Saturday, June 11, 2016

Facebook's New Policy Towards Text in Ad Images

Until very recently, Facebook had a policy concerning text in images of boosted posts. The policy was no more than 20% of an image could be text. Part of the problem with this policy was that it was not an actual 20%. Instead, an image was divided into a five by five grid and if text was in more than five grid squares it was judged as having more than 20% text. It did not matter if the font size was huge or small, or the amount of text was used so long as it occupied less than five grid squares. Placement played a great deal in whether text occupied more than five grid squares. One could sometimes just rearrange the text on the image so that it occupied five grid squares or less. Thus, the policy was sometimes not so much a judge of how much text there was, but a judge of where the text was placed. Unfortunately, the grid was laid out in such a way that such text placement did not always make for good graphic design. Read my previous post on the topic here.

Effective June 8th Facebook changed its policy. The 20% rule is no longer going to be used. Instead, they are classing images as Okay, Low, Medium, and High. An Okay image has no text. A Low image would be one with some text. A Medium image has more text than a Low image. And a High image would be one with a lot of text. A Low image will not get as many impressions as an Okay image, a Medium image will get a lot less while an image classed as High may not run at all.

I tested two images using the new testing tool and found both images to be in the Okay range despite having text. I suspect these images would be classed as Low in reality. Both images though may have ran afoul of the 20% rule due to text placement. This is much more acceptable to me as even though a Low image may get fewer impressions, it may be more effective than an Okay image at getting a reader to read the post's text. As I said in a previous post it has been my experience that oft times people look at the image, perhaps "like" it, and never read the post so you wind up not getting your message across. However, if an image has just enough text to pique a Facebook user's interest they may go ahead and read the post's text.

I can definitely work with Facebook's new policy. The most desirable policy though would be to only penalize images with a lot of text, and allow Facebook users via reactions and clicks to determine how many impressions a post may get. That is  images with no text and images with some text should both be classed as "okay," and have their number of impressions determined by how users react to them. Still though, the new policy is a step in the right direction,

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Facebook and the 20% Text Rule

I occasionally boost posts for a not for profit I volunteer for on Facebook. It is a great deal as you can reach several thousand people at a low cost.  Recently though, I had a sponsored post rejected. Why? Because text covered more than 20% of the image.

This, at first seems reasonable. Pictures catch the eye better than text, and people do not like large blocks of text. Those two things are advertising basics. Sometimes though text is called for, in the form of logos and basic information. Anyone who has ever tried to design a print ad making the most of text will soon realize text covering only 20% of an image is not very much.

After all there are many things that can be done with text that do not involve large blocks of it. The large blocks of text people don't like aren't logos or slogans that are big and bold, but the blocks of print like you see in a newspaper newsstory. And that is where Facebook's 20% text rule can cripple a sponsored post. Sometimes, a bit of text needs to be used to convey what the post is about. Just using the three Ws (when, where, and why) can give you text covering more than 20% of an image if you want the text large enough to be read.

Of course, Facebook probably thinks people will read the post if the image catches their eyes. Alas, people do not always read the text of a post without prompting by text in the image. Otherwise they just look at the picture, judge whether they like it, hit "like" if they do, and move on without ever reading the post.

The fact is many classic print ads would be rejected by Facebook if used in a sponsored post for text covering more than 20% of the image. Take for example, one of the greatest posters of all time, this one by the U.S. Army from the early 20th century:

When checked using Facebook's Grid Tool, this classic ad has text that makes up 40% of the image. Yet, would anyone deny this ad has not been effective in its aims? Would this image if turned into a Facebook sponsored post be more effective with just the picture of Uncle Sam, and then in the post's text "I want you for the U.S. Army?" Or would it be more effective as it is with the text big and bold in the image? I personally think the original would be more effective. Another example of a classic ad that would not cut it for Facebook is this one from Smith Corona:

This classic ad's text comes in at 24%. It does not look like it covers that much, but going by Facebook's Grid Tool it does. Then there is this 1960s ad from Kodak:

Ignoring all the fine print, and just focusing on, "wondering what you want for Christmas," the text covers 20% according to the Grid Tool. That is it is passable. However, if you add the text at the bottom, it goes up to 40%.. Finally, there are these classic ads from Volkswagen and Konica:

I did not check either of these with Facebook's Grid Tool, but with both text plays an important part of the ads, even if you ignore the fine print. The fine print in these old ads can be considered like the text of a sponsored post, something you read after the image catches your eye. But with these old ads it is clear that text as well as the image can be used to draw attention.

