Categories
Pop Culture Technology

Facebook’s GIPHY Acquisition is Evil Genius

I’ve seen a decent amount of bewilderment as to why Facebook would spend $400, 000 on an acquisition of GIPHY.

Honestly, I find it surprising that so many people would be confused by this because truthfully, it’s a brilliant strategic move.

To understand why, one only needs to look at all the ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons that litter the web currently.

Even when you’re not using Facebook, every ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ button on the web uses browser cookies, IP addresses, and a host of other methods to track your behavior. These embedded pixels monitor almost your entire browsing experience and report it back to Facebook, who then uses it to profile you to better target ads at you.

But as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself has pointed out:

“I believe the future is private,”

https://www.wired.com/story/f8-zuckerberg-future-is-private/

This is remarkably prescient and brilliant positioning. Because from a PR perspective, it makes it seem like Facebook is moving towards caring about privacy, when that is not really what he means at all.

In the last few years, we have seen the rise of tools like Slack and Discord to communicate and organize. These are perceived as “private” communities to users. And they represent a challenge for Facebook because our behavior in them is cut off from their data mining.

For Zuckerberg, “the future is private” is a challenge the company faces, not a business opportunity. Facebook’s continued growth requires a way to peer into our private communities.

So how do you find a way to track things that go on inside those walled gardens?

Same way you would the web: Tracking pixels.

And who has a large market share of image files embedded in closed chat conversations and “private” communities?

GIPHY.

Categories
General Photography Technology Travels

Grid Meets Road – World Travel in the Digital Age

On the 19th of September I will embark on an adventure that will almost certainly change my life. I am heading overseas to Europe to travel full time until February of next year.

Along my way I will use digital devices and social media tools to explore and find what to do in each respective city. I will document my experience on this blog, Flickr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, FourSquare, GowallaTumblr & and maybe even YouTube. I will attempt to find places to say either with friends from these services or using sites like CouchSurfing and AirBnB.

The idea is to “crowd source” my adventure, asking for you, the reader, to supply me with input as to where to go, what to see etc.

My end goal will be not just to explore the world but to really test the limits of our global communications network, the so-called “global community”. Can we, “the internet”, actually supply what one person needs to know on such an adventure? How connected are we really through these services and how easy (or hard) is it to maintain the relationships with your loved ones while traveling full time?

I have also submit a panel to next year’s SXSW Interactive Festival and hope to be able to share the results of my trip with you there as well as eventually publish a book on the experience.

I will share more details about the trip as we get closer to leaving but for now I could use your help.

Please do me a favor and vote for my panel to be accepted to SXSW… the voting period ends tonight Friday the 2nd at midnight. You can do that here.

And if you’re so interested you can donate to my experiment as well here.

Anyone who donates me any money (doesn’t matter how much or little) will have their name on a slide at our SXSW presentation should it be accepted. Thanks!

Categories
Travels

Mercedes Benz is sending us on an adventure!

I wanted to say something sooner but I have been super busy and I wanted to give Len the spotlight first and space out our entries for maximum visibility.

As you may or may not have heard. My good friend Len Kendall and I have been chosen to participate in the first ever Mercedes Benz Tweet Race. What is this you may ask? Well basically the good folks at Mercedes Benz have chosen four teams of two to drive cars from different locations across the USA in a Twitter powered adventure. Our destination? Dallas, Texas just in time for a big sporting event that we may have a hookup to acquire tickets for.

The race takes place from Feb 2nd – Feb 4th and aside from just being a ton of fun, it’s got a lot of incentives and for a good cause. Our team is going to be “coached” by Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher and will be playing to win ourselves brand new 2012 Mercedes Benz C-class cars and money to go to “Swish’s Wishes,” a children’s charity that enriches lives and lifts the spirits of children with vital health issues, a cause I think we can all get behind. Lastly, if that isn’t enough there is a selfish incentive to help us! By joining our “team” on Facebook you are entered into a drawing to win a prize which could include a V.I.P. trip to the US Open, Mercedes Benz Fashion week or The PGA Championship. Pretty sweet right?

So what can you do to help? Well first off, join our “team” on Facebook here. That gets you entered to win all the cool prizes. Len and I have been assigned the Twitter hashtag #MBteamE. So from Feb 2nd – Feb 4th they are going to gauge how many people tweet for us using that tag, the more tweets, the more points we get. The more points, the better chance we have of winning.

