Social 101: Facebook changes and the currency controversy

Facebook has gotten pretty huge. And pretty complex. With every revision to the site, users push back and demand that the design go back or at least have the option of going back. If you're one of those feeling this way, let me point out a couple of things:

Creating the architecture for a site like Facebook isn't simple. There are massive numbers visiting the site daily. In February 2010 (a mere two years ago), TechCrunch published a story that 175 million Facebook users log in daily (this blog you're reading couldn't handle 1/10th that number in an entire year without crashing).

In January 2011, DigitalBuzz posted an infographic that 250 million log in daily. Facebook's newsroom was updated in December 2011 to say that there are now a whopping 483 million users logging in daily- that number nearly doubled in less than a year! Because Facebook regularly updates that page, I'm going to paste the numbers here for you:


We had 845 million monthly active users at the end of December 2011.
Approximately 80% of our monthly active users are outside the U.S. and Canada.
We had 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011.
We had more than 425 million monthly active users who used Facebook mobile products in December 2011.
Facebook is available in more than 70 languages.

Because of the complexity of the site - and it's offered up to users at no charge (more on that later) - it's not reasonable to run two versions simultaneously on a permanent basis. Not to mention that there would be roughly 7 versions running if everyone had their way. Even Microsoft, Apple and other software developers stop supporting old versions. That's the way software works. There's a development cycle that exists to keep everything efficient and up-to-date with current advances. Facebook is a network, but its foundation is a complex piece of Web-based software which is the key. Multiple versions don't work well on the Web.

Facebook is free to its users. This is an interesting argument, because it's not strictly true except in a monetary sense. Facebook built a platform that is ingenious because we like connecting with friends and family. The currency we use to pay for Facebook is our "privacy". Your data. My data. (Not to mention time.) The demographic information you put in on the back end. The status updates that mention various subjects. The comments we leave. The pages we like. Facebook is making money off of the information that you and I voluntarily enter on their site. That's why I put privacy in quotes. Users need to be educated on this so they know the impact of what they say when they log in. Want to know a secret?

Facebook isn't the only site you use that does this. Google does it. Bing does it. Twitter is trying to do it. Klout does it. That's just naming a few. This is why it's so important to view the Internet as a place where your every action and word is being recorded - because it is.

Business owners get value out of Facebook that is worth sharing data. Many - including myself - use the Facebook platform for business and the value is proven in the traffic I see to my sites from Facebook, which leads to revenue-generating opportunities. For those of us using Facebook for business, it's a no-brainer to be there. The return on our time investment and data sharing is worth it. I'm selective about what I say on my personal profile and what I populate in Facebook's back-end (phone numbers, address, etc.). I'm also not bothered that Facebook delivers ads to me based on what I say and pages I like. Why? Because it's all automated. I know there's not some room in Facebook's basement where a bunch of creepy people watch our profiles and send ads to my Facebook page when they see me say certain things. That isn't the way the Web works - at all.

(BTW, again, Facebook isn't the only or the first site doing this - millions of sites we visit every single day use data that deliver ads this way.)

It does bother some people when ads show up on Facebook that match a topic they've mentioned, so I'm going to talk about privacy as we go through the month and point out some of the issues that exist and how users can protect themselves from sharing more than they're comfortable with on Facebook.

Are you concerned about your privacy on Facebook or do you feel confident that your own usage boundaries will protect you?

Sixty Second Social: Blogging is not a monologue

Several weeks ago a fairly passionate debate was sparked about the value of comments. It all started when a fairly popular blogger (Matt Gemmell) wrote a follow-up about his decision to eliminate comments from his blog - not unlike Seth Godin, though his reasons aren’t quite the same. A couple of other blogs (MG Siegler and MacStories) responded to Matt Gemmell’s post in support of the decision.

Are comments required on a blog? No. Nor should they be. Every blogger has the right to his/her own policies. I say it often: My blog. My rules.


When a blogger posts about something, there’s always the possibility of discussion around it. By removing comments, you ensure that there are no angry tirades on your site, but it takes away the social part of a blog - and, make no mistake, blogging is a tool of social media.

