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Social Networks

Facebook Will Merge Your Group And Page To Make Poups!!

In a landmark decision, Facebook now allows normal group owners to have their Facebook Groups merged into their Facebook Pages. I heard about this on Inside Facebook a few weeks ago but wanted to verify that it worked for me. It does! Some of you will remember my very public bitchin about Facebook Groups vs. Pages from back in December. I spoke at the Web Community Forum thanks to an invite from the wonderful Teresa Valdez Klein. It seemed then and up till a few weeks ago that Facebook didn't really know what to do about the discrepancy between group and page functionality. Things got so testy, we actually started a Page to complain about the problems with Groups vs. Pages About a month ago, they started moving sponsored groups over to pages, but when I asked if they'd do it for me, they were all, "No, you're not Apple. Go back to your fragmented and confusing world!" Now they've come around. here's what you do voila! My stats are still broken on the "Ads and Pages" dashboard, but that's less important right now. Check out my Page and become a fan! A GRAND UNIFIED FAN.

My Facebook Outreach Presentation

Another dispatch from the Web Community Forum conference on Facebook. I was added, last-minute, to a panel on using Facebook for outreach and marketing. I shared the stage with Jason Preston, who marketed this very conference almost exclusively on Facebook. Doing a great job with the moderation was Mr. Todd Sawicki. Highlight for me was getting to show the Facebook video where I drowned a puppy because no one was using my group's discussion board. Here are my slides. Steal these ideas. Just gimme credit if they get you rich. (keep quiet if they drive you into poverty). Update 7 December. slide 3 says I have 11,238 friends. Drop the first "1" and it's accurate. Fast typing on stage. Sorry.

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My Facebook Curmudgeon Presentation (Updated with Panel Notes!)

(Update: I've added notes on the panel below the deck). Today I presented at the Web Community Forum conference on Facebook along with Tris Hussy, Jeremy Pepper and moderated by Dave McClure. It was the final panel of the day and felt like a group therapy session. After a full day talking about the cool things you can do in Facebook, the three of us brought it back down to the stuff that sucks: bass ackwards email, application spam, insufficient privacy controls, confusing groups vs. pages and more. My thoughts/slides were mostly based on these blog posts (number 1 and number 2). Here are some slides I prepared for the panel. Feel free to use and enjoy:
UPDATE 6 December 10:33am (PT) The Web Community Forum twitter feed is doing a good job note-taking (note-tweeting?) on all the panels. Here is a manual cut and paste (yuck) of our curmudgeon panel. * Facebook curmudgeons panel. Fill in the blank "Facebook sucks the most because..." * Tris: Facebook sucsk the most because the groups are absolutely useless * Baratunde: Facebook sucks the most because it destroyed his ability to communicate with his fans * @trishussey says that Facebook sucks because the groups are "useless" * @baratunde says that Facebook sucks because he can't message his groups * Jeremy: Facebook sucks the most because there is a misperceived sense of privacy * @jspepper is complaining about the "mis-perceived sense of privacy" * @jspepper says that people get put in jeopardy when they have public conversations on Facebook * "kids, they just don't get it" - @jspepper * Facebook treats you like a spammer when you're not, says attendee Ellen * if you complain, sometimes things happen unilaterally says another attendee * lack of discussion board notifications is lame Eric Weaver * Facebook the company is "amateur hour" says an attendee who says that they are disorganized when they plan their events for developers * we're all having a really good time here, people are laughing and having a great time * other people can't choose how they want to be contacted, that's a problem * the wall is not a substitute for controlling how people can contact you * "God's green Internet earth" says Tris. LOL! * "search is completely broken" says another attendee in the audience * McClure is going around the room asking people what sucks about facebook. Lots of functionality issues. * to try to find something in the history of posted items - there's no way to hold onto a piece of useful information * a lot of people are harping on search as a problem * everyone hates messaging * @jowyang - let's make some suggestions, I TOTALLY agree with that. Bitching and moaning is all well and good, let's do something positive. * Dave McClure just said, "Facebook sucks, but you're all regular users." @baratunde says, "America sucks, but I'm a regular user of that." * @jspepper says that original college users have a misconception of the privacy and the walled garden - they post everything * @jspepper knows someone who posts all this stuff and by posting their schedule, it led to someone getting raped * @jspepper, "if you don't want to be in a walled garden, don't join." * The biggest problem is the privacy issue and the lack of corporate responsibility for it. - @jspepper * "I don't think Facebook gives a shit about their community at all. They think they're just numbers for advertising." - @jspepper * Dave McClure says that monetization and CTR are really a huge problem. * @baratunde says that e-mail and the telephone are substitutes for Facebook * Facebook messaging is a deprecated version of e-mail * "Never abandon basic features that work." @baratunde * @trishussey wants a POP connection to download his FB e-mail * Facebook has taken us back 40 years of messaging, sayeth @baratunde * @trishussey, "I would rather use Lotus Notes than Facebook messaging and Lotus Notes is the worst e-mail system in the world." * Dave McClure asks how can they improve * @jspepper - FB doesn't care until people rise up and actively abandon * @jspepper, "I'm not writing them off as malicious." * @trishussey - Facebook is a "faux monopoly" because if any one thing blows up, people will leave. * Tris: what percentage of your friends on FB would have to leave for you to go "eh, I guess I don't need to go there as much"? * That's how fragile FB's appearance of monopoly is (tris) * @baratunde - Facebook has a monopoly on my audience. They are good AND evil. They are not "benevolent." * @jspepper, "it's SO not a monopoly." I don't see my parents on FB. There's a diversity of social networks out there that target niches. * Kara Swisher is right when she says that Zuckerberg is showing his youth as a CEO sayeth @trishussey. * @trishussey admits to having been an asshole when he was 25 * @jspepper, you can tell a Harvard man, you just can't tell him much * Dave brings up Beacon - @trishussey says that Beacon belongs in the 4th circle of Hell, but there are things they can do to improve it. * @baratunde - Beacon was the 7th circle of Hell before they changed things * There needs to be a privacy czar that you talk to before you launch something like this (Beacon) - @baratunde * opting out completely should be my choice - @baratunde * @jspepper puts Beacon at 6.5 circle of hell eeven after the opt out because he wants people to see what he's doing in some cases * @jspepper - I do like Facebook, there are amazing things that you can do with it. What they're doing gives them an "evil tinge." * @trishussey - where are the people around Zuckerberg slapping him upside the head? * @davemc500hats is having a lot of fun up there moderating. I can tell by the grin on his face. * @rumford is asking @jspepper, don't you think that FB is a company, they don't need to seek approval or permission at all * @rumford says that pissing off the FB community is a "calculated business risk." * @davemc500hats asks @trishussey, "your daughter is a Web narc?!?!?!" * @davemc500hats asks, "are apps useful? or not useful?" * @trishussey - useful apps die, points out that @rumford said the same thing * @baratunde says that a small subset of apps are engaging, but he's downsizing * @baratunde, "the app process has so biased me against all apps, because they're spam." * @baratunde - don't e-mail me. "you have a walled garden, stay inside." * @jspepper says that he doesn't have a favorite app yet * @davemc500hats asks, "is FB a great development environment?" * @jspepper says that you have no choice but to go to Facebook if you're an app developer * @davemc500hats, $15 billion, "more, less, or no fucking way?" * @trishussey says, "no fucking way." * @trishussey - I would put it into the billions, but 15 is just way too high * @baratunde says, "valuation is tricky and weird. If we all believe it's worth it, it is worth it." * @baratunde says, "it's not going to become the Internet." * @jspepper says that he doesn't understand all the frenzy around the valuation. "They're not making money on advertising yet. * @davemc500hats "poke, superpoke or get your hands off me?" * @trishussey, "i could live without poking." * @baratunde, "I have been known on occasion to poke people." * @jspepper "when men poke me on Facebook, it creeps me out." "This woman keeps on poking me, and I don't know her. It creeps me out." * attendee: what do you not like from a marketing point of view? @baratunde says, "I was using this as a marketer without the proper tools." * @baratunde says, "make how do you know this person? an actionable tool for marketers. also vulnerability of losing all contacts." * @baratunde says, "I want grages!" (groups + pages) * @baratunde says, "Ning has wonderful stuff, but there's no meaning to life without the people. You can't tell people where they should go." * @baratunde, "to just leave would have hurt me a lot more than it would have hurt Facebook."

