Posts tagged: Facebook

Jul 14 2009

Followers Are Not Your Friends

A couple of weeks ago, I started ranting a little over Twitter about followers and how people see them as friends. The rant began because someone I followed had posted a few messages about only wanting “quality followers” and asking everyone else to please stop following her. So I stopped following her.

To me, that’s a crazy obnoxious egotistical statement. I mean, come on, who do you think you are? Do you really think Matt Lauer tells the Today Show audience that he only wants “quality viewers?”

Either this person didn’t understand what followers really were, or was being a snot. Either way, I didn’t care to see a whole slew of messages about it. I follow enough people that I have a fairly low tolerance before I unfollow people. It doesn’t keep my follow count down like I wish it would, since I keep finding new people to follow, but I do try.

Anyway! Back to followers.

If someone has a public Twitter page, their data is available – to anyone – a number of ways. You can visit the website, you can subscribe to their RSS feed, or you can follow them. Their tweets also appear in the public feed (although there’s a setting to turn that off), and are available through search.

What all of this means, is that you really don’t know who’s reading what you say. The only way to control this is by making your twitter feed private. Once you’re private, you have approval over every person who can read.

I think most of the whining about “don’t follow me” is over spammers more than real people, but that really makes no sense to me. Spammers rarely talk to you. I’ve gotten a number of @ messages from spammers, but they’re not from people following me. In fact, I think the spammers unsubscribe once I don’t follow back. It also seems like the same people who complain about spammers are those who try to get tons of followers. Spammers artificially inflate follower numbers – shouldn’t they like that? If some person hawking viagra really wants to subscribe to my feed…have at it, I’m not interested anyway.

Most of the follow/unfollow behavior is automated. Mention one thing and suddenly a flood of people are following you. It’s not like an actual dude who sells viagra is sitting at his computer staring at your tweets. But really, if you’re uncomfortable with that idea, you should not have a public twitter feed.

I used the TV comparison above, but Twitter – to me – is best comparable to a blog. Some people read a blog by going to the webpage, others subscribe through RSS readers. Some blogs even end up syndicated to other places, on other blogs, to Facebook, all across the Internet. I don’t know everyone who reads what I write, and there’s no way I ever could. And that’s ok.

I’ve talked before about how the tone of my blog changed when I went public, there’s no denying that it did, significantly. It had to, for exactly the reasons stated here. I don’t know who’s reading what I’m writing. I’m the same with Twitter. No question that there are things I will not say on there.

But even I’ve said some things on there I shouldn’t have. For example, I discovered a guy I follow (and who follows me) on twitter lives above me in my building. He seems to be cool and I’m not concerned, but it is spooky. I should never have said enough so he could figure out where I lived.

Facebook, on the other hand, grew as large as it did specifically because it was locked down to your friends. You did only have “quality” readers (if you’re really going to be as obnoxious as to describe people as “quality”), since nobody could see what you wrote unless they were your friend. That, of course, is changing now, with Facebook making status messages more open. More and more people will now see what you say on Facebook, and you’re going to have less control over that.

So the Internet’s trending…again. We were all open, then we went all private, now we’re all opening up again. It’s easier to go from open to closed than from closed to open. People will be much more likely to make mistakes. Hell, I did, and I thought I was smarter than that.

I’m not sure how this is going to play out, but it will be fun to watch.

Jun 12 2009

Pretty Pretty Facebook…URLs

Tonight at 9pm PST (midnight EST), Facebook is going to open up vanity URL’s to everyone. Ya know, those pretty URL’s after your name, like that other social network has (ahem, or  Despite everyone’s joking, this really is a big deal.  Facebook has fought against this for a long time, really not wanting people to be identified as a URL, but rather, forcing them to use their real name everywhere.

I see this as something that kinda had to happen. No matter what Facebook wishes, I can’t tell someone my name and hope that they’ll find me. It just doesn’t work. They would need to go to Google, or wherever and search for me. Facebook has no guarantees that they’d be the first entry there. In fact, for me, they’re not. If I can tell someone, there’s no question  where they go to find me. But right now I’d never tell them to look on Facebook, not when I have pretty URL’s to hand out.

