Monday, January 9, 2017

Why Yozons left social media -- Taking control of your life by not giving it away to enrich others as your friends' expense

Yozons has always been an independent company, one that leads in innovation, prides itself on customer privacy, and openly shares the wealth of its technologies and services to the world.  The advent of social media -- which we distinguish as corporate-provided tools for continuously communicating with your social or business circles such as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram -- seems a great idea that revolutionizes business and personal interactions.  But our gut suggested this just was not the case.  Our brains finally told us it's time to quit this nasty habit and the purveyors of fake news that latch on to our trusted social connections.

There is irony in the millennials and Occupy Wall Street protesters using Twitter and Facebook to  spread their economic message while massively enriching the one percent via the over-sharing by the 99 percent.  The same for the Arab Spring and the spring of Daesh (ISIL) using "free media" to spread hatred, violence and denounce actual freedom and replace reason with nonsense.

The final nudge for Yozons came after watching the TEDx presentation Quit social media with Dr. Cal Newport; this final straw encouraged us to leave social media behind forever.  We encourage you to consider doing so as well.  Many of the reasons cited in the TEDx presentation are far more troublesome for those who become addicted to social media, something we hadn't even considered ourselves.

While we never use Snapchat or Instagram, we closed our Facebook account a few years ago after using it's system for our own advertising.  The level of targeting was tremendous, though quite frankly not well suited to our needs for finding companies that are looking to contract online and go paperless.  It was clear that such refined targeting will lead to the decline of actual social bonds, the antithesis of the World Wide Web's open information model.

What was clear to us then is that Facebook had convinced billions of people to provide their personal information, often intimate details about family, friends, marriages, divorces, dates, vacations, schools, parties, etc., and to share it widely.  Those who didn't manage their ever-changing privacy settings often shared to an unknown "public" that couldn't easily be retracted.  This information was even abused by some employers and universities who thought it okay to demand access to social media accounts as a way to judge a prospect, the very definition of thought crimes and totalitarianism, a mingling of free expression with a demand to break the social contract regarding Liberty and Privacy and Human Decency.

But mostly it was abused by Facebook itself.  Facebook, the company, effectively displays content you create and freely, if not thoughtfully, give to them so it can offer it as entertainment to others.  It combines actual postings from "friends" with other targeted postings (aka "fake news" and "paid advertising posing as news") that often carries your friend's names even if they never intended to have their trusted names abused in this way.  This is the subversive power of the 'like' button.  If you like McDonalds or The New Yorker, then postings by those companies often appear in the "news feed" of your friends with a comment suggesting you like the posting itself, regardless of the content.

It may not feel that way to you, that you are just sharing photos of a recent marriage or birth with family and friends.  But Facebook is monetizing your content.  It is monetizing your family and friends using your as bait.  And, of course, we all can see well that our Facebook "friends" have became a hodgepodge of actual family and actual friends, but also neighbors, acquaintances, classmates, business associates, and a slew of others who asked to become an online friend, making you appear to be mean to deny such a nice sounding request.

Well, Facebook the company isn't making money on your content itself so much as it causes more people to stay on Facebook the web site longer and across more devices in order to sell advertising to other corporations that attempt to sell their products and services to your so-called family and friends.  All of their wealth is created based on your "sharing" that lures your family and friends to visit Facebook to see what you could have shared with them directly and privately and without advertising.  The details you provide, and the social connections you share with a for-profit, super rich corporation, allows it to become richer still.  You enrich them, but your compensation is primarily trivial entertainment that sucks a lot of your time via constant interruptions in your real life, often at the expense of being sold and marketed to on a constant basis, and worse, causing that to be foisted upon those you know.

