Facebook Bait and Switched My Life

Today is Quit Facebook Day – and I am in two minds. On the one hand, Facebook has been great, I have been able to easily connect to people all over the world, keeping in touch with their daily updates, their photos, the changes in their lives and the things they are reading, watching and thinking about. And it is not that I can’t do this in other ways, it’s that Facebook made it so easy for me (and for them).

But on the other hand, I have been a marketer and a technologist for over 20 years, and when I look at Facebook, I see a goldmine. I can see millions of people logging on, interacting, sharing their interests, their behaviours, their likes and dislikes not just with their “networks” but also with Facebook. And maybe even with Facebook’s partners. It is this latter form of sharing that concerns me.

The Age of unPrivacy

Anyone you speak with will have a view of privacy. Governments create legislation to enforce minimum standards on businesses, individuals join “do not call registers” to maintain some distance from brands and marketers and all the while, commentators announce the “death of privacy”.

Clearly as we shift more of our behaviour to the web, it becomes searchable – the great Google web spiders reaching out and collating the minutiae of our lives like the all-seeing eye of Sauron. If the Devil is in the details, then the scattered breadcrumbs of our online lives provide more than just a glimpse into our behaviours – they can be aggregated into patterns, codified and predicted.

This is even more pronounced in the walled garden of Facebook where our tastes and interests can be fed back to us – by Facebook ads, recommendations and suggestions. Take a look for yourself – create your own Facebook ad and you’ll see how minutely targeted your personal advertising campaign can be.

What Facebook are doing is pushing its members to allow ever more public access to our private information. It is doing so, not out of some grander view of the shifting nature of “privacy” as CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have us believe – there is real money to be made. As Chris Saad points out:

Most of Facebook's very mainstream users, however, still just want a private place to keep up with their friends and family. In short, the economic interests of the service are not in line with the interests of its users. Despite this, Facebook has been forced to smashed big cracks in its privacy blanket and started forcing its users, en mass, to adopt more transparent and public online personas.

Forrester analyst, Josh Bernoff suggests that Zuckerberg may well be right – that privacy isn’t a cultural norm anymore. But my view is that those active in their concern over these changes at Facebook are well ahead of the mainstream – that the issues presented won’t impact the early technology adopters in a significant way (after all, the Reclaim Privacy site has been doing a roaring trade for weeks). It’s the other 99% of Facebook’s 500 million members who are either confused by the changes, unaware of what the impact will be or simply don’t engage with these types of issues.

The Bait and Switch

At the end of Simon Mainwaring’s article on this subject he asks the question – “do you believe Facebook is to blame for a bait and switch?”. To that, I’d say yes. What was on offer has now materially changed.

For most of us, joining Facebook meant entering a social compact – we’d share the content, context and contacts of our lives – and we’d do so using Facebook’s social networking platform. We’d be able to control who had access to what we share and Facebook could monetize this in ways that worked in good faith. Accordingly, we (the public) joined en-masse. We tagged ourselves. We made Facebook the #1 photo sharing site on the web. We made it the largest social network in the world. And we helped it to transform from a bit player in the crowded social networking space to it’s leader.

Changing this compact now is difficult – and has not been communicated well. Rather than being transparent about their intentions, Facebook have opted to spin the changes, suggesting that the world has changed and that Facebook is moving to accommodate this.

As Bruce Nussbaum suggests, Facebook’s challenge is not to do with the purchase or products or services, but the exchange of value in what has become a cultural product.

Ownership in the social media world of networks is different from selling products and services in the traditional marketplace. Understanding the underlying cultural context of "free," "gift," and "creation" is important to businesses, including and perhaps especially high tech companies. It is not impossible to monetize that which is free. Apple did that with 99 cent songs on iTunes. But it is difficult.

I am always amazed to see that social networking sites such as Facebook (and to a lesser extent, Twitter) undervalue or misunderstand the importance of trust and transparency in the prosecution of their businesses. The TRUST that once existed between Facebook and at least some members of its user base has been seriously damaged in recent weeks – and the Quit Facebook Day is yet another milestone that will be marked.

So, Will You Delete Your Account?

