Two things about Facebook:

1) Apple changed the allowable level of PII tracking on the iPhone and this has apparently cratered Facebook's revenue. (this also gave the lie to Facebook's claim that is was only tracking very specific PII it needed to tweak its ad display algorithm - they were clearly trading/selling that info as well)

2) that said, I do use Facebook to keep track of close family, high school friends, and the world of ammeter potterymaking. From about 3 years ago to 12 months ago Facebook was actually showing me relevant, amusing, not-obnoxious ads and I did click through a few of them and make purchases - and I am pretty immune to ads in every form. But 12 months ago Facebook apparently implemented one of its famous "algorithm tweaks" and since then it has been showing me nothing but irrelevant junk ads. No, I don't need a 35-ton hydraulic excavator; what happened to the ads for pottery knives? And I choose that example specifically because Facebook knows I follow pottery sites without needing any data from Apple. I think they outsmarted themselves with their smartest guy in the room software updates and killed their own goose.

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Facebook’s willing acceleration of its own collapse into irrelevance (as every other social network has experienced) is absolutely astonishing. Not even content to milk the money on the way down, Zuckerberg is setting it all on fire. Rather than even say he will try to make Facebook more useful, he brags about spending that money on a VR product absolutely nobody has asked for. I have an Oculus headset and the experience is very good as far as VR goes, but I haven’t picked it up and used it in six months because it turns out that VR isn’t all that interesting except as a gimmick. Even for games, it makes you intensely motion-sick for first-person movement. Nobody will want to spend any significant amount of time wearing a headset. Nobody. And without VR, the metaverse is just another avatar chat room, of which there have been dozens already, none terrifically successful.

The badness of the products seems to me the result of the founder’s Vision being incomprehensible to anyone else. I’ve seen that many times but at much smaller scale. Nobody will tell the boss, of course, and they’ll build SOMETHING, but what they build will be garbage because there is nothing coherent to latch onto. Steve Jobs, by contrast, always had something he could describe that people could understand wanting, even if the delivery (especially first versions) was much more limited.

Musk’s secret skill has been finding and hiring those people who have their own vision that is somewhat aligned with his, and letting them rip. My experience at the tech giants is that past the first few thousand employees, the ability to identify those absolutely critical people gets lost, and risks being corrupted into hiring people who are instead completely incapable, and so you see steadily decreasing ability to execute except incrementally or by cloning.

And cloning is great but many companies seem to feel too proud to really go for it. Facebook tried its own version of TikTok but it was never close enough to substitute. The urge to believe you can do better by innovating serves your pride but not the market. Especially once your ability to innovate is fading.

What Musk will do with Twitter, I don’t know. The people I talked to about it pretty much agree you could do it with 75% of the staff. The problem is how to get there from here.

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Maybe we just passed peak social media, just as we did town criers, pamphlets, newspapers, radio, broadcast TV, and cable TV. I don't see what replaces social media, but it appears that advertisers are paying less. Why is an important question; regardless, the allure of social media advertising has peaked.

Meta dies by denying that it is a mature company and wastes profits on VR. TikTok dies because it is run by Xi. Musk's innuendo that Mr. Pelosi was attacked by an invited male escort tells us where Twitter is going.

Can we ethically support Twitter by being a user? I'm increasingly confident the answer is no.

Substack could offer an interesting forum, but it needs lower prices and/or allow ads, and who moderates? Multi-author Substack magazines may be an answer.

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I am on Team Multi-Author Substacks myself...

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Oct 28, 2022·edited Oct 28, 2022

"Maybe it’s a peculiarly American trait, but our NCOs are taught to innovate when the battle plan inevitably goes awry."

LOL not only is this not "peculiarly American", it is the policy outcome of copying the Auftragstaktik of the army of the Nazis. No sergeant Rubarth, no crossing of the <strike>Marne</strike> Meuse!

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"What just happened to Facebook" is so yesterday. This morning, it's "what just happened to Amazon?"

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I fear for the future of meaningful politics when I see things like this:

«Still, some workers in this Detroit-area county say they hoped for more. Democratic efforts to raise the federal minimum wage struck out in a sharply divided Congress, and the PRO Act, legislation to strengthen collective bargaining, has stalled. In the words of one Starbucks barista, who helped unionize her store, the Biden administration's efforts have been "a little bit performative."»

