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« Overzealous | Main | RYFYI »

Jun 11, 2011

Comments

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hugh

I am a FB and twitter Luddite. No use for either and life seems to be cruising along just fine. What am I missing?

Billy Jones

Hugh,
You probably have a life-- we don't. You're not missing a thing.

Jim Buie

Billy,

You're probably right about not having enough of a life off computers. Living in Turkey, a country where I don't speak (much of) the language, FB provides my connection to home. I am probably overly dependent/addicted to it, need my daily fix of at least 30 minutes (maybe an hour or more), but I also feel accompanied (virtually) by friends and family in my journey overseas, and I feel in the loop on what's happening to them. I've also "met" many of their friends on FB. In a previous era, I would have gotten too homesick to live overseas for an extended period. Facebook makes life abroad much more bearable.

I also appreciate your tips re Stumble Upon and blogging. I use Typepad, actually pay for it, but now find it more cumbersome and more time-consuming than "blogging" on Facebook, though I'm unlikely to close my Typepad account. After eight years of blogging, they "got me," since they host all that content, so I may pay for it until I die, and instruct my sons to continue paying for it after I die. Pure unadulterated, delusional ego, no doubt.

michele

Jim, that's cool to hear how you use Facebook from overseas to keep in touch with friends and family back home. My favorite part of FB is keeping up with my nieces and nephews, some of whom I rarely get to see. I love seeing their photos and hearing what they're up to each day.

Re: Typepad (Blogger.com, Wordpress.com, etc.) I don't understand why bloggers use (and even pay to use!) someone else's blog publishing service. I'll spend less than $40 this year on web hosting, and I host multiple web sites on that one account, plus WordPress software is free for each of them and I own all the content. I buy domain names on sale and with coupon codes. The cost for owning your own blog(s) is nominal.

Ed Cone

Jim, you should be able to export material from Typepad to another service fairly easily.

Hugh, FB is a great address book, and your contacts update their own info so you don't have to. That's my primary personal use at this point. If I was living abroad, I might find the social aspects more alluring.

Billy Jones

michele asked, "Re: Typepad (Blogger.com, Wordpress.com, etc.) I don't understand why bloggers use (and even pay to use!) someone else's blog publishing service. I'll spend less than $40 this year on web hosting, and I host multiple web sites on that one account, plus WordPress software is free for each of them and I own all the content. I buy domain names on sale and with coupon codes. The cost for owning your own blog(s) is nominal."


It's about service, features, usability and being worry free when it comes to making sure everything works and works well 24/7/365. Yes, I can find many ways that are cheaper but as one who has literally used dozens of different blogging platforms, free, hosted and with my own hosting, none compares to the service I've used continuously since 2004 with less than 2 minutes of downtime.

Full disclosure: The link above is an affiliate link for the blogging platform I use. They pay me a month's hosting for each and every account that sign up and pays. (Tryout is free.) And because of that I've managed to get hosting that pays more than it costs.

And should Ed consider my affiliate link to be spam and delete it I will fully understand.

PS. You can import your Wordpress, Blogger and some other sites to the service I use with the click of a button.

michele

My web host also has great service, lots of features, great usability, and works all the time. I've been using it since 2005 with no downtime. And it's less expensive than yours. (They have an affiliate program, too.) It just goes to show that bloggers have lots of options to self-host their blogs.

Jim Buie

Ed,

Sorry if I over-reacted to your post. What set me off on a perhaps over-stated defense of Facebook was your disdainful put-down that "it's AOL" and unworthy of much of your time or interest as a technology journalist. As someone who could have invested in AOL in 1992, but chose not to because I was disdainful of it, and predicted its demise while it was making gobs of money, I think there can be an arrogance among those of us on the leading or bleeding edge, above the hoi polloi and determined to remain so.

AOL tapped into something I believe the public wants -- a protected, safe online community that enhances real community among friends, empowers citizens to "become the media," mobilize quickly on causes and in support or in opposition to ideas. But AOL essentially died because its customer service was awful, customer accounts were overwhelmed with spam, and it could never offer a viable justification for consumers paying for it once broadband rolled out.

Yahoo, too, has been overwhelmed with spam and lost its edge.

Some company, if not Facebook, will eventually get the right balance in giving the public what it wants. I'd rather it happen sooner rather than later, so I believe in engaging Facebook from the inside rather than disdaining it and rooting for its failure. Therefore I tell businesses, non-profits as well as friends and acquaintances if they don't have a Facebook presence, they are losing out.

Jim Buie

Roch,

Those with concerns about "corporate surveillance" from Facebook should make a compelling, specific case about the dangers of that. I haven't seen it. Is the fear that Facebook would somehow do what FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover did to Martin Luther King -- spied on him in an attempt to discredit the civil rights movement? I don't see a viable scenario where that could happen.

FB has shown itself responsive -- conceding that the data and pictures you post are YOURS. You CAN download them and delete your account if you wish, and eventually, if there is such a service, upload your data to another service instead.

Ed Cone

Jim, no problem, and thanks. As I said earlier, I have come to expect thoughtful comments from you. Your POV as an expat helps explain some of your passion for the social side of the equation.

The AOL reference was really about the walled garden approach to the internet. AOL was a big, important company, and even with its many problems and consumer focus, I think tech journalists paid it attention. Smarter folk than I question the long-term impact of walled garden tech, not just FB but hugely popular stuff like iPhone. To say that's of concern only to geeks may be true, but as you say, I'm paid to concern myself with such perspectives.

