Bookmarked Feedly launches strikebreaking as a service (by Molly White)

Molly White does a good write-up of the extremely odd and botched launch by Feedly of a service to keep tabs on protests that might impact your brand, assets or people. Apparently in that order too. When E first mentioned this to me I was confused. What’s the link with a feedreader after all? Feedly’s subsequent excuse ‘we didn’t consider abuse of this service’ sounds rather hollow, as their communications around it seem to precisely focus on the potential abuse being the service announced.

The question ‘how did Feedly end-up here?’ kept revolving in my mind. Turns out the starting point is logged in my own blog:

Machines can have a big role in helping understand the information, so algorithms can be very useful, but for that they have to be transparent and the user has to feel in control. What’s missing today with the black-box algorithms is where they look over your shoulder, and don’t trust you to be able to tell what’s right.

Edwin Khodabakchian cofounder and CEO of RSS reader Feedly, in Wired, March 2018

In a twisted way I can see the reflection of that quote in the service Feedly announced. Specifically w.r.t. the first part, using algorithms to better understand information. The second part seems to have gone missing in the past 5 years though, the bit about transparency, avoiding black boxes, and putting users in control. Especially the ‘not trusting people to tell what’s right’ grates. It seems to me Feedly users in the past days very much could tell what’s right and Feedly hoped they wouldn’t.

I do agree with the 2018 quote though, but ‘algorithmic interpretation as a service‘ isn’t what follows to me. That’s just a different way of commoditising your customers.
Algorithmic spotting of emergent patterns is relevant if I can define the context and network of people (and perhaps media sources) whose feeds I follow. For that I need to be in control of the algorithm, and need to be the one who defines what specific emergent patterns I am interested in. That is on my list for my ideal feed reader. But this botched Feedly approach isn’t that.

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