Friday, November 23, 2007

Facebooks Beacon

OK, I take it back. After learning more about how Beacon and Facebook's social advertising scheme actually works, I now think it's creepy. The idea that Facebook is essentially following its users around the web is disturbing, as is the way in which the "opt out" functionality is implemented. While the idea of advertising as social recommendation is obviously appealing to advertisers (and some users), I don't think this particular strategy is the holy grail. Interestingly, when I talked my undergraduate students about it, they did not seem that concerned, although they did remark that if the ads got too overwhelming they'd leave the site. Facebook's reaction -- specifically whether it revisits the design of this feature in response to user protest -- will be interesting to follow.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Intriguing. Very, very intriguing.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Facebook and social advertising

The New York Times has a story on Facebook's new social advertising feature, suggesting there might be privacy implications. While I will need to learn more about specifically how the function works (and how easy it is to opt out), at this point it doesn't seem particularly problematic - assuming individuals have the right to control what information is displayed.
What I am concerned about is the user experience. My research and those of others (e.g. danah on Friending) suggests that there is a wide spectrum of relationships that are included in the typical users list of (SNS) Friends. Do users really wish to learn that someone they met once at a party two years ago and never spoke to again bought a copy of the new Harry Potter? Of course, it depends on how intrusive the information is when presented to the user -- it could be seen as a useful service (the way that some users view the News Feed).
But I do think we'll see more episodes of "facebook survivor" once this feature goes live - people cleaning out their Friends lists so as to cut down on the page clutter. There could be a real benefit to being exposed to new ideas or cultural products being consumed by people who are slightly different from oneself. The whole notion of "bridging social capital" is predicated on this. My sense is that there is a sweet spot - people who are not too different from yourself, but just different enough. If the site allows individuals to tweak their preferences so that they can essentially turn ads into useful recommendations, this could be a huge success for Facebook. But I think it's dangerous to assume that any action by a Facebook "friend" is implicitly a recommendation. The process is more complex that that.

JCMC on social network sites - finally live!

I'm thrilled to announce that the special section of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (JCMC) that danah boyd and I co-edited is finally live! In my opinion there is a nice mix of approaches, sites, and disciplinary frameworks. danah and I wrote an introduction to the section called Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship which we hope will be useful to researchers in this area.

This was definitely a labor of love on our parts and I've jokingly called the issue "my third child." In the year or so it took to put together we went through births, deaths, and everything in between. I loved working with danah and I can honestly say she is the hardest working woman in SNS studies show business.