Danah is confused by Facebook’s fans

Danah Boyd writes that she’s she is “utterly confused by the ways in which the tech industry fetishizes Facebook”.

She asks some good questions and makes some good points. Lets go through them. My answers in italics.

1. “In an effort to curb spam, they killed off legitimate uses of mass messaging, silencing those well-intentioned users that adored them.” Totally true. It’s ridiculous that I can’t add more than 5,000 contacts. Even worse is the scalability of the platform they designed. Many of the apps I’ve been using lately simply don’t work if you have more than a couple hundred of contacts.

2. “But what I don’t understand is why so much of the tech crowd who lament Walled Gardens worship Facebook.” Because there isn’t anything better. It’s like why we are so gaga over the iPhone. The iPhone is locked up tight and doesn’t let us play. But it is so superior to the alternatives that we’ll put up with all the walls. I’ve seen this play out before, though. Remember in 1989? Apple had the Macintosh II and was way ahead of any other platform. They ended up with, what, five percent market share because a more open platform steamrolled over them. It’s why I watch Plaxo so closely and keep cheering them on.

3. Join a City network and your profile is far more open than you realize. Ahh, the walls aren’t high enough! Heheh. One of the first things I recommend people to learn on Facebook is how to use the privacy settings to adjust who has access to your stuff.

4. The default is far beyond friends-only and locking a FB profile down to friends-only takes dozens of clicks in numerous different locations. Totally true. For many people changing their privacy settings will take too much work. Facebook would be good to come up with some scenario-based choices. “I don’t want anything available to anyone.” “I’m cool with some of my stuff, but not my private stuff available to my friends.” Etc., etc. Personally, I’m on the other end of the scale “I don’t want any walls between me and anyone who wants to see me.” I guess that’s why I have a blog along with a Facebook profile.

5. if you install an App, you give the creator access to all of your profile data (no one reads those checkboxes anyhow). Yes, true. Be careful of those apps. On the other hand that’s what makes apps work well for me.

6. I can’t wait to see how a generation of college students feel about their FB profile appearing at the top of Google searches. That outta make them feel good about socializing there. Not. Yikes. Not that evil Google! Personally I love that you can find my stuff through Google (click that and you’ll see what my Facebook profile looks like to Google). And those college students will be very happy when employers start contacting them with career opportunities (or better).

7. Is [the over-30] crowd sustainable? Is it worth it monetarily? Is it affecting the college participation? Based on my discussions with people, yes, although she does identify that not everyone gets Facebook. Enough do, though, to make it a big business concern.

I think Danah is onto something, though. Facebook has a few huge holes:

1. The app platform rocks cause it’s the first time we’ve been able to see what our friends have loaded on their machines but it sucks lately because the new kind of apps (the ones that aren’t stupid games or gifts) rely on studying your social graph. Those kinds of apps generally aren’t scalable, rarely work, and generally break if you have more than a couple hundred of friends.

2) Privacy in Facebook is frustrating. For me I just want to turn it all off. So I notice the walls. For my friends who are newbies and who don’t want to be public? The settings are too hard to figure out and the nomenclature is difficult to understand. What’s a “network” anyway? Who does that apply to? There aren’t any examples and you only learn about those by spending a bunch of time inside Facebook learning about how it works. Danah’s right to point out this stuff is way too hard and doesn’t “thrill.”

3) I want per-content privacy. Flickr gets this right by letting me click a button on photos and setting the privacy for that photo.

4) The limit on # of friends? Ridiculous. Get rid of that. Or let me pay for a “pro” account without any limits. Buzz Bruggeman has tens of thousands of people in Microsoft Outlook. It’s not impossible to get that many contacts. If Facebook really wants to be the rolodex for the modern age it needs to get rid of those limits. Everytime someone wants to add me now it makes me pissed off at Facebook. It’s pissing me off hour of every day now.

Anyway, thanks to Danah for getting a conversation going. Tomorrow’s Data Sharing Summit should be a good place to discuss all this stuff.

79 thoughts on “Danah is confused by Facebook’s fans

  1. I read similar article also named Blog Archive Danah is confused by Facebook’s fans «, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

  2. I read similar article also named Blog Archive Danah is confused by Facebook’s fans «, and it was completely different. Personally, I agree with you more, because this article makes a little bit more sense for me

  3. The main issue with facebook is that its waayyyyyyyy too standardized. There is little room for customization and far too many unchangeable presets. And I’m just going to say the entire concept of networks is retarded. Its equally as sh!tty as myspace but for entirely different reasons.

  4. The main issue with facebook is that its waayyyyyyyy too standardized. There is little room for customization and far too many unchangeable presets. And I’m just going to say the entire concept of networks is retarded. Its equally as sh!tty as myspace but for entirely different reasons.

  5. > it’s the first time we’ve been able to see what our friends have loaded on their machines

    Well actually, I met two entrepreneurs from Amsterdam who offer something that did just that — but I digress.

    On the problem at hand, I beleive that Networks need to be reconsidered and though through.
    About your own personal issues:
    - with the limit on the number of friends, I’m not sure it makes sense to share private details to that many person, and not prefer to define a closer circle; if you do sincerly have an argument for not having less then that many invites to your birthday party, I assume Facebook will try to suit you; I just can’t imagine reasonnable symetric relations on that scale;
    - apps aren’t perfect; but more importantly, there should be one for your kind: call it Fan, Star or Very Interactive Person, and make it suit your needs: an asymetric relation between a very vocal & open host, and his very numerous guests. People would subscribe either as member of a Rock-Star/Band/Guru, or as a Follower.

    Any one around to do that?

    If you do

  6. > it’s the first time we’ve been able to see what our friends have loaded on their machines

    Well actually, I met two entrepreneurs from Amsterdam who offer something that did just that — but I digress.

    On the problem at hand, I beleive that Networks need to be reconsidered and though through.
    About your own personal issues:
    - with the limit on the number of friends, I’m not sure it makes sense to share private details to that many person, and not prefer to define a closer circle; if you do sincerly have an argument for not having less then that many invites to your birthday party, I assume Facebook will try to suit you; I just can’t imagine reasonnable symetric relations on that scale;
    - apps aren’t perfect; but more importantly, there should be one for your kind: call it Fan, Star or Very Interactive Person, and make it suit your needs: an asymetric relation between a very vocal & open host, and his very numerous guests. People would subscribe either as member of a Rock-Star/Band/Guru, or as a Follower.

    Any one around to do that?

    If you do

  7. Thanks for your response – it’s very much appreciated. Your comments on wanting to be visible remind me of a critical tension that is at play in the narratives around social network sites. MySpace, at a core, is all about being AS VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE. This is true technologically and for a huge chunk of its audience. Facebook, on the other hand, prided itself on being the anti-MySpace. Part of how it publicly differentiated itself was through the network-driven privacy structure. This is how they avoided all of the public damage when the Attorneys General and Congress went after MySpace. This is how they earned the trust of parents who heard of horror stories about MySpace. This is how they became an institution for so many of the early adopters. The 30+ crowd does not have such neatly contained networks, especially the kind of 30+ crowd that FB attracted. Their friends are not geographically proximate, they are not connected to one school or company network. Thus, that structure doesn’t work for the new audience. And then there are people like you who WANT to be public, want to be visible to everyone and anyone, want to be as searchable as possible. The difference between you and most MySpace folks who are seeking such public attention is that you have it already. (Cuz structurally, you fit far more into MySpace’s paradigm than Facebook’s…) How is Facebook going to open up to manage what you want and still be protective for its early adopters? Why are their defaults public-centric when the public people know how to make themselves more public but the private-minded folks often don’t know how to protect themselves?

