The Gillmor Gang – Sam Whitmore, Marc Canter, Dana Gardner, Mike Arrington, Mike Vizard, and Robert Scoble – collide over data portability and media convergence with self-invited guest Chris Saad. Recorded Friday, May 16, 2008.
Gillmor: Let’s get started here. Sam Whitmore, have you been following what’s been going on in the media, the old/new same thing media?
Whitmore: Well, I always do, to an extent. Two what do you refer?
Gillmor: We can do one of two things. We can talk about it from bottom of the stack with things like Comcast and Plaxo, or we can talk from wherever in the stack CNET and CBS are.
Whitmore: It would be great to have Dan on before we launch into that.
Gillmor: I know. But he’s prepping for the CBS Evening News, so he’s not here.
Whitmore: I don’t know.
Canter: He’s taking over for Katie Corsic. [sic]
Gillmor: Katie’s car sick? What did you say?
Scoble: Katie Corsic.
Whitmore: I don’t know, most of the coverage has been on the financial wisdom of if CBS overpaid and so forth. But I think a lot of us know the human being who walk through the door there on 2nd Street every day, and I ‘m very happy for them because they have a lot more career possibilities than they ever had.
I think that they’re much better off than they would be if Yahoo or some other company bought them. I think some of them are going to have to move to New York in order to advance their careers a bit. But overall I thought it was a pretty good deal for both.
Gillmor: Right. More in terms of the blending of the Silicon Valley and New York cultures, what do you think is going to happen there?
Whitmore: Probably nothing right away, because CBS wanted China. They wanted what not a lot of people recognize about CNET, which is their international distribution and their brand equity and their sales channels. They’ve been doing that now for 10 years, to build out India and Asia particularly.
I looked at the 10Q yesterday when I was putting together my piece, and in March of this year they bought a site in China that helps people decide which automobile to buy. They also recently bought a site that monitors women’s fashions in China. CBS, even if they do an adequate job, they will catch that consumer wave that’s been unfolding in China and make a ton of money, irrespective of news.com, cnet.com, and all the things that we think about here in the U.S.
So to me, that’s what they bought more than anything else.
Gillmor: Do you have any other confirmation of that, other than your own story lead, basically?
Whitmore: That they wanted to get into China? Well, that’s what Les Moonves told Rafat Ali, in his own words. But if you just sort of look through where the company was going in the first place, because it’s public, you can look what they’ve done and strategically what they’re trying to do. And they’re an international consumer lifestyle brand with sort of legacy technology business that they drag behind it.
Gillmor: Mike Arrington may be joining the call at some point, but since he’s not here yet –or not talking — he seemed to suggest yesterday, or whenever he posted about this, that there was an issue with the blogosphere, CNET not getting the blogosphere.
I think that was more of a talking point rather than a serious issue, but I think it underlies something about what Dan Farber’s done with CNET, with news.com in particular, and before that, ZDNet. Which is to really grab a hold of the dynamics of the blogosphere and try and port them into a mainstream media market.
Whitmore: Yeah. And again, it’s a shame Mike’s not on here, because he has long picked sort of an ongoing fight with CNET. But again, that’s old-school CNET. What Zander Lurie and Neil Ashe have been doing these last couple of years has been diversifying away from tech and uberconsolidated advertising base, which is what technology is, and moved into Ciao and Urban Baby.
Plus, they have this huge reservoir of great URLs — search.com, mp3.com, radio.com — so there are huge assets there. I think long-term, there’s a unit called CNET Business, which comprises ZDNet, TechRepublic, and BNET. Those guys are very profitable. I can’t imagine CBS holding on to them for long term, and I could see CNET spinning them off to somebody. And that could probably happen in the next 12-18 months.
The thing I can’t decide about is news.com. I sort of hesitate to go without Dan on here, because that could go either way. It’s not overly profitable from what I’ve understood, because the salaries are so high. That’s the reason that it’s as good as it is, because they pay people a lot, certainly more than Arrington will ever pay anybody.
Gardner: Sam, I read in your piece yesterday about them potentially sloughing off the IT stuff, and I have to respectfully disagree.
Gillmor: Dana, can you disagree more loudly?
Gardner: Yes. I did the *4, I hope that helps. And I disagree because I think that IT has moved beyond a trade niche, and really is a lifestyle now. If you think about what a long-term strategy for them is vis-a-vis why they’ve kept their sports outlets and content, is baseball was a big business 90 years ago and baseball will be a big business 90 years from now.
I suggest that IT as a lifestyle, as people using digital and communications, the networking and the social aspects of it, are going to be a long-term play as well. So I think that CBS would be foolish to look at these IT outlets as just as just a business trade niche, but instead parley them out into things that augment sports.
Because people don’t just look at a sporting event. They want to interact. And this whole participatory audience thing, they could make some very good synergistic moves with the technology. Plus they’d also get a very good understanding of the technology and make that a core part of their company.
Whitmore: They could. They could. And I think your theory is correct, Dana. But when you think about the shortage of executive time within CBS and the short list of priorities they have, I can’t imagine a lot of executive time being applied to — 80% of TechRepublic’s readers are male and they earn at least $75, 000 a year or so. We should put some beer advertising and some auto advertising and some financial services advertising into TechRepublic and BNET.
They’re not going to sit around and mull that one. They’re going to say, “Hey, I can get $250 million, $350 million from a private equity firm for CNET Business, I’ll take the money. And then I’m going to go and buy some sites in Vietnam or India or something like that.”
That’s what they’re going to do. That’s what I would do.
Gardner: OK. Well, it’ll be an interesting thing to watch. I think if they’re into lifestyles, if they’re into global, if they want the young demographics, the people who are still shaping their understanding of brands, then they’ll keep those technology sites and actually cultivate them.
Whitmore: We’ll see. I can’t imagine anybody at CBS sitting down with Jason Heiner or even a Dan Farber and be able to tell them something that they don’t already know. I can’t imagine that. I just can’t.
Gardner: They should let them run aspects of the business, but find a way to synergize that across lifestyles, which then leads to other advertising and even beyond advertising into transactional activities where people are much better matched as buyers and sellers.
Whitmore: Steve, you mentioned Plaxo and Comcast. Have you ever been spammed by Plaxo.?
Gillmor: From day one.
Whitmore: [laughs] Yeah, so have I.
Gillmor: Then we have got Comcast. So there are two wonderful vendors, which have traditionally not given a damn about their users. So they are a match made in heaven on that level.
But I think that Plaxo has matured considerably over the last three or four years from sending Scoble over the wall with a parachute trying to steal all of our data to coming to the Friend Connect Summit on Monday then saying the right things about what’s going on.
So I don’t know what Comcast is going to do. Comcast has been stealing our data and selling it to — and I say “steal” in the most loving terms because I’m sure the terms of service support it. But they are selling clicks, all of our clicks of people like me who are using their broadband service. They are selling them to people in New York who harvest this kind of data.
So, 40 cents per user per month — it’s a lot of money going, a lot of data going out the door. So I’m not sure what that deal represents. But I think that between what Dana is talking about and what you’re talking about, there is this murky middle that I think Arrington was talking about, the ability to harvest the new dynamics of the targeted network in an age of page views and couch potatoes.
I don’t I’ve heard from either of you yet what you think about the dynamics of the deal in that light.
Whitmore: Well, Dana had brought up sports. I think Comcast is of course known for being a pipe through which other people push their content.
But Comcast is a content organization in its own right. It’s got a pretty extensive sports footprint out there in America’s biggest cities. I think they are going to start by trying to build communities around local sports and regional sports and get that very juicy, all-male, 18 to 35 year old demographic with expendable income to socialize online around the Comcast content footprint. That’s what I would do.
Vizard: Yeah, I would agree with that. I think what you are looking at is a….
Gillmor: You’ve got to speak up, Mike.
Vizard: What you are looking at is they are chasing demographic clouds, as you would say. So if you look at the CB and CNET deal, that is a technology/consumer/power/user demographic that goes nicely with a lot of their other investments in various shows and networks.
