recently got a court order demanding that Twitter turn over information about a number of people connected to WikiLeaks, including founder Julian Assange, accused leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning, former WikiLeaks spokeswoman Birgitta Jonsdottir and WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum.

The request was approved by a magistrate judge in Alexandria, Virginia, where a federal grand jury is looking into charges against WikiLeaks related to its acquisition and publishing of U.S.-government classified information.

The court order came with a gag order that prevented Twitter from telling anyone, especially the targets, about the request’s existence.

That’s obviously not the good part.  This is what happened. Twitter, amazingly, beta tested a spine.

To Twitter’s credit, the company didn’t just open up its database, find the information the feds were seeking (such as the IP and e-mail addresses used by the targets) and quietly continue on with building new features. Instead the company successfully challenged the gag order in court, and then told the targets their data was being requested, giving them time to try and quash the order themselves.

Finally, after Mastercard, Visa, Amazon, Bank of America and PayPal all fail to see what’s going on, Twitter rises to the challenge.  Maybe there is hope yet.


But then again, maybe not.  The same US Government that is applying an uninformed, politically charged battle versus WikiLeaks is applying an uninformed, market-based affront to internet privacy.  But I mean, really, are you surprised that the Gov’t wants to know your business?

Cut to the chase: the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is a bad idea. On the surface having something that will increase online transactions and reduce identity theft makes (some) sense. Security is the #1 reason that people avoid online transactions and in an age that is continuously going more and more digital, it would appear prudent to take steps towards improving security.

But you know what this is really asking for? A singlepoint entry to all your commerce needs.  If you aren’t nervous yet, I probably worded that poorly.  Here’s some more.

In its most basic form, [a skeleton key] is what the Obama Administration is proposing. Rather than have different passwords and email validations to access the various places we surf, NSTIC will be a single point of entry for online interactions and transactions that consumers and businesses can use to engage.

Allowing access to our financial credentials and buying power through a single interface is ludicrous. eCommerce fraud is bad as it is and this solution is only an opportunity to empower the nefarious types to have more access in one tightly-wrapped package called NSTIC.

So while this does come with good intentions, it reeks of privacy-busting.  I’m not going to start spouting about National ID talk but that’s definitely worth pointing to.

“We are not talking about a national ID card. We are not talking about a government-controlled system,” United State Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said on Jan. 7.

The first thing that comes to mind (and should come to your mind) when hearing these words is, “Yet.”

This is a very dangerous step towards increasing the power and reach of the government into our pocketbooks. Until the details of the plan are released this is just a conspiracy-theory-laden section of paranoia without substance, but any time the government gets involved with anything pertaining to the Internet, the alarm bells ring in the back of my CPU.

Because I’ve found that when the government has the ability to misuse their authority, they inevitably will.


Oh internet, how you take me on an emotional roller coaster ride.  Time to get my laughs from lolcats or a Day[9] Funday Monday I suppose.


Facebook: The Oracle

Posted: December 1, 2010 by jeredfiasco in Social Media
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Consider these facts about straight from their Statistics page:

People on Facebook

  • More than 500 million active users
  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook

Activity on Facebook

  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.

Global Reach

  • More than 70 translations available on the site
  • About 70% of Facebook users are outside the United States
  • Over 300,000 users helped translate the site through the translations application


  • More than one million developers and entrepreneurs from more than 180 countries
  • Every month, more than 70% of Facebook users engage with Platform applications
  • More than 550,000 active applications currently on Facebook Platform
  • More than one million websites have integrated with Facebook Platform
  • More than 150 million people engage with Facebook on external websites every month
  • Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook


  • There are more than 200 million active users currently accessing Facebook through their mobile devices.
  • People that use Facebook on their mobile devices are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users.
  • There are more than 200 mobile operators in 60 countries working to deploy and promote Facebook mobile products

With this many global users spending this much time on the site, we are writing our own autobiographies via Facebook’s Daily News Feed.  We mention books we are reading, our favorite songs, the newest viral video, life events such as relationship beginnings and endings, engagements, deaths, who we ran into at the store, a random reference from a movie we saw years ago, and and the list continues on endlessly.  We share things with strangers and friends alike.  It didn’t take long for many to realize this information could be mined to learn oodles of information, both useful and pointless.

Over at The Slate, Michael Agger wonders What would happen if Facebook made it’s data available for research:

I was curious who was looking at this data and what larger trends they discovered.

