Tyler Gold

this is where I collect things.

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Facebook's friend problem

Great editorial about why people are leaving Facebook, by Ellis Hamburger: 

When people say, “I hate Facebook,” what I think they’re really saying is, “I wish my real friends would post more stuff so my feed wasn’t full of randos.”

Strange coincidence that I wrote an essay about Facebook the day before Ellis published this. 

Also, this perfectly sums up why I post so often on Facebook:

I still share on Facebook because it’s the simplest way to reach all my friends and family in one fell swoop, despite the collateral damage I might be incurring by being seen as an over-sharer by some.

Why don’t people interact with Facebook posts as often as they used to?

On 8 April 2014, Twitter announced that profile pages would be getting a pretty massive makeover. Being a big fan of Twitter — I first joined in 2009 and have been tweeting regularly since 2011 — this is news that’s particularly relevant to my interests. I shared a link on Facebook to an article posted on The Verge about Twitter’s new profile changes. I was proud (for lack of a better word) of my caption for the Facebook post, a reference to a popular internet meme involving the rapper Xhibit

image


I’ve observed that I’m more prolific with my posts on Facebook than the majority of my friends are. If I find something that I think is relevant to my interests or my friends’ interests, I’ll often share a link. I’ve been doing this since high school, and recently, I’ve noticed several changes in the dynamic between my posts and the reaction to them. The particular post that I’m looking at here had seven “likes” and zero comments. I have 930 friends on Facebook, some of whom I’ve known since middle school — that doesn’t mean I still talk to them, though. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that they see my posts, and even more interesting that they “like” them, especially considering the fact that I haven’t spoken to these people in years. Eli Pariser speaks to this in his TED Talk “Beware online ‘filter bubbles.‘“It turns out, Pariser says, that “Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends’ links than on my conservative friends’ links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out.” Facebook decided that Pariser cared more about links and posts from friends who talk about a particular topic, despite the fact that he still wanted to see posts from his other friends regardless of their political beliefs. One reason I believe these people “liked” my post — three of whom I haven’t spoken to in over three years — is that they follow pages that post content similar to the (usually tech related) topics that I do. My post could have been pushed to their feeds because their Facebook “filter bubbles” overlapped with mine.

As Facebook has evolved and grown to play an increasingly vital role in our daily communication habits, the way that my generation views and uses the social network has changed. Posts that get “likes” or comments are highly visible thanks to the way that Facebook’s news feed algorithms work: the more interactions a post has, the longer it will stay in the news feed and the more people it will be displayed to. I believe that, in some situations, this has lead to people straying away from liking posts — any interaction on Facebook is highly public. Facebook increasingly reminds me of a one-way mirror where the person sharing the information can only see their reflection. There could be one or 100 people on the other side of that mirror, but you’ll never know unless they “like” or comment. When someone does interact with a post, it’s like they’re coming out from behind the mirrored glass. danah boyd speaks to this in her “Networked Privacy” essay. Because there is no “preference panel” for social situations, taking control of a public social interaction like a Facebook post is more difficult than taking control over a technological situation, boyd writes:

It’s not about being able to manipulate privacy settings on Facebook or limit who can see what piece of content. That would be what Alessandro Acquisti calls “the illusion of control.” Control over a social situation means having a deep understanding of the social situation — who’s looking and why — as well as an understanding of what the norms and boundaries are. In public spaces, it can be challenging to get such control by default so people try to carve out a way of achieving control. They whisper to create privacy in public. Or they try to do things that can’t be seen, like passing a note under the table. But all of this requires understanding the affordances of the space and carving out a space for privacy.

This makes people more picky with what posts they like. On several occasions (enough for me to write about it in an academic paper) I’ve had people mention to me something that I posted to Facebook or Twitter in offline interactions rather than interacting with the post online. This is exactly like what boyd says: people are trying to take control of their sense of privacy by only mentioning that they saw my post in a private, more controllable, face-to-face situation.

I’ve noticed that since the rise of in-the-moment social networks like Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat, people have strayed away from Facebook, which is more permanent and memorable. Even though everyone is constantly checking it, posting to Facebook has practically become taboo to some people I know. I think this is because of a combination of the reasons that boyd and Pariser talk about: Facebook is a highly public forum. Maybe my caption just sucked (I doubt that all 930 of my Facebook friends are familiar with that Xhibit meme), but even if that’s the case, this is still a topic that’s highly relevant to anyone who uses Twitter — this is a major redesign of how Twitter profiles look. I think that several more people read my post and clicked the link than just the seven who “liked” it.

