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Individuals from Plaxo, Google and Facebook join Workgroup

Added on by Chris Saad.

We are proud to announce the inclusion of Joseph Smarr (Plaxo), Brad Fitzpatrick (Google) and Benjamin Ling (Facebook) to the DataPortability Workgroup.

Plaxo, Google and Facebook together represent the key players in the competing approaches to Social Networking platforms and Data Portability.

Their joint support of the DataPortability initiative presents a new opportunity for the next generation of software - particularly in the fields of social software, user rights and interoperability.

The DataPortability Workgroup is, among other things, actively working to create the 'DataPortability Reference Design' to document the best practices for integrating existing open standards and protocols for maximum interoperability.

This means users will be able to access their friends and media across all the applications, social networking sites and widgets that implement the design into their systems.

We look forward to their contribution to the conversation.

More about the DataPortability initiative:

Our Philosophy: As users, our identity, photos, videos and other forms of personal data should be discoverable by, and shared between our chosen tools or vendors. We need a DHCP for Identity. A distributed File System for data. The technologies already exist, we simply need a complete reference design to put the pieces together.

Our Mission: To put all existing technologies and initiatives in context to create a reference design for end-to-end Data Portability. And, to promote that design to the developer, vendor and end-user community.

Besides these new additions, the WorkGroup includes, among others, Chris Saad (Faraday Media), Stephen Kelly (Peepel), Ben Metcalfe (Consultant to Seesmic and Myspace), Chris Messina (Citizen Agency, Microformats), Daniela Barbosa (Dow Jones), Phil Morle, Ian Forrester (BBC), Kristopher Tate (Zooomr), Paul Keen (NineMSN), Brian Suda, Emily Chang (eHub), Danny Ayers (Talis), Robyn Tippins (Yahoo!), Robert Scoble (PodTech).

For more information:

Please visit the DataPortability site.

Read/Write Web Coverage

Techcrunch Coverage

Welcoming Robert Scoble to the DataPortability workgroup

Added on by Chris Saad.
As many of you know, Faraday Media has long been a champion of user rights. We believe the user has an absolute right to own and control their personal information.

As such we created and promoted APML as an open standard very early in our company history. We then started the DataPortability Workgroup. A group dedicated to championing the cause of other open standards by putting them each in context as part of an end-to-end solution stack.

Since then, we have been both gratified and spirited by the support from the worlds thought leaders on the subjects of open standards, social networking and web-based software.

I'd now like to welcome Robert Scoble to the list of supporters and workgroup members. Robert is also a fellow member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup and his tireless efforts to demonstrate how being open, transparent and social can scale to celebrity scales always influences the conversation and helps to shine a spotlight on worthy companies and causes.

Be sure to check out Robert's recent troubles with Facebook data access and my post to the DataPortability workgroup welcoming Robert and summing up the DataPortability position.

Facebook launches ClosedSocial

Added on by Chris Saad.
So... instead of out-opening Google's OpenSocial (often referred to as OpenWidgets), Facebook has instead launched a campaign to further distribute their proprietary app platform into other networks. Is this ClosedSocial? Or maybe ClosedWidgets?

Come on guys. This is getting pretty silly.

Chris Messina, a fellow member of the DataPortability workgroup, has the right idea. Blogs are the ultimate social network.
  • There are plenty of tools, but the result is the same - they are tool agnostic
  • They have a friends list (blogroll and registered members)
  • They host and drive conversation (comments)
  • They have all manner of 'apps' built for the sidebar
  • They use the web as their platform
  • They are totally customizable
  • They are totally distributed
  • The activity is aggregated via Techmeme, Technorati and others
  • The list goes on...
Are blogs back? Let's hope so.

Facebook Stirring Up Anger For Disabling Accounts

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to Techcrunch:
"As if Facebook didn't have enough to worry about, now it may have a growing customer service problem on its hands. Facebook members whose accounts have been disabled - some with good reason, some not - are increasingly frustrated with the company's opaqueness when it comes to trying to figure out what they did wrong. They find that their accounts have been turned off and access to the site and
all their data is denied, sometimes without so much as a warning. Facebook's customer service reps, who can only be reached via e-mail and are understandably overstretched, are apparently not very responsive."

