Too much face(book) time

Here’s the problem. For me, anyway.

I believe the Net is an open place. Same with the Web.

I also believe private walled gardens on the Web are fine things. Nothing wrong with them.

My problem is when the former starts looking and acting like the latter. And that’s why I’m already tired of Facebook. The “friend request” list (top item to the left there) is one I’ve whittled down from a much higher number. If I could gang-whittle them, I might be more interested, but the routine still involves declining to check off which of many different ways I met somebody (“both owned the same dog”, “set up by a mutual ex-boss” or whatever), and other time-sucks. Not to mention that the site takes many seconds to load, or to bring up email, or whatever. At least for me.

The big challenge for Facebook, as it has been for AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and everybody else who ever ran a walled garden, is to make their “platform” something that sits on the Net and the Web, not something that substitutes for it. Facebook’s mail, for example, is a substitute. If there’s a way I could get Facebook mail with my IMAP or POP client, I’d rather do that. (Can you, by the way? I doubt it, but I dunno.)

Anyway, lif’e’s too short, and this list of stuff is too long. If you’re waiting for me to respond to a poke or an invitation,or a burp or any of that other stuff, don’t hold your breath. Or take offense. I’ve got, forgive me, better things to do.

This entry was posted in Future, problems, VRM. Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Too much face(book) time

  1. Terry Heaton says:

    Doc, I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m not nearly as popular as you are — and the only reason I really signed up was because my kids were there — so my “request” box isn’t as loaded as yours. Nevertheless, I’ve been “requested” by lots of people I don’t know, and who wants to be a jerk and reject an outstretched hand?

    But what I loathe about Facebook most is the one-to-many aspects of the platform. Every thing I do on the site is logged, to be used as a vehicle for some smart marketer to snag me. Facebook Flyers is a great advertising mechanism, but I don’t socialize to receive unwanted messages. Moreover, I’m repelled by hype, and I think the general love affair that traditional media has had with Facebook reminds me of Second Life, another place that doesn’t need me.

  2. Karl says:

    I really believe in this myself, as Shelley Powers just posted to her blog “We are the Platform” – and the companies that figure out how, instead of trying to ‘capture’ users – and instead empower them – will be the successful ones.

  3. gabe says:

    Completely agreed. I used to have accounts on all the major social networking sites, but then I came to the same conclusion you seem to have come to. They are too much of a time sink. Not only that, but just like AOL they are “Like the real internet, only crappy.” No thanks. If my friends really want to get in touch with me, I’m not hard to find. Good Stuff.

  4. warren says:

    I don’t find it too overwhelming. But that is coming from the perspective of a slightly more ‘normal’ facebook user. I almost never get pings from folks I don’t know.

    I suppose that those of us who are lucky enough to be more anonymous/less famous, can exercise more control over how much of a time-suck it should be.

  5. Mark Mayhew says:

    Facebook, when you weight the good against the bad, is not a bad site. (Time suck? Exactly how long does it take to delete/ignore?!)

  6. One reason why Facebook wants you to individually select on the invites is to state a relationship, thus making the metadata on their social graph information much richer –thereby more accurate for advertising.

  7. Doc Searls says:

    Jeremiah, I know why Facebook wants that information. That still doesn’t make it okay with me. It’s a pain in the ass.

    Here’s the thing. I would gladly pay not to get advertising on Facebook. That’s what I do with my Flickr Pro account, and it works just fine. I put a lot of time and value into Flickr. Close to 17,000 photos, so far. That’s value for both of us.

    If Facebook drew a line in the sand now, and said “this is our base feature set”, and created a pro level that had no advertising, they’d not only make more money from more people, but would have real relationships with real “members”, and far better intelligence from, and about, those members as well.

    Buty they’re an advertising company. We’re the product. The real customers are advertisers. And in the long run, that model is broken.

  8. Doc Searls says:

    Warren, it’s not about being “famous”. Having hundreds of “friends” is not fame. Fame is not being able to walk down the street without being recognized and oggled at. It’s not being able to use the likes of Facebook at all, because you’ve made a faustian bargain that excludes you from normality. I’m just a somewhat well-known blogger. That’s a long way from being famous.

    My main problem with Facebook is that it seems to want to be yet another online service. An AOL, a Prodigy or an MSN. The main differences are that they’re funded by advertising and that they’re basically β€” though far from entirely β€” Net-native. Still, they’re a walled garden, almost to the degree that they’re a substitute for the Web.

    I’m an old guy. I went through that with Compuserve, Delphi, The Well, Prodigy, AOL… I can’t even remember all of them. At this point, my attitude is, “If they’ve got lock-in, I ain’t interested.” To its credit, Facebook isn’t all about lock-in. But the locks are there.

    And yes, it isn’t a total time suck. But there’s enough suckage there to discourage me. I do have other uses for my time. Like, I’d much rather be replying to comments here.

  9. warren says:

    Yes.. I totally agree about the ‘lock in’ bit. It is frustrating.

    Re: ‘fame’: Maybe I picked the wrong word, but you are still more ‘known’ than most folks. That’s all I was pointing to as the reason for the deluge of pokes etc.. The web seems to be fast becoming that ‘street’ where you (personally) are recognized for the contribution you make – for better or worse.

    p.s. I also refuse to ‘bite chumps’.


  10. Hi Doc. I like your example of Facebook. the problem with most social network services is that they all build their own walled gardens. To monetize it using ads they then proceed to ad value to this network, each building their own versions of exisiting services. Then they start increasing ad pressure to leverage this network (which is build by the users btw).
    This won’t work. It doesn’t provide me any value as a user as I am forced to change my communication habits and get harassed by ads. Rolf Skyberg wrote a nice post about that and he predicts users will pay in the end to network.
    I just made a fool out of myself predicting that the countdown for the downfall of Facebook has started, as they are revealing their advertisement strategy now (which includes using social graph information). Good move for the advertisers and towards potential investors of Facebook, bad move towards the facebook user:

  11. seo blog says:

    facebook is still good s compare to other social sites.

