Like diversity? Facebook will let you have it, but not keep it

Yesterday I wrote about an annoyance I have with Facebook’s web user interface. In a nutshell, I personally prefer to regularly view in my news feed the latest items from ALL the people, groups, and pages I’ve friended or liked in Facebook — not just the select few which Facebook has noticed I already interact with most frequently.

Why? I prefer diversity. I’m a fairly casual Facebook user, but I do use it as a way to connect with people, organizations, and communities for whom Facebook is really the best way to keep up with them. This includes many community groups, people whose social/professional circles really don’t overlap with mine otherwise, and even people/orgs with whom I disagree.

This is because, as I’ve written before (and so has Ethan Zuckerman), I think too much homophily is a problem — not just online, but in life.

But so far, Facebook seems to want to give me no choice but homophily — at least, they won’t respect my preference on an ongoing basis.

Here’s what I mean, based on what Vadim Lavrusik of Facebook told me this morning….

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Facebook: How to change your default news feed setting to “most recent”

UPDATE JUNE 30: Unfortunately, this fix doesn’t seem to be persisten. Today, my Facebook news feed default reverted to “Top News” — without me changing that setting. I asked Vadim Lavrusik of Facebook about it, and the bottom line is: it is not currently possible to opt to persistently see “Most Recent.” They’ll change you back to “Top News” when you’re not looking, like it or not. Seriously. Read more

I use Facebook strictly as a casual way to communicate with people I know. I’m not a heavy Facebook user because their interface sucks, and it keeps on sucking. But there’s one thing about Facebook that was really bugging me, and I finally just figured out how to fix it.

The Problem: The default setting for your Facebook news feed (list of recent updates) is “Top News” — which is somewhat misleadingly named, since it’s really only updates from the friends and pages that Facebook’s algorithm, in its infinite and inscrutable wisdom, believes you interact with the most.

In order to see in your news feed updates from ALL the people and pages you’ve chosen to connect with on Facebook, you need to select the “most recent” option. Totally unintuitive, but that’s par for the course with the Facebook interface.

BUT: In order to routinely see updates from all your Facebook friends and pages, you must change that default setting. Facebook doesn’t make this easy — again, par for the course for Facebook.

I figured out how to do it. Below is my quick video tutorial.

WATCH VIDEO TUTORIAL: Facebook News Feed settings

…You’d think that with all the money they’re making, Facebook could afford to hire some good UI designers and do some usability testing! I think I might mail them a copy of Don’t Make Me Think (old by internet standards, but the principles are timeless).

Why facts will never be enough to make people believe; and why journalists should learn to roll with that

Right now I’m reading Seth Mnookin’s Panic Virus — a book about the bad science, bad science media coverage, and quirks of human psychology that fostered the anti-vaccine movement (by parents concerned that vaccines cause autism, despite the wealth of peer-reviewed science to the contrary).

I’m reading it because I’m fascinated and concerned why people (sometimes in large numbers) tend to cling to beliefs/positions fiercely long after they’ve been factually debunked/disproven, whether by science or by journalistic, legal, or other systematic investigation. (WMD, anyone?)

This kind of anti-fact, anti-science backlash tends to really confuse and frustrate journalists and scientists.

It sucks when you work really hard to do the fairest, most systematic investigation of a topic that deeply affects many people’s lives — but the very people who are suffering most from the topic of your research refuse to believe what you have to say, or accuse you of being part of some conspiracy to hoodwink them. And meanwhile, your less skilled or less ethical colleagues are producing their own research and reports designed to foster fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

That generates considerable friction, controversy, and conflict. And worse, it delays the discovery and implementation of real solutions.

Why does this happen — and what can journalists and scientists do about it?…

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What to do when your home wifi stops working and your broadband provider can’t fix it

People tend to take their home wifi for granted, like their electricity supply: it’s just supposed to be on. But unlike your power, if your wifi stops working, too often it’s up to YOU to diagnose and fix it.

I work at home and depend on broadband internet to make my living. This week I lost about two full working days because my broadband went out. My internet service provider (ISP), Comcast, was unable to get it working or even steer me in a useful direction, despite keeping me on the phone for hours and running lots of tests of the connection between their equipment and my equipment.

Were I not lucky enough to know a programmer with lots of networking experience who could spend time helping me investigate other possible points of failure, I’d be out of luck for home wifi right now — which would severely hinder my business and life.