Facebook is turning into a textbook case of why users must own their own identity and data.

2008 will be the year of the Portable Social Network, the DNS of Identity and the rise of the lifestream.

Stay tuned...

Today is the end of Facebook type walled gardens

Added on by Chris Saad.
Facebook Beacon is bad... we get it. Can we stop talking about what we are against and start talking about what we are for.

We are for owning our own identity. We are for having access to our data. We are for the right to control our own user experience. We are for the right to choose. We are for user rights and respect.

Facebook is just a tool. A tool to communicate. As with all tools it should be used to serve OUR purposes. Not theirs.

The tool should act on our data, not warehouse and trap it for it's own ends. The data should be shared between all my other tools in a way that is under my complete control. My friends are my friends, not theirs. My interests are my interests, not theirs.

Now they want my purchasing history as well? The recent revelation that Facebook is collecting purchase history information for users who are opted-OUT of beacon is yet another level of privacy violation.

Purchase history is an incredibly rich source of Attention Data. In fact it is the richest source of Attention data there is. If you are willing to part with your money for something then it is obviously of significant interest to you.

The problem, though, is not with Facebook - the problem is with us. The community and bloggers. We are focused on what we don't like about Facebook instead of what we do like about an alternative to Facebook.

Like the mainstream media we fail to provide context and alternatives to the stories being told. We need to talk about a new model of social networking. A model where we have undisputed access to our friends, data and rights.

Let's promote a new model. Let's demand it. And lets remember that we vote with our feet. The Beacon advertisers have already started voting with their dollars - they are 'opting-out' of Beacon.

Facebook increases user profiling - still no APML!

Added on by Chris Saad.
Facebook has added 'I like this' and 'I don't like this' buttons to each NewsFeed entry.

So Facebook are now they are collecting your explicit Attention Gestures to measure how much interest you, as a user, has in the ads and notifications coming through the stream.

This, of course, adds another dimension to their already comprehensive Attention Profile.

Still no APML or RSS though.

At a time when APML is being integrated into NewsGator and Ask products, tools are being created to convert Last.FM attention/listening data to APML, and Facebook's ad platform is receiving a lot of heat, one wonders if Facebook will continue to open their platform to give users control.

Facebook says that you are a FANatical ConSUMER

Added on by Chris Saad.
Jeremiah (fellow Media 2.0 Workgroup member) has just posted the latest news from myspace and facebook about their new social advertising solutions.

From his executive summary:
Both Facebook and MySpace have launched profile and network targeted advertising and marketing products. As they both use member interests and the communities which they are part of, trust continues to become key in adoption as information is passed along the network. The sheer size of MySpace's member base, as well as the thriving local business membership will lead to success. Facebook, which brings a unique solution evolves advertisements to endorsements and encourages members to subscribe to a brand in what we are calling "Fan-Sumers" (an evolution of the consumer). As consumers share their affinities, brands can advertise using trusted social relationships.
Advertising as we know it is indeed dead. Word of mouth has always been more powerful than messages shouted from on-high. And now, with Media 2.0 reducing friction to zero and increasing visibility toward 100%, Word of mouth has never been stronger - or more important.

Your words now echo for all of time - and they get louder as they travel.

So moving towards a world where sites can enable brands to better facilitate and moderate the word of mouth network seems obvious. The problem, though, is with the fundamental thinking at these organizations.

For example, the name Fan-sumer is disgusting. FANatical ConSUMER? It's far worse than User Generated Content! Sure it's just a name, but it is a revealing insight into their line of thinking.

Word of mouth is not sanctioned, it just happens. Ultimately the best you can do is join in the conversation. Giving away 'free steak knives' to your friends only reduces everyone's credibility.

As I said on Jeremiah's post, however, the core idea is not a total write-off - but it will need heavy modification to align with reality - friends trust each other, and helping them spam each other does nothing for anyone

I wrote:
Fan-sumer? So now we are further reduced to FANatical ConSUMERS?

