Posts Tagged ‘facebook’

Why is facebook one of the most trusted companies in America?

December 16th, 2008

Dave Morin, a senior facebook executive, posted this article showing that facebook is now one of the twenty most trusted companies in America. Why?

Here is my thought about sharing, privacy and trust. People succumb to the psychological force of ‘cognitive dissonance.’ Cognitive dissonance says that you have to reconcile contradiction between behaviors and attitudes to reduce the uncomfortable feeling of dissonance. In the case of facebook, people know that they care about privacy yet they find themselves in a place where they’ve shared their inner most secrets with a web site. To resolve that tension between attitudes and behaviors, they choose to believe that they trust facebook.

It’s a powerful virtuous cycle: the more you share, the more you trust and conversely, the more you trust, the more you share.

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The potential of the social internet

December 8th, 2008

I am *extremely* bullish about the social internet in general, and in facebook connect in particular. Here is a nice slide deck that helps frame the opportunity by imagining what Amazon and iTunes might look like with real facebook connect functionality.

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Facebook Connect

December 2nd, 2008

I just watched Mark Zuckerberg’s speech announcing Facebook Connect. The Internet is going social. (By the way, CNET has some really video coverage of technology. I watched two “daily briefs” that automatically started after this video ended about Facebook Connect and iPhone apps that were both really good.) In any event, enjoy!

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Viral Marketing

October 13th, 2008

This presentation by the founder of RockYou has (almost) everything you need to know about viral marketing. A tour de force if you want to understand this kind of stuff.

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Robocalls – Part II / Spy vs Spy – Part II

August 26th, 2008

I recently posted about annoying Robocalls that I’ve received. In response to them, I’ve changed my phone setting so that no one who hides their phone number can call me. But that hasn’t stopped the robocallers. I just received my 40th or so “second notice” about my auto-warranty. This time, I got some information. The caller is “NIC Reinecker” at 620-585-0104.

Unfortunately, I could not reach anyone at that number. However, I did google the number and this interesting site popped up. This a spy vs spy site that lets people like you and me coordinate our efforts to fight these evil telemarketers. You can type in the number or name from your caller ID, and find out what others have experienced and tried to do to respond.

In this case, however, the only gratification I got is knowing that I am not alone in this fight. As I posted earlier, we just don’t have the tools to fight back on this scourge yet.

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The fundamental need to belong

July 28th, 2008

This blog post by Mark Pesce presents the case that social networking is revolutionizing human social creation. Here is a breathless snippet:

We have a drive to connect and socialize: this drive has now been accelerated and amplified as comprehensively as the steam engine amplified human strength two hundred and fifty years ago. Just as the steam engine initiated the transformation of the natural landscape into man-made artifice, the ‘hyperconnectivity’ engendered by these new toys is transforming the human landscape of social relations. This time around, fifty thousand years of cultural development will collapse into about twenty.

At first, I thought it was over the top. But I actually think Mark Pesce is about right. Here’s the example that I like to use. Most people who graduated from college before Facebook think that Facebook may be a way to meet people or to organize parties. That happens a little bit, for sure, but Facebook has a much more profound impact on students. They don’t use Facebook to throw parties; they throw parties to generate compelling content for their facebook profiles. If it’s not on Facebook, it doesn’t matter. Didn’t really happen.

In my opinion, the transformation has begun.

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The psychology of facebook

January 25th, 2008

I was asked by PARC to present again on the psychology of facebook. (Why do some applications go viral? You can read my speaking notes or watch this 1 min 52 sec screencast that is almost identical in content or grab the slides or handout.) But the main reason to reprise that post is to link to this pdf of my academic research paper, “Six patterns of Persuasion in Online Social Networks.” The paper makes that case that online persuasion follows simple patterns that can be explained with social psychology. Enjoy!

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Deception on facebook

January 5th, 2008

This article details how an application on facebook is helping to spread spyware called “Zango”. When I saw the headline, I was worried that this violation involved the features that facebook offers. But in fact, the spyware is just a link to install malicious code on your computer. It can only be installed with your consent, so it’s user stupidity not facebook’s fault. Blaming facebook is like blaming email: Facebook’s only contribution is having a viral medium to spread Zango’s ridiculous proposition. (I suppose there is one difference in that facebook “approves” applications that are listed in its directory.)

It is sad but inevitable that these third-party developers will violate facebook’s environment of trust.

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Sold out! Part III

December 26th, 2007

Here’s a link to the slides from the other presenters from our facebook expo. Lots of interesting ideas and data, even if it’s a little decontextualized without speakers’ notes.

