Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

“Facebook urgently needs to address the impact that its algorithm changes are having on nonprofits, NGOs, civil society, and political activists—especially those in developing countries, who are never going to be able to “pay to play” and for whom Facebook is one of the few really effective ways to get a message out to a wide audience without government control or censorship.”

Source: Facebook Is Throttling Nonprofits and Activists

I’d urge nonprofits (like our own Hunger Initiative) and activists to seek out means of distributing and organizing online communications that aren’t reliant on social networking silos.

Of course, it’s easy to point to Facebook with its 2 billion users or Twitter with its ~400 million users and say that’s where people are in 2016. However, nothing is to stop groups from developing their own sites / forums / online presences (even on limited funds in places of civil unrest or poor network connections) and piping content into the silos that are at the behest of corporate interests (as in the case of Twitter’s apparent decision to pursue algorithmic feeds).

Indie is the way to go, especially if you want to authentically share your own gospels:

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So long and thanks for all the fish, Twitter.

“Say hello to a brand new Twitter. The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned. The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order.”

Source: Twitter To Introduce Algorithmic Timeline As Soon As Next Week – BuzzFeed News

Welp, there goes Twitter.

Sigh.

Ugh.

Damn.

Evidently, there’s talk of an opt-out, but we’ll see.

Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter (or Love Letters to My Kids)

“The map above shows the locations of the 8 Wizarding schools that have been revealed so far, that exist in the Harry Potter universe.”

Source: Wizarding School Locations from Harry Potter – Brilliant Maps

I’ve always loved maps and map-making. As a kid, I filled notebooks with imaginary island countries or continents (and their cities) on alien planets. My favorite cartoon was Tailspin because of that fantastic rock formation that ringed their island. Many of the framed pictures in my office (and our home) are maps or geography related now.

My favorite class in high school was my 9th Grade Geography class. I rocked that class and I’d quit my job today and go get a degree in Geography or Cartography if I had any real guts (follow your passions, kids). Maps are time machines. They take accumulated knowledge and transport ideas into the future. They are magical and products of our best hopes (or deepest sins).

Brilliant Maps is one of my favorite sites on the web, and I highly recommend / warn you view it (serious rat hole timesuck if you’re being “productive”).

I try hard to let my daughters and my son develop their own interests and not over-influence their choices in life (well, besides Star Wars but that’s a given). I see my 8 year old constantly observing me and picking up my copies of X-Men trade paperbacks that I “casually” leave on our coffee table after reading, and my 5 year old asking what show I want to watch on Netflix. I see my newborn son tracking me with his eyes and watching my hands fly across my clickety clackety keyboard (as MH calls it) while he fights a nap as he lays on his playmat and I sneak in some work at my desk. It’s inevitable we heavily influence our kids’ choices, of course. I just don’t want to ever be that parent reliving my glory days on the baseball or golf team through them. I want them to discover agency and identity in a positive way that feels so hard to create in our over-protective-surveillance-bubble-wrapped-life that we’ve created with our mobile phones and low attention spans. Don’t get me started on GPS devices.

One of the things I secretly hope all three of them really come to discover, value, and have a life-long obsession over are maps and geography.

So, if you’re reading this MH, LC or Jr in some future time (I wonder what device my kids could possibly be reading this text on in, say, 50 years… I bet it’s some sort of a neural network link where you can dip into the stream of history and experience any recent time / place / event virtually as if you were there… possibly even talk to a person who is “dead” but very much alive in the digital universe… weird… and yes, I have a “digital death plan” in place to have this site and many other things I manage keep going in the unfortunate (?) event I kick the bucket unexpectedly) after I’ve recycled my atoms back to the universe, I hope you like maps as much as I do. You’ll find some of my favorite books on the “maps” shelf on one of our bookcases and there are some hidden surprises in there for y’all.

Otherwise, if you read this and I’m still a breathing entity…stay away from my books and go get your own from the library.

Blogging

“I keep remembering that, between Google Reader and its limits (items must have titles), and Twitter with its limits (only 140 chars, no titles, one link, no styling), same with Facebook (no links or styling) that my online writing has diminished dramatically, conforming to the contradictory limits of each of these systems.

I keep working on this, still am. Every day.”

Source: Blogging like it’s 1999 | Dave Winer

“I’m a blackstar, not a rock star.”

“Music is the binding agent of our mundane lives. It cements the moments in which we wash the dishes, type the resumes, go to the funerals, have the babies. The stronger the agent, the tougher the memory, and Bowie was NASA-grade epoxy to a sprawling span of freaked-out kids over three generations. He bonded us to our weird selves. We can be us. He said. Just for one day.”