So what does this say for Facebook's 20% text rule? It would seem to show Facebook's assumption that too much text looks like spam is not taking into account the context of the text. They are right, a lot of fine print, or text not important to the post like, "Only $5" may be spammy, However, text used the way it is in many classic ads is effective even if it covers more than 20% of the image. 

I understand Facebook wants to exercise a sort of quality control. And to be honest looking back, I am glad my boosted post was rejected. However, since then I have been looking at various Facebook page posts that could be boosted, but are not due to the 20% text rule. Most are well done, and the text covers no more than 30% of the images. No one I think would consider these posts spammy. And that is what makes the Facebook 20% text rule a sad thing. There are so many well done posts that could become sponsored posts if only the rule did not exist, or if the percentage of text allowed in the image were higher. I am not sure there is anything Facebook can do about it  though. If they get rid of the rule, they would probably be inundated with boosted posts that look like carnival posters. If they raise the percentage of text allowed the same thing might happen. Perhaps though, Facebook should look into some sort of solution, even if it means manually viewing the posts that get tagged for too much text, and not looking at some percentage, but on the quality of the text used. 

Edit: Since composing this earlier this evening I have read another blog post on the topic called "How to Get Around Facebook’s 20-Percent Text Rule on Ad Images" by Jon Loomer. What he learned was that it was not so much about how much text you had, but the placement of the text. The problem comes down to is the Facebook grid does not precisely measure the amount of text, but only that there is text in a grid square of the 5X5 grid. Thus it does not matter if your text is 12 pt. or 100 pt. both sizes count the same if they are in a grid square. This is even worse than if you were limited to 20% as suddenly your text could cover as little as 10% but if not placed right, but it would be rejected in that it was within 20% of the grid squares.

Update: Facebook has very recently changed its policy. You can read about the change here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Opinion on Pinterest Doing Away with Maps

Pinterest is doing away with maps on place boards. The above image is a map. It serves a purpose. Therefore, what good is a place board on Pinterest without a map? Maps on place boards on Pinterest allow users to know where the place the pins are from is located. Without the maps, folks are forced to go to another site to learn a place's location. That could become tedious and tiresome. If you want Pinterest to reverse its decision on maps, send them feedback at the link below. Make sure to mention in the comments section you want to keep maps.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Real Problem With The 2016 Presidential Race

To all you folks saying Bernie does not understand economics. Stop fooling yourselves into thinking any of the Presidential candidates do. None of the candidates understand how economics work. The Republicans and Hilary think they can keep giving money to the rich in hopes that in their benevolence they will create jobs. Bernie thinks he can improve the economy by giving money to the poor and increasing consumer spending.
None of them seem to realize it is the Middle Class that create jobs with their small businesses, and that it is the Middle Class that does the most spending in this country for consumer goods. Until the status of the Middle Class is improved, this country will suffer. That means low interest business loans, tax cuts for the Middle Class (but not the rich), and bringing Middle Class wages back in line with cost of living. That means making it so small businesses here can compete with the big corporations, and that we are not giving big corporations tax breaks and subsidies smaller companies cannot get.
No one is talking stuff like that though. Instead, they want to give money to companies that ship jobs overseas, place money in tax havens, and otherwise work to hurt this nation's economy to make a buck. Or they talk social programs instead of workfare when workfare is what this country needs. We need to tax the hell out of companies that send jobs overseas, give tax breaks to those that keep them here, and place tariffs on goods made overseas. We need to create social programs where folks that cannot find a job work to rebuild the infrastructure. We need to do that all the while while giving the Middle Class a chance, and incentive to create their own jobs, and not hope the big corporations do. Both Reaganomics and wrong minded Socialist programs that did not create jobs hurt this county. It is time we get try something different. Unfortunately, no candidate is bold enough to do that. They want to stand by failed policies of the past.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Noblesse oblige and the American Dream