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Sold out! Part II

December 13th, 2007

Here’s a nice outline of raw notes of the 2hrs of demos that we presented yesterday. It may or may not make sense to you if you aren’t involved in the space, or if you didn’t actually attend the event.

One other note: Facebook changed it’s status function by removing the previously mandatory ‘is’. I think that the students that created ‘Super Status’ can claim credit for finally swaying Facebook to make this change. I imagine that many facebook app developers and even facebook employees themselves will be applying the lessons that we learned in this class.

[Revised: I’ve been informed by my friend Dean that facebook had been rolling the changes to a subset of users as early as last week. In other words, the change cannot be attributed to our presentation on Thursday. It seems that the change was just a weird coincidence.]

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Sold Out! 10 million in 10 weeks

December 12th, 2007

Look ma! Someone decided to post a video of my presentation last night on a prominent facebook blog.

My Stanford class on facebook apps is wrapping up. As a class of 80 students, we created 40 or so applications that run within facebook’s social network. As of last night, more than 16 million people had installed these applications.

Anyway, our class presented the results last night at Bay Chi to 400 people, including a hundred people who watched on video screens in an overflow room and dozens of others who were turned away at the door. Tonight, we’ll repeat the exercise tonight to an even bigger audience at the Stanford Alumni center.

How were these applications able to be so successful? Below is a transcript of my three minute speech or you can watch this 1 min 52 sec screencast that is almost identical in content or grab the slides or handout. This framework was created by Xingxin Liu, BJ Fogg and me.


Six patterns for success. We conducted a bottoms-up analysis of the top 100 facebook apps according to Appsaholic. We found six patterns and then classified them. Native patterns are tightly integrated in the profile pages and rely heavily on friend selector and other functionality exposed by facebook, whereas adapted patterns do not.

Within native patterns, you can take actions or create artifacts that are either individually- or group-directed. For example in 1A, provoke and retaliate apps allow a user to perform an action on a friend. This genre includes apps like KissMe, Hugs, Zombies and X Me. In 2B by contrast, group exchange apps allows users to create and share artifacts collectively. This genre includes the top 2 apps, SuperWall and FunWall and others like BumperSticker.

Within adapted patterns, ‘competition’ adapts popular games like Scrabble, poker and video games to a social context. Adapted patterns, however, are cross-cutting: many native apps include Leaderboards and status levels to foster competition. Meanwhile, many apps include ‘deceptive’ like misleading fake facebook buttons and other navigation to trick users into install other apps.

Here is Bless You, a class app that reached 200k users in 20 days. It is quite simple: send friend a bless by one click.

Bless You - 1

Bless You fits the ‘Provoke& Retaliate’ Pattern. However, it includes other patterns too: a level system for competing, top lists for comparing, profile box for self-expression and group exchange; and ‘deceptive’ navigation.
Bless You - 2

We coded every app by primary pattern in the top 100 and aggregated the data in this chart. Deception is common but secondary, so we have omitted it. Some observations:
1. A small number of Group exchange apps reach many users and are highly engaging
2.Reveal & Compare appears to be faddish – large reach but low engagement
3. Compete is highly engaging within a niche
Facebook Stats

Which applications from tonight’s presentation fit into which patterns? Hopefully, these patterns offer one useful way to think about why these apps were so successful. Questions? We’re Michael Weiksner, Xingxin Liu and BJ Fogg. Please see us at intermission, and I have about 100 copies of our handout if your interested. Thank you.

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A Framework for Engagement on Facebook

December 9th, 2007

I argue that (1) there is a hierarchy of identity, and (2) that engagement increases as you move up this hierarchy. Furthermore, (3) your identity has two distinct but interactive components: social and personal. These three claims suggest a framework that we can use to map activities, both from web 2.0 and the real world. The framework can also be used to put facebook in historical context.

There is a hierarchy of identity: formation, expression and irrelevance. Identity formation (and change) is the highest level. In formation, you define who you are, what makes you different from others and what makes you similar to others. Hierarchy of IdentityFor example, a teen may explore extreme expressions of identity like coloring his hair or attending radical political meetings at school as he figures out whom he really is. Most people form their identity as young adults, although some people change significant aspects of their identities later in life especially around life stages like marriage, having children or retiring.

Expression is the middle level. Although not as intense as formation, you care a lot about projecting your preferences and other aspects of your identity. For example, you can express yourself by distributing a business card or through your car and mobile phone purchases. Expression can also be private, in the sense of gratifying your desires. For example, collecting things or taking care of a pet can be expression. Expression reinforces an identity that you have already formed.

