The challenge of platforms, governments and societies

This post was originally written in PT-BR and published last april. It has now been translated to EN.

The text published in The Intercept Brasil on March 31 reflects on the case of YouTube vetoing the promotion of the video of episode nº 139 of the Tecnopolítica podcast.

Both the text and the video are quite interesting and I recommend that you pay attention to what is there.

Watching the video, I was reminded of points that had already been indicated in a text published in 2019 that deals with the necessary reflections on social platforms and what we do with them. Although the 2019 text mainly addresses Facebook, I believe that reflection can be dealt with in order to understand what happened and was reported in the video/podcast by Tecnopolítica and in the text by The Intercept Brasil.

We adopt social platforms as an important part of the dialogical dynamics that occur on the internet. We make use of these platforms as if they were part of social structures inherent in the forces of corporate financial interests. Only they aren’t. The platforms serve the interests of the companies that maintain them.

We are so used to living our lives considering that “everyone is on twitter / facebook / youtube” that we forget that these spaces are not public spaces. As said, they are private applications that belong to commercial institutions that exploit them hoping for a financial benefit. As such, they follow rules and act in accordance with the interests of the companies that control them.

Does this mean that platforms and companies are essentially evil and that we should avoid them? Obviously not. If it weren’t for platforms and social media, many of the benefits and social movements we’ve witnessed in recent years would not have gained the dimension they did or even would have occurred.

A long way to go

We must not regard platforms as exempt or neutral. The myth of neutrality must definitely be debunked (this text by the CHT is very interesting in this sense). We need to overcome this idea / utopia of neutrality (whether from press vehicles, governments and, of course, corporations).

The next step will be to overcome the idea that “since they are not neutral, these entities are evil”. It’s not like that either. The important thing is that we – as a society – manage to see these entities as what they really are: the materialization or operationalization in actions of interests of groups of people.

In this sense, it is to be expected that governments, in theory, will come to represent broader interests, which aim at the good of all those who are represented by them. Specific interests, linked to financial gains, are what drive company actions. Knowing that they are companies that create and maintain social media platforms, this becomes simpler. Likewise, they are companies that control and guide the actions of communication and media companies.

Concluding?

They are all defending interests. As citizens, we can interfere in the process by choosing well our legislative and executive representatives who will work to defend our (society) interests, creating the rules and working to guarantee the execution and compliance with these rules.

This leads to the fact that it is up to legislators to create the rules that will guide and regulate the actions of companies and governments to act to ensure that they are complied with. In the specific sense of what I’ve been dealing with here, regulation applies to media and communication companies and, of course, to social platforms. Regulation does not mean and does not imply censorship or even curtailment of freedoms. I understand that they should be mechanisms that guarantee a clearer functioning of the activities in which these institutions are involved.

If we choose the legislators and our representatives in the executive branch well, we (society) will have more chances of a better future in this regard.

At the other point are the companies and commercial entities that, when the set of regulations is established and in operation, must adjust their operation and develop internal policies to deal with issues that have impacts on the societies in which they operate.

If there are no sets of norms and rules that establish the boundaries of the actions of commercial institutions, these will create their own rules, resulting in developments that will not necessarily please or even meet the interests of societies. Commercial entities, in turn, need to act in a way that reconciles their interests with those of the communities they serve.

Você já está no Mastodon?

Em 2017 eu fui apresentado ao Mastodon. Como a maior parte das pessoas, a primeira impressão que eu tive (e, francamente, praticamente todo mundo fala assim) era a de que o Mastodon seria “apenas” uma alternativa ao Twitter. Ainda mais depois das pataquadas proporcionadas pelo recordista mundial Elon Musk com o Twitter, o Mastodon vem ganhando muitos usuários nos últimos meses e, praticamente todo mundo, pensa que ele é apenas um clone do Twitter. É normal pensar isso… A limitação de caracteres e até a forma que a interface padrão se apresenta, nos fazem pensar ser este realmente o caso.

Só que a coisa não é bem assim. E, ainda bem, não precisei de 5 anos para aprender isso. O Mastodon é algo completamente diferente do Twitter (francamente, bem melhor também); bem fácil e divertido de usar.

Para começar, uma coinsideração importante. O Mastodon faz parte do Fediverso, uma verdadeira constelação de serviços que funcionam em cima de um protocolo chamado ActivityPub, criado pelo W3C e que permite que conteúdo em diferentes formatos seja distribuído pela internet.

O Mastodon é um destes serviços, mas não é o único. Existem serviços de mídia social que funcionam em cima do ActivityPub dedicados a imagens e vídeos, por exemplo. O Mastodon é apenas um deles, que permite atualizações em formato de texto e postagem de diferentes formatos de mídia.

Pois bem, Este é o básico da coisa relacionada ao ActivityPub. Se quiser saber mais sobre o ActivityPub, pode seguir este link.

Para entender e usar o Mastodon, no entanto, você não precisa saber isso a fundo. Basta entender que, sendo construído tendo como base este protocolo (ActivityPub), o Mastodon é uma plataforma de mídia social federada e aberta. Por federada, entenda que cada um pode criar uma instância (ou servidor) e ligar este servidor à federação, fazendo com que o conteúdo dos demais servidores federados seja acessado por quem estiver em sua instância e vice-versa (o conteúdo postado em sua instância será visualizado / acessado por quem estiver vinculado às outras instâncias federadas).

Isso proporciona um cenário bem interessante. Cada administrador de instância pode definir regras próprias e também é responsável pela gestão de usuários e, claro, pelo funcionamento deste pedacinho da rede. E como a rede é federada, os servidores se comunicam entre si e todo mundo pode ver o que é postado em outros servidores e interagir com outros usuários.

Funciona mais ou menos como o e-mail. O meu servidor de e-mail (caiocgo.net) tem regras específicas de tamanho de anexos e espaço de armazenamento para mensagens. Estas regras podem ser diferentes das do Gmail, do iCloud, do UOL ou do Yahoo. No entanto, pessoas que tenham e-mail criado em cada um destes serviços podem mandar mensagens para pessoas nos outros servidores sem problemas. Fazemos isso há anos, certo? No Mastodon é a mesma coisa. Cada servidor tem algumas particularidades mas, desde que vinculados à federação, os usuários podem interagir livremente.

Pois bem, os diferentes servidores / instâncias do Mastodon podem permitir – por exemplo – o ingresso apenas de um tipo de usuário (pense em uma instância de uma Universidade, que pode permitir cadastro apenas de membros da comunidade acadêmica), estabelecer regras de postagem e conduta próprias, definir limites de caracteres, permitir ou proibir tipos específicos de mídia e por aí vai. Isso pode ser bacana porque há a possibilidade de você restringir a visualização ou resposta a determinados posts apenas para membros da instância (ou para seus seguidores)… De qualquer forma, uma coisa é importante reforçar: os membros de uma instância com ingresso restrito (como no exemplo que dei, de uma Universidade) poderão seguir e ser seguidos por todos do fediverso (como é chamado este grande ambiente de servidores participantes da federação) normalmente.

