FIXING FACEBOOK and GOOGLE

It shouldn’t be hard.

Back in the early days of email, we worried about spam. Merchants shaped up by agreeing not to sell our addresses. Spam filters also did their thing. Email got fixed.

Today, Facebook and Google will have to agree not to spy on us. And Firefox has rolled out a ‘spy’ filter. VPNs will become standard. Those who spied on us will try not to pay under class actions, but the tort bar will not relent.

This privacy thing cuts both ways.

The value of Facebook

Early on, I saved a small bundle on hard copy subscriptions. Realizing that mainstream media was into ACDC was a bonus.

Of course, there remain honest folk in mainstream media. The trick is to know.

Someone smart said we need mainstream media to sort out the trash. True enough. Mainstream has to maintain at least the credibility and gravitas of a piece on its face. The troll and clickbait sites are uncovered soon enough, unless you’re too willing to be trolled.

So, what to do?

Find good friends and enemies. Find good people to follow.

What makes for “good?” It’s when they point you to something credible, or hint that something is unduly biased. Those with opposing views are best because you have to work against your own grain.

In the end, free expression is just a clause that works when people think.

How you are my friend

by Kermit Kefafel, April 1, 2013

So, okay, no man is an island.  And when the bell tolls, it tolls for all of us.

But do we all have to be friends? Of course not.

For one, friendship is not a choice.  It just happens.  It is quite possible that two people are friends but don’t know that they are.  They may see each other in some other relationship, like father-son or politician-voter, etc., but when friendship happens, the two friends simply are.

So, exactly, if it were definable, what is a friend?  I think friends are those who enjoy each other’s ‘alive-ness.’  You can enjoy Buddy Holly, but if he didn’t know you when he was still alive, you can’t be friends.  But this just pushes the definition question to outer space: What is enjoyment?  There I stop.  That’s the primitive in the friendship definition.

Here are a few random ‘facts’ about friendship:

Only peers can be friends.  Inequality kills friendship. A person in need is usually not a friend; he’s just needy.   But a rich man can friend a poor man if they were equal on some other footing, like skill at eight ball. This means, intellectually, I can’t be friends with the folks at rappler.com.  They think they’re thought leaders, so I must be a follower.  Tough beans.

You can’t have too many friends.  Any one who says he has lots of friends lies.  Why is this?  This is so because, as I said earlier, friendship just happens.  And somehow the gods of friendship require that you be able to count your friends easily. How can you ‘enjoy’ someone you can’t even remember? This is also so because equality is a precarious balance, an uneasy equilibrium.  That also means an enemy can be a friend.

Friends respect each other’s relationships with others.  This follows from the selective (though not by choice) but peer nature of friendship. Peers let peers do their thing. And pears let apples be.

Even more importantly, friends value each other’s privacy. Every act of friendship that involves an ‘opening up’ is only through mutual consent.  You can’t even ‘confess’ a secret to a friend who doesn’t want to listen (because that’s the way he/she might be at that time). And of course, one who feels entitled to crash in on you at any time is not a friend but one who abuses the idea of friendship.  Bottom-line neologism: Friends, more than others, understand and maintain fences and boundaries.

An especially good kind of friendship is the low-maintenance plug-in plug-out kind.  You haven’t seen this friend in years.  And yet, you meet and it was as though it was yesterday that you last saw each other.  This has a down side.  When such a friend dies, sometimes it takes a while before you can grieve because you may not know about it for a while. This happened to me, so I know how tough that is.

Love and friendship are not the same.  Can they mix? Only if lovers understand boundaries, and usually they don’t.

Very few of even your ‘close friends’ on Facebook are your friends.  Some of your friends on Facebook are your enemies.  Beware.  I wrote this note on April 1, 2013 (that’s a double-whammy in the superstition derby).

Why blogs should be censored

This is a particularly good example of the inanity of freedom of expression, never mind that of the author.

One, he doesn’t like Christians, and calls the Philippines ‘Christianabad.’ Such cheek.  The religious of either left or right should mount a holy war to expose the Get Real folks as insult artists.

Two, he believes that FB, corporations, and religions are all the same crude banana.  Maybe.  Maybe not. But so what? Has he ever run a behemoth, or tried to deal with satanic cults?

Three, his solution to the predicament of FB users who upload bikini pics is to update privacy settings.  Fat chance.  No one really understands the privacy features of FB, or any site for that matter. Fine print is an automatic non-read.  Still the only way to avoid exposure is simple: Wear a fig leaf or Just Say No.  But we don’t do the latter because there is a nonzero value to FB users even if they now can’t quite capture the financial benefits.

Four, he thinks lawyers will be called upon to disentangle difficult social issues.  And I thought the bard said we should kill the lawyers.  I don’t know the solution but turning to lawyers and reading stuff from Get Real will get a nonthinking nobody nowhere.

Enough of blather.  Bring in the censors.  The site should be called We’re Unreal.

Disclaimer:  My one regret, though an iffy one, is this post just might promote site traffic to Get Real Philippines.  But it would have been worth it if just one reader gets saved from eternal intellectual damnation.  Also, I side with the good sisters of STC on the original issue.

Facebook and Doronila

The connection looks remote. The first is a social web phenom, albeit an abuser of privacy rights of those who choose to join. The second is an old-school journalist in the Philippines who, unfortunately, has ‘lost it.’

Because Facebook exists, I have decided to make good on a teeny protest against the inanity of broadsheet newspapers, especially the Inquirer, who thinks highly enough of Amando Doronila to keep running his unreadable stuffs. And stuffs they are. The protest is simple: I will no longer be a paid subscriber to the Inquirer’s print version. In any case, I’m sure the newspaper will survive (it has enough ‘friends’ in the economy who will pay for ads). It’s also a protest against the presence of one Rigoberto Tiglao on the newspaper’s pages.

The protest is on balance easy, even profitable. Some news is still important. But aha, that’s where web 2.0 kicks in. The news I think important are those some FB friends consider as well. I noticed that we ‘help’ each other by linking to things we may agree – and more often – disagree on. This makes for an interesting experience. My news world has expanded to include the two Times (Los Angeles and New York), the Philippine Star (which used to have some kind of strange bias a while back), the Manila Standard (which is fast becoming the better version of the Daily Tribune), something called the Onion, and even that openly unbiased wanna-bee called Rappler.com. The reality is that everything out there has a bias, so caveat lector be.

Doronila has already taken up enough of my time. Fool that I was, I kept hoping there might still be some redeeming value in his pieces, but it seems that the better ‘gamble’ is to just say No. Now, I no longer have to pay real money to the Inquirer, but can keep a tab on what’s up through FB friends’ links. The nice thing is that pulling the plug was painless. I simply told the household help to call up, on the landline, the local news vendor. The dogs will miss barking at the delivery guy, but they have other folks to bark at.

It now turns out that FB has some personal value even if I can’t get a piece of its IPO incomings. I get to avoid P1,000/month of news print subscription fees. That’s not exactly peanuts. (It’s more expensive by twice than the monthly dues on an unli-call/text postpaid plan at the post-merger Sun.) The capitalized present value of this opportunity ‘gain’ is roughly US$1,200. Not bad as my valuation of my FB friends’ news-wise wisdom.

Finally, I must thank Mr. Doronila for getting me to think about the matter. He didn’t exactly show me the way, but, hey, you can’t win it all.