This morning I opened up my Instagram app on my iPhone and a video started playing automatically. I thought to myself “oh, great, that setting must’ve somehow reset, I’ll go back in and shut that off.”
However, to my dismay, turning off the autoplay is NO LONGER AN OPTION. This triggered a wave of frustration in me. So I thought I’d write a post about some of the things happening in technology and social media that bother me.
These are techniques, decisions and manipulations by the companies that make these products; I invite you to contribute your own in the comments.
Here are the 5 things that irritate me more than anything else:
Opt-out vs Opt-in
Back in the day, this used to be called bait and switch.
When you make an arrangement with someone, it is unfair to unilaterally change the terms of the agreement and apply the terms retroactively.
Facebook continues to do this on a regular basis, the list is too long to provide. Most recently, Google did it with showing faces in ads.
The simple fact is this, it is unethical to continue brining millions of users along for the ride, making changes that affect their privacy and user experience without gaining their permission first. And by permission, I don’t mean that if they don’t explicitly say no that they’re ok with it. Nor do I mean that by continuing to use the site they agree. Nor do I mean that 180 page terms of service document, written by lawyers to get people to unknowingly yield control over their entire identity to a social network. We have time, content, relationships and all manner of other activity invested in these sites, often with no way of pulling our belongings out, it is completely not ok to put people in a position to choose between their privacy and their relationships and intellectual property.
For the long term sake of social media, we should switch the paradigm to out-in.
Auto-play videos and other interruptions
You know what used to be amazing about online video? You could just watch it. No commercials, no interruptions. Now they all have ads.
You know what used to be great about newsfeeds on social media sites? It was all updates from friends. No ads, no interruptions. Now every feed is monetized.
You know what used to be great about Instagram? It was just a feed of photos from your friends. Now videos automatically play, interrupting the experience of browsing photos…and you can’t turn it off.
Now everything is being interrupted in the quest for monetization. But if we’ve learned anything from where TV is headed, the (in)effectiveness of ads, and the shift towards power in the hands of the consumer, it’s that interruption is unwelcome and ineffective.
Which leads me to my next gripe…
I’ve written about this before, but having one monetization strategy that revolves entirely around ads is lazy and not the least bit creative. Netflix is popular for a reason. When presented with the opportunity to avoid ads through Ad Blocker technology or DVRs, people overwhelmingly opt-out. Therefore, if you’re a site that is monetizing through ads, it’s completely ridiculous to not offer the ability to pay a fee to remove the ads.
But many of these sites simply throw ads in there, collect the revenue and user-experience be damned, move forward. And they keep doing it because we tolerate it.
However, many of these sites are getting more “clever” about their ads, and by “clever” I mean SHADY…
An ad by any other name…
Is it “promoted?” Is it “boosted?” Is it “suggested?”
Personally, I’m tried of this nonsense. Call it what it is: an Advertisement!
There are two kinds of ads, advertisements and sponsored content. Let’s limit it to those two things so I don’t have to start seeing my entire Facebook newsfeed covered in “suggested posts.” It shouldn’t be about tricking people.
No noise controls
My final gripe of the day comes down to this: any network in which you have the ability to “follow” more than 150 people (Dunbar’s number), needs noise controls. And by noise controls, I don’t mean Facebook’s Edgerank (or whatever they’re calling it now). I mean the ability for users to create lists of filters to limit what comes through the firehose.
Instagram becomes chaos and there is no way to differentiate or filter to see friends vs brands vs anything else. Vine is the same. If there is a follow button and there is no limit, there needs to be noise controls.
What bothers you?
This morning rant was my list of five things…what bothers you?