Muitas pessoas colocam esta questão das instâncias como um elemento complicador do Mastodon. No entanto, explicando dessa forma, a coisa fica bem simples, né? A gente escolhe um servidor para se vincular a partir de quesitos que podem ser nossos (fazer parte de uma comunidade, por exemplo, ou ter interesse em conhecer pessoas de um determinado grupo) ou mesmo por quesitos que sejam particulares da instância (escolher participar de uma instância que tenha um limite maior de caracteres nas postagens, por exemplo ou mesmo ser empregado de uma empresa que criou uma instância) e manda brasa na interação.

Uma coisa que falei acima é relevante explorar mais: conhecer pessoas de um servidor / instância. Isso porque no Mastodon as postagens são visualizadas em três possíveis timelines mínimas (falo “mínimas” porque você pode escolher seguir hashtags e ter ainda mais timelines). Estas três são: A sua timeline (chamada HOME) em que aparecem as postagens de todas as pessoas que você segue. A segunda timeline é a do servidor (chamada LOCAL), onde você pode ver todas as postagens marcadas como públicas de pessoas da sua instância. A terceira é bem ampla (chamada FEDERADA) e mostra todas as postagens marcadas como públicas de todas as pessoas vinculadas aos servidores que estão conectados ao seu. Isso quer dizer que estas três timelines tendem a ser bem movimentadas, de forma crescente, percebe?

Ah, e já que estou explicando isso, vale aprofundar em um tema que toquei acima: as postagens marcadas como públicas. Isso porque no Mastodon, você pode marcar as postagens como restritas. Daí apenas quem te segue vai ver a postagem. Assim você não terá suas postagens selecionadas visualizadas nas timelines LOCAL e FEDERADA de ninguém. A não ser que você sinalize. Tudo isso é configurável para as pessoas, o que dá uma liberdade enorme ao usuário do Mastodon. Além de poder marcar as postagens como públicas ou privadas, você pode estabelecer o idioma da postagem (porque, de igual maneira, você pode escolher visualizar apenas postagens de um idioma especificado) ou mesmo trancar seu perfil, para que apenas quem você aprove possa te seguir. Ou seja: o usuário tem controle de muita coisa no Mastodon.

Entendendo estes pontos básicos, dá para ver que é uma plataforma de mídia social com bastante versatilidade e potencial, não é?

Ficou com vontade de usar o Mastodon? A primeira coisa a fazer é criar a sua conta. A melhor forma de fazer isso é acessando joinmastodon.org onde você poderá fazer uma filtragem de servidores e encontrar o seu servidor preferido. Não se preocupe pois esta escolha não é definitiva. Você poderá migrar depois. Eu mesmo já migrei três vezes (comecei em 2017 no mastodon.cloud, depois migrei pro mastodon.online, em seguida fui pra ursal.zone e, por enquanto estou no social.vivaldi.net). Quando você migra de servidor, você leva sua lista de seguidores e a lista de perfis que você segue. Apenas os posts não são migrados também. É tudo muito simples.

Pois bem. Escolhido o servidor, basta fazer o seu cadastro. Recomendo enfaticamente que este processo seja feito pelo navegador em um computador. Depois de criada a conta, você pode acessar o seu servidor pelo navegador e também usar um dos vários clientes de mastodon disponíveis. Há clientes para todas as plataformas e com funcionalidades / visuais distintos. Os clientes nativos (oficiais) para Android e iOS são bem bacanas. No iOS eu uso o Metatext, que acho bem bacana (o Metatext permite editar postagens depois de publicadas, o que eu acho muito legal, visto que vivo cometendo erros de digitação).

Usar o mastodon no smartphone é mais fácil. Os aplicativos fazem o processo de seguir e interagir com pessoas de outros servidores ser bem fácil. No desktop você pode interagir com as pessoas livremente também, mas de vez em quando seguir um perfil pode demandar copiar um URL e colar na barra de busca para poder seguir. Um passo a mais mas que não mata ninguém. A gente se acostuma. Como se não bastasse, você pode escolher também, no navegador, usar a interface básica ou avançada. Muitas pessoas recomendam a interface avançada porque fica parecendo com a interface de alguns clientes de Twitter que as pessoas usavam (TweetDeck).

Como o Mastodon é aberto, há também formas alternativas de acessar via navegador. O Elk (elk.zone) e o Pinafore (pinafore.social) são duas destas formas. Estas iniciativas permitem que você use o mastodon com uma interface diferenciada. Eu gosto muito do Pinafore e, quando estou no computador, acesso por ele.

Veja, abaixo, algumas possibilidades de interface citadas:

Voltando ao uso, o Mastodon é bastante inclusivo. Toda imagem que você postar, você pode colocar um texto de descrição. Os administradores de instâncias enfatizam que isso é muito importante e recomendam que todos coloquem as descrições das imagens. Isso acaba ajudando muito. Além disso, cabe ao autor do post indicar que um conteúdo é sensível e, assim, os leitores são avisados. Você pode fazer isso com postagens de texto e também com postagens de imagens. Olha que bacana! Claro, nos aplicativos (e também na interface web) você pode configurar para marcar tudo como sensível ou então visualizar todo conteúdo sem precisar dar mais um clique.

Sobre a dinâmica da plataforma, entenda que uma coisa é muito legal: o Mastodon não tem interferência no sortimento e ordenação das postagens por meio de algoritmos. Isso faz da plataforma um ambiente muito bacana para interação. Você verá tudo o que os perfis que você segue postam e vice-versa. Todas as suas postagens públicas serão visualizadas por todos que te seguem. Além disso há os boosts, que são os impulsionamentos. Você pode replicar uma postagem de alguém para os seus seguidores. Isso é bem legal para fazer uma mensagem chegar a um público maior. Tem também, claro, os comentários, que permitem que você interaja com os autores dos posts e com quem por ventura já tenha comentado lá. Por fim, há os favoritos, que, embora não amplifiquem uma mensagem, sinalizam ao autor que você gostou daquilo.

Evidentemente você pode usar as respostas às postagens para construir threads (fios), da mesma forma que no Twitter. De igual maneira há também as mensagens diretas (DMs, que podem ser individualizadas ou em grupo). Sobre as mensagens, uma coisa importante: elas não são criptografias e o adm da instância poderá acessar. Então, vale a recomendação de jamais colocar informação sensível em uma DM (mas isso vale para qualquer plataforma).

Pois bem. Acho que isso é bem o básico, né? O lance agora é criar a conta e começar a interagir. Há serviços legais como o movetodon (www.movetodon.org) em que você pode ver quais pessoas que segue no Twitter já estão no Mastodon e segui-las por lá também. A migração fica bem simples e fácil.

