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Surrendering to the Devil

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About 20 years ago, I decided to sell my soul to the devil.

Or rather, I made a decision as a consultant to specialize in Microsoft tools.

To some, it's the same difference -- I decided that instead of trying to be a generalist, instead of trying to do everything for everybody, that I was going to cast my lot with Microsoft. After all, Microsoft was a good company and they looked like they owned the future. They weren't going anywhere any time soon. People were going to buy computers, they were going to try to program them, and they would need help. If I wanted to help them, living in the world of Microsoft seemed like a good place to start.

It was a long, fun ride, ending in the past few months when I decided to move my desktop to Ubuntu. I've been happily coding away in linux since then, and only get back on a Windows machine to do certain things, like Photoshop.

I hated having to specialize, and I hated having to choose sides -- after all, there were lots of other good technologies out there and there were some exciting things being done in them. But I had to make a choice -- many times life is not about the right thing or the wrong thing, it's just trying to do the best thing with what you've got. Better the devil everybody's got than the devil nobody hangs out with.

I'm getting the same feeling again with Facebook. The devil never goes away.

I was one of the first people in my group to join Facebook -- my account is over a year older than all of my friends. But I never did anything with it. I have a MySpace account too -- and it stays unused. I like picking up new tools and playing with them, seeing if they amount to much.

Facebook, quite frankly, never amounted to much of anything. It was a place to keep my contact list, it was a place to see what some of my friends were doing. But Facebook managed to evolve past all of that, moving into the company of all the big giants: Microsoft, IBM, Google, etc.

How? They used my own friends against me. Sure, it has a fancy name -- the network effect -- but what it boils down to is that each time one of my friends joined, I started getting emails and such about whatever they were doing on Facebook. Each time I posted a status update or commented on a Friend's status update, Facebook notified me via email that the conversation continued.

This interruption in my life was the equivalent of the little kids down the street selling girl scout cookies -- it was innocuous, but it was also slightly annoying. But, sure enough, when faced with people you know asking you to do something you generally feel good about, most folks will buy a box or two of cookies.

Facebook did this with all of my friends, and "buying a cookie" meant continuing to participate in Facebook, thereby increasing the "network effect" for all of my friends.

Eventually I went in and turned off all email notifications, but by then it was a done deal. I had hundreds of friends, all posting innocuous, funny, pointless, pithy, tragic, and banal status updates everyday. Every one of which took a little part of my life -- if I let it. I was swimming in girl scout cookies.

Facebook uses your own friends to lure you into participating in an activity where highly engaging games and idle chit-chat not only keep you participating, it actually makes you part of their advertising and marketing campaign. If that's not the devil, I don't know what is.

And it's everywhere. Have you seen the stats on Facebook growth and participation? Like it or not, Facebook is taking over the internet.

So I've reached the same place I was with Microsoft many years ago. If you'll look to the right, you'll see a place to join my "What to Fix" Facebook fan page or my Google Friend Connect group.

I used to think that creating a web page or web app might require a membership and support system -- lots of folks have created plug-and-play membership systems in various formats. I used to think that whatever I created on the web was it's own context: if I wrote a web article on dog grooming, it fit into the context of my blog (or newspaper, or whatever) If I wrote an app to help pay your bills, it fit into the little web world I created around that app.

But that's not true any more. The "context" of the web is becoming Facebook and Google. Web apps aren't generalist apps any more, they exist inside a Facebook, Google, or whatever social context for the people who use them. People join those organizations to a degree never seen before. Those organizations aren't going anywhere any time soon. And increasingly people will choose to either further engage with you or not depending on your presence on these social engines.

So I've surrendered to the devil. Yet again. I'm doing something I really don't like or agree with because that's the way the world is headed. I'm going with Facebook and Google membership and content enhancement from now on. And it's not just blogs. I think I'd use them whether I was just writing an article or creating a super-complex application. There's simply no point in re-inventing the wheel. This is the way things are.

The devil has won, and it's time for the rest of us to join up and become one of his evil dark minions.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DanielBMarkham published on February 1, 2011 1:41 PM.

Thoughts on Egypt was the previous entry in this blog.

A Deepness In The Sky is the next entry in this blog.

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