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December 24, 2011

Facebook: still stupid
Posted by Patrick at 10:32 AM *

I deleted my Facebook account a couple of years ago when it began to seem like their bad faith was never-ending. But increasingly I’ve had second thoughts. I have friends and relatives who are mostly active on Facebook and nowhere else. An increasing number of web services (Spotify, for instance) require you to have a Facebook login in order to create an account. And I’m not worried about my personal privacy for the simple reason that I would never in a million years put anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want world-readable. I recognize entirely that if you’re not paying for a web service, you’re not the customer, you’re the product, and I’m appropriately vigilant on both the social and the technical fronts. When you get right down to it, I use hardware and software tools made by Google, Apple, and Microsoft despite the fact that those organizations have all done foolish and abusive things at one time or another.

So this morning I created a new Facebook account, set myself up as “friends” with a few people, then started clicking my way through the long list of other people Facebook suggested I might know, sending “friend” requests to some of them. About five or ten minutes into this process, at Facebook’s suggestion, I sent such a request to Jane Yolen.

Facebook responded by tossing a warning across my browser window asking me to confirm that I know Jane personally, and warning me that I mustn’t send friend requests to people I don’t know.

Since I’ve known Jane for over twenty years, been an overnight guest at her homes in two countries, traveled across the Scottish Highlands with her along with our respective spouses, been the in-house editor on award-winning novels by her, had a short story published in an anthology she edited, published (in Starlight 1) a story by her that went on to win the Nebula Award, and co-edited an anthology with her, I kind of figured I was on safe ground in confirming that I know her personally.

Facebook responded by tossing me out of my account and informing me that my ability to send friend requests will be disabled for the next two days. And of course there’s absolutely no avenue of appeal. I understand that this is just some automated system kicking in, but you’d think that Facebook’s algorithm for doing this would have the wit to notice that Jane Yolen is “friends” with over 50% of the other people I’m already “friends” with, including my wife.

Jane and I are now Facebook friends anyway, because she sent me a friend request which I accepted. I seem to be able to accept requests, just not to send them, so friends and associates should certainly feel free to send them to me. I’ll keep my Facebook account (unless they throw me off for, I dunno, saying hello to John Scalzi or posting on Beth Meacham’s wall), but I’m thoroughly reminded of its downside. While trivial in the greater scheme of theings, the experience completely reinforces my suspicion that Facebook is a set of tools for human social life designed by people who are profoundly bad at human social life.

Comments on Facebook: still stupid:
#1 ::: Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:49 AM:

As a Spotify user who has resisted the social pressures to rejoin Facebook, I'm pretty sure you don't need to have a Facebook account to create a login (it's allowed, but not necessary). So if that changes your calculus ...

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:54 AM:

Apparently you are not you until Facebook decides you are you.

#3 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 12:07 PM:

Patrick #0: And I’m not worried about my personal privacy for the simple reason that I would never in a million years put anything on Facebook that I wouldn’t want world-readable.

IIRC, that's not the only problem, as ISTR they're prone to yanking data from "connected" accounts and making it public regardless of your wishes. Not to mention stuff like wall abuse....

#4 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 12:07 PM:

Given the sneakiness Facebook is pulling and will doubtless yank on much harder in the future with cookies and such, I have a second browser which I use only for occasionally checking in with it, and post to it through Diaspora rather than posting directly in Facebook.

At this point, I'm only logging in to Google's services through that second browser, too. —Belt and suspenders, maybe, but they have both at this point displayed a nasty habit of hamhandedly pantsing their users.

#5 ::: Alice Bentley ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 12:39 PM:

Dave Harmon #3: "stuff like wall abuse" For my own comfort, I work under the assumption that everyone reading knows that spammers and scammers are continually posting, and to just ignore them until they get found and deleted. I'm a moderator for a fairly popular Page (~25K Likes, to put some scale on it), and we get porn videos posted to the wall 3 to 5 times a day. Always a different user name, of course, but the same format and text.
Despite FaceBook arrogance and invasiveness, it's still proved to be one of the more successful ways to make new contacts. Let's see what next year will bring!

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:05 PM:

Henry (#1), I'm afraid you're wrong about that: Spotify now requires a Facebook login for all new accounts. If you signed up before the change you don't need Facebook, but the rest of us are out of luck.

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:08 PM:

David Harmon, #3 -- I do know that Facebook's privacy antics extend well beyond the mere outing of supposedly private material.

#8 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:14 PM:

I'm not really in the business of needing to make new contacts or anything so I just use my FB for a very small number of personal friends and family members. I don't allow any apps. It works pretty well for me as just kind of a personal hang-out to keep up with My Peeps. Hope you enjoy your new FB account and things work out for you there!

#9 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:35 PM:

Facebook initially refused to let me set up an account, because they thought my last name was fake. They had no problem with my wife setting up an account and her last name is Sanchez-Kisser. I suspect facebook is less run by algorithms as it is by chimps with laptops.

#10 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:38 PM:

I suppose I'm a weirdo holdout. I will not use Facebook. I block those "like" buttons at my firewall. (also, +1, and twitter beacons.) For a while I was feeding garbage cookies, but I came to see why that was not useful.

I ended up on LinkedIn, and can't really delete that one. I won't make that mistake again. Email or the phone isn't hard. Photos you want to share, thoughts? Friends and family have access to a forum I run.

#11 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:50 PM:

What you ran into was an automated anti-spammer measure with no metrics beyond "number of friend requests sent in a short time period". That it choked on Jane in particular was only accidental.

Also, Spotify has just guaranteed that I will not only never sign up with them, but will actively disrecommend them to my friends. Facebook is grabby and clueless; I keep my account on a VERY tight leash, and NEVER EVER allow it to link to anything else. What a stupid move on their part!

#12 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 01:56 PM:

Thanks, Lee @11. I was gonna say - I'M Facebook friends with a lot of people in SF, fantasy, and Tolkien fandom and scholarship I don't know in-person personally, including Jane Yolen, and have never run into this problem. (And I still get a squee! when some big name I recognize comes up as a friend suggestion...)

#13 ::: Ossian ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 02:19 PM:

Nobody does "Christmas" like Facebook.

#14 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 02:32 PM:

Shorter Patrick: "It's too much trouble to not have a Facebook account."

Not there yet, me. Though I've noticed that an increasing number of online coupons require you to go to the maker's Facebook page and "like" them. Here's a surprise: When you pull that kind of hoop-jumping crap, I don't like you.

Anyway, isn't it about time for the Next Big Thing to come along and supplant Facebook?

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 02:43 PM:

I'm still not on FB myself.... just too many incidents. Also staying the hell away from LinkedIn, on account of it's autospamming me from friends' accounts.

#16 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 02:56 PM:

My husband says that it may not be an issue of knowing someone or not. FB limits how many people a new user can Friend at one time. (Presumably to keep spammers from signing up, Friending a ton of people, and mass-spamming them.)

#17 ::: D. Potter ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 03:02 PM:


Nothing I have ever heard about Facebook inspires any desire whatever to sign up for it in any way, including the minimal. And frankly, requiring a Facebook login to access other services sounds like turning Facebook into the Mark of the Beast. (And I don't believe in the Mark of the Beast.)

Reclusiveness hath its rewards.

#18 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker To Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 03:03 PM:

I got a Facebook account because that's how my daughter-in-law was sharing their travel photos and personal news, and now the photos and news about our grandchild. And after the first few days of catching up, I logged in about once a month. Then a college girlfriend spotted my name and sent me a message that said she wanted to stay in touch. Of course after the first couple of exchanges, I haven't heard from her in three months, so I guess the novelty wore off.

In the meantime I keep the FB account to post political messages and occasional jokes; I keep my blog for anything else. The only personal information on my FB profile are that I'm male and I'm married; and that's pretty much public info anyway.

#19 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 03:16 PM:

The root behavior described in the main article instantly made sense to me as the type of behavior come up with by a programmer who doesn't use the feature she's amending, that then was developed in isolation without any (to slip into jargon) use-case review.

More specifically, someone at Facebook decided that some famous people (arbitrarily defined) were being bombarded with too many friend requests by complete strangers and implemented a block at the request level. They then implemented that block in a manner designed to obscure its purpose and then, just as a garnish, implemented an absurdly punitive effect for transgressing the obscured rules.

So, at least 3 levels of capricious and lazy design went into this ever-so-delightful user experience. Yay for software!

#20 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 03:48 PM:

The holly and the ivy, now they are both full grown
Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown

The rising of the sun, and the running of the deer
The paying for the social network, the preaching to the choir

The holly bears a blossom as white as the lily flower
And Facebook blocks your friend requests, for it is in their power

The holly bears a berry as red as any blood,
And Facebook leaks your data, if it will do them good.

The holly bears a prickle as sharp as any thorn
And Facebook censors postings, for to prevent the porn

The holly bears a bark as bitter as any gall
And Facebook has some policies, for to deceive us all

#21 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 04:20 PM:

Thomas @20, dark chuckle for that one

#22 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 04:59 PM:

I signed up for Facebook a few years ago, when it was still just getting started. I friended a couple of people, some I actually knew, some I knew through mailing lists, and started getting all sorts of information about what they were up to that, y'know, I just didn't care about. I left it up for a bit longer, then decided that whoever it was designed for, it wasn't me, shut down my account, and walked away. Then Facebook started getting obviously evil, and I felt pretty proud about leaving when I could.

And now, of course, I'm seeing all these companies jumping into bed with Facebook and expecting everyone to already be there, and I guess I won't be doing business with them, either.

#23 ::: Megpie71 ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 05:33 PM:

I think I dumped my Facebook account about two years back (maybe less - I know it wasn't the last big "privacy" scandal but the one before that), but to be honest, the main reason I dropped the silly thing was because I didn't really use it for anything. I have a Twitter account which I also don't use for anything much (the occasional bit of online activism, and maybe a few rounds of Echo Bazaar, but other than that...) but since Twitter doesn't tend to want me to constantly be supplying them with content on the same aggressive level that Facebook did, I'm more content to maintain my account there.

I think John Scalzi summarised it nicely when he described Facebook as "the World Wide Web dumbed down". Facebook is effectively the sort of "web portal" that a lot of companies were making about ten years ago as the Next Big Thing - it's just that they're much more straightforward about the fact that we're the content being used to lure others in at the same time as other people are being used as bait to lure us into using Facebook.

In the meantime, I'm not planning on going back (I didn't use it before, why would this change now?).

