Facebook Privacy Update

May 24, 2010

In my May 15th blog entry, “Privacy, Facebook and the Future of Publishing,” I looked at the recent brouhaha (haven’t used that word in awhile) over Facebook’s info-grab from its “more than 400 million active users” (as Facebook crows on its depressing stats page). Today Facebook Inc.’s founder and chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, published an op-ed column in The Washington Post (whose chairman, Donald E. Graham, happens to be a member of Facebook’s board of directors) called “From Facebook, Answering Privacy Concerns with New Settings.” It’s his mea culpa. The core content of the short piece is:

The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.

We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you’ll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we’ll be eager to get your feedback.


Photo copyright Facebook, Inc.

The bell has sounded: end of round.

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Civil Comments

May 21, 2010

What are the two worst things about the comments sections in online news outlets for articles and (even worse) for blogs or other opinion pieces?


The first is that contentious topics draw so many comments that you would need a day or two to read them (assuming you would want to). The lead article on The Huffington Post tonight about the Senate finance reform bill has drawn 5,506 comments thus far (more than 500 added since I began this entry), accumulated over thirteen hours. I quickly calculated the average wordcount: about 13.5 words per entry. So there are over 74,000 words in the comments section, longer than many novels. (The article itself clocks in at under 900 words.)

There something very wrong here, and nothing, as far as I can see, that is at all useful.

But there’s an even worse flaw of many comment sections: the pointlessly nasty insult.

Canada’s mainstream Globe and Mail carried a story in yesterday’s edition headlined “Canada blasts Malawi over jailing of gay couple,” with a subtitle explaining why Canada would bother going after little Malawi: “Criticism comes days after Ottawa extended invitation to Malawi for G20 summit.” Got it.

Would you think this even worthy of comment? Four readers did, and inevitably one of them, with the pseudonym “Bromelia”, couldn’t miss the opportunity for YAGI (Yet Another Gay Insult) “Presumably, the men knew the laws and they were able to maintain a relationship as long as they didn’t flaunt it. When they did, they got the book thrown at them. Another histrionic gay martyrdom — yawn.”

Just as inevitably this triggered outrage from other readers. Here comes the nasty insults:

“StewNYT” wrote:

“Bromelia you are a monumentally pathetic and despicable person. Flaunt it? Are you that mentally challenged? A young couple tries to celebrate their commitment to each other and is jailed for over a decade and all you can do is yawn? You’re just an utter failure as a human being. Two adults in a consenting relationship should not be jailed for falling in love.

“How about I flaunt my fist in your face?”

…while “RestOfTheStory” chimed in with the illuminating remark “Bromelia — You are a pompous ass.”

This is not helpful. So kudos to Politics Daily for its upcoming manners enforcement policy:

Coming Soon
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we will soon be requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screennames. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around.

I’d say it’s none too soon.

Now we have to work on getting it through the mind of the average web reader that WE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK (unless you think deep original thoughts and can express them in clear language).

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Fridge Magnet Poetry Without the Appliance

May 20, 2010

Love fridge magnet poetry? No fridge? Problem solved.


Check it out.

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Newspaper Asks Readers to Stop Buying Print Edition

May 16, 2010

It’s Sunday, so a good day to keep blog entries light and fun. I should save serious for weekdays.

I bought the June 2010 issue of ConsumerReports the other day. The inside back cover has a regular offering called Selling It: Goofs, Glitches, Gotchas featuring humorous reader-submitted illustrations of products and promotions that perhaps never should have come to market. Here’s one I could identify with:


 According to the magazine: “Apparently, the Kansas City Star—a newspaper, after all—realized that the top envelope sent the wrong message. The bottom envelope, our reader said, arrived later.”

The overwrought headline for this post is inspired by David Carr’s Media Equation column in today’s New York Times. Titled “Taylor Momsen Did Not Write This Headline,” Carr offers a humorous analysis of how headline writing has radically changed from the days of print-only newspapers to today’s web. “Headlines in newspapers and magazines were once written with readers in mind, to be clever or catchy or evocative,” Carr writes. “Now headlines are just there to get the search engines to notice.”

Indeed Carr’s piece is already #1 in Google’s search results. (If like Carr and most of my readers you’re wondering who Taylor Momsen is check Carr’s article…or just Google her [that sounds slightly obscene].)

Carr concludes with a reminder of one of the great all-time headlines: “People who worry that Web headlines dumb down public discourse are probably right. But some of the classics would still work. Remember “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” perhaps the most memorable New York Post headline ever? It’s direct, it’s descriptive, and it’s oh-so-search-engine-friendly. And not a Taylor Momsen in sight.”

(If you enjoy funny headlines as much as I do, a Google search leads to some good sites.)

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Missed this gem by Canadian comedian Rick Moranis in Friday’s New York Times.