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Category Archives: Featured
What if Television worked the way Facebook does? Let’s call it “Telebook” - what would Telebook be like? Maybe thinking about it this way will give you a new perspective on how Facebook is (or isn't) working for you...
Welcome To Telebook
- Telebook isn't the only TV broadcaster, but the others have almost no shows. Everyone watches Telebook, simply because everyone ELSE watches Telebook. No one really knows why, and everyone keeps saying they are going to stop. But they don’t.
- When you turn on the TV, you are presented with shows to watch. These shows seem to be things you’ve asked for and are interested in. But wait…
- You can’t pick exactly which shows you want to watch. Instead, you tell Telebook what shows and topics you Like, and it decides which episodes you get to see.
- Every time you turn on the TV, Telebook will start showing you popular shows. Some of the shows may be from last week, and you have probably already watched them. If you change the channel to watch the shows that you want to see and are on right now, Telebook will let you (if you can find the remote control button they keep moving). But it will secretly change the channel back to the “Top Shows” when you aren’t looking.
- If you try to tell Telebook that you really like a show and you want to see all its new episodes, it will ignore you and pick which episodes it thinks you will like most. It will just show you those instead. It might also show you episodes that your friends liked, instead of the ones you asked for. In fact, every few minutes there is a commercial telling you which shows your friends watched. You can’t fast forward.
- Even if you love a show and ask to see it, if you don’t leave reviews on episodes you watch, Telebook will decide you don’t actually like it very much and stop showing it to you as often.
- If lots of people love a show and want to watch every episode, Telebook will still only show new episodes to a small fraction of the interested audience. If the show’s producers want their audience to see it, they will need to pay Telebook money. Then it might be seen by a slightly higher fraction of the interested audience. Reaching everyone who wants to see your episodes costs a lot of money.
- If Telebook thinks some kinds of shows are stupid or annoying, it will stop showing them, even if people ask to see them. It will never tell you how it decides what is stupid or annoying.
- Cameras will be mounted on top of all TV’s to watch every move you make while watching a show. Telebook will read your facial expressions and may decide that you don’t really like a show, even if you say you do, and then stop showing it to you. It might show you shows about Yoga if you sit with your legs crossed. You’ll never know why it thinks you like Yoga, and there is no way to tell it you don’t like Yoga. Every time you watch Telebook, it is watching you.
- In between the shows you asked for, other shows you didn’t ask for will also be shown. They will look similar to the shows you like, but you’ll realize that they aren’t what you asked for and they aren’t interesting to you. Even if you tell Telebook that you don’t want to see them, they will show them to you anyway.
- Telebook will change the layout of the remote control every 2 weeks. Sometimes buttons will just disappear, and you won’t be able to figure out how to change the channel. Sometimes buttons will change color or be rearranged. Sometimes new buttons will appear and you will have no idea what they do. Telebook will say nothing about these changes. You’ll get used to it.
- Everyone would hate how this system works and be very vocal about it, but Telebook will never let you simply watch all the shows you want to. But everyone will keep watching Telebook anyway. Because that’s where all the shows are. Or at least the ones they let you see.
Now… is that a service you would be excited to use?
In a post on Wired’s Gadget Lab, Mat Honen describes what happened when he clicked “Like” on literally everything he saw on Facebook for 48 hours. The results are interesting. I’ll share some of his observations, and a few of my thoughts.
Be sure to read the original post.
Highlights From The Article
- “My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time… there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.”
- “content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post.”
- About the format many Pages use when posting: “It is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam.”
- “It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves”
- “While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behavior would have on my friends’ feeds … I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds.”
- “By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.”
Obviously, this is kind of a ridiculous experiment. If you give an algorithm random, garbage data, you are going to get random, garbage output. You might get the same results if you buy 1,000 random products on Amazon and then look at its recommendations. Nevertheless, this does remind us of a few things and gives us some things to think about:
- The News Feed algorithm is not under your control, even though your actions influence it. And everyone seems to agree that it is horrible at its job. Yet Facebook, for some reason, continues to force it on us.
