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    • Based on conversations in real life and online, it appears that one of the biggest reasons why people who hate Facebook refuse to leave Facebook is that they fear missing out on important updates from family and friends: births, graduations, new jobs, vacations.

      To me, this is a fascinating problem that begs a solution.

      One possibility is to send updates to Facebook via third party software. Software such as Hootsuite and Buffer can allow you to post updates without setting foot in Facebook, which deprives them of your eyeballs for ad revenue. However, how do you receive updates from family members without logging into Facebook? In addition, with each update you send to Facebook, you are contributing your family and friends’ time to Facebook’s advertisers.

      What do you think? Could you leave Facebook within the next six months? Does an alternative to Facebook currently exist? Is there a way to move your family and friends off of Facebook?

    • This is not a new problem, and it's more of a social and organisational one, not a technological one. For starters, it's just inertia, people in general do not like change and especially so when they have invested some time and energy into making something comfortable or at least familiar. Add the feeling of the necessity to invest in learning new [technology|shticks|keyboard shortcuts|whathaveyou]. Add the surprisingly rare realisation that most people are not tech savvy and they do not care about nor share certain fascination with technology that we geeks have; it's more a necessary nuisance for them. Some people who have been around for a bit also realise that there's no end in sight - they onboarded to Facebook yesterday, you ask them to move on to X today and in five years they will need to hop to Y or Z or risk getting left behind again...

      Mentally, to solve this problem people have to understand that the communication technology of the day is irrelevant. It's about people. The first computer networking technology that became available to me was Fidonet. There was UUCP. BBSes. Usenet. BITNET mailing lists. IRC. ICQ. AOL Messenger. Skype. LiveJournal. Friendfeed. Hardly an exhaustive list. On every one of those technologies there were (and are!) people who don't want to leave. However, it all hinges on the actual practical desire of these people (and me) to communicate. I still "talk" to many, many people whom I "met" via one of those tech wonders of comms. As I wield a certain amount of sysadmin wizard power, I have been running some kind of communal server for friends and family for over 15 years. I still send postcards! (PostCrossing.com, anyone?)

      So if you have a more or less tightly knit group of family and friends and are ready to do some cat herding, then yes, sure, there is a lot of alternatives to stay connected/updated. Use alternative platforms, ready-made or self-hosted. Hop on Cake, or Mastodon, Freefeed or whatever comes next. Make a family Wordpress-powered blog. Rent a server, set up something you like, invest in maintenance and most of all, education of your people.

      On the more global and technophilosophical side, I agree that this endless fragmentation is a source of eternal frustration. I have been long advocating for the "personal digital locker" approach, but it doesn't seem like it is coming from any of the big world service providers soon, even if some underpinning work like SOLID and others is inching along. I'm sure @cvdavis can chip in here with some good angles and stories.

    • I have the opposite problem. Heh.

      My brother and I rarely see eye-to-eye on politics or religion so we both (independently) friended-but-de-friended each other on Facebook to avoid making each other’s blood boil.

      I completely missed the engagement news of my niece and the birth announcement of a nephew’s baby. On top of that, my sister-in-law didn’t know I moved to a new house six months ago and sent a wedding invitation to a closed mailbox that the USPS didn’t forward.

      Because people now use social media as the preferred method to announce the happy things in their lives. Facebook has made family communication a nightmare for us.

      What a world we live in.

    • Our technological history is filled with with services rising and falling: Usenet, Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL, MySpace, Yahoo... But this one feels different.

      For one thing, we didn't leave the others because they felt evil or we hated them. We left for something better. For another, they didn't have the lock-in that Facebook does. Facebook has our photos and some of our logins. They became the place where everyone was, you could reach the biggest audience and miss out on important news if you weren't there.

      It's ironic that being a little bit evil may have helped their rise, it's a reason some people want to leave, but it may also be a reason it's hard to leave. And the reason there doesn't seem to be a ready alternative.

    • One of the joyous things about Mastodon, which is an alternative to Twitter, is that you can add a content warning button to your posts. Add “us political” as your CW and the only way you can see your sibling’s rants is if you purposely click the SHOW MORE button. You can even use it for inoffensive content that only a small segment of your tribe is interested in, such as baby shark tribute band videos.

    • hahaha. Yeah. “Hey brother, let’s migrate this family to Mastadon because then we can shape and pretend each of our relatives is actually who we wish they were.” Hahaha.

      That would go over like a lead balloon... 😉

    • It is a constant joy to me that the participants on Cake have a depth of knowledge on topics that interest me, especially when that participant’s knowledge level is deeper than my own. I feel I regularly learn new things each time I visit here and am the better for it.

      Personal digital lockers. Your concept reminds me of when Ma Bell was broken up and Congress passed a law that you could keep your phone number if you switched to another carrier. I don’t know much about packets and switches, but I imagine the phone company having to forward your calls to your new provider. Would a personal digital locker work in a similar fashion?

    • I will defer to David Siegel's excellent explanatory video as that's where I learned about the concept as formulated (there is a wealth of thinking about this starting from Engelbart's et al work in the mid-20th century, but this is more contemporary and specific and high-level)

    • That would go over like a lead balloon...

