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Mike and John on Annotation Terror and Annoying Video Alerts

John: Remember when Genius was just Rap Genius?

Mike: I do. I actually really like the idea of annotating everything, but also it terrifies me to think of what people will append to my stuff.

John: Genius is still figuring stuff out — it gets a lot of traffic as a lyrics site, but the broader annotations project is young. The fact that the site creates a visual overlay, I think, heightens everyone’s experience.

You’re used to people talking about your work — sometimes at a sentence level — on Twitter or elsewhere, but you say Genius terrifies you. I generally assume that, after I post a new story, there’s someone in a Slack room, somewhere, saying I’m a moron, but I’m much more upset by a cogent mean comment left under a Facebook post. The same criticism changes meaning with the venue in which it’s delivered, and I wonder if that’s some of what people are responding to with Genius.

Mike: You know what, I think you’re right. I guess I’m more terrified of all the terrible stuff being said about me made flesh and bone. Or, um, visible code. Even if I may not agree with what is being said or how it is said, there is honor in taking it public.

John: That said, why not build an opt-out and abuse reporting system straight away? That the platform didn’t more thoroughly account for the possibility that people would abuse it — setting aside the question of whether anyone actually has — seems to have foreclosed the possibility of some worthwhile discussions.

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Mike: This is all well and good. But Kanye West, an actual rap genius, does not care about any of this as he trudges steadily toward a wide new streaming album release, and continues to love himself.

John: Kanye’s continuous updating of the Tidal version of “The Life of Pablo” seems to be upsetting people who think it’s a ploy to keep people subscribed to the service. But what kind of fan wouldn’t be interested in their favorite musician trying stuff like that?

Mike: What I really want to delve into today is our Facebook Live story from this week. In short: Facebook is making a huge push into letting users broadcast live video of themselves on Facebook. Media companies are all over this thing, and early traction seems promising, even though there’s no indication of what a revenue model will look like.

I have thoughts. A lot of them. Some even about Facebook Live. But what are yours?

John: Have you actually … “gone live” yet?

Mike: No.

John: I got some interesting feedback from people about that story. People who work in media were largely like, “Huh, so that’s why we’re doing that.” Readers saw things a different way. They said, almost in unison, and quite loudly: “OK, BUT HOW DO I STOP ALL THESE NOTIFICATIONS?”

Facebook has decided that Live is important. To publishers, this manifests as surprisingly large audiences; to members of those audiences, this means constant nudges from Facebook — push alerts, little red numbers.

I noticed this when I was reporting — if you like more than a few pages, the “SO-AND-SO IS LIVE” notifications are kind of over the top. And it’s easy to dismiss the things that are perceived as favored by Facebook at any given moment, I think — to characterize their popularity as somehow inflated and not real. And there’s something to that. But the company’s motivation for promoting live video is strategic — it could be an attempt to reshape the platform in a fairly fundamental way.

I was also struck by a tweet linking to our story — “Marketers will ruin this, but for now there is mrkt inefficiency 4 attention here.” A market inefficiency for attention! That’s what it is. That’s what it always is!

Mike: It’s funny, I shut off notifications for Periscope, Twitter’s livestreaming app, and Meerkat, a similar start-up, a long time ago. I absolutely do not care about the live activities of most of my friends, which are more often than not super boring. I can only imagine what that will mean when brands start going live.

John: But what about people you wish were your friends?

Mike: Brands should never be our friends, John.

Anyway, my guess is what Facebook will tell us is that everything is still in flux and they want the user experience to be the best and blah blah blah. Probably true, since Mark Zuckerberg is throwing quite a bit of weight and resources into this live video push.

I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks at f8, Facebook’s big developer conference, where the company finally shows all of its new stuff off.

Thanks for dropping by, sir. We’ll have to do this again sometime, or perhaps even more frequently if Farhad is overtaken by a rhinoceros on vacation.

John: I hope he at least streams it live, so we can learn from his mistakes. Thanks for having me!

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NYT > Technology

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