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Filtering by Category: "Social Networks"

Top 3 Privacy issues for DataPortability on Social Networks

Added on by Chris Saad.
I was asked some questions by Ouriel Ohayon to help with his upcoming presentation at Tel Aviv University. I thought I would share my answers here as well.

He asked me what I thought were the top 3 concerns for Privacy on Social Networks in a DataPortability enabled world

My answers...
  1. Perception: Privacy Concerns are somewhat over-exaggerated - just like with any new system/approach. If I email you, you get my email address. Why wouldn't the same thing happen if I 'friend' you on a social network. The question is not if Robert Scoble had a right to get the data and the data of his friends - the question is why Facebook won't let him.

    Update: I forgot to mention here that if email addresses and spam are the issue - then moving away from email addresses as a means for uniquely identifying users should help solve the issue. As Chris Messina says, we should be using OpenID instead of Email addresses for login and uniqueness checks.
  2. Control: "Privacy" is just a subset of a broader issue of "Control". Facebook and others can give lots of Privacy but ultimately give very little Control. A whole set of other Control features are needed including DataPortability support. Facebook and others like to pretend they are protecting users - but actually they are just protecting their business model. Open will always win though.

  3. Language: Privacy is a very poor, out-dated word. In a social world privacy is less of a concern than complexity and information overload. We need to move onto more practical words such as permissions and trust. Words that let users act.

The Me Meme

Added on by Chris Saad.
Brian Caldwell over on EponymousX has written a fantastic and poetic post about the Me Meme.

He writes:

Our own personal lifestreams, or "public timeline's" if you prefer, are slightly more mundane that the one from Final Fantasy, however it can still be pondered in an analogous manner. Our lifestream threads together everything that we are. Where we go, what we say, who we interact with, how we express ourselves, concepts inside artwork that we create, symbolism that we identify. All can be considered "us" or "me" in some, hopefully non-banal, way.

We say "me" a lot in our lifestreams. Not always directly. Indirectly also. Off the top of our heads. Well thought out over hours of writing and editing. At the snap of the shutter on our iPhone. While visiting at parties and gatherings. By connecting/friending/following through social nets. Generating our APML wake and bow waves through the public timestream. We are the social seed for our downstream online and offline, everyone has a built-in personal wetware network and many people let this stream filter back online, forming a personal lifestream wake.

It's a great read full of all-too-familiar names and experiences. It reminds me of the little rant we posted at

He also makes an interesting point. If the question of 'What do you do' becomes redundant at conferences, maybe we can move on to deeper conversations more quickly when we meet?

I know that I regularly talk with people I have never met. I trust them as much as people I have known in person for years. They are my advisors, my confidants, my partners and my friends.

The social consciousness is humming now. Can you feel it? Our Lifestreams and APML files are bursting at the seams. The best is yet to come. As our reach and reflection grows, maybe so too will our influence and insight into world affairs - both mundane and monumental.

Yes I love alliteration.

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.

Social Network Portability - Continued

Added on by Chris Saad.
Mashable and Dave Winer are also talking about Social Network Portability and unlocking data silos.

Dave says:

Then vendors who have been on the right side of this issue will be the heroes.

It happened with copy protection, a similar issue to data lock-in. One vendor with a very popular product took the lead in challenging the more established companies. Borland, with Sidekick, was the product that broke the dam. Users wised up and refused to buy products that were copy protected. It could happen again.

I am so glad this issue is finally getting some traction. As I have said many times on this blog - while Facebook has gone some way to letting apps in, they are still far from allowing data and users out.

As reported, some very smart people are working on the problem. And of course there is APML.

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...

Getting Attention by Yelling Really Loud

Added on by Chris Saad.
Have you ever wondered why TV commercials sound louder than the TV shows they interrupt?

There's an interest piece about the Volume of TV Ads that explains how and why it works. It's part of a new law being proposed to add consistency to the 'perceived volume' of shows, their ads and between ads.

Under the proposed rule, broadcasters will be told that "A consistent subjective loudness must be maintained between individual advertisements and between the advertisements and programme and other junction material."

It is interesting that the Media 1.0 people believe that shouting loudly at the audience produces the best result. 1.0 thinking at its best.

As I have written somewhere else:

"Advertising was fun, for you, for a while. You made us sit there for 5 minutes at a time watching people jam messages down our throat. Most of them didn't even apply to us. We don't care about that sale or those shoes. We care about our own personal and individual interests. Interests that are both specific and diverse.

If you have a message to tell us, make it compelling. If you have something to say, make it worth listening to. If you have something to sell, make it worth buying. If you have something worth knowing, we will hear about it without you yelling about it. We have friends, social networks, personal profiles and search engines which will tell us what we need to know when we need to know it - our schedule - not yours.

If you want to reach us, come and find us. Talk to us, have a conversation with us. Ask us questions. Listen to our answers. Act on our answers. Empower us to share your message. Because the only person who can tell your message, is us."

Rupert Murdoch on Media 2.0 "Media companies don't control the conversation anymore"

Added on by Chris Saad.
There is a statement from Rupert Murdoch about his impressions of Media 2.0. Let me comment between his comments (found here via Particls).

