11 Dec

O’Reilly Radar – The end of social

Taking this a couple of steps further, the article points out that, to many people, Facebook’s "frictionless" sharing doesn’t enhance sharing; it makes sharing meaningless. Let’s go back to music: It is meaningful if I tell you that I really like the avant-garde music by Olivier Messiaen. It’s also meaningful to confess that I sometimes relax by listening to Pink Floyd. But if this kind of communication is replaced by a constant pipeline of what’s queued up in Spotify, it all becomes meaningless. There’s no "sharing" at all. Frictionless sharing isn’t better sharing; it’s the absence of sharing. There’s something about the friction, the need to work, the one-on-one contact, that makes the sharing real, not just some cyber phenomenon. If you want to tell me what you listen to, I care. But if it’s just a feed in some social application that’s constantly updated without your volition, why do I care? It’s just another form of spam, particularly if I’m also receiving thousands of updates every day from hundreds of other friends.

So, what we’re seeing isn’t the expansion of our social network; it’s the shrinking of what and who we care about. My Facebook feed is full of what friends are listening to, what friends are reading, etc. And frankly, I don’t give a damn. I would care if they told me personally; I’d even care if they used a medium as semi-personal as Twitter. The effort required to tweet tells me that someone thought it was important. And I do care about that. I will care much less if Spotify and Rdio integrate with Twitter. I already don’t care about the blizzard of automated tweets from FourSquare.

Automated sharing is giving Facebook a treasure-trove of data, regardless of whether anyone cares. And Facebook will certainly find ways to monetize that data. But the bigger question is whether, by making sharing the default, we are looking at the end of social networks altogether. If a song is shared on Facebook and nobody listens to it, does it make a sound?

via O’Reilly Radar – The end of social. Interesting point, and hard to argue against. The more we share the less value each piece of information has to the people (but not the systems) that we share to.

24 Sep

Scripting News – Facebook is scaring me

What clued me in was an article on ReadWriteWeb that says that just reading an article on their site may create an announcement on Facebook. Something like: "Bull Mancuso just read a tutorial explaining how to kill a member of another crime family." Bull didn’t comment. He didn’t press a Like button. He just visited a web page. And an announcement was made on his behalf to everyone who follows him on Facebook. Not just his friends, because now they have subscribers, who can be total strangers.

Now, I’m not technically naive. I understood before that the Like buttons were extensions of Facebook. They were surely keeping track of all the places I went. And if I went to places that were illegal, they would be reported to government agencies. Bull Mancuso in the example above has more serious things to worry about than his mother finding out that he’s a hitman for the mob. (Both are fictitious characters, and in my little story his mom already knows he’s a hitman.)

There could easily be lawsuits, divorces, maybe even arrests based on what’s made public by Facebook.

via Scripting News – Facebook is scaring me. Count me in the group of people now staying logged out of Facebook by default.

24 Sep

Numair Faraz – I was once a Facebook fool

If you are entrusting your life data to Facebook, or if you are depending on Facebook and its platform for your livelihood, beware. In the real Facebook world, there is no trust, and there is no friendship — there is only money and power. Think really hard — really, think — before trusting Facebook or its employees with anything. Don’t be a Facebook fool.

via Numair Faraz – I was once a Facebook fool. Trusting your business to another business is generally not a good idea, but trusting Facebook is never a good idea.

17 Jul

guardian.co.uk – Networks are not always revolutionary

My corollary to O’Reilly’s "piracy/obscurity" quote is "fame won’t make you a success on its own, but no artist ever got rich on obscurity". That is, being widely loved isn’t sufficient for attaining fortune, but it is necessary to it.

By the same token, a global network that allows loosely coordinated groups of people to discover each other and act in concert while exposing their cause to the whole planet (especially its richest, most privileged residents) is not enough to overthrow a dictator — but I’m sure I wouldn’t want to try to stage a revolution without such a network.

via guardian.co.uk – Networks are not always revolutionary. Fair point I think, having the network or having fame isn’t enough to guarantee success but it does help.

09 Apr

Facebook Engineering Blog – Building Efficient Data Centers with the Open Compute Project

A small team of Facebook engineers spent the past two years tackling a big challenge: how to scale our computing infrastructure in the most efficient and economical way possible.