Everybody is chasing. The cable guys are going to go chase some demographics, whether it is going to be around job sharing or financial info or sports or whatever. So in some ways we say it is a new media. But in a lot of ways it’s starting to behave like old media in terms of demographics and who they are chasing in audiences.
Gardner: While the new thing though is that you need to have more than just eyeballs. You need to have email addresses. You need to have metadata preferences, a deep relationship, some kind of stickiness if you really can manage that without pissing everybody off.
That’s what translates into the new controlled circulation or tie into a local geography or a newspaper or a ball team. So that’s what these people are desperately now seeking.
So Comcast buying Plaxo is really an example, as was Microsoft trying to buy Yahoo, of that we have gone beyond the definition of demographic into, ” need to have a digital relationship with a lot of people that I can then turn into bucks.”
Vizard: Yeah, and to your point, there are going to be a lot of incentives thrown around to get people to give up that data.
Vizard: So that incentive might be a special offer or a deal on something. Or it might be some extra piece of content, whether it is an extra piece of a television show or if it’s an extra web seminar on a topic of particular interest to them, this is going to be free content that entices you into the cloud.
But then there are going to be all these offers of additional content or savings that’s going to try and pull you in behind the gated community and make you part of the club.
Gardner: I couldn’t agree more. Maybe I’m an exception, but for me convenience is a killer application. If these providers can provide to me something that is a benefit, that doesn’t waste my time, that holds together information from me to give me better services, then I will willingly give up that information.
Vizard: All right. And the balance is going to be how much intelligence do I have to put in the free content to get you there versus how much do I keep in reserve to make you register and be part of the larger club?
Gillmor: Mike Arrington, are you there?
Arrington: Mmm hmm.
Gillmor: I’m hearing your bit torrent scooping up all the CBS shows so that you can watch them on your time schedule.
Arrington: I can’t remember the last time I watched a CBS television show. I can’t remember the last time I was on a CBS-owned television station for any reason at all.
Gillmor: Letterman? You don’t watch Letterman?
Arrington: Pardon me?
Gillmor: You don’t watch Letterman?
Arrington: No. I don’t watch TV. When I do it’s HBO or Showtime, usually they are series or something because that is the only decent stuff on television.
Whitmore: You watch Charlie Rose don’t you?
Arrington: I watched it twice.
Whitmore: [laughs] Both times you were on.
Gillmor: So, Marc Canter. Marc Canter.
Arrington: Marc Canter is on?
Arrington: Thanks for the link, Marc.
Canter: No problem, sir.
Arrington: I didn’t realize you were having some kind of data summit thing. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have something like that without me there. I mean, I am one of the leading lights in the data portability movement.
Canter: It was mainly for geeks. It was just all the guys. It was all the practitioners, the guys who are actually writing the code and we were able to discuss key issues. Of course, the Facebook shutdown happened during the summit so we were able to discuss that in real time. It was pretty interesting.
Arrington: Again, I would appreciate it if you brought me in as an expert in those areas.
Canter: Again, none of the Facebook people showed up, by the way, so FYI.
Gillmor: OK. So what I am trying to do is stitch the Facebook thingamajig into this particular conversation, given what we were just talking about, which is that these clouds are going to start to try and create the user relationships.
Isn’t that what is going on with Facebook Connect and the Friend Connect that Google showed on Monday?
Canter: Well, let me first point out that, in the case of Comcast, they already do have those people signed up. They are going to try and go in and connect together thier installed base around the country and offer them all email synchronization capabilities.
Gillmor: Yeah, I think that’s bullshit. But I’ve had Comcast for six years and I have never once looked at my email address and never will.
Gardner: You’re typical of absolutely nobody though, except the other people on this call.
Gillmor: Yeah, exactly.
Canter: No, no, no, no, no.
Gillmor: Is it going to be the ivory tower nonsense? The number of people that are influenced and motivated by RSS technology — that nobody even knows what it stands for — is enormous in this economy. So we can talk about early adopters being a clueless part of the marketplace, but everybody will be there shortly.
Canter: I don’t know.
Gardner: Comcast’s world, I have my doubts.
Gillmor: They are never going to get there. By the time that they are surfaced as some sort of a vendor with a user relationship, there are going to be four or five other people on top of the stack above them that are the ones that the user thinks they’re dealing with.
Whitmore: Comcast is looking at this as just a list sort of an activity and they’ll kill that and people will go away in no time. [noise] Brian Roberts doesn’t know his ass from his elbow about any of this stuff. He’s already under siege from stockholders from missing opportunities. Unless there’s a change at the very top, I don’t understand why this is going to matter to very many people. But as Mike said and as I said earlier, it’s sort of a cloud opportunity for them.
I mean they’re looking at the sports franchises. They look at people like the Red Sox doing this TV show called “Sox Appeal.” You know what that one is, Dana? Where they have a dating show and the young good looking guy and the young good looking woman are sitting on top of the left field wall, and they have dates. That sort of content is very viral potentially and could get sort of a franchise built online.
And a lot of the different sports franchises, both pro and probably in the South college too, could build content and build that into the Internet. And Comcast could be the platform for all that and they could sell some ads. But I don’t think Brian Roberts is the guy to execute that.
Gardner: Yeah, no I agree. But I think you’re right, it’s an untapped opportunity to take these affinities, whether it’s an affinity for sports or an affinity for dating or food. All these lifestyle things, Harley Davidsons and motorcycles, bring that in through a digital connection of some kind, match these people up and then give them the opportunity to create content back at you. Whether it’s a discussion, whether it’s a chat or a tweet, and then that’s a nice little viral engine.
The more content that’s created, the more people get affinity. The more affinity, the more they’re tied in. And then you can monetize it from everything from t-shirts to advertisements to a new motorcycle.
Gillmor: Yeah, but they’re like Sun Microsystems, they’re not going to get any of that money. It’s going to go right past them.
Gardner: That’s why having brand, having content affinity, having lifestyle affinity is where the money should be. And the digital [??] opportunities are just commodities.
Gillmor: OK, I get it. So, Mike Arrington, are you still there?
Gillmor: OK. Can you explain what’s going on currently with this Facebook Friend Connect spat?
Arrington: Yeah. Just hold on one second. Hey, so you’ve got to add a logo to that. Yep, it’s posted, so…
Gillmor: Suddenly we’re in a Laurence Feldman video again.
Arrington: Yeah, “Hendrix!” [laughs] No we just broke a story. So you guys are talking about some really random stuff. And I really think that, you know, I think that Marc kind of nailed it when he said I was right, in his post. And I think this is all about — and I’m just kind of joking around — but I really think that what this is all about is a land grab. And it’s really nothing more than that.
And this is what I wrote last night in the middle of the night because Scoble’s post really pissed me off. And I’m happy to talk about that too, but I think that if you look back at the days of the mid- to late 1990s, walled gardens were getting a lot of attention. People hated them, but they had the big market caps and AOL is the perfect example of they get you in and they keep you in.
And you know they had their problems, and eventually the open Web sort of broke that down. And I think, Steve, I think you were here sitting in my office a day or two ago talking about how the original walled garden was email at CompuServe. Was it you saying this? Anyway that eventually open email just broke apart those walled gardens as well.
So I think that today the only way that people can really have a walled garden is by trying to own user identity. And by that I mean the core sort of definition of you on the Internet. Loic LeMeur wrote a story a few weeks ago where he talked about his identity is distributed all around the Internet.
And he hates the fact that it sort of ends up being centralized. I think he was talking about FriendFeed at that point. For some reason he didn’t like that, because he wasn’t in control of it.
But you think about, we have pictures at Flickr. We might have videos at You Tube. We have our email account, we have our profile page, we have our blog, etcetera. Maybe up to 20 different places that we consider our identity. Our twitter account now I think is becoming increasingly that way.
And you know, there’s problems with that. The fact that it’s decentralized, but it also means that each of those companies owns a piece of us. And they seem to be hoping to really hold on to that data and not let it out. In other words, not let you take it back very easily. And not let you share it easily with other applications.
You can think about how every time we join another social network we have to re-add our friend list. And they try to make it easy by using your address book from Google or things like, although I generally try not to give them those credentials. But it’s a real pain in the butt. And then synchronizing it and you add friends over time.
