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I did consider that as an idea, Martin- and curious if anyone could estimate what the impact would be or what sort of numbers it would take to generate some disturbance ripples.

But I imagine it is more than just recording a string of bad likes; the traffic Facebook exchanges is all about our habits or our profiles (do we even know what data they ship to companies).

Yes, your plan takes the deviousness to a delightful higher level.


You're right Alan - in reality it would require the majority of users to do it for it to really impact. They undoubtedly build a certain amount of noise into their data and analysis anyway.
And to really undermine it, as you suggest you'd have to put random info in your profile (another tool for someone to develop).
But the principle is sound I think - social data only becomes valuable if the individual elements have integrity.

Nick Kearney

The logical next step would be a tool that generates "bot-like" self-replicating profiles that like everything they find and interact randomly, multiplying eventually to a larger number of profiles than the population of the planet.
This would probably lead to the spam-death of the universe.


I'm fascinated by these ideas of exploiting the gaps between the intent of the creator of these various social media markers and their interpretation(s). Your post reminded me of this First Monday article by Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum


which explores how individuals and groups adopt various tactics of "obfuscation" to try to counter exploitative monitoring, mining and profiling.

That piece in turn references the work of James Scott, which I recall enjoying as an undergraduate, on how groups with little economic or political power use an often shifting range of ad hoc tactics to more or less quietly disrupt or confuse those seeking to control them.

Even leaving aside the element of active obfuscation, I do wonder whether ascribing some simple, uniform interpretation to a "like" or a "favourite" isn't always somewhat problematic, whether there is always an element of ambiguity. It seems to me there are all sorts of possible intents behind a "like" of, say, the Fb page of university XYZ, from an active signal of my enjoyment/valuing of my time as a student there, to an expression of identity through association ("University XYZ is cool"), to opting in to some social reward thing ("Like our page today and you'll be entered in our raffle for an IPad!"), to an accidental click on the wrong button in my phone app. This is one of the reasons I find Brian K's exhortations to use these markers as "lightweight" measures of "impact" and "performance" so problematic. But that's another comment, and one for his blog rather than yours! :)

Scott Leslie

Check out TrackMeNot http://cs.nyu.edu/trackmenot/ - not Facebook specific but more general. Hide in plain site. Oh, and for good measure, damn the man.

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