MySpace Bungles its Anti-Spam Efforts

I've made a habit of hating on MySpace and that other social network that shall not be named in this post. Yesterday, MySpace upped the ante on its suckiness by making it that much harder for me to reply to emails there. I received a message. I pressed reply, and this is what I got:
MySpace, if you don't die, i'll kill you myself
What does that even say? I failed the image verification three times.Is this really the problem, people replying to their friends with SPAM? So, a friend writes me a message about collaborating on some comedy project, and I use that opportunity to be like, "Hey, Baron Vaughn, you want some Vi0gra and Cial1s!??!" I don't think so. WTF people?

Facebook Follies (or the Dangers of Investing in Someone Else's Platform)

A few weeks ago, I wrote a comprehensive, sometime scathing critique of Facebook and its shortcomings (it's worth a read, though long, and builds the basis for this current post). Despite that review, I was still positive on Facebook vs. MySpace and could live with its deficiencies while they sorted things out. I have now changed my mind. Facebook just cost me access to 639 fans/leads/potential customers, and I am partly to blame for trusting someone else to manage my business.


Photo via Flickr by B I R D As I pointed out in my previous post, I use Facebook in the same way I use MySpace: a bit of personal communication but mostly artist-to-audience communication in the form of announcements, videos, calendar, etc. Because Facebook does not let you send messages to all or groups of your friends (I have 944 of them) and because I wanted to give people an explicit choice to receive such messages, I created a Facebook Group. I called it "GLOBAL Fans of Comedian, Author & Vigilante Pundit, Baratunde Thurston." The "GLOBAL" was because the first fbook group I created was limited to the Harvard network, and Facebook's staff said they could not change it once set that way. It's also because I will be taking over the world shortly. Over time, this group grew in size to nearly match the size of my email list. In fact, with the growth of these social networks, I noticed fewer and fewer people signing up for the email list at all. I used the group mostly to send my NewsPhlash email messages to group members, three or four times per month at most. It helped get people out to shows, announce cool accomplishments and get feedback from people on ideas. The Facebook group complemented my other "channels" if you will, which include

  • My regular email list
  • MySpace friends
  • Blog/Podcast and associated RSS feeds
  • Upcoming calendar and Twitter
  • Friendster decommissioned summer 1996 due to lameness
My routine had been that every time I wrote up a NewsPhlash I would send it out via email, blog post, MySpace bulletin, MySpace blog, Twitter announcement and the Facebook group. As more people joined Facebook or began to use it more (especially when they opened it beyond students), I got a higher response to my posts from Facebook users than from email or MySpace. I have always been annoyed at this needlessly, inefficient cross-posting arrangement, but other social media types I respect insisted that you have to do it. It's one of the reasons I prefer to manage my podcasts cause they do a lot of the cross-posting for you, especially to MySpace, and anything that keeps me from logging into that design nightmare is a good thing. On August 16th, a big part of Facebook died to me. I tried to send out my latest NewsPhlash to the group. It included announcements of an upcoming NPR appearance I wanted folks to check out, plus links to a recent column and a photo of me with Barack Obama. Exciting ish! Sadly, Facebook did not care how exciting it was. My group message went only to me. I have tried over 50 times since then to send out a group message to no avail. I got into software testing mode and tried from five browsers -- three on my Mac and two under Windows. Nothing. I wrote Facebook, describing the problem. One day later, August 17, they wrote back:
We are aware of the problem that you described and hope to resolve it as soon as possible. Sorry for any inconvenience. Let me know if you have any further questions.
Between then and today, I had tried repeatedly testing the message feature. Nothing. So today I got ahold of a an anonymous source at Facebook. This person was kind enough to talk to me about some of what's going on. Out of respect for this person, I'm gonna keep the exchange anonymous and merely summarize many of the points we discussed
Point 1. Facebook is nervous about groups using the messaging system for SPAM and has some "limits" set up.
SPAM? That's why I created the group in the first place -- to give people an explicit opt-in to my messages. Unlike actual SPAM, people can leave my group at any time. The message source is transparent. If people feel they are being spammed by their groups, they should leave. I wrote back explaining my frustration and thanking the person for taking the time to be in touch with me. Always thank people for their time yall, even if they disappoint you! I basically said I had been building up my group over months only to have it broken. The response was quite revealing. Again, summarizing some points.
Point 2. People sign up for Facebook assuming we're like MySpace, and we're not. We're a very different kind of service.
Ok, tell that to your investors and the media and your users and the public and Microsoft and Yahoo who thought they were trying to buy something a lot like MySpace for $1 billion or more. If people sign up for your service expecting something, either provide it or make it clear to those people that they won't find what they're looking for. Don't get folks all invested then pull the rug out and say, "we don't support that." As for being a "very different" kind of service, I'm not so sure. Different, yes. "Very" different? Meh. More summary:
Point 3. Facebook is focused on "connecting real people with the people they know." Groups were designed for this, but users re-purposed them for things like promotion. We don't want to do the MySpace thing in the area of promotion. We think we can do it better.
I can partially respect that. Facebook does get that users will build whatever they want and can with your tools but is not comfortable with that. Again, there is this point of not being MySpace, and I don't fully get it. Maybe they want less noise than the MySpace system which overwhelms me with event invites and grotesque HTML comments all over my profile. Man, it's good that Facebook's pleasant environment doesn't overwhelm me with meaningless communication like zombie bites or friend comparisons. Again, I gotta give it up to this person for a very professional and empathetic tone. I actually got screamed on by another Facebook engineer who was upset at how I tagged a video and, rather than discuss it with me, bitched about me behind my back to a friend. Good to know there are mature, thoughtful people at the company. Sad to know that the company is being so rigid about how people use a tool. Through continued correspondence I discovered that Facebook says it sets a limit for group messaging. Based on my experience, this limit must be around 500 or 600 people, but perhaps it's a bit different for different users. This, of course, doesn't apply to sponsored groups like "Apple Students" with 400,000+ members, but Apple is paying for the privilege. Me? I'm not spending any money except on silly $1 gifts. All I'm doing is being an active node in the network and increasing its value by providing valuable, ad-monetizeable metadata about myself and my friends. All I'm doing is being Facebook, but what do I know? This is all very troubling. I invested a lot into Facebook, but I've discovered, painfully, that Facebook doesn't value me nearly as much as I'd hoped. I took one of my most important assets, my relationship with my fans, and allowed Facebook to mediate a large portion of it. Sure, I still have my email list and blog subscribers and my pedophiliac MySpace friends, but the loss of access to my Facebook group will be felt. Facebook users are still largely college folks, and that's one of the few groups that will actually pay me to perform. Meanwhile, I have to come up with a way to patch this hole. Unlike an email list, I cannot simply load my Facebook friends into another system as I would if I moved from Topica to Constant Contact. There is no Internet standard for a "Facebook user" like there is for an email address, and that's one fatal flaw in the system for anyone who plans to outlive Facebook. At least Facebook and MySpace have not been my end-all, be-all web presence like some folks I know. This has served as a wake-up call for me and hopefully others. Build and own your online presence. I knew this when I registered way back in 1998 and began managing my own email. I got a bit lazier in recent years, but I'm glad I still have my Baratunde-controlled universe to fall back on. Too bad I can't message my Facebook group and tell them about it. Epilogue - My Plan of Action I cannot afford to wait for Facebook to fix my group messaging, and even if they fixed it sooner, I no longer trust the service with such valuable information. I will keep my Facebook account, but I have closed my Facebook group to new members (what's the point if I can't communicate with them?) and will be sending them individual Facebook messages asking them to follow me in some other, more open, portable, non-hostage-taking way. I'll be adding forums to my own site and encouraging people to follow me with RSS. This will take a lot of time, but it's worth it. Contracting out major parts of your business has a huge long term cost, though on paper it looks more economical. I think we've all learned this lesson. It's sad, I had fun making people random officers in my group with such titles as "Dirty South Regional Enforcer of the Family Name" and "Awkward Turtle Whisperer." I had hoped to eventually make 50 people officers, but Facebook has an officer limit. Nice. More artificial limits on my creativity. I wish it were as simple as saying, "see Baratunde, that's what you get for believing in Facebook," but it is not that simple. I didn't just "believe" in Facebook. This was not a faith-based decision. I used it because that's where the people are. I stopped using Friendster because the people left. The "Internet" has all sorts of more open tools I could use to do what I was doing with Facebook, but millions of people have chosen Facebook instead. It seemed foolish to ignore that. Will people show up just to see me without having their friends, photos and Zombie bites one glance away? Facebook has become to the Internet what RSS readers are to the blogosphere. As I mentioned in a comment on my previous Facebook post: matter how open a system I build/take advantage of, it is worthless if no one is there to use it. I don’t use facebook for fun. I do it because the people I want to communicate with are there, and they are not willing to work with me right now to cobble together the equivalent of an open social network / event manager / messaging platform / internet application storefront / discussion board. Yes it is true that I could individually manage all those pieces, but I guarantee you, only a handful of the people I’m trying to reach would follow me.
I suppose it is time to find out. You can follow Baratunde's musings, show schedule, videos and more at, and he promises not to hold you hostage. 

