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Note to Facebook Acquaintances: Please Don't Message Me There

I’ve been using Facebook mostly to get a feel for its possibilities, not as a place to do business or keep all that close track of anything. I logged onto the site today and found four messages from people who either already knew my email address or who could have easily found it. I’ve responded via email, not via Facebook, because I have no idea when I’ll log back into the site.

Meanwhile, there’s a slew of new “friend” invitations and assorted other stuff to look through. I’m overwhelmed by it all, in part because of the foolishly tedious process the site forces you to endure to vet and approve new “friends” — no batch add of people, as LinkedIn smartly allows, and a ridiculous insistence that you explain your connection to the other people before you can accept them as friends.

Moreover, I don’t find it terribly useful except for the bloggish feature in the center of the personalized page. That’s a not-bad summary of people’s activities, but it doesn’t compensate for all the other issues.

I’m inclined to agree with Jason Calacanis, whoi declared Facebook bankruptcy, and with Dave Winer, who never accepted it as a liability in the first place. But the germ of an incredibly useful site remains — if it’s made considerably more open, in the sense of letting people export their data in ways of their own choosing.

If you’re on Facebook and want to contact me, please don’t use the internal messaging system. Go here instead. Thanks.

10 Comments on “Note to Facebook Acquaintances: Please Don't Message Me There”

  1. #1 Robert Scoble
    on Jul 28th, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    To add a new contact you click on “confirm” and then “skip this step.” I add hundreds every day in a minute or so. Don’t feel pressured to add any details.

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Jul 28th, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Robert, I know you can do that. I can’t imagine how you can add hundreds in a minute, though. At the very least each contact is a 5 second action. They need a batch-add.

  3. #3 OLDaily[中文版] » Blog Archive » 2007年7月30日
    on Jul 30th, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    […] 议论Facebook是一个spam机器。Peter Cashmore 写到公司纷纷禁止Facebook使用。 Dan Gillmor 请求他的读者”别在Facebook上向我发信了”。 Jason Calacanis, The Jason […]

  4. #4 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 30th, 2007 at 9:27 pm

    re: “Moreover, I don’t find it terribly useful except for the bloggish feature in the center of the personalized page. That’s a not-bad summary of people’s activities, but it doesn’t compensate for all the other issues.”

    Hold on. The other issues you cite are solely a function of the observation that Facebook is not perfectly scale-free (i.e., exhibiting the power law). Like the restaurant business, you can get too popular. The issues you find with facebook (being too popular) are probably not the ones that the average user doesn’t have to worry about.

    This, by the way, is the general math behind scale-free/power-law networks. People read Scoble because other people are reading Scoble, and Scoble has a long way to go before he can max out on readers. Blogs have an intentionality to them; that is of course the thrust of citizen journalism, that one long blogger on an odd blog post may change the world. But Facebook seems to appeal much more to people’s sociability. Technorati’s numbers from April show a growth of 120K/month, to Facebook’s 150K/month. I predict we’ll see that gap widen. How about if we count abandoned blogs?

    It requires too much momentum to get a blog going. You post, you beg for comments, you beg for links, and then you constantly have to post to keep it live. I joined Facebook yesterday, and found 15 of my friendsco-workers (sorry I didn’t get around to sending you a friend request yet :-). A few of them blog, I think. But there’s diminishing returns to what people have to blog about Tom Friedman’s latest column. Facebook figures that people want to organize social information– where people are, what they’re doing– so that they can find it quicker. I already know what my 15 friends are up to quicker any other medium.

    Here’s another one: microformats. Where are microformats in the blog world? Who’s using them? In Facebook just entered 40 movies. I remember doing this on Amazon or B&N years ago, and then figuring no one would ever see them again. This is a company that just has it figured out– and the developer platform is unstoppable.

    Facebook, when you look at it, is inherently more conversational than blogs. A person’s “wall” carries comments from the person and their friends (as compared with Friendster, where the only thread is other testimonials.)

