Tag Archives: facebook

Web 3.0 Starts Today

No, really.

People get ready. Both Google and FaceBook have this week announced APIs (Google Friend Connect and FaceBook Connect, respectively) which enable ‘any site’ to be aware of identities and social networks — turning the web inside out and focussing (finally!) on people and their interactions rather than content and its location. We’ve been banging on about this since 1994, and think it’s about bloody time, frankly.

Big news (and probably a harbinger of the demise of bespoke social media aggregators like our recent fave FriendFeed). Read the press releases and phone your favourite VC. Now.

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Way to Go, Hasbro

Toy giants crack down on Scrabulous, one of Facebook’s most popular applications

Lawyers for Hasbro and Mattel have asked Facebook to pull the game, saying that Scrabulous infringes their copyright on the board-based word game. The game was built for the site by Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla, two software developers based in Kolkata, and has 594,924 daily active users – about a quarter of the total that have so far signed up to play it. Interestingly, the brothers say they hit upon the idea of launching a free online Scrabble game when a site where they used to play decided to charge its users in 2004 (how very Web 1.0).

“Next year, we decided to launch our own free scrabble site. It was to help the gaming community,” says Jayant. Rajat and Jayant claim that they contacted Hasbro about collaborating on the game but received no response. It it worth noting that it has taken the toy giants rather a long time to react to the game, despite its high profile and obvious similarity (it’s exactly the same) to Scrabble.

Brands dream of getting this kind of traction online — and Scrabulous has arguably caused a generation to fall in love with Scrabble all over again. If Hasbro and Mattel succeed in having the game removed — rather than entering into talks with the developers — they will have scored a spectacular own goal. A Save Scrabulous group is already ablaze with Facebookers commenting on their shortsightedness – it currently has 6,000 members and counting. Of course Mattel and Hasbro are going to create their own version. But why not just piggy-back on what’s already there, and reap the benefits? Hasbro and Mattel have an opportunity here to engage properly with social media and look like good guys. Let’s hope they don’t blow it.

Source: BBC.

UPDATE: following widespread reporting in the press, the Save Scrabulous group had ballooned overnight to 28,000+ ….

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America’s intelligence agencies rip off social media to improve communications.

The FT reports today that America’s intelligence agencies are about to launch ‘A Space’, an internal communications tool modelled on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Thomas Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis for the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), believes that the site will help dismantle the agencies’ siloed mentalities and help process increasing amounts of information where the number of analysts is limited. He told the FT, “Burying the same number of analysts in ever higher piles of hay would no more increase the number of needles.”

Of course, this story has rather handily come out the day before ‘a systemic failure’ was blamed for the CIA failing to predict the 911 terrorist attacks.

The DNI has also built an internal collaborative site called Intellipedia, based on Wikipedia. The CIA recently used Facebook to recruit and has created a version of del.icio.us, the social bookmarking site, for members of the intelligence community. Another tool is an intelligence library which can be accessed via A Space.

The big lesson here is even the intelligence community is beginning to recognise the importance of opening up flows of communication and information. Mike Wertheimer, the senior DNI officer for analytic for transformation and technology (we are LOVING these job titles) said that, “We are willing to experiment in ways that we have never experimented before. It breaks a lot of traditional senses that people’s lives are at risk, and how can you take any step that increases that risk.” Spies — like big corporates — have issues with sharing stuff. But maybe for better reasons. Wertheimer says, “They ask ‘well can we have access (to the intelligence library)?’ I ask them back if you want access, what services are you willing to put in, have you thought through your risk/profit scenario? They kind of stand back because that is not normally how we talk to them. It is a new day.”

All those organisations busily banning Facebook and other new tools of collaboration and communication should take heed.

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Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear.

Facebook, poking and Being Here.

When we first joined Facebook we thought the poking business was really, really annoying. So much so that we were looking at ways of renaming it as prodding. But as time as gone by, and more people have joined our little bit of it, we’ve started to use Facebook as a friendly way of keeping passive tabs on our friends. And the poking is a vital part of that. It says ‘here I am JH’ (apologies to Terry Gilliam), I’m thinking of you/with you… even if I’m not physically ‘with’ you. And that’s rather nice isn’t it?

It also reminds us of something we were taught as Nightline counsellors back in the day. Nightline was like The Samaritans for university students – a listening service. One of the techniques it teaches is that of ‘tapping’. lf a caller can’t or won’t speak, counsellors are told to ask them to just tap the receiver, ‘So that I know that you’re still there’ and, of course, so that a connection is made. It wasn’t unheard of for these ‘conversations’ to go for hours… in utter silence but with a presence felt. The poking thing is similiar — it says ‘I’m here with you’ without words needing to be spoken — a communication of presence. And sometimes, that’s all you need.

