Posts about facebook


I went to a Facebook developers’ hackathon last night at Thumbplay in New York. I wasn’t the invited participant. Son Jake was. I was merely the chauffeur. Nonetheless, it was a nonvirtual Facebook for me, for I found all sorts of friends there: developer colleague, show-biz pal, investment guy, political geek. Everybody’s into Facebook.

The excitement of having this easy, quick platform and built-in audience and new architecture of content and interaction was palpable. David Henderson of Social Media reminded the group that this has exploded in only 45 days. There have been 125 million app installations and it just keeps growing: more people, more apps. . . . and we haven’t even hit Labor Day and the return to school yet.

What we don’t know is the churn of these apps — only the net growth, not the number who drop off and are replaced. A lot of these apps have a half-life like show business, only accelerated: cool comes and cool goes. But others will become fundamental to this new social architecture. I don’t think the fundamental ones have been invented yet.

There was, of course, a lot of discussion about monetization, with one skeptic in the crowd drawing everyone else’s justification and inspiration regarding revenue: the discussion turned into a human wiki. There’s advertising, of course, and direct-response and barter and loyalty points systems and virtual currencies and also research. Henderson said that at the food fight app, users started with $10 to buy rotten tomatoes but wanted more and so they offered food fight currency in exchange for answering market research questions. To date, he said, they’ve received 20 million responses: 80,000 users per day, 25 per user. That’s what excites them all: instant scale.

There was, of course, much discussion of what Facebook allows and doesn’t allow and what’s behind every decision. Jake chuckled at all the Kremlinology that was going on. “They’re overthinking,” he said. Some things are done just because they’re done, no vast conspiracy.

What excites me most is the prospect of the pipe reversing: using Facebook to help organize the larger social infrastructure that is the web already. I’ve suggested to folks that they use Facebook’s real identity to feed real identity on their sites and forums. One participant said Facebook will plug into the social grid of the web. Or was that vice versa?

Open your drawers

I’m getting pissed off at people on Facebook who have their privacy settings adjusted so that when they try to befriend me and I try to see who they are, they keep me from seeing anything about them. A fine way to start a friendship. I am ignoring them all. Pshaw.

And who says Facebook has no value?

It just informed me that I share a birthday with Arianna Huffington. Happy birthday, Arianna. (It’s Sunday, by the way. We also share it with my Facebook friends Tara Hunt and Iain Dale.)

Towns are hyperlocal social networks with data (people that is)

I think I’ve been thinking about hyperlocal the wrong way. Like most everyone else chasing this golden fleece, I’ve defined it as content, news, a product, listings, data, software, sites, ads. It’s not. Local is people: who knows what, who knows whom, who’s doing what (and, yes, who’s doing whom). The question should be — in Mark Zuckerberg’s famous-if-I-have-anything-to-do-about-it phrase — how we bring them elegant organization. They already are a community, already doing what they want to do, already knowing stuff. How can we help them do that better?

Local is people. Our job is not to deliver content or a product. Our job is to help them make connections with information and each other.

In truth, that was, long ago, the job newspapers saw for themselves. That’s why they lived to get as many names in the paper as possible. They knew: Local is people. Newspapers gave us news that mattered to us and would be trivial to anyone else. Newspapers were small and local and served their communities — and their advertisers — better. This is very close to the real mission of a newspaper, a mission we have lost as they got bigger and more egotistical and more powerful, as they become one-size-fits-all monopolies. Except today we have new tools (and new competitors). No one can or should do it all anymore. We need to help people do it themselves. Yes, themselves.

I’m not suggesting that hyperlocal is just a social networking tool. Or just a forum. Or just a bunch of blogs. Or just a listings tool. Or just a search engine. Or just a news site. It needs to end up being all those things and more. And as I said the other day, this will not happen in one place, on one site, but will be distributed across wherever people are being people and communities communities, locally. The trick, once more, is to organize it all. Elegantly.

And this will not happen all on its own. It needs investment, motivation, leadership, shared and distributed ownership.

What exactly does this look like? I’m not sure yet. I’m working on that. But I’m getting a better idea, I think, by working from a new starting point: People, not content. People, not data. People, not software. Long ago, when I launched the GoSkokie project at Northwestern’s Medill, I told the students that towns know things I wanted them to figure out how to tap that keg of knowledge. They got partway there with (which was a model for Backfence, by the way), but that was only partway.

I now believe that he who figures out how to help people organize themselves — letting them connect with each other and with what they all know — will end up with news, listings, reviews, data, gossip, and more as byproducts.

Thoughts from the beach. Stay tuned.

Howie & friends on Facebook

Here’s my apperance on Howard Kurtz’s Reliable Sources yesterday with Ana Marie Cox. Subject: Facebook.

On the other hand

Nick Douglas complains at Valleywag:

Remember when all you had to worry about on Facebook was some awkward acquaintance adding you on Facebook too soon? (You know, like they talked to you at lunch once and instantly wanted to be your friend?) Maybe sometimes you got invited to the “Two and a Half Men is TV’s Greatest Show” group? But now I’m getting bombarded with crap like “Jim-bob wants to share movies with you” and “Janiqua wants to share secrets.” No, I don’t want “free gifts.” No, I don’t want to be a zombie. No, iDon’tLike. So stop spamming me every time you get an app. (Unless it’s that rocking graffiti wall.)

Right. Letting the world in won’t ruin Facebook (because we still see only a small part of that world). Opening up Facebook to apps will only help it. But apps that spam us? Stop! Please! If I told you once, I told you a hundred times, I don’t want to share bookshelves with you.

Too many friends

I tried to use Friendwheel to analyze my Facebook friends and their connections. I was told that I had too many. Heaven forbid.


I needed to come up with a list of people who could help me with something I’m doing at CUNY — a very neat project in entrepreneurial journalism I’ll blog about shortly — and so it was quite handy to just dig into my list of Facebook friends and find likely prospects. I also find that I’m making contacts with people in new ways. For me, it’s more effective than LinkedIn has ever been and I’m not sure why that is: maybe it’s more fun; maybe it’s because I have more friends; maybe it’s because it became hotter and so lots of my friends joined. By the way, I maintain my policy of friending only people I know. I wish there were a way for me to meet the other people I don’t yet know. I’m not sure what that is; to have tiers of friendship sounds awfully snobbish. But maybe there’s a need to have virtual mixers.

Facebook is not the new AOL

First Scott Heiferman and then Jason Kottke tried to tamp down the yeasty enthusiasm for Facebook’s platform by making comparisons with AOL, arguing that this was just another closed network. (Heiferman has since said that he has changed his thinking but he doesn’t have time to explain how. Damn. Kottke has amplified his thinking here. )

They hhavead a good and interesting argument, but after thinking about this a lot, I’ve come to disagree — because the two services are closed for different reasons: AOL was closed to give AOL control over us and our money. Facebook is closed to give us control over our identities and communities. AOL tried to “own” — their language back then — our relationship with them. Facebook enables us own our relationships with our friends. Kottke complains that my stuff on Facebook is not searchable on Google, but I think that’s the point; I should decide what I want to be searchable and findable to the world instead of just my friends. Yes, it’s closed, but I get to build the walls this time.

I’ve also argued, agreeing with these gentlemen, that Facebook needs to be more open if, indeed, it intends to become the Google of people. It needs to let me export and open to the world more of my faces. It needs to let me import more of my identity from elsewhere on the internet. It needs to help me organize and present that better. Will it do all that? I have no idea. The platform, I think, is a first step. It’s the next steps that matter.