[loveMachine] reached level 2

Object can not be liked

More than a month already has passed since I’ve planned to write this post. I thought about naming it “[loveMachine] frustration level 2” or “[loveMachine] turns into a hate machine” as suggested by some users. But its a totally different post that I’m glad to write today.

Since the beginning of June, Facebook has been acting strangely in response to my automated liking script. For a couple of weeks, I was so often blocked from liking, that I was not even able to find a pattern or a maximum number of likes that could be interpreted as “good behavior” by Facebook. Sometimes, 50 likes would get me banned. Sometimes, 200. It didn’t seem to have any logic. And the ban would last from 12 to 36 hours. Making the process of adjustment even more difficult.

But then, as if nothing happened, everything went back to normal. Or so I thought. The [loveMachine] was clicking likes. They seemed to be validated, and fb_friends were receiving notifications for it. But there were no traces of these likes, none under the posts nor in my Facebook “activity log” page. Only likes under comments were being validated normally. After a little digging, and with the help of some other users, we found out that Facebook detects that it’s a script doing the likes and instead of blocking the script, it would just invalidate the likes 30 seconds or so after they were being done. This generated a lot of frustration among users because friends were notified of their post being liked, but not seeing any likes under it. It also puzzled me because I didn’t know how to find a workaround or how Facebook was even detecting that I was using a script. It also turned the loveMachine into a loveCommentsOnly machine.

Andrew wrote:

The love machine has kind of turned into a hate machine. It likes things then unlikes them now for me giving people notifications with no visible likes.

Mohd wrote:

Don’t like my comments.:-@
*if u have to like, then like my pics only.

I was prepared to rework the whole script or turn into a “comments only liker” when something magic happened. And this is the true “level 2” of this project. I received contributions from other users. Yes. In the jargon, I got my first pull request. For the non techies, it means that other users of my script were sending me code improvements. The first one came from Anna Li. She worked on a bash script for Windows to ease the installation of the [loveMachine] and its necessary dependences. Then Andrew Nakas proposed some fixes for the “liking problem”. He found out that by using the mobile version of Facebook, the likes seemed to be activated normally by the script and Facebook doesn’t remove those likes afterwards. A consequence of this is that comments are not liked anymore, since they are not displayed by default on the mobile version of the site. But I guess that’s not too important for now. So thanks to Andrew’s input, the [loveMachine] is back on track for me and him and all the ones that have enjoyed the script so far.

Let’s see how long this new version will behave “against” the giant Turing test machine called Facebook.

Liking comments is just spitting in the wind


I’ve been struggling with the [loveMachine] during the past weeks. First, the main disk on my home server, from where the script is running, crashed beautifully. Second, Facebook has somewhat changed the rules lately about how much likes I can do in a certain period of time (will write more on that later).

During one of those “banned from liking” periods that I get once in a while, I accidentally realized that Facebook was banning “likes” on posts, but not on comments. WTF?! Yep. Can’t like posts, but can still like comments. How’s that? No idea, but there is obviously a difference for Facebook. And my guess is because “Likes on comments” mean jack shit. At best, they serve the purpose of filtering the most appreciated ones on posts that have hundreds or thousands of them. But beyond that, they are just worthless. And something worthless doesn’t need to be limited.

The official post announcing the feature (on June 16th, 2010) is so boringly written, it does nothing to contradict my point.

All in all, this led me to change the loveMachine.js script so it could make the difference between a like under a post and a like under a comment. Thus, even under a temporary ban, it can still spread its love but only to the commenters.

“Meh” illustration by Ken Murphy and released under CC-by-nc-sa

A facebook warning animation

Everytime the [loveMachine] runs over my profile, it takes a screenshot of the page when it’s done. At first, it was a way for me to see if it was really doing its job and to catch the Facebook warning messages that might have appeared during the process. But since a couple months now, I’ve just been collecting all the ones that display warning messages.