I have a feeling that the Quit Facebook Day will come and go without a great deal of impact. At least initially. But for me, it is a turning point. It is the day on which Facebook reached its zenith – and from here the long, slow slide from prominence will begin. It happened with MySpace (which of course is still around). It happened with Friendster. And it will also happen with Facebook.

And now, I am off to delete my account. It will be replaced with a business account to manage aspects of my work – but the connections, the flavour and the personality will disappear. It’s time to find a new way to share.

The BP Oil Disaster Mashup

When we hear about the BP Oil Disaster – it is difficult to get a sense of the scale of the impact. But what if we could superimpose the spill dimensions on a map of your local area? What if it was possible to take the data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and mash it up with a Google map?

Andy’s website does just that. You can choose your location and show just how far the slick would extend up and down your own coastline.

The BP Oilspill Over Sydney

In this image we can see that the spill would reach from Newcastle in the north to almost Shell Harbour in the south. It would reach as far as Cessnock in the Hunter Valley, extend over the Blue Mountains to Lithgow and reach far out to sea. If you wanted to drive from north to south in a car, it would take you about four hours at highway speeds.

If this happened on your doorstep, do you think you would consider it a spill – or a disaster? Would you take it personally? I would.

Via Kristen Obaid

Censorship is a Bad Idea – It’s Time to Tell Your Mum

I have written many times about internet censorship, but in case you have not heard – censorship is a bad idea.

The Australian Federal Government is about to introduce mandatory internet filtering. If implemented it will make Australia the most heavily censored country in the western world. They’ve told us it’s to protect the kids but the truth is it doesn’t. By telling your mum the facts you will help her realise that if she really wants to protect kids online mandatory filtering isn’t the answer.

To learn more – and to find out how best to explain to your mum just why internet censorship is such a problem (and no it won’t stop child pornography), take a look at the It’s Time to Tell Mum website. It’s in all our interests.

What’s Mine is Yours – Collaborative Consumption

If you’re connected, you’ve seen the symptoms. Reputations are being built on the good will, personal standing and generosity exhibited by individuals, not because they want something, but because they have something TO GIVE. To share. And as these people come together – for a cause, for a moment or to make a lasting impact – they are at the same time, transforming the notion of collectivity. Gone are the happy-hippy communities of the 60s. These uber-connected communities are imaginatively grappling with the very notion of economics, of consumption – and innovation.

These communities are forming almost moment-by-moment, sustaining themselves on principles not rules. They say much about where we belong. And who we belong WITH.

In the coming months, you’ll be hearing a whole lot about collaborative consumption – the new book by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. In What's Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, the two authors track the rise of personal reputation and the way that trust between strangers is enabling new forms of commerce, consumption and collaboration.

Check out the video below for a taste of what’s to come. Maybe you’ve seen it already. Maybe you’re part of it. But without a doubt, you’ll want to read it and find out more.

Collaborative Consumption Groundswell Video from rachel botsman on Vimeo.

Social Media: Who’s On Your Blogroll – And Who Cares?

What we loosely call "social media" is built on shifting sands. When I first started blogging what now seems like eons ago, blogrolls were a hot topic. Even now I still get the occasional email from someone asking for a “link exchange”. (And if you are reading this, please note, I will link to you as long as you write something worth reading.) 

Blogrolls – those long lists of websites scrolling down the side of a blog were the equivalent of gold, achieving four things at once:

  1. Roll call: It is an easy to use way of reading your favourite blogs. Simply click through and read
  2. Inbound links: Creating an inbound link for another website pushes it further up the Google search rankings
  3. Social capital: When you link to another website it provides an easy way to drive traffic to another’s website. Just like you share your ideas and content on your blog, links on a blogroll allow you to share your readers
  4. Social proof: A link on a blogroll shows your readers (and the authors of linked websites) what you consider worth reading. It’s an endorsement and acts as a form of social proof.

Over the last couple of years, the practice of updating and actively managing a blogroll has fallen away. In my case, it is to do with the sheer number of quality blogs that I read – I have effectively moved my blogroll to a feedreader – so it no longer functions as a roll call of my favourite blogs.

However, the remaining points hold true. Inbound links are still important for website rankings, creating context for your readers via links to other sites is essential and in the great sea of anonymous web analytics, it’s great to know that YOU read ME.

