Mes: noviembre 2014

Why Facebook is losing mojo

I put myself away from The Facebook for six months. Back into the jungle, I realised it is not the same. Something is going on for bad, even if the company is selling us the opposite idea. Facebook constitutes no utopia nowadays, and it does not seem this will change for better in the near future. Here are my reasons.

You are not a gadget

Facebook executive team is its worst stakeholder, because if they do not make profits they will jeopardize themselves, and hence they need to think more about money than humanity. Business is business.

As Facebook does not rely in a pay-per-use business model, they went into the same add cycle Google does. The great difference lies on the fact that, while Google serves links primarily, Facebook attempts to digitalise your social experience. We are used to see branded third-party content, but the idea of having our life franchised and marketed still sounds odd, regardless of the herds of technologists saying this will be the future. So far, this is the present and it is not working well.

In his book You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier unveils the dehumanizing state of the present Internet, leading to the construction of information monopolies that set the majority of humans as pawns to fuel the system but that get almost no benefit from it. We Facebook users go into the Facebook, share our lives and all what we get back is:

  1. The empty promise that being able to do such thing without using the email, FTP, messaging applications, or free software CMSs is a great privilege that we should value.
  2. A monitoring system that spies our private chats along with tracking our online activity, impels us from avoiding it for a little bit of intimacy and serves adds.

Given the circumstances, I would be ready to pay a yearly fee if that avoids me being diminished down to a marketing vector. Because it stinks. It is purely clear that all the design patters Facebook is implementing for the shake of the user are in fact for the shake of some pockets.

No one cares

We may be realising our lives are not that socially interesting after all. A decade or two ago, a digital-free social experience meant that you were more on control of your opinion about your life; but nowadays, we have been driven into a model that automatically compares us to each other. The more we take part, the more we accept the trade of putting our subjective experience next to others’.

Subjectively, your life cannot be better or worse than how you are able to envision it. Socially, this changes a lot; a small difference of perceived joy in between known people might make you feel like a loser. It is not that we build up this winner loop consciously, but as we select what we upload to Facebook and others do so, the mind compares automatically. The more we spread, the more the comparing events happen, up to the point that we are either winners or losers at the popularity game.

What could have been a pleasant intimate experience turns out to look like a mediocre day compared to a slightly better executed picture or a viral video. And the aftermath of it is that attention goes to the bombastic while unsuccessful stories breed the fear to share again. In a descending loop, the Facebook participation either dies or exposes mediocrity (I am sorry, but no coffee picture with your best friend can beat this cat video).

The perverse Like cycle

The Like button is a perverse design pattern that makes us look for the emotional prize of being accepted. On the process, your content defines you, your likes target you, and the relationships you stablish trough them indicate the connections in between you and your contacts (badly tagged as «friends»).

This is the factual indicator that no one cares, and in absence of likes you can feel ignored. However, Facebook does not order all what everybody posts chronologically, but selects what is shown to each person. As you may imagine, you will not be seen and «liked» as long as Facebook does not want so. As the network is not horizontal, all the maths will tend to benefit viral content in order to enhance participation. In this process, who is not being viral will be put in the crossroad of accepting submission or feeling unpopular.

With all, limiting success to a single value as «like me or not» works against the concept of quality and confuses it with quality. If you have been working on an intellectual level and you see more cat videos overwhelming a work of years, it is not hard to guess you will get tired of the joke. Wasn’t the Internet meant to enlighten us all?

Naggy activity log (The Goship Ghost)

We all had a big mouth in our lives. It is not that what we do is strictly private, but having a gold peak behind us reporting all our movements makes us feel out of control. If you congrat someone, it seems a little bit redundant that a third goes around telling everybody that you did so. The same if you make a comment about a movie, or read a book, or watched a video, or yelled about the prices in the supermarket. It is not strictly private, but if someone wants to know about all those trivial things the best idea is to come and ask.

Back to The Facebook I realised that third-party content is appearing on my timeline because a friend of mine interacted with it. I will be honest about this: I am avoiding liking or commenting content, because I do not want to flood my contacts’ walls with my activity. I feel like overly exposed, even when the information was already there. It is like having a bad friend who does not care about the way you do politics socially, who is underlying in front of everybody what you do regardless of what they may think. Also, it puts you out of control of how much you talk, as anything you do may be turned into a post in the face of other who may not be interested; and the more this happens, the worse their opinion about you will get.

This would be easily solved if Facebook understood society as a collection of people circles rather than as an absolute exposition of our day-life.

Unavoidable clearance

Facebook wants to be friend with everybody, but it is like a bad partner that does not want you to leave. So, when you realize it is over, they urge you to prosecute them in a court in order to delete you permanently. The reasons for this are still uncanny, as one less user would not damage the platform. Why to store all my private chats and serve them to everybody? Why to keep a backup of all my posts after the account access has been deleted permanently? Why to keep my likes all over the web when I just want to disappear?