Here it is, in a gif compilation, 120 facebook warning screens.


It is resized for weight purposes (original is 26Mo. Shout if you want it).

Here is the magick line to convert 120 jpegs in one gif in one go (with a bit of blur for NDA reasons):

convert *.jpg -resize 560x560 -delay 10 -loop 0 -region 80x320+0+100 -blur 300 fb_anim_560_b.gif

Finally Facebook implements the “dislike”… but it’s complicated

Since all my likes are handled by the [loveMachine], I found myself looking for other things to do on Facebook. That’s when I stumbled on the (hidden) “dislike” function.

Since it’s a long awaited feature, I must warn you that it’s not as easy as the “like”. It requires at least 3 clicks, works only on comments and the outcome of it is not public. But no third party, browser plugin or application required, here’s how it works:

  1. Find a comment that you dislike under one of your posts.
  2. Click on the light grey [X] next to it.click-remove
  3. The comment is then replaced by this text “This comment has been removed” and two links.
    Click on “Give (the commenter) feedback”.give-feedback
  4. Facebook will then pop-up a message window pre-filled with: “Hey, I didn’t like this comment”.
    Click send.didnt-like.

As you can see, it’s quite a hassle. But it’s there. So from now on, don’t say anymore that Facebook doesn’t have the “dislike” function.

Unless what you are really missing is that your friends don’t see the things that you dislike. Something teenagers might be demanding after all. Mark? Anybody listening?

J’ai augmenté ma pression sociale de 1 dunbar


Depuis que j’ai lancé le projet [loveMachine], j’ai reçu 148 demandes d’amis sur Facebook. En moyenne, donc, 3 demandes par jour. Toutes acceptées sans conditions.

148, c’est justement le nombre maximum d’amis avec lesquels une personne peut entretenir une relation stable à un moment donné de sa vie. Quantité définie par Robin Dunbar, un anthropologue britannique, qui détermina, après étude de comportement chez les primates, que cette valeur était relative à la taille du neocortex.

Ainsi, comme on mesure la pression atmosphérique en bar, je vous propose de mesurer la pression sociale en dunbar. Le calcul est simple: vous comptez le nombre d’amis que vous avez sur Facebook (ou tout autre réseau social), que vous divisez par 148, pour obtenir votre valeur de pression à un instant t. Actuellement, mon compte facebook est à 3.86 dunbar.

Selon Robin, au delà de 148 personnes, la confiance mutuelle et la communication ne suffisent plus à assurer le fonctionnement du groupe. Sachant qu’un profil Facebook a en moyenne 141,5 amis et donc une pression sociale de 0.96 dunbar, nous sommes donc assez proche du dysfonctionement complet de la plateforme (si ce n’est déjà le cas).

Tout compte dépassant 1 dunbar est donc autre chose qu’un groupe social stable. J’imagine que c’est pourquoi Facebook nous a concocté un algorithme limitant le nombre d’amis avec qui nous interragissons et préservé ainsi son label “réseau social” qui lui est cher.

Ce qui est étonnant, c’est que le nombre maximum d’amis possible pour un profil est de 5000. C’est donc à ce chiffre là que Facebook place la fin du jeu social.

5000 amis, c’est 33 dunbar. L’âge du Christ. Coïncidence ? Je ne crois pas.

30.000 likes later


Since all we can see on Facebook is just profiles, I thought I’d share, in the form of a gallery, some of the “unusual” ones the [loveMachine] has brought me to interact with. This is a gallery of caricatures, of course. It doesn’t point to anyone in particular, although you might recognize a friend or maybe yourself.

The I-already-have-4000-friends profile and I want more. You puzzle me. You already have too much friends to take care of. And you still want more. You picked me because I liked your stuff. Maybe. Or was it a Facebook suggestion? I’ll never know. Then, after a couple of days, you realize that you maybe have added a “special” kind of friend. A friend that is liking all your posts, and all your comments. And I guess its more because of the liking on comments that I stick out. So you send me a private message. Trying to figure out who I am, what are my intentions, and what could this be all about. It’s rarely an interesting conversation. Usually, a few boring messages. Sometimes, it doesn’t even get to the point. In the end, you still keep me as a friend. And I still continue to like all you do.

