All posts in “Facebook”

Facebook makes its first browser API contribution

Facebook today announced that it has made its first major API contribution to Google’s Chrome browser. Together with Google, Facebook’s team created an API proposal to contribute code to the browser, which is a first for the company. The code, like so much of Facebook’s work on web tools and standards, focuses on making the user experience a bit smoother and faster. In this case, that means shortening the time between a click or keystroke and the browser reacting to that.

The first trial for this new system will launch with Chrome 74.

Typically, a browser’s JavaScript engine handles how code is executed and when it will halt for a moment to see if there are any pending input events to which it needs to react. Because even modern JavaScript engines that run on multi-core machines are still essentially single-threaded, the engine can only really do one thing at a time, so the trick is to figure out how to best combine code execution with checking for input events.

“Like many other sites, we deal with this issue by breaking the JavaScript up into smaller blocks. While the page is loading, we run a bit of JavaScript, and then we yield and pass control back to the browser,” the Facebook team explains in today’s announcement. “The browser can then check its input event queue and see whether there is anything it needs to tell the page about. Then the browser can go back to running the JavaScript blocks as they get added.”

Every time the browser goes through that cycle, though, and checks for new events, processes them, a bit of extra time passes. You do this too many times and loading the page slows down. But if you only check for inputs at slower intervals, the user experience degrades as the browser takes longer to react.

To fix this, Facebook’s engineers created the isInputPending API, which eliminates this trade-off. The API, which Facebook also brought to the W3C Web Performance Working Group, allows developers to check whether there are any inputs pending while their code is executing.

With this, the code simply checks if there’s something to react to, without having to fully yield control back to the browser and then passing it back to the JavaScript engine.

For now this is just a trial — and because developers must integrate this into their code, it’s not something that will automatically speed up your browser once Chrome 74 launches. If the trial is successful, though, chances are developers will make use of it (and Facebook surely will do so itself) and that other browser vendors will integrate into through their own engines, too.

“The process of bringing isInputPending to Chrome represents a new method of developing web standards at Facebook,” the team says. “We hope to continue driving new APIs and to ramp up our contributions to open source web browsers. Down the road, we could potentially build this API directly into React’s concurrent mode so developers would get the API benefits out of the box. In addition, isInputPending is now part of a larger effort to build scheduling primitives into the web.”

After an Easter terror attack, Sri Lanka cut access to social media

Image: Stringer/Getty Images

Sri Lanka restricted access to social media following a terror attack that left more than 200 people dead and at least 450 injured. Eight bombs exploded in three churches and three luxury hotels on Easter Sunday. 

According to The New York Times, restricted sites include Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, and YouTube. 

“This was a unilateral decision,” presidential adviser Harindra Dassanayake told the Times, explaining officials worried that the spread of misinformation and hate speech could incite violence.

The move isn’t a first for the country — in 2018, Sri Lankan officials blocked access to social media when viral posts on Facebook called for violent attacks against Muslim communities, provoking riots. The New York Times report notes that Facebook did not respond to the government’s request for better content moderation until it cut off the social network entirely. 

Other countries struggle with viral, violent misinformation on social media as well and resort to similar measures — India restricted access to Facebook in 2012 in wake of rioting, and in 2019, rumors on WhatsApp were linked to multiple attacks. 

Sri Lankan officials have not yet announced when the government will restore access to social media again.

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Zuckerberg could be held personally accountable for Facebook data breaches

The Federal Trade Commission is currently deciding whether the agency wants to hold Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible for the company's privacy scandals.
The Federal Trade Commission is currently deciding whether the agency wants to hold Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally responsible for the company’s privacy scandals.

Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The federal government wants to hold Mark Zuckerberg personally accountable for Facebook’s privacy woes.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is currently investigating Facebook and looking into whether the Facebook’s founder and CEO should be held liable for the company’s data mishandling and privacy issues. 

Facebook and the FTC have been in discussions for more than a year over the agency’s probe into the company. Sources familiar with these discussions say that the FTC is mulling over an unusual decision to hold Zuckerberg himself accountable for the company’s data leaks and breaches. 

The FTC does not regularly go after executives when levying fines or other penalties for a company’s wrongdoings. However, critics say that the federal government may be out to make an example out of Zuckerberg and send a message to others in Silicon Valley.

Top lawmakers who spoke to the Post seem to back holding Zuckerberg accountable.

“Zuckerberg wasn’t just aware of Facebook’s invasion of consumer privacy, he signed off on it and publicly downplayed legitimate concerns,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “Holding Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives personally at fault and liable for further wrongdoing would send a powerful message to business leaders across the country: You will pay a hefty price for skirting the law and deceiving consumers.”

The FTC confirmed in March 2018 that it had opened an investigation into the social network following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Cambridge Analytica revelations showed that data belonging to 87 million Facebook users was “improperly shared” to a political firm.

Facebook’s data and privacy issues did not get any better following the reveal of the Cambrige Analytica breach. Earlier this year, the world’s largest social networking platform has been found breaking Apple’s policies in order to collect data from teens. A new report from earlier this month found that Facebook exposed millions of its Instagram users’ passwords by storing them in plain text.  

The Post reports that documents obtained from the FTC show that the agency previously considered hitting Zuckerberg with fines for future Facebook privacy violations as part of a 2011 settlement with the company. However, the FTC did not go through with it then.

Last month, the New York Times reported that Facebook is facing a criminal investigation from federal authorities over its data-sharing practices.

“It was my mistake and I’m sorry,” said Zuckerberg when speaking before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce at a hearing following the Cambridge Analytica data breach in 2018. “I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Whether the Facebook founder and CEO realized exactly what being personally responsible for his company’s misdeeds could eventually entail is another story. Perhaps, Zuckerberg may end up regretting those words.

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Behold, the very bizarre Facebook auto-captions from NASA launch

Wednesday's launch of the Antares rocket as seen from a safe distance.
Wednesday’s launch of the Antares rocket as seen from a safe distance.

Image: NASA via Getty Images

“And we have lift off the guitarist G 11 mission.” Huh? 

The closed captions on Facebook might need a bit of tweaking after a NASA video displayed some peculiar subtitles.

The video in question is the Wednesday launch of Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket, carrying a Cygnus cargo freighter destined for the International Space Station, done in conjunction with NASA. As Ars Technica pointed out, the captions leave a lot to be desired. 

Watch the original video below with the captions turned on. 

In case you missed it, here are a few of the more choice errors made in the captions. 

Facebook closed captions on NASA launch

In this case, the caption should have read, “and we have lift off of the Antares NG-11 mission.”

Facebook closed captions for Antares NG-11 mission

Close but still not quite right; the correct caption would be “core pressurization looks good.”

While this one may make some sense if you’re watching with just captions, it’s still not the correct caption, which should have read, “TVC is nominal.”

Yeah, these are kind of silly. But it’s also kind of a big deal that Facebook can’t get these captions correct. After all, Facebook previously made a big to-do about using these live video captions for hearing impaired users. It can’t always be perfect, but it should be a bit better than this. 

We reached out to Facebook to see what causes these kinds of errors and what might be done to fix them. In the meantime, just use a bit of caution when watching these Facebook videos and if a caption seems too silly to be accurate, it probably is. 

Hope that guitarist G 11 makes it back from space.

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How do you hire a great growth marketer?

Editors Note: This article is part of a series that explores the world of growth marketing for founders. If you’ve worked with an amazing growth marketing agency, nominate them to be featured in our shortlist of top growth marketing agencies in tech.

Startups often set themselves back a year by hiring the wrong growth marketer.

This post shares a framework my marketing agency uses to source and vet high-potential growth candidates.

With it, early-stage startups can identify and attract a great first growth hire.

It’ll also help you avoid unintentionally hiring candidates who lack broad competency. Some marketers master 1-2 channels, but aren’t experts at much else. When hiring your first growth marketer, you should aim for a generalist.

This post is split into two halves:

  1. How I find growth candidates.
  2. How I identify which candidates are legitimately talented.

One interesting way to find great marketers is to look for great potential founders.

Let me explain. Privately, most great marketers admit that their motive for getting hired was to gain a couple years’ experience they could use to start their own company.

Don’t let that scare you. Leverage it: You can sidestep the competitive landscape for marketing talent by recruiting past founders whose startups have recently failed.

Why do this? Because great founders and great growth marketers are often one and the same. They’re multi-disciplinary executors, they take ownership, and they’re passionate about product.

You see, a marketing role with sufficient autonomy mimics the role of a founder: In both, you hustle to acquire users and optimize your product to retain them. You’re working across growth, brand, product, and data.

As a result, struggling founders wanting a break from the startup rollercoaster often find transitioning to a growth marketing role to be a natural segue.

How do we find these high-potential candidates?

Finding founders

To find past founders, you could theoretically monitor the alumni lists of incubators like Y Combinator and Techstars to see which companies never succeeded. Then you can reach out to their first-time founders.

You can also identify future founders: Browse Product Hunt and Indie Hackers for old projects that showed great marketing skill but didn’t succeed.

There are thousands of promising founders who’ve left a mark on the web. Their failure is not necessarily indicative of incompetence. My agency’s co-founders and directors, including myself, all failed at founding past companies.

How do I attract candidates?

To get potential founders interested in the day-to-day of your marketing role, offer them both breadth and autonomy:

  • Let them be involved in many things.
  • Let them be fully in charge of a few things.

Remember, recreate the experience of being a founder.

Further, vet their enthusiasm for your product, market, and its product-channel fit:

  • Product and market: Do their interests line up with how your product impacts its users? For example, do they care more about connecting people through social networks, or about solving productivity problems through SaaS? And which does your product line up with?
  • Product-channel fit: Are they excited to run the acquisition channels that typically succeed in your market?