Há outros textos e guias bem bacanas para ajudar a usar o Mastodon. Este – em vídeo – do Manual do Usuário é muito bom. Também tem um guia da URSAL bem legal. Vale a leitura! Ah, e se pensar em algo para complementar, pode usar os comentários a esta postagem.

Espero te ver no Mastodon!

We Need to Talk About Facebook: A Tease About platforming of social activities on the Internet

Translation note. This text was originally written in Brazilian Portuguese and presented at the 2019 edition of INTERCOM, at Belem (PA), Brazil. In view of the emergence of Mastodon and the problems involving Twitter, I decided to translate this text into English so that it would gain greater reach. In addition, I took the liberty of making minor corrections and additions to the content so that the reflections presented here are not restricted to Facebook.

SUMMARY

This text has as its main goal to reflect on the issues that involve and surround the prioritisation of the use of platforms to address the presence of both individual and as commercial in the digital context. For this purpose, a description of the transformed through which communication on the Internet has passed until reaching the context current. The focus is on Facebook (but the reflexions here can be applied to all other commercial social media platforms), taking into account the impact and influence of this company in social, political and commercial aspects. The text aims contextualize and problematize the focus on a communication mediated by platforms and their impacts on the lives of people and organisations. in the end they are listed some referral questions that may be preferred in thinking or proposals for future work.

FROM THE SOCIAL WEB TO FACEBOOK

In the mid-1990s, when Internet access began to be exploited commercially, enthusiasts discovered a different way of communicating. It wasn’t as easy as making a phone call, and it didn’t require the physical space, presence and engagement of a large number of people as a class.

Building a website and publishing any kind of information was an undertaking relatively easy, although it required specific knowledge of the language HTML developed years earlier by Tim Berners-Lee. Creating services like Blogger, developed by Pyra Labs in 1999, provided the necessary push for publishing content to reach the masses. The growth of personal websites and blogs practically accompanied the growth in the number of users who connected to the Internet for the first time each day during that period.

The production and distribution of information by people who were previously only readers and spectators gave rise to a new term. In a time when the Internet became part of the lives of societies, social media emerged.

From 2001, when the use of social platforms for publishing content starts to gain popularity, it also starts, which can be considered the future of journalism (GILLMOR, 2006). People (and later also companies) come to understand that, with social tools, they no longer need intermediaries to consume (and produce / disseminate) content. The wide adoption of social media marks the definitive migration to digital culture (SANTAELLA, 2003).

The communication model that prevailed at the time, in which media acted as the “official sources” of the events (GILLMOR, 2006; KAPLAN; HAENLEIN, 2010) gradually loses importance and starts to compete space with a new way of producing, distributing and consuming information. In that new cultural context, people and institutions of different types began to act and interact in a hybrid, dynamic environment where communicational flows could be multidirectional (CASTELLS, 2009).

Initially, this new context indicated that people and companies could act as producers and disseminators of information, being able to achieve efficiency in the process using social media, minimising or eliminating the power influence of the money (and mass media) in communication initiatives (KELLY, 2002).

The discovery and adoption of social media has proved to be very important for social and, of course, commercial dynamics. The logic of the mass media in which the struggle of public attention was a zero-sum game seemed to have been fully overcome. The adoption of social media, initially with websites, provided an understanding of that it was no longer necessary for a company to monopolize a particular medium nor a mass media channel to get your message out to a large number of people just for the purpose of starting a relationship with a fraction of that audience.

With social media, people began to understand that the principles of marketing one to one, presented at the turn of the 1980s to 1990s (PEPPERS; ROGERS, 1995) could come true. The commercial internet and the web were, then treated with great enthusiasm, providing a bright and euphoric era of social media. Manifests (LOCKE et al., 2000) and recipes for action (GODIN, 2000) potentiated the emergence of relationship marketing practices.

In terms of advertising communication initiatives, the action of publishing content on its own site, independently had its efficiency catalysed by the emergence of search engines like Google. With this type of combination, it was enough for companies to get the attention of those who are in the process of finding a solution is offered and show the offer. The possibility of reaching a potential buyer through an action based on his behaviour (the search) became known as winning the zero moment of truth, or ZMOT, for its acronym in English (LECINSKI, 2017) and, even today, it influences the development of advertising actions and of communication in the context of the internet. In this way – as we are all in many parallel processes of searching for solutions to our day-to-day problems and constantly looking for information, news, products or just answers – ended up developing a profitable advertising communication market around search activities and content published on social media (ENGE et al., 2012; FOX, 2010; HALLIGAN; SHAH, 2009).

The emergence and popularisation of Social Networking Sites (SNS) catalysed the process of people’s participation with publication and dissemination of content in the Internet. These services, by allowing and being based on the construction of a profile individual, where and through which people can connect with each other and show their connections; as well as publishing content and interacting with other people and their publications (BOYD; ELLISON, 2007; ELLISON; STEINFIELD; LAMPE, 2007; RECUERO, 2009, 2012) has provided profound changes in how people relate to each other (SPYER, 2017), inform themselves, deliberate on issues social and political, interact with brands and learn (ROCKEMBACH; GARRÉ, 2018; TEZANI, 2017).

It is through SNS that society presents itself and acts in the digital context. However, despite providing great enthusiasm, due to the increasingly prominent of this type of technological resource, it is necessary to reflect on these spaces; especially Facebook, which has more than 2.3 billion users 3 active monthly on the platform.

Despite being termed and commonly identified as an SRS, it is necessary to face Facebook (FB) as an enterprise that transcends this definition. Interestingly, when looking for a definition of what Facebook is on the company’s own website, there is no clear answer. In an interview, the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, defines it as a space for information sharing where people can publish what they want (VOGELSTEIN, 2009). In this sense, more than an SNS, FB is also a social platform, bringing together the characteristics of an SNS and also those of social media (OBAR; WILDMAN, 2015).

But, taking into account that Facebook’s influence goes far beyond the sharing links, images and short texts with friends and family is I have to look at Facebook as something even bigger. In addition to people, companies and organisations of different natures use Facebook as a space for interaction with its internal and external audiences; explore the services offered by the company as communication platforms and customer service, which leads to understanding it as something that goes beyond the definition of a social networking site or social media. one can consider Facebook as a central agent in social relations; a platform which acts as an intermediary between agents of different modalities.

USERS OR EMPLOYEES? THREE MOVEMENTS TO UNDERSTAND THE FACEBOOK DOMAIN

In the early 2000s, more experienced internet users started using feeds and RSS aggregators to stay informed. At that time, the Internet was experiencing exponential growth in publishing multimedia content and keeping up with the updating of various sites through RSS feeds and readers (or aggregators) it brought great gain to the people.

The process of production, circulation and consumption of information was, at that time, context, very site-centric. In a very important strategic move for the company (reference) Facebook implements a way to, at the same time, learn about the habits and preferences of its users, and provide this user with a way of showing his network which sites he values and admires. The “like” button, created in 2009, provided FB with the possibility of gathering information about its users and their habits.