Irrelevance is at the lowest level. Much of what you do has little impact on your identity. For example, you take hundreds of small actions like turning a key clockwise to open a door are completed, often thoughtlessly, without any change to your sense of self. Even typically engaging activities, e.g., politics, may elicit no response from people reject it as irrelevant to their lives.

Engagement tends to increase as you move up the hierarchy of identity. When you are forming your identity or involved in identity-formation activities, you must become more engaged. You date more, you have more late night bull sessions—you are more open to new ideas and people. You can be passionate about expressing your identity, but it is distinctly less engaging than identity formation. You likely prefer to promote your ideas than to be challenged on them and you are more likely to seek like-minded friends to achieve your goals rather than waste time redefining the goals or convincing them to join your side. Finally, irrelevancy breeds apathy not engagement. If you find politics irrelevant, you may not be engaged enough even to bother to vote.

Personal and social identities are distinct but interactive. Personal identity is what distinguishes me from others, whereas social identity is what I have in common with others. For example, your personal identity includes your music preferences, sexual orientation, your profession, etc. Your social identity includes political, university, social and other group affiliations (whether formal or informal.) Your personal identity may include some of your social identity, and vice versa. In fact, personal and social identities powerfully interact to contribute to your overall, integrated identity.

You can map activities on these two hierarchies, both from web 2.0 and the real world activities. Some real-world activities, like writing a personal diary, are about forming your personal identity but are largely irrelevant as part of your social identity. Other activities, like a rave, are highly social but completely anonymous.

Engagement Landscape

Similarly, you can place web 2.0 sites . Since MySpace allows you to have many anonymous or fake profiles, it is likely that you’ll be less invested in the profile than one on facebook. Even still, a MySpace profile isn’t much fun if you don’t use it to create and join social groups. Plaxo is somewhat social, since your email contacts in aggregate help define your social groups. But there is little incentive to invest anything personal in a Plaxo account. LinkedIn is similar to Plaxo, but it has more opportunities like recommendations to invest personally into the platform.

To be engaging, advertisers and creators of persuasive technology should focus on helping people create or at least express their identity, socially, personally or better yet, both at the same time. For example, Pepsi has sponsored “Starring You” Christmas cards on that invite you to upload pictures of your friends and family as characters in short animated skits.

This framework yields some possible insights into how and why facebook has been such a success. College has always been a time and place for personal identity formation, so it is a natural place for an engaging social network to develop. It is a time when people discover who they are and start joining and feeling attached to social groups.

But every generation has had to struggle with these issues – what makes facebook different? As traditional social groups from political parties to bowling leagues erode, facebook provides a new way for the “echo boom” to redefine social institutions. Facebook is not just a better way to form your personal and social identities; the facebook generation has a privileged place in our society due to its size. If facebook wants to transform social institutions as it has interpersonal relationships, it needs to build more features to support organizations like single sign on, ‘Pages’ and ‘Groups.’

And I speculate: I believe facebook’s brand of personal and social engagement is here for generations. Facebook transforms the college experience much as the ‘60s transformed the college experience when baby boomers were in school. But without lasting social change, the facebook site itself risks being another fad like friendster.

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Why facebook is killing “web 2.0″ apps

November 5th, 2007

NextBigThingFacebook and Open Social are currently the “next big thing.” In a way, they are taking over the mindshare previously occupied by the vaguely defined “web 2.0″ crowd. For example, Kleiner Perkins has publicly stated that it isn’t interested in web 2.0 companies. First, let me define those two concepts and then explain why web 2.0 companies have to quickly adapt or die.

Facebook – a site that allows you to create a personal profile and link to your friends. In addition, facebook now lets you decide what applications should be allowed to access that information. It also alerts you to changes in your friends profiles and to actions that they take in their applications. MySpace, LinkedIn and Ning are other prominent social networking sites.

Web 2.0 – sites that ask you to contribute in order to improve your own experience on the site or to improve the experience of everyone else. Technically, they often involve highly interactive features, like google maps. You can cruise for a list of literally hundreds of web 2.0 companies, including some of my favorites:feedburner (which powers the rss feed and email alerts here on, 37signals,, and

I think Facebook and other social networking sites can drive many web 2.0 applications out of business, because applications on facebook don’t require you to reenter your personal data. The smart web 2.0 businesses are realizing that they have to redeploy their applications to run on top of social networks. In this new position, though, most applications will be in subservient relationship to facebook, who retains the master relationship with each individual. But the competitive pressure is too great: why try to convince someone to reenter their personal data when facebook already knows it?

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Ode to facebook

November 4th, 2007

It’s not quite as good as the previous video on super poke, but I still found it amusing.

Via this post from a smart friend of mine who is worried that we are putting too much trust in facebook.

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