  12. doc –

    i like facebook for birthdays and for scrabble. those are both activities that you can do 1x/day and not have it overwhelm.

    I wish there was a facebook client for status update messages that seamlessly integrated those events into the same sort of client that twitterific is, the obtrusive but easily hidable sidebar.


  13. Jim says:

    I feel bad for friend requesting you after seeing you speak at DIDW. Thanks for accepting though! On a lighter note your post reminded me of a funny post from fake steve yesterday “And here comes Facebook which scares the crap out of Google because they’re roping off a huge chunk of the Internet and keeping it to themselves; and word is the Borg is definitely going to get into bed with Faceberg and won’t be deterred based on ridiculously high prices.”

  14. Doc Searls says:


    We don’t need Facebook for that, but what the hell. I’ll get on there and plow through the other requests, too. Eventually.

    seo blog, I agree that Facebook is good, whether or not you compare it to other sites. But that doesn’t mean that Fake Steve Jobs isn’t right when he says they’re roping off a huge chunk of the Internet and keeping it to themselves. (Thanks for the pointer, Jim.)

    They aren’t really, any more than Google is. But as long as people act as though the Net nothing more than a collection of walled gardens, rather than the planet those grdens grow on, we’ll have that misperception. And I don’t want to support thart.

  15. Your problem is you don’t want a date. It’s really dumb and it looks like a dating service for losers. I joined to find out what it’s about and now I need someone to help me quit….
    Diane Francis

  16. webSwarm says:

    Consider a framework that permits users to swirl around the internet, tied to each other by whim and interest, easily hopping over the so-called “walls” of gardens..

    why be bound to WebSites when you can join a WebSwarm, which spans many sites and services (as many as can be supported with APIs coded-for, XML consumed, etc..), and spits out as much data as clients want

    I’m trying to build this, but I’m only one dude

  17. Doc, I am glad you wrote this. I don’t like Facebook for three reasons: 1) as you say, it is a walled garden, and to look at a page you are forced to divulge who you are and register. 2) they have you click “I have read and understood…” for a contract which takes me thirty minutes to read and college level reading skills to understand. 3) they take ownership of all content generated. I and my lab Minciu Sodas are founding members of the new European Union thematic network for the Public Domain. We are the forum for developing the EUs policy on the Public Domain. It is likely that we will be hosting in April, 2008 a workshop in Vilnius, Lithuania on Ethical Public Domain: Debate of Questionable Practices. I hope that Facebook sends somebody to debate these practices. Perhaps we can come to a friendly agreement or understand their position. Otherwise, they may wake up to find a law, guideline or evaluation in Europe restricting or discouraging their behavior. See for more about my proposed workshop.

  18. Ryan Miller says:

    I think Facebook has an opportunity to give users a greater degree of control over their environment. The grouping feature, which will inevitably be released, will provide a new layer of control to users with information/friend overload. The existence and popularity of applications like “top friends” is a testament to the need for people to assign tiers to their social network. Really, I don’t care if someone I met 2 years ago and no longer speak with is battling a Ninja. Facebook needs to a) allow the grouping of friends so information flow becomes more relevant and b) continue optimizing the default newsfeed settings so the average user doesn’t get driven away. I actually think the latter is more important, since a lot of users aren’t going to bother spending a lot of time tweaking newsfeed settings, grouping users, etc..

  19. william says:

    1. You are not a share cropper- Break the chains
    2. Be a rebel
    3. Change the game
    4. Believe in the possibilities
    5. Do good
    6. At “Open” means-
    1. Whenever possible using Open Source applications
    2. Whenever possible offering the hosted use of these applications free of charge to members
    3. Always writing code using existing Open Source standards that are not proprietary or owned by a company ie (Face Book and the rest)
    4. Empowering the community (Individuals, Groups, Non Profits, and Companies) with tools that help them to save time and resources
    5. Evening the playing field
    6. Giving back to the community
    7. Giving back to Open Source
    8. You control all access of your account
    9. You control all access to your content
    7. You have the right to control the conversations that you have with Companies
    1. You have the right to choose the who, what, when, and where of this conversation
    2. Companies must contribute to the community before they can be included in any conversation
    3. Whenever possible the entire community should benefit from these conversations
    8. You control your account –
    1. We will never give your personal data to any third parties without your permission
    2. You have control over who has access to your profile information
    3. You have control over who has access to your content
    4. At anytime you are free to delete your account
    5. When you delete your account it is cleared from our Database

  20. Mohi says:

    Excellent write-up! Facebook is still number 1 among social networking sites; undoubtedly. The facilities and features provided to users are also great and unique. I must say, Go on Facebook! πŸ™‚



  23. Pingback: Doc Searls Weblog · Gain of face

  24. Matt Wutzke says:

    Ever since Facebook opened their registration to everyone, my sister and many others have encouraged me to sign up. As a result of my useless Myspace experience, I never saw value in signing up for another social service that provided little-to-no professional benefit.

    To get to the point of this story, I never thought I would say this, but I finally signed up for Facebook and have to say that I have been VERY impressed.

  25. Even Lund says:

    I couldn’t agree more on what you are saying about facebook. I like the way facebook gives me the opportunity to get a sneak peek into peoples lives and get informed of important activities, but life is way to short to waste on answering requests for playing poker.

  26. Viktor Petersson says:

    It should (at least in theory) be possible to write a Facebook IMAP proxy/bridge using the API. I’ve outlined the basic ideas here:

    I’d love if someone took on the task and open source’d it =)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *