The Simple Reason Facebook Can Not Be Fixed
The technology elite live in a different world than most of us, and they will not fix what they do not see
Nope. The company's stock is up 40 percent up to now this season as"new hell" continues to be stunningly profitable. Moreover, if you work in technology, at least one person you know with a strong ethical compass has started a new task at Facebook with no shred of cognitive dissonance.
How are our generation's brightest minds -- many of them staunch opponents of the present government -- still thankfully building, advertising, and selling algorithms that make Donald Trump and his ilk a self-fulfilling prophecy?
The root cause is quite simple. We're asking people who don't encounter the effects of Facebook's existential defects to mend them. This simple dilemma explains why so many Facebookers still possess unbridled zeal for the company's mission and put ominously over any efforts to reimagine what Facebook could be, maintaining a status quo which works fine for tech's elite but quite poorly for everyone else.
Toexplain this happening, let me take you straight back to my own days as a 22-year-old new recruit at LinkedIn, fueled by Silicon Valley idealism and beautiful fruit-infused water. As a LinkedIn employee, I naturally spent a good deal of time on the platform, where my feed was mostly populated with articles from other LinkedIn employees and their own networks. The end result was that LinkedIn appeared to be a really awesome platform, a potpourri of the best articles from the tech press and appropriate job places -- and I recognize it to anybody reading this who hasn't worked for LinkedIn, this is nearly impossible to believe.
After a few months, I moved into a role in customer success, easily my favorite of those imitation job titles made by the software as a service (SaaS) industry. To be able to replicate bugs and troubleshoot customer issues, I sometimes had to (with explicit user consent ) log in as the member and click around -- meaning I experienced LinkedIn like a user did.
When I did so, my filter bubble was busted, and that I entered a different digital globe. On a professional community, I saw intentionally xenophobic content which has been thinly veiled as thought leadership on endeavors. While this was rather rare, many user feeds were a weird amalgamation of math puzzles, inspirational memes, and absurd self-promotional stories such as one growth hacker's accounts of becoming pen pals with a dictator. Job postings, important professional information, and a number of the other items LinkedIn was apparently supposed to supply were frequently absent entirely.
Like the rich live in different worlds, the tech wealthy live in different digital worlds.
LinkedIn, to its credit, is a company with a fundamentally different ethos than Facebook, valuing human judgment over blind faith in algorithms. Yet despite the company having a group of almost 100 human editors to curate users and content posting under their real, professional identities, the LinkedIn expertise for the average user frequently devolves to an electronic used auto lot. I am convinced Jeff Weiner would not even comprehend the stage the way many members experience it.
In a similar vein, Facebook is generally a great platform -- for Facebook employees and those with a similar demographic profile. At worst to them, it's a harmless vice with minimal fake news. There's rarely a plausible path down the rabbit hole of extremism that holds real-life consequences for people and their loved ones.
While much was made from the filter bubbles that produce a red vs. blue Facebook newsfeed split , a far more significant chasm exists among societal networking consumers. Digitally savvy users like well manicured feeds; whereas advertisements are found, they can be imprecisely personalized and easy to glaze over. Meanwhile, the viewers that advertisers can caricature would be the classes that become the item and therefore are revealed advertisements to exploit their closely held anxieties. The huge majority of Americans fall into the latter camp.
While the 3 percent of Americans who really browse the Mueller report may obtain their information from straight after notable politicians or journalists on Twitter, the system is similar to a funhouse mirror compared to the real-world . Much more Americans are visiting political material on social websites in the kind of wildly malicious advertisements which are added in their feed to get fractions of pennies.
Throughout the 2018 midterm elections, the Trump campaign set just shy of 10,000 advertisements on Facebook that averaged 7 million impressions each. For likely the grand amount of around $110,000, text reading"build the wall" in shining lights got 70 billion views. That isn't a bug; it's Facebook's pièce d'résistance feature. The company can operate a platform that functions beautifully for the tech elite, offload the externality on more gullible users, and then sell their gullibility for billions of dollars.
While Tesla's engineers are more or less driving the same car as their consumers, Facebooks's engineers are building a product which, as it hits the current market, basically bears no similarity to the one they have sent. If it breaks, it is like being asked to resolve a car which, anytime you choose it out for a spin, then slides easily round the open road. However, as soon as you hand the keys to a customer, it pulls slowly to the right until it crashes into a dumpster fire full of Nazis.
Like the wealthy live in different worlds, the tech wealthy live in various worlds that are digital. Facebook's leadership is all about as well-equipped to repair the monster it constructed as Andrew Cuomo would be to correct the nyc subway. For all intents and purposes, I've used the product.
To its credit, Facebook has tried to address this problem, once famously slowing internet speeds to 2G amounts to mimic the experience for its customers in the developing world. The business now wants to go farther and induce its own leadership and rank-and-file product supervisors to dive deep into the belly of Chupacabra. Anyone who touches the core product should be onboarded by spending a month shadowing content moderation teams. Spend some time with consumers in the Philippines, in which the belief that vaccines are essential has plummeted from 93 percent to 32 percent in only 3 decades.
Although these would be solid measures, no matter how much you force empathy, Facebook employees' most important point of reference to the item would always be their particular Facebook accounts. And the platform will be all the worse for it.