- Facebook’s primary focus is increasing exposure of ads and paid content. This extreme experiment shows what Facebook does when you give it lots of data points – it finds a lot more paid content to show you! Brands win, not people. Under normal user activity, this is not so blatant and obvious. But it is definitely happening. Every data point you give Facebook is used by them to show you more advertising and sponsored content.
- By “Liking” things and interacting with posts, you nudge Facebook to show you more like it. So you create a feedback loop, where you aren’t exposed to content outside of a narrow band of things Facebook thinks you will like. You may be reinforcing your own biases, beliefs, or habits and not even realize it. Is this good?
- Interacting with Page content leads to more garbage. The marketers who are gaming the system by making posts that ask questions or polarize readers and spark reactions get pushed higher by the algorithm. Facebook thinks engagement (Like, Comment, Share) is a valid measure of quality, when in fact it’s often the opposite.
- By interacting with lots of public content, you are potentially spamming your friends’ feeds with posts about everything you do. This can be very annoying, and may lead to you being hidden by the people you actually care most about.
Here are a few suggestions as take-aways from this whole thing:
- Avoid clicking Like, Comment, or Share on public posts by Pages unless you really value the content. Do so sparingly. Just because you like something doesn’t mean you have to click Like.
- Don’t reward manipulative posting styles by interacting with them. You may see many posts using a format like this: “THIS SENTENCE SAYS SOMETHING CONTROVERSIAL! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” These posts are “engagement-bait” and the only purpose is to incite a reaction and prompt engagement, which will make their content more visible to everyone. Do not reward this kind of manipulative content. Do not engage with it.
- Expose yourself to a variety of opinions. Don’t let Facebook’s skewed news feed algorithm only expose you to opinions that are in line with yours. You will be missing out on a lot.
- Use Social Fixer to hide content, tab posts, hide Recommended Pages, etc.
- Above all else, use Facebook sparingly. Consider how many of your thoughts are about “something I saw on Facebook” and whether its curated news Feed Algorithm should really have that much influence on you. Don’t let Facebook decide what is important for you to see.
Agree? Disagree? Voice your thoughts by commenting on this post on Facebook.
Social Fixer 10.6 is a patch release to fix several bugs and problems, some caused by recent Facebook code changes. Read below for the short list of fixes.
Install the 10.6 update by going to SocialFixer.com
- The Control Panel stopped floating down when the page was scrolled
- Locking the blue header bar to the top stopped working
- Image Previews when hovering didn’t show in some cases
- The “Home” link in the header was no longer hideable
- The “Find Friends” link in the header was no longer hideable
- The red “badge” indicator on the wrench icon was not displaying correctly
- Improved performance! Some internal code optimizations have made Social Fixer run faster than ever.
- Added a link to the Support Group whenever commenting on Social Fixer posts in the news feed. The goal is to direct people to the place where they can get the best assistance.
- Added a simple error message to the Image Preview “loading” popup when a full sized image cannot be loaded. In some cases, I cannot calculate the correct full sized image location.
-- Matt Kruse, developer of Social Fixer
Social Fixer 10.4 is a patch release to fix several bugs and problems, primarily caused by recent changes in browsers and their extension API’s. Read below for the short list of fixes.
(Note: 10.3 was previously published but had a problem, so I quickly re-released and updated the version to 10.4)
Install the 10.4 update by going to SocialFixer.com
- Preferences would often not save in Firefox 30+. This turned out to be a complex problem caused by an internal browser change.
- The News Feed would load posts forever, slowing down the browser. Now it once again stops after loading 5 pages of posts, so the browser can take a rest.
- Greasemonkey 2.0 caused errors because of a change in their code.
- Posts would sometimes disappear in Chrome, especially when they had been moved to a tab and you switched to that tab.
- Newer themes (Midnight, Desktop, Appassionata) were missing from the theme selector window.
- In some cases, Social Fixer would run invisibly in hidden windows or in other cases, causing slowdown. It now runs only when really needed.
