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Leaving Facebook

I deactivated my account on Facebook on New Years’ Eve [1]. There was no specific reason or motive for doing so. I’ve been living without the Facebook app on my phone for more than 6 months now [2] and have not missed it much. I used to access Facebook via the browser on the phone and laptop using the web view interface. It works just as well if not better in case you’re wondering.

So why did I quit a social networking site that I’ve been using for the last 12 years [3]? Continue reading

Footnotes:
  1. Why wait for the new year to begin your resolution, right? []
  2. Admittedly, after hearing about Facebook’s attempts at tracking our location even when we’re not using the app []
  3. Yes, I opened my account back in 2005 when Facebook was open to only college students in select universities. I used to enter the classes I was enrolled in to find my classmates to add as friends. I still had some of them as friends []

No Free Basics Lunch

India’s telecommunications regulatory authority, TRAI finally signaled to Mark Zuckerberg that his Free Basics venture was not going to be allowed in India. He spent countless hours lobbying for it including hosting journalists at the Facebook HQ after flying them business class. In his head, “Instead of wanting to give people access to some basic internet services for free, critics of the program continue to spread false claims — even if that means leaving behind a billion people…Who could possibly be against this?” [source].

Now I haven’t delved much into the issue as much as I’ve liked to but I see the opposition’s ‘net neutrality’ viewpoint. It’s also been under attack in the U.S. and cellphone carriers are constantly trying to get around it. It’s based on the simple premise that all data should be treated and priced equally. That’s the only way you can prevent a single entity establishing a monopoly in the market. Essentially, that’s what Facebook was trying to do regardless of Zuckerberg’s claims of humanitarianism. And then there is this type of naïveté that’s essentially right out of the GOP playbook if it was done in the U.S.

Pitching the issue as ‘us’ versus ‘them’ without being mindful of the long-term consequences. No one has yet answered the question that why does a country like India need Facebook to provide ‘free’ Internet access to its poor. And if it is indeed free, why only ‘basics’? Who has decided that the poor will and should only use the Internet for its ‘basics’? I’ve no problem with the ‘free’ part but rather the ‘basics’ part. Facebook’s hold on the world is so strong that he could effectively give free Internet access and people would simply use it only for Facebook, which is fine. Let people use the Internet for whatever they deem necessary. Maybe they’ll see only pron for the first few weeks. That’s ok. Eventually, they’ll discover the other 10% of the web [1]. If infrastructure for the Internet is expensive, well, we should then invest in it or give people the basic bandwidth for free and charge for more use. There were countless ways they could’ve made it work without violating net neutrality. But they chose not to. Therein lies the intention or motive for their actions.

So I would interpret that tweet the same way as the author intended and ask the same question – People who have unlimited access to the Internet have successfully decided (in their head) that people who don’t have it need only the basics. Eat your own dogfood and then we’ll talk.

Footnotes:
  1. That’s a joke, BTW []

How the little things in design matter.

The Missing Likes on your Instagram photos

Update: This seems to have been quietly fixed on Facebook now.

There are two ways you can ‘like’ a photo on Facebook when shared with Instagram. One is when you click the photo to enlarge it and click on ‘like’ and the second is when you just click ‘like’ in your News Feed without enlarging the photo. Strange, right? Especially since both ‘likes’ are for the same photo.

Instagram lets you connect to Facebook and share your photos on your Timeline the same time you publish it on Instagram. You can also go back to a photo in your Instgram and click Share on Facebook and enter a different caption than the one you used on your original image within Instagram. These two methods worked seamlessly before but nowadays are at best unreliable. You choose to share on Facebook and for hours nothing shows up on Facebook so you go back to Instagram and explicitly share again and now two copies show up. At other times, the first method works as advertised.

Back to the original problem of two sets of ‘likes’ on the same photo. Facebook changed the way Instagram photos showed up on the News Feed. Earlier it just showed up as a photo upload and marked it as Via Instagram just like it would if you uploaded it using iPhoto or Lightroom on your desktop. Now it classifies Instagram as an app and says, ‘XYZ took a photo with Instagram’ with XYZ, photo, and Instagram all hyperlinked. So if you like this ‘activity,’ you end up liking only this activity that has one photo, akin to liking an album versus liking a photo in that album. Only if you click the photo, you end up liking the actual photo. People in a hurry end up liking the Instagram activity involving just one photo whereas others like the photo. But strangely, those two types of ‘likes’ never meet.