My beef with Facebook: so much untapped possibility

I started using Facebook years ago, back when I was a regular person. I was in early. Everyone was launching a college-friends-based social network. Friendster was becoming unusably slow. Others like entered to fill a void as well. I got a desperate plea from a schoolmate. Something like "Hey please try out this Facebook thing my friend made." Back then it was just for Harvard cats, and it was I remembered the paper facebook we got every year for our dorms and this unauthorized electronic version was obviously a good idea. Years later, Facebook is a whole nother beast. Now I'm not just a person but a growing presence (I hope!) through my comedy, writing and political activities. I have almost 900 Facebook friends attached to my profile. All the web traffic I used to get from MySpace has moved over. My personal use of Facebook has become professional. They wanted this. They wanted to beat MySpace, and from my perspective, they have in many ways. Most notably, their site does not crash my computer. That is high on my list of must-haves from a social network or a website or a friend. But, like all things worth using, there are some big problems. Here they are, my beefs with Facebook. (note, several others have blogged about Facebook-ness including Robert Scoble, Anne Zelenka, and too many others to count). Regular People vs. Public Figures - The Problem For students, Facebook is still great. For most other regular people, it probably gets the job done, but for those of us using Facebook to create or augment our presence, Facebook is lacking. If you are a singer, writer, comedian, politician or other such public figure, you are forced to navigate some choppy waters. That's because Facebook defaults to a "personal" use. Where MySpace still wins is in designating an account type. MySpace has "comedian" and "musician" accounts which provide tools and an interface specific to those types of people. MySpace does not treat everyone like a college student. Facebook needs to take a lesson here and consider special account types for more public people. What I'd like to see
  • Fix the distinction between what's available to profiles and groups. I've created a group on Facebook for fans. I post select photos and videos, news updates and gigs there, but I cannot install apps to my group.
  • I'd love to put a SplashCast player in my group or a channel of my podcasts.
  • My profile has the wall, but so does my fan group along with a bulletin board. So messages are spread all over my Facebook experience
Contact-- I'm Sorry, FRIEND Management - The Problem Facebook has the right idea in letting you categorize "how you know" your friends, but it does a poor job of making this flexible and usable. Vanessa Fox talks about this in some ways. For example, instead of relegating everything to the "Other" category, I'd like to set a category of friends as "SXSW" for people I met at South by Southwest. Now, I have to select "Other" and type it in each time. More importantly, Facebook needs to unlock this metadata I'm putting in and let me make use of it. My rule: I have done you the favor of categorizing my friends with valuable metadata. You use this info to target ads. Please do me the courtesy of allowing me to act on that same information What I'd like to see
  • allow me to create custom groups and give me the choice of these groups when I add a friend. For me, I'd choose groups based on conferences/events and real world friends vs fans. Example groups: high school friends, track team, SXSW black bloggers, comedians, BookExpo crew, Iowa State gig, people denied habeas corpus by the Bush administration, etc.
  • allow me to use the information about my friends. Most important is for me to message them all at once whether based on their user info (like geography) or my user tagging mentioned above. For example, I'd like to send a note to all SXSW friends in advance of the festival next year to see who is returning.
  • Highly relevant to me, I'd like to send out performance announcements to people in a particular city. Right now, there is no group messaging capability short of creating a Facebook group for every subsegment. When I announce a show using my fan group (the only way to send bulk messages) I have to send it to everyone. A show in New York reaches people in Hong Kong. It's a waste. You know what I do today? I open two Facebook windows: one to write the message and another where I search for friends in the city of interest. Then I manually type in addresses up to the 20-recipient limit, and I do this until I'm finished. This is so weak. This may have something to do with preventing SPAM, but I would pay for a workaround.
  • I would also like to do interesting mashups and cross-tabs on my contacts. I'm a data analysis junkie. It's what years of consulting has done to me. What apps are popular among my SXSW friends? What books are my high school friends reading? You have the data, Facebook. Let me at it!
Messaging - The Problem MySpace set a new low bar for messaging, undoing basic features inherent in email with their supposedly more advanced social networking tools. I challenge anyone reading this to send a message to a MySpace friend who is not in your Top Friends and who is not in your message inbox or sent mail. You cannot do it, and do you know why? Because MySpace user search has been broken for years. While MySpace cut fancy shmancy content deals with TV networks, they overlooked one of the major requirements of a social networking tool: social networking, that is communication. I have searched for MySpace friends who are in my Top 8, and MySpace says they are not found. The only reliable way to find people on MySpace is to know their email address. If I had that, trust me, I would not be sending them a message through MySpace. MySpace has been a necessary evil which, thankfully, is becoming less necessary. Ok, so that's a big MySpace rant, but it's relevant to Facebook. Facebook has solved a lot of the super dumb MySpace failings. I can start a message to a friend, and Facebook auto-completes. I can search for friends by name and, get this, actually find them. What I'd like to see
  • save messages into folders
