👓 The Google News Initiative: Building a stronger future for news | Google

The Google News Initiative: Building a stronger future for news by Philipp Schindler (www.blog.google)
We are launching the Google News Initiative, an effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age.

This article is even more interesting in light of the other Google blog post I read earlier today entitled Introducing Subscribe with Google. Was today’s roll out pre-planned or is Google taking an earlier advantage of Facebook’s poor position this week after the “non-data breach” stories that have been running this past week?

There’s a lot of puffery rhetoric here to make Google look more like an arriving hero, but I’d recommend taking with more than a few grains of salt.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish what’s true (and not true) online.

we’re committing $300 million toward meeting these goals.

I’m curious what their internal projections are for ROI?

People come to Google looking for information they can trust, and that information often comes from the reporting of journalists and news organizations around the world.

Heavy hit in light of the Facebook data scandal this week on top of accusations about fake news spreading.

That’s why it’s so important to us that we help you drive sustainable revenue and businesses.

Compared to Facebook which just uses your content to drive you out of business like it did for Funny or Die.
Reference: How Facebook is Killing Comedy

we drove 10 billion clicks a month to publishers’ websites for free.

Really free? Or was this served against ads in search?

We worked with the industry to launch the open-source Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to improve the mobile web

There was some collaborative outreach, but AMP is really a Google-driven spec without significant outside input.

See also: http://ampletter.org/

We’re now in the early stages of testing a “Propensity to Subscribe” signal based on machine learning models in DoubleClick to make it easier for publishers to recognize potential subscribers, and to present them the right offer at the right time.

Interestingly the technology here isn’t that different than the Facebook Data that Cambridge Analytica was using, the difference is that they’re not using it to directly impact politics, but to drive sales. Does this mean they’re more “ethical”?

With AMP Stories, which is now in beta, publishers can combine the speed of AMP with the rich, immersive storytelling of the open web.

Is this sentence’s structure explicitly saying that AMP is not “open web”?!

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👓 Introducing Subscribe with Google | Google

Introducing Subscribe with Google by Jim Albrecht (www.blog.google)
Making digital subscriptions simple by making it easier to subscribe and enjoy premium content

Interesting to see this roll out as Facebook is having some serious data collection problems. This looks a bit like a means for Google to directly link users with content they’re consuming online and then leveraging it much the same way that Facebook was with apps and companies like Cambridge Analytica.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

Paying for a subscription is a clear indication that you value and trust your subscribed publication as a source. So we’ll also highlight those sources across Google surfaces

So Subscribe with Google will also allow you to link subscriptions purchased directly from publishers to your Google account—with the same benefits of easier and more persistent access.

you can then use “Sign In with Google” to access the publisher’s products, but Google does the billing, keeps your payment method secure, and makes it easy for you to manage your subscriptions all in one place.

I immediately wonder who owns my related subscription data? Is the publisher only seeing me as a lumped Google proxy or do they get may name, email address, credit card information, and other details?

How will publishers be able (or not) to contact me? What effect will this have on potential customer retention?

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Following much of the recent Facebook privacy and data scandal over the past several days, 1–4 today I deleted 169 of 184 apps which had access to all or parts of my Facebook data. Often many of them also had access to data by proxy of my family, friends, and acquaintances.

Of those apps still remaining, 7 are apps that I’ve made personally, and the remainder solely help me export data from Facebook. Short of quitting the platform altogether, this feels like a good first step to limiting the data that I leak into the platform and their partners.

For several years now I’ve been posting content to my own personal website first and syndicating it to Facebook secondarily. Few, if any, of these old apps need any legitimate access to my account anymore presuming that they ever really did.

Want to do an audit of your own app access and make a similar purge? The IndieWeb community has some resources for doing so quickly. Looking for a better place to own and better control your own data? They can help there too.


Graham-Harrison E, Cadwalladr C. Revealed: 50 million Facebook profiles harvested for Cambridge Analytica in major data breach. the Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/cambridge-analytica-facebook-influence-us-election. Published March 17, 2018. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Rosenberg, M, Confessore N, Cadwalladr C. How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/politics/cambridge-analytica-trump-campaign.html. Published March 17, 2018. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Grewal P. Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook | Facebook Newsroom. Facebook Newsroom. https://newsroom.fb.com/news/2018/03/suspending-cambridge-analytica/. Published March 16, 2018. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Madrigal AC. What Took Facebook So Long? The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/facebook-cambridge-analytica/555866/. Published March 10, 2016. Accessed March 20, 2018.
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👓 Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook | Facebook Newsroom

Suspending Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group from Facebook by Paul Grewal (newsroom.fb.com)
Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do.

