back to article When algorithms ATTACK: Facebook sez soz for tacky 'Year in Review' FAIL

Facebook has apologised to a bloke who moaned about the free-content ad network's recent "Year in Review" feature, after the firm's clumsy algorithms tastelessly inserted painful, personal highlights from 2014. The latest creepy function offered by the Mark Zuckerberg-run company offered a cheap-looking clip art album for …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blame the messenger.

    Yes it's all someone else's fault that you not only took a photograph of your dead father's ashes, you were then forced to post them on Facebook.

    I understand that people don't want sad events from their lives waved in front of their faces but really, blaming Facebook for an end of year review that contains images they posted? What if they find a photograph of a deceased relative in a draw? Will they moan about Kodak and Ikea?

    1. gerdesj Silver badge

      Re: Blame the messenger.

      I hope you meant drawer otherwise you go to some pretty weird lotteries ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the messenger.

        Ah yes I did mean drawer. All those years of ejukation and I make a simple homophone mistake.

        I'm now curious to know if there exists a lottery where pictures of dead people are a prize. (And the answer, of course, is 'banknotes.' )

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Blame the messenger.

      Given that Facebook want people to post these types of events, they need to take them into account when programming.

      However, we already knew that Zuckerberg is chaotic-evil aligned, so it's not that surprising when they don't.

      1. mythicalduck

        Re: Blame the messenger.

        "they need to take them into account when programming."

        Riiight, because that's an easy task. Tell me, if you look at Mark Duffy's photo again, without reading the caption he added, would you really have guessed that was he's fathers ashes? If so, how did you summise that? Because all I can tell from the photo is a red object on a fence overlooking the body of water... Does it even look remotely morbid?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Blame the messenger.

      I understand that people don't want sad events from their lives waved in front of their faces but really, blaming Facebook for an end of year review that contains images they posted?

      What kind of idiot comment is that? People are invited to post all kinds of details of their life on Facebook, not just happy-clappy ones. When people are then only offered the single option of "Like", rather than anything more subtle like "Sympathies", then basing a review of your year on "likes" is a disaster waiting to happen. The sun may always shine on Silicon Valley, but in the real world shitty things happen to people as well as nice things. Fasebook should put more thought into the features they offer, rather than blame the Gods of Algorithmic Stupidity when their own lack of foresight bites them in the arse.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Blame the messenger.

        "People are invited to post all kinds of details of their life on Facebook."

        Quite, INVITED not forced.

        1. Monty Burns

          Re: Blame the messenger.

          Doesn't this just add more weight to the argument that the "Dislike" button should be implemented?

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

            Re: Blame the messenger.

            @Monty how do you work that one out? Unless you are going to dislike someone's ashes or dead daughter how is it going to help?

            1. Monty Burns

              Re: Blame the messenger.

              @Gordon 10: It's not that you dislike the "post" it's that you dislike the subject i.e. you are showing that you are also "sad that x has died", not "sad that you've posted". This way, a query could then look for positive and negative votes and exclude negative votes.

            2. Phil W

              Re: Blame the messenger.

              "Unless you are going to dislike someone's ashes or dead daughter how is it going to help?"

              Well that's precisely where it would help. It's far more appropriate in most cases to "dislike" a post about someone's death than it is to "like" it.

              Thinking about it compared to normal social interaction, if you see a pot of ashes on someone's mantle do you express sympathy and unhappiness (i.e

              disliking the loss) or do you smile, give a thumbs up and say "Hey I like the incinerated corpse of your loved one! Is that new?"

              Unless you name is Simon Travaglia and you're visiting the boss it really shouldn't be the last one. Probably not even then.

              Point being a social network should represent normal social interaction not a bizarro world where you can only ignore or "like" what other people say/show you.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Blame the messenger.

            Or remove the Like button altogether and replace it with one of the multiple choice things like "is Watching -- X-MEN".

            Even just allowing it for comments- so "I'm so sorry for your loss --is feeling: Sympathetic" would mean they could better harvest data

  2. tony2heads
    Devil

    chaos-evil aligned

    Is zuk another avatar of Nyarlathotep??

  3. Irongut

    Presumably FB didn't actually show pictures of deceased relatives but pictures from when they were still alive. (Apart from the ashes case but you only have yourself to blame for uploading that one.) That could be taken as a reason to smile and celebrate the time you had with them.

    Oh wait, that doesn't fit with the narcissistic look-at-me FB culture.

    1. Phil W

      It could be a reason to smile, as could photos of a former partner. But as Facebook doesn't know which it is perhaps having a year in review video appear, even if only to yourself, should only happen when you request one not automatically.

      1. Tom 35

        should only happen when you request one

        They just created it automatically so it just popped up. They could have said "we have new "year in review" feature, would you like us to create one for you? You will have the option of editing or deleting it if you don't like it".

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Presumably FB didn't actually show pictures of deceased relatives but pictures from when they were still alive

      Facebook showed images that had been uploaded by users. They have no idea what those images depict.

