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This is a discussion on Tech Related within the Related Markets forums, part of the Non-Related Discussion category; Facebook’s News Feed is the most powerful content distribution engine on the web. Because of its huge number of engaged ...

          
   
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    Facebook’s News Feed is the most powerful content distribution engine on the web. Because of its huge number of engaged users, how Facebook rewards and promotes certain content can mean life or death for online publishers. the News Feed is also Facebook’s biggest revenue generator, where its best and most expensive ads live — and Facebook is dependent on those ads, 89% of its $7.8 billion of revenue in 2013 came from ads.

    Late last year, Facebook altered how its presents shared articles and links in order to deemphasize “low-quality” content, including macros and memes. It also included its own article recommendations based on what each person had posted, seen, or liked in the past and, early this year, added a trending stories module on the right-hand side of the News Feed.

    But how to distinguish between ads that companies pay to place in your News Feed and stuff that your friends and publishers you follow post?

    Facebook has been asking users (or at least me) to do a survey where it served up 15 posts that appeared in the News Feed and asking if it “feels like an ad.” And yes, I was aware that I was being asked for my feedback and consented. Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on how long they had been soliciting this feedback or why it was doing the survey.

    Only three of the posts were paid ads from companies or brands I don’t follow, and one was a blatantly spammy ad for a game. But nearly everything it showed me was promotional — asking me to click, like, or share a story a friend wrote, a new profile picture, an outrageous news story. Facebook may need to charge for ads to survive, but it has no problem getting us to advertise ourselves.

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    The Men Who Dare To Be Demented

    At a hotel ballroom outside Chicago, the legacy of Dr. Demento and Weird Al lives on.


    The crowd at FuMPFest

    I freaking loved Weird Al as a kid. My friend Laryssa's older brother introduced us to him in elementary school, and at the time I was certain that “Eat It”



    (Al's legendary parody of Michael Jackson's "Beat It") was the pinnacle of wit and humor. Laryssa and I watched the Weird Al feature film UHF probably 20 times on VHS. Like a lot of kids, I was the perfect target for his brand of oversize silliness. He looked ridiculous and his humor was easy to get. He was subversive yet PG-rated.

    Though most people in my generation think of Weird Al as a phenomenon of the '80s and '90s, his biggest hit actually came in 2006, with “White and Nerdy”



    (a play on Chamillionaire's ubiquitous "Ridin'"). At the time it came out, I was on a long car trip with friends. I had seen the video for the song, and tried to tell them how good it was. Though they loved him as kids, they were skeptical that Weird Al could still be funny to adults. We pulled off the highway to buy the CD, and I slid it anxiously into the dashboard. I was delighted that Al and I were vindicated: Everyone agreed it was hilarious.

    While Al's relevance has faded some, his cultural footprint is weirdly huge. One common thread I've noticed among adults I've met who are creative or funny is that, as kids, they were obsessed with Weird Al. Like me though, most Weird Al devotees tend to grow up, get busy, and forget all about funny music.
    But there is another group of people who aren't just nostalgic for Weird Al; they live his gospel. These are people who never set aside the wackiness, the zaniness, the never-ending slide-whistle call of funny music. And I want to find out what makes them tick. That's why I've decided to go to the first ever FuMPFest (Funny Music Project): to meet the acts and the fans who are still out there making and loving funny music.
    I'm not sure what to expect, except that I will be laughing very hard.

    An impromptu conga line breaks out during a performance.
    vine.co
    It's about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night in the smaller ballroom of the Westin Hotel in Wheeling, Ill., about an hour outside of Chicago. On stage, a man who goes by the name Seamonkey strips down to his boxer briefs and a tie-dyed shirt. He begins to gyrate. His iPod is playing a karaoke track of the song "Like a G6" by Far East Movement, but as Seamonkey sings, he has changed the chorus: "For the gay sex / for the gay sex / now I'm hitting on guys for the gay sex." He finishes to great applause.

    "I'm following these guys to the bathroom," he says, pointing at a group of men in the audience who have only recently wandered in. Among them is the actor Anthony Anderson, star of Law & Order. Anderson and his friends explode in laughter. They have been loudly cheering and guffawing through Seamonkey's set, seemingly enjoying it more than anyone else in the crowd.

    In his next song, which is about using his wife's dildo while she's out of town and is sung to the tune of "Love in an Elevator" by Aerosmith, Seamonkey brings out an inflatable penis with two cans of silly string taped to the testicles, and starts to spray the crowd. Anderson and his friends howl with delight.
    Anderson happened to be staying in the hotel while filming a Food Network show; his two friends work on the show with him. They had seen signs for FuMPFest in the hotel lobby and came to see what was going on. It's both profoundly bizarre and delightful that Anderson is here, but then again, pretty much everything about FuMPFest is profoundly bizarre and delightful.

