Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the inbox… here comes Facebook

by Ron on January 4, 2010

Getting Things Done: The Inbox
Image by Trinity via Flickr

Guest post by Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier

Most people have learned, by now, that it’s bad Netiquette to forward every little joke, picture, or whatnot to every person they know. It’s OK to forward those cute bunny pictures to the friends who will appreciate them, but just because your dentist is in your address book it doesn’t mean he or she needs to see it. But it took years before not sending mindless forwards was the cultural norm. Now Facebook, more than other social media sites, has become the new mindless forward.

Every application on Facebook seems to require access to my data, and every time you “become a fan” of something, Facebook wants you to spam everyone on your contact list so that people spend the maximum amount of time on Facebook being fans of things and using applications inside Facebook’s walled garden.

Maybe I’m a grouch, or maybe I’m connected to too many people (or both) but a few weeks ago my tolerance for getting suggestions to “become a fan” of things wore out. Maybe it was the small number of really persistent people who kept asking me to be a fan of things I already ignored. Maybe it was being asked to be a fan of completely irrelevant crap.

I know I ignored a few things I would have originally “fanned” just because I was getting too many damn requests. Whatever it was, I’m as sick of seeing “become a fan” as I was sick of seeing “FWD” in my inbox ten years ago. No, Bill Gates isn’t going to give $1 for every time an email is forwarded, and no, I don’t want to be a fan of “WIN NOW 10.000 FVCASH AND BUY EVERYTHING YOU WANT!EXCLUSIVE ZYNGA PROMOTION.”

I understand the give and take of building a “sticky” site and trying to make a business out of getting people’s attention. I fully respect sites like Twitter that strike a balance between providing a useful service and trying to build an audience that will enable a business model. (Whatever Twitter’s actual business model ever ends up being…) But Facebook is well over that line. The new privacy rules and the model of encouraging users to spam their friends and applications that want access to my data and hooks into my profile just to work…

Social media sites should be tools to enrich our real lives. Facebook can be used that way, but the site itself is geared to abuse of personal data and attention. Email’s functionality has been marred by intentional misuse by spammers. Facebook’s flaw is not only abuse by hostile parties — though it has a few of those as well — but that its very design is almost user-hostile. It actively encourages bad Netiquette and overreaching of personal data.

Surely Facebook could do better. Or maybe it’s time for someone to invent a more user-friendly site that encourages good Netiquette, conservative data access policies, and simpler and saner privacy policies.

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News, Linux.com, UnixReview.com, IBM developerWorks, and many others.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Don Marti January 4, 2010 at 6:28 pm

So go use Twitter and LinkedIn if you want connections and messaging without the games. Telling Facebook to cut back on stupid apps would be like telling MySpace to limit the “bling.”

2 Penny Keller April 30, 2010 at 1:48 am

Hey I received a bunch of money and gas from farmvilleand i haven’t received none of it why please help me. Thanks Penny Keller

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