Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Why I don’t use Facebook, Part the Eleventieth

I need to put down all the reasons I don’t use Facebook at some point (Note to self: William Gibson’s view that Facebook is like a mall is a good one), but here’s a new one:

There was a dustup when a former Facebook employee said that the people running the ‘Trending News’ feature omitted conservative sources like The Daily Caller and Breitbart. Naturally, wingnuts had a hissy fit. Also naturally, Facebook reacted by catering to the mouthbreathing, conspiracy-mongering right and announcing “sweeping changes”. Short story, they’re going to make it a point to include the fever swamp of conservative “news” media.

This is pretty much exactly what happened to CNN at the turn of the century, when dullard Walter Issacson took the reins and announced he was going to do something about Republican cries of CNN’s liberal bias. He skipped off to DC and met with right wing senators, promising to give them equal treatment in coverage, which of course meant that CNN was sure to tell “both sides” – no matter how dumb, lunatic or fact-free the conservative story was.

I guess Anodyne Mark Zuckerberg has a little bit of an excuse – he was actually hauled in by Republican senators. Nevermind that FOX News has never been called to the Senate to explain its bias, or that conservative views happily thrive on Facebook (There’s no shortage of wingnut Facebook posts or pages. Everyone’s no more than a couple of degrees from a racist, white supremacist or conspiracy theorist in Facebook). To the right wing, this is just another example of LIBERAL BIAS! and all they want is THE TRUTH!

So naturally, Facebook will overcorrect. They’ll hire some Breitbart/Daily Caller types to “balance” the news section with stories about climate change hoaxes and Clenis fantasties. It doesn’t matter whether or not there’s any truth in the reporting, they’re just letting both sides express their views amirite?

Fuck Facebook.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

AdChoices

adchoices logo

You probably have come across little triangle-shaped icons tucked in the corner of banner ads and, like 95% of people, have no idea what it’s for. Hell, I work in advertising and if I didn’t look it up I wouldn’t know.

It’s the icon for AdChoices, a program run by ad trade groups to allow people to opt out of personalized banner ad placements. Click on it, and the ads fed to your browser aren’t based on whatever tracking info Google, Yahoo and et al. have on you.

That doesn’t mean they’ll stop tracking you – only that the ads you see won’t be customized. Which raises the question: What’s the point? From a consumer standpoint, it’s hard to think of any significant reason to do so. You’re going to be tracked regardless. And as an ad creative, those little icons – with little thought apparently given to where the icon is (sometimes left, sometimes right) – are just ugly, pointless warts. Why does AdWords even exist?

The answer? Illusion. The consumer gets the illusion of control, and big advertisers get to present the illusion that they’re doing something. After all, AdChoices was created as the reponse to the FTC ‘suggesting’ that the industry start self-regulating, which means ‘do something that looks like you’re doing something, but don’t really do anything’.

But we are talking about advertising, so the fact that this is all based on pretending actually makes perfect sense.

Monday, 9 May 2016

SFGate Sucks: The stupidity of algorithms

One of the ways SFGate sucks is its dependence on SEO and automation. (I’m being awful generous here by assuming it’s not an incredibly dumb human making the decisions.) Friday’s edition had a beautiful example:

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This poor schmuck is a high school senior who let the tip of his wiener peek out of his pants in the football team’s yearbook picture. You really have to look to see it (which doesn’t say much for his gear). When school officials found out, the cops arrested him and charged him with an assortment of felonies. They eventually dropped them–whether this was a case of trying to scare him or Maricopa County asshole cops being Maricopa County asshole cops is unknown, but it’s a safe bet it was the latter.

So, dumb kid does dumb thing. That’s the story. What sort of stories does SFGate think are related?

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SFGate thinks actual sexual assault and exploitation of children, a convicted child murderer and political blooper are all equivalent to a stupid high school prank.

Rape, murder, accidental elbows and a 17 year old doing the stupid things 17 year olds do are all related. That’s one seriously twisted conspiracy.

SFGate sucks.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Joe Paterknew

Five years after Jerry Sandusky was indicted on child molestation charges and four years after Joe Paterno’s death, a court opinion states that Paterno knew about Sandusky’s activities as early as 1976. Naturally, die hard Penn State fans are looking for ways to dismiss it.

To be fair, if forum comments are any guide, some ‘Joe Pa’ fans are seeing the light.  But for the most part the excuses remain the same: Paterno reported it to superiors and shouldn’t be expected to do more; and this is just a money grab by victims. The first one is ridiculous on its face–this isn’t about somebody illegally parking in a handicapped zone, this is about child abuse–and the second one is a dumb, reflexive argument.

Some Internet Geniuses are saying that the victim just wanted money. As pathetic as this line of thinking was five years ago, it still was logically possible. But this new revelation has appeared in a world where Sandusky has been tried and convicted. We know for a fact that he molested children. Claiming that the victim was just out for the money means that you have to believe a convicted child molestor only sexually assaulted children during the past 20 years.

Insane.

On a certain level, I can sympathize with Penn State fans. It’s not easy to accept that somebody who you’ve invested a lot of moral authority in participated in covering for a child molestor. I can only hope that a) I’m never faced with the same dilemma, and b) If I am, my personal ethics would be my guide and I wouldn’t come up with vapid arguments to cocoon my fanhood in.

Joe Paterknew for 40 years.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Space Jam 2: Twice The Nope

Word is that a sequel to 1996’s Space Jam is becoming more likely, with Justin Lin directing what would be a LeBron James vehicle (Somewhere Kobe is banging his head on a wall).

I’m too old to have any nostalgia for the original, and nostalgia is what’s driving this. I think I might have seen it–or part of it–a long time ago, but was completely unentertained. My bias aside, I wonder if the environment dooms this from the beginning.

The original was made because of a Nike commercial that paired Jordan with Bugs Bunny. It’s important to understand the culture at the time: Nike commercials were all the rage. It wouldn’t be an overstatement that the work by Wieden and Kennedy (mostly by Jim Riswold) made it possible for professional athletes to become cultural superstars. You didn’t have to like sports, or Jordan in particular for that matter, to enjoy Nike commercials. It was because of them that pro athletes were soon being snatched up by marketers to a greater degree than ever before. And outside of games and press conferences, commercials were the only access to them.

That’s not the case today. The big budget Nike commercials and their cultural significance are gone. Pro athletes are (arguably) overexposed, with everyone on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. And as great as LeBron is, he’s still not Jordan. As much as he played the pitchman, MJ’s dominance of the sport was at an all-time high. LeBron’s Cavs are good, but they’re not 2016’s version of the 90s Bulls–that would probably be the Golden State Warriors. I think there’s an argument that the cultural landscape, even adding in the nostalgia factor, is one that will make a sequel successful.

And then there’s Lin. His breakthrough movie, Better Luck Tommorrow, was great. He took the reins of the Fast and Furious franchise and turned it into must-see movies. But then he was handed control of the second season of HBO’s True Detective series, and the results were…meh. It wasn’t all his fault, it’s not like the storyline and scripts were anywhere near as good as the first season, but his results didn’t meet the challenge of following the first season.

His wheelhouse (pun!) is the action-oriented flick, which is why his upcoming takes on Star Trek and Bourne will probably be good and make a ton of money. A children’s movie with animated characters is not the kind of thing he does. But Hollywood is addicted to recycling ideas, and when a marketing goldmine like James is attached, this is a lock to be made.

It’ll suck, I might watch part of it by accident, and in another 20 years we can all look forward to Space Jam 3.