Posts about facebook

DLD: Social & worldwide Facebook

At a Day 2 starts with the session on social: Matt Cohler of Facebook, Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, Lars Hinrichs, Joanna Shields of Bebo.

Cohler announces that Facebook’s multilingual translation is in private beta as of Friday in French, German, and Spanish and will be released soon. Had discussions last night at a Munich blogger meetup about whether Facebook will make inroads in Germany. StudieVZ is the killer social site here; it concentrates primarily on students but it has the long headstart and it is local. Social is, after all, essentially local. Cohler says that Facebook’s internationalization depends on both the translation and on developers making local applications on the platform. He also says that though they will translate some of Facebook with professional translators, they will depend instead on a translation application — that’s what went into beta Friday — that enables the users to translate the service: translation as a platform play. That is a fascinating strategy: giving your users the tools to rebuild your application.

Before Facebook opened up past colleges, it was almost all American. Now, Cohler says, it’s 37% U.S. and a third European.

The econ editor of FAZ, a leading German paper, asks Cohler to expand on their international ambitions and whetehr they’ll buy StudieVZ. Of course, he doesn’t take that bait. But asked about whether they’d see acquiring some social networks in Europe, Cohler says “it’s certainly possible.”

Michael Arrington asks about the impact of Yahoo’s announcements at CES about social email and such. Sean Parker says the switching costs are enormous. Yes, I wouldn’t bet on this as Yahoo’s salvation (given that they’re making tough decisions, as PaidContent reports).

In defense of Facebook

It’s not as if Facebook needs my defense; it has Microsoft’s millions. And I certainly can be accused of Facebook fervency in my writing. But I think some are too quick to jump on Facebook’s back precisely because it is so big and successful.

But I see something bigger happening here: I think Facebook is redefining how to make a mistake.

When they announced the newsfeed, they took their users by surprise and pissed them off. But after pulling back and explaining, it went ahead and, as it turns out, they were right: The newsfeed is the heart of Facebook and is, I’ve been arguing, a new interface for news elsewhere.

When they announced the ad program, they again took their users by surprise and didn’t include enough privacy controls for the users. But after pulling back and adding those controls, I’ll say again that I think they’re onto something. See what Matt McAlister says responding to my musings about airlines capturing the wisdom of their crowds the last few days:

Carrying the theme to retail markets, you can imagine that you will walk into H&M and discover that one of your first-degree contacts recently bought the same shirt you were about to purchase. You buy a different one instead. Or people who usually buy the same hair conditioner as you at the Walgreen’s you’re in now are switching to a different hair conditioner this month. Though this wouldn’t help someone like me who has no hair to condition.

That’s what Facebook’s ad strategy will work to deliver: social shopping. And I want that. Just as I’m interested in what apps friends install I’m interested in what products they buy, so long as they are willing to tell me, and also what they think of them.

Now comes the Scoble Plaxo kerfuffle. Facebook did right: It protected my email from going to the dreaded Plaxo. It cut off Scoble for violating the TOS. But it then reinstated Scoble before he could make a video whining about them. Plenty of folks say they did right.

But now to the bigger point: how Facebook makes mistakes. See Rick Segal defending Zuckerberg on this point:

The larger issue and concern for me is the piling on from Bloggers and questionable Political Action Groups when it comes to pounding on Mark Zukerberg. I turn fifty in 22 days so I can clearly say Mark is a kid. He is going to make lots of mistakes and he will continue to learn and grow. Focusing in on him and how he personally handed it, dissecting his blog posts, etc, is just silly. Many of the blog posts, especially from the “A” list types, have that twinge of arrogance and smugness which is normally seen when the business of business turns into the blood sport of watching somebody fail.

We need to use care in beating up Zuckerberg and Facebook in general because we want these folks to push the limits of finding new ideas and trying to make sense out of all the data flowing everywhere. Try it and get some reactions, adjust, find the happy center, rinse and repeat. That’s what Facebook should be doing and all the users and give feedback about the business. If they go off sides, it will get corrected, it always does. If they do really bad things, people vote with the mouse clicks. Just ask MySpace or AOL’s GeoCities. People vote and have no problem moving.

Right. We can’t expect to see new companies innovating and taking chances without the chance that they make mistakes. Of course, they’ll make mistakes. The question is what they do about them. Zuckerberg and Facebook have done a good job listening to their public and correcting their mistakes and keeping the nerve to innovate and experiment. And they do it in the open.

Too often, companies and brands — especially media brands, I’ll add — try to act as if they’re perfect and they don’t make mistakes and they don’t want to risk their reputations by making any. This makes them timid and that kills innovation.

I’d rather have a company that tries to innovate and makes mistakes, so long as they listen and correct them. That, I believe, is the new way for companies to act. It works only if you are in a conversation with your customers and listen to them. And so far, Facebook has done that. So I agree with Segal. And I say, don’t be so quick to jump on or write off Zuckerberg and company. They’ve done a lot right so far. Could they make the Big Mistake that messes it all up? Sure. That’s what Plaxo did with me, spamming me to the point that I will never trust that brand or company again.

But so far, Facebook has learned from its mistakes. That’s the most I can ask from them.

What he says

Mike Arrington gets it right in the kerfuffle over Robert Scoble using a Plaxo scraper to take email addresses of his friends — mine included, I might add — and put them into their damned spam machine. Scoble’s doing to loud public crying act over this but I agree with Mike that Plaxo is wrong and Facebook is right. I want Facebook to protect my email address. I don’t want Scoble downloading it and giving it over to Plaxo, a brand and company I will never, never trust and would never choose to do business with or hand data to on my own. So much of the reaction to this little incident gets it backwards; there has been much talk about how we should be able to get our data out of Facebook and that’s fine but we also need to protect our data from others making use of it without our permission and that’s what this is about in the end.

