Mike Arrington is wrong, but not about Facebook

May 17, 2008

On the latest Gillmor Gang we debated the evolving Data Portability landscape.

Let me try to summarize the positions:

Marc Canter: At least the big social networks are doing something – and Facebook seems to give the user most privacy control.

Robert Scoble: When I give you my email address (or friend you) I have to assume that you are going to do whatever you want with it – including import it into other apps.

Michael Arrington: Facebook is behaving like old Microsoft and Marc Canter and DataPortability should demand better.

Me: Users need an additional check box when friending each other – ‘You may move my data to other applications’. The big vendors are trying to keep control for as long as possible – that’s to be expected. Startups, second tier social networks, non ‘social networking’ sites will ultimately implement first, and the big vendors will compete themselves towards open.

Over on Techcrunch Arrington claims:

DataPortability founder Chris Saad was also on the call, but failed to take a leadership position in the debate (he did, however, weigh in with a blog post on the subject before the call). Their influence may be waning.”

Mike, don’t confuse and conflate a thoughtful position and long-term view as ‘not taking a stand’.

13 Responses to “Mike Arrington is wrong, but not about Facebook”

  1. It was GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE PODCAST. You are the only one who took it out of the rarified SV garage to address the user beyond the East Bay. Hurray. Nagging about the user now available in stereo.

  2. Marc Canter Says:

    Hey dude

    For the record –

    1. Lets me clear – it’s what Facebook is SAYING that they’ll give the user control. Clearly they haven’t done that yet. We need to pressure them to represent ‘relationships’ and recognize OUR data.

    2. Always keep in mind that Arrington is about generating controversy and he did it with style and grace today. He reminds me of John Dvorak.

    3. What you said about user control – is what I call OptIn controls

  3. masonlee Says:

    Nice work on that call. It was really interesting all around. Not sure why Arrington and Gillmor were being so hostile; I’ll have to listen again.

    I’m sort of a permissions skeptic still. Are we ultimately saying “Add DRM to all data?” I just wrote up some thoughts here:


  4. Facebook already lets you limit the information about you that is given out to apps and external items that use the API, it’s at:

    For instance if Alice restricts photos taken of her in the API and Bob adds an application which reads this information then the application will not be able to see pictures of Alice, even if they were taken by Charlie.

    It’s a bit all or nothing at the moment but that probably makes it easier for most people.

    I know this because I have already bumped into people using this feature whilst I’ve been developing friendbinder (a, not yet launched, lifestreaming site).

  5. Chris,

    I am pleased to see your comment about the front end of what I call granular information ownership.

    I say ‘front end’ because, as Richard Cunningham mentions, “It’s a bit all or nothing at the moment”.

    What dataportability needs to incorporate on the way to data ownerships is data traceability in the hands of information producers, authors, social networkers, etc.


    But I like the direction you are taking. Want to hear more and am subscribing to an RSS feed from your blog today.

  6. Chris, I love the pot shots. Fantastic, people spend thousands upon thousands of hours of their own time, don’t get a dime for it and the moment these people get some results a million people explode onto the scene with a bunch of demands and insults.

    Forget about loud whiny A list bloggers, remember the little people. Remember your average every day person, scale up to the people who are active on the social web, but just because people want to make money bringing the data portability conversation out of data portabilities forums doesn’t mean you have to change your position.

    BTW: I’ve learned a lot about Data Portability and as you know I am continuing to think about the future. (bit further out than most people) I’ve been working on some cool stuff I plan on introducing as soon as all of the hyper hype dies down.

  7. […] Chris Saad refers to a checkbox that needs to get clicked. I don’t care what it’s called, (and I sure as hell hope we don’t have to worry about what the logo looks like.) But I do think we can all agree that opt in controls are needed. […]

  8. Keep punching, Chris.

  9. Jeff McNeill Says:

    It seemed to me that the other folks on the call didn’t quite understand the technical parts. Hence the “shouting down” and strong disagreement.

    “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi

  10. Josie Fraser Says:

    Hi Chris – Just a heads up to say thanks for making what was otherwise a painful boys own bun fight worth struggling through. At one point someone actually compared giving their wife ‘permission’ to go to dinner with giving someone else permission over their data.

    I guess not surprising that in the hysterically macho atmosphere of the show the panel struggled to articulate the cultural and psychological issues involved with changing communications and social practices, but hey ho.

    I’m not wholly convinced that additional levels of permissions – your check box idea – is necessarily the way to go, although I guess it could work as a kind of Creative Commons comparative solution. You hit the nail on the head though with
    “The user is the only one with a clear rational statement about their own data, and there is no good default setting”.

    Thanks for the thoughtful contributions.

  11. Chris Saad Says:

    @Jeff @Josie thanks for noticing that I was trying to avoid the shouting match and try to inject some perspective and actual practical solutions into the mix 😉

  12. This topic is quite trendy in the net right now. What do you pay the most attention to when choosing what to write about?

  13. […] On Gillmor Gang a few months after that event, Mike and I had it out in a shouting match. Josie Fraser was listening to that show and said it was “the geek world equivalent of the Jerry Springer Show.” Chris Saad was on the show and he encapsulated the points held by the participants very well. […]

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