Has Facebook reverted to lies to tempt us into foolish behaviour?

Here's a thing that has puzzled me lately: most times I've logged into Facebook I've been met by Facebook ads claiming this or that friend of mine on the network has used Facebook Friendfiender, urging me to follow their lead.

The thing that's puzzled me about this is that a substantial portion of my Facebook friends are very savy when it comes to technology and privacy. Quite a few of them are journalists well versed in how to protect their privacy and their sources online, and I just couldn't imagine any of these giving Facebook access to their email boxes and -contacts by using Friendfiender. Others are privacy and/or anti-surveillance campaigners, I could't quite see them using Friendfiender either. So when Facebook claimed my FB-friend Leo Plaw, a web developer and artist, had used Friendfiender I shot him an email to double-check. Here's his reply:

"Thanks for heads up. Facebook is lying. FB has become the sneakies bunch of weasels. Blog that one."

Maybe I should start double-checking every time Faceboook claims one or more of my FB-friends have used Friendfinder. This sort of advertisement woud be against the law under Norwegian jurisdisction as it's misleading. I wonder, how does it hold up under US jurisdiction?

Ericsson employee set up his own "Hitchhiker's Central" on Facebook

This is pretty nifty: Paul Mathews, an Ericsson employee, was able to use a communication platform at the Swedish firm to enable those stranded without access to the internet to use their phones to post questions and messages to a Facebook page he'd set up to help passengers caught up in the recent flight chaos.

The text messages cost the usual rate but the user is kept up to date with replies for free thanks to the system. "The initiative is not connected to my employment but I am able to deploy the same technology that we export for external developers," he told The Local.

Mathews and his wife Helani manage the site, first set up when some US colleagues were left marooned in the Swedish capital amid the ongoing flight chaos, but he underlined that it is the users, now numbering more than 120, who keep it moving and make it it useful. Full story over at The Local.

I started writing about this issue due to my own experiences using VG.no's Hitchhiker's Central (Haikesentralen), but it's a fascinating topic. Not only because of my interest in editorial development and previous experiences from travel PR, but I really think this scenario reveals how powerful communication tools the internet offers and how out of touch too many institutions and companies are with this new communication landscape we live in.

It's not all that new of course, but the future has always been unevenly distributed and the volcano flight chaos, and subsequent transport crisis, just shows us to which extent this is the case.

In my last media report (link in Norwegian) I wrote that "If there is one arena custom-made to think big and fast at the same time, it's social media. The challenge here is that social media to a large extent is comprised of small niches and networks which could do with someone or something to connect it all together. A connection point is exactly what VG's Hitchiker Central has provided in the wake of the current transportation meltdown. But the tools to do this are so easy to use and readily available that it is far from given that this a role media will be able to occupy forever".

Mathews nifty "Stranded in Europe" Facebook page, and accompanying blog is one example of people taking matters into their own hands, and I'm sure there are plenty other, simliar examples to be found. In fact, here's another one, and I'm sure I could find other such initiatives if I did a bit of googling...

Social media monitoring for parents

I do my share of talking to journalists about monitoring what's being said about companies or keywords on their beats online, so when I stumbled across these videos on how parents can use social media to do the same I couldn't help but laugh and have found myself unable to get them off my mind since.

The first of these is from September 2009, the second from mid-March this year, but they are both such great illustrations of our brave new media world that they can stand re-watching. First, the how to:

Then some of the wider implications (via Adam on Roaming Originals):

It must be said that I've always thought age is a state of mind and am delighted to see friends of all ages on Facebook, one of the latest being a friend fast approaching seventy. Still, I've kept my Facebook profile family-free, save siblings, and the fear of uncomfortable family discussions about not friending near and dear ones is part of the reason why I chose to use a nick when I first set up my current Facebook profile...

Twitter vs Facebook: which is more effective for mobilising people to act?

Recent events has had me pondering if Twitter is not far superior to Facebook when it comes to mobilising people to actually take action and do something in the real world.

It was fascinating to hear Suw Charman-Anderson attribute much of the success of the Ada Lovelace campaign she ran earlier this year (I wrote about it here) to Twitter during this Media140 panel back in May. In contrast, many people joined the Facebook group she set up, but few seemed to do something actively after they joined. This sentiment was echoed by her husband Kevin, who found Twitter ever so much more useful than Facebook during his US roadtrip on behalf of The Guardian (I interviewed him about it here, in Norwegian).