Writing my thoughts and hitting publish gives me the chance to share my side of things. Comments allow my readers to respond and keep my blog from becoming a one-sided broadcast (we all know how much we hate that on Twitter, a microblog). Occasionally, readers will write a post in response, which is a good solution when your thoughts are too long for a comment, but I often receive an accompanying comment (along with the pingback) to alert me to their contribution to the conversation.

When I write about a controversial issue and comments flood in (“flood” is relative, by the way), it can be a little challenging to keep up with responses and stay calm when I get critical comments. On the other hand, I think the discourse is extremely important. Whether I agree with your opinion or not, I’m open to hearing what you have to say - provided we all stay respectful. I will not tolerate trolls.

Disabling comments gives the impression of a closed door, “Here’s my view - take it or leave it” attitude. Some of the blogs I respect a great deal are high traffic sites where the author responds to many (if not all) comments. A few have even taken the time to visit my little blog when I’ve linked back to their posts. How do I know? I get a comment from them. (I’m impressed by little things like that.)

As always, don’t take my word for it - here are a few additional opinions about blog comments with ideas for how to solve some of the genuine challenges that exist, as well as some debunking of the “troll” stereotype given to anonymous and pseudonymous commenters:

What do you think of the idea of turning off comments on your blog? Would you ever do it?

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending December 3

As we get closer to the New Year (where did 2011 go!?) I'm already seeing the beginning of the year-end wrap-ups. I'm not going to include them much in the B&B from week to week, but maybe I'll do one big year-end wrap-up post over the holidays, because those posts are always interesting - from the lists of top search terms, to gadgets, to news stories, to whatever else they come up with! That said, the buzz this week is rather ho-hum - in my humble opinion. The brilliance? Totally B&B worthy. So, this time, I'm going to separate the two completely.

There's a fantastic good news story at the very end - I'm saving the best for last - so skim through the rest if you like, but don't miss that end note!

The Buzz

I try not to talk about apps on here, because I'm an iPhone devotee and I don't want to get into that debate. NOR do I want to become a repository for iPhone info, because that takes a lot of time to do and a lot of other people do it far better than I ever could. NOR do I want to leave people on other mobile OSs hanging, because how boring is it to read about Blackberry and Android when you're an iPhone gal? Okay, I actually don't find it all that boring, but some would, so I'm sure the same is true for the BB and Droid crowd. BUT, some apps are little secondary networks of their own and they fit into my niche so I'm going to stop ignoring them. And the last couple of weeks have had some interesting stories. So, bear with me here. I will do my best to spread the love to other mobile OSs, but so far, most of these networks are iOS:

There was minor news this week about Facebook's announcement that FB status updates can now have 60,000 characters (But who wants to read long posts?) and now you can edit @ tags to have custom text - it's so clunky I can't see bothering with it. (See? Ho hum.) But the really big news is that Facebook reached a final settlement with the FTC on privacy charges. More details emerged after we found out last week they'd be submitting to 20 years of privacy audits. There's lots of commentary on this and what it means for Facebook and its users. Here's a list of stories if you want to read up:

Mashable asks whether Facebook is doing enough to protect your privacy. (I'd say yes and no - they've done some boneheaded things in the past - Beacon, for one example - but seemed to be learning with more recent updates. Opt-in is better and now that's got to be their default.) Proof that they learned (sort of) - Zuckerberg admits to making mistakes with privacy. Mind you, many think this settlement is a slap on the wrist. Others wonder if Facebook is ruined (hardly, I say). There's no doubt that it's given Facebook an easy pass, even if they're finally being forced to do what they should've been doing all along. This just proves once again that with a free network, your privacy is the currency. That cannot be emphasized enough.

Do you "like" the FTC's ruling? Because no matter where you are in the world, it will have an effect.

Earlier this week, I wrote about Facebook's seamless or frictionless sharing. Then I saw this and smiled. Time for a new plugin!

I'm not sure how the functionality is different, because I haven't yet tried it, but you can now do conference calls on Google+ hangouts. I wonder how this is going to take a bite out of Skype's business.

