Is the interconnected Web bringing us together, or making us all distracted voyeurs?
Diesel boutiques in Spain now come equipped with the Diesel Cam, where shoppers can try on garments and then instantly take and upload photos to Facebook, where friends can presumably lie about whether a halter top is a good idea.
Is this a great way to bring remote friends' commentary into a purchase decision (fashion) that is driven by peer feedback? Or is this just creepy? Either way, it would make me double-check how I have the privacy settings set for photos on my Facebook page. The last thing I need is a dressing room photo of me modeling Diesel brand fat pants hitting the public News Feed on Facebook.
How Much Friendship Do We Need?
While the merits of this particular implementation of Facebook-fueled connectivity can be debated, it's a good example of the increasing frequency and intensity of "friend" involvement we're going to see in the next 12-18 months.
We sure as hell don't lack for information at this point. There are something like 150 million blogs. 500+ TV channels. 2 million tweets per hour. The killer app isn't information, it's curation.
In addition to their desire to be the hub of the Web, and create the greatest analytics-driven advertising platform imaginable, Facebook wants to enable our relationships to curate the world for us.
The real genius (or ruin) of Facebook's Open Graph API is that it makes our interpersonal relationships as available as air (as Charlene Li predicted 18 months ago). Instead of you having to go to Facebook to see what your friends are up to and what they think, that information can be exported and embedded so that it becomes omnipresent. It's as if your friends are sitting in your pocket at all times, waiting for you to ask their opinion. (I hope you have HUGE pockets, or some sort of cargo vest)
In practice, this could be incredibly useful. On the curation front, you need only look at something along the lines of likebutton.me to get a glimpse of the potential for friend-curated information. Want to know what your friends are reading and commenting upon? Presto! At a glance, I learned that my friend and client Andy Reierson from Flint Communications shared the awesome Shaggin Wagon video from Toyota. I'd heard about it, but hadn't made time to check it out until I saw Andy's recommendation. Social curation at work.
Curation works in an e-commerce environment, too. Instead of relying on Amazon or Netflix's algorithm to tell you what book or movie you might enjoy, you can rely on the opinions of your friends. If you want to read reviews from everyone, great. But the default view will be the opinions of your Facebook friends.
And that's both the solution and the problem.
With Friends Like These
To me, the flaw in the Facebook Open Graph model, and the corresponding move toward curation by friends, is that it's occurring simultaneously with a shift in Facebook usage morays.
It wasn't that long ago that Facebook was the place where you connected solely with people you actually knew in three dimensions. Many people still use it that way. But, as Facebook continues to grow like John Candy at an all-night buffet, the number of possible connections for each person multiplies correspondingly.
I'm faced with several yes/no decisions every day with regard to new Facebook connections, and I can't imagine what a famous person has to sift through vis a vis Facebook invites. So far, I've pretty much held the line on Facebook, and the vast, vast majority of my friends there are people I've actually met (if you've asked to connect with me there, and I haven't responded, that's why. please take no offense)
But, I know this is unsustainable. We all do. Over time, we start to fudge the margins a bit, and eventually we'll open the Facebook "friend" kimono more and more until we're wearing nothing but a smile and a warm breeze. Everything Facebook does is tilted toward that goal - to massively increase the number of people to whom we're connected, and the number of ways in which we are connected to them.
And this is what will kill curation. As my "friends" become more numerous and less hand picked, does the judgement and input of that group provide a meaningful advantage over the judgement and input of everyone?
Ultimately, I see Facebook friends becoming a more equals less problem that will force Facebook into adding significant group and subgroup capabilities, to maintain even a shred of curation value.
What do you think? Do you value being able to access your friends' opinions and preferences around the Web (and in the dressing room)?
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