Daily Archives: May 15, 2008

Facebook has a point where it comes to your privacy

My ex-boss, John Furrier, goes after Facebook after Facebook blocked Google’s Friend Connect from using its API to inport friends from Facebook into Google’s Friend Connect.

I saw Dave Morin, who runs Facebook’s developer platform, at Google’s event Monday night. You can see him at the end of the event where I shoved my cell phone in his face and tried to get him to comment. He refused.

After the camera is off he said it was “interesting” that Google had used Facebook as one of the examples during its launch of Friend Connect.

I guess it was a lot more than “interesting.”

They blocked Google because they didn’t want Google to populate its friend network with data collected from Facebook.

Oh, I know, that’s not the real reason they told TechCrunch and others. Here’s the official statement from Facebook.

Facebook is being consistent here. Dave Morin told me a few months ago all about Facebook’s concerns. Such as, what happens if you change your email address, will it change everywhere that your email address got copied to?

Clearly with Google’s Friend Connect the answer is “no.” Why? Because it was a one-time action and there was no live connection back to Facebook and Google’s Friend Connect’s data would get older and older (and more and more out of date). Want to delete your email address off of the Web? Sorry, thanks to other systems Facebook can’t ensure that’ll happen.

Now, I’ve been on both sides of this story. A few months ago I tried using some unreleased technology from Plaxo to do exactly what Google did on Monday night. I not only got kicked off of the API (which is what should have happened) but my account was hidden and I was locked out for about 20 hours.

Facebook’s “penalty” for that behavior was way too harsh. And, some, like John Furrier, believe that Facebook is on the wrong side of the line tonight again.

Me? I think Facebook has a point, but I think the horse is out of the barn already and Facebook won’t be able to shove it back in.

Why? You should check into Minggl. It’s a toolbar that does far more than what Google’s Friend Connect does.

But it does it in a way that Facebook will never be able to block. Why? Because it’s your browser that scrapes all your friend’s info into Minggl’s browser bar. That bar then uploads all that information back up to Minggl. There’s no way that Facebook will be able to block Minggl. If Google wants to push the issue they should do exactly what Minggl is doing.

To get geeky for a moment, Minngl is collecting that data with a separate IP address each time the same one your browser is using. If Facebook wants to block Minngl it’ll have to block you from browsing to Facebook. Facebook can’t do that to everyone, so Minggl has picked an architecture that makes it impossible for Facebook to block. At least using technical methods. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook tried to sue Minggl or other companies that use similar methods to collect data.

Privacy is dead.

Anyone who puts anything on a computer screen that they want hidden from public view should think again. I don’t think it can be stopped and the walled gardens that have built around Facebook and other social networks are temporarily walled at best. That data WILL leak out of the walls and already is. Facebook’s attempt to keep the walls up will prove unsuccessful.

Just ask former KGO Radio Talk Show host Bernie Ward. He was convicted of sending child pornography through email to someone else. If email isn’t a private medium then surely Facebook isn’t. (The person he was emailing those photos to emailed them to the authorities).

What do you think? Does Facebook have a point or is the horse already out of the barn?

UPDATE: This is being discussed at a much faster rate over on FriendFeed than over here.

UPDATE2: Google employee Kevin Marks says I’m wrong in comments here. Here’s his correction to this post: “Robert, you’re wrong about Friend Connect data getting stale. It’s fetched directly from your linked Friend Data sources, including other Social Networks, with short-term caching on Friend Connect servers. There is a live two-way connection – Friend Connect posts back events to the Social Networks’ activity streams when the user choses to do so.”

UPDATE3: Mike Arrington over on TechCrunch thinks I’m wrong on this post. But, if you read the comments over on his blog you’ll see we’re not that far apart.

Famous conductor compares management styles

This is my favorite thing that I filmed on my trip to Israel a few weeks back for FastCompany.tv.

