social media

Facebook Timeline first reactions

I just turned on the new Facebook Timeline as per this howto guide.

I don’t know how much people will use it, but wow, they’ve made memory lane a whole lot richer of an experience. There’s tons of stuff to look back on that I wouldn’t have had thought to document myself.

Also, I was worried that some of the new ways you can share with friends in realtime wouldn’t be implemented effectively. But as soon as I clicked a Spotify “play” action, I was presented with this simple menu:

I was cautious because of Facebook’s previous missteps when sharing data from other services, but it looks like they really understand that people want to make decisions about what to share with whom, and they especially don’t want that decision made for them.

Third party sites and apps that posted things to the Facebook news feed before now were usually limited to just links, or if you had some serious savvy, perhaps some slightly richer media. But there were always rumors and anecdotal experiments which implied that Facebook treated data from third parties like second class citizens, not to be shown as prominently as content posted through Facebook’s own apps. This will clearly change with the new Open Graph and timeline – developers have way more control over how to import their media into Facebook, and can publish third party content to Facebook in a much richer way as well.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but here’s an example that comes to mind: I have a presence on several social networks, but I don’t entrust any of them with the stuff that’s most important to me: my blog and photos. That stuff is so important to me that I host it myself, even when some other companies’ services might provide me a nicer experience or a bigger network of my friends. To compensate for the interaction I lose by putting this stuff on my domain, I use RSS-based tools to post content from ZekeWeeks.com to Twitter, Facebook, and hopefully Google+ soon. But it’s always just a dumb link, perhaps with a thumbnail and an excerpt, whereas my Facebook subscribers would see a rich photo gallery or video if I had decided to put it all in Facebook instead.

Well, no more. With Open Graph, I can choose to exist outside Facebook without sacrificing the rich sharing inside Facebook. I can’t wait to see individuals and groups start taking advantage of this in a way that opens new possibilities to them, instead of locking them into a proprietary platform.

That said, I have no idea how this stuff is going to play out in reality. There are tons of question marks about it still. And Facebook has a huge amount of existing users who may have a trouble with a paradigm shift on an existing network that they’ve already conceptualized in a fixed way.

 

Growing Pains in the Web’s Social Revolution

I’ve observed these two things in last ten years of evolution in the “Social Web:”

  1. The Social Web has made huge changes to the way people express themselves and communicate in their daily lives, generally enhancing connections and making the world a lot smaller.
  2. That very same trend has also created more complexity from the sheer amount of information being shared through social platforms.

The actual nature of what we do in our lives hasn’t changed much; it’s just become so much more public and easily shared with the masses. In person, we can only have so much interaction, due to the limits of time and physical location.  But now technology has removed many of those barriers; we can now blast information to the masses regardless of our location or the availability of a captive, dedicated audience.

Personally, I find that these developments make it a lot harder parse all the information and isolate the stuff I find most relevant. Some of this is because people on the Social Web write for so many different audiences; one person might use Twitter to promote their business, ask people in their industry a question, post pictures of something random that happened, link to a popular meme, or just vent about what they’re feeling at the moment. (Or, God forbid, tell everyone what they had for breakfast.) To that person, it’s all self-expression of things they felt like sharing. But for the follower, it’s totally void of any personalization to deliver the content they personally care about the most. Some of my followers online are people in my industry, and some are friends or family. But they all get the entire stream, and are subject to reading whatever I decide is worth putting in their content stream.

Some of this problem can be solved by making more conscious decisions about the most relevant place to post different content online, or through the creation of more context- or audience-aware social platforms. But more than this, I think our society is just struggling to adapt to a very new kind of communication. As always, the young will find it easiest to adapt, so they will drive the changes before anyone else does.

I don’t know how things will turn out, but I’m pretty sure we’re going through a cultural revolution. A couple of decades from now, social interaction across the world will look very different, and I imagine that will also have serious implications in other spheres- especially world politics and economics.

If you’re a personal branding/social web nerd like me, you will greatly enjoy “The Myth of the Personal Brand,” a guest post on Redhead Writing by Aaron Templer. It raises some interesting questions about the very idea of branding real people instead of companies, and a lot of the commenters bring up really good points as well. (I only recently discovered Redhead Writing and have since encountered quite a few excellent online strategy articles. Highly recommended.)