Facebook Open Graph And Your Attention

Attention EarsFacebook’s Open Graph API allows websites to draw information about people, photos, events, pages and other objects — and their relationships between each other. Companies increasingly are luring users to opt into their Facebook-connected apps that offer access to valuable content or some other service. The value exchange lies in the fact that these apps increasingly require you to grant authorization to not only share your behavior with the company, but to automatically publicize (or share) your ongoing app interaction with all of your friends on Facebook.

Molly Wood at CNET asserts that such expansion of Facebook’s Open Graph is ruining Facebook:

The problem, really, is that the plan is turning out to be really annoying in practice. Spotify song sharing is like the new FarmVille, and its auto-sharing turned out to be an unpleasant surprise for folks who didn’t quite understand just how frictionless Open Graph sharing would be.

I never got into the FarmVille online game, but I have gotten into Spotify. It’s an awesome ad-supported streaming music service which is highly integrated into the Facebook Open Graph. After a month using it, I can understand what Molly’s talking about.

First, I don’t want to listen to what my friends are listening to, because I usually don’t like what they like. Because I usually don’t like what they like, I don’t want their playlists and listening behavior promoted to me. I just want to listen to music that I like. To be fair, it’s very early for social-sharing of music preferences, and these services will get better in time.

Second, I originally went into Spotify open-minded about sharing everything I listened to — a requirement of the free version of the booming service. However, after a few surprise comments on my playlist from distant Facebook friends, I realized that I implicitly consider my music-listening sessions to be private experiences. I’m comfortable sharing my music preferences as a conscious and deliberate expression, but instant, open and passive sharing of behaviors that reflect my mood, musical craving or discovery ambitions is a little too much. That’s my personal space and I want to share it only selectively. As one friend said to me, “your music collection is a bit like your underwear drawer.”

But is the Open Graph ruining Facebook? I don’t think so.

Facebook is a commercial service that drives revenues largely through ads, and in some cases by taxing companies that do business on top of its platform. Its ability to execute well here depends on prospering as a social identity, targeting and tracking platform — which is Open Graph. If you love Facebook and the frictionless adoption of third-party services on the Facebook platform, then get used to this.

Indeed, you need to monitor your privacy settings and weigh the value of Facebook-connected services with your own privacy standards. While privacy norms are quickly evolving in the digital age, different people still have different standards. It’s personal preference. My preference to not passively share my listening behaviors with the world is a great example; indeed, many people have no problem sharing with the world.

What about the excessive noise that Molly alludes to? That’s not a Facebook issue. That’s a side effect of a multi-channel digital world, where we have multiple social networking platforms, channels, devices and more — where the friction to generate signals is nonexistent. It’s a tragedy of the commons.

In an attention-starved world, the big opportunity for brands, services and people is to become trusted social and information mediators. The winners will be not those who generate the most shares, but the ones who generate the most relevance and value. There’s an inverse law: less is more.

This is the attention economy.

Facebook is transformational. But Facebook still plays within the attention economy, just like everyone else.

Now, if you don’t mind, scroll to the top and “Like” this story so you can share it with your Facebook friends.

Doing so will accentuate your own value and relevance to others.  🙂

(Photo Credit: J. Star)

Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

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