Friday, January 29, 2010

Ten things I hate about you, Facebook

I'm not a listy fella, but you have earned this top ten, my dear. I'll try, as much as possible, to keep it professional rather than personal, not that you'd notice the subtle distinction, so no whines from me about white mystery eggs or bunches of flowers or hugs or pirate loot or vampires or zombies or any of the rest of that codswallop.

 1. Privacy

It is mine. Not yours. In my admittedly simple little way of thinking, allow me to repeat: my stuff is mine, not yours.
This is what you led me to believe when first I started with you. It was mid 2007, although it now feels like a decade or more (we'll get to that though). Back then your privacy policy seemed absolute (even though you still were hazy about hosting my pics).
Founder (?) Mark Zuckerberg called privacy 'the vector around which Facebook is built' just two years ago. But today he says 'Doing a privacy change for 350 million users is not the kind of thing that a lot of companies would do. But we viewed that as a really important thing, to always keep a beginner's mind and what would we do if we were starting the company now and we decided that these would be the social norms now and we just went for it.'

Anybody else smell horseshite? Most people have no idea how compromised their privacy is, because the format is so bubbly and new still, and they're too busy with white mystery eggs or bunches of flowers or hugs or pirate loot or vampires or zombies or fending off their mother as their friend or whatever. But when they do eventually wake up they'll be pissed off that it's still 1984. And as for companies? If you tell me one truth about my data today and a different truth tomorrow, I shall judge you to be inconsistent and therefore not a reliable partner or medium.

2. Opt outs

Does EVERY thing I do on here need to be relayed to everyone all the time?? My list of people (they're not all friends, you assumptive fool) does not need to be spammed about some pissy little app I downloaded to see how many words there are in my average update. And I think a little bit less of them when you tell me that 'Marty McGillacuddy is finding out what colour knickers her great great great grand aunt Mary wore in pre-Famine Ireland and thinks you should find out too!' Spam is spam, you info-hogging obsessive. Here's the deal: I will refrain from actually saying something important to someone I know as a friend on Facebook, wishing their kid nephew good luck with his chemo, for instance, and you will refrain from spamming my inbox 45 times with 45 comments from 45 other people I don't know wishing my friend's nephew the same thing. Yes I know there's a technical opt-out in Settings, but it's a bit of a nuke response isn't it? Let me opt in if I want to follow a thread, you voracious fucker, or do you honestly think we're just one big hillbilly family?

3. Lack of clear-cut distinction between professional and personal use. 

I've alluded to Profiles, Pages and Groups before.

To sum it up neatly: if you're a person, set up a profile and your friends can join, whereas if you're a non-human (event, product, cyborg) set up a page and people can become fans. Or if you want to be a Group with lots of interaction then set one up and people can become Members. But don't ever set up a Profile and then decide you want to be a thing instead of a person because Facebook might delete all your contacts so what you should do is set up a Page instead unless you're going to be a real chatterbox and then a Group is better oh oh and too also you may be able to swop your old Profile for a Page if you use FBML and-

SHADDAP! Shut. The. Fuck. Up. You big blue morass of uncertain-of-everything-except-we-know-we-want-all-your-dataz maniac! You want to be Linkedin. You want to be Twitter, and email, and Flickr and everything else too. A great big online Airbus for business and economy classes where everyone's giddier than Aunt Mabel going to Benidorm in 1967.

Great. Just one problem.

They all look the same.

4. Designed by fascists

God bless Bebo. I loved it for its unpredictability. Long before C4 it redefined skins. Long after Rizla, admittedly, but that is another discussion.
Blogs, websites, MySpace... even a Twitter profile page ffs will let me do something to own it. Facebook has The Big Blue Book of Blue. Give you the blues, does it reader? It gives me the blue shits, frankly.
Obviously the behind-the-curtain bit has given FB a superb functionality. People love how they can connect with each other online using it as a big Bebo. It sucks everybody else's capabilities and repackages them as its own. It is very good at what it does. But Christ Almighty does it have to be so geometrically boring and colour-adverse? It is banal with a capital anal. If ever a web application needed the Sony Bravia makeover, this monochromatic monster is first in line. When I googled Profiles, Pages and Groups guess how many results came up. Go on.
That's right. Two hundred and seventy seven million. That to me smacks of nothing so much as indecisiveness. End of.