And we probably all have at least four or five distinct friend groups around the Internet. And so that’s why the social networks are so important. The fact that they have our identity, some basic profile information and our friends list, it’s just this hugely valuable information.
So the post I wrote yesterday is basically saying how this is the new walled garden. All these guys are becoming open ID issuers hoping that you use your Yahoo ID or whatever to log in around the Internet and sort of make it your permanent ID.
The social networks, all three of them — well, MySpace and now Google if you count them which they’re not really a social network yet with any presence — but they’re all trying to create software now where you can take your friends list and take your basic identity and sort of port that out to third party websites. So that you don’t have to rebuild your friend list. Which is the upside for users.
The problem is that none of them, they’re all talking about open standards and how they care about the user. But as we saw yesterday when Facebook shut down Google, they all want to be very much in control of the tools used and the standards set on how this data is shared and what can be done with it.
So I think we’re seeing the beginning of a major data war and a race to grab users and their data. And then a race to see how much of that data they can sort of keep behind their walled gardens. And so I think that’s what we’re seeing and that’s why I wrote the post, because I want to call that out.
And I think the main thing that I wrote in my post was how dare Facebook tell me… I sort of repositioned the argument, I said how dare Facebook tell me that I can’t give Google access to my data? And let Google then do things with it.
Gillmor: Well, that’s exactly right. Finally somebody has realized that they own their data in the first place.
Vizard: But aren’t these guys also kind of playing a hierarchy of data in terms of who owns what about how many people? And then that’s going to determine their valuations in their mind.
Gillmor: It may determine their valuations, but it has nothing to do with the facts. The users own their data, period. And you know, I don’t know what Scoble said that pissed you off…
Arrington: Well OK, let me talk about that because what Scoble did… See, Scoble screwed up earlier this year, because he used a Plaxo tool that went into Facebook and grabbed all of his friends contact information. And that’s not trivial to do because all that contact information is presented in a JPEG. It’s an image because Facebook doesn’t want people to easily scrape it.
So Plaxo went in, pulled up the friends list, pulled up each page. Used optical character recognition software to turn that into free text and then export it into Plaxo. And because of that, Facebook just banned Robert Scoble. Shut down his account temporarily. He was wrong then. And the reason I think he was wrong to try to do that is he thought, “This is my data, I want to export it.”
But my argument was, that isn’t his data, that’s my data. If I’m his friend and he’s pulling my contact information out of it, he’s changed the rules on me. The rules that I know are set by Facebook, which is that the data is presented only in an image, etcetera and he’s exporting where God knows what could happen to it.
And I don’t know if, a couple years ago I wrote about a company called Jigsaw. Which actually people get paid to upload contact information for possible sales leads. And I think it’s one of the worst things on the Internet. And so this sort of this my basic contact information, I need to have some control over who gets that and how. So I think he was wrong. And I think he knew he was wrong.
So yesterday, he sees this situation happen where Facebook bans Google from letting people export their own contact information. And in his eyes, I think he saw it as an analogy to what happened earlier in the year. So he changed his position and said, “No, no. I think Facebook is right. I think, hey, it showed I was wrong earlier in the year, and Facebook’s right to sort of stop this and protect and my data.”
And so the post I wrote was: “Look, Robert, you’re wrong both times. You were wrong the first time because you were talking about my data, my contact information that you were exporting. Then, yesterday, you’re talking about your own data and how Facebook should have the right to stop that from being exported if you choose to export it.”
And we got into it into the comments. The comments were great on that post. There wasn’t a lot of trolling, and there was some really good thinking going on. And I think that he still doesn’t quite get it, that the issue here isn’t so much about Facebook security and privacy rights. It’s really just about who owns which piece of data, and then who should have control over it. I don’t think he’s thinking that way. I wish he was on the call.
Canter: Can I insert something here?
Gillmor: Go ahead.
Canter: All right. So that’s exactly what we discussed yesterday at this summit, and we had world-class experts on the subject. And what’s missing from this discussion is the notion of “our” data, the data that is actually shared between two people. And what should be focused on is the notion of a relationship layer.
Now, we’re talking about moving the individual people’s info, but it’s the relationship between the two different people that is in fact under discussion here. So, Bob Blakley, from the Burton Group, wrote a very good white paper on this, called “The Relationship Layer.”
So the other thing is that I thought I’d point out that it turns out that Microsoft, in fact, does allow you to move your data via their Windows Live Contacts API. That’s something I didn’t realize until yesterday, when Angus Logan told us that. I propose that there be some opt-in controls, so that if Michael Arrington is on Robert Scoble’s list of friends, Michael Arrington has to give explicit permission to Robert Scoble.
Now, Dave Morin, when he announced Facebook Connect, he mentioned something called Dynamic Privacy. And though that code is in vapor right now — it doesn’t exist — I believe that Facebook is onto the right track. Of all the major platforms, they’re the first one that has ever mentioned the notion of dynamic privacy, of recognizing the fact that this is a severe problem.
It’s not so simple to say, “I’m protecting your data.” And we’ve now seen both sides of the story, right? So at least we have a major vendor that’s willing to consider the fact that some pretty fancy code is going to be needed to maintain the right kind of privacy–both your individual data and our data, the data that’s shared between us.
Gillmor: OK. Well, Chris Saad, even though he wasn’t invited, is on the call now.
Scoble: So am I. This is Robert Scoble, Steve.
Gillmor: Hey, Robert.
Gillmor: Well, you were invited.
Scoble: I didn’t see an invite, but I saw it on Twitter, so, same thing.
Gillmor: [laughs] I mean, it’s every Friday at 10:45, just like…
Scoble: Oh, cool. [laughs]
Gardner: Good timing, Robert. Good timing.
Scoble: Yeah. I caught the last part of me being ripped apart by Arrington again.
Gillmor: Yeah. And we’re going to leave that on the table. I want to talk to Chris Saad for a second.
Saad: Hi, Steve.
Gillmor: Hi. So, I read your post, and it’s very interesting. It’s, however, challenged with fact at several locations during the text.
Gillmor: I think what Marc just said is exactly closest to the truth, which is that if the user establishes a relationship with somebody, with the explicit understanding on the user’s part of how that data is going to be used by that other person, we’re done. The issue of data portability and privacy is over at that moment.
Saad: Well, I just think that the term “privacy” is too broad.
Gillmor: All right. So take the word “privacy” out. At the moment, the user is in charge of a contract with some other entity, whether it’s a platform, a robot, or a person. If they say, “You have permission to use this in any way you see fit, or under these conditions,” isn’t that a license that then follows that data around the network, and the people who use it from that point on, are responsible for upholding that license?
Saad: I think there are two layers to what’s going on…
Gillmor: How about yes or no to my question?
Saad: Well, it’s not black and white. There are two layers. There’s a social contract. There is I give you some data. And then there is the terms and conditions and the tool that you’re using.
Arrington: Chris, start over, dude. It is black and white.
Saad: No, it’s not black and white. [laughs] Facebook is a really bad example…
Gillmor: The question I asked doesn’t call for a “it’s complicated” answer. We had that yesterday from Blaine Cook. And I know it’s complicated…
Saad: When you give access to somebody, your data, you have shared custody of that data, and you…
Arrington: What the hell?
Gillmor: No. That’s one of the things you wrote about that’s not…
Saad: Hang on. You didn’t let me finish my sentence. I didn’t say, “Your rights end.” I was trying to say, “Your rights end where my rights…”
Gillmor: I’m looking for yes or no. Am I right? Is it a yes answer, that if the user is in control of their data and they say, in some form of license, verbal or otherwise, to another entity, “You can use this data for purposes that include the ones that I’m listing”? Which could be a blanket permission, which is what it is right now for most sites. At that point, isn’t the issue of data portability over?
Saad: If the user is explicitly saying, “You can use my data for these purposes,” then yes. The issue isn’t that portability…
Gillmor: So, case closed. Move on.
Saad: OK. [laughs] But what is that contract that you’re describing in Facebook?
Gillmor: Well, I keep asking you to put some license at the top of your stack, and you keep saying that, “Yeah, it’s in there, but it’s somewhere in the middle.”