Now, in both these cases we are talking about a fairly tech-savy audience, but clearly Facebook's where the major mainstream audience is - surely, that's a lot more useful from a marketing point-of-view, right? The experiences using social media to promote Wandsworth Common Beer Festival, presented in this interesting slide show found via Knut Albert, had me think perhaps not:

I must admit that I personally much prefer Twitter to Facebook, and I have a much more passive relationship to the groups I join or fan pages I sign up to on Facebook than information shared on Twitter. Often, the groups I join are just for fun or a symbolic show of support more than anything I think I'll ever do much with. My Twitter network is so much more relevant to my work and professional interests than Facebook, which is more of a mixed bag. Also, Facebook is more personal - a way to keep up with people not on Twitter, or people or projects I've "known" for quite some time" (mostly in real life). But I feel myself going over well known territory saying that, we all now Facebook and Twitter are different, that's not really my point, but I'm curious to learn/ see more of how effective the two sites are for moblising people to act - surely, that is a marketeers ultimate object, right?

Am I all wrong in thinking Twittter might be superior to Facebook here, and if so: in which cases are Facebook the better site to entice people to take action?

The David Montgomery Appreciation society

Mecom shareholders launch fan club for David Montgomery on Facebook.

Fed up with all the negative media coverage of former Mirror boss David Montgomery's struggling pan-European media group, Adam Billiald, a small shareholder in Mecom, has set up nothing less than The David Montgomery Appreciation Society (thanks to Christoph for alerting me to the fan club on Twitter).

At the time of writing, some eight hours after the group launched, it has 40 members.

In an email, Billiald explained to me that he was tired of the markets and press slating Montgomery and wanted to show that the Mecom-boss has support, a point he claimed was proved by the first few comments on the group's Facebook wall.

"I am sure he can get them through this mess and wipe the debts. We are all also (small) shareholders... but we are all supporting him, as did the major ones..." he said. Billiald, who works for Yell Group when he's not dabbling in shares, is an active contributor to this Mecom Group Share Chat Forum where the news of the new group was met with much praise.

Reacting to the news on the chat board, another regular contributor, petertee, whom I'm guessing is the same person as the Facebook profile Peter Robert Tee, wrote: "Hope we get many more members - search Facebook under Mecom - David Montgomery Appreciation to join - its free and you can add comments, news, whatever - anything relating to Mecom under DM leadership. He is like our modern day Buzz Lightyear, and he will lead MEC to infinity and beyond!"

In a Facebook message, Billiald told me he hoped Montgomery himself would be in touch at some point.

For the record: I have followed the discussion on the chat forum on and off since some time around Christmas, and Billiald emailed me his thoughts on Mecom's forthcoming disposals last week in response to this post.Several of the people who contribute to the forum follow the company very closely, so closely that Christoph has been kind enough to set up a Yahoo Pipe which provides an RSS-feed for the news articles they share with each other as we all know, at least those of us who've followed the company for a long time, that UK media coverage of the group tend to be patchy and limited.

Media & The Credit Crunch; Media Industry Outlook 2009

Catching up with some of the many unread posts in my newsreader yesterday (busy days), I found this interesting Bloomberg-interview with ContentNext founder and publisher Rafat Ali, well worth listening to.

Paidcontent sums it up neatly as as Ali "giving a frank forecast of the climate for media and the economy in the next few months. It boils down to: layoffs, consolidation and pay-back time for social media.":

Reinfeldt's Facebook gaffe

The Swedish Prime Minister, Fredrik Reinfeldt, speaking to students at the The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) on "The New Swedish Model: A Reform Agenda for Growth and the Environment":

It is a pleasure to be here at LSE. Anybody who wants to study globalisation should start at this institution. I believe you have the highest proportion of international students in the world.

And you are smart.

I am told that you borrow four times as many books as the average UK student. Obviously you do not spend too much time on


Ouch. Better not encourage anyone to spend time getting their heads around the future (global) means of distribution, or what those may look like... (via Media Culpa)

Favourite quotes this week

On The McCanns' debate:
Greenslade: "I'm unsure what will emerge from a debate tonight about the media coverage of Madeleine McCann's disappearance. But, given the cast list on a rather crowded panel, it does promise to offer heat, if not light."

Greenslade on the following day: "I feared that last night's debate on 'The McCanns and the media'... would generate more heat than light. In fact, it generated neither"

On Facebook:
Neil McIntosh (responding to Tom Hodginkinson's piece in The Guardian on how Facebook is a libertarian, neo-conservative, Hobbesian conspiracy built on how man is driven by mimetic desires): "He points to lots of bloggers quitting the site because of privacy concerns, which always seems a little odd to me - putting personal details on Facebook (or your blog) and then complaining about a loss of privacy is like a stripper complaining about being spotted nude."