      I guess I was more pointing out that Facebook could do some social good by providing some self-filtering options. It obviously sucks to miss out on family updates.

      What if Facebook hid each of your sibling’s posts unless it started with ANNOUNCEMENT? Or it mentioned the name of your niece? Or the picture shared has family members tagged?

      Facebook could optimize your experience without the content creator having to remember to add a content warning—there were plenty of pleas to “add a CW!!!” on Mastodon during election season.

      But they know they have a captive audience.

    • Our technological history is filled with with services rising and falling: Usenet, Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL, MySpace, Yahoo... But this one feels different.

      I actually considered Usenet until I found Cake. Usenet is still very much alive, but my understanding is that it’s a small niche community like the Well and you have to jump through numerous hoops, including paying upfront for a connection, before you even know if it’s worth your time.

      I am hoping that Cake ends up with a three tiered Good-Better-Best pricing model like Pandora, in addition to a free ad version account. Being able to have multiple saved drafts and no ads would be worth a Better option plan to me.

      When I first tried Pandora, I went with the free version that contains commercial breaks, but after a year or so I got tired of the John Deere tractor ads: living in the Midwest, it was assumed that I would be in need of one.

    • When we started SmugMug back in they day, it was unheard of to charge a subscription fee for photo sharing. The web was supposed to be free. But we found that people would sign up and pay after a two-week trial and it solved content moderation, because to pay you had to reveal your identity and then you were not going to upload child porn.

      Now that my family started Flickr, I notice they are pushing subscriptions hard because to do ads you have to have insane page views and insane targeting. It seems to be working. And I see that Apple is getting people to pay for iCloud, which is mainly photo sharing.

      On my motorcycle forum, we have a subscription to avoid seeing ads and to support the site and it's working. It seems to be working for longer-form journalism sites like The New Yorker and WIRED, so maybe someday it will work for Cake, who knows?

    • Interesting video. The personal data locker’s consolidated feed of multiple platforms reminds me of blog readers, like Feedly, and the Apple News app. However, how would you envision posting to a given platform? And how would the platforms providing that content support themselves? I remember how Feedly and Google Reader took away the sidebar and banner ad revenue from blogs, which contributed to the decline of blogs.

    • I'm not quite sure we align on the central point of the vision. It revolves around the idea that there are no more "platforms" external to the user. Instead, you own your "data locker", it is yours and yours alone (this is pretty theoretical and of course there will need to be someone to sell you the hardware and the operating system to run that "locker", and there can be and should be competition as long as the resulting "locker" product adheres to a set of common standards and protocols allowing the "lockers" themselves and any external entities to efficiently and seamlessly communicate.

      So you don't post to a platform. You post to your own "locker", and if you so desire, then share that post outwards to whichever connections you might have, to friends, media channels, what have you. On whichever conditions you might want to [programmatically] impose, including payment.

      And if we are talking about consuming content, here's the thing - commercial entities outside of your "locker" will have to actively compete for your attention and money. You, on the other hand, will have to pay subscription. Not unlike the cable TV or Netflix. You get a "feed" of content that plugs into your "locker" and makes it available for your consumption on whichever conditions - flat rate, pay per view, etc and so on. Services work the same way - you want a feed of real estate information and access to deal registry? You pay, you get it, but the service must conform to the same set of open standards for inter-locker (computer?) communications.

      Does the above make any sense? For me it does and in many aspects it's just what the Internet was supposed to be like :) not the forest of ever more fragmenting walled gardens.


    • It's ironic that being a little bit evil may have helped their rise, it's a reason some people want to leave, but it may also be a reason it's hard to leave. And the reason there doesn't seem to be a ready alternative.

      Looking at the hand-wringing that's happening in the Gplus communities, that seems to be the overarching issue - there is no ready alternative today.

      I don't have FB, never signed up, never really missed out, it seems. My social media footprint is only dabbling around on the periphery of the big social media players.

      My wife tells the story of how she activated a FB account when she worked in administration at the local university. One of her functions was related to student contact, and a current student had passed away unexpectedly. The remembrance gatherings for this individual were all being arranged via FB. Now, this was eight or nine years ago, when FB was not quite the big-dog it is today.

      She's moved into another area of the university where student contact is still helpful, but not as necessary as it was back then. Yes, it seems everyone still has FB, but also other social media destinations. It's obvious, even to her, that social media demographics is changing.

      As I read this and a couple of other threads here on Cake, it seems the "what's better than FB?" conversation continues to exist.

      Is being on FB (or other major social media) truly relevant in this day and age?

      old man now steps from soap-box to read the replies

    • Is being on FB (or other major social media) truly relevant in this day and age?

      old man now steps from soap-box to read the replies

      It depends. In many marriages, one spouse will be a daily user of Facebook, providing updates and sharing family photos to the spouse who is rarely on Facebook or not at all.

      It can be an incredible platform for sharing a virtual memorial for a family member who died.

      It can turn family and friends into narcissists.

      It can end relationships with family and friends who share political views different from your own.

      It’s what you and the people you interact with make of it.

