How I fixed my News Feed on Facebook

For the last month, I’ve been doing an experiment with my News Feed on Facebook; the goal was to make it a more personal place again, and less of the news-sharing site that it seems to be nowadays.

I’m not saying Facebook is not for sharing news, or interesting websites, or memes… after all, I’ve done that same thing for a long time. The problem is that at some point I got bored of seeing my News Feed filled with these impersonal stories and I ended up visiting Facebook way less than I used to. And when I did, I would incessantly scroll through my News Feed, looking for posts that shared something more personal (an idea, a feeling, a picture), but I found very few of these.

Ideally, Facebook should provide the following option: hide all external content, including content generated by accounts that I’m not following. This wouldn’t necessarily go against the company goal, “to help you connect with the people and things you care about the most“, but admittedly, advertisers and investors wouldn’t be so happy with an option that helps users see less content.

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Why the Apple Watch will be a success

Apple announced during its last earnings report that it sold 74.5 million iPhone units in 2015’s first fiscal quarter. Let that number settle in.

As CNN Money wrote, that means “34,000 iPhones sold every hour, every day, every week of the past three months. That’s 9 iPhones every second.

But that’s not it, Apple also sold 51 million iPhones only in 2014’s first fiscal quarter, and 47.8 million units the year before, which means that there are over 170 million potential customers for the Apple Watch.

Now, I know that doesn’t mean every iPhone user will get an Apple Watch, especially since smartwatches sales are having a rough start (only 720,000 Android Wear smartwatches were shipped in 2014). There are, however, 2 points that I believe will make a difference in Apple’s case.

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About the Sony hack and ‘The Interview’

2014 has been a year filled with privacy issues, hacks and data leaks. Some of the most memorable cases include the Snapchat hacks (which leaked around 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers in January, and about 100k images from users in October), the iCloud photo leaks (releasing about 500 private pictures of celebrities in August) and more recently, the infamous Sony hack (leaking personal data, emails, movie scripts and even copies of unreleased films from Sony Pictures Entertainment).

This last hack is still unfolding, and it’s not only impacting Hollywood’s world: last week, Snapchat’s business plans were disclosed through leaked emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton, who also happens to be on Snapchat’s board.

The saddened memo sent after that by Evan Spiegel left me thinking once more about the power of secrets, especially this sentence:

We keep secrets because we get to do our work free from judgment – until we’re ready to share it. We keep secrets because keeping secrets gives you space to change your mind until you’re really sure that you’re right.

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Do you need to be a celebrity for your app to be a success?

Why did Jelly become famous? And Medium? What about Square? What do they all have in common? They are all great products, that’s for sure, but there is something else: as it turns out, behind each of these awesome companies there is one of the co-founders of Twitter.

Are new tech products more successful when tech celebrities are behind them? Is it really possible for the same people to keep having several billion-dollar ideas? Do some of these ideas become famous businesses due in part to previous successes?

All these questions were popping in my head as I was reading the book “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal” (I loved it by the way, although I’m not sure all that drama is actually true), and I would say that the answer is probably ‘yes’ for all of them.

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What I learned from Alan Mulally

Alan Mulally is probably one of the best turnaround CEOs of our time. He saved Ford Motor Company, making it succeed through one of the worst moments for the automotive industry in recent history. Before that, Mulally helped overhaul Boeing and even though he didn’t make it to CEO there, he sure proved that he knew how to get a multinational corporation back on track.

Since a lot of people seem to think that Microsoft is applying the successful formula to renew itself, I decided to read the book “American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company“, which explains how Mulally did it.

Here is what I learned from him.

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The curious case of the expanding smartphone

It all started like this: mobile phones were big, heavy and difficult to hold. Fortunately, my first mobile phone was a Motorola that looked a lot like this one and it was small enough to fit in my pocket; however I still remember how uncomfortable was to walk with it given its bulky antenna and thick body.

As time passed by, mobile phones got smaller, lighter and more powerful. Any phone today is more powerful than the computer that brought us to the Moon. It felt like the microscopic mobile phone was closer than ever. That was the dream, those were the good times.

Then the world went crazy… and this happened:

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Have Facebook and Twitter lost their innovative soul?

The MIT Technology Review named the top 50 smartest companies and Fast Company named the top 50 most innovative companies of the year. Not surprisingly Microsoft was not named on them as innovations stalled in part due to its soul searching. Surprisingly though, Facebook and Twitter were not on those lists either. Last year they were the poster child of innovation, where are they now?

Fast Company had an explanation as to why they were not on the list: they talked about how they didn’t do innovations, which is true, but the real question is why. One word: IPO.

Doing an IPO changes everything. Whether you like it or not, your number one priority is not your users anymore but your investors, at least for the time being. Investors want only one thing: growth. Once you show growth then you have earned your investors’ trust. Facebook’s biggest achievement last year was not coming from innovation but from revenue. Not a small task by any means, they accomplished mobile monetization. Twitter is struggling to get there too, but they are already focused on that issue.

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Will Paper kill the original Facebook app?

Facebook announced yesterday a new standalone app: Paper. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first: another reading app? what can Paper provide that Flipboard or Pulse don’t already? But then I looked at all the possibilities that Paper actually has and, well, now I think that Facebook could be on the verge of cannibalizing its main app.

 

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Why we will never fall in love with our smartphone’s virtual assistant

After watching Her last night (the Golden Globe winner for the Best Screenplay category) I was captivated by its amazing performances and its delightfully depicted technology. What motivated me the most to watch the movie was this article from Wired: why Her will dominate UI design even more than Minority Report.

In the movie, technology is almost completely transparent for the user: most of the interactions between Theodore, the main character, and his “smartphone” happen through the earpiece and the virtual assistant, and he only touches the little screen when he wants to watch a picture. This is what his gadgets look like:

Visual user interfaces are almost nowhere to be seen, and that’s the message: human interactions are the future of personal computing.

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Would you sell your driving privacy for a potential discount?

I attended a presentation by Kevin Mitnick several years ago where he claimed that he could get a person’s account password by offering them a pen, by the end of the presentation he was able to get several. In reality people do give up their information for a benefit, Google gives you free search results, Facebook keeps you connected with friends for free, Nielsen pays you to know your TV habits and even the government with their NSA programs provides security (although this has been controversial to say the least).

I first heard about Progressive from my marketing professor, who raved about them. He really loved this company due to their offerings and their great marketing. He also talked about their Snapshot program where Progressive sends a customer a device that tracks their driving habits and provides a discount to do so. At the time, I was very happy with my car insurance but started noticing the advertisement around this program. I found it very intriguing and was curious about it. Last August when I bought a new car my insurance company dropped the ball and I decided to give Progressive a try.

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