As the networks we use to connect change and evolve, the ways that we use them will too. This is probably why my Facebook posts would regularly get 20 or 30 likes when I was in high school, but now they only tend to average around five to ten — even though I’ve added over 300 friends since then. If anything, Snapchat has emerged as a more preferable way to share things — it takes the opposite approach to the mirrored window metaphor I made earlier. The person sending the snap is the only one who knows the all the recipients, while on Facebook, the person creating a post is blindly blasting it out to everyone. As social networks and the way we use them to interact progresses, I think that we’ll see more of this type of sharing: more ephemeral, intimate, and catering more to the sender than the receiver.

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This essay was originally written for my Structure of Information class during the Spring 2014 semester at Rutgers University. There are a few edits here (this version is a little more colloquial) but this is more or less the same essay that I submitted for class. Hope you enjoyed it!

  • "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness."

Rutgers alumnus develops RU Maps, NJ Rails transit apps

This week’s #TechTuesday for The Daily Targum, brought to you by @NisFrome

While working as a full-time database engineer in Pennsylvania, [Rutgers alumnus] Mark Novak spent his nights and weekends teaching himself mobile app development for iOS.

“Instead of students having to ask strangers for directions constantly, I figured I’d make a mobile app,” Novak said.

some very quick thoughts on Facebook Paper

Facebook Paper was released today. I’ve been using the app all day, and I like it. It’s clearly inspired by the iOS 7 design language but adds its own unique style.

The name bothers me, though. Why did Facebook choose to name the app Paper when Paper by FiftyThree is one of the best iPad apps out there — and has been out there for years? Despite the obvious error on Facebook’s part, the CEO of FiftyThree politely handled the matter in a blog post: “We think Facebook can apply the same degree of thought they put into the app into building a brand name of their own. An app about stories shouldn’t start with someone else’s story.”

I’m not sure if I’ll end up using Paper as a way to read news (instead of just checking Twitter), but I agree with Ellis Hamburger’s review: this is definitely the best Facebook app ever.

Students give advice on landing internships

Last week’s tech column for The Daily Targum, written by Nis Frome and I about the nuances of landing an internship at a tech startup.

The internship application process is often complicated, grueling, and even when you do get the job, it probably won’t be easy. We interviewed some students who’ve had luck with internships in the past to figure out their success secrets — and their warnings on how to avoid failure. 

“Don’t make a ship in a bottle”

Carl Zimmer, NYT columnist, on how to report and write well.

It took me a long time to learn that all that research is indeed necessary, but only to enable you to figure out the story you want to tell. That story will be a shadow of reality—a low-dimensional representation of it. But it will make sense in the format of a story. It’s hard to take this step, largely because you look at the heap of information you’ve gathered and absorbed, and you can’t bear to abandon any of it. But that’s not being a good writer. That’s being selfish. I wish someone had told me to just let go.

via Tim Carmody

Money Is a Terrible Way to Measure the Value of a College Major

This is a refreshing take on how to pick a college major. Really love this part right here: 

One reason English majors tend to earn less than business majors, for instance, is that many lit-loving 18 year olds  aren’t particularly motivated by money, and want careers in, say, PR or journalism (or even teaching!) that are short on pay, but meet their interests. Saying business majors earn more only because of what they studied is like saying having lots of Nike running shoes in your closet makes you a faster runner. No. People who care about their mile times and love to run are more likely to have more running shoes, in the first place. Business majors tend to be more salary-focused than poetry majors. It’s a classic self-selection bias.

 oh man this is so great. Taylor Swift attacked at Grammy’s. 

via reddit

Fanboys

Awesome feature story from The Verge, about fanboys. Really like this bit: 

The sports analogy, too, applies. Because fanboys pick a team and fight for it, obviously, but also because they derive intellectual satisfaction from their endeavors, much the same way sports fans do. Both memorize arcane stats, banter, and engage in endless analysis, all of which can seem totally boring to an outsider, but couldn’t be more compelling to the fan.

