Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

It’s clear you are having some PR issues with the changes you’ve made to Facebook.

Folks like Leo Laporte deleted their accounts. Jason Calacanis is making page view budgets because of these problems. Jeff Jarvis is taunting you on Twitter. People are posting your supposedly private texts from when you were a teenager (I don’t even know if those are real, but they are getting reported as if they are).

You can ignore these issues. They will go away, especially next week when Google gets aggressive at its I/O event and releases a ton of stuff that shifts the pundits attention back to Google’s real market power.

The ones you can’t ignore?

The common feeling that we can’t trust Facebook anymore.

See, I don’t have that problem. I never +did+ trust Facebook, especially after your systems deleted my account a couple of years back. I knew then that we were buying into a system that was not trustworthy. Or, at least, not trustworthy in the way we’ve come to trust software and companies in the past.

That said, I still use Facebook. Most of the people I’ve friended over the years are still using it. And I keep putting more data into it. 400+ million people do. And more, I bet, are coming every day.

Here’s what I would do:

1. Split Facebook into two pieces: one private, one public. We already sort of have that. My private Facebook account is at http://facebook.com/robertscoble while my public one is at http://facebook.com/scobleizer
2. Make the private piece much easier to understand and setup. The New York Times actually exposed something gone very wrong at Facebook: you have too many privacy settings and too many choices. Boil them down to a few choices.
3. Put a third party in charge of “verifying” that privacy settings actually work. For instance, I’m pretty sure you are getting bashed for privacy in some areas wrongly. But the market simply doesn’t believe you on privacy, so get someone who can verify for us that when you set something to be seen only by your mom that it, indeed, is only viewable by your mom.
4. Do a better job of explaining why you are putting more and more emphasis on the public part of Facebook. I know that you get a lot of cool new features when you share your life with people, but most people don’t understand that because most people have never lived in public view before. So, SHOW THEM and show them better than you have been to date. For instance, what happens if you click “like” on a restaurant on Yelp? What does that enable? Or, what happens when you listen to music on Pandora and let your friends see that?
5. Use video to explain what Facebook is. Video is harder to read, yes, but it’s more emotional and it’s easier for you to explain and show some of these features. It’s amazing to me that you haven’t been in the public view since you’ve made these announcements. Get onto Techcrunch TV. Have lunch with Kara Swisher and Om Malik Invite me over your house. Demonstrate that you are public yourself and willing to stand up for the changes you’ve made. VentureBeat is giving you some similar advice.

Or, well, you can just ignore them all. I don’t think it will slow down Facebook at all. Most of the people I’ve talked with really don’t care about this issue or have already figured out what they are going to do about it (I handled it by changing all my privacy settings to as public as possible, others by deleting their accounts, yet others, like my wife, carefully went through the privacy settings and changed them to what they wanted).

Anyway, good luck, I’ll be in Omaha interviewing Matt Mullenweg about the future of WordPress at the Big Omaha conference and maybe I’ll ask him what his advice for you is.

About Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, I travel the world with Rocky Barbanica looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology and report that here.

99 thoughts on “Dear Mark Zuckerberg:

  1. This sheds some light on so the reason for Mr Scoble's support for Mr Zuckerberg, something I have fished for in my recent discussion posts. Thanks

  2. “….. (I handled it by changing all my privacy settings to as public as possible……”

    Ditto. Me too. A long time ago. But for it was not about privacy. I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know but I want them to be able to see and experience my Facebook page if they really want to. What the heck.

    Robert. My current Facebook account is also my second. Facebook deleted my first one. Great minds ….. wait, getting an account deleted is not exactly us thinking, but still.

  3. I'm glad I stopped posting to Facebook months ago. It always seemed like a flashy marketplace to me minus interesting people who wanted to discuss their ideas, network with the right people and make friends. It did cause me to straighten out my priorities thou and I may come back in the future but only to market my business. I have separated my personality from Facebook. I may only do business with Facebook but I sure won 't be posting anything kinky in it such as my fetishes, sexual practices and how much I enjoy hanging myself naked upside down in a closet :)

  4. Martyn,

    Scoble blog/style is in debate format which suits the internet perfectly. Where techcrunch is a firehose of either worthless information or worthy information ….Scoble always has good content to wrap your noggin around. I believe this is why people always come back to his blog. :-)

  5. Also, keep in mind they did this with the intention of search gold – tricking people into thinking they were private – finding out they weren't private and pretending they were helping people find their way back to privacy. Any fool who doesn't believe they did that to get everyones data index'd is a blithering fool IMHO.

  6. I escaped the whole vi vs. emacs thing. Our VAX didn't have enough memory for people to use emacs, so they deleted it and forced us to use vi. ;-)

  7. It might be a good idea for you to hide your exact birthday and address. This information can aid an identity thief and as a well known public figure you are more of a target than the average joe.

    Thoughts?

  8. “because they view Facebook (and Twitter) as “social” networks.”

    Yes, these people may well be naive!

    I may be wrong but doesn't facebook advertise itself as a social network for friends with support for selective privacy controls?

  9. True, at this stage of development, you are a fool to expect any privacy guaranty for anything you post on the web. Still, no reason to capitulate to that temporary nascent reality as a design goal moving forward.

    Even biological cellular exchange systems maintain selective privacy barriers in the face of massive public facing intercellular signaling or we would all be dead. With the network effect, social structures, we are now building we better step up to the plate and meet these mandatory, complex adaptive system, design constraints. No amount of naive, youthful, cavalier dismal or denial will shelter us from social network system crashes that will inevitable ensue if we fail to heed the heads up, the cheat sheet, natural living systems have provide to us. Some statistical failure in selective privacy barrier execution is tolerable in any living adaptive system but to abandon such mechanisms would be to sign our own, network economy, death warrant.

    Many things are semi private. You don't necessarily want to share certain things with everyone but you could live with that outcome as a worst case trade off against the power & connivence of having a networked sharing systems like Facebook. But that is no excuse for being cavalier about privacy, users also have every right to expect and demand an honest effort on behave of the network service provider to maintain your privacy control wishes. The more secret the info the more robust the selective privacy mechanism all the way up to the ultimate secrecy level, don't put it on a network.

  10. Everybody: If you have great ideas, join the Diaspora project and contribute to it. Unless you're getting *paid* to give advice to Zuckerberg, don't waste the energy.

  11. Actually, I think most of us thought that we had a public and private social space. LinkedIn is public. Facebook is private. Most people are not celebrities like you, so they don't need the sort of casual public space you have with a fan page. Most of us are just professionals. We don't have “fans” but we do need to project a public persona.

    Facebook really should have understood this before exposing private family photos to everybody on Google.

    It's pretty simple. Ask people what they want on Facebook to be available on Google. If you do this, you'll find out most of them want most of Facebook off of Google.

    The only reason normal people won't quit Facebook is because they don't even know about these changes. They'll have to discover them when something bad happens.

    Once you lose somebody's trust, it's hard to gain it back. Giants do fall. Facebook should be more careful.

  12. to all our Gods
    from all our peoples
    please bestow blessings
    of optimal inertia dampening
    upon our emerging noosphere

    Network economies are instances of organically complex adaptive systems and as such their designers must be cognizant enough to build in the key recurring survival attribute, trait, common to all functional living system. That trait, being a mechanism for inertia dampening at all levels.

    In Facebook's case this key inertia dampening function should be implemented via properly distributed, personal control, over all our private and public facing data as well as open federated repositories for all the internet wide semantic meta data collected by Facebook, Google and others.

    Like a run away nuclear reactor, complex network effects, can quickly fall prey to out of control exponential run away acceleration. So much of our new social graph is made up of careless, unproductive, social interconnect accelerants that serve little or no real social need. We need to save our social graph powder for meaningful things like collective political and banking control and not waste it allowing ourselves to become commoditized consumer serfs for the connivence of corporate overlords.

    This social graph gold rush, land grab, has sparked an immensely creative array of, run before you learn to walk, social network effect experiments.

    The difference between these new cyber creations and those of the previous industrial revolution seem to be largely under recognized. This thing is not like the printing press or steam engine, this thing is organic, alive, it can take on a life of its own faster than you can say network effect.

    These tools don't just extend our ability to amplify/accelerate communications and materials execution, these cyber tools reach right down into the underlying roots, the very fabric of human organizational dynamics . These tools are more like a biological rewrite. They rewire us all together like parts of giant living organism, a new collective neurological social exoskeleton, a new borg like cerebral cortex, connecting us all into a group consciousness, the noosphere.

    Only fools rush into network effect social construction without the mandatory inertia dampening tools required to keep the whole thing from going postal on us all.

    Mark Zuckerberg is just one such fool. A brilliant fool, yes maybe, but a dangerous fool none the less. He is in over his head, he lacks the interdisciplinary vision to lead us to the promised land and we should all speak up loud and clear with a resounding, we will not follow!

  13. What Facebook needs to do is simply Privacy setting. Manage your privacy via lists would be an idea, for each list, set them to see private or public info. That's all. All the stream would then be public by default unless otherwise stated, like the current photo albums for example. I am sure they have enough brain power to figure out how it works and make it easy for the sheeples to understand and use.

  14. Splitting facebook is a bad idea. That was cause way more confusion that its worth. I, like your wife, have set my privacy settings up the way I want them, a mix between public and private.
    It would be a nightmare to have to try and balance that with 2 facebooks.
    PS I use Twitter for most of my “public stuff”

  15. Forgive me a quick chuckle here, Martyn. Pretty sure everyone knows who Scoble is and the reach he has. :-P

    I hope Mark does take this advice to heart, even if it doesn't create any immediate changes. Privacy issues aside, I like the platform and would hate to see mass abandonment. Definitely an interesting PR case study as well…

  16. Not sure how this explains why e-mail scale with a distributed architecture, while social networks don't: do you mean that fi we had local servers, where most our friends are and some connection outside of those, things could scale?

  17. Remember a few years ago when Google was such the main cheese that people would enter into the web through Google? If you wanted to search for anything, that's where people would often begin – you could just start with Google. When it comes to *people*, people are tending to start now with Facebook. If I want to find someone and figure out what they are like, I'll check for that data on Facebook as the starting place. In the long run, I think Facebook is going to be just that, and only that, a hub for finding people's profile pages, just as it was when it got started. Most of the rest of the data people contribute to the web beyond their basic static profile will likely not be via Facebook in the long run.

  18. I agree with eschnou, the fundamental issue facing our time is greater than Zuck. We have come to understand that we should settle for nothing less than retaining ownership over our metadata about ourselves. We should grant Facebook a non exclusive license to use our data, and only in ways that we approve ahead of time. Facebook should never release another “Feature” without a ballot box which explains what has changed and if there is an opt-out strategy, then users should be able to opt out when they opt-in (Sign in). This is simply too important an issue to ignore any longer. Think about how important this data will be in 10 years.

  19. I think the public/private thing for everyone is the way to go. If I had to do my Facebook over I'd do the same deal. Now it's this mishmash of public and private and kind of defaults to public. It should be split so people can have a list of 50 friends with beer pong photos or whatever that will never be opened up and a public view.

  20. One thing I think is being missed here- Facebook is obviously providing some value for their services and the data that they are collecting and selling. The problem is that it is a black, one way street. If Facebook were to open up to the user who’s profile is being accessed, a report of who is accessing what data and how often (and then giving it to whom), then the Facebook users could make a more informed decision about their privacy and whether the trade-off is worth it to them. As it is, that’s a black box to the user.

