TWIG 632: It's No Sudoku

Beep boop - this is a robot. A new show has been posted to TWiT…

What are your thoughts about today’s show? We’d love to hear from you!


I know it would have been uncomfortable for some (including poor Stacey at times) but I did enjoy today’s Facebook segment.

One thing I’m a little confused about was the mention of Facebook inserting posts not from your friends into the algorithmic feed. These are posts from accounts you don’t follow but your friends have interacted with in some form correct?

I don’t personally random posts in my feed outside of items my friends have interacted with; hence why I find it difficult to understand the issue here.

I do agree with Jeff that you can have a good Facebook experience; however it does take work with many settings buried in random spots of the UI and most people won’t bother.

A big contributor I think to the problem is the our uncontrolled adding of “friends”, liking of brands and joining groups whenever any of us first got onto social media. We all went a bit giddy with the sudden unlimited connectivity with people (both known and unknown) and celebrities/companies we have known for many years but now can interact directly with.

By the time we wanted to be more intentional with our usage and Facebook had the tools to help (different friend lists/ability to unfollow etc.) it was already too overwhelming.

Personally I have a great experience, but it took time for me to unlike all brands/pages and sorting friends into lists (default close friends & acquaintances lists help tune the algorithm to indicate who you want to hear more or less of). It helps that I was never backwards in rejecting friend requests from extended family/old acquaintances that I do not want to interact with.

I have more thoughts, but I’ve already written a lot :smiley:

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That is one of the factors that determines what you see. In my opinion, the real issue here is optimizing for engagement. As long as the number of interactions is the determining factor, quality will always be undervalued in favor of quantity. Salacious content almost always gets people to engage more. Content that is even keeled isn’t sexy. The real question we should be asking Is - If we’re going to continue having these feeds powered by algorithms, how do we measure or quantify what a “meaningful” interaction is? Is there a way to optimize for “good” conversations? As long as the formula is engagement = impressions = clicks = money, we’re going to have this problem.

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I’d like to know if anyone is getting completely random posts in their feed though (no links to friends or previous likes). Just from Leo’s comments I get the impression this is happening to people but I just don’t see it.

Is there a way to optimize for “good” conversations?

Think it’s difficult, hence why it hasn’t been figured out yet :slight_smile: Mainly because the definition of “good” may vary so much because humans are complex.

As long as the formula is engagement = impressions = clicks = money, we’re going to have this problem.

Don’t disagree here, a business will always prioritise revenue (especially one with public shareholders). Mainstream media orgs do this too; even when they have full control over the content and are already regulated.

I don’t know what the proper answer is, but I’m always interested in the discussion. I do worry about regulation; not only because of elected officials terrible understanding of technology, but tech companies like Facebook will use it to entrench their position in the market and raise the barrier to entry even further for competitors.

As an example, the Media Bargaining Code in Australia works for Facebook and Google cause they can easily afford to pay to play; but now there’s a barrier for any other potential competitors in Australia as they will also have to make a business deal to link to local media. That cost is minuscule to Facebook or Google, but potentially a big hit to any potential startup competitor.

One of the problems is that there is a lack of transparency as to how and why content is surfaced.

Agreed, but the first step is to admit that there is a problem. Facebook’s response to Frances Haugen’s testimony has been bad. Ad hominems and redirection is all we’ve heard thus far.
Here is what Zuckerberg said:

“The argument that we deliberately push content that makes people angry for profit is deeply illogical,”

The problem is that isn’t what they are being accused of doing. They are accused of being amoral, not immoral. That is an important distinction.

Agreed that regulatory capture is a potential issue. What I would like Facebook to do is to get a group of experts together (psychologists, psychiatrists, journalists, behaviorists, etc) to try to answer this question. More importantly, they have to be willing to make SLIGHTLY less money in the short term in order to make this happen.


Correct, although I don’t think they are even things your friends have interacted with. Just taken a look at my wife’s FB feed. They are labelled ‘Suggested for you’, which is not the same as the ads that appear.

Hers are pets, photography, travel, politics. Most of the ads are clothes :roll_eyes::joy:


Interesting. I’ve never seen this label but now I’m trying to look out for it :slight_smile: Might have to borrow my wife’s phone and scroll through as she uses Facebook in a far more “normal” user way (too many “friends”, liking brands etc).

A great episode! I feel like the first 20 minutes alone are as intense as a novel. It’s great to have such a comfortable-with-each-other panel to endure a stern discussion with differing opinions. That’s where the interesting bits are. I am glad that you did not join Stacey’s try to sidetrack away from the key issue, @Leo.

Just came by to say that while the youth angle onto Social Media is a little bit more of a safe space for everyone to participate in the discussion, that’s not the societal-level issue, imho. It’s adults (who are not an inch more grown up than the kids - if they were, the kids were, too) who submit to and follow every strange rabbit hole they find on Social Media. Those are people with voting rights and that’s a considerable problem. No matter if left or right. Good chance that the scales will be tipped some day and the Social Media influence will be greater on the left than it is today on the right. (certainly an opinion, but at least it seems to be the other way around, today).

