Category Archives: Facebook

Beware Facebook’s data-sucking autoplay videos

facebookOver the past few months, I’ve come dangerously close to exceeding my mobile data cap. As I write this, I’ve used 944 megabytes of my one gigabyte limit, with just hours left until my monthly reset.

I’ve been trying to figure out why. I’ve been using the same phone for a while now, with the same usage patterns – I think – as always. So what’s been chewing through all that extra data?

And then it dawned on me: Facebook. Facebook and its – excuse my French – $%#@ autoplay videos. You know, the “feature” the company rolled out in December along with the biggest load-of-crap explanation yet foisted on internet users:

Compelling sight, sound and motion are often integral components of great marketing campaigns, particularly when brands want to increase awareness and attention over a short period of time. From launching new products to shifting brand sentiment, this video format is ideal for marketers who are looking to make a large-scale impact, and for people who will discover more great content in their News Feeds.

If you use Facebook, you *know* what autoplay videos are. They’re the videos that, well, automatically play whenever they appear in your browser window. Thankfully, they don’t play sound unless you click on them, but they play silently and annoyingly nevertheless. And they chew up data. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Facebook


Does anyone really want ‘social TV’ and its spoilers?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

Back in the days when there were video stores, imagine somebody had walked into one and shouted, “Darth is Luke’s father!” or “Bruce Willis is dead all along!” If you hadn’t seen those particular movies – The Empire Strikes Back and The Sixth Sense, respectively – you might be inclined to punch that person in the face for senselessly broadcasting key plot spoilers. This is why sane people generally didn’t do such inconsiderate and dumb things (I’m mentioning them here because, as older movies, they passed an acceptable statute of limitations some time ago).

Fast forward to today and many people have no such compunctions. Social media is rife with people sharing spoilers of movies and especially TV shows without any consideration that they’re indeed broadcasting such information to plenty of people who definitely don’t want to hear it.

Case in point: Game of Thrones. I’m a fan of the show, but I never watch it until a full season has aired. With a complex plot and so many disparate characters, I find that binge-watching episodes is the only way to keep track of what’s going on. That means purposely staying away from spoilers for a good 10 weeks, which is next to impossible thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Facebook, television, Twitter


Oculus Rift deal signals big changes to Kickstarter

OculusRift1When I was a teenager, the worst thing one of my favourite bands could do was “sell out.” In retrospect, it was a pretty ridiculous and largely arbitrary proclamation for a young person to make – amongst my group of friends, it was usually reserved for whenever a heavy metal band we liked went soft and recorded a ballad that was clearly designed to appeal to mainstream record buyers. It was especially naive, given the fact that every musician had to sell out to some extent in order to get their creation out to the public in the first place.

These days, you don’t hear too much about bands selling out, largely because just about any musician would be happy to sell just about anything given the state of actual music sales. Indeed, the “sellout” label is now increasingly being used in the technology world, where promising young inventors are giving their amazing ideas to giant companies in exchange for boatloads of cash (which can also be used to buy boats themselves). Such is the case with Oculus Rift, the virtual reality headset invented by 21-year-old Palmer Luckey, which was bought by Facebook for $2 billion on Tuesday. In this case, Facebook – perhaps the most hated company on the internet – is the loathsome record label while Luckey is the quintessential Metallica or Def Leppard. And boy are the fans ever angry.

Oculus Rift came to life on Kickstarter back in 2012. By listing his impressive demo of the virtual reality headset on the crowd-funding site, Luckey captured the imagination of more than 9,500 people who collectively pledged $2.4 million – 10 times what he was asking for – to help make the Rift a reality. Luckey doesn’t yet have a working product, but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was impressed enough by the prototype to open his coffers. Both individuals explained and defended the deal as necessary for taking virtual reality to the next level.

