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Two Facebooks: Liberal v. Conservative

If you sometimes feel like you are living in a completely different world than people who voted for the other candidate in this year’s presidential election, you kind of are. The echo chamber is real.

To illustrate the point, the Wall Street Journal built a “Blue Feed, Red Feed” tool that lets you see, side-by-side, what a liberal and conservative might see on Facebook at any given moment. And it’s striking.

The two feeds might as well exist in alternative universes. When you see them side-by-side, it looks like two uninformed elementary schoolers arguing about whose armpits are smellier.

Now, these feeds are built off of some pretty biased sources, but I definitely recognize some of the liberal-side sites. Although I try to have a balanced news feed, sites like Daily Kos, Salon, and the Daily Show regularly pop up in my own liberal echo chamber. Many of the articles on the conservative side are about things I’ve barely heard of. For example, George Soros is apparently a conservative boogeyman in the same way the Koch brothers are for liberals. Who knew?

I’ve gone through my own Facebook page likes and Twitter follows to try to build a more neutral information stream, and you should, too. Get out of the echo chamber and improve your news diet. It might feel good to hear people

How to Consume a Healthier News Diet (and Why It’s Critical)

On this weekend’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver explains that for many Americans, Facebook is their primary source of news. Then he puts this image on the screen:

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That stopped me in my tracks. Of course. Of course your views about the candidates lined up with the headlines you saw every day. Your news diet is just like a regular diet. If you eat lots of junk food, you will probably get fat.

And yes, before you retort that it’s the same as liberals getting their news from the Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, I agree. It’s the same thing (except funnier).

Conservative or liberal, we all need to put some thought into our news diet. For most of us that means adding some balance to the news sources we see in our Facebook or Twitter feeds. And we all need to add a healthy dose of skepticism to our news diets.

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How Free-to-Play Games “Persuade” You to Pay

At Gamasutra, app developer Ramin Shokrizade outlines some of the ways free-to-play game developers persuade, coerce, and trick users out of their money. There is a reason why 9 of the 10 top-grossing apps are “free” to download and play, after all.

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The same goes for Facebook, where nearly all games are free-to-play.

According to Shokrizade, people aren’t paying more for these games because they are amazing; the game-makers are using some devious tricks to trick them out of their cash. Especially those who are biologically more vulnerable to their tricks, as it turns out. Children, in other words, and young adults whose ability to make smart financial decisions remains undeveloped.

Note that while monetizing those under 18 runs the risk of charge backs, those between the age of 18 and 25 are still in the process of brain development and are considered legal adults. It seems unlikely that anyone in this age range, having been anointed with adulthood, is going to appeal to a credit card company for relief by saying they are still developmentally immature. Thus this group is a vulnerable population with no legal protection, making them the ideal target audience for these methods. Not coincidentally, this age range of consumer is also highly desired by credit card companies.

The tricks aren’t illegal, just … tricky. They all use a “premium currency” instead of dollars and cents, so you don’t realize how much money you are spending. They extort you by giving you powerful items, then threatening to take them away if you don’t pay up. They start out as skill games, then convert to money games, where your ability to advance is primarily determined by your willingness to spend money:

King.com’s Candy Crush Saga is designed masterfully in this regard. Early game play maps can be completed by almost anyone without spending money, and they slowly increase in difficulty. This presents a challenge to the skills of the player, making them feel good when they advance due to their abilities. Once the consumer has been marked as a spender (more on this later) the game difficulty ramps up massively, shifting the game from a skill game to a money game as progression becomes more dependent on the use of premium boosts than on player skills.

If the shift from skill game to money game is done in a subtle enough manner, the brain of the consumer has a hard time realizing that the rules of the game have changed. If done artfully, the consumer will increasingly spend under the assumption that they are still playing a skill game and “just need a bit of help”. This ends up also being a form of discriminatory pricing as the costs just keep going up until the consumer realizes they are playing a money game.

There is a lot more in the article, which you should definitely read so you know what to look out for.

(via Daring Fireball)

Who Wants to Get Fired?

Here’s a quick lesson in social networking privacy:

  • Public means anyone can read what you are posting. Like your spouse, the police, your boss, etc. They don’t even have to be a member of the social network in question.
  • Private means that only certain people can read what you are posting. You get to decide who these people are.