Special Report
Mixed Media
Rupert Murdoch 05.07.07

Traditional companies are feeling threatened. I say, bring on the changes.

Rather than adapt his traditional businesses, though, he seems anxious to buy himself out of the paradigm change (with acquisitions like myspace). Maybe this will work - maybe it wont.

Everyone knows that networking--once a face-to-face affair, sometimes captured in a Rolodex--is now worldwide, instant, and impervious to constraints of distance, time or cost.

However he has not recognized yet that Networking can not be contained within a walled garden. Myspace can continue to block widgets and architect its site to generate as many page views as possible - but in the end, open and transparent platforms that play nice will win.

Those of us in so-called old media have also learned the hard way what this new meaning of networking spells for our businesses. Media companies don't control the conversation anymore, at least not to the extent that we once did. The big hits of the past were often, if not exactly flukes, then at least the beneficiaries of limited options. Of course a film is going to be a success if it's the only movie available on a Saturday night. Similarly, when three networks divided up a nation of 200 million, life was a lot easier for television executives. And not so very long ago most of the daily newspapers that survived the age of consolidation could count themselves blessed with monopolies in their home cities.

He's using the right rhetoric here - "Big media does not control the conversation anymore". He alludes to the limited choice of the past vs. the hyperchoice of today and tomorrow. How will people make choices amongst this information overload?

All that has changed. Options abound. Fans of small niches can now find new content they could never before. Going elsewhere for news and entertainment is easier and cheaper than ever. And people's expectations of media have undergone a revolution. They are no longer content to be a passive audience; they insist on being participants, on creating their own material and finding others who will want to read, listen and watch.

He knows the language well - does he know its meaning? Participants don't just know what they want to read, listen and watch - they know they are not a commodity to be traded and disrespected. Just look at the recent Digg fiasco with the hex code. They brought that platform to its knees because they perceived that 'the man' had violated their rights.

The point is not that it's easy to find content elsewhere - to change the channel so to speak - but rather that its actually imperative that users have the ability to mix-and-match content. To personalize their experience. This doesn't mean adding a background to my myspace page - it means using the widgets and content I want on my social networking page, and having the right to share and remix content from Fox.

Participation is not sending in emails and changing background images - it's controlling the medium as well as the message.

Consequently the old media are threatened by the erosion of our traditional profit centers. Certainly we can't count on things like print classified advertising being around forever. Similarly, DVRs undermine the mainstay of broadcast television's business model: the commercial.

Nonetheless, it would be wrong to conclude from this that the age of content is over. On the contrary, people want content more than ever, and there is a role for companies that can provide good stuff--"good" being the operative word. Quality is more important than ever, because the marketplace is more ruthlessly competitive. Options are not merely one click of the remote away; devices undreamed of a few short decades ago are at least as tempting as a change of the channel.

Good content will always been desired and consumed. That doesn't mean we are willing to watch it on your schedule, or even in your container. It doesn't mean we don't want to remix it and share it on our own terms and on our own social networks - networks you don't own.

But what he misses here is that 'Good' is not the only criteria for consumption any more. Good was the way you stood out in the movieplex. Good is no longer good enough. What we need now is relevant - Personally Relevant.

While there will always be the blockbuster - the thing we all talk about around the water cooler (or on the social networks), the next big shift will be getting access to the personal stuff.

A video shot by my daughter on her mobile phone is not 'good' - at least not by Mr Murdoch's standards. It is grainy, low resolution and has 0 production values. But it is Personally Relevant.

Old media can survive--and thrive--in this new environment, but they must adapt. We must learn how younger generations of consumers prefer to receive their news and entertainment, and we must meet those expectations.

The good news is that we are learning--and fast. Take the type of media I know best--news. News is in more demand than ever, but the vast network of Internet-savvy news junkies want their news with several fresh twists: constantly updated, relevant to their daily lives, complete with commentary and analysis, and presented in a way that allows them to interact not just with the news but with each other about the news. They won't wait until six o'clock to watch the news on television or until the next morning to read it in isolation. This plainly provides a challenge for news providers but also an opportunity to be far more engaged with the audience.

He's right about all that. But he still seems to think that he can control all these distribution platforms. He still dreams of vertically integrated media production, distribution and monetization models where Fox owns the content, the platform and maybe even the device. Then they own your eyeballs as well.

Companies that take advantage of this new meaning of network and adapt to the expectations of the networked consumer can look forward to a new golden age of media. Far be it from me to suggest that either I or my company have all the answers. No one does. But the future of media is a future of relentless experimentation and innovation, accelerating change, and--for those who embrace the new ways in which consumers are connecting with each other--enormous potential.

Rupert Murdoch is chairman of News Corp.

As long as he remembers that the definition of 'Network' is 'The Internet' - the network of networks. Not the Fox Network.

I have singled Rupert Murdoch out here - only because he has had the vision to engage the issues, so I had his comments to pick on. I actually applaud him for joining the 'conversation'. At least he knows one is going on.

Where are the others guys?

Told ya so... Myspace bans widgets

Added on by Chris Saad.
MySpace banned (and then unbanned) all external widgets from its site. Even though they are now unofficially saying the banning was just an error), I think this was a test balloon to gauge public/industry reaction. I hope the reaction was loud and clear and has changed their thinking - but I fear it won’t hold off the inevitable for long.

Sorry to say it, but I told ya so.

As I've said before, mySpace is not Web 2.0 - it is a more flexible social network. It's re-invented with some very clever marketing/tactics in a time where ads can now pay the bills and costs are low.

Carefactor: 100

Added on by Chris Saad.

With publishing power ebbing from the few to the many and AJAX killing the postback there are a couple of problems emerging.

  1. Media outlets who make a living by selling eyeballs to advertisers are having to prove the value of their ad space amid growing competition from their readers!
  2. When pages don't refresh (because of AJAX), the number of pageviews a site gets no longer matters. When something no longer works, people are forced to invent something new. When people invent something new they are forced to actually look at the problem. What have they discovered? There is a lot more measure than just 'how many eyeballs are there'. Things like 'how wealthy or influential are the eyeballs', 'how much do the eyeballs trust the publisher', 'how reactive and proactive are the eyeballs in relation to the author' and most importantly 'why do we keep ignoring the person and focusing on their eyeballs'.
  3. Advertisers are finding it hard to work out who to give their money to. Is google really the best broker of my advertising dollars? Which ad network or publisher can promote our brand and product better?

As a result, commentators are abuzz about new definitions and algorithms to measure all this stuff.

Comscore is apparently working on a 'Web 2.0 Metric'.

".....While page views will not altogether cease to be a relevant measure of a site's value, it's clear that there is an increasing need to consider page views alongside newer, more relevant measures. comScore is proud to continue carrying the torch as an industry innovator with the development of a new suite of metrics that will effectively address the Web 2.0 landscape by including enhanced measures of user engagement and advertising exposure. We will be introducing these new metrics to the industry in 2007."

And Jeff Jarvis from BuzzMachine talks about the Distributed Media Economy

So pageviews are obsolete already, thanks to Ajax and other unpage technologies and to the widgetization of content, functionality, and branding: Again, what’s a ‘page’? Audience measurements are obsolete, at last, thanks to the fact that the
former consumer is now also the creator and distributor: What’s an ‘audience’? Mass measurements are dead, thank God, because we are now joyfully fragmented into the mass of niches: Who’s a ‘user’?

Dion Hinchcliffe posts:

"it seems clear that users, businesses, and other organizations that deeply embrace the fundamental nature of the Web as a communications-oriented platform without any single owner except all of us, will be the only ones able to fully exploit the possibilities for online applications."

I find this last quote interesting. "Without any single owner". But I think it needs to be taken further. Media outlets and bloggers alike don't own their audience. In fact they don't even own their participants.

While people are happy to get trapped in walled gardens like MySpace for now, they will soon realize that blogs are the real social network. While they are happy to subscribe to 10, 100, 1000 blogs now, they will start to realize that there is far too much content and they actually need to subscribe to ideas/concepts/interests - not authors.

So perhaps if the audience is not owned by any single site/source then the metric should not be bound to them either. Perhaps the best way to measure engagement is not by domain, but by concept.

Hearing names over and over...

Added on by Chris Saad.
While on our Trip to the US and while chatting to friends and contacts online you begin to hear names over and over. One of those names is John Battelle...

"Oh John Battelle would love what you're doing" - Mr X

"Your ideas are right up John's ally" - Mrs Y

I have only just now had a chance to catch up with John's blog and work. It's fantastic - and now I know why people kept on mentioning him.

As you can see I have recently had a run of posts around the theme of 'Media 2.0' and his recent post about Packaged Goods Media Vs. Conversational Media does not disappoint.

Don't worry John - I got to the end!

IAM responsible for this

Added on by Chris Saad.
As you could predict, Chris Anderson is a hero of mine. I almost had a chance to see him speak at Plug & Play while I was in the bay area last month but unfortunately we had a scheduling conflict. Thank heavens for blogging.

His latest post entitled 'I'm not responsible for this' , like many, strikes a chord for me personally and for Touchstone as a product.

He quotes:

The fact that you and I both watched American Idol last night probably doesn't define us, whereas our niche interests really do. We go deep and find people who share our affinities, which represent much tighter connections between us. So my suspicion is that we're going to have fewer loose connections with lots of people but tighter connections with fewer people.

I like this idea very much. It is an idea we have been discussing internally for quite some time. If Touchstone can calculate a highly granular and complete picture of your 'long-tail interests' and store it in APML, and if it can apply that model of your interests to filtering and finding content and people - have we not created both a finger-print of your identity (at least part of it) and a highly personalized world view of content and people like you (and that you like).

The whole post is put in context to Kevin Smith and his continuing popularity despite his recent box-office failures. Anderson writes:

Just like they did 10 years ago, lonely/nerdy/smart teenage boys see in Smith a humor they identify with and a personality they want to emulate. The movies are incidental: Something like Clerks II has the relationship to the Smith brand that a communion wafer has to Catholicism.
I love that :)