Facebook – The Good, The Bad and The Update

Everybody gets so much information all day long
that they lose their common sense.
~ Gertrude Stein

One last round up of recent headlines, ledes, blog posts and soundbites from around the internet on FaceBook… So many people – and influential websites – have jumped on the FaceBook is evil / where’s my privacy bandwagon now that I feel continuing to post collections of links and blurbs on the topic is unnecessary.

The blurbs and links are below the fold, but first I’d like to throw out some thoughts I’ve been having about a possible alternative to FaceBook, in very sketchy form…


Or perhaps “OpenBook” – an “open source” FaceBook-like social media application, developed under an open source / GPL license and released for general use. Anyone who wants to set up their own special interest – or even general – social media site can download the application, run it on their own server and invite people to join. I can see it replacing a lot of the forum and bulletin board sites around now. For example, a high school or university might set up an OpenFace site for the staff, students, faculty and community/parents, or a group of Doctor Who fans might create a site focusing on bringing fans together. Much in the way that Wikipedia has spawned a legion of small, specialized wikis (for schools, on Doctor Who, etc.)

And much like Wikipedia there would also be a major, general purpose site, “OpenFace” itself, designed to be a social network for everyone. To be, in short, what FaceBook is, an alternative to FaceBook.

But with some key differences. More emphasis on communication tools for individuals and groups. Less emphasis on structures for businesses and organizations. Specific functionality built-in to facilitate use by activist groups, non-profits, and the like. As with FaceBook, the core would be: profiles, microblogging, the construction of groups and networks, and person-to-person messaging. Other functionality – photo albums, chat, etc. – could be added in later.

Key would be the structures of ownership and accountability. The main “OpenFace” site would need to be run by a non-profit board with accountability to users.

All material produced by users as part of their accounts – their profiles, posts, comments, likes and dislikes – would be owned by them and “published” under some sort of Creative Commons license, which would allow its use in the various streams on OpenFace, and some third-party connections and applications, but prohibit reuse for commercial purposes. (Prohibit something like what happened with IMBd and Gracenote, where free user contributions formed the basis for private businesses with no profits to those original users/creators.) Users would also have the ability to expunge all their data at any time.

Bandwidth and storage are cheap. Not free, but cheap and getting cheaper all the time. The open source community represents a very large collection of terrific talent and generosity that is easily capable of developing an application like “OpenFace.” Developing and implementing something like OpenFace would not seem to be an impossible challenge.

The operating costs could be cobbled together perhaps in the ways that WikiPedia’s are. I can also see some sort of advertising being an acceptable compromise – probably not targeted or contextual advertising, which has some privacy issues. But general ads, and with some sort of payment scheme for ad free accounts, and with a long term goal of funding that would remove the need for ads.

Another aspect of “OpenFace” would probably need to be migration tools, that would allow users to transfer data from other systems – such as FaceBook, LinkedIn and Google – to OpenFace, but again that seems fairly trivial. And perhaps also tools that would allow linkages with FaceBook during a transition period, republishing items from OpenFace to FaceBook accounts – allowing users switching to OpenFace to maintain contact with their FaceBooks friends. Though I would imagine FaceBook might object to that.

Along the same lines, a current key trend in social media is aggregation sites – sites that pull together streams from, eg, Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc., with your email accounts and other more private sources. OpenFace could build aggregation tools in from the beginning, making it both more powerful and more appealing. Particularly given its robust privacy tools and commitments.

Initially, OpenFace would attract a small but interesting group of users. People put off by FaceBook’s hegemonic aims or its disrespect for privacy. People who are committed to notions of open source and “information wants to be free.” It would be a self-selected crowd with a particular social streak – a target “audience” that would appeal to groups that are now active on FaceBook – non-profits like Medicin Sans Frontier and Planned Parenthood, companies like Demotix, and media outlets like AlterNet.

As more and more users and businesses joined OpenFace, it would develop momentum, in the same way that FaceBook has, and start attracting a general crowd.

At which point the issue of commercial enterprises would have to be considered. Consider Peet’s Coffee. I like Peet’s Coffee. I have been a loyal and enthusiastic Peet’s customer since the original Peet’s opened in Berkeley. But on FaceBook, being a friend of Peet’s simply means getting ads from them inserted into my stream. Do I need or want that?