The list of changes is small and there are no exciting new features. But this fixes a number of problems many users have experienced. Hopefully the next release will have more fun stuff.
-- Matt Kruse, developer of Social Fixer
As if you don’t have enough reasons to distrust Facebook, here’s one more: They intentionally manipulated the positive and negative content of users’ News Feed to see if they could affect and manipulate the emotions of those users. Wow.
There is a lot of coverage about this story on the web, but here’s the very short version of the official paper: In 2012, Facebook analyzed the posts in the News Feed of about 700,000 users for one week, and slightly increased or decreased which stories appeared, based on whether posts were “positive” or “negative”. Then they measured posts made by the people whose news Feed they had manipulated, to see if the slightly more positive or negative posts in their feed made them post more positive or negative content.
Can the positivity or negativity of posts on Facebook affect whether your posts become positive or negative? Apparently, according to the study: Yes.
Creepy. Not just the results, but the fact that Facebook would even do a study like this. Right?
Many sites have pointed out potential ethical issues in this experiment, questioned whether informed consent should have been required, and asked if a site like Facebook should be doing experiments like this at all. Here is my take on what matters in this latest Facebook PR mess:
It’s Probably Not That Bad. Kind Of.
As Adam Kramer (one of the study authors) points out in a public post, the actual user impact of this was probably pretty insignificant. It’s highly unlikely that anyone suffered emotional trauma or was truly negatively affected. It was a relatively small sample, over a short period, and the level of manipulation was very small. In my personal opinion, some people are inflating the significance of the actual impact of the study and its emotional effects on users. The actual study itself seems fairly harmless, really.
However, the important points to remember and consider are:
Facebook Dictates What You See
Facebook decides what you do and don’t see from your friends, family, and Pages you are interested in. True, you give them that power by clicking a checkbox when you sign up. But is it really working for you? Do you like it that way? Are you comfortable with Facebook deciding what you do and don’t see?
Most users want a simple, unfiltered, chronological News Feed so they can browse through and see everything. But Facebook doesn’t want you to have that. A big part of the reason is so they can charge money to businesses that want to make sure their posts appear. But another reason is so they can run experiments like this and others to figure out how people behave. Facebook is the experiment, and you are the lab rat. When you think of it that way, it’s kind of less fun, isn’t it?
A Slippery Slope To “Censorship”?
Facebook says it wants to show you the “highest quality” content, and the posts you are most interested in. But it doesn’t let you decide what is important. It doesn’t even let you have a vote. It attempts to derive your interest by spying on everything you do – down to the level of watching where your mouse moves, when you stop scrolling, and which links you click on. Even if you never Like or Comment on anything, Facebook is watching you closely to figure out how to sell advertising to you.
Recently Facebook announced that it determined “meme pictures” were low quality content, and they would appear less often. What about people who love memes? Do they get a vote?
March forward a few years, and what will Facebook be determining is “low quality” content? Posts containing a religious message? Posts containing anti-war sentiments? Posts criticizing the government? Posts about controversial topics like abortion? Posts about an obscure hobby you enjoy? Posts about topics you are interested in but aren’t mainstream?
Facebook has demonstrated the very subtle ability to manipulate how people feel and behave by changing what they are exposed to. It’s not a huge leap to imagine them pushing a political, social, religious, or cultural agenda and affecting public thought by manipulating what the Billion+ people using the site see every day.
It’s like a huge, worldwide, interactive TV broadcast, and the only people in charge of what content you see is Facebook themselves. Are you comfortable with this level of influence? Are we giving them too much influence in our life? I put “censorship” in quotes on purpose because this isn’t the government restricting free speech, and everyone is free to use Facebook or not. But they are limiting what you see, and you may not even realize it.
Conclusion: Understand The Product You Are Using
In the end, Facebook is a very useful and entertaining service, but because it has such an overwhelming influence on people and is so dominant on the web, it’s important that users understand what they are using and how it could work against them.
