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The Facebook Text Prompt Zombie Land (garbageday.email)
134 points by skilled 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 90 comments

> There should be no illusions anymore about what Facebook is, as a platform. It’s just random bits of sensory information meant to make old people fight with each other

Oof. Engagement around conflict works at all age ranges though. Controversial statements by eSports casters drives posts on Reddit, NIMBY comments on NextDoor, etc.

I suspect the tone of this comment is to suggest the platform's algorithms did a better job mixing in rich content and focusing attention on more interesting, less conflict-laden viral media?

> Engagement around conflict works at all age ranges though.

I've noticed that the best way to get people to engage in a problem is to state an opinion that is so obviously wrong. People go out of their way to tell you that it's wrong and what their opinion is. If you post something that's sort of wrong, partially right, or probably right, people won't lift a finger.

Try this with your next code review! :D Do something the wrong way and everyone wants to correct you. I've noticed after I've corrected such a problem, people are silent about the rest of the code review, or get lazy about finishing it.

reminds me of the classic http://bash.org/?152037

<dm> I discovered that you'd never get an answer to a problem from Linux Gurus by asking. You have to troll in order for someone to help you with a Linux problem.

<dm> For example, I didn't know how to find files by contents and the man pages were way too confusing. What did I do? I knew from experience that if I just asked, I'd be told to read the man pages even though it was too hard for me.

<dm> Instead, I did what works. Trolling. By stating that Linux sucked because it was so hard to find a file compared to Windows, I got every self-described Linux Guru around the world coming to my aid. They gave me examples after examples of different ways to do it. All this in order to prove to everyone that Linux was better. * ion has quit IRC (Ping timeout)

<dm> brings a tear to my eye... :') so true..

<dm> So if you're starting out Linux, I advise you to use the same method as I did to get help. Start the sentence with "Linux [stinks] because it can't do XXX like Windows can". You will have PhDs running to tell you how to solve your problems.

<dm> this person must be a kindred spirit of mine

We would use a version of this concept in client reviews, and construction inspections are known to do the same. WHen you know there are things that you would rather not have the client notice, put something so obvious that is easily corrected. The client sees that, feels great that they actually had something to say/do/etc, and then the rest slips through.

Sounds like the coding version of the Ugly Red Blob Method


Being wrong is a great way to extract information from people. Simply asking is ineffective. There's less status to be gained by informing someone, than by setting the record straight, or putting someone in their place. Unfortunately, being wrong is also a great way to lose status.

> Engagement around conflict works at all age ranges though.

It certainly does, but content like that is described in the article, is clearly aimed a less internet-savvy crowd. Maybe the same crowd that didn't grow up with internet trolls and have copious free time and are at the highest risk for contracting plague, so they are especially juicy targets for online engagement vampires.

> There should be no illusions anymore about what Facebook is, as a platform. It’s just random bits of sensory information meant to make old people fight with each other

I'm confused. It seems the author's statement is also random bits of sensory information meant to make people fight with each other.

But only old people are using Facebook. While engagement around conflict works for all ages, each age group has a different set of conflicts they will engage with, so the content found on Facebook is specifically the stuff that makes old people fight with each other.

I keep reading people saying this, but then when I search for actual statistics, it seems that it isn't so; for example, the linked site claims that there are plenty of 25-34 year old users. If these stats are wrong please point us to better ones.

Now if you tell me that younger people are less likely to admit to using Facebook I'd buy that.


That's the worldwide usage statistics. In the U.S., a majority of users are over 30: https://www.statista.com/statistics/187549/facebook-distribu... Obviously, very few of us, if any, would be qualified to speak on Facebook usage outside of our own geographic areas of experience.

Another thing to consider is that simply looking at the age distribution is not enough. In my experience, older users (like 60+) are much more likely to engage with content. While older users may be a minority, they can make up a sizeable amount of content on the platform.

In the US the majority of people are over 30. Those numbers could easily just be describing the age of a population that uses Facebook regardless of age.

