Facebook Disengagement

Facebook disengagement by those I know has become so serious that I have decided to take a break from the social network myself. For many years this was a network of people I knew and spent time with in person. It has school friends, uni friends, activity friends and social media friends. For many years it was a place to socialise, share events and images. From the moment Zynga polluted Facebook with Farmville the conversational aspect of the social network degraded. As the conversation declined the sentiment that Facebook was a waste of time became a reality.

Facebook users no longer use the network to share their lives and converse. They use it to share sensationalist rubbish. Aside from Social media marketers Facebook has become a ghost town. As normal people no longer use the social network you are saturated with sensationalist rubbish. Facebook has become the preserve of the lowest common denominator. It has become a tabloid news distribution network and those who enjoy intellectual stimulation have moved on to other networks.

The content has declined in value to such a degree that I felt myself turning in to a troll. Every second or third article that people share is sensationalist rubbish and I feel the urge to call it rubbish. I don’t want to offend individuals so rather than do this I will take a break.

Social networks are about people connecting and conversing. It is about sharing what inspires us both through the adventures we have and through the links we share. Every article and headline should inspire us. For as long as social media practitioners focus on telling us how to feel rather than provide a description of the content of articles I will stay away.

Conversations are personal and current affairs articles should be factual. When a network like Facebook no longer has conversations and when articles are emotional the world is upside down and the model is broken. It is time for social networks and social media to become personal once again.

It amuses me that I write this about facebook. I wrote the same about twitter a few months and years ago. Social networks and their strategists keep making the same mistakes.

Threaded conversations and community

From the 1970s to 2007 we had threaded conversations through bulletin boards, forums, groups and other centralising discussion points. For a brief window of about two years conversations became so captivating that people wanted to meet in person as strong friendships were established. By 2009-2010 the threaded and personal conversations between web users was hijacked by “social media” marketers and so the speed of conversation and quality of interactions collapsed. In it’s place hashtags would replace user engagement with quick metrics.

The golden age of conversation has been replaced by the dark ages of indifference. Every day that we spend online we see how disengaged people have become. Look at twitter. Do you still see user to user conversations. Look at Facebook. Do you still see engaging content and passionate conversations? I see a waste of time. The conversations which were taking place have been replaced by dumbed down headlines and sensationalist content.

For several years we have heard about how corporations should not have access to our data because of what they will do with it. From where I am surfing the web and interacting with the online community I see a more serious problem. I see that as the chance of individual to individual conversations has decreased so the quality of shared articles, videos and other content has been dumbed down. This is evident on Facebook and Twitter. These networks are becoming ghost towns. They have millions of user profiles that are slowly going dormant.

That social media networks are going dormant is excellent. Instead of wasting time with Ello, Diaspora and other solutions I believe that going back to the blogging habit will benefit everyone. It is decentralised, it is interest based and it is long form. Through Worpdress.org tools, through Disqus and other solutions so our ability to connect and communicate is improved. It forces us to be positive and to be accountable. Everything that you share can contribute to your reputation and help share your passions. We should not be hidden behind silos and we should not be anonymous. We need to break the twitter and Facebook duopoly.

The Facebook and Friendfeed lifestye

Facebook and friendfeed are now the same thing. They both provide exactly the same thing but for different audiences. Facebook is a network of real friends, where you share everything with those that count on you as a friend. That’s where you get party pictures, relationship statuses and more. Friendfeed is where you go to get world news, current affairs and industry information from people you have yet to meet.

Both of them now allow you to filter your information by groups or lists. I for one have two twitter lists in Facebook, twitter friends I’ve already met and had a good time with, and a second twitter stream where it’s twitter friends I have yet to meet. That’s where I can follow those of you whom I have unfollowed on the real twitter, for lack of proper interaction.

On friendfeed I have a twitter stream as well, but this is raw, I can still react to your twitter stream by selecting to comment straight into the twitter stream or by proxy through comments in friendfeed. In part this evolves according to how willing you are to adopt the friendfeed lifestyle.

I’ve been thinking of friendfeed and how friends in news could use it. I spent four hours at work, off the clock, chatting with someone that works in news, but doesn’t use google reader and speaking about how we, as individuals filter our news. Everyone does it, but most people are happy jumping from one site to another to get the information. The website that person looked at does have RSS feeds which could be aggregated into google reader and feedly.

That’s an important advantage. It means that when you’re off work, in between shifts you can still get all the news coming to you, but without using the professional systems. It means that you shape the information flow, as well as it’s speed. The more sources you add to your reader, the faster information comes in and overwhelms you, if the right filters are not in place.

Look at the social media landscape now and it’s not that busy if you’re looking for hard news but that will change as people grow more accustomed to the way the current social media types use it.

