Saturday, September 01, 2007

Faces, not friends

Mint Columnist S Mitra Columnist has an interesting account of her first few weeks on Facebook.

The first week was exciting, as it is with most people, all those bells and whistles and all, but her brother complained he had to ‘sanitize’ his Facebook page because his sister was also a member.

The second week, she scoured the site, looking at other people’s information -devouring obscure personal details, people's assessments of relationships and answering personal questions from her ‘long lost’ friends – 'when did you get married?' and assorted other typical questions. No doubt Facebook demands so much of your time. It wants to be the internet. Huh?

Ms. Kalita concludes,
Clearly, these people are not my friends.

They perhaps were part of my life once upon a time and then we moved on to new chapters, new books even.

Why engage, pretend, dishonor true friendship?

Ms. Kalita decided to send most of her new found friends to her blog instead of wasting any more time answering questions and as for real friends,

I hope they still make phone calls.
I hope people still email when they have something important to share.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

The coming battle between web 2.0 and productivity

We know that internet use is giving TV use a run for its money in most developed parts of the world, but the definitive survey on our web 2.0 habits is still not out.

BTW, it is odd we need surveys and research reports to ‘identify’ and ‘define’ things.

Businesses would like to know how much time their employees spend of web 2.0 activities instead of doing ‘real’ business work.

The recent Surfcontrol report about Facebook costing Australian Businesses $5 billion a year is but a trailer of things happening in most of the Wired Workplaces everywhere.

An article describes a typical web 2.0 savvy worker’s daily routine:
the real killer has been anti social networking. "I start my day by updating my blog… "That always takes me longer than I thought. Then it's the company blog. Then I've got to find links. Then I might update the company web site. And download whatever patches the IT industry instructs me to,"

That’s not all of it,
After lunch, the simpleton then starts work on his podcast …followed by a zany video for Youtube, not forgetting to read and reply to every message that generates.

Is Web 2.0 gabbing the new IM, or is it the new Mobile Yakking?
It ought to be. Twitterers consider themselves to be hipper than the rest.

Sadly, businesses and gullible individuals are falling under the spell of web 2.0 technologies, influenced in a big part by nonsense research reports that businesses everywhere subscribe to, slavishly praising magazine articles and TV shows and ‘late-on-the-scene-I-have-discovered-manna’ bloggers – here in India, social networking sites, funded by well-heeled conglomerates are spending millions of TV rupees evangelizing that social networking is better because, as an ad puts it ‘Friends Stay, other things go away’.

The daily routine described above suits some folks because it helps them further career and brings better business prospects.

Examples – Steve Rubel (PR man), Seth Godin (marketing man), Robert Scoble (deperate blogger), Jason Calacanis (shanelss self promoter), the HR guy who likes to trool social networking sites looking for potential hires and make pointless videos titled “the new career paradigm” or the SEO expert who copied someone else’s content to launch his career. Then there is this friend of mine who works for Blog Rewriting Outfit (aka Blog Network) who has a similar daily routine except that he is particularly heavy on the girls on the Social sites.

If web 2.0 tools help your business get more customers and give better service (in the process building your brand), go for them.

For starters, can blogging help small business?
Yes, as long as the CEOdeosn’t start writing about his latest visit to the proctologist.

Taken on a case by case basis, each web 2.0 tool can be analyized for effectiveness and then used for ‘business’ purposes.

Peter Drucker used to say that the primary aim of a business is creating customers – businesses that think it is cool to have employees roaming around Facebook, take note.

When existing online business issue press releases stating that they now have web 2.0 tools, it is safe to assume that are late on the scene and business is slipping away from them.

I hope web 2.0 doesn’t become a pointless thing in future - maybe it has already pointless.

Related Story
12 problems with Facebook

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Whose rights online 2.0?

When a user-generated Web 2.0 site such as says that users are responsible for content of their submitted links, many might say Livejournal is being hypocritical. Some blog owners should modify Livejournal’s /any web 2.0 site's ToS and put them on their own blogs.

The background of this story : Recently, Livejournal deleted by mistake hundreds of users’ accounts as suspected pedophiles.

This ‘responsibility clause’ raises two important issues:
1. Livejournal is not the only web 2.0 site that has clause. You can find variations, if not exact copies on other web 2.0 sites as well. Here is Digg’s ToS, for example.

2. While one might argue that web 2.0 sites are making handsome advertising profits from user-generated data, without bothering to share, we must not forget the underlying economic realities of any web 2.0 outfit.

Batting for the web 2.0 sites' cause, a commenter on Slashdot explains it best:
This is not about "your rights online". LiveJournal is a private company, not a govenrment agency.

Their web site is private property, and it is not a monopoly.

To speak of 'rights' on their web site is sort of speaking about rights at K-Mart. You don't have any. If you don't like what K-Mart does, you leave and go to their competitor.

