Facebook: still a data roach motel when compared to Twitter and friendfeed?

Twitter has done something really remarkable: they have made the entire database of Tweets available to other companies. My favorite friendfeed is one of the beneficiaries of that “firehose” of data. You can watch my Tweets go from Twitter to friendfeed and back again. Oh, and friendfeed makes its firehose available to Twitter in return. You can see how this benefits both services. My liked items go from friendfeed to Twitter.

Now, what did Facebook do today? Well, it turned on an open stream API so that developers can put things into the stream over on Facebook. It also looks like developers can take some data off of the stream and use it in their own applications.

Loic Le Meur, CEO of Seesmic, has already shipped a version of Seesmic that does just that.

One big problem that Marshall Kirkpatrick, over at the ReadWriteWeb points out: Facebook is still keeping most of its users’ data private due to the privacy contract that it has made with its users. See, over on Twitter and friendfeed the bias for most user data is that it is public by default until you make it private (like, in friendfeed, you would have to open a room and make that explicitly private to be able to keep your data from going over to Twitter and over to Google. On Facebook it’s the opposite. If you use Facebook as designed your data only gets shown to your friends, not anyone else).

This is a HUGE difference between the openess of the Twitter/friendfeed model and the Facebook one.

Go see the comments on Marshall’s post. They are very telling about how poorly people understand what’s going on here and how they can articulate what they want.

The real elephant in the room is “where’s the money?”

The real money is in search. Yeah, I’m sure that someone at Facebook this afternoon will point out they are selling lots of display ads because they know their audience demographics pretty damn well (hint: Facebook knows EVERYTHING about who you are. I told it, for instance, that I’m a male 44-year-old democrat who loves skiing and photography, among other things).

But the REAL money has NOT shown up for Zuckerberg and crew yet. What’s that?


When I can ask Facebook “what sushi restaurants do my friends like?” ONLY THEN will you know that Facebook is getting close to the gold mine.

The thing is, Facebook doesn’t want to let you build that kind of business using its data.

THAT is reason #2 why Facebook isn’t going to turn on its real firehose for friendfeed to study, the way that Twitter has let friendfeed have access.

Reason #1, though, is that Zuckerberg hasn’t yet figured out how to change user expectations from having everything private by default to having everything public by default, the way Twitter and friendfeed work.

In an hour a group of us will be meeting with Facebook executives. If everything works out you’ll be able to follow along at http://live.twit.tv as part of a special Gillmor Gang at about 4 p.m. Pacific Time. I’ll definitely try to figure out how Facebook will change the default mode so that it can turn on the business social graph.

I also will find out if there’s a roadmap to opening up the data stream to include more data leakage outside of Facebook. If I were Zuckerberg I wouldn’t open that up until after I could change user expectations and get people to build a public instance of themselves. That could take a couple of years.

I wonder what you think of Facebook’s moves? Join us on the Gillmor Gang and over on friendfeed (we’re having a live chat about this post over on the beta friendfeed) and let’s see if we can learn something together about where Facebook is headed.

UPDATE: friendfeed cofounder Paul Buchheit just wrote this over on the live chat: “It’s not about defaults, it’s about ownership. On Facebook, you are not allowed to give other people access to your data, because your data belongs to Facebook. On FriendFeed or Twitter, you can choose to be public or private, but either way you can still access your data and do what you want with it.”

PR-less launch kicks off a stack overflow of praise

This is the way I love to learn about a company.

No, not from a PR firm.

No, not from a CEO (or anyone else from the company) calling me up or writing me email.

No, not on some junket.

No, not on stage at Techcrunch 50 or Demo or Under the Radar or some other conference.

No, not by reading Mashable.

No, not on Twitter. Or FriendFeed. Or Facebook. Or MySpace. (I really hate direct messages, by the way).

No, not in an advertisement.

“OK, Scoble, knock it off, how did you learn about it?”

A beta tester (a developer I know and trust) came up to me today and said “this is the coolest thing I’ve used in a long time.”

He then gave me a peek at his screen. I agreed after seeing what was on his screen.

But instead of letting the world that, I asked Twitter and FriendFeed if anyone had heard anything about the service yet.

They had. And how.

So, what is it?

It’s StackOverflow. A community knowledge exchange, for programmers, that is being built by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood (both famous programmers).

It’s in a closed beta so far (you can sign up for the beta on the StackOverflow Blog), but look at the replies I received on Twitter:

Joel Gray: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

Levi Figueira: “@codinghorror Man, I’m loving stackoverflow!! Great resource and userbase!! Let’s hope it doesn’t get wild after it goes “public”… :)” and “@Scobleizer I’ve been following their podcast since #1 and am part of the beta!! It’s the best thing for developers ever! ”

Phil: “Impressed with StackOverflow. They’ve really thought through usability and trying to create a sticky experience.”

Michael Krakovskiy: “stackoverflow beta rocks!”

Chris Benard: “@Scobleizer Here are a couple of screenshots I just took for you: http://is.gd/1nul and http://is.gd/1nuo ” and “@Scobleizer It’s an experts-exchange for programmers, without all the annoyances. ”

schwarzwald “@Scobleizer furthermore, stack overflow is experts-exchange without blackhat SEO techniques (cloaking) and annoying superfluous graphics.”

If you are exciting your early users like this you will get found. I so wish more companies built their stuff this way. Go slowly. Built PR by building a great service and turn your users into your PR agents. Oh, yeah, and blog and podcast about it to get to this point (but look at how they built a community, they didn’t get all “pushy” about what they were doing — they just were informative and inclusive).

Keep in mind that this is only a few days into beta and they only have a few hundred beta testers, but this is going to get big pretty fast because it is a well-thought-out service that already is getting major praise from developers, who are very hard to get to hype anything.

Believe me, we all will hear about your product if it really does rock. There’s no reason to go crazy with a PR firm if you build something that people want. Atwood and Spolsky are proving that right in front of us.

This got me fired up about the tech industry again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this kind of user passion.

UPDATE: Jeremy Toeman has a good rebuttal to this post (he’s the guy who first showed me Bug Labs and Sling Box).

Ray Ozzie's day in the Mesh

Later today Microsoft will bring out the Mesh. They are being pretty cagey about the details (I learn more at an 8 a.m. meeting, and from what it sounds like they will embargo everything until around 9 p.m. Pacific Time tonight.

So, what is it? Well, there certainly is lots of speculation on blogs. I’ll stay out of that business until I get a look for myself.

One thing I’ve heard is that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what’s coming from Ray Ozzie’s team. Which is why Rocky and me are headed up to Seattle on June 10-12 (to get a closer look at Microsoft’s Internet strategies, and meet up with a bunch of startups).