This week in Zuckerhell

Let's get this out of the way first:
  • I am telling a story, not asking for your advice.
  • If you choose to offer advice anyway, it had better be goddamned spectacular.

So after Instagram demanded a lock of my hair before they would un-delete our account, it has stayed up for almost two weeks. But it has now gone into a repeated cycle where they have "Detected Unusual Activity" and I have to re-log-in once or twice a day and nothing will post until I have done that.

Presumably this is because of my vintage-2016 hacked, reverse-engineered way of posting to Instagram, possibly because I have been unable to MITM Instagram to extract a more modern app key since 2019. And searching Github for "const SIG_KEY_VERSION = '5'" turns up nothing.

So it turns out that sometime in 2021, Facebook finally made public an API that lets you post to Instagram. Previously it was only available to spam-factory "partners" like Later dot com. It only works if the Instagram account is attached to a Facebook Business page (not a user account) and it can only post to the feed, not stories. Because I guess Instagram thinks stories aren't important now, instead of being the only thing that matters? I can't keep up.

Anyway, because of the Instagram fuckery, I thought, "Ok, let's try the official API for feed posts at least, and just use the hacked API for stories. Maybe that will cut the fuckery by half." So I implemented the official Instagram API in my Facebook uploader. And that worked for a few days.

But now, Facebook has suspended the "DNA Lounge Facebook App" (that is, the API key I use to scriptably post anything) because it is "Creating A Negative Experience On Facebook".

As far as I can tell from the cut-and-paste bullshit they keep sending me, their complaint is that there is not a Privacy Policy explaining how users can request deletion of the data collected by the DNA Lounge Facebook App, which is never installed by an end user, and collects no information, as all that it does is post photos to our page. No matter how many words I use they steadfastly refuse to understand that there is no way for me to delete all none of the data that this app does not collect. Turnaround time on each of these email exchanges is 3-5 days.

This has happened before. It used to happen about once a year, and I'd have to spend a month swearing at them while we were unable to post, until it got escalated to someone else in the call center sweatshop who probably makes a penny more a week than the front line copy-pasters. But the frequency of this denial-of-service has increased.

Leaving us with our current "organic" social media presence being Mastodon, Space Karen, and... Tumblr.

("Organic" is what the VCs and private equity firms call a thing that they showed to your customers without you paying them for it and why the fuck would they do that??)

I don't particularly have any evidence that these "organic" posts (as opposed to paid ads) are actually being shown to anyone, let alone translating into ticket sales, so maybe it will be no great loss if they just stop entirely. But it's all just so fucking annoying.

Imagine an intrusive pop-up here groveling for you to subscribe to our weekly calendar mailing.

And finally, to reiterate:

  • I am not asking for your advice.
  • If you already deleted your account, and you think that everyone else should too, that's great and I am happy for you but feel free to continue not telling me about it.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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29 Responses:

  1. Krisjohn says:

    Do you have any stories about trying to determine if, as a business, you get any value out of your "organic" posts? The current landscape is obviously miserable for any real business actually trying to survive and other stories about what stuff you're trying, regardless of success or failure would be an interesting read.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah I wish I knew. The metrics they provide are designed to sell ads, and they have been caught straight-up falsifying that data multiple times. Anecdotally it's pretty clear that their reach went into freefall a few years ago, just based on the number of replies they get.

      • Krisjohn says:

        If you've looked further into Discord, I'd love to hear your take beyond "non-federated IRC with emoji-first design". It seems to be the new phpbb.

        • k3ninho says:

          Discord also hates deep links into its walled garden. Some wikis are migrating into user-chat and losing the ability to function as communal records or cross-community records (because you have to be a user on someone's Discord to see old stuff before it goes out of date). Previously.


    • granville says:

      I can offer a little insight as I've been pre-occupied with this issue for the last couple of months. I'm a co-owner of a music publication. By the numbers there are many desert hours of absolutely zero visible engagement on social media, whether we're posting great stuff, shit stuff or holding a gun to the head of a puppy and threatening to do it. It was never like this before.

      I was preparing for some kind of drastic action. But then I looked at our competitors. With sometimes 20x our following... they're not doing better. I've never seen anything like it. You can't persuade me that a leader in this space with 1 million followers can post something and not a single person will click the like button, but this happens several times per day. I know these aren't fake followers, at least not intentionally purchased ones. These are genuinely popular media outlets. But there's nothing there other than one out of maybe every 10 posts, which most of the time has been sponsored.

      I sniffed around and running the numbers I found that while we don't spend as much time on social media as we do on content... it's pretty close. And, weirdly, the worse the traffic from the platform (Instagram < Twitter < Facebook, in that order, but you can't post on Facebook with the frequency of the others) the more time we sink into it. And we do that because the people spending all this time making videos and colorful multi-pic posts think it's worth sinking time into it because they like the platform they're posting to. We're like an oil company drilling at the place where we like the view, not where the oil is. Talking around I think a lot of us suspect this is true.

      My dream for the last year has been to transition to where we're sending out all of our content, word for word, in an email digest every day. If you take away organic social media reach, pretend RSS never existed and... well, we're back to stage one, aren't we? I haven't been able to convince everyone yet, though.

      We do get value out of our sponsored posts on Facebook (new issue, etc.) Our ROI used to be easily 5x to 8x on those. I would guess they're down to 3x to 4x. So still worthwhile. Do not under any circumstances sponsor posts aimed at "engagement" and enable Instagram as a platform, though. Your money will be eaten by bots like piranhas that sniff a papercut.

      Sorry for the hijack jwz.