All that said, yes, the simplest solution is to buy a domain, which obviously, I have. A domain is the easiest way to go, and as many people have said, with domains being as cheap as they are, there really is no reason not to buy one. Buy a domain, redirect it to Facebook, and you’re done. Takes 10 minutes. Most people aren’t going to do that though. No matter HOW easy it is, “buy a domain” sounds very ominous to some people. They think they need technical knowledge, that it’s hard, and the domain companies out there don’t make it any easier. Look at, the UI’s a wreck, and definitely will make anyone think it’s really hard to do. It’s NOT.

Back to my original point. I will be online tonight to grab a URL from Facebook. I haven’t quite decided what I want yet, though. IS available, and I’d kinda like that for the novelty factor. However, that doesn’t help me with SEO, and unfortunately, I’m gonna have an SEO battle soon – there’s a tv reporter with my exact name out there. If she goes national, I’m out of google. So there’s, or /stephaniebergman, but those are no fun .

I have no idea what I’m gonna do and I probably won’t until the exact moment I type the name in. But regardless, this will be a funny night. See you all on Facebook in a few hours!!

Feb 26 2009

WTF is Facebook Thinking??

This morning Facebook announced that in light of the latest TOS blowup, they were going to be making some changes, shrinking their Terms, and allowing users to vote & contribute to any future changes.

While I think this is a really nice, utopian idea, I do NOT think it works in any practical form for a commercial business.

I mean, seriously. Are you even interested in voting on the terms of a site you visit? You don’t even read them. Are you really going to analyze them in any true, thoughtful manner? Beyond “copyrite sux.”

I was all set to write a long, rambling entry on why, but ya know, I shouldn’t be surprised – Read Write Web nailed it (as they often do, fabulous site). So, just go there, check it out: Facebook Management Has Lost Its Grip on Reality

This is most certainly not the last we’ve heard of this issue. This is a dangerous path for Facebook to be going down, and it will either work extremely well, or be a huge collossal disaster. I predict another blowup is on the way.

We shall see.

Feb 20 2009

Facebook Changed Their TOS. So What.

Two weeks ago, Facebook updated their terms of service. This past weekend someone wrote a blog entry pointing out the changes, and that people should maybe worry.

And people flipped the frack out….about something they didn’t understand. At all.

Sheesh. Before freaking out, let’s talk about a bit of the basic information behind this first. This issue involves user data and a site’s Terms of Service.

1) Terms of Use/Service and Privacy Policies

Every single site out there could benefit from a Terms of Service/Use & Privacy Policy, and any commercial site launching without one is asking for trouble. The documents generally cover what a user can and cannot do with the site, what the site is responsible for in the event of illegal activity or police involvement, what the site will or won’t do with a user’s information, and the typical indemnification “it’s not our fault if your computer breaks.” ToS aren’t unique to websites or tech, but sites are bringing these things to the attention of mainstream folks a bit more.

These docs are important for the legal protection of the company, but also to make as clear as possible to a user what will be done with any information they may provide. I don’t have one for this blog, because, well, I don’t much care, this isn’t a business, it’s my blabbering and your comments here are your own. But folks who take their blogs a bit more seriously will include something.

The moment you hit a website you’ve agreed to their Terms of Service, whether there’s a registration process or not (“your use of this site is governed by this agreement between you and whatevercompany, inc”). Ignoring a site’s terms is the same as signing up for a credit card without reading the fine print.  One month later, you get your bill:

“I didn’t see anything about 35% interest!?”
“Sure you did, you signed on the bottom of the form that you agreed to the fee.”
“I didn’t notice, so take the money back.”
*hysterical laughter* “Is this a crank call?”

Yeah, that doesn’t go over so well. There isn’t much difference between that and a site’s TOS. You agreed to it, you’re stuck with it.  And just like credit card agreements, it can be changed at anytime, with all changes taking place retroactively.

Personally? I read ‘em all, have found some fun doozies buried in various agreements, and have refused to sign up for sites or services because of them. Most recently, a line in a beta user agreement required that I “never say anything negative about the site or service.” Add to that the “this agreement exists in perpetuity,” and suddenly I’ve agreed to a gag order. I don’t think so! I was truly amazed people did sign up, but then again, I’m sure they didn’t read that.

2) User Data = You Online. Forever.

I talked about this a lot in one of my entries from she’s geeky, since it’s a big issue I don’t think people understand (and this Facebook mess just proves that).


Ok? One more time.


It doesn’t matter if you’ve locked your Facebook, if you’ve deleted it, whatever. It’s there. If not somewhere you can find it, then it’s in Google cache, or on the wayback machine, in your friend’s inbox, on flickr, somewhere. Don’t think that if you can’t find it it’s not online – the Wayback Machine, for example, only keeps a small fraction of their archive available online.

Now – this latest Facebook blowup.

The freak out was over the fact that Facebook added some language to their Terms saying they would keep a user’s content and licenses even after the person deleted the profile, and removed some other language about users being able to remove content to invalidate the license.

Hey, guess what people? This is nothing new – Facebook just put it in clear text. With the massively complicated architecture of today’s websites, there are caches and archives all over the place of things you’ve put online. If you delete something, it may no longer be delinked, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s gone. It’s probably not.

Should facebook have updated it’s TOS like that? Eh. They should have probably been a bit more subtle in their language, but the fact is, had a blog not pointed out what the changes meant, nobody would have noticed.

Want to read some spooky legalese? Check out Google’s Privacy Policy:

When you access Google services, our servers automatically record information that your browser sends whenever you visit a website. These server logs may include information such as your web request, Internet Protocol address, browser type, browser language, the date and time of your request and one or more cookies that may uniquely identify your browser. Also, in order to protect you from fraud, phishing, and other misconduct, we may collect information about your interaction with our services. Any such information we collect will only be used to detect and prevent fraud or other misconduct.

Know what that means? They track you online, and save that data. The wording is nice and light, but that’s what it means.  That’s scarier to me than thinking that Facebook may keep a record of “25 things about me..” even after I delete my account.

The lesson here is twofold. Just as in real life, don’t sign anything you haven’t read. If you don’t like what you’re reading, don’t use the service. And don’t think your information can ever be taken offline once you’ve put it there. It’s there forever, and even if one website says they’ll protect your information, they can always change their terms of service to say otherwise.

Be smart, be careful, and stuff like this really won’t matter.

Update: Just wanted to add a link to this article, “What Facebook’s Stumble Can Teach Your Company.” I think the opinion expressed in the article is highly idealistic and probably extremely unrealistic, but it’s still a good read.

Feb 06 2009

25 Things to Complain About On Facebook

Yesterday both the New York Times and Time Magazine published articles about the new trend on Facebook of answering silly little quizzes like “25 things you didn’t know about me.”These quizzes have been known for years as “memes.” I’ve done two of the meme’s in here, and if you really want more to do, there has been a website called the Daily Meme for a while now. The New York Times article was a ‘real’ newspaper article, researched, with real information. The Time Magazine article was a whiny diatribe about how “stupid” these things are and how dare they show up on this reporter’s Facebook.

Oh please, grow up.

According to Wikipedia, meme’s in internet culture refer to humor spreading quickly over the internet. For example, the “tell me 25 things about you…” survey that’s been flying around facebook.

These things have been around forever. They were mainly spread by email, but you’d also see them on people’s blogs (LiveJournal, or Xanga, mainly), or .plan files. Sometimes they were fun, sometimes they were dumb, but they always had a serious distribution problem that resulted in most people despising them. They would very easily turn into spam. One person would fill out the quiz, send it to 20 friends. Then that person would reply to all, add another 20 people, and…you get the picture. Those were truly the days of “25 things I didn’t want to know about you.” I didn’t even know you!

If these things are really coming back again (and it certainly seems like they are), Facebook is the perfect space for them, since they are so easy to ignore. Facebook is not like LiveJournal where a long quiz is making your Friends page huge, or like email where one quiz turns into 40 responses from people you don’t even know.  On facebook, by default, you will only see the subject line and one or two questions…if that. You’ll also only see those from your friends. There isn’t a gun being held to your head forcing you to read someone’s silly note.

Nobody has to be on Facebook. It’s a choice. If you are there, you have tools to control who and what you see. But at its core, Facebook is about sharing information among friends. Don’t want to share or see information? Don’t be there. And I’m talking to you, Time Magazine reporter. I don’t go to or and mock what they’re doing. You don’t have to go to and spoil our fun.

(On a side note, someone’s gotta get this guy on MyYearbook. I think his head would explode.)

Personally, I am thrilled to see these things flying around Facebook. It means things be a changin, although I couldn’t tell you if it’s for the better or worse. Meme’s never really took over MySpace even though people do them all the time in bulletins. But, meme’s completely changed the culture of LiveJournal and Xanga. Many, many people wrote blogs that were full of nothing but meme’s. Not something I ever wanted to read, sure, but these were people who wouldn’t have been blogging without the memes. These dumb quizzes and surveys increased usage of all of these sites, and that’s ultimately a good thing.

Will Facebook users revolt, or will memes result in people spending even more time on Facebook, viewing even more pages? It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here.

Jan 27 2009

I got my whopper!

I am holding in my hand a coupon for one free Whopper, care of Burger King’s Facebook application (yanked by Facebook, as explained in a previous entry). The fact that I actually got the coupon is miracle enough – exactly how often do these things pan out – but the copy in the coupon is too cute not to share.

I don’t have a scanner, so my typing will have to do. It is the text that’s adorable anyway, the design is the same as the app.

As a reward for your steadfast loyalty, even when faced with the loss of your online friends, we have sent you this coupon for a free flame-broiled WHOPPER. May you enjoy each delicious guilt-free bite, knowing that had you not sacrificed your friends for this burger, they surely would have sacrificed you.

Really, really well done campaign. I couldn’t tell you the last time I went to burger king, but…hey Turtles – Burger King tomorrow??

I am sure that whoever came up with this will be creative enough to come up with something else…within the rules. I look forward to seeing what’s next!

Jan 25 2009

25 things you might not know about me

I was tagged to do this on facebook, but since I have a blog, and my blog entries end up on facebook anyway….I’ll write it up here, and tag everyone there.

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with
25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose
25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I
tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to “notes” under tabs on your profile page, paste these
instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag
25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

1. One of my favorite things to do is sleep all day, but I can rarely sleep past 9am anymore.

2. I am terrified of lightning.

3. I was a New York State certified EMT-D and rode on an ambulance corps for 5 years. I don’t remember much anymore, beyond ALS-CPR (which I will never forget) and basic first aid stuff.

4. My brother was born on Memorial Day. I was positive the parade for Memorial Day was actually a parade celebrating his birth.

5. I used to call the hospital every birthday to ask if I was old enough to be a candy striper yet. I was SO excited when they said yes, and was one until I left for college.

6. I am a published author in an MIT book on Women and Games. Looking back at it now, I like the content of my article, but think it was very poorly written.

7. I am a bread geek, and can go on and on and on about uses of different flours, sourdough, and fillers in bread, and what they do to the end result.

8. Kurt Cobain spit on me one week before he died. I still don’t really know why – he walked out of his hotel angry and spitting. I threw out the sweater as fast as I could take it off. Dave Grohl was very nice, though.

9. I am very hyperactive, and was tied to my chair by my second grade teacher for not sitting still. I was embarrassed by it, and my parents only found out when my best friend told my mom.

10. I can “speak” American Sign Language, but I forget more and more every day.

11. I love all things Broadway, and was part of Putnam County Spelling Bee when I got to be one of the people in the spelling bee. I was out in the first round, but at least I can say I’ve been on Broadway.

12. I have a lot of grey hair. It’s covered well.

13. When I was 4, I walked into my neighbor’s house and sat down at her piano to play. I didn’t know her, but she was a piano teacher and started teaching me. I stopped playing in high school, and just started playing again four years ago. It drives me nuts that I can’t do what I could do then, my head knows what to do, but my fingers can’t do it.

14. I built my first website ’96 at It was all about the X-Files, and “worked best in Netscape.”

15. I used to spend all day every Sunday at the library playing with their computers when I was in elementary school.

16. I become obsessed with things very easily.

17. I once got an A+ in a statistics class at NYU that I only went to twice. Once for midterm review, and once for the final review.

