Who pays the bill for eliminating net neutrality? You and me.

When I started my career, I was not certain that I wanted to be a technologist. I took a job with a higher education publisher because I thought that books and education were cool. My experience there excited me about software development and I took on a voracious appetite to learn how to build software.
Complicated Computer Code
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
 
What was interesting about this time was that you couldn’t just decide you wanted to learn how to program as an adult, at least not easily. This was because most of the software programming languages actually cost a significant amount of money to buy, as did the books and courses to learn how, even if you could get access.  There were several enormous barriers to entry in the way of prospective developers including: money, status, and corporate sponsorship, all before hard work.  Then there was bandwidth: even if you could get the other parts to line up, you still had to go home to a dial-up internet service provider and try to pull down whatever content you were lucky enough to find over a small pipe.
 
This all changed when the world wide web started to roll out in full force.  Soon people were publishing courses on how to program different languages. Not long after that, we started to see more powerful software like programming languages and operating systems get open sourced.  This was the beginning of a new kind of free culture that was put on hyper-speed once broadband internet made its way into homes and schools.
 
Along with these developments came the ability for any average person to get an idea and learn how to implement and distribute it freely and quickly.  Sure, you still needed access to computers and networks, but the price of these had been driven down so much that it was virtually free to innovate with little up front investment.
 
The specter of the repeal of net neutrality runs the risk of taking us back to a different time.  This would be one where access could be throttled for those who cannot afford the same fee structure.  I’ve forgotten what it was exactly like to try and pull down file archives from a dial-up bulletin board, but I remember it being awful. 
 
Net neutrality was the concept that all content should be treated equally by internet providers based on consumer choice.  This implied that delivery and content should be separate in order to keep organizations from favoring their own content.   
 
The Master Switch by Tim Wu is the authoritative text on the subject. It was eye opening when it was published 7 years ago, and slightly more terrifying now. We’ve been watching convergence of bandwidth, content and copyright happen at a speed that we have never seen before, and now, the lobbying pressure has been put on full blast for the FCC to eliminate Net Neutrality provisions. 
 
I don’t want to go back to a world where information is expensive. Where its hard to create new things because you simply cannot afford the tools. I hope you don’t either.
 
Do what’s in your power to get educated on net neutrality and the battle for the open web. Talk to your friends, relatives and congressional representatives.  The cable companies and wireless firms are utilities that provide a public service and should be treated as such.  Putting velvet ropes around the best parts of the web will not accomplish anything other than slow our productivity and stifle innovation.

Buyer Beware

I’ve been spoiled. Spoiled in that I’ve had the privilege to work with some pretty amazing software developers in my day. The kind that are always looking to be better at what they do.

pawn shop photo
Photo by Osman Rana on Unsplash

During the last couple of years, I’ve been reminded that solid software craftsmanship is a rare thing. In fact, there are just a great number of companies that make a good living off of poor workmanship. They do some hand waving in the design workshops, print really colorful journey maps on large sheets of paper and make nice license origination bonuses from software vendors. They don’t develop a shared vision with their customer and they certainly don’t stand by their work.

I had worked with companies like this in the past, but then was lucky enough to avoid them for several years. I guess I tricked myself into believing they didn’t exist anymore, but I was wrong. They’re still out there.

It’s up to you as a technology buyer to own your solution. This means understanding the requirements, the technology and the talent. It also means that the only one to blame for picking a bad partner is you. You need to know when you’re partner is not going to stand by you every step of the way, and when that happens, find a new one.

Bad technology partners are like ungrateful houseguests that overstay their welcome. They take advantage of your good nature when they repeatedly cut and paste their way to your first release. They unpack their 7 different javascript frameworks into your codebase without having an opinion why. They fail to install the software licenses they were rewarded for selling to you so that your website crashes.

Great technology partners are like good friends. They’ll be with you through good times, and likely lots of bad times, but they’ll stick with you every step of the way. They clean up after your bad partners after they’ve left the party. They ask for things that make it easier for them to help you. They educate you on better ways to do things and they consistently exceed your expectations of value.

