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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

As a user of Facebook, and completely (I’d like to believe) divorced from my e-political/iPolitical views- I’m a little worried about the drop off in quality of the news feed lately. Roughly speaking, the new feed mostly seems to contain boring stuff from people who’re distant acquaintances, rather than all the cool stuff my close friends are up to. This has also resulted in a drop in my daily fbook usage to ~5mins a day (I think), where it previously would have been larger than I’d care to admit to on this blog.

4 hypotheses. In no particular order:

1. Stage of Life Theory: The feeds are the same ‘quality’- it’s just that I’ve aged a little (nearly 30, almost married) from the stage of life (early 20s, single) where I care about what ‘certain’  other people are doing (trendsetters, opposite sex), and this reflects in my interest in the feeds.

2. ‘Friends’: Where I once had maybe a 100 or so friends, I now have nearly 800 ‘friends’ on facebook (and I’m not even that popular). Roughly anyone I have ever met times the probability that one of us was proactive about friending the other. It could be that this is simply too many more people than I care about, and facebook can’t separate the people I care to know more about from the others. Maybe it’s a bit like approval voting : voting for everyone is like voting for no-one.

3. Quantity vs Quality: It used to be that people had to go to facebook and type stuff in, so they only did it when they had something interesting to say. Now, it’s a free for all- people share articles right from the page they’re on, there’s 4square checkins, FPlaces checkins, facebook likes being reported, tweets pulled in, instagrams posted and other technologies even I haven’t heard of. And as marginal cost goes down, so does average quality. (HT:PP)

4. Nothing’s changed with the feeds: I’m just a hater making stuff up (quite likely, but I try not to be too obvious in public).

Which is it? I’m genuinely interested…

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Annals of Advertising

One of the reasons Google makes so much money is targeted advertising. When you’re searching for “digital camera” on Google, chances are you’re looking for a digital camera. At that point, you’re much more receptive to an ad for a camera than when you’re waiting for the next episode of House to load on Hulu (my DVR hates me).

But you can use this intent in other interesting ways. Alec Brownstein was searching for a job at an ad agency last year. He figured out the names of suitable high-ups, and bought Google search ads to be displayed when those people searched their names. The implicit assumption was that people would search for themselves on the internet- indeed, he had a couple of job interviews (and an offer) within weeks. Better still, this entire campaign apparently cost him the princely sum of $6.

Facebook has now converted this into a mass industry. When you buy an ad on Facebook, you can choose what ‘networks’ you want your ad displayed to. The intent was that if you’re a small store in West Philly, you might want to only advertise to UPenn students. Instead however, my friends working at Google woke up this morning, logged in to Facebook, to see an ad that read: “Hi, I am [redacted]. I graduated with an MBA degree. My dream is to work for Google. Can you help make that happen? Click to see my resume.” Somehow, I suspect this won’t be quite as effective as the original. If you want a job at Google, the least you can do is use AdWords…

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There’s a third reason that wasn’t covered this morning- Making ecosystems that develop within Fbook stick inside Fbook.

For example consider Zynga (the people who make Farmville and all those other games I can’t imagine why anyone plays). At this point, Zynga can potentially get people from Fbook, and move them to their own Zynga ecosystem, collect their billing details and all. Facebook gets neither the x% cut, nor the incidental traffic/ spillovers these people generate- Zynga keeps it all. By contrast, if all their users had signed on using Fbook Credits, the people would likely stay within the Fbook family.

Apple has successfully done this already (App Store, Itunes store)- and is now defending its turf. Google is moving to make its checkout option more attractive to developers and convenient to end users. Of course, Xbox Live has long had a vibrant credits community. So in short, welcome to the party Facebook!

As an aside, today’s piece also raised the quirks of mental accounting, and how people spend too much in small increments . I figured I’d pick up my karma points for the day by plugging a new website that uses these powers for good (i.e., the good of society, not its own). The Philanthroper offers a $1 deal a day, a la Groupon, to a selected charity. It uses a micropayments system that guarantees that roughly 99c makes it to the charity rather than disappearing into amorphous ‘administrative fees.’ Visit them and donate. Drink fewer 3$ lattes if you must.

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Before we start, yes I am aware that the title of this post both irrevocably dates me and might well be construed as a telling commentary on my taste in cinema. Fair warning is given to any readers who intend to visit regularly that the B-movie references are probably just going uphill from here.

Moving smoothly on from there however, I recently came across a fascinating bit of data visualization that I assure you will be a pleasant diversion from the more productive tasks you are no doubt busily occupied with.

All of us at here at A Spoonful of Win have discussed how Facebook – the One Page That Binds Us All – is constantly toying with privacy settings. In the cat and mouse game that is our attempt to control social image, Facebook wields the powerful tool known as “Default Settings” with implacable authority. In doing so the social network taps into a hypocrisy at the very core of our being, a sort of unmentionable desire to spy unseen. We want to know about everything and everyone and we want to do so in relative anonymity. Networks can be set up to make one of these tasks easy, but not both, and the 500 million users of Facebook are a powerful endorsement of design choices.

Matt McKeon graphs the evolution of privacy settings on Facebook, year by year, a story in pictures that is most certainly worth a few hundred words. Check it out.

Copyright Matt McKeon

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