This is sure to cause a privacy firestorm. Or make the already growing one worse.

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🎧 The Daily: Russian Trolls’ Favorite Weapon | The New York Times

Listen to ‘The Daily’: Russian Trolls’ Favorite Weapon by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com
The indictment secured by the special counsel makes it clear that Facebook was used extensively in the campaign to disrupt the 2016 election. How did Russia do it?

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👓 I Cracked Facebook’s New Algorithm And Tortured My Friends | Buzzfeed

How I Cracked Facebook’s New Algorithm And Tortured My Friends by Katie Notopoulos (BuzzFeed)
Or, how to lose friends and influence people.

Black box algorithms are simply the bane of the world. How hard would it be to give us some manual and granular control over our own feeds. That’s really the next killer app. If the rise of the independent and decentralized web isn’t the thing that kills social media, it’s going to be a company that figures out how to act more human and give people the ability to control what they read.

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Facebook is Censoring My Notes

I don’t post “notes” to Facebook often, but I’d noticed a few weeks ago that several pieces I’d published like this a while back were apparently unpublished by the platform. I hadn’t seen or heard anything from Facebook about them being unpublished or having issues, so I didn’t realize the problem until I randomly stumbled back across my notes page.

They did have a piece of UI to indicate that I wanted to contest and republish them, so I clicked on it. Apparently this puts these notes into some type of limbo “review” process, but it’s been a few weeks now and there’s no response about either of them. They’re still both sitting unseen in my dashboard with sad notes above them saying:

We’re reviewing this post against our Community Standards.

There is no real indication if they’ll ever come back online. Currently my only option is to delete them. There’s also no indication, clear or otherwise, of which community standard they may have violated.

I can’t imagine how either of the posts may have run afoul of their community standards, or why “notes” in particular seem to be more prone to this sort of censorship in comparison with typical status updates. I’m curious if others have had this same experience?

We’re reviewing these posts against our Community Standards.

This is just another excellent example of why one shouldn’t trust third parties over which you have no control to publish your content on the web. Fortunately I’ve got my own website with the original versions of these posts [1][2] that are freely readable. If you’ve experienced this or other pernicious problems in social media, I recommend you take a look at the helpful IndieWeb community which has some excellent ideas and lots of help for re-exerting control over your online presence.

Notes Functionality

Notes on Facebook were an early 2009 era attempt for Facebook to have more blog-like content and included a rather clean posting interface, not un-reminiscent of Medium’s interface, that also allowed one to include images and even hyperlinks into pages.

The note post type has long since fallen by the wayside and I rarely, if ever, come across people using it anymore in the wild despite the fact that it’s a richer experience than traditional status updates. I suspect the Facebook black box algorithm doesn’t encourage its use. I might posit that it’s not encouraged as unlike most Facebook functionality, hyperlinks in notes on desktop browsers physically take one out of the Facebook experience and into new windows!

The majority of notes about me are spammy chain mail posts like “25 Random Things About Me”, which also helpfully included written instructions for how to actually use notes.

25 Random Things About Me

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Most of my published notes were experiments in syndicating my content from my own blog to Facebook (via POSSE). At the time, the engagement didn’t seem much different than posting raw text as status updates, so I abandoned it. Perhaps I’ll try again with this post to see what happens? I did rather like the ability to actually have links to content and other resources in my posts there.

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👓 Facebook’s Campbell Brown: “This is not about us trying to make everybody happy” | Nieman Journalism Lab

Facebook’s Campbell Brown: “This is not about us trying to make everybody happy” by Laura Hazard Owen (Nieman Lab)
“If someone feels that being on Facebook is not good for your business, you shouldn’t be on Facebook. Let’s be clear about that…I don’t see us as the answer to the problem.”
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👓 How Facebook Is Killing Comedy | Splitsider

How Facebook Is Killing Comedy by Sarah Aswell (Splitsider)
Last month, in its second round of layoffs in as many years, comedy hub Funny or Die reportedly eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content. Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.

This article really has so much. It also contains a microcosm of what’s been happening in journalism recently as well. I have a feeling that if outlets like Funny or Die were to go back and own their original content, there would still be a way for them to exist, we just need to evolve the internet away from the centralized direction we’ve been moving for the past decade and change.

Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia

eliminated its entire editorial team following a trend of comedy websites scaling back, shutting down, or restructuring their business model away from original online content.  Hours after CEO Mike Farah delivered the news via an internal memo, Matt Klinman took to Twitter, writing, “Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.” It was a strong sentiment for the longtime comedy creator, who started out at UCB and The Onion before launching Pitch, the Funny or Die-incubated joke-writing app, in 2017.