Source: Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute, by Jherek Bischoff and Amanda Palmer

David Bowie’s track Blackstar off of his same-titled album is my favorite song (AND VIDEO… yowzers) at the moment.

I’ve followed Amanda Palmer for years and have been to a few of her shows. She’s not my favorite marketer, but her cover of Blackstar is goosebump raising. As is her work on Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes, Heroes etc…

Great work from an artist who “gets it” and isn’t afraid to be herself, which is something we could all learn from her.

Thanks to Elisabeth for turning me on to this.

Cortical Origami

“It turns out that the huge explosion in the number of brain cells in the brain’s outer layer, called the cortex, forces that layer to swell and then collapse in on itself to form those characteristic creases. This cortical origami—which has also evolved in a handful of other brainy species, such as dolphins and some primates—may be nature’s way of solving the tight packing problem.”

Source: Human Brain’s Bizarre Folding Pattern Re-Created in a Vat – Scientific American

I’m saying blogging is better.

Amen (emphasis mine):

“With social media, be it Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram, I’m always aware of the audience. I have a general idea of who is following or friending or, most especially, favoriting. And so I’m tempted to write for that audience. Its not so much that I write for the likes —though they have their intoxicating qualities. Its that I start to write based on who I perceive that audience is. I start to mutter about what I think they will be interested in, rather than what I’m interested in.

There is an anonymity of audience when it comes to blogging. It’s like being on stage with the spotlights blinding you from anything beyond the first few rows. You’re up there putting it out there. Those friendly and familiar faces in the front row can be encouraging, for sure, but who knows who, if anyone, is in the rows beyond.”

Source: I’m Not Saying Blogging is Better – by John Chandler

Why does South Carolina remain one of 4 states without equal-pay laws?

Disgusting that we need to have such protections. Even more disgusting that our white, male, heterosexual lawmakers refuse to believe this is worth their approval at the behest of the fears of leadership and / or disappointing their chamber of commerce donors…

“Seven years after President Barack Obama signed legislation that makes it easier for women to challenge discriminatory pay in court, South Carolina remains one of only four states in the country without equal pay protections.”

Source: Why does South Carolina remain one of 4 states without equal-pay laws? | McClatchy DC

“Heroes”

“‘Mic number one was a valve U47, and with the other two on gates I made sure that number two, an 87 placed about 15 feet away from him, would go on at a certain level, while the third mic, another 87 that was all the way at the other end of the room, didn’t open up until he really sang loud. That reverb on his voice is therefore the room itself, none of it is artificial, and it’s his voice triggering the gates. What is really great is that the sound of the opening two verses is really intimate. It doesn’t sound like a big room yet, it sounds like somebody just singing about a foot away from your ear. The whole idea worked, and what you hear on the record is probably take three. We wouldn’t go beyond that. He was really worked up by then and I can tell you he was feeling it. It was quite an emotional song for him to sing, he deliberated long and hard over these lyrics, and he was ready to go, there was no holding him back'”

Source: CLASSIC TRACKS: Heroes

This Isn’t What Jesus Had In Mind, Guys

“Chelsea and her husband Clint, who asked that I use only their first names, belong to a small subculture of religious couples who practice “Christian Domestic Discipline,” a lifestyle that calls for a wife to be completely submissive to her husband. Referred to as CDD by its followers, the practice often includes spanking and other types corporal punishments administered by husbands—and ostensibly ordained by God. While the private nature of the discipline makes it difficult to estimate the number of adherents, activity in several online forums suggests a figure in the low thousands. Devotees call CDD an alternative lifestyle and enthusiastically sing its praises; for critics, it’s nothing but domestic abuse by another name.”

Source: Spanking for Jesus: Inside the Unholy World of ‘Christian Domestic Discipline’ – The Daily Beast

Gross.

Don’t Buy Into the Myth of Human Progress

Integral calculus, like theology, are areas we imagine we have forward progress as humans… not always the case.

“What is perhaps more surprising is the sophistication with which they tracked the planet, judging from inscriptions on a small clay tablet dating to between 350 B.C. and 50 B.C. The tablet, a couple of inches wide and a couple of inches tall, reveals that the Babylonian astronomers employed a sort of precalculus in describing Jupiter’s motion across the night sky relative to the distant background stars. Until now, credit for this kind of mathematical technique had gone to Europeans who lived some 15 centuries later.”

