Posts tagged ‘NSA’


Why Facebook’s errors might be increasing

30.05.2015

Now that I’ve figured out that Facebook only works on alternate days (or at least evenings, since it gave up the ghost again for the early afternoon), I’m back into my usual swing of things. It’s not so much that I spend that much time on social networks, but getting to the bottom of things interests me.
   The other angle is that having spent my teens watching this technology develop (I saw the original War Games at the cinema), and knowing how much these companies are worth, I have an expectation about where the level of service should be. Frequently, it’s not, and it’s worth calling them out, showing people that the emperor has no clothes, and reminding all of us that size is nothing to be scared of. (It’s like my usual quip about banks: how come a cheque took 24 hours to clear in 1976 and five to seven days in 2015? Are computers seven times slower today?)
   The feedback has been interesting. I’ve run into a lot of people with the same problems, which at least gives me some clue about the reasons. The problems tended to be focused on Europe and the US east coast, suggesting that there was at least one server with writing difficulties. Given my experience on Vox, mentioned in my last post, this doesn’t surprise me. Hard drives develop faults, and at least Facebook has more back-up systems than Vox did, which probably restored the account (one hopes).
   One friend asked whether I was being targeted. I suppose I encounter these issues frequently, which is why I theorized yesterday that adding to an account that has 6 Gbyte of data might be problematic. I don’t know if the others had Facebook accounts with a lot of data. But it’s another theory that remains with me. (My joke was that it was proving difficult to shift 6 Gbyte of data to and from the NSA.)
   Another friend sent me his screen shot this morning, showing that he could not post a comment to my wall, confirming what I believed: that there was something wrong with my account and saving data to it. But it had nothing to do with me.
   Interestingly, I did run into one netizen who completely disbelieved the situation, saying she had never encountered anyone with such problems before. I could only conclude that we moved in different circles, although the errors I confronted were no different to the ones that hit Facebook users worldwide for in October 2013 (including major TV networks and companies), or for around 35–40 minutes in June 2014. Luckily she and her entire circle were spared (or was this down to an incredibly short memory?), but the people I knew weren’t so lucky, getting caught out in both outages. Those were fixed more quickly because millions were caught out; Facebook is less likely to get round to faults that hundreds or thousands experience as quickly.
   The fact is Facebook’s amount of errors is increasing annually, and these outages are becoming more commonplace. You can argue that having a website that mucks up every once in a while is tolerable, but, looking back at the bugs I filed at Get Satisfaction, I can’t agree. Facebook’s silly bug of failing on the 1st of the month seems minor compared to a site on which you could no longer post, like or comment—its three cornerstone activities.
   It’s why I report spambots and spammers, because it’s the responsible thing to do (would you, in the real world, ignore a physical hazard?) as Facebook has some compromised accounts that are months, if not years, old, that need to be seen to, because they take resources away from the rest of us.
   I also post about these mainly to give other netizens some solace that they aren’t alone. The one thing people wonder when they confront these errors is, ‘If I’m alone, will this ever get fixed?’ In Vox’s case, the answer was a firm no: I left the site at the end of 2009 when they couldn’t fix things; a year later, the place would close down completely. This is not a fate that Facebook can ignore, although it is far better resourced than Six Apart was when it came to that site, and the scenario will not play out like that or on such a brief time-scale.
   And, of course, Facebook is worse than Google when it comes to keeping people informed or having some kind of support (even though Google’s support is completely dismissive the moment a matter falls outside the norm—but surely that was the reason one visited their forums to begin with). Bringing a bit of extra pressure may have helped get LaQuisha Redfern’s account reinstated, as well as that of another friend last week when I fired off a complaint to Facebook directly over its ridiculous passport policy.
   In 2011, Bob Cringely believed that Facebook would peak in 2014, and I have to say that has come to pass. The novelty wore off some time ago (Timeline helped give Facebook more life), our lives are getting busier, organic reach is in the toilet, and the frequency of bugs will drive people away. Thank goodness for its shareholders that it diversified.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Remember back when we wrote status updates on Facebook?