#24 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 06:16 PM:

Shared on Facebook.

#25 ::: The Raven ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 06:54 PM:

Xopher, #24: croak!

As I wrote a while back, "Facebook is like the fluffy bunny who wants everyone to just be friends and keeps trying to connect your political activist friends to your business associates. She may mean well, but she can sure make your life difficult. She also keeps her own business secret and makes quite a business of selling gossip, so she may be mercenary and malicious rather than fluff-headed."

I recommend the Diaspora technology and the Seattle Diaspora pod,, as superior alternatives.

#26 ::: Rick Owens ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 06:57 PM:

As many people have pointed out before, the key thing to remember about Facebook: users are not their customers. Rather, users are the product.

#27 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 07:36 PM:

I loathe Facebook, but after deleting my account back when it stopped being for .edu folk, I discovered that because I was listed as faculty at UCLA, Facebook created an account for me, with web scraping data from my UCLA faculty/staff Web page.

I couldn't modify it or respond to messages left by former students and colleagues.

So now I have a Facebook account. I want to control my online presence.

And if you don't know about Facebook's Timeline feature, read this:

#28 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:25 PM:

Obviously I sympathize with the many people posting here about how they refuse to use Facebook, or use it in only very constrained ways.

Speaking just for myself, it's not just about Facebook's functionality as a tool. Like many of the continuing refuseniks in this thread, I don't need Facebook. If it didn't exist I wouldn't be clamoring for it to be invented. I already have the tools I need to stay connected to most of the people to whom I want to stay connected.(1)

But there's another level to the problem for me, which is that I'm a media professional, and Facebook is a big chunk of the media right now. Tor and constantly use Facebook for all kinds of things; so do many authors I work with. And the experience of using Facebook is part of the input for science fiction being written today. I've come to feel that I was being the equivalent of an ad-agency creative director in 1956 bragging that he didn't own a TV.

So it's fine if this thread becomes a lengthy string of posts about why you, or you, or you don't use Facebook. I have no interest in trying to change your mind. I changed my mind for some reasons that might apply to you -- and a bunch of other reasons that very possibly don't.


(1) Although this argument doesn't really address the fact that there are people active on Facebook and pretty much nowhere else online. Jo Walton tells me that Chip Delany is one of these. I've been substantially out of touch with Chip for several years; it would be great to cross paths with him again. That's one example out of several. Again, this does not constitute an argument that anyone else's behavior should change.

#29 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:26 PM:

Friending a lot of people in a short amount of time is a frequent FB-spammer technique. I am not surprised that you were flagged. They have no way of knowing that a person with a new FB account just happens to be popular.

#30 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:28 PM:

I've been asked to look at iPad apps that support direct interaction with Facebook.

It's been interesting to see how in some cases they've made it easier to post, or read, or simply find information.

#31 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:37 PM:

Lee, #11: What you ran into was an automated anti-spammer measure with no metrics beyond "number of friend requests sent in a short time period". That it choked on Jane in particular was only accidental.

If this is true, it's very strange, because the initial warning that popped up specifically demanded that I affirm that I was personally acquainted with Jane.

It's also very strange because all I was doing was clicking buttons alongside the names of people that Facebook was suggesting I might know. In other words, I was doing exactly what Facebook appeared to be urging me to do. If Facebook is really deliberately punishing people for doing what Facebook urges them to do, they're not just inept, they're psychopaths. I choose to provisionally believe they're not quite that bad.

#32 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:47 PM:

Earl Cooley, #20: "Friending a lot of people in a short amount of time is a frequent FB-spammer technique. I am not surprised that you were flagged. They have no way of knowing that a person with a new FB account just happens to be popular."

This is actually just plain wrong. By the time Facebook popped up its warning to me and demanded to know if I was personally acquainted with Jane Yolen, I'd already established mutually-approved "friend" relationships with over a dozen other people. I went back and counted; over half of them are Facebook "friends" with Jane. Facebook had all the data it needed to establish that I wasn't a stranger stalking Jane Yolen.

Furthermore, if Facebook wasn't rectocranially inverted on this point, my two-day ban would have been automatically rescinded the moment Jane herself sent me a friend request, which happened about an hour later.

"They have no way of knowing" is BS. Facebook is all about knowing this stuff, in bulk and in detail. The problem is that they put vastly more emphasis on coming up with clever ways to monetize it than on making sure they treat their users fairly. One begins to suspect that they are the kind of people moral philosophers refer to with the technical term "greedy assholes."

#33 ::: Sumana Harihareswara ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 08:55 PM:

But there's another level to the problem for me, which is that I'm a media professional, and Facebook is a big chunk of the media right now. Tor and constantly use Facebook for all kinds of things; so do many authors I work with. And the experience of using Facebook is part of the input for science fiction being written today. I've come to feel that I was being the equivalent of an ad-agency creative director in 1956 bragging that he didn't own a TV.

Patrick, I feel for you. I'm an open source community manager. I know that there are certain ways in which I would be more effective (outreach, product design ideation, events) if I were on Facebook. I'm not. As the conversation of the open source community partially migrates to Google Plus, I'm also wondering whether I have a professional obligation to speak and listen there. G+ is less evil than Facebook but blotted its copybook royally with the "real names" nonsense, and I don't want to add to network effect there either.

I figure we are all complicit in a lot of bullshit, and most thoughtful people have already made the easier sacrifices. The tradeoffs that remain are the hard ones.

#34 ::: Charlie Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:02 PM:

Another reason to use a separate browser (or Firefox profile, or whatever) for Facebook than for general browsing is trying to limit how much Facebook knows about what other sites you tend to visit.

(FWIW, they claimed not to track what sites you visit after you log out. Then they were caught fibbing about it. So, they changed a few things, and they pinky-swear that they don't track logged-out browsers now...)

#35 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:28 PM:

My apologies. If my clients demanded Facebook, that would be different. I suppose imam privileged in that I don't have to worry about it. And if it isn't a passing thing, that will be probematic..

#36 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:40 PM:

Actually Patrick --- and I'm surprised that you don't already know this --- Jane Yolen is herself a copy trap used by Facebook to detect spammers. She doesn't really exist. If you claim to know her, you're either lying (and therefore probably a social network spammer), or you don't exist yourself. Easy way to tell: In your world, is it computing power or surface-to-orbit payload mass per dollar that doubles every 18 months? If the former, you're in the false world.

The clues are there for those who know how to look. Yolen was "born" the year of the first Worldcon, on the one year anniversary of the first ever televised science fiction broadcast --- the BBC's production of Čapek's RUR. She has the same first name as Philip K Dick's baby sister, who died in infancy. You didn't think these were coincidences, did you?

#37 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 09:41 PM:

@34 -
The beacons (like buttons) generate that data. It is all over the web. There are good reasons why businesses facilitate this. True, also sad.

FB watches you whether you like it or not. The only way to opt out is to block them. If anyone is interested, I can post technical details.

#38 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:53 PM:

This may sound stupid, but the primary thing I do with Facebook is ... play clicky games. They saved my sanity in the immediate post-childbirth period, when I had no brain cells and only half a hand available.

Then I discovered it was a useful place to point my tweets, so people quit saying things like "ZOMG you haven't posted to LJ or or or or in two weeks, iz you ded?"

I very, very rarely read my 'feed' on Facebook, and over 90% of my activity there involves clicky-games.

#39 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:54 PM:

A friend of mine writes for a magazine and was quoting me (by my first name) as someone who'd left FB out of disgust. The week it was to run, a beloved personage (I don't remember who just now) passed on, and the editor didn't feel like running the article after that. So much for three more minutes of fame! The piece got as far as being pasted up, and he sent me PDFs, so I can sit in my basement room and cackle over my name in print when I want to.

I had a class last year that required me to join FB, so I grumblingly did it, and don't use the account for anything. Every now and then some old friend asks me to friend them there, but I'm not getting sucked in. I put a notice on my wall that tried to explain it.

#40 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 10:55 PM:

Also, the problem with 'finding other places' to do the social interactions that a lot of people expect you to do on Facebook is, getting everyone else you want to interact with to join this other site. I had this problem earlier with LiveJournal, because I was putting my cute-dog-pix posts and my general-life posts there, and hecktons of my more mundane acquaintances found it ridiculously inconvenient to have to remember to go there and check this (to them) totally other random site. So to me, Facebook is useful as a place to post stuff to the people I know who are already using facebook.

It's a liquidity issue, basically.

#41 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:09 PM:

It also irks me a tad that when I left FB that day (it was when they neutered the extension that made FB tolerable for me), my scads of Phrendz™ may well have thought that I just defriended them, because my post on why I'd left went away when I did.

#42 ::: Mea ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:26 PM:

#37 Jamie - I'm interested in the details. Are you saying that when I have three browser windows open at the same time that Facebook is tracking what I'm doing on the other two? And tracking what I do even if my Facebook account isn't open? Do tell.

#43 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:27 PM:

I got (even more*) annoyed at Facebook when they started taking over the logins-for-newspaper-comments business, and when I'd be reading the paper there'd be a section off to the right saying "Here's what your Facebook friends are reading in the news today!" I went to Facebook's page and logged off, and then killed off their cookies from my browser.

What I did instead, since I use VMware anyway, was to create a virtual machine, and run a browser over there that I use for Facebook and nothing else, so Facebook data doesn't leak. (I tried to create a separate Mozilla profile as well, but for some reason that VM keeps rebuilding itself from scratch and losing that.)

I've considered doing the same thing for Disqus, but for now there's something it doesn't like about my Mozilla-on-Linux and keeps claiming I should turn off all my privacy protections about third-party cookies (and even doing that didn't help, so I turned them back on :-) So I've mostly stopped commenting on those sites.

(* Communism: You have two cows. The government takes one, plus all your milk. Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one, mortgage the other, and buy a bull. Gift economies: Your friend brings his bull over for a visit, you give him some cheese, and somebody passes a joint. Facebook: You click on a cow. All your friends get extra spam. The Godfather comments that it's a nice lookin' cow, and it'd be a shame if anything happened to it. Somebody sends you a shrubbery, which needs watering daily, so you'd better not log off. )

#44 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:31 PM:

Kip@39: I get my quota of cackling over seeing my name in print when Jo Walton puts a book out (or when I re-read one). The exception is Lifelode, which still leaves me too flabbergasted to cackle.

