Fuzzy Bacich and Facebook — compare and contrast

Peter Spurway thinks I’m romanticizing Don “Fuzzy” Bacich’s legendary crankiness about patrons who wanted to slather his delicious French fries with ketchup:

“… and another bastion of quality and tradition falters.”

Tradition, yes. Quality? No.

Not providing something that many of your customers would like to have has nothing to do with quality. It has everything to do with the perspective of the owner. While I certainly grant the owner the right to fashion their product to their own liking, they have to accept that a percentage of their current and potential customers are not going to like it and it will be seen by some as a detraction from the offering.

A lazy choice of words on my part. Still, the eccentricity of refusing to supply ketchup at your chip wagon reflects a certain charming integrity.

Some guy named Silas* in Orangedale writes:

There is a funny contrast between the top two stories on contrarian tonight.  One praises the unfortunately named Fuzzy’s Fries for refusing to bow to their customers’ wishes re condiments.  The other criticizes Facebook for doing refusing to bow to it’s customers’ wishes re locations.  Rooting for the little guy is a bias I share with Contrarian, but I’ll be darned if I can come up with a sensible justification.

How about persnicketiness? Will that do?

* [Disclosure: Orangedale resident Silas Barss Donham is my son.]

Real world vs. Facebook’s world vs. Google’s world — Updated

Black Island Kempt Head

Facebook continually pesters me to entrer the “city” where I live, but rejects Kempt Head, Ross Ferry, Boularderie, and Cape Breton all of which are more-or-less accurate. It will allow me to enter Halifax, Sydney, or Baddeck, none of which is accurate.

Contrast this with Google, which embraces locations with admirable granularity. Google effortlessly adopts islands, villages, hamlets—even micro-locations like Frankie’s Pond and Parker’s Beach—as long as it sees real people using them.

This may seem a small thing, but it strikes me as a profound difference in the cultures of the two organizations. One constantly cajoles you into ill-fitting pigeonholes. The other looks at what you and those around you are actually doing, and continually updates and adjusts to this new information.

(Photos: Above: Black Island (in Gaelic, Island Dhu), Kempt Head, in the real world. Below: Black Island, Kempt Head, on Google Maps.)

Black Island


Marla Cranston points out the Purcell’s Cove dies not exist in Facebook World.

If Calvert, NL, native Jenn Power were so inclined, she could list Ferryland as her home town, but this would be like asking her to accept Big 8 in place of Diet Coke. Far worse, actually.

Newly minted Margaree Centre resident Stephen Mills cannot list that village as his current residence, but Facebook World does allow “Margaree,” a community that, as Mills points out, does not actually exist.

There is no plain “Margaree” —— just the directional or topographic variations: North East Margaree, Margaree Valley, etc.

Interestingly, Mills contends that

[A]ll the Margarees were a bureucratic decision at some point. Names like Frizzelton and Fordview described the locations at one point.

Visual displays of Facebook metadata

FB-WordCloudMore than a million people have used Stephen Wolfram’s Personal Analytics for Facebook, a web app that generates a fascinating visual report of your Facebook profile: age, gender, relationship status, and location of your FB friends; the number of your friends’ friends and the number of their friends in common with you; your friends’ most common first and last names; your most ‘liked’ post; your FB use by day of the week and time of day; and a word cloud of your posts (like mine, at right).

Wolfram, best known as inventor of the computer program Mathematica and the search engine Wolfram Alpha, recently invited users of his FB Analytics app to participate in a “Data Donor” program, by contributing detailed data about their FB use for Wolfram’s research purposes. 

This week he released a detailed analysis of this data, as usual complete with arresting data visualizations. The whole piece is worth reading, but here’s just a taste:

How many friends do people have on Facebook have, and how does this vary with age?


What do men and women talk about on Facebook:


Justice for Dave Wilson – lots of feedback

My postings here and on Facebook, voicing mixed feelings about Dave Wilson’s situation, provoked a ton of feedback. Publishing most of it will make for unusually long post, but it also shows public sentiment to be less lopsided than media coverage indicates.

In cases like this, I believe reporters seek out and highlight the most dramatic responses, usually the vengeance-seekers, and this distorts our impression of the public mood. Plenty of people agree with me that Wilson has already suffered mightily.