In the meantime, despite the solution provided by RSS feeds and aggregators, the process for this to work satisfactorily represented an enormous amount of barriers for most people. In a second very strategic movement for the company, in 2011 the Facebook news feed is made available. this solution proved to be FB’s easy and efficient answer to the difficulty that most people people faced with RSS.

With these two moves – the like button and the news feed – Facebook becomes a central space for social life on the network. It constitutes as the a place where people’s tastes and habits are exposed, functioning as buttons, in a way form similar (but not necessarily identical) to those observed when on display of Orkut communities into personal profiles (RECUERO, 2006).

Creating the newsfeed converts Facebook to that place on the internet where everyone could publish content without needing their own website to do so. Through the newsfeed, people can follow each other’s posts practically in real time. This drives mass membership to the platform. Not it took a while for companies to also discover and start to explore that space. With this, the dynamics around the circulation of content becomes quite messy. People and brands fight for attention.

The solution to lessen information overload for users has been shown to be also as an opportunity for Facebook: the reduction in the organic reach of posts. Organic reach would be reduced so that brands that want to reach most of the audience they fought so hard to build could only be reached when Facebook got your money. Pay to achieve. The same logic as can be seen in the mass media. This solution is considered extremely strategically important because it is the perfect solution to provide FB with a template of business that guarantees you a continuous stream of income.

As said, these three moves – recovering: like button, email feed news and control of the organic reach of posts – are crucial for company consolidation.

In doing so, FB closes an important loop that provides the big business with power and, consequently, control over the lives of people and actions of companies.

It starts with monitoring and gathering information about people’s habits and tastes through the like button; This procedure assists in the collection of data that will help consolidate what we know as big data (COULDRY; POWELL, 2014). The second drive is the news feed, which gives people a space to centralised dissemination and consumption of information, without the difficulty represented by RSS. This second movement also takes companies into space, providing the noise to the FB, reason that is used as justification for the final movement: control of the organic reach of the posts.

In a way, that sums up Facebook: Everyone works for Mark Zuckerberg, even though they are not registered employees of the company. The people that use the web every day tell Facebook about their preferences via clicks on the like button on sites outside of FB and also on pages. Furthermore, Important information is provided through the engagement metrics, namely: Likes on posts, comments, shares, and link clicks. And the perfect illustration of the theme “The machine is us/using us” (WESCH, 2007).

Also, brands and other companies work for Zuckerberg by dumping content on FB and fighting to get more followers and build a larger audience for your posts in that space. The great advantage of these two forms of work provided to Facebook – for people and companies – it’s obvious: there is no remuneration paid by Facebook to those who collaborate with data and content as explained above.

It is the third strategic move worked on in this section that provides the financial income direct to Facebook. By controlling the sorting and reach of posts, the entities present on FB that intend to publish messages destined to their tanners have to pay ever-increasing sums of money to be able to provide your posts with reach to a larger part of your audience tanners. It is also this strategic move by FB that puts it in the same position of mass media companies, as discussed below.

PLATFORMS AND MASS MEDIA: MORE SIMILARITIES THAN DIFFERENCES

Even though Facebook should be or was initially envisioned to be constituted as an SNS, its growth has transformed it into a platform with features on a list that far surpasses those of an SNS and business objectives others. In addition, its operation is based on a business model that resembles what we are used to seeing in the mass media.

Companies that operate following this logic are called “attention merchants” (WU, 2017). The operating logic of this type of entrepreneurship is simple. The objective of this type of business is to keep the attention of the people focused on their products interspersing content of interest with offers advertising. The product is offered free of charge to people and companies that aim to reach these people to show them their commercial offers pay to these operators (the merchants) who display the message to the users.

Facebook is a complete example of an attention merchant; operating within the same logic of selling advertising spaces, as seen in the context of the mass media, on TV or Radio programming. However, due to the possibility from the collection of user information, such as an advertising platform, Facebook can go much further than broadcasters and even segmented media publications. And it is at this point that a difference can be found crucial between the modes of operation of Communication companies in the mass media and platforms like Facebook.

The differential that is, at the same time, the guarantee of a distinctive capacity for FB and a threat to different social processes is the issue of context and behaviour. Through user control functionalities, it is possible to configure the Facebook news feed to display information only and posts of direct interest to people. This is done by liking (i.e.: opting for follow/view posts from specific pages) and following only those friends which people want to receive/see news in their feed. However, there are also the non-direct way to configure the feed. Facebook learns from people’s interactions people and starts to prioritise publications that the machine understands to be of greater interest for each one. The consequence of this is called a filter bubble (PARISER, 2012): people will visualize only what pleases them. With this it is expected (and achieved) that people will stay more and more time connected to the service. The longer connected, the greater the amount of advertising can be shown to each user scrolling through the newsfeed for news.

How Facebook is collecting information about your habits and likes users within the platform (through interactions with posts) and also outside – through “like” buttons and navigation tracking scripts installed on websites that choose to insert these buttons in their environments – there is a virtually constant collection of countless information about people’s behaviour. FB’s initial justification for carrying out this type of action is that with these information the company will be able to provide increasingly intelligent filters to advertisers while providing users with exposure to advertisements that are more and more in line with your interests at any time.

Through this type of initiative based on people’s behaviour – Online Behavioural Advertising (BEALES, 2010; UR et al., 2012) – Facebook inserts different advertisements; personalised in the feeds of each of your users. despite the initial logic be the same – the platform acts as a message intermediary between advertiser and audience – there are some potentially problematic issues in that application.

In the context of mass media, if two people are watching the same television program in their homes, but in different neighbourhoods of the same city, the advertising message they will watch is the same. In the case of Facebook, due to the fact that publications of an advertising nature can be based on the behaviour of each user, each of these users will be impacted by different messages.

The consequences of this type of guidance are many. Starting with itself nature of Facebook where advertisements and sponsored messages are not easily identified by users. In this sense, there is an initial difficulty of up to differentiate what is advertising and what is a post that would naturally appear naturally in the newsfeed.

In addition, due to the personalisation of the message based on filters that were built from the characteristics, habits, tastes and behaviours each user, advertising messages can also be highly personalised and tailored to trigger specific behaviours in each user.

This question brings to the table another complicating point that deserves to be duly questioned and studied.

Anyway, returning to the similarities with the business model of mass media, if a certain brand wants its message to reach a particular audience, you must pay Facebook for the platform to display this message in the form of ads or boosted posts (posts made by pages liked by users but not shown to them due to low organic reach controlled by the company itself).

Through this set of strategic procedures, Facebook and other social media platforms – much more similar to what was previously understood as mass media – are adopting traditional intermediation practices than as a Social Networking Site.

However, as stated, with filtering and ad targeting tools, FB is even more efficient than mass media in providing the visualisation of ads and posts only by users who fit or meet parameters specific.

