Daily Archives: November 15, 2007

How to Lose Friends and Influence People

The good news is that libraries can have Facebook pages again. Many used to, and then were evicted when Facebook decided only individuals could apply. (Whether you can run apps that lead people away from Facebook – say, into your catalog – is another matter . . .)

The bad news is that Facebook’s new advertising policies are alarming. They hope to recruit members as a sales force for participating products – they call it social advertising. Not only will ads be tailored to what I’m doing online (yes, we’r getting sadly used to that), they will be sent to others with my face on them. Well, maybe not MY face, surely Facebook has better sense than that. But the idea that my “friendships” would be used for spamming acquaintances in my name is disturbing. It may also be illegal. Facebook isn’t too worried, though. We can opt out if we so choose. If we don’t, though, we’ll be recommending products to friends. The New York Times examined this in its advertising industry coverage.

“Nothing influences a person more than a recommendation from a trusted friend,” Mr. Zuckerberg said.

Facebook users will not be able to avoid these personally recommended ads if they are friends with participating people. Participation can involve joining a fan club for a brand, recommending a product or sharing information about their purchases from external Web sites.

Mr. Zuckerberg said he thought this system would make the site feel “less commercial,” because the marketing messages will be accompanied by comments from friends. When asked about people who might not like ads, Mr. Zuckerberg shrugged and said, “I mean, it’s an ad-supported business.”

Librarians have a healthy concern for reader privacy. Our assumptions have been challenged lately by Web 2.0 affordances like book recommendation engines and social networking around what we read. (Sometimes the response to privacy concerns is “just get over it!”) We want to enable the kinds of social networking that people want, without storing permanent records of every book they choose to explore. Our main concern has been Big Brother. Now it’s clear we have to watch out for Big Business. (Well, we knew that . . . but this is a new and insidious move.)

We don’t always do a good job of explaining our values to non-librarians. We explain them when asked, and when we’re really cornered, as with the PATRIOT Act, we might go so far as to put up a sign. But privacy – the use of information about me – is something that is increasingly “opt out” only and the violation of that privacy is becoming the engine of commerce. Our discussion of the ethical use of information (per the information literacy standards) tends to begin and end with plagiarism. Shouldn’t we also be talking about the ethics of information more broadly?

Aaron Swartz Is Speaking at Midwinter

Aaron Swartz, co-creator of RSS, co-founder of Reddit, technical lead on the Open Library project, etc., has agreed to speak at ACRL’s University Libraries Section Current Topics session at Midwinter. The session is scheduled for Saturday, January 12 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

As a new academic librarian, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see more of, especially at the bigger meetings. I’ve heard that LITA, Access, Computers in Libraries, and code4Lib are great conferences, but they’re also small compared to ALA Annual and Midwinter, ACRL, and SLA. And while “big conference” speakers like 2007 ALA Auditorium Speaker Julie Andrews and 2007 SLA Annual keynote Al Gore are fabulous, and I’m an unabashed fan of 2007 ACRL keynote John Waters, it’s time we use the pulling power of speaking to thousands of librarians (not to mention the larger budgets for the bigger events) to bring in people who are setting the tone for the non-library information community. I think the world of Clifford Lynch and Karen Schneider and Roy Tennant and Jessamyn West, but I also think the world of influential technologists like Paul Graham, John Gruber, Mark Pilgrim, Aaron Swartz, and Steve Yegge. I want to see these folks at our conferences. We need to hear from them and they need to hear from us.

Aaron has agreed to speak about the Internet and new collaboration technologies. Naturally, he’ll also talk about the Open Library. He plans to keep his actual presentation relatively short, about half an hour, to allow plenty of time for questions and discussion. To get a sense of what he’s like as a speaker, check out the video of his October 25 presentation at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, which he delivered to a small but appreciative group that included several librarians. Of course, my hope is that there will be a lot more of us in attendance when he speaks at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia. For which advance registration closes on November 30, 2007. I’ll be there. Will you?