  21. Yes, and it's your job as tech pundits to act upon that. I'm rooting for Zucks & Facebook. Ok he got a little greedy, following in the footsteps of many leaders out there.

  22. Howdy Bertil :)
    I think the difficulty is keeping the message data coherent in many distributed views without a big centralized backend. The web is built on RESTful concepts of which the client server model is the first feature (wikipedia). But social web sharing is a billion voices all speaking at once, with many tuning in. Are we all “servers”? Not yet.

  23. Cmon people, trust is OVERRATED in this day and age. The next thing ya'll will be saying is that we don't trust our government anymore. We have been HERDED like SHEEP from DAY 1, and everyone is OPENING there eyes NOW?

    Just use the tools to your benefit. Two accounts, now why in the HELL would i give FACEBOOK so much importance….

  24. Exactly Robert, most people have already sorted themselves out. The agenda, take the shot first. The rest will follow. ( @Jason's video was out a couple of days ago) I never trust anyone with my data in the first place, i mean we have personal mobile data being sold at mexican flea markets these days.

    Cmon people, trust is OVERRATED in this day and age. The next thing ya'll will be saying is that we don't trust our government anymore. We have been HERDED like SHEEP from DAY 1, and everyone is OPENING there eyes NOW?

    Just use the tools to your benefit. Two accounts, now why in the HELL would i give FACEBOOK so much importance….

  25. Dear Mr Scoble,

    It is clear that you have Facebook's back and this is causing PR issues for your blog. People, other than myself, are getting increasingly uncomfortable with your support for a company which has so obviously shown disdain for concerns of its users. Here is what I would do, I would acknowledge that Facebook has jumped over the precipice of trust. Gravity will do the rest. The product is no longer remarkable, as it was the comfort of being part of a large network combined with the privacy it afforded that distinguished it from all the other web based businesses. That is gone. Trust took 400 million users to build and one management decision to break. It is will be very hard to rebuild. It seems Zuckerberg has a reported track record of breaching trust it seems even at the foundation stages of the company. Why should we believe anything he says to reassure us now? I believe it is incumbent upon the users to set an example for all future companies that build a business with a set of implicit promises with a clear intention of not keeping them to not reward for poor behaviour. By teaching Facebook a lesson today, we may have more transparent and trustworthy web experience tomorrow. Let the switch begin.

  26. Once again Chris, you've hit the nail on the head. The choice of privacy lies with the user. Same reason I've often been careful about what I put on facebook, and the internet at all, for that matter. I'm not going to be leaving facebook just yet. They haven't given me a reason to leave, because I haven't given them any thing that I consider private or precious.

    I've never thought of facebook as a private place because to me it lost it's privacy when my friends joined and I connected with them.

  27. This would certainly help a lot, but for me it's an emotional issue as well, and I think that one aspect of what's going on is that the early adapters are feeling the same way. When we jumped on the bandwagon, it was exclusive, and the private policy reflected that, your suggestions here would certainly help the feeling that I am not being respected as a client who uses their product.

    My other big issue with Facebook is that they own everything I do on their network. I don't think that this is not something that they are likely to change and that issue bothers me as much as the privacy issues.

    I would love to see an decentralized network arise, I don't know if diaspora can do it right because they'll have to make it accessible and easy to set up to non-geeks as well. I think that your suggestion of a public profile and a private one could be done nicely, with only a few minor tweaks, via a platform such as WordPress.

    Thanks, as alway, for your insights.

  28. “Still not sure what's what.”

    This is the problem I'm having. My mom, sister, cousins and other non-Geeky family members are calling and emailing me like crazy. They read stories regarding their privacy that they don't understand, and get completely and utterly lost when they attempt to make changes to their settings on Facebook itself.

    The people who are “average” computer/Internet users are struggling to figure out what they are supposed to do… where… and how. Hell, they aren't even sure WHY at this point.