What kind of partner do you want? What kind of partner do you want to be?

Growth Hacks Gone Too Far

Advice for software companies looking to delight users

 
During my career, I’ve been a major fan of enterprise collaboration tools. I was always quite excited about trying new applications and recommending some of them to colleagues.  
 
Later, as I made my way into marketing I became very interested in the place where the disciplines of marketing and product intersect.  The “growth hacking” industry has become  quite popular and as it turns out somewhat ruthless in terms of what it will do to get new users to target.

Case in point, is a very popular design prototyping and collaboration product, InVision.  One of our partners introduced me to the software years ago. It is a very convenient way to showcase designs in progress to stakeholders.  Unfortunately, being on the receiving end of a share link to a project and choosing to comment on a design puts you in the crosshairs of their sales team.
 
I understand that the application currently requires you to create an account to comment on a design. It is a bridge too far to assume that everyone commenting is considering purchasing a tool for prototyping designs.
 
I’m all for ingenuity and creativity in trying to gain new users. I also think there is a balance to achieve between an individual’s privacy and right to work and not be prospected. There is an opportunity for InVision to pop a simple message to a user who has logged in to comment. Something like: 
 
“Hey there, We hope you’re enjoying the experience of working with our product to review a design with your team. Do you know anyone who might be interested in this product for their work? Please tell them about your experience!”
 
I’m not naive, but I am getting a bit jaded after seeing these tactics explode during the last decade. Let’s start a new trend of making sure people have a delightful experience and then making them feel special rather than jumping to what they can do for us.  

 

What examples have you seen from other organizations in this vein?  Please share in the comments.

Innovation Hibernation: The Road to Straight-Through Processing

Effective last week on September 5th, the investment industry moved to  “T+2” settlement.
 
This new rule makes investment transactions complete two business days after the actual transaction date.  This is a change to the long standing “T+3” settlement rule which since the 1990’s has caused investors to have to wait three business days before they could consider their transactions closed. Keep in mind this was a huge jump from the T+6 rule that existed previously.
Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash
 
What’s fascinating to me is that the last time I was thinking about this rule, it was 2001. That year, there had been a huge push by the major investment banks to move to what would be called “Straight Though Processing” or STP for short. If you worked in financial systems integration consulting, you were working on STP.  In any event, I can remember being perched in our Manhattan offices through the midnight hours to develop our several hundred page proposal.
 
Later that year our attention turned to 9/11, and STP was no longer as important as keeping the financial system running. Just a few years after that, we lived through another financial crisis, this time due to mortgage-backed securities fraud. That crisis which brought down several of the largest players in finance also pushed the notion of STP further away from public awareness.
 
So here we are, 16 years later with a reduction in settlement time of one day. The nirvana of STP is still elusive, but it’s kept alive in terms of progress toward an ideal: you’ll see clearing houses now present their STP Rate (e.g. 95% STP).  That said, the road to T+2 is one that illustrates some important points about innovation in business.
 
  1. You can never underestimate the ability of a crisis to sideline even the boldest business ideas. 9/11 was an event of monumental significance where the sheer emotional and destructive forces unleashed succeeded in pushing this initiative far from the minds  of those who would champion it.
  2. Incremental improvements can often be “good enough”.  In this case, 16 years later, the industry pushed to “T+2” while maintaining the spirit of STP. While this was short of the goal, the reality is that one day gained back by investors is enough to eliminate mountains of incomplete trades and put more money back into new investments.
  3. You’re going to need a bigger framework.  STP was trying to make a number of existing complex systems work together. In contrast, the greenfield Securities Process Automation (SPA) movement has shared many of the same goals as STP while also proscribing a more far-reaching ideal. That said, it has been much more modest and pragmatic in implementation recommendations.
 
In any event, it’s great to see something you worked on come to fruition. I wonder what we’ll be saying about Blockchain in 16 years.