This sort of obsessive behaviour breaks apart the friendly contract. For all its uses, Facebook must be treated as a tool as well, so no social sincerity can be put on it knowing that they will not respect your intimacy (I am not even talking about privacy, but about a fairly acceptable personal space everybody should respect if you are willing to be aside).


Facebook is losing mojo because it pretends to be social and friendly while the way it uses you to make money is getting too obvious and more important than how much you enjoy being there.

So for the future, this is my advice: do not take Facebook as friendly, but as a device to market yourself, as a mean to your ends, as something to manage your personal brand and coordinate social actions such parties. But, by any mean, base your life in a platform that is asking you to respect it while giving so clear signals that they will not do so towards you. Here is the ambiguity of the network.

5 perverse design patterns that mess your brain


When it happens: when you receive a message trough Facebook, WhatsApp or similar media and, after opening the conversation, the other person is told that you read the message.

Why it is perverse: it creates an inner compromise with the other person based on the fact that you know, and therefore you must do something about it. If you wait too much, it may seem that you are ignoring the other part, so you will feel pushed to correspond with feedback in a reasonable period of time. This can lead to vague placeholder responses, anxiety on complex matters and misunderstandings.

What the alternatives are: just avoiding to place it and play with online/offline statuses. People is free to take their time, moreover if everything is media-biased. Nowadays citizens suffer information overload, and pushing them to respond to such overload only leads to uneasiness. Media must allow people to say no to it.

Personal thoughts: if people is getting tired of Facebook, it is not just because they are pushed to produce media nobody is really interested to see, but also because Facebook is putting the stability of their social relations in danger by forcing everybody to talk to everybody even when there is not much to say. We are comparing our traditional language codes with the digital and that does not seem a good idea; because we are not machines, our machines must not force us to deal with them as if they were human.

Infinite scrolling

When it happens: when you are searching for information and then scroll for more, and more gets loaded, and then more, up to the infinite so there is no way of reaching a «bottom line» unless you exhaust all the content.

Why it is perverse: it lacks of quality criteria and merely emphasizes quantity. It creates the expectation that you will eventually reach your goal, although it does not offer a clear way of reaching anything but constitutes a gambling approach to information. As if it was a casino, you roll your wheel or slide your finger with the hope that there will be light at the end of the tunel. Unfortunately, there is hardly any light; but your expectations fuel the system trough lots of almost-it. In the meanwhile, they will track where you click and will show adds (noise).

What the alternatives are: pagination, categories, tags, search forms. Anything that narrows the scope the more the user chases a goal.

Personal thoughts: infinite scrolling is making people look like zombies. In practice, it delivers fake promises full of viral titles —which content is not that good after all—, friends with a seemingly more interesting lives and a lot of uninteresting noise; however, it creates a gambling feedback loop that makes people uncritical about what they are exactly looking for but a brain-prize. Same as giving a cookie to the good dog. The only case when it seems legitimate is when it is used to display data that has been retrieved trough a proper search function fencing the output.

Information placeholders

When it happens: when you are scrolling infinitely trough a list of content and the information has not yet been loaded, you get a mock-up drawing that will be later on substituted by the real content.

Why it is perverse: it distracts attention and creates the expectancy that the information that will be loaded will be somehow relevant. Nevertheless, a placeholder does not ensure what you get will be really meaningful.

What the alternatives are: browsers include loading bars that indicate how much of the document has been loaded, along with search functions. In case this was not possible, placing a «more» button will make the user aware that there is too much information to surf without search criteria. Pagination is a good old-school trick.

Personal thoughts: dynamic loading can be used for great purposes, such as real-time search filtering, dashboard solutions or workgroup applications on the mood of Google’s suite. Using it as an emotional hook sounds careless towards the user’s willpower.


When it happens: when you publish a content on a social network and you contacts can mark it as favorite, liked, worth, thanked, and so.

Why it is perverse: it seems like a Like, but it creates a loop of social acceptance in which not getting any like in comparison to others feel like being irrelevant or ignored. If you do not get liked enough, you may start feeling bad.

What the alternatives are: not putting anything and let sharing speak by itself, encouraging debate, implementing voting functions that make opinions more «colorful».

Personal thoughts: liking content was Facebook’s emblem and tracking system, and nowadays is making many users feel reluctant to sharing content with their contacts as they do not want to face its most usual counterpart: feeling ignored. This mechanism may create a descending participation loop. Contrary on twitter, where perishing short comments match perishing likes, same as people laughing at jokes on informal conversations.

Login to…

When it happens: when you want to interact in a place you do not visit often, and the price for it is allowing the site to access your Facebook/Twitter/G+ credentials or either giving away registration data, email verification included.

Why it is perverse: it encourages monitoring over participation, and makes the task of keeping privacy consistent very difficult. It also sounds like some sort of blackmail in which speaking your mind is paid with networking your identity trough different sites.

