Tag Archives: mark zuckerberg

“The Social Network” an Antisocial Movie

As a social media user since 1995, and someone who trains others in social media, I’d been wanting to see “The Social Network” for months. Last night, I got my chance.

And I was disappointed. It’s a courtroom drama without drama, a jumbled series of flashbacks seen through testimony in two different lawsuits combined for a single hearing: One from Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss, upper-class preppie twins who came up with a Harvard social networking concept and brought Mark Zuckerberg in as a partner, only to have him modify the concept into Facebook, leaving them behind—and the other by Eduardo Saverin, his best friend and first investor, for cheating him out of his position and his percentage.

The movie begins with the messy breakup that first inspires Zuckerberg to hack into Harvard’s computers and create the original “Facemash,” illegally placing pictures of most of Harvard’s entire student body on a website, and chronicles how this led to the Facebook 750,000,000 of us use today.

I already knew a lot of this backstory and perhaps that colors my dislike of the movie—because it is in fact a fascinating history. It’s well worth a magazine article, and many have been written. But as film, it left a lot to be desired.

While it was (barely) interesting enough to watch to the end, it lacked drama, focused for the most part on unlikable characters (not just Zuckerberg but the Winklevoss twins, Napster founder Sean Parker, and even Harvard’s then-president, Larry Summers in his one scene). The men are scheming crooks, except Saverin—and pretty much all of the women in the film are portrayed largely as brainless bimbos—except, ironically, Erica Albright, the one who breaks up with Zuckerberg at the start of the movie, who he calls a bitch on his blog, but is one character whose motivations are clear and justified.

Facebook Pisses Off Marketers…Again

Memo to Mark Zuberberg: You are not invincible. Facebook did not get to be the top social media network because it was terrific, but only because it’s so much better than MySpace. There’s always been lots of room for improvement, and yet, in the 4 years I’ve been a Facebooker, at least half the changes make it harder to use and/or more intrusive.

And now, with Google+ waiting in the wings, your position is precarious. Just as it did with search, Google provides a qualitatively better user experience; all it needs now is an active and vibrant user base. Meanwhile, Facebook’s user experience just took a serious turn for the worse. Again.

Some of these bone-headed things I just don’t understand, especially when you think about how much of Facebook’s income stream is generated by professional marketers—marketers who have, in many cases, invested significant time and money into their fanpages and their ad campaigns.

  • All of a sudden, the default is NOT to get mail from Facebook. Facebook’s fastest growing demographic segments are 40 and over, and (unlike our children) we, for the most part, don’t spend our entire waking lives on social media. For those accustomed (as I am) to going on Facebook by following an e-mail link, you’ve just cut out much of their viewing time, unless they notice and switch the setting from the default (which I did).
  • Used to be, when you added a friend, you got access to your friend category lists and could add someone to multiple lists with a couple of clicks. Now, it shows just a few. Even clicking “Show All Lists” results in only the first nine choices. I have about 40 categories, in part because of the (idiotic and now finally abandoned, I think) 20-name limit on how many people you could send a notice to at once within a friend category. So for categories where I know a lot of people, like high school buddies, residents of my area, and marketers, I have multiple lists. Now I have no way to put people in the right category unless it’s one of the first nine in my selection. UGH! Google+ got this one right from the very beginning, noting that we have different types of people in our lives, and message/interact with them differently. Mark, do you really think paying my VA to do this simple thing for me is going to add value to my perception of Facebook?
  • Links from e-mails go to unexpected places. Several times, I’ve tried to click on a discussion and end up in my main page. then I have to hunt for the person I’m talking to, figure out where the message history is that day, and waste time. When that happens, the temptation is great to simply not continue the conversation.

Mind you, I’m not criticizing the changes just because they’re new and different (though it does seem that just as we learn how to navigate the latest interface, it shifts again). Some of them improve the experience. I like getting an e-mail with a whole thread worth of posts. I like the ticker. And I like that Facebook quietly introduced the long-sought feature a couple of months ago that allows owners of a fanpage to e-mail their fans (those who’ve clicked Like).

But really, you have to wonder if they’ve ever heard of beta-testing or focus groups over there. In the words of one well-known marketer who posted a comment on my annoyed post, “Google+ here we go!”

Tim O’Reilly & SF Chronicle on Facebook Privacy Changes

Computer guru Tim O’Reilly makes a half-hearted attempt to justify (or at least explain) Facebook’s latest privacy grab. But I find the San Francisco Chronicle’s Bill of Rights for social media users (which O’Reilly quotes at length) much more compelling:

Users have the right to:

1. Honesty: Tell the truth. Don’t make our information public against our will and call it “giving users more control.” Call things what they are.

2. Accountability: Keep your word. Honor the deals you make and the expectations they create. If a network asks users to log in, users expect that it’s private. Don’t get us to populate your network based on one expectation of privacy, and then change the rules once we’ve connected with 600 friends.

3. Control: Let us decide what to do with our data. Get our permission before you make any changes that make our information less private. We should not have data cross-transmitted to other services without our knowledge. We should always be asked to opt in before a change, rather than being told we have the right to opt out after a change is unilaterally imposed.

4. Transparency: We deserve to know what information is being disclosed and to whom. When there has been a glitch or a leak that involves our information, make sure we know about it.

5. Freedom of movement: If we want to leave your network, let us. If we want to take our data with us, let us do that, too. This will encourage competition through innovation and service, instead of hostage-taking. If we want to delete our data, let us. It’s our data.

6. Simple settings: If we want to change something, let us. Use intuitive, standard language. Put settings in logical places. Give us a “maximize privacy settings” button, a and a “delete my account” button.