Source: Signs of Modern Astronomy Seen in Ancient Babylon – The New York Times

 

Facebook’s New Reactions Are Going to Be Interesting to Watch

“Changing the button is like Coca-Cola messing with its secret recipe. Cox had tried to battle the like button a few times before, but no idea was good enough to qualify for public testing. “This was a feature that was right in the heart of the way you use Facebook, so it needed to be executed really well in order to not detract and clutter up the experience,” he says. “All of the other attempts had failed.” The obvious alternative, a “dislike” button, had been rejected on the grounds that it would sow too much negativity.”

Source: Inside Facebook’s Decision to Blow Up the Like Button

This is a huge change for the network, and will elicit a number of (fascinating) response types from love to hate judging from previous changes Facebook has made to its privacy policies and Newsfeed over the years… it’ll sort itself out after a few months but expect to see and hear lots in the media about this change!

Similarly, there was a loud outcry when Twitter switched from “stars” to “hearts” to symbolize “favoriting” tweets on its network back in November. Even the ease of “liking” something on Instagram has been a major cause of its success (especially with younger demographics).

So, social feedback on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram can be seen as a major component of why people use them to post personal thoughts, pictures, or updates. Skinner boxes are alive and well, so we’ll see how Facebook handles the transition in the coming months.

Seriously, go listen to the first few minutes of this This American Life episode if you’re a doubter.

#OMGPRETTY

YouTube Donation Cards for Nonprofits

We recently began rolling out donation cards to US creators, which let your subscribers and viewers donate directly from your videos. Just add a donation card, pick a nonprofit, and start doing good. You can choose any United States, IRS-validated 501(c)3 public nonprofit organization and they receive 100% of the money donated. We’re excited to take this first step and look forward to expanding into other countries so creators across the world can power nonprofits they care about.

Source: YouTube Creator Blog: Transform a view into a donation

I could see this being a nice secondary stream of donations for nonprofits and churches in 2016…

“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics…”

 

“Art is not like science, it’s not like mathematics… it doesn’t improve. The work that was done in 2000 B.C. is as relevant as art today. And that’s the fascinating thing about art. That’s a conundrum. There is no new invention…This work is valid.”

Early Bronze Age (Iran or Mesopotamia). Head of a ruler, ca. 2300–2000 B.C. Copper alloy. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1947

Source: Dorothea Rockburne on an ancient Near Eastern head of a ruler | The Artist Project | The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Beautiful.

Peak iPhone

Too Many iPhones

From earlier today before Apple’s Q1 Earnings call:

“When CEO Tim Cook reports Tuesday on Apple’s sales for the last three months of 2015, investors will be watching closely for any hints about how Apple’s signature smartphone is faring in the current quarter. Sales usually fall somewhat after the holiday shopping season. But analysts say it appears Apple has cut production orders from key suppliers in recent weeks, suggesting it’s lowered its own forecasts.”

Source: Is Apple Reaching Peak iPhone? | CBS

And from just now after the earnings call regarding the upcoming Q2 2016:

… The company expects to report between $50 and $53 billion in revenue. That would put it below the $58 billion it reported in Q2 2015 and would mark the first year over year decline in revenue for the company in years.The slight decrease can likely be attributed to falling iPhone sales, which have been predicted for some time now. In Q1, Apple reported sales of 74.7 million iPhones, which is just barely better than the 74.5 million it did in the same quarter last year. Apple did not say how many it expects to sell in Q2, but analysts have predicted declines as high as 25 percent.

Source: Have we reached peak iPhone? It’s complicated | The Verge

Apple sold an average of 34,000 phones per hour for 13 consecutive weeks. That’s incredible, but unsustainable, growth. If anything, Wall Street loves growth. With China’s economy on a rapid downturn and the U.S. economy weak due to a number of variables that could lead us into a potentially havoc Spring, Summer, and Fall, Apple is wisely hedging its bets on production. That’s especially wise since carrier subsidies for new devices are now non-existent in the U.S. and each new iteration of the iPhone undergoes a “meh, it’s not that different from my old one” period with potential upgrading users.

If nothing else, we’ve learned today that the media loves using the term “Peak iPhone” (give the term a google if you’d like to see).

The Loss of Solitary Exploration

“This experimental feature helps voters make more informed choices, and levels the playing field for candidates to share ideas and positions on issues they may not have had a chance to address during the debate. By publishing long-form text, photos and videos throughout the debate, campaigns can now give extended responses, answer questions they didn’t get a chance to on stage, and rebut their opponents. As soon as the first debate begins at 7 p.m. ET on Thursday, search “Fox News debate” to find campaign responses.”

Source: Official Google Blog: New ways to stay informed about presidential politics

Wait, you mean the debates are scripted?