Saad: We’re talking about Facebook and what the social contract is on Facebook right now.
Gillmor: Marc Canter just said he thinks that Facebook has the most proactive, accurate approach to the issue of all the major vendors right now, with something called Dynamic — what is it, Marc?
Canter: Dynamic Privacy.
Saad: That doesn’t even exist, and Marc seems to like it very much, so I know what it is. [laughs]
Canter: It’s in a web page, Chris. That exists.
Gillmor: Can Dave Morin show Dynamic Privacy to me?
Canter: Well, Dave was pretty vague about it, but he did talk about keeping the access controls…
Saad: [laughs] That’s because it doesn’t exist.
Canter: Chris, you don’t mind if I replied, right?
Canter: All right. Dave Morin talks about keeping the access controls, so that if a Mike Arrington said he doesn’t want Robert Scoble to move his data around, then those access controls that were defined — and of course, this is on the Facebook service — would be continuing to be persistent as that data moved out of Facebook. That’s the key thing here. And no one has ever brought that up before, before Facebook. Microsoft doesn’t talk about that…
Saad: It’s a convenient argument for Facebook, because that means that Facebook is trying to give you so much control that only they can deliver it through their proprietary implementation. So they don’t want to give you your newsfeed. They don’t want to give you RSS, because their argument is, “Oh…”
Gillmor: Yeah, but hang on a second. Hang on a second. Who appointed you or anybody else God, to cut down to size? Are we all about being redistributors of wealth here, as the only way that something can be fair? I mean, yeah, why wouldn’t they want to do that?
Saad: I’m not saying they would or they wouldn’t. I’m just telling you what they’re doing.
Gillmor: But you’re conflating that with some other issues here, like RSS and spreading the wealth and all that kind of stuff. And what is that about? Stick with what the issue is here.
Canter: Steve, let me say something. I think it’s a very important point right here. I think what we’re seeing here — and I think Arrington recognizes it as well — is a balancing act that each of the platforms have struck. On one side, they obviously want to keep the data of the user’s data on their platforms. But yet they also recognize the importance of letting the users move their data around and bringing those social graphs to other apps.
Facebook has defined it what I think is the most elegantly. But Google has their own version of it, and MySpace as well. So it’s kind of that they’ve struck a balance. They want to keep the data locked onto their hard drives. But they are willing to let widgets or apps or iFrames, or whatever the technique is, to go into other sites. And that ends up being what I believe will be a model for the Open Mesh as we move forward.
We have to have a compromise between the proprietary interests of these platforms and what people like me and Chris want to see happen. I mean, we want the idealistic free movement of the data and we can keep asking for that. But at the end of the day, that data is on Facebook, MySpace and Google’s hard drives and we’ve got to do what we can to deal with it. It’s a compromise.
Whitmore: And it’s not a zero sum equation, right? It’s going to have to be some combination of sharing and overlap between interests. But don’t we already have an infrastructure in place vis-a-vis authentication and certificates that is designed to do that at a very fine-grained level? And why can’t be apply that same infrastructure to this social meta data?
Gillmor: Well, that’s exactly what Google announced on Monday.
Canter: But what we’re talking about is using that social graph as I go from Facebook to iLike. And then I want to use that social graph that I’ve; that is friends that I’ve developed on Facebook. And then I want to go somewhere else and I want to use that list of friends to invite people in. That’s the issue here, right?
And that’s what Plaxo was trying to data mine and people like me and Robert Scoble, we bop around the web. We’ve developed this list of followers and we want to use that list of followers to invite them and introduce them to some other experience.
Now, if Michael Arrington wants to opt out and not be on Robert’s list, we need to be able to give Michael those explicit controls. And Dave Morin implied, in his description of Dynamic Privacy, that Facebook would give up those controls. I don’t see Chris DeWolfe saying that and I certainly don’t see Kevin Marks saying that either.
Arrington: Do you think, Marc, that Dave Morin as a marketing guy really even has the authority to make those promises? Serious question. I mean, he’s marketing.
Canter: It’s a prescient post, Michael. It is a post that describes Facebook Connect from the guy who’s in charge of it. Right?
Arrington: OK, so let me ask a different question then. Do you disagree with me that Facebook’s intentions are nefarious? It sounds like you sort of think they’re on the right side of this.
Canter: No, no, no. I’m 100% in agreement with you, Michael, but I’m also a pragmatist. I don’t see it. You know how many times I’ve asked Mark Zuckerberg and he’ll say that we agree with the principles of this. But yet the way that they implement those beliefs are still this continued data lock in.
So to me that means we, moving forward as an industry, have to pragmatically deal with a bunch of these different data lock-in silos. And how do we then interconnect them together? And yes, we’ll build up from a nascent grass roots effort the things that data portability and Chris Saad and me and Daniella and everyone really want.
But there’s a difference between what we want and what Facebook and Google let us do. And so there’s that balancing act and I think that’s the state of our industry.
Arrington: Now, that’s not what I’m asking. What I’m asking is, you know how in the 1990s Microsoft sort of pulled a lot of bullshit and kept saying the right things but every time they actually acted it was just another bad thing for the user?
This is what I’m getting from Facebook. You know, I’m getting like, “Hey Mike, off record, seriously, Chris Kelly. You know, there was a privacy issue yesterday. And they’re really concerned about Google and they’re just trying to make sure they’re protecting the users.” And it’s like, OK, but really? There’s a bigger issue here in that the more they agree with that data the more they’re worth. Right?
Canter: I absolutely agree with you.
Gillmor: But I mean look at what’s happened…
Arrington: Wait, wait. If you agree with me then why do you say — you’re also saying, “You know, Dave Morin has presented this wonderful idea of Dynamic Privacy.” So I just don’t really…
Gillmor: Mike, just because Facebook is acting in their own interests — or what they think are they’re own interests — and looking a lot of like a Microsoft model or even last year’s Google model, doesn’t mean this is the only answer to the question. And what Marc talked about…
Arrington: No. But I’m concerned that Marc Canter who is a thought leader in this space for referring to Dave Morin, who is a spy.
Gillmor: Hang on a second. Hang on a second. What it does mean is that when Marc Canter talks about dynamic provisioning, I mean in your article you speak exactly about this. Or maybe it wasn’t you, but somebody did. That the issue that Facebook is complaining about is that there is no reprovision of the relationships around the data after the fact, that it’s just one way…
Arrington: Of course there is. No, no. Of course there is. It just isn’t done at Google, I mean at Facebook. Google — if you look at the screen shot I posted — Google has a button that says “Unlink this social network from this third-party site.” Frankly, I trust Google at least as much with my private, with my personal data.
Gillmor: I understand and I agree with your assessment about the…
Arrington: No, but you were wrong. You’re wrong in saying that…
Gillmor: Oh, I’m wrong because I’m agreeing with you. OK, fine.
Arrington: No, no. You’re wrong on the first part where you weren’t agreeing with me, where you were expressing your independent opinion that Facebook’s concerns are valid, because they aren’t. They’re just saying there’s no reprovisioning.
Gillmor: No, no, no. I didn’t say that. I said that it’s easy to understand why…
Gillmor: Facebook might have an attitude…
Arrington: No. No. No.
Gillmor: And might be resenting [...]
Arrington: No! No, no. Google has exactly the tools that Facebook is requiring to unsubscribe.
Gillmor: I get it. I understand that.
Arrington: In fact they’re even more compliant than the Facebook tools. Not only that, Facebook doesn’t have in its API, the ability to one, tell Facebook that a third party has the data. Or two, to give Facebook the ability through the API to have users turn it off.
Arrington: It’s a catch-22. Facebook not only doesn’t have the functionality…
Gillmor: I read your book. We all understand this.
Arrington: So how can you disagree with me? I mean, if people stand up and say Facebook had clear business objectives yesterday, clear business objectives in shutting down Google. And then to give them credit and give Dave Morin credit and all these — who I love those guys, by the way, I love them — but to give them credit for like saying they really care about us. And they really want; really this is a data privacy issue, is just complete and utter fucking bullshit.
Arrington: And I’m concerned because the thought leaders in this community are deferring to them and that scares the hell out of me.