What is it? It’s a session at the Kinnernet event (which is Yossi Vardi’s famous annual event that attracts geeks and entrepreneurs from around the world to spend a weekend hearing new ideas and creative approaches to living life). Thank you Yossi Vardi for inviting me to participate in this remarkable event — how remarkable was it? Well this is the event where Craig Newmark was my roommate (founder of Craig’s List).

Who gave this talk? Itay Talgam, an internationally-renowned conductor. Now, it’s not every day that I get to meet a musical conductor, not to mention talking about him on my blog. “But I thought you only talked about tech, Scoble,” I can hear many of you saying. Well, that’s true, but, heck, gotta change the rules sometimes otherwise things get too boring and predictable.

Anyway, this got the most raves of the sessions I heard about (several people have seen this talk several times in the audience).

What does he do? He studies the managerial styles of several of the world’s top orchestral conductors and lets you draw conclusions of what kind of managerial style works best for them.

During the talk I saw in myself the stupid things I was doing as a manager, which is pretty much his point and why he’s asked to give this talk around the world.

Because it is so long we split it up into three pieces (the whole thing is more than an hour). Part I and II are up now, but part III will come later today. Hope you enjoy something a little different today.

Here’s the videos: Part I and Part II. Because I was having to film this myself without an audio crew, and had to stay to the side, sometimes I don’t have good audio or a good angle with the camera, but I don’t think those things get in the way of why this was fun.

What did you learn when you watched this?

Tale of two businesses: exciting vs. boring

Yesterday I visited two businesses: one exciting, Sliderocket, and one boring, Bluepulse.

First, about Sliderocket, it’s a new presentation tool. Here is a video I shot with my cell phone yesterday with the CEO. I’ve been using it for my presentations and it’s a TON better than either Microsoft’s PowerPoint or Apple’s Keynote for giving presentations. We filmed a demo yesterday that’ll be on FastCompany.tv in June. This thing is sexy, visual, and well integrated into Web services like Flickr and Salesforce. In other words, it’ll get lots of hype from tech blogging journalists like you read over on TechCrunch.

But the second, BluePulse? You probably haven’t heard of them, but they have customers in 198 countries, have hundreds of millions of messages flying around their social network (which is only for users who have mobile phones) and have been grabbing up Silicon Valley’s top talent — they just got Christopher Nguyen who was director of engineering at Google. You can see part of that team in the video I filmed yesterday.

In a future interview that’ll be up on FastCompany.tv in a few weeks where we met former Google executive (this is the same office where YouTube started, by the way).

So, which one is more likely to succeed?

I have to bet on Bluepulse. Here’s why:

1. Market. The cell phone market is growing much faster than the market for PCs or Macs.
2. Competition. Bluepulse wins here big time. Why? Well, let’s assume you’re a kid in India and you get a new cell phone. Do you know of a social network for that cell phone? No. So, BluePulse isn’t having to convince you not to use an entrenched competitor. But look at Sliderocket. If that same kid gets a new laptop he’s probably heard of Microsoft Office and his friends probably use PowerPoint and so, now you’ll have to convince him that Sliderocket, something he hasn’t heard of, is better. That’s a LOT tougher of a job than Bluepulse has ahead of it.
3. Monetization. Bluepulse is building up HUGE engaged audiences that it knows a LOT about. Think about the things that a social network learns about you. Heck, start with just your location. This is stuff that advertisers will pay big bucks for. Someone using a presentation tool? You’ve gotta charge them cause advertising won’t fly in that business model. That’s a LOT tougher of a business to build.
4. Usecases. One thing is going to be working against Sliderocket for at least a few months: Powerpoint works offline. Now, Sliderocket has an interesting answer there (they are building an offline client with Adobe’s AIR technology) but that isn’t finished yet, so when Sliderocket comes out in July you won’t be able to develop presentations in a plane (you will be able to play them, but the real offline client will come later).

So, add all these things up and you’ll see that the more boring Bluepulse is far more likely to build a world-class business that we all talk about than Sliderocket does.

That all said, Sliderocket is one hell of a great product and I can’t wait to show you that sexy demo.

What do you think? Which business would you rather own?