Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
Very banal and strangely patriotic interview with the Zuckerbergs.
Lev Grossman’s profile on Mark Zuckerberg for Time
I think this is the best analysis of Facebook I’ve ever read. “The social equivalent of liver failure” is a genius phrase.
The Zuckerberg Fallacy is the belief that we have — and should have — a single unified social identity. Wrong.
And yes, ‘the social equivalent of liver failure’ is so perfect.
Apple has rolled out the long-rumored and much awaited social iTunes in the form of Ping.
Ping is a streaming, social network-based suite of capabilities that has been integrated across the world of iTunes, in a way that is reminiscent of early versions of Last.fm, and using the now standard open follower model popularized by Twitter.
To use the service, an iTunes 10 user has to click on the new Ping label in the left sidebar of iTunes, in the STORE area. Then there is some setup, basically geared toward what should be presented to followers and privacy controls on followers:
Once this is set up the user has a minimal profile with location, bio, name provided by the user and some musical genre categorization offered by by iTunes, along with streams of actions taken by the user, like buying music, liking albums, and purchasing tickets for concerts:
(I did include an avatar, but Apple is still ‘processing’ it. I wonder if humans are eyeballing it for nudity or something.)
I followed a few celebrities, like Dave Matthews, and I sent out a call on Twitter, and got a few followers and following set up, for experimental purposes. Now when I look at ‘recent activity’ there are actually posts and activities from inbound stream (=those I follow).
(mostly everybody is following, and not doing much else yet.)
The integration of concert information associated with artists is very cool, and suggests how Apple expects social commerce to be a main source of revenue:
The instrumentation for Ping is spread throughout the store, so anytime you are looking at music for sale you will be able to ‘like’ it, rate it, buy it (d’uh) or write a post (stream based) or review (album based).
In the future, all online commerce will be socialized.
I find the fact that reviews and posts aren’t the same thing sort of strange. But we’ll have to see what gives after some more rooting around.
Lastly, everything I am saying about music could be extended to the other sorts of media that iTunes markets: TV shows, movies, books, whatever. But it hasn’t been at this point.
I have only fooled with Ping for an hour or so, so my empirical analysis will have to be delayed for a few days, at least. However, the largest glaring gap to me right now is the fact that my own music — the stuff I have on my hard drive — isn’t part of the Ping experience. If I want to ‘like’ or post about something I am playing on my local iTunes instance I would have to open the store, find the song or album there, and then make my gesture. This is just a pain, but could conceivably be remedied when Apple allows me to upload my music to that enormous cloud server park they are building. Then all my music will be indexed, cross tabulated, and sharable.
Recall that a few weeks ago a new release of iDisk that included the tantalizing capability to stream audio from the cloud to my iPhone or MacBook (see Apple Takes A Baby Step Toward iTunes In The Cloud). There is no doubt in my mind that we are headed in that direction.
Imagine a future release of Ping where I could share playable playlists, or live stream a Stowe Boyd radio station, or I could listen to a new track recommended by a friend and comment on that streaming recommendation. Or imagine streaming movies in sync with my son Keenan, with Facetime heckling superimposed so it is like a living room experience, although he is in his bedroom at college.
Apple is on the threshold of something fundamentally transformative. It turns out that some commentators agree:
Ping may function like a cross between Facebook and Twitter for iTunes by allowing you to follow celebrities, create social cliques and get artist updates via an activity stream. I think it could have tremendous impact on social sharing and commerce.
From a content perspective, there are three different types of media we love to talk about: movies we see, music we listen to and books we are reading. These are accepted social norms. In fact, many relationships are made on the basis of collective love of a movie and many friendships have started with mixed tapes.
It makes perfect sense for a music service to be social. I’m not alone: The popularity YouTube, the fast-growing MOG and the sadly defunct iLike and Imeem show that people gravitate towards music as a common, collective experience. A recommendation from friends on Last.fm often resulted in me buying many-a-few music tracks. My friends who listened to Thievery Corporation turned me on to The Broadway Project and Chris Joss, which I ended up buying on the iTunes store or via Amazon’s MP3 store.
This click-and-go-somewhere-to-download model of affiliate links can never match a unified experience. Amazon, for example, encourages bloggers and others to link to things they like and then get a piece of the action. This separates social from commerce and treats them as two discrete activities. On the post-Facebook Internet, I don’t think anyone can afford to keep these two actions distinct.