Working out of an electronics lab in the basement of our Palo Alto, California headquarters, the team designed our first data center from the ground up; a few months later we started building it in Prineville, Oregon. The project, which started out with three people, resulted in us building our own custom-designed servers, power supplies, server racks, and battery backup systems.

via Facebook Engineering Blog – Building Efficient Data Centers with the Open Compute Project. This is pretty neat, but I’m going to go with Marco. The point is to demonstrate Facebook is working at a high scale much like Google and they aren’t opening up anything that actually makes them their real money.

06 Mar

ZDNet – Students suspended, expelled over Facebook posts

Two students have been suspended, and one student has been expelled, over negative Facebook postings they made about a teacher. The individuals are in seventh grade at Chapel Hill Middle School, meaning they are either 12 or 13 years old, according to My Fox Atlanta. The children are accused of violating a portion of the school code that is a “level one” offense, the worst possible: “Falsifying, misrepresenting, omitting, or erroneously reporting” allegations of inappropriate behavior by a school employee toward a student, according to AJC.

via ZDNet – Students suspended, expelled over Facebook posts. The worst part of the whole process is the fact that the students were forced to log onto their Facebook accounts at school. I’m not even sure how the principal could logically dictate that a student be forced to log onto their account. (Side Note: this once again pushes me to argue for using tools like 1Password for storing passwords, unless installed on that computer or your mobile phone no one can ever force you log in, when you don’t know or have access to the password.) The school shouldn’t have a right to dictate what students due in the privacy of their online accounts or in their free time.

10 Feb

NYTimes.com – American Medical Response Settles Facebook Firing Case

An ambulance company that fired an employee after she criticized her supervisor on Facebook agreed on Monday to settle a case brought by the National Labor Relations Board.

The plan resolves an Oct. 27 complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut that said the employee, Dawnmarie Souza, had been illegally fired and denied union representation.

Among the issues was whether a worker has the right to criticize a supervisor on a site like Facebook if co-workers add comments. The case was the first by the National Labor Relations Board to assert that employers break the law by disciplining workers who post criticisms on social-networking Web sites.

via NYTimes.com – American Medical Response Settles Facebook Firing Case. Good decision employees should be able to comment in their private off time as publicly as they wish about their company (minus releasing trade secrets and such).

24 Jan

The Atlantic – The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks

After more than ten days of intensive investigation and study, Facebook’s security team realized something very, very bad was going on. The country’s Internet service providers were running a malicious piece of code that was recording users’ login information when they went to sites like Facebook.

By January 5, it was clear that an entire country’s worth of passwords were in the process of being stolen right in the midst of the greatest political upheaval in two decades. Sullivan and his team decided they needed a country-level solution — and fast.

Though Sullivan said Facebook has encountered a wide variety of security problems and been involved in various political situations, they’d never seen anything like what was happening in Tunisia.
“We’ve had to deal with ISPs in the past who have tried to filter or block our site,” Sullivan said. “In this case, we were confronted by ISPs that were doing something unprecedented in that they were being very active in their attempts to intercept user information.”

If you need a parable for the potential and pitfalls of a social-media enabled revolution, this is it: the very tool that people are using for their activism becomes the very means by which their identities could be compromised. When the details are filled in on the abstractions of Clay Shirky and Evgeny Morozov’s work on the promise (former) and danger (latter) of Internet activism, the ground truth seems to be that both had their visions play out simultaneously.

The Atlantic – The Inside Story of How Facebook Responded to Tunisian Hacks. I’m not sure what’s more shocking, that a country wide keylogger was in use, or that Facebook took these actions to defend their users and freedom of speech.

18 Jan

Joseph Perla – Facebook is a Ponzi Scheme

People go to Facebook to interact with their friends. It is fundamentally different from the ad platform that is Google. People go to Google to find something they need, possibly ready to buy, which a good percentage of the time can in fact be solved by someone’s ad. Facebook ads, on the other hand, annoy users. They yield no real value, and thus no profits.

Eventually, though, and this might take a long time, but it is finite, everyone will have tried Facebook ads and know that they are useless. Eventually, after 10 million businesses have invested $1000 each, and Facebook has earned $10 billion in revenue in total, then they will have run out of new customers and their revenue will dry up. A useless product is never sustainable. I wish I could short Facebook.

via Joseph Perla – Facebook is a Ponzi Scheme. Never thought of Facebook that way but it makes a fair amount of sense. However, this question as to whether this idea is true depends on Facebook and every other advertising platform (especially web based) informing the public of the rate at which new advertisers drop out.