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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Waaa, waaa, Facebook changed my privacy settings, waaa.

Well, they changed mine too. Deal. My two cents? Look, they’re clearly figuring things out as they go—still—no matter how many *Social Media Gurusauruses* and moms love this damn site. I only have a Facebook account because agency people I know as well as family members have one. For now, I’m on the fence between deleting the thing and just dealing with it.

One thing that Mark Zuckerberg tried to explain away in his latest Wea Culpa though underscores the inherent problem with online social networks. You don’t even need a seat at a keynote either—imma let you have it free.

First, from today’s typically long and somewhat confusing announcement:

“When we started Facebook, we built it around a few simple ideas. People want to share and stay connected with their friends and the people around them. When you have control over what you share, you want to share more. When you share more, the world becomes more open and connected.”

People want to share and stay connected.

This is the assumption that Facebook et al. want you to operate under, and it’s the heart of the issue for me. It’s this forced sense of community participation masquerading as sharing. And I don’t think they can escape it.

I’m not saying people only want to lurk, but why can’t I just experience a site without an expectation that I must contribute to its community somehow for it to be successful, or without me looking like I am I loser because I didn’t?

The experience of sitting in front of the monitor is still a private one even though you might be engaging with someone (or a group), and somewhere along the line I think this dynamic has been ignored in the discussion.

This social media Stockholm syndrome we’re operating under seems to accept the idea that it’s okay for any expectation of privacy to be sacrificed in exchange for signing up.

But does it need to be?

Every problem Facebook has in terms of working the privacy issue out is based on the premise of public sharing. Twitter doesn’t even have a quarter of these problems because everything you *share* is in the tweet itself, not to mention they don’t have anywhere near the number of layers to invade your life.

Zuckerburg needs to rethink this guiding principle, or he’ll continue to have these skirmishes and wonder why people are pissed. Granted, it’s his site, his rules, but why does signing up mean he gets to share all your data?

Is the solution perhaps a master on/off privacy switch that kills the power (and not to just outside apps)? Does the net need to go to a pay model encompassing all these sites, much the same way cable providers offer packages with different channels? I don’t ever recall hearing someone complain because Fox shared their user data.

I’m not really sure. But if they address the dependency on sharing first, I really believe the privacy issue will resolve itself much more easily.


Jetpacks said...

You always amaze me with your in-depth analysis of just about everything. You aren't a creative. You're a fuckin' strategist!

Ben Kunz said...

I see two issues, first whether FB should be able to share/sell data (I think they should, and second why FB is forcing its users from a closed to open network.

I won't belabor the first point. The second, though, is interesting -- and you have to agree that FB has gone through a consistent opening of its network whether its users want to or not. I suggest the real issue is FB wants to keep growing and keep users engaged, and the more friction inside its network, the more likely its own viral growth will tip into negative territory and the structure will collapse upon itself. The mathematical formula for viral expansion is the passalong rate has to be greater than the reduction rate, period. If FB allowed itself to remain a bunch of cloistered microbubbles of small groups talking to each other, say, inside college networks with no expansion beyond that, a slight diminishment in use, in retention, could tip the user base the wrong way.

FB needs to grow, and needs to keep users engaged, and the more open and fluid its node connections, the more likely it is to stay on a viral path. This in turn is the only way to build its data set, its advertiser responses, and its ad or other revenues.

Open systems flourish, closed ones stagnate. FB is undertaking a deliberate push to open itself up, and sure its users protest, but that's not part of the business plan.

mtlb said...

“Open systems flourish, closed ones stagnate.”

I can see that, but I wonder if there isn’t a middle ground for them with this.

As for clositered microbubbles, I can see that as well, but I wonder if email is almost that too, in a way, and it’s been around forever.

Height Weight Chart @ HWC said...

FB needs to grow, and needs to keep users engaged, and the more open and fluid its node connections, the more likely it is to stay on a viral path.