5. Clunky target marketing

Facebook has 350 million+ users. Sounds like a lot. And you only pay for the ads when they click on them! But spread it about all over the world and it gets diluted. Break your target down further, say to guys, and that cuts things by over 50%. But if you want guys who care about a six pack that's a smaller segment again. You absolutely need to be geographically accurate with your pitch or you are for sure wasting your money. You probably won't be able to buy relevant keywords you'd like. And even if you could? Nobody cares, in my humble opinion. They're there to send their friends white mystery eggs or bunches of flowers or hugs or pirate loot or vampires or zombies or fend off their mother as their friend. Or if they're a guy check out their girlfriend's girlfriends. They sure as hell have no interest in leaving the site and all the goss to go Build a City and Conquer Neighbouring Armies, buddy. Are you on the right page? Social media is not search, and people being social, porniness aside, are not searching for whatever those little ads are selling. Besides which...

6. Are advertisers being shafted by click fraud?

Techcrunch would suggest that you're fannying about, Facebook. Your 2009 revenue targets were $550 million, a bit of a steep jump from 2008's $280m. Some advertisers:

  • Facebook is still reporting 20% more clicks than I actually get. This is bullshit. If I were at least getting bot traffic or something that would be one thing, but right now Facebook is simply stealing 20% of clicks that I paid for, which adds up to thousands of dollars. Someone should threaten legal action, this is straight up fraud on Facebook’s part.
  • FB click fraud update: ratio is now EXACTLY 10:1. 10 clicks reported on FB, 1 click on prosper. No, this wasnt on a small scale either. Were talking 1000’s of clicks. Have fun facebook. Im checking out till you can fix this shit.
  • I’m targeting small, specific demos, Facebook reports exactly twice as many clicks as hit my LP. Facebook is stealing our money, fuck this shit.
Techcrunch goes on to say
These aren’t the standard click fraud complaints that advertisers have leveled against search engines for years. In those cases, bots are racking up the fake clicks, which obviously never convert to any sort of purchase or other action. But at least the advertisers see the clicks.

In this case advertisers are saying that Facebook is recording and charging for clicks that don’t exist at all, even from bots. Their tracking software shows one set of numbers, which is 20% – 100% lower than what Facebook is recording.

According to the WickedFire posts Facebook isn’t officially acknowledging the problem or giving any refunds so far. But they are asking some advertisers to send in logs to show the discrepancy. So far, advertisers who go to the trouble to do this aren’t getting the response they wanted: “I was asked to send in my logs so I spent over an hour compiling logs over the time period in question, and they replied with their fucking scripted bullshit. I was sooo fucking pissed, since I took the time to do that and they churn out a 2 second response.”

Happy clickmas!

7. News feed v Live feed

Oh you what? Some months back when Facebook eventually noticed the twerrier nipping at its ankles it changed its feed from a small bore Wavin into a Russian transcontinental monster pipe inside which James Bond would be proud to take an Aston Martin. So that they could wash away the 140 character irrelevance of Twitter presumably. For this massive pointlessness and utter lack of understanding of who users wanted them to be I am just going to link you to two pages on the platform itself. Clueless Facebookers #1 and Clueless Facebookers #2.

8. That fucking demented knock knock sound when someone wants to chat.

This may seem petty but I am reminded that I HATE your chat function EVERY TIME somebody gives that hollowed-out marmoset skull sound. (On reflection no, this isn't petty at all.) Any other company in the world would listen, especially one as successful as you. They'd watch the competition, learn and apply those learnings. Their customers would love them more because of it.
Do not get me wrong, I can be quite critical of a lot of what Google is about, but their gmail is a lesson in streamlined simplicity. Take just the chat function. It gives me settings that allow me to have a personal byline message, be invisible, say I'm busy etc etc. I can break the chat box out of the home page (functional brilliance), have my pic as part of it and save conversations. It will allow me to send a message even when the other person is not online. And most importantly it does not give me your marmoset skull sound effects. Such is my loathing of this feature of yours that I tend to forget that I know it exists at all. A kind of security cloaking device. Only reason it appears in this list is that I happened to have the dreaded page open just now and someone foolishly came a knock-knock marmoset knockin'.
If I needed a kidney, and Facebook chat was the only way the donor could reach me, I'd probably take it, but the very next kidney that came along I'd swop that fucker right out. Even if it was only for a little marmoset substitute.