But not this neighbor:

As soon as he was caught, he went into hiding, now he’s fessing up. A thief is a thief. I’m not kicking him when he’s down. I just want him to pay for his crimes. I had a brother who went to the county for bootlegging when he had no work. He knew the job was dangerous when he took it. He got what he deserved and mama taught him better.

Dave will get his pension and this will blow over. Just don’t trust him with your signature. He is one of many who are the reason people don’t have any faith in governments and other large institutions, like the catholic church!

A Dartmouth resident:

Revoking [his pension] makes no morse sense than any other random, vindictive retribution the mob might conjure. I don’t care what [the neighbor quoted above] says, I think you’re you’re right to feel some pity for an addict. Gambling ruins lives. And the more we destroy the guy, the more we show other gambling addicts to keep their mouth shut and hope you win enough to hide your problem.

A reader:

Beautifully said.

Another reader:

I agree with your sentiments and arguments on this. Two successful and high profile MLAs publicly crumbling, with a gambling addiction the most likely poison, should have us questioning the social costs of that government-promoted world.

A Sydney businessman:

Well said, well done.

A former journalist who has moved on:

I don’t think you’re alone in that view on Dave Wilson. I always liked Dave, right back to the time I worked in the CJCB news room.

From a woman who has occupied high-profile federal and provincial posts in NS:

Thanks, Parker. You have expressed my view in far better, more complete terms than I could.

From a trade union official:

You softy, you.

From a reader

I have to agree with the sentiments expressed here. I also believe the Speaker of the House, Gordie Gosse, should appear in court and make a submission on sentencing. I firmly believe that Gordie should stress the damage caused to the reputations of all politicians and of all stripes. The idea of “tarring them all with the same brush” is not fair to the honest and conscientious politicians, whatever party they belong to. That is why I believe it is important to make a submission on behalf of all MLSs.

From Rick Howe:

Would you be available for a chat on my radio show re your thoughts on David? [And in response to my asking how he felt about it] I’m waffling. I, too, feel bad about David, he’s a friend, but I think a short jail sentence might be necessary to appease public outrage and send a message to other politicians.

A journalist who has moved on:

On the pension issue, point taken. There’s no provision in the Criminal Code for appropriating offenders’ pensions. But the rest — the “fine man who’s suffered enough” argument. Really? Ordinary scam-artists don’t suffer when the law catches up with them?

[And on further reflection] I agree about the disgusting bloodlust. Where does it come from? Is it from 3+ almost unbroken decades of short-sighted governance? Maybe Contrarian readers would like to catalogue the poor decisions for which we’re still paying the consequences: Buchanan’s decision to spend the offshore wealth before it made landfall; the neglect that’s causing Halifax rot from the centre outwards; the indifference behind the decision outsource the immigration file; Sysco; the decision to kneecap John Savage before he could stand for re-election, etc.

Or maybe people just sense that there is a ruling class in NS and it doesn’t care about the suckers who pay the bills. Maybe it’s the Bluenose equivalent of finally coming over the walls, lovingly sharpened sickles in hand and a gleam in the eye.

A reader:

Well said. Damn gambling got him and Zinck and goodness knows how many others have been victims of those damn machines. Just disgusting that all three parties refuse to say they will shut down the machines in bars and and anywhere else.

A Sydney woman:

His misdeeds – petty and poorly-executed, moves me to pity for it’s ineptitude and pathos rather than righteous indignation.

He “reads” to me, though, and again- unfortunately- as an older white man in a suit, seemingly above a little graft, or worse, entitled. Probably he believed in it a bit too much as well. Entitlement.

The real question might be – *ahem* – are you identifying with it a bit too much yourself? We hate to see the white male do such a shabby job of a little sad cheat.

After the jump, some responses from Facebook:
Continue reading Justice for Dave Wilson – lots of feedback

World’s largest photo library

1000memories.com, a website about organizing and sharing home photography, illustrates Facebook’s dominant role in photographic storage.