Canter: Wait, hold on. Hold on, let me…
Gillmor: Are you done yet? Are you done?
Canter: OK, so can I defend myself?
Gillmor: No, I’m talking. It’s called Gillmor Gang, not Canter Gang.
Canter: All right.
Gillmor: OK, thank you. So I agree with everything you just said, except the characterization of what I’m talking about. That I’m somehow defending Facebook and their actions. I am not defending their actions, I am simply understanding them. And they have a point, which is they own this data — they think — and they have a relationship with users. And they are going to do exactly what they did with Beacon.
Which is that they’re going to push forward that notion of their relationship with users and see how far it goes. Now, I did notice in your most recent post, Mike, that you had a comment that they may be meeting as we speak to try and come up with a compromise. I fully expect that that’s…
Arrington: Well, my understanding is they actually got really pissed at each other yesterday. And that Google in particular was pissed at the statement in the blog post that Facebook posted that said we’ve reached out to Google many times on this. And Google said, “Yeah, we talked to them constantly, so why the hell did they just turn us off?” And they think it was a shot across the bow. So supposedly they stopped talking yesterday and they were going to start again today when tempers cool down.
Gillmor: Exactly. And my point would be that when users start expressing their tempers, as you are, and I completely agree with you which is like, “Who the fuck is Facebook to tell me how to be able to use my data? It’s not their data, it’s my data.” Right?
Arrington: I’d like to hear Marc defend himself because I expressed a pretty broad accusation at him.
Gillmor: Well, you also told me that I was saying something which I wasn’t and then you got very heated about it.
Arrington: Oh no, no. And I still disagree with you. You think that Facebook — you’re saying that Facebook has a point of view here that needs to be recognized and I don’t.
Gillmor: No. I just think we need to be able to understand what it is and then we make our own calculation as to whether or not it’s going to stick to the wall. Which it won’t. Which is what I just said. All right, now, Marc, go ahead.
Canter: OK, look. So you know, first of all, Michael and I are coauthors of the bill of rights of users of social media.
Gillmor: Yeah, well that’s bullshit too, but go ahead.
Canter: Well, you have to be able to state your principles, dude. You have to get them in writing.
Gillmor: I know. It’s on, we have it on tape. You know how I feel about that. Let’s go on.
Canter: OK. All right. So I agree that it’s a — excuse the expression — fucked-up situation. OK?
Now, that said, you do need to get progress from these people. OK? I have heard Zuckerberg say, “We do support the principles here.” Obviously, they’re noodling around to try to figure out…
Arrington: It’s like the fucking United Nations. Everyone gets a say. We have to listen to everyone’s side. Goddammit, Marc, I want you to — and I want you, Chris, to fucking sit down and tell the world what we need from a user perspective and not be starstruck because Dave Morin is a really fucking nice guy who came into the room and explained to you how much he cares. I mean, honestly….
Canter: I did. So, Michael, I posted today about what we discussed yesterday. This guy, Bob Blakley, has a white paper called “The Relationship Layer.” We need to talk about our data, the shared data, and we need to represent relationships in these interchange of data. OK?
So I have stated what I think we should do. All right. And I agree with you that it is a fucked-up situation that Facebook can hide behind the shroud of privacy and pretend like they’re protecting us, while of course pushing their business interests forward. And that’s complete bullshit. Right? I know that…
Saad: I’m on record for a while now that Facebook and Dave Morin mentioning privacy each time data portability came up is a red herring, and that they’re just using it as a cover for their strategic goals. I agree with you, Michael.
Arrington: We need a bill of rights around the ownership of our data.
Gillmor: One at a time.
Scoble: Let me have something to say here. Let’s back up. There’s two issues here. One, if you really are going to let me act like it’s my data to do with whatever I want, when you give me access to your email address…
Arrington: Oh, God. You’re still stuck on that.
Scoble: I am stuck on it…
Arrington: No, Robert! No! If I hand you my business card, does that give you a right to publish that information on the net and sell it to other people? Which is Jigsaw’s business model.
Scoble: Who said I’m selling it to anybody? It’s not why I’m using it. It’s just an email address.
Arrington: But that’s Jigsaw’s business model.
Scoble: And I’m sick and tired of you guys mischaracterizing what I said! I never said I was going to give it out to the public…
Arrington: It doesn’t matter, Robert. You changed the rules. It doesn’t matter what you were going to do. You changed the rules.
Scoble: I did not change the rules.
Arrington: You took the data. I gave you the data under this explicit set of rules, and those explicit set of rules are: you can look at it as an image on Facebook when you’re logged in. And you took that data, you exported it to a third-party service that I don’t have a relationship with…
Scoble: OK. Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. Wait! Let me have a say. You ripped me an asshole without giving me a chance to say anything. Wait a second.
First of all, you friended me. That’s an implicit act giving me some rights. Second of all, you give me your email address, which has no utility at all in Facebook. Why would you give that to me? Are you saying that I can’t enter that email address into Gmail and send you an email? I can’t enter it into Outlook and send you an email? Or I can’t go over to Yahoo email and send you an email? Is that what you’re saying?
Scoble: Then how did I..?
Arrington: I’m thinking you can’t turn it into pretext and export it to a third-party service — who has huge privacy issues, by the way. That’s what I’m saying you do.
Scoble: Wait, wait, wait, wait. Back up, back up, back up. If you give me the ability to enter it into email, into Outlook, that explicitly gives it access to some other things.
Arrington: No. I’m explicitly…
Scoble: It does.
Arrington: Robert, let me explain very carefully…
Scoble: When you hand me your business card…
Arrington: Wait, Robert. Let me explain it really carefully. When I give you my email address, I’m not giving you the right to hand that email address over to third-party services to do with what they want.
Scoble: Yes you are. Absolutely you are. Because, guess what: you already are. You’re giving me the permission to put it into Gmail. That’s a third-party service. You’re giving me the permission to put into Outlook. That’s a third-party service.
Arrington: Hold on. Robert, hold on. You’re right in that I am implicitly giving you permission to put it into Gmail, probably add it to your contact list there, and send me an email. What I don’t want you doing is going to third-party services like Plaxo, which have a horrible reputation when it comes to privacy, and giving them control of that data.
Scoble: You have no right to tell me what to do with that data. You have absolutely no control and no right to control how I use that email address.
Gillmor: OK. All right. Now, here’s where you both have to listen to me for a second.
Gillmor: The fundamental right is the user’s right. The user’s right is an understanding — what some people call a social contract — of what is going to be done with that data. When somebody violates that understanding, forget about the legal conditions, the terms of service, the assumptions on the part of the person who is going to do something with that data. Forget about all that. If the user’s rights are violated, according to the user, from that moment on, the social contract between that user and other people is broken…
Scoble: It’s not the user’s right…
Gillmor: Hang on. Hang on. I’m almost done. And that user, writ large, is going to have a big, big role in what happens to data, generally, moving forward. So, when you went and, as an agent of Plaxo, went after that data, it’s not that we don’t trust you, Robert — of course we trust you. We don’t trust the person that comes along and rummages around in the garbage can and picks up all this data and says, “Oh, hey, cool,” and all of a sudden, we’re getting spammed within an inch of our life for the rest of our lives about the stuff.
Scoble: First of all, Mike’s email was already in Outlook before I scraped it off of Facebook. Second of all, it’s already in Plaxo. But you don’t have access to that account in Plaxo. That’s my account, and it’s my data, and if Plaxo starts fucking with my user rights, then I’m going to go ape shit.
Gillmor: The point is that you are a representative of what could go wrong. It is not that you are wrong. It is that if you establish a precedent to be able to access data in the way you did, other bad actors can come along, and they can broadcast it on Mars and open up a lemonade stand around it.
Scoble: Here’s the whole problem with this whole argument. If he friends me, he’s giving me some trust. If I misplace that trust by putting his email address on my blog, for instance, without his permission…
Scoble: No, Plaxo keeps it private. It’s for my own uses. You don’t have access to my…
Gillmor: You don’t know that Plaxo keeps it private. That’s a contract between you and Plaxo, and I don’t necessarily agree to that contract.
