Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Inside the Facebook aggregation salt mines

This is how you make people welcome their eventual robot replacement overlords. 
But if you really want to know what Facebook thinks of journalists and their craft, all you need to do is look at what happened when the company quietly assembled some to work on its secretive “trending news” project. The results aren’t pretty: According to five former members of Facebook’s trending news team—“news curators” as they’re known internally—Zuckerberg & Co. take a downright dim view of the industry and its talent. In interviews with Gizmodo, these former curators described grueling work conditions, humiliating treatment, and a secretive, imperious culture in which they were treated as disposable outsiders. After doing a tour in Facebook’s news trenches, almost all of them came to believe that they were there not to work, but to serve as training modules for Facebook’s algorithm.
Also, how is a "trending topic" curated either by a human or an algorithm.  Most of us would expect something is trending happens organically because a lot of people are talking about a thing.  But Facebook doesn't really follow the democratic model of information. Doesn't stop them from branding themselves that way, of course.
When the curators, hired by companies like BCForward and Pro Unlimited (which are then subcontracted through Accenture to provide workers for Facebook), arrive at work each day, they read through a list of trending topics ranked by Facebook’s algorithm from most popular (or most engaged) to least. The curators then determine the news story the terms are related to.

The news curation team writes headlines for each of the topics, along with a three-sentence summary of the news story it’s pegged to, and choose an image or Facebook video to attach to the topic. The news curator also chooses the “most substantive post” to summarize the topic, usually from a news website.
Used to be we just called that "blogging." Anybody can do it if they want to. Nobody pays you but at least you don't have to pretend to be a Zuckerbot from the year 5000.  

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