“Mark Zuckerberg just walked into Funny or Die and laid off all my friends.”

The whole story is basically that Facebook gets so much traffic that they started convincing publishers to post things on Facebook. For a long time, that was fine. People posted things on Facebook, then you would click those links and go to their websites. But then, gradually, Facebook started exerting more and more control of what was being seen, to the point that they, not our website, essentially became the main publishers of everyone’s content. Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.

Facebook has created a centrally designed internet. It’s a lamer, shittier looking internet.

The EU has a bunch of laws kicking in to keep this in check — one is algorithmic transparency, where these places need to tell me why they are showing me something.

If someone at Facebook sees this, I want them to know, if they care at all about the idea that was the internet, they need to start thinking through what they are doing. Otherwise, then you’re just like Lennie from Of Mice and Men — a big dumb oaf crushing the little mouse of the internet over and over and not realizing it.

And I want it to feel that way to other people so that when they go to a cool website, they are inspired: They see human beings putting love and care into something.

Facebook is essentially running a payola scam where you have to pay them if you want your own fans to see your content.

It’s like if The New York Times had their own subscriber base, but you had to pay the paperboy for every article you wanted to see.

And then it becomes impossible to know what a good thing to make is anymore.

This is where webmentions on sites can become valuable. People posting “read” posts or “watch” posts (or even comments) indicating that they saw something could be the indicator to the originating site that something is interesting/valuable and could be displayed by that site. (This is kind of like follower counts, but for individual pieces of content, so naturally one would need to be careful about gaming.)

Here’s another analogy, and I learned this in an ecology class: In the 1800s (or something), there were big lords, or kings or something, who had giant estates with these large forests. And there were these foresters who had this whole notion of how to make a perfectly designed forest, where the trees would be pristinely manicured and in these perfect rows, and they would get rid of all the gross stuff and dirt. It was just trees in a perfect, human-devised formation that you could walk through. Within a generation, these trees were emaciated and dying. Because that’s how a forest works — it needs to be chaotic. It needs bugs and leaves, it makes the whole thriving ecosystem possible. That’s what this new internet should be. It won’t survive as this human-designed, top-down thing that is optimized for programmatic ads. It feels like a desert. There’s no nutrition, there’s no opportunity to do anything cool.

Recommending things for people is a personal act, and there are people who are good at it. There are critics. There are blogs. It’s not beneficial to us to turn content recommendations over to an algorithm, especially one that’s been optimized for garbage.

the internet was a better place 3-4 years ago. It used to be fruitful, but it’s like a desert now.

Facebook is the great de-contextualizer.

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👓 The Facebook execs who turn to Twitter for publisher charm offensive | Digiday

The Facebook execs who turn to Twitter for publisher charm offensive - Digiday by Lucia Moses (Digiday)
These are the Facebook execs using Twitter to promote the social network and attack its critics.
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👓 The IndieWeb outside of Facebook is full of opportunities | The Garage

The IndieWeb outside of Facebook is full of opportunities by Johannes Ernst (The Garage)
Promote your own site, or promote on Facebook? Turns out you can do both, and do even better: have your website join the IndieWeb.

Great piece, though I think it simplifies things a bit more than they’re easily capable of doing now for a Gen 2 person, which seems to be who this piece is geared towards.

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🎧 This Week in Google 439 Stick It in Your Underwear | TWiT.TV

This Week in Google 439 Stick It in Your Underwear by Leo Laporte, Jeff Jarvis, Stacey Higginbotham, Mathew Ingram from TWiT.tv
Google's 1st CES: Assistant is everywhere, but so is rain. People keep stealing Google bikes. AT&T pulls out of a Huawei deal - Huawei CEO is not pleased. Mark Zuckerberg's ""personal challenge"" for 2018 is to do his job. Facebook kills M. Meltdown mitigation hurts. Record number of US border gadget searches. Senate will vote to fix Net Neutrality. IoT at CES. Jeff's Pick: my_aussie_gal on Instagram Mathew's Pick: Sarah Silverman and the Twitter Troll

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Adding Simple Twitter Response Buttons to WordPress Posts

Simple Twitter UI buttons on an IndieWeb-enabled site can allow Twitter to become part of your commenting system.

Back at IndieWebCamp Austin, I became enamored of adding additional methods of interacting with my website, particularly for those who weren’t already on the IndieWeb train. I’d seen these types of interactions already on Tantek Çelik’s site in the past, so naturally I figured I would start there.