Understand that you are not seeing everything you could see, and that Facebook is deciding what it thinks you should see. An unknown algorithm is ranking content and controlling what you are exposed to on a daily basis. If you don’t like that, you should speak up. Facebook makes money by advertising to users. If you get sick of the site and leave, they will lose money. It’s in their best financial interest to keep you. In theory.
Understand that you are not the customer, you are the product being sold. Your eyeballs are being sold to advertisers for the highest bid, and Facebook’s primary focus is to know as much about you as they can so they can serve you the best ads that you might click on. Perhaps their goal is to not just learn things about you, but to influence what you think, how you feel, and what products you like, so it can turn you over to companies who will gladly take your money. If they can slightly manipulate emotions, who is to say that they won’t slightly influence public sentiment in favor of a brand that is a big advertiser with them?
Finally, Understand that Social Media can have an impact on how you feel about the world and yourself, even if they aren’t manipulating the news feed. Be careful with how you use it, and the power that you give it in your life.
What Do You Think?
Did Facebook go too far? Does this creep you out, or could you not care less? Comment here or on this post on Facebook and let your opinion be heard.
Facebook does a lot, but there are many basic features it lacks. Here are 11 features I wish Facebook would add that would make the site much better, in the order I want them. #1: An unfiltered, Chronological News Feed!
Disclaimer: I am the author of Social Fixer, a popular browser extension that fixes many of the user interface annoyances of Facebook, and enhances the site with many tweaks. So I am kind of a “power user” of the site, and some of the features below are things I try to offer. But Social Fixer can’t do everything, including many of the things on the list here.
1. Unfiltered, Chronological News Feed
Most people want this, but Facebook won’t let us have it. Most people know that many stories from their friends are hidden from their news feed. Facebook decides what it thinks you should see and what it thinks you wouldn’t be interested in. But what most people want is just a stream of posts, with nothing filtered out. Facebook says the reason they don’t offer this is because users would be overwhelmed, but the obvious real reason is because if they didn’t limit what you saw, they couldn’t charge Pages and users to “boost” their post to make it show up in feeds. They manufacture an artificial problem, then charge money to fix it. They profit by making the site less usable. Genius.
2. Passive Friend Requests
Sending a friend request can sometimes be awkward. Are you being too forward? Will they be like, “I barely knew him in High School, why is he friend requesting me?!” Facebook should fix this by offering “passive” friend requests. It works like this:
You indicate that you would like to be friends with someone, but no message is sent, no notification triggered. They don’t know you did anything. Then, if they also do the same, you become friends. If the feeling is mutual, you both connect without the awkwardness of someone fearing that they are being pushy by sending a friend request. If it’s not mutual, nothing happens, and no one ever knows. Much better, right?
3. Mark Posts as "Read"
Imagine Gmail if you could never archive emails. Every time you opened your email, you would see the same things you saw yesterday, even though you’ve already read them and replied.
Facebook needs a way to say “I’ve already read these posts, don’t show them to me anymore, I’m done with them!” They should disappear from your news feed both on desktop and mobile, but still be viewable if you choose “All Posts”. Social Fixer offers this feature (this one feature was the one driving force behind the creation of the extension originally) but it would be so much better if Facebook would build it into the product.
(p.s. – Yes, I know you can “Hide” posts and they will disappear. But this isn’t the same, because you can’t get them back, and because the hide action tells Facebook you weren’t interested in the post, and they should show you fewer posts like it, which usually isn’t what you intend!)
4. Filter Posts By Keyword, User, Type, etc.
I don’t want to see any post about certain topics. Ever. Maybe you don’t want to see anything about the World Cup. Maybe you haven’t caught up yet on Breaking Bad and don’t want to see any spoilers. Everyone probably has a list of things they just don’t care to ever read about.
Facebook should allow users to filter their news feed by keyword, user, post type, etc. Right now the only control we have is to unfollow friends or Pages, which isn’t the granularity we need. I want entire topics hidden from me, because I don’t care to ever see them.
