Is Facebook trying too hard?

Gina Trapani - Smarterware
I read a Twitter post by @smarterware quoting Joe Moon’s article on Facebook’s New Timeline Feature (here who draws an analogy/parallel between Facebook and the wedding photographer. Both add value to the “events” of our lives however, as Jo points out, there becomes a point where the “event” begins to change and be adjusted by the wedding photographer who is permitter more and more authority to change the wedding. “Stand over here”. “Let’s wait a few minutes until the sun comes out” and so on. All the time the wedding photographer has the brides best interest at heart – we hope – and all the more the wedding photographer is making our important day according to their schedule and their values. Is Facebook doing the same as the wedding photographer? Is Facebook trying too hard?

@JeffJarvis has insight into these kinds of things and has led me to create a theory: that people, groups of people that is, do not inherently want to be organised. They want to self-organise. I believe that Facebook is beginning to do what governments do, and people resist; they organise us. There is a point where Facebook and the wedding planner begin to ruin the wedding. There is a place where governments start to ruin the country they are governing. We only have to look at the economy at the moment to see that.

Jeff often asks the question (such as in his book, “What Would Google Do?”) “What business are you in?” Is Google in the search business or the advertising business. Is Yahoo an Internet company or an Entertainment company. Jeff would say, for example, that the G is in the advertising business. Facebook, according to yours truly, is in the advertising business too, however my observation is that Facebook eloquently organises our social lives for us and for that we give them our eyeballs, our time and our information. Google on the other hand gives eloquence to information predominately, not society. Not yet anyway. Google organises our websites, our emails, our calendar. Facebook organises our friends.

That is why I see Google having a much harder time at launching a social network. They’re DNA is to eloquently organise data and to add value to that data. Facebook eloquently organises our social lives and adds value to that. The wedding planner eloquently organises our memories and adds value to that. Being a search engine Google is not built to create social networks, hence the complete, embarrassing failure of Wave, and Buzz, to name a few.

We – the people – want Facebook to give eloquence to our social lives. To our data – but not to organise us. In the same way that we do not want Google to have too much information – too much power – we don’t want Facebook to have too much power over our social lives. When Facebook starts to divide and create borders around not only our data but our friendships, our groups, they have crossed the line. They are trying too hard. They have become a government.

Now this is not a post about predicting an exodus from Facebook. Far from it. There are too many barriers to exit. (See Porters 5 Forces). This is an observation that the business Facebook is in is organising people. Jeff Jarvis once wrote that Google “eloquently organises information” making it useable and valuable in a way that advertisers are happy to pay for.

As the people of the world give freely and willing information that governments drool over they need to take the warning that we – the people – do not want to be organised.

Bill of Rights in Cyberspace, amended


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