Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Facebook is the new AOL, revisited

I recently reconnected with some long lost friends via Facebook…I know, who hasn’t. In my case it is with people whom I have not had contact with for 30 years, so it is kinda “big.” This kind of happening was very reinforcing and soon I found myself searching for more old friends and acquaintances. But throughout the process there was something very familiar about the sensation I was feeling, it was a déjà vu feeling, a sense that I had done this all before. But I simply could not get my brain around it.

So, today I was reading a blog article about the changing trends in peoples' use of various web technologies. They note how the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years and speculate on where we are heading (I will blog about this separately as I am very interested in the topic). So, I was reading the article and then it hit me. AOL…Facebook FEELS like AOL.

A short time later I Googled the words “Facebook” and “AOL” and lo and behold, I was not having an original idea - Yeah, so what else is new? Not only have others noted this, but some of them saw the similarities over TWO years ago, around the time Facebook first “hit the streets.”

Scott Heiferman on his blog in June of 2007 entitled “Facebook is the new AOL” notes the similarity of the two systems separated by thirteen years of time (1994-2007) and how they both appeal to people who “live in their walled gardens.” He writes:
Fast forward to Facebook 2007 and see similarities: If you want access to their big base of users, develop something in their proprietary language for their people who live in their walled garden. Strangely, many young facebookizens aren't very net savvy (facebook *is* their internet) & they have little desire to go beyond the walled garden -- just like the old AOL users. There's even a proprietary Facebook messaging system (kids don't use much open internet email).
Heiferman’s comments were echoed by Jason Kotte who adds:
Eventually, someone will come along and turn Facebook inside-out, so that instead of custom applications running on a platform in a walled garden, applications run on the internet, out in the open, and people can tie their social network into it if they want, with privacy controls, access levels, and alter-egos galore.
I think Kotte was partially wrong in his appraisal. If any thing, the walled garden has gotten larger and many folks - even me - seem to gravitate to the safety of “being among friends.”

Another blogger in August of 2007 laments the phenomena. Danny Sullivan in “Grokking Facebook: AOL 2.0” writes:
So as I go through the applications, a light bulb (compact fluorescent) finally kicks in about Facebook. It’s AOL. Shit — it’s AOL. How on earth did all these people wind up back in AOL only a year after AOL gave up on the walled garden? Maybe they’re too young. Maybe they don’t remember. I remember some Diggers once heckling me to go back to AOL. Made me laugh because they’d probably never been on it…
BTW, Danny made up the cute mashup image you seen on this blog. Delightful.

Danny too incorrectly predicts Facebook will be short lived. So what exactly is this phenomenon? Why is Facebook popular and growing in popularity? Or is it?

My own assessment is based exclusively on a very small sample – the 47 people who have the pleasure of being “my friends” on Facebook. They seem to fall into a predictable pattern. Of the nearly fifty folks, and this does not include the 3-4 organizations that I “follow,” less than half are what I would call “active” on Facebook. The vast majority chime-in very infrequently and some, not all, are completely mum. Because it is Facebook, I have no way of knowing if any of these “infrequent friends” even login and read my occasional rants. But, I suspect that although Facebook may be lauding over their claims to have had the largest growth of all of the social networking sites in the past two years, the vast majority of the members of Facebook rarely ever login to the service and even fewer write comments, updates and engage others. BTW, I recently went through my “follows” list in Twitter and discovered a very large number of people on my list had not tweeted in over 100 days. Yet, I suspect Twitter is still counting them as “members.” Perhaps someone can do that research.

What has been perhaps most interesting in this activity is reading all of the scathing predictions of the demise of Facebook and the whining as to why anyone would want to live inside the "walled garden of Facebook." It should be noted that all of these commentaries (the ones above and more listed below) are written by what appears to be professional writers on their own blogs. Only one respectfully made the disclosure that he too was “on Facebook” and could not deny the power of that very large audience.

I am curious about where it is all going and if ultimately the predictions made by these folks two years ago will come to fruition. Will Facebook end up in the digital discard pile along with AOL, Prodigy and CompuServe?

Time will tell.