But seriously, this is interesting… as I’ve been watching the X Files revival this week (also on Fox™), I’ve been thinking more intentionally about the how’s and why’s we consume media in 2016 compared to, say, twenty years ago in 1996 when I was a nerdy teenager madly in love with the show. The X Files were something that I watched, recorded, and watched again most every week in order to parse out a new piece of the show’s ongoing mythology. It was a solitary, but incredibly beneficial, experience. I did the same with Beatles lyrics and Herman Hesse novels around the same time.

However, with this new iteration of the X Files, I’ve noticed that I’m watching my iPad as much as I’m watching the show. The #xfiles stream on Twitter has been an integral part of my viewing of the show. I only realized how much last night as I was watching the stream and realized that I had missed a key plot point that was subtle (I probably would’ve missed it if I had been watching the show intently rather than partitioning my attention, but still…) but was important. A tweet clued me in and I immediately “got it.” Would I have had that experience had I not been following the conversation on Twitter? Maybe. Hopefully in a second or third viewing I would. But I find myself not watching or reading things a second or third time these days because OMG JESSICA JONES is on Netflix and I have to catch up before diving into Making a Murderer before the next season of House of Cards!

Following the X Files last night was the last Democratic Presidential Debate before the Iowa Caucus next week. Again, I spent as much (if not more) time arguing with my friend Thomas Whitley about the merits of Bernie Sanders on Twitter as I did actually watching the debate. I’ve been watching presidential debates since … well, about 1996 when Clinton was at his high point and masterfully debated against a credible threat from Bob Dole. Throughout college and graduate school, I loved watching debates and can remember highlights from ’00 and ’04 as if they were fresh memories. Will I remember the ’16 debates (as remarkable as they are given the current political climate) as fondly or well? I’m not sure. I certainly don’t remember much about the ’12 debates when I was also using Twitter as a side show to further my “engagement with the conversation,” but there are also the variables of age and my diminished attention span to consider.

Perhaps that’s the fulcrum of whatever point I’m trying to make… as we grow older (I’m 37 now), do we intentionally seek out these side reels in order to persuade our minds that things like the X Files or a sporting event or a presidential debate are *really* important? Or do we seek these out as ways to validate our own confirmation bias about a particular football team or candidate (or mythology)?

I’ve noticed that when I read books on my Kindle, I frequently come across highlights that other Kindle users have made. It’s a neat feature for readers, as you get clued into what other readers have considered important or highlight-worthy in the same book you’re reading. It’s a feature that can be turned off, but I haven’t done that yet. I wonder what 17 year old Sam in 1996 would have said or thought of that feature when I was pouring through Siddhartha for the 3rd time? Would I have even made it through that many readings, since I would have had the highlights from other readers?

When I was a middle school teacher (I use that past tense slightly as I’m not sure one can ever divorce oneself from such an absurd calling / profession), I was always an enthusiastic promoter of the “back channel” in the classroom. The back channel, to me, was a space for students to openly raise questions and explore avenues during the course of a class experience. I experimented with various ways to bring about a healthy back channel, but I’m not sure if I ever did (I saw good benefits, but there was no way to quantifiably measure those outside of summative assessments which I also didn’t particularly enjoy). I wonder if I would encourage that back channel presence now, being a little older and with the benefit of hindsight? Did it detract from the class experience in the same way that my watching both the X Files on TV and #xfiles on a screen detracts from my solitary exploration of thoughts and ideas? Or were there tangible benefits in the same way that I realized a plot point I would have probably missed last night?

I miss the days of having to watch a well worn VHS tape recording of a Star Trek TNG episode or The Empire Strikes Back or a Presidential Debate in order to make sure I didn’t miss anything, rather than just googling “last night’s X Files” to find the right subreddit to lose a few hours in. That’s unfair nostalgia (I’m getting old, remember). These tools, these social spaces, we’ve created are doing amazing things for our culture and society. I appreciate how Twitter and Reddit enrich my life.

But sometimes, I want to read Siddhartha again because as a pernicious 17 year old I hated the very idea and existence of Cliff Notes. Now, I can’t seem to experience anything without a cliff note version via 140 characters or a Virgil in the form of a polished Redditor.

Ad Agency Swears Off Crafting Ads That Objectify Women

“I want my life to have a purpose,” said Ms. Badger, who is co-founder and chief creative officer of Badger & Winters. Her agency, which works with advertisers such as Avon, Vera Wang, Diane von Furstenberg and Nordstrom, is pledging that it will not create ads that uses women as props or objectifies them. It is also sworn off airbrushing females in their ads “to the point of perfection.”

Source: Ad Agency Swears Off Crafting Ads That Objectify Women – WSJ

Good initiative.

We need more agencies and creative directors to follow her lead in the marketing world.