The initial idea that the SNS would constitute open spaces where participants (be they people or companies) could relate, publish and make information to circulate independently is, in practice, a fantasy. To understanding FB as an attention merchant, the realisation that free and truly disintermediated communication evidences a rather easy to see. In addition, the issues and specificities of advertising exploitation based on user behaviour is potentially problematic.

To become financially viable, these entities start to intervene in what is displayed to your users. What is published in these spaces is no longer shown for all the people each user or brand is connected with; only part of these people view what is posted by their connections. In that sense, organic reach is reduced and non-organic reach prevails; that is, understood as “unnatural” and that needs to be inflated through boosting of posts and of course ads.

By introducing this form of relationship with posts and advertisements, it is established, then, a billing model based on the intermediation of posted messages. The adopted model is that only through payments to those who control the reach of the posts, those interested in having their messages consumed by their public can spread messages and have the audience reached.

Therefore, although the context is digital, the logic of mass media, based on financial power, is the one that still prevails. Those with more money can take advantage of the best seats at the best times on TV, print media or radio stations and reach your audience. On Facebook, those with money can make your posts reach your audience.

IS THERE A SOLUTION? FINAL REMARKS AND REFLECTIONS

It is necessary, in the first place, to reinforce the point that the Internet, and consequently the web is an open and free space. In this sense, understand that no good solution for the collective can come from giving up control of the spaces and delegate this power to a large company.

It is necessary to regain control of communication processes (production, circulation and consumption of information) in the digital context (LANIER, 2019). Be by through the adoption and maintenance of spaces that are not controlled by corporations or with other initiatives that are not subverted to the imperatives of big data (COULDRY; TUROW, 2014). Perhaps the answer lies in remembering that the web is an open system and that RSS is still a very current and used technology (HOLIDAY, 2013).

In addition, for both individuals and companies, it is important to keep in mind that this social space represented by FB has a function. The features of this space for connecting people, as listed in the characteristics of an SNS.

Furthermore, for companies, today Facebook is used as a way to attract people and place them at the top of a marketing funnel (HALLIGAN; SHAH, 2009). deny your useful to try to completely eliminate this service from the digital context can be harmful. However, it is important to prioritize its use. Spaces like FB can be very useful for publishing messages, but they should not be the only way to do it advertising communication in the digital context.

In terms of business communication, although, as mentioned above, Facebook can be a good space to publicize a message and get people to a website and start communicating with them, it is necessary to understand that FB should not be the only way to achieve this. And, returning to the aspect of interpersonal communication, it is necessary to if you consider it strategic for individuals not to provide data that may later be worked aiming not the best for each one, but to meet interests and corporate goals (COULDRY; TUROW, 2014; SEARLS, 2012; SILVEIRA, 2017).

It is not the best solution to solve the problem and meet the interest collective, letting one or a few corporations control or decide what can or not see (JURNO; D’ANDREA, 2017). That’s what mass media has always done and that’s what Facebook does. For companies, it is not smart to invest so much money in content and deploy efforts to create an audience that cannot be reached because the platform controls this reach via algorithm (GILLESPIE, 2018).

It is still necessary to consider the sequence of controversies involving Facebook, especially since the US presidential elections of 2016, when it was demonstrated that the platform had been used to influence outcomes of that claim based on data explored by the company Cambridge Analytica (GRANVILLE, 2018). Since that time, repeated problems involving the management and management of user data were evidenced, causing a significant reduction in company reliability.

As it is a publicly traded company, the issues and controversies to be respect for the privacy and access to the data of its users represented an impact in the value of shares traded on the stock exchange. As a result, Facebook comes working intensely on its image and, recently, announced a shift, no less controversial, towards a more privacy-oriented focus (SULLIVAN, 2019). The controversy of this turn is due to previous statements by Mark Zuckerberg on the end of privacy (JOHNSON, 2010). Therefore, the last attack of the company towards a scenario more focused on the protection of user data is viewed with much disbelief and scepticism; certainly deserving study and future follow-up.

There are still a number of issues to be considered involving Facebook that help to understand the argument of this article that we concentrate the presence – both individual and institutional – in the digital context on platforms it may not be beneficial. Some of them deserve referral here for future developments.

The first is related to the influence of what happens on the platform in election results, for example. Due to algorithmic manipulation and formation of filter bubbles, communication platforms and especially Facebook, play an important role in spreading disinformation and news false. Actions aimed at prioritising checked and verified information contradict the dynamic created and maintained by the platform to put in people’s newsfeeds that which originates in your circles of friendship. As a result, sources of information checks are pushed into the background, creating an even bigger problem. An

One of Facebook’s action fronts in this regard is to act as an intermediary, also in financial terms, between users and content (SLOANE, 2017). for representing more a financial barrier (both for vehicles and for users), this type of initiative has obvious developments that deserve attention, problematisation and investigation.

Another important issue concerns the proliferation of hate speech in platform and how the company handles it. Issues have recently come to light involving the precarious working conditions and remuneration of employees of companies contracted by FB that act as responsible for evaluating content posted and flagged on Facebook (NEWTON, 2019).

Finally, one last issue that deserves follow-up and referral refers to the question of Facebook’s dominance in different aspects of communication in the social context. So much so that one of its co-founders demonstrated, in an opinion article, the need for the company to be divided, given the influence and power it wields on actions and society (HUGHES, 2019).

It is hoped that, through this text, the main issues related to impacts of platform actions, especially Facebook, in the context of Digital Communication have been addressed. Furthermore, it is expected that contemplated the intention of forwarding a set of possible developments of investigation for future work regarding the important issue of the use of social platforms, especially Facebook.

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Why are you still using Twitter?

Take a look at this dialog:

It shows the owner of twitter responding a user of the platform insulting them.

Would you buy from a store where the owner behaves like this?
Would you buy anything from someone who behaves like this?
Would you be friends with someone like this?
Would you support a business of someone who behaves like this?

So… why are you still using Twitter? Seriously. The web is a huge environment. You can choose from dozens of other services. Just stop using (and by using you are endorsing this behaviour) Twitter.

A few words about Twitter

This text is still a draft.

The social dynamics that take place on Twitter make it a key platform for the dissemination of information. Not for the reach or even the conversations, but for the simple fact that key people are there. Twitter is not the platform with the largest number of users, nor does it have the most traffic, but what happens to Larissa reverberates a lot.

In its current configuration, the platform serves as the perfect space for the manipulation of speech from the movement of robots to boost specific hashtags that end up guiding the mass media. Hence, the subject falls into people’s conversations and for those interested, it is enough to reap the results.

Last week I participated in the Panorama program, on TV ALMG, where we talked about the acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk and the possible paths of the platform.

One thing that I think might be cool and that is on Elon Musk’s list of proposals for Twitter is the individual validation of users. The initiative is controversial because, depending on how its implementation is carried out, it can put people in a situation of persecution by authoritarian governments. But there are ways to operationalise this without having this potentially harmful externality. Anyway, I understand that one-on-one validation can be cool because it has the potential to wipe out fake accounts and bots. This will be of great help in the process of combating the dissemination of disinformation actions.

