Sunday, November 25, 2007

Facebook and the death of the Public Space

I was interested to read about the Beacon announcement from Facebook - basically, a way people can share what they have bought or registered for on different websites. I am just waiting until the first abuses of this start rolling in - and they will

Add this to all the ads, the branded pages, company pages, etc., and FB starts to feel like the rest of the web - crowded with branded content.

It reminds me of Naomi Klein's No Logo. She wrote that back at the turn of the century bemoaning the loss of public space to brands. Not a hell of a lot seems to have changed. It's just all moved on line.

Not that I am against branding or branded content, but now as part of the news feed in FB I have to read what all of my friends are buying? Some of my friends (no one reading this post of course) are blithering idiots and I wouldn't buy anything they recommend (I love 'em though!). I have different interests and tastes than many of my (more normal) friends as well. I'm not friends with them because we buy the same brand of shoe-shine.

Recommendations are powerful because they are personal and targeted. A friend has the same problem you have, you recommend something that helped you. Spamming seemingly random purchases in a FB news feed is not really the same thing.

It's the never-ending need to intrude on public space because of the perceived 'value' in the distracted attention of the 'crowd' that got us into this mess. There is no value in 'intrusion' anymore. Hasn't that lesson already been learned?

Naomi Klein started her book with a profound quote from David Ogilvy (that most sensible of ad men):

As a private person, I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?

Pretty topical for something written in 1963.

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