If LiveJournal does something that you find intolerably stupid, then quit and go post on their competition's web site.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why some Journalists hate blogs

The reason why some (ok, many) and other assorted media players hate blogs is not that bloggers represent inaccurate and under researched writing, which is true in many cases. The enlightened writer simply reads all that he/she can, gathering all points of view on the subject at hand.

The reason why some (ok, many) journalists and other assorted media players hate blogs is not that bloggers, like Jon Stewart and his "Daily Show" have a "voice", something that many journalists are simply not encouraged to exercise by their masters.

In a WSJ article, writer Tom Wolfe rejected blogs based on a single inaccuracy in a Wikipedia article on himself - blogging is a victim of gross generalization, you might say. There are many bloggers who are excellent writers, uncovering the truth or sharing their experiences, among other things.

Writing in the Guardian, Scott Rosenberg, co-founder of pioneering online magazine, points out that Tom Wolfe was himself one of the pioneers of new journalism in the 60s, which encourages journalists to use their personal voice, something that bloggers do all the time.

Scott writes,
Today, the blog - with its links, reader comments and archive page for each post - feels obvious and intuitive. It's the default format for a website. Companies use blogs to open conversations with customers and among employees. Individuals use them to pursue obsessions, jumpstart careers or chronicle their lives for family and friends.

The reason why some (ok, many) journalists and other assorted media players hate blogs is FEAR. Like their bosses in air-conditioned offices and glitzy parties golf clubs around the world, journalists don't know how blogging might affect their jobs.

Scott says,
(journalists) write articles about whether blogging can be journalism, we worry about whether bloggers can or will replace journalists, and we miss the real stories.

FEAR stems from ignorance. Knowing that prevailing media trend is towards an online, digital format, journalists can be proactive and invest in retooling - understanding how things like, blogs, online video, etc work.

That is one way to deal with this FEAR. The other is to focus on solid reporting - engaging the reader.

Being 500th journalist to cover Lindsay Lohan (aka LL ) while she gets out of the courthouse won't do, I guess.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Three spheres of Web Strategy

Jeremiah Owyang writes about the three spheres of web strategy and how all those in the business of the web can find a balance (a point where all three spheres meet) to achieve the desired results.

The three spheres are : Community (formerly and commonly known as users), Business and Technology.

Jeremiah says each sphere demand a specific skills set.

In case of the all-important Community, he says having skills such as usability and empathy is very important.

Interesting and useful.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The 12 Problems with Facebook

The problem with Facebook is not that its young CEO likes to ape Steve Jobs in appearance and behavior, right down to coining new-fangled terms such as ‘the social graph’ , or that he is being sued for having allegedly stolen someone else’s idea and code for Facebook, or that he likes having pretty women in key publicly viewed positions. That is all on the from the To Do list of every ambitious businessman.

The 12 problems that I have found with Facebook (I am sure there may be more) are applicable to all social networking sites in general.

According to a research report from HP, 43% of Facebook messages are spam.

2. Dodgy Traffic Numbers
A recent Comscore study reported that 3 out of 10 U.S. Internet users delete cookies, which means that sites may be overestimating audiences by a factor as high as 2.5.

Both pieces of information have implications for advertisers who use cookie-based visitor counting and rates of social networking site usage.

3. User Information, Advertising and Privacy Concerns
Users post an amazing variety of personal information on social networking online and I am not talking about photos from last Saturday’s drunken orgy.

Some believe Facebook started SELLING userdata to third parties when it launched the hyped “Facebook Development Platform.”

Facebook, always under pressure to deliver revenues from that huge user base, started with putting Flyers/Boxed ads on the left hand corner of user pages.

The worse is yet to come. The Wall Street Journal reports that Facebook is working on a new Google Adsense-Style advertising system that lets marketers target users with ad s based on the vast variety of data a user posts online.

The Journal writes,
Eventually, it hopes to refine the system to allow it to predict what products and services users might be interested in even before they have specifically mentioned an area.

4. Social networking sites as giant advertising plays
Google executives talk about Monetizable Traffic when they discuss buying a web startup. My take on this is that it is one thing building a giant classified site, like Craigslist, and plastering it with ads – users are there to do business.

In case of sites like Facebook, which serve as giant Ibiza-style meeting places, using user’s personal information to earn ad money is like giving boot to Users’ Trust.

Matt Haughey, who founded Metafilter, suggests doing away with ads for regular users.

I wonder if Social Networking sites will be generous enough – there are huge server bills to pay and it doesn’t help that to view any data, you have to become a member of the walled garden.

5. User information and lock in
Joshua Schachter famously said that a user must be able to delete/remove his/her content from a web 2.0 site at all times.

That is not the case with any social networking site and Facebook is sadly no exception.

Every item you post, every personal item you share, gets locked into that Bastille of Information and you can do nothing about it.

If Facebook were an open source platform, you could pull your content out and use it elsewhere.