#45 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2011, 11:54 PM:

Patrick, #31: Yes, it fills in the name of the person you were trying to friend when you hit the max count. That's the only other variable it has. It doesn't know whether you were responding to a "friend suggestion" or not. If you stop thinking that any of the programmers on Facebook are actually competent, or that they ever let the right hand know what the left hand is doing (given the clear evidence that neither of the above is true), then it won't surprise you at all that they made a phenomenally stupid bot. I've seen COBOL subroutines with more snap than anything Facebook does.

#46 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 01:37 AM:

#42: When you're not logged into Facebook, its implanted cookies don't disappear or become inactive. They continue to track and report information on any webpage you visit that has a Facebook plugin.

This is now-uncovered public knowledge. It doesn't include information on what else they might be doing that hasn't yet been publicly disseminated. This page provides details and some countermeasure suggestions.

Hm, Countermeasure .... I guess it's a fact of life, now, that we must monitor Mark Zuckerberg's fleet and keep it in the Slow Zone.

#47 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 01:40 AM:

Megpie71 @ 23:

So Facebook is AOL for the rest of us?

#48 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:39 AM:

I have a Facebook account.

I starve it, beat it, and keep it locked in a closet (aka an entirely separate web browser that is only ever fired up when I want to log into Facebook, which is then logged out from after each session before I kill the browser).

My general FB policy is: if you give it to them, they'll find a way to abuse it.

And my general policy for other companies who expect me to have an FB account if I want to use their service is: I can live without their service, thanks.

Put it another way, FB's concept of how people relate to each other is broken by design. (Why no "enemies list" facility?) And none of the others are much better, although LJ is pretty harmless most of the time. Twitter ... I'm not sure what Twitter is, but it doesn't seem to be part of the same continuum of services.

But you already knew I thought that way ...

#49 ::: JaniceG ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:40 AM:

Given that I now live thousands of miles from most of my friends, I've found FB invaluable for keeping in touch with people. I maintain scrupulous privacy on it, and never sign up for any apps or allow any apps to have access to the account. I also block game entries from all of my friends. I think that if you set it up carefully, it can serve you well. (Of course, I have never had the difficulty in setup that you appear to have encountered almost immediately!)

#50 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:50 AM:

Bruce #47, Megpie71 #23: Yes!

Facebook is the second coming of AOL, as a web 2.0 framework rather than a bespoke sandbox app.

May it come to the same end ...

#51 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:59 AM:

Patrick: I'm a media professional, and Facebook is a big chunk of the media right now.


I also get "but where's your facebook page?" from marketing peeps on a regular basis. It got tiresome trying to explain that I haz a blawg-shaped thing with 14K daily visitors. So I gave them an FB page with a tenth that number of folks following it, and they seemed awfully impressed.

* headdesk *

(It's like Microsoft Word. There are hordes of people out there who don't understand that alternatives exist, much less that the alternatives are better -- and I still have to do business with them.)

#52 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 07:59 AM:

I'm posting here too much.

Must be time to go eat half a pig's arse and subside in a food coma.

#53 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 10:49 AM:

@Charlie Stross: Everything's better with bacon. I made sure there was bacon on hand for Christmas today. Alas, I'm at work and won't be home until this afternoon... but the kids are still just young enough to be delayed in present-opening until I arrive.

#54 ::: Jim Lund ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:02 AM:

FB is too useful for me to ignore, friends use it, it is the only best way for keeping in touch. But like a fairy tale, a contract with evil underlies it all.

At some point, it's going to be too interwoven into the web to sidestep. FB will have gathered enough info about us and who we know and what we do and want to do, and come up with really horrible ways to sell us to bad, very bad people.

When that day comes, we're going to have to take off and metaphorically nuke it from orbit. I just hope that on that day the govt doesn't fall, and the cell phones stop working, and the financial computers pop up endless "Can't connect to FB" errors.

#55 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 12:15 PM:

In both my personal and professional lives, I'm a Facebook refusenik.

Professionally this is easy; I do adult websites and my personal brand identity is tied up with them. That identity would not be welcome on Facebook due to their content policies. Decision made for me. Easy-peasy.

That said, Patrick's #28 describes precisely why I finally broke down and got on Twitter a couple of years ago. I had no interest, and still don't like it much as a communication format -- but much of the conversation that used to take place between and among blogs now happens on Twitter only. The blog still matters, but producing the thing would be really hard without being able to see what's also being discussed on Twitter.

#56 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 02:11 PM:

On a vaguely related topic, there's a Blogger website that I read which just went to non-anonymous comments because the site's owner had been getting too many creepy comments. That's fine, but the alternatives are using my Google account, which keeps trying to sign me up to use Blogger, or Open ID, which I've never worked with. Which one is less toxic?

#57 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 03:13 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II #56: I use Open ID (from, but I frequently find that leaves me getting CAPTCHA'ed and/or moderated anyway.

#58 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 03:28 PM:

#42 Mia - they get tracking data on you, whether or not logged in, whenever you view some other site that puts those 'like' buttons up (also, if they use the Facebook comments system).

I have a fairly complicated home network by most standards, given that I do this for a living. So I will assume you don't have a dedicated firewall.

The easiest way to black hole them is to edit your hosts file. On a Mac or Linux/unix system, that file is /etc/hosts. On Windows, it is C:\WINDOW\system32\drivers\etc\hosts.

Add these lines:

You must do this as Administrator/root, otherwise you can't edit the file. It will prevent any application from contacting Facebook. (From a technical perspective, it is telling your computer that it is Facebook. If you happen to run a web server on your machine, this will make it generate a lot of errors in your logs. )

Should Facebook start using another name, repeat the process with the new name.

You can do the same things with the personal firewall on Mac/Windows as well, and most DSL or cable modems have similar facilities to handle your whole home network.

Another way to do it is to use OpenDNS, a very nice service that behaves better than some ISPs with regards to name resolution. I tend to have a preference for controlling my own tech, but they may work for you.

Charlie - post more!

#59 ::: Jamie ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 03:28 PM:

#42 Mia - they get tracking data on you, whether or not logged in, whenever you view some other site that puts those 'like' buttons up (also, if they use the Facebook comments system).

I have a fairly complicated home network by most standards, given that I do this for a living. So I will assume you don't have a dedicated firewall.

The easiest way to black hole them is to edit your hosts file. On a Mac or Linux/unix system, that file is /etc/hosts. On Windows, it is C:\WINDOW\system32\drivers\etc\hosts.

Add these lines:

You must do this as Administrator/root, otherwise you can't edit the file. It will prevent any application from contacting Facebook. (From a technical perspective, it is telling your computer that it is Facebook. If you happen to run a web server on your machine, this will make it generate a lot of errors in your logs. )

Should Facebook start using another name, repeat the process with the new name.

You can do the same things with the personal firewall on Mac/Windows as well, and most DSL or cable modems have similar facilities to handle your whole home network.

Another way to do it is to use OpenDNS, a very nice service that behaves better than some ISPs with regards to name resolution. I tend to have a preference for controlling my own tech, but they may work for you.

Charlie - post more!

#60 ::: Jarno Virtanen ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 04:40 PM:

Regarding sensitive information and privacy. I think most people have the opposite problem: getting _anyone_ a least bit interested in what they are doing or thinking.

#61 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 08:54 PM:

Text messaging.

Somehow, not a one of these modes of communiqué was requisite seventeen years ago. What a poor, colorless, unfulfilled time we frittered away back then! When a person wanted to socialize, he had only the telephone, the automobile, or the prehistoric postal system at his command... consider: in two out of the three, he needed to rouse up his own voice!

#62 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:02 PM:

DanR @61, in 1994, email was professionally necessary for people at the leading edge of the tech industry. You could recognize them by the array of email addresses on their business cards: one for each of the major online services (CompuServe, AOL, GEnie, etc), because those were all separate electronic fiefdoms that didn't send mail one to the others.

I much prefer to the modern telecom world to the one in which I had to use the damn phone to talk to people. I forget which blogger it was --- Anil Dash, maybe? --- who said future generations would look back at the 20th century as a bizarre age in which the typical person felt obligated to have a bell installed in his house which could be rung by any random person at any hour of the day or night, and when it rang, he'd be expected to drop whatever he was involved with and come running.

I curse every time my phone rings. It's always an annoying interruption. Email, on the other hand, you can read on your own schedule, with the added bonus that you can (if you think it's urgent) reply immediately.

#63 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2011, 11:37 PM:

The whole Facebook phenomenon mystifies me. I went for years without an account because I could never quite understand why I would want one. Many people assured me that an account would be a wonderful thing, so I finally broke down and created one.

I tracked down, or was tracked down by, some old college gaming friends. We traded a few messages catching up on things. This was a Good Thing. Then what? Apparently I am supposed to post pictures of my kids, discuss my trivial daily activities, and indulge in political commentary. I also am supposed to devote huge amounts of time to this. If I want to send anyone pictures of my kids, this is what email is for. The thought of spending time describing the trivia of my daily life makes me shudder. I won't say that I never indulge in political commentary, but I am pleased to report that I don't produce a steady stream of it.

Oh, and apparently I am also supposed to look at pictures of other people's kids, read about the daily trivia of their lives, and endure their political commentary. The horror!

The thing is, back in college we were cheek by jowl which each other and knew the trivia of each others lives, and had long political discussions of the sort one outgrows after leaving college. But whatever relationship I have with these people now, it isn't that, hasn't been that in a long time, and I wouldn't want it to be that. Facebook seems to have infantilization built into it. The practical result is that I used Facebook to update my email address book, and I look in every few months to remind myself why I don't look in more often.

A while back I got a slew of friend requests from people who went to my high school. I have even less relationship with them than I do with my old college crowd. I have ignored the requests.

#64 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 12:59 AM:

Avram, #62: I curse every time my phone rings. It's always an annoying interruption. Email, on the other hand, you can read on your own schedule, with the added bonus that you can (if you think it's urgent) reply immediately.

Yes. And the same goes for cellphones; I've been known to ask my partner to turn his off while we're having dinner, because somebody always sees fit to call -- it's worse than the damn telemarketers who used to call during the dinner hour because they were sure of getting somebody at home then.

Texting is even worse in some ways. I have a couple of acquaintances (no close friends, though) who are very hard to spend time with because their phones make the "incoming text" noise about every 90 seconds.

Also, e-mail is good when people have disjoint schedules. I can send messages to people at 2 AM, and they can read them and respond at 7 AM, and nobody gets their sleep cycle interrupted.

Ruchard, #63: Think about who created Facebook, and their original intended market. It was college students designing something for other college students. Of course it carries internal assumptions that don't work for people who have been out of college for 30 years!

