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.

« Facebook is engineering relationships » − Joanne Mcneil


We kind of know this, because this is the main reason why people get (and stay) on Facebook: to get in touch with people. But how far is this “engineering” carried on by Facebook and how long are we going to be, if not comfortable, at least under the influence of it.

Thanks to a series of tweets, my attention was brought to this recent talk by Joanne Mcneil about “Facebook and Algorithmic culture” done at the Lift Conference earlier this week.

In the video recording above and her online notes, she is reminding us that Facebook knows more about us than our families. That THE social network has a 60% chance of knowing who is our romantic lover even if we haven’t disclosed this information and can also tell if this relationship will last at all (*). The site also knows your sexual preferences before you had a chance to talk to your family about it (*) or whether you are a drug user and which is your preferred trip (*). And one might say it is not that important until you realize they sell this information to who ever ask for it.

Then she’s also pointing to the fact that we feel so much like robots using Facebook. We all recognize that Facebook is “great” to remind us about friends birthdays. But what choices does it give us than just copy paste a “happy birthday” message on the person’s timeline. And that person to have to “like back” all these comments.

Matthew Plummer Fernandez (@m_pf) has pointed out that Google has recently patented an application that would assist users in replying to these social interactions by auto-generating responses and suggesting it to the user. You can already get a Romantimatic app for your iP(hone|ad) that will periodically remind you to send a “I love you” message to your lover, the recipe for a long lasting relation. The question is when these type of applications will send these messages on their own. Who’s playing robot here?

As you can see, the [loveMachine] project, I’m working on right now, is somehow a next step (dumbed down version) of all this. “Why not already like all what your friends do on Facebook” is a statement, a social and artistic experience, to question all these social engineering practices we are brought into.

I want to conclude this post with a citation from this article “I Didn’t Tell Facebook I’m Engaged, So Why Is It Asking About My Fiancé?” by Sara Marie Watson.

Our programs and their programmers are making design and engineering choices that have the potential to influence how we think of and define ourselves on a broader scale. […] But how did Facebook insert itself into our most personal relationships like this? As I think my writing this article makes clear, for me, this isn’t even a privacy issue. It’s more about my relationship to the machine, and the scary glimpse I just got of where design decisions and algorithmic assumptions are heading.

#FB 10y – #lvMchn 0d

Been waiting for this day for the past 2 months. It’s Facebook’s 10 years birthday today. What’s that all about, you might ask? And you’d be right. I don’t work at Facebook and don’t own a share. So, why would I care?

Well, it’s just that I thought it would be the best day to launch the [loveMachine] project that I’ve been testing these past weeks. This time, it’s a launch “for real”, with the goal to run the software on my profile for a year or until it breaks. So this is just a post to set the numbers straight.

Today, February 4, 2014, my Facebook profile has 447 friends and 14 followers, likes 908 pages and belongs to 11 groups.

The loveMachine will be fired at an interval <3 hours.

As much data as possible will be collected during this process and published at the end of the year.



Facebook warning haiku

Since I started firing up the loveMachine on my Facebook profile, I get error messages and warning popups from time to time. Although I’m trying to predict and circumvent these occurrences, it really feels like playing darts in a crowded pub during a power outage.

Keepinq track and keeping you informed about this project, here’s the ones I collected so far. These must be rare seeings of Facebook interface and interaction designs, anyway. Who else gets to see this if you’re not trying to mess around with Mark Zuckerberg’s little gem?

« Warning: Please Slow Down »
Warning: Please slow down
I do get this one a lot. Did you notice the response buttons? Seems Mark had a Windows machine when he was a kid. He copied the Microsoft sometimes inappropriate “Ok” “Cancel” choices you didn’t have to make.

Slow down with Security Check
Same message. Yet another speeding ticket with a security check by the Facebook Police.

« You’re Temporarily Blocked »
You're temporarly blocked
They are not saying which feature has been blocked, but they say why. And I can cancel it? Cool.

« Oops »
Facebook Oops
Okay, I guess.

« Please Try Again Later »
Please Try Again Later
Okay… Wait, what? In a few minutes?

« Post Has Been Removed »
Post Has Been Removed
Hey dude, I wasn’t commenting. I was liking. Get your definitions straight, you semantic-web-god-wannabe.

As a bonus, here’s a screenshot of what Facebook looks like if you follow a link to a profile that has banned you.


Look like is hurt.

Y U No Like ?


As a social & artistic experiment, I’ve been running for the past couple weeks a script called [loveMachine] on my Facebook profile. To say it quickly without blinking, the script takes over my account and likes everything that is showing up on my timeline, be it friends posts, pictures, spotify playlists or even friends of friends comments.


I won’t go into details now about why I’ve created such a project. But since I’m receiving some “hate” messages, I thought I might give some tips about the possibilities offered by Facebook:

You can unfriend people. Yes, sadly, it’s true. In the happy-happy world of Facebook, you can remove people from your friend list. Which means they won’t receive your posts anymore and you won’t receive theirs. Although you still might see their comments and likes on a mutual friend (or fan page) post. As a result of this, sending them a private message might also end up in their “spam” box. This will also decrease your friend count by one. Note that if your posts are displayed as “public”, anybody, even people outside of your friend list, can access them and like them.

You can block people. Want to erase someone from your Facebook world? Yes, it’s possible. As a result, that person will no longer exist for you and you will no longer exist for him or her. There won’t be any way for any contact between the two. Although, past comments and actions done by you might still appear on the banned profile. Total possible Facebook relations are decreased by one.

You can categorize your friends. Don’t we all already? By creating a special category for those “running the [loveMachine]” and alikes, you can then prevent all those inside that category to access anything you post. This way, you keep them as friends, can still access their posts, but in return, they can not access and act on yours. This feature has proved to solve the binary dilemma of friending or unfriending someone. Friend count is unchanged.

You can delete your account. Well, this quite obvious. Although, “delete” might not be the appropriate word, this is how Facebook has named the feature of removing access to your account. But, so far, the [loveMachine] hasn’t provoked such a definitive reaction.

As a conclusion and as good as a Facebook friend as I can be, because of this two-way relation defined by Facebook, the more you post, the more chances the [loveMachine] will reward you with a wave of likes.

There is not much more ways than the ones described above to prevent someone from (compulsively) liking. If you come across any other way, I would be glad if you share it with me here.

It’s all about spreading the love.