November update: The current proposal of “pay to be (and remain) validated” is, in my perspective, an error. Everyone that wish to be verified should be verified for free on the platform. This would elevate the civility and politeness on the platform, since people could be held responsible for what they publish. Attaching this to a monthly payment is wrong, in my opinion because a large amount of people just can’t afford monthly payments. I believe a subscription-based platform is viable, though. Current speculations are that people who subscribe would pay around 8 US dollars monthly. This can be really expensive in a lot of countries. I believe people who subscribe should have an ad-free experience, organic reach of 100% and pay less than 5 US dollars a month. This would probably scale better than what is being ventilated by Musk. Note that it is key not to attach user verification / validation to the subscriptions. This should be free.

As Twitter currently operates based on the sale of advertising, the existence of fake accounts and robots helps the company by inflating the number of users and composing graphics that the platform uses to sell ads in our feeds. Another thing that happens is that, when anchoring its revenue in the sale of advertising space, Twitter has to algorithmically manipulate the feed in a way that brands have to pay to make their posts reach the audiences of interest.

This is my biggest annoyance with the platform in the current setup. The organic reach of posts is always a fraction of their potential. Let’s say… if a profile has 100 followers on the platform and posts a message, only a part according to research I did a few years ago, the average was 37% of your followers will see the post in their feeds. I find this quite counterproductive in terms of system and usefulness for people. However, this is a format that pleases the platform well, as it generates demand for profiles that commercially explore their presence there and end up paying for boosting.

To get an idea of ​​this challenge related to the reach of messages on Twitter, let’s look at a practical case. I posted the video of my participation in the TV show on different platforms. Below, a brief report of these posts and what you can have about their reach.

Although my quick effort here did not account for the number of views that the post had on Instagram and Facebook (these platforms do not provide this data directly in their applications) it is possible to see from the number of reactions (likes / likes) that the reach was greater. than what I had on Twitter.

In other words: for a message to reach a large number of people on Twitter, it is necessary that key people see this post and decide to reverberate it (like, comment or share). We return to the issue of social networking, which is the need to be well connected on the platform. It is not enough to have a large number of followers. You need to have the right Twitter followers.

On the other hand, that is, on the side of those who are on the platform to consume information, this way of working is very bad, as users choose to follow profiles because they are interested in the content that these profiles post. As the platform does not show everything to them, there is a bottleneck that is not being resolved.

Due to this limitation, I understand that platforms that provide higher organic reach can be more interesting. In that vein, I understand that Mastodon has all the potential to solve this. At Mastodon we have full organic reach (ie: your effective organic reach is equal to your potential reach). In other words, everything you post will be shown in the feed of those who follow you. This makes this platform truly what Elon Musk argues Twitter is: the public arena of discussion.

In terms of platform design and potential the Mastodon is a far superior platform. Instance administrators can work on content moderation and even handle the connection (or not) with other servers. This makes content-specific restrictions by type or profile operational. Anyway. It’s a dynamic that has really cool potential and I invite you to check it out. https://ursal.zone/@caiocgo

RTs are endorsements!

With all this hype about Elon Musk buying Twitter, obviously a lot of people ended up going back to the site and seeing what it is… I myself am one of those people who went back to Twitter after Elon Musk bought the platform.

One of the things I did when I got back was to get the news about the transaction. Hence, it was inevitable to find profiles of journalists who were talking about the case and it didn’t take long for “RT is not an endorsement” to appear (or even “RT ≠ endorsement” for those who know how to copy-and-paste or even understand Unicode ) in the bios of some of them. This statement is easy to find; especially in profiles of journalists. I understand it to be a way for them (mainly journalists who cover the universe of politics) to exempt themselves from any responsibility associated with RTing a controversial message. But that always leaves me puzzled; even more so when it’s in a tech journalist’s bio. What pisses me off is that it’s simply not true. RT is a form of endorsement, yes. It’s in the nature of functionality. Just saying this in your profile does not resolve the fact that you are endorsing a message by retweeting it.

I explain by showing two (of several) things that happen when we simply retweet (RT) a message without context.

1 – Message amplification

When you RT any post on Twitter, the first thing that happens is that you amplify the original message for your followers (or for a fraction of them, for that matter… but still, it’s an amplification of the message). Making a message – even if you disagree with it – reach your followers is a way of endorsing the content of the original post. Put yourself in the position of a person who follows you. Suddenly that person following you sees a message in their feed with something you retweeted. Without any context, that RT signals to the person reading the tweet that you agree with it to the point of replicating the message to your followers. In other words: RT is endorsement.

2 – Platform signaling

Another thing that happens when we RT without any context associated with it is to signal to the platform that that content is of interest to you. Obviously the RT already signals to the platform that that content is of interest before anything else. But when you RT and don’t add any context, it’s you signaling to the platform that your profile is interested in that content and is recommending (endorsing, as I said above) that content to your network. If you don’t agree with something and RT that something, you’re sending the wrong signal to the platform. Then two things can happen as a result of this. The first is for you to signal to the platform that that content may deserve some attention. That’s normal. But doing that with content you don’t like is shooting yourself in the foot. You will be helping the platform to be a bad place for everybody. The second is you help the author of the original content to be promoted by the platform to people including your audience. This seems to be included in the previous question, but notice that by signaling this to the platform, that original profile, even if it is someone you don’t agree with at all, you are informing the platform that that content may be of interest to you , your audience (your followers) or people who look like you. I mean, nothing cool. By RTing a post and not adding any context, you are endorsing the original post. Understand it!

How to do it?

An important thing to do is to provide proper context to the RTs you give. By doing this you are letting your audience know that you disagree with what you are retweeting, you are explaining why you disagree and you are also (very important) associating the words in their context with the RT. This way you also teach the platform that that RT is associated with those words and this can help the platform to understand the reason for the RT and not necessarily understand that that original profile may be of interest to your audience.

Therefore, it is always good for you to give the context when you are going to replicate a message. Put your observation. This helps your audience (your followers) and also helps teach the platform that what is on your profile is associated with the words you used in your RT.

If you’ve read all of this and haven’t seen anything new, good for you! 🙂
However, this is likely not part of their repertoire (yet) and was new. In this case, the reason for using the video The machine is us/using us in my Communication and Digital Culture classes in the middle of 2022 is justified. It is that even though it was made there in 2007, the concepts prevail there.

Furthermore, there are many people who work with social media / digital communication who do not associate our actions on the platforms and what they learn with and about us.

Obviously, in the same way that platforms learn from us, they also learn that the association we make between our profiles and messages that we replicate (RT) without context are not necessarily affinity associations. But it’s also nice to understand that until that happens, the platform needs to know you and your interaction habits there. That comes with time. So, you need to be a very frequent user of the platform for this to have already happened. And it’s also nice to keep in mind that this learning about platforms only solves half of the issues I brought up in this post. The other half (confusing your audience) is not solved with this machine/platform learning. Your followers will be confused when they see something you’ve RTed without providing context in their feeds.