OTOH, I disagree with your characterization of long political discussions as "the sort of thing one outgrows after leaving college". If you hang around here much at all, you should know better.

The main reason I find Facebook useful is for organizing events and inviting people to parties. There are dedicated sites for doing that sort of thing, such as Evite and Socializr, but most of the people I know aren't on those -- they're on Facebook, which has the same functionality and is easier to use.

#65 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 03:08 AM:

I'm reminded of a piece I heard on the radio once about the Amish. One of the people mentioned in the piece had contact with the non-Amish world in the way of business, and had for some reason I don't now recall found it necessary to possess a telephone. He wouldn't have it in the house, though: it went in its own little hut, where it couldn't be heard from the house, and from time to time - not infrequently, but at times of his own choosing - he would go and see if there was anything on the answering machine. His feeling was that if it wasn't important enough for a body to stir themselves and come see him in person, it wasn't important enough that they could rightly expect him to drop work he was in the middle of to see to it.

#66 ::: Avy Lyn Benet ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 06:30 AM:

So Patrick, now that you're back on Facebook, would you please describe the benefits you're experiencing from returning to the fold?

#67 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 06:48 AM:

Avy Lyn Benet @66:
see at @28? I don't think it's necessarily about immediate benefits.

#68 ::: Richard Hershberger ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 09:00 AM:

Lee #64:

I'm not suggesting that one outgrows political discussions, but rather political discussions of a certain sort. Perhaps it is because these are people I knew in college and I automatically flash back to college bull sessions, but Facebook does not seem to me to encourage thoughtful discussions as well as some other forums.

And yes, I understand the origins of Facebook. I just don't see why so many people long past the college demographic are attracted to it.

#69 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 10:56 AM:

Richard @ 68: I just don't see why so many people long past the college demographic are attracted to it.

It's a tool that works for them, I think. That's all. In my case, I have my uses for it. I limit it to those uses. It works well for me for those uses.

#70 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 12:59 PM:

I shut down my Facebook account after the third time somebody from highschool who I really didn't want to talk to sent me a friend request.

I have plenty of online presence; more than I can currently keep track of. The only thing I could see using Facebook for is those sites that require a Facebook login to transact business with them. Given the dangers FB presents, and the amount of work involved in protecting oneself from those dangers, Just Ain't Worth It.

Hm. Now if I could hire someone to be my FB

#71 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 01:28 PM:

I have an old-fashioned answering machine on my phone, rather than voice mail, so I can hear the person calling, and pick up or not, as I please. And I sometimes ignore the phone.

I have a cell phone, but it's off most of the time. It's for emergencies, and almost no one has the number. Pay phones have almost disappeared around here, so a cell phone is no longer a luxury.

I have Chrome on my laptop that I seldom use, much prefer Firefox. But I may start using Chrome to read Facebook, and do nothing else with it. I check it once a day because it's being used for announcements and invitations a lot. I have almost everything I can turned off on FB, but there are a number of people I can no other contact with besides FB, so I'll stay for now.

#72 ::: Magenta Griffith ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 01:30 PM:

That I *have* no other way to contact, not can no other contact. I should be more awake by now.

#73 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 01:46 PM:

Oddly enough, I DO find myself using Facebook as a professional tool, in spite of being past that "college demographic" which is supposed to be its prime set of users. I'm connected to a great many other librarians in my state and across the country, for example, and we network both intentionally and unintentionally, tossing out job frustrations that someone else might have a solution for, passing along news about libraries closing for weather or about job openings, and using the message feature as a way to hold semi-private discussions away from work e-mail. I'm also connected to many faculty and a few students on campus, so I get campus news and information and monitor what they are saying for chances to promote library services (in addition to building personal friendships). And then there's the network of Tolkien and fantasy fans I have around the world -- I find out about new publications and events, promote my own work, keep them up to date on the journal I edit, etc. Maybe this is all off-label use, but I find it too useful to quit.

#74 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 02:53 PM:

Richard, #68: You're right, Facebook doesn't encourage thoughtful discussions. My description of it as compared to LiveJournal is "broader, but much shallower". It has a lot in common with Twitter in that regard.

As to why so many people who are well beyond college age use it, I think it's a combination of several factors, all of which have been mentioned in this thread:

1) For a lot of people (especially of the less-geeky sort), it's what they have. Whoever characterized it upthread as "AOL for the 21st century" is right on target. I have both LJ and ML as online communities, and I consider both of them much more important than Facebook. But Facebook makes it easy to sign up, easy to use, and offers a lot of different functionalities (most of which I don't use) which are attractive to people who aren't terribly comfortable with computers.

2) Everybody else is on it. There's sort of a critical-mass point with any online service, and Facebook passed it a long time ago. And, as noted, there are a lot of people on Facebook who have no other significant online presence, nor do they want one. If some of those people happen to be folks you want to keep up with, well... adding people to your Facebook friendslist is easier than maintaining an e-mail mailing list. (Again, especially for non-techie types.)

3) The business angles mentioned by Patrick and others, which are an outgrowth of the other two factors.

Jacque, #70: I haven't made it easy for people from high school and college to find me -- my Facebook account isn't under my birth name. The few people from that time to whom I have sent friend requests have all responded positively, and I don't get pestered by the ones I never want to talk to again. If you ever decide you need a Facebook account again, I suggest setting it up under a pseudonym; they claim to be "real names only", but there's no significant enforcement on that -- I have Miles Vorkosigan on my friendslist!

#75 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 03:33 PM:

Avram @62, As a tool for professionals, Facebook certainly does have its merits, especially with respect to marketing. But the only reason Facebook is so useful to business people is the pandemic nature of the beast. Similar to television in that sense...

Come round to think of it, if Facebook fills up minutes we would otherwise be watching our TV sets, it can't be all that bad, right?

#76 ::: Henry Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 04:13 PM:

#6 - that is highly annoying, and would have been a dealbreaker for me had I not already had an account.

#77 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 06:08 PM:

An interesting perspective on Facebook is here. Summarized, it boils down to "someone's got to pay". I think it builds on Patrick's point about not being the customer, and expands it to people's unwillingness to be the customer.

Of course, if ever there was both an argument in favour of micropayments, and an 800lb gorilla to throw their weight around to make it happen, it's probably "25c per user per month would remove the need for ads on Facebook".

#78 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 08:40 PM:

I use Facebook. I have all the possible privacy things locked down, no Profile entries, apps blocked, tagging screened and so on -- but I don't assume that guarantees anything. I do not pour out my innermost thoughts. It's not a place of deep thoughts or heart-to-hearts, but it's a steady beat of chit chat, and I'm someone who enjoys chit chat. The product is the people, not the software, and my contacts there include borderline Luddites who are unlikely to show up on Google+ or Twitter anytime soon. I like the back & forth nature of the comment threads better than the broadcast quality of Twitter.

I use the Friends-list functionality (it's similar to Google+ circles, but FB didn't promote it much) to be able to chat about something local with just people nearby, family-related with family, and so on. I've often learned about good restaurants, events, books, and such from the chatter on FB.

Lee @ 74: I think it's probably a bad idea to have Mile Vorkosigan as a friend -- unless, of course, you want to live a life of high drama.

#79 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2011, 11:35 PM:

When you're too tired to write on Livejournal and weeks behind on reading, when your social life suddenly involves a lot fewer trips out of the house, and much shorter visits by friends, Facebook is a highly useful tool for at least getting a quick glance at what friends and acquaintances are up to, and getting a feeling for what news is important, and a place to write the equivalent of "I aten't dead."

(But my husband has been posting the bay pics, so I'm saved from that.*)

Just sayin'.

I joined Facebook when my brother was in Houston through a hurricane. I find it shallow, and overfull of stupid games, and these days, overfull of links to news articles it wants you to accept cookies to actually read the links to. But it's not wholly useless, for reasons ranging from the comments about luddites who have no other online presence above through the easy invitation lists for events and activities.

* I've said before; Facebook's privacy mess doesn't scare me as far as what it means they and other users can do with pictures of myself or my family go, oddly enough. But I refuse absolutely to put images of my artwork up there.

#80 ::: emeraldcite ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 12:24 AM:

Facebook was created by a guy with aspergers so that he could communicate with others in a comfortable way.

#81 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:35 AM:

Lee @74: Miles Vorkosigan isn't real!?!??

#82 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 10:06 AM:

When discussing one of the various rounds of FB changes with an unhappy friend, I came up with this analogy:

The internet is flowers; we're the pollenating insects; money is the pollen. A web site may be pretty, it may smell nice, it may be designed in peculiar ergonomic shapes, but in the end, the flower doesn't give a damn about how good the honey is. Or even if there's any honey at all if moths and flies can do the job just as well.

#83 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 11:39 AM:

emeraldcite @ #80: ... and your point is? Besides the ickiness in asserting a rumor as truth/making a layman's diagnosis of someone you don't even know, your statement in the context of this discussion has a number of implications, most of them unfortunate.

Please take care in your unpacking. A number of people on Making Light are autism-spectrumy, including yours truly.

#84 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 11:47 AM:

Like janetl @ 78 and Janet Brennan Croft@73, I find Facebook quite a good medium for casual banter. I also find that a lot of stuff which I used to find irritating when it cluttered up my email Inbox (forwarded newspaper articles; pictures that I might or might not want to look it etc) has now migrated to FB, where it's a lot less irritating, not least because I can more easily feel justified in ignoring it w hen I don't have attention to spare and dipping into it when I do.)

It should probably go without saying that I don't feel that there's any justification or excuse for Facebook's privacy issues. But I feel uncomfortable when criticisms of Facebook turn into criticisms of people who find a use for Facebook (or of the uses they find for it). Two things strike me about that.

One is that Facebook is a tool, and like many tools, using it skilfully and effectively takes a certain amount of practice. While I feel a certain amount of sympathy with some of the reasons people have for thinking that they'd rather gnaw a couple of limbs off than learning to use it well, I doubt that the people who are most moved by them are going to have the most insight to offer about what one CAN do it. (For similar reasons, there's not much reason for anyone to be impressed by, say, my analogous thoughts about Ebook readers or RSS feeds)

The second is that I just feel downright uncomfortable with the extent to which some of these comments seem to amount to something of the order of 'Social Interaction: UR DOIN IT RONG'. Because really, on the whole, I don't think I am.