The I-thank-personally-everyone-for-every-like type of person. I didn’t even know you existed a couple weeks ago. And at first, I thought I found the only person on Facebook who was doing it. I was wrong.

We all know the “I-thank-you-for-your-friendship” type of person. I call those “the Myspace friends”. This was very common when Myspace was THE social network. It helped to get noticed and supposedly, get more friends. On Facebook, sending this through private messages doesn’t make much sense. But that’s ok. It’s just one message. Back to my “thank-you-for-the-likes-friend”.

There is a type of users on Facebook who will tag you in a comment for every like you make on their post. This means that, unless they use a script (which I doubt), they write a personal comment for everyone. So, for example, I like their post. Under it, they write a “thank you ” comment with my name in it. I get a notification from facebook. I like that comment back. Etc.

Facebook algorithms must go crazy here, for sure. And I can’t imagine how much time is spent writing all those comments. Some people should really better learn to code.

The I-will-just-like-10-things-on-your-profile people. I don’t know if you do this to all your friends or if it is a way to protest, mock or cheer the [loveMachine]. It usually happens after a new friendship relation is created. Or at random times. I suddenly get 10 likes in about 30 seconds from one person. Are they using a script? Is it common behavior when making new friends? Is it a way to pay back for all the likes received? I actually have no idea. And I never met anyone like that prior to the running of the [loveMachine]. So I guess, it’s related.

The we-don’t-even-speak-the-same-language profiles. You post in arabic, lingala, hebrew, spanish,… And, yes, we’re are friends. This is a perfect place where all nations, languages and religions blend together (de Coubertin would be proud). But when you write me private messages or comments, I have no idea what you are talking about. Luckily there is a “See translation” button under every post. But I’m not sure Bing can be trusted. It’s although certain that it’s not because I liked what you posted that I understood what you wrote. Let’s keep each other as a friend though, Bing might get better someday.

And last but not least, the I-am-a-plastic-artist-and-facebook-is-my-medium type of profile. You’re a crowd. I knew Thomas Cheneseau and Systaime (aka. Michaël Borras) from a long time. They were, for me, the first ones who played with Facebook as a plastic medium. And they are still leading the pack. Were they really the first ones, I’m not sure. But there is a huge group of players now. And they all seem to want to friend me lately. To the point were I’m worrying my timeline will only be a constant streaming gallery of these kinds of work. I don’t mind though. If it has to go that way, it’s surely tells something about the medium. I just hope some of you would be more ‘thinking outside of the box’.

Anyway, the [loveMachine] will like everything your friends do on Facebook. And doing so, it seems the perfect tool to meet some of the weirdest players on the platform. I’m curious what the next 30.000 likes will come up with.

(Illustration borrowed from Facecrook)

You should not post things that you don’t want to be liked


This may seem obvious and biased, since it might only apply on Facebook. We do have different degrees of intimacy with our relations. Yet another obvious statement. But on social media, this seems to be totally ignored or, at least, not under our responsibility anymore.

On Facebook, we have close friends, lovers, ex-lovers, colleagues and friends of friends, cousins, uncles, brothers and sisters. And they all blend into this same grey group called “friends”. Maybe you’ve set up some categories or even use predefined ones like “Close Friends”, “Acquaintances” or “Restricted”. But just the perspective of classifying my relations disturbs me. I’ve solved this by considering all Facebook relations no different than any visitor on my blog. In a sense, the lowest common intimacy denominator with all of you is that you could be anybody. And this is where Facebook is tricky.

