Monday, May 17, 2010

The Facebook Contract

I think I know why people are angry at Facebook.

When discussing new media with clients, we often talk about The Transaction: You offer a (potential) customer something in return for permission to communicate with them.

"Social Networking" sites offer tools to easily communicate with and connect with your friends and colleagues. In return for the use of these tools, you give the site access to your connections and any other data you may share. In most cases they try to use this information to create more desirable advertising.

Both sides know what they are getting and everyone is happy.

But I think people are seeing Facebook as a Bait and Switch.
They gave their information in return for easy and private contact with their friends. But the product is no longer private. So people feel literally ripped off.
They bought one thing with their valuable information, and now have something different.
And the investment isn't just in information. Most people have a lot of time invested in Facebook.
The new Facebook might be better. It might be worse. But it's DIFFERENT.
And that, I suspect, is why people are having this emotional reaction to the changing Facebook policies.

But Facebook has told us what they're doing every step of the way. Right?

No one reads Terms of Service, Privacy Policies, or End User License Agreements.
The REAL contract between users and site maintainers is written in actions.
Any site that believes it can define the relationship with the end user  is a site that has already failed.
Of course, this sort of thinking isn't unique to web sites. Television, Movies, Music, and Print all are in the process of learning this sometimes painful lesson. We just expect more from the people creating online content.

But when Facebook changed it actions (not just policies) to make it clear that nothing on Facebook is private, people learned their understanding of the site was wrong. Facebook's previous actions seem like a lie given the new policies and actions. I don't know about you, but when I discover that I believed something that proved false, I get angry. Mostly at myself for being a chump, but also at the entity that mislead me.

Facebook management really just needs to observe the Wil Wheaton Rule #5: "Don't be a dick."

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My Exit from Facebook

I'm fed up with Facebook and am working on my exit strategy.

Let's roll the clock back about a year and see what Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook had to say about another policy change:

In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work. Our goal is to build great products and to communicate clearly to help people share more information in this trusted environment.
Millions of users would argue that, today, Facebook is doing just that. Breaking our trust and sharing our information in a way we wouldn't want.

The point of Zuckerberg's post is that Facebook can't control what your friends do with your information.
That is very true.
If I share a picture with my friends (taken at say, a drunken St. Patrick's Day party), Facebook can't stop one of my friends from grabbing that picture and emailing to my boss.
But if I then choose to remove that friend from the people who can see my posts, Facebook should not show my new pictures to that person. Even if a mutual friend "likes" it.

Everyone in the online world is only two degrees away. Mix in the regular users and you're probably still less than four degrees. I know the difference between trusted friends and mortal enemies, but Facebook doesn't.

But that's not why I'm leaving Facebook.
I don't care about privacy. But the value offered by Facebook when we signed up was that they would allow us to easily post messages and pictures to a restricted group of friends.

That is no longer true. One of your friends clicking a "like" button, even if it's not on Facebook, could transmit a post or picture to the entire internet.
That person has no reasonable expectation that her action would have that consequence.
And you didn't take any action at all.
So that's just sneaky, sleazy, wrong, and evil.

 Facebook has destroyed their value proposition. If I want everything public, I'll just post to Twitter and FourSquare.

But even that's not I'm leaving Facebook.
It's because they keep changing the rules.
Or to put it more bluntly, they lie about what they intend to do with the information I share with them.
The value in the company lies in this information, and we need to stop rewarding them for bad behavior.
And the only way to stop feeding them information is to leave the system.

So here's what's going to happen.
  • When I chose to not to share my likes and interests with the entire world, Facebook deleted them from my profile.
  • I now log out every time I use Facebook so that other sites can't engage the Engine of Evil.
  • I'm confirming that all my photos are posted to other photo sharing sites.
  • I'm making sure all my contacts in my other services are up-to-date
  • In a couple weeks, I'll replace all the information in my profile with bogus data.
  • A few weeks later,  I'll delete (not "deactivate") my account. That way even if Facebook "preserves" by information, it will not be useful.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Portable Headphones: A Personal History

I replaced another set of portable headphones last week. I've had my studio "cans" for a couple decades, but I can't find portable headphones or earbuds that hold up.

Let's run down my recent examples:

Original Apple iPod Touch earbuds
These signature white headphones are instantly recognizable. I don't want to advertise my product brands, so I'm not a fan of the white cord.  They hold up though - mine got handed down with the iPod Shuffle.
Audio quality: medium-to-poor
Durability: good
Pros: rigid style earbuds are good for working out and let you hear your environment.
Cons: not great audio quality, not very comfortable.