While we're on the subject of bizarre modes of social interaction, what's the deal with bars (or pubs as they call them in my home country)? I mean - places where people can by alcoholic drinks and hold conversations - sometimes with people they've never met before. How on earth could that be a good idea?

#85 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 12:45 PM:

PB @84: While we're on the subject of bizarre modes of social interaction, what's the deal with bars (or pubs as they call them in my home country)? I mean - places where people can by alcoholic drinks and hold conversations - sometimes with people they've never met before. How on earth could that be a good idea?

Well, it couldn't possibly be any worse that places where people can buy alcoholic driks and shoot guns - sometimes with people they've never met before. Right?

Some ideas are really bad. Others are merely sub-optimal. (For pubs to work optimally, we have to find an optimal replacement for alcohol -- something with the same depressant effect but without the disinhibition towards violence that affects up to 10% of the users.)

#86 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:01 PM:

Seconding Renatus @83, I'd be very interested in where emeraldcite @80 is going with that line of discussion.

#87 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:06 PM:

Charlie @85

I know there is some evidence that alcohol effects on behaviour are rather indirect: people act in the way they think they are expected to act.

Here's the BBC piece where I saw the claim.

It does sort of explain why there is so little trouble at British SF cons, even though we have been known to drink the hotel dry over the weekend. There are other factors, but fandom is a culture with different behaviour expectations.

#88 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:06 PM:

Well, it couldn't possibly be any worse that places where people can buy alcoholic driks and shoot guns - sometimes with people they've never met before. Right?

(Important notes: The photo would seem to show a place where people actually buy guns — and shoot alcoholic drinks, ho ho — but honesty compels me to admit that these two activities are actually adjacent, rather than coterminous. Also, I don't really have any grudge against shooting, per se, in case anybody wonders.)

#89 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 01:42 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 85: Unfortunately for this thesis, I think there are many reasons why benzodiazepine pubs are unfeasible.

More seriously... yeah, I think disinhibition toward violence is more generally a user error, or possibly a user's-parents error, sadly.

#90 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 02:01 PM:

abi @ V (if it was you): Thanks for ungnoming me.

Charlie Stross @85: I'd certainly be happy to drink in a pub that sold some of that. But unfortunately, most of the people I want to talk to over a pint aren't likely to find their way to the one place in town that serves it.

#91 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 02:05 PM:

Would the profit from 2 - 3 cents a day per user for FB be as lucrative as selling advertising?

This is a serious question, as I have no way to know.

What we do know is that magazines and newspapers never made their profit from subscriptions but from advertising, and particularly classified advertising.

Love, C.

#92 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 02:13 PM:

DanR@61: Somehow, not a one of these modes of communiqué was requisite seventeen years ago.

And some things were much more difficult because of that. Collaboration between people in different parts of the world was much harder in those days. In my personal experience the impact on large-scale medical research and on collaborative software development has been substantial.

In contrast to skype and possibly Twitter, I don't see that Facebook adds any new and different ways for people to communicate.

#93 ::: emeraldcite ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 02:18 PM:

Renatus @83

"A number of people on Making Light are autism-spectrumy, including yours truly."

Yes, me too and my son. I was making an observation that Zuckerberg's approach to communication is akin to what someone in the autism-spectrum would find comfortable in the ways of communication. This is in response to why, perhaps, some people find Facebook to be difficult.

The way I see it, it wasn't designed for social people who interact naturally and have little problem reading facial expressions and tone; instead, its design reads for someone on the autism spectrum who communicates better through text than through tonality.

It wasn't a dig at those on the spectrum (since I am one). It was more an observation of Zuckerberg's characteristics coupled with the design of the system.

Geniuses don't change the circumstances to fit themselves, they change the system so others fit what they want. Facebook does this in an interesting way. I'm not saying that Zuckerberg is a genius in the classic sense (although he might be...but, he surely revolutionized the way people communicate in the same way that Twitter has opened up communication).

Facebook has quite a bit going for it, but it has some room for self-correction.

Admittedly, I like Facebook because I can keep up with family members without talking on the phone. I hate phones. Can't understand them. Facebook, on the other hand, I can use with ease. So, in a way, it's become a prosthetic of sorts for a part of me that doesn't work in the way others expect.

#94 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:01 PM:

It's worth noting that FB is popular, not just among the smallish number of people n the autism spectrum, but rather among a large and rather diverse chunk of the first world. Clearly, it does a lot right for those people.

#95 ::: emeraldcite ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 03:09 PM:

albatross @94

I don't want to diminish the notion of its popularity. I was mostly talking about the design principles imbued in its construction.

At its core, why was it designed in the first place? Why did Zuckerberg pursue this idea?

What was his goal?

Most creators don't walk into a project thinking "I'm going to make something for a billion people."

Generally, they go into a project with the idea "what would I like?"

If this is Zuckerberg's core design principle, then if he is on the autism spectrum, then that would become part of the system.

It was merely an observation.

#96 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 05:13 PM:

Dave Bell @87: I notice that the writer spends a great deal of time hypothesizing the Great Antisocial Coffee Problem that could be created by a thorough public education campaign, which most people will laugh off even though she's right.

She doesn't really outline what an effective campaign against antisocial behavior would look like, but it's easily derived - it just needs some catchy phrasing for the core message:

"If you turn into an asshole when you drink, it just proves you were always an asshole.

Don't be an asshole."

#97 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 05:22 PM:

PGBB 84: bars (or pubs as they call them in my home country)

They're not the same thing at all, if my understanding of pubs is anything even close to correct. For one thing, bars in America don't allow children in the front door. People under 21 are supposed to be kept out entirely. This distorts the social atmosphere enormously. Also, when they serve food it's to comply with some local ordinance that gives them some kind of licensing break if they do, or to try to sell more drinks (salty snacks on the bar etc.). You don't go to a bar for an actual meal.

And most of the bars I've been in aren't exactly friendly to conversation. Interferes with drinking. They turn the music up so loud that you can't have a decent conversation unless you yell at the top of your lungs (which IMO makes it a bad conversation anyway). This is to induce pain, so you'll buy the painkiller they sell at the bar.

#98 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 05:44 PM:

Rikibeth 96: If you turn into an asshole when you drink, it just proves you were always an asshole.

Wow, is that ever wrong. Without even going into the reasons I think it's factually incorrect, it's a VERY BAD meme to be spreading.

An asshole is someone who says and does exactly what he (or sometimes she, but usually he) feels like saying and doing at all times, without regard for the impact of the speech and behavior on others. If you behave that way when you drink, it means that for you alcohol is a disinhibitor (despite what the stupid ass who wrote that article says - and note that the material she paraphrases from the study does NOT support her thesis), and you should stop drinking.

LOTS of people who drink now should stop drinking.

If your formulation becomes a widespread belief, then people who "become assholes" when they drink won't stop drinking, they'll just decide they're assholes and doomed to remain assholes, and that leads to self-hatred, which leads to all kinds of bad shit.

#99 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 06:14 PM:

Xopher @98: To add on to what you're saying: there's a great difference in effect between saying a person *is* something and a person *does* something. Everyone I know, myself included, acts like an asshole sometimes. Even more, some people will interpret some things I do as assholery when others won't. It's not as if we're talking "well-defined" here. There's a whole sociological discipline that studies the effect of labeling on individuals and how that makes them have more characteristics of the labeled state (specifically, various forms of "deviant" behavior generally become stronger when the person is labeled as an outsider, as Howard Becker talks about in his book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance).

I also act sometimes like a Righteous Dude. I am large, I contain multitudes. Focusing on a subset of my actions is not a good way to understand me. Nor is it a good way to lead me towards a change that might work well for me.

#100 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 06:35 PM:

Disinhibitor, my hind leg! When I drink enough tasty fruit beverage to feel pleasantly rubbery, I'm still the same uptight, inhibited wretch as always. You can confirm this with Patrick: he's my bes' goddamn friend in the whole world.

#101 ::: Roy G. Ovrebo ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 06:47 PM:

When I drink I get mellow and friendly, but tend to stay introverted. (Though when I drink too much I get clumsy and fall over.)

Should I stop being sober?

#102 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 06:58 PM:

Facebook is the most practical way for me to keep in touch with widely-flung acquaintances. I quite like to hear small bits of daily news from the lives of these people and to share with them small bits of daily news from mine; it creates a small connection. It's a way of saying "We may not be best friends, but I remember you and think of you, and you matter to me." It's a glimpse into the daily joys and sorrows of people I care about.

Like the HLN updates people do here at Making Light. I don't know y'all personally; we don't have nightly phone conversations or spend hours over coffee. But darn it, I'm interested in your soup experiments, your cat's antics, your gardening successes and failures, and so forth.

When people ask why they would want to have a Facebook, what it could possibly be for, that's the answer.

FB has actually let me become real friends with a couple of old acquaintances, too -- because I got back in touch with them through FB and discovered we have more in common now than we did before.

The only reason I choose Facebook is because that is where most of my friends, family, and acquaintances are members. Some would not publish updates anywhere else. Some would, but I would never find them and they would never find me, unless we happened to think of each other's name, google it, and happen upon the correct place. (Unless they only published by mass e-mail, in which case one of us would have to find the other's e-mail address, write, and get added to the mailing list.) Then there would be the problem of aggregating updates from those I could find (the most easily solvable of these problems, but only because I'm fairly knowledgeable about the necessary tech -- it's not trivial).

At the moment, the value of these things, combined with the critical-mass factor of most of my friends and acquaintances being there, outweighs the privacy threats I perceive from FB. So I stay there, and make all the efforts I can to guard against misuse of my personal information.

Your risk-benefit analysis may vary. And mine is subject to recalculation, too.

#103 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 08:48 PM:

I have a teenager, therefore I am on Fb.

As many others have noted, however, it has become a good way to keep in touch with far-flung (and even near-flung) family. Since some family members have interesting views of me (appropriate for a DFD thread), Fb is actually a way for them to see a more "real and true" version of me than the one they encounter at family gatherings. I have come to know and appreciate one cousin's sense of humor--rarely revealed in person, but quite apparent on Fb.

I've also reconnected with a number of people from high school--where I had friends for the first time in my life--and this made my 35th reunion, earlier this year, much more pleasant than it otherwise would have been. (of course, we're a weird bunch anyway. no one brings spouses and we don't play those "who came the farthest to be here" games.)

A significant group of people whom I primarily know from online interaction are on Fb, primarily as a refuge from other online places that crashed and burned around us. Without Fb, we'd probably be on our 3rd or 4th domain host . . . and every time we transitioned, we'd lose members of the group.

