Communities have laws; Facebook is no exception

Do you find this as interesting as I do? Look at the box at the top of this screen capture, from Facebook:


Sometimes we forget that Facebook is more of a community than some physical neighborhoods. Folks know each other (on Facebook, most everything is only viewable by ordained “Friends”), and people care about how they are perceived by the rest of the neighborhood. As various outcries attest, this is a community whose residents truly care. Remember the brouhaha a couple of years ago over Facebook launching its News Feed, to inform every friend of a person’s activities — including the posting of relationship break-ups, social snubs, and embarrassing photographs?

For those who can’t make it out, this notice on Facebook this evening reads as follows:

Vote on Facebook’s Governing Documents

We’ve revised the two new documents we proposed to govern the site, the Facebook Principles and the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, based on your feedback. Now, we want you to vote for the system of governance you think is best. Voting will close on April 23 at 11:59am PDT. Visit the Facebook Site Governance application to learn more, read the documents, and vote.

Would you expect anything less than elections and referendums within this sprawling community?

(And just how sprawling, you ask? Consider Manhattan. It has tens of millions of residents, yet its boroughs can be counted on exactly one hand. Conversely, the boroughs of Facebook are themselves in the millions — although there is much overlap*.)

*Each person’s Friends list could be considered itself a borough. Think of the overlap between people in their Friends lists as the boundaries between boroughs.

Pepsico cashes in on Twitter by reporting from its birthplace

Sample from the app's home page

Okay, so Austin isn’t really the “birthplace” of Twitter, but it was at the South-by-Southwest (SXSW) tech conference two years ago that Twitter was introduced to the technorati in a big way.

I recall reading blogger and anthropologist danah boyd’s posts about her frustration with the system (she had set her cell phone to receive every tweet from her hundreds-strong network — in real time). She later that year mused about its uses in a public conversation that first persuaded me to tinker with Twitter.

Now it’s two years later, and time again for SXSW to light up Austin. But this year Twitter, and social media in general, are far more mainstream. Pepsico is cashing in. Check out this tool for reporting on tech tweets from Texas!

Google Latitude brings web closer to place-based networking

Today Google has proved correct the predictions of many, including anthropologist and technology expert danah boyd. For years she has been fond of saying that the next iteration of the web — the much ballyhooed Web 3.0 — will be place-based. In a post of hers from two years ago, she writes the following:

I believe that geographic-dependent context will be the next key shift. GPS, mesh networks, articulated presence, etc.

People want to go mobile and they want to use technology to help them engage in the mobile world.

Leaping across the chasm to a robust mobile web experience won’t be easy. Especially in this country. Like the ancient city of Bable, the current state of U.S. carriers is one of everyone speaking a different language.

This suits the carriers just fine.

As long as you cannot easily share rich functionality with someone who has a different cell plan, the temptation to switch is less. In other words, as long as each carrier is as dumb as the next, we all remain tied to our current one. In a confederacy of dunces, you might as well stick with the dunce you know.

Enter Google, Stage Left

Even before 2005, when Google purchased Dodgeball, there have been indications that they see the future in place-based networking. Everyone has been watching for the big play; the one that will accelerate the steady march to this new networked experience.

In the meantime, many of us have done our own experimenting with what has been available. I, for one, have toyed with — especially its “I am here” interface with Twitter (my handle in both: TheLarch).

The experience has been kludgy.

This is rarely a word used for Google applications, though. And today they officially announced Google Latitude.

Here’s a video to explain how it works. It’s about (surprise, surprise) privacy:

What Latitude will do for our progress toward rich mobile networking is not necessarily revolutionary, but it is evolution on steroids.

I am certainly not the only person predicting that the news today is big.

I am, however, the only one in this particular location. Perhaps by later this year, if you’re a close friend, and I choose to let you know, you’ll be able to know through Latitude exactly where my current “here” happens to be.

Unilever discovers, then embraces, the power of online social media

As a marketer I read too many cases about companies who do one of the following:

  1. Ignore the power of online social media, in spite of their brand being ideal for its careful use
  2. Run headlong at this Web 2.0 phenomenon, throwing caution to the wind, only to do more harm than good to their brand

danah boyd [sic], the well-known anthropologist and “youth and technology” expert, gives a very personal account of the spread of Unilever’s Dove Evolution campaign. It’s a case study for how an exceptional marketing idea can gain legs through sites such as YouTube.

In the post she recounts how she was acting out of what she perceived as the public good, and not as some shill for the brand. Truly inadvertently, she says that she became “a marketer’s dream.”

I agree. But what still amazes me is that similar efforts for less savvy brands would be viewed by their stewards as unacceptable — nothing more than the unauthorized spread of their content.

These folks would look at the Danah Boyds of the world as more of a nightmare than a dream. Go figure.