By mixing close and distant, personal and professional relationships, people tend to forget who they share with. They only keep in mind a fraction of it, which is usually the group of people they interact the most with. They might then feel disturbed if a “stranger” enters a conversation where he or she is not supposed to be interacting. This is especially true for me since I’ve been using the [loveMachine]. I have drastically increased the number of conversations where I’m perceived as a disturbance or was not even expected.

It’s seems today it is up to the “general audience” to come with the right response in accordance to the level of intimacy shared with the emitter. You can watch as if you were my closest friend, but you better not comment, mock or even signal your presence. You should know where you stand. This is certainly an inversion in the way we have been dealing with our peers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we’re always in control of how our relations would respond. But we were usually carefully choosing who we were sharing some intimate information with. Especially to protect ourselves from unwanted comments.

So let me bring that common sense again: “You should not post things you don’t want to be liked”.

#Facebook rules of play


Facebook is a theater and whether you acknowledge it or not, you’re playing a role. Many marketeers will tell you it’s better to know the rules of social media to get the best of it, but we do not all have something to sell here, even if we are certainly being sold.

You might say “I don’t care” or “I don’t do anything on Facebook anyway”, but the fact that you kept an account active means you’re playing it. Even if playing it means taking no action. And don’t tell me you never asked yourself “what am I doing here?”.

That last question, which mainly brings discomfort and awkwardness but rarely account deletion, can be answered by setting yourself a set of rules of play. Again, self-promoters and product sellers have obvious ones. But for the benefit of all, I encourage everybody to write their own and to try to stick to it.

Why? Because Facebook is changing fast and it drives us to different actions and reactions with it. By setting our own rules of play, we can have a frame through which we can analyse those changes and decide what to make of it. As an example, here are the ones I’ve been sticking to for a while now to the best of my abilities:

  1. Accept any friend request (except from click farms and underage).
  2. Accept all events invitations.
  3. Accept any page suggestion but unfollow it immediately afterwards.
  4. Never leave a conversation. Mute it instead.
  5. Never post pictures of friends or family and never tag anyone in a photo.
  6. Never accept or send game invitations.
  7. Never publish anything that I don’t consider public.

And, of course, lately, I added “never like anything anymore” but only use the [loveMachine] for it.

Maybe for most of you these rules will make no sense at all, but just stop for a moment and reflect on the unspoken ones you’ve been setting yourself to. What are your Facebook morals? Where do you draw the line? What role are you playing?

Better play than being played.
Don’t let Facebook set all the rules.

PS: If you share your own rules of play somewhere, please drop a link to it in the comments.

Illustration for this article is taken from the Facebook Board Game by Pat C. Klein.

The frequency of love


Exactly 10 days after the official launch of the [loveMachine], I thought I might give you a little data feedback of the project.

Yes, the graphic displayed here, is the real one (made with 3d.js). As you can see, I’m running the script every 3 hours or so and the number of likes varies, going from around 30 to 400 each time I run it. It obviously follows a pattern related to daylight or activity hours. Right now, because most of my friends live in Europe, there’s more content to like during the day than in the middle of the night. The red line indicates the average number of likes done each run (~150). The way the [loveMachine] is written, it’s never going to go beyond 500 likes in one go. I have to stop the script and log out or Facebook will send me warning messages about disabling some features. If you do the math, I’m around 1200 likes a day (on posts and comments. It is not liking pages or ads). A way to increase this number would be to run the script more often during daytime. But for now and until the end of this month, I’ll keep it like this.

Other numbers not shown in the graphic but of great interest, is my friends and followers count. In 10 days, I’ve received 26 new friend requests (that I have of course all accepted) and gained 4 new followers. This is almost as much as the number on friends I gained over the last year. Do I have to mention that these latest 26 friends request were not initiated by me, and that I don’t know any of these people. There’s a lot that could be said about that and the reasons that brought them in my friendship circle. But I’ll only say this:

The more you give love, the more love you get back.

Happy Valentine’sday.