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Moderating The Addiction

It’ll come as no surprise to those who know me that I’m something of a Facebook junkie. I’m not a stay-at-home mom posting 20 pics of the kids wiping their noses, or the needy guy who posts his location every 5 minutes – no more than every hour, I promise – but I spend my share of time there. Sure, I went through that ugly Mafia Wars phase, but I’m over that … really!

About fifteen years ago, during the early days of the information revolution, I heard a speech from Scott McNealy, the CEO of Sun Microsystems, in which he introduced himself with the then-cryptic moniker, “scott@sun.com”.

“That’s an email address”, said McNealy, “and soon you’ll all have one.”

Sure enough, I started seeing the names with the funny symbol appearing in advertising everywhere – it was clear that Scott’s premonition was coming true. Today, I’d be thrilled to have only one – or even just five – email addresses.

As Ron White would say, I told you that story so I can tell you this one. Much like the email address – and shortly thereafter, the web site – became a ubiquitous element for businesses large and small, the Facebook fan page is now at the center of many advertising plans – even SCMO’s. But there’s one big difference between then and now – while the internet was controlled by a relatively neutral governance board, Facebook is a for-profit company, one that often has business purposes that are at odds with some of those who have come to so completely depend on the social network to attract customers.

A key tool for content publishers who want to raise their presence among Facebook’s near-billion users is the social reader app. If you’re a FB user, you’ve probably seen a social reader in your news feed. An entry will appear stating that so-and-so recommends an article, and when you click on it to see if you like it too, the app intercedes, wanting to access your permissions before allowing you to view the content. If you’re smart, you stop right there, but millions of people don’t – as recently as last month, for example, the Washingoton Post’s SR app was pulling in over 4 million hits a day from Facebook users.

But when you tie your cart to a horse you don’t control, you never know when you’re gonna step in a road apple. Facebook management could see those big numbers being raised by the social readers, too, and wanted their share. So they quietly changed their code to harvest the articles being hyped by the social readers and display them as “trending articles” in the News Feed of their users. Click on a link and instead of going to the site where the content is located, the content is brought to you – without ever having to leave Facebook. How devastating is it to those websites depending on Facebook to feed them traffic? The Washington Post has seen their traffic drop from the aforementioned 4M hits a day to 220,000 – a brutal hit in a world where eyeballs equate to dollars.

But that’s the price you pay if you’re Facebook user, whether a large corporation or single person. It’s their world, their code, and they play by their rules. I certainly get as irritated as anyone when they jerk with the user experience, but I try not to become on of those hyperventilating fanboys you hear interviewed in the news every time FB makes a change. Of course, having counterculture tools like FB Purity to help keep your sanity doesn’t hurt … 😉

Back to my own Facebook addition for a moment – like most addictions, it started out innocently enough. Wanting to expand the Marlinnut brand, I established the SCMO fan page and Twitter feed as a way of reaching new billfish fans. If you haven’t checked out our Facebook page, I’d encourage you to take a moment and give it a look. It’s our way to share some of what we see elsewhere on FB with our fans and friends, and to spread the good word of SCMO to a whole new group of fishermen. If you like what you see, I’d be honored if you’d “like” the page, and share it with your friends!

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