That's about the range when most people start to "act old".

rage farming

Wonder if there’s any value in a 3rd party curation of Facebook to just give me meaningful updates from friends… aka the original usage. No links, no politics, just family pics, announcements, etc. I’d love to get a weekly digest to my email!

The eternal customer ask: Can I get [benefit of product] without paying [the cost of the product]?

Can I just watch TV without seeing ads? Can I just get a new car without paying $30,000? Can I just get the chrome browser without telemetry that tracks everything I do?

Of course there's value in the product you describe. Value for you, no value for Facebook.

I’m actually fine with the ads. It’s all the other “recommended” content they pump into my feed to increase engagement. They recently ruined Instagram the same way - there is no longer any way just to see posts by your followers + ads. Ever nth post is now from some account I’ve never seen. It’s really jarring as a long term IG user.

Worse then that, it’s also repeating stale content from my friends that I’ve already seen. Facebook has been a weird disorganized feed full of things I think I just saw, over and over, and now Instagram is the same thing.

>Can I just watch TV without seeing ads?


>Can I just get a new car without paying $30,000?

Choose another model/brand, better yet go 1-2 year old if new(ish) is important to you.

>Can I just get the chrome browser without telemetry that tracks everything I do?

Degoogled Chrome + uBlock Origin + Ghostery

>Value for you, no value for Facebook.


You can watch many (most?) tv shows without ads by paying like $2 an episode. It's legal

It won't be friends, just 5-10 people you connected with 10 years ago who still use the platform religiously producing the content.

The thing is, this is possible to automate this today but it would likely require a level of surveillance that I'm sure most on HN are not comfortable with.

I'd be interested in that, ideally not a third party but a custom client that filters everything not from friends and sticks to chronological order.

Have you tried the popular extensions like FB Purity[0]? As far as I know there's plenty of options that do what you want unless they've been broken by Facebook recently?

I haven't tried them in a long time since I do want to see posts by pages and groups I'm in (why else would I follow them), and don't see any of the stuff people typically complain about anyway.

0. https://www.fbpurity.com/

I don't trust extension devs to not be doing only what they claim with the data. Too many stories of things going wrong in the that ecosphere that I threw the baby out with the bath water.

I really only use the native ios app and figured anything that did what I want would be taken down for violating some tos

That exists, it's www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr

No more "X friend liked Y photo or commented on Z post", no more recommended content, not even sponsored posts I think (quite the loophole, if you work at Facebook please move along). Just what your follows (friends and pages) posted, chronologically. Nothing from groups tho if that's your thing.

> just family pics, announcements, etc

Easy to do with email. Why do you need Facebook at all if those are your objectives?

Push vs pull or passive vs active.

If I post a picture of my dog on Facebook and my child's teacher sees, that feels normal since they just kind of happen upon it. If I send them an email with a picture of my dog, that feels like I'm over stepping a bit.

So how about a pull model for email: newsletters. I'm imagining a service like Substack for regular folks. People could sign up for your personal/family email newsletter. This is like a mailing list, but point to point. Recipients could reply to you, the sender, but not "Reply All" to your full network.

I like it but forget the whole "network" part. Double opt-in only with the owner of the account not able to upload or add email addresses. That might stop it for a little while from becoming spam and have people that truly want to hear from you.

"Double opt-in" meaning a potential recipient would submit a sign-up request and then you, the author, would approve or deny their request? That would be good for privacy and reducing spam, but not allowing the author to upload their own set of email addresses would make bootstrapping your early list harder. Or perhaps the author can upload email addresses, but the service sends an email to potential recipients, asking them to confirm they want to sign up.

To bootstrap your list and make the service more viral, the service could cross-post the newsletters (or just an excerpt) to Facebook (and other social media services) with a newsletter sign-up link telling people they could receive your full updates in email without having to log into Facebook.

You won't get everyone in your family to move from social media to a family mailing list.

But a third party app that forwarded fb updates to a mailing list ... That's something I'd pay for.

