Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cory Doctorow on Facebook


First, the link. Let's start with some snark:

... Facebook has all the social graces of a nose-picking, hyperactive six-year-old, standing at the threshold of your attention and chanting, "I know something, I know something, I know something, won't tell you what it is!"

What follows then is some serious criticism. Here's one of the points:

If there was any doubt about Facebook's lack of qualification to displace the Internet with a benevolent dictatorship/walled garden, it was removed when Facebook unveiled its new advertising campaign. Now, Facebook will allow its advertisers use the profile pictures of Facebook users to advertise their products, without permission or compensation. Even if you're the kind of person who likes the sound of a benevolent dictatorship this clearly isn't one.

And here's another:

You'd think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for [getting back in touch with your old friends from school, etc.]. It's not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there's a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I'd cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, "Am I your friend?" yes or no, this instant, please.

4 Comments:

  1. sharath said...

    "You'd think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for [getting back in touch with your old friends from school, etc.]. It's not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there's a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I'd cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, "Am I your friend?" yes or no, this instant, please."

    Why single out facebook - this is true of pretty much any network.

    If one is arguing that this reduces how relevant and effective ads that use this information could be, thats understandable.

  2. Animesh said...

    I was on the facebook when it was univ only, and I liked it [and still do] because it still mimics the "real" network I have. For me, it is a way I get to know more about the people who are already on the network. I am careful about adding "new" friends, and accepting invites. Yes, the new version has its drawbacks [and clutter], but facebook is by far the most useful [and user friendly] social networking website I have used [I am also on orkut, and have friends who are on myspace]. I am not counting linkedIn in this list since it is more professional.

    Do I agree with what facebook is trying in terms of borderline privacy invading -- no, but do I think its creator deserves a prize for the slick user interface and the idea - I sure do!

    my 2 scraps,
    -A
    P.S. In terms of these pseudo-friendships making ads less reliable, one can easily 'weigh' the link on the social network with the number of shared groups, wall posts, messages etc -- stuff that exists between 'real' friends. I do not see how that problem is insurmountable.

  3. Abi said...

    Sharath: It is true that some of Cory's criticisms apply to all social networking sites, and he was using Facebook as an example (probably because it's seen as the king of this jungle). But, the issues regarding advertisements and revealing your off-Facebook purchases to your friends' network are, at present, specific to Facebook.

    Animesh: I too like the slickness of the interface. But, I am also leery about what they will come with next to monetize their user base. The stuff about off-Facebook activity showing up in your feed is pretty scary. (I must add that the site has finally chosen to listen to its users' protest on this issue).

  4. Rao said...

    "But, the issues regarding advertisements and revealing your off-Facebook purchases to your friends' network are, at present, specific to Facebook."

    I agree, except that somebody had to do start it and it turned out to be facebook.

    Ofcourse, they have backed off now but I think some form of this will return in the years to come. People's idea and preferences about privacy change over time, for good or for worse.

    Consider the case of gmail - when they first came in, there was a similar hue and cry about ads based on email content. It sounds blasphemous enough even today that none of the other major email networks have headed in that direction. Yet, nobody seems to care about this now. Why ?

    Ofcourse, the nature of privacy violation in gmail vs. facebook models are quite different. But I am using this case to only illustrate a large point of about people's ideas of privacy.