SiliconFilter

Here’s a Surprise: Some of Facebook’s Users Actually Like the Timeline

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Facebook today rolled out its new Timeline feature, the highly visual replacement for its previous profile pages, to all of its user worldwide. For the first seven days after they activate this feature, users will be able to make changes to their timelines (hide stories, promote others etc.) before others can see their new profile pages. Typically, Facebook's users tend to dislike any change to the service, especially those that are as invasive as completely changing their profile changes. Oddly enough, though, the initial reaction to this update is relatively positive – at least when compared to some of the company's other recent releases.

In between the usual griping and grammatically challenged posts on the Facebook blog, there is a surprisingly large contingent of users who are defending the change. Sure there are the typical negative comments we have come to expect (some favorite: "Seriously, STOP CHANGING SHIT!" "This is sooo confusing," "THis stupid crap shouldn't count…… Timelines? really that reminds of history class… Just keep it as it is…. I'm sorry this change is alot of CRAP! You should have never invented it.") and calls to remove the feature, there is a surprisingly large number of users who actually like the Timeline.

Timeline comments

Timeline comments 2

As German Blogger Marcel Weiß pointed out to me earlier today, maybe the reason for this relatively positive reaction is the fact that this feature doesn't affect people's daily use of Facebook as much as the much-hated ticker, for example.

Another factor here could be the fact that it took Facebook quite a while between announcing the feature and actually rolling it out to all of its users. With close to three months in between the announcement and launch, quite a few users were obviously prepared for this shift and some were even looking forward to it. Now if Facebook only finally launched that disklike button its users are also clamoring for…



3:00 pm


Sorry Facebook, But That Stuff I Share on Your Site is Not the “Story of My Life”

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[rant]

Facebook’s announcements today represent nothing short of a major paradigm shift of how it wants its users to interact with its service and each other. Sure, the new Timeline is pretty to look at, but on the scale of today’s announcements, that’s just a blip on the radar. What really matters is that Facebook now sees its missions are giving you the ability to “curate the story of your life.” Thanks to the new lightweight sharing features announced today, you can now quickly share (and bore your friends with) every article and book you read, every movie you watch on Neflix, every TV show you watch on Hulu, every book you read on your Kindle, every song you play on MOG or Spotify, and every picture of food you take on Foodspotting. Doesn’t that sound like a dream come true? Isn’t that “the story of your life?”

What I Share on Facebook Isn’t the Story of My Life – Not Even Close

scrapbook_flickrZuckerberg’s idea is that we will use Facebook to keep track of the “story of our lives.” I can’t help but wonder if that’s not one step too far.

I can see the reasoning here – after all, once you’ve connected everybody, you can’t grow by just adding new users anymore.

The fact that Zuckerberg would even think that users are putting “the story of their lives” on Facebook is just creepy.

If you really feel the need to share everything you do on Facebook and you think that that’s a good representation of your life, you seriously need to get out and try living your life a bit harder. We never share everything, we never want everybody else to know everything we do and often enough, we’d rather forget stuff than keep a precise record of it.

Digital Scrapbooking

Of course, if you are really buying into this idea, you can then relive all those glorious days on your timeline/digital scrapbook later on, or even get a nice graph with all the recipes you cooked in the new Reports feature. It’s all there in a nicely designed “frictionless experience.”

Maybe it’s just me, but I have no interest in using Facebook as a repository for all this superfluous data. A picture or two from my vacations is good enough – I don’t need to keep track of every recipe I cooked, every road I drove on and every morning run. Just like I wouldn’t be interested in offline scrapbooking, I have no interest in cataloging my past exploits on Facebook either.

It’s not just the data I might collect on Facebook (I doubt I will). I’d rather, for example, see my friends make very deliberate choices when they share something with me – not the one-click-and-forget kind of sharing Facebook seems to have in mind.

While Facebook is hyping the potential serendipitous discovery that this new system could allow for, my feeling is that this will just add more noise and very little value in the long run.

[/rant]

Image Credit: Flickr user Dean Michaud.



8:42 pm


Germany vs. Facebook: Like Button Declared Illegal, Sites Threatened With Fine

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Updated: German websites based in the state of Schleswig-Holstein have until the end of September to remove Facebook‘s ‘like’ button or face a fine of up to 50,000 Euro.