Climbing family trees: Research lessons from my personal experience

Some years ago, I read the book ‘The Lost’ by Daniel Mendelssohn, and I finally thought that it might not be impossible to learn about my family history.  When you’ve descended from eastern European Jews, this is not uncommon to hear.   
 
After a lifetime of hearing that we did not know origins of my maternal family prior to my great grandfather, I was intrigued to know that it might actually be possible to track them down. I started researching names of villages and found a few clues.
 
Fast forward several years later, and a DNA test that my wife purchased for us awoke my curiosity again and got me into pulling in resources from both sides of my family.  Luckily on my father’s side, there had been a tremendous amount of research done by two of my cousins and on my mother’s side, a distant cousin had already started pulling together quite a bit of detail about her wing.
 
After several weeks of obsessive researching, I can say that I haven’t necessarily gone that much further back, however, the richness of the information I’ve found is incredible.
 
I’m still untying a few interesting things that I’ve found, but in the meantime, I thought that I would share a few interesting lessons from the journey so far.
 
A neighborhood of Eastern Europe likely not much different from where my family lived.
 
What’s in a name?
 
We take so much pride in our names and what they mean. I’m beginning to think we shouldn’t take so much stake in them.
 
Unless you were extremely wealthy, it’s likely that you may not have even had a “last name” until the mid 1800’s.  Even then, traditions vary by country.  In the case of of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the leadership there forced them to start taking surnames in the mid-19th century.  In Italy, where my father’s family hails from, names were very complex as some regions saw children carrying both a maternal and paternal element in their name whereas others included a descriptor of their village.    And those are just surnames.
 
Given names (or first names) can be even worse.  If your great-grandparents were native Yiddish speakers, I can tell you their names were probably not originally spelled anything like what you remembered them to be.  It’s likely that they either made up something so that it was easier to relay to customs, or it was written down wrong.  I just learned a great-aunt Carrie was originally named “Kreince”.
 
Skeletons in the closet
 
Do you have skeleton’s in your closet? Probably. It might not even be that anyone tried to hide it from you. It’s more likely that you just don’t remember clues they dropped when you were younger. It’s been pretty exciting to be digging through old records and finding out that certain relatives were married multiple times or had kids incredibly early.  It was a bit more shocking to me when I learned my great grandfather after becoming a widower, remarried only to have his new wife try and kill him!  My favorite yet was a great uncle who was apprehended as a stow-away on a freighter in one of multiple attempts to emigrate to America.  
 
Nationality is a pretty ephemeral concept
 
Most of my mother’s family comes from a region that was tossed between oligarchs and landlords during medieval times, later possessed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then passed back and forth between Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Many of my relatives lived through some of those very transitions.
 
In my father’s family, they came from Italy in a time when it was barely a single country. In fact, my Grandmother’s family was so far north in Italy that it was practically Switzerland.  A bit of my most recent research suggests that the generation prior was actually from the Zurich region of Switzerland.  This doesn’t shock me given my complexion, but I never would have known without some deep sleuthing of shipping manifests.
 
Technology made quite a bit possible, but networks have truly enabled genealogy for the average person
 
I am completely in shock at how good the automated character recognition software has become to allow so many historic documents to be read, cataloged and indexed. That said, you still can’t rely on it entirely as software makes large numbers of mistakes. Especially when trying to decipher handwriting of people writing down spoken word answers from immigrants speaking a different language. 
 
It’s the power of the network that allowed me to identify a strange notation appearing on a great-great-uncle’s ship manifest that indicated his hometown was in a specific region of Switzerland. That annotation was so commonly used that I was able to find websites dedicated to these shorthand markings used by immigration officials.  
 
Similarly, it’s the power of the network that has allowed grassroots organizations like JewishGen to fundraise to secure, preserve, translate and index massive collections of records from the historic regions of Poland and Austria from which my family came.
 