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Facebook, video games


Bell wanders into its own negative-option fiasco

double-dipIt’s been more than a week since the revelation that Bell Canada is gathering customer usage data with the intention of selling it for ads. I refrained from proclaiming it as the worst idea ever just to give it time to sink in, but yup, even with the benefit of sober second thought this is clearly one of those dumb moves that is either out of touch with what customers want or amazingly presumptuous about what the company can get away with.

In case you missed it, Bell has been sending out notices informing customers that, starting Nov. 16, it will be relaying new product offers based on their phone, internet and TV usage. As the Globe and Mail reports, this will include the monitoring and exploitation of:

Internet activity from both mobile devices and computers, including Web pages customers have visited and search terms they have entered; customers’ location; use of apps and other device features; television viewing habits; and “calling patterns.” Account information shared will include product use including type of device, payment patterns, language preferences, postal codes, and demographic information.

Customers will be able to opt out of receiving the ads, but not the data collection itself. Bell is painting the service as a win for consumers, since they’ll be able to receive ads that are more relevant to them. Hotels, for example, might be able to send ads to customers who are also frequent travelers. What Bell plans to do with the collected data on customers who have opted out, however, is a mystery. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 31, 2013 in advertising, bell, Facebook, Google


Canadians big in online demand, poor on supply

ShoppingTwo numbers regarding Canadian e-commerce caught my eye the other day, given that they were almost perfectly complementary. The first was an item from the Business Development Bank of Canada, which notes that about 30 per cent of Canadian small businesses still don’t have a web presence. The second was a new report from trend tracker NPD Group, which finds that about 63 per cent of Canadians like to shop online in order to save money.

The two figures do much to illustrate that while Canadians are great on the demand side of online transactions, they’re not so good on the supply side. The reasons why are varied, but ultimately unknown.

The BDC findings are especially poignant, since they highlight a big problem. “It is critical for small business to get ahead of internet trends and manage their image, including managing online reviews,” said Pierre Cléroux, chief economist for the BDC. “And it’s not just having a website. They need more than that – they also need a strategy on the web.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 24, 2013 in advertising, economy, Facebook, Google


Twitter needs to fix its big firehose problem

firehoseWith Twitter finally announcing its initial public offering last week, the countdown is officially on for the company to correct some of its long-simmering issues. With an IPO representing a sort of graduation for tech firms – where the nifty idea becomes the need for profitability – there’s not much time left to avoid them.

Twitter’s biggest problem is its large number of dormant accounts. While some estimates peg the number of total accounts at somewhere around a billion, the company reported in its filings last week that only 218 million were active in a given month. That’s a far cry from the 1.1 billion active users that Facebook reports.

Spambots are a bit of an issue for Twitter, but even their prevalence – which the company estimates at about 5 per cent of accounts – doesn’t account for the huge discrepancy between active and dormant users. The more likely culprit are lurkers, or users who look on but don’t necessarily participate in discussions, or people who try Twitter and ultimately become bored with it. In either case, the company’s problem lies in how to get these users more interested, or stay interested, since their participation goes a long way to determining how much advertising revenue can be generated. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Facebook, Twitter


Why are we paying for internet access again?

Imagine paying a hefty cover charge just to get into a shopping mall.

Imagine paying a hefty cover charge just to get into a shopping mall. Hey, that’s the internet!

Several years ago, I remember having a conversation with someone very smart who worked at an internet service provider. He told me that his company was walking a very fine line in terms of how the internet is paid for and monetized. The companies that provide access to it were in a state of perpetual balance with the individuals and companies that provide services over it. If the internet wasn’t full of so much awesome stuff, there might not be a point to paying for it, this person said.

The internet has since become thoroughly commercialized, so I can’t help but wonder whether that balance is now completely out of whack. With virtually nothing online coming for free anymore, exactly why are we paying to access it?

Just for kicks, I thought about how I personally use the internet and broke it down into four categories: ongoing pay services, pay-per-use services, seemingly free services and actually free services. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Facebook, Google, internet, skype, Twitter