Now that you know this, make a commitment not to replicate a message without giving the proper context associated with it. Help your audience (and the machines as well) not get confused about your intentions. Believe me, not confusing the machines now can be useful to you in the future, when they take over. 🙂

O desafio das plataformas, dos governos e das sociedades

O texto publicado no The Intercept Brasil do dia 31 de março reflete sobre o caso de o YouTube vetar o impulsionamento do vídeo do episódio nº 139 do podcast Tecnopolítica.

Tanto o texto quanto o vídeo são bastante interessantes e eu recomendo que você preste atenção no que está lá.

Assistindo o vídeo, fui me lembrando de pontos que já haviam sido indicados em texto publicado lá em 2019 que versa sobre as necessárias reflexões acerca das plataformas sociais e o que fazemos com elas. Embora o texto de 2019 aborde principalmente o Facebook, acredito que a reflexão possa ser tratada para entendermos o que ocorreu e foi relatado no vídeo/podcast do Tecnopolítica e no texto do The Intercept Brasil.

Adotamos as plataformas sociais como parte importante das dinâmicas dialógicas que ocorrem na internet. Fazemos uso destas plataformas como se fossem parte de estruturas sociais inerentes às forças dos interesses financeiros de corporações. Só que elas não são. As plataformas servem a interesses das empresas que as mantém.

Estamos tão acostumados a levar nossas vidas considerando que “todo mundo está no twitter / facebook / youtube” que a gente se esquece de que estes espaços não são espaços públicos. Como dito, são aplicações privadas que pertencem a instituições comerciais que as exploram esperando um benefício financeiro. Como tais, seguem normas e atuam de acordo com os interesses das empresas que as controlam.

Isso quer dizer que as plataformas e empresas são essencialmente malvadas e que devemos evita-las? Obviamente não. Se não fossem as plataformas e as mídias sociais, muitos dos benefícios e movimentações sociais que presenciamos nos últimos anos não teriam ganhado a dimensão que ganharam ou mesmo teriam ocorrido.

Um longo caminho a seguir.
Não devemos observar as plataformas como isentas ou neutras. O mito da neutralidade deve ser definitivamente derrubado (este texto do pessoal do CHT é bem interessante neste sentido). Precisamos vencer essa ideia / utopia de neutralidade (seja de veículos de imprensa, governos e, claro, corporações).

O passo seguinte será vencer a ideia de que “já que não são neutras, estas entidades são malvadas”. Também não é bem assim. O importante é que nós – como sociedade – consigamos enxergar estas entidades como o que elas realmente são: a materialização ou operacionalização em ações de interesses de grupos de pessoas.

Nesse sentido, é de se esperar que governos, em tese, venham a representar interesses mais amplos, que visem o bem de todos aqueles que são representados por eles. Interesses específicos, vinculados aos ganhos financeiros são o que move as ações das empresas. Sabendo que são empresas que criam e mantém plataformas de mídia social, isso fica mais simples. De igual maneira, são empresas que detém o controle e pautam as ações de empresas de comunicação e mídia.

Concluindo?
Estão todos defendendo interesses. Como cidadãos podemos interferir no processo escolhendo bem os nossos representantes legislativos e executivos que vão trabalhar para defender nossos (sociedade) interesses, criando as regras e trabalhando para garantir a execução e o cumprimento destas regras.

Isso leva ao fato de que cabe aos legisladores criarem os regramentos que pautarão e regularão as ações das empresas e os governos atuarem no sentido de garantir que sejam cumpridas. No sentido específico do que venho tratando aqui, a regulação vale para empresas de mídia e comunicação e, claro, para as plataformas sociais. A regulamentação não significa e nem implica em censura ou mesmo cerceamento de liberdades. Entendo que devem ser mecanismos que garantam um funcionamento mais claro das atividades nas quais estas instituições estão envolvidas.

Se a gente escolher bem os legisladores e os nossos representantes no executivo, teremos (sociedade) mais chances de um futuro mais bacana neste aspecto.

No outro ponto estão as empresas e entidades comerciais que, no momento que o conjunto de regramentos estiver estabelecido e em operação, devem adequar sua operação e desenvolver políticas internas de trato das questões que proporcionem impactos para as sociedades em que atuam.

Se não existirem os conjuntos de normas e regras que instituam as fronteiras das ações das instituições comerciais, estas criarão as suas próprias regras, ocasionando em desdobramentos que não necessariamente agradarão ou mesmo atenderão os interesses das sociedades. As entidades comerciais, por sua vez, precisam atuar de forma a conciliar os seus interesses com aqueles das comunidades que atendem.

Muriel Deacon

Muriel Deacon é uma personagem da série Years and Years. Se você não assistiu a série, faça a si mesmo este favor e assista. São apenas seis episódios. Te garanto que vai valer a pena.

A série mostra um futuro possível muito próximo. Imediato. É assustadora a semelhança com o contexto atual que vivemos. Como muitas produções da BBC (Black Mirror sendo o exemplo mais famoso) é uma crítica ao nosso presente.

O trecho acima é retirado do penúltimo episódio. Eu acho que ele é bem bacana para nos ajudar e nos motivar sobre decisões importantes que precisamos tomar para que evitemos chegar a um futuro tão estranho quanto o que a série mostra.

Como o meu contexto atual é o de olhar as plataformas como objeto de estudo, minha interpretação deste monólogo se encaixou fortemente com a questão de como precisamos sair delas o quanto antes para podermos evitar um futuro horrível. As indicações de que as plataformas agem ativamente para nos prejudicar como cidadãos estão aí. Só não percebe quem não quer. A edição de hoje da “The Interface” me motivou juntar o monólogo da Muriel com esta reflexão e postar estas linhas desordenadas aqui.

Precisamos sair das plataformas o quanto antes. Facebook e Twitter sendo os primeiros dos quais precisamos sair. Isso é urgente e precisa ser feito pela maior quantidade de pessoas possível. Se seguirmos o uso que fazemos dessas plataformas, a tendência é uma degradação exponencial.

Andrew Keen falou disso.

Bob Hoffman falou disso.

Zeynep Tufekci falou disso.

Jaron Lanier falou disso.

Eli Pariser falou disso.

Geert Lovink falou disso.

Shoshana Zuboff falou disso.

Só não vê, quem não quer. Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp e Twitter devem deixar de fazer parte de nosso cotidiano. O quanto antes. E eles são apenas os primeiros que devem sair. Outras plataformas precisam ser eliminadas ou ter seu uso readequado. LinkedIn e YouTube se encaixam nesta segunda categoria.

Enfim. Sei que parece mais um rant. E é. Mas é um rant que precisa ser observado e seguido. Isso está fazendo mal para as pessoas. Para nós.

