Social Media Top 5: Facebook Automated Trends is Just Fine, Blab is Dead, Disclosure is…Well…

Some of my items might be slightly out of date for a post that aspires to be weekly (Ha!), but I don’t care, as long as the relevance endures…but first a newer one:

Image credit: Patrick Lentz on Flickr

Facebook Automates Trending Topics, Hilarity Ensues

So people were worried about humans putting bias into the Facebook news algorithm. So people thought a completely automatic algorithm would be better. News alerts about a man humping a McChicken sandwich is what we deserve. I for one think this is great, but I wasn’t much for clicking on trending topics. Of course, now my curated Facebook feed is full of people complaining about trending topics, so I have to suffer as well.

A look at the topics trending for me as I write this, and my first guesses as to the stories vs what was actually behind the trends:

The biggest problem is not fake stories making the cut, as I am sure Facebook will tweak things to fix that, but that the headlines they present give me no clue what these are about and why I might care:

  1. “Needham, Massachusetts Employee” — No idea what this was about. Nice human interest story from near where I live about a McDonald’s employee with Down Syndrome retiring after 32 years. Weird headline though.
  2. “Jarrod Saltalamacchia” — Guessing he had a big night for whatever baseball team he plays for these days. I like baseball, but am a Red Sox fan- he is with the Detroit Tigers now and hit a game-winning home run. Nice story, and I love saying “Saltalamacchia” out loud.
  3. “Tony Stewart” — Absolutely no clue. Apparently he drives cars or something, and finishing 21st in a race was newsworthy. I guess. I don’t follow racing. Weird.
  4. Florida State University” — My guess: football team, perhaps involving a game, maybe some arrests. No, this is about a research team making a breakthrough regarding the Zika virus. Much cooler story than I would have hoped for.
  5. “Ice Road Truckers” — I thought maybe that was a band (nope, that’s “Drive-By Truckers, I think)- it’s about some reality TV star dying. Sad. Don’t care.
  6. “McChicken” — This is the famous one, so I already knew it wasn’t a McDonald’s ad. It’s a video of man humping a McChicken sandwich. Not an ad (if it were Burger King I would still think maybe it’s an ad). Not related to the first item, thankfully.
  7. “Mila Kunis” — I know she is an actress. Hopefully not dead. Phew, she is pregnant, and there are memes about her old TV program “That 70s Show” — two things, neither of which I made any contribution to.
  8. “Kevin Owens” — First guess, country music star — that’s a total country name. Let’s look: he’s a new WWE wrestling champion! Cool. I used to watch wrestling and sometimes keep up, but never heard of this guy. Good for him.
  9. “Britney Spears” — I guessed this one, but with no thanks to Facebook. She made a comeback at the Video Music Awards. That show peaked in its first broadcast when Rod Stewart and Ron Wood made a severely drunken attempt to bestow an achievement award on Quincy Jones — my opinion — but I guess this is valid pop culture trash news.
  10. “Bea Arthur” — she had better not be dead! Nope, she opened a homeless shelter for LGBTQ youth. That’s pretty awesome, wish the headline had give me a clue there.

Automated trends will be ok, and will probably get better- they need to give more context though; that is by far the worst problem, especially if you are ok with man-sandwich relations being a valid breaking news story. I should look at these again in a week or so and see what changes.

Your reward for making it through all that is a look at the first VMA awards moment mentioned above:

Blab is Dead, and For Their Sake They Might Want to Stay That Way

A couple of weeks ago, the live video service Blab, which on its debut gave Google Hangouts (sorry, YouTube Live or whatever it will be called by the time I get around to hitting “publish”) a run for its money by being easy to use and good-quality, shut down suddenly. I used Blab a few times and liked it, but simply for the fact that it was not owned (or sought for purchase) by Google, Facebook, or even Microsoft or Twitter, was certain it was not long for this planet. I was right, which hardly makes me brilliant (but feel free to praise my vision). Two things of note in this particular shutdown:

First: the founder, in my opinion, nailed the problem with live video on social media:

Most live streams suck…Because most live streams aren’t interesting enough to justify stopping what they are doing to watch your broadcast.

Of course, his real problem was that the lack of interesting content translated to a lack of revenue-generating activity, but that does not negate the primary point. Do you watch live video, on Facebook or YouTube or anywhere else? What makes you watch? As Facebook ramps up its live video notifications, I clicked out of curiosity and found nothing worth my time. There is a place for the medium, but apparently that wasn’t it (and I have many doubts it ever will be as presented by the Blabs of the world, or even the Facebook Lives ad Perikats and what-have-you-alls).

The other note: the lack of notice meant the people who did use Blab regularly had no time or means to back up and download their content. This reminds me of the old mobile posting app Utterli, which has left a number of blank posts on my own channels where I once had audio (you didn’t miss much, which I guess returns us to the first point). For those who did rely on Blab- yes, you need to be careful relying on independent services as you could lose them at any turn, but the Blab folks could have given folks a little confidence to follow their next venture had they been able or willing to let users take their content with them. Perhaps it was not to be, but would have been a huge goodwill gesture to come back to benefit them later. Oh, well.

If I Can’t Buy You Coffee, How About a Steaming Hot Mug of Shut the %&@$ Up?

A great example of a timeless story that never goes away: the whining by consultants about people wanting to “pick their brains” over coffee. I saw yet another of these entertaining jeremiads a couple of weeks back. There seems to be a disconnect with some people among the concepts of consulting, networking and mentoring.


I have seen these whines periodically ever since some social media folks broke out on their own and (in my view) started to panic about overhead and how much and what they should charge for. Granted, some people do ask for too much and there is a line between “brain picking” and leeching, but any smart person knows how to fend that off without painting the entire ecosystem so painfully. There is a simple formula attached to giving a certain amount and getting back multiples- not immediately, and not from the same source, but it does come back to you.

So “Here’s What To Say When Someone Asks To ‘Pick Your Brain’ About Social Media Over Coffee:”

“I’d be glad to.”

This week in Disclosure

Another one from a couple of weeks ago: it seems the next step in the Disclosure Wars is under way: watchdog groups calling out high-profile abusers. In this case, Truth in Advertising putting the Kardashians on notice. I think that’s a logical evolutionary step in the following time line:


  • Wild West: everyone does what they want
  • Writing Rules: FTC established guidelines; everyone still does what they want
  • Selective Enforcement: FTC means business, occasionally; most still do what they want


  • Watchdog Groups jump in: Slightly fewer do what they want


  • FTC figures out how to enforce guidelines better
  • Industry Groups actually adopt best practices
  • Social Media Influencers start following rules
  • Dogs and Cats living together

You get the picture.

Also of note, is that brands (the smart ones) seem to know that they are more likely to be sanctioned than influencers. As the TINA post notes in its update, some Kardashian posts added disclosure immediately after this call-out, and all were (initially at least) from one single brand, “Sugar Bear Hair” (whatever that is):

So the onus is still on brands to police their influencer programs when it comes to disclosure. Never assume “influencers,” aven social media “gurus,” will intuitively do the right thing. Demand compliance and give explicit instructions.

UPDATE: I just saw a study that found one-third of native ads (sponsored content) do not follow FTC disclosure guidelines. Some of us might consider that progress, though not to be confused with good news.

Originally published at on August 30, 2016.

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