Online social networking
So somebody added me to a FaceBook group – I haven’t yet looked into how, but facebook lets me opt out later (rather than opt in) which means I’m getting dozens of messages a day and I’ll have to get around to unsubscribing when I can.
Wow…. this is amazing. Somebody you don’t like? Subscribe them to high volume facebook groups. Their inboxes will fill with random crap. That’s awesome – other people can put you in a group and you have to opt out. That’s even better than G+ leaking “circle” names; fortunately, I read about that one before populating my “annoying morons I follow only because I have to for business reasons” circle. Now where are those “Fans of Pedobear” and “10% For Al Queda” groups? Lets see how long it takes to get all the FaceBook employees on the no fly list.
Seems like Facebook is responding badly to the perceived pressure from G+ (isn’t that dead yet?). I have no idea how long the groups opt out has been in place, but one of my favorite recent moves is the mobile snarf function whereby your facebook mobile app scrapes your mobile phone directory to populate everyone’s mobile phone numbers in their database and then default suggest that direct messages be sent to mobile devices. If nothing else convinced people that facebook messaging is a horrible substitute for email, this should.
This is a great example of why putting information in the “cloud” means ceding all control to entities who’s motivations may not align with yours. Facebook has decided that their best interests are served by snarfing mobile numbers, running up phone bills, and stuffing inboxes and there’s nothing you can do but write a whiny letter. They have your data on their hardware, so they own it.
Weird: I have yet to find a way to import an RSS feed into G+. This is one of those things that significantly undermines Google’s “your data” cred. Anyone know of a way to do it? I haven’t found an “import RSS feed into your feed” the way facebook kinda does and the wordpress/facebook plugin does.
I’m a very strong believer in “he who owns the hardware, owns the data,” so, for example, posting this on G+ means that this text is Google’s (note, this was originally published on G+, then I stole it back!). And since it didn’t originate on my personal wordpress installation (free as in speech, free as in beer) running on my server at home (free as in speech, not absurdly expensive as in cheap beer), it isn’t mine.
My server also runs my mail server, my file server, my web server etc. all from my garage meaning that’s my data and my hardware and fully protected by law, while any data on Google’s server is effectively shared with every good and bad government in the world and my only legal recourse if it gets hacked or stolen or sold or given away or simply deleted is to… write an angry post on my blog and swear never to trust a cloud service again.
This is, obviously, exactly the same at FaceBook and every other cloud service. I use Facebook as a syndication service: I post on my own servers and syndicate via RSS to FaceBook, which becomes, in effect, the most frequently used RSS reader should people who haven’t gotten around to blocking me in their streams might find and by which perhaps occasionally be amused. This means I still own my data and my data has no particular dependence on FaceBook’s survival.
This post is visible only as long as Google wants it to be. If Google changes the rules, I lose the data. OK, I can download it – as long as they choose to let me, but it isn’t my data. When I post on my server then give FaceBook permission to republish the data, I control my data and they get only what I decide to give them. When I post this on Google and then ask “please, sir, may I recover my post for another use?” the power relationship is reversed: Google owns and controls everything and my rights and usage are only what they deign to offer me.
That almost everyone trusts the billionaire playboys who put king sized beds in their 767 party plane as “do no evil” paragons of virtue is odd to me, but nothing better validates Erich Fromm’s thesis than the pseudo-religious idolatry of Google and Apple. Still, even the True Believers should realize that the founders of these Great Empires are not truly immortal and that even if Google is doing no evil now, it will change hands and those that inherit every search you’ve ever done, every web page you’ve ever visited, every email you’ve ever sent, every phone call you’ve ever made or received, the audio of every message ever left for you, the GPS traces of every step you’ve ever taken, every text and chat and tweet might think, say, that Doing Good means something different than you think it does. One should also remember the Socratic Paradox that renders tautological Google’s vaunted motto.
Unfortunately, at least so far, Google won’t let me use G+ to syndicate my data – they insist on owning it and dictating the terms by which I can access it. If I want to syndicate content through my G+ network, it seems I have to fully gift Google that content. I’m hoping there’s a tool to populate my “posts” from RSS so the canonical will remain on my server. Because it is the Right Thing To Do.
(Shhhh.. I’m going to copy and paste this into my own wordpress installation, even though I wrote it here on the G+ interface. They probably won’t send me a DMCA takedown, but I do run the risk that they’ll hit me with a “duplicate content penalty” and set my page rank to 0 thus ensuring nobody ever finds my site again. Ah, absolute power, so reassuring to remember that it is absolutely incorruptible.)
An interesting artifact of the FB vs. G+ debate is the justification by a lot of tech-savvy people in moving to G+ from FB because they believe Google to be less evil. It is an odd comparison to make, both companies are in essentially the same business: putting out honey pots of desirable web properties, attracting users, harvesting them, and selling their data.
Distinguishing between grades of evil in companies that harvest and sell user data seems a little arbitrary. I’d think it would make more sense to use each resource for what it does well rather than arbitrarily announce that you’re one or the other.
However, if one is making the choice as to what service to call home on the basis of least “evil” and assuming that metric is derived in some way from the degree to which the company in question harvests your data and sells it, then it is somewhat illuminating to look at real numbers. One can assume that the more deeply one probes each user captured by the honey pot, the more data extracted, the more aggressively sold, the more money one makes. The company that makes the most money per user is probing the deepest and selling the hardest.
From Technology Review May/June 2011, annual revenue per monthly unique US visitor:
Facebook: $ 12.10
Google squeezes out and sells more than 13.5x the data per user. Google wins. But Facebook is gathering $12.10 worth of user data, why should Google allow Facebook to have it? If Google wins that last morsel of data to take to market and takes out Facebook, Google can increase their gross revenue by 7%.
I’ve also heard people argue that Zuckerberg seems more personally avaricious, mean, or evil than Google’s founders, comparing Google’s marketing spin to “The Social Network”
Zuckerberg’s only newsworthy purchase was a $7m house in Palo Alto. Google co-founders were in the news over a lawsuit between them over whether their 767 “party plane” (Eric Schmidt) could house Brin’s California king bed. This is in addition to their 757 and two Gulfstream Vs they talked NASA into letting them park at Moffet under the pretense that the planes would be retrofit with instruments for NASA. When they couldn’t do that (FAA regs, who knew?), they bought a Dornier Alpha, but still get to park their jumbo jets and gulfstreams inside NASA hangers for some reason. Suck on that, Ellison!
More detailed instructions about how to access facebook’s new Open Graph (below). Open Graph is an interesting OAuth based mechanism by which facebook is opening their database to “select” third parties and allowing those parties to read FB cookies and automatically connect to FB and read “engagement enhancing” information about the user such as their social graph, their profile, their news feed, the groups they belong to, their pictures (including all that they’ve been tagged in): just about everything FB knows about them. The details are at this URL.
It is not 100% clear to me yet whether giving the third party access to the facebook cookies, but if the techcrunch article is correct, then third parties can read FB cookies, which are all under the domain .facebook.com and all “send for: Any type of connection” including the “lxe” cookie which is the user’s sign-in email address.
To experiment with Open Graph, first log in to facebook… Read more…
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