Archives For November 2007

“Facebook executives say the people who are complaining are a marginal minority. With time, Facebook says, users will accept Beacon, which Facebook views as an extension of the type of book and movie recommendations that members routinely volunteer on their profile pages.”

Why do they think they can get away with that? Because they were able to before. In September 2006, they came out with another horrible idea that was widely criticized: The Facebook Feed. And instead of getting rid of it, or changing course, they semi-apologized and then kept up with it. In the same sentence Zuckerberg claimed to care about the users’ feels and then defended the thing they hated:

…I want to thank all of you who have written in and created groups and protested. Even though I wish I hadn’t made so many of you angry, I am glad we got to hear you. And I am also glad that News Feed highlighted all these groups so people could find them and share their opinions with each other as well.

That is, “I know your mad but we’re staying the course.” And Facebook pretty much got away with it. I know I’ve grown to tolerate the mindless streams of activity coming from my friends–it’s even alerted me of some things I would have missed out on. But it was the worst possible thing that could have happened to Zuckerberg because it lead him to overreach. This is the essence of Boyd’s Loop. Success now leads to failure to tomorrow because it provides borrowed time. It detaches you from reality.

Robert Greene:

“Whatever success you are now experiencing will actually work to your detriment because you will not be made aware of how slowly you are falling behind in the fast transient cycle. You think you are doing just fine. You are not compelled to adapt until it is too late. These are ruthless times.”

Unfortunately, Facebook’s success was based on something that cannot last: Compulsion. “Why would I quit over the Feed? It’s not that annoying and if I left, I’d lose all my data.” But that’s not how it was received by the perpetrator, they heard that they can do whatever they want and after the controversy settles, all is well. And as we see now with the backlash growing, it shows how dangerous getting exactly what you want can be.

Edit: Valleywag, as usual, totally misses the point: “Traffic has more value, at the moment, than user satisfaction.” Umair, does not.

Meditations Pt. 1

November 30, 2007 — 5 Comments

1. People will always root against you. Think of life as a race–do you stop and decipher the cheering? Or do you run through it, and let the noise blur into a solid wall of sound? If you can hear their discouragement, if you are resting long enough for someone to say “I don’t think you can finish,” then you are to blame, not them. Faster, faster, and focus. That is all you have.

Opening Up iTunes

November 29, 2007 — 4 Comments

Why doesn’t iTunes publish download statistics for each song? Amazon should do it too. YouTube does it. You know exactly how many times each video has been seen and what the rest of the world thinks about it. At the slight risk of a false-consensus I know that I tend to be more attracted to videos that have more views. And psychologically, informational cascades significantly alter how attractively people perceive things. Surely some of that is at play here. I am willing to accept that people like Avril Lavigne, but I tend to doubt that that music video drew 62 million views based on her stellar reputation for authenticity. It happened because people tend to like what other people like and the overwhelming choices of others give people a heuristic reference point.

Why not be open with the numbers? Why not remove any suspicion that a spot on the “Top Songs” list could be up for sale? Let’s cut out all the bullshit and just be honest: “This is what sells.” This is, for better or for worse, our culture. And let the contrarians and the cascaders go in which ever direction that they want.

Moves like this totally change the game. A lot of stuff would be disrupted. The New York Times Bestseller list might have to change (here’s why), Billboard would have to change, quarterly reports would have to change–because right now many records ship gold or platinum and then are returned–the whole business would be thrown temporarily for a loop. And those that clung to the old method look like they are hiding something.

It just seems simple: People like data. People make their decisions based on this data. Give it to them.