Using its core business design ushering at a post-truth age, where can Facebook move from here? Facebook wants to be WeChat, free to capture the spoils that come with having an individual's social and financial lifestyle. To conceal the authoritarian undertones behind this vision, it's being packaged in a sudden epiphany around the importance of user privacy.
Finally, a corporation should decide whether or not a really good platform for advertisers or a really good platform for merchants.
However, Facebook's rally to solitude seems doomed from the beginning. For starters, it is comically late. Zuckerberg is George Clooney attempting to turn the boat around in the eye of the storm. But most importantly, Facebook still wishes to maintain all its own fish. At precisely the same keynote it declared that the"future is private," Facebook proudly announced that it would really like to understand that of your buddies you secretly want to bang.
It takes a lot for a large, publicly traded company to maintain the wherewithal and forward-thinking mindset of investing in something at negative or zero earnings. A company that began its apology tour Morgan-Stanley-style is not going to dedicate to overhauling its entire business model. As its position as a propaganda system became more clear, Facebook felt more compelled to apologize to Wall Street for lackluster advertising earnings than to Main Street for subverting its own democracy.
As a first step in realizing its brave new universe, Facebook is trying to move in on commerce, starting with the long-awaited launch of Instagram Payments and P2P trades in Facebook Marketplace. I have long thought that commerce would be Facebook's endgame for one basic reason: total addressable market. In the next ten years, more than $1 billion of products will be purchased online in the United States alone. Even the most bullish projections of digital advertising set the marketplace in a fraction of the number.
As a pure commerce play, pretty much everything about Facebook's current product is working . In the end, a business must choose whether to be a really good platform for a excellent platform for retailers. When platforms like Pinterest and Instagram sell ads, they guarantee users won't find a competitive advertisement. From a shopper's standpoint, this is completely absurd.
If Facebook really is pivoting to revenue flows which don't rely upon personally identifiable information, the company must lose the fallacy that there's a group of win-win decisions that can address existential concerns. To genuinely commit to trade is to ditch the ad-based company model.
I think what we're going, this is, we are likely to build more resources for people to buy things directly through the system. ... It'll be valuable to them and therefore that'll translate into higher bids to your advertisements and that will be how we see it.
Translation: While we may truly devote to trade at some point, our main goal for now is to encourage individuals to buy things to show advertisers how precious we are.
All of this suggests a remarkable callousness toward the real people whose lives are changed. ... The programs are perfect -- it's us pesky people which don't get it.
The only company who has successfully walked this tightrope is Amazon, and at a heavy cost to consumer experience. Now if you run a search on Amazon for white jeans, your first two results are to get sponsored blue jeans and khakis. This competitive insertion of advertising makes Earth's most customer-centric business almost unusable at times. But it took Amazon 15 decades of refining e-commerce logistics and buying customer goodwill (and monopoly power) before it got the right to sell advertisements. Goodwill is not something that Facebook has in reserve.
AsI write this column, measles -- a disorder that mankind Facebook social network completely eradicated in 2000 -- has launched its U.S. reunion tour. The tide of anti-vaccination propaganda onto his stage that made a lot of this possible must strike close to home.
Imagine if he's realized he has built something he does not have any expectation of controlling? In the span of one year, Facebook took down over 2.8 billion bogus accounts, and to the general public, it feels as though it hardly made a dent. Imagine if conditions for the world's largest social experimentation have become shaky because the hypothesis Facebook is built on is fundamentally flawed?
Since Pinterest went people, it didn't have to answer questions about why consumers looking for crochet kits were becoming believers in chemtrails. Folks visit Pinterest to discover inspiration for tonight's dinner or tomorrow's DIY project. Connecting the entire world on a single, centralized platform is not. What honorable entity would want the kind of responsibility which accompanies policing the entire zeitgeist?
This was the main question running through my head as I saw Jack Dorsey, yet another beleaguered platform leader, discuss his vision to the future of Twitter in TED. Dorsey, seemingly with no time to alter after his collection playing rhythm guitar Paramore, spoke as if Twitter had turned into his Ultron, a beast borne of great intentions he could no more control. The irony of Dorsey and Zuckerberg -- just two of the most powerful men on the planet -- residing in purgatory at the mercy of the algorithms makes for the perfect 21st century Shakespearian tragedy. But the real tragedy is they're not trying to fight back.
To create Twitter functional again, Dorsey might need to spend the platform to the studs. Yet somehow, he still has time to be the CEO of another public company, take 10-day retreats, and rebrand eating disorders. Until Dorsey steps down from his post at Square, he is full of shit. Zuckerberg, in an effort to win the"hold my beer" world championship, took the stage at F8 and made a joke regarding solitude.
All this suggests a remarkable callousness toward the real people whose lives are influenced by the Leviathan. The platforms are perfect -- it is us pesky humans that don't get it. In the event the cretins could only get better at using technology, everything will work. It is this smug attitude more than any technological difficulty which all but ensures Facebook will never be mended.
Amid all of the turmoil, Facebook is still hiring like mad, with 2,900 open functions around the world at the time of this writing. In articles about how to build a winning team, thought leaders, expansion hackers, along with other Silicon Valley apologists still quote Sheryl Sandberg and Zuckerberg without a hint of irony. One of the favorite quips is Zuckerberg saying,"I'll only hire a person to work directly for me if I'd do the job for that person."
Congratulations, Mr. Putin, and advised to Facebook!