Obviously, users on OpenFace would have the ability to opt in to such things, or opt out, as they do on FaceBook (or did; today all sorts of ads started popping up on my FaceBook home, reflecting all the books, movies and music I had listed in my profile: I didn’t sign up for that, and spent some time culling most of the obviously “monetizable” entries from my bio). But even so, would we really want to allow blatant advertising equal time in our streams?

Maybe there could be rules restricting the kind of content companies and groups could post in people’s streams. For instance, GreenPeace could post about an issue having to do with whaling, but couldn’t post an ad for its new calendar. I can see how that would be hard to work out, but not impossible.

It might mean that initially most purely commercial enterprises – like Peet’s – wouldn’t be interested in having a presence on OpenFace. But once the user base was large enough, they might feel compelled to join. And that might provide part of the funding picture. In the same way that Craigslist only charges fees for a limited number of uses – posting job and sex ads – OpenFace might require fees from, say, all commercial, for-profit entities, with a fee scale of some sort so that a local bookstore, corner coffee house or neighborhood restaurant would pay little or nothing, whereas Starbucks, Borders and Chevron would have to pay a very great deal indeed.

I want to stress again that these are very preliminary thoughts – but maybe they will help to get a conversation going about what sort of society we want to see evolving on the internet. And whether it will be a genuine “public sphere” in bits and bytes, an online agora, or something more like chatting in the food court at the mall, under the surveillance cams.

Now, on to the links and blurbs…

Links, Blurbs and the Like

Hey gang, Gulf Oil Spill has its very own official BP/US gov. Facebook page!: “What’s the only thing that could possibly make the catastrophic Gulf oil spill any worse? Facebook! Here’s a Facebook page launched by the joint U.S. and BP spill response team. So, what, we’re supposed to hit the ‘Like’ button?”

(via Boing Boing.)

Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative: “Facebook has gone rogue, drunk on founder Mark Zuckerberg’s dreams of world domination. It’s time the rest of the web ecosystem recognizes this and works to replace it with something open and distributed.

Facebook used to be a place to share photos and thoughts with friends and family and maybe play a few stupid games that let you pretend you were a mafia don or a homesteader. It became a very useful way to connect with your friends, long-lost friends and family members. Even if you didn’t really want to keep up with them.

Soon everybody — including your uncle Louie and that guy you hated from your last job — had a profile.

And Facebook realized it owned the network.”

(via Epicenter | Wired.com.)

Reports: Facebook hires ex-FTC chair to defend privacy issues: “Heavy controversy, scrutiny over privacy changes may have lead Facebook to beef up its legal team with a big-gun antitrust attorney.”

(via Macworld.)

Make Up Your Mind Facebook, Because Your Privacy Controls Are A Mess: “ince last week’s chat exploit, I’ve received further tips of Facebook ‘security bugs’. Only each time they’ve turned out not to be bugs at all, but, well, features. With regard to the site’s privacy controls, users are clearly confused. This confusion, I suspect, is leading to over sharing, which Facebook’s critics say is intentional. More sharing equals greater monetization opportunities. As an example, a privacy quirk on Facebook appears to produce the following scenario: User A sends a friend-request to user B but they choose not to accept, at least not yet (it’s a pending request, so they haven’t declined either). However, just by issuing that request, some of user B’s activity begins showing up in user A’s Facebook News Feed under ‘Most Recent’. That’s probably OK, assuming user B knows what they are doing. But, more bizarrely, the feed could also show who user B has recently befriended.”

(via TechCrunch.)

Are social media, social?: “I have been thinking a great deal about social media these days not only because of their importance, but also because of their ubiquity. There are some fundamental contradictions at work here that need more discussion.”

(via rburnett.)

Facebook backlash time: “*It’s in the air this season, so if you’re into that, you might want a look at a couple of these ticked-off screeds.



*Personally, I’d be interested in what happens to all this Facebook data when Facebook pulls a Friendster and naturally implodes in another five years or so. By 2016, there oughta be room for all that stuff on a single Chinese thumbdrive.”

(via Beyond The Beyond.)

McDonald’s To Use Facebook’s Geolocation App: “Would you want people to know you’re eating your fifth Big Mac in a week at exactly the moment you eat it? McDonald’s and Facebook will let you do just that.”

(via digg.com: Stories / Popular.)

Confusing *a* public with *the* public ?: “Buzzmachine – By Jeff Jarvis – May. 08 (Opinion) – I think Facebook’s problem lately with its disliked like button (and Google’s problem with the start of Buzz) is that they confuse the notion of the public sphere—that is, all of us—with the idea of making a public—that is, the small societies we create on Facebook or join on Twitter. Private v. public is not a binary decision; there is a vast middle inbetween that is about the control of our own publics.”