Scoble: Well, OK. But you don’t have control. You are not in control here.
Gillmor: We only have control of our relationships with the people that we know.
Gillmor: If you violate that trust, no matter how innocently you do so, it comes back on you, not on Plaxo.
Scoble: Exactly. I’d better choose my vendors very carefully, and make sure that if they screw me, I go ape shit.
Gillmor: Well, I’ve never heard you go ape shit about Plaxo, because I think they screwed you big-time.
Arrington: And here’s the other thing, Robert. This is a bit of a red herring, because we’re talking about whether, when I give you an email address, it’s mine or yours.
The biggest problem here is that that it screwed up your head, and it got you thinking, “Wow. I just got trashed on the Internet. Maybe I was wrong.” And then the new issue comes along, and you’re so screwed up from the last issue that you’re like, “Oh, OK. This time on the side of right, so Facebook was right in protecting this data.” And again, what happened was you were just dead wrong again.
Arrington: Because you weren’t thinking in terms of ownership. You were thinking in terms of not getting trashed on the Internet, I think.
Scoble: I totally disagree, because I got trashed yet again. So, if I really wanted to not get trashed, I just wouldn’t have said anything, right? [laughs]
Arrington: That’s the thing, right?
Scoble: That’s not something I’m thinking…
Arrington: When you’re concerned with getting trashed on the Internet…
Scoble: I am not concerned about it…
Arrington: Well, you come across as concerned.
Scoble: If I was concerned with that, I would not say anything. OK?
Gillmor: Let’s reboot this back to where we are today, because I think what happened with Plaxo and you was an important moment, and we have now internalized it. Let’s move to today. What’s going on today that’s any different or in any way better?
Scoble: Let’s get away from Plaxo. You hand me your email address on a business card, you lose control the minute you do that.
Gillmor: Are we not talking about the same thing again?
Scoble: We are. We have to decide who owns this data and what they can do with it.
Arrington: If you go out to dinner with my wife, am I giving you my sort of thumbs up to taking her away for the weekend to Hawaii? I mean, come on, dude. There’s a difference here and you blew it. You blew it and you blew it again last night because you blew it so hard the first time you were afraid of blowing it again.
Scoble: That’s totally wrong.
Saad: Can I…
Gillmor: All right, who’s trying to talk?
Saad: This is Chris here. What we’re talking about is user expectations, not so much user rights. What Robert did…
Gillmor: They’re completely the same.
Saad: We’re talking about user expectations because expectations are perceptions of reality. What Robert did was to show the world that there was a dichotomy between some people’s user expectations and ours.
Gillmor: Absolutely correct.
Saad: Or what was technically possible and what the expectations of the contract were.
Gillmor: OK, that’s wonderful. Now what?
Saad: I would like to highlight that Facebook’s user expectations and social contracts are different from those of Gmail. When somebody emails Robert they get into his address book and he can repurpose that address book for whatever they like.
When someone uses Facebook, no one had sort of explicitly pushed against the social contract there. What Robert did was to reveal a potential problem that was emerging. I always call Robert the “canary in the coalmine.”
So what we’re doing now is we’re actually reacting to this, which is a very good service. We’re asking ourselves, “What is the social contract on Facebook, and is that social contract the best social contract moving forward?”
I would argue that Facebook’s social contract is a excessively rarified and excessively protected, and that is fine for their business model and their…
Gillmor: Hold on, hold on. So now that’s the argument part of what you’re saying, correct? Right? You would argue that, right? Do you want to argue that?
Saad: Well, I would argue to that Facebook is a unique…
Gillmor: Chris, one of the problems that I think that we have — or at least that I have in talking with you — is that you have your fingers in so many parts of this puzzle that you just run from one area to the next and you never stop and actually defend the details of what you’re talking about.
Saad: All right. Go for it.
Gillmor: All right. No, I’m asking you. You would argue that, and we can rewind the tape and see what you were arguing, or you can just repeat it. Then let’s examine that and see if it’s real.
Gillmor: OK. You would argue that…
Saad: I would argue that the tool helps define the social contract, and that when you reveal your email address on Facebook as a tool you are establishing a different social contract than when you reveal it by emailing Robert.
Gillmor: OK, so I would take that as what I consider to be an accurate implication. Which is that the users, if they suddenly rise up against Facebook and say, “Wait a minute. What you seem to be saying about we’re going to use our data is not what we think is the correct user contract.” You might have something there.
Saad: Well, I think that Facebook assumed that people want complete and total privacy and control. That has worked for them and that’s their social contract. They’re probably not a good cultural fit for the starting place of a broader Web-wide special network.
Gillmor: Who is a good cultural fit? I mean, who is the pope in this argument?
Saad: I don’t think there is a pope.
Gillmor: Well, you were implying that Gmail somehow had more clarity in terms of their user contract and as we know they may be making some strides to fix some of the problems that they have with user contracts and privacy, but they’re not there yet.
Saad: I don’t think there is a good default position.
Gillmor: Marc Canter suggested earlier in this call that Microsoft might be the only vendor actually has a clear rational statement about the data. Is that correct, Marc?
Saad: I think the user is the only one with a clear rational statement about their own data and there is no good default setting. I think that when you friend someone or create a relationship with them we’re going to actually have to include an additional checkbox that says, “This user can repurpose my data that I’m revealing to them in this tool.”
Gillmor: Hey, now you’re talking. That’s the part I agreed about.
Saad: I don’t think a particular vendor is going to be the pope or the controlling… I don’t even think data portability project can define that for users. I think the only term worth defining…
Gillmor: You just did. You made a suggestion about a check off box which would more specifically define the fact that the user’s in charge.
Saad: One position of the data portability project is that the user is in charge, and that…
Gillmor: I get that. It goes back to the intention trust. We did this about four years ago.
Saad: I’ve heard about something vaguely.
Gillmor: Yeah, me too.
Gillmor: I think that Tim O’Reilly and Astrid Denison actually did that. So the bottom line is you have a good idea there. You just stated it and nobody argued with you, and you’re still talking.
Saad: That’s because I’m right. [laughs]
Gillmor: Good. So what are you going to do about this? And Marc Canter, is that a good idea, and do you agree with it?
Canter: Well, I think that being too idealistic is not a toy conversation.
Gillmor: Marc Canter says something is too idealistic?
Canter: Yeah, yeah.
Gillmor: There’s paper flying around the screen here.
Canter: Look, come on. There’s something really important that happened, I’ve been trying to get it into this conversation for 20 minutes, OK? Now, Michael Arrington, are you there?
Canter: All right. You tell me you did not see a trend here? That within one week MySpace, Facebook and Google all fundamentally announced the same strategy. Which is keeping users data in their hard drives and using their widgets, iFrames, or apps to extend the typical to the platform over into the other website while keeping the control on the mother ship.
I was struck with the fact that all of a sudden all three of these people are announcing these data availabilities; Facebook Connect, Google Connect, all within one week and they fundamentally have the same strategy. Now, I think what’s going on here is that each of these platforms are attempting to come closer to what we’re demanding what Chris’s idealism and my idealism is, right?
But negotiating the situation, if we continue to be stubborn and simply demand the perfect world then we never have cooperation. So I see all three of these platforms attempting — and Microsoft opening up their APIs, all four of these platforms are attempting to come to us, towards us.
Arrington: Yeah, dude, but you’re not a thought leader in this space anymore, you’re compromised. Seriously, you’re compromised. I’m listening very carefully to what you’re saying and you’re completely compromised.
Arrington: I don’t know if it’s a man-crush on Dave Morin or if it’s something else, but the things you’re saying are really not the words I want the person I look to be a thought leader to be saying.
Canter: OK, so, Michael, You don’t mind if I retort, right?
Arrington: You always do.
Canter: Let me just respond to that by saying this, Michael. I have on my back fence a mural. I would invite you to come out to Walnut Creek to add to this mural on my back fence. I am attempting to visualize and figure out how this Open Mesh will evolve over the next year, two years, five years.