      I don't understand why folks here are having so much trouble with this. People post content to Facebook. Facebook has extremely limited information about that content - basically the count of "likes". (They could apply heuristic methods like sentiment analysis to the comments, but I've done work in that field, and the state of the art is really not sufficiently suitable for this purpose to eliminate the problem described here.) Based on that extremely limited information, they decided they'd automatically select ("curate") some content to throw back at users. That was a dumb idea, and it was handled poorly (the "great year" tagline).

      Facebook doesn't have enough data to implement something like this well. It'll always have a high failure rate. Even human judges wouldn't be able to select an innocuous collection of memorabilia in a significant number of cases.

      As for chastising people who posted images they found painful in the review - that's a whopping failure of imagination on the part of the critics. Many people use Facebook to share experiences they find meaningful with family and friends; in that context, sharing a painful image is perfectly reasonable - and having Facebook throw it back in your face at the end of the year is not. And in many cases the images won't have been painful when they were shared (before a loved one died, for example), but may be now. I realize many Reg readers find other human beings mightily puzzling, but perhaps they should STFU rather than criticizing them.

      Personally, I dislike Facebook and maintain an account only to receive the occasional event notification and the like. But I'm not so arrogant as to presume anyone who does use it is an idiot. (And I'm pretty damn arrogant.)

      1. julian abbs

        have an upvote, you talk some sense

  4. Phil Endecott

    I wonder if any of these people will actually stop using facebook as a result?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When something is free....

    ...you are the product being sold.

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: When something is free....

      We know that, thank you.

      Now go post it on Facebook. That's where it needs to be said.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: When something is free....

      When something is a cliché, we've probably all heard it already.

  6. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Actually

    I don't particularly want FB to curate my year, or indeed to be shown anyone else's. But WTF, no one makes us open FB.

    But I don't post anything of significance on FB anyway. And most of the stuff I see on there would make dross seem good.

    I guess it's an issue for the types who live their lives on "social media"

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Actually

      "But I don't post anything of significance on FB anyway."

      Save here. In fact my only contact with FB in the last six months has been the every two days email from them asking if I know some of the million or so strangers who live within 10 miles of me or happened to attend the same schools I did sometime over the last 40 years.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Actually

        "But I don't post anything of significance on FB anyway."

        Out of curiosity, I went to see what Facebook had generated as my 'Year in Review'. They didn't have a whole lot to choose from, so selected the only 2 pictures I'd posted - neither of which were relevant or particularly personal to me.

        But then, like everyone else here, I'm not exactly the best user to use as an example

    2. yakitoo
      Facepalm

      Re: Actually

      Interesting take in todays Telegraph (yes I know................)

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11315319/Lying-on-Facebook-profiles-can-implant-false-memories-experts-warn.html

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Actually

        > Humans overwriting their memories and making shit up from whole cloth

        ITT: Humans memory is volatile and has no error checking.

        Well, we do it all the time. You know that most of these "repressed childhood memories" about being violated by parents were actually implanted by the therapists? Good job.

        Young adults, aged between 18 and 24, say they frequently lie about their relationships, promotions at work and holidays.

        At that age I had even difficulty keeping track of actual reality. Sometimes I really feared I was getting psychotic due to overwork and general stress. And that was before the Interwebs came out of the "text only" phase.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Actually

          Humans memory is volatile and has no error checking

          Indeed. There are loads of methodologically-sound psychological and neurological studies showing just how unreliable human recollection is, and how easy it is for us or others to manipulate our memories.

          David McRaney's blog You Are Not So Smart, and his book of the same name, is a nice capsule review of many of the more significant findings in the area.

  7. skeptical i
    Thumb Down

    Even before this "incident",

    fecebook had not proven itself trustworthy to carry a pair of scissors without hurting someone. Sure, it sucks to be reminded of bad things that happened in the past year, but should anyone really have been surprised?

    Besides, doesn't fecebook have some kind of deelybob in which users can see which posts got the most votes, comments, et cetera? So, why would people need to see in boldface headlines info they can already access (or leave aside) on their own?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Twitter

    Can we (The Register) please stop trawling Twitter for quotes and public opinion. I've noticed the actual news (on the telly) has started doing this, and it drives me insane.

    I also find it ironic that people take to Twitter to bitch about Facebook.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: Twitter

      Can we (The Register) please stop trawling Twitter for quotes and public opinion. I've noticed the actual news (on the telly) has started doing this, and it drives me insane.

      Yup, especially when it seems to replace actual research.

      Other news sites managed to include a fairly important point;

      the bloke who had his dead daughter displayed to him (she died on her 6th birthday incidentally), didn't post his 'Year in Review'. In fact, because of the painful memories he'd been actively avoiding the 'new feature'.

      But because he hadn't configured it, Facebook 'helpfully' stickied it to the top of his timeline for him

  9. The Happy Camper

    You have to wonder at the QA and the standard of basic common sense in one of the world's biggest tech firms if nobody called foul on what should have been an obvious drawback of this feature auto-generating and prompting the user.

    1. Velv
      Devil

      Call me cynical, but I suspect the Year Review feature was discussed in great depths with the pros and cons being deeply explored. And the Marketing wanks won't see any downside to the "bad" publicity which has now developed.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    forced memories

    The problem here is that this memory review isn't optional. This is an ongoing problem with facebook. These things are forced upon the user without any option other than delete your facebook.