As usual, the underlying idea is interesting, but the execution is so user-unfriendly (the name alone reveals their true intentions) that they are just legitimizing peer-to-peer spam.

As a true social solution for advertising it is not a write-off, but the execution needs a lot of tweaking to be truly about engagement and personalization with a true sense of trust based endorsements from your friends.

Update: I have also posted about this on Blognation.

Data Portability, User Rights and Best Practices

Added on by Chris Saad.
Following on from yesterday's post about the User Bill of Rights...

All the issues are converging. The commentators are pushing for their rights. The innovators are building the pieces (Microformats, APML, OpenID etc). All that's left is for the aggitators to force the issue.

Chris Messina is my hero. Read his latest post about the bill of rights and the issue of user ownership and control of their user data.

He writes:

In any case, if we’re to make progress on this topic, we also have to understand a) why this kind of portability hasn’t been embraced heretofore and b) how it has been hindered.


I alluded to this earlier, but according to danah boyd, there’s a lot of people who seem really to not mind leaving their profiles (and “internet friends”) behind when they jump sites or — heck — forget their passwords and have to start all over. Is the problem as bad as we, the prolific social networkers with “inhibited manifest destinies”, seem to think it is? Or is this just a problem with the early adopters who have thousands of friends that they seem to think to want to cart around everywhere while they increasingly find themselves with ever-diminishing amounts of time to even “play” social network anymore?

Ah, humbug.

Emerging Social Fatigue

Added on by Chris Saad.
My friend Marianne Richmond has pointed me to a great video by Jeffrey Sass and a post by Jeff Pulver.

The video is a great little parody of the information and social deluge we are all experiencing trying to keep up with the million social graphs and applications we are participating in.

Jeff writes:

As real-time social media continues to evolve, I will know where my friends are, what they're facing, if and when they need help, when they have discovered something interesting and many other things they care to share at any moment. The people in my social media communications circle represent a group of people I feel much closer to than some other people whom I've known for a long time but never really have gotten to know. Sort of the difference between a well developed character in a novel as compared to someone whose character never gets really developed.

The parody video is supposed to highlight, however, the lack of scalability for all these social interactions. The mainstream will never participate in all these platforms at the same time. They will likely choose a few key apps and stick to them.

The key, however, is to make sure that our Social Graph is portable and our AttentStreams are syndicated.

As Jeff writes:

Over time this experience will only get better as the current high "signal to noise ratio" problems that many of us experience get solved with the advent of widely available social media filtering tools which will be able to be applied against the people/topics that matter the most to us.

A filtered stream of notifications is exactly what we need. Thank heavens for my Particls sidebar.

Facebook is using your data to target ads at you

Added on by Chris Saad.
According to the Wall Street Journal online Facebook is designing an ad system to use their extensive knowledge of its users to target advertising to them.

This move is hardly unexpected. Chances are many sites across many usage models are considering and implementing the same thing.

The WSJ writes:

Next year, Facebook hopes to expand on the service, one person says, using algorithms to learn how receptive a person might be to an ad based on readily available information about activities and interests of not just a user but also his friends -- even if the user hasn't explicitly expressed interest in a given topic. Facebook could then target ads accordingly.

The question, however, is how long users are going to accept having their information harvested and leveraged in this way - the very heart of the Attention Economy - without demanding portability and transparency.

The WSJ article continues:

While Facebook plans to protect its users' privacy and possibly give them an option to keep certain information completely private, some Facebook users might rebel against the use of their personal information for the company's gain.

And the perceptions that targeted ads create can be as much of a problem as the reality. "Most people don't realize how targeting works; it becomes so good that even though it's anonymous, you feel like they know you," says Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Publicis Groupe-owned consulting firm Denuo Group. However, he says Facebook needs to be careful in implementing any targeted ad system, lest loyal users "find it creepy."

This is key. Maintaining privacy is just a subset of giving users control. Control must include portability and transparency.

Using export/import formats like APML would soften the impact of privacy/control concerns. The problem is that walled gardens like Facebook (and yes - it is a walled garden) think that they need to lock users in in order to maintain their unique value.

