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Frictionless Sharing – Another Great Reason to Hate Facebook

DILBERT © 2012 Scott Adams. Used by permission of Universal Uclick. All rights reserved.

OK, I confess. I’m oblivious to the ins and outs of Facebook.  At one time I tried to fine tune my Facebook profile and author page. I read articles and blog posts, and books for dummies and idiots, but I could seldom seem to get things to work as advertised. And on those rare occasions when I finally mastered a feature, it seemed like Zuckerberg and company went out of their way to change it.

In the end, I abandoned my dream of being a Facebook power user and joined the plodding masses, grateful when something worked, accepting when it didn’t. Life was much less stressful as a Facebook slacker.

I guess that’s why this whole “frictionless sharing” thing caught me by surprise. Evidently it’s been around a while, but it’s only impacted me in the last month or so. I began seeing posts with great headlines leading to stories or videos I might actually want to access. The problem was, a click yielded not the story, but an intercept screen. Seems I could access the content with a single click, but there was a catch (isn’t there always).  By that single click, I’d authorize the original site’s app access to my Facebook info, and then, the screen informed me:

“This app may post on your behalf, including videos you watched, articles you read, and more.”

Nothing about this sentence fills me with confidence, but it’s the last bit I find mildly sinister. What the hell does “and more,” mean exactly? Call me paranoid, but it sounds a lot like “trust me.” Whatever his considerable talents, Mr. Zuckerberg is demonstrably rather cavalier in regard to privacy rights, so I think I’ll pass, Mark.

Evidently (and thankfully), I’m not alone in this opinion. Robert Wright, at The Atlantic has a great article about the feature, and in another post there, Alexis Madrigal outlines how the concept could undermine your right to privacy.

In the end, I’ve protested by just refusing to play. When I see an intercept screen, I immediately exit, regardless of how enticing the headline. I don’t think I’m alone in that either. Last week PC World ran an article reporting that users are abandoning purveyors of frictionless sharing in droves. Let’s hope that continues.

Because the privacy issue aside, the whole concept is, well — dumb.

Something goes viral because a lot of people like it and share it with their friends. Those friends in turn, share it with their own friends. At each step in that process, there is a human being deciding A) whether they like it, and; B) whether they think their own friends will like it. When all those individual judgements prove correct, the result is rapid and widespread distribution, and the percentage of the recipients actually reading the content is relatively high.

But what happens if we ‘automate’ the process? Does everything go ‘viral?’ What about the article with the great headline I abandoned after reading one paragraph because it was crap? Or the article I clicked on by accident? Or the one I read because it was specific to some research I was doing for a book?  Do any of us really want to be bombarded with reading lists from every single one of our Facebook friends?  I don’t even want to read a lot of the stuff I read, much less everything someone else reads.

There is a word for information of dubious relevance, mindlessly disseminated. It’s called spam. It seems to me that “frictionless sharing” threatens to undermine the entire concept of “going viral.” In fact, if  the intention of  “frictionless sharing” is to remove barriers, it’s had just the opposite effect for me. I find I’m passing on articles I really want to read, just because I refuse to let my Facebook profile be hijacked as a spambot.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one that feels this way. What about you? Do you see any redeeming value in ‘frictionless sharing,’ social or otherwise?

Update. Just after I posted this, I saw a tremendously informative video on Yahoo about Socialcam. It’s well worth watching. (And pretty scary!)

 

10 Responses to Frictionless Sharing – Another Great Reason to Hate Facebook

  • A.B.R. says:

    Glad I’m not alone. I started off with a corporate page and found it hard to learn – I was busy at the time. Eventually got back to it and figured it out, sort of. Then facebook unilaterally converted it to a fan page (I think?). With this latest forced changes (or maybe before) I can’t like somebody’s page or blog or anything. I had to create a personal page for a “likes” page, and anybody who follows it back goes to that page instead of the page I would like them to see. I don’t see much that is frictionless about facebook. I’ve got sand in my bearings and they are wearing out fast.

    • R.E. McDermott says:

      A.B.R.

      Yeah, I have similar problems. My website is supposed to be linked to my author page, but I generally have to post manually, and then I can’t never quite figure out if things post to my author page, personal page, neither, or both. Sometimes I’m tempted to post both places if I want to get something out, but then it shows up several times in various places — or not at all. Really User Friendly.

      Thanks for the comment. I’m also glad to know I’m not alone. And BTW, I just saw a potentially helpful video on Yahoo on the same subject. I’m updating the blog post to include a link.

      • Dan W says:

        I am taking a leap of faith here by reaching out to someone electronically for the firstime. I liked your first book and will read the second. I too loathe face book

        • R.E. McDermott says:

          Dear Dan,

          A leap of faith, much appreciated. I guess us semi-Luddites have to stick together, even if it is electronically! :) Thanks for the kind words, and I hope you enjoy Deadly Coast

          Also, I have a third book in the works. If you’d like to be notified when it’s published, please email me via my Contacts page, and I’ll put you on the notification list.

  • I’m just really careful what I say online and what I click on, but I still know there is info out there that I’d rather wasn’t. I know our government in the Uk lets an agency watch all emails etc so nothing is secure. I was googling some strange stuff the other day – about the MI6 building and the way into it, then accessed Russian mafia info, followed by camoflage gear and shotguns. I know whose list I’ll be on!

    • R.E. McDermott says:

      Yes, sometimes when I’m researching the dark side for a story, I do wonder who’s looking over my shoulder. There is a very creepy side to the internet as well.

  • You are right if we all ran screaming from intercept screens perhaps the widg-idiots would stop using them. Great post and I concur, I would rather have some real friends than hundreds of facebook pseudo-friends.

    • R.E. McDermott says:

      I think it’s an uphill battle though. We’ve all become so used to scrolling through a gigantic mass of terms and conditions and then clicking ‘accept’ that no one really reads anything anymore. I’m pretty sure about 90% of the people that sign on to ‘frictionless sharing’ do it without realizing it.

  • John Stokes says:

    Facebook is a blight on society it has taken away the concept of friendship and the unfortunate people who cannot interact in the real world rely on facebook for their ‘friendships’, quite sad really. What they probably don’t realise is whatever they put out there could well come back and bite them in the future. Facebook is doing away with privacy. By the way I thoroughly enjoyed Deadly Straits when is your next book coming out?

    • R.E. McDermott says:

      John,

      Can’t say as I disagree with you. Unfortunately it’s almost compulsory these days for cash strapped authors trying to spread the word on their books. Still, I’m getting pretty fed up with it, as I suspect, are a lot of people. The IPO was an apparent disaster, and the stock price is down. I haven’t tried any of the other entities like Google+, but I suspect it, at least, is equally intrusive. I’m not sure about LinkIn, though I get invitations to that all the time. I guess for the moment I’ll just muddle on with a wary eye toward my privacy and the exit.

      Oh, and thanks for the comment on Deadly Straits, I’m glad you enjoyed it. I finished the first draft of the sequel this weekend. The working title is Deadly Coast, and Dugan and company take on Somali pirates. Between a couple of rounds of edits, and the schedules of various other individuals beyond my control (editors, proofreaders, cover artists, etc.) I hope to have it out in August. Early if possible, later if I hit a snag. I’ve taken the liberty of adding your name to the email notification list.

      From the forwarding info, it looks like you’re Down Under. We’ve spent time in Perth, Cairns, Brisbane, & Sidney. Oz is one of my favorite places.

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