Mario Sundar

LinkedIn's 2nd PR hire. These are my thoughts on products, public relations, and startups.

Facebook Beacon lights a firestorm in a teacup?

Summary: Beacon lights a fire storm of privacy issues — Word-of-mouth marketing or misplaced advertising? — Why Matthew Ingram and Justin Smith are wrong on the Beacon issue

Moveon.org is targeting Facebook Beacon as an invasion of privacy — Big Brother style (alright, I’m guilty of the gratuitous Apple reference, the 1984 Mac commercial)

What is Facebook Beacon?
Beacon is a way for businesses to let their customers “share the actions they take on your website with their Facebook friends.” In other words, it’s a new way for Facebook users to log and broadcast their outside-of-Facebook online activity inside Facebook.

Why is it bothering users of Facebook?
The chief privacy concern raised by MoveOn is that Beacon is opt-out, not opt-in. (via Inside Facebook)

What is Matthew Ingram saying?
Matthew Ingram, quotes Justin Smith (Inside Facebook) to make his case that Facebook Beacon’s woes are overstated by Charlene Li and that this one will also pass:

It was almost exactly a year ago that Facebook suddenly allowed everything you did on the site to be published to your news feed so that everyone could see it, and plenty of users went completely apeshit about it being a heinous invasion of privacy, etc. Facebook was excoriated for the way it handled the announcement, and for the fact that it forced people to opt out instead of allowing them to opt in and configure who saw what, and generally it was a tsunami of negative publicity.

As Justin notes, 100 times as many people got upset about the news feed as joined the Moveon protest, and that one blew over eventually.

Now, here’s why I beg to differ:

1. The furore over Newsfeed did not subside until critical adjustments were made to the newsfeed culminating in an apology by Mark Zuckerberg:

We really messed this one up. When we launched News Feed and Mini-Feed we were trying to provide you with a stream of information about your social world. Instead, we did a bad job of explaining what the new features were and an even worse job of giving you control of them. I’d like to try to correct those errors now.

Somehow we missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

BTW, the above blog post by Mark is one of the best examples of a CEO responding to user concerns in as timely a manner as possible. Another case in point of such swift response by a CEO would be Steve Jobs apology in response to the furore over the iPhone drop. Now, this is how CEOs should blog; not every day! (Read more of my posts on corporate blogging here)

2. While the news feed, after above changes turned out to be the “magnetic and social and addictive” as Matthew states, Beacon on the other hand is about monitoring your purchases outside of Facebook and it does so in many cases without your knowledge (Anyone in the know, please correct me if I’m wrong. Dave?). I’ve a strong suspicion that this also depends on the purchase site.

I’ve to state that although it looks like Charlene didn’t notice a msg. when she purchased stuff on Overstock, two other colleagues of mine, noticed a pop-up from Fandango and Overstock respectively saying that this information was going to be passed onto Facebook. What has your experience been?

Finally, what do I think of Beacon personally?

As an avid blogger/social media type, I don’t mind it, as long as I’m aware of it. I just noticed my colleague Steve Ganz had bought tickets to a movie via Fandango and he seemed fine with others on his feed knowing about it. However, I’d agree totally with Charlene Li of Forrester who recently had close encounters of the beacon kind that users need to be aware of such transactions being passed onto Facebook:

But I need to be in control and not get blindsided as I did in the example above. I was seriously wigged out, but wouldn’t have been if Overstock had simply told me that they were inserting a Facebook Beacon and given me the opportunity at that time to opt-in to Beacon.

Having said that let me clarify that both, Steve and I are edge case users/twitterers/bloggers who may not mind such “announcements” but the majority of users may either ruin their Christmas surprise or worse still aggravate their professional relationships (if they have professional contacts on Facebook) by exposing their personal choice/purchases in books (think hot button topics like religion, politics, etc…), and the like.

What do you think of Facebook Beacon? Is it similar to the News feed issue or is it far more of a privacy concern for you? Leave comments.

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Disclosure: For those of you not aware, I work as community evangelist at LinkedIn and these are purely my personal ramblings.

Filed under: Crisis Communications, Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Public Relations, Steve Jobs

The Facebook vs. LinkedIn generation

Summary: Woke up to a great thought provoking op-ed piece in the New York Times that spoke of the Facebook generation or what some may call the millennial generation (Gen Y; if you may), the aging of the Social Graph and it’s probable impact on the original demographic of the social networking site.


Picture Source: Joel Stein’s column for TIME | “You are Not My Friend
Illustration by Francisco Caceres for TIME

While one school of thought contends that some of the incoming work force may gravitate towards Facebook as a business tool, “another school of thought” wonders if the pollution of Facebook’s “social graph” will drive their typical user elsewhere (maybe to the next shiny object). FYI, I’m the Community Evangelist at LinkedIn and have always stated my preference of keeping my social and business network as separate as possible.

From the “other school of thought”, here’s Alice Mathias’ op-ed piece in the New York Times that ponders the inherent nature of a pure-play social networking tool, per se

Facebook did not become popular because it was a functional tool — after all, most college students live in close quarters with the majority of their Facebook friends and have no need for social networking. Instead, we log into the Web site because it’s entertaining to watch a constantly evolving narrative starring the other people in the library.

My 3-point take:

1. My constantly evolving social narrative is about movies, politics, tv, social life, etc… and I know that most of the other folk I work with couldn’t care less about it unless there are some who share some of these interests (and as of today there’s not one colleague who probably does that I know of!). Even in the real world, I think it’s fair to say that most of us are not too open to sharing our social narrative w/ colleagues even in a water cooler discussions. Here’s a snippet from the NYT op-ed piece:

But does this more reverent incarnation of Facebook actually enrich adult relationships? What do these constellations of work colleagues and long-lost friends amount to? An online office mixer? A reunion with that one other guy from your high school who has a Facebook profile? Oh! You get to see pictures of your former college sweetheart’s family! (Only depressing possibilities are coming to mind for some reason.)

Don’t most “adults” have most of these social relationships (family, friends built) and if so why should they turn to a social network to build this network anew?

2. Secondly, my Facebook profile contains my political preferences and sometimes religious preferences and it’s yet again a scary thought as to what your work teams may think when confronted with such hot-button issues that are otherwise buried in your busy daily office routine. How would it impact your relationships with co-workers, colleagues, peers and maybe with your boss?

3. What about the privacy settings one may ask? A couple of weeks back I’d a random individual comment on a photo that I’d uploaded which had me and a friend in it, commenting on her. I immediately took down the picture and cranked up my privacy settings for fear that I’d exposed my friend’s picture to a random stranger. That could happen to anyone. I’d definitely recommend reading this piece by my good friend Dave McClure’s blog about Privacy settings on Facebook (a must-read) and I’ll recommend you doing that on any pure-play social network you’re a part of.

In finality, I’m going to turn to the NYT piece for Alice’s take on privacy:

So even though Facebook offers an elaborate menu of privacy settings, many of my friends admit that the only setting they use is the one that prevents people from seeing that they are Currently Logged In. Perhaps we fear that the Currently Logged In feature advertises to everyone else that we (too!) are Currently Bored, Lustful, Socially Unfulfilled or Generally Avoiding Real Life.

Conclusion:
To me Facebook or any other social network is about expressing your personal side, your social side and your fun side, but it’s never going to be cool to share my party pics with my team at work (for obvious reasons). I enjoy the social narrative and on a separate level love to see my professional network updates on LinkedIn, which in my opinion heralded the coming of the mini-feed, which many faithful & typical Facebook users hated at the time of its launch (Just ask Danah Boyd about the “Privacy trainwreck”).

As the community evangelist, I see the LinkedIn generation as being epitomized by “Mavens/Connectors/Salesmen” generation, as defined by “The Tipping Point“. I don’t think we should be letting salesmen into our social lives and I, for one personally, will strive to keep the two separate. I know everyone has their own experience. Feel free to share yours and please describe who you are and what you do for a living. That provides some context to the conversation. (Disclaimer: All these are purely my personal thoughts only)

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Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin

Advertisers now want to use social networks for what?!

Summary: As expected advertisers are jumping onto the social networking bandwagon – pitfalls ahead (Warning: Astro-network-turfing anybody?) — What should marketers do? — Follow the Social Networking LAMP (a variation on my recent presentation at the Online Marketing Summit).

Just a couple of weeks back, I gave two presentations on the “Impact of Social Media on Marketing”. I also took pains to identify some of the Ten Ways for marketers to engage organically in social networking (think word of mouth marketing). One of my key takeaways from the phenomenon of social networking (Disclosure: I work for LinkedIn as community evangelist), is that it helps spur true evangelism and word of mouth marketing in a way that no other technology development has been able to since the advent of the internet. And then, I read this in Advertising Age. Titled “Marketers start to use social networks for CRM instead of ads” (by Abbey Klaassen) the gist of the post was similar to the content of my recent presentations (particularly in reference to how social networks is more about evangelism and less about advertising. Here’s a comment from Chris Jones, former CEO JWT and currently adviser to FreeWebs (company that creates widgets/apps that run on social networks), about what I presume are old-school advertisers:

“[They say], ‘It’s not fair others can use the audience that we created for marketing purposes without us having a share of that.’ At the same time, it’s MySpace, not Rupert’s Space,” he said. (Mr. Jones is an adviser to FreeWebs, which creates widgets run on social networks.)

Advertisers/PR have used Social Media inappropriately before (think Edelman-Walmart fiasco), and with the current mindset as outlined above, one thing leads to another and before we realize it we could be staring into the face of another astro-network-turfing scandal! So, if you’re a marketer who’s considering social network as a means of connecting better with your target audience, you can still follow the LAMP — here are the first four steps for marketers/businesses to connect better with your audience either in social media or within social networks:

1. Listen: Yes, this is the most important and essential benefit from a social network. Find out how many groups dedicated to your product/service that you can find on these sites. It’s not any different from scouring Yahoo! groups, the only noticeable difference being you may actually be friends with some of the members of these groups and that’s a huge difference. First off, introduce yourself, listen and respond when there are appropriate questions about your product/service. Listening can sometimes be the most difficult thing to do.

2. Awareness: Once you’re a well established member within the group, you’ve got a decent awareness of what needs to be done. In terms of what users’ expectations are, their feedback on your product/service, their pain points. Once you’re aware of these, take that feedback back to your teams and try to get some traction in responding to some of these questions.

3. Measure: Within social networks, the only level of measurement we can attempt to quantify can be engagement – the holy grail within marketing these days (that’s another topic and another post all together). This is an ever evolving field. Feel free to share any ideas you have on this topic.

4. Participate: Let’s face it. All companies HAVE TO PARTICIPATE in the conversation, there are no two ways about it. No longer can a company hide behind PR. Just think of the PR fallout from the recent Skype outage where the users question their most recent press release. Other than this, why else should companies participate? Because you care about your product/service and would like to set the record straight when someone wrongfully blames your product, Why? Because you care enough about your users that you’re out there responding to their questions (esp. the oft repeated ones).

A social network is a great way to participate in these conversations with your users but it’s no different from a discussion forum or a blog. Let’s not forget that all of the above steps are inspired by relationship marketing (originating in the 60s and the 70s) but with an increasingly ubiquitous social networking world, it looks like the promise of relationship marketing will finally be felt today.

And for the rest of the advertisers, there’s always paid advertising. Are you listening to your users? If so, what platforms do you use currently?


Related posts:
1. Impact of Social Media on Marketing
2. Social Media LAMP (First four steps in social media adoption for businesses)
3. Is Marketing to your “friends” on your “social network” right?

Filed under: Facebook, Linkedin, Miscellaneous, Twitter

Is “Marketing” to “friends” on your “social” network right? Is that WOMM enough?

Summary: Jason nails the argument — “Is social networking all about being a marketing platform?” — Why use social networks? — How social networks brings to fruition what word-of-mouth marketing dreamed of!


“You talkin’ to me!” | Jason accurately summarizes the social networking affliction

Jason’s Social Networking Bankruptcy Theory

A week ago, Jason Calacanis in the middle of a blog sabbatical, wrote:

Facebook is a multilevel marketing platform where you agree to pay attention to people’s gestures in the hopes that those people will pay-attention to your gestures in the future. It’s a gesture bank.

Are we creating a social system to communicate with each other at a distance because the reality of creating and maintaining that social networking face-to-face is, well, scary?

How NOT to network socially?

IMO, Imagine if in real life you’d a chance to make friends and all you did was keep making friends and at the end of it, try to market stuff to them. It’s kind of like the Pyramid Scheme were your rationale behind making friends was to sell stuff to them. I know Jason means otherwise, but then the question to ask then, is who among your social network’s connections are truly your “friends”. I have around 180 “friends” on Facebook and almost 400 professional colleagues, networkers, etc… on LinkedIn. (I work for LinkedIn)

I haven’t seen even a single sponsored video, haven’t clicked on the ad for the movie “Superbad” that was on my mini-feed on Facebook. Why? For starters, it’s kinda like inviting your friends over for a party and then starting it off by running a trailer for Superbad. And, if I wanted to be marketed to, I’d then go watch TV, not be on a social network. However, if a friend of mine (from my social network) writes a glowing review of “Superbad”, I may go watch. Interestingly, I’ve seen a bunch of my friends announce on the mini-feed that they were going to watch the “Bourne Ultimatum” today. Now, that makes my ever-convinced mind that I should watch the film today. If you belong to my circle of friends, you’ll also see a glowing review of the film later tonight? I’ve an honest opinion that I’m sharing and you may be inclined to take my word for it.

How to network socially? And, the theory of Word of Mouth Marketing.

Well, what I’m trying to say is that never before did we have tools that organically helped spread word-of-mouth as well as social networking sites allow us to do today.

Word-of-mouth promotion is highly valued by advertisers. It is believed that this form of communication has valuable source credibility. Research points to individuals being more inclined to believe WOMM than more formal forms of promotion methods; the receiver of word-of-mouth referrals tends to believe that the communicator is speaking honestly and is unlikely to have an ulterior motive (i.e. they are not receiving an incentive for their referrals) Source: Wikipedia.[1]

There is no more organic way to do this than using a social network. And, maybe that’s what Jason’s referring to as the gesture bank. I wonder what Andy Sernovitz of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) thinks of that? Or, what Ben and Jackie at the Church of the Customer think. Their most recent book was titled — Citizen Marketers: when people are the message. What should marketers do when that message is now dispersed on a social network? Think about it. More on this later.

(BTW, I love Andy’s post on how to use networking sites like LinkedIn, without pissing people off? A must-read)

Note to Jason: I also think I’ve subscribed to the rules of linkbaiting, Jason and this was the best picture of yours I could find :) BTW, I’ve gotta thank you for your response to my initial Top 10 CEO blogs. Made a whole lotta difference in my blogging life. Heard through today’s social networking grapevine that you love Kurosawa’s movies. If you do, check out this book by Donald Richie.

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Did Zuckerberg just say Facebook’s working on News Feed Optimization?

Summary: Zuckerberg hints at a new way of monetization through news feed — Flashback: Dave McClure’s hard hitting post on optimizing Facebook’s news feed for marketing — Justin Smith’s theory of Facebook’s News Feed Optimization (NFO) — prophecy fulfilled?


Mark Zuckerberg (Source: TIME Magazine; Photo by Paul Sakuma / AP)

Check out Mark Zuckerberg’s response to a question from Laura Locke (TIME Magazine) on the future of monetization within Facebook (see quote below – entire TIME Interview here)

TIME: Beyond Facebook’s exclusive advertising deal with Microsoft, which gives the software giant the right to sell ads on the site, what are some of your ideas about monetizing your 30 million users?

Zuckerberg: Advertising works most effectively when it’s in line with what people are already trying to do. And people are trying to communicate in a certain way on Facebook — they share information with their friends, they learn about what their friends are doing —so there’s really a whole new opportunity for a new type of advertising model within that. And I think we’ll see more in the next couple months or years on that.

Flashback: Just 1 week ago. Anyone who reads TechMeme the past few weeks have surely stumbled upon Dave McClure’s interesting meme where he makes a stunningly confident observation of where he saw marketing on Facebook evolve – the News Feed

#4: Spend time optimizing the feed notification messages & app events that generate News Feed & Mini-Feed messages? ABSO-MOTHAF**KING-LUTELY. people check out feed info all the time, and when they do they see what their friends are doing. and they see what their friends’ apps are doing too.

i’m 110% convinced that consistent & creative app marketing & event notification via the Feed is the key to unlocking the viral power of Facebook, not the wham-spam-thank-you-ma’am app invites that everyone is whining about Facebook dialing back down. the available inventory of feed notification messaging for your app — that is, your advertising inventory — is essentially limitless AND free, assuming people actually keep your app installed and use it. as long as users have your app running, their actions combined with app events will create feed messages & notifications that serve as constant marketing opportunities for your app. let me say that again: AS LONG AS YOUR APP REMAINS INSTALLED AND IN USE, YOU HAVE A LIMITLESS SUPPLY OF FREE ADVERTISING INVENTORY VIA THE FEED. get it? got it? good.

Justin Smith from Inside Facebook made an interesting and detailed observations on Dave’s premise that reads likewise

Welcome to the new world of News Feed Optimization (NFO)–the new SEO for Facebook marketers. Optimizing your product’s News Feed items is the single most important thing you can do as a marketer on Facebook. Not only should Feed items be designed for optimal conversion, but they should also be invoked by your application in ways that will maximize their distribution.

Back to the TIME interview money-quote:

Zuckerberg: And people are trying to communicate in a certain way on Facebook — they share information with their friends, they learn about what their friends are doing.

I would expect the user base will grow [and there will be] more ways for advertisers to reach people and communicate in a very natural way, just like users communicate with each other. All these things will just get more and more evolved.

That certain way of communication is the infamous Facebook News Feed. Didn’t Pete Cashmore (Mashable) get tipped on something similar in September 2006 and called it (then) the worst idea ever?

So, what do YOU think of the evolution of NFO? Prescient observations?

(Disclosure: I work for LinkedIn, the professional networking site, am a social networking connoisseur; and I’ve no clue what special powers keeps me up, blogging at 3 in the morning!)

Filed under: Facebook

Who let the community in… to rate Facebook apps?

Summary: Jeremy Toeman puts together AppRate, a facebook community rating site — Top 10 community rated apps on Facebook — features of AppRate


from l – r: Justin (Justin.tv) and Jeremy Toeman (Source: Brian Solis)

My good friend Jeremy Toeman, over at Live Digitally, just created a community based Facebook Application rating system at AppRate.com. And, he’s also created a nifty little Facebook app that allows you to display the Top 10 community rated apps on Facebook as well (requires Facebook sign-in).

Last week I rolled up the sleeves, dusted off the old PHP memories, and got a little down and dirty to take a swing at a new site called AppRate.com. While watching people like Scoble, Mario Sundar, and Dave McClure add and remove about 40 applications per day (just kidding guys) on Facebook, I was getting curiouser and curiouser as to which were the “good” applications, versus the bad and the ugly. But Facebook’s “review” system is really just a meaningless comments board.

So I decided to build my own, and distribute the power back to the community. On our side, we add the applications to the site, throw in a screenshot, a little blurb, a link, and our rating. The rest is up to you. Voting is totally open with no registration needed – I’m hoping that empowering the community will overwhelm anyone’s urges to game the system. The site automatically calculates the top scoring and most voted-on items. In addition, anyone can easily add comments, although first-comments need moderation due to the power of the spambot world.

I’ve been dabbling in quite a few of these entertaining social apps over on Facebook. As I’d blogged before, I find their movie, music and some of the random leisure apps quite fascinating. Jeremy’s initiative, AppRate, reminds me of a cross between Appsaholic (a Facebook stats app) and All Facebook (a blog which chronicles the various fast growing apps on Facebook, which also allows Apps rating since 7/17) with the difference in the fact that not only does AppRate throw in community rating but also allows for the collective vote displayed on Facebook. Basically, AppRate democratizes the process of ranking Facebook apps and announces the results on Facebook. Sweet!

Let’s take a quick look at the highest rated community rated apps on AppRate right now. From Super Mario to Strippers and Pirates! “Why I like this app?”, after the jump…

Free NES 4.67 out of 54.67 out of 54.67 out of 54.67 out of 54.67 out of 5
Honesty Box 4.29 out of 54.29 out of 54.29 out of 54.29 out of 54.29 out of 5
Urbanspoon 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5
Graffiti 3.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 5
Sentence Game 3.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 53.8 out of 5
Causes 3.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 5
Sonic Living 3.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 53.5 out of 5
Pirates vs. Ninjas! 3.4 out of 53.4 out of 53.4 out of 53.4 out of 53.4 out of 5
Compare People 3.33 out of 53.33 out of 53.33 out of 53.33 out of 53.33 out of 5
What’s Your Stripper Name… 3.25 out of 53.25 out of 53.25 out of 53.25 out of 53.25 out of 5

Synopsis of AppRate features:

1. Allows the community to vote (Outside of Facebook)
2. Gives you a quick view of what the community has rated (Inside of Facebook)

The good news is … you can vote for Facebook apps outside of Facebook. The bad news is … you can’t vote for Facebook apps inside of Facebook! (Correct me if I’m wrong, Jeremy). Another area for consideration, is the pace with which app reviews are added on AppRate. If they can beat the pace of addition of reviews as All Facebook or similar sites then it’d be interesting to watch this space develop.

Filed under: Facebook

Twitter meets Facebook in Pownce?

Kevin Rose of Digg fame is out with an interesting side project. Last week I wrote about how Facebook is probably a walled tumblelog, given its ability to mash your social interests ranging from movies to whatever into one very useful mini-feed. Pownce is an interesting concept, which was announced on Kevin Rose’s tumblelog today:

Today we’re turning on the splash page of Pownce, a side project that I’ve been working on with some friends over weekends for the last few months. The site isn’t quite open to the public yet, but if you want to try it out, enter your email and we’ll get an invite out to you shortly. Oh, and here is my Pownce profile.

The primary difference with Facebook is that Pownce allows you to unwall your garden, meaning Pownce’s “mini-feed” allows you to be either private or public and is focused on sharing stuff (text, files, links, and events). So, what exactly can you do with Pownce?

Pownce is a way to send messages, files, links, and events to your friends. You’ll create a network of the people you know and then you can share stuff with all of them, just a few of them, or even just one other person really fast.

Looks like Pownce zeroes in on a key feature of sharing “stuff” with friends (a la Twitter) and hones it nicely. So, while in Twitter you sent text messages, here in addition to text messages you can also send files, links and events. Can’t I do all that with Facebook. Yes and much more, but the key difference here is that Pownce is not just open to a closed network of your friends, but like twitter affords you the opportunity to send public messages as well.

Apparently, it also resembles a slew of other file sharing apps, although Rafe Needleman from Webware says it works just fine:

Pownce strongly reminds me of Tubes (review) and Izimi (review), and little less so of AllPeers (stories) and Pando (quick hit). It’s also reminiscent of the file-transfer feature of various instant-messaging clients.

There’s also a heavy dose of Twitter (stories) in Pownce. Every time you send a file or note, it’s added to your running feed of activities that anyone can view; likewise, it’s easy to see the public feeds of other users and the private items posted by your friends.

Currently, it’s only in exclusive invite mode, but if you want to be one of the early few to check it out, then leave your email address on their site. I just did.

Filed under: Facebook, Twitter

Is Facebook a walled tumblelog?

Quickest update (as of 6/29/007): Wow, this discussion just keeps going on and on… Earlier today, Steve Rubel thinks that Facebook is a walled garden and here’s a snippet:

That leads us to social networks and, in particular, Facebook. (I should preface this by adding that Edelman represents MySpace.)

Despite the age of openness we live in, Facebook is becoming the world’s largest, and perhaps most successful, walled garden that exists today.

Most social networks (which I am characterizing here broadly to also include sites like Flickr, Vox, del.icio.us and digg) let you determine what you share with the general public through Google vs. what you only share with your circle of friends. This level of flexibility is a win-win for everyone. If you don’t want to share anything you don’t have to. On the flip side, if you’re a voyeur, go for it.

For all of the excitement around Facebook and its application platform, it’s essentially a giant walled garden. You can embed virtually anything you want inside Facebook. Just like open APIs, Facebook’s developer program lets anyone create value in the ecosystem.

And, Jason Kottke concurs:

I’ve no doubt that Facebook is excited about their new platform (their userbase is big enough that companies feel like they have to develop for it) and it’s a savvy move on their part, but I’m not so sure everyone else should be happy about it. What happens when Flickr and LinkedIn and Google and Microsoft and MySpace and YouTube and MetaFilter and Vimeo and Last.fm launch their platforms that you need to develop apps for in some proprietary language that’s different for each platform?

Quicker update (as of 6/25/007): Kent Newsome debates Facebook: the New Internet or gilded cage?:

Open API or not, there’s still a wall around Facebook. It’s hard to get data out of there and into the wild. As AOL found out, what people look at initially as a safe place to hang out can begin to look like a cage over time. I continue to believe that the blogosphere is the only network that matters, and that over time most people will elect to take control of their content and manage it via a wall-free platform. Anything that gets between a content provider and its users is by definition bad for the content provider. And there’s no need for a central registry of contact information- we have Google. Just do a search.

Quick Update: Feld Thoughts has stirred a mini-storm with his Facebook problem. His recent post summarizes what that problem with the new f8 platform is:

None of these Facebook apps developers are deriving any real benefits (if you are a Facebook apps developer and ARE deriving a tangible benefit, other than customer acquisition within the Facebook infrastructure, please weigh in.) In addition, Facebook has shifted all of the infrastructure costs to these apps developers, creating the “I have 250,000 users, now what?” problem.

On another note, I responded to Eric Schonfeld (Business 2.0) to his related post on Facebook:

Actually, I wrote a post on how I leverage Facebook for activities surrounding my social interests like movies or music and most f8 apps facilitate that.

However, LinkedIn focuses on helping me navigate my professional network and advance that part of my life; my career.

Having the two separate helps me better manage my already chaotic life!

Check out the TechMeme discussion or continue reading my original post below.

Ever since I spoke to Matt Cohler at the Web 2.0 Expo, I’ve been wanting to try Facebook and given the recent spurt in activity I’ve had a chance to try it out and notice that many of my friends are on it as well. Facebook is an interesting way to keep track of the various social activities that you’re passionate about and facilitates sharing that with your social network.

As an example, here are the activities in my life that Facebook allows me to keep track of and the f8 apps that facilitate it:

* Movies (f8 apps: Flixster and Netflix movies)

* Music (f8 apps: Last.fm’s official app – love it)

* Photos (f8 apps: MyFlickr and ZuPort: Flickr)

* Politics (f8 apps: The Compass, Elections 08, Obama)

* So, Movies + Music + Photos + Politics + any f8 app you can throw into the mix = Mini-feed (yes, that controversial mini-feed)

An evolved walled tumblelog?

Think of the mini-feed as the evolution of twitter. So, in twitter you were hooked onto the various minutiae of your social network’s lives, on Facebook you do something similar, but a little bit more organized and richer. Well, let me back up here. Think of Facebook as an evolved tumblelog. So, what’s a tumblelog you may ask.

Jason Kottke, one of my favorite non-marketing bloggers, defined tumblelogs in 2005:

A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere

…really just a way to quickly publish the “stuff” that you run across every day on the web. (Source: Wikipedia)

And, that’s exactly what Facebook is. Just better than the tumblelog definition above and far more effective, except that it’s a walled tumblelog. So when bloggers like Kent Newsome wonder why Facebook is better than blogging:

What is so much better about Facebook (and MySpace and other similar platforms) than an ordinary blog on a popular platform- say WordPress?

The answer, as Dare Obasanjo surmises, lies in Facebook’s richer solution a.k.a the tumblelog, but the dilemma is that it’s a walled tumblelog. So, there are really two answers: if your blog is a personal, social interaction tool that you use to communicate to a closed circle of friends then you’re better off with Facebook. It’s apparently WAY better than MySpace. On the other hand, if you’d prefer a public (maybe career focused) blog that helps define your online brand then Facebook cannot replace that. However, Facebook allows you to import your blog and share it with your social network through a feature called “Notes”. Nice!

(Disclosure: I work for LinkedIn, the professional networking site)

Filed under: Facebook, Tumblr

Can $500 million buy Microsoft buzz?

Took the weekend off from my blog, celebrating my birthday with my community of friends. Had a nice party with close friends last Saturday, some of whom had come from LA & Fresno (that was nice, guys) and my good friend, Damon, was kind enough to host at his place (thanks, buddy!).

The blogging community was represented by Noah and Gabe. Jeremiah, couldn’t make it but I know we’ll party sometime soon. Also, hope to meet Karl and Anand at future events. So now, back to marketing and serious blogging:


$500 million, trust and buzz

The Money: As can be expected, Microsoft has pumped $500 million in marketing towards the launch of their new operating system and Office suite. And, here are initial results (via Niall Kennedy’s blog):

The level of consumer excitement around the launch of Windows Vista was nowhere near the experience of 200+ people lining up for the latest copy of Mac OS X (Tiger) two years ago. I expected at least some Windows fans battling it out to be the first person to buy Vista at midnight but there was little excitement and no line in sight.

What’s worse is that Microsoft has magically been able to generate tons of negative buzz (via Presentation Zen, which analyzes the trust issue from a design standpoint)

The Trust: Now don’t get me wrong — given Microsoft ubiquitousness in today’s world, I’ve no doubt that they’ll make a gazillion dollars out of this launch when business picks up. However, how many users are purchasing Vista because they love it and are passionate about it vs. those who are stuck with it? And, how many users trust them?

Fact check: Users don’t trust Microsoft (via Digital Trends)–

Forrester Research’s 2005 Technology Brand Scorecard evaluated “brand trust”. Microsoft was the only company cited as having a negative brand potential, as measured by its respondents aspiring to use its products mine current users at risk of defection. These households know they run Microsoft software but would be just as happy to leave it behind—if they could.

Among the top ranking companies in the same scorecard – Apple!

Is the era of Apple beginning?

Speaking of beginnings, today’s my actual birthday (1/31) so I’d like to thank all my blog friends for continuing to converse and share thoughts through this medium. I look forward to an important era in my blogging life!

Filed under: Facebook

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