Our first stop is Openbook. The site lets you search public Facebook updates and was created to demonstrate how FB’s privacy settings are confusing: People don’t realize how widely they are sharing personal information. And, indeed, when you do a search like “cheated on my wife,” you discover updates that would’ve been better left in the privacy of one’s own mind. Same with “my boss sucks.”

As you move beyond obvious “gotcha” searches, the vastness, weirdness, and potential usefulness of Facebook becomes even more apparent. A search like “brushing my teeth” reveals the amazing variety of pop music that launches people into their day. It would satisfy a small curiosity to map the status updates about UFO sightings, and I could imagine tech-happy CNN showing where love for President Obama is currently cresting. I also like doing lunchtime marketing research about how people feel about organic food or comparing the patrons of Pizza Hut vs. Taco Bell.

But there is a more serious type of analysis to accomplish. It would be helpful for transportation planners to know the places where people complain the most about traffic. Educators could see the data and sentiment analysis around how a community feels about its local schools. The writer Marshall Kirkpatrick at has called for Facebook to open up its data for research. He points to the fact that the discriminatory practice of redlining was discovered “when both U.S. Census information and real estate mortgage loan information were made available for bulk analysis.” And he rightly speculates that “patterns of comparable importance” could be found in Facebook’s enormous social graph.

Nerve’s James Brady Ryan recently wrote about how Facebook’s fan number can accurate predict election results:

It’s news that should be kind of obvious but still somehow feels surprising: according to Facebook’s “political team,” candidates who had more fans on the social networking site than their opponents won their actual elections overall. (So not only did they lose, but they also are super unpopular and probably won’t even be asked to the spring formal.) Here are the numbers:

The Facebook political team’s initial snapshot of 98 House races shows that 74% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests. In the Senate, our initial snapshot of 19 races shows that 81% of candidates with the most Facebook fans won their contests.

As I said, this really shouldn’t be shocking — candidates who have more people who like them get more people to vote for them?! — but I think we often consider becoming a fan of someone on Facebook to be something of an empty, half-hearted political gesture. Not to mention that it’s notoriously difficult to get younger people to vote and Facebook has a whole lot of them.

But now that Facebook has become so prominent, and so much more than the easiest way to stalk a cute guy from your Biology class, I guess it’s time to reconsider.

The real interesting piece here is that Facebook does not openly allow users to peek and mine the data it contains.  They provide certain data to advertisers to market towards us and make money from the annoying ads on the right side of the page.  Back to the Slate article mentioned above,

Facebook’s challenge is to leverage that social graph in a way that doesn’t alienate us all. The site analyzes us for the benefit of its advertisers but offers only limited peaks at what its engineers are capable of. The Facebook Data Team, for example, tries to measure how happy people are on Facebook each day with the Gross National Happiness Index. The index tracks the numbers of positive and negative words in status updates. In America, we just hit a happiness peak on Thanksgiving Day—Mother’s Day is a distant second. (Fun fact: We are happier on the day of the Super Bowl than we are on Easter.) The data team also analyzed how diverse its U.S.-based users were and voter turnout trends in the recent election.

The larger trend here is that Facebook keeps very close tabs on its information. The poster boy for FB’s data hoarding is entrepreneur Pete Warden. He built his own database of 210 million publicly available Facebook profiles and created a whimsical map of the United States that divided the country into regions like the “Nomadic West” and “Socalistan,” based on where people’s friends were likely to be located. His widely circulated Fan Page Analytics showed, say, what things people who liked NPR also liked, or the top states for Megan Fox lust. Warden’s plan was to make his data available to researchers, but he was threatened with a lawsuit by Facebook, and that was that. (Be sure to look at Warden’s new project, OpenHeatMap.)

A basic hurdle with self-tracking or a volunteer data collection project like Track Your Happiness is simply getting in the habit of collecting the numbers. Facebook is a natural platform for these efforts, and I know that many “quantified self” tools are integrated with the site.

By analyzing status updates,  Mathias Mikkelsen created this graphic to visualize when break-ups are most likely to happen.

Peak Break Up Times a la Facebook

Keep in mind that the information mentioned above has been from data made public only.  What would the information look like if Facebook opened up the data vault they have on over a half billion people? s this something we should be concerned about or should we embrace it?  Will we see the vanishing of exit polls in favor of Facebook?  Will Homeland Security change the threat level based on Facebook posts?  What will happen to human interaction? Facebook has the power to better society, but at what price will that come?