Ben Thompson’s daily update email today covers fake news and algorithms. It’s a great post, although a little disheartening in the way that most coverage of filter bubbles and the election tend to be. One line in the closing paragraph:
Algorithms have consequences, particularly when giving answers to those actually searching for the truth.
It mirrors something I wrote in January about algorithms and curation:
Software has consequences. How it’s designed informs what behavior it encourages. If it’s built without thought to these consequences, it will succeed only by accident.
Quick posting via retweets on Twitter and re-sharing on Facebook contributes to the spread of fake news. As the New York Times article Ben links to says, fake news is “designed to attract social shares and web traffic”. Bad news stories with dramatic headlines can spread more quickly than they would if everyone posted an original comment with their link.
It’s too easy to click a retweet button without thinking. Fake news is as much a user experience and design problem as it is an algorithmic problem.
From last week’s flight through Los Angeles and up to Portland.
Maybe you aren’t building a new social network. Maybe you aren’t obsessed with the rise and fall of tech giants. But if you are at all interested in why Instagram and Snapchat took off, check out episode 102 of Exponent with Ben Thompson and James Allworth:
Ben and James discuss the history of messaging apps, the rise of Snapchat, and why Instagram Stories was such a brilliant move.
I feel like I just had a whirlwind business school class in 57 minutes. So much of what they talk about is applicable to what I’m working on.
At the Elgin Christmas tree farm.
University of Texas at Austin.
Twitter has retweets. Facebook has sharing. But Instagram has no built-in reposting. On Instagram, there’s no instantaneous way to share someone else’s post to all of your followers.
The first version of Instagram was built by a very small team. They’ve always grown slowly and expanded the UI thoughtfully. I think the lack of a repost feature was deliberate.
When you have to put a little work into posting, you take it more seriously. I wonder if fake news would have spread so quickly on Facebook if it was a little more difficult to share an article before you’ve read more than the headline.
It’s not easy to build software that encourages good behavior. When I look at my Instagram timeline I see beautiful photos, hand-drawn art, and snapshots of everyday life. I see the very best of the world. It’s not the full truth, but it’s all true.
Instagram was no accident. The only question: was it unique to photos, or can the same quality be applied to microblogging?
From the Texas State Capitol.
From the weekend in San Antonio.