Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What kind of friend(er) are you?

What do you do when somebody "friends" you on Facebook?
a) Hit accept
b) Ask yourself "Who is this person?", "Do I know them?" before you hit accept
c) Apply some kind of rule to determine whether they should be a part of your "friend" circle
d) You're not really bought into the whole social networking, Facebook, Twitter thing.

There is a new social order. The one who has the most friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter is the cool one. Kind of like high school.

But to what point? How do you use these new social networks and utilities? For broadcasting trivia and opinions? Marketing your company? Self promotion? All the above.

I'm fine with having hundreds of friends and followers, but it means I'm on a soap box every time I post or comment.

Control and privacy is becoming a growing issue. Is there such a thing as intimate communications and connections in these environments? I think not. It's fun. Its public. It ain't private.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What's a social mobile phone?

As far as I'm concerned, mobile phones have always been social devices. They contain your address book and let you call people. That's pretty social. They are good for sending short text messages. That's social too. And they have built in cameras. Social again.

Now the INQ phone is claiming that it's the first social mobile. It looks like a mobile with a bunch of "social" apps. Not a bad idea mind you. And it seems like they have done a pretty good job at integrating with services like Facebook, MSN messenger and Skype.

How is this more than an iPhone with some apps on it? I'm going to have to get my hands on one soon to find out.

Meanwhile, the idea of a phone with truly integrated communications and sharing apps where messages from a bunch of different services show up in my inbox and my address book is "live" and shows status updates is neat.

What this points to is that the social handset games have started. It makes all the sense in the world that these "mission critical" personal devices become tightly coupled with all our favorite social utilities. To borrow from Nokia, these devices are all about "connecting people". Are we witnessing the beginning of connecting people 2.0?

Interesting question is whether we will just see a bunch of new onramps for Facebook and Twitter, or whether new models for connecting and communicating will evolve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The conversation moves to where your friends are

Have you noticed that the conversation is no longer just happening "on" the content.

It used to be that you had to have your conversation about an article or a blog post "on" the article. I.e. the place you consumed content was also the place you talked about it. It's kind of like watching a movie and only being able to talk about it while you're in the movie theater. That makes no sense.

Now the conversation is happening where the people are - just like in real life. Blog posts are of course a part of the conversation. But increasingly the conversation is happening at places like Facebook, Twitter and my own favorite, Plum ;-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Who owns you(r electronic soul)?

Another privacy storm is brewing fueled by Facebook's Feb 4th change to their terms of service (TOS). See posts on Consumerist and LA Times for good discussion and summaries.

In the fall of 2007 I wrote this post about a new framework and model for personal information ownership. Here's a brief excerpt:
Until we agree who has primary interest in and control of the information that represents an intimate profile of our private person, the legal landscape will continue to be a patchwork and we won’t be able to define broad and mutually beneficial practices that govern the use of personal information. The best we can expect is a wide variety of unpredictable and inconsistent use, the worst is gross inaccuracies, lost economic value and threats to our civil liberties.
The debate that Facebook's TOS change has ignited has its root in the fact that the most important asset in the information economy - personal information - has no underlying legal ownership model. It's basically a finders keepers world out there in personal information land. If you manage to get hold of my personal information, you can claim ownership to it.

My Facebook profile is a pretty intimate portrait of me. Besides the obvious personal information that I have entered, it contains my social graph, my semi-public and private communications patterns and history, a knowledge of the ads I have clicked on and more. Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Layer on the information that Google gathers about my search and surf paths, my credit card records and as of recent, my genetic footprint courtesy of Navigenics. What surfaces is a snapshot that tells someone with access and the right predictive tools more about me than I am probably aware of myself.

Facebook's Zuckerberg posted this response today on the FB blog: On Facebook, People Own and Control Their Information. While vague and non-commital, directionally it is promising. I'm in the Facebook-probably-does–not-have-nefarious-motives camp. The problem is that this is a much bigger issue than what's in a Facebook TOS.

The big issue is not whether Facebook or Google know too much about us. (They do, get over it.) Nor whether they get to keep our records if we kill our accounts. This issue is about people not having control or legal rights over their personal life stream and digital footprints.

The debate needs to be lot more comprehensive than a discussion of what happens to our personal messages if we close our account on Facebook. A meaningful outcome cannot be affected by any single player. Personally, I would like to see leadership from Washington on this issue. We've heard a promise of "change". Isn't it time we change the way we own and control our electronic souls?