From the Archive – Browser OS and the Facebook Feed Mixing Desk

Skimming through my blog history looking for examples from my past of search thinkses, I came across several things I’d forgotten about; so as part of what may become and occasional series of posts that trip back in time, here are a couple of things I came across, one that imagined the future, another that is maybe revealing from the past.

First up, from my original blog, Micro-Info, a post about Browser OS – A Single Application Operating System.

I’m not sure how this would go down with my colleagues who still believe that everyone has a desktop or laptop computer, rather than a phone, tablet, Chromebook style computers (what’s the Microsoft equivalent?) as their primary computing device…

What do I really need from my operating system, if I’m doing everything through a browser?

Part of the point behind BOS  [Browser Operating System] is that we expect to be online most of the time, ideally with a persistent connection. Once I have the BOS customised for my hardware set-up, I don’t really need a thousand and one drivers available, just in case I add a periheral [sic], if I know I’m going to be able to install the appropriate driver from the web.

What I see for BOS, therefore, is a simple, if hefty, installation profiling client that looks at my system, works out what’s there, gets the drivers I need, and bundles them for me with a single application – my heavyweight browser – in a customised BOS installer.

And that’s what I install.

Just one application – the browser. Only the drivers I need. And only the supporting functions I need to get the browser to work on my particular system.

Okay – so I thought that I’d still be plugging things into the computer and that it would require drivers for them… But the browser-centricity…? Hmmm… (for those of you who don’t particular following operating systems, see things like Chrome_OS.)

So, the second thing that caught my eye: the Facebook feed mixing desk, this time captured by the archive of the original blog:

Move the sliders and tune the content of your Facebook feed. What’s revealing about this is that the user was given some control over the ranking factors for posts that appear in the feed, along with an indication of what those ranking factors were.

So for folk who today don’t understand that the content they see is tuned (forgive the pun!) by Facebook algorithms, this provides a visual metaphor for what’s going on and who has the control. Because you can bet that: a) there are many more ranking factors now; and b) it’s up to Facebook how the faders are set. And it also hints at the oft unconsidered point: c) whose ear are the faders tuning the mix to?

(By the by, see the ad? 1 minute response time?!)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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