World Wide Web

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?

Buzz and Brilliance: Week ending January 21

This week was a whirlwind of "social lobbying" with the end result being the derailment - for now - of SOPA and PIPA. Please note this is the second week in a row that I've introduced you to what will likely become our newest buzzword. This new practice reminds me of a scene in Horton Hears a Who (the movie with Jim Carrey and Steve Carrell) when the Mayor's assistant is giving him a run-down of his schedule. He's got to to meet with the Who Centennial Committee and then needs to go for a Who root canal. The Mayor replies, "You know, sticking Who in front of everything doesn't make it hurt less. It just wastes time!" Replace "Who" with "social" and the quote still works amazingly well.


Before I get into the SOPA/PIPA story, if you're not familiar with what's going on, you should read/watch this.

The Internet was in an uproar this week as many sites protested SOPA/PIPA with site blackouts. The symbolic gesture was intended to convey how the Web might look should SOPA/PIPA pass. While many were supportive of the move, others questioned the wisdom of teaming up with corporate entities, criticism of sites that didn't go black - including Facebook. While some were coining new buzzwords (see above), others questioned whether the massive Internet-based uprising could be labeled activism. In a commentary that I find quite an interesting perspective, Mark Schaefer asks if we became lemmings to a new meme this week.

Of all of these stories, Mark's was the most startling. Did I read SOPA/PIPA? No. Do I think everyone who speaks out against them should have read them? No. Sure, that's the ideal world situation, but we don't live in an ideal world. Would I call myself an "activist" against SOPA/PIPA? Absolutely not. Claims that SOPA is going to change the way civic discourse happens are not realistic, but I cynically believe that most issues won't inspire this kind of response. This is an issue that touches a pretty vocal group of people with lots of connections. For once, people made an effort to be informed on an issue, spoke out about it and SOPA/PIPA have been dropped - for now. These bills - or something like them - will come up again. Hopefully, people will remember the warnings from this Chinese blogger who speaks from personal experience living in a country with similar legislation. Then again, apparently we don't need SOPA or PIPA to break the Web.

In other news this week, Facebook has launched additional frictionless sharing apps, including Pinterest - and the world rejoiced for the first time about frictionless sharing. Are you still unsure how to use Pinterest? This might help. And just in case you thought you don't need another network to jump in to, first consider Pinterest traffic to your site.

Interestingly, it's being reported this week that "friending" strangers might just give you a more stimulating Facebook experience. I can honestly say this is true of my own experience. Mind you, the average Facebook user is primarily interested in their friends and family and that's it!

Google+ has 90K users now and is on track to reach 400 million by the end of this year. That's really incredible and hopefully more people will start to use it.

The story that has me scratching my head is about teens sharing passwords as a sign of affection. Have passwords become the new letter jacket?


Reading Amber Naslund's blog this week has hit me at just the right place, but this piece about taking back attention is one I paid extra attention to as it goes so perfectly with my three words - particularly time and focus.

There's no end to the theories around when to tweet, facebook and more. Dan Zarella posted an infographic that turns a lot of those theories upside down and suggests (gasp!) that you post when fewer people are on because they're less likely to miss your content. It's an interesting theory and certainly worth testing out.

Spin Sucks always has an interesting take on the social media/PR disasters that come around from time to time. But this week, one guest poster - Jay Dolan - challenged readers to stop fearing failure and start achieving the kind of brilliance people want to talk about instead of the disasters that always take center stage. Of course, we're not likely to stop talking about these disasters since we can all learn a thing or two from them.

Some people think they have to sign up for every social network under the sun, but that's not a very good idea. It can be fun to check them all out, but making a commitment to any social network needs to be about giving value to other users and finding how to get value for yourself or your business. Not all social tools are equal.

I love sharing good news, especially as follow-up to an awareness campaign to help someone. So in case you hadn't heard yet, Amit Gupta, who was searching via social media for a bone marrow donor in the fall, has found a match. I wonder how many cancer patients will benefit from Amit's campaign. Hopefully, there's cause for celebration for many more today as well.


This past week, I talked about the 5 Ws of Twitter, attempting to answer the question of who, what, when, where and why you should tweet. Later in the week, I announced what the next #MediaMeshBBC book will be.

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!