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Facebook. [Jul. 19th, 2006|08:19 pm]

So. What is going on with Facebook?

Or instead I should ask, "what is going on with the people behind facebook?" As one of my friends pointed out to me earlier, "facebook is not an entity." He's correct. It's a tool - a tool whose true purpose I have yet to discern. And that is what concerns me.

They performed two actions recently that made me wonder just what's going on. The first is that they shortened the length of time that a status message remains active. I don't know the exact numbers here, but previously I had a status message up for almost three weeks before changing it - even then, it didn't expire. My last one was only ten days old or so before it was taken down. It was simply, "Robert is at home"; it did not in any way violate the TOS or any other rules.

Now, those of you with programming experience, please correct me if I'm wrong here, but wouldn't it be more convenient to the creators of facebook (not to mention convenient to those who use it) if the statuses didn't have a time limit? It seems to me that that option would require otherwise unnecessary coding, and I'm under the impression that good programmers don't include superfluous code in their programs.

So if it's inconvenient for them, and inconvenient for us, why would they do such a thing?

Here is the train of reasoning I'm following:

1) If facebook was inconvenient to use, fewer people would use it.
2) Therefore, convenience is important to facebook.

3) The programmers would not deliberately implement a feature that is inconvenient for both the designers and the users unless there was some other reason that surpassed ease of use.
4) They have deliberately implemented such a feature.
5) Therefore, there is a reason here that is more important than convenience.
6) By 2 and 5, then, their reason must be very important.

7) This feature allows users to post their current whereabouts/activities for all to see.
8) The amount of time that a status will remain active has recently been shortened.
9) Therefore, members wishing to keep an active status must now update their status more often.
10) It follows from this that members wishing to keep an active status must now check in more often.
11) If 9 and 10 are the reasons that the designers have implemented the feature, then by 6, they consider it very important that members update their status often and check in often.

Obviously the biggest hole in this thought structure is item 11; however, I am unable to think of any other reasons they would have shortened the length of time a status is considered valid. However, despite what some of you may think of me, I /am/ aware that my thoughts do not envelop the whole of space and time, and thus recognize that I could be mistaken there.

The second item that caught my attention is the new 'fire' feature, which allows users of Facebook Mobile to set fire to their friends - a condition that shows up on your profile.

The key point here is that this feature is /only/ available to users of Facebook Mobile. Why would a free service give member A, who subscribes to services X and Y, a privilege that they deny to member B, who only subscribes to service X?

The answer is simple: to encourage member B to subscribe to service Y. A ploy, if you will, to get people to sign up for Facebook Mobile.

"So? Who cares?" you say. "Facebook's not making any more money off of Facebook Mobile; what do they care who signs up for it?"

It's not exactly that simple. Remember item 11? It's very important to facebook that they keep track of you - that they know where you are and what you are doing. Also, by signing up for the service, they also receive your cell phone number for their records. Nice.

Even after you cancel, they might well keep the number. It is worth nothing that that topic is not covered in either their Privacy Policy or their Facebook Mobile FAQ. Given the rest of their policies concerning information you take off your profile, for example, "Removed information may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time," from their Privacy Policy (see link above), it seems likely that they keep the number.

So, to what end does Facebook gather information? Like I said: I don't know. It seems obvious to me now, for reasons that I both have and have not listed here, that it is a tool for gathering information, but I don't know who wants to know these things, or why they want to know them.

I welcome responses to these thoughts, whether they be in support or refutation. However, if you disagree with me, please list reasons why. Please don't send me stuff like, "u r 2 parniod! Tee hee!" or, "u suck facebook is the shit".

Christ, I'd forgotten how much energy these entries take out of me. No wonder I don't do them anymore.

[EDIT: My status just expired five minutes ago. The expiration date is now exactly one week.]

[User Picture]From: blue_maestro
2006-08-09 06:12 pm (UTC)
Normally I would say that you are probably being paranoid, but I think you have pointed out some very . . . intriguing details particularly concerning Facebook's policies on information retainment.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: blue_maestro
2006-08-09 06:13 pm (UTC)
Also, I really enjoyed the revised "Upon the Face of the Mind". Certainly an enjoyable read!
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: airemix
2006-08-09 06:43 pm (UTC)
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)