(via NewsTrust.)

Spotted: Facebook’s Check-In Functionality: “Code doesn’t lie. Over the past several weeks, there’s been a lot of speculation about Facebook’s location functionality. At least part of that speculation can end now. We now know what Facebook is planning to launch with regard to location shortly, because it’s right there in their code.”

(via digg.com: Stories / Popular.)

The Tell-All Generation Learns When Not To, at Least Online: “Members of the under 30 tell-all generation are rethinking what it means to live out loud.”

(via NYT > Home Page.)

Infographic: Facebook’s “anti-privacy monopoly”: “In an essay and handy infographic, DeObfuscate lays out the inverse relationship between Facebook’s growing market share and the erosion of user privacy.

Related: rocket.ly’s list of 10 reasons you should delete your account on Facebook, and why Primevector thinks canceling out of Facebook is a great idea right about now.

Finally, words of wisdom tweeted by Tim Spalding over the weekend:

Why do free social networks tilt inevitably toward user exploitation? Because you’re not their customer, you’re their product.”

(via Boing Boing.)

Facebook Glitch Brings New Privacy Worries: “A major security flaw in Facebook’s privacy settings heightened a feeling among many users that it was becoming hard to trust the service to protect their personal information.

For many users of Facebook, the world’s largest social network, it was just the latest in a string of frustrations.

On Wednesday, users discovered a glitch that gave them access to supposedly private information in the accounts of their Facebook friends, like chat conversations.

Not long before, Facebook had introduced changes that essentially forced users to choose between making information about their interests available to anyone or removing it altogether.

Although Facebook quickly moved to close the security hole on Wednesday, the breach heightened a feeling among many users that it was becoming hard to trust the service to protect their personal information.

‘Facebook has become more scary than fun,’ said Jeffrey P. Ament, 35, a government contractor who lives in Rockville, Md.”

(via Privacy Digest.)

Facebook ID Hack: Disturbing How Simple It Is: “It’s a little disturbing to know how simple it is to walk away with anyone’s information on Facebook. For instance, a simple ‘hack’ can retrieve the full name and Facebook URL for any account holder, given nothing but the Facebook ID number. All you need to do is open your browser, type in ‘http://graph.facebook.com’, and append a number.”

(via digg.com: Stories / Popular.)

Facebook: New “social” features secretly install malware: “Facebook’s privacy Chernobyl, part umptybillion. Snip from Macworld: ‘If you visit certain sites while logged in to Facebook, an app for those sites will be quietly added to your Facebook profile. You don’t have to have a Facebook window open, you don’t need to be signed in to these sites for the apps to appear, there’s no notification, and there doesn’t appear to be an option to opt-out anywhere in Facebook’s byzantine privacy settings.'”

(via Boing Boing.)

Facebook Status Updates Show Which Countries Are Happiest: “Facebook has extended its ‘Gross National Happiness’ prototype app to 18 new countries. The app analyzes words in status updates like ‘awesome’ or ‘tragic’ to track changes in the collective emotional state of its users.

When Facebook applied the methods to its U.S. userbase last year, it found that happiness went way up on holidays and way down when celebrities like Michael Jackson or Heath Ledger passed away. While the results of the study weren’t surprising, the idea of using status updates to measure national happiness was a novel one.”

(via Mashable!.)

Facebook Adding Location Features This Month [REPORT]: “Information has leaked that Facebook is set to roll out location-based features for users and brands as soon as this month. According to Advertising Age, users could see location options any day now.

These features will include the ability to check in at various locations, including retail spots and restaurants. We’re unclear as to whether users will be able to add or customize their own locations, but we are fairly positive that this move will put Foursquare, Brightkite, Gowalla and other location-based services in an uncomfortable position.”

(via Mashable!.)

Tim O’Reilly: Steve Jobs Is Trying To Build A Fundamental Challenge To The Web: “during his keynote talk at Web 2.0 Expo, Tim O’Reilly took a look at the State of the Internet Operating System — a term he uses to describe the intertwined web services like search, the social graph, and payments systems that power applications on the web (and increasingly, mobile devices)….

Compared to companies like Microsoft, Google, and Apple, Facebook has fewer bullet points on the report card.  But it has one key asset, and it’s a big one: the social graph. He also says that Facebook has modified its approach — it used to be primarily inbound, where applications were running in Facebook itself through its Platform. Now, the service is focusing more on how it can be useful for others (which ultimately benefits Facebook as well).