I agree with Om, and obviously Amazon will have to rethink its ‘enormous catalog’ model for commerce, and scramble to make it all social. And Apple and its competitors will have to provide hooks so that I can take my Ping stream and embed it in my blog, direct it to Twitter, and so forth.
I have been saying for years that ‘in the future, all online commerce will be socialized’, and Apple is showing how this is going to be realized.
Apple apparently considered integration with Facebook, but couldn’t come to terms, according to Kara Swisher. Strategically, Facebook is likely to become a direct competitor with Apple, so Jobs is playing go with Zuckerberg, and has won this game.
Amazon might make the devil’s bargain with Facebook to counter Jobs, but that’s a matchup that might just not do much. We’ll have to see if Bezos is impatient.
But there are many doubters out there too:
Ping is an interesting idea and music is something that we have been sharing with friends for the longest time. It strikes me as interesting that Apple has come up with a way to allow people to “share” their music tastes but not the music itself - which I never would have expected Apple or the record labels to do. Is this one way to make “sharing” music OK?
Apple is good at what it does - hardware, software, design and, of course, marketing. But social networking? Even if it is tied to music, I just can’t see widespread adoption of Ping - even if it’s forced on us through iTunes.
Man, Diaz will regret this a year or so from now. Maybe he missed the experiment with streaming via iDisk? Did he miss the launch of the new Apple TV? Can’t he imagine a Flipboard channel based on what’s happening in your iTunes network, with embedded videos, photos, music samples?
Another oddball take on Ping:
Chris Matyszczyk, How Apple’s Ping dings Twitter, Facebook
Ping picks at the nice parts of Facebook and Twitter—friending and following—and offers these benefits to its users without the generalists’ pains.
Unlike Twitter, for example, these are all real people. Unlike Facebook, you can just wander around and see who or what you like without having to become someone’s friend and without having to like anything at all.
This is real people with a real enthusiasm meeting in a bar and talking about a subject they love, rather than about a subject they often hate—themselves. There’s very nice music playing in the background, too.
How many truly passionate, fundamental enthusiasms do large numbers of people share? Movies and sports, probably. Books and food, perhaps. (I wonder if there really are all that many.) Right now, these are often all being talked about on Facebook, each fighting with another for sufficient attention across very mixed groups.
It might not happen that hundreds of niche social networks will suddenly become enormously successful as people decide to fragment themselves across their various enthusiasms. But there are a few core subjects that arouse passion, conversation and the spending of money. Music is one. Apple is another.
Why do the passions have to be shared by large groups of people? Isn’t it sufficient that there are many small groups of people sharing passions? Oh, and don’t leave out TV, which is an enormous passion, as are sports. And yes, people will tolerate — or even seek out — fracturing their social being across multiple services: the post-modern identity is a network of identities, a multiphrenic sense of self.
Are these tech mavens completely missing where this is headed?
@RossDawson asked why I and others in the US had not blogged about Facebook’s recent censorship of photos involving dools with nipples. Honestly, I hadn’t seen or heard anything about it.
Sheena Goodyear, Facebook censors nipples on $40K doll
- Australian jewellery designer Victoria Buckley posted pictures on her Facebook page showing naked porcelain dolls modelling with her jewellery. Facebook told her take them down. (HO/victoriabuckley.com)
Facebook does not allow images of female nipples on their site, including breast-feeding nipples and expensive doll nipples.
When Australian jewellery designer Victoria Buckley posted pictures to her Facebook page that showed a naked porcelain dolls modelling with her jewellery, Facebook told her take them down.
The photos were in contravention to their terms of service, Facebook’s message said.
Nevertheless, she didn’t want her Facebook page to be taken down, so she put black censorship bars over the offending bits, and re-uploaded them to a new Facebook page called “Save Ophelia — exquisite doll censored by Facebook.”
Facebook shut down the page within 48 hours.
She’s tried to contact them, but has so far been unsuccessful.
Facebook did not respond to QMI Agency’s request for comment.
Seems like small-minded puritanism — like Apple’s blocking of pictures or games involving girls in bikinis — rather than a big brotherish censorship of political dissent, though.
