Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook Is Totally Not an Echo Chamber, Says Facebook

Is Facebook your own personal hangout, where you gossip with a small group of your close friends? Or is it a big, sprawling cyber-campus, where you get bombarded with new ideas and information all the time?

Yes, says Facebook, via a new research paper that’s both wonky and accessible, and which the company thinks is worth telling knuckle-draggers like myself about.

The big takeaway here is that while most people on Facebook spend most of their time sharing stuff with a small group of like-minded friends, Facebook is so big — 800 million users! — that Facebook users end up learning lots of stuff from people they barely know: “The information we consume and share on Facebook is actually much more diverse in nature than conventional wisdom might suggest.”

The title of the paper is “Rethinking Information Diversity in Networks.” But it ought to be “No, Facebook Is Not Just an Echo Chamber” — “echo chamber” being a term that comes up three times in the post.

Or even more pointedly: “Eli Pariser — That Guy Who Wrote ‘The Filter Bubble’ — is Wrong.” Or how about yet another: “Why Would You Want to Limit Your Friends to 150 People?”

So keep this in mind as your Facebook feed starts to fill up with even more updates about what your friends are watching, reading, listening to or linking to — Facebook thinks you’re getting a whole lot of signal out of that noise.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik