Thursday, September 15, 2011

We don't connect to be marketed to

Facebook's announcement that it is to enable a 'subscribe' button so you can follow interesting things and people (provided they are sharing publicly) is the latest shot in the battle for hearts and minds among the big players. 'Subscribe' is essentially Twitter's follow (or Google +'s for that matter).

So it's yet another case of Facebook being late to the party. The extra it adds is enabling you to select how much of someone's stream you want to subscribe to - giving a little control to the follower (though frankly this has varying value depending on your personal experience of the volume of content - which has always been controlled by who and what you friend or follow in any event).

But it got me thinking: Subscribe takes us back to our online social roots: You just have to love blogs and blogrolls, RSS and hypertext linking. A glorious place of freely forming communities of purpose.

All the rest; Facebook, Twitter, Google +, etc etc, all the rest are at best filters of simplicity or, at their worst, silos of data. Some sit further along to the left of that scale, some to the right. But sit on it they do, in a way that blogs and rss well, don't.

The social platforms have taken down some serious technical barriers to entry - itself a silo of some significance. My wife would never have written a blog. But she's at home and connected with facebook. This is a good thing.

But ultimately we will call time on the nannying. The tech difficulties the platforms solve for us will become problems no longer. A level of what we now call technical know-how will simply become common sense. Like being able to cross a road, most folk will grow up knowing how. They'll call it common sense rather than know-how because it will, of course, be common.

At that point we no longer need the platforms. We'll need and will have the common sense to publish, to discover those who share our needs, problems or desires. And the ability to connect in self-forming groups.

And guess what Facebook et al? We won't be doing this to be marketed to.

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?