007 - 2. What Feeds an Algorithm...Your Data!
Part 1-B: The User (continued)
Picking up where we left off on the pervious post, "The 'Blue Pill' Known as Facebook", we continue to discuss the initial phases of a user experience on the Facebook platform. Interestingly enough, both the user (you and I), and the mothership (Facebook's algorithm) learn about each other simultaneously. The parallel path eventually splits, taking the mothership skyrocketing north while the user remains parallel. What do I mean by this? Refer to the embedded graph. The axis lines are split between time spent on the platform (x axis) and the amount of information inputted into the platform by both the user and Facebook (y axis). The user input is self explanatory...the Facebook input however, should have some further clarification.
Over time, Facebook has added several elements to their monstrous, ever growing mainframe. Each time an element is added, it takes time for the user to learn the functionality and how to efficiently use the addition. For example, take the "share" button. The addition of this button allowed the user to share a post that they come across as a post of their own. Later on, it allowed the user to share it with fellow friends...directly on their wall. There are several examples of these additions, and the point is, it takes time for a user to fully grasp its purpose and how it relates to their own Facebook experience. This learning curve of Facebook's software does, however, have a ceiling. A seasoned user of Facebook can ultimately learn how each tool works and thus understand the platform more thoroughly.
The user input, however, is never ending! I stress my bold comment from the previous post: "all action items taken on the platform segment the user into a searchable category" - Me. All action items...that means the simple act of opening my Facebook app on my phone, watching 3-seconds of a random video on the feed, or sneaking in a peek at someone's profile continuously adds data to the mothership...thus Facebook's algorithm is always learning about our likes, dislikes, wants, desires, and addictions. The algorithm picks up on them quickly, predicts them accurately, and continuously feeds them to us like a drug in the form of notifications, emails, text messages, etc. So how do we fight this addiction? Is it even worth fighting? I reference the 'Blue Pill' analogy of last post's title. 'Blue', obviously to reference Facebook, but the 'blue pill' is a reference to The Matrix series. The moment you sign up for this digital world, you are plugging yourself into reality's version (not Hollywood) of the Matrix.
Think about it...this is a digital landscape filled with photos, videos, comments, likes and shares...a database of individual journal entries that are open to anyone and any business whom is granted access for viewing. BUT...and there is always a BUT...Facebook sees it all! Facebook documents it all! Facebook segments it all! And finally...Facebook sells the accumulated information over and over and over again to the highest bidder. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, I'd like to save this portion for future posts in this series...particularly the business end of it. For now, lets swing back to the user experience.
As a user, think of all the reasons you have ever used Facebook...what purpose has the service served you? Has it been a way for you to stay in touch with old friends or acquaintances? Has it been a platform to write your political or cultural views? Have you joined groups or team pages to follow some trending topics of the day? Have you used it to spy on a girl or guy you have a crush on? Do you use it to know when your friends birthdays are? How about mindlessly telling the world that you're 'chillin at the mall'? The truth is...we can go on all day with these various questions. You know how you've used Facebook, and there is a 100% guarantee that others have used it the same way. The creators of Facebook may have tried to think of all the possible ways that a user can satisfy their urges, but they couldn't possibly have thought of all the ways...hence the algorithm.
So at this point, I must confess...I have stopped using Facebook for personal purposes a while ago. Due to my business, I have my account set up which is linked to my various business pages, but I have stopped feeding the system with my personal input. I'm not encouraging you to do the same...don't confuse the intention of my confession. I'm simply trying to explain that when you dig below the surface, it is quite easy to see that every action item taken is free information provided to the platform that turns around and sell it. So...if your data inputs are their asset and they sell it rather than give it away for free...why would you give away these data inputs for free? Weird way to to look at a digital journal...but the fact remains...every single post, photo, like, share, hashtag, video view, photo download, etc is owned by Facebook. You are merely a willing participant to continuously grow this ever evolving AI algorithm.
In the next post, we will wrap up Part I of this series on the user and start fresh next week with businesses who have both benefited and wasted tons of money trying to join the party.