Facebook Home: Is That a Feature or a Threat?

Addiction is Free and Fun for All Internet Zombies

Facebook continues to fascinate us with its ability to tap into the psychological mechanisms of human beings, the need for a human connection and the need to share -- even if what's shared is not so great. FaceBook Home has refined that technique such that it has transitioned from worrisome to treacherous.

I can certainly appreciate the need for human beings to reach out. In our own American society but also in other countries, isolation can be frequent and depressing. The desire to be connected and appreciated is an enduring human trait. All of us who write, create or perform for a living know that.

And yet.

There is something creepy about a company that so cleverly taps into that need, while making itself very rich, that that we occasionally shake our heads, convulse into awareness, squint with curiosity, shiver with concern and ponder what we have become.

If everything that we crave is all that we care about, then all we would ever eat is cupcakes. Let's call it what it really is: addiction.

While Facebook Home will be eagerly embraced by hundreds of millions, there is something to be said for taking a step back from the edge and pondering our fate. I offer thoughtful analysis by others:

1. The first author of note is Yoni Heisler at Networldworld. He is one of several legacy Facebook users I've quoted who have come to have misgivings about the service. In this case, Mr. Heisler's concerns about Home are wide ranging. He has particular concerns with Home's chat heads, a feature that cannot be turned off. It sounds like the recurrent theme from Scifi -- the computer that's so powerful and intelligent, it denies you the ability to turn it off. Responding to this feature, the author asks, "Is that a feature or a threat?" From which I drew this week's title and to which I give generous credit.

2. The next author, Om Malik at GigaOm, raises serious questions about privacy. The concern is not about giving up a little bit of absolute privacy in order to connect with people. Rather, the concern is that users are blissfully unaware of the motives behind penetrations into their lives to the point where the act has become a dangerous violation, an accumulation of knowledge that controls and debases the "customer." Remember, if the service is free, you are the product.

3. The third and final article I'll point to is by E. Werner Reschke at T-GAAP. Mr. Reschke astutely points out that Steve Jobs would not allow third party software (like Flash) to come between the platform and the developer. "If developers grow dependent on third party development libraries and tools, they can only take advantage of platform enhancements if and when the third party chooses to adopt the new features."

And yet, that's exactly what Facebook Home aims to do. It creates an immersive environment that pushes aside any other bits and pieces of apps, creativity, utility or manufacturer's ingenuity in order to become, itself, the overriding platform. This is akin to the old days when users who signed into AOL thought they were on the Internet, when in fact, they were in a nicely decorated prison that suited AOL's ends. Mr. Reschke's conclusion is that this Facebook functionality can only serve to harm Google and Android -- which I agree with.

And now, Google, we know why controlling your own platform is so important. Perhaps this is on their mind already. It's like the executive control function of the human brain as well. We need addiction-free control of our own lives so we can enjoy addiction-free life on the Internet.


Tech News Debris for the Week of April 1

One of Apple's explicit core markets is the creative professional, listed in the Markets section at the bottom of Apple's Mac page. So, if Apple is making a big push at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting with renewed commitment to Final Cut Pro, what does that suggest Apple might be up to with the tool of the creative pro, the Mac Pro? Jonny Evans offers some intelligent speculation "NAB: Apple's Final Cut push hints imminent new Mac Pro launch."

Back on Feb 15th, I speculated about wearable computing devices. For example, is a wrist pad like the kind shown a better idea than a smartwatch? There are technical and ergonomic issues that come into play, but we're, so far, not privy to the best thinking on this. But what if a wrist pad is a better idea? Rob Enderle, in one of his moments of lucidity, speculates that the wrist pad might be a better, more wearable, more flexible and usable approach. "What the iWatch Could Be if Apple Still Had Guts."

Unfortunately, Mr. Enderle muddies the technical waters by suggesting that it boils down to the personality of Mr. Cook, that he's not gutsy enough to be a risk taker. The assumption, then, is that the technical issue is solved and the wrist pad is the better solutions for all, not just the military. That hasn't been proven yet, so, again, Mr. Enderle has arrogantly jumped the gun. Still, I recommend the article because the author explores what others with iWatch blinders have not.

One of our enduring dreams (or nightmares) is that, someday, machines that have been designed by humans, running software code and using Artificial Intelligence (AI) principles, will be able to, in turn, write new code. When that happens, many things happen. The pace of development becomes too rapid for humans to keep up, and we no longer have any visibility into what the new code is trying to achieve. Ray Kurzweil suggest that there could come a time when things will change too rapidly, akin to a mathematical singularity. It's an interesting concept. (It's also a race: will the planet kill us off before we can do it ourselves?)

Profanity Warning. PG-13. Okay, time for another sip of coffee and some CTTN humor. [VIDEO] "Here’s Why You Hate Your Cable Company." Apple, won't you please save us? Please hurry.

In an interview, Alan Kay expresses doubts about whether the iPad embodies the full intellectual concept of the Dynabook. Here's a thought provoking interview by David Greelish. "An Interview with Computing Pioneer Alan Kay." Mr. Kay, who at one time was employed by Apple, is always worth listening to.

Have you heard of the "second screen" effect? It's when we watch the big HDTV with a smartphone or tablet in our lap -- for supporting information. Or to keep us busy during a commercial break. Here's a discussion at Business Insider . "Here's Why The 'Second Screen' Industry Is Set To Explode."

An iPad is an Internet device. It craves a backing ecosystem. But it can be used without the Internet. This next article is written with the educator in mind. "10 Ways To Use Offline iPads In Education."

Finally, Dan Frommer has put together a chart that shows the evolution of U.S. smartphone subscriber share. The conclusion? "Microsoft’s Mobile Comeback Isn’t Happening." It raises the question: with the Surface not setting sales records, Windows Phone languishing, how long can Microsoft survive with just Windows 8 and Office and not have a major stake in mobility?

Credit: Dan Frommer, SplatF. Data from comScore.


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