Wednesday, October 20, 2010

If open Facebook makes money, would closed Facebook make MORE money?

In an October 15 post about Facebook, Jake Kuramoto included this observation (among many others; see the original post):

Facebook needs channels, which would make sense in a way that lists and groups don’t. I’m a channel. I broadcast baby pictures to family; I broadcast Portland news to Portlanders; I broadcast AppsLab and Oracle news to Oracle people.

This ties into a thought that both Jake and I have touched upon before. Our social networks are designed to follow people, rather than topics. (See my November 4, 2009 post, Jake's comment on HIS November 4, 2009 post, and my September 12, 2009 post.) Following people has its advantages and disadvantages. One advantage is that by following a person, you get a picture of all of the interests of the person. One disadvantage is that by following a get a picture of all of the interests of the person.

Over the weekend, I shared something on Facebook about the 2009 death of professional wrestler Playboy Buddy Rose. Now I currently have over 300 friends on Facebook. This was certainly significant to one of my Facebook friends - the one who actually shared the news with me. He was my roommate during my sophomore year in college in Portland, Oregon, where the Playboy was wrestling at the time. I have a few other Facebook friends who knew me during my freshman and sophomore years in college, when several of us were following Rose and the rest of the Portland pro wrestling universe (don't forget Frank Bonnema and Tom Peterson). Jake Kuramoto himself happens to live in the Portland area, so perhaps the share may have been interesting to him, if he's even heard of Rose. I'm not sure that my Sunday school friend, or most of my other Facebook friends, were particularly interested in the passing of Buddy Rose, however.

Back to Jake's October 15 post. I posted a comment with numerous other examples that I won't go into here, as well as a discussion of my workflow, which includes a number of items that I find in Google Reader and are automatically shared to several sources, including Facebook. This prompted Kuramoto to add another observation:

The irony of channels is they represent what FB was originally. It started as a closed network based on domain names....

They've abandoned the closed nature for business reasons....

Now think through this. I am obviously too old to have been around for Facebook's first iteration, but Zuckerberg's (and only Zuckerberg's) first concern was to hook friends up. Only later did it become apparent that Zuckerberg could make the largest amount of money by creating a more open structure, in which all of us turn our privacy controls off and share all sorts of information with our friends and with Facebook's business partners and advertisers.

However, in the same way that Facebook has become unusable to Kuramoto because of all of the data (not information) flowing through the feed, Facebook has also become unusable to the advertisers because of all of the data (not information) flowing through THEIR feeds.

Case in point - in late September, I went to France for a week, and accessed Facebook several times while in France. Ever since then, a number of Facebook's advertisements to me have been presented in the French language. Because I accessed Facebook from France, Facebook has concluded that these advertisements would be of interest to me. Unfortunately for the advertisers, I can't read their ads - my command of the French language is extremely limited. And I haven't bothered to go to each individual ad and tell Facebook not to show it to me any more, so advertisers are still serving these ads up to me, and are paying Facebook for the privilege of advertising to me even though those advertisements are wasted money, from the advertisers' perspective.

(Hey, readers - can you keep a secret? Don't tell Facebook that I don't speak French. I figure that as long as Facebook is serving up these French language ads to me, it WON'T be serving up California election political ads to me. I'm very thankful for this oasis of peace, and don't want to spoil it.)

Back to Kuramoto. After mentioning Facebook's open business model, he said this in his comment:

...but now, years later, it's apparent that it was the best architecture for modeling people's social groups, i.e. independent and segmented networks.

And here's the kicker:

Going back to a similar approach of personal walled networks would appeal greatly to advertisers too, since it would require additional personal data.

In short, brilliant. We're all getting battered by the Facebook firehose because of all the data that we've shared with Facebook, and the way to mitigate that is to...share even more data with Facebook.

Perhaps there could be a way for me to tell Facebook that items about Playboy Buddy Rose would primarily be of interest to my "Reed" list. And items about the National Academy of Sciences would primarily be of interest to my "MorphoTrak" list.

Once Facebook gets a hold of this and similar information, they could target some wonderful ads for me. Perhaps some day I'll see an ad like this:

Hey Reed grad! A few months ago you posted that you haven't been to Portland in over 20 years. Wouldn't you like to come back and visit? We're the EconoLodge on SE 82nd Avenue, down the road from the old Tom Peterson's location and near all those Chinese American restaurants you used to frequent. And you can just hop on Tri-Met (it includes light rail now, you know) and you can get to Reed, downtown, Powell's Books, the Pittock Mansion, whatever. So grab your old Zippy comic book, call the Econolodge, and get ready to take a trip down memory lane to the land of Communism, Atheism, and Free Love!

Of course, knowing Facebook, the ad that I actually see will look something like this.

Il ya quelques mois que vous avez affichée que vous n'avez pas été à Portland dans plus de 20 ans. N'aimeriez-vous pas à revenir nous rendre visite?

Although you have to admit that "communisme, l'athéisme, et amour libre" looks pretty impressive in French...
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