We need to shift away from the social media types to the lifestylers. I use this term to describe everyone that uses the social media, not as a promotional tool for their activities and their blog posts, but instead for the content created by others with society at large as a source of information gatherers and sharers.

How would friendfeed look if the film and television industry used it. How much more conversational would the WEF Davos room on friendfeed have been if those participating in the conference conversed here, as much as at the events. A lot of conversation is invisible because those who talk about it do so with those in the industry. What if part of that discourse came online?

Look at the BBC website for example, and how it provides three top stories today, Madagascar and the new president, Russia and it’s rearmement plan and Fritzl. If the news editors for the News agencies met on friendfeed and discussed the top three international stories how much richer would the dialogue be? How many more related stories would we find?

We can get a taste for this from Google’s news page, according to country. You can see which stories are the most written about and see how the dialogue is advancing but that’s an algorithm. It requires little time or involvement to exist. As a result recommendations may not be that interesting, or that well selected.

Imagine a top three international stories room on Friendfeed and how that would progress, as news agencies provide items for national news bulletins. You could have sub sets to that room according to regions according to treaty alliances. There could be a room where NATO encourage Europt to work closer, making Europe as an entity more powerful. You see that with recent discussions from various recent Nato events.

I watched and listened to plenary sessions taking place in Africa during the changes-challenges.org when live streams were being made available by the event organisers for greater transparency. Some sessions were on the front page of the website. As a result even if you were not invited to the event there was a certain degree of transparency, the same was true of the World Economic Forum. As part of my work I have been streaming such events and I have tried listening in, to see what people were saying.
What is a shame is that at the moment there is no diversity in these online communities. Only the earliest of the technologically adopters are participating. the conversation, as a result is boring for anyone but those hyper-engaged within these communities. I use the term hyper-engaged because in reality there is a lot of information coming in. All of that information takes time to ingest. The best way to absorb all of that information is for us to watch it in real time.

Facebook have that option now, the real time view, if I remember the term correctly, and that will help to introduce a large portion of people to what is called the “Real time web”. The real time web is best demonstrated by the real-time view on friendfeed. People are finding new sites, commenting on links and more n real time. As soon as something is added to the stream you see it. If you’ve got two or more screens then you can monitor all of this in real time. There are apps to help with the assimilation of all this information.

Of course we’re not there yet, at the moment the geekiest of the geeks are playing with it, and some have more time than others to be invested in this. It’s just that it’s so well adapted to all professions that it will be interesting to see how Friendfeed and Facebook revolutionise the way we get our information and how we react to it. What I love most is that because facebook brings that to over three hundred of my university, school and work friends we, social media types have an easier job of driving adoption to the masses.

The New Facebook

Facebook is now a mixture between friendfeed and twitter. You get videos, photographs, status messages and more from all your Real life friends networks. One of the most powerful new features is that by using the group feature we can now see our friends according to a number of settings. If I want to look for Uni friends I click on that list of friends. If I want twitter friends I press on that list. If I want Geneva friends and their status I’d press that and get the required information.

Now we’ll see a decline in facebook user time due to them not understanding it and not having the time to figure it out but within the next week or two they will use it more and more. The real time view also means that conversation will now be emphasised and help people in different geographic regions stay connected.

As my distaste for the way people use twitter grows ever stronger so the new facebook layout encourages me to engage with more of my real life friends there. It’s a big “see what you missed out on” to the twitter owners and their poor website implementation and innovation cycle. I was struggling to see a reason for being on twitter. That has just become stronger.

The new facebook and lifestreaming

Lifestreaming is not something the mainstream understand yet. they’re still getting to grips with the idea of lost anonimity on a place like facebook. This is visible through the creation of the facebook group to cry about the new facebook.

I’m an early adopter and I love new ways of connecting with people and that’s why I’m sitting in an appartment in Paris after spending a fun night with 20 friends from seesmic (or so). They’re all friends I met through social media. In particular I met them through Seesmic. Imagine posting a video that anyone and everyone can see. I like to describe it as video instant messaging. Record a video of yourself talking about something and wait for your friends to answer in video form

There area number of features on the new facebook that are similar to those of jaiku. These are rss integration, status updates (as in twitter) and commenting. They’re all things that I’ve been playing with for months now. It’s part of my daily life. I understand and embrace this change.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes for those I met in the physical world to start tweeting and seesmicing or using jaiku. Will it be a year or two? They did take a year to finally get to facebook after all.

The twitter colour wars and sheep mentality

As if zombie slaying, vampire biting and sheep throwing weren’t enough the facebook lunacy has reached Twitter via Zefrank and the stupid colour wars. As if the conversation was not interesting and fulfilling enough for twitter users there is now a movement to create a colour war encouraging people to split into groups.

