The Facebook Lesson

22-year-old Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg delivered the lesson of the year to college (and some high school) campuses nationwide on Tuesday when he unveiled a revamped version of his superpopular, 2-year-old social networking Web site Facebook.com. The addition of a time-stamped “mini-feed” on each member’s page detailing their Facebook mentions and activities has sparked an uproar (that’s the WSJ’s word) as Generation C is slapped with a reality check: there are no secrets on the Internet.

The Washingon Post bumped the issue to page A01, declaring:

Such a strong reaction in defense of privacy is rare among the teenage and twenty-something generation, which grew up in the era of public disclosure in the form of blogs, videosharing and reality television.

But no longer can Paris Hilton sneak away from a DUI arrest without TMZ on her tail and never again will a Swift Boat hoax turn the tide on an election. Everything is out on the table, and practically everyone is watching. Future presidents are already leaving their paper trail on sites like Facebook. I must congratulate Zuckerberg for providing the 9 million mostly college students who use Facebook the opportunity to look in the mirror and see firsthand just what happens when post content, photos and personal information is posted haphazardly on the Internet. Who knows his true intentions — there is clearly no privacy violated in making it easier for users to read and create the content they signed up for. Tech marketing guru Ed Kohler agrees. So does VC Fred Wilson.

In March, Zuckerberg turned down a $750 million buyout offer and told BusinessWeek he thought Facebook was worth at least $2 billion. 85% of all college students use Facebook, according to TechCrunch, which has prompted university officials to state: “we’ve got alot of catching up to do” as far as keeping tabs on their students. It just got a bit easier — and to be honest, anyone on Facebook could have already been kept track of using RSS.

I spoke to several undergrads today in an Investigative Reporting class and most were shaken by the turn of events. Very few if any in the 14-person class had used MySpace, flickr, or even del.icio.us. But they all use Facebook. The student editors of the Daily Trojan penned a column this week echoing the Facebook wake-up-call: “[B]eyond this lies a simple issue of privacy: How much of your most personal information do you want accessible to anyone who goes, or went, to USC?”

More than anything else, the Facebook lesson helps define how important issues of privacy and of checks and balances on information sharing are as we move forward in the digital age.

UPDATE: Dave Winer chimes in: “Facebook did good. But Facebook also did bad..
More:
A Day Without Facebook protest blog
Facebook User Groups: Students for Changing the Post Mini-Feed World, The Coalition to Stop Facebook, Stalker Edition
USAToday blog asks: “Has Facebook turned into Big Brother?”
IvyLeak: “WSJ Sends Embedded Journalists to Cover Impending Facebook Coup”

Webzines: The Birth of e-Cit. Journalism

Thumbing through Chicago Magazine, of all things, I found an excellent article (written by David Bernstein) profiling Jamie Kalven, son of a prominent First Amendment scholar who found himself fighting his own press-rights battle this summer as the first Chicago-area journalist to be served a subpoena by the City of Chicago in recent history.

Since 2001, Kalven has published the Webzine “View From the Ground,” a fine collection of journalism that should have been — but never was — published in the mainstream media.

Kalven has been documenting his observations and those of the residents of Stateway Gardens, arguably the most decrepit of South Side projects and at this point almost completely torn down. He has not been shy about openly criticizing gang or police conduct, most notably the conduct of a group of plainclothes officers known as the Skullcaps.

Now that a case charging members of the Skullcaps has gone to court, city attorneys subpoenaed Kalven for his notes, which he is protesting on First Amendment grounds. In July, a judge denied the motion for Kalven to submit his papers.

Coincidentally (or, perhaps not) as many as 8 elite Special Operations officers stripped of their powers this week, reportedly for involvement in various thefts in and around Stateway Gardens.

An investigation into a corrupt police force in Chicago? Who woulda thunk?
This is a great story, the only must-read I’ve ever seen in Chicago Mag to be honest — also highly recommended is Kalven’s “Webzine,” View From the Ground.

Netscape Buys Into the Social-Bookmarking Pyramid

Jason Calcanis, CEO of Weblogs, Inc. and now heading up the “new” Netscape.com announced the first 10 Netscape “Navigators”:

We’ve hired three of the top 12 DIGG users, the #1 user from Newsvine, the #1 user from Reddit, and a bunch of Weblogs, Inc. folks…

If nothing else, this is a smart PR move in that it calls out the growing masses of Digg / Newsvine / Reddit users early in the game, before there is a hands-down go to socially-bookmarked news portal. Digg, arguably the industry leader in this field has only been around since December 2004 after all.

Perhaps this is the safest and smartest way to go — we shall see — but many people who felt they caught the early wave on the revamped Netscape portal will surely be bummed to know that these selections were based on these numbers: 60% of Digg’s front page content is from the top 0.03% users.

Richard MacManus is not surprised by the imbalance of digg-posting wealth. But I must wonder if Digg will be at all affected negatively and whether or not Netscape will truly benefit from bringing the formerly faceless top Diggers on board.

It’s probably a good idea for portals driven by social bookmarking to hire talented aggregators, but why must Netscape be so non-organic in doing so? In going head-to-head with Digg (and its publisher, John Battelle’s Federated Media), the era of Netscape vs. the World (1994-~2003) is clearly dead.


P.S. I’m also a bit curious as to why the screenshot on the page explaining the new Netscape features photos of both Donald Rumsfeld and Ann Coulter…. jus’ wonderin’ 😉

Pew: Nearly 50 Million Create Own Web Content

Another great study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The Technology & Media Use report discloses that while “adoption of high-speed internet at home grew twice as fast in the year prior to March 2006 than in the same time frame from 2004 to 2005,” nearly 50 million Americans have posted their own content to the web.

At GigaOm, Robert Young believes that MySpace and other social-networking hubs are the primary reason for the uptick in user-generated content:

To some extent, self-expression should be viewed as a new industry, one that will co-exist alongside other traditional media industries like movies, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines. But in this new industry, the raw materials for the ?products? are the people?

The Pew report also points out the disappearing digital divide. More web postings are generated from within household’s under the $50,000 income threshold, than above it.

VoIP set-ups like Skype and municipal broadband projects taken on by the likes of Earthlink are also breaking down big-money barriers to broadband.

ANTI-social networking sites

TechCrunch points to two much-needed services in the over-congested world of online-networking:

Isolatr isn’t a real service, but it should be. Sean Bonner of Metroblogging created the site, which promises to “help you find where other people aren’t”. For bonus content, check out the FAQs (every answer is “no”). I love the attention to detail, like calling it a beta service, leaving the “e” out of the name and adding fake quotes from Doc Searls and Xeni Jardin.

Chris Pirillo has been asking for something like this (but real) for ages. Valleywag has more.

Bryant Choung’s Snubster is an actual, live service. It helps you notify people, and the world, that you are pissed off at someone. The “On Notice” feature tells them that they have committed an “infraction” and are in a suspension period. If they really screw up, you can state that they are “Dead to Me”. Each user has a profile (example) where they can get into the juicy details. The only question I have is, why is there an “e” before the “r” in the snubster name?

Add to this list, Memeorandum‘s just-launched gossip-tracking buzzblog WeSmirch.