Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook screws iFart author

Facebook mat on 151 University

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried.

OK, I’m on the phone with Joel Comm right now. He’s been doing business online since 1995. He’s the co-creator of Yahoo Games. He wrote the Adsense Code, which got onto New York Times best selling list. He hosted and produced the first Internet reality show called the Next Internet Millionaire. He was the guy who came up with iFart, which got to be the #1 iPhone app on the iTunes store for three weeks. He also has “Twitter Power,” a book about Twitter coming out next month. You can find Joel on Twitter here.

Translation: he’s not a “nobody” on the Internet who is a spammer.

But, Facebook had a problem with him and kicked him off. Just like Facebook did to me just about a year ago. Why did this happen?

Well, he like me, has 4,999 friends which is the maximum allowed by Facebook. That’s not what got him in trouble. “So, Scoble, why you writing about him?”

Here’s why: he has 900 people who want to be his friend on Facebook. So, since he can’t add them to his social graph he sends them an a nice individual note, customized each time. He would look at each person’s profile and send them a nice note. What did the notes say? Something like “nice seeing you at XYZ conference, I can’t add you as a friend because Facebook doesn’t let me add more than 4,999 friends so could you please join me over on my fan page?” Sometimes also he’d send them over to his book page, or his Twitter page. Again, he customized each message to the person who was asking. Nothing automatic.

But yesterday Facebook disabled his account and removed his account from the public social graph. “I am the invisible man.” Facebook did exactly the same thing to me a year ago.

You still can get to his fan page, but he can’t administer it any longer (he has 734 fans). He also has a group on Facebook, which has more than 2,000 members. Fifty people have already joined a group to petition to have Joel added back to Facebook.

“So, why did they kick him off?” Because he triggered some sort of automatic alert that he was participating in spamming behavior.

“Did you get a warning,” I asked Comm.

“Yes. When we were sending the messages we got a warning and we stopped,” Comm says.

“Why did they kick you off then?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I stopped after they warned me. They kicked me off two days later. I have 900 people waiting to hear from me wondering why I’m ignoring them,” he told me.

“I try to log in now and it says my account is disabled. He sent them an inquiry and he got an email on January 22 at 1:42 p.m. Mountain Time. It says “Hi. The Facebook team has received your inquiries. We should get back to you soon. In the meantime, we encourage you to review our terms of use ( http://www.facebook.com/terms.php ). For more information. Thanks for contacting Facebook. — the Facebook team.”

Comm has no access to his photos. No access to his videos. No access to his wall posts. “I have no access, period,” he says. He wrote about the whole experience on his blog. I Googled his Facebook account and, right now, get a “Page Not Found” error. He has been “erased.”

I had almost the same experience a year ago and got more than 600 comments on that post. Every few days a new person leaves a sob story of getting kicked off of Facebook. I’ve complained about this quite a few times, including in public at SXSW when Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Facebook’s developer event there in 2008. I also have talked with Chris Putnam, head of Facebook’s video and security teams, as well as Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer. Each time they say they will look into it. Each time nothing happens and the account disabling continues.

My account was closed like Joel’s although Facebook reinstated my account within 24 hours. I answered my email just like Joel did. Nicely and calmly. But I always assumed that getting to the top of TechMeme and getting hundreds of blogs to talk about the event helped get me reinstated too.

Irony: He wrote a 30 page report on Facebook on how social networking can improve your business which was very positive about Facebook.

Comm, like me, says he’ll be back on Facebook if they reenable his account but warns that people will get tired of this kind of treatment. “You know what, I don’t need big brother watching me and I’ll go use another site.”

Get Satisfaction, a site where you can leave customer complains for companies, has an extensive thread on this issue.

I agree. I refuse to use Facebook to conduct business and don’t upload many videos or photos there because I don’t support companies that “erase” MY data without my permission. I know of no other social network that does this in this way.

