Friday, June 15, 2018

We Are All Trapped in the “Feed”

Om Malik:

No matter where I go on the Internet, I feel like I am trapped in the “feed,” held down by algorithms that are like axes trying to make bespoke shirts out of silk. And no one illustrates it better than Facebook and Twitter, two more services that should know better, but they don’t. Fake news, unintelligent information and radically dumb statements are getting more attention than what matters. The likes, retweets, re-posts are nothing more than steroids for noise. Even when you are sarcastic in your retweets or re-shares, the system has the understanding of a one-year-old monkey baby: it is a vote on popularity.

Thumbs down, a feature that should have more adoption and utility, doesn’t work, because it doesn’t bring the dopamine rush of the like. I mean, to dislike something, you have to think. As a result, with every day that passes, the noise increases. What is essential, remains buried in the background, looking, seeking and praying for attention.


The question then is who will save us from the feed? It has to be someone whose principal business is not monetizing their customers by selling their data and advertising. For now, I think Apple is one of the companies which can do something about this. Apple News is a credible application, but it needs to embrace the web and become more open.

1 Comment RSS · Twitter

I'm collecting a packet of essays to introduce people to the topic of information literacy and seeing through the fog of confusion thrown up by the major social platforms. I will add Om's piece to that collection, although recently I've found this piece from James Bridle to get even closer to the heart of the matter (as well as the scale of what we're up against):

As for 'escaping' the feed, the objective is simple: Do all you can to remove yourself from these toxic platforms — and if you have the time and energy, help others do the same. Switch to, or a free account, or a free Dreamwidth account... switch to anything so long as it puts out an RSS/Atom feed... that's what lets us retain control our stream.

Got some people you care about and only hear from them on Twitter? Use to get a feed. There are RSS bridges for Instagram and other services too ( — let's use these shims for now and start working on the tools to make it easy for non-technical folks to escape as well.

I recently started using Miniflux, a little web-based RSS reader that has a decent mobile interface, and it's such a breath of fresh air compared to checking Twitter or Google News. I have a separate group of feeds for News and another group for Blogs, so I have the choice to either browse headlines or just see what people I care about are up to. The important part is that I am separating these feeds on my terms, so I can engage with them based on however much time and energy I have available on any given day.

The hosted version of Miniflux is $15/year, or you can run it on your own server for free. If you have $165 to spare every year, that means you and 10 of your family/friends can escape. That's not going to change the world but it's certainly a tangible improvement in your life (and the lives of those you care about). Of course the great thing about RSS is that you can use whatever reader you want, depending on what you're looking to get out your feeds.

Want to escape the algorithmic timelines we all agree are so poisonous to our society? Well... find ways to stop using the platforms and help others do the same!

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