November 20, 2012

Mark Cuban Thinks Your Life Is An Insignificant Waste Of Time

That’s the more appropriate title of his post. Apparently, it’s that of a mindless drone who peruses Facebook to escape from a vapid existence, keeping up appearances by liking and commenting on purposeless baby pictures from your friends while having all the time in the world to skim through hundreds of posts in the process.

FB is what it is. Its a time waster. That’s not to say we don’t engage, we do. We click, share and comment because it’s mindless and easy. But for some reason FB doesn’t seem to want to accept that it’s best purpose in life is as a huge time suck platform that we use to keep up with friends, interests and stuff. I think that they are over thinking what their network is all about.

How detached from the real world is Mark Cuban? I’ll be the first one to pan the shallow nature of attention-starved Facebook user behavior, but I can’t be remiss to admit that most people use the platform as a primary communication channel on par, or more so, than the phone, text messages or e-mail. Hell, my parents find out more about what’s going on with my life by keeping up with my posts on Facebook than by speaking on the phone every few weeks. That’s the point.

Who really appreciates that some posts rise to the top of their newsfeed because some folks they used to work with and are still friends with shared a baby picture? Not only do I not like it, I like even less the obligation I feel to like the picture so I don’t seem like some grump.

In a perfect FB world every post enters the friends/like/subscriber’s timeline. If they log in and want to spend the time searching their timeline they see it, if not, not. FB users go on FB looking to kill time. Why not let them?

Sure, there’s plenty of so-called “time wasting” that’s happening on Facebook, yet it’s not an excuse to assume that users have no issue sifting through the garbage businesses throw out there. Cuban’s attitude in his blog post reeks of modern-day aristocratic narcissism as if his, or his brand’s messages, is of noble class importance. In his mind, we’re all just plebs whose everyday activities and relationships are utterly insignificant in nature, to us or to anyone. No matter how boring or non-impactful, one person’s daily life is not a time suck for them.

We should know better than an algorithm what those who like us actually like. It may well be that it’s a passive relationship. Maybe they just want to see the scores at the end of every quarter in a Mavs game? Maybe they want to know what show is playing right now on AXS TV? No one expects them to like, comment or share any of this. It’s just an information source.

You know better, Mark? Obviously you don’t. Your posts would get much more visibility in news feeds if you did. Maybe they want to see this. Maybe they want to see that. Maybe they just don’t want to fucking see you at all. Have you even considered that fact, douchebag? Just because people like a brand doesn’t mean they want to consume information about them religiously on a daily basis to the detriment of their own social graph.

Oh, and just because you can find out about things on Facebook doesn’t make it an information source. It’s like equating Thanksgiving dinner with the family, not as a social gathering of people, but as a personalized resource for curated and aggregated editorial content. Really gives you that warm holiday feeling, huh?

In the context of his general attitude, the nature of Cuban’s incessant babble over Facebook’s news feed algorithm seems laughable since we’re talking about a fucking basketball team here. Not war reports from the Middle East. Not congressional negotiations over the fiscal cliff. Not anything a reasonable person may possibly consider to be a significant impact on their lives or their future.

Don’t you think the people who’d want to see six real-time score updates a night from the Mavericks would actually be watching the game already on television?

Based on Cuban’s own illogical argument in his post, shouldn’t users have the freedom to leisurely pursue the internet as a “time suck” without a filter determining what they do and don’t see? If they really want to know the score of the Mavericks game, they’ll fucking find it themselves. It’s not like that information is scarce nor do people not know how to get it within a click.

Facebook’s news feed algorithm exists solely because of shit like this. Determining relevance on an individual-to-individual basis using thousands of variables is a tall complicated order. Unlike Google who gets an implicit signal of intent with every search query, Facebook doesn’t. What could be extremely relevant to a user one day could mean virtually nothing to them the next, then relevant again a month later.

Mark Cuban expects it to be up to the person to fiddle these nuances for themselves, but who the fuck wants to do that? Not normal people. So Facebook tries to do that on their behalf. They already give users a multitude of settings to help the process, but barely anyone actually uses them. If the masses of people did, Facebook wouldn’t be going so hardcore with algorithmic methods of filtering.

It’s not a revenue grab. It’s a matter of survival. No matter what the vocal minority shouts about privacy concerns, if the billion ordinary people on the platform were to take sides, they’d be rooting for Facebook. For many, it’s the primary place to keep connected with their family and friends en masse and quite often the best source for time wasting. Keeping it that way is much more complicated than a “show all updates” button. I agree with Ryan Tate of Wired here:

It’s odd that Cuban, of all people, doesn’t appreciate the complexity involved in being a “time waster.” His NBA team the Mavericks spends inordinate time and money trying to be a compelling “time suck” for fans with nothing better to do than watch strangers play basketball for hours on end.

The Mavericks hone elaborate on-court strategies, release and acquire highly skilled players, and strike complex broadcast and merchandizing arrangements. They don’t let just any random dribbler onto their home court to entertain the fans. Facebook works the same way.