“I think that gadgets, like sports, allow us to work out some of our natural passions in an arena where there is much lower stakes,” says Freddie deBoer, a blogger who says one of his favorite things to do is argue about phones. “It’s tribalism where nobody dies.”

easter egg: try looking at this story from an iPhone and from an Android ;)

Some quick photos I took of the ChefJet and the candy it printed at CES 2014.

Eating delicious 3D candy printed by a ChefJet

This was definitely my favorite of the three articles I wrote at CES. 

ChefJet and ChefJet Pro are 3D printers that print real, edible, delicious candies of varying shapes and sizes — 3D Systems says they’re the world’s first 3D food printers.

Yeah, the world’s first 3D food printer. The candy tasted pretty good to me — I thought they had a similar feel and texture to the marshmallows you find in Lucky Charms cereal. This is a good thing. 

A 3D Systems representative said the ChefJet Pro is even capable of printing out bride and groom models with detailed faces and clothing, like those you see on the top of a traditional wedding cake, but customizable to a face or outfit of your choice. Speaking of cake, there were several of them on display — the lattices (printed by both models of the ChefJet) were even sturdy enough to act as a base for one cake was that was several feet tall and had two levels of 3D printed support.

Sprint launches new 'Framily' plans that let you and your friends team up to save money on your bill

Another Verge story I wrote about about something with a weird name. 

[The] new option will be called a ‘Framily’ plan — no, that’s not a typo — and it lets you share an account ID with up to ten of your friends (get it?) who are also on Sprint, while still being billed separately. The plans will start at $55 per month.

Each line added to the account cuts $5 off, all the way down to $25 a month, provided you can find seven or more willing friends who are also on Sprint.

This was the first time I’ve ever broken a news story — Dan Siefert later reported that the news was confirmed by Sprint CEO Dan Hesse during an investor conference. 

Fugoo's modular Bluetooth speakers go from stylish to indestructible just by swapping cases

The first article that I wrote at CES 2014. 

Fugoo’s speakers set themselves apart with a two-part design made of an inner “core” — the actual speaker — with a swappable, durable outer “jacket” to protect it. For now, there are three different jackets. 

The $199 Style is the slimmest, lightest, and best-looking of the three, but also offers the least protection against drops. The $229 Sport offers more protection than the Style while still maintaining a slim form and comes with a wireless smart remote, and the $229 Tough is fittingly tank-like — Fugoo calls it “virtually indestructible.”

I got to try out the speaker at Fugoo’s booth at Pepcom. Awkward name aside, the speaker felt really solid and sounded surprisingly good even in the loud ballroom we were in. I think the interchangeable jackets are a great idea too. 

twenty fourteen

I’m not really a fan of New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t like the concept of resolutions — quite the contrary — it’s more that I don’t like the idea that it’s necessary to wait until a new year to make them.

Ironically enough, things worked out so that right around when I felt it was time to make some resolutions for myself was also right around the end of 2013. Admittedly, I’m glad this happened — new year, new slate, nice and easy.

I’m tired of looking at life the way I used to. It’s time to start getting shit done again, and I can’t wait. This blog will be part of that new philosophy, hopefully. I’ve resolved to start blogging/writing more times than I’d care to admit, but this time I really think I mean it.

So yeah, that means one of my resolutions this year is to do as much writing as possible. Another one is to read more. This place is going to be home to my thoughts on both of those topics. Everything I write in 2014 will be collected on this blog in some way or form that I’ll figure out as I go along (with papers and essays for school occasionally being exceptions). I’ll also link to writing by other people that I enjoy, take offense to, find enlightening or stupid, etc. But since this is tumblr, I’ll use it as a tumblog too, posting and reblogging stuff that I like. More than anything, I want to just have a place where I can share my thoughts in a longer (and less-public) fashion than Twitter or Facebook.

This tumblr’s url is “teconoces.tumblr.com.” The name actually wasn’t my idea — I stole it from a good friend (I don’t even think he knows I have the tumblr url. hi tom). But the meaning behind the name is something that strongly resonates with me. “Te conoces” is Spanish for “know yourself.” That’s what I want this blog to help me do — know myself.

To be honest, I’m afraid. I don’t know if I’m going to be able to follow through with this project. I don’t know if other people will like it, hate it, or just ignore it. But I do know that I need a project. I need something to devote my time and energy to, and a blog seems like the perfect thing. So here’s to the start of not just a new part of me, but a new year and a new outlook. I’m excited to get started.