Kolomiya - Turn of the 20th Century
 
I think I’ll end up with more questions than answers
 
I’ve certainly found that I know so little about the people who decided to upend their lives to travel to America. Presumably it was to escape what history suggests were some terrible times in their home countries. 
 
That said, when I look at their arrival documents, I see they came with frequently zero dollars in their pocket (sometimes as high as twenty).  Many times they were coming ahead of a spouse. Sometimes they were completely alone, maybe meeting a friend or a cousin. Often they were detained for multiple days at Ellis Island only to then head out into the world to have to make sense of this country.
 
They worked hard. They had hard jobs, lived in small apartments, often with extended family. Their existence is so far from the comfort I have come to know.  
 
I wonder if they felt they achieved a better life. I suppose above all else, I’m thankful that they let me have one.
 
Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing more specific stories as I solidify some of my research. 
 
 

Front Stage to Backstage

Photo credit, Seabass Creatives https://unsplash.com/@sebbb?photo=U3m4_cKbUfc
During the last several years of my career, I have played a series of internal operations roles. This was a nice change after so many years being a client-facing consultant. 
 
You have a different view of constraints when you come out of a client-delivery context.
 
Client constraints help you focus.  In the backstage world, there are less boundaries to keep you corralled: as a result, you can spend too much on supplies or take too long planning.  It’s important to remember to deliver.
 
Then there’s ego. You don’t get the glory.  Sales get glory. New deals in the pipeline get glory.  You don’t get glory for streamlining messaging, no matter how it goes. 
 
Many internal employees like things to stay the same.   I am spoiled. Being a traveling consultant for so many years, I learned to get bored if I’m not looking to improve my work.   
 
I always loved working with customers. Still do. The only downside of consulting was not being around long enough to understand how your work would survive without you. Now I can get the best of both worlds.
 
I’m finding it refreshing to bring a client delivery mentality to an in-house role these days. I’m also lucky to have a team that is sinking their teeth into a more agile style of working. 
 
Love what you do. Find something you can improve tomorrow. Make it better. Keep going.

Book Review: Sapiens by Yuval Harari

This week, I managed to finish Sapiens by Yuval Harari.  Not long ago, I listened to Harari’s interview on the James Altucher show that introduced some of the concepts in his next book, Homo Deus.  That book picks up on some of the threads presented at the end of Sapiens; I look forward to reading it next.

Sapiens was for me personally, very engaging. While it was long, it wove a narrative that bridged a number of my personal passions:  ancient history, anthropology, language and technology. 

The book is long, rich and complex and I am not going to attempt to summarize it all, but I did want to capture a few of the key themes I took away.

Happy Accidents

Something about homo sapiens allowed us to outlive several other human species that walked the planet at the same time. Harari doesn’t pick a side, although you are left to determine for yourself whether you think this was due to evolution, luck or some intelligent design. The important thing is realizing that mankind did not have to turn out the way it did. In fact, even the word “mankind” is misleading as we are but one branch of mankind.

Slaves to the Grain

Our discovery of farming, specifically of wheat, put mankind on a path away from its hunter-gatherer roots. We began to become stationary people.  We grew in numbers and required greater numbers to farm more wheat, to feed more people, and so on.  This concept was incredibly powerful for a number of reasons.  Not only did we set ourselves on a path away from our original skills, but we became highly dependent upon a food source which was initially more rare to come by, due to its fussy growing behaviors.  By nurturing wheat, we effectively became a slave to it.

Hierarchies: Our Favorite Growth Hack

From kingdoms, to religions to politics, homo sapiens have managed to scale the growth of society through the creation of hierarchical tribes. We first learned as a people that we could stay safe in numbers. Then we realized we could amass more food.  Ultimately, we realized we could accomplish greater feats of building and conquest as we developed larger tribes. Ultimately we created the concepts of nation and religion to justify our new roles.  

From Middle to Top

It’s easy to forget that our ancestors were once in the middle of the food chain: larger than some animals, but ultimately easily killed by larger beasts that roamed the earth.  Over time, we would develop the tools and organization to drive those beasts to extinction and ultimately sit where we are today: in command of the global food chain.