This focus, O’Reilly says, is key: companies should be creating more value for users than they’re capturing. And in that respect, he says that Facebook is currently in front.”

(via TechCrunch.)

The Age Of Facebook: Excerpts From The New Book By David Kirkpatrick: “The long awaited book about the first few years of Facebook is almost here. You can pre-order David Kirkpatrick’s The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World for the Kindle here and in hardcover here.

In the meantime, Fortune has access to two excerpts from the book, and this stuff is solid gold. ”

(via TechCrunch.)

The Growth of Social Media [VIDEO]: “Did you know that if Facebook was a country, it would now be the third largest country in the world? It passed the U.S. earlier this year and is now eclipsed only by China and India in terms of raw population. That mind-boggling statistic — along with a few dozen more — are showcased in the video below, demonstrating social media’s explosive growth in recent years.”

(via Mashable!.)

5 Ways Facebook’s Open Graph Will Impact E-commerce: “it is clear that Facebook is looking to become the standard in social personalization for everything you do online. And the new social features and direction that they announced will undoubtedly have an impact on the broader world of e-commerce.”

(via Mashable!.)

Facebook App Brings Back Data(NYT): “The social-networking juggernaut has been removing freestyle prose that users had added to their profiles about favorite activities, interests, music, books, movies and TV shows — sometimes painstakingly over years — and putting in its place links to related public pages.

The change, decried by some as a blow to both free expression and privacy”

(via Privacy Digest.)

Yet another Facebook privacy risk: emails Facebook sends leak user IP address: “We’ve been covering the mounting privacy violation woes for Facebook users here on Boing Boing in recent weeks—here’s another issue to be aware of. Facebook base64-encodes your IP address in every emailed event that you interact with.

Matt C. at Binary Intelligence Blog explains that Facebook’s automated email notifications (which go out when, say, a friend comments on your status or sends you a message) appear to contain the IP address of the user who caused that Facebook email to be sent”

(via Boing Boing.)

Facebook’s Disconnect: Open Doors, Closed Exits: “This guest post was written by Rohit Khare, an expert in internet standards, he is the co-founder of Ångströ and KnowNow.

Several of my friends recently quit using Facebook, drawing a line at the latest in a long line of changes to their privacy policy. That doesn’t mean they quit using the social Web: they are still using a slew of different services that specialize in sharing photos, links, events, resumes, and updates. What it meant for me is merely that Facebook quit connecting me to their life online — but I can always re-connect to those friends myself, thanks to the Open Web.”

(via TechCrunch.)

Facebook’s Gone Rogue; It’s Time for an Open Alternative: “Facebook’s latest moves shows the company cares more about dominating the web than treating its users respectfully. It’s time the web come up with an open alternative to return control to users.”

(via Wired News.)

The Facebook Privacy War: What Is Personal Data?: “You’re pretty upset (again) about the Facebook privacy changes (again). You’re not alone. But you really didn’t think anything you shared on the internet was ‘personal data,’ did you?”

(via Wired News.)

6 Silly Things Facebook “Taught” Us About Social Networking: “From privacy being ‘pointless’ to Farmville addiction, Facebook has shown us some of the most ridiculous aspects of social networking, yet so many people do it and more are doing it every day. What are people thinking?”

(via digg.com: Stories / Popular.)

Ask Facebook Your Privacy Questions: “Trying to quell concerns over recent changes to Facebook’s privacy policy and platform, Elliot Schrage, vice president of public policy at Facebook, has agreed to answer reader questions.”

(via NYT > Home Page.)

Betty White’s SNL Monologue Blasts Facebook [VIDEO]: “Betty White hosted Saturday Night Live tonight, the result of months of campaigning by members of the Facebook page Betty White to Host SNL (please?)!. The Golden Girls star took the opportunity to both thank and ridicule her Facebook fans.

White commented in her monologue, ‘I really have to thank Facebook … I didn’t know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that’s only because I’m polite. People say ‘But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.’ Well at my age, if I wanna connect with old friends, I need a Ouija Board. Needless to say, we didn’t have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phonebook, but you wouldn’t waste an afternoon with it.’”

(via Mashable!.)

