Tag Archives: Facebook

How to write totally misleading headlines for social media

Or how to seriously annoy intelligent people by telling deliberate lies.

A story about renewable energy has been doing the rounds within my social media circles,  and especially on FaceBook. It is an article from The Independent newspaper that has been eagerly shared by those with an interest in the subject.  The headline reads “Britain just managed to run entirely on renewable energy for six days”.

This is what it looks like on FaceBook:


My first thought was that, obviously, this was complete nonsense. Had all of the petrol and diesel powered cars in Britain been miraculously converted to electric and hundreds of charging points installed overnight? I think that we would have noticed, or perhaps I am living in a parallel universe where such things have not yet happened.  So I assumed that the writer of the article, or the sub-editor,  had done what some journalists are prone to do, which is to use the terms energy and electricity interchangeably. Even if they meant “electricity”  I still found the claim that all of our electricity had been generated from renewable sources for six days difficult to believe.

Look below the  headline and you will see that the first sentence says “More than half of the UK’s electricity has come from low-carbon sources for the first time, a new study has found.” That is more like it. Rather than “run entirely on renewable energy” we now have “half of the UK’s electricity has come from low-carbon sources” [my emphasis in both quotes]. But why does the title make the claim when straightaway the text tells a different story? And low carbon sources are not necessarily renewable, for example nuclear. As I keep telling people on my workshops, always click through to the original article and read it before you start sharing with your friends.

The title on the source article is very different from the facebook version as is the subtitle.

We now have the title “Half of UK electricity comes from low-carbon sources for first time ever, claims new report”, which is possibly more accurate. Note that “renewable” has gone and we have “low carbon sources” instead. Also, the subtitle muddies the waters further by referring to “coal- free”.

If you read the article in full it tells you that “electricity from low-emission sources had peaked at 50.2 per cent between July and September” and that happened for nearly six days during the quarter.  So we have half of electricity being generated by “low emission sources” but, again, that does not necessarily equate to renewables. The article does go on to say that the low emission sources included UK nuclear (26 per cent) , imported French nuclear,  biomass, hydro, wind and solar.  Nuclear may be low emission or low carbon but it is not a renewable.

Many of the other newspapers are regurgitating almost identical content that has all the hallmarks of a press release. As usual, hardly any of them give a link to the original report but most do say it is a collaboration between Drax and Imperial College London. If you want to see more details or the full report then you have to head off to your favourite search engine to hunt it down.  It can be found on the Drax Electric Insights webpage. Chunks of the report can be read online (click on Read Reports near the bottom of the homepage) or you can download the whole thing as a PDF. There is also an option on the Electric Insights homepage that enables you to explore the data in more detail.

This just leaves the question as to where the FaceBook version of the headline came from.  I suspected that a separate and very different headline had been specifically written for social media. I tested it by copying the URL and headline of the original article using a Chrome extension and pasted it into FaceBook. Sure enough, the headline automatically changed to the misleading title.

To see exactly what is going on and how, you need to look at the source code of the original article:


Buried in the meta data of page and tagged “og:title” is the headline that is displayed on FaceBook. This is the only place where it appears in the code.  The “og:title” is one of the open graph meta tags that tell FaceBook and other social media platforms what to display when someone shares the content. Thus you can have totally different “headlines” for the web and FaceBook that say completely different things.

Compare “Britain just managed to run entirely on renewable energy for six days” with “Half of UK electricity comes from low-carbon sources for first time ever, claims new report” and you have to admit that the former is more likely to get shared. That is how misinformation spreads. Always, always read articles in full before sharing and, if possible, try and find the original data or report. It is not always easy but we should all have learnt by now that we cannot trust politicians, corporates or the media to give us the facts and tell the full story.

Update: The original press release from DRAX “More than 50% of Britain’s electricity now low carbon according to ground-breaking new report

Presentation: Search Turns Social – Resistance is Futile

The presentation I gave to CILIP in Hants & Wight yesterday (Search Turns Social – Resistance is Futile) is now available on authorSTREAM at http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/karenblakeman-1392940-search-turns-social-resistance-futile/

It is also available on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/KarenBlakeman/search-turns-social-resistance-is-futile and temporarily on my web site at http://www.rba.co.uk/as/

New Facebook: a bit good, a lot bad

I woke up this morning hoping that last night’s memories of Facebook were a bad dream. No such luck. If you are just an occasional Facebook user or only log in once a day, brace yourselves for the new experience that is “New Facebook”.

Here in the UK the changes started to roll out yesterday afternoon. The first thing I spotted was what looked a Twitter stream in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Interesting, I thought, I don’t direct my whole Twitterstream to Facebook anymore so what is it doing there. On closer inspection it turned out to be a streaming feed of Facebook updates from my friends. I actually quite like this. Hover over one of the updates and you see any associated comments and conversations. It is also very easy to scroll down through the list and catch up with the latest news from your friends and pages. Below that box are my events and below that….nothing! No adverts, no photo updates from friends. Apparently the absence of adverts depends on what system you are using. Phil Bradley has reported that they are visible on his desktop computer but not on his laptop. (Phil Bradley’s weblog: New Facebook, new disaster http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/2011/09/new-facebook-new-disaster.html). As I only have laptops here I can’t compare and contrast but I’m sure that Facebook will ‘fix’ the missing adverts problem fairly soon.

