Facebook, the social graph and peer pressure

I have stopped using Facebook months ago and following that decision I started cleaning up my list of ‘friends’. I removed from my list of ‘facebook friends’ all the people I don’t meet regularly, all the people that I don’t care about. I ended up with a very small list of close friends and family. Most of them are far away from San Francisco and don’t use Internet for anything but Facebook. I lurked on their life with a strange pleasure: I like getting pushed their updates, it keeps me close to them.

Reading this post today The Boolean Graph by Kevin Rose I realized that I may be on the other hand of the spectrum. My social graph on FB is now relevant, with only people I really care about. Their silly pictures and jokes, comments to the news make sense to me and make me feel connected to them. Unfortunately none of them is interested in using Internet outside of the walled garden: they don’t consider starting a blog or email me regularly with their silly pictures.

I’m thinking that probably I should start using FB more often again but I need a clear policy 🙂 Is this bad?

The cost of owning your social graph

With Facebook being that awful mess it is and always will be, Twitter becoming an awful mess, too, Google Plus being not really better than the previous two, App.net seems to be on the right track. A social network that is not basing its revenues on advertising but it’s selling subscriptions. Users pay $50 a year, get a service that seems not too different from Twitter but the product is not you. It reminds me of status.net and diaspora, it even supports PubSubHubbub but it’s not free-as-in-freedom software.

I support such experiments: selling advertising is not only boring but dangerous for the society as a whole. I’d rather pay to own my social graph (like I pay for this hosting+domain) than be sold.

More on Social networks: Micromanaging microblogs | The Economist.

The Incredible Run of Google+

Since an image is worth 1000 words, here is a graph done by Leon HÃ¥land analyzing the growth of Google+. It took only 24 days for Google+ to reach 20 million users, while it took over three years to reach that number for Facebook and Twitter. Considering that the service is still open only by invitation and that brands or news organisations are not yet invited, this sounds like a huge achievement.

I think that this success is partially due to the fact that society is now used to the concept of a ‘social network’, we know what to do with the facebooks, the twitters and similar things. Another reason for this fast achievement maybe that Google already has lots of active profiles, via Gmail and Android. Or maybe, it’s because Google+ just works and proof of this may be that people are starting to receive breaking news from it, faster than Twitter.

To propel the next phase of growth, Google seems to be courting celebrities, the way Twitter does. I wonder how the pitch is because I can’t really imagine any non-techie using Google+ at the moment. Compared to the simplicity of the first Twitter interface Plus seems too intimidating. Can you imagine Hugo Chavez governing Venezuela via Google+ instead of Twitter?

What is the most important reason for you to use Google+? What made you jump using it?

Article first published as The Incredible Run of Google+ on Technorati.

How Google Can Win the Social Network War

First there was Orkut, FriendFeed, MySpace. Then Facebook came and took 750 million people behind its wall as they eagerly connected with school friends, shared baby photos and played Farmville.

Now Google Plus, the coolest kid in the block, has arrived. Facebook and Google seem to be competing to build the best single website where billions of users go to keep in touch with their friends and family, get the news and more. But it doesn’t have to be this way: Google Plus can be part of a federation of social sites.

Google Plus is a good product that has already reached 10 million users with innovative features like Circles and Hangouts. Google plans to add API soon, so that outside developers can add even more features to it. Facebook, however, is not standing still: Mark Zuckerberg will keep adding features, improving the design and pushing the expansion of its great walled garden beyond 1 billion users. And the competition will continue, until the race is about who builds the biggest single garden.

There is one thing I believe Google can do to win this race now: change the rules of the competition. Google should make Google Plus the (biggest?) part of a federation of Plus-like sites. Imagine hosting providers like 1and1 or Rackspace offering Plus sites alongside their email and web hosting. I could run my own plus.maffulli.net and use that as a private space to communicate with my extended family around the world. The local church, the schools, all could run their own Plus and the participants in those group could still add people to circles across different domains, like you can send email regardless of where the recipient has her account. Google Plus is email on steroids and the Circles are the next generation of the addressbook.

Facebook is good at building walls: the site is designed to attract users inside, convince them with subtle tricks to leave their precious personal data on the site — then they sell that information to the highest bidder to serve ads.

Google, on the other hand, is good at crawling data across distributed sources and extracting information from it. By fostering the creation of thousands or millions of Plus-like sites, all linked together, Google can pull the rug out from under Facebook and end the competition.

