Facebook’s algorithm isn’t surfacing one-third of our posts. And it’s getting worse

Kurt Gessler, Deputy Editor for Digital News at The Chicago Tribune writes:

At the Tribune, we have a fairly stable and predictable audience. We had around a half million fans at the end of March and have seen slow but steady growth in the last year. Most Facebook posts fell into the 25,000 to 50,000 reach range — with a few big successes and few spectacular failures each day, usually based on the quality of the content or the quality and creativity of the share.

But starting earlier this year, we started to see far more misses. And not reaches in the low 20,000's but 4,000 reach or 6,000 reach. Digital Editor Randi Shaffer was one of the first to notice.

Interesting post with a lot of data to back up his claim. We haven't seen the same issues with our content, however we've also greatly reduced the number of posts to Facebook that contain outside links.

The Future of Facebook Instant Articles

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

...two years after it launched, a platform that aspired to build a more stable path forward for journalism appears to be declining in relevance. At the same time that Instant Articles were being designed, Facebook was beginning work on the projects that would ultimately undermine it. Starting in 2015, the company's algorithms began favoring video over other content types, diminishing the reach of Instant Articles in the feed. The following year, Facebook's News Feed deprioritized article links in favor of posts from friends and family. The arrival this month of ephemeral stories on top of the News Feed further de-emphasized the links on which many publishers have come to depend.

I think Instant Articles is good product. However, I've never been comfortable handing over content to Facebook in this manner.

Also, as the article points out, Instant Articles does not seem to fit their long term vision which is heavily based on videos. If Facebook is trying to lure large scale companies to invest in their platform, why not try to go after TV networks and create Facebook TV? This would allow them to go head to with YouTube, Netflix, and all the other players in the video industry.

Why Typography Matters — Especially At The Oscars

Benjamin Bannister writes:

With a modified card, even if the presenters had gotten the wrong one, none of this would’ve happened because the presenters would’ve looked at it and one of two things would’ve happened: their eyes would’ve read “Best Actress,” or, “Emma Stone.” Reading either of those would indicate that this wasn’t the card for Best Picture, and they would’ve asked Jimmy Kimmel or a producer to the stage to get it corrected.

As a creator, the importance of typography is an absolute skill to know, and people — not just designers, should consider learning it. Typography can be immensely helpful when writing a resume that’s well-structured, creating a report that looks exciting, designing a website with an intuitive hierarchy — and definitely for designing award show winner cards.

This article is a fantastic breakdown on how with just a few small tweaks, the whole Oscar catastrophe could've been avoided.

The Death Of Expertise

From Tom Nichols writing in The Federalist:

I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.

Later on in the article he states the following:

This isn’t just about politics, which would be bad enough. No, it’s worse than that: the perverse effect of the death of expertise is that without real experts, everyone is an expert on everything. To take but one horrifying example, we live today in an advanced post-industrial country that is now fighting a resurgence of whooping cough — a scourge nearly eliminated a century ago — merely because otherwise intelligent people have been second-guessing their doctors and refusing to vaccinate their kids after reading stuff written by people who know exactly zip about medicine. (Yes, I mean people like Jenny McCarthy.

I see this problem consistently appear in the Church and with people I know in church communications. It seems we have entered an age where every pastor is an expert on social issues due to the fact they oversee a congregation of people and have a sense of authority in their community.

On the church communications side, I see more people entering the conversation who are either currently not in the midst of working at a church or doling out information that lacks the depth needed to understand the issues at hand (I've been guilty of this).

My fear for the church and my profession is that we're slipping into a soundbite culture that is based on grabbing attention and touting numbers that have no true meaning. (As I write this, we're in the middle of preparing our annual report which more than likely include some of those meaningless numbers.)

106 and Counting

106. That is the number of graphic designers who applied for our open position at my work. I was shooting for at least 70, so I'm happy with that number.

I'm also happy with the quality level of the work that I'm seeing from applicants. I knew there would be few that would stick out, but what I didn't anticipate is that there would be a few that portfolios that I fell in love with.

Here are some thoughts as I go through these portfolios:

  • Some of the best work I'm seeing is coming from some very young designers.

  • I'm seeing some work that is both experimental and effective. It's beautiful combination.

  • If you think that church's have to settle for sub-standard design, they don't. I have the proof in these portfolios.

  • Some artists are leaning too heavy into using Gotham, Futura and Knockout. I don't blame them, but they should show a few more pieces with some strong serif typefaces.

  • Some of these portfolios are from artists and not designers. The question is, do they know that?