Web Actions

Some basic searching revealed that in IndieWeb parlance, these types of functionalities are known as web actions. While they’re often added to make it easier for one site with the proper infrastructure to interact with another, they’re also designed for social web silos (Like Twitter, Facebook, et al.) to do this type of interaction simply as well.

As a small scale experiment, I thought I would begin manually and add some simple interface to allow Twitter users (who may not yet have their own websites to use to respond to me instead) to be able to quickly and easily reply to, repost, or like posts on my site. A little bit of reading on the wiki and Twitter’s developer site allowed me to leverage something into existence pretty quickly.

Interestingly, although there are many plugins that help users simply share a blog post to Twitter, I couldn’t easily find a WordPress plugin that already allows these other interactions as options at all. I suspect it may be because the other side of the interaction of bringing the replies back to one’s site isn’t commonly known yet.


I was able to write a post, syndicate it to Twitter, upload the button images, and then inject the Twitter post ID (939650287622434816 in this example) for my syndicated copy into my post like so:

<span class="syn-text">Respond via Twitter:
<ul class="relsyn">
<li><a href="https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?in_reply_to=939650287622434816" target=""><img src="/reply-icon-16.png" alt="" width="16" height="11" /> Reply</a></li>
<li><a href="https://twitter.com/intent/retweet?tweet_id=939650287622434816" target=""><img src="/retweet-icon-16.png" alt="" width="16" height="10" /> Repost</a></li>
<li><a href="https://twitter.com/intent/favorite?tweet_id=939650287622434816" target=""><img src="/like-icon-16.png" alt="" width="16" height="16" /> Like</a></li>
</ul><script type="text/javascript" async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script></span>

And voila! My new post now had some simple buttons that allow users a simple one click interaction with a popup window to reply to, repost, or like my post.

Displaying responses

Naturally, through the “magic” of Brid.gy, I’m able to collect these responses via backfeed with the Webmention protocol using the Webmention Plugin for WordPress back to my own website. In simpler and less technical terms, if you use one of these buttons, your interaction with my website as posted to Twitter comes back to live on my website. Thus users can use Twitter to write a comment or reply on Twitter and it will display in my comments section just as if they had written it directly in my comments box. Likes and reposts are sent to my site and are displayed relatively naturally as facepiles under the comment headings “Likes” and “Reposts”.

I’ll do another manual example with this particular post, so feel free to use the buttons at the bottom of this post to make your response via Twitter if you wish.

Future Improvements

Taking some of this code and abstracting into a plugin for others to use would be a nice feature. Doing this would also potentially make it available as a potential plugin in the larger IndieWeb suite of WordPress plugins. Perhaps it could be easily added into the codebase in one or another pre-existing plugins? I might think that David Shanske’s  Syndication Links plugin or Bridgy Publish plugin might make sense as they’re already adding functionality for part of the publishing half of the cycle by either publishing to Twitter and/or importing the Tweet ID back into one’s WordPress site for potential display. One or the other could do a simple if/then on the existence of a syndicated Tweet, then extract the Twitter ID, and add the buttons to the interface appropriately.

It would be interesting to add full mark up to make <indie-action> functionality possible for a broader class of web actions, particularly if it could be integrated directly into WordPress in a more interesting manner to work with the Post Kinds Plugin or the IndieWeb PressThis type of bookmarklet functionality.

Instead of having these types of interactions injected at the bottom of the post, it may make more sense to have it display in the comment block instead.

I suspect that Facebook, Instagram, and others also enable some types of functionality, so adding the ability to use them the same way would be awesome. And even more so in the case of RSVP’s to events since Brid.gy handles those relatively well between Facebook and WordPress sites. (See this example.)

Try it yourself

Go ahead and use the buttons below to interact with this post via Twitter.

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👓 Relicensing React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js | Facebook

Relicensing React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js by Adam Wolff (Facebook)
Next week, we are going to relicense our open source projects React, Jest, Flow, and Immutable.js under the MIT license. We're relicensing these projects because React is the foundation of a broad ecosystem of open source software for the web, and we don't want to hold back forward progress for nontechnical reasons. This decision comes after several weeks of disappointment and uncertainty for our community. Although we still believe our BSD + Patents license provides some benefits to users of our projects, we acknowledge that we failed to decisively convince this community.

This won’t bode well for large portions of the web…

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👓 Facebook Figured Out My Family Secrets, And It Won’t Tell Me How | Gizmodo

Facebook Figured Out My Family Secrets, And It Won't Tell Me How by Kashmir Hill (Gizmodo)
Rebecca Porter and I were strangers, as far as I knew. Facebook, however, thought we might be connected. Her name popped up this summer on my list of “People You May Know,” the social network’s roster of potential new online friends for me.
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