    As has been said before… if you don't want the world to know something about you, then shut the heck up and don't tell anyone. Don't post about it online ANYWHERE. That is the only way to guarantee that something will stay private.

    And as far as Scoble himself is concerned: After spending time with Robert in person on a couple of occasions, I can say with certainty that he is far more genuine than most people realize. He will get down to the nitty gritty and pulls no punches. He can be ruthless when he goes after the truth of a story. He speaks his mind even when he knows others aren't going to like what he has to say.

    HOWEVER

    He does all of those things with a smile, and a real passion for the subjects at hand. He is fair and honest (perhaps brutally so). Those things that some people “slam” him for are the exact reasons that I follow and admire him.

    And Zuck… when you read this (and I know you will) – for the love of god PLEASE figure out some damn way to get my mother off my back about her Facebook page. Kthx bai!

  29. I don't get why, given what you have written recently, you would need or want a private instance of your account. Didn't you just write that you wish Facebook was more public and that it had no privacy at all? If that's the case, what could possibly justify your need for a private instance of your Facebook account?

    P.S. I was forced by Disqus to sign in, because their “Sign in as a Guest” option doesn't work. How appropriate. My post hasn't changed by being forced to sign in though. Nor my integrity. Just my respect for Disqus.

  30. You'd be surprised what can be distributed through massively parallel differencing filters. Think about how the optical center of our brain registers knowledge of the 3 dimensional world around us. Do you think one Node rules them all when it comes to optimal signal processing? Maybe fully distributed soc nets aren't mainstream today, but to call them impossible is silly.

    Optimal replication of digital information is in it's infancy. Consider something like git & drop box. Efficient use of hash values, and distributed synchronization can enable concurrent state. I write scobleizer and every subscribing node is pushed the update not by one central server, but through a cascading waterfall of connected read/write nodes.

    A distributed soc net is like a database that allows concurrent writes from many simultaneous users. Collisions will happen but smart merging rules allow for meaningful conversation cohesion.

    I admit I'm dreaming, but it's based on a philosophy that empowers communication at the level of nodes. I think that's an important part of what makes the web so wonderful

  31. You don't understand how Facebook works. I have two pages. One, my profile, is not as open as my public page, which is open to everyone. On my profile I have set my privacy settings to “as public as they can be.”

  32. Guy, I agree, that for some – Facebook is a marketing platform. Not all, but some.
    95% of my Friends on FB should really be “Fans” of my Page.
    I want no privacy on my FB Page – it's a very public way for me to engage with others without having them “friend” me.
    Given that, I'd like to see a change in how FB pages play with others.
    My FB Page can't be a fan of another FB Page (but it should).

  33. I don't think Facebook needs to split into a public and private version or public/private accounts. That wouldn't really support the business model they are clearly pursuing, either. The draw to users is primarily the private stuff–keeping up with your friends. The opportunity for Facebook is getting business content in the user's feed along with all their friend's posts–and getting businesses to pay for that. We may not like it, but it makes sense. That's prime real estate there.

    Facebook could go a long way, though, by just improving their List feature and making it easier to use. They could change their UI to make it easier for people to create and manage Lists and make them a more natural part of the user experience on Facebook. Change the Share drop-down to include all your Lists in the top-level of the drop-down, instead of the convoluted process it takes now to share a post with just one set of friends.

    If they did that, they would actually get more people using Facebook for both business and personal use, because they would have easy control over what their professional contacts versus their personal contacts saw. It would help them better achieve their business/revenue goals. Wake up, Zuckerberg!

  34. I'm confused. How couldn't anyone post something on the web and think it won't be seen by others? Secure transactions aside, posting in inherently public, is it not?

  35. Robert,

    People are experiencing all these problems because they view Facebook (and Twitter) as “social” networks. If one views them as marketing networks, you wouldn't want privacy–you'd want publicity. :-)

    As I said at Sacred Heart, Facebook is a way to show what a great student and job applicant you are.

    Guy

Comments are closed.