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    • A tale of accidental virality in the age of algorithms.

      This is a bit worrisome that something can get so out of control so easily.

      "On an otherwise ordinary Sunday in late January, a 32-year-old web editor for a chain of local radio stations in Central Texas ran across a news item that he found interesting. Ten minutes later, he had written and published what would become Facebook’s most-shared story of 2019 so far."

      "Facebook has responded with countless tweaks over the years designed to promote “high-quality content,” discourage clickbait and like-bait, fact-check bogus stories, and punish pages that peddle misinformation. In 2018, Facebook announced a set of major algorithm changes designed to prioritize news from “trusted” and “local” sources, and to boost content shared by users’ friends and family over content published by professional Facebook pages. It said users would see less news in their feeds overall, but what they did see would be more reliable, and that it would focus on facilitating “meaningful interactions” among users."

      "In practice, the levers that Facebook’s engineers pull tend to be blunter instruments than you might think. Facebook’s mechanism for determining “trusted sources,” for instance, turned out to be a two-question survey. It assumes news is “local” to you if it’s being shared by a publication that has an audience tightly clustered in your area—regardless of whether the story’s topic is actually local. It defines “meaningful interactions” partly based on the number of comments on a post."

      It is a mystery how this happened but it worries me that it did.

      P.S. They caught the perpetrator in the headline.

    • These stories are always fascinating to me, even in the real world with humans to pick talent and great stories. How does a story like Harry Potter become so big from such an unlikely source after so much rejection?

      Anyone who produces videos for YouTube, any teen who posts to Instagram, knows that some things get inexplicably picked up and some don't. Did the content unlock the power of the algorithm or did the algorithm make the content? Did the musician wow the agent or did the music label make the musician?

      At a little conference in 2006, Jeff Bezos told me as we walked on the grass: "It takes mysterious planetary alignment."