"Facebook's Beacon is spyware"

From Henrik Torstenssons Weblog: 'Facebook's Beacon program, where Facebook's partner sites automatically report your activity on their sites to your Facebook account, doesn't pass my smell test. What Facebook has built in Beacon is spyware. If Facebook doesn't redesign Beacon, making it opt-in and far more transparent than today, I will be very surprised if this doesn't lead to either a member backlash or regulation by lawmakers.

An example of how Beacon works: Click on Play Now and Joost will report your action to Facebook and unless you actively say no, your activity will end up in your newsfeed.'

More food for thought on the same issue from Ethan Zuckerman, "Facebook changes the norms for web purchasing and privacy", and from David Weinberger, "Facebook's privacy default" (via Rebecca MacKinnon)

Southern California fires coverage shows potential of internet facilitated reporting

With every new major disaster these days, we see evidence that mainstream media finally is waking up to the power of internet facilitated reporting: experimenting with Google Maps, You Tube, Twitter, Flickr, Technorati, Facebook and various other aggregation and social networking tools.

A few weeks back it was Burma and it's citizen journalists leading the way, this week it's the coverage of the Wildfires in Southern California.

Martin Stabe reports how San Diego TV station News 8 has "responded to the crisis on its patch by taking down its entire regular web site and replacing it with a rolling news blog, linking to YouTube videos of its key reports, plus Google Maps showing the location of the fire.

"There are links to practical information that their viewers will need at this time, including how to contact insurance companies, how to volunteer or donate to the relief efforts, evacuation information and shelter locations.

"It’s an exemplary case study in how a local news operation can respond to a major rolling disaster story by using all the reporting tools available on the Internet," he concludes.

Of course, not all news organisations are equally innovative. As always, though the future may already be here, it's far from evenly distributed – to the dismay and frustration of many of us. Here's Kevin Anderson, blog editor of The Guardian, writing on his personal blog:

"If part of news organisations’ job is to be a trusted guide, why are so many blind to the aggregating this content and helping their audience navigate it? ...I’m still baffled why web aggregation during breaking news with follow up interviews still are the exception not the norm. There are all of these people living through a news event making themselves known through blog posts, photo sharing sites, social networking sites and more, and yet we’re still telling the story through wire copy, agency video and stills..."

Bloggers Blog has a good overview of online reporting and resources from California here.

A Swedish journalist's axis of evil: Facebook, MySpace and Gmail

The privacy issues connected with how these popular services collect and store their users' personal information for commercial purposes, make Swedish journalist Hanne Kjöller suggest we boycott them (via Media Culpa):

Kjöller writes (in Swedish): "Too old? Probably. I don't see the point with the website Facebook. But there are others who do. Business men and American terrorist hunters for example."

By the way, isn't that a strange phenomenon? Leading journalists that write negative articles about new media technologies that they don't understand, but understand well enough to bash on a prime location in the paper. I suggest that you either get a better understanding of the technology/service/website first, or refrain from writing about it all together.

Anyway, I think that the age factor might, unintentionally, be where she hits the nail. According to a study by Pew Internet "two-thirds of teens with profiles on blogs or social-networking sites have restricted access to their profiles in some fashion, such as by requiring passwords or making them available only to friends on an approved list." In other words, young people who are savvy online networkers are aware of the risks with being too open and act accordingly.... (read the full post over at Media Culpa).

I must admit I'm sceptical towards the trend that Kjöller questions myself, or some of its faces anyway. Being restrictive about how much information you leave for anyone to access is sensible, but if the service provider is able to pass on all your information, restrictions on access or not, to third parties, those restrictions don't help you much.

Is it a problem that people use the information you leave behind e.g. on MySpace to decide if you are in target group for razor blades or Barbie dolls? Well, yes and no. Age (being a minor or not) is one consideration, and who the service provider can pass the information on to (if it can be required to pass it on to the government) is another...

I wouldn't call it an axis of evil, far from, and if we should boycott Facebook, MySpace and Gmail on this rationale, we should, in the interest of fairness, start by boycotting Google.

Web 2.0 guru Tim O'Reilly has said that contrary to what most people think, Web 2.0 is about controlling data that people leave behind on the web and about the databases that are created as a result of this (in this Wired article, I'm paraphrasing him here).