18. I love to write fiction. I think I’m damn good at it, and my secret fantasy is to publish someday.

19. I cannot handle silence. There always needs to be some background noise, doesn’t matter what it is, there just has to be something.

20. I am my own worst critic.

21. I worked in a cancer research lab in high school doing necropsies on rats and mice. I lost the job when New York passed a law saying that “children under 18 could not work in hazardous conditions.” I worked with formalin, so….I was crushed when I couldn’t work there anymore, I loved it.

22. I hate beer.

23. I have a huge collection of stuffed animals, and as much as I know I should get rid of some of them, I can’t decide which to give away. Every stuffed animal contains a memory.

24. I cannot live without a watch, which I wear on my right hand, even though I’m right handed.

25. My hands shake. My right hand shakes more than my left. It’s called “minor tremor,” according to doctors it is ‘harmless,’ and the only thing that stops it is alcohol.

Jan 15 2009

Facebook Pulls a Whopper

A few days ago Burger King posted an application on facebook allowing someone to win a coupon for a free whopper if they removed 10 friends from their profile. The app would then notify the 10 friends that they had been removed, and give them a chance to install the app (and re-add the friends if they wanted) for their own free whopper. The app was subsequently pulled from Facebook for violating policy.

I obviously have a very skewed perspective on this, having worked heavily in policy enforcement just about everywhere I’ve ever worked, and specifically in application policy at MySpace, but I also think I have a very educated opinion as a result.

The app was a very cute, original idea, and I am one of many who installed it and removed friends for my free coupon (I’m curious to see if I actually get one). At the time, I was slightly uncomfortable with notifying people that I’d removed them from my friends list, but hey – I’ll take a free whopper.

Days later, Facebook pulled the application down for violating their policies. Of course it’s not ok to tell one user another removed them as a friend, that’s just asking for an argument to start “why’d you remove me, don’t you like me anymore?” It’s why people add friends on twitter, then mute them, they don’t want to offend anyone.  Violate policies, get your application yanked. Period. But…

Why was an application that violated policy live in the first place? There’s a pretty simple answer to that, and while I can’t claim I know it’s right, I’d bet that sales was heavily involved in this. The violation in this case was so egregious there’s no way people didn’t know it was violating policy (certainly, at some point, everyone everywhere has approved something to go live where they honestly missed a policy violation). But in this case someone specifically had to have said, “I know this is breaking the rules, but we should put it live anyway,” both on Burger King and Facebook’s side of things. People have let Burger King off the hook for this, but come on, they’re not stupid. I fully believe they were well aware they were breaking policy. It’s not a policy unique to facebook, after all, “don’t tell one user when another deletes them as a friend” is policy on pretty much every service on the internets.

The question for me, anyway, is why did Facebook take it down after allowing it to go in the first place. I personally didn’t hear any kind of outrage over the app breaking policy, most of what I read about the app was exceptionally positive. I really was waiting for some story somewhere to point out the very obvious violation in the application, but most people aren’t quite as much of a policy nut as I am. The media blowup didn’t happen until after Facebook pulled the Burger King app.

So…why risk the PR mess and yank the app? There’s something to this story that we don’t know, and I don’t know if we ever will. But I can’t imagine Facebook deciding to take the app down after it had received so much pickup unless something happened, somewhere. Someone realized it was violating policy, someone threatened them over the privacy issues, Burger King beat Facebook at foosball….something. Enough people had the app installed, and it had gotten so much press attention that there was no way it could be pulled without tons of people noticing.

Ultimately, I’m glad it was yanked, and don’t believe it should have been approved at all. Companies need very clear, very specific policies about this sort of thing, and they need to enforce them. I kind of equate “waiving privacy policy for dollars” to “bribing a cop to get out of a speeding ticket.” Wouldn’t you question why a cop let a guy go who was driving 90 mph, and ticketed you for driving 45 in a 40? There isn’t all that much difference in my mind.

Just play nice with each other. Sites need to make the rules clear, and developers need to follow them. I’ve had people say to me more than once “but the rules don’t apply to me, right?” Rules are rules, no matter who you are or how large your pocketbook is. Until everyone gets to that point (and facebook’s hardly alone at this), this is going to keep happening.

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