    This first ever FuMPFest is the brainchild of Tom Rockwell (stage name: Devo Spice), who wanted to have a convention for artists and fans of the website TheFuMP.com. The FuMP is a hub for music comedy, a nebulous genre that includes original songs as well as parodies, like the ones Seamonkey performs and the ones that made Weird Al famous. Performers and fans came in from all over the country for the three-day festival of concerts and panels.

    A core group of comedy musicians from The FuMP have been performing at geeky conventions for a while, eventually getting their own section at MARSCon, a Minnesota sci-fi convention at which the legendary radio host and funny music curator Dr. Demento was a guest of honor in 2004. Demento himself, sort of the Dick Clark of the funny music scene, is the headliner at FuMPFest, which at times feels more like a comic convention than a music festival. Several of the artists, including Devo Spice, have written songs specifically about geeky topics (video games, Star Trek, etc.), and there is a dealer's room with comic books and collectibles for sale. There are name tags for the guests.

    The crowd is overwhelmingly nerdy, a term that seems to be embraced, at least judging from the eruption of cheers when Demento plays Weird Al's "White and Nerdy." Yankovic is still by far the most popular and influential comedy musician of the genre. When I asked various artists and attendees who their favorite all-time funny musician was, more than half of them named Weird Al.





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    Reddit Co-Founder On Sexism In Tech: "We're Missing Out As An Industry"

    During a BuzzFeed Brews with CBS This Morning interview, Alexis Ohanian gave advice to troubled executives from Snapchat and Tinder.



    With young male executives from Snapchat, Rap Genius, and Tinder all coming under fire this year for various sexist behaviors, there has never been more attention on the tech community's longstanding discrimination problems. During Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian's BuzzFeed Brews with CBS This Morning interview on Monday, BuzzFeed FWD Editor Charlie Warzel asked Ohanian about the advice he would give to these young founders. Ohanaian, who is an active investor with over "eighty tech startups," had strong words for the three executives and quickly agreed that there is a problem with sexism in tech.

    "From one white guy to another, we've been afforded a tremendous amount of privilege that we just got," Ohanian said. "It's a life lottery ticket. If we believe in tech, and we really believe in technology, we need to behave like leaders. When you're an executive or a founder at a startup, you have to hold yourself to a higher standard and you have to be willing to do the things like taking accountability for your actions, even if they were stupid emails in college."

    Ohanian went on to say that these problems are not only discriminatory, but bad for business as well. "We're missing out as an industry," he said. "It's not in the best interest of your company. You're missing out on so much talent you could be getting."

    In March 2013, Ohanian published a blogpost criticizing users of Reddit and members of the tech industry for harassing developer Adria Roberts

    "It's irresponsible to continue to act as though we are victims," he wrote.
    Watch the video below to hear Ohanian's complete thoughts on the subject.


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    You Can Buy An Entire Italian Village For $330,000 On eBay

    Fourteen stone houses in the Alps for the same price as a shoe box in New York.




    In New York, $330,000 will get you a tiny studio in the least cosmopolitan neighborhood in the city, Murray Hill. It looks like this:








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    How Internet Providers Get Around War Zones

    Internet disruptions wreak havoc on global economies. Avoiding them is dangerous, but lucrative.



    In January 2008, something sharp—mostly likely an errant ship anchor—sliced into two underwater cables in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Egypt, near Alexandria. Egypt lost 80 percent of its internet capacity. But the effects were hardly limited to that country. Slowdowns were reported across Asia. Saudi Arabia lost 40 percent of its national network. Even Bangladesh, some 3700 miles away, lost a full third of its connectivity.

    Why did just two cuts lead to such widespread disruption? The classic, and least expensive, way to route internet from South Asia to Europe is via a vast system of submarine fiber optics running from the southern coast of France through the Mediterranean, into the Red Sea via the Suez, and finally out into the Indian Ocean and points beyond. Many of the countries hurt the most by the cuts relied heavily on this path, with only light redundancy coming in from the east—East Asia and beyond the Pacific Ocean, North America to protect against an event like this.

    And shipping accidents are hardly the only hazards associated with running fiber optic cable through the Middle East. It's a very real possibility that an act of war—a bombing or a firefight—in one of the most unstable regions in the world could literally disrupt bulk financial transactions running between skyscrapers in London and Abu Dhabi.