“So, Scoble, how should Facebook keep from having spammers take over its site? What should it do if it finds a legitimate spammer?”

If I were in charge at Facebook I would have a “jail.” If you broke the rules I’d move your account into “jail.” Everyone would be able to get to it, although you might have an icon that indicates the account has been thrown into jail. I would also turn off certain features on the account. I would just turn off messaging, for instance, if that person was abusing messaging. Or, turn off his/her ability to write on wall posts if he’s abusing privileges there.

I would NEVER delete or erase data. That’s highly unethical and really stupid when you need the trust of your users. Right now Facebook can do no wrong. It is getting 450,000 new users a day. So, they don’t care. But what about in four years when growth slows down and people discover a better system? I bet that they will wish they paid more attention to those issues then (sort of like Microsoft wishes it paid more attention to being a nice citizen back in the 1990s because it would help them get a better search service going today).

This week at the World Economic Forum I expect I’ll be seeing several executives from Facebook (they told me they were going). I’ll bring this issue up again with them and see if they have a better answer than they’ve had to date.

What do you think?

The best gadget I stole in 2008

Maryam wanted a video camera. She asked her friends and they recommended the FlipCam. She thought it was safe from me. She got an ugly one (orange and white) just to make it very unlikely that I’d steal it. After all, if it isn’t an Apple product, or cool and black, it probably was safe from her geeky husband, right?

But I tried it out one day and found that it gave me a lot better quality that my Nokia cell phone with Qik.

Since that day I haven’t given it back. All the recent videos on my Kyte video channel are done with it.

So, now she wants it back. Hah, I think I’ll buy her one of the new HD ones. And me too.

One tip: you MUST use a monopod (which is what I’m doing) or a tripod with this. It is too small to hold steady otherwise.

Why do I love it? It uses AA batteries so I can either use rechargeables or, if those are dead, some of the AA’s in the freezer.

It has a little USB plug that swings out the side. It works with any computer. So, if I take video of my friends’ cute babies, I can give them that video right there. Oh, and the video works with Kyte, YouTube, Viddler, Facebook, and a bunch of other services too. No reformatting or work needed.

Hope a bunch of you find one of these under your Christmas tree.

One problem? The local BestBuy is sold out of the HD versions so you might need to buy them online.

Mike Arrington is talking about his experiences with the Flip and other small HD cameras on his Twitter account. For me, it might be ugly, but it is the best thing I’ve stolen from Maryam all year.

The Facebook/Google war over your blog’s friends

I haven’t added either Facebook Connect or Google Friend Connect yet, but they sure are taking over tons of blogs very quickly. TechCrunch and Gawker both turned on Facebook. So, I asked my readers on FriendFeed for whether they have turned on either and tons of results came in (good resource so you can see how everyday bloggers are using these technologies).

My blog here is hosted on WordPress.com, which makes it difficult to use widgets like these. I want to go back to Matt Mullenweg and ask him which ones he’s going to support (he founded Automattic, which makes and hosts WordPress here).

Anyway, which ones are you using? What have you learned, if you’ve already used them? Have they improved the time spent on your blog? Do your users like having these widgets? Why have some blogs seen more than 2,000 people use them, while other blogs only have a handful of users? (It doesn’t seem to be totally based on popularity of the blog, but might have to do with where they are placed on the page, and how they are talked about on the content of the blog too).

Other questions I have:

1. Is this a winner-take-all game? Will people feel pressured to add both widgets? Will, at some point, they remove one? (I think it is, long term, if they stay similar. I hate clutter on my blog, and if one gets slow, it’d be tossed in a micro-second, and I’m already noticing that the same friends are on both anyway — so why not just get rid of one?).

2. Will there be advertising that appears? Spam? Bad behavior (I saw one obscene icon already). Of course advertising will appear on these widgets eventually. They might say no today, but three years from now? Right. And, even if they don’t put ads on the widgets themselves, they certainly will have an ad sales force that can tell you EVERYTHING about the blogs based on who has visited them.