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The MySpace/FaceBook Class Divide

Young Americans’ choice of MySpace or FaceBook says a lot about their place in the offline world…

While that’s hardly a revelation in itself, danah boyd’s latest essay gets down and dirty with the manner in which the FaceBook/Myspace communities reflect or present (American) class divisions… boyd goes to pains to point out that this is subjective research, but it’s provocative reading independent of any cold hard facts… do you know your “subaltern” from your “hegemonic” teens?

Her summary thoughts:

It breaks my heart to watch a class divide play out in the technology. I shouldn’t be surprised — when orkut grew popular in India, the caste system was formalized within the system by the users. But there’s something so strange about watching a generation splice themselves in two based on class divisions or lifestyles or whatever you want to call these socio-structural divisions.

We challenge you to slip some of this concern into your next social media client presentation, you FaceBook-fetishising media hegemonists, you. At least, please, keep it in mind when you have client money to throw at online communities. There’s an opportunity here to make the world a little less closed for a whole generation of socially-excluded digital natives. If you aren’t part of the solution…

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Arse About Facebook II

It’s not often we post back-to-back on the same topic, but today we’re fired up about Facebook…

An eagle-eyed observer on the iDC mailing list (who admittedly found this news on Slashdot) recently noted that Facebook applications — those silly little ‘hug me/kiss me/make love to me now, right here, coz honey we’re the last two people on earth and ain’t neither one of us gonna see that sunrise tomorrow’ plugins — are maybe not quite as innocent as they seem. The clue is tucked away in the Facebook Platform Application Terms of Use. Section (II) is in essence a grant of all — repeat all (with the exception of your real-world contact details) — the data Facebook stores about you, to any application you choose to enable.

So: in return for the ability to ‘spank’ your buddies on Facebook (yee-hah!), application creators get to know all manner of succulent facts about your online existence — how often you log in, who your friends are, which groups you’ve joined… and much more. Think about it.

There is — of course — no such thing as a free service. Facebook (I hear) has ads on most pages. I don’t see ‘em because I have decent ad filters. But you can bet those ads are tailored to your profile as Facebook’s data-miners see it. Maybe you’ve balanced that value exchange mentally, and decided that for you the fun of Facebook is worth a few dodgy banners. But we don’t think we’re the only ones who object to the same amount of personal information going to the creators of teeny applications which only briefly amuse. And we’re betting that many of those apps only exist to suck up and sell on all that lovely personal data.

Who’s feeling well and truly ‘spanked’ now?

Of course, you can just refuse application requests. That’s no big deal. But why don’t we have some fun with this? We wouldn’t be the first to try and subvert the engines of social media capitalism. Take the long-established Google Will Eat Itself project, for example:

We generate money by serving Google text advertisements on a network of hidden Websites. With this money we automatically buy Google shares. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself – but in the end “we” own it!

By establishing this autocannibalistic model we deconstruct the new global advertisment mechanisms by rendering them into a surreal click-based economic model.

After this process we hand over the common ownership of “our” Google Shares to the GTTP Ltd. [Google To The People Public Company] which distributes them back to the users (clickers) / public.

Likewise the hypothetical (?) Amazon Noir, which uses a crafty bot to steal digital copies of books from the retailer:

The bot will outwit Amazon’s “search inside the book” system, making up to 5,000 inquiries per book and assembling the individual parts afterwards to compile entire books. This would allow “users to ‘legally’ copy and redistribute copyright books from amazon.com.”


So why not spank back on Facebook? We’re thinking of building a Facebook app to do just that. Enable it, and it will slurp up all your Facebook data, same as all the others apps. The difference would be that it will be upfront about its function — only people who want to donate their data to our database need install the thing in the first place. Then, we end up with a huge pool of valuable user data — and some good free press. We go out and sell that data: to marketeers, researchers, whoever pays the highest price. And everyone who contributed gets a proportional share of the profits (if any). Ok, no-one will get rich, but it will raise awareness, be an interesting bit of hacking and maybe a bit of a laugh. Brothers and sisters, we are the means of production. Let it begin.

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Arse about Facebook

Social networking and the culture of me.

A friend of ours has just added a plug-in to his Facebook profile, described thusly:

Trakzor is a new facebook tool that helps people see who is checking them and their friends out. Click above to see who is viewing me on facebook, who I’m viewing, and from there…get Trakzor to see who is viewing YOU.

Whilst offices across the country stutter to a halt, that’s what are all these folk on Facebook are actually doing. They’re looking at you looking at them looking at everyone else. All bloody day. Now this is what the boys over at Gaydar have been doing for years but — in contrast — they don’t so much observe as (ahem) seal the deal.

All of this really amounts to everyone sticking a great big ‘I exist’ sign on their heads — we admit it, we’re there too (who isn’t?). In the hyper-connected now, is all we need to show that we really really matter a thriving Facebook profile and a bubbling-over Twitter feed?

BigShinyThing now has a group on Facebook — if you can’t beat, join (etc). Come on over for a chat.

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