I don’t see Google, MySpace, or Facebook changing much different than where they are right now, OK? Now, that’s not to say that I agree with it or that I am compromised, but I am a pragmatic man trying to build software and solutions to ship to customers. To do that I have to be able to advise my customers as to what’s up. All right? Now…
Arrington: Steve Job and Bill Gates were not pragmatic men. I don’t want you compromising. I don’t want you realizing these guys are taking baby steps in this direction. I want you hammering these guys saying what we need and when we need it.
Canter: All right. So here’s what I’m going to simultaneously. I’m going to get a megaphone, I’m going to go down onto University Avenue, I will picket Facebook, OK? I am there, dude. I want you to come with me. We’ll make a lot of noise, we’ll get CBS News, it’ll be great, OK? So we are going to take it to their faces, OK?
But at the same time, I think of these things as giant plate tectonics, and I’m thinking about the San Andreas Fault. Right where these two plates collide, all right? Where they’re coming together. We live in a multi-layered world here. We’ve got Google, we’ve got Facebook, we’ve got MySpace, we’ve got Microsoft. We’ve got to connect them together. That’s my magic solution.
Arrington: No, no, no. We need to force them to do what they need to do. If you’re in compromise mode because — honestly, what is up? Are you trying to get a consulting gig with them? Are you trying to sell your company to them? Because the stuff you’re saying is utter bullshit.
Canter: No one’s going to buy my company, dude. No one’s going to buy my company.
Arrington: Then why are you compromising your position on this? Why aren’t you saying, “We need to work with these guys and make sure…” Why aren’t you saying, “These are our rights, this is what we need, you guys need to deal with it,” and force them to do it? Because I don’t think you’re saying anything wrong.
Canter: Michael, I’m sorry if you think I’m compromising. I don’t believe I am.
Arrington: You keep saying, “Pragmatism. Compromise. Work with them.” You’re saying those words, Marc, why?
Canter: Hold on. Michael?
Arrington: This is our data. This is our data.
Canter: Hold on. Michael, it is out data.
Arrington: How am I supposed to compromise over that?
Canter: Well, dude, let’s talk to your buddy, Mike Andresen, then? Let’s take it to everybody, not just Facebook. I mean, come on, this is across the board. This is across everywhere.
Arrington: I’m sorry, but Ning doesn’t matter yet. Ning doesn’t matter in that respect yet. All that matters is Facebook and MySpace. And Google and Microsoft, and some would say Yahoo, right now.
Canter: Michael, when I say I want to compromise and work with somebody, I’m not saying I’m bending over. I’m saying as an equal partner. That’s a difference.
Arrington: But I don’t understand why they’re a partner. This is our data.
Canter: They already have our data, dude. I use Facebook every day.
Arrington: That doesn’t mean they get to keep it. That doesn’t meant they’re going to be the place I go to…
Canter: Of course not.
Arrington: And generate an average of 20 pages a day, which is what the average Facebook user generates in the future. There’s a reason we’re talking about Friendster here. Friendster screwed up in different ways. But what I’m saying is that you and Chris and others who are thought leaders in this space should have written the post that I wrote last night way before I wrote it.
And you didn’t. You guys are talking about working groups, and like I said, it’s bullshit.
Canter: Michael, if you check my posts….
Arrington: And what is this going to accomplish?
Canter: If you check my posts, I’ve been commenting on this. And like I said, go back to when I…
Arrington: No, Marc. I’m sorry.
Canter: The same technique.
Arrington: I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ve lost all respect for you on this issue.
Canter: Oh, now you want me to paste my URLs, because you’re talking about my facts here. Because when I noticed this trend…
Arrington: I’ve got it on my browser. It’s right here. You had to agree with me…
Canter: Hold on. Hold on, Michael. It’s called “The Religion of Bringing Social to Software.” OK, it was published on May — hold on one second. OK, I’ve got it right here, paste it in here.
Arrington: Where are you pasting it?
Canter: I’m pasting it into the Ustream Chat, OK? It’s called “The Religion of Bringing Social to Software.”
Canter: May 12th.
Gillmor: Yeah, this is podcast on Ustream worldwide, Mike.
Arrington: What’s the URL?
Canter: May 12th.
Arrington: Ustream.com/ — what?
Arrington: What the hell’s that?
Canter: Michael, it’s called “The Religion of Bringing Social to Software.” The users’ data stays locked up in the originating site. That’s why openness is being reinvented here. They’re trying to change the game here.
I put in a nice little data portability logo, my shout-out to my man Chris. OK? I’m working here. I was plugging in the data sharing stuff in, and I analyzed the four platforms and how each of them were reinventing openness in their own way.
That’s not to say I support it. But I’m a blogger. I have to figure this shit out for people. All right? So I was analyzing this story.
Saad: I think basically what’s going on is their first steps. There’s somewhat of a land grab. They’re trying to see how much they can get away with in their first steps, and it’s up to people like Michael and Marc and Scoble and to some extent me — although I have to be more diplomatic — to basically continue to put the pressure on and to say, “Well, that’s very nice, but it’s not the portability or it’s not the best practices, and we need to continue to move in that direction.”
And it’ll take start-ups and B-tier companies to actually that effort and actually implement that true, best practices implementation and create a bigger ecosystem.
Gillmor: No, that’s bullshit. It’s going to take Facebook — and it’s like what Arrington said, the big boys have to come to the party right now.
Saad: These guys are coming in their own 900-pound gorilla way, but it doesn’t really matter, we need to continue to apply pressure.
Gillmor: When you’ve got three or four 900-pound gorillas, it’s different than one.
Saad: But that’s a good thing, though.
Gillmor: It’s not the same as Microsoft.
Saad: But that’s a good thing, Steve. They’re both racing toward the best, most open implementation.
Canter: Can I read a quote here? Please, please, please, OK? Hold on a second — all right, here we go. “These three announcements prove that MySpace, Google and Facebook assume that once a user enters into their domain, that they own that user, that they control what happens with that user’s data and that they fully intend on squeezing every last dime out of monetizing that user until the cows come home. This is essentially the mantra Jonathan Abrams spoke to me about — when I first met him in 2003 — and it’s the mantra of every single large social networking platform since then. This is why we created the Bill of Rights for Users of Social Media.”
OK? So I’m fighting the fight, Michael, excuse me. We continue to demand our rights, that’s what I write in this post on May 12th.
Scoble: Steve, I’d like to say that I’ve been thinking about it for half an hour, I think Mike Arrington’s right. I think the user should be in control, and I should have the ability to say that I don’t want my email address sucked into third-party services.
Arrington: That was my idea.
Scoble: But wait a second, Mike. I friended you and I gave you access to my email address. And now you’re asking Facebook to open up and copy that email address into Google Connect. Where’s my rights?
Arrington: I’m sorry. I stopped listening when you said you were sorry and you agreed with. That was all I heard, honestly.
Gillmor: So you’re using Mike’s idea back on him now.
Scoble: What’s that?
Gillmor: Robert, you’re using Mike’s idea back to haunt him.
Scoble: Exactly. Because he’s talking out of two sides of his mouth.
Arrington: Right. Except that I’m not. I’m saying one thing.
Scoble: [...] and then you want control.
Arrington: When it comes to my data, I’m right. That’s all. And I’m not joking. When it comes to my data, I’m not fucking interested in Dave Morin’s opinion on it. I really am not. I want us to force these companies to do what we want them to do with out data, which is to never fuck with it, never stop us from giving it out when we want to, and never give it out when we don’t want to.
Scoble: But you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth.
Arrington: And that’s why I’m not interested in these moron seminal posts on Marc Canter’s blog that he keeps linking to. That’s why honestly, Robert, I think you’re coming around. You’re halfway there, and I appreciate the apology, but honestly, you’re got to stop thinking in terms of not getting trashed on the Internet. And you’ve got to start thinking in terms of becoming a thought leader in this space. Because the people in this cloud make a difference. We can help form what the Internet will become.
Scoble: OK, let me talk. The problem is, you’re talking out of both sides of your mouth. You want control of your data, but what is your data? Is it my email address that I just gave you access to? Is that your data or my data. And now we don’t have control of it in a granular situation.
