Losing Face: Is Facebook the next AOL?

The glass is half-full, yes that is my motto. Optimism is my middle name. That is until I talk to my significant other about Facebook. Oh and then all hell breaks loose and I sit patiently listening to all his rants about how Facebook is the next AOL. What will be the rage, next year? he asks. I shrug and say, “Does it matter?” He says,”Yeah but look at what happened with MySpace” he’ll retort. Not having much to say in response I stay quiet, but start to think about how the web has changed over my adulthood. There was no web as we know it when I was young (yeah yeah I know, I walked both ways to school, barefoot, in the snow and I was grateful)

There is something new and social every day. Our entrepreneurs (especially the highly technical ones) are holding hackathons and spitting out a new app virtually every weekend. Applications so you can shop with your friends online (Plurchase) or tell people where you are (Four Square) built with smart phones and mobility in mind.

In my 20’s and 30’s it took months to launch a new company. Now, it takes a weekend. Business plan? pshaw. Social network has become what the content management system(cms) became to web design. You don’t build a site without cms capabilities. You don’t build a site without social networking aspects. It’s expected.

So how does this relate to Facebook and AOL? Our experience in this digital world is much less solid than it was when our options were limited. It takes a heartbeat to encourage migration to a brand spanking new technology. No barrier to entry for anyone, so we can explore all the options. The problem is that without that barrier there is no loyalty, no investment in one application over another. I can setup a network over at Ning and tell all my friends to post and engage over there. What do I need Facebook for other than the mini-games? Alternatively I can setup a PLIGG site and do exactly the same type of thing that Facebook does, without the games. That isn’t the draw though is it? The ability to connect through various features on a site is not what draws us but the access to so many other people that are utilizing the same site. How flawed is this though? I’ve received notes from people telling me I’m triple posting because I make a comment on Twitter and it goes to both FriendFeed and Facebook (as well as Twitter). They follow me on all so they get to hear what I have to say in stereo. I enjoy Facebook because my adult children and friends are on there. Would I move to another social network if they did? Yep. Would I miss Facebook? probably not. I don’t care about the application I’m using as much as the people who are in the network. I’ve had a LinkedIn account since Beta and use it solely for business connections. There have been multiple “business network” sites that have come and gone since. Most of my connections are on LinkedIn no matter where else they are connected (Plaxo for example).

So what draws us to Facebook? Mass appeal. Johnny and Susie are on Facebook as are all my friends in my Book of the Month Club and my mom and my kids and so on and so on. That’s where the biggest similarity lies between Facebook & AOL, the mass appeal. Millions of people are on Facebook, millions of people were using AOL. It’s easy, it’s standard, it’s no fuss. Does that mean it’ll win over any other up-and-coming potential Facebook buster? If there is no barrier to entry, then no, Facebook could be the next AOL.

It’s eerie, I remember the sound of dial-up as I connected to AOL to check my email. The excitement of logging into a chat room on CompuServ to talk to my “friends” and finding myself there for hours and hours (sleep, who needs sleep?) and racking up my dial-up bill! We logged on, downloaded our email and read it offline (so we didn’t run up extra charges). Life online was limited by our budget. We couldn’t run down to the local coffee shop and access the web with our laptop.

Our lives on the web are changing at a breakneck speed. Where we spend our time online is getting more and more important as we are presented with more options. Facebook may be here today, but I’ll guarantee you it’ll be gone day after tomorrow. I’d love to see Facebook prove me wrong.

That’s not to say I don’t love Facebook myself, but I just don’t see how it’s going to hold up and remain ever vigilant once the honeymoon is over.

Interesting articles about Facebook and AOL.

Will Facebook be the next AOL?

The Problem with Facebook for Marketers – nice article on being cautious with the company page on Facebook.

Is Facebook todays Internet

What do you think? How is Facebook going to keep us all in the future?

Why the ‘Wave’ (Google Wave) is both beautiful and scary

I woke up early this morning but wasn’t quite ready to ‘get to work’ so I perused the tweets and came across mention of Google Wave. What Wave? Google? Hmm. Intrigued as I always am by shiny new technology I watched the hour and a half long demo.

It was mind boggling for someone who grew up during the age of vinyl records and 8 track tapes! Granted I work in technology now but when I do step back and look at how far we’ve come as a nation I’m just floored. If you are younger than 30, maybe this is no big deal but those of us who are at the tail end of the baby boomer set this is almost inconceivable. Although the downside to all this brand spanking new- technology-every-minute is that we have a lot less free time now. I heartily encourage turning off that tech before you crawl into bed at night. Everyone needs to interact with a human being (or two) face-to-face. Patting your child on the head while you watch tweets fly by on your iPhone just doesn’t count. Isn’t that one of the criteria that sets us a part from animals? We need to eat, drink, sleep and interact with others beyond the electronic eye that stares us in the face for hours a day.

I love the concept of Google Wave but I worry immensely about the potential for abuse. As a business owner that runs an email server for clients I know that there are some crafty hackers and spammers that will look at this and say, “Hey! How can I manipulate this for MY benefit”. I realize this is an early look at what Wave will be capable of I just hope we all remember trackback spam, and spending hours cleaning out spam comments riddled with links to porn (before Captcha). It’s beautiful and awe inspiring, just don’t forget what we dealt with when other new and shiny technology was introduced. Please make sure that this is a secure application that doesn’t expose us to any sort of risk. The more private information we put up on the web the higher the likelihood that we as consumers/technologists can lose everything to some bored 15 yo.