Google has all the knowledge on how to make money out of such federated structure: email is a federation, the World Wide Web itself can be read as a federation. Google’s core competence is how to extract information from distributed data and use that to present valuable advertising to distributed services. Instead of billions of users on one site, think of tens of billions of Google Plus sites, most of them showing AdSense.

Do us a favor, Google: end the race, kill Facebook or Tulalip before it even starts and any other service that tries to build silos to contain users. Enable a federation on Google Plus and keep on innovating.

Article first published as How Google Can Win the Social Network War on Technorati.

Facebook’s Awesome Is My Yawn

The Many Faces of A Website
The Many Faces of A Website

Mark Zuckerberg tried to steal Google+ thunder announcing that Facebook would soon have something ‘awesome’. Today the veil was lifted on the new feature of Facebook: video chat. Seriously? I find this boring. Facebook’s videochat only works one-to-one, no group video chat. It runs as a Java applet, nothing cool. It’s not based on open standards, but it’s the same secret, insecure protocol used by Microsoft/Skype.

Compared to Google+ Hangouts, Facebook’s chat is so 2010: I’m not impressed. Are you?

Why Google+ is going to be hard to beat

A lot of my friends are still saying that Facebook cannot be beaten by Google+ because people don’t change habits, because Google+ doesn’t have this or that… While I acknowledge all these fine points, I believe that unless Google+ makes huge mistakes, Facebook will have a serious contender. Facebook is the Internet behind a wall, a design that nobody ever wanted, it’s a liability for humanity. Facebook is the Microsoft of the 2010s, the “everybody in the world will have to use my products in order to communicate with each other”.

I saw the movie before and I can predict that open standards and open source will eventually win. If Hangout developers will publish the specifications needed to interoperate with Hangouts not only Skype will suffer but Facebook will too.

The good news is Google+ and there is the bad news too

Google seems to have done it right this time: Google+ looks like a credible implementation of a social strategy. Whatever that means, of course. Compared to the other half baked recent initiatives like Buzz or Wave, Google+ seems to have a much wider scope, it’s not just another product: it’s a foundation where all other Google services and products can build upon. Adding a social layer to search, Picasa, Gmail, Android and all other Google things was the best way for Google to leverage its own social graph and fulfill its mission to organize information in the world.

The bad news first: I said before that Facebook is the anti-internet. Facebook is just one website for 600 million people, instead of being 600 million websites of people. Google+  seem to have the same issue, it has the same approach: give us all of your information, we’ll store it in our website, mine all your data and we’ll serve you better advertising. Their business model is the same: tell us who you like, who your friends are, where you like to go to party and who you meet with and [Google|Facebook] and we will serve you to advertisers. That’s their business model and they don’t have the luxury of a different one. The risks for privacy are the same, you get to be better spied and censored in case you say something that the government doesn’t like.

Where is the good news? The good news is that Google+ can demonstrate to all the users that they don’t have to put all their data in Facebook in order to get valuable information. The success of Google+ will show that there are alternatives and that change is a good thing. This paves the way to other changes and innovation, including to the FreedomBox. Having alternatives is good, they bring choice and they help breaking the habits. One more reason to push on the accelerators and build the FreedomBox.

Update: XKCD talks about Google+ too.

La F§uffa su Facebook della Moratti danneggia tutto il settore

Da professionista di marketing continua a darmi fastidio la tempesta che sta agitando l’Italia. Se questi sono i professionisti del settore in Italia non mi stupisce che gli investimenti su Internet e social media non decollino.

Secondo la mia ricostruzione, la storia inizia con Pierotaglia su FriendFeed con questo commento:

Certo che la Moratti su Facebook deve aver fatto dei miracoli per passare da 3000 fan a 24.700 in soli tre giorni

Un’interpretazione del risultato viene da Francesco M. che dice:

dalla scorsa settimana hanno una nuova agenzia che li segue, The Fool di Matteo Flora, questo è anche il nuovo social-sito http://www.mirispondi.it/Francesco M.

