The Social Media Diet

Francis Dierick, in an awesome blog post which I totally agree with, writes:
People are creating ‘content’ like never before. Everyone I talk to seems to be drowning in a sea of Tweets, Facebook updates & other user-generated content. Yet I feel something is missing. Something simple. Something elusive. A thing called quality.
He concluded his post by outling a “gentleman’s agreement” for social media sharing:
  • Think twice before you share
  • Only share your best stuff
  • Strictly one share per day

Then, inspired by Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet, I adapted Francis’s points into what I’d like to call “The Social Media Diet.”

Here’s the motto from The Information Diet (which is aimed at curbing unnecessary, even unhealthy, consumption):

And here’s my adaptation for social media (which is aimed at curbing unnecessary production of all the info we consume):

When it comes to separating signal from noise, curbing production is as important as curbing consumption. Several startups have proposed solutions to filter all the low quality links and information being passed around these days. But what if the solution were as simple as developing healthier habits? Is this a technology problem or a psycho-social problem? Think about it.

Facebook Passes the Mom Test in a Powerful Way

In the past year, my mom has signed up, used, and benefitted from Facebook in ways few could have imagined just two or three years ago. The fastest growing population on Facebook has been the 55+ age group, with over 900% growth in 2009-2010 alone. People who are 55 years or older are from my parents’ generation (although my mother is below 50, I’ll include her, since she displays the same characteristics when it comes to technology use). These are the same people who are quite often frustrated by technology and just feel excluded or left out by “new techno-gizmos and whiz-bangs.” Sometimes, technology is downright cast off and derided as unnecessary or diversionary, no matter the usefulness.

Facebook has shattered these notions for many people, including my own mother. This highlights a crucial point: Facebook has passed the “mom test.” The prize? A user experience that’s the envy of most of the tech industry.

Simply put, Facebook required absolutely zero explanation for my mother to start using and engaging with the service. I cannot understate what a feat that is. Almost everything my mother’s learned to perform on a computer has been painstakingly taught to her step-by-step, and often several times over. For one reason or another, she faces a steep learning curve for most computer-related tasks.

Not for Facebook; not at all. There’s something about the way they’ve arranged the site. It’s self-explanatory and intuitive. Her virtual social experience feels like the real one, or an enhanced form that she can definitely get used to.

In fact, she’s even gone beyond simple, introductory uses of the site and engaged with advanced forms. As an Iranian-Armenian who left Iran during the 1979 Revolution, she was suddenly cut off from her childhood community and social circle. Friends from high school and the community at large were scattered across the globe, out of touch for decades. With the rapid adoption of Facebook around the world, she’s now reconnecting with many of her old friends from Iran she hasn’t seen or spoken to for decades. These people have grown up, moved to other countries, raised families, and now they’re all finding each other again, posting photos from their high school, from those days way back, through special Groups pages and other communal gathering sites on Facebook.

This is, for people of that generation, a fairly elaborate use of the site, and it’s all taken place without outside assistance. For my mom, making these near-impossible reconnections was an intuitive experience. It just flowed, like the rest of the service just flows. Some have even called it a “trance” that it sucks you, where you just float from profile to profile, photo to photo. Sometimes, trances lead you to emotionally powerful moments like reconnecting with lost friends across the globe.

Perhaps the interface isn’t that intuitive, but she’s such a social butterfly that Facebook’s reward has outweighed any of the potential downsides in learning how to use it that she’s overcome them with ease? It’s certainly possible, but one thing remains true: Facebook’s proving easy enough for people 55 and older to adopt it faster than any other age group, and that’s when you know, as a tech company, you’ve nailed your product.

How do you get an e-book signed? Novelist Justine Musk on the future of marketing [VentureBeat]

“I recently attended a lecture of a favorite author of mine where signed copies of his book were being sold. With my new iPad in hand, I was poised to download a copy of his work. But then I had a dilemma: If all I had was an e-book, what would I get signed?

This isn’t just about book signings. The iPad and other new devices like it are altering how we consume media. But we also need to think about how they change the business of content.

For answers to this question and many others, I turned to acclaimed fiction writer Justine Musk for some answers about the future of media marketing in the age of the tablet.”

Facebook and Privacy: Get Over It

Facebook’s new “Instant Personalization” feature promises to make the world of online services a lot more convenient and personalized for you, but despite a massive privacy uproar, everyone seems to miss the point that society has evolved past the point where privacy is going to be an issue in the first place.