Google has bumped its video sharing service up a notch by adding analytics. I'm taking this as a sign that they'd like to be THE go-to video service and that video is just going to get bigger. But we already knew that. As if that wasn't enough, they've launched a re-design as well. It looks really nice and I'm so thankful for it. The old design was quite bad. But will this be a further threat to Facebook? (Oh, that had to be thrown in there, didn't it?) But there are wider implications as well.

Want to follow a brand or save something you see on the Web to Foursquare? Now you can! And it's a great move for the service and businesses alike.

The Brilliance

Jay Baer wrote a piece this week that underlines the importance of doing social media right, making the case that businesses have lost the advantage. We're on an even playing field now. Individuals and businesses are using the same tools, so businesses that do social media well are going to shine like stars. The ones who don't could see the effect on their bottom line - or in their twitter feed with an urgent need for reputation management.

Along similar lines, Ilana Rabinowitz is sharing why a business cannot be social over at Social Media Explorer. She gives compelling reasons why it's the job of the employees (oh, yes, all of them - not just the social media guy) to put a human face on the organization. She's right and not nearly enough businesses get this.

I like reading Mitch Joel's take on Twitter every time he writes about it. He just isn't bothered by the numbers and he doesn't try to set rules for anyone - including himself.

I love blogging. I can't imagine quitting, but it happens. You see blogs lie fallow after a while because life just gets in the way. Or was there a true commitment to it in the first place? The best thing you can do before launching is to start blogging unpublished, as this guest-post on Problogger tells us. He's taking my own suggestion a step further and it's wise advice.

By far, the most brilliant news of the week. An update about Amit Gupta's need for a bone marrow transplant and how a social campaign may just save his life. Sure, this stuff happened before social media was around, but it isn't the same. And doesn't this just validate how much good we can do through these tools?


Are you interested in the The Media Mesh's BBC (that's Business Book Club for those who missed the original post)? Our first reading assignment is Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki and linking up on January 3rd in just one month. It's a quick read with lots of valuable information - join us! If you comment on this post that you want in I'll add you to my email list (no need to do so if you already asked to be added). First update is coming this week!

She said / She said: Are you interested in Pinterest?

This is my November She Said / She Said post that I'm doing with Lara Wellman. Lara and I will pick a topic each month and present our different perspectives. This month's topic is the tool Pinterest!


If you aren't already on Pinterest, then you may not know if you're interested or not. But if you've heard of it, you're likely either a woman or know a woman who's using it since that's the vast majority of the user base...for the moment. (Mark my words: That gender gap will shift.) So, imagine this - a virtual pinboard, if you will. (Okay, that's actually what they call it.) A place to:
"...organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.

Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

And what's the purpose or mission of said virtual pinboard service?
"Our goal is to connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting. We think that a favorite book, toy, or recipe can reveal a common link between two people. With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests."

Pinterest and other niche networks like Twitter first and later Tumblr, Instagram and others have revolutionized the way we use the Web to consume content. The emphasis on search has eroded to make way for us to discover things that interest us and then save or share them within our networks.

When Lara and I started talking about our She Said / She Said post for this month and she suggested Pinterest, I let out the biggest mental groan. I remember seeing a friend rave about it back in the spring, so I requested an invite. None was forthcoming, but more and more friends were getting in, so I got one of them to send me an invite. I jumped in and saw all the pretty pictures and fun little sayings and had great fun for about 10 minutes. Once I had my fill I closed the app and it didn't enter my mind for about another month. I think what prompted me to look at it again was seeing someone post about a pin. So, I fired it up and enjoyed 10 minutes of browsing and then shut 'er down and forgot about Pinterest again for another few months until Lara decided to torture me by suggesting we write about it.

This isn't a network that grabbed me at all. I kept hearing for months about how people just loved it and how fun it is and wondered what the allure was. Then Lara decided to make me write about it and I knew I was going to have to immerse myself in it to give it a fair shot. So, of course I forgot all about it until the last week.

I was reminded of my need to get moving on immersion when Robert Scoble - of all people - posted on Google+ his prediction(?) that Pinterest was on his list of possible "next big things" (paraphrase). And get this: he wasn't even using it yet! My comment is in there amongst the 90 other people who had some view of Pinterest's scalability and chances of long-term success where I say: "I have no interest in the tool. I've tried to get into it, but so far it's not my thing at all. I can see it going big, though."