Technology Has Accelerated Our Development Like Never Before

Since the industrial revolution, homo sapiens have been accelerating in their understanding and mastery of the world at a speed which had never been known.  We now have the ability to create life, organically and inorganically. This suggests that we are likely very close to breakthroughs that will change the future development of humans.

Oiriginal photo by Nathan Anderson, Frisco https://unsplash.com/@nathananderson

Read for Yourself

I love controversial titles, and this was no exception. As you can probably infer, there are a number of arguments contained in the book that can rankle those of different political or religious persuasions. Overall, I felt that it was a mind-opening book that provided an updated history of civilization while dipping into futurism to suggest where we might as a species be going.

Note:  There are some glowing and some harsh reviews of this book out there. I’m not saying its perfect, but I think it’s worth spending some time with.

I look forward to hearing your opinion. Get in touch or leave a comment to let me know your thoughts.

 

 

 

Masters of Content Marketing

Content Strategy Lessons from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

I consider myself lucky to have been a part of the golden age of toys.  Born just before the explosion of Star Wars into the world, I would experience some of the greatest content marketing projects of all time.  The toymakers of the 1980’s such as Hasbro and Mattel would create a generation of toy fanatics by building a content universe around their products, capturing our hearts and minds in the process.

Over the last few years, I’ve delved into the basements and closets of my parents home and emerged with great relics of my childhood. With two young boys that have overlapping interests to mine, these tattered findings are real treasures.  That said, something struck me while thumbing through a stack of Masters of the Universe comics a few weeks ago.  These miniature comic magazines that accompanied each action figure sold by Mattel in the 1980’s were a genius act of content marketing. 

Assortment of Covers from Masters of the Universe Comics
Assortment of Covers from Masters of the Universe Comics

For those unfamiliar with the legend of He-Man and the Masters of The Universe, I will provide a brief overview.  Mattel initially introduced the first few action figures in the early eighties accompanied by a set of great mini-comics.  He-Man was a warrior in the land of Eternia who is granted access to the magic of the mysterious Castle Greyskull and the Power Sword. He soon learns that both are coveted by an evil being known as Skeletor who sends his henchman after He-Man at every turn.  The stories were very much drawn from classic sword-and-sorcery material but peppered with modern sci-fi weaponry and strange beings. It suggested this might be past or future, but definitely somewhere very different.  For us kids, it was brilliant.  

Little did we know that Mattel was feeling sore over having missed the boat when it declined to take on the Star Wars toy line that Hasbro was now reaping the rewards of.  The concept of the He-Man toys was one designed to start with the outcome in mind: a set of action figures in every kid’s toy chest.  Targeted at kids already enthused with fantasy and science fiction, the content strategy painted a larger picture that a wider group of parents and kids, boys and girls included, could latch onto. This strategy would drive the franchise into a long running animated television series, a DC comic book series and a full length motion picture (which if I remember was not very good).  Along the way, I dare say they succeeded in driving quite a few toy sales; certainly enough to expand several years of expansions of the line and multiple reissues of the original characters.   

Here are some of the characteristics I’ve observed about the franchise in retrospect.

They started with the product

Unlike Star Wars, this was not a film that led the charge and followed by the toys. The initial figures were these musclebound, 5-inch hulks, permanently molded into a squat stance that indicated they were “ready for battle”.  They came with their weapons and a small comic that painted a slice of the mythology of the land of Eternia, its heroes and villains.  I believe that the toys were on the market in toy-stores, relying on those comics and the word of mouth of fans to make the rounds with kids for a couple of years before they ventured into the animated television series.

They allowed the story to emerge over time

Each comic also revealed a few other pieces of the universe on the back cover: other action figures, vehicles and play sets. Some of these were revealed in the comics, but others were mysteriously omitted. It let you know there was a bigger story but also allowed you to create some of that narrative in your own imagination.

