Technologizer posts about social networking

Path: We’re Sorry and We Have a Fix

By  |  Posted at 12:58 pm on Wednesday, February 8, 2012

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Dave Morin, the cofounder and CEO of Path, has blogged an apology and an update concerning the discovery that the company’s social networking app was uploading users’ address books without permission:

We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information. We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path.

In Path 2.0.6, released to the App Store today, you are prompted to opt in or out of sharing your phone’s contacts with our servers in order to find your friends and family on Path. If you accept and later decide you would like to revoke this access, please send an email to service@path.com and we will promptly see to it that your contact information are removed.

[snip]

In the interest of complete transparency we want to clarify that the use of this information is limited to improving the quality of friend suggestions when you use the ‘Add Friends’ feature and to notify you when one of your contacts joins Path––nothing else. We always transmit this and any other information you share on Path to our servers over an encrypted connection. It is also stored securely on our servers using industry standard firewall technology.

We believe you should have control when it comes to sharing your personal information. We also believe that actions speak louder than words. So, as a clear signal of our commitment to your privacy, we’ve deleted the entire collection of user uploaded contact information from our servers. Your trust matters to us and we want you to feel completely in control of your information on Path.

We hope this update clears up any confusion. You can find Path 2.0.6 in the App Store here:http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/path/id403639508?mt=8

Good. (Seems to me, though, that most of the “confusion” here was on the part of Path, not the people who were displeased…)



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Path Plays Fast and Loose With Privacy

By  |  Posted at 2:27 pm on Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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Path, the excellent mobile social network for iPhone and Android, has a self-inflicted problem on its hands. Developer Arun Thampi noticed that the iPhone version of Path’s app uploaded his address book–unencrypted, in its entirety, without permission–to the company’s servers. He wrote about it, and an interesting conversation is going on in his comments, including responses from Path cofounder Dave Morin.

It turns out that Path has already made the uploads opt-in for the Android app, and has submitted an iOS update that does the same to Apple’s App Store. Little by little, Morin is addressing the company’s actions–it uses the address-book info to find your friends on Path–and expressing regret for grabbing personal information off phone without permission. But he hasn’t explained himself to the satisfaction of all of Thampi’s commenters, and the Path Blog doesn’t yet cover the kerfuffle. It’s not clear that Path thinks this a particularly big deal.

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Highlight, a Social Network for the Real World

By  |  Posted at 8:30 am on Tuesday, January 24, 2012

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For all that Facebook does to help you organize your online relationships, it doesn’t do much to help you interact with folks in the physical world. Every time you enter a restaurant, conference, or hotel lobby, you’re surrounded by strangers who you might be linked to through mutual friends or shared interests. But it’s hard to know who’s who–and if people you know do happen to be nearby, you might or might not stumble across them.

Enter Highlight, a new iPhone app that aims to tell you about the people in your immediate vicinity. Install it on your phone and connect it to your Facebook account, and it’ll begin alerting you to other Highlight users who are within approximately a block and a half of you. You can pull up profiles with information on them from Facebook and send them text messages (such as “where are you, exactly?”). Founder Paul Davison told me that the app is designed to help you meet new people, refresh your memory about people you’ve met before, and alert you to friends who could be lurking right around the corner.

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Ads Get More Intrusive on Facebook

By  |  Posted at 9:44 am on Thursday, January 12, 2012

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Users of Facebook are reporting that Sponsored Stories are moving from their original position interspersed with standard Facebook ads to the news feed itself, a change that is sure to ruffle the feathers of many. While the ad cannot appear unless the user likes the advertiser’s Facebook page, it certainly feels quite intrusive.

(!–more–>

You may not realize you’re even being hit with an ad unless you read the timestamp closely: Facebook marks the sponsored post as “featured”. Rolling over the tag shows the text “You are seeing this because you like (insert company name). A sponsor paid to place it here”.

Other types of Sponsored Stories allow advertisers to hit up your friends even though they may not like the page, but this type will not. Facebook is smart enough to realize that sticking an ad in the face of somebody who may not care to see it wouldn’t be such a smart idea.