Social Fixer offers the ability to filter posts in your feed by keyword, post type, author, etc. It can hide the posts, change how they appear, or move them into tabs. But it only works on posts you see on desktop. Filtering should be built into Facebook on the server side, so it works everywhere. But they don’t even like the idea of filtering, because in the past they have tried to force me to remove it as a feature.
5. Turn Off Comments / Likes on Posts
Sometimes a comment thread goes south, particularly in Groups or Pages. You just want to say “NO MORE COMMENTS!” and stop it, but you can’t. People continue arguing and posting, and there isn’t any way to stop them. There needs to be.
Or have you ever posted about a thought or event, perhaps something sad, just to share with others but not necessarily seeking out endless “so sorry to hear that” or other messages that almost demand your acknowledgment? The ability to turn off Likes and Comments from the start would let people know that a response isn’t needed, whether it be about you having a bad day or a picture of your dinner.
6. Message Filtering And Mass Delete
I get a lot of junk Messages in my “Other” inbox on Facebook. At least 50 a day, usually more. The UI for reading and cleaning out the list of messages is horrible, with no way to select a bunch of messages and delete them all. This is really inconvenient. It’s so painful to delete all this junk mail that I usually just don’t, so I end up missing some real messages.
Even better would be a way to setup message filters, just like Gmail filters. Let me kick most of the messages to the trash before I ever see them, based on a few simple keyword filters. That would save me a lot of time.
(Yes, that’s my actual “Other” inbox. I get TONS of junk mail every day.)
7. "Saved" Posts
When I see a link posted on my phone, I want to save it to read later on my desktop. Or if I’m on the desktop and see posts I want to come back later, there is no way to tag these posts as being something I want to save for later. This would be very convenient!
Social Fixer offers a way to send links and posts to Pocket, a popular content-saving site/app that works very well. But it doesn’t work on mobile, and doesn’t save the content within Facebook itself. Facebook should have a built-in way to save posts for later.
8. Searchable History
I want to search my entire post history and everything that has appeared in my news feed by keyword. I’m sure this would be a monumental technical challenge from the Facebook development side, but if Google can index the entire web, can’t Facebook just let me find that post I saw from Bobby last week about Black Holes?
9. Tell Me When I Am Unfriended
Oooh, what a “controversial” feature! Facebook doesn’t want you to know who unfriends you, as I explained a while ago in a blog post. They actually forced me to remove this feature from Social Fixer, because they say it creates a “negative user experience”.
But there are actually a number of valid reasons for wanting to know when someone disconnects from you, and I don’t think it’s any of Facebook’s business if I or anyone else wants to know when it happens.
If they can tell me in my news feed that Friend X posted a personal message on Friend Y’s wall, which I couldn’t possibly care less about, I don’t see why they can’t tell me when a friend I’ve been connected to for years drops off the Facebook Planet.
10. Temporary "Mute" For Friends
Sometimes friends get really annoying for a short period of time. Maybe it’s 50 posts about their amazing life-changing vacation, or public love notes to their spouse around their anniversary, or 5 pictures a day of their new cat. It doesn’t matter. We’ve all seen it.
Facebook should allow me to temporarily “mute” a friend for a while, so I see nothing from them in my news feed. Then, after a few days or a week or whatever, they show back up and hopefully have moved on to a new topic. This sure beats unfollowing them completely, then forgetting to add them back and feeling awkward when they ask if you saw the post they made about their cat dying. Oops.
11. Photo Tag Approval White-List
This seems relatively minor compared to the others, but I want the ability to white list a group of people whose photo tags I automatically accept. If my wife, daughter, or parents post a picture and tag me in it, I want to always accept that. But anyone else? I want to approve that. I wish Facebook would give me the ability to set that up.
What Is Your Wish?
I’d like to hear your thoughts. Reply to THIS POST on Facebook by adding a comment and let your voice be heard.
And if you aren’t a user of Social Fixer, be sure you give it a try. It may not be able to do some of the things above, but it can do a lot of other things!
-- Matt Kruse, user-advocate and developer of Social Fixer
Version 10.1 of Social Fixer fixes a bug (caused by a Facebook code change) which prevented more stories from being loaded into the news feed.
Install the 10.1 update by going to SocialFixer.com
A code change by Facebook caused the News Feed to stop loading more posts when scrolled to the bottom, and clicking “More Stories” did not work. I have also added a new option at the top of the “Advanced” tab of Social Fixer options to completely disable its handling of the More Stories loading, in case this happens again. You should never need to use it. It’s there as a safety valve, just in case something like this happens again.
A TECHNICAL EXPLANATION
If you’re curious about exactly what the problem is and why Social Fixer controls the post loading, read on. If not, you can ignore the rest.
Facebook automatically loads more posts into the news feed when you scroll to the bottom of the page. Or, more accurately, whenever the little “More Stories” box at the bottom is visible on the screen.
The problem is that Social Fixer allows you to hide posts using filters or marking them as read, or to move them to tabs. So sometimes, the news feed may actually appear without any posts, causing the “More Stories” box to push to the top. This causes Facebook to think it needs to load more stories. Facebook never expects the news feed to be empty, so it doesn’t even handle this case correctly!
This could lead to a big loop of Facebook trying to load more stories. As it pulls more in and they are hidden or tabbed, the More Stories box is still visible, so it loads even more stories, sometimes locking up your browser as it loads potentially hundreds of posts. Facebook just doesn’t know how to behave when the news feed doesn’t have any visible posts in it.
So, I hook into their post loading code and put in some control. I only let them load 5 pages of more stories before I stop the process and put up a message in the footer saying that Social Fixer has stopped the loading of more stories. You can click on the More Stories link to load another 5 pages if you wish. But I put that stopper in there to prevent people from having their browser lock up, which is a result of Facebook’s code not knowing what to do when Social Fixer manipulates the news feed.
For anyone who really wants the dirty explanation, here it is! This is Facebook’s code that triggers a More Stories load, in LitestandStreamLoader.attachNewPager():
See “this.load…”? That’s the problem. It’s referencing itself to call another method on itself, which it didn’t do before. When I called this function from my code, I just did:
So, “this” didn’t hold the right value. The fix is to call it like this:
Now, the “this” value is correct, and their internal code fires correctly. This is something I should have coded correctly to begin with, but because their code didn’t require it before I didn’t notice it.
Questions? Problems? Need Support?
Please, Donate to support development!
Version 10.0 of Social Fixer resolves many problems that have been caused by Facebook’s constant tinkering with its site. This release should give you back control of your Facebook experience!
Install the 10.0 update by going to SocialFixer.com
- Chat options should now work correctly again.
- Auto-tabbing and filtering by Apps and Games works again, and 150+ of the most popular apps and games have been added to the auto-known list.
- You can now hide the following, by hovering over them and clicking the “x” in the upper right:
- “Trending” box on the right
- The prompt at the top of the news feed asking you to switch back to Top Stories
- “Related Links” that appear after clicking on a story in the News Feed
- Posts in Groups were not being processed/filtered correctly, and the action icons like “Mark Read” were not available.
- Improved auto-switching from Top Stories to Most Recent news feed.
- Improved picture previews in the news feed when hovering over
- The “Missing Posts” problem should no longer be an issue. (Where Social Fixer would tell you there are posts in a tab, but you’d click on it and nothing would be there, or posts would disappear in front of your eyes).
- The pinned post in the Social Fixer User Support group renders distinctly again and extra support information can be added to posted questions.
- Improved anonymizing of “ticker” content (though still not perfect)
- Fixed the “Google It” button’s ability to find the content of posts
- Fixed the “Save for Later” button on posts. (It’s not pretty, but it works.)
- Fixed the “requireLazy” errors that appeared for some users
- New Option (Notifications tab): “Open Messages from dropdown in full window rather than chat popup”. When clicking messages from the top bar dropdown, they will no longer open in an annoying little chat box.