WeKnowWhatYou’reDoing.com is a collection of people who don’t seem to understand the difference. Under headings like Who’s taking drugs? and Who wants to get fired? it lists posts to popular social networks that should probably not have been made public.

Dislike? Collector Contacts Debtor’s Relatives Through Facebook

Facebook can be a wonderful way to keep in touch with old friends that live in faraway places. The danger, of course, is that if your privacy settings are not correct, all kinds of people can track down and view your digital identify—including debt collectors.

In Florida, a consumer recently filed suit after a debt collector allegedly used Facebook to contact a debtor’s relatives in an attempt to collect on a debt.

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Debt Collectors Will Hunt You Down On Social Networking Sites

http://flic.kr/p/84VZAr

We found out earlier this year that debt collectors are using social networks to find and harass debtors, but now at least one collections training center is offering a class on using social media in collections, to “maintain a good customer base, keep good paying customers on track, and find and collect from past due customers.” (Debt collectors like to call consumers their “customers” or “clients,” even though they have no business relationship.)

Debt collectors can use social networks to find and communicate with consumers, as long as they make the appropriate disclosures and comply with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. But that doesn’t mean you have to make it easy for them.

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Debt Collectors Use Social Media to Find Debtors

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fbouly/3568409530/

Debt collectors are pretty good about tracking people down and now they are turning to social media to find people that have escaped their grasp. What information have you posted about yourself online?

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Facebook Page Makes Wells Fargo Waive Fees

Wells Fargo has bowed to angry internet users and has agreed to refund and waive 3% transaction fees charged on certain donations to Haiti.

College student Heather Lynn was angered by Wells Fargo’s insistence on charging a 3% foreign transaction fee on certain types of donations to Haiti. Lynn created a Facebook page called Wachovia=Fail, which garnered thousands of users. More importantly, the page got Wells Fargo’s attention, and prompted them to react accordingly:

You spoke and we listened and appreciate the feedback. This was a complicated issue on our end to address, so I’m sorry for the time it took for us to get back to you. It was never our intention to make money from fees charged on foreign transactions to help the victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

Just wondering, what exactly was their intention? And why did it take an angry group of Facebook users for Wells Fargo to realize something was not right?

(photo: Rail Life)

Avoid Identity Thieves on Facebook

Take a moment to look over your Facebook profile, and consider all the information your friends have access to. Your name, address, and date of birth? How many of the answers to your “security” questions for your financial websites are contained within your profile or updates?

Only friend people you know. Nearly half of Facebook users will apparently accept any friend request! Or learn to use Facebook’s privacy settings to keep people you don’t know from discovering personal information about you.

Accepting Friend Requests from People You Don’t Know Is a Recipe for ID Theft | Facebook

Prosper.com, a Web 2.0 “social lending” site and alternative to payday loans and usurious credit cards

I have a loan through Prosper.com, a “social lending” site that allows regular folks to pool their money to fund loans to other regular folks. My loan was small and I took it out in the early days of Prosper.com, before it was so difficult to get a good interest rate there.

As far as I can tell, the individual lenders remain the creditors, and Prosper.com does the loan servicing. My payment is simply deducted from my bank account every month, although I can make additional payments if I want to through the website.

Prosper.com reports that it has a delinquency rate of only 2.7%. In other words, only 2.7% of loans end up not getting paid. Borrowers who are late on a payment start incurring late fees. Loans that go unpaid for at least a month get sent to a debt collector and reported to Experian and Transunion. (Prosper.com reports its loans anyway, so using Prosper.com can also help build a credit score.) At four months, the debt is charged off and sold to a debt buyer.

Should you consider Prosper.com? For those with good credit, there are much better options. For those with mediocre or bad credit, Prosper.com may turn out to be a much better option than taking out a 300% APR payday loan or a variable-rate credit card. And since Prosper.com relies on individual judgments and allows borrowers to “plead” for credit by posting pictures and information about themselves, borrowers may get loans they could not otherwise.

Still, Prosper.com loans are just loans, after all. If borrowers miss payments, it can ruin their credit and they may find themselves pursued by an abusive debt collector, just like with any other consumer debt. Always borrow with caution.