Muito chata esta “tara” por negócios que (apenas) dão lucro

Não que eu seja contra ganhar dinheiro, obviamente. O que me chateia é essa tendência a valorizar – por parte de quem reporta sobre tecnologia e, como consequência, por parte dos leitores dessas publicações e dos usuários em geral – apenas iniciativas tocadas por empresas que visam o lucro como soluções viáveis para os problemas das pessoas. O exemplo mais recente é o Parler (que foi reportado pelo Inside Social como sendo uma alternativa para o Twitter).

Por quê precisamos de uma alternativa ao Twitter?

A resposta é simples (mas não pequena). . . pelo motivo de aquele espaço ser um ambiente tóxico, repleto de contas falsas e discurso de ódio, onde as conversas não fluem como poderiam porque há manipulação algorítmica do alcance orgânico das postagens (em outras palavras: nem todos os seus seguidores visualizam tudo o que você publica lá é, obviamente, você não vê tudo o que as pessoas que você segue publicam. . . ) e, em breve, teremos os diálogos potencialmente manipulados com respostas escondidas, o que pode -potencialmente – polarizar ainda mais as posições. Mas enfim. . . por isso que eu acho que é importante que existam alternativas ao Twitter. O Parler é apenas a mais nova dentre as possibilidades controladas por empresas com fins lucrativas. Recentemente vimos o Gab (que, tal qual está sendo reportado sobre o Parler, foi tomado por supremacistas brancos e o pessoal “de bem” da extrema direita). Enfim. . . precisamos que o diálogo flua e que os ambientes sejam saudáveis. Por isso precisamos de alternativas ao Twitter. O que eu acho é que não necessariamente esta alternativa será proporcionada por uma empresa que vise o lucro. Ponho isso porque entendo que esta busca pelo faturamento acaba levando todo mundo a cometer os mesmos erros que as plataformas que hoje existem: por precisarem de $$, manipulam o feed e permitem a criação de contas falsas e robôs. Isso leva a saúde de uma plataforma ladeira abaixo.

A alternativa já existe

Então. Acho que já existe uma excelente alternativa ao Twitter. Ela se chama Mastodon. É open source e federada. Nela, não há manipulação algorítmica do feed e os diálogos podem fluir. A única coisa que me inquieta lá é que é possível criar contas falsas. Acho que o Mastodon é a alternativa perfeita ao Twitter. O fato de ser descentralizado é muito bacana. Podemos criar uma instância de Mastodon privada e nela só deixarmos se cadastrar pessoas que existem de verdade. . . ou então controlar o ambiente expulsando aqueles que tragam discurso de ódio ou mentiras. . . enfim. Eu acredito que é uma opção infinitamente melhor. Mas o pessoal gosta de reportar e valorizar casos de empreendedores que desenvolvem produtos que são voltados para seu enriquecimento. Uma pena. /rant

Sobre o valor das redes

Eu pretendia fazer uma longa reflexão sobre o assunto por aqui, mas acho que se eu for direto ao assunto, a chance de ser mais eficiente na mensagem é maior.

Pois bem. Muito se argumenta sobre o valor dos serviços de redes sociais como o Orkut, o Facebook, LinkedIn e – mais recentemente – o Google +. Até o Twitter, que nem ferramenta de rede social é, recebe atenção neste tipo de discussão. No Brasil, estas argumentações sempre são acompanhadas de questões como “A orkutização do X ou do Y” (sempre num tom pejorativo).

É legal pararmos um pouco e discutirmos isso tudo. Inclusive esta falácia da tal orkutização.

Em primeiro lugar, é preciso deixar claro que o que mais vale nestas ferramentas é o poder de visualizar as redes das pessoas. Isso, pura e simplesmente, já justifica a existência destas ferramentas e ajuda a explicar muito de seu valor. Por exemplo: se não fosse o Facebook (ou Orkut ou Google + ou qualquer outra ferramenta que você quiser), você não saberia a lista completa das pessoas com as quais eu me associo. Se você me conhece pessoalmente, as chances são de você ter apenas uma ideia de quais são as outras pessoas que eu conheço (porque eu eventualmente falei de algumas delas ou porque você já me viu conversando ou trabalhando com alguém). Nessas ferramentas, você pode ver os meus demais contatos de uma maneira bastante completa. Ou seja: você pode ver – de uma forma organizada e sem precisar me acompanhar durante as 24 horas do dia – todas as minhas conexões; não só aquelas que você teve a sorte de ver quando estava compartilhando comigo um lugar e um momento específicos. Isso transfere a ferramenta o valor que antes estava centrado no contato em si.

Obviamente, além dos contatos, você vai ter uma boa noção das coisas que eu gosto e daquilo que eu faço (o valor destas ferramentas está aqui também, mas neste post, me concentrarei na questão das associações).

Assim sendo, a ferramenta (e as informações que estão registradas nela) valerá mais se as redes que ela documentar forem verdadeiras. Por isso, o Orkut ainda vale muito e o Facebook vai continuar valendo bastante; mesmo com a chegada de um Google + da vida ou de vários outros. Na real, todas estas ferramentas têm o potencial de valer um bocado, desde que as informações que forem registradas sobre as redes das pessoas forem reais. Assim sendo, por mais que as classes C, D, E ou Z passem a usar uma ferramenta ou outra, seu valor não cairá por causa disso. Ele cairá se as informações ali representadas não forem reais. Assim se desfaz a falácia da orkutização. Este tom pejorativo simplesmente não existe. O que existe é um “complexo de classe média” que devemos lutar para extinguir.

Ou seja: a única maneira de você contribuir de verdade para um retrocesso no valor da rede como um todo é se associar a uma pessoa que não é sua amiga de verdade. Cada vez que você faz isso, está ensinando uma mentira para a ferramenta e a rede que é representada – por causa desta mentira – vale um pouco menos.

É por isso que no Facebook, pessoas públicas preferem usar páginas e não perfis pessoais para fincarem seus pés na rede. E é por isso que o Google + (com seu esquema assíncrono de círculos) inova.

Em tempo: é por isso também que estou usando mais e mais o Google +. E acho que ele vai acabar por substituir toda a minha presença nestas ferramentas. Afinal, no LinkedIn, já foram tantas as pessoas que nunca ouvi falar na vida que me adicionaram que a minha rede lá não vale mais nada. No Facebook, idem. O Orkut já não uso há tempos. Sobrou apenas o Google +, que uso e procuro manter bem atualizado com círculos bem definidos e contendo pessoas que efetivamente fazem sentido estar lá.

Enfim… Antes de profetizar que a ferramenta X vai matar a ferramenta Y, os oportunistas deslumbrados de plantão precisam estudar um pouco sobre redes sociais… E descobrir que o valor de uma rede está – além das pessoas – nas conexões destas pessoas e nas informações que elas colocam nestes serviços.