Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Facebook Inbox

Looking over my shoulder, Maya glances at the number of unread messages in my Facebook Inbox. "How do you have so many?" she asks. "Those aren't real messages from people." I say. And they aren't. As far as I am concerned, FB Inbox is not a real inbox.

I have two real inboxes: my personal gmail box ( is Gmail) and my work mailbox which sits somewhere on the servers in my office where people named Alex can find it.

FB as it is designed now can never be a real mailbox for the following reasons:
  • No forwarding of messages.
  • No filing, tagging or archiving of messages.
  • No searching messages or senders.
  • No saving, backup or export of messages.
As far as I am concerned, the bottom line of this is that my messages in FB belong to FB, not to me. I'm pretty sure FB feels the same, considering the lighthanded way they can choose to simply discontinue their service at any time and you have no way to protect yourself by using an export or backup function. You can't even export your contacts.

I know some people use FB for real and even business/professional messages. I don't get it, but it's their funeral. I use my FB mailbox as a toy. My Inbox has invitations to events, messages from groups and fan pages, etc. Every now and again a friend writes me on my FB inbox, and I almost always answer them using my gmail account, so I have a gmail record and they will start using real mail to speak to me.

The main advantage of FB is you can send mail to anyone, even people you don't know. The main disadvantage of FB is anyone, even people you don't know, can send mail to you. I have found numerous business contacts through FB, and I have not sent them business email through that methodology. Either I come up with their business email legitimately (pretty easy to do, actually), or I don't write. As far as I am concerned, people are on FB for fun, and the last thing they want is to have people accosting them at the playground to do business. My FB inbox is just a playground. If you want to be serious with me, find me somewhere else.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why would anyone watch me?

It suddenly hit me how bizarre the discussion on privacy is, after reading a blog by Steve Smith on how delighted he is that he's finally getting targeted advertising.

Regardless of where you stand on the privacy issue, the fact is that a great deal is known about us. Our browsers and web sites track where we've been (though our ISPs are forbidden from doing so). Our credit card companies know where we've been or what we've bought. Our supermarkets and pharmacies, if we have a frequent-buyer card, know to a high level of granularity exactly what we've bought. Our cell phones know where we are located, so in theory, our cell phone company knows at a minimum where we've been roaming to, but also in theory, who our friends are and how long we spend talking with them. Our employers can track our computer activity and know what we did on our computer all day long.

All of the above is for people who don't use things like Twitter, Facebook, Pandora, Skype, Plaxo, or instant messaging. If you use any of those, in theory, someone knows a lot more. In that case, potentially, anyone could know who your friends or colleagues are, what music you like, what parties you go to, and what you ate for breakfast this morning.

For most of us, that's at least a bit disturbing. For many of us, it's even intrusive or creepy. Most of us don't want to think too much about what could be done with that level of information, if it indeed could be made sense of (not trivial at all).

The sad, indeed, pathetic, part is that the only thing our society can think of to do with all that data is to sell us more stuff. Most of the privacy debate revolves around varying levels of outrage of what corporations are going to do with that data, what they are going to advertise to us, and how intrusive they will be in their marketing efforts. Now, I don't know about you, but I have a feeling I will be seing more, not less advertising in the future, and if it's going to be brash, at least let it be for feminine hygiene products and not for prostate treatments. (Either you agree with me on that one or feel just the opposite, as the case may be.) If it's not going to brash, let it be about ice cream and not cars (again, your taste may vary).

But back to my point.

What does it say about us that the only thing we can think of to do with personal data is to monetize it? Some of us are aware of how to use that data for the greater good, but at best, the implementaitons are marginal.

What does it say about us that our opposition to using personal data is revolved around corporations wanting to monetize it? Some of us are aware it could be used to really harm us or for our government (or someone else's government) to keep tabs on us, and we certainly oppose that, but it isn't the dominant conversation.

Yes, it is frightening that corporations own so much information about me personally.
But to me, it's even more frightening that we are living in a society where the primary, if not only, meaure of the worth of anything is in dollars.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

War and Social Networking

I'm sure most of you have noticed that I've been living in a war zone for the last 3 weeks. Personally, the effects aren't major; the war is a hundred miles south of me and it's more-or-less business as usual in my life. I'm not going to write about that. As usual, what I'm going to write about is social media.

Some of my colleagues have made huge efforts to support Israel through various online media. I assume the other side also has its supporters doing the same, obviously not from the Gaza strip, because getting online is a problem, but they have their supporters outside the strip. I've gotten email from various international charities supporting humanitarian efforts, as well.