Noblesse oblige is an old notion that those of privilege have certain responsibilities to those of lesser station. The idea first came about in the Middle Ages, and was the idea that the nobility were obliged or obligated to behave in a certain manner i.e. morally upright, distinguished, noble. To serve as an example to the lower classes.This noble behavior included generosity towards those that have less, and especially to those that placed them where they were. One could after all not rule without the people's consent. The pesants in return owed the nobility certain obligations. It was based on earlier tribal ideas among the Germanic and Celtic tribes that leaders of war bands had certain obligations towards their warriors in return for the warriors' fighting for them.  Thus early kings of such early Northern European states as the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms were called "ring givers" as part of those obligations were to share the wealth gotten from raids with the warriors who helped earn it with their own sweat and blood. Other obligations included a war band leader seeking revenge for a warrior's loss of life due to murder, and taking care of the warrior's widow should the warrior be killed in battle. By the time noblesse oblige came about these obligations extended to anyone under one's protection whether a serf or a lesser noble. The obligations naturally changed, but the idea was the same. One in a position of power owed that power to those under him or her, and therefore the one in power had an obligation to them.

The idea was passed down even to the early citizens of the United States. At some point though, this idea got tossed aside in the 19th century in America  just when the idea of the American Dream was being formed. The general idea that took noblesse oblige's place was that one was in the position of power he or she were in largely due to his or her own hard work. And since one was in the position he or she was in via his or her own hard work he or she had the right to keep whatever one earned. The idea that one owed his or her position to anyone else be they favors done one by others, or due to the diligent work done by one's workers became alien. It was somehow as if people thought folks magically got into the position of power they were without any help from anyone else. A CEO got where he or she was not because someone of a higher station saw promise in him or her when he or she first started out, or because of the diligence of the workers that served under him or her, but because of the CEO's own hard work, done with his or hers own hands. Therefore, as the CEO had done it all on his or her own, the CEO owed nothing to no one. Thus the very idea of noblesse oblige became an absurd concept. One spoken only by malcontents looking back on less civilized times.  The American Dream was one got ahead by hard work, and once one had achieved his or her goals, one was under no obligation to anyone.

Now, this would not be so bad, but the idea that workers had obligations towards their employers never went away. Indeed, when one has a job he or she is supposed to be grateful as the employer is giving them a job, The employer is doing them a favor. To speak against one's employer or the wealthy in general is seen to be being ungrateful. The idea is that the worker owes his or her position to the employer, and not the other way around. Few have ever accused in the last 20 years a corporation of being ungrateful to its employees despite any form of maltreatment be it bad working conditions or low pay. To even demand fair pay or a living wage or safe working conditions is frowned upon. Somehow instead of the well to do owing those of lesser station for the position they are in, those of lesser station owe the well to do for whatever it is folks assume they do (creating jobs, boosting the economy, investing in the infrastructure). This is made even worse in the fact that with no concept of noblesse oblige, the well to do actually do very little for those that are less fortunate other than what they would be doing anyway to make more money.  

It was the American Dream that killed noblesse oblige. The American Dream is based on the strong individual who needs no one else to get wherever it is he or she is going. One makes his or her own way by working hard and the only reward one is to expect is money. Money which allows one to buy a car, a house, and support a family. One makes one's own way. It does not matter what conditions one has to endure, the possible loss of health, the chance one could go hungry despite working, nothing matters as hard work will eventually reap its rewards. This idea of the self reliant individual has further killed the idea of noblesse oblige. The well to do do not owe their positions to the people of the United States of America as there is no such thing. No, our nation is a collection of individuals not expected to rely on anyone else. And with no unity, no idea of a society, there are no societal obligations of the wealthy either. There is no society for them to give back to, no society which put them in the positions they are in.

This leads us though to some facts. First, no one in a position of power got where he or she is via his or her own hard work. There had to be someone there to promote him or her up through the ranks. Once promoted, one had to have good workers to make one look good to get further promotions. If one is selling a product, one has to have people to buy one's product. Which leads us to the conclusion, the wealthy owe those who put them where they are because without the work and help of others they would not be in the position they are in. Unless one strikes gold and works the mine all by his or her lonesome, everyone in power owes that power to someone else. And that is why we need to modify the American Dream to include noblesse oblige,  Everyone is obliged to someone else. We do not live in a vacuum. The sooner we admit that, the sooner America will return to its former glories.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Truly Divided Nation in More Ways than One

The events at Mizzou over the past few weeks have revealed many different issues in our nation. On one hand, it would appear to be just more examples of racism in action. On the other hand it appears that other problems are revealing themselves as well. All taken together, it shows not just the State of Missouri, but the nation are truly divided in ways no one may have imagined.

This all started with a purported racial slur being thrown off campus in Columbia, Missouri, home of the main campus in the University of Missouri system at an African American student. The student was Payton Head, the Student Body president at Mizzou. Later, others had claimed racial slurs were said to them on campus. A swastika drawn in poop was found in the men's bathroom of one of the university's residence halls although photo or video evidence does not seem to exist. It all seems to have snowballed from there until it accumulated in this week's protests. In the weeks leading up to the protests, MU student Jonathan Butler went on a hunger strike demanding the president of the university, Tim Wolfe resign for not acting on taking care of instances of racism at the University. Members of the football team then went on strike with the same demand. Wolfe resigned this week as did Chancellor R. Bowen Loftin.

Taken together it would all seem to be some sort of victory for those fighting racism. Attention had been brought to acts of racism in Columbia, Missouri, and administrators of MU whom people had thought had done little about them had resigned. That acts of racism had taken place at Mizzou cannot be questioned as there are as many cases that can be documented as  those that cannot. In March 2010 cotton balls were placed in front of Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center on the Mizzou campus. In February 2011 racist graffiti was written on a residence hall. At the Homecoming Parade on October 10th of this year folks chanted "Mizzou" to drown out chants done by protesters. Therefore, Wolfe's resignation seemed a great victory.

Then, stories of actions by the protesters begin to come out in a big way. The media was blocked from the group Concerned Student 1950's protest on public property, property on which everyone so long as they are not doing something illegal are permitted, Student reporter Tim Tai, himself a minority, was even harassed by student protesters and threatened by two university professors who were also protesting. Most of the students harassing him were white, as were both professors, and all of it was caught on video. Then Student Body President Payton Head falsely reported the KKK was on the university campus on social media. People have begun to question whether racial slurs were even yelled at African Americans in and around the university campus. All folks had to go on was the word of those claiming the slurs were ever said. Even the existence of the swastika drawn in poop is being questioned as no photo evidence seems to exists. What now amounts to what seems to be race baiting in reverse has put a different spin on the issue for many Missourians.

Missouri is a state suffering from the events at Ferguson, Missouri. There were actions at Ferguson, Missouri, and in the protests that followed that were clear cut acts of racism. A march for justice organized by the NAACP going from Ferguson to the state capitol in Jefferson City was met on the way with displays of Confederate flags, water melons, and fried chicken. Racial slurs were yelled at the marchers, and at one point a bullet went through the back of the window of one of the buses. All of this was documented by the media with photos and video. Racism is alive and well it would appear in Missouri, and Missourians like myself were ashamed of some citizens of our state. It is no doubt then that the national media would home in on the protests at the University of Missouri. Missouri after all had revealed itself to be a racist state.

The problem now is that the protesters at Mizzou themselves have shown themselves to be intolerant. First, they excluded the media from the protests, and then they organized a "black only healing space"  where whites were not allowed. This vagrant act of segregation along with the actions against a student reporter who is himself a minority has liberal Missourians perplexed. Until now it had been felt that to fight racism, we must be all inclusive. We cannot afford to segregate ourselves, What has liberal Missourians even more perplexed is how all of this could take place in what is admittedly the most liberal city in the state on a college campus whose Student Body President is a gay black man. If racism existed in Missouri, certainly Columbia would be a bastion of anti-racism, a safe zone  for those of all races. Two men, Connor Stottlemyre and Hunter Park were arrested for making threats of violence against blacks protesting on the MU campus. Even then, neither of the men lived in Columbia or had any real connection to the University campus in Columbia. Yes, racist incidents had taken place on the UMC campus, but just exactly is going on now?

