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Death and Facebook, revisited
By Dave Winer on Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:05 AM.

A picture named reaper.gifLast week I wrote a piece about Facebook and Guy Kewney, a friend who died recently. Facebook noticed he wasn't getting much attention, and wasn't posting a lot, so they've been recommending that I (and presumably other of his friends) reach out to him.  permalink

Erroneously, of course -- because sending attention his way is a waste, for all involved. permalink

Then over the weekend the NY Times ran a piece that discussed more or less the same thing.  permalink

A few comments that resulted from an email exchange with the author of the Times piece, Jenna Wortham. permalink

1. There are several levels here. To have someone declared dead on Facebook is something probably only the family and close friends should be able to make happen. However, not-so-close friends should be able to help Facebook realize they're making a mistake by recommending people reach out to the person. A simple button that says WTF or Not-Cool next to the recommendation. Enough of those and Facebook could get a clue that it's doing something like spam, and probably should stop making the recommendation, at least until a human looks into it. permalink

2. I suggested a follow-up for Jenna. In the days leading up to Father's Day, Amazon sent me emails, every day reminding me to buy something for Dad. As you may know, my father died in October. This is the first Father's Day he missed. His birthday is in the same part of June. Once or twice, okay -- but sending me an email every day, with no way to tell them to stop (click this button if your father died recently), that's pretty bad manners. I tweeted about this and found a number of other people were annoyed by this.  permalink

3. I suggested to Jenna that she write a blog post on the Times site, and another and another, as long as more interesting stuff was coming to light on this topic. Plant a seed, and then your readers go to work and provide new angles. So much better than the old way, where the reporter would hand-pick a few people to interview, many of whom said self-serving things, and then quickly moved on to something else. Somewhere in here is the secret to future business models for news organizations. Death on the Internet is actually a good way for the news business to make money. They already have a thriving business in death notices (I know, we participated in it last year). But more important, staying with threads as they develop is how you learn what information needs and interests your readers have. It's a new idea for news to fit the interests of the readers, but it's how it will have to work in the future, if it is to work. Imho of course. permalink

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