Germany has a long tradition of using laws to protect its citizen’s privacy. Home owners, for example, can ask Google to pixelate their houses in Street View (maybe so that their garden gnomes can stay incognito?). Facebook’s facial recognition feature has also come under fire in recent weeks. The latest target of Germany’s privacy advocates is Facebook’s ‘like’ button („Gefällt mir,“ in German). Thilo Weichert, the head of the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, argues that Internet sites based in his state that use the ‘like’ button are illegally sending this data to Facebook, which in turn uses it to illegally create a profile of its users web habits.

Note: the original article didn’t sufficiently stress the fact that Weichert’s jurisdiction is limited to Schleswig-Holstein only. I’ve updated the story to reflect this more clearly.

Thilo Weichert (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Weichert argues that data from any user who clicks the ‘like’ button – including those who are not Facebook users (which seems to be the crux of the problem for Weichert) – is immediately transmitted to a server in the United States. Weichert told German newspaper FAZ that his concern is that “Facebook can track every click on a site, how long I’m there, what I’m interested in.”

According to the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection’s press release, Facebook uses this data to create “a broad individual and for members even a personalised profile. Such a profiling infringes German and European data protection law. There is no sufficient information of users and there is no choice; the wording in the conditions of use and privacy statements of Facebook does not nearly meet the legal requirements relevant for compliance of legal notice, privacy consent and general terms of use.”

According to the Associated Press, Weichert is also telling users to “‘keep their fingers from clicking on social plug-ins’ and ‘not set up a Facebook account’ to avoid being profiled.”

Facebook, of course, rejects Weichert’s claims and argues that its operating well within Germany’s and Europe’s data and privacy protection laws. Its users, Facebook says, stay in “full control of their data.”

50,000 Euro Fine

Indeed, Weichert isn’t actually ready to sue Facebook itself because it is outside of his jurisdiction. His agency, however, is threatening to sue site owners who continue to implement the ‘like’ button on their sites with a fine of up to 50,000 Euro. Site owners have until the end of September to remove the ‘like’ button from their sites.



4:27 pm


Facebook Gets a "Send" Button: A More Targeted "Like"

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Facebook today announced a number of new features for Facebook Groups. Group admins, for example, can now pre-approve members and Groups now also feature a Q&A and photo-sharing section. More importantly, though, Facebook also introduced a new new button that publishers can put on their site: the Send button. This button is a close relative to the Like button, but with the added twist that it allows users to selectively share a webpage with one or more of their Facebook Groups or use Facebook messaging to email it to their friends.

According to Facebook, the Send button is meant to be used alongside the traditional Like button. Facebook partnered with sites like the 1-800-Flowers.com and the Huffington Post to launch this new feature, but if you’re currently using a Like button on your site, you can easily add a Send button by just adding send =”true” to the Like button code. You can also create the code for a stand-alone button here.

If you want to give the Send button a try, you can find one right underneath the Facebook logo at the top of this post.

Private Sharing on Facebook

The Send button is a natural evolution of the Like button. Given the public nature of Like (it’s posted to your wall for everybody to see), adding the ability to share content more selectively only makes sense for Facebook. Given that Facebook now hosts over 50 million groups, it’s clear that users want more selective ways of talking to their friends, so making it easier to also allow them to easily share content more selectively fits right in there. Most users now have a very diverse set of friends on Facebook and quite a lot of content they want to share is likely not of interest to all of their friends.



2:08 pm


Can Digital Shaming Save Lives? Town Wants to Put DUI Mugshots on Facebook

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Drinking and driving is obviously dangerous and never a good idea, but if you want to ensure that your DUI mugshot never goes viral, it’d be a good idea to stay especially sober while driving through the city of Huntington Beach, CA. According to the Associated Press, Huntington Beach’s city council is currently considering a proposal that would require the city’s police department to post mugshots of everyone who was repeatedly arrested for DUI on the department’s Facebook page.

An earlier proposal actually argued that the mugshots of every single person arrested for DUI in Huntington Beach should appear on Facebook. Interestingly, the local police department has been pushing back against this idea. According to the town’s police spokesman Lt. Russell Reinhart, the department’s Facebook page has been instrumental in “getting information to the public and soliciting tips on tough cases.” While a few mugshots are already available on the department’s Facebook page, the local police thinks routine public shaming would just annoy its Facebook fans and won’t deter repeat DUI offenders.

Huntington Beach Police Department.jpg

The Huntington Beach police department's Facebook page

Can Digital Shaming Save Lives?

