Audio: Another story of someone kicked off Facebook

OK, I keep getting calls from people who get kicked off of Facebook for stuff that they think is normal usage of Facebook. Last week I asked Mark Zuckerberg about it, and he said they only kicked off people who were spamming.

So, today, when Nathan Stebeski called me I asked him “mind if I record you?” I used my iPhone to call BlogTalk Radio and record the call. I was on the freeway and BlogTalk’s new “Cinch” service really rocks for doing stuff like this.

Here’s the result. It’s a 10 minute audio conversation (MP3 file) where we talk about what happened to him and how he got kicked off. Sorry that the audio ends abruptly, but you get the idea by then what’s going on.

Facebook: this is totally nuts. You’re destroying your “utility” because people can’t build businesses on something like this where you live in fear that you might just get kicked off for seemingly minor reasons. With no, or little warning. With no recourse.

I found Nathan to be very believable. How about you? He had a great idea: that Facebook should have a “penalty box” where your account is locked down for a couple of days.

What did he do wrong? He had too many inbound friend requests, he says. How did he get so many? He has a Fashion site and had three Facebook groups that were getting popular. Facebook kicked him off and closed down the groups.

I’m going to ask Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s PR for a response to Nathan’s claims. More on this soon.

Is Facebook doomed?

Ahh, the patina is shedding off of Facebook.

Looks like the trend I noticed when I was in London talking with Maryam’s niece in December has hit home for Facebook. Is usage down?

My own usage is certainly down. Here’s why:

First, Facebook depresses me. I can’t add new friends, so the “game, er, fun” of Facebook has gone away for me (yes, building my social network was fun for me). Now, I know most of you don’t have that problem, but it does create a retardant effect on the fun of Facebook. It can NOT be a “utility” like a rolodex until it gets rid of all limitations.

But this morning I got a call from someone in France. He was kicked out of Facebook for sending too many messages to his friends. He said he was just chatting with his friends, not doing anything spammy (he only had a handful of friends, he told me). This isn’t the first time I’ve heard this kind of story, I get dozens of such emails every month from people who’ve gotten kicked off the service for not doing too much other than participating in Facebook the way they want.

Anyway, Facebook kicked him off (turned off his account, like they did to me) and now there is no way for him to get added back on. He’s emailed an explanation of what he’s been doing to Facebook. They haven’t answered back. There is no recourse. It’s made more difficult because this guy doesn’t speak English well.

As much as I like Mark Zuckerberg, I can not recommend Facebook to anyone until they fix this problem. There’s ABSOLUTELY NO WAY someone’s account should be deleted without recourse, if Facebook wants to be seen as a utility.

Facebook needs to fix these two problems before I’ll recommend it again to anyone.

One other thing? I’m getting spamish messages on Facebook now because I added hundreds of groups. I’m going to unsubscribe from most of them to keep that from happening. I already have too many attention thieves in my life.

But, to the question of “is Facebook doomed?”

No, it’s not. It still is the best designed, and best performing, social network out there. It fits my idea of what a rolodex, er, address book, should look like. I love the iPhone app. The way it all works. I love seeing photos and videos from my friends.

I just wish Facebook would fix these two problems so I can go back to hyping it up.

What do you think about Facebook? Has the patina worn off for you?

In my day…

I remember back when I was going to West Valley Community College in the 1980s that a few professors at other schools (thankfully not at West Valley) had banned those “newfangled Macintoshes.” They thought that typing on a typewriter made for better thinking processes (seriously, that’s what a few of them thought). Probably so, but I knew then that these folks were stuck in the mud and that we should have, instead, banned the professors from ever setting foot in a classroom again.

I have the same feeling about professors who ban Google and Wikipedia.

If I were a professor and I wanted my students to go deeper than “first level Google searches” I’d just grade tougher. Really, is it any more difficult than that? Geesh.

Has your Facebook account been "erased" by Facebook?

Damn, ever since Facebook blocked my account for a little less than a day people have been calling me with some real sob stories about how their accounts got turned off by Facebook and that they have no recourse.

I seriously don’t know what to do either, but I’m going to collect them all and then write a post. Maybe a little “A list blog attention” will get some accounts relooked at.

Many people admit they were doing something naughty, like I was, but others say they weren’t doing anything wrong and didn’t get an answer about what they were doing that got them kicked off Facebook.

Either way, there’s a lot of people out there who’ve been “erased” and who haven’t gotten the same treatment my account got for some reason (I was turned back on).

Drop me a line, or, better yet, leave a comment on this post.

Personally, Facebook should have a citizen review board where appeals of “erasure” could be taken and where a decent answer could be attained.

Some things that have gotten people kicked off?

1. Using a fake name. Mini Microsoft was kicked off.
2. Behaving like a spammer. Sending out lots of birthday party invitations got one person kicked off.
3. Using automated systems like what I was doing to look at things.

But, again, lots of people who’ve been emailing me and calling me say they haven’t done any of those three and still got kicked off and had no appeal.

Another place that people should go is to Satisfaction. They have a bunch of info for banned people there.

Plaxo: the social monster?

Judi Sohn rips into the trustworthiness of both me and Plaxo for attempting to import email addresses, names, and birthdays.