Here’s what happened with my home wifi, and how I fixed it. Also here’s why ISPs need to do a much better job of helping residential customers diagnose possible network problems that lie beyond the narrow scope of the wires and modems they sell…

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E-mail on your phone? Watch out for phishing

My latest CNN.com mobile blog post concerns the recent Epsilon e-mail security breach. I received four e-mail notifications from companies I do online business with (banks, etc.) about this break last week, so I knew it was a big deal — but as the scope unfolds, it’s pretty staggering

Then I found a recent bit of research that has special relevance to mobile e-mail security. So I wrote this article:  Mobile users more vulnerable to e-mail phishing scams – CNN.com.

My favorite comment: “The reason iPhone users are 8 times more likely to enter a phishing site is because with an iPhone you can actually get to the website. Ever try to use the web browser on a Blackberry…their built in phishing security is that the web browser can’t open websites.”


How Obama’s national wireless initiative could make the digital divide worse

I’ve long been annoyed by, and concerned about, the long-term implications of the digital divide. Today, my mobile blog post on CNN.com Tech is: Obama wireless initiative silent on net neutrality.

President Obama announced this initiative last week. The intent is to bring wireless broadband to 98% of Americans. That’s great, but my point is: What if most of the people in range of those networks can’t afford to use them fully, or at all?

This is likely, since the new Open Internet Rules passed last December by the FCC largely exempt US wireless carriers from key net neutrality requirements. This leaves the door open for wireless carriers to charge mobile customers extra to access just about any site or service at an acceptable speed.

In my article, I explain how that might happen, and what it could mean for people who can’t afford to take full advantage of those networks.

Murdoch’s Daily: It’s 1994 all over again!

Quote of the day from Scott Rosenberg:

The question is whether the Daily’s secession from the Web is a matter of convenience or ideology for its creators. Did they put their energy into spiffing things up for the iPad — the hard, fun, innovative part — figuring that they can circle back to beef up their Web offerings later? Or do they feel that it is their calling, their mission, to leave the Web behind?

My prediction: If they’re pragmatists about the Web, they’ve got a chance — they can adapt and evolve their product so it’s a little more up to date, less hermetic and more inclusive of the public that lives online today. But if they’re ideologues — if they really believe that what is essentially a magazine “pasted on a screen” is the future of journalism — then they’re in deep trouble, and the Daily will only be Murdoch’s latest and most spectacular digital money-sink.

via Murdoch’s Daily: post-Web innovation or CD-ROM flashback? — Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard.

Apple shows how to undermine its ecosystem for content apps

Earlier I wrote about how I thought it was a mistake for News Corp to invest so lavishly in The Daily, the first-ever iPad-only newspaper.

This morning, as I listened to the streaming audio of Rupert Murdoch’s official unveiling of this publication, I saw a headline that made me think Murdoch — and any content publisher or retailer — should be especially wary about depending too heavily for revenue delivered via iPhone or iPad apps. It was: Apple blocks Sony e-book app. Is Kindle next?

In a nutshell, Apple recently rejected Sony’s new e-reader app from its app store because it jumped users out of the app and into the browser to buy new e-books. This strategy skirts Apple’s considerable 30% cut of all in-app purchases, and it’s how Amazon has handled e-book sales for its popular Kindle iPhone and iPad apps since the beginning.

I did some research this, and it looks like Apple is sending some potentially destructive messages to the iOS app ecosystem they’ve worked so hard to create. So I wrote about this today in my CNN Tech mobile blog…

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Oppose internet censorship …and then what happens?

There’s a well-designed site informing people about the nature, extent and mechanisms of internet censorship called: So you still think the internet is free

Basically it’s a series of well-chosen infographics, which make their points well.

At the end, there’s this call to action:

Time For You To Take A Stance.

Do you want an internet with more openess and less censorship?

47,347 People

Have Said YES.

…I clicked on the “say yes” button. And…

Nothing happened.

Huh?

Perhaps the creators — whoever they are, they don’t say — are trying to make an ironic meta-point: “You can’t actually do anything about net censorship, so your opposition is futile.”

Or maybe they got so enamored with creating a perfect design experience that they forgot about the action part? Which would be a damn shame.

Or maybe something about the “Say Yes” button is broken?

Either way, it’s a great windup and pitch. But the connection is missing.



“The Daily” iPad-only newspaper: Courageous risk or wishful thinking?

UPDATE FEB. 2: Apple rejected Sony’s new e-reader app from its app store — a move that makes Murdoch’s lavish investment in The Daily look even riskier…

On Wednesday morning, News Corp. will hold a press event to unveil the first-ever iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The little that we know about this project raises some pretty big questions, and I suspect that after the announcement most of those questions will remain. Here’s what I’d like to know:

How can this possibly be worth such a massive up-front investment?… Continue reading