    • Eric TF Bat says:

      I can offer one anecdatapoint, which is this: I do IT support in my local geographical region, and I ask every new customer how they heard about me.  Before a couple of years ago, Facebook got a frequent mention.  Now I'm hearing almost 100% that I'm being found via The Googles, picking up my website which I've done nothing significant with for ages.  This differs from JWZ's experience because I don't have any kind of event schedule, so someone can google me on Tuesday and get around to calling me Thursday three weeks later, whereas anyone who misses a DNA Lounge show is out of luck immediately.  Maybe I'm not interacting enough or updating my FB page enough for it to matter, but that really hasn't changed in years, whereas the proportion of customers noticing it definitely has.  I think FB has changed something, presumably to improve engagement for the advertisers who are not like me.

      It does put a timeframe on it though.  Assume any "wisdom" you have, about how FB drives business engagement, will be useless if it's more than about 18 months old.  Whatever changed made the old ideas moot.

  2. Eric TF Bat says:

    I will sympathise, then, instead of advising (since a glance at your CV shows you're smarter than me so every "obvious" solution I thought of, I'm completely sure you did too and it already didn't work). 

    There should be a name for this sort of issue, where software assumes all numbers are equally important (number of users of your "app" in this case) and forgets that Zero Is A Number Too.  The best other example I can think of is the old "invoiced $0.00 for gas" story (see for example) which several people I trust have reported as having happened to them in one form or another.  TL;DR computers are only as clever as their programmers, and some of their programmers are total potplants.

    • Karellen says:

      There should be a name for this sort of issue,

      I think it probably falls under the "falsehoods programmers believe" umbrella

      In this new list you have just started, "falsehoods programmers believe about apps", the first entry is:

      1. apps only exist to gain as many users as possible

    • Krisjohn says:

      I recently parked in a car park during a period that was free. It was one of those "take a ticket on entry, stick it in the machine at the gates to get out" multistory car parks. The website clearly indicated it was free. The sign near the pay machines clearly indicated it was free. But when I went to leave, the gates wouldn't open, so I had to press the assistance button. The voice on the other end said "I can see that you parked in the free period, but you need to put the ticket in the pay machines and "pay" even though it was nothing. They then remotely opened the gate.

      • Raven667 says:

        I don't work in parking, but I believe the tickets are how they keep a published inventory of how many spots are available, so the tickets are useful even if the cost is zero, it's more accurate than counting the gate going up and down. Where I live the city website has a page with the available counts for each garage it runs

  3. Grey Hodge says:

    This isn't advice, as you're not looking for advice.

    "No matter how many words I use they steadfastly refuse to understand that there is no way for me to delete all none of the data that this app does not collect."

    Having been in similar situations before, including just two weeks ago, the easiest way I've found to get around that is to just lie. Put a privacy policy in, link it at the bottom, state no data is saved, but that people can email X to confirm their data is "deleted" and just make that email address an autoresponder, "Any data pertaining to you or your activities is deleted because it was never saved. Thank you."

    No one at FB is going to actually read it to make sure it makes sense, these are script-jockies who just do what the ordered list tells them to do.

    The modern world more closely resembles "Brazil" than "Brave New World", treat it so, give it what it wants: lies.

  4. Rusty Hodge says:

    I so feel you on all of this; and it's comforting to know that it's not just happening to me.
    People complain about government bureaucracy but at least they're supposed to be accountable ultimately. But Google, FB, etc are far worse as it's impossible to get a human at all.

    PS- I just love the fact that they don't know how to deal with an app that's not collecting tons of personal information.

  5. Carlos says:

    Oh, Mark.

    ... because it is "Creating a Negative Experience On Facebook".

    • Carlos says:

      Fuckity fuck with this accessability bullshit.  That should have continued "Is there any other kind?"


  6. Rob says:

    I don't understand why these social media companies make it so hard for content creators to post content. I mean without the content creators, it's just an endless feed of ads. Oh wait, I think I get it now

  7. me says:

    My gut impression is that organic social media won't really get you any new reach, but does serve to remind people who already know you that you still exist. Eg, I still follow a nice resort where I attended a destination wedding ~a decade ago. Them popping up in my FB feed I'm like "Oh yeah, that was fun. Maybe again some day."
    That said, I did find a consumer electronics repair guy on Youtube because he posts videos of himself doing all the repairs.

  8. Not Frank says:

    It is my impression the new hotness on Instagram is Reels, which is their attempt to be more like TikTok, and stories are now passé, just as the original Instagram feed is passé.

    Not that I've willingly watched more than 5 reels.

  9. thielges says:

    Could the cause be crowdsourced downvotes?   Drunkity Anne might have activated her posse.   

  10. Pakraticus says:

    Observations from the other coast...
    Eventbrite and fetlife became the reliable information sources for the clubs I go to most often.
    And that's a problem when an event is handled by another ticketing company.
    I've chatted with bar staff on slow nights and they commented they have issues following the events from Instagram.
    And there's one club I want to have on my regular list that won't be because their schedule isn't available without logging into Facebook.  They get my business when a band I follow plays there.

  11. Viqsi says:

    No matter how many words I use they steadfastly refuse to understand that there is no way for me to delete all none of the data that this app does not collect.

    That says something really profound about how these guys' minds work, and not in a good way; it suggests that the idea of an app not hoovering up as much data as possible is apparently a completely alien concept.

  12. ChoHag says:

    > No matter how many words I use they steadfastly refuse to understand that there is no way for me to delete all none of the data that this app does not collect. Turnaround time on each of these email exchanges is 3-5 days.

    Have you considered collecting some benign piece of data, such as everyone's favourite flavour of ice cream, and then making a big song and dance out of not monetizing^W^Wonly monetizing it a tiny bit before Legally Disavowing Yourself Of Its Consequences?

    Can you play their game by not playing their game?

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