#104 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2011, 09:09 PM:

Kip W #100: Alcohol doesn't do much to disinhibit me either... Discovering that in college was my first clue that I wasn't in fact "repressed"....

#105 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 02:55 AM:

Friendster had policies about only allowing Real People (though I don't know if it insisted on True Names or not.) While this had mostly good effects, it meant that they lost some opportunities to experiment with the tool they had. One fake user who was around until it got shut off was N. Judah, who was a streetcar line in San Francisco, and got lots of friend-requests from people who lived in the city or hung out there. It was a way to build groups even though the system didn't have a mechanism designed for doing that.

#106 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 04:14 AM:

It occurs to me that a lot of people who don't want to get on Facebook because the system sucks sound a lot like people who don't want to get involved in their local/regional/national electoral system. They'd rather stay "pure" and not have to deal with a suboptimal system, then complain when they don't have a voice, or that no one can hear them. (See, for example, all the upthread comments about AOL users.)

It also sounds a bit like all the people who say that the science fiction field will be fine when we can get people to forget about TV shows and get them back to newsstands to buy the pulp magazines.

Like it or not, if you want to deal with a mass audience, you go to where that audience is.

#107 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 06:34 AM:

Thank you, Glenn, but some of us aren't even in the USA to be involved with your crooked mess of an election system, with its features worthy of a third-world dictatorship attempting to present to the outside the illusion of democracy.

Personally, I think the USA is permeated with magic-word thinking, which is based on the idea that any problem needing a solution can be miraculously fixed by holding an election. Or is is a myth that some places in the USA elect a dog-catcher? If you can't trust the local elected administration, county level or lower, to employ a competent dog-catcher (it surely must be a myth), why did you elect them?

And, again, looking from outside the USA, Facebook seems dangerous. It is taking and selling identities, tracking the users, even—I know it sounds extreme—spying on them and selling the information to the highest bidder.

Oh, your conclusion is correct, and times and technologies do change, and a lot of people have to go where the audience is. But signing up with Facebook looks to be an instance of supping with the devil, and I find that I don't possess a long enough spoon. I look at the regulation of privacy in the USA, and compare it with where I live, and I look at where my friends are, and Facebook just doesn't make sense for me.

Facebook, as is "election", almost seems to be a magic word across the modern USA. You have a problem, you have to get on Facebook. Well, I don't have any problems that I can see Facebook fixing. I don't need Facebook enough for it to be worth the costs.

#108 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 08:15 AM:

I can live with the possibility that by not wanting my personal information bought and sold to advertisers, I may come across as something akin to an ivory-tower idealist to some observer. Perhaps to others, I might seem reminiscent of a wet blanket unwilling to dabble in the entry level of white slavery, or like unto a cow unbecomingly shy about working for McDonald's.

#109 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 09:10 AM:
Like it or not, if you want to deal with a mass audience, you go to where that audience is.

And if I don't want to deal with a mass audience, can I ignore Facebook without your scorn?

#110 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 09:23 AM:


This conversation is beginning to remind me of one of our less successful genre-vs-litfic threads. We've moved from [topic at hand] to what we think of people who disagree with us about [topic at hand], and what we think that they think of us. Generally, this is not a turn toward more productive, more enlightening, or more interesting conversation.

Now, I'm deep in the throes of a massive seasonal depression. As a result, I have a large (possibly bottomless) supply of irritability just looking for an outlet.

Don't give me one.

#111 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 10:36 AM:

Xopher @ 97: Point taken, except that I tend to think of many of the things which you've mentioned as being American peculiarities, rather than things which are definitive of somethings being a bar per se. They aren't true in the same way (or to the same extent) of (places I would refer to as) bars in Germany, France, or Turkey (all of which differ from one another in both social and legal terms; and all of which I've spent more time in than I have in the USA). More generally, I don't think of 'bar' as a US specific term in the way that 'pub' is a British Isles specific term.

Thomas @ 93: In contrast to skype and possibly Twitter, I don't see that Facebook adds any new and different ways for people to communicate.

Is that based on experience of using Facebook, or simply external observation? Because its my testimony (and I think that of several other people on this thread) that it does precisely that: it allows low-level, unfocussed chit-chat with a geographically scattered group of people, aimed at whoever happens to be around rather than some particular individual. I can see that some people might not regard that as a way of interacting that they would value; but I do. In much the same way as i value a certain level of low-level unfocussed conversation in my local (and fwiw impeccably child-friendly) local bar.

Glenn Haumann @ 106: I think the analogy with the US electoral system falls down, because its at least possible to envisage a route from engagement with the US electoral system to its reform, insofar as the features of the US system that are problematic can be changed by electoral officers. By contrast, there isn't any route from using Facebook to changing its privacy policies: users simply have no say about what those policies are, and there isn't any prospect of doing them.

One reason why I wanted to distinguish @84 between criticisms of FB that focus on its malign effects on privacy and ones which say 'why would anyone in their right mind want to interact in the way that Facebook makes posible?' is that I think running the two of them together undermines the chances of things that might change them for the better. What I want is something that enables me to interact as though I were on Facebook without any of the privacy issues. In other words, something with the user base of Facebook, but the machinery of Diaspora. But the only people who are likely to want to use Diaspora are people who are pissed off by Facebook's privacy problems. If they've already decided that they wouldn't want to do the sorts of things that can be done on Facebook, then I'm unlikely to get what I want. (And it's fine if other people don't want that. But I suspect that quite a lot of people do; and quite a lot of other people would find they liked it if they could have it.)

To that extent I think that although Glenn Hauman's comment 106 doesn't make a sensible criticism of people who don't want to use Facebook because of its horrible privacy issues, it does make some sense when aimed at Facebook users who don't want to use Diaspora because no-one goes there. Which would be 'people like me', I guess.

#112 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 12:20 PM:

An interesting question, to me, is how much of facebook's privacy problems are integral to their business model, how much are a hard-to-avoid cost of the kind of functionality they offer, and how much are accidents of design or bad luck. There's a fundamental problem: if you're not the customer, you're probably the merchandise. But it's not clear that this must always work out badly for most users. FB could serve up ads intelligently in ways that didn't leak all that much personal information, without collecting and reselling tons of data, or opening up their users' information via facebook applications and games. I don't think they have to change their privacy options every few months to make their business work, though perhaps they do--maybe they couldn't make enough to keep the service running without it.

Long term, there is a much more fundamental problem: The value to the users of a facebook account is their friends, the community they can build around themselves. Facebook wants to effectively own that community, so that leaving means losing it--that's how they stay in business. But it's a terrible idea to put ownership of a community of friends into the hands of someone other than that community--it leaves Facebook in the position to effectively hold access to your community hostage, or to destroy it, in order to get more out of you. (Or more likely, to do those things unintentionally while trying to get more from its users that it can sell to advertisers, or while trying to keep the level of spam and scams down, or while rolling out the next clever set of features.)

#113 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 01:18 PM:

FWIW, I've heard that Facebook is about to get whacked over the head by the EU about privacy issues, and the fact that it's so seriously in violation of EU privacy laws. That might get their attention -- especially since they would have to ensure that EU users would have security-compliant access even when visiting the US (or anywhere else in the world).

#114 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 05:11 PM:

PGBB 111: Fair enough. In fact, I started out trying to talk about bars and wound up ranting about American bars. I hates them for ever.

#115 ::: edward oleander ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2011, 11:43 PM:

Patrick, it really IS a case of Facebook expecting you to read their minds and know without knowing how many friends to make in one day. They claim it's to protect user privacy, but I suspect the real reason is to make it harder to start multiple accounts. After all, they thrive on their claim to have close to a gigauser.

I have several FB accounts (oh, noes!), and nearly every time I start a new one, I run into that same schizoid policy when adding the initial rush of friends. They want you to make new friends, but only if you already know them. They want you to make lots of friends, but not too many at one time.

They also have a new security policy to stop people from having multiple accounts (an extreme FB no-no), or making too many friends (thus being potential spammers? terrorists? extroverts?). I believe they have a tracker which notes not only how many friend requests you send, but also if multiple accounts are being accessed from the same computer/locale. This slice of Security Theatre seems to be cropping up with users like me, and also with some of my friends who have larger families, all of whom use FB from one or two home machines.

They will freeze your account pending your passing one of two security checks. A) You can enter your cell phone number and have a super-secret-double-probation access code texted back to you (and presumably be spammed on your cell forever more). A single cell phone number will work for only one account, thus (supposedly) keep us all honest about using only one account.

Alternative B is to correctly identify (out of 6 choices) to whose account a picture from one of their albums belongs. You have to get 5 out of 5 correct, and are allowed two "skips" if you don't recognize the picture. Of course the problem is that you can never pass this test unless you have EVERY photo from all of your friends memorized... I have been asked to I.D. who owned pictures of elephant dung, flowers, and fuzzy class photos from the '50s. Since most of my "friends" are not well known to me, it has taken up a month's worth of guessing to get the right combo and get my account back.

Finally, for those who travel a lot, they also enjoy blocking your access if you're signing in from a new location. This can be handy for security (my account was hacked once from England), but can be a pain for frequent travelers, who may find themselves locked out until they once again log in from their home locale.

Having said all that, I still spend a lot of time logged on, and put up with the privacy & security issues as the cost of staying connected...

#116 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 12:37 AM:

edward @115

Interesting. You realistically have to have a cell phone for Facebook to think you're a human being? You know, even here in the 21st century I know people without cellphones. People who use computers, even. I guess, to Facebook, they don't exist.

#117 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 01:40 AM:

Cally Soukup @ 116: Texting to a cell phone seems to be becoming a common requirement for establishing an online identity. Posting something for sale on craigslist requires a phone number, and the same phone number can't be associated with more than one craigslist account. I set up "advanced login security" (two-factor authentication) for my Gmail account, which means that whenever I try to login to Gmail from a new device (or after clearing cookies), Google texts me a number that I must enter as part of my login -- verifying who I am by my access to that cell phone, as well as by my password. It's a pain, but after reading James Fallow's article about his wife's Gmail account being hacked, I'm willing to deal with the hassle.

Now, I chose to opt-in to the extra level of verification on Google, and the craigslist requirement it for a situation where money changes hands. Not quite the same as a social networking site like FB.

#119 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:15 AM:

Interesting. I have a cellphone, but texting is disabled on it because I got tired of paying for spam texts and there's no way to block them. So it wouldn't do Facebook any good to text anything to me. I guess that means I'd better (metaphorically) look both ways before crossing the street.