Devin Dwyer, the city councilman behind this proposal, argues that the town’s DUI numbers are out of control – with 1,687 DUI arrests and 195 deaths due to alcohol-related traffic accidents in 2009, that’s hard to argue with. In an interview with the Associated Press, Dwyer said that “if it takes shaming people to save lives, I am willing to do it. I’m hoping it prevents others from getting behind the wheel and getting inebriated.” We’re not sure if he is also proposing that these mugshots will be tagged with the offender’s name and Facebook profile.

What do you think? Is public shaming on Facebook the way to go? Will it stop people from driving drunk?



10:44 am


Let's Cut the Hype: Facebook's Email Service Won't be a "Gmail Killer"

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facebook_logo.jpg

Facebook is launching an email service on Monday. While that’s only a rumor for now, I think it’s a well substantiated one and there is little doubt in my mind that Facebook mail is exactly what we are going to get at Monday’s event in San Francisco. Sadly, though, the meme that this could really be a “Gmail killer,” as the project is apparently internally known at Facebook, is already making its rounds in the tech blogosphere and won’t let up until Monday.

My guess is that the reality of Facebook mail will be far more banal. Facebook will give every user an @facebook.com address and a basic email service that will kill Gmail as much as Gmail killed Yahoo! Mail and Hotmail/Windows Live Mail.

So let’s get away from the whole “Gmail killer” idea (the tech blogosphere has always been obsessed with “xyz killers”). What matters is that this email service – if it really launches on Monday – shows how Facebook doesn’t just want to own our social network but how it also wants to be our messaging service. Groups were a step in this direction, Facebook chat was a step in this direction, as is bringing Facebook chat to Windows Live Messenger. Adding email to this is just the logical next step, but just as tagging a social network on to email didn’t make Google Buzz a Facebook killer, adding email to Facebook won’t kill Gmail.

Facebook mail invitation

It’s even hard to think how Facebook could actually make email better. Sure, this service will nicely integrate with the rest of the Facebook platform, but the great thing about email is that you can use it no matter what platform and server you and the people you write to are on.

Maybe Facebook could build a better Priority Inbox, but somehow I doubt that. It will surely also make it easy to email photos (Facebook is already the biggest photo service on the Internet). But it won’t get a lot of people to turn away from Gmail or the even more popular Yahoo and Windows Live email services. Email is extremely sticky. Most people never switch. It’s just too hard and almost never worth the effort. Professionals definitely won’t use it.

We should remember, though, that for some people, the idea of an @facebook.com email address actually sounds like a good idea. Those are not the people who leave critical comments on stories about Facebook mail today, though. Those are the people who will be surprised to hear about it on Monday and will leave barely readable comments on the Facebook blog, asking where to find new tips and trick for playing Farmville and how to write on their wall. That won’t make it a Gmail killer either, though.

Bonus: I got an email this morning from this blogger who discovered Facebook’s mail.facebook.com page. At first, I thought this would make for a nice scoop, but after actually looking at the site for 10 seconds, it quickly became clear that this was Facebook’s internal email. The site runs Microsoft Exchange and there is no way that Facebook would want to use Exchange for powering 500 million email accounts even if Microsoft is going to partner with Facebook and integrate its Office web apps into the new service. Of course, this story still found its way into the tech blogosphere in the form of a Friday afternoon linkbait post on TechCrunch that some actually took at face value. Sigh…



12:25 am


Google Puts Renewed Focus on Real-Time Search with New Social Search Test

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Somehow I completely missed the fact that those blue “shared by” links on Google’s search results page that I started seeing a few days were new. Given the pace of the search giant’s development cycle, I have to admit that I’m sometimes actually rather confused about what’s new and what’s been around for a while on Google…

But these “shared by” links are clearly new – and more and more people are now seeing them, too, so this seems to be more than just one Google’s many bucket tests and could be here to stay. These links tend to appear underneath links to news items in the OneBox news results section when you search for recent events. Another new feature is a live count of recent updates that now appears underneath the “Recent Updates” box when you search for keywords that are currently popular or trending on Twitter and Facebook.

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All of this points to a new emphasis of real-time search results in Google. Over on Search Engine Land, Danny Sullivan speculates that Google could soon restrict these searches to just your friends, which is entirely possible and would make sense in light of Bing’s recent addition of more social features, but I actually find the new focus on real time more interesting. All of these new links, after all, point to Google’s real-time search feature, which was mostly hidden from sight until now. Instead of just pointing to a somewhat cryptically names “Updates” section in the sidebar, this new test actually explains that these updates come from “Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and more.”



11:06 pm