  8. Thanks for your response – it’s very much appreciated. Your comments on wanting to be visible remind me of a critical tension that is at play in the narratives around social network sites. MySpace, at a core, is all about being AS VISIBLE AS POSSIBLE. This is true technologically and for a huge chunk of its audience. Facebook, on the other hand, prided itself on being the anti-MySpace. Part of how it publicly differentiated itself was through the network-driven privacy structure. This is how they avoided all of the public damage when the Attorneys General and Congress went after MySpace. This is how they earned the trust of parents who heard of horror stories about MySpace. This is how they became an institution for so many of the early adopters. The 30+ crowd does not have such neatly contained networks, especially the kind of 30+ crowd that FB attracted. Their friends are not geographically proximate, they are not connected to one school or company network. Thus, that structure doesn’t work for the new audience. And then there are people like you who WANT to be public, want to be visible to everyone and anyone, want to be as searchable as possible. The difference between you and most MySpace folks who are seeking such public attention is that you have it already. (Cuz structurally, you fit far more into MySpace’s paradigm than Facebook’s…) How is Facebook going to open up to manage what you want and still be protective for its early adopters? Why are their defaults public-centric when the public people know how to make themselves more public but the private-minded folks often don’t know how to protect themselves?

  9. I agree completely on the networks issue being confusing. People have networks and groups, and when you first arrive on facebook, it’s hard to distinguish. Actually, this is really a holdover from its beginnings as a college tool. I also find it frustrating that, as someone who graduated before facebook and doesn’t have an email address at my college’s domain, I can’t join its network. If I were graduating this year, I’d already be in the network and could stay on as an alum. I also find it frustrating that I can’t make my profile more public. For me,it’s a networking tool, and I want people to find me.

    All that said, I like facebook. It’s modular, and that makes it scalable (perhaps not as much as people would like, but better than many tools). It allows me to stay in contact with colleagues and friends who I see rarely, thanks to its new feed. Professionally, that keeps colleagues on my mind and me on theirs, even if a year goes between our meeting and our first collaboration. For friends, well, it stops people from drifting away.

    I think the biggest problem is that there really isn’t anything exactly like facebook. Like a lot of social media tools, you really have to just start using it to figure out what it is. Twitter is the same way. I could describe it to someone until I’m blue in the face, but it really doesn’t sink in until you start using it.

    When I first got on facebook, I would have loved a small — well, tutorial may more involved than what I’m looking for, but some sort of introduction that gives new members a sense of what a network is, what a group is, how apps work, how privacy works, and a bit of social etiquette. (e.g., when do you message and when do you write on a wall, or maybe even what a wall is.) I think social etiquette may be the most important part. People are more likely to join a community if they feel comfortable in their interactions. If your engaged in other forms of social media, you’ll figure out facebook. For those who aren’t, it would be nice to have a helping hand.

  10. I agree completely on the networks issue being confusing. People have networks and groups, and when you first arrive on facebook, it’s hard to distinguish. Actually, this is really a holdover from its beginnings as a college tool. I also find it frustrating that, as someone who graduated before facebook and doesn’t have an email address at my college’s domain, I can’t join its network. If I were graduating this year, I’d already be in the network and could stay on as an alum. I also find it frustrating that I can’t make my profile more public. For me,it’s a networking tool, and I want people to find me.

    All that said, I like facebook. It’s modular, and that makes it scalable (perhaps not as much as people would like, but better than many tools). It allows me to stay in contact with colleagues and friends who I see rarely, thanks to its new feed. Professionally, that keeps colleagues on my mind and me on theirs, even if a year goes between our meeting and our first collaboration. For friends, well, it stops people from drifting away.

    I think the biggest problem is that there really isn’t anything exactly like facebook. Like a lot of social media tools, you really have to just start using it to figure out what it is. Twitter is the same way. I could describe it to someone until I’m blue in the face, but it really doesn’t sink in until you start using it.

    When I first got on facebook, I would have loved a small — well, tutorial may more involved than what I’m looking for, but some sort of introduction that gives new members a sense of what a network is, what a group is, how apps work, how privacy works, and a bit of social etiquette. (e.g., when do you message and when do you write on a wall, or maybe even what a wall is.) I think social etiquette may be the most important part. People are more likely to join a community if they feel comfortable in their interactions. If your engaged in other forms of social media, you’ll figure out facebook. For those who aren’t, it would be nice to have a helping hand.

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