Idiots Gone Partisan: Facebook, Plutocracy and the Rise of the Cyber-Pundit

People say a lot of stupid stuff on the internet.  After all, that’s what it’s for, right?  The stupidity level rises significantly in election years, when scads of people who don’t really understand what they are saying begin to wildly post and share memes and blurbs spoon fed to them by their preferred plutocrat, who has cleverly conscripted them into some political war that, regardless of outcome, has little or nothing to do with the prospects of the person dutifully regurgitating such nonsense.  In other words, Facebook walls that used to be filled with posts about cats, photos of lunch and whatnot suddenly become a contest to see who can make the most factually challenged and outrageous claims about the rich guy they have been told they hate, while conveniently ignoring all the bad things about the rich guy they have been told they love.


Prime example of a stupid Facebook post.

Wow, that photo suddenly made me rethink my entire philosophy.  My moral compass is spinning.  Not.  My moral compass is thinking that the Dalai Lama may be onto something, not because I am losing my religion (I’m holding on for dear life), but because somehow extremists have far too often been permitted to be the face of it.


As an aside, if I were the leader of a religion (of any kind), I would be spending most of my time leading cease and desist efforts against the opportunistic zealots who, far too often, claim to speak for religion while simultaneously acting in ways completely inconsistent with it.  Unchecked, this hate-mongering will destroy religion (again, of any kind) from the inside a lot faster that any so-called competing religion will.  Fortunately, young people don’t generally drink the haterade to the same degree as some of their elders.  And more than they need to crap on others who don’t happen to share their beliefs, churches need young people.

Now comes some alleged study happily announcing that Facebook posts can influence election behavior.  Well, it might influence me to vote- solely to cancel out this guy’s vote:


But it is never, ever going to convince me to change my ethics.  If anything, it will only add to my growing belief that the political party system in this country is broken beyond repair.  It’s not about issues any more.  It’s about how much you hate the other group.

I’ve been keeping a rough tally, and I’d estimate that 97% of the Facebook political posts I’ve seen criticize or make fun of the other guy.  Almost none actually discuss why the poster’s rich guy is better than the other one.  It is idiotic, and anyone swayed by this level of discourse will forget who he’s supposed to vote for long before he stumbles his way into a voting booth.

It’s clear to me that these posts are not intended to persuade.  They are merely cyber-tattoos, designed and displayed so people at the same extreme end of the so-called political spectrum can identify each other, congregate in the Comments, pretend they have the first clue what they are talking about, and revel in the camaraderie of extremism.  In order to stand out, to get noticed, you have to be more extreme.  Louder.  Angrier.  Dumber.

The same forces that have ruined our political process and are trying to corrupt organized religion (once again, all of them) are on full display on our social networks.  Maybe this sort of insanity will drive sane people to the middle and to the voting booths.  I hope so.  The problem is that, on Facebook and at the polls, no one cares about the middle.

We’re alone on there and out here.

The Essence of Facebook in 3 Easy Pictures

I’m participating on a social networking panel tomorrow at a conference here in Houston.  Someone suggested a PowerPoint sort of thing.

Here’s mine.  The essence of Facebook (and social networking in general), in three easy pictures.


Facebook is like a transporter.  You can instantly interact with people in any location.  One of the best things about Facebook is that it breaks down the geographical barriers to communication and relationships.  And, of course, one of the dangers of Facebook is that it breaks down the geographical barriers to communication and relationships.

Time Tunnel 129 6-9-4

Facebook is like a time tunnel.  You can not only connect or reconnect with people and places from your entire past, you are also creating a digital archive of your life.  One that can be viewed by you, as well as your future friends, business associates and employers.  Once you put something in the social stream, there’s no way to take it back.


Facebook is like a bottle of tequila.  It will, over time, break down your inhibitions and, if you’re not careful, allow you to do things you shouldn’t.  Things that will get on the transporter and into the time tunnel, and follow you around the rest of your life (and afterwards).

That’s one powerful combination.  One that can be really fun and rewarding, and one that can be tremendously destructive.  The important thing, with transporters, time tunnels and tequila- and with Facebook- is to have a plan.  And stick to it.

Decide what your social networking goals and philosophy will be.  Ask yourself if those goals and philosophy will still make sense in 5, 10 and 15 years.  Ask yourself if social networking will increase your happiness.  Make sure it won’t end up feeling like a chore.

Then get to it.  Find old friends.  Make new friends.  Make it what you want it to be.  But remember that you are responsible for whatever it becomes.

Because as the renowned Southern philosophers The Drive-By Truckers have been heard to say:

You know the [Facebook] ain’t to blame and I ain’t trying to
It don’t make you do a thing, it just lets you.