I'm a bit uneasy about such a scenario, or some of its possible implications. It's great to get spot-on recommendations from Amazon, but, ultimately, I'm scared, perhaps a bit paranoid, I'll end up Scroogled...

Norway is Facebook Country

At least according to this 'world map of social networks' I found while catching up with the feed from Valleywag. Last time I checked, VG's Nettby was still Norway's biggest social network, with 381,647 'citizens' vs Facebook's 291,695 members of Network Norway, but such national social networks probably fall out of the equation. That would go some way towards explaining why Sweden, which has many thriving national social networks, is down as 'unidentified'. Nick Denton explains more about the methodology used in this comment. Interesting map nonthesame:


The Facebook test

You've just got to love this insight into Facebook that dropped into my mail box from a reader. I've kept pondering why it is that Norwegian journalists have shied away from blogging, despite how a lot of them are on Facebook. And I must admit I've yet to be convinced about the value of social networks, when, if you're spare time is limited, you could rather be blogging and attract an audience that is as hooked on exactly the same things as yourself. Anyway, here's Ashok on the issue:

Facebook is definitely not one of my favourite ways to meet people online, and everyone I know there acts like a high schooler that's like OMG I'M ON THE INTERNETZ AND I CAN TALK WITH MY FRIENDZ. In fact, I find Facebook a really good screening mechanism, like MySpace, for potential dates - if a girl has pics of herself getting drunk on there, and that's all she has, she's probably not the sort of girl suited for a relationship. Similarly, if she types things like "L8r," that could be problematic too. I can't tell you how many women around my age
[I think he's around 26: not that many years younger than me, but at the moment I'm going thru a phase where I feel very ancient, happens now and then] are like that on Facebook or MySpace, and I thank God for their ability to display their true selves before I get involved.

Facebook Fever: do you protect your sources better in the bar?

Are journalists shielding the identity of their sources more by taking them out for a beer, especially in a see and be seen place such as a press club, than by adding them as friends on Facebook? That was one of the key questions Thursday's debate about "Facebook: friend or foe", organised by the Oslo chapel of Norway's journalist union, boiled down to.

'In the case of Facebook, we are presented with two conflicting virtues: the need to protect our sources and the value of being transparent,' said Arne Jensen of the Norwegian Editor's Association, one of the two panellists of the evening. 'Facebook works as an overview of contacts more than anything else, it's not a map of personal relations. It's not any better if I have a pint of beer with a VG journalist or if I add him or her as friend on Facebook,' said John Christian Elden, the second panellist, a well-known barrister whose Facebook connection to glamour model Ayalar and others were 'exposed' in Dagbladet's recent 'undercover investigation'.

It was funny kind of evening: the press club was packed, and there was a lot if buzz about who were Facebook-friends with who, how long they had been there, and how many 'friends' they had. Neither of the two panellists were opposed to journalists using Facebook: both, as well as the chair of the debate, had Facebook profiles, so the strongest opposition came from the audience:

'Is it really okay to post your contact book online? What about protecting your sources? On many occasions you need to take a beer somewhere out of the limelight,' said Trygve Aas Olsen, editor of trade journal Journalisten. He added: 'What if the boss of a whistleblower logs onto Facebook and finds evidence, or evidence enough to suspect, that this person is the source of the story?'

'Well, if he hits the town, and especially the press club, he'll see lots of journalists drinking with their sources, said Sigvald Sveinbjörnsson, news editor of business news site NA24, sardonically. He found it strange that the organisers had managed to fill up the entire press club to discuss Facebook, while a lot of journalists for a long time had had a substantial share of their contacts on MSN messenger.

'Aren't you worried about how you can be suspected of being a source because you're friends with someone on Facebook, if people can think you are the source from a closed court hearing?' the chair of the debate asked Elden. ' Well, they think so anyway,' was Elden's laconic reply.

'I think it's important to realise that just because we face a new reality, journalists won't abandon their reason,' said Jensen: 'Any innovation that eases communication between people is positive. We have to have that as the starting point and then consider problematic aspects as they occur. Every new communication technology through history has been met with calls for regulation.'

If you have powerful friends as your real friends it's not problematic if you reveal this on Facebook, quite the contrary. But on Facebook you lack the nuanciation: you're either a friend or not, not an acquaintance or graded according to how close a friend. If you get the impression that Elden is a buddy of the people who cover his cases – then you get a credibility problem.'

'You have to be conscious of what you post online, said Elden: 'You shouldn't post information you wouldn't be comfortable with putting up on the wall of your local supermarket. We're currently seeing that information posted on Facebook becomes the basis for many a story in the gossip press, in Se&Hör etc [publications equivalent to Now, Hello, News of the World]

However, using Facebook as a source for stories should perhaps raise a question or two, especially when we know that all the people who've befriended the well-reputed Norwegian foreign correspondent Hans Willhelm Steinfeldt on Facebook has befriended an impostor, someone asserted.

Which brought us to the fact that Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary of the Press Association, has said that journalists should not interview people they have as friends on Facebook. To which Jensen replied: 'Kokkvod is very close to press ethics, and very far away from Facebook.'

Now, Kokkvold is a sensible man on most issues to do with press ethics, but this post from Lene Johansen, a close friend, really puts it all in perspective:

The secretary of the Norwegian Press Association, Per Edgar Kokkvold is on the warpath: Real journalists aren't on Facebook, because we all know that real journalists get a dog if they want a friend... You see, when Kokkvold was the age of the people he is now criticizing for being reporters and being on Facebook, reporters used a non-digital Facebook. This forum is called Tostrup Kjeller'n and is a closed private club in Oslo where you have to have a press card, or a membership bestowed by the owner, to get in [not the case anymore, think the admittance card disappeared somewhere between the introduction of Norway's ban on smoking in bars and the move to a new location]

That was, and still is, where members of Norwegian industry and politics whispered in the ears of reporters. That’s where older male reporters picked up the young female politicians and reporters they would bed. That’s where the elites would be able to network...

Schibsted's CEO questions Murdoch's acquisition of MySpace

While writing about Norway's recent Facebook Fever, I was reminded of one part the presentation of Norwegian media group Schibsted's 1st quarter results that really stood out for me, which, racing from one job to another as I was, I had no time to blog right there and then:

- In only eight months, Norwegian tabloid VG built what is today the country's biggest social networking site with more than 300,00 users, said Kjell Aamot, CEO of VG's parent company Schibsted, when he presented the media group's 1st quarter results earlier this month.


"When you see what we achieved in such a short span of time with two employees and relatively limited resources, it makes you question Murdoch's acquisition," he said, and added that half (!) of VG's traffic today comes from VG's social networking site, Nettby. 'Obviously, this is something Schibsted will be doing more of,' said Aamot.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might remember that I've been curious about how much of the traffic to Norwegian tabloids VG and Dagbladet, is generated by their social networks, readers' blogs etc. Therefore, last time I looked at this, I only looked at unique visitors (UV) to the different sub sections of the online papers. Now the number of UVs for Nettby is radically improved in the three months past (daily updates here), but the fact that half - or at least half, as some guys at VG Nett told me - of the news site's page impressions comes from its social networking site seems to support the recent social networking strategy of certain corporate players, like Cisco and Reuters.

Of course, considering the rapid growth of Facebook, some might say that Nettby's quick success only goes to show how fickle social network trends are, but, as they would, representatives from VG/Nettby have denied that Facebook is a threat to Nettby, arguing that the average age profile of the latter is younger than that of the former.

Facebook Fever

It's been almost impossible to read a paper or news site in Norway without coming across a story about Facebook these last few weeks, so here's a quick look at the key headlines of this recent media obsession:

Propaganda reports that Norway is the European country with the highest proportion of the population on Facebook: over 170,000 Norwegians, or 3% of the population have a Facebook profile. The same media site found that 519 articles about Facebook had been published in Norwegian media since 2005, about 450 (!) of them since the beginning of April. The Norwegian Press Union says it's sceptical to the way Norwegian journalists are exposing their relationships to their sources by befriending them on Facebook, and questions are raised over how several Norwegian journalists are 'facebook friends' with politicians (links via jill/txt)

The media frenzy even gave birth to the big Facebook conspiracy the other week. In the ultimate undercover investigation, Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet revealed the Facebook friends of the rich, powerful and/or famous (a little bird whispered to me that Dagbladet has a particularly large faction of journalists lurking on Facebook, so beware) :



This, perhaps to be expected, is also what the nation's 'Fleet Street' journalists will be discussing at the press club on Thursday: "Facebook: friend or foe?" Can journalists maintain their integrity when they expose all their friends and sources online? These days the press club has even discarded the required membership cards I kept loosing, so I assume the debate will be open...

Disclosure (23/5): unexpectedly, an op-ed I wrote for DN (behind subscription wall) on the increased use of social networks for commercial and political purposes was published the same day I posted this.