Democrats have been less than fully successful due to Republican roadblocking in Congress, so the obvious solution is to vote for Republicans...

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"Third-quarter real GDP growth at a 2.6% annual rate, and core PCE inflation at a 4.5% annual rate—in the late-Volcker or early-Greenspan years, these would have been seen as perfect numbers for an economy near full employment…"

And my favourite not-empop chart (Employment Rate: Aged 15-64: All Persons for the United States (LREM64TTUSM156N) - https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/LREM64TTUSM156N ) says the monthly spot for July was 71.77, which is a hair above July 2003, a hair *below* early 90's Julys and almost on the nose for July 2019. So the big issue then is oil spot prices. For our sins of not allowing the rich people to have all the money, the federal reserve is looking to hammer employment so that potential employees are desperate and cheap.

I am sticking to previous: Powell tends to go way too hard for too long before flipping out and pulling a big u-turn. On the other hand, Bullard (for example) appears to merely be pimping for rich guys and their desire for subservient employees. Also maybe, good election results for R's. Love those permanent tax cuts.

"And people have willingly given him enough ammunition that a number of them have been world-benefitting bullseyes."

I think you are overrating Musk here, but credit where credit is due.

"But Facebook on its way to irrelevance still could spread a lot of accelerants and throw off a lot of sparks with respect to its effects on society."

Facebook is finally getting MySpaced. The need for authorities to monitor people through Facebook has declined as the kidz have moved on so one of the legs of the facebook stool has been lost, along with a lot of the advertising and that's it. No potential capital gains are seen for decades to come and poofity.

"there is no guarantee that his Self-Driving Twitter will be an equal boon for humanity."

As Josh Marshall says, the company is maybe worth 10-15 billion and he (or rather his backers) are in for 44. Matt Levine's newsletter quotes the Binance guy: "Binance Holdings Ltd.’s chief executive officer said he thinks he will stick with Elon Musk’s proposed $44 billion buyout of Twitter Inc. amid potential concerns from Washington about foreign investors backing the bid.

“I think so,” Changpeng Zhao said when asked if he will stand by his financial commitment to Musk. Zhao spoke in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he was attending the kingdom’s Future Investment Initiative conference on Tuesday."

A guy named Zhao speaking a at conference in Saudi Arabia. Plus there's another quote from a guy named Roelof Botha who is, yes, of *that* Botha family. ('Mr. Botha to the white courtesy phone, Mr. Botha to the white courtesy phone.') Also Elon was spotted carrying water for Vladimir Putin.

They ain't buyin' the damn thing to make money, they're buying it to crush ummmmm deplatform unacceptable elements on Twitter. Like Ukrainian war bloggers, anti-regime Saudis, anti-CCP Chinese, and so on and so forth.

(I'd add here what should have been obvious. If Tesla's major market is China, China is buying half or more of Tesla's output and the whole company is dependent on Chinese chips, then if he gets sideways with the PRC, Tesla is a dead duck. Sans Tesla, Musk is a dead duck. Meantime he also has to cooperate with the Russians around launches and dockings at the ISS, not mention the Russians can shoot down the Starlink constellation. Given how upset our neo-Axis friends were when Trump lost the election, I think you can see a way to explain Musk's increasing odd behaviour since then, yes?)

"I have a strong sense that in the First Age of IT all the profits went to IBM, in the Second Age all the profits went to Wintel and thus to Microsoft and Intel, and in the Third Age all the profits went to Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple, Intel, and lately TSMC. I do not have a strong sense about which of these companies’ being there—and other companies—did more to change who we are and how our society works."

IBM made money in the Second Age. Microsoft makes plenty of money now. After those two I'd probably give the crown to Google first and Amazon second.


facebook is a sideshow

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This section (on Zuck and Musk) is excellent. Really insightful. On your last, almost throwaway point...I think you have to add Sony. They practically invented consumer electronics as a category. Without the Walkman in particular, there’s no iPod. And without the iPod, there’s no iPhone. And without the iPhone...well, without that, you’re on a completely different historical track. Not saying Sony deserves top billing, but they played just as big a role as most of the others you mentioned.

Did I mention I loved this post?

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