So I decided to make this super easy for you my friends, I set up a Twtvite here. So all you need to do is login, RSVP and have it post a tweet for it. Ideally we want you to do that starting on the 2nd but if you want to help raise awareness now that would be awesome too.

Now you know me folks, I’m going to be having a blast with this. Expect plenty of adventures and photos right here and throughout the various social networks. I look forward to sharing it with all of you.

Lastly, what would a road trip be without awesome music right? Len and I are letting you choose the soundtrack! Pick out some awesome tunes and add them to our playlist and we’ll make sure to rock out to them on the road. If you let us know which are your tunes we’ll try to give you a shoutout of where we are when we hear them!

Categories
Photography Technology

‘nofollow’, I Don’t Follow

Example of nofollow on flickr

When Google announced it would support the “nofollow” HTML attribute back in 2005, I was pleased. Blog spam was (and still is) a major problem. The invention of “nofollow” took a lot of bite out of the usefulness of comments for spammers. It seemed like the right move at the time, and looking at it now; it still makes a lot of sense. I can’t imagine how bad things would be without it.

For the unfamiliar, “nofollow” is an attribute that can be assigned to links on websites. This attribute, when recognized by Google, causes the link to be ignored in Google’s index, thus preventing it from contributing to the sites “PageRank” score on Google. Therefore, in theory, leading to more relevant search results.

Here is my gripe, when Google announced this feature, it did so under the stated guise of “Preventing Comment Spam,” but it’s turned out to be abused. There are those who would argue that “nofollow” has become a tool that creates an unfair balance where higher trafficked sites don’t share traffic with lower-ranked ones. Now I’m not saying that “nofollow” should go away but that it should be used less. Why am I complaining? Because three of the sites I use most often implement “nofollow” in places that, while well-intentioned, work out as unfair. These sites?

TwitterFlickr and Facebook.

For starters, Facebook’s usage makes no sense. Facebook has several checks to prevent spammers from joining the service and multiple ways to report it when it happens. I am not saying they are perfect, but it has very much maintained a strong and effective walled garden. Considering that Facebook has pushed users to make more of their content public (while also having major issues with privacy), it is downright unfair that they will not allow a PageRank incentive for this.

At first glance, however, the inclusion of “nofollow” does seem logical for Flickr and Twitter. The ease of access to these sites makes them obvious targets for spammers. In the case of Twitter, a platform with a substantial spam problem, “nofollow” seems like a practical solution to de-incentivise spamming. At least in the short term.

Despite this reasoning, I still believe it to be the wrong solution.

Flickr is a publishing system, and some users use it as a blog with very long written posts to accompany their photography. Yet Flickr automatically attaches “nofollow” to any link posted anywhere on its site, even in the user’s written content.

With every photograph I post on my Flickr account, I include a link to a related blog entry whenever possible. These things directly relate and semantically should be linked. My analytics also clearly show this has been effective for increasing my readership. A significant portion of my traffic comes from these Flickr links. Yet, Google ignores them because of the “nofollow” attribute. The same with Twitter.

Doesn’t this go against the whole spirit of “nofollow”? In my opinion, it is lazy and unfair, especially as a Flickr Pro user. I’m paying for a service that is going out of its way to prevent me from getting PageRank from it. That’s a bunch of crap.

There is another way to look at this, though. One could argue that PageRank is doing the opposite of its intention and hurting Google’s relevance. The three biggest traffic sources to this site are Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr; these account for almost 50% of my traffic, however, Google’s mysterious PageRank algorithm ignores these sources, thus making it harder for my site to gain relevance in search results. Isn’t this leading to an inaccuracy in what’s “relevant?”

“nofollow” is used almost ubiquitously by any service that has an easy sign-up system. Therefore it is creating a tiered system on the web that takes away power from user-generated content and gives more strength to those who have a greater technical knowhow. There are many out there who will never understand how to set up a blogging platform such as WordPress or MovableType but can easily get a Twitter, Flickr, or Facebook account. Why should their voice matter less to PageRank? And on the flip-side, why should a major media outlet matter more? Isn’t this working against the democracy of the web?

How do we decide what is signal and what is noise? Surely just because something is easier to do doesn’t make it less relevant, does it? Can’t we come up with a better technological solution that empowers users not punishes them for their lack of tech-savvy?