Theoretically, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a piece for the Washington Post responding (at last) to the privacygate furor that has been raging for weeks, since the latest turn of the screw when Facebook revised their terms of service once again. I don’t think so: this looks like a very crafted PR piece.
Mark Zuckerberg, From Facebook, answering privacy concerns with new settings
The challenge is how a network like ours facilitates sharing and innovation, offers control and choice, and makes this experience easy for everyone. These are issues we think about all the time. Whenever we make a change, we try to apply the lessons we’ve learned along the way. The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.
We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you’ll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we’ll be eager to get your feedback.
We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.
Here are the principles under which Facebook operates:
— You have control over how your information is shared.
— We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want.
— We do not give advertisers access to your personal information.
— We do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.
— We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.
"We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want." and "Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark." just demonstrate that they aren’t really listening.
The statements made above are counterfactual: Facebook users do not have full control over their information, since a lot of it is shared with the world and there is nothing users can do about it at present.
A number of people are taking the tack that Facebook is too ingrained in our web lives to be dropped (see danah boyd’s most recent piece, for example), or that the benefits outweigh the negatives (like Tim O’Reilly’s Contrarian Stance on Facebook and Privacy). I don’t buy it. If enough people howl, and enough of Facebook’s partners begin to question their motives and policies, things can be changed.
I don’t think Facebook is the future but it may take a few years for that to be obvious.
Dave McClure stirs the pot at Google I/O conference, stating ‘Open Is For Losers’. Looks like he was just taking one side of an argument as a rhetorical device, though.
Maybe McClure was channeling Steve Jobs, because Apple was completely absent from Google I/O, the elephant in the room no one was talking about, according to Louis Gray.
Mark Zuckerberg just can’t get out of the limelight. Today’s news is possible securities fraud, a claim brought by the founders of ConnectU, who won a settlement against Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2008 but who are claiming he manipulated stock prices to make the settlement less than agreed.
The Guardian’s Open Platform launched today, perhaps the best support for my argument that in the future successful media companes will look and act like software companies.
The furor about the Facebook Privacygate continues, with all sorts of people making grand pronouncements:
Facebook often shares way more information with the world than its users know, expect, or want. It consistently approaches innovation and privacy changes with a do-it-first-and-then-see-what-happens attitude, which enrages those who feel it should ask permission first. And it has often done a bad job of explaining to users what it is doing, why, and when, as well as what control users have over this.
But Facebook’s aggressiveness on the privacy front is a big reason for the site’s success. The company will survive the latest PR flap, just as it has survived all the other PR flaps. And unless the latest blow-up scares it into changing its ways (let’s hope not), Facebook will continuing growing like a weed until it is by far the most popular web site in the world (and note what “most popular” means: It means that, despite the howling of a tiny minority, more people choose to spend more time on Facebook than any other site in the world).
From a business perspective, in other words, Facebook’s approach to innovation is smart. It’s not always popular, but it works. And if Facebook wants to maintain its competitive edge, it will do what it has to do to smooth over the latest blow-up, and then go forth with the same approach and attitude it has had all along.
Step back and think about what Facebook is doing here. It is pioneering an entirely new kind of service, one that most of its users have never seen before, one with no established practices or rules. It is innovating in an area—the fine line between public and private—that has always freaked people out. It is allowing people to communicate and share information in ways they never have before. It is making decisions that affect hundreds of millions of people. And it is trying to stay a step ahead of competitors that would like nothing better than to see it get scared and conservative and thus leave itself open to getting knocked off.
As loud as the recent screams have been, they will likely be forgotten in a month. If they aren’t forgotten, Facebook can just roll back some of the changes that freak people out the most, just as it did a few years ago with Beacon, but keep the rest.
I also don’t agree that Facebook is pioneering something totally new; there have been literally dozens of social networking sites with millions of users, and they all have privacy policies of some description.
I do agree with Blodgett that there is a fine line between privacy and publicy, but I don’t see that taking a pause to figure out what exactly the Facebook’s privacy policies should be cedes competitive space to competitors. And even if it does, it should be done, anyway.