All of this has left Missourians confused. Were the events this year leading up to the protests a sham? Did two high ranking university administrators resign for what amounted to incidents that did not take place? Or did these incidents actually take place, but were isolated ones? And what about the student protest group Concerned Student 1950's own acts of intolerance with the harassment of a minority student reporter and the deliberate segregation of protesters? It has us confused and perplexed. I, for one do not know what to think. In many ways, one has to wonder if the protests have not actually set the state back 40 years on the issue of civil rights instead of making progress. Instead of the protests uniting us, in my opinion, they have served to divide us further, and racists will no doubt argue that events at the protests justify their position.

This is not the end of it though. Columbia, Missouri is being tagged as a racist town, a place where minorities live in fear for their lives. Even if racial slurs were hurtled at black men, even if a poop swastika was drawn in a university bathroom, are these examples of racism being rampant in Columbia? Is Columbia just as racist as the rest of  the state? Or are these the acts of outsiders, people not from Columbia, perhaps not even the State of Missouri? Are these merely isolated incidents in a city that is truly all inclusive? Is there just some group of rednecks out there wanting to stir up racial tensions? Or is MU a cesspool of racists and closet racists? Missourians are now faced with almost too many questions to be answered, and no dialogue has been started to answer them. We cannot at this point get answers, and will not until a dialogue is started that includes people of all the races.

This would not be so hurtful to Missourians though if  clear cut acts of racism elsewhere were being ignored. Women at the door of a Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat party at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut were told, “No, we’re only looking for white girls,” Headlines about the incident begin with words like, "purported," or contained words like, "accused." The stories on the incident contained words like, "claimed" in relation to the women's testimony about the incident. There were questions even in liberal media whether the incidents really happened despite many women testifying to them.

Unlike the incidents at Mizzou which were immediately reported as fact, and no one doubted the accusations of racism, the accusations of a "white women only" party at Yale University were cast as being doubtful. It was like folks were stating, "There is no way something like this could happen in a Northern state at a prestigious school like Yale." Meanwhile, no one doubted the accusations of racism at the University of Missouri. Somehow, it is easy to believe a Midwestern university with Southern roots consisting of Middle Class students could be a haven of racism, but almost impossible to believe the same of a New England school that caters to the Upper Class. It threw us back to the '70s when the Boston public schools were desegregated and a myriad excuses were given for white parents' outrage, none of them dealing with race. Somehow, the narrative was white parents were upset that their children were being sent to schools in poor neighborhoods. No one wanted to state the truth that Boston is known as one of the most racist cities in the United States, and the riots over desegregation in Boston had everything to do with race.

It all comes down to this, this is not just Missouri's problem. It is a problem for the entire nation. We cannot ignore instances of racism in northern universities based on the false idea that the North is not racist. We cannot automatically assume isolated incidents at a Southern or Midwestern university makes it a haven for racism. I am ashamed of our nation's media for making the events at Mizzou a top of the page headline, while sweeping events at Yale under the rug and putting stories about it on page two. I resent supposed incidents at the University of Missouri being passed off as fact while incidents at Yale University are reported with words like, "purported," "accused," and "claimed." Yes, a racist culture probably does exist at University of Missouri Columbia, but I am betting one exists at Yale University too. Regardless of what really happened at Mizzou or Yale, and no one seems to be able to get to the truth, it has been shown not just racism divides this nation, but also classism and regionalism. How else would you explain the difference in coverage between incidents at Mizzou and those at Yale? And  acts of classism and regionalism need to be acted on just as much as racism. This nation has no room for bigotry of any kind. As of now we are truly a nation divided in more ways than one.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Respecting Each Others' Rights

The past couple of years have seen protests the likes that have not been seen since the 1960s. They are happening for good reasons. This nation has big issues with equal rights for all.  People wanting to keep gays from marrying, African Americans not wanting to be harassed and killed by law enforcement, and countless other issues have shown this nation has some serious issues. And with the protests our deep seated self interests have reared their ugly heads. Many feel because their rights have been violated that gives them the right to get their message out by any means possible even if that means violating the rights of others. This attitude cuts across the political spectrum both right and left. Many Conservatives feel county clerks should have the right to violate the right of gay couples to be married because, well, it violates their religious freedom. More liberal protesters feel they have the right to violate the rights of commuters to get to work on time by blocking highways to highlight how African American men are being killed by police. There are numerous examples of how people have in trying to get the point across their "rights" are being violated by violating the rights of others. And the media is not innocent either. Reporters get pushy in trying to cover protests. They refuse to respect people's right not to talk to them.