There was also a degree of ambiguity surrounding who was good and who was evil.  In the first few issues, it was clear that many of the protagonists were themselves strangers, drawn together by some mystical forces.  Often they would also have certain characters depicted in the shadows; you could recognize them by their silhouette, but their role could be construed as observer or participant.

They revised the narrative to speak to their broader audience

When the animated series hit the air, there were a few new elements introduced in order to make the story more accessible to a wider range of fans.  He-Man now had an alter ego, Prince Adam, the royal ruler of the land of Eternia would be gifted his power sword by the feather clad Sorceress. 

Classic image from the original animated He-Man series
Classic image from the original animated He-Man series.

Signaling a desire to reach a broader audience than just the male fantasy geeks, the series introduced a number of new characters which would later be implemented as toys. These included several new female heroes and villains.  The series also brought comedy into the fold by including a goofy wizard named Orko and even a cowering version of He-Man’s trusted Battle Cat that shivered in fear until emboldened by a blast of energy from the power sword.

They grounded themselves with influencers

Knowing that parents were ultimately the gatekeepers to getting their products adopted in the homes, the series creators began to articulate a moral lesson in the epilogue to each story.  This was a helpful counterweight to justify watching a program that was filled with violence between battling factions. This would become a popular tactic in other series launched around this time, including the popular G.I. Joe.  

A good run while it lasted

By the time the full length feature movie and DC comic series came out, I had outgrown the franchise.  I remember seeing the film and hating it.  Of course my opinion might have been colored by the fact that I was no longer playing with the toys, but I suspect it really was horrible. Let’s face it: it starred Dolph Lundgren who had previously played Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, another famous franchise “jump the shark” moment. That said, the films did not discolor my love of the original concept and characters.

On a final note, I am excited to have learned of a book written on the rise and fall of the He-Man toy empire by its creator. I’m looking forward to reading, Mastering the Universe by Robert Sweet.  Apparently the toys sold more than 1 billion dollars worth in their time on the market!

I look forward to exploring the content marketing strategies behind some of my other favorite toy franchises in future posts as I unearth more of my childhood from the depths of my parents’ basement. 

Almost Paradise: Musings On Leaving California

I wrote this in October 2016 only to leave it unfinished.  During the last week, I received a notification of a post from Facebook a year ago when we were on a house hunt in Virginia. When I re-read the post, it still rang true for me, so I’ve decided to post it.

Those of us who have had the privilege of living in Northern California for a portion of our lives have at one time or another thought that they could not leave “paradise”. After all, we had sublime weather, the greatest sunsets, and the greenest hills. We were fifteen minutes from wine country and 20 minutes from downtown SF.  I can say with conviction that California has some great things, but while its almost paradise, it’s not the end-game for me.

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Now that I’ve moved away, it’s amazing to realize that its the one place I’ve actually spent the most substantial portion of my life outside of NY/NJ.  We had a great run there, learning the city without really knowing anyone. We ate at some of the country’s best restaurants, drank the best wines, saw the greatest landscapes.  Experienced sailing in SF Bay, learned to properly mountain bike in the hills of San Anselmo and discovered the practice of yoga.  We got married, got my first dog, and had two amazing kids. I put my first dog to sleep, lost co-workers to horrible accidents and experienced numerous earthquakes (luckily not the “big one”).

Ultimately, I was ready to go. You know there is something missing when you make a great salary but you’re always feeling like you are scraping by.  We were having annual (if not more frequent) conversations about how many things we missed back east.  Every trip home was a reminder of what we were missing. After all, what good is paradise when you can’t share it with everyone you love.  Paradise is relative.

For a while I thought that if I changed my job, I might be happier. As I started exploring companies, it was clear that there were lots of incredible opportunities abound.

So we moved back east.  It’s been an adventure to say the least.  We’ve had some curveballs thrown at us, but we’ve kept on truckin’.  We see family all of the time, the kids love school, and we’ve become part of a great community.  