At least, that was one of the promises of the web 2.0, wasn’t it?

That is one reason why Dave Winer supports Widgets.

Recently Start Page site Netvibes introduced the Facebook widget which uses can use to display their latest Facebook data on their Netvibes Start Page.

Dave writes,
Facebook could easily be the place where the dam breaks. It's attracting so many users, who may at some point realize that they want control of the data that's locked up inside Facebook. Then vendors who have been on the right side of this issue will be the heroes.

Hopefully, Web 3.0 will herald a truly open Social Web Platfrom where Your Platform is just a widget on mine

6. Facebook is not for business
I have been writing about Facecbook for some time now but think you would rather take the word of A-lister Scott Carp who writes that Facebook is not for business.

…business and professional needs are NOT the same as personal needs. I have no need to “poke” my professional colleagues or specify that our working relationship began when we “hooked up.” I don’t need to know about my professional colleagues what gender they are interested in mating with, or what they are looking for in a relationship, or what their favorite TV shows are...

When you post a message on a Facebook wall, it often becomes a public thing.
Do you want your business deals to be as open?

I take it that Facebook is a heaven-sent for event planners but for most others jobs, Facebook is just another cog towards the goal of closing a deal.

We can’t say for sure what tools young people of today will using in their workplaces tomorrow – will they be poking their friends to get the job done?

Life is not that simple.
In the words of the great comedian Rodeny Dangerfield,

“Don’t get out school, it is a Jungle out there.”

7. Facebook is a huge time waster
A recent report from the SurfControl, an internet filtering company, calculates that if an employee in an Australian Business spends an hour each day on Facebook – busy poking, trawling, bird watching and other assorted activities, it costs the employer $6200 a year and there are around 800,000 work.

In other words, Facebook costs Australian Businesses $5 billion a year

8. The Facebook Development Platform won’t make you rich

Kevin Barenblat, co-creator of SpotDJ has pointed out that till date, 100,000+ programmers have signed up as Facebook Platform Developers, who have created only 3000 Facebook apps so far.

- 70% of Facebook users already have applications on their page.

- Nine of the top 12 Facebook apps are owned by a Slide (4), RockYou (4), and Facebook (1).

- Only 42 of over 3000 apps (1.4%) have over 1M users, and only 150 (5%) have over 100,000 users.

In other words, the going will be tough.

9. Friends are not easy to make – online or offline
Social Network sites promise that anyone can make as many friends as he can. All you got to do is request to be a friend and more than often even if I don’t know you, I will click OK just to ward you off.

I will also click OK if I am a shameless self-promoter who likes to show off his number of friends.

Owen Thomas writes about this breed of Self Promoters:
(the self promoters are) spamming the less-important people who have volunteered to be your "friends" -- people who are really just fans, to whom you have no meaningful relationship.

Meg Pickard writes that Facebook is a confused social space – a ‘one-size-fits-all kind’ of tool.
There are too many different facets of personality being exposed through social openness. So much so, in fact, that it gets a bit difficult to manage. For example, at present on Facebook, I have (among others) the following listed as “Friends”:
* My husband
* Several people I’ve known since I was 11
* College friends I haven’t talked to in 15 years
* My boss
* A couple of people from university I’d lost touch with
* Several people I know from t’internet, but haven’t met / don’t actually know
* A few people on a mailing list I belong to
* A handful of family members
* A few people who work for me
* At least one ex boyfriend
* People who I’ve seen around the office but never exchanged more than words of greeting with
10. Facebook Groups are superficial things
Meg Pickard thinks friendships starts with groups, but Facebook users can’t group their friends.

Facebook doesn’t give users the ability to create ‘personal-invite only groups’, to manage group permissions and so on.

11. The Coming Backlash of the young crowd
The entrance of an older crowd and business types means that Facebook is no longer the cool college campus where the young hang out and do stuff.

The Facebook development platform, the throng of wasted A-listers and VC types place are reducing Facebook to an Open Campus where everyday is an ad-supported College Fest day, Recruitment Day, or what have you, and where every nook and cranny is plastered with ads.

For college kids, that is not all cool.

12. Facebook can make you fat
Health Researchers now say that that if one of us becomes fat, the chances that our friends would do so too rise by 57 percent, with the risk increasing to 71 percent in the case of same sex friendships.

They explain:
“What appears to be happening is that a person becoming obese most likely causes a change of norms about what counts as an appropriate body size. People come to think that it is okay to be bigger since those around them are bigger, and this sensibility spreads”

Rather than waiting for the Facebook Datacenter to go down, stop trolling and poking.
Go outside and get some Sun on your back.

Update 28/0/2007
Kara Swisher of the Wall Street Journal has written on her blog about 4 problems with Facebook, in the light of the stratospheric valuations the startup is seeking. Among other things, she has written about why Facebook is not Google .

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