The latter is a little-understood but critically important requirement: Hire marketers who are interested in the channels your company actually needs.

Let’s illustrate this with a comparison between two hypothetical companies:

  1. A B2B enterprise SaaS app.
  2. An e-commerce company that sells mattresses.

Broadly speaking, the enterprise app will most likely succeed through the following customer acquisition channels: sales, offline networking, Facebook desktop ads, and Google Search.

In contrast, the e-commerce company will most likely succeed through Instagram ads, Facebook mobile ads, Pinterest ads, and Google Shopping ads.

We can narrow even further: In practice, most companies only get one or two of their potential channels to work profitably and at scale.

Meaning, most companies have to develop deep expertise in just a couple channels.

There are enterprise marketers who can run cold outreach campaigns on autopilot. But, many have neither the expertise nor the interest to run, say, Pinterest ads. So if you’ve determined Pinterest is a high-leverage ad channel for your business, you’d be mistaken to assume that an enterprise marketer’s cold outreach skills seamlessly translate to Pinterest ads.

Some channels take a year or longer to master. And mastering one channel doesn’t necessarily make you any better at the next. Pinterest, for example, relies on creative design. Cold email outreach relies on copywriting and account-based marketing.

(How do you identify which ad channels are most likely to work for your company? Read my Extra Crunch article for a breakdown.)

To summarize: To attract the right marketers, identify those who are interested in not only your product but also how your product is sold.

The founder-first approach I’ve shared is just one of many ways my agency recruits great marketers. The point is to remind you that great candidates are sometimes a small career pivot away from being your perfect hire. You don’t have to look in the typical places when your budget is tight and you want to hire someone with high, senior potential.

This is especially relevant for early-stage, bootstrapping startups.

If you have the foresight to recognize these high-potential candidates, you can hopefully hire both better and cheaper. Plus, you empower someone to level up their career.

Speaking of which, here are other ways to hire talent whose potential hasn’t been fully realized:

  • Find deep specialists (e.g. Facebook Ads experts) and offer them an opportunity to learn complementary skills with a more open-ended, strategic role. (You can help train them with my growth guide.)
  • Poach experienced junior marketers from a company in your space by offering senior roles.
  • Hire candidates from top growth marketing schools.

If you don’t yet have a growth candidate to vet, you can stop reading here. Bookmark this and return when you do!

Now that you have a candidate, how do you assess whether they’re legitimately talented?

At Bell Curve, we ask our most promising leads to incrementally complete three projects:

  • Create Facebook and Instagram ads to send traffic to our site. This showcases their low-level, tactical skills.
  • Walk us through a methodology for optimizing our site’s conversion rate. This showcases their process-driven approach to generating growth ideas. Process is everything.
  • Ideate and prioritize customer acquisition strategies for our company. This showcases their ability to prioritize high-leverage projects and see the big picture.

We allow a week to complete these projects. And we pay them market wage.

Here’s what we’re looking for when we assess their work.

Level 1: Basics

First — putting their work aside — we assess the dynamics of working with them. Are they:

  • Competent: Can they follow instructions and understand nuance?
  • Reliable: Will they hit deadlines without excuses?
  • Communicative: Will they proactively clarify unclear things?
  • Kind: Do they have social skills?

If they follow our instructions and do a decent job, they’re competent. If they hit our deadline, they’re probably reliable. If they ask good questions, they’re communicative.

And if we like talking to them, they’re kind.

Level 2: Capabilities

A level higher, we use these projects to assess their ability to contribute to the company:

  • Do they have a process for generating and prioritizing good ideas? 
    • Did their process result in multiple worthwhile ad and landing page ideas? We’re assessing their process more so than their output. A great process leads to generating quality ideas forever.
    • Resources are always limited. One of the most important jobs of a growth marketer is to ensure growth resources are focused on the right opportunities. I’m looking for a candidate that has a process for identifying, evaluating, and prioritizing growth opportunities.
  • Can they execute on those ideas? 
    • Did they create ads and propose A/B tests thoughtfully? Did they identify the most compelling value propositions, write copy enticingly, and target audiences that make sense?
    • Have they achieved mastery of 1-2 acquisition channels (ideally, the channels your company is dependent on to scale)? I don’t expect anyone to be an expert in all channels, but deep knowledge of at least a couple channels is key for an early-stage startup making their first growth hire.

If you don’t have the in-house expertise to assess their growth skills, you can pay an experienced marketer to assess their work. It’ll cost you a couple hundred bucks, and give you peace of mind. Look on Upwork for someone, or ask a marketer at a friend’s company.

  • If you’re an early-stage company with a tight budget, there are creative ways to source high-potential growth talent.
  • Assess that talent on their product fit and market fit for your company. Do they actually want to work on the channels needed for your business to succeed?
  • Give them a weeklong sample project. Assess their ability to generate ideas and prioritize them.