Recently a video surfaced on YouTube of student protesters and a professor trying to block a student journalist's access to a protest on the University of Missouri campus. You can watch it below:


The protesters had declared the area a safe zone were no media was allowed. They wanted to control the narrative of the protest and not have the media twisting what they wanted said. There was one problem with this. This protest was on public property owned by the people of the State of Missouri. Everyone has a right to be there. No one has a right to exclude others from being on that piece of land. They had no right to try to take over what is owned by every citizen of the State of Missouri. It would be like me, going to our courthouse square where I live, and trying to dictate who could and could not walk across the lawn. This is basically what the group Concerned Student 1950 did to the point of student reporter Tim Tai being threatened by Professor Melissa Click. In essence, while protesting to point out how the rights of minorities are being violated at the University of Missouri, they violated the rights of a student reporter (who happens to be a minority himself) to be present, and all other members of the media. The actions of the protest group Concerned Student 1950 showed they were just as intolerant as the actions of the people they were protesting.I am not saying this to detract from their message that there is racial bigotry at the University of Missouri, but to point out that we as Americans place our own self interests above those of others.  In essence, what Concerned Student 1950 was saying is, "People's rights have been violated so we have a right to violate your rights to get our point across."

At the same time Concerned Student 1950 was protesting, many members of the media did not respect the personal space of members of Concerned Student 1950. They felt that they were protected by freedom of the press and therefore did not have to respect the privacy of the protesters. There were instances of reporters trying to get in areas where people were changing clothes, and reporters not respecting people's right to say no to interviews. Again, this is a case of people thinking their rights are more important than the rights of someone else. We think our rights should supersede the rights of everyone else. In essence, what what was being said by the media was, "We have a right to do this so that gives us a right to violate your rights to exercise our rights."

The cases above are a prime example of one group thinking their "rights" trump the rights of others. There are other examples. And of course, when there is outrage over these violation of rights by protesters we are told people are trying to detract from the protesters' messages. In truth, it is not the people's outrage over the protesters' violating the rights of others that is detracting from the message people are trying to get across by protesting, but the very actions of the protesters themselves. Had members of the group Concerned Student 1950 respected the rights of others, they may have gotten their message across, but by trying to dismiss the rights of others, by saying their rights are more important, their messages are seen as just another example of intolerance.

The same is true of the media. When the media refuses to respect people's personal space, they are violating others' rights, and seen not as reporters of the news, but as bullies just out to get a story. While the media has freedom of the press on their side, that does not give them the right to demand people talk to them, or to intrude in areas where they clearly are not wanted. Getting in protesters' way, pushing people aside to get a shot with a camera, arguing with people that do not want to be interviewed, all these things violate the rights of others.

Until we, as Americans can learn to respect the rights of others we will not heal this nation. Until we realize my rights, or your rights, or his rights, or her rights are no more important than the rights of others we will get nowhere. Simply because I have a right to do something, simply because my rights are protected by the Constitution does not give me a right to violate the rights of others to exercise my rights.

When I was a youth and a protester, we tried to respect the rights of others. We did not exclude the media. We even allowed counter protests to take place. And we knew there was a place and time to protest. We did not disrupt public ceremonies, block traffic, barge in on private meetings, or do any other stunts to attract attention. We merely gathered together, chanted, sang, displayed our signs, and talked to anyone willing to hear our message. We tried to be respectful of others' rights because we felt if we were not, it would take away from what we were trying to accomplish. Our aim was equal rights for all, and that is how it should be. I should not violate your rights just to point out how mine have been violated.

At the same time, I have been on the media's side too. And I have seen how some reporters can be pushy and overbearing. Myself when I was a student reporter, I tried to respect people's boundaries. You have to. You are not going to get a story by trying to force people to talk to you. There was bad behavior both from the media and the protesters, and it could all have been avoided had they respected each others' rights. No one's rights ever trump those of another despite whatever wrongs may have been done. And I feel we need to learn that as a nation if we want to move forward.