The downside to ad-based revenue generation

Getting Beyond the FB Filter Bubble

…without having to do weird things

I’ve been doing a lot of reassessment while being unemployed and not having to scramble for clients and employment. One of the things I’ve been reassessing is my relationship with the Internet, the various service providers, and my own contribution to that whole thing over the years (or lack thereof).

Ad-based revenue

I’ve never thought ad-based revenue generation was a good idea. From a game dynamic perspective it just creates a weird dynamic that has been mentioned elsewhere.

It can incentivize:

  1. the promotion of attention-seeking behavior.
  2. creating software that causes “players” to prioritize accessing the app often in fear of “missing” something.
  3. getting players to stay in the app as long as possible.
  4. placing ads in areas of the app where it is easy to accidentally click the ad.
  5. prioritizing the advertisers over the players.
  6. achieving as many players as possible.

Depending on your ad provider you get paid a certain amount for each view of an ad, the minutes watched of an ad, and someone clicking the ad. These are listed from low-to-high.

One of the biggest outcomes of this is the desire of app developers to show you things you will like more than things you don’t. This, of course, can lead to all sorts of interesting things. One of those interesting things is the internet “filter bubble”.

The filter bubble is when an application pays attention to who you are and gives you a tailored experience determined by the application. Google does it. You can search for something on Google on your phone, then on your computer, and get completely different results. Twitter does it, not as much near as I can tell. Facebook does it in the newsfeed.

In fact, earlier this year I noticed it to the point I could feel it. I asked the hive-mind of those who could still see me from their own filter bubbles what I could do to pop that bubble. Eventually, we arrived at deliberately subscribing to all my friends so I would be notified whenever someone posted something.

This has worked pretty well over the last year or two. However, it does have its own issues and I’m still missing things.

Who owns your data?

My frustrations were growing. Then I started hearing about Facebook accidentally exposing player data they weren’t supposed to. And it got me thinking about who knows me online and how much do they know and how could that be used to identify me as an individual (and, of course, deliver a tailored ad experience, despite having never intentionally clicked on an ad).

Facebook has my current city. Where I was born. Some, if not all of the cities I’ve lived in. Every school I attended and when. My date of birth. A photo of me…actually a lot of photos of me. Gender. Sexual orientation. Family members.

Now, to be fair, I put most of that in there and can take it back out.

In the late 90s, when I first got online, it was fear and panic that can only be effectively delivered by a generation who grew up on the mantra, “Stranger. Danger.” Everyone operated under a pseudonym. If you were asked anything other than email address, it was suspect. If you met someone, you did so in a public place, usually with friends.

Now we’re kinda more like, “You need my birthday? Sure!” Granted we’re told it’s so our friends can get notified and send us messages on our birthdays but it also open the door to ensure that ads for an 80 year old aren’t winding up in our feeds, if we’re not 80.

I mean are people complaining about how they don’t have enough advertisements that they’re interested in? If so, I would love to see those compared to requests like, “Don’t expose my credit card information to people who shouldn’t have it, please.” I think most of us are creeped out that the bathroom mat we looked at on Amazon is following us. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook. Heck, Google will probably show it in the results for a search on “chocolate bunnies”. Meanwhile, I’m over here like, “I accidentally clicked on it and walked away. Y’all are trying to follow me around the dealership lot until I buy something. I’d like to report a stalker.” Then I get like 10 emails, five of which end up in spam, all wanting me to buy a mat or telling me about how I need to get mine checked for mold.

This got me thinking of alternatives. Where would I go? What criteria would I use? Why not just build my own?

I’ve decided on the latter. Not sure when I’ll get there but it’s in the list. Until then, there’s a simple way to step away from the conveniently inconvenient Facebook newsfeed.

Unseen posts

If you go to your profile. Go to your friends list. There’s a tab that says, “New posts”. This on both web and mobile.

It shows you a list of all your friends, filtered by those who have posts on their timelines you have not seen. You choose a friend, scroll down the five or six posts you’ve missed, and you’re all caught up. They get removed from the list of friends with posts you have not seen.

No ads. No non-chronological ordering. No friends lost in the crowd trying to say something you might find interesting but Facebook thinks you won’t.

Even with

  • me checking regularly throughout the day,
  • having the notification bell full pretty much all the time, and
  • being pretty consistent about interacting with folks

I still had almost 100 unseen posts.

News Feed

There’s also the “News feed” button to the left of your feed on the home page. It comes with an option to have the feed ordered by most recent, the default being “Top stories”. You can also “Edit Preferences” to get a bit more fine-grained control like unfollowing people, following people you already unfollowed, and so on.

Unfortunately, there are ads. Unfortunately, if you navigate away from the home page and come back, it won’t be order by “most recent” anymore. Unfortunately, depending on how active your friends are, you might still miss someone saying something you didn’t want to miss. Social media was supposed to be a place you went to interact, meet new people, and so on. Now it’s starting to feel more like a stadium concert where the staff are choosing where you can go and who you should talk to.

2019 will definitely be an interesting year, at least for me.