- Add a “Sort By Last Name” button to the Friends tab of personal profiles.
Questions? Problems? Need Support?
Please, Donate to support development!
If you use Social Fixer, you have probably noticed that some features no longer work correctly. So, why hasn’t it been updated lately to fix these problems? I’ll give you three reasons…
1. Family First
I’ve always said that my family and kids are my #1 priority, and I often measure my commitment to that principle by the decisions I actually make. As it turns out, the last few months have been incredibly busy for my family. Whether it’s weekend volleyball tournaments, track practices, or playing Frozen for the thousandth time, I try to do the things that are best for my family first, and work on my personal projects in whatever time is left. Since life has been busier than usual for a while, I’ve had less free time left to work on my side stuff.
And when I do have time, it’s often late at night and I’ve just found myself more exhausted than I’ve been in the past. So I just haven’t had the energy to stay up until 2am and sleep 4 hours before work. Maybe this is just what it feels like to be 40?!
2. Facebook Code Changes
Facebook has changed a lot of its code with the latest update to the News Feed. Many of the page structures I used to hook into are changed or gone. Some of the components that used to control how the page worked have been changed. Some of the code that I used to access is now re-written to be hidden from me. Some meaningful names in the source like “intentional_stream” have been replaced with names like “_5qpr”.
It takes much longer to dig through their code than it used to. It’s written in a way that is forcing me to re-think what features I can even offer, and consider new ways of hooking into their source. Their changes have made my code more fragile.
Also, there is even more inconsistency between what users see. Some see the new feed, some don’t. Some have certain ads in their news feed, others don’t. Some see the class names on stories as “_qp5h” and some see them as “_3bpe”. So if I fix features to work with what I see, there is no guarantee that the code will work for others. That really impedes my ability to write code that works for everyone.
Facebook’s code has become an even more chaotic mess, from my perspective. I’m sure that on their end it’s organized and pre-processed. But what we see as users is a big jumbled mess of code that often doesn’t make any sense. I don’t know if some of these changes are in direct response to extensions like Social Fixer, but it sure feels like it. They have done a great job of making it really, really hard to keep Social Fixer working. That is really frustrating.
3. I’m Losing Interest In Facebook
Personally, I have found that my interest in Facebook is fading. I know that many other people feel the same way. I feel that many of their changes are completely anti-user, and they are making the experience worse and worse.
The site has always been primarily focused on harvesting personal information in order to sell targeted ads. But lately, I feel like this has become even more blatant. It feels like many changes and new features are intended only to fuel their advertising engine and raise their stock price, not benefit users or make the site better or easier to use.
So, I’ve found myself actually using Facebook less and less. Since I’m not as actively involved in it, I find fewer annoyances I want to tweak, and fewer features I want to add. This, combined with the increasing difficulty of actually coding those tweaks, means that some of the “fun” of working on Social Fixer has gone.
But An Update Is Coming…
With all that being said, I have found time recently to start making changes. I’ve already fixed a few bugs and updated code to get some features working again. I hope to have an update ready in the next few weeks. I have definitely not given up, and work on Social Fixer will continue!
A big part of the reason why I come back to this and work on it is because so many people have supported me and been generous with donations, sharing Social Fixer with friends, and creating a really cool community.
So thanks again for the support and patience, and expect an update with fixes and improvements soon!
-- Matt Kruse, developer of Social Fixer
Recent reports have created buzz about browser extensions and the fact that they may be spying on you or inserting ads. I would like to be very clear: Social Fixer is completely safe and will never insert ads, track you, or spy on you. Ever.
In posts by Ars Technica (who previously wrote an article about me), How-To Geek, and Lifehacker, the sites explain how browser extensions can have code in them that may insert advertising, track you on the web, spy on your form submissions, or do other things you aren’t aware of.
What makes this especially scary is that most extensions update automatically. So an extension that is safe today may not be safe tomorrow, and the new code will be added to your computer without you being asked.