Do I miss California? There are definitely some aspects of it that I think about often:

  • Wearing shorts practically year round.  
  • The gardens around my home that I created with my own sweat.  
  • The Plano, the friends we made there, our annual block parties and our large assortment of fruit trees.
  • It’s Its. In and Out. Fish in Sausalito. Central Market in Petaluma. 
  • Living near waterfall hikes.
  • Taking the ferry to work.

Are there things I don’t miss? Absolutely:

  • Horrible public transportation.
  • Bad startup ideas. (I was once approached by a company that failed making a television show recommendation app that they “pivoted” into an email marketing tool.)
  • Endless hoards of hipsters. Ironic beards.  Civilians in cycling gear.
  • The fact that I lived in an upper middle class neighborhood but still would have my car pillaged in the middle of the night.
  • Day care that was three times as expensive as it was in New Jersey where I grew up.
  • Not having seasons. Especially Fall.
  • Being away from family during times of crisis.
  • My kids not getting to grow up near cousins and old family friends.

Was California paradise? Almost, but not quite. 

The bottom line for me is that paradise is a myth.  There are beautiful places all over this country. What’s important is that you have a chance to live in them.  I feel like these days I am enjoying a better life. Next time I go back to the Bay, it will be nice to be a visitor again.

Content Trust – A New Search Ranking Signal?

 

How approaches to dealing with fake news could impact search

It seems to me that the way we handle filtering fake news has the potential to create a new factor used to help rank quality content on the web: content trust.
 
Content Trust Adam Monago
 
Consider that Facebook is partnering with sites like Snopes.com to effectively have them label what sites are considered to be hoaxes. Following this logic, you could imagine a potential classification for content as being parody; sites such as The Onion and The Oatmeal come to mind.  Of course this is not a simple problem to solve: some websites may indeed be found to be propaganda farms, and others may trade in parody stories for entertainment.  That said, how do you handle news stories that trade in some quality stories but also amplify some that are bogus?  How do you handle sites that are expressing individual opinions and that are not trying to mislead people. This is where the work gets hard and why it is going to need to be done by humans in the early days. Presumably, once they get good at it, Facebook is going to try and quantify these rankings into a content trust score.
 
I know, you are probably saying: “We already know that site reputation is a ranking signal. It’s on all of the popular lists of search ranking factors.”  That said, social signals have remained one of the correlated but not causal factors for winning sites. Page Rank has continued to be the driving factor of success.
 
It is also clear to me that Facebook is going to take some time to get a working system in play.  A recent interview about the fake news debacle had their spokesperson saying that they would consider shares as indicators of content quality.  This flies in the face of studies of social media activity showing that people share what they do not read.
 

Back to our roots: Directories

 
Most of our search engines started as directories, if we can remember back that far.  We asked sites to classify themselves. Entertainment, humor, news, opinion.  Of course, these classifications started to become too complex to manage and couldn’t always be trusted.  Google’s Page Rank stood out because it let action speak louder than words.  Once people actually linked to the sites that mattered to them, that spoke louder than any classification.
 
google-directory
 
Years later, we have watched Google become more sophisticated about how it ranks sites and crafts queries to meet the context of its users.  Yet as good as search has become, it’s still quite easy to inject fake content that looks real into the mix. Even Google News itself, has become easy to game for site owners that want to get their blogs into the Google News feed.  Presumably that will now be addressed, given the recent climate around news hoaxes.
 
I do think that part of the way to the right classification scheme for sites will include some sort of site classification. This could be self administered or graded by Google, Facebook and the other search overlords. Ultimately, I feel that these classifications may be useful for power searchers and advanced users, but they’re not a strong enough mechanism.
 

The Simplest Answer is Probably The Right One

 
Search for the general population has to be simple, fast and predictable.  When all things are equal, search engines need to assume that people are seeking true information first and foremost. Truth over satire. For this reason, I think a content trust score is something we could see in the not too distant future.