Comments: Trashing Our Social Relationships (with Porn) to Get Your Numbers Up

Thanks for sending a link to your post.

You seem to be putting in the same bucket Slide's applications, with which you have had some of the issues you are listing, and some of the applications that were developed by students of the Stanford course. Some of the applications that were developed there might be dubbed trivial, but for most the goals were to put in place some of the viral distribution theory that they learnt through the course, and not any specific retention. So calling these guys "clueless" is unjustified and excessive IMHO. Especially given the fact that the few I had the pleasure to meet socially in a few occasions were actually pretty smart.

As to the social abuse, Facebook and the other players are putting in place some limitations following the feedback of their users. I see the space maturing to a point where "worst offenders" will be duly penalized and useful applications will still be able to benefit from the opportunity of a truly viral distribution. Because of their usefulness, not by tricking people.

Posted by Jeff Clavier at March 7, 2008 04:39 PM

Hi Jeff,
You are right that the stanford guys are different than the slide guys. Of course. But I was trying to get across why I thought the description from you of what they did worried me: 5 million app installs in 5 days is astounding. But also worrisome in light of what's been going on.

I agree with iterative development generally.. especially in pull-situations where a user goes to a site and "gets info." But when users share all their friends, and the iteration is with their relationships, developers have to be super careful.

Maybe, it's a lab that's needed so that all these different features, with large sets of people in various configs, is what's needed.

I don't see testing on us and our relationships as a great thing, considering how obtuse the tests on us have already been.


Posted by mary hodder at March 7, 2008 05:01 PM

I thought that Mary's comments and example were insightful at the Supernova / Wharton event, and this writeup elaborates nicely.

People, including me, got so excited at how fast an "application" can gain traction and spread on Facebook. For someone whose origins are in the embedded software world, with its two year+ cycle from product development to shipping product, it seemed like utopia had arrived.

However, when you look more closely, this turns out to be more like the excitement over the ability to reach large numbers of people via email. Remember the excitement of your first email account, and the ability to send mail to your whole circle of friends and family at once? Then we got chain letters, and the concomitant accelerated speed of the spread of urban legends, followed by the I Love you virus, ending with the deluge of spam that we endure daily. In an un-regulated environment where the recipients of spam bear the cost of the spam, Gresham's Law rules and the bad drives out the good. Facebook seems like it is headed the same way, and the people who know better are helping them kill the golden goose. To finish out the Malapropisms, when you have too many viruses in the herd, the herd either dies out or evolves an immunity to the virus. I'm recovering from my Facebook virus.

I'm sure there is money to be made in spam, but I would think that those smart folks could figure out better ways to make money that leave them able to look at themselves in the mirror in the morning.

Posted by Tim at March 7, 2008 10:53 PM