The Internet's Fake Problem

You may not realize it, but many of the videos you share, quotes you forward, and news articles that win your click are fake. Why? Money of course.

Have you seen the plane at the airshow that landed with one wing? It's totally awesome. And it's totally fake. What about the eagle that swooped down and picked up the baby in the middle of the park and flew off before dropping the baby to the ground? Also fake. Have you seen David Beckham kick 3 soccer balls an impossible distance only to land directly into 3 trash cans on the beach? You guessed it, fake.

Winston Churchill once said, "Seeing is believing."

Actually, he didn't say that at all. But if I put that phrase next to a picture of him on an e-card and pinned it, it would be treated like verifiable fact. Seeing isn't believing anymore because much of what we see, and much of what we read is fake. In fact, the growing volume of fake content is one of reasons why we are continually becoming more and more disenchanted with social media. Slowly but surely, we're all graduating in levels of skepticism.

"I know it's true, because I read about it on the internet" - George Washington

We can't even measure the amount of fake content online anymore. But you know who can? The people and companies that monetize the traffic it creates. "Charlie Bit My Finger" is a 56 second YouTube video showing 2 kids, one of which get his finger bit. The father has been paid over a half a million dollars for the traffic it produced. Clearly you can see the motive behind "going viral." Just figure about $4,000 per million views.

How about those fake quotes?

"Expectation is the root of all heartache." - Shakespeare (did not say that)

"Well behaved women rarely make history." Both Marilyn Monroe & Hillary Clinton did not say that.

"I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction." Albert Einstein (did not say that).

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy." - Martin Luther King (did not say that).

Know this - Your click puts money in someone else's pocket. You can quote me on that.

Here's the fake problem: It takes a lot of real work for real content to get real clicks. It's much easier for fake content to get clicks, views, & page loads - hence the rise of so many fake news outlets. Fake news create outlandish headlines that are carefully crafted to win your click. And they are winning, all day, everyday. But what does this do to real news and real content? For one, the headlines for real news often aren't nearly as interesting as those for fake news. So the fake news wins. Pick your story - "[insert celebrity name] Dies", "UFO Sighting on San Francisco Freeway", "iPhone 6 to come with Hologram Technology", "MH370 Found." and the list goes on and on. One of those probably would have won your click. I know the iPhone example would have gotten mine.

Here's my rule of thumb - Verify the Viral

Thinking about reposting that story, retweeting that incredibly relevant quote, or sharing that unbelievable news clip? Spoiler alert - it's probably unbelievable for a reason.

This practice has put the real news outlets in a real pickle. They're watching their click count go down while the virally fake are gaining click-share. So what do they do in return? Well, this:

"You won't believe what this mom did to her toddler."

"Why Obama's Use of this word is so important."

"What this mom saw left her in tears."

"This looks like a normal painting, but when I saw the truth, my jaw dropped to the floor."

"Clinton gets booed off stage, but not before saying this!"

In response to the internet's fake problem, the real news outlets are dropping to the most desperate of teaser headlines. This will only hurt them in the end. It won't take long before each and every one of us are sick and tired of being fooled into news stories of no value. We pay with our click & our time, and we gain nothing in return. We will all stop clicking eventually.

So, how do we solve this problem? Easy. Verify the Viral. Apply the internet's justice system, "fake until proven authentic." Question the author. Who published that unbelievable news clip? CNN, or M&M Breaking World News Inc.? Hint, you've never heard of one of those. Chances are it's fake. For that 100 year old quote that is amazingly relevant today? Google it. Did Einstein really say that? If you're going to forward it, at least make sure it's legit. Your click & share has value, so treat it that way. Think about it, if a full grown eagle really flew down and picked up a baby, don't you think someone like NBC or Fox News would have picked up the story?

You CAN help. Verify the viral.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014 in Websites
Facebook Fatal error: Uncaught CurlException: 28:

Are you a Facebook developer getting that error? Sure you could spend hours reading forum after forum about how everyone else is having the same problem, or you could read the fix below.

Here is the fix to the error:

1. Find your facebook.php file
2. Find this line:
  CURLOPT_USERAGENT => 'facebook-php-2.0',
3. Add this line under that line:

Save. Upload. Done. : )

Thursday, June 28, 2012 in Websites
Real Estate Photography / MLS Photos

There is a growing epidemic in the real estate community. In fact, it has spread so far and wide that if you are in real estate and aren't infected with it, you are in the minority. But before we pull back the curtain and expose the smoke and mirrors that is the real estate photography of today, let's take a trip down memory lane.

Remember when lying was a problem in lending? I mean, it's not anymore, but remember when it was? Like in 1968 when they wrote the Truth in Lending Act? Or what about 2004-2008, pre- real estate bubble? It's almost as if lenders would say anything to close a loan, or lend money to just about anyone? After all, once the loan closed, the home buyer was in the hands of the bank and no responsibility remained with the agent that "sold" the loan. Many lenders figured out if they could cloak certain line items here, make light of information over there, they could talk there way right through a maze of financial details, qualifications, points, disclosures, and simply make sure that loan closed. It's the ABC of deal making. Always Be Closing. Ultimately, that flood of dishonesty created a melt down and yielded more regulation. I know that kind of stuff doesn't happen anymore, I was just reminiscing.

History tends to repeat itself doesn't it? It's a song & dance that goes something like this:

Investors demand growth >> Thirst for profits ensue >> Lying commences >> Problems occur >> Regulation results.

Around and round we go around the merry-go-round of making money.

So let's take a look at real estate photography. We can all agree that a seller needs to post good photos of their home. In fact, they need to post great photos, if not amazing photos. Fortunately, for less than a $1000 you can get a great camera and a copy of PhotoShop. You may even be tempted to call yourself a Professional Photographer just minutes after your purchase. But whether you become a professional, or hire one, you must know that it only takes a few clicks of the mouse to go from Professional Photographer to Professional Liar. I'll explain.

The home buyer of today is shopping for homes online. They are virtually walking in and out and taking tours of homes at a mind bending rate of a dozen per minute. To catch the buyer's eye, the seller needs amazing photos to stand out in the crowd. However, it's that desire for amazing photos that has many swimming in a sea of photo manipulation, and the water is murky at best. This is where photographers and real estate agents need to understand the difference between editing and manipulation to mislead.

Is that sky not blue enough? No problem, just import whatever sky you want. Grass not green enough? A little click of color correction could have your yard looking like the 18th fairway of the PGA Masters. Oh what Photoshop can do. It can wash away the blemishes of celebrity skin, and it can turn your home into castle, French decorated and fit for a king.

So where is the line?

To find the line, you have to be honest. Are you truthfully representing a space? I'm not talking about touching up, color correction, contrast enhancement or even applying one (or ten) of those stupid filters. Did you distort the proportions of the space? Did you stretch that image to make the kitchen look bigger than it really is? If you did, you're a professional liar, not a photographer. If you plan to take your photography skills beyond the pond of real estate and into the rest of the business world, misrepresenting a photo like that will get you fired. Stretching, transforming, and distorting a space to better market it for sale is false advertising. There's the line.

When the world is looking at your photos, the round clock on the wall should still be round like it is in person - not a stretched oval. That TV mounted on the wall should look like the 16:9 ratio that it is - not the 24:9 that it looks like in the stretched photo.

Photos like these litter the MLS sites on the internet, and they are sending a message to the buyers out there. The message is this: Hey buyers, you're too stupid to notice that we're lying about this space. When lies and selling cross paths, you have to ask yourself: what else are they lying about? What else are they hiding or misrepresenting?

For you real estate agents that hire these professional photographers liars, you're lying too. Lying to make the sale. It's no different than the hated wall street broker that fudged some tiny numbers to make a million. Misrepresenting a space to make the sale is lying, and it's false advertising.

Don't make your living from lying.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 in Websites
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