Blog post

Transparency for Why You See Facebook Ads is Smart

By Whit Andrews | June 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

Very few people click the button that lets them know why a song gets played on Pandora. I don’t know how few, but I know it’s probably only marginally better than the proportion who have ever clicked the “Advanced Search” link on any search engine, which most search vendors will tell you is pretty much the dude who engineered it and his roommate.

But in enterprises and privacy, transparency and the promise of transparency are fundamental. For users who love to hate the assumptions that algorithms make, and for users who love tune them, the ability to see how they work is extremely important. In search, we call it the “What the Heck” button. (Actually, I am slightly saltier in known company, but you get the drift.)


We Are Open

My picture; Brooklyn last December.


So Facebook’s decision to peel the skin of its sometimes imbecilic ad brain is very smart. Power users can direct themselves to fiddling with knobs and dials instead of complaining. (That would be me.) Privacy advocates will have less to complain about. And the ads might get better (although any search vendor will tell you that what people do want is more important than what they think they want).

Consumerization means this will make transparency more important in enterprise search, too. I use Pandora’s and Amazon’s recommendations often to explain why vendors should make it easier for admins and superusers to understand why certain results are suggested; this will make it easier still.

When search must be accountable — and that’s not always, but it is often — transparency is a key capability.


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