    The economic consequences of such an outage are obvious and devastating, and they don't only hurt big banks. Take just India, with its booming virtual outsourcing sector, enormously reliant on dependable internet. By some reports, 60 million people in India were affected by the 2008 disruption.

    Jim Cowie, then the head of research and development at Renesys, an internet intelligence company, was taking notes. "It's very embarrassing to have to explain to stock markets and banks that the internet is out and will be out for weeks," Cowie says.
    In the wake of the 2008 disruption, companies on both ends of the Mediterranean route began clamoring for redundancy, or the creation of alternative network links from Europe to Asia. And over the past half-decade, a series of enormous European and Asian telecom consortia have done just that, building four new overland fiberoptic pathways to link Europe to the financial hubs of the Persian Gulf and the booming economies of South Asia.

    The new pathways are displayed on the map above, which was made by Dyn, the New Hampshire company that manages traffic for some of the biggest sites on the internet (and which acquired Renesys in May). The new routes are faster than the submarine route—up to 20 milliseconds faster from the Persian Gulf to London, a hugely significant amount of time when it comes to automated financial transactions—and also costlier. But ISPs, banks, and other major companies will readily pay a premium to diversify the source of their internet service and ensure that they aren't vulnerable to future outages.



    A Saudi Telecom Company map of the JADI (Jeddah-Amman-Damascus-Istanbul) Network.

    Still, reaching South Asia from Europe by land requires traveling through the Middle East, and none of the new networks can completely avoid regions marked by the kind of conflict that—in addition to every other kind of financial and human cost—could produce a future outage.

    Take the JADI network (displayed in the top image as yellow), which runs for nearly 1600 miles from Istanbul to Jeddah. Less than a year after JADI traffic became available for purchase, Syria broke out in civil war, and the cable, which runs through Aleppo, has sustained chronic damage, disrupting the network.

    The stakes of these new networks are high, with their own very present, very real dangers: Syrian network technicians whom Cowie describes as "heroic" literally "roll trucks in the middle of a firefight to repair the damage."

    That's the most dramatic example. But the other cable paths all face their own challenges. The network represented above in purple is, according to Cowie, in service, though it bypasses the Suez via Israel, a country rapidly descending into violent conflict. The path running through Iraq in orange has experienced difficulties in "coordination and agreement", according to Cowie, due to a lack of cooperation between the autonomous Kurdish authorities and their Arab counterparts.

    Even the so-called EPEG (Europe-Persian Express Gateway), which has managed to avoid major disruptions despite running through volatile parts of the Caucasus and which Cowie calls "the biggest success story" on the map, passes through a newly turbulent eastern Ukraine (and, notably, leaders who have not been shy to threaten other kinds of pipeline disruption).

    Ultimately, the only way for corporate and institutional interests to make sure that they don't suffer outages in the future is to make the sources of internet they buy access to as diverse as possible. That way no single act of man or nature proves so catastrophic as to repeat the disastrous disruptions of 2008.

    Or, as Cowie says, "The remedy for all of these is politically neutral": More cable.




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    Why Tech PR Is An Impossible Job

    And why every attempt at transparency seems to backfire.


    Among some friends and colleagues there's a running joke that, when it comes to tech and crisis communications, there is one golden rule, a strategy so powerful and airtight that it can virtually ensure your company will weather the most harrowing scandals. I'm going to let you in on it now. First rule of tech PR: Never share anything. Ever.

    There are some — most notably, Amazon — that observe the rule and worship at the church of radio silence. And, for the most part, it works quite well. Tech news cycles are as short as they come and, when it comes to technology, consumers have perfected the art of selective memory in favor of convenience.

    The downside of secrecy, of course, is that you develop a reputation for secrecy. And so, in recent months, some of the tech giants have sought to defy the golden rule, to appear transparent, and to pull back the curtain a bit. What they've discovered is the catch-22 of tech PR right now: Consumers and the media love your product, and demand transparency — until they actually learn what's going on behind the scenes.

    The most recent example comes this week in an NPR piece, which goes behind the scenes of Google's "experimental newsroom," which the company created for the World Cup in order to "turn popular search results into viral content."

    Google, which has treated its algorithms as competitive secrets since it launched, no doubt saw the piece as an opportunity to highlight a new, fun trend-based initiative. Previously, Google Trends have been widely reported on and seen as a harmless way to harness and demonstrate the power of the company's data and algorithms. But the NPR piece took a different tone, opting instead to focus on Google using its proprietary data with a "clear editorial bias" and filtering out negative search queries to deliver information that people are more likely to share. From the piece:
    After the dramatic defeat by Germany, the team also makes a revealing choice to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson says they're just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend."