According to Inside Facebook, which looks to be the first to find out about the new ads, the social networking company is performing a gradual rollout. Initially the sponsored news feed posts will be limited to one per day, and won’t be shown on mobile devices. It’s not clear where Facebook plans to take the sponsored stories from there, though.

Either way, I’m not happy about this. My news feed is to find out about the things I care about, not to be pestered with ads. Add to this the fact that it may not be clear that they are ads, and it really bothers me. The only reason Facebook is doing this is because these ads will be worth a lot of money, and on top of that likely have a higher click-through rate as a result of their prominence.

Where does it end?



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So Apparently Google+ Isn’t Dead

By  |  Posted at 10:06 pm on Wednesday, December 28, 2011

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Apparently nobody really knows whether Google+ is dead or not. One day, we’re told its a “ghost town,” the next day somebody claims Google+ is here to stay. And back and forth and back and forth it goes…

Enter the latest installment in this argument: Google+ will surpass 400 million users by 2012. This comes from an independent analysis by Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com and the self-appointed “unofficial statistician” of the service. He says that growth of the service has really accelerated in recent weeks. This growth rate would put it not far behind Facebook in second place, with about half the users of its bigger competitor.

Mind you its taken Facebook seven years to get to that number. Google+ will get to about half that in just 18 months. That’s some growth! What’s driving this? It could be the popularity of Android. It’s easy to register for Google+ from Android devices, and cool features like automatic syncing of pictures with the service may be a draw.

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Google has announced several significant improvements to Google+.

(The two I most want to see are both based on my particular needs. I’m looking forward to the feature that Google has announced which will let you transfer a Gmail-based Google+ identity over to one that uses Google Apps, so I can use my Technologizer Google Apps account for Google+ without losing my current Circles and friends. And I desperately want Google+–any version of Google+–to work better on an iPad. In fact, since I started using an iPad 2 most of the time, my G+ usages has dropped by about 95%. I just can’t make it work reliably.)

 

 

Posted by Harry at 1:08 pm

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The revolving door at Twitter, Inc. has been whirring at hyperspeed in recent months. Nicholas Carlson of the Business Insider has a post speculating (with the help of a supposed Twitter insider) about why it’s happening–and part of the problem, supposedly, is that Twitter has a complacent culture and is unwilling to reinvent itself on a regular basis in the same way that Facebook does.
 
I’m not a Twitter employee. I’m not a Twitter investor. I’m just a (mostly) happy user–and part of why I’m happy is because Twitter doesn’t change at a breakneck pace. It feels like it knows what it is. That may not be a recipe for making billions–and Twitter does have issues, such as the fact that it’s still almost impossible to search it in any reasonable fashion–but it’s kind of a relief.

Posted by Harry at 1:26 pm

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The New Twitter

By  |  Posted at 5:20 am on Friday, December 9, 2011

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How do I feel about the major makeover which Twitter unveiled yesterday? Well, it’s been hard for me to come to any conclusions, at least when it comes to the iPhone version. For some reason, it’s refusing to show me my timeline and @replies. Some other folks are reporting problems, too, and the fixes they’ve suggested aren’t helping me. I presume it’s a bug that’ll get fixed.

(It’s also showing me an outdated list of my Direct Messages that’s missing the recent ones–a glitch I’ve been encountering on multiple platforms for a long time.)

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I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again: The best approach to Facebook privacy is to behave as if there isn’t any. As Zack Whittaker of ZDNet reports:

Facebook acknowledged there was a glitch in the system, which allowed users to access off-limit photos of other users, but claimed that only a limited number of users were affected. Facebook did not disclose how many people were affected.

Many users have their Facebook profile locked down. Only profile picture data is often available to display on some profiles. Users who took advantage of this flaw were able to ‘report’ a profile picture as ‘nudity or pornography’, which then led to the ‘reporting’ tool to display the images.

