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Posts tagged ‘internet’

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 … πŸ˜‰

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!

You’re Not Really Surprised, Are You?

The internet is a-Twitter (sorry, bad pun) with the news that most of the games offered on the social network Facebook – including the 10 most popular – sell information about their users to third-party advertisers. Privacy advocates are screaming that this is one more example of Facebook’s ongoing lack of respect for their users, and Facebookers are organizing boycotts.

I’m a frequent Facebook user, and I maintain a FB fan page for SCMO. I consider myself reasonably security-savvy on both Facebook and larger internet, and I have only one thing to say about this:

*yawn*

As is often the case, the truth isn’t nearly as exciting as the hype. It’s true that the game companies are passing along information about their users, but all they provide is the userid for their customers – nothing else. Now, having the userid does allow an advertiser to look up information about a specific user on FB, but they’ll only see what that user allows outsiders to see via their privacy settings – and by now, everyone should be well-versed on how to control those.

Beyond that, people need to take a step back from the keyboard and realize where they are. From the moment it stopped being a government-run tool, the internet has been all about one thing – making money. All that stuff you do online for free – do you really believe it comes with no cost? What you do is financed by advertisements, and website authors – remember, Facebook is just a big website – are all looking for better ways to target ads to their visitors.

Larry Flynt, who was one of the first people to use the internet as a business tool (remember, porn helped the internet as we know it today), sums it up pretty well:

β€œThe minute you sign onto the Internet you are being watched, not just by our government, but also by our major corporations. They know where you go, what you buy, what your interests are and what illnesses you have. This is powerful information that can be used in any number of ways, not all of them to your benefit.”

My basic philosophy is to treat any information you enter anywhere on the internet as public, and never publish anything I wouldn’t be willing to see spammed across the net. Whether this blog, my forum posts or my Facebook wall, I assume the worst and that it’s all out there. There’s an entire generation of camwhores who haven’t figured that out yet, and will come to regret it one day, but that’s for another rant. For now, never lose sight of the fact that the internet is only as private as everyone wants it to be – and not everyone wants it to be private …