    It's enough to trigger an already-heightened sense of unease in tech and media spheres. On one side, media narratives have been known to sensationalize small, internal and experimental initiatives inside tech companies as indications of future strategy. And on the other, there's the search giant's seeming desire to curate its data to make news, which feels, if not a little bit shady, almost impossible to compete with.

    Google, big data's towering overlord, is entering the newsroom game! The world's most powerful information giant is filtering your news like everyone else! And doing so with readily admitted human bias!




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    Here Are Two Totally Not Corrupt People Sitting Next To Each Other At The World Cup

    Today at the World Cup Final President of FIFA Sepp Blatter and Russian President Vladimir Putin sat together.




    Just two buds. Two totally not corrupt buds hanging out, taking in a game.



    Two completely and totally non-controversial human beings having a nice Sunday. Almost certainly not planning anything villainous…



    …gettin’ all whispery. You know how it is between best buds.








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    There's A Little-Known Craigslist Just For Rich People

    The classifieds section of the Bloomberg terminal, which costs more than $20,000 a year, is called POSH. Aptly named.
    The Bloomberg terminal is an expensive Wall Street trading and research machine with lots of financial data. It has its own version of Craigslist, called POSH.



    Prices tend to be higher than what you'd find in typical classifieds sections, with goods such as vast estates, boats, Rolexes, diamond rings, and expensive cars.



    They're mostly listed by bankers, hedge fund managers, private-equity types, and their friends.

    There's even a filter for just airplanes and boats!



    Here's a 15th-century Italian castle for 20 million euros.



    That's the equivalent of $27.2 million. It has its own olive orchard, vineyard, golf course, and beach villa... plus a helipad.



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    The Photo Album Is Your Phone's New Junk Drawer

    We’re taking screenshots and saving random images just as much as we are taking photos.



    The most recent photo in my phone’s photoroll; I saved it from an email.

    Sometime in the last year or so, I noticed a change when I looked at my phone’s camera roll: quite simply, a lot of the saved images weren’t taken by me at all. Instead, the roll was composed of a lot of screenshots made on my phone, other people’s photos I had saved from texts or emails, and other random images saved from the web.

    Thinking back, the change seems to have come roughly around the same time Snapchat began to get popular. With Snapchat, I started screenshotting on my phone more than ever before (often times failing to capture the photo in time, leaving me with a dumb screenshot of the menu page). Perhaps its just a side effect of more powerful phones and better mobile browsers and apps that let us access content with relative ease. Part of treating our phones more like computers, includes making a mess of screenshots and downloaded funny images to save for later.

    And when we do actually use the camera function, the photos we take are often not the ones we’re going to post to Instagram or Facebook. The camera function is quickly becoming a note-taking, information saving app. Casey N. Cep wrote in the New Yorker about how she has been using her phone’s camera as a tool to capture quick notes instead of writing things down.


    Looking through my photo stream, there is a caption about Thomas Jefferson smuggling seeds from Italy, which I want to research; a picture of a tree I want to identify, which I need to send to my father; the nutritional label from a seasoning that I want to re-create; and a man with a jungle of electrical cords in the coffee shop, whose picture I took because I wanted to write something about how our wireless lives are actually full of wires. Photography has changed not only the way that I make notes but also the way that I write. Like an endless series of prompts, the photographs are a record of half-formed ideas to which I hope to return.
    We’re posting more and more photos to social media, and our phones are filling up with images faster and faster. But I suspect that the rate at which we add new images to our phones is much greater than the rate we’re actually posting to Instagram.
    To see if I was the only one whose camera roll had changed its makeup from real (i.e. taken with the camera) photos to screenshots/saved images, I asked people on Twitter to share their most recent image. Indeed, the majority of the images were not their own organic snapshots.







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    Snapchat Adds Location-Based Photo Filters

    The company is calling it “geofilters.”



    Snapchat is unveiling a small update today that will enable certain photo filters based on a user’s location.
    Snapchat photo filters have been available for some time, but certain contextually-aware filters will be available based on where the user is. For example, if a user is at Disneyland, a Disneyland-specific filter will be available when the user swipes right to flip through filters. At the moment, filters exist for essentially whatever the company wants to make them for — which includes some businesses and neighborhoods.

    Adding a location-aware component that could carry some kind of branding does have some pretty apparent monetization implications. The company has also expanded its application to include messaging components and is experimenting with Snapchat stories that anyone can post to.

    Snapchat famously turned down a $3 billion all-cash offer from Facebook. The company said that while it will use location data, it won’t store that data.





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