A New Breed of Uproar

Album Cover: Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace

"Time will turn us into statues, eventually."
Foo Fighters / Statues

Posted on September 08, 2006 10:56 PM in Miscellaneous
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

I've been reading all of the Facebook coverage lately on sites such as Digg, TechCrunch, Scobleizer, etc., and the more I think about it, the more interesting it gets.

First off, I think it's extremely interesting that a free site that offers a central location for a very focused (albeit large) group of people can be completely controlled by its user base. When you really think about it, Facebook is a service like Digg, Flickr, YouTube or MySpace that, at the end of the day, has a right to implement whatever features it wants, throw ads up anywhere it wants in whatever fashion it pleases, and to dictate the user experience in any way it deems appropriate. The whole idea of user-generated content kind of throws this on its face, though. Because users are so heavily invested in these sites, they can seriously create an upheaval if things don't go their way.

In reality, any company that serves to gain from the acceptance of its user base will bend to the will of the majority in most cases to ensure that the user base grows, or at the very least maintains its size. No company that relies on users for revenue or the very perpetuation of their product or service would throw its users' needs to the wind completely, but it seems like in this day and age of user-generated content, the potential for doing so has declined immensely.

The other interesting aspect of what has gone down is that a simple change to a web page has literally lead to what many, many news sites and blogs are calling a "revolt." The most notable example of this was mentioned on Slashdot earlier today:

A Reuters article mentions that Facebook user Igor Hiller, 17, a freshman at University of California, Santa Barbara is organizing a real-world demonstration next Monday at Facebook's downtown Palo Alto headquarters.

So let me get this straight. With all the nonsense that is going on in our country and our world right now, it took a few web page tweaks to get people (most notably, high school and college students) up-in-arms? The aforementioned Reuters article contains the following quote from Igor Hiller:

This is the first thing I have gotten really passionate about, where I wanted to make a stir.

It might be unfair to pinpoint this one particular 17 year old, or to make a sweeping generalization in saying that there aren't people up-in-arms about the war in Iraq or domestic issues here at home, but I still can't help but shake my head when I read about some of this stuff.

Maybe I'm just getting old...

Comments

Ryan on September 09, 2006 at 2:56 AM:

Sorry to say, but I actually do think you are getting old :-)

I was one of the "outraged" Facebook users in the revolt. I disliked the new "feature" enough to join two groups against it ("WTF Facebook Turned Stalker" being the main one) and spend a few minutes inviting all of my Facebook friends to join up in the "revolt."

And it wasn't so much the feature itself -- it was the underhanded introduction, the lack of control over information, and the sheer newness of it all. Certainly, all of the information presented by the mini-feeds was already available. A "real" stalker could have made (and still could make) a script to generate the same information as the feeds. Nevertheless, I quickly decided that it was creepy, and I really didn't want everyone to know -- and have a definitive record -- of everything (not even everything -- just a few key things) that I was doing on the web site.

I happen to think that it is great that something like this can become important enough to really spur people to action. It is just another clue that our standard of living is so high -- we are so far above basic sustinence -- that something this trivial can seem so important. And change did occur -- unlike those protesting the War in Iraq or the lack of universal socialized healthcare, this one actually made a difference.

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Sean on September 09, 2006 at 7:41 PM:

Hehe.. In this day and age, when most of us spend our lives in front of a computer, is it really so shocking that sites like Facebook are *that* important to people?

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Bernie Zimmermann on September 10, 2006 at 7:50 AM:

I guess I'm barking up the wrong tree when I say something negative about Facebook ;)

In one of the articles I read, it said that Facebook has about 1/10 the users that MySpace has, and I know that everyone but me has a profile there.

Then again, nothing brings more comments to my site than a little controversy.

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