Last week, Facebook unveiled their new “Instant Personalization” feature at their f8 conference. The feature basically ties all your listed interests and other activities to the services you use outside of Facebook. If, for example, you wrote down “investing” as an interest and “Red Hot Chili Peppers” as a favorite music artist, when you log onto CNN, it will show news and headlines pertaining to investing up top and the Pandora music recommendation service will begin to play Red Hot Chili Peppers as soon as you log on. The service even extends to Yelp, where it will show restaurants you’ve showed partiality toward on your Facebook profile.

All this has really stirred up the privacy watchdogs. People are yelling and screaming over how Facebook could suddenly take your interests and bandy them about the web to other providers. Admittedly, the service doesn’t have an opt-in/opt-out feature built yet, which is disappointing. But I think that the people having this back-and-forth discussion about the privacy issues at stake are really missing the point: society will move on and this won’t become an issue to begin with.

The people concerned about privacy are upset that companies like Yelp!, Pandora, and CNN have instant access to Facebook users’ personal information so they can automatically serve customized content. They’re citing that as a violation of privacy. That’s all well and good, but what about the next generation of Internet users who have grown up around an entirely different social paradigm?

Many of us–including myself–have grown up in an era where disclosing your information on the Internet was a bad thing, a poor judgment call that could lead to all kinds of nasty consequences. Even the allegedly “extremely computer savvy” members of my own “millennial” generation who like to think we’re impervious to falling into some kind of technology-adoption backwater have grown up around this paradigm.

Children who were born in the late 90′s and 2000s have skipped that entire view of the Internet. For them, they exist in a world where volunteering your information on the Internet is the only way. It’s what you’re supposed to do, not some new paradigm as it was for us. It’s true that practically everyone has gotten used to the fact that putting your information out there (or at least some of it) is the social norm now; but it took getting used to. Yes, we’re all clamoring for our website to be on top of Google searches now and we’ll put as much information as we can sacrifice to increase our own personal branding and recognition, but that took time.

For the kids that grew up only knowing Facebook, services like Pandora that don’t have customized content served to them will be viewed as the poor ones! It’s true. Society’s entire schema has changed, and while that’s an extremely interesting topic for sociologists, psychologists, and many other academics, the point is that these new feature developments in social networking aren’t so much privacy problems as they are massive shifts in societal views and norms. Get used to it.

Online “Greetings”: Destroying Sincerity One Meaningless Bite at a Time

(This might become a post on VentureBeat soon, with interviews of and Pingg)

The digital form of greeting cards, known as “e-cards,” and anything similar to that, such as FaceBook birthday posts, are simply not genuine, authentic, or pleasing in any way what so ever. For me, they incite scorn and disappointment, and here’s why they should provoke you to be equally incensed:

Back when we had to actually, physically pick out greeting cards (a process by itself, where you could spend an hour picking just the right one) and individually address each one to a friend or family member, there was a clear investment of time and effort. This process simply could not be ignored or brushed aside by the receiver. In other words: it was sincere and provoked an authentic response.

With a quick mass text or blasted FaceBook message, email, or Tweet, the sender takes no time or care in dispatching this “greeting.” It shows that the person just doesn’t care, accomplishing exactly the opposite of what the sender intends (I would hope). This is one area where the digital age cannot cross social divides. I suspect that the only way to change the paradigm would be a generational shift in which the next generation is born in a world where there are only digital “greetings.” Without ever knowing what it really took to send a well thought-out card, this generation will grow to appreciate and respect any of these effortless and meaningless “greetings.” Simply clicking “select all” on a contact list, typing up a quick message and clicking “send” will be viewed as taking enough time to send an authentic greeting.

The same is equally true for FaceBook birthday posts, which have become so pervasive, they have prompted me to generate a few personal rules about dealing with them. When it’s my birthday, I take the time to respond to each and every wall post with a short thank you, often including the person’s name so they know it’s just for them. This goes out to about 200+ people and takes an hour to do. When it’s other peoples’ birthdays, I rarely ever send a FaceBook message. If you’re important enough to me, I will call you. If you’re moderately important and I have your phone number, I will text you. If you’re sort of important but not exactly close to me, then perhaps I’ll actually resort to the FaceBook message.

Make no mistake: the generational shift required to make these insincere “greetings” meaningful can and will take place, but until then, don’t expect me to return the favor on any of these digital well-wishes.