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Faceboot…backlash against the backlash against (etc)

May 26, 2010

Daily Mail on Facebook Privacy

I was going to write about the whole social networking, twitterish, facebooky stuff from the perspective of my current trip in Nantes.

I was going to try and put the whole, exciting new-media stuff into a different cultural context or la contexte culturel (?).

Then I saw this from Techmeme. Are Facebook users actually going to kick it into touch?

And this gave me a whole new context to culture…er a whole new culture…er…of contextualisation…I think.

What I mean is that there seems to be at least two opposite currents in the web world.

On the one hand there is a trend in predicting the demise of social networks – not in general, but some in particular – as our earlier post regarding Bebo (which is, frankly, on the ropes) and now this piece about Facebook. To be clear, this criticism of FB is not isolated – a simple Google or Twitter search should confirm that.  No, there are thousands, maybe more if you look at the membership of various FB groups, who want to protest about the way the site is going.

And on the other hand, there is a keen evangelism from, for example, the people salivating over the imminent delivery of their iPad. (This again from Techmeme..and the iPad is just about to arrive in the UK and France). And, speaking to other people in education – specifically in communications – there is still a low level of understanding of the digital future – at least outside of California.

Hence SciencesCom’s involvement in setting up and getting funding for SWIM.

But the point I wanted to make here was about the culture of uncertainty. There is a high level of skepticism about such technologies and such environments – or products, sites or services – the repeating questions about revenues contrasted with the seemingly endless appetite for the ‘early adopters’ to take up the latest version. This seems to me to be a genuinely new aspect of this technological revolution.

It seems that everyone (no, I know, not everyone) is involved in a conversation – in traditional media as well as online – about what good all this stuff ‘is for’…’is about’…’means’. The difference here is that there is a reflexive element that means that participation in that conversation has a chance of affecting the outcome.

Facebook is, no doubt, also taking part in the conversation – no doubt using Twitter as well – and will respond. Meanwhile there are even more ‘open source’ platforms that enable and encourage users to adapt and modify the environment in which they work and play.

My conclusion is that, regardless of the ostensible purpose of these various social networking platforms, the key to their survival and growth is to give users a sense of control over their involvement and therefore the extent to which they feel they are being sold to…or they themselves are being ‘sold’.

That’s not too difficult. But here’s the problem. If you want to attract investment and keep shareholders, you need to be able to explain the business model and forecast revenues. And if the ‘customers’ are in charge you can’t.

You could, I guess, turn the whole thing on its head and either-

a) get the investors to ask the users those questions such as “how many adverts do you want to see?”, “how many will you respond to?”, “how much will you spend?” en effect (as they say here) get the customers to express their value to investors through research and willing co-production of content

or b) just sell your company to the users. Not a bad idea – sign up for a Facebook account free…but pay $10 for a share. Who’s for a co-operative?

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 31, 2010 11:01 am

    Phil has a point here. I have a feeling that Facebook has been successful simply because it it an outlet for the growing number of people who now live in single households. Check the figures, but it is rumoured that 30% of all people in London live in single households. It also reflects the cosmopolitan nature of some cultures, and for thos with frieds overseas it is an easy way of keeping in touch. The backlash seems to come from the press, no surprise there, who are tasked with creating stories, and Facebook is certainly big news. A report in last week’s Time magazine gave a more balanced view of Facebook and how it fits into people’s lives. I think it is a long way away from ending and I expect to see further developments from the team at Facebook. 500 million people is a huge contact list to play with!

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