(buy that great record at Amazon)

On the Need for a Social Sharing Pause Button

pauseAs I noted in Thursday’s video tour, I like Facebook’s new Timeline feature.  As someone who spends very little time on my or anyone else’s Profile (now Timeline) page, I do wonder how the new sharing features will be integrated into the News Feed page, where I suspect most people consume most of their Facebook content.

But, for now, let’s look at what works.  Let’s point out a bug that needs to be fixed.  And let’s make the case for a very important feature that needs to be added.

Music sharing via Spotify works great.


There are the last few songs I listened to, via my Ice House Blues playlist.  If you’re on my Facebook Timeline, and you want to hear a song, just click the Play button, and off you go.

A similar music item gets added to the News Feed.


You can visit the new Music app page, and see what your Facebook Friends have been listening to.


No offense, dudes, but I either don’t know that music or do know it, and don’t want to hear it.  But to discover new music, you have to take some chances.  I’m going to pass on Tony Bennett, but a little further down the page Marshall Kirkpatrick was listening to some Patti Smith.


So I gave My Generation a spin, trying to recover from my near-Tony experience.  A couple of interesting things happened.

First, a box popped up, asking if I wanted to sign in to Rdio, or play in Spotify.  I chose to play in Spotify.  And the song played, but not the Patti Smith version.  The original version by The Who.


This seems like a bug in Facebook’s cross-platform music sharing service.

The other thing that happened is that the song showed up in my Timeline and in the News Feed.


That’s cool, as far as Patti Smith or The Who goes.  But what if I’d clicked on something, you know, uncool.  I don’t really care if people see me listening to some weird music (especially after seeing what some of my Friends listen to!), but I’d rather not have all of my genre-surfing and rapid song exploration show up in my Timeline, or in the News Feed.

It seems to me that, if we want the Timelime to be our digital life archive, we should have the ability to take a digital time out.  I want to be able to temporarily suspend the automatic sharing of my music and other activity.  Then, once I’m done messing around, I’ll be ready to share again.

It’s not always about the Play.  We need a social sharing Pause button.

Un-Friendly: The Impersonalization of the Facebook Experience


I’m not all that averse to change.  Heck, I just went all-Apple, and am completely happy with it.   But I really don’t like the new Facebook layout, and here’s why.

One, it took something that felt very personal and intimate, and turned it into a chaotic mess.  I use Facebook to interact with people in a more direct, personal way.  I have family, high school friends, college friends, grad school friends, neighborhood friends, tech friends and musician friends.  But unlike other online spaces, I only “Friend” people on Facebook if I have (or, in rare cases, want to develop) some meaningful connection to them.  As a result, Facebook has- until now- been like a cyber-kitchen table for me.  A place to go to relax, and see what my friends are up to.  Just the other night, I discovered one of my old roommates on Facebook, and we reconnected.  It was awesome.

But suddenly Facebook looks like a series of in-my-face billboards where people are tossing random stuff at me.  I want a chill conversation.  I am getting a flood of promotion- self and otherwise.

I don’t want a scrolling window/ticker where people “Liking” some link or complaining about this or that roll by.  It ends up being a cornucopia of banality, courtesy of the subset of folks who, to be blunt, need to use Facebook a little less.

Two, I detest the new emphasis on Subscribing.  I’m not going to subscribe to anyone at Facebook.  If I don’t want to “Friend” you- or you me- then I don’t want to see you on Facebook.  The suggested list of people to subscribe to just clutters up my screen and stresses out my mind.

I’ve been watching with mild curiosity as a couple of uber-marketers and over-thinkers discuss with themselves (literally)  how to turn their “Friends” into “Subscribers.”  In other words, to go from a kitchen chair to a pulpit.  It’s turning the Facebook experience into a frenzy, as people try to figure out how to get some imagined advantage under the new structure.

My “Friend”  (Facebook and otherwise) Robert Scoble was atither the other night about how Facebook is going to win the social war by appropriating the personal and emotional forces that motivate people.  With all due respect, there is nothing personal about this new Facebook layout.  And the only emotions it invokes in me are irritation and sadness.

We already have laundered spam, in the form of Twitter.  I frickin’ hate Twitter, precisely because it is a completely impersonal platform (brilliantly) designed to allow spam to be legitimized and served to millions who have somehow been convinced that it is good.  I really don’t want Facebook to end up like that.

It reeks of a traffic play, at the expense of the user experience.

I want my kitchen table back.

Is There Even One Decent Facebook App?

If there is, I’ve never seen or heard of it.


I’ve largely come around on Facebook as the only efficient way to keep up with people who don’t share my love of things nerdy.  That includes about 99% of my friends and every member of my family over 13.

The fact is that Facebook is simply inevitable.  Resistance is both futile and isolating.

But Facebook has a huge problem.  No it’s not the fact that Microsoft saved Facebook from itself by taking the bait and grossly overpaying for Skype.  It’s the apps.

