Skip to main content

Facebook's very bad week: Outages and whistleblower testimony along with some good music

There's no denying Facebook had a rough week. First, still reeling from the effects of a whistleblower's interview on "60 Minutes" the night before, Manic Monday brought a 6-hour outage to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that sent people scrambling to Twitter and other apps like Signal and Telegram

Then, Not-So-Terrific Tuesday brought a Senate hearing with that same whistleblower, Frances Haugen, who detailed how she thinks Facebook put profits over people.

Friday Funday brought a much smaller outage for some of Facebook's apps that was quickly resolved.

Well, Facebook may be facing the music about its business model, but the network has helped deliver some good vibrations elsewhere recently.

Last weekend, about 50 people from around the U.S. – most of whom had never met in person – converged on my home area of northern Virginia. All were followers of a music podcast, Rockin’ the Suburbs, started five years ago by Patrick Foster and Jim Lenahan. The two previously had a podcast called Dad Rock at USA TODAY but eventually they each left for other jobs.

►Facebook whistleblower fires up Congress: Is this Mark Zuckerberg's moment of reckoning?

►Social media outage: Did the Facebook, Instagram outage have you on edge? 6 signs you need to unplug

Rockin’ the Suburbs had already gained a good following before the coronavirus pandemic. More than 200 folks belong to a Facebook group and most of the listeners supported the podcast on Patreon and contributed to episodes about music from before the beginnings of rock to new album releases.

But the March 2020 shutdown put a stop to in-person podcast recordings and concerts – and Friday night practices for Foster and his bandmates in the rock band Wingtip Sloat. So they floated the idea of podcast followers and friends connecting on Zoom instead and taking turns playing songs as a replacement for live shows.

People began looking forward to those Friday night hootenannies as weekly mental anchors during a trying year. As COVID-19 vaccines became available, folks began talking about getting together in real-life.

This past weekend, Oct. 1-3, it happened. Unfortunately, some regular participants in the U.S. could not make the trip, nor could some in the U.K. and Europe.

But travelers came from more than a dozen states including California, Oregon, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York and Texas to attend the event dubbed Suburbs Fest. They joined a dozen or so Washington area locals for a live open mic hootenanny Friday night at Settle Down Easy Brewing in Falls Church, Virginia.

The next day, Foster and Lenahan recorded three hours of in-person podcast episodes. Later, the American Legion Post 41 in Silver Spring, Maryland, hosted a concert featuring four bands including Wingtip Sloat and Frank Muffin, an Indiana band whose founders Hans and Brittany Rees had been performers on the online “hoot.”

On Sunday, a dozen attended the regular season-ending Washington Nationals game and then everyone converged for a two-hour Frank Muffin show at Ned’s Irish Sports Pub in Herndon, Virginia.

“Social media helped grow this community, specifically through the Suburbs Pod Fan Club group on Facebook,” wrote Mike Kohli, one of the travelers on the 315 Music website he curates about music in central New York. “It was like a family reunion,” he wrote.

Another attendee, Rob Gates, who wrote his first musical compositions ever during – and about – the pandemic and performed them on the “hoot” and live over the weekend with the help of Frank Muffin, said he would swear everyone had “been friends for decades.”

They were right. It did feel like a gathering of brothers – and a few sisters.

So social media can bring some good into the world. But let’s hope regulators and Big Tech itself can find ways to lessen the harms it can unleash.

What else happened in tech?

Facebook CEO's response to whistleblower. After Tuesday's hearing Mark Zuckerberg said whistleblower Frances Haugen's allegations "that we prioritize profit over safety and well-being ... (are) just not true.”

Twitch data breachStreaming platform Twitch had what appeared to be its source code posted online, along with three years' worth of records of what it pays streamers.

Windows 11Microsoft began rolling out the newest version of its operating system, a process that will continue into 2022 for owners of PCs, tablets and devices.

Game break

Nintendo on Friday released the new Nintendo Switch OLED console with a larger 7-inch screen and the new game Metroid Dread. On video game news site Kotaku, managing editor Carolyn Petit writes that Metroid Dread "possesses a raw technical prowess" she admires, but lacks the magic of the series' best entrants.

Tell us what you think

We want to hear from you! What do you want to see in the Talking Tech newsletter moving forward? Share your thoughts here

This week on Talking Tech

On the Talking Tech podcast, we discuss how the Facebook outage affected some of those with family outside the U.S. and Captain Kirk's mission to truly explore the final frontier.

Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.