Innovation should not lead to users feeling that they are being raped, even if Blodgett and other boosters think it makes for good business.
danah boyd moves in a quite opposite direction, suggesting that Facebook has become a social utility, and therefore should be regulated:
danah boyd, Facebook Is A Utility; Utilities Get Regulated
Throughout Kirkpatrick’s “The Facebook Effect”, Zuckerberg and his comrades are quoted repeated as believing that Facebook is different because it’s a social utility. This language is precisely what’s used in the “About Facebook” on Facebook’s Press Room page. Facebook never wanted to be a social network site; it wanted to be a social utility. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Facebook functions as a utility.
And yet, people continue to be surprised. Partially, this is Facebook’s fault. They know that people want to hear that they have a “choice” and most people don’t think choice when they think utility. Thus, I wasn’t surprised that Elliot Schrage’s fumbling responses in the NYTimes emphasized choice, not utility: “Joining Facebook is a conscious choice by vast numbers of people who have stepped forward deliberately and intentionally to connect and share… If you’re not comfortable sharing, don’t.”
In my post yesterday, I emphasized that what’s at stake with Facebook today is not about privacy or publicity but informed consent and choice. Facebook speaks of itself as a utility while also telling people they have a choice. But there’s a conflict here. We know this conflict deeply in the United States. When it comes to utilities like water, power, sewage, Internet, etc., I am constantly told that I have a choice. But like hell I’d choose Comcast if I had a choice. Still, I subscribe to Comcast. Begrudgingly. Because the “choice” I have is Internet or no Internet.
Your gut reaction might be to tell me that Facebook is not a utility. You’re wrong. People’s language reflects that people are depending on Facebook just like they depended on the Internet a decade ago. Facebook may not be at the scale of the Internet (or the Internet at the scale of electricity), but that doesn’t mean that it’s not angling to be a utility or quickly becoming one. Don’t forget: we spent how many years being told that the Internet wasn’t a utility, wasn’t a necessity… now we’re spending what kind of money trying to get universal broadband out there without pissing off the monopolistic beasts because we like to pretend that choice and utility can sit easily together. And because we’re afraid to regulate.
And here’s where we get to the meat of why Facebook being a utility matters. Utilities get regulated. Less in the United States than in any other part of the world. Here, we like to pretend that capitalism works with utilities. We like to “de-regulate” utilities to create “choice” while continuing to threaten regulation when the companies appear too monopolistic. It’s the American Nightmare. But generally speaking, it works, and we survive without our choices and without that much regulation. We can argue about whether or not regulation makes things cheaper or more expensive, but we can’t argue about whether or not regulators are involved with utilities: they are always watching them because they matter to the people.
I cannot imagine that Facebook wants to be regulated, but I fear that it thinks that it won’t be. There’s cockiness in the air. Personally, I don’t care whether or not Facebook alone gets regulated, but regulation’s impact tends to extend much further than one company. […] I just wish that Facebook would’ve taken a more responsible path so that we wouldn’t have to deal with what’s coming. And I wish that they’d realize that the people they’re screwing are those who are most vulnerable already, those whose voices they’ll never hear if they don’t make an effort.
danah takes the metaphor of being a ‘utility’ instead of an application to the logical conclusion. Other applications certainly have that characteristic, like instant messaging. Back when AOL was acquiring Times Warner the Justice Department considered AOL’s dominance in IM as a societal issue, and blocked AOL from adding voice and video support for years afterward, allowing Yahoo and MSN a competitive advantage. In essence, the Justice department was regulating that industry to ensure fairness and choice for users.
A similar case can be made for social networking, today. When so many people rely on these services — like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter — to work and play, and the actions of the largest players in this space impact hundreds of millions worldwide, and perhaps a hundred million or more US citizens, the US government should be involved in regulating this corner of the communications landscape.
If the government takes the side of the individual in the debate about Net Neutrality, certainly it must take the side of the individual in the face of actions taken by companies like Facebook that can cause societal harm. It is insufficient, as danah states, to say to users ‘You don’t like how we are running our application? Fine, just quit!’ The phone company is not allowed to do that, and neither are internet providers, or the electric company.
I’m with danah: this marketplace is ripe for regulation and reform. New and untried forms of advertising based on strip mining users’ information, considered private only a few months ago, need to be examined closely, not matter how happy they make VCs and market mavens like Henry Blodgett.