  • search my messages
  • send messages groups of people, defined by "how do I know this person" or geography or whatever
  • flag messages for followup
  • block receipt of messages by certain people
  • basically, facebook needs a gmail-like email client built in, not this cheap "messaging" crap. That's great for Red Bull-infused college kids with no real responsibilities, but in the real world, I need to keep track of my messages and actually follow up with people
Applications - The Problem The Facebook apps explosion has been talked about in many places. The apps have definitely made Facebook a more interesting place, but app notification is becoming spam-like. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten the notification "8 of your friends have added the Deez Nutz application" only to be followed 24 hours later by "200 of your friends have removed the Deez Nutz application." A day later, I get another notice, "John Smith would like you to Suck on Deez Nutz. Click here to install the Deez Nutz application." What I'd like to see
  • a an apps dashboard which ranks apps by the total number of users and the total number of my friends using it
  • a way to view apps by type. There are several apps that do exactly the same thing. Bundle them so I can compare more easily
  • app ratings should be built right into the platform
  • I want to screen app notifications based on ratings and the app type. I could tell Facebook not to notify me of any game apps with a rating less than 3 of 4 stars. This would cut back on a lot of the crap out there. MS Windows is a platform that I use on a regular basis, but I don't get notified every time a developer launches a new windows application or every time my friends install a new version of Word.
  • There should be a category for "Stupid" apps as well so I can block those. If I get another Zombie "bite" I'm going to have to dig up a dead person, inject them with the Rage virus, and set them loose on the developers of Facebook.
Networks - The Problem In this era of mobile workers, unreasonably cheap airfare and globalization, Facebook is stuck with the quaint notion that people want to identify with one geographic network. How 1991 of them. I spend significant amounts of time in several cities, especially New York and Boston. Don't make me choose. What I'd like to see
  • allow me to join multiple geographic networks.
  • consider a "primary" network with multiple secondary networks
Stats - The Problem There are none. Again, when you assume that your users are regular people, citizens, it's safe to say they probably care a little bit less how many times their video was played, but I'm in the content distribution business. I want to know if YouTube or Facebook are more effective at spreading video love. What I'd like to see
  • total photo views, video play counts and profile views
  • especially for video, a way to see where the viewers came from: my profile page, a pass-along, a friend's profile page
  • just give me something like "Facebook Analytics" and call it a day
Conclusion This is a much longer post than I ever wanted. I write because I care. These social networks are an attempt to mechanize and digitize what we do on a day to day basis, interact with other people. For someone in my position, using these tools is also an extension of how I produce and share my work. For something like Facebook to be effective, it needs not only to open up to third party developers (as it has), but open up to its users as well. Ultimately, I'm asking them to unlock the capabilities they already offer to advertisers and developers. Share those with users like me, and I'll push it through to my 900 friends and make Facebook even more important in my life. I should also make clear, that I don't expect all of this for free. I'm a fan of paying for quality services, and if Facebook offered a "Facebook Pro" version, which did a lot of what I'm asking, I'd be the first to sign up. I would love to hear how you'd like to see Facebook improved or if you've found found ways to solve the problems I identified above. I have a habit of running into the right people and asking them good questions, and I might just bump into someone who can get some of this done. Update (15 August 2007). Here's a perfect example of Facebook's misplaced priorities with respect to applications. I installed an application developed by called "My Questions." It's a decent idea, allowing you to post questions to your friends and solicit responses. The problem is that when you add the application, it sends ALL OF YOUR FRIENDS one of its default questions. In my case, it asked 900 of my friends "Would you rather party in Las Vegas or South Beach (Miami)?" Like I give a flying abstinence education seminar! This is just what I was talking about above. Facebook has given this developer the ability to message ALL of my friends, yet I cannot. I am using the My Questions app one last time to tell my friends to remove it and not support such crappyness I just wrote the following to Jeremiah Robison, listed as the developer of the My Questions app. Feel free to reuse it.
Jeremiah, I have over 900 facebook friends, and I'm telling them to avoid your application and all apps due to the massively irresponsible way in which you built the program. My Questions spammed my friends with a question about "Las Vegas vs. South Beach." I was not asked if I wanted to send this question. I only knew because I started getting responses back. If you do provide an opt-out, it is horribly unclear. In addition, your program emails me on my personal email account anytime someone asks or answers a question. I can find no way to change this setting. I am severely disappointed in your implementation of this app and will do all in my power to prevent my friends from using it. I am looking for three things from your company. 1) an apology for the irresponsible manner in which you built the app and the valuable time you have wasted in people's lives 2) a revision of your app to prevent such massive spamming, and yes, it is spamming since I did not authorize it in a clear way 3) better controls on how the application notifies users, specifically a CLEAR way to opt out of emails.