    Why do I carry on like this? (I’ve been away from the citmedia blog for a few weeks and wanted to catch up). There’s certainly a temptation to stick in one’s comfort zone, and I suppose some (now) old-school bloggers might feel a bit afraid of the next new thing (imagine, being dismissed as an old-schooler…). I’m just trying to inspire a bit of analytics.

    Still, I share your unspoken small-d democratic concern about facebook-uber-alles. Something *this* good shouldn’t be exclusive to one company. I’d still encourage people to develop good blog-and-CMS tools.

    Enough of that. I suppose that Adamic, Hargittai, boyd, et al have already dug into this…

  5. #5 Delia
    on Jul 31st, 2007 at 8:28 am

    Jon, I’m wondering if requests for friends status could be pre screened by various criteria to get them to a manageable number. For instance, it might help a lot if you could decide that for people you haven’t met in real life and who aren’t involved in the same things you are, you will only consider those who live close enough to meet in person. Or if you could set a certain number a day/week and had exclusion criteria to be applied until you got the number you had in mind. D.

  6. #6 Dan Gillmor
    on Jul 31st, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Jon, I agree almost entirely with what you say. I do think Facebook has done some remarkable things, and suspect it may become the single most important such site.

    Let me make my unspoken small d-democratic concern outspoken. They could become far too powerful. Like all the other social networks, they — not the users — own the aggregated data. That worries me, and I wish it worried more users.

  7. #7 Delia
    on Jul 31st, 2007 at 1:19 pm

    Dan, I’m wondering if a non-profit that would let the users to (collectively) own the aggregated data could work. I mean, why *aren’t* there any projects like this? You’d think people would flock to something like that if the had the option. D.

  8. #8 Jon Garfunkel
    on Jul 31st, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    Delia– well, having too many facebook friends is not a problem for me at this point…

    But note that FaceBook has solved a problem which Dan’s implementation of WordPress hasn’t– “whitelisting.” Anyone on your whitelist (your friends) can write on your wall. But *still* throws me in the spam queue if I dare put two links in the blog comments.

    I understand there’s a lot of support for the “small pieces loosely joined” architecture of blogging, but when you have “small pieces better joined” of facebook, there starts to be no contest. (how many serious bloggers have “loosely joined” to an authentication service?)

    As for who owns your data… that’s another discussion if you can export & delete at will, then you own it somewhat. If Facebook wants to mine your data, well, they can and will. I wasn’t so worried about the data ownership as I was about meme-masking: kleenex-as-tissues, blogs-as-online-personal-publishing, facebook-as-social-networking.

    Also, to return to our senses, the major problems have nothing to do with popular people having to deal with too many friend requests; it’s sexual predators joining and accessing a lot of personal information.

  9. #9 Rachel
    on Aug 1st, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Wow, I thought I was the only who wasn’t into Facebook? I have friends who think it’s the coolest thing, and I even joined, but I don’t see the use of it. I do keep getting the random friend invitations, too. I even got one from someone I haven’t seen literally in 15 years or more. I didn’t even figure out who it was for a while, because she was just an acquaintance at best. The whole thing is kind of weird. I’m happy to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t love Facebook!

  10. #10 Delia
    on Aug 1st, 2007 at 7:03 pm


    Just to clarify, I was just trying to solve Dan’s problem… I’m NOT on Facebook or any of these things… (for the sort of reasons you mentioned at the end — just way too much personally identifiable information for not good reason). But even if I have no plans to join, I find it interesting and full of potential: by far the most promising of this kind of projects.

    But like Dan, I think it’s bad that Facebook has access to people’s personal information for data mining or any of those things… I don’t think this is something people would just give away if they had a *choice* in the matter.

    That’s why I was asking Dan why aren’t there projects like that? Is there some good reason for it that I just can’t see? A non-profit (that would stay that way) would seem like the best way to win people for the long run: it could run ads or whatever it needed to do to raise the money to run the site and keep making improvements. And it could of course invite others do improvements, like Facebook does — this is what really got my attention about Facebook… And all would be determined by what users really want (through voting).


    P.S. Something like what craigslist *claims* to be: a public trust with a philanthropic mindset. Why don’t *you* start something like this, Jon?:)