7. Be treated as a community, not a data set: We join communities because we like them, not “like” them. Advertise to your community if you want. But don’t sell our data out from under us.

[This last sentence is O’Reilly’s and not the Chronicle’s] Everyone is right to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire as long as they fail to meet those guidelines.

Yes, the Chronicle Bill of Rights seems like common sense ethics to me. The problem is that I am not convinced Facebook’s latest privacy grab is even close to meeting these guidelines. Zuckerberg and others can continue to push the frontiers, but they should do it in ways that respect their members.

Personally, I go into the online world with the expectation that there is no privacy. And therefore the specific changes don’t bother me over-much. But as someone who writes about ethics, I have a problem with obtaining consent for one restricted set of behaviors and then wildly expanding it while requiring opt-out (and difficult opt-out at that) rather than opt-in. It’s nothing more than an electronic form of bait-and-switch–something I find unethical and in fact argue against in my latest book on business ethics, Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet (co-authored with Jay Conrad Levinson).

Yet in the video included in the blog, O’Reilly makes a compelling case that Facebook’s privacy failures and the resultant pushback are essential to pushing the frontier, and that a lot of the innovations that seemed to threaten privacy were actually welcomed once people got used to them. O’Reilly says he’s more worried about Apple than Facebook. I, however, worry more about Google (which he also mentions in the video), which owns an extreme amount of personal data and has a very cavalier attitude toward copyrighted material

Will the Facebook Movie Really Hurt Facebook and Zuckerberg?

An article on one of Newsweek’s blogs speculates that a movie scheduled for next October release will deeply hurt Facebook, and particularly the reputation of founder Mark Zuckerberg. the article also mentions Facebook’s much more immediate problems with various privacy and technical issues.

The movie, says the article’s writer, Nick Summers,

…portrays Zuckerberg as a borderline autistic, entirely ruthless conniver. Nothing sways public opinion like a movie—and this scorcher could counteract the entire body of good press Facebook has received till now.

But as a marketer, I’m fascinated that this writer sees the coming movie as having such a huge negative impact, months before it’s even released. Certainly the script does not appear very complementary toward Zuckerberg. But let’s face it: Bill Gates, Jr. was intensely disliked in his decades as Microsoft CEO. He was frequently described in similar terms.

Facebook, like Microsoft, has become far bigger and more important than the emotional health of its founder. And especially since users don’t pay to enjoy Facebook, I don’t see that kind of backlash coming. I believe the enormous utility of Facebook will easily survive blasts on Zuckerberg’s character, just as it has survived the many very valid privacy concerns. There is no such thing as privacy online. Anything you don’t want the world to know should not be posted–on Facebook, your own website, or anywhere else. You’ve been warned.

Is Facebook's New Terms of Use a Naked Rights Grab?

Facebook’s recently adopted Terms of Use are attracting harsh attention in the online world.

Ownership; Proprietary Rights

Except for User Content and Applications/Connect Sites, all materials, content and trademarks on the Facebook Service are the property of Facebook and/or its licensors and are protected by all relevant IP laws and other proprietary rights

OK, no problem so far; user content remains the property of those posting it, and Facebook quite correctly maintains its rights to its own intellectual property. But then a little later, the kicker. An apparent transfer of rights to Facebook, to use your content any way it wants, with no compensation to you.


You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You represent and warrant that you have all rights and permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.

You acknowledge and agree that any questions, comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback or other information that you provide to Facebook (“Submissions”), are non-confidential and non-proprietary. Facebook will be entitled to the unrestricted use of any such Submission for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without acknowledgment or compensation to you.

Say, what? By my reading, this not only gives Facebook the right to sell our content without even telling us, let alone cutting us in on the revenues, but also could be interpreted–it’s a stretch, but lawyers exist as an industry because of these sorts of stretches–as allowing the company the right to use any content that includes a please-link-back utility that includes Facebook.

Writing in The Consumerist, Chris Walters says this means “anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook in any way they deem fit, forever, no matter what you do later.”

As Amazon, Google, and other content platforms have claimed in the past, Facebook responds that it’s just claiming the rights necessary to operate the service:

We are not claiming and have never claimed ownership of material that users upload. The new Terms were clarified to be more consistent with the behavior of the site. That is, if you send a message to another user (or post to their wall, etc…), that content might not be removed by Facebook if you delete your account (but can be deleted by your friend).

Quoted in the Chicago Tribune, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it this way:

We wouldn’t share your information in a way you wouldn’t want,” Zuckerberg said. “The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work.

Still, like those other platforms, this response seems thin and inadequate. Surely a lawyer could easily create language that fully protects Facebook while at the same time making it completely unambiguous that user-posted content belongs to its creators, who are merely providing Facebook the right to display and link to it. Without sublicensing, monetary or other compensation, or other seizure of rights the company doesn’t need.

Meanwhile, I’m not a lawyer (and this is not legal advice), but here’s my gift to the Internet community. I freely grant anyone the right to use or modify the following paragraph (which will be posted to Facebook, since my blog automatically feeds into Facebook notes):

I hereby note that I was not presented with the option to sign or decline Facebook’s February 4, 2009 Terms of Use revision, and that while I allow Facebook to display my content on any page where I post it or on any page where another Facebook user links to it, I do not transfer ownership of my intellectual property, nor do I agree to allow Facebook to relicense or reprint my content outside these uses without my approval. I am willing to negotiate licensing and revenue-sharing agreements with Facebook, but I explicitly do not grant blanket permission.