Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fighting Facebook fake news: a resolution

The Facebook app dialog to report a post includes the radio-button choice "It's a fake news story."

Trust the media, or trust your Facebook friends? Here are my 3 steps to making sure fake news cannot fake you out.

I've made countless resolutions. Some even last past New Year's Day. This time of year I'm usually resolving to eat better or swear less. This year I have another resolution that involves fudge. But I think I can keep it, and you can too. I'm resolving to fight fudged facts.

I'm taking on fake news. The pope's pick for president. Secret societies at pizza parlors. Political hit squads, gangsta style. Stories some people can't resist posting on Facebook. They're incredible. They're fantastic. No, really. They're not credible. They're fantasy.

I hadn't heard many of them till the presidential race got so close, then I heard a lot. Could the news that made the difference have been bogus? Facebook's chief, Mark Zukerberg, called that idea "crazy." Then just a month later, Facebook made fake news a thing. You can flag stories in your news feed. Volunteer fact-checkers are standing by. To report a news story to the Facebook authorities, you choose the reason from a list: It's "annoying or not interesting," inappropriate, spam or fake news.

Now, much of Facebook can be annoying, off-topic, spammy or sketchy. Choosing just one problem may not be easy. Still, many of us love Facebook or Twitter. It's where we catch up on our quirkier interests and share them with others. It's no fun to think that you have to be careful out there, but it seems some people's interests are quirkier than others.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

10 Questions: Columbus Day discoveries

I spent the Columbus Day weekend outside Columbus, Ohio, taking in the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville. It's a craft fair with an amazing amount of Ohio State gear, plus recipes from the local kraut cannery. Sauerkraut Jell-O was nowhere in sight.

Ohio is a battleground state, though yard signs mark this region as Trump country. Nevertheless, this was a no-drama weekend, even while watching the dispiriting Clinton-Trump debate with my inlaws. There was even spare time to assemble Columbus Day table topics for the week ahead.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The curious increment of the blog at the right time

My gateway to the user experience was editing. In 20 years working on the internet, even as a designer I still think like an editor: I use my curiosity to make new connections.

Editors soak up inspiration indiscriminately, like a sponge. You can see this in sly headlines and pop-culture quotations. One day the musical “Hamilton” struts beyond the theater page. The next day, look for random references to Pok√©mon Go.

Our ability to connect seemingly unrelated element is a factor in our success, whatever we fall into. Maybe a critical factor: While few of us can stay in journalism, we keep searching for the next new thing. In my case, I haven't strayed far from publishing: I develop an association website, and start every weekday morning sending subscribers its news headlines.

Fans of the Mark Haddon novel shouldn’t read too much into this notion. Editors still have a fairly conventional view of the world. In this case, my wife was reading "The Curious Incident," and that started me thinking: What is it about editing that makes me at least incrementally better doing other things? Service designer Richard Verne brought a few of us writer-designers together for an IxDA Chicago panel this fall.

Writers who fall into design and development fall back on many relatable skills. Working up my talking points, I thought back on the curious increment to my design portfolio.