9. The walled garden myth

If you were a garden there might be something nice to see. You're a prison yard and I'm wearing that poxy blue jumpsuit. You're Hotel California. I'm Rapunzel. You're eTender reminders from the government. I wish I could quit you.
But if I delete my account you'll keep my data, my private letters, my pictures and all the rest of it. If I migrate my content you'll delete my account. Have you never even heard of the majesty that is Sting?* If you love someone, set them free. If they come back to you they deserve everything they get, the triple-galvanised idiots. Wanna know where they get all the zombies for that stupid game? They're here, 40,000 of them almost, stumbling around trying to find an exit that doesn't lead back into Blue Hell.

10. Don't pretend to care.

I don't want to know how many friends I share with him.
I don't want to help her find her friends.
I don't care that I haven't spoken to him in that long.
I don't want to find people from my phone book.
I don't want to find friends from school or uni or the office.

You don't care about any of that. Don't pretend you do. You just want my info, my stats and my behavioural graph for your master plan, whatever this year's business model is. Data is money, we're idiots and you're trying to double your numbers in 2010. 700 million users. The vast majority of us missing the point.

Will it ever hit home for more than a few percent? I'm not at all sure that it will. This is no Bebo. As far as a success story business, you're pretty much perfect, Facebook.

That's probably the most annoying thing of all.

* A non-literal witticism


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Irish Daily Mail acting scummy.

I'm going off-brief for a little. Sort of.

Melanie Schregardus is an air traffic controller in Shannon. She's also a blogger. Last weekend her life went into a tailspin on the back of an article by The Irish Daily Mail. A journalist by the name of Luke Byrne took one of her blogposts (you can access the background here) and proceeded, in clich├ęd bad journalist fashion, to spin it into something very different from what Melanie had intended.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two upcoming events

Blue corner:

Thursday 4th of Feb in Trinity College sees The Dublin Web Summit kick off with some real heavyweights. Matt Mullenweg, the eleven year old founder of Wordpress (jealous much, Nick?) and Craig Newmark, the first guy to ever make a list and make millions out of putting his name to it, will join ex Iona chief Chris Horn and Wired's Ben Hammersley. Doesn't much matter what they're talking about. It'll be worth listening.

Red corner:

The Brainfood Store meanwhile goes from strength to strength. On Wed 24th of Feb Justin Cullen an Fred King's baby hosts The Digital Festival at the Berkeley Court Hotel in Ballsbridge. They've got Brent Hoberman,'s founder, Peter Kim from the Dachis Group, Shel Israel and a few more top-drawer professionals, all converging on the workability of digital marketing.

The ante is getting upped for events like these, which to me suggests that the demand is there for quality. Might be a future for this internet thing after all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

My many charity works

I'm not gonna let the do-gooders have all the bandwidth over this Haiti thing. Yes it's a mess, and yes there are some amazing people being unnervingly generous with their time, money, talents and so on to help a country that needed plenty of help before this shocking event, so spurred on by their inspirational Action Jackson exploits I'm jumping on the goodness gravy train too. I mean, I'm relatively young, I have my health, I can do stuff too.

What I'm going to do is take part in a table quiz on Wed 27th of Jan. I'll have to- excuse me? What?
Don't you judge me! Don't you DARE judge me! I'll have to sit through Jason Byrne as he sweats his way through the questions. I'll need to get across the city to Dublin 2. I'll be exposed to all sorts of young people out 'wearing' what they claim with no modesty whatsoever to be 'clothes'. They'll probably use other words too, like 'fashion' and 'Grandad' and 'mace'. And after that I'll be surounded by marketing/advertising/radio types who know absolutely everything already.

You might help by at least offering to come along. It's being organised by Independent Radio Sales for The Haven Partnership (who have already committed to building 5,000 homes in Haiti).

Julia Farrelly works with IRS:
In order to do this we are trying to sell as many tables as possible (invites to follow!) and also gather together fantastic prizes that we will raffle on the night and I’m hoping that you/your clients might consider donating prizes to help us make this event as successful as possible.  We will have a big screen on the night which will feature credits to anyone providing prizes, and obviously Jason Byrne will be crediting all prize donations too throughout the event.