It’s the fact that none of them are worth a crap.  I have spent far more time filtering out stupid Facebook apps than I have using them.  In fact, I have 74 apps filtered out of my Facebook stream.  The list grows constantly.


From Hearts to Hugs to Best Friend Quiz to Egg Buddies to anything Ville to Mafia Wars to various sweepstakes.  None of it is worth a crap, and all of it is junk.  Unless I want to become a mouse clicking zombie in service to some developer’s bank account, not one of them benefits me in any way.

It’s the fact that it seems like most Facebook apps  are malware.  I am now conditioned to look for a warning- “Do not click on this or that”- whenever I see an appish-looking post in my Facebook stream.  Facebook apps have the same trust level as links in spam.

It’s the fact that, even if an app is technically not malware, you have no idea what it can access, and what it, in turn, discloses and to whom.  You have more privacy at a nudist camp that you do on Facebook.

In sum, the entire Facebook app ecosystem is broken.

It needs to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.  There’s just no way to salvage any kind of trust out of the chaos that Facebook has created.  Facebook needs to take a page from Apple’s book and worry about protecting its users, not serving them up as fodder to scammers and shady apps.

It should happen.  But until people vote with their filters, it probably won’t.

How to Integrate Facebook into a WordPress Blog


Following up on my surprising, even to me, change of heart regarding Facebook, I’ve added some more Facebook integration at Newsome.Org.  Here’s what I have done, how you can do it with your WordPress blog, and how your picture can instantly appear right over there.   ——>


I’ve used the AddtoAny plugin for some time.  It appears at the bottom of each post and allows readers to instantly share my posts to Facebook (Friend me if we are), Twitter (follow me via that link) and just about every other social network, with just the click of a button.


A couple of caveats.

I hate the way the plugin adds the marketing plug to the end of items you share on Twitter.  I always delete it before hitting the final Tweet button.


Finally, be sure to add this important code to the Additional Options blank in the plugin settings, to avoid an annoying privacy glitch.

1. Open the AddtoAny Settings menu (found under Plugins)

2. Scroll down to the text box labeled Additional Options

3. Add the following text:

var a2a_config = a2a_config || {};
a2a_config.no_3p = 1;

Facebook Likes

It is much, much easier for a reader to Like a post via a one-click button than it is to go through the Sharing process.  For this reason, I think a Facebook Like button is a mandatory addition to blogs.

It’s not easy to manually add the required code to the various WordPress files.  Fortunately for WordPress users, there is a handy plugin that does it for you.  Why not test it out at the top of this post.  Come on!  It will be fun.

Facebook Activity

The third prong of my Facebook implementation involved adding a Facebook Activity widget that will show who has Shared or Liked my posts.  See the box in the right hand column?  If you click the Like button at the top of a post or Share any post via the AddtoAny plugin described above, your name and photo will appear in that box.

Right now, it’s all me, which is sort of lame.  So add your picture there and help beautify Newsome.Org!

It’s really easy to add this feature.  Just go to the Facebook plugin page, get your code and add that code in the desired place.  With my WordPress theme, it’s a simple matter of creating a text widget called Facebook Activity and inserting the code.  If you run into any problems leave a question in the Comments and I’ll try to help.

That’s it, for now.  Do you have any ideas for adding Facebook connectivity to a blog?

My Unexpected Defense of Facebook

Here’s a post I bet no one ever thought I’d write.

John Dvorak, whose articles and posts I have long enjoyed, sets forth a persuasive argument against Facebook.

I’m not going to try to summarize years of my posts and podcast rants, so let me just say for any new readers that I long held, and argued with anyone who would read or listen, that identical position.  I called Facebook the new AOL more than a few times (for the record, MySpace, not Facebook, is the new Geocities).  I protested over the walls.  I proclaimed that I would always keep my content out here, free, accessible and controlled by me on the wide open web.


Then I realized something important.  Facebook and web sites are not an either/or equation.  Just because you use Facebook doesn’t mean you have to let your blog lie fallow.  Most of my content originates and lives here.  Some of it, I push to Facebook or Twitter (though I do not push my Twitter posts to Facebook and generally filter those who do).

But I have found Facebook to be a very fun and useful supplement to this blog, for two reasons.  It’s easy, and popular.

Easy, because it lets me post short thoughts and share items that don’t warrant a full blog post here.

Popular, because that’s where the people are.  There are tons of people on Facebook that would rarely if ever come here and leave a comment.  Many of them are not tech savvy.  Others are not particularly interested in the subjects I focus on here.

By using Facebook the right way, I can expand my interaction to another group of people, many of whom are real world friends of mine.  I can actually drive some traffic here, by sharing some of my posts here on Facebook.  And I can have more regular interaction with people.

John should give it a try.  If I can learn to like Facebook, anyone can.

If we are, Friend me on Facebook.