Why would Facebook make this so confusing? If only they bought Instagram and made photos uploaded via the app, part of Facebook…oh wait!

For Founders to Decorators, Facebook Riches

The graffiti artist who took Facebook stock instead of cash for painting the walls of the social network’s first headquarters made a smart bet. The shares owned by the artist, David Choe, are expected to be worth upward of $200 million when Facebook stock trades publicly later this year.

So, how much did you pay your painters?

[Source: NYTimes]

Social networking meltdown?

So this is how it feels to blog, huh? Well, Twitter is down and Facebook is having issues so my dear blog, I return.

Facelift for Facebook

Facebook is slated for a major overhaul as its designers aim for a “simpler, cleaner, and more relevant” look by decluttering your profile pages. It also will introduce tabs that will emphasize your ‘Wall’ and ‘Photos’ apart from your profile details; all applications will be dumped under one tab. I’m already past my Facebook addiction so I’m not sure how relevant the changes are for me.

Facebook’s Application Mess

If you are on Facebook, you must have seen your inbox flooded with hundreds of invites either to bitch slap, chug a beer, share a secret, or test your movies trivia IQ. At first, it seems exciting and fun to add all kinds of widgets and goof off doing mostly inane things with your profile and friends but after a while, it gets tiring. You can always tell who has recently joined Facebook by the intensity of their activity in adding apps. While opening up the Facebook API was the best thing Mark Zuckerberg did for his business, it isn’t turning out exactly well for the normally clean interface of the social network. Once I was asked which social network I prefer. I answered Facebook without hesitation simply for the reason that it was clean, easy to navigate, and looked professional as compared to Orkut and MySpace. But if you visit the profiles of Facebook addicts, you might think you have landed on a MySpace page with all the bling. You have to scroll down a mile to write on their wall.

Continue reading

Class Distinctions in Social Networking Sites

Danah Boyd has an interesting insight on the composition of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook [via Boing Boing]:

The goodie two shoes, jocks, athletes, or other “good” kids are now going to Facebook. These kids tend to come from families who emphasize education and going to college. They are part of what we’d call hegemonic society. They are primarily white, but not exclusively. They are in honors classes, looking forward to the prom, and live in a world dictated by after school activities.

MySpace is still home for Latino/Hispanic teens, immigrant teens, “burnouts,” “alternative kids,” “art fags,” punks, emos, goths, gangstas, queer kids, and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm. These are kids whose parents didn’t go to college, who are expected to get a job when they finish high school. Teens who are really into music or in a band are on MySpace. MySpace has most of the kids who are socially ostracized at school because they are geeks, freaks, or queers.

That is an extremely interesting observation considering that now anyone can join either sites. But does the fact that Facebook only recently opened up its membership, contribute to this distinction? MySpace had this clunky interface filled with shoddily designed profiles whereas Facebook was more aesthetically pleasing and neatly organized; almost like the difference between graffiti filled neighborhoods of the inner cities and the smartly manicured lawns of the suburbia. At least in our urbanscape, entry is restricted by income and social classification but on the Internet where entry is free, unhindered and often anonymous, why should such glaring classifications exist?

Continue reading

Facebook Infomercial Parody

MySpace or Orkut can have a similar parody. But this one works best because no one is willing to talk ill of this social networking site lest venture capitalists overhear.

Facebook Feeds: Good or Bad?

Facebook is one social networking site I enjoy being a part of. Although I recently joined Orkut as well and found a host of old friends, I still prefer the constantly-evolving world of Facebook. After adding Notes – a blog-like feature a month back, Facebook has added – News Feed and Mini Feed.

You see the first feature when you sign on to Facebook i.e. your welcome homepage. This feature lists the latest activity of your friends i.e. joining groups, status messages, wall writings, new photos, etc. The biggest advantage of this feature is that you don’t have to visit your friends to know what they are up to thus reducing lot of pageviews and effectively saving your time surfing your friends profiles. The second feature, Mini feed lists your activity on your friends pages. Imagine if you had a listing of all your comments you made on your favorite blogs.

I completely agree with TechCrunch’s opinion that these changes are extremely useful and in fact enhance the user experience. They also cite Rucha Sanghvi who writes on the Facebook blog, “These features are not only different from anything we’ve had on Facebook before, but they’re quite unlike anything you can find on the web.” Social networking itself was a new concept few years back; probably a step further from mailing lists not to mention a more visually interactive experience.

Strangely, these changes don’t seem to have gone down well with the general Facebook users. Either that or the ones who don’t like it are more vociferous in their protests. They akin these changes to a violation of their privacy and say that, it makes stalking easier. The protestors even have declared a “A Day without Facebook” on September 12th [why not boycotting Facebook for good to be more effective is beyond me]. Just as a day of not driving your car doesn’t bring down gas prices, this is honestly not even a effective scare tactic. The page even exhorts politicians to join in the protests. Dude, do you really want them involved? They are more likely to clamp down on your freedoms than give you more.

In addition, there is a “Students Against Facebook News Feed” group that is adding hundreds of members every minute. Also, this live counter counting the number of members in the group might suggest a bandwagon effect – Hey, my friends think the news feed is bad so I think it might be too; heck, I’ll join the group so I don’t feel left out. But considering that all the updates are subject to the same privacy limitations that you can incorporate in your basic profile, I find these objections misplaced.

Firstly, if you do not want some friends to know what changes you have done to your profile or your activity on Facebook, you probably shouldn’t have them on as friends in the first place. I have seen this tendency in most social networking sites (and Facebook is no different) to accumulate tons of friends; some of whom you have never even talked to but simply have passed by in the hallway. No one really has a million friends.

Secondly, the whole purpose of having a Facebook profile is to share information and post your preferences. If you do not want your friends to know about your changing choices and preferences or even don’t want them to see your photos from the latest spring break trip, you shouldn’t be having that on your profile in the first place.

Finally, if you are writing something with your name on it, it ain’t private anymore. I hope the protesting students realize this. Sites like Facebook exist to share information with your ‘friends’ and these new features simply make it easier to do so. I don’t see anything different with privacy concerns that didn’t exist before.

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO Facebook has responded that they haven’t taken away any privacy options and asks their users to “calm down and breathe.” I bet he will get responses like, don’t tell us what to do! But I will make one suggestion to Zuckerberg that he make joining in this news feed feature optional. So that way those who don’t wish to be updated or update their friends can retract back into their online shell. But as TechCrunch notes, “Users who don’t participate will quickly find that they are falling out of the attention stream, and I suspect will quickly add themselves back in.” Ditto.

Update: Mark Zuckerberg responds on news feed changes:

We made the site so that all of our members are a part of smaller networks like schools, companies or regions, so you can only see the profiles of people who are in your networks and your friends. We did this to make sure you could share information with the people you care about. This is the same reason we have built extensive privacy settings — to give you even more control over who you share your information with.

Somehow we missed this point with Feed and we didn’t build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and I’m sorry for it. But apologizing isn’t enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends’ News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about. If you have more comments, please send them over.

I guess that is settled then. We get to have the news feeds and in fact, have (easier) control over what we choose to populate the feed with.

Facebook adds blogging features

I signed on to my Facebook profile [yup! I have one, like millions of other college students in the US] earlier today to see a new feature – Notes. Essentially, Notes are nothing but blogs on Facebook where you can share your thoughts with your ‘campus friends’ although they refuse to call them blogs “because then you’d be a blogger.” That weirdness aside, they allow you to import your existing blogs and syndicate the contents on your Facebook profile.

One nifty feature is that you can tag your friends if you talk about them in a post. That will send them a notification that they have been tagged in a “note”. Similarly, you can search for notes that have tagged you. Like other Facebook features, the privacy level is maintained. Marshall Kirkpatrick at Techcrunch was disappointed that they couldn’t embed a YouTube video or even a Javascript code. But I guess, I can live with that.

Right now, I may not syndicate this blog which is anonymous at least on the face of it and the link to my other “academic” blog is posted on my profile. I don’t use Facebook as much as some of my other friends do so any added features aren’t really helpful to me. But I am glad that Facebook is incorporating such interactive features. I prefer Facebook any day to the largely fake world of MySpace.

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