It's hardly easy with email. Keeping an up to date list of working addresses becomes a huge hassle once you get beyond a few people. I remember trying that in the days before Facebook and every time I sent a message it would bounce for some recipients.

Because people are already posting to Facebook, and it provides a lot of excellent scaffolding, including a small comment box that gives friction to large messages, and little friction to short messages. A bunch of short messages is what I want, which is not something typically someone is going to email. They also want to broadcast it to all their friends in a lightweight way that doesn't clog up inboxes and signals that it's optional knowledge, which an email doesn't.

Instagram was this for me, but now they just put some random nonsense below my friends' posts. It's not that I don't like national parks. I just don't want to scroll-loop on them.

Reminds me of the article about "internet chum" on The Awl: https://www.theawl.com/2015/06/a-complete-taxonomy-of-intern...

The slightly gross, slightly enraging content they're talking about also made me think of internet chum buckets too.

Excuse my ignorance but how do they make money with this? Ads associated with their posts?

That's what I've been trying to figure out. So you have a million comments and a hundred thousand shares, is that just internet points? There has to be some financial compensation I'm not seeing.

There's an internal user reputation score that measures the engagement of your posts. You can piggyback the business on the noise.

Advertisers are using this trick too. Healthcare ads with a gay couple, grocery ads with a Muslim, they aren't doing it because they're being inclusive, but because people click and interact with those types of ads.

Recently it's become pretty blatant. The people/signal could be removed and the ad is still a complete message. The character is adjacent to the content.

It's there as "interact-bait" to get people to furiously type at the keyboard and thus boost the advertiser's engagement score.

How much does it matter here tho? I think it gatters likes/follows and baits enough people to check the profile, but the conversion rate seems extremely low (tho I guess that may be good enough with these numbers). In OP's blog previous post [0] on "Thinkarette Lifestyle" [1], their engagement baits gather hundreds to thousands (to millions with homeruns) of comments while the dropshipping posts gather 0 to 5 likes a piece - a page with >2M likes.

0: https://www.garbageday.email/p/when-the-traffic-firehose-is-...

1: https://www.facebook.com/Thinkarete/

That's the wrong metric.

These people aren't expecting that kind of engagement with commercial posts, just the exposure of them.

I don't like and comment the posts from the manufacturers of the food I buy at the supermarket. That's an impressions game.

The culture wars ads get additional boosts to get those impressions.

It's a gambit that assumes most people either don't care or are happy if there's a trans person in the ad and the lift they get from the interacting malcontents in aggregate pays off.

Probably does. I keep seeing them. Or at least whatever 3rd party ad agency companies like Kroger's and Aetna uses knows how to juice those numbers up to keep the contracts

I wonder if I would see more if I followed celebrities that take strong issues with this stuff. It'd be a great thing to test

They're all just marketing tricks. The difference is they're not tricking you. Instead they're attempting to trick Facebook

Fair, the low likes could be vastly under-selling how many impressions they get and their click-through rate. Clearly it makes at minimum some money (and possibly a good amount) for the owner to be so diligently keep the page chugging along, I just remember being impressed how little engagement they get for 2M likes page on "their" items vs the "questions". If you scroll through Kroger's page [0] for instance, they have fewer likes (1.6M) but still get >80/100 reactions on every post including item promotions, though they are clearly better at crafting stories around them rather than plain "check this item, buy it here".

0: https://www.facebook.com/Kroger/

Aren't those examples showing the discrepancy? The bait page has (roughly) 0-5 likes for 2.15M followers, these have respectively 140 likes for 270k followers and 360 likes for 25k followers. Either the dropshipping posts from the former really don't get a lot of exposure as opposed to their bait posts, or their audience hardly engages with it (perhaps as it is off-brand for a "question page").

This and quizzes which were kinda last year profile your intelligence and therefore your socioeconomic level.

Video ads is one, branded sponsorships is another (not sure if this page engages in that). Looks like Facebook also offers subscriptions and a "tip jar"-type feature: https://www.facebook.com/business/learn/lessons/how-make-mon...

