BEST OF THE WEB: How Facebook has ruined comments

Everyone loves to complain about Facebook.

Whenever a new change comes into play, there are always plenty of users who say they’re never going to use the social network again.

But over at Time, there’s an interesting piece examining of the network’s latest changes when it comes to the commenting system.

As Harry McCracken explains, Facebook has now allowed a system where users can reply to specific comments, instead of just the original comment sparking the discussion. But it also rearranges the comments to put certain comments at the top of a discussion thread.

Facebook says the comments are reordered so more popular comments are moved to the top.

But McCracken isn’t convinced.

The problem is that all the comments on an item — whether or not they’re threaded — add up to a conversation. That’s particularly true now, since Replies are new, not active on all areas of Facebook and aren’t supported by Facebook’s mobile versions.

That means that many people — the vast majority, at least on my page — leave a top-level comment even if they’re responding to another comment. Which means that Facebook can’t shuffle the order without destroying context.

What makes this even more pertinent is that many major websites use Facebook plugins for their commenting systems – which means this type of commenting has been spread across mainstream internet use.

The strange thing is that this change doesn’t just affect comments that have been “liked” – they’re simply moved around anyway.

If you’re a regular Facebook user, then McCracken’s piece is one you should read up on.

Entering the networked world

With technology taking over seemingly mundane aspects of everyday life, we’re seeing more gadgets become networked – and that includes household items.

Over at Wired, there’s an extensive look at where our technology is taking us – a networked future.

The piece opens with an explanation of the house of one Alex Hawkinson, who has programmed his home to be networked in every way – including being able to monitor whether the glove compartment in his car is open or closed.

This is the language of the future: tiny, intelligent things all around us, coordinating their activities. Coffeepots that talk to alarm clocks. Thermostats that talk to motion sensors. Factory machines that talk to the power grid and to boxes of raw material.

A decade after WiFi put all our computers on a wireless network—and half a decade after the smartphone revolution put a series of pocket-size devices on that network—we are seeing the dawn of an era when the most mundane items in our lives can talk wirelessly among themselves, performing tasks on command, giving us data we’ve never had before.

Hawkinson is actually the head of a company called Smart Things, which is designed to help make networking more easily.

It’s not as scary as it sounds. As Wired describes, imagine the ways networking could help make businesses more efficient? (The piece even points out Hawkinson has programmed his office to text his wife when he’s leaving for home).

Imagine a factory where every machine, every room, feeds back information to solve problems on the production line. Imagine a hotel room (like the ones at the Aria in Las Vegas) where the lights, the stereo, and the window shade are not just controlled from a central station but adjust to your preferences before you even walk in.

Sounds good. If you’re interested in networking, this is a must-read.

How Reed Hastings is winning the internet

Netflix is a phenomenon. The company is responsible for one of the biggest chunks of web traffic around the world.

Its 36 million subscribers watch four billion hours every quarter on more than 1,000 devices. And in this new piece over at BusinessWeek, the publication profiles the company’s leader, Reed Hastings.

As the piece describes, Hastings doesn’t have an office – he just moves around and sits down where he needs to.

And sometimes he does need quiet time, especially after a tense few years. The company’s shares plummeted after a failed attempt to split the business into DVD and online operations. It was even parodied on Saturday Night Live.

But while the piece is useful for its look into Hasting’s leadership style, it also examines one of the biggest parts of why the company works – its relationship with Amazon.

Few relationships in the technology industry are as complex as Netflix and Amazon’s. Netflix’s status as Amazon’s biggest customer has earned it favorable pricing and direct lines of communication to Amazon’s top engineers.

When Netflix wants a new software feature, Amazon is quick to deliver it, and other customers eventually benefit from that work. “There’s no question in my mind that our platform is stronger from a performance and functional standpoint because of the collaboration we have with Netflix,” says Andy Jassy, who heads Amazon’s cloud business.

Netflix is a huge part of the internet, and this piece is an excellent insight into how the company manages to run everyday.

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