01.03.2015

I said things along these lines for a while: there’s Facebook fatigue, Facebook is the new Digg, etc. Based on who I am seeing leave Facebook lately, there’s increasingly more truth to this. I scrolled down my own wall earlier today to find a bunch of links to other stuff. If you’re wanting to know what I am up to, you’re better off messaging me and asking: ‘What are you up to?’ It’s refreshingly old-fashioned, kind of like when we had pen pals, carefully selecting the right stamps to go with personal correspondence.
   I don’t think there’s any one cause to this. I was writing about Facebook fatigue long before Edward Snowden made us all worry about NSA snooping. (Interestingly, a caption of mine on Instagram changed yesterday: a chunk from the middle of the sentence vanished along with my hashtags. It makes you wonder: even though I don’t suspect spooks, I do think Google Android and the apps are dodgy, and we all know the former sends plenty of data to the authorities.) But the fact is telling all your friends about what you are doing is tiresome. It’s not even that necessary.
   It’s not that you’ve become a less fascinating person, but it’s very much like my experience with blogging. Why haven’t I blogged about the nitty-gritty of branding and its theories lately? Largely because my viewpoints on how it all works haven’t changed a great deal in the last decade. Yes, we are applying those principles to a different world, and social media have altered the considerations behind them, but the underlying premise remains the same. This blog isn’t like your television where you have been able to watch, over the years, La femme Nikita, The Point of No Return, Nikita and Nikita. I haven’t been recast, you see, so there’s not that much point for me to retell some of the ideas I haven’t changed my mind on.
   And while every now and then I will waste your time by treading over the same ground (e.g. there is a very high probability I will have another whinge about Google), it’s my contrarian side creeping up, as if to say, ‘Wake up! Why is this brand, proven to be so dodgy, still doing so damned well in the surveys each year? What are you seeing that I am not in the face of all this evidence?’ And it’s only healthy that some of us play the contrarian.
   But when it comes to your real life, just what exactly changes? It’s not income-dependent, either. If you were Sir Richard Branson, for instance, I bet there are only so many times you want to tell people you are vacationing with celebrities on your own personal island. Now, if I suddenly had a personal island, that might just appear as my next status update. But not Sir Richard.
   As I type this on a Sunday during which I’ve had to work (deadlines loom) there wasn’t that much about the last 24 hours that was that interesting. Some relatives came by, and that doesn’t really seem to merit a status update. My work was very interesting, but confidential, so that doesn’t merit a status update. What does? Links about Leonard Nimoy do, of course, as well as that realization that all this time he had been wearing a gold and white outfit on the original series of Star Trek.
   As with my first days on Twitter, nearly a decade ago, I question whether anyone wishes to read about my culinary skills and the fact I made chicken drumsticks tonight; and while I did Instagram the roast chicken I made for New Year’s Eve I really didn’t think it was an æsthetically pleasing roast chicken, as far as roast chickens go. Our own lives are just that: they might well be good and at this point, my friends already know about mine. Write any more about it and it becomes a rerun.
   Facebook became Facebook really with the start of the recession. Many of us were on it before, especially if you were at Harvard during its nascent stage, but for me, recessions meant looking for new opportunities. One might as well explore this new website and this whole “social networking” lark to see where it would take us. Other than a brief pick-up with the release of Timeline, I wonder if we have now explored every nook and cranny of this same-again site, just as we have done with various Google properties. The only thing that would now make either more interesting is being able to see the nightly transmissions of personal data to the NSA writ large on the welcome page.
   If Facebook becomes a thing of the past, and of course it will, just as Altavista has, it will be due to the freedom we have on the internet. We might just have grown tired of retelling our stories. Which, to me, means the next big thing online will even be more exciting. We might just stop selling ourselves, becoming the fodder of Facebook and Google. We might even make some cool stuff of our own. Or we might even find a little bit of joy writing about our thoughts long-form, just as I have done.

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Posted in business, internet, publishing, USA | 2 Comments »