What the alternatives are: anonymous, captcha-driven commenting. Everybody should be allowed to change identity or to unveil themselves, as they please. Anonymity should be Internet’s channel specificity unless users really want to reveal themselves or were hurting others.

Personal thoughts: there is a big debate on how much a persons should be forced to identify themselves on the Internet. In my opinion, privacy is even secondary on this subject; the problem lies on the fact that, as we address different publics during our social interactions, we may not want someone to be able to track and put together all our opinions in different contexts; therefore it is a matter of circles, reputation and behavioral discretion. Allowing us to state an opinion while being discrete about our identity is the easiest way of cutting the breadcrumbs that interconnect our digital footprint, too. This matters, in example, when looking for a new job; it does have more to do with how politics work than with conspiracies or anonymity totalitarianism.


(Original header picture)

Mis 5 estigmas de Philip K. Dick

Mucho se ha dicho sobre quién fue Philip K. Dick, sobre todo para encumbrarlo como el genio más prolífico de la ficción científica. Sin embargo, tras unas pocas novelas, no es difícil colegir que lo que Philip proponía iba más allá; su obra propone un cuestionamiento sistemático de la Realidad, Lo Real y los estatutos de la Conciencia. Como dijo Terry Gilliam, «para cualquiera que se pierda en las inabarcables y crecientes realidades del mundo moderno, recuerda: Philip K. Dick estuvo allí antes».

Hete aquí una presentación de mis cinco primeras lecturas. Ojalá te sirva para leer otras cinco. Casi libre de spoilers.

The Cosmic Puppets (1957)

Marionetas Cósmicas

En un arrebato de melancolía, Ted Barton llega a Millgate, su pueblo natal. Pero Millgate no parece el mismo. Millgate no ha evolucionado. Millgate ha cambiado, como si el verdadero Millgate jamás hubiese existido. Esta obra es un deja-vu inverso, un «yo nunca he estado aquí». Al tiempo, sugiere un ensayo metafísico sobre órdenes de realidad que se afectan de manera tangencial, y un desafío a nuestras certezas, incluso cuando éstas han sufrido la humildad intelectual que les imbricó el paso del tiempo.

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965)

Los tres estigmas de Palmer Eldritch

Palmer Eldritch viajó a los confines del Cosmos y está a punto de volver a la Tierra. Su llegada amenaza la franquicia de juguetes psicotrópicos Perky Pat: una serie de muñecos que, tras el consumo de la sustancia CAN-D mediante la cual funcionan, permite a grupos de hombres y mujeres encarnarse en las figurillas y compartir experiencias psíquicas en una ficción psiquedélica, erótica y festiva. Sus competidores investigarán qué puede haber ocurrido con su opositor más allá del Sistema Solar, y tratarán de descubrir qué nueva droga ha traído Eldrich, si no es la droga quien le ha traído a él.

Ubik (1969)

«Glen Runciter ha muerto. ¿O lo han hecho todos los demás?». Tras sufrir un atentado, el fantasma del magnate de la industria antipsíquica parece firmar mensajes para sus subordinados. Uno a uno, todos empiezan a sufrir las consecuencias de un mundo que invierte su evolución y se dirige al colapso. Mientras la realidad se cae a pedazos, la única solución que parece capaz de frenar la catástrofe se repite como ecos de una pesadilla: encontrar el inmutable Ubik, en un mundo donde todo cambia.

The Man in the High Castle (1962)

El hombre en el castillo

Los nazis vencieron. Esta ucronía explora un mundo donde los Estados Unidos pertenecen a los herederos de Hitler. Con todo, nada ha cambiado tanto, y de entre los escritores alguien publica una novela que presenta una versión alternativa de la historia en la que los Aliados ganaron la guerra. Semejante ofensa al ideario nacionalsocialista conducirá a una búsqueda de su autor, y a un descubrimiento de la inusitada verdad que inspiró la obra.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968)

¿Sueñan los androides con ovejas eléctricas?

La obra cumbre por ontonomasia, y una zancadilla sutil a nuestras presuposiciones del día a día. Rick Deckard tiene el oficio de cazar androides que se hacen pasar por humanos, hasta que él mismo se ve envuelto en una trama que cuestiona su lealtad a lo establecido y su propia identidad humana. Desarrollada en una Tierra marchita por la actividad industrial y nuclear, pone en duda que nuestra naturaleza y la de nuestros recuerdos sea fiel a quienes creemos ser, y cuestiona nuestra autoridad moral en lo relativo a cómo trataremos a los androides cuya conciencia supere el valle inquietante y sea virtualmente idéntica a la nuestra. ¿Cómo diferenciar a un humano de una réplica exacta del mismo?¿Cómo dirimir qué conductas están motivadas por la conciencia y cuáles por meros determinismos automáticos?