Here’s the real risk: Extension authors are increasingly being approached by others to sell their extensions and transfer ownership. Once these new people own the extension, they add in the malicious code and post an update, which gets pushed to all users’ computers automatically. They have instantly gained thousands of victims, who have no idea that anything has changed. Anti-virus and anti-spyware apps won’t detect it. Users may see the effects but have no idea what caused it. Or even worse, they may have their privacy breached and have no clue at all.
This is a serious issue, so I want to be very clear:
This Issue Is Old News To Me
- In 2011 I was asked to sell another single-purpose Facebook extension I threw together in a few hours. I wrote about it on Google Groups. I could tell it was suspicious, so I exposed it and turned down $700 in easy cash.
- I’ve been approach numerous times by people who want to monetize Social Fixer by inserting ads or user tracking. I always say no. I have written about this in a blog post: Why I Do Not Monetize Social Fixer or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Donation
- I am no fool about the potential value of my user base. With over a million users - all active users of Facebook – my extension is exactly what the trackers and adware peddlers want. And they would probably be willing to pay good money for it.
I could “cash out” and make some sweet cash. But…
I am an honest person, and my most valuable resource is my integrity. If I do eventually stop working on Social Fixer, I will want all my users to follow me to my next project, whatever it is.
I want to have a positive influence on others, and on the web.
I want to do what is right by users, and be respected for what I offer to the world.
I want people to value it so much that they reward me for my work by choice, and spread it to others because it is so valuable to them, not because my app spammed their wall on their behalf or tricked them with adware.
I’ve been on the internet for a long time, and you can probably look up much of what I’ve done. My reputation is solid, and I hope that I’ve never made decisions that harm others for my own personal gain. I think that so many people trust Social Fixer because of my character and history of being someone you can fully trust. That matters a lot to me.
It’s not always easy to take the high road. I’d love to get a big cash payout, pay off my house and cars, take my family to Disney World, and take a few years off work! I work really hard so some of those things can happen. But I will never do wrong by others or take advantage of them to get there.
So here’s my suggestion to everyone out there who uses browser extensions, or any other software, or who consumes and appreciates the content created by others:
Reward The Content Creators
Be willing to financially support the people who create the software you use, not because you have to but because it’s valuable to you. Make it financially rewarding to respect your privacy and security. Give them the incentive to decline the fast buck and do what is best for users.
I take donations to support Social Fixer. [Here’s the link to donate]. Sometimes I feel guilty about it, but honestly, only about 1-2% of users ever donate anyway. But the truth is, it takes many hours of work to create an extension like this. Once the fun creative part is done, it’s countless hours of debugging, support, testing, writing documentation, etc. It’s like a job, and a lot of the time it’s really not “fun” work at all. It’s exhausting.
I do it because I enjoy writing cool software that is helpful to a lot of people. But honestly, if the donations were to dry up completely, I would probably stop working on it. The only way I can justify spending many hours a week away from my family or sacrificing sleep is if it helps pay for a family vacation or to cover some car repairs. I am not a robot.
Support the people who create the things you love (whether it be software, art, music, writing, or any other creative venture). Otherwise, you may one day find that you’ve paid for it in a different way – through your privacy, security, or personal data.
As a general recommendation, be very cautious about any browser extensions you install. Not every developer has good intentions. Read the reviews, check on the person or company who is distributing it, and see what else they have done. If it seems suspicious, err on the side of caution and don’t install it.
It is your responsibility as a user to be your own advocate for safety and privacy.
As a developer and creator, it is my responsibility to always treat you with respect and never take advantage of the trust you place in the code that I write. I promise to never break that trust!
(Full Disclosure: Social Fixer does send minimal data back to my server, but it’s only the type and version of the extension you are using, so I can keep track of how many different versions are out in the wild. I have often considered tracking additional information solely for the purpose of making the extension better for users by identifying which new Facebook features are seen by how many people and what form they take. So far, I have not implemented anything like this, and if I ever do, it will always be opt-in, never opt-out. And it would only be done because it would help make the app better for users.)