Digital cameras are now ubiquitous – it is estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world today have a digital camera. If the average person snaps 150 photos this year that would be a staggering 375 billion photos. That might sound implausible but this year people will upload over 70 billion photos to Facebook, suggesting around 20% of all photos this year will end up there. Already Facebook’s photo collection has a staggering 140 billion photos, that’s over 10,000 times larger than the Library of Congress.

Donnie Calabrese got his computer back

In a local triumph for social media, Donnie Calabrese got his computer back today, 145 days after it was scooped up in a CBRM Police investigation of someone else, and one day after Donnie wrote a Facebook post about his frustrated attempts to reclaim it. From Donnie’s Facebook wall today:

Dear Friends, Got a call from the police at 11am. Got my computer back at 12. This has been one of the greatest most uplifting experiences of my life. I have infinite confidence in the competence and fortitude of all of my friends. I thank everyone who shared this, got angry, and shared their unconditional support.

There is power in numbers, everyone. My eternal gratitude is yours.

Facebook privacy defaults by year

Matt McKeon turned the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s chronology of eroding Facebook privacy settings into an interactive graphic showing how much of your FB data is visible, by default, to various categories of Internet users, by year.
You can get a sense of the problem from these screenshots, but the details emerge best in McKeon’s website.
Still plotting my escape. Hat tip: Flowing data.

Unfriending Facebook

At a web app developers’ conference on April 21, Facebook unveiled a breathtakingly ambitious program to reorganize the way personal information is shared on the Internet.

The changes, known as Open Graph, are hard to summarize simply, but they include the use of cookies, login codes, and Facebook “like” buttons on other companies’ websites, to automatically share user information and preferences with other websites, which then use that information to personalize a user’s browsing experience. More detailed explanations here and here.

With 415 million users, Facebook offers web developers a powerful incentive to play ball, and they have flocked to embrace the new program. On opening day, Open Graph had 75 partners; a week later, 50,000.

Admirers believe Open Graph represents an important step in the development of the “semantic web,” in which net-connected computers move from simply executing instructions to understanding the information they are trading.

Detractors accuse Facebook of a Big Brotherish hijacking of users’ private data. I am a detractor, and unless something changes, I’ll be deactivating* my FB account.

I am no privacy freak. On the contrary, I believe the recent fetish for privacy often does as much harm as good, by giving governments a ready excuse to withhold information that ought to be in the public domain. However, I added personal information to my FB account for the sole purpose of letting people I designate as “friends” see it. I never intended FB to share that information with L.L. Bean, Wal-Mart, or Empire Theatres, so they could better customize my browsing experience. Nor do I want those sites trading information about my browsing habits or purchases with FB, which is exactly what Open Graph does.

My concern is heightened by FB’s vivid history of demonstrated indifference to privacy concerns. The Electronic Freedom Foundation has a chronology. Moneyquote:

Facebook originally earned its core base of users by offering them simple and powerful controls over their personal information. As Facebook grew larger and became more important, it could have chosen to maintain or improve those controls. Instead, it’s slowly but surely helped itself — and its advertising and business partners — to more and more of its users’ information, while limiting the users’ options to control their own information.

Each time FB changes its privacy options, it defaults to openness. Users who want to tighten their privacy settings must go into their account pages and negotiate an obscure and confusing series of settings. Even then, they will be unable to prevent FB from sharing basic information such as thei profile photo and their friend list. It’s clear that FB has made the settings deliberately hard to use.

Leo Laporte, my favorite tech guru, had a good (and accessible) discussion of FB’s privacy issues on the latest edition of his tech podcast with guests Gina Trepani and Jeff Jarvis. (The FB discussion is about 20 minutes in.) Their conclusion: if someone as tech savvy as Laporte can’t figure this stuff out, how is an ordinary user supposed to.

Trepani has published step-by-step instructions for how to reef down your privacy settings, as has the New York Times’ Gadgetwise blog.

Interested readers can find more discussion of these issues here, here, and here.

* “Deactivating” is a moderate option. It suspends your FB service, but saves all your data in case you later change your mind. People can no longer see an inactive profile, but they can still tag you in photos and invite you to events (although you won’t see the invitations). Even so, FB users wishing to deactivate must navigate a series of guilt trips, including picture of FB friends who will “miss you.” “Deleting” is the nuclear option. Your data is gone, and should you later re-join, you re-join from scratch.