Now to get ready for a week of interviews...

French Workers Win Legal Right to Avoid Checking Work Email Out-Of-Hours

From The Guardian:

On 1 January, an employment law will enter into force that obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

Overuse of digital devices has been blamed for everything from burnout to sleeplessness as well as relationship problems, with many employees uncertain of when they can switch off.

The measure is intended to tackle the so-called “always-on” work culture that has led to a surge in usually unpaid overtime – while also giving employees flexibility to work outside the office.

Interesting solution to what has become a problem for most knowledge workers. The more I think about it, I realize that this is one area that most companies don't talk about when bringing on a new employee. Sure, we'll talk about benefits and salary. But rarely do we talk about what is expected of us and our devices after work has ended.

My Favorite Things from 2016

I know a lot of people say that 2016 was a horrible year, but I actually found a lot of things to love this year. Here's a quick list of my favorite things from 2016.

Movies

  • "Rogue One" - There was so much right about this movie, it was hard for me to find things that I didn't like. It came across as a war movie that just happened to be a Star Wars movie. I think this was the right way to approach telling the story. Plus, the last scene with Darth Vader was perfect and terrifying.

  • "The Shallows" - One of the last few movies that made me jump in my seat. Jaume Collet-Serra's direction let's the viewer feel trapped in just the right ways.

Apps

  • NeuBible - I wrote how much I love the typography of this app. You can read more of my thoughts here.

  • Google Photos - I think Apple web services is slowly catching up to Google's, but Google Photos is still best in class.

  • Castro - My favorite podcast player. I love Overcast, but the details on Castro are great. My favorite feature is the queue player to create on-demand playlists.

  • Airmail - This app seems to do all the things that I wish Apple's mail client would. I love the ability to send any email to another app with a swipe.

Books

Websites

  • Daring Fireball - Still my daily go to. Gruber's insight on Apple and technology is spot on.

  • Subtraction - Khoi's website is a great read for design and movies.

Where Twitter Lost Me

I have an open love/hate relationship with Facebook. I love the community of the Church Communications Group, but I hate the interface because it lacks clear focus. Twitter on the other hand has always been more my taste. It was pure. You can post text, links, or images. The interface was straightforward and I didn't have to worry about maintaining security settings.  However, somewhere along the way Twitter lost me. It lost its ability to be a utility for me and contribute to my daily life. I don't know the exact moment it happened, but I think was when they introduced "Twitter Moments". Twitter Moments is their digest of curated news. It even has its own icon on their home screen. 

Here's the kicker... I don't find majority of the Twitter Moments news. In most cases, it's pure drivel. Don't believe me? Here's some Twitter Moments from this morning. 

"Kevin Love gets meta with his courtside Christmas sweater"

"Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds' daughter finally has a name"

"26 everyday things Muslims did that got them kicked off planes"

Now, I never held Twitter accountable for what other users publish on their platform. However, when Twitter take on the role of curating and publishing news, then they're putting themselves in a whole new category in terms of responsibilities. 

Instead of focusing on curating faux news, Twitter should be spending time creating more tools for their users. For one, give users the ability to edit tweets (and keep a revision history for everyone to see). Work on speeding up the verification process and figure out a way to decrease the number of anonymous accounts. 

But Twitter has chosen a different course, and I think users (growth is virtually flat) and even top management have voted with their feet. It's a shame because I'm thinking about doing the same.  

NeuBible

I'm in the middle of a redesign of our church's devotional app. (I'm not going to link to it because the design is hideous.) So I've spending time researching typography and layouts for mobile reading experiences. Recently, I came across NeuBible and it has been the most enjoyable of all the Bible reading experiences I've found on mobile devices. Here's some of the reasons I believe it's a superior experience to the other offerings currently offered:

  • Typography - You only have four choices of fonts in NueBible. They've chosen Breve, Graphik, Sentinel, and Texta. I don't know if they could have made a better choice in font selection. While my current selection is Texta, I'm delighted that they've included Sentinel, which is one of my favorite typefaces to arrive in the last 10 years.

  • User Interface - One knock on this app could be it's lack of features (reading plans, share sheet, etc.). However, it's one of things that I love about this app. By removing those features, it allows the reader to focus on the text.

The only thing I would add to this app would be the ability to turn off the numbering of verses so that the text flowed in the same manner as the ESV Reader's Bible.

Now in fairness to other apps, there is a fee to download versions such as the NIV, ESV and NASB. So that is a bit of drawback if you're looking for something that is completely free. Though it does offer the HCSB for free in side the the app.