Add a kick to your week
TIME TO READ: 2 min 45 seconds | October 18, 2017
Good morning squad,
North Korea has said it will not discuss diplomacy until it builds a missile that can reach the east coast of the U.S., Facebook bought an anonymous teen app called tbh, and the New York Times thinks Amazon should build its next HQ in Denver.
Plus, a professor at NYU just wrote a book suggesting that Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook will all be gone in 50 years.
Here’s what to know halfway through this week.
1. TBH…wait, you’re about to say something nice?
On Monday, Facebook announced it was buying anonymous teen compliment app, tbh. In the last 2 months, tbh has scored 9 million downloads and 2.5 million DAUs with its app that allows people to answer kind-hearted multiple choice questions about friends, who then receive the poll results as compliments. Since launching in August, the app has racked up more than 1 billion poll responses…a. billion.
Tbh…I really think this is just a play for Facebook to start rehabilitating its image. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Zuckerberg’s cone of shame has been growing as more information comes out about Facebook’s role in the 2016 election. The haters have been hating hard, and Zuckerberg has been forced to take a hard look in the mirror of whatever hotel bathroom he’s staying in on his “No More Hiding Behind DMs” tour of the 50 states.
I picture a wild Zuckerberg emerging from a windowless cave to talk to people in person for the first time since 2004. (Mark, please forgive me, I mean no ill-will).
In all seriousness though, this is cool. It’s the first app that’s proved there’s traction to be had by saying nice things online instead of shitty things. And that should be applauded. Don’t have many friends these days so I haven’t downloaded it yet. But if you give it a whirl, let me know.
2. Nobody else has your news feed…I promise
Speaking of Facebook, the Atlantic published an article last Thursday that took a stab at understanding the effects that Facebook is having on American democracy and information integrity. The article will take you 15 minutes to read, and is well worth your time, but I want to highlight a point that I found percipient.
Facebook’s draw — and indeed the main reason why users spend an average of more than 50 minutes per day on the site — is that it gives you what you want. It mashes more than 2,000 different data points together to predict the content you’ll want to see. Interactions — likes, comments, shares — are given the most weight in the equation. From the system’s perspective, success is correctly predicting what you’ll engage with.
Facebook is really fucking good at doing this. So good, in fact, that there is no single news feed across it’s 2 billion users that looks the same. But the problem is that the algorithm is agnostic of content integrity.
When “Pizzagate” happened I remember sharing the story and commenting on how preposterous I thought it was. But what I didn’t understand was that by engaging with the content, I was perpetuating the longevity of it’s lifecycle on Facebook. The more times I commented on it, the more times my friend from Kentucky saw it; the more times he shared it, the more times his buddies shared it; until the network effects of my engagement inevitably put the piece in front of a user who agreed with it and shared it as truth with his friends and family.
After you see something for long enough, it tends to become more real and believable. Because fake news is inherently geared towards engagement, it makes sense why fake news stories are so quick to catch fire. Facebook’s algorithm is built around engagement. And it doesn’t care if you’re engaging with something that’s false.
Moral of the story…the next time you read something you think is utterly fake and ridiculous and you want to share it with the world, remember that by doing so you’ve agreed to engage with it. Facebook will know, and it’ll find other people who just might engage with it, too.
3. Did you know…
A teaspoon full of a neutron star weighs as much as Mt. Everest. And makes the medicine go down! Only because I wanted to sing that.
BUT SERIOUSLY, THAT’S INSANE!!! That’s just one of the many fun things that’s coming out of this week’s kilonova explosion. A kilonova explosion occurs when two neutron stars collide with one another, producing what the New York Times calls “a crucible of cosmic alchemy.” In the moment that these stars collided and exploded, they formed some of the heaviest atomic elements in the universe, including platinum and gold.
It is estimated that this kilonova likely produced an amount of gold equal to 40 to 100 times the mass of earth.
Quick, someone call Chris Pratt.
Be well and do good work.