So it is in this spirit that I am making a concerted effort to update my blogroll. Today I will be adding the following blogs to my long-neglected blogroll.

  • Matthew Gain: Writes a great blog on PR and the changing media landscape. He provides deep analysis on interesting topics (well, interesting to me, anyway). His blog (and Posterous) site are a great filter – it’s what you need without the distraction
  • Dave Phillips: The Cafe Dave blog is a lovely mix of personal thinking and coffee reviews. A regular of coffee mornings here in Sydney, Dave is to go-to guy when it comes to getting a latte just right.
  • Gavin Costello: Opinionated and pithy, the franksting blog dissects a range of social media and product marketing topics. You’ll love it.
  • Vocal Branding: The always charming Tim Noonan has a special gift. He can hear the way your brand makes people feel. And if you come to coffee morning he will read back the personal brand in your voice. Scared?
  • Sales Habitudes: I was lucky enough to meet Jeff Garrison during a recent trip to the US. I was amazed to be introduced to an energized group of bloggers and social media folk living and working in and around Des Moines, Iowa. Jeff’s blog brings a refreshing focus on sales – yes, social media + sales. Believe it.
  • Rob James: The blog of local startup Posse’s CTO, is full of tech, gadgets and tips. But I am hoping for some behind the scenes storytelling as Rob helps Posse take on the big players of the music promotion world.
  • My Proactive Life: The energetic Andrew Blanda has stopped talking and started walking. It’s a great blog (and personal diary) about transforming your life … from someone who is in the midst of doing just that.
  • A Cat in a Tree: Cathie McGinn’s intriguingly titled blog muses on topics close to her heart – from work to life and all the things in between.
  • B2B Marketing Insider: Michael Brenner’s prolific blogging on B2B topics is a must read for the serious marketer. How he finds time to also write the B2C Marketing Insider blog as well is anyone’s guess.
  • Happiness We Share: Nicola Swankie has the curious ability to weave marketing, social media and personal history into compelling blog posts. Definitely one to watch.
  • Warlach’s World: Lachlan Hibbert-Wells is a self-confessed geek. More on the cultural studies side of the fence than technology, he shines a light on the strange dance that we people do with the gadgets and technologies we love.
  • Marc Jarman: Promises to blog more. Of course, promises are cheap. I am hoping to see more on the orchestration of social media!

Cup of Chaos Special: BP Global PR

bpglobalpr For those of you have missed it, a fake Twitter account has been setup under the name @BPglobalPR. At the moment they have almost 6000 followers – but this is bound to grow given the quality of their incendiary and humorous tweets (as shown).

Will this cause more noise? Will it generate action? Is the unfolding environmental disaster being echoed across the internet? Truly this is a cup of chaos worth following.

Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

This week there’s a mish-mash of ideas, images and presentations. There’s food for thought, stimulation for the senses and some short, sharp shocks to kick start your imagination.

  1. Valeria Maltoni shares 100 thoughts on social media
  2. Shiv Singh talks social influence marketing and the convergence of online and offline identities
  3. Jamie Madigan walks us through the psychology of games – why we do what we do with friends (and screw that other guy)
  4. Jye Smith shows exactly how to measure the viral nature of video via the Nike Write the Future video – make your content great, but unsearchable – then leak the direct URL. From 100,000 to 6 million views in a few days. Seems like they know what they are doing.
  5. Angus shares photos of the Carpet of Flowers in Brussels. Stunning. Makes me miss my friend Luc.

Come to Breakfast with the Face Behind Facebook

Wherever you look across the social web, you are bound to trip over some aspect of Facebook. Whether it is a NFP using Facebook ads, pages or marketplace, or blog posts questioning the changes to the privacy arrangements, there is no doubt that Facebook as a platform, tool and yes, a social network, is a hot topic.

But it is notoriously difficult to get face time with Facebook – especially here in Australia. So if you are like me, you’ll jump at the opportunity to spend some quality time with Paul Borrud, Head of Facebook Australasia.

Siobhan Bulfin, energetic organiser of the ConnectNow conferences, is hosting a breakfast on June 3, 2010 in Sydney. Tickets are $50. You can book via Eventbrite.