Not sure how you got the impression that I find FB "unworthy of much of your time or interest as a technology journalist" from a post that said I find it essential and linked to an example of the coverage my publication gives it, but in any case, that was not my meaning -- I just meant that in my personal life, I'm not really loving it beyond some core features right now.

I agree that many people like and even prefer the mediated experience, which, again, is fine. I tend not to.

Roch101

Different strokes for different folks, Jim. Some folks will be concerned simply by the implications of a corporation compiling as much information about you as they can gather. I do not deny the obvious that it doesn't bother many people -- for now.

It's not hard to imagine scenarios where that kind of information could be used against your interest:


  • Acquisition by an employer or school and used as a reason to deny you employment or enrollment.

  • Subpoenaed by an adversarial party in some legal action (a divorce, denial of a health care claim)

  • Surreptitiously acquired by law enforcement, business competitors or others with a grievance against you who may misrepresent themselves online to acquire information about you.

  • By law enforcement with a warrant, because of your association with a victim or suspect (as you've noted above) or without probable cause but simply because of an "emergency situation," which Facebook has a policy of accommodating.

  • Fraudulently acquired by hacking or impersonation for the purpose of accessing your property of assuming your identity.

  • In a political emergency, the likes of which we've seen in our lifetime here and in foreign countries, where the safeguards against government acquisition of information thought to be private are simply ignored.

As you correctly note, Jim, Facebook fosters a culture where privacy issues are not a concern. I think that's naive, but privacy was only one of only several of my complaints (above). They all generally come down complaints about the culture Facebook creates and its effects on what's not Facebook:

  • A culture where privacy is not valued;

  • where the mundane is celebrated;

  • where the internet is appreciated for being consolidated and proprietary instead of open and distributive; and

  • where information is funneled by algorithmic or hardwired rules predicting what we want to see at the expense of seeing what we may need to see.

I agree -- as you should know, as should be obvious -- with your excitement for the idea of empowering people to be the media, to organize and affect events through the digital realm. Sharing pictures and keeping in touch is nice too. I get and don't dispute the attraction. My point is that with people flocking to Facebook as THE way to do these things, there are costs; costs I find concerning.

Jim Buie

Roch and Ed,

Thanks for your thoughtful notes. Roch, I can most definitely see your concerns. We are already seeing many of the problems you mention, but I have attributed it to the carelessness and naivete of users rather than "corporate surveillance." I've been appalled at some of the things some of my young friends are sharing online -- from constant whining and complaining about their spouses, boasting of relationships outside of marriage or the temptation of such (wait til a divorce attorney gets hold of that!), complaints about their bosses and the stupidity of people they work with, expressions of deep despair and meaningless like they want to end it all, frequent use of profanity in status updates...

We don't realize or fully know what we're getting into. After constant begging from my students, I started to friend some of them on FB, and then find comments from pre-teen or teenage boys expressing shock at photos showing beer on a dinner table, or comments on my wife's photo like "Do you think she's hot?" These boys have been de-friended, and got into some trouble at school, but I do still wonder what door I've opened...

Roch101

I see it as both, Jim, the carelessness/naivety of users and the corporate surveillance you refuse to type without quotation marks.

There are multiple indications that the latter shouldn't be dismissed with scare quotes. But here's the most obvious: That all that information you post (and, don't forget, all the other information they have access to through those like buttons, login buttons and apps on other websites and even information that they add "for" you, like tags from facial recognition), that they demand all that information be associated with your real identity -- that they want to intentionally know as much about you, Jim Buie, not Jimtheknife2011, as possible -- that is surveillance, no matter how generous you may be towards their motives.

Ed Cone

A lot of the problems Jim describes didn't start with FB -- the verb "dooced" has been part of the language for some time now -- and some of the criticisms about FB (who cares what you had for lunch?) were made about blogs, Twitter, etc. But FB's social aspect made it massively popular, so more people get to learn those lessons now.

At least some of my objection to being a product is philosophical. It seems harmless in most cases, and I don't even look at the ads tailored to me. But I still have reservations.

Here's an article about a small paper that dropped its website for FB. I'm surprised they'd give up the revenue, and some of the lessons (poor publishing and archiving tools, etc.) are real problems to some people.

Roch101

True all dat.

Jim Buie

FB's upcoming IPO is clearly over-valued. I notice an uptick in FB spam and viruses. If they're not careful, they will start to have some of the same problems as AOL and Yahoo. But even with the ability to download everything you've posted to FB and delete your account, I don't see a competitor on the horizon. The pressure from friends and family to join, or stay, for most people, remains compelling and the experience, for most people, is still pretty harmless. Not to say it might become dangerous at some point in the future.

Jim Buie

BTW, Farhad Manjoo in Slate has
an interesting take
: "I once likened Facebook to an imperialist state—like history's greatest conquerors, its rise was marked by ruthless expansion over the protests of millions of peons. But what does an imperialist do when it has conquered all there is to conquer? Now that the peons have submitted, Facebook will have to enter a new phase—governing. This means building more tools that make the site indispensible."

Kyle Barger

Ed, do you make any particular efforts to encourage people who see your Facebook feed to visit your blog?

Ed Cone

Kyle, nope, I tend to keep the two platforms apart. My URL is listed with my info, but my interest in maintaining FB as a social space trumps my interest in driving traffic to my blog by that particular vehicle.

Doug H

Thank you!

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