We are moving quickly into a web where people are voluntarily sharing more and more personal information, a world based increasingly on publicy instead of privacy. This transition is happening by the decisions of millions, on an independent basis, when they reveal their location, their purchasing preferences, or what they ate for lunch. But, as I wrote the other day,
Even though I am an advocate for publicy — living life in the open on the web — I am by no means an advocate for having it jammed down our throats by a unilateral change in the Terms Of Service agreement by a powerful corporation.
Fred Wilson parses the situation pretty succinctly:
Fred Wilson, Privacy and the Treacherous Middle Ground
The problem Facebook is having right now is that they are sort of private and sort of public. I think of them as a public channel. I don’t post anything to Facebook that I don’t want everyone to see. But that is not how many of their users see them. I believe Facebook is going to have to choose to be either totally public or totally private or they are going to gradually cede their social graph to services that stake out the totally public or totally private territory.
Privacy is pretty black and white. It either is or it isn’t. And trying to have it both ways won’t work.
danah boyd, Facebook and “radical transparency” (a rant)
The battle that is underway is not a battle over the future of privacy and publicity. It’s a battle over choice and informed consent. It’s unfolding because people are being duped, tricked, coerced, and confused into doing things where they don’t understand the consequences. Facebook keeps saying that it gives users choices, but that is completely unfair. It gives users the illusion of choice and hides the details away from them “for their own good.”
What pisses me off the most are the numbers of people who feel trapped. Not because they don’t have another choice. (Technically, they do.) But because they feel like they don’t. They have invested time, energy, resources, into building Facebook what it is. They don’t trust the service, are concerned about it, and are just hoping the problems will go away. It pains me how many people are living like ostriches. If we don’t look, it doesn’t exist, right?? This isn’t good for society. Forcing people into being exposed isn’t good for society. Outting people isn’t good for society, turning people into mini-celebrities isn’t good for society. It isn’t good for individuals either. The psychological harm can be great. Just think of how many “heros” have killed themselves following the high levels of publicity they received.
danah’s rant is right on, except she should adopt ‘publicy’ instead of ‘publicity’. I also didn’t follow the departure at the end of her piece when she veers into a discussion about the privileged v. underprivileged:
Zuckerberg and gang may think that they know what’s best for society, for individuals, but I violently disagree. I think that they know what’s best for the privileged class. And I’m terrified of the consequences that these moves are having for those who don’t live in a lap of luxury. I say this as someone who is privileged, someone who has profited at every turn by being visible. But also as someone who has seen the costs and pushed through the consequences with a lot of help and support. Being publicly visible isn’t always easy, it’s not always fun. And I don’t think that anyone should go through what I’ve gone through without making a choice to do it. So I’m angry. Very angry. Angry that some people aren’t being given that choice, angry that they don’t know what’s going on, angry that it’s become OK in my industry to expose people. I think that it’s high time that we take into consideration those whose lives aren’t nearly as privileged as ours, those who aren’t choosing to take the risks that we take, those who can’t afford to. This isn’t about liberals vs. libertarians; it’s about monkeys vs. robots.
One aspect of online identity, especially in the open web, is that people can have multiple identities: I am a somewhat different stoweboyd on Last.fm than I am on Twitter than I am on Tumblr. This is normal and sensible, since identity is strongly influenced by who we connect with and increasingly tied to the affordances that these services provide.
Michael Zimmer is reading the new Marshall Kirkpatrick book on Facebook, and pulled this out:
"Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity." - Mark Zuckerberg
Zimmer goes on to dissect Zuckerberg’s pronouncement:
Zuckerberg must have skipped that class where Jung and Goffman were discussed. Individuals are constantly managing and restricting flows of information based on the context they are in, switching between identities and persona. I present myself differently when I’m lecturing in the classroom compared to when I’m have a beer with friends. I might present a slightly different identity when I’m at a church meeting compared to when I’m at a football game. This is how we navigate the multiple and increasingly complex spheres of our lives. It is not that you pretend to be someone that you are not; rather, you turn the volume up on some aspects of your identity, and tone down others, all based on the particular context you find yourself.
I go even farther, and argue that our identity is increasingly becoming a network of partial identities, linked together by the overlap (if any) between different communities’ constituencies and the princieples that they stand for.
We are not defined by any single profile or membership in any group. We are each more transcendant than that.