: And what she says: Dawn, comment on Arrington’s post:

Facebook has created an environment where we only allow access to certain items that we want people to see. If I have let Scoble see my entire profile, meaning my education, my employment, my DOB, etc., and he takes any of that with him, to where ever he is taking it (and he could take it elsewhere), he is violating my right to privacy.

Not only does this affect the careful identity construction that I’ve done, but it also undermines my ability to only be a part of communities that I wish to take part in. He is porting my identity to sites unknown and using it in a way that I haven’t consented to.

If today it is Robert Scoble, who is to say that tomorrow it’s not someone stealing my identity and using it on sites that are unsavory?

Instead of jumping on a revolution bandwagon, we should be thinking about the overwhelming social issues here. I believe in portability for MY OWN identity. I don’t think that you should be allowed to take my information anywhere you want to go with it.

Right. Especially Plaxo.

: LATER: Good gawd, Nick Carr and I agree. Jack Schofield of the Guardian agrees, too.

: Scoble is back up on Facebook. But he now has fewer than 5,000 friends. Did some leave him?

Newspapers v. Facebook

While in Sweden…. The new editor of Aftonbladet says they learned in a focus group with 20somethings that their major competition for time is Facebook.

I had a somewhat related conversation with my entrepreneurial students yesterday as we debated what properly can be defined as a journalistic enterprise, or part of one. This is a business variant on the who-is-a-journalist debate. But I argued that the real question is, what is the role of the journalistic institution in its community? Is it merely to inform or is it also to organize (which, not coincidentally, is the advice of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg: bring your community elegant organization)?

Is a social service that helps local sports players organize properly part of a journalistic organization? For that matter, I’d argue, is a sports section? If we define journalism merely as reported content, then perhaps not. But if we define the larger role of the news organization to help its community organize itself, then social applications — even about sports — are properly part of the mission. I think we need to define the role of the news organization broadly, especially until we figure out what works.

So should Aftonbladet view Facebook as competition for attention — or its mission? I’m not suggesting that Aftonbladet should start its own social network; that would be the reflex of most media companies (we do it all ourselves). Instead, the question should be how to help the community where it is, doing what it does.

If I were making Facebook applications for news organizations now, I wouldn’t be making quizzes and such fripperies. I’d be figuring out how to get news that matters to you in your news feed. I’d be finding ways to tie you with other people who share your interest and know what you want to know. I’d find ways to enable you to recommend more news to your friends.

Seen this way, Facebook isn’t a competitor for a newspaper. It’s just another place to help your community.

(Aftonbladet news found via Media Culpa — which, by the way, is a great name for a blog.)

Friendship

Here’s my Guardian column this week, a much shorter and more cogent version of this post about changes in friendship brought on by the social web.

Zuckerberg on OpenSocial, ads, and friend lists

I’m at Foursquare listening to Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in the one on-the-record session. Asked why Facebook chose not to be involved, Mark replies, “Who says we didn’t choose to be a part of it? We didn’t really find out about it until right at the end there.” When? “Maybe an hour after it launched.” Will Facebook be involved? Mark said they’ll see how it works and then evaluate. If it add values to users then they would be involved, he said.

He’s also talking about his new ad system, announced yesterday. I haven’t gotten my head around the full implication of the system but it seems like a customer advocacy platform without the conflict of paying those advocates (see: Pay Per Post). This is an extension of what I wrote about in my Business Week piece on Dell: customers as the best marketers. The recommendations of peers matter more than the spam of advertisers.

Jeff Pulver asks whether we’ll be able to segment business v. personal friends. Mark says they are trying to map out all the connections and that will get more and more granular; some will be manual and some will be agorithmic. He says that “realtive soon” they’re going to release things that help people organize. Soon, that will be lists of friends you can make so you decide what to share with what groups. He also said that they are considering raising the limit on friendships.

The new British class sytem: Facebook

In today’s Telegraph (and this month’s Vogue), Conde Nast UK head Nicholas Coleridge admits that he’s trapped in the new British class system: Facebook.

I know people – adults, that is, busy people with jobs – who spend two or three hours every single day tending their virtual roster of acquaintances, “poking” people, adding applications, trawling friends’ lists of friends to find new ones to poach, or approaching complete strangers to boost their score.

The second half of 2007 has seen the renaissance in England of social competitiveness. Who has more friends on Facebook, me or you? Or, more pressing, who has the most glamorous friends on Facebook? We have turned into a nation of social-stamp collectors.

As I posted on his page on Facebook, I am relieved to both be his friend and have more than he does.

How would Google compete with Google?

So when someone came along who actually managed to compete with and even frighten Google — namely, Facebook — how is Google competing? By going open. There’s a lesson in that for the rest of us.

I keep saying that media companies should ask WWGD — what would Google do — in formulating their digital strategies. Well, in Google’s Open Social, we see that the best competition against a growing monopoly is openness.

So how should we compete with Google or at least challenge its monopoly? Openness. I’ve argued for sometime that we need an open-source ad infrastructure. If the rest of the world other than Google — that is, those who have the other half of advertising Google doesn’t yet have — can gather together and create standards, then Google would be faced with the same decision Facebook is now faced with: whether to use those standards. What organized Facebook’s foes? Ironically, it was Google. Who could organize the nonGoogle ad universe? I see no one on the horizon. That’s why Google keeps growing. We’re letting them.