This is why, this is why, this is why I Tweet. I Tweet Cause I Tweet...

My friend and social network expert extraordinaire, danah boyd, is curious about how/why people use the messaging service, Twitter. After seeing (via Twitter) that my boy Jason Toney posted his responses publicly, I was inspired to do the same. danah's got questions. I've got answers.

note: you can follow my tweets right here.

1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

I started using it at SXSW 2007 as a way of

  • alerting fellow conference goers of my impressions of panels, concerts and whereabouts
  • finding out the same from them
  • replacing Dodgeball, which I never really liked
  • pure communication. I had lost my speaking voice, so my tweets supplemented that

Now I use it as a micro-blogging tool providing updates on everything from my emotion at the moment to funny observations to short opinions on the news. I also:

  • carry on conversation threads with twitter friends
  • post links to some of my published blog and podcast entries
  • use it as a light social bookmarking tool, visiting recommended links from friends
  • use it as a light RSS reader, with some friends being blogs like Ars Technica or TechCrunch

If RSS readers and widgetized portals are an abstraction of the online experience, then Twitter is an abstraction of this abstraction. I like it because it gives me just enough access to a wide range of Internet functionality. Dodgeball was great for declaring and discovering one's location, but that was too limiting

Twitter is a micro-blogging, micro-email, micro-IM, micro-newsreader, micro-chatroom, tool which is very easy to use. I like it for its versatility and the many interface modes it supports. I find myself switching from IM to Web to Twitterific to SMS seemlessly depending on my circumstances

Dislikes. Not many. These are more "would like to haves" I I agree with Jason that a warning about SMS traffic should be prominent from Twitter. Even the mobile IM client gets overloaded and bogs down my phone from time to time.

2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

I have many different networks of people in my life. The folks following my Tweets are part of the new media, SXSWi, wacky web kids network. I would actually love it if more of my networks were in my twitter world, most notably comedians, political activists and more of my personal friends.

This is the quandry I face with any network-based communications/publishing platform: my people are too dispersed across several platforms or not on any at all. Facebook grabs my college folken. IM is good for work people and friends with gmail. Flickr is very narrow.

What I'd really like is if Twitter had some gateways between it and my status message on these other platforms. I completely stopped updating my Facebook status once I found twitter because Twitter was superior. I just feel bad that my Facebook folks are missing out.

Right now, I leave my facebook status as:

3. How do you read others' Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

I generally keep Twitter running on my BlackBerry via Google Chat. If I'm at my Mac, I leave Twitterific on. Twitter is the stock ticker of my social web world. I don't feel the need to see every single message, but am happy knowing that I can drop into the conversation at any moment and see what's up.

Aside from my wacky web friends, I use Twitter to follow commentary by influencers I respect, such as Robert Scoble. It absolutely made my day when he responded to one of my Tweets. I've heard of this man for years and never come close to engaging with him, but the day his tweet started with "@baratunde" I thougt I'd die. It was like Michael Jordan mentioning my name at a press conference or something -- what an acknowledgment

I miss the tweets of Leo Laporte, but I've pretty much gotten over it.

Generally, the tweets I read are a way of maintaining a link to people I've met but maybe didn't know that well. It's a way of keeping the conversation going well beyond the initial handshake

I've only "left" one Twitter friend so far, and that's because he Tweets in German, and I don't understand that language.

I've been tempted to leave @spin several times because he uses Twitter as a long form stream of consciousness which happens to be broken into 140 character chunks rather than writing for the 140 characters. He is by far my most prolific Twitter friend, but I've stayed on.

4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

I avoid the super personal that may involve others not down with Twitter. I won't post Tweets about my love life or use friends' names. I use the same rules as blogging but have to be more careful because Twitter is such an easy, impulse-driven tool.

The fact that updates are so short removes a lot of the thought process which would go into a blog entry and perhaps slow down my urge to publish.

I try not to Tweet when I'm very angry. I also try to keep a lid on information which is professional in nature (client work I'm doing) or sort of unconfirmed (like my audition for a certain TV network. I don't want to put that out there until I get it!)

5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don't know coming across them? What about people you do know?

Absolutely yes, but if I were not pursuing a public career, I doubt they would be. As with most social media type tools, I view Twitter as part marketing. It's another "thought outlet" for me and the brand I'm building as a comedian and political satirist / analyst and all around guy to know. Twitter is primarily a publishing platform for me, and Iwant as many people to see them as possible.

I want folks to know that I'll tweet about CES and SXSW and George Tenet's punk ass book and the DC Comedy Festival. Twitter regularly rives a good portion of my web traffic (18 5 percent over the past week), and it's a piece of my overall media empire.

Twitter is a way for people to get to know me, and I'm cool with that.

6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

Twitter does not work with friends who are essentially private in the old school way. Many friends don't see the point of it at all and think they would have nothing to share. Most of my friends have no idea what Twitter is or that I use it. It's a very niche tool which only exists for the plugged in or the super-curious willing to experiment with being one of the plugged in.

Many of my friends still don't use IM, so Twitter is just insane.

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