First of all, just to make clear, I have NOT used any of the data I collected using Plaxo’s service. That all went into a separate test account and I’m not using that data and neither is Plaxo. Why not use it? Because of exactly the issues that Judi brings up. Trust.

Why do it? Well, I wanted to push Facebook’s buttons. I think it’s sad that they import email addresses and other data from Gmail and track my Blockbuster usage and use my adding my name to the Saturn page but they aren’t willing to share some of its data back out with these systems.

So, to Judi, why is it OK for Facebook to import all my Gmail email addresses? Why aren’t you screaming bloody murder about THAT? After all, did anyone on Gmail approve me to import their email addresses to Facebook?

On another similar, but tangental point.

What if I wrote down Judi’s email and then manually put it into my Outlook’s contact database. Wouldn’t that have been exactly the same thing that I tried to do with Plaxo’s script?

Second, if you add me as a friend I assume you want me to send you emails and interact with you. But, it’s clear that some of you didn’t really want me to do that when you added me as a friend. Maybe we need DRM for friends. Something with options like:

COMPLETELY OPEN: You’re allowed to take anything on my profile page and import it, use it, copy it, print it, import it.
EMAIL ONLY: You can only take my name, and email address to other systems.
EMAIL PLUS CORE PERSONAL INFO: In addition to email address and name you can also take my birthday and phone number to other systems.
CUSTOM: You choose which fields can be exported or used on other systems.
NAPKIN ONLY: You can use anything you want, but no automated systems, you’ve gotta manually copy everything over by hand.
PUBLIC ONLY: Only data that I put on my public profile can be used elsewhere.
FAN ONLY: I only wanted to see your social network and behaviors here, I don’t want to give you access to mine.

But, back to Judi: she asks what will Plaxo’s future owners do with the data it collects? Now THAT is a good question but I’m wondering the same thing about Facebook. Will they sell it to the government? Will they sell it to General Motors? Will they give it to their partners like Blockbuster?

EXCELLENT question!

The thing is, you shouldn’t worry too much about your friends. It’s easy to kick them in the butt if they sell you out. But what if Mark Zuckerberg sells you out? Or, even, decides to erase you for whatever reason he comes up with tomorrow? What then?

Oh, and to the few people who thought I had a financial arrangement with Plaxo, let me make this extremely clear: I disclose ALL financial arrangements with companies I use. I have NONE with Plaxo.

Is Plaxo a social monster for trying to import? That’s for you to decide, but why weren’t you all up in arms when Facebook imported your data and your friends email addresses from Gmail?

Erased

OK, forget for a few minutes the debate about who owns your email addresses, birthdays, and name on social networking sites.

Forget for a few minutes about whether or not I was a jerk, stupid, idiotic, or worse for breaking the terms of service of one of your favorite companies.

Forget for a few minutes about whether it’s right or not that I got my account turned back on.

But after reading thousands of blog posts, comments, Twitter messages, and talking with tons of people one thing is still really freaking me out:

I was erased.

Erased so quickly and completely that my friends had no idea what happened.

And not only was I erased, but anyone who wrote on my wall’s data was erased too.

My photos were erased.

My videos were erased.

AND all of YOUR data associated with those were erased.

Rodney Rumford has the picture of erasure.

Now, keep in mind, this isn’t a video game. It isn’t a review site. Or a restaurant site.

It’s something that claims to be a “utility.”

I’ve gotten dozens of messages from people who claim to have been erased by Facebook who DID NOT run a script (or so they say). They were just erased for some perceived slight and because they aren’t a famous blogger they haven’t gotten their accounts turned back on.

So, this is a company you want to trust your private details to? A company that can not just block access to your account, but can erase every last detail about you.

And you’re wondering what I’m doing trying to get your email address and birthday out of this system?

Personally, can you put my email, phone, birthday into some other system so that you know how to get ahold of me after I get erased the next time? Thanks! It’s always on my blog.

And people wonder why I love the open public Web…

OK, now we can get back to calling me an idiot, or arguing whether or not you, by adding me to your friends or follower lists, gave me permission to add your email address to other systems I use, and whether or not I should have been allowed back into Facebook. All that doesn’t bother me as much as just realizing that a company can totally wipe you off the face of their walled garden without any due process or any real recourse.

Not that I’ve learned my lesson. Right now I’m typing this from an Apple store computer in San Francisco and I’ve put 89 videos up on Qik (which just improved its quality) and who knows whether or not my videos will get erased in the future from that service?

Call me a sucker for letting other companies control my data. But, probably, so are you. Welcome to the world where you don’t really own your data.

Hope you never get erased.

What I was using to hit Facebook — unreleased Plaxo Pulse

OK, so I’ve been released from my NDA. I was alpha testing an upcoming feature of Plaxo Pulse — this feature has not yet been released and now that my account has gotten shut down it’s not clear whether it will be released. It is a Facebook importer that works just like any other address book importer.

What does it collect?

Names and email address and birthday.

Why those? Because it’s trying to connect Facebook names with names in its database.

For instance, it learned that of the 5,000 people in my Facebook account about 1,800 were already on Plaxo.

It did NOT look at anything else. Just this stuff, no social graph data. No personal information.

Why do this?

I wanted to get all my contacts into my Microsoft Outlook address book and hook them up with the Plaxo system, which 1,800 of my friends are already on.

It’s ironic that you can import your Gmail address book into Facebook but you can’t export back out.