After reading Scoble's prediction, I started doing my research, studying away about this tool that I really don't "get". And I was convinced of how my post was going to go. I was going to tell all of you how it's great for people who are visually stimulated by really cool stuff, but that it doesn't seem to be the right social network for me. (I truly believe that not every social network is going to work for everyone and no person needs to be on every network.) Pinterest is niche, boutique-y, an accessory network - more technically known around The Media Mesh as a secondary network. The kind that is useful in a few minutes every now and then. Unless you're me.

But something happened that I didn't expect. I was up ridiculously late one night with insomnia and decided to get immersed. I figured five or ten minutes would get me nice and sleepy. Forty-five minutes later, I forced myself to turn it off and I'm officially hooked.

I'll say it again - Lara's evil masterful plan worked: I get Pinterest and I think you should too.

So, what changed my mind about Pinterest?

It was more of a mindset change. I originally went in looking at pretty things, admiring pretty things and that feels so artificial and boring after a while. It's just not me at all. But this time I had my friends' uses ringing in my head, namely something to the effect of: I use it as a bookmarking tool to remember recipes and crafts I want to do. It's a visual way to save these things. To have visual cues of what you were thinking about when you saved it. And that is perfect for me because I am a visual person, despite the fears and doubts I started to have when Pinterest didn't catch my interest. Why did I want to save that recipe for slow cooker sweet potatoes? Because at 1:15am, they looked really delicious.

Oddly enough, the timing of our Pinterest exploration seems to be coinciding with the tool taking off. With the exception of Facebook, no other tool - not even Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+ - has been mentioned as much in the social media news scene this week. Here's a sampling of the stories I've seen, so you don't have to listen to me tell you Pinterest is going to be huge - I've assembled evidence for you:

  1. Pinterest Is Now Pulling In More Pageviews Than Etsy; Grew 2,000% Since June | TechCrunch

  2. Niche Social Networks Deliver Big Results for Brands | Mashable

  3. Pinterest May Become a Social Networking Takeover Target | Wall Street Cheat Sheet

  4. Pinterest Appeals to Online Collectors | The New York Times

  5. Why Image-Sharing Network Pinterest Is Hot | Bloomberg Businessweek

  6. How to Make Your Startup Go Viral The Pinterest Way | TechCrunch

I'm not one to be seduced by popularity - I can assure you I found all of these stories after my abrupt turnaround. I can also say that I have long felt that Pinterest was going to grow to be a pretty important secondary network that would be very popular before I finally understood why. Now that I get why Pinterest is going to be big and know a few practical ways to use it, I just have to make sure I go back to those pinboards and do those crafts and make those foods I found that were interesting enough to pin.

Are you on Pinterest? How do you use it? Any creative ways I haven't mentioned here?

Be sure to go check out Lara's post to see what she has to say!

What is the price of integrity?

Last week I included a story in the Buzz and Brilliance weekly roundup that described a twitter account gone rogue. Since the stories I include are from reputable industry news sources, like TechCrunch, who reported on this one. The second comment on the TechCrunch post called it - "Think he is doing it himself to get more popular." by Goo Toor. That is, unless you believe the copious number of tweets Mark Davidson is sending out to justify his "satirical tweets" last week.

I don't think I would have followed up on it normally except that it popped into my mind and I thought to go look at his profile. I thought he was protesting just a little too much. During my usual news reading time, I came across this post on how to spot Twitter users who game the system to gain large numbers of followers. Essentially, your following on twitter will grow at a consistent rate if you're doing nothing to manipulate its growth.

All of this leads me to wonder what value people get out of this. More and more I see accounts with very few tweets and tens of thousands of followers. That's a dead giveaway to me that it isn't about providing good content as much as amassing as many followers as possible. This mentality is counter to one of the strongest beliefs I have about social media - that it's about adding value through quality content.

In the end, this guy has gotten a lot of media attention over tweets that added absolutely no value to anyone, but the guy has nearly 2,000 new followers in just a few days.

Apparently, you can buy integrity off of some people for the bargain basement price of a few followers.

What do you think of stories like this? Do they compromise the value of social media tools or will the crowd eventually weed out those who are gaming them?