3. Why is the UI so rudimentary? These are like mini rolodexes and already users are asking for search, list views, and other features because soon the more popular blogs will have 10s of thousands of users in these systems (maybe millions for sites like Huffington Post or TechCrunch) and they are already useless with 2,000 users so soon people will just stop using them unless they evolve quickly.

Anyway, tons of blogs are talking about Google’s addition of Twitter into feeds that integrate into its system. Here’s the best blogs I found on the topic:

TechCrunch: What the Twitter/ Google Announcement Means.
ReadWriteWeb: Google Brings Twitter to Friend Connect.
Social Times: The Social Advertising Race has Begun.

One thing I’ve noticed is that Google is getting picked up a lot more because of the Twitter announcement.

Facebook tears down part of its walled garden

Another thing that Facebook just released is embeddable videos. TechCrunch covers that part.

But they missed how important a change in direction this is for Facebook.

This means that I can embed videos on blogs from Facebook and make those videos available to everyone.

Facebook now is a YouTube competitor and one that has a huge advantage: you know a LOT about the people who publish the videos on Facebook due to their strict rules and the social network — you can click on each person who uploaded video and you can see who their friends are, which is very valuable to knowing whether the person who is publishing video is someone credible and who has authority with other people.

It also means that we no longer have to visit Facebook to interact with an important data type kept there.

To me that’s huge and worth underscoring. Will Facebook continue opening up its walled garden? Interesting to see this in light of Facebook’s other battle with Google over how it’ll open up its social graph data.

Fast Company’s video with Facebook’s Chris Putnam explains the new embedding system along with the new HD video quality they just turned on.

Nice to see Facebook opening up to the Web, though, and tearing down its walls. What do you think?

HD war breaks out as Facebook, YouTube deliver new features

Tonight an HD war online broke out. YouTube appears to have turned on HD video. Now Facebook jumps into the fray with true 720p HD 16:9 widescreen video. This is HUGE for those of us who have HD camcorders.

But also Vimeo and SmugMug have turned on HD video before.

Why is this important? Well, a bunch of people just received their Canon 5D Mark II cameras that do HD video. So does the Nikon D90. Look at the video that SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill did with his. That shows off SmugMug’s HD goodness.

Or look at Joi Ito’s videos from his 5D which use Vimeo’s video system.

Of course, we have exclusive video from Facebook which explains these features. Here’s a video with Chris Putnam, who runs the Facebook video team.

TechCrunch also covers the new Facebook features.

We’re trying to upload a 720p video to all of these services to see which ones have the best quality and features. Which one are you going to use if you have an HD camcorder? We should have a test video up soon.

UPDATE: this news has already started a long conversation on FriendFeed.

UPDATE 2: Chris Putnam, who was featured in my video, has posted a blog post about these changes and TechMeme has more posts about Facebook’s new video.

Social network advertising: not your father’s banner ad

When i visited the San Jose Mercury News yesterday, what did we talk about? Advertising and how newspapers were going to make it online.

Well, one trend we’re seeing big time is the move to social networks. Facebook alone has more than 100 million people on it. When you add MySpace, Microsoft’s new network, Hi5, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, Twitter, and others, these networks are seeing some sizeable traffic.

But how do they monetize? Well, Facebook has been seeing a bunch of ads lately.

Problem is banner ads just aren’t working well anymore. Most users ignore them and the smartest users use software that blocks them from being seen at all.

So, how do you overcome those problems? Make ads that people play with and want to talk to their friends about.

That’s what Kevin Barenblat’s firm, Context Optional, does. One of his Facebook apps is driving 60,000 users a day to the website that sponsored it.

In this two-part video we take a look at both the kinds of apps that Context Optional is building, but in the second part we look at the whole Facebook marketplace.

Part I, six-minute video.
Part II, 10-minute video.