I dislike this movement for a number of reasons. For a start it’s a complete waste of time because it does not require people to do anything in the physical world. Just change your avatar and you’ve participated. That’s similar to the zombie wars.

As a second point it’s encouraging people to break into smaller clusters and groups, which although fun in certain situations where groups are too big is pointless on twitter. In particular I saw that for one colour the point was not to tweet but rather be tweeted at. Now why would you ask for people to remain silent when the whole reason behind twitter is status updates, firstly and conversations as a side effect of the first.

When few people used hotmail it was clean and e-mails were worth reading but as chain letters arrived so the usability went down. When geocities became popular so pages became flooded with junk, same with myspace and later facebook. I really don’t want to see this junk making its way into the twitter stream. I spend too much time there to appreciate it.

That’s why I won’t participate.

Socialthing aggregating several websites at once.

I’m active on more social networks than I have time to go through in a day and that’s where Socialthing comes in. It allows me to follow news from facebook, twitter, pownce, tumblr, flickr, vimeo and livejournal. What I like about this site is how easy it is to see everything that goes on.

Whereas friendfeed is nothing more than a few lines of text this version of a social feed aggregator is the visual aspect. At a glance I can see which social network is giving the content and I can post accordingly. If I see a status update on facebook for example I can view the profile and add a comment. There’s that option with twitter too. I can see everyone’s tweet and I can reply to any friend’s post quickly and easily.

As a positive sidenote I can follow what’s going on on pownce without logging in. I’ve often felt that the limitations of that site is the lack of people outside of California using it. At least this way I may find my interest growing.

If I’m in a rush or there’s an important message to get out I can simply select to “post” a message to all these social networks at once. That saves a lot of time although as expected this should not be used too frequently as it adds a lot of “noise”. I’m looking forward to more services being included

Plaxo Pulse and Facebook

For all of those privacy advocates I’m on your side for this issue. With a lot of communitis you create a profile and friends can see it. What you give them are both your name and possibly phone number but no more. When you’re building a database of contacts you must ask for it.

When you add friends to outlook, address and other applications you’ve done research and the users have given their consent. That’s not the same as harvesting them direct from facebook. No one said they wanted you to have their e-mail address. No one chose to give you those details.

If you want them ask for them. Taking contact details from 5000 people is unethical and wrong. That’s very similar to spam behaviour.

What makes this worse is that Plaxo is associated with this. I use Plaxo pulse and you can see it on the right side of this column.  I don’t mind their services but for people to harvest their friend’s data without prior consent will help increase this feeling of insecurity.

We’ve had that debate on Seesmic, on Facebook and other online communities. If we want real communities transparency and trust are key. Stop abusing it.

The friendship Wheel

Whilst looking at another person’s Facebook profile I noticed something. Two thirds of the people were connected to each other yet one third had no connections. It made me think about the nature of the friendship wheel and how it demonstrates how you use facebook.

If you use facebook for real world friends and connections then the friend wheel will show that the connections are many and diverse. Everyone knows everyone else and there is a real sense of community. In contrast take a look at the friendship wheel of someone who adds people they have never met and the nature of the friend wheel changes entirely. Everyone appears isolated.

I like seeing that there are so many connections between my friends on Facebook and aim to keep it this way for as long as possible.

Open Social vs Portal facebook

Loudmouthman, amongst others was expressing his desire for a means by which to aggregate all our online data through one central account. I though of Freebase and Openid and how they could work. Google though had other thoughts. Whilst Facebook behaves like a portal opensocial helps agggregate content. Facebook assumes thatyou come to their website, spen an hour there and then disconnect. Opensocial assumes that you are an active participant of the new socialmedia landscape on several websites at a time.

We currently have a growing number of people that spend more and more time using new technologies to communicate with others. Most of us have flickr accounts, joost accounts youtube and more but for our friends to keep up is a challenge. Getting them to sign on to any social network is particularly hard. Myspace was the key website for a while before facebook overtook.

In the past two days I’ve joined Lijit and Open Social. Both work the same way. They take your user id. in my case warzabidul and you tell them which networks you’re part of. The content is then aggregated to a central pag. As more and more friends join open social and lijit so you should get a greater sense of what they are up to. It’s a convenient way to keep up to date with what friends around the world are doing.

Look at the sidebar to get an idea of how Plaxo Pulse is using the opensocial idea. Florian Seroussi also pointed me to this article that should help you understand what it’s about.

I’m looking forward to more people using it and I love the great flexibility that it will give it’s users. If you’re using it them write a comment and I’ll visit your site to see your social media presence.