Tag Archives: facebook

Another Rant About Google+

I generally enjoy using Google+ – I find it serves a different purpose than Facebook. Facebook is all about friends and family swapping pictures and gossip, while G+ has evolved into a sprawling market of pet projects and technical discussions. With a little bit of work you can find people and communities whose interests match your own, and either passively follow or interact as you please.

But Google has got to do something about the Explore feature. This is supposed to show cool posts that many people have commented on,reshared, or +1ed. All sorts of random, interesting stuff shows up here. Unfortunately, so does a lot of “+1 if you like cookies” rubbish does as well, and it makes G+ seem like a bunch of idiots.

An example of an image being used to display a quote on Google PlusPart of the problem is an interesting difference between the design of G+ and Facebook. On Facebook it has become common for people to use a Facebook app to post a large picture to containing a (usually inane) slogan to their wall for anyone to see. These are hard to ignore in your news feed, but since they are posted by a third party app you can easily block them and all future posts from the same source without un-friending the sender. Almost nobody manually posts these pictures since the app is easier and doesn’t pollute your own photo albums.

But on G+ it is easy to attach a single photo to a single post, and G+ will helpfully show a very large version to all your followers. Unlike Facebook apps, there is no way to block similar posts except by unfollowing that user or at least moving them to an out-of-the-way circle. And there is no way at all to disable these posts in the Explore section of the site, which has become a bit of a bore now that it has been invaded by self-promoters posting unoriginal content as large images.

If Google really want to improve G+, they should take a look at curating the Explore section to discourage posts of low value, even if they have many comments or +1s.

Or perhaps I am just bitter because nobody +1s me.

The Seven Realities of Social Networking

Every few months the same complaints about social networking sites appear in the press. Lack of privacy and control over who sees what is a common point of point of editorial hand-wringing. While these concerns are valid, directing them at social networking sites is misplaced, and shows a lack of understanding of the relationship these sites have with the public.

This post is an attempt to state clearly the realities of the situation. I am using Facebook as an example, not because Facebook is particularly bad, it is merely the most popular. Google Plus, MySpace, and even services like LinkedIn all share the same properties.

Reality 1: You Do Not Have a Facebook Page

No really, you don’t.

Facebook has a page on you. You occasionally log on and add more information to Facebook’s page about you, but neither the page nor the data is yours. You gave the data to Facebook when you posted it.

This is not a necessarily a bad deal. In return for maintaining Facebook’s page about yourself, you get a platform to broadcast your doings and to see Facebook’s pages about your friends and family. I don’t know about you but I enjoy both these activities and participate willingly.

Reality 2: You Are Not a Customer of Facebook

No you aren’t.

Facebook’s customers are the advertisers that buy advertising on the site, and the marketers that pay to access to the fantastic demographic data we have all provided. They are paying Facebook for this service, you are not paying anyone for anything.

I know you enjoy using the site as it is, but don’t get upset when Facebook decides to improve things for itself or its customers. The customer is always right, and you are not a customer. You are the product. Facebook gets paid providing access to you.

Reality 3: Facebook Owes You Nothing

They certainly do not.

You may have been a loyal Facebook user, diligently posting photos of your cat and that batch of cupcakes you made last month, but that doesn’t mean anything to Facebook.

You have, in fact, cost Facebook money. Server farms don’t grow on trees.

Each time you view a page or update your status, Facebook wears the cost in electricity and CPU time. But don’t worry, Facebook is willing to bear the burden to provide a better product to its customers.

Reality 4: Your Privacy is Not Facebook’s Problem

If you have uploaded something to Facebook then it is public. That is the whole point of Facebook. Sure there are privacy settings, but they just mean that Facebook makes a small effort not to show things you have marked private to random people. Nothing stops other people from re-posting the photo of you at the Christmas party, or even just printing it out and sticking to your car. If you had wanted it to be private then you wouldn’t have put it on the Internet.

Likewise, if one of your friends tagged you in a photo that you don’t want to be associated with (a common source of privacy issues), that is not really Facebook’s problem either. You have a problem with your friend.

Reality 5: Nothing is Really Removed From Facebook

You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave. Removing stuff from Facebook does not guarantee that it will not be accessible. Your data will still exists in uncounted backups, caches, redundant servers and log files. That is not even taking into account the memories of the hundreds of people who might have seen it before you “deleted” it.

If you didn’t want it seen, you shouldn’t have uploaded it.

Reality 6: Facebook Is Not Picky About Who It Deals With

Despite what I have written here, Facebook does at least pay lip service to the illusion of privacy but the same can not be said of the many developers that piggyback on its service to provide apps and games. When Facebook tells you that installing a particular App gives the developer access to your profile, they mean it. You have even less of a relationship with these developers than you do with Facebook. Your trust is a commodity to them, spend it wisely.

Reality 7: Facebook is Not (Especially) Evil

A terrible cartoon of the Facebook logo stealing your dataFacebook is just a simple company trying to make its way in the universe. By all means, use and enjoy Facebook without concern (perhaps even “like” this page). But Facebook is not your friend, and they have their own interests to look after. And besides, they take nothing that you don’t give them.

Your relationship with social networking sites will be better if you remember that.

Social Media Integration

I have decided to try out social media integration on my blog for a while, because I am curious to see which posts people enjoy the most. My previous attempts failed, so now I am keeping it simple. From now on you will see both a Facebook “like” button and a Google+ “+1″ at the foot of each of my musings.

A logo made by mashing together the facebook and google+ logoThe Google button is a lot less intrusive than the Facebook solution, hitting +1 is just a small nod of approval. I think the only place it shows up is if you specifically look at your likes on Google+ itself and I am not even sure if other people get to see the things you have +1’d. The total number of +1s is all anyone sees.

Clicking the Facebook “like” button actually posts an item to your Facebook timeline. This is great for me, since your friends see that you like this link and may visit themselves, but you might not like your “friends” knowing what you like. It depends on how much you value your privacy.

Incidentally, unless I am your friend on Facebook I don’t get any special information about who clicked that button. On the G+ side, I don’t know if you +1’d me even if I am following you.

So if you like a post, click away. If you don’t like a post, leave a comment. If you don’t care, watch some cats playing on YouTube. Everybody wins.