#120 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 03:55 AM:

Lee @113

The situation with the EU is that...

Well, let me start with a little procedural background. The EU doesn't make laws, it issues Directives to the national governments instructing them to make laws with a particular effect. There are all sorts of local variations, much as the legal system in Louisiana is different to the rest of the USA. The process starts with a specific Commissioner, and goes through the EU Commission to the EU Parliament. So it is a long process.

Back to specifics. The EU is working to a revision of the law on privacy and computers. At the moment, the process is at the initial stage.

But here is a report from six months ago, setting out some of the thinking.

To some extent, there has to be some political wheeling and dealing going on. Not everything that anyone is talking about is going to get into the final Directive. But, however impractical enforcement might be, I can see US companies being held liable under EU laws if they provide services to EU residents. Whether that leads to US companies refusing EU customers, I wouldn't care to guess. But there are a lot of people in the EU, using the internet.

#121 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 11:52 AM:

Me too, Lee. Even after I had my cell phone set to not accept texts, I started getting these spam things inviting me to some far-out party somewhere in another country. It took two more calls to do it, but I found a tech support guy who knew the double secret way of shutting even those off. Now the only texts I get are from my carrier itself, telling me it has accepted payment for the account or that an automatic update has arrived.

#122 ::: John M. Burt ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 01:32 PM:

I really, really like texting, and use an unlimited texts plan on that account. For whatever reason, I am not harassed by a lot of spam (what on Earth is the point of spamming people about a party in another country?), and I find it an extremely convenient method of communicating with people. It feels to me less like an add-on for the telephone and more like telegrams died and gone to Heaven.

#123 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2011, 07:19 PM:

John, they don't care if I'm in a different country or if I actively hate them! The more people they can post their stupid message to, the happier they are. It doesn't cost them a thing. Let the sender pay for the text it sends. Micropayments might make these soulless howling cretins actually care about their list.

#124 ::: praisegod barebones suspects SPAM. ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 01:37 AM:

Very generic content, only marginally relevant to post. Posters name appears to be in Polish.

#125 ::: geekosaur sees likely spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 01:45 AM:

#124, randomly mangled words for "name" and randomly mangled sentences for "content"

#126 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 11:31 AM:

Geekosaur @ 125: Nope, that's my real fluoronym.

#127 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 11:36 AM:

praisegod barebones @126:

Oh, we know you're playing the long game here. Turn up from another site in our area of the blogosphere, add good content, be amusing and intelligent...and only then reveal your nefarious plan.

We're onto you.

On the other hand, given how interesting your lead-up has been, I'm looking forward to seeing what payload you're going to deliver.

#128 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 11:49 AM:

abi @127: Possibly a spam probe from a Transcendent Zone. Expect god-like AI to follow.

#129 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:19 PM:

Kip, #123: I wouldn't mind at all having to pay for the texts I send. What drives me up the wall is having to pay for the texts I receive, over which the only control I can exercise is to do what I did and have texting disabled completely! It feels like I'm living back in Regency England, when it was the person who GOT the letter who had to pay the postage.

Also, it bugs the shit out of me that all the cellphone companies double-dip -- both the person who makes the call AND the one who receives it have to pay for minutes. That makes financial harassment by cellphone entirely too easy.

#130 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:34 PM:

Rob, 128: The key insight is that "praisegod barebones" has 18 letters, which as you know is divisible by six.

#131 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 12:48 PM:

"Also, it bugs the shit out of me that all the cellphone companies double-dip -- both the person who makes the call AND the one who receives it have to pay for minutes. That makes financial harassment by cellphone entirely too easy."

Lee, far as I can tell they're charging 5-10x what the service costs to provide.

It's a great business to be in.

BTW, if your text spams are coming in via email to SMS (cellphone text), I think you cell companies will let you change your SMS e-mail address.

#132 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 01:52 PM:

Lee, I'm in the same position as John M. Burt, above: I love texts, I think of them as telegrams that died and went to heaven, and I've got an unlimited texting plan on my phone. I sort of HAD to, with a teenager on my family plan. With unlimited, incoming texts don't cost me anything either.

And, like John, I've never gotten spam texts. Maybe they only target people who don't have the unlimited plans?

I hate talking on the phone, though. Texts solve that problem BEAUTIFULLY in a lot of cases.

#133 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 04:03 PM:

Lee #129: it's worth noting that in other markets call charges work differently. In the UK, you pay to send texts. You also pay to make phone calls that aren't included in your basic tariff. You do not pay to receive them, unless you're on international roaming in the United States.

What's biting you is essentially a regulatory failure, and the folks to complain to are the FCC or whoever regulates the mobile phone industry.

#134 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 07:56 PM:

Lee, thank you. I had in mind a price point that wouldn't be much of a hassle for someone who sends texts in amounts calculated in the hundreds, but which would run into real money for those whose business plan depends upon sending millions of messages to any address they can get, including randomly generated stabs in the dark. It's far from original, as ideas go (meaning it's not mine), but I do think it could make a difference.

#135 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 09:05 PM:

Oops, sorry, praisegod barebones, off by 1 and didn't even notice it was already a spam report *faceplam*

#136 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 09:06 PM:

Oops, sorry, praisegod barebones, off by 1 and didn't even notice it was already a spam report *faceplam*

#137 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 09:07 PM:

Oops, sorry, praisegod barebones, off by 1 and didn't even notice it was already a spam report *faceplam*

#138 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 30, 2011, 09:20 PM:

Aaaagh. Was getting network transients. But I pulled up the thread in another window and checked whether they'd actually posted before the final retry?!

Sometimes this stuff just baffles me....

#139 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 02:06 AM:

For what it's worth, geekosaur, I don't think you were off by one: when the spam was dealt with, everything that followed got shuffled up one place. Yes, this means praisegod barebones' spam report now appears to be the subject of a report itself; that's an occupational hazard of being a spam-spotter.

#140 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 03:10 PM:

Paul A. -- I believe you're right, as this is also the reason for noting when something's been gnomed immediately upon it happening: it saves a space in the right spot (by occupying it with the "I've be gnomed!" comment) which can then be replaced by the original comment, removing the gnomon (1).

1. Basic particle of gnome dynamics; frequently found in sundials, invented by gnomes for storage purpose of gnomons.

#141 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 03:39 PM:

That's why I've started to make a note in my spam reports that they're going to become self-referential, to avoid future confusion.

#142 ::: geekosaur ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2011, 08:41 PM:

Paul A. @139:
Sadly, I noted the last message in the thread, and didn't check to see if it was the spam or someone else. I only read it and realized it wasn't the spam after I hit the post button. (The spam was still there at the time.) So yeh, pilot error.

#143 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2012, 01:43 AM:


Dave, keyboard transmogrified

#144 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 02:38 AM:

David DeLaney @ 143:

A million divine monkeys?

#145 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 05:07 AM:

Geekosaur @135-8: Sorry, I was pulling your leg. I realized what had happened, but since what you said in your post looked as though it could describe mine, I couldn't resist clowning about a bit.

abi @ 127. /Broad smile> Its been a toughish end to a fairly tough year, and this comment cheered me up immensely.

#146 ::: cleek ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 11:24 AM:

personally, i spend most of my FB time playing Scrabble.

#147 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: January 02, 2012, 03:34 PM:

for Spotify once I found it required FB:
- created a new free yahoo email id
- used that to create a new vacuous FB account (but I repeat myself)

That FB account is now used everywhere a FB login is required for a third party application.

Thanks to all who posted on the ways to block FB tracking, some of that I did not know.

#148 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 09:49 PM:

Aha! I had a revelation today, while browsing my wife's Facebook page. The most intriguing and acute Facebook users (with the most intriguing, acute friends) might appreciate this exercise. Here's a simple proof of the title of Patrick's post: cut and paste a random sampling of your Facebook transmissions into a word processor, then read them as if they were a short story, or a poem. Judge for yourself if you are spending your time on worthwhile issuances, or piddling it away on dreck.

#149 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 10:49 PM:

For a moment, I thought you were doing something similar to searching for some text from a random Usenet post you've made and seeing how many places on the internet it pops up. It's kind of a strange sensation to see your words repackaged as though you'd typed them for the benefit of some forum you never heard of.

#150 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 03, 2012, 10:56 PM:

Sorry... I should clarify. The cut and paste should be performed on your entire Facebook wall, not just your own transmissions. This test assumes that the user actually spends his/her time reading the text on the wall.

#151 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 02:05 AM:

Dan R. @ 148: I'm unconvinced by this exercise: if I cut out all the context that a set of messages contains (who the speaker is, what we've previously talked about, how other people have reacted and so on) I'm leaving out a lot of what I find useful about Facebook.

Here's a similar exercise: take a work of fiction that you are reading. Cut out every second word. Divide the rest up into 3 or 4 line segments, and paste them into emails which you send to yourself. Now go to your email program, and read each of the emails in sequence as if they were pieces of business correspondence.

I suspect the results of this would be interesting; but I don't think that this would be a particularly useful way of trying to decide whether the time I spent reading fiction was well-spent.

#152 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 02:20 AM:

What I learnt from Facebook yesterday: not only are there enough Welsh speakers in Patagonia for Patagonian Welsh to constitute a distinct dialect of the language; but this fact is apparently sufficiently widely-known to people I talk to on Facebook that when I mentioned it with surprise, the general response was 'Duh'.

Also: chocolate teapots are unfairly maligned:

#153 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 10:19 AM:

praisegod @151: By all means, keep the comments, the names, etc. in your sampling.

#154 ::: Heather Rose Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 11:29 AM:

praisegod @152

Duh. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

There's an amusing episode in the Welsh movie Cwm Hyfryd where a Welsh-speaking Patagonian is on holiday in Wales and encounters that attitude of "of course all you Welsh people can speak English and do this just to be annoying" whereupon he switches to Spanish. (The scene is more amusing than my description is making it out to be, I'm afraid.)

#155 ::: Mike McHugh ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 01:26 PM:

Heather Rose@154: I've always liked Yu Ming is ainm dom as an amusing, um, exploration of language.

#156 ::: Lenore Jean Jones/jonesnori ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:21 PM:

#155 ::: Mike McHugh - that was wonderful!

#157 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 06:51 PM:

DanR @ 148: It sounds like you are either saying:

1. People who enjoy Facebook enjoy dreck,
2. Your wife's Facebook friends write dreck.

Am I misunderstanding your post?

