Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM

It's great that users care now

There was a time not long ago when developers would say "But it's better if it's open!" and users, even influential ones, would say that's something you idealists care about, we're okay with what we get on Twitter. Now the users are sounding more like us, as they start to understand the importance of having control over what comes to them, and who sees what they write. For a sampling, read the quotes in this NY Times piece, posted Wednesday.

But making Facebook the issue is still imho missing the point. Facebook is programming the flow because that's what Facebook does. Wanting it to be otherwise would be like wishing that CNN didn't have commercials. Hey these days they have commercials at baseball games, when you paid for the ticket! Commercials are everywhere. And "they" decide what you see. (At the last Mets game I went to, they showed a Dunkin Donuts commercial between innings instead of a replay of a fantastic double steal that happened in the previous inning. That's how bad the commercial programming situation has become.)

In TV news, there's supposed to be a Chinese wall separating the news from advertising. I think we all know that these days the wall is largely gone, and that what you're seeing on TV news these days is heavily commercial.

The Internet has different economics than TV. There isn't a need for advertisers to act as intermediaries. But when you choose to see your news filtered by Facebook or Twitter, you may get something good, but it will be programmed. And unlike TV news, they never promised or even implied there would be a Chinese wall. This is hard for a lot of non-technical people to understand, I guess, but I don't know why. Did you think Exxon would proactively prevent oil spills, or the banks would pay back all the people they cheated in the bank bust of 2008 because it's the right thing to do? Why do you infer idealism for the owners of social networks? They're businesses, run like businesses, with shareholders who would fire management at the first sign of softness. The idealism, the fairness, you project onto the people who designed these systems is one they've never claimed.

We still have to create the ideal news system, we don't have it yet, that's what the users are starting to realize, I think. As developers, we know a lot more about it now than we did ten years ago. And we also know how to bootstrap a new network using the existing networks. The economics of the net are so different from broadcast, that it actually is possible to solve this problem. We know how to do it.

There are so many problems we can't easily solve, like climate change, or preventing another banking meltdown. This however isn't one of them. All we have to do to get to the promised land is listen to each other. But that seems to be an insurmountable hurdle.

Last built: Sun, Mar 22, 2015 at 5:50 PM

By Dave Winer, Thursday, September 11, 2014 at 5:19 PM. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends.