May 26, 2010

Words Matter

One of the more remarkable things about the whole Facebook/privacy debate is how few people (and journalists) seem to have an understanding of exactly what information is being shared and why it's now out there for public consumption.

Yes, people are pissed that, as my friend Rob Saker tweeted  "My profile info was captured by X firm because FB privacy is weak." But many of them, as Danah Boyd pointed out in her keynote at SXSW this year, have no idea that things they're posting are available for public consumption, especially since they'd actually gone through the trouble of adjusting their privacy settings.

Or so they thought.

My instincts tell me that much of the noise around this is the result of how annoyed people are with Facebook's baffling user interface and how embarrassing it is to think that you've set your privacy settings correctly only to find out otherwise.

Which brings us to semantics: it seems that one of the major culprits here is people's interpretation of the word "everyone." To Facebook, that means "everyone on the internet." To many (most?) users, it means "everyone I am Facebook friends with."

Big, big difference.

Now of course there are more fundamental issues, primarily around what the default privacy setting should be. (e.g. should you have to turn privacy settings on or off.) But to the many users who thought they correctly protected themselves only to find out they'd chosen a far more inclusive "everyone" -- and that the Gap now knows they love the color red-- semantics are the crux of the issue.

We often dismiss simple word choices like that as a "six of one, half a dozen of another" type decision. But where half a billion people are involved, it becomes way more than that. Because I'm guessing if the option was  "everyone with an internet connection" versus just "everyone" the amount of personal information being shared would be considerably smaller.

Words matter.

May 20, 2010

San Francisco Seminar, Thursday May 27th

I'll be speaking at the KickApps/Akamai seminar on Thursday, May 27th along with Alitmeter's Charlene Li, Dell's Heather Burnett and IBM's Errol Denger.

It's at the Hotel Vitale, 8 Mission Street. The session runs from 12 - 5PM, I go on at 1:30.

Register here.

May 17, 2010

The Case For Amplify

I’ve become a big fan of Amplify, a new service that sits somewhere between a blog and Twitter. It’s just to the right of the space that Posterous and Tumblr own, but is focused more on words and ideas than on photos.

The set-up is pretty straightforward: you set up your own Amp Blog to which you can post either an entire URL or relevant clips of an article. The site allows you to simultaneously post to Twitter or Facebook, but the link goes back to your Amp Blog.

So why not just post directly to Twitter? Because Amplify lets you comment on the article you’ve just posted. In as many characters as you’d like. And it lets your friends provide threaded commentary as well. (Think with threaded commentary.) That’s a huge plus in terms of certain types of articles—Amplify is very big in the political community, so much of what gets posted and debated on there is actually fairly substantial (e.g. a far cry from “10 Ways To Use Location Based Services”) and the ability to share thoughts about things that don’t necessarily have to do with social media or marketing is a huge plus.

For me, Amplify has become the third place – not pertinent enough to the Toad Stool to devote an entire blog post to, but interesting enough to be worthy of more than 140 characters worth of debate. (You can, for the record, use Amplify to write posts from scratch and even microblog. But most users seem to use it to post and comment on existing articles.)

You can check out my AmpBlog at

PS: Sorry for the long delay between posts. A lot going on, but I have vowed to be more consistent moving forward.