Sunday, September 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch: the Facebook/LinkedIn Potential ShootOut and What We Might Lose

There are a whole lot of us caught in the crossfire of words about how one social networking platform is going to "kill" the other, which, quite honestly, won't be good for the majority of us....Let me explain...

First, I'm glad that LinkedIn now enables us to upload photographs! And Adam Nash explains, in part, why it took so long to do so:
However, before we could add photos to the site, we had to give considerable thought to the best way to integrate photos into a professional site. Privacy is an incredibly important issue to us, and we wanted to make sure we had the right controls in place. As a result, all members will have the option to control whether their photo is visible to their connections, their network, or everyone.

What Adam's talking about here are concerns that adults have when using social networking platforms. Adults who are building careers in "traditional" or "legacy" (read: conservative-thinking, which is most) businesses have very good reasons for making sure that their privacy is guarded, that maybe some people can't see their photos, and that the photos present the right image.

No pics of drunken frathouse beer-busts nor of doing "body-shots" off your sorority sisters's belly-buttons thankyouverymuch. Those won't help you land a job in investment banking....

LinkedIn isn't about mating-and-dating or make-new-friends-but-keep-the-old or of our profs finding better ways to connect with us outside of class--it's about business and networking for business. It's about finding jobs.

I wonder though: do our young men at Facebook really know all that much about that kind of thing? Or about the life-relationship-friend kind of thing that, in adulthood, has far more shades of gray than it did in college...

Which leads me to the latest on Facebook: the addition of feature for grouping your friends. This app will supposedly help us "group" our friends and make it easier to manage them. Stowe Boyd makes an important point about this when he says we want "groupings"--tagging "our friends with as many associations as we like..." so that "we can share things in the most flexible ways possible."

This would be nice, and could help those who use Facebook for *everything* manage their space. But should we keep all of our online selves on Facebook in the first place? Sure, that may be fine for some of the elites of Silicon Valley, but when I think about it, do they keep all of *themselves* online on Facebook? One of the many things adulthood has taught me is that, sometimes, people *say* they're completely transparent when, in fact, they aren't. This may sound sexist, but I've often found that it's men who are great at compartmentalizing--so great that I think it's lead to the phrase "the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing."

We all have dark sides. We all have secrets. Our lives often are shades of gray. It is in negotiating the complexities of adulthood that we learn the importance of privacy.

Maybe it's because we've had a younger generation grow up with adults prying into their lives as never before that we're now seeing a generation of young people, many of whom are now developing the same types of platforms and apps we use daily, who belive that we simply have to get used to having less and less privacy.

This is very, very scary.

Donna Bogotan took a couple of good shots at Facebook...notably calling out Fortune's David Kirkpatrick on his "swooning" over Facebook/Zuckerberg. I really get Bogotan's ire. There's too much hoo-ha over new ways Facebook would like to intrude on our lives, and there may be reasons for this that have little to do with making our online social lives easier. There could be (as Bogotan raises in her post on Kirkpatrick) some very nasty stuff that might "aid" marketers while invading our privacy:
Kirkpatrick (in Forutne): The Internet is rapidly moving toward a world in which advertisers are able to target their messages to those most likely to be responsive. While this is often painted as an invasion of privacy, in fact it is a service…the ads we see will quite often be ads that convey the information we want. If software algorithms can help marketers identify what sorts of goods and services we are most likley to buy, it is a benefit, not an intrusion

Hmmm...can anyone say The Pudding"? Can anyone see a linkup between The Pudding's services and Facebook???

Yet Bogotan's also levelled a scathing indictment of Nick O'Neill's post re Facebook's new "killer" app (the whole "groupings" thing.) O'Neill likes to be a cheerleader for Facebook--and maybe in being a cheerleader he's also an influencer. But I wonder the level of impact his cheerleading will have on the world outside of the Silicon Valley.

I'm more concerned about what Kirkpatrick is saying and doing. He's got a bigger megaphone--mainstream media--thus a bigger audience and, dare I say, far bigger influence (contrary to popular beliefs about the demise of msm.)

As for me, I'm becoming *very* concerned abuot what sorts of apps Facebook's adopting, and about its talks with Google. I am extremely concerned about the invasion of privacy thing, as much as I am about NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation of Facebook. I am also saddened that I might have to (at some point in time) pare down my Facebook profile and delete some of the personal things I've put on it--stuff that's actually been a nice way of letting some of my business contacts know more about me--because it may become "inappropriate information."

I don't agree with Kirkpatrick: I don't want to be advertised to at every turn of the corner I make online. I don't want "targeted" advetising period.

And I want both LinkedIn *and* Facebook to thrive because, unlike O'Neill, I understand the shades of gray of adulthood. I like the separation of church (personal life) and state (business life.) That's the only way I can have the "freedom" to be myself online.

Think about it.

Update Alan Patrick notes that if ".. one is a "less favoured friend of X" may make one sever ties, or - worse from Facebooks point of view - lose interest in the whole thing." hmmm...well, maybe it will cause a decrease in hype, that's for sure. and Muhammad Saleem thinks about the targeted advertising thing, too.

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