However, images of Facebook chief executive and founder Mark Zuckerberg were uploaded to image-sharing sites after his own profile was exploited.

Posted by Harry at 12:34 pm

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Path 2, a Brilliant Smart Phone App With One Annoying, Self-Inflicted Limitation

By  |  Posted at 1:55 am on Wednesday, November 30, 2011

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A year ago, a new photo-sharing app for the iPhone called Path debuted. It was slick and fun, but the most noteworthy thing about it was an intentional limitation: It only allowed you to connect with up to fifty other users, the theory being that it was for sharing images with your family and close friends, not the world.

Path did OK, but it didn’t become a big hit–unlike Instagram, which arrived at around the same time.

Now Path is back. The new version, Path 2, isn’t just about photos: You can share your textual status updates, your location, who you’re with, and whether you’re awake or asleep. You can also have the app automatically alert people when you travel a great distance and land in a new place. The original 50-friend limit has been bumped up to 150. And you can now push the items you post out to Facebook and/or Twitter.

The Path people now call the app a smart journal, which is as coherent a way as any to describe what it’s doing.

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For my CNET blog, Challengers, I wrote about Google’s television ad for Google+, and the prospects for its social network in general: 

Google+’s best shot at success involves it becoming indistinguishable from Google. Instead of being a place, it can be the social glue that ties together Google’s search engine, Gmail, Google Apps, and scads of other services that hundreds of millions of people already use. If Google figures out how to make its whole dang world feel like a Facebook competitor, it’ll be a big deal.

Posted by Harry at 6:00 pm

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Liz Gannes and Ina Fried of All Things D say that the long-rumored Facebook phone is real and based on a custom version of Android, although it might not show up for awhile:  

Code-named “Buffy,” after the television vampire slayer, the phone is planned to run on a modified version of Android that Facebook has tweaked heavily to deeply integrate its services, as well as to support HTML5 as a platform for applications, according to sources familiar with the project.

 
Facebook is in an interesting position when it comes to phones. Apple has deeply integrated Twitter into iOS 5. Google, which clearly sees Facebook as its primary archrival, is unlikely to make Facebook support core to the off-the-shelf version of Android. So I can see why Facebook might want a phone of its very own…

Posted by Harry at 3:00 pm

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My CNET colleague Molly Wood has blogged about the latest Facebook change that’s raising the ire of users:

If your friends are using an app like The Guardian or The Washington Post’s new Social Reader, you’ll get an intercept asking you to authorize the original site’s app so that you can read the story. And, of course, so that every story you read will start being shared automatically on Facebook, thanks to the magic of Open Graph!

I try to withhold a verdict on any Facebook change for a bit–in the past, some that have been jarring at first turn out to be great, or at least okay. But I do agree that it’s disorienting to get the install-this-app prompt when you thought you were clicking on an article. And the fact that I want to read one Washington Post story doesn’t mean I want all my Facebook pals to know about every Washington Post story I read forever after.

Posted by Harry at 11:15 am

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Inside Facebook’s Amazing Oregon Data Center

By  |  Posted at 10:55 pm on Saturday, November 19, 2011

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Back in April, I attended a press event at Facebook’s Silicon Valley headquarters, at which Mark Zuckerberg rhapsodized about the company’s new data center in Prineville, Oregon–the first one it built for itself. It was interesting. But it wasn’t nearly as interesting as visiting the Prineville facility for myself, which I got to do this week along with a few other journalists. It’s the place where Facebook lives–and an awful lot of effort goes into making sure that the site loads up quickly and reliably every time every one of those 800 million active users pays a visit.

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Over at my Challengers blog at Cnet, I’ve written about one of the services that’s debuting this week at the Web 2.0 Summit: Chime.in, a sort of Twitter that’s about topics rather than people::

I hope that Chime.in turns out to be interesting enough to enough people to have a bright future. I don’t need another social network–but if there’s a place online with copious smart discussion of topics I care about, I’ll find time for it. This site has a shot at being that sort of place.

Posted by Harry at 5:51 pm

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