Jeff’s plan to wait for more data and research - which can only be provided by Facebook - and only then start thinking and acting on regulating Facebook is, to be courteous, ineffective. I wonder why Jeff would propose such an ineffective path. There just seems to be hardly any interest to change the status quo and actually help the situation move forward…

Why not regulate Social Media platforms to provide exactly the raw data that would help solve the challenges? A Social Media oversight agency. It would be high time. I’d suppose: Jeff would be against it. Only Facebook can regulate Facebook. :man_shrugging:


I get suggested stuff in both Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes in Twitter it will be an identified topic (sports, pets, whatever) but sometimes it is just a random person’s Tweet; someone I don’t follow and that doesn’t follow me, and there is no indication why it is in my timeline.

For Facebook, the biggest change I’ve been requesting for years is to get rid of links and re-sharing. Just have it be original content by people you have friended or followed. I really don’t need to see whatever article you read, or whatever inspirational post you saw; and I don’t want to show my commitment to whatever cause by re-posting some picture on my page. If someone cares enough, they can write an original post about it, using their own words and pictures.

I’m surprised that @Leo thinks Facebook is terrible, but has no issue with OANN (a propaganda company masquerading as news; talk about a wolf in sheep’s clothing).

Regarding what Facebook should optimize for, and what they purport to be, what if the company said their mission was to “connect people in positive ways”?

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I’m not a fan of OANN but it has a right to exist. There’s no way I’d support an attempt to supress it or Fox News, even though I vigorously disagree with them. Same with Epoch Times. They’re protected speech.

Facebook is pretending to be a platform while acting like a media outlet. And I believe that’s where the problem lies. People don’t see it as editorial content - they think it’s a stream of posts from their friends and family. Zuckerberg has his thumb on the scale, and he’s using our posts to do it.


"… profitable! We meant to say profitable ways! "

Which really is why Facebook seems difficult to blame, to me. A company will always strive for profitability - that old adage. It’s up to society to regulate. That’s also why I have a bone to pick with Jeff’s position. It’s like depending on ExxonMobil for developing environmental protection or McDonald’s to develop healthy eating regulations. I believe this was one of the headscratchers in Idiocracy.


I was with Jeff for the first couple of minutes, but then, his refusal to see that he is in a unique position in having a positive feed, because he has surrounded himself with like-minded and, for the most part well educated people and organisations that support his views.

Other people aren’t so lucky. They work in areas where there is more of a cross-section or they have family or friends that are more susceptible to the gutter press reporting or wilder conspiracy theories. People who have to include colleagues or classmates, that people are bullied.

@ant_pruitt is correct, the latter is for the most part a societal problem, but that doesn’t mean that Facebook gets a free pass to ignore it on their platform. Bullying or mobbing, as it is called here, is abhorrent and, while parents need to teach their children it is wrong, the social media platforms would be remiss if they didn’t also tackle the problem.

I was lucky, there was little to no bullying at school. There were a couple of bullies towards the end of my time at school, but they were smaller than me and picked on the lower classes. I used to stop them, when I saw it happening, I didn’t bully the bullies, but I did put a stop to their bullying others, as best I could.


Yeah, now that you mention it: I think maybe his (welcome cause entertaining but ultimately slightly self-defeating) temper may have gotten the better of his position during the course of the discussion. At some point he lost his cool and just wanted to fence it out with Leo. Which was fun but got him further from reason.

But hey - who doesn’t that happen to from time to time. Makes for an interesting podcast. Maybe not every week, but once or twice a year. :slight_smile:


A new post about all of this from someone in Facebook’s team working on integrity and safety.

Far better than the attempts until this point by Facebook seemingly just out to discredit Frances (although not free of some pot shots).

Twitter has been doing this for a while. I’d seen someone post an article I’d already read, externally from Twitter, and Twitter asked if I really wanted to retweet the post without reading the article fist.

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Interesting that it pulled in the Facebook Newsroom tweet in my url copy above. It was referenced in the tweet thread but only to outline that Frances’ testimony said Faceboook should be doing this, when they have already been doing so for months.

I guess the tl;dr I get from his thread are:

  • Progress is being made but it’s extremely difficult
  • There are examples (which he notes in his thread) of core product changes they have made which prioritises integrity over engagement
  • There’s been some mischaracterisations of the team’s commitment to safety, but there are some fair questions and discussions needed as well
  • Moderating content and behaviour is hard when the stakes of each decision are high and societial consensus on what it should be lacks clarity
  • Believes regulation and oversight would help set the goals for them to have something concrete to aim for and can publicly show progress towards them

Obviously he has a bias in his viewpoints, but I don’t consider them unreasonable.

PSA: if you liked this week’s TWiG, you’ll love this week’s FLOSS WEEKLY. It continues the thought, but takes it to the conclusion of decentralised social media. Favourite idea: palgorithms. :slight_smile:


Webrings are coming back! :upside_down_face:

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