Mindless endorsement sharing

Google’s new Shared Endorsement is ridiculous, and it’s wrong too. I’ve immediately opted out.

Last time I wrote an entry like this, it was in response to Facebook Seemless Mindless Sharing. Now it’s Google’s turn to take that mantle in the form of endorsement. Google’s is actually worse, because an endorsement by definition is an explicit act. LinkedIn endorsement feature is clearly a play on peer pressure, once someone endorses you you feel indebted to endorsing them back, dead simple viral effect but at least it requires user clicking a button. Google’s new toy doesn’t seem to require any action on the user’s part, in that it is very similar to Facebook’s frictionless feature at launch. It’s just nonsense.

Sorry Google, your Shared Endorsement as is currently presented is ridiculous at best, and it’s wrong. I won’t have any of it.

The price of FREE service. Of course.

It’s simple, if someone offers a ‘free service’ just ask then what their price is? If you get no answer then you are the price, clearly. The only thing worse is that you don’t even know when and how you will be redeemed.

This article title says it all: “You’re Officially For Sale On Instagram” http://on.digg.com/U7MLvx

Social media with love, when a promotion demotes itself

This hilarious tweet showed up in my timeline today: “Do not click this tweet, because it is promoted and cost us money. Copy/paste the URL instead”. If it’s genuine, this is something to save for posterity.

I saw this today, found it hilarious. There’s every chance it will be taken down, so I thought I’d immortalise it here. Enjoy it.


do not click this tweet

All Apps are bad: ‘scarenomic’ may be just as harmful as privacy scourging

Yes, please do educate the public on the privacy issues that current social media services are raising. But do so in a measure way, don’t squarely blame every app for trying to steal user information. That is simply not the case.

Can the media tackle any important issue without resorting to hyperboles?

The WSJ piece on Selling You on Facebook, makes an interesting read on privacy issues for the non-initiated, clearly their main target audience. I was going to agree with it wholesale until I realised that the article sweeps too large and makes every app look bad – I mean mobile apps, not Facebook apps which clearly are something else in my opinion.

Yes, it’s true that the general public doesn’t realise the privacy implications of social media. Yes, it’s true that some apps and some companies are abusing the trust implicitly placed in them and taking more than they should. But I disagree with the way the WSJ article seems to be pointing to every app out there, the notion of app itself. That’s not a realistic ways of painting the true picture of what is going on. If that were to be allowed, then you could say the same thing of every human creation that may possibly be put to bad uses. The list would be long, folks wouldn’t feel safe anywhere or at any moment.

I agree that people need to be educated on the privacy issues surrounding social media in general. I disagree with trying to scare people into, perhaps, reading your article. If you try to scare people about every possible thing that could go wrong, then you blur your message and may defeat its purpose. What really helps is giving people self-help clues on what may be happening, and the implications of the specific actions they may be taking online. This should be measured, paced and kept up-to-date. But not a broad sweep because then people are no better off than when they weren’t told anything at all.

Sense of security and privacy: Who’s Zoomin who?

I can hardly believe that only one company, Path in this case, were downloading user’s address book. I’m sure others are, were, or will be doing so too The reality we live in is that we often have a false sense of security and privacy. It’s not like the bad guys would be waiting to hear about some security vulnerability before attempting to discover and exploit them. Likewise, the talk is on address book download today, tomorrow another company be found using your mobile location or device’s camera for some unpublished uses.

I find it ironic that while one company gets shouted at for leaking its mobile users address book, lots of others might be routinely doing it without anybody saying a word. It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out what is going on.

Developers are tinkerers by nature, they seldom stick to written procedures – otherwise they may not be very good. From the moment a platform software development kit is made available, people will poke around to see what they can do with it. As you poke around, you are bound to find undocumented features, wholes and what-not, and depending on your inclination you may make some unconventional moves. If word gets out and people like your moves then you are a genius, if people don’t like what you did then you get named names. That’s how it goes.

I can hardly believe that only one company, Path in this case, were downloading user’s address book. I’m sure others are, were, or will be doing so too. What happens is that something pops up, a big howl ensues. Then a few words of apology are issued, the noise dies down, people go back to their businesses, some quietly continuing whatever-may-be-questionable.

This is a bit like what goes on with IT security. When a paper is published on some software vulnerability, some debates follow and drum rolls for vendor patches coming to the rescue. Once such holes are deemed patched by the software vendor, the focus shifts away from the issue and not much is said about it. But even then, a lot of people can’t actually be bothered with software updates so they remain exposed.

The reality we live in is that we often have a false sense of security and privacy. It’s not like the bad guys would be waiting to hear about some security vulnerability before attempting to discover and exploit them, it’s likely that by the time a vulnerability is public it’s already old news for serious hackers. Likewise, the talk is on unauthorised address book download today, tomorrow another company may be found using your mobile location or device’s camera for some unpublished uses.

The tittle of this post is borrowed from an Aretha Franklin’s hit song from the 80’s.


Seeing the headlines and some of the blogs out there, there is apparent outrage about Apple (only them?) having allowed this to happen. I am very curious if anyone checked that this problem doesn’t exist on Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, or other connected systems. I guess it’s much easier to cry ‘Haro sur le baudet’.

Frictionless or seamless sharing, how about mindless sharing

Automatically sharing user’s every move on the Internet on their social media profile, to mean that that is what they care about, is plain dumb. This seems to be what Facebook and others are aiming to do. This surely makes it easy to stalk people, but it makes no sense when no human action isn’t explicitly causing the sharing.

The first thing you noticed when Google Buzz was activated was that it turned everyone you’ve ever had email exchange with into a friend. If you think about that for one second, you immediately see that that was a mindless thing to do.  A public outcry ensued forcing Google to make changes, but apparently other people don’t learn from such missteps.

I  regularly use Twitter’s Favourites button to bookmark items that I intend to read later. Once I’m done reading an item I remove it from my Favourites. I do exactly the same thing with Google Reader, just bookmark stuff for reading later. Does that mean that I’m in love with whatever was bookmarked, or that I even like it? Absolutely not. And I think I’m not alone.

A while back, when I discovered that sites apparently unrelated to Facebook were able to use my active Facebook session to automatically display a list of my friends, I was quite annoyed. From that moment on I always log out from Facebook after each visit, and that seemed to have temporarily stopped the stalking. Now, with their so-called frictionless sharing, Facebook is returning with a mirror of that stalking feature: stalk your Internet activity and report it back to Facebook. This is not only dumb, but it also makes the notion of sharing pointless.

I once read an article where Facebook was arguing that Google didn’t get social media because Google didn’t cater for what people actually cared about. Well, I don’t think people necessarily care about everything they may see or touch every day. And I don’t think people care about sharing everything and anything they may see or touch on the Internet either. In this path, I see Facebook losing their way: they are increasingly pushing what Facebook actually care about, if necessary to the detriment of what the user actually cares about, akin to the time when people started calling Google on their mantra of don’t be evil. Facebook and Google seem to be orbiting on opposite directions around the same object, it’s early to tell who is (or isn’t) converging towards that object of desire, but the shape or their trajectories appear similar to me. That would mean that one is getting it more and more, while the other may be missing it more and more.

The way things are going, notions like sharing, caring, friends, all of these things are losing their meaning on the Internet. These notions are naturally about being selective, automatic sharing isn’t selective because it lacks feelings. In our teenage years we want all the attention we can get, and that tend to be just a phase that we grow out of eventually. As we mature we tend to become more focused, hence increasingly selective about the things we do or say or share. The situations where we lose control of what we share can often become taxing experiences for us.

There now exist many sites that offer read later functionality. I’ve not been eagerly using any, but at least those services have a better alignment between user intention and the features that they are offering. But do we ever, in our large masses, want to grab attention all the time on all the things we do? I certainly don’t. I don’t think sharing should be automatic, unless we opt it to be for ourselves. This is why I think Facebook’s frictionless sharing is dumb.

Semantic dissonance, how Facebook is confusing me more and more

Facebook is starting to confuse me now. Although the word friends doesn’t mean the same on social media as in real life, I can’t figure out how one would mix that with the concept of news in general. Friends are beings that one deem closer to oneself. But news would be exactly the opposite, they often feel distant. So I wonder if Facebook is trying to become more and more like Google, while at the same time actually, Google is trying to become more and more like Facebook.

I was using Facebook app on the iPhone today, trying to leave a message on a friend’s wall but I just had to stop and think for a while. I couldn’t complete this simple routine task because I couldn’t be sure I would be writing on my friend’s wall: the App was prompting me to post what was on my mind. Nothing  new there. But I had ended on that form while reading postings on my friend’s wall, and I just wanted to contribute to that one. But I was not sure anymore if the App was broken, or if whatever I would be writing would appear as a “news item”, instead of a posting on this particular friend’s wall. How did it come to this?

I think Facebook has hit a rock here: I don’t see a semantic match between what is commonly referred to as news, and catching up with news about friends. I do realise that words have elastic meanings on many social media sites these days, the word friend clearly has all sorts of meanings and actually means nothing anymore. But when news about friends get mixed up with general news, then I find it harder to make out what is going on.

I did hear about F8, and all the changes being introduced, and what not. I am used to such big changes on Facebook, actually they seldom move me except when it appears that privacy is being cut further more. This time, I think there’s something wrong with what they are calling things on Facebook. It’s semantically wrong to treat any friend update as a news item. Here are the reasons that I see a semantic dissonance here:

  • Facebook is hosting everything and anything: people, companies, charities, causes, shops, events, games, etc, the list is long. Any snippet of information about any one of these couldn’t be more different than the other.
  • Facebook is streaming all posting to whomever care to listen, read or watch. That’s ok, so long as you know the context the information is broadcast on.
  • Information about one’s friends tend to have more emotional appeal, you relate more strongly to those, you really do care – even if we’re talking about “elastic friendship” sometimes. It is more personal, that’s why you call them friends.
  • However, information about what is going on in the economy, world politics, some technology or scientific matter, have wildly different impact on us. Sometimes it’s infuriating yet you feel powerless about it. Sometimes it’s exhilarating, funny or witty, sometimes exciting, sometimes educational. Whatever feeling this category of news item may cause, it is often with a fair bit of distance and quite impersonal.
  • Here is the issue then: when you are about to post something personal, you don’t want it to be treated as if it were impersonal. That’s a blindspot that Facebook appears to have, it’d be worse if they intentionally did that. Imagine somebody saying: yeah, I am someone who really care, I care about anything and everything, everything is personal. I wonder how you would think about such a person.

I am not the biggest Facebook user out there, my visits to Facebook last on average 2 to 3 min. But when I come to the site I want to get something done quickly and move on – if you’re linked to me on Facebook then you probably know my son features on most of my postings there. For the first time I was hesitating because I couldn’t be sure what the site was trying to tell me.

News about friends is technically called news, but they are special and personal. News about other matters are also news, but they are impersonal, often distant, especially on the emotional side.

So I wonder if Facebook is trying to become more and more like Google, while at the same time actually, Google is trying to become more and more like Facebook. You read all sorts of articles matching those two up in a giant fight, but I think Facebook’s latest move is more confusing than Google’s.