The truth is, however, that unless Facebook begins to adopt more standards and open up its platform for export, it will be usurped by the first medium-scale network to do so. Don't believe me? Remember that little network Facebook that blew Myspace & Linkedin up by opening up just a little?

Let's hope that Facebook considers taking some measures before rolling out their new ad system.

Steve Rubel says we are all monkeys

Added on by Chris Saad.
Steve Rubel is calling us all Monkeys on Treadmills.

He writes:

"Lately I have been thinking a lot about channels. Every day it seems there's a hot new Web 2.0 site that captures our attention.

We're a million monkeys running on treadmills, chasing the latest banana. Myself included! The breathing apparatus in the photo above reminds me of my Google Reader stream!


Surely, channels are where the action is at. However, it's important to remember they are just that - and they change. Circa 1998, perhaps when many of you were 10, The, GeoCities and Tripod were all the rage. They faded from our horizon over time. The same thing will happen to many of today's hot sites. In fact, I advise marketers not to invest too much time in creating "a Facebook strategy" as much as they don't have "an NBC strategy" or "a New York Times strategy." Instead, I encourage them to people watch, learn and then plan based on their audience and the big picture."

It's funny that as soon as MySpace has lost the spotlight and people have given up developing stuff for it in a mad rush to Facebook that Steve/Edelman (who consult to Myspace) have started to downplay the importance of any given platform or ecosystem.

I don't disagree with the basic premise that Facebook is just a tool and tools come and go, but calling everyone monkeys and downplaying the Facebook strategy is a little hypocritical.

I've made my dislike of Myspace clear. Not only does it foster a lot of garbage interactions, it does business through FUD and tries to choke off the air supply of developers/companies who are trying to add value.

This is all changing now of course. Facebook's platform strategy has forced a change in direction for Youtube. The only question now is why their advisors didn't suggest doing it earlier. And why are they downplaying it now. Or if they did, why didn't they listen.

Facebook's platform play is a better approach - but it is still not really open. However even their small glimmer of openess was enough to attract massive attention.

As I've written before, Rupert Murdoch (The man in charge at Fox, Owners of Myspace) will have to learn that 'the Network' is the Internet, not the Fox Network.

Analogies and Metaphors: Marc Canter's vision of the open social network

Added on by Chris Saad.
I have been reading a lot of Marc Canter's thoughts on open social networks recently - they mirror my own when thinking about the current rush to Facebook and the recent huge funding round for Ning.

I have also been thinking about Analogies and Metaphors and how they help clarify, crystallize and convey ideas so elegantly sometimes. Sometimes you can summarize lots of concepts very simply with a well thought out analogy. So I have decided to try to use them more.

So here is my first attempt (be gentle)...

Facebook (and other social networks) are like shopping centers. Independent business owners set up shop and sell you their products and services while the shopping center itself attracts the foot traffic.

However these shopping centers are not like real shopping centers. They let invite people in and you can form friendships while you are there, but they won't let you leave together. They remember every purchase you make, but they wont give you a receipt. They sell you plenty of stuff, but those things don't have any value as soon as you leave. These shopping centers want to lock the doors and trap you inside - they don't want you to go home.

They don't want you to go to that little corner store. If you do, you can't take any of your friends with you. Once you go into these shopping centers and spend time with your friends, form great friendships and 'buy' stuff, they think they own you, your stuff and your relationships.

Facebook should be more like real shopping centers. They are nice to visit. You can take your friends in, you can leave with your relationships intact and your purchases in hand.

Do you have a better Analogy (wouldn't be hard)? Post it in the comments...

The Facebook AttentStream

Added on by Chris Saad.
The image below is a screenshot of my facebook News Feed. It is basically my Facebook AttentStream. Mix in posts from your RSS reading list and the LifeStream of your friends who don't live on FaceBook and you're done.

The Facebook News Feed, to me, is one of their most impressive innovations. Among many things it encourages viral swarming of friends to given activities, applications and groups. I wish more applications provided one.

The goal of Particls: To provide an interface into which the status changes of your friends co-exist with the news headlines you care about in a unified, ranked and filtered river of news.

All we need now is an RSS feed of your Facebook News Feed.