    Issue would be solved if facebook offered the user an option when logging in around the end of December and beginning of January, to allow FB to compose a year review and at this point inform the user how their images will be used etc. Anyone who had a particularly difficult year could opt out.

    Simple.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: forced memories

      > Anyone who had a particularly difficult year could opt out.

      I opted out of facebook, which is even better.

    2. Gannettt

      Re: forced memories

      I totally agree. But these companies know that, given the choice, a proportion of the userbase will opt out, so they simply don't give you that choice. Why do you think they only have a 'like' button and no 'dislike' - give people that choice and see what they start 'disliking': sponsors, companies, Facebook itself...

    3. JoshOvki

      Re: forced memories

      Of course it is optional. Mine is somewhere on my News Feed and I have chosen not to click it. You have the option if you play it or not and if you share it or not.

  11. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    "algorithmic cruelty"

    Neologism of the Year 2014!!

  12. jai

    i rather liked mine

    it was nearly entirely filled with pictures of various lunches and dinners that are i ate throughout 2014. ahh, happy memories. i was quite hungry by the time it had finished.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: i rather liked mine

      You photograph your food before you eat it? My first though when food arrives tends to be "bugger waiting for everyone else, I'm digging in!"

  13. Test Man

    Not sure what the problem is. It's customisable. So customise it.

  14. gymychoo

    Thanks for the memories

    I'm glad I'm no the only one who got annoyed about this. My year started OK, but rapidly went down hill.

    Its been a fucking shit year so I will not inflict it on you by pretending it has been by way of some sickly automated facebook generated bullshit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Thanks for the memories

      Didn't you know it was a shit year and think "Oh I probably shouldn't click this"?

  15. rob miller

    Seems my most popular post was photos of the daughter I lost as well.

    about 2.5 years now, and yes I do still post on her birthday and the anniversary of her death and various other days that seem relevant. yes it's still shit and will be for the rest of my life. didn't bother to complain about the review, didn't get an apology, just scrolled by -- seems most people never think about life from any other perspective but their own.

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Seems my most popular post was photos of the daughter I lost as well.

      seems most people never think about life from any other perspective but their own.

      Isn't that really why FB exists in the first place?

  16. chrishansenhome
    FAIL

    My dead father

    I got a review that included a picture of my partner with my father, who has been dead for 11 years. I don't know how they got that picture--to my knowledge I didn't post it this year.

    What I would have liked is a box to tick once that asked whether I wanted to see my "Year in Review", and then boxes to tick to say whether I wanted to post it or customise it.

    What I ended up doing was posting it to my Timeline but marking it "Only me". As I rarely visit my timeline, it'll be buried for all time. I trust that next year FB will make it clear that people who don't want to see this or post it can stop it easily and once.

  17. Skier Boris

    User error I think

    Right, so with the year in review you can a) choose not to bother b)preview it before posting it on your wall c) customise it. So obviously the fact you didn't like it is FBs fault!!!!

    1. Vinyl-Junkie

      Re: User error I think

      Absolutely! When Year in Review first appears on your timeline it quite clearly says "Only you can see this post". You then have the option to review, edit and share, share as it is, or delete. You don't even have to look at the whole thing; the initial post to your own timeline is only shown with a couple of pictures.

  18. Truth4u

    If you're depressed by a random selection of your own posts

    Maybe the problem is with you.

    I hate Facebook more than most but come on. It just shows how isolated people in our so-called society really are, if you only realise you're a depressing person when a computer algorithm points it out.

    In real life social interaction, people will tell you when you're being a downer. Maybe they will try and cheer you up. Protip: if lots of people are trying to cheer you up, you must obviously look unhappy.

    But if you post it on Facebook, your half assed effort to reach out will be met with half assed sympathy. And it's exactly what you deserve if you go around posting things like "hey guess which one of my relatives died today, lol".

  19. tommydokc
    Megaphone

    or in other words

    people too stupid to use facebook complain about facebook.

  20. John 104

    LOL - Facebook

    It still amazes me that, 1, people use Facebook despite its horrible user interface, and 2, that people use Facebook at all (or any other social media).

    I live technology, after all, it is how I make my living. But I'm not much of a consumer of it outside of work. I have the latest phones and tablets for personal use, but beyond that, I can't be bothered by it. When I get home after work, I'm effectively unplugged. No facebook, Pintrist, whatever.

    The internet is a tool and is used as such, but my personal life is exactly that, PERSONAL. Why people insist on telling the world every detail of their lives is beyond me. It seems impersonal and shallow at best. At worst, everything you post on facebook or any other social media site should be considered as evidence that can be used against you. No thanks.I'll stick to the real world and meaningful relationships.

    1. tekHedd
      Pint

      Re: LOL - Facebook

      "It still amazes me that [people] use Facebook at all (or any other social media)."

      You mean, social media like comment forums attached to a news article? Yeah, total waste of time, that.

      1. Vinyl-Junkie
        Coffee/keyboard

        Re: LOL - Facebook

        I now have beer on my keyboard....

        Nice one!

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