What was puzzling me was why is there an update feed on the right hand screen as well as in the main middle part of the screen? The answer is because Facebook has started messing around with how it presents the updates. Top Stories are back and very much in evidence, not as a separate link but actually inserted into the top of the feed. As with the previous incarnation there is no clue as to what criteria are used to decide which humble updates becomes top stories. I was delighted to see, though, that the first one in my news feed was a complaint about the new interface! This was quickly followed by two more in similar vein. You can get rid of them individually by clicking on the little blue corner in the upper left hand corner of the story but there is no way of removing them altogether. This is a really bad move by Facebook and one that I suspect is going to seriously annoy people.

Facebook Top Story

At least I am viewing all of the updates from all of my friends, aren’t I? It turns out I am not. Some of you may recall that a while back Facebook decided to show updates only from those people with whom you interact most. Another not-so-smart move by Facebook. I am sure that many people do as I do and follow people and organisations just to keep up to date with what is happening and rarely comment or “interact” with them. That does not mean I am not interested in what they are doing. There used to be an edit option at the bottom of your feed where you could change the default to see all updates. I checked the new version of the feed and there is still an Edit options link but this now only gives you the ability to hide posts from a person, page or group. Therefore I assumed that everything is automatically appearing in my news feed. It isn’t. Hover over the name of a person in your feed and a box pops up showing their avatar, mutual friends and two ticked buttons labelled Friends and Subscribed. When I clicked on the Subscribed option I saw that I was getting “Most updates”, not all.

Facebook Subscribed OPtions

I mostly use Facebook to keep up with close friends and family and there are times when it is important that I receive ALL updates. I have not yet found a way to change this setting for all of the people I follow on Facebook; it has to be done one at a time. I can understand that one may not want to have the same setting for all friends so an obvious solution would be to have an option associated with lists. This brings me to my final disaster in New Facebook.

I have been playing around with lists in Facebook for a couple of months and was pleased to read that New Facebook was to implement a much easier way of managing them, much in the style of Google+. New Facebook displays its own default list names, such as Family and Close Friends, on the left hand side of the screen and suggests who you might like to add to each one. Most of these suggestions are nonsensical. You can create new lists of your own but what about existing lists compiled under Old Facebook? Can they be incorporated into one of the default lists or form the basis of a completely new one? Mine can’t because they have vanished into thin air! I have no idea where they have gone, the help files are useless on this and no-one else seems to have experienced the problem. I am rebuilding my family and ‘important people’ lists but I can’t be bothered to go any further than that. And there is no option to change the Subscribed options for a whole list. If there is it is very well hidden.

Overall I do not like the changes and find some of them infuriating. I shall probably now be using Google+ a bit more, but some of my close friends and family are only on Facebook so it looks as though I shall still have to visit at least once a day. I do so under protest.

Facebook calling time on RSS?

Those of us who have opted to receive RSS notifications of updates to our Facebook pages woke up this morning to find that the feed was no longer working. Instead of “Alfred has commented on your status” or “Lisa likes your link” we saw “This feed URL is no longer valid. Visit this page to find the new URL, if you have access:”.

Some of my friends were redirected to a 404 error page. I was presented with a totally blank page.

Off I went to Facebook to seek out the RSS feed for my account. Nothing on my Home page and nothing on my Profile. Aha! Perhaps under Account, Account Settings, Notifications? No. Only email and txt options. Hunted around for another 20 minutes and enlightenment eluded me.

I went back to my RSS reader and looked at the properties for the old feed, There was a link to http://www.facebook.com/notifications.php that took me to a page with options for receiving notifications via txt or RSS.

So why isn’t the link to your RSS feed easy to find from your home page, profile or settings? Could it be because Facebook does not like you checking a feed to see if there are updates that you need to respond to? If there aren’t any there is no reason for you to visit the Facebook web site, which means that you do not get the opportunity to see the wonderful advertisements and promotions that are on offer.

University Twitter

Liz Azyan is well known for her excellent lists of local government and councils using social media but now she has turned her attention to the UK Universities. The List of UK University Twitter Accounts as of 28th July 2009 has  56 accounts so far and as well as the name of the university it includes the ‘bios’. A surprising number don’t have one! In addition there is a University Twitterleague according to number of followers as of 28th July 2009. If your institution is missing from the list either email Liz at research@lizazyan.com or leave your details in the comment box to the posting.


You might also want to check out the  List of UK Universities Fan Pages on Facebook as of 28th July 2009 sorted by number of fans. The top two, and way above the rest, are The Open University (16,913) and Oxford University (14,867). Again email Liz or leave a comment if your university is missing from the list.

Bosses ‘should embrace Facebook’

Bosses ‘should embrace Facebook’ says a report on BBC News. Demos, “The Think Tank for Everyday Democracy”, has apparently released the findings of a study that says:

Companies should not dismiss staff who use social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo at work as merely time-wasters.

The BBC report goes on to quote Demos as saying:

Attempts to control employees’ use of such software could damage firms in the long run by limiting the way staff communicate…. Social networking can encourage employees to build relationships with colleagues across a firm. However, businesses are warned to be strict with those who abuse access.

I wanted to read the original report on the Demos site, or at least the press release, but there was no sign of it at 8.33 am UK time on 29th October 2008. So we’ll have to make do with the BBC article.

Not much ‘everyday democracy’ going on here if Demos is restricting access to the study!