Once you build enough reach, you can sell branded posts, drive traffic to websites monetized by ads, or upload videos that can be monetized.

Yes. Once you have an audience just start selling sponsored posts.

They mention investigating another viral post farm back in November, which was discussed on HN here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29309201

Link to the November post: https://www.garbageday.email/p/when-the-traffic-firehose-is-...

All roads to monetization require engagement, so you just end up with groups that churn out "bait" like this.

It's hilarious to me that the author pretends we should have higher standards of facebook. Hey do you know how much facebook paid for the content they publish? You know what you get for $0 ? Nothing or less than nothing. And it s not just facebook, all of them are selling attention, not content. As long as users are not compensated for their content, the audience will be fed with trash

I mean, plenty of people write blogs for no compensation whatsoever (usually paying some token fees for hosting and domains, making it a net expense). Just because content is free doesn't mean it has to be bad.

Exactly. I've seen plenty of YouTube videos that are excellent despite being made by tiny channels of just a few 100 or 1000 subscribers. Same goes for a lot of the posts on Hackernews. And TikTok has a massive userbase that's still growing because even if it's not healthy for you, at least the content on the platform is good. Facebook is both unhealthy and bad content. Every time I scroll through, it feels like I'm torturing myself a little.

I think their point was that facebook doesn't care if it's good or bad so long as it's free to them and engaging.

You can have an ocean of free blogposts but if it's not engaging then it's not easy to monetize.

It's their blogs, they don't do unpaid work for facebook

> As long as users are not compensated for their content, the audience will be fed with trash

Not really. On the opposite. If there is no money to be made there is no ad harvesting bullshit to be made.

not really. on the opposite, youtube, which does compensate for popular content, has vastly better content. Since people know there is a way to make money by making content that is likeable, the likelihood of making good content is higher. In facebook people make $0 always, hence they have no incentive to put any effort

What’s the point of “engagement” for the person posting a troll post getting lots of comments/shares/likes/whatever?

Does FB have any way for those who created the content to be compensated for it in any way?

It causes future posts from these pages to rank higher, so when they push some dropshipping scams they'll get more eyeballs without having to pay for them.

It's similar to a lot of "cute cats/dogs" accounts on Instagram. They get tons of views without gaining much from it. But then they can sell "sponsored" posts and stories that reach tons of people, which they charge hundreds for (commonly also used for dropshipping ads).

Even worse than those posts are Facebook's new Reels (i guess their tiktok competitor). Insanely click-bait, usually some suspenseful caption and/or a cover picture that's somewhat sexually suggestive. I keep trying to hide them from my feed but Facebook just keeps bringing them back.

Out of curiosity I've watched some of these. 50% of them, I can't even figure out what they're supposed to be. The other day I saw one where a girl was taking a selfie near the water. A guy picking up trash walked near her, she pushed him (I don't know why), she then dropped her phone in the water, jumped on a fence, jumped back on the shore and mean mugged him. I was honestly baffled as to what happened

Part of me thinks that these videos are being generated by AI and aren't real at all. A good chunk of them make absolutely no sense to me.

Calling what Rick Lax does "magic" is pretty damn generous. He makes fake videos that are hyper produced. Think 5-minute crafts and friends.

Also pretty fitting to have this article sponsored by an NFT "product" that claims to be a "troll on the perfume industry". What even?

I would suddenly feel a lot better about things if this explained the resurgence of stuff like Flat Earth theory.

Sadly, I don't think that's the case.

Actual title is "Viral content optimized to piss off old people", which seems less clickbaity than the subtitle that was chosen for this post.

Was a better logo ever made? Love the garbage can. Is there a technique for creating such beautiful artwork? It looks like it belongs in a video game.

These are the worst, but there is another annoying type as well, on FB and LinkedIn based on emoji reactions:

"Which is the best city??? (like) for London, (love) for Paris, (think) for Berlin"

This type of stuff gets millions of likes in no time either.