Before I go into the war specifically, let me be clear that social media and the internet have made an enormous contribution to the non-profit world and to do-gooders everywhere. The most obvious and successful examples are Kiva and One, but there are many, many more. I do not for a moment place doubt on the power of the digital media.

However, the digital and social media world isn't going to win the war. It isn't going to impact the war. It doesn't matter one byte, and these are the reasons:

  1. War consists of things like killing people and destroying stuff. Your blog and youtube video are all nice, but they will neither destroy more stuff nor prevent stuff from being destroyed.

  2. Your blog and youtube video aren't going to change anyone's opinion. That includes this blog. The sides are so far apart, and almost everyone following the news on this subject has an opinion already, so forget it. If you like watching videos of soldiers either helping or shooting guys on the other side, you will find videos to your taste. If you don't want to hear the other side's opinion (the most likely scenario), you won't watch those videos.

  3. It could be argued that being bombarded with this much media desensitizes us to it. I don't know about that, but personally it just makes me sick, so I avoid it.

  4. I know this will shock everyone (not!) but you know those online polls asking whether you support Israel or the Palestinians? They don't actually influence the results. They don't actually influence international opinion either. The only thing they represent is how fast Jews can pass along email as opposed to how fast Arabs can pass along email. Since I think we all know the answer to that question, you don't have to feel any obligation to cast your vote in those anymore.

  5. And finally, the reason that social media won't win the war is that the concept of winning the war is an oxymoron. It just isn't conceivable to me that killing people and destroying stuff is "winning". I mean, it's measurable, and that's all good and fine, and we definitely got a higher "score" on destroying stuff, but what kind of "win" is that? We're going to end up paying for putting it back together, directly or indirectly, so it's a little ridiculous.

  6. Moreover, the huge amount of media attention is counterproductive, in particular to Israel. Israel is constantly complaining how it gets the short end of the stick, how it is accused unfairly of atrocities, etc. Ya know, it would help if we would just shut our traps for a while. The more we talk, the more we get other people to talk about it. We say "when x country committed worse crimes, nobody said anything..." Yeah, because they knew how to shut their traps. We just can't shut up, and then we complain how the world looks at us with a magnifying glass. Honestly, keeping our traps shut would serve us a lot better than trying to win a war of words. Nobody can measure that, anyway.

It's been common knowledge for a long time that this kind of war doesn't solve anything. The conflict will be resolved through negotiation, if at all. Meanwhile, the debates in the social media are counter productive. It really doesn't matter who is right, or who is horrid, who is generous, who is winning, or who did what to whom first. It happens to matter who is dead and what is destroyed, because the more dead and the more destroyed, the less chance to reach a compromise both sides can live with. It also matters that we spend our time accusing others and justifying ourselves instead of working towards something productive.

I'm not saying the other side is right. I'm saying, it doesn't matter who is right because we are both losing and we are using old-fashioned metrics to try and prove that we aren't.

It's about time we took responsibility for our words and actions in the social media, and stopped thinking in terms of "winning the war of words". It's completely irrelevant. Save your breath and your bytes and start thinking of how to say, do, and post something that could bring about a solution in the future rather than describe misdeeds of the past.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


It's been a long time since I blogged, for two main reasons:

  • I have a new job at a cool startup and it's keeping me busy.
  • I have given some thought about where I want this blog to go, and it wasn't clear to me yet.

While the state of social media is still of some interest, at this point it's way overblogged. Anyone following the blogs of Chris Brogan or Jeff Pulver will get that they have started to run a bit thin on material that specifically talks about social networking. Like any technology, at first there were lots of new and cool things happening, and now it's just kind of a part of life.
Also, regarding social media, I use it more and more as part of my daily life. As a marketing tool, it's unbelievably effective in getting me where I want to go. However, I am not at liberty to talk too much about what I am doing at my company, at least not on a weekly basis.
So, the blog is going to morph a bit.
First of all, I'll add a bit more about my personal life and adventures, including my personal use of social media and some of the fun stuff I get to do in my job. Secondly, I'll talk about marketing in general, and social media and community will be part of that.
Secondly, I am writing the company blog at AdsVantage. Since the company is in the area of ratings and advertising, it should be of interest to those of you who are following me because I talk about marketing. For those of you who are following me because I have a sense of humor, you may be out of luck. Or not. For those of you who just like me, the intention is that this blog will be a bit more fun and a bit less business, and that I will continue to update every week.
And for those of you who are concerned about "the situation": I am safe, life is pretty much business as usual, and there is some chance I will blog about it in the coming week.