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Blogs > Office Jotter

Two follow-ons to Facebook is like living with your mother
Roger Whitehead By: Roger Whitehead, Director, Office Futures
Published: 24th January 2011
Copyright Office Futures © 2011

So soon? Well, these were too relevant to pass over.

Recent posting, “Facebook is like living with your mother”, looked at John Dvorak’s PC Magazine article comparing Facebook to AOL. He thought both pandered to the masses, while making people pay a heavy price for ease of use.

I set out some of the elements of that cost. These two news items are germane to that analysis.

1. Techcrunch journalist rude about Daddy (and Mummy)

In an entertaining swipe at the editorial policies of online publications, Paul Carr of TechCrunch is particularly disrespectful to AOL, which bought TechCrunch in September 2010. His article — “On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re A Journalist” — contains some ‘zingers’:

… a year ago we might have (perhaps unfairly) shrugged off the thought of covering a dying company, today we think “oh, yeah, I wonder what Mom and Dad are up to now”.

… even The Huffington Post has succumbed to the temptation of bolstering costly and time consuming think-pieces with an avalanche of linkbait crap and blatant cut-and-paste jobs from other blogs.

All good fun, but the main point touching on Dvorak’s article is this:

Editorial operations play a quiet second fiddle to the four million people who inexplicably still pay AOL in order to check their email.

One AOL executive says three-quarters of the subscribers to AOL’s dial-up service don’t need it. You can bet AOL isn’t in a rush to tell them so. It exemplifies Dvorak’s point about cost.

Many years ago, in a BBC television programme about tourism in the Channel Islands, a grand old gentleman said he and the islands’ other councillors had no wish to get rich “by selling junk to mugs”.

Such gentlemen, such sentiments and such scruples are of a long-gone age. It seems they are surplus to requirements on the Web.

2. Germany makes Facebook change its “Friend Finder” service

Der Spiegel reports that Facebook is to stop automatically harvesting users’ email addresses when they sign up for a service or app.

It’s not clear yet whether this will be an opt-in or an opt-out process but it’s an improvement. Also, the article doesn’t say whether the constraint will apply generally or just to Germany.

German official attitudes to computer privacy have for decades been a sensible precaution/pain in the neck (choose your viewpoint). In the 1990s, several workflow programs from America had to be changed to prevent monitoring of individuals’ output. I don’t know if that is still a stipulation; I hope it is. Companies that treat their employees as adults don’t do such snooping.

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