Nods to:

Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard

Jeff Jarvis

Jeff Pulver

Dave McClure

Roger Kondrat

Adam Singer

Alan Wolk

Joel at Socialized

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My personal encounter with Soupy Sales

Just in case you hadn’t heard, Soupy died the other day at the age of 83. Not bad for a old pie-thrower.

If you read any of the obits or career history of Mr. Sales (nee Milton Supman), you know that he had a brief, two-year run (1964-1966) as the host of a daily children's after-school show on WNEW – Channel 5 in New York. According to Wikipedia, The Soupy Sales Show was nationally syndicated in the second year making Soupy a household name.

Sales’ shows implemented several memorable shticks including the frequent throwing of cream pies into the faces of famous people, and bizarre characters - many of whom were puppets - that he conversed with throughout the 30 minute show. To the 11-13 year old audience of which I was part, he was simply nuts. Adding to his “kid appeal” was the fact that he had become rather controversial and the watching of his show had to be a covert behavior for many kid fans. The “hey-kids-send-the- green-pieces-of-paper-with-the-pictures-of-guys-with-beards-to-Soupy” episode is perhaps most famous.

I'm guessing it was in about 1965 that we (my sisters, dad and I) had our ever so brief, but completely memorably run in with Mr. Sales.

My dad worked in an office located on the corner of E 69th St and Third Ave, in Manhattan. It was a Saturday, and Dad had to make a stop at the office for something. We had parked, visited the office and were on our return to the car as we walked along Third Ave. It was a bright, sunny, winter day around noon and the streets were crowded with pedestrians burdened with shopping paraphernalia heading to Gristedes, or to lunch at Mahews, or perhaps a trip down to Bloomingdales.

I was 12 in 1965 and definitely into “people watching,” when I suddenly spotted the very familiar face coming at us as we walked south on Third. It was Soupy Sales walking along wearing a black, full-length coat, his hands buried deep in his coat pockets. WNEW was located on E67th St, just off of Third, so it was Soupy's stomping ground.

I can’t remember if we made eye-contact, but there was that momentary-delay that always happens when you see a celebrity in the flesh. It caused me to stop dead in my tracks. Now, mind you, at 12, I was not very experienced meeting celebrities then, but I’ve had my fair share over the years. And each time it happens, I experience that stop-in-your-tracks feeling.

Anyway, Soupy passed us and I alerted my sisters, “That was Soupy Sales, that was Soupy Sales!”

I think the girls had both noticed him as well and now turned to face north, my eyes following Soupy as he almost disappeared into the New York backdrop. Spontaneously, I shouted, “Hey Soupy!” as loud as I could. My pronouncement did nothing to upset the hardened NY crowd, nary an eye moved from the throng.

My sisters and dad had now also stopped and turned to look back when Soupy suddenly broke step, spun around and with his hand still in his coat pockets spread his arms out, slightly squatted his knees, and shouted back in that characteristically silly voice some gibberish exaltation like “Be-lah” – his face grinning from ear to ear, his tongue sticking out.

Before we could react, and without missing a step, he suddenly spun back around, pulled his arms back and solemnly disappears into the din.

That was it. No pie in the face, no autograph. Just a “Be-lah” from Soupy Sales.

Rest in Peace, Soupy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Everybody's so smart

Maybe it started with the repackaging of the customer service department by Apple. The "Genius Bar" in the back of each Apple retail store is where you pay for, pick up, or order your desired Apple product. It is also the place where consumers can ask questions and get their Apple computer fixed. Yeah, but you know that happens very rarely with Apple Computers....right.

Does buying an Apple Computer make you a genius? Or is my niece correct when she states that smart people tend to buy Macs?

I just received an e-mail advertisement from Adobe entitled: "Your Shortcut to Brilliant." Do I really need Adobe's overpriced software to make me brilliant? Or is this assuming that because I am so brilliant, I would only purchase a product from Adobe.

What is going on? What's this obsession all of a sudden with "smartness?"

We have the "smart phone" and the "Smart Board," the "Smart Car" and "Smart Money." And, let's not forget "SMART Goals." This really doesn't have anything to do with "smartness" it is actually just a mnemonic for "Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely." But you already knew that, didn't you.

It's because you're smart.