Matteo Flora prova a spiegare la crescita miracolosa dei fan dando qualche dettagli, vantandosi pure un po’:

Qualche dato (come promesso) suiFan: spiacente ma niente magheggi, nulla di più che una seria campagna targettizzata sul cluster territoriale. Peraltro se guardate bene come la controparte. Secondo me (ma non ho le cifre di nessuno dei due) l’effort “per fan”” è consimile, solo su differenti durate. Ho visto campagne da 50/60K fan die. Avevamo opportunità di accorpare ma non ci è sembrato il caso. Ovvio, molti sono li per essere ostili e ci sono centinaia di insulti pesantissimi all’ora che rimuoviamo per puro decoro. – Matteo Flora

Nessun magheggio, dice. E più sotto specifica:

@Max: Quello che ci ̬ stato chiesto ̬ una infrastruttura per diramare informazioni e per gestire FanPage e contenuti. Non vengo pagato per acquisizione fan. Quello ̬ lavoro di Advertising. РMatteo Flora

Poi però accade che qualcuno si accorge che qualcosa non quadra e trova siti civetta con codice truffaldino. Bak su Friendfeed e altri di cui ho già parlato. Al che Flora scatta ma continua a non dare dettagli, oltre a dire che lui non c’entra:

Due precisazioni: NON seguiamo e NON ABBIAMO mai seguito la parte di advertising (nè di performance Marketing). E oltretutto mi sento di poter affermare abbastanza tranquillamente che non sia opera della società incaricata che è seria e competente e si è dichiarata disposta a mostrare precise statistiche. Credo che sia l’ennesima #sucate per mostrare un lato falso della vicenda. – Matteo Flora

e  si innervosisce pure:

Devo rammentarvi che accuse verso la società che rappresento non motivate DOVRANNO risultare in azioni volte alla nostra tutela. – Matteo Flora

Più tardi il comitato della Moratti si ‘dissocia dalle scorrettezze in campagna web‘ e, in stile mafioso, non fa nomi. Dice solo che

Le operazioni di pubblicità Online sono sempre state condotte secondo le norme e le modalità prescritte da Facebook affidando l’incarico ad una primaria società di settore

Anche The Fool, l’azienda di Flora, si dissocia… Tutti possono sbagliare, però in tutto questo finora non ho trovato nessuno che si è scusato, nessuno che ha detto ‘abbiamo capito cosa è successo e non lo faremo più’. Ho letto sono ‘non sono stato io’.

Lo spettacolo è davvero poco edificante. Ma poi, che senso ha raccogliere Fan in modo così inorganico? Tutta la letteratura in materia consiglia di lavorare per avere una crescita organica di lettori, fan, follower, “expression vs impression“, ecc.  E pensare che mi ero scandalizzato solo per aver notato Michele Coppola candidato sindaco creare un account nuovo su Twitter solo per la campagna elettorale: chi gliel’avrà consigliata sta mossa?

Come evitare di diventare fan della Moratti su Facebook

La campagna elettorale della Moratti si fa coi figuranti vestiti da zingari e tossici nei metrò e con script poco tecnologici su siti civetta per fare crescere i ‘Mi piace’ su Facebook.

La notizia così come l’ha svelata originariamente Claudio Messora e Wired.it l’ha ripresa senza aggiungere niente (ma li pagano quelli che scrivono sul blog di Wired Italia?). Leggendo qui e là pare che l’architetto del trucco sia FBAdvertising di tale Alessandro Gargiulo, autore anche di uno scriptino ingannatore che vende su un forum.

A Gargiulo si arriva guardando i domini coinvolti nel trucco: sono svariati e la maggior parte non espongono i dati del registrar. Però si vede che fatti-fantastici.info e pannelloseo.it, altro dominio coinvolto, hanno lo stesso IP e il registrant del secondo è Alessandro Gargiulo. La sua FBAdvertising vende ‘traffico su Facebook‘. Indizi interessanti. Marco d’Itri su FriendFeed trova anche un altro nome: Flavio Li Volsi di flaviolivolsi.net (host sullo stesso IP). E peraltro, non c’è solo la Moratti coinvolta ma si trovano anche altri marchi nella cache di Google (Samsung, per esempio).

Quello che ancora non ho letto è che per evitare di diventare fan di un innominato qualsiasi la seconda cosa migliore da fare è di non andare in giro per la rete senza aver prima fatto il logout da Facebook! Quando esci di casa la chiudi la porta? Fà lo stesso con Facebook: se entri, ricordati di uscire così eviti di cliccare sulle trappole. In ogni caso sappie che tutto quello che fai è tracciato e riportato al cugino Mark (Zuckerberg).

PS la cosa migliore da fare è non usare Facebook 🙂 O installare NoScript.