The Facebook Privacy War: What is Personal Data?: “There is a current campaign on the internet for users to not log into Facebook for a whole day on June 6th, 2010. This comes in response to the recent changes made by Facebook to their privacy settings, especially to the one leaving the default “on” instead of “off.” Basically it became quite apparent that Facebook is in fact, a business, and that your so-called “personal” data was for sale. To economists and investors, this was no surprise at all. They all expected Facebook to make a genuine attempt to make money at some point, and what better way than demographic targeted advertising?

When it came to the users though, the backlash to the recent changes and integration of Facebook across multiple sharing networks has been less than mixed. It’s been negative. There have been constant tweets and articles written about Facebook’s complete disregard for our “personal” data.

(via GeekDad | Wired.com.)

Report: Facebook Location Coming In A Few Weeks. But Is It Foursquare Or Twitter?.

Yesterday, AdAge ran a story that Facebook was preparing to roll out its first true location-based service (beyond its for-fun Presence thing). The story said that the social network was partnering with McDonald’s for a special Facebook app that would allow people to check-in to restaurants and get deals….

Facebook doesn’t want to destroy startups, they want all startups to use them as a central point to distribute their services. They want to seize control of information on the Internet (not necessarily in an evil way).

Plus, with all the recent privacy concerns about Facebook, launching an inclusive location service seems like possibly the worst idea in the world. AdAge wonders if they would make it opt-in or opt-out — if it were opt-out I think the blogosphere would explode.

(via TechCrunch.)

McDonald’s to Use Facebook’s Upcoming Location Feature: “CHICAGO (AdAge.com) — Facebook is preparing to launch location-based status updates for its users. But the social network is also planning to offer it to marketers, including McDonald’s.

As early as this month, the social-networking site will give users the ability to post their location within a status update. McDonald’s, through digital agency Tribal DDB, Chicago, is building an app with Facebook would allow users to check in at one of its restaurants and have a featured product appear in the post, such as an Angus Quarter Pounder, say executives close to the deal.

Facebook is not directly charging McDonald’s to build the app; Facebook generally does not charge developers to build on its platform. But executives with knowledge say it was negotiated as part of a bigger media buy on Facebook, and McDonald’s will be the first marketer to take advantage of the service.

(via Advertising Age.

Zynga Expected to Launch Social Gaming Site: “Zynga, the online game developer of Farmville and Scramble fame, may be looking to split from its primary platform partner, Facebook. According to a report from Techcrunch, Zynga is gearing up to launch its own social gaming network called Zynga Live.

Zynga is responsible for some of the most popular apps on Facebook. According to All Facebook’s app leaderboard, four Zynga apps are currently in the top ten, including number one Farmville, number six Café World, and numbers eight and nine, Mafia Wars, and Petville. Zynga also makes games for other platforms, including MySpace, MSN, My Yahoo, and the iPhone.

According to an unnamed Techcrunch source’s e-mail, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus announced the Zynga Live intiative and confirmed the Zynga-Facebook tension Thursday afternoon.”

(via PCWorld.)

Polyvore’s Virtual Styling Tool Aims To Be More Social With Facebook Connect: “Polyvore, the startup lets web shoppers pull their favorite items any online store and mix and match to create personalized outfits online. Users can then share their creations on the site and can then buy the items shown. The site is seeing rapid growth, with over 6 million unique visitors per month thanks to new branding efforts and the launch of Facebook Connect.”


Facebook fixes leaky IP problem related to Facebook auto-sent emails: “On Friday, I blogged a privacy problem with Facebook: certain emails auto-sent by Facebook leaked users’ IP addresses. Good news on that issue: Facebook policy communications officer Barry Schnitt updated us in the comments to let us know that the issue has been resolved. ”

(via Boing Boing.)

Q&A: Facebook users aren’t outraged over privacy issues: “Facebook executive Ethan Beard defends the firm’s privacy policies in an interview with Computerworld.”

(via Macworld.)

Facebook Begins Testing ‘Offers’ Payment Option Beyond Games: “Last month, Facebook started experimenting with a new payment option for a select handful of game developers: it began supporting Offers as a way to earn its virtual currency, Facebook Credits. Now, the site is beginning to expand that test — this morning I noticed that clicking the ‘Get More Credits’ link at the top of Facebook’s application page showed me a new option: ‘Earn for free by shopping’. Selecting that displays 38 different offers through a partnership with offer provider TrialPay.”

(via TechCrunch.)


2 responses to “Facebook – The Good, The Bad and The Update

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Facebook – The Good, The Bad and The Update « the bad days will end -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: Facebook – About Face « the bad days will end

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s