The Facebook issue, once again, but this time with feeling!

Perhaps I had a bit too much caffeine too late in the day, but here at 10:30PM at the end of an otherwise lovely weekend, I feel the need, once again, to address the “Facebook situation”.

But let’s talk about something else, like music.  That should make the conversation a little easier to understand.  There are nearly limitless choices for your listening pleasure out there.  Some of you may even prefer not to listen to any music at all.  And that is ALL good.

Now, it may come to pass that one day, a dear friend, like someone really important to you, might say, “Hey, friend!  Listen to this GREAT music.  I mean you REALLY have to listen to this music, because it is SO good and I love it so much!”  And the hope is that you and your friend will be able to enjoy this great music together and have this as a space where you can share your mutual affection.  The two of you can exist together enjoying this music together and it will be this really nice connection as you share something wonderful.  Sounds great, no?

Except, what happens if you listen to this music, which your good friend REALLY LOVES SO MUCH, and then, after really giving it a chance, you decide, you know what?  I’m afraid I just don’t like this music so much.  Does this mean that you can’t be friends?  Does this mean that you will never get to find out what’s going on in your friend’s life?  Because you don’t listen to the same music?  I mean, that’s REALLY crazy, right?

Except, that’s exactly what happens to people who don’t like Facebook.  It’s not that I don’t like the people on Facebook.  Hell, I’m related to a lot of them, and others are great and dear friends for many years.  But, for fuck’s sake, IT’S NOT THE ONLY GAME IN TOWN, ALRIGHT?!?!?

There may not be as many choices for communication as there are choices for music.  A lot of people I know who use Facebook A LOT, don’t like Twitter.  And Tumblr is so wonderful, but no one is making a movie about that any time soon.  But you know what?  Email works pretty good, text messaging, Google Groups, WordPress, Posterous, Last.fm – I mean, this is just to name a few.  Also, there’s this thing called a telephone, if you really want to get technical.

But no – everyone uses Facebook because everyone else uses it.  DO YOU KNOW HOW STUPID THAT IS?!?  DO YOU REALIZE THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE?!?

And it makes me feel like I am trapped in a room with Top 40 radio playing the SAME THREE SONGS over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…

Thank you to John @Scalzi and Joseph Perla for their articulate assessments of Facebook

This stuff, from Scalzi’s Whatever is absolutely brilliant.  Make sure you read the whole screed, but here are few choice tidbits:

Facebook has made substandard versions of everything on the Web, bundled it together and somehow found itself being lauded for it, as if AOL, Friendster and MySpace had never managed the same slightly embarrassing trick. Facebook had the advantage of not being saddled with AOL’s last-gen baggage, Friendster’s too-early-for-its-moment-ness, or MySpace’s aggressive ugliness, and it had the largely accidental advantage of being upmarket first — it was originally limited to college students and gaining some cachet therein — before it let in the rabble.

In addition to the elitism, which I hadn’t previously thought of, there is the dumbed-down web aspect:

Facebook is the Web hit with a stupid stick, but that doesn’t mean people are stupid for using it.

And let us not forget what it’s all for – not bringing people together, that’s merely a by-product of the commercial enterprise:

Its grasping attempts to get its hooks into every single thing I do feels like being groped by an overly obnoxious salesman. Its general ethos that I need to get over the concept of privacy makes me want to shove a camera lens up Zuckerberg’s left nostril 24 hours a day and ask him if he’d like for his company to rethink that position.

Again, it is not the people who use Facebook that is the problem, it is the platform itself.  And the real question, which Scalzi presumes to answer, is whether the MASSIVE market penetration will ever let this unfortunate and inadequate advertising device go away.  Here’s a clue to Scalzi’s opinion: He’s a bit more optimistic than I am.

While Scalzi looks at the technological inadequacies of Facebook, which he thinks will be its downfall, I see evidence that the outsized adoption rate, the 500 million members, creates a mythology of profit that goes beyond the reality of substandard technology.

I have no idea who Joseph Perla is, but this article, which may overstate the case a bit, brings up some questions about the value received by Facebook advertisers.

More and more people sign up to Facebook, and more and more businesses hear about how many people are on Facebook. It seems like a huge opportunity. TV shows and award-winning movies are made about Facebook.

Perla suggests that the it’s all sizzle and no steak:

What is clear from everyone I know who has advertised on Facebook is that it was a waste of money. Facebook promises big returns on ad spending, but delivers nothing. Yet, their value and growth continues because they can use that money to grow their user-base more and assert profitability (in this sense it’s not quite entirely a ponzi scheme, but there is no closer idea). It’s possible that they do not even realize that they are like a Ponzi scheme.

Perhaps Facebook is not a Ponzi scheme, but this concept of questionable value to advertisers has been on my mind for a while.  It was refreshing to see someone echo those sentiments.

First of all, it shouldn’t be called GoogleMe, it should be called GoogleUs

Or GoogleWe, if the “Us” might get confused with U.S., thus making the product/platform seem a bit too American.

Now then, what the fuck am I doing up at 4:18AM dreaming about Google’s Facebook competitor? I can’t even blame this one on the dog.  She is blissfully passed out at the foot of the bed.  No, this one us all me.

Anyway, Google should not have let Apple get hold of Lala.   That platform had such amazing, untapped potential.  Now it’s just dead.   I continue to be amazed at how people can stare at Blip.fm all day.  Google could have had their social network built around music and modeled after Blip, if they had only grabbed Lala.  As far as I know, Google wasn’t even interested.

And now, with GoogleMe (whatever that is), they will invariably bite off more than they can chew by trying to catch up too much ground all at once.  Sad, really.   Oh well, I guess they can afford another failure.

Here’s what I would do.

Start with Gmail.  Everyone (almost) already has an account and contacts (potential friends).  Next, make it a completely separated interface.   One of Buzz’s great failure us that us showed up in EVERYONE’S Gmail, whether they wanted it or not.

This new thingy should be more like Google Analytics, a product comparatively few Gmail account holders actually possess, but one that they all have access to via their Gmail account.

So, first question, “Do you want to join GoogleUs?”   And your gmail address us already in the box; just enter your password and we’ll get started.

Next, “Here are your Google Contacts.  Who among these contacts do you want to add to your GoogleUs?”.  Check ‘em off and send ‘em invites. If they are already on GoogleUs, it’s friend request.  Next.

This is where it gets tricky, but also fun. Right now, the name of the game is games. But instead of Farmville or Mafia Wars, GoogleUs will give you the chance to immediately dive into a Blip-like environment.  And not just with music.  At the outset, there should be a separate “neighborhood” for a few broad interests: music, sports, travel, literature, comics, movies, etc.  And, to get things rolling, Google should not start too big.  My strategy would be to purchase Blip.fm and Flixster right off the bat and use those good, existing platforms to begin the project.

I find the movies aspect especially exciting.  We already know how the Blip architecture works for music: listen to a song (blip it), find others who have blipped that song, become “friends” exchange “props”, win badges, tweet blips, etc. etc.

With movies, you can’t watch the entire feature, but with the power of YouTube already under Google’s tent, friends could exchange scenes and trailers which are already available.  Then, based on an exchange of props, users win badges and are entitled to other perks.

Picture this same, community-building, yet quasi-competitive, model spread across numerous genres, enthusiasm and pursuits.  Yardbarker sort of has this set up for sports.  Epicurious has a lot of data for food.

Another thought is a neighborhood called “reunion” or some stupid shit like that.  Google Reunion would be the real answer to Facebook – specifically a place to connect where family and friends and just do all the inane stuff people do on Facebook.  This is where you could enter as much or little information about yourself and Google will help you find, and be found by, your long lost relations (whoopee).

All these neighborhoods are then oriented around a user’s central hub.  For each friend, the user will choose which neighborhood feeds from which friends will show up in the timeline of the central hub.  For example: Say old Uncle Mpomy is really into prog rock, like crazy into it.  You don’t want to see that.  So don’t check Mpomy’s “music” feed.  But he is, after all, your uncle, and when he posts pictures of his basset hound, well, you would like to see that.  That’s the friends & family feed.  So that one gets a check.  And if you’re both Phillies fans, then you check the sports feed also.  All that will then appear in your central hub.

So, of course none of this is going to happen.  Google is a company of engineers and they know better than to listen to someone who uses social media about what a social network should look like.  I only dreamed this thing up because it’s how I would like all my stuff integrated.  But none of that matters to Google.  Wave was a brilliant piece if engineering, but it was an horrendous application.  No one knew what to do with it.  No matter how amazing the application, if it doesn’t do anything (fun), then it will not be successful.

Drew Olanoff got it right when he said that Facebook is not a website, it’s an OS.  Google should start at the end, like the trial lawyers who start with their closing arguments.  What do people want to do?  What’s fun?  What websites and apps do people become drawn into and can’t stop looking at?  Once they answer those questions, they need to build a platform that will run those answers, in integrated harmony.  There is no way it’s going to happen, but I think it would be nice.

If you ignore them, they won’t go away, they’ll take over

I am so sick of Sarah Palin.  She is a dimwitted fool who holds no political office.  She is a racist, a bigot and completely insulting to those feminists who actually know what that term means.  I have often thought, with regard to the excessive piling on that the left does at Ms. Palin’s expense, why bother?  Why give her any more attention?  That’s exactly what she wants.  Just don’t pay any attention to her and that will be the end of it.

But one could say the same thing about Facebook – why complain?  You don’t like it, just leave it alone.  But if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you know that I’m not inclined to leave it alone.  There are too many people on Facebook.  It has achieved a firm foothold, like a tick that is dug in deep, and ignoring it can lead to dire consequences.

After the absurdity of Ms. Palin’s own tweets over the past few days, I feel that the same is true.  We ignore her and her ignorance at our peril.  These two pearls confirm it.  Talkingpointsmemo has the complete analysis, but the two key points are that (1) any Muslim who wants the mosque near ground zero is not peaceful, and (2) refudiate is obviously not a word.  Whoever among her handlers that is allowing this woman to use twitter should be fired.  But, like any experienced tweeter, Palin deleted the above, but rather than admit she did anything wrong, we got the following.

I want to know which works of Shakespeare this woman has read, that she would compare herself to the greatest writer the English language has yet known.  And please, gentle ex-governor, do tell which words the bard made up, so that we might learn from you ample knowledge.

But when I read about young Ryan Murdough, running for political office in New Hampshire, I realize there is good reason to worry about ignorance and hatred.  If there is no effort to make note of these frightening politicians, their influence will spread unchecked.

So, on I rant.

For some reason, I’ve decided to be very vocal about my distaste for Facebook

It’s not just that I don’t like the abuse of private information.  That’s been well-documented by Dana Boyd and others.  I also find the smug attitude to be more than I can stand.   As a casual Facebook user, I find that I am constantly being told what to do – play this game, give us access to your Gmail Contacts – look at all your “friends” who did the same thing.  It’s nauseating.

So, I’ve spent a little time lately ranting and raving like a lunatic to see what happens.  Facebook is one of the great data miners out there.  Will they react to my profanity-laced insolence?  Only time will tell.

In the interim, however, Facebook is making an excellent punching bag; it therapeutic!  Bad day at work?  Yell at Facebook.  Dog peed in the house?  Facebook’s fault.  Phillies on a losing streak?  Fuck Facebook!  Try it, you’ll like it.

Facebook and the battle over “choice and informed consent”

Danah Boyd boiled over today and, fortunately, a keyboard was nearby.  The Facebook revolution is upon us and the shit they are trying to pull is downright sneaky.  I know it’s a long post, but it’s important.  Here’s a choice tidbit:

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.”

You want to know why it’s bad – THAT’s why it’s bad.  And scary.  When Facebook throws its 400 million users around, it moves with potentially unstoppable momentum.  I had a young lawyer tell me that, for him, Facebook was like the telephone.  He and his friends don’t think about what’s going on behind the curtain, they just accept Facebook as a necessary cummunication apparatus.

Ask yourself these questions: could you give it up right now?  Are there people that are important to you  with whom you only communicate via Facebook?  Would you still communicate with those folks if you had no Facebook?  Does Facebook have you by the short ones?

Read Boyd’s blog posts and stay informed.   Facebook has become extraordinarily powerful and remains unregulated and unchallenged.  With the recent ‘open graph’ gambit Facebook is showing that it does not even pretend to adhere to Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ mantra.  We are, just in the past few weeks hearing a tiny uptick in dissent, but with the number of users absolutely committed to the platform, Facebook is well positioned to do a great deal of harm.

Time for me to rethink my relationship with Facebook. Again.


We’re all connected to the internet, but more of us are connected to Facebook than any other THING out there.  400 million people are ‘on Facebook.  Compare to Twitter’s 100 million.  The question is whether there is a way to access all of those users outside the walled garden that IS Facebook.  It seems that we have an answer, or at least a proposed answer -

Make the rest of the web look like Facebook.

You are going to see that “f” EVRYWHERE, sans serif!  Countless third-parties are going to jump at the opportunity to get plugged into your Facebook status, and friends, and photos, and the other companies you become a ‘fan’ of on Facebook.  The goal of this initiative is nothing less than an attempt to take over the World Wide Web.

Think of the web as limitless connections between different users.  What ff Facebook owned the the strands that make up the web?

Time to come clean about my new addiction – Blip.fm

Blip.Fm.Logo

The idea of social networking mixed with music is something I’ve been doing since before the Internet existed.  In high school and college, I often made connections with people based solely on a shared love of music.  And then we would start the process of sharing and educating and expanding.  It goes on and on to this day and, hopefully, for the rest of my life.

So the idea of a computer-based social network platforms based around music is a no-brainer.  But I’ve also been a bit slow on the uptake for how these platforms work.  I never had a MySpace page and my troubles with Facebook are well-documented.

Things changed a bit when I got brave enough to start posting on the Progarchives forum.  This was a great idea for (a) wasting time and (b) getting news about prog fast.  I wasn’t looking to make friends and didn’t.  Some of the other posters had a display at the bottom of their posts which showed what they were listening to.  In order to do the same thing, I got an account with Last.fm.  This looked a lot like Facebook, so i dodn’t get into the social aspect – no friending for me.  But at least it cataloged all my listening habits, which I thought was pretty cool.  But there was one more step getting that information integrated with the ‘signature’.  Apparently, I had to join something called Twitter.

So, in March of 2008, I created a Twitter account, solely for the purpose of making images like this one.  Between March of ’08 and June of ’09, I tweeted exactly ten times.  Since then, it’s been about 560.  Suffice to say, I like Twitter.  It’s beautifully disorganized; the users make the rules; there are no ads; and it’s a good syndication tool for blog posts and other important pieces of information.

So this brings me to the recent discovery of Blip.fm.  It’s not perfect.  It has ads (ugh!), it runs slow, the musical selections are surprisingly limited, and the posting of track on my various websites (and Twitter) is not nearly as elegant as what I can do with Grooveshark.  But where as Grooveshark is useful and more comprehensive, Blip.fm is downright fun.

It’s a game.  You’re a DJ and you’re trying to get listeners.  In that regard it’s a bit like Facebook and Twitter with ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, but there is an extra element of silliness at Blip – ‘credits’ and ‘props’.  In addition to seeking listeners, I’m also seeking props.  Other users (DJs) give me props if they like my selection.  I can get credits by getting props (1 = 1) or by getting other DJs to reBlip my selections.  So, I’m looking for artists with similar taste, or with taste I want to learn more about (I’ve discover Chali 2na!), and I’m bouncing around, blipping selections, re-blipping, giving out props, adding listeners to my favorite DJs list and hoping to get added to others.

So far, I’ve connected with some pretty impressive musical tastes and I’ve even accumulated a few props and listeners.  It’s all good fun, and it’s built to look like Twitter, so the interface is pretty easy for me to get started.  I still need to have continuous playing (listen while you search) and an iPhone app and more complete selections (like Grooveshark), but I’m still having a blast.  Wanna see what I been blippin’?

Check it out!

OK – that was a colossal waste of time

The way this theme is set up, the Twitter feed was hard to follow; every time there was a mention or a hashmark, I got one of those gray squares, and it was impossible for the reader to tell where one post began and one post ended.  I decided the answer was a flash-based widget and just auditioned every got damned one out there.  They all suck.  I have temporarily settled with the ‘official’ badge, which looks more like an advertisement – that thing is not staying.

I either have to find a way to monkey around with the code for theme (there is an update, but I’m afraid to loose my customization), or I can go back to the old way, or I can just bag the whole thing.

The Twitter profile does not really serve any useful purpose, other than to give the visitor an idea of how often I update and what kind of garbage gets dumped there.

This idea of broadcasting updates is going to need its own post, as I have been asked again (for the first time in a while, actually) why I am not on FaceBook.  The short version is that there is no ‘good’ answer – but more on that later.

Tonight Em and I consoled each other after a Phillies loss with a classic episode of The X-Files – Jose Ching, of course!