I was always fascinated by this stuff too, it's pretty blatant once you recognize it. And then you lose hope in humanity seeing all the people replying.

The ads for games in my feeds are like this guy's viral text. They show someone failing at a very simple puzzle game and say, "millions have tried, few have succeeded!" this is just bait for customers to play the very easy game and prove to themselves that their brains aren't slowly rotting away. In a similar vein, coming up with a word with an 'ee' in it, as in the linked article, is trivial and makes people feel smart.

I don't think it's fair calling it "boomer bait". I see people from every generation commenting on them.

I love that the author complains about another popular Facebook page that’s using engagement bait to push a dropshopping affiliate program, while their own blog post has a sponsored ad for NFT perfume.

The ad and the liked opensea blurb openly call itself a troll... it's not trying to pretend to be anything serious.

But it is still advertising something. I don’t see the difference. Self mockery is a common advertiser tactic.

Yeah, what's even the point of the NFT at that point? It's like saying "if you buy a Cracker Jack card, we'll give you a box of Cracker Jacks!"

Who's going to buy an NFT that gives comes with a physical product on the secondary market? Unless that business will only sell to NFT holders in perpetuity, which sounds like a poor way to grow a business but hey, lots of things are successful by being exclusive.

It's just bonus incentive for the first owner. It's clearly not worse than the NFT without the add-on.

> Unless that business will only sell to NFT holders in perpetuity

That's what BAYC does. Then you open a next tier NFT line to expand down-market.

At this point, the only reason I can think of is VC funding. But I also don't know why VCs don't see through this bullshit... They're supposed to be smart right? Even if they're shotgun investing and hoping that one company goes 100x, I can say with absolute certainty that this company is either going to fold or get rid of the NFT aspect of the business in the next 5 years. What's the point of investing in a company like that?

VCs dont care that a product is bullshit as long as they can sell it for more to someone else

VCs are also like lemmings in that they need to have startups with trending tech in their portfolio, even if it's overhyped garbage. If a few jump then the others get FOMO.

You don't need VC to sell a NFT digital picture. There is no cost.

Last time I checked, producing the very non-non-fungible ketchup perfume has a cost.

Isn't that NFT perfume sarcasm?

Somewhat related to the "dead internet theory", but in this case one side of the relationship is just not quite dead yet.

Unless the video [0] I had seen (some time ago) on the subject didn't explain it right, it seems to be conflating "group think" and pattern recognition with "everyone on reddit is a bot except you"[1]/"the Internet is a Markov chain". I've had too many exchanges with obvious humans on Reddit to believe a super-majority of it is bot-generated. Than there are the plethora of terrible chat bots that kind of prove the point the Internet can't all be botted without being obviously so. And than they (he?) layer(s) in the conspiracies like "Facebook is a DARPA-sponsored project" because of funny timing [2]. And than there's my own observations when looking at people "in the wild" and how many are glued to their phones; the Internet is a potent addiction and there's no need for a fringe theory to explain it.

I can absolutely believe that a lot of comments on these baits are bots trying to look real for like/engagement-farms - could even explain why they catch like wildfire - as they are the perfect target with one-worded comments copied from others looking normal. But seems to me that theory [3] is a stretch, although it sounds like a compelling dystopia.

0: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEn758DVF9I

1: https://old.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/348vlx/what_bot_...

2: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA_LifeLog

3: https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2021/08/dead-...

>Dead-internet theory suggests that the internet has been almost entirely taken over by artificial intelligence.

Possibly related hypothesis: a minority of the human-generated content on the internet is "genuine", that is said because it is believed. Rather, a majority of the content that pretends to be genuine, is instead done only in order to try to provoke a response. In other words, most of the human-generated content on the internet is done by a human trying to emulate a bot, or at least with the same motivations as a bot.

Until proven otherwise, assume every socmed account is a bot.

You're a bot, I'm a bot, we're all bots. Are any humans left alive on Earth, or are they all still stuck in the 2020s simulation?

Reminds me of “There Will Come Soft Rains”

beep bop beep bop

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