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Scoble and his Facebook data

Thursday, January 03, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named scoble.jpgThere's a fascinating debate today going on about Scoble and his Facebook data. Here's the story so far. Plaxo, on behalf of Scoble, ran a screen scraper on his Facebook account to download information about at least some of his Facebook friends. Facebook detected the scraper and turned off his account, with an email explaining that he had violated their terms of service. Permalink to this paragraph

The debate: Who is right -- Scoble or Facebook? Permalink to this paragraph

While there are certainly arguments that Facebook has some rightness, most of it, imho, is with Scoble. Sure, some of the data may "belong" to his friends, like their birthday and mail address. Technically of course the data doesn't belong to anyone, it's data about them, and many organizations have this data. Are bloggers really saying that organizations have more rights than people? Isn't blogging all about a level playing field? My bank knows my birthday and my email address. Why shouldn't Scoble? (Maybe he shouldn't.) Permalink to this paragraph

Scoble called a few minutes ago. I asked what the consensus was. He said it was about 70 percent in his favor, 30 percent in Facebook's. I think we can win over the 30 percent by saying that there should be a system whereby people can decide how much information they want to share with Scoble, or people like Scoble, or me, or people like me, or BofA or the DEA, KGB or CIA. Further, that system is not Facebook, unless they change.  Permalink to this paragraph

Now, I think there's a pretty good chance that Facebook will change and give Scoble his data and turn his account back on. I think Facebook wants to give us access to our data, but if they just turned the feature on, there would be a shitstorm, kind of like the one that's raging right now. Except this time Facebook has defenders, which they must find refreshing, because every time there's been a shitstorm around Facebook they've always been seen as 100 percent evil by most people. (Not by me, btw.) Permalink to this paragraph

Maybe they're getting smart there over at Facebook. Maybe they will relent, kind of admit they were wrong, and secretly be happy that they got to open their network up some more.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named kgb.gifHowever, if Facebook doesn't open up and allow people a system to say who can access what information, we still have to create that system somehow. Google could have done it, but they didn't. Same with Yahoo or Microsoft. These companies don't want to empower the users, but if they studied history, they'd see that the evolution of computers always comes in fits and starts. A period when the technology is new and people are snowed by the companies and let them have full control. Gradually people understand what's going on, and figure out they're being screwed but they accept it. And then explosively the whole thing disintegrates in a new layer of technology.  Permalink to this paragraph

It's a big effin loop we're in. One of these times around one of the companies that feels (incorrectly) that they have a lock on their users, will voluntarily give it up and be a leader in Generation N+1. I've never seen it happen, but in theory I think it could.  Permalink to this paragraph

In other words, Apple and Microsoft could have invented the web instead of TBL. DEC and Data General could have invented the personal computer instead of Apple and Microsoft (I know this is a simplification, there were lots of individuals and small companies that did it.) And IBM could have invented the minicomputer instead of DEC and Data General. And btw, the NY Times and CNN could have invented blogging, Youtube and RSS. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

So Facebook has the opportunity to be a crossover company, part of the next generation -- or a last gasp of the generation that's about to run out of gas. It's their choice. And it's fitting somehow that Scoble is the poster child for users in this cycle.  Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

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"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

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