      It depends.

    • I'm not quite sure we align on the central point of the vision. It revolves around the idea that there are no more "platforms" external to the user.

      New technology and ideas often make sense to me in comparison to technology and ideas from the past or present. If everything on the web was subscription only, you wouldn’t have as many new ideas seeing the light of day compared to now. A two week trial wouldn’t have been sufficient for me to decide to pay for Pandora, for example. I see the risk of a decline in innovation if there isn’t an ad-supported freemium option.

      At the same time, I take in @Chris ‘s insights on the challenges of relying on ad revenues for some types of internet businesses. It seems to me that what people want today is the portability of a website hosting service. If you leave Facebook, you want to be able to easily port your photos to the new service and to keep the same “phone number” or contact address when you move to an alternative. Considering the recent news with Facebook last week in the UK, it seems politically possible for such legislation in the EU and UK.

    • Nothing in the "locker" paradigm prevents freemium models (ad-backed or otherwise), or Creative Commons-like approaches. The lynchpin is the inversion of the current model where an average user is basically a kind of sucker equipped with an expensive computer terminal which s/he doesn't really know how to use except to perform a very limited number of consumption actions, mostly media. And the data of that user is vacuumed out and stored and perused somewhere by a faceless corporate engine, in unknown (possibly beneficial in some regards, I'm not trying to paint a post-apocalyptic picture here) and undefined ways, somewhere out there.

      With the locker, you own the data, you own the access, you subscribe, voluntarily and explicitly, for pay or otherwise, for feeds and services. In my geeky ideal world you even own the hardware on which it all runs and it sits in your home (with optional services ensuring it is maintained and backed up etc and so on - an early harbinger of this approach can be seen here - https://thehelm.com/ ).

      And those corporate engines now have to compete for your attention and data and money, without the convenient default of providing you some service (like email, or social feed) in exchange for carte-blanche access to the whole of digital you.

    • And those corporate engines now have to compete for your attention and data and money, without the convenient default of providing you some service (like email, or social feed) in exchange for carte-blanche access to the whole of digital you.

      Yet, it's those same corporate engines that make that digital life 'easy' to manage - or not manage, as the vast majority of users will be.

      So, that 'roll-your-own' email server has been available (for those with the technological savvy) for decades. Again, the vast majority of users are still content with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Comcast, or any number of other entities to (minimally) manage and maintain the most basic of all online services, an email presence.

    • Absolutely. I have no illusions about how "easy" it is to maintain an email server on my own - because I did. I have a couple email addresses that exist since 1991 and have been exposed in public Usenet FAQs and the like - each of those receives up to several thousand spam messages per week, to this day. I can maintain my own antispam/antivirus solution for email, but all things considered, I choose not to, consciously and with understanding of the trade-offs.

      Same thinking applies to other sorts of online services. It's not easy to do well, and providing a quality service is a boon and good business.

      So if I come off as someone who likes to rant about the evil corporations here, it's entirely my fault, of course, as that's not what was intended. I'd just like to see the relationship model changed here, in some fundamental way. Think Skynet vs Her :) ; or, more realistically, think how "digital" services emerged and then evolved and then... commoditized. I want to see most digital services of today to become not dumb but maybe smart pipes connecting people's personal computing devices with services and feeds, but with people in explicit control, via globally standard protocols.

    • So if I come off as someone who likes to rant about the evil corporations here, it's entirely my fault, of course, as that's not what was intended. I'd just like to see the relationship model changed here, in some fundamental way. Think Skynet vs Her :) ; or, more realistically, think how "digital" services emerged and then evolved and then... commoditized. I want to see most digital services of today to become not dumb but maybe smart pipes connecting people's personal computing devices with services and feeds, but with people in explicit control, via globally standard protocols.

      Everything 'good' has turned, in one form or another 'evil' with respect to those global corporations, as their focus is to satisfy those shareholders. We all get it. 😎

      Your last sentence above is fascinating. I want to believe the vast majority of humanity alive on earth thinks we're there - right now - relative to the way things were just ten or twenty years ago.

      Look at how long FB has really influenced (good or bad...) civilization, since it's been in existence for only 15 years now. What will it be 15 years from now, another shell of what might have been (a la MySpace, et. al.) or will it have even more influence on how a significant percentage of the population consumed info and entertainment?

    • Someone shared with me the idea of having all your family and friends relocate to a private Wordpress blog. Being a maths geek, his idea led me to consider this problem.

    • Interesting solution, @apm - that retains the 'social' aspect, but completely eliminates the 'media' part of the equation, doesn't it?

      In that paradigm, you 'follow' friends & family, but also certain 'influencers' you enjoy reading, along with news/current events, and...whatever else is in your 'feed'.

    • Ken, you are correct that a private blog would provide a hangout for family and friends. However, one of your friends may want a private blog for their family only, so now they need to be part of two private blogs. And that friend may want a private blog for just their college buddies. Pretty soon your friend is either a member of a gazillion private blogs, or the membership of his one private blog is the size of a country.

      It’s an interesting math problem but I don’t think it’s a viable substitute for Facebook.

    You've been invited!