#158 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 04, 2012, 08:51 PM:

janetl @157:

Definitely #2.

Probably #1.

#159 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:15 PM:

Dan R: it's 'read it as though it were a novel or short story' that's really bothering me here. Why not 'as though it were a collection of recipes' or 'as though it were a set of instructions for assembling flat-packed furniture'?

#160 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 01:49 PM:

pgbb, #159: Exactly. Facebook is not a novel or a story or a poem, and has never been meant to be. Putting it up against the reading standards for any of them is an excellent example of moving the goalposts, and "disingenuous" is the least uncomplimentary way to describe the suggestion.

DanR, why don't you just stop reading Facebook? How hard is that?

#161 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:30 PM:

You know, there is a group of people who do find Facebook useful: small business owners who don't have the time or expertise to set up an inpedendent website of their own, and slim enough margins that paying for one seems like too big a stretch. Earlier this week, I bought some specialty meat products from a meat processor in Missouri whose online presence is a Facebook page; I have friends who sell goats through theirs. It works for them, or they wouldn't do it.

If a lot of your potential customers are already there, a Facebook page makes sense. I imagine that it's also possible the suggestion lurks in the minds of some of their customers that Facebook is somehow safer than a random webpage which might have all kinds of strange viruses and worms and things attached to it--sort of like the Good Housekeeping seal for the internets.

#162 ::: Melissa Singer ::: (view all by) ::: January 05, 2012, 02:42 PM:

fidelio: good point. My vet has a website and a Fb page. I visit the website once in a blue moon. But since I've "liked" their Fb page, I see notes and photos from them several times a week. And if I think, "wait, what are their hours again?" I can get to their Fb page with a couple of clicks, as opposed to having to look up the actual website's URL.

#163 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 12:35 AM:

praisegod @159:

I was trying to cite examples of Things You Read which are Worth Your Time.

I could have just as easily said, "Making Light," or the newspaper, or a collection of Joan Didion essays.

#164 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: January 06, 2012, 03:34 AM:

Bruce @144: A flashback for a few of you -

"Don't make ASCII frogs at me, Glory!"


#165 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 11:13 AM:

David, I think I missed a subculture along the way. Shorn of "ASCII," I'm quite familiar with the comic that came from, though. If it doesn't spoil anything, could you explicate briefly?

#166 ::: LJ ::: (view all by) ::: January 09, 2012, 04:33 PM:


But the point of Facebook is completely different than that. It's more like chatting with a friend when you meet in the hall, waving at your neighbor across the street,or chatting with co-workers during your coffee break.

It's "ping". It's maintaining those small interactions that keep people connected between the "big stuff", even when you live too far apart to bump into each other on the street.

Your exercise is like measuring the value of chit-chat by the worth of the actual words that are said. It's not about the words. It's about reaffirming the connection.

(Though I definitely agree with the bit about Facebook being tools for social interaction made by people who aren't good at social interaction. I've got quite a few problems with how they handle things. I just don't think your cut-and-paste exercise is a fair assessment of what a service LIKE Facebook provides.)

#167 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 11:39 AM:

Ah, but my problem with that is that shooting the breeze by the watercooler, or while both of you are mowing or weeding is *explicitly* ephemeral, and a lot of what is said is only said because of that societally-agreed nature (what do people call repeating WC BS in a formal context, after all?)

Facebook and its ilk have made this *explicitly* permanent - and available to "anybody", not just the people who were there (but also, less explicitly, "owned" by Facebook, for the use of its customers. Sure, you have copyright, but they believe they own the actual conversation and its form - see every article on "attempting to delete my account"). But they're still trying to frame it as the same conversation.

Would the conversation change around the coffee pot if there was a voice-activated recorder there? Should it?
There is a place for informal blow-off conversation (although there are problems with it, I know). If it's done in the wrong place, the consequences could be horrible. If it's not done in the wrong place, where can we go to do it? And what will they do then?

#168 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 03:10 PM:

Mycroft W @167: I worked once for a small company with several telecommuters, where the company equivalent of the water cooler was a private MUSH room. The usual casual and ephemeral conversation happened there. Sometimes people logged it, sometimes they didn't. It generally stayed within the company itself, but it didn't substantially change from what it would have been out loud just because it could be recorded.

That said, I do think the privacy of it was an important component; while it was certainly not the place to vent about one's supervisor, it was acceptable to exchange industry gossip or gripe about unreasonable customers, and be sure that wouldn't get out too far. I think ephemeral vs. permanent isn't nearly as important a distinction as private vs. public.

And I do think that private vs. public is one of those on-going cultural changes that's currently defined in very fuzzy ways around the borders, with ensuing chaos from disagreements on etiquette, malicious or accidental blurring of the lines, or just plain not knowing how it works. Since I think there are some things that should be more private, and some that should be more public... While I try to be careful, myself, I don't necessarily think that "a lot of things are more public than they used to be" is automatically a bad thing, as cultural shifts go.

#169 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 10, 2012, 06:54 PM:

Fade: I agree, and I've been there (some would say I am there right now, for certain cases). I would, however, point to JWZ and "really-bad-attitude" as a sober reminder.

And we're doing it to ourselves, without requiring subpoenas. And it drives me batty.

#170 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 01:38 AM:

Mycroft W. : Is that a point about the sort of interaction FB promotes, or the awfulness of the corporate entity that's providing the service that allows that sort of interaction (or maybe a third thing - the legal framework that permits it?)

Somewhere way back up thread I tried to distinguish between disliking Facebook as a 'service provider' (for want of a better word), and disliking the form of interaction which Facebook allows for/promotes.

I think a lot of discussion of FB conflates the two in ways that are unhelpful. In particular, lots of people who think - rightly by my lights - that FB sucks, then end up feeling almost compelled to say 'and who would want the service it provides anyway.'

That strikes me as a sour grapeish kind of move; and also unhelpful - it moves us away form a situations where we might have FB like interactions provided in a slightly better way. Because we're only going to get that if we have a bunch of people who are clued up about the ways in which FB is bad but who like the sorts of interaction it promotes.

All of which is a very long prelude to sharing
this link, which reads like a Tube map taken from a China Mieville novel, and which I would not have found out about were it not for Facebook. (I'd have posted on the Open Thread, but I'm some way behind on it.)

#171 ::: Mycroft W ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:38 AM:

pgbb: yes (for computer science values of "yes"). Mostly I was talking about the structure behind it; the interaction itself I find useless and spoon-eating *for me*, but I'm an introvert that does more than enough people-action in my jobs, and "on the spectrum" enough to find this kind of inconsequential chit-chat a (necessary, I've come to see) waste of time IRL, but not something I *want* to do. I also realise that I'm 5% of the population, and Arsebook is not written for me. Sobeit.

But the fact that it is deliberately and explicitly designed to pierce the privacy veil of the watercooler/bar bitch session *while still "pretending" that it doesn't*; that removing any data, even erroneous or permanently career-damaging, even something posted *by someone else* that is E or PCD, is deliberately made as difficult and hurdle-full as possible while not in fact being impossible; that interactions are deliberately designed to get you to "opt-in", without any real warning, to giving out your private details to *any non-personal entity that asks (any other non-personal entity that has it)*, is what makes Facebook so evil (or "stupid", from the view of the product).

And I'm thinking that for any system that requires login-via-Facebook, it would be in the product's best interest to create a Facebook account per "login-via-Facebook" site. "one generic login" is a great idea, as long as the entity controlling that login isn't designed to scoop all the activity done under that login, and cross-correlate.

#172 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 04:21 PM:

I think it's worth noting that the public vs. private and permanent vs. ephemeral conflation problems have been around since the invention of writing. The Internet in general has exacerbated the problem, and arguably Facebook has been particularly clueless and/or culpable in leading unsophisticated people into harming themselves, but the problem first appeared long ago.

See for a relatively recent (1943) and relatively benign instance of a communication that was intended to be relatively private and ephemeral, but which ended up becoming public. In this case, it became public long after the sender and recipient were both dead (though I haven't been able to find the vital stats of the subject of the letter).

#173 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:55 PM:


"It's more like chatting with a friend when you meet in the hall, waving at your neighbor across the street,or chatting with co-workers during your coffee break."

I suppose Facebook is similar to a friendly chat, minus the facial expressions, vocal intonations, hand gestures, and physical interaction... er, I guess you could say Facebook is exactly like chatting without the social mores.

"Your exercise is like measuring the value of chit-chat by the worth of the actual words that are said. It's not about the words. It's about reaffirming the connection."

Ah, yes. And what better way to 'reaffirm the connection' than with incorporeal words? Or am I thinking of poetry again?

#174 ::: DanR ::: (view all by) ::: January 11, 2012, 11:58 PM:

The gnomes are clutching my wretched little comment... perhaps for the best.

#175 ::: crazysoph ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2012, 12:55 PM:

perhaps of interest to those following this discussion:

Crazy(and weighing her own options)Soph

#176 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 10:57 PM:

To go way back - Patrick encountered a use of FB as a source of OpenID authentication. There's nothing in the mechanisms of OpenID that privileges FB, but I think some companies are lazy and just setting up the details for FB. One could at least take to contacting them about that.
StackOverflow (a tech site I visit now and then) has about a dozen OpenID providers, including LiveJournal.

OpenId is a really interesting idea; it's reducing the vast number of authentication sources I need. But also make it easier for someone to connect the dots of my Internet existence. (Since I use my real name virtually everywhere, not a huge deal for me. YMMV) My employer's new-to-me VPN system stomps the cookies in my IE browsers with amazing efficiency. As a side effect, it makes FB tracking less reliable. Unintended (mostly) positive consequence.

For the techish here; FB is/was reputedly using etags which allow/allowed correlation even when logged out. Essentially, your browser got a unique etag for an FB element; regardless of the presence of the session cookie, any site hosting that FB element caused a request to the FB server for the cache status of the element - serving up your unique etag and the referring URL. May be rankest hearsay and calumny.

Using separate browsers certainly is a good hygiene precaution.

#177 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2012, 02:59 PM:

Henry Troup: I don't know if facebook is using that etag scheme, but it certainly seems technically possible.

Also, separate browsers are not necessarily separate when it comes to plug-ins such as Adobe Flash. Flash has its own local storage similar to cookies, which can be used to track across multiple web browsers on the same computer sharing one instance of Flash.

The footnotes to this eff article list half a dozen cookie-like things, of which Microsoft Silverlight and Google Gears may provide the same cross-browser data persistance that Flash does.

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