You can reach Julia at


Another way you can help is by bidding on the hat of Ireland's newest sex god Paul Cunningham. It's on ebay here. It's not really suitable for you if you don't have a head.

And still another is by clicking on the Tweet this! button beneath this post, or blogging/tweeting/standing on tall shoes and just shouting about it. If we work together, I can look really good here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Your privacy on everybody's internet

Pic courtesy Webwombat

I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next person. I have a theory that I love them more, in fact. No more fertile compost heap than the privacy-on-the-net canard. (Oh my what a horrible set of metaphor bookends. I'll let them stand, as a warning to aspiring writers.)

Anyway. Privacy. I'll give you the science in three words: there is none.

A very good overview of many of the issues involved in social media here from Damien Mulley.

And here ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick takes Facebook's volte face on privacy to task and essentially tears them a second arse. A small snippet:
First the company kept user data siloed inside its site alone, saying that a high degree of user privacy would make users comfortable enough to share more information with a smaller number of trusted people.
Now that it has 350 million people signed up and connected to their friends and family in a way they never have been before - now Facebook decides that the initial, privacy-centric, contract with users is out of date. That users actually want to share openly, with the world at large, and incidentally (as Facebook's Director of Public Policy Barry Schnitt told us in December) that it's time for increased pageviews and advertising revenue, too.

From schoolkids on Facebook to idiot college kids on dormporn sites to celebs on Twitter and on and on and on, the message is the same. There is NO privacy on the web. If you put stuff up there anywhere (and often if you don't) it is findable and will be disseminated. 99% of the time this will be as harmful as dropping your DNA in the bin on a Big Mac box, and if you're ok with that I'm ok with it too. But privacy has undergone seismic redefinition. Most people are unaware of how exposed they are. Internet giants will do what they can to protect the interests of consumers. Right after they've done what's right for them first.

Thanks to Niall Austin for highlighting the RWW article.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Google China, DIT goes digital and Cybercom want a meeja head

Big news this morning is that Google looks to be squaring up to the Chinese government's meddlesome ways when it comes to censoring search. Their full release is here. It seems that they're already losing market share in China, down from 19% to 17% in Q4 2009. Baidu, the state controlled search behemoth, hogs over 75% of the market. Still, 17% of the Chinese market is not something to leave lightly. I don't believe Google are being 100% transparent here with their release, and something big is obviously coming down the tracks for their business model in that part of the world, but it's still a little chilling to read between the lines as they attempt to protect their China-based employees in the last para here, from David Drummond, one of their senior Corporate Development and legal beaks.

The decision to review our business operations in China has been incredibly hard, and we know that it will have potentially far-reaching consequences. We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make the success it is today. We are committed to working responsibly to resolve the very difficult issues raised.

More on this one later, but for now an overview. Dublin Institute of Technology and the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland have teamed up at last to recognise that digital upskilling in adland is most definitely needed on the curriculum. This neglected area will hopefully begin to benefit from a brand spanking new course, the Postgraduate Diploma in Advertising and Digital Communications. It's a part-time evening course run from Aungier Street and is heavily skewed towards digital communications but still incorporates much of the trad side of how things are done. It is practically geared, being run by professionals at work full-time in marketing communications (myself included).
If you're interested in doing it or signing up some of your staff there may still be places. It's due to start in the next couple of weeks. Talk to IAPI's Aisling Conlon at

Down by the river in Ringsend Cybercom continue to build their comprehensive digital offering. Rob Reid wants a Media Account Director to head up their Media Department. They'll have five people under them. Impressive for a digital ad agency, not great for stage diving. Full details here or email

Happy Wednesday all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Outdoor is set to go online. Huh?

Forget Second Life (apologies if you were born post 2007, precious reader). The new unreality will be much more practical. Google has just been granted a new patent to post 48 sheets in Street View. Imagine tooling around the Street View version of city centre Dublin on a wet and windy Tuesday morning, as you build your personal map of Aldi locations for the rest of the year's shopping excursions. You cruise down Parnell Street and why, there's a great big dirty poster for none other than the Dunnes Stores outlet around the corner on Henry Street. And then it revolves! Just like the oh-so-futuristic prismatics of the eighties! And behold, it's another supermarket poster, except this time for Tesco in the Jervis Centre!

Far fetched? Don't be silly. No reason thus far why your competitors can't own virtual ad space over an online image of your company's real outlet. Google applied for the patent over a year and a half ago and now they have it. As RWW says

The patent describes a two-step process for identifying potential advertising real estate in these images. Google's software first identifies interest points in the image (e.g. the edges or corners of an object) and then generates features around these interest points. Google can then augment this region of the image with a link or replace a part of the current Street View image with a new image.

This thrills me in ways that I can barely describe, but I will try.
It's like Bruce Boxleitner in Tron hitting a 90° turn at 200 mph and smashing into a giant sheet of cyberglass being carefully walked across the information superhighway (aah, remember that place?) by The Lawnmower Man and Max Headroom. When it shatters into a billion fragments, each one is a beautifully perfect hologram, spinning in luscious slo-mo, and you can buy full rights (for a limited period only, natch) to any number of these holograms and have full HDR of your logo, company strapline and a looped piece of high def footage (10 seconds) from one of your Antiques Roadshow-era 'tellyvision' ads, for that added company heritage brand pillars wheel pyramid thingummy feel.

Fuck. I have to stop with the mushrooms. Next I'll be seein- YEEARGHHHHHHHH!

Spotted via @ciaranoreilly. Image courtesy

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Why should you know David Armano?

Clockwise: a Shirky, a Scoble, a Godin and a Vaynerchuk

If you are involved in digital marketing you'll be aware of the rapid turnover of hardware and the even faster speed of evolving software at the points where company and consumers meet. It's dizzying. You'll then have to contend with a seemingly endless flashmob of certified social media and digital branding experts, here in Ireland and from everywhere else.

A glance is usually enough to dismiss most of them as journeymen, but some names get bandied about too much to dismiss so quickly. They're all American. Clay Shirky (a kind of Mahatma Gandhi on a mild steroid course), Seth Godin (Gandhi on a diet), Robert Scoble (Gandhi played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Gary Vaynerchuck (a kind of Gandhi, if he were built by Ant and Dec) are names you can't help but trip over in online marketing terms, and there are heaps more that I'm already too stressed to mention. They've all got something, but in a universe of infinite content you just can't devote your life to following the twelve disciples.

When content is pushed my way from David Armano however, I usually make time to read it. Not just because what he says makes sense, but because I genuinely like the vibe off him. It's a business thing, he offers full disclosure, he's very serious about results and he's not afraid to fall on his arse (in a personal sense) trying something. He seems very human.
Quite a while ago Alexia Golez made a comment that stayed with me. She mentioned the internet being a place that revealed personalities rather than masked them. It made instant sense. You can fake it for a while, but ultimately the real you will out, unless deception is your key game. And Armano feels real to me. Not saying the others aren't: they patently have more presence reality than marketing gurus from any other era. It's just that the cut of Armano's gib works for me, and as opposed to talking about tech specifically, or the hippy vibe of soc media, he actually does all his work at the point where brands and people intersect.

While managers debate who will control social media inside their organizations — marketing, PR, corporate, IT — I say stop and ask the bigger question: Do any of the people who make up your company, agencies, partners and so on actually live social? Do they demonstrate that they work and play in a connected fashion? Once we begin to resolve that (and don't underestimate the power of baby steps), then we can worry about which discipline, department or agency/consultancy is best equipped to help lead the way.

From a recent piece written for the Harvard Business Review. None of it is new at all. He's repeating the same simple message he's been doing for a long time. But it is worth hearing, especially for the smaller Irish companies who maybe don't have the issues of 'Who controls it?' so much as 'where do I start?' or 'How do I find the time?'

Armano is now a Vice President (Americans are big on them) with Edelmann Digital, and he's graduated from the school of been there and done it, via digital creative/strategy work at Critical Mass, Digitas and

There are lots of bright people out there who can teach you many things. I like this guy, and whenever I can I tune in. Which is not nearly enough. Ironically, here's Armano giving loads of kudos to the guys I effectively glossed over a few paragraphs back. Hadn't seen it before I wrote. Typical.