/me looking up to the heavens, hey dad, remember before you left this earth you said to me that the web was for the birds, hmm? You hated web technology and couldn’t understand my fascination with Open Source. Web 2.0 was a twinkle in somebodies eye and you felt the world was being lured into a false sense of security You were one of those traditional programmers who thought html was a cop out. I love you but I hope you are watching because Google is proving that the browser can be just as powerful as any non-browser application! I miss you

What would I do if I wasn’t in IT?

Andy McKay asks, “If you were going to throw in the chips on an IT career, what would you do?

Entertain. I’d get into voice over work or television in some capacity.

Prior to my kids and the necessity to make a decent living and support a half-a-dozen human beings I loved community theater. I was a singer, dancer, comedic actor but only locally ;-). I even took a 9 month course on becoming a dj (during the commercials on an 8-track tape era). I was told (by one instructor) after I’d paid the big bucks to take the course that I’d never make it in the radio business because I sounded too much like a female version of Mr.Rogers. So what is wrong with sounding like a sweet compassionate lady? huh? Guess if my speaking voice sounded more like Grace Slick or Stevie Nicks I might have been more successful. Although my favorite part of the entire course was the splicing and combining reel-to-reels to create commercials and song mixes. It’s been 22 years since I took that course. Time flies.

I never had the usual dream of going to hollywood to become an actress (had a girlfriend go to hollywood to ‘make it big” and come back within 60 days totally dejected, poor baby) I still love singing but my foray into the technology field has made it really tough to make time for my first love, performing.

Working on a computer and doing all the ‘research’ required to stay ‘current’ has pretty much planted my rather ample behind in this chair permanently! As I’ve gotten older and wiser there are a lot more demands on my time in front of the computer. I sit here a lot more. It’s hard to get motivated to take a walk or go outside when there are 25 tabs in my firefox, each with something I really wanted to learn. My chosen technology, Plone, is not easy to learn and always changing and it takes me longer than most to grasp some of the concepts so I read and experiment sometimes for hours on end.

My kids are all pretty much grown. When they were little I chased after their active little selves and walked them back and forth to school and took them to the park. I was healthy and got a lot of sun (even though I looked like a little lobster all summer, I thrived in that sun and just felt vibrant and alive). Now my kids don’t want to be seen with their, “moOOmm” anymore so I don’t HAVE to go anywhere. Heck I can order anything I want online!!

I often fantasize about making it big in technology then quitting the industry and becoming one of those actors/actresses who started in the entertainment industry really late in life. I mean you have to have a grandma or mean old lady in every show right? (not sure I could pull off mean, but that’d be the ultimate in acting prowess)

I love what I do right now, but no it wasn’t my first choice. Though my foray into online training is giving me the opportunity to utilize my voice and personality to help others learn my favorite technology, Plone.

Social Media: Is it heading for an implosion?

To satisfy our innate curiosity we as a race seek out more and more information. I can remember in the “old days” when a research report for school meant hours at the library and lively but hushed conversations in the “stacks” as we strove for the grades our parents expected, nay, demanded.  Now, we don’t have to leave our homes to expand our brains anymore. Remember Mathilda and her daily trek to the library to read the books her parents refused her? Our daily trek is a click, click, click.

Information overload is the new wmd that haunts us all.

Ten years ago I remember saying to a friend that the anonymity of the internet would lead to a change in human behavior. When bulletin boards and chat rooms started popping up there was the tendency to speak or behave in a way we would never ever consider in face-to-face conversations. I can remember conversations with “online” friends where another “online” friend had done something that IRL would have been unforgivable. We were bold and we were inconsiderate. We were brave and we were stupid. Those of us running an online business were told that a photo and address on our website would promote trust and bring us more business. Then we were told that if you weren’t attractive don’t put a photo up on your website, you’ll scare off business (yes I in fact heard those very words).

Fast forward to the eve of 2009 and we’ve progressed to the point where you can’t be as anonymous  as we once were and so online behavior has finally started to come around to the point where only teenage boys and men destined to be a guest on Dateline spoil our online conversations.

Now we have Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Ning, Geni (new one I just joined), Flickr, Orkut, etc etc. Email gets sent to our phones, applications have been written that allow you to be “followed” no matter where you are at the moment. We can’t escape. Even spam has begrudgingly become an accepted part of life.

We are attached, connected, unable to escape the demands of the outside world unless we physically remove ourselves and go on “digital vacations”.  Relationships that were once started by a special look across a crowded room are now memorialized by that special tweet or meeting in a chat room. That isn’t to say there aren’t some people who do it the old fashioned way, but the chance that the person sitting next to you in the waiting room at your doctors office met his or her significant other online is reaching unbelievable levels.

Our kids will consider all of this normal. My childhood consisted of dinner at 6pm with mom and dad and my siblings. Conversations were awkwards sometimes but we had them face to face. There have been times (we were being silly of course) when I’ve called my daughter on her cell phone when I knew she was in the house somewhere. Laziness? force of habit? Probably both.

The high demands that Social Media puts on us as a race is going to propel us to a point where we will finally say, enough is enough and run the other way to hide from all the input. Have you ever held a newborn baby in a crowded room with bright lights and lots of faces and watched it try to focus? The baby does focus on the person carrying it if held in the right direction. We need that type of focus and as more and more “social media’ gets introduced we risk an implosion, an internalization, a lack of direction.