We've finally decided to close our last remaining social media account, Twitter, as the last step to free ourselves from this grip and abuse of trust.  Like Facebook, our early Twitter followers were actually interested in Yozons, often business partners, prospects and customers.  But over time, our followers seem more like robot accounts that are themselves just trying to sell back to us (i.e. "Bob Jones the Real Estate agent liked your tweet about rising property taxes").  We'd post some link about encryption, or privacy, or tips on using the service, or own own bragging about record revenues or the millions of transactions handled through our service in 2016, and then we'd get "liked" or "followed" by odd accounts that were unrelated to our posting.  They didn't appear to like or be interested in us at all, but were designed to broadcast a "new friend/follower" message that served their interest to sell us on them.

Previously, we had noted that a competitor was basically paying its customers, by providing a small discount to their service, if their customers agreed to have a tweet sent out every time they completed a contract online.  It seemed bizarre to us, as none of our customers since 2000 have ever requested the ability to share details about their contracting with the world.  Adding a Twitter hook is trivial, yet it is clear that this served nobody's actual interests -- well, the competitor that gave the discount no doubt hoped it could latch on to your social network to drive more sales of its service -- and is simply selling yourself cheap to benefit yet another corporation.  Yozons is a corporation, and we enjoy the profits of our hard work, but we've never thought it ethical to make money indirectly by selling our customer information, who they interact with, the types of deals they do, or to show advertising to them all.  We simply do not want to be a part of that, and never did and never will play in that game.  Privacy matters to us by policy.  We sell our services directly to accomplish useful tasks that our customers want, and we sell nothing more or on the side.

Data mining other people's data is wrong without absolutely clear consent.  Too often, the consent is hidden behind unclear language.  How many people understand that when they 'like' something that it's then used to sell that product to your expansive social net by saying that you like it over and over again regardless of whether you agree with any of the content.  We may like The New York Times, but it's weird to see a posting by them such as "ISIS kills 35 in a market blast" coupled with "Yozons likes..." above it?

Don't get us wrong.  If you really like Twitter and Facebook, and you don't mind that they monetize your content and connections, and you don't mind the never-ending cycle of interruptions to see "what's happening," we hold no grudge.  Everyone gets to make up their own minds.  We just no longer wish to participate.

Our experience is that most of our real interactions with actual customers and business associates are still best handled with direct communications rather than relying on third party entertainment providers who will do anything to keep you hooked and using their stuff.  Email is the primary method and is a private message between directed parties.  It's real communications rather than a simple bragging post thrown out there for some to see and most never to notice.  It's real sharing in that we are sending you information, or a photo or link, because you are important and meaningful to us, or you are asking a question that we try to answer as honestly as possible.  Conversation is much better when it's directed and bi-directional.  And email -- other than perhaps those who use Gmail or similar corporate-provided free email services -- is almost never data mined or used to sell advertising to you and those you communicate with.  Like a text message, it's generally private and no solicitations or personal data mining typically takes place.  Even with Gmail, any ads are only shown to you as a user, not to those you send emails to and suggesting you approve of those ads.

Some old school people still prefer to talk over the phone, and yet again this is a direct, two-way conversation.  It's often the best method when face-to-face is not possible.  It's private and doesn't enrich the provider by selling your conversation to others or just advertising junk to those you talk to.  Technologies like GoToMeeting serve an online version of this, providing a real conversation among a limited group in a way that doesn't result in your content being processed to aid advertising to those you communicate with.

Of course, we still have a web site as it's a great way for us to provide information about our products and services, pricing, links to online documentation, and to remind people of how to contact us directly when that's best.  We do have this blog and helpful YouTube videos and even a Google Group for a public technology discussion forum, and those suffer some of the issues of a Twitter or Facebook, but we find they are much less constant and don't really create a social graph that serves the interest of unknown advertisers.  In fact, we don't buy any Google or other social media advertising either, a truly rare trait among vendors who care more about your dollars than your success.

We trust you won't miss our Tweets and Facebook postings, and we look forward to continued direct conversations with your prospects, customers and business partners.

Happy New Year and we wish you all the best for 2017.

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Updated 7/18/2017 -- FAKE NEWS: More troubles with believing the nonsense posted in social media.

Updated 11/10/2017 -- MANIPULATED: Facebook’s first president, on Facebook: ‘God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains’


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