Arrington: Hold on, let me respond to that. Because while I think that Chris Saad’s argument about “shared custody” or “visitation rights” or whatever was sort of lame, I think that when you give me your email address — I sort of agree with him, is what I’m saying — when you give me your email address, I think that I have certain rights to it, unless you ask me to not use it anymore. But I think those rights sort of end at some point. And specifically it ends at what sort of rules are put in place implicitly or explicitly.
Saad: That’s what I was trying to say at the start of this call, which is your rights end where my rights begin.
Arrington: Wait, Chris. But, Robert, I think it fundamentally remains your property, and I don’t think there’s any way to disagree with that. And so I’m not talking out of both sides of my mouth.
Saad: I think right now it depends on the tool that you’re using and the social contract you have, as to whose property it is. But over time, we need to evolve to a point where we’ve actually got a shared understanding of that, and it might require an additional checkbox, where we’re explicitly defining whose property it is.
Scoble: The other problem is, when I give you access to my email and you take it over to Google Friend Connect, how do I know that other sites that have access to Friend Connect are going to treat that data the same way Google does or the same way you do?
I personally think that we lose all control when we put our email address out in a public, shareable space.
Saad: That’s what I called in my post “the last mile,” and that’s a social problem, not a technology problem. You need to trust your friends, and then their judgment. We cannot engineer the last mile of security into the systems. At the end of the day, when you reveal some data to someone, you need to trust them ultimately.
Canter: It is a social contract, but it is also something we should recognize, what Bob Williams calls “our data.”
Saad: With a checkbox.
Canter: Sure, there are many different techniques. By the way, this is called presenting a compelling user experience, and may the best man win. That’s why we have multiple platforms, because each of these guys broach these issues differently. It is up to each of them to try to solve the problem. And Zuckerberg and them today, that’s the best way to protect the privacy, as of now.
Gillmor: Yeah, but they are all running for president, and guess who is going to win?
Arrington: The community.
Gillmor: No. Google and Microsoft.
Saad: No, I think with Arrington and Gillmor and Canter and Scoble on the side of the user, and with an advocacy group that is powerful enough to continue the conversation in the mainstream and blogger communities, we are going to continue to apply pressure, and startups and BTU companies need to create a bigger ecosystem between them than any one of the 900 lb gorillas can create on their own.
Gillmor: Alright, that’s one perspective.
Saad: And I think the 900-pound gorillas are going out and compete themselves towards open as well, because there is a number of good activists inside those companies.
Gillmor: That’s exactly right. That last part is exactly right.
Saad: It’s all those dynamics together.
Gillmor: Yeah, in other words…
Saad: In other words, we’re on the right track.
Gillmor: It’s all going to work out.
Canter: But things change, right? Before, CNET should have bought CBS. Now we’ve got CBS buying CNET. So things change, right? Nothing is static.
Whitmore: God! That post where I wrote that, I had a hundred comments. I think 99 of them just basically called me an asshole.
Gillmor: Which one [...]
Whitmore: Why CNET got bought by CBS not the other way round, or whatever.
Canter: It’s because open is the new black. As soon as people see a trend and they want to mimic it, it’s just a fashion business. It is talking about bringing the experience, the crotch shot. It’s just about they want the latest, hottest thing, and if open looks like it’s the latest, hottest thing, they’ll all go open. And that’s up to Robert Scoble to communicate that. It’s not about rules here.
Gillmor: This debate has really reached a nexus, when Britney Spears’ crotch intersects with social and Robert Scoble, we are at a nirvana.
Arrington: Robert, are you sort of on the right page now?
Scoble: God knows!
Arrington: Did you just understand why your post yesterday was wrong, at this point?
Scoble: [laughs] Because you said it was.
Arrington: So we are not there yet.
Gillmor: Let’s not personalize this.
Scoble: What about the starfish? I mean, that’s the right metaphor for it.
Arrington: That’s what I always say, what about the starfish?
Gillmor: Yeah. I am going to go down to PodTech and get behind my desk, I think right now.
Scoble: I think the problem is you keep misreading what I actually saying, but that’s OK. I think we are…
Arrington: I think the problem is you keep mis-saying what you actually mean, because it is my data, and it is not appropriate for Facebook to tell me what I can or cannot do with it. For anybody to tell me that I cannot get reasonable access to that data is absurd.
Scoble: I agree if it’s your photos or your videos, but when it comes to your social graphs it is also my data. So we are disagreeing or having an argument about where… It’s my email address.
Arrington: No, it’s not. Here is why. Email address is different than a social graph. If you go to Facebook today, you can do a search on anyone. I believe even if you are not logged in, you can see who their friends are. I am sorry, even if you are not their friend, you can see who their friends are. So that data is pretty public. That is sort of a rule that has been explicitly established by Facebook.
So, the knowledge that you are my friend isn’t necessarily private. Does that make sense?
Scoble: But Google’s Friend Connect wasn’t just pulling out the names of your friends and building a little graph. It was also going out and pulling in email addresses.
Arrington: And their name and their friends. Then they were showing your friends…
Scoble: I thought there was email address too. So you could send people email.
Arrington: No. No.
Canter: It was not exposed.
Canter: That was not exposed, and it was clear to me that Facebook was doing that to retaliate against Google. It was completely politically motivated.
Arrington: You can get the email from the Facebook API. I think that’s the whole point.
Canter: You have to do the OCR on it, like the Plaxo was doing.
Arrington: Yes. Robert, knowing that, do you now agree that I am right and you were wrong?
Scoble: Yes, if we are just talking about the names on the social graph, I totally agree with you. That is part of your data that you should be able to take somewhere else.
Arrington: Wow! OK.
Arrington: We’ve accomplished something here today.
Scoble: All right!
Canter: And, Mike, have you realized I am not compromised? I just want to make sure.
Arrington: No. Marc, I stick to my guns on that one. I am looking for you. I am thinking about you drafting our constitution, and I can’t have a guy who is in bed with the British.
Canter: And that’s what happened to John Adams, right, he turned into an old, decrepit guy and his teeth were rotting and stuff?
Arrington: I don’t want you to be that guy. I don’t want you to be bitter and unhappy when you are calling [...] I want you to change the world.
Gillmor: I don’t want to change it at all.
Canter: Michael, please read the post called “The Religion of Bringing Social to Software.” I make it very clear what our rights are. I will not compromise on this. I was acting as a blogger to look at a trend.
Arrington: This is a “Braveheart” example. Do you remember Mel Gibson in “Braveheart,” he never compromised? He ended up dying, but he was the star of the show. Remember the other guy, the noble guy, that kept compromising with the British? He went through his daddy, though he didn’t to. You are like that guy now. I want you to be Mel Gibson out there.
No, I am serious. I want you to be out there. I don’t you to even understand the word compromise. I don’t want your adversaries like Dave Morin to think that they can have conversations with you in working groups. That just isn’t appropriate.
Canter: Look, in fact they do not invite me to those events. I am not there. Steve Gillmor was there. I am not there at the campfire. They all are afraid of me. So, I have achieved a goal of being the revolutionary.
Now, please read the post. It’s a long post and it talks about the state of a trend, where they are bringing their controlled data tentacles out and inserting them into these other worlds. That’s what’s going on right now. By me blogging about that, and if you read the post, you can see that I have again asserted our control and that this is all bullshit.
Please read the post, OK? That’s all I ask.
Arrington: Alright. I feel like we’ve accomplished something here today.
Canter: Then I invite everybody to come out to my house. Have a pool party, and we can look at my mural on my fence. Most compromisers don’t take over their…
Arrington: Can you post a picture of this mural you keep taking about?
Gillmor: It’s on his blog.
Canter: It’s on my blog. Please go check it out. I will post another one today just for you, Michael. OK? But please go read that post. You’ll love it. OK?
Arrington: I need to write a quick post saying Scoble apologized and then I’ll go read it.
Gillmor: Yeah. And it’s all about you, Mike. Gabe, are you there?
Scoble: He lurks even more than I do.
Gillmor: I think he is eloquently summing this conversation up. This is Steve Gillmor. This has been Gillmor Gang for Friday, whenever it is. I want to thank everybody who showed up and especially those who didn’t. We’ll see you again next time. Bye-bye.