Facebook Throws off iFart Creator: Am I Next?

by francine Hardaway on January 25, 2009

The following thought process began as a comment on Scoble’s blog, where I got to thinking about the fact that I have 800 Facebook friends and actually have met them all either virtually or in person, or know of them through a friend and can tell you something about them. And since I’m not a college kid, many of my “real” friends haven’t gotten to FB yet, but are coming to it every day. Just yesterday I helped my neighbor across the street open an account, and I started off by telling her “go ahead and friend me, and I’ll friend you back.” This was just the neighborly thing to do for a woman I’ve known for about 35 years. But eventually I will get to the friend limit, and I may be accused, like Joel, of being a spammer.

There is a thin line between “getting the word out,” “networking,”
“online marketing,” and “spam.” One person’s online marketing may be another person’s spam, and that’s the problem with Facebook. But it’s the problem with every social networking site as we figure out how to re-live our lives in this new era of transparency. Some people on LinkedIn have 30,000 contacts, and LinkedIn finally decided to cap them where they are.

Even if you are careful to offer only useful information to people who have opted to be your “friend,” it’s easy to violate unwritten conventions. It’s worse if you follow back the people who follow you on Twitter, or friend people on Facebook. I like to meet new people online, so I am always having the problem of inadvertently friending a spammer whom I later have to block or delete. One day that spammer may be me, however unintentionally.

This new world is going to be tricky for journalists, who want to do a better job by making themselves available to sources, or who want a personal life in addition to their professional life. It is also going to be tricky for incubators like me, who communicate things their companies are doing for a variety of reasons. In my other role, advocate for social change, it’s also tricky. And It will certainly be tricky for PR people, and for internet marketers.

We are in an age of transition, and the rules are hard to know and even harder to follow. Although those of us who were early into social media keep advising people to listen before they jump in, so they can at least sense what the boundaries are, people on various platforms (Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube) are always violating conventions they didn’t know existed.

A while back, Social Media Club tried to do a “best practices” initiative, but I think the proliferation of platforms and the inability of the members to agree on what the best practices might be, defeated us. It is going to take a while for those practices to evolve, and in the mean time, I think Facebook should just answer its emails individually and quickly, take each one seriously, and act on a case-by-case basis. I refer you back to Robert’s idea of the jail for Facebook offenders, in which your account isn’t disabled, but everyone knows you have done SOMETHING wrong. It’s a pretty good solution for now.

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Facebook deja atrĂ¡s a Myspace « Be digital my friend
January 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm

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Chris Heuer January 25, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Francine – I think the SMC mention is a bit off topic here, or rather doesn’t contribute meaningfully to your main point, but I need to correct a statement of fact you made.

The discussion we have had about best practices has been ongoing – we discussed starting an initiative to gather many of these together but that never got off the ground. I do not think, it was, as you said above, “the proliferation of platforms and the inability of the members to agree on what the best practices might be, defeated us.” – what defeated the starting of such efforts was that no one had time to lead the effort.

Further, and perhaps more saliently, has been an ongoing semantic argument over the term ‘best practices’ and a misunderstanding by many that this means there is only one ‘way’ to do it best. That is an incorrect assumption – it is plural because there are many different practices that are right in many different situations. A discussion about what works best is very different from a mandate of how someone should use certain tools or processes – in fact, we advocate for the opposite – or rather, we believe that we should respect the way everyone chooses to use their social tools, but there are indeed some things (like opt in email, not spamming in comments and attributing quoted content) that are not only ‘best practices’ but indeed just the right thing to do.

That said, some people are now on a virtual witch hunt against everyone on twitter who aren’t following everyone who follows them. They arent doing this under the banner of ‘best practices’ they are doing this on some supposed grounds of a moral obligation – they might as well be telling us we aren’t praying properly…

Point being, I understand why some are against the discussion of best practices since it is so wantonly misappropriated, but that doesnt entirely destroy the value of the discussion or the sharing of what works for different people in different situations. We should not be doomed to repeat the mistakes of our past when others who have gone before us have already figured out so much…

francinehardaway January 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm

My bad, Chris, about what caused SMC to wait on issuing best practices. Actually, I agree with that decision, and was one of the people who didn’t have time to lead the effort. But here’s a problem I face: I am beginning to see many seminars by “experts” on how to use Facebook and Twitter for marketing. In my mind, the answer to that ought to be one word: carefully. I worry that the proliferation of people on Twitter and Facebook who intend to use it for marketing will make people like me leave.

Digidave January 26, 2009 at 8:10 am


I too have been going back and forth about this Facebook banning thing.

On the one hand: I think this is absolutely obnoxious on the part of Facebook to ban somebody like Scoble, Joel or yourself for using the service with people you aren’t friend with – or for having too many friends.

I myself have gotten the “spam” warning – and it’s made me afraid of using the site. Should I ever feel afraid of using a site if I feel I’m trying to earnestly engage?

On the other hand – I’m equally annoyed with the free-for-all on Twitter (which I assume is what Facebook wants to avoid). Every single day I get follows from obvious spam/marketers. It’s devalued the site/utility of Twitter. I can’t tell who is real on it anymore.

All this is to say – it’s a pickle with no real solution… at least – not an easy one in sight.

curiousak February 7, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I think facebook realises this and is making forays into more conservative social networking roles. i hear districtfile.com is their latest venture. looks serious to me but a bit elitist.

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